Thursday, October 17, 2019

Suspiria (1977)

An American woman (Jessica Harper), travels to Freiberg to join an exclusive ballet school. When she arrives late and during a storm she passes by another student who is running away. Suzy later learns that the girl was brutally murdered later that night. No red flags there, so she proceeds to get to know here schoolmates and start training.

In another film I would say something like “all is not as it seems” but from the very offset, all does not seem well. Strange behavior, strange lighting, strange sets, strange score. Strange movie. The audience is on edge from the very onset, even when the main character doesn’t appear to be so.

Our hero Suzy befriends Sara, who was friends with Pat, the girl who fled (and died). She knows something strange is going on and tries to find out what. Originally the ballet students were to be young girls but a hyper-violent film starring tweens would have been problematic. So they hired twenty-somethings but kept some of the adolescent dialog. SSSSSSSS!

Running the ballet school is old friend Alida Valli (The Third Man, Eyes Without a Face) and Joan Bennett, who I’ve not seen in anything just yet. This is my first Dario Argento film which should not be a surprise as I’m not much of a fan of the Giallo style. It’s a good thing I started with his most famous and arguably best.

I experienced a few moments of confusion watching Suspiria. They were cleared up when I saw a video analysis which included footage that wasn’t in my version. I watched from TCM who prides themselves for showing films uncut, but clearly this was not the case here. I wonder what else I missed. The movie wasn’t as violent as its reputation.

Suspiria is a weird film. The strange narrative style, expressive sets, bizarre lighting, and oppressive score give the viewer a disquieting feeling. This cannot be overstated. Nothing looks real so the viewer does not know if the regular rules of reality apply. And what to make of the expression on the face of the character at the very end? I would definitely see it again even if my copy was uncut. This is a memorable film. AMRU 4.
“Susie... Sarah... I once read that names which begin with the letter 'S' are the names of SNAKES!”

Sunday, October 13, 2019

The Exorcist (1973)

The sweet, innocent Regan (Linda Blair) starts exhibiting strange behavior, so mom (Ellen Burstyn) takes her to a doctor. They do invasive tests but can’t find anything wrong, so they give up and tell her to take her to a psychiatrist. Soon the psychiatrists give up and tell her to take her to an exorcist. After initially claiming that there is no such thing as exorcists, the priest gives in and performs the ritual. Things don’t go well.

Many films have apocryphal stories of extreme audience reactions. People diving out of the way of an oncoming train in The Great Train Robbery plus William Castle’s many legal waiver and fitness test gimmicks. On a similar note, people did not riot when they heard Wells’ radio performance of War of the Worlds. Here with The Exorcist, we have the real deal. Legit paramedics were occasionally called for hysterical viewers. Castle, I’m sure, was jealous. Before the disturbing horror scenes later in the film is a realistic angiograph scene which I am sure convinced many to not undergo the procedure.

The version I saw was titled “The Version You’ve Never Seen” so now that I’ve seen it, I don’t know what to think. This version includes an inverted crab walk scene that had been cut from the original. The Exorcist is a slow burn, even dragging a bit. But remember, before this film the general public did not know what an exorcism was. Nor did they know what they were about to experience, so we must forgive modern audiences with an “Get on with it, already!” attitude. Myself included. When we get to the Evil, The Exorcist does not disappoint.

Mom turns to Father Karras to exorcise her daughter. He cautions that this could make things worse, but there really isn’t anything worse. So Father Merrin (Max von Sydow) is called in to lead. The forty three year old von Sydow wore heavy old-age makeup to take on this role. He’s ninety now and still working. Some may remember him from The Force Awakens or as the Three-Eyed Raven back before the series tanked. Old friend Lee J. Cobb played a detective watching the action mostly from the outside.

The Exorcist is rightly an icon of horror. It's a well written, well acted, very original shocker. Production was very troubled. The shoot was a form of hell for the actors, but the result was unquestionable. Maybe they beat us over the head with the "Regan is sweet and innocent" message, but that's forgivable. Don't care why demon is doing this, that's ok. you aren't subjected to exposition. Do care? The hints are in there. AMRU 4.
"The Power of Christ Compels you!"

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

The Mummy (1959)

A noted archaeologist plunders … I mean excavates the tomb of a beautiful Egyptian princess. While his young son (middle-aged Peter Cushing) nurses a broken leg, an Egyptian in a fez warns dad not to desecrate the burial site lest he incur the wrath of Karnak. But desecraters will be desecraters. Dad is alone in the tomb when something happens and he spends the next three years in a home for the mentally disordered (been there). Finally dad explains that he was reading a Scroll of Life he found when a mummy came out of nowhere and attacked him. The game is afoot.

I have never been too charmed by these Hammer horror updates. They are a brightly colored, slightly sexy and bloody, simplified versions of the originals, and The Mummy is no different. What they add in blood and cleavage they lose in creepy atmosphere. Here the story elements are mostly stolen from various Universal Mummy films with little new added. So, why was I so immensely entertained by it? The best reason I can figure is that after watching The Love Wanga, the high quality print, bright set pieces, flowery language, and decent acting was a very welcome change. There was no question how the story would end, only the details.

Once again Christopher Lee plays the monster while Cushing plays our hero. Kharis is doomed to stand guard over his beloved Princess because he tried to use that very same Scroll of Life to bring her back after she was embalmed, and if you saw the sexy, sexy embalming scene, you’d understand. Gosh, is Cushing’s lovely bride the spitting image of Kharis' long dead Princess? Of course she is.

Lee looks great at the Mummy. Distinctive from the Universal movies and downright menacing. Sure, the ending is dumb and it has the cleanest, least ornate, and most brightly lit ancient tomb on film, but I loved every second of it. The Mummy is by no means a great film. IMDb rates it lower than the Frankenstein and Dracula efforts, but based on my reaction on the night I watched, I rate it a bit higher. AMRU 4.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

The Love Wanga (1936)

or Ouanga, or Drums of the Jungle ...

Pretti Klili (Fredi Washington) is the daughter of a Haitian plantation owner and a practitioner of voodoo. When her white lover returns from New York with his new white fiancee she declares that if she cannot have him, nobody can. Enter into this is Adam’s overseer LeStrange (Sheldon Leonard) who says if he can’t have Klili, nobody can. Something of a love rectangle. Love stinks.

