Monday, January 31, 2022

Henry Orient's World

I think I've argued here before that the scene in Dr. Strangelove where Peter Sellers finally shows up as the mad doctor is the moment where his career takes a turn into becoming obnoxiously self-indulgent in his performances. That's probably a bit unfair, however, since he could still be tamed into not being overbearing even when he's the nominal star of a movie such as The World of Henry Orient.

Of course, it should be stated that while Sellers gets the title role, he's not really the lead character. That honor goes to two teenaged girls, who attend the same private school in New York. Val Boyd (Tippy Walker) is the new girl at school, getting let out early every day to see her shrink, although that's only mentioned via a third party. She quickly makes friends with "Gil", short for Marian Gilbert (Merrie Spaeth). Val's parents are constantly busy traveling the world on business, while Gil's are divorced, and she lives with her mother (Phyllis Thaxter) and Mom's "friend" Boothy (Bibi Osterwald).

The two young ladies still like to act immature from time to time, going through Manhattan and just generally having a good time. However, Val can be a bit of a drama queen. One day, the two are in Central Park, and Val peers over a stone. She accidentally catches a glimpse of two lovers sharing a kiss. One of those is Henry Orient (Peter Sellers, as I mentioned), a temperamental concert pianist; the other is married Stella Dunworthy (Paula Prentiss), not married to Henry and worried about her husband finding out. So naturally when Henry catches Val and Gil playing peeping Tom, he's none too pleased.

It's about to get a whole lot worse for him, as he notices the two young women watching him somewhere else, leading him to believe that some brilliant mind trying to discover the affair has sent two "innocent" teenaged girls to follow him around and stalk him. Not that Val thinks of it as stalking Henry, however. She's just becoming one of those fans who is overly obsessed, but without becoming a groupie.

And like teenagers who want to think they're more grown up than they really are, Val decides to start a "secret society" with Gil dedicated to worshipping Henry Orient, allowing them to dress up and go around town basically being relatively harmless. You can, however, understand why adults might have a problem with this. And soon enough they will.

Christmas is approaching, and Val's parents, Mr. and Mrs. Boyd (Tom Bosley and Angela Lansbury respectively) return home for the holiday. Mrs. Boyd finds Val's scrapbook on Henry Orient, and unsurprisingly she's horrified, jumping to a not unreasonable conclusion that Henry might be up to no good. While he is misbehaving, it's not with the two teenaged girls, whom he'd just as soon have be out of his life. Mrs. Boyd thinks that Gil is responsible for Val's behavior, and orders Val to break off the friendship. Everybody else, however, is much more sensible. And perhaps Mrs. Boyd's overbearing nature might have something to do with why Val is seeing a shrink.

If Peter Sellers is toned down in The World of Henry Orient, it's because the role isn't particularly big. Much more attention is given to the two teenage girls, who can be irritating at times, but in the natural way adolescents can be irritating. That having been said, I wonder just how much Val and Gill would get to traipse around lower Manhattan in real life.

Sellers isn't the only one to do well with his role. Lansbury wasn't much different in Dear Heart which came out the same year, and this is the sort of stuff she was quite good at doing. If the movie has a problem, however, it's with the script, which is just too slight. This is another of those movies that really should have run around 90 minutes instead of the 106-minute run time it has.

If you want to see establishing shots of New York as it was in a more innocent time, there's some nice photography here. And if you want some competent and professional actors, you'll definitely get that. If you want something more memorable than watching it and going on to the next movie, however, you'll have to watch something else.

Sunday, January 30, 2022

Burnt Offerings

I had never seen Burnt Offerings before , but it showed up on TCM this past October as part of the horror movie themes, so I recorded it in order to be able to watch it and do a post on it here. Recently, I finally got around to watching it.

The Rolfs are a family led by father Ben (Oliver Reed), who has a wife Marian (Karen Black), and 12-year-old son David (Lee Montgomery). They're looking for a place to spend the summer on vacation, in part so that Ben can work on whatever writing it is that he needs to do. Ben and Marian think they've found just the place, the old Allardyce mansion. They meet with two of the representatives of the family, sister Roz (Eileen Heckart) and wheelchair-bound brother Arnold (Burgess Meredith). The two seem slightly dodgy and creepy, especially when they're talking about their elderly mother who lives in a room on the top floor and rarely leaves, having her food brought up to her twice a day.

This ought to be a big warning to the Rolfs, but they decide to take the house for the summer since the Allardyces are offering it for the extremely good price of $900 for the whole summer, which wasn't much for such a place even in the 1970s. The Rolfs bring Ben's aunt Elizabeth (Bette Davis) along with them, ready to enjoy a summer once they get the house in order, as it's a bit run down from Roz and Arnold's inability to deal with the upkeep.

More red flags show up vrey early when they get to the house and find that Roz and Arnold have left without leaving any way to contact them, and announcing that they've left Mom behind for the Rolfs to take care of. That seems like a huge breach of contract to me, and I would have thought about getting in touch with somebody to deal with that, but no, the Rolfs can't be bothered to do that, with Dad trying to get the pool ready for swimming and Mom taking care of the inside of the house.

And then Marian goes up and knocks on the elderly Mrs. Allardyce's door -- and gets no answer. My immediate thought would be that there might be something seriously wrong with Mrs. Allardyce, and I'd open the door to check up on her. God forbid she suffered a heart attack or something considering her kids' having neglected her. But Marian doesn't do any of that.

Meanwhile, creepy things start happening, especially when Ben and David both go swimming and Dad is much too hard on his son when they're "roughhousing", with Dad nearly drowning his son. This being a horror movie, it's a sign that there's something clearly wrong and that there's more to come. To be fair, that particular incident isn't something that the Rolfs themselves ought to notice, but for an outside observer watching the movie, it's just the first of many. Ben also starts having dreams from when he was a kid and his father died, with the driver of the hearse being super creepy, reminiscent of the "room for one more" story in Dead of Night.

It goes on like this, with things getting more serious when Aunt Elizabeth has some sort of medical issue that ultimately kills her. Surely this is going to get the rest of the Rolfs to break off their summer vacation, go home to bury Elizabeth, and stay home! Who on earth would want to stay in a creepy rental mansion after that?

Even more than a lot of other horror movies, Burnt Offerings is one that to me really seemed to rely on the characters making profoundly stupid decisions that nobody in real life would make. I know that suspension of disbelief to some extent is a thing when watching the movies, but Burnt Offerings required a bit too much suspension of disbelief for me. It didn't help that the ending is pretty darn easy to see coming. The other big problem that the movie has is that it runs pretty darn slowly. It's only a shade under two hours, but felt like it could have been better told in a good 20 minutes less.

Burnt Offerings is a movie that would do well paired in a horror double-feature on TCM next October with something like House.

Saturday, January 29, 2022

Hot Tin Roof Under a Cat

I've stated on a couple of occasions before that I'm not the biggest fan of the work of Tennessee Williams, which I tend to find annoyingly overheated. However, the movie version of his play Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is a fairly prominent film, and I haven't blogged about it before. So when it showed up on TCM recently, I made it a point to record it so I could watch it at some point and do a post on it here.

Paul Newman plays Brick Pollitt, a man who was a successful athlete in high school and college, enough to become locally famous in the part of Mississippi where he grew up, but not enough to go pro. He'd like to live off that former glory, however, and tries to run the hurdles one more time, tripping over one of the hurdles and breaking his foot, requiring a cast.

Meanwhile, Brick is returning home for his unsuccessful athletic career because it's the 65th birthday of his father, "Big Daddy" Pollitt (Burl Ives). Pollitt runs a successful cotton empire, one that owns thousands of acres and enables him to use a private plane to get around. In fact, Big Daddy and Big Mama (Judith Anderson) are just returning from Memphis, where Big Daddy was going to get expert medical attention for his "spastic colon". Of coruse, a phrase like "spastic colon" is a fairly obvious euphemism to modern viewers, but in times of greater medical ignorance like the 1950s, where doctors wouldn't necessarily inform patients that they had terminal cancer, people are willing to put on a public face of acceding to the illusion that the "spastic colon" is in fact harmless.

The doctor, however, relatively soon informs Brick of the real truth, which is that Big Daddy has terminal cancer and only has about a year to live. Brick tells his wife Maggie, nicknamed "The Cat" (Elizabeth Taylor). The two of them are in a difficult marriage, because Maggie has no children yet and there are rumors that Brick is gay and does not sleep with Maggie. In the play, this is apparently made rather more explicit, but in the movie there's only references made to Brick's football "friend" Skipper, and the fact that on the one hand Maggie tried to seduce Skipper and on the other Skipper committed suicide.

Also being told about Big Daddy's condition is Brick's elder brother Gooper (Jack Carson), an oleaginous lawyer who would like to get Big Daddy to agree to a will that would benefit him. He's got a wife nicknamed "Sister Woman" (Madeleine Sherwood) by Big Daddy, who has already borne Gooper five children, with a sixth on the way. These kids are universally obnoxious, to the point that it's easy to see why Big Daddy so greatly favored Brick.

Over the course of one night, with a whole lot of shouting and florid language, secrets are revealed and a resolution of sorts is reached regarding what Big Daddy is going to do with the cotton empire. Whether or not it's a happy ending is up to the viewer; it'll probably be reasonably happy for Big Mama who hasn't wanted to face the truth, but not for anybody else.

