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This Could Be the Night (1957)
A plot would have been nice, but for characterization alone, this could be the film!
From Jean Simmons as a prim school teacher who becomes a secretary in a New York City nightclub to call Douglas as the gangster associated owner to Tony Franciosa as the hot temper manager, down to the minor roles, this is an enjoyable film strictly for the various types alone. Unfortunately, there's a shell of a plot concerning the affections for Simmons from Douglas and Franciosa and the jealousy that arises between the two. Individual characters get Shell's of stories too, but for the most part, that's really not much going on other than the camera sticking its nose into the individual lives without anything of consequence going on.
Veteran pre-code leading Lady Joan Blondell provides many great wisecracks but her character is pretty insignificant other than to play den mother and protector as hostess of the club to the other women. Neile Adams is amusing as a high class stripper whose real passion is cooking. (She reminded me of the prostitute in the British mini-series "I Claudius" who insulted empress Messalina by telling her that while Messalina slept around as a hobby, her own hobby was gardening.) Veteran cabaret and Broadway vet Julie Wilson gets the opportunity to sing a couple of sultry songs but has little in the way of story.
A lot of the footage involved teen busboy Rafael Campos' desire to change his Muslim name to an American one, only if he can pass algebra at his unseen fathers demand. While Campos is energetic and extremely likable, the script should have just made him Hispanic because his real life accent is a dead give away to his heritage. Veteran producer Joseph Pasternak and popular director Robert Wise create a nice atmosphere, and the film is extremely entertaining, but there's not much way of substance.
it's difficult to dislike this drama with musical and comic interludes, but unfortunately, I was left wanting so much more. In spite of that, it leaves the audience with a lot of nostalgia for an era of New York City cabaret life that you can still find if you seek it out.
A one word title that has several meanings.
Like the Broadway musical "Follies", this generically titled social drama has several meanings. It's a physical court trial for Mexican teen Rafael Campos and an emotional and moral trial for his attorney Glenn Ford who discovers that his case is being used as propaganda to boost communist subversive activities. Communist manipulator Arthur Kennedy wants to see Campos hung for the alleged murder and attempted rape of a 15 year old white girl, simply to stir up a nasty race war. Along the way, novice court attorney Ford learns a huge lesson on legal ethics and learns how to stand up to a political and legal machine much more powerful than him.
Superb in every way, just brilliantly written and directed social drama is mesmerizing from the start to the end, featuring superb performances by everybody involved. Kennedy is one of the great screen villains of all-time in his part here and deservedly was nominated for an Academy Award. Ford has the difficult task of making his attorney character not to unbelievably goody goody, giving several flaws to the part, especially through his fear of standing up to obvious evil. I initially had misgivings about Dorothy McGuire's performance as his assistant, finding her to be too gleeful in scenes where she should have been more serious over the legal proceedings facing her boss. She reveals more about herself as the film goes along, ultimately delivering the goods.
Understated yet commanding, Juano Hernandez gets a key moment to shine in the film's conclusion as he deals with sudden outbursts during the conclusion of the trial. John Hodiak is also terrific as the prosecuting attorneywho is shown to have a conscience in spite of his position.
The film is peppered with familiar character actors in bit parts, including Frank Ferguson, Frank Katie and Percy Helton. Special praise goes to Campos and on-screen mother Katy Jurado who fortunately get to avoid stereotypical Mexican traits. The camaraderie between Campos and Ford (reunited from "The Blackboard Jungle") is strong and it's obvious that campuses character will come out of this ordeal a stronger person than he would have had had he not gone through this horrendous experience. Strongly directed by Mark Robson, this is a film that definitely stands the test of time, featuring elements that over 60 years later are still prevalent in society.
This Is Your Life: Bette Davis (1971)
A chance to get to see the real Bette Davis.
Yes, Bette Davis comes off as lively and fun loving and bluntly chatty in her interviews, but where is the Bette Davis not prepared to be the center of attention? On this episode of "This is Your Life" where she is busy discussing wardrobe with the producers of her upcoming TV movie "Madam Sin" (one of whom is Robert Wagner) and the legendary Edith Head. For some reason, they are seen on camera talking when Ralph Edwards makes his sudden appearance, and a polite, but startled Bette is initially reluctant, then suddenly funny, and suddenly aware as she realized that she has been set up by Edwards and possibly pal Wagner. She admonishes Edwards playfully as they make their way to the "This is Your Life!" studio, but it is obvious that secretly, she is thrilled that she has been made a subject of the popular show which has made a sudden return to TV after a lengthy hiatus. Voices of her past haunt her with recognition, some people whom she has not seen in decades, and one whom she has never even met. Even a popular mimic gets Bette to laugh, and it is obvious that she is having a very good time.
