Sunday, July 18, 2010

144. The Maltese Falcon (1941)

Running Time: 101 minutes
Directed By: John Huston
Written By: John Huston, from novel by Dashiell Hammett
Main Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Peter Lorre, Sydney Greenstreet, Elisha Cook Jr.

THE ARRIVAL OF FILM NOIR

On this day, as all of the movie going community can't stop spouting about "Inception", Christopher Nolan's newest film, I took the time to continue my journey through cinema and watch my next film, "The Maltese Falcon". While the film wasn't bad at all, I was even more excited to realize the arrival of a genre that I haven't had a chance to really get to know...film noir.

Bogart plays Sam Spade, a private detective, who upon the films opening is visited by the classy, elegant Brigid O' Shaughnessy. Although she doesn't give her real name at first, O'Shaughnessy claims to be searching for her sister, who she believes has gotten herself mixed up with a man by the name of Thursby. Sam and his partner Miles Archer agree to help the woman and Archer goes out later that night to tail Thursby. During the tailing, Archer is shot and killed and later that evening, Thursby is killed. When Sam finds out about the killings, he gets in touch with O'Shaughnessy, and this is when she confesses a few things, including her true identity, but the rest seems to be a muddled mix of facts and lies that O'Shaughnessy can't stop feeding Spade.

When he gets back to his office, Spade is visited by another character, Joel Cairo. Cairo is in search of an artifact and is prepared to offer Spade a reward if he can help him find it. The artifact that he is searching for is none other than our title piece, the Maltese Falcon. There's also talk of a "fat man" and in the meanwhile, Spade has recognized that he himself is being tailed by a rather shady looking fellow. On top of ALL that, Spade is also being questioned by the police, as they believe he may have had something to do with one, if not both of, the Thrusby/Archer killings. Eventually, the "fat man" is revealed to be Kasper Gutman, a man who has been searching, to no avail, for the falcon for seventeen years. It seems that the falcon was originally intended for Charles V of Spain, and through the years was stolen and changed hands more times than we know. When the dust settles the gift originally intended for Charles V ends up in the hands of big city sleuth Sam Spade, but how will Spade use the artifact to his advantage and who can he trust, if anybody?

The one thing that I really like about "The Maltese Falcon" is the fact that we always know just as much as Sam Spade. I'm not ashamed to admit that this movie is a little confusing, as we the viewer, along with Spade, try to figure out who killed who, why and what angle everyone is playing. As Sam Spade works his way along the seedy, noir-esque streets of the city, every piece of information he uncovers feeds us, the viewers, with more information to the grand scheme of things. Bogart is great and finally he shows up in the pages of the "1001" playing a hero and not a seedy villain (ie. Angels with Dirty Faces). The confusion of the plot took me out of this a little bit and add on to that the fact that these 1940s actors could really move their mouths when it came to saying their dialogue. I found myself on more than one occasion rewinding the disc, so that I could hear once more a stretch of explanation, usually from Mary Astor. All in all, this was a fun first-noir experience from the "1001" book and a must see for fans of crime, mystery and detective stories.

RATING: 6.5/10 '7' seemed too high, and '6' seemed too low, so that's my explanation for the rating of '6.5'. Also interesting to note that no movie from the 40s thus far, has fallen below a '5'. Great decade so far!

NEXT UP: Sergeant York...Gary Cooper has traded in his Deeds outfit for a York outfit and finally returns to the pages of the "1001".

July 18, 2010 7:13pm




Wednesday, July 14, 2010

143. The Wolf Man (1941)

Running Time: 71 minutes
Directed By: George Waggner
Written By: Curt Siodmak
Main Cast: Lon Chaney Jr., Claude Rains, Ralph Bellamy, Evelyn Ankers, Bela Lugosi

"EVEN A MAN WHO IS PURE OF HEART AND SAYS HIS PRAYERS BY NIGHT, MAY BECOME A WOLF WHEN THE WOLFBANE BLOOMS"

At a running time of only a little over an hour, I was able to squeeze in "The Wolf Man" when I got off work tonight. I had mixed feelings about this one, despite the fantastic cast. Let's get down to business, shall we.

