It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad Movie Challenge…… Bachelor Mother (1939)

Just when I think I’ve seen all there is to see from the accepted opinion of 1939 being Hollywood’s peak year comes this comedy gem from Garson Kanin. Time for the Mad Movie Challenge when Kristina over at everyone’s favorite Speakeasy assigns me a film I haven’t seen before and of course I give her a title to catch up on as well. Click here for previous assignments. Bachelor-Mother This time around it’s a slapstick farce that all begins with a classic comedy of errors setup featuring Ginger Rogers at the center of mishaps. After Ginger is let go from her job working in a department store that is owned by Charles Coburn and his playboy son David Niven she finds herself stumbling across a baby left on a step in front of an orphanage. She innocently picks the child up as the door opens.  She carries the child in and attempts to hand it over to the caretakers. Naturally they believe she is an unwed Mother giving up her child and attempt to talk her out of it. Ginger is having none of it and walks out the door. Not before she had innocently answered a few questions before realizing where the conversation was heading. rogers The orphanage caretaker goes to the office of David Niven and explains that a recently let go Ginger Rogers has given up and abandoned her child. Convinced he can help, Niven calls her into his office and reinstates her with a substantial raise. Upon her arrival back at her apartment she’s handed her child back. So the screwball comedy is set in place. Looking dapper as was his customary appearance, Niven takes a personal interest in seeing that Ginger is getting along with her son who she dubs John when put on the spot. Niven supplies her with a book based on the latest scientific procedures at raising a child. This turns into another setup for comedy relief. bachelor05 I don’t think I’ll be spoiling anything here by pointing out that Niven and Rogers will be heading for romance but it’s that David Niven charm that offers us some genuine laughs. Perhaps none bigger than when bragging about the seven month old baby to another couple who can’t stop bragging on their own he points out that “his” child can talk. “He can recite the first line from Gunga Din.” For the record the line spoken by Victor McLaglen is “Now in India’s sunny climb where I used to spend my time.” The comedy escalates when scene stealer Charles Coburn becomes convinced that Niven has given him a grand son and kept it all a big secret. “I’d know that chin anywhere!” he states matter of factly when he gets a good look at the baby. No matter what Niven tells his tycoon father, Coburn isn’t budging from his beliefs and more comedy mix ups ensue when would be fathers begin turning up claiming the son as their own. bachelor-mother-1939-_2 The original story by Felix Jackson received an Oscar nomination during the big year of ’39. It was adapted into a screenplay by Norman Krasna. While the director was Kanin I noticed way down the credit list was apprenticing Robert Wise serving as the films editor. Wise worked on many films as an editor before moving into a long and successful career in the director’s chair. While this was not a Disney film it is worth mentioning that Donald Duck is listed in the credits. The reason being that Ginger’s job at the department store is selling toy Donald Ducks. This leads to a wonderful comedy bit where Niven tries to have a damaged toy duck exchanged for another. Not as simple as he thought it should be in his own family store. bachelor mother This RKO feature runs at a fast clip of 82 minutes and tries it’s best to cram as much comedy into the proceedings as possible. Keeping in mind that Ginger was the famous partner of Fred Astaire she gets a chance to join in on a dance competition with Frank Albertson as her swinging partner. All the while Niven is trying to get her to accept responsibility for her abandoned child with his butler E.E. Clive in tow carrying the child on the sidelines. ginger and david To be perfectly honest I enjoyed this film more for the fact that David Niven was in it and bang on. Ginger Rogers was fine but I much prefer Jean Arthur when it comes to the madcap plot that this attempts to put across. To be fair perhaps that’s because I think she made such a great match for a couple of films where Jean starred opposite Mr. Coburn. Having said that it’s still a perfectly enjoyable way to spend less than an hour and a half when featured on TCM. Now it’s time to head over to see what Kristina has to say about a war film featuring an actor that Quentin Tarantino paid tribute to by naming Brad Pitt’s character after him in the WW2 film Inglorious Basterds.

