Category: Tallies


January 30, 2011

Almost half of the films that I’ve watched over the last month have been ones that I’ve stumbled upon on tv.  I feel completely blessed to have access to TCM and its constant commercial-free fabulousness, and I’m thankful for all it has done to get me out of my movie-watching comfort zone or, at the very least, bring me things that I didn’t know existed that I might have otherwise missed.  Here’s an example:

Lust for Life (1956)

I’m not usually fond of biopics, and one about a painter might seem a bit sluggish on the surface.  But when you say Kirk Douglas and Anthony Quinn doing a biopic about Van Gogh, one of the good-and-crazy painters, well…I still probably wouldn’t have bought it online.  But when it’s right in front of me, and when it would be more effort for me to actually change the channel, it sounded like a good idea.  And you know, I’m glad I stuck around.  Kirk Douglas is amazing as the tortured artist, completely capturing the essence of loneliness and the lengths it can drive one to.  Anthony Quinn plays Gauguin, Van Gogh’s foil in every respect, and plays it quite well.  Their rages, as well as their amicabilities, feel genuine; neither side is more sympathetic than the other (or pathetic, for that matter), and both actors really seemed to grasp the intense passion with which the men they portray lived their lives.  What the story lacks in action and drama, the characters more than make up for.  A great Sunday afternoon flick. 

Here’s a great scene of the two artists at their worst/best.    

 

January 29, 2011

A Saturday night alone in front of the tv?  Nothing wrong with that!  While Mick was out having a boys night, I decided to have some fun movies to keep me company.

Abbot & Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)

This movie is exactly what I want out of an A&C flick.  Lou being lovably hilarious.  Bud being his usually cranky self.  A host of guest stars that nearly steal every scene.  In this case, Bud and Lou are joined by none other than Lon Chaney Jr. and Bela Lugosi…because you can’t meet Frankenstein without the Wolfman and Dracula!  There’s some great physical comedy and plenty of zingers.  The story is as silly as can be, but that’s not important.  It’s damn fun, and you should watch it.

Abbot & Costello Meet The Mummy (1955)

After all the fun of Meet Frankenstein, I thought I’d really enjoy Meet the Mummy.  Unfortunately…well, it wasn’t bad.  I guess there’s just so much A&C I can take in one sitting.  I missed the famous faces that were so prevalent in the earlier film, although I did get a jolt of excitement from recognizing Kam Tong (also known as Hey Boy from the brilliant western serial Have Gun Will Travel), with his one line where you don’t even see his face.  I might give the movie another shot at a later date, in which case you’ll hear more then.  For now though…meh.  Feel free to tell me I’m wrong.

January 27, 2011

In the second installment of the New Bond franchise, James brought over

Quantum of Solace (2008)

for Mick to watch.  Actually, I don’t think I’d seen this one before either.  And that doesn’t upset me too much.  It wasn’t terrible.  Not like Moonraker terrible.  Lots of stuff blew up, the hot chick died in a strange fashion, there was a bizarre-looking villain with a big plan that completely failed in a dramatic fashion (though I don’t remember a single diorama).  So, a typical middle of the road Bond movie.  The one thing I did really like about this one: lots of M.  Judi Dench is the leading lady, and I’m not just saying that because she’s probably my favorite actress ever.  See what Mick had to say, he’s with me.  But overall, the film was…well, let’s just say that I totally missed the last 20 minutes of the movie because I was more interested in reading a review on my phone of the Dune miniseries that SciFi aired in 2000.  Which I bought later in the week for $3.  Booyah!

You know, I think I AM the best part of this movie!

January 26, 2011

Some people get sick and want comfort food.  I want comfort movies.  And those usually fall into two categories: sci-fi and Hammer.  So this night, I was feeling especially awful and had to work in spite of it, so I had myself a little of both of my comfort categories.

Krull (1983)

This was one I hadn’t seen and had been meaning to for ages and ages.  Thank god for Netflix Instant!  Was the movie amazing and epic and a classic for children and adults everywhere?  Not exacly.  Was it fun and clever and quintessentially 80s fantasy?  Pretty much.  Which is exactly what I wanted.  And it had Liam Neeson!  Most of the ancillary characters were great.  The ending was rubbish.  The kid was a bit irritating.  But overall, it was a pretty fabulous sick day movie. 

Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969)

CUSHING!  If you’ve been keeping up, you know how I feel about Peter Cushing.  Normally I love his controlled, dapper nature and the way he is usually so proper in his madness.  In the Dracula movies, he was the good guy so he was very affable; he even made stabbing someone in the heart with a stick look very noble.  Even in his first role as Doctor Frankenstein, he was crazy but still somewhat relatable.  But in this one…yeah, he definitely needed to be destroyed.  AND I LOVED IT.  It was wonderful to see him completely shred a group of pompous businessmen with bitter words.  And though the scene of him forcing himself upon his female accomplice was gritty and a bit shocking, there was something enthralling about seeing him getting really physical and sexual in that it was atypical in light of his other Hammer roles.  This character was manipulative and vengeful in a way that the previous Frankenstein movies had only hinted at.  For that alone, it’s worth watching.

January 25, 2011

Another chance viewing, courtesy of TCM!

The Honey Pot (1967)

I’ve loved Rex Harrison all my life. When I was little, I loved him as Doctor Doolittle, walking and talking with animals and being all British and charming. When I got a little older, I loved him as ‘Enry ‘Iggins, all “by george!” and “damn, damn, damn!” and “where the devil are my slippers?”  He was an ass, but a loveable ass no doubt.  Now that I’m mostly grown and have branched out into Rex’s catalog a bit more, I continue to adore his unique knack of being a complete bitch 100% of the time, yet somehow being so wonderfully compelling that you just can’t get away.  (see My Fair Lady or Staircase)   

The Honey Pot is absolutely no different.  In this one, Harrison plays a wealthy playboy who fakes near-death as an excuse to bring together his exes and have them fight over his fortune.  There’s the posh European princess, the blonde bimbo, and the whiskey-swilling bitch from Texas (played by Susan Hayward).  But the real winner is Maggie Smith, playing the assistant to Ms. Lone Star; she’s irrationally patient with the old broad, but finds herself in the end and is the only one who seems to be able to put Harrison in his place.  The exchanges between the two of them are ascerbic and witty as only two actors of such a caliber could drum up. 

You can watch the trailer on TCM, or the whole film is available on Hulu. 

 

January 23, 2011

There’s a few scenarios that would, for me, create the Perfect Day.

One of them would definitely involve knitting my ass off and watching Vincent Price movies. 

The Abominable Doctor Phibes (1971)

Mick hails this as his favorite Vincent Price film, and now I can see why: Phibes is a great character, a hopeless romantic with a flair for the dramatic.  Sound familiar?  When he’s not rocking out on the organ with his clockwork band, he’s arranging and carrying out a series of very creative murders of vengeance.  All to bring back the lady he loves.  Awwwww.  It’s a fun movie with some great dialogue, a classic of the horror genre and one of Price’s best.  I feel I should state that the dvd version we have is “digitally remastered”, which unfortunately makes it look like a cheap tv production and takes away all the glory of film.  I’d recommend finding an old copy or using Netflix. 

Doctor Phibes Rises Again (1972)

Brace yourself for this next statement, because it may shock you: I thought this sequel was better than the original!  *gasp!*  And not just because I have the uncontrollable urge to call it Doctor Phibes Rides Again.  I think Mick described it best when he said it was a Shakespearean Romantic Tragedy.  As in the first film, there’s a lot of death, which is tragic; there’s romance with Doctor Phibes making the final arrangements to sail down the River of Life with his expired wife to live out eternity together; and you’ll find your typical Shakespearean archetypes in the characters: the romantic protagonists, the power-hungry antagonists, and the comedic relief (played brilliantly by Peter Jeffrey and John Cater, the bumbling police inspectors Trout and Waverley).  The Egyptian setting also reminds me a bit of the Hammer Mummy movies, which is always a good thing.  Also, PETER CUSHING is in it for like 15 seconds!  Overall, highly recommended. (That 6.4 rating on IMDB is CRAP!) 