Lon Chaney Jr. plays Larry Talbot, son of Sir John Talbot, who returns home from America to his home Wales, to reconnect with his father. Almost as soon as he arrives, so does his father's new telescope and as Larry helps him assemble it, he accidentally catches a glimpse of the neighboring residence and the girl that lives there, Gwen Conliffe. Gwen's parents own an antique store next door to the Talbot estate, and later that day, Larry goes over to meet Gwen and during the visit purchases a silver headed walking stick, decorated with the head of a wolf. Upon purchasing the walking stick, Larry is told all about the myth of the werewolf by Gwen. As he leaves the shop, Larry insists on a date with Gwen, despite her many refusals, she still agrees to go with Larry to the fortune teller, later that night.

During the trip to the fortune teller, accompanied by Gwen's friend Jenny, Bela the fortune teller sees a pentagram on the hand of Jenny. It turns out that Bela is actually a werewolf and seeing a pentagram on the palm is a sign that you're the werewolf's next victim. As Jenny leaves is forced to leave the fortune teller's shop, she is soon after attacked by a wolf. When Larry tries to rescue her he is bitten, but succeeds in killing the wolf with the walking stick that he purchased from Gwen. Later that night, Larry tells his father what happened and investigators are sent out to find the body of Jenny. When they arrive, they not only find Jenny, but also Bela, as it seems Bela was actually the werewolf and Larry apparently murdered him. An old gypsy woman eventually tells Larry that anyone bitten by a werewolf can become a werewolf themselves. It turns out she's not lying as Larry transforms into the Wolf Man and furthermore has the entire town tracking him down.

While I watched this film on a Tuesday night sitting in a recliner with the air conditioning on, I have a good feeling that this movie would be a lot of fun to watch, huddled under a blanket with your significant other, during a Saturday night monster movie-thon. In fact, it would probably also be a very effective movie to watch on Halloween, however it just seems like a real mood movie, meaning you really have to be in the mood to find the really good qualities that this movie has to offer. A lot of the movie is really corny, or at least it is to me, as Chaney's Wolf Man is more laughable than spooky. Honestly he really just resembles a guy who's angry because he's having a really bad hair day. The cast was superb, in fact the cast was a little too good for this movie. Claude Rains was excellent as the level-headed one, who spoke for the realists. Ralph Bellamy is always good, and it was nice to see him not getting upstaged by Cary Grant for once. Lon Chaney Jr. was also good, and really showed off some sophisticated acting chops for someone who was normally typecast into horror flicks. I should also mention Evelyn Ankers real quick, as she played a fine damsel in distress who also played hard to get. Add a quick cameo by the master of horror himself, Bela Lugosi and you really can't ask for more, when it comes to casting.

RATING: 5.5/10 Pretty much an average movie, that would be a lot of fun during those times when you're in need of a horror flick.

NEXT UP: The Maltese Falcon...Saw this one YEARS ago, but really don't remember it at all...Kind of excited to see it again.

July 14, 2010 1:18am

Monday, July 12, 2010

142. The Lady Eve (1941)

Running Time: 97 minutes
Directed By: Preston Sturges
Written By: Monckton Hoffe, Preston Sturges
Main Cast: Henry Fonda, Barbara Stanwyck, Charles Coburn, Eugene Pallette, William Demarest

FONDA AND STANWYCK WERE MADE FOR EACH OTHER

Despite the fact that today is my birthday, I still found the time to squeeze in a movie and it wasn't a bad one either. Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda appear in "The Lady Eve", a film directed and co-written by Preston Sturges and one that, while I didn't love it immensely, I did find it to be a ton of fun.

