What is the last film you watched? (2015)

Open, general discussion of classic sound-era films, personalities and history.
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entredeuxguerres

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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2015)

PostThu Apr 16, 2015 1:26 pm

After watching Men Must Fight (1933) on TCM a good many years ago, I was so disappointed by the role given Diana Wynyard (my chief interest in the picture), & by the crazy, schizophrenic, plot, that I entertained no thought of watching it again. But when it was shown again yesterday, I succumbed to the curiosity of finding out if it was as bizarre as I remembered; it was indeed.

Wynyard's character has been turned into such a fanatical pacifist by the death of her soldier-impregnator in WW I, that, about 25 yrs later, in 1940, when "WW II" erupts between America & "Eurasia," not even the unspeakable war-crimes of bombing the Brooklyn Bridge & Empire State Bldg. are reasons enough to change her mind about fighting back. Yet at the same time the picture is making the case for "the futility of war," it's simultaneously arguing that pacifist-inspired military-unpreparedness encouraged the enemy to attack. The "resolution" of that contradiction seems to be only that if fighting commences, regardless of how it started, "men must fight."

Rather fascinating that although the production staff evidently conceived that war in 1940 would be fought with the same technology of WW I--biplanes, dirigibles, & poison gas--they assumed that marvel of early '30s technology--television--would have evolved to the point that telephones, by then, were combined with TV screens!

For general strangeness & unreality, I'd rank this picture just below Gabriel Over the White House.
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2015)

PostThu Apr 16, 2015 2:28 pm

I watched St. Louis Blues (1958) out of curiosity. This bio of W.C. Handy has some truths in it but the film suffers from the usual Hollywood disregard for facts, not to mention the wildly inconsistent mix of women's clothes and hair styles. That said, the plus side makes this one worth watching. Nat King Cole turns in a decent performance as Handy, although he seems to have no clue as to what the piano keys mean. Juano Hernandez plays the tyrannical minister father with restraint. Mahalia Jackson shows up as a choir member and gets a few songs. Pearl Bailey plays Handy's aunt with her usual jaunty style, a nice balance to the righteous minister. Ruby Dee has the thankless and colorless role of the prissy would-be wife. Ella Fitzgerald (my all-time favorite) has a cameo as a saloon singer singing a Handy tune as he passes by. Best of all is the sizzling Eartha Kitt as a fictitious singer (so far as I can tell) who takes Handy in hand and helps him become a success. The music is glorious if repetitious, with only a few songs trotted out and sung over and over. Billy Preston plays Handy as a boy; he later had a singing career. The finale is probably total bosh but effective. The song "Morning Star" is haunting and beautifully done. YT scores another win.

To follow up I watched the 1929 short St. Louis Blues, which features Bessie Smith in her only filmed performance (that I know of). Story centers on sad Bessie being ill used by her boyfriend (Jimmy Mordecai) who runs off with another woman (Isabel Washington). Bessie drowns her sorrows at the bar with a mug of beer and sings a wailing "St. Louis Blues," which unfortunately is nearly drowned out by the "chorus" of saloon customers ... a truly ill-advised idea.
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2015)

PostThu Apr 16, 2015 2:38 pm

This bio of W.C. Handy

At age 15, I watched his funeral from the other side of the wrought iron gate of Woodlawn cemetery. He was given a wonderful send-off.
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2015)

PostThu Apr 16, 2015 3:28 pm

Another of the mountain of low-budget westerns beginning to emerge, THE APACHE KID'S ESCAPE (1930) suffers a little from some halting dialogue, improbable plot devices and a gap in the plot which may be due to missing footage. Jack Perrin plays the title character, who is aiming to go straight, although confusion is caused by other bandits sporting his trademark neckerchief. The plot deepens after he gets work at a ranch and one of the local bigwigs is using coercion to gain the hand of the ranch-owner's daughter. Her fiance then foolishly holds up a stage to obtain the necessary money and ends up in jail until things are sorted out.

At the beginning, the Kid finds a letter saying his mother is seriously ill. He heads homeward, followed by the sheriff and a turncoat, but that part of the story evaporates, or is missing. At just under 50 minutes, THE APACHE KID'S ESCAPE is entertaining and interesting, especially as it's amazing that it survives at all. It probably looks pretty awful to those who've seen plenty of these movies, but to a newcomer like myself it was worth a look. Writer-director Robert Horner (who seems to have had only one eye and no legs) is described in imbd as 'spectacularly untalented', but this does not seem to have prevented his production of 48 films from 1922 until his early death in 1942*.

There seems to be some confusion over Horner's death. Imdb lists it as 1942, whereas Wiki quotes 1935, in an automobile accident which claimed the lives of Junior Durkin and Jackie Coogan's father amongst others.
Last edited by earlytalkiebuffRob on Fri Apr 17, 2015 4:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2015)

PostThu Apr 16, 2015 7:24 pm

Tonight I watched Curtain at Eight (1933) which despite a good cast was not very good. Dorothy Mackaill was totally wasted, and the only signs of life came from C. Aubrey Smith and Natalie Moorhead .... and the chimp.

