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post #1651 of 1662 Old 12-31-2015, 04:55 AM - Thread Starter
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The Lady Eve (1941), written and directed by Preston Sturges.

A father-daughter team of grifters is on board a luxury ocean liner when it picks up a rich brewery heir who has been pursuing his ophiological studies in the Amazon. The most eligible bachelor on board, he is shy and awkward and would rather avoid entanglements, but Henry Fonda is no match for Barbara Stanwyck, who takes him down effortlessly three different times.

A complication: she falls in love half way through and has to defend him from her less fastidious father. Then it's break up to make up until the last scene.

"Isn't It Romantic?" plays in the background.

Witty dialogue and it is more earnestly romantic than your average screwball comedy.

Sturges was always at war with the censors, but had a way of getting things past them. I think he must have gotten them drunk, else how to explain the orgasm scene? No, really:

Quote:

[Reclining, she hugs him and messes with his hair. He becomes increasingly flustered throughout...]

She: When I marry, it's going to be somebody I've never seen before. I mean I won't know what he looks like or where he'll come from or what he'll be. I want him to sort of... take me by surprise.

He: Like a burglar.

She: That's right. And the night will be heavy with perfume, and I'll hear a step behind me, and somebody breathing heavily. And then...

[She gasps, sighs, lies back and stretches...]

She: You better go to bed, Hopsie. I think I can sleep peacefully now.

He: I wish I could say the same.
Edith Head costumes.

Available on DVD. Other Sturges -- Sullivan's Travels (1941) and The Palm Beach Story (1942) -- are available as Criterion Blu-rays, so maybe we'll get this one, too.



-Bill

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post #1652 of 1662 Old 01-07-2016, 09:30 AM - Thread Starter
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The Front Page (1931), directed by Lewis Milestone.

A day in the life of wise-cracking, hard-drinking, cynical newspaper reporters as they wait for an execution. Holy smokes: the prisoner got a pistol from the sheriff, shot his shrink and escaped!

Ace reporter Hildy Johnson is fed up and wants to depart on his honeymoon. Will his wily publisher be able to keep him in harness for one last sensational story?

Vivid, witty writing and some pre-Code hilarity. Remade several times, including as a screwball comedy: His Girl Friday (1940). Cynical as it may be, it is also a tribute to a golden age of newspapers, already a fading glory when the picture was made.

The most amazing thing about this film is the camera work: we have long tracking shots, 360 degree panoramas around the newsroom, another complete circle around the reporters' table, and other clever tricks. The newsroom has four real walls, unlike the standard movie set. I can't recall anything else like it from that year.

This was Lewis Milestone's last picture for Howard Hughes. His direction became more conventional after.

Its age and pre-Code nature give us elements not seen again for a long time (and even this was toned down from the stage play):

  • There is a race angle to the crime: a black woman is "colored" and her baby a "pickaninny". (Neither meant as a slur at the time).
  • Also a political angle: "Reform the Reds with a rope!"
  • The newsroom walls are decorated with nudes.
  • ... and it has an adjoining toilet.
  • One reporter flips the finger.
  • We have a working prostitute and VD jokes.
  • ... and she attempts suicide by jumping out of the window.

For the male lead, producer Hughes rejected James Cagney ("that little runt") and Clark Cable ("his ears look like a taxi-cab with both doors open"). Both men survived the snub.

Available on Blu-ray from Kino. No subtitles, which is unfortunate because the sound is really rough in spots. This is the nature of the title: all the sound was recorded live while filming. No audio editing in those days. So all the effects (banjo, gunshots) are being done just off-camera at the time. For dialogue the mic is sometimes out of position. Maybe worse in the first reel, or maybe I just got used to it.

The disc does include a detailed and helpful commentary track.



-Bill

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post #1653 of 1662 Old 01-07-2016, 12:09 PM
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^^^ The Front Page (1931) is a joy. I watched it again on TV not too long ago and thought it was as terrific as ever. It was based on the 1928 Broadway play of the same name, written by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur. MacArthur was married to "The First Lady of the American Theater," Helen Hayes. Their adopted son was the actor, James MacArthur (1937-2010).

I was disappointed to learn that the BD of this great old film lacks subtitles.

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post #1654 of 1662 Old 01-15-2016, 09:41 AM - Thread Starter
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Two psychedelic hippie exploitation films, both from American International, both featuring Bruce Dern and Susan Strasberg and available on the same DVD.

The Trip (1967), directed by Roger Corman.

Written by Jack Nicholson.

A director of TV commercials (Corman: "they always called me a commercial director even though I made feature films") does his first acid trip under experienced supervision. Some of it is good and some bad. Much of his hallucinatory journeys deal with the women in his life. Corman: "the LSD trip is fundamentally erotic".

