Monday, April 20, 2015

Kongo (1932)

Deadlegs Flint (Walter Huston) has built an ivory poaching empire deep in the African jungle. But his ultimate goal isn't wealth. It's revenge. Revenge on the man who stole his wife and made him a cripple. But more than that, the man who sneered at him. Trouble is in store for everyone concerned.

Something of a remake of the Lon Chaney silent West of Zanzibar from four years earlier, or at least of the theatrical source material, Kongo is a dark, gritty drama that borders on Horror. There are more racist films, but none come to mind. You see, the Africans are primitive and childlike, and can easily be controlled with slight of hand tricks and sugar cubes. Of course, whitey doesn't come off too stellar either. Huston's Flint is truly terrible. He manipulates English and Africans alike. Even Portuguese. His physical portrayal was very convincing and Chaney-esque. I suppose now I have to see the original.

The center of the plot resolves around Flint's plan to punish his nemesis by disgracing the man's daughter (Virginia Bruce), whom he has captured. It's this daughter, mad from disease, torture, and brandy, as well as a stoned-off-his-ass doctor who happens upon the scene, who serve as the story's protagonists. Hot tamale Lupe Velez plays a mostly sympathetic character. She would go off herself twelve years later. And so it goes.

Very stylized acting typical of low-rent thrillers, Huston's performance was impressive never-the-less. It won't stand up against the best in the genre, but am glad I saw it. Not sure how I would feel if I was from Africa, however.
"Fuzzy got boom stick? Fuzzy keep two eyes on new white man all time. New white man come in, if he try go, fuzzy shoot, boom, kill. Fuzzy watch, all time."

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Grease (1978)

Bad boy Danny has a summer fling with good girl Sandy, but things get awkward when she shows up at his high school for the senior year.

Many years ago I saw Grease in the theater (do the math) and while this wasn't exactly in my wheelhouse, I really enjoyed it. Recently at my son's Middle School talent show, the choir did a medley of Grease songs (the six boys were all lip syncing). I got a hankerin' to see the old flick, so a few days later I tied my three boys to chairs and had their eyes forced open ala Clockwork Orange, and cranked up the old Netflix. One of them liked it. Kinda.

A few observations. Vince Fontaine's hands were all over Marty Maraschino, not that I blame him much. She played Elaine on Soap. Nice to see old friend Joan Blondell in a small roll. Jeff Conaway was supposed to sing Greased Lightening, but Travolta pulled rank. At least he got to marry Olivia's big sister. For a little while.

Elvis, who was offered the part of the guardian angel, was referenced in Rizzo's Sandra D song. The original stage play referenced Sal Mineo (Rebel Without a Cause) but because he was murdered in 1976 they changed the line to reference Presley. The day the scene was filmed, Elvis died. And so it goes.

My boys had the same reaction to the big reveal as I did some 37 years earlier. We liked the before Sandy. The message seems because Danny couldn't NOT be a douchebag, she had to transform into a skank. That's quite depressing if you think about it.

There is no getting around it. Grease is a goofy-ass film. But the music is catchy, the performances spot on, and the choreography excellent. Despite any knocks I can give it, it's guaranteed to please. Well, one out of three boys, anyhow. AMRU 4.
"Peachy keen, jellybean."