Sunday, July 5, 2015

Karlovy Vary and other news from Radio Prague

I've mentioned the Karlovy Vary Film Festival a couple of times in the past, and the 50th edition opened up this weekend. Richard Gere is the honoree this year, as the former American gigolo will be picking up a lifetime achievement award. Radio Prague has a report. You can find the transcript here; there's also a direct link to the audio here. The audio file is a three-and-a-half minute MP3.

Also at Karlovy Vary, a young Czech filmmaker is seeing his debut feature film be premiered. Radio Prague did an extended interview with the director, Andy Fehu, whose film Greedy Tiffany will be getting a midnight showing, appropriate for a horror film. The interview transcript can be found here. If you'd rather listen to it, the download link is here; again it's an MP3 but this one is 12:45.

Finally, last Wednesday I mentioned the death of Sir Nicholas Winton, who saved future director Karel Reisz among some 669 children he was able to get out of Czechoslovakia in the nine months before World War II broke out. Radio Prague honored Winton by reairing a piece on a special train that was chartered to mark the 70th anniversary of the last train that didn't make it because the war had already begun. That report is from September 2009, when Winton was a few months past his 100th birthday. The transcript his here; the MP3 download (11 minutes) is here. Granted, it has next to nothing to do with movies, but I thought some of you may find it interesting.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Happy Independence Day

I couldn't find any Youtube clips from the silent era of US Presidents celebrating Independence Day. Nor could I find anything of the Ah, Wilderness July 4th scene. So this vintage video will have to do:

If you're an American, enjoy your Independence Day holiday! (You Brits can repeat the old joke about it being the day you celebrate being free from us Americans.)

Friday, July 3, 2015

An American producer in China

I've stated quite a few times that I listen to what used to be the international shortwave broadcasters, now mostly internet only. And, I've posted several times to audio from, especially, Radio Prague. This time, however, the report is from China Radio International.

For the CRI program "Horizons", one of their reporters talked to American producer Ron Yerxa, who was in Shanghai for the Shanghai International Film Festival. CRI usually has transcripts of their programs. But for some reason, this particular interview doesn't show up as a transcript. So you're going to have to download the full "Horizons" program here (~11.0 MB, 24 min) or listen to the streaming audio.

If you want to see all of CRI's English-language offerings, you can go here.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Season in Tyrol

Regular readers know that I like to mention the Traveltalks shorts that show up frequently on TCM. Today I'd like to mention another travelogue that's not a Traveltalks short: Season in Tyrol. It's airing early tomorrow morning at 5:39 AM, or just after Rascal (4:00, 85 min).

Season in Tyrol was produced at Warner Bros. in 1969, well after the end of James FitzPatrick's career, and at a time when I would have thought the studios for the most part weren't doing shorts any longer. So when I first saw this one come up in the schedule some months back I thought it was going to be a featurette on the making of something like Where Eagles Dare which, if I'm not mistaken, was filmed in part in Austria. But no, it's just a straight up travelogue, looking at the four seasons in Tyrol, and many of the customs that the people of Tyrol had been practicing for centuries during those four seasons.

I'm not certain why this short was actually made, but I'm glad it was. It's a reasonably nice look at Tyrol, with some visuals of the mountains that would really be gorgeous if the short were restored. If memory serves, TCM showed this in a 4:3 aspect ratio, although IMDb doesn't have any information on the original aspect ratio. (I'd guess the standard then was 1.85:1 since Cinemascope filming had ended, but I don't know if whatever shorts were produced generally were made in widescreen.) I don't know how much the old traditions are still practiced; a lot has changed since the radicalism of the late 1960s. Just like the Traveltalks shorts, this is a good look back to a time when international travel wasn't as easy as it is today.

Treasures from the Disney Vault returns

The latest round of Treasures from the Disney Vault returns to TCM tonight. Once again, there are a couple of cartoons, a Disneyland episode, and a Disneyfied nature documentary in among the live action features. The feature worth mentioning is Johnny Tremain at 8:30 PM.