This film made my radar because it is the second ever to feature zombies after White Zombie. It is super low budget and surprisingly hard to get. I contacted another blogger who turned me on to Something Weird Video. When I thanked him, he ominously replied “Better watch it first -- THEN decide if you want to thank me!” I’ve watched it. While it’s no White Zombie, I do thank him.

Our protagonist appears to be voodoo priestess Klili. Absolutely the villain but it’s she whom the story follows. We understand her motivation. We understand her desire to use voodoo to harm lovely blond Eve because she earned Adam’s affections (wait, what? Adam and Eve? Goddammit …) Anyhow, Klili is on screen for almost the entirety of the film. We don’t hate her, we kinda root for her.

One cannot watch old films, especially Hollywood films, and completely ignore the issue of race. Many discriminate through exclusion. Films, even those set in the underbelly of the city or even inside prisons, won’t have even a single black person on screen. And those that do cast them either as comic relief or in servant roles. A few were well meaning but the scenes don’t age well. Here is another approach. Klili is a light skinned Haitian in love with a white man. He chooses to marry Eve even though she is no whiter than Klili. It’s what’s inside that matters, but not in a good way. LeStrange cautions her to keep to her “own kind” (let’s ignore for the moment that Leonard Sheldon looks nor behaves nothing like any of the other Haitians).

This somewhat mirrors Fredi Washington’s real-life experience. White enough to “pass”, she refused and that cost her better roles. But our characters aren’t expressing what is true or right (except, ironically, maybe our villain) but the reality of the time and culture they were in. Somewhat thought provoking. I am curious to learn the perspective of the non-white bread.

Interesting as these elements are, The Love Wanga is a very low budget film. The story is rather simple, the dialog trite, the acting stilted, the video quality terrible, and the audio even worse. It was a tough film to watch for those reasons, but it did feature two bona fide zombies. And for this it is memorable. Still, I can’t bring myself to rate it any higher than 2.5. By the way, a Wanga (or Ouanga) is a voodoo spell.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

The Scarlet Claw (1944)

Holmes and Watson are in Quebec listening to a lecture on the occult by Lord Penrose. The small Canadian town of La Mort Rouge where the Lord is from has a folk tale where people and livestock were mysteriously killed, their throats ripped out. The Lord takes an important phone call and learns that his wife was murdered in exactly the same way. He uses this fact to thumb his nose at that smug skeptic Sherlock.

Penrose doesn’t want Holmes snooping around but Sherlock received a letter from the deceased asking for his help, so he investigates. There are many suspicious characters in this small town and Holmes (Basil Rathbone) and his trusted assistant Dr. Watson (Nigel Bruce) are on the case.

There are a couple ways The Scarlet Claw resembles The Hound of the Baskervilles, which is actually mentioned early in the film. The primary being where a murderer uses old legends to cover his crimes -- OH I’M SORRY DID YOU THINK REAL GHOSTS AND MONSTERS WERE AT PLAY? MAYBE I SHOULD HAVE ISSUED A SPOILER WARNING! -- There are other similarities but I shan’t share.

What makes this episode slightly better and recent ones is that you don’t actually know who the bad guy is, and there are many suspects. One complaint I do have is that Holmes doesn’t seem terribly adept at preventing additional murders, arriving just after the nick of time.

Hey, look! It’s Ian Wolf! That guy was in everything … blah blah blah. I also recognized the name Kay Harding, but she was only in one other film I saw, another Sherlock. She was only in seven films.

You know, I’m starting to feel sorry for Watson. Sure, he’s full of bluster. He overshares in front of suspects, stumbles around, and here gets stuck in the mud. But he’s a real doctor (even gets to do some actual doctoring this time), is fiercely loyal, and always answers the call. Here he was twice referred to as Holmes’ “assistant” and is teased by Sherlock himself. Just not fair. Let’s give good old John Watson, MD some credit, shall we?

This episode lands on a higher note than the previous. It had atmosphere, excellent character performances, and real mystery. AMRU 3.5.
“Aw, what you need is more faith and less imagination!”

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

The Gold Rush (1925)

Prospectors face difficult times seeking gold in the Klondike. Amongst them is our little Tramp, who gets himself into predicaments and falls in love.

Production began with Lita Grey as the romantic lead, who was only sixteen at the time and first met Chaplin when she was just twelve. So, he started doing the sex thing and she became pregnant. Funny how that happens. They were forced to get married which delayed production for a few months. He recast the lead with Lita’s friend, Georgia Hale, with whom he started doing the sex thing. At least she was an adult.

Chaplin recut the film in 1942, rewriting the title cards, reorganizing some scenes, added a synchronized score, and even cutting short a long kiss with Hale, with whom he was no longer doing the sex thing. The copy I watched was a best effort to recreate the original 1925 version.

In the end Charlie gets the girl (and you had no doubt) and comes out on top. Unlike The Kid which had real emotional gravity and great performances, there is little to draw you in here. The last of the great Chaplin films, I have to say I never found him particularly funny. But before I trash Chaplin, let me explain where I am coming from. The Gold Rush is an “all time great film”. The fifth highest grossing silent film, selected by the National Film Registry, and on everyone’s top whatever list. These are high standards. But it’s not even on my personal top ten SILENT films list, let alone an all time great. Apart from the Dancing Rolls bit, which was pretty good, I wasn’t charmed.

The Tramp meets up with a big burly prospector as well as a big burly outlaw. Little Charlie is the butt of all the jokes, runs some scams of his own, and wins the heart of a woman who literally treats him like garbage. It’s not a bad film by any stretch. It’s entertaining for the most part, but not a masterpiece of cinema. I won’t need to see it again. AMRU 3. Watch Buster Keaton.

Friday, September 20, 2019

The Quatermass Xperiment (1955)

An Xperimental rocket lands in an English farm. What went up with three astronauts came down with only one and two empty space suits. Our heroic pilot Victor can't talk to explain what happened. Chaos reigns as things go from bad to worse.

The spelling of Xperiment is explained by this being the first Sci-Fi film to earn an X rating. Apparently that meant something different in 1955 Britain. British films lacked the polish and style of Hollywood which gives them a certain charm. Another difference is their choice for protagonist. In America he would be a young hotshot or a thirty-something hunk, with a love interest either way. Here he’s a fifty-something bombastic professor who bullies everyone into doing what he wants. In real life he would have been taken into custody on day one.

