Monthly Archives: March 2010

The Hiatus

You may have realised that I haven’t exactly been updating this blog over the last couple of weeks. You may think that I have failed in my efforts to watch and review a movie a day for the entire year and that I have simply given up. Well, I haven’t given up, it’s just that I have had a little hiatus for the last couple of weeks and that it won’t be until mid-April that things will be sorted out. As I stated a while ago our place was severely damaged by the recent Melbourne hailstorm. Our roof was damaged and water leaked into the apartment. There is still no electricity in the bedrooms which makes it difficult to watch a DVD or even use the computer. I have found ways to get around this but it is not always going to be perfect.

Another reason this has not been updated is that my Mum has recently been in hospital for an operation which naturally had me worried. With my Mother-in-law arriving tonight for a three week stay I do not think that I will be doing much blogging before mid-April.


Bride Of Frankenstein

Directed by James Whale
Produced by Carl Laemmle, Jr.
Written by Screenplay: William Hurlbut
Adaptation: William Hurlbut & John L. Balderston
Novel: Mary Shelley
Starring Boris Karloff
Colin Clive
Valerie Hobson
Ernest Thesiger
Elsa Lanchester
Una O’Connor
Music by Franz Waxman
Cinematography John J. Mescall
Editing by Ted Kent
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date(s) April 22, 1935 (LA)
May 10, 1935 (NY)
Running time 75 minutes
Country United States
Language English

I am really trying to catch up with all of the posts. I have fallen a little behind so I am only doing a shorthanded version of the posts and will re-edit them when I get a chance.

in Bride of Frankenstein

Image via Wikipedia

Bride Of Frankenstein was the sequel to the original 1931 monster movie and the one that most people think is the superior film. This is the film where the monster befriends the blind man who teaches him to speak and the film is all the better for it as Karloff is able to make the audience empathise with the misunderstood monster. The monster has a childlike quality which just shows how skillful Karloff’s portrayal is. You are at the same time empathetic to the monster as well as repulsed by him. There is an innocence as if he only murders because he has been shunned by society yet he does seem to know to an extent what he is doing.

The film has quite a bit more camp humour than Frankenstein, something that director James Whale also added to The Invisible Man movie. Examples of this include Ernest Thesiger’s portrayal of Dr. Pretorious and especially Una O’ Connor as Minni. She comes across equally as being funny and annoying.


Modern Times

Directed by Charlie Chaplin
Produced by Charlie Chaplin
Written by Charlie Chaplin & Paulette Goddard (uncredited)
Starring Charlie Chaplin
Paulette Goddard
Henry Bergman
Stanley Sandford
Chester Conklin
Music by Charlie Chaplin
Cinematography Ira H. Morgan & Roland Totheroh
Editing by Williard Nico
Distributed by United Artists
Release date(s) February 5, 1936
Running time 87 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Modern Times was Chaplin’s final ‘silent’ film. Although it does feature some sounds and voices and even a (nonsensical) song from the little Tramp it is essentially a silent film. It is also a very brilliant film and is very funny. A Lot of the comedy has to do with the mechanisation of the modern world, and there is the iconic scene where Charlie goes through the giant cogs of the machine, but the funniest stuff has to do with the element of hunger and food. The scene where Charlie eats his lunch with the aid of the eating machine at the start of the film is funny, as is the scene where the Tramp has to feed his co-worker who has become trapped in the machine thanks to Charlie.

I also think that Paulette Goddard is very good in the film as the Gamin (whatever that is), as well as being very beautiful. I especially liked her feisty performance.

The film is perhaps Chaplin’s most critically acclaimed film and whilst I do enjoy it a lot I probably like City Lights and The Circus a little bit more.


Go West

Directed by Edward Buzzell
Produced by Jack Cummings
Written by Irving Brecher
Starring Groucho Marx
Harpo Marx
Chico Marx
John Carroll
Diana Lewis
Music by George Bassman (orchestrations)
Georgie Stoll (music direction)
Cinematography Leonard Smith
Editing by Blanche Sewell
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date(s) 1940
Running time 80 min.

