Thursday, September 29, 2016

TCM's Gene Wilder programming tribute


Gene Wilder (l.) and Jill Clayburgh in Silver Streak (1976)

Gene Wilder died at the end of last month, and TCM is finally getting around to running its programming tribute tonight. Unfortunately, some of Wilder's better-known movies aren't showing up probably because TCM couldn't get the rights to run them. But at least they've got Young Frankenstein at 9:15 PM. In and around that there's:

8:00 PM Role Model: Gene Wilder, an interview Wilder did for TCM with Alec Baldwin some years back;
9:15 PM Young Frankenstein, Mel Brooks' spoof of the horror genre;
11:15 PM a reprise of the Role Model interview;
12:30 AM Start the Revolution Without Me, about twins getting caught up in the French Revolution;
2:15 AM The Frisco Kid, a comedy about a rabbi out west; and
4:30 AM Bonnie and Clyde, in which Wilder has a small part getting carjacked by Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

How old was Joan Crawford, anyway?

Stories of age discrimination have always been a thing in Hollywood. You have people at the young end trying to claim they're older than they really ae so they can be adults, and then at later ages, people claiming they're younger than they are so that they won't be preceived as old. I've seen various years of birth listed for Joan Crawford and Jane Wyman, for example, with the younger ones turning out to be the correct one as far as anyone can tell.

Apparently there are people still worried about age discrimination. Somebody actually tried to sue IMDb for putting out their real age; the person had been a subscriber to IMDb Pro which apparently people in the industry use for information. I'm not in the industry so I wouldn't know. But the Screen Actors Guild has responded by getting the California legislature to pass a law preventing web-sites from revealing dates of birth of paying subscribers. On the face of it, this seems reasonable, in that one shouldn't have one's personal information released. But this is a site where people are publicizing themselves.

The law is probably unconstitutional, and it's interesting that one of the only lawyers to say it does pass constitutional muster is the one working for SAG. But with today's judges, who knows what they'll find constitutional?

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The last week of slapstick

This month's TCM Spotlight, on slapstick comedy, concludes this week with movies of the 1970s on Tuesday and 1980s and more recent movies on Wednesday in prime time. Some people may be shocked to see Anchorman on tomorrow night's schedule, but if you're doing a general survey that looks at the history of a genre, including something from only 10 years ago isn't that ridiculous.

The other interesting thing is that tonight kicks off at 8:00 PM with Bananas. Now, I happen to enjoy the movie, but there are a couple of scenes that I'm surprised to see showing up on TCM that early in the evening. There's a whole scene where he's trying to buy a pornographic magazine, as well as the final scene of Howard Cosell doing play-by-play of a married couple's first night. TCM doesn't cut movies, but they do tend to leave more difficult stuff for later in the evening.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Roller Boogie

So one of the movies I watched off my DVR over the weekend was Roller Boogie. It's available from the TCM Shop on both DVD and Blu-ray, so I'm comfortable doing a full-length post on it even though I don't think it's on the TCM schedule any time soon.

The movie opens to the strains of Cher singing a disco-styled song, with a bungh of people getting ready to go out roller skating in Venice Beach, CA, in what looks like Busby Berkeley meets the 1970s. Well, not quite Busby Berkeley, but close. Bobby (Jim Bray) is the best skater around, to the point that he's training for the Olympics! Now, of course, roller skating was not an Olympic event then, and still isn't one, but whatever. Suspend your disbelief here.

Meanwhile, over in Beverly Hills, there's rich girl Terry (Linda Blair). She's misunderstood by her parents (Roger Perry and Beverly Garland). Although she's an excellent flautist and is on her way to getting a scholarship to Juilliard, she wants to roller skate, and takes her car, gets friend Lana (Kimberly Beck), and goes off to Venice Beach. Now, you know she's going to meet Bobby, because there's no point in having a movie otherwise if you don't have a hoary plot point like this. Not only that, but she's going to fall in love with him, which is of course going to be a problem since they're from completely different social classes and because Terry's parents think the hilariously square Franklin (Chris Nelson) is right for her.

