The Cobalt Club Annex
Would you like to react to this message? Create an account in a few clicks or log in to continue.

The Cobalt Screening Room Balcony

Page 25 of 28 Previous  1 ... 14 ... 24, 25, 26, 27, 28  Next

Go down

The Cobalt Screening Room Balcony - Page 25 Empty Re: The Cobalt Screening Room Balcony

Post by Seamus on 7/2/2020, 4:44 pm

I enjoyed Hansel and Gretel. Escapist fun its not like you look at it and say ...nope that does not make sense.... you say its all fun and enjoy it while eating way too many snickers bars.

Heathers I liked too back in the day ... Have not watched that movie in donkeys years
Seamus
Seamus
Admin

Posts : 487
Join date : 2013-05-06
Location : Big Trouble in Little China

Back to top Go down

The Cobalt Screening Room Balcony - Page 25 Empty Re: The Cobalt Screening Room Balcony

Post by ghemrats on 7/2/2020, 6:04 pm

Post #431: Imagine what the world would be like if Walt Disney hadn't offered us fairy tales that had been bleached, sanitized, martinized, sterilized, starched, pressed, steamed and then tempered in hazmat suits set out to dry before loosing them on the children of the world. Even as they stand, many classic Disney cartoons are labeled by the French "Cinema de sadistique" because main characters' parents die and children are subjected to all manner of horror. But let's go back to Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm's original reportage and speculate how the family fare would have fared if the stories were not bowlderized.

In the original, Cinderella's stepsisters cut off their toes to ensure a snug fit in the slipper, and the Prince noticed this only when blood was dripping from it; doves then poke out the eyes of the stepsisters when Cinderella is discovered with the right shoe (Paging Mr. Tarantino, snow white courtesy phone). Snow White's mother--not evil stepmother--wanted her offed (Shades of Mommy Dearest). Following a brief fling with the Prince who ascended her haircase, Rapunzel later complained, "Tell me, Godmother, why my clothes are so tight and they don’t fit me any longer” (So much for Planned Parenthood). Rumpelstilzkin doesn't just run away in a huff when his name is revealed: in the first edition, it is written, “In his rage he stamped his right foot so hard that it went into the ground right up to his waist. Then in his fury he seized his left foot with both hands and tore himself in two” (Why, he's positively beside himself). One story excised after the first edition of Grimm's tales was *Hans Dumm* whose power allows him to make women pregnant merely by wishing it (Well, that takes all the fun out of it. . .). And the beat goes on. Sleep tight, my darlings.

While the Brothers Grimm compiled oral traditions and stories mainly for the bourgeois and certainly not children, they were in fact more academicians than tortured geniuses. But in today's feature, Terry Gilliam's *Brothers Grimm* (2008), Will (Matt Damon) and Jake (Heath Ledger) are recast as bumbling con men in 1811 French-occupied Germany, famed for their prowess as anachronistic Ghostbuters and monster quellers. Arriving in Karlstadt, they stage an elaborate pyrotechnical show to banish a "witch" in exchange for a hefty price, but are arrested as charlatans by a world famous Italian torturer Cavaldi (Peter Stormare) and taken to French governor and Napoleon's General Delatombe (Jonathan Pryce). Offering them amnesty for their crimes, Delatombe dispatches the brothers to the town of Marbaden, whose families have suffered the mysterious disappearance of many of their children. (Yes, just like yesterday's film *Hansel And Gretel: Witch Hunters* (2013)).

Once established in Marbaden, Jake and Will seek the guidance and skills of Angelika (Lena Headey), a renegade huntswoman whose entire family has fallen prey to kidnapping and enchantment; her father a woodsman seduced into service of the evil Queen (Monica Bellucci), cursed to a life of werewolf-dom. With Cavaldi and his men in tow, the brothers and Angelika enter the dense magic of forest with Will bereft of belief in the supernatural. As is typical when you sit down with a Terry Gilliam film, you shouldn't entertain expectations of a linear narrative; you enter into its self-contained world of lush, intense textures, details, and wide-angled lenses entreating you to soak up light, shadow and eccentric architecture leaning at obtuse angles which swallow our protagonists whole. With that adjustment, a readiness to relegate plot to a secondary concern and just luxuriate in images, *The Brothers Grimm* is a magnificent piece of sensory overload.

Sure, it's a meandering, wandering, wondrous excursion into dark recesses of the imagination, and you'll find bounteous baskets of eye candy which is the ocular equivalent of trying to take a sip of water from a fire hose. And usually I complain that movies specializing in CGI with limited plot are a waste of money and technology if it exists only for its own sake (Chapters One through Three of the *Star Wars* saga immediately come to mind for me). But *The Brothers Grimm*'s effects are in direct service to the subject matter: Gnarled trees twisting in pain, rough hewn brick edifices and pebbled towers in precarious wind swept stances, sinewy spider webs shimmering with slick translucent menace, gritty roads coughing up dust motes, and villagers in spiky burlap and mud stained teeth--all evoke 18th century living on the edge. The final estimate of "effects shots" rose to 800 in the 118 minute epic, with a budget of $80-88 million, all of which you can actively see on the screen.

Audiences who expected a straightforward plot line were invariably lost in Gilliam's flights of fantasy, as The Brothers and Angelika encounter cameo variations of Grimm prototypes--Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, the Gingerbread Man, et al. But the main thrust relies on stopping the rejuvenation of the 500-year-old Thuringian Queen decaying in the tower, awaiting the Blood Moon and the sacrifice of twelve children to give her new life, her seductive youthful countenance sealed in the Magic Mirror opposite her bed. Danger and ominous peril lurk in every crag of the surrounding forest, while the contemplative dreamer Jake records every incident in his journal, to be transformed into tales at a later time.

But as with many adult fairy tale films of late, *The Brothers Grimm* excites in correlation to your own intentions. Since its PG-13 rating is not quite in a galaxy far far away from such R-Rated fantasies as *Hansel And Gretel*, Guillermo del Toro's*Pan's Labyrinth* (2006), Neil Jordan's *The Company Of Wolves* (1985), Tim Burton's *Sleepy Hollow* (1999), Reese Witherspoon's *Freeway* (1996) and Daryl Aranofsky's *Black Swan* (2010), since they all reside in fairy tale land in various degrees. But *The Brothers Grimm* is light on the blood spilling (perhaps two pinprick dots from fingers) and long on harrowing suspense and dread--so again, this is NOT for the kiddos unless they've binged on *Stranger Things* in the comfort of their own Upside Down living rooms. If you are looking for a visceral, gory gut punch, don't harbor those expectations; if you're looking for cute furry animals singing, dial up your reality quotient and inform yourself that this is not a cartoon; but if you like wry humor, solid performances and a dark sense of humor, with stunning graphics that telegraph creeping paranoia, here's your huckleberry. If you want to brush up on your early Terry Gilliam, *Time Bandits* (1981) will give you a taste on a smaller budget, though *The Brothers Grimm* is less overtly funny.

Filmed completely in the Czech Republic, it's a sumptuous feast for the eyes with an uncredited script from Terry Gilliam and Tony Grisoni, which according to Damon, "would probably cost $120—$140 million in America" rather than its $80-88 million cost to bring Gilliam's vision to the screen, while it brought $300 million into the Czech Republic's economy. Its production was not without some strong rancor and run-ins with the executive producers, Harvey and Bob Weinstein. "I'm used to riding roughshod over studio executives," Gilliam explained, "but the Weinsteins rode roughshod over me" demanding that they have final cut privileges over the film. Gilliam had suffered similar conflicts during the production of his classic *Brazil* (1995), when Universal chief Sid Sheinberg demanded a happy ending and enough editing to chop its original 132-minute running time to 90 minutes, even going so far as to edit an edition of the film and releasing it without Gilliam's knowledge. In the *Grimm* conflagration, Gilliam simply shut down filming for two weeks at one point. Matt Damon recalled, "I've never been in a situation like that. Terry was spitting rage at the system, at the Weinsteins. You can't try and impose big compromises on a visionary director like him. If you try to force him to do what you want creatively, he'll go nuclear."

*The Brothers Grimm* may not be my favorite Gilliam film, but it's certainly in the top three. An original member of Monty Python, the only American in the troupe, Gilliam consistently expands our film vocabulary with self-imposed challenges he loves to wrestle. All his films deal with the clash between reality and fantasy, illusion and truth, physical and ideological, but I would never call his work boring. He may not have fans in the cat community, as he always includes a scene suggesting some calamity visited upon the feline species, but absolutely no animals were harmed in his productions or in my commentary. It's just camera magic in the hands of a master.
Enjoy.
Jeff

_________________
GHEMRATS
"WRONG! You had Special K with bananas!" What a Face
ghemrats
ghemrats

Posts : 858
Join date : 2013-04-19
Age : 67
Location : Bob Ufer's Meeechigan!

Seamus likes this post

Back to top Go down

The Cobalt Screening Room Balcony - Page 25 Empty Re: The Cobalt Screening Room Balcony

Post by Seamus on 7/2/2020, 7:45 pm

I also liked this movie. After Matt Damon spent his Covid lockdown up the road from me we became great friends with social distancing of course. A shared journey with the goblin of strange and unusual times.
Seamus
Seamus
Admin

Posts : 487
Join date : 2013-05-06
Location : Big Trouble in Little China

ghemrats likes this post

Back to top Go down

The Cobalt Screening Room Balcony - Page 25 Empty Re: The Cobalt Screening Room Balcony

Post by ghemrats on 7/3/2020, 2:14 pm

Post #432 (One more and we blast off):  Another tune by Brushy One String will remind us how we are united in spirit, brother- and sisterhood, and uncompromising disdain for today's feature, *The Man From Cairo* (1953) which is stultifying on so many levels that Brushy has it playing in a loop in his corn field to keep the chickens out.  How bad is it? It's so bad, even the Stinky Cheese Man places it on the Ex-stink-tion Movie List with a rating of "No Gouda."  How bad is "star" George Raft?  He's so bad, Titanic survivors would avoid using him as a flotation device even though he is a Raft.  The plot has more holes Blackburn, Lancashire (And though the holes were rather small, they had to count them all; Now they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall), and the obvious dubbing appears to be the work of the world's worst ventriloquist who threw his voice and never got it back.

It all begins with the discovery of a dead French Intelligence officer (the lucky stiff, to have escaped this film) face down in a North African beach. Cut to a stock shot of the Eiffel Tower, over which is laid the helpful title caption "Paris." Thank God, I thought we were in Boise.  Parisian chief Colonel Fornier (who doesn't even merit recognition in the credits) hires American detective Charles Stark (Robert McNamara) to resume the agent's undercover assignment to find $100,000,000 in stolen gold bullion hidden in 1942.  (Don't get too fond of McNamara--after the first seven minutes of this 88 minute extravaganza we see him again only in the last shot, because. . . ) After a quick stop-over in Cairo he meets Mike Canelli, an American war buddy headed for Algiers, God only knows why; perhaps he's going for the waters.

Stark lets it slip that he's looking for a four-fingered man who walks around saying, "Look, Ma, no thumbs," Sergeant Emile Touchard (Guido Celano), who is the last surviving member of the heist team.  (If, like me, you lurch from your seating position to yell at the screen, "You idiot, what kind of undercover agent are you anyway, telling friends about your Top Secret assignment?  Are you THAT needy for attention?"--hold on--it gets worse.)  Well, Gomer, surprise surprise surprise: Deadly agents also in search of the gold mistake Canelli for the foreign agent and let Stark go trippingly on his way to Saudi Arabia.

Incidentally, this movie has been been extruded through the Lippert Fine Family Credibility Strain, now available through this amazing exclusive TV offer, not available on Amazon or in stores.  Now you too can stretch the very limits of common sense and narrative credibility, siphoning off those pesky and annoying film deterrents like logic and dramatic tension, leaving you to enjoy a mirthless, colorless broth that will surely ensure those awkward dinner parties are a thing of the past. Remember that name: Robert Lippert, the first name in Grade B products that often never rise above C-level.

