Friday, December 31, 2021

Sophie's Choice

In the almost 14 years I've been blogging, I've never done a post on Meryl Streep's Oscar-winning role in Sophie's Choice. It showed up during one of the free preview weekends, so I recorded it to get around to watching it when it showed up again. Sophie's Choice has an airing on Showtime2 tomorrow at 6:00 AM, and a few more over the next week; check your box guide.

Meryl Streep plays Sophie, although we don't see her first. That would be Stingo (Peter MacNicol), a stereotypical southern-born author who decides he's going to go north to the big city some time in the late 1940s and write the Great American Novel. So he takes a room in a boarding-house run by the immigrant Yetta. There are two other roomers, research biologist Nathan Landau (Kevin Kline), and slightly mysterious Polish immigrant Sophie Zawistowska. Nathan and Sophie seem to be romantically involved, but it's a rather volatile relationship.

Seeing a new guy, Nathan and Sophie decide to befriend him, and Stingo gets invited into their little circle. Stingo sees a serial number tattooed on Sophie's forearm, and even then it was obvious that this meant Sophie had been in one of the Nazi concentration camps. Sophie then tells Stingo that she was the daughter of a prominent university professor in Krakow, and that she had gotten married and had two children. However, once the Nazis took over western Poland, the purges began, and all of Sophie's family was sent to various concentration camps despite their being Catholic. Dad, Sophie's husband, and Sophie's daughter all died in the camps; Sophie obviously survived but was separated from her son.

Or at least that's her story; Nathan seems to think that there's more than she's letting on. That wouldn't be surprising considering the hell that was life under Nazi occupation in general and in the camps in particular. But for Nathan, his belief may be just as much borne out of paranoia. Nathan, as the movie progresses, becomes increasingly manic and erratic to the point that I would have blown my stack, especially if he tried to steal my manuscript to read it without my permisson.

But worse is that Nathan is insanely jealous. Sophie has a secretarial job with a doctor whose wife's family is involved in the jewelry business, which enabled Sophie to get a good deal on a pocket watch to buy for Nathan as a gift. But Nathan was apparently following Sophie, and thinks that she's having a relationship with her boss. He very nearly gets violent, and both he and Sophie leave the boarding house for parts unknown. Fortunately Sophie returns, and tells Stingo more of the real story of her life. Stingo has been falling in love with Sophie all along and decides to take her back south, since Dad inherited a farm where Stingo and Sophie could live while he's writing that novel.

Meryl Streep gives a masterful performance in Sophie's Choice, but the movie is not without some fairly substantial problems. A lot of that has to do with the screenplay, which starts off very slowly. In fact, it's not until a good 80 minutes in that we start getting to the flashback scenes at Auschwitz and the movie really picks up. The titular choice turns out to be one small (but powerful) scene 10 minutes before the end, and the coda didn't really work for me. The screenplay also makes Nathan out to be a profoundly obnoxious character; even if it all makes more sense when his big reveal comes, he's still somebody I'd have wanted to be rid of fairly early in the movie if I were in Stingo's shoes.

Still, Sophie's Choice is a movie that absolutely should be seen for Meryl Streep's performance.

New Year's 2021-2022 briefs

We're at the end of another year, and once again it's not a surprise that there's special programming on various TV channels. TCM is no different, and is bringing out two of its New Year's warhorses. First up is the That's Entertainment! series, starting at 11:00 AM on December 31, with all three of the That's Entertainment! movies along with That's Dancing! at 6:00 PM. I mentioned it several years ago, but I've always been amused by how the trailer for the first That's Entertainment! said something like "We may never see it again", and two years later there was the first sequel.

Following the daytime block of That's Entertainment! movies, there are all six of the Thin Man movies starting at 8:00 PM, and continuing through to 7:00 AM tomorrow, when we need one hour filled in before the start of the Saturday matinee block. I think I mentioned a couple of weeks back that, with the end of the Torchy Blane movies, the 10:00 AM slot of the block is being filled with the Bowery Boys movies. I have no idea if TCM is going to run through all of the Bowery Boys movies.

As far as I can tell, FXM isn't doing anything special for the holiday. However, looking ahead in the schedule, I notice that the FXM Retro block is remaining, some ten years after the old Fox Movie Channel switched from 24 hours commercial free with mostly older movies to having the commercial-free movies just during the daytime. The FXM Retro block does have some more recent movies, although I think the oldest I've seen recently is All About Eve from 1950.

I passed 6,000 post this year, and at the rate I'm going, that means I'd be getting up to 7,000 sometime in early 2024. I never thought when I started the blog that I'd be going on for 14 years and watch that many movies. I don't know that I have any big changes planned for the blog, although one of these days I have to get around to cataloging all of the movies I've blogged about. I started one a while back, although I changed computers and never got to keeping it up.

The Thursday Movie Picks blogathon is continuing in 2022, as Wanderer over at Wandering Through the Shelves has announced most of the 2022 lineup. Having said that, I'm probably going to have to take a few weeks off in January as I don't watch much episodic TV and have only been in a movie theater twice in the last six years, and don't really intend to go back if I have to deal with all the coronavirus restrictions.

Happy New Year 2022 to all the readers, and if you still use paper checks, remember to date them properly!

Thursday, December 30, 2021

Thursday Movie Picks #390: Holidays (TV edition)

This being Thursday, it's time for another edition of Thursday Movie Picks, the blogathon run by Wandering Through the Shelves. It's the last week of the month, which as always means another TV-themed edition of the blogathon. And since it's December, that means Christmas. Or, in this case "Holidays". I suppose I could have used other holidays, but that just didn't seem right. In any case, it wasn't that difficult to come up with three Christmas specials:

The Little Rascals Christmas Special (1979). In the Depression, Spanky's mom gets him a train set to keep from disappointing him, but has to give up getting a coat for herself to do it. Mom gets sick and various disasters befall the Rascals before everything turns out right in the end.

A Very Brady Christmas (1989). Everybody's favorite blended family from the early 1970s returns to celebrate Christmas with Mom (Florence Henderson) and Dad (Robert Reed). The kids are all grown up, but their lives aren't going as well as they might have liked, and they don't want to disappoint their parents. Of course, this bring the groovy Bradys, everybody will have a happy ending.

John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together (1979). A variety-type Christmas show with a lot of music, featuring, well, John Denver, and the various Muppets.

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

The Madness of King George

Another of the movies I had the chance to DVR thanks to the various free preview weekends is one I'd wanted to see for quite some time: The Madness of King George. It's showing up again, tomorrow at 6:11 AM on 5StarMax, so as always I made a point of watching it to do a review on here.

Those of you who remember your American history classes will recall that during the Revolutionary War, the king of England was George III (Nigel Hawthorne). George would be one of the UK's longest-reigning monarchs, 60 years in total until his death in 1820. But as you may recall from the movie Becky Sharp or any adaptation of Jane Austen's novels, the last decade of that reign was actually a regency, as George III was mentally ill; the general, but not universal, belief is that he suffered from a neurological condition called porphyria that among the symptoms involves blue or purple urine.

As an avid reader I had known about the Regency and the porphyria hypothesis, but I didn't know until I first looked up the movie in anticipation of watching it that the movie is actually about a different regency crisis much earlier in the reign of George III. In 1788, not long after having lost the American colonies, and beset by other personal problems, George began to display signs of some mental illness or another. Of course, medical science wasn't quite so advanced in those days, which is why nobody really knows precisely what condition George was suffering from.

In any case, George's erratic behavior was beginning to alarm everybody around him, including his wife the Queen Consort, Charlotte (Helen Mirren), as well as political leaders like Prime Minister Pitt (Julian Wadham) or the Opposition Leader Fox (Jim Carter). Meanwhile, the king had a difficult relationship with his eldest son, also named George (Rupert Everett), who was first in line to succeed his father and had the title of Prince of Wales. The Prince of Wales was well aware that if there were a regency declared, he would be named regent and effectively ruler of the country, so he supported Fox's bill to have a regency declared. It would also allow him to regularize his relationship with Mrs. Fitzherbert, whom Dad would never permit him to marry. Pitt, whom the king preferred, obviously didn't want this as a regency would likely also mean a snap election.

So, there's a lot of political wrangling going on in the background. But the movie also focuses on the medical treatment of the king. Doctors didn't have any good idea how to treat the king. Oh, they thought they had good ideas, but none of them were particularly good in practice considering the state of medicien as I mentioned earlier. The Prince of Wales is using his own personal physician, Dr. Warren (Geoffrey Palmer), to try to isolate the king, while one of the ladies-in-waiting suggests a different doctor who has some unorthodox ideas, Dr. Willis (Ian Holm).

Dr. Willis takes the King away to Kew, presumably to treat him but also because this furthers the Prince's desire to have the king isolated; even Queen Charlotte doesn't get to follow George to Kew. But the political intrigue is still going on, and one of the politicians actually has the audacious plan of going to see the King in person, just before the critical vote on the regency bill.

I don't know exactly how accurate The Madness of King George portrays the history. To be fair, I don't think historians can fully know what the end of 1788 was like for George III. But from what I've read on Wikipedia and elsewhere, the broad political points seem relatively accurate. As always with more recent period movies that can do a lot of location shooting, the movie looks fabulous, much more so than the stuff done on backlots during the Hollywood studio era. (The art direction won the Oscar) Hawthorne also does a fine job as George, and deservedly received an Oscar nominatinon; Mirren was also nominated in the Supporting Actress category.

The Madness of King George is a fine movie about a part of history I don't know that a lot of Americans know about. It's one you should definitely watch if you get the chance.

