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1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
A battle of the stars..., 24 September 2007

...and only one makes it. I won't dwell on the plot, as it's known by 99 44/100% of the world's population. I just felt I had to put in my two cents and defend Mary Pickford. I was very eager to see her in a talkie, and this DVD turned up in my local video store. I immediately snatched it up with my little hands and dashed up to the register. "Am I dreaming?" I thought. "Have a finally gotten a Mary Pickford talkie?!?" I wasn't dreaming, fortunately, and I made it home with my purchase. My opinion, for what it's worth, follows below.

I knew that this film's reputation hasn't quite survived the passing years; neither has Mary Pickford's, for that matter. So few of Mary's films are available and this one does bring down the average a bit. Getting down to brass tacks--Mary Pickford is pretty awful in this picture, but I do think it's helpful to put her performance in perspective. While I did enjoy the film, and I always enjoy Mary's performances, the one word that kept coming to mind while I watched this is UNCOMFORTABLE. She seemed incredibly apprehensive, as though she'd never seen the script. (That might be due to improvising, though...she could have known Doug was going to give her a hard time!) Her marriage to Doug was steadily heading towards the rocks, and it does show. Mary seems aware that Doug has the picture in both hands and is running away with it, but she doesn't seem to know what to do about it. The bigger, louder and bolder he gets the more tight and restrained she becomes.

All this is unfortunate, because Mary could play a hellcat, and did on several occasions. Check out her performance in "M'Liss," when she, armed with a slingshot, addresses Thomas Meighan with "I'll pump ya full of rocks" and you don't doubt for one minute that she will. The main difference between Mary's previous good little devils (like M'Liss, "Little Annie Rooney," and Mavis in "Heart O' The Hills") and Katherine is of course sound. Stage training or no, Mary's voice isn't cut out for constant screeching. To add to the problem, Mary interestingly enough sounds like a little boy. Jarring? Absolutely. Not such a major issue though, because Doug has practically all of the lines in the movie. That is a relief of sorts, because while he's going through the required histrionics Mary is free to use body language, with which she was undoubtedly more comfortable. A good example of this would be the scene in which the smug, praying Petrucio prevents a weary Kate from eating. No one could call Mary's comedic timing in that scene inadequate. Silent yes, but never inadequate.

Mary's performance aside, this is a great Shakespeare movie for people who don't like Shakespeare (like me). There are so many silent-era gags in it that there isn't room for the Bard. Witness the wedding scene, which revolves around a man trying to dispose of an apple core. I imagine this movie gives English teachers fits.

Granted, this movie has shortcomings, but it will entertain you, and isn't that what movies are for?

5 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
Perfect entry in a great series., 17 October 2006

I suck at video games. Really, I'm godawful at them, but I play them constantly. However, I beat this game and that's one of the reasons I love it so much. As everybody and his grandma knows, the Tomb Raider franchise was rapidly heading down the drain and Angel of Darkness had the distinct odor of sewage about it. (I liked it, but it is pretty darn terrible.) Gone are the days of precision positioning for jumps, and welcome to the new era of "That's close enough; I guess I'll grab it." There were several occasions where my jumps were way off but Lara obliged me anyway. The emphasis in this game is on making the action look good, and not difficult to pull off. This results in a game that anyone can play--a game that many people consider way too easy. I must concur--if I can beat it anyone can. The lesser difficulty is all but forgotten though, when you send Lara jumping and swinging across a room without stopping once. "Damn," you say to yourself, "that was COOL!" Speaking of COOL!, Lara may be practically superhuman but she still has that damned Breath Bar. Purists of the series were glad to see that the Angel of Darkness Grip Bar is nowhere to be found--if you want to hang Lara off a ledge and go eat lunch, she'll wait patiently until you get back.

I have both the Xbox360 and Xbox versions of the game (and I'm getting the 'Cube version as soon as it hits the shelves) and I can honestly say they both look stunning. Lara's character model is practically identical in both versions, but the backgrounds are where the main difference is. The 360 version has a lot more polish to it, with some fantastic lighting effects, but the Xbox version actually features some details the 360 doesn't. For instance, when Lara pulls herself out of the water, she drips. No dripping in the 360 version, but she does get shinier. (Anyone remember the Shiny Everything Period on the original Xbox? Even rocks shimmered in pitch black darkness.) Also, there are several moments when Lara is covered in dirt and bruised after sustaining damage, but the 360 version doesn't show that. Maybe I just didn't get damaged enough, but I never noticed any cosmetic changes on the 360.