Charles Pike (Fonda) is just on his way back from South America, where he was on a snake expedition. Upon boarding the ocean liner to return to the United States he has a chance meeting with Jean Harrington (Stanwyck). Jean is traveling with her father, "Colonel" Harrington and his partner Gerald, and the three of them together plan to scam the poor Pike out of some of his loot, which is ample seeing as how he is the heir to the Pike Ale fortune. The meeting begins when Jean trips up Charles and makes him take her back to his room so that he can help her change her shoes, which she blames him for breaking the heel of. Later, the professional card shark "Colonel" Harrington, loses some money to Charles. This is a set up, so that later, when they really scam him out of some dough, he won't suspect anything. Before too long, Jean finds herself head over (broken) heels for Charles and talks her father out of scamming the unsuspecting Charles. However, when Charles' valet Muggsy (Demarest) lets his paranoia rise and starts asking questions to the staff of the ocean liner, the staff produces a picture and profile on the trio of scammers and Charles uncovers the truth behind their facade.

Unable to forgive Jean, even though they've fallen in love, Charles dumps her on the boat and eventually lands back home. Some time passes and Jean is set on revenge against Charles for dumping her. When Charles' father throws a party at the family estate, Jean talks one of her other con-men friends into allowing her to pass off as his niece, so that she can attend the party and possibly get back at Charles. Jean shows up at the party sporting an English accent and calling herself Lady Eve Sidwich. Mr. Pike is enamored with Lady Eve and while Charles agrees that she bares a striking resemblance to Jean, he eventually comes to the conclusion that if she had wanted to fool him, she would've dyed her hair yellow or something of the sort. He eventually comes to the conclusion that Jean and Lady Eve are two different people and he proceeds to fall in love with her. In the end, true love rears its head and wins out, as it normally does.

As I mentioned in the header for this post, I loved the chemistry that was created by Stanwyck and Fonda, which is cemented as he cradles her feet and changes her shoes for her and then later, when Jean is frightened by Charles' pet snake, she somehow ends up holding him, caressing his hair and petting his face, as he is lulled into her spell and the two make us believe that they're really and truly in love. I was glad to see my a familiar face in Eugene Pallette. It seems like whenever that guy shows up in a movie, it turns into a good time. While I'm not totally in love with this movie, it seemed to be the type of movie that you could watch over and over and never tire of and even though it's not one of your favorites you know you can always throw it in and not have to put a lot of thought to it and you'll always have a good time. The running theme in the book seems to be that screwball comedies are usually really good and provide a fair amount of classic film making and classic moments.

RATING: 6.5/10 I know I say this a lot, but that is another rating that I could definitely see rising with the passage of a little time and maybe another viewing or two.

NEXT UP: The Wolf Man...The classic monster movie should be ready for review late tonight.

July 12, 2010 9:55am

Saturday, July 10, 2010

141. Citizen Kane (1941)




Running Time: 119 minutes
Directed By: Orson Welles
Written By: Orson Welles, Herman J. Mankiewicz
Main Cast: Orson Welles, Dorothy Comingore, Joseph Cotten, Everett Sloane, William Alland

Sidenote: You may (or may not) have noticed that each and every post has been edited to include a number in front of the title. The number corresponds to the films chronological placement in the "1001" book and I did this so that it would be easier to follow me and for any new readers to the blog to always know where I stand in the grand scheme of things.

Now onto the business at hand...

ON MY JOURNEY I MET A MAN NAMED 'ORSON'

After finishing "Citizen Kane" tonight (or rather, this morning) my initial plan was to rewatch the movie all weekend, with another viewing of the movie and a viewing that would be accompanied by Roger Ebert's commentary track on DVD. After some thought (and not really being able to wait to get my thoughts on 'Kane' in writing) I decided against that plan and figured, that if every other movie only gets one shot, then "Citizen Kane" shouldn't be treated any different. My reasoning for wanting to rewatch the film, was because this time around I saw some very positive things in 'Kane' that I have never seen before, and I wanted to cement those epiphanies in my head.

I'll try to keep the plot of 'Kane' to a minimum, as the film is told in flashback and any effort to retell the plot, will probably get fairly confusing. When the film starts we're immediately introduced to Charles Foster Kane and we're immediately a guest at his funeral, as he dies at the beginning. As a group of newsreel reporters try to piece together the "Charles Foster Kane Story", they reflect on his dying words, or rather, word..."Rosebud". The reporters eventually decide that the word "Rosebud" will tell them everything they need to know to make a smashing piece on the life and times of C.F. Kane. They send out a reporter to visit the people who were the most important to Kane and we begin to get the story of our main character. We're told the Charles Foster Kane story from different points of view, from different characters in the film and you soon realize that each character only knew certain sides of Kane.