I love the Marx Bros. and even though Go West isn’t their best film it still has its enjoyable moments, especially when Groucho, Chico and Harpo are together. Their antics are as funny as usual, it’s just that when they are not on camera the film is not very interesting. And that is the problem with all the MGM Marx Bros. films. When the Marxes are not on-screen there is usually some terrible side romance plot between a couple of really boring actors. Worse is when they have to sing, which is something that I never understood about Marx Bros. films. Why do they feature these horrible songs sung by the supporting players? Usually the Groucho would have a really funny song or two that he would sing in each of his films but that is sadly lacking in Go West. We do get Chico playing the piano and Harpo playing the harp, which like the non-Groucho songs force a viewer to press the fast forward button. I really shouldn’t complain about this as it is a feature of all of the Marx Bros. MGM films. Instead I should be talking about the funny stuff like Groucho’s snappy one liners and Chico and Harpo fleecing their brother with the $10 bill at the railway station before they head west. There is also the destruction of the train at the film’s finale that is a kind of iconic image in cinema history. It is a funny film if you can put up with the lousy singing and boring instrument playing.


Sorry about that Chief!

I am very sorry that I have missed my self-imposed schedule the last few days but there has been a legitimate reason. As most people know, last Saturday Melbourne experienced a huge hailstorm and I in particular was very affected by this. You see, my place was caught right in the middle of the deluge and experienced a very leaky roof. This has meant that the roof that I keep the computer in has been off-limits for the last few days BUT I have been able to watch some movies. Now that I can once again use the computer I have to fill in a big backlog of posts.

For those of you who don’t believe me, here are a couple of vids to show just what we Melbournians went through last week.


The Great Dictator

Directed by Charlie Chaplin & Wheeler Dryden
Produced by Charlie Chaplin
Written by Charlie Chaplin
Starring Charlie Chaplin
Paulette Goddard
Jack Oakie
Music by Charlie Chaplin & Meredith Willson
Distributed by United Artists
Release date(s) October 15, 1940
Running time 124 min.
Country United States
Language English
Mock-German

Chaplin speaks!

I explained the other day the trouble that I have been having in the last few days. Things have been a bit difficult and I have fallen a little behind on my schedule. I am endeavouring to catch up as quickly as possible. It should be three weeks before my roof is repaired after the damage that it received after being battered by last week’s storm. I’ve still been watching movies but not been blogging about the experience so I am a little behind. It will take me a little while to catch up.

The Great Dictator was the first ‘talking picture’ that Charlie Chaplin made, over a decade after the Jazz Singer. Chaplin was the last person to make an (almost) silent film with Modern Times in 1936 but by 1940 he knew that he had to have characters talking. I think the reason why Chaplin took so long to speak (legibly) on film was because he was afraid that his Tramp would lose his mystique and charm. Many people claim that this film is the first Chaplin comedy that doesn’t feature the little Tramp yet the Jewish barber character is really the Tramp even if he’s not wearing the baggy pants and bowler hat.

The real comedy character in this film is not the Jewish barber, as every scene he is in is much too sentimental and schmaltzy, but the character of the dictator, Hynkel, proves that Chaplin could do verbal comedy as well as anyone else at the time (Groucho Marx and W.C. Fields included), as well as his brilliant physical comedy. I especially like where the dictator is addressing the crowd in faux German and some nonsensical English comes out. Brilliant.

This is a very funny film for the most part though it does get a little bit bogged down with the sentimentality. The film feels as though it is about half an hour too long as well as it does seem to drag a little towards the end. The film parodies quite effectively the idiotic thinking of the Nazis and Hitler that they were racially superior and the Holocaust, although Chaplin said that if he knew the full extent of the horrors of the concentration camps he would not have made the movie at all. I am glad that he did because future generations need to see just what a fool Hitler and his moronic cronies were and to take this as a lesson so that these sorts of horrors never happen again.