Here we find that annoying Sci-Fi trope where the mystery is explained by two minutes of speculative, ridiculous exposition that makes sense to nobody, and the audience is expected to accept it without question. Nothing further happens in the film to support or better explain this hypothesis.

The Quatermass Xperiment was based on a TV mini-series and spawned a series of TV and feature film sequels. They tried rebooting it in 2005 to less than spectacular results. It’s interesting, maybe counter intuitive, to continually make feature film versions of television productions, but that’s what seems to have happened here. Don’t we usually do it the other way around? TV and film reboots happened so often I’m not certain they are part of the same Quatermass universe.

Let’s get back to what a jerk our hero really is. Quatermass launches the rocket without authorization because he's impatient. And every decision he makes along the way seems to be incidental to the safety and well being of the people around him. How is this our hero?

1950’s British level production quality, interesting concept, short enough not to bore me. Pilot Victor's makeup was creepily effective (although wife didn't mention anything about his looks) and the final monster was quite good. The story? Well, it was almost interesting enough to be a Dr. Who episode. AMRU 3.

Monday, September 16, 2019

The Spider Woman (1943)

The Pajama Suicides plague London but Holmes (Basil Rathbone) is out fishing. It seems his heart just isn’t in it anymore. Then he dies. Roll credits.

Just kidding. Obviously Holmes isn’t dead and these suicides are actually murders, but you already knew that. I wonder if a woman and a spider play a role in all of this.

It’s been over a year since my last Sherlock film and I’d like to finish them off at some point. Spider Woman makes ten of fourteen if I count correctly. Another is coming soon leaving three. They all have a certain consistency. A similar level of low grade humor, low grade mystery, and a bit of charm. Some better than others, and this one tends towards the others.

First, there is no mystery here. We know who the villain is, she (not fooled for a second about that death ruse) knows that Holmes is onto her. Seriously, he should just give up on those stupid disguises. We also know the why of the crimes. With old rich dudes, money is always the motive. All we have to figure out is the hows and this film gives us too few clues to piece it together. Spoiler alert, it involves a dwarf in blackface. Didn’t see that coming!

Pretty Gale Sondergaard plays a better than fair villain. She appeared in Bob Hope’s The Cat and the Canary and the completely unrelated Spider Woman Strikes Back, as well as a large number of genre pictures. She would retire at the cusp of 50 because she was blacklisted. After twenty years away she staged a minor comeback appearing in four more films before her death.

The Spider Woman offers fairly little. Generic Holmes and Watson story, tired plot lines, and nothing new. Worse yet part is set in a carnival. Hasn’t Holmes done that before? Can’t remember. Also, they get the science of spiders so very wrong. Still, it’s fairly short and holds your interest throughout. AMRU 3. Oh, and I really feel The Pajama Suicides would have been a better title.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

The Killers (1946)

A simple gas station attendant (Burt Lancaster) is killed by hit men. Why? An insurance investigator decides to investigate. Slowly Swede's life is revealed piece by piece.

Ok, so I watched The Killers (1946) because I confused it with The Killing (1956). Get your yuks out now. Both are film-noir and both highly rated. Killing was on my radar because it was directed by Stanley Kubrick but Killers should probably have been as well.

Lancaster was not the producer’s first choice. An ex-acrobat who learned acting in the USO, he had zero screen credits. Choices one and two were unavailable, so they went with the 32 year old complete unknown. When the rushes came back they realized they made the right choice. Top billing in his first Hollywood film and a star is born.

Adapted from an Ernest Hemingway short story, it was the only adaptation he personally approved of, although much of the film is original. Maybe that’s why it centers around the Killed and not the ones who did the Killing. Ava Gardner played the femme fatale whom we all remember from The Barefoot Contessa and nobody remembers from Shadow of the Thin Man. Killers is her highest rated film but I am curious to see Night of the Iguana, if for no other reason than because it has a cool name. Edmond O’Brien plays the investigator. He also was in Contessa, and in Seven Days in May with both Burt and Ava. He shows up in quite a few films I’ve seen and want to. I will keep an eye out for him in the future. Phil Brown plays a small speaking role. If you’re unfamiliar then someone must have taken you to Anchorhead and had your memory erased.

All in all a very interesting story. Told in chronological flashback, Swede’s story holds your interest and the ending pays off. It’s a well done noir and worth a second watch. AMRU 4.
“Don't ask a dying man to lie his soul into Hell.”

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

The Front Page (1931)

A newspaper reporter is quitting the business to marry his sweetheart, but his editor (Adolphe Menjou) isn’t giving up so easy. As a big story unfolds around them, the editor connives to keep Hildy in the game.

Filled with sharp dialog and quick wit, this stage adaptation was remade nine years later as His Girl Friday with Cary Grant in the lead. The story is principally the same except Hildy was gender bent to be Grant’s ex-wife, a fairly clever twist if you think about it. What Girl Friday had in marquee stars and Hollywood polish, The Front Page matched with a darker tone and pre-code edginess. The internet strongly prefers the Grant version but I liked it only a bit more. Billy Wilder directed another version in 1974 with Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon which has to be pretty good. Additionally there are four TV versions and a Burt Reynolds vehicle.

Let’s talk about Adolphe Menjou. I just recently saw him in A Star is Born (1937) in which I barely remember him and also in A Farewell to Arms (1932) which I don’t remember him at all. To be fair, that was a while ago. Those were character roles but he is front and center in The Front Page. His career went from silent film villain, to ladies man, to background character. A healthy career filled with ‘A’ pictures. His roles diminished as things went on but when you spend your life crusading against Hollywood Commies and other phantoms, people don’t offer you the juiciest roles.

There was a surprising amount of casual racism. Reporters call in stories into their news desk that don’t pertain to the story at hand but provide atmosphere to the environment. Sometimes those stories involve language surprising to my puritanical ears. Equal parts hate and quaint. When Hildy tells the guys he’s getting married they ask if she is white. When the editor talks about a wife he loved, he says he “treated her white”. What does that even mean? The message I took was that while the reporters were hand-to-mouth working stiffs, society afforded an even lower caste for them to look down upon.

Another interesting pre-code remnant are pictures of topless women seen around the newsroom, particularly near the door. A fussy newsman orders a sandwich using “gluten bread”, comedically emphasizing the ‘gluten’, so I was curious what that could mean in 1931. Was there non-gluten bread back then? Googling gluten bread here in the 21st doesn’t produce useful results, so my question was left unanswered.