Next up was the breathlessly excellent Trouble in Paradise (1932) which I hadn't seen in many years. Sublime. Great performances by Miriam Hopkins, Kay Francis, and Herbert Marshall. Sly, witty, and dripping with class.
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2015)

PostThu Apr 16, 2015 9:30 pm

drednm wrote:Tonight I watched Curtain at Eight (1933) which despite a good cast was not very good. Dorothy Mackaill was totally wasted...


Totally! My recollection is that she looked morose & depressed throughout the picture, as if she were being forced against her will to play the part. But to me, Natalie alone justifies watching it.
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2015)

PostFri Apr 17, 2015 4:04 pm

drednm wrote:Tonight I watched Curtain at Eight (1933) which despite a good cast was not very good. Dorothy Mackaill was totally wasted, and the only signs of life came from C. Aubrey Smith and Natalie Moorhead .... and the chimp.

Next up was the breathlessly excellent Trouble in Paradise (1932) which I hadn't seen in many years. Sublime. Great performances by Miriam Hopkins, Kay Francis, and Herbert Marshall. Sly, witty, and dripping with class.


Not forgetting C Aubrey Smith again, showing that he was not limited to playing colonels or kindly and / or crusty grandfathers or uncles.
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2015)

PostSun Apr 19, 2015 11:52 am

Though I am not a fan of ROOM AT THE TOP (1958), I put on its sequel, LIFE AT THE TOP (1965), which has anti-hero Joe Lampton (Laurence Harvey still) in a stagnant marriage with Jean Simmons, and burning with resentment at his father-in-law's (Donald Wolfit) hold on him and his family. Dollops of adultery, dirty business and even dirtier local politics combine in an uneven brew, interesting in parts and very soapy in others. The sex element is particularly tiresome, though presumably it seemed daring fifty years ago. Honor Blackman is the woman Harvey fancies, and there are a number of well-known faces, such as Robert Morley and Nigel Davenport, though their parts are often so brief as to seem to have been done in a day.

A nice, crisp copy, this film was probably more of a disappointment for those who admired / liked the original film more. And Allan Cuthbertson repeats his role as the husband cuckolded in ROOM to good effect. I must say I expected father-in-law to drop off the perch, especially as he is seen having a check-up at the start. Will be interesting to see what MAN AT THE TOP (1973) is like, as that was a cinema spin-off from the tv spin-off...

Another 'new to us' movie, CONFESSION (1954/5) has crooked Sydney Chaplin coming back to England from America with rather a lot of money and a pistol. Hot on his trail is partner Patrick Allen after his cut. A fight ensues in which Chaplin's sister's boyfriend comes on the scene and does for Mr Allen. A committed Catholic, he goes to confession, and... Presumably influenced by Hitchcock's I CONFESS, this one is quite decently made, but rather tepid, with John Bentley as the Man from the Yard. Occasionally a trifle confusing, with rather too many cops in similar raincoats...
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2015)

PostTue Apr 21, 2015 5:29 am

I watched "Pinto Canyon" (1940) with Bob Steele, Louise Stanley, Kenne Duncan, Ted Adams, Steve Clark, Bud Buster, Murdock MacQuarrie, and George Chesebro. Opens quietly as several baddies are rustling a few head of cattle. No dialogue for a few minutes, but good action at end of a day. Then you see the sheriff on their trail: it's Bob Steele. This one is very spare and lean, but extremely well directed. It's only standard fare, yes, and it's a re-make actually of a 1935 Tom Tyler Western by the name of "Silent Valley" (Steele's is much, much better!), but it plays very well and is quite enjoyable. Steele is becoming much more mature looking here, more in the vein of what he appeared like in "The Big Sleep" (1946) with Bogart and Bacall. Still lean, though, not so much around the middle.
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2015)

PostTue Apr 21, 2015 12:58 pm

Watched the truly odd film The Loved One (1965), which I hadn't seen in a long while. Too long and wildly uneven with some questionable casting (Robert Morse as an English poet?) it nonetheless had some golden moments in its lampoon of the movie business, the funeral business, and other things California. A promising arc involving John Gielgud as an old-time movie set designer stops too soon but segues into the funeral storyline which then branches out into pet cemeteries. Odd casting throughout includes Rod Steiger as a funereal beautician, Milton Berle and Margaret Leighton as a mismatched couple, Jonathan Winters in multiple roles, Paul Williams as a teenaged rocket wizard, Dana Andrews as a loony military officer, and Liberace as the head of a bizarre funeral cult. Others include Robert Morley, Roddy McDowall, Barbara Nichols, Tab Hunter, Reta Shaw, Lionel Stander, James Coburn, and Anjanette Comer. Ayllene Gibbons is unforgettable as Steiger's mother.
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2015)

PostWed Apr 22, 2015 12:23 am

"In Old Arizona" (1928) was yet another one of those films that in my youth I had read about but never realised I would ever be able to get to see. Luckily, living in this day and age of being able to own our own copy of films, I was finally able to see it.

