The Heavy Lifting, Courtesy TCM

(TCM)

 

I was a bit under the weather yesterday, so I was offline resting my brain and had no idea Kirk Douglas had “left the building” as they say until very early this morning. Needless to say, that wasn’t a good thing to wake up to. Still, at age 103, you could safely say the man lived quite a long life and as an actor, producer and person of some talent and merit for a good deal of those years. Turner Classic Movies has posted two videos about Douglas so far today, but I bet there will be more on a few performances from his individual films at some point.

I don’t have a favorite role of his, but the first film that comes to mind is the monumental and powerful Paths of Glory, which kept an entire theater silent when I first saw in at a Stanley Kubrick retrospective a few decades ago. There are a good deal of other films and performances of his as well to consider, but I’m too weary to cover more here at the moment. I’ll bet on a blogathon of his work in the future that tosses in a few films will likely help some in discovering or recalling the man’s work, but let’s wait and see, shall we?

 

 

(TCM)

 

-GW

Random Film of the Week: The Split (1968)

the split 01

I’d very safely say that her ‘do outdoes his hair here, huh? (say that five times fast).

The Split

Is everybody happy? Well, not for long…

As crime capers go, Gordon Flemyng’s 1968 action/thriller The Split is flawed, but pretty good, even if the big money haul it showcases would be 100% impossible if attempted today. Granted, 2010’s The Town presented a similar heist that was more modern and also successful (until it wasn’t), but in this earlier film, anyone who tries what’s done here today will be in for a few problems from the get-go. You’ll see, but let’s talk about the plot for a bit.

Jim Brown plays Mac McClain, a recently released thief who takes on the task to rob the Los Angeles Colosseum of $500,000 during a football game after he’s led to the job a partner in crime, Gladys (Julie Harris, in a big bouffant hairdo!). After a bumpy but eventually successful encounter/reunion with his ex-wife Ellie (Diahann Carrol). Mac sets his plans into action. Naturally, color plays a big role here, so this first ever R-rated film plays it big on the use of language and insinuations about Mac from a few characters.

the split 07

Lets just say, in the words of one Admiral Ackbar…. (that’s your cue, dear reader)

He recruits four other man to aid him in some rather ridiculous ways, but that gives you the chance to see them react to McClain’s crazy testing. He gets into a big knock down, drag out fight with Bert Clinger (Ernest Borgnine) in Bert’s office, but splits out a sliding door before the man knows what’s what. Then, he leads shady limo driver Harry Kifka (Jack Klugman) into a car chase where he wrecks Harry’s limo and a nice Corvette in the process. McClain also gives suave shooter Dave Negli (Donald Sutherland) a tryout (the crack shot misses his target, but keeps his cool). And then there’s wily safe-cracker Marty Gough (Warren Oates), who gets a hooker, and a vault that needs escaping as his weird tests. Yes, Mac chooses all four to join in on his plans and as expected, they’re initially not happy about this.

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TCM Remembers 2017: Sunset Blvd. Or: Land of the Lost

 

At some point, I actually stopped keeping track of all the entertainment industry deaths this year because it was getting too depressing. I just watched this clip earlier this afternoon and my brain is still spinning inside my skull. Yes, there are some people not included in this list (including a few who recently passed away within the last week). But it’s been one of those long years where the tendency to get overwhelmed by both expected and sudden demises is only a tiny percentage of the stress one has to deal with. Everyone here will be missed, but not forgotten as long as their work remains and there are people who preserve and share it for future audiences to appreciate.

-GW

Random Film of the Week: Tōkaidō Yotsuya kaidan (Ghost Story of Yotsuya)

Tokaido Yatsyua kaidanI don’t believe in ghosts at all (an unapologetic non-flaw of mine), but I do believe in a good ghost story when it works flawlessly in delivering the spine-chilling stuff that leads to a restless night. That said, Nobuo Nakagawa’s 1959 masterpiece Tōkaidō Yotsuya kaidan (Ghost Story of Yotsuya) is one of the more frightening horror films I’ve ever seen. Given that it’s based on Japan’s most popular ghost story (written as a kabuki play and originally performed in 1825), Nakagawa’s film is memorable on a few fronts, melding its stage origins with the director’s perfectly placed camera as he brings us a tried and true tale of murder and vengeance, Japanese style.

You may initially feel sorry for rōnin Iemon Tamiya (Shigeru Amachi) as he begs for the hand of Iwa (Katsuko Wakasugi), but that feeling will vanish about a minute later after Iemon kills Iwa’s father and retainers and his scheming lackey Naosuke (Shuntarô Emi) disposes of the bodies and comes up with a perfect alibi. He later goes to visit a grieving Iwa, but she and her sister Sode (Noriko Kitazawa) want revenge on the man Iemon claims murdered her father. Of course, this doesn’t happen and instead, a respectable samurai named Yomoshichi (Nakamura Ryozaburo) who had a chance with Iwa is tossed off a waterfall thanks to Iemon and Naosuke wanting the two women for themselves. Clearly, Iemon and Naosuke are right bastards, ladies and gentlemen.

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Random Film of the Week: Corruption


 

As mad scientist flicks go, Corruption is something of a forgotten classic in its own crazy manner. You get the great Peter Cushing out of his usual period piece horrors playing a successful plastic surgeon in a more modern 60’s setting, some surprisingly shocking (by mid 60’s standards) content and a laser gone haywire in a finale that may elicit some chuckles from forward thinking Star Wars fans. If you’ve ever wanted to see Cushing go full-tilt, over the top into scenery chomping territory, this one won’t disappoint one bit. While there are some slow expository moments here, the overall film is an interesting slice of horror that while not wholly original, ends up being pretty memorable on a few fronts.