Whether or not you like this version of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is probably going to be dependent on whether or not you like Tennessee Williams' work in general. That makes it a bit tough for me to review, since I've never really been a fan of Williams. I can't deny that the movie is well-acted, particularly by Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor. It also has the very good production values that were the hallmark of MGM. On the other hand, all of these characters have to shout a whole bunch of ridiculous and unrealistic dialogue. It's also easy to dislike all of these characters.

If you like Tennessee Williams, you'll probably love Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. But then, if you like Tennessee Williams, you've probably seen it already.

Happy anniversary to me, and other briefs

Today marks 14 years since I posted the first words to this humble, low-traffic blog. In that time, I've posted almost every day, with a few exceptions for internet outages due either the electric going out in the weather (Hurricane Irene in 2011, although we weren't hit as badly as some places not far from here), or changes in Internet provider. In that time, I've done a little over 6,000 posts, although of course not all of those are movie reviews. Lots of stars have died over the past 14 years, and some of them get programming salutes on TCM, both of which have ben the focus of posts here. (Unfortunately, the current iteration of Blogger doesn't seem to mention how many posts have any given label.) That, and list posts/blogathons, most notably in recent years the Thursday Movie Picks posts.

Over the past 14 years, the internet has changed quite a bit, but thanks to my inertia and more modest circumstances, I haven't changed quite so much compared to the internet. Print blogs like this seemed to be the rage during the first decade of the 21st century, but in more recent years there's been a huge rise in video blogs and posting stuff to YouTube that would be a lot more convenient to read in print on one hand, and various short-forms of social media on the other. I don't even have a good video camera beyond what's on my smartphone and tablet, so I'd really have to make an investment if I wanted to do video reviews of the movies I post about here. I do some tweeting, but it's usually quick off-the-cuff responses to other tweets that people in various places link to. I tried for a bit to post tweets about the new posts I put up here, but that lasted maybe a few weeks.

I intend to keep blogging as long as there are interesting movies that I haven't seen, and/or as long as Blogger is still a thing. Having to change to another platform would, unsurprisingly, be a pain in the butt, as much as getting a new computer is. (The vast majority of my blog posts are on an external hard drive that's migrated twice; I did a few posts in the browser itself.) So I can certainly see myself getting to 7,000 posts in a few years time, and likely even some thousands more beyond that.

Today also happens to be the birth anniversary of W.C. Fields, so I'll include a video of the cigar box-juggling routine he did on vaudeville and reprised for the movie The Old-Fashioned Way:


Friday, January 28, 2022

College Hounds

I think it's been a little while since I've mentioned any of the Dogville shorts, so recently I put one of the DVDs in my DVD player and watched College Hounds.

This is clearly one of the earlier shorts, since the MGM lion is still not at full throat. As you're probably aware, the Dogville shorts spoofed various individual movies or genres that were popular in the early days of talkies. This particular short lampoons the college movies that showed up quite a bit, especially the college football tropes.

The basic plot, such as it is, involves one dog who is heavily in debt to bookies. This dog figures that they to pay back his debt is to fix the big college football game so that the star of Airedale U. won't be able to play, and have a wager placed before that information becomes public. To do this, he uses his daughter to try to woo the star dog romantically, including some canine kissing:

When the star realizes what's going on, he tries to escape but gets locked in a closet, only breaking out just in time to get to the stadium in the fourth quarter and score the winning touchdown. There's even some odd scenes of doggy football:

This being a 16-minute short, a bunch of plot threads are left hanging, and the star doesn't really get the girl at the end. One bit that was fun and not abusive to the dogs was in a bar, when one of the dogs orders a drink. The bartender slides the drink down the bar, and when the drink gets to the end, it does a precise 90-degree turn to get to the dog who ordered it!

Thursday, January 27, 2022

The Emperor's Candlesticks

I've argued before that certain studios back in the Golden Age of Hollywood made certain types of films better than others. Warner Bros., for example, was so good at the gangster and social commentary movies in the 1930s. MGM, on the other hand, was more suited to high-class stuff. A good example of this is The Emperor's Candlesticks.

The movie opens in Vienna sometime during the late 19th century. Russia still had a tsar, and the Tsar's son Peter (Robert Young) is on a secret visit to Vienna for a masked costume ball, togther with his adjutant Baron Suroff (Frank Morgan). A group of rebels are looking for Peter, and when they see him enter dressed as Romeo, they send a young woman dressed as Juliet (Maureen O'Sullivan) over to Peter's box. She captivates him, and he goes off with her.

But it's a trap. She's really Orlich, the daughter of a prominent Polish opposition figure, Poland having been completely divided and eaten up in the early 1790s, not to regain its independence until after World War I. She takes Peter to a safe house where the other conspirators hold him and Suroff hostage. Orlich's father is in prison in Russia, scheduled to be executed in a few weeks, and the Poles want him pardoned. So they force Peter to write a letter to his father telling of the captivity and asked the tsar to pardon Orlich.

But what does any of that have to do with the candlesticks, and the two stars who are credited above Robert Young? One of those stars is William Powell, playing Baron Wolensky. It's going to be his job to smuggle the letter into Russia and get it to the Tsar. Thankfully, he's given the perfect hiding place to keep that letter from getting noticed. He had a visit scheduled with his friend Prince Johann (Henry Stephenson), who would like Wolensky to deliver a pair of candlesticks to Johann's girlfriend in Russia. The candlesticks, dating back to French King Louis XV, have a hidden compartment that would be perfect for hiding the letter where nobody will find it.

The other star is Luise Rainer, playing Countess Mironova. Like Wolensky, she's a secret agent, but in the service of the Tsar. She's been given information that Wolensky is actually a particular agent whose identity the Tsarist secret police had previously not known, and she's given a letter to bring to Russia to tell that to the police. She, too, visits Johann, and Johann determines, not knowing anything about either of his two guests being secret agents, that it might be better to have a woman deliver those candlesticks. There goes Wolensky's hiding place.

Ah, but the Countess' maid is corrupt. She's got a boyfriend who is a thief, and plans to steal the Countess' jewels. He does steal them, but they're found rather quickly. However, he also steals the candlesticks, and gives them to the maid to fence. She takes them to Budapest, and thus begins a cross-continent hunt by Wolensky and Mironova to find the candlesticks. Unsurprisingly, they also develop romantic feelings for one another along the way.

The Emperor's Candlesticks is one of those period pieces that was perfect for MGM's sense of style, with the prop and costume departments making the movie look more lavish than it really is. It's too bad, however, that the source material from which the movie comes is rather threadbare. Robert Young and Frank Morgan are underused, while there's really less going on between Powell and Rainer than first meets the eye. However, Powell especially is so charming, and Rainer suitably exotic, that it's easy to overlook all of this and just see a movie that is an eminently watchable programmer.

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

The Egg and I

I mentioned some time back that I picked up a Claudette Colbert box set, and have reviewed three (I think) of the six movies on it. Another of the films in the set is The Egg and I, which is going to be on TCM tonight at 8:00 PM. So once again, I put it in the DVD player and watched it so I could do a post on it.

Claudette Colbert plays Betty McDonald, who at the start of the movie is on a train some time after the main action of the movie. A Pullman porter accidentally drops a breakfast egg, and Betty talks about the importance of the lowly egg, leading us into the main action of the film.... Betty is a city slicker recently married to Bob McDonald (Fred MacMurray), who fought in the recently won World War II and returned to do some sort of big-city office job. However, like the GI in The Best Years of Our Lives who was asking Fredric March for a loan to become a farmer, Bob decided in the trenches that he wanted to do something different with his life, so he bought a farm sight unseen.

The plan is to raise chickens on the farm and then sell the eggs, which seems like it would be a tough proposition for anybody who's never done any farming before. And, unsurprisingly, it's going to be even more difficult because this is a dilapidated little farmhouse: the roof leaks, the wood on the porch is rotting, the furniture in the farm-house seems generally run down, and the like. It's all the sort of thing that's an obvious target for humor as other movies like George Washington Slept Here and Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream Housedid. (There's also the Zachary Scott movie The Southerner which did it in a more dramatic sense.)

In any case, the McDonalds start putting sweat equity into the property, and start meeting the neighbors. Chief among them are the Kettles. Pa (Percy Kilbride) is a bit of a lovable con artist, Ma (Marjorie Main) is a woman with wisdom born of experience on the farm, and Tom (Richard Long) is the oldest of the Kettles' brood of 15 or so kids. Tom has just graduated high school and clearly has the talent to go on college, and he has the desire to become an engineer. But there's a question of whether he could support himself while going to college full-time. One other neighbor is Harriet Pullman (Louise Albritton), who owns another farm, and seems to have people run it for her as she's always impossibly well-dressed for a farmer and doesn't look like she's done a day's worth of farm work. If she had, she'd look more like Ma Kettle.

Along the way, the McDonalds learn a thing or two about farming, and actually start to get a bunch of hens laying eggs, but there's also a lot of difficulty. One problem comes when there's a forest fire that also burns down their farm, killing most of the chickens. But there's also Harriet; Betty gets the distinct impression that she's got a thing for Bob, and Bob seems to be spending entirely too much time with Harriet.

The Egg and I is a fairly gentle comedy that's probably best remembered as being the movie that spawned the whole Ma and Pa Kettle series. The Kettles were popular enough in this film that Universal decided to build a series around them, and their rural way of life untouched by modernity. But the rest of the movie works fairly well, even if none of the plot lines are particularly original. MacMurray and Colbert had starred in a handful of movies together over at Paramount before World War II, and they're an appealing couple here. And the movie isn't being gratuitously mean to those dumb hillbillies. Pretty much everybody is a decent person here, and even Harriet turns out not to be bad.

