Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Get Yourself a College Girl

Hollywood tried to appeal to the youth demographic in the 1960s with a bunch of beach movies. Sometimes they tried to be original by moving the action from the sand to the snow, but that didn't necessarily make the movies any better. As an example, TCM is showing Get Yourself a College Girl tomorrow at 6:30 PM.

The Wyndham School for Girls has been teaching college-age girls refinement for a couple of generations now. One of the classes is teaching the young women ballet, led by one of the younger teachers, Miss Endicott (Joan O'Brien). Endicott suggests that the class' successful musical student, Terry Taylor (Mary Ann Mobley), put on a record for them to dance to, and Terry plays one of those anodynde uptempo things without lyrics that consistently came out of the radios in 1960s movies; the students dancing something that is definitely not ballet.

It's almost Christmas break, and the students go to a concert at the local club headlined by the Dave Clark Five as well as Eric Burdon and the Animals, both at the beginning of their careers not wasting one of their hit songs on a movie like this. Meanwhile, back on campus, the dean, Martha Stone, gets a call from a Gary Underwood (Chad Everett). Gary, it turns out, is a music publisher, and he's been publishing songs that Terry wrote, under a pseudonym. Gary wants to get in touch with Terry, even though she gave him strict instructions not to get in touch with anybody from Wyndham.

And that's with good reason, because Terry's songs like "Get Yourself a College Girl" are the sort of thing that's going to scandalize the trustees of the school, including the original Wyndham's grandson, Hubert Morrison (Willard Waterman), who is a senator facing a tough reelection bid. He thinks the scandal could sink him, but Dean Stone is more sympathetic. So a compromise is reached with Terry and her friends: Sue Anne (Chris Noel) and Lynne (Nancy Sinatra) going off to Sun Valley for the holidays chaperoned by Miss Endicott, not to have any relationship with boys.

Senator Morrison heads off to Sun Valley as well to investigate for himself. But also going there is Gary, who wants to see Terry and handle the PR for the new song. To that end, he's brought along an artist, Armand, whose job it's going to be to get a painting of Terry in just a bikini for the advertising. Really. Talk about scandal. But at least Stan Getz and Astrud Gilberto show up in Sun Valley to do "The Girl from Ipanema".

If that plot isn't inane enough, just wait. After the misunderstandings in Sun Valley are cleared up, there's still the question of Senator Morrison's campaign. He now sides with the youth, and decides to have a "Checkers speech"-like TV appearance in which he's going to appear with the kids and music acts of the day, hoping to get enough calls from the young to continue the campaign. It makes no sense whatsoever.

The highlight of Get Yourself a College Girl is some of the musical numbers. Unfortunately, as I mentioned, the Animals and Dave Clark don't sing the songs you've heard of, but at least Astrud Gilberto does. There's also a jazz combo up in Sun Valley I hadn't heard of called the Jimmy Smith Trio who are pretty good. But the plot is ridiculous. If you enjoy having a laugh at the stupidity of truly dumb plots, you'll probably have some fun with Get Yourself a College Girl. But there's not much other reason to watch it.

Monday, August 30, 2021

The Brasher Doubloon

FXM has been putting a higher than normal number of movies I haven't blogged about before into its rotation. Thise time out, the movie in question is the 1947 B mystery The Brasher Doubloon. It's on the FXM schedule again, tomorrow at 4:45 AM, so as always, I made a point of sitting down to watch it so I could do a review here.

George Montgomery plays Philip Marlowe, Raymond Chandler's private detective more memorably played by Humphrey Bogart and others. This time, Marlowe is out in Pasadena, at one of those rich people's houses of the sort where Mildred Pierce first met Monte Beragon. He's greeted at the door by Merle Davis (Nancy Guild), secretary to wealthy widow Elizabeth Murdock (Florence Bates). Murdock also has an adult son Leslie (Conrad Janis), who seems none too happy at the presence of Marlowe.

Eventually, Marlowe gets an audience with Mrs. Murdock, who informs him that she owns one of two known copies of a famous early American coin known as the Brasher Doubloon. (In fact, there is such a coin as the Brasher Doubloon, but there are more than two surviving copies.) Well, owned it. The coin has recently been stolen from her safe, and she'd like it back. But she doesn't want her name brought into the public eye in conjunction with such a crime, which is why she's employing the services of a private detective. It seems that only Mrs. Marlow, Leslie, and Merle know the combination to the safe, so logically it would seem one of them took it, and considering Leslie's attitude, he's an obvious suspect although that could just be a red herring.

Marlowe's first two leads are to a coin dealer and another man who seems to have an interest in the case, but the coin dealer gets killed after Marlowe's visit while the other man is found by Marlowe already having been killed. Understandably, the police are going to find that Marlowe is on the case and they're going to want information.

Meanwhile, Merle is beginning to act erratically, and Mrs. Murdock suggests that it's because Merle went crazy after having one of her bouts of amnesia where she couldn't remember what, if any, involvement she had in the incident in which Murdock's late husband fell out of a window to his death. There's some suggestion that perhaps somebody might be trying to blackmail Merle, or maybe Mrs. Murdock. More blackmail, death, and violence for Marlowe occur.

The Brasher Doubloon being a decided B movie, it doesn't get the polish that some of the other mystery movies of the 1940s got. That's a bit of a shame, since there's the kernel of a good story here, that really needed to be fleshed out to around the 90-minute mark. As it is, the movie is mildly entertaining, but with an ending hinging on the same flaw Call Northside 777 had, which is that it posits you can take film and blow it up as much as you want and not lose any detail. There's also the 40s trope of everybody being able to get right up with no aftereffects after having yet another concussion. You'd think all those film detectives wound up dying of CTE.

Fans of Raymond Chandler may be interested to see how this particular story of his (the book was titled The High Window) was handled. For people looking to get into 40s mysteries, I'd recommend other stuff first.

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Mo' Better Blues

Yet another of the movies that I had the chance to record during one of the free preview weekends was the jazz movie Mo' Better Blues. It's going to be on StarzEncore In Black tomorrow at 3:48 PM, so I sat down to watch it and do a review on it here.

A brief prologue set back in 1969 has a young Bleek Gilliam practicing his scales on the trumpet under the tutelage of his mother. Some of his friends are outside the front steps of his house, cajoling him to come out and play ball with them, which makes his mother none too happy, as Bleek goes back to his scales.

Fast forward 20 years. Bleek is now an adult, playing in a jazz combo bearing his name together with saxophonist Shadow (Wesley Snipes), bassist Bottom (Bill Nunn), piano player Left Hand (Giancarlo Esposito), and drummer Rhythm (Jeff Watts). The group is managed by Bleek's childhood friend Giant (Spike Lee, who also directed and wrote the script). The combos seems successful, although Giant and the club's management (brothers played by John and Nick Turturro) worry about Shadow going into solos that run too long. So there is at least a bit of tension within the combo. Left Hand also has a French girlfriend who causes him to show up late at times, and even comes into the dressing room, which is a big no-no.

But the movie is much more about Bleek's life and, on a secondary note, Giant's, than it is about Left Hand. Bleek has a girlfriend in Indigo (Joie Lee), but it turns out that he has a second girlfriend in Clarke Betancourt (Cynda Williams), who is an aspiring singer who would like it if Bleek could put her up on stage to sing with the combo. Now, there's nothing wrong with her wanting to sing, and nothing wrong with having an instrumental combo, except that the two are clearly incompatible. Maybe Clarke could sing with a different combo, but that would bring up its own set of problems.

In fact, Clarke is going to wind up singing with another combo when Shadow begins to chafe under Bleek's leadership, even falling in love with Clarke himself. But that all comes later in the movie, after Clarke and Indigo both find out that Bleek has two girlfriends, thanks to his having bought the same dress for the both of them that they both just happen to wear to the club on the same night, even though Indigo doesn't normally like going to the club. Talk about bad luck, although Bleek brought it upon himself by having two girlfriends in the first place.

In the meantime, we've also got Giant's story. He's not a particularly good manager, having negotiated a bad deal for the combo, which they'd like to renegotiate except that Bleek's name is on the dotted line. That's part of why Shadow things about going out on his own with a new combo. Bleek would like more money although management rightly point out there's that contract. Giant needs more money. He's been betting on baseball, and doing a lousy job of it, because he's fairly heavily in debt to his bookie Petey (Ruben Blades). Giant is unable to pay, resulting in muscle being brought in to try to make him pay.

Mo' Better Blues has a pretty good story, helped out by an unsurprisingly good performance by Denzel Washington. The music is also quite good, even if, like me, you're not the biggest fan of jazz. But one place where I felt the movie was really a let-down was in the direction. Spike Lee used some really intrusive camera movement throughout the movie when static shots would have worked better. There were dizzying pans on several occasions, and one weird sequence that apparently had Bleek on a turntable in his own apartment as the camera stayed on his face while the background did a 360-degree rotation. Sure, the camera doesn't have to be stationary all the time the way it was in those early talkies of filmed plays, but the choices for moving the camera around here were, I thought, too frequent and at the wrong times.

But for peole for whom such camera movement isn't an issue, they'll definitely love Mo' Better Blues.

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Intermezzo (1936)

TCM's star in Summer Under the Stars for Sunday (August 29) is Ingrid Bergman. Thanks to TCM's close cooperation with Criterion, they're able to show a couple of Bergman's early Swedish movies that coincidentally happen to be on this Eclipse Series set. The first of them is the 1936 version of Intermezzo, kicking the day off at 6:00 AM.

