Thursday, March 31, 2022

Briefs for April Fools' Day 2022 and beyond

Well, maybe not so much beyond. I have to admit that I don't have that much in the way of movies I've watched recently but haven't blogged about. It's also nearing the end of the month on my cell phone data plan, so I was hoping to fire up Watch TCM and use that data watching one of the movies on the app. But wouldn't you know, all the movies that I was thinking of watching that I didn't already record on my DVR during 31 Days of Oscar are movies that I've already blogged about. So I guess it's time for the old standby of pulling out my DW Griffith shorts collection for a post on one of his silent shorts tomorrow.

Over on FXM, it doesn't look like there's anything new showing up, or much that I haven't recently mentioned as being in the rotation. Tomorrow's FXM Retro lineup kicks off with The Song of Bernadette at 3:20 AM, and yes, I need to find a different link for the Four Tops song. The original The French Connection concludes tomorrow's FXM Retro lineup at 1:15 PM. Apparently I've never done a full-length post on that one, probably because I'd have thought of it as a movie everybody's likely to know more about. I have done a post on The French Connection II, as weel as Roy Scheider's unofficial sequel The Seven-Ups.

It's only been a year since I mentioned Two Mules for Sister Sara, which I have on a Clint Eastwood box set. That one shows up on StarzEncore Westerns tomorrow at 7:16 PM. Later in the evening you can watch the comic western Cat Ballou at 11:54 PM, followed by The War Wagon at 1:31 AM. The latter I've got on a Kirk Douglas box set.

No recognizable obituaries to report, although there is the sad news of Bruce Willis' aphasia, which as I understand it is generally an early sign of one form of dementia or another. Unsurprisingly, everybody in Hollywood starts coming out of the woodwork to report that they saw symptoms of erratic behavior for a few years now, and claimed they brought it up with Willis' representatives, but never said anything publicly. As someone whose mother suffered from dementia -- most likely multi-infarct dementia from a series of mini-strokes -- I understand, having seen it up close. (In Mom's case, it didn't help that she was difficult to begin with, and the "erratic" behavior was mostly being even more difficult than normal.)

In happier news, with 31 Days of Oscar being over for another year, it's time for TCM to get back to the regular programming features. For tomorrow morning and afternoon, that means a 90th birthday salute to Debbie Reynolds tomorrow morning and afternoon, including one of her most famous roles in Singin' in the Rain at 4:00 PM.

Thursday Movie Picks #403: Family Comedies (TV edition)

This being Thursday, it's time for another edition of Thursday Movie Picks, the blogathon run by Wandering Through the Shelves. This being the final Thursday of the month, it's time for another TV edition, with the theme being "Family comedies". That's a fairly easy theme, with the bigger issue being whether or not I had used any of the movies before. I had quite a few shows in mind, but wound up going with three from the 1980s:

Family Ties (1982-1988). The Keatons, a pair of 1960s lefties (Michael Gross and Meredith Baxter-Birney) have a family now, with the eldest son Alex (Michael J. Fox) being a decided Reaganite, which causes a fair amount of comedic clashing between him and the parents. There are also two younger daughters in the family, played by Justine Bateman and Tina Yothers.

Mr. Belvedere (1985-1990). I've briefly mentioned this one a couple of times on the blog, both in conjunction with the Clifton Webb movie Sitting Pretty. Based on a book from the 1940s, the premise is of a family (baseball pitcher and play-by-play guy Bob Uecker, and Ilene Graff) who have difficult children they need a nanny for. Who should show up but Lynn Belvedere (Christopher Hewitt), who has an unorthodox style that actually works with the kids. The TV show turns one of the kids from the movie (I haven't read the book) from a son into a daughter, and makes the kids older than in the movie.

My Sister Sam (1986-1988). Pam Dawber plays Sam, a photographer in San Francisco whose kid sister Patti (Rebecca Schaeffer) shows up unexpectedly after their parents die, having left their aunt and uncle in Oregon to move to the big city and live with big sister. The show is probably better known for the tragedy that befell Schaeffer, who was murdered by a stalker about a year after the show wrapped. The stalker had shown up to a taping of the show trying to get in, but was turned away by security.

Wednesday, March 30, 2022


I've had the Woody Allen movie Interiors sitting on my DVR for almost a year now, as I think I recorded it during last year's 31 Days of Oscar when it was in April because of the Academy's moving the ceremony thanks to the coronavirus panic. In any case, I recently got around to watching Interiors so I could do a post here on it.

Geraldine Page plays Eve, the matriarch of a upper-middle-class family. Eve is an interior decorator, with a sense of style that tends toward a lot of white; at the beginning of the movie she's got some ideas for her daughter Joey (Mary Beth Hurt). Joey has done some writing but hasn't really decided on what to do for a career; currently she's living with Mike (Sam Waterston), who is doing research on Marxism. (Plot synopses suggest they're not married, although I don't recall any dialogue in the movie that definitively says whether they're married or just living together.)

Joey has two sisters. Renata (Diane Keaton) lives in New York as do both Eve and the parents; she is a published poet whose husband Frederick (Richard Jordan) is also a writer. The third sister is Flyn (Kristin Griffith); she doesn't show up so often largely because she's an actress who has to go on location to do the low-budget movies, TV shows, and commercials that she appears in. It won't get her to the A list, but it seems that at least it will pay the bills.

We get a sense from the way Eve just waltzed right in to Joey's apartment and started moving stuff around to re-decorate the place that she can be a bit demanding. She's so demanding, in fact, that her husband Arthur (E.G. Marshall) has decided to leave the house and engage in a "trial separation". That trial takes him on a vacation to Greece, and devastates Eve, who acts as though she relied on Arthur quite a bit.

Things are about to get quite a bit worse for Eve, however. Arthur returns home from Greece and announces that he met a nice American widow there, Pearl (Maureen Stapleton). Pearl is everything Eve is not, gregarious and mildly bohemian in that she's learned how to do card tricks and the like. It's easy to see why somebody like Arthur who spent 30-odd years with a woman like Eve would suddenly turn to a person like Pearl. Eve responds to the announcement that Arthur wants a divorce so that he can marry Pearl by attempting to commit suicide.

If there was a rift between Arthur and Eve, there are also rifts between other members of the family. Renata worries about Joey's apparent aimlessness, while Joey has issues with the way her parents treated her and Renata differently. Renata and Joey both also have problems to deal with with the respective men in their lives. That's going to become even more of an issue when Arthur and Pearl decide to have a small wedding ceremony, for family only, in the family's beach house out on Long Island. Eve shows up some time after the actual ceremony, leading to the film's finale.

Interiors is a movie that seems to sharply divide people in their reviews. It's easy to see that the acting is good, as is the direction and production design. But at the same time, it's incredibly difficult to identify with the various characters in the movie, which is almost unrelentingly depressing. Some critics have suggested this was Woody Allen trying to make an Ingmar Bergman movie, and that's not an unfair description. (My first thought for the color scheme was reminiscent of Track of the Cat, but of course Bergman's use of ever more red in Cries and Whispers is fairly similar to the disproportiontely white color palette in Interiors.) It's quite talky, and for a long time it feels as though the movie isn't really going anywhere.

I didn't dislike Interiors to the extent that some people might, but I also definitely didn't like it as much as those who praise it clearly like it. So this is one that you absolutely need to watch for yourself and draw your own conclusions about. Interiors is not a movie for everybody, and that's not necessarily a bad thing, or an insult to the people who find it's not for them.

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

The country of size

Gregory Peck was honored in TCM's Summer Under the Stars last August. That gave me the opportunity to record one of his films that I hadn't blogged about before, The Big Country. Actor Burl Ives picked up a Supporting Actor Oscar for his role, so TCM can use it during 31 Days of Oscar as well. Indeed, it shows up again this year, getting its airing tomorrow (March 30) at 11:15 AM. So as always, I made a point of watching it with an eye to doing a review on it here.

Gregory Peck stars as Jim McKay (but would not go on to host Wide World of Sports), a man who had worked as a captain in his family's shipping company but is now going west. That's because in port one of those times, he met Pat Terrill (Carroll Baker), who was going east for some reason not specified, since all of that took place before the action depicted in the movie. The two fell in love and McKay proposed to her, so now he's coming out to marry her since her father Maj. Henry Terrill (Charles Bickford) owns a substantial ranch.

McKay meets Pat in town, where Pat is staying with friend Julie Maragon (Jean Simmons). Julie is the local schoolteacher, but she owns a spread of her own that is fallow since the death of her father. The big thing about her spread, however, is the "Big Muddy", a lake which has a good deal of water on it that's important for watering one's cattle. Julie is intent on letting everybody water their cattle, but for obvious reasons various landowners want the lake for themselves.

On their way out to Maj. Henry's ranch house, Jim and Pat run into the Hannassey brothers, whose father Rufus (Burl Ives) is one of the ranchers who wants Big Muddy and has been trying for years, obviously unsuccessfully, to get Julie to sell. Rufus at heart does have a sense of honor, as we'll see in the finale, but he's raised his kids badly as eldest brother Buck (future Rifleman Chuck Connors, getting to play one of his bad-guy roles) leads the rest of the brothers in trying to waylay Jim and Pat. Indeed, there's long been a feud between the Hannasseys and the Terrills.

Further complicating matters is the presence of Maj. Terrill's ranch foreman, Steve Leech (Charlton Heston). He has a feeling his position is going to be in jeopardy once Pat marries Jim, since the major has no sons to take over the ranch. Steve also isn't so sure an easterner who spent a lot of time on the ocean is one to know much about ranching, so he doesn't have much respect for Jim.

