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laffinsal

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62 reviews in total 
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21 out of 24 people found the following review useful:
In the Good Cold Summertime..., 12 March 2005
7/10

Funny that a movie which has 'Summertime" in its title spends most of its duration in the Winter. No matter, this is a charming and quaint musical from MGM. Judy and Van are anonymous pen pals, who also happen to work together, each of them not knowing the other is their mystery 'friend'.

It's a little disconcerting watching Judy Garland, as lively as ever, in her second to last MGM musical from the studio's classic period. It's unfortunate she was dropped a couple years later, because even in this minor film, she is wonderful, using her talents to better the story with her cinematic personality and melodic singing. She had a gift for comedy and a talent for drama as well.

Van Johnson, in one of his few memorable musical film roles, is good as Judy's counterpart. His role seems more like a character Gene Kelly would have played, a bit of a 'smart Alec'. I think if Kelly were cast instead, there would have been more of a balance in this film, because as it is, much of the singing in this film comes from Judy...she really is the only singer in the whole cast. The songs, themselves, are period pieces which are pleasant enough. Aside from the title tune, there is the "Dreamland" number, which is nice, Judy's rousing "I Don't Care", and her amusing song with the Barbershop Quartet. The other actors in the cast are also good. Buster Keaton has a funny, but modest role as a shop worker, along with Spring Byington and S.Z. "Cuddles" Sakall, as the shop owner.

Overall, a pleasant film. Not quite what I would think of as a musical, as the songs are modest filler, not showstoppers. This is not on par with "On the Town" or "The Pirate", but it is enjoyable enough. Good costumes, charming sets, and lovely Technicolor contribute to the look of an antique hand-colored postcard. In that sense, it's something of a curio; amusing, but not quite a gem.

5 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
Mediocre Macabre, 9 March 2005
6/10

This late-period William Castle film is one of his pallid attempts at comedy. It's amiable, yet mediocre in its delivery. Sid Caesar (during one of the lesser parts of his career) plays the scapegoat for Robert Ryan's gang of hoods. Looking at the cast of this film, as well as the original publicity material, it's obvious that Castle was trying to make his own version of "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World". In addition to Caesar, there is also Dom Deluise, Kay Medford, Godfrey Cambridge, Marty Ingels, and Richard Pryor in his first film. Arlene Golonka is also present as the ditzy young dancer in the ridiculous feather get-ups.

The main problem with this film, is that the two main actors are totally unlikable. Ryan is unnecessarily mean to Caesar, and Caesar in turn, is too much of a wuss. The other actors all seem so oblivious to what's happening...like they are all doing their own stand-up routines instead of furthering the story. The script is OK, I think Castle just didn't know how to direct comedy.

On the plus side, though, this film has a very catchy theme song, composed by Vic Mizzy, and a funny sequence where a woman tries talking to a mannequin at a bus stop. It's a slight step up from Castle's "The Spirit is Willing", but that's not saying very much.

11 out of 18 people found the following review useful:
"We got da Red Blues!", 24 January 2005

Clever, witty and charming musical, courtesy M.G.M. and the Arthur Freed unit, of which this was one of their last films. One of several musical remakes (of non-musical pictures) that the studio produced in the mid-late 1950s. This is one of the best.

Fred Astaire plays his usual character, the playboy-ish bachelor, in this case a film producer, wanting to use a Russian composer's music for his new film. Cyd Charisse plays Ninotchka, the Russian woman who comes to Paris to bring back the composer and three comrades who failed to return him to his native land. As the three comrades, Jules Munshin, Peter Lorre (holding onto a chair as he dances), and Joseph Buloff are a hoot, adding good comic relief in their "Too Bad" and "Siberia" numbers. Janis Paige is a jewel as the ditzy actress hired for the new film. She radiates with Astaire in the memorable "Stereophonic Sound" number, as well as in her own hilarious "Satin and Silk".

Charisse, (whose wooden acting is OK here), is lovely as usual and has a few excellent dances, including the sensual "All of You" (with Astaire), the lively "Red Blues", and the stunning ballet where she removes her old Russian garb, for her new Parisian silks. This was the second of her two pairings with Astaire, and though this is not the gem that "The Band Wagon" is, it still sparkles nonetheless.

A clever and classy musical, with some very topical humor. Great songs by Cole Porter (with the exception of the tacky "Ritz, Roll and Rock"...a poor punch at rock and roll). Excellent use of color and the Cinemascope frame help to make this one of the last great musicals of the 1950s.

Maniac (1963)
16 out of 20 people found the following review useful:
A Few Twists, Not Enough Good Turns, 24 January 2005

A Hammer production, filmed at M.G.M., and released through Columbia. Sound confusing? Well, so is the plot to this attempt at out-psycho-ing "Psycho".

Kerwin Matthews is actually pretty good, in this tale of an American artist visiting France, who gets mixed up with both a young woman, and the woman's stepmother (notice she's a "stepmother"; hint, hint, wink, wink). For some reason I had an easier time believing Matthew's interest in the young woman, but not so much in her stepmother (whose high painted eyebrows, and puffy bouffant hair reminded me of Divine). Along the way Matthews learns of the older woman's husband, and how he committed a crime trying to protect his daughter years before. They try to help the husband escape from an asylum (so they can be together), and then the confusion starts.

Though the location footage, and stark black and white photography help this film create a good atmosphere, the direction is somewhat muddled, as is the dialogue, which at times I found difficult to follow. The French accents, in addition to some questionable dubbing make it hard to understand what they are saying. When I could understand the dialogue, it seemed forced and elementary; characters having to explain things that just happened, to further the story (and make sure that we get it).

Overall a slow start and a bunch of interesting twists in the latter half, but only a couple mildly startling moments. I found myself rather unsatisfied at the end. Perhaps this would have benefited by being directed by Freddie Francis...his collaboration with Jimmy Sangster that same year, for "Paranoiac", produced a much better film then this is.

2 out of 15 people found the following review useful:
Who's Your Daddy?, 24 January 2005

Who knows? Who cares?! This movie is so painfully long and boring that I don't think any of the details really matter. If you haven't fallen asleep by the time the end credits pop up, you'd probably just as sooner forget them.

This film is an example of the very worst in 1950s musicals. Take a very tepid, airy script and vacuum-pack it with dull and forgettable song and dance numbers, and a bunch of dream sequences, and 'voila'! What you get is an extremely long, pointless film…the story could have been neatly tied up within an hour and a half (if that), but instead this film rambles on for over two full hours.

The romance angle between Astaire and Caron is strained, at best. Astaire's films from the 1950s are curious, and range from the sublime ("The Band Wagon"), to the bizarre ("Funny Face", and this). As an aging actor, he was constantly being paired up against young actresses as love interests. I can stretch my imagination to believe Cyd Charisse and Fred, but Leslie Caron, who looks to be about a third of his age? I don't think so. Caron, who was memorable in "An American in Paris", is only slightly better in this film. She still speaks very little, and apparently the producers must have thought this lent to her appeal. Her dancing is pleasant, but she has so little to do here, that even that talent is wasted.

As far as the music numbers, well, there's not much to choose from. I won't even go into the song "Egghead", where a bunch of sadistic college girls push around a sobbing Caron….ugh. The "dream sequences" are an ache to watch, namely one in which Caron comes out in one costume after another. None of these sequences lend anything to the script…they are agonizing. Of the music sequences we get that have some merit…the standard "Something's Gotta Give" (inserted, as if it alone makes the film credible), and something called "Sluefoot", where Caron dances with Astaire at a college dance. The latter is amusing only because it's so oddball and spontaneous that you can't help but remember it for it's sheer audacity.

Tacked along for comic support are Fred Clark, who is generally funny. Here he mostly spends the two hours screaming at Astaire. Too bad he didn't just yell "Cut!" at the beginning, and spare us the misery of seeing the rest of this mess. In addition, there is Thelma Ritter, who is totally wasted, sniffling into a tissue for most of the time. Add to all of this, pitiful DeLuxe Color and an incredibly lifeless usage of Cinemascope. If you think you would enjoy seeing an aging Astaire chase around a too-young Caron, interspersed with an occasional intruding music number, well then, perhaps you would enjoy this. If, however, you'd like to see a better movie, may I suggest…well…almost anything else.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Pure Entertainment, 20 October 2004

Understandably the most popular 3-D movie to come from the 1950s, this wonderfully Gothic horror film is worth watching, even without the extra depth dimension. Vincent Price is marvelous as the sensitive artist-turned mad sculptor who closely guards his Chamber of Horrors, and chases around poor Phyllis Kirk, trying to recreate his beloved Marie Antoinette statue. Kirk is terrific in this, probably her best role. Carolyn Jones is a hoot as her ditzy friend. Paul Picerni is not half-bad as the boyfriend, and Charles Bronson is pretty funny, if nothing else, as the mute assistant to Price. There's plenty of fog and shadows, not to mention one pretty wild paddle-ball, all put together, for a very satisfying and fun movie. It's easy to see why this was such a hit in its time, and it remains today, not only one of the best 3-D films ever, but also one of the best horror films to come from its era. See it in 3-D, if you can, but by all means, see it!

3 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
Watchable and Fun, But Not Waters' Best, 6 October 2004

The best scenes in this latest John Waters entry, are the ones early in the film, when the "neuters" are complaining at the local convenience store, about how smut is contaminating the neighborhood. Hearing Mink Stole and Suzanne Shepherd trying to outdo each other with one "shocking" discovery after the next, is pretty silly, and typical Waters buildup. The satire works here because it's still believable.

Of course, being a John Waters film, there is usually the point (of many points) where things start to go over-the-top, and that is where the film either makes it or not. This film almost works, up until the very end. The final "c-l-i-m-a-x" of the film, leaves much to be desired, I'm afraid. The basically one-note joke would have been fine, except that it starts branching out into pure silliness. Satire is funny when it's sharp, and biting. This one builds up momentum, and then just nibbles.

The cast is all well chosen. Tracy Ullman is the best asset as the typical housewife who gets "the itch". Johnny Knoxville was rather impressive as Ray-Ray, but his screen time is limited. Chris Issac is also good as Ullman's husband, and the usual Waters alumni are here and fun to pick out from the rest. Suzanne Shepard is also worth noting. The funniest line in the movie, was when someone refers to her as a "tranny bear".

Not a bad film, but not Waters' best. Fans are bound to like it, but I can see how it would be tough to take for those who aren't. One of the biggest gripes I had about this movie, was that a lot of the sex jokes, which should have been funny, come off as academic and condescending. If they have to be explained, why bother?

The Mask (1961)
6 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Absurd but Lovable Schlock, 8 July 2004

This early 60's horror film is one of the slowest moving ones ever. The film begins with an awesome title sequence...some flickering abstract lines, mixed with some deliciously eerie music. Following that (and before the story actually starts), we have one of the most dreadfully boring narrators ever in the history of film, explaining to us what a mask is, and that when the characters in the film put on the mask of the title, we are to do the same with our 3-D specs.

The story itself is a bore, painfully written and with some ludicrous, laughable acting (my favorite was the grumpy landlady). The 3-D sequences are something else entirely from the rest of this film. You'd think they came from a different movie. They are moody, eerie, well thought out and put together. Some of the in-your-face effects still don't work well (even in a theatre) but they are hokey good fun. However, once the non-stereo scenes come back on...they are redundant and increasingly annoying. Still, this is a cult classic by any standards, and you can't help but love it. Understandably, it has quite a following.

4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Dark and Memorable, 23 June 2004
10/10

This cartoon seems to get better and better, every time I watch it. Bimbo the dog is seen by a policeman trying to steal a chicken, and hides in a graveyard. Once inside, the ghosts rise from their graves and teach him a lesson, singing him the title song.

The animation in this early Fleischer Talkartoon is distinctly primitive looking when compared to their later shorts. There are some very simple drawings here, but the timing, music and mood add so greatly to this toon, that you simply can't forget it. The theme in this one is very similar to the later, "Minnie the Moocher", which also uses a popular jazz song, but this cartoon goes a little bit darker. As Bimbo is menaced from the graveyard, inside an old barn, and out again, the drawings become more grotesque, more rubbery, and macabre. The final outcome, with the spooks chasing him into what looks like Hell, is quite creepy for a cartoon.

One of the great ones. This one seems to be difficult to view these days. It was included as part of the "Betty Boop Confidential" which toured theatres in 1995, but I have never seen a video release of it. It's worth tracking down. One of the best shorts of the 1930s, and of the Fleischer studio.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Energetic, 20 June 2004

This is a typical "let's put on a show" musical from MGM, which would be nothing if it were not for the delightful pairing of Judy Garland and Gene Kelly. Gene is fantastic in this film. The material he has to work with is mediocre, but he does a superb job with it. His dance with the creaky floorboard and the newspapers is magical. His "Dig, Dig, Dig", is also a lot of fun, and is another example of his exuberance. He also looks particularly youthful and handsome. Hard to believe he was pushing 40 here.

Judy Garland, on the other hand, doesn't do so well in the looks department, clearly overweight for much of the picture. She actually looks older then Kelly (even though she was really 10 years younger). It was a little tough for me to believe the quick revelation of Gene's character falling head-over-heels for her. Regardless, Judy is bubbly, lively, and with a certain degree of emotion to her character that almost seems too real. She's crying and yelling, and showing frustration with just about anyone who crosses her path. Makes one wonder what things were like on the set of this film, when the cameras weren't rolling. All in all, she's fascinating to watch, and when she comes out at the end for her big finale of "Get Happy"...you will be.

The Technicolor photography is bright and happy as usual, and the costumes have 1950 written all over them...very, very cute. Phil Silvers is also worth noting as Kelly's comic sidekick. He was funny here, reminded me of their pairing in "Cover Girl".

A nice slice of mid-Twentieth Century Americana. Worth watching, particularly if seen on the Big Screen.


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