Professor Holger Brandt (Gösta Ekman) is a popular concert violinist. Indeed, as the movie opens he's just finishing yet another world tour together with his promoter Charles (Bullen Berglund) and his piano accompanist Thomas (Hugo Björne). Thomas is, however, getting up there in years and decided that he's tired of the constant travel, so he's not going to be the accompanist on Holger's next tour.

Also tired of the constant travel is Holger's wife Margit (Inga Tidblad). Not that she's been traveling with Holder; instead she's stuck at home with the couple's two children, high-school-aged Åke (Hans Ekman) and young daughter Ann-Marie (Britt Hagman). She'd like to see more of Holger, who for his part seems to have a sense of wanderlust and even when he's at home can't really stay at home, wanting to spend his nights out at the opera instead of with the family.

Also at the house is Anita Hoffman (Ingrid Bergman). She's a very promising piano student, indeed up for a prominent scholarship that would enable her to study at the conservatory in Paris. But to help pay the bills, she's giving piano lessons to people like Ann-Marie. She even takes over from Ann-Marie when the daughter is going to accompany Dad when they're providing the musical interlude for Ann-Marie's birthday party.

Even if you haven't seen the English-language remake, it's not very difficult to guess what's going to happen next. Anita, being a music student like Audrey Hepburn in Love in the Afternoon, attends concerts, and runs into Holger after one of those evening concerts. Holger's gone alone since his family is comfortable staying at home, and as Holger and Anita talk after the concert, they begin to fall in love. Holger and Anita then start meeting in all sorts of dark, out-of-the-way places so that they won't be discovered by anybody.

Holger has yet another concert tour coming up; indeed, the possibility of another concert tour is already being discussed at the beginning of the movie. Holger needs that new accompanist, and he's falling in love with Anita, so why not invite her to be the accompanist? It's not as if she could possibly upstage him, and since they're in love they'll get to spend time together.

There's still that minor issue of Holger's marriage; eventually, during a break in the tour that Holger and Anita are spending in Switzerland, Charles comes with divorce papers from Margit. But there's also that scholarship Anita had applied for; she gets a letter from Thomas that she's won the scholarship, which would require her to leave Holger to go to Paris.

Intermezzo is an extremely well-made movie, and it's easy to see watching this why producer David O. Selznick would have wanted to bring Bergman over to Hollywood when he himself saw the movie on its American release. She's unsurprisingly quite good, but so is Ekman. The story is good, and like a lot pre-New Wave foreign movies, not that far away from Hollywood so easier for people who aren't necessarily that excited about having to read subtitles to get into -- even though Selznick chose an English-language remake of this to be Bergman's first Hollywood film.

Definitely watch this version of Intermezzo if you get the chance.

Friday, August 27, 2021

Glorious Hope

TCM runs somewhat more recent movies during 31 Days of Oscar, which usually gives me the chance to see some things I hadn't seen before since I tend to watch older movies more. Among the more recent -- well, at least by my standards -- movies this year was Hope and Glory. Having recorded it, I recently sat down to watch it.

Sebastian Rice Edwards plays Bill Rowan, a boy of about 10 who is living in a housing development on the periphery of London with his family: dad Clive (David Hayman), mom Grace (Sarah Miles), elder sister Dawn (Sammi Davis), and kid sister Sue. The movie opens on September 3, 1939, which if you recall from your history books is the day the United Kingdom declared war on Nazi Germany after the Germans invaded Poland. If you didn't know, it doesn't matter, since the movie opens with the radio airing the Prime Minister's speech about the declaration of war.

As you can guess, Britain going to war means big changes for the whole of society, even for the Rowan family. Dad, despite having three children, decided to enlist for the war effort, leaving Mom to raise a family somehow. (I don't think we see anything of her having any sort of a job, and certainly not the sort of jobs the women in Millions Like Us had.) Billy is old enough to comprehend some of the horrors of war, as we see in his nightmares, but not all of them. Trying to survive a war and maintain some sense of normalcy is seen by Billy as a grand adventure. When the Blitz comes and various properties in the area are reduced to rubble, the boys in the neighborhood start a club to play at war in the rubble.

As such, Hope and Glory is a movie that's more of a memoir than a standard plotted movie; indeed, director John Boorman based the movie on his own experiences during World War II. But the main characters each have their subplots. Mom finds that she still holds a candle for another man whom she had loved years ago, while Dawn, who's growing up, has to grow up much faster what with all those soldiers around. She's swept off her feet by a Canadian soldier (Jean-Marc Barr) who of course gets his orders to ship out, leading to, well, you'll have to watch the movie to find that out.

Along the way, the Rowans lose their home, although surprisingly, they're the one family that doesn't lose their house to the Nazi air raids; instead, it's just a normal fire. But it forces them to move in with Grandpa (Ian Bannen) and Grandma, who are growing old and fighting it every step of the way; Grandpa in particular doesn't like the encroachment of technology on his riverside home.

John Boorman's nostalgic retelling of the homefront is excellent, buoyed by fine acting performances. The lack of one overriding main plot works in the movie's favor as it makes these people feel more like real people, simply trying to get through terrible privations as best they can, sometimes resorting to dark humor to do so. We're all like that, to a greater or lesser extent.

The Britain that Boorman presents in Hope and Glory is also a way of life that was dying out, to be changed irrevocably by the war. In that regard, Hope and Glory would make an excellent double feature along with Michael Powell's A Canterbury Tale. See it if you get the chance.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

The Goose and the Gander

I've mentioned in the past how much I tend to enjoy Warner Bros. programmers and B movies from the 1930s. Another good example of that output is The Goose and the Gander.

Kay Francis plays Georgiana Summers, who's vacationing at the sort of beach resort where the well-to-do go for their vacations. Also there is Betty Summers (Genevieve Tobin), who is only related to Georgiana by marriage, in that both of them have been married to Ralph Summers (Ralph Forbes). Georgiana was the first wife, before Betty came into the picture and took Ralph away while Georgiana was doing one of those rich people's vacations in Europe, which would explain why Georgiana hasn't seen Betty before.

Ralph is there as well but pre-occupied with business, so accompanying Betty at the beach is Ralph's brother Arthur. Showing up is Bob McNear (George Brent), who's clearly in the movie to wind up with the lead actress in the final reel and make her look good the rest of the time. But right now he's carrying on a fling with Betsy that seems innocent enough on the surface and which Ralph suspects not a jot.

Georgiana, having seen the interaction between Betty and Bob, upon learing that Betty is the second Mrs. Ralph Summers, hatches a plan to have Ralph catch Betty in flagrante delicto. Bob mentioned in passing to Georgiana that he has to go away on business on the night train, but is really intending to get off that train and head back to the beach to surprise Betty. And since Betty and Bob are each planning to go up to the mountains for some alone time, Georgiana bribes the one service station along that road to come up with a ruse that will force the two of them to spend the night at Georgiana's place in the hills, at which point Ralph will show up. She's gotten the license plate numbers of Betty's and Bob's cars, which is how only those two will wind up at Georgiana's place.

But of course things don't quite work out that way. When Betty takes Ralph to the train station to see him off, Bob follows, and after Ralph leaves, the two of them get in Bob's car, with a guy from the garage coming to pick up Betty's car. Except that he's going to show up late. There's been a couple of jewel thieves at the hotel, Lawrence (John Eldredge) and Connie (Claire Dodd). They need to make a quick getaway, and when they see the keys still in Betty's car (this was the 1930s, after all; nobody would do that today), they steal Betty's car and head off for the mountains.

So Bob and Betty, claiming to be married, show up at Georgiana's place, followed by Lawrence and Connie, and then eventually Ralph and the cops. The thieves still have the jewels on them too, including one of Georgiana's that she didn't notice had been missing. It gets complicated from there.

Never mind the complications, however; The Goose and the Gander is a silly little piece of fluff that works for the most part on the strength of its cast. It's not terribly memorable and will never be considered a great in the careers of any of the cast members, but then that's not what the studio was looking for. They just wanted to keep their stars in the public eye, and a movie like The Goose and the Gander does that perfectly well while entertaining movie goers for an hour and change.

The last I checked The Goose and the Gander has a standalone DVD courtesy of the Warner Archive, but it really another of those movies that really should have been included in one of those four-film TCM-branded box sets Warner Home Video used to put out.

Thursday Movie Picks #372: Books you want to be adapted into TV series

This being Thursday, it's time for another edition of Thursday Movie Picks, the blogathon run by Wandering Through the Shelves. As we're once again at the last Thursday of the month, it's time for another TV-themed edition. This time, it's an odd little bird, as it's not a theme about TV shows that are or were on the air. Instead, it's "Books you want to see adapted into TV series". With that in mind, I decided to take the category somewhat unseriously, at least in the sense that I don't necessarily want to see my selections made into TV series. But it gave me the chance to look for some fun clips:

The NYNEX Yellow Pages. When AT&T was split up into the "Baby Bells" in the early 1980s, New York Telephone (my dad's longtime employer) and New England Telephone were merged into one of the spinoff companies, NYNEX, meaning "New York, New England, and the X stands for the possibilities". (Yes, it really was the inane a name.) They still printed phone books, and in the late 80s and early 90s came this campaign. If it's out there, it's in here. Two other good ones are here and here, although the titles give them away. NYNEX was eventually bought out by Bell Atlantic, another of the Baby Bells; Bell Atlantic eventually became Verizon.

Mother Goose's (or Grimms') Fairy Tales. In the mid-1970s, the producers of The Hollywood Squares tried a bizarre experiment that had the stars dress up as various fictional characters, with a slant towards things children would be familiar with, in a more family-themed version of the show. I have no idea what they were thinking.

To Serve Man. Need I say more?

