What is the last film you watched? (2017)

Open, general discussion of classic sound-era films, personalities and history.
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Jim Roots

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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2017)

PostMon Dec 04, 2017 6:40 am

Donald Binks wrote:George Formby was much the same character in all his pictures - a gawky lad with prominent teeth in a perpetual grin who was a bit of a naive nincompoop and shy with the girls. He can be admired for not wishing to "cultivate" his strong Lancs. accent but one wonders why he achieved such popularity? Methinks it perhaps because audiences tend to show some sympathy towards the hopelessly inept, e.g., Mr. Laurel and Mr. Hardy. George was after all, a harmless and affable character - and why, he could handle a ukelele and warble in tune.

George breezes his way through "Much too Shy" (1942) which has him this time around as a village handyman in love with a local maiden of alluring qualities (Kathleen Harrison) who unfortunately is engaged to someone else (Eric Clavering). He has a little brother aged about 10, played by an actor - Jimmy Clitheroe - who was actually 21 (he had suffered damage to his thyroid gland at birth and never grew beyond 4'2", nor developed a deep voice).

George wants to be an artist but can only draw heads, so he enlists the aid of an art school in order to be able to draw bodies. Here he meets up with Charles Hawtrey, who despite having having a bit of a part, is only given scant mention in the credits. Charles and a bunch of others are heavily into abstract art and manage to fill in one of George's works with some nude (but discrete) representations. One thing leads to another and George's work is sold off to an advertising agency who use it in one of their advertising campaigns. Well, the whole thing creates a scandal in George's village because the heads on the figures are those of local women. They sue, but in the end we can say, along with George "that everything's turned out nice again". (Naturally he also gets the girl in the end.)

Plotwise, it's rubbish, but we take that for granted in films of this nature. Some of the dialogue is witty and funny - courtesy of Ronald Frankau who was one of the writers. There are a lot of nice set-ups and accompanying gags and a rather novel "chase" scene. George gets to sing a bit - well, it wouldn't be a complete picture if he didn't. The songs are of his normal slightly risque nature, pleasant enough at the time, but instantly forgetable after one has seen the picture.

It's interesting to spot the bit players - one of whom is Valentine Dyall (playing a defence barrister). Others partaking include Hilda Bayley, Eileen Bennett, Joss Ambler and Wally Patch. The direction is by Marcel Varnel. Made in 1942 it was surely a picture that would have taken the audience's minds off what was going on in the world around them at this particular time.


Formby was a great favourite of my grandfather, who came from the London/Barnstable area. This fondness for Georgie quite surprised me, as Grampa was an extremely conservative and doctrinaire guy -- he referred to the Beatles as "scum of the earth from Liverpool" and was too genteel to spit when he said "Liverpool" but you know he was doing it mentally.

Perhaps Formby was like Vera Lynn, in the right place at the right time to have his/her somewhat limited talents and great personal charm become heroic wartime symbols of "England at its best".

Jim
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2017)

PostMon Dec 04, 2017 7:05 am

George Formby was a huge star in British films and he was also a master at the ukulele. Somewhere on YT was a film about people taking lessons in how to play like Formby many decades after his death. Maybe he's more a lingering memory in the minds of seniors, but he still pops up in modern references. The 2003 film Margery and Gladys has Penelope Keith and June Brown on the lam and taking a train to Blackpool. The train is infested with impersonators. They find themselves awash in Elvis Presley and George Formby lookalikes. The music track even includes Formby standards "Leaning on a Lamp Post" and "My Little Stick of Blackpool Rock."
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2017)

PostMon Dec 04, 2017 7:17 am

The Clue of the Missing Ape is the second Children Film Foundation Film I have seen and is a good one. Naval cadet Roy Savage pulls a pilot out of a crashed airplane and is rewarded with a trip to Gibraltar. There he hooks up with Nati Banda and the two of them tangle with a comically inept band of saboteurs; among their plots, they are trying to poison the Rock's Barbary Apes, since everyone knows that when the apes leave, so will the British.

Director James Hill gives us plenty of location shooting on Gibraltar, lots of flag-waving action by the British navy in action and doesn't stint us on activity by Miss Banda, who is not in the film simply to tag along along. It's highly enjoyable kiddy fare.