One good thing is that just last week Chaplin’s feature films were rereleased onto DVD after being out of print for 5 years. These DVDs, including The Great Dictator, Modern Times and City Lights are available at Big W for $13 (or $30 for three DVDs).


Ocean’s 11

Directed by Lewis Milestone
Produced by Lewis Milestone
Written by Harry Brown & Charles Lederer
Story by:George Clayton Johnson & Jack Golden Russell
Starring
Frank Sinatra
Dean Martin
Sammy Davis, Jr.
Peter Lawford
Joey Bishop
Angie Dickinson
Music by Nelson Riddle
Cinematography William H. Daniels
Editing by Philip W. Anderson
Distributed by Warner Brothers
Release date(s) August, 10, 1960 (U.S. release)
Running time 127 minutes
Country United States

Firstly I must say that the original version of Ocean’s 11 is much cooler than the George Clooney/Brad Pitt franchise of movies from the 2000s. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks, but Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. are just so much cooler than George, Brad and Matt Damon. Even Joey Bishop and Peter Lawford are sort of cool, but perhaps the only reason for that is because they hung around Frankie and Dino.

This is not to say that the original is a great movie… it’s not even a really good movie as I undoubtedly think that the remake from 2001 is a lot better, it’s just that the Rat Pack are so much cooler than anyone else. It could be because they were just mucking around during the filming of this film and spent most of their time partying, or that Sinatra was a part owner of The Sands or that he was hanging around real gangsters.

I think that this is such a cool film perhaps solely due to the mystique of the Rat Pack. This film is so cool that Quentin Taratino paid homage in Reservoir Dogs. George Clooney may be considered cool to some, but he is just play acting when compared to Sinatra. The finale of the film has also become so iconic and is an instant image of the coolness of the Rat Pack. Who else would have their characters walk past a huge sign featuring their own names? I think that if you want to see how cool a film can be, just watch Ocean’s 11.

It also features a couple of Dean and Sammy’s hit songs too.

The film is just one big party rather than a movie. And you better believe that, Charlie!


Battle of Britain

Directed by Guy Hamilton
Produced by Harry Saltzman & S. Benjamin Fisz
Written by James Kennaway,
Wilfred Greatorex
Starring Laurence Olivier
Hein Riess
Trevor Howard
Robert Shaw
Christopher Plummer
Michael Caine
Edward Fox
Susannah York
Ian McShane
Kenneth More
Ralph Richardson
Patrick Wymark
Michael Redgrave
Curt Jürgens
Nigel Patrick

Music by Ron Goodwin
William Walton
Cinematography Freddie Young
Editing by Bert Bates
Distributed by United Artists
Release date(s) 15 September 1969 (UK)
Running time 133 minutes
Country UK
Language English
German
Polish
French

Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few“.

Battle Of Britain features an all-star cast of fine British actors BUT their performance is not the major attraction here. The real reason for watching this film is for the terrific special effects and the great scenes filled of Spitfires and Hurricanes taking on (a whole mess of) Messerschmitts in a huge battle royal over London. The actors really have very screen time anyway as we go from one action scene to another. The dog fights are all chaotically brilliant and gives the viewer the feeling that they are in the midst of battle. No wonder that these scenes have influenced most dog fight movies since. This is purely plane porn, while the actors are just props in between the action scenes.


