Review: Promise Her Anything (1966)


“Strike a pose, there’s nothing to it…”


My brain wants its time back. My eyes… well they were pleased for a hot minute or two.

The very last thing you see before the end credits to Arthur Hiller‘s bizarre 1966 sex comedy Promise Her Anything is a red neon sign that says one word: STOP, which if it had appeared at the start of the film, would have probably saved me the trouble of watching this earlier this morning. To paraphrase Fight Club, “I am Jack’s flabbergasting 98 minutes.”

Let me hip you to the ’60’s era plot so I can get away with torturing, murdering and burying this one as fast as possible, although I may take my time with the torture part, as the movie is very much like scheduling a 98-minute session with a nearsighted dominatrix who happens to be stone deaf, owns a too short set of whips, keeps missing her target, her safe word is “Mister Mxyzptlk” and if you don’t sign it properly with the quotes, she keeps on madly whipping the air. I’ll first apologize to anyone who’s exactly like that in real life or has that particular fetish, by the way.

Anyway, here we we go: A lovely widow with a baby moves into a Greenwich Village apartment on the same floor as a free-spirited guy who makes mail order adult movies but has intentions of making it big in art films one day. They sort of hit it off (although she has no idea of the work he does), but she gets a job as an assistant to a baby-hating child psychologist and plans to woo him because she sees a good provider in that wealth he’s got. Meanwhile, her neighbor becomes quite a helpful babysitter… who keeps trying to bed his emotionally susceptible newly widowed neighbor while secretly putting her child in the films he’s selling.


You’re watching this film for the girls, right? Bless your soul.

Well now, that’s kind of unforgettable for a few reasons, isn’t it?

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Random Film of the Week Quickie: Falstaff (Chimes at Midnight)

Falstaff (Chimes at Midnight) MPA few years ago, I was sitting in a diner waiting for a few friends to arrive and overheard two guys in the booth behind me debating whether or not Orson Welles was a good filmmaker. Wait, what?¬† My ears perked up as one of the guys noted that he thought the only film he ever saw from the director was one he felt was overrated (and nope, it wasn’t Citizen Kane). He was talking about Chimes After Midnight.

It turned out both were film students who had a teacher who wasn’t a fan of the director, had shown the film in his class, and yep, both were new to Welles’ work while also in that uncomfortable place in one’s youth where one questions too much without searching for the proper answers. Eh, I think they were entitled to their opinions, but I’d loved to have sat down with them and made a few points on some of the man’s work they were clearly missing thanks to their biased instructor’s babbling and their lack of seeing more of his output.

The discovery a few years back of a fantastic quality print plus a few other things falling into place means we now have a superb high quality home video version of Orson Welles’ 1965 masterpiece Falstaff (Chimes at Midnight) which just so happens to be one of the better (and looser) adaptations of Shakespeare put on film. Even if you’re not into The Bard’s work, seeing a cinematic genius like Welles pull this off on a low budget while also creating one of the most effective and chaotic battle sequences set to film makes this a must-see movie. Welles, Jeanne Moreau, Margaret Rutherford, John Gielgud, Kieth Baxter and the rest of the cast all give perfect performances, the editing manages to make the year plus it took to put this together even more brilliant and overall, it’s a great film that’s influenced quite a few others that ended up becoming modern (and better remembered) classics.

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Review: The Possessed (Blu-Ray)

The Possessed_00

“On a clear day, you can see forever…”

The PossessedGiven the subject matter, The Lady of the Lake is a better title than The Possessed, lets get that out of the way first and foremost. Granted, it’s also the name you’d use if talking about the legend of King Arthur and with a slight tweak, it’s the name of a 1947 film noir classic that’s a neat experiment. Still, this 1965 Italian murder mystery from co-directors Luigi Bazzoni and Franco Rossellini is a compelling, arty proto-giallo well worth a look.

The film blends both director’s styles in an impressive and intentionally at times hard to follow plot, but its intents are made to keep you guessing what’s true and untrue until the mystery is resolved. While based loosely on a series of actual murders, the at times dreamlike presentation keeps things a lot less grounded as our less than heroic “hero” figures out why the gal he was so madly in love with was possibly murdered.

The Possessed_VL

Virna Lisi as the ill-fated Tilde. She’s not a good girl, it seems.

