Saturday, June 30, 2012

Anthony Mann, 1906-1967

Today marks the birth anniversary of film director Anthony Mann. I've mentioned quite a few times that TCM doesn't seem to do very many birthday tributes on the weekends, and such is the case today.

Mann started his career making noirs and crime films in the late 1940s, with movies such as Border Incident and Side Street.

In 1950, Mann directed Winchester '73 which starred James Stewart. It was the first of several westerns the two men made together. These westerns brought a touch of noir to the genre, as Stewart's characters were much darker than the heroes that had generally populated Westerns; certainly more so than the singing cowboys who were popular in the 1940s. One of the westerns that I've recommended in the past is The Naked Spur.

Mann's last completed film is The Heroes of Telemark (now on DVD); Mann would suffer a fatal heart attack during the filming of his next movie, A Dandy in Aspic.

Friday, June 29, 2012

The Bribe

I mentioned The Bribe a few weeks back when it was getting an overnight airing on TCM. It's airing again this evening at 6:15 PM, and deserves a viewing if you didn't watch or record the last showing.

Robert Taylor plays Rigby, a US agent investigating an international smuggling ring that's taken him to some God-forsaken Central American banana republic, where he's fallen in love with another of the expats, Elizabeth (played by Ava Gardner). The only thing is, she's married, and Rigby is investigating her husband. Not only is an illicit affair a big problem; she just might be guilty too. How did Rigby get himself into this? Well, a flashback will tell us all.

As I said, Rigby is investigating smuggling, specifically smuggling surplus US Army gear that's no longer needed now that World War II is over, but which presumably any number of groups in Latin America would love to have. Rigby was sent to meet Elizabeth precisely because the US government suspected her husband, Tug, played by John Hodiak. (They presumably didn't expect their agent to fall in love with the guy's wife. They should have watched Notorious first.) Anyhow, Rigby goes down to Central America where he meets Elizabeth, but also gets waylaid by the mysterious Mr. Bealer (Charles Laughton). Somehow, Bealer knows the real reason Rigby is down there, and offers Rigby a cool $10,000 to stop the investigation -- that was a lot of money back in the late 1940s, especially in some banana republic.

Obviously, there has to be somebody else in on this whole thing. But who? One obvious place to look would be at the other expats, which is where the businessman Carwood (Vincent Price) comes in. Rigby suspects him and, posing as a vacationer here for some serious sport fishing, goes out on a boat trip with Carwood. Carwood rather dumbly tries to knock Rigby overboard "accidentally", which is a sure sign that he must be guilty of something else. And I don't think we'd get this movie over with in under two hours if that something weren't the same arms racket that Tug is involved in.

Alfred Hitchcock said that the "uranium ore" that Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman were investigating in Notorious was really just a macguffin -- they could have been investigating anything, as long as there was some excuse to use her as a spy to get at Claude Rains. To be honest, a lot of what happens in The Bribe feels the same way to me. Investigating arms smuggling is really a pretext to have a movie about... well, I'm not quite certain what it's about. Forbidden love, of the sort that Dana Andrews felt toward Gene Tierney in Laura? Or maybe it's a character study. Or perhaps my feelings about there being a macguffin in The Bribe are simply wrong, and MGM was trying to make a crime movie without any ulterior motives.

As far as crime stories go, The Bribe is moderately entertaining. Robert Taylor feels mildly miscast here, much the way he was as Johnny Eager several years earlier. I supose that could just be a problem with the fact that The Bribe is MGM's attempt to make a high-minded crime picture. Ava Gardner and John Hodiak are also OK. I've never really thought of Hodiak as the greatest of actors, so his being just serviceable is not a problem. Gardner, I suppose, should have been better. Vincent Price is always enjoyable to watch, and Charles Laughton is the real treat. His character is somewhat reminiscent of the one played by Sydney Greenstreet in Flamingo Road, only with a little more vitality. As you can see from my constant mentioning of other movies, The Bribe feels a lot like something that's been done a dozen times before, but is done reasonably well.

The Bribe got a release to DVD as part of the Warner Archive collection, so you can still see it if you miss today'showing.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

More fun with movie trailers

Yesterday evening, TCM showed the trailer for what's going to be this week's selection for Essentials Jr.: Lassie Come Home, Sunday at 8:00 PM. If you haven't seen the trailer, TCM have rather helpfully placed it in their Media Room and allowed people to embed it.

I like how MGM get some plugs in for some of their recent product when they mention that Mrs. Miniver has been turned into movies. More fun is the refeence to movies about to be released by MGM: if IMDb is accurate Madame Curie had its national release two months after Lassie Come Home (February 1944 vs. December 1943), while The White Cliffs of Dover would have been in production at the time, I believe. (Normally, the TCM database has good information on the dates of production, but that's not mentioned for The White Cliffs of Dover, which got its New York premiere in May 1944.)

One other interesting thing is the way MGM promoted Roddy McDowall, by mentioning his appearances in How Green Was My Valley and My Friend Flicka. Both of those movies were made at Fox, so why would MGM want to promote them? Then again, they both would have been out of the theaters for quite some time.

Foreign sci-fi

I probably should have posted last night, but TCM's schedule for this morning and afternoon is a bunch of 1960s sci-fi movies made outside the US; some of them were made in the UK and others in countries where English isn't the first language, but they got some Z-list US actors and some domestic actors dubbed into English to make up the cast. Two of them I recommended back in the summer of 2010: War of the Planets at 12:30 PM, followed by The Wild, Wild Planet at 2:15 PM. Thankfully, the lateness of this post doesn't have to prevent you fro missing these two, since they're on DVD. They ought to be part of a box set, since there was a four-film series that came out of Italy of which these two are a part, but they only seem to be available for individual purchase. I'm also getting a kick out of what TCM says I might also enjoy: Fox's mid-1960s adaptation of The Bible.

One movie I recommended before which doesn't seem to be on DVD is Five Million Years to Earth, which is also known as Quatermass and the Pit; that's airing at 4:00 PM.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

An addition to the blogroll

I was reading another blog recently, and one of the commenters linked to his blog, The Stalking Moon. The post at the top of the blog there was to a movie I'd never heard of before, Phase IV. It sounds like an interesting movie, and the writing makes me want to see the movie. It would probably make a good double feature with The Hellstrom Chronicle.

