Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
Theiving for generosity's sake is an odd Christmas theme..
But that is the theme of this most unusual Christmas movie that is a Christmas movie more because of the spirit of the thing than the time of year in which it is set.
Dick Van Dyke, in probably his best screen role, plays Claude R. Fitzwilliam, Fitzwilly for short, butler to Miss Vicky (Edith Evans). He is head of the household servants and they all act as thieves for him, running a series of con games and out and out brazen thefts all so that their beloved employer Miss Vicky will think that she is still wealthy and can live out the rest of her life in the manner to which she is accustomed. The fact is that when her father died she was left the whopping total of 180 dollars. Dad was flat broke. Fitzwilly runs this operation with military precision, aware that if Miss Vicky ever found out she would demand that they all return the money, which they cannot. You see, Miss Vicky's servants are not the only generous people in this film - albeit with other people's money - Miss Vicky is too, always giving away her money to charities. She just can't seem to say no. Now Fitzwilly usually apprehends her checks when the mail goes out, but occasionally a check will get through. This assures that they are continuously operating while teetering on bankruptcy.
And then an outsider intrudes into Fitzwilly's well oiled machine. Miss Vicki has decided to employ a secretary, Juliet Nowell (Barbara Feldon), to help her with her alternative dictionary that shows all of the ways that each word can be spelled incorrectly. This dictionary was Fitzwilly's idea to keep Miss Vicky busy, but now it has blown up in his face as this secretary begins snooping around and asking questions about the goings on in the mansion.
What is so great about this film is that there really are no bad guys. Everybody has good motives. Miss Vicki is a philanthropist with no money, her servants could easily land jobs doing less for more without the worry of being incarcerated, and Miss Nowell is suspicious that these servants are stealing from their employer.
I've never seen anything quite like it and I highly recommend it. It truly has the Christmas spirit.
Portrait of Jason (1967)
The cameraman got in the way of the story
Another reviewer mentioned that this was the kind of film few people would watch until the end. I found it fascinating as this was probably one of the first surviving filmed attempts to capture true stories of gay life on screen, and not just gay life, but life as an African American gay man who was 42 when this film was made in 1966, pre Stonewall. Jason was drinking and smoking pot throughout, almost as though he had to get high to remember without being distraught. Yet he has a friendly smiling demeanor pretty much throughout. He mentions what a drag it was punching a 9 to 5 clock, but then it seems that only work as a servant was available to him, and then being a servant to rich people who presumed all black servants stole from them.
I really hated the camera-work on this one. The camera frequently puts Jason out of focus, and then sometimes the screen just faded to black WHILE Jason was talking to the point that I began to wonder if I was having trouble with my satellite reception. When it happened enough times I realize that somebody thought that all of this messing with the camera was actually accentuating Jason's story when I found it darn irritating.
Still I'd recommend it. Just realize you probably have to be in a particular mood to watch it, and be willing for the subject to get around to telling the more troubling episodes from his life as he seems to have to work up to being able to get that part of his life story out there.
His guilt is written all over his face...
... but that usually requires a conscience and Frank Rowlett (Dirk Benedict) doesn't appear to have one. It's not that he goes looking for evil, it's just that he drifts through life with no scruples, no direction. Well, nature hates a vacuum and his direction ends up in gambling, losing, and losing to the wrong guy to the tune of 7000 dollars.
Frank thinks he has found a way to pay - he's romanced an heiress, gotten her to agree to marry him, and even has her wealthy dad's blessings. But his rough mafia like creditor is not happy with the long time line of a month or more before the wedding and thus his access to the money needed to pay his debt. So Frank gets desperate, hocking the watch his fiancée gave him to a fence, but only comes up with 250 bucks for it. Then he sees that the fence has a huge chest of money in the back of his shop. So when the fence, Hai Lee, is distracted with customers Frank figures he'll take the money and run. But Hai Lee catches him and a fight ensues that Hai Lee intends to make to the death. Unfortunately it is his own as Frank kills him. Also unfortunately Hai Lee stabs Frank in the chest with a tattoo needle before he dies - it is only a flesh wound though. But maybe it was just intended to be, because Hai Lee is also a tattoo artist and a practitioner of voodoo.
So Frank can now pay off the creditor with Hai Lee's cash, nobody ever knew he was at Hai Lee's so he is in the clear for the murder, and he can marry the rich pretty girl. Of course it is not going to be that easy. Because soon he notices something where the tattoo needle wounded him, and that something is growing.
Frank's desperation sends him down the road to bigger and bigger crimes with the cops on the trail of whoever it was that committed the original murder.
This thing is like a film noir about 20 to 30 years after the genre died out. Usually a film noir involves an unlikable protagonist with lots of character flaws who has only not committed big crimes because he has not had to do so. The noir puts him in a position where an act of evil is the easiest way out and from there it is the road to ruin.
I'd say it is worth your time even though it is pretty obvious where this one is going after the first twenty minutes.
Hollywood Boulevard (1936)
Who today has heard of Eleanor Whitney?...
