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Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949)
The Supreme Example of Dramatic Irony
Everyone describes this film as a black comedy, but its defining trait is its all-pervasive sense of irony. For starters, whereas DR. STRANGELOVE is a truly black comedy, ending in the destruction of the planet, KIND HEARTS AND CORONETS is a moral tale in spite of its theme of cold-blooded revenge.
The "for instances" of irony go on forever in this film. Here are a few: Sibella rejects Louis for being too poor and marries the rich Lionel. Ultimately both she and Lionel turn in despair to the prosperous Louis for support.
As Young D'Ascoyne indifferently deprives Louis of his position at the shop, so Louis coolly goes on to replace Young D'Ascoyne at the bank.
The two members of the D'Ascoyne family who suffer the most emotional distress by Louis's murders (Edith and The Banker) are the two who do the most to give him aid and comfort.
The Reverend Henry, in spite of being a Christian minister, lives in an atmosphere of luxury and pleasure to excess. His very reputation provides an excuse for his poisoning and its resultant cover-up.
The Admiral's sheer inaccessibility protects him from Louis but dooms him all the same. Even a man standing beside him can't get through his thick skull in time to save him. He drowns at the salute with a life preserver bobbing nearby.
The General praises the fame of the Russians for their caviar, forgetting that they were also infamous for their bombs.
Lady Agatha is a crusader for women's rights, but it's her own equality with men as an heir to the Dukedom of Chalfond that marks her for elimination. Her willingness to martyr herself in one cause (women's suffrage and freeborn equality) gives Louis the opportunity to kill her for its exact opposite (patriarchy and inherited rights.)
The cruel and judgmental Duke is caught and sentenced to death in a mantrap set by his own orders, and executed with his own weapon.
Edith marries Louis as a show of faith in his innocence even though he turned her into a widow once before and will do so again if he's hanged.
The eager executioner loses his opportunity to hang a nobleman because his inflated sense of occasion delays the proceedings.
Lastly, Louis escapes the noose only to hang himself seven times over when years of meticulous planning are undone by a moment of forgetfulness.
The more you watch this movie, the more details emerge each time. They don't write scripts this brilliant anymore.
Orphans of the Storm (1921)
The French Revolution for Ninnies
I love Lillian Gish and I enjoy silent pictures, but this movie is just plain silly. It's two stories in one and each manages to cancel out the other. I'm a sucker for a good weepy, sentimental potboiler. This one starts off good but it takes forever to come to its inevitable sappy ending because the French Revolution keeps butting in and spoiling everything. The effect is quite comical. It seems criminal to go to such lengths to re-create a great event in history only to burlesque it in the service of a contrived melodrama. (The same crime was repeated by the makers of TITANIC many decades later.) The last minute race to the gallows is more of the same hokum that cheapened INTOLERANCE. The movie leaves you with the feeling that the entire Revolution just sort of blew over and the cleansing spirit of DEMOCRACY made everyone live happily ever after. What about Napoleon?
Funny, sad, even scary, and great songs too!
I agree with many people here that this is one of the best dramatic adaptations of the holiday favorite. The musical score by Bob Merrill and Jule Styne is the very best set of songs ever to accompany the tale. Lionel Bart's take on Oliver Twist is the only better score written to a Dickens novel.
An earlier poster wondered whether the alteration in the order of ghostly visitors (Christmas Present arriving before Christmas Past) was an error in editing. I thought the same thing when I first saw this program. But the continuity in the animation shows that the change is clearly deliberate. My guess is that the scriptwriter altered the narrative specifically to showcase the wonderful songs to their best advantage.
The rousing "Big Group Number" sung by Cratchit's family needs to come first. Then, as the story matures, we get to hear to the two slower songs -- the heartbreaking duet sung by Scrooges Young and Old, followed by Belle's romantic ballad. (The lady who performed this did a fine job of singing in a style we miss hearing nowadays.) Having slowed the pace of the story with these two wistful tunes, the jaunty and morbidly comic number in the Death-bed scene is a welcome change of pace. It also provides a fun transition to the grim revelations of the Ghost of Christmas Future.
I think that Jim Backus has always been under-rated. He was a tremendously funny performer. This show is like a personal Christmas gift to his fans.
(Possible Small Spoilers)
I cannot believe how many people here are downing this film. It is flat-out hilarious! Maybe it's generational prejudice on my behalf: I was sixteen when this one first hit the theaters. This was THE movie everybody my age needed to see. Forget John Hughes, Bob Clark's "Porky's" was definitive to us as "Animal House" was to our older brothers and sisters.
It strikes me as funny to keep reading references to the actors in this film as a bunch of Unknowns. They aren't unknown; they're the cast of "Porky's," darnit, they're icons! What's more, the characters they create here are distinct, appealing, and funny. Sometimes it's better to use actors who are a little bit older, and therefore wiser, than the types they are spoofing.
People deride this movie's trashy story line. Comedy is designed to depict humans in their baser states of being. If "Porky's" is nothing more than a low-budget, low-brow farce, well shoot, that's all it was meant to be. Desperation is the key element of farce. A bunch of teenage boys who desperately want to get laid is a situation both timeless and humorous.
Sure, this is mostly a "guy's" film, and it definitely objectifies women. But women went to see this movie and laughed at the mostly-male antics. They received equal opportunity to view the men on-screen in an objectifying manner, too, since most of the guys in the movie shed their clothes at one point or another.
Filming people who are laughing at their own jokes is not always funny. But the scene in the Principal's office where the three phys-ed coaches are desperately trying not to laugh while Miss Balbricker states her case against Tommy Turner is perfectly executed and side-splitting. Even President Eisenhower agrees!
It'd be funny if Hollywood spent a fortune re-making a movie that was made this cheaply, and got it all wrong this time around. I must be getting old, because I can't see any reason why anyone wouldn't just want to enjoy the original.
The Cat in the Hat (2003)
Cinematic child abuse
Late November, 2003, and all week long the major media have been inundating us with endless updates and opinions regarding the scandal unfolding at the Neverland Ranch. Oddly enough, these same media outlets simultaneously continue to advertise and promote this cinematic sickener, "The Cat in the Hat." I doubt any small child in my home town will ever be asked to spend the night in bed with an aging pop star; but they are all free to troop down to the local movie theater where their hearts and minds are sure to be corrupted by this horrid travesty.
Consider what those vile people in Hollywood have done here -- they've taken a kindergarten storybook and pumped it full of scatalogical humor and sexual innuendo. Hiding behind the fig leaf of a PG rating, they are peddling this smut to children under the age of seven. There was a time, not so very long ago, when a movie this vulgar could not have been released, not even for adult audiences. I never thought I'd say this (or even think it), but maybe it's time for the American film industry to restore the Production Code!
A funny thing DID happen on the way to the Forum. They cut out most of the songs! There's something appalling about filming a Broadway musical where you don't allow the characters to sing. The show should have made a wonderful movie. This blighted burlesque is a tedious mess. What a pity Buster Keaton's final role wasn't in something better.
It's a pity this film isn't more well-known. "Bullwhip Griffin," is one of the better live-action Disney films of the 60's. Roddy McDowell is perfectly cast and delivers an appealing performance in the title role. Disney was wise to give leading roles to "character actors" from time to time. Like Angela Lansbury in "Bedknobs and Broomsticks," McDowell proves that he's strong enough to carry an entire picture when given the opportunity. The kid-actor who accompanies him in his adventures is useful and not obnoxious. Suzanne Pleshette is just amazing, especially in her "San Francisco" musical number. She is the sexiest saloon-hall singer you could hope to find in a G-rated film!