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Smashing Time (1967)
A sweet comedy set in Swinging London
I've watched this film several times and I am quite fond of it. I had to get it when I read that it was set in Swinging London. For that reason alone I had to watch it! It's a charming comedy too, so it has become a favourite of mine.
I've wondered why this film isn't more well known and why it wasn't a hit when it was released. After all, it stars two good actresses being funny in 1960s London! But after watching it again I understand why it isn't considered a classic. The comedy is too broad. If it had been a more of a subtle satire of the shallow world of fame and media it would have worked better.
Rita Tushingham and Lynn Redgrave are lively and enjoy themselves as the out of towers but they are a little too much like Laurel and Hardy. The first half of the movie is too childish with jokes appealing to twelve year-olds. Older audiences should wait through the paint and pie fights until the latter half of the film when it becomes a little more satirical of the London in-crowd. The second half is funnier and more biting.
The very best aspect of the film is that it is filmed on the London streets. It is a great opportunity to see what it looked like with all the colourful mod fashions. Really switched on!
The Boy Friend (1971)
Light hearted fun!
Oh, how I love this film! It is my favourite musical. I adore how it takes place in a run down, almost empty theatre with unknown actors who are all hungry to be discovered. They aren't above deceiving their colleagues in order to shine a little extra in front of the film director sitting in the audience! I adore the cast of British actors who really bring these second rate theatre actors to life! It's still charming to watch after all these years. My favourite character is Maisie played by Antonia Ellis.
I first saw it on German television in the long version and recorded it on video. Lucky I did because the film was unavailable for so many years and when I did find a copy it was a much shorter version without many of my favourite scenes. The ones with the "Nicer in Nice" and "I got the you don't want to play with me blues" were missing. The musical numbers in the forest and when they are leprechauns were much shorter.
Thank goodness that Warner Brothers have finally released the whole film in a complete remastered edition with all the scenes restored in a 136 minute version!! The picture quality is pristine. The DVD really could have benefited though from a commentary track with Ken Russell and Twiggy. I'm dying to hear how the film was conceived! It is such an imaginative and inventive film.
It is a joy to watch. I am aware that some people can't bear to watch it or understand it. I enjoy every "overlong" minute of it! The dancing is amazing. Twiggy is so sweet and perfect for the part of Polly. She is a good dancer and has a nice pleasing voice. I wonder why she didn't make more films after the Boy Friend. I wish it had been more of a hit. A year later another backstage movie was released showing the shoddiness and decadence of theatre life. Cabaret is well known but the Boy Firend is a film no one has ever heard of
Please take the time to discover this light hearted gem!
In the Cool of the Day (1963)
Entertaining international glamour.
The story is not what I expected, which is good, but it left me feeling there was a lot missing that could have made it more satisfying. The actors dealt with the soapish material very well and that is what made me like the film. The characters they played were either appealing (Finch and Fonda) or entertaining like Lansbury.
Now to the plot, so look out for spoilers ahead! Fonda falls for Finch and eventually so does he for her. It just takes ages for them to even kiss once! In between there is a lot of beautiful travelogue showing spectacular views of Greece. The three leads wander about gazing at the sights and Finch and Fonda never kiss while Lansbury is aware of the attraction. Why did they bring her along if they wanted to be alone together? She finally leaves on her own accord and they still don't kiss until much later. Then Fonda leaves for no reason, goes back to her dull husband and dominating mother that she wanted to flee. Then she dies. Finch never has any confrontations with either his wife or Fonda. The film ends.
The film consists entirely of lovely views of Greece, Lansbury bitter remarks and Finch's and Fonda's longing. That's it for the plot. It's all very entertainingly presented until the abrupt ending just ruins the picture.
It's interesting to see how the producers wanted to invoke the scandalous Liz Taylor/Richard Burton romance from that era in the film. Fonda wears a Cleopatra wig for the entire film, Finch resembles Burton and speaks with a British accent and they walk among Greek ruins by the Mediterranean sea. Fonda can bring life to any film and I have never seen her so glamorous as she is here.
La maison sous les arbres (1971)
This is a neat little thriller, quite forgotten but now available on DVD. I'm glad to have seen it as it has been hard to find. It's set in France with American leads and it's quite low key and atmospheric. It's a stylish vehicle for the then red hot actress Faye Dunaway and it's nice to see her in a European setting, sometimes uttering things i french. She is absolutely drop dead stunning and there are several loving close ups of that magnificent face.
It's nice to see her playing a mother and interacting with kids. She's playful, loving and laid back. In the film she shares a family life with Frank Langella, who also has an interesting face and is believable as an ambitious writer devoted to his scatter brained wife Faye.
The cosy bohemian apartment and the misty views of Paris in the autumn is a big part of what makes this rare film a gem. The story is suspenseful and will keep wondering what will happen next, all though there are some questions left unanswered at the end. The film does seem built around showing how sensual and gorgeous Faye is and she is at the height of her beauty. With so many scenes she is often shown staring deeply at other peoples faces or into the distance with her wonderful soulful eyes.
She is a wonderful actress and a joy to watch but I did feel at times that she held back a bit when she could have gone for stronger emotions. At the police office, when she is accused of a big crime, she reacts as if she had merely been caught shop lifting. She stares at the accuser, stutters and (what is classic Faye) opens her mouth to say something only to be interrupted by the other actor (perhaps impatient to say the lines and get the plot moving). In this situation she should have screamed hysterically at the awful predicament she's in but instead she throws some objects across the desk in annoyance. In another scene, when she witnesses a death, she could have screamed or acted shocked but instead she just stares. Aside from these small scenes, she is so entrancing to watch that this thriller is a pleasure to see!