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

At least it's an island

Another of the movies that's been sitting on my DVR for a while is Island of Love, which aired during Summer Under the Stars, I think when Tony Randall had a day. Anyhow, I recently watched it to do a review here.

Randall plays New York-based writer Paul Ferris, whose friend Steve Blair (Robert Preston) is a guy always looking for a way to make a quick buck. One evening at a Greek restaurant, Blair runs into Greek-American mobster Tony Dallas (Walter Matthau). Tony is there to announce his engagement to chorus girl Cha Cha Miller (Betty Bruce), but seeing Tony there gives Steve an idea.

Steve plans to produce a movie about Adam and Eve, and get Tony to fund it. Steve's plan is apparently to cook the books, since who knows how the movie is going to turn a profit, which is the other way you'd think Steve could actually wind up with the loot. In any case, Steve needs a screenwriter, which is why he turns to Paul. Unfortunately for Steve, Tony does have one condition for providing the funding, which is that Cha Cha play Eve.

As you can guess, the movie is a financial disaster, and Tony is none too pleased since he's not going to get a return on his investment. Steve wound up with a modest amount of money left over, and was able to use that to book passage for him and Paul to the island of Paradeios, where Steve had spent quite a bit of time during World war II hiding out from the Nazis, and making good friends with the Harakas family, whom he'd like to see again.

On the boat over to Europe, Paul gets his hands on a book about the island of Paradeios. There's been a legend about the island that is was the ancient Greek "Island of Love", with other Greeks coming from the rest of the Hellenic world to make offerings to the goes Dionysus and Eros. However, this book posits that the legend is untrue, since there's no archeological evidence for it.

Steve's plan is to plant some evidence so as to disprove the book, and resurrect the legend in order to turn Paradeios into a tourist mecca. Along the way, Steve meets little Elena (Giorgia Moll), who was the daughter of the Harakas family all those years ago. She's grown up into a woman who is quite fetching, although she's also being pursued by the professor who wrote the book arguing against the Paradeios legend.

The professor plans to disprove Steve's "find", something that would get Steve brought up on fraud charges. But making matters worse is that Cha Cha has gotten pregnant, moving up Tony's wedding. He's also planning to take her to Greece for an extended honeymoon. And, Steve just happens to be the uncle of little Elena Harakas, so when he comes over for the honeymoon, you know he's going to see his family on Paradeios and run into Steve and Paul.

While there's an interesting enough premise here, I have to say that Island of Love doesn't handle it particularly well. Steve is irritating as the con-man constantly lying to everybody, and you wonder what anybody on the island of Paradeios sees in him. A lot of people want to go to islands like Paradeios precisely to get away from the sort of stuff Steve wants to do. Tony is given a lisp for no good reason, and the conclusion of the story doesn't make all that much sense. The one good thng is the Greek location shooting, which has the advantage of being in color, unlike Zorba the Greek a year later.

Monday, December 27, 2021

Jackie Brown

I had Jackie Brown sitting on my DVR for quite some time from one of the free preview weekends, but never got around to watching it. I see that it's now over on the HBO channels, with an airing tonight (Dec. 27) at 11:05 PM on HBO Signature. So I decided I'd finally watch it and do a review on it here.

Jackie Brown (Pam Grier) is an airline stewardess in her mid 40s, working for a small charter company that flies between LAX and Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Apparently, due to her prior criminal problems, that's the only airline that would have her. After one of her flights, a couple of men from ATF, Ray Nicolette (Michael Keaton) and Mark Dargus (Michael Bowen) stop her and ask to search her bag, finding a large sum of cash that hasn't been declared. Drugs are also planted in her bag, sending her to jail.

Meanwhile, in one of those lower-class parts of Los Angeles with the strip malls and such, Max Cherry (Robert Forster) is a bail bondsman. He's approached by Ordell Robbie (Samuel L. Jackson), who is looking to get a friend/underling, Beaumont (Chris Tucker) out of jail on a $10K bond. Ordell actually has the money himself, but if he were to show up to the authorities with that kind of money, they'd wonder where he got it from and that would cause bigger legal problems, so that's why we've got the quasi-laundering scheme to spring Beaumont. Of course, it's a ruse. Ordell shows up at Beaumont's place looking to have somebody accompany him on a job selling automatic weapons in Koreatown. Instead, Ordell puts Beaumont in the trunk of the car and shoots him.

Back to Jackie, now in the county jail and being overcharged for what she's done. She's been bringing money back to the States for Ordell, who is in fact a gun smuggler, and one who's fairly paranoid about people knowing where he is for obvious reasons. He's got a white girlfriend, Melanie (Bridget Fonda) over in one of the beach towns, but also has black girlfriends in Compton. Ordell plans to take the $10,000 that he had used to get Beaumont out of jail and transfer that to Jackie's bail, with the plan to kill her too before she can spill the beans on Ordell. Rounding out the cast is Ordell's friend who seems to be living with Melanie, recently released bank robber Louis (Robert De Niro).

Max and Jackie both figure out something is up with Ordell, but aren't quite certain what that something is. So they plan a double cross. Ordell has half a million dollars down in Mexico that he's looking to get back to the States unnoticed. He hopes to use Jackie for the transfer, which ought to go wrong with her getting killed in the process. She obviously doesn't want that, so she starts working with the authorities, in the hope that she can get them to arrest Ordell with some but not all of the money, and that she'll get charges dropped and be able to walk away with the rest of the money she hasn't told the Feds about. As for Ray, the ATF agent, he seems to be in it in part for Jackie, and you wonder how clean he really is.

Jackie Brown is a bit of a complicated story if you're not paying close enough attention, and runs a bit long at about two and a half hours. But for the most part it's quite a good story. When you see the name Pam Grier, you think about those 1970s blaxploitation movies where she would kick ass and look sexy doing it. Grier was in her late 40 when she made it, so there's quite a bit less action here, and instead more real acting on Grier's part. She pulls it off. Jackson is good as the unhinged leader of the crime ring, while De Niro looks like he's having a lot of fun in what is really a supporting role.

There's technically no good people in this story, or at least none who would get a happy ending in a Code-era movie. But the moral complexity adds to the story. A couple of the characters make some decisions stupid enough that I wonder if they'd make them in real life, but apparently real-life criminals aren't always the smartest tools in the box or else they wouldn't get caught.

If you haven't seen Jackie Brown before, it's one that's definitely worth watching.

Sunday, December 26, 2021

Tiger Bay (1959)

Another of the movies that I watched recently in an attempt to free space on my DVR is Tiger Bay.

Horst Buchholz plays Bronisław Korczyński, a Polish-born sailor traveling the world and having a girlfriend in Cardiff, Wales, which is where the ship on which he's currently serving is docking. He goes to see his girlfriend, having consistently wired her money when he gets paid in each of the ports he's stopped at. But the landlord of the apartment where his girlfriend Anya (Yvonne Mitchell) had been staying informs him that she's left and gone to another apartment, something that rather irritates him.

In trying to find Anya's new apartment, Bronisław passes through a playground. One of the kids playing there is Gillie (Hayley Mills, making her movie debut), a tomboyish girl who wants to play cops-and-robbers with the boys and fire cap guns. Thankfully for Bronisław, Gillie lives in the same apartment building as Anya, and is able to show him the way.

None of this makes Gillie's aunt and guardian, Mrs. Phillips (Megs Jenkins), none too pleased. In fact, Gillie is always making up stories about why she's late in getting back home and what she's been doing. And we just know that this is going to get her in trouble later.

That later comes fairly soon, when Bronisław goes up to see Anya. The two get in an argument that results in Bronisław shooting Anya dead, after which he hides the gun. But Gillie saw Bronisław come out of the apartment, and heard the shots. Arriving later and seeing the dead body, but innocent of the crime (at least, this is known to us but not the authorities), is Barclay (Anthony Dawson), a married man who's been stepping out on his wife with Anya.

The police show up in the form of Det. Supt. Graham (John Mills, Hayley's real-life father) to talk to the people in the apartment building, who didn't suspect anything because Gillie had dropped her container of cap gun explosives, which resulted in its own bang that everybody naturally assumed was the bang that they heard. Gillie knows better, but lies through her teeth about what she saw because it's easier for her than dealing with the truth. But she's also glommed on to Bronisław's gun since she's always wanted to hold a real gun.

Gillie also sings in the children's choir at the local church, and has to go there because the choir is singing at a wedding. Unfortunately for Gillie, she sees Bronisław in attendance at the wedding, he having escaped into the church because nobody would look for him there. He sees Gillie, and goes after her, eventually kidnapping her.

Gillie develops a sort of Stockholm syndrome, although it wasn't called that at the time because it would be another 15 years or so before the hostage drama in Stockholm that coined the phrase would occur. Bronisław is looking to hide someplace for the night until he can get on a ship out of Cardiff where he'll be free of British jurisdiction if the police can even figure out that he committed the crime. Of course, they eventually do, but just need Gillie to identify Bronisław....

Tiger Bay is an interesting and well-made movie. I really liked the location shooting and look at Cardiff as it was in those days. Cardiff, I think, doesn't show up in film as much as a city like London, so we don't get to see how much it's changed compared to the way we would with London, although I'm quite certain it has changed a lot. There was, however, for me one big problem with the movie, and that was how much Gillie lies. I found it hard to have sympathy for her, and as one IMDb reviewer pointed out, any adult who lied to the police like that would be brought up on charges -- and deservedly so.

Those of you who can get past Gillie's lying, however, should definitely enjoy the movie. And it's not as if I didn't enjoy it.

