Monthly Archives: September 2010

RIP Tony Curtis

June 3, 1925 – September 30, 2010

Just heard via Twitter that Tony Curtis has died at the age of 85. I think that the first time that I ever saw a movie with Tony in it would have either been Some Like It Hot or The Great Race on TV, both movies that I loved as a kid and still like now. When I grew older I watched other movies such as Spartacus and The Defiant Ones with Sidney Poitier. I wonder how many stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood are still with us. Jerry Lewis, Mickey Rooney, Lauren Bacall, Kirk Douglas… not too many others.


History Of The World – Part 1

Directed by Mel Brooks
Produced by Mel Brooks
Written by Mel Brooks
Narrated by Orson Welles
Starring Mel Brooks
Dom DeLuise
Madeline Kahn
Harvey Korman
Cloris Leachman
Music by John Morris
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release date June 12, 1981
Running time 92 min.
Country United States
Language English

“It’s good to be the king”

Mel Brooks’ History of the World Part 1 is quite funny but it isn’t anywhere as good as Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles or The Producers. It’s probably a  little more hit and miss than those other films but it is I feel, a lot better than High Anxiety.
For some reason I used to love this movies as a kid. I watched it a few times and thought it was hilarious. Watching it as an adult I find that it’s not as great as I thought when I was a kid, but there are still a few chuckles to be had.


Freaks

Directed by Tod Browning
Produced by Tod Browning
Written by Tod Robbins
Starring Wallace Ford
Leila Hyams
Olga Baclanova
Henry Victor
Harry Earles
Cinematography Merritt B. Gerstad
Editing by Basil Wrangell
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date February 20, 1932
Running time Original cut 90 min.
Released cut 64 min.
Country United States
Language English

“We accept her! We accept her! One of us! One of us! Gooble gobble, gooble gobble!”

Freaks is an interesting film that perhaps doesn’t deserve its notoriety. It’s not particularly scary or very well acted. The movie was banned in Britain (and Australia too I guess) for thirty years but it’s not that bad. There is a twist in the film in that the true monsters of the picture are not the Freaks themselves, but the supposedly normally looking aerialist and strongman who try to exploit one of the Freaks for their own profit. Perhaps the film works better as a satirical piece than as a horror film. It’s worth a look but I don’t think it deserves to be held as the 15th sacriest film of all-time. It is a film of its time though.


Poppy

Directed byA. Edward Sutherland
Writing credits Waldemar Young and Virginia Van Upp (screenplay)
Based on a play by Dorothy Donnelly

Cast (in credits order)

W.C. Fields … Prof. Eustace McGargle
Rochelle Hudson … Poppy
Richard Cromwell … Billy Farnsworth
Catherine Doucet … Countess Maggi Tubbs DePuizzi
Lynne Overman … Attorney Whiffen
Granville Bates … Mayor Farnsworth
Maude Eburne … Sarah Tucker
Bill Wolfe … Egmont
Adrian Morris … Constable Bowman
Rosalind Keith … Frances Parker
Ralph Remley … Carnival Manager

Poppy seems a bit different to the other W. C. Fields films that I have seen. It seems to be a typical 1930s comedy featuring Fields rather than a film that was built around him. It’s a lot more melodramatic than other Fields films, although it does feature enough of his weird and wonderful comedy to be worthy of a look.

Fields of course performed in the broadway version of Poppy over a decade earlier. He also played the part of Professor Eustace McGargle in the 1925 silent film Sally of the Sawdust.

Poppy is a part of the W.C. Fields Comedy Collection Volume 2 with The Man On The Flying Trapeze, You’re Telling Me, The Old Fashioned Way and Never Give A Sucker An Even Break. This DVD box set is available from Amazon for $43.99. You can purchase it by clicking here…


Tim Burton

Last week I went to the Tim Burton exhibition at ACMI here in Melbourne. I haven’t yet written about this experience as since then I have caught quite a bad case of football fever and have had a hard time concentrating on anything other than Saturday’s big game between Collingwood and St Kilda.

I found the exhibition to be quite interesting as it focussed mainly on Burton’s early work when he was at Disney and the stuff that inspired him.

There was lots of stuff from Nightmare Before Christmas and his stop motion animated movies, but very little from Batman or Batman Returns or any of his popular movies.

I like Tim Burton and there are some movies of his that I enjoy but I also think that he is massively overrated. I think that a lot of times when he is doing adaptations of other people’s work he takes creative freedoms a bit too far. An example of this I think is on the design of the Penguin character from Batman Returns. Nowhere in the Penguin’s 40 years (until then) of comic book history did he ever have flippers or live in the sewers.  Despite Burton being a self-confessed comic book geek he must have known that he would piss off the Batman fanboys by doing this.

Then there are his versoins of Charlie & the Chocoltae Factory and Alice In Wonderland. My problem with these films is that they take too many liberties with technology and CGI and look too freakishly unrealistic to work. Seeing Helena Bonham Carter‘s massive head bobble around just freaks me out and screams of uncanny valley.


A Chump at Oxford

Directed by Alfred J. Goulding
Produced by Hal Roach Jr. & Hal Roach
Written by Charley Rogers, Felix Adler & Harry Langdon
Starring Stan Laurel
Oliver Hardy
Wilfred Lucas
Jimmy Finlayson
Anita Garvin
Forrester Harvey
Peter Cushing
Charlie Hall
Music by Marvin Hatley
Cinematography Art Lloyd
Editing by Bert Jordan
Distributed by United Artists
Release date February 16, 1940
Running time 63 minutes
Language English

Like most Laurel & Hardy movies this is just a series of sketches stuck together to form a feature film. It’s perhaps not the strongest of their films but it is amusing. It does take a long time before they make it to Oxford, and sometimes it is hard to believe that Stand & Ollie are so stupid, even though they haven’t got an education, but it is OK.

The film also features an early appearance by Peter Cushing who would go onto more fame a decade later in the Hammer horror films of the 1950s.

An amusing and watchable film with a few chuckles but no really laugh out loud moments.


On the Loose

Directed by Hal Roach
Produced by Hal Roach
Starring Zasu Pitts & Thelma Todd
Distributed by MGM
Release date 1931
Country  United States
Language English

This is an interesting short film from 1931 that features a cameo appearance from Laurel & Hardy. Of course the real stars of the film are Zasu Pitts and Thelma Todd.

The other day I was reading about the untimely death of Todd and the rumours surrounding it. Rumour has it that the gangster Lucky Luciano murdered her because she vocally opposed him setting up am illegal casino. The official line is that she committed suicide, but police bungled the investigation completely.

The other star of the picture, Zasu Pitts is also interesting. In the silent era she was a dramatic actress but was relegated to comedy roles in the talky era due to her highly distinctive voice. In fact Mae Questal modelled her characterisation of Olive Oyl on Zasu Pitts, and in watching this film you can see the origins of that.

Overall the film is quite amusing in that 1930s way an interesting to watch.