If you haven't seen The Egg and I before, it's a movie that's definitely worth watching.

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

In Like Flint

One of the movies that's been showing up in the FXM rotation recently that I haven't blogged about before is In Like Flint. It's got a few more airings on the FXM schedule, tomorrow (Jan. 26) at 9:20 AM and Thursday, Jan. 27 at 6:00 AM. So recently I watched it in order to do a post on it here.

A year before this movie, Fox had released Our Man Flint, which was apparently a hit, so this sequel went into production, which would explain why there are things that aren't explained. James Coburn plays semi-independent secret agent Derek Flint, although we don't see him for a bit. Instead, the movie starts with the other parts of the story. There's a luxury spa called Fabulous Face in the Virgin Islands that caters to a certain class of women, although it's a front for the women in charge, headed by Lisa (Jean Hale). They go to watch a rocket launch, which puts a new space platform into outer space, overseen by Lloyd Cramden (Lee J. Cobb), head of the spy agency ZOWIE. The women then discuss putting "Operation Duffer" into effect.

Cramden, who received a congratulatory call from the President (Andrew Duggan), is invited by the President to a round of golf. However, the women of Fabulous Face have developed some sort of gas that stops time for people within a small radius, which gives them just enough time to gas the President and Cramden, and replace the President with a lookalike. Cramden, fortunately, had been using his stopwatch, which isn't stopped by the gas, so when he comes to he realizes that three minutes have passed that he can't account for.

This leads Cramden to call Flint, who apparently used to work for ZOWIE although I haven't seen the first Flint movie. The need for Flint's services becomes greater after Lisa, again in disguise, meets Cramden at a restaurant and drugs him so that she can frame him cavorting with hookers. This gets him relieved of his duties at ZOWIE, which is just what Cramden's second in command, General Carter (Steve Ihnat), wants. Carter has been planning, with the help of the women running Fabulous Face, to arm the space platform with nuclear missiles; the ability to rain death from the sky is obviously one that would change the world balance of power.

However, that's only part of what the women of Fabulous Face want. Lisa and the others, including Elisabeth (Anna Lee), have determined that women have been running a lot of things in the background, either as wives running households or secretaries keeping businesses running smoothly. Men have been messing things up long enough that perhaps it's time for women to run the place. And to help things along, the hair dryers at Fabulous Face are equipped with subliminal messages to get the women to go there to vote for only women, hastening the positioning of women into places of real power.

Eventually Flint and Cramden both figure out independently that something is going on down in the Virgin Islands, since the rocket launch site is there, and each of them makes his way down to Fabulous Face. But while the women have one idea, Gen. Carter has another, and might be able to use the fake president to do his bidding instead of the women's.

After the success of Dr. No in 1962, the sort of heroic spy movie where the spy has the latest in equipment became something ripe for parody. Derek Flint is surrounded by a bevy of beautiful (but apparently intelligent too) women as his assistants, and seems to be able to do anything he wants expertly, from ballet to evading a bunch of Gen. Carter's men at ZOWIE headquarters.

Unfortunately, In Like Flint seemed to me as though it couldn't decide how serious it wanted to be, and how much a parody it wanted to be. The three-way conflict is an interesting one, and there are some very humorous scenes, most notably with Lee J. Cobb in drag to get into the Fabulous Face resort. But most of the time it felt more like Cobb and Flint had been put into a sequel for perfunctory reasons, and nobody was certain how to catch lightning in a bottle again. Perhaps if I had watched Our Man Flint first I would have gotten more out of In Like Flint.

Monday, January 24, 2022

Allotment Wives

I mentioned at the start of the month when I did the first post on Kay Francis being this month's Star of the Month on TCM that she had been featured in Summer Under the Stars back in August, and I had recorded the movie Allotment Wives. That movie is finally showing up in Francis' spotlight, tonight at 12:45 AM (so technically early Tuesday in the east, and Monday night in every other time zone).

The movie was released in late 1945, but presumably conceived at the start of the year, before both Germany and Japan surrendered in World War II. A docudrama-style voiceover at the beginning informs us about the Office of Dependency Benefits, which aided families on the home front during the War. When the men would go off to fight, they would surrender some of their pay, since they presumably didn't need it at the front (although of course when they had leave they could certainly use it). The ODB would match this money and give it to the wives/families of the soldiers, a practice called "allotment checks". Naturally, this huge pot of money was ripe for scams, especially with all those quickie marriages before the soldiers went off to fight. Supposedly, crime syndicates were getting women to sign up for bigamous marriages in order to get multiple allotment checks, with the syndicate raking off some of the money. General Gilbert (Jonathan Hale) asks Col. Martin (Paul Kelly), who had been a reporter before the war, to do some undercover investigating to find the people running the syndicates, not the women at the bottom cashing the checks.

Sheila Seymour (Kay Francis) runs a swanky beauty salon by day, and operates a charity canteen for soldiers about to go off to war by night. But we see right away that this isn't all she's doing. She's got a neat revolving wall in her salon office which is a secret entrance to the syndicate office. There, she and her right-hand man Whitey Colton (Otto Kruger) are running one of the allotment check scams, and doing it fairly ruthlessly as they have someone bumped off early on.

However, thanks to the presence of the Production Code, we know that poor Sheila is going to get her comeuppance by the end of the movie. Two things cause this to happen. First is Sheila's daughter Connie (Teala Loring). Connie doesn't know what her mom really does; at least, she only knows about the legitimate businesses. Connie is supposed to be off at an exclusive boarding school. But she's rebelling, showing up at a restaurant Mom visits and getting quite drunk. This understandably displeases Mom to no end.

The other problem comes at the canteen. One of the volunteers, Gladys Smith (Gertrude Michael), thinks she recognizes Sheila as some other women, making things mildly awkward for Sheila at the canteen. Of course, we know that Gladys is right. Sheila grew up poor and was determined never to be poor again, changing her name after getting out of the reform school she and Gladys were in together, and making a new life for herself. But Gladys is here, and working for another syndicate. She's able to blackmail Sheila in the worst possible way.

Allotment Wives is an interesting little movie, even if it never really rises above B movie status. This was several years after Francis left Warner Bros., and her movie career was nearly at an end, being reduced to working on Poverty Row. But she still had enough influence that she was able to get a producer's credit, and we get some folks here who were never stars of A movies, but solid supporting actors like Kruger. And the plot is pretty good for a B movie. One thing that did amuse me was a scene of Sheila slapping Connie that seemed as though it could have been lifted straight from Mildred Pierce, although Mildred Pierce only premiered a few weeks before Allotment Wives.

If you want an interesting example of the way in which B movies could be pretty good, you could do a lot worse than to watch Allotment Wives.

Sunday, January 23, 2022

Tread, Don't Walk

Not being certain what I wanted to watch off my DVR but needing a movie to blog about today, as opposed to the next few days when I'm going to be blogging about stuff that's coming up on one or another of the movie channels, I decided to go back to one of my DVD box sets of British public-domain movies, and watch Tread Softly Stranger.

The movie (or at least this print) starts off with a pre-credits scene. Johnny Mansell (George Baker) is living in London, but unfortunately he's living by playing the horses. He's run up some gambling debts to the bookies, and they'd like their money back, thank you very much. So he walks out on his current girlfriend and heads up north to his old home town of Rowborough to escape.

Rowborough is one of those industrial towns in the North that populated British movies of the late 50s and 1960s, when British cultural norms were changning. The blue-collar types live in depressing row houses as we'd say in the US (I think the British term is terraced housing), or renting out individual rooms of accommodation. Johnny finds his brother Dave (Terence Morgan), who works as a bookkeeper at the local factory, and gets a room next to Dave's in the same building, one that has rear access to a "garden" which other buildings also have access to. When Johnny goes out to the "garden" one day, he finds a young woman exercising. This is Calico (Diana Dors), who works at the local night spot, a dive bar catering to the blue-collar workers. There's obviously some sparks immediately between Johnny and Calico, because what man wouldn't be interested in Calico?

Of course, that means not only Johnny is interested in Calico; Dave is, too. And Dave has been showering Calico with the sort of gifts that there's no way somebody on a bookkeeper's salary could afford. And indeed, he's just as much in debt as Johnny is. Well, technically he's not in debt, as he's embezzled the money from the company, which there's no possibly way he could ever pay back. Worse, the auditors are coming in a couple of weeks, so Dave has a deadline for getting the money back lest he be noticed.

Johnny has learned of a horse that's a sure thing, and he could get the money, if only he has enough of a stake to begin with. The one way to do that is to pawn off the watch that Dave bought Calico, and use that as a wager, not that Calico is happy with it. But she agrees. And the horse does win, giving Johnny the money to pay back to the company. Unfortunately, he's spotted at the race track, some ways away from Rowborough, by a couple of the bookies from London whom he owes money, and they waylay him.

Johnny doesn't return home when he was scheduled to, having been waylaid, so Calico puts it into Dave's head that perhaps he should hold up the payroll. With a lack of cash to pay the payroll, nobody's going to look for an extra £300 that Dave had embezzled. Dave isn't particularly bright, and isn't thinking with his right head anyway, so he heads off to the factory. Johnny returns home with his winnings and, finding out what Dave is doing, rushes off to the factory to try to stop Dave.

Unfortunately, Johnny and Dave get caught by the security guard, resulting in Dave shooting him. But like "The Telltale Heart", Dave starts getting the distinct feeling that somebody witnessed him at the factory, and that that witness is stalking him....