Other than the fact that audio equipment of the day required the actors to shout their lines, the movie plays very well. It was clever, charming, and surprisingly well shot. Oh, and the racism. AMRU 3.5.
“Williams is a poor bird who had the tough luck to kill a colored policeman in a town where the colored vote counts!”

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (1938)

A radio station is looking for a Little Miss America, a girl to sing while pitching bran flakes, and little Rebecca (Shirley Temple) is exactly who they are looking for. But step-dad Uncle Charlie thinks they are passing on her so he deposits her with her dead mom’s sister who will have nothing to do with this show business talk. There she learns to love country life and becomes friends with the neighbor (Randolph Scott!) who is searching for that little girl his incompetent assistant allowed to leave the studio before signing a bran flakes contract.

Our incompetent assistant is played by Jack Haley, whom some may remember as the Tin Man. Haley himself said that if it wasn’t for that role, nobody would remember him at all, and I tend to agree. Gloria Stuart played the ingenue/love interest. She was also Old Rose in Titanic. She lived to be a hundred. Also here is dancer Bill Robinson. Bojangles was a great and innovative tap dancer prior to making films. He was paired with Temple for three movies and eeked out a modicum of Hollywood fame.

Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm is a remake of the Mary Pickford film of the same name. I understand many of Temple’s films were Pickford remakes. Pickford, who frequently played roles much younger than she, was 25 years old when making the original version compared to ten for Temple. Temple was up for the role of Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, but didn’t get it. She remembered that as a lost opportunity to step out of Pickford’s shadow and do her own films. I wonder if Pickford auditioned.

Early in the film there was a sassy receptionist that I thought was going to be a major character. She wasn’t but I found out why all her scenes were sitting down. At 4’11 she was actually shorter than Shirley. I thought step-dad was going to be a gruff but amiable character but they went in the opposite direction with him. I forget that Demarest didn’t play likable much prior to My Three Sons.

I was looking for another film to see and I wasn’t motivated by anything on the DVR or streaming. I popped on TCM just before the beginning of Rebecca and decided to give it a chance. I Hadn’t seen a Shirley Temple film front to back, maybe ever, so I gave it a try. No part of it was terrible so I ended up seeing the whole film.

Maybe sacrilegious to say but little Shirley was charming, kinda cute, but only talented because she was young. Nobody marveled at her skill and as she matured she outgrew her specialness. Hollywood didn’t turn its back on her any more than she had nothing left to offer. In the end Rebecca was upbeat, well composed, and somewhat charming, but I won’t go out of my way to see another. Well made cotton candy is still cotton candy. AMRU 3.
“I never get nervous. I'm very self-reliant.”

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

The Black Scorpion (1957)

Geologists studying a volcanic eruption in Mexico discover that earthquakes have released giant prehistoric scorpions that were entombed in obsidian (or Dragon Stone). The process of holding a living creature in suspended animation inside a volcanic rock is known to scientists as bull shit (Bovem de Stercore to be scientific about it). Our heroes fight the monsters, find love, and everyone lives happily ever after.

Not many good films begin with voice over narration, and this is no exception. Here we cover all the elements that worked in better giant bug movies (Them!, Tarantula) and do it for a fraction of the cost. What we have is a formulaic, predictable, and reasonably pleasant waste of 81 minutes.

And the lack of a budget is on clear display. Most of the movie appears to be done with rear projection. A train is barrelling down the tracks towards a giant scorpion. The scene is tediously lengthened to increase suspense (spoiler, scorpion eats the train) so we see the train miniature (literally named Lionel Lines) pass by the same rock face at least three times. Another shot of a series of stop motion scorpions crawling out of a cave or crevasse is reused several times throughout the film. But this isn’t the worst of it. Money completely ran out before they could finish the major fight scenes so the scorpions appear as black silhouettes. Downright confounding.

I saw this one as a kid on Creature Double Feature way back when. I didn’t think much of it at the time but at least it wasn’t yet another ‘zilla film they were always throwing at us. With adult eyes I found it likable for what it was. Yet another bug film but with a certain charm. Set in Mexico, gringos got most of the lines, but I felt they were respectful of the culture, at least by 50’s standards. Under the best conditions nobody is frightened by scorpions when they have already been menaced by tarantulas, so don’t go looking for scares.

The Black Scorpion is what it is. Unoriginal, forgettable, and predictable. But I kinda liked it. AMRU 3. I suppose I have to see The Deadly Mantis now.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Eraserhead (1977)

Henry is invited to dinner by a girl to meet her parents. There he discovers that she’s had a baby. She thinks. That is, she thinks it’s a baby. Now they must get married. This is Henry’s nightmare, and maybe yours.

Eraserhead fades between a surreal dream-like half fantasy, into a disturbing total fantasy, then back again. We don’t always know what is sorta real and what isn’t. What we see is a bizarre man living in an unsettling world filled with disturbing images that don’t quite make sense. It’s an anxiety filled dream in a fantasy landscape that only vaguely resembles reality.

What’s the meaning on the Man in the Planet? The worms? The hair? The poodle-girl in the radia-tair? Sorry, mon frere, but I’m not going there. What is clear is that Henry lives in a low rent, disturbing, unsatisfying, sometimes hostile world and is unexpectedly saddled with a special needs child he had with a woman who barely tolerates him. What better food for nightmare could there be than this?

An amazing thing about this film is how consistent the tone is, despite the fact that production took five years to complete. A character sees something gross and disturbing and we look to the characters reaction to judge what we are to think of it. Is it normal is this world or the height of horror? What we see is a reaction halfway between. Jack Nance kept the iconic hair-do for the duration of the shoot. Jack would later die from injuries sustained in a brawl outside a donut shop. And so it goes.

Eraserhead is an enigmatic, bizarre, and fascinating study in world building. I’m certain some of the images are there just to confound, but it completely sets the tone. The viewer is in for a ride. AMRU 4.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Rio Bravo (1959)

While harassing the town drunk (Dean Martin), bad guy Joe shoots a man trying to intervene. Sheriff Chance (John Wayne) locks him up but bad Joe happens to have a rich and influential brother who doesn’t want baby bro to stand trial. Now our Sheriff has to stand down ruthless cutthroats with deputy drunk and grandpa Stumpy (Walter Brennan). Hottie Feathers (Angie Dickinson) shows up because why not.