So now Canelli unknowingly drags his stupid pursuers through the beautiful sand-blasted streets of Algiers.  After being dragged in for questioning by Captain Akhim Bey (Leon Lenoir), the Prefect of Police about the war theft, Canelli is released and is soon approached by a thumbless man in Arab clothing, proffering a key to Room 24 in the Hotel des Fleurs. Personally, when I'm in Algiers I don't make a habit of accepting room keys from *anyone* let alone a stranger with four fingers, but I guess I'm not the trusting type.  Canelli enters the room, finds a young Greek woman, Yvonne Le Beaux (Irene Papas) nonchalantly taking a bubble bath, who invites Canelli to pour himself a drink and wait for her friend to return shortly.  He pours a tall one, swigs away and mysteriously finds that he's been drugged.  Duh!  When he awakes Yvonne is dead, so she doesn't wake up, and he's spotted by another woman, Lorraine Belogne (Gianna Maria Canale, Miss Italia 1947), Yvonne's good friend, who screams.

Meanwhile, Emile Touchard--the guy who can't hitchhike because he has no thumb--records confidential information on a disc addressed to Yvonne and gets himself stabbed in the back on his way to visit Canelli. So around around the mulberry bush, the monkey chases the weasel (or is it badger badger badger badger?).  Naturally Canelli becomes the unwitting quarry, while falling in love with the sultry, sulky smoky Lorraine whose hooded lids suggest sexual energy, boredom or a valiant effort to stay awake while the plot plods on.  George Raft, well past his glory days with Warner Brothers and Paramount, wanders with his usual somnambulistic fervor, seldom blinking as he stares at his fellow actors as if they are speaking a language other than English (which they are) and waiting for a cue--usually their cessation of talking--to say his lines.

With fifty-one films under her belt, Gianna Maria Canale is alluring in a dark, enigmatic way, the biggest mystery being how she got wrangled into stuffing this turkey. Is she truly Canelli's helpmate, or is she part of the conspiracy?  Who gives a rodent's fundament? She stands a head taller than Raft, seems supremely disinterested in him, and could in all likelihood crush him like a walnut between her thighs, and for that imagined vision alone she's worth watching.  It is, however, unintentionally humorous to hear Raft call her "Baby" throughout the picture; clearly she is far more formidable than such a reductive pet name, and at any point she could snap him like a twig.  The rest of the cast slip in and out for little more reason than complicating the narrative and providing a blank tablet against which Raft can practice his scowl.

Oh, *The Man From Cairo* could very well be a veiled commercial for Lucky Strikes, as I doubt I've seen a movie with more smoking.  I suppose it's designed to fill clumsy pauses or look rugged and cool against the ornate nightclubs and gritty streets, but it sure ain't glamorous.  Filmed almost exclusively in Rome with a budget of $155,000 with $80,000 in deferrals, it was the final film of director Ray Enright, who had an impressive career for Warner Brothers with 73 films between 1927–53; this isn't his best, in case I haven't been clear.

So skip this one, and kick back with "Piping hot cup o tea, blackish not too sweet in the mornin' early."  Yah.
Enjoy.
Jeff

_________________
GHEMRATS
"WRONG! You had Special K with bananas!" What a Face
ghemrats
ghemrats

Posts : 858
Join date : 2013-04-19
Age : 67
Location : Bob Ufer's Meeechigan!

Back to top Go down

The Cobalt Screening Room Balcony - Page 25 Empty Re: The Cobalt Screening Room Balcony

Post by Space Cadet on 7/3/2020, 7:38 pm

Hey Jeff, did Ya know that there are only a few places in Central Florida, that are more than a hundred feet above C level? But we get pretty much the same movies as everyone else.

For some reason, this flick rip got me started thinking about the future of the film industry. Particularly about movie viewing. There's a huge difference between the revenue drawn by theater release vs. streaming. Could the mega-budget special effects flicks finally start to disappear? Could smaller budget movies, driven by story and performance make a come back? Am I just whistling hopefully into a hurricane?
Space Cadet
Space Cadet
Admin

Posts : 710
Join date : 2013-04-06
Location : Central Florida

https://cobaltclubannex.forumotion.com

Back to top Go down

The Cobalt Screening Room Balcony - Page 25 Empty Re: The Cobalt Screening Room Balcony

Post by ghemrats on 7/3/2020, 8:33 pm

In Michigan, when I was teaching at the university, I knew quite a few students who never reached C level. . .

The movie industry today is not just in a state of flux--it's positively convulsing. I think Netflix has just started the crest of the wave with its exclusives like *Bird Box* and Will Ferrell's new movie, *The Story Of Fire Saga*, not to mention the Coen Brothers' *Ballad of Buster Scruggs*, which can be found on DVD only through extensive searching.

The Pandemic has started requiring filmmakers to create experiences compelling enough (with real stories and characters) to leave the house, like Christopher Nolan's new film; they've got to stimulate the intellect and not just sling CGI hash at us. So maybe we'll see fewer Craptacular nonsense; no one would even be moved out of the bathroom, let alone the house, to watch *The Man From Cairo*. I think blockbusters will dry up theatrically--even Disney is streaming a film version of *Hamilton* this weekend instead of a 500-screen Googleplex release.

But for me, I'm still mourning the loss of the drive-in.
Jeff


_________________
GHEMRATS
"WRONG! You had Special K with bananas!" What a Face
ghemrats
ghemrats

Posts : 858
Join date : 2013-04-19
Age : 67
Location : Bob Ufer's Meeechigan!

Space Cadet likes this post

Back to top Go down

The Cobalt Screening Room Balcony - Page 25 Empty Re: The Cobalt Screening Room Balcony

Post by Space Cadet on 7/3/2020, 10:14 pm

Yup. I wanna be drawn into a good story. Not dazzled by CG. I don't need extended action sequences. I need performers who can create characters you can care about.

The last of the drive-in theaters disappeared around here more than 20 years ago. As a kid we had three within 15 minutes of home. Friday night was almost always piling all five of us kids into the station wagon and heading to the drive-in. At least one of them was running a family double feature every week. And if it happened to be the one with the A&W drive-in restaurant next door, JACKPOT! A Papa Burger Basket with a large mug of A&W rootbeer. Followed by a string of animated shorts and dancing candy commercials. My favorite features at that time, were the low budget live action Disney movies and of course the Japanese monster movies. The spaghetti western double features were good too.
Space Cadet
Space Cadet
Admin

Posts : 710
Join date : 2013-04-06
Location : Central Florida

https://cobaltclubannex.forumotion.com

Back to top Go down

The Cobalt Screening Room Balcony - Page 25 Empty Re: The Cobalt Screening Room Balcony

Post by ghemrats on 7/4/2020, 6:25 pm

Post #433: For all my dammies who funkin' and rockin' out to "Tippi Tai on My Capatown," I'm gon' sine yo' pitty on the runny kine. Yes, they said it couldn't be done, but today's feature successfully asks the question, "Cole me down on the panny sty?" And you can't argue with that because, contrary to popular opinion, I *do* have the intestinal fortitude to offer this commentary on *Pootie Tang* (2001). Sah da tay!

Okay, he said, dialing down his patois and issuing the biggest caveat he's ever formed: *Pootie Tang* is an all-out comic assault unlike anything you've seen before, existing in its own insane parallel universe as capably as any polarizing *South Park* episode, classic Mel Brooks film, subversive, pointed Monty Python bit or film and the cultural sharpness and irony of Key and Peele. A passing glance at reactions will pit you between two camps--the indignant and the fully committed, the angry broods who complain about lost money and time and the unbridled enthusiasts who gleefully giggle and guffaw. It's genuinely challenging to find middleground when it comes to this film.

An affectionate parody of blaxploitation films of the '70s, *Pootie Tang* tracks the history of its titular character (Lance Crouther) from his youth to his rise as a social force helping to mold children into productive, healthful action--don't drink, don't smoke, don't do drugs--through his PSAs, media presence and crime fighting abilities with the help of his daddy's inherited belt. He also speaks in his own tongue, a nearly unintelligible slang--some call it gibberish--that somehow still manages to communicate to his fan base (known in Pootie-speak as "Dammies").

Naturally such a positive influence has a strong negative impact on Corporate America, specifically Dick Lecter (Robert Vaughn), the chief operating officer of multi-industrial conglomerate LecterCorp, which profits from everything Pootie Tang crusades against. Facing a quickly erosive bottom line, Lecter schemes to derail Pootie Tang's influence, first by sending his toady and floor-length-fur-wearing Dirty Dee (Reg E. Cathey) with his posse stuffed into a filthy Edsel (!), but fails. As a last resort Lecter sends in his secret weapon, his right hand seductress Ireenie (Jennifer Coolidge), who turns Pootie into a shell of his former self.

The rest of the film follows his gradual reclaiming of his sense of self, with the help of his dammies Trucky (J.B. Smoove, who narrates the saga), JB (Chris Rock, who also plays a DJ and Daddy Tang), Frank (Dave Atell) and most notably Biggie Shorty (Wanda Sykes). Along the way he encounters a high powered record producer (Andy Richter) and his daughter (Kristen Bell), Diva (Missy Elliott), Dennis (David Cross) a Pootie Wannabe, and Bob Costas as himself. Pootie faces self-recrimination, a fall from grace, spotty success growing corn, and a full rejuvenation leading to a brawling take-down of crime and greed.

Not every film on the market needs to assuage the tastes of the mainstream or pander to mass appeal. I'd like to hope we've outgrown the "Million Michigan shoppers can't be wrong" mandate of yore and are more accepting of alternative choices. *Pootie Tang* drew caustic criticism upon release: Nathan Rabin at The A.V. Club said *Pootie Tang* "borders on audience abuse" and "confuse[s] idiocy for absurdity and randomness for wit," but that critique is nearly twenty years old now and long before the current state of Existential and political inanity visited upon us daily.

Writer and director Louie CK has said, "They wanted Austin Powers, plain and simple, for black people. They wanted a brightly lit, easy, punchy comedy, and that's not what I wrote and not what I directed. I directed something with a little more texture to it, I think, and a little more grit. Another problem was that I thought we were making a low-budget movie that would go to Sundance, and everyone would say 'How did you do this for $4 million? There's a car chase, there's all this stuff.' But they didn't promote it that way. . . The movie was in trouble when they took it from me. [Paramount removed him and editor Doug Abel from the editing room. They were not allowed to have a final cut of the film. Paramount President John Goldwyn yelled at him, accused him of wasting Paramount's money, and called the film "unreleasable."] I wasn't proven. I didn't have their confidence to fix it. I didn't know the players in the game. I didn't understand the politics. It was a new experience for me." Producer Ali LeRoi re-edited the film and added the voice-over narration, which Louie CK resisted.

Consequently, detractors of the film revile its inherent silliness and Pootie Tang's "too cool for words" label, one viewer on IMDB going into hyperbolic shock enough to suggest, "Thanks a lot Mr. Rock and MTV [the film's production company] for wrecking my life" and another intones, "See this film as proof that God hates us all." Personally I wouldn't go so far as to suggest that these folks live for opportunities to solder themselves to hulking crowds of mouth-breathing strangers without the benefit of medical masks during a pandemic, thinking their immune systems are uncompromisable because they are "true" Americans and the virus is a hoax created by "Demoncrats" and liberals. . . because that would be unfair and beneath me. But what's wrong with just saying "I didn't care for it" or "I didn't find it funny"? If your temperament is so fragile that an 81-minute movie can decimate your reason for living or seduce you into believing it's the Eighth Plague from an Angry Deity, I'd hate to see what *Dr. Goldfoot And The Girl Bombs* would do to you.

*Pootie Tang* is relentlessly dumb, to be sure, but I believe those involved with it KNEW that when they made it. If you're ignorant of standard blaxploitation conventions being parodied here, or you have a rigid sense of humor and prefer not to expose yourself to innovative play, just don't watch it. If you watched *Black Dynamite* (2009), *Undercover Brother* (2002) or *I'm Gonna Git You Sucka* (1988) and were in on the joke, you may enjoy *Pootie Tang*. As with any comedy, some gags work better than others, and at times the propulsive energy lags, but on the whole I found it good fun. It doesn't claim to offer the same acidic satire of *Sorry To Bother You* (2018), but its digs at Big Business (in its many forms, from Lectercorp's pandering to the obsequious indulgence of record producers ready to follow a trend) and blind celebrity worship are spot-on. And Chris Rock's JB adds a mystique to Pootie's legend, "Pootie Tang will draw you a picture of how he gonna kick your ass, then mail it to you ten days in advance. The picture gets there right? You're goin', 'What the hell is this?' and then Pootie Tang knocks on your door, Promptly kicks your ass and you still won't know what happened to you!"