Quite a few nudity and passion scenes, although they are obscured by body paint (for dancers) and psychedelic image projection (for lovers). Which is indeed kind of erotic.

We also drift into Cormanesque Poe medieval sequences which must mean something. Or not. The trip incidents and imagery are not at all coherent.

The presence of the acid "guide" is supposed to be reassuring, but in retrospect seems ominous and creepy. Later we have one of the more unsettling moments I have seen recently: the runaway tripper wanders into a strange house in the middle of the night, has a conversation with a little girl in her pajamas and gets her a glass of milk. Then her Dad gets up. Yikes.

The guide keeps a hypo of Thorazine (!) handy. "Brings you out of a bad trip instantly".

In the end, well it doesn't have much of an ending. The trip is over. "Ask me tomorrow".

Peter Fonda was an important cult film actor during this period, but for some reason I've never warmed up to him. He's well-suited to this role of a "straight" character taking a walk on the counter-cultural wild side. The hippies accept him as such.

Dennis Hopper, is -- of course -- quite believable as a druggie patriarch. He's often kindly here.

In the commentary track Corman says:

  • He had a very positive LSD experience and wanted to show that side, without making what he called an "acid commercial". So he shows the paranoia of a bad trip and the dangerous wandering of a tripper without supervision.
  • He totally disclaims the anti-drug public service message added by the studio.
  • It's ironic that Bruce Dern plays the experienced acid guide: he was a marathon runner, almost went to the Olympics and was about the only person involved who wouldn't do drugs.
  • Nicholson advised him to scale back on the language because "most hip" = "soonest dated". (I wish everyone understood that). Corman disagreed: if the film is a time capsule, so be it.
  • All the little plot incidents meant something at the time, but Corman no longer always remembers what he intended.
  • One of his self-criticisms is that the scene with Hopper as some sort of inquisitor in a carnival-themed afterlife goes on too long and is too obvious in its message.
  • The open ending is intentional: make of it what you will.



Psych-Out (1968), directed by Richard Rush.

A deaf runaway (Susan Strasberg, last seen in Scream of Fear (1961)) arrives in San Francisco searching for her brother, an artist who doesn't want to be found. She's taken in by musicians and eases into a world sex and drugs, insanity and death.

STP overdoses seem to be a particular problem: sometimes you have to rescue friends armed with circular saws. Sometimes they run into the middle of traffic and scream and scream.

These hippies believe in peace, love and nonviolence for a while, but when junkyard bullies push them too far they will punch back. Are they dirty hippies? They look like they bathe but also complain of lice. No one cleans house and heaps of dirty dishes and cockroaches are a problem.

And yet: they can be kind and generous, too. Jenny has left home for a reason and her new family help without pressure for sex or anything. Not much pressure.

Jack Nicholson wrote the original version but gets no screen credit. He wrote the character of "Stoney" for himself.

Dean Stockwell is his usual eerie self as a cynical guru with a headband.

Contemporary score: Strawberry Alarm Clock and others.

The DVD is of the 82m cut. Now available on Blu-ray (the full 101m cut, I presume), but my thumbnails are from the DVD.



-Bill

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post #1655 of 1662 Old 01-20-2016, 05:29 AM - Thread Starter
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To Have and Have Not (1944), directed by Howard Hawks

Quote:
She came in this afternoon. The plane from the south.
A deep sea fishing guide gets wrapped up in Vichy vs Free French struggles during WW2. He has a boat, in demand for dark deeds in the dead of night. More importantly, when a seductive tough cookie arrives: "they come together -- WHAM -- like two taxis on Broadway" (-- Thelma Ritter in Rear Window (1954)).

This is set at the same time and is a story similar to Casablanca (1942), but does not have the magic, direction or cinematography of that film. What it does have is Bogart and Lauren Bacall, together for the first time and instant movie chemistry.

Bacall is 19 years old (is that possible?) and you can tell this is her first film: that self-conscious, deliberate slink needs some work. That's ok: I love the little shimmy she does in the last scene. Deep, smoke-flavored voice, she does her own singing. Kissing Bogie a second time, she says: "It's even better when you help."

Notes:

  • Bogart's clothes are too neat for a working fisherman, but you can't fight the costume department.
  • He calls her "Slim" and she calls him "Steve", nicknames director Hawks and his wife used for each other.
  • Does Bogart have a little guillotine on his desk, maybe for cutting cigars?
  • Hemingway's novel uses Spanish Cuba, which is changed to French Martinique for the film. We also come forward a few years to WW2 and drop the bitter political commentary in favor of a big romance plot.
  • In the book Frank Morgan is married with children and is a hard, dangerous man. He loses an arm after being shot, but continues smuggling.
  • Walter Brennan's funny, loose-jointed walk is taken from the book. The film uses quite a bit of dialogue from the first part.

