You Really Shouldn’t Be Here – Get Out (2017)

Get Out is one of those movies that I heard quite a bit about last year, but just never got around to seeing, something I’ve thankfully now remedied.

Coming from first time writer and director Jordan Peele, previously best known for the comedy sketch show Key and Peele,, a horror movie like Get Out may seem an odd step, but Peele says he thinks that comedy, which is all about reveals and taking things to unexpected places was actually a good training round for moving into horror.

Get Out is also a reflection of ideas that have always been of concern to Peele such as race relations and the experience of being black in America today.

There is an obvious Stepford Wives influence to Get Out, not only in its basic premise, but also in the way it comments upon the current tensions between the races in the country and issues such as racial profiling just as Stepford was a reaction to and reflection of the tension between sexes brought on by the feminist movement of the time.

More than that, however, Peele never forgets that the main purpose of his movie is to entertain, and that it does extremely well. Along with the scares and tension of which there is plenty, there are also moments of humor, both of the laugh-out-loud variety and those that are quite subtle. It’s also is an incredibly well constructed movie, from the script level up, with early moments that resonate more forcefully as the movie progresses and we begin to clue in on just what is going on.

Get Out has received a number of accolades since its release, including four Academy Award nominations, and they are all well deserved. If you’re looking for a film that will get under your skin and give you reason to think about what is going on, not just in the film itself but in the world at large, it is definitely a movie for you.

Here’s your trailer:

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Throwback Thursday -Old Time Radio: Bold Venture

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. 

Before I started Throwback Thursday here, the Thursday feature was devoted to Old Time Radio, another of my favorite forms of entertainment, and a genre that unfortunately has died out, at least here in the U.S, though it does thrive in Britain and other countries to this day. Plus, there would often be a film ir Hollywood tie-in, as in today’s reprinted feature. So enjoy, and hey, if you’re interested in seeing a return of some kind of regular OTR feature, let me know.

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 Old Time Radio Thursdays – #005: Bold Venture (1951-1952)

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. Old Time Radio Thursdays 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.

Bold Venture! Adventure! Intrigue! Mystery! Romance! Starring Humphrey Bogart! And Lauren Bacall! Together in the sultry setting of tropical Havana and the mysterious islands of the Caribbean. Bold Venture! Once again, the magic names of Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall bring you Bold Venture and a tale of mystery and intrigue…

51-04-10-Storz-Beer-spot-adHumphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall together on the radio? In a weekly dramatic adventure show? Set in the Caribbean? Yep, that’s exactly what Bold Venture promised, and that’s exactly what it delivered.

1951 had to have been a busy year for one of Hollywood’s most popular couples. Bacall was pregnant with the couple’s second child, and they would soon be off to “deepest darkest Africa” where Bogie would be filming his Academy Award winning turn as Charlie Allnut in The African Queen. Nonetheless, the couple managed to record 30 episodes of the radio show before their departure, and supposedly another 48 upon their return.

Bold Venture is the story of Slate Shannon (Bogart), who runs a hotel and fishing boat rental service in Havana and his “ward”/sidekick/possible love interest Gail “Sailor” Duval (Bacall) as they scrape and scrap their way through stories involving everything from spies to lost love. The setting obviously was designed explicitly for the couple, as “Shannon’s Place” might just as well be “Rick’s Cafe” from Casablanca, and the fishing boat set-up is obviously a combination of To Have and Have Not and Key Largo.

1-bold-ventureIn reality, however, the show probably could have been set almost anywhere, because the real draw for listeners, and the real appeal, is obviously the interaction between the two stars, and in that aspect the show definitely doesn’t disappoint. The natural chemistry between the two shines through, even when the scripts are on the weak side or when the plot becomes somewhat muddled. This is definitely a show where the leads were able to bring even a mediocre script – and there were, unfortunately, more than one of those, though when the writing shines, it really does shine – to a much higher level. Which is exactly what one would expect from stars of this calibre and level of intimacy.

Speaking of stars, special note also has to go out to supporting actor Jester Hairston who played “King” Moses on the show. If Bogart was reprising Rick Blaine, then King was his Sam, and one of the more intriguing aspects of the show was that after the first commercial break, King would provide the listener with an up-to-this-point plot summary in the form of a calypso verse, which was an interesting way to play up the Cuban setting even when the script really didn’t otherwise call for or allow much reference to the island nation.

One thing that you may have noticed earlier when I noted the number of episodes recorded before and after the shooting of The African Queen is that I said “supposedly another 48 upon their return”. Bold Venture is what was known as a syndicated series, meaning that rather than going out live, the episodes would be recorded before hand and then sent out (usually on lacquer disks) to the local stations who would then slot them into their schedules with local sponsors buying individual spots. Unfortunately, this has led to some confusion over just how many episodes were actually produced, the sequence they were aired in, the dates they would have originally aired, and even the titles given to the episodes. This is unfortunately the case with many radio shows of the period, especially since the disks themselves were often supposed to be destroyed after their broadcast – remember, this was a time when there was no secondary market for these programs, and there was no value seen in the shows beyond their initial broadcast.

