Tag Archives: Filmmaking

Busy Bodies

Cover of "Laurel & Hardy (Sons of the Des...

Cover via Amazon

Directed by Lloyd French
Produced by Hal Roach
Starring Stan Laurel
Oliver Hardy
Charlie Hall
Tiny Sandford
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date 7 October 1933

This is another fine Laurel & Hardy short film from the early 1930s. It features lots of funny slapstick and is perhaps one of their funniest movies. A lot of the film plays out like a silent film, despite being made in 1933, with Stan in particular showing off his pantomime skills. The film gave me a few good chuckles and doesn’t seem to have dated too badly.

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The Cat And The Canary

”]Cover of "The Cat and the Canary [Region ...

Directed by Elliott Nugent
Produced by Arthur Hornblow, Jr.
Written by Walter de Leon & Lynn Starling
Play Author: John Willard
Starring Bob Hope
Paulette Goddard
John Beal
Douglass Montgomery
Gale Sondergaard
Music by Ernst Toch
Cinematography Charles B. Lang
Editing by Archie Marshek
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date 1939
Running time 72 min.

The Cat and The Canary is the first of two comedy/horror films that Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard made in the late 1930s and early 1940s. The other one was The Ghostbreakers. This movie is perhaps not as polished as The Ghostbreakers but it still has a few funny and chilling moments.

The two stars are the central focus of the film. Hope is the cowardly wisecracking hero while Goddard plays the pretty damsel in distress. They make a great team although Paulette doesn’t really do all that much except look pretty and brave (unlike Bob), which is in contrast to the strong roles that Charlie Chaplin had been giving her in Modern Times and The Great Dictator.  It is still an enjoyable film if only because of the chemistry that the two had.


Westworld

Directed by Michael Crichton
Produced by Paul Lazarus III
Written by Michael Crichton
Starring Yul Brynner
Richard Benjamin
James Brolin
Music by Fred Karlin
Cinematography Gene Polito
Editing by David Bretherton
Distributed by MGM
Release date November 21, 1973
Running time 88 min. (theatrical)
Country US
Language English

Westworld was a film that scared the hell out of me when I was a kid. I had nightmares of an out of control robot Yul Brynner chasing me and he couldn’t be killed, which is basically the plot of this movie.The Simpsons parodied the film in the Itchy & Scratchy Land episode.

It’s an enjoyable film to watch but not as scary as I thought it was when I was a kid. It’s an interesting concept of having a theme park full of robots that run amok due to a computer virus. Of course the film (and book it was based on) was made before everyone had a home computer so the idea of computer viruses was virtually unknown. I like some of the little things that Yul does that remind us that he is not human but a robot, such as the way in which he walks while stalking the hero Richard Benjamin.

I notice that Westworld is set to be remade with Russell Crowe in the lead role. I don’t see the point of a remake of what is a great film but if that is the case hopefully it is better than the remake of Robin Hood. It seems that Hollywood has run out of original ideas as now there are so many mediocre remakes or sequals to earlier films. This may be a topic for another time but how many crappy remakes have their been in the last decade?


3 Ring Circus

Directed by Joseph Pevney
Produced by Hal B Wallis
Written by Don McGuire & Joseph Pevney
Starring Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis
Joanne Dru
Zsa Zsa Gabor
Sig Ruman
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date December 25, 1954
Running time 103 minutes
Country United States
Language English

3 Ring Circus is the only Martin & Lewis film that is currently not available on DVD. I’m not sure why that is but I remember when I was a child that Channel 7 or 10 would show this movie over and over on a Sunday afternoon. It’s probably the Martin & Lewis film that I have seen the most times and despite not having seen it for a couple of decades (or more) I still remember parts of the film quite vividly. (Although I do remember seeing Hollywood Or Bust quite a lot of times on TV too!)

This is of course the film set in a circus where Jerry Lewis gets to don a clown costume and the boys get to duet on Puncinello. He dreams of being a clown but first has to earn his stripe in the circus by doing odd jobs such as training as a lion tamer or washing the elephants. It’s just an excuse for Jerry to display his goofy humour.

The film is not great but it is OK and better than a lot of other Martin & lewis films. As a kid I never noticed this but the film is very clichéd and the ending especially is very schmaltzy. This is at the orphans benefit where there is a little girl, in braces, who just won’t laugh at Jerry the clown no matter what he does. Personally I don’t blame her for not laughing at the clown as nothing he does is particularly funny, but the schmaltzy part comes when Jerry starts crying because of his failure to make the girl laugh, which causes her to laugh hysterically. One thing came across my mind as I watched this scene, perhaps the little girl is not really sad at all, maybe she’s just someone who cruelly gets her kicks out of the misfortune of others.

It’s also good to see Zsa Zsa Gabor, Kathleen Freeman and Elsa Lanchester in the film too, although with the exception of Zsa Zsa they are relegated to what are virtually cameo roles.

I have always been fascinated by circuses and clown in particular. I have always had a love/hate feeling for clowns and dreamt of being a clown when I was a kid, despite (or maybe because) of the fact that many clowns seem so evil. I always wonder just why they feel they need to hide their identities behind their makeup ala James Stewart in The Greatest Show On Earth.

I guess that this film could have been the beginning of the end for the Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis team as this seems to be the film where Jerry started to become a lot more self-indulgent with his comedy and takes up a lot of the spotlight, instead of concentrating on the equal partnership with Dean that brought him his initial fame. Dean is relegated to the background for much of the film. There also was allegedly a lot of tension on the set between Dean and Jerry and many people have speculated that this could be the reason why this film has never been released on DVD (or home video), although that does not explain why Hollywood or Bust is on DVD, as that is the final film the duo made and the one that Jerry has found too sad to watch. It would still be good to see released onto DVD as although it isn’t hilariously funny, it is still quite interesting and entertaining. Kids will probably love this film.


Africa Screams

Directed by Charles Barton
Produced by Edward Nassour
Written by Earl Baldwin, Martin Ragaway & Leonard Stern
Starring Bud Abbott
Lou Costello
Clyde Beatty
Frank Buck
Shemp Howard
Joe Besser
Music by Walter Schumann
Distributed by United Artists
Release date May 4, 1949
(New York City, New York) May 27, 1949
Running time 80 mins.
Language English

This was one of five independent films that Abbott & Costello made throughout their career. It doesn’t have the budget of their studio films and in fact has the feel of a TV production about it. The sets are rickety and the plot at times is quite un-PC, but the film is enjoyable and a lot funnier than Abbott & Costello Meet The Mummy which I previously reviewed, but nowhere near as good as Hold That Ghost or Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein. They do share the spotlight with some very talented co-stars. Big game hunters Clyde Beatty and Frank Buck were big stars in the 40s and have cameos here, as does Shemp Howard of the Three Stooges and Joe Besser (who would also briefly become a Stooge) with his big sissy persona. They provide a few chuckles. Former World Heavyweight Boxing champion Max Baer and former Heavyweight contender Buddy Baer appear in the film as thugs, with Max making a joke about Buddy’s defeat by Joe Louis‘ knocking him out.

This is just prior to the slide in quality that A&Cs films would suffer throughout the 50s but they were a little hit and miss at this point. Africa Screams is good in comparison to what was about to come. I should also mention that Abbott is quite abusive to Costello in this film and this is perhaps the most un-likable that I have seen Bud.

Africa Screams is in the public domain and there are many poor copies of it about. The best version is available on Amazon for $7.98.


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.


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.