Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Swingin' Along

Most people would probably remember Peter Marshall best from his long tenure as host of The Hollywood Squares. However, he was a singer and actor, and had a nightclub comedy duo together with Tommy Noonan. They made a couple of forgettable movies together. One of those, Swingin' Along, has been in the FXM rotation for a couple of months now, and is going to be on again tomorrow morning at 4:45 AM.

Noonan is technically the lead here, playing Freddy, who is a bit of a failure in life in that he's never been able to finish anything he starts. As a result, he's reduced to delivering wedding cakes for his aunt Sophie (Connie Gilchrist), while he tries to write a song for a contest to find the best new song in San Francisco. He's come up with a hook courtesy of a door chime, but that's about it.

He tries to get a job at a club which is a hangout for a couple of chancers, including Duke (Marshall). He hears the hook and hears about the contest, and realizes there's a chance for him to make a quick buck, representing Freddy and getting him to finish writing the song. Of course, Duke is going to have to be a bit of a con artist too to get that done. For example, Freddy's piano gets repossessed, and Duke comes up with a scheme to get it back.

Along the way, Duke and Freddy run into Carol (Barbara Eden), who serves no real purpose in the movie other than to be some eye candy as Duke tries to woo her. Freddy has a former girlfriend who left him because of his failure to finish anything he started, and she shows up again in the final reel.

There's a reason why Marshall and Noonan aren't well remembered as a team, which is that their movies together aren't very good. Both characters here are intensely irritating, the plot is nowhere near as funny as it styles itself, with scenes involving a runaway piano and runaway sheet music both going on way too long. (Watch for Ted Knight with a bit part at the end of the sheet music scene.) It only runs 74 minutes and is padded out to get there, but even at that it feels way too long.

The highlight of the movie is cameos from a couple of popular musicians of the time, who again do nothing to drive the plot forward and bring the movie to a screeching halt with their songs -- and it says something about the movie that these songs are better than the rest of the movie. Ray Charles sings a song I didn't recognize; Bobby Vee sings the original version of "More Than I Can Say" (you might remember Leo Sayer's version from 1980); and pianist Roger Williams plays the winning song at the end of the movie complete with his trademark piano flourishes.

I don't think Swingin' Along has received a DVD release, and that's not much of a surprise.

Briefs for June 30-July 1

Tonight sees the final night of Ann Sheridan's turn as TCM's Star of the Month. This final night looks at one film each with various people she collaborated with a bunch of times over the course of her career. That's not too surprising, considering she was under contract, and under the studio system, people at the same studio would be a lot more likely to work together multiple times. City for Conquest at 8:00 PM, and representing Sheridan's movies with James Cagney, is as far as I understand now out of print because it's only on that four-film box set of Cagney movies, and not on a standalone Warner Archive disc. The one I'll be recording, since it is on DVD and I haven't blogged about it before, is Juke Girl, overnight at 3:00 AM.

Tomorrow is the 104th birthday of Olivia de Havilland, and it's unsurprising that TCM will be spending the morning and afternoon with her films. The interesting thing is that this time, TCM has taken mostly lesser-known films, with the biggest two probably being the last two, In This Our Life (starring Bette Davis) at 4:15 PM, and The Charge of the Light Brigade (with Errol Flynn) at 6:00 PM.

Carl Reiner died yesterday at the age of 98. I've always thought of him more for his television work, but he did a surprising amount of movie work, both in front of the camera with cameos as well as some more substantial roles, and behind the camera as a director (Oh, God! and others) and screenwriter (The Thrill of It All, in which he plays a bit part too).

A lesser-known name who died yesterday is songwriter Johnny Mandel. He wrote the music for the main theme from M*A*S*H, and won an Oscar for composing a song that's definitely not my favorite and not from a favorite movie of mine, "The Shadow of Your Smile" from The Sandpiper. I believe in the movie it's sung over the closing credits by session singers, but it was covered a bunch of times, so I'll include this Youtube video somebody made of Vic Damone's version over scenes from the film:

Monday, June 29, 2020

Die Brücke

Still going through movies I recorded months ago and am trying to watch to clear up some space on the DVR, I recently got around to watching The Bridge.

The setting is late in World War II, in a small town somewhere in western Germany. A group of seven high school boys of about 16 is discussing what they know about the latest American advance and whether the war is going to go straight through their town in a big way, or just give them a glancing blow. In any case they expect that they're going to get a call-up because the Nazi army needs soldiers badly.

Of course, the war is already lost and calling up such young kids is pointless, something their English teacher knows. He tries to tell the local military commander in the mildest terms possible, because even at this late date in the war to say such a thing is heresy and the Nazis would consider it treasonous.

Still, the war hasn't come quite yet, and the boys are able to enjoy another day of about as close to being happy-go-lucky as you can get when your country is being defeated in a war. Some of them have practical war-related problems, such as their mothers trying to get them sent to farmer relatives in the hopes the kids can be classified as farm labor and kept out of the war. Others have more personal family problems; with parents missing, dead, or separated, the old farts still have physical needs and the kids aren't quite ready for that.

With all that's going on around them, however, the boys all seem willing to do whatever they consider their part to help the fatherland in what they don't seem to realize is going to be a doomed effort. They all get their call-ups, and one of them even goes to the barracks in the middle of the night to get away from his overbearing father.

The boys get about one day's worth of training before the Americans are close enough that the whole platoon has to go off to fight. At this point, at least one officer has a bit of humanity, pointing out that the teens are so green that they might even be a hindrance, so worse than useless. With that, the idea is hatched to have them defend the local bridge in town, until the demolitions crew can get in to blow it up. After all, the bridge is considered relatively unimportant and the Americans might not send much this way. So one sergeant is left behind with the boys, who excitedly set out to defend their bridge.

Of course, in the fog of war, things don't work out as planned. The sergeant goes off to perform some duty, but not having any official orders, is considered a deserter by a patrol he runs into; not being able to prove himself, he's summarily shot by the patrol. And then a few American tanks do come....

The Bridge is an excellent little movie, humanizing the horror of war in a way that most Hollywood movies aren't able to do. You can't help but develop an attachment to these teenaged boys who have no idea what they're getting themselves into, and think that it's a salutary thing. The German military isn't necessarily evil here, making decisions that seem rational but just go wrong, while the child soldiers make plausible mistakes too. That fact that we get to know the boys well before the actual war part of the movie comes is also a huge plus.

The Bridge has been released to DVD on a pricey Criterion Collection disc. If it shows up on TCM Imports again, I can strongly recommend it.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

What's Up, Doc?

Back in April, TCM put out a podcast of interviews between Ben Mankiewicz and director Peter Bogdanovich called The Plot Thickens. In conjunction with this, they ran a couple of Saturday night doubleheaders of movies directed by Bogdanovich, backended with short interviews with the director. One of the movies that I haven't blogged about before is What's Up, Doc?, so I recently sat down to watch it again to do a blog post on here.

At the airport in San Francisco, a man named Smith (Michael Murphy) opens up a red plaid overnight bag, revealing a bunch of documents marked "Top Secret". The government is on to Smith, sending a man after him. Meanwhile, elsehwere in the airport, Howard Bannister (Ryan O'Neal) and his fiancée Eunice (Madeline Kahn) have deplaned, on their way to a conference of musicologists. Howard is a professor who has come up with a theory of early man banging on igneous rocks to create the first music, and is hoping to win a grant from Larrabee (Austin Pendleton), whose organization is hosting the conference. Howard has his rocks in an overnight bag that looks suspiciously like Smith's, although neither has ever met the other.

Checking in to the same hotel as Howard and Smith is wealthy Mrs. Van Hoskins (Mabel Albertson). She's traveling with a bunch of jewels that she should probably put in the hotel safe if you think the hotel safe is a safe place for such stuff. But for now, she's got her jewels in an overnight bag that -- you guessed it -- has the same red plaid pattern as the ones Smith and Bannister have.

Rounding out the cast of characters is Judy Maxwell (Barbra Streisand), a young woman who is aimless in life, having been kicked out of one college after another. She's wound up in San Francisco and it seems as though wherever she goes, she has a stream of chaos in her wake much like Mr. Magoo, not realizing what she's doing. And she too has an overnight bag like the other three, only hers is actually filled with stuff for an overnight stay.

Judy runs into Howard in a moment when he's away from Eunice, and immediately begins to make his life a living hell. She falls in love with him, and tells all the people she runs into that Howard is her husband, which is of course a lie. Howard is a bit of a milquetoast, and the absent-minded professor type, so everything he does is completely ineffective in getting people to believe the truth about Judy, or in getting Judy to stop harassing him.

Everybody but Judy (who doesn't have a reservation) is staying on the same floor of the same hotel, which leads to the next complication that you can guess: the overnight bags are going to be mixed up. This too causes all sorts of problems and chaos, as Howard needs his rocks; Smith and the people pursuing him want those government secrets; and Van Hoskins wants her jewels. Eventually all of the subplots come together in a wild chase throughout San Francisco.

There's a lot to recommend about What's Up, Doc?, which for the most part is incredibly funny. Bogdanovich and the screenwriters (including himself and Buck Henry) were clearly channeling Howard Hawks, especially Bringing Up Baby. But there's one thing I disliked about Bringing Up Baby that's also a problem in spades in What's Up, Doc?, and that's the female lead.

