What is the last film you watched? (2017)

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

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

PostWed Apr 05, 2017 2:46 pm

Jim Roots wrote:Basil Dearden had a long, interesting, and variegated career in the movies as a producer, scriptwriter, and mostly a director. He started at Ealing and worked on a couple of Will Hay comedies, shifted over to drama and suspense films, teamed up with Michael Relph to make Stanley Kramer-ish “social problem” films, continued with both the comedies and the suspense efforts, and eventually ended up making Hollywood semi-blockbusters like Khartoum, Only When I Larf, and The Assassination Bureau.

Criterion has laudably rescued Dearden’s social problem period by bringing out a four-pack under its Eclipse series brand. Made between 1959 and 1962, this is a very intriguing set from a director not widely known in our day and not deeply respected in his own day.

It is inevitable that Sapphire (1959) gets compared to Kramer’s Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner (1967), but note the dates: Dearden beat Kramer to the interracial-romance punch by almost a decade. A “coloured” beauty who passes for “white” gets murdered, and the prime suspects are the family whose son was planning to marry her. Adding to the mix is her brother, who turns out to be as black as can be; like Sidney Poitier’s character in Kramer’s film, he’s an accomplished and impeccably dressed medical doctor working for poor communities and being a perfect gentleman and “a credit to his race”. (Have you heard that expression used lately?) You tell me which director is stealing from which.

The characters are almost all really well-drawn and acted effectively. It’s done mostly as a police procedural, with Nigel Patrick playing the type of stolid, trenchcoat-and-hat-wearing English police detective that we’re still seeing today in many a BBC TV series. A solid film.

The League of Gentlemen (1960) must not be confused with The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, a wretched 2003 miasma that has no relation at all to the earlier film. Jack Hawkins handpicks a collection of his fellow disaffected WW2 veterans to apply their military training towards the theft of an enormous pile of money from a bank. Richard Attenborough shows up as one of the lot; Nigel Patrick puts in another appearance as well. Some of the others are unlikely physical specimens for the job, being either too old or too doughy to be credible, but the actors put a brave face on it.

There’s a slight stretching of credulity, too, in the kind of semi-blackmail utilized by Hawkins to force these men to accept his invitation to participate. They are all saddled with a black mark on their military records; that this would be an effective hold on them – especially when a few of them are already known petty criminals – is rather far-fetched.

The plans are executed successfully in an engrossing style, with the inevitable out-of-left-field tiny error tripping them up in the end (I’m not really spoiling it for you: you know they’re not going to get away with it).

A notable cameo appearance is made by Oliver Reed as a very camp gay dancer, which segues this review neatly into the third film, Victim, a 1961 expose of the insanity of the anti-homosexual laws that stayed in force in England until the late Sixties. Dirk Bogarde, then huge due to the popularity of the Doctor series of comedies, put his career on the line to portray a successful lawyer who leads a double life and finds himself enmeshed by a wide-ranging blackmailer.

There is a genuine mystery as to who the blackmailer is, and this mystery contributes nicely to the main tension, which is whether Bogarde will sacrifice everything he has worked for in order to break the predators. Well-done and recommended.

Last in the set is All Night Long (1962), an updating of the Othello story to a community of jazz aficionados. This is the only disappointing film in the set. The story is tedious and its development is unconvincing as well as uninteresting. Why adapt a play about interracial marriage into a modern environment where interracial relations are treated as being so normal that no one even mentions it in the movie? And doesn’t it further undermine the play’s point when the cat’s-paw of the Iago character is a white man who is himself preparing to marry a black woman?

Unless you get a kick out of seeing Attenborough playing a rich but curiously asexual jazz enthusiast – and some will – there are only two reasons for watching.

One is the ever-popular Patrick McGoohan in the Iago role. He displays some surprising flair as a drummer. The other reason is the equally surprising appearances of a couple of genuine jazz superstars in their prime: Dave Brubeck and Charles Mingus. Tubby Evans and “Johnny” (as he was then labelled) Dankworth also have notable turns. There is a lot of good jazz played throughout, yet Dearden doesn’t want us to overlook the tepid storyline; he keeps cutting away from the musicians to the six or eight major characters going through their motions.

Dearden loved to start off these films with a bang. Most effective is the start to Sapphire, in which the dead body of the title character is whomped down from out of nowhere upon the pile of leaves that the camera had been lovingly fixed upon. The baffling opening of League of Gentlemen – Hawkins, in a tux, emerges from a sewer grate and sneaks over to his own parked car – is never explained; presumably we’re supposed to guess that he’s so bored by his non-military life that he indulges in fantasy covert night patrols just to stay sharp. It certainly grabs our attention. Victim jumps off with Peter McEnery high up on a construction site, spotting a police car pulling up below him, and immediately fleeing in desperation. Attenborough launches All Night Long by driving up to a warehouse loft in his tux and finding Mingus practicing his double bass inside. Mingus is not wearing a tux.

Dearden treats the social problems of racism, homophobia, social anomy, and disaffection with impressive good taste and intelligence and sensitivity. Victim and Sapphire both have to pause for the station identification of explaining that “coloured” people and “inverts” are real human beings too, and that they “can’t help being what they are” – lectures that make a modern audience roll their eyes, but lectures that were fresh, daring, controversial, and very much needed in their own era. They never quite reach the self-sanctifying preachiness of Stanley Kramer’s moral fables.

If Dearden’s direction is seldom exciting, it does prove often that he was underappreciated for angles, movement, and lighting, and that he was an excellent director of actors. His style is smooth and understated, almost always effective.

