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The Saint (1997)
Why did they make this a Saint movie?
I'm a massive fan of all things Saintly. I have read all the Saint books, I own and have seen all the old RKO Saint movies from the 30's, 40's and 50's with Louis Hayward, George Sanders and Hugh Sinclair and own all the TV episodes from the 60's & 70's with Roger Moore & Ian Ogilvy. Only a few Saint items elude me. The very hard to find Simon Dutton Saint adventures from the late 80's, the Andrew Clarke one off TV Movie from 1987, the old radio shows from he 40's and 50's and the forgettable French movies of the 60's.
Because of this, I was very wary about the Val Kilmer movie featuring the halo'd character of Simon Templar despite having Saint legend Robert S. Baker as executive producer. My fears were not without foundation.
The character of Simon Templar as originally written by creator Leslie Charteris is an English Gentleman adventurer thief, he is known by reputation as a criminal with morals. He despises injustice, never preys on the innocent and only steals from people he refers to as the ungodly who have made their ill gotten gains by riding rough shod over anyone and everything. In this movie we have an American Templar (1st mistake), who commits high tech robberies for extremely large sums on behalf of people who are morally bankrupt (2nd mistake). In fact Kilmer's portrayal of Simon Templar is as far removed from Charteris's creation and the character portrayed so well by Moore, Ogilvy and Sanders you cannot even recognise him as being the same person.
Having said that it was SO easy to forget that this was even a Saint movie. As far as I'm concerned it was just a wonderful exciting movie about an American cyber criminal on the run from the Russian Mafia who falls in love with an American physicist. The action is gripping the plot engaging and the acting superb, apart from a few VERY sickly scenes between Kilmer and Shue. I'm all for romance between characters but......
I did enjoy it but apart from the title it is in no way, shape or form, a Saint Movie. That was the producers 3rd and biggest mistake. By calling it a Saint movie, they were already on the back foot as expectations were no doubt going to be high especially from die hard Saint fans like myself. Making the Saint an American is a BIG no no. having the Saint happily work for criminals is another.
If they had removed all reference to The Saint character from the story, I could be easily reviewing one of the best movies of the '90's. Kilmer's Character was more akin to Ethan Hunt than anything you would ever find in a Charteris book. However, Elizabeth Shue is GORGEOUS and I really did enjoy this movie very much for what it was. If you can forget it's a supposed to be a Saint movie then I'm sure you will too.
The Artist (2011)
A throwback to a bygone age.....and they nailed it to perfection!
As a lover of both silent movies and early talkies, (as many of my other IMDb reviews prove), I was looking forward to seeing The Artist. However, this was not without a degree of trepidation. I've seen other movies try to parody the silent age using all the available clichés in the book. Flickery images, tinkling piano soundtrack etcetera. I was not expecting any different here.
The Artist is the perfect homage to the age and the most realistic reenactment of what the silent movie experience was really like, with a great orchestral score. Silent movies were often accompanied with 100 piece orchestras in the theatre playing emotive music composed specifically for the feature as displayed here in the opening scene.
I'm not going to give too much away on plot here but it centre's around a huge silent Hollywood movie star and a career ruined by the advent of sound. Sadly this was a scenario all too real for some actors, most notably John Gilbert, who tried his luck in talkies and failed and Douglas Fairbanks who retired from the screen immediately without even attempting a 'talkie', to whom lead actor Jean Dujardin, bears more than a resemblance.
The scenes with Dujardin & the dog reminded me so much of the interplay between William Powell & Asta of the thin man movies of the 30's and 40's.
Everything about this movie is ripe with symbolism. The movie is silent because our hero feels he has no voice in the modern world which is brought home in a wonderful scene where everyone and everything has sound apart from him. This scene raised a smile and must have had the Foley boys working overtime to get right.
Bérénice Bejo is excellent as the young struggling actress Dujardin befriends, who's star ironically rises as his starts to fall. A nice little inter-title card declares mid-film, 'I want to be alone' a nice nod of the head there to Greta Garbo one of the greatest actresses of the silent age who in early talkies made that phrase her trademark.
My nod of the head goes to the film makers that made everything as authentic as possible from the fashions, the music, the cars and the interiors. Look out for some natty dancing from our two leads as well.