Things get more complicated for Jim as he begins to learn about all the things that have been going on in the time before he got to the area. Things get even worse when the major decides he's going to try to prevent the Hannasseys from watering their cattle, resorting to force if necessary. As mentioned earlier, Rufus Hannassey has been trying to get Julie to sell, and she hasn't. But Jim, unsurprising for a character played by Gregory Peck, has an uncompromising and unerring sense of right and wrong. After seeing first-hand the conflict between the major and Rufus, Jim decides to buy Julie's ranch, with the proviso that he's going to let everybody water their cattle there.

When Pat finds out about that wrinkle and that the ranch isn't a wedding present to her, she gets furious. Rufus understandably thinks that if Jim has bought the ranch, it's going to screw him over since everybody knows Jim and Pat are supposed to get married. (Well, nobody knows yet that the engagement has been broken off.) It leads to the final battle between the Hannasseys and the Terrills.

The Big Country is a big movie, running 166 minutes. And frankly, that's the one big problem with the movie. It's unsurprisingly well acted, with very nice cinematography. But at its heart it's a fairly simple western story that had no need to be expanded to 166 minutes. The writers could easily have distilled this down to around two hours and come up with something just as good. Still, the quality of the other parts of the movie is good enough that its length is less of a flaw than in some other movies.

So definitely give The Big Country a go. Just be aware that you're in for the long haul.

Monday, March 28, 2022

The Wrestler

Another of the movies that I had the chance to DVR during one of the free preview weekends was The Wrestler. It's got multiple upcoming showings on various cable channels in the Cinemax family, starting with 10:45 PM tomorrow (March 29) on 5Star Max. So once again, I made a point of sitting down to watch the movie to be able to do a review on it here.

Despite the title, the movie isn't really about wrestling. Mickey Rourke plays the titular wrestler, a man named Randy "The Ram" Robinson who was big back in the 1980s, and has a scrapbook of promotional materials to prove it. Well, not just to prove it, but also to show for it, as he doesn't have much else. He lives in a trailer park in suburban New Jersey, making a pittance in small halls putting on wrestling matches with other wrestlers who were big back in the day. It's kind of like Rocky Balboa boxing in the church basement at the beginning of Rocky, only where Rocky found himself on the way up, Randy the Ram is clearly on the way down.

The Ram isn't doing himself any favors with his financial management either, spending money not just on steroids and painkillers, but also at the strip club, where he thinks one of the strippers, Cassidy (Marisa Tomei), might be interested in him. Cassidy, like the Ram, is clearly on the way down, as she's got a son who's pushing double-digits and some of the patrons at the strip club are commenting on her age. But while Cassidy does have some sympathy for the Ram, she also has a line which she insists on not crossing as it'd be a big mistake for her personal life to get involved with any of her customers. The Ram doesn't quite seem to understand it.

To make ends meet, besides trying to keep wrestling the Ram works odd shifts at a supermarket, mostly unloading the trucks that bring all of the groceries. He's consistently trying to get more shifts from a boss who is clearly disdainful of pro wrestling, and who only seems to have weekend shifts to offer, which is a problem for the Ram since all of the wrestling shows are on Friday and Saturday nights that require him to be out of town.

Things all change for the Ram at one of the shows. Pro wrestling, regardless of how "fake" (Jesse Ventura liked to ask, "Is ballet fake?" to suggest that the bouts are choreographed although the results are predetermind) you might think it is, is still extremely demanding physically. And for somebody past 50 like the Ram, that lifetime of wrestling and drugs of various sorts has taken a pretty severe toll on his body. One night after a bout, he collapses in the locker room.

Randy wakes up in the hospital to find out that he's had a heart attack and several bypasses. He'll be able to do light exercise, but there's no way that "light exercise" is enough for the physical demands of doing professional wrestling. Unfortunately for him, much like Laurence Olivier's character in The Entertainer, Randy doesn't know anything else. He's able to make a bit of money still doing public appearances and selling autographs on the memorabilia circuit, and is even able to get full time work at the supermarket. But his life is empty.

Cassidy suggests trying to re-connect with his daughter Stephanie (Evan Rachel Wood), whom Randy hasn't seen in ages, something that understandably makes Stephanie deeply resentful. It doesn't help that Randy is still less than dependable considering his hard drinking and partying at the strip club.

Finding work at the supermarket unfulfilling, Randy thinks about the upcoming 20th anniversary of a big match against another guy who had the character of "The Ayatollah", in a time when it was even easier to make a villain out of someone theoretically associated with the Iranian theocracy. The Ayatollah has retired and is moderately successful selling used cars out west, but before Randy's heart attack he agreed to come back for one match. Randy, despite the fact that actually going out on the mat might give him another heart attack that could prove fatal, decides to go against medical advice and fight the Ayatollah after all.

As I said at the beginning, The Wrestler isn't really about wrestling, despite the amount of pro wrestling shown along with the behind-the-scenes stuff in the locker room. In fact, it's a character study about a man in Randy (and to a lesser extent Cassidy) who only knows one thing to do in life, and won't have much of a life without that one thing. It's part of why I brought up Rocky and The Entertainer, which touch on some of the same things, with The Entertainer being in a completely different milieu from The Wrestler.

But as with Olivier in The Entertainer, Mickey Rourke puts in a fine performance, one you might not have expected from him if you weren't watching the movie long after it was released. Marisa Tomei also does quite well, and Evan Rachel Wood is pretty good in her few scenes although I think the script has her be a bit too extreme when it requires her to be angry with her father. The direction from Darren Aronofsky is quite raw, which fits in well with the material.

If you haven't seen The Wrestler, it's definitely one you should find the time to watch.

I didn't watch the Oscars

I don't watch too many recent movies, largely because I'm not into the comic book stuff and there's not a whole lot showing at the local sixtyplex that I'm interested. This was the case even before the previous operator (Regal) shut down the local theater (NCG eventually reopened it) and then the pandemic hit. (Apparently the theater is back open; I didn't check to see if they require masks and all that other crap.)

Anyways, I mention that mostly to say that I've seen very few of the movies that have been nominated for Oscars over the past few years. I've got Minari on my DVR, but because I usually space out my foreign film watching and did a post on another Korean film back in February, I probably won't get to it for a little while yet. So I'm not particularly interested in the actual ceremonies for the Oscars, especially when you add in the bloat, and havent watched one in ages.

This of course, means that I missed the little contretemps that took place. Granted, it wouldn't be the first Hollywood incident:

Now, if I really wanted to be uncharitable, I'd think about how Smith wound up winning the Oscar for playing Richard Williams, and post the video of the time Serena threatened to shove a ball down a line judge's throat for calling a foot fault on her. But instead, as I think about what prompted Smith to go up on stage and smack Chris Rock, I find myself thinking about the reaction being dependent on whether you're the sort of person who can make light of oneself in the face of an unflattering event such as an illness, or worse, something self-inflicted. Some people can, such as Richard Pryor's memorable monologue at the end of Live on the Sunset Strip:

Other people can't, and maybe Jada Pinkett is the sort of person uncomfortable joking about her alopecia. I would, however, suggest that it's the sort of thing better handled in private between Smith and Rock, and not on camera like that. (Unless, of course, it was staged, as I've heard some people suggest.) I thought the joke was funny, but then, I wasn't the subject of the joke.

Sunday, March 27, 2022

No 12-inch pianist jokes, please

Another movie that I had on the DVR and only recently got around to watching is Shoot the Piano Player.

A French film written and directed by François Truffaut relatively early in his career, the movie stars Charles Aznavour at the pianist, Charlie Koller. He's working in a Parisian bar, playing a honky-tonk mistuned upright piano along with other members of a jazz-type combo for the patrons. Coming into the bar one night is Chico Saroyan (Albert Rémy), who is quite the jerk. Chico is being trailed by two guys, Ernest and Momo, and needs help escaping. So why did he walk into this bar?

No jokes about walking into a bar, either. Chico is the brother of Charlie; Charlie not being his real name, but a stage name for Édouard Saroyan. As Édouard, he was a concert pianist, but he wound up here for reasons that will be explained later in the movie. Chico is a lifelong low-level crook. This time, he's stolen some money that other crooks want, and they're going to stop at nothing to get it back. Chico wants Charlie to help him escape, and Chico is enough of a boor that he's willing to get very loud and disrupt the other patrons in the bar telling them that their Charlie was a former concert pianist and why the hell is he reduced to playing honky-tonk? If I were in Charlie's shoes, I'd be mighty pissed. But Charlie is one of those people for whom blood is thicker than water.

So Charlie helps Chico escape, before getting out of the bar for the night along with waitress Léna (Marie Dubois). Charlie has the feeling that he's being followed by the two guys who were following Chico, and he's quite right about that. So Charle and Léna walk down the street together, Charlie having philosophical thoughts in his own head but that we hear about whether he should try to pursue a relationship with Léna in a situation like this. That's the first indication something isn't quite right with the movie.

When Charlie gets home, he finds that his kid brother Fido is asleep. For reasons not quite clear since it's mentioned later that the Saroyan parents are still alive, Charlie is a sort of foster father to Fido. Fido is also much too young to be a kid brother to Charlie, Chico, and the other brother Richard who only shows up for the finale. Fido and Charlier have a neighbor in Clarisse (Michèle Mercier) who looks after Fido, and who also sleeps with Charlie at night, but making certain to get up early in the morning so that Fido doesn't find out about the relationship.

The two bad guys bribe Charlie's boss to get the addresses of Charlie and Léna, and pick both of them up to try to get information about where Chico might be, not that Charlie seems to know. But Charlie and Léna are able to escape when the car get stopped by the police, at which point Charlie opens up about his past as Édouard -- although Léna already knows that he was a concert pianist; she doesn't know the rest of the story. Charlie's wife Thérèse (Nicole Berger) was able to get Charlie an appointment with a well-known impresario, although she had to sleep with him to get the appointment. It led to Charlie becoming a star, but also destroyed Thérèse, who eventually jumped out a window to her death. This is why Charlie abandoned being a concert pianist.

