Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Lady Vanishes (1938)

I must catch up. I've fallen way behind with my blogging. I have five more after this and more to come. Besides, it's hard to post on a movie you watched four weeks ago ...

There's this lady, see, and then she vanishes. Here's what the title doesn't tell you, though. When she disappears, she's on a train. They should have called it The Lady Vanishes on a Train. That would answer all questions.

We start with the train socked in by an avalanche. Travellers are forced to stay the night in a humble inn overrun with guests. We meet a young American woman travelling to see her fiancee, an overbearing musicologist (Michael Redgrave) who is studying local music, a pair of cricket fans trying to get back to London to see an important match, a "married couple" trying to stay anonymous, and the old Miss Froy (Dame May Whitty).

A potted plant, meant for our Miss Froy, hits young Iris (Margaret Lockwood) instead, but isn't hurt too badly. She boards the train and meets up with Miss Froy and has a cup of tea. She falls asleep and when she wakes, Miss Froy is nowhere to be found and other travellers deny ever seeing her. The musicologist who annoyed her back at the inn now decides he believes her. Perhaps he saw her in better light. Anyhow, a brain surgeon who happens to be on the train finds the case to be fascinating and decides to help explain the disappearance. The blow to the head made her think she saw the lady from the inn on the train. See? That explains everything. Pretty Iris and annoying musicologist don't seem to think so. They go on a hunt for the answer. That's where the story description ends. Have fun seeing how it all pans out.

Michael Redgrave is the dad of Vanessa and Lynn, showing where they get their tall gene. The two cricket fans (who could love such a horrible, horrible sport?) were so popular they appeared as background characters in two other movies. They were kinda amusing, as was the story. The end was more than a bit ridiculous, but as a whole this was a very pleasing movie. Perhaps more so if you pretend you don't know if Miss Froy was imagined or not. AMRU 3.5.

"I've no regrets. I've been everywhere and done everything. I've eaten caviar at Cannes, sausage rolls at the dogs. I've played baccarat at Biarritz and darts with the rural dean. What is there left for me but marriage?"

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Invisible Man (1933)

"... Claude Rains was The Invisible Man ..."

Yes. Yes he was. Third movie referenced in the song Science Fiction/Double Feature. Nine down, two to go.

Before I begin, I want to acknowledge the passing of film great Elizabeth Taylor. I understand she was quite pretty in her early years and a top notch actress, but I remember her as the overweight caricature of her former self. Then the thought struck me that I had not ever seen one of her movies, ever. Further research revealed that I did see The Taming of the Shrew back in high school and, sadly, The Flintstones. I decided to add Cleopatra to my Netflix queue because I'm quite fond of catastrophes, but after learning that it's about 16 hours long I don't know if I'll ever get to it.

Back to The Invisible Man, shall we? Here's the story. Noted scientist discovers the secret to invisibility but then realizes he forgot to search for the secret of VISIBILITY. So, he goes out into the snow with his science gear and tries to come up with the solution. The hottie and colleagues he left behind grow concerned. It seems the secret ingredient to make one self invisible ALSO makes them insane. Crazy and invisible, what a combination.

The rest of the movie is a cat and mouse game where doc's friends are trying to find him and doc lives out his secret ambition. Not to sneak into girls locker rooms, but to just screw with people. It seems the one thing he's always hated was people.

Who should turn up but Una O'Connor, the ugly housemaid. Shrill and completely over the top, she's a total delight. In a Hollywood where a character named Ugly Betty is played by a hot chick, it's nice to know that once upon a time us regular (and sub-regular) looking folk could get screen work.

Very good movie. The special effects were way ahead of their time. Director James Whale isn't well remembered now-a-days but he directed many of the early great horror films: Frankenstein and Bride of, plus The Old Dark House, which I understand is excellent. The studio grew tired of him turning out great work so they forced him to do crap.

One could spend a lifetime watching the infinite sequels and adaptations, but I will for now leave it right here. AMRU 4.

"The drugs I took seemed to light up my brain. Suddenly I realized what power I held, the power to rule, to make the world grovel at my feet."

Saturday, March 19, 2011

His Girl Friday (1940)

His Girl Friday is a creative version of the play "The Front Page" that was made into movies in 1931 and 1974, as well as several times for television. In the play and other version, Hildy is a man, quitting the newspaper business to get married, while Walter is his boss trying to trick him into staying with the newspaper. In this Howard Hawks version, Hildy is a woman and Walter's ex-wife, and he tries to break up her pending marriage.

Cary Grant is Walter, Rosalind Russell is Hildy, and Ralph Bellamy plays Hildy's bland, insurance selling fiancee. It starts with Hildy visiting Walter to convince him to stop contacting her. When he learns of the marriage, he concocts a plan to keep her around. He coerces her to cover the story of the execution of a convicted murderer. Craziness ensues.

