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post #2251 of 2287 Old 08-23-2019, 07:03 AM - Thread Starter
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Against All Flags (1952), directed by George Sherman and Douglas Sirk.

A naval officer volunteers to be stripped of rank, flogged and cast adrift in a longboat so he can penetrate the fortress city of the Captains of the Coast pirates of Madagascar. His mission is complicated by a love triangle with fetching Captain Prudence "Spitfire" Stevens and the dangerous Captain Roc Brasiliano. Even better: the pirates have captured the daughter of the Moghul Emperor of India and heroic Lieutenant Hawke will have to save her too!

A standard pirating yarn (though mostly land-based and filmed on studio lots) with features that continue to be mined in the more recent pirate film revival, as with the pirate council in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (2007). (In this film one character says "So say we all!", instantly suggesting Battlestar Galactica (2004)).

We are at the end of pirating film era and the genre has slackening sails, becalmed from over-use and formulaic elements. They try to make it fun, presumably suitable for children, although the sexual innuendo creeps in. Apart from the slave-bride auction ("For legal marriage only!") and associated pirate newlywed jokes, we have these exchanges:

Quote:

Hawke: You're one of the Captains of the Coast?

Spitfire: And why shouldn't I be when I own a ship?

Hawke: No reason at all, ma'am. Except that if the Captains do decide to dispose of me, I shall only regret that I didn't have the honor of serving under you.

Spitfire: [Flustered, walks away].

*

Spitfire: You boasted about what you could do with your hands untied. So... [Sits and arranges herself comfortably]. Get to it, Mr. Hawke.
The film pilfers and mixes costumes and religious decorations from the Muslims, Hindus and Arabian Nights, but that's Hollywood.

I might not have reviewed this except for Errol Flynn and the other good talent:

Errol Flynn is also getting to the end of his action career. Still plausibly handsome but you can see hard living has taken its toll and he seems short of breath. His charm and sex appeal: relying on former glory, I fear. He sings, briefly.

Maureen O'Hara, lovely as always, gives a nicely modulated performance. In this sort of film you can be neither too serious nor too silly. As a pirate captain she strives to be sexually dominant but obviously has some doubts on that score. One of her costumes is a Maid Marian outfit which is confusing. Those tall boots: yeow! She handles a sword well; with this and At Sword's Point (1952) she had a little action-genre career.

Anthony Quinn is our villain, a man of passion but not a coward. In his dying moment he throws his sword at Flynn who contemptuously parries it aside. He and O'Hara reunite from Sinbad, the Sailor (1947).

Russell Metty is the cinematographer.

Flynn broke an ankle toward the end of shooting and they made Yankee Buccaneer (1952) on the same set while he was out.

Remade as The King's Pirate (1967) with Doug McClure and Jill St. John.

Available on DVD. Could use restoration; the Technicolor deserves it.



-Bill
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post #2252 of 2287 Old 08-28-2019, 07:17 AM - Thread Starter
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The Sugarland Express (1974), directed by Steven Spielberg.

Suggested by a true story: a young woman helps her husband break out of jail. Everyone responds with astonishment: "You broke out of pre-release with only four months left?" The reason: they have to get their baby back before it disappears into the social services machinery.

How this is supposed to happen is not entirely clear; long-range planning is not our characters' strength.

Eventually they kidnap a highway patrolman and with hundreds of police cars in pursuit stage a low-speed chase across Texas, trying to get to the baby in Sugarland. They become folk heroes and people cheer them on. It is sort of Badlands (1973) meets Vanishing Point (1971) by way of Raising Arizona (1987).

It's meant to be a dark comedy, but in retrospect the humor seems cruel. People in the prison system are poor, uneducated and not the sharpest knives in the drawer. Is that funny? Does the Texas accent make them seem unsophisticated and dim? Well, comedy isn't pretty. We can laugh and wince at the same time.

The cast:

  • Goldie Hawn: her light ditziness from Laugh-In has developed into maternal mania, alternately crafty and slow-witted. Last seen in Shampoo (1975).
  • William Atherton: it is odd to see him as the husband overwhelmed by his wife's criminal determination. We are used to his later roles as arrogant sophisticates, as in Die Hard (1988) and Ghostbusters (1984).
  • Michael Sacks: last seen as the lead in Slaughterhouse-Five (1972). He had a brief career in film but is very natural as the naive kidnapped patrolman bonding with his captors, trying to save them in the end. He is from the same strata as the couple; cops and crooks always form a society.
  • Ben Johnson: the old lawman, tough but kindly. He'd save the young people if he could and hates what he has to do.

Also spot familiar face Gregory Walcott as another officer, last seen in Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959) and Prime Cut (1972).

Spielberg's first feature film. He had done TV episodes and movies before, including the acclaimed road chase thriller Duel (1971). Based on his management of exciting large-scale car chase and crash scenes he was asked to do Jaws (1975) the next year.

Photographed by Vilmos Zsigmond (Deliverance (1972), Heaven's Gate (1980), The Ghost and the Darkness (1996)).

Score by John Williams, beginning a long fruitful association with the director.

Available on Blu-ray.



-Bill
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post #2253 of 2287 Old 08-28-2019, 10:39 PM
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You can see the development of his portrayal of "plain folk" starting here, continuing in JAWS, and finally in CE3K. VERY underappreciated film.

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post #2254 of 2287 Old 09-02-2019, 03:21 PM
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...And Justice for All (1979) - streamed free on Crackle

Al Pacino rips up the screen as an overworked (and under-appreciated) defense lawyer, in this Norman Jewison meditation on the legal profession, set in Baltimore, MD.

Pacino plays his usual man on the edge here, trying to hold "stuff" together when all the forces around him seem to be ripping things asunder. What's different here though is that all his associates and clients in the film are even bigger nutjobs than he is. Which makes his character seem almost sane by comparison. (I said almost.)