The bad guys then kidnap Fido, while Charlie gets in a fight with his boss that results in Charlie and Léna running for their lives, going to where Charlie's parents live and where Chico and Richard presumably are. The bad guys follow, leading to the finale.

Shoot the Piano Player is a movie that has an interesting premise, and some really nice black-and-white cinematography both of Paris as it was in 1960, and in the Alps where the Saroyan family hideout is. But like a lot of the French New Wave, the movie gets bogged down in all of the talky philosophizing that marks both Charlie's inner thoughts as well as his flashback relating his career as a concert pianist. The action parts of the movie dealing with Chico's crime and its aftermath work much better.

But, because it's Truffaut and the French New Wave, other people give Shoot the Piano Player much higher praise than I'm willing to give to what to me was an uneven movie. So watch and judge for yourself.

Saturday, March 26, 2022

A gaslighting movie I hadn't seen before this week's Thursday Movie Picks

Pretty much every Thursday I take part in the Thursday Movie Picks blogathon. This past week's theme was "Gaslighting", and I not only had three movies in mind, but one sitting on my DVR that I thought would probably fit the theme, only I hadn't gotten around to watching it. That movie is Night Watch, and I finally watched it last night.

Elizabeth Taylor plays Ellen Wheeler, a woman living in London and married to her second husband, John (Laurence Harvey), a financial advisor in the days before it was easy to buy index funds and when brokers like John were considered a high-paying job. They live in a nice house opposite one that's been boarded up for years, with a garden in between, where a now-poor former resident of the Wheeler house, Mr. Appleby (Robert Lang) spends his time gardening. The Wheelers also have a houseguest in the form of Sarah (Billie Whitelaw).

As I said, Ellen is married for a second time, and therein lies part of her problem. Her first husband Carl died in a horrific car crash, and Ellen had to identify the body. That's something that still gives her nightmares and really screws up with her sleep in general, to the point where the doctors have her on tranquilizers and whatnot. It also means that John and Sarah both worry quite a bit about how well Ellen is doing.

They're about to get quite a bit more worried, and for good reason. One night during a thunderstorm, Ellen is looking out the window at the abandoned house, when one of the shutters starts flapping open, allowing Ellen to look inside and see -- a dead body! Not just any dead body, mind you, but one that sure looks like it's been knifed to death and therefore murdered! Ellen gets John to call the police, who send over Inspector Walker (Bill Dean).

Walker and his men take questions, and more importantly, do a search of the old abandoned house, and find... nothing. Well, not quite nothing. Ellen saw Appleby doing some digging in the garden, enough in fact that you could forgive her for thinking it was something the size of a grave for burying a murdered human being. And when Appleby plants a couple of trees into that digging, well, the obvious guess is that perhaps there really was a murder and Appleby dumped the body there, planting the trees over the dead body. But you'd think there would be an awful lot of dirt left over, which the police don't find.

So, with nobody finding any evidence that anybody might have been murdered -- and seriously, you'd think that if somebody had been knifed to death, there would be blood in the old house -- talk turns to worrying about Ellen's mental state. Perhaps she's not just seeing her first husband in her nightmares, but now seeing him in her waking hours, too. Other things transpire that sure make it look like John might be trying to gaslight Ellen, especially considering how John tries to get his psychiatrist friend to try to treat Ellen.

There are, however, still a lot of twists and turns before we find out what really happened in the old dark house and just how crazy Ellen is, twists that make this movie more than just a reworking of Gaslight or other movies you can think of it sharing plot points with (Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window being another obvious example).

Elizabeth Taylor had some movies later in her career where she really goes over the top, thanks in part to the script. X, Y, and Zee, which Taylor made in the UK around the same time she was making Night Watch comes to mind. The script of Night Watch is one that really gives her the opportunity to play things up, and Taylor takes that opportunity and runs with it. This may cause a problem for some viewers, but the script has a method to the madness it makes her suffer.

As I was watching, I was also noticing some plot holes, but surprisingly, the script more or less does a good job of tying them up at the end, making Night Watch a satisfyingly interesting movie, but one that does require the viewer to suspend disbelief a good deal.

Friday, March 25, 2022

Riders of Destiny

I mentioned some time back that I picked up a cheap Mill Creek box set of John Wayne films, mostly from his Poverty Row days in the 1930s. Recently, I checked the listings services to see if any of the movies in the set were coming up on TV soon. One of them, Riders of Destiny, will be on StarzEncore Westerns tomorrow (March 26) at 10:05 AM.

This being another B western, don't expect too much from the plot. Wayne, as in The Man from Utah that I blogged about a couple of months ago, is being promoted as a singing cowboy type, although he didn't do his own singing and isn't really a cowboy. His character is Singin' Sandy Saunders, who at the start of the movie is on his way into town in the Antelope Valley, which could be anywhere although I would have guessed wrongly it was the Alabama Hills but it's actually Newhall, northwest of Los Angeles, according to IMDb. Anyhow, on his way in he runs across a sheriff who has just been shot, as the bad guys have robbed a stage.

In town, Saunders finds a population that is mostly at its wits' end. One man, Kincaid (Forrest Taylor), has obtained almost all the water rights, and is using that legal monopoly to charge exorbitant prices to the ranchers who live in the valley. In fact, Kincaid is intending to jack up the prices even further when the contracts expire soon, such that the ranchers won't be able to pay the charges and Kincaid can get the land at a bargain. The only farmer who has water on his land is Denton (Gabby Hayes when he was still credited as George Hayes); he's got a daughter Fay (Cecilia Parker) who is going to be the obvious love interest for Saunders.

Meanwhile, the townsfolk have written to Washington about the situation to find out if there's anything that can be done, and the folks from the Department of the Interior responded that they're going to send a man out to assess the situation. The only thing is, the locals haven't heard anything from Washington's man. It's not difficult for the viewer to put two and two together, however.

Denton has water, but it's not enough to provide all the irrigation to the other farmers, so he can only give them drinking water. But even that shipment is ambushed by Kincaid's henchmen (Al St. John before he was called "Fuzzy" and Heinie Conklin who are providing what is supposed to be comic relief). Saunders then gets the idea to work for Kincaid, leading to the ultimate resolution of the conflict.

Riders of Destiny has a basic B-movie western plot, and probably wouldn't be remembered if it weren't for the fact that this is one of John Wayne's films from when he was out in the wilderness between the failure of The Big Trail and his becoming a star with Stagecoach at the end of the decade. It's a serviceable western, which means that it's no great shakes, but it's not hopelessly bad either. And it's not as if audiences 90 years ago would have expected masterpieces from the B westerns. The one jarring thing to modern viewers will, of course, be the singing, which also does nothing to advance the plot.

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Foreign films heads up, March 25, 2022

A lot of times, I pick some lesser-known films in the Thursday Movie Picks blogathons that pique one or another commenter's interest in seeing. This seems especially true with foreign films. TCM's 31 Days of Oscar is going by decades on the weekdays, with Fridays being the province of 1970s films. This Friday's lineup includes three foreign films back to back, all of which I've mentioned at one point or another in Thursday Movie Picks and which some people expressed an interest in seeing.

First up, at 6:30 AM, is Dersu Uzala, a co-production Akira Kurosawa made with the Soviet Union, about a Siberian native who meets a group of Russian surveyors in the beginning of the 20th century. This one has memorable cinematography, although as I understand it, the shoot wasn't an easy one for Kurosawa.

That's followed at 9:00 AM by The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie. Frankly, it's one that I hated, being the sort of movie that non-movie buffs will likely find pretentious, but movie buffs will praise simply because it's not the way Hollywood makes movies. But, as always, watch and judge for yourself.

Finally, at 11:00 AM, you can see Day for Night, François Truffaut's movie about making movies. I find it quite funny, and a stark contrast to The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie in that it's the sort of movie I think would be more accessible to non-movie buffs. Valentina Cortese was nominated for Best Supporting Actress but lost to Ingrid Bergman, who was very open in her belief that Cortese should have won.

Thursday Movie Picks #402: Gaslighting

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 "Gaslighting". Now, a lot of people will probably think of the Ingrid Bergman movie, although that was not only based on a 1938 play "Gas Light"; that play had already been made into a movie once before, in the UK. The 1940 UK version shows up once in a while on TCM, although obviously not as often as the more famous movie. Both movies are quite good. Of course, it would have been too easy to use either or both of them for this theme, so I decided to go with three other movies:

Shock (1946). A woman who is shocked to find her husband was, in fact, not killed in action in World War II, and is heading to a big-city hotel to be reunited with him. But across the way from her hotel room, she witnesses Vincent Price killing his wife, and the shock leaves her in a catatonic state. Fortunately for her, there's a psychiatrist around who can cure her. Unfortunately, that psychiatrist is Vincent Price, who pretty quickly figures out what's going on and tries to gaslight the woman into believing there really was no murder.

Witness to Murder (1954). Barbara Stanwyck is a spinster who returns home one evening to her apartment; looking out the window, she sees George Sanders committing a murder! But when she calls police detective Gary Merrill, he goes to the apartment and finds... nothing. Sanders too knows what's up, so he decides to gaslight Stanwyck to get the police to believe that she's going insane.

36 Hours (1964). For a different sort of gaslighting movie, try 36 Hours. James Garner plays a US Army Major in the days just before the D-Day invasion. The Nazis know he has some sort of valuable information, but not what, so they drug him, kidnap him and take him to Germany, and while he's under the drugs make it look like he's aged several year, and that the war is over. A German army major (Rod Taylor) then plays American in order to debrief Garner about his mission, trying to gaslight Garner into yielding all the details of a mission that allegedly took place several years back, but in reality hasn't taken place.

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

The Verdict (1982)

A movie that I'd always wanted to get around to watching so that I could do a blog post on it is the Paul Newman film The Verdict. (There's another film from the 1940s with the same name but a different plot.) Anyhow, the Paul Newman movie was on TCM early this year, so I made a point of recording it to eventually watch it and do that post.