Ah, cosmetic changes--Lara looks pretty darn good for umpteen thousand polygons stuck together. She's more muscular and athletic looking, and those breasts are a little less "at attention" than previous outings. In fact, Lara Croft has undergone a dramatic personality change as well, in that she actually has one now. Big thank you to whoever called Keeley Hawes and said, "I know it's not your usual thing but would you be interested in doing some voicework?" She is PERFECT in the role, and I'm not exaggerating. Our new Lara has a sense of humor, and even a little sarcasm. (Favorite line: when she loses communication with Zip and Alister she mutters "All those satellites and computers just to perfect the art of talking to oneself." Not only is that hilarious, but she sounds so irritated when she says it! Now THERE is a globetrotting archaeologist that would be fun to talk to.) That's not to say that she's all sunshine and giggles, because the end of the game actually features some pretty intense acting, and Miss Hawes handles it wonderfully. Lara's intensity is actually a little frightening, but it's what the story calls for.

The story--this game explains why Lara does what she does. She is actually searching for someone that was taken from her when she was a little girl. It seemed that the person (no spoilers here!) died, but perhaps there's another explanation. Lara is determined to find out, and as things progress she discovers an artifact of immense power and a myth with branches that span the globe. (Sound epic? It is!) The journey takes Lara everywhere, from Bolivia to Kazakhstan. It's also nice to note that she actually dresses for cold climates now, as opposed to braving them in that little tank top and those trademark shorts of hers. As if you can concentrate on flinging yourself from one icy precipice to another when you're freezing your butt off! As per usual, I shall end this review with griping and whining--not much though, because as I stated earlier, I LOVE THIS GAME. The camera presents problems, because it frequently shows the most aesthetic view and not the most practical one. The motorcycle sequences are a little tedious, but Zip's cheering makes them more bearable. The game is incredibly short--it took me several hours to complete it, but I was replaying levels like mad. Lara's house can be finished in one sitting with a little patience, so there's no need to visit it more than once. Last and least, the game ends quite abruptly and you'll feel left hanging like you wouldn't believe. In fact, I had no idea the game was over until the credits started to roll--that's how abrupt it is. That's a very minor complaint, though, because it just shows us that another game is in the works.

In closing, the game reinvents and reinvigorates a beloved franchise and it does it beautifully. Let me finish with this statement--IF THE NEXT GAME IS A WEAK TIE-IN TO ANOTHER GODAWFUL FILM WITH ANGELINA JOLIE I WILL MURDERIZE SOMEBODY! I'm sorry for the drama but I've heard the rumor and it scares me.

Syberia (2002) (VG)
5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Adventures in Syberia...Mammoths on parade., 5 December 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

...and that's just me! Actually, this video game is absolutely stunning in what I guess one would call set design. Visually it's a treat. For purists out there, I didn't play the PC version--I played the Xbox port.

The story is simple, in theory--New York lawyer Kate Walker is sent to Valadilene, a small town in the French Alps, to help close the sale on a toy company. Once she arrives, she learns that the owner of the company, and that Anna Voralberg, whose signature she was to obtain, has recently died. Anna was the owner of the famed Voralberg Factory, which made automatons. Not robots, mind you, but automatons. Due to financial difficulties she is forced to sell her toy company to a large commercial entity. The town is understandably upset, as their cherished automatons will lose their handmade charm. As the player finds out, the automatons aren't just toys--some of them can be much more. Unfortunately for Kate, the sale of the factory veers off into difficult territory when she reads through some of Anna's papers and discovers that Anna had a younger brother, and that he would be the sole heir of the factory and in charge of selling it. From there, Kate is sent on a hunt for Hans Voralberg, a genius inventor but rather simple-minded otherwise. Kate learns of an accident in Hans' life, where he was injured trying to reach a mammoth doll hidden in a cave. (Get used to the mammoth doll--you'll see it quite a bit, and if you decide to play Syberia II you'll see it even more. Hans loves the thing, apparently.) Rather than remain completely objective about the whole thing, she becomes emotionally involved. What had started out as a business trip becomes an adventure, and as Kate makes her way through Europe she changes her values, her priorities, and even her outlook on life. If a studio made a movie with that exact plot, I'd shell out my hard-earned money to see it. Fortunately for us, Hollywood hasn't screwed it up, and we can experience Kate's adventures with her in the comfort of our own homes.