(Thanks, groovemaster!)
 

After the swingin’ credit sequence, we meet Cushing’s Sir John Rowan and his pretty younger fiancée Lynn (Sue Lloyd) at a pretty raucous party. While the good doctor struggles with the mingling, Lynn, who just so happens to be a model, is in the middle of an impromptu photo shoot when Rowan rushes up to stop the snapping away before his squeeze loses all her clothes. Before you can say “Watch out for that hot studio lamp!”, Rowan accidentally knocks said lamp over and it lands on poor Lynn, burning half her face. Ouch! Fortunately, she’s engaged to a very capable plastic surgeon, right? Unfortunately, conventional surgery won’t work this time, so Rowan decides to use Lynn as a guinea pig to try out a little something he’s been working on in secret.

If you’ve seen Georges Franju’s Les yeux sans visage (Eyes Without A Face), you can probably guess things up to a point, For everyone who hasn’t, Répétez après moi, s’il vous plaît:

“What could POSSIBLY go wrong?”(dot dot dot) Continue reading

Planet of the Apes Back on the Big Screen: Not Hard to Fathom At All

Image from impawards.com

Image from impawards.com

 


I think I’ve mentioned this before, but in case you haven’t read that old post, 1968’s Planet of the Apes was the very first movie I saw in a theater. That said, I’m not sure I’ll go to this Fathom Events screening thanks to my backlog keeping my plate full. But to anyone seeing this for the first time or for the first time on a big screen, my glass is raised that your sense of wonder gets the same kick mine did those many years back. If YOU do end up going and are reading this, feel free to drop on by and leave impressions. It’s always fun to hear how modern moviegoers see the classics.

A Few Too Few Words About Christopher Lee…


 

Another light goes out and if you knew the man’s rather astounding body of work it was one of the brightest lights you’d ever seen. While he was known primarily for his work in the horror genre, the late Sir Christopher Frank Carandini Lee was so much more than a one-note performer. Whether or not you liked some of the films he appeared in, he always gave his best even in the worst “B” flicks (Castle of Fu Manchu, anyone?). Some of us recall his films made with the late, great Peter Cushing (I’m partial to Horror Express) while younger viewers will know him from his work in The Lord of the Rings and a few Star Wars films.

I’d pick The Wicker Man (above) as my favorite Lee film because it’s a great flick that challenges viewers who come in expecting a standard horror tale. It’s a surprisingly intelligent genre film that works on a few levels and seeps into your bones for about a week or so after viewing. Go track it down (and don’t bother at all with the horrible remake) along with a few other Lee classics. I’m sure Turner Classic Movies will be running a marathon of his work shortly. But if you’re a film fan with room in your library you should think about adding a few of the man’s always re-watchable works to your collection.

TCM Remembers: It’s Been A Year of Falling Stars…


 

Hmmm. These TCM tributes are getting longer and harder to watch as the years zip by and we lose a few more stars. Yes, it’s not complete, but that can be rectified with a bit of creative calendar juggling. I suppose the thing about starting a new year fresh is big with too many people that changing this tribute’s air date to January would be seen as sacrilege to many. But at least this would insure they got in everyone including actors whose films would probably never be shown on the channel. Okay, I guess it’s a good thing I don’t have a job programming content for a cable channel. All you’d get would be old “B” movies you’ve never seen (or haven’t seen for decades), silly comedies from around the world, oddball random cartoons and the occasional documentary.

And Who Wouldn’t Want To Spend the Evening With Miss Bardot?


 
Well, I have no idea what I’d say or do once I popped out of that time machine and found myself in the presence of the lady, but I’d probably faint dead away from surprise that my time travel experiment worked and wake up a few seconds before I was to be zapped back to the present. Oh well. I guess staying safe at home with these five films is a safer bet:

8PM: And God Created Woman (1956)

9:45PM: Une Parisienne (1957)

11:30PM: Plucking the Daisy (1956)

1:30 AM: The Night Heaven Fell (1958)

3:15 AM: Contempt (1963)

The good thing for me is I’ve only seen two of these films, so the rest will be my first time. Um… er… (*beet!*) you know what I mean! Get your mind out of the gutter, you. I need all that space for mine to float around in later! ;^P

TCM Wants You To Stay Up Late Weekends…With No Chaperone!


 
Although unsupervised movie watching is ALWAYS a darn good idea in my book, TCM’s Underground kind of NEEDS a friendly yet slightly sinister guide to the treasures it holds within. Granted, the channel tried using a host in the past (Rob Zombie), but his tenure didn’t last all that long. I’d LOVE to do this job, as I know a bit about some of the films they run and don’t mind researching the ones I don’t know about. Then again, I’m not exactly the most exciting person on camera as I think I have an aversion to being filmed and I’m not at well-tempered enough to sit in a makeup chair (unless someone’s going to make me look like some monster from a 50’s “B” movie!).

Hmmm, perhaps a compromise is in order. I’ll pretend to host the films while watching at home (yeah, I’ll be talking out loud to my television. Quiet, you in the back!) and TCM can pretend to pay me for my efforts. Yeah, that should work out just FINE. La la la laaa. La la laaaa. I’m a STAR! (Cue the men in white coats in 3… 2… 1..)