The Jean Arthur Movie Poster Gallery

Bubbly. Energetic. Funny. Captivating.

Four words that can easily be used when describing what Jean Arthur brings to the screen. Let’s not forget beauty either.

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Shane was probably my first viewing of a Jean Arthur performance but she was far from the reason I first watched this George Stevens classic. It was Alan Ladd vs. Jack Palance that captured my interest. Jean just happened to be little Joey’s Mother. She with the husky voice. Looking from our point of view it’s unthinkable that this was to be her final film!

Then came the earlier films like Mr. Deeds and Mr. Smith. From there she had me hooked. Hooked or not there are so many of her films I haven’t yet seen when one realizes that she has so many credits to her name before Mr. Deeds hit the screen in 1936.

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Advertised as “The gal who took Mr. Deeds to town steps out again.”

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Commanding first billing over the Duke in 1942.

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“Gee whiz, you’re a great help. ”

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If you haven’t seen The Devil and Miss Jones what are you waiting for? I love this comedy gem where she meets a wonderful match in Charles Coburn.

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Jean with her choice of leading men. Who should she choose?

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For another fun option check out Jean as she reteams with Charles Coburn in The More the Merrier.

Jaguar Lives (1979)

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In the great tradition of the double cross we find two top notch secret agents on a mission to prevent a giant monument in the shape of a cross from being detonated on a mountain top. Before the opening credits play out one will leave the other for dead with a bullet in the back and be himself presumed missing in action after the explosion detonates.

Our left for dead agent played by Karate Champion Joe Lewis is soon recuperating and living the cowboy life on the range with Woody Strode. He’s soon lured back into the “agency”by Barbara Bach who sends him on a mission to stop an international drug ring led by a mysterious figure. ‘I need the Jaguar” she tells him. Lewis’ code name.

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Lewis son finds himself making contact with Joseph Wiseman who in turn gives him his next lead in the fight against the opium trade. Up next in the gallery of guest stars that Lewis makes contact with is a rather Castro(esque) dictator played by a perfectly over the top Donald Pleasence. Over the top meaning totally enjoyable. But then Donald usually is when he’s slicing the ham a bit thick.

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Piecing the drug trafficking together finds our action hero touching base with Shipping Tycoon John Huston who it seems has been blackmailed at the threat of death to those around him if he doesn’t comply and allow the drug traffickers to utilize his ships to move the opium.

“He’s explosive as he is charming.” So says Capucine as she is next on the list of well known faces that the intrepid agent comes into contact with. He leaves her squad of goons lying face down as he moves on to the final king pin and the top billed actor of this wanna be hybrid Chuck Norris/James Bond flick. It’s none other than arguably the screen’s most iconic actor in a villainous role, Sir Christopher Lee.

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Lee has his minions put Lewis through a series of fights involving samurai warriors and other assorted experts in the art of killing. Can the Jaguar come through the challenges and face off against the mysterious presence that pulls the strings in the drug trade world? Could it possibly be his ex partner the Cougar? Find yourself a copy and you too can see the mystery unfold and witness the Jaguar in action.

Trying it’s best to give off an exotic feel, Jaguar Lives was filmed in Spain with plenty of stock footage thrown in as it’s supposed to be a global adventure. Locale’s like Tokyo, Hong Kong and Rome are destinations that Lewis’ agent travels to in order to bring down Lee and his cronies. There’s a nostalgic feel here as the guest stars are a who’s who of James Bond co stars. Bond faced down Lee, Pleasence and Wiseman. Had a romp with Bach and even Huston turned up in the unofficial Bond entry Casino Royale in 1967.

Originally this was to be developed into a series of films that never materialized. Karate champ Lewis is really no better or worse an actor than Chuck Norris was at the time and the fight scenes are staged well enough for the era. Lewis is the credited choreographer as well for the on screen fighting. I guess it just wasn’t meant to be.