There's Bette Davis's sister, a film editor from her first movie where Davis felt she didn't look good (something the editor did not agree with which delights her), her own stand-in for 30 years who is exactly Bette's height, legendary director William Wyler whom Davis obviously adored, and co-stars Paul Henreid (repeating the two cigarette lighting scene from "Now Voyager"), Olivia de Havilland (flying in from Paris to see her four time co-star and truly enthralled to see her again), a portly but elegant Victor Buono (hysterically volunteering to sit elsewhere so Bette doesn't go flying across the room because of his weight) and Jay Robinson, telling a poignant story of how Davis went out of her way to get him work after he suffered from addiction issues. This was at the time when Davis was doing a lot of question and answer sessions (as other veteran stars were doing), and she knew how to handle an audience and overly inquisitive interviewers. It's obvious that Bette had a fun side to her, but she could also be scolding to an audience when she felt they were laughing at inappropriate times. (A "Tonight Show" appearance has Davis bluntly offended by the audience's laughing at her comments on working with Lillian Gish.) Davis obviously enjoyed the spotlight and knew that of all the stars who had worked in Hollywood during the golden age, she deserved all of the attention she got. The difference for me is how she commands the attention rather than demands it, and the unpredictable reactions she gives here make her all the more fascinating.
It Takes a Thief: Touch of Magic (1970)
"What about the capah?"
It is obvious from the start that Bette Davis is having a joyous time working in this life hearted episode of it takes a thief with a man she obviously adored off screen. It's obvious that Davis and star Robert Wagner have terrific chemistry, leaving you laughing as they do what they both loved doing for a living and looking great in these gorgeous Majorcan sets. The initially has a supposedly ailing Davis coming back to life when she gets the taste of wanting to stealing jewels again, disguising herself as a cleaning woman and a nun and having a glow that she often didn't have when she was working on a project she didn't particularly like. She's a variation of the same character she played opposite Wagner just a few years later ("Madam Sin"), wearing delightfully mod outfits and making me wonder how she would have been as Auntie Mame. This is not the melodramatic Bette Davis from the Warner Brothers women's pictures she did in the 1940's, but a completely new one, pretty much taking up where Tallulah Bankhead in "Batman" left off.
Don't evah try to cross a crosser!
Especially when that crosser is Bette Davis, subbing here for Perry Mason for a presumed pilot that didn't pass go. She does, however, pass muster, defending young hothead Michael Parks, a supposed acquaintance of her late husband's, and accused of the murder of an old associate of the deceased spouse. Raymond Burr makes two quick cameo appearances in his pajamas, apparently from his real life bed, acquardly inserted in the last quarter of the episode. Among the guests are Les Tremain as the blackmailed boss of the murdered man, Frances Reid as a very bitter spinster secretary (a far cry from her long-term role as matriarch Alice Horton on "Days of our Lives") and Peggy Ann Garner as an unfaithful wife. The real culprit came as a complete surprise and had me laughing in hysterics with the way it was revealed. Davis of course commands the entire episode but Parks is equally as intense.
As Summers Die (1986)
Summer turns to fall to bring new things to life.
Better than I remembered this to be from first seeing it 30 years ago, this is a touching adult drama of love and pain and prejudice and a South that hadn't quite grown up from a century before. It's a combination of the type of stories that Horton Foote and William Inge used to write, with a bit of Tennessee Williams and Harper Lee, even a bit of John Grisham. It's a tale of the attempts of white supremacy to keep a bequest of land from remaining the property of the aging Beah Richards, once the lover of a powerful white man, faced with the revealing of secrets that could rock this proud old white culture, threatened with a truth that could destroy it.
While the leads are Scott Glenn as the attorney who volunteers to represent Richards in court appreciation to a friend Jamie Lee Curtis, the niece of the deceased bequestor. Betty Davis, still recovering from a stroke she had several years before, is the dead man's sister who knows the secret and risk-prone health to reveal the truth. there are a lot of powerful emotions explored in this film and the performances are all incredible, but it is Richards who will steal your heart. Penny Fuller, ironically Eve in "Applause!" (the musical version of "All About Eve"), plays Davis's uppity niece, revealing a prejudiced so vile that you want to reach through the screen and strangle her.
John Randolph is superb as the attorney out to beat Glenn, giving subtle innuendos that he hates the case he's forced to be involved in but has no choice because of his own prejudices and southern tradition. I don't know how accurate fights like this were as a rule in the post depression-era South, but if anything, it's a reminder of hope that the hatreds imbedded through prejudice can be eradicated completely.
Murder with Mirrors (1985)
Miss Marple heads to a modern Downton Abbey.