At the age of nine, young Charles Kane was living in poverty, with his mother, who owned a boarding house. When a prosperous gold mine is discovered on a previously worthless piece of property that his mother owned, the family is into money and Kane is sent off to live with Thatcher, a banker and the new legal guardian of Kane, so that he may be educated. We skip ahead to Kane's twenty-fifth birthday when he gains 100% control over his assets and seemingly is only interested in "The Inquirer", a small newspaper that he thinks would "be neat to run". Well Kane eventually turns that small, fledgling newspaper into a gold mine of his own, and it only takes him six years and the help of Mr. Bernstein and Mr. Leland. Later, Kane is married to the president's niece and following that he runs for Governor of New York, but is defeated when a scandal between Kane and a "singer" is outed. Kane and his first wife are divorced and Kane remarries Susan Alexander, his mistress and hopeful singer. He builds her an opera house, and later an empire of a household, the cost of which "no man knows".

I have quite a few things to say about "Citizen Kane", so lets get to it:

I'd like to start out by saying what I think is "Citizen Kane's" biggest downfall and that would be the hype. If you're a movie fan, be it at an intense level or just a casual one, then you've heard nothing else you're entire life than: "Citizen Kane is the greatest movie ever made!". Now when you hear nothing else but that line repeated over and over and then finally one day you say to yourself, "What the hell, if it's the greatest movie ever made, why not give it a go?" Then you see it, expecting the greatest thing since sliced bread and in my personal experience, you're left with a "HUH" feeling. Now, this is me citing my experiences during my first viewing of 'Kane', which was many years ago and maybe I was a bit too young to really appreciate it back then. But even this morning, as I sat here watching 'Kane', I still had a hard time swallowing the "greatest movie ever made" line, even as Welles brought the house down with his acting, that could only be referred to as intense. I really think that if this movie was one that you had to scrounge up and find in the back dark corner of a murky old video store, that it would be a lot better, because you wouldn't have that echoing voice in your head, constantly saying the words "This is the greatest film ever made and you MUST love it!!"

However...

This morning, I realized some of the greatness and it was amazing. It was like finally getting the punchline to a joke that the whole world had been laughing at for decades. Do I even have to mention the cinematography, which for its time was absolutely and utterly awesome, in every sense of that word? This film, in my opinion, was eons ahead of its time and I think that Welles could've made this film in the 2000 era and it still would've been accepted and heralded. Speaking of Welles, what a fucking brilliant actor!! He commands attention and respect every single time he hits the screen and has an aura about him that makes every other actor in the scene look twice as good. He was so intense and you could really tell that he poured his heart and soul into this production and wanted all but the best to come out of it. "Citzen Kane", even as I watched it on my small 20" television screen, had a way about it that made me feel like I was in a theater. The booming music, the great acting, the photography, everything just oozed of greatness, hell even the opening title that reads "Citizen Kane" across the screen, could've just as easily said "Get ready for something big".While I certainly don't think it's the "greatest movie ever made", I do finally get it. I get why people can't stop talking about 'Kane' and I really think with a few more viewings, sometime down the road, that this movie could wind up sitting on my DVD shelf, as I tell people the story of how, when I first saw it, I hated "Citizen Kane".

RATING: 7/10 I really didn't think it would get that high, but when you finish a movie, and the next minute you're on the computer looking up little factoids about it, then you know you at least gotta' go with a '7' or higher and I think in time, that rating will rise.

NEXT UP: The Lady Eve...More Fonda? I'm all for that!

July 10, 2010 4:48am







Thursday, July 8, 2010

140. The Bank Dick (1940)

Running Time: 74 minutes
Directed By: Edward F. Cline
Written By: W.C. Fields
Main Cast: W.C. Fields, Cora Witherspoon, Grady Sutton, Franklin Pangborn, Una Merkel, Shemp Howard

W.C. CONTINUES TO BRING THE FUNNY!