Picture is showing a little age, and sound is only mono unfortunately, and on the tinnier side. I still recommend this though for some outstanding (if a bit over-the-top) performances by Pacino and the excellent supporting cast, and Jewison's deft direction. I certainly hope that the legal system in the US is not as effed up as this makes it out. But either way, it makes for one helluva interesting ride for 2 hours. Filmed on location in Baltimore btw.

This is rated R for some gun violence, foul language, and other adult-oriented material. And intended for mature viewers. Pacino, and writers Valerie Curtin and Barry Levinson all received Oscar noms, though none won. (Kramer vs. Kramer swept most of the major Oscar categories that year, including best picture, director, actor, supporting actress, and screenplay.) The courtroom monologue at the end of the movie about being "out of order" has also become a cinematic trope.

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post #2255 of 2287 Old 09-05-2019, 08:11 AM - Thread Starter
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La Vérité (1960), directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot.

"The Truth".

A young woman is on trial for the murder of her lover. She admits to shooting him. The story is about courtroom procedures and flashbacks showing how it all happened. Will the court find she had reason?

It is Brigitte Bardot's job to represent the threat of youth, in this case a young woman who just doesn't fit into accepted public morality. Perhaps we expect the French to be more understanding in matters of youth and passion, but no: just as in America the rigid forces of convention are not having this business of casual sex and the cafe society of the artists.

Just flashes of nudity but still racy stuff for 1960. She complains to her musician lover: "Between your music and your mattress I'm suffocating". When broke she turns to prostitution with an American tourist and her friends are not shocked. Sexually free but looking for love: she's easy to exploit.

We get a look at the French law courts:

  • This is an inquisitorial system where the judges are truth-finders and seem to be helping the prosecution more than we are used to seeing in the adversarial system used in the US and UK.
  • Look at the size of that courtroom: plenty of space for eager spectators.
  • While being held for trial she is guarded by nuns!

Something I noticed: Clouzot is easy to watch. He keeps the visual component of the story moving. He's called the French Hitchcock and he shares with that director the talent of entertaining the eye without distracting it. This is a subtle skill mostly disregarded today. I've been fast forwarding through some modern films while reading the subtitles because there is nothing to see. You wouldn't do that with better directors.

A tumultuous production: love affairs, lawsuits, nervous breakdowns, attempted suicides, heart attack, an inside tell-all account sold to the press.

Available on Blu-ray from Criterion.



-Bill
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post #2256 of 2287 Old 09-15-2019, 05:30 AM
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Les Miserables (Ricard Jordan as Jean Valjean and Anthony Perkins as Javert) 1978

This was a Showtime original that was also shown over two nights on a network telecast. Made for TV in a 1.33 aspect ratio. I saw it in the network telecast and was mesmerized. Anthony Perkins was such a great Javert and Jordan was fantastic as Valjean as well. I saw it again in the 80s as an afternoon movie on an independent channel and they had butchered it up to fit in a 2 hr window with commercials. Such a crime. I've always wanted to see it again. I got the chance. You can buy it on Vudu, but alas that is also the butchered version with about 20 minutes missing so I passed. I saw the DVD on amazon, also butchered, but noticed that a UK seller was selling the UK version, with the original full length roughly 140 minutes. (According to Oppo 137). The transfer to the Uk DVD left a lot to be desired, probably being transferred from a tape, not the original film, but what the heck it was worth it. The DVD costs me 71 cents (yes cents, and about 4 bucks shipping from the UK). My wife and I watched it last night. That's the first time I saw it in its entirety since the original TV broadcast. We loved it.

I won't go into the story, you should know it. Suffice it to say Perkins was fantastic as Javert, as was Jordan. Also well known John Gielgud has a bit role as Marius' grandfather, Gillenormand.
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post #2257 of 2287 Old 09-17-2019, 05:08 PM - Thread Starter
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The Light That Failed (1939), produced and directed by William A. Wellman.

Young Dick's sweetheart nearly blinds him when they are shooting a pistol on the beach one day. Years later he is a newspaper illustrator wounded by a sword cut to the temple during in a battle in Sudan. In his delerium he relives the childhood incident.

Back in London he is a successful artist trying to relight the flame with his past love, but she -- also a painter -- isn't having it.

The old wounds recur and he is quickly going blind. With frantic determination and alcohol for self-medication he has time for one more painting, his masterpiece. His model is a tempestous streetwalker. Beware the anger of a prostitute scorned.

Where can he go to make an end? The war in Sudan is on again...

I saw this many decades ago when I was I-don't-know-how-old. A lot of it seemed familiar but the only part I remembered was the angry woman destroying the painting and the shock of those who can still see it.

Ronald Colman is -- as always -- superb as the reflective artist, descending into self-pity from his affliction, and because the women in his life are not cooperating.

Walter Huston is his best friend, a war correspondent.

Ida Lupino is the vengeful model, called a "barmaid" to satisfy the censors. She was only 21 and already had about two dozen film credits. Her performance is overblown. I read that she did not enjoy acting, had wanted to be a writer and wound up directing.

Victor Young score.

The Sudanese Hadendoa are called the "Fuzzy Wuzzies" by Kipling, referring to the hairstyles. It was not meant as a disparaging term; he praises their warrior spirit and skill in battle.

Adapted from Kipling's novel, published when he was 26. After I read it I learned that it had both happy and sad ending versions and I could not tell which I had. The ending seemed right and now I see it was the "sad" version.

He wrote only two more novels: Kim and Captains Courageous. He is best known for a wealth of short stories and poems, for which he won the Nobel Prize in Literature.

As far as I can tell this has never been on home video. I found a recorded TV broadcast version online. I suppose this is a type of piracy and I'm sorry about that. I'd rather buy a disc but I can't wait forever.



-Bill
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post #2258 of 2287 Old 09-22-2019, 07:01 PM - Thread Starter
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Objective, Burma! (1945), directed by Raoul Walsh.

