Thanks to everyone who participated in the “MOVIES THAT HAVEN’T AGED WELL BLOGATHON”! We received some excellent entries from bloggers who took a second look at movies they had previously enjoyed and now found them wanting. Here’s a recap of the entries:
Don’t forget that there’s still time to sign up for our “SEE YOU IN THE ‘FALL’ BLOGATHON”! If you have a favorite TV scene, film scene, or complete movie involving physical comedy, honor it in the blogathon from Sept. 20-23, 2015. Click on the banner below for more information and to sign up!
I’m afraid I just can’t resist star power. This week’s movie features Steve McQueen in an early role.
Inexplicably, the movie is titled The Great St. Louis Bank Robbery in all of its advertising, even though the movie’s credits insist that the title is simply The St. Louis Bank Robbery. My guess is that the movie couldn’t conjure up enough attention or business with its original title, so they added the word Great to make it sound more prestigious. (In any case, once you view the movie, you’ll see that the word “great” is quite the misnomer in this instance.)
McQueen plays George, a college drop-out. (The movie makes this character trait explicit by having George walk around in his former letterman’s jacket throughout the movie’s first half.) George is coerced by his ex-girlfriend’s brother Gino into being the getaway driver for a bank heist that is being planned by the head of Gino’s gang. Along the way, there’s bad dialogue and acting, a smattering of homoeroticism, and an obnoxious pseudo-pop background song that would have been better used on “Sesame Street.”
The movie was based on an actual 1953 St. Louis bank robbery. The film’s makers made much of the fact that many of the police officers and local citizens who were involved in the robbery reenacted their parts in the movie. (This explains some of the amateurish acting in the movie’s climax but not the rest of the film.)
(Useless trivia: According to the Internet Movie Database, this movie has recently been remade with an updated story and re-titled American Heist, starring Adrien Brody and Star Wars’ Hayden Christiansen. It was to have been released this past July but has yet to see the light of an American movie screen.)
Just a few notes for my six-score-and-three faithful followers:
I can’t resist promoting my new blog that promotes my new Live Tweet on Twitter. I have just begun doing a Live Tweet at Twitter.com on Saturdays at 12 noon EST. Each week is devoted to one or two B-movie gangster films where you can join the Tweet and comment on the movie while it’s playing. The Twitter page for the group is at https://twitter.com/BMovieBoss. (If you follow along on the movie, use the hashtag #GangstersAllHere.) If you want to keep updated on the movie of the week, visit the blog at http://thegangstersallhere.wordpress.com. (You can also find our movie update at the sidebar on the right-hand side of this blog, as you can see.)
Only two days left for the “Movies That Haven’t Aged Well” Blogathon! The blogathon is wide open until Aug. 31, and we’ve already received some terrific entries. If you’ve found that you loved a movie when you were younger, only to revisit it and find that it wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be, write about it on your blog, and link it to our blogathon here.
If you have a favorite scene or movie of physical comedy from TV or the movies, don’t forget to ring in the season of autumn by joining our “See You in the ‘Fall'” Blogathon! Click here to learn more about and sign up for the blogathon, which runs Sept. 20-23.
My continued thanks to all of the readers and followers of this blog. For about 45 years, I’ve been soaking up movies and wondering what I’d ever do with all of my “knowledge.” This has been a very fun way to share it!
I make it a point never to gawk at car wrecks while I’m driving. But I was recently fascinated by the cinematic equivalent of one. It’s an absorbing documentary titled Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau. (I learned about this movie thanks to Noah Redfield’s contribution to the blog Pop Chomp, which I hereby happily acknowledge.) You don’t have to know anything about Richard Stanley or have seen the infamous Marlon Brando movie of Moreau (Sorry, I plead guilty on both counts) to appreciate this tale of a big-budget movie gone haywire.
The story is that Stanley (above) initially made a name for himself as the director of two independent movies, the apocalyptic Hardware (1990) and the supernatural horror film Dust Devil (1992). Stanley is then hired by New Line Cinema, then a mini-major studio making a name for itself, to realize his dream of filming a full-on adaptation of H.G. Wells’ novel The Island of Dr. Moreau.
But from the start, forces conspire against Stanley to thwart the production. New Line thinks it has pulled a coup by getting Marlon Brando to star, but when Brando’s young daughter commits suicide shortly before production begins, he remains incommunicado from the movie for a long time to come. A hurricane comes to the Australian island where the movie is to be filmed and sweeps away most of the set. But Stanley’s biggest obstacle is a psychological one. Val Kilmer, a then-white-hot star who is the movie’s supporting actor, balks at Stanley’s every direction and runs roughshod over the cast and crew.
When it’s clear that Stanley can’t handle this big-budget movie, New Line unceremoniously removes him from the set and replaces him with veteran director John Frankenheimer (The Manchurian Candidate), whose main interest is in working with the legendary Brando. But when Brando shows up “in character” wearing gauze and kabuki make-up and he proceeds to dictate one crazy script idea after another, it’s clear that nobody will be able to guide this train back onto the track.