Tread Softly Stranger is the sort of second-tier British movie that's a really good exemplar of British cinema at the time. It's not the greatest movie by any stretch, but it's very competently made, with good, believable performances and a nice atmosphere. Movies like this don't get so much attention in the US since Hollywood would be promoting its own stuff. That's a shame, because Tread Softly Stranger is eminently watchable.

Saturday, January 22, 2022

Saint Victoria's Secret

German actor Hardy Krüger died the other day, and when I mentioned it in my briefs post back on Thursday, I mentioned that one of his English language movies is The Secret of Santa Vittoria, which I happened to have on my DVR. So I made it a point to watch and do a review here.

The movie is set in Santa Vittoria, a town in northern Italy, in about the summer of 1943, so when the tide was turning in World War II. It's after they've gotten rid of Mussolini, but the war is still going on enough that the Germans can take over the town and make life difficult for the locals. Not that they seem to care much about the outside world. They produce wine for Cinzano and just want to keep on doing that.

In the chaos over getting rid of Mussolini, Italo Bambolini (Anthony Quinn), who has a long-suffering wife in Rosa (Anna Magnani) and adult daughter Angela, climbs the local water tower with a possible view to killing himself. The local town council, which had supported Mussolini mostly because they were going along to get along, decide to make Bambolini the mayor as they'll have a convenient scapegoat for the next round of political reprisals.

Meanwhile, there's a problem. Word comes that the Germans are going to be coming to town. The villagers could probably handle occupation, considering that they handled life under the Fascists, but they've got over a million bottles of wine stored up that are destined for Cinzano and will provide the town's income for the coming year. The fear is that the Nazis will want to take their wine back to Germany.

Meanwhile, an injured army officer Tufa (Sergio Franchi) has shown up, deserting from the war thanks to his injuries and the collapse of the Fascist government. He's cared for by the countest Caterina (Virna Lisi), who is clearly not native to the town. Tufa also gets the brilliant idea of clearing out the wine from the cellars where it's normally stored, and storing it in the old Roman caves until the Nazis leave. So we get an overlong scene of the locals doing a bucket brigade to move all those bottles. (I have no idea how many horse-drawn carts the town had, but that wouldn't have provided for a weak attempt at humor.) Some of the bottles are going to be left in the cellars however, as to do otherwise would obviously tip off the Nazis.

And then the Nazis come, in the form of Capt. von Prum (Hardy Krüger). His job is to get the wine for the Germans. He's willing to let the locals keep a modest fraction of the 300,000 bottles they've left in the cellars, apparently not knowing about the other million bottles in the caves. And Caterina tries to seduce him as part of diverting the Nazis. The locals would have gotten away with their scheme, too, if it weren't for those meddling SS officers. They come in a couple of days after von Prum, with an agent from Cinzano. The Cinzano bottlers know that Santa Vittoria should have another million bottles they'll be sending, and the SS officers want that. But nobody's revealing the location of the bottles.

Stanley Kramer directed, and the only other comedy he directed was It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. Kramer had directed several social message pictures before, some of them quite sprawling, such as Judgment at Nuremberg. The long, slightly sprawling style works for It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World in part because the comedy is better, and in part because there are so many characters that no one story line dominates the proceedings. But here, Kramer seems to be stuck between two styles, and is further not helped with the ponderous direction that makes the movie come in at 139 minutes and seem longer than that.

The story underpinning The Secret of Santa Vittoria is an interesting one, and the actors do the best they can with the material provided. But it really felt to me like it needed a director who was more attuned to farcical comedy and could make the material move at a more sprightly case instead of Stanley Kramer.

Friday, January 21, 2022


A movie that recently started showing up in the FXM rotation that I hadn't blogged about before is the movie version of the Rogers and Hammerstein musical Carousel. Once again, I recorded it so that I could watch in advance of Yet Another Showing of the movie. There's one showing at 9:20 AM tomorrow (Jan. 22), followed by another at 7:35 AM Sunday.

Closing in on four years ago, I did a post on the Charles Boyer movie Liliom. Both that and Carousel are based on the same play by Hungarian-born playwright Ferenc Molnár, so you may already know the basic plot. Gordon MacRae plays Billy Bigelow, who at the start of the movie is up in heaven talking to the "heavenly Starkeeper" (Gene Lockhart), a fairly obvious sign that Billy is already dead. Apparently in this iteration of Heaven, when you die, you get the chance to go back down to earth for one more day, something which Billy hasn't wanted to do so far. But there's rumblings about some problems for his family left behind on earth. Cue the flashback....

Sometime at the beginning of the 20th century, Billy is the carnival barker for a carousel somewhere in coastal Maine. Billy seems unable or unwilling to look for any other sort of work, but for now since he's young it pays enough for him to live. He meets young Julie Jordan (Shirley Jones), who works in one of the mills, and the two eventually fall in love even though as with A Place in the Sun that might be a problem for Julie's continued employment. And it's not as if Billy really wants to settle down. For whatever reason he doesn't feel like he's suited to any other sort of work. To me this would seem like he's no prize whatsoever, but then if we didn't have characters lacking common sense, there are a whole lot of movies that wouldn't work.

So of course Billy and Julie get married, and Billy starts mooching off his cousin Nettie who runs a dockside restaurant. He picks up a friend who's a really bad influence in the form of Jigger Craigin (Cameron Mitchell). Jigger gets the idea to rob one of the men who will be transporting a whole bunch of money to one of the lobster boats, and that will be able to support both men for a while. That's particularly of interest to Billy, who has just found out that he's knocked up Julie.

Of course, the robbery goes wrong, and just before Billy can be arrested, he falls on Jigger's knife in an accident that kills him, which is why he's up in heaven now. He doesn't realize it, but many years have passed down on earth, and his daughter is now a teenager who's thinking of running off herself, and is constantly bullied by everybody else because of who her father is. Perhaps Billy can put things right.

Whether or not you like Carousel is going to depend a lot on whether or not you like the music and the dancing, of which there is quite a lot. Musicals aren't my favorite genre, so obviously I found some of the numbers going on a bit, even if the dancers are decidedly talented. The two best known songs are probably "June is Bustin' Out All Over" and "You'll Never Walk Alone". So if you're a fan of musicals, you'll probably like Carousel.

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Thursday Movie Picks #393: Time Loops

This being Thursday, it's time for another edition of Thursday Movie Picks, the blogathon run by Wandering Through the Shelves. This week, the theme is "Time Loops", which is a difficult one for me since I couldn't think of too many films that fit the bill. I came up with three, but one of them I had already used, so I had to think of a replacement. I did come up with a replacement, but it turned out I had used that one too. Ditto yet another replacement. So in the end I decided to go with two I haven't used and one that I used back in 2018:

Repeat Performance (1947). Joan Leslie plays a stage who, on New Year's Eve between 1946 and 1947, kills her husband (Louis Heyward). She tries to seek advice from poet friend Richard Basehart, who suggests she go see her producer (Tom Conway). However, when she gets to the producers apartment, she finds that for him and everyone else, it's January 1, 1946, not January 1, 1947. She's the only one who knows everything that's happened over the past year, and now has a chance to do things differently to change the outcome.

Run Lola Run (1998). Franka Potente plays Lola, a woman in Berlin whose boyfriend Manni (Moritz Bleibtreu) is a courier for gangsters. He's misplaced DM 100,000 on the train, and needs her to help him, possibly coming up with the money in 20 minutes so he can give it to his contact. She tries and the attempt fails. The movie then goes back 20 minutes to give Lola a second chance to get the money, and then a third.

Before the Rain (1994). In this movie that tells us time is in fact a circle, we get three stories. The first is of a monk in Macedonia during the various civil wars in the former Yugoslavia who shelters an ethnic Albanian girl, although the Serbs want her. Cut to London, where the editor of a photojournal who has published photos from the Yugoslav wars is going through a personal crisis. Finally, the photographer who took one of those pictures returns to his home village, where we find out that time is indeed a circle.

Briefs for January 20-21, 2022

I wanted to mention some of the movies that are coming up on TCM as part of this week's installment of the "true crime" spotlight. Some years back I had Looking for Mr. Goodbar (midnight tonight) on my old DVR, but never did a post on it in part because it's one of those movies I was only able to get halfway through since I found it such a difficult watch in part because I didn't find any of the characters likeable. Much more interesting for me, despite the equally difficult subject nature, was Star 80, airing at 4:45 AM. The recently deceased Peter Bogdanovich, despite his relationship with Dorothy Stratten, and actually marrying Dorothy's sister, is not named in the movie.

Friday's daytime lineup on TCM is a mix of movies about people who aren't what they claim to be, putting their partners in danger. This includes the 1940 British version of Gaslight at 4:30 PM. The Ingrid Bergman version from 1944 is much better known not just because it's a Hollywood film, but because MGM's getting the rights to the play to make the 1944 version allowed them to keep the equally good British version under wraps.

I was looking at the lineup on StarzEncore Westerns, and see that tomorrow has a whole bunch of interesting films that I've already blogged about. It's been four years since I've blogged about Warlock, which kicks things off at 2:18 AM. That's followed by the 1950 version of Winchester '73 at 4:20 AM. I know there was a remake in the 1960s, but I'm not certain I've seen it. Then comes My Darling Clementine at 5:54 AM. The Return of Frank James (7:32 AM) was the subject of a post so long ago that when I did it it was still the Fox Movie Channel. Cowboy follows at 9:06 AM, and finally is Broken Lance at 10:39 AM.