The rest of the posts look interesting too, and chock full of photos, which may be either a good thing or a bad thing, depending on your point of view. Personally, while it's always great to have screenshots from a movie to illustrate the blog post, I find that picture-heavy blogs can be slow to load, so it's a bit of a trade-off. I should say The Stalking Moon didn't seem to be too slow in loading, however.

At any rate, I've added the blog to my blog roll, so go check it out.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

We're in the Money question

One of the Ross Alexander films I watched last night, We're in the Money, isn't on DVD, so this isn't a full-length blog post on the film. The quick verdict is that Joan Blondell and Glenda Farrell are fun as process servers, but the movie bogs down in the final third.

This post, however, is a question about some of the things that happen once the movie begins to bog down. The two ladies' boss, Hugh Herbert steals a car and drives it maniacally, and then has similar problems with a small boat with an outboard motor. These scenes are very obviously (and understandably) done with rear-projection photography of previously filmed material. The footage in the boat scenes looked quite familiar, though. The only other motorboat scene I can think of that might fit the bill wsa one involving Joe E. Brown, and a quick look through Brown's IMDb filmography shows Top Speed from 1930, in which Brown also had to drive a speedboat for which he was thoroughly unqualified.

How long would a studio have kept the sort of file footage used for rear-projection photography? Top Speed came out five years before We're in the Money, and I have to wonder whether the studio heads would remember such an obscure movie. Then again, they did remake obscure stuff, so the movie would obviously have been in their records; not that these two movies share anything in common other than the boats out of control. I also seem to remember Marie Dressler in an out-of-control boat or car, but she worked at MGM, so that wouldn't be the same footage.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Ross Alexander night

I've commented before that one of the great things TCM does is to put the spotlight on lesser-known people. Another example of this is TCM's salute to actor Ross Alexander, who died by his own hand at the age of 29 in 1937. He's the sort of actor about whom I will admit I don't know much about. I've seen him before in Flirtation Walk, but that's not airing tonight. He also played the navigator to Errol Flynn's Captain Blood, another very good movie which is also not part of tonight's tribute.

Instead, tonight's TCM lineup has several B-movies and the sort of not-quite-screwball comedies for which Alexander was apparently well-suited: I say "apparently" only because I don't think I've see any of the movies in tonight's lineup. TCM has helpfully provided an article about Alexander, which includes tonight's schedule. I know I'll be watching at least the first two, although after that is a bit late for me on the east coast.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Ballet on film

TCM showed The Mysterious House of Dr. C. this morning. I didn't know anything about the movie beforehand, other than seeing its title in the TCM listings during one of the previous showings several months back. It turns out there's quite a bit interesting about the movie, although it's not available on DVD.

"Dr. C." refers to Dr. Coppelius, played by Walter Slezak. And if the name Coppelius sounds familiar, that's because he's one of the lead characters in the ballet Coppelia with music by Léo Delibes, which in turn is based on stories by ETA Hoffmann, whom movie buffs might recognize from the British movie Tales of Hoffmann. One odd thing I noticed at the beginning of the film is that the copyright date didn't look consistent with the date TCM gave, which might be because there were two versions of the movie made. The first was a straight-up ballet, while the second added voiceover narration and a couple of dream sequences. TCM, in fact, showed the second version.

I have to admit I'm not the biggest fan of ballet. Oh, ballet dancers are incredibly talented, so there's no way I'm going to say that ballet-themed movies aren't good just because I might not like dancing. But as with science fiction movies, you need a good story to go with either the dancing or special effects, as the case may be. I had precisely this problem with The Turning Point. In the same vein, I'm always put off by The Red Shoes, although I have to admit it's a masterpiece of color cinematography and direction. In the case of Coppelia, I suppose the story isn't terrible, so fans of ballet may enjoy the movie. I should also add that the set design is garish and reminiscent of The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T., which is a plus.

Unfortunately, the movie doesn't have anothe appearance on TCM in the next few months, so I have no idea how you'll get a copy of this. If you like ballet it's worth the while.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Sylvia Sidney, slum girl

I finally saw Street Scene last night. Sylvia Sidney plays the adult daughter in one of several families living in a lower-class New York City apartment builidng. It struck me that Sidney would go on to play similar roles, although all grown up, in a couple of other films in the 1930s, those being Dead End and One-Third of a Nation. If memory serves, in both of them she's looking after a younger brother and not a son. That's also the case in Sabotage.

Sabotage is unlike the other three movies in a whole bunch of ways, and I find it interesting that Sidney would end up in several such roles. Some actors of course were typecast, but I don't think that's the case with Sidney. I don't know anything about her political beliefs, but it wouldn't surprise me if she wanted to appear in social commentary movies: she also appeared in Fury. And we know there were stars out there whose political views would draw them to such roles; I think John Garfield fits that description.

The other interesting (to me, at least) thing about the cast of Street Scene is the movie debut of John Qualen, who is credited here as "John M. Qualen", as if he needed to differentiate himself from all the other John Qualens playing ethnic characters in Hollywood. In Black Fury, which I recommended earlier this month, he's credited as "John T. Qualen". Go figure.

Friday, June 22, 2012


I have to admit that there's a lot about shorts that I'm woefully deficient in my knowledge of. To be a bit fair to myself, however, I should point out that the TCM schedule page (which I believe relies on the AFI database for its synopses) has little to no information on many of the shorts that show up in the schedule.

A case in point is Yamekraw, which is airing a little after 7:45 PM tonight. Even the IMDb doesn't have anything for a "plot". Never mind whether or not there's an actual plot. Even a Traveltalks short like Around the World in California has a "plot" listing stating it's an entry in the Traveltalks series. According to the two IMDb reviews, however, Yamekraw is an all-black musical short from Vitaphone about a man leaving his rural village for the big city. They also claim it's told in a visually interesting style.

I had never heard of Yamekraw before seeing it show up on the schedule for today, so I can't say anything more about it. But it certainly sounds interesting.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Bigamist

TCM is marking the birth anniversary of Ida Lupino today, so it's unsurprising that TCM is spending the day with a bunch of her movies. I've mentioned a few times in the past that Lupino became a director, but what I didn't realize is that she was actually only credited as the director of six films. To be fair, though, this doesn't count On Dangerous Ground, and she did a lot of directing for television as well. TCM is showing the movies in which Lupino is one of the stars, but that does happen to include one movie which she also directed: The Bigamist, at 4:45 PM.

