Monthly Archives: July 2010

Metropolis

Directed by Fritz Lang
Produced by Erich Pommer
Written by Thea von Harbou
Fritz Lang (uncredited)
Starring Alfred Abel
Brigitte Helm
Gustav Fröhlich
Rudolf Klein-Rogge
Music by Gottfried Huppertz (original version)
Cinematography Karl Freund, Günther Rittau &Walter Ruttmann
Distributed by UFA (Germany)
Paramount Pictures (US)
Release date 10 January 1927 (Germany) [1]
6 March 1927 (US)
Running time 153 minutes/24 frame/s
(German premiere cut)
114 minutes/25 frame/s
(1927 US cut version)
Country Germany
Language Silent film
German intertitles

Metropolis is a film that features some incredible visuals. The art-deco inspired backgrounds look very stunning as well. As for the content of the film itself, well I am not so sure. A lot of the time I wasn’t exactly sure of what was going on, and a lot of the characters seemed to be really quite stupid, especially Joh Frederson the industrialist/dictator. I did enjoy some of the facia; expressions shown by the actress Brigitte Helm when she was the Machine Man, intent on causing chaos and destrucion and the scenes of her dancing as well. One thing that helps make these sort of scenes look amusing is the fact that silent films run at a different speed to talkies, so the action goes a little faster


Images I Rejected

Here are a few of the images I was going to use for an upcoming post on Hollywood heart-throbs, but decided to reject. Guess if you can see why…

Rosie O'Donnell

Rasputin

L. Ron Hubbard Jr.

Rock Hudson

Ron Jeremy


Boys Town

Directed by Norman Taurog
Produced by John W. Considine Jr.
Written by Dore Schary, Eleanore Griffin & John Meehan
Starring Spencer Tracy
Mickey Rooney
Henry Hull
Music by Edward Ward
Cinematography Sidney Wagner
Editing by Elmo Veron
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date 9 September 1938
Running time 96 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Boys Town is a hard film to review for me because although I thought it was a great story, and Spencer Tracy’s fine portrayal of Father Flannigan was pretty good, there was one element that almost ruined the film for me. I am talking about Mickey Rooney’s performance as Whitey Marsh.

I have seen a few Mickey Rooney films and know that he can be quite a ham, but here his over-acting really affected my enjoyment of the film. The part really could have used a little subtlety instead of Mickey trying to steal every scene when he really didn’t have to. Perhaps I could put it down to him just being 18 at the time he made this film BUT… he had been acting in vaudeville and movies all his life so there shouldn’t be an excuse. Perhaps because Tracy’s  portrayal of Father Flannigan is very understated the director wanted to have the Mickster play his part way OTT.


The Girl Can’t Help It

Directed by Frank Tashlin
Produced by Frank Tashlin
Written by Frank Tashlin & Herbert Baker
Starring Tom Ewell
Jayne Mansfield
Edmond O’Brien
Music by Bobby Troup
Cinematography Leon Shamroy
Editing by James B. Clark
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release date December 1, 1956
Running time 99 min
Country United States
Language English

The Girl Can’t Help It is an interesting film for a number of reasons. Firstly, it was one of the first rock ‘n’ roll movies and featured performances by Little Richard, Gene Vincent and others. In fact this film was the inspiration for a couple of Liverpool lads to get decide to become rock stars too. Apparently some guy named John Lennon was obsessed with the film and seeing all of his heroes on the big screen, while another guy, Paul McCartney impressed Lennon with his impression of Eddie Cochran’s performance of Twenty Flight Rock  from this movie. They started their own band which later became known as the Beatles or something. You may have heard of them.

The film was directed by Frank Tashlin, who as I have previously said started off directing cartoons for Warner Bros. He brings a few cartoony gag including one that I found quite funny and was a little rude. I am talking about the scene where Jayne Mansfield walks past the milkman and the lids of the milk bottles pop off and the milk starts coming out.