Right from the get-go, I think we are supposed to contrast Kate Walker with all the other game "heroines" out there. After careful evaluation, you realize that she's different from all of them. A more realistic person, in some ways, yet still quite different. She's a game character that could be considered a sort of role model--she sets herself a goal and she sticks with it, despite all the setbacks put in front of her. What's more, she grows as a person as the game progresses. Many people can identify with her for yet another reason--she's in a relationship that just isn't working and she's afraid to say anything about it. So, she's not like Lara, BloodRayne, Jill Valentine, or even Samus Aran, but as a character she holds up very well. That's good, because you're stuck with her for the duration of the game. As far as the realism goes, she looks like someone you might see at the mall. She doesn't have 52 double Ds, huge machine guns, or a laser cannon for an arm, but she can still get the job done. Only con--physically she's a wuss. She won't lift anything unless she has to, and God forbid she should get her feet wet.

The graphics are a stand out, but they aren't exactly 3-dimensional. Really, the graphics are a pro and a con. In the pro department, the game is beautiful, with snowy mountains, clear streams, hedge mazes (relax, you don't have to go through it), and wait until you see the train station! As for the con--I spent half an hour in one area wandering about because I couldn't see the door. It's not that I'm that goofy, it's that the door was impossible to see. With the point-and-click adventure genre, you go from one screen to another. (An icon usually points this out to you.) With this game you have to hit just the right part of the scenery to trigger a scene transition. If you don't hit the right part, you won't realize that the street is four blocks longer, or that there's another room in the attic, or that you're supposed to go through two trees rather than just run past them. It can be incredibly frustrating, and I actually had to resort to using internet strategy guides just for finding doors. I felt stupid, but it wasn't entirely my fault. I don't think it was, at least. (The sequel has this same issue, as well.) I suppose that I should play more games of this sort, and then I'd get used to examining every square inch of everything.

Voice acting is important in games of this sort because of the emphasis on storytelling. No one wants to hear a story from someone who sounds like Donald Duck, and you won't have that problem here. Great voice acting in English, and I'm going to try to play through again in French! Kudos to Sharon Mann, who voices Kate Walker. She realizes the importance of emotion, but she also knows not to go too far. She also uses different tones depending on who Kate is speaking to--for children she uses a warmer, softer tone, while she can be quite smart-assed to adults. (Can't blame her really--she deals with a motley sort.) All in all, a wonderful game, priced to move, but completely lacking replayability. For an original story that's told well, this is your best bet. (Side gripe--Syberia and Syberia II should be sold together. This game ends rather abruptly, and the sequel picks up right where the original left off. I'm not saying it should be one game because you'd go mad, but I do think both games are required to get the most out of the story.)

5 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
Jennifer and her shadow both need more practice..., 24 August 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

...cause they're both pretty lousy. I think the best part of the movie is the horrendously imperial picture of Faye Dunaway at the top of the stairs. She looks like she could very easily step out of that picture, rip someone to bloody pieces, and calmly re-enter the portrait looking as if nothing had happened. Now, you know a movie's in trouble when part of the set furnishings manages to attract your attention.

I admit, I paid $30 for the DVD just so I could see Faye Dunaway in a contemporary horror movie. I know what you're thinking--30 bucks right down into a gaping black hole. And you would be absolutely correct. This movie sucks. There, it's right out in the open. I was expecting some actual scares, and I waited and waited and waited. None came. The raven (probably a crow in makeup) didn't scare me, seeing small pieces of internal organs didn't scare me, and even Faye didn't scare me. I'm not that brave, I know, so it must be the movie itself that is the trouble. What's more, Jennifer wasn't scared either. Her internal organs were literally falling apart and she seemed more peeved than anything. Her life was rapidly coming to a close and she's worried about attaining more money. Honey, you can't take money where you're going!!! "I need money," she continually says, completely ignoring the fact that her lungs have collapsed and ceased to function.