At the start of the movie, our bigamist, Harrison Graham (played by Edmond O'Brien), is living in San Francisco with his wife Eve (Joan Fontaine). He's a successful salesman of commercial freezers and she's his secretary, but his work constantly takes him to Los Angeles so the two rarely see each other. They don't have any children and she seems to have trouble conceiving, so they decide to adopt. Here comes Mr. Jordan (played Edmund Gwenn, and the lousy pun was intended), the adoption agency investigator. What he discovers shocks him, although it shouldn't shock any of us since we know from the title what's coming.

Harrison Graham, is, in fact, a bigamist! How could such a thing happen? Well, let the movie tell you. As I said earlier, Harrison travels a lot for business, which has made him lonely. One day in Los Angeles, he takes a tour of the stars' houses, which is where he meets Phyllis (Ida Lupino), a waitress at a local café. (Her being on the tour is about as realistic as Priscilla Lane's character prtending to be a department store salesgirl and winding up in the Statue of Liberty for the climax of Saboteur, but that's another point.) At first it's just friendship, but you know that things are going to get more serious than that. Eventually, Phyllis tells Harrison that he's knocked her up. Well, she doesn't use that sort of language; the Production Code would never allow it. So he proposes to her, even though he's married to another woman. Since I mentioned the Production Code, you also know that it means Harrison is bound to be caught, and since Mr. Jordan has found out about the bigamy, Harrison is going to face a court trial.

If you're looking to see why people talk about Ida Lupino as a director, I don't think this is the movie to start with; something like The Hitch-Hiker would be better. The problem with this movie is, I think, not really Lupino's fault; to me it seems more a problem with the script. The whole movie is just kind of there. It comes and goes like one of those old TV movies trying to highlight an important issue. Lupino as director and actress does a capable job, and to be fair to the rest of the actors, they do as well. But they're doing their jobs in the service of mediocre material. The ending is also left hanging, but again that's a script problem.

I believe The Bigamist hasn't gotten a DVD release. It's worth a watch, but everybody involved with the film has done much better.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Big City Fantasy

TCM's look at the immigrant experience in America continues tonight. I think I've already blogged about all of the movies showing tonight that I've seen: the night kicks off at 8:00 PM with I Remember Mama, about Norwegian immigrants in turn of the last century San Francisco.
Another movie about Norwegian immigrants is Our Vines Have Tender Grapes, at 10:30 PM. Here, the immigrants are in contemporary (as of the time the film was released, 1945) Wisconsin, and farmers.
I don't think I've seen Strangers in the City (12:30 AM) or Big City (4:15 AM) before. The movie between those, however, is All Mine to Give at 2:30 AM, and as you can see, I've blogged about that one as well.

The night ends with a short that I haven't seen, but looks interesting: Big City Fantasy, at about 5:40 AM.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Susan Tyrrell, 1945-2012

It was only today that I read of the death of actress Susan Tyrrell over the weekend at the age of 67. If I had seen the news yesterday, I would certainly have mentioned it when I posted that TCM Guest Programmer Ellen Barkin had selected Tyrrell's Oscar-nominated role in Fat City as one of her four movies. Looking through her film credits, the other two movies that jump out at me are Cry-Baby where she played opposite Johnny Depp; and Big-Top Pee-Wee.

It seems kind of morbid to be looking for obituaries. To be honest, I look at Wikipedia's obituary page each day to see if any famous names are on it, or at least names that would be recognizable to classic movie fans. The one problem with the way Wikipedia organizes the list is if somebody dies and the death is only announced a day or two later. The name is likely to show up on the appropriate date of death, but by that time there are already a bunch of people at the top of the page who died after that. So somebody like Tyrrell would be easy to miss.

The Fox box

I've mentioned a few times now how Fox is getting into the manufacturing on demand game. Warner Home Video more or less started it with the Warner Archive collection, and have since also been putting our those TCM box sets that you see being hawked on TCM between movies. Their latest is a Kirk Douglas set which I think is only being released next Tuesday (June 26) according to a blurb I came across on TCM's website.

TCM has also been cooperating with Universal in advertising similar box sets; you may have seen the recent promos for the box set of four Joel McCrea westerns. There's also one with leading actresses from the 50s including a Joan Crawford Film (Woman on the Beach, I believe) and an Esther Williams movie (The Unguarded Hour or some such, which TCM showed last year when Esther Williams was Star of the Month and which is a riot). I strongly suspect that such promos are in exchange for getting broadcast rights to movies from the other studios, which is of course a good thing.

And so I wonder how long it will be before we start seeing similar box sets coming out from Fox. Back in October 2010, I wrote a post that I think has a lot in common with the idea of box sets from Fox, about what actors Tom Rothman should spotlight on Fox Legacy. This of course was before the change in programming format, but the ideas I think still hold true, only with putting out box sets instead of getting a cable channel spotlight. In the 2010 blog post, I mentioned James Stewart, Bette Davis, and Henry Fonda. One person I didn't mention was Cary Grant. He made Born to Be Bad at Fox early in his career (in fact, it's airing tomorrow at 6:00 AM on FMC); later in his career he made comedies like I Was a Male War Bride and Monkey Business. That last one, having Marilyn Monroe in a supporting role, would be ideal for a DVD release. In fact, it has gotten one, with Monroe on the front, even though she's not the star. I believe co-star Ginger Rogers, though, did make enough movies at Fox to get a box-set: We're Not Married! is another film Rogers made at Fox that got a DVD release because of Monroe's presence in the cast, while I don't think Dreamboat has gotten one -- apparently Clifton Webb doesn't merit a DVD or something.

Monday, June 18, 2012

The retun of Tales of Manhattan

I did a synopsis of the 1942 anthology film Tales of Manhattan quite some time back. It's getting one more airing on what's left of the Fox Movie Channel, tomorrow morning at 6:00 AM. At least, this is the one airing through however far ahead the FMC on-line schedule runs (the end of July? I have no idea).