I've always loved silent movies and although this has been made over 80 years after the art form officially ceased to exist, this is one of the best. Will it revive the genre? Probably not. Will it encourage people to look outside the box and explore silent movies further? That's even less likely. Should it win every award it's nominated for? Certainly.
Alex & Emma (2003)
Quaint Comedy although a little disjointed.
Wilson plays Alex, a best selling author with writers block while trying to start his next novel. He owes money to The Cuban Mafia and has been given 30 days to pay or a very short lifetime to regret it. This is a task not made easier given the fact that the Cuban heavy's have cooked his laptop. As a result, he hires law stenographer Emma, (Hudson), so he can dictate the novel to her as a means to an end to get a manuscript.
I found the first 15 minutes of Alex & Emma, very funny indeed, especially when Wilson was trying to hide from the Cubans by trying to prop the door closed with a chair that was far too small and then being dangled mercilessly above the street by his feet. It remains hilariously funny when we first meet Hudson's character and the ruse in which he had lured her to his apartment.
I was settling down to watch what I thought was going to be a homage like throwback to the 1930's screwball comedies that I love so much, especially given the 1920's style opening titles.
But then it changed kilter completely to standard rom-com fayre. It was quite bland in fact. And the constant flitting between the real and the fictional book story became irksome very quickly. It quickly became a film within a film and left me slightly confused as to which characters I was meant to be giving attention and/or sympathies. However, seeing Sophie Marceau and Kate Hudson in many scenes is more than adequate compensation for a red blooded man.
Marceau can hardly be recognised as the femme fatale from the Bond film The World Is Not Enough, as in this movie, she sports a Louise Brookes/Clara Bow style haircut. Marceau plays it for laughs but sadly gets very few of them, but the Marceau/Wilson sex scene, (all tastefully delivered in silhouette) is very amusing, especially given the next shot where they are both head to foot in baby oil to indicate energetic perspiration.
I did like the character of Emma, an independent sassy career girl as we've seen Hudson play before in flicks like How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days. Since Alicia Silverstone disappeared of the map, Hudson is the only actress I can watch that sets the old pulse racing and any film she appears in always goes to the top of my to watch list.
Now comes the most difficult part of my review, describing the ending. OH MY GOD! the ending actually made me want to vomit into the nearest receptacle as it descended into the most diabetes inducing sweet twee garbage I've ever seen in a rom-com, and I love rom-com's.
Gripe aside, Alex & Emma wasn't that bad but too many changes of direction. Screwball/Rom-Com, Contemporary/Period, Funny/Not Funny. It was all too much for my poor brain to cope with in 96 short minutes.
A nice cameo from director Reiner complements this enjoyable but very disjointed movie.
Fierce Creatures (1997)
Let's face it guys and gals, Animals are funny. So is John Cleese, Michael Palin, Kevin Kline and Jamie Lee Curtis.
Fierce Creatures is not a sequel to the hilarious A Fish Called Wanda from 1988, it just a film that contains the same main actors playing entirely different characters.
Cleese plays Rollo Lee a former Chinese policeman now Director of an English Zoo for a new parent company ingeniously named Octopus Inc. It is Octopus's policy to bring all businesses up to a rigid 20% profit margin or risk being closed down. Lee's philosophy is to get rid of all the sweet and cuddly animals and in his own words have 'a lethal weapon in every cage' Fierce Creatures only.
Willa Weston starts work for Octopus only to find that the arm of the business she was to control has been sold off by Octopus's head man Rod McCain (Kevin Kline). She asks McCain if she can go to England and run the Zoo. What she doesn't count on is that the boss's embarrassing son Vince McCain (Kevin Kline) is going with her.
Back in England the animal keepers are doing everything they can to convince that their animals are predatory killers in order to keep them at the zoo knowing that as placement in other zoo's are unlikely the animals face certain death.
Willa's intention is to run the zoo well while still bringing the profit margin to the required standard but Vince's constant interference sees the chances dwindling with not only his embezzlement of funds but his tacky and degrading sponsorship deals.
In A Fish Called Wanda, Michael Palin played Ken a guy who could hardly talk because of a debilitating stutter. In Fierce Creatures he plays Bugsy the Arachnid keeper who is an incessant talker the verbal contrast between the two characters is a bit of an in-joke but an hilarious one and I'm sure that this contrast was not lost on the audience.