If you, like me, had never heard of Basil Dearden before (even if, also like me, you had unknowingly watched some of his other films in the past), this set is a really worthwhile introduction.

Jim


All good films. I enjoyed them all, especially Sapphire.
Ed Lorusso
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2017)

PostThu Apr 06, 2017 4:09 pm

When she was cast in All About Eve, I think Ann Baxter told herself It's like my role in Guest in the House (1944), except I have real talent and ambition this time. That's basically what this flick is about: Miss Baxter comes into the household as the fiancee of Ralph Bellamy and proceeds to try to make everyone miserable, as recounted in her diary. The only question is how long it will take the other members of the cast to figure out her psychopathic little games.

But what a cast: not only Bellamy, but Aline MacMahon, Ruth Warrick, Jerome Cowan and Margaret Hamilton! And although John Brahm is the credited director, Lewis Milestone, John Cromwell and Andre de Toth also did some uncredited direction.

Perhaps that's why I find it a tad plodding. It feels at time as if there are too many people involved, pulling it in fa too many directions, and that a surer hand on the megaphone or a sharper razor blade in the editing room might have served the film better.

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

PostThu Apr 06, 2017 5:33 pm

When I looked at the main credits to Sitting on the Moon (1936), I didn't expect much. Nat Levine producing for Republic? Ralph Staub directing? I certainly didn't expect this movie about mediocre songwriter Roger Pryor and washed-up star Grace Bradley falling in love and inspiring each other to success to be more than a cheap programmer, especially when the main supports are William Newell and the annoying Pert Kelton; it's not until I delved further into the cast list that I spotted Henry Kolker as a radio sponsor and Joyce Compton as the wife Pryor married on a toot in Tijuana that I saw anything to hope for.

Yet this cheaply done, cynical romantic comedy matches its subject so well, and Pryor and Bradley speak what would all too often be gushy lines simply, offers a good deal of charm to this this 53-minute B movie. Their characters' decency overcomes a few plot holes and a couple of decent songs fit the picture very well. While it's by no means a classic, it is an extremely engaging little flick.

Bob
Last edited by boblipton on Sat Apr 08, 2017 2:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.
To remain ignorant of what occurred before before you were born is to remain forever a child.
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2017)

PostFri Apr 07, 2017 1:38 pm

Should have had the sound on RED ENSIGN (1934) a bit higher, as found some of the dialogue a little hard to follow, perhaps due to the accents. Another early Michael Powell, it has Leslie Banks as a shipowner whose methods are a little unconventional, t say the least, and even have a slight tinge of the fascist in them. An idealist and patriot (reminiscent of Eric Portman's Colpepper in A CANTERBURY TALE), determined to bring prosperity to the shipyards of the Clyde, he also has to contend with the dirty tricks of his rival, played by Alfred Drayton. Banks is not above a little sharp practice himself, though in a good cause, in which he is helped by heiress Carol Goodner. Nice atmosphere of the industry and a very good print.

Who was 'Alison Loyd', the sexy star of CORSAIR (1931)? Why none other than the lovely Thelma Todd, another heiress who sets her cap at football hero Chester Morris, who has just finished college. She arranges for her Pa to employ him, but he quits when he starts finding his business methods dirty, setting himself up in the drinks business -with a difference!

One of director Roland West's few talkies, CORSAIR is a rough tale of in-fighting amongst bootleggers, with Morris setting his own standards, and damn the rest. Some of it seems more brutal even than films such as SCARFACE, particularly as we get to know the characters before they are killed. The murder of two 'spies' is especially nasty (one of them being Mayo Methot) and the rival gang leaders method of murder is unusually sadistic and callous. Hopefully there are better prints circulating than the one I watched, but this is a lively, sharp film, which tells its story well. And of course, Miss Todd is very alluring in a role which caused the name-change owing to it being a different sort of part we are used to seeing her play, but under any name she holds the screen in any scene she's in. An early role, too, for Frank McHugh, who seems under control until his mannerisms take hold in the second half. Not enough to spoil the film, though.
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2017)

PostFri Apr 07, 2017 4:35 pm

I can't really judge Robert Hamer's The Detective (1954) on its own merits. I just read G.K. Chesterton's Father Brown stories a few months ago and they are all too fresh in my mind. Choosing Alec Guinness to bring this version of the duel between the Father and Peter Finch's Le Flambeau is an interesting choice. I am left with the thought that had Guinness played George Smiley like this and played Father Brown as he would play Smiley, both roles would have been better served. Chesterton's Father Brown is an observer, a speculum to bring G*d's vision to bear on this naughty world, freeing us from our superstitious blindness and able to see the truth behind all illusion. Guinness is too present, with his idiotic smile and dogged missionary work, frustrated in his work and then rewarded by fate.... or at least, the screenwriter.

It seems vaguely to me that this is the very Catholic -- or perhaps mean-spirited -- viewpoint of the movie; I don't know, I am, after all, Jewish, and this game that G*d plays with Brown strikes me as ridiculous and unworthy of Him. Just because the world is too complicated for me -- or perhaps anyone -- to understand, is no reason to make a mystery of it, in either the detective story or religious sense of the word.