... because that was the point of Hollywood Boulevard, before it lost its focus.
A little remembered Paramount drama directed by Robert Florey about a washed up but vain silent film star (John Halliday) who agrees to have his life story (much embellished) told in a series of scandal magazine articles, much to the chagrin of his daughter whom he hasn't seen in years.
The film starts promisingly, with many on location shots (some at interesting off kilter camera angles) of Hollywood, its studio sets, streets and famous nightclubs, providing a genuine feeling for old time Hollywood sure to bring some pleasure to a film buff's heart. Even more interestingly, the film is chock-full of many silent stars many of them largely out of commission but brought back for this project. Among them: Esther Ralston (still very attractive), Francis X. Bushman, Betty Compson, Roy D'Arcy, Jack Mulhall and Mae Marsh. In addition, Gary Cooper can be seen sitting on a bar stool at the Trocadero.
But a film that initially appears to be about the cruelties of Hollywood in the manner in which the town turns its back on former stars soon loses focus as its story goes off in different directions. Far too much screen time is devoted to the romance between the washed up star's daughter (a pretty Marsha Hunt) and an overly eager screenwriter (Robert Cummings) who never stops spouting his obviously self adoring comments and trying to project "charm." The young Cummings is a genuinely irksome presence in this film.
In the final analysis, Hollywood Boulevard is a curiosity with flashes of potential, its writing its letdown, but lovers of old time Hollywood will still get a kick out of the frequent flashes of the town as it appeared in 1936, as well as an interesting cast, including those frequent silent film star cameos.
A prophetic irony: just minutes into this film Eleanore Whitney, a real actress dancer newly arrived in the film capital and playing herself here, is seen signing her name in cement, with cameras flashing and crowds cheering. A spokesperson says to the actress, "And now, my dear, you have left your immortal mark in Hollywood." "I wonder," Whitney says to herself.
Nine Hours to Rama (1963)
Well done fictional account of events surrounding Gandhi's assassination
This is a somewhat fictional account of the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. The film starts off really well, and has a good climax (unless, of course, you're Gandhi), but it drags a bit in the middle as we learn about the assassin and his motivation. Horst Buchholz plays the killer; oddly, he seems less repulsive than usual, so that's a plus. Jose Ferrer is the policeman trying to track him down. A few British actors show up in small roles. The big revelation to me was the British actress Valerie Gearon, as the upper-class Indian whom Buchholz loves. I hadn't seen her in anything before; she is quite striking. Diane Baker has a small part as an Indian, and is semi-believable. Gandhi is played by J. S. Casshyap, and he certainly looks the part.
It would be great if this existed on DVD with commentary since there are holes in the plot that require explanation. It's probably worth a look, if you can tolerate the flashback sequences.
Blonde Fever (1944)
Dorn is darn unlikable
This is a real misfire of a film. The score and background music is light and goofy, indicating this is a comedy, but to me it is a tragedy as a good woman (Mary Astor as Delilah) sticks by her rotter of a husband, Peter (Philip Dorn), whose lying, infidelity in mind if not deed, gambling, and greed make Daffy Duck look like a profile in virtue. She even plans an elaborate ruse at the end of the film to try and keep him. Why? Peter has the hots for a worker at their restaurant, Sally (Gloria Grahame), who is all of 19. Peter does not want so much to get rid of his wife as he wants to fool around with Sally and then probably discard her, in spite of the fact that Sally has a fiancé who just does not have enough money with his job at a filling station to get married. If everybody would steer clear Peter would clear the field of the fiancé, corrupt the girl, and then go back to his wife leaving Sally a sadder but wiser girl.
The film is basically an hour long story about all of the impediments that stand in his way. Maybe a more talented actor than Dorn could have pulled this part off, although the part is written with such a lack of humanity and a bounty of foolishness and weakness of character that I wonder if even Cary Grant could have made it work. Grahame is very good in her first film role as the confused but greedy girl in the middle. Astor shines in this film with great dialogue delivered like a true pro. She saves it from being a total bomb along with Felix Bressart in a supporting role as the restaurant bar tender with his old world ways.
Questioning Darwin (2014)
Documentary attempts to make monkeys out of Christians
This documentary was actually just half of one, and then not even the documentary that was promised, thus my judgment of 4/10. It didn't even really question Darwin. It interwove an abbreviated biography of Charles Darwin and how he changed from someone who in his youth who took the Bible literally into the author of Origin of the Species with random vignettes of Christians that frankly, seem to make them look stupid.
The documentary is careful to say that what changed in Darwin was not a belief IN God, but a belief in what that God was. He was no longer convinced he was a benevolent God. The head scratcher to me here was that he had to take a trip to other lands on a sailing vessel to come to that conclusion.