Texas Across the River

Directed by Michael Gordon
Produced by Harry Keller
Written by Wells Root, Harold Greene, and Ben Starr
Starring Dean Martin
Joey Bishop
Alain Delon
Rosemary Forsyth
Music by Sammy Cahn and James Van Heusen
Cinematography Russell Metty
Editing by Gene Milford
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date(s) 1966
Running time 101 min.
Country U.S.A.
Language English

Texas Across The River is an awful comedy western featuring two Rat-Packers in Dean Martin and Joey Bishop. It also features French superstar Alain Delon playing Spanish swashbuckler Don Andrea Baldazar, or Baldy as Dino dubs him. The film is just terrible, with Delon providing the only interest in it at all. I think the reason why I disliked this movie so much could be because of Joey Bishop’s performance as Kronk, an annoying Indian (native American) who is meant to be funny but like much of Bishop’s comedy is not. Dean as usual puts in as minimal effort as possible in his performance. Usually Dino is a really funny guy yet it seems obvious that this was nothing more than an easy pay check to him.


The Greatest Show On Earth

Directed by Cecil B. DeMille
Produced by Cecil B. DeMille
Written by Fredric M. Frank, Theodore St. John, Frank Cavett & Barré Lyndon Narrated by Cecil B. DeMille
Starring Betty Hutton
Cornel Wilde
Charlton Heston
James Stewart
Dorothy Lamour
Gloria Grahame
Music by Victor Young
Cinematography George Barnes
Editing by Anne Bauchens
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date(s) January 10, 1952 (1952-01-10)
Running time 152 minutes
Country United States
Language English

We bring you the circus — that Pied Piper whose magic tunes lead children of all ages, from 6 to 60, into a tinseled and spun-candied world of reckless beauty and mounting laughter; whirling thrills; of rhythm, excitement and grace; of daring, enflaring and dance; of high-stepping horses and high-flying stars.

But behind all this, the circus is a massive machine whose very life depends on discipline, motion and speed …. a mechanized army on wheels that rolls over any obstacle in its path …. that meets calamity again and again, but always comes up smiling …. a place where disaster and tragedy stalk the Big Top, haunt the backyards, and ride the circus rails …. where Death is constantly watching for one frayed rope, one weak link, or one trace of fear.

A fierce, primitive fighting force that smashes relentlessly forward against impossible odds: That is the circus. And this is the story of the biggest of the Big Tops …. and of the men and women who fight to make it — The Greatest Show on Earth!

The Greatest Show On Earth won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1952 but is often called the worst Best Picture of all time. This is mainly because 1952 was the year that other classics such as High Noon, Singin’ In The Rain, Ivanhoe, The Quiet Man and Moulin Rouge were released. Despite what critics may say and the reputation that it has had hoist upon it, The Greatest Show On Earth is still a very fine film. I am not just saying this because The Greatest Show On Earth was my favourite show as a kid either. Sometimes it is good to watch a big budget, dumb film with lots of colour and action and FUN!!! It is not just worthy films that should be considered great, not all films have to have a message or feature dramatic performances, sometimes it’s enough to be able to much on some popcorn and be thoroughly entertained for two and a half hours. I suspect that if The Greatest Show On Earth had not received the Oscar for best picture in 1952 it would be much more respected than it is today.

I am not a wanker movie reviewer (obviously) who has try to look intelligent or profound with what I say. I don’t have to try to pretend to shun the mainstream for whatever is hip. I am allowed to say that I like a film that many professional critics have maligned, which is the case here. Let’s face it, I still like The Greatest Show On Earth and would say that of the other films that were nominated for Best Picture in 1952, only High Noon can compare to it. (The same can be said for The Sound Of Music, but that was omitted from the nominations for best picture!)

In hindsight I do admit that The Greatest Show On Earth is a big, dumb movie, but that is no bad thing. The best way to enjoy this film is to turn your brain off before watching it and to just take in the colour and spectacle of the movie. It’s fun to watch the film and to reminisce about the old days of the circus, and to watch the cameos by actual renowned circus performers like Emmett Kelly and Lou Jacobs. Charlton Heston is Ok as Brad the circus owner while Betty Hutton is downright annoying at times as aerialist Holly. I do like James Stewart’s fine role as Buttons the Clown and find him intriguing, especially as he does not take his make-up off at all in the picture.


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