I also thoroughly reveled in the semantic sophistication of language and the transmission of meaning--Pootie's malapropisms and word coinages still create a silly rapport, a cinematic brotherhood among fans, nineteen years after the film was released. For gibberish, that says something about staying power. "See, my dammie, Pootie Tang don't wa-da-tah to the shama cow... 'cause that's a cama cama leepa-chaiii, dig?"

For sheer goofy dumbness, this can't be beaten, but its Cool Factor for you might depend on your readiness to surrender any pretense of traditional formulaic comedy. It relies on your knowledge of popular culture rather than an advanced degree in Edwardian comedy of manners. But if you want to play Allegorical Bingo, you can do that too, as one critic (Messiercat) on IMDB did: "A powerful figure roaming around doing good deeds, speaking in a puzzling language that only believers understand, attended to by his apostles, befriending prostitutes. Suffering from inner demons he retreats to the wilderness (the farm) and experiences an epiphany through the physical manifestation of his creators, going back and finally confronting and conquering the demons (Dirty D = Dirty Devil). Along the way he even awakens the dead (the knife wielder at the club), banishes a horde of false prophets (all the fake Pooties), and can bring people to rapture through sheer silence alone."

So if that offends your sensibilities, I'll just suggest, Let those among you who quote Hut-Sut Rawlson on the rillerah and a brawla, brawla sooit cast the first stone. I'm not saying you have to like it--or even see it--but for all its loony absurdity, it's a basically sweet film of a man who's trying his best to improve the world, make a positive contribution, to honor his father Daddy Tang's advice, ""You have to give respect, to get respect!" For my money, especially today, that's message worth striving to achieve. So, for all my tippy tais. . . wha da tay!
Enjoy.
Jeff

_________________
GHEMRATS
"WRONG! You had Special K with bananas!" What a Face
ghemrats
ghemrats

Posts : 858
Join date : 2013-04-19
Age : 67
Location : Bob Ufer's Meeechigan!

Seamus likes this post

Back to top Go down

The Cobalt Screening Room Balcony - Page 25 Empty Re: The Cobalt Screening Room Balcony

Post by ghemrats on 7/5/2020, 5:05 pm

Post #434: Martha Reeves and The Vandellas had nothing on director Elia Kazan when they soared to the tops of the charts with "Dancing In The Street": Calling out around the world are you ready for a brand new beat? Summer's here and the time is right for *Panic In the Streets* (1950) today's feature starring Richard Widmark, Paul Douglas, Zero Mostel and Jack Palance (in his film debut introduced as Walter Jack Palance). I freely admit this one has lingered and malingered on my shelf for a good number of months before I decided its time had come--largely because of its plot concerning the threat of an epidemic. Too close for jazz, I thought, but its dramatic power just wouldn't lie low any longer.

Taut and tight, *Panic In The Streets* ratchets up the tension from the opening sequence. It's rain-darkened New Orleans in sharp contrasts and deep shadows as we pan up to a sweating illegal immigrant, Kolchak (Lewis Charles) throws open the shutters to gasp for air. He's up nearly two hundred dollars in a sweltering bare-bulbed poker game with his cousin Vince Poldi (Tommy Cook), pasty Raymond Fitch (Zero Mostel) and sharp-boned shark Blackie (Jack Palance), but his labored breathing and overpowering sense of doom has him begging off any more play. Despite Blackie's vitriolic insistence that he can't leave now, Kolchak breaks away and staggers into the night, slipping on the slick streets, narrowly being plowed to dust by a passing train, and ending up in the stark spotlight of fog and poverty cornered by his three vindictive buddies who won't let him escape with their money. (In a long, bravura tracking shot done in one take, Kazan's mastery of film shines in relative silence and lack of dialogue.)

When Kolchak's bullet riddled body is discovered the next day on the docks and taken to the morgue, the coroner on duty is alarmed enough by the bacteria present in Kolchak's blood that he alerts Lieutenant Commander Clinton Reed (Richard Widmark), a doctor and commissioned corps officer of the U.S. Public Health Service. Pulled away from a relaxing day off with his family (wife Nancy, Barbara Bel Geddes, and son Tommy, Tommy Rettig of *Lassie* fame), Reed identifies the contagion as Pneumonic Plague, a pulmonary cousin to Bubonic, which will sweep the city if he and crusty Police Captain Tom Warren don't track down the man or men who killed Kolchak. And the heat is on.

Kazan's narrative splits its energy between the frightened urgency of Reed and the skeptical indifference of Warren who sees the task of isolating Kolchak's social distancing as impossible, given the 48-hour constraints pressed upon him by Reed. Countering that friction is the taut balance of explosive menace and calm control exercised by Blackie as he unknkowingly aids Reed's investigation by keeping Fitch and Poldi in town, as they are anxious to leave after Kolchak's murder. With the waterfront and New Orleans buzzing with police raiding their haunts with unprecedented urgency, Blackie assumes Kolchak must have smuggled something valuable into town to cause such a furor--and he wants to uncover what that fortune is.

And so we seesaw through the tensions created between public safety and the insistence of reporter Neff (Dan Riss) that the people have a right to know what's going on, the power struggle between Reed and Warren, the chaos and control of Blackie and his cohorts, the genuine threat of broad scale biohazardous infection, the race against time, and if that's not enough, the domestic strain in Reed's homelife. Kazan increases the intensity by employing a deep focus, bringing the background of each shot and the foreground into equanimity and claustrophobic tightness. His long takes keep characters in constant motion, moving forward and back in a restless dance of desperation which we feel rather than consciously realize. Conversations trip over one another, lending a sense of reality to each scene; in many sequences Kazan achieved this by employing non-professional actors (only 12 of the 112 actors with speaking parts were seasoned actors from New York and California) and factory, dock and police department workers simply doing their jobs.

*Panic In The Streets* is particularly memorable for many reasons: Kazan's social conscience is arguably stronger today than it was seventy years ago, given our present situation. There are no simple homilies to be summoned here, just messy questions, as a prophetic speech from Reed indicates a global perspective: "Anybody that leaves here can be in any city in the country within 10 hours. I could leave here today and be in Africa tomorrow. And whatever disease I had would go right with me. . . . We’re all in a community—the same one!" That reliance on social commentary would hit fever pitch in the upcoming years when Kazan, Barbara Bel Geddes and Zero Mostel were all blacklisted by HUAC.

But Kazan relished the film: "We rewrote it every day on location. That was the fun of it. We were shooting in New Orleans, and we had a hell of a time. I hung around the harbor, and I felt the wind on my face, and I thought, 'I've been indoors all my life! I've got to get out of the theater and into film!' It just freed me of all that inside-a-set tension and just directing minuscule little bits of acting. . . . I don't think I could have made *On the Waterfront* like I did if I hadn't done *Panic in the Streets*. . . . *Panic* might seem conventional to critics, but it was a big change for me, for my attitude toward everything. It was a liberation for me. I also think it's the only perfect film I made, because it's essentially a piece of mechanism, and it doesn't deal in any ambivalences at all, really. It just fits together in the sequence of storytelling rather perfectly. But that's really why I did it, and I got a hell of a lot out of it for future films."

According to Richard Widmark, Jack Palance struck him as "the toughest guy I ever met. He was the only actor I've ever been physically afraid of." With good reason: In the pivotal scene beneath the docks in the film's conclusion, he and Palance rehearsed a struggle culminating in Widmark being knocked in the head. In the final take Palance substituted a real gun and knocked Widmark unconscious for over two minutes. He also recalled how Palance got into the mood of his character by beating on Zero Mostel, who plays the flunky, off-screen. A black and blue Mostel had to go to the hospital after his first week on the movie. "They had to soak him in epsom pads."

Most impressive is the visual metaphor Kazan stages, reducing the criminal element into skittering vermin. Since rats were the carriers of the plague, Fitch, Poldi and Blackie's movement gradually morphs into the embodiment of the diseased atavistic rodent. They run hunched, darting and jittery, crawling alongside the dock and dipping in frantic escape into the dirty New Orleans water, hunkering and traveling on all fours to hide from notice. Best representing this metaphor is Blackie's last ditch attempt to evade capture by climbing the mooring lines of the *S.S. Quiriqua*, owned by the Chiquita Banana brand, struggling with the circular rat shields, which prove to be his greatest barrier, just as they were designed. Interestingly, nearly all the stunts performed in the film were enacted by the actors themselves, adding an extra layer of verisimilitude.

Despite Joseph MacDonald's impressively gritty and sharp cinematography, Kazan's expert direction, stand-out performances by Widmark, Stewart and all involved, and its winning the Venice Film Festival International Award and an Academy Awards for Best Writing, *Panic In The Streets* did not recoup its $1,400,000 budget, with critics of the time giving it mixed kudos. The *New York Times* said, "Although it is excitingly presented, *Panic in the Streets* misses the mark as superior melodrama because it is not without obvious, sometimes annoying exaggeration that demands more indulgence than some spectators may be willing to contribute. However, there is an electric quality to the climax staged in a warehouse on the New Orleans waterfront that should compensate for minor annoyances which come to the surface spasmodically in *Panic in the Streets*."

Today, however, it's celebrated as classic Kazan, foreshadowing themes and scenes in *On The Waterfront* (1954) and *A Streetcar Named Desire* (1951), with Amazon's viewers giving it an 87% four- and five-star rating. It's 96 minutes of tense noir and relevance, cool jazz by Alfred Newman, and a powerful time capsule of New Orleans outside the French Quarter. It doesn't matter what you wear, just as long as you are there; So come on every guy, grab a girl everywhere, around the world--just remember to stay at least six feet apart and for God's sake, wear a mask.
Enjoy.
Jeff

_________________
GHEMRATS
"WRONG! You had Special K with bananas!" What a Face
ghemrats
ghemrats

Posts : 858
Join date : 2013-04-19
Age : 67
Location : Bob Ufer's Meeechigan!

Space Cadet and Seamus like this post

Back to top Go down

The Cobalt Screening Room Balcony - Page 25 Empty Re: The Cobalt Screening Room Balcony

Post by Space Cadet on 7/5/2020, 8:12 pm

It kinda makes me Mad, that didn't know that Alfred E. Neuman created cool jazz.
Space Cadet
Space Cadet
Admin

Posts : 710
Join date : 2013-04-06
Location : Central Florida

https://cobaltclubannex.forumotion.com

Back to top Go down

The Cobalt Screening Room Balcony - Page 25 Empty Re: The Cobalt Screening Room Balcony

Post by ghemrats on 7/6/2020, 4:54 pm

Post #435: In good old Warner Brothers cartoon fashion when Bugs or Daffy or Elmer was injured and saw stars orbiting his head, the other day I joined their ranks in celebration of pain-induced constellations whirling before my eyes. There is no pain as searing, quick and larded with spontaneous creative obscenity as the result of mashing down on a good piece of hard salami and connecting with the tip of your tongue. Try it and see if you don't agree. Or better yet, don't--just take my word for it. The stars at night are big and bright, deep in the meat of masticatory mucosa; in this particular instance I must have exerted enough force to hit 700 newtons, when the average for eating a carrot is around 150. Thus began my brief study of space travel as my soul lurched into galaxies far, far away.

Hovering there I found a cute little comedy of basically no consequence, exerting a staying power equivalent to the ebbing pain at the tip of my tongue. *The Heavenly Body* (1944), originally titled *The Stars Can Wait*, is a wispy little romantic comedy worth watching if only because of the lovely chemistry between its stars, William Powell and the luscious Hedy Lamarr, who has never looked so fetching as in the film. It's transportive fluff that makes little sense if you look too deeply, but I didn't care as the stars shine so brightly.

Professor of astronomy William S. Whitley (William Powell), slaving away at his Bandello, California, observatory, follows the arc of a new comet named after him, on a collision course with the moon. Meanwhile, back on earth his starry-eyed wife Vicky suffers from his long hours away, feeling neglected. Though she knows Bill harbors an intense disdain for astrology, Vicky nonetheless accepts her ditzy neighbor Nancy Potter's (Spring Byington) invitation to visit an influential astrologer (Fay Bainter) to read her horoscope. And what a transformation that visit induces. Suddenly Vicky throws all her energy and fate into the predictions of the stars, following her horoscope with religious intensity, driving Bill into apoplexy.

