Monday, September 24, 2012

Psycho (1960)

Poor Marion (Janet Leigh)! Her boyfriend is too poor to get a divorce, so she makes a rash decision. She grabs forty grand from her employer and makes a mad dash for California. Along the way she takes shelter at the Bates motel. Young Norman (Anthony Perkins) is quite fond of the Milfish Marion, but Mother disapproves. So after a brief rendezvous in the shower, Norman is left to clean things up.

Soon Marion's boy toy and her cuter sister Lila (Vera Miles) are on the hunt for the naughty girl. Also in hot pursuit is a detective looking for the cash.

In the past I've summed up the kind of horror movies I like as being "Pre-Psycho". It seemed to me that horror made a dramatic shift, one towards a more psychological form. I still believe this, but this boys film education has me to reconsidering my appreciation. What Psycho did was progress styles and themes already in existence, case in point Diabolique. The signature Hitchcock style makes every tense scene seem so much more so, almost unbearably so. He just drags the emotion out of you. Here it worked.

Perkins' acting is worth a second look. Creepy, frightened, timid, and sexually repressed, his nuanced performance was out of this world. He deserved a nomination. Leigh got one her shower scene, which is nice. It was one hell of a scene. I remember seeing it on television back in the day. I don't remember being scared, but I do remember seeing something a young boy seldom saw back then. Leigh's out of focus breasts. I didn't see it this time. Can't explain it. Also in the scene was another American film first: a toilet. John Waters thanks you, Mister Hitchcock.

Now, this is Hitchcock, so there's a twist, and it's a twist just about all of the pulse wearing public is aware of. But I say no more of the plot. Respect. AMRU 4.
"A boy's best friend is his mother."

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Rocky (1976)

Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) is a bum. He could have been somebody, but instead he does odd jobs for gangsters. It's a living. His life is turned upside down when the reining world champ wants to fight him. You see, the contender had to drop out because of a scheduling conflict and nobody else wants to go up against Apollo Creed. So, for the nation's bicentennial, Creed chooses a working man. This is the land of opportunity, after all.

So Rocky goes into training. The old man (Burgess Meredith) who hates him so much agrees to be his manager, he goes running in the early hours without a filming permit, eats raw eggs, and punches meat. You know, standard training stuff. In the midst of all this, Rocky is wooing his asshole friend's weirdo sister.

For some, it is unthinkable that a Rocky film actually won an Oscar for best picture. Also keep in mind that Sylvester was nominated for best actor AND best original screenplay. Unthinkable, but true. What was unthinkable to me was that I had never seen it.

So, how low budget was this film? How much of a risk was it to make? When the studio found out that Stallone demanded to star in it, they cut the budget in half, to 1 million. More than that, the producers were told that if it went a cent over budget, they would be personally responsible. They had to front a hundred grand of their own money to get the film made. It became the highest grossing film of the year.

Rocky is a slow burn, spending much more time on the love interest than the fight. When the fight comes into focus, it's seen through the filter of the budding romance. So, one of the most iconic sports movie ever (and the only to win best picture) was in fact a romance.

And a good film at that. I hadn't seen any of it's best picture competitors, but it's a fair selection. It's gritty, character driven story rings true even when elements become far fetched. I'll consider a second viewing. AMRU 3.5.
"I think we make a real sharp couple of coconuts - I'm dumb, you're shy, whaddaya think, huh?"

Monday, September 3, 2012

What's Up, Tiger Lily? (1966)

Secret Agent tries to help a nation get a spot on the globe by stealing an egg salad recipe. Fastest summation ever.

What this REALLY is, is a convoluted Japanese spy movie that an American studio bought the rights to but decided they couldn't do anything with it. So, they gave it to Woody Allen to play with. What he did was dub the voices to completely change the plot to something completely foolish. Mission accomplished.

Along the way the studio fattened the movie up by including scenes with crappy 60's band The Lovin' Spoonful.What we are left with is an amusing diversion with a very MST3K feel to it. What needs to be known is that the original movie was Key of Keys and was quite popular in Japan, and this was Allen's first directorial credit. Not bad. Keeps your interest. Not going to fall to the floor laughing, but worth an occasional snicker. AMRU 3.
"Woody, since the story is a bit difficult to follow, would you mind giving the audience and myself a brief rundown on what's gone on so far?"