Meanwhile, I spent the whole blasted movie wondering what was up with the grandmother (Faye). I was suspicious at first, Faye playing a grandmother and all, and I was still suspicious at the end. There is another relative living in the house that Jennifer and Mary Ellen the Grandmother-From-Hell are forced to share temporarily, and I'm guessing she is of the same generation as said grandmother. Here's the weird part--the relative looks like she's just endured her eight hundredth birthday party. Mary Ellen looks like she's just gotten a face-lift from a renowned surgeon. Face-lifts can't work miracles, but I think Faye's appearance is important to the rice-paper plot. SPOILER!!! It seems that the family is plagued by an illness that affects bad acting...sorry, my little joke. Seriously though, there's all illness that causes their organs to fail and ultimately disintegrate. Yuck, huh? Interestingly enough, Mary Ellen is still alive and all her organs are intact. How did she avoid the Family Curse? Something's up with her, obviously.

Another reason for mourning the loss of my thirty dollars--this movie features one of my all-time movie pet peeves. I refer to the double ending. This movie ends twice. I absolutely hate it when that happens, and in this movie it feels like the director shot the ending, didn't like it, and forget to remove it during editing. I guess it's supposed to be scary, but it is only if you're a film editor.

There is one perk to this debacle, though, and it's one of the reasons I bought the DVD. The "filmmaker" commentary features Faye Dunaway, and I wanted to see how she acted when she didn't have lines to recite. Guess what--the movie sucked so bad I wasn't able to sit through it again. Drat.

Torch Song (1953)
6 out of 13 people found the following review useful:
"I can't help being...a snarky reviewer...", 23 August 2005

Okay, so that's not how Joan's big song goes, but nevertheless. I am going to do some snarking because this movie deserves it. I am guessing Joan Crawford made this movie because she missed MGM and wanted to take a last look. Or maybe she thought it was actually decent. I'm hoping for the former and praying it's not the latter.

See, this movie is terrible. Really, honest to God terrible. The plot--bitch goddess Jenny Stewart crushes people beneath her feet on a regular basis, but she is actually quite vulnerable ON THE INSIDE. (Yeah, one of those.) However, one day she comes across Tye Graham (played by Michael Wilding, who pronounces "Graham" as "Grimm"--rather appropriate) when he is hired to replace her burned-out rehearsal pianist. He's blind due to an accident, and she is unable to believe that a blind man can read music and play the piano. They clash immediately, as is to be expected, until the relationship sort of blossoms into something else. Okay, I can live with that. But, damn, the things that happen along with the way are intolerable!!! I am not even going to get started on the blackface number, which is obscenely awful. I will, however, elaborate on some of the little things.

First--why is Gig Young in this movie? He's Jenny's boyfriend-kinda-sorta, but he cheats on her on a regular basis, and she's incapable of feeling anyhow. I guess the filmmakers realized his utter lack of importance, because he disappears halfway through. Gee, darn. He apparently attached himself to her so he could steal money from her. ("Next time you go out without Jenny, don't sign her name to the checks," Joan says testily. I must confess I get a kick of out her lines like that, because my name happens to be Jenny. I wish I could boss people around like that!) So basically Gig Young is there, and then he isn't. Fine. Whatever. If my memory serves me, Gig Young is most famous for committing suicide rather than any movies he made, but that's beside the point. This movie didn't help his outlook on life, it would seem. Didn't mine, either.

Second--Joan, who could be quite attractive, has somehow ended up with orange hair. Maybe it looked good in black and white, but it don't here, that's for sure. I can only hope it wasn't her decision, or that she was in some alcohol-induced stupor when she had it done. Or maybe the hairdresser was incompetent, because I ended up with orange hair for that exact reason one time. Whatever the reason, she looks ghastly. Especially during the blackface number I've vowed not to think about again.

Third--the color of everything else is a little too garish for my liking as well. I am thinking, as some of you have probably guessed, of the chartreuse bathrobe Joan wears midway through the movie. What the heck is that thing? Underneath she's wearing some stylish white pajamas, why not show them off? Joan's makeup (not the blackface, the regular stuff) also struck me as a little off--in the scene where she tries to adjust the clock with her eyes closed her face is a full three shades lighter than her chest. That's not really a big deal, since that happens in real life more often that not, but it's still jarring to see it on screen.

