I’ve been enjoying my weeks, lately. Busy, but still full of my nerdy escapes. And shocked though I was, I got a chance to see Coriolanus at the West End Cinema. I like that little place. I wish I was more into video games. I’ve been looking at all kinds of Mass Effect images and thinking about how cool it seems. But, knowing my game playing (not to mention current system limitations), it would not be worth my while to try getting into it. Maybe I’ll read some of the novels.
The Trans-Atlantic Mystery: Creeper Donald Meek is back to investigate more nefarious deeds. Jewel thieves, double crossers, and cold blooded murderers. I don’t know what the weird doctor would do if there weren’t evil in the world. He’d probably do some of his own. What’s weird about this one is how long it takes for the doctor and his cop buddy to show up; more than half the runtime of this short.
Wild Boys of the Road: The movie starts at a ‘Sophomore Frolic,’ which they did not have when I went to high school, let me tell you. Our wild boys are with some pretty wild girls, and up to some pretty wild business. But the Depression, man. These boys have to face the grim reality of parents being out of work, and the world spitting in their eye. Then they hop a train and head out into the wide world to find their fortune. They find all kinds of crime and corruption, and then brutal violence and death. Things get ugly on the road and on the tracks. Another movie that shows the problems of today aren’t much different than the problems of yesterday.
Wild Bill: Hollywood Maverick: It feels like William Wellman is a lost great. He was a driving force behind some really great movies. At least as colorful as the characters he put on film, he was a crazy and brash worker. This documentary has an amazing line-up of interview subjects and covers his life with a dramatic flare, helped by narrator Alec Baldwin. These kind of larger than life folks are the stuff of legendary America. Some kind of quintessential, mythological essence of life taken on with two fists. Like a good documentary, it makes me want to know more. And like a good one about film, it makes me really hungry to watch a bunch of movies. I found the home movies of Wellman especially effecting.
The Men Who Made Movies: William Wellman: This documentary goes over much of the same material as Wild Bill: Hollywood Maverick, but from different angles. One of the coolest things about it is the use of actual Wellman interview footage. Obviously quite the character, hearing him tell his stories is extremely charming.
Isle of the Dead: Another striking Val Lewton produced horror film. This time we’re in Greece, and Boris Karloff is a cruel but somewhat tragic military man stuck on a plague infested island where his wife was buried. Is it the plague? Or is someone on the island an evil spirit? An interesting study in paranoia, superstition, duty, and dignity.
Dark of the Sun: Rod Taylor leads a band of mercenaries through hostile territory to rescue some people and reclaim some diamonds. In the face of brutality and horror, Taylor and Jim Brown are stoic forces of order. The plot travels in many strange directions, culminating in a crazy fight. Broken and dangerous men in a broken and dangerous land. The movie goes through some dark stuff. Good though.
God’s Gun: The great thing about Spagetti westerns is that even when everyone speaks English, they’re horribly dubbed. Even when they have moderate actors, the acting sucks. The music is terrible and everything looks crappy. I’ve got NO idea what Jack Palance was going for. Villain or no, his mannerisms seem more in keeping with an old time silent comedian. Lee Van Cleef is double the awesome, though.
Vanilla Sky: An interesting meditation on loss, love, and idealized youth seen through the eyes of a wealthy media scion. Tom Cruise is good as the guy who has it all, then looses it to a jilted crazy woman. The cast is solid (even the normally unbearable Cruz), the visuals interesting, and the music atmospheric. Though I’ve heard many people complain that the movie was hard to understand, I think if you’ve got even the most rudimentary understanding of science fiction film, or have ever watched an episode of The Twilight Zone (or similar show), you shouldn’t have a hard time following along at home. Granted, you also have to pay attention, so maybe that’s the issue. It may not go on my list of best, but this is a worthy movie in the ‘what is reality?’ subgenre.