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

All About Eva

Katharine Hepburn was the Star in TCM's Summer Under the Stars this past Saturday. One of the movies not on the schedule was Morning Glory, the movie that won Hepburn her first Oscar. I had seen it many years ago but never did a blog post on it. Since it was on the schedule not too long ago, I recorded it then, and recently watched it to finally get around to doing that blog post.

The thing I didn't remember from my first time watching the movie is how little there really is going on. Hepburn plays Ada Love, a naïve young woman from Vermont who's come down to New York at the height of the Depression thinking she's going to make it big on the Broadway stage, because she did community theater back in Vermont, don't you know. She shows up unannounced at the office of prominent producer Louis Easton (Adolphe Menjou), but can't get in because like a lot of offices in 1930s movies, there's one of those swinging gates that keep the visitors on one side and the doors leading to the actual private offices on the other side.

Easton is talking to his favorite playwright, Joseph Sheridan (Douglas Fairbanks Jr.) about what to do as their next collaboration together. Meanwhile, waiting outside is an older actor Easton has cast a lot, Hedges (C. Aubrey Smith), who takes a liking to Eva and even offers her acting lessons. Needless to say, Eva is not able to impress Easton, but then a lot of aspiring actresses would have shown up over the years the way Eva did.

Some time later, Eva is in one of those 1930s diners where the hard-luck characters of Hollywood movies go to eat cheaply, or at least just get a cup of coffee if they can't even afford to eat. Who should show up at that diner but Hedges? Hedges has pity on Eva and offers to take her home, but decides to take her to a party that Easton is holding. Perhaps at least she can get some hors d'œuvres in her stomach. Of course, Eva is stupid enough not to eat, but to drink a bunch of champagne instead, get rip-roaringly drunk, and do an impromptu Shakespeare recital before passing out.

Easton, seeing Eva passed out in his lap just wants to pay her off to get rid of her and at least survive for however long it's going to take to find a part in a play somewhere. Eva somehow has the silly idea that perhaps she's actually got a part, and just walks out of the apartment, probably expecting a call or something that isn't going to come, forcing Eva to do vaudeville, the horror.

Sheridan is apparently able to find her, because he gets her as an understudy for the new play that he and Easton are doing, one that has Rita Vernon (Mary Duncan) in the leading role. But Rita is a diva, and decides on opening night that she's going to hold Easton hostage by demanding a much better contract than whatever she signed. Sheridan holds the trump card in Eva, however, and somehow she's actually able to pull the role off, at which point the movie abruptly ends.

Hepburn gives a good performance, although at times she's showing the same self-absorbed blankety blank that she is in a bunch of her other movies, notably Bringing Up Baby and The Philadelphia Story. Perhaps Hedges should have shaken some sense into Eva like at the end of Old Acquaintance instead of offering to take on Eva as a student; it probably would have helped Eva in the long run. Unsurprisingly, all of the men are just fine in their supporting roles although it's Hepburn's picture all the way. The one irritating thing, however, is the ending, as it really feels like the writers didn't know what to do after making Eva a star. The didn't have a boyfriend to reunite her with, or a big musical production as in 42nd Street. It just ends.

If you want to see Katharine Hepburn before she became "box office poison" in the late 1930s, Morning Glory isn't a bad place to start.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Ooh, goody, another potboiler!

Another of the movies that was new to me when I saw it pop up in the FXM schedule was Hilda Crane. It's got its next airing tomorrow, Aug. 25, at 6:00 AM, so I sat down to watch it and do a review on it here.

Jean Simmons plays Hilda Crane, who at the start of the movie is returning to her home town of Winona, one of those small towns with a liberal arts college that dot the landscape of Hollywood movies during the studio era. (The University of Nevada in Reno was used for the college scenes but the movie doesn't otherwise mention where Winona is.) Hilda had spent some time in New York, where she wasn't much of a success, having been married and divorced twice and losing her job because she didn't have what it takes. So now she's coming home to mother (Judith Evelyn).

Not long after getting home, Hilda gets a letter from Russell Burns (Guy Madison). The two had been friends before Hilda went off to college. Both of their fathers died relatively young, and while the Cranes are modestly comfortable, the Burnses are the town's wealthiest family, thanks to Russell's mother (Evelyn Varden) having worked her ass off to get to this point. Russell is not big in the construction business in town, although you wonder how big the business could possibly be considering the size of the town.

In that letter was a marriage proposal from Russell to Hilda. However, Mrs. Burns absolutely doesn't want Russell getting married to Hilda. Or, frankly, to anybody. Mrs. Burns is convinced that the only possible reason a woman could be interested in her son is because he's got money now, and she's trying, she thinks, to prevent Russell from making a bad decision. Hilda, for her part, wasn't certain she wanted to marry Russell. She's made a mess of her life and knows that she isn't exactly a good girl. She also thinks about one of her old college professors, Jacques de Lisle (Jean-Pierre Aumont). Jacques is working on a novel which if it were successful would certainly pay more than being a backwater liberal arts professor, even though all the students seem to love him. He knows Hilda has been to New York, and wants the excitement.

Eventually, Mrs. Burns henpecks the Cranes so much that Hilda decides she's going to get married to Russell just to spite nasty Mrs. Burns. Mrs. Burns says not to do this to her because she's got a bad heart, and starts play-acting the put-upon dying mother. Except that it turns out she really does have a bad heart that even her doctor didn't know about, and she drops dead on the day Hilda and Russell get married.

The ghost of Mrs. Burns hangs over Hilda and Russell's relationship, and Hilda responds by becoming one of those heavy day-drinkers that populated 1950s potboilers, the sort who would use the word "tight" to describe the fact that they've gotten drunk. That's bad enough, but then Prof. de Lisle returns from New York with his book having been somewhat of a success.

Hilda Crane is a silly little potboiler, and frankly a minor one in the cycle of potboilers. Simmons is the one big star (by Hollywood standards) here, and she's not really right for the Crane role, or any potboiler if you ask me. Guy Madison is bland, and when I see Aumont romancing Simmons, I can't help but think of Mahogany 20 years later and an older Aumont going after Diana Ross. Evelyn Varden, however, is a hoot, tremendously overacting the guilt-tripping mother from hell. It's too bad her character has to die halfway through the movie.

If you want some unmemorable unintentional comedy, Hilda Crane isn't a bad choice for that. If you want a quality movie, look elsewhere.

Monday, August 23, 2021

Afternoon Delight

Coming up on Tuesday, August 24, TCM is giving us a day full of the movies of Maurice Chevalier. One that I haven't blogged about before is Love in the Afternoon, and since I had that one on DVR, I decided to watch it to do a post on now.

After a brief prologue on how love blooms in Paris (which is unfortunately in black-and-white here), we're introduced to Claude Chavasse (that's Chevalier). He's a very discreet private investigator in Paris, widowed with an adult daughter in Ariane (Audrey Hepburn) who studies cello at the conservatory with possible boyfriend Michel (Van Doude). Coming to visit Claude is an unnamed man called Monsieur X in the credits, played by John McGiver. Monsieur X thinks that his wife is stepping out on him and has hired Chavasse to prove or disprove the allegation.

Claude has been peering into a suite at the Hotel Ritz every night, where American playboy Frank Flannagan (Gary Cooper) has been meeting a woman who comes there in a veil to avoid being identified. Every night they listen to a gypsy combo and eat and dance unti the band leaves, leaving the couple alone. Monsieur X decides that he's going to catch them in flagrante delicto and then shoot Flannagan!

Ariane, meanwhile, has been taking an interest in her father's profession, going through the files that Dad has and even eavesdropping on conversations with clients, which doesn't seem good for Dad's reputation, but nobody seems to realize what's going on. But the upshot is that Ariane hears about Monsieur X's plans and is shocked, since she doesn't want anybody to be shot. So she decides to break into Flannagan's room through the balcony to get Madame X out of the room such that Monsieur X will find Flannagan together with Ariane.

This also results in Flannagan deciding to spend the evening with Ariane, and the next day with her, but that will be it because Flannagan is a businessman who travels the world and has a girl in every port, or would if his business took him to ports. Still, Ariane follows Flannagan through the news clippings, and since the movie is maybe halfway through its 130-minute running time, we know it's not over by any means.

Sure enough, same time next year more or less, Ariane and Michel are going to the Paris Opera House to see a production. They've got cheap balcony seats, being poor students, but when Ariane looks through her opera glasses she sees Flannagan with another woman. He's back! And sure enough, they run into each other in the foyer during intermission, leading Ariane to go back to Flannagan's suite at the Ritz, since he takes the same suite every time he's in the city.

One catch is that Flannagan doesn't know anything about Ariane. And she's not about to tell him the truth that she's just a poor music student, since she probably expects Flannagan to reject her if that truth were known. Since she's been reading Dad's case files, she has all sorts of stories to make up about having been "the other woman" in various men's lives, none of which are true, of course, at least in the sense that Ariane was never the other woman.

Ariane jilts Flannagan when she discovers just how much he's been lying, leading him to go on a bender and try to shake it off at a steam bath, which is where he meets... Monsieur X. Monsieur X thinks the best thing for Flanagan to do is to seek help from a detective to find out about this mystery woman, and boy doesn't Monsieur X know just the right detective....

Quite a few of the reviews over on IMDb have a problem with Love in the Afternoon on the grounds that Gary Cooper seems to be much too old for Audrey Hepburn here (their real-life age difference was 28 years), exacerbated by the fact that Cooper was beginning to age rapidly and looks older than he really was. I actually didn't have that problem. We know from the beginning that Cooper is a playboy, so if any of his actions seem creepy they're no more so than any of the other screen playboys we've seen. And I'm amazed that Hepburn's character couldn't figure this out, considering how she'd been going through her father's case files. If the movie had a problem for me, it's that it runs over two hours, and really could and should have been trimmed by a good half hour (I'm thinking of Indiscreet here).