What the hell is Ricky Nelson doing in this film? For the uninitiated, Ricky Nelson was a pop singer, teen heart throb, and star of The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. Think a nineteen year old Justin Bieber if he had a smidge of acting talent. The studio pushed him onto Howard Hawks who gave him the fewest lines and fairly little screen time. Guys of the day found it a little bit easier to convince their gals to see a western.

The luster started to diminish on Wayne’s career, his last few films not doing very well. The answer was to fall back on the John Wayne character which he successfully did into the 1970’s. Gone were the days of out of character roles and non-genre pictures. Not a bad trade off, really.

I suppose the point of adding the Dickinson character was to raise the stakes for our hero. Sassy and independent as she was, Feathers was still a woman that needed protection. 24 years her senior, Wayne was uncomfortable with the love scenes. Angie looked plenty comfortable to me.

I never thought of Dean Martin as a serious actor. Comedian and singer, but never an acTOR! But to be fair, this is the first feature I’ve seen him in, maybe ever. And he acted the living crap out of it. The Dude was a complex character with nuance and a real character arc. This was by far the best film he appeared in and I don’t expect that his other performances will match up.

Rio Bravo is a film school staple and a favorite of Quentin Tarantino. It is a very interesting film and the opening shot is quite good, but in the end it is just a hero's tale. Serve justice, save the town, get the girl, and leave the character growth for the people around you. AMRU 4.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

The Wrong Man (1956)

Broke Musician Manny (Henry Fonda) tries to borrow against his wife’s life insurance policy to pay for her dental work and is mistakenly identified as an armed robber. Other eyewitnesses positively identify him as the assailant and his handwriting matches the notes. His world swirls down the crapper while his hot wife (Vera Miles) goes off the rails.

Manny is an aw shucks nice and honest man. Kind to his mother, patient to his wife and child. We know this because Hitch beats us over the head with it. Repeatedly and to the point that it  longer than the hour forty five run time. Also, have I pointed out that he was THE WRONG MAN? Oh, we did? Good. Sometimes suspense comes at the expense of subtly.

Not one of Hitchcock’s top films, in fact I judge it pretty low on his list. Maybe lowest if his post war work, be he had done so many it’s hard to say. Not that it is tragically flawed. Not compared to Rope and Strangers on a Train, which were less boring. Fonda’s Manny is two dimensional and uninteresting. Also at 50 he was 24 years older than wife Vera Miles. Creepier still, they had an eight year old boy. Maybe the most interesting part is Miles’ performance in the third act. She played the standard dutiful wife up to that point before the stress really takes its toll.

Only Hitchcock film for Fonda but Vera will also star in Psycho. Least interesting of the post-war Hitchcock (so far), but still manages an AMRU 3.

Friday, June 28, 2019

The Return of Doctor X (1939)

A reporter scores an interview with beautiful star of the stage Angela, but when he arrives he finds her dead. Stabbed in the heart and everything. Rather than call the police, he runs a sensationalist news story. When she shows up at the newspaper very much alive and threatening to sue, our hero finds himself out of a job. He starts pestering his hunky doctor friend to find out if someone could survive such a wound. Lucky for our heroes, hunky doctor is asked to identify the body of a man who died in exactly the same way. The trail leads to artificial blood and the hunky Doctor’s boss’ creepy assistant (Humphrey Bogart).

Wait, what? Yes, you heard that right. Humphrey Bogart plays the creepy Doctor X. The studio naturally wanted Boris Karloff for the role but couldn’t get him. So instead they enlisted WB bit actor Bogart, who was none too pleased. Still, he did a better than fair job in his only horror role. Ostensibly a sequel to the 1932 film it shares no similarity save for a character called Doctor X. Different backstory, different first name, and, of course, different actor.

Not much horror in this one unless you count the way our hunky doctor practically orders a pretty nurse to go on a date with him, then leaves her in the car while he runs around trying to solve his little mystery. I guess you do what you must to keep your job.

The Return of Doctor X has a fair amount of atmosphere with a little sci-fi thrown in, and Bogie was rather creepy in the role, even if he felt his unfamous self too good to do genre movies. Was being a gangster thug so much better? Nice and short, you may find it worth your time. I did. AMRU 3.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Berlin Express (1948)

An American, a Russian, a German, and an Englishman walk into a bar. I mean a train. Going to Berlin. Post-war Germany is divided by the three main allied powers. Or four, I don’t know. Anyhow a German professor is working to reunite Germany for peace, so he gets blown up. Because the allied authorities are just rounding people up for questioning and nothing else, our band of multi-ethnic heroes investigate. Turns out there are these Germans who aren’t too keen on this whole ‘peace’ idea.

Enigmatic Merle Oberon played the German professor’s faithful helper. She mostly appeared in period costume dramas which is why I haven’t visited her before. Jacques Tourneur is one of those directors who could have been a big name given different circumstances. This is the sixth of his film that I’ve seen and the least interesting.

Berlin Express bares a certain resemblance to The Third Man. Actually filmed in Germany (the first US film to do so after the war) we see the war’s aftermath and the consequences the people must face. But Berlin Express isn’t quite the film. Story, acting, script, and cinematography, it pales in comparison. I don’t mean to imply that it is a bad film. The Third Man is a masterpiece, and this was, well, made by RKO. Berlin Express is quite watchable if you step clear of the comparison. It holds your interest if not your memory.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

The Lady from Shanghai (1947)

Having burned his way out of town, Orson Welles focused on the stage. In order to get his stage musical financed he promised to make a traditional, Hollywood, action thriller. What he actually made was a two and a half hour mess. He wanted voice level to be almost too low to hear and blast the audience away with sound effects. Because EvErYboDy lOvEs ThAt! Fortunately, studio meddling turned it into something watchable.

Our hero is poor Michael O’Hara who is actually Orson Welles with an Irish Accent. He earns a job on a rich lawyer’s yacht by hitting on his hot young wife (Rita Hayworth). And by saving her from thugs. There he continues his infatuation with hot Elsa and gets caught up in what we here are referring to as ‘intrigue’.

Hayworth was Welles estranged wife at the time, fun fun. He had her hair cut and bleached, which was a no-no back in the day. Rita’s strawberry blond hair was her trademark and you just don’t go messing with studio property. Were you to film in Fenway park you don’t go and paint the Green Monster blue. Welles was his own worst enemy.