Like in A Fish Called Wanda Kevin Kline totally steals the show with his double role as Father & Son. Rod McCain is a tough confident Australian mogul so obviously based on Rupurt Murdoch it's untrue while his son is relatively unsuccessful an embassement to his father and has real issues when it comes to dealing with people.
I found Fierce creatures very funny and in many ways far superior to 'Wanda'.
Some great appearances by other wonderful actors such as Ronnie Corbett, Maria Aitken, (who played Cleese's Wife in Wanda), Billie Brown as Rod's sycophantic Assistant Neville, Carey (yummy) Lowell and Robert Lyndsay. Cleese's daughter Cynthia also appears as she did in Wanda playing the small Mammals keeper. For those devotees of British Children's TV of the 70's and 80's look out for Derek Griffiths too.
Cleese once said that his two biggest regrets in his life were marrying his third wife and making fierce Creatures. I can say to Mr Cleese now that Fierce Creatures is nothing to be embarrassed about it's a great and funny movie and one he should be proud of.
Another in joke is that the zoo is called Marwood Zoo, which incidentally, is Cleese's middle name.
Footlight Parade (1933)
Cagney & Berkeley, A combination to be reckoned with.
I have reviewed more James Cagney movies on this site than any other actor/actress. Now, after 8 odd years of being a IMDb reviewer, I have finally got around to reviewing my ultimate favourite James Cagney movie.
This was the first musical Cagney had been allowed to star in as Jack Warner saw only the potential in Cagney's ability to play the tough guy. Cagney had learnt to dance in the 20's whilst appearing in countless vaudeville productions and always preferred to do musicals whenever the opportunity presented itself.
Although Footlight Parade was Cagney's first musical movie, it wasn't the first time audiences had seen the man shake a shoe. He had danced in a short but memorable scene in the drama Other Men's Women (1931) and danced in a couple of scenes in Taxi! (1932) most notably in a dance competition competing against George Raft.
It may have been these scenes that convinced the studio brass that Cagney was a viable musical commodity too.
Footlight Parade reunites Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler and genius choreographer Busby Berkeley all veterans of Warner Brothers two other musical smash hits of that year 42nd Street and Gold Diggers of 1933.
The whole main cast list of this wonderful movie also includes all the very best actors that Warner had on their books at the time. Joan Blondell, Guy Kibbee, Ruth Donnelly, Frank McHugh, Hugh Herbert and Claire Dodd.
Chester Kent, (Cagney), is a producer of musical Comedy shows who's fortunes have been blighted by two main developments. The crash of '29 which saw the demand for expensive and lavish productions dwindle and a new gimmick from Hollywood - Talking Pictures.
His showbiz backers Frazer & Gould, (Arthur Hohl & Guy Kibbee respectively), take Kent to the local movie theatre to show them why they're no longer doing the big shows and why they're making the move to become movie exhibitors. When the movie they are watching ends, (which incidentally is The Telegraph Trail starring John Wayne and also stars Frank McHugh). A bevy of dancers take to the stage in a routine that Frazer and Gould describe as a prologue a themed dance to accompany the preceding picture.
Kent starts to produce these prologues for Frazer and Gould knowing that other movie exhibitors will pay good money for these ready made prologues rather then spending more money to put them on themselves.
Kent is shown as a workaholic who seldom goes home and is dedicated to his job. However, his world is not as idyllic as he would think it. His assistant Harry Thompson, (Gordon Westcott), is actually spying for a rival prologue company and giving the competitors Kents prologue ideas and Frazer and Gould are cooking the books to their own advantage. In fact Kent's one true ally is his secretary and girl Friday Nanette 'Nan' Prescott, (Joan Blondell), who's so head over heels in love with Kent that her loyalty is unswerving but Kent's too wrapped up in business to notice.
After reading a headline regarding the fate of un produced musical shows, Kent decides that they'll be transferred into prologues giving the audience a 20 minute musical comedy and a talking picture all for 50 cents. A business man with a string of movie theatres have offered him three prologues at three of his theatres in three days and if they're a success then a contract for forty theatres across the region is theirs.
