Thursday, June 30, 2016

Sex Kittens Go to College

So I watched Sex Kittens Go to College over the weekend. It's available on a terribly overpriced Warner Archive DVD, so if you want to watch it now instead of waiting for it to show up on TCM again, you can.

The opening credits start off with Dr. Zorch (Louis Nye), a professor using the latest and greatest computer circa 1960, Thinko, to help his college come up with a new dean for the science department; helped by his assistant Dr. Carter (Pamela Mason). Thinko, which is shaped like a robot, comes up with Dr. Mathilda West (Mamie Van Doren), who's got 13 doctorates (I think; it's easy to lose count when you've got that many). So they hire her sight unseen, and as is the case in those old college movies, seemingly the entire campus comes out greet her, including co-eds Jody (Tuesday Weld) and Suzanne (Mijanou Bardot; yes, she's Bridget's kid sister), and PR guy George Barton (Martin Milner).

And then they see Dr. West. Unsurprisingly, they don't think of her as a college professor, because back in those days college professors didn't look like Mamie Van Doren, I suppose. Dr. West has a predictable effect on everybody, most notably star football player Woo Woo Grabowski (played by Norman "Woo Woo" Grabowski because apparentlythe writers ran out of ideas). Woo Woo faints ever time he gets too close to a pretty woman, so Dr. West decides to help him over that. Using her doctorate in psychology, mind you. Not in the way you'd think.

If you think that's an inane plot, there are other plot strands which are equally inane. One is that Dr. West has a past, and you can probably guess what that past is if your dean looks like Mamie Van Doren. Apparently people aren't allowed to redeem themselves by becoming college professors. But that plot strand winds up with Dr. West hypnotizing the other doctors and making them part of a nightclub show. That past could jeopardize a large donation from "Admiral" MacPherson (Jackie Coogan).

And then there are the people who get off the train with Dr. West, although they're not with her, if you get what I mean. Boomie (Mickey Shaughnessy) and Legs (Allan Drake) are looking for Sam Thinko, not realizing that it's a computer. They're clearly shady characters, although why exactly they're looking for Thinko isn't revealed until late in the movie. It's just obvious that they're supposed to be the bad guys, because this movie is nothing if not unsubtle.

Well, Sex Kittens Go to College is so much more than unsubtle, on the terrible side. The plot, such as it is, is miniscule, difficult to follow at times, and makes little sense. It doesn't even have the benefit of being a series of sketches. The acting, for the most part, is horrible. Everybody is either wooden (Milner) or overbroad (Bardot, who apparently decided to turn the French accent up to 11). Perhaps worst of all, the print TCM showed was the American cut; apparently there was a version shown in Europe that included an extra 10 minutes that included a burlesque act. And on quite a few occasions, Sex Kittens Go to College doesn't even make it to the "so bad it's good" level.

So if you want to buy the Warner Archive video, go ahead. I'd recommend waiting for it to show up on TCM again.

Somebody else's screencaps

I noticed a couple of days ago that Scotty Moore died at the age of 84. Moore was one of Elvis Presley's backing guitarists, back in the early days; being a movie blogger, I didn't think much about it.

But then, somebody over at the TCM boards mentioned Moore's death, pointing out that Elvis' backing musicians had appeared in Jailhouse Rock, which I suppose makes sense since Elvis' character in the movie is an up-and-coming singer. So you can see Moore there, just behind Presley's left shoulder, playing away on the guitar.

Not that Moore's death will make the TCM Remembers piece at the end of the year, of course (and not that it should). But I was favorably impressed with those screencaps.

I've got a couple of movies on DVD I haven't seen before; someday I'll get around to watching them and making some screencaps on my new computer to put up with the inevitable blog posts about them.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

TCM's Guest Host for July 2016

So somebody posted over at the TCM boards that TCM announced there's going to be a guest host on TCM in July for Robert Osborne. On Friday and Saturday nights, Dave Karger, a writer for Entertainment Weekly and a reporter for NBC's Today show, will be handling the hosting duties.

I presume there will be whoever is doing the spotlight either one or two nights a week with Ben Mankiewicz picking up the slack the rest of the nights. Either way, Robert Osborne should probably just call it a career. As I've said several times the past few months, the man is now 84 years old and more than beyond the age where nobody would have a problem with it if he just decided to say he'd prefer to spend the rest of his life doing whatever. That having been said, he probably likes doing the wraparounds for TCM. A lot of us movie fans would love the opportunity to do them if only for a night, not that we'd be any good.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Treasures From the Disney Vault, June 2016

Tonight sees the latest installment of Treasures From the Disney vault on TCM, the irregular programming block of stuff that Disney deigns to let air on one of the non-Disney channels.

Nights in the past have generally kicked off with a block of cartoon shorts, but it looks like tonight is kicking off at 8:00 with The Parent Trap, in which Hayley Mills plays a pair of twins who bring her divorced parents (Maureen O'Hara and Brian Keith) back together.

There are two blocks of shorts, one at 10:15 PM and one at 12:45 AM; the second block includes Flowers and Trees, the first three-strip Technicolor cartoon. Disney had exclusive use of the three-strip process for animation for several years in the 30s. (I think the 10:15 block has the traditional Disney characters; Flowers and Trees doesn't.)

Perhaps the most interesting thing to air tonight might be the documentary Waking Sleeping Beauty, at 11:00 PM. This is about the animation department in the late 80s and early 90s, which saw a renaissance for the company before they bought up Pixar and became what we have today. Who remembers the animated features released immediately before The Little Mermaid in the mid-to-late 80s? I had to look them up: The Brave Little Toaster and Oliver and Company?

