Sunday, August 16, 2015

Against the Crowd

The blog Dell on Movies (which I'll have to get around to adding to the blogroll) is running a blogathon that's fairly simple to take part in. The theme is Against the Crowd, which means taking one movie that has very high ratings and tell people why you dislike it, and one movie that has very low ratings and tell everybody why you dislike it. I'm going to have to violate the rules a bit, though. The rules call for using Rotten Tomatoes' ratings, but the site screws up every browser on my creaky XP desktop, and the images on my smartphone can't be saved as far as I can tell. So I'm going to be using the backup IMDb ratings. Besides, the film I like doesn't have a Rotten Tomatoes rating.

The movie I dislike is an easy selection: Doctor Zhivago. I've mentioned my dislike of this movie on a number of occasions, most recently when Omar Sharif dropped dead. I was a Russian major in college, and although my Russian isn't anywhere near as good as it used to be, I did read the book in the original Russian. The book has two epilogues, one which occurs several years after Zhivago's death and involves the story of the love child. That's what opens the movie, thereby giving the story away. (The other epilogue is Zhivago's poems, obviously untranslatable to the medium of cinema.) There's also a strong hint of socialist realism in the movie, especially in the ending, which is not there in the book. After all, there's a reason the Soviet authorities wouldn't publish it and didn't want Pasternak to go to Stockholm to pick up his Nobel Prize. And don't get me started on the balalaika music. It reminds me of the way Tolstoy would wax poetic about the Russian peasant when the peasants' lives were brutal and harsh.

As for the movie I like, I'll have to pick one that's not so well known: Untamed Youth. A lot of the votes on IMDb must be from people mocking this as a piece of 1950s schlock aimed solely at the teen market, or those who wanted to ogle Mamie van Doren's assets. To be fair, the movie has definite flaws, but it's the sort of movie that's just a heck of a lot of fun. There's a good villain; Lurene Tuttle does a fairly good job as the judge; and there's some surprising shock value. The musical numbers are beyond ludicrous, of course, and that might be part of the reason that people give the movie such a low rating, but they're fun too because they're so ludicrous.


Wendell Ottley said...

Doctor Zhivago has been on my to-watch list for quite some time. I do know that it's highly regarded so now I'm doubly curious about it. Haven't seen Untamed Youth, either, but you also got me interested in that because...Mamie Van Doren. Thanks a bunch for participating. Adding you to my blogroll!

Ted S. (Just a Cineast) said...

Thanks for running the blogathon.

It was a choice between Untamed Youth or Teen-Age Crime Wave, one of those 50s "good girl winds up with the wrong crowd" films that apparently I've mentioned quite a few times without doing a full-length post on. But Untamed Youth has Mamie Van Doren as well as early rock star Eddie Cochran as one of the folks stuck in juvenile prison.

Anonymous said...

Oooh, these are fun picks, I like a little rocking of the boat!

Ted S. (Just a Cineast) said...

Thank you for your kind words.

Of course, there are a lot of 50s movies that get undeservedly low ratings.

joel65913 said...

I like Doctor Zhivago more than love it. It's got some beautiful set pieces and Julie Christie, who is a huge personal favorite, but it's often ponderous. I watched it through once which was enough for me.

I haven't seen Untamed Youth in years but as with all low budget Mamie Van Doren movies, 3 Nuts in Search of a Bolt, Sex Kittens Go to College, etc. it has its drive-in charms. My favorite is Girls Town with the ludicrous casting of Mel Torme and Paul Anka as toughs and a wacky theme song.