Monday, February 19, 2018

FXM schedule heads up, February 20, 2018

I haven't done many full-length reviews recently of movies coming up on FXM Retro thanks to my work schedule. When I was helping take care of Mom, it was easy to watch a movie one morning when the movie was on FXM Retro (or the Fox Movie Channel when it was still called that) and then blog about it in the afternoon because it was going to be on the next morning. Now I can only really do that if the first showing is on a weekend, as I think I did with The Dolly Sisters a few months back.

The other issue, of course, is with how many movies I've seen and already done posts on. There are days of movies where I've done posts on pretty much every movie, or haven't seen the movie in ages. Such is the case with tomorrow's lineup. It starts off at 4:00 AM with Holiday for Lovers, a mediocre "chase teen daughter in love across exotic destinations" movie. It also concludes the day's schedule at 1:15 PM.

That's followed at 6:00 AM by The Loves of Edgar Allan Poe, a pretty bad movie that as I understand it isn't particularly accurate at all, with a bland male lead.

The Mudlark comes on at 10:00 AM tomorrow, although you could also see it at 10:25 AM today. This one actually did have a Fox MOD release on DVD at the time I posted it, and that release is still available from the TCM Shop.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Briefs for February 18-19, 2018

Most of my movie watching to clear up space on the DVR recently has been stuff that's out of print on DVD. A month ago, there was a DirecTV free preview of the Starz/Encore channels, which was where I watched The Shooting that I reviewed not long ago. I had recorded another movie, An American Werewolf in London to do a review on that. I didn't notice until I went to watch it this morning, however, that I had misfigured when the free preview ended, and this showing was after it. Crap.

Anyhow, I'll give brief mention to Gunman in the Streets. This is an odd little movie in that it was made in France with Dane Clark and a bunch of French actors who could speak English. I've mentioned a similar thing that happened in the UK of movies being made there with one American star and a bunch of British actors with the presence of the American presumably being to make it easier to get distribution in America. I didn't realize it had been done in France, too. But that provenance is probably why it's not on DVD. It's too bad Gunman in the Streets isn't very good. And as I was watching, I had the distinct feeling I had seen it before. I probably had, and that lack of memorableness was why I didn't find the movie very good.

There was also The Falcon and the Coeds. Tom Conway plays the Falcon, this time investigating a death at a private girls' school. It's officially heart disease, but the Falcon's investigation gets it changed first to suicide and then to murder. Fans of the Falcon movies will probably like it, although they'll probably already have seen it. The credits say that a young Dorothy Malone plays one of the students, but I didn't notice her. I probably just wasn't paying close enough attention to look for her.

Lassie Lou Ahern died last week aged 97. She was a baby star at the end of the silent era, appearing in some of the Our Gang shorts as well as the silent version of Uncle Tom's Cabin. Her elder sister Peggy was also an actress, and after leaving films the two did a stage show together. Peggy also lived to be very elderly, dying in 2012 at the age of 95.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

It Always Rains on Sunday

Recently I watched It Always Rains on Sunday, off one of those cheap DVD-Rs put out by some company selling a bunch of British movies on DVD-R.

Rose Sandigate (Googie Withers) is the stepmother in a family with her husband George (Edward Chapman), adult daughters Doris (Patricia Plunkett) and Vi (Susan Shaw), and son Alfie. They live in the East End of London where Rose is a housewife and the two daughters both have boyfriends, Doris' being a good working-class guy and Vi's being married bandleader Morry (Sydney Tafler). Vi's high living has her coming home late one Saturday night, by which time the Sunday morning papers are already out and we learn from a small notice on one of those that a Tommy Swann (John McCallum) has escaped from Dartmoor prison.

The obviousness with which the newspaper shows that headline is a sign that Tommy is going to play an important part in the movie, and sure enough, that happens in the morning. One of the windowpanes in the Sandigates' back door is broken, and it's suggested to use the blackout paper left over from the war to cover it up. (The movie was released in 1947, so there are other references to the recently concluded war, such as one about rationing.) Rose goes out to the shed, and finds Tommy.

Tommy had good reason for showing up there: Rose was his girlfriend before he wound up in prison. He's come to her asking for help to hide him until he can get away at night. Of course, he didn't know that Rose got married in the meantime, which causes all sorts of conflicts. For Rose, the marriage to George was in part a marriage of convenience, but she seems to have grown to like George, and certainly young Alfie. The two adult daughters are still more resentful.