I had never really known what it was all about, but presumed it to be some sort of Western. Later I read that Warner Baxter plays a character called "The CIsco Kid" so I thought it would be a picture along the lines of those "Zorro" pictures. (I seem to recall there being an early television series called "The Cisco Kid"?)

On both the above counts I was disappointed as this is essentially a soppy love picture. Sure, there is a naughty but thoroughly charming bandito called "The Cisco Kid" but the only real footage of him in action as such is in the first five minutes of the film. Much of the rest of the picture is given over to a three way romance between Warner Baxter, Dorothy Burgess (playing the love interest "Tonia)" and Edmond Lowe (who is a law enforcement officer trying to capture the Kid in order to obtain the $5,000 reward.)

This picture launched the first thoroughly all-talking picture on a soundtrack, and by crikey does it talk! It is non-stop yabber. It seems that people have to be talking even when they don't have all that much to say. Add to that the fact that the microphones in those days picked up everything, you find yourself trying to distinguish one sound from another especially in one scene where Edmond Lowe and Dorothy Burgess are in a saloon trying to have a conversation and one has to put up with a pianist playing and singing in the background - or what supposedly should have been the background.

Technically it is very well put together and the dialogue seems clearer than it is in a lot of pictures of this vintage, and this is surprising considering that there was a lot of the picture photographed outdoors.

Raoul Walsh directed this. He was also supposed to play the lead, but he was in a motor car accident shortly before production was to start which lead to a serious eye injury. Warner Baxter was the replacement and he makes a good job of it effecting a Spanish accent, grinning a lot and displaying a devil-may-care attitude. You can see though that there was still a lot of hangover from the silent days and the influence of the stage making its mark with how the sound was treated.

I was nearly going to sum up by saying that I thought the best part was the play-out music lingering on the soundtrack after "The End" came up, but I shouldn't be so unkind. It is an interesting picture from the point of view of it being such an early talkie and thus demonstrating what was left over from the old era whilst coming to grips with the new. There are some fun moments, not many, but a few - and some of the dialogue is definitely pre-code. In conclusion I was surprised to see the print I have in such good condition.
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2015)

PostWed Apr 22, 2015 12:57 am

Seeing Florenz Ziegfeld's name plastered all over something entitled "Gloryfying the American Girl" (1929) I thought that I was going to be entreated to a continuous cavalcade of loveliness where numerous beauties would be disporting themselves for my viewing pleasure across the screen. So, apart from a little bit of this at the beginning and little segments of it in stage tableaux at the end, I was disappointed. I then wondered what Mr. Ziegfeld's "personal supervision" actually entailed on the picture other than perhaps uttering "Show me your legs" on a professional basis of course, to some of the dancing girls to ensure that they had sufficient stamina to go through the routines.

This is essentially another one of those back-stage dramas - although this could be one of the first.

Mary Eaton (Gloria) works at a music store as a singing purveyor of sheet music assisted on the piano by Edward Crandall (Buddy). On a works picnic she is propelled into becoming the dancing partner to a lecherous vaudevillian, Miller, played by Dan Healey. She and the said Buddy are supposedly to become an item, but Miller wants to get in on the love angle. Gloria wants out with Miller, but he has signed her into a contract just when she is spotted by Ziegfeld talent scouts. In the end she gets her career but loses Buddy. Oh well, a girl can't have everything.

Mary Eaton was a Ziegfeld girl so it was natural that she should have been in this picture. Sadly, she disappeared from pictures altogether after it was made. Similarly Edward Crandall never made it much further than this picture and neither did Dan Healey. So we are virtually looking at one-hit wonders in this film.

There are some revue scenes in the picture which are supposed to be re-creations of what Ziegfeld put on the stage. One of them features the rather insipid Rudy Vallee (yes I know he was popular) crooning out "I'm a Vagabond Lover" and another features Eddie Cantor being rather overtly Jewish in what to me was not a very funny comedy sketch.

Having noticed too on the main titles that some of the scenes were photographed in Technicolor I was waiting eagerly for them to turn up. They didn't. My print was completely monochrome - but I believe that the missing colour is on "You Tube" so I might attempt a mix and match. Adding colour to some of the stage scenes would most certainly have brightened things up.

