Film Writing Nov. 2016 – April 2017

It’s been awhile. Work obligations, as well as personal projects and other responsibilities, have taken precedence over updating my blogs. Of course, you can always find me on my Tumblr as well as Twitter & Facebook. Before I let another month get away, I thought I’d finally share an update to the film writing I’ve done for the last 6 months.

I’ve broken topics up into 4 categories (Horror Cinema, British Cinema, Japanese Cinema and Other) since I tend to focus on 3 subjects more than any others. Hopefully, it will make it easier for readers to find what they’re looking for. As always, I write about film every week for FilmStruck’s Streamline blog and you can find my latest updates here: http://streamline.filmstruck.com/author/cinebeats/

ROSEMARY'S BABY (1968)

Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

Horror Cinema:
Devil’ Advocate: Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
Venomous Snakes & Poison Ants: Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)
A Double Dose of Boris Karloff
The Devil Made me Do It: La Main Du Diablo (1943)
An Actor’s Revenge: Theatre of Blood (1973)

LONELINESS OF THE LONG DISTANCE RUNNER, THE (1962)

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962)

British Cinema:
Angry Cinema: The British New Wave
Losey Let Loose: The Criminal (1960)
Margaret Lockwood is The Wicked Lady (1945)
Equal Shares For All: The League of Gentlemen (1960)

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Belladonna of Sadness (1973)

Japanese Cinema:
– Screen Sorcery: Belladonna of Sadness (1973)
Nippon Noir: Celebrate #noirvember with FilmStruck
Everyone’s Gone Crazy: Violent Cop (1989)
Tokyo Gone Gagaga: Otaku (1994) The film is actually an international production directed by French filmmaker Chris Marker but the focus is on Japan

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Red Desert (1964)

Other:
Surveying the Red Desert (1964)
My Melancholy Valentine: Dans Paris (2006)
There Are No Safe Spaces: An Arturo Ripstein Double Feature
Adventure in Istanbul: Topkapi (1964)
Joan Bennett: Fritz Lang’s Muse
Stranger Than Fiction: The Baron of Arizona (1949)
Creative Collaboration: Jane B. par Agnès V. (1988)
Adolescent Adventure: The World of Henry Orient (1964)
The Search for Common Ground: A Separation (2011)
Strokes of Genius: Moulin Rouge (1952)
The Future is Now: Remembrance of Things to Come (2001)

Six Months of Movie Morlocks: May – Oct. 2016

It’s been an interesting, busy and to be honest, an extremely stressful year due to some ongoing medical issues I’m dealing with that you can read more about here: Vertigo: Hitchcock was wrong.

In turn, I’ve been terribly lax about updating the blog but due to looming work related developments that I’ll be sharing soon, I thought it was time to finally play catch up with Cinebeats’ readers. What follows are links to some of the most interesting (in my estimation) writing I’ve done for TCM’s Movie Morlocks blog during the past six months.

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Spotlight on AIP with Roger Corman
Mistress of Menace: Barbara Steele in The Pit and the Pendulum (1961)
Sexual Revolution on Campus – Three in the Attic (1968)
Robert Fuest & His Abominable Creations
Revisiting The Terror (1963) on Blu-ray
TCM Star of the Month: Olivia de Havilland @ 100
Summer Reading Suggestions

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The Whole World is Watching: Medium Cool (1969)
Poster Gallery: Remembering Jack Davis 1924-2016
Fay Wray: The Clairvoyant (1934)
Roddy McDowall: Celebrity Photographer
Angie Dickinson in Cry Terror! (1958)
A Grand & Moving Thing: The King and I (1956)

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Offbeat Otto: Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon (1970)
52 Films By Women: #52FilmsByWomen
Out of the Closet: Tab Hunter Confidential (2015)
My Visit to the Francis Ford Coppola Winery
Paranormal Police Procedural: Nothing But the Night (1972)
The Amazing, Amazing Mr. X (1948)

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Jan. & Feb. 2016 at TCM’s Movie Morlocks

Links to some of the writing I did for TCM’s Movie Morlocks blog in Jan. & Feb.

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Jan. 7: William Cameron Menzies: Chandu the Magician (1932)

Excerpt: “In recent weeks, you might have heard about the upcoming Doctor Strange film currently scheduled for release in November of 2016. The news caught my attention because I’ve always liked the comic book character and the cast, which includes Benedict Cumberbatch, Mads Mikkelsen, Tilda Swinton and Chiwetel Ejiofor, is impressive. I mention all this because tonight TCM is launching their month-long spotlight on legendary production designer and director, William Cameron Menzies. Some classic film fans might balk at the idea of mentioning the upcoming Doctor Strange movie and William Cameron Menzies in the same paragraph but there are slender threads that connect the two thanks to Menzies’s creative contributions to Chandu the Magician (1932)”

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Jan. 14: 15 Favorite Films of 2015

Excerpt: “Many of the best performances I saw last year were given by actors who were 65-years old or older suggesting younger generations of performers could still learn a lot from actors like Charlotte Rampling, Tom Courtenay, Ian McKellen, Richard Jenkins and Kurt Russell (who will be turning 65 in March!). I hope it also encourages future filmmakers to create roles that allow these veteran actors to strut their stuff.”