I refrain from spoiling the story but in actuality the viewer has no clue where it's going for the majority of the runtime anyhow. Even Welles' O'Hara seems to have a dumbfounded expression on his face throughout the film. Studio boss Harry Cohen said he'd never hire the same man to produce, direct, and star in a film because he could never fire him. But, you know, Cohen was an ass.

Film purists will defend Welles artistic vision, but that’s not what he promised the studio. Maybe his version would have been a masterpiece, but he hadn't earned the right to make it. Not from Hollywood's perspective, at least. What we got was an interesting, weird as hell, and watchable hour and a half long film. AMRU 3.5.
“George, that’s the first time anyone ever thought enough of you to call you a shark. If you were a good lawyer you’d be flattered.”

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Dial M for Murder (1954)

Tony (Ray Milland) discovers that his rich hot wife (Grace Kelly) is having an affair, so he arranges for a complicated hit on her. When that doesn’t pan out, he tries to frame her for a murder. And everyone lived happily ever after.

Whenever you plot to kill the hot, hot Grace Kelly, you cannot be the protagonist, but Milland almost pulls it off. He gets the bulk of the screen time, is charming almost to a fault, and you can almost see his point of view. Almost. Ex-tennis pro Tony is a manipulator. If the rich Margot divorces him he loses his means to a comfy lifestyle. If she dies, he takes it all. He manipulates the would-be assassin with surgical precision. When things go awry he tries to engineer his way out of things, manipulating Margot in the process. A true master at work.

Ray Milland was a better actor than his reputation. He did a bunch of forgettable light rom-coms but his better work (The Lost Weekend) proves his ability. Dial M for Murder is a better work. Cary Grant was considered for the role but Cary must always play nice guy.

Filmed almost entirely in one room, the studio decided to make it 3D. Hitch had no interest in even making the movie, but he was contractually obligated. Not exactly a recipe for success but this is Hitchcock we are talking about. It was a great stage play and Hitch’s tenacity made it an excellent film. Then he made Rear Window.

Dial M for Murder is a smart, charming story. It is very wordy in a good way and the crime plan is very well thought out. There is no real mystery except to see how it all plays out. It’s Hitchcock at the top of his game. In his top five, for sure. Mom would have loved it. AMRU 4.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Being There (1979)

Chance (Peter Sellers) is a simple man who tends the garden for an old rich man. When the old man dies in his sleep, he is forced to leave the estate for the first time. He is injured by a parking car owned by a rich industrialist and DC power broker. Fearing he will sue, they take him in and mistake his simple speech for deep insights. Simpleton Chance the gardener becomes Chauncy Gardiner, philosophical guru.

Peter Sellers was nuts. He became so engrossed with the characters he play that he didn’t know who he was between projects. Panther director Blake Edwards thought him mentally ill with no real personality of his own. Friends would be confused when they would see him after a significant absence and find him to be a different person. There are so many weird stories about his life that I am surprised a biopic hasn’t been made.

Once inside the fancy Rand estate, Chauncy befriends another sick old man Benjamin (Melvyn Douglas), who is a close friend of the president (Jack Warden). He also attracts the affection of Ben’s wife Eve (Shirley MacLaine). Chauncy likes to watch.

Most of Being There is people interpreting Chance’s words as insightful or clever, filling in the gaps themselves as a sort of conversational Rorschach test. In one scene Chance is in an elevator, sitting in a wheelchair, chatting with the man helping him to his room. Chance says he’s never been in “one of these before”, meaning the elevator and the man assumes he means a wheelchair. They continue conversing without knowing they are talking about different things. It’s a masterful scene.

Being There is a unique film and Sellers was brilliantly understated in his role. Nominated for an Oscar, he very well may have deserved it. He was nuts, but he was also a genius. AMRU 4.
“I have no claim. I don't even know what one looks like.”

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Little Caesar (1931)

The rise and fall of an underworld crime thug (Edward G. Robinson). See The Public Enemy and Scarface. Rinse and repeat.

Little Caesar was a big hit and made Robinson a star and became the gangster stereotype, see? His full name is Caesar Enrico Bandello, or Rico for short. Or Little Caesar because he is short. His buddy is played by Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. not to be confused with his far more talented silent screen star father. Well, at least Junior made it past 60. Junior’s Joe wants out because he falls in love with his dancing partner (Glenda Farrell) in one of the most unconvincing and chemistry-less scenes imaginable. Still, the love and dancing makes Rico think Joe is soft, see?

Pre-code films had to play a game. In order to show the sex and violence that audiences craved they pretended to offer a cautionary tale. See the evils if good men are not diligent? Few were fooled but it was enough to keep the censors at bay.

So, was Rico gay? Hear me through. Joe is soft, Rico thinks, because he loves a woman. Rico acts almost jealous, like a spurned lover. And when he is first on the lamb, where does he hold out? A fruit store. Reading too much into this, am I? Of course I am.

Somewhat entertaining and historically significant, Little Caesar codified the sounds and mannerisms of the prohibition gangster. And don’t think that the racketeer Influenced and corrupt organizations act name was just a coincidence. AMRU 3.
“Well, that was white of him alright.”

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Raging Bull (1980)

The life and times of a boxer with an anger management problem (Robert De Niro).

De Niro’s Jake La Motta is neither the protagonist nor an antagonist. He is simply the main character and we see the events of his life based on the autobiography of the same name. The story follows Jake’s successful fighting career and his relationships with his brother Joey (Joe Pesci) and his second wife Vickie (Cathy Moriarty). He has ups and downs, flies into fits of paranoid jealousy, and hurts the people around him. No real story arc except for life and age as it happens.

But the real genius here is De Niro’s acting is the outstanding cinematography. Filmed in black and white, many of the ring shots are works of art. While it won the Oscar for editing, it somehow lost out to Tess for cinematography. Somehow, maybe because one of the two cinematographers on Tess had died and the voters heart strings were tugged. (The other passed before the year was out). Or maybe they just loved the sexy scenes of barely legal Nastassja Kinski. Roman Polanski is a creep. Hey look, it’s Nicholas Colasanto! You know, Coach from Cheers. I’ve never seen him in a film before.