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

PostFri Apr 07, 2017 8:04 pm

I watched Connie Francis in Looking for Love (1964) which featured lyrics that made New York-type rhymes of "party" with "everybody." Francis was surprisingly good in a madcap lead role as woman who just wants to get married and have kids but ends up as a singing sensation. The plot also involves an ugly invention and the whole thing loses steam about halfway thru, but Francis is quite good. MGM saddled her with a bunch of "youth" stars of the day, including Jim Hutton, Joby Baker, Susan Oliver along with a bunch of veterans like Charles Lane, Jesse White, Jay C. Flippen, and Barbara Nichols whose character has the unfortunate name of Gaye Swinger. Guest stars include an obnoxious Danny Thomas, Paula Prentiss, Johnny Carson, Yvette Mimieux, and George Hamilton. The music scene was fast changing (so was MGM) and these chirpy films were soon out of style, but Miss Francis has a helluva voice.
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2017)

PostSat Apr 08, 2017 1:50 pm

boblipton wrote:I can't really judge Robert Hamer's The Detective (1954) on its own merits. I just read G.K. Chesterton's Father Brown stories a few months ago and they are all too fresh in my mind. Choosing Alec Guinness to bring this version of the duel between the Father and Peter Finch's Le Flambeau is an interesting choice. I am left with the thought that had Guinness played George Smiley like this and played Father Brown as he would play Smiley, both roles would have been better served. Chesterton's Father Brown is an observer, a speculum to bring G*d's vision to bear on this naughty world, freeing us from our superstitious blindness and able to see the truth behind all illusion. Guinness is too present, with his idiotic smile and dogged missionary work, frustrated in his work and then rewarded by fate.... or at least, the screenwriter.

It seems vaguely to me that this is the very Catholic -- or perhaps mean-spirited -- viewpoint of the movie; I don't know, I am, after all, Jewish, and this game that G*d plays with Brown strikes me as ridiculous and unworthy of Him. Just because the world is too complicated for me -- or perhaps anyone -- to understand, is no reason to make a mystery of it, in either the detective story or religious sense of the word.

Bob


Hamer's film is certainly preferable by far to the BBC-TV series of recent years, which changed the period and location, as well as adding regular characters to help the series continue. It obviously hit a mark, as there have been several seasons, but I found them tiresome. What G. K. would have made of it one can only guess!
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2017)

PostSat Apr 08, 2017 3:07 pm

Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne played two English, upper middle-class gentleman who were constantly travelling from 1938 until well into the 1940's. Their characters were often as not known as Charters and Caldicott although sometimes they were someone else, but they were essentially the same whenever they appeared together. Both could be said to be the typical Englishman abroad in that they were like fish out of water, never quite understanding anything that was going on about them, but at the same time, making sure that they acted in a manner that was substantially correct and proper.

Their appearances in films was something like a serial. They were invariably seen in railway compartments, or in hotels and got mixed up in things through no fault of their own. Although no reason was usually given for finding them where they were, it is normal to find that they are desperately trying to get back to old Blighty in order to see a test match - or at least to find out what the latest scores are.

They first appeared in Hitchcock's "The Lady Vanishes" in 1938 and became immediately popular, hence their continued reappearances. They also appeared in BBC plays on the wireless in which they played the same roles without the visuals. One such appearance, "Cook's Tour" from 1941 was made into a film later that same year.

We start off in Sordid Arabia and find the pair stranded in the desert after their charabanc has broken down. Luckily they run into a Sheikh wandering around in their vicinity who it turns out is an old school chum of Charters. He gets them on the move to Baghdad. Their touring then takes them to Istanbul, Budapest and a small town in Hungary, for they get mixed up with some nasty mince pies who are Nazis. It all revolves around a gramophone record which contains secret information and which, of course, they are handed by mistake. The shenanigans take place in some strange hotels - particularly the one in Istanbul with a very dodgy bathroom - and in a number of nightclubs, which gives a chance for Greta Gynt, the Nordic, Norwegian blonde to do her stuff. She sings to an owl and dances the dance of the seven veils. She is apparently working for the Germans.

The film presents a constant stream of improbabilities and makes a lot from a very thin thread. If it were not for the interplay between Radford and Wayne, it would be completely insipid but the duo's presence and their relative absurdities make it into something that is quite delightful.

It being wartime when this film was made, we have to forgive the quite obvious "shot in a studio" scenes and also those utilising back projection.

There was always some alluding to the fact that Caldicott had a fiancee from what I can remember and in this film we actually meet the rather prim Edith who happens to be Charters' sister.
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2017)

PostSun Apr 09, 2017 5:11 am

After being oddly disappointed by MR EMMANUEL (1944), I had a look at some other reactions, and found them very varied indeed. The only starring role for the distinguished Felix Aylmer*, and based on Louis Golding's novel, it tells the story of a kindly Jewish gentleman who promises to go to Nazi Germany to trace the mother of a boy refugee whose anxiety has led to a suicide attempt. Despite the risk he is taking (which he pooh-poohs owing to his age and the fact that he is a British citizen) he goes ahead with the project, finding various obstacles in his way, at one point getting arrested and held for several months.

Despite fine work by Aylmer, and a nice turn by Irene Handl as a maid, I found MR EMMANUEL rather heavy-going and over-filled with Nazi stereotypes. Although we know such brutality and abominable treatment took place in the 1930s, the presentation of it comes over as rather one-note and becomes tiresome at times. Greta Gynt plays a Jewish singer who knew Emmanuel as a child, and uses her influence (she is seeing a Nazi official) to help him. Her role is an interesting one, but the nightclub turn seems to stop the film dead for several minutes.

Perhaps I would have been less disappointed had the film not had such a high reputation in addition to being hard to see for several years, perhaps not. It is not a bad film, despite what I have just written, just a film which could have worked better with different handling and perhaps a different director to Harold French. Undoubtedly the propaganda element helped (as with THE GOOSE STEPS OUT, NIGHT TRAIN TO MUNICH, LET GEORGE DO IT**, etc), but its this aspect which had dated the film in my view.