Humphrey-Bogart-Lauren-Bacall-1This has led to the unfortunate situation where many of these early radio shows are simply lost to our generation, and many of the ones that do survive exist only in the form of recordings made of the actual on-air broadcasts by enthusiasts who would set up tape machines to capture their favorite shows. Also it means that those trying to research these shows often have to piece together snippets of information or advertisements from various newspapers or magazines in order to try to make some sense of exactly which shows do still exist and other information about them.

In the specific case of Bold Venture, the syndicator’s records indicate that a total of 78 shows were recorded, but of those only 57 have been verified to still exist and are “in circulation” – meaning they are available to collectors and/or listeners. There may very well be more recordings out there, but if so, they are either in the hands of private collectors or may even simply be sitting on a shelf without the owner even realizing the treasure they have.

This is, of course, yet another thing that these old radio shows have in common with early films and television shows.

Anyway, we fortunately do have those 57 shows available to listen to, and the full collection of them can be found here.

And now, once again, I invite you to sit back, close your eyes, and let the magic of Bogart, Bacall, and Old Time Radio take you on your own Bold Venture.

As always, I hope you’ve enjoyed this little trip into radio’s past, and today’s focus on Bold Venture. Next week? Well, next week we’ll take a look at one of Hollywood’s most notable horror icons as he steps into a much more… “saintly” role.

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Hope you enjoyed this blast from the past.

Say “Cheese” 008 – A Minor Miracle (1983)

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?

On, man, we’re back into the realm of seventh-generation VHS transfers with this almost unwatchable Mill Creek entry.

There was a time when Pele was one of the hottest sports stars in the world, and that popularity has to be the only reason for the existence of A Minor Miracle.

Young Catholic priest Father Reilly wants to go to New England to teach at a parochial school. He is assigned, however, to help at a San Diego orphanage where an older priest has been running things for years.

Father Cardenas (played by elder film statesman John Huston) has been at the orpanage for so long that it has become as much his home as it is one for the boys in his charge, and though he knows he is likely soon to die and suspects that the younger man has been sent there solely to help out until he is gone at which point the church will foster out the boys and sell the property, he is determined to do all that he can to keep the facility going and to provide for the boys.

There are also unscrupulous real estate developers who have their eye on the land and who have a city councilman in their back pocket. Also, the building itself is in bad need of repairs and the church has refused to allocate any money for the purpose.

Thus, Father Cardenas comes up with a desperate last-minute scheme. You see, he used to be a missionary in Brazil, and was instrumental in Pele’s early education. Thus, he feels he has a special connection to the soccer player, and writes a letter asking him to come to San Diego and put on a soccer clinic at an exhibition match between the boys of the orphanage and the team from an elite private high school.

Unfortunately, the letter gets lost in the mail and Pele is a no-show, putting the school in even further danger as the city, which agreed to promote the clinic and Pele’s appearance is considering fraud charges against the orphanage.

Oh, and it turns out Father Cardenas is dying of cancer.

While not a bad movie, A Minor Miracle is one of those heart-string tuggers that unfortunately all-too often passes for family fare. It diligently ticks all of the necessary boxes, including a training montage featuring Pele and the kids from the orphanage.

Sorry, no enbeddable trailer for this one, but if you’ve any interest at all in watching the movie, here’s the full thing on YouTube, in a quality that’s actually better than the version found on the Mill Creek disk:

Up Next: The Swinging 70s  Disk 2 Movie 1: Crypt of the Living Dead – Let’s crown a new vampire queen!

When The Reporter Becomes The Story – The Mean Season (1985)

I was having a chat the other day with a friend of mine. It started as a discussion of the new Tom Hanks/Meryl Streep film The Post., but soon moved to other movies about newspapers and reporters. That was when my friend, who used to be a reporter himself, brought up a movie that I hadn’t thought of since I first saw it in theaters years ago. The movie? Well, if you’ve read the title, which I rather assume you have, you already know it’s 1985’s The Mean Season.

As I mentioned above, I hadn’t seen the movie in years, and what memory I had of it was that it was only a so-so movie. However, based on his enthusiastic endorsement, I decided maybe it was time to give it a revisit.

The Mean Season stars Kurt Russell as Miami Herald reporter Malcolm Anderson, who is feeling burned out after having had to deal with one negative story too many.. Now he has a hankering to move to a smaller town with his girlfriend Christine (Mariel Hemingway).

Before he can leave, however, he is given one last assignment by his editor who is played by the often underrated Richard Masur. A woman has been found dead, and Malcolm is given the story.

Complications arise when Malcolm receives a phone call from a man claiming to be the killer. Moreover, he states not only that he will kill again, but that he wants Malcolm to be his conduit, his way of telling his story to the world. He wants Malcolm to make him famous.

What follows is an interesting exploration of the relationship between Malcolm and the killer. Even though he is disgusted by the man and initially wants no more to do with him, as the killings and phone calls continue, Malcolm becomes both more intrigued by his unknown caller and more obsessed with stopping him.

Meanwhile, the killer is beginning to get upset with Malcolm because the reporter seems to be getting more press than he is.