Katharine Hepburn is obnoxious in Bringing Up Baby, clearly only caring about herself and frankly being maliciously happy to cause all sorts of chaos for Cary Grant. Surprisingly, where Hepburn's character is bad in that regard, Streisand's might be even worse if that's possible. She deserved on multiple occasions to have Howard and/or Eunice march her right down to hotel security and have her booted out of the hotel, and possible even arrested if that were legally appropriate.

Still, despite the completely irritating character Streisand plays, What's Up, Doc? is an incredibly funny winner on all levels and one that definitely deserves a watch.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Gods and Monsters

DirecTV had a bunch of free preview weekends during the whole coronavirus lockdown bullshit, and I used one of those weekends to record Gods and Monsters. I thought it was coming up again soon and watched it, but even though it doesn't seem to be on in the next week, it is on DVD, so I don't have to wait to post about it.

Gods and Monsters is based on a book by Christopher Bram, which is a fictionalized hypothetical about what the final months of the life of director James Whale (Ian McKellen) might have been like. Whale is most famous for directing the first two Frankenstein movies, as well as some other very good movies in the 1930s before Universal edited one of his late 1930s movies to shreds, hastening the end of his film directing career.

By 1956, when the film begins, Whale was living in comfortable retirement, until the first of a series of strokes that sapped his mental faculties and ultimately led him to commit suicide by drowning himself in his pool, which he had even though he didn't swim. He had the pool in part because a former lover, David Lewis (David Dukes), had gotten one, As you can surmise, Whale was gay (and this was an open secret in Hollywood); Whale also found the pool useful for pool parties with nubile young men in attendance.

In the movie, Whale lives with his maid Hanna (Lynn Redgrave), who dotes on him even though she as a devout Catholic disapproves of his homosexuality. He's also having very bad flashbacks to his difficult younger life that he can only dull by drugs that he doesn't want to take. Into this comes Clayton Boone (a completely fictitious character created by Bram and played in the movie by Brendan Fraser), a former Marine who lives a meager existence as a gardener and has been hired to tend to Whale's lawn and hedges.

Whale finds that Clayton is good looking and, being gay, decides he wants to keep Clayton around if at all possible. So Whale, having turned to painting and drawing in his retirement, asks Clayton to pose for him. It's good money, although Clayton starts to get a bit unnerved when Whale asks him to take off his shirt.

Clayton, not knowing much about Hollywood, obviously didn't know that Whale is gay, or even who Whale was, and can't convince his friends that he's working for a formerly famous director. Still, Clayton gets drawn more into Whale's orbit, despite being more disturbed when he finds out that his new boss is gay and especially when Whale starts talking more graphically about his past. They didn't use the phrase "too much information" in those days, but sometimes you don't want to hear about other people's sex lives regardless of how conventional it might be.

Now, we know from history that Whale ultimately did commit suicide due to the effects of the strokes, so I'm not really giving anything away. As such, the movie's plot is a bit less important and the movie becomes more of a character study of a dying man who's also losing his sanity, and his friend of sorts who also had a rather difficult life (he only joined the Marines to try to please his father and washed out for health reasons).

With that in mind, Gods and Monsters is a very fine movie, with excellent performances from both McKellen and Fraser. Also putting in a very good performance is Redgrave, who I wouldn't have recognized if I hadn't seen her name in the opening credits. The story at times lets them down, especially in the scene the night before Whale's suicide, but for the most part the story is good too.

If you haven't seen Gods and Monsters before, it's a movie I definitely recommend.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Pacific Liner

Another of the movies that I watched off my DVR because it's available on DVD courtesy of the Warner Archive collection is one from Hollywood's annus mirabilis of 1939: Pacific Liner.

We see from the opening credits that this is an RKO movie directed by one of their most prominent B directors, Lew Landers, so that might temper your enthusiasm for just how good a movie this one is. After the credits, we're told that it's Shanghai in the summer of 1932, and a ship called the S. S. Arcturus is about to set sail for San Francisco. The ship has a new doctor with a past, Doctor Craig Chester Morris.

We're soon introduced to two more members of the crew, the Chief Engineer "Crusher" McKay (Victor McLaglen, quite a ways down from his Oscar-winning days just a few years before), and the ship's nurse, Ann Grayson (Wendy Barrie). Indeed, Dr. Craig signed on for the trip because of his relationship with a long-suffering Ann. Craig has always been a bit of an adventurer, and although Ann loves him and he loves her in return, she really wants him to settle down.

But there's about to be a much more important plot point. Part of Crusher's job is to make certain that the stokers keep the engines going so that the ship can keep good time, although you have to wonder how crewen like Britches (Barry Fitzgerald) are Gallagher (Alan Hale) have the strength and endurance to keep going.

That strength is going to be severely tested when one of the stokers falls ill. The doctor determines that the stoker has... cholera! Sure, it's not a nice disease, although my understanding is that it can be treated in the first world relatively easily. I always thought it was a water-borne illness, but apparently it's somewhat more contagious than that, and the lower decks where the stokers live and work are ordered sealed off so that the infection doesn't spread to the paying passengers. (The other thing obviously not shown of cholera is the explosive diarrhea.)

The stokers don't like that, and things are going to get worse for them when Crusher also falls ill. He's tended to by Ann, and he falls in love with her, making you wonder for a few seconds whether she's going to chose him or Craig, especially because Craig has received an offer to work in Guatemala. Eventually the stokers decide they're going to revolt, leading to the climax.

Pacific Liner is most definitely nowhere near the best movies of 1939. It's got an obvious plot, with no real suspense. There's also copious use of rear-projection that is easy to spot. Still, it's not exactly a bad B movie if you're looking for something that isn't exactly prestigious. It's something you can sit down and watch knowing what you're going to get, and that's not always a bad thing.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Thursday Movie Picks #311: Book to TV adaptations (TV edition)

This being Thursday, it's time for another edition of Thursday Movie Picks, the blogathon run by Wandering Through the Shelves. We're up to the last Thursday of the month, which once again means that it's time for another TV themed edition. In fact, the "Book to TV adaption" theme has been done before, because I know I picked The Love Boat for that one, it being based on a book by former cruise director Jeraldine Saunders. So this time I had to think of three shows I didn't use, and came up with a theme-within-a-theme:

Sherlock Holmes (1954-1955). Based on Arthur Conan Doyle's detective, this one was produced in France by American abroad Sheldon Leonard using British actors (Ronald Howard plays Holmes), although Leonard was producing this for syndication in America. I first saw it on late night TV, I think on the local PBS channel

The Saint (1962-1969). Based on the short stories by Leslie Charteris, the show stars Roger Moore as Simon Templar, who is a sort of detective/spy who helps people the authorities can't or won't help; technically what he's doing is illegal so he's got a police inspector on his case. This one was also syndicated in the US and became popular on both sides of the Atlantic.

The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries (1977-1979). Mysteries based on the stories of "Carolyn Keene" (Nancy Drew) and "Edward Dixon" (Hardy Boys), although both of those are pseudonyms for a bunch of authors. Juvenile detectives the Hardys (Parker Stevenson and Shaun Cassidy) and Nancy Drew (Pamela Sue Martin) team up more or less to sove the cases, although Drew was dropped after the second season.

Another night of worthy movies in TCM's Spotlight on Jazz

TCM has been running a spotlight on "Jazz in the movies" every Monday and Thursday in prime time, and tonight sees a couple of movies that I probably should have mentioned a bit earlier.

The night kicks off at 8:00 PM with New Orleans, a movie with a slightly trite plot (musician falls in love with new sound, only in this case there's also the race aspect), but what sets New Orleans apart is the presence of Louis Armstrong and Billie Holiday. It still doesn't seem to be on DVD, so you'll really want to catch this one.

That's followed at 9:45 PM by the Holiday biopic Lady Sings the Blues, which just aired a month ago but is running again. If you didn't catch last month's showing, you might want to try tonight's.

Third up, at 12:30 AM, is Pete Kelly's Blues, which is Jack Webb taking on jazz as only Jack Webb can, which of course is a double-edged sword. Still, it's also worth a watch.

At 2:15 AM you can catch Blues in the Night which isn't a bad little movie in its own right, but might be more notable for an acting performance by a young Elia Kazan, who rather wisely switched to directing. This one also seems to be out of print on DVD, although Amazon lists it as available on Prime Video.

Finally, at 4:00 AM, there's Rhapsody in Blue, which as you might be able to guess is a biopic on George Gershwin, played here by Robert Alda. It's about as realistic as Lady Sings the Blues; as I understand it, the two actresses who play Gershwin's love interests in the film are playing characters who didn't exist in real life.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020


Another of the movies that I had the chance to watch recently is the oddball comedy Penelope.

Penelope Elcott (Natalie Wood) is a woman who walks into a bank one day, disguised as an old lady. She goes up to one of the tellers, and demands the money, walking away with quite a substantial sum! She then goes into the ladies' room and changes into her normal clothes, enabling her to get away since everybody's looking for an old lady. She then gets rid of more evidence at a thrift shop, before heading off to her psychiatrist, Dr. Mannix (Dick Shawn).

Boy does she have stories for Mannix. Apparently she's been a kleptomaniac for some time, mostly stealing because she doesn't get enough attention from her husband James (Ian Bannen), who is a wealthy banker. Indeed, Penelope robbed the bank she did precisely because it's a big new branch where James is the manager, and robbing it most certainly would get her attention! Not that James would believe it if Penelope told him she had robbed his bank, of course.