So, in a nutshell, this is essentially a back-stage drama with a few bits of a stage-show tacked on. It's mildly entertaining but one is probably not overly enthused as it has been done so many times since.
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2015)

PostWed Apr 22, 2015 5:53 am

I watched "Ammunition Smuggling on the Mexican Border" (1914), a movie on the second disc of the anthology "Treasures 5: The American West, 1898-1938". The film, a 41 minute "docu-drama" made the year after the events, stars many of the participants of the events who re-create the events as they happened. It's interesting reading some viewers responses to having seen the film, as they capture my thoughts nearly exactly. The film is absolutely fascinating - if not boring at the same time. It's far too long, but it captures a couple of things extremely well: (1) local color! it's exact because it shows the places where many of the events happened, and it contradicts much of old (and certainly modern!!) Westerns by showing what towns, ranches, and what boil down to being 'neighborhoods' down in Texas really looked like, (2) the viciousness of piratical sorts, especially when they kill deputy sheriff Ortiz, a scene that is incredibly horrific because it is so perfunctory, as though execution is a normal thing, and (3) just the 'normal' events of those times. Highly recommended for those with a strong historical bent. By the way, the IMDb has it wrong in the credits. It lists Candelario Ortiz as playing himself. As for the character he's playing, the listing is Benito Silva. It's the other way around, actually. Candelario Ortiz is the deputy sheriff who was murdered by the smugglers.
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2015)

PostWed Apr 22, 2015 6:22 am

Watched The Bowery (1933) which stars two of the 1930s more prickly actors, Wallace Beery and George Raft, as rival gang leaders (I guess they were fire gangs) in the slums of New York. They are also rivals for the affections of Fay Wray (looking especially beautiful). Beery also has a kid he's taken in (Jackie Cooper of course), and there's also a mugging Pert Kelton as the Bowery queen. Plot of the story simply pits Raft vs. Wallace at every opportunity but that's enough to make this enjoyable. Good period atmosphere with a little extra electricity from the Wallace/Raft duo that may not have been acting....
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2015)

PostWed Apr 22, 2015 4:54 pm

Because I have liked a lot of what Johnny Depp has done over the years, I decided to look at "Mortdecai" (2014), his latest effort to grace the screen.

The thing about Mr. Depp is that like Meryl Streep, he is unafraid to venture into something that is difficult or requires a bit of effort. In this he tries hard to emulate Terry-Thomas, but ultimately he is let down by everything and everyone else - a weak script, a plot that is too thin and predictable and much of what is supposed to be funny - quite woeful. Add to that the fact that unfortunately Mr. Depp is no Terry-Thomas no matter how hard he had been practicing the "correct pronunciation" and you come away quite let down.

I'll put this film on a par with "The Grand Budapest Hotel". I was looking forward to both and was disappointed with both. It appears to me that films these days are rushed through without any degree of finesse or fine-tuning and as a result we end up with a product that could have been a lot better than it ends up.
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2015)

PostThu Apr 23, 2015 2:52 pm

Fanny och Alexander (1982). This film has many beauties, and is very far from being a failure; but, after repeated viewings, and despite my affinity for the work of Ingmar Bergman, or indeed because of it, I feel that it does not fulfill its implied goals, neither in the longer TV version nor in the shorter theatrical version. The first portion of the show invests a very considerable amount of time in detailing the Ekdahl family’s Christmas celebration; and it is this deployment which implicatively tells the viewer that we are to take note of these details—to wit, the differing natures of the family members, and their interplay—because they are to determine the course and outcome of the plot, or so the audience member anticipates. And yet, the seeming promise of these elements never comes to fruition; and after we have learned much more about the characters than, as it turns out, we need to know, we are left with a string of occurrences which don’t take advantage of the vast resources allotted to them. High production values seem to distract Bergman; and I believe I recall his saying as much in relation to his 1977 The Serpent’s Egg. As he delights in providing a rich and thorough material look at another era, he meantime gives us, uncharacteristically, a rather spare and unsophisticated treatment of his characters, none of whom seem to develop or learn anything from their experiences. The Alexander of the end of the show is the Alexander of the beginning. We have no reason to think that his mother is any wiser after her very trying experiences, as throughout she seems to fall prey to whatever dominating presence is closest at the moment. The Ekdahl matriarch never actually does anything but be a concerned bystander and provide expository material. We learn, perhaps to our surprise, that the antagonistic stepfather, despite a shall we say certain setback, will forever remain unchanged. The wise and helpful Jewish friend Isak Jacobi—whom I found the most interesting character—similarly remains in stasis. The two remaining living Ekdahl brothers are, at the end, no wiser than they were at the beginning, their relationships with others remain the same, and they conduct themselves from beginning to end with alteration neither internally nor externally. And so on. Are they all, and, by implication, we all, then, just the equivalent of the cut-outs, puppets, and toys with which the movie—as with others of Bergman’s movies—is sprinkled, moved without seeming purpose by an unknowable and unfathomable God? Just as Bergman, with the Christmas sequence, flirts with a rich plot without ever asking it out (so to speak), so then does he vaguely hint here at this fatalistic, deterministic view of life without showing any conviction about it, making the pensive audience member question whether this is really what he meant to convey at all. Yes, ambiguity is Bergman’s forte; but normally it is a dynamic ambiguity which casts light on the human condition and so enriches our understanding. Here, the outcome of our three or five hours of viewing is to learn something which about amounts to “People do things. Sometimes odd stuff happens. God might be involved. Find enjoyment where you can. Selah.”