Tales of Manhattan doesn't seem to be on DVD, although as I mentioned a few weeks back, Fox is getting into the manufacture-on-demand game, and this is a movie that would be an obvious candidate, what with all its stars in the cast

Ellen Barkin, and a short

Tnoight Robert Osborne sits down with this month's TCM Guest Programmer, actress Ellen Barkin. (Well, of course, he sat down with her several months ago, but thanks to the magic of videotape....) I think I've only recommended one of the movies she's selected before, and there's at least one that I don't particularly like at all, although I don't want to spoil your enjoyment by saying which one is the one I don't like. Anyhow, Barkin's four selections are:

Stacy Keach and Jeff Bridges as boxers at different ends of their careers in Fat City, at 8:00 PM;
Federico Fellini's Nights of Cabiria at 10:00 PM;
Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in the movie adaptation of the play Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf at 12:15 AM; and
a 1970s look back at the 1950s, The Last Picture Show, at 2:45 AM.

In between the first two movies, TCM has scheduled the short Searchers for a Special City (approximately 9:44 PM), which is really just a promo (not a trailer) for Mister Buddwing. The two people who reviewed it at IMDb both speak favorably of this short. They're probably being closer to the mark than I am, although in my case that's definitely because Mister Buddwing is really a movie that left me cold and wondering what the hell the point of it all was. If you don't know much about the movie being promoted, or if you like Mister Buddwing, then I'd presume this short is relatively effective.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

TCM and B-days

TCM is kicking off its Monday morning schedule with Earthworm Tractors, an entertaining enough little comedy starring Joe E. Brown that I've mentioned a number of tiems in the past. The reason that TCM has scheduled it is because of the presence further down the cast of one Dick Foran.

Tomorrow happens to be the birth anniversary of Dick Foran (1910-1979). Foran was one of those actors who never really hit the big time. He appeared down the cast list in films such as The Petrified Forest, where he plays Bette Davis' boyfriend working at the desert service station. When he got the chance to star, it was generally as a cowboy in western movies, in the era before John Wayne's Stagecoach where westerns were not so prestigious. In fact, TCM is showing several of these westerns as part of their day of Foran's films.

This is one of the really good things about TCM, or more specifically, the folks who program it. Who else would recognize Dick Foran? And, of course, it's not just Foran; I mentioned the salute to Japanese director Inoshiro Honda the other day. TCM spends quite a few evenings recognizing lesser-remembered people, and sometimes they even spend an entire monthly spotlight honoring an aspect of filmmaking that normally doesn't get much mention: just look at last January's salute to cinematographer Jack Cardiff.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

If you thought movie admission was expensive now

Imagine having to pay a 20% excise tax on the price of your movie ticket. In fact, there was just such a tax at one time, and the MPAA unsurprisingly didn't like it, lobbying Congress to get rid of it by producing the short with the logical title, The Case Against the 20% Federal Admissions Tax on Motion Picture Theatres, which TCM is showing just after 5:30 AM tomorrow morning.

Back in the day (before the late 1940s), the studios were, or tried to be, what's known as vertically integrated, meaning that they not only produced the films and had long-term contracts on the stars to use them as mix-and-match assets; they owned many of the theaters in which the films were shown, meaning they could more or less book movies as they saw fit. Studio ownership of movie theaters was finally nixed by the Supreme Court in 1948 in the case United States v. Paramount Pictures, Inc.. This along with the advent of television was seriously eating into the studios' profits, and artificially raising the price of movie tickets surely wouldn't have helped.

As for the short, it's fun to see it just for how dated and almost heavy-handed it is. The folks who own the movie theaters are portrayed as a vital part of American society, showing wholesome entertainment, contributing to local charity, and (like the case for sports building trying to get government subsidies) providing jobs for neighboring businesses such as restaurants where people would go as part of an entire night out. Nowadays, almost none of this is true. Most of the picture palaces have closed: the old Community Theater in my hometown, where my grandfather worked as a projectionist, is now a stage theater that I have no idea how it makes a profit. One of my uncles followed in Grandpa's footsteps, and by the 1980s became the manager of the "Cinema 1-2-3", a theater which actually had three screens! I remember when another the local theaters, the Mayfair, went from one screen to two; the theater has long since closed down and the location is I think now a tire store in the middle of a largish shopping district. The "Cinema 1-2-3" is also long since closed; I'm not certain what's in that building or if it's even standing. Instead, like most places, there's one of those sixtyplexes in the local mall owned by one of the conglomerates. I think it's Regal that owns them, and to be honest I have no idea how any screens they actually have.

I doubt it was the 20% tax that was responsible for any of this. Television played a big role, as did the desire of Americans after World War II to escape the cities and the tenement housing, which led ot the rise of the suburb and America becoming a much more car-dependent country. It just wasn't as convenient any more to go to the old downtown picture palace. On the other hand, TV probably also brought wide-screen and stereo sound as the studios had to compete with the small squarish black-and-white pictures that TV brought into people's homes. (Unfortunately, the era also brought us 3D.)

Friday, June 15, 2012


TCM is running a night of movies directed by Inoshiro Honda tonight, starting with Gojira at 8:00 PM. Americans, of course, would know the movie as Godzilla. However, the Godzilla that Americans know isn't quite the same as the one the Japanese know. When the movie was first going to be distributed to a borad American viewing audience, there were establishing scenes added with Raymond Burr as an American journalist, and all of the dialogue dubbed into English. This was released as Godzilla, King of the Monsters!

The last time the movie showed up -- at least, I think when TCM had the "Drive-In Monsters" summer feature a year or two ago was the last time -- TCM played Godzilla, King of the Monsters! I suppose that's not inappropriate, as that would probably have been the movie that brought people to the drive-in back in the day. There's also the interesting topic of what constitutes a new movie, but that's a topic for a different day.

At any rate, TCM's schedule page today seems to imply that it's the original, Perry Mason-less version of Gojira that's airing today. The TCM schedule even calls it Gojira and not Godzilla. (The pronunciation shouldn't be an issue for English-speaking audiences, who have all the letters in Gojira; as I understand it, Japanese doesn't have the "dz" combination and definitely not the L.) TCM is also showing Rodan at 9:45 PM and Mothra at 11:15. That last one was originally called Mosura in Japanese (I don't believe Japanese has the "th" sound), so I find it interesting that TCM is using the Japanese title for one of the movies and the English-language title for the other.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Burl Ives birthday programming

TCM decided to spend today giving a birthday salute to Dorothy McGuire, which is no bad thing. However, today is also the birthday of Oscar-winning actor Burl Ives (1909-1995), so I was wondering which of his movies TCM could show if they had wanted to honor him with a birthday salute.