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Jan. 21: ’60s Spy Stories: Gila Golan

Excerpt: “Femme fatales are as important to ‘60s spy films as they are to Film Noir but one of the most frequent criticisms of the genre is its questionable depiction of women. While it’s true that they’re often treated as mere sexual objects in these espionage romps and are regularly introduced into the paper-thin plots to give the male leads something to ogle, the particulars are a bit more complex than that. If you watch enough of these panache productions you begin to notice how subversive many of them are. Sure, the women might dress in sexually suggestive clothing and use their feminine wiles to lure men to their doom, but they are frequently put in positions of power. They’re also regularly portrayed as being smarter or at least as capable as the men they encounter and occasionally save the day. If and when they decide to fall into the hero’s arms they’re often the ones initiating the relationship and control much of the action.”

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Jan. 29: A Minor Picture Compendium of Classic Movie Nurses

Excerpt:”Movie nurses come in all stripes. They can be mean and cruel like Nurse Ratched or gentle as doves like Audrey Hepburn’s character in The Nun’s Story. They can also be sexy, smart, compassionate, laugh-out-loud funny and ruthless blood thirsty monsters. What follows is a picture gallery featuring some of my favorite movie nurses.”

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Feb. 4: Melvin Van Peebles: The Story of A Three-Day Pass (1967)

Excerpt: “Seemingly Influenced by both the French and British New Wave, including the early films of Godard and John Schlesinger, Melvin Van Peebles first full-length feature film subverts conventional narrative methods to delve deeper into its characters conflicted psyches. The Story of A Three-Day Pass bounces, pops and glides like a musical composition and the innovative freewheeling nature of the film mirrors its jazz inspired score. Van Peebles uses a number of experimental film techniques including dolly shots, freeze frames, jump cuts, jarring dissolves, split-screen and lengthy POV shots that impart the film with an intimacy and immediacy that immediately draws you in and demands your attention. We’re encouraged to see the world through Turner’s eyes and we experience the bigotry he faces in a very direct way. It was refreshingly straightforward and progressive stuff in 1967 that retains its power to shock and provoke audiences today.”

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Feb. 11: Jean-Claude Killy in Snow Job (1972)

Excerpt: “Snow Job was filmed on location in the Italian and Swiss Alps by American director George Englund (The Ugly American; 1963, Zachariah; 1971, etc.) and Hungarian cinematographer Gábor Pogány (Two Women; 1960, Bluebeard; 1972, Night Train Murders; 1975, etc.). According to interviews, they used helicopters extensively throughout the shoot, which allowed them to capture all the action on the slopes. The camerawork is occasionally breathtaking as we watch Jean-Claude Killy jump and drift across the alpine landscape like an agile bird while risking serious injury or even death. Killy insisted on doing all his own stunts and it’s remarkable that he got through filming unscathed. If you appreciate seventies heist films with dynamic action sequences or the kind of risky professional skiing typically reserved for Warren Miller documentaries, you should find Snow Job a particularly rewarding and enjoyable watch.”

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Feb. 18: Jack Palance: Horror Star

Excerpt: “I first saw the tall, broad featured and chiseled actor in Man in the Attic (1953) where he played Jack the Ripper in this fourth film adaptation of Marie Belloc Lowndes’s 1913 novel, The Lodger. I was only a kid at the time but Palance’s quietly seething performance impressed me due to the sympathy he was able to generate for his unlikable character. Jack the Ripper is typically portrayed as a cold-blooded maniac or sexually motivated monster but Palance, despite his menacing presence, was able to imbue his Ripper with a complex psychology that was thought provoking and surprisingly contemporary. As a seemingly harmless killer with an unmanageable Oedipus complex, Palance’s Ripper prefigures the often-cited character of Norman Bates in Hitchcock’s Psycho.”

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Feb. 25: Douglas Slocombe: A Tribute

Excerpt: “What follows is a gallery of some of my favorite screen shots from Douglas Slocombe’s distinguished oeuvre. They demonstrate that the accomplished cinematographer was much more than an artless journeyman or technician who simply took orders from a director. The images I’ve gathered are linked together by a unique creative vision that spans the length of his 50-year career in film.”

Regular visitors to Cinebeats over the years might recall my affection for many of the films Slocombe worked on, which I’ve written about here including The Third Secret, Boom! and The Servant. An image from The Servant even graces my “testimonials” page.

RIP Mr. Slocombe.