Bob
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2017)

PostMon Dec 04, 2017 1:15 pm

The title DEVOTION (1931) would suggest something a bit soppy, but the presence of Ann Harding and Leslie Howard suggested it was worth watching, and indeed it was so. The film, directed by Robert Milton, has more than a dash of comedy to it with put-upon spinster Harding being immediately smitten by visiting barrister Howard. She hits on the idea of making up as a middle-aged widow so as to get a place as housekeeper to Howard at his Inn in The Temple. Howard has a slightly murky past, with a wife who is 'in Heaven' and a young son, who is a bit on the precocious side. Of course, Howard soon gets wind of the truth, through painter Robert Williams, whom he has recently got off a murder charge. What Harding doesn't realise (SPOILER) is that Howard's Missus is alive and well and most definitely not in Heaven! Spotting the pair dancing, she decides on a spot of blackmail...

The upload of DEVOTION was rather blurry in places, with odd problems with the sound. Saying that, the film is a frequently amusing, civilised entertainment, with a sprinkling of famous supporting players (Dudley Digges, O P Heggie, Alison Skipworth, Louise Closser Hale, etc., to add flavour and a bit of English atmosphere. Although based on a novel, it comes over more like a play, but nothing wrong with that, given the talent involved.
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2017)

PostMon Dec 04, 2017 3:31 pm

Got to watch LOVE THY NEIGHBOR (-40) with Jack Benny & Fred Allen this weekend. It was fun to see the Benny-Allen feud being enacted onscreen, and it had some great Benny-Rochester moments; but overall I feel something more could've been done out of the concept. It tended to drag a bit after a while. Of course, the print I watched wasn't exactly pristine either, so that likely contributed.
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2017)

PostMon Dec 04, 2017 4:15 pm

Some potted observations:

"The Last Treasure Hunt" (2017) from the synopsis, seemed like an interesting story. Too bad in this treatment it didn't translate to the screen that way. It was if they whole thing was put together by people who were either disinterested or careless or both. As such, I soon started to lose interest for I was blowed really if I could follow it. The script was written by people who didn't have a firm grip on English and where they were stuck for a word, they stuck in the "f word". It all became tedious.

"Another Mother's Son" (2017). We are on Jersey in the Channel Islands in 1942 under German occupation. A widow takes in a young Russian who has escaped from one of the slave labour camps the Nazis set up on the island. It is based on a true story and shows us of what life was like in a little known facet of the war. Unfortunately my DVD was faulty in that it lost lip synch half way through and I was treated to the sound coming to me about two minutes before the pictures. Hopefully I can get a replacement and watch this again - properly.

"Wilt" (1989) I have read a number of the Tom Sharpe novels and found them hilarious. His "heroes" seem to have compounding incidents occurring in their lives leading from disaster to disaster. It's a pity then that this film didn't do justice to that wonderful comedy because this film just limped home. I think that where it went wrong is that the gags were shown episodically instead of mounted one on top of the other as a rolling cascade. Griff Rhys Jones and Mel Smith who were riding the crest of a wave on TV at that time should have been better, but they weren't.

"The Humanity Bureau" (2017) has Nicolas Cage in another film where he is the only one able to solve problems and save the world. It is set in the future - where else? Everything is grim, because civilisation has basically collapsed. It bears a resemblance to a lot of other films and thus is operating to a formula. Good at the time for a bit of diverting entertainment here and there, but otherwise instantly forgettable.

"Broadway Babies" (1929) Generally speaking, I like nearly all the films from 1929 I see, but, on the law of averages, I must eventually get to see a stinker - and this was it. I got bored with it after about 20 minutes and started counting the petals in the ceiling rose. This is surprising because Alice White is in it. It's about gangsters and showgirls and about the only time it did something for me was when a few songs were presented.

"Dismissed" (2017) is not too bad a film, perhaps a bit rough round the edges here and there, but it kept me interested. Basically it is about a goody-goody student who turns out to be deeply psychologically disturbed and who mounts an ever increasing campaign against a teacher who won't give him the marks he thinks he deserves.