On the bright side, the performances are good, and we don't have to hear Maurice Chevalier sing, other than a bit of incidental music, since music is so important to the movie, both with Ariane's character and the gypsy band. The old standard "Fascination" plays constantly in various arrangements.

Love in the Afternoon was directed by Billy Wilder, who made several all-time classics. This one isn't one of his best, but it's better than some of the reviews would have you believe. If I were trying to get people interested in the films of Billy Wilder, there are a bunch of other things I'd pick first, but for anyone who already likes Wilder, Love in the Afternoon isn't a bad watch.

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Briefs for August 22-23, 2021

Tyrone Power was today's star in TCM's Summer Under the Stars. One of his movies that wasn't on TCM's schedule is the fun swashbuckler The Black Swan. But it happens to be on the FXM schedule, tomorrow at 7:40 AM. Speaking of Power, another of his movies is coming up on FXM at the end of the week: Diplomatic Courier, at 9:25 AM Thursday and 7:50 AM Friday. That one's interesting because it's set in Trieste back when it was nominally part of any modern-day country, in the years just after World War II. I blogged about it all the way back in February 2008 and I think this new batch of airings are the first since 2008.

Another movie that's been showing up on the FXM schedule is the Richard Burton/Elizabeth Taylor Cleopatra, which always takes up a large part of the FXM Retro daypart since it gets a 255-minute block, with one at 10:45 AM Monday and another at 6:00 AM Tuesday. I mention the movie a lot because I think the financial situation around the movie had an influence on what else Fox did in those days, but I have to admit I've gotten around to watching the movie in full. And right now, I don't really have the space on my DVR to record it.

Tropical Storm Henri is hitting, although thankfully over here in the Catskills it hasn't been as bad as the forecast. But I've already got posts for Monday and Tuesday up in anticipation of movies airing on Tuesday and Wednesday morning, so for once I'm actually a bit ahead of the game in what to blog about. That's also why you're getting a briefs post.

Tomorrow in Summer Under the Stars, it's 24 hours of Eve Arden. That of course means an obligatory airing of Mildred Pierce (9:45 PM Aug. 23), in which she gives a great performace that earned her an Oscar nomination. The day kicks off at 6:00 AM with Stage Door, although Arden is well down the list behind some other enjoyable actresses of the late 1930s.

Seven Waves Away

Tyrone Power is today's star in TCM's Summer Under the Stars, and to be honest I've actually blogged about quite a few of the movies being shown. One I hadn't blogged about is Abandon Ship (as the movie is titled on the print TCM ran the last time they ran it; the original title is apparently Seven Waves Away and it's also known as Seven Days from Now), which concludes Power's day at 4:00 AM Monday, so early Monday or overnight tonight depending on your preference. I had recorded it when TCM did a spotlight on "Movies at Sea", and with the upcoming airing I recently watched it to do a post on here.

The movie starts off with the opening credits being superimposed over the images of first brochures for a luxury around the world cruse followed a naval mine, so it's obvious that something ominous is about to happen even if you couldn't figure this out from the title Abandon Ship. Sure enough, as the credits are ending we get an explosion with the ship Crescent Star having hit the mine and about to go under.

Alec Holmes (Tyrone Power) is an officer on the ship, and got off the ship, which went down so quickly that there wasn't time for any of the lifeboats to be filled and set off from the ship. There's a lot of flotsam, however, and Alec is able to get aboard one piece of flotsam that has another couple of stranded passengers. And then -- Holmes spots a lifeboat off in the distance!

Alec swims over to it, and finds that it isn't a normal lifeboat, but a smaller one that's only designed to hold nine people. However, so many people were desperate to get off the Crescent Star, and this was the only boat we see, that it's severely overloaded, even having a bunch of men having to hang off the side of the boat holding on to ropes and having a life preserver around them. Adding one more person to the boad is like adding insult to injury, even if Holmes is an officer.

If that's not bad enough, there are a lot of problems aboard this tiny lifeboat, starting with the captain's presence. OK, it's not the captain's presence that's a problem, but the fact that the captain was mortally wounded in the explosion. Despite the fact that the ship's nurse, Julie White (Mai Zetterling) is on board, he's beyond treatment, as are several other of the people in the boat. Soon enough the captain does die and Holmes, being senior among the officers left on the boat, is given command.

This doesn't sit will with several of the others, since this is Holmes' first command. There's a junior officer, McKinley (Stephen Boyd); a retired general who has commanded, if only on land; and a glamorous-looking woman, Edith Middeton (Moira Lister), who keeps referring derisively to Holmes as "brave captain". And the nurse is Holmes' old girlfriend, which adds some more tension. Fortunately, though, there was another ship in the area. Except that Sparks tells us the explosion hit so quickly and destroyed the radio equipment before they had a chance to send out an SOS call. Oops.

So with nothing else to do, Holmes comes up with the brilliant idea of trying to have the men row to get the boat into a current that will take them to Africa, which is the nearest attainable landfall although that's 1500 miles away and will take them 15 days if they're lucky. The rations were only designed for nine, and even with people having died there's still way too many people on board, forcing Holmes to make some extremely difficult decisions.

I've made the argument in conjunction with several submarine movies that there are only so many ways to go because of the extremely confined spaces. I'd say that the same is true with Abandon Ship, considering how tiny the lifeboat is. I unsurprisingly found myself thinking of Alfred Hitchcock's Lifeboat. I think that movie has the advantage of having fewer characters, as well as having Walter Slezak play a Nazi which brings up some severe dramatic tension. Abandon Ship doesn't have that, resulting in a movie that's a bit more of a one-note storyline.

Not that Abandon Ship is a bad movie, especially when the movie tells us at the end that it's actually based on a true story (apparently from 100 years earlier, if IMDb's trivia section is to be believed). Power does well and is more than the 40s swashbuckler. The movie raises some thought-provoking ideas, but unfortunately doesn't do much more than that.

Saturday, August 21, 2021


I've got multiple movies on my DVR that I recorded off of FXM because they're new to me and showing up frequently in the FXM rotation, which is why it might seem they're coming up a bit more often than before. This time around, that movie is Fräulein. Its next airing is tomorrow morning at 10:30 on FXM.

Dana Wynter plays the Fräulein in question, a young woman named Erika Angermann living with her father Julius (Ivan Triesault), a college professor in Cologne in early 1945. Now, if you know your history, you'll know that this is not too long before the Nazis' final defeat in World War II; and if you didn't know it, a title card helpfully tells you we're in Cologne just before the end of the war. The Nazis are transporting a bunch of POWs, but thanks to an Allied bombing raid, one of them, Maj. Foster MacLain (Mel Ferrer) is able to escape. He seeks refuge in the Angermann house, and Dad is willing to help even though Erika isn't so sure, especially since she's got a fiancé who's serving in the Wehrmacht.

The bombing raid destroys the upper floor of the Angermann house, killing Julius. Erika decides to make the idiotic decision of seeking aid from her uncle Karl, who lives in Berlin. And somehow, despite all the chaos of war, Erika is able to make it to Berlin and find her uncle who's living in a house that seems surprisingly undamaged considering all of the bombing raids and the horrors of the final months of war. Karl, having a big house, has had it requisitioned to allow some Nazis, the Graubachs, to live with him.

The Soviets take Berlin, and Karl understands this means the Red Army is going to be looking for nubile young women to rape considering how long it's been since all those young Red Army soldiers have had sex. When Soviet Colonel Bucaron (Theodore Bikel) brings a bunch of men into the Angermann house, Uncle Karl hides Erika in the attic. But when one of the Red Army soldiers tries to go after Frau Graubach during a drunken party, the Graubachs inform him about Erika up in the attic. What a nady piece of work. Karl tries to stop the guy, but Karl and the soldier both die, Karl being shot and the soldier falling off the roof when Erika flees there.

Erika starts working as a Trümmerfrau, one of the women cleaning up all the rubble left from the Allied bombing campaigns that destroyed Germany during the war. That is until the Graubachs, looking surprisingly well-dressed and with influence, show up and offer Erika a place to stay. Of course, that place to stay is a brothel and Erika, along with all of the other "nieces" is expected to provide the men who show up a good time. Erika only suspects things when the men start showing up, and flees the place.

Eventually she gets a job at a bizarre club where the women sit atop a dunking pit and the men throw baseballs trying to dunk the women into getting them into wet dresses. Amazingly enough, who should show up at the club but Maj. Maclain? He still has the overcoat that Erika's dad gave him to evade the Nazis, and is now falling in love with Erika. But he's decent enough that he tries to find Erika's fiancé (Helmut Dantine), who has decided that, as an amputee, he doesn't want to subject Erika to the rough life he's going to face. Maj. MacLain then tries to figure out a way to get Erika to America, but the Graubachs have a trick up their sleeves....

Fräulein is an interesting movie despite the flaws it suffers from. For me, the big thing is that this seemed to be a thoroughly sanitized Hollywood version of post-war Germany. As I stated at the beginning, it seems hard to believe that Erika wouldn't have been evacuated from Cologne, or that she would have been able to make her way to Berlin ahead of the advancing Allied armies. Then there's the issue of her being too naïve to understand what the Graubachs were up to. But if you can suspend disbelief the story isn't bad and despite the serious material it's fairly undemanding. Wynter shines while Mel Ferrer is competent, and the supporting actors do OK.

Fräulein is another of those films that's not the greatest movie by any stretch of the imagination, but is entertaining enough for a watch.