Sept. & Oct. at The Movie Morlocks

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It’s that time again. Time to collect & share links to the writing I’ve published on TCM’s Movie Morlocks blog in the past few months. In September I spent a lot of time obsessing over TCM Star of the Month Susan Hayward. I reference her in at least three of the pieces I wrote that month and I refer to her again in my first October post about the neglected Gothic thriller, THE LOST MOMENT (1947). As usual, I spent the rest of “Shocktober” focusing on darker fare including horror films and morbid mysteries. Follow the links to read more.

September:
Susan Hayward in Her Own Words
“I didn’t know much about TCM’s current Star of the Month so I decided to delve into her past recently and was somewhat surprised by the way Susan Hayward had been portrayed (and ignored) by the media since her death in 1975. Nicknamed the “Divine Bitch” following the release of a similarly titled biography, the four-time Academy Award nominated actress didn’t make a lot of friends in Hollywood and is rarely described in flattering terms by studio executives and costars so the general picture we have of her seems somewhat skewed. I’m a firm believer that there are usually two-sides to every story so I decided to explore newspaper and movie magazine archives in an effort to learn more about the redheaded screen siren in her own words without the opinions of her biographers and colleagues getting in the way. In the process I discovered a complex woman whose turbulent real life was often more sensational than the fictional lives of the characters she portrayed.”

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Alberto Vargas in Hollywood
“If you love vintage pin-up art as much as I do you’ll probably recognize Alberto Vargas’s name. Between 1920 and 1975 the Peruvian artist created some of the most celebrated and recognizable pin-up art in America while working for the Ziegfeld Follies as well as Esquire magazine and Playboy . . . What classic movie fans might not know is that Alberto Vargas also had a brief but lucrative career in Hollywood painting celebrity portraits, working for film industry magazines and creating movie posters. I enjoy playing detective so I decided to dig through various archives and books in search of Vargas’s film related work and what I found surprised me. The Latin artist made a much bigger impact on Hollywood than I’d previously been led to believe.”

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Every Dog Must Have His Day
“The film is weighted with biting social commentary as well as religious and political allegory but at its heart, WHITE GOD is a rather simple and profoundly sad story about a helpless dog that learns he must rely on himself and rebel against authority if he wants to survive in a dog-eat-dog world. It also doubles as a sensitive coming-of-age story about the young dog owner who learns a similar lesson although the perils and circumstances she faces are much more privileged and forgiving . . . While watching WHITE GOD I was reminded of a few other films I admire that center around dogs like Hagen who were forced to take similar journeys while suffering the consequences of man’s inhumanity to man and animal alike”

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The Power of the Pantsuit
“The entire scene, between the time Hayward enters the bathroom and leaves it, only lasts about 2 minutes but she and her paisley pantsuit completely own it. It’s a spectacular exit and although plenty of people like to point out the campy elements in VALLEY OF THE DOLLS, Hayward’s sincerity is undeniable in that moment. She was living in Helen Lawson’s skin and it’s evident that she deeply related to the character’s desperation and disappointments as well as her success. And that dazzling suit she wears represents her achievements.”

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October:
Nameless Fear: The Lost Moment (1947)
“The film is wrapped in a shimmery fog and lit mostly by candles that dance off dusty walls. And the house at the center of all the drama, with its spectacular canal-side setting, long twisting hallways, dark balconies, spiraling stairs and decomposing garden, evokes plenty of ghosts. It may not be a typical horror film but this Gothic romance about conflicted characters, doomed romance and ever-shifting identities will haunt you . . . It’s a terrible shame that The Lost Moment was neglected for so long. If critics had been kinder and audiences more receptive, there’s a high probability that director Martin Gabel would have continued making movies and he might have been remembered alongside some of the more interesting filmmakers who were working at Universal in the late forties and fifties. But when he died at age 73 in 1986 after suffering a massive heart attack the New York Times didn’t bother to mention his singular directing credit in their obituary.”

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Fatal Charm: Cast a Dark Shadow (1955)
“The picture opens with a striking scene shot inside a funhouse ride at a carnival. Dirk Bogarde’s character is sharing his seat with his wife and future murder victim (Mona Washbourne) when the camera focuses in on his face hidden by shadows while his pupils appear to light-up. It’s a startling effect that makes Bogarde look like a hungry demon with hellfire in his eyes. In this clever title sequence, director Lewis Gilbert and cinematographer Jack Asher signal to film audiences that their male protagonist is a monster before he ever opens his mouth.”

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10 Trailblazing Horror Films Directed by Women
“All month long TCM has been airing films made by women on Tuesday and Thursday night as part of their groundbreaking Trailblazing Women series hosted by Illeana Douglas. According to Charles Tabesh, senior vice president of programming for TCM, the goal of Trailblazing Women is to “Highlight the impact of female filmmakers throughout history and encourage future female filmmakers.” The response has been overwhelmingly positive and it’s heartening to see TCM’s resources used to educate, inform and inspire viewers . . . I’ve been enjoying a lot of the Trailblazing Women programming myself but since we’re in the middle of Schocktober, I thought I’d set aside some time to highlight some of my favorite horror films and thrillers directed by women who have left their macabre mark on a genre that many mistakenly assume is not very female friendly.”

