Friday, September 5, 2014

Fool's Views (8/11 – 8/31)

Nothing phallic about this shot at all.

Howdy folks,

Well, once again, the good folks at Kitley’s Krypt saved my horror bacon, as my required monthly Kryptic Army mission were the only two fright flicks caught during the last three weeks of August. I lay the blame squarely at the feet of Cincinnati Playhouse’s long rehearsal days and the fact that my little apartment came fully stocked with a subscription to Turner Classic Movies; needless to say, my viewing priorities shifted almost immediately. In addition to the full features listed below, I enjoyed catching 20, 30, or sometimes 60-minute snatches of literally dozens of others. And, thanks to a TCM-sponsored viewing of Three Days of the Condor, I was further inspired to try out the Chicago Public Library’s downloadable video option for two other Redford flicks (bringing 2014’s total to nine), as well as paying tribute to a recently deceased comic master by watching what many consider to be his last great performance.

As always, feel free to leave your two cents worth – we’ll make sure you get some change back.




Phantom of the Mall: Eric's Revenge (1989) d. Friedman, Richard (USA) (1st viewing)


Puppetmaster III: Toulon's Revenge (1991) DeCoteau, David (USA) (1st viewing)



Friends of Eddie Coyle, The (1973) d. Yates, Peter (USA) (1st viewing)

Probably the least glamorous, low-thrills examination of career criminals and racketeering ever made, yet completely fascinating for its lived-in performances by Robert Mitchum, Richard Jordan, Peter Boyle, and a handful of other terrific character actors. Adapted for the screen by producer Paul Monash from George V. Higgins’ novel.

Frozen River (2008) d. Hunt, Courtney (USA) (1st viewing)

Melissa Leo earned an Oscar nomination for her fearless, vanity-free portrayal of a single mom, struggling to keep her family afloat in upstate New York, who stumbles into an illegal alien smuggling scheme orchestrated by Mohawk rebel Misty Upham. Watching Leo juggle morals and half-truths keeps the viewer on their toes, with numerous emotionally devastating sequences. Sadly, this remains Hunt’s only feature writing/directing credit to date (she was also nominated for an Oscar for Original Screenplay), although IMDb lists her as helming a Nicholas Kazan script called The Whole Truth featuring Keanu Reeves, Renee Zellwegger, and James Belushi. Not my favorite trio of actors, but fingers crossed anyway.

Shortbus (2006) d. Mitchell, John Cameron (USA) (1st viewing)

Um, wow. Sex, sex, sex. Talking about it, wishing for it, tiring of it, frustrated by it, hetero, homo, domination, orgasm, masturbation, oral, anal, orgy, love ain’t easy. The title refers to a local Manhattan getaway where it all happens. Funny, honest, emotional, and explicit. Written and directed by Mitchell, who gave us Hedwig and the Angry Inch in 2001 and the searing Nicole Kidman / Aaron Eckhart drama Rabbit Hole in 2010.

World's Greatest Dad (2009) d. Goldthwait, Bobcat (USA) (1st viewing)

I didn’t plan for this to be a tribute view to Robin Williams, who took his own life August 11; it just worked out that way. I’ve had this on my radar since it came out five years ago, but was put off by the title, the blah poster, Williams’ presence (assuming it to be another unfunny comedy from the once-great wild man), and the unknown directorial quantity known as Bobcat. (I’d seen Shakes the Clown once, but frankly didn’t remember being all that knocked out by it. After this and Willow Creek, I’m ready to give it another shot.) I don’t know if I agree with ALL the critical adulation, but there’s no denying that Williams is in fine form as a schlubby middle-aged schoolteacher who attempts to rewrite his pain-in-the-ass son’s legacy following an accidental tragedy. The pitch-black comedy skillfully juggles taboo subjects, wicked satire, and genuine pathos, delivered by a quirky ensemble delivering excellent support for its lead. Worth checking out, although some may find the life-imitating-art-imitating-life ironies too much to handle.


D.O.A. (1950) d. Mate, Rudolph (USA) (1st viewing)

Terrific noir potboiler starring Edmund O’Brien as a tax consultant who finds himself poisoned with only 24 hours to locate his killer and/or learn the reason why. Famed cinematographer Mate delivers several astounding virtuoso sequences, such as O’Brien’s panicked flight through the crowded San Francisco streets or a shadowy stalking sequence in a dilapidated warehouse. Pamela Britton is dynamite as the doomed man’s devoted Girl Friday, and B-movie stalwart Beverly Garland (It Conquered the World) makes her film debut as a tough-talking secretary who knows more than she lets on.