In order to ensure his ideas are not given to the rival prologue company, he orders a blockade of his studio, no one in and no one out for three days to ensure secrecy and originality.
The real treat of Footlight Parade are the three prologues themselves which dominate the final half of the movie. 'Honeymoon Hotel' in which Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler elope, get married and spend their wedding night in the hotel renown for turning virgin brides into wives, all to the wonderful risqué music and lyrics of Harry Warren and Al Dubin.
Then follows 'By A Waterfall' which is by far the most visual stunning of the three with Busby Berkeley doing what he does best, a water ballet with some great kaleidoscopic overhead shots. I've said it before and I'll say it again, Berkely was a genius and one day I'd love to see this sequence converted to 3D and perhaps full Technicolour. Berkely was so far ahead of his time and real 3D was invented just so we can convert Berkeley's sequences to it. I'd do it myself if I could though I have neither the money, knowledge or the technology to do so. Shame otherwise it would be done tomorrow.
The final Prologue is 'Shanghai Lil' which sees Cagney take the role of a sailor searching for his oriental prostitute girlfriend in a bar come opium den. All of which is dazzling.
Needless to say the shows go over big and Kent and the troupe get the contracts.
Mention has to be given to Dick Powell for THAT voice, Keeler for THOSE feet, Frank McHugh giving us some comic relieve as a cynical and inept dance director, Claire Dodd as a social climbing tramp that gloms on to Kent in the hopes of ensnaring him into a honey trap. Ruth Donnelly as Goulds Money grabbing wife and Hugh Herbert as the fussy censor that ensures that Kent's prologues doesn't offend against common decency.
Speaking of censorship, Footlight Parade contains some of the most riskiest dialogue and content that I've ever seen in a pre-code film and was probably solely responsible for the rigid enforcement of the production code the following year. All innocent now, but back in 1933, it must have had chins on the carpet. However, that's all part of it's charm.
Footlight Parade is a triumph in every way thanks mainly to Cagney and Berkeley.
The Public Enemy (1931)
A Star is Born (After a last minute casting switch)
The Public Enemy regularly features in the top lists of Gangster movies to this day and to continue to have that respect and following after 80 years is good going indeed. However, I have no doubt that the movie wouldn't be looked upon so strongly or even remembered at all if it hadn't been for the presence of one man - James Cagney.
Cagney had made only a handful of pictures prior to making TPE but had dominated all of them no matter how small or superficial his character was in them. Cagney had made a film the year before called 'The Doorway To Hell' where Cagney was cast as the right hand man of the lead character played by Lew Ayres. Ayres was playing a tough gangster in that role and as good an actor as he was, wasn't really cut out for those kind of roles. Unlike Cagney.
It was a mistake that was nearly duplicated when casting began for TPE as tough Cagney was once again cast as the meek sidekick to the amoral gangster played by soft spoken Edward Woods. It was director William Wellman who recognised the error and saw immediately Cagney's New York guttural qualities needed for the role of Tom Powers.
With the roles switched, the chemistry was right and the movie not only made Cagney a star, but became one of the Holy Trinity of early 30's Gangster movies. (The other two being Little Ceasar and Scarface).
The first scenes of the movie introduce us to the two main protagonists of the movie Tom Powers and his friend Matt Doyle as boys. The boys are played by Frank Coghlan Jr as Tom and Frankie Darro as Matt. The boy actors were cast before the role switching which is why a young Frankie Darro could easily pass for a young Cagney and Frank Coghlan Jr would be believable as a young Edward Woods. However, their scenes must have already been shot and deemed two expensive to re shoot so remained as is.
Tom & Matt are delinquent kids always in scrapes with the law and mixed up with a small time hood called Putty nose, a faginesque character who always takes their ill gotten gains from the boys in return for a small return.
We are also introduced to Tom's Brother Mike who disapproves of Tom's brushes with the law. Their mother played by Beryl Mercer who dotes on her two boys.
As the boys grow to adulthood, their association with Putty nose continues and the crimes become more severe which results in the killing of a policeman when a botched warehouse robbery goes wrong. Putty nose disappears leaving Tom & Matt to take the fall if they're ever caught. They're not.