"Disconnected" (2017) The clue as to what I should have done re this picture was in the title, but I failed to follow the instruction. It's another of those teenager pictures which could have told the story it was trying to convey in half the time it actually did.
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2017)

PostMon Dec 04, 2017 6:48 pm

In The Love Match (1955) Arthur Askey and Glenn Melvyn are a pair of football-mad railway men . Askey has misplaced fifty pounds of union money, his daughter Shirley Eaton has a new ballroom dancing partner and boyfriend who's the son of the Manchester United manager, and his son has just gotten a position on United --- problem is Askey is a City fanatic.

It's based on a play that Melvyn wrote -- the leads took seven weeks off from the run to make the movie and it's been opened up nicely for the screen. The problem is that in opening it up, they didn't trim the other parts, so that at 85 minutes, it has a few scenes that seem to lead no place in particular and could well have been cut, despite the wonderful, lightning-fast speed at which everyone babbles the comic Manchester dialogue and takes staccato pratfalls -- Danny Ross, as Eaton's love interest, looks as if all his falls were viciously undercranked.

Bob
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2017)

PostMon Dec 04, 2017 8:29 pm

Sombrero (1953) is a gorgeous Technicolor film from MGM and must rank as one of the worst that studio ever produced. Based on a book entitled "Mexican Village," the story is a bunch of tripe about rival towns and three love stories. The film also includes bull fighting, a cock fight, and just about every stereotype you can think of. Vittorio Gassman was once quoted as saying this was the worst film he ever made. He might have been right. He plays the son of a rich man who loves a nobody (Yvonne De Carlo) who lives by the river. To please his father he married snotty Nina Foch but then refused to sleep with her. But he dies so it doesn't matter much. Then there's Rick Jason in his film debut who loves Cyd Charisse, but she's dominated by her bullfighter brother until he gets gored and she has to dance on a mountain top to break a Gypsy curse. Lastly is Ricardo Montalban as the village prankster who loves the sheltered Pier Angeli who lives in the rival town. To say a cock brings them together would imply much more drama than this film possessed. Directed by everyone's famous 30s actor, Norman Foster.
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2017)

PostTue Dec 05, 2017 7:34 am

Out in the wild west -- Devonshire, to be exact -- some children at a riding camp spot a man conducting The Great Pony Raid (1968) -- taking two ponies, putting them in a van and driving off with them. They notify the authorities, but the coppers don't seem very interested, so they investigate on their own.

This handsome production from the Children's Film Foundation is a delight, what with the location photography, the nicely told story and the nice bit of mystery: what does the fellow want with eighty quid worth of horse flesh? It kept me watching happily through the end. My only cavil was the music by Harry Robertson, which seemed to be overwrought and far too contemporary for a tale set in such a timeless-looking landscape.

Bob
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2017)

PostWed Dec 06, 2017 7:52 am

Diana Churchill is married to Henry Kendall and they're both a bit bored. June Clyde is married to Romney Brent and they're both a bit bored. In walks Rex Harrison who tells the husbands they need to pay more attention to their wives. The wives think a dalliance with fifth-billed Sexy Rexy is in order. Alas, I was bored by School for Husbands (1937).

At least part of the the problem was the poor copy I saw. Its audio track reduced the married couples to much the same sort of nasal drone that made it hard for me to understand what they were saying. However, the real problem with the film was that while it promises lascivious goings-on, except for scenes of the two leading ladies in their scanties, demonstrating how to roll their stockings, there aren't any. It teases the audience, but never delivers.

It's based on a stage play by Frederick Jackson and, except for about five minutes of its length is shot in the living room of Kendall-Churchill flat. The dialogue is neither particularly witty nor deep, although it is possible that the censors laid a heavy hand on the script. Nonetheless, we cannot judge a film by what it might have been under other circumstances, but by what is was when we saw it, and this one was not particularly good.

Bob
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2017)

PostWed Dec 06, 2017 8:27 am

Watched "Macao" (1952) with Robert Mitchum and Jane Russell, supported by William Bendix, Gloria Graham, Brad Dexter, Thomas Gomez, and several known-and-very-watchable others. Been a while since I'd seen this one and was looking forward to another night of Mitchum in noir. Takes place in Macao, about 50 miles or so from Hong Kong, so you'll expect to see Hollywood's line-up of Asian actors in this one - and you do - from Philip Ahn and George Chan to Spencer Chan and Lee Tung Foo, though Vladimir Sokoloff also plays an Asian, too. There are also several Hispanic and Portuguese characters to round out this supposed cosmopolitan film. Macao had been Portuguese at one time; it was returned to the People's Republic of China in 1999. Just for information's sake, it's the most densely populated area in the entire world!