Meanwhile, the bank does the natural thing, which is to call the police, who sent Det. Lt. Bixbee (Peter Falk) to investigate. James tells her about the investigation, and invites her to the precinct where he's got to do some of the unpleasant business of identifying things and providing evidence. But this allows Penelope to see how the investigation is going and possibly influence it.

And she's certainly going to have to influence it. After doing some investigation, Bixbee decides that a woman named Honeysuckle Rose committed the crime, and has her arrested. Now, we all know this isn't true, and that Penelope actually did the deed. And because of the reasons she did it, she doesn't want to see an innocent person convicted of the crime she committed, so she finally tells James and Bixbee what really happened. Unsurprisingly, they don't believe her. How can Penelope get out of this jam?

There's a really fun idea behind Penelope, but once again, I found it to be a slightly maddening movie, mostly because of the character of Penelope. The way she's written, manipulating everyone around her, especially Dr. Mannix, you want somebody to take her and literally shake some sense into her. She's supposed to be off-kilter, but for me, she came across more as obnoxious. And I can't imagine the doctor allowing himself to get involved in the scheme the way Penelope does to him in the movie.

Still, Penelope is not a movie without it's charms; it's just more of a movie that's going to be a bit of an acquired taste. People who like kooky characters will probably enjoy it more than people who more reasonable characters.

Penelope has received a DVD release courtesy of the Warner Archive Collection.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Programming notes for June 23-24, 2020

Tonight on TCM continues the look at TCM Star of the Month Ann Sheridan, this time showcasing her in comedy. The night kicks off at 8:00 PM with I Was a Male War Bride, a movie that I actually haven't blogged about before. If I had enough space on my DVR, I'd record it and do a post here; otherwise, I'll have to see if it shows up on Watch TCM. Cary Grant plays a French Army officer just after World War II who falls in love with American WAC Sheridan; the only way he can get to the US legally is as a war bride; comedy and light drama ensue.

It's been seven years since I blogged about It All Came True, which is on overnight at 3:30 AM. Sheridan plays a nightclub singer whose mom owns a boarding house; when a gangster (Humphrey Bogart) holes up in the boarding house, he convinces the quirky tenants to turn the place into another nightclub. Then at 5:15 AM there's Honeymoon for Three, which I think I still haven't seen, except that it's a remake of Goodbye Again which I did blog about back in 2015.

Over on FXM, one that's back out of the Fox vaults is Decision Before Dawn, airing at 7:55 AM. It's preceded at 6:00 AM by Call Northside 777, which I think has been back in the rotation for a little longer. Coming up on Thursday is a new-to-me western, Kid Blue. Hope to get more off the DVR to have room for that one.

Up against those FXM movies, over on StarzEncore Westerns if you have that channel, is Gunfight at the OK Corral, the Burt Lancaster/Kirk Douglas telling of the Wyatt Earp vs. the Clanton Gang story. That one comes on tomorrow morning at 8:14 AM, although it will be on again tomorrow evening.

Bad Company (1972)

During one of the recent free preview weekends, I had a chance to record the movie Bad Company. It's going to be on again, tomorrow afternoon at 2:55 PM on Epix2. (Don't worry if you don't have the Epix package; the movie is on DVD last I checked.)

the year is 1863, which of course means that the Civil War is raging in the US. Both sides need more soldiers, and a group of Union soldiers is going around southern Ohio shanghaiing people who have been drafted but not shown up to serve. This is coming to the Dixon family, as second son Drew (Barry Brown) has been drafted. This, even though their eldest son already died in the war effort. The whole family doesn't want Drew to go off to fight, so they're hiding him from the army.

Drew's plan is to go off to Nevada, soon to become a state, to go mine for silver. Of course, that's going to be difficult, in part because the military might still be looking for him, but more because crossing the west is still an arduous journey what with no transcontinental railroad. The last state before the frontier is Missouri (Kansas and Nebraska wouldn't become states until after the war), so Drew makes his way there to find a wagon train.

In Missouri, he meets Jake (Jeff Bridges), who also has a past and is making his way west because, well, reasons that are never quite explained. Jake befriends the naïve Drew, but it is of course a ruse. Drew has money on him, and Jake could use it because he's a sort of leader of a gang of disaffected young men who are aimlessly roaming around the Kansas Territory. Drew eventually runs into Jake again, and Jake tells Drew he doesn't have much choice but to join the gang, since the army will arrest him if he tries to join a wagon train.

Drew finds that life out west isn't the romantic adventure he and his family dreamed of, although he still tries to cling to his morals. That's not going to be easy, considering how tough times make tough men. There's a failed settler couple returning from the west; an utter lack of food; and other gangs as well. And Jake is still trying to get at Drew's money.

Meanwhile, the real authorities are also on the trail of the gang, which is in the process of breaking up anyway as hunger turns on the various members. Dumb Drew still thinks Jake is his friend, however, until things go one step too far....

Bad Company is one of those westerns which came about after the disintegration of the Production Code enabled filmmakers to take a different look at the genre, with cynicism and moral ambiguity instead of the more sharply-drawn good and bad guys, and a lot less optimism than many of the earlier westerns. Bad Company comes up with a good idea, but unfortunately, it doesn't always quite work. I found the movie wandered around a bit too much, not quite coming to a fully fleshed-out plot with a good working ending. It tries to mix comedy into the proceedings, and while this works at times, it's not always successful either.

In short, I found myself with a maddening mix of something that should have been better than it turns out being, but also a film that will probably appeal to people who like 1970s westerns. To be fair, the 70s westerns have always been hit or miss for me.

Monday, June 22, 2020

One of several horses of color

I've always enjoyed Eddie Muller's presentation on Noir Alley, although I have to admit to having already seen quite a few of the films. Among the films I hadn't seen before is Ride the Pink Horse, so as always, I recorded it to watch at a later date. I've finally done that, so now you get the blog post.

Robert Montgomery plays Gagin, a man who gets off the bus in the New Mexico town of San Pablo one day. He's looking for the Hotel La Fonda, and the only person willing to help him is young Pila (Wanda Hendrix), this being a town with such a large Mexican-American population that apparently Spanish is still everybody's first language.

Gagin is told at the hotel that there aren't any rooms available here or at any other hotel, because of the big fiesta that's going to take place tomorrow night. But that's not really quite so important just yet. Gagin is also looking for one Frank Hugo (Fred Clark), and is able to use a ruse to find out what room Hugo is in, although he's not currently there, just his girlfriend Marjorie (Andrea King) and his butler.

Also at the hotel is one Bill Retz (Art Smith). Bill has been trailing Gagin, and knows that neither Gagin nor Hugo is up to any good. Apparently Hugo was engaged in some sort of misuse of government funds during the war, and Gagin's friend Shorty had a check that would prove Hugo's misdeeds. Shorty tried to blackmain Hugo and was killed for it, so now Gagin has the check and is trying to do the same thing, which isn't very bright.

At any rate, the night comes and Gagin has to find a place to stay, and at a hole-in-the-wall cantina, he's introduced to Pancho (Thomas Gomez), who makes a meager living by operating a carousel, living in a lean-to next to the carousel. He offers Gagin a place to stay for the night, and is eventually going to become a sort of friend to Gagin, helping him out.

But, after all, Gagin is trying to blackmail Hugo, and that's illegal. Since the Production Code is in effect and crime most definitely does not pay, he's going to be threatened by some of Hugo's hired goons, while Marjorie is trying to get some of that blackmail money for herself. The goons get in a knife fight with Gagin that winds up like the one in From Here to Eternity, and eventually brings about the denouement of the movie.

Ride the Pink Horse is an odd little movie, in part because all of the characters have odd motivations, and in part because something about the production seems slightly off. The backlot shooting looks decidedly sterile compared to whatever establishing shots they used. Montgomery directed as well as starring, and even though he's the main character he's not quite right in a way that's hard to pin down. Gomez earned a Supporting Actor Oscar nomination and gives the best performance.

All in all, Ride the Pink Horse is an interesting movie that deserves to be seen at least once despite the definite flaws that it has. It's available on DVD should you wish to watch.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Sit Tight

Joe E. Brown was Star of the Month a few months back, and one of his films I hadn't blogged about before is Sit Tight. So I recorded it and recently sat down to watch it.

Brown plays Jojo, who works for Winnie (Winnie Lightner), a woman who runs one of those 1930s-style gyms that look antiquated today and make you wonder hoe they could have gotten anybody fit. Winnie is trying to whip a bunch of old farts into shape, and while Jojo is supposed to be an assistant, he doesn't really seem to provide much help.

Cut to an office. Tom (Paul Gregory) is a clerk who's trying to move up in the company managed by Mr. Dunlap (Hobart Bosworth). Tom's girlfriend Sally (Claudia Dell) is the boss' daughter, and she decides she's going to use her influence to get Tom a better job. Tom is none too happy with this, as he wants to succeed on his own, and not without his girlfriend pulling the strings; after all, what would he do if he were working somewhere else. Sally is enough of a jerk about it that when Tom refuses Sally's help, she decides to have her dad fire Tom!

This firing is how the two couples -- Tom and Sally on one hand and Jojo and Winnie on the other -- wind up becoming intertwined. Jojo, as with a lot of Joe E. Brown's 1930s characters, is a bit of a braggart who can't really back up what he's talking about; this time, he's claiming to have been a champion wrestler which he really isn't. He gets attacked at the gym, and somehow Tom winds up there to pin the guy who's chasing Jojo.

