Saturday, April 30, 2016

Everybody Loves a Baby, that's Why I'm in Love with You

Film: Baby Doll
Format: DVD from NetFlix on laptop.

Someone needs to tell me how it was possible that Eli Wallach was never even nominated for a competitive Oscar. Baby Doll was his first screen credit, although he’d done some television work before this. From this first film, Wallach established himself as a force to be reckoned with. While the film isn’t named after him, there’s no question that Baby Doll belongs as much to Wallach as it does to Carroll Baker, who was nominated for her role as the title character. It’s yet another mystery and another reason why I do those posts on Friday. Someone has to give the great Eli Wallach the credit he deserved.

Archie Lee Meighan (Karl Malden) has been married for well over a year to Baby Doll (Carroll Baker) but the marriage has gone unconsummated. The reason for this is that Archie married Baby Doll when her father was on his death bed; the marriage happened because he wanted his daughter to be looked after when he was gone. However, since she was just 18 at the time and not ready for marriage, he made Archie promise that he would not consummate the marriage until she was “ready,” which they have agreed will be her 20th birthday.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Take a Bow

Film: The Entertainer
Format: Turner Classic Movies on rockin’ flatscreen.

Every generation has its own greatest actor. A couple of generations ago, that greatest actor was Laurence Olivier, who, despite that appellation, won only a single competitive Oscar in his career. He was nominated plenty of times, though, and since this is Olivier we’re talking about, I’m not going to be the person who says he didn’t deserve all of the acclaim he got. For me, thinking of Olivier immediately calls up images of Shakespearean dramas, which makes a film like The Entertainer not specifically a departure from his career, but a departure from what I think of when I think of him.

The Entertainer is the story of Archie Rice (Olivier), a Vaudeville-style performer whose career has been dying for years and is hanging on by the smallest thread. He has a show in a seaside resort town in England that is drawing smaller and smaller crowds that are becoming less and less enthusiastic. When the movie starts, his daughter Jean (Joan Plowright) has returned to the town. Her brother Mick (Albert Finney in his screen debut) has just shipped out to the Suez Canal, a hotspot at the time. Her other brother Frank (Alan Bates, also in his movie debut) helps out with the show and is somewhat in awe of his father.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016


Film: The Visitor
Format: Streaming video from Hoopla Digital on The Nook.

In a real way, all drama is personal. The biggest science fiction action movie or war film, boiled down to its core essence, is a personal drama. A film like The Visitor strips all of that away and gives us just that focus on the small drama, the personal moments that make up a life. We start with perhaps the most disconnected person in recent years, someone who is living in the world but not a part of the world, and through the story of the film, reconnect him back with a world that is real and vibrant. Real life is hard and The Visitor doesn’t shy away from this. Being disconnected is safe but lonely and boring. Connection brings life and vibrancy and joy, but it also brings pain, loss, and disappointment.

Walter Vale (Richard Jenkins) is a professor of economics who is completely detached from everything around him. He goes through the motions, connecting with no one. We slowly learn that he lives alone because his wife, a concert pianist, has died. He tries to connect to her by taking piano lessons, but is constantly dissatisfied with both himself and his series of teachers. To everything else, Walter is not really a participant but an observer. He teaches only one class and can barely be bothered to teach it. One of his students complains that he still hasn’t handed out the syllabus.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

In Memoriam

One of the realities of this blog is that I frequently have to plan ahead. Since I have specific feature posts on specific days every month, I sometimes work ahead. Just this morning as I was waiting for my daughter to get ready to leave for school, I went through my NetFlix queue to plan the two films I’d watch from Chip Lary and Nick Jobe for May. It was also a chance for me to look through the blogs of other people and see what I’ve missed in the last couple of work-heavy days.

What had I missed? A few lists, reviews of movies I’ve seen, reviews of movies I haven’t seen. And then “In Memory of Chip Lary.” What?

