Silent Sunday – A Blonde For A Night (1928)

Since Sunday tends to be a day of quiet and reflection for many people, it seems an appropriate day to celebrate silent movies. But in keeping with the “day of rest” theme, I’m just going to post this without any commentary and just sit back and let you enjoy.

Saturday Double Feature: Godard Mon Amour (2018) and…

Another Saturday means another Saturday Double Feature!

Okay, let’s start with a quick recap of the “rules”, shall we? The basic idea here is to take a movie that is out in theaters now, and pair it up with another movie from the 1980s or before. Sometimes the connection will be obvious, and sometimes it’ll be a little less so, but that’s part of the fun.

Usually for this feature I like to look at the bigger movies that come out in a particular week, either the blockbusters or the ones that are getting a lot of buzz. This week, however, I thought I’d feature one of the smaller movies that should be getting more attention than it is. Especially since, unfortunately, this week’s major release line-up just doesn’t look to be that promising.

Godard Mon Amour was a festival darling in 2017, but it’s just getting a wider release this weekend. It is the story of film critic turned director Jean-Luc Godard at a pivotal point in his life.His marriage to his first wife Anna Karina had just ended and he was beginning a new relationship with a student activist, Anne Wiazemsky, who would become his new muse and lover. The film is a comedic look at their relationship and at a man trying to figure out where he wants to go with his art.

So in looking for a double feature for Godard Mon Amour I wanted to stick with out 1968 theme for this month, and actually, Godard had two films released in that year. The first was A Film Like Any Other, but the second, far more interesting film was Sympathy for the Devil, in which Godard filmed the making of the Rolling Stones song and then contrasted and interspersed the studio footage with shots depicting the cultural climate of the time

Among the scenes featured in the film are shots of the Black Panthers both reading from tracts and committing various acts of violence, a scene which takes place in a Nazi bookstore, an appearance by the aforementioned Anne Wiazemsky as Eve Democracy, and other short bits that provide a commentary and contrast to what is happening with the Stones themselves, including the dissolution of Brian Jones.

Here’s a peek:

So what do you think? What would you choose for a double feature with Godard Mon Amour? Leave your thoughts in the comments, along with ideas of any other upcoming movies you’d like to see “double featured”. Consider it, if you will, your chance to challenge me to come up with an interesting pair.

Until next time, Happy Viewing!

Throwback Thursday -Once Upon A Time In The West (1968)

Between this blog and my previous one, Professor Damian’s Public Domain Treasure Chest, I’ve been writing about movies for quite a while now. Because of that, there are a lot of posts that have simply gotten lost to the mists of time. So, I figured I’d use the idea of “Throwback Thursday” to spotlight some of those older posts, re-presenting them pretty much exactly as they first appeared except for updating links where necessary or possible, and doing just a bit of re-formatting to help them fit better into the style of this blog. Hope you enjoy these looks back. 

Another look back at another S&S Top 250 movie from 1968.

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Top 250 Tuesday: #078 – Once Upon A Time In The West (1968)

Continuing to wend my way through the Sight and Sound Top 250 Greatest Movies of All Time. This week, it’s #144 on the list, Sergio Leone‘s Once Upon a Time in the West. For a longer introduction and a look at the full list, just click here. And if you want a heads-up on what I’ll be watching for next week in case you want to watch along, just head on over to the Facebook page or follow me on Twitter (both of those links are in the sidebar) where I’ll be posting that info later in the day.

Once upon a time, Italy’s greatest director of spaghetti westerns teamed up with one of the all-time greatest composers of music for film scores and an all-star cast in an effort to create the best movie ever in that genre.

They succeeded.

The end.

I’m actually tempted to leave my comments on this film right there, because really Sergio Leone’s masterpiece Once Upon a Time in the West is one of those movies that is hard to write about without sounding like one is simply gushing superlatives. Still, I feel like I owe you guys a bit more than that, so let’s see what I can do.

There are times when I approach these movies in the top 250 wondering what it is about them that has put them on this list. Sometimes, as the film develops it becomes fairly obvious. Other times, for instance with The Conversation, it’s not until the very end that I understand the power of the movie or the skills on display. There are even even times when I simply make no connection with the movie at all or have a negative reaction that I’m still left wondering at the end just what it is that so many people love about a film.

That’s definitely not a problem that I had with this one. From the opening moments of the film it’s obvious that we are dealing with a director who is at the top of his game and is bringing everything that he has learned in his previous outings to the film, and thereby getting the most not only out of the performers we see onscreen, but from all of his behind the camera associates as well, especially cinematographer Tonino Delli Colli, with whom he had also worked on The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. The beginning also serves to put the audience on notice that they are in for a different experience with this movie than with any of the director’s previous outings.