* Some reviews referred to him as 'Sir' Felix, but he was not knighted until 1965.
** I think that's the one where Our George knocks out the Fuhrer.
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2017)

PostSun Apr 09, 2017 10:40 am

Discoveries (1939) stars Canadian-born British radio star Carroll Levis, who ran a show in which he made "discoveries" of talented people. Story has him beset by throngs of people desperate to get discovered. Main problem is that these talented people mostly aren't. Levis side, cast includes his wisecracking assistant (Doris Hare) a persistent waiter who does opera impressions (Afrique in his name), battling ethic types trying to get Levis for their radio shows (Julian Vedey, Issy Bonn), and various others, including Kathleen Harrison as a scrub woman and Bertha Belmore as a copper. There's also a not-bad singing couple (Cyril Levis and Zoe Wynn) and a rafter of unfunny people doing bad impressions of Groucho Marx, Laurel and Hardy, and another I assume was meant to be George Arliss. Maybe worst of all are the little girl (Pearl Venters) who sings from a hospital bed, and the screeching Glyn Davies who sings a patriotic song to close the show. Afrique's running magic act gag is about as bad as you can get.
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2017)

PostMon Apr 10, 2017 11:43 am

Devil's Playground , 1937, starring Richard Dix, Dolores del Rio, and Chester Morris. This is the third time around for the story, the first two being Submarine, 1928, and Fifty Fathoms Deep, 1931, neither of which I've seen (unsurprisingly in the latter case as it's a lost film). I was looking forward to this as Dix and Morris are particular favorites of mine. All three stars were past their peak, had been headliners in the 20s and early 30s and were now settling down to spending the rest of their long careers starring in B movies and television.

Dix and Morris play Jack and Bob, two close buddies in the submarine service. Jack is posted to San Diego as a diver while Bob is promoted to CPO of the sub. Now the plot thickens. Basically it's Jack meets Carmen (Dolores del Rio), Jack is smitten with her, they marry but he is called away to duty. Enter stage left Bob on shore leave who also takes a shine to Carmen. The little minx doesn't disclose that she's a blushing bride and while Jack is away both take the opportunity to play. Return of Jack who is not exactly pleased to see his best friend in the arms of his wife. Bob gets the bum's rush and returns to sea while a furious Jack muses on the faithlessness of friendship. The rest could write itself and very probably did. Bob's submarine runs into a shipwreck and sinks. Jack is summoned to the base to mount a rescue. Never! says he. But you must, says Carmen, I swear that nothing happened between us. Before the audience quite has time to swallow that one Jack is off to save his buddy.

The plot is of course as old as Hollywood and in fact much older, two men involved with the same woman. Think Other Men's Women with Grant Withers, Mary Astor and Regis Toomey or Boomtown with Tracy, Gable and Colbert. Nevertheless I very much enjoyed it and it's always pleasing to watch Richard Dix and Chester Morris in action. They only made three movies together: this one, Sky Giant, 1938, and The Marines Fly High, 1940, and now I'm eager to see the other two.
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2017)

PostMon Apr 10, 2017 1:39 pm

Despite some damage around the half-way mark, I found IRISH AND PROUD OF IT (1937) a most entertaining piece of nonsense. It concerns a manufacturer of food pills (Richard Hayward), who has not set foot in his native Ireland since he was four years old. At a dinner (after he sings a selection of ditties) his speech concerns his yearnings to visit the Auld Sod once again, so three of the diners decide to oblige, pitching him into a private plane and dumping him, complete in white tie and tails, in a sack on the Emerald Isle outside a tiny village...

He is swiftly rescued by a fresh-faced and fiery colleen, played charmingly by Dinah Sheridan, and is soon in the thick of a plot which involves illegal stills, adulterated booze, American gangsters, Sheridan's drunken Dad, and a jealous boyfriend who is working with the bootleggers. Swiftly paced, and with plenty of pauses for song, this is a boisterous comedy, which gets away by its sheer silliness. I had never heard of this film until recently, and was pleased to make its acquaintance on the BFI Player site - under 'crime'.

And don't ask how I ended up watching SYPHILIS: A MOTION PICTURE CLINIC (1937), an official film produced for the use of medical students of doctors, and featuring a series of talks on the disease, with some demonstrations. Hard to follow for the layperson, and very likely dated in some of its treatments, it at least demonstrates how to speak clearly, although subtitles are provided. For the uninitiated, it could well be rather a bore, as it was for me.
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2017)

PostTue Apr 11, 2017 5:37 am

earlytalkiebuffRob wrote:And don't ask how I ended up watching SYPHILIS: A MOTION PICTURE CLINIC (1937), an official film produced for the use of medical students of doctors, and featuring a series of talks on the disease, with some demonstrations. Hard to follow for the layperson, and very likely dated in some of its treatments, it at least demonstrates how to speak clearly, although subtitles are provided. For the uninitiated, it could well be rather a bore, as it was for me.


The "uninitiated" into what?

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

PostTue Apr 11, 2017 1:22 pm

Jim Roots wrote:
earlytalkiebuffRob wrote:And don't ask how I ended up watching SYPHILIS: A MOTION PICTURE CLINIC (1937), an official film produced for the use of medical students of doctors, and featuring a series of talks on the disease, with some demonstrations. Hard to follow for the layperson, and very likely dated in some of its treatments, it at least demonstrates how to speak clearly, although subtitles are provided. For the uninitiated, it could well be rather a bore, as it was for me.


The "uninitiated" into what?