Chip had been ill I knew. For the last 16 months, he and I have been posting reviews of films we’ve challenged each other to on the second Monday of the month. In March, I got an email from him telling me that he’d been having some health problems and that he’d be a day or two late. A little later he had surgery to remove his gall bladder and was hoping that things would get better. I don’t know if the causes of Chip’s passing were related to this, complications from this, or something entirely unrelated. All I knew was that Chip seemed to be slowly getting back to health.

The loss of Chip is a blow to the blogging world and to anyone who is a fan of movies. Chip was more than generous with his time, reading and commenting on blogs everywhere, and commenting not just a word or two but often well-thought and clear posts that showed insight and a real depth of knowledge. He was capable of disagreeing with a review in a way that didn’t make anyone feel dumb or wrong for having a different opinion. He went out of his way to help people locate movies they couldn’t find, and for the last few years was the standard when it came time to rewrite and rearrange the new additions to the 1001 Movies list to put things in a standardized order for all of us who follow that list. Every now and then I will post a film reviewed from “The Magic Flashdrive.” Those movies are ones that Chip sent me, films that I likely could not have found on my own.

More than that, though, Chip was a friend, and he was a friend to many of us in this community. Most of us knew about his extensive movie knowledge and his ability to, when the mood struck him, to watch more movies in a month than many of us watch in a year. He was more than that, though. He was a true and real friend, someone who was far more than his movie collection. When I tell people that I have friends I’ve never met in person, he has been one of the first two or three people I think of. Through email, we talked movies, but we talked other things, too. He was a smart guy who knew a lot about a lot, and just like with movies, he had that talent for giving advice and opinions in a way that didn’t seem rude or condescending.

Chip and I agreed on plenty, but we didn't always agree. You don’t have to look any further than the last review he posted. He treated everyone with respect, though. For many of us, I’d venture a guess that he was something of an older sibling.

I’m going to miss the hell out of him for a long time, probably the rest of my life. The entire community will.

Requiescat in pace, Chip, and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Pride Goeth

Film: The Great White Hope
Format: DVD from NetFlix on laptop.

James Earl Jones has been nominated for a single Oscar. I find that surprising, although a look through his filmography, there’s a lot of schlock. It’s that voice, though. The man has a voice that can say just about anything and make anyone listening happy. That one Oscar nomination comes in The Great White Hope, an interesting title for a film that stars James Earl Jones. This is a boxing movie, at least nominally. In truth, it’s a drama with something like a romance thrown in. Even more, this is a film about just how good at racism Americans were 100 years ago. I say that, as an American, with no small amount of shame regarding my country’s past.

The Great White Hope is the story of Jack Jefferson (James Earl Jones), a character loosely based on the life and career of boxer Jack Johnson in and around the first two decades of the 20th century. As the film starts, Jefferson has been winning bout after bout, but the current champion Brady (Larry Pennell) has retired. This makes Jefferson kind of a de facto world champion. Brady is forced out of retirement to defend his title and Jack Jefferson pastes him as well, giving him the belt and the title for real, something that doesn’t sit well with white America.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Off Script: The Hidden

Film: The Hidden
Format: DVD from personal collection on laptop.

There’s no good reason why The Hidden should work as a film or even as a story. This is the kind of movie that requires its audience to have a massive willing suspension of disbelief for any of it to work. It’s also a film that has a cast made up almost entirely of “that-guys”; watching it is like seeing every character actor from the 1970s and 1980s in one place. There are some definite horror elements here even though this is primarily a science fiction film. It’s also a spin on the buddy cop formula and the idea of an odd couple in terms of our two main characters. There’s a lot at play here, some of which seems to have been picked up by the high budget and much higher grossing Alien Nation of the following year.