That said, if we draw in a little bit and stop trying to wrest Great Universal Truths from it, Fanny och Alexander is a very rewarding movie. As always with Bergman, the actors are completely dedicated to their roles, not a false note anywhere. While cinematographer Sven Nyquist was more striking in other Bergman films, here we nevertheless have beautiful camera work throughout the show. In line with the visual sumptuousness, the dialog is rich and bears every evidence of being well-pondered, only now and then giving in to the mannered theatricalism which longtime Bergmaniacs know will manifest itself, sparely, in his pictures like raisins in a pudding. Some few moments or turns of the plot seem to come out of nowhere, “important” ones as well as ones which seem completely superfluous (for the most egregious instance, the Bishop’s abrupt physical attack on Isak Jacobi, completely at odds with the established character of the Bishop, and, as far as I can tell, without an immediate trigger). I’ve mentioned the lengthy Christmas sequence; another, much shorter, investment of time and resources I found much more inexplicable: The funeral of the father of Fanny and Alexander, which seems about par with that of a major head of state. There are throughout the movie set-ups or ideas, perhaps from early drafts of the script, which are not carried out, or which the movie did not have time to explore, only the preparations remaining for some, or only the intended payoff remaining for others. Unlike most of the Bergman œuvre, in which our enjoyment is molded and integrated by overarching concepts, this is a movie with which, to make the most of its pleasures, we must live in the moment, enjoying its riches without thinking beyond their immediate sheen. Yes, most certainly that very thing is a good fit for the film’s overall theme; but one comes away from such reflections wondering if that good fit weren’t simply inadvertent, which is not how one normally comes away from a Bergman film. Fanny och Alexander is wonderful; and the more one thinks of it, the more one wonders . . .
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2015)

PostThu Apr 23, 2015 3:09 pm

Donald Binks wrote:Because I have liked a lot of what Johnny Depp has done over the years, I decided to look at "Mortdecai" (2014), his latest effort to grace the screen.

The thing about Mr. Depp is that like Meryl Streep, he is unafraid to venture into something that is difficult or requires a bit of effort. In this he tries hard to emulate Terry-Thomas, but ultimately he is let down by everything and everyone else - a weak script, a plot that is too thin and predictable and much of what is supposed to be funny - quite woeful. Add to that the fact that unfortunately Mr. Depp is no Terry-Thomas no matter how hard he had been practicing the "correct pronunciation" and you come away quite let down.

I'll put this film on a par with "The Grand Budapest Hotel". I was looking forward to both and was disappointed with both. It appears to me that films these days are rushed through without any degree of finesse or fine-tuning and as a result we end up with a product that could have been a lot better than it ends up.


The problem here may just be a matter of the book's suitability / unsuitability for the screen or just that it is plain difficult to do. Bonfiglioli is very much a cult / acquired taste but his works may simply defeat any attempt to film them. I shall probably catch up with it sometime, anyway. And of course those who have read the book (and / or others) will react differently to those who come fresh to the film.
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2015)

PostThu Apr 23, 2015 3:16 pm

drednm wrote:Watched The Bowery (1933) which stars two of the 1930s more prickly actors, Wallace Beery and George Raft, as rival gang leaders (I guess they were fire gangs) in the slums of New York. They are also rivals for the affections of Fay Wray (looking especially beautiful). Beery also has a kid he's taken in (Jackie Cooper of course), and there's also a mugging Pert Kelton as the Bowery queen. Plot of the story simply pits Raft vs. Wallace at every opportunity but that's enough to make this enjoyable. Good period atmosphere with a little extra electricity from the Wallace/Raft duo that may not have been acting....


Does this splendid movie still get shown on tv? As the opening shot shows the 'n-word', one wonders if it has encountered any trouble...
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2015)

PostThu Apr 23, 2015 3:42 pm

Topaz (1969). One walks away from this 143-minute spy saga (longer, if one also partakes of the alternate endings) from Hitchcock with very curious feelings. I’ve now seen it three, maybe four, times, and my reaction has always been the same: Such a rich movie—why does it have no impact? There are, I think, several reasons for this. It’s clear from the Soviet military parade under the opening credits that Hitchcock quite properly felt it necessary for the audience member to feel an overwhelming anxiety about the Soviet threat; and yet, I do not think the parade accomplishes this, because, though we see the power, we do not feel the threat. One could suggest that the threat was in the air in the era portrayed by the movie, and in the air in real life at the time of the release of the movie; but we are accustomed to seeing not only meaningless military parades but also spies, soldiers, politicians, and other such figures of security or authority taking themselves and their situations very (and often unnecessarily) seriously, so the fervor of the characters doesn’t penetrate the audience member very deeply; and, as for “real life at the time of the release of the movie,” having been there, I can state that the threat, while real, was so diffuse and an ongoing presence for so long a time that, in the interest of getting on with the more proximate concerns of one’s everyday life, it (the threat) tended to be relegated, with a shrug, to the mystery land of “Eh, what happens, happens.” As a consequence, the audience member does not feel deeply invested in the proceedings. Many a show, however, succeeds brilliantly without having gripped the audience in this way; but Topaz does not, and we have to search for further reasons for the film’s lack of impact.