This acceptable TV movie is saved by the presence of for veteran actors, two of the great leading ladies of the stage and screen and to British character actors who are still a claimed by classic film fans today. Helen Hayes has her second outing as Miss Marple, and manages to succeed in spite of the lack of a British accent. she is what we refer to today as a nosy old footage, but actually she happens to be in the right place at the right time to solve the attempted murder of wealthy British matriarch Bette Davis (think of "Downton Abbey's" Maggie Smith had her character suffered a stroke), being slowly poisoned. bring on a reel parts, and it's up to Miss Marple with the help of local British detective Leo McKern to solve the crime. Davis is married to Sir John Mills who doesn't seem to have a motive for murder, as he's been given a stipend and not left anything in the will, but there's troubled younger relatives and servants, including creepy Tim Roth and officious Frances de la Tour whom everyone else in the family hates.
This is entertaining enough, but there seems to be plenty of red herrings and ridiculous coincidences, and the characters aren't overly developed. What works is the pairing of the two veteran queens, dominating film in her second attempt at playing Jane Marple, and of Bette Davis in her first appearance on screen since her stroke in 1983. Davis, looking very fragile, is game for trying, but it is obvious that the lack of fire in her character annoyed Davis even more than her illness. Its location shots are gorgeous, and several references to topical subjects of the time (Princess Diana for example) are amusing. Overall, however, it's not as good as other Miss Marple mysteries so other than Hayes and Davis is quickly forgotten.
Right of Way (1983)
It's a nice try, but something is missing.
Certainly, the star power of this made for cable (one of the first) is not one of them. I can't pinpoint it whether it is a lack of magic between Bette Davis and James Stewart in their only film appearance together or the fact that Davis is basically playing the same character played in half a dozen TV movies around the same time. even with a different hairstyle, or character reminds me of the same character she had strongly played with Gena Rowlands in "Strangers: the Story of a Mother and Daughter" just a few years before.
Like that film, she has a rather strange relationship with daughter Melinda Dillon, obviously closer to Papa Stewart then Mama Bette. She was invited down so they can tell her in person that because there was has a terminal illness, they are going to commit suicide together so they never have to be apart. This of course brings in city agencies, also answering neighbor's complaints about excessive cats and unkept front lawn and excessive trash indoors, causing a suit for conservative ship to be placed against them.
The themes that this movie deals with (right to privacy, possible senility due to old age, a desire for complete independence) creates conflicts that have many differences of opinions nearly 40 years later. my one issue is that in spite of her obvious advanced age, Davis never appears to look sick, and in fact has a light-hearted attitude towards the arguments against their plans, especially when city employee Priscilla Morrill visits. It's hard not to root for the two legends, but it brings up the question in my mind are we rooting for the characters or the actors playing them?
One note that I found amusing is the doll at the end that Davis made highly resembles Baby Jane Hudson.
It's obvious from the start who is responsible for this nightmare.
Perfect detail and perfect acting aids this practically perfect television movie that easily could have been a theatrical film for film awards rather than TV awards in 1982. It's a fascinating look at a real life court case where the court of public opinion became passionately involved, following the life of this child up to her dying day just recently. For Gloria Vanderbilt Cooper, constantly in the public eye continued even after her death, and she look back at this film based on a best-selling book is a respectful document of American finance as it looks at a family who is one time America's wealthiest.
Lucy Gutteridge is perfectly fine as Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt, an apparent descendant of European and Spanish royalty proof alleged neglect of her young daughter resulted in a custody battle with her sister-in-law, Angela Lansbury. it is quickly established that the paranoid rantings of Nanny Marine Stapleton got into the child's head and made her both desperately afraid of kidnapping and hate her mother for never being there and leaving her alone while she gallivanted around Europe. beginning Lansbury's motives for beginning the case are understandable, so she is not a villain, and Stapleton's character is simply a misguided woman who spoke to a child without much thought during the time the Lindbergh baby kidnapping.
Then there is Bette Davis as Lansbury's mother the matriarch of the family, only shown a few times but commanding and completely understanding of the dangers of such a case. By the time this is on the verge of happening, Alice Vanderbilt no longer has the power, yet through one word to her daughter expresses her displeasure. I of course wanted more of her, but I understand why her role is nothing more than an extended cameo.
Christopher Plummer is very good in his portrayal of Gloria's dipsomaniac father, with John Hillerman his delightfully droll self as a society editor, Barnard Hughes the obviously troubled judge on the case, Joseph Maher as the Vanderbilt's attorney and Martin Balsam strong as the defense attorney. Special mention should be made for Glynis Johns who is very amusing as Gutteridge's very eccentric mother. it's an ironic brief scene for Johns and Plummer who would play Julie Andrews' employers in both "Mary Poppins" and "The Sound of Music".
The three-hour running time without commercials of this two-part movie does not seem to be that links, because it is mesmerizing through the beautiful art direction and great period detail. I was reminded of other movies about poor little rich girls, Barbara Hutton and Doris Duke, by seeing this, but this was the one that started the trend of looking at the lives of little girls who were lost even though they had more than most people will ever have in their entire life.