Monday, June 27, 2016

A couple of foreign obituaries

German actor Götz George died last week at the age of 77, but his death was only made public within the past day or two. George was mostly known in the German-speaking countries, but one movie that I saw him in ages ago and have been wanting to see again ever since is Schtonk!, a fictionalization of the infamous Hitler Diaries scandal of the early 80s, when a fraudster produced what he claimed were Hitler's diaries, and sold the publication rights to one of Germany's most popular magazines. George plays the journalist in Schtonk! I don't think it's ever been released to DVD in North America, even though it was Oscar-nominated in the Best Foreign Language film category.

For those who can read Italian, you can read about the passing of Bud Spencer, who died today aged 86. Spencer was Italian, so that's obviously a stage name, taken from Budweiser beer and Spencer Tracy. Spencer appeared in several spaghetti westerns in the late 1960s and 1970s that apparently have cult status amongst a certain segment of film fandom; I've never been quite so big a fan of the spaghetti westerns or the more low-brow Italian cinema of the 1960s, so I don't know that much about Spencer myself.

The bridge is out

So the bridge on the main road I take to work every morning is under repairs. There's a detour, but thankfully it only makes my 4-mile commute a 6-mile commute. And since I work the early shift it's not as if there's much traffic anyway.

But of course this being a movie blog, that's not why I'm mentioning it. I got to think about movies with bridges being out of commission as a plot point.

I think there are a lot of them in old westerns with the railroads, since trying to build railroads was a theme in several of those westerns And as a general rule, I find myself reminded of more railroad bridges either being out or rickety than road bridges. I seem to recall Buster Keaton tries to burn the bridge behind him in The General. Definitely in Tycoon John Wayne has to deal with a shoddy railroad bridge he had to build quickly because his boss wasted his time making him try to tunnel through the mountain instead.

The bridge may not be enough to support the weight of a train in Ring of Fire, either, although they've also got the pressing issue of a massive forest fire they're trying to guide the train through. (Now if TCM could just get a wide-screen print of this one.)

And then there's The Cassandra Crossing, where the authorities don't really care if the bridge goes down, because then it will take a bunch of people carrying a contagion with it. Cruel, but what if these people infected all of Europe?

As for road bridges being down, there's one that's a plot point in Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House. The bridge being out means that Cary Grant is stuck in New York City, while his wife (Myrna Loy) is in the house out in Connecticut. The kids are on Grant's side of the bridge although much closer to home. However, their lawyer (Melvyn Douglas) gets trapped on the house side of the bridge and has to spend the night in the house with Loy, which of course leads Grant to fear the worst.

Any other good "bridge down" movies on your mind?

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Coney Island

Tonight's Silent Sunday Nights lineup is a pair of movies with Buster Keaton. First, at midnight tonight, is Go West. That one has Buster eventually becoming a ranch-hand, and then driving a herd of cattle through the crowded streets of Los Angeles. As of this writing there's a Youtube posting, but the movie was from 1925, which means that it's not in the public domain the the video could be pulled at any time due to copyright restrictions.

The second movie, at 1:15 AM, is the short Coney Island. This is from much earlier in Keaton's career, in 1917 when he was still working with Fatty Arbuckle. Since it's before 1923, it is in the public domain, so the Youtube videos of it shouldn't be taken down. Well, I suppose if they use music that's not in the public domain that might be a problem. Heaven knows there are music rights holders who are nuts about their music showing up in Youtube videos, even brief snippets in the background.

Anyhow, for those who want to see Coney Island, here's one of the Youtube videos:

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Another set of out-of-print stuff

TCM's online schedule -- at least the daily and weekly schedule -- shows whether you can buy a copy of the movie from the TCM Shop. It's not always accurate however. In general, though, it's a fairly good guide as to whether a movie is still in print on DVD.

Several films in the next 24 hours are no longer in print. The first of them, at 12:30 AM tonight (ie. still Saturday night in more westerly time zones) is The Young in Heart. Amazon lists a DVD that only has a few copies left, as well as a streaming option; TCM offers nothing.

Tomorrow morning at 6:00 AM there's Strike Up the Band, which you'd think would be available at the TCM Shop, since Amazon is offering one of those four-film TCM box sets of Mickey Rooney/Judy Garland musicals. (The other three in the set are Babes in Arms, Babes on Broadway, and Girl Crazy.) That having been said, this set seems surprisingly pricey compared to other TCM box sets.

That will be followed immediately at 8:15 AM by Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, which is again available at Amazon but not from the TCM Shop. Amazon claims the DVD release is from 2002. They've also got some non-North American Blu-Ray releases from what I see.

Finally, at noon tomorrow, there's A Little Romance. As I mentioned a year ago, it's one of those movies that received a DVD release years ago but is now out of print. It's a shame since this is such a fun little movie.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Apologies for the brief posting

Irving Pichel in the trailer to Dracula's Daughter (1936)

I was going to do a birthday post today on actor-director Irving Pichel, who was born on this day in 1891. However, it turns out that I did a post on his birthday just last year! This year, however, I'm including a picture which is something I didn't do last year. (Now that I've got a new computer, posting photos has become a bit easier again.)

As regards Pichel, he was in a couple of movies with Bette Davis, most notably Jezebel and Fog Over Frisco. But trying to find any photos of the two of them together is difficult. I can't recall whether Pichel had any scenes with Davis in either movie (although I can't imagine why not), and an image search on both of them together yielded a lot more Davis photos -- and with other co-stars -- than Pichel photos.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

For those who like old-time clips: Hollywood Without Make-Up

Tomorrow morning at 8:15 AM, TCM is running Hollywood Without Make-Up. It's the first of two documentaries made by Ken Murray. Murray had been an actor at the beginning of the talking-picture era, but not being good enough to cut it as an actor, went into doing the emcee thing, at which he became successful.

This also enabled him to have access to the Hollywood stars, so by the early 1960s he was able to get a lot of stars (or their estates) to donate clips to make this look at the more private lives of the stars, and what they did at their palatial homes. There are a lot of clips from San Simeon, where William Randolph Hearst held court with mistress Marion Davies, and a lot of other actors show up as their guests.

