August 2015 in Review

A trip to Boston and Salem added some flavor to the months opening. A rare visit to the movie theater for an updating of U.N.C.L.E. And where the hell was the Robert Vaughn and David McCallum cameo? Overall some good and some bad, some camp and some class. Give them a look see.

Meet Boston Blackie

Confessions of Boston Blackie

Boston Quackie

Witchcraft

Weird Woman

Guns at Batasi

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Safe House – I enjoyed this espionage flick where Denzel Washington may be the most evil spirited double agent on the planet. When he winds up in the hands of U.S. intelligence he finds himself in the care of novice agent Ryan Reynolds. They’ll find themselves on a madcap race to stay ahead of an unknown adversary and certain death. It’s a bloody violent ride that brings along Robert Patrick, Brenda Gleeson and Sam Shepard for the top secret games. Check it out if you haven’t already.

Escape to Burma

Runaway

Daimajin – This was a great surprise.

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Your Past Is Showing

Deadline U.S.A. – participating in the Barrymore Blogathon

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Gangster Squad – Dig up the script for DePalma’s Untouchables, change a few characters and pick a new gangster and you have this gun toting tale of Josh Brolin and company trying to take down Sean Penn’s cartoonish Mickey Cohen. When I say cartoonish I mean that Penn looks made up to star in the next Dick Tracy flick if we ever see one. Ryan Gosling tags along and Robert Patrick takes the Connery role while Emma Stone plays a sexy vamp about town. It’s almost as if this fun gangster flick was to fit into the Marvel Universe of film making.

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The Man From U.N.C.L.E. – No doubt differing from the original series I was glad to see that the movie still takes place in the sixties and the era of the cold war. Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer assume the lead roles of our teaming agents under Hugh Grants eventual guidance. Sexy Alicia Vikander adds support to this old school Bond like tale where the actors are having fun and winking at the camera. I enjoyed the villains, the soundtrack and a nod to Guy Ritchie for an entertaining night out at the movies.

The Colossus of New York

Borderline – Bronson vs. Ed Harris.

Ride Along – I liked the trailer to this Ice Cube/Kevin Hart comedy so gave it a shot. Cube pulls off the tough no nonsense cop perfectly while Hart gets me laughing at times though like Jerry Lewis he can overwork a joke and he recalls the early days of Eddie Murphy though he’s not as funny. Neither is Eddie anymore for that matter. A sequel coming at us so it must have turned a profit.

The Last of Robin Hood

Black Zoo

Where Have All the People Gone?

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Bad Asses On the Bayou – Lame third entry in the Danny Trejo series that has seen Danny Glover join him in the final two flicks. This time veteran John Amos comes along for some vigilante justice with plenty of one liner and sex jokes tossed in for what was supposed to be good measure. After enjoying the second in the series I have to say this one was a letdown though I still dig Danny Trejo’s screen image.

No Trace

Ike : Countdown to D-Day – Tom Selleck plays the lead here in a film that reminded me just a bit of Command Decision for you Gable fans. It’s all about the choices made at HQ and the planing involved in launching the large scale invasion during WW2. Selleck is fine but Gerald McRaney as Patton is no George C, Scott. Job well done in this made for cable effort. Nice to see James Remar in here as well.

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 27: Cameron Diaz and Kate Upton with Leslie Mann sighting on the set of "The Other Woman" on June 27, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Ignat/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)

The Other Woman – Good fun here with Cameron Diaz teaming with her lovers wife (Leslie Mann) and his young mistress bikini babe Kate Upton to wreak havoc on his life and get their revenge on his womanizing ways. Don Johnson turns up in a fun role slightly larger than a cameo.

Rio Bravo – What’s not to like in Howard Hawks classic western with Duke, Dean, Ricky, Walter and of course Angie. Click here for more on the Duke Dozen.

The Helen Morgan Story

The Great Silence

Johnny Doesn’t Live Here Anymore

Pals

Hellraiser II – I saw the original film at the theater way back when and recall seeing Andrew Robinson aka Scorpio on screen. Never once have I sat and watched any of the numerous sequels till now. Should have stayed away. Other than some rather bloody good make-up this was a total wast of my time. Had a very nightmare on Elm Street feel to it. It goes for the in your face grotesque and I find that a turn off. Rather something in a comical vein like The Evil Dead for my gross out horrors.