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Double Your Pleasure with a Dracula Double Feature
“Tod Browning’s DRACULA is rightly hailed as a horror classic while the Spanish version directed by George Melford was assumed lost and went largely unseen by modern audiences following its initial release until it was restored and distributed on home video in 1992. Both films were shot at the same time using the same sets but with different casts, which was a typical practice by studios in the early 1930s. Their goal was to appeal to international audiences eager to see new-fangled sound films in their own language. The idea quickly went out of favor due to the high cost of producing multiple movies but the Spanish language version of DRACULA is one of best examples we have of this popular practice.”

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Wine & Wolves: The Curse of the Werewolf (1961)
“This unique Gothic horror from Hammer is part love story, part social allegory and part monster movie. John Elder aka Anthony Hinds’s script was loosely based on a book by Guy Endor (The Werewolf of Paris) and it takes a grim but very modern view of life by stressing that the werewolf is a product of his environment and circumstance instead of just a supernatural beast. The impressive sets, which were borrowed from previous Hammer productions, still look fresh and are accentuated by Terrence Fisher’s direction. This is somewhat of a staid film for Fisher and lacks the abundant style that the director brought to The Brides of Dracula (1961) made the same year. Instead, the film becomes a creative showcase for Oliver Reed’s performance and he’s spectacular as well as deeply moving as the cursed werewolf. The film also provides a nice backdrop for some of the studio’s best make-up effects designed by Roy Ashton. Reed’s transformation from a handsome young man (he was just 21-years-old at the time) into a ferocious wolf is particularly startling but it’s matched by the makeup used to age and disfigure the beggar and the Marquis. The two men are not typical monsters but as their souls seemingly wither and die; their decaying faces illustrate the ravages of time and the darkness that has suffocated their hearts.”

December at the Movie Morlocks

cc38 Links to my December 2014 posts at the TCM’s Movie Morlocks:

Holiday Greetings from The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come!
Excerpt: “Dickens’ novella was first conceived as a political pamphlet designed to arouse the public’s compassion for the plight of the poor but to his credit, the writer realized his strength was in storytelling so instead of hammering out a straightforward screed against social injustice he wrote a ghost story that would haunt sympathetic readers for more than a century. A Christmas Carol has been adapted for the screen many times beginning with a number of short silent films and most recently as a 3D animated feature produced by Walt Disney Pictures. The 1938 version tends to get overlooked in the glut of screening options available and it’s also burdened by the fact that the late great Lionel Barrymore was supposed to star as Scrooge but was eventually replaced by Reginald Owen due to serious health concerns that had left him wheelchair bound. Critics have cited its gentle nature and point out that many of the darker elements of Dickens’ original story were removed in order to make the film more family friendly but that dismissal overlooks the fact that the 1938 MGM production contains one of the most frightening and disturbing filmed encounters with the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. And for that reason, as well as others, it’s a movie well worth recommending.”

“Discover a savage world whose only law was lust!”
Excerpt: “Today TCM is airing a batch of great fantasy and adventure films produced by Hammer starring some of the studio’s most memorable leading ladies including the exotic brunette beauty Martine Beswick in PREHISTORIC WOMEN (1967), blond bombshell, Ursula Andress in SHE (1965) and the ravishing redhead, Raquel Welch in ONE MILLION YEARS B.C. (1966). ONE MILLION YEARS B.C. is undoubtedly the most popular and widely seen film of the bunch thanks to a lucrative distribution deal with 20th Century Fox and financing from Seven Arts Productions that allowed Hammer to hire the up-and-coming Welch and procure the services of special effects maestro Ray Harryhausen. The bigger budget for ONE MILLION YEARS B.C. also allowed Hammer to shoot the film on the exotic Canary Islands where the rocky volcanic landscape and lush beachfronts made for a surprisingly believable primordial setting. The plot was based on the similarly titled 1940 Hal Roach film starring Victor Mature, Lon Chaney Jr. and Carole Landis that was nominated for a number of Academy Awards. The Hammer remake didn’t receive any award nominations but it did become the studio’s most commercially successful film and it made Raquel Welch an international star.”

The Wonderful World of Disney Comes to TCM
Excerpt: “As a kid growing up in 1970s my Sunday nights revolved around The Wonderful World of Disney. It was my cherished respite before the much dreaded school week began and I savored every last minute spent in front of the family television set. At the time, residents in the San Francisco Bay Area where I was born and mostly raised, only had access to 10 or 12 available channels to choose from and many of those were locally run and operated. There were no video stores renting movies in those days and the idea of streaming films directly into your own home was merely a faraway fantasy. In these limited environs, The Wonderful World of Disney offered kids and adults of all ages a surprisingly diverse and family friendly smorgasbord of programming that included animated and live action films, nature documentaries, educational shorts and special broadcasts made especially for television. Much to my delight, Turner Classic Movies has recently teamed-up with The Walt Disney Studios for a new on-going program called Treasures from the Disney Vault hosted by Ben Mankiewicz and film critic Leonard Maltin that’s making its debut this coming Sunday night on December 21st. TCM’s impressive 8-hour block of television is a throwback to The Wonderful World of Disney of my childhood and I hope it will introduce a new generation to the wonderful treasures hidden deep within the vaults of the Disney Studios.”