Bernard (Peter Baldwin), a morose young man with a bit of fame is in the process of writing a new book, visits the same slightly dull Italian village he grew up in only to discover that a pretty maid named Tilde (a stunning Virna Lisi) working at the local inn has died. A little poking around reveals she may have been murdered, but why is that important information held from him (“You didn’t ask.” comes one rather surprising answer early on) and why are there a few potential suspects that happen to be from the same family that owns the inn?

Hmmm… why, indeed? Tilde only appears to him from a few mysterious dreams and flashbacks that may or may not be related to Bernard’s mental state, so he’s maybe as unreliable a narrator as it gets. Hey, at least his hazy, surreal nightmares are pretty darn interesting to say the least.

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Random Films: Knives of the Avenger Finally Makes My Must-Watch List…

Ever NEVER see a movie and a cheap trailer makes you want to do so as soon as possible? Yeah, these days it’s usually the opposite effect, but thanks to Sleaze-O-Rama, I now have a new cheesy classic to add to the viewing list. I’m still discovering Mario Bava’s films after all this time, but Knives of the Avenger looks as if it’ll be a TOTAL hoot from start to finish. Yeah, I know I’m asking for it, but I did ask nicely, dammit. Okay, off to track this down legally or borrow it from someone who has it. I guess it’ll be a Random Film of the week at some point as well…

Random Film of the Week: The Ipcress File

(thanks, Classic British Film!)

The Ipcress File_MPAs far as movie openings go, Sidney J. Furie’s 1965 spy drama The Ipcress File was and still is an attention grabber. There are no studio logos or bombastic fanfares to kick things off here – the film just begins with a pre-credit sequence that has two men walking to a car somewhere in London and you’re hooked in like a greedy trout. A leading British scientist being taken to a train station is mysteriously kidnapped and his escort killed by unseen assailants.

As you’re taking this in (head spinning slightly) the scene shifts to one Harry Palmer (Michael Caine), a myopic former soldier and petty criminal turned British government agent slowly rolling out of bed to start his workday as John Barry’s excellent main title theme buzzes your eardrums. Right from the beginning, this is one of those great ‘pay attention’ movies guaranteed to hold you in its grasp thanks to a cast and crew dedicated to their work… Continue reading

Random Films: Harry Palmer’s Here To See Me. Now, My Weekend Is Complete!

IpcressExcellent. I’d been looking on and off for a copy of The Ipcress File that wasn’t priced like a Krugerrand and either Region 1 or at least not PAL format and as you can see, I had to import one after all. Still, it’s working fine and I’m quite pleased because not only do I get to see an all-time favorite once more after far too long, I get to write about this for an upcoming Blogathon (Hi, Fritzi!). Anyway, I’m off to catch the episode of Fargo I missed last week, then the new Orphan Black and if I’m still awake, I’ll watch this classic, take some notes and pass out ’til tomorrow. And YES, you should be watching both of those shows if you’ve yet to do so.

Yeah, I do live the wild, wild life, ladies and gents! Have the remainder of an awesome Saturday, people! I may be back later tonight, but perhaps not. We shall see. Harry Palmer is in the house and he can’t be ignored or delayed one bit… Well, ALMOST. Sorry, Harry – I just got threatened by some clones!

How My Brain Works (Sometimes): Wie sauber schnee von den Stiefeln (mit musikalischer Begleitung)

So, it snowed a lot last night and part of this morning in a few too many places. Yeah, winter sucks. Anyway, as I was going outside into the stupidly cold air and saw that deeper than it looked but already mostly shoveled snowy white world, some guy comes into the building and starts stomping his feet, one at a time in a beat that made me chuckle because I watch too many movies and retain certain scenes in my head for future use. Why I do this I have zero idea, but I think it’s because it makes me laugh a lot when I see scenes from real life that remind me of made up movie bits.

Anyway, this is probably the ONLY proper comedic use of this interesting musical clip from The Battle of the Bulge. Toss in some crappy bing-translated German above (it’s supposed to say “How to clean snow from your boots (with musical accompaniment)”, but feel free to correct me if I’m wrong) and ta-da! That’s how the magic happens around here. Yeah, magic. “Hey, Rocky? Watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat!”

  (Thanks, GunOfNeverone!) 

Or maybe I just need another cup of coffee. I think I only got about five or so hours of sleep between last night and this morning. Anyway, stay warm and stay the heck inside if you don’t need to be out in this mess. The things I do for you folks…

Annnd While You’re Waiting, Another Free Movie!

