Sunday, September 28, 2014

1948 - RED RIVER, Criterion's impressive BLU-RAY


127 minutes.

1994 - RUNAWAY DAUGHTERS, another Joe Dante exploitation film wallow

Joe Dante remakes an old AIP film and not very well.  This film was part of a Showtime anthology series called Rebel Highway.  Dante loves all those American International Picture films and worked for Roger Corman as an editor for a while so you would think this would be his kind of project.  However his heart doesn't appear to be in it this time.

The story such that it is has something to do with three high school girls on the run.  One of them is pregnant and wants to marry her boyfriend before he joins the navy.  Their parents think they have been kidnapped and all sorts of adventures of the road happen to them.

Dante as usual has loaded the cast up actors he has worked with before but they don't get much to do and frankly their acting is not very good.  Everyone including Dante seems to be going through the motions on this one.

At least it's short like a true "B" movie should be.

 83 minutes.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

1967 - BAREFOOT IN THE PART, Neil Simon's hit play is an irritating film.

Neil Simon was always a fairly tough customer when it came to his plays.  He insisted they follow his scripts to the letter.  That is why Barefoot in the Park has a real claustrophobic feeling to it.  Simon opened it up a little bit so they could shoot on location, but those scenes are basically filler for the main plot.

The film is about a couple of newlyweds adjusting to married life.  They live in a 6th floor walk up studio apartment ($76.00 a month).  She's a free spirit, he's a buttoned down attorney just starting his career.  New York is a fun city in this film, it has lots of colorful characters for the couple to interact with.  The crisis in their marriage comes when Corrie played by Jane Fonda decides her husband played by Robert Redford is a big dud and does want to have her kind of fun. After about 6 days of marriage she wants a divorce!

I suppose a good actor could pull off this space case of a female character, but Jane Fonda isn't it.  Towards the middle of the film I started to suspect that Fonda had some serious mental problems with her obsessive fixation on her husband.  This stay at home housewife needs a job.

Still for a Neil Simon film there are some funny situations and the dialog is kind of clever.  But Jane Fonda really sinks this thing.

106 minutes

Friday, September 26, 2014

1966 - AROUND THE WORLD UNDER THE SEA, a retro TV star reunion from the 1960's.

This cheesy underwater drama is from Ivan Tors the man responsible for such TV classics as Flipper and that film classic Zebra in the Kitchen.  The submarine "Hydronaunt" is on a mission to plant sensors on the ocean floor that will alert scientists to the presence of earthquakes.  But really this film is a 60's TV star gathering.  Let's go to the cast:

Lloyd Bridges - star of one of TV's first syndicated shows Sea Hunt.

Brian Kelly -  star of Flipper he played Ranger Ricks.

Marshall Thompson - star of Daktari.

David McCallum - Ilya Kuryakan from The Man From UNCLE.

Gary Merrill - a character actor from the 1950's.

Keenan Wynn -  who had been kicking around the film business since the mid 30's in just about every MGM film I can think of.

Shirley Eaton -  a good looking 60's blonde who appeared in a number of crappy British comedies.  She was hired because she looked good in a bikini.

OK obviously you would have to be in your late 50's or early 60's to remember these actors but these people were all over the TV screen during the 1960's.  This film is a real nostalgia wallow.

110 minutes.

1960 - THE THOUSAND EYES OF DR. MABUSE, Fritz Lang's final film.

Fritz Lang returns to the thriller genre after his Indian adventure films.  Lang brings back the Mabuse character and more importantly the criminal mastermind plots that usually involve Dr. Mabuse.   The Mabuse thrillers were important films for Lang and helped make his reputation as a master of the crime thriller.

This is a good film with some major issues, primarily the extremely low budget his German producer gave him to work with.  The film has a very cheap look to it.  The crummy sets look like crummy sets. The actors look like they could knock them down if they aren't very careful.

However, this is still and interesting and exciting film.  Lang may have been working with a small budget but he's still Lang and he knows how to create an atmosphere of menace.  The film also has an exciting climax with a shootout and car chase.  The James Bond producers borrowed some of the "gags" from this scene for Goldfinger.

The film is a nice end to Lang's career.

103 minutes.

Monday, September 15, 2014

1961 - THE QUEEN'S GUARDS, for Michael Powell completists

I doubt Martin Scorcese who is a big fan of the director Michael Powell will be spending a lot of time preserving this very mediocre picture.  The Queen's Guards is a film that so drips with the English spirit it's a cliche of everything British.

The film focuses on an English army officer who is a member of an elite unit responsible for guarding the homes (!) of the Queen of England.  The film follows this officer, from his time in training, through a British incursion into a North African county and concludes with him presiding over an unending ceremony featuring an unending parade of men dressed up as toy soldiers for some dull as dishwater royal review.

The actor Daniel Massey who played Noel Coward in Star plays the officer in the guards.  He comes off as a real simp running around with his umbrella and bowler hat and affecting that stiff upper lip character that every American thinks the British are born with.

It's hard to believe that a director like Michael Powell, who usually made interesting and unique films about England and English life could get involved in such a cliche ridden mess like this.   Many of Powell's other films examined the British character with a lot more subtlety than this sloppy patriotic crap.  This is an England that probably never existed except in the fantasy world of film.

110 minutes.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

1957 - HEAVEN KNOWS MR ALLISON, World War II drama from John Huston.

This could have been one icky film.  On remote Pacific Ocean island during World War II, a marine meets up with a nun who has been left behind during the Japanese invasion of that island.  Robert Mitchum is the marine in all his manliness.  Deborah Kerr is the nun who looks pretty good even completely covered in her habit.

Even though the film was shot in the 1950's there was still plenty of room for some subtle lascivious moments.  However the director John Huston and his writer John Lee Mahin were a couple of pros who knew how to navigate around any potential tastelessness.

The acting is very good.  Robert Mitchum was an actor with a strong presence who was known to put down the acting profession with such statements as "Look, I have two kinds of acting. One on a horse and one off a horse. That's it." gave a very good performance as the marine.  Deborah Kerr, was an English actor who was usually cast as some kind of upper class Anglo lady.  However Kerr was always game to take on challenging roles.  Mitchum payed her the ultimate complement by stating that she was the only leading lady he worked with that he didn't also sleep with.

The film was directed by old school filmmaker John Huston who kept the whole thing interesting and very entertaining.

106 minutes.