Saturday, December 25, 2021

The Station Agent

Another of the movies that I had the chance to see thanks to the free preview of the Showtime channels is The Station Agent. I see that it has another airing tomorrow (Dec. 26) at 7:00 AM, so I made a point of watching it recently to do a review on here.

Peter Dinklage plays Fin McBride. He's a dwarf who is also a train buff, and he's been able to turn that passion into a job, working at a model train store in Hoboken, NJ, where he builds custom sets for people. His boss, the store owner Henry, is about the only friend he has. Being a dwarf, Fin has been subjected to all sorts of gawking and other abuse from people, and he seems relatively happy being alone, or at least as happy as he's ever going to be.

But then, Henry suddenly suffers a massive heart attack that kills him and changes Fin's life. Henry's will stipulates that the store is going to be sold off and its assets liquidated. Fin, however, is given an inheritance in the form of an abandoned train station in the small town of Newfoundland, NJ, one of those places that movies of the pre-World War II era had, but is now in disuse because there's no reason to have passenger train service. Still, it's a reasonably nice place for Fin to be alone and do whatever it is that he does. (One thing the movie never seems to mention is how Fin supports himself.)

As you can probably guess, however, Fin isn't going to get to stay alone. The old station is located along the main road that goes through town although it seems to be just outside of town. In any case, it's a good place for Joe (Bobby Cannavale) to set up his food truck, as a stream of commuters who must presumably be regulars stop to buy some of the truck's Cuban-style cafe con leche. Joe is running the truck for his ailing father, who lives some way away. He's also very outgoing, and tries to strike up a friendship with Fin, who doesn't particularly want it.

Fin also meets another adult, but under slightly less favorable circumstances. Olivia (Patricia Clarkson) is an artist separated from her husband after the death of her son. She got their lake house in the Newfoundland area, and one day she nearly runs over Fin. She apologizes to him, but has quite a bit of sympathy for him, and tries to befriend him, too, although she's not as obnoxiously (from Fin's point of view) outgoing as Joe. Olivia has bought Joe's coffee, although she doesn't otherwise know Joe particularly well; through Fin, however, she and Joe will get to know each other better.

There are two other minor characters in the form of the librarian Emily (Michelle Williams), and 11-year-old Cleo (Raven Goodwin), who doesn't realize at first that Fin is an adult but even when she does find out treats him like a normal person. Fin, for his part, still doesn't seem ready to open up to other people.

There's not much of a plot here, as The Station Agent is a slice-of-life movie about a couple of fairly troubled people. As such, the movie isn't going to be to everybody's liking, and I can certainly understand why some reviewers took a decided dislike to the movie. And there are some continuity problems over how these characters support themselves. But for the most part, I really enjoyed these characters and the story of where life takes them.

If you're looking something different from typical Hollywood, The Station Agent isn't a bad place to start.

Friday, December 24, 2021

Grow Up With the Country

Not having anything ready for a review today and not wanting to do just a briefs post, I decided to put one of the DVDs from my Mae West box set into the DVD player and watch one of the films I hadn't reviewed yet, Go West Young Man.

West plays Mavis Arden, a Hollywood actress traveling the country to promote her latest film. She's got an exclusive five-year contract with the studio, and one of the clauses is that she not get married during those five years, something that poses no small problem for her PR man, Morgan (Warren William), as she's got a whole bunch of male admirers. And while Mavis says all the right things in her public appearances, in private she'd be more than happy to pay attention to at least some of those male admirers if they're good looking enough.

At her current apparance, in Washington DC, one of the men waiting for her after the show is Francis X. Harrigan (Lyle Talbot), who happened to know Mavis back in the day when they were both in Chicago together. He'd like to meet Mavis possibly for more than just old time's sake. This would be a problem for both of them, however, as it's implied that Harrigan may have some sort of past, and this could be used against him as he's now running for Congress. But the two agree to meet at a rooftop restaurant. Morgan, however, invites the press, to try to scuttle both Harrigan and Mavis, although it only appears to make both of them more popular.

Mavis' next engagement is in Harrisburg, PA, so after everything that happens in Washington Mavis and Morgan, along with her dresser and the chauffeur, pile in to her limo to head north. Unfortunately, mechanical problems beset them and there's no good way to get to Harrisburg on time. They're going to have to wait for the car to get fixed.

Fortunately, there's a nice little service station attached to a rooming house that can set them up while they wait and get the car fixed. The rooming house is run by Mrs. Struthers (Alice Brady), who has some of her family as staff, as well as a maid/waitress Gladys (Isabel Jewell), who is a big fan of Mavis'. At the service station, we initally see the more portly Clyde driving the tow truck, but the place is actually run by aspiring inventor Bud Norton (Randolph Scott).

It's not too difficult to figure out that Bud likes Mavis, especially considering he has an invention that he hopes will increase the quality of sound film recording, something that would get him out to Hollywood if anybody could notice him. And Bud being handsome, of course Mavis notices him. This causes problems for Morgan and some of the people at the rooming house, and leads Morgan to do something that probably ought to have landed him in jail except that the plot resolution requires that he evade jail.

Mae West was known for her sexual energy that she exuded on the screen, and the introduction of the Production Code in July 1934 certainly hampered her later movies, of which this is one. Indeed, a fair amount of the plot doesn't make that much sense, such as driving the Rolls Royce across the country, and the relatively short distance between Washington DC and Harrisburg being overlooked. Mae West, however, does about as well as possible with the somewhat neutered script, and makes Go West Young Man eminently watchable.

Christmas Eve 2021 briefs

We got about an inch of snow overnight, just in time for Christmas. But it's supposed to rain on Christmas Day, so it looks as though all of the snow is going to melt in fairly short order. It's common in the movies, but not so much in real life, that there's no snow on the ground until it starts snowing right before Christmas. Also not a movie brief, but something I noticed in uploading that photo, is that it now seems as though Google/Blogger is changing the name of the images in that there's not .jpg on the end. The result is something that'll make searching through images rather more difficult, which seems to go against the putative purpose of Google.

The Christmas movies continue on TCM. That includes The Bishop's Wife at 8:00 PM, and the great Remember the Night at 11:30. Overnight, I don't think I've seen Christmas Eve (3:45 AM) before. So if I've got enough room on my DVR, I'll have to record that one.

FXM is doing pretty much the same thing for Christmas that it did last year. Starting today at 2:30 PM, and continuing through to 3:30 AM on Sunday, they're alternating the 1951 (Alastair Sim) version of A Christmas Carol and the 2019 Guy Pearce miniseries, which I didn't watch last year. I'm assuming both versions are chopped up with commercials.

One obituary I noticed is that of Sally Ann Howes, whose roles most notably include the love interest to Dick Van Dyke in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, which I blogged about a few months back. Howes, who died on Sunday, was 91.

Thursday, December 23, 2021

Thursday Movie Picks #389: Holiday Party

This being Thursday, it's time for another edition of Thursday Movie Picks, the blogathon run by Wandering Through the Shelves. We're two days away from Christmas, so the theme is "Holiday Parties". My first thought was the Christmas party in Desk Set and Katharine Hepburn and her co-workers think they're about to be put out of their jobs by a computer, but I used that one, even if it was over three years ago. So I decided to go in a different direction with three movies from a little over 30 years ago:

About Last Night... (1986). Chicagoan Danny (Rob Lowe) meets Debbie (Demi Moore) and has a one-night stand with her before the two actually fall in love (or think they're falling in love) and move in together. However, each has a best friend (Jim Belushi and Elizabeth Perkins) who tries to break up the relationship. Danny tries to win back Debbie at a bar's Christmas party.

Metropolitan (1990). Directed by Whit Stillman, this movie tells the story of a recent college graduate Tom (Edward Clements) who gets picked up by somebody in Manhattan's much higher social classes at Christmastime at the end of the 1970s, in a time when they still had debutante ball-type stuff. Eventually he realizes their circle isn't for him, although he changes everybody else along the way.

Less Than Zero (1987). Andrew McCarthy plays a rich kid from the Los Angeles area who goes east to college. When he returns home for Christmas his freshman year, he finds that one of his best friends (Robert Downey Jr.) has gotten himself hooked on cocaine, while his ex-girlfriend (Jamie Gertz) is trying to get Downey off of coke, all while they navigate the party scene. This is one of those great unintentional comedies, and fabulously stuck in the 1980s.

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

No Man of Her Own

Another of the spotlights TCM has been running is a series of movies with stars who met each other filming the movie and eventually got married. (I believe The Silver Cord, which I reviewed a few weeks back, was part of that spotlight for Joel McCrea and Frances Dee.) One of the movies that I hadn't seen before was the 1932 film No Man of Her Own, as it's the only film with both Clark Gable and Carole Lombard. Recently, I sat down to watch it.

Clark Gable, early in his career, plays Babe Stewart, one of those professional gamblers that populated movies of the 1930s. As is often the case, Babe is part of a team, with the members of the team out to fleece rich people who are new to town and don't recognize Babe and his friends as con artists, in this case using marked decks to win big at poker. Among Babe's friends are Charlie Vane (Grant Mitchell), and the moll of the group, Kay Everly (Dorothy Mackaill).

Unfortunately, Babe and Kay -- who was apparently Babe's girlfriend at one point -- have a falling out. Also, the police, in the form of Detective Collins, are on Babe's trail. So he decides to leave New York for a while until things can cool off and he can start up the con again. He arbitrarily stops in Glendale, which is where he meets Connie Randall (that's Carole Lombard). She works in the town library, and the two fall in love. Babe decides to flip a coin over whether or not to marry her, and the coin tells him to do it. So they get married and leave Glendale for the big city.