The film begins in media res, with no explanation of who the characters are that we are seeing, or why they are there, and it is only through later flashbacks and exposition that we really gain insight into what we are seeing, and the significance of the events that follow, and this is actually a technique that Leone uses to great effect throughout the movie as characters weave in and out of the film, some of them seemingly only tangentially relating to the ongoing narrative until later they become much more significant. Indeed, instead of using the opening to explain the characters or the setting, Leone instead uses a number of long (some would probably say slow) takes to create a sense of atmosphere, of dread and foreboding, that sets the entire mood of the film.

That’s not to say that this is a dark movie. Far from it. It’s actually quite a bright film with an incredibly saturated color palate. However even the brightness, especially when it’s coming from the outdoor sun, carries with it a sense of the ever-pervasive and inescapable heat that also at times seems to be a character in this film. It also, perhaps helps to explain why the title of the movie focuses the viewer’s attention on its setting in the “west”, rather than its characters as the previous film’s title did.

So does that mean that the characters get short shrift here? No, far from it. Again, it is to Leone’s credit that he not only gives his individual characters time to develop, time to breathe and become living beings that we care about, but also to develop their own individual quirks and moments that make them more than just performers hitting their marks and saying their lines, but real characters who you know have past lives (some of which we again become aware of as the film progresses, some of which are only hinted at) that inform each performance and which the actors for the most part use to enhance their interpretations of these people.

Of course, it also doesn’t hurt that Leone is working with a pretty incredible cast here. The choice to feature Henry Fonda, for instance as lead “bad guy” Frank not only provides immediate interest for the audience, bringing as it does all of the memories and expectations that we have from seeing Fonda in the exact opposite of this role, but also gives Fonda himself extra motivation to show that he can stretch, that he can actually be as vile and nasty as the character calls for him to be, and it is something that he pulls off very well. And the rest of the cast, from Charles Bronson‘s “Harmonica” on down all seem to realize that they are truly in something that is special, and they all bring, to use the cliche, their “A game” to elevate this film from what could have been a fairly typical outing to something that is truly spectacular.

And perhaps, in the end, that really is the key here. I tried to indicate at the beginning of this post that this movie really is a truly collaborative effort, one that really does live up to that probably overly used cliche about the whole being greater than the sum of its parts, but really, when the parts are individually as great as these, and when they are being brought together by a master craftsman such as Leone, it’s probably inevitable that what is going to wind up on the screen is going to be one of the best films ever.

Plus, let’s face it: don’t all of the best stories begin with the phrase “Once upon a time…”?

So what are your thoughts on Once Upon a Time in the West? Is it a movie that you’ve seen or would like to? If you have seen it, is it one that would make your own Top 10 list? Or would it not even crack your Top 250? Let me know below.


Hope you enjoyed this blast from the past.

Quickie Review – Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle (2017)

After pretty much dismissing Dwayne Jonson’s latest action flick Rampage out of hand in this weekend’s Saturday Double Feature, (and though I still haven’t seen it, from what I’ve read and heard about it so far that doesn’t seem to be an unreasonable response), I thought it only fair to give at least a little time to a recent film of his that I really did like, last year’s Jumaanji: Welcome To The Jungle.

Okay, full disclosure here, I have never actually seen the original Robin Williams-staring Jumanji. It was one of those that I missed upon its initial release and have just never gone back to check out. So I don’t have any kind of feelings of nostalgia coming into this one.

Fortunately, Welcome To The Jungle doesn’t require any knowledge of the prior film. Instead it dives right in with an update from the original’s board game to this version’s video game.

When I wrote about Rampage I talked about the fact that often someone like the rock can carry a movie through personality alone, even if the movie itself is not all that good, and there is no denying that Johnson’s charisma is at full force throughout the film. Nor is he alone, for the entire cast shines and is obviously having a great time with their roles, especially Jack Black who gets to play himself as if possessed by a self-absorbed high school girl.

The good news is that the movie is not completely reliant upon the skills of its leads, as the plot and adventure are also absorbing enough to make this an entertaining afternoon or evening viewing. Yeah, in the end it’s basically just a goofy romp, but it’s fun goofy, and that’s all it really needs to be.

OTR Tuesday – The Saint (1947-1951)

The short intro: For those who are unfamiliar with the concept, Old Time Radio is the phrase generally used to refer to the time when radio was (mostly) live, and was full of a variety of different shows, as opposed to simply being a means for record labels to use robots to promote the top records of the day. OTR  Tuesday is my chance to explore some of those old radio shows, their connections (both old and new) to movies, and hopefully to encourage some of the rest of you to take a look at a probably unfamiliar source of entertainment that I truly love. If you want more info on OTR, and some examples of the variety of shows that were made, be sure to check out this introductory post.

One more look back at Vincent Price on the radio as we revisit an earlier post concerning Mr. Pice’s appearance as The Saint in the classic radio show. This was first posted in 2013 and has been updated with new links to the episodes.

