Tuesday, November 25, 2008

High Sierra

Humphery Bogart as a vicious escaped criminal with a cursed dog. I saw this a couple of weeks ago and can't remember much except that there's a subplot about raising money so a young lady can get an operation for her clubfoot, but she never looks even the slightest bit crippled. She doesn't even limp!

Monday, November 24, 2008

White Heat

The thing I thought was most interesting about White Heat was that it didn't waste a lot of time on establishing character. By 1949, all you needed to do was cast James Cagney and the audience would do the rest of the work.

I mean, Cagney's still great and you can't take your eyes off him when he chewing up the scenery. But they save a lot of time by not telling us how he's a vicious sociopathic monster. He just is.

I think I've seen all the essential Cagney gangster pictures now. I should probably hunt down some Paul Muni now, because he's always listed along with Cagney and Edward G. Robinson in these Warner Brothers histories but I've never even seen the original Scarface.

Friday, November 21, 2008

DOA: Dead or Alive

Okay, look. This isn't a good movie. I knew that going in. I'm not dumb, and I knew it was going to involve scantily-clad women fighting. And it did. But you know what? Sometimes, that's enough. It's rotten, but at least it knows it. Don't judge me!

Plus, one of the main characters turns out to be Joy from My Name is Earl. I knew Jaime Pressly was funny, but I didn't realize she was so... let's say "toned".

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Mr. Sardonicus

Mr. Sardonicus is known for two things: influencing the look of the Joker and having one of those crazy William Castle gimmicks. In this case, the audience was supposed to vote on what ending they wanted to see. Of course, there was really only one ending, because the vote was "Do you want Sardonicus to suffer even more... or do you want to show mercy?" Obviously, everyone wants the suffering.

The movie itself is a lot like Dracula for the first hour or so, except that instead of Jonathan Harker, they've got a brilliant doctor who specialized in paralysis cases. But Sardonicus (who's really a Baron, not a Mister) turns out to be not a vampire but a crazy guy with a permanent crazed smile on his face. It's creepy, but I don't think it's as creepy as the mask he normally wears. The unmoving face works well with his snooty attitude.

Anyway, it's a perfectly acceptable cheapo scare movie.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

If Footmen Tire You, What Will Horses Do?

Let me tell you about the Grand Illusion. It's a tiny little art-house theater here in Seattle. When I lived a block from it, I never went there, but now I go there about once a month because they have crazy movies you can't see anywhere else.

In this case, their midnight movie was a set of three Christian Propaganda movies made by Ron Ormond and based on the writings of Estus W. Pirkle. They're charmingly amateurish attempts to show the horrors that await the world if we don't all get right with God. And the complete lack of budget or filmmaking talent doesn't seem to have slowed anyone down when they were shooting the scenes set in the Old Testament or in Hell. Those are actually in The Burning Hell, which I also saw. It was okay (I never knew the Old Testament Prophets were so white and Midwestern!), but it was If Footmen Tire You, What Will Horses Do? that I was really into.

See, it's about the coming Communist Takeover that will assuredly come. And it's got it all, assuming by "all" you mean "1971 fashions, bad acting, and a leering Commie commandant". And it's also got a loudspeaker shouting "Christianity is stupid! Communism is good!" which is the basis of one of my favorite Negativland songs. It's always fun to hear something in context when you're used to the cut-up version.

The print was, of course, really terrible. That's part of the charm of the Grand Illusion: watching these movies on film, with a group of other people. Sure, you could find them on YouTube, but watching it on a computer just isn't the same.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Cover Girl

You know how sometimes in a movie you're just sitting around impatiently waiting for the mousy girl to finally realize she's beautiful? It gets even sillier when the girl is obviously Rita Hayworth. We're supposed to be astonished that Rita Freaking Hayworth manages to become a famous model? Really?

Aside from that, this was good fun. Before she's a model, she's in a lousy theater company with Gene Kelly (it's one of those "lousy" theater companies that are ridiculously talented and occasionally have wildly over-the-top choreography) and Phil Silvers (seriously, even the terrible comedian is fantastic). The great dancing and characters make up for the times when the audience can't help but think that all these people are clearly talented enough to be huge stars and marry anyone they please.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Dark Intruder

This isn't really a movie. It was really a pilot for a television show in 1965, but it never got picked up, so they released it as a feature. And I'm glad they did, because it's a lot of fun.

It stars Leslie Nielsen as a kind of supernatural detective who sometimes has to help the San Francisco police with their more... eldritch cases. He has an apartment full of cool-looking things, a dwarf manservant named Nikola, and a secret room that looks like it has a fancy scientific lab in it. Nielsen is a lot more fun here than he would become later in his career when he's playing deadpan stiffs in wacky comedies.

The plot is kind of complicated and involves evil demons and gods and stuff. Oh, and Werner Klemperer is in it, but he's using a British accent and he's buried under makeup, so he's not very Colonel-Klinkish. There's just a touch of Lovecraft. I wish they'd made this a series, because it would have made a fun counterpoint to Wild, Wild West.

Also, now I have to go learn more about Leslie Nielsen's "serious" career, because I had no idea he was so enjoyable.