Friday, August 20, 2021

Aaron Loves Angela

Some time back, TCM ran a spotlight on New York in the 1970s. One of the movies that was new to me was Aaron Loves Angela. As I'd never even heard of it before, I decided to record it to watch and do a post on later. I'm glad I finally got around to watching it.

Kevin Hooks plays Aaron, high-school aged son of Ike (Moses Gunn), living in Harlem in the early 1970s. Aaron is the star of his school's basketball team, while his father was very good, but not quite good enough, which is why Ike is putting so much pressure on Aaron to succeed in basketball.

His team loses the game in the movie's opening, but watching from the sidelines is Angela (Irene Cara). The two fall in love, even though Angela is part of the Puerto Rican community living in Spanish Harlem and the Puerto Ricans and blacks don't always get along well -- and that's an understatement. Aaron's best friend finds an abandoned apartment building where they can all squat, or at least just spend time there where nobody will find them, and this allows Aaron and Angela a place to go and try to figure out their relationship.

It's complicated at times because of the racial situtation but more because Aaron seems to want to take things more quickly than Angela does, causing a good deal more tension between the two. But it's the movie's subplots that are really going to affect their relationship.

Beau (Kevin's real-life father Robert Hooks) is the local drug kingpin who seems to have found a surer way of getting money than any basketball player could. He's also seeing a prostitute who lives one floor down from Aaron and Ike. One of the drug deals involves selling a bunch of drugs to some white dealers who bring a huge amount of cash, something which is always risky. To do the deal in secret, they select... the same building where Aaron and Angela have their little hideaway.

Naturally, the deal goes bad, with Aaron and Angela hiding in their room to avoid being detected. After all the shooting goes down, Aaron peers out and finds Beau, fatally shot just like the two white guys, but with the briefcase full of money. Beau comes up with the brilliant idea of telling Aaron to take the money, since it's not as if Beau has any more use for it. Aaron foolishly takes the money and tries to escape, although he's going to be detected.

Most of the reviewers over on IMDb -- and there aren't that many reviews -- didn't care much for Aaron Loves Angela, noting that most of the plot threads aren't fully fleshed out or left hanging. I frankly enjoyed the movie despite these flaws. I felt that young Hooks and Cara both do admirable jobs exploring what would have been a difficult relationship even if there weren't any race issues at the beginning of the movie. The rest of the film is a nice slice of life of 1970s New York.

Even though it's not the world's greatest movie, I certainly felt Aaron Loves Angela was worth a watch.

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Mister Buddwing is now a stand-up comic

Last week's theme for the Thursday Movie Picks blogathon was Movies that Confused You. Unfortunately, I only watched Mickey One after doing that entry, or else I could have used it in the blogathon.

Warren Beatty plays Mickey, a stand-up comedian in Detroit who apparently likes to gamble and entertain the ladies when he's not up on stage. He's accrued some gambling debts, and somehow the Mob has gotten a hold of those debts and wants him to pay up now. But how much, and how the Mob got those debts is a mystery to the comic and, frankly, to the viewer as well.

So our comic decides that, since he can't pay those debts, he's going to go running off to Chicago to try to get away from the Mob. Fat lot of good that's going to do him. A lot of the better nightclubs have Mob ties, but which branch of the Mob is it? Getting in with the wrong branch could cause problems for Mickey.

With the help of a manager who looks like he should have died 20 years ago, Mickey gets gigs at some lesser clubs, and this eventually brings him to the attention of Castle (Hurd Hatfield), who manages a club called Xanadu, which has nothing to do with roller disco. The agent may be able to get Mickey a gig there, which may help Mickey at least figure out how much he owes and to whom. But Mickey worries that he's not seeing the right people.

Along the way, Mickey winds up with a girlfriend in Jenny (Alexandra Stewart). But he doesn't want to get too close to her because he doesn't want her to get hurt. And who knows, but she could be a lure to get him killed by the Mob. Or something like that.

I found Mickey One maddeningly hard to understand, and as I was watching, I couldn't help but think of another movie that's tough to decipher, Mister Buddwing. In that movie, James Garner plays a man who wakes up in a city park one day with a bad case of amnesia. I'm guessing that Warren Beatty's Mickey knows who he is, but the way everything is presented made me wonder whether a bunch of the scenes, such as Mickey in the auto junkyard, were supposed to be some sort of dream or allegory and not real. At least, that's the interpretation I gave it to try to make the movie less incomprehensible.

So I was frankly glad to get finished with Mickey One so that I could delete it from the DVR and make room for something else.

Thursday Movie Picks #371: Treasure Hunt

This being Thursday, it's time for another edition of Thursday Movie Picks, the blogathon run by Wandering Through the Shelves. The theme this week is "Treasure Hunt":

Er, maybe not that Treasure Hunt, especially since this isn't a TV-themed edition of the blogathon. I had two movies right away, and had a certain third movie in mind, but it turns out that's not really a treasure hunt movie so instead I decided to resule a movie that I picked in a late 2017 edition of the blogathon:

Mara Maru (1952). Errol Flynn plays a charter boat captainwho served in World War II and lives in Manila, having served in the Philippines. He gets a call from Raymond Burr, who is looking for what turns out to be a jewel-encrusted crucifix that was being transported one of the passengers on a PT boat Flynn was on and got blown up. So Flynn should know the location of the wreck, and Burr will stop at nothing to get the crucifix. Ruth Roman plays the widow of Flynn's business partner.

God's Little Acre (1958). Robert Ryan, as patriarch Ty Ty, and his overheated southern Gothic family live on a farm in rural Georgia in the depression. Ty Ty is convinced that there's buried gold on his land, supposedly buried there by his grandfather, so he keeps digging and digging for it. Among the cast are the obviously southern Buddy Hackett as a candidate for sheriff; Tina Louise as Ty Ty's daughter-in-law; and Michael Landon as an albino, which is important to the plot because reasons.

Night of the Hunter (1955). Bank Robber Peter Graves hides $20,000 in his daughter's rag doll so the authorities won't find it. After Graves is executed, his widow Shelley Winters marries "preacher" Robert Mitchum, who is really a con artist who only married Shelley to get at the kids because he thinks they know where the money is. And he'll chase the kids to the ends of the earth to find them and the money.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

The Chase

Today's star in TCM's Star of the Month is Robert Redford, which means somewhat more recent movies than most stars' days, since Reford only started in the 1960s. His day concludes overnight tonight or early tomorrow at 3:30 AM with The Chase. I had recorded it some time before when it ran on TCM, so seeing it come up on the scheudule, I watched it to do a post on it.

Redford plays Bubber Reeves, who lived in a small town in Texas before being sent to prison. But he and another inmate break out of prison. To further their escape, they flag down a car presumably to carjack it and drive to points unknown, but the other prisoner kills the driver with a rock and drives off, leaving Bubber holding the bag and knowing everybody will suspect him without an alibi.

Word reaches his home town that Bubber has escaped from prison, and Sheriff Calder (Marlon Brando), one of the few people in town who's truly sympathetic to him, expects along with everyboy else in town that Bubber is going to try to come back as his wife Anna (Jane Fonda) still lives here.

Unfortunately, Bubber comes from a town that's a lot like the one in Violent Saturday, at least in the sense that almost everybody seems to have some sort of secret that threatens to turn the movie into a potboiler. Val Rogers (E.G. Marshall) owns the local bank and a lot of townsfolk think he's installed Sheriff Calder in order to have a toady to deal with any possible legal problems. Val's son Jason (James Fox) has having an affair with Anna while Bubber was in prison. Bubber's mom (Miriam Hopkins) thinks she's responsible for Bubber turning out the way he did. And on, and on, and on.

Sure enough, Bubber is trying to get home, likely to see Anna. Lester, an otherwise innocent black man, tries to go up the back way to Anna's apartment to give her a message about Bubber's whereabouts, and this benig a small southern town, there are a lot of people who would be happy enough to play the race card to try to get him to reveal where Bubber is. Heck, they'll be just as happy to beat the crap out of the sheriff to get the information. Can Calder keep the peace?

The Chase is based on a play by Horton Foote, who wrote the plays that served as the basis for some other movies that I really liked, such as The Trip to Bountiful, as well as screenplays like Tender Mercies. The Chase, however, has some serious problems. The whole thing seemed terribly unrealistic, as though Foote was trying to cram in as many thought-provoking plot points as he could. This also causes the movie to run about 135 minutes, when it really needed some trimming to get down to under two hours.

The acting, however, is pretty good, and I am for the most part not a particularly big fan of Marlon Brando. A couple of people I haven't mentioned yet are Robert Duvall as one of Rogers' employees, and Angie Dickinson as the sheriff's wife. The script, while having problems, doesn't really plum the overheated depths of Southern Gothic that films based on Tennessee Williams works do, such as The Fugitive Kind.

So watch and judge for yourself. While I and any number of other reviewers have problems with The Chase, there are also a lot of reviewers who really like it.

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

The Duchess and the Dirtwater Fox

Another of the movies that started showing up in the FXM rotation not too long ago is the comic western The Duchess and the Dirtwater Fox. Not having seen it before, I decided to record it so I could watch and do a review here. It's going to be on tomorrow at 11:25 AM, and again on Thursday, so now's the perfect time for the review.

The scene is San Francisco, 1882. Goldie Hawn plays Amanda Quaid, working as a showgirl in the sort of show you can imagine in a movie portraying the 1880s or the old west, although since this is after the end of the Production Code, the raciness is a bit less under wraps, especially in the lyrics of the songs they're singing. Amanda makes extra money by pretending to be a prostitute and getting men drunk enough to pass out so that she can steal her money.

