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Touching, infuriating, but what's the rest of the story?
I'm not going to get deep into what other reviewers have already said about this film about an elderly couple who have their lifestyle and lives taken from them. The couple is very sweet, and seem somewhat capable, considering their advanced age. But they don't seem to be capable of being very articulate about their predicament. They are aware of what is happening, but don't seem to understand the complexity of the situation... maybe they do, but if so, it doesn't make it onto the film. One of Edith's daughters is present in the movie (and their lives) the other is not. The daughter who is present seems to be strong and articulate, and to be acting in Edith & Eddie's best interest. She did have power of attorney for Edith, but it isn't clear why she lost it. If she were present, why was power of attorney taken from her?
Also, there is no explanation of why the other daughter, the one who has Edith moved away from Eddie, is not on screen. Did she turn down offers from the filmmakers to be part of the film? Was she not given the opportunity to participate?
In the end, we can only speculate about the other side of the story. The perspective of the film is that the daughter who does not appear in the film has only self-interest in mind. But we do have some information that can inform our speculation:
- The film states that the attorney acting as Edith's advocate never met Edith. We are not given any perspective as to why that might be, but I can think of no good reason for this. How can anyone make decisions for someone without consulting with them to learn about what their needs and desires are? Or what their true situation is?
- Edith is removed from her home and placed in care of the daughter who is not represented in the film, with the promise that it is only temporary, and with the promise that Eddie may speak to her every day. The film doesn't even ask why she isn't placed in care of the local daughter, who has apparently been caring for Edith and Eddie for years. But back to those promises: Both of them are broken. Eddie is completely cut off from communication from his wife, and his wife is not returned after the two weeks.
In the end, my take is that the filmmakers probably have the correct perspective, but I am unsatisfied that so much of this story is left out. I left the film feeling infuriated that these happy, mostly healthy people were forced apart. But because they didn't tell the whole story, the part of the story that disagrees with their perspective, I feel manipulated. I feel that the filmmakers think that the public might draw a different conclusion than their own, and therefore left out any information that did not support their point of view. Perhaps they would have included the other perspective if they had more time, but it doesn't feel that way... it feels like they began with the perspective that the other point of view was just wrong, and therefore didn't deserve to be voiced.
One Terrible Day (1922)
An entertaining but not outstanding entry for the series
Perhaps it's the poor video quality of the print that can be seen on Youtube, but there are many far better Our Gang films out there. H.M. Walker's titles are great, as usual, and the kids are fun to watch. Mickey Daniels exudes his usual enthusiasm, Jackie Condon is perfect as usual in the role of the unwanted tagalong, and Farina is cute as the toddler fascinated with geese. But there aren't many jokes here, just cute goings-on. Perhaps some frames are missing from the print I saw; the timing of many of the gags was thrown off by poor splicing (I'm sure that the original film was not edited so haphazardly). I'm just guessing, but my guess is that at this point, the producers knew they had struck gold, but hadn't quite figured out the best way to present these kids to the public.
Explorer steps inside a sarcophagus and is surprised
It's difficult to judge the quality of this short Melies film; I viewed it on Youtube, and only about 13 seconds exist there (it's a 19-second clip, but 6 seconds of that are a more recent title card). Most films in 1900 were about a minute long, so I'm guessing it's missing 40 seconds or so. Apparently set inside a pyramid, an actor in explorer's garb (complete with pith helmet) enters, sees a sarcophagus, opens it, and steps inside. He gets a surprised look on his face, and it appears that there may be an image of some kind behind him in the sarcophagus, but the clip ends there. Knowing Melies' style, I'm guessing that a mummy appeared out of thin air and scared off the explorer. I don't know if more of the film is still in existence, or if the clip on Youtube is all that's left of it.
Mr. & Mrs. North: Two Faced (1953)
Manicurist blackmails bad guy!
A jealous barber argues with his wife about her watching his customer after he walks out his door. He mentions that the man's skin is too tight for his age, and notes scars behind his ears. The wife figures out that the customer is a criminal who has had plastic surgery, and decides to blackmail him so she can use the money to leave her husband. Things don't necessarily go as planned, and it's up to Mr. and Mrs. North to figure out what REALLY happened. Barbara Britton and Richard Denning are good, as usual, but as usual with this series there's always at least one sub-par actor. This time it's Peggy Knudsen as Elsie Dargon, mugging as she watches the aforementioned customer leave. That said, this is better than most episodes in the series, and ends with a decent twist.
Mr. & Mrs. North (1952)
Beware of cheap DVD versions by TV Guide/Genius Entertainment
Mr. and Mrs. North had a great run on the radio, but in the early days of television, production companies didn't spend much money on such silly things as cameras, directors, or editing. Barbara Britton and Richard Denning are good as the leads, but the guest stars are mostly of the quality of your typical high school production. As a matter of fact, the two stars are what make the series watchable. To be fair, compared to most of what was on TV at the time, this is actually a decent show. Really this can only be recommended for fans of the radio series, the novels by Richard and Frances Lockridge, or old-time TV in general. Please beware of the cheap DVD versions released by TV Guide through Genius Entertainment. They overdub horrible, newly recorded theme music over the opening sequence and closing credits that does not fit at all. I'm sure the original music was much more enjoyable... at least it had to be less annoying!
Murder by doll.