Newman plays Frank Galvin, a Boston attorney who is way past his prime. Not only that, but he's turned to drink, spending his day looking at the obituaries and going to the vieweing hours of those deceased who might be a suitable candidate for a wrongful death lawsuit, something that obviously pisses off the bereaved who understand what's going on with Galvin. But then fate intervenes and throws a big case right into his lap.

Deborah Ann Kaye was a young wife, nine months pregnant, who had a problem delivery that necessitated a Caesarian section. But while under anesthesia, she aspirated some of her food, which resulted in heart stoppage and brain damage. Kaye survived, but it in a permanent vegetative state. Deborah's sister Sally Doneghy (Roxanne Hart) and her husband Kevin (James Handy) would like a settlement from the Archdiocese of Boston, since they run the hospital where the botched operation was performed.

Meanwhile, the Archdiocese just wants to have the case be handled quietly so that nobody finds out what happens. Bishop Brophy (Edward Binns) has a high-powered law firm at his disposal, led by Ed Concannon (James Mason). They offer the Doneghys a substantial settlement, and since Galvin is taking the case on a contingency basis, he'd get a third of that, which would leave him financially secure for at least several years.

At this point, Frank does something that should probably be considered legal malpractice: as far as we can see, Frank doesn't tell the Doneghys about the settlement, considering that they're not in the room for the proposal and Kevin gets mighty pissed on finding out about it later in the movie. Frank figures the Archdiocese must be hiding something; further, since this is probably his last big chance, he's going to go looking for justice, with a little help from a former law partner now retired, Mickey Morrissey (Jack Warden).

Galvin's personal life may be about to take a turn for the better, too. One day at the bar, he meets Laura Fischer (Charlotte Rampling), new to Boston and looking for an apartment. Galvin runs into her the next day, too, and so decides to take him back his apartment to see if there's anything more to the possible relationship. She winds up working as a sort of secretary, always being around Galvin and Morrissey.

The defense side of the case isn't about to give up, and Kincannon is trying to shut down every last possible angle of attack that Galvin might be able to come up with. And with an entire firm at his disposal, he's got a lot of people who can investigate Galvin's comings and goings and possible witnesses, something that continually frustrates Galvin. Further frustrating him is the judge, Hoyle (Milo O'Shea), who seems consistently on the side of the defendant, to the point that Galvin would probably have reasonable grounds for a mistrial or a change of judge. The judge asking leading questions to one of Galvin's expert witnesses certainly seemed off to me.

The case proceeds all the way through the trial and with a jury verdict, and you can probably guess how that's going to go. The Verdict is only partly about the trial, and much more a character study of Frank Galvin. Paul Newman is excellent as Galvin, in a role many consider his finest. I'm not certain if I can pick one finest performance from Newman, as Hud and Nobody's Fool, among others, are also tremendous performances from Newman.

But it's not just Newman who is in top form here. James Mason is still bringing it in his 70s as a man who seems like an elegant pillar of society on the surface, but is pretty darn ruthless beneath that exterior. Rampling is good although I think she's not quite given enough to do. All of the supporting roles do fine jobs with the material they're given, too. The location shooting does a very nice job of capturing the working-class side of Boston that's decidedly not the Back Bay Boston Brahmins.

All in all, The Verdict is an outstanding movie, and if you haven't seen it, make it a point to do so. It's that good.

Tuesday, March 22, 2022


Another movie that has a thin plot as a frame for something else is Hooper. For some reason, this aired as part of TCM Underground, but really isn't an underground movie at all.

Burt Reynolds plays Sonny Hooper, who at the beginning of the movie is getting ready for a day at work, which involves putting on special clothes and padding, and walking around in a way that makes it look like he's in pain. If you didn't know the plot of the movie, you might guess this is one of those football movies with the standard trope of a player being in chronic pain at the end of his career, but instead it's a different subject. Sonny is a Hollywood stuntman, working as the stunt coordinator for a movie starring Adam West (playing himself in a brief cameo) and directed by Roger Deal (Robert Klein).

Hooper's stunt for today involves crashing a motorcycle. It's painful enough that he gets pain pills from his manager Cully (James Best), something that concerns the people around him. Deal wants to get the picture done, while Hooper's doctor eventually warns him that breaking one more bone from doing stunts could leave him paralyzed for life. Meanwhile, Hooper has a teacher girlfriend in Gwen Doyle (Sally Field), whose father Jocko (Brian Keith) is a retired stuntman and a good friend of Hooper's.

The stunt crew, doing a dangerous job and there not being that many of them, have a fairly tight-knit community, but the times are changing. None of them is getting any younger, and Father Time is going to force all of them to retire just like in any sport. Meanwhile, there's a new generation of stuntmen coming up, and one of them, Delmore Shidski (Jan-Michael Vincent), shows up on the set. Since Hooper is technically the boss of the stunt crew for the movie, it's up to him to hire the new guy, to whom he gives the nickname "Ski". Ski is a good stuntman, but also one who calculates all the risks before figuring out what to do. He may be able to lessen the risks, but this is still the era before CGI.

At first, Hooper is wary of Ski, and still wants to show Ski that there's life in the old dog yet. But after hearing from the doctor about the risks to his health, Hooper starts to develop a healthy respect for Ski who, in turn, is also learning from Hooper, notably by finally giving in and having beers with Hooper. Eventually, it's time for the finale, and Ski comes up with an idea for a great stunt, but it's one that hasn't been done before and is going to be very dangerous.

While there is a plot to Hooper, it's a fairly old plot of the grizzled old veteran versus the new young buck which can be seen in a lot of contexts, from sports movies to Gregory Peck as The Gunfighter. In reality, Hooper is more a vehicle for stuntman-turned-director Hal Needham to film a bunch of stunts and put them on screen in a way that looks more coherent than just random clips. (The movie does, however, have teacher Gwen take her class on a field trip to the studio ranch as an excuse to show Western stunts, since the movie Hooper is working on is nominally a spy movie.)

The stunts, however, work, and Reynolds' easy charm makes Hooper easy to watch and very entertaining. There's nothing groundbreaking here and certainly not the world's best acting. But if you like watching stuntwork, then you'll definitely be entertained by Hooper.

Monday, March 21, 2022


For various reasons, a lot having to do with having that three-month free preview of the Showtime channels back in the fall, I've been recording a lot more recentish movies, if by recent you mean made after I was born. One that's only a little more than a quarter century old is Mallrats, which, thanks to the general demise of shopping malls where most stores don't have outdoor entrances, has certainly dated over those 25 years. But it's still an interesting movie.

Jeremy London plays TS Quint, a college student from suburban New Jersey who is on spring break and about to use that spring break to take his girlfriend Brandi Svenning (Claire Forlani) down to Universal Studios to propose to her. However, things have gone wrong. Brandi's father (Michael Rooker) produces a public-access TV dating game show, and was going to use one of Brandi and Quint's mutual friends as a contestant. But Quint's comments to this other woman about the camera making you look fatter made the other woman swim laps to try to lose weight, until she dropped dead. Dad needs a new contestant and Brandi is willng to fill in; Brandi is also unhappy about Quint's role in the other girl's death. So she breaks up with him.

Quint has a best friend in Brodie (Jason Lee). Brodie likes to hang out in his basement, although I don't think the term "man cave" had come into common use in 1995, playing video games. His girlfriend Rene (Shannen Doherty) has grown tired of this, and has decided to break up with Brodie.

What are two best friends with a day to kill to do? Why not drown their sorrows by going to the local mall and walk around, maybe buying a few things? This was, after all, the era when malls were still mostly full, especially malls in bigger suburban areas like northern New Jersey. (Although the movie is set in New Jersey, for economic reasons a mall in Minnesota was used for filming.) At the mall Brodie and Quint run into their friends Jay and Silent Bob (Jason Mewes and director Kevin Smith respectively), as well as the first running joke, of another guy their age who can't find the hidden 3D picture in a "Magic Eye" picture (remember those?).

There's also a high-school girl named Tricia (Renee Humphrey), who is doing "research" on the sex life of young men by actually having sex with them and recording it; one of the people she's "researched" is Shannon (Ben Affleck), manager of one of the clothing stores in the mall. Meanwhile, Quint and Brodie discover that Mr Svenning has gotten the opportunity to show off his game show to suits from the network, and as part of that he's going to be putting on an episode of the show in the mall. When they find this out they enlist the help of Jay and Silent Bob to try to sabotage the show, which is another of the running jokes as the attempts never seem to go quite right.

Also along the way, Brodie gets in a fight with the Easter Bunny, necessitating his and Quint's getting kicked out of the mall and their heading to a much lower-rent mall where Quint gets his fortune told by topless fortune-teller Miss Ivannah. This sends them back to the first mall to try to mend Quint's relationship with Brandi, but that's ultimately going to involve going on the dating show. But certainly Brandi is going to recognize Quint, isn't she?

There are a lot of cultural references in Mallrats that have clearly dated, although that's obviousnly not the fault of the movie. The humor is also decidedly not going to be to everybody's tase, considering how much of it revolves around sex, violence, and other crudities. The humor also sometimes gets in the way of the plot -- or at least that's what I thought until I read that I had recorded the theatrical version. There's a director's cut that I presume fills in some of the plot.

Still, even though I was definitely not the sort of person who was a mallrat back in my late-80s high school days (and we didn't really have a big enough mall to be a mallrat as there wasn't even a food court at the time), I mostely enjoyed Mallrats. Then again, I also enjoyed Booty Call. Suprisingly, I'm not the biggest fan of sex scenes in dramataic movies, but when it comes to raunchy comedy, I don't mind. So if you have the right sort of taste for raunchy, I think you too might like Mallrats.

