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Raymond Burr, Shakespearean
SPOILER ALERTS THROUGHOUT.
All right. A bad guy hires a look-alike seaman to impersonate Perry Mason and implicate him in a nefarious scheme. Perry unravels it. You don't have to know more about the plot.
Burr, of course, plays both roles. Since Perry is such a stiff, he lets loose with everything in his acting repertoire when playing the impostor. Who knew that Burr could let loose with such a dramatic "ARRRGHHH"?
For a minute toward the end, I thought that the writers were going to avoid the obvious culprit, but they quickly reverted to the one that 99.9% of the viewing audience picked in the first ten minutes of the episode.
While this was not the last episode broadcast in this last season of the series, I suspect that it was the last one filmed. Why? Because Burr left no scenery unchewed.
Oh, heck. Why complain? It's utterly stupid and still great fun for fans.
The Twilight Zone: Twenty Two (1961)
Poor Production? --Not
As one of the six videotaped TWZ episodes, "Twenty-two" certainly has a different look from the filmed versions--a definite retro feel. It is worth remembering that Sterling cut his teeth in early fifties TV (the "Golden Age") with its multi-camera staging and primitive kine-scope recording, as did director Jack Smight.
TV production of that era had a certain necessary art to it, created on- the-fly and halfway between filmed stage drama and true cinema, an acquired taste, to be sure. This episode had many lovely two-shots and a few absolutely gorgeous three-shots that are under-appreciated today. I have much the same feeling about the durable Marilyn Monroe lookalike Barbara Nicols, who starred in the episode. And then there was morgue nurse Arlene Martel...
The choice of videotape and other production shortcuts were almost certainly dictated by financial constraints, but I prefer to consider this episode a case of making lemonade.
Who designed this crew?
I genuinely love this film, but I have always thought that this was the strangest crew structure in the history of sailing vessels.
I count four officers: Dallas, Kane, Ripley, and Ash. Parker and Brett are clearly "crew". Lambert is a bit of a mystery. She is a pilot (i.e. more skilled than just a helmsman/helmsperson). In the military, that would make her an officer. On a civilian vessel, who knows? Since she shows no leadership ability whatsoever, I'll count her as crew. That's a 4:3 officers-to-crew ratio. Even if one discounts Ash as having no real supervisory authority, it's at least ten times too high.
Wow! How does the "Company" make money? Moreover, there is a lot of living/working space allocated to just seven people. How can one justify a sick bay/science bay that size on the SHUTTLE? And if the shuttle has a sick bay that large, why would it not have facilities to support seven people in an emergency? As they say in Jesus Christ Superstar, "Only wanna know..."
Just where did Alex grow up?
1) This movie is better than the worst reviews here but not as good as Roger Ebert says it is.
2) We ALL miss Rachel Weiss. They say she did not like the script. So what? Shame on her for not wanting to squander her reputation for tons of money. It never stopped Olivier, Welles, Brando, Burton or De Niro. What's so special about her?.
4) Jonathan was not nearly as funny in this one. That damn script let him down. Without Weiss, we really needed him to pick up the slack.
3) Didn't Alex grow up in England and have an English accent? Que pasa? On to Peru!
Mildred Pierce (1945)
On the novel
As I write this, I am watching Mildred Pierce on AMC. Few reviewers here indicate that they have read the novel. Not surprising. I myself have seen many novel-based films without reading the original. What surprises me is that no reviwer has noted that the novel involves NO murder whatsoever. This is hardly a spoiler, since the murder is revealed in the opening scene of the movie.
By the late thirties, Cain had "graduated" from crime stories to more ambitious novels about gay opera singers (Serenade) and frumpy housewives striving to transcend failed marriages and hobbled by ungrateful offspring (MP). Like Mildred herself, Cain's reach exceeded his grasp. And like Hammett and Chandler, he never again equaled his early work.
Mildred Pierce is an interesting novel--almost a satire of middle class California strivers--but not one obviously suited to the cinema. It would have taken Orson Welles at his "Ambersons" height to make a faithful and compelling adaptation of Mildred Pierce as written by Cain.
Credit producer Jerry Wald with understanding that movie-goers expected a murder in a Cain story and would leave the theater disappointed if the film proved to be only a well-crafted melodrama. Wald and screenwriter Ranald MacDougal brilliantly created a cinematic Oreo that sandwiches a squishy center that roughly follows the novel between two crisp, dark cookies of violence and betrayal. This gave the movie the dark sensibility that the audience had come to expect from a Cain film.
As others have noted, Mildred is far more noble in the film than in the book. In the latter, she is, business success notwithstanding, the frumpy mediocrity that Veda judges her to be. To his credit, Cain is brutal to Mildred (and to every other character) on this score. In the end, this diminishes the impact of her downfall on the reader. The novel remains interesting mostly as a commentary on depression-era California, a promised land without the promise.