You may have had to read the book when you were young; I know I did some time in junior high school. Eighth grade, I think, but I don't quite remember. I know eighth grade was when I read To Kill a Mockingbird and we saw the movie version of that; while in seventh grade we did the play I Remember Mama. Anyhow, getting back to Johnny Tremain, it tells the story of a young lad (Hal Stalmaster) who is an apprentice silversmith in Boston in the early 1770s. That is, until he suffers an accident with molten metal that cripples one of his arms and makes him obviously unsuitable to be a silversmith.

However, it's early 1770s Boston, which mean there's a revolutionary spirit in the air! Paul Revere and Sam Adams are around, and Johnny becomes useful for the revolutionaries, getting to show that a cripple can serve in ways other than the usual ones. It's a Disney version of the run-up to the revolution, as well as a Disney version of the novel, so beware that if you have any problems with the Disney gamut of emotions, you might well have the same problem with their rendition of Johnny Tremain.

Oh, there's also that awful song, which I can remember 30 years on from when I saw the movie. It's an awful earworm, but it certainly is memorable.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Sir Nicholas Winton, 1909-2015

The death has been announced of Sir Nicholas Winton, who dies this morning five weeks after his 106th birthday.

Winton was working in Prague in 1938 after the Munich Conference led to Nazi Germany carving the Sudetenland off of Czechoslovakia. The writing was on the wall for the rest of Czechoslovakia, and Winton helped organize a series of trains that would take young Czechoslovak Jews to Holland and then across the North Sea to England where they would be safe. Up until the start of World War II on September 1, 1939, Winton's work was able to save 669 Jewish children who almost certainly would have been sent to the concentration camps. In fact, there was another train scheduled to leave on September 1, but obviously the start of hostilities stopped that last train.

I mention all this here on this blog because among the children Winton saved was a 12-year-old boy named Karel Reisz. Reisz spoke little English when he got on the train, but he quickly learned in England, and like a whole lot of refugees, made a big contribution to the film community. Reisz was one of the directors who was responsible for the British new wave. Probably Reisz' most famous film is Saturday Night and Sunday Morning.

Surf Party

From time to time, TCM will spend an entire morning and afternoon showing some of those vintage beach movies, especially the ones with Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello. Lots of studios made these cheap movies to try to appeal to the teen audience, and a particularly cheap example is coming up on FXM Retro: Surf Party, tomorrow (July 2) at 12:30 PM and repeated on July 3 and July 5.

The movie starts off with Terry Wells (Patricia Morrow) in a car, trailer in tow, with two of her girlfriends. They're all from Arizona, and Terry is driving out to California to see her brother Skeet (Jerry Summers), who lives on the California coast spending his summers surfing. All three girls: Terry and her friends Junior (Jackie DeShannon, before she put a little love in our hearts) Sylvia (Lory Patrick) are looking to take up surfing, and enjoy the beach and all the other good things they must think California has to offer them from those beach movies they've seen. The only thing is, when they get to what is supposed to be Skeet's place on the beach, he doesn't answer. Oh, he's there, but he's got a girl and doesn't want to be bothered by anybody knocking on the door, not realizing it's his sister.

So the women park their trailer on the beach intending to camp there, not realizing it's illegal. The next morning, they're woken up by the owner of the local surf shop, Len (Bobby Vinton; none of the girls wears blue velvet at any point in the movie as far as I can tell). He helpfully informs them that they really should get off the beach before the local wet blanket cop comes by, and at least one of the women takes an interest in Len's hot body. Eventually they meet Skeet, and find that he's got some sort of reputation that's less than positive. Part of it is that he's considered the best surfer, and to get invited into his exclusive coterie, one has to surf between the pylons of the pier, which is unsurprisingly both dangerous and illegal. Milo (Ken Miller) is stupid enough to try, but Junior loves him for it anyway because he's just so dreamy. Terry is falling for Len, and Sylvia eventually falls for Skeet.

But there's tension between Len and Skeet, because Len wants the beach open for normal people and fears that Skeet's encouragement of illegal surfing will get that wet blanket cop to shut the beach down entirely. The young women visitors don't seem to care about any of this, and could easily play peacemaker, but by this time it's too late. Especially when the truth about Skeet is revealed.