This gives Tom and Winnie an idea. Tom is going to become a professional wrestler, at least just to make enough money so that he can be independent enough to marry Sally. Winnie can be Tom's manager, while Jojo will be the trainer. So they start to practice, and Tom winds up being pretty darn good at wrestling. But Sally thinks this is an undignified profession, and her father hates it even more. So just as Tom is about to get a shot at the title, Mr. Dunlap is going to try to take it all away from Tom....

Sit Tight is a really odd little movie, because it looks as though the original intention was to have it be a musical comedy. There's still a bit of singing, as well as an odd dream-like sequence when Jojo is being pinned in which the action suddenly shifts to an ancient harem, a scene that makes no sense in the context of the picture. Brown was good at physical comedy from his circus days and the fact that he kept himself in reasonably good shape. The wrestling scenes have all the comedy that you'd see in the football movies of the day, which is a two-edged sword, since those 1930s college football movies aren't necessarily funny.

I think Sit Tight is another of those movies that would really benefit from being on one of those four-movie box sets that the Warner Archive used to produce. Instead, it only seems to be on a standalone DVD, and I'm not certain I'd want to pay that sort of a price for it. But watch for yourself

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Meet the People

Genres wax and wane over time. And then there are movies that become dated because of events. One of the bigger examples of this is the World War II morale booster. A good example of this is Meet the People.

William Swanson (Dick Powell) works at a shipbulding plant in Delaware building ships as part of the war effort. One day, a war bond drive brings to the plant the prominent musical actress Julie Hampton (Lucille Ball), with the chance to win a date with her. Wouldn't you know it, Swanson wins! And he uses the date with Julie to tell her about the play he wrote. It's one of those everyman dramas that would have been funded by the Federal Theater Project a half-dozen years earlier back when they were paying anybody to put out New Deal propaganda.

Swanson signs a contract to have the play staged in New York, with Julie starring. But there's a catch. Julie wisely doesn't like the play, and wants it turned into a rousing musical. Swanson hates this, since it would strip all the "meaning" from his play. And the contract says the play has to be performed the way he wrote it, or that he has to approve changes. And there is no way he's going to have it staged as a musical. So Swanson takes his ball and goes home, telling Julie that she really needs to "meet the people" and learn what drives them.

She actually takes that advice to heart, sort of. She decides she's going to get a job as a Rosie the Riveter type, becoming a welder even though she presumably has no idea how to do it. And she gets a job at the same plant where Swanson works! Of course, she's really trying to get back into his good graces so that she can get the musical produced.

As you can guess, there are going to be a lot of complications along the way, but that the two leads are going to wind up together in the last reel with both of them compromising somewhat. (It helps that William has a heroic Marine cousin whose songs can get used in a musical version of the play.) But half the fun is getting there.

And there is some fun, especially in a scene with Spike Jones and his band, doing a spoof of Hitler with Hitler being played by a chimpanzee! Paul Regan and his celebrity impersonations are also OK, although he never became a big star. Vaughn Monroe, a popular bandleader of the day, appears, and a young June Allyson appears, ready to fall in love with Dick Powell, marry him, and live happily ever after, or at least until he died tragically young.

But to be honest, Meet the People is a product of its time, and I have to admit that of the World War II-era musicals, I tend to prefer what Fox was putting out. MGM didn't give Meet the People the Technicolor treatment, so while it's certainly competent, it's also quite bland and the songs not particularly memorable.

Meet the People did get a DVD release courtesy of the Warner Archive collection. It's available on Amazon, although it's one of those movies that the TCM Shop oddly claims is on backorder.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Briefs for June 19-20, 2020

Today marks the 90th birthday of actress Gena Rowlands, who is the widow of John Cassavetes and starred in several of the movies he directed. I have to admit that some of these are movies I've tried to get through and find a bit difficult, such as Husbands. But Rowlands was also in Lonely Are the Brave, which I had forgotten, and I see she was in Light of Day, which I remember because of the Joan Jett title song, not actually having seen the movie.

Dame Vera Lynn died yesterday at the age of 103. She wasn't an actress but a singer, probably best known for her rendition of "We'll Meet Again" that went out to all the Brits serving in World War II. The song was rather memorably used in Dr. Strangelove:

Also dying this morning is Sir Ian Holm who earned a Best Supporting Oscar nomination for playing the trainer in Chariots of Fire and also had a really good starring turn in The Sweet Hereafter as an ambulance-chasing lawyer who tries to get a small town to sue after several students died in a school bus crash. Later in life, Holm played Bilbo Baggins in some of the installments of the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit series. Holm was 88.

I notice that the TCM Shop changed its appearance recently. I still don't understand why certain movies from the Warner Archive MOD scheme show up as on backorder some days and available on others, but it always wreaks havoc with deciding what movie to watch.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Thursday Movie Picks #310: Period Dramas

This being Thursday, it's time for another edition of Thursday Movie Picks, the blogathon run by Wandering Through the Shelves. This week the theme is period dramas, one that's not too difficult and one which I feel like we've done before. But at any rate, I decided to figure whether I could come up with a theme-within-a-theme, and eventually I did:

The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing (1955). Joan Collins plays Evelyn Nesbit, a beautiful young woman caught in a love triangle between prominent architect Stanford White (Ray Milland) and newcomer millionaire Harry Thaw (Farley Granger) in early 1900s New York. Harry's jealousy eventually results in his shooting Stanford. Based on a true story.

The Virgin Queen (1955). Queen Elizabeth I (Bette Davis) has to be one tough woman to rule England of the late 16th century what with all the political events going on around her. This time, she's in a doomed relationship with Sir Walter Raleigh (Richard Todd). Sir Walter meets one of the ladies-in-waiting, Beth Throgmorton (Joan Collins), and the two fall in love, but there's no way Her Majesty is going to let them end up together.

Esther and the King (1960). Based on the Biblical narrative of Purim, Joan Collins plays Esther, in Persia with her uncle Mordecai in the court of King Ahasuerus (aka Xerxes, played by Richard Egan). There's palace intrigue and dislike in the general public for the Jews, especially when Esther is chosen to be the King's new wife.

Les Blank

Tonight's lineup on TCM is another night in the "Jazz on Film" spotlight, with five foreign films apparently featuring jazz in the soundtrack, at least for some values of jazz:

The Warped Ones (Japan, 1960) at 8:00 PM;
Elevator to the Gallows (France, 1958) at 9:30 PM;
Knife in the Water (Poland, 1962) at 11:15 PM;
Pale Flower (Japan, 1964) at 1:00 AM; and
Black Orpheus (Brazil, 1959) at 3:00 AM.

However, I'd like to recommend the movie that follows all of these, even though it's not a foreign film: Always for Pleasure, at 5:00 AM.

Directed by documentarian Les Blank, Always for Pleasure is a loving look at New Orleans, at least as it was in the late 1970s and a side of the city you wouldn't normally see in the travel shows of today or the one-reel Traveltalks shorts. Instead, it looks more like what you'd get from somebody who lives well away from the touristy parts of a city but has pride in the less touristy parts and wants to show them off.

I last saw it about five years ago when TCM ran a night of Blank's documentaries, and if memory serves, there's the standard-issue jazz funeral procession of the sort that was highlighted in the James Bond movie Live and Let Die; soul singer Irma Thomas explaining the best way to cook certain New Orleans dishes; and grass-roots preparations for the Mardi Gras. It's all well worth watching.

A whole bunch of Blank's documentaries were assembled and put out on a Criterion box set, which unfortunately means that it's rather pricey. So I'd really recommend catching this TCM showing if you can.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

The Song of Bernadette

Er, not that song of Bernadette

One of the movies that started showing up in the FXM rotation a few months back is The Song of Bernadette. It's going to be on FXM again tomorrow morning at 3:10 AM (or overnight tonight depending on what time zone you're in).

I have a feeling that the basic story is already reasonably well known. Bernadette Soubirous (Jennifer Jones) is an adolescent girl living with her siblings and poor parents (Anne Revere and Roman Bohnen) in the town of Lourdes in southwest France in the mid-19th century. Bernadette goes with a couple of her sisters to go fetch some firewood, something which requires crossing a creek. Because she's sickly, she has to stay behind while the others cross the creek. It's there that she sees an apparition of a lady that doesn't identify itself.

She doesn't want to tell her sisters, but they saw Bernadette acting strangely when they returned, so they know something's up and get her to tell about the vision, which they promptely report to Mom, Way to keep a secret, girls. And unsurpisingly, word is going to get out to the rest of the town.

Meanwhile, the apparition, which of course only Bernadette can see, has told her to keep coming back to the grotto where she first saw it because the apparition is going to appear again every day for the next 14 days. Bernadette goes, and others start following her.

However, there are people who don't like this, notably the local prosecutor Dutour (Vincent Price). As for the Catholic Church, well, let's just say that figuring out whether something is a miracle is highly political as well as religious. When it comes to a powerful person the Church wants to canonize, such as recent Pope John Paul II, they'll come up with a way to declare the existence of a miracle come hell or high water. But if some dumb schlub like Bernadette claims to see something, the Church is going to drag its heels and try to come up with every possible scientific explanation for the supposed miracle because they don't want the skeptics proving them wrong. And this puts local priest Fr. Peyramale (Charles Bickford) in a bind.