I've totally trashed this movie, and that isn't entirely fair. You'll notice, perhaps, that I've given it a four. Those four stars come from two scenes in the movie in which Joan actually rises above the material and does a good job. The first of the two scenes comes when Jenny attempts some everyday tasks as a blind person--she tries to set the clock, as I mentioned earlier, and she also tries to make a phone call. She fails miserably at both tasks, and realizes she's taken sight for granted. I think she does very well with the scene mainly because of how she reacts to her failure--she's appalled. I get the feeling that Joan herself would have been appalled at such a failure as well. (Incidentally, I thought she was quite convincing in her "Night Gallery" segment.) The second scene is when she goes to see her mother, the only friend she's got. "Friend" is a word to be used loosely there--her mother's a leech just like Gig Young was. However, I think Marjorie Rambeau, a well-known stage actress in the 'teens, is quite likable and even sympathetic. In this scene Jenny comes to her mother asking for romantic advice about Tye. She's bothered because she's in love with a man who doesn't know what she looks like, but her mother recalls a connection that Jenny and Tye had before the injury that left him blind. That leads to the cranking up of the old Victrola for a listen to one of Jenny's records. Jenny listens and sings along. I love that scene because it's strange. As everyone mentioned, Joan's singing is dubbed by India Adams. (I actually think Joan mentioned that in "Conversations with Joan Crawford." Wherever it was mentioned, Joan was quite peeved about not getting to sing her songs.) What's strange is this--the record is India Adams singing in a higher-to-be-interpreted-as-younger voice, but Joan Crawford is singing along in her own voice. They're obviously two different people. Did MGM think no one would notice? I did.

At any rate, those two scenes don't redeem the movie, so I'm afraid I can't heartily recommend it. Better stay away unless you're inebriated and need a good laugh.

2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Yeah, it's dumb, but so what?, 22 August 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

First off, I've never seen a Chucky movie before this one. The only contact I had with the series period was wondering how the hell Ronny Yu went from "Bride with White Hair" to "Bride of Chucky." That's quite a leap. For some reason, though, I felt strangely compelled to see this movie. Not just to see it, but also to pay twenty bucks for it. I don't regret it.

I think this movie's main flaw is a lack of consistency. Yeah, I know it's a puppet slasher movie, but consistency would still be helpful. For instance, the first part of the movie features an hilarious, slutty, fame-hungry Jennifer Tilly. I think the first 20 minutes of the movie feature some damned funny moments, from the isn't-the-fake-head-realistic scene to her awful portrayal of the Virgin Mary. The movie stays funny for a good while, and you might even laugh at the whole turkey baster thing. Then the Jennifer Tilly character goes veering off in another direction--from MTV-award worthy to Oscar-worthy, and the change hurts the movie. I think it does, at least. I went from laughing to major discomfort and it only took two seconds. The painfully shallow Jennifer became the desperate Jennifer, a woman who only wants her children to be safe. It's fine to have more than one genre in a movie, but make the transition a little smoother, hmm? It's like skateboarding into a wall--really fun, and then painfully and abruptly not fun at all. Even her screaming isn't funny in this part of the movie. It's terrified and anguished; before it was just silly. To make matters worse, by the last 15 minutes of the movie, she's another Jennifer entirely. A green-eyed, Tiffany-toting weirdo with two weirdo kids. So, all told, this movie has four Jennifer Tillys. (Gina Gershon would be thrilled, wouldn't she?) However, I would definitely watch this again (as well I should, since I paid for the thing) just to watch Jennifer Tilly be idiotic. Her performance is admirable, from the shameless putdowns to the blatant ass-kissing. Who else but Tiffany would think Jennifer has the voice of an angel? One of the best scenes in the movie occurs when Jennifer, her assistant Joan, and Tiffany are all on the phone. Tiffany is eavesdropping on another extension when she decides to participate in the conversation. This causes some great confusion--"Why are saying these things, Jennifer?" "I'm not saying anything! Why are you making fun of me? I don't sound like that!!!" And it goes on for what seems like years, so the laughs go on and on. Then you're laughing until someone gets eviscerated and the movie hurtles off in another direction. Oh well.

Big acting kudos to little Glen also. It's sad to say, but Glen is the most expressive actor I've seen in a long time, and he's plastic. It's rather difficult to watch--I had to keep reminding myself he was a puppet. He's that impressive. He needs to get over the pants-wetting though, because that got real old real quick. (Freaky colored-urine, too, he may need a checkup.) Chucky was realistic enough, and Tiffany looks like a trailer park nightmare on crack. No big deal though, because she knows she has a problem and she's trying to overcome it! I was also glad to see John Waters being tacky as always. I watched his departure scene and thought, "Hey, they're burning the trash! Tee hee!" But he is great, and he gets the best line in the movie--"A masturbating midget?" Aptly put, Mr. Waters.