The fall of the bridge was symbolic.
A strange structure (the film's, not the bridge) breaks down this extremely long two part TV movie that mixes needless soap opera with a strange disaster, the collapse of a bridge that reopened before it was properly inspected. a bunch of total strangers are stranded on the bridge, and to a prologue, we get to see what happened with them right before and then few flashbacks that spend time showing what has been happening with them in the recent past.
There's a well dressed bank robber (Desi Arnaz Jr.) being chased by the cops, his girlfriend (Eve Plumb) being used by him as a shield, and the oldest baby daddy ever (Leslie Nielsen) running around with his mistress (Barbara Rush) while trying to get his son to the hospital while his much younger wife is out and about. It seems to be ten years past it's selling date (having been on the shelf for four years), and none of the individual soapy storylines are particularly interesting. This easily could have been edited down to 90 minutes and be another okay time-filler, but producer Irwin Allen went for the epic and failed.
City on Fire (1979)
It's like they're trying to put out a fire with a wet noodle.
It is obvious from the moment that she steps out of her car in her glamorous designer outfit and matching hat that Ava Gardner is trying to emulate Tallulah Bankhead. She's a boozy reporter with a penchant for drama and divorce, described as a dragon Lady by those who work with her, basically that is all you need to know about her because she really doesn't get to do anything but look Haggard as if Tallulah's character from "Die Die My Darling" had all of a sudden become a news reporter. even her character's name, Maggie Grayson, reeks of a 1940s bad soap opera heroine.
Then there's Shelley Winters, whose head nurse at the brand new city hospital (an unnamed city of course!) Is certainly no Jessie Brewer ("General Hospital"), barking orders and complaining that the hospital is undergoing many deficient. That's no time for a citywide fire to break out, but that's what happens, and if you count the sneers and smirks of city mayor Leslie Nielsen and have a shot each time, you'll need a doctor yourself! Nielsen's presence alone, the year before "Airplane!", is playing a serious character, but you can't help but laugh simply by a quiet close up on him.
Henry Fonda, once again getting special billing with his character's name (as he did with "Rollercoaster" and "Tentacles!"), is wasted as the fire chief. What is not wasted our special effects as evidenced by The stills that show nothing but burning structures and running people. Gary numan as the chief of staff has a credible performance and Susan Hayward is commanding as his ex-wife, lake of the two most developed characters in the film which isn't saying much. There's a villain who apparently starts the fire at the refinery out of some twisted need for revenge, but his motive is never explained. Late and no substance, so while you won't be bored, you won't be impressed either.
Is this the winters of Shelley's discontent?
An advertisement for this film says "This is nothing to laugh at", and perhaps it isn't, but based on other reviews I've read of this film, I'm not the only one to have a good time laughing at it and whip it genuinely one of the worst rip-off movies ever made but it is enjoyable in spite of all that because it is so deliciously bad. Made the same year as "Orca the Killer Whale", this deals with a big ugly octopus who literally can suck the blood out of its victims as depicted by the one corpse pulled out of the ocean with suction marks all over it.
A Fourth of July regatta race becomes a race against time to clear the waters where the monster heads now having a taste for human blood after several tasty snacks earlier in the film. it deals with explosions from the ocean floor which apparently have gotten this creature to rise, with Henry Fonda as a president of that company responsible. Fonda, who had been making these Cameo appearances in big-budget action films for a decade, joins John Huston and Shelley Winters as the three legendary names who are cast with a bunch of Italian accented actors, as well as Claude Akins and Bo Hopkins and a few human like killer whales whom Hopkins sweettalks into going out to the octopus to destroy it.
Houston and Winters, as brother and sister, share one scene at the beginning of the film and are barely spotted together as Houston becomes involved in the attempt to clear off the beaches and Winters is worth her young son and a friend to the regatta. She is the victim of a few harmless fat jokes (by both Houston and her son) and hat jokes by astute viewers. She's basically a good natured if overly chatty version of every character she's played up to this point, but she has the good sense unlike "A Place in the Sun" and "The Poseidon Adventure", to stay out of the water. Houston has a more dignified appearance, but Fonda is unfortunately wasted. The film begins to drag after the regatta scenes, and with strange sound effects, you might need some aspirin to completely get through it.
I guess it wouldn't have worked had it been Ferris Wheel or even Carousel!
It's been 42 years since I went to see this at the drive-in... In Sensaround! It's still a tense not quite joyride where the games are psychological and the disaster profoundly shocking. Yet, this is not your standard action disaster film. In fact, like others have written, I hesitate even refer to it as a disaster film. It's up there with "Black Sunday" and "Two Minute Warning" as a race against time, not a desperation to survive. it's about catching a madman, a terrorists targeting amusement park rides, killing innocent people home we briefly get to see before they board the ill-fated ride.