Celebrate Like the Stars
“There are some universal truths in life that we can probably all agree on. The world is round. Cary Grant looks damn good in a suit. Washington, D.C. is the capitol of the United States. And classic Hollywood sure liked to drink. The bottled spirits flowed freely in movies made from the silent era, through the Prohibition and well into the 1970s. So freely in fact that you’d be hard-pressed to find an adult film that didn’t show a scene of someone drinking, refer to booze or offer a glimpse of something vaguely referencing the sauce that seemed to keep Hollywood running. It may have just been a bottle of empty scotch placed casually in the background of a scene or a six-pack of beer spotted in an open fridge. There’s just no denying that many of our favorite film performers regularly shared bottles of the bubbly (and not so bubbly) on screen but this love of liquor also continued off-screen.The recently published book, Of All the Gin Joints: Stumbling through Hollywood History by Mark Bailey, offers readers an interesting look into the drinking habits of some of Hollywood’s most beloved and recognizable stars including Charlie Chaplin and Errol Flynn. To celebrate the holidays I thought I’d share a few cocktail recipes from the book that you can make at home.”

August & September at the Movie Morlocks

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The last couple of months have been extremely difficult. In between doctor’s appointments while dealing with some eye problems I suffered a major shake up in the Napa earthquake, which did a lot of damage to my home & neighborhood. Naturally this impaired my writing but I still managed to compile a few articles for the TCM Movie Morlocks’ blog.

Carole Lombard’s Lasting Impact … on Napa!
Excerpt: “While pursuing my personal interest in local history here in Napa I was pleasantly surprised to discover how one of my favorite funny ladies, the brassy blonde bombshell Carole Lombard, had made a lasting impression on the area when she visited California’s Wine Country in 1939 to star in Garson Kanin’s THEY KNEW WHAT THEY WANTED (1940). This notable RKO production was based on a Pulitzer Prize winning play written by Sidney Howard that chronicled a complicated love triangle between an ambitious San Francisco waitress (Carole Lombard), a simple-minded Italian grape farmer (Charles Laughton) and his affable ranch hand (William Gargan). Much of the film was shot on location in the Napa Valley and during that time Lombard, along with her costars and husband Clark Gable, toured wineries, mingled with locals and befriended some well-heeled residents who still fondly recall family stories about encountering the lovely Lombard.”

Memories of Lauren Bacall 1924-2014
Excerpt: “Film fans have endured a rough summer. We’ve lost many talented people who have brought us immeasurable joy. Today I’d like to celebrate the late great Lauren ‘Betty’ Bacall who mesmerized audiences with her incredible beauty, quick wit, smoky voice and sultry style. She was a beloved stage and screen actress but she was also much more including an award-winning writer, a socially conscious political activist, an avid fashion enthusiast who designed her own maternity clothes and a survivor who out-lived two husbands (Humphrey Bogart and Jason Robards) and managed to raise three children on her own. What follows is a stunning gallery of portraits as well as a collection of personal observations about Bacall from friends, acquaintances and family members who knew her and loved her.”

Saying Good Night to Brian G. Hutton (1935-2014)
Excerpt: “I’m particularly fond of the two films Hutton crafted with Elizabeth Taylor in the 1970s during an intriguing period in her career that is often dismissed by critics as well as fickle fans. The first film Hutton and Taylor made together was a twisted love triangle with the cheeky American title X, Y & Z (1972). This blacker than black comedy pitted Taylor against Michael Caine in a sort of sexy update of WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF set in swinging London. The film didn’t fare all that well with critics but audiences seemed to appreciate it and Taylor enjoyed working with the affable director who kept his two stars laughing during the shoot. Their second film was the Hitchcockian thriller NIGHT WATCH (1973), which reunited Taylor with Laurence Harvey, her longtime friend and costar from the Oscar winning BUTTERFIELD 8 (1960). Of the two films Hutton made with Taylor, NIGHT WATCH is my personal favorite for a number of reasons. First and foremost it’s a great little suspense filled feature with some surprising twists and turns that provided Elizabeth Taylor with one of her meatiest late career roles. Besides reuniting her with Harvey, the cast also includes horror film and television favorites Billie Whitelaw (TWISTED NERVE; 1968, FRENZY; 1972, THE OMEN; 1976, Etc.) and Linda Hayden (TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA; 1970, THE BLOOD ON SATAN’S CLAW; 1971, MADHOUSE; 1974, Etc.) as well as Robert Lang (THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD; 1971, THE MEDUSA TOUCH; 1978, TALES OF THE UNEXPECTED; 1980, Etc.).”