There's a good guy who gets killed in this one early on. Another is sent to take his place. This other guy is from the police department in NYC, and he's/they're trying to get gambling hall owner and bad guy Brad Dexter to cross outside of the three mile barrier from Macao so that they can arrest him, take him back to the States, and then try him for a number of things. Well, who's the cop? Mitchum, Bendix, someone else? Maybe even Russell? Dexter, because of Gomez, thinks it's Mitchum, and thus does all he can to get Mitchum out of the picture. This one is a fun crime romp, with Russell supplying two songs to boot. One of them, "One for My Baby", written by Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer, is super.

Great fun. Well worth the watch. I got a great DVD on sale for only $3.98. Also got "His Kind of Woman" with the two stars at the same time for even less! It's amazing how some frugality pays off in Scottish soothing, just like a good plate of haggis...
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2017)

PostWed Dec 06, 2017 12:45 pm

R Michael Pyle wrote:Watched "Macao" (1952) with Robert Mitchum and Jane Russell, supported by William Bendix, Gloria Graham, Brad Dexter, Thomas Gomez, and several known-and-very-watchable others. Been a while since I'd seen this one and was looking forward to another night of Mitchum in noir. Takes place in Macao, about 50 miles or so from Hong Kong, so you'll expect to see Hollywood's line-up of Asian actors in this one - and you do - from Philip Ahn and George Chan to Spencer Chan and Lee Tung Foo, though Vladimir Sokoloff also plays an Asian, too. There are also several Hispanic and Portuguese characters to round out this supposed cosmopolitan film. Macao had been Portuguese at one time; it was returned to the People's Republic of China in 1999. Just for information's sake, it's the most densely populated area in the entire world!

There's a good guy who gets killed in this one early on. Another is sent to take his place. This other guy is from the police department in NYC, and he's/they're trying to get gambling hall owner and bad guy Brad Dexter to cross outside of the three mile barrier from Macao so that they can arrest him, take him back to the States, and then try him for a number of things. Well, who's the cop? Mitchum, Bendix, someone else? Maybe even Russell? Dexter, because of Gomez, thinks it's Mitchum, and thus does all he can to get Mitchum out of the picture. This one is a fun crime romp, with Russell supplying two songs to boot. One of them, "One for My Baby", written by Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer, is super.

Great fun. Well worth the watch. I got a great DVD on sale for only $3.98. Also got "His Kind of Woman" with the two stars at the same time for even less! It's amazing how some frugality pays off in Scottish soothing, just like a good plate of haggis...


Is there such a thing as "a good plate of haggis"?

I think Macao was a follow-up to His Kind of Woman! when Warners found out how popular the teaming of Mitchum and Russell was in the latter. It doesn't have the reputation of the first (chronologically) film, which kind of discourages me from tracking down a captioned version, because I wasn't all that enthralled with His Kind of Woman!

Jim
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2017)

PostWed Dec 06, 2017 4:42 pm

Oh you kid! But which one? When Clara Bow and Jean Arthur are sisters and Jean Harlow has a small role, it's hard to make up your mind which is The Saturday Night Kid (1929).

At least we can be sure it's not Edna May Oliver in her first talkie role. In this remake of 1926's Love Them and Leave Them. Miss Bow and Miss Arthur are sisters who share a room in a boarding house . They're both sweet on fellow lodger James Hall, -- who thinks of Clara as his girl -- and they all work at the same department store. When Miss Arthur, who is the pet of the store's formidable Miss Oliver, winds up in charge of the employees' welfare fund, she not only blows it on the horses, she makes a play for Mr. Hall and blames the loss on her sister.

There are a lot of problems with this movie. Overlay a nasal dem-dese-dose accent on Miss Arthur's squeaks, and you've got something very annoying; Miss Bow had been stress eating and was a few pounds over zoftig here, and the film was edited down to 64 minutes, so short that a lot of plot points are left hanging. B.P. Schulberg had been complaining for some time that Miss Bow needed better vehicles. Despite a formidable cohort, this was not it for the It Girl.