We know when the jolly fat lady sits and is fitted in and assures the stranger next to her that all will be fine that all will not be. It's up to inspector George Segal to stop the culprit in their tracks, and we know that this is not the coyote chasing the roadrunner.
The first accident that happens within the first 5 minutes is by far the most serious of the accidents on screen, and the tension that builds up to it is truly frightening. You hope you will learn that there are survivors, but that's a bit unclear. But the sight of the female park employee bursting into tears and the puzzled cleaning man sitting there in shock hours later is enough to truly involved you in what goes on and become apart of Segal'sls mind.
Veteran actors like Henry Fonda, Richard Widmark and Susan strasberg are joined by newcomers Steve Guttenberg and Helen Hunt, but it is Siegel and young Timothy bottoms who truly get the Acclaim here. It's fascinating to watch bottoms at work as he is truly deranged and determined to carry out his mission of destruction. it is obvious that this was an a film for universal studios, and to think that it is nearly forgotten today is quite a surprise to me. certainly, there had been far more action-packed films of this nature, but it is the subtlety that makes this work. Perhaps his it is a bit dated in spots, but that's inconsequential.
Great pacing and excellent music and photography helped this along even more. it's interesting to note when I worked at a well-stocked video store in the 1990s and would put this movie on, customers either were intrigued by it and surprise that never hasn't even seen it or surprised for some reason that they had forgotten it.
Target Earth (1954)
Too much fun to dismiss as low budget sci-fi trash.
You know when a city population begins to disappear that several party loving residents will head to the local abandoned pub, and that's exactly what happens with the Bickerson like couple of Virginia Grey and Richard Reeves, an unmarried duo of drunks who intend to drink their way through every bar in the city. But when joined by the suicidal Kathleen Crowley and heroic Richard Denning (who came across a hysterical Crowley weeping over a strange looking corpse), they must find other shelter, and during their journey, run across what is obviously a visitor from elsewhere, and they aren't there to see the sights. They are there to destroy them.
The group finds their way into a posh hotel suite along with one other (who runs out in a panic only to quickly meet their doom) and later another one who is actually an escaped psychopathic killer (Robert Roark). In the meantime, the army (lead by Whit Bissell) is struggling how to kill the mysterious invaders whom we soon find out are robots from outer space. Their idea is to destroy the whole city, and of course, this won't just destroy the invaders, but kill any human survivors who are hiding out.
Reminding me of the 1985 cult classic "Night of the Comet" at first, it soon takes its own turn, and ends up becoming a very well made, if cheap, science fiction film that is filled with tension, humor, a bit of romance, and doesn't require a strange looking creature from outer space to add unintentional (or intentional) laughter. You have to watch this with appreciation for the time it was made. At least the robot doesn't look like the freaky creature Bela Lugosi made in "The Phantom Creeps", and it does provide some chills, even if it does break through a wall like the Kool-Aide man without screaming "Oh Yeah!"
Three's a Crowd (1945)
Nearly everything you could want in a B mystery.
From the time of Pamela Blake's voice over narration as the large house she lives in sneaks up in the fog like Mandalay in "Rebecca", I found myself hooked, especially when she described the big house as one too ugly to live in, and as I began to see it, one that even ghosts found too ugly to haunt. It's a genuine cast of wacko's here, starting with Blake's sleazy fiancee (Roland Varno) who basically tries to blackmail Blake into marrying her, and what occurs as soon as she marries Charles Gordon instead. There's Blake's bedridden mother (Virginia Brissac), a weird relative (Gertrude Michael), a barking housekeeper (Anne O'Neal), and associated creepy friends and family who pop in and out (notably Grady Sutton and Pierre Watkin) of the bizarre action. Everybody seems to have some sort of secret, and when Varno is quickly bumped off, the detectives on the case begin to point the finger at Blake. But Gordon seems to have a motive as well, so who is the real killer could be anybody's guess.
You can't expect much detail in a murder mystery that runs just under an hour, but this is a lot of fun for the type of movie it is. The weirder the characters, the more fun the performances, and Brissac and O'Neal deliver the goods, especially O'Neal who complains that the cook is complaining, not her, after she grumbles after asking to set extra plates for dinner. Varno is the type of slimeball whom murder mysteries were made for, and in his brief appearance, he outdoes the sliminess of such reprehensible characters that you can't wait to see him dispatched, unfortunately not as gruesomely as I would have liked it to have been. Republic made dozens of films like this each year, and this is up there with another one of my favorite murder mystery sleepers they made, along with "Grissly's Millions", which is also overstuffed with fun weirdos and a macabre murder plot.
Crime of the Century (1946)
Not the noir of the century, though.