How much do we care about the main character, the French spy Devereaux (Frederick Stafford)? Not much, unfortunately. He is dedicated to de-fusing a threat that, as we see above, doesn’t feel like much of a threat to the audience, and he is indeed so dedicated that he neglects his family to pursue his goals. Unlike, say, James Bond, whom we tend to see falling from the frying pan into the fire in the course of the 007 adventures, and so we feel an empathy through, as it were, sitting with the character as he rides the roller-coaster of his experiences, the personal danger to Devereaux never seems very immediate. In NY, he stands by in the street while things happen inside a hotel. In Cuba, he drops off a camera etc. to another operative, gets a little extramarital whoopee, and receives a tongue-lashing. In Paris, he attends meetings and cocktail parties, and, depending upon what ending one chooses to hew to, gets involved with a duel or doesn’t. THE END. We are supposed to feel great relief that now he’s reunited with his family?—the family he has neglected for rather vague reasons, with the wife he has cheated upon, the wife in turn cheating on him; and no promise that it will be any different in his future operations? No—no one has learned anything, whatever threats there were are not defeated but rather are simply migrating from one form (the Topaz operation) into another, nothing has been accomplished. While fervent efforts resulting in dubious accomplishment may be a situation worth pointing out, the audience likes to walk out of the theater with something more tangible having been achieved. The lack of felt threat, and the lack of tangible achievement, combine to make the audience member feel that his investment in 2+ hours of movie-viewing has not had much of a return.

Nevertheless, there are many splendid things about this show. The opening sequence in Copenhagen is suspenseful, and handled with true Hitchcockian expertise. [On a side-note: Those who have some familiarity with Copenhagen and, more specifically, with Den Permanente, will perhaps be a little confused as I was the first time I saw Topaz. Den Permanente, from which the defectors issue to be picked up by the Americans, was only an exhibition space (the name meant that it was a “permanent” exhibition of Danish arts and crafts; not all that permanent, as it came to an end not so long ago), not a workshop; at first, the defectors are being shown through a porcelain-works (no doubt that of Royal Copenhagen, as, if you look quickly, you can spot their sexy piece "The Wave and the Rock" on a shelf; it’s in another part of town), and then suddenly they’re in another location—Den Permanente, right in the middle of downtown Copenhagen, across the street from Tivoli Gardens. The magic of cinema!] The scene in and about the NY hotel is tense, well acted, and well handled. The Cuban sequence, while in need of tightening, has good moments. The Parisian portion, while interesting and splendidly acted, is something of a dog’s breakfast, with our hero dashing about reactively through the complexities. The end gave Hitchcock some difficulties, and, as the alternate ending are available, one can view and debate which is the best (can anyone tell me how the novel itself ends?).

The show’s a pleasant and entertaining mélange, never dull, just never with any overall impetus, not what we expect from Hitchcock.
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2015)

PostThu Apr 23, 2015 6:53 pm

earlytalkiebuffRob wrote:Does this splendid movie still get shown on tv? As the opening shot shows the 'n-word', one wonders if it has encountered any trouble...


The trouble is that it's NOT being shown.
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2015)

PostThu Apr 23, 2015 7:40 pm

earlytalkiebuffRob wrote:
drednm wrote:Watched The Bowery (1933) which stars two of the 1930s more prickly actors, Wallace Beery and George Raft, as rival gang leaders (I guess they were fire gangs) in the slums of New York. They are also rivals for the affections of Fay Wray (looking especially beautiful). Beery also has a kid he's taken in (Jackie Cooper of course), and there's also a mugging Pert Kelton as the Bowery queen. Plot of the story simply pits Raft vs. Wallace at every opportunity but that's enough to make this enjoyable. Good period atmosphere with a little extra electricity from the Wallace/Raft duo that may not have been acting....


Does this splendid movie still get shown on tv? As the opening shot shows the 'n-word', one wonders if it has encountered any trouble...


No idea. I had taped it off Fox Movie network years ago. Is that even still on?
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2015)

PostFri Apr 24, 2015 7:34 am

I watched "The Lady of the Dugout" (1918) with Al and Frank Jennings, Corinne Grant, Ben Alexander, Joseph Singleton, and Carl Stockdale. The two main stars, Al and Frank Jennings were genuine outlaws of the latter part of the nineteenth century, both of them bank robbers of note. Al was sentenced to life imprisonment; his brother Frank to five years. William McKinley commuted their sentences; Theodore Roosevelt pardoned them. Al became an itinerant preacher and writer - and, supposedly, a noted liar! Anyway, Al ended up writing about his adventures as an outlaw. He also formed a film production company (where'd he get the money??) and made several films about his exploits. This is one of them. Really fascinating show, whether there's an iota of truth in it or not; at least one gets to see how some of the exploits were done. The object lesson of this film is actually more like a sermon. A lady has a husband in the Texas desert, and they live in [literally] a dug out area of the desert (has to be seen to be believed, although I've seen nearly the same kind of dugouts in Scotland where crofters lived in the sixteenth through the early twentieth centuries), and the lady's husband is a drunk and uses all money for only drink for himself. Meanwhile, the child and the wife are starving. Husband awakes from a stupor; is hungry; finds there's no food; goes into town. Here come Al and Frank Jennings after they've robbed a bank... Story really gets going here, and it's a corker... Well worth the watch. I'd seen this before on a DVD I have with several of the Jennings' films, but this one that I watched last night is on disc #3 of the Treasures 5: The American West, 1898-1938. Silent with music score.