Jim


Bit of a Malapropism there - I meant for those without detailed knowledge on this particular field of medicine.
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2017)

PostTue Apr 11, 2017 1:53 pm

Although I have spent most of the last couple of days looking at the National Film Board of Canada shorts, recorded off TCM, I just took a look at Ozu's Late Spring. Like many of Ozu's post-war movies, it seems as if nothing much happens. Setsuko Hara lives a quiet, contented life, taking care of her widowed father, Chishu Ryu. Yet, everyone thinks she would be happier married to... well anyone, despite her lack of interest in such matters. In an occupied Japan full of change and the signs thereof -- divorced women, Coca-Cola signs, she is more than happy to live a quiet, useful life.

Although my taste does not run to this sort of low-key soap opera, and my conservative nature wonders why people think they should fix something when it ain't broke, Ozu's mastery of of his idiosyncratic techniques is very compelling. Others have commented on great length of his long takes and camera placement, putting the audience in the middle of all the talk and aiding us in offering our own opinions of the goings-on. Likewise, he often worked with the same people, not only his screenwriting collaborator, Kogo Noda, but his cast. Chishu Ryu is said to have been in all but two of Ozu's 54 movies (he also had a long career in the cinema, over two-thirds of a century and worked through his death in the 1990s). Although my taste remains for his more varied pre-war work, filled with people with real problems, this is a film that rewards the patient viewer.

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

PostWed Apr 12, 2017 4:57 am

Red Snow (1952) is not a good film. It zeroes in on the "red hysteria" of the era in a story about Eskimo spies (not pies) and a secret weapon along the imaginary border between the Diomede Islands in the Bering Strait. It stars Guy Madison though he's only in about half the film. The other half is a Nanook-type documentary of the people. Anyway, what IS interesting about this film is the secret weapon the Russians are experimenting with (it's always THEM and never US). It's some sort of non-nuclear heat bomb that melts the polar ice cap and kills off the wildlife ... sort of a global warming thing 50 years before there was such a thing. So along with Philip Ahn as a Russian Eskimo spy, the poor people have to deal with starvation and melting ice. It's so bad, they have to migrate to the US Army base to survive. During their perilous journey, the young bride falls into the warming sea and gets chased by a starving polar bear. But luckily the Americans get hold of the Russian weapon and save the world from climate change. Ah, the 1950s, a decade when things could still be solved so easily.
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2017)

PostWed Apr 12, 2017 5:38 pm

O-Kay for Sound (1937) is the first movie of the Crazy Gang -- six music-hall comics in a skeleton of a plot who compete for screen time with gags, sketches and songs. It's actually an excuse for a revue and was enough of a success to result in several sequels and a career for director Marcel Varnel -- who would better be called a referee -- supervising cut-glass farces for Will Hay, Arthur Askey and George Formby.

It starts out with failing studio head Fred Duprez simultaneously rooking bankers into thinking he has a big financial backer and sending page boy Graham Moffat out to cast six "City" types for a movie. Naturally he picks up six buskers and brings them back, where they are instantly mistaken for Duprez' backers, Duprez included. They proceed to run riot at the studio, ruining movies with their travesties and frequently tearing the skirt off Enid Stamp-Taylor, interrupted occasionally by musical interludes.

As a story, it's trivial, but for cut-glass farce, it provides enough of a framework for the comedians to do their bits: such popular acts as Flanagan & Chesney, Jimmy Nervo, Teddy Knox and Jimmy Gold. Its high-speed nonsense suggests the Crazy Comedy which had already peaked in the United States, and to the modern viewer, appears more frantic than funny, but times have clearly changed.

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

PostWed Apr 12, 2017 6:01 pm

Last night I hosted the second of our local Film Appreciation Group's screenings. There were four of us in attendance. I started off with a couple of Vitaphone shorts which seemed to be of some little interest. Most of the references in them as to the names of films stars and singers etc., went over their heads. It appears I was the only one who knew what was being talked about. :D

I hadn't selected a main feature so I asked what they would like to look at.

"Oh? I don't know"

"Well are you in the mood for a comedy, drama, action picture or what?"

"Umm, something funny or a drama'd be nice...."

Due to an attack of indecisiveness which could have carried on into the next century I just decided to put on "Inn for Trouble" a British comedy from (1960) starring Peggy Mount and David Kossoff who were reprising their roles from the TV series of the same era "The Larkins".

Basically the husband and wife are of the typical harridan verses mouse type. Peggy Mount had a voice equal to that of any Regimental Sergeant Major and a determined, no-holes barred approach to boot. The essence of the story is that the couple are sent to run a country pub and discover that someone doesn't want them to make a success of it. It's off the main highways and doesn't have much off a clientele. In fact it doesn't have a clientele at all. It does though have a resident in the guest room, the necessary good looking bird essential to this type of picture. She is played by Yvette Dupres. One of the other reasons the pub is not making any money is that the local Earl is dishing out his home brew for free.

This is another one of those delightful British comedies where one can let out a squeal of delight at yet another familiar face popping up. To start off with we have Leslie Phllips as David Kossoff's brewery boss, Glyn Owen as the Earl of Osborne, A.E. Mathews as the Chief of the Hunt, Willoughby Goddard as a rather plump policeman who takes his job too seriously, Stanley Unwin giving directions as only he could, Irene Handl and Esme Cannon as two gossipers, Graham Moffat - virtually unrecognisable from his younger self, Alan Wheatley who was the Sheriff of Nottingham in the TV series "Robin Hood" for a number of years, Charles Hawtrey as a rather abrupt "pub-helper", Frank Williams (the vicar from "Dad's Army") and a bit part played by an uncredited Edward Woodward.