The eventual buy-in is that you have to accept that there are alien creatures who have shown up on Earth and can invade the body of people and animals and take them over. We don’t know this right away, although we learn pretty quickly. What we also learn eventually is that one of these creatures is a nasty slug-like monster and that it’s a criminal that enjoys nothing more than slaughtering innocents, stealing fast cars, and causing as much mayhem as possible. The other is essentially a cop tracking down the bad alien. Got it? Good, because we’re going to go on quite the joyride in the 97 minutes The Hidden runs.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Off Script: Alone in the Dark (1982)

Film: Alone in the Dark (1982)
Format: Internet video on The Nook.

There’s a particular sick pleasure to a film like Alone in the Dark from 1982. This is a cheap horror film, the first film ever produced and distributed by New Line Cinema, so there aren’t a lot of surprises in terms of the subject matter here. The cast, though, is crazy for a cheap slasher film. It says something when Dwight Schultz whose greatest claim to acting fame comes from his roles as the crazy Murdoch on The A-Team plays the sanest one in the bunch. Donald Pleasence isn’t too difficult to cast in a film like this one—he had a track record, and seeing Jack Palance hamming it up as a psycho isn’t a stretch. But Martin Landau? If nothing else, I had to see this just for that.

Dan Potter (Dwight Schultz) shows up for his new job in a psychiatric hospital headed by Dr. Leo Bain (Donald Pleasence), who operates a very different sort of mental facility. Bain is of the belief that his patients should be given a great deal of autonomy and that they aren’t so much crazy as they are simply off on little mental vacations. He thinks this of all of his mental patients, including the dangerously, criminally insane men on the third floor. This group of four includes military veteran Frank Hawkes (Jack Palance), a dangerous paranoid who is convinced that Dan Potter got his position by killing the previous doctor; Byron Sutcliff (Martin Landau), a preacher with a penchant for burning churches with the congregation still inside; Ronald “Fatty” Elster (Erland van Lidth), a gigantic child molester; and Skaggs (Phillip Clark), known as “the Bleeder” because he gets nose bleeds when he attacks a victim.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

A Cable Car Named Desire

Film: Blue Jasmine
Format: Starz HD on rockin’ flatscreen.

When I can, I try to watch something off the DVR. For whatever reason, there are a lot of movies I want to watch being broadcast in the next three months, so I need to constantly clear room. More than that, I’ve got things that I recorded well over a year ago that I just haven’t gotten to. Of all the films languishing on the DVR that are on one of my various lists, none has sat longer unwatched than Blue Jasmine. I tried watching it once before and in the first few minutes found the title character so repellent that I shut it off and haven’t come back to it. Sooner or later, though, it’s something I need to watch.

This time I gutted it out past those first few minutes and I get it. Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) is supposed to be repellent. That’s the entire point. The entirety of Blue Jasmine is about the complete breakdown of this woman who has created a world for herself and then seen that world pulled out from under her. It’s not hard to compare this to A Streetcar Named Desire, and that’s obviously Woody Allen’s intention. It’s not a complete remake of the story, but there’s enough in common here that not seeing Jasmine as a modern-day Blanche DuBois is all but impossible.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Off Script: Slither

Film: Slither
Format: Streaming video from HBO Go on rockin’ flatscreen.

Mashing up a couple of genres is at best a risky proposition. Most of the time, it’s simply not done well and the film, rather than being a blend of two good genres, turns out to be not enough of either of them. Slither is how it’s done. This isn’t a film that really goes for scary as much as it goes for straight-up gross out. It’s not scary, matter of fact and it is really gross. It’s also really funny. It’s not merely funny in a few scenes; there are jokes here that play with the expectations of the audience and that throw back to classic horror movies of the past several decades.