Bob
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2017)

PostWed Dec 06, 2017 7:39 pm

Inspired by the Arte documentary, I had a go at 1941's Ich klage an (aka I Accuse), the story of a happy-go-lucky wife of a research scientist who comes down with a fatal case of MS. For the first hour and a half I was marveling at how contemporary the story seems as its focus was primarily on medically assisted suicide, even wondering how this got lumped into the banned film category. It plays it absolutely square and reasonable and could easily be remade today...That is until it takes a deep and harrowing dive off the deep end as the judge and jury start pontificating about how the state should be the ultimate decider on who lives and who dies, ostensibly, the terminally ill but leaving the door wide open for, well, you know what.

I think Heidemarie Hatheyer got a bit of a bum rap for having her career suspended because of this film though. She is [SPOILER] well dead before the real nastiness begins. It is overlong albeit interesting but that last 15 minutes is a real jaw dropper
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2017)

PostWed Dec 06, 2017 8:59 pm

The River (1951). Beautiful Technicolor film about a girl's remembrance of growing up in India in the 1920s, a coming of age tale about life (as it used to be) and death and the river they live on. We see a picture (no politics) about people living together and respecting each other's belief systems even as they struggle with their own beliefs and problems. Every ending is a new beginning. The actor playing Captain John, Thomas Breen, was the son the Joseph Breen, Hollywood's censorship czar from 1934 -1941. The film was based on a book by Rumer Godden.
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2017)

PostThu Dec 07, 2017 7:27 am

I watched "His Kind of Woman" (1951) with Robert Mitchum and Jane Russell. After watching "Macao" the night before, I was charged up to see this film. Others in the cast include Vincent Price, Marjorie Reynolds, Tim Holt, Charles McGraw, Raymond Burr, and Jim Backus. Critics are all over the board on this one. Some think it a masterpiece. Some really don't. It combines film-noir, crime, drama, high camp, humor, satire, and a host of other film forms. Frankly, I was really enjoying it, when, suddenly, it turned the corner and became another sort of film. By the end I wasn't as enamored at all. I guess it was okay, but that's about as far as I'll go. Suffice it to say, crime boss Raymond Burr is in Italy where he's been deported, and now he wants to come back into the States. Well, Mitchum is forced into the role of playing patsy so that Burr can cop his identity. McGraw's a baddy, Holt's a cop. Then there's actor and chef Vincent Price. Exactly how he fits into this hokum I'll leave to your watching. Some think he's the best thing in it. Some don't. I always think Price is great, and his acting here is exactly what Howard Hughes was looking for. Frankly, I thought he was so far over the top that the part was not good - but - THAT was NOT Price's fault. Writing in this film is like a truck on a mountain road going down a twist at 100 miles an hour. The road, in my opinion, needed to be flat, and a nice old-fashioned Packard would have been better at 60 on that flat road.

After that I watched "Branded" (1931), a wonderful Western with Buck Jones, Ethel Kenyon, Albert J. Smith, Wallace MacDonald, Philo McCullough, and many others one standardly sees in "B" Western films, everyone from Lafe McKee to Art Mix, Bob Kortman, and Blackjack Ward. Kortman has the most lines I've ever seen him utter - and what a face! This is a beautifully shot film; in fact, the photography is rather spectacular, the kind of thing you'd see later in color in a John Ford film. One scene, where Jones hides behind a huge rock formation is particularly fascinating. The rock formation is a geologist's dream! The plot is rather standard, with several tropes used over and over in "B" Westerns all being put to good use. But Jones is loose and fun to watch, and all the stunts done one time and by the actors, not stunt men. The cost of the film had to be low, but the results, instead of being cheap and fractured, rather are genuinely realistic and helpful. One scene stood out: Jones is nailing a fence together, and one of the rails fall back down. Rather than re-shoot the scene, Jones simply goes over, picks up the rail, and begins again. Ethel Kenyon made a decent female foil to Jones' machismo. Really liked this film. A Sony release and in perfect condition, looking brand new.
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2017)

PostThu Dec 07, 2017 7:34 am

Youngsters David Coote and Nick Edmett discover The Secret Cave (1953), with an underground stream running through it, exiting through one of three holes. For a lark, they move a few stones and shift its course so it goes through the second hole. When they return to the outside world, they discover that the world has changed. The stream that had always run through West Poley now runs through East Poley. Their friend, Trevor Hill, was apprenticed to a cruel miller. Now, with no stream to power his mill, he has has no need for Trevor, who joyously gets a job on the farm. On the other hand, their other friend, Susan Ford, and her grandmother, are to be turned out from their pasturage to make way for a new mill!