In preparation for the invasion of Burma, American paratroopers attack a Japanese radar station. That part goes well. Getting out is much, much harder.

Some of Hollywood's wartime entertainment tended toward action fantasy, as in Desperate Journey (1942), also from Warner and directed by Walsh and starring Errol Flynn. Others -- like this one -- are much more grounded in reality and try to anticipate or follow the historical events. Air Force (1943) by Howard Hawks and John Ford's They Were Expendable (1945) are other examples.

Flynn drops his swashbuckling persona and plays a serious officer, both mission oriented and trying to care for his men. It's more like the roles he always wanted.

In the attack on the radar station the entire Japanese garrison is mowed down and entirely wiped out without a single casualty on the US side. That may be unreasonable but they pay for it in the long slog back where they are picked off one by one.

In one village they encounter the remnants of a separated unit, tortured and mutilated by the enemy. A survivor begs to be killed. This is all off camera, so our imagination runs with what has been done to them.

This was a time when hatred of the Japanese ran strong. The jungle is "Jap-infested" and they are called "monkeys". "Wipe 'em out!"

The colorful "common man" soldier was a staple of war films and we have a little of that here. Supporting cast: Henry Hull (newsman who should have stayed home), George Tobias ("Mazel tov!" he says so we get the point), Anthony Caruso, Hugh Beaumont.

Notes:

  • I've heard complaints that the jungle isn't lush enough, but Burma does have a dry belt. It's not all jungle.
  • 2h21m is little too long for this. Much of it is taken up with the "getting back" part.
  • The movie was withdrawn from British markets after objections that it made the war in Burma an entirely American affair and neglected the large British effort. Flynn also came in for abuse, as if claiming that he won the war single handedly. He wanted to serve but was 4F for heart, lungs and clap. He did USO tours instead.
  • George MacDonald Fraser -- who was there as a young soldier -- later defended both Flynn and the film, saying (a) actors don't write the films, and (b) the Americans had their own operations (Merrill's Marauders) in Burma and why shouldn't they make a film about it?
  • Fraser's war memoir Quartered Safe Out Here is fine reading. The Japanese film The Burmese Harp (1956) shows the same events from the other side.
  • The soldiers pull grenade pins with their teeth. I'm told you'd need dentures if you tried that.
  • Photographed by James Wong Howe, score by Franz Waxman. Filmed in California, supplemented by stock footage from Asia.
  • The hills of their final stand look a lot like the Korean War movie terrain of ten years later.
  • I don't think I've seen this before in film: a glider on the ground hooked by a plane and towed into the air.

Available on DVD.



-Bill
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post #2259 of 2287 Old 09-22-2019, 07:26 PM
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Henry Hull? Even teh Werewolf of London had to go to war.

A great excerpt from Waxman's score is on this Charles Gerhard & National Philharmonic classic film scores release.
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post #2260 of 2287 Old 09-22-2019, 07:41 PM
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Henry Hull? Even teh Werewolf of London had to go to war.

A great excerpt from Waxman's score is on this Charles Gerhard & National Philharmonic classic film scores release.

Which has just been reissued by Dutton in quadraphonic sound-and very good its sounds too!
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post #2261 of 2287 Old 09-23-2019, 11:13 AM
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The CDs were encoded in Dolby Surround (the old VHS Hi-Fi surround format) and aren't too shabby played back in Dolby Pro Logic II(x) Music mode.

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post #2262 of 2287 Old 09-27-2019, 09:04 AM - Thread Starter
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An Autumn Afternoon (1962), directed by Yasujirō Ozu.

In some ways this is similar to the director's Late Spring (1949): a widowed father must give up his daughter to marriage, which may not increase her happiness and will certainly increase his loneliness. We have the same slice-of-life view of Japanese households, and the director's love of floor-level camera angles.

Different this time:

  • Less countryside, more urban industrial offices.
  • In Late Spring (1949), for scene transitions we would have restful views of nature. Here he uses still corridors or tavern signs.
  • We explore the lives of the salaryman office workers, drinking too much after work and neglecting their families.
  • The father blames himself for waiting too long to find a match for his daughter. He's motivated to do more after hosting a dinner for an old teacher and seeing the loneliness of his spinster daughter who never married.
  • His daughter also waited too long. She had a dream of romantic love but the fellow was taken. So she has to make do with the expected arranged marriage.
  • Dad is going through a rough patch in other ways. He meets a bar hostess who reminds him of his late wife, and memories of the war make him sad.

I don't recall a scene like this one in any other Japanese film of the period: Dad was a destroyer captain and shares drinks with an old shipmate, who says something like: "What if we'd won the war? We'd be in New York City and those blue-eyed kids would be wearing our haircuts and playing our instruments. Now our kids shake their backsides to Western music". Dad, considering: "Maybe it's best we lost".

(Aside: for some reason this reminds me of a comment by George MacDonald Fraser, who fought in Burma and admitted to a life-long prejudice against the Japanese. But, he said, I look at the old enemy veterans my age in their flowered shirts, watching the world going to hell with unhappy bewilderment, and I feel a bond with them).

Chishû Ryû is the father in both films. He has 264 acting credits in the IMDB and was in 38 Ozu films.

Ozu uses many visual linkages and correspondences between scenes. Not exactly gimmicks or gags, more like artful compositions that his fans watch for.

The director's last film. He died the next year on his 60th birthday.

Available on Blu-ray from Criterion with distinct natural grain. The commentary track is a meticulous analysis of the visual composition of the film, along with good info on Japanese culture and the historical context.

He says Japanese fascination with America began early in the 20th century, long before WW2. It shifted into a sort of hyper-consumerism after the war.



-Bill
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post #2263 of 2287 Old 09-29-2019, 02:20 PM
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The Man in Black (1950)

A pretty good little mystery-suspense flick from Hammer films, made before horror became their mainstay. This is available to watch free on their YT channel, along with several other Hammer oldies. Sound and picture are somewhat poor though. And the dialogue was a little difficult to make out at times.