Daddy's Gone A-Hunting (1969)
Chills and thrills
This film is like a fun bad TV movie. It has a thrilling story but the film is marred by the stale performances by the lead actors. If you've never heard of Carol White it's no wonder. She is sweet but gives her part no energy. Her line readings are flat and don't add any life at all to this thriller.
She looks like a bargain basement copy of Julie Christie but with out the charm. This seemed to be her big break in Hollywood after having had some success in England. Here she displays why there was no reason she would ever become a star. Why was she cast in this? There must have been countless other actresses who could have brought some fury to character. This part required a bit of madness and Carol was just too ordinary to deliver. But I suppose a film featuring abortion was a sensitive subject then and perhaps bigger stars did not dare take the part.
The early scenes of the film seem contrived and trite when the characters meet. The changes that show time progressing are quite corny and dated but the late sixties fashions are cool. Carol White, though, looks short with that heavy hair-do which gives the impression that she has no neck.
The film picks up after the dreary first half. There are some neat twists and turns that keep this film from being totally forgotten. The ending is exciting even though the lead actors don't show any tension in their performances. You can't tell if Carol White is terrified or ready to do anything to help her baby. Her character goes to great lengths plot wise but you could never tell by looking at her face.
So, over all it's fun and chilling thriller thanks to the plot but not the actors.
The Wicked Lady (1983)
An entertaining romp
I can't understand the lack of love for this film. It is just a fun costume film with some mild action, all quite entertaining. It's colorful, full of British character actors in good spirits. It also has beautiful scenery from the British countryside and wonderful period costumes from the baroque era.
The film stars Faye Dunaway in the delicious role of Lady Barabara, a very unscrupulous and greedy woman. Faye enjoys herself but she could have let rip a little more, gone the extra inch to portray this very wicked lady.
On the whole an amusing matinée movie. I think if it had less nudity it could have been a film for the whole family, as it was a lot of kids who could have enjoyed it were left out. Maybe that's part of the reason the film wasn't a hit back in 1983.
Lions Love (1969)
Counter culture in California
I checked this movie out as it sounded interesting as it starred Warhol discovery Viva and the writers of the musical "Hair" and was filmed by Agnes Varda who made "Cleo from 5 to 7". I was looking forward to seeing this but was so disappointed because it is a terrible and amateurish film with unappealing characters.
Rado and Ragni should never have stepped in front of a camera. (Instead they should have been busy writing a new hit musical.) It is now clear to me why Viva never became a movie star and why this movie now is forgotten and unseen. Shirley Clark is the only interesting person in it and I wonder what this movie would have been without the Kennedy assassination.
It's ironic that the film studio people in the film talk about having the final cut of a film project and how the Clarke's agent wants her to retain creative control over her film. This film HAD been better with a lot of editing, cutting out all of Viva, Rado and Ragni (but the there wouldn't have been anything left!).
What could have been a cult documentary of the scene in 1969 California is just an incredibly dull because of Varda's choice of lead characters. Just because these people had been involved in some cool 60's projects did not mean that they were worthy of being subjects of a documentary. The only funny part is when they discuss pregnancy and how it would be good to speed up the process.
Portrait of Jennie (1948)
Could have been great...
I was hoping for some Hollywood mystery like "The Uninvited" or something suspenseful like "Laura" (with the painting). Sadly this valentine to Jennifer Jones is quite dreary as it is overly romantic and chaste.
Ms. Jones is all right in the thankless role playing a caricature of an innocent and sheltered girl. She's lovely but there is almost no personality to her as she has no faults being so nice. Any sane person would be bored after a while. Come to think of it, the only strange thing she does is to lure Mr. Cotten to his death in the sea...
The photography is atmospheric and the best part of the film. The end is filmed in a creative way, but this film is not a Hollywood classic due the *constant* sappy music and Joseph Cotten is quite rotten.
A good idea.
I love the Adèle Blanc-Sec comic books so I looked forward to watching this. The film is quite faithful to the plot of the comics and the characters in the movie are extraordinarily alike their drawn equivalents. But the similarity stops there. The mysterious atmosphere of the comic books are sadly replaced by very broad humor thus making the a children's movie out of the adult comics.
I was also disappointed by the actress in the lead role as she was far too young healthy and beautiful to play the strange Adèle of the comic series. The CGI effects didn't help and it was too brightly filmed. It was tiresome with all the swooping camera views. The slow bullet through the air has been done a million times before.
The director did not seem to trust the source. This could have been a cool, strange and bloody version of the comic books but instead it was too childish for grown-ups. I am not surprised there is no sequel to this film.
Berlin Express (1948)
I was looking forward to this movie. It seemed promising and I had hoped for a "The Lady Vanishes" type of mystery thriller. Jacques Tourneur directed the film - the man behind "Cat People", "I Walked with a Zombie" and "Out of the Past" - all excellent films that I love.
"Berlin Express" was sadly disappointing to see. The film is for the most of the time not set on a train and was not very exciting at all. Only the sequence in the brewery was ingeniously filmed. The rest of the film was all talk!!!
The cast was not the most memorable and Merle Oberon seemed miscast. But the real star of the film is the photography of the ruins of Frankfurt and Berlin which is fascinating to see. See the film for that alone because the film is short on suspense. The plot was tedious relying very much on coincidence and I never cared for the characters.