It's a nice movie from the Children's Film Foundation with the message "Be Careful What You Wish For." The kids are clean cut and the nature photography is lovely. I saw the 47-minute version, trimmed by a quarter for television broadcast; that may account for its straightforward simplicity, which might be to your taste -- or not.

Bob
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2017)

PostThu Dec 07, 2017 12:14 pm

Jim Roots wrote:Is there such a thing as "a good plate of haggis"?

I had proper Scottish haggis at the Drover's Inn, on the shore of Loch Lomond, an ancient tavern that reportedly dates back to the time of Rob Roy. It doesn't get much more Scottish than that (although the kilted staff all turned out to be either Australian or Kiwi), and the haggis we had there was delicious. But I'm wondering if that's the exception rather than the rule.
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2017)

PostThu Dec 07, 2017 12:18 pm

Keep those Children's Film Foundation reviews coming, Bob! I remember seeing a handful of these on CBC-TV as a wee one, but haven't heard anything of them since. I gather several of them have been made available on DVD in the UK in recent years.

I'm curious to hear about one I didn't see, Michael Powell's The Boy Who Turned Yellow, which I gather isn't his best work, but must be of some interest.
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2017)

PostThu Dec 07, 2017 1:04 pm

s.w.a.c. wrote:
Jim Roots wrote:Is there such a thing as "a good plate of haggis"?

I had proper Scottish haggis at the Drover's Inn, on the shore of Loch Lomond, an ancient tavern that reportedly dates back to the time of Rob Roy. It doesn't get much more Scottish than that (although the kilted staff all turned out to be either Australian or Kiwi), and the haggis we had there was delicious. But I'm wondering if that's the exception rather than the rule.

Each gainsayer a hag is
who thinks haggis a gag is,
but the rule is, it's great,
and with each proffered plate
you'll nose up at steak, cry, "MORE haggis!"
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2017)

PostThu Dec 07, 2017 1:33 pm

R Michael Pyle wrote:
s.w.a.c. wrote:
Jim Roots wrote:Is there such a thing as "a good plate of haggis"?

I had proper Scottish haggis at the Drover's Inn, on the shore of Loch Lomond, an ancient tavern that reportedly dates back to the time of Rob Roy. It doesn't get much more Scottish than that (although the kilted staff all turned out to be either Australian or Kiwi), and the haggis we had there was delicious. But I'm wondering if that's the exception rather than the rule.

Each gainsayer a hag is
who thinks haggis a gag is,
but the rule is, it's great,
and with each proffered plate
you'll nose up at steak, cry, "MORE haggis!"



They don't call it haggis for nothing.
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drednm

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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2017)

PostFri Dec 08, 2017 5:52 am

Fat City (1972) is a grim look at the lowest possible level of professional boxing, directed by John Huston. Story follows a has-been fighter, now an alcoholic drifter in Stockton, CA, who works as a migrant farm hand, who finally pulls himself together to make one last try at a comeback. Stacy Keach is just about perfect in this role. We also see a young Jeff Bridges as a teen who thinks he has the makings of being a boxer. Of course he's much more likely to follow Keach's path. Nicholas Colasanto plays the fight manager, Candy Clark plays Bridges' girl friend. The chief asset of this film is the electrifying performance by Susan Tyrrell (Oscar nominated) as Oma the alcoholic woman with a penchant for cream sherry, a totally lost woman on the edge. The word 'superb" doesn't even begin to cover her performance.
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earlytalkiebuffRob

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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2017)

PostFri Dec 08, 2017 2:10 pm

Another CFF outing, THE CLUE OF THE MISSING APE (1953) has a touch of nastiness as well as the usual light adventure and incompetent crooks. The film starts off here in England, with a sea cadet saving a pilot from a sabotaged plane as well as being burned when saving the usual Secret Plans from the inferno.

