January 27th-Raw Force from 1982 (Director/Writer: Edward D. Murphy, Stars: Cameron Mitchell, Cinematography: Frank E. Johnson, Runtime: 86 mins)
Starting the last week of January with cult classic trash cinema. This was bad. Or rather, incredibly boring with terrible performances and a dumb story. But it has a 3 out of 5 on Letterboxd so I am in the minority.
January 28th-Mars Attacks from 1996 (Director: Tim Burton, Writer: Jonathan Gems, Stars: Lots, Cinematography: Peter Suschitzky, Runtime: 105 mins)
What a waste of an incredible cast.
January 29-Stoker from 2013 (Director: Park Chan-wook, Writer: Wentworth Miller, Stars: Mia Wasikowska, Matthew Goode, and Nicole Kidman, Cinematography Chung Chung-hoon, Runtime: 99 mins)
Stoker is about India, who is a bit detached from the world but loves her father who tragically dies in a crash. Her long lost uncle appears at the funeral, moving in with her and her mother. India is suspicious of him and lets be honest, this film does not give a reason you shouldn’t be. India also sometimes gets hassled by some of her classmates and begins to learn that her uncle is a deranged man. So yeah, the film was inspired by Shadow of a Doubt which is about a niece and her possible killer uncle, both named Charlie. Matthew Goode plays the uncle, named Charlie. To be fair, I saw parts of this film before Shadow of a Doubt so not really annoyed by any of that.
So the story is kind of thin, not filled with the bits and pieces like the classic Hitchcock film. This one is light with strong performances from Mia Wasikowska, Matthew Goode and Nicole Kidman as the mother going through some serious depression. The real star is the visual stylings of Park Chan-wook, who directed Handmaiden which is a favorite along with the classic Vengeance Trilogy. The middle installment of which was Oldboy. Park fills his homes with space and movement, colors that pop. The editing is top notch as is the cinematography of frequent Park collaborator Chung Chung-hoon. The way the film is stylized, the cues, the way scenes bleed into one another. Without Park, his team and these actors this film would just be-I don’t, pretty bland. I should also shout out the incredible score. Its pitch perfect for this film.
All that said, its a very good film but not exactly among Parks best works and because of the lightness of the story it doesn’t quality as great. or excellent, I guess its a great piece of directing. So yeah, catch this one. I saw parts a years ago so I am glad to have finally sit down and watch it. The blu-ray I bought cheap like five months ago.
The Photos Of A Lady Above Suspicion from Year (Director: Luciano Ercoli, Writers: Ernesto Gastaldi and Mahnahén Velasco, Stars: Pier Paolo Capponi, Simon Andreu, Dagmar Lassander and Nieves Navarro, Cinematography: Alejandro Ulloa, Runtime: 96 mins)
Minou is attacked by a man claiming her husband is a killer. He wants her to give herself to him, dangling evidence of his crime and when she agrees-turns out its a ploy and now he has photos of her. A total asshole. Minou’s husbands work is having financial trouble, secretly seeing Minou’s best friend and ex Dominique. Dominique actually attempts to assist Minou, first helping with cash to buy the negative of the photos and then convincing her to come forward to her husband. Sadly, there appears to be no trace of the mystery man. Now people are starting to think Minou is losing her mind.
This is a movie that lives or dies on how much you get into the final act. Before that we got some good to very good performances. Some pretty good visuals with certain scenes totally popping. It is also, story wise, lifting from one of the all time famous stories. I will get to that in a moment, first lets get back to performances and visuals. Lead Dagmar Lassander is good. Not stand out like some of the other giallo ladies, Dagmar has to play fear and self doubt and confusion to sell the film. She does a very good job and I like her. Of course her friend, played by Nieves Navarro aka Susan Scott, is a much livelier character. Both ladies make everything work, where as the men are… okay? The husbands as played by Pier Paolo Capponi does his job though a lot of male leads in giallo films are not really all that impressive to me. Maybe more like half. I really don’t like the bad guy, but that’s less the performance of Simon Andreu and more that the character is a total horrible piece of shit. Director Luciano’s film may not be the most eye popping in comparison to others of the subgenre but its still a good looking film. The home the characters share to the lair of the bad guy being creepy, it all looks good. paired with the editing, cinematography and Ennio Morricone score are all good. In fact, I actually think I like the Morricone score the best of all the giallo ones I’ve heard from him.
Now comes up to the ending. As the film was progressing I was landing on a question, “Its good but is it a stand out?” It was clear this one leaned more in the psychological aspects of the subgenre more than then proto-slasher elements of a lot of giallos. I did get a little frustrated by the police investigation. However it all started to come together in that last act. Dominique’s seeming betrayal, the killer continuing to make Minou look crazy, his attack and then the husband arriving and shooting the man. Then it is revealed he was behind this bullshit when I suddenly thought it had to be the friend. It was a swerve to protect what would be the likely ending in a film partially inspired by Gaslight. Then Dominique comes through, lays out her suspicions and we have a pretty happy tie up. Sure once more the lead lady is not a real final girl, fighting for herself though but Minou and Dominique seem to be better off. Dominique continues being a beautiful woman who likes what she wants (suggesting one cop to escort her instead of another, you know what she wants) and while Minou’s husband who she loves betrayed her-she’s got money now and a stake in his company. I don’t, those last twenty or fifteen minutes really tighten this one up. Really enjoyed it. But probably won’t make my monthly top ten. Though my extended major 2019-2020 list.
Dinner at Eight from 1933 (Director: George Cukor, Writers: Frances Marion and Herman J. Mankiewicz from George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber’s play of the same name, Stars: Marie Dressler, John Barrymore, Wallace Beery, Jean Harlow, Lionel Barrymore, Lee Tracy, Edmund Lowe, and Billie Burke, Cinematography: William H. Daniels, Runtime: 111 mins)
If this film was Harlow and Beery yelling at each other for most of it I would’ve gone five stars. Sadly, it is not. There are other stories here, okay stories, the John Barrymore story a tragedy. Still, Harlow and Beery yelling and exchanging jabs. Plus the maid. That was what I wanted more of. Overall a good film from always reliable George Cukor.