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Car of Dreams (1935)
Goodbye to trouble
For the purist pointer-outer, Molly wasn't Vera's sister, she was her friend so it didn't matter what kind of accent either girl had. "Vera", in point of fact, had an accent that was closely matched by her "father" (a man who reminds me of Felix Bressart).
OK, with that aside. This is a lovely fun movie with no pretenses whatsoever. The music is hummable and sticks with you after the film is over. The dialogue is witty and snappy ("Up goes her money, bang goes her reputation.") John Mills has a nice tenor voice and looks as if he is thoroughly enjoying himself. All the cast looks as if they are having fun and couldn't wait to get to the set each day.
The back-projection is no worse than any other picture of the period.
It has high production values. Very nice costumes and makeup.
The thought of the movie brings a smile to my face even as I'm commenting about it.
A Night to Remember (1958)
A true to life movie of a true tragedy
I have this out of the local library in an interesting format. CD-ROM, which means I can keep it out for three weeks instead of three days. :) It's the only format the library has. Somebody mentioned the only way to really watch an epic film is in a theater. I heartily agree, especially since I was watching it as 2 1/2 by 4 inches (approximately) because if I made it full screen it looks like DVDs do when you use the zoom (the picture quality, that is). I would even have preferred my 20" TV screen. That complaint aside, I'm glad I got to watch it.
In it the people are just that, people. Neither noble nor villainous. There are people acting in a noble way but they are flawed. There are people who yielded to their baser instincts (and who knows if I wouldn't do the same--I hope not but . . . .) but who were not basically evil.
Because it's a British film about a British ship, the class structure as it existed even when this film was made is very clearly defined but as I mentioned, one class wasn't better or worse than another. There was nobility evinced through all the classes as well as some not so very nice actions.
I do like when the lifeboat is being filled and Lightoller asks if there are any more ladies, the steerage passengers who had managed to find their way up, presented the women with them and said "Here are some ladies", which makes them true gentlemen.
There are many, many such moments through out this movie.
The one I saw is the "alternate version" which essentially has words not deeds at the end instead of the other way around.
There aren't any performances that played false. None of them go overboard (pardon the pun). The band members, which played the version of "Nearer My God To Thee" which they would have been familiar with, not the one known by Americans, gave subtle moving performances. I appreciate that the cellist sang the words. I don't know if that was just to enhance the moment (which it certainly did) or because they knew that upon release in America that we would wonder what they were about in not playing "Nearer My God To Thee" (not recognizing the tune).
The Wizard of Oz (1925)
Could do without the "Narrator"
I hit the mute button to avoid the oddball "music" and the narration. Everyone is comparing this to the 1939 version but recently I got a 2 disk set of the music of the 1903 stage version and actually (from reading the plot, what there was of it, in the notes that came with the CDs) this movie hearkens back to it, with the dungeon and dictator and other anarchist elements. A 1910 film version is sort of the stage version in digest form. The play was performed by various amateur and professional groups from 1904 through the 1930s. So it's probable that Larry Semon developed his version less from the book(s) than from the play.
Though they are disguises and not characters, Semon and Hardy made a pretty good Scarecrow and Tin Woodman.
Semon didn't seem to know when to stop wringing a joke. Jerry Lewis was just as guilty in a few of his first post-Dean Martin films, too.
Charlie Murray was marvelous as the humbug wizard with that wonderful rubber face of his. I wish he's gotten more screen time.
The lines on the title cards aren't any worse than others of the period. It was the heyday of the wisecrack and very few of the comedies of the day overlooked an opportunity to use them. I'm including Laurel & Hardy, Chaplin, Keaton, and Lloyd.