Female on the Beach – A fine guilty pleasure!

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Freelancers – Great to see Robert DeNiro back in a vicious role as a crooked officer of the law running a group of rogue cops out lining their pockets with cash thru drugs and any other means possible. The problem is the film wastes the opportunity of seeing DeNiro return to form. It’s a muddled effort with a good cast. Forest Whitaker, Curtis Jackson, Vinnie Jones and even Dana Delaney. Watch the trailer. It’s just as good and much shorter.

Total score. 31 Movies and one Daffy Duck cartoon. 11 of which were rewatches and one trip to the theater.

 

Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau : The Movie Poster Collection

Lemmon and Matthau or Matthau and Lemmon.

Really makes no difference to me as I have appreciated both of these actors during my viewing adventures in equal doses. Both have done a fine job at varying their career choices between outright dramatic films and bringing joy and laughs to audiences all around the globe.

The first teaming under Billy Wilder’s guidance resulted in an Oscar for Walter. Lemmon on Walter’s shifty lawyer, “He’s so full of twists. He starts to describe a donut and it comes out a pretzel. ”

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The iconic teaming of Oscar Madison and Felix Ungar. Matthau on his roommate, ” I know him. He’s too nervous to kill himself. Wears his seat belt in a drive-in movie. ”

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Lemmon directed only one film in his lengthy career titled Kotch in 1971. Any idea who he enlisted to take the leading role?

Back to Billy Wilder for a couple more flicks……

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While the duo never shared any scenes together both actors turned up in the star studded J.F.K. from Oliver Stone.

27 years after their first teaming they proved to still be a viable box office teaming in Grumpy Old Men which led to a succession of pairings late in life.

The insults fly fast and furious as they vie for the hand of Ann-Margret.

Matthau, “Good morning Dickhead.”

Lemmon, “Hello Moron.”

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Walter’s son Charles directed The Grass Harp in 1995 featuring the boys in an ensemble piece with Roddy McDowall, Piper Laurie, Sissy Spacek and Joe Don Baker among others.

grass harp

Sequel fever brings Sophia into the mix for more fun and games.

Walter pipes in on the Italian import, “I just met a girl named Maria! And now I plainly see, she’s not the bitch I thought she would be! ”

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They rounded out their films with Out to Sea and a poorly thought out sequel to the Odd Couple but that last title can’t tarnish my fun recollections of the laughs they supplied in a succession of winning comedies.

OUT TO SEA, Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, 1997

 

Female on the Beach (1955)

If I could choose to do it all over again, I’d watch this title with a theater full of like minded classic film fans. We’d laugh up a storm and all agree it was the most entertaining night out at the movies this year.

For the wrong reasons!

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Jeff Chandler stars here as a well kept man who likes it that way. You might say he’s a gigolo though Mr. Hays wouldn’t approve of such things in the mid fifties cinema. In our opening scene there’s a loud argument and a drunken woman falling to her death just after Chandler leaves the room towards the balcony.

Officer Charles Drake isn’t so sure that the coroners decision of a suicide is correct. He’s going to be poking around through out the proceedings. Much to the chagrin of our aging leading lady, Joan Crawford. Joan owns the beach house where the death occurred and has decided to move back in though her real estate agent Jan Sterling is shopping the property.

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Chandler is all over Crawford from the moment she awakens in her new surroundings. He’s cocksure of himself and she wants nothing to do with his brand of eye candy. Or does she.

Their romantic scenes are what fuels the high camp within this Joseph Pevney feature.

Chandler with his dead pan delivery….. “Whenever I wake up a beautiful girl, I, uh, always give her breakfast. “ Or how about this politically correct number… “That’s right, be afraid of me. A little afraid, at least. A woman’s no good to a man unless she’s a little afraid of him. “

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Joan with her own style of camp…… “You must go with the house – like plumbing. “ Then there’s ……. “I have a nasty imagination, and I’d like to be left alone with it. “

It’s a rather stormy love/hate relationship with Joan and Jeff. She just can’t help herself despite knowing he’s a scam artist backed by con artists Cecil Kellaway and Natalie Schafer. Schafer is in full training here for her role as Mrs. Howell on Gilligan’s Island. Any clip within could have been used for a screen test to play opposite Jim Backus.