When I watched "It's a Gift" back in January, for the "1001" book, I couldn't resist going out and purchasing a W.C. Fields collection, which contained that very film. My W.C. Fields collection also contained "The Bank Dick", so it wasn't hard to find this film, as I walked down the hall to my DVD shelf. After watching "The Bank Dick", I was even more pleased with my purchase as it was also a hilarious romp, with some excellent gags by a true master of comedy.

Much like "It's a Gift", "The Bank Dick" reveals our main character, Egbert Souse, as a man who wants nothing more than peace and quiet and maybe a bit of privacy. However, his nagging family, consisting of a wife, a mother-in-law, an teenage daughter and a young daughter, makes sure he doesn't get that. Egbert sees his way to the Black Pussy Cat Cafe every morning where he finds some solace and some booze to wash away his troubles. One morning, after knocking a few back at the saloon, Egbert inadvertently foils a bank robbery by running into the burglar. He, of course, takes all the credit for foiling the crime and is featured on the front page of the newspaper, an accolade that his family couldn't care less about. After foiling the crime and meeting with the manager of the bank that was nearly robbed, Lompoc State Bank, Egbert is offered the job of bank security or bank dick, by bank manager Mr. Skinner. Egbert takes the job, and in return Mr. Skinner agrees to take a portion of his wages to pay off the mortgage on the Souse family home.

After starting the job, there isn't much action, outside of a child playing with a toy pistol, which Egbert confuses as a real one and tries diligently to apprehend the youngster. Later on, Egbert meets up with a man who throws him a sales pitch for shares to the Beefsteak Mine. Egbert is swooned by the pitch man, and talks bank teller and his daughter's fiance, Og Oggilby, into borrowing five hundred dollars from the bank to buy shares to the Beefsteak Mine. Once Og agrees, later that day the bank examiner shows up wanting to examine the books and it's up to Egbert to throw him off track and keep Og out of trouble.

I have to say that my "W.C. Fields pick" would still have to be "It's a Gift", although I liked the flow of storytelling in "The Bank Dick" better. While "It's a Gift" is basically just seventy minutes of W.C. doing gag after gag, "The Bank Dick" has more of a story to it. The thing about W.C. Fields movies that are so enjoyable is that they're simple and when you're too tired to really give the movie the time that it deserves then these films are great, as they're short and funny and really let you kick back and enjoy some good film making, without investing a lot of mental energy. I honestly think that W.C. Fields is right up there in line with Buster Keaton, Charles Chaplin, Harold Lloyd and Laurel & Hardy as the funniest men I've discovered while working my way through the "1001" book. I love his brand of humor, his mutterings and bumblings and his slapstick gags. He's a true funny man and I really can't wait to move on from the pages of the "1001" and check out more W.C. Fields classics, as I'm sure they're all hilarious.

RATING: 7/10 Only a '7' simply because I liked "It's a Gift" more, but that's probably just because I saw it first and it's the film that made me fall in love with W.C.

NEXT UP: Citizen Kane...I'll give the supporters of 'Kane' and readers of my blog a proper forewarning...I've never liked this movie. We'll see what one more viewing can do for it.

July 8, 2010 12:34am

Sunday, July 4, 2010

138. Pinocchio (1940)

Running Time: 88 minutes
Directed By: Hamilton Luske, Ben Sharpsteen
Written By: Aurelius Battaglia, from novel by Carlo Collodi
Main Cast: (voices): Dickie Jones, Cliff Edwards, Christian Rub, Walter Catlett, Evelyn Venable


"I'M NOT A PUPPET...I'M A REAL BOY"

Moving right along in the "1001" book, we come to our third animated feature and in the same, our third movie produced by the empire that is Disney. I'll have to say that although I've been less than impressed by the previous two animated flicks, this one really surprised me and was a whole lot of fun.