Against the backdrop of all this are the personal dramas of the two adult daughters' relationships. Doris runs into Morry's brother Lou (John Slater) who offers her a higher-paying job, although it might not be an honest job. Vi's staying out until all hours gets her into trouble at home and her relationship with Morry could cause problems when Alfie and his friend catch the two kissin in Morry's record-store day job. There's also a couple of Tommy's friends who are trying to fence some stolen goods which unfortunately for them turned out to be roller skates and not anything valuable.

It Always Rains on Sunday is a complex movie with a lot going on, but it's actually a pretty good movie. The main story of the man on the run is an old one but solidly presented here, and the subplots are all handled well, even coming together nicely at times. There's also excellent atmosphere of London's East End. One thing that surprised me was the portrayal of Morry and Lou as obviously Jewish, down to their use of Yiddish slang. Sure there's a Jewish community in London, but I don't think it's something that gets shown on the screen very much.

I can highly recommend It Always Rains on Sunday.

Friday, February 16, 2018

10 Rillington Place

Over the weekend, I got around to watching 10 Rillington Place off my DVR, which I had recorded as part of a night of true crime stories on TCM. It's available on DVD courtesy of the Sony/Columbia MOD scheme, so I'm OK doing a full-length post on it.

We know right away that this is true crime, based on a title card that precedes any action: "This is a true story. Wherever possible the dialogue has been based on official documents." We hear this over an air-raid siren, and cut to London during the 1944 blitz. Muriel Eady comes to 10 Rillington Place, the home of John Reginald Christie (Richard Attenborough), looking for some help with her bronchitis. She doesn't realize that Christie is about to kill her! With that, we know right away that Christie is a murderer, so it's not as if we're giving anything away here.

Fast forward to 1949. A young couple with a baby, Timothy and Beryl Evans (John Hurt and Judy Geeson respectively) come to 10 Rillington Place because there are a couple of rooms to let, and they need rooms cheaply. Timothy is an illiterate and relatively dim type who drives a truck but as things stand is probably never going to be able to make much more of himself in life. There are money problems and arguments with the wife, but things are about to get a whole lot worse.

During one of the arguments, Beryl tells Timothy that she's going to have another baby. The only thing is, there's no way the two of them can afford a second child. Beryl would be willing to have an abortion, except that this being the 1940s, it was still highly illegal. Christie, however, suggests that he had some medical training during the war, and that he would be able to perform an abortion, although it's not without its risks.

Of course, Christie uses this as an opportunity to kill Beryl, too, giving him a perfect excuse that the death happened during the botched abortion, which of course it didn't. But Timothy doesn't know that, and with his illiteracy and generally not being very bright, it's easy for the manipulative Christie to convince Timothy that he would be in serious hot water if word of the abortion ever came out. They'll bury Beryl's body surreptitiously, and Christie will give the baby to foster parents to look after while Timothy goes away for a while.

To cut a long story short, Timothy has pangs of guilt and decides to report Beryl's death to the authorities and where Christie said he was going to bury Beryl. The only thing is, Beryl's body isn't there. When they do find Beryl's body, they also find the baby's body, and the cops naturally put suspicion on Timothy, wheedling a confession out of him. The fact that Christie had long been known to the police is a shocking oversight, but it really did happen that way. Timothy goes on trial, is convicted, and hanged. It's still not over for Christie, however....

I can highly recommend 10 Rillington Place. It's much more effective an anti-execution movie than something like I Want to Live! in part because it's not beating you over the head with it. Attenborough and Hurt both give excellent performances. Hurt looks hollow-eyed as he has no clue what's happening to him; apparently the real-life Tim Evans couldn't put two and two together and come up with a motive for why Christie would kill the baby. Attenborough, for his part, is chillingly manipulative. The banality of evil and all that.

The filmmakers tried to use original locations as much as possible, which gives the movie a suitably cramped and downmarket look. It's also a bit of a time capsule in that Rillington Place underwent urban renewal not long after the movie was made, and Rillington Place no longer exists, being in the now-fashionable Notting Hill district.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Thursday Movie Picks #188: Breaking into song in non-musical movies

This being Thursday, it's time for another edition of "Thursday Movie Picks", the blogathon run by Wandering Through the Shelves. This week, the theme is movies in which people break out into a song, but which aren't musicals. Unfortunately, I used It Happened One Night, which would be perfect here for the scene in which everybody on the bus starts singing "The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze". After some thought, however, I came up with three other movies that fit the theme to greater or lesser degrees:

Manhattan Melodrama (1934). Technically, it's not any of the main characters breaking into song; it's a nightclub show. But what a song. The lyrics probably don't sound familiar, but even if you didn't see the title of the Youtube video, you might be able to guess the tune:

The movie itself is pretty good, too: Clark Gable and William Powell plays friends since childhood. Gable grows up to become a bootlegger, Powell a crusading politician. Their paths cross over Myrna Loy, and Gable's willingness to go to unorthodox means to protect Powell's political career once he decides to run for governor. And if you haven't seen it, it's going to be on TCM tomorrow morning at 6:00 AM.