Of course, we know what happened, which is that the Church eventually declared the events miraculous and that Lourdes would go on to become one of the major Catholic pilgrimage sites. Bernadette would go on to become a novitiate and die young thanks to her chronic asthma (in the movie, it's changed to a combination of tuberculosis and a tumor that's probably cancerous).

The movie states openly at both the beginning and the end that if you believe, no explanation is necessary, and that if you don't, no explanation is possible. As for the movie, it's clearly on the side of the believer; after all, the movie lets us in on the apparition, which reminded me of the dream sequence in Sparrows. But while the movie is reverent, I didn't find it obnoxiously so.

Jennifer Jones won the Oscar for Best Actress, but to be honest I felt like she didn't have a particularly difficult role to play. Multiple people received supporting acting nominations and frankly they all deserved it. Best among these is Gladys Cooper as Sr. Marie-Thérèse, a local nun teaching Bernadette at the beginning who shows up at the convent at the end. She's clearly deeply envious of Bernadette to the point that I was going to comment on her being a jerk. But she gets her comeuppance at the end of the scene and has a powerful resolution. Bickford and Revere also received nominations.

The Song of Bernadette is a well-made movie in the style of pre-TV era Hollywood biopics, and is certainly worth a watch. The TCM Shop lists it as available on what looks like a dodgy DVD, while Amazon has it available on streaming video.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Crown around my stars

Another of the movies that I finally got around to watching recently because it's on DVD courtesy of the Warner Archive is Stars in My Crown.

Marshall Thompson narrates, playing the voice of the elder John Kenyon (played as a child by Dean Stockwell). Kenyon grew up in the southern town of Walesburg, remembering it fondly as well as many of the people who were adults when he was a child and who have long since passed on, the sort of stuff you could expect from John Nesbitt's Passing Parade shorts. But we have a real story to get to, sort of, since in may ways this is a slice-of-life movie.

Coming to town after having served in the Civil War and now wishing to turn to non-violence is Parson Josiah Gray (Joel McCrea). He wants to be parson even though the town doesn't have a church. He meets one of the town's leading citizens, Dr. Harris Sr. (Lewis Stone), a man who knows he's about to die, leaving the medical practice to his more officious and inexperienced son Harris Jr. (James Mitchell). Parson Gray falls in love with Harriet (Ellen Drew) and marries her, taking in John as a foster son. Elsewhere in town is the Isbell family, led by patriarch Jed (Alan Hale) who is most definitely not a churchgoer, and his farming neighbor Uncle Famous Prill (Juano Hernandez).

Prill forms the basis of one of the main sub-plots in the film. He's obviously a freed slave who got the little bit of land he owns, and that's all he wants out of life, being happy to live out the remainder of his days in peace and quiet. But another neighbor, Lon Bacektt (Ed Begley), has discovered mica on his property, and that the valuable seam continues on to Famous' land. Unfortunately, the only way to get at the mica is through strip-mining, so Backett wants to buy the land, at an obviously unfair price since Famous is black. And Backett will stop at nothing, including violence and the threat of sending a Klan-like organization to kill Famous if need be, to get that land.

The other main sub-plot involves John. During the summer, he's playing like a normal boy, stopping to take a drink from the well at the one-room schoolhouse. Nobody realizes that somehow, the well has become contaminated with typhus. John gets sick and nearly dies, and when the school year starts, the kids start coming down with the sickness too. The doctor thinks it's not the well at the school since John got sick before the school year (Dr. Harris doesn't know John did in fact drink there), and wants to force the parson into lockdown, being as ignorant and panicky as many of today's politicians have been during the coronavirus outbreak.

Stars in My Crown is the sort of movie that MGM put out as a programmer in the early 1950s, and I find a lot of these to be much more interesting than the prestige movies. Stars in My Crown is one of the best of them, thanks to a fine performance from McCrea as well as many of the supporting actors. If the movie has one flaw, it's that the story is a little too neat and tidy at times, and the climax with the attempted lynching feels a lot more antiseptic than if it had been done over at Warner Bros. (and indeed, Warner Bros. did it in Storm Warning a year later).

If you want a nice, gentle movie, than I can definitely recommend Stars in My Crown.

Monday, June 15, 2020

The Woman Always Pays, aka The Abyss

I've mentioned before that I listen to any number of international broadcasters, which includes downloading programs from various stations in German to keep up my practice with the language. Recently, I got around to listening to a radio documentary on Asta Nielsen. She was a Danish-born actress who worked most of her active movie career in silents in Germany, making something like 70 of the 74 silents she did in Germany. The Nazis wanted her to make movies, apparently offering her own studio, and she said hell no and got the hell out of Germany, going back to her native Denmark and living out her days until she died at the age of 90.

I have to be honest that I hadn't heard of her, or even the fact that her first movie, made in her native Denmark, created quite some controversy thanks to a racy (well, by 1910 standards) dance scene. That movie is called The Woman Always Pays or The Abyss. Being from 1910, it's in the public doman and available on Youtube. I found two versions plus clips of the dance scene, although the two full-length version differ by about 90 seconds in run-time, which might have something to do with frame rate or one or another of the uploaders including some extra credits; I didn't watch both versions in full. I did scroll through a bit of the thumbnails at the bottom, and it looks as though both versions only have intertitles in Danish, which I can only make out a few words in here and there based on its being a Germanic language and my knowledge of German. Still, if you haven't seen the movie, here it is:

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Atlantic City (1980)

In the early days of this blog, TCM ran Atlantic City, and since it was on late and didn't yet have a DVR, I stayed up late to watch it. It wasn't on DVD, so I didn't really want to do a review. It got a DVD release at the end of last year and a Blu-ray release a few years back. And since TCM ran it as part of 31 Days of Oscar, I decided to record it to do a post on here.

If you know your old movies, you'll know that Atlantic City, NJ was a beach resort for people from New York City and Philadelphia to get away to. With the post-war prosperity making transportation to more distant places easier, places like Atlantic City (or the seaside resort in a British movie like The Entertainer) declined in popularity such that by the time this movie was released in 1980, the city was in serious decline with old resorts being imploded. The city and state legalized gamblng and new casinos sprung up to make the city what it is today, but as we see the opening of the movie, we get a montage of the city in flux, including an old guy Lou (Burt Lancaster) lecherously leering at the younger woman in the apartment across the courtyard, Sally (Susan Sarandon), as she washes herself off with lemon juice to remove the stench from the casino oyster bar.

Sally is trying to make something of her life after what has been a difficult life, learning to become a casino dealer under the watchful eye of Frenchman Joseph (Michel Piccoli), but as for Lou, he's too old to make a new start. He's been running numbers even though that's becoming less profitable with the new casinos. He supplements this meager earning by being a sort of kept man for faded beauty queen Grace (Kate Reid), who came to the city to escape her own dead-end past, only to get married, become a widow, and get stuck with her dog in the apartment in the floor below Lou and Sally.

Their lives are about to intertwine, and not in a good way. Over in Philadelphia, a scruffy man enters a phone booth where he's just seen a drop for a transfer of a block of cocaine take place; apparently the intended recipient is supposed to come by in a few minutes to pick it up. But this scruffy man, Dave (Robert Joy) swoops in and picks up the cocaine first, which seems like a mighty stupid thing to do except that he really needs the money, having a pregnant girlfriend Chrissie (Hollis McLaren). Dave and Chrissie make their way to Atlantic City.

Why? It turns out that Dave is Sally's estranged husband. And Chrissie is Sally's sister! Imagine a complicated life. Unsurprisingly, Sally has no desire to see Dave, a chancer who wants to stay with Sally long enough to sell off the cocaine. This is where Lou gets involved, as Dave offers Lou a substantial sum of money to hid the cocaine in Lou's apartment since the bad guys who are obviously on the lookout for whoever stole their cocaine are less likely to suspect Lou. Chrissie, meanwhile, helps Grace with Grace's sore feet, which also helps bring Lou and Sally together.

As I said, those bad guys already know that Dave took the drugs, and sure enough, they're going to find him. When they do, they bump him off, leaving Lou to decide that he's going to sell the drugs himself since he's got nothing else to live for anyway and this might allow him one last chance at glory.

Atlantic City is a wonderful movie, thanks to pretty much every part of the movie-making process. Director Louis Malle was really helped out by having the actual city being at this point in its development, when it was in flux, much like New York in all those films I like to describe as taking place in a city just before Gerald Ford told it to drop dead; Atlantic City just had a few more years to decline further. The presence of Robert Goulet in a cameo at a hospital opening adds a really nice touch to the sense of the city's decay.

Even though idiots trying to sell off drugs that aren't theirs is a story that's been done in several movies (well, I suppose you might want to add in those movies where people wind up with the drugs through no fault of their own such as Wait Until Dark), the way the story is told in Atlantic City works very well because of the ability of Malle and the screenwriters to include more realistic sex and violence with after the end of the Production Code.

But you also really have to credit the acting for making Atlantic City the fine move that it is. Lancaster gets a better role than he'd had in a long time, and milks it for all it's worth, while Sarandon does very well as the woman trying to make a better life. Joy is suitably creepy, while Reid is also quite good playing a former beauty.

Atlantic City is a movie I can give an extremely high recommendation to. I just wish it showed up on TV more often.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Spider Baby

Some months back, TCM ran Spider Baby as part of TCM Underground. I recently got around to watching it so that I could do a review of it here.

A brief narration tells of a disease known as "Merrye's disease" that most don't believe to exist, but killed off all of the members of the eponymous Merrye family. Cut to a flashback of how that happened....