I don't know why I'm going on about the plot of Surf Party, because that's not the reason to watch this one. Instead, watch it so you can laugh at how thoroughly awful it is in every way. The plot isn't very good, but that might be the least of the problems. Bobby Vinton and Jackie DeShannon should have stuck to their day jobs singing. The dialogue is terrible. The sets are terrible. But they're 10 times better than the surfing scenes, which are so blatantly done against rear projection with the actors doing gyrating "trying to keep balance" moves. And there's lots and lots of pointless music. One or two instrumental numbers wouldn't be bad, but there are a lot of vocal songs as well. And all the life is sucked out of the beach by the decision to film in black and white.

Watch Surf Party, and have fun. Just don't go into it with a serious point of view.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Tomorrow is a new month

We're already at the end of June, which I suppose is a good time to take another look at FXM. Back at the end of 2011, when they went from being solely the Fox Movie Channel to being half FMC during the morning and FXM during the evening, I figured that would last for six months; instead, it's gone on for three and a half years. There are always signs that make me worry they're finally going to get rid of what has since become FXM Retro; that includes two fairly recent movies on today's FXM Retro lineup. On the other hand, I looked through the schedule for the rest of the week over this past weekend, and there are a bunch of movies that are clearly retro and I know can only fit in the given time slots if there's no commercials. (I've also got an FXM movie that's going to be the subject of an upcoming blog post.)

The other thing is that I noticed at the beginning of June that FXM Retro seemed to change one of its interstitials. There's one that includes snippets of Montgomery Clift talking to Lee Remick in Wild River as well as marilyn Monroe dancing in Let's Make Love, but there's a second one that seems to have a different set of movies now than it did back in May. I'd guess it's a function of which movies FXM pulled out of the vaults to run into the ground. And on that score, I have to admit I didn't notice in the first couple of days of July any movies that have just come out of the vault this month.

So whither FXM Retro? Who knows? I have a feeling it will just disappear one day, and you'll only notice because there are no old movies and the FXM Retro logo is gone. But I have no idea when that day is going to come.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Two Against the World (1932)

Tomorrow morning at 7:00 AM, TCM is running a 1932 movie called Two Against the World that sounds awfully familiar.

The first thing to recognize is that there was a completely different movie made four years later also called Two Against the World, although that one has been renamed One Fatal Hour, presumably when it came to syndicating these old movies for the late late show in the 1950s. One Fatal Hour is a remake of a 1931 movie called Five Star Final, both of which are well worth watching.

What makes tomorrow's Two Against the World sound awfully familiar is the plot. Constance Bennett plays a wanton socialite in love with attorney Neil Hamilton. Unfortunately, Bennett's brother gets mixed up in a murder, and Bennett does what she can to protect him. That is, until Hamilton has to put her on the stand. It's a movie I may have seen, but I'm not certain because this is a plot device that's been done several times.

One that comes to mind is The Unguarded Hour, which has Loretta Young as a woman who saw an accidental death in which a man is being unjustly prosecuted -- by Young's husband. Young could get the guy off, except the reason she was a witness is because she was there to pay off a man who was going to blackmail her husband.

Alternately, there's Evelyn Prentice. This one has Myrna Loy killing the blackmailer, except that the blackmailer is trying to blackmail her. And here, the husband (William Powell) isn't the prosecutor, but the defense attorney.

Don't get me started on all the versions of Madame X.

Finally, Constance Bennett's sister Joan had a similar role in The Reckless Moment, which has Joan protecting her daughter from blackmailers.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Bergman Week

So I missed this year's Bergman Week, a look at the life and work of Ingmar Bergman held at his estate on the southern Swedish island of Fårö. I didn't realize it was going on until I heard a Radio Sweden report on this year's edition. The Radio Sweden piece isn't available by itself, but only as part of the full broadcast of Friday's show. That MP3 is about 27MB and will be available for another four weeks. This year being the centenary of the other Bergman, the Bergman Week looked quite a bit at the film the two Bergmans made together, Autumn Sonata.

Speaking of that other Bergman, Radio Sweden had a report on her, but this one is only a print report. (On the bright side, I don't think the print archives are limited the way the audio archives are. Apparently, somebody is planning to make a movie about Ingrid Bergman's romance with photographer Robert Capa, and pre-production is proceeding apace. No idea if it will ultimately be made, or when it will show up in theaters.