The Last Man on Earth (1964)

No, I haven’t read the book.  And no, I didn’t see I Am Legend or any of the remakes or reboots of this famous story.  And I like it that way.  As a stirring portrait of post-apocalyptic life, this film is a win.  Price is great as a man on the edge just trying to keep his sanity, and the tone of the film is contemporaneously as somber and tense as its protagonist.  It’s definitely not as action-heavy as some of its successors seem to be; the vampire-zombies hardly seem threatening, Price is able to just shove most of them aside even when they’ve mobbed his car, so aside from the threat of psychological breakdown there isn’t much that’s really putting pressure on the lone Doctor Morgan.  That is, until he finds out he’s not really alone.  That to me is the most interesting part of the film: the idea that your best intentions can be percieved as someone else’s biggest threat, and that with all the horror and tragedy around you it may actually be other people that can cause you the most harm.  While this theme has been explored in many horror and apocalyptic dramas, I think it’s especially well and poigniantly done here.  Part of the credit goes to Vincent Price for his stellar dramatic presence, and part should go to directors Ubaldo Ragona and Sidney Salkow for some incredibly effective and evocative camera work, especially in the final scenes.  Another classic that can hardly be imitated.

January 22, 2011

Another marathon day!  Saturdays tend to be the days when my body still tries to wake me up at godawful hours of the morning, so I’m forced to crawl out of bed and seek comfort on the couch.  These are the times I usually watch things that Mick doesn’t want to watch. 

So I started off the day with

The Brain That Wouldn’t Die (1959)

This had a lot of things going for it.  60s and 70s B-movie horror is some of my favorite stuff ever.  It had a weird, completely implausible premise.  And the copy on the DVR was from an old episode of Elvira’s Movie Macabre.  All good things.  And yet…

I did not like this movie.  I really wanted to, and I was convinced that the first 20 minutes or so were a great start.  And then…let me recount this scene for you:

Man and woman are driving in a convertible; he takes a turn too fast and the car crashes; man is thrown from the vehicle and rolls down an embankment, but is surprisingly uninjured; woman is still in the car (I assume she was wearing her seatbelt), which has mysteriously caught on fire; she reaches out a hand as if pleading for assistance; man cringes, and hands her his coat; moments later, man reaches into the flaming car and takes the coat with her head wrapped neatly inside.

I had to pause the damn movie after that because I had so many questions. 

It’s probably not much of a spoiler to tell you that the man takes the head to his lab where he pumps it full of juice and a mysterious “elixir” that keeps her head alive without a body, seemingly just sitting on a cookie sheet filled with blood and some sort of pumping mechanism.  Oh, there’s also an Igor-type assistant with a withered arm, and a mysterious “experiment gone wrong” creature locked in a closet. 

From there, the man begins a long and arduously-misogynistic search to find his fiance a new body.  He checks all the reasonable places: strip joints, bikini modeling contests, art school sessions, even picks up ladies walking down the road.  At one point there’s a stripper catfight.  It’s a series of horrible representations of women who all fawn over the murderous man who obviously hadn’t thought of things like VD when he went on his body-quest.  I won’t tell you how it ends, except to say that the woman sort of wins and the man gets his comeuppance.   

Le Mans (1971) 

After breakfast, I turned on TCM and watched the last half hour of Herbie Goes To Monte Carlo.  Because it’s Saturday, and why the hell not. (Why the hell Knotts?)  After that, they stuck with the racing theme and showed Le Mans, which I stuck around to watch because it has two things I adore: fast cars, and Steve McQueen.  If you like real F1 or Grand Prix racing, this flick is great.  If you’re really into Days of Thunder, this might not be your thing.  For one, there’s hardly any dialogue in the whole film.  There’s hints of romantic subplot, a relatively unexplained rivalry, and just enough backstory to make you care what happens to Steve McQueen (like you need an excuse to care about Steve McQueen).  But the thing you have to remember is that McQueen was really into racing in real life.  He wanted to make a movie about racing.  He even got clearance from the  producer to do all his own driving. (Did I mention he was the producer?)  

But trust me, folks, this is not NASCAR.  Though the story is sparse, it has an understated intensity that lets characters speak volumes in mere glances.  The racing is genuinely exciting to watch, and of course there are some excellent crashes to witness.  It’s not a light-hearted or thrill-a-minute kind of flick, but if you want a slow-burn with some sweet cars and a handsome protagonist to keep you company while you do laundry, put it in your queue. 

Jason and the Argonauts (1963)

And then TCM made a completely off-the-wall jump, from car racing to Greek mythology.  Don’t get me wrong, I am defintely not complaining.  Ever since I was wee, Ray Harryhausen has been one of those men who make me love to love movies.  When I was young I loved Clash of the Titans, and Jason and the Argonauts is a film I came upon within the last decade and have just adored.  It may not have quite the star power that Titans has, but I think the animation is far superior.  The skeleton warrior fight scene is one of the most impressive stop-motion animation sequences ever put to film.  (It was here that Mick and I had an indepth conversation about the merits of both Harryhausen and Rankin-Bass, and what if Harryhausen had done Rudolph.)  I don’t think there’s much praise I can give to this film that hasn’t already been heaped upon it by generations of fans, so I’ll leave it at that.  On a related note, I want to start a metal band called “Children of the Hydra”.