The Old Dark House (1963)
Haven't seen this since I was a kid, either
(Spoiler ahead) Joyce Grenfell as the intrepid knitter stands out in my memory, probably because I was watching the St. Trinian's movies that she appeared in during the same time period. Her character knitted by the mile (not the mile-a-minute of crochet/knitting patterns) and the colors would change depending on her mood. There was a strip of (probably) yellow that she remarked was done on a "particularly dreadful day". It didn't matter whether the movie was in black and white or color because we had a b/w TV (which is where I saw it). She was murdered by having her knitting needles stuck cross ways through her neck. Mervyn Johns (Glynis Johns' father) was funny as the little man building an ark in the garden. I thought of him as this character just a few years later when we had a really bad, days long rainstorm in Southern California (where I grew up).
I would really love to see it again. I absolutely adore British character actors. No matter how dreadful the material (I didn't really think this was so dreadful when I was 13 but who knows in my 50s?) they can make one smile or laugh out loud.
Black and white or color, I hope Columbia releases it. They're usually short on extras on the DVDs but in this case I'd overlook it.
The Ransom of Red Chief (1998)
Did they just use the title and character names?
I realize that a short story, unless it's part of an anthology, is difficult to use as a TV or movie story without a certain amount of padding but I think there is just a bit too much padding. It's a good and fun family movie, I'll give it that, but I was hoping it would stick a bit closer to the short story. There were times I felt they'd used the title, character names, and a few of the incidents from the story and that's it.
It's best for someone who is not expecting it to be the same as the short story.
I think the 1975 version was much better and it still played rather fast and loose with the story. Being shorter it didn't have a chance to play _quite_ so fast and loose, though.
I guess I'm just disappointed that they felt they had to change so much of O. Henry's story.
I'm keeping it around for my grandson who will enjoy it but I'll also introduce him to the source story. He's almost 10 so it won't be a problem with his attention span and also will help him to realize that if you've read a jacket or cover blurb (or even seen the movie) you haven't read the story. He tends to base his book reports on blurbs.
A nice cast was assembled and they all gave good performances. Christoper Lloyd and the late Michael Jeter are very dependable and a pleasure to watch. Child actors, by their very nature, are often a bit cutesy and the boy should have been a couple of years older with a certain rough and readiness about him but I think they managed to make him a bit annoying, which is almost as good.
Higher Than a Kite (1943)
A "straighter" title than usual
For a Stooges short, this one has a pretty straight title (not a play on words). Doesn't even look like a Stooges title! Since it's a Curly short, it's amongst their best (not that Shemp, Joe Besser, or Joe DeRita didn't do good ones). Curly and Larry each get a good bit--Curly when he's attacked by the hood of the car, the navigator, and Larry when he's the Fraulein, getting the plans from the Nazi.
This short was made at the height of their career(s) and before Columbia really tightened down on the budget (not that they ever were free-flowing with the dough anyway). The stock footage was pretty much kept to the planes dropping bombs.
A Taste of Honey (1961)
Slice of life
An excellent "slice of life".
This movie actually doesn't depress me as much as it did when I was a teenager (I first saw it in my early teens). Instead of the end bumming me out, I realize it was just the way Jo's life was going to go--not as she had romanticized it. Nothing in her life was going to substantially change, in spite of her having a bi-racial child. Her mother is there, back in her life, having kicked out the "sister" (Geoff) and being kicked out herself by her new husband.
They are doing what we all have to do--carry on with what life hands you.
Jo sort of reminds me of me, her attitudes and somewhat melodramatic way of looking at everything--at least the "me" of 40 plus years ago. Hmmm, wonder what Jo is doing these days?
The Living Christ Series (1951)
Larry Dobkin is John the Baptist
I was given the two disc set for Christmas and as a Baptist had several doctrinal issues with the first part of the first disc (dealing with Christ's birth and youth). It's got a strong Catholic extra-Bible bent. Some of the omissions bothered me too.
But the events of His adulthood, since they stayed close the spoken words (in modern English, no problem, I'm not a "if the KJV was good enough Paul, it's good enough for me.") of Christ Himself, were a real blessing and helped make the Bible real.
The actors were really quite good for a low-budget project. There's a tendency (even in a large budget, or especially) to go over the top with the acting. Most of them were natural and believable. The man who played Christ was really good and didn't go around with his eyes and arms raised to Heaven constantly. I was actually able to lose myself in the story.
