Tuesday, May 14, 2013
By now it's fairly well known by film buffs and scholars that this is supposedly John Ford's favorite film. It's kind of hard to believe when you compare The Sun Shines Bright to films like The Searchers, The Grapes of Wrath, Three Bad Men, They Were Expendable and How Green Was My Valley among others.
If The Sun Shines Bright is Ford's favorite film it's probably because he was able to indulge himself in many of his favorite themes and situations. There's his general feeling for a romanticized American past which he saw as a country that was now losing many of it's values by the 1950's. Also the setting of Kentucky a state in the defeated South plays into his "victory in defeat" theme he rehashed in many of his films. There's also the usual stuff about the importance of ritual, parades, cornball comedy and a very outdated view of Black Americans.
Not generally though of as a director good of actors, the performances are very good in this film with Charles Winninger who was usually cast in character parts as the main lead, Billy Priest excellent as the southern judge up for reelection.
Ford's direction is excellent as usual, with interesting but not showy camera work and deliberate but not leisurely pacing throughout the film. If the film seems a little patronizing especially towards Black Americans this film is infinitely preferable to Ford's first Judge Priest film with Will Rodgers.
Filmed in 1959 released in 1961 Corman shot this thing in 5 days and that's about all you need to know.
Supposedly a "horror comedy" the film is certainly some kind of horror with imitations of Humphrey Bogart by one of the leads, a bizarre introductory sequence which has something to do with spies and of course the appearance of the creature about halfway through the film.
The film is under 90 minutes and has a couple of laughs but pretty bad overall even for a low budget Corman film.
You can watch it so you can say you watched it. That's about it.
Tuesday, May 7, 2013
The producer Frank McCarthy who had filmed Patton for 20th Century Fox, took another shot at a famous egomaniac, General Douglas MacArthur. The budget was a lot less than Patton and the finished film was a lot less as well.
The approach in this film was a greatest hits of MacArthur during World War II film. You get the escape from the Philippines, the " I shall return" stuff, conflicts with President Truman, MacArthur's rule of post war Japan. It's all interesting but it's a lot more interesting in a good MacArthur biography like William Manchester's American Caesar.
Gregory Peck plays MacArthur and that's kind of the problem, it's just good old Gregory Peck acting the same way he does in every film he was ever in, another solid unexciting performance. MacArthur was a very flamboyant character.
The film was made at Universal Studios so you get the usual semi cheapskate production, lots of stock footage and matte paintings trying to make the film look like an expansive war epic.
Sunday, May 5, 2013
The same year as, Bonnie and Clyde, The Graduate, The Dirty Dozen and You Only Live Twice were released came this completely out of it western, The Way West. The director was Andrew McLaglen the very low rent John Ford wanna be. The film had three sort of past their prime stars, Kirk Douglas, Richard Widmark and an either inebriated or just didn't care Robert Mitchum. The female leads were Lola Albright a kind of sexy lady who isn't very sexy in this film and Sally Field playing some kind of western teenage slutty version of "Gidget".
The story is about a wagon train on the hazardous journey from Missouri to Oregon. The wagon train has a number of typical wagon train adventures. Indians mess with them because they want some "firewater" a pretty offensive stereotype. A crossing the river sequence which seems to be a standard troupe in this kind of film and the usual baby being born on the journey bit. In fact I think it's safe to say the whole film is just a bunch of rehashed situations from previous wagon train films and TV shows.
If the film has anything going for it at all it's the spectacular cinematography of William H. Clothier who had worked with John Ford and McLaglen. The western vistas of the wagon train are impressive but in a film like this how many western vistas can you watch after a while especially with the nonsense going on in the story.
It would be easy to call this film "old fashioned" entertainment but I've seen silent film westerns that are more contemporary than The Way West.
Saturday, May 4, 2013
Two discs in a row is a lot of silent slapstick comedy to watch in one sitting, still there is a lot of good stuff:
1. Charlie Chaplin stars in Easy Street, one of his famous shorts. This is fairly funny stuff with Chaplin appearing as his little tramp character, taking on a gang of bullies. A typical but well done Chaplin short film.
2. Laurel and Hardy star in Big Business a film with a very high reputation however it seems kind of overrated to me. The film has some big Hollywood talent attached, George Stevens photographed it and Leo McCarey directed. Laurel and Hardy are Christmas tree salesmen who end up destroying the house of a potential customer. It's supposed to be funny as the destruction slowly builds up but it seems to never end.
3. Monty Banks shows up in an excerpt from his film Play Safe. The runaway train sequence excerpt is really something to see with some pretty wild stunt work.
4. Probably the outstanding film in this collection is Buster Keaton's One Week. Keaton and his new bride have a prefab home which they assemble incorrectly. This setup allows for some incredible surreal sequences, an amazing film.
For the Keaton and Monty Banks films alone these DVD's are worth checking out.
My copy of Police Story is bad, the dubbing is bad, the print is bad, and it's been cut by about 10 minutes. Still this is Jackie Chan starring, directing and doing a lot of his own stunts.
The plot of Police Story is another chance to watch Jackie Chan a very physical actor in top athletic condition when the film was made. Chan's character is one he developed on his own, sort of an action hero who actually gets hurt during fights and a clown who does a lot of physical comedy reminiscent of Buster Keaton.
Chan always loads his film up with good looking women, in this case Brigitte Lin and Maggie Cheung a couple of intelligent actors who are required to act like a couple of very stupid women. Women in a Jackie Chan film don't come off particularly well as characters.
What Police Story is all about are the incredible stunts and action sequences. The film starts with an amazing chase through a shanty town and ends will an all out battle in a shopping mall. All this is done with stunt men bouncing around and looking like they actually got hurt which in all probably they did.
Tuesday, April 30, 2013
Take every old haunted house cliche and mix it with humor. Hire Paul Leni one of Germany's best expressionist directors and you have a film that is a practically perfect genre piece.
The setup is the deceased relative in a spooky old house bit. The family members have arrived for the reading of his will and one of them is a murderer who wants all the inheritance. Even in 1927 this was a bunch of cliches but as they say it's not the story but how you tell the story.
A moving camera, witty title cards and a perfect blend of humor and scares really work here. In some ways the fact that this is a silent film adds to the fun. The anachronisms that are silent films these days indirectly contributes to the stylish mood of this film.
The Cat and the Canary is a lot of fun.