Unlike the misguided Moreau movie, Lost Soul director David Gregory offers a clear-headed entertaining story of what went wrong. The movie gallops along at a terrific clip, aided by footage from the movie and from cast members taken on the set, as well as interviews with New Line executives, Richard Stanley, and Moreau actors Rob Morrow, Marco Hofschneider, and Fairuza Balk.
As Redfield points out in his blog, there really are no longer any flop movies; between theatrical release, DVD, cable, and Netflix, every movie now creeps into the black sooner or later. But even as recently as 1996, a bloated, big-budget mess such as The Island of Dr. Moreau could be branded a failure just for quadrupling its original budget and sacrificing its original vision (What tentpole movie doesn’t these days?). If anything, Lost Soul proves that they just don’t make bad movies like they used to.
Now that I’ve had a taste of Live Tweeting to old movies, I’m thoroughly addicted. So starting this Saturday, Aug. 29, I’m going to host a weekly Live Tweet on Twitter.com. It’s titled The Gangsters All Here and will be devoted to the kinds of gangster movies that only Ed Wood would have been proud to write and direct.
To keep things simple for this Twitter debut, I’m going with a 1959 movie that’s generically titled Gangster Story. However, you’ll quickly find that it’s anything but routine. Its star and director is none other than Walter Matthau — yes, that Walter Matthau — who reportedly took the directing-acting gig on a dare. Based on the evidence of the final film, it’s a good thing nobody ever dared Matthau to jump off a cliff.
Matthau plays a down-on-his-luck escaped criminal who pulls off a bank heist when he’s desperate for money. The strange thing is how easily he pulls off a bank job that’s so elementary, he makes Woody Allen in Take the Money and Run look like a Mafioso.
The oddities don’t end there. Matthau cast his real-life wife, Carol Bruce, as a shy librarian who inexplicably falls for Matthau when he makes small talk with her in the library one day while trying to escape some hoods who are after him. And the movie’s pseudo-swanky theme song is written by Leonard Barr, whom TV viewers of a certain age (mine, sadly) will remember as a very abrasive comedian who often guested on “The Dean Martin Show” (primarily because he was Martin’s cousin).
Anyway, if you’d like to join the gang(sters) this Saturday, join me at my Twitter page, @MovieMovieBlogB at 12 noon EST. I will provide a link for you to watch the movie online for free via YouTube. If you want to comment about the movie at any point during its viewing, just use the hashtag #GangstersAllHere. I look forward to seeing you there!
Movie comedy is generally not noted for being “cinematic,” since it usually centers on particular personalities and doesn’t allow for what Charlie Chaplin once called “Hollywood chi-chi.” But from the so-called Golden Age of Film Comedy, there is probably no comedian with greater disdain for movie nicety than W.C. Fields.
While most of Fields’ movies are quite leisurely in the matters of exposition and plotline, there are two blatant examples where Fields seems to have just thrown things together moments before the camera turned. One is his final starring feature film, Never Give a Sucker an Even Break (1941), an intermittently funny but disjointed mess that my online writer-friend John Brennan aptly refers to as “The Bank Dick a few drinks later.” The other example is Fields’ first talkie, the short subject The Golf Specialist.
Much has been made of Fields’ celebrated golf routine in this movie, as it derives from a 1918 sketch that Fields wrote and performed for the Ziegfield Follies titled “An Episode on the Links.” Show-biz blogger Trav S.Dgoes so far as to state that the sketch, whose text was printed in Simon Louvish’s Fields biography, “proves to be the basis of the film almost in its entirety.” But that’s true only for the short subject’s second half. The movie’s first section that leads up to the golf sketch is so rambling and catch-as-catch-can, one could go so far as to claim that it’s Fields’ own Un Chien Andalou.
The movie begins with a quick opening title, followed by stock footage of a slow, slogging pan across the estate of a Florida hotel, as mournful music plays on the soundtrack. This is followed by a singularly weird establishing sequence in the hotel’s lobby.
A woman loudly complains to a man that she has been ignoring him, and she sits him down and sits on his lap to keep him put. Then the hotel’s house detective enters. The woman turns out to be the detective’s wife with a well-established reputation of, er, getting around. The detective grabs the man, while the woman nonchalantly hollers “Help, murder,” over and over, as though she had been getting assaulted against her will. Finally, the detective disposes of the man by — I can’t believe I’m writing this — wrapping the man’s legs around his shoulders and rolling him out of the lobby.
I don’t think this was in the original Ziegfield Follies script.
The detective tells his wife not to let any more men get fresh with her (because, of course, she had nothing to do with it). The woman tries to make time with the lobby clerk and with a social group gathered in the lobby, but nobody wants to have anything to do with her. (One member of the group is inexplicably bandaged on the forehead and cheek, as though there’s some explanation of this to come, but there isn’t.)
Maybe he got beaten up when he asked for an explanation of the script.