Lee would actually turn up in a very similar role opposite Chuck Norris in An Eye For Eye for those like me who do their best to see the entire filmography of Sir Christopher.

This one was one of those I’ve had lying around from the VHS era if you are interested.

A Kiss Is Still A Kiss by Roger Ebert

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If the truth be told, I have generally avoided Roger Ebert over the years. Perhaps it was because while growing up I had a resentment against critics that generally trashed a good majority of the genre films I enjoyed watching with family and friends. In my view if films weren’t Oscar material they usually got bad marks. They never seemed to be reviewed from the point of view of their intended audience.

Of course he had the TV show with Gene Siskel and I watched it for a while but it kind of fell off my radar over the years. I have seen many of Ebert’s books on the shelves and other than looking at the cover have never ventured into the written words on the page.

Which brings us to this book written by Roger in 1984.

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The cover caught my eye because it was in great shape and I knew it was an older book. According to the inside sleeve it was his first full length release. The deal maker in my purchasing it was that it was not a book of reviews but a recollection of hanging out and trying to interview the likes of Lee Marvin, Robert Mitchum, Tony Curtis and Richard Harris.

Apparently there are published interviews from these meetings but these chapters were more about the event itself. Hanging out with John Wayne and playing chess with the Duke. Going to a private showing of Rocky II with Muhammad Ali to here just what “The Greatest” thought of the Italian Stallion and how Ali felt that Apollo Creed was a thinly disguised variation on Ali himself.

Getting lost in the hills of Pennsylvania while looking for a movie set with Robert Mitchum. Tony Curtis selling a movie at Cannes. Kirk Douglas in 1969 striving to remain a Champion in films. Both Lee Marvin and Kris Kristofferson on two separate occasions, before and after sobriety. Charles Bronson on the set of Mr. Majestyk in 1974.

Chatting with Eastwood in his own restaurant where one could order a Dirty Harry burger or an Eiger Sandwich. Listening to how Clint deals with his admiring public. Being in the presence of Orson Welles but only getting to meet Kermit the Frog. Herzog on Fitzcarraldo. Scorsese stops by as does Jerry Lewis around the time of The King of Comedy.

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A trip to Venice in 1972 at what had to have been a wonderful event for film fans. It was a tribute to the films of Chaplin and the great man himself was there. Reminiscing about Ingrid Bergman and Marilyn Monroe.

Yes I did skip a few pages because I’m not a fan of the subject but I won’t mention any names. Woo……no I’m not going to say his name. Let’s just say I’m not a fan.

The nice thing about this book is that it reminded me that Ebert was a fan at heart. Add in the fact that he got to hang out with some of the coolest stars of any era (paging Robert Mitchum!) has to count for something. Still I’m not overly interested in reading a book of Ebert’s reviews.

The irony is that I’m out here basically reviewing films but I believe I do it from a fan’s point of view with some trivia thrown in. I try to share the enjoyment of films with others as opposed to giving something a 1 out of 10 and tearing it apart which I still think goes on in print today……”ok Mike settle down.”

Good book, fun stories, cinema icons. Worked for me.

To Walk With Lions (1999)

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With my recent viewing of Roar I thought it was long overdue to catch up on this Richard Harris title where he plays the famed activist George Adamson. Prior to watching this wonderful film I had no real knowledge of Mr. Adamson other than his connection to the Born Free film that played constantly on television during my youth.

The film tells the story of Harris’ Adamson in later years living in Kenya with his brother played by Ian Bannen overseeing their wild life preserve. It’s a political mess where the locals would much prefer to see him and his lions move on or be shipped out to zoos the world over. Into their sanctuary comes Tony Fitzjohn played by John Michie. It’s the real life Fitzjohn who will ultimately carry on the work set forth by Adamson.