Babe starts hosting the poker games in his and Connie's apartment, but she wonders why she never meets any of the other men's wives, and what Babe does during the day. Fortunately for Babe one of the members of the team runs a brokerage and is willing to give Babe a desk to sit at during the day should Connie ever want to call him. But eventually, Connie is bound to figure out what's going on with the rigged poker games. And when she does, she's none too happy about it.

At this point, the movie takes an absurd plot twist involving Babe going to South America for three months with Charlie and another confidant, but without Connie, because reasons that make no sense. And Charlie decides he's not actually going to take the cruise, but do something that will absolutely leave you scratching your head.

Still, No Man of Her Own is certainly a competently-made movie, with capable acting jobs from everybody. It's just that it doesn't rise to anything particularly notable beyond the Gable/Lombard pairing. And it's terribly dated, as those plot twists are probably things audiences of the early 1930s would have been OK with, but today just don't work. Watch it, and go on to the next pre-Code.

There's another movie called No Man of Her Own, from 1950 starring Barbara Stanwyck and having a completely different plot, if you're looking for the Gable/Lombard movie on DVD.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Electric Boogaloo

TCM likes to show documentaries about the movies. One such documentary that's particularly fun, although I can't imagine the TCM programmers thinking it would fit in with their normal lineups, is Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films.

Menahem Golan and Yoran Globus were a pair of cousins in Israel who really enjoyed Hollywood movies, and wished (especially Golan) that they could make movies too. Israel, however, didn't have much of a film industry in those days, with any domestically-produced movies being shoestring affairs where everybody takes on multiple jobs (there's a story about Golan using his own infant child in a scene that Mrs. Golan thought was particularly dangerous). Eventually, however, they hit upon a formula that worked for the Israeli market, with a combination of sex and violence.

Hollywood has always had Poverty Row-type studios, churning out product on as small a budget as possible. Sometimes, such studios have a sleeper hit or hit on a formula that can turn a consistent profit, with Roger Corman at American International probably being the most successful. Anyhow, there was a small production company called The Cannon Group that had made a sleeper hit at the beginning of the 1970s called Joe (I haven't seen it, so no comment on it here). Come the end of the 1970s, Golan and Globus were looking to break into Hollywood, since that's where real movies were being made, and decided to try to take over a production company, with Cannon being the target.

They did get control of Cannon and proceeded to start churning out the same sort of movies they were making in Israel, only for an American audience. The results were something like an ultra B-movie version of Purple Moon, the 1960 French version of the Patricia Highsmith story Hollywood later made as The Talented Mr. Ripley. That is, it's a simulacrum of what a foreigner would think a movie desiged to appeal to Americans should be like, but something that anybody would look at and see there's something not quite right with it.

But there were a lot of such movies, and Golan especially tried to get bigger-named people to make movies for the company as he really wanted to make prestige movies. So we get a version of Lady Chatterly's Lover where the director wonders if Golan ever read the book; musicals that don't work at all unless you want to watch something that's so bad it's good; or movies with lots and lots of eroticism (Bo and John Derek's Bolero). They were putting out so much stuff that some of it would turn just enough of a profit to fund the rest of it. And they were even able to get Charles Bronson for a sequel to Death Wish.

But that's where the company started to falter. With the success of a film like Death Wish II, as well as finding a second bankable star in Chuck Norris, the studio started to grow, and grow too fast. Where Golan and Globus had been able to make films for maybe $1 million in 1980, by 1986, with movies like Superman IV and Over the Top, they were getting into the $20 million range. The failure of such a "big" budget movie caused a cash crunch that eventually led to the two cousins having a falling out.

Along the way, however, there are so many insane stories to tell, both about the terrible movies, as well as things that became surprise hits like Breakin'. With the notable exception of Chuck Norris (and Golan and Globus themselves, although that omission is accounted for at the end of the movie), documentarian Mark Hartley was able to get a great deal of interviews with surviving cast and crew of the movies, including some surprisingly big names like Franco Zeffirelli and Bo Derek.

If you enjoyed watching any of the Cannon Group movies back in the day, I think you're really going to enjoy this documentary. Even if you haven't seen them, it's still an insightful look into how things can go so badly wrong.

Monday, December 20, 2021

We're No Angels

In December 2020, one of the movies in TCM's Christmas marathon that I hadn't blogged about before was We're No Angels. I had thought a couple of times over the past 12 months about doing a post on it, but figured there was a good chance it would show up in the TCM December 2021 Christmas marathon. Sure enough, it's on the schedule, tonight at 8:00 PM. So recently, I sat down to watch it and do a post on it.

It's Christmas Eve in the late 1890s on Devil's Island, which at the time was a French prison colony just off the coast of French Guiana. The island has any number of parolees who have served their sentences but aren't allowed to go back to metropolitan France, as well as a lot of people trying to get off the island. Among them are three escapees from the prison: embezzler Joseph (Humphrey Bogart), safe-cracker Jules (Peter Ustinov), and killer Albert (Aldo Ray). Their plan is to rob somebody to get the clothes and money they need to get on a boat and off the island.

To that end, and to evade detection from the police, they climb up on the roof of the Ducotels' house and business. Felix Ducotel (Leo G. Carroll) runs a sort of general store, although he doesn't own the place, instead managing it for his cousin André Trochard (Basil Rathbone). Felix has a wife Amélie (Joan Bennett), and an adult daughter Isabelle (Gloria Talbott) who has been in love with André's nephew Paul (John Baer). Perhaps Paul and Isabelle can get married and run the business together, securing the Ducotels' financial future.

But there are a couple of problems. First is that Ducotel hasn't been very successful in business. The books are a mess because Ducotel hasn't been able to turn a profit. And André and Paul are coming out to examine the books. Felix unsurprisingly expects there's going to be hell to pay, or would be if he could use the word hell in a Production Code-era movie. Worse is that he's received a letter from the Trochards saying that Paul has fallen in love with a girl in France and is not going to marry Isabelle.

By this time, the three escapees have been discovered, in part trying to help Isabelle after she faints. Isabelle is just so beautiful that Albert, who hasn't had the company of a good woman in ages, can't help but having romantic thoughts about her (of course, in reality, the thoughts would be much more lustful, probably violently so). Partly in order to help delay the Ducotels' ratting them out to the police, the three convicts decide they're going to try to help solve all of the Ducotels' problems.

We're No Angels is the sort of movie that you can see why a lot of people would like it, but one where it's easy to see some of the flaws that it has as well. For me, the first big one is that the three convicts seem like unrealistic characters. If you think Ophelia from yesterday's selection of Trading Places might be over the top as a prostitute with a heart of gold, the good nature of these three escapees is astounding. The other big flaw for me is the presence of the Production Code. In real life, even if you had an escapee willing to help the Ducotels, it would probably be much more violent. Not only does the movie have to dance around how to deal with the Trochards, it has to deal with the fact that the three men are escapees who aren't supposed to get away with it.

Having said that, however, everybody gives a good enough performance with the material they've been given. We're No Angels is another movie where, if you can suspend your disbelief long enough, you'll probably really enjoy the 100-minute fantasy world it gives you.

Sunday, December 19, 2021

Trading Places

Among the comedy classics that I've never blogged about before is Trading Places. The Starz/Encore family of channels has had the rights to it, and over Thanksgiving, I had a free preview of those, so I decided to DVR it and watch it to do a post here sometime. It's got another airing tomorrow at 12:14 PM on StarzEncore (or three hours later if you only have the west coast feed), and a few more times later in the week.

Dan Aykroyd plays Louis Winthorpe III, one of those snooty Main Line Philadelphia types who would have been a wedding guest in a movie like The Philadelphia Story or at the parties in a movie like The Young Philadelphians. He works in commodities trading for the firm of Duke & Duke, run by Randolph (Ralph Bellamy) and Mortimer (Don Ameche) Duke, and has a fiancée Penelope who is a member of the Duke famiiy as well as a butler in Coleman (Denholm Elliott). He's never known anything less than the best, and as the managing director of the company, he's responsible for saving the elder Dukes a ton of money trading things like pork belly futures at just the right time.

Definitely not of that social class is Billy Ray Valentine (Eddie Murphy). He's a small-time con artist, pretending to be a blind amputee in order to get people to give him charitable donations, spending his free time at the bar where he's apparently run up quite the tab. And, of course, he's black, although the elder Dukes would call him a Negro if only because that shows how out of touch they are.

But the two Duke brothers have debates about things like nature vs. nurture. So when Billy Ray and Winthorpe accidentally run into each other outside the entrance to the Duke & Duke building, the two hatch an idea. They'll spring Billy Ray out of the municipal jail (Winthorpe having thought Billy Ray was out to steal the payroll when their collision was purely accidental) and give him Winthorpe's life, while using their influence to get Winthorpe strung up on completely bogus charges that he'll have no way of defending himself against. Will Winthorpe turn to criminality? Will Billy Ray become more refined? That's what the bet is about.

After Winthorpe spends a night in jail, he's bailed out, but a mysterious Clarence Beeks (Paul Gleason) pays the hooker Ophelia (Jamie Lee Curtis) to screw up Winthorpe's relationship with Penelope. Ophelia at least learns that in Winthorpe's past, he had a large bank account and credit cards that have been frozen because of his legal issues. So she, being the stereotypical "prostitute with a heart of gold" that was already parodied back in Paris When It Sizzles, puts Winthorpe up.

