With "The Lollipop Cover" the grating begins in earnest with the first lines spoken by little Felicity, played by future TV veteran Carol Anne Seflinger. The script is the movie's principal weakness. The writing follows conventions of the time that have not aged well. One convention was to use little children as sources of profound wisdom about life, as in "To Kill a Mockingbird" (1962). Similar sources of wisdom could also be found among patients of mental institutions, for example, "David and Lisa"(1962) and "King of Hearts" (1966). So keep watching for when Ms. Seflinger explains the title. It would have been more interesting if the title had related more to some aspect of Don Gordon's Nick character, but what do I know...?
Another convention encouraged lengthy speechifying. And the more "intense", the more "deeply felt" and "emotional" the speech the better. Nick holds forth feelingly on several occasions to recount the life story of his ex-boxer character, describing things already covered in flashback. Felicity tells her story, too, and with a narrative polish unusual for a nine year old. The other characters in this road picture orate, as well, so much so that by the time the movie gets around to Felicity's alcoholic uncle I might as well have been watching a compilation of monologue-saturated last acts from the 60's era TV series "Route 66". I would have been worn out after all the emoting if any of it has remained even marginally credible after a half century, which it has not.
Interesting to see David White in a small, homosexual role, a role that becomes even smaller as soon as White's monologue leads Nick to conclude that White's "Richard" is indeed a homosexual. By the year of this movie's release White was already ensconced on "Bewitched" as Larry Tate. Maybe White or his agent wanted him to display more of his acting talent after having shown what he could do as sleazy Otis Elwell in "Sweet Smell of Success" (1957)
This lollipop movie was apparently a work of love by Gordon and others, including some Cassavetes people: John Marley ("Faces", 1968) ; the credits also mention a contribution to the effort by "assistant to producer" Seymour Cassel ("Faces", also "The Killing of a Chinese Bookie", 1976). It may have been inspired by "Sundays and Cybele" (1962), an infinitely superior movie that achieves near perfection, and without lollipops as I remember.
Los Angeles County sheriff's detectives played by oater icon Bill Elliott and "Asphalt Jungle"'s Don Haggerty right away believe they know who killed Fred Horner (played in flashback by "Superman"'s Robert Shayne). They zero in on Henry Johnson (Douglas Dick), Horner's neighbor who is also a shakily recovering gambler permanently engaged to Mary Raiken (the beautiful Eleanor Tanin).
But Elliott's Lt. Doyle senses they've jumped to a conclusion - they've missed something. And so the plot changes, even if it doesn't quite "thicken" in an entirely convincing way.
Famous for his work in westerns, Elliott's amiably slow, drawling performance as a cop was something that I found very realistic and believable. I think people in his line of work were probably more like him than SFPD's Frank Bullitt or Harry Callahan. Loved the location shots (presented as West Hollywood and maybe they were), the script not quite so much. Still, I spent a very entertaining 62 minutes watching "Footsteps in the Night." I could not have asked for more than that.
I found myself watching the clock after Emma Stone's first audition scene. The word "insipid" could have been invented with this over-praised movie in mind. If "La La Land" contains any harvestable celluloid --or even Mylar - let it be recycled for ukulele picks at the earliest opportunity.
All of the no-dance dance numbers, the prole-music songs, the mediocre scene-study acting add up to an excellent reason to stick with YouTube, public library DVD collections, and any remaining used book stores. With their many improbable finds, all of the latter are superior ways to find entertainment, intellectual stimulation, or simply the inducement of sleep. Even sitting in a corner doing nothing is a less expensive way to waste two hours and eight minutes. There is better production design and more imaginative cinematography to be found in your average halftime television commercial.
And yet: Six (6) Oscars: Emma Stone (actress); Damien Chazelle (director) as well as cinematography, music, song, and production design. Even more Golden Globes. If La La Land is what it looks like these days to be in contention for a Best Motion Picture award, the end of cinema is upon us.
In "Air Patrol" a thief steals a Fragonard, helicoptering off with it from a Wilshire Boulevard rooftop. Apparently choppers were still exotic and relatively rare for the 1962 audience, during the time between the end of the series "Whirlybirds" and the Alcatraz operation depicted in "Point Blank" (1967).