Though he's not given credit, nor even mentioned, Lawrence Dobkin was John the Baptist and was excellent.
Even the actors in the smallest roles were, for the most part, very professional. I didn't feel like I was watching "amateur night".
If you're Catholic or don't mind, the entire series should be all right. Any other denomination, you might, like me, prefer the episodes that take place when Christ was an adult.
Quality of the film itself is a whole 'nother story. It has not been restored in any way and the color has gone somewhat sepia. There's lots of scratches and the soundtrack sometimes has sounds and words that are distorted or lost. The films were undoubtedly played a lot and got pretty wore out. Another poster mentioned them being shown at churches and on TV (I don't recall watching it but I may have as a child). Well, at least they have all the episodes.
Desk Set (1957)
Anyone got a hairpin?
Got a DVD player for Christmas and "Desk Set" was one of the movies my daughter gave me along with the player. I don't think my daughter was aware of the Christmas party in the movie (I can't recall if she's seen it) but that certainly made it appropriate as a Christmas gift. :)
I got a big kick out of Tracy's exit from Hepburn's apartment. It looks like it was something done on the spur of the moment and the director let them go on (smart guy).
The commentary on the DVD left something to be desired. Dina Merrill contributes very little information about the film and mostly chit-chats about her private life and other projects she'd done with other people. In another context I wouldn't have minded but except for a few bits of trivia about her co-stars and her own part in the film, she had very little relevant to say about this movie. The other person giving commentary was *not* Neva Patterson, unless her voice changed. It was a man who *was* very informative. People have commented on how this was a filmed stage play and the looks of the sets. He explains why Cinemascope movies of the '50s have the look they do. The various technical aspects (and giving answers to questions asked of the librarians but not answered on film) he went into were fascinating. I'd much rather have had him do the entire commentary. Sorry, Ms. Merrill, and I do like you.
Using a hairpin to fix the mainframe computer (can we say "fried components"?) was a play on the old gag that a woman's hairpin would fix anything, from a broken down car to a broken doorknob (I own a book of newspaper cartoons and a 1910 cartoon has that last one) when a poor helpless male wasn't able to do the repair job. Though I don't think I'd class Tracy as very helpless.
Fun from beginning to end and, I think, one of the better Tracy/Hepburn movies.
Min and Bill (1930)
Dressler's movie all the way!
Dressler carries the movie. Beery is very much a supporting actor here, no matter what his billing was but he gives Dressler a run for her money. They made a good pair. Rambeau puts in a good performance, too.
The young girl is rather insipid but they usually are in these kinds of movies.
The older leads are playing people who have seen better days, though I don't think Rambeau's character really had too many "better days".
Dressler had never been pretty (watch "Tillie's Punctured Romance" 1914 starring her and Charlie Chaplin) but she had kindness and a certain sweetness that came through the characters she played, no matter how rough they were.
It was Dressler's movie. She darn near steals the show from Garbo in "Anna Christie" (also 1930). A force to be reckoned with.
Min watching her foster daughter (who she never formally had guardianship of) going off on her honeymoon and then being escorted off by the cops because she had shot and killed the real mother because the woman was going to blackmail her own flesh and blood (she had abandoned her in infancy to Min) really brings tears to my eyes. Bill was going to help her escape to Mexico on his boat (though she is almost robotic in her responses, as if it doesn't matter any more). The woman had actually attacked her with a hot curling iron when she felt threatened by Min (Min said she wasn't going to leave that room, though she didn't actually _do_ anything except stand in the doorway). Min shot her almost as a reflex. It had been established earlier in the movie that Min kept a gun to protect herself.
She has a slight, sweet smile on her face as she's escorted by the police through the crowd of onlookers who had watched the young couple. She didn't make it known to her foster daughter that she was in the crowd. She had seen the girl off to a good start. They're were going to settle clear across the country so it'd be unlikely they'd know what happened and Min would never tell why.