A commenter on one forum was complaining that Hoagy Carmichael's music was too "dated". People patiently pointed out that the film is from the 1940s and that, yes indeed, the music, language, clothing, etc, will be appropriate to that period. I suspect what he was really objecting to was Carmichael's own "Hong Kong Blues":

Quote:

It's the story of a very unfortunate colored man
Who got arrested down in old Hong Kong
He got twenty years privilege taken away from him
When he kicked old Buddha's gong
Turns out it is actually opium that keeps him from getting home.

The novel was filmed again as:

  • The Breaking Point (1950), Michael Curtiz with John Garfield and Patricia Neal.
  • The Gun Runners (1958), Don Siegel with Audie Murphy.
  • Captain Khorshid (1987), an Iranian version.

Available on DVD.



-Bill

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post #1656 of 1662 Old 01-28-2016, 09:49 AM - Thread Starter
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Black Sunday (1977), directed by John Frankenheimer.

During a raid on a Black September compound in Beirut, an Israeli commando lets the woman in the shower live. He doesn't know she's planning a terrorist attack in the US. The race is on to discover and stop it before she and her troubled Nam-vet ally kill 80,000 people at the Superbowl.

Well done and realistic, as an action thriller it never quite gets where it wants to go. We come to know the terrorist couple better than their pursuers, and they honestly seem more human, but there is no way we can cheer for them. Bruce Dern is, as always, excellent as the unsteady ex-POW looking for revenge.

Always a pleasure to see Robert Shaw. Watch his Mossad agent cut through the law enforcement red tape.

Filmed at a real Superbowl (Steelers vs Cowboys), with many known sports figures and the actual blimp. That the NFL and Goodyear would cooperate with this: it's inconceivable today.

John Williams provides a good thriller score; I don't usually think of him in that context (despite Jaws (1975)).

From a book by Thomas Harris who later moved on to the Hannibal Lector stories.

Another stadium murder thriller, Two-Minute Warning, was out about the same time and this confused the marketing.

The film was banned in Germany and Japan.



-Bill

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post #1657 of 1662 Old 02-01-2016, 05:25 AM - Thread Starter
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High Sierra (1941), directed by Raoul Walsh.

After eight years in prison, an old boss has bought a pardon for bank robber and killer Roy Earle, who immediately heads west to start work on a jewelry heist at a resort hotel. Quiet, disciplined, tough when necessary, Earle's biggest problem is the hot-headed youngsters he has to manage. That and a young woman they have brought with them. Earle may be the first real man Marie has ever seen, and she wants him badly.

This is a remarkable turning point in gangster film history. According to the Code, criminals could not succeed or be glorified, and yet we are entirely with Earle in this story, with no sympathy for the police, guards or hotel guests, and a visceral contempt for reporters, who call Earle "Mad Dog" just to have a headline.

What elevates this above a formula crime picture is the character of Earle, deftly played by Humphrey Bogart. A country boy who would like nothing more than to go back to the farm, he meets a family of poor migrants and thinks if he can do a favor for young Velma, maybe she'll marry him and he can get back where he belongs. But you can't engineer love in a pretty young woman, and instead we have the short, tragic romance with Marie. They adopt a little bad luck dog.

He tells her there will be "nothing special" between them, which is Code for "it's just sex". She agrees, but of course that's not how it really goes.

It must have been influential, because so many of the plot points seem modern:

  • the dying big boss, trying to run one last score from bed
  • the society of the older generation of hoods, how they remember the good old days and complain about the young punks
  • the tough guy formula of the older man putting the kids in their places

This is the film that moved Bogart (billed second to Ida Lupino, age 22!) into starring roles. Raoul Walsh had been directing for more than 25 years, but I'm sure it didn't hurt him either, and he became the go-to guy for tough, serious action films.

Elfin-eyed Lupino was a favorite, too. She wrote and directed in later years.

Early work for Arthur Kennedy, Joan Leslie and Cornel Wilde.

Willie Best is the standard comical black character of the period: he wakes up with eyes crossed. But he has an important foreshadowing function, telling us about the bad luck dog.

The dog is Bogart's dog, and a fine little actor.

Mixed studio and locations, with majestic mountain shots when they get outdoors, and a score to match in those parts. Great high-speed chase scene up the mountain.

Co-written by John Huston and W.R. Burnett from the latter's novel.