The thief threatens to destroy the purloined Rococo masterpiece unless a $100,000 "ransom" is paid. The art buyer's secretary is played by Merry Anders, who, in spite of the limited acting demands of her role, is both effective and beautiful in the tradition of Beverly Garland. Robert Dix narrates as he performs in a first-person styling of Jack Webb's Sgt. Joe Friday, only Dix' cop character not only carries a badge but also flies an LAPD helicopter to catch the thief. The cast includes Willard Parker and Dexter regular Russ Bender as detectives, with Parker's Lt. Vern Taylor sharing with us his knowledge of art history.
The final act resembles last acts in "The Third Man"(1949), "He Walked by Night"(1949) and "711 Ocean Drive" (1950). Only here an agile senior citizen leads the cops on a daylight chase through a partially filled Los Angeles River. Douglass Dumbrille gives us an unconventional-looking thief who reminded me of East bloc chieftans Walter Ulbricht or Gomulka in their final days. He seems to inhabit Del Webb's Leisure World, not Jack Webb's police world.
Unlike the virtual house arrest of the action in "Wild on the Beach", "Air Patrol" makes extensive use of location photography, giving us clear, just-made-yesterday looks at Los Angeles at the beginning of the 1960's, with views of the Miracle Mile along Wilshire Boulevard, the Sepulveda Dam, Los Angeles River, Hollywood (101) Freeway, and the Cahuenga Pass.
In spite of the movie's obvious limitations, which include a strange, ill-fitting score, it all kinda works. Weird, but it works. Never let admiration for Ford, Hawks, Welles and others make us forget their fellow auteurs Dexter, Arch Hall, Sr., Ray Dennis Steckler, William Witney, and the recently departed Ted V. Mikels.
They all made movies.
The material was handled in a mercifully oblique manner, but still, I was about to bail on what to me had been nothing more than Warholesque sloppiness – and then, after minute 35, as what might be called the film's second act began, I saw and heard the best matching of music, sound, and image since Hitchcock met Bernard Hermann. In just two and a half minutes, movie music perfection from Beverly Glenn Copeland, and achieved for a tiny fraction of the budget for one of today's banal scores. Rarely has a kid running away from home been presented on screen so effectively.
The movie imagined by Frank Vitale, Allan Moyle, and Stephen Lack fell into place at that point. There have been other movies that feature memorable musical moments, but in, for example, "La Noia" (1962), "Crazy Westerners" (1967), or "Wild on the Beach" (1965), they remain moments only and fail to breathe life into their movies the way Ms. Copeland's score does.
John Sutherland as the boy gives a very believable performance. There appears to have been little scripted dialog. The confrontation between Johnny's father and Frank works well enough to make it possible to forget the scenes where the improv shows too much.
The subject matter, low budget, and art house movie diction and grammar of "Montreal Main" will probably confine its audience to the purest of cinephiles. That is too bad for a film that for all its strangeness I found more involving than much of what floats along the motion picture mainstream.
Those who found "Montreal Main" rewarding may enjoy Charles Burnett's "Killer of Sheep"(1978), or "Adieu Philippine" (1962) directed by Jacques Rozier – if they haven't seen these movies already, of course.
"Multiple SIDosis" may have been inspired by Melies' "L'homme Orchestre" (1900). Whatever. Laverents'creation is the most amusing, energetic celluloid self-cloning between that film and all those Klumps in "The Nutty Professor" (1996). A few decades ago movie theaters would show short subjects before the main feature, and "Multiple SIDosis" would have made a delightful addition to the bill back then. His work has deservedly been added to the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress. If fun is itself an art form, "Multiple SIDosis" is great art.
Laverents is cinema's Simon Rodia and the Melies of home movies.
An obvious comment, but yes, here in this dialog-free film is "pure cinema", a narrative film that aggressively distinguishes itself from word-based art forms of written literature and theater.
The movie revisits in inverted form Hollywood's big problem of the late 1920's, the transition to sound. Back then moguls sorted out who among the silent era stars could succeed with a dialog track (Laurel and Hardy, Ronald Colman, Garbo in a nail-biter) and who could not (Emil Jannings, famously). Here the lead is played by one of cinema's great line-deliverers, Ray Milland, giving an artistically complete performance with no more voice than Lon Chaney had in "Ace of Hearts" (1921). Milland's Dr. Fields worked for me even though his communicative activity is limited to picking up a discarded cigarette wrapper or anxiously staring at a telephone as we join him in counting how many times it rings.
