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Michael_Elliott

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What An Impressive Pig, 24 May 2015

The Dancing Pig (1907)

*** 1/2 (out of 4)

"Wow" is the first word that popped into my mind as soon as I saw the pig. If you're a fan of these old movies you know that most of the costumes of animals were incredibly fake looking but that's certainly not the case here. Apparently this was a very popular act on stage and it was filmed several times but this is the first one I've ever seen. Basically a woman takes a seat at a table and a large pig comes out and soon various sketches are done. There's one giant reason to check out this film and it's the pig costume, which is just incredible looking. I'm will flat out say it's the most realistic costume I've seen from this period and I'd argue that it's better looking than most of the costumes for decades to come. The entire thing just has a bizarre feel to it but wait until you get to the close up at the end of the film. Just check out the tongue and the teeth! This thing certainly could have been used for a terrific horror movie.

Nice Trick Film, 24 May 2015

Transformation by Hats (1895)

This early trick film from the Lumiere Brothers runs just under a minute but is quite entertaining. A man sits down at a chair and with each new hat he puts on, his facial look changes. Considering this was done in 1895, this is a pretty good film that certainly manages to keep you entertained throughout its short running time. Trick films were certainly the most popular around this era and it's clear that the Lumiere Brothers knew what they were doing. The routine itself is quite nice and I thought the actual "trick" was well-handled even if it does fall short of Melies best work.

Fun Political Song, 24 May 2015

The Yankee Doodler (1942)

*** 1/2 (out of 4)

Coin operated jukeboxes during WWII were able to play video as well as the audio and this here is one example of that. William Frawley, best known for his role on I Love Lucy, plays a professor who stands in front of a board with various images on it and sings a political song meant to raise spirits and calm people into knowing that America was going to win WWII. The song itself was quite catchy and manages to make you smile and especially with the lyrics and how the images are displayed on the board. The entire "music video" is quite catchy and I can just imagine people watching and listening to this song back in the day and getting extremely pumped up about their country.

Catchy Tune, 24 May 2015

Dear Arabella (1941)

*** (out of 4)

Coin operated jukeboxes during WWII were able to play video as well as the audio and this here is one example of that. Ray Noble and His Orchestra get the top billing here but we've also got Snooky Lanson and a couple other performers chipping in to sing the title song. As with most of the jukebox music videos, this one here is certainly going to mainly appeal to film and music buffs but for the most part I found this one to be very entertaining. All of the musical performers are quite good and the song itself is also quite memorable and something you'll be tapping your feet to. The "video" portion of the film is pretty good as they clearly play up the lyrics and get the story across quite well.

Early Music Video, 24 May 2015

Rosie the Riveter (1943)

** 1/2 (out of 4)

Coin operated jukeboxes during WWII were able to play video as well as the audio and this here is one example of that. The Cappy Barra Boys and The Smoothies Trio are on hand singing the title song, which is certainly upbeat to say the least. This here is the type of film that's mainly going to appeal to music or film buffs because, to be frank, the song itself really isn't going to appeal to many. I personally thought the song was decent but I can't say I'll be rushing to listen to it again. I think the most fascinating thing about this "music video" is how it clearly had an influence on the next decade's "rock and roll high school" films. The setting is pretty much a group of kids in a diner somewhere and the band begins to perform. This setting is something we'd see in countless future films so these early jukebox films must have been popular.

At the Floral Ball, 24 May 2015

Au bal de Flore (1900)

*** (out of 4)

Alice Guy directed this two-minute film that features Mill Lally and Miss Julyett of the Olympia (according to the title card) doing a small dance. Obviously, at just two-minutes there's nothing ground-breaking here but fans of Guy and early cinema should be entertained by this. The actual dance being performed is pretty good on its own plus it's always interesting watching these old films and being able to watch popular acts. The other thing of note here is the hand tinted coloring, which looks very good, although the color in Guy's later films certainly got better (just check out some of the ones from 1905). The blue-ish tint on the dress is certainly the most eye-catching.

Technically Brilliant With Great Performances but No Story, 24 May 2015

Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid (1973)

** 1/2 (out of 4)

Pat Garrett (James Coburn) takes a job as a Sheriff and soon after wards he heads out to arrest his old friend Billy the Kid (Kris Kristofferson). Before they can hang him Billy makes an escape so Garrett sets out to finish the job.

Sam Peckinpah's PAT GARRETT & BILLY THE KID was released to mostly negative reviews but the version released wasn't what the director wanted. The studio pretty much took over the film and released their own cut, which was the only version out there until the Z-Channel released a 121-minute cut in the late 80s. Most preferred that version but there were those who felt this wasn't what Peckinpah would have wanted so a third version called the "Special Edition" was released in 2005 and that's the version being reviewed here.

There's a lot of great stuff in this movie. In fact, it's easy to see why so many people consider this to be one of the director's greatest films but for my money there are still plenty of flaws. For starters, the biggest flaw is that the film is just downright boring. I'm going to place the majority of the blame on the screenplay, which doesn't seem to know what it's trying to do. Or, perhaps the screenplay was okay and it was Peckinpah that just couldn't get a clear story onto film. I'm going to guess that the main attempt was to show these two men, former friends, and what their falling out was all about. For the most part we see both characters doing their own thing and the movie really doesn't seem all that interested in a clear narrative of having Garrett find Billy. Of course, it eventually happens because that's the only way the movie could end but everything leading up to it just doesn't add up to much.