This is a fast-paced comedy that doesn't have any periods where the funny bone has to be put on hold. It is funny right through. Peggy Mount is hilarious and plays it for all it's worth - but that is not to say that everyone in it doesn't put their all into it.

We all had a jolly good laugh, so we proved the whole point of the exercise in the making of it.

When compared to the vulgarities of modern day humour, this good clean fun was like a breath of fresh air.
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2017)

PostThu Apr 13, 2017 1:38 pm

Interesting to see Donald's very good review of INN FOR TROUBLE, a film which was made for the cast. I must have seen this about ten or twelve years ago, and recall both my late partner and myself finding it amusing. One of the 'Films on TV Guides' published in the 1970s gave it their worst rating, although the two writers (Angela and Elkan Allan) had a thing about the British second feature...

My last watching was FATHER STEPS OUT (1937) with Dinah Sheridan as the daughter of cheese baron George Carney, and who has become a snob, ashamed of her parents' 'common' behaviour. Directed by that stalwart of the industry, Maclean Rogers, the plot concerns their visit to the house of Sheridan's upper-class 'friends' and a plot to land some duff shares on the chap. This is done partially by a fake proposal to Sheridan. Luckily the chap who does love her (Bruce Seton) has overheard the plot, and comes to the rescue. Amusing and breezy, with nice support from Vivienne Chatterton (Carney's wife) and Isobel Scaife (their rahter dopey maid) making this a likeable small-scale comedy.
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2017)

PostThu Apr 13, 2017 2:24 pm

Michael Pyle should enjoy Mr. Reeder in Room 13 (1938), also known as Mystery in Room 13, since it has his adored Sally Gray.

It's an ambitious film that doesn't quite come off. Based on an Edgar Wallace novel, Peter Murray-Hill wants a job in "Special Services" and gets an assignment from the top-billed Gibb McLaughlin: there are some very good counterfeit bank notes in circulation, so Mr. Murray-Hill winds up sent to prison, where it is hoped he will connect with people in the counterfeiting ring. Soon enough he finds a sinister plot which implicates the father of Sally Gray. As he attempts to protect Miss Gray, the situation grows murkier.

Unfortunately, the story is telegraphically told, as the plot grows more and more complicated. It's also apparent that there was an effort to film this movie as it might have been directed by Tod Browning. While Browning might have gloried in the bizarre aspects of the characters, these tidbits are muted so that the story can be told in less than 80 minutes. What might have been an early and bizarre film noir turns into a more conventional thriller. Also, the roles cry out for slightly different actors. I would have liked to have seen Ernest Thesiger in the title role; Leslie Perrins is, I feel, the best-served of the actors as the vengeance-seeking Jeffrey Legge, although the haste of the script reduces his, and other actors', effectiveness.

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

PostFri Apr 14, 2017 7:29 am

Inspector Hornleigh on Holiday (1939): In the second of three movies, Gordon Harker and his very Scotch assistant, played by Alastair Sim, are enduring a rainy vacation in Brighton. One of their fellow guests is killed in a car accident, and the pair are called in to identify the body. Harker suspects murder; when Sim spots the dead man walking on the street, the two investigate.

Inspector Hornleigh was invented as a radio serial puzzle mystery for the BBC. The movies, under the direction of Walter Forde, turned them into comic efforts. They were produced by Twentieth Century-Fox; like Warner Brothers and MGM, they were producing movies in the years leading up to the Second World War.

Although the Hornleigh movies were well received and the talent involved was topnotch (Sidney Gilliat and Frank Launder are two of the writers) and Harker & Sim make an amusingly contrasting pair of coppers, I don't find the movie to be of much greater than average competence; some o the details of the mystery seem to be more melodramatic than intelligent and Sim's character began to pall quickly. Perhaps that's why he turned down any further efforts after the following episode.

Bob
Last edited by boblipton on Mon Apr 17, 2017 6:32 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2017)

PostFri Apr 14, 2017 2:21 pm

Despite a not-too-good copy, THE SATURDAY NIGHT KID (1929) is a most enjoyable hour's worth, and in my view, a better film than its silent original, LOVE 'EM AND LEAVE 'EM (1926).

Clara Bow and Jean Arthur play sisters working at the same department store as neighbour James Hall, whom both fancy. Bow is the lively, feisty one, and Arthur is the weak-willed sister who not only tries to snatch Hall away by underhand means. She also gets in a terrible mess with money she has been entrusted with, something which rebounds on Bow in the last section. The store has similarities with the one in IT'S A GREAT LIFE (1929), although in this case, the 'store song' is dedicated to its Jewish owner Mr Ginsberg and is set to the music of 'The Battle Hymn of the Republic' to amusing effect. Adding to the fun is an early sound appearance by Edna May Oliver as the girls' boss, who, in addition to leading the singing, is organising a grand charity pageant. In this film she steals the show from everyone except Bow, in addition to showing rather more of he lower limbs than we are used to seeing. Some effective 'pre-Code' material adds immeasurably and far sexier than the more blatant stuff which would appear forty years or so later.

THE SATURDAY NIGHT KID is not without its serious touches as Bow, as well as being incredibly sexy, is treated shabbily by Arthur in a number of ways. The rooftop set of their apartment is very atmospheric, and there is plenty of sharp observation amongst the comedy, drama and romance. Certainly of historical interest, but fun as well, and one hopes the restoration mentioned in Wiki will enhance its quality.
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2017)

PostFri Apr 14, 2017 6:45 pm

You're in the Army Now (1936) (also known as O.H.M.S.) is one of the two movies Raoul Walsh directed in Great Britain.