As for the Christian stories, there is a trip to the creation museum where it is insisted that the world is only 6000 years old, there is a preacher in a pulpit saying that if Darwin's theories are true then everybody in that church is "an ignoramus", and one Christian lady who is working with the poor and homeless as far as feeding them and trying to house them. Now this lady takes the cake. First she says that evil is a result of the devil, and then she says that without hardship we really don't learn anything. So which is it? Is it the devil that causes the homelessness of the people she serves or God trying to teach a lesson? And if it is the latter why doesn't she give away everything she has - starting with those nice ear rings - so God can teach her something in her poverty and hunger? The one thing the documentary never does is go into any depth on why there is so much antipathy towards Darwin in the modern Christian community and what are the alternative Christian theories and their basis in something other than the literal interpretation of the Bible.
I'd say if you already know about Darwin and his life and work, this won't add to your knowledge. I'd skip it.
The Third Degree (1926)
This film is lost...
... and thus I cannot rate it. The other reviewer seems to have no trouble reviewing lost films and revealing details that not even surviving reviews have. This was the first film directed by Michael Curtiz in America. Among the several good decisions made by the Warners in the 1920s - to employ Daryl F. Zanuck, to recruit Rin Tin Tin in some enduring action adventures, and to get the sound revolution started - a less fanfared decision was to bring then 40 year old director Michael Curtiz over from Hungary. However he was an acquisition that boosted the Warners' fortunes for decades.
Nothing remains of this film, but the reviews say that it is better than the written story upon which it is based, and that Curtiz had a real talent for lighting and the camera, and apparently was just crazy about dissolves, but the New York Times review said that he used them wisely and well. This film in particular is a melodrama about shop girls. Delores Costello was the featured player here - and she got good reviews but remember WB did not have a big budget for big stars.
Also note that WB continued to put musical numbers as preludes to their film to show off their Vitaphone sound system. Here Paul Whiteman and his orchestra as well as Frank McGlynn reciting the Gettysburg address were featured, hopefully not at the same time.
I wish this one was still around. Nothing was more fun than watching Warner Brothers grow up.
A great documentary on such a waste
I really like the documentary because it does not editorialize. There is not one voice over in the whole thing. It is just Anthony Weiner ramping up his attempt to win the Democratic Mayoral primary, which in New York, is tantamount to winning the mayor's race since the city is overwhelmingly Democratic. Weiner had been the seven term liberal firebrand of a Democratic congressman from Brooklyn until a case of him sexting a woman along with pictures of his private parts came to light and caused him to resign in disgrace in 2011.
His campaign starts out with hope in the spring of 2013, but soon with his rise in the polls, more sexting by Weiner rises to the surface because he is in the limelight again. He tries to paper over it, and the documentary lets you see him trying to paper over it, by saying that he had already said he had problems in his marriage and that he had never said exactly when the sexting problem began and ended. This sounded too much like "it depends on what your definition of is is" from the Clinton years and he crashed and burned politically, winding up in the single digits on primary day.
This is no fluff piece. You see Weiner lose his temper, get involved in shouting matches with a guy in a Deli, and with Lawrence O'Donnell on liberal friendly MSNBC. Weiner thinks it makes him look like a fighter, instead it comes across as a refusal to face his problems. And as for his wife Huma Abadin, I just felt so sorry for her. Weiner must be surely suffering from an addiction if he is chasing after random women on the internet with such a smart sexy lady as his wife. After the more recent sexting comes to light, Huma never really says anything, but you can tell by her posture and look of indifference that she is likely mad as hell under that calm cool exterior. Worse, she is probably profoundly disappointed in someone who had regained her trust.
One particular scene said it all for me as to Weiner's self centeredness. When the additional sexting comes to light he tells Huma he wants her with him all day. Not because he is worried about her mental state or needs her emotional support, but because he is "afraid someone (the press) will get to her".
It's too bad that such a narcissist and sex addict was also rolled into the personality of somebody who seemed to genuinely care about average people, had an average upbringing so he knew where other people were coming from, and was willing to fight for what he thought was right. What a waste.
Eddie and the Cruisers (1983)
I'm sorry but Eddie is no Elvis, no John Lennon, nor is he Frankie Valli...
... and I don't care how seductively Ellen Barkin wraps her lips around a cancer stick or her legs around a chair, I'm just not buying her theories and I'm just not buying The Cruisers as a group that would eclipse the Beatles or anybody else in music in 1963-1964, had Eddie lived, and she is out to determine if Eddie is still alive, since his body was never found after his car went off of a bridge in 1964.
Nor am I buying that although the cruisers have seemed to move on, as in they are making a living doing something else, that ALL of them seem to be stuck back in 1964, right down to "Eddie's girl", Joann Carlino, who after 19 years still has the outfits she wore back in the day, even more amazingly she fits in them. You'd think at some point her biological clock would start ticking - after 19 years you'd think the alarm on that clock would be ringing like crazy. Actually, Eddie was not very nice to any of the other Cruisers, so I could never really get why they were so stuck in the past.
Joann is so stuck in the past that when it appears that Eddie's car drives up into her driveway, she just dresses the way she would have dressed twenty years before and goes downstairs to find - well, watch and find out.
Yes, "The Dark Side" is good music, but it is obviously 80's music - even more obviously over 30 years later - and Michael Pare as Eddie is obviously lip syncing the vocals.