Mantan Moreland, in what is effectively a cameo, plays a messenger looking for the Merrye house, which clearly scares the bejeezus out of the people he's asking for directions. When he finds it, there are only a couple of adolescent children home, Virginia (Jill Banner) and Elizabeth (Beverly Washburn). Before the he can deliver the official-looking envelope he's got for them, Virginia decides she's going to play "spider" with him. This isn't the solitaire card game you might have on your computer, but a game that involves her trapping the unsuspecting victim in a rope, and then "stinging" the victim by stabbing him to death with knives!

The children's guardian, Bruno the chauffeur (Lon Chaney Jr.) returns home with their brother Ralph (Sid Haig) to find the dead body, and the message he was delivering. Apparently, a lawyer has found out that the children's father has died, and that lawyer, Schlocker (Karl Schanzer) is going to come to the house and settle the estate, along with a couple of cousins, Emily (Carol Ohmart) and Peter (Quinn Redeker).

It's here that we really learn the nature of the family's disease. Apparently, they've got some sort of genetic disorder that results in a situation where, when they hit about 10 years old, start regressing, a sort of de-evolution that eventually means they'll become animalistic. That would explain Virginia's playing "spider", and why Ralph doesn't speak and acts even more like a baby than his two younger sisters. Apparently they can regress and still go through puberty, although how any of them ever reached marriageable age is a good question.

But ignore such scientific quibbles. Bruno tries to stop the lawyer (who came with assistant Ann, played by Mary Mitchel) and relatives from figuring out what's going on, mostly because he really cares for them and realizes that if the truth comes out, the family is going to be broken up with even worse results for everybody, along the lines of the contemporaneous Our Mother's House. And he has good reason to be concerned. The lawyer discovers Ralph opening the secret passage to the cellar, while Emily announces she's staying the night out of curiosity. She hates these relatives, and wants to find out the truth to get their estate.

Everybody's right to recognize that there's more going on than meets the eye, and they're going to find out just how much over the course of the night, with tragedy for at least some of them.

Spider Baby is a low-budget movie, but one that's pretty darn well made. The story is super creepy, but also a good deal on the quirky side. The acting is mostly well done, especially Chaney and the three actors playing the regressing children. And while Spider Baby is a horror movie, it's got enough black comedy to be something less than disturbing.

It's easy to see why Spider Baby wound up as a cult film, and also easy to see what it's a movie that should be watched, as it turns out to be quite an interesting little movie.

Friday, June 12, 2020

Each Dawn I Crow

Some months back I did a review of the movie Each Dawn I Die, which I have on DVD courtesy of a four-film James Cagney box set. One of the extras on that DVDis the animated short Each Dawn I Crow, so recently, I sat down to watch it.

It's only the title that's a play on the original Cagney movie; the rest of the cartoon has nothing to do with it. In many ways this is a lesser Merrie Melodies, with Elmer Fudd being the only character from the normal canon. The other main character, and the one who crows, is John the Rooster. He wakes up one morning to an amusing sight gag:

As he's strutting around the barnyard, an unseen narrator tells him that Elmer is sharpening his axe, in preparation for an important and dirty job tomorrow, which can only mean that Fudd is going to chop off John's head for Sunday chicken dinner. This obviously terrifies poor John, who tries everything he can to stop Elmer. In his nervousness, he even becomes a chain-smoker:

Of course, we know that Elmer isn't really planning to kill John. But it's mildly fun watching John come up with all sorts of schemes to prevent Elmer from realizing it's Sunday morning, which unsurprisingly are unsuccessful. Some of them we've seen before, some are rarer. There's also a twist ending, although one that isn't so surprising.

Each Dawn I Crow certainly isn't the greatest cartoon short ever made, but as an extra on a DVD, it's nice to see especially since TCM doesn't really show cartoons any more outside the Saturday matinee block.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Thursday Movie Picks #309: Prequels

This being Thursday, it's time for another edition of Thursday Movie Picks, the blogathon run by Wandering Through the Shelves. This week's theme is prequels, and I have to admit that it was a bit tough for me considering that the sort of movie that's a prequel is generally not the sort of movie I watch, not being into the latter-day movie series. The one classic prequel I could think of, Another Part of the Forest, is a prequel to Lillian Hellman's play/movie The Little Foxes, but I forgot to record it the last time it was on TCM so I haven't actually seen it. In that regard, I decided to go in a slightly offbeat direction:

Young Bess (1953), which is a prequel of, among others, The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939). Jean Simmons plays Elizabeth Tudor, daughter of King Henry VIII of England (Charles Laughton -- more on that in a bit), who had a tempestuous childhood that saw her half-brother die as an adolescent king, among other things. Elizabeth eventually becomes Queen Elizabeth I in 1558, and never married. But this difficult childhood might explain why the elder Elizabeth acted the way she did towards the Earl of Essex in The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex.

Anne of the Thousand Days (1969), a prequel to The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933). The earlier film begins with Henry VIII (Charles Laughton again) sending second wife Anne Boleyn to her execution by beheading. Why did he have her beheaded? Well, that's explained in Anne of the Thousand Days. Genevieve Bujold plays young Anne, who is married off to Henry VIII (Richard Burton) in the hopes that she'll bear him a son, which his first wife didn't do. Instead, she bears daughter after daughter, and when Henry meets Jane Seymour, he falls in love with her and concocts a pretense to have Anne arrested and executed on a capital charge so that he'll be free to marry Jane.

Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970), a prequel to Above and Beyond (1952). Paul Tibbets (played by Robert Taylor in Above and Beyond) piloted the Enola Gay, which dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima in 1945. But to find out why the US was even at war with Japan, we need to go back 44 months to December 1941, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, the planning and execution of which is depicted in Tora! Tora! Tora!. OK, I'm going to get in really deep trouble for this last one, amn't I?

Repo Man

During one of the free preview weekends a couple of months back, I recorded the cult 1980s movie Repo Man. It's going to be on again overnight at 1:47 AM on StarzEncore Classics if you have the Starz/Encore package, and will be on again on June 22 on Starz Comedy.

The movie starts off with a sort of prologue. A man is driving a classic car across the New Mexico desert, when he's pulled over by a motorcycle cop. The cop wants to look in the trunk, which the driver, Parnell, suggests is not a good idea. The cop does so anyway, and finds an extremely bright light that vaporizes him, so you can guess there's something radioactive in the trunk. (That, and I'd think it would kill the driver pretty quickly, but that doesn't happen.)

Cut to Los Angeles, where Otto (Emilio Estevez) is an aimless young man into the punk scene, who unfortunately gets himself fired from his job as a supermarket clerk thanks to his incompetent friend. Otto decides he'd like the money that his parents set aside for him to go to college, but they've given it away to a televangelist.

The next morning, Otto is walking along the street, when a guy name Bud (Harry Dean Stanton) who is obviously a scam artist of some sort offers Otto quick money to take "his wife's" car to the hospital. It turns out that it isn't the wife's car, of course, but one belonging to some people who are well behind on the payments on it, although that you probably could have guessed from the title of the movie.

Otto gets to the repo yard, which looks like the automotive version of Glengarry Glen Ross. But Otto realizes that he's good at repoing cars, and now Bud has somebody he can mentor, although the other repo people at the place have differing views on how to do the job.

Meanwhile, that classic car is heading for Los Angeles, and by now there are federal agents on the case, who want the car for whatever it is that's in the trunk. There's a $20,000 reward for the car, which interests Bud and Otto, but also interests some guys from a competing repo company. There are also some old "friends" of Otto's who have gone from punk to petty crime and the opportunity to drive off with a nice car like this is something they'd like. But what is in the back of the trunk, anyway?

Repo Man is a movie that could go in any number of ways. I mentioned Glengarry Glenn Ross above, although I suppose that might make a bit more sense if the movie were about car salesmen, not car repossessers. There's also a fair amount of atmosphere that you could imagine Paddy Chayefsky having written an extremely dark comedy on the repo profession. I could also imagine the material being handled with a much lighter comedic touch, in a style reminiscent of Mother, Jugs, and Speed.

But while there's some of all of those in the movie, there's also the supernatural tone with the presence of that Macguffin in the trunk of the car. To be honest, I think that's where the movie is at its weakest, and I didn't particularly care for the film's actual resolution. Still, if you're up for some dark comedy, there's a lot to like about Repo Man

Repo Man did get a DVD release courtesy of the Criterion Collection, but it seems to be out of print. There's a different movie called Repo Men that is available on DVD, so pay attention. Also, Amazon seems to have Repo Man on its streaming service if you can do that.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Take Her, She's Mine

I mentioned yesterday that Designing Woman is airing tomorrow afternoon on TCM. Up against it over on FXM is Take Her, She's Mine, which starts at 1:20 PM Thursday.

James Stewart plays Frank Michaelson, a California lawyer who is in trouble with some board he's on, as the chairman, Ivor (John McGiver) produces a bunch of embarrassing newspaper stories complete with pictures. Frank has a chance to defend himself, which means cue the flashback....

Frank is married to Anne (Audrey Meadows), with two daughters, the elder of whom, Mollie (Sandra Dee) is graduating high school, which means she's of an age to go away to college, and the age where she's noticing boys, the latter of which is far more concerning to Frank because he doesn't want his sweet young virginial daughter to get into trouble.