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Let us not forget that within this overly melodramatic love affair there is still a murder to be solved and a killer among our variety of characters. Not that it’s too big of a mystery as the plot practically thrusts the answer in your face when Chandler is confronted by…..oops. I know the answer is obvious but I refuse to play spoiler!

Part of the warped fun here is Chandler’s refusal to accept NO as an answer to his overtly sexual advances at Joan. In the world of black and white fifties cinema where Crawford is concerned I guess NO means yes because once Jeff gets through her tough exterior shell she just can’t live without him.

At least not until her imagination runs wild and she begins to think that Jeff just might be out to murder her after all.

Throw logic out the window with this one and settle in for a fun romp with a lost looking Chandler and plenty of high camp in the style that only Joan Crawford can deliver.

This is the third of four titles I have checked out now in the TCM Women In Danger collection. So far it’s proved to be money well spent with Woman in Hiding the real gem in the set.

tcm vault set

Pals (1987)

The television movie made for some interesting combinations of aging actors in the seventies and eighties and here’s something you won’t see everyday.

George C. Scott and Don Ameche as “pals” living out their retirement years at a trailer park set up.

scott and ameche

Both men are rather bored with their current lot in life and like many others I suppose, yearn for excitement. When another close friend decides to sell his charter boat fishing operation the boys see this as a viable opportunity to  work at something they love doing. Fishing.

Also starring here as Scott’s aging Mother is another name from the early days of Hollywood. Miss Sylvia Sidney. She’s kind of flighty here and when the boys are out for a drive with Mom, they come across an abandoned car with a suitcase full of cash. 3.6 million to be exact. There dreams of grandeur and living the high life are about to come true. Trouble is sure to follow when a hitman is wanting the mob’s money back from a drug exchange gone wrong.

This leads to what might be the most amusing scene in the flick. Scott and Ameche in disguise. Big black hair and bushy mustaches to go with the wigs behind the wheel of a convertible.

Along with a young woman played by Susan Rinell the trio of stars set up new identities and begin to live the high life. Scott is enjoying his new look and rich acquaintances while Ameche very quickly begins to appreciate what they had in life and longs for the past.

Between the hitman hunting them down and the young Rinell attempting to teach the much older Scott a valuable lesson in life the film will meander along to it’s inevitable conclusion that shouldn’t hold any surprises or pack any George C. Scott explosions of Patton(esque) memorable moments.

pals poster

Like most TV movies of the day things are rather tame here and the laughs are forced. George C. plays it up a bit on the goofy side but there is just something missing when we get George light. The man can chew up most actors with one nasty look and scare a shark out of the water if he growls his voice higher than a whisper.

Don was at this time riding the crest of fame all over again thanks to an Oscar for Cocoon and Trading Places as Mortimer Duke. “Here, one dollar.” I recall another film he did at this late point in his career worth a look titled Things Change.

sylvia sidney

In case you happen to be doing some math, Sylvia playing George’s mom isn’t a stretch. She was seventeen years older than George. Don was actually nineteen years older than Scott and his career as well as Sylvia’s goes back to the early thirties while George made his debut on camera in 1959.

Though Scott would appear in a handful of theatrical films post 1980 like Firestarter and The Exorcist III, the majority of his work seemed confined to the small screen up to his death in 1999. By no means a memorable flick here but where George C. Scott is concerned, I’ve always made an effort to have a look. Good, bad or indifferent.

Spotlighting Jason Robards Beginning September 2nd.

For 5 consecutive days I’m going to going to look at some films featuring an actor I never really liked much while growing up. Perhaps it’s because many of the roles he was featured in were downright “sons of bi—-s.” His Charles Wheeler in Philadelphia instantly comes to mind. Still there is something in his performing that draws you in.

robards in julia

As I’ve gotten older and realize that it’s an actor beneath the roles I find myself looking for films with the crusty performer. There is a little bit of Cable Hogue in many of his characters. Hogue was one of his more memorable rogues in Sam Peckinpah’s lesser known 1970 flick. Much like I’ve come to consider myself a big fan of Robert Ryan over the years though not liking him at a young age, Robards kind of fits into this pattern as well.