No birthdays of note today, at least not that I haven't already blogged about before. But there were a couple of deaths, which is in fact part of the reason I decided to do a briefs post now. Yvette Mimieux died on Monday, a few days after her 80th birthday. Hers was one of those names that I recognized as a kid more from the slightly exotic nature of it. She was in enough MGM movies like The Time Machine and Where the Boys Are that TCM could put together a night of her films when they're making up a schedule for after 31 Days of Oscar. There's also Hardy Krüger, a German actor who I thought made more English-language movies than he apparently did. I remember him from The Flight of the Phoenix. Wikipedia says he was in The Secret of Santa Vittoria, which I think I have on my DVR. Krüger, who died yesterday, was 93.

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

The Great Garrick

Another movie I watched recently was the period comedy The Great Garrick, which as far as I can tell received a DVD release courtesy of the Warner Archive.

Brian Aherne plays David Garrick, a real actor on the British stage in the middle of the 18th century, and apparently one of the most famous actors of his day. At the start of the movie he's just finishing up playing a season of Hamlet at London's Drury Lane Theater, which again we're to presume is one of the most prominent theaters in London, and hence all of Great Britain (and even the world). But Garrick tells the audience that it's his last performance in London for a while because he's received an invitation to perform with Paris' equally famed Comédie Française.

Garrick's London audience is enraged, taking it as a personal affront that he possibly thinks French actors are more worth acting with than the English. Garrick decides that the way to get out of this is to say that no, the French aren't really good actors, and that he's going to be going to Paris in order to give them a lesson on what good acting is. Somehow, this immediately changes the opinion of an audience that had no good reason to be ticked off anyway.

Somehow, news of Garrick's comments make it to Paris in those slow transportation days well before Garrick even sets out for France. You'd think they might have heard the whole story, but no. So Picard (Melville Cooper) and Beaumarchais (Lionel Atwill), heads of the Comédie Française, decide that they're going to teach Garrick a lesson rather than just rescinding the invitation. They know Garrick's itinerary once he crosses the English Channel, so they know exactly which road house he and his valet Tubby (Edward Everett Horton) are going to stay at. So they plan to get there first and play the staff and patrons of the place, putting Garrick in a compromising situation.

Now, it probably ought to be obvious to anybody that there's something amiss, as these French actors are playing the most wacky, over-the-top characters. And indeed, Garrick does figure it out pretty quickly. He decides that he's going to get back at them by showing them what true acting is.

But there's a complication. Among the people at the inn is Germaine (Olivia de Havilland), claiming to be a countess whose father has gotten her betrothed to a man she doesn't want to marry in Paris. So she's running away and can't go back to Paris. And she seems afraid of these wacky actors; perhaps Garrick can protect her. Now, Garrick obviously sees Germaine as another member of the troupe and the perfect person to try to get him into that compromising position. But it turns out that Germaine isn't part of the troupe, and actually sincerely loves Garrick. She doesn't know anything about his trying to turn the tables on those other French people, so when that jig is up, she thinks Garrick was exploiting her. By this time, Garrick has realized he's falling in love with Germaine.

The Great Garrick was based on a stage play, and I'm guessing the characters were all written to play to the back of the audience, as they're extremely broad and farcical. And to be fair, the whole act that the French are putting on at the inn is supposed to be bad. But that does make the movie a bit of a slog at times. The actors all do the best they can with the material, with de Havilland coming off best and Edward Everett Horton playing yet another of his comic relief characters.

The Great Garrick is the sort of movie that would benefit from being on a box set instead of at the price point of a standalone Warner Archive disc.

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

The beast ought to die

A couple of months back, TCM's Noir Alley presented a foreign film that was new to me (and, as far as I know, relatively unknown in the US in general) and that got a restoration and release to DVD/Blu-ray: La bestia debe morir, also known as The Beast Must Die.

The movie opens up at one of those big houses outside the city that rich people owned. The movie itself was made in Argentina, but based on a book by "Nicholas Blake", which is a pseudonym for Cecil Day-Lewis, father of Daniel. The few mentions of place names and some signs imply an English-speaking country, and all the characters have English sounding surnames, but the film's locations don't particularly look American. It's a look I actually liked, since there's a sort of mysterious Anywhere, Any Country vibe to the proceedings.

Anyhow, the master of the house is Jorge Rattery. He's coming home to a family dinner, with his wife Violeta; his stepson; his mom; his sister-in-law; and a couple of other people. He's got some sort of medical condition that requires him to take medicine daily, so just before sitting down to dinner he takes that medicine. However, somebody poisoned the medicine, and Jorge drops dead! The young stepson, Ronnie, takes the vial of medicine and hides it so that the police can't search.

The police come, and pretty much everybody is a suspect; I haven't mentioned Rattery's business partner Carpax yet, who had the rat poison necessary to put in the medicine bottle. But anybody could have surreptitiously gotten access to that bottle. There's only one person who isn't a suspect, because he wasn't at the house at the time of the killing: mystery writer Felix Lane, who left his diary at the house. That diary is found, extremely upsetting Jorge's sister-in-law, the actress Linda Lawson, who was also Felix's girlfriend. But now it's time for the flashback to see how we got to Jorge's death and why that diary is important.

Felix is a widow with a young son Martie who is about the same age as Ronnie. They were living in a small town that looks like an obvious backlot set; here, Felix writes his mystery novels. It's his birthday and he's out of cigarettes. The housekeeper is busy, so Martie, wanting to be grown-up and independent, offers to go to the bodega and get several packs for Dad, this being an era where a kid could do that. However, it's a foggy night, and on the way back from the bodega, Martie is hit and killed, the driver driving off.

The police do an investigation and aren't able to find anything, while Felix is first driven to a deep depression, and then a steely sense of resolve as he vows to find the person who killed Martie and get revenge. If this weren't a movie, we'd all say fat chance of finding the killer, but since we already saw Jorge die in the first reel and it's a movie, we know Felix is going to find the killer.

It's a ridiculous set of coincidences that enables Felix to find Jorge and figure out he killed Martie. Felix is driving, and gets stuck at just the same spot that Jorge did after fleeing from the scene of the accident. To get help, Felix has to go to a farmhouse, and there he finds the lady of the house is a big fan of movie stars, including Linda Lawson, who just happened to be Jorge's passenger at the time of the accident. So Felix goes looking for Linda.

The meet and of course fall in love. Linda has been trying to suppress memories of the accident because Jorge is a thoroughly nasty man. Linda's sister Violeta has remarried to Jorge, and Linda is afraid for Violeta's and Ronnie's safety, which is why she hasn't done anything about reporting Jorge for the accident. Not that Felix has been letting on he knows about the accident. When he's able to get Linda to divulge the identity of the driver, he comes up with a plot to kill Jorge without telling Linda about it, only writing it down in the diary. She convinces Felix to accompany her on a visit to Violeta, and we're getting ever closer to Jorge's death. There are still a few more twists and turns, however....

La bestia debe morir is a really interesting little movie. I said at the beginning that it was made in Argentina, but it has a sort of ethereal quality in part because of giving everybody their English names while none of the characters are recognizably American (or British). In some other movies, notably Purple Noon, the inability to be American causes some problems, but here there's more of a timeless quality to it that works in the movie's benefit.

I hope TCM runs La bestia debe morir> again soon, since it's a thoroughly enjoyable little movie.

Monday, January 17, 2022

The Accidental Tourist

There are certain movies out there that are remembered because they show up on lists of Oscar-winning films in certain categories. I've argued that an early talkie like Min and Bill would probably be largely forgotten if Marie Dressler hand't won the Oscar; ditto Norman Taurog's win for directing Skippy. Another example of this, I think, is Geena Davis' Supporting Actress Oscar win in The Accidental Tourist.

Obviously, Davis isn't the star here. That honor goes to William Hurt, playing Macon Leary. Macon is a travel writer who writes no-nonsense travel guides that are less about giving people ideas of what to see than ideas about how to make the traveling much less stressful. There's some stress in his personal life, however. His son died a year ago, and Macon hasn't been able to deal with it emotionally, instead responding by shutting himself off from the world and being emotionless. Macon's wife Sarah (Kathleen Turner), who obviously suffered the same loss, has decided that she can no longer deal with Macon's keeping everybody at an emotional arm's length, and is filing for divorce.

The couple lives in a house in Baltimore that was the old family place of Macon's parents which he and his siblings apparently inherited and never sold, so Sarah moves out while Macon stays there together with their dog Edward. Macon has to go on another trip for his job, and takes the dog to a new kennel since the previous one said he tried to bite people. At the new kennel is Muriel Pritchett (Geena Davis), who not only boards dogs but also trains them in a slightly unorthodox style. At least, I've never heard it suggested to cluck the way she does to express approval with the dog's behavior. In any case, the two become friends.

They actually become more than friends, which means that each gets introduced to the other's family, or what little there is of it. Muriel only has a young son, who has all sorts of allergies. Macon has three siblings. There's unmarried and immature brothers Charles (Ed Begley Jr.) and Porter (David Ogden Stiers), along with sister Rose (Amy Wright) who has been spending so much time taking care of other people that she's never been able to attend to her own emotional needs. There's also Macon's editor Julian (Bill Pullman), who is similarly unmarried but would be right for Rose, if only anyone can convince Rose that there might be anybody out there who truly loves her.

Eventually, Rose and Julian do get married. But Rose decides Sarah should be her matron of honor, the divorce not having gone through yet. This brings Sarah back into Macon's life, and things begin to get really complicated. Macon starts to have thoughts about going back to Sarah, but this would mean abandoning Muriel's son, who might be the one person in the world for whom Macon can form a true emotional attachment.