The story is somewhat similar to another popular British suspense flick from the 30's, called The Ghoul with Boris Karloff. Though the latter is quite a bit darker, and more atmospheric.



Fun fact: The Ghoul was considered lost until a beat-up copy was found by a collector in Czechoslovakia in 1969. And the original neg was later discovered in an old forgotten vault on the Shepperton lot.
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post #2264 of 2287 Old 09-29-2019, 05:47 PM
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I’m trying to figure out how to open that up in the YouTube app (from Tapatalk, which continues to increasingly suck) so I can bookmark it.
That channel also has The Abominable Snowman* which I consider a forgotten classic, a great example of how you can do so much with so little.

* OOps, I'd forgotten that several of the full length films on the channel are restricted to certain countries.
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post #2265 of 2287 Old 09-30-2019, 03:34 PM
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I’m trying to figure out how to open that up in the YouTube app (from Tapatalk, which continues to increasingly suck) so I can bookmark it.
That channel also has The Abominable Snowman which I consider a forgotten classic, a great example of how you can do so much with so little.
I'm not familiar with the YT app. It's just a regular playlist though, which is listed on the Hammer YT homepage. So perhaps you can bookmark it from there. Or just bookmark the movies individually.

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post #2266 of 2287 Old 10-01-2019, 05:25 AM - Thread Starter
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(Previously reviewed by ChromeJob here).

The Blood on Satan's Claw (1971), directed by Piers Haggard.

When a plowman unearths a weird, demonic skeleton, all Hell breaks loose. The young people are instantly converted into some sort of satanic conspiracy and strange hairy growths appear on the bodies of villagers. The Devil needs body parts to assume a physical shape.

This is nasty, early body-horror with intimations of The Evil Dead (1981), Hellraiser (1987) and The Witch (2015). We have ceremonial rape and human sacrifice and surgical excision of patches of satan's skin which are saved in a specimen jar so the local Magistrate can sniff it and give it to the dogs for tracking the beast. As one does.

Remarkably good production values: clothes, props, countryside are look authentic, as if we were transported back in time. Not played for laughs at all.

On the down side it is pasted together from three stories and plot cohesion is a problem. We're not even sure who the main characters are, but two tend to focus our attention:

  • Patrick Wymark as the Judge. He is skeptical at first but knows this stuff is real. He allows the cult to grow until he has a enough evidence and moves decisively to exterminate them. This contrasts with Witchfinder General (1968) and Cry of the Banshee (1970), where witch-hunting is an excuse for sadism.
  • Linda Hayden as the chief seductress. She does full nudity at age 17. Pubic hair in church: you don't see that every day. The actress specialized in horror films and sexploitation comedies.

The villagers do the Monty Python "if she floats she's a witch!" routine.

Photographed by Dick Bush.

Available on Blu-ray as an all-region import from Sony in the UK. Prominent grain, noisy nighttime scenes, and no subtitles.

Two commentary tracks:

  • The director, writer and Linda Hayden who played "Angel". She says she has a daughter about the same age as she was when she appeared fully nude in this film, which is a strange feeling. No way are her kids becoming actors.
  • A laugh track from Mark Gatiss and friends. They revere this film and have been watching it since they were kids. Being American I sometimes have a hard time following their conversation.



-Bill
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post #2267 of 2287 Old 10-05-2019, 01:59 PM - Thread Starter
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Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920), directed by John S. Robertson.

John Barrymore gives an intense performance in this early silent edition. In this version the doctor is an innocent philanthropist lead astray by rowdy companions who take him to a seedy musical hall. A lithe dancer awakens the beast within.

Hyde's makeup adjusts the shape of his skull and gives him longer fingers. He has teeth that are wicked looking without being anatomically impossible.

I saw this after the later films and it was of most interest as a comparison to the others. It was made before 1920s women fashions came in so their dresses and hair are extra-antique looking. Well, it is supposed to be set in the 1880s anyway.

Unique in this film:

  • A long visit to a degraded opium den.
  • Jekyll's nightmare of a "spider-Hyde" who crawls up and merges with him in his sleep.
  • No climactic shootout: Jekyll takes poison.

Curiously, this version retains details from the original story omitted by other treatments:

  • Jekyll, fearing he will become stuck as Hyde, has legal papers drawn up to give Hyde control of his money.
  • Hyde tramples a child and is accosted by an angry crowd.
  • He commits a savage murder, beating a man to death with his walking stick. (And even biting at the throat in the film).
  • He runs out of an essential component of his potion and can get no more: the original lot was mysteriously "impure".

Some cast notes:

  • Martha Mansfield, who plays the "good girl" fiance, died at age 24 while making a Civil War picture. A tossed cigarette lit her big dress on fire and she died from the burns. The film was finished but is now lost.
  • Nita Naldi, the exotic dancer, had 30 film credits in the silent era and none after. This was her first picture. Like some other actresses of the 1920s -- Clara Bow, Louise Brooks -- she also did nude photo poses. Despite gossip, she denied having affairs with Rudolf Valentino or John Barrymore.

Available on Blu-ray from Kino. We have print damage throughout and quality varies from "rather respectable given the extreme age of the source" to that familiar degraded silent film look: dark and blurry with vignetted corners.

Several short films are included as extras:

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1912).

An 11-minutes one-reel feature. I love the no-studio look of those wild filmmaking days: just go outside and shoot it.

See the little girl in the second image below? That is Marie Eline, who made 100 films in 4 years for the Thanhouser Company, and was known as "the Thanhouser Kid".



Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920), directed by Charles J. Hayden.

A 14 minute fragment of a 40 minute original feature.

Note that there was third version of the story in 1920, directed by F.W. Murnau, now lost: The Head of Janus (1920).



Dr. Pyckle and Mr. Pryde (1925).

