SCIFI FILMS ON MY DVR DOUBLE FEATURE: January 20th-The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms from 1953 (Director: Eugène Lourié, Writers: Various and Based on The Fog Horn short story by Ray Bradbury, Stars: Paul Christian, Paula Raymond, Cecil Kellaway, and Kenneth Tobey, Cinematography: John L. Russell, Runtime: 80 mins)
Things to Come from 1936 (Director: William Cameron Menzies, Writers: HG Wells and based on his book, Stars: Raymond Massey, Ralph Richardson, Cedric Hardwicke, Pearl Argyle, and Margaretta Scott, Cinematography: Georges Périnal, Runtime: 108 mins)
The Beast is a pre-Godzilla piece about atomic experiments waking an extinct beast. People don’t believe the sightings, then a scientist is like maybe we should, the beast shows up and causes damage. Its a decent looking film with dated effects and fine performances. I don’t understand how this is considered a scifi classic. Its fine but really feels dated and lacks the punch of classic Godzilla or even Them!
Things to Come speculates on a disastrous WWII that leads to a dangerous pestilence. Then the rebuilding. Stuff. This was incredibly boring with one character in the second act who was a pain to watch with his stupidity. I guess from technical standpoint it looked fine though.
January 21st-A Star Is Born from 1937 (Director: William A. Wellman, Writers: William A. Wellmen, Robert Carson, Dorothy Parker, and Alan Campbell, Stars: Janey Gaynor and Frederic March, Cinematography: W. Howard Greene, Runtime: 111 mins)
The original that was remade three times. This film has aspiring actress Esther come to Hollywood. After months of not being able to secure any work, her friend who is an ADA gets her a waitress job and she meets star Norman Maine. He helps her get work, her career rises, they get married, her star keeps shining while his burns out. Then tragedy. The remake turned it into a musical and the next two versions stuck to the music scene so while this set the basics in plot and concept, the original idea was left behind making it more than just the original that was (argubly) improved on but a film of interest. A film self aware of what Hollywood was in the 30s. So how was it? Hmmm….
Operating on four hours sleep and trying to stay up for four hours before trying to get a better nights sleep before work. So I am cutting it some slack because I just wanted to shut my eyes. Here’s what I think, I think there should have been more Andy Devine who was fun as Danny the ADA. I think he stole every scene he was in. I think Janet Gaynor and Frederic March are fine. I have never seen Gaynor before and she does have the girl next door charm but while there are scenes of her playing around with accents and practicing delivery, we never get to see her as this impressive actress. March does stuff, and is very good in the last act and has a strong introduction but I am never really sold on the chemistry of the two leads. March is so much better in other films.
The film has a small scope to it and the technicolor is not all that impressive here. Though they give Gaynors hair a nice brightness to it, I found the films visual style a bit flat. The story was fine with stand out parts mixed in with parts that seemed there to randomly take up time. Like the one with the desk clerk at the motel just doing stuff or the fixer Hollywood guy mocking the deceased for a couple minutes to further establish he is an ass. I don’t know, I see exactly why this was a big deal and respect it. Definitely better than the last two pictures I watch. This is a slim three stars from me. I expect the Garland film to be better, which I will get to sometime next month no doubt.
Or maybe some doubt. I don’t know.
January 22nd-Bus Stop from 1956 (Director: Joshua Logan, Writers: George Axelrod and William Inge, Stars: Marilyn Monroe and Dan Murray, Cinematography: Milton R. Krasner, Runtime: 96 mins)
I did not like this film. Monroe was very good, but I did not like this.
January 23rd-Kuroneko from 1968 (Director: Kaneto Shindo, Writer: Kaneto Shindo, Stars: Kichiemon Nakamura, Nobuko Otowa and Kiwako Taichi, Cinematography: Kiyomi Kuroda, Runtime: 99 mins)
Set during a long war, a mother and daughter in law are assaulted and murdered by samurai. They make a pact with an evil black cat to become vengeful ghosts, feeding on the blood of samurai. They become a nuisance so a new samurai hero named Hachi, nicknamed Gintoki, is sent to dispatch them. Hachi begins to believe these women are his dead mother and wife.
I saw this years ago before I was really acclimated to old horror films, let alone old films. So had put off a rewatch for years but it came time now that I am more ready for this fare. Though I guess I should have been half a decade ago, love old horror films. Anyway, this is a beautiful gothic film. A visual spectacle with brilliant shots, design and atmosphere. Even if you don’t gravitate to the story this is a pure technical achievement. Looks better than a lot of films now.
The performances are good, with Nakamura Kichiemon II delivering above and beyond. Such intensity in every moment. Kei Satō is an asshole as the governor. The ladies, Nobuko Otowa and Kiwako Taichi are tragic their work reflects that. These performances, as well as that of the first victim, really make this a stand out of 60s horror. This is really good film, but I am not going to lie and say this is a favorite. I am not exactly into the story, it drags a little at times, and it is a depressing work and on this day I would have liked a more hopeful ending. Still, it does feel essential.
