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post #1891 of 1895 Unread 06-15-2017, 10:59 AM
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post #1892 of 1895 Unread 06-18-2017, 04:01 PM - Thread Starter
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Tales of Manhattan (1942), directed by Julien Duvivier.

A quirky anthology film about the odyssey of a cursed dinner jacket. It was cursed by the tailor who made it: he didn't like the lapels.

Intelligent script and lovely photography throughout.

The title is a pun: the tales of a tail-coat. Get it?

The original owner is suave actor Charles Boyer, off to the country to steal Rita Hayworth (hot damn) from drunken, jolly but possibly homicidal husband Thomas Mitchell.

Each of the three characters is just magnetic, but Mitchell deserves more appreciation than he gets. Often comic but with much darker depths at his command.



The coat (now with a little hole in it) passes on to harried butlers Roland Young and Eugene Pallette. It serves as a prop in a bedroom farce between lothario Cesar Romero, his fiance Ginger Rogers and best man Henry Fonda. Ginger becomes eagerly fascinated with Fonda -- playing the same sort of shy, diffident character as from The Lady Eve (1941) -- when she mistakes him for a great lover.



The coat passes on to a second-hand shop where Elsa Lanchester grabs it for (real life) husband Charles Laughton, a poor musician who has a chance to conduct the orchestra. Funny and sad: the coat doesn't fit him very well.



Now with rips and given to charity, the coat finds its way to the poor part of town. Mission workers fix it up for skid-row bum Edward G. Robinson, a former lawyer disgraced by scandal. He needs it to attend a class reunion.

Robinson is -- as always -- superb, and George Sanders provides his patented condescending nastiness as the poor man's nemesis.

James Gleason is great in the unusual role of the warm-hearted Mission chief. Usually he gets the comical fight-manager or bartender parts, but he could do other things.



Finally, the coat is stolen by stick-up men to serve as a disguise for a big heist. Escaping by plane they catch fire and the coat (with money!) is dropped on a shanty town of black sharecroppers. Singers Paul Robeson and Ethel Waters take the loot to their preacher who -- quite sensibly -- figures this is the answer to prayers and distributes it equitably to the whole town.

Eddie Anderson is best known for his gravelly voice and as sidekick "Rochester" to Jack Benny on the radio. I first noticed in Topper Returns (1941) that he had great comic sensibility and was witty in his performances. I love watching him.

Robeson objected to this segment after the film's release, and gave up on Hollywood entirely afterward. The wikipedia quotes him as saying the segment was:

Quote:

... very offensive to my people. It makes the Negro childlike and innocent and is in the old plantation hallelujah shouter tradition... the same old story, the negro singing his way to glory.
You can see his point in the stereotypes used. It is possible to be kindly meant, sentimental and offensively patronizing at the same time. Still, I enjoy the tale: it's funny and heartfelt.



A sixth tale with W.C. Fields, Phil Silvers and Margaret Dumont was not included on my DVD. It was cut from the original release but still exists and is part of broadcast versions.

Sol Kaplan score, lovely inventive cinematography by Joseph Walker.

Available on a barely adequate Fox DVD-R. This is a good restoration candidate.

-Bill
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post #1893 of 1895 Unread Today, 11:02 AM - Thread Starter
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The Valley of Gwangi (1969), directed by Jim O'Connolly.

Cowboys and dinosaurs: why not?

Pursuing a supposedly extinct tiny horse specimen, rodeo showmen in Mexico discover a sealed-away valley to the prehistoric. When are folks going to listen to the blind Gypsy woman and learn to leave well enough alone? They won't like Gwangi when he's angry, and he's always angry.

It's for the kids, if they don't mind some bloody creature violence. It is not as much fun as other Ray Harryhausen projects; his dinosaur effects look much like those in One Million Years B.C. (1966). For some reason his stop-motion effects work to give us good fantasy dinosaurs, probably because we don't know what they actually looked like. We're more familiar with humans and other mammals and the effects work less well for those.

This was originally a Willis O'Brien project and the plot is much like King Kong (1933): impresario fetches giant creature for money-making exhibition. It breaks loose causing much mayhem and has to be killed, this time in a burning cathedral, actually pretty horrific.

Just has we don't like seeing Kong in chains, so roping and tying Gwangi just seems wrong.

Richard Carlson's second-to-last picture.

Available on Blu-ray from Warner Archive. Later generations of effects artists give their appreciation of Harryhausen in a short extra. They all thought the seamless integration of real cowboys throwing lassos around the stop-motion Gwangi was particularly impressive.



-Bill

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post #1894 of 1895 Unread Today, 11:32 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wmcclain View Post
The Valley of Gwangi (1969), directed by Jim O'Connolly.



Cowboys and dinosaurs: why not?







-Bill
“Yeeeeee-HA!! Ride 'em, dino!!”

The young lady seems like neckwear even more than Mr. Franciscus. (And Gwangi doesn't like his t'all.)

Growing up in the 70s, I used to have a book on Harryhausen's film work. Every film he had some kind of interesting problem to solve, like time required in animating a 7-headed Hydra, matching skeleton sword play with Kerwin Matthews' live performance, etc. In this, the famous roping scene was a challenge.

I missed meeting him, there was a retrospective of his work at the Rafael theater before I moved east in 2000, 2001, and he was on the sidewalk being chatted up by ... well, several known people from ILM and Lucasfilm. I didn't dare stroll up and stand among so many esteemed wizards.
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post #1895 of 1895 Unread Today, 11:47 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ChromeJob View Post

I missed meeting him, there was a retrospective of his work at the Rafael theater before I moved east in 2000, 2001, and he was on the sidewalk being chatted up by ... well, several known people from ILM and Lucasfilm. I didn't dare stroll up and stand among so many esteemed wizards.
In the extras I've seen, modern effects artists are honest about their envy of Harryhausen: he got to run his own shop and do everything himself. You can't do that anymore.

-Bill

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