Great entertainment value in this, so I definitely recommend it to anyone with 100 minutes to waste. And, to give you more bang for you buck,the DVD has a commentary track, for those of you eager to hear the voice of an angel...of sorts.

9 out of 13 people found the following review useful:
Surprisingly good natured..., 4 August 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I got this movie on video when the second half of the Marlene Dietrich collection came out. (Anybody remember VHS? Ah, the good old days.) A friend had recorded it for me, but the sound was all garbled. I enjoyed the parts I understood, and when it came out on video I had to have it.

There are so many enjoyable moments in this movie. Congresswoman Frost gets one of the best masquerading as "Gretchen Gesundheit," only to cause her newfound companions to gleefully remark "We're fraternizing with a sneeze!" Heck, she gets all the best moments. Jean Arthur, an actress I never cared for due to her high irritating factor ("Shane," anyone?), does wonders portraying an irritating person. Phoebe Frost is so stalwart and dull it's remarkable she even breathes. When she finally lets her hair down it's painfully funny. I refer of course to her performance of "The Iowa Song." Erika (Marlene, of course) forces her to perform the song in front of everyone at the cabaret, hoping to mortify her into leaving. Phoebe instead gives it the old college try, and to watch her at the end of the song is amazing. She's terrible, but she's completely forgotten that little fact. She looks so thrilled to be there, singing the praises of her native land, and everyone else is so thrilled they feel compelled to sing along. It's one of the funniest things I've ever seen. We're also treated to a quick cut to Marlene, who's clapping her hands and puffing her cigarette like a freight train. Another great scene is Phoebe displaying her new dress to Captain Pringle. She found it hanging on the handlebars of a bicycle and it looked devastating. On her it looks, as she aptly puts it, "like a circus tent in mourning for an elephant that has died." How someone so humorless as her can come up with things like that I'll never know. (Billy Wilder must have been a great lunch companion!) There is one strange thing about this movie, though, and here it is. Why would Marlene Dietrich and Jean Arthur fight over John Lund, and even more puzzling, how in the hell could Marlene lose? It's unbelievable! According to legend, Marlene had quite a bit of animosity towards Jean Arthur, and on screen she sure acts like it. Erika insults or mocks every little thing about Phoebe, down to the ribbons ("shoelaces") in her hair. She even says she has a face like "a kitchen floor." Erika might lower herself that far (having no dignity left), but Marlene? Never. Not to mention playing a Nazi sympathizer. Why, we even see her whispering into Hitler's ear! The look of horror and surprise on Captain Pringle's face when he sees that is priceless. He's talking about how she couldn't have been that important, and he looks up to see her chatting with the Fuhrer. I imagine if Marlene Dietrich had gotten that close to Hitler she would have killed him, and maybe gotten away with it.

In all fairness, Marlene gets some memorable moments as well, such as when she bitches about her springy mattress. Pointing out a spring, she mutters "That one is the worst." And who can ever forget her surprisingly tolerable rendition of "Black Market"? Better yet, who can forget how, during "Illusions," she reaches back and puts her cigarette in Frederick Hollander's mouth WITHOUT EVEN LOOKING AT HIM? I can just see some other less elegant actress gouging him in the eye with it.

I also admire this movie for showing what Germans must have actually been like after the war, instead of focusing on Nazi atrocities like other films are prone to doing. This movie says that the Nazi Party wasn't Germany, at least not all of it, and definitely seeing the Germans living in the ruins of their formal lives drives the point home.

9 out of 12 people found the following review useful:
The Reviewer is Willing., 4 August 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I watched this (after going through heck to get the video) because I wanted to see Marlene Dietrich do something different. I'd seen "The Blue Angel" and all the other big Dietrich movies, but I'd gotten the idea that this one stood out from the rest. Well, yes, in a way.