Good luck with that Frank. Mollie goes to an all-woman's college in the Boston area where Harvard men and others are always nearby. Mollie starts to rebel, singing bad 1960s folk music in a beatnik bar attended by Gilligan (er, Bob Denver), and protesting the injustices of the world. It's the latter that gets her in trouble, and sends Frank off to Boston to find out what exactly is going on. The college students are involved in a sit-in over a banned novel, and Frank winds up being a sort of defense lawyer to them during the sit-in, which gets him arrested and the first headline.

Mollie gets expelled from college for her activities, but is lucky enough to get an art scholarship to study in Paris! This will also give her an opportunity to spend more time with Henri (Philippe Fourquet), whom she met at college and who is of course French. Of course, it's going to mean more trouble for Frank. The heartburn escalates when Mollie says she's in Life magazine, for a radical painting she did.

So Frank goes off to France, where he finds that Mollie and Henri are really in love, but that there's also a problem in that Henri's parents aren't so certain they want the marriage to go forward. Also in Paris, Frank meets Mr. Pope-Jones (Robert Morley), a British expat who has adult children of his own and who tells Frank to forget about trying to reform Mollie. Pope-Jones also gets Frank into some more trouble at a big arts party....

Take Her, She's Mine is one of the earlier of what I'd call the "generation gap" movies, having been released just before the shooting of President Kennedy really changed America, a fact that's evidenced by the beatnik club which I always though was really a think from the end of the 1950s. It's also gentler and not trying to pander as hard as many of the later generation gap movies.

But it's still not without its problems, as not all that much really happens and poor James Stewart gets embarrassed by all those antics he has to go through. Audrey Meadows is underused, and Morley's know-it-all Brit is just irritating. One thing the movie has going for it is the epilogue, although of course you have to wait until the end of the movie to get there. I'm glad I watched this, but it's not the first James Stewart movie I'd recommend to be people by a long shot.

Take Her, She's Mine is available on DVD both as a standalone and as part of a three-film collection of Stewart's movies at Fox.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Not the sitcom in Atlanta

There are a couple of movies airing Thursday afternoon that I want to blog about, so I decided to start a day early and mention one of them today and the other tomorrow so that you have enough lead time to watch both. First up is Designing Woman, at 12:15 PM Thursday on TCM.

The movie uses a brief opening narration to introduce us to the dramatis personæ:
Gregory Peck as Mike Hagen, New York sportswriter;
Lauren Bacall as Marilla Brown, fashion designer who has some sort of difficult relationship with Mike;
Dolores Gray as Lori Shannon, Mike's former girlfriend;
Tom Helmore as Zachary, Marilla's ex-boyfriend; and
Mickey Shaughnessy as Maxie, a boxer who relates to all this somehow.

Flashback to how Mike met Marilla. Mike is one of those sportswriters who covers a lot of different sports; one week he gets sent out to Los Angeles to cover a golf tournament. He won big in the writers' betting pool on who would win, and uses that money to get extremely drunk, meeting Marilla the next morning and having no idea who she is. The two start one of those movie romances that you know is going to lead to a marriage much too soon, before they find out they might not be compatible for each other.

Sure enough, they get married, and upon returning home, Mike has to deal with ex-girlfriend Lori, who's been trying to break into the showbusiness world, with at least modest success. But the nature of Mike's telling Lori he's gotten married, followed by Marilla's meeting Mike just after Lori left, leads Marilla to worry about Mike possibly having had a former boyfriend.

The married couple is less-than compatible in other ways; Marilla has all sorts of friends in the hoity-toity theater world and gets hired to do the costumes for a big play. One night Mike tries to have the rotating poker night with his sportswriter friends at the couple's apartment while Marilla has her theater friends over. Needless to say, it doesn't go well.

Marilla also doesn't like Mike's coverage of boxing, since she sees it as a much too violent sport. It's also risky for Mike, as he's doing an exposé on boxing promoter Martin Daylor, who Mike says is in with the Mob and Mike is going to prove it. This prompts Martin to send a bunch of goons to Mike's apartment, led by Lucas McCain doing a Brooklyn accent (er, actually Chuck Connors), telling Mike to knock it off or he's going to get harmed. Mike goes into hiding without telling Marilla the truth, and Martin decides he's going to nab Marilla instead.

A good portion of the plot made me think of the Spencer Tracy/Katharine Hepburn vehicle Woman of the Year, and I'm not the first. That one was a bit better, although I think both it and Designing Woman are not the best movies in any of the stars' catalogs. Dolores Gray is badly cast, while Bacall is not a favorite of mine and comes across a bit bland again. There's also some script problems in that I found it implausible that Marilla would consider a man having had a girlfriend in the past a deal-breaker. That and Mike's not telling Marilla the truth about the danger he faces.

Still, Designing Woman is more or less watchable, and if you're a fan of Lauren Bacall or the theater world, you'll probably like it more than I did. It did get a DVD release courtesy of the Warner Archive, although the last time I checked, it's another of those movies that the TCM Shop oddly says is on backorder. Amazon has it on DVD and streaming, I believe.

Monday, June 8, 2020

High Anxiety is now a drama

Imagine watching a Mel Brooks spoof like High Anxiety and thinking to yourself, "We should make a serious story with all the Alfred Hitchcock touches we can jam into it!" The result might look something like Still of the Night, which is airing overnight at 2:32 AM on MovieMax (part of the Cinemax premium package), and again later in the week on ThrillerMax.

The movie starts interestingly enough, with a guy subtly trying the doors of various parked cars to see if anybody was dumb or forgetful enough to leave their car door unlocked. Eventually, the guy does find an unlocked car door -- only to have a dead body fall out of the car!

Cut to a psychiatrist's office. Sam Rice (Roy Scheider) is a New York psychiatrist doing your standard-issue pyschiatric analysis. Into his office walks Brooke Reynolds (Meryl Streep). She presents Sam an engraved watch which apparently belonged to one of Sam's clients, George Bynum (Josef Sommer, in flashbacks). It was engraved with a message from George's wife, and obviously Brooke doesn't want Mrs. Bynum to know about her. George, you see, is the man who fell out of the car in the opening scene, having been murdered!

Police detective Joe Vitucci (Joe Grifasi) shows up to ask Sam about George. Sam doesn't divulge much information, claiming doctor-patient confidentiality. But it gets Sam to start thinking about his now dead client, wondering if perhaps he can figure out anything about who might have killed him.

George worked for an auction house as an appraiser of antiquities, and Brooke worked under him, which is how they met and became a couple. It also makes Brooke an obvious person of interest in George's murder. Now at this point, Sam does something profoundly stupid. He decides he's falling in love with Brooke, and wants to keep seeing her! His psychiatrist mother (Jessica Tandy in an all-too-brief role) warns him about investigating, although she doesn't know about his budding relationship with Brooke.

Sam unsurprisingly winds up in danger but keeps going on with the case, doing things that really ought to land him in jail, including one involving surreptitiously entering Brooke's office during an auction that really should have had her bosses pressing charges. But if they did that, we wouldn't have a climax to the movie.

I mentioned at the beginning that the filmmakers were obviously thinking of Alfred Hitchcock, and if you're a movie buff, trying to find as much as possible that relates to Hitchcock is part of the fun of watching this one. The auction house brings an obvious reference to North by Northwest, and the psychiatry a reference to Spellbound. Sam following Brooke is reminiscent of Vertigo, with a touch of the park scene from the non-Hitchcock Cat People thrown in during a scene in Central Park. The climax reminded me of Saboteur, and there are some other Hitchcock references too.

But that doesn't take away from the fact that Still of the Night isn't a bad little story in its own right, regardless of what you think of the Hitchcock references. Scheider and Streep both do well with their roles, although I do think there are a few implausibilities in Brooke's back story. Still, that's a fairly minor quibble.

If you want to be entertained, I think you'll enjoy Still of the Night. The TCM Shop had a copy on Blu-ray last I checked, while Amazon has it on DVD and Prime Video if you do the streaming thing.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Kabuki Theater on Film

A lot of early Hollywood talkies look like filmed versions of stage plays, with a fairly static camera filming the action and a drawing room-like set. I recently watched a movie that made me think of a different kind of theater: Akira Kurosawa's Sanjuro.

Toshiro Mifune plays Sanjuro, a ronin in the late shogun period of Japan's history, so probably the mid-1800s. He happens on a group of samurai who are talking about one of the local officials, whom they believe is guilty of corruption. Sanjuro tells them that they're incorrect and that if they try to respond impetuously on their suspicion, they're going to pay a heavy price for it. Sure enough, there's a group of the local lord's men that have been sent to ambush these samurai. Sanjuro decides he's going to stay a while and help them.

Not that he has any reason to do so, it seems. The official, Mutsuta, whom the samurai had thought was corrupt is in danger, along with his wife and daughter. So Sanjuro devises a plan to save the wife and daughter first, before he can come up with a way to free Mutsuta and preserve everybody's honor, too. However, Mutsuta's wife and daughter don't like the idea that Sanjuro and the samurai might have to resort to violence.

Sanjuro is able to play both sides, since nobody but the samurai knows that Sanjuro is working with the samurai. The real corrupt cabal has a lacky named Hanbei who knows Sanjuro and offers Sanjuro a job working with the cabal, which Sanjuro uses to find out where Mutsuta is. Of course, he's in a heavily guarded compound, so Sanjuro is going to have to come up with a ruse to get the cabal's men to go elsewhere. Eventually we get to the climactic fight, which you can probably figure out how it's going to end.