A 21 minute spoof on the earlier versions with Stan Laurel. When transformed he becomes a mad practical joker, stealing kids' ice cream and afflicting bystanders with a pea shooter.



*

From the 1920 Barrymore version:



-Bill
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post #2268 of 2287 Old 10-05-2019, 02:03 PM - Thread Starter
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Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931), directed by Rouben Mamoulian.

If eminent, humane physician Jekyll (pronounced "JEEK-ill" in those days) is so good, why does he want to transform into the indecent, neanderthal-like and violent Hyde? He's not splitting him off, he is becoming him for a time. The good doctor wants it both ways; does it really matter that he is ashamed when in his right mind? (In the original story the doctor simply wants to pursue his vices undisturbed; he is indulging his dark self, not trying to purge it).

I love how -- just before first taking the potion -- he stops and locks the door to his lab, as if he were indulging in a private vice.

Mr Hyde certainly enjoys life: at first he is like a puppy, relishing simple pleasures like standing in the rain. That doesn't last long: soon he is beating the servants and whipping his mistress and doing "more that I can't tell you" she says, after trying to kill herself.

A pre-Code horror film, the sexual content is pretty blunt and Miriam Hopkins shows a lot of skin. Local censors chopped it up in various ways but most of the cuts have been restored now.

In some ways it has the stageyness and dramatic declamations of the early talkie, but we also have some remarkably fine-tuned performances and clever, innovative camera work by Karl Struss. We often get point-of-view shots that put us in the film.

Fredric March -- who had been a comic actor before this -- won the Academy Award for the role but Hopkins wasn't even nominated, which seems unfair. She puts a lot into it, the brassy prostitute ("Strike me pink, you interest me!") who becomes a terrified victim of the creature.

The story had been staged and filmed many times even before this. As is always the case, the film is based more on the developed mythology than on the original text. Here we have the "good" and "bad" women to balance Jekyll and Hyde; they aren't even in the book.

They arrange an impressive transformation special effect for when he first drinks the potion: no cuts, just colored makeup and filters that change the black-and-white image before our eyes.

Hyde is remarkably ugly, but you can get away with a lot if you dress like a gentleman. Those Jerry Lewis teeth are hard to take today. March was in the hospital for a while after filming: the makeup nearly ruined his face.

Available on DVD with a valuable commentary track. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1941) is on the same disc.

Tidbit from the commentary: stage adaptations of the original story began as soon as it was published. One actor shut down his production during the Jack the Ripper murders: he became a suspect just because he played a deranged stage murderer so effectively.



-Bill
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post #2269 of 2287 Old 10-05-2019, 02:06 PM - Thread Starter
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Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1941), directed by Victor Fleming.

This remake of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931) has cleaner sets and minimal makeup for Mr. Hyde. Fewer nudes on the wall. Jekyll is pronounced the modern way, rhyming with "heckle".

On the good side:

  • Well directed by Victor Fleming (Gone with the Wind (1939), The Wizard of Oz (1939)) and with Joseph Ruttenberg's striking photography. Lush score by Franz Waxman.
  • Good if somewhat formal performances by the leads: Spencer Tracy (although it is said he was embarrassed by his work here) and Ingrid Bergman (26) and Lana Turner (20).
  • You would expect Bergman and Turner to be the "good" and "bad" girls respectively but Bergman wanted to switch and they did.
  • Like Miriam Hopkins, Bergman effectively projects dread and quiet terror.
  • Even in the Code era skilled writers can get the message out, letting us know that the good doctor is motivated by sexual frustration. Early on the madman tells him "You know, don't you?". His fiance's father detects the lascivious stain on his soul, and Jekyll is too blunt for polite society, insisting on the good and evil in every person. He lies about test animals dying from his research.
  • The potion causes some hallucinations: women in water, as flowers, being pulled into Hell. Both female leads are harnessed like horses, naked, as he lashes them with glee. The pre-Code version had nothing like that.

On the downside:

  • The pacing is too leisurely and we have a long slack period in the middle. 1h52m is plenty for this.
  • Everyone already knows the story. Should we have to wait 33 minutes for the potion?
  • Bergman is a London barmaid with a Swedish accent in an American picture.

MGM bought the earlier film and suppressed it, which is foul play. It was out of circulation for decades.

Available on DVD; Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931) is on the same disc.



-Bill
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post #2270 of 2287 Old 10-17-2019, 11:19 AM - Thread Starter
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Doctor X (1932), directed by Michael Curtiz.

The Full Moon Murderer has been terrorizing the city for months, not just violating (?) and killing his victims but gnawing on their bodies. The police suspect the scientists of a medical institute, inmates all a bit loony and menacing. The director of the institute uses his lovely daughter as bait to smoke out the lunatic; what could go wrong?

On the down side: it is a ludicrous plot and the wise-cracking reporter is just an irritant this time. It is the 80% laughs / 20% chills formula you might see at a community theater where you can't get too heavy. Some of the fake scare setups remind me of what William Castle would do in the House On Haunted Hill (1959).

On the other hand it has much of interest:

  • Along with Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933) this is one of the last of the two-color Technicolor process films. I love the antique color effect, somehow evocative of printed comic pages of the era. Most of the color versions of these films were discarded; this and others were discovered in Jack Warner's private collection after his death.
  • In common with Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933) we have director Michael Curtiz, plus Fay Wray, Lionel Atwill and others. Wray tinted her hair red to have a little extra for the camera.
  • This is still the pre-Code era and we have two scenes in the scary bits that couldn't have been done later:
  • (1) In this sort of film we usually see the murderer/creature unmasked at the climax, but here we see the monster assembled as the killer goops on masses of synthetic flesh. This is truly horrific and was censored in some countries.
  • (2) The father has chained himself to a chair when his daughter is attacked by the killer, a nightmarish situation.
  • More pre-Code: the reporter ducks into a bordello to use the phone.

Audiences raved about the color at the time.

Available on DVD with the unrelated The Return of Doctor X (1939) on the same disc. A fact-filled commentary track gives loads of interesting background.