Billy Ray, meanwhile, does start becoming more refined, showing some regret when he invites all the people from the lower-class bar to a party at his new digs only for them to treat the place like a dump. He also has some decidedly different advice about why the market might act the way it does, although his advice turns out to be just as right as Winthorpe's was, only for different reasons. However, Billy Ray overhears the Duke brothers talking about the wager, and figures out that half of what's going on, leading him to take Winthorpe in as an ally.

There's another half to what the Dukes are doing, however. The aforementioned Clarence has been cut some extremely large checks that both Winthorpe and Billy Ray noticed in payroll and red-flagged, although the two elder Dukes have excuses for those checks. In fact, Beeks is supposed to steal a top-secret Department of Agriculture report about orange juice futures; having said information early will enable them to corner the market and make a killing. Winthorpe and Billy Ray figure out that plot as well, and work to foil it.

Trading Places is funny and mostly works, although it's going to require you to suspend a lot of disbelief. I find it impossible to believe that any random schlub picked off the street would be able to understand the nuances of the futures market, for example. And I can't think of any way that somebody like Coleman would immediately turn on Winthorpe, whom he clearly likes, just because the Dukes have a wager.

The screenplay, as well as director John Landis, also avoid social commentary in all but a superficial way, which could be either a positive or a negative depending on your expectations. There's certainly a lot of ground for trenchant commentary that is pretty much ignored. But at the same time, it's the sort of commentary where it would be very easy to fall into the trap of making it preachy and drowning any of the comedy. The one interesting thing I did notice was the contrast between black Billy Ray being a petty criminal and white Ophelia who, although she's a prostitute, is shown as saving money for retirement and having a substantial sum to invest for the climactic scene.

Make of all that what you will, Trading Places is still mostly a pretty darn funny movie with a chance for everybody to shine.

Saturday, December 18, 2021

Rose of Washington Square

Quite some time back I bought a box set of Alice Faye movies, mostly so I could get my hands on a DVD of Four Jills and a Jeep. Recently, I watched another movie in that collection, Rose of Washington Square.

Faye plays Rose Sargent, a singer from just about the time Prohibition was to go into effect. She's unable to make it to the big time, doing amateur night and low-level vaudeville. Working across the street is a fellow singer, Ted Cotter (Al Jolson). But he's not a professional singer yet, instead selling cigarettes at theclub across the street and hoping he can get his big break. Obviously he's got a lot of talent, so he is able to get that break and become a star, forcing him and Rose to go their separate ways, which is a bit of a shame because the two really like each other.

Rose goes to one of those road house places, except that it seems a bit more upscale. She's singing there when she's spotted by Barton Clinton (Tyrone Power), who looks photogenic but is a bit of a bad boy. Or a lot of a bad boy since all of his schemes for making money are on the wrong side of the law. This too is a shame because he'd like to romance Rose and see her become successful, but has no way of supporting this, at least no way that's not legal.

Time passes and Ted has become the star of a musical revue called Yoo Hoo, which means that we're going to have to see Al Jolson do his blackface numbers, which is obviously going to cause problems for a lot of modern-day viewers. Rose and Bart have split up too, since Bart has had to make some quick escapes from the law. Rose is now working in a speakeasy in New York, and when Bart brings some gambling marks there, the two former lovers see each other again and decide to rekindle their relationship.

Ted knows that Bart is bad news for Rose, but she can't seem to see that herself, especially since Bart is into much bigger cons. Shockingly, he claims to be her agent and gets her a contract to be in the new Ziegfeld Follies, without telling her. And to pay the cash he's going to owe her, he's going to have to sell the furniture in the apartment he's borrowing, which is going to tick off the apartment's owner when he returns from Europe.

Eventually he does make the big time and Bart's constant debts catch up with him, leading to a trial for securities fraud that threatens to drag Rose's name through the mud, they by now being married. Bart then does something which to me seemed even more likely to sully Rose's reputation, and that is to jump bail, which Ted had so kindly provided. How is this going to resolve itself in a way that leaves everybody happy while still satisfying the folks in the Production Code Office?

Rose of Washington Square feels like a movie that's not really treading any new ground, which isn't so surprising since you could be forgiven for thinking this all sounds a lot like Fanny Brice and her gangster husband Nicky Arnstein. In fact, Fanny herself thought that, and sued, eventually reaching a settlement out of court. But in any case, the story is reasonably well told, with nice supporting characters like Hobart Cavanaugh as a shill for Cotter's stage act, or William Frawley as an agent. There's also a lot of opportunity for both Jolson and Faye to sing, and fans of 1930s music will probably like all of the songs.

Rose of Washington Square is a competent and endearing movie, but it's also one of those that probably won't ever be remembered as rising significantly above the other musical movies of its era.

Friday, December 17, 2021

Briefs for Dec. 17-18, 2021

Apparently the National Film Registry selections were announced recently. TCM had had a blank spot on its schedule for tonight in prime time, which I figured was going to be for some films selected to the registry, although it seemed odd to me that the announcement would be made on a Friday since that's normally a day government dumps news they don't want people to hear. But sometime yesterday, there were movies put into that slot. Some of the movies on the schedule surprised me, mostly because I would have guessed they'd already been selected for the Registry. But a quick look on Wikipedia shows the pages have recently been edited to point out they were selected to the Registry in 2021. Anyhow, tonight's films are:

8:00 PM Sounder (1972), in which Cicely Tyson tries to keep her family together in 1930s Louisiana;
10:00 PM Chicana (1979), a new-to-me short;
10:30 PM Strangers on a Train (1951), in which Robert Walker makes Farley Granger switch crimes with him;
12:30 AM The Watermelon Woman (1997), about a black lesbian filmmaker who tries to find out what happened to a black lesbian film icon of the 1930s; and
2:15 AM What Ever Happened to Baby Jane (1962), with Joan Crawford and Bette Davis going at each other hammer and tongs and then some.

Speaking of Bette Davis, you've got a chance to catch her over on FXM in one of her best roles, that of Margo Channing in All About Eve, at 9:15 AM Saturday. Considering how FXM has started adding more recent stuff to the FXM Retro part of the lineup, I'm surprised that this one is in the rotation.

The Saturday matinee slot is back to showing the Bowery Boys. Shortly after the Popeye cartoon at 10:00 AM comes Bowery Bombshell, which if I remember is the first of the Bowery Boys movies, at least under that incarnation since the boys had appeared together in support of other actors in feature films, and under names like the Dead End Kids and the East Side Kids.

There haven't been any notable deaths in the last week, at least from a movie perspective. Last week I probably should have Italian director Lina Wertmüller, although I haven't actually seen any of her movies. There was also Cara Williams, who earned an Oscar nomination for her role in The Defiant Ones, and former Monkee Michael Nesmith. More surprisingly, as far as I can tell the TCM Remembers recap for 2021 hasn't been released yet. I haven't seen it; it's not on TCM's Youtube page; and the folks on the TCM boards haven't mentioned it yet.

Thursday, December 16, 2021

Out west with Frank Sinatra

Several months back, I had the chance to record 4 for Texas the last time it ran on TCM. It's back on the schedule, tomorrow at 3:00 PM, so recently I made a point of watching it to do a review here.

Dean Martin plays Joe Jarrett, who at the beginning of the movie is riding on a stagecoach with a railroad man who is carrying $100,000 in cash and gold that's in one of the bags that's part of the cargo. Of course, you know that the stagecoach is going to be attacked, and soon enough Zack Thomas (Frank Sinatra) comes, guns blazing. Thankfully, Joe is a pretty good shot himself, and is able to save himself, but not his fellow passenger or the coachmen.

However, there's another problem, which is that a third guy, Matson (Charles Bronson) has a group of men there for the robbery. It seems as though back in Galveston, where Zack is based, the banker that more or less runs the town, Harvey Burden (Victor Buono) has grown tired of working with Zack, and wants somebody to take him out. It's Burden's men who get killed in the gunfire, leaving Zack and Joe alone when the dust settles.

Joe is able to get the drop on Zack and get the money, heading off to Galveston, since he grew up in an orphanage there. However, he doesn't realize that Joe is going to be heading there, or the danger that Burden and Matson pose to him. Joe finds out that there's an old riverboat at one of the piers in the harbor, and he decides that he's going to refurbish the boat and turn it into a casino. That was also Zack's plan too.

Meanwhile, Zack has a long-suffering girlfriend in Elya (Anita Ekberg), while Joe is about to get one himself. He doesn't realize that one the riverboat for some reason that's not well explained is one Maxine Richter (Ursula Andress), who seems to have squatter's rights and so becomes a partner with Joe in fixing up the boat and making the casino a reality. But before they can do that, they're going to have to deal with Matson returning to town and trying to kill both Joe and Zack, who eventually have to team up.

4 For Texas has a lot of star power, but it's a movie that doesn't really work. I think part of it is that most of the cast, with the chief exception being Bronson, look like they don't fit at all in a western. The movie also doesn't get well from one part of the plot to the next, with the orphanage scene looking tacked on because those kids never really show up again. There's another tacked-on scene, involving the Three Stooges and a portrait of Maxine in the nude, that doesn't fit into the movie either.

All in all, I'll be glad to get 4 for Texas off my DVR and free up room for something else. But maybe you'll like it.

Thursday Movie Picks #388: New to the City

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 "New to the City", which sounds familiar, but I think the similar theme we did was "New Kid in School". I decided to reach back and pick three not particularly well-known movies from the pre-Code era:

Street Girl (1929). Betty Compson plays an immigrant from Central Europe who hasn't been able to be successful in New York, but is rescued by a band. She happens to be a very good violinist, so they take her on and put her up in their apartment. The bandleader (John Harron) falls in love with her, but there's a plot about a prince from her home country (Ivan Lebedeff) visiting New York.

