Random Film of the Week: Gold Diggers of 1933

(Thanks, Classic Fun!)

gold diggers mpFor too many reasonable to reasonably odd reasons, after all these years, I’d never seen ALL of the Mervyn LeRoy/Busby Berkeley film extravaganza that is Gold Diggers of 1933. I’d seen the fantastic beginning many years back as a kid, but it was late at night and I fell asleep at some point, waking up to some other film playing. Another time, the film was on but I missed about half of it and I hate sitting down to watch half a film, and the back half, as that.

Years later, it was on rotation on TCM by this time, so I figured I’d always catch it at some point. By then, I’d seen 42nd Street, Footlight Parade, and a few other similar musicals, so I thought it would be along the same thematic lines. It is to some extent, very much like the others: a simple plot but elaborately made escapist film for the masses.  With its fantasy of three pretty young ladies in a Depression-era New York City finding love and wealth despite their showgirl roots and assorted shenanigans via a case of mistaken identity that stretches credulity as it should in a film like this, it was gong to be as light and breezy a time as could be, I thought.

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He’d buy that for a dollar: Aileen MacMahon, a lucky Guy Kibbee and Ginger Rogers, who. despite her charms, doesn’t get the guy here.

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Go For Broke! Everyone’s Having Year-End Sales (No Sleigh Needed)

(Thanks, BadfishKoo!)

Short and to the point because I’m buried in stuff and you have mass quantities to consume, or something. Here are a few big sales you might be interested in because some neighbor kid made me laugh today when she asked her Tired Mom in the elevator today why people need to shop when “Santa is supposed to bring everything!”. 

Uh, about that…

“Well, this is going to be good,” I thought with a mild chuckle bubbling up. Sales first., story and cookies later.

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Random Film of the Week: Doctor X (DVD)

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For all that trouble setting their private and expensive game show up, no one could guess what was behind Curtain #1.

Dr. XLet’s just say that as a kid of, oh, seven or eight years old back in the 70’s, I had no idea (not a clue!) what I was watching when the local public TV station ran Doctor X so very many years ago. I do recall not knowing what was going on for a bit and some parts were wacky, but yes indeed, I did perk up when the “Synthetic Flesh” scene kicked in. Hell, I was a Frankenstein fan by then, even if my exposure was courtesy Universal Pictures and James Whale and not Mary Shelley until I read the book years later.

When I revisited the good Dr. Jerry Xavier (Lionel Atwill), and the film as I got older into my teens, elements started to click and it was all “Oh, that’s what that means!” on more elements I didn’t understand previouslyWhich of course means that as a grumpier and older old man these days, I’m all over this freak-fest like I’ve run into an old friend I haven’t seen in a while. This one’s pretty funny, pretty grim and completely bonkers. Oh, by the way, Doctor X sounds better and scarier than Doctor Jerry. That and if it were called Dr. J, there’s that slim chance a slimmer handful of folks might get fooled into thinking it’s a sports biopic (heh).

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Jacket jealousy here, as Fay’s got the stripes. but Tracy’s got the tweed and they both win the fashion lottery.

It’s also a great pre-code film, what with its discussion of a few hot topics those who think “well, those old movies were DULL!” might find they’re a bit incorrect about if they ever get off that dead horse they always jump on and see a few of these films. Now a little murder? Hey, that’s fine and dandy in a film about a mysterious killer. Toss in elements like that mysterious killer who happens to cannibalize corpses, a bit of prostitution and rape as story elements, plus a few old guys sitting around talking about their fetishes (hey, that may be the most creepy thing about this to some!), and more atmosphere that you can shake a few sticks at, and you get a true classic.

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Review: The Terminal Man

the terminal manI hadn’t seen Mike Hodges’ somewhat exceptional The Terminal Man for over 40 years, so naturally, that film I derided that long ago for its awful TV edit was quite the gloomy, rewarding surprise as a revisit a day ago as a complete film. As a kid, I can recall vividly the scene where George Segal, wearing a messy blond wig, white suit and whiter shoes was beating a large triangular-headed shiny metal robot to “death” and how it made me laugh as I retold the scene to a few amused school friends.

