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Old 03-06-2017, 05:46 AM - Thread Starter
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Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964), produced and directed by Robert Aldrich.

Further exploiting a genre he pretty much invented with What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962), Aldrich gives us even more elaborate crazy-old-lady adventures of Bette Davis.

Unkindly, these are called "psycho-biddy" or "hag-sploitation" films. Aldrich just owned them, which is strange because he split his time between these and war or tough-guy films like Attack (1956), The Dirty Dozen (1967), The Flight of the Phoenix (1965) and Kiss Me Deadly (1955). The only common theme seems to be unsentimentality.

This time he steals plot from Diabolique (1955) and lurid thrill techniques from Roger Corman and William Castle. Seriously: this is their sort of film done big budget with major stars, introducing upscale audiences to hauntings and severed limbs. I'll bet they screamed and screamed.

For extra flavor the film is dunked in deep gooey Southern Gothic mannerisms. Everyone goes way overboard, with a special award for Agnes Moorehead showing everyone else how it's done.

Joan Crawford was supposed to return but quit after location filming. She was both physically sick and sick and tired of abuse from Bette Davis. The role was offered to Katharine Hepburn, Vivien Leigh, Loretta Young, and Barbara Stanwyck, but finally accepted by Davis's long-time friend Olivia de Havilland. When she first appeared -- wearing her own clothes, French fashions -- I thought, "That's the Deborah Kerr role!" I kept thinking of Kerr throughout the picture.

I was liking it but also thinking "this is going on too long" when we have shocking and exciting plot twists in the second half. The story "cheats" with scenes that make no logical sense.

Bette Davis does something brave I have never seen in film: at one melt-down shock point she doesn't scream or whimper but descends into gasping noises of animalistic panic. The crew was absolutely shocked, then applauded. That was one take only.

With Joseph Cotten. Mary Astor's last film. Bruce Dern and George Kennedy have small parts.

Music by Frank De Vol, photographed by Joseph Biroc. Both were frequent collaborators with Aldrich.

Twilight Time Blu-ray with an excellent image, showcasing the dramatic black-and-white composition.

Two commentary tracks, full of details, but also -- like the track for What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962) -- obsessively fascinated with the oversized grande dame personalities of the women involved and their titanic conflicts. I've had enough.



-Bill
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Old 03-13-2017, 07:25 AM - Thread Starter
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Wrong Move (1975), directed by Wim Wenders.

A young man wants to be a writer but doesn't know what to write about. He takes a road trip through Germany to find himself, starting from his home in a North Sea port town and ending in the mountains at the southern tip of the country. Because he is cold and doesn't like people, of course he picks up an assortment of characters along the way:

  • An old soldier and his silent granddaughter, who work as street performers and perhaps pickpockets.
  • An actress who finds him appealing.
  • A would-be poet.
  • A lonely industrialist in a decrepit old mansion.

As happens in real life, the travelers wax philosophical, although real people seldom speak in such well-formed paragraphs. They seem to need to find a philosophy of life before really living, which perhaps makes more sense on the Continent than in the Anglo-American tradition. I wasn't able to follow their existential difficulties.

A little romance and a small bit of actual drama: our hero figures out that the old man is a former nazi officer who sings a bitter song about "Rosenthal", which from this and Grand Illusion (1937) I figure is an antisemitic typical Jewish name. I think another character -- "Landau" -- is also a Jew and the old man gives him the evil eye.

The ex-nazi sleeps with a whip for self-flagellation but that doesn't stop our hero from regarding him with murderous intent.

People traveling, discoursing on imponderables: doesn't sound very interesting, does it? I'm strangely fond of it, perhaps because decades ago I worked my way through the early Wim Wenders shelf at Blockbuster Video and remember them all. Of course, I never really saw these when limited to videotape; the Criterion Blu-ray is a revelation by comparison.

Mostly I love the look of the production and the story of how it was made. Robby Müller, the director's usual photographer, produces something much like his work for The American Friend (1977). No storyboards, a tiny crew on the road making up the shots day by day. The images have a fast, unplanned, non-arty look but are still beautifully composed. They had a complete script this time.