Then a seafaring-looking guy wanders into the lobby and asks for J. Effingham Bellweather (Fields’ character). The clerk replies that Bellweather is out, and the guy asks the clerk to write Bellweather a note on his behalf. The guy then assertively dictates what he will do to Bellweather if he’s not paid the $40 that Bellweather owes him. Two seconds after the guy exits left out of the hotel, Fields enters right. Real observant guy, this seafarer.
Fields asks if he has any messages, and the clerk gives Fields the aforementioned note. Fields reads it, discreetly looks around to ensure that nobody will catch him in the ensuing lie, tears up the note, and says, “Silly little girl,” as the clerk rolls his eyes.
A very loud female toddler enters holding a bank box, tells Fields she’s five years old, and asks Fields if she’ll give him a dollar. Uncharacteristically generously, Fields says she’ll give her a dollar if she’ll sing a song for him. The girl replies that she wants the dollar first. Fields says, “You’re more than five, scram!” The girl tells him she doesn’t need the dollar as she already has $50 in her bank. Fields shows his true colors when he tries to steal the bank, but the girl wails whenever he grabs at it.
An old acquaintance comes up to the hotel desk and asks Fields what he’s up to. He replies, “I’m negotiating for a bank.” While Fields makes small talk with the man, the girl tells Fields over and over to lift her up by her hair. Fields doesn’t realize that the detective’s wife has reappeared next to him, and he is now fondling the wife’s fur that’s over her shoulder. Naturally, this doesn’t sit to well with the detective, who stares at Fields wide-eyed as he sheepishly walks away. Bet he’ll give the girl the dollar next time.
The detective leaves, and the woman goes to make time with Fields, telling him that her husband might have hit her if he hadn’t been there. By way of showing his sensitivity, Fields tells the woman, “Why, I’ve never struck a woman in my whole life, not even my own mother!”
It is at about this point that Fields invites the detective’s wife to join him on the course as he goes out for a game of golf. And in keeping with the ramshackle construction of this short, it is at this point I will end my review, stating only two things in conclusion: (1) Fields manages to make not shooting one single golf shot one of the funniest events ever recorded. (2) If you’re looking for a Fieldsian drinking game, take a drink every time Fields says some variation of the line, “Stand clear and keep your eye on the ball!”
This post is dedicated to Fritzi at the blog Movies Silently, who recently announced her Swashathon!, a blogathon taking place on Nov. 7-9, 2015 that is devoted to swashbuckling movies past and present. Click on the above banner to find out more about the ‘thon and how to enter it!
As Fritzi’s blogathon is devoted to movies released up to only 1970, I thought I’d share my review of a delightful swashbuckler from the 1990’s.
These days, when filmmakers do ironic takes on old movies, you get the feeling they’re serving up spoofs because they don’t have the energy or nerve to do the real thing. But The Mask of Zorro is sincere about updating the old Saturday-matinee hero and, happily, does a darned good job of it.
At first, the storyline makes you fear the worst. The original Zorro (Anthony Hopkins), having been stripped of his wife and daughter by his evil adversary (Stuart Wilson, looking and acting like Mel Brooks on a tear), pulls a “Lethal Weapon” and decides he’s too old for this stuff. Twenty years later, Zorro Sr. recruits a down-on-his-luck bandito (Antonio Banderas) to revive the black-mask-superhero franchise.
But as this is a Steven Spielberg production, what The Mask of Zorro is really about is the art of filmmaking, and it shows what some imaginative people (director Martin Campbell among them) can do with a movie camera. There are some old-fashioned stunts and physical comedy that are carried off just about perfectly herre. And usually, these shoot-the-works movies peter out just before the end credits, but this one has the most satisfying adventure-movie wrap-up I’ve seen in a long time.
I wouldn’t have guessed that Hopkins (as Zorro?!) or Banderas had this in them, but they play the most outrageous situations with perfectly straight faces, and it seems to invigorate them. (My only complaint with this gloriously fun movie is the unconvincing youthful look given to Hopkins at the movie’s start. I guess the filmmakers’ love of old-movie conventions extends to bad hair-dye jobs.)
And Banderas and Catherine Zeta-Jones, as the love interest, might just have you swooning with delight (especially with a beaut of a sight gag in which Zeta-Jones is undressed by Banderas in a most unique way).
It’s hard to say how modern-day movie viewers jaded by toy soldiers and destructo-epics will respond to swashbucklers who are presented without a trace of irony. But The Mask of Zorro proves that heroes can still be served up straight, if it’s done with some wit and panache.
Autumn is only a month away, and with that comes our SEE YOU IN THE ‘FALL’ BLOGATHON! Have you decided which physical-comedy scene or movie you’re going to immortalize in blog history? Pick your favorite now, and let us know your choice! Click here for more information, and hurry up…time’s a-wastin’!
Join us on Twitter.com on Sun., Aug. 23, and tweet along with us as we watch — for free, online — two splendid film-noir movies: The Shanghai Gesture (1941), starring Gene Tierney and Victor Mature, and Behind Green Lights (1946), starring Carole Landis and William Gargan. Hosted by your good blogs Movie Movie Blog Blog and BNoirDetour. Click here for more information. B Noir or be square!