George Segal plays Charlie Malloy, itinerant gambler who unfortunately likes to cheat at poker by keeping an extra ace up his sleeve, which invariably gets found out. In the town of Dirtwater, he's playing against Bloodworth (Roy Jenson), leader of a gang of bank robbers. When Malloy's cheating gets discovered, Bloodworth makes him take part in their latest robbery as Malloy knows a thing or two about explosives. After the robbery, however, Malloy runs off with the $40,000, leaving the Bloodworth gang with a bag of horse crap, and heads for San Francisco to get a boat to Australia.

So, as you can guess, Malloy is going to run into Amanda in San Francisco. By this time, she's been fired and rehired in her showgirl job, and has decided that she's going to go for a different scam. Widdecombe (Thayer David) is a wealthy Mormon from the Utah territory with multiple wives and a gaggle of children who needs a governess. Amanda decides she'll try to pass herself off as a duchess to get the job, and maybe then marry Widdecome to get at his money. Of course, she needs some seed money to be able to look like a duchess....

Obviously, that's where Malloy comes in. He's got money, but Amanda doesn't realize that he's got $40,000 since the bag he has it in has a false bottom. She thinks he's got maybe a couple hundred max which is why she doesn't get at first why he wants the bag back and doesn't want the police involved. Also, the Bloodworth gang is hot on Malloy's trail. Malloy and Amanda find out that the bag has gone ahead on an earlier coach to Salt Lake City, and with Amanda in a later coach, Malloy races out to catch up with her.

So, for the rest of the movie, Malloy and Amanda try to get that bag and the $40,000 back, while staying one step ahead of the Bloodworth gang. The Duchess and the Dirtwater Fox is a moderately appealing movie, although that's largely thanks to the pairing of Segal and Hawn. The script, such as it is, really seems more like a series of sketches and running gags rather than a fully fleshed out film.

Still, if you want a pleasant enough comedy that doesn't require too much thinking, you could do a lot worse than to watch The Duchess and the Dirtwater Fox.

Monday, August 16, 2021

Urban Cowboy

Another of the movies that I had the chance to record during one of the free preview weekends is Urban Cowboy. It's going to be on StarzEncore Classics twice tomorrow, at 5:14 AM and 2:18 PM, as well as a couple more times next week, so I sat down to watch the movie and do a blog post on here.

New Jersey-born John Travolta stars as Bud Davis, a man living in a relatively poor area of east Texas with his parents. He wants to better his lot in life, so he's decided to move to the Houston area where his Uncle Bob (Barry Corbin) lives, who works in the energy industry that was a hugely growing part of the Texas economy in the late 1970s. Bob is more than willing to help Bud get a job in the industry, and even gets Bud a girl on his first night in town, when they go to the honky-tonk owned by country singer Mickey Gilley (playing himself; Gilley's was a real place that burned down in the late 1980s).

Bud does get a job at the same company Uncle Bob works at, at least on a provisional basis, and spends his evenings and weekends at Gilley's. There he meets Sissy (Debra Winger), and it's love at first sight. Indeed, the couple gets marrried at Gilley's before moving into a brand new trailer that Bud has been able to purchase. And they live happily ever after, right? Well, of course not, considering that the movie would be over pretty darn quickly.

Mickey Gilley decides to install a mechanical bull at Gilley's for patrons to try their luck on, as well as a few other things to try to reduce the level of violence among the patrons. Bud immediately tries it and enjoys the experience. Sissy would like to try it too, but Bud, being a bit of a traditionalist, doesn't want Sissy to try. Also showing up at Gilley's is Wes Hightower (Scott Glenn), a parolee in need of a job to try to rehabilitate himself.

Bud and Sissy fight over her wanting to ride that mechanical bull, especially after she defies his demand that she not do it. So Bud throws Sissy out, and she goes running to Wes since he's an exciting bad boy. She doesn't realize just how bad a boy Wes is, however. Bud, meanwhile, meets Pam (Madolyn Smith), a much higher-class woman from a tony part of Houston, and falls in love with her although she's eventually going to figure out that she doesn't really love Bud the way Sissy does. This despite Bud and Sissy deciding to get a divorce. There's still some time, however, before the divorce goes through.

The film climaxes with the big contest of a mechanical bull riding contest at Gilley's, with the winner getting $5,000. Wes enters hoping to get the money to take himself and Sissy to Mexico, while Bud, who was training with Uncle Bob until... eventually decides to enter at his aunt's insistence and as a way to try to win back Sissy. You can guess how things are going to end, even though there's one more twist to come.

Urban Cowboy is a movie that ultimately is treading over the same ground that a lot of other movies do, of a small-town boy going to the big city and finding love and loss. The big difference, of course, is that the movie is set against the backdrop of a specific subculture that doesn't get represented too often on film. Indeed, Urban Cowboy set off a bit of a country craze in the early 1980s as several of the songs in the movie became surprise pop hits.

Debra Winger unsurprisingly does well here, while John Travolta is a big surprise as Bud. Some of the IMDb reviews suggest that his accent isn't particularly correct or consistent, but that doesn't really matter due to the performance. If the movie has a flaw, it's that it runs rather long at about 130 minutes. They probably could have found a way to cut a good 20 to 30 minutes and keep the story intact.

If you haven't seen Urban Cowboy before, I can definitely recommend it.

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Claudelle Inglish

I've come to realize that one of the genres of movies that I really enjoy is the overheated potboiler, if only because there's often so much to laugh at that the producers didn't intend to have be laughed at. An excellent example of this is the movie Claudelle Inglish.

Diane McBain plays Claudelle, a high school senior in some small town in the rural south, this being based on a book by Erskine Caldwell of Tobacco Road fame. Claudell lives with her parents, tenant farmers Clyde (Arthur Kennedy) and Jessie (Constance Ford), who, having been jilted by their respective spouses in A Summer Place, apparently decided to head south and impose their presence on this movie. Clyde, despite his best intentions, isn't able to provide much of a good life for his wife and daughter, and this has left the wife perpetually resentful.

One of Claudelle's classmates is Linn Varner (Chad Everett), whose parents are also tenant farmers like Claudelle's, both families renting land from the county's biggest and wealthiest land owner, S.T. Crawford (Claude Akins). Linn falls in love with Claudelle, and asks for her hand in marriage, with the caveat that she's going to wait until after Linn serves his hitch in the Army, this being the days of the peacetime draft. You'd think an 18-year-old who gets off the farm for his Army hitch and sees a bit of life would like something better, but Linn thinks he's going to become a father just like his father, and needless to say Claudelle's mom doesn't like this.

Claudelle writes to Linn pretty much every day, but eventually, replies stop coming, until one day she gets a letter from Linn saying that he's found another girl and is going to marry her instead. So Linn would like something better, just not with Claudelle. Claudelle, having been jilted, decides that like Miss Havisham, she's going to spend her life hurting men, which here means letting every man in the county date her just for the presents they can give her, but with no plans on the relationships going anywhere. And not telling anybody Linn has jilted her.

When I said every man, that's not quite correct. If the movie hasn't gone around the bend enough, it's about to get a whole lot crazier. S.T. Crawford decides that, like the men in Baby Doll, what he'd really like to replace his late wife is a girl who's barely of legal age, and he's picked out Claudelle, because she's making him really horny, not that he put it that way since the Production Code would never have allowed it. He comes to the Inglish house looking to take Claudelle out on a date, and Jessie thinks this is a good idea because it will allow Claudelle to escape the life of a tenant farmer's life. Never mind what Claudelle might like.

Claudelle Inglish continues on like this until the the unsurprising and logical plot development of some of the men in town beginning to fight over which one of them is going to get Claudelle. But there are some other twists as well involving Jessie and Clyde.

Watching Claudelle Inglish, it's easy to see why this one was a box-office failure back in the day and the critics savaged it. And to be fair, simply taken on an objective level it's not very good. But it's also easy to see why people consider it so much fun despite the bad critical repuation. Just when you think it's gone all the way over the top, it suddenly goes further, like the plot twist of sleazy Crawford deciding he wants Claudelle.

If there are flaws that could make the movie even more of a guilty pleasure, I can think of two. One is that the movie is in black-and-white, when it could really benefit from garish color. The other is that Claudelle doesn't get pregnant; the movie could have used a pregnancy like Susan Slade and The Best of Everything to be that much more ridiculous.

So get together with a bunch of friends and have a blast watching Claudelle Inglish.

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Harlan County USA

I've never taken part in any of the "Blind Spot" blogathons mostly because I don't know at the beginning of the year what movies I'm going to get around to watching over the course of the coming 12 months. But if I did, one of the movies that would have wound up in the series this year is Harlan County USA, as I only recently got around to watching it.

At the Brookside mine in Harlan County, Kentucky in 1973, the miners are fed up with the terrible working conditions, from the black lung disease that kills the men young to the risk of mine explosions and the terrible housing they feel the company hasn't done enough to alleviate. They've tried to get the company to do something about it, and the company won't help, so the workers use the only bargaining chip they have left, which is going on strike.

Documentarian Barbara Kopple was always interested in workers' struggles to improve their lot in life, and had been doing work on a possible documentary on corruption in the United Mine Workers' leadership. But when the Brookside strike began, she knew she had to go down to Kentucky to document that. Using a lot of raw footage with the miners along with a soundtrack of the sorts of workers' rights songs the miners had created over the decades.

The strike gets increasingly testy with a risk of violence. The miners having used their trump card of walking off the job, the company tries to use its logical trump card of importing labor to do the jobs the miners would be doing if they weren't on strike. The strikers respond by trying to physically prevent the imported labor from getting to the mine, and the company escalates that bit of violence by brandishing weapons. Eventually one of the striking miners gets shot and killed, and that's what brings the two sides to the bargaining table.