Once Bobby and Terry meet, Bobby teaches Terry how to skate, and spends some time with her at the skater's hangout rink, owned by past champion Jammer Delaney (Sean McClory). Jammer's rink is going to host the big roller boogie competition, too, and Terry is set on entering with Bobby and winning. There's one catch. Property developer Thatcher (Mark Goddard) has been trying to buy up the land, and has reached the point that he's willing to use his hired goons to intimidate Jammer into selling. Complicating things is that Terry's father happens to be Thatcher's lawyer, although Terry doesn't realize this.

Now, you can guess exactly where the movie is going to go, that the roller boogie competition is going to be held after all, and that Bobby and Terry are going to win, all obstacles during the movie aside. And yet the movie is still worth watching. Why is that?

Roller Boogie, it turns out, is hilariously awful. The plot is insipidly unoriginal, and not helped one bit by a male lead who couldn't act. To be fair to the producers, however, the role called for somebody who could actually roller skate almost as well as Sonja Henie could ice skate. Henie wasn't the greatest actress, although she got plots suitable for her limited range. Bray isn't even that good an actor. The movie is hilarious in all the wrong places.

Roller Boogie also winds up being worth a watch because it's a paean to the late 1970s. The fashions will, by turns, fascinate, astonish, and horrify the viewer. The 70s short-shorts combined with knee-high tube socks are interesting. Everybody gets to wear skimpy stuff, whether it's the women in either bikini tops or skin-tight leotards, or the men wearing shirts open all the way down the chest (or even the one guy in the opening number roller skating in the sort of old-fashioned wrestling singlet that covers up very little -- watch for the old Adidas logos in various spots too). There's also the 1970s technology; watch for the telephones as well as the one black character's headphones and cassette player.

And then there are the musical numbers. I mentioned the opening one reminiscent of Busby Berkelery; there are a couple other crowd numbers too. More shocking is a solo number Bobby does when he learns Jammer is closing down the rink. What's up with that one.

Roller Boogie goes off the rails in oh so many ways, but it winds up being fun because of this.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

High and Dizzy

I couldn't think of anything to post about this morning without checking to see which movies I've watched recently are in print on DVD, so I decided to present the 1920 Harold Lloyd short High and Dizzy. It's available on Youtube, and since the copy shown doesn't seem to have a score (at least, not in the opening credits that I watched, there's no copyright problems for those who would worry:

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Rome Express

Some months ago, I bought a copy of the movie Rome Express on DVD. Although I bought my copy cheaply at Amazon, it's not out of print since you can get it at the TCM Shop too. I finally got around to watching it last weekend, and I can certainly recommend it.

The movie opens at a railway station, presumably one of those in Paris since there's an overnight train going to Rome and there was no Chunnel yet for trains to use. Various characters embark. Alistair McBane (Cedric Hardwicke) is a millionaire in the days when that was a lot of money; he wants to use his money to make himself look better and seems to enjoy spending his time treating his servant like dirt. There's an actress Asta (Esther Ralston) with a past, and her publicist Sam (Finlay Currie) trying to puff her up; a divorcée; and the very nervous Poole (Donald Calthrop). He's trying to get away from the mysterious Zurta (Conrad Veidt) and Zurta's companion.

It turns out that there's been a Van Dyke painting stolen, and Poole and Zurta both know something about it. Zurta just knows that Poole has it in his possession to fence it but that Poole is trying to double-cross him. Poole obviously thinks that Zurta is on to this which is why Poole wants to avoid him. Humorously, Poole winds up getting "introduced" to Zurta -- as if they don't already know each other -- at a poker game in the club car!

Poole takes his attaché case, which happens to have the painting hidden inside, to the club car, but wouldn't you know it, McBane's servant/secretary has a very similar-looking case, and he's in the club car doing some late night work. Obviously you can figure that the two cases are going to get mixed up and that this is going to add to the suspense. It's also going to get a bunch more people involved in the robbery, if at least unwittingly or as witnesses.