There's also a sequence with Walt Disney taking Murray's daughters on a tour of the Disney studio, just a few years before Walt's death.

I don't think this one is available on DVD; the clearances for all those clips would probably be a nightmare. I'm not certain when the other special, Hollywood, My Hometown will be airing, either.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Big Cube

Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to watch The Big Cube. It's available on DVD, so I'm comfortable doing a full-length post on the movie even though it's not on the TCM schedule any time soon.

Lana Turner plays Adriana, whom we see at the beginning performing in a play, as she's an actress. Well, soon to be a retired actress, since she's met a nice man and tells the audience that this is her final performance. That man is wealthy financier Charles Winthrop (Dan O'Herlihy), a widower with an adult daughter Lisa (Karin Mossberg). Lisa isn't particularly happy about the upcoming wedding, but she tries to be an adult about it.

Well, that is until her friend Bibi (Pamela Rodgers) introduces Lisa to some of her friends. This is the late 1960s, and it's the hippie acid scene. Lisa isn't particularly thrilled with Bibi's friends at first, but when her relationship with her stepmother continues to deteriorate, Lisa decides to spend some more time with Bibi and her friends. At least, until they all come over to the Winthrop place and have a "wild" (by the standards of late 1960s movies) party, which Dad and Stepmom walk in on. Dad is none too pleased.

But all of that is about to change. Charles and Adriana go on a vacation that involves going out on the ocean in Charles' yacht, and there's an accident that sends Adriana overboard. Charles jumps overboard to save Adriana; unfortunately, he drowns in so doing. Adriana is now a widow and executrix of a very wealthy man's estate, with the power to assent to his daughter's marriage (at least until she turns 25 and inherits the trust fund). Lisa really doesn't like that.

And she's made a boyfriend among Bibi's friends. Well, it's more that he's gone after her. That boyfriend is Johnny (George Chakiris), a med student dropout who goes after Lisa once he learns that her father was loaded. And when Daddy dies, Johnny comes up with a diabolical plan. He's good enough at chemistry that he can cook up LSD on his own apparently, so he's going to replace some of Stepmom's sedatives with LSD, in the hopes that the freak-out will drive her insane and give Lisa control of the estate!

Now, there are good movies about people who would like to marry against their parents' wishes, and might even be willing to get their parents out of the way to do it. Pretty Poison, for example, is quite entertaining. While The Big Cube has some good ideas, it ultimately begins to go south once the whole idea of driving Adriana crazy through LSD becomes the main plot point. I think there are a couple of reasons for this.

One is that the acid trip scenes are just so dopey, as though somebody in the production had just been given a new special-effects too, and was trying to figure out how best to use it. And then there's Karin Mossberg's acting. This was one of her only reasons, and there's a good reason why, which is that her acting is terrible. Lana Turner doesn't do badly, but she's not helped out by the script in the second half of the movie. In fact, the script is another problem; the attempt to drive Adriana crazy and then her playwright's (Richard Egan) attempt to restore her sanity require too much suspension of disbelief and go on too long.

If there's a bright spot, it's George Chakiris, who actually does fairly well playing such a slimy character, whose smugness makes you hate him even more. But even poor George has to suffer through a tacked-on finale that's an utter mess.

The Big Cube is one of those movies that at times hits the heights of "so bad it's good". Unfortunately, there are also a lot of times when it's just tedious.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Millionaire (1931)

TCM is running a bunch of James Cagney movies tomorrow morning and afternoon. Most of them are fairly early in his career, and in some he's only got a small role. A good example of this is The Millionaire, which is on at 8:15 AM.

The star here is George Arliss. He plays James Alden, an industrialist who has been forced into retirement for health reasons. Not that he's happy about it, as he finds retirement frightfully boring. So, being bored silly, he decides to do something about it, and go back into business, only without telling anybody. He finds an ad in the paper to buy a half share of a service station, and takes it. The other half is owned by Bill Merrick (David Manners), an aspiring architect who is running the gas station so he can raise the money to go into business as an architect. While in college, he met Alden's daughter Barbara (Evalyn Knapp) briefly, not knowing that Barbara's father is his business partner in disguise.

As for the business itself, it's not going so well. That's because the man who sold it, Mr. Peterson, had a good reason for selling it. He knew that a new highway was going to be built and that this new bypass road would make the station he sold obsolete. Indeed, Peterson is opening a new service station alongside that bypass road. Poor Bill.

Except of course that Bill's business partner isn't poor. James decides to use some of his fortune to buy a service station across from Peterson's new station, and go into competition with Peterson, helping Bill along the way. James certainly has enough of a fortune to undercut poor Peterson, who doesn't know what's hitting him. But will James be discovered for who he really is before he can succeed in all his plans?

The Millionaire may not be the first thing you think of when you think of George Arliss, but then again, it's a film with a similar tone to something like A Successful Calamity, which coincidentally also has Evalyn Knapp as George Arliss' daughter. (The part of James Alden's wife is played by Arliss' real-life wife Florence.) Anyway, in The Millionaire, Arliss once again looks like he's having a blast as he puts one over on his opponents and does a good deed for those around him. He's marvelously entertaining, to the point that you half expect him to be a bit of an imp or something.

As for James Cagney, whom I mentioned at the beginning of the post, he plays an insurance salesman from whom Alden wants to buy some life insurance. It's the agent's suggestion that retired people are a bad insurance risk that gives Alden the idea to go back into business. Cagney is the one person who isn't overshadowed by Arliss, but then Cagney had a way of overshadowing his screen partners himself. It was seeing this and the first days' rushes of The Public Enemy that gave director William Wellman the idea of giving Cagney the starring role in the latter movie instead of the supporting role. The rest, as they say, is history.

The Millionaire is, as far as I know, not available on DVD, not even from the Warner Archive. So you'll have to catch the rare TCM showing.