With her wide eyed innocence and glowing countenance, Hedy Lemarr's Vicky (and her heavenly body) glows with life, as she shifts her behavior in accordance with the stars: Tuesdays she cannot kiss her husband because Jupiter aligns with Mars, Wednesdays she should stay indoors, and on and on. On the brink of his most important cosmic discovery with his comet, William Powell's Bill finds his mind as divided as his home, especially when Vicky's chart predicts a handsome, dark stranger will be entering her life and offering her boundless unconditional love in the next few days. And so it would not be fair to Bill to continue being married to him if the constellations advise they aren't meant for one another. But five minutes before the midnight deadline for the prophecy's fulfillment--and with no one on the horizon except Bill--air raid warden Lloyd X. Hunter (James Craig) comes knocking, just beating out Bill for Vicky's affections.

William Powell knows how to mix dedication to his science and to his wife with indignant comic exasperation. He obviously adores Vicky but faces intrusion after intrusion on their harmony as his gullible and a little goofy soul mate ping-pongs between full immersive belief in her horoscope and her desire to believe Bill's clumsy attempts to keep her. Powell is splendid in a change of pace role as a teetotaler (contrasting Nick Charles' perpetual champagne and martini swilling) whose focused scientist deteriorates into a distracted slapstick lovelorn puppy, especially when loosened up by bottles of vodka.

Hedy Lemarr's Vicky is so addled in this film that at first the audience can't tell if she's truly silly or supremely gifted as a tossed-away wife bent on testing her husband's emotional investment. Well, no spoiler--she's just nuts, charmingly, infuriatingly so. But cinematographer Robert H. Planck is a maestro at shading and light, capitalizing on her almost translucent eyes, her showcasing of wardrobe, and radiant smile sneaking up from her questioning pout. Together again since their first pairing in *Crossroads* (1942), Powell and Lemarr throw sparks when they're together. Powell's dismissive--but in his eyes sweet talking--"Proceed, darling" answer to her every statement extends the distance between them without his knowing, prompting Vicky to say, "There's still time for you to show me that I'm really your wife--and not just a pretty woman you like when you're not working."

*The Heavenly Body* lacks some of the super sharp repartee of classic screwball comedies like *Bringing Up Baby* (1938) and *My Man Godfrey* (1936) or even *Monkey Business* (1952), and James Craig's Lloyd falls in love (understandably) too hard too fast for Lemarr's Vicky, bringing into question the morality of courting another man's wife, which is gleefully disregarded, for my tastes, but operating under its own madcap logic, I still really enjoyed the fun. It's a compact 95 minutes of charming, casual harmlessness which can whisk you away from the hard scrabble antics in the news of today. And after about the third time Bill waves away Vicky with a "Proceed, darling," you might, as I did, wish Bill had just borne down on his tongue so he could be dazzled by the bright, quirky star at his side.
Enjoy.
Jeff

_________________
GHEMRATS
"WRONG! You had Special K with bananas!" What a Face
ghemrats
ghemrats

Posts : 858
Join date : 2013-04-19
Age : 67
Location : Bob Ufer's Meeechigan!

Space Cadet and Seamus like this post

Back to top Go down

The Cobalt Screening Room Balcony - Page 25 Empty Re: The Cobalt Screening Room Balcony

Post by Space Cadet on 7/6/2020, 5:32 pm

I'll have to dig up a copy and give this one a try.
Space Cadet
Space Cadet
Admin

Posts : 710
Join date : 2013-04-06
Location : Central Florida

https://cobaltclubannex.forumotion.com

Back to top Go down

The Cobalt Screening Room Balcony - Page 25 Empty Re: The Cobalt Screening Room Balcony

Post by ghemrats on 7/7/2020, 4:59 pm

Post #436: Say, Kids, when was the last time you rushed into your neighborhood movie palace to enjoy an 80-minute Gothic investigation of ontogeny recapitulating phylogeny? With an intermission? Filmed in 3-D with a Monogram 3-D stereoscopic method by the guy who scared the bejeebers out of you with *Invaders From Mars* (1953), William Cameron Menzies? Yes, I know, it happens all the time now, but in 1953 I bet you met that situation only a handful of times. Well, with today's epic, *The Maze* (1953), a moody black and white thumb screw following his color-plated big-headed Martian movie, Menzies returns with this exercise in slippery dread. So pass the Raisinettes and Sno-Caps and hope they get lodged in your throat, causing you to flee from your seat before the final act.

Now I should warn you that I don't have a 3-D television (the only way to see the heavily marketed effects on DVD) so some of its perceived "power" is non-existent in the mashed 2-D presentation I watched. Of course it's not that difficult to guess which elements of the story were supposed to leap out of the screen at us, because they are as corny as they are dumb--"Oh, Madame, there's a letter for you" is dramatically intoned as the letter is moved closer to the camera. EEEEAAGGGHHH! Recoil in terror as the post office actually delivers a letter to you! Have a cup of tea? The china stealthily wends it way to you as you scream in horror!

I'm assuming some of the weird compositions--narrator Aunt Edith (Katherine Emery) rests her chin on the base of the screen while the ceiling absorbs the remaining three quarters of the shot, for example--are dependent on the 3-D process to make sense, but in 2-D it's all so very distracting and off centered. And maybe in 1953 obviously plastic bats who've lost their biological sonar abilities and just totter around spasmodically, never approaching the heroine who screams at their (lack of) approach, were genuinely menacing, torturing kids with vivid memories of that horrible Frisbee Accident of 1952 when it bonked off the bridges of their noses. Today, they would still make most kids howl--with laughter.

Vibrant and trusting Kitty Murray (Veronica Hurst in her American film debut) is two weeks away from marrying the dashing and loving Gerald MacTeam (Richard Carlson) when Gerald receives an urgent telegram from the caregivers of his decrepit uncle holed up in the family Craven Castle in Scotland. Emergency matters need to be handled, so Gerald briskly but reluctantly slips away, promising Kitty he'll be gone only a day or two. Two weeks pass before Kitty finds her engagement broken by mail and so drags her Aunt Edith along with her to search for the silent fiance. Into the foggy moors they go, unceremoniously dumped by their cabby at the front gates of Craven Castle, complete with twenty-five foot ceilings, weirdly broad staircases and a hedge maze bordering the property but kept gated and locked.

They are "greeted"--*tolerated* is a better word--by Gerald's butler William (Michael Pate), a starchy mope who lumbers along like the Addams' Family's Lurch after a dinner of downers. But Gerald is the big surprise--he is gaunt and grey, seeming to have aged twenty years with the demeanor of sponge soaked in vinegar. He's now surly, churlish and dismissive, nothing like the charming smiler he was weeks ago. But Kitty is determined, thoroughly invested in their relationship and demands to stay in order to sort things out. With the warmth of a dung beetle, Gerald allows them to stay for one night, the doors to their rooms locked at eleven that evening until the next morning.

The usual mysterious eerie shadows and sounds and long secret passages abound as Kitty investigates, trying to get under Gerald's skin, and finally since the castle has no electricity, telephones, or modern conveniences like good taste, she smuggles out a letter inviting their friends to form an intervention. Before you know it Gerald has another handful of houseguests who try to discover the horrible secret of Craven Castle which has driven the affable Gerald to bristle like a steel wool hairbrush whenever he's included in conversation. And what's going on in that Maze after which the film is named? (Not really that much, as it turns out.)

But Menzies and cinematographer Harry Neumann have crafted the Gothic environment with absolute care on such a small budget even for a Poverty Row Allied Artists' production. They obviously crafted this weird little oddity with mood and shadow in the face of sci-fi trending with shining chromium ships packed with futuristic coils and Art Deco. The castle is dripping with atmosphere, its fog banks alive with density and the maze itself offering inspiration for Kubrick's *The Shining*. It's three parts *Rebecca* (1940), part *The Uninvited* (1944), part *The Spiral Staircase* (1945) and a dash of Richard Carlson's *Creature From The Black Lagoon* (1954), all tossed together in a silly salad.

*The Maze*'s "heart-stopping, thrilling, frightening" final act reveal is, for lack of better adjectives: a.) waterlogged, b.) a leap in logic, c.) lame to the point of laughter, d.) phlegmatic and sad, or e.) all of the above. If you chose (e), oh, heck, you're way ahead of me. I can't in good conscience reveal the source of all this lugubrious labor that's been leading us up to this, but it will either make or break the film for you. (I suffered a spasm of spontaneous almost derisive giggling.)

Though it's Menzies' last film as production designer and director, it's not a swan song in the purest sense, since no ducklings, ugly or otherwise, were harmed in the making of this movie, but it does have legs, as today it holds a 77% four- or five-star rating from Amazon viewers, some of whom were left breathless by it. For me it's paced leisurely, bordering on glacially, with inferential clues that the pay off is going to knock your socks off. The lingering dread and building suspense are capably handled, but the denouement's dramatic splash for me was just a puddle jump. *The Maze* is not a-mazing but a bizarre little peculiarity that will give you something to do while you're prying the caramel of your Raisinettes from your back molars.
Enjoy.
Jeff

_________________
GHEMRATS
"WRONG! You had Special K with bananas!" What a Face
ghemrats
ghemrats

Posts : 858
Join date : 2013-04-19
Age : 67
Location : Bob Ufer's Meeechigan!

Seamus likes this post

Back to top Go down

The Cobalt Screening Room Balcony - Page 25 Empty Re: The Cobalt Screening Room Balcony

Post by ghemrats on 7/8/2020, 5:08 pm

Post #437 (4+3=7): Show of hands--How many of you made it to the Third Quentin Tarantino Film Fest in Austin, Texas in 1999? I would have been there, but Quentin accidentally sent my ticket to Uma Thurman, so I didn't get to see today's feature, *Visit To A Small Planet* (1960) on the big screen. But what a different film it would have been if producer Hal Wallis had been granted his wish to have Sir Alec Guinness or Danny Kaye in the lead role, rather than Jerry Lewis. After seeing this version, it's hard for me to imagine Cyril Ritchard winning a Tony Award for playing it on Broadway for 388 performances, and would it have made Tarantino's Film Fest had it been filmed as Gore Vidal envisioned it on stage?

Moot points, in the final analysis, because this is the record we have of its production. And that's how I'll comment on it. Obviously your enjoyment of *Visit To A Small Planet* will be directly contingent upon your appreciation for Jerry Lewis and his wacky antics, for whatever satirical intent Gore Vidal invested in the original is all but invisible here. Jerry plays Kreton (is that shorthand for Cretin?), an impish alien from the Planet X-47, escaping the stern tutelage of his taskmaster Delton (John Williams) to indulge his fascination with Earthlings. Thinking he'll be part of the Civil War, Kreton lands in 1959, crashing the home of anti-UFO enthusiast Major Roger Putnam Spelding (Lewis regular Fred Clark) and his suburban family dynamic. It's not long before they all blithely accept his extraterrestrial origins as long as they don't share it with neighbors. It's a bit like ALF without the craving to eat cats.

Kreton falls in love with Spelding's daughter Ellen (Joan Blackman), even though she's nearly engaged to Conrad (Earl Holliman) who adds little to the story but a little jealousy and constant food ingestion. Since a force field surrounding Kreton won't allow Earthlings to touch him (but he can touch them as much as he likes), experiencing affection and kissing isn't in the cards--until that field is broken and Kreton is stripped of his powers.

Assisted by Gale Gordon, Jerome Cowan, Lee Patrick, and a special appearance by Buddy Rich, the story is sit-com stuff punctuated by Jerry Lewis's standard supply of rubbery faces, deceptively manic but technically difficult dance moves, and harmless unbridled goofiness. There's an inspired visit to a stereotypical underground beatnik coffee shop, The Hungry Brain, with a drum stand-off between Rich and Kreton on the bongos, and a very funny interaction between Kreton and Desdemona (Barbara Lawson [Bostock]) as a hip chick beat singer and dancer. Throw in a wild eyed Paul Wexler (I fondly remember him most as Captain Seas in *Doc Savage: The Man Of Bronze* 1975) as an admirer and you've got a terrific sequence of silly comedy. Also lovely is the scene in which Kreton experiences drunkenness for the first time and literally crawls the walls in response.