As a reward, the lad is sent to Gibraltar, where he becomes friends with his host's daughter, the nimble-footed Nati Banda, whose antics would have today's Health and Safety bods in fifty fits. They soon become involved with the original spy and his confederates, including a suitably shifty local played by George Cole. In addition to their sabotage plot, they are poisoning the local apes, in order to stir up more unease due to the legend that once the apes leave, so do the British.

Directed by James Hill, this is a lively entry in the series, with nice location work as well as an amusing turn from young Miss Banda, whose scenes are rather unnerving at times and seem mostly done for real. In addition, one feels it's a bit of a plug for the sea cadets as well as the Royal Navy. An all-too-brief bit from Peter Copley as the spy's boss.
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2017)

PostFri Dec 08, 2017 2:54 pm

I think the archeological finds at Sutton Hoo inspired The Secret of the Forest (1956). Kit Terrington and Jacqueline Cox visit their uncle, who is digging up a Saxon ship in the woods. Meanwhile, their father's engineer is working with a pal of his to steal a gold cup, which they have lifted from a local museum and buried inadvertently right by the ship. While doing so, they dropped some matches, so there's also a forest fire to contend with.

These Children Film Foundation efforts were produced because the people who backed them thought the American children films that dominated the Saturday matinees were too nasty. Unfortunately, while the camerawork always seems to have been good and a few of the stories well told, some, like like this one, seem more interested in making sure there is an uplifting story which contains nothing to offend anyone, than in making sure there is anything to entertain anyone.

Thus, all the principals -- children and villains -- start as as smug and self-centered. True, the children learn, but there's nothing to make you take an interest in what's going on for the first twenty minutes or so. In Keaton's The Navigator, Buster starts out as a smug fellow we want to kick, and indeed, the movie kicks him a lot as he grows. However, the gags that surround him, even at the beginning, command our attention. Here it's kids being whiny and lazy and mean to each other. Ho hum.

Likewise the villains. At leas they get to take a few pratfalls; yet those are taken in such a perfunctory, unornamented and unfeeling way, that they have no impact, not comic, not even for the characters.

Clearly the people who supervised this had More Important Thing in Mind. It's Educational! It warns children to be responsible about matches! I suppose these things are important. However, when it comes to a kiddie matinee movie, first entertain me. Come to think of it, that's still my rule in my seventh decade.

Bob
The matter is complicated, and I shall proceed to complicate it still more.

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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2017)

PostFri Dec 08, 2017 5:53 pm

Just to record that I've been on a (surprise!) Ingmar Bergman binge. No need to review or give a synopsis of these mostly well-known films (see my Ingmar Bergman thread): In no particular order: Wild Strawberries (more magnificent every time I watch it), Ship to India (a bit Tennessee Williams), Smiles of a Summer Night (used to be rather dubious about the value of this much-loved movie; this time, I really engaged with it and my opinion went up 100%), and The Virgin Spring (a mystical experience in itself). I'm currently engaged in upgrading my Bergman collection, first replacing the videocassettes with DVDs or Blu-Ray: First up are The Magic Flute (my very first Bergman purchase) and From the Lives of Marionettes.
_____
"She confessed subsequently to Cottard that she found me remarkably enthusiastic; he replied that I was too emotional, that I needed sedatives, and that I ought to take up knitting." —Marcel Proust (Cities of the Plain).
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2017)

PostFri Dec 08, 2017 9:26 pm

I feel very much older now, having sat through a re-watch of The Great Ziegfeld (1936), which is mostly entertaining bio bosh about the impresario (I skipped the overture, intermission, and exit music). This mammoth MGM film started life as a project at Universal, which unloaded the project when it realized how costly it would be to make. MGM took the ball and ran with it. William Powell is quite good as Ziggy, but Luise Rainer won the glory (and the Oscar) as Anna Held. Myrna Loy got second billing but doesn't even appear (as Billie Burke) until the 135-minute mark. Many of the characters are amalgams of several people or are simply given other names (if they were still alive). Fanny Brice appears to great effect as herself, but Will Rogers and Eddie Cantor are played by fakes. Ray Bolger seems to appear as Ray Bolger, though he had no connection to any Ziegfeld show. Ziggy's many affairs are concentrated in a boozy actress (mostly Lillian Lorraine) and an oddly named version of Marilyn Miller. Frank Morgan plays a rival producer (probably supposed to be Dillingham) and Nat Pendleton is good as the strongman Sandow. The bio aspects are the usual combination whitewash and time warp ("Rhapsody in Blue" in a show starring Anna Held, who died years before the song was composed). The revolving volute number is still quite good, though the one "cut" is quite obvious and rather badly handled. Still, the number was filmed in only two pieces. If you watch carefully you spot various mistakes like dancers out of step, singers not moving their mouths, etc. The thing was apparently 70 ft high.

