June & July at the Movie Morlocks

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I haven’t been online much the last few months for a number of reasons. First and foremost, I’ve been having some medical problems with my left eye and spending lots of time on my computer reading, watching vids and writing can often be problematic. My eyes get easily irritated and I’m prone to headaches, etc. The other reason is simple net fatigue, particularly on social media sites such as Facebook & Twitter where petty bickering, herd-like behavior and one-upmanship among film fans, critics and journalists can become unbearably tiresome. With that out of the way, I want to apologize to anyone you visits Cinebeats often hoping for new updates (excuses I know… but I seem to be suffering from an extreme case of weltschmerz this year) but you can still find me regularly posting on TCM’s Movie Morlocks blog and I occasionally write articles for TCM’s website. Here are some links to things I’ve written in the last few months:

They Wore It Well: Actors & Mustaches: “Mustaches of all shapes, sizes, widths and weights have long been part our movie history so it’s easy to take them for granted. But a good mustache can have power and presence in the movies and many actors have made great use of their facial hair to seduce costars, entice laughter and menace their enemies.”

Hammer Noir: Terence Fisher’s STOLEN FACE (1952): “While a few of the Fisher’s earlier films, such as SO LONG AT THE FAIR (1950), hinted at his penchant for gothic fantasy and costume drama, STOLEN FACE gave the director the opportunity to begin exploring (and exploiting) his apparent fascination with science, philosophy, psychology and medicine that would later permeate his full-color horror films made for Hammer. Amid the noir elements and abundant melodrama that can be found in STOLEN FACE, Fisher spends a noticeable amount of time lingering on strange medical devices while focusing on the doctor’s interactions with patents and colleagues. The doctor also makes a noteworthy trip to a pub where he mingles with some inquisitive locals. This seemingly innocuous event became a staple in Fisher’s horror films…”

Summer Reading Suggestions: “Like many people, I tend to do a lot of reading when the weather warms up and with summer officially about to start on June 21st I thought it would be a good time to share some of the books I’ve been enjoying with my fellow film buffs. My own tastes tend to be somewhat eclectic but I hope readers of all types and stripes will find something that piques their interest when pursuing my list of Summer Reading Suggestions.”

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“I wonder if my brother remembers his brother?” – Remembering Eli Wallach 1915-2014: “Leone famously liked to shoot his actors in extreme close-up or in sweeping wide shots where they were barely visible. But Wallach instinctively knew how to make the most of his screen time and easily navigates between these two very different modes of filmmaking. His eyes speak volumes when Leone’s camera zooms in for a signature close-up but when the director’s camera is out of sight Wallach skillfully used his body language to define his character from a distance. Many actors would get lost in the vast deserts, dilapidated cemeteries and shabby old towns that make up Leone’s film but Wallach seamlessly becomes part of the landscape. We know he’s there even when we can’t see him.”

When Fact Mirrors Fiction: AGATHA (1979): “Redgrave and Hoffman make an unlikely pair and some critics apparently found their height difference distracting but I think the two actors have an incredible chemistry on screen. Redgrave seems to be channeling Garbo while Hoffman displays the kind of arrogant charm that made William Powell so likable. Both performers have rarely been as vulnerable, sympathetic, affable and flat out sexy as they are here, which is partially due to the way they interact and seem to identify with one another’s characters. Their unconventional but utterly convincing on-screen romance is one of the many reasons why I find AGATHA so compelling.”

The Malaise of the Ghetto: LA HAINE (1995): “The broad appeal of Kassovitz’s film can also be traced to another film that mesmerized young audiences in 1955, Nicholas Ray’s timeless classic REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE. Both films focus on a troubled threesome who form a makeshift family during the span of 24 hours. The neighborhood fighting might be on a much smaller scale and the suburban hood of 1955 Los Angeles appears much more inviting than the suburban slums of 1995 Paris, but both movies use the threat of gun violence to their credit. Neither Plato (Sal Mineo) nor Vinz (Vincent Cassel) can fully comprehend the lethal power of the weapons they’re carrying and their shared desire for some kind of notoriety or control in the face of an indifferent world is something many young people can unfortunately sympathize with . Does LA HAINE have the staying power of REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE? That remains to be seen.”

A Century of Scares: Happy Birthday Bava!: “This week marks the 100th birthday of Mario Bava who was born on July 30th (according to leading Bava researcher Tim Lucas and author of the essential Mario Bava: All the Colors of the Dark) or 31st (if you want to believe IMDB.com and Wikipedia). The brilliant Italian director, cinematographer, special effects artist and screenwriter died in 1980 but today he’s fondly remembered by horror film enthusiasts as the Maestro of the Macabre. Bava has long been one of my favorite filmmakers so I couldn’t let this important anniversary pass without acknowledging his artistry.”