It's Mr. and Mrs. North's 5th anniversary, and they are dressing for an elegant evening of romance to celebrate. The doorbell rings. Mrs. North answers to find no one there; only a small package. She opens the package to find two dolls dressed as bride and groom... but the bride has a knife in her back! This is the best part of a rather silly episode, in which Mr. North at one point tells an intruder, "Don't move, or I'll shoot!" But he has no gun, and his hands have been in plain view of the intruder for some time. This series was based on a very good radio program of the same name, which was based on the series of books by Richard and Frances Lockridge. Beware the TV Guide/Genius Entertainment DVD of the show; they replace the main title music with cheesy, newly recorded music that doesn't match the title sequence at all. Only for die-hard fans of the novels, the radio show, or classic TV in general.
Mr. & Mrs. North: Weekend Murder (1952)
The Norths take a weekend getaway in the country but spend the weekend solving a murder.
Mr. & Mrs. North was a great radio program. But perhaps television hadn't developed into a quality medium yet when this, the first episode of its TV run, was broadcast in 1952. Although Richard Denning and Barbara Britton are fine as the title characters, the supporting cast seems to have been culled from the worst community theatres. Rita Johnson as Lily Storm is perhaps the worst; like most amateurs, she never seems to know what to do with her hands. The story is OK: Mr. & Mrs. North leave for a weekend in the country. When they arrive, their hostess seems to have vanished. Only for die-hard fans of the stars, the radio program, or classic TV. If you search for this on DVD, beware the TV Guide/Genius Entertainment copies. They substitute new music over the titles, and it's a poor fit. The same is true for their Dragnet and Sherlock Holmes DVD's. How do you justify dubbing over the Dragnet theme?
The Rifleman: The Sharpshooter (1958)
Lucas and Mark McCain arrive in North Fork, looking to settle there. Lucas enters a shooting contest, but the town big-shot wants him to lose.
A good episode of a great series, including some future (and former) big names. Names like Dennis Hopper, R.G. Armstrong, Leif Erickson from the series High Chaparral, Tony Award-winner Sidney Blackmer, and very busy (though not very famous) character actor Charles Arnt. Perhaps the biggest name of all is series creator and episode writer Sam Peckinpah, director of The Wild Bunch and many other highly regarded films. What brings the Rifleman series above the typical Action/Western series of the time was the relationship between Lucas & son Mark McCain: The respect they had for each other, as well as the elder McCain's attempts to teach his boy how to be a man. This episode doesn't really show that. Like most series, the producers probably developed the show a lot during its first year or so. Yet it's a compelling story, told quickly (in a half-hour). That, plus the great cast of supporters, are what makes this such a good episode.
Dragnet: The Big Phone Call (1952)
Embryonic Dragnet (mild spoiler)
This is a good episode if you're interested in watching how a show develops from its inception, or if you like early TV in general. Typically these early TV shows have poor picture quality, and sometimes poor sound, but if you can get past those issues, these early episodes are a real treat.
The early episodes of Dragnet are quite interesting, though some, like this one, have flaws. The most serious flaw with this episode can be explained quickly, so I'll start there.
I have read elsewhere on the internet that when Actor/Director Jack Webb brought Dragnet to the small screen, he brought along most of the crew from the radio version of the show that had already seen several years of success. Few shows did so when making the leap from microphone to camera for fear that radio people couldn't work in a visual medium. Webb seems to have proved them wrong for the most part, but the failure of this episode stems from the maddening distraction of watching the actors' eyes follow cue cards. Almost all interactive shots are in close-up, and it's clear that the actor on screen is not actually looking at his costar; rather he is reading a cue card, and the producers apparently hoped that, given the perspective of the camera, they could make it appear that the actors were actually interacting. Perhaps given the poor quality of TV reception of the day, viewers wouldn't have been able to see the actors eyes moving back & forth.
Also the acting of the main suspect is, well, suspect.
Now that we've gotten the negatives out of the way, let's talk about what works in the episode. For a show that tried its best to keep "acting" to a minimum, with actors directed to keep voice inflection to a minimum, the first seasons featured some very arty camera work: close-ups of the suspect's hands nervously tapping a pencil on the table before him (the sound of which also appears on the tapes used to incriminate him), intriguing shots taken of the actors through the moving reels of the tapes, and overhead camera angles.
It's not surprising that Webb would show a flair for working behind the camera. On the radio, he was also on the cutting edge, as far as the production of the show went. He demanded the best scripts, and the best sound effects. As much as possible, he wanted the action to happen in the mind of the listener, rather than having a character describe what they see, which created awkward dialog (that's why the Lone Ranger had Tonto... so he wouldn't always be talking out loud to himself, so listeners could follow the action). On the radio Dragnet, I once heard a character walk into his office with the police officers, sit down at his desk, open the desk drawer and remove something, offer a cigarette to the officers, light his own, replace the cigarettes and matches to the drawer, close the drawer, put his feet up on the desk, and take a drag from the cigarette. The only dialog clue was, "Smoke?", "No, thanks" when he offered the cigarette to the officers. I didn't realized until after I had heard it that I had a complete movie going in my mind, and it all came from the sound effects.
The story for this episode is decent enough, and typical of the series of the time. The reason for the crime: a demanding wife who wanted to live beyond the means of the husband's current job... similar motives were occasionally given by confessing wrong-doers on the show during this period.
Compared to TV fare of the era, this episode rates much higher than a 6; but compared to the quality you're used to seeing from Dragnet, it's hard to give it much higher than that.