Slither is sort of a blood-soaked version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers with a little bit of the John Carpenter version of The Thing. A more honest comparison is probably with Night of the Creeps, although writer/director James Gunn’s horror roots go quite a bit deeper than this. A meteor impacts the planet near a small town somewhere (Arkansas?) in the rural American South. Attached to the meteor is a life form that infects local rich guy Grant Grant (Michael Rooker) and turns him into a creature that a) wants to eat a vast amount of meat, b) can turn other creatures into meat-craving breeders that eventually explode into a giant swarm of slugs, and c) can use those slugs to turn people into acid-vomiting zombies that mainly are used to bring meat to the breeders.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Nick's Picks: I Saw the Devil

Film: Angmareul Boatda (I Saw the Devil)
Format: Streaming video from NetFlix on rockin’ flatscreen.

This is the fourth in a series of twelve movies suggested by Nick Jobe.

Last year in my set of 25 challenge movies, Chip Lary assigned me the film 3 Idiots, which I enjoyed. 3 Idiots, though, is a 3-hour film mostly in Hindi, which makes it kind of a daunting sit. This year, Nick has given my Angmareul Boatda, more commonly known as I Saw the Devil. As with 3 Idiots, this is a film I knew about and knew I’d watch eventually, but which is well past the 2-hour mark in length, in Korean, and concerns both a hyper-violent serial killer and a series of physical brutalities played out against him in revenge. There’s a reason that horror movies tend to be short; there’s only so much the audience can take.

I Saw the Devil is not a great deal more than a long tale of brutal revenge taken on a sadistic and twisted serial killer. Jang Kyung-chul (Choi Min-sik) is a bus driver who also happens to be a brutal serial killer. The first of his victims that we see is Jang Joo-yun (Oh San-ha). This turns out to be a serious problem for our killer because Joo-yun is the daughter of Jang (Jeon Gook-hwan), a police squad chief and the fiancĂ©e of Kim Soo-hyun (Lee Byung-hun), a secret service agent. When Joo-yun’s body is found, Soo-hyun dedicates himself to tracking down the killer, torturing him for as long as he possibly can, and then ending him.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Happiness is a Warm Gun

Film: American Sniper
Format: HBO Go on rockin’ flatscreen.

I’ve avoided watching American Sniper specifically because I haven’t been interested in it. I’ve said before that I grew up on war films and that’s true to a large extent; many of my formative films centered on World War II. I still have a historical interest in World War II because in many ways I think it is the last noble war in which the United States was involved. More modern wars interest me less, and our involvement in conflicts in the Middle East over the last couple of decades despite any political rhetoric have seemed to me to be more morally dubious. So, suspecting that American Sniper could well be jingoism disguised as military drama, I’ve stayed away.

I have to get to it eventually, though, and figured today when I’m alone at home for the bulk of the day would be a good opportunity. That and it’s disappearing from HBO at the end of the month, so it was a chance to take out a film that I would otherwise have to find in a library or get on disc. These considerations are important when it comes to pursuing a large list of films.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Pillow Talk 2

Film: Lover Come Back
Format: DVD from NetFlix on laptop.

Doris Day and Rock Hudson are remembered as a classic on-screen couple even though they only made three movies together, and since Tony Randall was in all three, one wonders why he tends to be forgotten in this arithmetic. Anyway, of those three movies, two were nominated for Best Original Screenplay. The first collaboration, Pillow Talk, won. The second, Lover Come Back, was nominated, but didn’t win. But a nomination is good enough for inclusion on this blog, and it’s what showed up from NetFlix. In truth, Lover Come Back probably didn’t win because it’s more or less the exact same movie.

No, really. In Pillow Talk, Doris Day plays an interior decorator who shares a party line phone with songwriting playboy Rock Hudson. Eventually, the two meet and Hudson fakes a persona, woos her under false pretenses, and the two end up together despite his deception. In Lover Come Back we get the same plot except that in this case, the two are direct business rivals. In Pillow Talk, Tony Randall plays Hudson’s rich friend and Broadway benefactor. In Lover Come Back, he plays Hudson’s wealthy and socially meek boss. These are, more or less, the same movie.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Spreading the Disease

Film: The Story of Louis Pasteur
Format: Video from the Magic Flashdrive on laptop.

