Review: Love Laughs at Andy Hardy (1946)

Love Laughs at Andy Hardy_MP

This French poster looks as it was started in 1909 and completed a few dozen years later.

“Well, I certainly wasn’t going to laugh…”  is what I immediately thought after viewing this tepid 1946 film on TCM a few evenings ago. To be fair, I’d seen a few Andy Hardy films in the past and found them to be drolly amusing light comedies and as fluffy as could ever be possible, especially the three with a young Judy Garland as Mickey Rooney‘s co-star. This effort, however just left me cold and in a few parts, rubbed me the wrong way save for one performance that steals the show.

The absolutely drop-dead gorgeous Dorothy Ford was actually 5′ 11″, but played her too brief part as Coffy Smith at well over six feet in heels and yes, steals the film from Mickey Rooney’s tired but competent shenanigans. She also turns out to be the “wisest” character in this film, offering up some sage relationship advice and dealing with having to dance with Rooney in a lively, but paradoxically strangely dull sequence where her height is the butt of a few jokes. Andy being about breast high being one none too subtle bit, but that’s actually funny for a few seconds.

 

 

Then again, the film very likely will be loved by the comfort flick crowd for a lot of the usual things the franchise was known for. You get that long Andy and Judge Hardy (Lewis Stone) talk with morality and choices as the center, and yes, the family Hardy is as wholesome as Instant Ralston with Jam, and cream mixed in (ewww). There are some amusing moments like the homecoming sequence when Andy comes back from his service in WWII, and a few of the college scenes are cute and chuckle-worthy. Still, for me, the film was a chore to sit through because of the “Poor Andy Hardy” scent emanating from the plot.

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Arrow Video: Only Two In January, But What A Pair

While there are only two releases from Arrow Video this month, both are films I’ve not seen, so this is a good thing. Actually, every month is a good thing for film releases from Arrow, as their restorations are pretty stellar and in most cases, you get a wealth of special features that give some films a bit of commentary and perspective.

edge of the axe

First up is 1988’s Edge of the Axe ($39.95, 1/28/2020),  a film that I didn’t see back then, but it’s popped up in a few recommendations over the decades, so it’s now on the list of stuff to see. I’ll no doubt be diving under a blanket, if that cover art is any indication.

From cult Spanish filmmaker José Ramón Larraz (Vampyres, Symptoms) comes this long-neglected late 80s slasher classic, finally unleashed on Blu-ray for the first time ever!

The rural community of Paddock County is being rocked by the crazed exploits of an axe-wielding psychopath, who stalks the night in a black trenchcoat and mask. As the victims pile up, the authorities attempt to keep a lid on the situation, whilst computer whizz-kid Gerald and girlfriend Lillian seek to unmask the killer before the town population reaches zero. Nominally set in Northern California but shot primarily in Madrid, giving the film an off-kilter, American/European atmosphere akin to the likes of Pieces, Edge of the Axe is a late entry hack-and-slash masterpiece from one of the titans of Spanish terror.

  • Brand new 2K restoration from the original camera negative
  • English and Spanish language versions of the feature
  • Original uncompressed mono audio
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtrack
  • Newly translated English subtitles for the Spanish soundtrack
  • Brand new audio commentary with actor Barton Faulks
  • Brand new audio commentary with The Hysteria Continues
  • Newly-filmed interview with actor Barton Faulks
  • The Pain in Spain – a newly-filmed interview with special effects and make-up artist Colin Arthur
  • Image Gallery
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly-commissioned artwork by Justin Osbourn
  • FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Collector’s booklet featuring new writing by Amanda Reyes

black angelNext up is Black Angel ($39.95, 1/28/2020) from 1946. This film noir is one I’ve wanted to see for a while, but haven’t gotten around to yet (what else is new, right?). I read a while back the person who wrote the book hated the film version, so that alone had me curious, as the cast made up of a few really solid actors and the director was pretty ace as well.

Elegantly directed by Hollywood veteran Roy William Neill (best known for his 11 Sherlock Holmes films starring Basil Rathbone), Black Angel is an underappreciated film noir treasure, adapted from a novel by the acclaimed crime writer Cornell Woolrich (Phantom Lady).

When the beautiful singer Mavis Marlowe (Constance Dowling) is slain in her chic apartment, the men in her life become suspects. There is Martin Blair (Dan Duryea, Scarlet Street), her alcoholic musician ex-husband, nursing a broken heart; there is the shady nightclub owner Marko (Peter Lorre, Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon) who has been sneaking around her place, and there is Kirk Bennett (John Phillips), the adulterer who found his mistress’s dead body and fled the scene. When Bennett is convicted and sentenced to death, his long-suffering wife Catherine (June Vincent) joins forces with the heartbroken pianist Martin Blair to uncover the truth… Black Angel is a consummate 1940s crime thriller which boats a suspenseful narrative, strong performances and atmospheric, meticulously lit cinematography.

Roy William Neill’s film is presented here in a sumptuous restoration, with several illuminating new extras.