A convoluted B thriller from Republic at the height of its popularity is a messy tale of a missing business executive, a ton of lies, and a corpse on the rocks. It's a great chance for Stephanie Bachelor and Martin Kosleck to be sinister, and for Mary Currier to be wacko. She's the aunt of pretty Betty Shaw who is searching for her missing father with the help of an ex-con (Michael Browne) who is searching for his newspaper brother. Together they end up on a journey of so many details that it takes a road map to figure out where the party is going, that is until the last real when everything is conveniently wrapped up. It's a handsome looking film, but the script is muddled and the characters vague. The sequence where they come across a corpse covered in ice brings on laughter, not shock. The sophisticated Bachelor, the wicked Kosleck and the bizarre Currier are fascinating, but when you root for the bad guys over the heroes, that makes for an awkward film to watch.
My Gal Loves Music (1944)
More ridiculous wartime musical silliness from the Universal B lot.
Sometimes you find a thoroughbred in a pack of barking mutts, but sometimes you also find a mongrel. That is the case in this very weak Universal musical, made when there were dozens of them filmed each year, some with quality, others quite mediocre. When they took time to come up with an amusing comical script with some good songs, they had a surprise on their hand. But more than half of the time, they were less than fair, and in a few instances, downright horrible.
While Bob Crosby has had some luck on screen, this B musical would never push him on the map like his brother Bing. The problem is that he has weak material and the story is unbelievably ridiculous. Grace McDonald and Betty Kean try their hardest as a sister act to provide some musical amusement, but their specialties just seem to be truly out of place for the war years, especially since Universal Studios was still turning out Andrews sisters musicals on a regular basis. Those musicals are classics in comparison to what occurs in this one.
Alan Mowbray is another insufferable boorish character, and Walter Catlett is truly out of place as a snake oil salesman. The saving grace is young Freddie Stewart who would go on to the "Teenagers" series and manages to steal the film with his young charm. Some of the musical numbers are downright cringe-worthy (particularly the hideous "I Need Vitamin U"), there's an embarrassing sequence with a woman doing a seal act, and Catlett's medicine man seems like something out of the early 20th Century. At just an hour long, this deserves to be quickly forgotten.
Get Going (1943)
Get going, as far away from this sad excuse for a musical, as you can.
This is a very weak Universal World War II musical that focuses on small town girl Grace McDonald who has moved to Washington DC to find a job and a room and ends up being thought to be a spy by co-worker Robert Paige who romances her to find out the truth. With the help of her roommates (which includes comedy shorts veteran Vera Vague), McDonald track down the real spy ring and the revelation of the top female boss is quite a shock to them, if not the audience.
The weak comedy and mediocre songs makes this musical, which runs under an hour, dragged along and even with some slapstick towards the end, it ends up being a complete waste of time. Audiences in the 1940's may have found this amusing in small doses, and certainly The comedy of that era can hold up. The problem is that doesn't happen in this film oh, and I really couldn't wait for it to be over. Even the presence of comic character actor Walter Catlett can't save it. Silly comedy killed vaudeville, and the type of comedy here killed the B comedy musical.
A complete let-down...until the closing credits.
For veteran B movie director William Castle, his first film with a gimmick was far more interesting during its initial release for that gimmuck: insurance policies for death by fright. I'm sure that audience members were entranced by the possibility of that happening, but this film is about as scary as a hiccup. Certainly, the atmosphere was spooky, in appearance, with foggy cemeteries and the theme of being buried alive setting up the plot. The premise of the missing girl rumored to be buried alive leads several relatives to the cemetery and unfortunately, there's nothing more than a few gruesome looking dummies (or extras) utilized for "sudden shock".
Instantly recognizable are Jim Backus and Ellen Corby, with William Prince the only other semi-recognizable name. For everybody else though, they are unknowns outside a few B filma here and there, and because there's really no impact from them, no one in the cast really deserves to be singled out. The buildup is a complete letdown, and there are no surprises even in the sudden twists. The ending credits, however, will be worth staying through. Of William Castle's films with publicity building gimmicks, it is by far his weakest.
A film biography documentary so filled with fun and intrigued that even the subject would have enjoyed it!
To this day, people talk about science fiction and horror films of the 1950's and 60's with such loving admiration. All you needed was at least a couple of hundred bucks, a camera and a dream and you could make a film with goofy looking monsters and silly situations that had audiences in stitches, if they weren't genuinely frightened. William Castle worked with more than just that, making a series of campy, gimmick filled films that stand up today, packing in audiences when re-released in revival and art houses, and like P.T. Barnum, gives the audience a great old time of falderal, balderdash, and a ton of fun.