-Bill

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post #2271 of 2287 Old 10-17-2019, 11:21 AM - Thread Starter
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The Return of Doctor X (1939), directed by Vincent Sherman.

This has little to do with the original Doctor X (1932). More scientists messing with dangerous body horror elements: artificial blood this time rather than synthetic flesh. In the Code era the thrills are more slack and the intrepid reporter more dull.

Notable for a role Humphrey Bogart said he hated doing.

Funny bits: the omnipresent Ian Wolfe (304 IMDB credits) is the cemetery caretaker. Digging up an empty coffin: "I've been robbed!" The two younger men leave him their shovels: "Thanks, Pop. Put it back, will you?"

Newspaper headline at the end: "Dr 'X' Returns to Grave".

Just an hour long. Photographed by Sidney Hickox.

Available on DVD with Doctor X (1932) on the same disc. The commentary track is an interview with director, age 99 and still sharp.

Regarding Bogart's dislike of the project he says something like: This was my first job as director and he was not a star yet. We were both theater people and just happy to be getting a paycheck.



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post #2272 of 2287 Old 10-21-2019, 02:29 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by wmcclain View Post
The Leopard Man (1943), produced by Val Lewton, directed by Jacques Tourneur.

If you were in a New Mexico resort town where a black panther was prowling and leaving mangled corpses from time to time, would you go walking around at night? And might it be possible for a murderer to use the cat as cover for his own opportunistic mayhem?

A small film only 66 minutes long, but with plenty of scare moments. It sometimes diverts into little human interest sidelines. From a story by Cornell Woolrich.

Most critics view this as one of the slightest films in the series, but this essayist gets quite a lot of good out of it: .

Rambling but heartfelt commentary track by William Friedkin. He tends to summarize what we are already seeing.
(Additional thoughts and new thumbnails from the Blu-ray).

It begins with a publicity stunt: at a nightclub in a New Mexico resort town, a women appears with a black leopard on a leash to spoil another woman's dance routine. It's not so funny when the cat escapes and we have a series of horrific death-by-maulings, and the guilt-inducing knowledge that the rich anglos are abusing the local poor Mexicans.

But wait: we begin to suspect that the cat did only the first killing, and that the others are done by a psycho using the predator as a cover. Who could it be... well, they try some misdirection but there is only one plausible candidate.

Filming on a dark studio lot gives it a dreamlike quality, particularly in the first half. We have three tense murder scenes, all lone women in the dark:

  • A girl sent out for groceries, running home screaming and begging to be let in -- then her blood flows under the door.
  • A young woman out to meet her lover is locked in the cemetery after dark. Something is on the walls and in the trees.
  • The passionate dancer, always playing her castanets, meets something horrific on the dark street which we are not allowed to see.

This is considered one of the minor efforts in Lewton's RKO thriller series, and you can see why. It's not stitched together very well. After 20 minutes we encounter a new set of people and after 40 minutes yet another new group. The resolution is slack, but in a way that is also dreamlike: dreams don't always have climactic resolution, but sort of wander and fade out.

Notes:

  • A bit I hadn't noticed before: a woman's face is posed like a Madonna, she then puts a cigarette in her mouth and we realize it is the fortune teller.
  • Female lead Jean Brooks had her best part as the doomed satanist in Lewton's The Seventh Victim (1943).
  • The film is only 66 minutes long.
  • Roy Webb score, making use of the castanets motif.
  • Adapted from a book by Cornell Woolrich (aka William Irish & George Hopley), called the 20th century Poe. Other films from his work: The Window (1949), Rear Window (1954), The Bride Wore Black (1968) and Mississippi Mermaid (1969).
  • Lewton had the book in his pocket when he arrived at RKO and immediately bought the rights. It was the story he was thinking of when making Cat People (1942).
  • The studio promoted it as if there might be a man-beast in the film but of course there isn't.
  • Neither Lewton nor the director were very pleased with the final result.

Available on Blu-ray from Shout Factory with two commentary tracks:

  • Constantine Nasr gives pleasant, informative notes on the production. Most valuably he reads a long letter from Lewton to his mother written just as he had arrived at RKO, detailing his hopes for his career there.
  • William Friedkin's commentary is brought forward from the DVD. He sometimes has valuable insights on the film and its influence on his career: "Plot coherence is the enemy of horror, as is explaining too much". Now and then he resorts to obvious narration of what is happening on the screen, but this is not as bad as his stupefying commentary for Vertigo (1958).



-Bill
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post #2273 of 2287 Old 10-21-2019, 02:34 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by wmcclain View Post
The Body Snatcher (1945), produced by Val Lewton, directed by Robert Wise.

From the RL Stevenson story. Doctors in 1830s Edinburgh need cadavers for anatomy studies. With a limited supply, what do you do?

This period thriller is stiffer than others in the Val Lewton series, with the young hero being particularly wooden. Some of the actors have Scots accents, others don't. Nonetheless it was a smash hit.

Henry Daniell and Boris Karloff save it. Their mutual hatred and nasty bantering is vastly entertaining. Karloff was particularly grateful to Lewton for getting him out of the monster movies, and is quoted as saying things like "he saved my soul" and "brought me back from the dead". Many Karloff fans think this is his best performance; he is hypnotically evil, but this is disorienting because the object of his malice is no angel either.

Robert Wise contributes a commentary track for the DVD, but it is not specific to this film. Another commentator gives some ghastly details on the historical facts behind the story, as well as more history of the production.
(Additional thoughts and new thumbnails from the Blu-ray).

Perhaps in appreciation of the new Blu-ray I am seeing deeper into the film this time, finding even more profound corruptions of the soul:

Quote:

Karloff: You're a fool, Toddy, and no doctor. It's only the dead ones you know.

Daniell: I am a doctor. I teach medicine.

Karloff: Like Knox taught you? Like I taught you? In cellars and graveyards? Did Knox teach what makes the blood flow?