This is vintage Jerry Lewis under another's guidance, in this case Elvis's favorite director, Norman Taurog (who can be forgiven for his work on *Dr. Goldfoot And The Bikini Machine* (1965) commented on some months ago) who directed nine Elvis movies and six with Martin and Lewis. By this time, after scoring with *The Stooge* and *The Caddy* (both 1953) and several other classics, Taurog had developed a solid rapport with Lewis. Augmented with a terrific score from Leigh Harline who won an Academy Award for Best Original Song, "When You Wish Upon A Star," the film dances and soars as a gentle parody of the 1950s-60s sci-fi genre so pivotal to the times.

Some critics persisted in comparing the film to the Broadway productions. Vidal himself was "infuriated" by Lewis's portrayal, saying "Well, it's never in my contract that I have to see the results. I've never seen *Myra Breckenridge*, *Visit To A Small Planet* or *The Left-Handed Gun. They do crop up on television, and sometimes I'll hear something familiar and realize, 'Oh my God, it's that!' And the blood pressure starts to go up and I switch to another channel, to the commercials, where all the genius goes."

Jack Marshall wrote, "Good for Lewis, bad for Gore Vidal’s play. Where Ritchard and Green [original actors of Kreton] were British, he was screamingly American. While they had demeanors of mature wisdom and restraint, Lewis, as always in those years, displayed the basic attitudes and behaviors of a hyperactive 9-year-old, and a 9-year-old who had sustained a serious closed head injury at that. Ritchard and Green appeared smarter than the Earthlings; Jerry’s Kreton was dumber and stranger: a big kid in a six-foot body."

But among fans of Jerry Lewis's lunacy this is prime material, reigned in only slightly from his more outlandish films under his own direction. It's so easy to see the seeds of Jim Carrey in Lewis's elastic face and body, and the same "fish out of water" premise that would be reworked for Robin Williams' *Mork And Mindy*. There's nothing even remotely provocative or non-kid-friendly in *Visit To A Small Planet*; in fact, it could well gain a strong following among the young today since it's so homey in its morality. And now that's it's finally available on DVD in a crystalline clear transfer, there's a lot here to celebrate.

So my advice is simple, borrowing from the Jerry Lewis Speech Academy: "Go. Do. With the thing" and enjoy a whacked out 85 minutes even if Uma Thurman isn't there alongside you.

_________________
GHEMRATS
"WRONG! You had Special K with bananas!" What a Face
ghemrats
ghemrats

Posts : 858
Join date : 2013-04-19
Age : 67
Location : Bob Ufer's Meeechigan!

Space Cadet and Seamus like this post

Back to top Go down

The Cobalt Screening Room Balcony - Page 25 Empty Re: The Cobalt Screening Room Balcony

Post by ghemrats on 7/9/2020, 4:21 pm

Post #438 (Not to be confused with P38): All of you Britney Spears fans (and I know that includes most of you) will be in for a big disappointment today, as our feature, *Crossroads* (1942), is not the 2002 blockbusting history-making classic that surpassed *Avatar* (2009) and *The Godfather* Trilogy (1972; 1974; 1990) combined in box office receipts. In Lima, Ohio, the bean capitol. No, this *Crossroads* stars William Powell and Hedy Lemarr with Basil Rathbone and Claire Trevor, and not one of them offers a solo rendition of "Hit Me, Baby, One More Time."

Despite those obvious drawbacks, *Crossroads* was a box office hit, pulling in a profit for MGM of $739,000, as the first of two pairings between Powell and Lemarr, the other *The Heavenly Body* coming two years later, commented on in Post #435. Wow, like for contrast: While *The Heavenly Body* is all high-spirited fluff and glamour, *Crossroads* is a moderately convoluted mystery with not a whiff of humor. Set in Paris, 1935, David Talbot (William Powell) is a noted diplomat on the brink of accepting an ambassadorship to Brazil with his dazzling newlywed wife Lucienne (Hedy Lemarr). But his unfettered bliss is disrupted when he receives an extortion note from Carlos Le Duc (Vladimir Sokoloff) claiming a fee of one millions francs or he'll go to the police, exposing Talbot's insidious past.

Squeaky clean Talbot sabotages the drop-off, alerting the police and capturing Le Duc, who testifies at his trial that Talbot owes him the debt from the time they co-conspired in crime, before Talbot was jolted into amnesia by a dreadful train accident in 1922. Aided in court by Talbot's friend Dr. Andre Tessier (Felix Bressart) who nursed Talbot back to consciousness and health at the time of his injury, Talbot is set into a whirling state of confusion, completely unable to recall his life as "Jean Pelletier," his presumed alter ego and noted criminal. His forgotten past is cited by the testimony of night club singer Michelle Allaine (Claire Trevor) who loved Pelletier and searches Talbot's eyes for recognition. Only the testimony of Henri Sarrou (Basil Rathbone) clears Talbot of the charges, and Le Duc is convicted for blackmail.

Sighing with relief, Talbot returns home to his gorgeous wife of three months who really has little to do beyond looking beautiful in drop-dead lovely gowns and bedwear. Ten-time Academy Award nominated cinematographer Joseph Ruttenberg is honored with the task of photographing Hedy Lemarr in soft lighting and focus, soaking up her shining hair and blemish-resistant skin. She and Powell are meant for one another as Powell's studied frustration grows and tortures as Sarrou returns after the trial to inform Talbot he was lying on the stand, and he now requires one million francs or he'll leak the news that Talbot (as Pelletier) killed a man for two million francs and stiffed Sarrou and Allaine of their take, disappearing in the process.

So we're back at square one, trapped in an amnesiac loop as the evidence mounts against him. And of course being a stalwart silent sufferer, Talbot keeps this news from his wife and bears the guilt inwardly, though he has no memory of the crime's commission. In its 83 minute running time, Talbot runs, ruminates and rages against his forbidden past while untangling the Gordian Knot which ties his hands. Where will he find one million francs? How can he be sure payment of it will stop there? What will all this do to his radiant wife and his future as a Brazilian ambassador? Where can he find a really nice, lean pastrami sandwich at this hour? The questions whirl around him in the rain.

*Crossroads*' $846,000 budget gives the film a nice sheen as director Jack Conway (who previously worked with Clark Gable on two films and Spencer Tracy and Powell in other films) tracks the progress of the case with easy grace while still maintaining the mystery of Talbot's past till the end. A midpoint scene with Margaret Wycherly as Pelletier's mother is particularly strong at turning the knife, and above all William Powell is so skilled that he'll have you wondering how much Talbot actually realizes about his own life.

Admittedly my initial reaction to it all was a declarative "Huhn." While it didn't bowl me over with suspense or grand reveals, it did provide an interesting vehicle for its stars, uncommon roles for Powell and Rathbone, and a perfectly underutilized opportunity for a star of Hedy Lemarr's magnitude; she's largely clueless and not fully dimensional as a character, but she elicited a genuine jaw drop from me for her wearing of a peignoir. Go ahead and rail at me with indignant claims of overt sexism--Ooops, I did it again--but if her good friend Marlene Dietrich turned down the role of Michelle Allain because "I share glamour with no one," I'll stand by my reaction as honest and true. Take it up with Ms. Dietrich if you disagree.
Enjoy.
Jeff

_________________
GHEMRATS
"WRONG! You had Special K with bananas!" What a Face
ghemrats
ghemrats

Posts : 858
Join date : 2013-04-19
Age : 67
Location : Bob Ufer's Meeechigan!

Back to top Go down

The Cobalt Screening Room Balcony - Page 25 Empty Re: The Cobalt Screening Room Balcony

Post by ghemrats on 7/10/2020, 5:31 pm

Post #439:  All the time I was watching today's feature, *Out Of The Fog* (1941) with Ida Lupino, John Garfield and Thomas Mitchell, I was marveling at how a Warner Brothers backlot was so magically transformed into a Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn waterfront steeped in thick atmospheric fog.  It swallows the buildings and characters with a density that seems to have a life all its own.  As it turns out, it's still a noteworthy picture, even though I had been watching it through glasses that had been clouded by my breathing through a face mask (You can't be too careful these days, though eating through masks leaves a lot of stains on their material and requires me to change them often).

Based on a play *The Gentle People* by Irwin Shaw, which ran 141 performances on Broadway, *Out Of The Fog* went through some notable changes, imposed by the Hays Office: touchy themes such as overt brutality, a perceived distrust of capitalism and the justice system, the salacious affair between an innocent girl and an unsavory gangster, and crime going unpunished were toned down or simply omitted.  Even so, the waterfront racketeer Harold Goff (John Garfield) remains a sadistic and slimy goon with a gun who is so despicable his every appearance signals cringe-worthy moments.  His implicit enjoyment of his evil machinations is indelibly imprinted on his performance.

After his snide, crooked smile, it's hard to imagine original choice Humphrey Bogart in the role without casting a different light on Goff. But having starred with Bogart in *They Drive By Night* (1940) and *High Sierra* (1941), Ida Lupino hated the sarcastic verbal sparring Bogart subjected her to in *High Sierra*.  At one point in the filming when she was required to cry and found it difficult, Bogart kidded her, "Listen, doll, if you can't cry, I'm going to take the picture away from you."  It was enough to exert her star power with Jack Warner to deny Bogart the role of Goff in *Out Of The Fog*, which moved Bogart to angrily send Warner a telegram reading, "When did Ida Lupino start casting films at your studio?"  Nevertheless John Garfield got the role.

*Out Of The Fog* stands as more than just a potboiling noir, even though Anatole Litvak's direction of this Hall Wallis production squarely places it in the noir camp.  Dark shadows and swirling fog banks surround two hard working dock dwellers, Jonah Goodwin (Thomas Mitchell, who steals his scenes with ease) and his fishing buddy Olaf Johnson (underplayed beautifully by John Qualen), whose big American Dream is barrel-scraping up $500 to buy an old waterlogged cabin cruiser and sailing to Cuba in their dwindling years.  They have worked hard all their lives, Olaf a bachelor, and Jonah married to a perpetually "ill" wife Florence (Aline MacMahon) and his daughter Stella, who chafes at the "ordinary" life with which she's been saddled.

So when smarmy gangster Harold Goff (Garfield) nonchalantly sets fires to the modest boats of the dock's fishermen and sells "insurance" to the others, Stella sees in him the flip side of the American Dream which has been denied her due to her gender. He stands as an escape from the staid, predestined boredom of working a dead end job as a telephone operator, marrying a solid but unambitious dock auctioneer George Watkins (Eddie Albert), and never venturing farther than the end of the pier. Goff is flamboyant, dangerous, and ready to throw money in her path, even though she despises what he represents, extorting the fortune of $5.00 per week from her father.  With times being tough for everyone--including poor old Igor Propotkin (George Tobias, Abner Kravitz on *Bewitched*) being pushed into bankruptcy after sixteen years, despite his "creative" personal bookkeeping--Goff is a guaranteed escape hatch.

The fog here becomes a trenchant metaphor for the impotent dreams of the poor:  The fog is a shroud of closeness, preventing long distance planning, keeping people securely in their stations (It's morphed into a comfortable blanket for Propotkin in the Russian steam rooms), and obscuring the skies at night, making navigation difficult and dreaming impossible except in modest measure; you can't wish upon a star if it's ceiling zero.  But it's also a moral fog when crude violence and invasive threats can make money and rule the decent and the honest.  Stella is not obliged to see a bright horizon except through a compromise of virtue and moral clarity; even gentle folk Jonah and Olaf's better judgments are momentarily clouded when they are beaten (spiritually and in Jonah's case physically with a rubber hose), rewarded for their integrity with the destruction of their very core principles.

This is dark terrain, to be sure, tough on the working folk and more specifically on women with good old fashioned 1940s sexism.  How ironic that Cuba, of all places, is the haven for the dispossessed, while America is the land of the downtrodden, especially if you have scruples.  Yet with the heaviness of the plot as everyone faces moral choices, Jonah and Olaf are at heart good, gentle people with whom I enjoyed sharing time.  They are humane, comical at times, and strong characters, with Mitchell bringing a wonderful sense of balance to it all.  Ida Lupino proves her star quality as the trapped Stella, whose mixed emotional messages are tearing her apart in her loyalty and love for her family and her desperation to be worthy of something more than the "ordinary" label branding her.