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I think my earliest memory of Robards stems from two films on television viewings. His loud obnoxious Henry Drummond in A Big Hand for The Little Lady and his masterful Cheyenne in Leone’s Once Upon a Time In The West. It’s the Leone film that after repeated viewings (of which we should all be subjected too) I realize just how good he is in that film. Growing up I was focused less on him than I was on Bronson and Fonda, two of my earliest film heroes. Now of course I love the interplay between him and Bronson and his flirtations with Claudia Cardinale. Beneath the gruff exterior of his outlaw character there breathes the heart of a romantic soul.

I may wind up going with six films as I narrow the viewing field. Three titles will be new to me while I’m torn between three others I want to revisit. Hopefully I’ll spark some interest in both Robards and some of his movies to check out. If you have any you’d like to draw my attention to, drop me a message.

It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad Movie Challenge…. Johnny Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (1944)

After getting through this Monogram feature assigned to me by Kristina of Speakeasy I was almost expecting William Shatner to pop up at the fade out and ask the camera, “Is that weird or what?”

The Mad Movie Challenge is for those who are unaccustomed to the monthly feature when Kristina and I assign the other a film we haven’t gotten to just yet.

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For this Monogram title we have the heavenly accent and pouty face of Simone Simon as a young woman traveling by train to the big city to take up work in an airplane factory while the men are off fighting the war. It’s at about the three minute mark that I know I’m in for a piece of bizarre cinema. From the pages of a book rises a miniature gremlin who is going to reek havoc on the superstitious Simon for the next seven weeks.

grem;in in johnny

Much like the classic The More The Merrier we find our leading lady experiencing a housing shortage and desperately looking for a room. With fate intervening she happens upon a young man just heading to boot camp who agrees to let her have his apartment. The problem is that he’s been very generous at handing out extra keys to other men in the service.

“Johnny doesn’t live here anymore.”

Simone is heard to utter this phrase repeatedly as one sailor on the town after another come drifting into the apartment at all hours of the day. This leads the nosey “old maid” next door to keeping one eye glued to the crack in her door to observe the coming and going at all hours of the day. The obvious implication being prostitution. She’ll be heard to say to “It’s outrageous! It’s scandalous!” After the film ended I thought looking back that perhaps she was talking about the film itself after a preview screening.

Now despite this being a film challenge I must admit that sooner or later I would have gotten around to seeing it for one reason and one alone. It’s a pre-stardom appearance by an actor I frequently cover and refer to as “The Mitch.” Robert Mitchum turns up as a Chief Petty Officer who purchases a key from a sailor so he’ll have a place to romance his wife for 48 hours while on leave.

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This leads to complications when two of the other key holders believe that Simone is their girl and see Mitchum going up to the apartment with champagne bottles in hand. Time for Mitch to throw some punches and KO the crew before they are all hauled off to court where the prostitution charges are very evident yet with the “code” on screenplays being enforced the script dances around the obvious.

The ending of the movie is just as bizarre as the other goings on that play much like a bunch of vignettes strung together to make a 77 minute movie from director Joe May.

When I say bizarre I am mainly referring to the actor in a weird white getup playing a pixie(ish) gremlin. He constantly turns up in some corner of the screen bringing bad luck to Simone. The reason being she spilt a salt shaker at the start of the film. The actor under the white mask is one, Jerry Maren.

simone simon

To explain the accent of lovely Simone it’s pointed out that she is from Quebec, Canada. Why not, Jean Claude Van Damme did the same thing in John Woo’s Hard Target. Simone was actually born in France and thanks to producer Val Lewton has found everlasting fame as the lead in 1942’s Cat People.

Fans of Our Gang comedies will have no doubt in recognizing the voice of Billy Laughlin. AKA Froggy from the popular series of shorts. Even he has a key in order to use the bathtub of Simone’s new apartment.

I find myself connecting the dots quite often when watching films and two other “A” productions spring to mind after removing this disc from the player. The Apartment from Billy Wilder where Jack Lemmon had a room with more than one key and a 1958 flick actually titled The Key. In this one Sophia Loren has the room and William Holden winds up involved with the cinematic beauty.