I like films that stress science. Not movie science, but real science, the kind that actually figures things out and might potentially improve life for people. The Story of Louis Pasteur certainly seemed to be a film right in line with films like Dr. Erlich’s Magic Bullet, Sister Kenny or Madame Curie, films that glorified good science in a way that translated well to the average filmgoer. I appreciate stuff like that. We need more of it because at least Americans are really, really stupid when it comes to science as a general rule.

There’s no mystery what this is about in general. Specifically, this is about Pasteur’s work not in creating pasteurization, but in developing vaccines for anthrax and rabies. Like many a film that deals with scientific discovery we will have a brilliant and determined hero scientist who makes a world-changing discovery that is immediately dismissed by those in power in the scientific halls of knowledge. In this case, our plucky hero is the titular character, Louis Pasteur (Paul Muni). The main opposition comes from Dr. Charbonnet (Fritz Leiber), a doctor who is appalled by the idea that diseases can be caused by microbes and aghast at the implication that he should wash his hands or sterilize his instruments between patients.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

This is the Church, this is the Steeple

Film: Spotlight
Format: DVD from NetFlix on rockin’ flatscreen.

I met my wife working on a college newspaper. I worked as an occasional reporter and regular music critic; she was one of the editors. Neither of us are really in journalism anymore—this blog is about as close as I come to anything like journalism and this really isn’t anything like journalism. There was a golden age of journalism and we’re not in it anymore. Great journalists are important, though. They can change the world by revealing painful and ugly but important truths. Spotlight is a reminder of this.

Spotlight has only one major problem to overcome. Like many stories about important historical events, the ending here is not in question. Anyone who pays even a little bit of attention to the world knows how this comes out. It takes good writing, careful direction, and compelling performances to keep the audience interested. It’s a good thing, then, that Spotlight qualifies on all fronts.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Picks from Chip: The Way We Get By

Film: The Way We Get By
Format: Streaming video from Hoopla Digital on The Nook.

This is the fourth in a series of twelve movies selected by Chip Lary at Tips from Chip.

Chip Lary, who picked this film for me, lives in Maine. I’m certain that this is part of the reason that Chip found this film in the first place, since it takes place in large part at the Bangor International Airport. That airport is a joint civilian/military airport, and as one of the easternmost airports in the United States, it serves both as a departure point and an arrival point for U.S. military troops heading to and from combat areas in the Middle East. It also features a woman named Joan Gaudet, the mother of Aron Gaudet, the film’s director.

Like many documentaries, The Way We Get By doesn’t so much have a story as it has a topic. The film follows the lives of three elderly people, the aforementioned Joan Gaudet, William Knight, and Gerald Mundy. What makes these folks and a number of others who appear in the film interesting is that they are on call 24/7 to head out to Bangor International whenever a flight comes in bringing in troops from combat. They are there to welcome people back from war, to let them know that they are appreciated, and as it comes out late in the film, to give themselves a sense of purpose and meaning.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Tramping Around

Film: Chaplin: The Movie
Format: Streaming video from NetFlix on The Nook.

Robert Downey, Jr. is on top of the world right now, but this wasn’t always the case. The man had some dark years, which is what made him the perfect casting for Tony Stark—a likeable rogue with a seriously checkered and dark past. There was evidence early in his career that the man had serious talent. Exhibit A is Chaplin: The Movie (normally just called Chaplin). Downey plays the film star from the beginning of his career to his honorary Oscar in 1972, through all of the personal and professional trials that the man endured.