-Bill

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post #1658 of 1662 Old 02-06-2016, 08:08 PM - Thread Starter
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Late Spring (1949), directed by Yasujirô Ozu.

A deceptively simple story: a young woman lives with her professor father and cares for him. She enjoys her life and feels no need to change. He is easy to get along with and she gets out and does what she wants otherwise. Simple pleasures; she's a good girl. But the father and an auntie won't be satisfied until she is married off. Should she resist, or just go along with what is expected of her?

In the conflict between freedom (selfishness?) and tradition is anything resolved? Everyone has regrets. The father has the last scene: has he made a mistake, or is this just the pain that life inevitably brings?

The tone and setting are very curious: it's 1949, but we see no evidence of the War and little of the American occupation. (That's partly due to censorship). Everyone is happy and pleasant with one another. They wear both traditional and modern clothing and seem comfortable with both old Noh theater and new commuter trains.

And yet: we have oblique references to wartime forced labor and food shortages. Perhaps Noriko is so attached to her father because they lost years of family time during the war. When and how did her mother die? Has post-war modernity brought new freedom to the single woman? With that freedom comes what other problems?

As the commentary points out, Ozu's minimalism makes him seem more contemporary to us than other directors of that time. His camera shots are often from a very low angle, even below the eye-line of a person sitting on a floor mat. Scenes that would be essential to another storyteller (the wedding, for example) are omitted, but in scene transitions he will cut to landscape shots for a few moments of restfulness.

A variety of music is used, sometimes meditatively ambient.

This is my first Ozu film. I found these essays instructive:


Criterion Blu-ray. Quite a lot of film damage with many vertical lines. Insightful commentary track.



-Bill

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post #1659 of 1662 Old Yesterday, 05:23 PM
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Originally Posted by wmcclain View Post
The Ipcress File (1965), directed by Sidney J. Furie.

His spymaster superiors don't much like cheeky, insubordinate Harry Palmer, but he seems to get results. In fact he's quickly in too deep. Brainwashed and disoriented, can he still locate and shoot the traitor in his own organization?

This was intended as a darker, "not James Bond" spy thriller. In many ways that's true: Harry is a working class cockney recruited from an army prison. He hates the bosses who want to drown him in paperwork. The intelligence agencies waste their time spying on other. This is in gray rainy London, not sunny exotic locales.

On the other hand, like 007, Harry can fight, shoot and find the bad guys. He's cultured and likes women and good food. The studio complained that he did his own cooking, which an action hero is not supposed to do. And why is he wearing glasses?

And look who is making the film: one of the same producers as for Bond, same editor and art designers. Even John Barry for the score, with themes suggestive of the moodier Bond bits, and with what sounds like a cross between surf guitar and the zither from The Third Man (1949).

Notes:

  • It made Michael Caine a star.
  • A supermarket is called -- with disapproval -- "an American shopping method".
  • The agencies waste a lot of time, but when needed they show clockwork spycraft, as when paying ransom for a kidnapped scientist.

There is no region A Blu-ray of this and although DVDs are in print (at least Amazon seems to have new copies) they are expensive.

The thumbnails are from an all-region Blu-ray imported from the UK. The label is ITV, the encoding mpeg2, and the framerate the oddball 24.0hz. Black levels are not very good, but detail is acceptable given the large amount of grain in this one.



-Bill
Ordered this from Amazon.uk not realizing it was Region B locked. Fortunately Panny has remote hack and I was able to watch this gem. Thank you Bill!

Special features, however are encoded in PAL, does anyone know if they are available somewhere to view?
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post #1660 of 1662 Old Today, 02:29 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wmcclain View Post
Late Spring (1949), directed by Yasujirô Ozu.

This is my first Ozu film.

-Bill
I look forward to your review of TOKYO STORY, Bill, should you choose to watch and review it. That was my first Ozu film and it sneaked up on me and packed quite a wallop that has been hard to forget. Maybe I watched it at just the right time in my life for that particular response.
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post #1661 of 1662 Old Today, 03:27 PM - Thread Starter
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Ordered this from Amazon.uk not realizing it was Region B locked. Fortunately Panny has remote hack and I was able to watch this gem. Thank you Bill!

Special features, however are encoded in PAL, does anyone know if they are available somewhere to view?
Glad you liked it!

I'd use MakeMKV to make hardrive copies of the extras. If your player still won't accept the 50hz content, you should be able to view them on a PC.

-Bill

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post #1662 of 1662 Old Today, 07:25 PM
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Glad you liked it!

I'd use MakeMKV to make hardrive copies of the extras. If your player still won't accept the 50hz content, you should be able to view them on a PC.

-Bill
Cool, thanks

Don't have a BD drive so this will have to wait.


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