If there's one flaw with Kopple's work, it's that she's not just on the miners' side, but actively unsympathetic to the issues facing the company. I couldn't help but think of the movie Norma Rae (based on a true story), where the workers finally do succeed in organizing a union, but the work turns out to be something that overseas workers can do more cheaply. Of course, I don't think anybody could have known in the mid-1970s of the changes that would destroy much of the coal mining industry. It's amazing the extent to which large swathes of Appalachia have gone neglected because today's politicans can't use their plight to gain political advantage.

There's a lot in the movie that's interesting looking back 45 or more years. The miners went to Wall Street to protest in front of the New York Stock Exchange, and in a conversation with a (unionized, obviously) police officer, the cop says that most of what he does is bullshit. Contrast that with the idea of latter-day police insisting that theirs is one of the most dangerous jobs out there.

Kopple also touches on union corruption (ironically, the agreement the Brookside miners got would be folded into a nationwide agreement just a few years later), which from the things I hear from some of the government-sector workers I know is absolutely a thing -- their union bosses care more about the union leaders' political position than the welfare of the workers, at least if my friends' stories are 100% accurate.

Regardless of your political perspective, Harlan County, USA is a noteworthy film that absolutely deserves to be seen.

Friday, August 13, 2021

Don't look for Elton John or Kim Jong-Un

A new-to-me movie started showing up in the FXM rotation a month or two back: The Rocket Man. I see that it's going to be on FXM again tomorrow at 11:55 AM, so I watched it to do a post on here.

Timmy (George "Foghorn" Winslow) is a boy living at an orphanage that apparently has a TV that put all the boys in front of, because TV character Captain Talray shows up to do an appearance and everybody wants to see him. Timmy is last in line to receive one of the free gifts, but somehow a space gun that wasn't in the bin of gifts before magically shows up and Timmy is about to get what he's always wanted.

Timmy is about to get something else, which is a chance at a home. Local Justice of the Peace Amelia Brown (Spring Byington) is a widow living with her adult unmarried daughter June (Anne Francis) and is looking for a child to foster, eventually picking Timmy. Brown also tries to rehabilitate non-violent criminals by giving them a home during the beginning of their parole, and is also being pursued romantically by the town's mayor, Ed Johnson (Charles Coburn).

Meanwhile, local political fixer Big Bill Watkins (Emory Parnell) is about to come to town in advance of the upcoming election. He picks up a DWI, but a judge lets him off lightly because of his political clout. One of his underlings, Tom Baxter (John Agar) shows up at the bus station, and June, who is there to pick up the parolee, thinks that this is the parolee. Tom goes along with it because of June's good looks. Mayor Johnson picks up the real guy who is only a plot device to introduce the mix-up involvoing Tom.

Tom is actually there to put in a bid on the property on which the orphanage sits, because the lease is up and oil has been discovered there. This would send all the kids to the state orphanage, which would be a disaster, and Amelia tries to raise the money to outbid Tom.

As for Timmy, that space gun he got actually has magical powers, which makes those shot with its rays tell the truth, as he learns in a dream in which he sees Talray again. But he's only supposed to use this power for good. Amazingly, he does, and you can probably figure out where here's going to use it.

The Rocket Man is a decided B movie, as you can tell right from the beginning and the "Panoramic Productions" title card. The material is silly and the ending is abrupt, but despite all the problems it has, this one is ultimately watchable thanks to the presence of Coburn and Byington. That, and the fact you know that it's a B movie going in, unlike Never Say Goodbye, so one goes in with lower expectations. Id you want something with a predictably happy ending, you could do worse than The Rocket Man; it's no worse than episodic TV of the era.

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Never Say Goodbye

Errol Flynn did have the ability to do comedy, even if he didn't get much of a chance to show this ability at Warner Bros. Even when he was put into a comedy, he got a less than stellar script, as in Never Say Goodbye.

Errol plays Philip Gayley, who is looking to buy a coat for his daughter Philippa, nicknamed Flip (Patti Brady). Having just shown up earlier at the same department store to buy Flip a coat is Flip's mother Ellen (Eleanor Parker). It turns out that Philip and Ellen are divorced, but have joint custody of Flip. The daughter is expected to live for six months with Dad, followed by six months with Mom, and today is the day when Flip is supposed to go back to Mom along with Flip's nanny Cozy (Hattie McDaniel, who's much underused here).

Philip still holds a bit of a flame for Ellen, and wouldn't be opposed to getting back together with her, but he's a magazine artist whose job has him doing drawings of glamorous young women such as Nancy (Peggy Knudsen), so sometimes the temptation has gotten too great and he spent enough time with those women to make Ellen jealous. This, combined with a mother-in-law (Lucile Watson) who seems to have it in for Philip, and you can understand why Ellen has gotten a divorce.

Meanwhile, Flip definitely wants Mom and Dad to get back together, and encourages them to go to dinner at a restaurant run by Philip's friend Luigi (S.Z. Sakall), but that goes bad when it transpires that Philip had also invited Nancy there to dinner on the same evening and has to try to keep the two women apart, which you know he isn't going to be able to do. There's also the chance to make Flip happy by having Phil surreptitiously play Santa instead of Ellen's new love interest, but that one goes bad as well.

There's still one more chance, however. The movie having been released in 1946, it's right after the end of World War II. Flip did her part for the war effort by becoming a pen pal to a Marine in a program that apparently matched servicemen without anybody to write to them and people who wanted to help. However, Flip sent that marine, Fenwick Lonkowski (Forrest Tucker), a picture of Ellen which naturally leads him to believe he's been getting letters from a lovely adult woman and not an eight-year-old kid, although you'd think he could tell from the handwriting. Unsurprisingly, Fenwick shows up and all sorts of complications arise.

I said at the beginning that Flynn didn't get the best script here, and it's a shame because there's a lot of potential here that goes unrealized. Flynn's character is basically a good guy and Ellen probably knew in her heart that she had made a mistake. But the whole restaurant bit, with Flynn having to lie constantly, goes on way too long. The Marines subplot with Fenwick is also unrealistic, as I can't imagine him being fooled into thinking he got letters from an adult.

It's a testament to the quality of the actors, however, that all of them give their best and do pretty much as well as the script allows them to do. One just wishes the script were better.

Thursday Movie Picks #370: Movies that Confused You

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 a fun one, since it's more personal and a movie that fits for one blogger might not fit for others: Movies that Confused You. Not counting some of the movies I've come across on the Mexican TV channels and tried to watch with just closed captioning in Spanish rather than English subtitles, my Spanish being very poor, there are still any number of movies that are confusing enough. I think I used one a couple of years ago in a completely different theme, but it definitely fits here.

The Big Sleep (1946). Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart had been a big hit together in To Have and Have Not and got married, so Warner Bros. decided to cast them together again in this one. Bogart plays Philip Marlowe, so we know he's going to get involved in a mystery, this tim at the behest of Bacall's father. The real mystery, however, is what the movie's mystery is about.

The World's Greatest Sinner (1962). A vanity project for Timothy Carey, who plays an insurance salesman who drops out of life to become some sort of charismatic preacher type who then gets involved in rock-and-roll and then politics. Or something like that. A little bit of Timothy Carey goes a long way, and there's a lot of Carey here. Frank Zappa wrote the music.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). As I understand it, Arthur C. Clarke's novelization, written contemporaneously with the movie, explains the Space Baby of the third act in a somewhat more coherent way than Stanley Kubrick's direction does. Any time TCM shows the movie, I turn on the Descriptive Video Service for the third act to try to make it more comprehensible, but it's still a mess.

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Briefs for August 11-12, 2021

I didn't expect to do obituary posts on consecutive days, but Pat Hitchcock died on Monday at the age of 93. She was of course the daughter of director Alfred Hitchcock and his wife Alma Reville who had some script and continuity responsibilities for a bunch of his famous movies. Pat was most famously cast in Strangers on a Train, where she plays the bespectacled sister of Ruth Roman and watches in horror as Robert Walker nearly strangles a guest at a Washington party. Unfortunately I couldn't find a good picture of that on the web, so the next best thing is a picture of Pat and Farley Granger:

Actor Alex Cord died on Monday as well; he was 88. I feel like I should recognize him; probably his biggest movie role was as the Ringo Kid in the 1960s remake of Stagecoach, which doesn't seem to be coming up on any of the movie channels any time soon. Wikipedia says Cord has an uncredited role in The Chapman Report, which is going to be on TCM Friday as part of Jane Fonda's turn in Summer Under the Stars.

Speaking of Summer Under the Stars, we get our silent movie star tomorrow. That would be Ramon Novarro, although most of the daytime is taken up by early sound pictures. The highlight of Novarro's day, of course, would be the 1925 version Ben-Hur, at 8:00. It's thrilling even if the the chariot race isn't in widescreen. I doubt Sydney Pollack would get the heebie-jeebies however, as the scene wasn't filmed in widescreen.

One of the westerns that's been showing up in the StarzEncore Westerns rotation is The Secret of Convict Lake. It has another airing tomorrow at 8:38 AM.

As far as I can tell, there's nothing that I haven't mentioned recently that's been put back into the rotation on FXM. Maybe The King and I on Friday, which is of course a musical version of Anna and the King of Siam that I blogged about this past March.

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

The Limping Man

Back in the 1950s, it wasn't uncommon for British studios to bring over a second-tier Hollywood actor and give them the lead in a movie in order to make it easier for the studio to get somebody back in the US to pick the movie up for distribution. Recently, I watched another such movie off of the Mill Creek box set I've mentioned a couple of times in the past. That film is The Limping Man.