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No classic here and one I probably won’t revisit but thanks to a nudge from Kristina I can add a checkmark to the list of early Mitchum titles I hadn’t gotten around to yet.

As for Kristina, I assigned her a satirical western with three of my favorite actors. One of which is another I draw attention to out here frequently, Mr. Warren Oates. So with a gremlin’s touch just click here to be magically transported to Kristina’s Speakeasy and see what she has in store for you lovers of film.

The Great Silence (1968)

From director Sergio Corbucci comes a “spaghetti” western I have long heard of and finally got the chance to see for myself. Generally when I have come across a comment or article about this title it is spoken about with great reverence by the few who have seen it.

great silence poster

From the outset the one thing that helps to differentiate this film from not only Italian westerns but most of those from Hollywood as well is the fact that the entire film is snowbound.

For the English dubbed print we have a lone rider approaching in the distance through a snow covered valley. Men are waiting ahead hidden behind mounds of snow but like many of Leone’s gunmen they all wind up dead at the hands of top billed Jean-Louis Trintignant. Once he has shot down his would be attackers a group of mountain dwellers emerge and begin to strip the dead of their boots and whatever else may be of value.

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It seems that the mountain folk are not welcome in Snow Hill, the town below. The reasons are both political which will play out between the bounty hunters and an unscrupulous banker as well as their stealing supplies in order to survive the harshest of winters. Sheriff Frank Wolff will discover this first hand when he is held up strictly for his horse. Not for riding either. They want the horse for meat to feed the starving.

Preying upon the mountain folk is bounty hunter Klaus Kinski. Klaus turns in a first rate performance here as both a sadistic killer as well as an extremely smart and calculating villain. He’ll come into contact with our hero Trintignant on several occasions as they drift towards the inevitable showdown.

While Klaus is collecting bodies in the snow covered mountain tops, the imagery of this unique western is quite striking or haunting if you prefer. While hitching a ride by stagecoach he hauls frozen bodies to the rooftop while making his way to town to claim his bounty from sheriff Wolff.

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“Where ever he goes the silence of death follows.”

Spoken by Vonetta McGee in reference to Trintignant’s avenging angel of death.

Like the character Harmonica in Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West, Trintignant is a character with a past that will unfold as the film moves along. While Eastwood rarely speaks in his trio of Italian westerns Trintignant is actually a mute avenger with a secret beneath the high collar he wears and the heavy growth of stubble covering his face.

When Kinski slyly kills Vonetta’s husband she appeals to our mute hero to lure Kinski into a gunfight and end his sadistic reign of violence. Just who are actually the outlaws in this film is a contentious topic.

As the film heads towards the customary showdown between our two leading men it’s a violent ride that only escalates at the fade out.

This is a bleak tale and unforgiving in it’s delivery. While I found some of the camera shots a bit “off” the overall impact of the snowbound settings are quite haunting with the mist settling in and the lone rider shots from a distance creating a feeling of isolation. At times the mountain folk are almost ghostlike in their sudden appearances from the snow covered caps.

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Despite the fact that the dubbed version I saw had Klaus Kinski being dubbed (which I am always complaining about) his performance here is far better than many of the other numerous flicks he populated during the era. For more on Klaus and his impact on camera click here.

Frank Wolff plays the sheriff in somewhat of a buffoon style which I wasn’t fond of though it should be pointed out that may be a case of the dubbing and a loss in translation. For those unaccustomed with the heavily mustached actor, he played the ill fated Frank McBain in Once Upon a Time In the West.

Once again it’s Ennio Morricone delivering the goods with a solid score that perfectly fits into the era of the spaghetti western.

Director Corbucci had already done the influential Django with Franco Nero as well as some other popular made in Italy westerns including Minnesota Clay before moving on to this off beat outing. He would also turn in others oaters including The Mercenary and Companeros. Both of which featured Nero and an over the top Jack Palance.

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It’s safe to say that Leone gets the praise on a worldwide plain yet this like the other titles mentioned by Corbucci are worth looking into for an alternative style to Sergio’s Italian western efforts.