Daniell: The heart pumps it.

Karloff: Did he tell you how thoughts come and how they go? And why things are remembered and forgot?

Daniell: The nerve centers, the brain.

Karloff: What makes a thought start?

Daniell: The brain, I tell you, I know!

Karloff: You don't know and you'll never know or understand, Toddy. Not from Knox or me would you learn those things. Look, look at yourself. Could you be a doctor, a healing man with the things those eyes have seen? There's a lot of knowledge in those eyes, but no understanding. You'd not get that from me.
Our principle players:

  • Boris Karloff: The scruffy, sinister cab driver intrigues us at once. He is kind to children and his horse but kills a dog. What is the history he shares with the esteemed doctor and the doctor's housekeeper (and lover)? His sole joy in life is tormenting the doctor, who has to put up with it.

    Certainly one of Karloff's best and meatiest roles. He was always grateful to Val Lewton (who didn't want him at first) for giving him a chance to do some proper work.
  • Henry Daniell: The esteemed doctor with no bedside manner is missing something in his character and his life is blighted by cab driver Gray. And yet he does know his science, wants to teach others and takes honest satisfaction in healing.

    Daniell was most often a supporting actor, but he shines in a more substantial role, probably his biggest part in film. I always think of him as Moriarty to Basil Rathbone's Holmes in The Woman in Green (1945), the same year as this film.
  • Bela Lugosi: A smaller part, but a good one as the servant who tries to blackmail a killer. Lugosi was in pain and medicated and struggled in his acting, but they were patient with him. Karloff treated him well, which you might not suspect from watching Ed Wood (1994). This was the last of their films together.

It's a great film when any combination of the three are on screen. The rest is filler and tends to drag it down, particularly the stiff Russell Wade as the medical assistant. That's too bad. The costumes and sets have a static quality common to films of that era.

Roy Webb score.

Available on Blu-ray from Shout Factory. On a commentary track the director gives an account of his early career and this film. This is followed by thoughts from film historian.



-Bill
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post #2274 of 2287 Old 10-21-2019, 06:47 PM
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He was so disregarded by Hollywood as anything but "that monster actor," when Val Lewton cast him in this and the amazingly evocative Isle of the dead Karloff is reported to have said of Lewton, "the man who rescued me from the living dead and restored my soul." This, The Leopard Man, and Isle of the Dead, as well as other Lewton shockers, are streaming from Criterion Channel this month. Mraawwwwrrrrao!
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post #2275 of 2287 Old 10-22-2019, 06:02 PM
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(Previously reviewed by ChromeJob here).

The Blood on Satan's Claw (1971), directed by Piers Haggard.

A laugh track from Mark Gatiss and friends. They revere this film and have been watching it since they were kids. Being American I sometimes have a hard time following their conversation.
Spoiler!

-Bill
@wmcclain Here's Mark Gatiss in his BBC Four series on The History of Horror (film) Part 2 of 3, talking about Blood on Satan's Claw (aka Satan's Skin) and speaking with director Piers Haggard (about 52 minutes in, after discussing The Witchfinder General and The Wicker Man). Go back about 5-10 mins to here him begin describing the minor sub-genre of British "folk horror."

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post #2276 of 2287 Old 10-26-2019, 07:58 AM - Thread Starter
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The Night Stalker (1972), directed by John Llewellyn Moxey.

Quote:

Victim #4: Mary Brandon, showgirl, 25, 5 feet 8 inches tall, 125 luscious pounds... less the weight of 12 pints of blood, of course.
The first appearance of Carl Kolchak, old-school muckraking reporter, loud and abusive and never without his little camera and tape recorder. In this first adventure young women in Las Vegas are found drained of blood. Van Helsing-like, Kolchak has to handle the whole mess. Do the authorities thank him? What do you think?

I remembered the Kolchak films fondly but didn't actually remember much about them. This was a phenomenally popular TV movie-of-the week produced by Dan Curtis from a adaptation by Richard Matheson.

It's relatively mild by horror-movie standards, but was thrilling for TV audiences of the time. The climactic battle with the fiend -- cross, pulled curtains letting in light, hammer and stake -- are taken directly from Hammer's Horror of Dracula (1958) with Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing.

The characters make it work, particularly Darren McGavin's lovable and irritating journalist, dogged in his pursuit of the truth -- always uncovered at great personal risk -- that he is never allowed to publish. A huge influence on The X-Files says Chris Carter.

Many other familiar faces:

  • Carol Lynley (1942--2019) is -- surprise! -- Kolchak's girlfriend. Even stranger, she seems to be a Vegas hooker. Last seen in Bunny Lake is Missing (1965).
  • Simon Oakland is a continuing character as Kolchak's harried, nearly apoplectic editor, Tony Vincenzo.
  • Claude Akins is the country sheriff. He and Oakland occupied a very similar character actor space and this was their only appearance together apart from an episode of the Toma TV series.
  • Ralph Meeker is an FBI agent and Kolchak pal. Meeker played Mike Hammer in Kiss Me Deadly (1955) and McGavin starred in 78 episodes of the Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer (1958) TV series.
  • Also with Charles McGraw, Kent Smith, Elisha Cook Jr and Larry Linville (pre-MASH).

I'm not sure audiences caught one horrific bit: the vampire keeps a live woman tied up and uses her as a warmer for the cold blood he has stockpiled. Ick! The vampire himself: in truth, not that scary, although walking through the monster's house always has a nightmare feel.

Available on Blu-ray from Kino with a wide-ranging and detailed commentary track by Tim Lucas. He makes many interesting connections with then recent history and the national mood.



-Bill
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post #2277 of 2287 Old 10-26-2019, 08:00 AM - Thread Starter
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The Night Strangler (1973), directed by Dan Curtis.