It turns out that if they wanted to TCM, could program such a day without much difficulty. In fact, TCM showed Ives' Ensign Pulver the other night as part of its salute to Larry Hagman. I know that TCM has shown Ives' Oscar performance in The Big Country before, although that's a United Artists picture that's presumably in the hands of what's left of MGM. (Or, at least, MGM/UA and its future versions released the DVDs.) Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is a TCM staple, even though I don't particularly care for Tennessee Williams. East of Eden is another good choice, even if you don't like James Dean. One movie that I'd like to see show up again is Just You and Me, Kid, since I don't think it's on DVD. There are also a few that I don't think I've seen before, such as Let No Man Write My Epitaph.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Black Legion

TCM's look at the "Immigrant Experience in America" as portrayed by Hollywood films continues this week with an interesting movie that's really about the anti-immigrant experience: Black Legion, at 10:45 PM.

Humphrey Bogart, not long after he began to move up the ranks on the Warner Bros. lot with The Petrified Forest but still a good four years away from High Sierra and The Maltese Falcon, stars as Frank Taylor, an everyman in Anytown USA who works at the local machine shop. He's good at what he does, and since he has seniority, a lot of the workers expect that he's going to get the promotion that's coming up at the plant, which also means a more stable financial future for him and his wife (Erin O'Brien-Moore). However, it turns out that Dombrowski (Henry Brandon), a worker of Polish descent, came up with something that will save the company time and money, so the bosses give him the promotion instead of Frank. Now, the 1930s were a time when eastern Europeans were one of the immigrants that were the feared ones. First we had the Anglo-Saxon Protestants fearing the Catholic Irish; then all of those feared the Italians and Jews; then the WASPs, Irish, and Italians feared the folks from the East; and now everybody fears the Mexicans.

Well, that's an exaggeration, of course, but it shows that as long as we have immigration, we're going to have people playing the "They took our jobs!" angle. In this case, one of Frank's fellow workers, Cliff (Joe Sawyer), sees what losing out on the promotion has done to Frank, and suggests an organization called the Black Legion. It's the sort of group that ostensibly calls for "American jobs for Americans", but in reality is a terrorist racket. Anybody who gets in its way is marked for death, and it's also out to make money for itself by selling the robes and other paraphernalia that goes with the uniform. The Legion scares the Dombrowskis into leaving town, but that's not enough: the next guy who takes what should "rightfully" be Frank's job get's it too, and that guy's son-in-law (Dick Foran) nearly gets it when he threatens to go to the police.

Black Legion is the sort of social commentary movie that I've mentioned Warner Bros. doing a lot of in the 1930s, and doing much better than any of the other studios. To be honest, I womder if the violence here wasn't overdone, at least in the sense of making the Legion look too much like thugs. After all, if all they looked like was thugs, how successful would they be in getting new members? (Compare this to Michael Powell's portrayal of the Nazis in 49th Parallel.) Humphrey Bogart, however, is a very good choice for the role of Frank Taylor. There's something about Bogart that suggests a darker side than does most of the other actors of the 1930s. Sure, James Cagney and Edward G. Robinson were both great at playing gangsters, but Robinson would have looked too old for the role, and Cagney's 1930s characters, even when they were gangsters, were just too likeable.

Black Legion got a DVD release as part of a Warner Gangsters box set along with a couple of other really fun movies from the early 1930s that I've recommended before, such as Picture Snatcher.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A trope so common, TCM is spending an entire night on it!

I'm pretty certain I've mentioned when blogging movies like Leave Her to Heaven that it's not uncommon for noir and similar movies to open up with a scene that goes to a flashback giving us the real action of the movie. In fact, TCM is programming an entire night of such films tonight, and not even using Leave Her to Heaven.

The night kicks off at 8:00 PM with Joan Crawford in Possessed, that being the 1947 movie. (Crawford was in a movie with the same title in 1931, but that's before noir and doesn't have flashbacks.) It's been a while since I've seen the movie, but if memory serves, it opens with Crawford in an insane asylum, where some of her incoherent rantings lead to the flashback.

A different sort of flashback comes in They Won't Believe Me, at 10:00 PM, where the flashback is in Robert Young's testimony to the court.

I'm not certain whether I've seen Humphrey Bogart in Dead Reckoning before. That's one you can catch at 11:30 PM.

A movie worth mentioning is The Bribe, at 3:15 AM. Robert Taylor plays a government agent who's fallen in love with Ava Gardner, and the flashback catches up just before the climax. I was going to do a full-length post on it, but it's on the schedule for later in the month, and at the dinner hour at that. It's also coming up again in August, so a full-length post will come later.

Ann Rutherford, 1920-2012

The death has been announced of actress Ann Rutherford. Depending on sources, she was either 91 or 94. Rutherford was never really an A-movie star, in that a lot of her appearances were supporting roles. One of the best-known supporting roles would be as Scarlett O'Hara's sister Colleen in Gone With the Wind, which she also played Andy Hardy's love interest Polly Benedict in a whole bunch of the Andy Hardy movies.

One movie that I've recommended her in before that's really fun is Dancing Co-Ed, which has apparently gotten a DVD release courtesy of the Warner Archive Collection. (I could swear that the first time I looked it up on TCM's site this morning, the DVD didn't show up, but there is a link to purchase it.) Being in the Warner Archive, it's more expensive. Perhaps they could package it as part of one of those four-movie box sets dedicated to Lana Turner's early movies?

Monday, June 11, 2012

So I had seen The Killer Is Loose before

I mentioned the other day the film The Killer Is Loose, and how it had a plot that looked awfully familiar. There's a good reason for that: I had in fact seen the movie on a previous TCM showing. TCM's website lists a DVD available for purchase, although, oddly enough, IMDb/Amazon doesn't. But since you can apparently buy it at TCM, it's worth a blog post.

My reason for bringing it up the other day was the presence of Joseph Cotten as a police detective. We don't see him until a bit of the way into the movie, however. In fact, the movie starts off at a loan office where one of the tellers is Leon Poole, nicknamed "Foggy" and played by Wendell Corey. Things are about to go sour for him and everybody else in the bank, as a couple of men come in and hold up the place. Poole tries to stop them, and gets pistol-whipped for his effort.