It all comes to a head in a most peculiar way. Macon has to go on another trip since, after all, he's a travel writer. However, as he's in his seat on the plane waiting to fly off to Paris, who should show up but Muriel? Not only that, but she's without the kid, who is being left to a series of friends to help take care of while Muriel follows her flighty (no pun intended) desire of needily following Macon around in an attempt to win him back. And she's pretty obnoxious once we get to Paris, consistently interrupting Macon when he's supposed to be on business. And then Macon's back goes out, and the brilliant idea is had to send Sarah over to France to do all the traveling Macon is supposed to do while he's laid up in his hotel room.

Geena Davis won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role, and she does a good job. But I think, having watched the movie, that there's a good reason why The Accidental Tourist has become a relatively forgotton film. The big problem is that most of the characters are pretty emotionally repressed, which makes it hard to have much sympathy for them. Muriel is one of the few who isn't, but once she abandons her son to go to Paris and harass Macon, it gets hard to have much sympathy for her too. Some of this criticism may be a bit harsh, as William Hurt especially does a good job with what is a difficult character to play. I think I made the comment in regards to Ordinary People that having to play icy like Mary Tyler Moore did isn't easy, but doesn't necessarily look like you're playing a difficult role; while Sissy Spacek, who beat out Moore for the Oscar by playing 30 years of Loretta Lynn, got something showy and easy to make people understand that it's really good acting. Hurt is definitely in Mary Tyler Moore territory here.

The Accidental Tourist ist also a very talky movie, and one that goes rather leisurely about its business at right about two hours. This deliberate pacing may make some people consider the film a bit of a slog. But don't overlook the performances, as The Accidental Tourist is actually a pretty good grown-up movie for people who want something intelligent and thought-provoking.

Sunday, January 16, 2022

In case The Quiet Man isn't mawkish enough for you

Tyrone Power was one of the people honored in Summer Under the Stars last August. One of his movies that I hadn't blogged about before is The Long Gray Line. With that in mind, I put it on the DVR in order to watch it at some point in the future and do the inevitable blog post. That future is now.

Tyrone Power plays Martin Maher, a real person who at the start of the movie is about to be subjected to forced retirement from his job at the US Military Academy at West Point after 50 years of service to the country. President Eisenhower had been a cadet at West Point before his glittering military career and becoming president, so he brings Maher down to the White House to discuss Maher's situation. Cue the inevitable flashback....

Go back to 1898, when Maher first arrives from Ireland. For some reason, he winds up at West Point instead of New York, and the only job available for a civilian like him is as a server for the cadets in the mess hall, which surprised me since I would have thought the cadets ate cafeteria style or did the serving themselves as part of their duties. Maher is spectacularly unsuited to the work, but sees from the Master of the Sword, Koehler (Ward Bond), that guardhouse duty is a big deal. This, however, requires enlistment, which Maher does.

Some time passes, and Maher is living on base. A civilian there is Mary O'Donnell (Maureen O'Hara), another Irish immigrant who is the cook for the Koehlers. Needless to say, Marty and Mary fall in love and eventually marry, and have the sort of marriage you'd expect from two Irish-Americans in a John Ford movie. Mary is even able to save up the money to bring Marty's father (Donald Crisp) over to America.

More time passes, and we get to World War I. Everybody wants to sign up because that's the patriotic thing to do and what you'd expect from a John Ford movie hitting you over the head with its themes. Indeed, even Marty's father tries to enlist although the real life Marty's father had died some years before. Marty would like to serve in the actual war, but the higher-ups insist that he would be of more service staying at West Point. Among the various cadets Maher has tended to over his 15-plus years at West Point heading off to America are the aforementioned Eisenhower along with other famous names like Omar Bradley and George Patton. There's also the fictitious Sundstrom (William Leslie) who is killed in action, leaving behind a widow Kitty (Betsy Palmer) and infant son (who grows up to be played by Robert Francis).

Sundstrom had won a Medal of Honor in death, and the law allows for the young son of a Medal of Honor recipient automatic entry to West Point on adulthood, not that Mom wants that since she doesn't want to lose another son. But this being a John Ford movie, you know that young Sundstrom Jr. is eventually going to follow in Dad's footsteps and become a cadet too.

Fast forward a bunch more years, to December 7, 1941. Japan has attacked Pearl Harbor and the cadets are told to assume they're at war. But Sundstrom has violated his oath by getting married, even though the marriage was annulled. Marty is able to convince him to do the right thing by resigning his commission and enlisting in the regular army.

We get one more emotionally manipulative scene of Mary's death (which in real life occurred a few years after the end of World War II), and a final bit of hokum after Marty returns from his visit to the White House.

If you want cheap sentimentality and a film that glories in the way it hits you over the head with its messages, The Long Gray Line is a good place to start. John Ford is tremendously unsubtle here both with the doe-eyed view of Irish immigrants, and with the message of service to one's country. And when you think he can't go any further with it, by god he does. As you can tell, The Long Gray Line is the sort of movie I had a lot of problems with, although I can see why it's a film that other people would really like. So watch and judge for yourself.

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Rising Sun

Yet another of the movies that's been sitting on my DVR for quite some time that I finally got around to watching is Rising Sun, an interesting if extremely dated movie 30 years on.

In Los Angeles in the early 1990s, there's controversy over a struggling microprocessor manufacturer. The Nakamoto company, a Japanese keiretsu (roughly a conglomerate but not so tightly related in legal terms if I understand correctly), is trying to buy the company. There is going to be a Senate vote on whether to approve the sale, which might not go through because of national security concerns about Americans giving up their capacity to make defense-related techonology domestically. At the time the book on which the movie was made was written, Japan was rapidly growing economically, to the point that they were buying up a lot of assets in the US and Americans were worried about Japan surpassing the US. (I suppose it's not much different than the conventional wisdom around China. Japan went bust in the early 1990s, and China's economy doesn't seem to be on the firmest ground, either.)

At the same time, the Nakamoto company has built one of those fabulous new glass skyscrapers in Los Angeles, and is hosting the official grand opening for all of the local bigwigs, including Sen. Morton (Ray Wise), whose vote on the acquisition is still up in the air. Unfortunately, the party is interrupted when it's discovered that a high-priced call girl has died on the boardroom table. Interesting party.

Los Angeles police detective Webster Smith (Wesley Snipes) is called in to investigate, and he also gets a call suggesting he call on retired police captain John Connor (Sean Connery), who spent some time in Japan and knows quite a bit about Japanese cultural norms. That knowledge is going to be important not just in dealing tactfully with the Japanese, but also in getting inside the Japanese mind to try to solve the case. Connor suggests to Webster that whoever is behind the murder already seems to be a step ahead of him.

At the Nakatomo building, Connor and Smith discover that the building has an extensive security system, especially consisting of video cameras that record pretty much everything at a level of clarity that seems unrealistic for the early 1990s, and storing everything on a series of miniature laserdiscs that predate the DVD (if not the CD-ROM). The people running the building clearly know which disc contains the wanted footage, but Connor and Smith are able to get it.

Meanwhile, an autopsy suggests that the dead call girl was interested in sex involving autoerotic asphyxication, with the possibly that her death might have been an accident: whoever killed her only meant to strangle her long enough to have sex, and not long enough to kill her. But the evidence seems to point to Eddie Sakamura (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa), a relatively high-level employee at Nakamoto. He tries to escape but gets killed in a car chase, his body being conveniently burned beyond recognition to the point I immediately assumed it was someone else in the car.

Worse, Connor and Smith go to an underground video processing company to learn more about the disc. There, Jingo Asakuma (Tia Carrere), an interracial woman who is the daughter of a black American Air Force officer and a Japanese mother and was more or less rejected by Japanese society for it, does a level of analysis on the disc that's patently ridiculous even when it's essayed in the various Star Trek franchises to get just the right facial recognition to advance the plot. She informs them that the data on their disc was clearly tampered with, and that Eddie probably isn't the real killer.

It goes on like this for another 50 minutes or so, also introducing a plot that Smith and his now supervisor, Tom Graham (Harvey Keitel), took a bribe in a drugs case some years back. It got dismissed by Internal Affairs, but needless to say political powerful people are going to bring it back up because they clearly don't want the real killer's identity to be released.

Some people at the time had a problem with Michael Crichton's original book Rising Sun as well as this movie adaptation on the grounds that it was too stridently anti-Japanese in presenting the Nakamotos and the threat that Americans perceived in those days. Three decades later, however, the bigger problems are the suspensions of disbelief required to advance the plot. I don't know that cameras these days are good enough to get the sort of images needed here, or more so the amount of data that needs to be stored. Smith also seems to be able to pick up on Japanese culture way too quickly.

On the whole, there's a moderately interesting mystery in Rising Sun, but it's overwhelmed by all the cultural and technological baggage. Still, I think it's an interesting time capsule of America's perception of Japan in the early 1990s.

Friday, January 14, 2022

Critic's Choice

Lucille Ball was TCM's Star of the month a few months back. One of her movies that I hadn't blogged about before is Critic's Choice, so I recorded it in order to be able to watch it for a post here.

Ball is not the critic however; that honor goes to Bob Hope, playing Parker Ballantine. Ball plays Mrs. Ballantine, or at least the second Mrs. Ballantine, Angela. Parker, a theater critic, was previously married to stage actress Ivy London (Marilyn Maxwell), and as the movie opens Parker is at the opening of Ivy's new play, something to which he gives a scathing review in his newspaper column. Apparently, however, Parker's notoriously vicious reviews weren't the cause for the divorce, however, as Parker and Ivy are on amicable terms and Angela doesn't seem to mind Ivy either.