Sunday, March 20, 2022

The Disorderly Orderly

It's been a couple of months since I opened up my Jerry Lewis box set, so recently, I took out one of the DVDs and watched The Disorderly Orderly.

Jerry Lewis plays Jerome Littlefield, a man who wanted to be a doctor but flunked out of medical school and wound up as an orderly at a private sanitarium instead. Now, there's a reason why he flunked out of medical school, and that does drive the portion of the movie that has a paper-thin plot, but most of the movie is episodic, as with a lot of Lewis' movies from The Bellboy on. Littlefield is, unsurprisingly, not particularly competent at his job, right from the first scene at the sanitarium where he's supposed to strait-jacket a TV celebrity who is a high-paying patient, but who winds up putting the straitjacket on Littlefield instead!

All of this is much to the consternation of Littlefield's nominal supervisor, head of nurses Maggie Higgins (Kathleen Freeman). The thing that drives her absolutely nuts about him is that he doesn't just try without succeeding, he tries too hard because he simply cares too much. Someone who would agree with this statement is the chief of staff at the sanitarium, Dr. Jean Howard (Glenda Farrell). Dr. Howard was in fact in love with Littlefield's father, and sees that Littlefield's problem is that he's got some sort of neurotic empathy. Probably the best example of this is when Jerome is supposed to be pushing the wheelchair in which hypochondriac patient Mrs. Fuzzibee (Alice Pearce) is sitting. She talks cheerfully with all the other patients about the plethora of diseases she's had. But it's Jerome who winds up displaying all the symptoms, a scene which shows Lewis' prowess for physical comedy.

The neurotic empathy plot also involves another nurse, Julie Blair (Karen Sharpe), who is in love with Jerome. Jerome, for his part, keeps screwing up the relationship, but not out of any sort of malice. Things get more complicated when an emergency patient is brought to the sanitarium after a suicide attempt. Nobody knows who she really is, except for Jerome. It's Susan Andrews (Susan Oliver), a woman who went to high school with Jerome. Jerome was in love with her, but she was in love with someone else, and this destroyed Jerome. Now that she's back, he's going to try to make it right. However, this is a private hospital, and if she can't pay for the bed, she's going to be have to be transfered to the public hospital.

It all results in a manic car chase between Jerome in one ambulance, Dr. Howard and Nurse Higgins in another, and the chairman of the sanitarium, Mr. Tuffington (Everett Sloane) on a gurney in the back of Jerome's ambulance. Tuffington has wanted to fire Jerome, and also wants to fire Dr. Howard for not bringing in enough revenue.

As always with Jerry Lewis' solo work, how much you like The Disorderly Orderly is going to depend on how much you like Lewis' brand of comedy. For me, that's a bit of a mixed bag, depending somewhat on how much the movie has a coherent plot. Cinderfella, for example, does have a better plot, while The Bellboy is one of the few movies where the sketches almost entirely work. In The Disorderly Orderly, some of the scenes work better than others, but it's definitely more hit than The Errand Boy or The Ladies' Man. The scene with Mrs. Fizzibee is one of the highlights, as is one where Lewis is asked to play TV repairman because a patient has a snowy picture (remember that from analog TV days?). Lewis opens up the TV -- and a blizzard of real snow comes pouring out, complete with wind that messes up everything in the patient's room!

The Disorderly Orderly is one of those movies that's nice to have on a box set, although I wouldn't pay standalone DVD prices for it. Jerry Lewis fans will probably like it, while others should start with a Lewis movie like The Bellboy.

Saturday, March 19, 2022

Casualties of War

Another of the movies that I had the chance to record thanks to one of the DirecTV free preview weekends was Casualties of War. It's going to be on again, overnight tonight at 2:30 AM (which might be very early tomorrow depending upon your perspective) on Epix, so recently I watched it to do a review on it here.

Michael J. Fox, best known for his sitcoms but doing drama here, plays Max Eriksson, taking a commuter train in August 1974 in the movie's opening (we know this because of the headlines stating that Richard Nixon is going to announce his resignation on TV that evening). Eriksson sees a Vietnamese-American woman who looks extremely familiar, and starts to have a flashback....

Eriksson was drafted to serve in the Vietnam War, an experience that proved traumatic for many of the people who served, if they even made it out alive. Eriksson's platoon is out on patrol when the ground above a Viet Cong tunnel gives way above him, forcing his commander, Sgt. Meserve (Sean Penn) to save his life. Eventually, the platoon members who are uninjured, Eriksson and Meserve, along with Pvt. Hatcher (John C. Reilly) and Cpl. Clark (Don Harvey), make it back to base, where Pvt. Diaz (John Leguizamo) is assigned to their outfit to replace a man who was injured and ultimately died.

The platoon wants to go out for a night on the town during their two days' leave, but the town is now off-limits. So Meserve announces to the platoon that on their next mission, they're going to "requisition" a Vietnamese girl, something that obviously troubles Eriksson, although everybody else takes it as a joke. And to be fair, in war zones and other dark times, it's easy to develop an extremely dark and cynical sense of humor. Heaven knows there are places I frequent where that's become the norm during the coronavirus panic.

It turns out, however, that Meserve isn't joking. On the next patrol, they stop in a village where they find a young woman named Oahn (Thuy Thu Le, who of course was also playing the young woman on the train in the opening scene). Meserve kidnaps her and takes her with the rest of the platoon to wherever it is they're supposed to set up shop, where the plan is that all of the men are going to rape her.

Eriksson is definitely not up for it, and protests, while Diaz isn't so sure that he wants to be involved in such a war crime, either. Thankfully, he's got Eriksson to back him up. But Meserve and the other two men in the platoon are going to gang rape her, and they're in the majority. And a sergent like Meserve is able to put a significant amount of pressure on a young private like Diaz fresh out in the field, leading Diaz to crack and join the other three soldiers. Eriksson thinks of going AWOL to return the young woman to her home, but there's the problem of desertion, and then the Viet Cong attack.

After the whole operation, Eriksson tells one of his friends not in the platoon about what happened, who suggests going to their commander above the sergeant, Lt. Reilly (Ving Rhames). Reilly makes it clear that going public with it isn't going to do much since the other four will all be freed pretty darn quickly, which is a sad fact of life but a fact it is. At least he can split the platoon up. This doesn't stop Eriksson, at least not until a Captain, even further up the chain of command, also shoots down Eriksson's idea of going public. Thankfully a chaplain has a different view of things, leading to a court-martial.

Casualties of War is based on a real incident, although the names of most of the people involved were changed. Fox does surprisingly well for a drama, while Penn and Don Harvey are also quite good as the two main bad guys. Leguizamo gets an auspicious start to his career. One problem I did have with the movie, however, is that there's a short coda after the flashback, and that came across to me as rather unrealistic dialog.

That one flaw aside, however, Casualties of War is definitely a film that is worth watching.

Friday, March 18, 2022

Once Upon a Time in America

I've had Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in America on my DVR for a long time, since TCM ran it as part of the spotlight on the Roaring 20s two years ago. I'd been a bit reluctant to sit through another four-hour movie, but it's on TV today, at 10:49 PM on StarzEncore Suspense, so I gritted and bore it to do a review here.

The movie starts with a prologue, in 1933. Somebody's looking for "Noodles" (Robert DeNiro) in New York City. They're so desperate to find him they're willing to kill people who won't give them the information leading to his whereabouts. It turns out that Noodles has picked up a yen for opium at some point along the way, and he's in an opium den (in Chinatown, I'd guess), where the proprietors are willing to usher him out to keep the bad guys from finding him. Noodles makes his way to a bar owned by "Fat Moe", who has been keeping a key there for some time. Noodles gets the key, goes to the train station, and eventually takes the first train out of town.

Flash forward to 1968. Noodles is returning, because he's gotten a letter from the local synagogue that the place has been sold off, necessitating the removal of the graves to someplace else. And since this creates obvious religious issues, the survivors need to be notified. However, while the synagogue and cemetery were sold off, this actually happened some months earlier, leading Noodles to realize that somebody has found where he's been hiding all these years and wants him back in New York for, well, reasons. Also in 1968, there's a cabinet secretary David Bailey who is about to get into serious legal problems due to his relations with a corrupt Teamster boss Jimmy O'Donnell (Treat Williams).

We then flash back to around 1920, when Prohibition was about to be introduced, which really jumpstarted organized crime in America. Noodles is young and one of those street thugs who would work for the somewhat higher-up people in the syndicate. Together with friends Patsy (James Hayden), Cockeye (William Forsythe), Dominic, and Max (James Woods), the five start a sort of mini-gang of their own that's going to become bigger as Prohibition and the 1920s roar on.

But it's not all a bed of roses. Noodles has a girl his loves in the form of Fat Moe's sister Deborah (Elizabeth McGovern), but she has dreams of becoming an actress. Meanwhile, Max falls in love with platinum blonde Carol (Tuesday Weld), who Noodles thinks is going to mess up all of the gang's operations.

The movie keeps switching back and forth between the Prohibition era and 1968, until Prohibition is repealed and the gang has to pull one last job which winds up breaking up the gang and leads to Noodles' leaving town which we saw in the opening. Then we spend the last bit of the movie in 1968 where Noodles has been invited to a party at Bailey's Long Island mansion which should wrap up all of the loose ends.

It didn't really occur to me until about the time the movie was ending that I was also reminded of Whistle Stop, which I blogged about a few days ago. The reason is that both movies start off very slowly until the get to the finale that is supposed to be the main conflict of the movie. Whistle Stop is a B movie, but also only 81 minutes. Once Upon a Time in America, however, is about 229 minutes, at least the 2012 restoration print which is what I believed TCM showed and what is likely showing up on StarzEncore this evening and was pretty darn close to the original European theatrical release. That means there's a lot to sit through. Once Upon a Time in America, however, has much stronger production values, as well as much stronger acting, none of which should be surprised since this wasn't conceived as a B movie at all.