Another night of Bob's Picks, presumably without Bob

I haven't been watching enough TCM in prime time to see if Robert Osborne has been back at all other than the TCM Guest Programmers, and darnit, I forgot to record the one of Candice Bergen's selections I really wanted to see. Oh well. Anyhow, TCM's schedule lists tonight's prime time lineup as a night of "Robert Osborne's Picks", which frankly would be a good way to let him go into retirement: just have him do the one night of picks a month, as well as the Guest Programmers. Supposedly Osborne is finally coming back in July.

Anyhow, Bob's selections are a batch of World War II-era movies, two of which I've recommended and two of which I haven't seen before:

Song of the Islands at 8:00 PM, an early Betty Grable musical;
You Were Never Lovelier at 9:30 PM, in which Fred Astaire falls for spoiled rich girl Rita Hayworth;
Lifeboat at 11:15 PM, Alfred Hitchcock's underrated movie about a group of people from the Allied countries who find they're on a lifeboat with a Nazi; and
Marriage Is a Private Affair at 1:00 AM, with Lana Turner wanting to be a bit of a playgirl.

Monday, June 20, 2016

That really isn't in print on DVD?

I'm mentioned quite a few times how movies get released to DVD but because they're not continually in print, they're not always available to purchase new. I've been looking at the TCM lineup for the next few days, and am surprised at what seems to have gone out of print, if it's ever been released at all.

The morning and afternoon lineup today is a bunch of Errol Flynn movies, including some pretty well-known ones. The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex, for example, is coming on at 3:30 PM. Despite having two big-name stars in Flynn and Bette Davis, this one has fallen out of print. Amazon lists it as having been released both as a standalone DVD and part of a box set of Flynn movies, but both of them are out of print basd on the limited number left in stock.

Tuesday's morning and afternoon schedule is devoted to Jane Russell. Only one of those movies, The Las Vegas Story at 6:30 AM, seems to be available from the TCM Shop. Of course, this particular day's lineup doesn't have quite so many well-known films as the Errol Flynn lineup. I'm not certain if Macao (11:30 AM) is out of print, but at the TCM Shop they only offer an import, while the Amazon offering is even pricier. The Outlaw (2:30 PM) is apparently available via the streaming download route, but not available at all from the TCM Shop.

But the most surprising omission comes tonight. Marie Dressler is the Star of the Month, and we get four more of her movies. Three of them are listed on the TCM schedule as being available for purchase from the TCM Shop; the one that isn't is Min and Bill at 8:00 PM. If you search for it on the TCM Shop, you find something more surprising. It's listed as being on backorder. This is odd, considering that Min and Bill is one of the movies that has been released to DVD courtesy of the Warner Archive Collection. Those are supposed to be MOD, which I always figured meant that you order it, and then they press the DVD and send it to you. This is why it's a bit pricier. And yet the MOD is on backorder? The odder thing is the price is also specifically mentioned as being on sale, and several dollars cheaper than the MOD on Amazon, which does seem to be "in print" if you will.

Those Errol Flynn movies, however, really need to be re-released.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

The things you learn

So I spent yesterday at my niece's graduation party. I mentioned to one of my sisters that just before leaving to head over, there was an owl outside my front window and that I had taken a lousy picture of it on my cell phone. (I haven't uploaded the photo from my phone to the Internet. Besides, the camera in my phone isn't really suited to nature photography; the picture is blurry and you'd only recognize it to be an owl if anybody told you in advance.)

The response I got was surprising. My sister told me that she found owls creepy. Apparently there's a movie I havent seen called The Fourth Kind, from 2009. Obviously taking its name by riffing on Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the "fourth kind" of encounter deals with being abducted by aliens, which apparently take the form of owls on Earth. So that explains why my sister finds the owls creepy. It' not that they can seemingly rotate their heads close to 360 degrees.

The movie claims to be based on true events, in the style of The Blair Witch Project. That, of course, is a hoax. But if you want to see the trailer and see if it creeps you out (it didn't creep me out, for the record), here you go:

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Actuaries, anybody?

So my niece graduated from college last month with a degree in actuarial science, and the graduation party is today. I was thinking about getting her a classic movie wwith an actuarial theme, before deciding that money (well, a gift card) would be a better idea.

Besides, I couldn't really think of any good movies that actually are about actuaries. There are quite a few movies about insurance. The Apartment is one, although I don't know that the movie really explains what Jack Lemmon's character is doing with that adding machine all day. Certainly Fred MacMurray is just a manager and we don't see him doing any of the real work. And of course Shirley MacLaine is only an elevator operator.

I think a bit more common would be insurance fraud, as we can see in Double Indemnity. There's certainly no actuarial work going on there; just Fred MacMurray selling a policy to Barbara Stanwyck, and then Edward G. Robinson investigating when it's time to cash in on that policy because he just knows there's something wrong.

There's a line at the end of The Killers about how the investigation work is ultimately going to save everybody a penny or two a month on their insurance rates, but that's not particularly actuarial work, I don't think.

And there has to be a Crime Does Not Pay short about insurance fraud, but actuaries themselves aren't exactly criminal. Just because you die when their math says you're supposed to doesn't mean they've killed you.

Any good movies about an actuary?

Friday, June 17, 2016

Criss Cross

Late last summer I had the opportunity to DVR Criss Cross. It's coming up again on the TCM schedule tomorrow morning at 6:45 AM. If you haven't had the chance to see it, I can strongly recommend it.

Burt Lancaster stars as Steve Thompson. He's an armored-car driver who grew up in one of the blue-collar parts of Los Angeles and whose family still lives there. However, he made the mistake of marrying Anna (Yvonne De Carlo), who was much too fast for him. The marriage, predictably, didn't work out, a lot like the marriage between the younger Derrys (Dana Andrews and Virginia Mayo) in The Best Years of Our Lives, only without the World War II thing. That having been said, Steve still has a thing for Anna even though they're divorced. He's been wandering around the country for some time following the divorce, but came back to Los Angeles in part to get back in touch with Anna.