Here, watch some skeletons kick ass.

January 20, 2011

Tonight, through sheer luck of the tv roulette wheel, I watched The Pink Panther (1963).

To be fair, I’ll have to say that I had it on while I was working on different things, and since I’ve seen it once before I didn’t feel bad about not giving it my full attention.  But I was still attentive enough to laugh at the deftly-performed physical comedy of Peter Sellers and the charming wit of David Niven.  Not to mention the beautiful trainwreck that is Claudia Cardinale…The only delivery more wooden and painful was from Pinocchio’s mother. (Rodney Dangerfield impression over.)  But hell, it’s a good-time film that makes you chuckle, has an unforgettable theme song, and spawned a series (for better or for worse) and a character that will be remembered for generations.

If you feel like laughing out loud, check out the best car chase ever

 

January 19, 2011

We went out to a movie on a Wednesday night.  But not just any movie would get me out on a weekday, it had to be something special.  And it was.  It was Santa Sangre (1989).

I’d seen the movie before, but there’s no way one can pass up a Jodorowsky film on the big screen.  No way, I say!  Even when, of the three Jodorowsky films I’ve seen, it’s my least favorite.  That’s not to say that it isn’t brilliant; it’s just different.  It’s linear, it tells a straight intelligible story.  There’s never a point where I think to myself “I have no idea what’s going on right now”.  It makes sense.  But it’s still surreal and creepy and strange as any of his films.  Jodorowsky’s usual anti-Catholic themes are there, and in force, along with the appearance of various handicapped actors (mental and physical).  There’s the blurring of lines between reality and perception.  And of course, his family; his sons Axel, Adan, and Teo are all featured. 

But it’s as much a horror film as a psychologically surreal one, no doubt part of the influence of Claudio Argento who co-wrote the screenplay.  Murder and blood are in no short supply.  But Argento and Jodorowsky fit hand-in-hand, working harmoniously to bring you a film that is as creepy and frightening as it is thought-provoking.

January 18, 2011

So remember the other day when I said there weren’t many Doctor Who serials I didn’t like?  That was before I watched The Ark in Space (1975)

I’ve actually fallen behind in writing up my tallies because of this serial.  I’ve been at a loss to adequately describe my feelings towards it in an honest light.  And I guess the above statement is still technically true: there aren’t many Doctor Who serials I don’t like.  This just happens to be one of the few.    

I suppose I may have never given it a fair chance.  As soon as I saw the word “Ark” in the title, I knew what the story would be: a ship of refugees, the last of a species, escaping some apocalypse or another and waiting in stasis until the preordained time when they would awaken and return and start anew on their fresh clean planet.  Being a child of sci-fi, I’ve seen this idea played out time and again, at least thrice on the Stargate series alone.  And it’s not Doctor Who’s fault that it happened to be the last one I saw.  So I do feel a bit unfair for faulting it in that area. 

I also feel a bit unfair for faulting the really awful effects in this particular serial; god knows that every other 70s sci-fi show had some pretty silly-looking effects, and we just chuckle and chalk it up to technology at the time and let it go.  But something about the giant foam-rubber ant creature just put me off…or it’s foamy-looking larvae who use their goo to take over your body and turn it into green-painted bubble wrap. 

What I don’t feel unfair for faulting is the uncharacteristically whiny bitch that Sarah Jane became.  From the moment they stepped on board, everything became cause for alarm or tantrum or childishness.  The giant (dead) ant-creature seemed like the most disgusting thing imaginable.  Crawling through a vent became an atrocious ordeal.  On the other hand, they had brought along Harry on this trip, so he was there to assist the Doctor and do the difficult jobs and be manly about it all.  As much as I hate to say it, it all felt very misogynistic; normally Sarah Jane can do anything necessary to assist the Doctor, including being heroic in her own right.  But when Harry’s around…well then it isn’t necessary, and she can act like the snivelling girl that she really is.  I hate saying that, but it’s one way of looking at it. 

Overall, let’s just say I won’t be revisiting this one or adding it to the list of favorites any time soon.

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