The movie is based on the autobiography of the real-life LaMotta whose career spanned the 1940’s until the middle 1950’s. Upon seeing the film he asked his second wife, depicted by Moriarty, if he was really that bad. She responded “You were worse”. He beat his wives (married seven times), was involved with organized crime, and served time for introducing men to an underage girl at his bar. He died in 2017 at age 95.

Raging Bull is a captivating story with excellent acting performances and photography that rises to high art. One has to watch it again simply for the slow motion fight scenes.
“He ain't pretty no more.”

Sunday, March 24, 2019

A Star is Born (1937)

Ingenue farm girl Ester (middle-aged Janet Gaynor) dreams of silver screen quotation, so she goes to La La Land with Grammy’s approval and financing. There she friend-zones an aspiring director and learns that they don’t make you a star just because you ask. When working a party she catches the eye of famous (and famously difficult) actor Norman Maine (Fredric March) and he is smitten. He muscles her into a few gigs and she becomes a big star. They fall in love while Norman’s career circles the drain.

Far from a Hollywood unknown, Janet Gaynor had a decade long career before doing A Star is Born. In fact, hitting the brick wall that is 30, she did two more films before being relegated to the occasional TV guest appearance. More likely it was because of her 1939 marriage, but the first narrative sells better copy. And Fredric March, far from a fading star, went on to an extensive career lasting over thirty years more.

A Star is Born (1937) is best known for having been remade in 1954 with Judy Garland and James Mason, which was remade in 1976 with Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson, which was remade in 2018 with the Gaga and Bradley Cooper, but apparently the story bares a closer than casual resemblance to the 1932 film What Price Hollywood? With Constance Bennett and Lowell Sherman. When Hollywood sees a good formula, they know to overdo it. I’d also like to point out that at no point here did they actually cast a young unknown in the lead role. Brave.

Maybe the story was lifted from What Price Hollywood? Or maybe it was inspired by rising star Barbara Stanwyck’s marriage to spiraling leading man Frank Fay, or maybe by drunken has-been John Barrymore who has cast in the Maine/March role but couldn’t remember his lines because he was a drunken has-been. Maybe all and more. Anyhow, Star is an amusing melodrama with charming characters and good on-screen chemistry. Let’s see if I can see the other three (or four) before the year is out. AMRU 3.5.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Destination Moon (1950)

American industrialists band together to send a rocket to the moon because he who controls the moon can blow up the earth. You just know the US government aren’t going to bother, so our heroes do it for them. They are denied clearance to test the atomic engine so they just take off to the moon. Seems reasonable. They choose for their astronauts themselves.

Here I have another high concept sci-fi film with fairly little story. The characters are stock, we learn little of their nature, and there is no personal growth. But what we have is a pretty good technical depiction of actual space travel. From lift-off g-forces, to weightlessness, to many technological problems they face. Call the cooperative group NASA and make the rocket fuel liquid hydrogen and Destination Moon would resemble a documentary. Almost.

Despite the lack of real story I enjoyed watching Destination Moon for the space-nerd aspect of it. A modified version of a Woody Woodpecker cartoon shown in the film was actually later used by NASA to explain the realities of space travel. There were no preposterous moon monsters or unexpected meteor showers (ummm … spoiler alert?), just real science. Launch windows, escape velocity, and inertia. It was truly ahead of its time although Hollywood would eventually discover that fantastical foolishness was more marketable. It was the OG of 50’s rocket and saucer genre even though the slapped together and vastly inferior Rocketship X-M beat it to theaters. Destination Moon defined a sub-genre that influenced a generation. AMRU 3.5.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Taxi Driver (1976)

Troubled ‘nam vet Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) drives a taxi at night because he can’t sleep anyhow. He becomes infatuated with a hot blonde way out of his league, becomes interested in politics, and befriends a pre-teen hooker. Stuff happens and they all live happily ever after. Or Do ThEy!!!

Taxi Driver doesn’t fit genre nor narrative conventions. Is Travis a hero, tragic figure, villain, or just a character in a story? Is it a film about racism, desperation, or just graphic violence? Travis rails against the filth and scum but we are not directly led to his racism, but nor are we led away. Take that what you will. This isn’t film criticism, here. I’m not that good. Suffice to say this is the film that earned Martin Scorsese his reputation.

I do want to explore the idea of crossed communications. You’ve seen it, two people holding a conversation thinking they were on the same page but in fact they were not. We see that here between Travis and the other cab drivers, the hot Betsy, and the candidate Palantine. He thinks they understand each other, but they don’t.

Taxi Driver is a fascinating film. The cinematography is fantastic, the ending enigmatic, and it stays with you, almost hauntingly, long after viewing. Interestingly it has the same flaw as Pulp Fiction: The director’s acting performance. Little piece of vanity spoiling the masterpiece. Still, it’s a fantastic film. AMRU 4.
“I got some bad ideas in my head.”

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Westworld (1973)

Delos offers fantasy vacations at three themed destinations: Medieval World, Roman World, and Westworld. Or protagonist chooses the third, where guests can participate in fun activities like bar fights, drinking terrible whiskey, and being threatened with murder. Oh, yea, and there are prostitutes. Can’t forget them. Guess what? Things go haywire. Familiar with the old 'super fancy amusement park for the filthy rich breaks down and people die' trope? Writer/director Michael Crichton sure was.

But give the man credit. In this high concept if somewhat lackluster film are the seeds of Halloween (1978) and The Terminator (1984), not to mention Jurassic Park. This was also the first ever feature to use computer graphics and maybe the first to use a computer virus as a plot point.

Our story follows beta male Peter (Richard Benjamin) as he visits the exclusive resort with his hunky friend John (Josh Brolin’s dad). Recently divorced Peter has a hard time getting into the spirit of things until he tries out Nurse Chapel’s brothel (one night in Westworld makes a hard man humble). Then the attractions begin to malfunction. But before total chaos reigns, the technical team decides to upgrade the nasty gunslinger character (Yul Brynner) with super powers. Seemed reasonable at the time.