Lili Marlene plays Elizabeth Madden, a popular musical comedy star and a complete moron. (That's where this differs from her other movies, I think--I don't recall her being so blasted ignorant in anything else.) SPOILERS AHEAD!!! We are talking about a woman who steals a baby because she's so cute, decides to keep it, and somehow fails to realize the baby is actually a boy. She names him Joanna. Her reasoning behind the mistake is this--everybody knows that girls wear pink and boys wear blue. The baby was in pink, therefore the baby was a girl. I had a hard time believing Marlene as such a NAIVE person, especially when it came to children and reproduction. Elizabeth is a darling person (I know that sounds silly, but she is), but she isn't Marlene and Marlene doesn't seem to be able to manage the deception. If you can get past that, then this can actually be a delightful little movie. Elizabeth is very earnest, caring, and generous, as evidenced by her list of "friends" that she gives all her money to. Because of that, she can't legally adopt. Her job isn't very stable, apparently, and she doesn't have much money in the bank. In walks pediatrician Corey McBain (lovable Fred MacMurray), who inadvertently provides an answer. Then comes the whole marriage of convenience (she gets her baby, he gets part of her apartment and money to study some disease in rabbits), and whoops! They fall in love. Gee, who didn't see that one coming? All in all, this movie's okay. Not great, but it's a nice viewing. If you're expecting belly laughs, you won't get them from this. (There were many other funnier movies that came out around this time: "The Lady Eve," "The Palm Beach Story," "Sullivan's Travels," etc.) Of course, what can you say about a movie whose claim to fame is the star being clumsy and breaking her ankle?

1 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
What a piece of unbelievable weirdness..., 4 August 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

And the movie's odd, too. What a fun romp through Satanic small-town England, huh? What icky people live there! What a horrid place to be stuck in, but teacher Gwen Mayfield doesn't mind. It's a step up from where she's been, though...

This movie starts out with a scene in Africa, and we see schoolteacher Gwen Mayfield and her two assistants attempting to escape from something. (This is the scene where Joan Fontaine, as Miss Mayfield, begins sucking her cheeks in. Get used to it, because she does it for the entire duration of the movie.) The something, as the assistants hesitantly explain is a soul-eating something. Miss Mayfield seriously doubts it--"Nothing can eat your soul," she says in a British accent. (Side note: Why did Joan Fontaine have an English accent when sister Olivia de Havilland didn't?) Sure enough, a garishly-colored feather duster appears, an obvious omen of soul-eating. The assistants beat feet and escape, while Miss Mayfield sucks her cheeks in and waits for whatever is coming. The soul-eater (a guy in a huge mask and fake fingernails) crashes through the door, Miss Mayfield freaks, and we are transported like movie magic to England. Here's where the movie picks up.

It seems that there is a school in this tiny town of Heddaby, and they are looking to replace the head teacher, who died or something equally unpleasant. The "preacher" and town big guy Alan Bax wants Miss Mayfield to run the school, because her work in Africa might be interesting to the kiddies. More like terrifying, but hey. Alan's creepy sister Stephanie is a famous article writer, and Miss Mayfield is familiar with her writing on...wait for it...witchcraft!!! Who knew? Stephanie and Miss Mayfield hit it off right away, and everything seems to be normal. But wait...

...there are two children (ha!) in Miss Mayfield's class that seem to be troublemakers--Ronnie and Linda. They're too thick to stir, actually, and it just bothers the heck out of everybody in the village. They townspeople, for some reason, aren't bothered by the fact that Linda could easily pass for 25. The Baxes aren't involved yet, but Linda's grandmother, Granny Rigg, believes the union is a mistake. SPOILER!!! She's such a firm believer in this that she apparently runs Linda's arm through the "mangle." Does that sound painful or what! I don't know what a mangle is but I bet it stung. At this point in the movie, we discover that Granny Rigg's cat is some sort of familiar that she uses to spy on Miss Mayfield. It seems there's some huge thing seething beneath the surface of the village, but Miss Mayfield can't quite figure it out. She notices that people act strange (her co-worker explains that by saying they've been inbreeding for centuries), and when Ronnie falls into a coma she's positive something is amiss. Even better, her past seems to be coming back to haunt her, as she gets weirded out by another garishly-colored feather duster. The feather duster, combined with several town mishaps and a sheep-trampling, cause Miss Mayfield to have a nervous breakdown. Again. I can sympathize, though. Getting trampled by sheep is unnerving.

Miss Mayfield then is committed to a nursing home, with no memories of why she's there or what had been going on in Heddaby, or even what had happened in Africa. Her sanity comes back just as quickly as it had left, and she realizes that witches are afoot in England. Again. Linda's in danger, Ronnie's in danger, heck, everybody's in danger. She dashes back to Heddaby and the comforting home of the Baxes. Stephanie seems genuinely concerned, and she believes all the accusations Miss Mayfield makes. One thing leads to another, and Stephanie reveals herself to be a egomaniacal lunatic intent on using her superbrain to better mankind. Miss Mayfield is horrified, and even more so when she learns what part poor virgin Linda is to play in this. (See, that's why everyone was upset about her seeing Ronnie--she had to remain "pure." Isn't that sick? I can't believe she was a virgin, myself.) All of these happenings lead us to one of the worst scenes in movie history--the Ritual. "Ritual" as in disgusting, sexless, muddy orgy. That's right--a sexless orgy. They slather oil all over each other, they wear ragged clothes, they beat on bones and dance around, but they don't have any sex. Not to mention the fact that their dancing seems more like a large group of people having synchronized seizures. It's up to Miss Mayfield to clear their heads and return order to Heddaby. I had no faith in her whatsoever, but that's just me.

If you like kooky 60s horror movies FROM ENGLAND then this is for you. If you want your 60s horror movies to be art, like "Psycho," then pass over this one.

11 out of 14 people found the following review useful:
Damned Good Review, 4 August 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

(Part of this could POSSIBLY be considered plot-spoiling.) This is one of Joan Crawford's lost movies, or at least it was until it got released on DVD. I had never seen any part of it until the DVD release, but I had heard from various sources that it was in fact terrible. Pardon me, but I beg to differ. This is a stunning movie that manages to keep you entertained from start to finish, and isn't that what movies are for?

Joan Crawford plays Ethel Whitehead and her other persona, Lorna Hansen Forbes. The change is to better aid the gang she's gotten involved with, and I imagine she enjoys her taste of the good life. (Why the heck did she cut her hair, though? She looked much better to start with!) Unfortunately, the taste goes sour pretty darn quick, leave Ethel/Lorna in a spot. It also leads to the best scene in the movie, where she gets the crap slapped out of her. That is what makes this movie stand out for me--for once Joan isn't dishing it out, she's taking it. Granted, it's aesthetically pleasing violence that leaves her looking just as stylish as before, but still. I knew Joan Crawford was a marvelous slapper, but she's an even better slappee.

For me, there are several moments that make this movie great. The first is the scene that illustrates Ethel's acceptance of her "escort" job. (However, I can see how this scene would look ridiculous to a lot of people. Joan is a smidge too old to be doing what she's doing, but once you get past that it's great.) Ethel gives her partner her cut, which isn't nearly enough, and receives a tirade in return. She listens but for a moment, then turns around a walks off. When the partner continues, Ethel says "Ah, shut up." One of the best line deliveries Joan ever did, in my opinion. I think this part of the movie is a throwback to Joan's shopgirl movies. I can see an older Sadie McKee acting the same way. Even better, the scene reveals quite well just how ignorant Ethel is, but also how quickly she learns. When Martin explains to her that he's a CPA, she obviously has no idea what he's talking about. Once he straightens her out, she immediately uses it against someone. So, while she started out a step down, she used it to go an extra step up. It's wonderful stuff to watch.

Another well-done scene is the second, the scene in which we are introduced to Ethel Whitehead. It's very brief, with Ethel debating over whether or not to buy her son a bike, but very effective. Joan's acting is incredible here as well, and for some reason she looks much younger as a tired housewife than she does as a wealthy socialite.

I will gripe about something though. (Can't have a review where I don't complain, you know.) I disliked the character of George Castleman intensely. (Question to other film watchers--George lives in the Governors Mansion, and we're told that the Governor has ordered the meeting, but is George the governor? I don't think so, but it sure is implied. Somebody help me out with this.) George sucks, actually. Does he love Ethel? He says so, but why put her in such horrid situations? Why force her onto Nick Prenta when he has to know what will happen? My idea of love isn't shoving someone into the great gaping maw of death, which is what he seems to be doing. That's a minor gripe, though, and George is intended to be an a-hole, but still.

Another gripe, this one about the DVD. I haven't sat through Vincent Sherman's commentary, and I don't plan to. For Pete's sake, the man made tons of movies, he's two hundred years old, and all he can talk about is sleeping with Joan Crawford. If that's his only claim to fame he's a little bit sad. I have never seen the mention of his name with her's attached. I have never seen him speaking without mentioning their affair. MOVE ON, MAN!!! Everybody else slept with Joan Crawford too. He needs to rearrange his priorities. But, casual moviegoer, don't let that disturb your movie experience. A great movie--definitely one to be watched.

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