Along for the ride are terrific, recognizable supporting actors including the Bowery Boys' Leo Gorcey as Eddie the counterman who immediately gives the whole film perspective in the opening minutes, Robert Homans as the ubiquitous Officer Magruder, and Jerome Cowen as the binary assistant district attorney.  These background characters weave in and out of the film like a subtle Greek Chorus, subtly underscoring the action.  But the real treat comes from basking in James Wong Howe's lush cinematography as it sucks you in and cloaks you from the first frame and holds you as you attempt navigation through the murk of the US and its fight against fascism, even as Shaw's original ethnic subtext has been excised.  But be advised: This is a pretty bleak view, with Garfield's Goff being one of the most reviled characters in noir, very tough to watch at times.

Alan Kohn in *Bright Lights Film Journal* says, "Goff’s attempted domination of these ordinary people — his deterministic worldview jousting with their perceived free will — is referred to as 'the strong tak(ing) from the weak.' It is a parasitism that reflects the greed at the core of America’s capitalist system. Goff’s successful loan sharking is just another name for the 'installment' plan, a scheme that the character Jonah ironically claims makes 'every man in America … a king.' . . .Viewed through the prism of World War II, Goff assumes a related symbol as the unforgiving force of European fascism, again intimidating the 'gentle people' by scaring them into inaction. The townspeople speak of 'escape,' 'freedom,' and of 'wanting peace,' but the roads to these destinations are barricaded."

*Out Of The Fog* is not a casual '40s throwaway drama; it has bite and a harsh undertow. But it is an interesting study of human dynamics and humanistic philosophies that may provoke you.  And if you watch it wearing glasses, try adjusting your mask every few minutes to ensure the fog you see is on the screen and not huffs of anger clouding your vision.
Enjoy.
Jeff

_________________
GHEMRATS
"WRONG! You had Special K with bananas!" What a Face
ghemrats
ghemrats

Posts : 858
Join date : 2013-04-19
Age : 67
Location : Bob Ufer's Meeechigan!

Space Cadet likes this post

Back to top Go down

The Cobalt Screening Room Balcony - Page 25 Empty Re: The Cobalt Screening Room Balcony

Post by ghemrats on 7/11/2020, 4:37 pm

Post #440:  Today's feature is distinguished only by marking it the final film of Sally Gray.  I know, that's a sad reason to see it, made that much more poignant when I realize I had never even heard of Sally Gray before seeing *I'll Get You (aka Escape Route)*(1952).  At least we can pay homage to her 29-film career by recognizing the exquisite pain she must have endured as she was forced to feign affection for George Raft, let alone kiss him, which surely must have been akin to locking lips with a carp.  I believe we now know why she ceased appearing in films after that.  But don't feel too bad for her, as she married Dominick Geoffrey Edward Browne, 4th Baron Oranmore and Browne and lived comfortably as Lady Oranmore and Browne in County Mayo, Ireland.  Sadly, though, her stepson Tara became the subject of John Lennon's lyrics in *A Day In The Life* when he crashed his Lotus Elan into a lamp-post in Redcliffe Square, London, in 1966. His father was a member of the House of Lords for 72 years.

Anything to forestall commenting on today's film, another George Raft snooze-a-thon with flashes of light from the voluptuous Sally Gray.  It's another treasure that probably should have remained buried in the Robert Lippert Production Tomb whose plot, according to the *New York Times*, was "so mysterious" the filmmakers "almost succeeded in keeping the story to themselves."  And that is a fair assessment as we don't know what is really going on until roughly fifteen minutes before the end of its 78-minute running time.

What we DO know is that American nuclear engineer Steve Rossi (George Raft) illegally enters England by evading immigration and Scotland Yard, hell bent on finding Michael Grand (Clifford Evans) who has been kidnapping Western Atomic Scientists and who has offered Rossi a job.  Subject of a massive manhunt and following a circuitous route of contacts and moderate dead ends, Rossi is finally intercepted by the feisty Joan Miller who turns out to be--wait for it! No, better yet, remain in the dark until you find out Rossi is--no, I can't let you know and ruin the suspense that will never surface, just in case you want to venture into the bombed and strafed skeletal remains of London after WWII.  Let's just say Scotland Yard and nasty international espionage agents are both after Rossi and Joan who by extension becomes wanted.

Raft, fourteen years older than his co-star, is his usual hunk of lumber presence, seeming to be trussed into immobility by a full body cast restricting any human movement, generating all the charismatic energy of a tub of Maypo.  One of Gray's best moments comes when she places him in a twisted hammerlock and waltzes him out her door.  And she blossoms in the film with her tight control, large eyes and willful grace, having been a dancer trained by Fred Astaire himself.  She moves fluidly and more than carries her own, even though she is characteristically devalued by Raft's awkward references to her as "Baby."  Eeeyuckk!  It's an appellation disturbingly, unfashionably American misplaced for a statuesque woman who holds herself with such poise.

Bad guy Clifford Evans is imposing enough, though he lurks in shadows most of the time, and continues the grand tradition of clunky, poorly choreographed fisticuffs in a pinch, obviously missing Raft by a good fifteen inches with each glancing blow.  And at 51, in the final confrontation on a cargo lift, Raft punches with the raw, animalistic power of an arthritic grandpa in an AARP commercial.  That magnetism Raft is supposed to exude is designed to carry the film--and it does, right off London Bridge.  He and Gray don't generate enough chemistry to set a Fizzy bubbling and spritzing, and his trademark inexpressiveness successfully reaches the new lows he commanded with his other two contractual Lippert films, *Loan Shark* (1952) and *The Man From Cairo* (1953), both of which I have commented on earlier this month.
The Cobalt Screening Room Balcony - Page 25 D3942910
One last comment here:  What the hell is the relevance of the title?  *I'll Get You*? Who will get whom? And why?  This isn't a *Kill Bill* story of mad revenge, the line is never spoken in the film, and the hilarious twisted rictus of pain on Raft's face in the promotional poster is so misleading I doubt Raft could have shown such emotion even had he slipped off his bicycle seat and forcefully landed on the crossbar, his feet dangling a foot off the ground.  Sweet Fancy Moses, if you are looking for the "searing, screaming suspense" advertised in its marketing campaign, skip this one and watch a Popsicle melt into an anthill on the driveway.
Enjoy.
Jeff


Last edited by ghemrats on 7/11/2020, 8:15 pm; edited 1 time in total

_________________
GHEMRATS
"WRONG! You had Special K with bananas!" What a Face
ghemrats
ghemrats

Posts : 858
Join date : 2013-04-19
Age : 67
Location : Bob Ufer's Meeechigan!

Back to top Go down

The Cobalt Screening Room Balcony - Page 25 Empty Re: The Cobalt Screening Room Balcony

Post by Space Cadet on 7/11/2020, 5:14 pm

"Watch a Popsicle melt into an anthill on the driveway."

I'd pick that over anything on The Lifetime Channel.
Space Cadet
Space Cadet
Admin

Posts : 710
Join date : 2013-04-06
Location : Central Florida

https://cobaltclubannex.forumotion.com

ghemrats likes this post

Back to top Go down

The Cobalt Screening Room Balcony - Page 25 Empty Re: The Cobalt Screening Room Balcony

Post by ghemrats on 7/12/2020, 4:39 pm

Post #441: For a special treat, today's feature was filmed in Skeletorama! and it could easily be one of my Top Three Guilty Pleasures for its absolutely deadpan accuracy in recreating the cheese factor of 1950s sci-fi horror movies. No, it's not the last Presidential press conference--it's *The Lost Skeleton Of Cadavra* (2001), an amazing homage filmed in 10.5 days with a budget less than $100,000, special effects purchased on eBay, and all the seasoned actors directed to give serious but intentionally bad performances. In short, it's fabulous in its programmed awfulness.

Written and directed by Larry Blamire, who also plays the lead scientist Paul Armstrong (and supplies the voice of the newly reanimated Lost Skeleton of Cadvra), the narrative is set in 1961 as Paul, who "does" science, and his wife Betty (Fay Masterson) drive up into the mountains to escape the constant pressures of science-doing, though Paul is on the trail of a meteorite he believes is composed of the rare and highly sought-after mineral Atmosphereum. But the happy couple who are married to each other don't realize the suspicious Dr. Roger Fleming (Brian Howe) is also in the area, tracking down Cadavra Cave which houses the Lost Skeleton hidden under a ratty blanket. If that's not enough conflict, a second meteorite--actually a space ship from the planet Marva--crash lands nearby, leaving aliens Kro-Bar (Andrew Parks) and Lattis (Susan McConnell) marooned on Earth unless they can replenish their supply of Atmosphereum.

Settling into their rented cabin, Paul and Betty become the nexus (or meeting point, as they say) for the aliens, whose pet mutant (Darren Reed) has escaped their ship, wreaking havoc and mysteriously mutilating passersby, and Fleming's attempts to revive the evil Lost Skeleton with the Armstrongs' discovered cache of Atmosphereum. Employing their Transmutatron, Kro-Bar and Lattis disguise themselves as non-alien Earthlings and set out to meet other Earth dwellers, leaving their instrument in the woods outside the Armstrongs' cabin. Recovering the device which transmutes or changes shapes of its targets, Fleming creates a hybrid "companion" from several forest animals, a slinky, alluring black leotard clad femme fatale whom he calls Animala (Jennifer Blaire, who is actually married to Larry Blamire as his wife in real life).

Pulse-pounding action that makes your pulse pound ensues. Calling themselves "Turgaso" and "Bammin" in an effort to acclimate--or fit in--with Earth people without notice, Kro-Bar and Lattis discover--or find out--Fleming realizes they are not of this earth and he too is after the rare glowing rock called Atmosphereum which Paul is studying under his microscope. Meanwhile, the Lost Skeleton, who is now no longer lost because Fleming has found him, exerts his telepathic powers, or mind control, over Betty to suit his needs while Fleming and the aliens team up to secure the meteorite, using Animala's entrancing hypnotic dance moves to place Paul under her spell.

See Betty mentally torn apart as both Kro-Bar and the Skeleton fight for her mind's attention:
Skeleton: [using mind control] Bring the meteor to the skeleton.
Kro-Bar: [using mind control] Bring the Atmosphereum to Kro-Bar and Lattis.
Betty Armstrong: I must make a skeleton meatier using a crowbar covered in lettuce.

Shiver in terror as Paul struggles to understand the strange language and customs of Animala under the Skeleton's influence:
Skeleton: You must find the Atmosphereum.
Animala: Amish Terrarium. Must find Amish terrarium.
Dr. Paul Armstrong: I don't understand. Why does she need an Amish terrarium?
Betty Armstrong: Don't the Amish live in open air, like us?
Dr. Paul Armstrong: Of course, Betty, it's absurd. Putting the Amish in glass cases would be inhumane.

Revel in philosophical revelry as Kro-Bar and Lattis ponder the significance of diversity, or the state of variety:
Kro-Bar: Yes, it is different, this earth as it is called, but then are we of the planet Marva, as we call our planet, not also strange and different to this planet and its people also?
Lattis: You think the earth people think we are strange, you think? It is strange how the ways of different people on different planets differ.

For sheer lunacy and the most faithful replication of 1950s B-movies, *The Lost Skeleton Of Cadvra* is a gold mine. Written in five days and filmed in Bronson Canyon, site of countless low-budget westerns and sci-fi films--including *Invasion of the Body Snatchers* (1956), *Attack of the Crab Monsters* (1957), *The Lone Ranger* (1956 TV series), *Teenagers from Outer Space* (1959), *The Cape Canaveral Monsters* (1960) and *Eegah* (1962)--this 90 minute feature uses glue guns (for the Transmutatron) and toilet paper rolls (for the space ship) to splendid effect. The ensemble cast is terrific, dialing down their thespian abilities to add authenticity to a really bad budget film; actually, it must be doubly difficult for a fine trained actor to play a bad actor giving his or her all to the role that is horrendous. And that solipsistic challenge makes *The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra* such a special treat. Fay Masterson (Betty), for instance, has actually appeared in the final two *Fifty Shades* movies as well as nearly forty other films, and sixteen TV series including a returning role in *The Last Ship* (CDR Andrea Garnett).