"The Thief" also carves out a single-occupancy niche all its own, consisting of what might be called "pure espionage cinema". Through its wordlessness the film transports the audience into the secretive, hermetic world of the high-stakes nuclear spy. For Dr. Fields every utterance is a potential admission, casual conversation a revelatory trap. Writer-director Russell Rouse, working with Clarence Greene, gave Fields his Miranda warning. Fields by necessity exercises his right to remain silent.
It is another entry in the cinema of "subtraction", a film that forgoes one or more cinematic components expected (and too often demanded) by a viewer. The film joins other subtractive works, such as "La Jetee" (1962), which dispenses with continuous motion for its Mobius-strip narrative, and "Rififi" (1955), whose middle, suspenseful act cuts the music. Then there is "Pulp Fiction" (1994), shuffling the deck of narrative sequence.
The music is as emotionally hammering as anything this side of Alban Berg's "Wozzeck" (an interesting TV movie version appeared in 1972) or Ennio Morricone at his thundering best in "Un Uomo a Meta" (1966). Sam Leavitt's cinematography, combined with the music of Herschel Burke Gilbert, join the audience in Field's torment. Much of the action (and there is a lot) reminded me of "Vertigo" (1958) as James Stewart broodingly trails Kim Novak, with the images on screen acting as commentary on the score.
Maybe "The Thief" is not for everyone. Hard to tell. Those who found the last seven minutes of Antonioni's "The Eclipse" (1962) completely appropriate and understandable will likely hold "The Thief" in high regard. On the other hand, this is probably not the movie for viewers who feel the need to ask after a half hour, "Why isn't anyone talking?"
Predictable comedy faithfully sticking to the innocent-guy-gets-mixed-up-with-bad-guys formula. The story rattles right along as rival gangs work on Cowl's character, Martin, a hospital nurse sought for what he heard a wounded gangster reveal in a delirium.
The premise is a reliable source of laughs – just ask Bob Hope. Cowl graciously repeats the film's title at key points in the story (i.e., the beginning and the end) for those who may have arrived at the theater late. And lest any of the funny bits in this movie get lost on the audience, music is always there with appropriate punctuation.
After having seen a few of Cowl's performances ("Jaloux Comme un Tigre", "Les Combinards", "En Effeuillant la Marguerite"), I found this one of his better efforts. His Martin comes across as a diverting blend of Cantinflas and Arnold Stang. Interesting to see Fernand Sardou as one of the bad guy chiefs, a role he effectively plays for laughs after his memorable turn as one of the grim poker playing hoods in the opening scene of "Rififi" (1955).
Born Aaron Payne, he explains the name change as he episodically accounts for his life as gay man, prostitute, aspiring entertainer. On film Holliday's life story is more patter than coherent narrative, an entertaining collection of riffs edited by Ms. Clarke. The result is not far removed from a standup routine by Holliday's contemporary Lenny Bruce, already dead a year before the movie's release date. Keeping the camera on one guy alone for nearly two hours may tear a page or two from some movie-making rule book. And yet, although "Portrait of Jason" verges on the avant garde, I experienced the film as something primordial, with Jason's life story as ancient as the Satyricon of Petronius, as familiar as the biography of Lazarillo de Tomes.
"Portrait of Jason" is more than a lesson in literary history. The film manages to show the audience a life, a real person, an amusing character. If some especially talented actors can indeed hold audience interest even when reading the phone book, Holliday proved that he can keep us interested after Shirley Clarke merely(!) rolls twelve hours of film and sound on him. Holliday had been there all along, really. As Ms. Clarke's arresting (and, I imagine, often arrested) subject, he seems to have been shooting and simultaneously watching his own self-created movie long before Ms. Clarke trained her lens and microphone on him.
I had never heard of this movie before I decided to take a look the other night. I found myself laughing at the guy's stories before the ten minute mark. I saw the movie again to be sure I hadn't been as drunk watching as Holliday was talking. Again I laughed and laughed some more.
My only objection on the second go-round was the off-camera baiting that took place toward the end of the film. If Holliday needed prodding to continue with his monologue as fatigue and inebriation evidently increased, that sort of thing is best left on the cutting room floor. At least this documentary film seems to have had its own fourth wall that belonged intact.