EARTHQUAKE! – An Update From the Trenches
Excerpt:”Imagine if you will (spoken in my best Rod Serling voice), it’s 3:20am on a Sunday morning in the small city of Napa. You’d gone to bed a few hours earlier after enjoying a few glasses of home grown wine while catching up with the latest offering from Hammer Films (THE QUIET ONES; 2014) but just as the onset of deep REM sleep begins to take hold of your body and brain, you’re jolted awake by what sounds like a locomotive crashing into your house. This is followed by what feels like King Kong picking you up and tossing you in the air for 20 seconds.”

A Killer Stalks the Streets of San Francisco in Edward Dmytryk ‘s THE SNIPER (1952)
Excerpt: “There’s a palpable sense of profound paranoia, lawlessness run amok, rage against social injustice and flat out despair to be found in some of Dmytryk‘s best post 1950 films including THE SNIPER as well as THE CAINE MUTINY (1954), WARLOCK (1959) and MIRAGE (1965) that I really appreciate. The filmmakers most interesting work during this period also frequently featured complex and fascinatingly askew female characters trying to assert their power such as Elizabeth Taylor’s mad southern heiress in RAINTREE COUNTY (1957), Carol Baker’s boozy sexually aggressive widower in THE CARPETBAGGERS (1964) and the entire female cast of WALK ON THE WILD SIDE (1962). In this regard THE SNIPER could be seen and appreciated as a kind of warning shot to audiences signaling the direction that Dmytryk‘s career would take over the next few decades. It would make a particularly interesting double feature with the director’s stylish adaptation of BLUEBEARD (1972), featuring Richard Burton as the bearded mad man who possesses an unhealthy desire to murder his wives.”

Gordon Parks: Filmmaker, Photographer & Renaissance Man
Excerpt: “Tonight TCM is offering up a very special selection of films directed by Gordon Parks and his son, Gordon Parks Jr. for your viewing pleasure. The films include THE LEARNING TREE (1969), THOMASINE AND BUSHROD (1974), AARON LOVES ANGELA (1975) and SHAFT (1971) along with a making of documentary, SOUL IN CINEMA: FILMING SHAFT ON LOCATION (1971) . . . Parks Sr. is undoubtedly one of the most interesting and multitalented men who ever sat behind a camera and directed a film. He lived a fascinating life and dabbled in many arts but today he’s probably best remembered for the Oscar wining action-packed crime drama SHAFT. This Blaxploitation classic is one of my favorite films from the 70s and besides its entertainment value, SHAFT is a wonderful showcase for many of the themes, ideas and passions that motivated Parks throughout his career as an award-winning photographer…”

You’re Invited! Join the #TCMParty on Twitter
Excerpt: “A couple of years ago I noticed that the hashtag #TCMParty was trending on Twitter while TCM was showing a marathon of Japanese giant monster movies from Toho Studios. Naturally this piqued my curiosity so I began following their activities at @TCM_Party. The Twitter group is made up of classic movie fans who regularly watch films shown on TCM and enjoy discussing them online. I’m not an active participant myself but I occasionally jump into conversations when they’re discussing a movie I love or happen to be watching.”

April & May at The Movie Morlocks

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Highlights from my April & May contributions to TCM’s Movie Morlocks. You can read all the articles by following the links below:

Happy Birthday Doris!
Excerpt: “The legacy of this vivacious movie star, popular vocalist, television personality and animal rights advocate is truly unparalleled. And knowing Doris Day’s is still here with us doing good work that benefits us all is something worth celebrating!”

When Insects Attack: GENOCIDE (1968)
Excerpt: “The unexpected blend of film genres makes GENOCIDE a unique viewing experience that benefits from some impressive psychedelic inspired visuals. Director Kazui Nihonmatsu uses a number of imaginative film techniques including superimposition and slow dissolves to express the fractured state of mind of his tormented cast as well as the apocalyptic nature of their plight. And the relentless close-ups of actual insects munching on human flesh gives this low-budget production an uncomfortable documentary-like ambiance. Fans of Toho’s more atypical outings such as THE H-MAN (1958), THE HUMAN VAPOR (1960) and MATANGO (1965) will appreciate GENOCIDE and if you enjoy a good bug invasion movie as much as I do you should find this interesting little gem worthy of your time.”

Matrimony, Madness and Murder: HATCHET FOR THE HONEYMOON (1970)
Excerpt: “What sets HATCHET FOR THE HONEYMOON apart from many other pretty-boy “psycho-thrillers” (a term I’m borrowing from film journalist Kim Newman) that were prevalent in the late sixties and early seventies is its international setting and baroque setpieces. Bava’s film was shot in France, Italy and Spain and used the elegant villa of the infamous Generalissimo Francisco Franco as one of its backdrops. The House of Harrington contains an extravagant bridal salon adorned with mannequins that model beautiful wedding gowns and resemble the lifeless corpses of dead brides. And it is in this enclosed and highly stylized setting that the killer feels most at home as does Bava’s camera which lovingly lingers over every macabre detail allowing us an intimate look into the murderer’s mind.”