With Prohibition introduced they fall in with Irish Bar Owner/Mob Boss Paddy Ryan,(Robert Emmett O'Connor), who offers both Matt and Tom jobs as the muscle men for his bootlegging outfit he runs with noted mobster Sam 'Nails' Nathan. (Leslie Fenton). With a rival gang also doing the same, it's not long before a gang war is bound to erupt.
Tom's brother Mike, (Donald Cook), back from WW1 confronts Tom about his career and makes an impassioned outburst about his Beer & Blood lifestyle. Unable to tolerate his brother, he moves to a hotel to spend sometime with his Moll Kitty, (Mae Clarke), who turns out be just as interfering as his brother and as a result in one of the Movies most iconic images, gets a half grapefruit splurged in her face by a disapproving Tom. (something sour for that sweet sweet kisser).
Tom soon meets up with a new gal in the form of Gwenn (Jean Harlow on loan from MGM), who only appears in three scenes but is magical in all of them.
After Nails Nathan is killed in a horse riding accident, most of Nathan's men move on to other things leaving Tom's gang significantly weakened. To their rivals, it's the opportunity they've been waiting for to take over completely. Gang bloodshed escalates and one of the casualties is Tom's best friend Matt. Consumed with revenge, Tom nonchalantly walks into the rival gangs headquarters and starts blasting but is filled with bullets himself. As he staggers through the rain soaked streets he utters the immortal line "I ain't so tough" and collapses.
In hospital, Tom is reunited with his mother and brother and tells them that he's going to come home and quit his criminal career but it's all too little too late. As the rival gang wants their revenge on Tom.
As Ma Powers is cheerfully making up Tom's bed for his homecoming there is a knock at the front door and as his brother answers it he is greeted by a very bound and very dead Tom who had been kidnapped from the hospital.
There is no disguising the fact that Tom Powers was a complete psychopath as shown in the scene when he delivers some long overdue retribution to a crying Putty nose.
The movie is brilliant and is stacked full of risqué pre-code innuendo such as the gay tailor and the casual sexual relationships that Tom & Woods have with their respective partners Mae Clarke & Joan Blondell.
Cagney's portrayal of Powers cemented forever the tough guy image that he is most associated with and made him one of Warner Brothers top assets and deservedly so.
Sparrow takes flight yet again.
As long as Johnny Depp continues to don the tri-cornered hat and banadana, it would seem the Pirates Of The Caribbean franchise has a lot of life left in it. After all it is a cash cow that Disney will milk until it's udders fall off.
I've noticed in the past that franchise renewals,(Star Wars being a perfect example), seem contrived and somewhat straw clutching in their plots as film makers struggle blindly if not enthusiastically to take their old characters to new levels of excitement. POTC - On Stranger Tides is a welcome exception.
I for one was thrilled with this new installment. I found that making the original films a trilogy bloated them slightly so I'm glad that the new movie, can be pretty much classed as a stand alone adventure as the original Movie was before the sequels were made. I also feel that the future of the franchise should lie in these stand alone adventures where you can watch them in any order you want like the James Bond movies and not watch them in any semblance of order just to keep track of the plot.
Captain Jack Sparrow is without doubt the best anti-hero the screen has had since Clint Eastwood's 'Man With No Name' in the spaghetti westerns of the 1960's and it is a part that Depp will always be best remembered for. It would be a shame if they ruin the franchise by bloating it with a further interlinking trilogy.
It has been a few years since Jack Sparrow graced our screens and it's as if he hasn't been away and everything you expect Jack to be is wonderfully still there. No plot spoilers here I'm glad to say as I do not want to ruin anyone's enjoyment of this magnificent film and you should see it without prior influencing opinions
The only gripe I have is the 3D version which although is very good fails to capitalise on certain situations that would have been great had the 3D been used more effectively, so I feel that they've missed a trick or two on that score. Hollywood studios have been playing about with 3D now for the better part of 60 years and only in that last 10 years or so have nailed it into a viable art form. We now have the technology but it's the technicians that have let this one down slightly.
Don't be upset that there is no Will Turner or Elizabeth Swann in this adventure as that's no bad thing as I feel that their story had gone as far as it could have. As I said earlier, the POTC franchise begins and ends with Jack Sparrow and most importantly, Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow. As long as he's there, then I'm sure that they'll be many more of these movies to come and thrill us.