One year after The Night Stalker (1972) we get a sequel in a very similar story. Darren McGavin returns as dogged and abrasive reporter Carl Kolchak, now in Seattle. He runs into his old boss, the long-suffering hot-tempered editor Tony Vincenzo (Simon Oakland), who puts Kolchak on a murder case and it's off to the races.

A series of young women -- yes, it's always women, several of them exotic dancers this time -- have been murdered: throats crushed, small amounts of blood withdrawn and traces of rotting flesh left on their necks, as if a living-dead ghoul were collecting samples. Kolchak finds this has been happening every 21 years for almost a century.

Like the first film this was a very popular TV movie, but we've traded freshness of concept for familiarity with the characters and mythology. This is not a bad thing when we have fun with it. Kolchak is a hero for his time: seeking truth but always frustrated by the System and never able to get credit for his victories, or even able to tell people about the ghastly reality all around them.

New faces:


I want to give a shout-out to massively framed Kate Murtagh who I remember as the monstrous madam of Farewell, My Lovely (1975), but who I now see was featured on a famous album cover:



Dan Curtis directs as well as produces this time and Richard Matheson provides a new screenplay. The ghoul's lair is the much-loved Bradbury Building, last seen in Blade Runner (1982).

The home video version is 90 minutes long, 16 minutes longer than the broadcast edition. The full film was cut for commercials in the US but shown complete at theaters in Europe. The shorter broadcast version has been lost now.

I might be able to cut 16 minutes from what we have, an excess of shouting and arguing with the cops and politicians.

Matheson wrote a third script which was never made. Instead we got 20 episodes of Kolchak: The Night Stalker which are available on DVD. Two more TV movies -- The Demon and the Mummy and Crackle of Death -- are edited compilations of TV episodes.

Available on Blu-ray from Kino with a another fact-filled commentary track by Tim Lucas.

He finds this film and other Dan Curtis projects like the Dark Shadows TV series to be much influenced by Mario Bava.



-Bill
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post #2278 of 2287 Old 10-26-2019, 12:01 PM
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I thought I remembered a Kolchak adventure that occurred under the "old Chicaco" underground from the contemporary city, probably the pilot or a famous episode. Discussion of the Dan Curtis/Matheson TV movies isn't really complete without mentioning Trilogy of Terror which enjoys a cult following to this day, partly due to the pretty darn scary "demon doll" segment, but Karen Black earned some respect for carrying the film with four separate roles.


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Originally Posted by wmcclain View Post
The Night Strangler (1973), directed by Dan Curtis.
I thought that was the lovely, inimitable Carol Wayne, but on investigating, I see it's her equally lovely sister, Nina Wayne. Who knew...
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post #2279 of 2287 Old 10-28-2019, 10:37 AM - Thread Starter
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Dead of Night (1945), directed by Alberto Cavalcanti, Charles Crichton, Robert Hamer and Basil Dearden.

This early horror anthology leaves a lasting impression. Influential on later efforts, Milton Subotsky said it was a "blueprint" for Amicus Production films such as The House That Dripped Blood (1971) and Asylum (1972).

The framing story is of a man who arrives at a country house and says the people there are all in his recurring dream. Trying to be kind to him they suggest that perhaps they don't really exist. They shouldn't joke about that.

He predicts things that come true and says the evening will end in nightmare. We believe him.

The stories the others tell:

The Hearse Driver. Scary dreams can come true: a foreshadowing.

The Christmas Party. Ghosts can be with us even as we are unaware of their nature. (This was based on a true incident of child-murder in the 19th century; the real names are used).

The Haunted Mirror. Who is looking back at you?

The Golfer's Story. A ghostly comic interlude with the great team of Charters and Caldicott of The Lady Vanishes (1938) and Night Train to Munich (1940).

The Ventriloquist's Dummy. A much imitated scenario: dummies are scary dolls, the men who operate them are not well-balanced, and there is always the hint of the supernatural or even demonic. Is it possible that thing is really alive?

Score by Georges Auric, photographed by Douglas Slocombe, one of his first films.

Available on Blu-ray from Kino. The video has prominent damage in spots, particularly vertical scratches.

Detailed commentary track.



-Bill
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post #2280 of 2287 Old 10-31-2019, 09:02 AM - Thread Starter
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Arsenic and Old Lace (1944), directed by Frank Capra.

On the day of his marriage to the girl next door, our hero is exceedingly flustered to discover that his harmless spinster aunts are actually homicidal maniacs who poison visitors and, with the aid of another nephew -- who thinks he is Teddy Roosevelt -- bury them in the basement.

As if that wasn't enough, his long-lost scary homicidal brother returns home that day, looking for revenge.

It seems insanity runs in the family, which is quite concerning since our guy was just married and is eager for his honeymoon.

After a whole movie of everything going wrong, we have a great reverse-fiasco in the final act where everything goes right, so lucky it's hilarious. 1h58m is plenty long for this; they probably wanted to do the whole play right.

I've often thought that this level of hysterical goofiness is just too much for Cary Grant, but I thought that about Bringing Up Baby (1938) and came around in the end. Both the movie and earlier play were smash hits. Grant is often so cool and debonair that audiences liked to see him manic and panicked now and then.

I always enjoy seeing singer Priscilla Lane; she really does have a girl-next-door appeal. A brief filmography but she was in some good ones, such as Walsh's The Roaring Twenties (1939) and Hitchcock's Saboteur (1942). She does a bit of Code-compliant frustration of a bride who wants her wedding night.

Raymond Massey takes over from Boris Karloff who played the Frankenstein brother on the stage. "Looks just like Karloff" is a recurring jibe, probably a self-referential bit in the play.

And look who appears as his Renfield: Peter Lorre!

Photographed by Sol Polito -- 42nd Street (1933), The Petrified Forest (1936), The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), Dodge City (1939), The Sea Hawk (1940), Sergeant York (1941).

The title is a reference to Lavender and Old Lace, a now forgotten 1902 romance novel.

Available on DVD.



-Bill
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