Anna is an attraction at one of the local nightclubs, and sured enough, Steve finds her there. There's a mutual physical attraction, although whether they could ever get back together in an ideal world is a good question. This being the world of noir and not an ideal world, the answer is obviously no, they won't get back together. The most obvious reason for this is the fact that Anna has remarried to oh-so-wonderful Slim (Dan Duryea). Slim finds the former married couple passionately kissing, and unsurprisingly, he isn't very happy about it, so he's going to beat the crap out of Steve if he can get the chance.

Steve is bright enough to think on his feet, but not bright enough to come up with a good idea. Steve tells Slim that he was meeting with Anna not so much to meet with her, but because he knew that way he'd be able to find Slim. That's because he's got a proposition for Slim: Slim's gang can rob the armored-car company, with Steve being the inside guy who lets them in on the routine and where and how would be the best way to commit the robbery. Never mind the fact that there's a Production Code; you'd have to be daft to think this is a good idea. But I suppose Steve was thinking that at least he could put off the beating. Because he's got an even dafter idea. He's going to take his share of the loot, and run off with Anna. Or at least, that's his idea.

So we get to the appointed time for the armored car robbery. Some heist movies see the heist itself go wrong; others see things go south only during the aftermath. In the case of Criss Cross, it's the former. Steve didn't want his co-driver to get shot by Slim, but Slim doesn't care, killing the guy while the guy shoots back. The result of all this is that Slim and his gang get away with the money; Anna is in hiding; and Steve is in the hospital where everybody thinks he's a hero. Except for the police detective Ramirez (Stephen McNally), who thinks Steve was in on the robbery. Slim and his men want to get at Steven, while Steven just wants to get at Anna....

Criss Cross is a well-made movie, with excellent noir photography and a pretty good plot to boot, even it many of the plot points will seem familiar to people who have seen a lot of noir. Dan Duryea is his typically good bad-guy; Yvonne De Carlo smoulders as the femme fatale; and Burt Lancaster is good as the idiot who should have known better. Watch also for De Carlo dancing at the nightclub about 20 minutes into the movie. Her dance partner is a very young, uncredited Tony Curtis.

If you haven't seen much noir, Criss Cross wouldn't be a bad place to start. It has been released to DVD, and seems to be in stock at Amazon, although the TCM Shop seems to have it listed on back order.

Forbidden images?

The blogger David Thompson, whose Friday Ephemera I always enjoy, linked this morning to the Open Culture blog, which had posted an old Youtube video claiming to call itself "Forbidden Images".

I have no problem believing that all of the images are from the 1920s, especially since some of the clips have been recognized by film buffs who know more about silent films than I do. The original Youtube video, which you can find here, was uploaded in October 2009 and comes with the following comment from the uploader:

I made this film for the 2007 edition of the 72 Hour Film Fest in Frederick, MD. These scenes come from a reel of 35mm nitrate that was discovered in the projection booth of an old movie theater in Pennsylvania. The projectionist spliced together this reel of banned, censored scenes to meet local moral standards or for late night, "personal" screenings. This is a true reel of Cinema Paradisio.

That's the part I have trouble believing. Anyhow, if you want you can watch for yourself:

Thursday, June 16, 2016

A couple of TV obituaries

Janet Waldo died back on Sunday at the age of 96. You may not recognize the name, and more than likely wouldn't recognize what she looked like, since much of her career was spent doing voiceover work. Her most famous voice is probably Judy Jetson on the TV show The Jetsons She also did the voice of Josie from Josie and the Pussycats. Wikipedia says she had a bunch of small parts in the late 1930s and early 1940s, with the most prominent film in which she appeared probably being the 1940 Vivien Leigh version of Waterloo Bridge.

Ann Morgan Guilbert died Tuesday aged 87. Her most famous role would be as neighbor Millie Helper on The Dick Van Dyke Show. Later in her career, she would play Fran Drescher's grandmother on The Nanny. As for films, she's one of many "technical advisers" in the credits of A Guide for the Married Man, a film I thought I had done a full-length post on years ago, but apparently not.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Fat people

"Nobody likes a fat man except a grocer and his tailor." So said Paul Maxey in The Narrow Margin. There's actually a long tradition of fat men in the movies, although not always used the way Paul Maxey was.

Often times, we get comic relief. Eugene Pallette, once he became corpulent, wound up as a put-upon father (My Man Godfrey) or other comic figure (The Adventures of Robin Hood, where he plays Friar Tuck if memory serves).

Some fat guys are more menacing. Sydney Greenstreet was certainly that way in Flamingo Road and The Hucksters, although some comic relief was mixed in when Greenstreet did The Maltese Falcon. Gotta love that laugh.

Raymond Burr played a good heavy for much of his movie career before he became Perry Mason on TV, but during his movie career he wasn't quite as, well, heavy as he would be by the time he did Ironside on TV.

So who's your favorite movie fat guy?

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

TCM Guest Programmer June 2016

Tonight sees this month's Guest Programmer on TCM: Candice Bergen. As I understand it, this segment was taped several months ago with Robert Osborne. Somebody else (Louis Gossett Jr., I believe) was supposed to be a Guest Programmer earlier in the year and his segment had to be rescheduled due to Robert's illness. Anyhow, Bergen has selected four of her favorite movies and those are on this evening. Bergen's four selections:

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre at 8:00 PM, in which Humphrey Bogart learns that the search for gold can lead to terrible greed and jealousy;
The Graduate at 10:15 PM, in which a man who should be working in plastics (Dustin Hoffman) is seduced by his would-be girlfriend's (Katharine Ross) mother (Anne Bancroft);
The Earrings of Madame De... at 12:15 AM, about what happens when somebody sells jewelry to pay off a debt; and
The French Connection at 2:15 AM, with Gene Hackman and Roy Scheider investigating a drug deal.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Dementia 13

Over the weekend, I got around to watching the DVR recording I made of Dementia 13 from when Roger Corman did the TCM Spotlight alongside Ben Mankiewicz. It's available on DVD, so I'm more than comfortable doing a full-length post on the movie.