Not a bad film overall, but not without flaws. It’s a little slow at times and there are many technical plot holes one must suspend. It’s real legacy are the high concept ideas. There was a short lived TV series called Beyond Westworld that tanked, and Arnold even was in talks to do a remake when governorship saved us from that fate. Never saw the HBO series. Is it any good? AMRU 3.
“I must confess I find it difficult to believe in a disease of machinery”

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Kismet (1955)

A sharp-tongued poet (Howard Keel), who somehow made it to adulthood before learning you can’t make money from poetry, is mistaken for a beggar. He goes along with it. A notorious thief mistakes him for the man who put a curse on him that lost him his son, so he cons his way into being paid to release the curse. Things are going great but soon he is arrested by the Great and Mighty Wazir (Mr. French), his daughter (Ann Blyth) falls in love, and coincidences keep us all so very entertained.

Kismet is the forth and best remembered version of the 1911 play of the same name. Stylistically it falls in line with a great many musicals made around that time. Brightly colored, expansive sets, heavily rehearsed period pieces with family friendly stories that also border on the naughty. See Seven Brides, Kiss me Kate, Brigadoon. Grand spectacles, if you’re into that sort of thing.

If you’re vexed by all the honkies in Arabia remember that this is 1955 and suspension of disbelief rules the day. Particularly out of place is the Grand Caliph and teen heartthrob Vic Damone. Why he wasn’t in more films is wondered by nobody. But don’t judge him too harshly. He’s just a teenager in love.

Old friends Monty Woolley (The Man Who Came to Dinner), Jack Elam (Kansas City Confidential and just about every low budget western imaginable), and Jamie Farr make appearances. This is first film I’ve seen directed by the guy who gave Liza her last name.

Not a bad thing if you’re into the genre. I tolerated it well. I expected an “Oh, that’s where that song comes from” moment but there was none. People who whistle show tunes will be more familiar. But for me, AMRU 3.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Monkey Business (1952)

Absent minded professor Barnaby (Cary Grant) is working on an elixir of youth. He thinks he solves the problem but in reality a chimp (or “monkey”) had escaped its cage, mixed up the concoction, and put it into the water cooler. Hilarity ensues.

I have to give him credit. The 48 year old Grant was more believable as the college aged wildling than as the stodgy old scientist. But screen wife Edwina (Ginger Rogers) was downright convincing (and charming) in both roles. Hugh Marlowe of All About Eve and Day the Earth Stood Still fame gets another paycheck. Marilyn Monroe played the Marilyn Monroe character.

Don’t confuse this with 1931 Marx Brothers vehicle. I liked this one slightly better probably because it's a more conventional screwball comedy but fans of the Bros will disagree. It was pointlessly zany and holds your interest, but don’t look for any classic bits. It is what it is and that’s fine. AMRU 3.5.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

2018 Retrospective

On the face of things 2018 looked like a lean year for me, blog-wise, and that's not wrong. A new low in entries. I found it hard to be motivated to watch movies alone again. I didn’t fully shake that until Halloween approached.

I had tried to institute Family Movie Night where each family member took turns selecting something they wanted to see. We’d coordinate dinner into the theme. This didn’t last long. When they failed to be charmed by Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Rear Window, I knew I was fighting a losing battle.

So, here is a roundup of the best and worst of the year by category. For this list I included White Christmas (1954).

For me the best Christmas movie was The Man Who Came to Dinner (1942). I knew I was going to like it and I wasn’t disappointed. The worst was Beyond Tomorrow (1940). TCM was pitching an essential Christmas movie book and this was on the list. I found it disappointing. And the fact that It Happened on Fifth Avenue (1947) was not included in the book added insult to injury. I think mom would have liked best Holiday Affair (1949). She loved Robert Mitchum. She hated Bing Crosby so we never watched one of his together.

The best horror/thriller this year was The Walking Dead (1936). Not a great film, but the best this year. Maybe I should watch great horror films next October. There are quite a few greats I haven’t seen yet. The worse was undoubtedly The Astounding She-Monster (1957). Very little appeal there.

The best noir/mystery I think was The Petrified Forest (1939). I went back and forth here, but I think it just edges out Blade Runner (1982). Maybe because I saw Blade Runner in February, or maybe because I saw it before (in the theaters, voice-over narration and all), but Petrified Forest is my pick today. Mom would have loved Shadow of a Doubt (1943).

My favorite comedy was A Day at the Races (1937). It was the first Marx Brothers film I truly enjoyed. I considered Death Race 2000 (1975) but it’s a little campy for my tastes.

Overall I think The Petrified Forest (1939) was the best movie I saw. Biggest surprise anyhow. If I selected it over Blade Runner in its category, I have to select it here as well. A very enjoyable movie. Way better than I expected. Mom’s favorite would likely have been Shadow of a Doubt (1943). She loved mystery and she loved Hitchcock. I wish we saw it together.

Looking forward, I don’t have any set goals. I have 200+ on my IMDb watch list, so maybe I can chop fifteen off of that. At this rate I’ll run out of films never.

Until next time.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

White Christmas (1954)

After the war, army buddies Bob and Phil (Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye) start a song and dance act. Ten years on they become quite successful. So successful that Phil wants to marry Bob off to floozy dance girls with poor diction in hopes that it would keep taskmaster Bob occasionally occupied. When another army buddy writes asking them to give career advice to his performing sisters Betty and Judy (Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen), Phil gets the idea of matching Bob up with Betty, as her diction is perfect. They land in the non-snowy Vermont inn owned by their old commanding officer, who is struggling financially. Let’s put on a show!

Christmas Musicals are inevitably romantic comedies, this being no different. Boy meets girl, boy and girl like each other, misunderstanding, grand gesture, happy ending. Only variation here is that the grand gesture IS the misunderstanding. Also with Christmas Musicals, the plot is frequently paper-thin. Again, same here.

White Christmas is a slight retooling of Holiday Inn (1942). We have Bing, tried to have Astaire but was unavailable, reused the song, and even reused the country inn set, this time located in Vermont. They even do a minstrel number, but at least had the decency to lose the blackface. Baby steps.

I remember Rosemary Clooney from her old and fat days, wondering why she was famous. Not a classic beauty, she was certainly charming. And at 25 she was definitely good enough for the 50ish Crosby. Oh, and she was George’s aunt. Her little sister was played by the anorexic Vera-Ellen. Anyone who danced next to her was paled by her energy and skill. Clearly it wasn’t food she was getting her energy from. She had to be dubbed for the singing parts.

Except for the benefit of color (and lack of blackface color), we essentially have the same movie as Holiday Inn. Many musical numbers if you’re into that sort of thing, witty and charming dialog, simple story with low-stakes consequences. AMRU 3.5.