Enter Detective Wagner, played by the aforementioned Jospeh Cotten. He's investigating the case, and the clues point to an inside job. The police here having your typical Hollywood efficiency, they quickly discover that Poole is the inside man. They go to his apartment to apprehend him, but a shootout ensues, in which Wagner shoots Poole's wife, killing her. Poole gets sent to jail, and having been devoted to his wife, he vows revenge.

You can figure out what's going to happen next. Poole becomes a model prisoner, with the intent (obviously not revealed to anybody) to get placed in a minimum-security area, from which he can escape and go back to the city and kill all the people who put him in jail! That means not only Det. Wagner, but also his poor put-upon wife (Rhonda Fleming), who doesn't like that her husband is doing the dangerous work he is, and is terrified of Poole's excape.

The Killer Is Loose is a decided B movie, but for the most part it's highly entertaining. A good portion of this has to do with the direction of Budd Boetticher, who is probably better known for his westerns but always did a good job with B movies. I think the lion's share of the credit, however, has to go to Wendell Corey. Corey is somebody about whom I've always wondered how he became anything more than a character actor. It's not that he couldn't act; it's more that he always seems like the wrong man for the leading roles he got. What would Joan Crawford's Harriet Craig ever see in Wendell Corey? And then there's Barbara Stanwyck in The File on Thelma Jordon. But Corey is actually surprisingly good here. He seems to be playing a character who is on the verge of breaking down psychologically, but nobody around him can see that this is happening. When he gets out of prison, he's quite flat and almost emotionless in the way he treats the people he encounters, especially Otto Flanders, one of the men who helped put him in prison. Poole more or less holds the Flanderses hostage, until deciding to off Mr. Flanders. I did, however, find myself a bit incredulous when Poole asked Mrs. Flanders for some food. There was a pot on the stove, and you'd think that perhaps Mrs. Flanders might have seen The Big Heat and learned something from Lee Marvin and Gloria Grahame.

The ending of The Killer Is Loose also feels a bit rushed. We know thanks to the Production Code that Poole is going to get what's coming to him. Here, that comes in the form of Poole, having stolen some of Mrs. Flanders' clothes, going to Det. Wagner's house in drag, following behind Mrs. Wagner, who's walking to the house for reasons of her own. The cops recognize Poole fairly quickly and are of course perfect shots. I can't imagine real-life copes being this good at what they do, and taking down a criminal with no collateral damage at all. But then this was the 1950s; perhaps the cops really were more virtuous than they are today. (I suppose Serpico might disagree.)

Still, you can't be that surprised that The Killer Is Loose has problems. It is, after all, a B movie. And for what it does, it's quite entertaining and well worth the watch.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

I suppose I should mention Judy Garland

TCM has been running a salute to Judy Garland on what would have been her 90th birthday if she hadn't insisted on overdosing to death, and will be continuing the birthday salute until 6:00 AM tomorrow. Interestingly, it's one of not very many birthday salutes on a weekend. I'm not certain why TCM generally doesn't do birthday salutes on Saturdays and Sundays, but for whatever reason it doesn't happen very often. Perhaps the powers that be want Ben Mankiewicz to have a bunch of different people to talk about when he's on.

The even more unfortunate thing about today's birthday salute is that TCM are running a lot of the musical movies. The Clock aired earlier in the week as part of a night of movies with important scenes in train stations, while A Child Is Waiting doesn't show up at all. Worse, we get the dreadful 1950s version of A Star Is Born; I have to admit that I don't like the idea of adding still photos back into a cut movie to try to "complete" it. When I mentioned Greed some time back, I made the same point. I'm not a fan of "director's cuts" either. It always strikes me as the director trying to do the 1984-style sending stuff down the memory hole, as though we're not supposed to know there was ever a different version of the movie out there before the one the director wants us to know about now.

TCM is running a documentary about the making of The Wizard of Oz at 7:00 PM, followed by the film itself as this week's Essentials Jr. selection. That's certainly a good movie for the kids.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Let Us Live

Tonight's Essential on TCM is Jezebel. This gives TCM the opportunity to show a bunch of movies starring Henry Fonda from early in his career. A lesser-known movie that I don't think I've seen since the last time it aired on TCM years back, and which isn't available on DVD, is Let Us Live, which is airing early tomorrow morning at 4:45 AM.

Henry Fonda stars as Brick Tennant, a taxi driver with ideas. Like a lot of drivers, he doesn't own his own taxi, but he has plans of owning one, and then owning an entire fleet. He's got a girlfriend, Mary (Maureen O'Sullivan), and plans to marry her and move to a much nicer housing development when the taxi business becomes more successful. As it is, he's living in a small apartment with his friend Joe (Alan Baxter). Even though it's just a small apartment, Brick is happy with his life and optimistic about the future.

This being a Hollywood movie, you know that happy existence isn't going to remain that way. Everything goes south for Brick and Joe when there's a robbery in town, one which results in a man getting killed. There was a taxi used as the getaway vehicle, and since Brick doesn't have an alibi that can be checked, he and Joe wind up getting charged with the crime. And even though the evidence is purely circumstantial, the two men are convicted and sentenced to die!

Also in Hollywood tradition, The Girl is certain that her man is innocent, and dammit, she's going to exonerate him if it's the last thing she does on Earth! Fortunately for her, there's about to be a seeming break in the case. Another robbery is committed, and it has all of the hallmarks of the one that got her boyfriend sent to jail. And this time, Brick has an ironclad alibi: he was in jail. As a result, Mary is able to get The Only Honest Cop on Earth (played by Ralph Bellamy in an odd bit of casting) on her side. Together, the two race against time to find the real killers (in the form of a taxi modified to go faster than regular cabs could) before Brick and Joe's sentences are carried out.

In some ways, Let Us Live is almost formulaic, in that it's as if we've seen all these character types before. Indeed, I've recommended a couple earlier films, such as Fury or They Won't Forget, about prosecutions gone badly wrong. But just as important, Let Us Live is about what this does to the wrongly convicted, and the result isn't pretty. The one bad thing is that you almost expect Brick and Joe are going to be exonerated, because the Production Code wouldn't let people get away with crime, meaning that the real criminals had to be caught. (Compare this to the climax of Fury.) Still, Brick's is the sort of complex character Henry Fonda was extremely good at playing.