Geppetto is a woodworker, who can make almost anything out of a few pieces of wood, including a bevy of clocks, resulting in one of my favorite moments when all of the clocks strike the top of the hour at the same time. However, when Jiminy Cricket wonders into Geppetto's workshop to get warm, he's just putting the final touches on a marionette, which Geppetto affectionately names, Pinocchio. Before going to sleep that night Geppetto makes a wish upon a falling star and wishes for Pinocchio to be a real boy. In the middle of the night, as Geppetto sleeps, the Blue Fairy comes down into his workshop and waves her wand over the head of Pinocchio, bringing him to life. She tells him that in order for him to be a real boy he'll have to prove himself to be brave, truthful and unselfish. She dubs Jiminy Cricket his conscience and leaves them. Geppetto is awakened by Pinocchio in the middle of the night, and after being startled at first, Geppetto is overjoyed to realize that Pinocchio is real.

The following day on his way to school, Pinocchio encounters a sly fox by the name of Honest John. With Jiminy Cricket running late as his first day is Pinocchio's conscience, Pinocchio falls under the slick words of John, as John entices him to come with him so that he can sell him to a puppeteer named Stromboli, putting ideas of fame and fortune into Pinocchio's head. However, Pinocchio is a big success on the stages of Stromboli's puppeteer show and ends up in a carriage to go on with Stromboli to perform all over the world. Stromboli, however, turns out to be a mean and evil man and locks Pinocchio in a cage, mistreating and abusing him. Jiminy Cricket, with a bit of help from the Blue Fairy save the day, however, and Pinocchio is set free, after he learns the consequences of telling a lie. After escaping Stromboli, Jiminy tries his best to keep Pinocchio in line, but alas, Pinocchio once again falls under the slick and sly words of Honest John, who has made a deal with The Coachman, to capture bad little boys and send them off to Pleasure Island so that they can be turned into donkeys. Honest John convinces Pinocchio to go to Pleasure Island and again Pinocchio is led astray and it's up to Jiminy Cricket to save the day...again.

I think there are a few elements that makes this Disney movie the best one I've watched so far. For starters, I loved all of the great villains. We start out getting introduced to Honest John and his companion, Gideon. Following them we get the slobbish Stromboli, followed by equally slobbish Coachman and finally at the bottom of the sea, we find Monstro the whale. On top of all the heels, we get the irresistible Jiminy Cricket, the lonely, yet lovable Geppetto and his companions Figaro the cat and Cleo the goldfish. The other thing I loved about Pinocchio is the fact that there was always trouble and it was all packed into an hour and a half. First you have the case of Pinocchio going away with Stromboli, then Pinocchio getting whisked off to Pleasure Island, then finally Pinocchio has to save Geppetto from the belly on Monstro. There was so much action and entertainment to keep you busy, the hour and a half just whip by and before you know it, you're a twenty-five year old man who just enjoyed a kids movie. I had a ton of fun with Pinocchio, in fact about ten times more fun than I expected to have. I think the reason that I'm sometimes so hard on Disney movies is because they're so commercial and so ordinary, that I'd much rather watch a foreign animated film, as those are usually down to earth and really a lot more enjoyable. "Pinocchio" reminded me of a foreign animated film, and made me forget that it was produced by the Disney empire.

RATING: 7.5/10 If you're looking for a really great animated flick then search no further than the puppet, who wanted nothing more than to become a real boy...Pinocchio

NEXT UP: The Mortal Storm...As I write this, I currently cannot find The Mortal Storm, which is a major bummer because its Jimmy Stewart.

July 4, 2010 12:00pm
Happy 4th of July!

Friday, July 2, 2010

137. Dance, Girl, Dance (1940)

Running Time: 90 minutes
Directed By: Dorothy Arzner
Written By: Tess Slesinger, Frank Davis, from story by Vicki Baum
Main Cast: Maureen O'Hara, Lucille Ball, Ralph Bellamy, Louis Hayward, Virginia Field

WHERE ELSE CAN YOU SEE 'LUCY' DO A SEXY HULA DANCE?

When popping "Dance, Girl, Dance" into my DVD player, I was expecting a full blown musical, but what I got was not that at all. Sure, there were a few songs showcased in the picture, but a few is all we got and in the end, it's the performances of Lucille Ball and Louis Hayward that make this movie at least mediocre.