Quick talking and sharp dialog, His Girl Friday is a pleasure to watch. I haven't seen the other versions, but they are on my list now. A lot of the dialog overlapped, Robert Altman style. This was very unorthodox back in the day. I liked it and may watch again sometime. Unfortunately, I don't have much to say about it. Funny, well acted, well made, and had great pacing. It also was chuck full of inside jokes. AMRU 3.5.

"Listen, the last man that said that to me was Archie Leach just a week before he cut his throat."

"He looks like that fellow in the movies, Ralph Bellamy"
By the way, Hildy/Roselind looked nothing like the picture in the poster.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Beast with a Million Eyes (1955)

I've moved The Beast with a Million Eyes to the top of my list because I promised to take part in Project Terrible, a blog-a-thon where we challenge ourselves to watch the worst movies imaginable. This would have been fun had I the time to properly participate, but I don't. This will be my last entry. Sorry guys. After this, I have five movies I've already seen but haven't made time to post.

Don't know the premise of the movie? Don't worry! Evil alien explains it at the very beginning. You see, his species used up their home planet so he wants to take over ours. Damn interlopers! He will accomplish this (all alone, it turns out) by taking over the minds the lower animals first then the lesser men. By doing so, he will be able to watch all mankind. He will be known as The Beast with a Million Eyes!!!!

So, here's how things pan out. Said alien lands in an extremely remote area outside a small family farm. On said farm lives a man, his hysterical wife (that's BEFORE she finds out about the aliens), and his semi-hot daughter. Also is a "handy man" called "Him". He don't have a name so folks just call him Him. Clever. Him don't talk. Him just do his chores and stare at the wife and daughter. Him like pretty women. Him like wife and daughter too.

Father, hysterical wife, and daughter mostly go about their dysfunctional lives almost oblivious to the main plot of the movie. Low flying "air craft" causes lots of glass to break, making hysterical wife extra hysterical. Animals seem to be acting strange causing Father to go "Hmmm." Eventually dad concludes that the only explanation is that an alien must have landed in the desert and is trying to take over the world. It's the only logical conclusion.

So, the family, aided by the deputy, go into the desert to sing combaya and defeat the alien. Wow, did this movie drag! No action, mediocre acting, bland dialog, this movie had nothing. Now, while watching I was waffling between giving it a 2.0 and 2.5. It was, after all, mostly watchable. In the end, it earns a 2. It was boring.

While there were four main characters (not including the alien and animals), there were two others. An old foolish man who gets killed by his cow and Deputy Larry, played by Dick Sargent. Folks may remember him as the second and slightly more butch Darrin Stephens. There may have been a quick scene at the police station, but I forget.

So, before I go, here are my last cuts. Apparently daughter was a "lesser man". The bathing suit she wore would have been appropriate for swimming in January. The alien isn't known as the beast with a million eyes because nobody found out about him until the very end. And how do you expect to take over the world by starting in the middle of nowhere?

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Palm Beach Story (1942)

Well, I was going to do The Invisible Man, but another blog I follow beat me to the punch. So, for the sake of professional courtesy, I'll hold off for a bit.

Next on the list is The Palm Beach Story, a Claudette Colbert screwball comedy. It seems that Gerry Jeffers (Claudette) is married to Tom Jeffers (Joel McCrea), who is hard working but ... what was that? Tom and Gerry Jeffers? Tom and Gerry? Seriously?

Whatever. Back to the story. Tom can't get a break and Gerry believes she is holding him back. She respects him, but says it's mostly a loveless marriage. She decides to take money from an old looney guy and go to that stereotypical place that people get divorces at. That's right, Palm Beach. Then she can somehow help him out. Seems Tom has this idea of building an airport out of netting. I guess this sounded plausible during the war.

Well, ol' Tom isn't totally on board with this quickie divorce thing, so he ALSO borrows money from an old looney guy and is in hot pursuit. That's right. Tom is chasing Gerry. Along the way, Gerry meets millionaire J.D. Hackensacker the third (Rudy Vallee). Gerry is going to marry him and funnel his money back at her future Ex. What nice people she is. Mary Astor plays Rudy's sis. How she ever got confused for a beauty, I'll never know.

The opening sequence made absolutely no sense and I was convinced this was a sequel. After viewing I searched for part one, but it doesn't exist. The opening plays into the story but it could have been skipped and not effect the story. When I read on Wikipedia what it meant, my reaction was "Oh, whatever".

Witty dialog and frank talk about divorce and infidelity made this movie interesting. Excellent pace, acting, and production all around. I didn't love it, but it very well might be worth a second look. Eventually. AMRU 3.5.
"That's one of the tragedies of this life, that the men most in the need of a beating up are always enormous."