The film’s star is Jayne Mansfield who really was nothing more than a Marilyn Monroe wannabe. This may seem a bit harsh but it looks as though she was told in this film to act as much like Marilyn as possible, as that is all she does. Mansfield was not really known for her acting ability but for something else, as Sophia Loren can see in the picture here. Let’s just say that her bosoms were bigger than her talent. Later in her career Mansfield became more well-known for her wardrobe malfunctions than any of the movies that she made. She later appeared in a film called Promises! Promises! where she became the first mainstream film star since the early 30s to appear on film in the nude, thanks to the demise of the Hays Code. Jayne’s daughter is Mariska Hargitay, who plays Olivia Benson on Law & Order SVU. You can certainly see the resemblance between the two, especially in the facial features.

As for the film, it is funny and entertaining and the music is great but it is a bit dated.


The Naughty Nineties

Directed by Jean Yarbrough
Produced by John Grant & Edmund L. Hartmann
Written by Edmund L. Hartmann, John Grant, Edmund Joseph &
Hal Fimberg
Starring Bud Abbott
Lou Costello
Alan Curtis
Rita Johnson
Music by Lloyd Akridge & Paul Dessau
Editing by Arthur Hilton
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date June 20, 1945
Running time 76 min
Language English

This is one of Abbott & Costello’s funniest films and includes a few of their better known sketches, including Who’s On First.

I’d recommend the film just on the basis that it contains Who’s On First as it’s probably one of the best film comic routines ever. (I do know that A&C did do it in an earlier film and that a lot of their material was recycled over and over again, but I really don’t care!)


The Ghost Breakers

Directed by George Marshall
Produced by Arthur Hornblow, Jr.
Written by Walter DeLeon
Starring Bob Hope
Paulette Goddard
Richard Carlson
Paul Lukas
Music by Ernst Toch
Cinematography Charles B. Lang
Editing by Ellsworth Hoagland
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date June 21, 1940
Running time 83 min.
Country United States
Language English

The Ghost Breakers is another one of the 1940s comedy/horror films that were made during that time. (I realise that this sentence sounds awkward) This one starred Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard and is a sequel of sorts to the haunted house comedy The Cat And The Canary from a year earlier.

While it probably wasn’t as funny as Abbott & Costello’s similar type film Hold That Ghost, this film did have a few more scary scenes in it. Hope has a few good lines and is quite funny but I found Goddard’s performance to be a little disappointing, especially when compared to her other big role from 1940 in The Great Dictator. My favourite role of Goddard’s so far is in Modern Times. In The Ghost Breakers she has a few good scenes but doesn’t really do anything funny. I guess you could stereotype her role as standard damsel in distress.

The Ghost Breakers was still quite an enjoyable film to watch and one that I enjoyed a lot.


Monkey Business

Directed by Norman Z. McLeod
Produced by Herman J. Mankiewicz (uncredited)
Written by S. J. Perelman & Will B. Johnstone
Starring Groucho Marx
Harpo Marx
Chico Marx
Zeppo Marx
Thelma Todd
Music by John Leipold (uncredited)
Cinematography Arthur L. Todd
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date 19 September 1931
Running time 77 minutes
Country United States
Language English

This is the third film that the Marx Bros. made, the one that features them as stowaways on a ship. The film is perhaps a bit more chaotic that the later Marx films but it still has some funny moments. Perhaps the most well known scene in this film is this one…

The only real downer in the film comes in the last fifteen minutes when Chico has his obligatory piano recital and Harpo plucks the harp. Then again these things happen in all Marx Bros. films and one can always press the fast forward button. You can at least be thankful that there is no lame crooner taking up screen time from the Brothers’ antics, which would happen when they went to MGM.

It is a great film although not quite as funny as Duck Soup.

It’s currently available from Target for less than $10 and has just been re-released by Universal as part of their Studio Classics range.


She Done Him Wrong

Directed by Lowell Sherman
Produced by William LeBaron
Written by Mae West (play Diamond Lil)
Harvey F. Thew & John Bright
Starring Mae West
Cary Grant
Owen Moore
Gilbert Roland
Noah Beery
Music by John Leipold (uncredited)
Cinematography Charles Lang
Editing by Alexander Hall
Studio Paramount Pictures
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date January 27, 1933
Running time 66 min
Country United States

I’ve always wanted to see this film for a couple of reasons. Firstly I do like Mae West’s double entendres and one liners and secondly we get to see a young Cary Grant. Here he is the one who is being lusted after by West, which is strange since in years to come it would be Grant who was the older man lusting after and getting the younger woman. It’s odd to see the roles reversed.