Angela, however, isn't so certain that Parker should be writing such withering reviews, and her way of dealing with this is to decide that she's going to write a play of her own. She's got the perfect idea for it, too, basically thinly disguising the lives of her and her sisters (played at the end by Marie Windsor and Joan Shawlee) along with their mother (Jesse Royce Landis). Parker figures this is one of those things that Angela has gotten in her head to start, but will never finish, just like all the other hobbies she's taken up.

Somehow, though, Angela does finish the play, and without any help from Parker, who although he hasn't written any plays of his own knows a thing or two about what makes a good play. So Angela gives the finished product to Parker for him to review. This turns out to be a big mistake, as Angela's first draft is terrible. Or at least, this is what Parker tells her. If Angela had waited for Act One to come out at the end of 1963, perhaps she would have known the first draft, especially from a neophyte who doesn't even seem to have been botherd to come up with an outline before starting the script, is going to have serious problems. So perhaps Parker has some merit, although we don't know because we see very little of Angela's play. But thanks to Parker's reputation, Angela unsurprisingly things he's being gratuitously mean to her.

What's really surprising, however, is that producer S.P. Champlain (John Dehner) and director Dion Kapakos (Rip Torn) take a chance on the play and decide to produce it. And considering how much reworking they do on the play when it goes into early previews out of town, perhaps Parker was in the right about the play being a mess. In any case, Dion and Angela spend so much time together on the road reworking the play that it seems as though Dion might be trying to put the moves on Angela. Ivy uses this to try to win back Parker. Eventually, we get to opening night on Broadway for Angela's play, which Parker just has to go to in order to do the review.

Some of the IMDb reviewers have positive things to say about Critic's Choice, but I have to admit that I found it a bit of a mess, mostly because I couldn't believe a play like this would get produced that quickly, unless you're trying to come up with a deliberate flop a la The Producers. Bob Hope also isn't quite the right person to take up Clifton Webb's persona from Laura. The movie is, like the much better The Facts of Life, part comedy and part light drama. Here, however, it doesn't get the mix right as the comedy shows up at the wrong times, notably Hope's drunk performance at the premiere of the play. The ending also didn't ring true for me.

So as you might guess, I'd definitely recommend The Facts of Life before Critic's Choice. But you may want to watch and judge for yourself.

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Thursday Movie Picks #392: Movies Set in Hospitals

This being Thursday, it's time for another edition of Thursday Movie Picks, the blogathon run by Wandering Through the Shelves. I'm back after taking a week off for the theme of new releases in 2021, since I don't think I watched one 2021 release. (By the same token, I'll be off for the "2021 Freshman Series" TV week at the end of the month.) This week's theme is one that's not too difficult, "Movies Set in Hospitals". Unsurprisingly, the most difficult part was finding three films that a search of the blog says I haven't used recently. I thought I'd used one of these, but when I searched, the blog says no, I havent, so I'll use it now since I don't otherwise keep track of which films I've picked apart from searching the blog. No theme within a theme; just three picks in chronological order:

Life Begins (1932). Loretta Young plays a woman sent to prison for a notorious crime of passion, but who is pregnant with a very difficult pregnancy, so she's sent out of prison to a "lying-in" hospital, where expectant mothers stay until giving birth, a ton of them cheek-by-jown in one ward. Glenda Farrell unsurprisingly steals the show as a woman who doesn't want her child, to the point that she keeps booze in her hot-water bottle. This is th sort of programmer was really good at churning out in the 1930s.

Good Morning, Miss Dove (1955). Jennifer Jones plays a small-town New England teacher with a stick up her ass. One day, she suddenly gets a sharp pain, and has to go to the hospital for an operation that could possibly kill her. As she reflects upon her life from her hospital, it turns out she has good reason for winding up the way she did, and that deep down inside, everybody in town -- and I mean everybody -- really loves her as she doesn't quite realize the positive influence she's had on all the people who at one point in the past were students of hers.

Intent to Kill (1958). Herbert Lom plays a South American dictator who was attacked and fairly seriously injured by his political opposition, such that he needs surgery, and goes to Canada to get it in the hopes that his opponents won't find him in a Montreal hospital. Of course, they've got their own spies trying to kill him. Meanwhile, Richard Todd is set to perform the surgery, but he's got personal problems as his wife wants him to go back to England to go into cushy private practice. Meanwhile, the wife is also jealous and worried about the nurse (Betsy Drake) who will be assisting in the operation.

Fred Astaire robs the cradle

Another of the movies that's been in the FXM rotation for a little while, but that I haven't blogged about before, is Daddy Long Legs. It's got another airing tomorrow (Jan. 14) at 6:00 AM, so recently I watched it to write a post on here.

Fred Astaire plays Jarvis Pendleton III, the latest in a family of extremely wealthy businessmen. There's that old phrase of "shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations", and it seems as though the current Jarvis may be living up to it since he seems more into jazz drumming and dancing than actually running the business. He's also got a niece Linda (Terry Moore) who's in college now, but whom he hasn't seen since she was six months old, much to the consternation of her mother.

Anyhow, part of Jarvis' business involves going over to France to deal with some post-war restructuring/Marshall Plan-type stuff. It's not made exactly clear what all the business entails, but the only real point of it is to get Jarvis over to France. On the windy country roads outside of Paris, the car Jarvis and his entourage are in has to run off the road to avoid a cart and gets stuck in the mud. Jarvis goes off to look for help, and the nearest residence he can find is a small orphanage.

The orphanage seems to have a lot of young orphans and, like The Cider House Rules one who is to the point that she could start making her own way in life. That elder orphan is 18-year-old Julie Andre (Leslie Caron). She's so beautiful that Jarvis decides he'd like to adopt her. However, adopting an 18-year-old seems like a bit of a problem, something icky enough that Ambassador Williamson (Larry Keating) advises against it. So instead Jarvis comes up with the idea that one of his foundations will sponsor Julie to go to college in New England where Linda goes to school, on a scholarship, without Julie knowing who her benefactor is.

Julie is understandably interested in her benefactor, whom she calls "Daddy Long Legs" because the younger orphans saw his shadow when he first came to the orphanage, and thought it looked like that sort of spider. However, the letters go not to Jarvis, but to his executive assistant Griggs (Fred Clark) and Griggs' secretary Alicia Pritchard (Thelma Ritter). Griggs tells Alicia to file the letters away, and Jarvis never sees them, so he doesn't know what Julie is thinking about him, if he even remembers her. Julie, meanwhile, begins to feel a bunch of emotional hurt over not hearing from Daddy Long Legs.

Eventually, Alicia insists one of the letters be answered, so Jarvis comes up with the idea of going up to the college, since after all his niece Linda attends and it will give Jarvis the chance to see her for the first time since Linda was an infant. It'll also give him a chance to see Julie at least from afar, and possibly even talk to her to get a read of what's going on with "Daddy Long Legs". However, what happens is that Jarvis and Julie begin to fall in love. There's that creepiness the ambassador warned about. And, amazingly, the ambassador comes to New York by coincidence on the one weekend Julie comes down to New York to see Jarvis, with the two getting hotel suites next to each other. So of course the ambassador is going to find out what's going on.

Daddy Long Legs is an appealing enough story that it's been made into a movie on several occasions, starting with a Mary Pickford silent over a hundred years ago. This one, being a vehicle for Fred Astaire and Leslie Caron, adds songs and dances since the dancing is where they were both really talented. As such, that's going to make the movie one that might hold a bit less appeal to some people. The big problem with the dance numbers is that some of them, especially Caron's big climax, go on too long and bring the movie to a screeching halt, even if Caron is quite a fine dancer. These also pad the movie out to a little over two hours when it's the sort of material that would have been perfect for a 90-minute programmer back in the 1930s.

Still, there's a lot worse music and dancing out there, and Daddy Long Legs is definitely going to please a lot of fans of musicals.

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

The old lions

A movie that had been sitting around on my DVR for quite some time that I finally got around to watching is The Young Lions.

The movie opens up on New Year's Eve in 1938, with American tourist Margaret Freemantle (Barbara Rush) visiting Germany. She's met an army officer, Lt. Christian Diestl (Marlon Brando), and the two discuss the political situation in Germany, as this would have been a few months after the Munich Conference and several months before Europe would be officially plunged into war. Lt. Diestl is apparently a career officer, since he's not the biggest fan of the Nazis although he can't really say that very directly lest he be overheard by Germans who would happily turn him in to the Nazis.

Some time passes, as it's now early 1942. The Americans are now in World War II, and among the guys who get drafted is Michael Whiteacre (Dean Martin). He's a successful stage actor and singer, who had just signed on to do a new play on Broadway. Sorry, but his understudy is going to have to take over for him. Perhaps he can get one of his friends in Washington to give him a cushier job in the Army doing goodwill tours to entertain the regular schlubs.

The other American is Noah Ackerman (Montgomery Clift), a Jew who doesn't have much family left and doesn't have much of a life, having come back east from California and only getting a job as a department store clerk. But he doesn't particularly want to be drafted earlier, so when Michael meets Noah, Michael immeidately befriends him and invites him to a party at his swanky apartment.

There, we find that Michael's girlfriend is one Margaret Freemantle. She's not particularly happy about Michael trying to avoid his duty by using his influence to get a desk job. Michael introduces Noah to another guest at the party, Hope Plowman (Hope Lange). She seems like one of those young women you'd meet in 1930s or early 1940s films who came to New York from a small middle America or New England city. They immediately fall in love and get married and even get Hope pregnant lickety split, if you try to calculate dates based on the way the plot goes.