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Celebrate Halloween with TCM’s Movie Morlocks

All month long I’ve been writing about spooky movies and terrifying thrillers at the Movie Morlocks. Here’s a brief rundown of the various topics I tackled that should appeal to my fellow goblins & ghouls.

Tom Chantrell: Illustrator of Nightmares – A look at one of Hammer’s most prolific movie poster artists.

Spy Games: International espionage in… Nashville?! – I couldn’t let October pass without continuing my ongoing look at spy films but this month I focused my attention on an unusual espionage farce starring classic horror icons, John Carradine, Lon Chaney Jr. and Basil Rathbone.

Man’s Best Fiend – Cats are usually associated with Halloween and horror movies but there have been plenty of devilish dogs featured in movies and Man’s Best Fiend focuses on some of the best examples of this phenomenon.

The Sinister Charm of Simon Ward – The British actor passed away in July but I only heard the news a few weeks ago and October seemed like the perfect month to celebrate Simon Ward’s contributions to horror cinema.

Besides my own posts, you can find a lot more Halloween reading at the Movie Morlocks so please take a moment to visit the blog.

I also want to mention that TCM is playing a batch of great classic horror movies on October 31st including some of my favorites such as THE LAST MAN ON EARTH (1964), THE BODY SNATCHER (1945), FRANKENSTEIN (1941) and ISLAND OF LOST SOULS (1933). For more info & a complete schedule of movies being shown please visit TCM.

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Going Under: Revisiting COMA (1978)

I recently re-watched Michael Crichton‘s COMA (1978) and was pleasantly surprised by how effective the film still was. You can read my full take on the film at the Movie Morlocks but here’s an excerpt:

Taking its cues from films like Roman Polanski’s ROSEMARY’S BABY (1968) and Bryan Forbes’s THE STEPFORD WIVES (1975), COMA uses elements of fantasy, science fiction and horror to ask important questions about gender inequality as well as office politics in the wake of the sexual revolution. Today COMA might seem somewhat outdated in its broad portrayal of gender biases (or incredibly pertinent depending on your social outlook) but it’s important to remember that Roe v. Wade was only 4 years old at the time that COMA was made and the medical field was still largely a man’s world where women were destined to take nursing positions.

Bujold’s character is expected to follow orders and her handsome boyfriend (Michael Douglas) seems determined to keep her in line but throughout the film Bujold rejects every attempt to confine her and her ideas. Is Bujold just an emotionally unstable woman trying to blame the hospital for her friend’s medical dilemma? Or are the coma victims pawns in some sinister plan being executed by a Hippocratic brotherhood? I may have given too much of the movie’s basic plot line away but COMA has plenty of unexpected twists and turns that should appeal to mystery and horror enthusiasts as well as science fiction fans.

You can find my full post at the Movie Morlocks
Going Under: Revisiting COMA (1978) @ TCM’s Movie Morlocks

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The Man of the Hour: Alfred Hitchcock

Back in May when I debuted Klara Tavakoli Goesche‘s video tour of VERTIGO locations at the Movie Morlocks I made note of the fact that: “Alfred Hitchcock’s name seems to be everywhere these days.” It seems that my observation was somewhat premature because I had no idea that Hitchock would became a subject of daily debate among critics & film fans following his top position on Sight & Sound’s controversial, self-important and highly publicized list of what they call The Top 50 Greatest Films of All Time. Yesterday, on what would have been Hitchcock’s 113th birthday, the blogosphere and various social networking sites were being bombarded with “Top 5” and “Top 10” lists of Hitchcock films. My inner cynic’s response was; “How in the hell do you narrow down Hitchock’s filmography to a simple Top 5 list? You can’t. And if you can I suspect you haven’t seen many of Hitchcock’s films. Compiling a Top 10 is tough enough but compiling a Top 5 is a fool’s errand.” I stand by that observation because 5 years ago I tried to make my own list of 5 Favorite Hitchcock Films followed by a list of 10 Favorite Hitchcock films and I failed at both. I ended up with a list of “15 Favorite Hitchcock Films” instead.

My own list of favorites hasn’t changed in 5 years but occasionally I regret not including a few. I’m prone to to shouting out SHADOW OF A DOUBT (as longtime readers & friendly acquaintances can attest) when I’m asked what my favorite Hitchcock film is but there are a number of Hitch’s movies that I find equally engrossing for a variety of reasons although Joseph Cotten will always get my vote for giving the best performance in any Hitchcock film. Period! No room for argument there.