Smiley’s People: I found this follow-up to Tinker Taylor Soldier Spy to be far more engaging. Alec Guinness still plays it about as cool and detached as possible, but I think his more active involvement in the happenings helps. Plus, the location shooting gives it far more credibility. There’s something about continental Europe in the late 70s and early 80s, some depressing magic that takes me back with a twisted sort of nostalgia to the constant fear and paranoia of the Cold War. What can I say, I grew up in the shadow of the Iron Curtain (psychologically) and so it reminds me of my youth. Overall, I found this second series much more satisfying. It’s too bad they were not able to make the second book in the semi-trilogy involving Smiley and his hunt for his elusive opposite on the other side.
Coriolanus: The Beast Fiennes, covered in the gore and grime of fallen foes, spews hate at the mindless and easily swayed masses. His disgust at the hoard mentality of the common man, fueled by fear and complacency is infectious. The cast is awesome, and Fiennes loves to keep everyone in uncomfortable close-up. He revels in everyone’s wrinkles, blemishes, and sweaty, hide-stretched bone structure. Visceral in the extreme, this is Shakespeare’s Modern Combat. And another reminder that when you have an ultra-loyal, ultra-competent killer devoted to you, don’t betray him. It’s just asking for trouble.
Hannie Caulder: Yikes. Three degenerates (Strother Martin, Ernest Borgnine, and professional creep Jack Elam) plunder, murder, and rape their way through the wild west. But they make a big mistake when they leave one victim (Raquel Welch) alive. Then, in walks Robert Culp and his beard, who introduces her to Christopher Lee and his beard. Welch is a knockout in this movie, and it’s one of her better performances (not really saying much). There is some pretty bloody violence, as well as an extremely disturbing (though thankfully not graphic) sexual assault. The final credit music is shockingly bad, though. Not sure what’s up with that. A good western, revenge film.
Frankenstein Conquers the World: A slow radiated kid turns into a giant (still slow) monster and wanders around doing stuff while scientists waffle about trying to figure out what to talk about maybe doing sometime. Then a giant demon dog with a glowing horn shows up to eat chickens. This is Japanese.
Tarzan and His Mate: Oh, my. Maureen O’Sullivan is really something in this one. Sure, the nude swimming scene is a body double/stunt woman. But even so, O’Sullivan’s Jane is a super-charged, uninhibited sexual creature. Tarzan remains little more than a grunting animal; a sort of embodiment of nature Jane has not only embraced, but mastered. When folks from civilization show up with some dresses and make-up, trying to lull her back, Jane will have none of it, having freed herself from the chains of polite society. And her loincloth get-up is nothing short of genius.
Tarzan Finds a Son: As the title says, Tarzan (and Jane) find an orphan boy and adopt him. Growing up in the jungle is dangerous, but fun for the trouble seeking little kid. When some more interfering white people show up and cause a rumble in the jungle, Tarzan is less than amused. This movie uses elements of Tarzan’s background from the books and places them on the adopted Boy. Jane’s costume is a heck of a lot more conservative by this film. Too bad. And if these movies have taught me anything, it’s that if you even look at water, crocks will dive in and start chasing you. There’s also a scene with chimps riding elephants. Bam.
Bedlam: Boris Karloff stars in another interesting more psychological horror from producer Val Lewton. This time, he plays a cruel and conniving doctor at the titular asylum. When a young woman calls him and his wealthy cronies, on their casual villainy, the bad doctor works to commit her. Karloff is like the foundation of a good film. If you give him good material, you can build something great on his shoulders.
I watched some Tomorrow People this week. Man, that show is crazy. 70s England mixed with really weird science fiction. Telepathic kids. Shifting paintings of alien worlds. Teleportation. And a new Tomorrow Person joins the group. This story arc is all about the blue and the green.
And to cap off the week, I showed Ben a couple episodes of the original Star Trek, ‘The Cage’ and ‘Where No Man Has Gone Before.’ I’m figuring on giving him a crash course in the best or the original series. I miss the mad bastardry of that era’s science fiction, rarely captured in this era.
I got some reading done this past week, which was nice. Started off with a surprisingly not terrible comic about Burroughs’ Mars, and then ended off the week with two books from my new favorite Norwegian (seriously, what’s up with Norway producing so much awesome lately?). Check out the reviews here.