The editing lags dramatically, purposefully giving too much time between scenes, just as we've seen in countless midnight movies; the mutant has trouble picking up Betty, and it shows nicely; the music underlies the entire film, layers and layers of cheese topping the whole enchilada in glorious punctuation of action. And the dancing is as spasmodic as a frog on a griddle. I love it.

If you're going to take the plunge as you call it, I'd recommend watching this film with a couple friends or family for the maximum Goof Factor. While it's like watching *Mystery Science Theater 3000* with Joel and the Bots actually in the awful movie rather than commenting on it from the theater seats, you'll still be in on the joke. And stay tuned as I have found three more Larry Blamire films coming soon to a screen near your computer or DVD player: *A Dark And Stormy Night* (2009), *The Trail Of The Screaming Forehead* (2007) and *Lost Skeleton Returns Again* (2008). Now I sleep.
Enjoy.
Jeff

_________________
GHEMRATS
"WRONG! You had Special K with bananas!" What a Face
ghemrats
ghemrats

Posts : 858
Join date : 2013-04-19
Age : 67
Location : Bob Ufer's Meeechigan!

Space Cadet and Seamus like this post

Back to top Go down

The Cobalt Screening Room Balcony - Page 25 Empty Re: The Cobalt Screening Room Balcony

Post by Seamus on 7/12/2020, 5:37 pm

I loved this movie. I ordered in it on dvd when it first came out. What a homage to cheesy B scifi.
Seamus
Seamus
Admin

Posts : 487
Join date : 2013-05-06
Location : Big Trouble in Little China

ghemrats likes this post

Back to top Go down

The Cobalt Screening Room Balcony - Page 25 Empty Re: The Cobalt Screening Room Balcony

Post by ghemrats on 7/13/2020, 5:05 pm

Post #442: After Hitchcock made showering a frightening prospect with *Psycho* (1960), America ushered in a cinematic period trained on gleaming, finely honed Ginsu Knives sending quasars into dark hallways and alleys, poised at the ready to do their business with people rather than tomatoes and tin cans while announcers breathlessly whiffed, "Isn't that amazing?" Chief among the directors and producers giddy with the gruesome was William Castle, a master showman who taunted audiences with 3D, electrical shocks attached to theater seats, and, in today's feature, *Homicidal* (1961) a Fright Break of 45 seconds that gave permission to the squeamish to get a refund before the film's "intense" climax--signaled by Castle's disembodied voice and a ticking clock interrupting the action on the screen.

If you couldn't withstand the "harrowing suspense," you were directed to sit in a yellow cardboard box staffed by a theater employee; as director John Waters (*Serial Mom*, 1994) recalled, "you had to leave your seat and, in front of the entire audience, follow yellow footsteps up the aisle, bathed in a yellow light. Before you reached Coward's Corner, you crossed yellow lines with the stencilled message: 'Cowards Keep Walking.' You passed a nurse (in a yellow uniform? ... I wonder), who would offer a blood-pressure test. All the while a recording was blaring, 'Watch the chicken! Watch him shiver in Coward's Corner!' As the audience howled, you had to go through one final indignity – at Coward's Corner you were forced to sign a yellow card stating, 'I am a bona fide coward.'"

How many people took Castle up on his offer? Not many, if any. But his antics beg the question, Is *Homicidal* really that spine-dissolving? Well, it's tidy and weirdly suspenseful, no denying that, and his main character Emily ("Jean Arless," aka Joan Marshall) is high on the Creep Meter with her deep, dead eyes and mercurial penchant for unexpected action and outbursts as we try to figure out just what is her major malfunction. And the folks surrounding her--flower shop owner Miriam Webster named after a dictionary perhaps? (Patricia Breslin) and her beau Karl Anderson who reads her like a book (Glenn Corbett)--seem nice and innocuous enough. But Helga Swenson (Eugenie Leontovich), the mute invalid who incessantly communicates panic by rapping a knob on the arm of her wheelchair whom Emily oversees, is little more than a wizened gourd--and Warren, Miriam's buck-toothed pal of a brother, hovers like an odd duck filled with helium. Put them all together, they spell Eeeeyeewwww.

We are tipped off in the first scene that Emily is a few tacos shy of a specialty plate when she checks into a hotel for one night, indicates she wants bellhop Jim Nesbitt (Richard Rust) to help her to her room, and then offers him $2000 for a bucket of ice and a marriage to her which will be almost instantly annulled. No strings and no consummation, which moderately bums out Jim. But, hey, marrying a shapely blonde for two Gs sounds like a deal. And so they are wed, even though no one seems to find it weird that Emily wears her wedding band over her gloves, and, oh yes, she repeatedly stabs the justice of the peace (James Westerfield) to pieces as he leans in to kiss the bride. Fleeing the scene and flicking her wedding band out the window, Emily returns to gloat about her evening festivities to Helga.

From this point forward plot convolutions offer more twists than a contortionist's pretzel. Withholding spoilers, here's a taste of what happens: Miriam and Karl get engaged, the police look for a the blonde newlywed (who adopted the name Miriam Webster as a cover) who sliced and diced and made tons of julienne fries out of the justice of the peace, Warren divulges the news that he and Emily are married, Helga writhes and knocks in terror, Miriam and Warren are now inheritors of their misogynistic father's estate, and Emily smashes, crashes, chops and shops her way through the narrative. So for a quick Spoiler Free recap: Emily = bad; Miriam = good; Helga = tries to scream her head off; Warren = abused and beside himself most of the time. Denmark = something is rotten there, especially if you remember the film was released in 1961 and had an active trans-it authority.

Now, a great deal has been made of *Homicidal* being a direct cousin to Hitchcock's nuclear Bates family. And if you have seen *Psycho*, studied it, and loved its wonderful layers of punnery (Marion Crane from Phoenix is the next bird in Norman's taxidermy collection, and so on), you will find Castle's entry into suspense a bit less intellectually stimulating, but Castle's not interested in that. He goes right for the gut (see the Justice) and standard horror conventions cloaked in pseudo-psychobabble as a nod to plot. He's direct where Hitchcock is sly, a cinematic Barnum packing the aisles and seats with gimmickry and sound film making experience. So in his own way he's more focused on screaming than studying human darknesses. Both filmmakers are successful in their own ways in the same way Shakespeare and Mickey Spillane are effective craftsmen. *Psycho* continues to invite serious study, *Homicidal* invites a drive-in crowd.

Yes, Castle rushed this puppy into production after Hitchcock warned "It is *required* that you see *Psycho* from the very beginning. . . .We won't allow you to cheat yourself. Every theater manager, everywhere, has been instructed to admit no one after the start of each performance of *PSYCHO*. We said no one--not even the manager's brother, the President of the United States, or the Queen of England (God bless her)." And *Homicidal* was released June 28, 1961 hot on the high heels of *Psycho*'s September 8, 1960 date. So you will find some nice nods to the Master in *Homicidal*'s brisk 88 minutes, but still find enough original shudders to make Castle's work worth watching, even as we gorge ourselves with Made Rite Cheese Puffs.

And contrary to popular opinion, Warren's voice was NOT dubbed--it was his voice all along, one of the main reasons Castle gave the actor his nod of approval since Warren's sonorous vocal ability loaned a certain extra dimension of strange eeriness to the performance.

Again, this one is not for the kids, but for anyone seeking the visceral thrill of the old drive-in movie madness, burn some hot dogs, char some onion rings, water down the Coca-Cola and Jiffy Pop some corn on the stove to relive that aromatic density of a humid summer night where sweat and screams sat side by side with the wonderful soundtrack of flatulent squeaking against vinyl seats and the monophonic crackle from a tinny speaker grating. Them's were the good old days.
Enjoy.
Jeff

_________________
GHEMRATS
"WRONG! You had Special K with bananas!" What a Face
ghemrats
ghemrats

Posts : 858
Join date : 2013-04-19
Age : 67
Location : Bob Ufer's Meeechigan!

Space Cadet and Seamus like this post

Back to top Go down

The Cobalt Screening Room Balcony - Page 25 Empty Re: The Cobalt Screening Room Balcony

Post by ghemrats on 7/14/2020, 6:41 pm

Post #443: Pay no attention to the giggling ghoul advertising today's feature, *Mr. Sardonicus* (1961) as it's merely the Facebook picture of a McDonald's employee who proudly won the Halloween party contest for bobbing for French Fries. It's also a fitting tribute to our film's producer and director, William Castle, who has fashioned a cute little Gothic horror film that will scare the butter off your popcorn. So be warned: You probably shouldn't share this shocker with the younger set unless you want to teach the neighborhood kids a lesson for trampling across your lawn. Give them a shot of this movie and see them run like pigs from a gun, see how they fly. I'm cryin' . . .

As with just about any Castle production, you've got employ a gimmick to promote the abject fright he's going to subject you to, and *Mr. Sardonicus* provides a contrivance that makes audience participation all but moot. After sitting through 84 minutes of the Baron's unspeakable evil, audiences were given the opportunity to decide his end: They were given glow-in-the-dark "Punishment Poll" cards bearing the age-old Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down reckoning, so in the final five minutes of the film, Castle himself addresses the audience, asking to render a decision on the Baron's (and the movie's) outcome. If he should be allowed grace for all his hideous failings, give him a Thumbs Up; if he should be subjected to stern judgment for his atrocities to which we've borne witness, flip the card and seal his fate. The film's denouement will be determined by vote.

This approach designed to satisfy the audiences' tastes came to Castle during a screening of the print for Columbia's executives, who hated the original decidedly downbeat conclusion that Castle (and author of the story printed in *Playboy* and screenplay Ray Russell) placed in motion. Since they wanted a more suitable benign ending, Castle framed the story with his opening and closing narration, placing the Baron's comeuppance squarely in the lap of the audience. For the drive-in set, voting would be conducted by participants' flashing their headlights if they decided the Baron must pay for his hideous transgressions. (As it turns out, by his own admission, Castle never did film the happy ending, counting on the audience's desire for "justice" or revenge, though his ploy at marketing worked wonders with Columbia's big wigs.)

So what can we look forward to as we settle in to the Mr. Toad Baron's Wild Ride? Oh, a little something for everyone: A remote fog enshrouded Castle Sardonicus sequestered in the poisonous landscape in central European Gorslava, a maid of the Castle hanging by her thumbs and being subjected to a facial regimen of leeches to provide that luminous glow all women desire, a laughable locked room secured by a padlock the size of a baby watermelon, a man cave in the dungeon decked out with all manner of medieval instruments of torture, a garden bursting with every toxic plant known to mankind, a fairly sustained soundtrack of shrill screaming, and our host Mr. Sardonicus who wears a featureless mask which--most terrifying of all--bears the harrowing resemblance to Presidential advisor Stephen Miller, which will surely induce the most reprehensible nightmares in any theater goer.

Keep an eye on Krull (Oscar Homolka), the Baron's head servant, who dispatches his master's will while slogging around the Castle Sardonicus with the appearance of a perpetually unmade bed, his left ocular socket welded shut with a decades' worth of sleepy seeds since the Baron popped out its occupant some time ago in a hissy fit of pique. But it's not all valentines and vapors in the film. There are two strikingly hot women and a blandly attractive doctor at large too as our story unfolds. . . or folds in on itself.

It's 1880 England as our narrator William Castle spins us back in time to find recently knighted London physician Sir Robert Cargrave (Ronald Lewis), feverishly working wonders on the cutting edge of medical discovery. With his innovative techniques he is renown for helping the hopeless to live regular, tedious lives again. And so it is that he receives a frantic missive from his former love, Maude (the gorgeous Gibson Girl prototype Audrey Dalton), imploring him to make a house call to the distant Castle Sardonicus, the residence she shares with her arranged-and-estranged-and-really-strange husband (Guy Rolfe) the Baron (nee Marek Toleslawski, a once poor but decent farmer).

