January 7th-Lifeboat from 1944 (Director: Alfred Hitchcock, Writer: Screenplay by Jo Swerling with Story by John Steinbeck, Stars: Tallulah Bankhead, William Bendix, Walter Slezak, Mary Anderson, John Hodiak, Henry Hull, Heather Angel, Hume Cronyn and Canada Lee, Runtime: 96 mins)
One of Hitchocks best known films is the one about a lifeboat full of people during WWII including a German soldier, all trying to survive and find land. The film starts with the assembly of parts and begins to play with the characters. Arguing over who is in charge, the direction to go, dealing with lack of food, water and of course illness. This is a film where it only works if the actors are on point and the performances are all good to great. This was my first time seeing acting legend Tallulah Bankhead who I read about years prior. A notorious party girl, sharp witted woman and ambisextrous. I have to say, I was not disappointed, she was great. This was a good film, not one of my fave Hitchcock films, still liked it better than Vertigo. Also for less then 2 hours it felt longer…
January 8th-Frenzy from 1972 (Director: Alfred Hitchcock, Writer: Anthony Shaffer and Based on Goodbye Piccadilly, Farewell Leicester Square by Arthur La Bern, Stars: Jon Finch, Alec McCowen and Barry Foster, Runtime: 116 mins)
That was the worst Hitchcock film I’ve seen. Now I don’t like Vertigo but Vertigo is far superior to this. An annoying and rather unlikable guy is believed to have murdered his ex-wife and girlfriend. There’s the cop looking into the case and of course the killer as well. The film looks fine, it’s got fine performances, but the lead pissed off all through out and I didn’t care about anyone but the cop. It’s a mean film. I guess objectively it wasn’t bad, I just did not care. It did not have any standout performances, any beautiful shots or camera work, and the story just didn’t do a thing for me. It’s no fun. This is the 23rd Hitchcock film I’ve seen, its on the bottom of the list.
January 9th-The Birds from 1963 (Director: Alfred Hitchcock, Writer: Evan Hunter and Based on The Birds by Daphne du Maurier, Stars: Rod Taylor and Tippi Hedren, Runtime: 119 mins)
One of Hitchcocks best remembered films and the first movie of two movies with Tippi Hedren. So Tippi’s Melanie Daniels goes to deliver a pair of love birds to Rod Taylor’s MItch so he can give to his much younger sister. She gets attacked by a seagull. Then as the days pass the birds just attack everyone. Because birds fucking hate everything. It’s a good movie. I saw it long time ago, bought the DVD many years later, and finally watched it… Many years later.
Also, as this is the last Hitchcock film, I’ll leave you with Tippi’s daughter, Melanie Griffith, opinion on the man “He was a motherfucker, and you can quote me.”
January 10th-Lady Snowblood: Love Song of Vengeance from 1974 (Director: 1974, Writer: Norio Osada and Kiyohide Ohara based on the Story by Kazuo Koike and Kazuo Kamimura, Stars: Meiko Kaji, Toshio Kurosawa, Masaaki Daimon and Miyoko Akaza, Runtime: 89 mins)
The second Lady Snowblood film, a series of films based on the manga. I bought these a few years ago, watched and enjoyed the first one but never got around to the second until now. So this time out Yuki is doe fighting and gives up. But then the secret police break her out of prison (?) and set her to spy and assassinate a anarchist with a document that could cause problems for the regime. I don’t remember the first film that well but I do remember it moving at a brisk pace where as this one moved slower. Especially in the middle. That said there are strong performances and the film looks GREAT! Its stylish from the characters to the set design. I love the bright red of the blood splatter. It makes it look more menacing in the fights. The fights themselves are swift and cool. So yeah, weaker than the first film but still really good. The movie stars Meiko Kaji who is a bad ass. A cult icon from these films and the trashy Female Prisoner series. Tarantino was a huge fan looking to the first lady Snowblood for inspiration and taking the theme from Female Prisoner, as sung by Meiko, for the soundtrack.
January 11th-Tokyo Drifter from 1966 (Director: Seijun Suzuki, Writer: Yasunori Kawauchi, Stars: Tetsuya Watari, Chieko Matsubara, Hideaki Nitani, Runtime: 86 mins)
Director Seijun Suzuki is an interesting man. Fought in the Japanese Army in WWII, has been shipwrecked twice, and is one of the most acclaimed directors in Japanese cinema. He made 40 films between 1956 and 1967. Only a handful of his movies are readily available in the states, one of them is Branded to Kill. A black and white fever dream of a hitman movie that resulted in his firing. He sued the studio and was black listed for ten years. His second film back was Zigeunerweisen which won the Japanese equivalent of the Best Picture Oscar.
Tokyo Drifter is a film where the story really does not matter. It feels like an exercise in style and it is fucking stylish. Art direction, set design, lighting, wardrobe, cinematography. This movie looks cool. Boss Otsuka’s hangout above the jazz club, the fancy bar Tetsu’s girlfriend sings at, a saloon where a wild brawl breaks out. Tetsu, played with simple cool by Tetsuya Watari, always looks good as he walks around singing the title theme. This movie makes simple things like a small town covered in snow look special. It’s like a collection of art pieces given life. Look, the story is about a Yakuza hitman trying to go straight getting into trouble because his boss and another yakuza boss got problems. here’s a building involved, whatever. All that’s important is Tetsu looks cool against cool backdrops. It’s both a great film and a very thin film.
January 12th-Thriller-A Cruel Picture from 1973 (Director/Writer: Bo Arne Vibenius, Stars: Christina Lindberg and Heinz Hopf, Runtime: 107 mins original Uncut)
Thriller is a rape and revenge film. A subgenre of exploitation films which were common in the 1970s. They usually involve the first at ending in the attack, second act in the rehabilitation, and third act in the revenge. Some break out of this structure like the excellent Ms. 45. Others stick close to it like this film. Thriller, a Swedish movie, has two attacks. One that traumatized a young girl named Madeleine who is now a mute. The second attack is later in life and involves a man who drugs her, kidnaps her, and begins pimping her. When she fights her first client he stabs her in the eye so now she’s got a kickass eye patch. She is allowed some freedom and uses the little money she has to learn self defense, firearms, and driving. All to get to the point where she seeks revenge.
This is not a particularly good film. Banned in its home country and for good reason. The uncut version has quite a bit of real sex. Performed by a real life couple. Apparently live ammunition was used and the production took out a life insurance policy on the star, Christina Lindberg. The only good things I can say are the following. Madeleine looks cool. Tarantino based the look of the character Elle Driver from Kill Bill on her. Lastly, the final sequence with Madeleine and her pimp was pretty well done.
January 13th-The Lure from 2015(Director: Agnieszka Smoczyńska, Writer: Robert Bolesto, Stars: Marta Mazurek and Michalina Olszańska, Runtime: 92 mins)
Two mermaids become singers at a nightclub. One falls in love with the bass player of a band. A horror-fantasy-musical loosely based on Little Mermaid. This movie is strange. I don’t really know what to say. It looks good, the performances are good though some of the characters come off as stupid and make confusing decisions. The span of time makes little sense. The songs sound okay. My understanding based on an interview with the director is that Poland does not have a history of either musicals or horror so in that regard I’d cut the film some slack. I haven’t seen too many mermaid movies, this one is okay, maybe even good. Its unique. The ending is depressing.
3:10 to Yuma
Lady Snowblood: Love Song of Vengeance
Thriller-A Cruel Picture