The American star in question is Lloyd Bridges. He plays Franklyn Pryor, who served in the US Army back in the War and now, several years later, is flying back to Londo to meet the woman he had a relationship with back then, Pauline French (Moira Lister), in the hopes that he can rekindle that relationship. This was the era when flying was in some ways more glamorous, but in other ways just simpler, such as all the passengers walking across the tarmac to get to the terminal. Franklyn was sitting next to one Kendall Brown on the plane, and as they're walking across the tarmac, a sniper shoots Kendall dead!

Oh dear, poor Franklyn is going to have to delay his meeting with Pauline since he's going to have to deal with the police, being a witness to the crime after all. They'll want to know his whereabouts and whatnot if they need more information from him. And, unsurprisingly, they think he might know more than he's letting on.

Eventually he's able to get in touch with Pauline, and he finds that all is not going as well as he might have thought, which should be expected since the war ended quite some time back. The bigger problem is the way in which things aren't going well. Pauline, it turns out, started a relationship with Kendall what with Franklyn benig back in America, and that will give the police more reason to suspect either Pauline or Franklyn in the killing of Kendall.

There's also a motive, in that somebody was blackmailing Pauline since she and Kendall were involved in shady business of getting around the rationing that was still going on in the UK until the early 1950s, by using Pauline's boat to stock up on cargo from across the Channel in order to resell it.

Fortunately, however, the police have evidence that suggest the killer might have walked with a limp. But then, there are a whole bunch of characters who seem to have a lime, or could just be faking it to try to throw the police off the trail of the killer, much like wearing a bad wig.

The plot could take The Limping Man in any number of directions, but the way in which it ultimately does take it is something that I won't mention other then to say there's a reason everybody on IMDb who reviews the movie mentions the ending even if they don't spoil exactly what it is. The Limping Man is an interesting enough premise, competently acted, until that ending.

The print on the Mill Creek DVD is understandably not particularly great, considering how much you're paying for it, but I wonder how good any of the prints are since this was not a prestige movie and not from a big British studio. So take what you can get, enjoy the first 80 or so minutes, and forget that the ending the studio has is the one that they do.

Jane Withers, 1926-2001

Jane Withers (l.) with Shirley Temple in Bright Eyes (1934)

Child star Jane Withers, who turned 95 a few months back, died on Saturday. I'll probably always best remember her for playing opposite Shirley Temple in Bright Eyes, and getting the memorable finale, albeit it a scene that probably couldn't be made today. Withers plays such an obnoxious brat that she winds up stealing the show from Shirley, which is a pretty tough thing to do.

Withers retired at age 21 to get married, but came out of retirement to appear in Giant alongside a couple of big names in Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, and James Dean as Vashti, neighbor to the couple played by Taylor and Husdon

I didn't know until hearing about her death that she also played advertising figure Josephine the Plumber in a series of ads for Comet Cleanser from 1963 to 1974. That's before I have any memory of events, which is why even though I'd heard the name Josephine the Plumber I don't think I'd actually seen any of the commercials:

Monday, August 9, 2021

Toxic femininity

Hollywood made a lot of movies with idle rich women in the 1930s. How grounded in reality the are or aren't is an interesting topic for discussion, but in any case the genre probably reached its peak with the 1939 movie The Women.

Norma Shearer is the innocent little deer in the headlights, playing Mary Haines, a woman happily married to Steven, who is unseen because the movie's gimmick is that every part in the movie is played by a woman, even the animals as studio publicity back in 1939 would have had you believe. Not even Grant Mitchell, who was in seemingly every other movie Hollywood made in the 1930s, shows up here. But we don't see Mary first. Instead, we see a high-end beauty salon where women go with their little murse dogs and get everything from haircuts to mud baths to exercise on 1930s equipment. They also gossip incessantly, and the latest bit of gossip is that Stephen Haines is seeing a shop girl, Crystal Allen (Joan Crawford).

Mary's cousin Sylvia (Rosalind Russell), also married, is catty, and decides to make certain the gossip spreads in a way that Mary is bound to hear it, ultimately getting Mary to go to the same salon and see the same manicurist from whom Sylvia heard the juicy gossip. Wow what a piece of work. Mary's mom (Lucile Watson), the one sensible woman in the movie, advises Mary to do nothing but wait and eventually Stephen will stop straying. If he really is, I don't know that that would be the best advice, but I'm not the person to ask for advice on matters of romance anyway. In any case, the two go to Bermuda for a vacation.

Things haven't changed much when Mary gets back, and at a fashion show, she finally meets Crystal and finds out that the rumors of Crystal and Stephen's seeing each other are true. It winds up in the gossip columns (although the one scene where it's on the front page seems thoroughly unrealistic). This is what finally gets Mary to decide she's going to go to Reno and get a divorce, much to the sorrow of her daughter also named Mary (Virginia Weidler).

Mary goes to a place in Reno that's specifically set up for women looking to get a divorce, letting them stay there until the divorce goes through, and run by straight-talking Lucy (Marjorie Main). Also there are Countess (Mary Boland), who goes through one husband after another; a chorus girl Miriam (Paulette Goddard); and, surprisingly, Mary's good friend Peggy (Joan Fontaine). Even more surprising is that Sylvia eventually shows up, and it turns out that Sylvia's husband is planning to get married to a chorus girl... who just happens to be Miriam.

Eventually Mary's divorce goes through and she seems to be reasonably happy living the single life with her mom and daughter. Crystal seems happy too, but daughter Mary is mighty unhappy and passive-aggressive toward her step-mother. Clearly she's learned from all the other adult women in her life.

There's a lot to like about The Women, but there are also things that aren't going to appeal to everybody. Anybody who's had to put up with other people's gossip in real life knows that it's exhausting, and do you really want to spend 130 minutes watching a fictionalized version of it? There's certainly quite a few moments of comedy here, and the performances are all well done, but part of me wanted to shake these women the way Bette Davis does to Miriam Hopkins in Old Acquaintance and tell them to shut up already. They're not nearly as clever as they think they are.

Still, because of the movie's reputation, The Women is a movie that definitely ought to be watched by anybody who's a fan of old movies.

Sunday, August 8, 2021


Another of the movies that I had the chance to DVR during one of the free preview weekends was Flatliners. It's hard to believe this one is over 30 years old now, but it was released in 1990. At any rate, it's going to be on StarzEncore Suspense multiple times over the upcoming week, starting with overnight tonight at 1:54 AM and tomorrow at 12:58 PM, and several futher times; check your cable box if you've got the Encore package.

David Labraccio (Kevin Bacon) is a medical student who gets himself suspended from a Chicago medical school in a post-apocalyptic setting (the movie itself isn't post-apocalyptic, but for some reason the medical school buildings look like they'd fit right in with the set of 12 Monkeys) for performing emergency surgery when he's still just a medical student and not licensed to do this sort of work.

Among the non-suspended students is Nelson Wright (Kiefer Sutherland), who informs us at the beginning of the movie that today is a good day to die. Nelson, like a lot of people wonders if there's any sort of afterlife; indeed, one of his fellow students, Rachel Mannus (Julia Roberts) has been spending time with the patients on the verge of death. Nelson would like to find out if there is indeed an afterlife at all, and comes up with a daring plan that would probably have most people thinking he's at best an insane genius. He plans to have his body temperature lowered and then be injected with drugs that will simulate death for about a minute before (the "flatline" on the heart monitor giving its name to the movie) his heart is shocked back into motion.

But for this, he needs somebody to actually do all the work like re-warming his body, injecting him with the appropriate drugs at the right time, and the like. To that end, Nelson is able to recruite Rachel, Jue Hurley (William Baldwin), and Randy Steckle (Oliver Platt). David, having been suspended and having nothing to lose, joins in as well. Nelson is flatlined, and sees images from his past of the sort you might expect from the old chestnut about having one's life flash before one's eyes. But some of the images are disturbing, involving a bunch of young kids chasing another kid and tormenting him.

Nelson is successfully resuscitated, and decides that he doesn't really want to talk about what he experienced because of its traumatic nature. He obviously knows the children in question that he saw. He was one of them, and it wasn't the one being tormented. Thanks take an even darker turn when he starts having hallucinations about what he saw while he was flatlining. Or was this stuff actually real.

Each of Nelson's friends decides that they too want to undergo the experience he did, but each of them also has demons in their past that are going to come back to haunt them in the present after they flatline. Joe has been videotaping his sexual conquests, and he has a lot of them even though he's engaged to another woman. After he flatlines, he starts seeing those other women on TV screens wherever he goes. Rachel's father was a veteran who served in the Vietnam War, only to suffer from PTSD and ultimately shoot himself when Rachel was just a little girl. David, like Nelson, bullied a little girl, and starts seeing that little girl in his hallucinations.

Meanwhile, Nelson's hallucinations are getting worse, as the kid he tormented all those years ago shows up and starts committing violence against Nelson that manifests itself in real life. David, meanwhile, has a flash of inspiration of how to deal with his hallucinations, but will the other students be able to follow his lead? And will it kill them if they try?

Flatliners is a movie that I found very intriguing, albeit also one that's not without its share of problems. We've all done things that pretty much any organized religion would consider a sin, and the idea that those are the things that would show up first in an afterlife is interesting. The contrast between the afterlife and the hallucinations on one hand and the present day is fairly stylishly executed.

But Flatliners also has a lot of plot holes that may be too distracting to some viewers. The idea of anybody other than the already suspended David following Nelson requires some suspension of disbelief, but even more than that is the fact that the students would have to use too much of the school's medical equipment and drugs not to be noticed by the administration.

All in all, Flatliners is definitely thought-provoking and, despite its flaws, absolutely worth a watch.