A favorite sequence: a long walk up a mountain road to an overlook above the Rhine. As they walk and talk we see the way they have come in a series of extended takes. Their "dolly" was the director's Renault 4 which everyone not in front of the camera had to push, giving a fluid, pre-Steadicam look.

All natural sound, no dialogue looping. Very little extra lighting. No sets. Jürgen Knieper's discordant score is strangely ominous.

About Nastassja Kinski:

  • Her first film. She took acting lessons afterwards.
  • Discovered in a club where she said she was 16 to get in. When they got her mother involved it turned out she was really 13.
  • They did not know she was Klaus Kinski's daughter at first.
  • This is a nonspeaking part, which is fine. Her job is to be young and watching.
  • You couldn't have done this in an American film: she has a brief nude scene and implied sex. (Our hero was looking for the actress and found the wrong bedroom and a willing Mignon. He stayed).
  • Wenders said the hardest part of filming that scene was her uncontrollable giggling, which would set off the rest of the crew for long periods. Watch her face, he says, she's thinking "must not giggle".
  • The writer criticized Rüdiger Vogler for keeping his briefs on when laying with her. His response: "Are you kidding? She was 13!" Which makes it cinematically safer, somehow.

Available on Criterion Blu-ray. The director's commentary is from 2002: fond, sometimes sparse. He marvels at how he and his crew worked back then.



-Bill
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Old 03-13-2017, 04:49 PM
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(cross-post) ... The blond actor in baseball jacket, Rüdiger Vogler, is an actor who shows up in six or seven Wenders films, usually with the same name of Philip Winter (though not in Wrong Move), often as a film technician of some kind. He's kind of Wender's alter ego on screen.

I didn't realize this when I saw Until The End of the World, but started catching on when I saw Lisbon Story (correction). The former is another road movie, the latter is a "destination movie."

The town in the valley behind the characters during the walk up the mountain road, is the town Wenders' mother grew up in.

Wrong Move, part of Criterion Collections's Wim Wenders Road Trilogy, is featured on Filmstruck.com this month [March, 2017], along with "Three For The Road," an hour long interview with Wenders about the making of his "Road" pictures.
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Old 03-14-2017, 03:14 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hitchfan View Post
A snippet of final moment dialogue to ponder from two back-to-back Hitchcock masterpieces.

VERTIGO, Hitchcock in perhaps his most profound, serious mood:
Stewart says, "You shouldn't have been...you shouldn't have been...so sentimental."

NORTH BY NORTHWEST, Hitchcock in a much lighter mood:
Saint says, "Ah. this is silly."
Grant says, "I know. But I'm sentimental."

Does it have a deeper meaning than Hitch (and his screenwriter) merely resorting to a handy final concept from the earlier film to but a button on it? It being Hitchcock, I think so. He often carried over, more deeply examined or re-considered character traits and themes from previous films. But I always love hearing his two greatest leading men, each roughly from the same generation as Hitchcock and all a bit beyond middle age, commenting on the light vs dark, double edge sword of "sentimentality" in each of the last two occasions when they would work together.
I think Hitch was a sentimentalist, and maybe somewhat embarrassed by it, because it wasn't a "manly" trait. But not very demonstrative in real life.
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Old 03-14-2017, 04:40 PM
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Originally Posted by wmcclain View Post
James Mason: what to say? Deliciously, imperially wicked, but always well mannered.


Very well put, Bill. Mason was always one of my favorite heavies, in a film career that spanned half a century (1935-1985). One could do worse (a lot worse) than spending an evening or even a week or two just watching old James Mason movies.

Some of his other memorable roles for me (mainly as a kid) were Captain Nemo in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (shown above), Sir Oliver in Journey to the Center of the Earth, Rommel in The Desert Fox, Dr. Polidori in Frankenstein: The True Story, Mr. Jordan in the 1978 remake of Heaven Can Wait, and of course the infamous Mr. Straker in Salem's Lot...