Wallace Ford is a small-time crook in New York who has to flee to Great Britain. Once there, through a series of misunderstandings, he finds himself a recruit in the British Army, vying for the affection of Sergeant-Major Frank Cellier's daughter, Anna Lee, with John Mills. Mills was near the start of his long career in which he played many any army man, from a raw recruit in the previous year's Regal Calvacade. He would be promoted out of the ranks during the Second World War and reach the rank of Field Marshall in 1969's Oh What a Lovely War, amidst nearly three quarters of a century in which he was a bulwark of British film actors.

This service comedy is a fairly standard affair, although a good deal of pleasure is available. Ford sings and dances, as does gorgeous Grace Bradley as a show girl. There's an exciting battle sequence and editor Charles Saunders offers some fine montage work of British soldiers training and on parade. Director Raoul Walsh knew how to mix comedy and savagery and, within the limits of late-1930s delicacy, he does so ably.

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

PostFri Apr 14, 2017 10:07 pm

Given that my week ended with some rather horrendous developments at my workplace, I decided to tune out of reality for an hour-and-a-half with the optimistically-titled Happiness Ahead (1934). It's a Mervyn LeRoy trifle in which heiress Josephine Hutchinson falls for singing window washer Dick Powell, after sneaking out of the mansion to go slumming on New Year's Eve, meeting up with Powell and his bunch (which includes Frank McHugh and Allan Jenkins, natch) at a Chinese restaurant where the waiters do a tap dance routine to, what else?, Chinatown My Chinatown.

Wanting to be part of the gang, Josephine gets a rented room so she can appear to be a regular working class girl looking for a job, but complications ensue....you can map out the whole thing after the first 10 or 15 minutes, but hey, who doesn't love a singing window washer? Maybe it gave George Formby a few ideas...
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2017)

PostSat Apr 15, 2017 6:21 am

Whenever I run low on unseen movies to record, I check TCM for titles I've seen before but don't remember. In this wise, I found Pillow to Post (1945). It didn't fire off any neurons, but it had Vincent Sherman directing Ida Lupino, Sidney Greenstreet and lesser Warner Brothers supporting players. It was a comedy and the rating I had given it was that it was superior. So I set it to record, intending to watch it as part of my weekend waking up routine.

Ida Lupino takes a job in the waning days of the Second World War working as a saleswoman for her father's oil company. Out in the hinterlands, she needs a place to sleep, but between the oil fields and an Army training base, the only place she can find is a motel -- and they accept only married officers and their wives. So Ida ropes in William Prince to get a night's sleep. Complications, as they say, ensue.

Looking at it, I don't understand what I was thinking when I thought it was very good. It's directed in that frantic, forced, smirking manner the Warners set for their comedy B movies in the late 1930s, when they realized they couldn't talk about sex, but they could wink and everyone would get it. It's lazy writing and rote performances and no one is having a good time, except possibly for Barbara Brown and I don't know why I thought it was so good when I saw it before. Maybe it was the (brief) appearance of Louis Armstrong and his orchestra.

Whatever it was, it isn't enough now. I guess my taste has changed. I hope it's for the better.

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

PostSat Apr 15, 2017 6:24 am

Jackie (2016) is a long and boring account of Jackie just after JFK's murder. Natalie Portman gives a good performance but the film defeats her in every way. Portrayals of JFK and RFK are hilariously bad and we are treated to her long walks and intellectual sparring with a priest (spare us) and an unnamed journalist (it's supposed to be Theodore H. White but he's never named) at Hyannis Port (filmed someplace in Maryland). I really doubt the real lady was a shallow as she's presented in this film. Here, Jackie is obsessed with clothes and culture and interior decoration (probably partly true) but rather distant from her husband, children, and the events unfolding around her. She's depicted as a self-absorbed heroine for the selfie generation.
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2017)

PostSat Apr 15, 2017 6:32 am

drednm wrote:Jackie (2016) is a long and boring account of Jackie just after JFK's murder. Natalie Portman gives a good performance but the film defeats her in every way. Portrayals of JFK and RFK are hilariously bad and we are treated to her long walks and intellectual sparring with a priest (spare us) and an unnamed journalist (it's supposed to be Theodore H. White but he's never named) at Hyannis Port (filmed someplace in Maryland). I really doubt the real lady was a shallow as she's presented in this film. Here, Jackie is obsessed with clothes and culture and interior decoration (probably partly true) but rather distant from her husband, children, and the events unfolding around her. She's depicted as a self-absorbed heroine for the selfie generation.


Pretty well sums it up Ed. It seems that modern day film-makers wish to make an over-long film about one particular incident in a life, rather than give us an over-all biography. The assassination of JFK was a dreadful incident - but we have seen so many films now about this event that we have probably been over-saturated. It seems to me that Jackie O's life would have been a for more interesting story if we had been allowed glimpses before JFK and then after with her subsequent marriage to Aristotle Onassis. Instead, we are presented with someone who seemed completely vacuous and merely a clothes-horse. I am sure she was neither.
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2017)

PostSat Apr 15, 2017 8:05 am

The new thing is apparently to take the most absurd childish property and treat it with a seriousness that crosses The Dark Knight with vintage deSica, apparently, while larding on the enormous CGI effects. I had to sit through half a dozen trailers like that yesterday-- a Lego movie (Ninjago-- if you do not have an eight-year-old boy you will have no idea what that is) was at least humorous, but there's a new Pirates of the Caribbean movie in which giant ghost ships and ghost sharks move like clockwork while tales of curses and revenge do the same, a new Spiderman movie in which Michael Keaton basically actually does play Birdman and takes back everything he said about being an artist in that Oscar winner, and most inexplicable of all, a new Transformers movie set in a Mad Max wasteland but somehow structured as the timely message that Girls R Awesome! Personally if I were a girl I would not think that these choices indicate that We Rule!!! at all, everything seems to be aimed at boys of particularly Demolition Derbyish tastes, but whatever. We shall empower our youth through tales of the great TV series of the 80s. Girls, Decepticons, same thing.