Also watched what's left of "Passing of the Oklahoma Outlaw" (1915), originally a six reel feature length docu-drama made by participants of the group who captured "The Wild Bunch". Groups leader, E. D. Nix, was upset by Al and Frank Jennings exploiting their banditry on film for a profit and for the fun of it, as they thought, so a company was formed to show how bad genuine bank robbers and killers were. This was an example. It's interesting, what's left of it, but only 13 minutes remain, so you don't get a lot to look at. Too bad.
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2015)

PostFri Apr 24, 2015 12:11 pm

entredeuxguerres wrote:
earlytalkiebuffRob wrote:Does this splendid movie still get shown on tv? As the opening shot shows the 'n-word', one wonders if it has encountered any trouble...


The trouble is that it's NOT being shown.


A few years ago I passed by VHS recording from C4 to a chap who said he could transfer it to disc. Fortunately I found it on YT, albeit with Spanish subtitles, and it's still on there. I first saw this in the early 1970s when I was probably still at school and still find it grand fun.
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2015)

PostSat Apr 25, 2015 6:21 am

earlytalkiebuffRob wrote:
entredeuxguerres wrote:
earlytalkiebuffRob wrote:Does this splendid movie still get shown on tv? As the opening shot shows the 'n-word', one wonders if it has encountered any trouble...


The trouble is that it's NOT being shown.


A few years ago I passed by VHS recording from C4 to a chap who said he could transfer it to disc. Fortunately I found it on YT, albeit with Spanish subtitles, and it's still on there. I first saw this in the early 1970s when I was probably still at school and still find it grand fun.


Seems to me there were swipes at several ethnic groups (Chinese, Italians, etc), which reflected the coarseness of the time and place. Odd that MGM stars Beery and Cooper ended up in this Fox production.
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2015)

PostSat Apr 25, 2015 6:59 am

Revisited The Widow from Chiacgo (1930) and really enjoyed Alice White's performance as the not so dumb Polly who goes undercover to find her brother's killer. No one could string out the word "why" into what seems like three syllables like she could. Also good are Edward G. Robinson and Neil Hamilton. A couple of former silent stars, Anne Cornwall and Betty Francisco, also appear.

Finished (blessedly) the 3-part TV miniseries The Martian Chronicles (1979 or 80) from YT. Interesting cast headed by Rock Hudson and based on a collection of Ray Bradbury short stories stitched together to resemble a novel. Cheesy TV special effects are one thing, but cheesy acting is another. This 4.5 hour opus contains some of the worst acting I've seen. That, plus the fact that most of the characters are downright stupid, makes for an enjoyably campy viewing experience. The second landing party on Mars is headed by Hudson. He and his 4 colleagues seem to have ZERO scientific background so the viewer has no clue as to WHY they would have been chosen to go to Mars. Among the lot, there's not an iota of intellectual curiosity about the planet they have landed on. There are vague and passing comments about the "thin air" of Mars, the century-old cities in the distance, but mostly they just stand there and bicker. The thin air and presumably colder temperatures are never accounted for. They just wander around in their street clothes. Cast includes Darren McGavin, Fritz Weaver, Roddy McDowall, Bernadette Peters, Maria Schell, Nyree Dawn Porter, Bernie Casey, Christopher Connelly, Joyce Van Patten, Jon Finch (as Christ no less), Michael Anderson, Jr., Gayle Hunnicutt, Nicholas Hammond, and silent star Estelle Brody.

According to IMDb, a remake is in the works. Yike!
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2015)

PostSat Apr 25, 2015 7:12 am

drednm wrote:Odd that MGM stars Beery and Cooper ended up in this Fox production.


It wasn't a Fox production. It was a 20th Century Pictures production. The pre-merger 20th Century films were all full of MGM stars since both Loew's President Nick Schenck and Louis B. Mayer were investors. Schenck because his brother Joe was involved, and Mayer because his son-in-law William Goetz was with 20th.
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2015)

PostSat Apr 25, 2015 7:37 am

drednm wrote:Revisited The Widow from Chiacgo (1930) and really enjoyed Alice White's performance as the not so dumb Polly who goes undercover to find her brother's killer. No one could string out the word "why" into what seems like three syllables like she could...


"W-h-y"...three syllables, as enunciated in the old Paterson, NJ, dialect.
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2015)

PostSat Apr 25, 2015 7:38 am

Jim Reid wrote:
drednm wrote:Odd that MGM stars Beery and Cooper ended up in this Fox production.