One of the reviewers on IMDb made a comparison between this movie and Grand Hotel, both of which came out around the same time. I think a better reference would be to Union Depot, since it has the same conceit of intersecting stories but set at a train station. (I thought I had done a full-length post on Union Depot, but apparently not.) More similarly, Union Depot and Rome Express both come across as lower-budget (the former having Warner Bros.' realism and the latter being British) without the gloss that MGM could give to Grand Hotel.

That doesn't mean Rome Express is in any way a bad movie. The intersecting stories work well together in the end, although you'll have to pay a lot of attention. There's a fair amount of suspense here, which is in part down to the screenplay of Sidney Gilliat, who would later do the screenplays for Alfred Hitchcok's The Lady Vanishes and Carol Reed's Night Train to Munich. Conrad Veidt and Cedric Hardwicke are both quite good, albeit in different ways. All in all, Rome Express is well worth watching.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Briefs for September 23-24, 2016

So I got to watch the beginning of TCM's recent presentation of It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, and noticed that it had the overture. I have to get up at 4:30 to work the early shift, so I didn't get to stay all the way through the end, and didn't get to see if it was the full ~190-minute version, or whether the short that had been on TCM's schedule ran.

As for shorts, I'll repeat that there's a paucity of them on the schedule right now for whatever reason. TCM's online schedule only lists three, with two of them starting right on a half hour and the third being part of the Underground schedule. As for the first two, those were already on the printable monthly schedule that I would have downloaded at the end of August. Wedding in Monaco at 4:00 PM is clearly there since it's at the end of a half day of Grace Kelly movies. Hollywood Handicap at 7:30 PM, well, I'm not certain why it's there, but there it is.

I actually watched a DVD over the weekend. I've been meaning to get around to doing a post on the movie, since it's obviously available, what with my having purchased it from Amazon earlier this year. But various other things have prevented me for the time being. Probably this weekend.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Idiocracy screenings

Somebody on another forum notified me that, in view of the movie's 10th anniversary and because of what's happened in American culture over those last 10 years, the movie Idiocracy is getting a special one-night showing, along the lines of what TCM does with Fathom Events showing classic movies. (Of course, this is in conjunction with a diffferent set of people, but that's beside the point.) Anyhow, the link for it is here; the nearest theatre to me is down in Yonkers so I won't be going.

Apparently, director Mike Judge and star Maya Rudolph will be doing a question and answer session in conjunction with the showings; the joys of having movies be presented digitally rather than by film. It would have been much harder to do such a Q&A if you didn't have the digital link, I'd presume. I'm reminded of the ending of Five of a Kind, where the Dionne quintuplets are shown in a movie theather via a television hookup, this being the infancy of television.

There's also the time I saw Idiocracy show up on Comedy Central. My goodness did they have to edit a lot out.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Curtis Hanson, 1945-2016

Oscar-winning screenwriter/director Curtis Hanson has died aged 71. Hanson's career started in the 1970s and continued up until his death. As for that Oscar, it came in the screenwriting category: Hanson both wrote the screenplay for, and directed, L.A. Confidential. The screenplay won him the Oscar; he was also nominated for directing, and producing, as the producer(s) of a movie receive the nomination for Best Picture.

Among Hanson's other work, he directed the thriller The Hand that Rocks the Cradle, as well as 8 Mile.

Another It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World heads-up



Back in October 2012 when Spencer Tracy was TCM's Star of the Month, they ran It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World as part of the salute. Unfortunately, the running time was only listed as 159 minutes, which implies it's a cut version. In the past, TCM had been running what I think was the roadshow version, with an overture, intermission music, and exit music, and well as one scene that's not in the 159-minute version; IMDb lists the "original version" as 192 minutes, which I think is about how long the print TCM used to run that had the overture et al. ran.

Well, TCM is showing It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World again tonight as part of its salute to slapstick, and once again it's the 159-minute version, with a short coming up at 10:44 PM. The next feature, The Great Race, begins at 11:15 PM, so just in case TCM does get the ~190-minute print, they'd probably have just enough time to run it.