Saturday, April 28, 2012

The African Queen (1951)

The straight laced Reverend Sayer (Robert Morley) and his sister Rose (Katharine Hepburn) run a missionary deep in Africa during the onset of the first world war. Their only contact with the world outside is through Charlie (Humphrey Bogart), the captain of the African Queen, one of the few steam ships capable of navigating the treacherous rivers of central Africa. Because of his importance for delivering supplies and news, they tolerate his uncouth ways.

Soon, the German army arrives to offer their assistance. That is, they burn the native's huts and conscript them into the German army. This displeases the Missionaries Sayer very much. Well, after tubby drops dead, good 'oll Charlie shows up again. After deciding that time on a river boat with the gin swilling Charlie is slightly better than being murdered by proto-Nazis, she goes with him. Then, when Rose learns that the German position in Africa is fortified by the presence of a gun boat that patrols a large lake, she decides to settle the score.

Go figure, it's a color film! I remember seeing it in my youth (leeches, bleck!) and apparently it was on a black and white TV. Anyhow, the thing that struck me most was the appearance of the two A-list actors. Bogart appeared scrawny and Hepburn old. Both actors were a bit long in the tooth come 1951, and Bogart was never an imposing physical specimen, but it was interesting they chose to be depicted as they actually were. Maybe that honesty that led the Academy to give Humph the only Oscar he would ever receive. Or maybe they felt he needed to be rewarded for his body of work. Either way, he'd be gone in six years. Smoking is bad, hmmm Ok?

Despite it's reputation, and the reputation of it's actors and director, I found The African Queen to be a bit dull. Still worth seeing, but a little bit of a disappointment. AMRU 3.
"Well I ain't sorry for you no more, ya crazy, psalm-singing, skinny old maid!"

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Greatest Show on Earth (1952)

Trapeze artist Holly (Betty Hutton) has finally won the coveted center ring, but boss man boyfriend Brad (Charlton Heston) has sawdust in his veins, you see. To help the show he hires hotshot Sebastian (Cornel Wilde) and gives him the center ring. But he promised that to her! What, does he have sawdust in his veins?

Well, Sebastian (the Great) does his best to show off as well as take after Holly with a vein of another kind. Whatever will Holly do? After all, it's not like she has sawdust in her veins! Oh, yea, and then there's Buttons the Clown (James Stewart) who never takes his makeup off. What's up with that?

This movie had everything! A love triangle, the spectacle of the tawdriest show on earth, a behind the scenes look at how they set up the tents, a three hour run time! Everything short of elephant poop. What more could you ask for? What, don't you have sawdust in your veins?

The principle attraction for me was the fact that it won Best Picture over High Noon (AMRU 3.5) and I had to see how a circus movie could do such a thing. I have to guess that the controversy over the underlying theme of High Noon along with a popular fascination of the topic swayed the day. Calling it tedious is something of an understatement. It was just over two and a half hours, but many dull scenes could have been cut to bring it much closer to 2, if not under. It had one side story after another, with Gloria Grahame (actual hottie) and Dorothy Lamour (you know, from the Hope and Crosby movies) having smallish rolls. Plus there was this gangster sub-plot that seemed to go nowhere.

Anyhow, having said all that, it wasn't too bad of a movie. Clearly no High Noon, but still worth seeing. AMRU 3. Brew some coffee.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Invaders from Mars (1953)

Little David sees a flying saucer and his indulgent father goes to take a look. He returns angry and with a peculiar X scar on the back of his head. Two cops investigate and they too return hostile and scarred. Soon, Mom follows suit. Who will save the day? Why, hunky Doctor Astronomer and his hotty Doctor Girlfriend, that's who.

The second "Everyone's been taken over, why won't anyone believe me" movies and oddly sandwiching This Side of Paradise episode of Star Trek, which had a similar theme. Here astronomer and girlfriend DO believe little David, and make wild speculations where the saucers are from or what they want. Apparently, they are from Mars and want to take over Earth because they screwed up their planet. Yea, lets go with that.

What a strange little film! Terms like surreal and dream-like come to mind. In fact, the entire story in the British release was supposed to be the boy's dream. And of course the early color process makes everything look alien. It might have originally been planned as a 3D movie, or not. Either way, it was a strange movie. The HEAD Martian has giant green trolls (see above) under his control in addition to various surgically altered parents.

How does McCarthyism and the Red Scare play into this movie's theme and appeal? What do I look like, a film historian? I'll give it my glad-I-saw-it rating and leave it at that.
"Please God, let them find Mom and Dad before something bad happens. I don't want them to die too."

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)

Miles Bennell (Kevin McCarthy) is a crazy man with a crazy story. They send in psychiatrists to check him out. Seems he is a small town doctor who discovered that some townsfolk started to believe their loved ones are not who they seem.

Seems that there are these pods showing up, and after a while, human-like creatures emerge from them with indistinct features. Slowly over time, they take on someones likeness and take their place.

I knew the story. I saw the remake when I was young. It's had the lowest of low tech special effects, but still, I was on the edge of my seat. It came as a very pleasant surprise.

McCarthy not only lived to appear in the remake 22 years later, but continued to work, even appearing a movie that came out this year. All despite dying about a year and a half ago (96 years old). I saw him recently in Matinee, a movie I had to see before Netflix took it away from me. He played a character in the movie that John Goodman's character was promoting.

His hottie girlfriend was played by Dana Wynter. Interestingly, the good doctor's grade school girlfriend was sixteen years younger than him. She passed on about a year ago. Oh, yea. And her character was married.

As much as I really enjoyed the Body Snatchers, there was one plot hole that bothered me. So, giving proper respect, SPOILER ALERT - SPOILER ALERT - SPOILER ALERT:

Pods are creating human replicas. We never find out what happens to the original person, which is fine. However, later in the movie hottie girlfriend is "transformed" when she falls asleep for just a moment. There are no replicants around to replace her and she tries to convince Miles not to be afraid. Why the second method of replacing people?

Anyhow, this classic was a pleasant surprise. Drama, good acting, excellent pacing, creepy story. It has earned it's place in the realm of great sci-fi. AMRU 4.
"They're here already! You're next! You're next, You're next...!"