The film is a technical marvel as the director clearly still had an eye for style. The entire film contains some wonderful cinematography and there's no question that the slow motion is perfectly used throughout. Peckinpah certainly knew how to stage a scene and milk everything out of it that he could. Just take a look at the sequence where Billy escape from jail and the destruction that follows. Another great sequence involves the capture of Billy and the remarkable shoot out that happens. The editing is another marvel that really helps move the film along. Then there's the music score and soundtrack from Bob Dylan. The score and soundtrack on their own are excellent but I really think the songs take away from the action on the screen. This is especially true for the "Knockin' on Heaven's Door," which just doesn't have much of an impact.

The performances are where the real fun stuff comes from. I thought Coburn was excellent in the role of Garrett and he perfectly captured a rather dark character. Kristopherson is extremely good in the role of Billy the Kid and manages to turn in a very memorable version of the character. Dylan, the actor, is okay in his part even though he isn't given too much dialogue. The supporting cast includes Richard Jaeckel, Cill Willis, Jason Robards, Barry Sullivan, Luke Askew, Jack Elam, Slim Pickens, Harry Dean Stanton and Charles Martin Smith among others.

PAT GARRETT & BILLY THE KID is far from a horrible movie but I think a stronger story would have made the technical achievement a lot better.

Two Dumb Outlaws, 24 May 2015

Dirty Dingus Magee (1970)

** (out of 4)

Dimwitted outlaw Dingus Magee (Frank Sinatra) runs into old friend Hoke Birdsill (George Kennedy) and robs him of $400. Hoke goes into the next town looking for a sheriff but finds the town not to have one but the Mayor (Anne Jackson), who also happens to run the local whore house, gives him the job so Hoke sets out to capture Magee but it turns out both are so stupid they keep up making new agreements to become rich.

DIRTY DINGUS MAGEE was a commercial and critical flop when it was originally released and star Sinatra pretty much gave up the acting career until 1977 when he made a television movie and then tried one more theatrical comeback in 1980. This film has been beaten to death by many critics but I think they were a tad bit unfair. Yes, the film isn't nearly as funny as it should have been and yes, perhaps Sinatra could have been more interested in doing better movies at the times but looking back on this film it's a pretty innocent film that manages a few nice laughs and there's no question that there are some good supporting performances.

Director Burt Kennedy directed countless Westerns in his career including some that mixed comedy in including SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL SHERIFF. This film manages to get a few nice laughs as both Sinatra and Kennedy's characters set up deals with each other but the two men are just so stupid that one has to cross the other but then isn't smart enough to get away. The majority of the comedy comes from small simple scenes where Sinatra gets in trouble and then has to knock out Kennedy or vice versa. There's a strong supporting group of players who also throw into the dumbness of the characters.

As far as the performances go, Sinatra really isn't too bad here but it's clear he really wasn't giving it his all. He had proved that he could be a great actor so it's easy to see why many critics felt he was sleepwalking in movies like this. Kennedy, on the other hand, is extremely good and manages to show off what a good comedic actor he was long before THE NAKED GUN series. The supporting cast contains good performances from Jack Elam who gets to play John Wesley Hardin and Lois Nettleton is great as a nymphomaniac who doesn't want to admit it. Jackson is also charming in her role as the Mayor and Michele Carey is good as the Indian woman who takes care of Dingus.

DIRTY DINGUS MAGEE certainly isn't a masterpiece as there are a great number of flaws. The biggest flaw is that there's really not much of a story as the same type of situation just keeps happening over and over. There's also an extremely long shoot out at the end of the picture, which just drags on and on. Still, fans of this type of film will want to check it out as there are a few nice laughs and there's no doubt that the supporting actors are quite good.

Photos From the Set, 24 May 2015

Allison Barron's Demon Memories (2014)

*** (out of 4)

Fun three-minute featurette that can be found on NIGHT OF THE DEMONS Collector's Edition release from Shout Factory!. Actress Allison Barron shares her personal photos that were taken during the production and she talks about what we're seeing. These include many photos of her on the set, photos in and out of her ghoul makeup and there are some great photos of the tour she had to do with the film as it opened in new theaters. Fans of the actress or the film will enjoy getting to see these photos and the narration is certainly a bigger benefit than just having a still gallery on the disc.

Making Night of the Demons, 24 May 2015

You're Invited: The Making of Night of the Demons (2014)

*** 1/2 (out of 4)

This 72-minute documentary starts off with director Kevin Tenney, animators Kevin Kutchaver and Kathy Zielinski, writer Joe Augustyn and producers Jeff Geoffray and Walter Josten as they discuss the pre-production on the film. Tenney talks about how he ended up getting hired for the project and there's a lot of talk about certain changes that had to be made to the original screenplay. From here we learn about the original title of the film and why it had to be changed and what problems this had for the animators of the opening credits.

From here cast members get introduced and discuss how they were hired. Linnea Quigley, Cathy Podewell, Allison Barron, Donnie Jeffcoat, Alvin Alexis, Jame Quinn, Billy Gallo, Amelia Kinkade, Lance Fenton and Hal Havins are all interviewed and talk about their characters and what it was like to work on the film. Finally, we get stunt coordinator John Stewart and make-up artist Steve Johnson who talk about their roles.

If you're a fan of NIGHT OF THE DEMONS then you're going to be extremely happy with this Shout Factory! documentary that nearly runs as long as the feature and as you can tell, the majority of the cast and crew are here sharing their stories. The documentary gives you a great idea of everything that went on during the production but I'd say the best segments are the first when we hear about the various issues that came up even before the cameras were turned on.


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