Big City Blues (1932). Eric Lindon plays the new kid, fleeing a dull small town in Indiana to try to make a success of himself in the big city. He immediately gets exploited by his cousin when said cousin finds he's got a wad of cash; the exploitation ultimately leads to a hotel party where somebody gets killed. Chorus girl Joan Blondell, also from a small town, is the one person to show Linden any kindness.

Aggie Appleby, Maker of Men (1933). Wynne Gibson plays Aggie, who loses her boyfriend (William Gargan) when he has to go to prison. Thanks to the help of friend Zasu Pitts, Aggie gets a place to stay, but she'll be rooming with a man new to the city from upstate (Charles Farrell). He's not ready for the big time, so Aggie will turn him into a real man, even if that means having him pose as her old boyfriend which runs Farrell afoul of the criminal set with which Gargan liked to run.

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Goodbye Again

This week sees the third night of Ingrid Bergman's turn as TCM's Star of the Month. She also got a day in Summer Under the Stars, which gave me the chance to catch one of her films I hadn't seen before, Goodbye Again. It's coming up overnight at 3:00 AM, so I made a point of watching it to do a review on here.

Bergman plays Paula Tessier, an interior designer living in Paris, and making enough money that she can have a maid of her own and live in a fairly fashionable (at least for the Paris of 1960) apartment. She's also got a boyfriend in the form of Roger Demarest (Yves Montand), who imports and exports farm tractors. It's a job that has him on the go, and one of the things that has kept him from proposing marriage to Paula. That, and the fact that he always seems to have a woman on the side that Paula doesn't know about.

One of Paula's new clients is a wealthy American woman, Mrs. Van der Besh (Jessie Royce Landis). She's got an adult son Philip (Anthony Perkins) who is learning the trade of international law, working for a firm that has offices in New York, Paris, and London. Presumably young Philip, as an American, is going to learn enough about operating in the European legal system to be able to go back to New York and liaise with the European side of things from there.

But that's not so important right now. In one of the most original plot twists imaginable, Philip finds himself immediately liking this much older woman, something which would have been mildly scandalous back in 1960 when such women weren't called cougars. And Paula, not getting enough attention from Roger, finds herself liking the attention that young Philip is giving her.

As I said, however, there are some problems. One of course is the fact that Paula is already in what is supposed to be a serious relationship. Then there's the age difference, which is liable to cause problems for Philip in his legal career. And if he has to go back to America, what are he and Paula going to do? All of it leads to Philip being showing a bit of circumspect in the relationship, but not so much so that nobody knows what's going on. Mom likes Paula professionally, but the idea of Paula and Philip having a romantic relationship, well that just won't do. And what will Roger do when he realizes what's going on?

There's not a whole lot new going on in Goodbye Again, although I suppose it may have been a bit new for the audiences of the early 1960s. Still, it's well enough acted that the acting does overcome the now trite plot. In some ways, it's too bad that it's not in color to give us some lovely color and widescreen looks at Paris as it was in 1960. Goodbye Again is the sort of movie that's good to tick off one's list of movies to watch for a completist, but certainly not the best in the career of any of the main stars.

Tuesday, December 14, 2021


Several months ago, TCM had a spotlight on California in the movies. One of the movies I actually hadn't seen before was Shampoo, so I recorded it. I recently noticed that it's got a couple airings coming up on various of the Showtime channels, including tomorrow morning at 10:10 AM on Showtime Showcase.

Warren Beatty plays George Roundy, who at the opening of the movie is sleeping with Felicia Karpf (Lee Grant), on the night before the 1968 presidential election. But that romantic tryst is broken up with George gets a call from another woman, Jill Haynes (Goldie Hawn). Jill is technically George's girlfriend, although as we can see he's not above sleeping with other women because, well, it's just so pleasurable to sleep with a woman. Jill has some sort of nervous issue, and needs George to come over and see her because, well, reasons.

George knows both of these women, as well as a third, Jackie (Julie Christie), because of his job. He's a hairstylist at a high-end salon in Beverly Hills, and all the women rave about what a tremendous job George does on their hair. So much so, in fact, that he's often asked to go out to their houses to do the hairstyling. (How George ever finds time to work considering all the running around he's doing is a good question.) And because he seems to be the one they all want, George has decided that he'd like to go out on his own and start his own salon.

Of course, to do this, he's going to need some money. Even though he believes he's got a great business plan, and possibly he does although I wouldn't know how to judge a business plan for a hair salon, the banks aren't so sure, and probably for the same reasons as me. They want more financial and business information from George, which really ticks him off. However, while George is working at the salon, it's revealed that Felicia's husband Lester (Jack Warden) is rich, and invests in new businesses, or venture capital before they called it that. Perhaps Lester could fund seed money.

If George's life seems complicated from those few paragraphs, it's about to get a lot more complicated. Jill is an aspiring actress, and she's gotten a call from a producer about a part that would require her travelling to Egypt. Jill would like some commitment from George one way or another and this could lead to a break-up of their relationship. And then, George gets a call to do a hairstyling at Jackie's house. While he's doing it, in the bathroom, who should show up but... Lester? Jackie had been George's serious boyfriend before Jill came along, and George still things about trying to rekindle things. But Jackie has moved on and is now seeing Lester, despite being good friends with Felicia. Needless to say, neither of the Karpfs realize yet that the other is stepping out on them.

I mentioned at the beginning the the film opens on the night before election day, and George gets invited to an election party by Lester, who wants him to bring Jackie because nobody would have a problem with Jackie and George being an apparent item. (Lester, for what it's worth, things that George, being a male hairstylist and not a barber, must be gay.) Jill also shows up with another man. Eventually all the main characters leave that party for a house party that seems more like the swinging 60s, where some of the secrets are found out.

Shampoo is a complicated little movie, and that's probably going to make it hard for people to like. It also has some uncomfortable moments, such as the Karpfs' teenaged daughter (Carrie Fisher at the beginning of her career) propositioning George. It's also a movie that for a good two-thirds of it feels like it's not really going anywhere. Then there's the genre issue; most synopses claim it's a comedy, or maybe a satire or farce. For me, it was really more of a drama. On the bright side, however, the performances are uniformly quite good, and some people will probably enjoy seeing the Los Angeles area as it was back in the day.

Shampoo may not be for everybody, but it's certainly an interesting watch.

Monday, December 13, 2021

Beauty and the Liquidman

I've got a Mill Creek box set of "vintage scifi", which includes a couple of Japanese films that were dubbed into English for release in the US. Recently, I watched one of them, a new-to-me film called The H-Man.

In Tokyo, some sort of criminal activity is going on as a man is parked and sitting in the car waiting before a policeman approaches him to see what's going on. After the policeman leaves, another man, Misaki, comes out from hiding as though he's going to put a suitcase into the trunk of the car. Unfortunately for him, he gets hit by another car before he's able to complete the transfer, which is actually a Macguffin full of narcotics. Misaki is presumably injured or killed in the crash, but when bystanders and the police come to help, he's gone, with just his clothes left behind!

The police are understandably somewhat baffled, and the best they can do is presume that Misaki somehow got out of his clothes and is a fugitive somewhere in Tokyo either naked or trying to get new clothes. Misaki has a girlfriend in Chikako, who sings at the nightclub, so of course the police question her and put a tail on her so that anybody trying to find Misaki will get caught up in the dragnet.

The researcher Dr. Masada has a different idea. Perhaps Misaki dissolved in the rain, which could be plausible if Misaki had been stricken by some sort of radiation. But apparently Misaki was never in any highly radioactive area, and look at all the people in Tokyo who were out in the rain storm and didn't dissolve. However, a couple of sailors are found, who had been on a ghost ship out to sea and saw a couple of colleagues get dissolved by something that looks like it could have come out of the movie The Blob. (In fact, The H-Man was released in Japan three months before The Blob had it's American release, but I'd bet the two movies were conceived independently.)

So now we know it's theoretically possible, but still it's unsurprising if the cops don't believe it. Besides, that would also mean this highly deadly creature has made its way to Tokyo, where it could wreak havoc since it's so hard to find until just before it's about to kill somebody for food.

Meanwhile, one of the gangsters looking for Misaki has showed up at Chikako's place and kidnaps her, taking her down into the sewers of Tokyo where their narcotics are hidden. Unfortunately, it's not far from where the creatures, now called the "H-Men", are nesting.

For fairly obvious reasons, there are comparisons to The Blob here, based on the compostion of the deadly alien creature and the special effects used to create it. However, both movies hold up just fine on their own. The H-Man is solid programmer-level science fiction from the 1950s, with a good enough plot and a reasonable conclusion. Of course it strains credulity, but all of those 1950s sci-fi movies did. This one isn't noticeably worse in that regard.

The one thing that might be interesting is to see the original Japanese version subtitled. I didn't noticed much in The H-Man that looked like it was added for an American audience the way Raymond Burr was inserted into Godzilla. But still I wouldn't be surprised if there are some differences.

Sunday, December 12, 2021

Two for the Road

Apparently I've never done a post on Two for the Road, since a search of the blog can't find one. It's been in the FXM rotation for a little while now, with another airing tomorrow (Dec. 13) at 1:05 PM, followed by on at 11:00 AM on Dec. 14. So I made a point of watching it recently so that I can finally do a post on it here.