Yeah, yeah – I’m furiously typing away on some reviews, but I need to take a break for a bit to rest my eyeballs. YOURS, however can get a workout courtesy another *FREE* movie. Let’s go for a sci-fi vibe with something from Japan:

Yes, that’s 1965’s Attack From Space, a Japanese “movie” I believe was cobbled together from episodes of Super Giant (aka Starman in the U.S. of A.) and shown on American TV way back when. I haven’t seen this in decades, but I’m not seeing it now either as I’m too darn busy! So, um… someone out there send out a signal from space and please tell me how this one is. I know from my vague childhood memories that it’s pretty junky and lame, but that can be a ton of fun under the right circumstances. Enjoy!

Retro Summer Heat: Bad Girls Go to Hell Trailer

BGGTHThis post is for the smiling guy I saw out walking today wearing a suit and tie all buttoned up and saying to his baking lady friend (trying to keep up in her high heels and about to melt makeup) “This heat is NOTHING to me! HAHAHAHAHA!”

Yeah, you suck and the planet you come from sucks as well.

Note: SOME would say this trailer is NSFW, but given that I’m posting this after work hours, YOU can watch it and not feel guilty or cheap. Unless you’re watching this at work and get creeped on by your boss. Oops – now he’s going to think a lot less (or more) of you and you’ll get a raise or a demotion or something. Whatever it is, even if it’s “good”, it’s not good, as now he’ll be sliding by with a grin on his mug, a mug in his claw and a “Whatcha watchin’?” leer to really freak you out. OK, other than clips on some ancient HBO show and stills from a book a friend lent me many years ago, I’ve actually never seen a Doris Wishman-directed film. The trailer makes me want to. It’s the title, silly. Well, OK… the sheer camp value is also the kicker here. Anyway, yeah… some of you need another shower, the rest of you want to chase me around the room with a spiked baseball bat. It’s too hot for the latter, so just stick your head and feet into a nice bucket of ice (or ice cream) and cool off. You can hate me in the winter or something…

Or you can hate the fine folks at Sleaze-O-Rama for twisting your arm and “making” you click that link… and yeah, Bad Girls go to Hell 365 days a year – they just wear less in this weather.

Random Film Of The Week: Alphaville

(thanks, furyprod!) 

Alphaville_MPWhat with all the hype and such over the Total Recall remake plus a few other upcoming sci-fi flicks hitting theaters this year and next, I figured I’d also get in a recommendation of one of my ancient favorites from a great director. Granted, Alphaville: Une √©trange aventure de Lemmy Caution (Alphaville: A Strange Adventure of Lemmy Caution) is going to be a film many younger readers (or those less well versed in cinema) will like or hate outright for its low-tech look and lovely black & white cinematography alone. On the other hand, those viewers willing to dive headfirst into Godard’s film should come up grinning afterwards.

In my own case, I didn’t truly appreciate it until about the third time I saw it. Actually, the movie made me (and still makes me) laugh a lot because it’s so offbeat, but each viewing revealed even more things about it to take away. The whole idea of taking a popular detective from the present day and dropping him into a “futuristic” setting without changing the film noir aesthetic one bit while using real locations around 1965 Paris in unique ways makes for a great film school lesson in minimalism. That said, the film is layered with meaning if you pay attention and maybe have a pot of coffee at the ready if you’re new to this sort of experience. Clever viewers won’t “need a drawing to get the picture” is all I’ll say here…

I won’t even over-detail the plot, as it’s pretty baffling if you try and dive too deep into things and assign meaning and clarity to it all. Basically, super agent Lemmy Caution needs to tackle a three-part objective by putting an end to a super computer overlord controlling a city where not being part of the program is a death sentence. along the way, Caution needs to track down a fellow agent gone missing and kill off the scientist who created the computer. Let’s just say things get REALLY odd, there’s a love interest, an interrogation, a joke-dispensing vending machine, a slow-motion fistfight and a truly weird finale that manages to wrap things up pretty nicely.

I’d also say that next to the brilliance that is Breathless, this is probably the easiest of Godard’s films to get into, so if you’re flipping a coin between this and say, Week-End and Je vous salue, Marie, well, I’d go with this one first. Tracking down a copy on DVD may be a bit difficult, as The Criterion Collection version is currently out of print. However, if you live in an areas with an indie film store, you may find it there. That is, if there are any of those left. I guess the internet is actually more helpful than it usually is in this case, but don’t go blabbing that you went and pirated this or anything. You never know who’s listening and watching. Then again, you DO know… but let’s not give them any more ammunition to use against you in the future, OK?