The Strawberry Blonde (1941). James Cagney plays a man who's just gotten out of prison circa 1900 who studied dentistry in prison. His old friend Jack Carson needs emergency dental work one Sunday afternoon. But we learn in flashback how Carson got Cagney into prison, and how Carson got the strawberry blonde (Rita Hayworth), while Cagney had to settle for Olivia de Havilland. The movie ends after the credits with a singalong of "The Band Played On", encouraging the audience to sing.

On the Beach (1959). Nuclear war has destroyed Earth, with the exception of Australia, which still hasn't succumbed because the prevailing winds haven't brought as much of the radiation to Australia. But its time is coming. One scene has a bunch of people enjoying a weekend out in the country, at which point they all break into "Waltzing Matilda". An all-star cast of non-Australians, including Fred Astaire in a rare dramatic non-dancing role, is on hand for the proceedings.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Schedule update for February 14-15, 2018

I had a post I was going to do today, until I got sick last night and don't want to do anything but lie in bed. So I decided to look at what's coming up on the TCM schedule instead. I see that I already missed this morning's showing of Random Harvest, which I used in the last Thursday Movie Picks post. Not that I like the movie, but I'm sure some of you would have liked the chance to see it.

Anyhow, another recent TMP selection, the 1953 Titanic, will be on TCM tomorrow at noon. And I think one of my selections for tomorrow's TMP is going to be on TCM soon, too.

During 31 Days of Oscar, TCM runs shorts that were Oscar-nominated, something I usually bring up once a year. There are a lot fewer Oscar-nominated shorts, however, so programming those presents some challenges. The Joe McDoakes short So you Want to Be on the Radio is going to be on tonight, just after Gigi (another movie I don't care for by the way). But then it's going to be on again, tomorrow morning around 11:45 AM. Go figure.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Stephen Humphrey Bogart

So on Monday morning I woke up to another item of note in one of my RSS reader's podcast feeds, this time courtesy of Radio New Zealand:

Stephen Humphrey Bogart on his dad and Casablanca

Stephen Humphrey Bogart wasn't even born when his father, Humphrey Bogart, made Casablanca 75 years ago. It is considered one of the greatest films of all time.

Stephen Bogart was only 8 when his father died, but he will always have Casablanca and the stories his mother, Lauren Bacall has shared about the Hollywood legend who died too soon.

Stephen Humphrey Bogart talks to Jesse Mulligan about the 75th anniversary of Casablanca and the legacy of Humphrey Bogart

Radio New Zealand is one of those broadcasters that doesn't have anything close to a transcript of its features, so you'll have to listen to the interview. There's a streaming option at the link above, but if you want to download the interview you can do that as well. The direct download is here; the interview is 21:52 and the MP3 file is a little over 21 MB.

I haven't listened to the interview yet; I'm way behind in my features podcast listening.

Monday, February 12, 2018

We shut up the whole night through

Another movie I watched over the weekend is Good Morning, since it's available on DVD courtesy of the Criterion Collection.

Good Morning reminded me very much of A Canterbury Tale in the sense of it getting a one-sentence plot synopsis that makes it sound like a whimsical little movie, but that that's not really what the movie is about. In this case, the plot synopsis says that two young boys decides they'll give their parents the silent treatment until the parents cave in and buy a TV.

While that is part of the plot, the movie is really about so much more. Or so much less, depending upon your point of view. Just as A Canterbury Tale looked at a time and a place that was about to face major change -- agricultural Britain just before the D-Day invasion -- so Good Morning is a glimpse into a time and a place. Here, it's the Japan on the outskirts of the major cities, where people can commute into Tokyo, but where they live in small one-story houses for the most part.

The main family are the Hayashis, who have the two young boys who are TV-obsessed. Meanwhile, they're taking English lessons from a private teacher who is also getting translation jobs provided by the boys' aunt courtesy of her employer. They're falling in love, although they don't realize it. Mom and another housewife are accused of not paying the equivalent of HOA fees, which leads to gossip that the person they did pay it to is embezzling the money because she just got a new washing machine. (You'd think they'd have heard of receipts.)

Anyhow, when Mom wants the kids to stop going over to their friends' house to watch TV, the boys decide that they're going to rebel by not talking. One could understand them not talking to Mom and Dad, but they also decide not to talk to any other adults, and that causes all sorts of problems, both at school and with gossiping among the local housewives.