As you can guess, I want to kick my younger self a bit now (not too hard, though) because it’s one of a number of haunting images the film has and it comes a few minutes after a shocking murder mostly clipped from the TV edit. Initially to be directed by its author, Michael Crichton (who the studio felt was changing his own novel too much for the film), Hodges was given the task of getting it into the depressing, downbeat sci-fi thriller it turned out to be, writing and directing the project himself. Amusingly, I came into the film as a fan of The Andromeda Strain. The film version of that had me go take the book from the the library that past summer and I blew through it a few times (it’s a fast, tense read and took under a day to blaze through non-stop the first time). So I didn’t get the less conventional manner in which some of The Terminal Man was structured. Well, the edited network version didn’t help much, that’s for sure.

terminal_man_ver3That initial derision from my younger self was also a definite case of being too young to grasp the film’s tone and my only exposure to Segal’s work being a few comedic and lighter performances. Seeing the film now reveals the range and rage on display, or an actor fully in charge of the character he’s inhabiting. As Harry Benson, a computer scientist prone to anger and seizures, he goes through an experimental surgery that has a tiny computer hooked into his brain to keep things under control.

Guess what? The early predictions of a successful recovery by his smug doctors? Yeah, they’re rendered into obsolescence when Harry decides to stop taking his meds and escapes from the hospital with the help of his girlfriend (Jill Clayburgh) who has no idea Harry’s implanted computer (which she has no clue about) is going to misfire quite badly. There’s murder and mayhem to follow, but the film doesn’t go to places it doesn’t need to outside of telling its particular tale, clocking in at a lean 107 minutes before it ends.

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(Not-So) Random Film of the Week: Barry Lyndon

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Where it all begins for one Redmond Barry.

Barry Lyndon is a story which does not depend upon surprise. What is important is not what is going to happen, but how it will happen.

Stanley Kubrick

barry_lyndon_ver1_xlgMy first introduction to Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon was via the most likely means most 11-year olds with little to no interest in certain three-hour plus films made by somewhat visionary directors had at the time: MAD Magazine. I do recall that particular issue was confiscated from the classmate who owned it later in the day by a somewhat strict English (Literature) teacher who didn’t appreciate his not paying attention during her class. Fortunately, the magazine was returned the following day with a note that student had to take to his parents about his reading habits during class and oddly (or not so oddly) enough, a public library copy of The Luck of Barry Lyndon for him to read, write a book report on and return to the teacher. It turned out the teacher was a big fan of Kubrick’s film but had never read the MAD version, so she took it home, read it and liked the parody. Thus the somewhat unusual  temporary gift and form of “punishment”.

You gotta love good teachers, friends. Go and hug one today (er, with consent, of course).

I’ve had the feeling for some time that I may have wished for such a tremendous fate back then, as it took quite a few years more for me to actually read the book Kubrick adapted and altered somewhat using groundbreaking lighting techniques and some of the most gorgeous and true to life costume recreations ever put on film. It’s also a film where you can practically hear its director chuckling as he reworked the book into his own style that in my opinion, fits in well with Thackeray’s original writing. Droll, deadpan humor is laced throughout the dramatic scenes, all of which are masterfully composed shots that may have you pausing the film to admire a landscape or painterly composition (of which there are many). Excellent performances from the cast all around also help, as does realizing that Redmond Barry (Ryan O’Neal) isn’t supposed to “act” here in the sense of a person throwing himself into a part and chewing up the scenery. He’s perfectly cast as a man in a particular point in history where both good to terrible things happen and he reacts as he sees fit (which isn’t always accordingly).

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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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Warner Archive’s 4 for $44 Sale Gets You Some Great Flicks Cheap


 

Ever have one on THOSE days where you need to go home and just chill out in front of the tube with some great “B”, classic or other fun movie? Well, Warner Archive has you covered if you act fast. Check out their 4 For $44 Sale on a whopping 2,176 Blu-Rays and DVD’s… and don’t be so darn surprised after you’ve spent well over $44. This is a great selection of stuff from Hollywood classics, foreign flicks and even a few old TV shows you maybe thought you’d never see again. Even better, FREE SHIPPING is on board for you if you’re in the U-S of A, whee!