Bubbles (Ball) and Judy (O'Hara) are dancers who work for Madame Lydia Basilova and her dance troupe. While in Akron on a dancing job, Judy and Bubbles meet the filthy rich Jimmy Harris (Hayward), who at first shows interest in Judy, but then falls for the more blatantly ravishing Bubbles. After one night of courting, Jimmy drops Bubbles, as he's recently gone through a divorce, and seemingly isn't ready for the dating world yet. Bubbles and the gang return to their home turf of New York City and Bubbles quickly lands a job as a hula girl at one of the local nightclubs. After seeing the disappointment on Judy's face when she doesn't get the hula spot, Madame Basilova calls upon a better known dance agency and gets Judy an interview. However on the way to the interview with Judy, Madame Basilova gets run over by a truck and killed.

A week later, Judy finally attends her interview, but after catching a sneak peek at the quality of dancers the agency houses, she doesn't feel she has what it takes and storms off, only to later have a chance meeting with the owner of the agency, Steve Adams (Bellamy), who is totally taken with her and offers his help to her while it's raining, but gets blown off by Judy. Later on, Bubbles lands a bigger and better deal, working for the Baily Bros. burlesque show, now known as "Tiger" Lily White. She offers Judy the part of the stooge, the girl that comes out when everyone else is expecting Tiger Lily and gets booed and heckled until Tiger Lily shows her face. It's not what Judy had hoped for, but she needs the cash and twenty-five dollars a week is too good to pass up. The show is a success with Tiger Lily getting more and more publicity and more and more men showing up at the theatre every night. Judy, after some hesitation at first, slides into her role as the stooge and makes the most of it. On top of all this, Jimmy Harris is back in the Big Apple and this time his sights are set firmly on Judy and dance agency big wig Steve Adams is still lurking around in the form of the meek and timid Ralph Bellamy and he wants Judy in his fold.

There really wasn't anything wrong with this picture, however it just didn't have the "oomph" that some of the other movies in this book had, whether I liked them or I didn't. This film just seemed really out of place being lumped into a category with classic films, as there really didn't seem to be anything classic about it. Although, like I said, there really wasn't anything terrible about it. Lucille Ball was amazing and for someone who has only seen her in the "I Love Lucy" television show, it was a complete 360 to see her as the top bill on a burlesque show. When I think of Lucy, I think of someone who wasn't allowed to be in the show, not someone who stole it. Her hula dance is mesmerizing as she gyrates her hips and lets her body flow to the Hawaiian music. I also thought Louis Hayward was really good and he really reminded me of a thinner version of Orson Welles, but maybe that was just me. I'm always a fan of Ralph Bellamy, as he just has a way of making me like a movie just a hair more, perhaps it's his timid and seemingly easy going nature, I don't know. Maureen O'Hara was fine too, but again this movie really just fell across that line of mediocrity and there was nothing terrible or fantastic about it.

RATING: 5.5/10 I'll boost it up a bit, because the movie did flow well and didn't drag, so we'll go with a '5.5'

NEXT UP: Pinocchio...More Disney films are on the way and this is the next one. Should be reviewed by the end of the weekend.

July 2, 2010 12:59pm

Thursday, July 1, 2010

136. The Grapes of Wrath (1940)

Running Time: 128 minutes
Directed By: John Ford
Written By: Nunnally Johnson, from novel by John Steinbeck
Main Cast: Henry Fonda, Russell Simpson, Jane Darwell, John Carradine, Charley Grapewin

"I'LL BE THERE..."

As I noted in my previous post, I was quite excited to see this film, as I am a huge Henry Fonda fan and despite that fact, "The Grapes of Wrath" was a classic Fonda film that had gone unwatched by me for far too long. Well all that was rectified tonight as I sat down and took in the movie, that was adapted from the classic American novel by John Steinbeck and in the end, I wasn't disappointed.