A cat and mouse game arises as the killer seeks to make the relationship more personal by threatening Christine.

Like the best thrillers, The Mean Season is about something more than just the adventure and the back-and-forth between the reporter an the killer. It expands its scope to question the relationship of the media to the people they are covering and the responsibility of a reporter not just to his paper but to the police and to society at large.

This question is made even more intriguing because throughout the movie Christine is begging Malcolm to let go of the case, to just move away with her as they had planned, and to leave the task of finding the killer to the police, at one point going so far as to state that she feels Malcolm’s relationship with the killer means more to him than theirs.

(Just a side note here. I find Mariel Hemingway something of a conundrum. At one point she was considered one of the most beautiful and intriguing women in film, even being cast as Playmate of the Year Dorothy Stratton in Star 80. She also became quite infamous for her turn as a bisexual track an field star in Personal Best. Yet while she is undeniably lovely, to me she is simply much too tomboyish to be that much of a sex symbol.Anyway, I digress.)

Malcolm, meanwhile, feels that since he is the only one the killer will talk to, it is his responsibility to track him down, and that if he leaves with the job undone then any further murders will be on his head as well.

As a straight up thriller, The Mean Season works fairly well, with an interesting twist towards the end that while somewhat telegraphed, still keeps things exciting. However, it’s on its deeper level and the outer themes it explores where the movie really makes headlines.

Want a trailer? Here ya go.

It’s Not Her Shadow She Keeps Seeing, It’s Her Killer – Happy Death Day (2017)

I’m not sure what it was exactly that caught my attention during the trailer for Happy Death Day,  but something in the Groundhog Day/Scream mashup was just appealing enough that when I saw that it had hit Redbox i decided to snatch it up.

Maybe it was the concept? The idea of a college girl who is killed at the end of her day and then awakens to the same day over and over until she can find her killer and stop them may not be the most original, but it certainly provides an interesting framework.

Perhaps it was the lead character. I don’t remember seeing Jessica Rothe in anything before, but she seemed charming enough in the trailer that I was instantly drawn to her.

Whatever the reason, I’m glad that I decided to give it a chance

Happy Death Day opens with Rothe’s character Theresa “Tree” Gelbman waking up in the dorm room of fellow classmate Carter Davis after a drunken binge that she can barely remember. We then follow her through her day (which just happens to be her birthday) seeing that she is your typical Mean Girls type sorority sister. Eventually, we get to the evening, where, while on her way to a party, she is lured into a tunnel and killed by a hooded figure wearing the mask of the school mascot.

This is not the end of Tree’s story, however, as she immediately wakes up back in Carter’s dorm room on the morning of her birthday. Immediately feeling a sense of deja vu, Tree once again goes through the same day – with slight variations this time due to her odd feelings that she knows how things are going to play out. This time, however, when she approaches the tunnel, she decides to avoid it, instead taking a different route to the party. However, soon after she arrives and hooks up with her boyfriend, she is once again killed.

Then she wakes up once again in Carter’s dorm room on her birthday.

Lather, rinse, repeat dying. .

One of the things that I really like about Happy Death Day is that Tree is not an idiot. She picks up pretty much from the start that something is going on, and it doesn’t take her long to understand the situation and that she needs to figure out who is killing her and stop them.

Tree also undergoes a transformation during this process, coming to understand not just what is going on, but those around her and eventually herself. At the first I use the word “charming” to describe Rothe, and it’s that charm that makes Tree not just an interesting, but ultimately a sympathetic character, something that one would not expect from the way that she is introduced and her attitudes at the beginning. The role also gives Rothe a chance to stretch her legs moving from comedic to dramatic to actioner all in the same film.

Happy Death Day has enough twists to keep the suspense going until the end, and also makes the most of its Groundhog Day premise to give a number of characters their moment and builds well upon small things seen the first time around, giving them more import as the movie goes along.

In the end, Happy Death Day is well worth seeing. And then seeing again.

Lather, rinse, repeat watching.

Here’s your trailer:

Saturday Double Feature: Fifty Shades Freed (2018) and…

Hey, it’s Saturday, and, as always, that means it’s time for the 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.

For some reason, I suppose the big opener this weekend is going to be Fifty Shades Freed, the presumably (and hopefully) final movie in the Fifty Shades of Grey franchise. Now don’t misunderstand, it’s not the subject matter that I am opposed to. Not at all. Instead it’s the complete lack of chemistry between the leads and the complete lack of any real sexiness in a series that is selling itself on sex.

So even though I’d probably not, in actuality, be featuring any of the Fifty Shades movies in my own theater programming, still, the franchise is popular, and it does provide an opportunity to look at interesting films with which to pair it for a double feature.

There is one movie that stands out as everything that the Fifty Shades series wants to be but fails to manage, and that is the 1975 film The Story of O. In it, Corinne Clery stars as a young woman known only as “O”, a fashion model who is taken by her lover to a chateau in the outskirts of France where she is indoctrinated in the ways of sexuality and submission.

Personally I suspect there’s more sensuality in that short trailer than you’ll find in the entirety if this week’s release.

So what do you think? What would you choose for a double feature with Fifty Shades Freed? 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!