Hey, at least you’ll have something better to do than hunker down in front of the bunker tube sucking down depressing news or hanging yourself on some social needy-a site eating peanut butter on hardtack with sardines from your doomsday stash while worrying yourself sick over what The Little Truck Driver is up to. Hey, that’s not what I’ve been up to, as I wouldn’t mix peanut butter and sardines if you paid me. I think I have a hardtack recipe here, though. Anyway, go buy some stuff because you know you’ve always wanted to make a fort out of DVD and Blu-Ray cases. All that goodness expires on March 26at 6am EST, so get clicking, folks!

-GW

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Justice League Trailer: See? Gee! Aye.


 


 

Hmmm. On one hand, the Justice League trailer does what it needs to do and does it well enough that DC fans will appreciate everything it has to offer, so that’s good. On the other hand, the CG-packed visuals (is there a single shot that’s not enhanced in some way?) complete with Zack Snyder’s trademark dark, gritty visuals make it look like another loud post-summer blockbuster non-fans might want to avoid in favor of some quiet time with a good book. As usual, I’m ambivalent here. I’ll see this when I have the time as I’m not so wholly invested in these soopa-hee-ro flicks to trample over some old ladies on the way to the nearest megaplex. Unless, of course I get an invite to some big deal star-studded premiere here in NYC, whereupon I’ll turn into Richard Widmark as Tommy Udo from Kiss of Death (sorry in advance, old ladies! But, bonus points if you have a few baskets of puppies and freshly baked cookies in your laps):

(Thanks, Doug Jay!)
 

Or perhaps not. Hey, that Widmark sure would have made a fantastic Joker had anyone back then wanted to make a real Batman film and not some budget-minded serial, huh? Amirite? Anyway, an invite to a screening isn’t a mandate and I don’t feel like buying or renting a tuxedo penguin outfit for the occasion. I do have a suit here, but it’s probably not going to fit my winter fat self even a few months down the road as the film opens November 17 and I’ll be back to stuffing myself silly again. Eh, whatever. Suicide Squad won a friggin’ Oscar, so who knows what will happen with this film.

-GW

(NOTE: no old ladies were harmed in the making of this post, the baskets of puppies were all adopted to good homes and yes, I’m eating the freshly-baked cookies as I type this, yum!)

4D Cityscape Makes For A (Not So) Puzzling Last Minute Gift Idea


 

Need a super cool last minute gift and you just so happen to be within fast traveling distance of any of these retailers? Well, here you go. 4D Cityscape’s wonderfully awesome and complex takes on some pop culture faves. I personally haven’t put a puzzle together in too many years, but these all stand out as more than welcome chances to get by brain firing up in spots where it’s been snoozing too much. Someone get these guys a few more licenses, as I bet Star Wars fans would love to see some iconic locations represented in 4D puzzle form.

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4d-cityscape-game-of-thrones-essos
 

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-GW

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Blade Runner 2049: Wake Up… Time To Cry

(Read in Deckard’s voice):

I woke up late and with a headache. This teaser was waiting for me like a cat sitting on my chest with a freshly killed canary in its mouth as a present. Of course, that cat and the canary were from the dream I had last night, but that’s not important. Did you know you can’t accidentally step on a cat in a dream because it’ll always get out of the way? Of course, you can definitely step on an origami unicorn, which is kind of painful if you’re getting out of bed at 3am to go to the bathroom. Ow. Someone keeps leaving those damn things around the house in the strangest places. I found one in a sealed bottle of whisky last week. If it’s Gaff, he’s got some talent… and a weird sense of humor…

Yeah, that makes no sense because I never thought Blade Runner needed a proper sequel. We shall see, though. This teaser copies the languid pacing and gritty future noir tone of the original and yes, seeing an old Ford pop out of the shadows in a grin-worthy sight. That said, if he’s the sole link to the first film cast-wise, it may feel a bit awkward to younger viewers who never saw it or somehow don’t get what the connection is to Gosling and his funky coat. Oh, you can stop doing that Deckard voice now. It was only for that fake quote. I actually did wake up late, though. Off to find some coffee – back in a bit.

-GW