Whilst I admit that I enjoy West’s wit I must also admit that she is a bit of a one trick pony in that he sly one liners are the only things she can really do. Worse still she hogs the spotlight so that nothing of interest occurs when she is on the screen.

When compared to other comedians of the 1930s West’s act isn’t as interesting. W. C. Fields, who West is often compared with, had some amazing one liners in his films too but he also was pretty good with the slapstick stuff and could share the spotlight with others who were funny too, while Groucho Marx had his brothers to play off, even if we had to endure a boring Harpo harp recital or Chico putting the audience to sleep with his piano playing. West too insists on showing off her non-comedic talent when she decides to sing… and it is excruciating. Unlike when Groucho sings West is serious and is not doing it for laughs so it makes it even more intolerable. I guess that Mae wanted to sing and no one had the guts to say no?!

The film is interesting and does feature Mae reciting he most well known line to Grant, “Why don’t you come up sometime and see me?”, but the film could have been better in my opinion.


You Can’t Cheat An Honest Man

Directed by George Marshall
Edward F. Cline (uncredited)
Produced by Lester Cowan
Written by W. C. Fields (as “Charles Bogle”) (story)
Everett Freeman (screenplay)
Richard Mack (screenplay)
George Marion Jr. (screenplay)
Starring W. C. Fields
Edgar Bergen
Charlie McCarthy
Cinematography Milton R. Krasner
Editing by Otto Ludwig
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date February 18, 1939
Running Time 76 min.

This was quite a good W. C Fields comedy film. It features a lot of classic lines from Fields, as well as some good slapstick pratfalls, but also features a continuation of his wonderful rivalry with a ventriloquists’ puppet.

It’s a bit hard to explain but for many years Fields had a radio rivalry with Charlie McCarthy, Edgar Bergen’s (Candice’s father) dummy. It’s strange indeed to think of someone doing a ventriloquist act on the radio, but that is where this funny rivalry was created. Both Fields and Bergen have some great moments to themselves in the brief moments when they are in a scene together there is some really good chemistry and funny jokes.

You Can’t Cheat An Honest Man is a part of the W.C. Fields Comedy Collection with The Bank Dick, My Little ChickadeeInternational House and It’s A Gift. This DVD box set is available from Amazon for $46.99. You can purchase it by clicking here…


Barry McKenzie Holds His Own

Directed by Bruce Beresford
Written by Bruce Beresford & Barry Humphries
Starring Barry Crocker,
Barry Humphries,
Donald Pleasance,
Dick Bentley
Music by Peter Best
Release date 1974
Running time 93 minutes
Country Australia
Language English

Compared to the original this is a pretty awful film. It doesn’t have the charm of the original and seems to think that it’s funny just saying the words abo, slant eyes and poofter as often as you can if an hour and a half. There is a huge cringe factor involved in this film and its celebration of ockerism. It could have worked if it satirised instead of celebrated the boof headed stereotype or made it like the first movie where we had an unsophisticated fish out of water story, but instead Humphries and Beresford tried to make it some stoopidly lame comedy. It is a shame as the are both very talented and can do much better than this shit. As a gross out comedy it doesn’t work as there is just one clever double entendre in the entire film. Thank Christ we’ve progressed ever so slightly in the 35 years since this was released, although I know that there are some rednecks who mourn the fact that it is now frowned upon to go out of your way to be as offensive as possible for no reason whatsoever.

I suppose the only redeeming feature of the film is Crocker’s sincere performance. The rest of the film is just a whole lot of stereotypes and crudity for the sake of crudity.

As you can see, very classy indeed. Also I have to ask… where we so insecure at that time? It’s almost as if we had to reassure ourselves that Australia had a place in the world and that we could in fact do worthy things. Unfortunately the only thing this film is worthy of is being thrown in the garbage.

If you really want this piece of crap it is available from EZYDVD for $15, but I have seen it for $10 from other places (Dirt Cheap in Collins Street).


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