Mark Wallace (Albert Finney) is an architect based in London who is about to travel to the south of France with his wife Joanna (Audrey Hepburn) to attend the "opening", as it were, of a new house he designed for the Dalbrets (Claude Dauphin and Nadia Gray), a wealthy couple the Wallaces met on one of their previous visits to France. Mark and Joanna have been married for about a decade now, with a child who is staying behind in London to be looked after by Grandma. The two are going to make the same drive through France they have on those past vacations, with the caveat that they take an air ferry across the channel.

On the plane, we learn that the couple's relationship has gotten somewhat old and stale, as happens often enough over the course of a long-term relationship. When they get off the plan in the north of France, we flash back to a time earlier in the relationship, although the movie doesn't exactly tell us that we've flashed back. Indeed, that's the main conceit of the movie, that it flashes backward and forward to various periods of the relationship as it fills in the pieces of how the couple ended up the way they are now, on the verge of divorce even though they're going to Saint-Tropez together.

While the story is not linear in terms of time, it is, however, linear in terms of space. The couple takes pretty much the same route through France each time they go, which allows the movie to stop at one particular point (spatial) in the journey, and then move either forward or backward in time to what was happening at that particular location on another of their journeys. There are, more or less four distinct journeys:

The first one comes before the couple got married. Mark was traveling alone, but met a girls' choir of which Joanna was a member. However, much of the choir gets sick, with the exception of Joanna, which is how the two meet and fall in love, hitchhiking through France.

Some years later, after they've gotten married, they're driving an MG roadster through France. There's a stereotype of British cars being notoriously unreliable at this time (I'm not a car buff so I don't know how much less reliable they were than other cars), and the MG develops problems when a pipe falls off from the exhaust or something. Mark re-attaches it, but the mechanical problems cause the car to catch fire and be destroyed. It's when trying to dispose of the car that they first meet the Dalbrets, who are so amused by what happened that they take on Mark and Joanna as passengers in their luxury car and give Mark various architectural jobs.

A third vacation has the Wallaces vacationing together with the Manchesters (William Daniels and Eleanor Bron), friends from a ways back. Mr. Manchester is a bit officious in trying to organize the vacation down to the last detail, while they have a daughter who hasn't had enough discipline in her life and is a hellion as a result.

Finally, there's the present day, the one ten years into the marriage when the couple are on the verge of divorce and constantly bickering.

Two for the Road is a movie that some people are probably going to have problems with, thanks to the fact that it jumps backwards and forwards in time without really telling the audience. Watch the cars. But the performances are quite good despite what can't be easy roles to play. Since the story moves through both time and space, there's no good way to film the story in a straight linear in terms of time manner and then edit it into the final product; you'd have to move from one physical location back to another and that would be prohibitively expensive. In a lot of movies, there aren't such big changes in characters, but since the couple's relationship changes pretty drastically over the decade-plus of time covered, it's easy to see what makes this such a complex movie. Unsurprisingly, Finney and Hepburn are up to it.

It's also an interesting time capsule thanks to the various cars, as well as Hepburn being given typically stylish for the 1960s fashions that look firmly rooted to the 60s today. Wait for those wraparound sunglasses; I can't believe anybody considered them stylish at any time. The opening titles reminded me of Bedazzled with a similar typeface; both films had titles by Maurice Binder and direction by Stanley Donen.

If you haven't seen Two For the Road before, it's definitely worth a watch.

Saturday, December 11, 2021

The Shop at Sly Corner

Not really having anything else to blog about today, I decided to pop in one of the DVDs from my cheap Mill Creek box set of crime movies. I put in a DVD from which I'd already seen a couple of the movies, and sat down to watch something called Code of Scotland Yard, as it says on the box and the DVD label. However, the DVD menu only had something called The Shop at Sly Corner, which is also what the opening titles say, so that's what I watched. In fact, they're both the same movie, although Code of Scotland Yard is apparently the US release title and the print Mill Creek used has the original British opening credits.

The shop in question is an antiques shop owned by French immigrant Desius Heiss (Oskar Homolka). He's got an adult daughter Margaret (Muriel Pavlow) who is a violinist of some promise who could become big if she could get some schooling in France, although Mr. Heiss nixes that for reasons that will become clear later in the movie. Heiss' shop has one assistant, slightly dishonest Archie Fellows (Kenneth Griffith), who has a thing for Margaret since he intercepts a telegraph from her real boyfriend, the soon to be demobbed naval officer Robert Graham (Derek Farr).

One night, Heiss gets a visit from a man he used to know, Corder Morris (Manning Whiley). Morris is a burglar who has broken in to one of the wealthy people's houses and stolen a substantial sum of jewelry, which he's hoping Heiss can fence, as Heiss has an illicit crucible in his basement for melting down stuff to their base metals, sort of like The Lavender Hill Mob. Heiss isn't just a fence, however; as a kid in France he stole to feed his ailing mother, which led to bigger crimes and ultimately being exiled to Devils Island, from which he escaped to England. That would also explain why he can't go to France.

Anyhow, Archie overhears the conversation between Morris and Heiss, and decides that he's going to cash in. He starts to blackmail Heiss, asking for all sorts of money and claiming that he recently received a legacy from a deceased aunt. Obviously, Heiss can't do anything about the blackmail since it means his own criminal past will come out, and he can't do that to his beloved daughter.

However, things get worse when Archie, who by now has long since quit working at the antiques shop, comes back looking for Heiss and runs into Robert. Archie says some things about Margaret that incense Robert, so he punches Archie and drives him out of the house. Robert obviously had no idea why Archie showed up, which in fact was a large payoff to leave the country for good. But Archie, now ticked off, decides he's going to go for the ultimately blackmail, which is to have Heiss allow him to marry Margaret. A scuffle ensues in which Heiss strangles Archie to death.

Scotland Yard investigates (hence the American title) after Archie's body is found dumped along the side of the road from Morris' car. You have to believe that, thanks to the production code, Heiss is eventually going to be found out, which means there aren't too many ways to end the movie. In fact, the ending is foreshadowed early on, although I've tried to avoid giving that away.

Oskar Homolka is quite good in a role that made me think a bit of Alfred Hitchcock's Sabotage, although Homolka is really more sympathetic here than in Sabotage. The plot, although nothing particularly groundbreaking, is solid and well in line with the crime programmers Hollywood was producing in the second half of the 1940s. Griffith also does well as the nasty Archie, while the rest of the cast is adequate. Fans of classical music will also enjoy the classical pieces.

The Shop at Sly Corner is a nice little British programmer that is obscure only because it didn't get made by one of the Hollywood studios for TCM to run it regularly. It's as well-made as any of those Hollywood programmers, and I'm glad it was included in the box set.

Friday, December 10, 2021

The Flintstones

Another movie that I had the chance to record thanks to the various free previews is the 1994 live-action version of The Flintstones. It's going to be on again tomorrow at 10:00 AM on Showtime Family and again a couple more times over the next week, so I recently watched it to do a post on here.

The movie starts off with an homage to the opening credits of the animated series from the 1960s; I assume that since most people remember the TV show from having seen the umpteen reruns of it (you can currently catch the reruns on MeTV if you're in the US), you'll know that Fred Flintstone (played here by John Goodman) is married to Wilma (Elizabeth Perkins) and lives in the town of Bedrock next door to his best friend Barney Rubble (Rick Moranis) and his wife Betty (Rosie O'Donnell). The two men work together at the quarry owned by Mr. Slate, and are also on a bowling team together.

A lot of the TV series was jokes riffing on pop-culture references of the day, as well as animated looks at prehistoric "substitutes" for modern-day living, such as the cars started by running, a sight gag that is obviously used in the movie. And there are a lot of other sight gags, in part thanks to the animatronic prehistoric animals that serve as the various appliances. But there's also a plot going on behind all of that.

Cliff Vandercave (Kyle MacLachlan) is a vice-president at the Slate company, having an affair with his secretary, Sharon Stone (Halle Berry). He's also been embezzling money from the company, but realizes he's going to need a fall guy to be able to get away with it. So he comes up with the idea to hire a new vice president, giving the workers down in the quarry an aptitude test so that there's also the PR story of hiring an executive from the blue collar (well, nobody's really wearing a collar in prehistoric days) ranks. Fred is stupid, but goodhearted, having given Barney the money the Rubbles needed to adopt Bamm-Bamm. So Barney repays Fred by switching aptitude tests. Barney got the highest score, but since he switched envelopes, Fred gets the executive's job.

The fact that Fred is a lovable, overly trusting lunk doesn't help his cause. Cliff encourages him to spend like an executive, which makes Fred more of a snob. Cliff also makes Fred fire the employee who got the lowest score on the aptitude test, which just happens to be Barney thanks to that envelope switch. So for most of the rest of the movie there's also the conflict between the two friends over what Fred unwittingly did to Barney. The two wives, however, are still friends, which is key, because when the embezzlement comes to light, they try to put things right.

Whether or not you like The Flintstones will probably depend on how much you enjoy the sight gags, since the plot is nothing original. It's obvious that the people who made the movie really believed in it, and that certainly makes the movie easy to watch even if it never really rises to anything particularly get. Goodman looks physically like an excellent fit for the part, and Berry looks like she's having a lot of fun as the vamp in a role that shows no indication that she would go on to win an Oscar.

If you're looking for an hour and a half of undemanding entertainment on a rainy day, you could do a lot worse than to watch The Flintstones.

Thursday, December 9, 2021

Soldiers in White

I recently watched my DVD of They Died With Their Boots On. The DVD has several extras including a couple of shorts. I already blogged about A Tale of Two Kitties; recently I watched the other short, Soldiers in White.