DOUBLE FEATURE: January 24th-Trading Places from 1983 (Director: John Landis, Writers: Timothy Harris and Herschel Weingrod, Stars: Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy, Cinematography: Robert Paynter, Runtime: 116 mins)
Spies Like Us from 1985 (Director: John Landis, Writers: Dan Aykroyd, Lowell Ganz, and Babaloo Mandel, Stars: Chevy Chase, Dan Aykroyd, Steve Forrest, and Donna Dixon, Cinematography: Robert Paynter, Runtime: 102 mins)-both on multi usb
A pair of Dan Aykroyd classics from the 80s. First playing a stuck up businessman from a company specializing in buying and selling commodities. A chance encounter with a local hustler (played by Eddie Murphy) leaves his bosses deciding to engage in an experiment and bet. Having their star employee switch places with the hustler. Billy Ray starts to succeed and Mortimer struggles, even with help from a local sex worker played by Jamie Lee Curtis. Spies Like Us have two men-one with skill cracking codes and one with little skill but being a fast talker-becoming spies. Only because the government needs decoys for a valuable mission.
Trading Places is almost kind of relevant today. From Aykroyd thinking of the worst of Murphys character off the bat. The racism running through in response to black people in white spaces, comments on how the rich fuck with people-its pretty damn good. Well, aside from Murphys use of the F-word and a shaky third act which engages with some very dated comedy shenanigans Trading Places holds up pretty well 3 decades later. That’s quite a feat.
Eddie Murphy brings most of the laughs, and is incredibly good. Aykroyd not as funny and his blackface scene is garbage, but he nails his role as a full of himself white dude who falls into poverty. Just grand reactions and over reactions. Jamie Lee Curtis is stunning. An incredible beauty who glows in her scenes. Denholm Elliott is fun as butler Coleman and then there are the Duke brothers. Screen stars of the classic film age Ralph Bellamy and Don Ameche are fantastic villains.
John Landis (that asshole) and his team deliver a solid looking film that features so much great performances where 75% is very good to great and the cast makes that last 25% solid. I actually talked myself into raising the score half a star because I kind of want to rewatch it again.
I was a little surprised to see such a low RT score on Spies Like Us. Figured it was a comedy staple of the i0s. On this viewing I get it. Its not particularly haha funny. Chevy Chase amd Dan Aykroyd are not a great duo. Story is simple with no major surprises. But I still like it. Its an easy watch. It has one of my all time fave film scenes when after launching a nuke the three US agents and five Russians pair off. There is a gay couple and while I know its suppose to be “laugh at the gay dudes” its actually not homophobic. They just sort of smile and go off with one another. For me its just kinda neat. I also like when the training Colonel played by Bernie Casey whups those ninja dudes. Its silly but fun.
2015 DOUBLE FEATURE: January 25th-Dude Bro Party Massacre III from 2015 (Director: Various, Writers: Alec Owen with Various, Stars: Various, Cinematography: Jon Salmon, Runtime: 103 mins)
Darling from 2015 (Director/Writer: Mickey Keating, Stars: Lauren Ashley Carter, Cinematography: Mac Fisken, Runtime: 78 mins)
Got a headache so I will keep this brief. Due Bro Party Massacre III is a “lost” slasher film about Motherface who is trying kill all the dudes at a frat. The twin brother of the hero of first two films is looking to solve his brothers murder. His twin brother being killed at the start giving us the recap of the non existent first two films. Using bits of slasher logic, mocking frats, and weird horror film tropes this film is throughly amusing. Never really that funny. There are parts I thought were clever and well done. The sourcing making it look like a cheapie horror flick uploaded fro. A taped VHS copy give it a fascinating look and feel. Its enjoyable, in a bad film sort of way.
Darling aims at higher art. A woman is hired as a house sitter at a creepy home. There is a lot of jumping around with editing showing her deteriorating mental state. Its a gorgeous looking film but thats my take away. The lead performance is solid, the imagery is cool, and it is very fascinating but its not really any good. If it was longer than its 76 minutes it maybe could slow down and actually build its thin story. Or it would be dragging out a film longer than needed. Hard to say.
January 26th-The Story of Temple Drake from 1933 (Director: Stephen Roberts, Writers: Oliver H.P. Garrett, Maurine Dallas Watkins and Based on Sanctuary by William Faulkner, Stars: Miriam Hopkins and Jack La Rue, Cinematography: Karl Struss, Runtime: 72 mins)
The infamous pre-code film based on a notorious novel. Temple Drake is about a wild Southern belle who is known around town. Seductress or promiscuous. Its the 30s so not explicit. She goes out for a ride with a drunk and they crash. She ends up with him at a dilapidated plantation that’s a speakeasy of some sort. She tries to stay away from the men but next morning a gangster named Trigger assaults her and kills the help who tried to stop him. The owner of the home is charged for the murder as Trigger takes Temple with him.
Jesus, this movie. Its short, its aggravating, Miriam Hopkins is great and its a pretty picture. The subject matter, while not explicit is very much punish the reckless woman in a terrible way and have her “redeem” herself. We meet the nice, idealistic lawyer who is her ex. That stuff is fine but then Temple enters. We get a glimpse of her having fun and seeing what people think of her. Then follow through horror and see her breakdown in court.
Miriam sells the hell out of this role. A thankless job of the time, I am sure. The movie only works because of her. Sure it looks good and the presentation of the speakeasy and its inhabitants is creepy. Trigger is a cold performance by Jack La Rue, and good. Its just Hopkins brings it all together. She has a glow to her when she is happy and a great expression of horror when she is in fear. Incredibly expressive and emotive in her line delivery.
But once more, damn that house in that second act is creepy as fuck.