The movie starts of with a bit of heavy-handed foreshadowing. John Haloran is taking his wife Louise (Luana Anders) out on a small lake in a rowboat. She offers to take over the rowing, since he's got a bad heart. He refuses, and sure enough, he suffers a massive and fatal heart attack. Poor Louise. There are more pressing problems, such as the fact that with John dead, Louise won't inherit any of John's mother's money. So she disposes of his body in the lake and types up a phony letter to "Mother" saying that John had to go back to the States on urgent business and is going to miss the memorial service.

That's where we start learning about the rest of the family. John had a younger brother Billy (Bart Patton) and an older brother Richard (William Campbell). The three also had a kid sister Kathleen, but she drowned seven years ago. That's what the memorial service is for: every year on the anniversary of Kathleen's death, the immediately family gathers together for a memorial service at her grave, which is on the grounds of an old castle where Mother, the Lady Haloran presumably spends her days. Louise is there to visit but not to take part in the memorial; the same is true for Richard's fiancée Kane (Mary Mitchel).

And then Louise starts to investigate what's going on at this place, since everybody seems a bit off, as though there's something not quite right, but Louise can't quite figure it out. And everybody else figures that there's something not quite right with her, too (that's obviously the case; they don't know she's a widow). Louise decides to try to do something to provoke Lady Halloran by leaving some of Kathleen's old dolls to come floating up in the pond, but it's a bad decision: when she gets out of the pond, she's axe-murdered!

Who's behind the murder, and why? Naturally, that will be explained by the end of the movie, but the murderer hides the body and everybody starts wondering where Louise is. The only sensible person in the place is Lady Haloran's doctor, Caleb (Patrick Magee). And he'd better work fast to figure out what's gone on, because somebody else gets axe-murdered too. How many more deaths are there going to be?

Dementia 13 is one of the first movies directed by Francis Ford Coppola, although he's credited here without the Ford in his name. He had been part of the crew of a previous Corman movie, and apparently there was enough money to make another movie on the ultra-cheap. Coppola quickly came up with a plot, and Dementia 13 is what we see.

Quite a few of the IMDb reviewers give Dementia 13 high marks, presumably because it's a Francis Ford Coppola movie. I wouldn't be quite so generous. The idea is interesting enough, although the plot is a bit muddled in that it's tough at times to figure out exactly what's going on. The movie also looks like the ultra-low-budget film that it is, but you can't blame Coppola for this. Still, Dementia 13 is interesting, and people who know the Coppola oeuvre better than I say that his directorial touches are obvious. Overall, I would recommend the movie, but with the caveat that just because it was directed by Francis Ford Coppola doesn't mean you're going to get something that was up to his later standards.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Coming up on the TCM Schedule

Tonight at about 11:30 PM, just before Silent Sunday Nights, you've got another chance to see From the Four Corners. For those who haven't seen this, it stars Leslie Howard as a man in London who runs into three soldiers from various parts of the (former) Empire. Howard shows them around London and gives them a wonderful perorartion on just what it is they're fighting for -- and what America will be fighting for when we finally get off our asses and join them.

This week's TCM Import is Carnival in Flanders at 2:00 AM. It's a movie that I haven't seen before, but which sounds interesting to me. The plot involves the Spanish Netherlands (up until the early 17th century, the Low Countries were partly a Spanish colony). When the Spanish attack, apparently the men in one town all chicken out and leave, leaving the women to fight off the invaders.

Finally, I'll mention Kind Lady, which is airing at 1:00 PM Monday. Oh wait, that's not the correct link; TCM is actually showing the 1935 movie Kind Lady. It's pretty much the same story as the later movie. Aline MacMahon takes on the role that would be reprised by Ethel Barrymore; Basil Rathbone plays the bad guy. And, of course, there's no young Angela Lansbury.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

The latest reminder of what's back on FXM

Coming up twice tomorrow on FXM Retro is The Day The Fish Came Out, at 3:00 AM and 1:10 PM.

The last time it showed up on FXM, it was in a panned-and-scanned print, which I presume is going to be the case this time. But it's still worth watching, since it's such a strange movie.

Friday, June 10, 2016

B sci-fi, part 2

I mentioned yesterday evening that today has several "creature feature" movies on TCM. Tomorrow brings some more sci-fi, including another creature movie: The Wasp Woman comes on at 6:45 AM. It's a hilarious misfire about a cosmetics executive whose latest formulation turns her into a human-sized wasp, although we don't learn that until close to the end of the movie.

That will be followed at 8:00 AM by Queen of Outer Space, another unintentionally funny movie that has Zsa Zsa Gabor prominently featured in the cast.

But I also wanted to mention something that isn't sci-fi. Before both of these movies, at around 6:00 AM, TCM is re-running the 1949 short Some of the Best, MGM's 25th anniversary production looking at one movie from each of the first 25 years of the studio, and concluding with that great banquet in which all the MGM stars (more than there are in the firmament!) sat down at long tables and the camera pans over them (some of them straight from the set, as they're still in costume). That alone is worth the price of admission.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Creature features on TCM, June 10 and 11 2016

I find that the B sci-fi stuff of the 1950s and 1960s can be incredibly interesting. Not because it's particularly good, although some of is better than it's given credit for, but because some it can be incredibly bad in an unintentionally funny way.