But is Once Upon a Time in America good? Well, there's the rub. Apparently when it was first set to be released in the US, the studio was antsy about releasing a movie that long, so they cut out a lot and then re-edited everything else into chronological order, winding up with a movie that ran about 140 minutes, and was a box-office flop. Critics who get paid to do this stuff, pretentious lot that they mostly are, had seen the 229-minute version and unsurprisingly praised it. I, however, am somewhere decidedly in the middle.

It's easy to understand why some people would love this. And the movie is clearly of a high technical standard. But at the time time, I can also see that the movie needed a much tighter script. I'm reminded of the comment I made about Erich von Stroheim's Greed: there was a good 140-minute movie to be made from the story, but Stroheim gave the studio a 10-hour film, making editing it down to 140 minutes a near impossible task. Likewise, Sergio Leone originally came up with something a lot longer than even the 229-minute cut, and that too probably made it extremely difficult to cut it down. Also to be fair to the studio, there are two rape scenes that probably would have required editing to avoid an X rating in the 1980s.

So certainly, give Once Upon a Time in America a go, but be warned that it's not going to be for everybody.

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Thursday Movie Picks #401: Movies With a Body Part in the Title

This being Thursday, it's time for another edition of Thursday Movie Picks, the blogathon run by Wandering Through the Shelves. The theme this week is "Movies with a body part in the title". This one was pretty easy, with the big question being whether I had used any of the first three selecions I had in mind before. Thankfully, a search of the blog says that I didn't, and so was able to use three old movies, all of which precede the enforcement of the Production Code starting in July 1934. Working from the bottom up:

Loose Ankles (1930). Loretta Young plays a young woman who is set to inherit $1 million from her late grandmother, except that there are a few stipulations in the will: that she can't be the cause of any public scandal, and that her two aunts approve of her choice of suitor. She doesn't particularly care for the money, so she puts an ad in the paper looking for a man to help her create that scandal. Douglas Fairbanks Jr. answers the ad and falls in love with Young. Meanwhile, Fairbanks has his roommates put the aunts in a compromising situation, resulting in a nightclub scene only Hollywood could dream up. It's the sort of "throw everything at the wall and see what sticks" plot some early talkies have, which might not be for everybody, but can be very interesting.

Tanned Legs (1929). June Clyde plays a daughter in a family where everybody else is making bad choices in terms of romance, and she'd like to fix that if she could. Things get more complicated when the family goes to a Florida result and the sister's (Sally Blane) boyfriend, a blackmailer, comes along and starts blackmailing the sister. Meanwhile, Clyde starts having problems with her own boyfriend (Arthur Lake, who would go on to play Dagwood in the Blondie movies a decade later). Mixed in are a lot of musical numbers that really just serve to show why Busby Berkeley was so revolutionary.

Hips, Hips, Hooray! (1934). Wheeler and Woolsey (Woolsey is the one with the glasses and cigar), RKO's extremely popular comedy team of the 1930s up until Woolsey's untimely death, play a pair of salesmen selling flavored lipsticks. Wheeler's girlfriend (Dorothy Lee) works for a struggling cosmetics company, and they're able to get her boss (Thelma Todd) to agree to sell the flavored lipsticks. One thing leads to another, and Wheeler and Woolsey get involved in a case of stolen bonds as well as a cross-country car race (yeah, the plots were convoluted).

Wednesday, March 16, 2022


There's a group blog that I read that's not a movie blog, just a group of people with a roughly similar philosophical mindset posting articles on things they find interesting. There is one guy interested in cult movies, with an emphasis on the bad stuff from the 80s and beyond, who posts an article a week about some interestingly bad movie he's found on one or another of the free streaming services. A few weeks back he posted about Fido. The poster he embedded in the article looked familiar, and I realized I had this one on the Lions Gate horror (well, it really should be comic horror) box set I picked up mostly for Earth Girls are Easy. But seeing this guy mention Fido gave me the impetus to drag out that box set again and watch it.

The movie is set in what looks like a simulacrum of 1950s suburbia, but with a difference. Opening the movie is one of those black-and-white educational films that were still getting shown in schools when I was in elementary school circa 1980. Apparently there was a low-level nuclear war, and the radiation turned the recently deceased into zombies -- indeed, there's enough radiation left over that to this day if you don't behead a dead person, they'll turn into a zombie. Thankfully, however, the benevolent ZomCom company was able to get the zombie problem under control.

Not only that, but after putting up a protective fence around each little town to keep the zombies in the woods out, ZomCom set about figuring a way to keep zombies docile so that they could be used much the way middle-class families had maids back in the day. The more zombies you can afford to buy, the higher your social status apparently is. The Robinson family, however, doesn't have a zombie servant, mostly because Dad (Dylan Baker) has a fear of zombies. Mom (Carrie-Ann Moss), however, buys one, and their son Timmy (K'Sun Ray) dubs the zombie Fido (Billy Connolly).

One day, Timmy takes Fido for a walk in the park, hoping to teach Fido to throw a baseball back and forth. They accidentally knock over an old lady over and kill her; predictably she turns into a zombie. Meanwhile, a couple of Timmy's classmates who are in the equivalent of the Cub Scouts, bully poor Timmy and shoot off their BB guns. The bullies get accused of killing the old lady, and they vow revenge.

One thing leads to another, and the two young bullies hold Timmy hostage in a mountain cabin, while the police eventually discover that it was really Fido who killed the old lady, sending him back to the ZomCom facility. Timmy's attempt to free him leads to a much bigger zombie invasion.

A lot of filmmakers have tried to put their own spin on the zombie genre, with comedy having been done any number of times. A zombie movie based about stylized Boomer nostalgia, however? I don't think that's been done. I have to admit that I'm not a particular fan of the modern-day look at Boomer nostalgia, because it always seems to sterilized and predictable (eg. the message of the stifling nature of suburbia has to be put in to the movie). As such, it sometimes seems like there's more attention paid to getting the parodic parts right than to getting the plot to work. Physically, Fido looks nice if you like that sort of representation of the 1950s. And people who like zombie films more than I do will probably like this one more than I did.

Fido is another of those movies that I'm glad it was on a box set, but not the sort of thing I'm looking to watch a bunch of times or that I'd pay standalone DVD prices for.

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Beware the Ides of March

I didn't intend to blog about multiple movies with Julius Caesar as a character in close succession, but the movies all showed up on one or another movie channel a few weeks apart, so we get a third film featuring Caesar: the 1953 MGM adaptation of William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, tomorrow at 11:45 AM. (Yes, tomorrow is March 16, and the Ides of March are traditionally on the 15th. But because the 31 Days of Oscar grouping of movies by decade, as a 50s movie it had to air on a Wednesday.)

According to the Wikipedia article, this is a fairly close adaptation of the Shakespeare play, but I was in the academic track in high school that did a different selection of Shakespeare plays, so I got Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, and Macbeth instead. The movie opens not long (history suggests a year, but time is telescoped to make it seem like a couple of days) before the Ides of March on which Caesar (Louis Calhern) would be killed. He's just killed some of his biggest rivals for power in battle, and the braying mob in Rome wants him made king/dictator; as we saw in Cleopatra the idea of anybody being a king was supposed to be horrifying to republican Rome. But Marc Antony (Marlon Brando) seems to be encouraging Caesar to take the crown.

This obviously terrifies any number of Caesar's other rivals. Some of them just want power for themselves, probably recognizing that the Republic had been fatally wounded for several decades already. This notably includes Cassius (John Gielgud) and Casca (Edmond O'Brien), although not so much Brutus (James Mason) at first. Brutus is less after power than concerned about the Republic being preserved, leading to a reluctance to join a conspiracy against Caesar. But Cassius and Casca aren't stupid. They know how to manipulate people, and so make it look as though there are quite a few Romans who want Caesar to be stopped before he gets too much power. Ultimately, after a lot of soul-searching, Brutus agrees to take part in the conspiracy.

Caesar, depsite having heard the warning to beware the Ides of March, and much to the chagrin of his wife Calpurnia (Greer Garson, in a one-scene role), goes to the Senate, where he gets killed, stabbed first by Casca and then the other conspirators, before Brutus has to deliver the coup de grace that leads Caesar to utter "Et tu, Brute".

All of this occurs inside the Senate, but waiting outside is another braying mob. Brutus, the intellectual, gives an eminently logical speech about Caesar, while Marc Antony, the one person not a part of the conspiracy, knows how to whip up that mob to the point they'll turn on the people who killed Caesar. The conspirators are going to have to flee rome, but even then they're not going to be safe, as Marc Antony and the other members of the triumvirate hunt them down.

This version of Julius Caesar is probably best-known for the fact that Marlon Brando was cast as Antony. Brando is one actor who was decidedly not known for being a Shakespearean actor, unlike those British members of the cast, notably Gielgud. (James Mason had also done a fair amount of Shakespeare before becoming a movie star.) Brando was also known at the time for his less-than-stellar diction. To be honest, Brando's diction is not particularly a problem, although there are times where his delivery devolves into something like his character from The Wild One.

Unsurprisingly, Mason and especially Gielgud handle the dialog well; somewhat more surprising is Edmond O'Brien, whom I wouldn't have thought of as being adept at Shakespeare. Louis Calhern dies halfway through and gets a relatively small number of scenes, and the female roles are small and an excuse cast big names. In addition to the aforementioned Garson there's Deborah Kerr as Brutus' wife.

Overall, Julius Caesar is the sort of movie MGM was very good at producing, and the quality shines through in pretty much every scene, other than possibly the battle scenes looking more like southern California than Italy. But there wasn't much that could be done about it without busting the budget. This version of Julius Caesar is definitely worth a watch.