This documentary muscles upbringing his dealings with legendary artists like Bela Lugosi, George Stevens, Harry Cohn, Orson Welles and Alfred Hitchcock, all willing steps to helping him make his way in Hollywood. Little is put into showing his low-budget Columbia films of the mid-forties, although titles and trailers are flashed across the screen. Those films are fine as passable time fillers, but the film wants to take its time showing the details that went into making "The House on Haunted Hill", "The Tingler", "Homicidal" and of course "Rosemary's Baby". It's obvious that family, friends and co-workers loves working with him, and they auraglow in talking about him, particularly his daughter, niece and several very close friends.
We learn from Darryl Hickman and Pamela Lincoln how they reacted to "the tingler", and Anne Helm adds a bit of legend to the Joan Crawford cult in explaining how she was replaced. Fan club founders and other Hollywood professionals (especially John Waters who played Castle in the miniseries "Feud") express their joy over his work. By the time this documentary is over, you too will seal that you knew him. For me, it was nice to see Pamela Lincoln whom I've been enjoying in reruns of the soap opera "The Doctors", confessing that her instant reaction to seeing the tingler for the first time was to laugh hysterically. I don't think that Mr. Castle would have wanted it any other way.
V.I. Warshawski (1991)
The commanding Kathleen gives, and takes it all, and comes out a winner!
This hysterically funny action adventure takes its viewers on a rollercoaster ride that has me wanting to return for more thrills. The wisecracking, explosive script may not see an award winner, but it is definitely a crowd-pleaser. Kathleen Turner, heading a slight down slide in her career, is equally as good as she was in her heyday of the 1980's, and this film stands the test of time as far as showing a tough heroin home audiences, both male and female, can root for. She is no nonsense, but yet her life is far from perfect as we see with her messy apartment in the first scene. By agreeing to babysit Steven Meadows' daughter (Angela Goethals), she ends up becoming involved in a case her private detective character will find challenging, but it's obvious that she'll come out a VIP.
Reunited with Charles Durning whom she worked with in the Broadway Revival of "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof", Turner is a combination of camp, courage and compassion as she strives to protect Goethals from all sorts of dangers. Who are the villains out to kill the young girl, and why? No retread of "Gloria", this is intriguing, nail biting, funny, often a bit loud, and the type of popcorn film that deserved better than it got. Jay Sanders shares some great scenes as the mysterious man Turner meets along the way. It has more heart than lots of other women's action films that demanded empowerment. Turner truly deserves her empowerment simply because of the likability of her character. Great Chicago locations help as well.
The War of the Roses (1989)
And they thought that it was bad for the Roses in 1500.
There's no stopping the hatred for Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner once the gloves are off in this deliciously sinister black comedy that leaves no prisoners alive. Their initially ideal marriage sours just as their children are leaving the nest, a growing sense of disappointment and hatred that has been growing for years unbeknownst to them. The hatred that hatches out of love is a hatred that can never be given a truce, showing how adults when pushed to the brink can act more like children than children.
There's no pointing the finger to either Douglas or Turner as to who is at fault. Each of them has their reasons for their actions, and even though Douglas claims that he still loves Turner, his little humiliations of her in front of guests and slighting neglects are passive/aggressively imbedded in her mind. A health crisis for him brings out all her inner feelings of hatred towards him, and from there, the venom is deadlier than any viper.
The superb script and direction helps this become a fantastic black comedy that is like a rollercoaster, tiltowhirl and bumper car combined, speeding quicker than traffic on any California freeway. Through the eyes of attorney Danny De Vito, the story is told as a warning, not favoring either spouse, and certainly not misogynistic or misandrist in any way. It is an equal opportunity hater towards a marriage that is till death do we both part, a study of what happens when neither person in a relationship is willing to give.
Crimes of Passion (1984)
An intense vision of perversity and self-hatred.
Some incredible performances here don't hide the fact that a convoluted and unbelievable story prevents this from being a good film. Certainly, it is intense and riveting, a creepy noir like view of a world most people don't want to explore but can't help because of the constant presence of sordid stories like this in the news. Kathleen Turner returns to the type of intense sexuality that she had played in her first film, "Body Heat", portraying a character with two lives. She spends her days working in a fashion house, accused unknowing to her of selling company patterns,, and working at night as a fetish specialty hooker name China Blue.
Two men have an impact on her life and how it progresses (or possibly ends), and they are as different as different can be. There is phony street preacher Anthony Perkins in a role that even out creeps Norman Bates, and the unhappily married John Laughlin, seemingly stuck in is marriage to Annie Potts. Completely different than her "Designing Women" character of Mary Jo Shively, Potts' character constantly belittles her husband in a subtle way over every little thing, and when he is hired to follow Turner, Laughlin Falls prey to her intensity.
But there's more to China Blue than her fake blond wig and her outward toughness. Perkins observes everything that Turner does, ultimately becoming a psycho stalker. Laughlin faces the truth about his marriage, but can he save Turner from herself? The way this film is directed is obviously perverse but it is often funny with sexual innuendo through clever lines and hysterically ridiculous characters. Louise Sorel, one of my favorite soap divas, has a hysterical scene as the wife of a millionaire who hires Turner for a threesome and talks business while oggling Turner. This was right before she began playing Augusta Lockridge, an equally outrageous socialite on "Santa Barbara", and she is deliciously nasty.