Rough, Raw & Randy: UP THE JUNCTION (1968)
Excerpt: “Peter Collinson’s effective slice-of-life drama UP THE JUNCTION (1968) makes its DVD and Blu-ray debut in the U.S. this week thanks to Olive Films. Today the film is often fondly remembered by fans of sixties cinema for its South London setting, colorful mod fashions, beehive hairdos, boastful bikers and jazzy psychedelic pop score by Manfred Mann. But UP THE JUNCTION has more to offer viewers besides an abundance of great style and an unforgettable soundtrack.”

Bad Movie Mothers We Love to Hate
Excerpt: “TCM is celebrating Mother’s Day (Sunday, May 11th) with a great program of classic films showcasing notable mothers. While looking over Sunday’s line-up I was surprised to spot NOW, VOYAGER (1942), which features Gladys Cooper as the incredibly cold and domineering mother of Bette Davis. Cooper won an Oscar nomination for her memorable performance and went on to play another overbearing mother in SEPARATE TABLES (1958) who torments poor Deborah Kerr. While considering Gladys Cooper’s portrayal of two heartless mothers I started thinking about other horrible movie moms that I’ve enjoyed watching over the years.”

Spy Games: BANG! BANG! YOU’RE DEAD! (1966)
Excerpt: “BANG! BANG! YOU’RE DEAD! Is just one of hundreds (possibly thousands) of spy spoofs that were released in the sixties following the world-wide success of the early James Bond films. Its unwieldy plot and cookie-cutter characters will be familiar to many but thanks to a solid cast, the spectacular North Africa locations and some thrilling action sequences this amusing romp managed to keep me entertained throughout its 92 minute running time.”

Mystery & Melodrama: THE BLETCHLEY CIRCLE (2012-2014)
Excerpt: “It’s a shame that so many women who took on incredibly difficult and challenging jobs during WW2, such as flying planes, driving tanks, nursing the wounded, spying for their governments and breaking complicated codes shared by enemy nations, have been overshadowed by their male counterparts. Rosie the Riveter has become a symbol of female ingenuity during wartime but women did much more in WW2 besides working in ammunition factories. THE BLETCHLEY CIRCLE shines a welcome light on a group of heroic women that have all too often been forgotten by history and brings them to vivid life.”

“The World’s Most Beautiful Animal!” – Ava Gardner in THE BAREFOOT CONTESSA (1954)
Excerpt: “Ava Gardner makes one of my favorite film entrances of all time in Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s THE BAREFOOT CONTESSA (1954), which airs on TCM June 1st. If you want to kick off the new month with a bang I highly recommend making time for this verbose Technicolor-noir that critiques Hollywood excess and the powerful studio system that frequently exploited its stars. Mankiewicz’s film is a heady brew of CITIZEN KANE (1941), LAURA (1944), SUNSET BLVD. (1950) and the director’s own ALL ABOUT EVE (1950) shot with abundant style by master cinematographer Jack Cardiff.”

January at the Movie Morlocks

alien0000
Had planned on posting this a few weeks ago but it slipped my mind. Still trying to get back into the swing of things around here. What follows is a list of my January posts for TCM’s Movie Morlocks blog:

Peter O’Toole: A Hellraiser Remembered
Excerpt: “I can’t speak for my fellow Morlocks but I often find it very difficult to write about the artists I admire right after they’ve died. It can be a painful and revealing process that feels like you’re pouring salt into an open wound.”
Joan Crawford in The Best of Everything (1959)
Excerpt: “…director Jean Negulesco seemed determined to make New York look threatening and downright scary at times by shooting the towering skyscrapers like they’re unreachable monuments built to celebrate masculine dominance over commerce. The tall office buildings appear to swallow up the women who dare to enter them and cast great shadows over their activities throughout the film. It may not be a conventional horror film but there are plenty of monsters in THE BEST OF EVERYTHING and Negulesco’s stylized direction made me feel as if I was watching a thriller or a mystery at times.”
At Home with Joan Crawford
Excerpt: “Crawford’s streamlined but colorful apartment, particularly when seen along with the other overstuffed museum-like houses featured in Celebrity Homes, is a testament to her good taste. And the lifelong friendships she had with her interior designers tell us a lot about an actress that has too often become the subject of misunderstanding and the butt of bad jokes.”
In space no one can hear you scream: ALIEN (1979) vs. GRAVITY (2013)
Excerpt: “35 years have passed since Ripley saved the world from an alien threat but Hollywood still seems incapable of accepting the idea of a female hero who faces danger head-on without wailing about her predicament or relying on a man to guide her to safety.”
Hello Hello Conrad: A look at BYE BYE BIRDIE (1963) star Bobby Wayne “Jesse” Pearson
Excerpt: ” I’ve always found Pearson’s audacious performance as the confident rock star who seduces the entire female populace of a small Ohio town with a few swings of his hips and strums on his guitar to be one of the highlights of this madcap musical. But while doing a little background research on the man I was surprised by the lack of information available so I started to dig deep into various news and history archives in an effort to learn more about Pearson. What I found really surprised me and some of the facts seem to contradict information that can be found on popular sites like IMDB and Wikipedia so I thought it was worth sharing.”