Downey plays Chaplin himself and is joined by a solid cast including Kevin Kline as Douglas Fairbanks, Anthony Hopkins as the fictional George Hayden going over Chaplin’s autobiography with him, Dan Aykroyd as early comedy director Mack Sennett, Kevin Dunn as J. Edgar Hoover, Paul Rhys as Chaplin’s half-brother Sydney, Diane Lane as Paulette Goddard, David Duchovny as Chaplin’s cameraman Roland Totheroh, Penelope Ann Miller as Edna Purviance (one of Chaplin’s early co-stars), and Moira Kelly as both Chaplin’s first love Hetty Kelly and his fourth and final wife Oona O’Neill. This leaves out brief appearances by Marissa Tomei, Geraldine Chaplin, Nancy Travis, Milla Jovovich, and James Woods.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Off Script: Mute Witness

Film: Mute Witness
Format: Internet video on laptop.

If you ever needed more evidence that Alec Guinness was a basass, the fact that his final movie credit was for a low-budget horror/thriller involving the concept of snuff films. Guinness evidently did the role—a single scene—as a favor to new filmmaker Anthony Waller on virtually no notice and did it without charging Waller for his time. The film in question is Mute Witness, which features one of the most tension-filled sequences in its first half hour it has been my pleasure to watch in some time. It’s worth noting that that’s true without the appearance of Guinness, who doesn’t show up until the middle of the film and is only in it for a couple of minutes there and at the end.

We open with what looks like a terrible and stupid slasher movie. A woman is getting dressed and a radio report comes on saying that there has been a breakout from a local lunatic asylum. And, of course, the escapee makes a sudden appearance in her apartment and sneaks into her kitchen for a knife. A stabbing follows, and then we get the single longest and stupidest death sequence in film history. It turns out that this is a movie set and the slashing we’ve seen is a failed take that didn’t work thanks to a language barrier. Our film-within-a-film director Andy Clarke (Evan Richards) is an American, but his cast and much of his crew is Russian, since this is being made in Moscow. Also on the set are Andy’s wife Karen (Fay Ripley) and Karen’s sister Billy Hughes (Marina Zudina), who is a make-up artist and completely mute.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite

Film: A Tale of Two Cities
Format: DVD from NetFlix on rockin’ flatscreen.

I don’t like the writing of Charles Dickens. I think it’s clearly evident that Dickens was paid by the word. Sure, some of the stories are pretty good, but they’re all so overwritten and based on coincidence that I just can’t get through them. That being the case, I can’t say I was thrilled with getting A Tale of Two Cities in the mail. In fact, I’ve gotten it twice in the last week; the first copy I got was cracked. I knew the basic story going in, just not the specific details.

The story starts before the French Revolution with the release of Dr. Manette (Henry B. Walthall) from the Bastille. His daughter Lucie (Elizabeth Allan) goes to him and finds a broken man in desperate need of rehabilitation. Since Lucie has lived without her father for the 18 years of his incarceration in England, she takes him there. Sharing the boat ride with her is Charles Darnay (Donald Woods), a young and idealistic French nobleman who has renounced his title. Darnay is the nephew of the detestable Marquis St. Evremonde (Basil Rathbone). Just so you know he’s detestable, he runs down a child in his carriage and then yells at the peasants for getting in his way. As it happens, Evremonde is the man responsible for Manette’s long imprisonment.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Down on the Farm

Film: Places in the Heart
Format: Movies! Channel on rockin’ flatscreen.

For the past few months, I’ve been sitting with a single Best Picture nominee in the 1980s that I hadn’t watched. That movie was Places in the Heart, which I’ve had recorded on the DVR for a month or two. Today I finally decided to sit down and watch it, if only to have completed a particular decade of a particular award. It would feel something like an accomplishment if nothing else. Admittedly, the title didn’t fill me with a great deal of hope. I was expecting something along the lines of Crimes of the Heart, which I found dreadful.

It turns out that the worst part of Places in the Heart is the wretched title, which seems to have very little to do with the story that we’re given. The film takes place in Waxahachie, TX right in the heart of the Great Depression. People are out of work, losing their farms and houses, and the town is filled with drifters desperate for a day’s work or a meal. The Spaldings are relatively prosperous. Their house sits on 30 acres of good land and Royce Spalding (Ray Baker) is the sheriff. One night as the family sits down to dinner, Royce is called out on a drunk-and-disorderly and discovers a young black man named Wylie (De’voreaux White) firing off a pistol. An errant shot takes the sheriff in the chest, which leads the townspeople to retaliate with a lynching.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016


Film: Murder on the Orient Express
Format: Movies! Channel on rockin’ flatscreen.