Every Girl Should Be Married (1948) d. Hartman, Don (USA) (1st viewing)

Breezy if forgettable trifle pitting dedicated bachelor Cary Grant against the dogged pursuits of fatalist romantic Betsy Drake with the requisite situational comic vignettes handled well by the cast. Grant and Drake tied the knot in real life less than a year after the film was released.

Gentleman Jim (1942) d. Walsh, Raoul (USA) (1st viewing)

Errol Flynn is charming as heavyweight boxing champ James J. Corbett, who introduced finesse and skill into what was previously a brawler’s domain. Taking his titular nickname as its marching orders, the movie paints Corbett as a near-saint both in and out of the ring, even down to his gracious treatment of defeated warrior James L. Sullivan (Ward Bond, in a deliciously broad turn), but still manages to entertain.

Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948) d. Potter, H.C. (USA) (1st viewing)

Every homeowner should find a moment to identify with in this winking worst-case-scenario of Cary Grant and Myrna Loy’s attempt to construct the domicile of their dreams. Numerous clever physical gags, but the real fireworks are between the two stars, with Melvyn Douglas classing up the joint as Loy’s former flame and current contentedly platonic friend.

This Gun for Hire (1942) d. Tuttle, Frank (USA) (1st viewing)

Alan Ladd’s breakout role as on-the-run hired killer Raven pairs him opposite blonde bombshell Veronica Lake, the first of seven movies the two made together. When gangster Laird Cregar attempts to double-cross the stone-hearted assassin, Raven sets his sights on his former employer, dragging singing magician Lake into the mix as a hostage. Ladd was originally given “introducing” billing in the opening credits, even though he’d appeared in several other pictures in smaller parts; when the flick became a hit, Ladd was given top billing alongside Lake, bumping former headliner Robert Preston (as her rugged cop boyfriend) to third. Anyone got the skinny on whether Lake was actually performing her own sleight-of-hand for the nightclub routines? Looked pretty authentic to me.


Electric Horseman, The (1979) d. Pollack, Sydney (USA) (3rd viewing)

Redford is in full-on charming rogue mode as a washed-up rodeo star Sonny Steele, reduced to hawking breakfast cereals and riding around high school football fields in his Christmas light-accented costume (when he’s not too drunk to stay in the saddle). Infuriated at corporate crony John Saxon’s doping of a championship race horse to keep it docile during a Vegas trade show, Sonny rides the beast off the lot and down the Strip, with eager-for-a-scoop reporter Jane Fonda hot on his trail. The chemistry between Redford’s laid-back outlaw and Fonda’s high maintenance opportunist is the picture’s main attraction; the open-valve idealism gets a little thick at times, but the capable supporting cast (including Willie Nelson in his screen debut) and gorgeous locations balance out the blarney. This marked the reunion of Fonda and Redford a dozen years after Barefoot in the Park, with much of the film shot near Redford’s Utah home.

Great Waldo Pepper, The (1975) d. Hill, George Roy (USA) (1st viewing)

There’s not a lot of plot within this biopic about the former WWI flyer and Depression-era barnstormer, but the aerial sequences are, in a word, breathtaking. Watching actual stunt pilots execute impossibly complicated and daring maneuvers, expertly integrating shots of Redford and co-stars Bo Svenson and Bo Brundin in flight, is pure screen magic. Time and again, I openly mourned the fact that we’ll never experience such sheer wonder again, knowing that ACTUAL HUMAN BEINGS were pulling this stuff off. Redford offers another complex portrayal of a rule-bending antihero, though he’s not given many notes to play. With Geoffrey Lewis, Susan Sarandon, Edward Herrmann, and Margot Kidder.

Three Days of the Condor (1975) d. Pollack, Sydney (USA) (2nd viewing)

One year before All the President’s Men hit screens, Redford starred alongside Faye Dunaway, Max von Sydow, and Cliff Robertson in this hit adaptation of James Grady’s novel about government corruption and conspiracy. Redford’s pattern-seeking, code-cracking employee (“I just read books!”) narrowly avoids being assassinated with his co-workers (a terrific and brutal sequence) and finds himself on the run with no safe haven. Kidnapping random hostage Dunaway, his attempts to learn who is behind the hit lead to murky and insidious conclusions, while we in turn learn that Redford may not be who he seems to be. Tight, taut political thriller in the tradition of The Conversation and The Parallax View.

2014 Totals to date: 231 films, 141 1st time views, 133 horror, 28 cinema

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