Monday, March 14, 2022

Whistle Stop

Not noticing anything on my DVR that was coming up on TV tomorrow, I decided to turn to my Mill Creek "Crime Wave" box set with 50 public domain movies. Since I've only gotten through half a dozen or so of them, I've got a lot left, and picked Whistle Stop.

Whistle Stop has an interesting cast in that it has Ava Gardner as the female lead, on the way up about a year before The Killers would jump-start her career. (The movie has a 1945 copyright, but IMBd gives a January 1946 release date.) Gardner plays Mary, returning to her sleepy hometown of Ashbury MI after spending some time away. This is the sort of station where you have to flag down the train to get it to stop, although it seems surprisingly big for such a town. Mary returns to the rooming house where she had apparently lived, one run by the Veeches (Florence Bates and Charles Judels). Dad drinks a lot and works at the train station, and has an adult son in Kenny (George Raft, who by the mid-1940s is definitely on the way down in his career), who drinks a lot and plays poker. They've also got an adult daughter who's engaged to be married.

Kenny apparently used to be Mary's boyfriend, and he's none too happy seeing her come home from the big city wearing a fur coat, wondering who would give her such a pricey gift. Mary, for her part, may or may not want Kenny back, even though he doesn't seem to have changed his ways at all. So she starts taking up with Lew Lenta (Tom Conway), who runs the sort of nightclub that you'd think they don't have in a sleepy town like Ashbury that only has a whistle-stop train station. But if the town didn't have such a club, we wouldn't have any romantic involvement for the finale. Working for Lew is a bartender Gitlow (Victor McLaglen), who also happens to be reasonably good friends with Kenny.

There's a long scene at the county fair, which doesn't seem to serve much purpose, although it does have a few things happen. First is that somebody takes Gitlow's handgun off of him, pick-pocket style, and plants it on Kenny. Mary is able to find it and take it off of Kenny, and one presumes she gives it to Lew, as Lew eventually winds up with the gun when the real action begins. The other big thing to happen at the fair is an accident in which a young woman falls off the dance platform, suffering a serious injury that she blames on Kenny, to the point that when Kenny finally visits her in the hospital, she goes stark raving bonkers with rage.

The subplot of Kenny's sister getting married, at least, has a bit more of a payoff. Kenny and Gitlow miss the wedding because Gitlow gets a call on the morning of the wedding that he should bring Kenny over to Lew's club so that the two can kiss and make up, well, without the kissing of course. Now, the logical course of action would be for Kenny and Gitlow to point out that they're about to go to a wedding, and could the reconciliation wait until after the wedding. But no. They're stupid enough to go to the club, where somebody has committed a murder with Gitlow's gun. Since he'll be the prime suspect, they flee, but the police have already been called. They try to escape the police but their gas tank gets shot, and eventually Kenny gets shot in the arm too. Thankfully they're able to hop a train.

But there's still a production code out there, which means that something is going to have to happen to exonerate Kenny and bring out the real killer, something that happens when Gitlow goes back to Ashbury.

I found as I was watching Whistle Stop that I had the same problem a lot of the IMDb reviewers had. The movie only runs 81 minutes, but it takes about an hour for the real action to begin. The first hour is slow and introduces characters who don't much matter and events that don't make much sense (such as the injured woman). Mary also has character motivations that don't make much sense: why did she return to town in the first place, and then why did she take up with Lew. The finale only partially makes up for the slow first hour.

Whistle Stop is one of those movies that's nice to have on a cheap box set, but even this cheap box set has had better movies of the ones I've watched.

William Hurt, 1950-2022

William Hurt (r.) and Kathleen Turner in Body Heat (1981)

William Hurt, who earned three Oscar nominations in the 1980s including a win for Kiss of the Spider Woman, has died several days shy of his 72nd birthday.

Hurt apparently did quite a bit of work on the stage, both before getting into movies, as well in between movies in the 1980s and beyond, picking up a Tony nomination along the way; his TV work also earned him an Emmy nomination. Among the Oscar nominations, I've surprisingly only seen Children of a Lesser God, not having seen Kiss of the Spider Woman or Broadcast News, the latter of which was on one of the HBO channels that DirecTV had a free preview of this weekend. I didn't think to record it at the time, in part because I recorded several other things and still need to free up more space on my DVR.

Among the Hurt films I have seen are Body Heat, pictured above; Gorky Park, a fun if imperfect movie; and The Accidental Tourist. Hurt was also in some of the Marvel comic-book movies in the last decade, but I rarely go to the movie theater and haven't seen any of the comic-book movies.

I could see TCM having a small tribute to Hurt on a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday night when they don't have to program quite so many movies because of the presence of the overnight programming themes. In any case, that wouldn't be until after the end of 31 Days of Oscar.

Sunday, March 13, 2022

Young Frankenstein

In the 14 years that I've been doing this blog, it seems that I've never done a post on Young Frankenstein. It's been in the FXM rotation recently, and will have two airings tomorrow (Mar. 14), at 4:00 AM and 1:10 PM. So, since I had recorded it during one of the previous FXM showings a few weeks earlier, I made a point of sitting down and watching it to do a post on now.

Gene Wilder plays Dr. Frederick Frankenstein, pronounced FRONK-en-steen, thank you very much, an instructor at a medical school in something close to the present day when the film opens. At least, everybody looks like they're from the 1970s, and references are made to it being the 20th century. During one of his lectures, a man who's clearly not a medical student comes into the lecture hall and wants to see the good doctor after the lecture. It turns out that Frederick is the grandson of Victor, the Dr. Frankenstein who worked on reanimating the dead and created the famous monster (never mind that it just being a grandson, this means the dates don't work out at all). Whoever has owned the Frankstein estates in Transylvania has just died, and Frederick being the closest living relative, he's bequeathed the properties. So he leaves his fiancée Elizabeth (Madeline Kahn) behind and sets out for Transylvania.

Transylvania, for no good reason, seems trapped in the 19th century. There don't seem to be any cars and almost no electricity other than what the Frankenstein castle is able to produce. Also, everybody speaks German, which might have been more likely during the days of the Austro-Hungarian empire, but certainly not by the Communist era. Frederick is met at the train station by Igor (pronounced EYE-gore, thank you very much), a hunchbacked assistant, who takes Frederick to the castle. Also in the wagon waiting for Frederick is Inga (Teri Garr), who is intended to serve as another of Frederick's assistants.

Running the household is Frau Blücher (Cloris Leachmann) who, it turns out, wants Frederick to continue the work of previous generations of Frankensteins, even though he's also considered himself a serious doctor. She lures Frederick into the laboratory, where he finds all the equipment now covered in cobwebs. But finding Victor's private journal, he's suddenly curious as to whether Victor's procedures actually work. He and Igor obtain a corpse but need a preserved brain. There's the brain of a prominent local scientist, but Igor has an accident and winds up bringing back an "abnormal" brain instead.

Dr. Frankenstein is able to reanimate the corpse, but the living corpse, once again dubbed Frankenstein's monster (Peter Boyle), has some serious problems. He can't speak, and has a pretty severe fear of fire. He also doesn't want to be chained up, leading to unintentional violence. The townsfolk, led by police inspector Kemp (Kenneth Mars), remember Victor's work, and they understandably don't want another monster running loose. To complicate matters for Frederick, he falls in love with Inga despite being engaged to Elizabeth, who sends a telegram to inform Frederick she's coming to Transylvania.

Young Frankenstein is a Mel Brooks movie, and how much you like it is going to depend upon how much you like Mel Brooks' style of humor. For me, I find that when it works, it works really well, but when it doesn't, it can be extremely irritating. As such, I found Young Frankenstein rather uneven. The bits that were more directly parodying Universal's horror movies of the 1930s worked well, such as the monster's scene with the little girl, and another scene with a blind hermit (Gene Hackman). Others, like a running gag about mention of Frau Blücher's name being accompanied by horses whinnying, fell flat. I prefer some of the other movies from Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder, but also understand that a lot of people are going to love Young Frankenstein.

Saturday, March 12, 2022

Who wants to marry into this family?

Another of the movies that's been on my DVR for a while that I finally got around to watching is the 1979 version of The In-Laws.

The movie starts off in a way that makes you wonder what it has to do with in-laws. An armored car is driving when it's picked up by one of those powerful junkyard electromagnets and brought into the yard. There's a lot of cash in the back of the truck, but surprisingly, that's not what the robbers want. Somebody has stashed a couple of engravings from the US Mint, engravings that are used to create high-denomination currency. It seems obvious that if these engravings fell into the wrong hands, somebody could make a lot of money, although since these are bills over $100, which were no longer in general circulation after 1969, you have to wonder who.

Seemingly in on the plot is Vince Ricardo (Peter Falk). He is, in fact, one of the in-laws. He and wife Jean (Arlene Golonka) are the parents of Tommy (Michael Lembeck). Tommy is about to get married to Barbara Kompett (Penny Peyser), daughter of denist Sheldon Kompett (Alan Arkin) and Carol (Nancy Dussault). They live close enough together that you'd think they'd have met much earlier than just a few days before the wedding, but apparently not. And Dr. Kompett certainly doesn't know what Mr. Ricardo does.

That last bit isn't a surprise, since Vince works for the CIA, and not in one of those analysts' desk jobs, even though he's got enough service that he shouldn't have to be out in the field doing risky and physically demanding work. But it's what he likes. When the Ricardos visit the Kompetts' house, Vince requests getting up to make a phone call, which is in part to call a contact, and in part an excuse to hide one of the engravings in the basement so that Dr. Kompett will have to work with him.

Vince ropes Kompett into going to Vince's office to get a bag containing the other engravings, under the ruse that there are two gunmen who would like to kill Vince. Unfortunately, it's not a ruse, and the gunmen figure out that Kompett is there to get the bag. By this time, Mrs. Kompett has also found the engraving in the basement, and not realizing that it's authentic, takes it to the bank looking for guidance on what to do with it. This obviously sends a bunch of T-men to the Kompett place such that Dr. Kompett can't go back. They don't know about Vince's real reason for having taken the engravings -- if that reason even is real -- and even if they do, they're not about to let on that they do.