In a big-city hospital in the days just before the US entered World War II (the movie has a 1941 copyright but IMDb lists a 1942 release and the final scenes really imply extra footage was filmed after Dec. 7, 1941), Charles Anthony (John Litel) is a hospital chief of staff who is announcing to the new interns and nurses that he's going to be leaving the hospital to take on an important new task of joining the Army to train medics. One of the nurses is young Miss Ryan (Eleanor Parker in her movie debut), who decides that she too wants to join the Army. This is much to the chagrin of intern Johnny Allison (William T. Orr), who fancies himself a ladies' man and has been pursuing all of the nurses.

Wouldn't you know it, however, but Johnny gets drafted. Not that he takes the military seriously, as he sees it as an opportunity to keep pursuing Nurse Ryan. That is, until he gets in an accident that fractures his leg and leaves him laid up. That gives now Maj. Anthony the opportunity to have the sort of talk Judge Hardy would have had with Andy, and get Johnny to change his tune on a dime and learn to love Big Brother military life.

The movie concludes with a bunch of medics marching, with the stentorian tones of Warner Bros.' house announcer Knox Manning making Reed Hadley over at Fox look like a piker in terms of pushing the propaganda and stridency up to 11.

Soldiers in White is mildly interesting for Eleanor Parker, and the print on the DVD has extremely nice Technicolor photography for a short, since you'd think those would have gotten short shrift in the presentation department. But the plot is terrible, and there's a reason didn't become a star. (Orr did, however, go on to become executive producer of quite a few TV shows in the first two decades of network TV.) It's good to have this on a DVD as an extra, but it's not something I'd go out of my way to look for between movies on TCM if they were still listing their shorts in the online schedule.

Thursday Movie Picks #387: Rags to Riches

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 "Rags to Riches". It didn't take me all that long to come up with three movies that fit the theme:

Curly Top (1935). Impossibly perky orphan Shirley Temple is noticed by one of the benefactors of the orphanage (John Boles), who has decided to adopt one of the orphans. The only problem is that Shirley has an adult sister (Rochelle Hudson) who won't let the two of them be split up. So Boles adopts both of them, but finds himself falling in love with Hudson. Boles also has a neighbor who starts falling in love with Hudson, too.

Inside Daisy Clover (1965). Natalie Wood plays Daisy Clover, who at the start of the movie is living a hand-to-mouth existence with her mother (Ruth Gordon) on one of the piers in the Los Angeles area in the 1930s. Daisy records a song at one of those pier attractions where you can record your voice. Movie producer Swan (Christopher Plummer) hears it, and this is the start of Daisy becoming rich and famous, although life at the top isn't as easy as it's cracked up to be.

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971). Willy Wonka (Gene Wilder) decides to hold a contest in which five children will be lucky enough to get a grand tour of the Wonka chocolate factory as a prize. Charlie (Peter Ostrum), a young boy from a very poor family, is one of the lucky five, and is also the only one who has any redeeming qualities, which allows him to win the ultimate prize.

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

The Fisher King

I DVRed quite a few films during the three months of free Showtime that I had. But I DVR a bunch of movies during ny of the free preview weekends. During another such weekend quite some time ago, I put The Fisher King on the DVR. Recently, I finally got around to watching it.

In the late 1980s, Jack Lucas (Jeff Bridges) is a shock jock doing a morning program on one of New York's more popular radio stations. He takes calls, and dispenses really snotty advice, which seems to be the point, to get people to laugh at the idiots who call in. Anyhow, one of those callers is a man who was rejected by a yuppie woman on a date, to which Jack responds that the guy probably shouldn't have tried with the woman because of their completely different social classes. It was enough to make the caller snap, as Jack finds out watching the news that the caller went out and shot up a yuppie night spot, killing a bunch of people.

We move three years forward. Jack is out of radio, unsurprisingly since who would want the guy after his shtick made a guy go on a shooting spree. He's reduced to working in a video store, having gotten the job thanks to his girlfriend Anne (Mercedes Ruehl) who owns the place. But Jack doesn't seem to have much lust for life, to the point that he's thinking of committing suicide. But before he can do that, he's attacked by a couple of young thugs of the sort that populated the city before Rudy Giuliani got really tough on crime. Just as they're about to kill him, however, another deranged person comes out and attacks Jack's two attackers, driving them off.

This guy calls himself Parry (Robin Williams), and seems like the sort of mentally ill nut-case that nobody would want to get to know, or at least would want to stay the hell away from after getting to know the guy. Parry claims to be looking for the Holy Grail, and has visions of some sort of Red Knight who comes chasing after him in what turn out to be attacks of PTSD. Parry is looking for the love of his life, but has no idea where to find her.

And then Jack finds out the truth about Parry. He was married to one of the victims of the shooting at that yuppie night spot those three years ago, and it was that event that caused Parry to snap and become mentally unstable. Jack, feeling responsible for it, goes to apologize to Parry, but one thing leads to another and the two men get a fleeting glimpse of the woman Parry claims to be looking for. Jack realizes he has to get the two of them together as that's the only possible way to help Parry recover.

If the plot sounds a bit nuts, well, it is. Terry Gilliam directed, so with the whole Holy Grail plot you can be forgiven for having reminders of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. But there are other movies I was thinking of, specifically the mental asylum in 12 Monkeys and the dystopia of Brazil, all raising common themes for Gilliam.

The acting is good although you may be annoyed by Robin Williams at times. That's not really Williams' fault as much as it is that his character, being mentally unstable, can be a difficult one to get close to. And since he's the main character, it makes the movie a bit tough to watch at times. I also found that the movie ran a good 20 minutes too long for me. It probably should have clocked in under two hours, but it's 137 minutes.

Still, the flaws aren't that big and obviously other people won't be irritated by Williams' character as much as I found myself at times. With that in mind, The Fisher King is absolutely worth watching.

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

The Chosen (1981)

Another of the movies that I had the chance to watch courtesy of one of the free previews was The Chosen. It's going to be on again tomorrow at 6:00 AM on MovieMax, with a couple more airings over the next week and a half.

In New York City around the time of the D-Day invasion, Reuven Malter (Barry Miller) is a secular Jewish teenager. Living not far from the Malters and the other secular Jews in the area is a group of Hasidic Jews, much more traditional and strict in their interpretation of the Torah and Talmud, led by Rebbe Saunders (Rod Steiger). One day, the Hasidic Jewish teenagers are invited to play a game of baseball against the secular Jews, and surprise surprise, the Hasidim are pretty good. The game, however, takes a dark turn when a ball hit by Danny Saunders (Robby Benson), son of the Rebbe, hits Reuven in the eye, sending Reuven in the hospital.

It was an accident, of course, and Danny feels bad about it, but Reuven has a bit of difficulty accepting Danny's sincere apology, probably in part because those Hasidim seem just a bit weird. After all, they let their hair grow out and all wear the same black jackets with white dress shirts and a hat. But eventually, the two agree to meet again, which is when Reuven learns that Danny has a photographic memory that enables him to learn Talmud much more quickly than your average young Jewish man.

Reuven also learns taht Danny has a difficult relationship with his father. The Rebbe wants Danny to follow in his footsteps and become the next Rebbe, as multiple generations of first-born sons in their family have done. Danny, however, has been sneaking out to the library and reading some literature as well as books on psychology, and given a chould would like to attend the secular Jewish college that Reuven is planning on attending. The Rebbe's plans don't call for any of that, or even much connection with the modern world outside. Danny doesn't seem to know who Benny Goodman is, or ever seen a movie.

Danny invited Reuven over to meet his family, and it winds up having some effect on Reuven too. The Hasidim may be radically different, but they also have a vibrant culture that seems to work for them as well as secular culture works for the rest of us. There are also the debtes on Talmud, which hit upon a spot in Reuven's heart that hasn't been tended to. (I'm reminded of the old adage that atheists don't replace God with nothing, but with something else, often the state.)

But there's conflict coming. With World War II having ended, the Jews who were nearly exterminated by the Nazis are intent on forming a Jewish state of their own in Palestine. That's something that Reuven's college professor father David (Maximilin Schell) has been stridently advocating for. Unfortunately, the Hasidim are equally strongly opposed to the idea of the Jewish state on the grounds that it's not sufficiently Jewish. As the Rebbe says, the Nazis tried to kill the Jewish body and now the secular Jews are trying to kill the Jewish soul. Danny has actually already met Prof. Malter, although he didn't know at the time this was Reuven's father. If the Rebbe finds out how much Reuven's father is advocating for the creation of Israel, there's going to be hell to pay, pardon the expression.

The Chosen is a really interesting movie that touches on a lot of universal themes, especially the conflict between tradition and modernity that I've mentioned before when I compared The Jazz Singer (another strongly Jewish-themed movie) with something like Eat, Drink, Man, Woman which has a lot of the same conflicts but in the completely different venue of Taiwan. For the most part, it seems to be fairly kind to the Hasidim, not treating them like swivel-eyed loons the way that the Hollywood of today seems to think about certain branches of Christianity. Each side has something to learn from the other.

The Chosen is anchored by a strong performance from Rod Steiger, and a good one from Schell. If there's a weakness, it's Robby Benson, who I don't think I've ever seen give a particularly strong performance. I also couldn't help but think that the movie takes a way out of the dilemma it spends most of the film setting up that's not quite realistic enough. On the whole, however, The Chosen is definitely worth seeing.

(NB: As of this writing, Amazon Web Services is down. Since Amazon owns IMDb now, I haven't been able to get to the actual IMDb page for The Chosen, although their search seems to be working. If the above is the wrong link, I apologize.)