TCM is running several of them in the next 48 hours, mostly in a block of creature-themed movies airing Friday afternoon. These include The Killer Shrews, which I did a half-length post about back in 2010 and mentioned one other time; that one comes on at 3:45 PM. I think, but am not certain, that it's the only one I've seen of the movies that are airing Friday. The rest of the Friday afternoon schedule:

The Black Scorpion at 2:00 PM, about a giant scorpion that gets awakened from below Mexico by volcanic eruptions and earthquakes;
Beast From Haunted Cave at 5:00 PM, about a bunch of crooks on the run in South Dakota who awaken a giant monster; and
The Reptile at 6:15 PM, in which someone gets turned by a spell into a giant reptile.

Of course, in real life, you could never have such giant insects: insects have exoskeletons, and once you get above a certain size the weight of the exoskeleton would crush the poor little (well, big) insects to death. Reptiles, I suppose, are a different story.

More about Saturday's movies tomorrow, since there's something else on the schedule that I also want to recommend.

Leslie Banks, 1890-1952

Leslie Banks (center) with Peter Lorre (l.) and Nova Pilbeam (r.) in The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934)

Today marks the birth anniversary of British actor Leslie Banks, who was born on this day in 1890. Banks is one of those names you'll see in the cast of some really interesting 1930s and early 1940s movies, although you may not recognize the man. He's the father of the kidnapped child in the first Hitchcock version of The Man Who Knew Too Much, a role James Stewart would take 20 years later. There's also the bad guy in The Most Dangerous Game, or Uncle Joss (ie. the uncle of the Maureen O'Hara character) in another Hitchcock movie, Jamaica Inn. (I thought I'd done a longer post on that film.)

In other roles, you can find Banks in Fire Over England, playing Dudley, the Earl of Leicester, or Went the Day Well, an interesting movie about a hypothetical Nazi takeover of an English village in preparation for a Nazi invasion, done while the war was still on in 1942.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Ooh, a Traveltalks box set!

Courtesy of Rupert Pupkin (the blogger, not the kidnapper) comes news that the Warner Archive has released a 3-disk box set of 60 Traveltalks shorts. I love the old Traveltalks shorts, so this is one I'm actually thinking about purchasing. Except that it's a Warner Archive set, which means that it's a bit more pricey (list price $29.99) than most of the other DVDs I'd buy.

That having been said, the fact that the set is being released as Volume 1 means there's a possibility of a Volume 2 and a Volume 3. I'd have to look it up to see exactly how many shorts James FitzPatrick made, but I'm pretty certain it's in the low 200s, which definitely means enough shorts for three box sets and possibly enough for four.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Sir Peter Shaffer, 1926-2016

The death has been announced of playwright Sir Peter Shaffer, three weeks after his 90th birthday.

Some of Shaffer's plays were turned into movies, most notably Amadeus and Equus. The movie version of Equus happens to be on the TCM schedule at 2:00 AM Thursday (ie. overnight between Wednesday and Thursday or late Wednesday evening out on the west coast) as part of the TCM "Stage to Screen" spotlight.

Peter was also the twin brother of playwright Anthony Shaffer, whose play Sleuth was also turned into a movie.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Up and running

So I've finally gotten my new computer up and running reasonably well. It's got a DVD player, which means that I can take screencaps directly from any DVDs I've got, at least if I can figure out what I'm doing. I didn't think to save the image under a name that I could easily remember it.

As for the capture above, that's Alec Guinness in The Captain's Paradise. Some months back I ordered a five-movie set of Guinness' work, mostly because I wanted The Lavender Hill Mob; this one is the one movie in the set I hadn't seen before. So I popped it into the DVD player to see if it would play (it did) and then fast forwarded to an arbitrary point in the movie to see if taking vidcaps would work (it looks like it does).

Sunday, June 5, 2016

An announcement and a reminder

It looks as though I'll finally be migrating over to the new computer today, so this is just a brief post. But, I wanted to remind everybody about the airing tomorrow at 3:30 AM of Satan Never Sleeps over on FXM Retro. I mention it again because in the cast is Burt Kwouk, who died a week and a half ago.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Updates for June 4-5, 2016

So I made a point of tuning in to TCM last night to see if Robert Osborne was on. Last night was the first night of an every-Friday-in-June salute to director Billy Wilder, and it was being presented by... Madeleine Stowe. So yet again no Robert Osborne. I have no idea if he's going to be back for The Essentials tonight.

I missed the opening movie this afternoon, presented by new TCM host Tiffany Vazquez, but made it a point to tune in for the second movie. I wish TCM could have recycled the old weekend afternoon intro that they had for Ben Mankiewicz, the one with the man running through the streets with a reel of film to get to the projection room on time. But, I can't remember if that was in high-definition or not. If it was only in 4:3, then of course they had to come up with something new. It's more that I don't care so much for the intro they did come up with. It's a kaleidoscope-type design, which I personally found visually uncomfortable for some reason I can't quite explain.

As for Tiffany the presenter, she came across like a lot of people who aren't professional broadcasters; that is, a bit nervous and doing a less-than-perfect job of using her voice to sound spontaneous or displaying the proper emotions with her voice. I think I mentioned when blogging about The Bellboy many years ago about the presence in the cast of Bob Clayton. Clayton was an announcer on game shows, something which requires you to use your voice not just to announce the contestants and host, or to describe prizes, but also to to sound enthusiastic without sounding over the top. It's a skill that serves Clayton well in his scenes with Jerry Lewis, and a skill that's difficult to acquire. Pretty much anybody can read words off sheets of paper (if, say, you're in radio like I was at college) or a teleprompter. But doing it and sounding right is hard, and Tiffany was, I think, not there yet. (Not that I ever got anywhere close to that.)

Friday, June 3, 2016

Post-Memorial Day reminders

With all the war movies on TCM last weekend, there was no place for the usual Saturday morning fare. The Bowery Boys are normally on around 10:30 AM Saturday, while there's a shorter series on before that. The Bowery Boys return tomorrow morning at 10:30, but the previous series finished last week. So instead, starting at 9:30 AM, we get the first two chapters the the 1936 Ace Drummond serial. TCM's schedule lists the chapters as starting at 9:30 AM and 10:00 AM, but there are 13 chapters in the serial, which in total runs about 260 minutes. So I'm guessing that there will be some filler between the first two chapters. Also, with 13 chapters, the serial should run for the next six or seven Saturdays, depending on whether they decide to put the last three chapters in one hour without a break. I haven't seen this one, so I don't know exactly how long each chapter is.