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Harris sporting long hair and a beard seems perfectly well suited to play what is essentially an aging lion. Much like his charges that he so loves. Into his world comes the young lion played by Michie who will someday challenge Harris’ dominance for the betterment of the animals. It’s a journey that takes the young man from being more or less a vagabond to a purpose and meaningful direction in life.

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With the sanctuary in jeopardy the men learn to rely on each other through political ploys and the ever dangerous poachers which sees a heartbreaking scene of Ian Bannen attempting to save his beloved herd of elephants from slaughter. Bannen is very good in this film and earned a Supporting Actor Nomination from the Canadian Genie Awards. The film itself was nominated for Best Picture.

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Kerry Fox plays the leading lady of the film serving as the love interest and subsequent activist with the Michie character Fitzjohn. It is she who urges the men to relocate the sanctuary for the betterment of the wildlife. Once war begins to rage around them it’s only a matter of time before the move is made or their inevitable deaths occur.

Honor Blackman makes a brief appearance here as Harris’ estranged wife who in real life was sadly murdered in 1980. Geraldine Chaplin also turns up as the supposed caretaker to an aging Harris.

Harris is really good here as he was in many of his later efforts after giving up his hell raising days. He morphed into this actor who could display such tenderness and understanding on screen. For me his death left a great void in the Harry Potter series. Apologies extended to Michael Gambon.

While the animals are so beautiful there is a great sadness here as the events unfold over the time frame the film covers. For those not familiar with the story I won’t spoil it.

I do recall an interview with Harris when he discussed the making of this film saying something to the effect , “o.k. I’ll take the role but I don’t want to have to interact with any lions.” It didn’t quite work out that way as there’s a wonderful shot of Harris over the final credits walking with the lions.

Rewarding and recommended.

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Roar (1981)

This proved to be a movie going experience unlike any other I can recall.

The reason is very simple. I’m infatuated with big animals.

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I had heard of this film years ago and when it turned up at the local Apollo Cinema in my home town that caters to fans like me I didn’t hesitate to shell out my hard earned cash to see actors interacting with big cats. I had no idea just how many lions and tigers were going to be on screen with our cast of actors including Tippi Hedren and her husband Noel Marshall who served as the films director as well. Joining in on the “fun” is Tippi’s real life daughter Melanie Griffith.

FOR SUNDAY PULSE  - FILM STILL  CAPTION: ROAR_Tackled: Hank (Noel Marshall) gets tackled by some lions playing around in Drafthouse Films’ Roar. Courtesy of Drafthouse Films.

The first twenty minutes of the film introduces us to Marshall and his large houseboat overrun with lions and tigers and a few other species of maneaters. It caught me by surprise to see this real life madman running around trying to calm fighting lions down. No whip and chair. He got right in the action! Then he opens the door to his houseboat and has about 20 lions rummaging through whatever they can get a hold of. Including him. Really an exhilarating experience to see this.

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Flimsy plot that their is involves Marshall’s family who are joining him at his Kenyan retreat after a three year separation. He embarks on the river with two beautiful tigers to meet them at the airstrip they are to arrive at. When the boat suffers damage and sinks he is delayed and must travel by foot with the Tigers in tow. He misses the family and they take a bus arriving back at the house ahead of him. Safe to say they are not quite prepared for what awaits them.

This photo provided by Drafthouse Films and Olive Films shows a scene from the film, “Roar,

While the first part of the film was jaw dropping for it’s bravery the next portion has a well edited bit of Tippi and family trying to evade the lions in the large house. At first it’s somewhat tame but takes a ferocious turn when a large male Lion goes hunting Marhsall’s loved ones. It reminded of Jack Nicholson’s insane attack on the door between himself and Shelley Duvall. This attack is all the more terrifying based on the scenes being edited effectively while the actors at this point are not in harms way as much as they are at other points in the film.

The bulk of the film involves how Hedren, Griffith and company are going to stay alive long enough to either have Marshall make it back and show them the lions can be dealt with or has he perhaps already been mauled and eaten. For an added  bit of drama a subplot with poachers meaning to rid the area of the big cats that Marshall has welcomed into the area has been injected into the script.