The Strawberry Blonde (1941)
Is this a good comedy? zactly!
James Cagney's flare for comedy was never more apparent than in this Warner brother's beauty.
The movie spans a ten year period and is mostly part of a flashback story set in turn of the century New York. Cagney plays Biff Grimes, an average Joe with aspirations of becoming a Dentist thanks to his monthly periodical correspondence course.
He's desperately in love with Virginia (Rita Hayworth), known locally as The Strawberry Blonde who's the object of every local young mans affections including Biffs best friend Hugo Barnstead, (Jack Carson). Hugo's last name however, is almost a perfect anagram of what he is, (after a removal of an N & an E),as he's always taking advantage of Biff and uses him to make his own advances toward Virginia.
On a blind date of sorts Hugo and Virginia pair up and Virginia introduces Biff to her free thinker best friend Amy, (Olivia De Havilland). Biff isn't exactly bowled over with Amy's charms in the same way he has been with Virginia's, but Amy seems smitten with Biff from the start.
Hugo starts making a name for himself as a building contractor mostly thanks to local 'friends' like Biff who has contributed to most of his success but have seen no reward from the ungrateful Hugo.
With his new social standing, Virginia marries Hugo and it's down to Amy to break the news to the crestfallen Biff. It is only then that Biff realises that Amy is the girl he should have been courting all along.
18 months pass. Biff & Amy are now married and living somewhat modestly in the same neighbourhood. Biff only a month away from becoming a fully qualified dentist has a chance encounter with Virginia who invites Biff & Amy to dine with her and Hugo.
Over a hilarious spaghetti dinner, it becomes apparent to Biff and Amy that Hugo and Virginia while both rich and influential are far from happily married and bicker constantly. At Virginia's insistence, Hugo appoints Biff as vice president of his company. The position is purely honourary and Hugo once again uses Biff by getting him to sign his name to contracts and invoices that he knows are illegal in a bid to keep his own grubby hands as clean as possible.
When Biffs father is killed on a Barnstead building site due to the use of substandard building materials, Biff as the signatory, is the obvious fall guy and is sent prison for 5 years.
During his incarceration, Biff finally completes his Dentistry exams and gains his diploma, while Amy returns to her former profession of nursing.
When Biff is released, He finds that his love for Amy has actually been made stronger.
Hugo is now a town Alderman with a toothache and his employers have managed to track down a dentist who's willing to pull teeth on a Sunday. Guess who? It's only when Hugo arrives that he finds the dentist is Biff and is understandably nervous. Biff also realises that Virginia's and Hugo's marriage has deteriorated to such an extent, that they can barely remain civil to one another.
Biff, after exacting some mild revenge on his nemesis Hugo, comes to the serene conclusion that while Hugo and Virginia had achieved the social standing, the money and the well to do lifestyle. He and Amy had the happiness that was worth so much more. And who wouldn't be happy spending their life with Olivia De Havilland.
The Strawberry Blonde is a wonderful little comedy and is stacked with that great American turn of the century music like the recurring 'And the Band Played On'. Great support comes from Alan Hale who delivers a hilarious turn as Biff's father. George Tobias appears as Biff's staunch Ally Nick the Barber and look out for future Superman George Reeves as a college guy spoiling for a fight with Biff.
Ship Ahoy (1942)
The Stars just about manage to keep this ship afloat.
Harmless fluff from MGM made soon after America's entry into WWII.
Eleanor Powell plays Tallulah Winters, a dance speciality with the Tommy Dorsey band. The troupé is booked to play a stint in Puerto Rico and on the evening they are scheduled to sail she is approached by what she believes to be agents of the American government who want her to transport a new type of magnetic mine to the Latin port. Being an eager patriot and wanting to do her bit, she agrees, but you've guessed it, she's been duped as the agents are really working for Auntie Tojo and cousin Adolf rather than Uncle Sam.
On board she meets Pulp fiction author Merton Kibble, (Red Skelton), who's hypochondria has reached such a level that a nice cruise and the opportunity for some R&R seems to be just what he needs.
The plot plods along at such a speed that it doesn't exactly grip you but you're not exactly bored senseless either. In fact you sometimes even forget about the espionage subplot as you're too engaged in the love story between Eleanor & Red, the comic shenanigans of Bert Lahr and Virginia O'Brien and also the constant musical numbers to even care about the patriotic message the film halfheartedly gives out.