I don't mean to be the old grump who thinks nothing good was made since Thalberg died, I actually thought this year's Oscar season was pretty good, but I had to endure all this because I was trying to avoid seeing such things at their full length. Instead, I took my sons to see Your Name. The title, which is beyond anonymous and almost hard to buy tickets for ("One for Your Name." "I'm Bill, what movie did you want?" "I want Your Name." "You can't have it!"), hides a Japanese anime teen romance of surprising sensitivity and depth. At least in a big city, you can avoid the latest Hollywood product (and not even the gearhead in the family needed to see the latest movie of those boys and girls who are both Fast and Furious) and check out movies from places where terminal cynicism hasn't set in yet.

It starts out with a premise reminiscent of 80s body-switching comedies. A boy named Taki, who lives in Tokyo, and a girl named Mitsuha, who lives in a small town where there's nothing to do, start waking up in each other's bodies. They make each other into better people in little ways, bringing the other sex's perspective to each other, and slowly figure out how to communicate, leaving messages in each other's phones and writing messages on their palms.

It's cute. They obviously have to eventually meet as themselves and find they were meant to be. The happy end.

Wrong. There's a BIG twist coming, completely fair within the rules of the body-switching trick, which catches you because you made one assumption which proves not to be true. I'm not going to spoil the movie from that point, except to say that it's deeper, somewhat darker, and visually way more artful than the fairly realistic movie has been so far.

We went to Japan last year and so lots of little details rang true for us—the BOSS coffee machines, the sounds of the trains, things like that. The best Japanese animators are so good at evocative details— at life, really; the kids get older and that deep moment of communion they shared gets more and more distant as they get caught up in adult life. There's only a dim memory that someone was out there with whom they once shared everything. It's quite moving. It also passed Miyazaki's Spirited Away to become the highest grossing film of all time in Japan, and was a big hit in Asia. If it plays, briefly, somewhere near you in America (or wherever you are), seek it out over whatever the TV is telling you is the must-see movie of the weekend.

Here's the trailer, though again, this is all it wants you to think it's going to be— a teen romance:

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

PostSat Apr 15, 2017 12:43 pm

Donald Binks wrote:
drednm wrote:Jackie (2016) is a long and boring account of Jackie just after JFK's murder. Natalie Portman gives a good performance but the film defeats her in every way. Portrayals of JFK and RFK are hilariously bad and we are treated to her long walks and intellectual sparring with a priest (spare us) and an unnamed journalist (it's supposed to be Theodore H. White but he's never named) at Hyannis Port (filmed someplace in Maryland). I really doubt the real lady was a shallow as she's presented in this film. Here, Jackie is obsessed with clothes and culture and interior decoration (probably partly true) but rather distant from her husband, children, and the events unfolding around her. She's depicted as a self-absorbed heroine for the selfie generation.


Pretty well sums it up Ed. It seems that modern day film-makers wish to make an over-long film about one particular incident in a life, rather than give us an over-all biography. The assassination of JFK was a dreadful incident - but we have seen so many films now about this event that we have probably been over-saturated. It seems to me that Jackie O's life would have been a for more interesting story if we had been allowed glimpses before JFK and then after with her subsequent marriage to Aristotle Onassis. Instead, we are presented with someone who seemed completely vacuous and merely a clothes-horse. I am sure she was neither.


Gosh ... my wife and I watched it last week and we both enjoyed it. It wasn't perfect or even great, but it was quite good ... within the restrictions of its ambitions.

If you watch it expecting it to be The Life Story of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, you're going to be completely disappointed because that's not at all what it sets out to be.

It's a snapshot of a very short period of her life: the immediate aftermath of the president's death. She was thrust unexpectedly into a horrendous spot, with time pressures and a nation's -- even the entire world's -- expectations piled on her shoulders alone. She was bitter and enraged, but channelled those feelings into a steely resolve to both honour the president and force the world to face what "they" had done.

What you guys saw as a shallow obsession over appearance, we saw as a lone woman's defiant determination to make sure every detail of every part of the funeral was perfect in meeting those two ambitions, despite all opposition and all attempts to either smother her or "pity" her. She didn't want their pity. She didn't want anything focused on herself: she wanted the entire focus to be on the fact that brutal forces had murdered a good president.

I would be really interested to hear from some of the women on this board: what was their take on this movie?

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

PostSat Apr 15, 2017 3:26 pm

Rewatched The Blue Gardenia (1953), directed by Fritz Lang, which I haven't seen since the VHS days, this time as an entry in TCM's welcome Noir Alley series. Another entry in the "amnesia casts doubt on a murder case" subsection of film noir, but highly enjoyable with fine sequences and lots of atmosphere courtesy of Lang, great lead turn by Anne Baxter as a woman wracked by guilt over her crime, and noir fixtures Richard Conte and Raymond Burr lending their expertise. 90 minutes just zipped right by. As a bonus, the sleazy murder victim has the same last name as one of the scabs in our ongoing local newspaper strike, so there was an added element of schadenfreude when he gets it with a fireplace poker.
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