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I couldn’t help but think of the expression “cat and mouse” while watching this. It’s just an extreme example with Melanie Griffith as the mouse.

The camera work adds to the fun as it’s always on the move telling me the camera men were in harms way just as much as the actors. It’s not a stationary shot leading me to believe the camera men are in some shark tank type of creation. I’d also love to see some outtakes and what wound up not making the final cut.

While the huge felines are beautiful and at times quite aggressive in their bid for dominance it’s actually a mean spirited elephant that comes across as the scariest. Apparently Tippi suffered a fractured leg while tangling with this tusked monster. Tippi’s injury is just one of many that apparently occurred during the making of this unique film.

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I have included the link to the trivia section for this film from imdb as there are just so many interesting facts and injuries to list out here. One name I did spot in the credit sequence was Jan De Bont serving as director of photography. He did not leave the set unscathed. Supposedly he suffered a tear to the scalp requiring 120 stitches after a lion’s bite.

It’s hard not to watch this and for one fleeting second wish I had the opportunity to hug one of these gorgeous cats but then I had the same feeling when watching Herzog’s Grizzly Man. We know that didn’t work out to well for Timothy Treadwell.

So I guess I’ll just be happy hugging my own favorite of man’s best friends. Come here Samson and give Dad a 200 pound hug.

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As I mentioned previously, I love BIG animals.

Hands of the Ripper (1971)

Apart from the opening credit sequence, the London settings of the late 1800’s and the ample cleavage shown on actress Marjie Lawrence one would be hard pressed to connect this film with the famed Hammer studios that gave birth to the second cycle of horror films and made star commodities out of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee.

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In the opening moments of the film we are shown the fiery demise of Jack the Ripper. Before the scene fades out he has murdered his wife in front of what we assume to be his young daughter of about five years of age. The script by L.W. Davidson then moves us ahead a number of years to a medium conducting a seance.

Attending the sham hosted by medium Dora Bryan is Eric Porter as a bearded Freud type of character. He’s there to disprove the events that are about to take place. While the seance proves a failure in general, Porter is about to meet a young lady who might be the cause of a grotesque murder soon to follow.

Angharad Rees stars as young woman who seems a bit of a lost soul. She’s been found at the scene of the mediums death. Porter suspects she may be the murderess but at the same time believes he may be able to unlock the mysteries of the mind and therefore cure her. He’ll need to work fast as his housekeeper is about to feel her wrath in a bloody demise that the censors had trimmed upon the films initial release.

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While our good doctor Porter seeks to cure the young lady he makes the mistake of slowly falling in love with her. Secondly he has welcomed her into his home where his son and soon to be daughter in law are set to speak their vows. There will be another cruel murder before Porter engages in a race against time to save his loved ones from Rees and her apparent possession by her Father the Ripper.

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Peter Sasdy who had already directed the enjoyable Taste the Blood of Dracula continues moving the studio towards what I would term an art house horror film. The films final shot is so impressive it gave me pause to think it might be the studios most affecting. It combined with the crescendo of music from credited Christopher Gunning only adds to it’s emotional impact.

Eric Porter takes the role usually reserved for what would normally be assigned to Peter Cushing or even perhaps Andrew Keir. He does so splendidly. The character itself is very much like Cushing’s arrogant Baron. “All in the name of science.” While his intentions are admirable, he easily sets his medical goals above the laws that govern society.

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As a fan and collector of all things Hammer this was one of those films that took years to catch up with. Despite purchasing the film poster about twenty years ago it wasn’t until recently that I finally saw the film thanks to the first rate release on blu ray from Synapse Films. Enough bonus material to make me wish they had the rights to more titles in the Hammer catalogue. So far they have put out excellent versions of Vampire Circus, Twins of Evil and Countess Dracula.

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