Like most well-employed actors he also did quite a few stinkers (e.g. Yellowbeard),... but that hardly even scratches the surface of his work.

The Shooting Party and The Verdict (with Paul Newman) were apparently two of his most lauded later roles. He also produced and acted in a kind of fun little anthology picture (in sort of the "Hitchcock Presents" mold) with his wife Pamela called Charade (1953), which can be viewed on YouTube or the Internet Archive.
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Old 03-14-2017, 10:21 PM
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ODD MAN OUT is an early classic of his, showing just how marvelous an actor he would always be (whether the role was large or small). Available on a Criterion Collection Blu-ray. Highly recommended Carol Reed film.

Someone wrote about James Mason some liner notes about how his voice was a special effect unto itself. "At least let me afford you the opportunity to survive the evening...."

He's my favorite part of SALEM'S LOT. The scene where he puts the little boy's body in the basement for Barlow is chilling. He's so gentle with the boy, but what he's doing is so fiendish.

"Not very sporting, using real bullets...." Van Damme, on seeing Leonard shot, NORTH BY NORTHWEST.
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Old 03-20-2017, 09:14 AM - Thread Starter
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Colorado Territory (1949), directed by Raoul Walsh.

An outlaw is broken out of prison so he can commit a train heist. He doesn't much like the helpers they've given him, but grows close to the half-Indian woman hanging out with the gang. They are all doomed. The problem with crime is the people you have to deal with.

Interesting because it is a remake of Walsh's own High Sierra (1941) from just eight years earlier. I think it works better as a crime story than as a western, and Joel McCrea doesn't have the hardness or pain of Humphrey Bogart. Skin-toned Virginia Mayo is fetching as the bad-girl love interest.

David Buttolph score. The music and emotion swell as they approach the tragic ending, and we have some lovely cinematography by Sidney Hickox. Unfortunately the Warner Archive DVD has a very soft image.



-Bill
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Old Today, 12:09 PM - Thread Starter
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One Million Years B.C. (1966), directed by Don Chaffey.

When you see a smoking volcano in a caveman-and-dinosaurs picture, it had better erupt with big lava flows before the end or there is going to be trouble in the theater. No problem here: it looks like the end of the world when the mountain explodes.

An adventure fantasy probably intended for young people, this is worth reviewing because:

  • Hammer's most successful film.
  • Ray Harryhausen stop-motion effects. To his later regret, he also used old-style live iguana monsters.
  • Star-making vehicle for Raquel Welch.

Welch had just done Fantastic Voyage (1966), but it was a dramatic photo and poster that made her a worldwide sensation:



She was on location in the spectacularly primeval-looking Canary Islands for weeks and did not know she had become a famous sex symbol until she returned home.

Notes:

  • In the first minutes you can't help thinking of the Dawn of Man opening of 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968).
  • No English spoken: all caveman talk.
  • Freezing cold on location, including the swimming scenes.
  • Welch's leather bikini would stretch and become loose after becoming wet and they had to keep taking it in.
  • The scenes where she emerges from the water seem to be a quote of Dr. No (1962). Ursula Andress had been offered this part but turned it down.
  • Other Bond connections: Welch was supposed to play Domino in Thunderball (1965) but the studio pulled her back to do Fantastic Voyage (1966) and this film. Martine Beswick, her opponent in the big girl-fight, was in From Russia with Love (1963) and Thunderball (1965).
  • On the non-documentary nature of mixing cavemen and dinosaurs, Harryhausen said: we didn't make it for professors. No one who cares comes to see pictures like this.

Finally, something to think about: in comparing the brutish Rock Tribe with the more advanced and pleasant Shell Tribe, we gather that caveman utopia is just being with people you can trust. This is probably the key component of Utopia in all ages.

Available on Blu-ray from Kino: both the US and International versions on separate discs. The US edition cut 9 minutes, partly for running time, but also to shorten some violent sequences and one sexy dance by Beswick.

A film scholar gives a very good commentary track, both loaded with production details and unexpectedly insightful about the differences between the two tribes.



-Bill

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