Sanjuro is a technically well-made movie, but one that I have to admit left me cold. I think it's because of the staging of all those fight scenes. I mentioned kabuki theater in the title of the post, which I think holds because so much of the choreography seems for show. The way the characters enter and exit the frame in preparation for the fights looks implausible and obviously choreographed, if not as deliberately acrobatic as Burt Lancaster in The Crimson Pirate. There's a good story in Sanjuro, but I can't help but think it's overshadowed by the way Kurosawa handled the many fight scenes.

Sanjuro is available on DVD from a pricey Criterion Collection release; it's the sort of movie that really ought to be on a box set of multiple Kurosawa works at a somewhat lower price per movie.

Saturday, June 6, 2020


Another of the movies I finally got around to watching recently to do a blog post on is Woody Allen's Manhattan.

Allen plays Isaac, a writer living in late-1970s New York with a screwed-up personal life. He's got an ex-wife Jill (Meryl Streep) who has come out as a lesbian and is living with her female partner. Jill, meanwhile, has written a book about her relationship with Isaac, which is to become a best-seller, at least amongst the set of people that forms Isaac's (and Woody Allen's) cultural milieu.

Isaac, for his part, has met Tracy (Mariel Hemingway) and started a relationship with her, which wouldn't necessarily be a big deal except for the fact that she's only 17 while Isaac is in his mid-40s, shades of the controversy that would pop up in Woody Allen's own personal life some decades later.

And then, to top it off, Isaac has a best friend Yale (Michael Murphy) with his own personal problems. Yale has a wife, but he's also got a mistress in Mary (Diane Keaton). And when Yale introduces Isaac to Mary, Isaac and Mary start up a relationship of their own, despte the fact that Isaac still has feelings for Tracy.

Along the way, everybody meets and talks, and meets and talks some more, with various bon mots thrown in and some sort of resolution between Isaac and Tracy being provided in the film's final scene.

I suppose whether you like Manhattan is going to depend entirely upon whether you like the films of Woody Allen, especially those starting with Annie Hall, or not. I enjoy some of Allen's earlier movies, like Sleeper, Bananas, and Take the Money and Run, and also enjoyed the later Purple Rose of Cairo (which of course doesn't star Allen; he only directed). But I've never been a fan of the "neurotic Allen", so Manhattan is one that I'm rather ambivalent about.

Allen made the conscious decision to film in black and white, and the cinematography is certainly a notable part of the movie, with a bunch of striking images of New York City of the era. That's a big plus, although of course for me it wasn't enough to overcome the plot problems.

Still, if you like Woody Allen, I think you're definitely going to like Manhattan. If you haven't seen any of his movies, I'd suggest starting with the earlier stuff.

Friday, June 5, 2020

Maybe they should have tried actually being merry

TCM ran a hodgepodge of 30s movies about odd relatives and living situations some months back, and one of the new-to-me movies I recorded that day was The Merry Frinks, selecting it, because the interesting cast is headlined by Aline MacMahon and Guy Kibbee.

MacMahon plays Hattie Frink, the mother in the family. She's married to Joe (Hugh Herbert), a chronic drunk who is a sportswriter at one of the city's newspapers; which one doesn't matter because he's lost jobs from one after the other. They live with his mother (Helen Lowell), a bitter hypochondriac who wants to boss everybody around.

Worse than that, however, is the Frinks' three adult children. Emmett (Allen Jenkins) is a communist lawyer (complete with portrait of Stalin; imagine Hollywood trying to portray a Nazi lawyer complete with portrait of Hitler with such a gentle touch) who loudly spouts slogans and lost his office for non-payment of rent. Then there's daughter Lucille (Joan Wheeler), who fancies herself a singer and has a sleazy boyfriend she insists is going to get her an audition at the radio station. Finally, there's Norman (Frankie Darro), who technically isn't an adult since he still has to go to school but skips every day.

Into all of this comes Uncle Newt (Guy Kibbee), who is presumably Grandma's brother-in-law. Nobody's seen Newt in decades, and here he is on their doorstep with all of his trunks claiming to have been in New Zealand after a lifetime spent in other places that would have seemed incredibly adventurous back in the early 1930s. Newt likes Hattie as the only relatively normal and nice member of the family.

So it shouldn't be much of a surprise that when New dies suddenly, it's revealed that he rewrote his will. In fact, he had spent all that time in New Zealand and the other places, and has a good half million (in 1930s dollars) in stock, which he leaves entirely to Hattie. But there's a condition that would never have stood up in probate court, I think. She has to abandon the rest of the family, never to see them again.

She's happy to do so, living a life she could never have dreamed of before. And unsurprisingly, the rest of the family falls to pieces without Hattie around, and wants her back.

There's a good premise behind The Merry Frinks, but a serious problem. All of the Frinks other than Hattie are beyond obnoxious, to the point that you want them to suffer and Hattie never to see them again. Their obnoxiousness goes on far too long before Guy Kibbee shows up, and he's not in the movie nearly long enough.

The Merry Frinks is on a double feature DVD with Big-Hearted Herbert, another movie starring MacMahon and Kibbee. That one is far better.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Thursday Movie Picks #308: The Seven Deadly Sins: Sloth

This being Thursday, it's time for another edition of Thursday Movie Picks, the blogathon run by Wandering Through the Shelves. We've been going through the "Seven Deadly Sins" on the first Thursday of each month, and this time we're up to Sloth. I decided to go in a slightly different way with it:

The House Across the Street (1949). Wayne Morris plays a newspaper editor who pisses off a gangster (Bruce Bennett), causing the publisher (Alan Hale) to demote Morris to the Miss Lonelyhearts column. With the help of a lady journalist, he uses the Miss Lonelyhearts column to bring the gangster to heel. Warner Bros. writers must have had a bout of sloth when they sent this one to the producers, because it's the fourth version of the story in 15 years. It started with Paul Muni in Hi, Nellie!, followed by Ronald Reagan making his screen debut in Love Is on the Air (and moving the story to radio), and third was George Brent in You Can't Escape Forever.

Twist Around the Clock (1961). A music promoter promoting a tired old sound meets a brother/sister team in a small town dancing to the new sound, that being the twist. He takes them to the big city to make twist music popular, and falls in love with the sister, but the boss tries to put the kibosh on that. Several twist music stars appear. This would be a silly enough entry in the genre, but it's made worse/sillier by the fact that it's an almost shot-for-shot remake of Rock Around the Clock.

The Jackals (1967). Vincent Price plays a widower grandfather prospector in 19th century South Africa living with his adult granddaughter. One day, a bunch of bank robbers come from across the "impassable" desert, realize that Oupa (Afrikaans for "Grampa") must have found gold, and decide they want the gold. One of them wants the granddaughter and has a change of conscience. It's not exactly a bad movie, and if it had been an original, it would probably be slightly better remembered as a curiosity in Price's career. However, it's a close remake of the classic western Yellow Sky. How close? The writers gave a writing credit to Lamar Trotti, despite the fact that he died 15 years before the movie was made! Talk about lazy!

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Mr. Scoutmaster

Another of the movies that returned to the FXM rotation in the past few months is Mr. Scoutmaster. The last I checked, it's got a DVD release courtesy of Fox's MOD scheme, so I recently sat down to watch it and do a blog post here.

Clifton Webb plays Robert Jordan, the host of a weekend afternoon TV show that's failing, largely because they've got the wrong sponsor, a breakfast cereal company that wants a show more kid-friendly. Robert has a wife Helen (Frances Dee), but no kids. Robert tries to learn about how boys think by buying a bunch of comic books, while Helen has decided to do her part for kids by donating to the Boy Scouts' coat drive.

This ticks Robert off because Helen donated one of Robert's favorite old coats that he didn't want donated. When he tries to get it back, he meets the sponsor of the troop, Dr. Stone (Edmund Gwenn), the minister at one of the local churches. This is a bit of a rowdy Boy Scout troop that has driven off several scoutmasters in the past year. The troop also has to deal with a Cub Scout, Mike (George "Foghorn" Winslow), who seems to crash the party and tell the most blatantly obvious lies about his family.

Anyhow, Mr. Jordan becomes the titular Mr. Scoutmaster, thinking this will help him learn about boys, not that he really cares for scouting. Robert and Helen both realize that Mike is lying but somehow can't learn the truth about him until much later in the movie; you'd think somebody in the Scouting organization would have his address and other such information on file.

Mike is so obnoxious that when Jordan takes the Boy Scouts on a hike for one of their merit badges, Mike runs away from whatever his home is to join up with the troop several hours later. And then after Jordan learns the real truth about Mike's family, such as it is, Mike runs away from home, seemingly for good. That's definitely going to bollix up Jordan's TV show.

There's more than a kernel of a good idea behind Mr. Scoutmaster, but I felt like the material wasn't handled very well. Mike was a completely unrealistic character, for one. Further, a lot of the material seemed derivative of a movie from a few years earlier, Room for One More, which coincidentally had Winslow in the cast and dealt with a scout striking out on his own for a hike. Both movies, but even more so Mr. Scoutmaster, have an ending that's almost hagiolatrous in its reverence for Scouting.

So all of this is definitely lesser Clifton Webb, even though it's still a modestly capable programmer. I'm guessing it's going to show up in the FXM rotation a few more times before going back in the vault, and if it does, watch it then. I don't think I'd pay MOD prices for the DVD.