I’m pretty sure that I’d seen Murder on the Orient Express in the past; I have some vague recollections of it even if I didn’t remember a lot of the specifics. I didn’t remember many of the details, but once we got to the ending, I did remember that, and I’m pretty sure that this is one of the Agatha Christie stories that I haven’t actually read, despite having a small fondness for the mysteries involving Hercule Poirot. Make no mistake: this is an Agatha Christie mystery, which means we’ll get a death, interrogation scenes, and a summing up of the detective implicating everyone in the mystery before pointing the finger.

Before I jump into the specifics, I’ll say this—that brief listing of what the movie will entail, sadly, covers the bulk of Murder on the Orient Express. We get a body straight away, a little bit of investigation and a few starting clues, and then it’s a series of interrogation sequences. Hercule Poirot (played here by a nominated Albert Finney) calls for everyone to be assembled for the summing up before he’s finished his investigations.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Greek Tragedy

Film: Mourning Becomes Electra
Format: Internet video on laptop.

No matter what, there’s no drama like family drama. Everything is far more intense when it comes to family. I guess that’s why there are so many movies about screwed up families: the drama almost writes itself. This is especially true in Mourning Becomes Electra. The story, originally written for the stage by Eugene O’Neill, plays out very much like the Greek tragedy on which it is based. This is a surprisingly twisted film with some very disturbing and creepy Freudian elements that, based on the name, should be expected.

Set the Way-Back Machine for the end of the American Civil War. In New England, the Mannon family awaits the return of both General Ezra Mannon (Raymond Massey) and son Orin (Michael Redgrave) with the news of the end of the war. Awaiting them are daughter Lavinia (Rosalind Russell) and wife Christine (Katina Paxinou). Lavinia is engaged to local Peter Niles (Kirk Douglas) but has been canoodling with ship captain Adam Brant (Leo Genn). As the film begins, Lavinia discovers that her mother Christine has also been spending time with the not-so-good captain.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

What Color is Your God?

Film: The Green Goddess
Format: Turner Classic Movies on rockin’ flatscreen.

I’m always happy when a rarity pops up on Turner Classic Movies because it’s just that little bit closer to seeing everything on my various lists. There are a few awards in a few years that are particularly difficult in locating films including Best Actor 1929-1930. This made The Green Goddess doubly important for me. It’s also a good reminder of what I go through for this project because this is not a film that anyone else really needs to see. Oh, it’s not terrible or disturbing or offensive (at least not very). It’s just not very good.

In fact, the main thrill of The Green Goddess is that it’s in sound. It was apparently George Arliss’s first talkie, but he convinced the studio to hold it back until Disraeli debuted, thinking that would serve him better as his first released talkie. The Green Goddess is a remake of an earlier silent that also starred Arliss, so at least in terms of the part he was treading on familiar territory.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

A Very Close Shave

Film: Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Format: DVD from personal collection on laptop.

I’ve been in a horror movie mood lately. That’s not hugely shocking, since horror ranks as one of my favorite genres. I’ve had a copy of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street sitting on my desk for more than a year and I haven’t been able to watch it. For as much as I love a good horror movie, I have a real issue with throat slitting. That just about more than anything else bothers me, and since that is the mode of execution in this film, well, you can understand my reticence.

Honestly, the fact that it’s a musical didn’t bother me at all. I’ve grown far more accustomed to musicals over the last six years and I don’t shy away from them as I would have just half a decade ago. Nope, it’s the throat slitting. I’m not sure what it is. Chop someone’s head off in a film, and I’m fine. Slit someone’s throat and I get immediately squeamish.