A touching sequence involving a wife searching for a prostitute for her dying husband is perhaps the most important scene in the film because this is where Turner begins to reveal what is underneath the surface. It is her performance, along with Perkins outrageous melodramatic theatrics, that is commanding and worthy of seeing at least once. It's the type of film that I could only get through once, and many film watchers will be quickly turned off. I could easily see this more through John Waters' eyes than Ken Russell's, because the seriousness in which he presents this requires a lot more tongue in cheek.
Switching Channels (1988)
Kathleen Turner makes me ask, "Murphy who?"
I easily could have given this 8 out of 10 stars, but for this remake of "His Girl Friday" , an excellent variation of "The Front Page", the presence of Burt Reynolds giving a very smug performance prevents that from happening. What works are the performances of Kathleen Turner, Christopher Reeve, Ned Beatty and Henry Gibson in an otherwise excellent film with a terrific script. A different actor in the role that Cary Grant hysterically portrayed would have added the Romantic conflict. Just needed to make the triangle work.
Turner and Reynolds reporters are at odds over there professional differences. Turner is now engaged to Reeve and comes in to work for her last shift, ending up involving the potential executive of convicted murderer Henry Gibson. Executing the gentle Gibson (who shot a drug dealing cop responsible for the death of his son) is like purposely leaving Gilligan stranded on the island forever, and the audience routes for him to somehow get out of this crisis. Governor candidate Ned Beatty wants to score votes from the upper class and beat current Governor Charles Kimbrough who wants to give Gibson a pardon. Turner has an interview with Gibson that aligns support in Gibson's favor, but Beatty arranges an earlier execution that ultimately causes Gibson's escape.
It's ironic to see Kimbrough in this, just as he started "Murphy Brown", and Turner is the perfect choice to essay the Rosalind Russell role, character who was the Murphy Brown of the early 1940's. Her chemistry with Reynolds isn't bad, but he seems to have no heart, even on screen obviously condescending to her. Reeve is the perfect stooge, and his elevator breakdown scene is a classic. Gibson is touching, and Beatty is equally as nefarious as he was in "Network" which makes him a fascinating and truly memorable villain. The minor characters are cats so brilliantly that it seems almost to be a pastiche of the world of Television journalism and that rises this up even more. Had it not been for the disappointing performance of its leading man, I would have ranked this as a modern classic.
Peggy Sue Got Married (1986)
What is happily ever after?
I could listen to the John Barry score from this beautiful Francis Ford Coppola fantasy over and over again. It is one of those movie scores that is completely touching, a reminder that in the 1980's, movie music truly was as important to a film as the script and the characters. It is also a breakthrough for Kathleen Turner who proved that she can be more than just a sexpot, cast here as a true lady whom I would have been proud to go to high school with them and run into at a reunions to thank them for their kindness. That's exactly what happens with the oddball out, Jim Carrey, before he was a star, thanking her for always standing up for him against the bullies, both male and female.
Separated from her neglectful husband, Nicolas Cage, she married straight out of school, Turner doesn't expect him to show up for the reunions but when he does, she is so shocked that she passes out. She wakes up 25 years earlier as she is about to graduate from high school, getting to see her mother Barbara Barrie and beloved grandparents, Maureen O'Sullivan and Leon Ames. There's something nostalgic in her eyes as she gets to witness her past and attempts some how to change things for herself and others. The audience also gets to see the relationship developing between Turner and cage, taking a shocking twist when her adult sexuality comes in conflict with his sweet innocence at his age of innocence.
I can continually see why Kathleen Turner was the number one box office star at this time, because she is appealing in every way. Her feisty demeanor in other films is only touched upon here, especially when her patriotism as an adult takes over for her as she sings America the Beautiful in her classroom much louder than anybody else, and certainly louder than she would have at that real time. The period detail is also glorious, with streets that look like they have stepped out of a time tunnel and truly represents the era in which this takes place.
There are many fans of this movie who insist that she deserved the Oscar that year, and for those who think that this is just another simple chick flick, they need to check it out again. It is so much more with themes that truly touch the the human soul. Turner is made up to really look 18 years old Karma and for those who only know her as his vixen or character actress will be surprised to see what a perfect girl next door she is. Be sure to have kleenex handy for the sudden appearance of veterans O'Sullivan, Ames and John Carradine in their sweet cameos. Their presence adds more class to a film that already was classy enough and accentuates the fact that this was indeed an old-fashioned movie. The lessons of the film show us that there is no happy ever after, but we do the best we can to maintain the happiness that we can grab.