The movie is in many ways better than the novel. It moves more fluidly and has an effective payoff that the novel lacks. Crawford, Blyth, Arden and Carson are all excellent in their roles, with special kudos to the latter two. It is true that the male leads, Scott and Bennett, are fairly wooden, but so are their characters in the novel itself. It is hard to see how either could pique, much less hold, the interest of a Mildred as dynamic as Crawford's. A flaw to be sure, but not fatal.
In the end, Mildred Pierce works better as a film than as a novel, in no small part because it is less ambitious. By abandoning the larger undercurrents of the novel, the film is free to exploit the simple cinematic elements that make it so effective.
Song of the Thin Man (1947)
Swan Song of the Thin Man
Yeah, it's not as good as the other five Thin Man films. So what? It's worth a 7 just to see Powell & Loy banter one more time. Remember, even Marilyn Monroe couldn't save "Love Happy", the Marx Brothers' last effort.
BTW: The jazz was dated even for the time. The cutting edge in 1947 was bebop, and even bebop was fairly mature by then. The after-hours jam sessions would be mixed race efforts with an edge toward the black musicians, not a bunch of white guys playing small-group variations of 1940's big band crap. The white musicians went to the sessions to learn bebop from their black compatriots and to get away from the junk they had to play on the bandstand. Even the instrumentation was dated. The clarinet had already died as a principal instrument for younger musicians. All in all, it's about as authentic as the Rock and Roll in an Annette Funicello movie.
Father Goose (1964)
This is an actor!
No this is not one of the greatest comedies of all time, but it is one of Grant's best comedic performances. He is at the very top of his game. Every movement, every gesture is well nigh perfect. It looks effortless on his part but it is all well thought out. Grant doesn't so much steal his scenes as make all the other actors seem funnier. The usually pleasant Leslie Caron rises to nearly Audrey Hepburn status in his presence.
Film historian David Thomson called Cary Grant the finest actor in Hollywood history and Time critic Richard Schickel once called him "a technician of genius". Watch Grant closely in this film and see why.
Run Home, Slow (1965)
This is such a memorable film to me personally that I had a hard time deciding whether to give it a 1 or a 10. My college roommates and I found this masterpiece playing in a third rate downtown movie house in Philadelphia after a night of underage drinking sometime in 1967 or '68. (Relax. We used the subway; none of us had cars.) Running out of places that would serve us, we staggered into the theater, paying well under a dollar apiece. None of us knew who Mercedes McCambridge was, except that she sounded like someone who was once important. After seeing this film, Ms. McCambridge, became the butt of our there-but-for-the-grace-of-God-go-I jokes for years. I have since developed a real admiration for the actress, but the instant I hear her name or see her on film, the first thing I think of is "Run Home Slow". Message to my children: first impressions count!
The Amos 'n Andy Show (1951)
Brilliant AND Racist
I fully agree that this show was exceptionally funny (at least to a then 7 to 9 year old seeing it in early syndication). The actors deserve all the accolades conferred in the comments of other posters.
However, any suggestion that the show's apparently functional black community (or Andy's typically sage response to the chaos around him) shows a fundamentally enlightened racial viewpoint misses the mark completely.
At the time, I was growing up in a working class, lily white neighborhood in Pittsburgh, separated from Homewood, a 90% black neighborhood by--no joke--a set of apparently impermeable railroad tracks. (The jazz legend, Billie Strayhorn, grew up a few houses down the street in Homewood from that of one of my best friends.) We shopped and went to school (parochial, 99% white) in Homewood, but we lived on the "right" side of the tracks in Point Breeze. We might not have had money but at least we had our superior geographical position.
We kids understood quite well that the black-run city in Amos and Andy was intended to be surreal in a way that gave mundane occurrences involving a black mayor or black police chief tremendous comedic power. It was, in fact, the 1951 version of "Toontown" in Who Killed Roger Rabbit. (Or is it the other way around?) If you lived through those years, it is hard to see this in any other light. At the time, there were no large, reasonably prosperous cities dominated and run by blacks. This was flatly inconceivable and therefore fundamentally comic to whites. I can still recall specific playground conversations about Amos and Andy that dwelt on the series' outre civic premise.
In the end, it doesn't matter a bit. One can be simultaneously enthralled and appalled by the films of Leni Riefenstahl, and equally, one can both laugh and cringe at the TV version of Amos and Andy. (I offer no brief for the radio version.) Neither should be suppressed for ideological reasons.
By the way: Others note the similarities between Amos and Andy and the Honeymooners. These are genuine, but one should not ascribe precedence to the TV version of AA. While the widely syndicated, stand-alone Honeymooners show ran for single season in 1956, the original, shorter Honeymooners sketches were part of Jackie Gleason's Cavalcade of Stars in 1951, the same year as TV's Amos and Andy first aired. If there were influences, they were likely mutual. (That leaves open the question of the influence of the AA radio show, but that would change the complexion of the argument, wouldn't it?)