The rest of the story cuts back and forth between the various characters' development during the war, mostly Noah and Lt. Diestl. Diestl ends up first in Paris, and then in Africa, with his commanding officer, Capt. Hardenberg (Maximilian Schell); Hardenberg grows increasingly suspicious of Diestl since Diestl seems as though he'd rather sit this war out if he could find a way that wouldn't kill him. Noah gets bullied by everybody in boot camp except Michael for no good reason, but eventually goes over to Europe and fights with some distinction. Michael leaves boot camp when his transfer to a cushy job goes through, but pangs of guilt eventually overwhelm him and send him to the regular troops. You know he's going to meet up with Noah again.

The big problem I had with The Young Lions is that it really feels as though it should be two separate films, one focusing on Diestl and one focusing on the two Americans. As things stand, it goes on for 167 minutes and doesn't really give enough character development to either Diestl or Michael. It also feels at times as though it has some plot points it wants to tick off, and does so in a rather perfunctory way. We just have to have the big reveal of a concentration camp liberation, don't we? And Diestl returning to a bombed-out building.

All three of the male leads do their best, and Martin shows that he was capable of taking on dramatic roles, something he did relatively rarely in his career. But ultimately, all three are done no justice by the script. Still, other people may be more able to overlook the script problems thanks to the good performances.

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

The Cider House Rules

Another of the movies that I got the chance to record courtesy of one of the free preview weekends is The Cider House Rules. It's going to be on again tomorrow (Jan. 12) at 4:40 PM on Movie Max (one of the Cinemax channels), along with some other upcoming airings, so recently I sat down to watch it to do a review here.

The movie starts off in 1943 in St. Cloud, ME, one of those places where the railroad goes through but nobody gets off unless they have a darn good reason to do so. About the only thing in town is the orphanage, understaffed by a couple of nurses (Jane Alexander and Kathy Baker) and Dr. Larch (Michael Caine). Larch has been there long enough that he doesn't seem to have much will left to live, sending himself into an ether-induced stupor every night In addition to accepting unwanted children and, with any luck, adopting them out, Dr. Larch also performs illicit abortions, something which would obviously have been controversial in 1943.

Larch knows his time is coming, and indeed, the board of the orphanage has been writing letters about bringing in "new blood". With that in mind, and considering one of the orphans, Homer (Tobey Maguire) has already been adopted out only to be returned, Larch has sort of raised Homer like he would his own son if he had one. That includes giving Homer enough medical training that he could probably pass the nursing certifications, but being out in the middle of nowhere doesn't have the official education, and certainly not to be a doctor. Homer is also uncomfortable with the idea of abortions.

One day, coming to the orphanage is the couple of Wally Worthington (Paul Rudd) and Candy Kendall (Charlize Theron). Perhaps one of the orphans will get lucky today and get adopted out. No, that's not why these two are here. Wally is a soldier in World War II, a fate Homer has been lucky to avoid thanks to a heart condition. Wally, on leave, has also gotten his fiancée Cathy pregnant, so the two have come here for the abortion. Homer decides that since he's an adult, this might be an opportunity for him to leave the orphanage, grow up, and see something of the world. Wally and Cathy offer him a ride back to the Worthington place for the night.

Wally's widowed mother owns an apple orchard, and Homer decides that this will do as work for now, and at least it will let him get a few bucks in his pocket during apple-picking season while he decides what he wants to do. The rest of the pickers are migrant workers who go from place to place as each of the various crops ripens and needs picking. For the Worthingtons, that's Mr. Rose (Delroy Lindo) and his daughter Rose Rose (Erykah Badu); along with two other men, Peaches (Heavy D) and Muddy (Todd Freeman). Amazingly, race is by and large not an issue here, other than the class issues of the migrant workers all being illiterate.

Life isn't exactly a bed of roses, or a bed of apple blossoms, at the orchard. Candy shows Homer around their small part of Maine, which includes her family's lobster cages and the ocean, something Homer has never seen before. But Homer and Candy begin to fall in love, which is going to be a problem considering that Wally is bound to return home sometime. The fact that he returns home injured only makes things more difficult.

I briefly mentioned the orphanage board wanting new blood. Larch expects that Homer is going to grow tired of the world and want to come back to the orphanage. Not only that, but Larch is making up phony credentials so that "Doctor" Homer can be the official doctor at the orphanage. (Surely that would eventually lead to one of the children's death through a medical error.) And among the migrant workers, Rose Rose gets pregnant, which leads to its own tragedies.

The Cider House Rules was based on a novel by John Irving, who adapted his own book for the screenplay. I haven't read the book, so I don't know how much was taken out for the movie, but what was left in the movie is pretty good, thanks mostly to the good acting performances. This view of the World War II homefront seems a bit too neat and tidy, however, especially considering the personal problems all of them are going through. There's also no mention made of why they two young black migrant workers weren't drafted to serve in the war.

Overall, however, despite some of the difficult subject material, The Cider House Rules is a well made drama for the time when you actually want to do some thinking as you watch a movie, unlike something such as my previous selection, Point Break.

Monday, January 10, 2022

Briefs for January 10-11, 2022

I didn't expect to be mentioning several more obituaries shortly after the deaths of Peter Bogdanovich and Sidney Poitier. But there are a couple, starting with Dwayne Hickman. He started in Hollywood in the 1940s and appeared opposite fellow child star Dean Stockwell in The Boy With Green Hair among others, before going on to his biggest claim to fame in the TV show The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis in the late 1950s. Hickman was 87, and the younger brother of Darryl Hickman; Darryl is still alive at 90.

I tend not to think of Bob Saget as a movie star, but he was famous enough that his death probably ought to be mentioned, too. A lesser-known name who died on Saturday is Marilyn Bergman, a lyricist who won three Oscars, of which writing the lyrics to "The Way We Were" is more likely best known:

And no, I have no idea what's up with Ann-Margret's outfit.

Over on FXM, one that's been showing up recently is a movie I don't think I've mentioned here before, In Like Flint. One of those 60s spy spoofs, its next airing is at 11:20 AM tomorrow (Jan. 11). I'll have to see if I've got enough space on my DVR for it. I already lost my recording of Das Boot because it got automatically deleted when I ran out of space recording ther stuff.

TCM tomorrow is running a bunch of Constance Bennett movies. These include the first Topper movie at 2:45 PM, as well as Greta Garbo's final film, Two-Faced Woman at 10:15 AM.

Sunday, January 9, 2022

Point Break

Another of the movies that I had the chance to record during one of the free preview weeks is Point Break. Unfortunately, it seems to have migrated to the commercial channels now, but it's easy enough to find on DVD and whatever your favorite streaming service is.

Keanu Reeves plays Johnny Utah, a former college football player who couldn't make the pros because he blew out his knee. So he decided to join the FBI instead. He's recently finished up his training at Quantico, and is sent off to the field in Los Angeles. There, his supervisor Harp (John McGinley) doesn't like any of the new recruits, belittling them at every opportunity. Johnny gets paired with Pappas (Gary Busey), an older agent who could probably retire to desk duty fairly soon, and is also not particularly liked by Harp because he's rather unorthodox.

That independent thinking is driving Harp nuts on the current case the FBI is working on. There's a group of bank robbers that have been comming a series of heists every summer. The men are dressed in masks of former presidents of the United States, leading the gang to be called the Ex-Presidents. Because the robberies only seem to take place during the summer, Pappas has the odd hunch that the Ex-Presidents are a group of surfers who go around the world looking for the perfect wave, using those robberies during the season while they're in California to fund their travels. Pappas figures that he's too old to take up surfing and infiltrate the gang, but perhaps now that he's got a young buck of a partner, Johnny could learn to surf.

And so Johnny agrees to try to learn surfing. But it's a very insular community, and they don't necessarily take well to newcomers since they're also very territorial. Johnny buys a surfboard from Tyler (Lori Petty), and it's already clear he knows nothing about the sport. But eventually one of the leaders of the surfers, Bodhi (Patrick Swayze), recognizes Johnny from his college football days, not having heard that Johnny wound up joining the FBI. Johnny is able to get close to Bodhi and his friends, and we'll find out whether any of them are the Ex-Presidents.

Well, there's one other complication. Some of the surfers are into smuggling drugs. Johnny finds out about this at a party, and gets the FBI to agree to raid the place since, after all, he is supposed to be making certain crime is snuffed out. But that's one of the things that's likely to blow Johnny's cover.

Then again, it's likely to get blown in other ways. Johnny has fallen in love with Tyler, even though she was also in a relationship with Bodhi in the past. She goes through his stuff and finds his FBI identification, which is a serious problem, especially since it occurs little more than halfway through the movie.

Point Break is one of those movies that's a lot of fun, just because the premise is so nuts that you can't take it seriously. It's supposed to be a relatively serious action/drama movie, at least in the sense that it wasn't conceived as a comedy. But the dialog is terrible, and the amount of suspension of disbelief required is such that the movie turns into an unintentional comedy.

Amazingly, Gary Busey received an Oscar nomination back in the 1970s for playing the title role in The Buddy Holly Story. But that was before his serious motorcycle crash, a few years before Point Break. Here, Busey seems to be a parody of a serious actor. Keanu was never much of an actor for anything other than action movies. Expecting him to show emotion here is a stretch. And the plot has all sorts of holes.

So just sit back and don't pay too much attention to reality, and have a lot of fun watching Point Break.