The movie does give us some great numbers from Dorsey and his boys and drummer Buddy Rich gets a very impressive spot and it's easy to see why so many rock drummers cited Rich as an influence on their own playing even decades later as he could play like a man possessed and kind of left time keeping to the other guy. Powell's dancing numbers were good enough, but I felt that they were held back slightly as I've seen her dance in many other films that have given me goosebumps while watching, no such feelings here though I'm afraid.
Also in the Dorsey camp and in an uncredited role, is a singer SO GOOD that I'm flabbergasted that he didn't go on to have super stardom of his own. He was bit on the skinny side and no doubt had some Italian ancestry, but this boy could have easily rivalled both Bing Crosby and Dean Martin as the world's best crooner had he been given the chance. If anyone finds out his name, please post it on the message board as I'd love to find out more about him.
In this movie, Skelton mercifully manages to remain the right side of lunacy as sometimes he always managed to go too far in all other movies I've seen him in, but his scene with the magnetised suitcase is hilarious. Lahr and O'Brien are also a joy to watch and I don't think I'll ever get tired of listening to O'Brien's deadpan and expressionless delivery of songs.
The plot is forgettable the stars are not and it is they who keep Ship Ahoy well and truly afloat as without their presence it could easily have sank without trace.
Before I forget, someone said that Frank Sinatra is in this movie somewhere but I haven't found him yet. Maybe he felt intimidated by that great singer from the Dorsey band and it scared him off.
Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)
Insanity Runs In My Family......It Practically Gallops.
During his lifetime, if anyone had asked Cary Grant about his performance in Arsenic & Old Lace, he would have declared it one of his least favourite film roles AND also his least favourite on screen performance. However, if you ask any Cary Grant fan their views on the movie and the vote will be unanimously contradictory to Mr Grant's own sentiments.
Frank Capra had seen Joseph Kesselring's black screwball comedy farce on the Broadway stage in 1941 and immediately set about procuring the movie rights. The movie was actually filmed in late 1941 but not released until 1944 to allow the play to finish it's Broadway run, so audiences couldn't compare the play to it's screen counterpart. (And potentially diminish Box Office returns).
Grant plays Mortimer Brewster a newlywed drama critic who before embarking on his honeymoon with his bride Elaine, (played by the delectable Pricilla Lane), visits his two maiden aunts in Brooklyn to give them the good news.
Aunt Abby, (Josephine Hull), and Aunt Martha, (Jean Adair), are two kind hearted pillars of the Society, who regularly invite the local Reverend to tea, they give old toys to the local children's home and help the police benevolent fund whenever possible. Sounds perfect doesn't it?
However their demeanour hides a darker secret. They're murderers whose body count is already into double figures. However, they are not hardened mob assassins and neither are they psychopaths. They innocently poison lonely, sad passers-by with their home made elderberry wine. These are not random killings either, their victims have to meet a certain criteria. They only kill gentlemen that have no family, home, money or prospects. They see their killings as an act of mercy by helping these poor people find the peace in death that has been so cruelly denied them in life. How sweet.
Mortimer has a brother Teddy, another harmless nutter who believes himself to be President Theodore Roosevelt who's digging the Panama Canal in their cellar and whenever his Aunt's present him with another body to bury in the cellar, simply assumes that Yellow Fever has claimed them. Quite a normal assumption I suppose...if you think you're in Panama.
As luck would have it, Mortimers other and dangerously psychotic brother Jonathan, (Raymond Massey), also returns home to Brooklyn that night on the run from the law and he's not alone. His German plastic surgeon Dr Einstein, (Peter Lorre), is with him, and just to blend in, they've brought a corpse of their own to the party.
Mortimer now believes that insanity is hereditary in his family and that he too will one day becomes as mad as a box of frogs. However his immediate concern is to figure out how to save his aunt's and his brother Teddy from either life imprisonment or the chair, a situation not made easier, as Jonathan already has plans to make him the next body that Teddy buries in the cellar.
The script is fast and furious and the acting from ALL is superb, and Grants facial expressions are legendary.
Black Comedy was never better than this.