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Those who have been following this blog for any length of time will know that I have a special affinity for Mr. Vincent Price. Known today mostly as a horror film icon, Mr. Price was every bit a renaissance man who was involved in an incredible number of ventures, both on- and off- screen. One of his lesser-known ventures, I feel sure is his charming portrayal of Leslie Charteris‘s character Simon Templar, also known as “The Saint”, who Price portrayed on a weekly radio show for four years, from 1947 to 1951.

The Saint, as noted, was the creation of pulp novelist Leslie Charteris who wrote a long-running series of books starring the character beginning in 1928. The lead character in the stories, Simon Templar, is described in the opening of the radio show – and elsewhere – as “The Robin Hood of Modern Crime” as he was basically a thief who would target other crooks, evil politicians, gangsters, and other “ungodly” characters, bringing them down or retrieving stolen goods, then, after extracting a ten percent “tithe” (after all, a man like Templar did have a certain lifestyle to uphold) either returning what he got to its rightful owner, contributing it to a worthy charity, or splitting it among those who worked for him.

As far as Templar’s nickname goes, whenever he would finish a caper, he would leave a calling card or other drawing, depicting a stick figure with a halo above its head, as seen in the drawing at the right. This, combined with the character’s initials (S.T. = St = saint), led to him being known as “The Saint”.

The character had many incarnations over the years, expanding from the pulp stories to comics, films, television shows, and, of course, the radio. There were actually a number of different radio incarnations of The Saint, the first actually appearing on Ireland’s Radio Eireann division Radio Athlone in 1940. In America, the character first appeared, interestingly, on two different networks in 1945. On the NBC network, the character was portrayed by Edgar Barrier, while Brian Aherne filled the role for CBS.

The longest running radio incarnation of the character on the radio, however, was the portrayal by – yep, you guessed it -Vincent Price. As noted above, this particular series ran for five years, and was actually, over the course of those years, carried at various times over three different networks as it moved from NBC to Mutual to CBS.

As always, Price brought his unmistakable voice, charm, and charisma to the show, and no matter how lacking the plots and writing might be at times (let’s face it, in a weekly show that lasted that long, there are going to be some clunkers), he always elevated the material simply by his presence.

After Mr. Price left the show, it did carry on for awhile, with Tom Conway in the lead, but that version only lasted a few months.

There were, as noted, other radio incarnations of the character, and he was also brought to life on television in various series, most famously, of course, in the long-running series which starred Roger Moore (yes, the same Roger Moore who would go on to portray James Bond). As recently as 1997, Val Kilmer starred in a film take on the character, however, that may be a case of the less said about it, the better.

Anyway, for now, once again I invite you to sit back and travel back with me to a time when radio was the king, and enjoy listening to the adventures of The Saint.

 

 

Say “Cheese” 012 – The Train Killer (1984)

This past Christmas my son got me a Mill Creek box set called Awesomely Cheesy Movies. 100 movies on 24 disks, it’s actually a combination of two of their earlier released sets, “The Swinging Seventies”, and “The Excellent Eighties”.

For those of you who may not be familiar with these Mill Creek sets, they are generally comprised of  public domain or made-for-television movies that are reproduced without embellishment, enhancement, or extras and are sold in large collections for very low prices. This means that the quality on them can be quite variable, and they often show signs of age and wear. Nonetheless, there are often hidden gems amongst what can be large swaths of dross.

Anyway, I’ve decided to wend my way through this collection, starting with the first movie on the first disk of the 70s collection, then the first movie in the 80s set, then back to the 70s, and so on, and see just what turns up. If nothing else, it should be interesting. Come along, won’t you?

You could be forgiven if, from the title of this film you thought it was about a mysterious killer loose on a train. That’s nt the case, however. Instead, The Train Killer is the story of a Hungarian saboteur blowing up train lines and trying to sabotage the railway in the early 1930s. He was literally trying to be a train killer!

Based on the true story of Szilveszter Matuska, The Train Killer plays out less as a mystery/thriller (though there is that aspect of it) than as a psychological portrait of a man who feels compelled to carry out what he considers to be a mission from God, and yet is still willing to let himself be used by political force who want to take advantage of his disaster-creating proclivities.

Michael Sarazin portrays Matsuuka as a driven man, sure of his purpose even as other try to (pardon me) derail him, and as the police and military forces close in around him. He also does a good job of showing the madness of the saboteur which seems to grow with each passing day.

As always with this kind of “based on a true story”movie, there is quite a lot of divergence from the actual facts of the case, but when taken as a simple low-key thriller as opposed to any kind of narrative documentary, it is generally effective, and far from the worst film we’ve encountered so far in this box.

Here’s your trailer:

 

Up Next: The Swinging 70s  Disk 2 Movie 3: Wacky Taxi– Gomez Addams