2013 at the Movie Morlocks

jfrancoJess Franco 1930-2013

What follows is a collection of links to some of my posts at TCM’s Movie Morlocks from 2013. These are (in my estimation) the best and most interesting articles I wrote last year but you can read my entire output for 2013 at the Movie Morlocks if you peruse the archives. From this point onward on I’ll be collecting links to my Morlocks’ posts and sharing them here at the end of each month.

Rio – Rififi Style! GRAND SLAM (1967)
A Brief History of the Telefilm
Out, out, brief candle: Jon Finch 1942-2012
This is a Time for Ghosts : THE AWAKENING (2012)
All Love is Mad : MAD LOVE (1935)
Does Oscar gold come with an Oscar curse?
Telefilm Time Machine: DAUGHTER OF THE MIND (1969)
Tracing My Irish Roots Through the Movies
The Pulp Adventures of Lee Marvin
Telefilm Time Machine: THAT CERTAIN SUMMER (1972)
In Memoriam: Jesús “Jess” Franco (1930-2013)
Lon Chaney Jr. – Lady Killer
Comic Relief with ARTISTS AND MODELS (1955)
Telefilm Time Machine – FRANKENSTEIN: THE TRUE STORY (1973)
GUN AND SWORD: An Encyclopedia of Japanese Gangster Films 1955-1980
Personal Passions: Alain Delon
Derelict Dancers: Gerard Depardieu vs. Roman Polanski – A PURE FORMALITY (1994)
Hail Cleopatra! Queen of the Nile & Queen of ’60s Style
Arsenic & Ambiguity in David Lean’s MADELEINE (1950)
Final Faces
Francois Truffaut – Friend, Teacher & Film Critic
Someone is Bleeding: LES SEINS DE GLACE (1974)
Oh Dear! What Can the Matter Be? : SO LONG AT THE FAIR (1950)
Telefilm Time Machine: Steven Spielberg’s SOMETHING EVIL (1972)
Four Reasons Why I Love Natalie Wood
Julie Harris 1925-2013: “And we who walk here, walk alone.
The Story of Film: UN CHIEN ANDALOU (1928)
In the Trenches with James Whale
Hollywood Goes to the Dolls
Telefilm Time Machine: SATAN’S TRIANGLE (1975)
Vincent Price Takes Center Stage
Vincent Price’s Small Screen Successes
Vincent Price & Gene Tierney: A Doomed Romance
In the Kitchen with Vincent Price
Adults Only: HOUSE ON STRAW HILL (1976)
Fighting Prejudice with Sidney Poitier
A Celluloid Revolution – James Dean: Ultimate Collector’s Edition Blu-ray
Telefilm Time Machine: HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS (1972)

Spy Games: ARABESQUE (1966)

Sophia Loren modeling some of the Christian Dior costumes she wore in ARABESQUE (1966)

Today Sophia Loren is celebrating her 77th birthday so I decided to dedicate this month’s addition of Spy Games to Stanley Donen’s ARABESQUE (1966), which features one of my favorite Loren performances. It’s a fun and fast-paced spy romp with loads of style. Here’s a brief excerpt from my post:

Films with simple plots and cookie cutter narratives rarely hold my interest and although I can understand why ARABESQUE is often criticized for its convoluted script and erratic editing, these things don’t bother me. When I go to the movies I want to be knocked out by the visuals and in that regard ARABESQUE is a much more arresting film than CHARADE. Stanley Donen along with cinematographer Christopher Challis pulled out all the stops when they were making ARABESQUE and their everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach works for me.

In Dancing on the Ceiling: Stanley Donen and his Movies, Donen expressed his frustration with the script and is quoted as saying, “We had to make it so interesting visually that no one will think about it.” And scriptwriter Peter Stone, added that Donen, “shot it better than he ever shot any picture. Everything was shot as though it were a reflection in a Rolls-Royce headlamp.” Gregory Peck also added, “If you look at the picture, we were always moving, because Stanley just wanted to keep the ball in the air the entire time, and he used every camera trick you could think of.”

Stanely Donen’s creative tactics turned ARABESQUE into a pop art extravaganza loaded with memorable images and mod flourishes. The director’s camera moves under tables, glides through the air and takes aim at any reflective surface that’s handy. He also plays with light and shadows giving the film a completely artificial atmosphere at times that only adds to the comic book look of the movie.

You can find my latest installment of Spy Games at the Movie Morlocks.
Spy Games: Stanley Donen’s ARABESQUE (1966) @ TCM’s Movie Morlcoks