And so it goes like this, for a pleasant 90 minutes. Good Morning is firmly in the "slice of life" genre. I wasn't expecting that going in, so at first I was getting a bit disappointed. But once I realized it was just a slice of life, I realized that there's a really entertaining little movie behind it all.

It's just too bad that the Criterion DVDs are so expensive.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

It's because they're stuffing

I recently watched We're Not Dressing off my Carole Lombard Glamour Collection box set. The movie is rather the curiosity.

There's not much plot for the first 15 or 20 minutes. Bing Crosby plays Stephen, a sailor on the crew of the yacht Doris, owned by Doris Worthington (Carole Lombard) and her uncle Hubert (Leon Errol). Stephn sings some songs while playing a concertina. Hubert is getting drunk, while going around the ship with Doris' friend Edith (Ethel Merman), and Doris is watching all the proceedings which also include a dancing, roller-skating bear. Eventually, drunk Hubert goes onto the bridge and the charts get blown overboard, while Hubert's drunken antics screw with the wheel, ultimately leading to the Doris running aground.

Ah, but they're lucky in that there's a tropical island nearby. So the main characters along with two princes pursuing Doris (one of whom is a young Ray Milland) wind up there, with Stephen having to take charge because the idiot rich people don't know how to survive on a desert island. They make do as best they can.

It turns out that the island isn't quite deserted. Oh, normally it has no permanent population, but there are two biologists researching the local flora and fauna. These are played by George Burns and Gracie Allen, so you can imagine how much research they were getting done. Doris meets them and gets them to help her try to turn the tables on Stephen, although the two are really falling in love along the way.

I said at the beginning I found this a curious little movie. That's because it seems uncertain of what it really wants to be. Bing Crosby is the lead here and he gets to do a lot of singing. It's supposed to be a comedy, although Lombard is here not in the full comic flower she'd be in a lot of her other movies. (Looking at her filmography, though, I think it's really that her next movie, Twentieth Century, is the one that made her a screwball star.) Not that there's much drama, it's more that the script seems rather muted regarding her character. Burns and Allen on the one hand, and Errol and Merman on the other, both seem to have been shoehored into the movie to make it almost a revue.

I went into We're Not Dressing expecting a typical movie, with a bit of a screwball plot. That's not what I got out of it, so on first viewing I was underwhelmed. However, if you watch it for its various pieces instead of a coherent whole, you'll probably have a better experience. Burns and Allen in particular are in fine form.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Moulin Rouge (1952)

I've had the 1952 version of Moulin Rouge on my DVR for a long time, but never watched it to do a review because it seems to be out of print on DVD. The movie is on TCM tonight at 8:00 PM, so now's the time do do a review.

José Ferrer plays painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec who, at the start of the movie is in the Moulin Rouge nightclub in the Paris of 1890. There, he sketches the dancers and drinks his life away. He lives alone because, as a child, he suffered a serious accident that resulted in his legs not healing properly and leaving him physically stunted. The one love of his life up until that time tells him in flashback that no woman is ever going to want him.

One night on the way home from the club, he comes across a prostitute Marie (Colette Marchand) who is getting harassed by the police because, well, prostitution is not exactly legal. Henri tells the policeman that she is actually with him, if only to keep her from getting arrested. He takes her home and, wouldn't you know it, he falls in love with her. It's a stormy relationship, however, and the two ultimately split although he never forgets her.

Time passes and by 1900, Toulouse-Lautrec has created what would become the iconic poster advertising the Moulin Rouge. The poster made a success of the place. Too much of a success, in fact, as the clientele changed from downmarket to upmarket and what made the place so charming is no longer there. Toulouse-Lautrec has become successful enough to have rich people buying his paintings, but he still drinks his life away.

One morning while heading home in a carriage, he runs across a woman who looks like she's thinking of jumping off a bridge into the Seine and to her death. He stops out and talks to that woman, Myriamme (Suzanne Flon), and finds out that she's only there to throw away a key from a suitor she's rejecting. Not long after, mutual friend Jane (Zsa Zsa Gabor), who had worked at the Moulin Rouge and became a legitimate success, introduces the two even though they've already met. They start a tempestuous relationship, although Myriamme's old boyfriend isn't giving up....

Moulin Rouge is a movie that's physically beautiful to watch, thanks to its sumptuous color and its attempt to make things look almost like a Toulouse-Lautrec painting. But unfortunately, that wasn't enough to outweigh the story which, for me, wasn't all that exciting. Henri was a jerk to the people around him, and I didn't care too much for either of the women. But it's the sort of story that will be appealing to some people, so watch and judge for yourself.