Vince's plan, at least as he tells it to Dr. Kompett, is to go down to a small Latin American island dictatorship called Tijada, run by insane Gen. Garcia (Richard Libertini). Garcia wants the engravings, as his plan is to use them, and engravings from other western economies, to create enough currency to inflate pretty much every economy and make those currencies worthless. (Politicians of today might want to take note of their profligate deficit spending since the start of the coronavirus pandemic and the resultant price rises it's causing.) Vince tells Kompett that the plan is to find out more about Garcia's modus operandi and specifically where the currency-printing operation is so that Western governments can stop it. Kompett, however, has good reason not to believe any of this, considering how much Vince has been lying to him already.

The In-Laws is a movie that certainly has some funny scenes, and definitely a funny premise. But it's also a movie with which I had some big problems. The first is that Vince is written as such an obnoxious character that you have to wonder what anybody would see in him, to the point of getting mixed up in international intrigue. Sheldon had an alibi for the heist, which took place in Washington, and if he hadn't seen Vince before the night Vince planted the engraving in the Kompetts' basement, then a good defense attorney ought to have been able to get him off at trial. And if Vince is obnoxious, Gen. Garcia is so over-the-top nuts that I really wanted to fast-forward every time he showed up on screen.

Still, there are a lot of people who find The In-Laws quite funny, so you might want to give it a try for yourself. (I haven't seen the remake, but apparently that one is well-liked, too.)

Friday, March 11, 2022


I've got a box set of Kirk Douglas movies that has Spartacus in it. I'd been a bit reluctant to sit down and devote a good 196 minutes to the movie, sort of the same issue I had with Cleopatra a few weeks back. But Spartacus is going to be on TCM tomorrow (Mar. 12) at 4:30 PM, so I recently fired up the DVD player and finally watched Spartacus.

Spartacus (Kirk Douglas) is a slave of Thracian (roughly modern-day northern Greece) origin who at the start of the movie in the 70s BC is working in a mine in Libya, where the slave-masters drive everyone hard until they mostly die a fairly early death. Spartacus is unsurprisingly truclent about it, but there's not much way to resist when you're a slave. He's about to have a bit of luck, if you can call it that, in the form of slave trader Batiatus (Peter Ustinov). He looks at several of the slaves, and buys Spartacus.

However, it turns out that Batiatus runs a training school for gladiatorial combat, and intends to put Spartacus into combat with all the other slaves there, another occupation that has a fairly limited lifespan, since combat is generally to the death. But Spartacus is able to become romantically invoved with one of the females cooking and feeding the slaves, Varinia (Jean Simmons), to the point that she's going to become pregnant with his child. But the two of them are split up when Roman Senator Crassus (Laurence Olivier) buys Varinia. And after Crassus wants to see some combat, Spartacus decides to revolt.

They're able to break out of the training school, but if you think about it, it's not going to be easy to evade detection in Italy. Perhaps the easiest thing to do would be to go north to Gaul, but that's a pretty long journey. Instead, Spartacus contracts with a group of pirates represented by Tigranes (Herbert Lom) to take the ever-increasing group of rebel ex-slaves by boat over to the Balkans, requiring them to head down to Brindisi in the heel of Italy.

The Romans, of course, are up in arms about what's going on, and politics intrudes on what the best course of action should be. Pompey has been fighting a war in Hispania and is brought back to pursue Spartacus' army from the direction of Sicily, while another legion will attack from Brindisi. This will force Spartacus to head back north toward Rome, where Crassus has his own troops, and political reasons for driving Spartacus toward his troops.

In the meantime, there's been quite a bit of political maneuvering going on in the Roman Senate. Crassus, as we have seen, has tried to grab power for himself by becoming the hero in putting down Spartacus' revolt. Gracchus (Charles Laughton), patriarch in an old patrician family, is horrified at this, as he sees this as the first step toward tyranny. (Of course, he was ultimately right, as it would be less than 50 years until Rome became an empire.) A young Julius Caesar (John Gavin) ultimately takes Crassus' side, which I suppose was instrumental in Caesar's eventual rise to power.

The Romans also don't get to live happily ever after. Crassus loses Varinia, who runs away and joins Spartacus' army, and Gracchus is declared an enemy of the state by Crassus because Gracchus is the one person who could still challenge Crassus' power. Crassus also loses his manservant, Antonius (Tony Curtis), a slave who runs off after coming to believe he's going to be made a sex-slave.

The life of Spartacus is the sort of material that would probably work well in a miniseries, assuming that you want to cover the political situation that affects how the Romans handle the rebellion. At 196 minuts, this movie version of Spartacus is a little long, mostly because the final battle in which Spartacus is defeated but not killed comes with a good 40 minutes left in the movie. There's a lot of political ends between Crassus and Gracchus that the writers want to clean up, and a Hollywood scene at the end that's supposed to leave the viewer hopeful.

The version of Spartacus in the box set I have is the 2015 restoration which, if I had a good enough home theater to watch it, would probably look pretty darn good, although not as good as the Blu-ray release.

Thursday, March 10, 2022

Thursday Movie Picks #400: Wrongly Accused

This being Thursday, it's time for another edition of Thursday Movie Picks, the blogathon run by Wandering Through the Shelves. It's hard to believe, but this venerable blogathon is up to its 400th edition, which means it's being going on for close to eight years. This week's theme is "Wrongly Accused", which isn't too difficult, although I wanted to use movies that I haven't used in blogathons before. That made things a bit more difficult, as I'd already used A Cry in the Dark and They Won't Forget before. Still, I was able to find three films:

Boomerang! (1947). Dana Andrews plays a district attorney in Bridgeport, CT, who has a notorious murder of a beloved local minister happen in his jurisdiction. Eventually demobbed soldier Arthur Kennedy is found out of state and accused of the murder. Andrews starts investigating the evidence, and finds out that Kennedy may not have been the murderer after all. However, most of the people in Bridgeport want somebody convicted, and Kennedy is somebody. This is based on a real case in the 1920s and the prosecuting attorney, Homer Cummings, would go on to become US Attorney General under FDR.

The Children's Hour (1961). Shirley MacLaine and Audrey Hepburn play two women running a private girls' school. There's some strain on their friendship because Hepburn is engaged to James Garner, but things are about to get much worse for them when one of the young female students tells her grandmother a lie about MacLaine and Hepburn being romantically involved. Parents start pulling their daughters out of school, and the two women have to defend themselves, but at great personal cost. This is based on a play by Lillian Hellman that had already been turned into a movie in the 1930s called These Three, although that version couldn't have any lesbian overtones.

Boy (1969). Japanese film from avant-garde director Nagisa Oshima about a family on the edges of society where the father had decided the way they're going to make their living is to fake traffic accidents and then accuse the drivers of running over Mom in order to extort money from the drivers. However, Mom becomes unable to do this, and Dad makes the son, the titular "Boy", fake the accidents. The story is mostly told from the perspective of the son, and is based on a true story.

Briefs for March 10-11, 2022

I haven't done a briefs post in a week and a half, mostly because I haven't generally been feeling much urge to go on my desktop computer where it's easiest to type up posts after dinner. On the tablet has generally been much easier for me, but try typing anything long-form with those touch-screen keyboards, never mind Blogger not wanting to play nicely with the table.

Alan Ladd, Jr. died a week ago at the age of 84, and I really should have mentioned him. The son of actor Alan Ladd, he became a producer in the late 1960s, working in Britain and making interesting if messy films like Villain and X, Y, and Zee, and then returned to Hollywood where he worked at Fox and shepherded films as diverse as Silver Streak, Star Wars, and Chariots of Fire, although didn't get the producer credit on any of those. Ladd finally won an Oscar for producing Braveheart, as the Best Picture Oscar nowadays goes to the producer instead of the studio. TCM did a documentary on him several years back.

I didn't know until yesterday that fellow movie blogger Caftan Woman, real name Patricia Nolan-Hall, died a few days back. I've been greatly remiss in updating my blog roll, not paying much attention to who's been blogging regularly and who hasn't, instead generally just seeing the most recent posts in the sidebar and clicking on the ones that looked interesting. I also tend not to pay that much attention to what people post about their personal lives, mostly because I barely know any of you and have certainly never met any of you. And it's not like you'd want to know that much about my personal life. But Caftan Woman's posts were always worth a read, and she'll be greatly missed.

A movie that I've never blogged about, other than to use it in a TMP, is Quintet, the Robert Altman/Paul Newman science-fiction movie where people in a post-apocalyptic world suffering from nuclear winter play a mysterious game called Quintet. I've always had trouble getting all the way through it. I briefly mentioned last month that it's back in the FXM rotation, but it doesn't look like I mentioned a time. So for those of you who want to try to watch it, Quintet will be on today at 1:00 PM, and then again tomorrow at 8:25 AM.

This being a Thursday, 31 Days of Oscar over on TCM is looking at films from the 60s, and this Thursday we get a bunch of epics, including another TCM airing of the Richard Burton/Elizabeth Taylor Cleopatra, at 1:30 AM, a movie I blogged about recently. Tomorrow means films from the 1970s, and that brings the first airing in ages of a movie I've always wanted to see but never actually have, just to see if it's actually any good: You Light Up My Life, at 2:00 PM Friday. Anybody who's old enough will remember the Debby Boone song, although as I understand it she didn't sing it in the movie. If you don't know the song, click the link and suffer the earworm like the rest of us old farts.

One other 1960s movie on the TCM lineup today is A Man for All Seasons, at 11:15 PM. That gives me another opportunity to present a clip which has always been relevant, but has been especially relevant since the 2016 elections: