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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Here's an enjoyable and fun little episode for classic TV fans. It's
very much on the light side, and silly puns and asides abound
Seems like someone has strangled a beloved (or was she?) children's' author with her own typewriter ribbon -- what's that!? The unfortunate lady was just in the process of launching her own television program and also changing publishers. Of course, suspects abound and the actors portraying them are television stalwarts who are always welcome to see.
We have George Hamilton as a beatnik poet, Lola Albright as a sexy secretary, Morgan Brittany as a precocious preschooler, Alvy Moore as a sleazy photographer, Walter Pidgeon as an unscrupulous publisher and more. It's no great shakes, but a fun way to spend fifty minutes.
Well, I never remember seeing this DeMille blockbuster, so I was happy
to see a screening of a restored "George Eastman House" print the other
day. Certainly most everyone reading here at IMDb is familiar with the
DeMille brand, and most would probably agree that he seldom disappoints
his audience. DeMille liked to think big, and it shows by his making
some really fantastic entertainments that even today pack a wallop. And
obviously, Adolph Zukor invested big bucks to make DeMille's vision
come to reality here.
No one would confuse DeMille's "Cleopatra" with a historical documentary. But he does lay out an interesting and nuanced storyline revolving around the Queen of the Nile and two of her lovers -- Julius Caesar and Marc Antony. The movie moves along very nicely, and the boredom sometimes associated with these kinds of historical epics is not apparent.
Colbert is extraordinarily sexy, sporting some of the most revealing costumes and looking just absolutely gorgeous. Her sometimes ironic and sometimes earnest delivery of dialog makes her Cleopatra both slyly humorous and sympathetic. She's absolutely fantastic and utilizes her huge eyes to great effect, being perfectly cast as this legendary vixen she expertly shoulders the weight of the film.
Amazing set pieces abound, and I won't discuss the specifics here, but needless to say, DeMille had the studio put in a gigantic effort to make the elaborate sets, costumes, battles, and every extra look genuine. Marc Antony's first visit to Cleopatra's barge becomes a marvel of choreography, with even Agnes DeMille involved! Yeah, the dialog might be somewhat hokey and dated, but always relevant and insightful into the characters. A slight downside was the obvious use of stock footage in the final battle scene, obviously taken from something filmed at least a decade before -- but that's a small complaint.
The supporting cast is led by Warren William as Caesar and Henry Wilcoxon as Antony who both fill out their roles admirably, and in a way that's not stereotypical. Colbert needs strong men to play off of, and these two are up to the challenge. And Ian Keith supplies a few powerful moments as Cleo's smoldering nemesis Octavian. A special mention too goes to Joseph Schildkraut who has a memorable little cameo as King Herod.
No one paying full admittance back in 1934 would have come away disappointed by DeMille's spectacular "Cleopatra." Wasn't that the core of his populist genius?
***** out of *****
There's much to enjoy in this joyous French swashbuckler, particularly
since it doesn't contain one slow moment. The action is almost nonstop,
and all the performers contribute hilarious and heartfelt moments that
make "FanFan la Tulipe" a delightful romp. It was a huge box office hit
in France, turning both the handsome and charismatic Gérard Philipe and
the beautiful and voluptuous Gina Lollobrigida into big stars.
The story is set during the reign of King Louis XV, and the character Fanfan as played by the splendid Gérard Philipe is sort of a French "Tom Jones." He's a guy who can't help but get in trouble with the ladies, and the opening scene has him escaping a "shotgun wedding" by spontaneously enlisting in the French military. Unfortunately, soon this way of life doesn't agree with Fanfan, and he winds up getting himself even deeper into trouble. Gina Lollobrigida plays the seductive daughter of the Commanding Officer of Fanfan's unit, who inspires Fanfan by making an unusual prediction for his future -- one which she later comes to regret.
The choreography of the sword battles and the other physical confrontations are top-notch, very unpredictable and absolutely hilarious. A stunt double was hardly (if ever!) used for the athletic Philipe, and it's obviously the French star doing most of the work. I heard that the actual stunt men working the movie presented him with an certificate when the shooting wrapped, which named Philipe as an honorary stuntman himself. Most of what Philipe accomplishes here has to be seen to be believed. Jumping from rooftops, dangling from trees, wild horseback chases and so much more lend a wild energy to the proceedings.
Perhaps the only downside for me at least was that "Fanfan la Tulipe" is filmed in black and white. If ever there was a film that cried out for color -- this is the one. The locales, costumes, sets and props would have been magnificent in color, I think. In fact, on the Criterion DVD that I watched, they included one sequence that had been colorized. It looked great, and although I would never suggest that every b&w film would be better with color, this one certainly would. For those unaware, the colorization process has made great advances since the 1980's, and they can now make the colors look as vibrant or as subtle as the scene dictates it should be.
The supporting cast also provides lots of enjoyment, and I'd be neglectful not to mention a few of these fine European actors. Geneviève Page is supremely beautiful, icy with an undercurrent of passion as Madame Pompadour, Olivier Hussenot is wonderful as Fanfan's loyal sidekick who's saddled with six small children and an obese peasant wife. Nerio Bernardi makes a comically despicable antagonist who meets a poetic fate eventually.
So, I'd highly recommend this to fans of Errol Flynn movies, especially since Philipe conveys some of the same boyish and naughty charm of that classic star. Director Christian-Jaque formed an adventurous and romantic comedy that has loads of charm and thrills. Swashbuckling at its best!
***** out of *****
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Well, this early talkie netted La Swanson an Oscar nomination for Best
Actress -- her second AA nod in her first "talkie." This melodrama was
later remade with Bette Davis as That Certain Woman. which I recognized
after about an hour into it. It was recently screened on TCM as a part
of their showcasing of films restored by the George Eastman House in
Rochester New York -- a few miles from where I'm typing this.
Here Swanson is cast in a then-popular clichéd role of a working girl trying to make good in the world who is left disappointed by a wealthy lad. Along the way she manages to bear his child, and has hopes to raise it alone. Story lines like this abounded in those Depression years, and young women and girls just loved to wallow in this stuff. Apparently after the debacle of the unfinished Queen Kelley, Swanson wanted some quick cash, and enlisted Goulding to helm it for her.
And she ended up with an audience-pleasing success, and showed in her first talking role that she was truly a talent, and not simply a fashion icon of the day. Swanson actually got incredibly real in this, showing both a feisty quality and a soft, sensitive one that's surprising. And bravely, she sings too. To the accompaniment of a player piano according to the script. And her voice is fine, even if the recording equipment was primitive and distorted. of course, she looks fantastic, and wears some spectacular costumes throughout. Star quality abounds in this woman certainly.
And kudos should go to the fantastic photography, which sometimes became cloaked in shadows and darkness. I was pleasantly surprised at how appealing the movie looked. At times it almost reminded me of Dracula (1932).
And yes, there's a down side provided by many of the supporting players who mug and overact in ways popular in silent movies. But on the bright side, an honorable mention goes to the sweet and adorable little child who played Swanson's son. Whoever coached this little boy did a great job, because the kid was extremely natural and also poignant when the story required it.
I'm sure The Trespasser had the shop girls of 1929 crying buckets of tears.
**** out of *****
I watched this now for the first time being way past the age of its
target audience. Heck -- I was over thirty when it was made! I wanted
to get a little "Christmas Spirit," so I thought this might be the
ticket. Or at least I was hoping for a campy and lively time, which
wasn't really what I experienced.
Perhaps because it was made for an hour time slot, the proceedings here seem way too padded and overpopulated. Too many subplots -- not enough Santa! We're presented with elves of various stripes, and I guess their father who is a magician apparently. After rescuing one tiny elf from falling through the ice at the North Pole, the elves and their magician Dad grant Santa one wish. They're not too pleased when Santa, accompanied by Mrs Gretchen Claus, wishes for the ability to deliver a toy to every child in the world on Christmas. The plot then relates the efforts of the elves to satisfy Santa's wish. Some pretty dull mayhem ensues.
Don't expect any sparks from the voice performances here of Ed Asner or Betty White. They certainly failed to make any of this contrived story involving, and their voices seem distant and vague. And the flatness of the animation seems like almost something from the Paleolithic Age. And too, some of the characters looks suspiciously familiar, like the little elf who looks almost exactly like Disney's "Dopey." Other characters like the little soldier elves seemed lifted from something else.
Hate to be a Grinch or a Scrooge, but...
* out of *****
Classic movie lovers and fans of fantastic Barbara Stanwyck would find
this one hard to dislike. It's a nicely filmed and compact little
melodrama that was recently aired on TCM. The storyline unfolds
seemingly almost in real time, at a breakneck pace that's able to
achieve a good deal of suspense.
Stanwyck and hubby Sullivan are roughing it in Mexico with their small son, and run into extreme difficulties. Through a series of bad decisions, Sullivan soon has his leg caught underneath the pylons of a dilapidated pier as the tide comes in, and frantic wife Stanwyck sets out to get help, but instead encounters unsavory criminal Ralph Meeker.
Exploitative and salacious in it's themes, "Jeopardy" has Stanwyck attempting to make a dirty deal with Meeker to rescue her trapped husband. Contrived as the plot may be, with the "ticking time bomb" element of the roaring tide that threatens Sullivan, what's here should please fans of Stanwyck and Meeker both. Although it may, in the final analysis, be one of her lesser efforts, Stanwyck displays a real commitment to the material. One physical scene displays the showbiz trooper that she was, as she desperately sprints through a deserted filling station (in heels) in an extended take that was certainly over a minute long. Remarkable how fit and slim this great actress was!
There are some unintentional humorous bits involving the young son, and a pot of hot coffee, but most of the action is centered around Stanwyck and her dilemma. And the intimidating Ralph Meeker really is impressive, as both an object of scorn and forbidden desire reminiscent of Brando in that same year's "The Wild One." The locations used are quite effective and convincingly dangerous, and actually play a large role in developing the suspense. And the ending certainly is thought-provoking.
This is no masterpiece but "Jeopardy" delivers seventy minutes of pure "old school" entertainment.
*** out of *****
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Here's a "no-budget" independent production designed to showcase both
the singing and racing skills of good ol' boy country crooner Marty
Robbins. He's obviously a talented singer, and apparently a passable
race car driver. But he should never have attempted acting, as
evidenced here. He has absolutely no charisma, nor the good looks to
let the viewer forgive him his stilted screen presence. Robbins could
be reading off cue cards, judging by his performance in "Hell On
Wheels." Fans of his music can enjoy the four songs he performs, even
though the staging is dull as dishwater.
Then we have the strange casting of hunky John Ashley as Marty's brother. They look like they came from different planets altogether. And Ashley's character is written in such a way to make him a spoiled and petulant brat, constantly jealous of his more successful brother. Add to that a nagging and self-pitying mother who would drive the most devoted son to move to a different state, and Ashley's clueless wife, who lavishes attention on Marty instead of her handsome husband.
And they throw in an nearly almost completely unrelated subplot about another brother who works for the A.T.F. Department. This noxious sequence only exists to show how a backwoods moonshine still can be "blown up REAL good!" They even do it twice for good measure.
What entertainment value can be gleaned from this grade-Z effort can be found in two ways. The first being the Cinéma vérité scenes of early Nascar racing and its "salt-of-the-earth" fans. There are extended scenes of these simple folk filing into the stands and watching the races with great interest. It's a Tennessee fashion show!
The second element of enjoyment can be found in the music interludes by the one of the guest stars, The Stonemans, who were a family bluegrass group. The female guitar player kicks up her heels and dances in such an exuberant manner, that it's a riot. And her gold go-go boots are something! Connie Smith also sings two songs that are passable, but exceedingly dull in the staging. She deserved better.
But, by all means, PLEASE stick around for the closing musical number where Marty croons a song about butterflies to his nine-year-old niece. The reaction shots of the little girl reach a fever pitch as she soon pokes her right index finger well up her nose! And it's a medium shot with only her in the frame! Now there's Cinéma vérité for sure!
Legendary silent screen superstar Gloria Swanson comes to the rescue of
this tepid romantic comedy. Her screen appearances in talkies are rare
enough to make every one of them a "must-see" for devotees of show
business in general and films in specific.
Here, the iconic actress actually plays second fiddle to lead Adolphe Menjou. She gamely jumps into this very minor programmer lending it a glossy sheen with her unique charm and style. Never really an actress know for her comedic skills, Swanson here demonstrates her skill at it and it apparent that she enjoys the genre.
The plot may be as lightweight as a champagne bubble, but Swanson's melodious voice and her glamorous facade certainly elevate the proceedings to a very enjoyable eighty minutes. And old pro Menjou makes a good fit for her costar because of both his age and his height, and the audience can easily believe in their relationship. Able support also comes from dashing and boyish Desi Arnaz and droll Helen Broderick.
Swanson sports some fantastic and outrageous costumes sure to delight every fan of Hollywood fashion in the 1940's. The fur ensemble that she wears in the play within the movie is off the charts in terms of luxurious glamor and style. Anyone fascinated by the beautiful and impracticable costumes of Hollywood designers will have a field day here.
If not for Swanson, I'd give this movie four out of ten stars, but because of her -- I'll add two more!
I'd watch anything with the fabulous Karen Black, so I was more than a
little excited to catch up with this forgotten film. The plot deals
with an "absent-minded" professor who battles civil hall in an attempt
to halt the demolition of his apartment complex. On an impulse he takes
a U.S. Marshall as a hostage. The situation is exacerbated by a
desperate female TV News reporter who becomes embedded with the
professor and his family.
Suspend your disbelief at the door for this one, as the motivations of the characters are murky at best. The reason for the professor's obsession for holding on to his apartment isn't clear, although the audience is subjected to a few standard scenes establishing that the building houses some friendly but struggling neighbors.
Richard Harris as the professor is engaging enough, although the dialog is plenty dull at points. And Karen Black as the reporter seems surprisingly restrained, although she does have a couple of moments of histrionics. Quirky Dennis Christopher as Harris's son steals a few scenes with his great yellow mop of 70's styled hair and a pouty expression.
The best reason for taking this one in, is of course the wonderful and wacky fashions and decor of the era. Karen Black's character is enamored of hats and berets, and the clingy flame-red track suit worn by Charles Siebert is a sight to behold!
All the humor in this episode is purely unintentional. Who ever or what
ever gave Lucille Ball the idea that audiences wanted to see her sing
and dance? It was only funny in "I Love Lucy" because she was so
terrible! Here she tries to play it straight with the help of a game
but in-over-her-head Carol Burnett -- and the results are woeful.
And of course Lucy plops her untalented teenage kids into the middle of it all! It's only funny for the bizarre costumes and song choices. The writers stole a punchline from Mae West's "Belle of the Nineties" and gave it to Burnett! The aged Lucille Ball in a high school play? Backed up by Burnett and cart-wheel turning Gale Gordon? This doesn't work on so many levels!
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