Still, you have to admire the gifted filmmaker who let us behold a man exercising his God-given right to take a Holliday from Payne!
Laurent Terzieff as Stan was apparently stuck with the role of the movie's go-to guy for inchoate forays into masochism and mild lesbianism. Elisabeth Wiener tries her best as his sub rosa subject, and Bernard Fresson is the mercenary, arty, and ultimately, chumpy husband.
For a director with Clouzot's reputation for cruelty to actors, the movie's theme of dominance and submission is disturbing but unsurprising. Where everyone else seemed to sense freedom in the 60's, Clouzot seems to have believed there was interesting darkness on the flip side.
Maybe he was not entirely wrong, but a film so conceived was not this one. Nothing is developed to the extent promised or necessary. The able cast cannot deliver more of a movie than Clouzot had designed. The dream sequence is little more than a post production doodle whose visual effects, unable to carry Clouzot's stillborn thematic material, merely look dated. Corman's 1967 "The Trip" played a similar game with greater success. The American's more modest goal of selling tickets seems to have had a better result than the aging French master's muddled quest for great cinema.
"Ladybug Ladybug" was released when memories of the 1962 Cuban missile crisis were still fresh. The occasion for the film's action is a false but credible alert received by a school that the bombs are on their way, i.e., the sort of warning the fictional authorities in "Dr. Strangelove" (1964) were comically unable to deliver. The film is another Eleanor and Frank Perry collaboration, following their success with "David and Lisa" the previous year.
The final act of that film, featuring some remarkable street-level photography, gives a preview of the cinematic style adopted here – with a camera at times hand- or shoulder-held, in motion at key moments, capturing some great shots in the pre-steadicam era. The Perrys seem to have filmed at a real elementary school, with many of the child performers nonprofessionals selected as "real people". We get a look at a rustic Main Street America that has disappeared, fortunately because of time and economics, not hydrogen bombs.
Some scenes look a bit stagy. There is preaching, too, but the sermons are justified. It's hard to argue with a plea against nuclear annihilation.
For a movie with such an obviously low budget I found myself buying the ticket sold by the Perrys. William Daniels as the school principal and Nancy Marchand one of the teachers didn't hurt. Viewers will also get to see Estelle Parsons playing the mother of one of the students, in what appears to be her first role on the big screen.
"Ladybug Ladybug", a movie I had never heard of until yesterday, deserves a place on the shelf with "Dr. Strangelove", "Panic in the Year Zero!" (1962), "Fail Safe" (1964), "On the Beach"(1959), "The Day After" (1983), and "Thirteen Days" (2000). Viewers may sense a stylistic affinity with Morris Engle and Ruth Orkin's "Lovers and Lollipops" (1956). The Perrys' work with children, interacting among themselves and with adults, reminded me of "Forbidden Games" (1952), directed by Rene Clement.
A strong recommendation for this movie. Quite a find.
The movie consists of a series of bits involving a man who believes his wife is unfaithful and who tries to do something about it. The cast takes numerous uncomedic stabs at making silly faces, standing on their heads, running around. Perhaps more undercranking in places would have helped. Benny Hill did this sort of thing so much better and consistently so.
There is something about comedy of the going-for-laughs variety that results in failure if the actors seem to be working for those laughs. To me this was sometimes a problem with Jerry Lewis or the Ritz Brothers. Darry Cowl and the cast here try way too hard to be funny. The result is, well, trying.
Then there is the music. The hoped-for riotous farce presented by Cowl and Co. arrives on screen with underlining provided by one of the more irritating music tracks in the long history of bad movie music, consisting of a poorly recorded Hammond (or similar) organ playing little "funny" riffs. The effect was similar to watching a Jack LaLanne home exercise television show from the 50's...except LaLanne's exercise music was more competently composed and appropriate.
Did the title in any way justify the content of the movie? Let's just say "Jaloux Comme un Tigre" is not exactly up to Bunuel's "El!" (1951). Even the film's wafer-thin premise gets in the way of its mindless procession of disconnected segments, consisting of a tennis match, a soiree allowing Cowl to don a number of "funny" disguises, and an unhilarious session at a deliberately mislabeled photography studio, to name but a few.
I wish I could offer further details on the story, but after eighteen hours it has been a heavy lift remembering just those leaden vignettes.
The only other thing I remember is not having laughed at anything in this movie.