  • Brand new restoration from original film elements by Arrow Films
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
  • Uncompressed Mono 1.0 PCM audio soundtrack
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • New audio commentary by the writer and film scholar Alan K. Rode
  • A Fitting End, a new video appreciation by the film historian Neil Sinyard
  • Original trailer
  • Gallery of original stills and promotional materials
  • Reversible sleeve featuring two artwork options
  • FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by author Philip Kemp

With both set for release on the same day, I smell a double feature here. At least that’s my plan for these two.

-GW

Review: So Dark the Night (Blu-Ray)

So Dark the Night_01

How do you say “bleak as hell” in French?

So Dark the Night coverDeceptively beginning as a charming budget flick, Joseph H. White’s 1946 film noir So Dark The Night becomes so much its name as it devolves into sheer bleakness despite a fairly cliché-filled script. Without spoiling too much, its tale of a defective detective is a lot less Clouseau and a lot more Hitchcock as time goes on. But on a second viewing, it’s clear that the cheery tone the film begins with is a perfect setup to what’s to come.

When happy go lucky but weary Parisian detective Henri Cassin (Steven Geray) takes a much-needed vacation to a peaceful French village, a series of murders occur that has him using his years of well-honed skills to solve the crimes, but a proper solution escapes him until he realizes the shocking truth.

This corker of a thriller is expertly directed and shot, clocking in at a tidy 71 minutes has a few issues, but considering them in a film that looks so polished when judged in today’s terms, it’s a hidden gem that deserves a second look. Yes, some of the “Frenchiness” is stereotypical Hollywood and parts of the third act seem as if they come out of thin air. But when you realize what’s taking place earlier may be the results of a deluded mind (and excellent score), it all makes sense.

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(Not So) Random Film of the Week: The Big Sleep

the big sleep MPI’ve probably seen Howard Hawks’ The Big Sleep about a dozen or so times over the years and I still can’t properly describe the plot of the film even after finally reading the Raymond Chandler novel it’s based on. That said, it’s always been a fun classic film to watch a few times because Humphrey Bogart plays his part so effortlessly and the other actors follow suit with some solid performances.

Yes, I know the film is all about private eye Philip Marlowe’s (Humphrey Bogart) somewhat interesting and somewhat laid back investigation process in a particularly confounding murder/extortion/sex/drugs case where a number of bodies drop before all is said and done.  That said, the plot spills all over the place like a tipsy barmaid wearing roller skates trying to carry a tray of drinks onboard a capsizing ship.  In the end, none of the plot bumps really hurt the movie because you’ll likely end up loving the end result for Howard Hawks’ directing and the cast doing their best with that loopy William Faulkner/Jules Furthman/Leigh Brackett script (which got a few other hands involved as well).

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The film is also a great look at the real-life blossoming Bogart and Bacall relationship with the snappy chemistry between the pair (working together for the second time) getting the sparks going full on despite the Hays Code restrictions. In other words, a little innuendo goes a long way, folks. That said, rather than do a rote retelling of the plot (which would take a longer post, trust me), this bit of pillow fluff will take a detour into Philip Marlowe’s amusingly laid back approach to dealing with most of the film’s other actors.

(Thanks, TheTrailerBlaze!)

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Random Films: Two From France I Can’t Watch…

made in franceOK, some stuff from the vaults with a goofy story behind them. My late dad gave me a box of VHS tapes around 15 or 20 years back and these two were ones that I couldn’t play on my NTSC tape player (they’re both SEACAM format). I recall telling him this later when he called to ask if I liked the movies and he said he’d “get back to me” later on this. I knew what that meant, so I told him he didn’t have to go looking for a player here at all because even if he DID find one, I’d still need a TV that could play it. If you ever knew my dad long enough, you’d know he had a sort of single-minded pursuit of the great deal mindset to him that was fascinating and slightly pesky once in a while when he’d end up with multiples of some items if you’d simply asked for one. I had to stop him from looking for a VCR and TV on that occasion because I knew he’d somehow find both in his travels and I really didn’t want him to spend that money just so I could watch two movies, one of which I’d already seen…

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Random Film Of The Week: A Matter Of Life and Death (Stairway to Heaven)

(thanks, littleiceage!)

A Matter of Life and Death_MPI’d heard about this classic 1946 British film from a few people over the years (it was released in the US as “Stairway to Heaven”, a title disliked by the directors), but thanks to TCM, last night I finally got the chance to see this Michael Powell/Emeric Pressburger gem and it’s about as perfect a movie as I can recommend to anyone. This isn’t a review at all, but more of a quick recommendation.

Check out the great sequence above and track down a copy somewhere, add it to your Netflix or other (LEGAL) film download queues and give it a look as soon as possible, I say. As with Powell and Pressburger’s other films for The Archers, the visual style, use of color (the amazing Technicolor work and scene transitions from color to black & white are flawless) and of course, the story and acting are all on point. Additionally, the stunning cinematography by Jack Cardiff makes for some memorable artistic moments where it counts.

(BTW, Powell’s The Red Shoes also comes highly recommended if you’ve never seen it and makes a stellar companion piece to Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan, as both contain similar thematic elements)