It wasn't a Fox production. It was a 20th Century Pictures production. The pre-merger 20th Century films were all full of MGM stars since both Loew's President Nick Schenck and Louis B. Mayer were investors. Schenck because his brother Joe was involved, and Mayer because his son-in-law William Goetz was with 20th.


You're right. It was on the old Fox movie channel....
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2015)

PostSat Apr 25, 2015 9:48 am

Finished (blessedly) the 3-part TV miniseries The Martian Chronicles (1979 or 80) from YT. Interesting cast headed by Rock Hudson and based on a collection of Ray Bradbury short stories stitched together to resemble a novel. Cheesy TV special effects are one thing, but cheesy acting is another. This 4.5 hour opus contains some of the worst acting I've seen.


That was a famous disaster of its time; as I recall it sat on the shelf for a long time before they finally aired it.

Some of Bradbury's Martian stories were done on the radio series Dimension X and those are pretty good. Wikipedia:

The Martian Chronicles was adapted for radio in the science fiction radio series Dimension X. This truncated version contained elements of the stories "Rocket Summer", "Ylla", "–and the Moon be Still as Bright", "The Settlers", "The Locusts", "The Shore", "The Off Season", "There Will Come Soft Rains", and "The Million-Year Picnic".

"—and the Moon be Still as Bright" and "There Will Come Soft Rains" were also adapted for separate episodes in the same series. The short stories "Mars Is Heaven" and "Dwellers in Silence" also appeared as episodes of Dimension X. The latter is in a very different form from the one found in The Martian Chronicles.


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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2015)

PostSat Apr 25, 2015 9:50 am

If I were making a ten best of all time list, Only Angels Have Wings would at least be under serious consideration— the fatalism, the terse masculinity (women invited, as always in Hawks' universe, but only if they're one of the boys), the beguiling fake movie universe of models on jungle sets, like another all-time great candidate, King Kong.

I'd never seen Test Pilot, but I quickly realized it was another story from the same universe— WWI flying stories reset in modern settings where the fatalism, the romance with death in the skies, could just barely make sense. Clark Gable and Spencer Tracy fly for airplane manufacturer Lionel Barrymore, Gable is a hard-drinking carouser, Tracy glumly responsible and all too aware of how long pilots last. Gable crash-lands near Wichita (portrayed as the middle of nowhere, which is ironic since it was, in fact, already a center of... airplane manufacture), and cute-meets Myrna Loy. They marry quick, then she comes to realize that she's on a fast train to widowhood, and if she doesn't, she has Tracy pointing it out regularly.

The cute-meet of the stars is crackling; the flying scenes are very well done given the pretty obvious rear screen and model special effects of the time. But there came a point where I was just tired of Test Pilot, somewhere around the fifth or sixth conversation about how Loy shouldn't have married a test pilot because test pilots gotta test and he can never love her like he loves the sky, that goddess who likes to kill men. It just seems like there was a LOT of that, and you can't help but think of how Hawks got the same thing across in a few terse lines of dialogue. Part of it is that all those movies in which Tracy is the sexless guy whose job it is to stand there and talk sense, drably and depressingly, to the sexy couple (usually Gable and somebody else), seem a waste of a star in his prime. Why did MGM use Tracy that way? Fox had shown how convincingly he could play a randy heterosexual man's man, Man's Castle and Me and My Gal work just fine, but MGM seemed determined to cast him in things where he not only didn't get the girl, but girls were not in the picture for him at all, priests and Portuguese sailors and so on. In some ways it's a repeat of the old Chaney formula of not getting the girl, but Chaney was older (same for Edward G. Robinson when he did such stories), so it made sense to construct vehicles around the fatherly figure who gets cut out by a younger guy. Tracy was just a sad sack of the same age in romantic triangles, leading ultimately to the genuinely creepy A Guy Named Joe, in which the guy who can't have the girl (due to dying in combat) manipulates her into a relationship with the guy of his choice.

Anyway, there's one bit that Only Angels pretty much lifts, but much improves. Louis Jean Heydt as "Benson" dies in a crash. They're having a drunken party. Some local Babbitt comes up and lifts a toast to Gable for winning. They all drink. Then...

BABBITT: And to Benson, who gave his life—

PILOTS: Hey, get outta there— Why you no good— And don't show your mug around—

(They shove the guy out of the room.)

PILOT: Who's Benson?

GABLE: We never hearda any Benson.

PILOT: There used to be a guy named Benson—

GABLE: He wasn't good enough. That's why I haven't seen him around—

and so on.

In Only Angels Have Wings, a flier named Joe is killed. Jean Arthur sees how life goes on. Someone comes out with the steak Joe just ordered before cracking up. Cray Grant says he'll take it. Jean Arthur says how can he do that?

CARY GRANT: Who's Joe?

Crisp and to the point and hard as diamond. That's the difference between pretty good and greatness.
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