After the Bowery Boys movie, it's the début of Tiffany Vazquez, the new TCM host. She gets to present Rebel Without a Cause (my condolences to her) as her first movie, followed at 2:00 PM by Dial M For Murder, which is much better.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Shock Corridor

Another movie that I watched over the Memorial Day weekend which does happen to be available on DVD is Shock Corridor. However, it only seems to be available on a Criterion print, which is a bit pricey, so you may want to look for it to show up on TCM again.

Peter Breck plays journalist Johnny Barrett, and we see him at the beginning of the movie talking to a couple of psychologists about how he's attracted to his sister. Only, we quickly learn that this is not the truth; Johnny is trying to act like somebody who would otherwside get committed to a mental hospital for having an incestuous desire for his sister. And needless to say, the "sister" -- she's actually his girlfriend -- Cathy (Constance Towers), doesn't like this idea. That's because it's all part of a risky scheme. Apparently, there was a murder at the state mental hospital, and Johnny has the brilliant idea that if he can solve the murder, he'll win a Pulitzer Prize. However, to solve the murder, he's going to have to get into the hospital and talk to the three witnesses, and to do that, he's going to have to become a patient there himself: the three witnesses are all patients, too.

Obviously, there wouldn't be a movie if Johnny didn't wind up getting himself committed, and that's what eventually happens. The three witnesses are Stuart (James Best), who "turned" as a POW in the Korean War, and now fancies himself to be a Confederate general at Gettysburg; Trent (Hari Rhodes), who lost his sanity as a result of the racism he endured being the student to integrate a southern university and now considers himself to be the founder of the Ku Klux Klan; and Boden (Gene Evans), a Nobel Prize-winning scientist who now thinks of himself as a child artist. It's not easy for Johnny to get close to these guys, and as he tries, he also has to go through his own treatment. When you consider that the treatment involves prescription drugs, and in one instance electric shock therapy, you have to wonder what spending all that time in the mental asylum is doing to poor Johnny's mind....

Shock Corridor was directed by Samuel Fuller, the maverick film director who was always unafraid to tackle controversial topics and do so in a compelling way. As such, the movie is full of interesting images. Cathy's real job is as a showgirl at a nightclub, and Fuller shows her routine as being incredibly creepy. Another scene, which has Johnny trying to get out of dance therapy, has him walk in to a room full of nymphomaniacs, who obviously want him. One of the fellow patients who wasn't a witness, Pagliacci, sings opera and looks the part of an opera singer with his corpulent frame and lush beard. And then there are the three witnesses, all of whom get interesting scenes to do.

That having been said, Shock Corridor has serious plot problems. First off is Johnny's scheme to get into the hospital. Stuart Whitman in Shock Treatment a year later did it much better. Here, there's no way the authorities would believe Cathy was Johnny's sister; a cursory investigation would reveal the ruse and there goes your plot. Johnny might get a story out of the experience, but really, would anybody believe the three insane people, especially since only one of them actually reveals the murderer? The police supposedly did investigate, and while I have no illusions about the quality of police work, surely they wouldn't have done such a shoddy job.

That having been said, this is a movie you watch not for the plot, but for the images. For that, the movie does deserve at least one watch; it really is that outrageous. But because of its flaws, it's a movie I'd recommend watching first when it shows up on TV (or renting the DVD/stream it if that's possible).

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Marilyn Monroe would have been 90 today

Marilyn Monroe with Louis Calhern in The Asphalt Jungle (1950)

Marilyn Monroe was born on this date in 1926, so why not post some of the pictures I've used of her to illustrate some of my blog posts over the past eight years? Monroe didn't have a particularly big part in The Asphalt Jungle, but I used that one at the top of the post just because it is in some ways so emblematic of Monroe's beauty. The one at left is with Richard Widmark in Don't Bother to Knock, one of her early starring roles at Fox. In fact, I think it's her first starring role at Fox; she had been a supporting player or used in anthologies in her earlier movies

Of course, Monroe's eventual fame and being more remembered than the other Fox stars of the decade means that she's the one who gets to grace the DVD covers, because they'll think more people will buy the DVDs that way if they think they're getting a Marilyn Monroe movie. Such is the case with Love Nest, which is actually a June Haver/William Lundigan movie, but then neither of them had the charisma Marilyn had. (And William certainly didn't have the looks.)

It's tough to say which movie is the definitive Marilyn Monroe movie, since the scene of her dress being blown up by a grate from The Seven Year Itch might be the most memorable single image, while Some Like It Hot is probably the single best movie she made.

TCM June Spotlight: Stage to Screen

TCM is running a big spotlight this month: close to 70 movies that are adaptations of theater plays and musicals. Indeed, it's so big that it's taking up two nights each week. Acting couple Michael McKean and Annette O'Toole will be presenting the movies in prime time, I'm guessing by themselves and not with Ben or Robert.

Wednesday nights see stage plays, grouped more or less by genre: dramas on two nights; comedies another night; history on a fourth; Shakespeare on a fifth. Thursday nights will bring musicals that originated on the stage (as opposed to musicals written directly for Hollywood, of which there are also a lot). These musicals will be presented in rough chronological order, I think of when they showed up on the big screen and not when they were first done on the stage. (I'm not certain of that.)

Supposedly Robert Osborne is coming back to TCM this month, but I have no idea which night Ben Mankiewicz will be doing, since even before Osborne's most recent hiatus Ben was doing one night (I think Thursdays) each week. Certainly by The Essentials on Saturday night we'll find out.