Below is an alphabetical list of my own “15 Favorite Hitchcock Films” that I’m reasonably comfortable sharing. As I mentioned 5 years ago, I  didn’t bother numbering the list because their numerical order isn’t significant to me and frankly I kind of enjoyed seeing VERTIGO at the bottom of my list. Don’t get my wrong, I love VERTIGO but it seems silly and reductive to single it out in a filmography that’s loaded with so many great movies. The impact of every Hitchcock film changes for me with each viewing. Some films grow in stature while others lose some of their original luster but these 15 remain my personal favorites.

The Birds (1963) “Can I bring the lovebirds, Mitch? They haven’t harmed anyone.”

Dial M for Murder (1954) “Do you really believe in the perfect murder?” Foreign Correspondent (1940) “I’ve been watching a part of the world being blown to pieces. A part of the world as nice as Vermont, and Ohio.”

Frenzy (1972) “Do I look like a sex murderer to you? Can you imagine me creeping around London, strangling all those women with ties? That’s ridiculous… For a start, I only own two.”

The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934) “To a man with a heart as soft as mine, there’s nothing sweeter than a touching scene.”

Marnie (1964) “You don’t love me. I’m just something you’ve caught. You think I’m some sort of animal you’ve trapped!”

North by Northwest (1959) “And what the devil is all this about? Why was I brought here?”

Psycho (1960) “She might have fooled me, but she didn’t fool my mother.”

Rebecca (1940) “Sometimes, when I walk along the corridor, I fancy I hear her just behind me.”

Rope (1948) “I’ve always wished for more artistic talent. Well, murder can be an art, too.”

Shadow of a Doubt (1943) “The world’s a hell. What does it matter what happens in it?”

Spellbound (1945) “We both know that the mind of a woman in love is operating on the lowest level of intellect.”

Strangers on a Train (1951) “My theory is that everyone is a potential murderer.”

The Trouble with Harry (1955) “He looked exactly the same when he was alive, only he was vertical.”

Vertigo (1958) “Anyone could become obsessed with the past with a background like that!”

On a side note, I’ve been catching up with episodes of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour (TV Series 1962–1965) lately and really enjoying them. If I get a chance I might write about a few of my favorites.

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Embracing Ambiguity: Figures In A Landscape (1970)

I’ve had Joseph Losey on my mind a lot lately and this week I decided to revisit one of my favorite Losey films, the extraordinary FIGURES IN A LANDSCAPE (1970) starring Robert Shaw and Malcolm McDowell. From my latest post at the Movie Morlocks:

[Warning! Spoilers on the road ahead.]

“The first thing that you see in Joseph Losey’s FIGURES IN A LANDSCAPE (1970) is the big black helicopter. It lingers in the sky like a giant buzzing insect or an angry bird of prey. For the next two hours it will pursue the film’s two protagonists (Robert Shaw and Malcolm McDowell) in a relentless game of cat and mouse over various terrains of uncompromising beauty. You will never find out who is pursuing them. You will not discover what they are running from. You will never know when these events took place or where. And last but not least, you will never know why they happen. If clarity, easy answers and conventional storytelling techniques are something you demand from cinema you’ll probably find FIGURES IN A LANDSCAPE a frustrating viewing experience. But if you relish unexpected pleasures and are willing to embrace ambiguity the film might capture your imagination as forcefully as it does mine.”

You can read my entire post if you follow the link below:
Embracing Ambiguity: Figures In A Landscape (1970) @ TCM’s Movie Morlocks Blog

The House That Screamed… “Murder!”

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Mod Macabre continues over at The Movie Morlocks today where I take a look at Narciso Ibáñez Serrador’s horrific thriller The House That Screamed (1969) featuring a great cast that includes Lilli Palmer, Cristina Galbo, Mary Maude and mod wonder boy, John-Moulder Brown. Here’s a brief description of The House That Screamed from my post:

“THE HOUSE THAT SCREAMED takes place at an isolated boarding school where troubled young women are being taught by a sadistic headmistress called Madame Fourneau (Lilli Palmer) who enjoys disciplining her female students with a whip followed by a tender kiss. After an attractive young French girl named Theresa (Cristina Galbó) enrolls and is given a tour of the grounds, it quickly becomes apparent that something odd is going on at the school. Unseen eyes seem to follow Teresa’s every move and the tense atmosphere is punctuated by the headmistress’s cursory behavior. The other young women at the school immediately take an interest in Teresa and she becomes an object of adoration and scorn for one particular student by the name of Irene (Mary Maude). Irene is Madame Fourneau’s right-hand girl and she enjoys helping the headmistress discipline ill-behaved girls. Adding to the tension is the addition of Madame Fourneau’s handsome son, Louis (John Moulder-Brown) who is kept at the school due to his poor health. His mother insists on isolating him from the young women who she feels aren’t “good enough” for him. The headmistress wants her son to meet someone like herself who will look after him and keep him safe but Louis isn’t interested in following her advice. It soon becomes apparent that he’s been spying on the girls at the school as well as starting up relationships with a few them. So when an unknown killer begins stalking the students it’s easy to assume that Louis might be the murderer but he’s not the only suspect. There’s the lurking gardener (Vic Israel) who seems to also enjoy spying on the students and of course the headmistress herself comes under scrutiny along with the cruel Irene. Director and co-writer Narciso Ibáñez Serrador keeps the audience guessing until the film’s final moments and the plot’s unpredictable twists and turns should surprise many viewers.”
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Pictured: Teresa Hurtado and John-Moulder Brown (1969)

To read more just follow the link:
The House That Screamed… “Murder!” @ TCM’s Classic Movie Blog

Sean Connery in Woman of Straw (1964)

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Sean Connery in a promotional shot from WOMAN OF STRAW (1964)

I’m celebrating Sean Connery’s 81st birthday today over at the Movie Morlocks with a look at his performance in WOMAN OF STRAW (1964). A brief excerpt from my post:

“What I admire most about Connery’s memorable performance in WOMAN OF STRAW is the way he underplays his character early in the film before transforming into a murderous monster. Connery had just finished starring in his second James Bond film, FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE (1963), and he was riding high on his success and sudden superstardom. But he was worried about being typecast as the suave and handsome spy so he jumped at the chance to play the ruthless Anthony in WOMAN OF STRAW. In the film, Connery uses his sex appeal to lure Gina Lollobridigida’s character into complacency while convincing the audience that he’s worthy of their sympathy. It’s a difficult trick to manage but Connery has rarely looked as handsome as he does in this film and his masculine confidence is disarming.”

Follow the link to read more:
Sean Connery in WOMAN OF STRAW (1964) @ TCM’s Classic Movie Blog

Remember My Name (1976) & TCM News

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Anthony Perkins & Geraldine Chaplin in Remember My Name (1976)

I’ve been really busy lately so please excuse the lack of updates around here. Lately it seems like I only have enough free time to share my Movie Morlock updates and today is no exception. I recently got the opportunity to watch Alan Rudolph’s unusual thriller Remember My Name (1976). I was originally interested in seeing the film because one of its stars was the one and only Anthony Perkins but I was surprised by how terrific the movie was. Follow the link to read my thoughts about this intriguing neo-noir:
Remember My Name …or else. @ TCM’s Classic Movie Blog

I also wanted to let my readers know that during the month of June TCM is hosting a bunch of Drive-In Double Features every Thursday night! If I had my way TCM would make these Drive-In Double Features a regular part of their programming schedule but at least me and my fellow monster lovers will be able to enjoy some great movies this month. TCM put together a terrific promo video for this event that I just couldn’t resist sharing. June is going to be a fun month!

What Ever Happened to Jennifer?

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Ida Lupino in Jennifer (1953)

In my latest post at the Movie Morlocks I take a look at an unusual and little known thriller called Jennifer (1953), which features a great performance from Ida Lupino and some breathtaking black & white cinematography from James Wong Howe. If you enjoy unconventional noir films or low-key horror movies that rely on mood over visceral scares, you might find Jennifer as intriguing as I did. Follow the link to read more.
What Ever Happened to Jennifer? @ TCM’s Classic Movie Blog

Unman, Wittering and Zigo (1971)

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It’s a rare occurrence when I come across a movie I’ve never heard of before or seen. Such is the case with John Mackenzie’s Unman, Wittering and Zigo (1971). I sought the movie out because the title was intriguing and it caught my attention when I was scanning David Hemmings’ filmography on IMBD. After hunting around a bit I discovered that the film was available to watch at Amazon so I purchased it for a number of reasons. First of all, I love Hemmings and enjoy watching him in just about anything. I also love British cinema and I’m especially fond of horror films, mysteries and thrillers. Unman, Wittering and Zigo isn’t a typical horror film and I hesitate to call it one since it relies on mystery more than outright fear to unnerve its audience but debating genre labels is tiresome. You can call Unman, Wittering and Zigo whatever you want and I’ll just call it a damn good movie that genuinely surprised me.

Read my take on this unusual British film at The Movie Morlocks blog.
Authority Is the Child of Obedience @ TCM’s Classic Movie Blog