Let Us Live is too-rarely seen, but it's well worth watching.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Joseph Cotten, and not Joseph Cotten

TCM is running a night of "old dark house" movies tonight, and one of them is Gaslight, at 12:30 AM. Now, the only thing is, in order to fit it into a 90-minute time slot, TCM has selected the 1940 original instead of the more-familiar Ingrid Bergman version. Not that there's anything wrong with it; I happen to enjoy both movies. But for those of you who wanted to see Joseph Cotten as a police detective, you're out of luck.

Or maybe not. Tomorrow morning at 9:15 AM, TCM is showing The Killer Is Loose, a mvoie which sounds really familiar. Cotten plays a police detective who accidentally shoots bank robber Wendell Corey's wife. When Corey gets out of prison, he wants to gain revenge on Cotten by killing Cotten's wife (Rhonda Fleming). I have a feeling I've seen this one before. It's directed by Budd Boetticher, so I think I might have seen it several years back when TCM premiered its documentary on Boetticher and ran a night of his films.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Robert Walker, teen idol?

As I briefly mentioned yesterday, TCM is spotlighting teen idols instead of a regular Star of the Month this June. Every Thursday night, TCM is running films starring actors who were obviously there for the young generation. TCM is only highlighting the first three in its online schedule, although I think that's almost standard practice: I could swear when they've had a Star of the Month whose movies continue into the morning, the later films don't get shown as being part of a Star of the Month salute. (Also, TCM doesn't highlight any morning themes, such as today's birthday salute to Virginia McKenna.)

The first three stars are Elvis Presely in Jailhouse Rock at 8:00 PM (an obvious choice), followed by Pat Boone in what I think is the TCM premiere of All Hands on Deck at 10:00 PM. Was Boone really a teen idol? Having been born in 1972, I tend to think of Boone as one of the older generation, even though he was in his early 20s when he had his first big hits in the 1950s. Still, his singing style sounds more like a Perry Como instead of the "rebellious" Elvis or the other early rock and roll types. Third is obvious teen idol James Dean in the overrated Rebel Without a Cause at midnight. I'd think that the fourth movie, even though not highlighted by TCM's online schedule, still stars a teen idol, that being Tab Hunter in The Girl He Left Behind at 2:00 AM. He still would have been in his mid-20s at the time the movie was made, and I think was put in a lot of his movies for the teenage girls (and, I suppose the gay guys).

But the last choice is one I'm not sure whether it fits the bill or whether it's just there to fill a two-hour slot in the schedule: Robert Walker in See Here, Private Hargrove. Walker would have been in his early 20s when he made this service comedy during World War II, but my knowledge of the teen idols of the 1940s is even less than my knowledge of the 1950s teen idols, who seem far more prominent thanks to being part of the Boomer generation's culture more or less (even if none of them were actually born after 1945). Would there even have been teen idols while there was a war on?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The immigrant experience

I haven't been watching that much TCM lately. Has TCM been running promos for their "Immigrant Experience" series that is one of this month's spotlights? Every Wednesday night in June, TCM will be showing movies highlighting the experiences of people either trying to get to America, or their lives once they get here. The whole shebang kicks off tonight at 8:00 PM with America, America, which is director Elia Kazan's three-hour look at his own family's experience, or at least a dramatization of that experience.

Come to think of it, I also haven't seen any mention of this month's Star of the Month substitute, which will be a look at teen idols every Thursday night in prime time. The times I have had TCM on, I've seen promos four the box set of Joel McCrea westerns, which makes me wonder what movie TCM was getting the rights to from Universal that has been making htem run this promo so many times.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Crazy World of Julius Vrooder

What's left of the Fox Movie Channel is showing the quirky little film The Crazy World of Julius Vrooder tomorrow morning at 7:45 AM. I can think of some crazier worlds on film, but the movie is still worth a watch.

Julius Vrooder is played by Timothy Bottoms, and is a veteran who has recently returned home from Vietnam. He hasn't adjusted back to civilian life very well, as he's living in the local VA hospital where he's being examined for his mental health problems. Amazingly, however, the hospital seems to be open enough about letting him come and go as he pleases, as he spends part of his time trying to keep up the spirits of the other patients, and part of the time in his bunker.

When I say "bunker", I really do mean "bunker". Vrooder has constructed an underground shelter for himself not too far from the hospital, in the wooded area just next to one of those cloverleaf-style highway interchanges. It's a fairly elaborate thing, too, as Julius has tapped in to the utility lines enough to get himself a bit of electricity and has figured out how to get himself free phone service too, much to the chagrin of the phone company which seems to notice every single illicit call that's made, but can't figure out where they're coming from.

Mixed up in all of this is Zanni, a nurse and girlfriend of one of the doctors (played by Barbara Hershey, who is credited here as Barbara Seagull). Julius fall in love with her, and charms her to the point that he's willing to take her to his bunker for dinner. Zanni, meanwhile, begins to feel for Julius, almost to the point that we all begin to wonder whether he's the one who's sane and it's the rest of the world that's off its rocker. And perhaps when the phone company finally finds out who's been stealing their service and where that bunker is, Zanni might just defend Julius too.

There's nothing particularly earth-shattering about The Crazy World of Julius Vrooder, but it's a charming little movie. Some of the characters and plot devices are almost stereotypes: the crazy guy who's actually saner than everybody else, and the patient falling in love with a doctor or nurse. To be fair, though, I don't know if this movie could have been made about veterans of previous wars. The plot expects us to be firmly on Julius' side, despite the fact that he's stealing electric and phone service. I think the Production Code enforcers might have had a problem with that.

The Crazy World of Julius Vrooder, being a slight little movie without really big stars or true studio backing (it was produced by Hugh Hefner and only distributed by Fox), it hasn't gotten a DVD release yet. Perhaps with the new Fox Cinema Archive it might in the future.

Monday, June 4, 2012

The MOD squad

I'm not certain how long it's been since the Time/Warner conglomerate started the Warner Archive Collection and its "manufacture-on-demand" (hence the MOD in the title) process. Thankfully it's been a success, as we can see by other studios having started their own manufacture-on-demand schemes to put their old movies on DVD. The latest studio to do this is Fox, which will be starting a Fox Cinema Archives collection sometime later this month. The link is to an article in the New York Post which contains a goodly number of posters and publicity stills not only of some of the Fox movies, but, in the first half of the article, about the work David O. Selznick did when he was at RKO, so the article as a whole is well worth a read.

As for the Fox Cinema Archives, the article says that the first, fairly modest, release will see three films come out on DVD. I've recommended Rings on Her Fingers and the underrated Diplomatic Courier before; the third movie is Sweet Rosie O'Grady, one of those 1940s era Fox musicals which aren't necessarily my favorite genre, but I know there are people who like them (and it's not as if they're bad films; they're just not my taste). Two more movies I've blogged about are listed as getting a MOD release later in the year: Van Heflin's The Raid, and Hudson's Bay.

Now if only I had the money to get all the movies I'd love to watch again on DVD....

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Another season of "Essentials Jr."

Bill Hader returns for his second season as the host of TCM's "Essentials Jr.", which shows movies that are supposed to be enjoyable for the whole family. Presumably, there's also an attempt to get the younger set interested in classic films. The first entry this season is airing tonight: Henry Fonda in 12 Angry Men, at 8:00 PM.

I'm sure I've said something similar before, but it must be tough to program "Essentials Jr." and I'm glad I don't have to do it. I think my first exposure to 12 Angry Men was in my sophomore year of high school when we read the original teleplay in English class. As such, it's one of those movies that might be good for an adolescent audience, but I'm not so sure if it's good for the younger kids, who will probably just find it boring. (I don't think there's anything offensive in the movie; it's just talky and not the sort of thing that will hold the attention of the younger kids.) To be fair, of course, what interests older kids and younger kids are two things that are probably not very much the same. Ditto what interests boys and what interests girls.

Perhaps it's time for TCM to dust off a few more literary adaptations and make them "Essentials Jr." films.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

For the last time, it's not Baby Jane

Coming up in the wee hours of tomorrow morning, at 4:00 AM on TCM, is the entertaining What Ever Happened to Aunt Alice?. It's a movie that's also almost as disturbing as yesterday's selection Pretty Poison, albeit it in a different way.

Ruth Gordon plays Clare Marrable. At the beginning of the movie, we see her as a new widow, learning about her husband's business dealings, which suffice it to say weren't very successful. In fact, he's gone so heavily into debt that he borrowed against the insurance, and almost everything will have to be sold off, with the exception being a few things in his briefcase, such as a stamp album. What's a poor little old lady to do? Clare decides to move to the Arizona desert so that she can be closer to her daughter and son-in-law. She still wants to live in the style that her late husband mortgaged everything to provide for her, though, so there's a bit of a dilemma, which Clare resolves in a neat, if somewhat illegal way: she defrauds the housekeeper, kills her, and buries her in the spot where Clare is planting a row of pine trees. The trees are going to use the dead bodies for food, thereby neatly destroying the evidence. Clare then carefully selects another housekeeper who has no family to worry about her disappearance, and repeats the process.

Enter Alice Dimmock (Ruth Gordon). She's the latest in the line of housekeepers. However, she's more than just a housekeeper. It turns out she was an acquaintance of one of the earlier housekeepers, Miss Tinsley (Mildred Dunnock, whose appearance is too brief thanks to the plot), and she's worried about what happened to Tinsley. So while she's ostensibly working for Clare, she's also trying to snoop around as unobtrusively as possible and figure out what's going on. She's helped unwittingly by the fact that Clare has some more obvious snoops to deal with, in the form of a young woman and her son, and their dog who keeps wanting to dig in the garden where those pine trees are.

I should point out here that I'm not giving too much away. This is more of a suspense movie than a mystery, at least in the Hitchcock sense where we've been let in on what's going on. It's revealed pretty early that Clare is a murderess, and the progress of her killing spree is shown often enough through shots of the line of pine trees, a device which is actually macabrely entertaining. I don't really want to go into too much detail about what happens after Alice starts working for Clare, except to say that this is the point where the movie really starts to get fun.

Geraldine Page is a hoot as Clare. Murders aside, she's still not the nicest employer to work for by a long shot, and you wonder how anybody could put up with this treatment long enough to get murdered. But Clare was used to luxury, and dammit, those housekeepers better keep giving her that luxury! Ruth Gordon is also quite good as Alice, a woman who seems to know how to put up with a difficult boss. She's also got the sort of spunk that you would have thought only Glenda Farrell from 35 years earlier might have had. It all comes together to make a movie that's a hell of a lot of fun.

What Ever Happened to Aunt Alice? has gotten DVD releases, but they seem to be out of print.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Pretty Poison

I've been commenting quite a bit on how TCM seems to be doing better when it comes to getting movies from Fox since the end of the Fox Movie Channel as it was at the end of last year. Another example of this is Pretty Poison, which TCM will be showing again tomorrow afternoon at 1:15 PM.

Anthony Perkins plays Dennis Pitt. At the beginning of the movie, we see Dennis as he's being let out of prison, talking with his probation officer (John Randolph). Dennis committed an arson that resulted in the death of somebody in the house he burned down, but in reality he's also mentally ill, thinking people are out to get him. He's been released to a small town in Massachusetts, where a job has been found for him at the local mill. Dennis copes by creating an elaborate fantasy to keep people from discovering his true identity, and generally avoiding his parole officer.

One day, in an attempt to escape the parole officer, he meets high school senior Sue Ann (Tuesday Weld). She's got her own problems, above and beyond the typical teen problems, in that her father died, and her mother (Beverly Garland) is dating another man who doesn't particularly seem to care for her, so she has to sneak around, making her a perfect foil for Dennis. Dennis creates a ruse that he's from the CIA and that he's working at the mill because there are people trying to use it to dump chemicals in the river to drug the people. The only thing to do is sabotage the mill. They do this one night, but in the explosion that happens the next morning, one of the workers dies, and the resulting police investigation naturally begins to lead to Dennis.

Dennis of course needs more help from Sue Ann, but at this point he begins to find out that there's more to Sue Ann than he knew when he first met her. It's really hard to go into much more detail at this point without giving away the ending, which is quite the surprise, and makes the movie more disturbing and worth the viewing. It only runs about 90 minutes, but to be fair the beginning part with Perkins before his relationship with Weld takes off is even a bit slow. Perkins, and especially Weld, are excellent.

Pretty Poison has gotten a DVD release.