Henry Fonda plays Tom Joad and as the film opens we see Tom hitch a ride with a truck driver and learn that he's just been paroled from prison for committing a homicide. Tom is headed home, back to his folks' land in Oklahoma. When he's nearly approaching the land, he meets up with an ex-preacher, Casy, whom he chats with for a bit, before they go together to the Joad house. Upon arrival at the Joad house, Tom sees that the house has been abandoned and that Ma and Pa Joad are nowhere to be found. A family friend, Muley, who is hiding out in the Joads' house enlightens Tom that several weeks prior, all of the families in the area were forced to leave their homes when the deed holders came in and tool their land, using tractors to knock down homes. Muley tells Tom that his family has relocated to Tom's uncle John's. Tom makes the travel to his uncle John's and finds his entire family, including Ma, Pa and Grandma & Grandpa. Their happy to see Tom and tell him that they've made plans to head to California where they've heard tell that there's plenty of work.

The following morning the Joads' move out, with the ex-preacher Casy in tow, in their old beat up, jalopy of a truck and take Highway 66 to California. The majority of the film takes place on the road, but eventually the family makes it's way into California, although Grandpa and Grandma do not, as the trip takes its toll on them and they pass away before the family gets there. Upon their arrival they soon realize that the rumors of work in California weren't altogether true and that the work that was there wasn't profitable enough to feed the entire Joad family. Eventually Casy splits up from the Joads' and they wind up in a migrant campground where they pick peaches for five cents a bucket. At first it seems alright, but when Tom goes out one evening for a walk, he meets up with Casy again, and Casy tells him that their striking against the camp because they start men out at five cents, but then eventually lower the wages. When cops swarm in to bust up the group, consisting of Tom, Casy and some other strikers, Casy is killed by a cop and the cop is then beaten to death by Tom. Tom gets away but not without getting his face split open and left with a mark that won't make it hard for the cops to finger him.

There are so many things I want to say about "The Grapes of Wrath", so hopefully I don't forget anything. I guess I'll start out with a little bit of praise for Mr. John Ford, as he seemed to really have a way with putting his fingers on the pulse of America and telling those stories that we could all relate to. I've never read the book, so I'm speaking of "The Grapes of Wrath" from a pure film perspective, but Ford really fleshes out the Joads' and makes you want to see them succeed. Eventually you get to a point where the Joads' aren't just characters in a movie or a book, but real life people facing all of the struggles that people in that era faced, and you really can't help but get a little bit emotional when bad thing after bad thing happens to them. The cast is all great, and Henry Fonda doesn't let me down, as he totally steals the show with his portrayal of Tom Joad. However, it isn't the cast or the director that really struck me about this film, but instead it is Gregg Toland, the cinematographer. The photography in this picture is a flawless example of how absolutely breathtaking black & white pictures could be. There are countless shots throughout the film that are just amazing and at some points Toland even used shadows to give the picture a sort of "backwoods noir" feel. The scene where Tom dances with his mother, toward the end of the film made me crack a smile that I simply couldn't get rid of, and when Tom began to sing to her, the smile only grew. And of course, there's Tom's "I'll be there" speech, which is beyond words and delivered with excellence by Fonda. Here's a transcript of the speech for those who haven't seen/heard it, or to those who have and just want a reminder:

"I'll be all around in the dark. I'll be everywhere. Wherever you can look, wherever there's a fight, so hungry people can eat, I'll be there. Wherever there's a cop beatin' up a guy, I'll be there. I'll be in the way guys yell when they're mad. I'll be in the way kids laugh when they're hungry and they know supper's ready, and when the people are eatin' the stuff they raise and livin' in the houses they build, I'll be there, too."

RATING: 10/10 I wasn't gonna' go as high as a '10' but who am I kidding really, there is NOTHING wrong with this movie, and that makes it a '10'.

NEXT UP: Dance, Girl, Dance...Haven't even heard of this film outside of the pages of the "1001", but we'll see what happens...Review should be up by Thursday night.

July 1, 2010 1:08am




SINS OF OMISSION - Entry #63: ALADDIN (1992)

Running Time: 90 minutes Directed By: Ron Clements, John Musker Written By: Ron Clements, John Musker, Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio, Bu...