The film was a big hit at the box office and won the Oscar for best film, beating out goodies like SAN FRANCISCO, MR. DEEDS GOES TO TOWN, and DODSWORTH. Powell wasn't even nominated (though he was nominated that year for MY MAN GODFREY). Possibly a rare case of a lead Oscar winner not getting first or second billing, Rainer received third billing.
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2017)

PostSat Dec 09, 2017 7:19 am

THE GREAT ZIEGFELD suffered from lack of participation from W.C. Fields, so thank goodness Brice showed up to give it some authenticity.
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2017)

PostSat Dec 09, 2017 8:02 am

Muriel Pavlow quarrels with husband Michael Craig and walks out.... and goes to the movies. After a while, she goes to phone home, but is an Eyewitness (1956) to Donald Sinden * and Nigel Stock robbing the theater's safe. They chase her into traffic, where she is hit by a car. "Good enough," says Stock. "Nonsense," says sociopathic Sinden. "We'd best go to the hospital and if she isn't already dead, smother her with a pillow. It will be jolly" -- or words to that effect.

It's a movie that is watchable to the end, but more because of what it attempts to do than because of what it succeeds in. The script shows some nice gender reversal in the relationship between Miss Pavlow and Mr. Craig for the era, and it's shot so dark for much of its length that the actual key events, of Mr. Sinden being menacing can't be seen -- only his calmly and rationally insane voice. It's a lovely idea, but doesn't quite work for a motion picture, alas.

Bob

*My apologies for barging onto Binky's patch, but he's probably busy looking at Louis de Funes flicks.
The matter is complicated, and I shall proceed to complicate it still more.

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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2017)

PostSat Dec 09, 2017 8:06 am

westegg wrote:THE GREAT ZIEGFELD suffered from lack of participation from W.C. Fields, so thank goodness Brice showed up to give it some authenticity.


and life!
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2017)

PostSat Dec 09, 2017 1:17 pm

These days, even the college-educated don't recognize the classics. Spike Lee can film Lysistra, but so long as he moves it to Chicago and calls it Chi-Raq, no one makes the connection. Instead, they complain that he is slandering the Windy City. Well, no doubt, that's what the municipal authorities said about Aristophanes at the time. In Wonder Wheel (2017), Juno Temple flees from her mobster husband to take refuge with her alcoholic father, James Belushi, and step-mother, Kate Winslett and her pyromaniac son from her first marriage; they've got marginal jobs. The story is told from the viewpoint of Justin Timberlake, who spent the war in the navy. Now he's a lifeguard, studying to be a playwright, conducting an affair with Miss Winslett and falling in love with Miss Temple.

Woody Allen's script makes several references to Eugene O'Neill, and were they living on Nantucket and complaining about how their lives were ruined because the father had made too much money playing the Count of Monte Cristo to attend to his art, everyone would recognize this as Long Day's Journey Into Night. However, Mr. Allen has set it in the neighborhood he grew up in and made the fact that they're so broke they're living in a bankrupt freak show house, part of the plot, so this will either be overlooked or seen as blasphemy.

This is one of Mr. Allen's serious movies. I join the general population in not being as fond of those as the ones that make me laugh out loud. Yet I take a good deal of pleasure in his recreation of 1950s Coney Island (although his "Greenwich Village hovel" is remarkably clean for the era) and his clear-eyed vision of a world, now vanished, that existed more surely than the one I live in now sometimes seems to.

Bob
Last edited by boblipton on Sun Dec 10, 2017 6:59 am, edited 3 times in total.
The matter is complicated, and I shall proceed to complicate it still more.

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