Ever the charming Covid-masked host, the Baron entreats Robert with a flashback, bringing him up to date with the reason he has asked for the doctor's help. Years ago Marek was a simple man working the hard ground with his kind but bumbling father Henryk (Vladimir Sokoloff) to keep his avaricious wife Elenka (sexy shrewish Erika Peters) steeped in all the dust and squalor she could ever desire. One day as a present Henryk the dreamer gives his much loved son and daughter-in-law a wonderful surprise, guaranteed to make Elenka faint with joy--a lottery ticket, much like the other three hundred forty tickets he's surprised them with in the past. Big whoop. Soon the old man dies and is interred in the family plot. . . unfortunately--you guessed it--bearing the ticket, now worth more than a king's transom, secured in his inner pocket. Realizing they can now afford a king's transom, maybe even the castle where it's located, Elenka goads Marek into digging up his inheritance, despite the poor man's crushing burden of ethics prohibiting him from exhuming his father (Dad was always such a light sleeper, Marek would hate to disturb his dirt nap).

But if your wife is a buxom blonde, what are you going to do but commit the unpardonable sin of death-dumpster diving? So under the full moon, lumpy wisps of fog, smog and cloud cover scudding across the night sky, Marek, like the nineteenth century beatnik he is, dig it . . . only to discover the heinously decayed dental work of his father mocking him under six feet of dirt, hideously horrifying Marek, wringing him inside out with guilt and shame until his own face morphs into an equally monstrous visage. And now, years after Elenka committed suicide at having to check him out at the breakfast table every morning and watching him scare the eggs off his plate to cower in the corner, and having remarried sight unseen with the lure of endless wealth, he beckons Dr. Robert to work his miracles on him, returning him to human form so he can stop getting Krull to pimp out the town's young women with gold to indulge his manly needs because Maude won't go near him, not even after dosing himself with English Leather.

Quite a quandary for the doc. There's that damnable Hippocratic Oath he's bound to, but then there's that damned hypocritical oaf who likes to torture young women, pluck our the help's eyes and use them for handball practice, and even indulge in some weird bondage with his wife is the doc doesn't help. On one hand he's got a duty to heal the sick and infirmed, and on the other hand (the one with the distended thumbs from hanging people from the rafters) Silly Putty Man is a deviant who would best serve mankind as composted garden mulch. And, wooo, paraphrasing Fountain of Wayne's imagery, Saucy Maude has got it goin' on, so there's that, too. Oh Calgon, take me away.

Alas, this would be the last of Castle's "gimmick" movies, though he has professed it was his favorite production. Budd Wilkins of *Slate Magazine* calls it, "one of Castle’s most effective films. As a director, he proves he has some real chops, steadily and expertly building tension until the terrifically effective reveal of Sardonicus’s hideous visage. Granted, at bottom, the film’s little more than an extended morality play of the sort that viewers were accustomed to from TV shows like *The Twilight Zone* or the Boris Karloff-hosted *Thriller*. But with its elegant set and costume design, solid performances from Rolfe and Homolka especially, and tongue-in-cheek humor, Mr. Sardonicus stands (alongside *The Tingler*, I would argue) as one of William Castle’s strongest, most memorable efforts."

Amazon's viewship rates it 73% four- and five-star ratings, and some with low reviews still assert it's one of the most patiently creepy films of the genre. Of course watching with an audience greater than two people can enlarge the effect, as it was made to seen with hyperactive crowd support, but if you're alone, turn off all the lights, delight in some of its low technology, and wait for the payoff when you see Mr. Sardonicus's twisted grimace behind the mask. I personally think the Ghostface in *Scream* (1996) might be an inspired, accurate reaction to the film. . . or maybe I'm thinking of Kevin in *Home Alone* (1990) trying on after shave for the first time. But then, if you look like the Baron, you could drown yourself in a vat of Hai Karate or Canoe and it wouldn’t make a whiff of a difference.
Enjoy.
Jeff

_________________
GHEMRATS
"WRONG! You had Special K with bananas!" What a Face
ghemrats
ghemrats

Posts : 858
Join date : 2013-04-19
Age : 67
Location : Bob Ufer's Meeechigan!

Seamus likes this post

Back to top Go down

The Cobalt Screening Room Balcony - Page 25 Empty Re: The Cobalt Screening Room Balcony

Post by ghemrats on 7/15/2020, 4:37 pm

Hey, Boss and Space! This is a bona fide classic today; tune it in.

Post #444 (The stuttering post): Wow, I'd never have guessed the terrible backstory Luke Skywalker's Uncle Owen (Phil Brown) must have suffered until I saw today's feature, *The Hidden Room (aka Obsession)*(1949), a crackerjack thriller that I'm posting here today in its entirety, largely because a.) you've probably never seen it, 2.) you'll be hard pressed to find a decent DVD copy, and c.) it's really worth hunting down. And for *Star Wars* completists, it provides every reason in the world for Uncle Owen's escape to Tatooine, even though he's known as American Bill Kronin in today's offering.

Director Edward Dmytryk continues his tradition of making solid contributions to the movies with this British entry; you might have seen some of his other directorial successes with such classics as *Murder, My Sweet* (1944) with Dick Powell, *The Left Hand Of God* (1955) *The Caine Mutiny* (1954) both with Humphrey Bogart, and *Mirage* (1965) with Gregory Peck and Diane Baker. Blacklisted in 1948 by House Un-American Activities Committee as part of the "Hollywood Ten" for refusing to testify before the committee, Dmytryk was granted a work permit in England during which time he completed this film under the Ministry of Labour. But there's nothing laborious in it, just taut, intriguing suspense and terrific performances. Especially from Monte the dog.

If like me you grew up with Robert Newton indelibly etched in your memory as the quintessential Long John Silver from Disney's *Treasure Island* (, you're in for a real treat as he stars as successful British psychiatrist Dr. Clive Riordan, a chillingly charming and understated man driven to his wits' end, which is a suburb of rubble in bombed-out London. Following an evening of political puffery and high-minded humbuggery at his exclusive gentleman's club, Riordan takes leave of his stodgy pals to return to his opulent home, ready to await the arrival of his beautiful, coolly sexy wife Storm (Sally Gray), who is out for the evening. When she returns on the arm of unassuming American Bill Kronin (Phil Brown) after a night of gaiety and what-have-you (or he-had-you), the couple settle into an evening nightcap while Riordan hides his little cuckolded hide behind a curtain, prepared to step out at the perfect moment, armed with a tidy family gun.

Because this is Great Britain, known for its tempered resolve, Riordan's confrontation, which has been simmering through years of his wife's indiscretions, a veritable Olympics of trysts, is unusually mannered and urbane in his questioning of the couple: Did they enjoy the concert they professed to have attended? Oh, but the conductor was taken ill, so how can that be that they enjoyed something that never happened? Oh, you had dinner at a local upscale restaurant? Ah, well then, let's call the maitre'd and confirm your appearance, shall we? All the while their lame lies are dismantled, Phil struggles not to swallow his tongue, while Storm weathers each inquiry with insouciant simplicity.

And so it goes, as Riordan informs his wife Phil represents the last straw in her straw man arguments of her innocence, and as such Phil will pay the price. Indignant, Storm says her good nights and storms off to bed, leaving the boys to sort out the messy details. Riordan calmly suggests an evening constitutional at the point of a gun, and the two men leave to take in the air fresh from a cleansing rain. When news of the disappearance of a pleasant enough Yank reaches the papers, Storm resigns herself to the inevitability of being married to a murderer and finds solace walking her fluffy, endearing white poodle Monte, who nearly steals the movie away from these seasoned actors.

But Riordan, remember, is well versed in psychological terror, despite his wry smile, and he has devised a more effective manner of dealing with his wife's extracurricular gymnastics: He has sequestered Phil in a long dormant remnant of the London bombing, a charming hovel now equipped with two bathrooms (one for Phil, one for, well, let's not say), a worn cot, a fashionable ankle bracket chained to the wall, and tasteful chalk markings on the floor to act as demarcation points for Phil's path, just to ensure he can't reach Riordan who keeps him alive but anticipatory for his death at any time. After all, the good doctor is nothing if not an accommodating host, bringing Phil wax-paper-wrapped food and a thermos or two of martinis to see him through his multi-month stay at stately and unseemly Stark Manor.

Robert Newton is a revelation as Riordan, whether he's busying himself with his intricate and elaborate HO-scale train set or he's mixing a strange chemical concoction at the office, filling a limitless number of hot water bottles for an insidious purpose concerning his captive. He is calm, relaxed, calculating and more than menacing as he taunts both Storm and Phil with his composure and propriety. According to Dmytryk Newton made filming somewhat challenging as he was frequently besotted, an alcoholic would would succumb to his disease six years later. But here he is top shelf, ingenious and disingenuous, especially when several months into Phil's disappearance Scotland Yard's bungling Columbo Superintendent Finsbury (the delightful Naunton Wayne) bumbles into an investigation.

Sally Gray, again, is sumptuous as the ice queen Storm, melding sensual attraction with behavioral repulsion, an infuriating human female embodiment of Dr. Dolittle's Push-me Pull-you with her nuanced but distance distress over Phil's fate. And it's clear that though she appears to dote over Monte, she sees him as an accessory more than a companion, much as she sees her husband. Phil Brown may not be a physical equal to Newton's Riordan, but he exhibits the mental stamina and strength of spirit just as determined as his captor. We see him move from well dressed dandy to rangy, bedraggled and bearded determinant, fighting nobly the existential vacuum in which he's been relegated to live.

*The Hidden Room (Obsession)* is a tightly wound 93 minutes with crackling dialogue, studied psychological tension, and deliciously dry humor that adds dimension and humanity to the fluid action with 86% of Amazon viewers rating it four- or five stars. Not only is it a hidden room, but it's a hidden gem. You bet it's dark, as any good revenge film has hardened motivations in its heart, but never were my muscles screaming under the weight of its movement. Dmytryk knows when to keep things light as he never sinks into piteous or mean spirited madness--this is a triangular test of wills with all participants strong enough to bear the load. And Monte brings a buoyant AWWW Factor any time he's given screen time.

I am quickly becoming a Sally Gray fan, even when her character is a queen b*tch on a cracker. But the interplay among the actors is a noir buffet, and this comes as a big surprise since I was anticipating another sluggish unintentional laugh riot with the only detriment missing being George Raft. Silly me. Don't make the same mistake--click on my link to watch the whole thing in the comfort of your home which, if you're lucky, is not chalk-dotted to indicate where you can and can't sit. And if you watch it at a friend's house, take a gracious pass on the offer for a martini or designer ankle bracelet.
Enjoy.
Jeff

_________________
GHEMRATS
"WRONG! You had Special K with bananas!" What a Face
ghemrats
ghemrats

Posts : 858
Join date : 2013-04-19
Age : 67
Location : Bob Ufer's Meeechigan!

Space Cadet and Seamus like this post

Back to top Go down

The Cobalt Screening Room Balcony - Page 25 Empty Re: The Cobalt Screening Room Balcony

Post by Space Cadet on 7/15/2020, 6:23 pm

Jeff, I owe Ya an apology. I neither passed or ignored your treatment of The Lost Skeleton of Cadavera. After reading your post, I dragged out my own copy and started to watch it again.  But being fairly old, tired and freshly fed, I fell asleep in the middle of the movie. So, I forgot to go back and post.

If you'll remember, I created the Lost Skeleton drinking game. Every time the microphone appears in frame, Ya take a shot. Of course if I'd been playing solo shots when I watched it, I'd have been asleep a lot sooner.

I may need to organize a MST3K marathon.
Space Cadet
Space Cadet
Admin

Posts : 710
Join date : 2013-04-06
Location : Central Florida

https://cobaltclubannex.forumotion.com

ghemrats likes this post

Back to top Go down

The Cobalt Screening Room Balcony - Page 25 Empty Re: The Cobalt Screening Room Balcony

Post by ghemrats on 7/15/2020, 7:38 pm

I'll help you with that marathon, Space. It's long overdue.
And no apology necessary, my friend. I never assume anyone reads these rants, except you and Seamus. But it's nice to have an occasional acknowledgement nonetheless.

Crowwwwwwww!
Jeff

_________________
GHEMRATS
"WRONG! You had Special K with bananas!" What a Face
ghemrats
ghemrats

Posts : 858
Join date : 2013-04-19
Age : 67
Location : Bob Ufer's Meeechigan!

Back to top Go down

The Cobalt Screening Room Balcony - Page 25 Empty Re: The Cobalt Screening Room Balcony

Post by Sponsored content


Sponsored content


Back to top Go down

Page 25 of 28 Previous  1 ... 14 ... 24, 25, 26, 27, 28  Next

Back to top


 
Permissions in this forum:
You cannot reply to topics in this forum