Wednesday, December 7, 2016

THE TRAVELLING PLAYERS (1975, GREECE), THE STEPFORD WIVES (1975)

1975

The Travelling Players
Theodoros Angelopoulos's 1988 film, Landscape in the Mist, is a very distinctive film that I thought was excellent. Landscape moves at a deliberate pace, makes limited but effective use of music and features slow, methodical camera movements.


Going back to Angelopoulos's 1975 film The Travelling Players, a lot of these same techniques in Mist are employed for the older film and there is a lot of good here. I can even see why some call the film a masterpiece! However, at almost four hours, The Travelling Players gets to be a little bit tiresome and I found it at times paced too slowly to hold my interest many times. Also, the timelines of the scenes where the players reside in seem to bounce back and forth between 1939 and 1952 a great deal and gets to be a bit confusing. One critic said that The Travelling Players is an easier film to admire than to love. I would have to agree.



The Stepford Wives
A Stepford Wife, meaning a perfected domesticated suburban housewife, has become a standard reference in our culture even if you've never read Ira Levin's book of the same name or viewed the original 1975 film adaptation. But since I was feeling pretty 1975ie today, I decided to view the original movie since I've never seen it. After watching it, I really thought it was better than I expected. The plot that has the wives of this suburban Utopia slowly becoming model homemakers had overtones of other movies I've seen (Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Westworld and Levin's own Rosemary's Baby) and didn't offer too many surprises, but the Levin/William Goldman screenplay was very smart and the movie doesn't pull its punches too soon. It's also nice to see Katherine Ross in a starring role this time out...And it's definitely better than the remake.
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During 1975, I kept a movie scrapbook of newspaper ads because I thought that was what every twelve-year old did...Well, not really. But anyway, I still have it and within its pages (now turning brown) I have listed some non-1001 essential movies which I have seen anyway accompanied here by pictures of the actual ads from my old notebook.



The Apple Dumpling Gang

For chicanery, skullduggery, tom foolery and habitual bungling! was a Disney tagline if there ever was one. I did see this Tim Conway/Don Knotts vehicle when it came out and I did like it all those years ago…but I confess to have no desire to revisit it.


The Strongest Man in the World

I certainly saw all of the Disney/Kurt Russell/Joe Flynn/ Medfield High comedies back in the day. I’m pretty sure this was the last in the series. The ad says, “A secret formula explodes…POOF!…Instant Muscle…Instant Fun!” Same plot as The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes only with brawn instead of brains..


Breakout


Tough, serious and mean looking Charles Bronson seemed born to be an action star. He did some memorable supporting work during the 60’s in The Dirty Dozen, The Great Escape and had a great staring role in Once Upon a Time in the West. The only problem with his starring roles from the 70’s is that most of them weren’t very good. But you can’t fault him for lack of volume as he seemed to crank out an action movie every other week during the mid-seventies! For Breakout, I still remember the TV ad for this proclaiming, BRONSON! BREAKOUT! BEAUTIFUL! The print ad before me has a large red nosed Bronson surrounded by drawings of explosions, helicopters, airplanes and people climbing ropes. The pictures of the cast at the bottom of the ad include little blurbs.

CHARLES BRONSON: The hit man of “Death Wish”
ROBERT DUVALL: the brains behind “The Godfather”
JILL IRELAND: Has a proposition for escape
RANDY QUAID: the law breaking sailor from “The Last Detail”
JOHN HUSTON: the big boss of “Chinatown”
SHERREE NORTH: has a sure way to distract prison guards!

My favorite of these blurbs is obviously Ms. North and her ability to distract the prison guards. I guess she lures them away with her homemade chocolate brownie recipe! 

Bug

Bug is a film by the self-proclaimed master of horror, William Castle. I enthusiastically went to see this movie the week it came out. From what I remember, Bradford Dillman was a science teacher who unearthed some deadly firebugs who create havoc and eventually achieve the ability to spell, which if I remember correctly, was a much scarier scene than you might think by that description. The ad has a screaming woman holding a telephone that has a recently ignited bug resting on it and boasts the tagline, “The Picture to See With Your Eyes Closed!”

The clever ad also advises you to check your car, neck, hair and bed after leaving the theater. (I didn’t do all that after I left the theater, but I always was a rebel.)


French Connection II


The French Connection II does have some admirers, as evidenced by the busy ad of positive reviews pictured above. The French Connection is also one of the first movies I recall to have a sequel with just the original title followed by simply the number 2 (or pretentious Roman numeral II) that I can remember. I honestly don't remember much about FC2 and it certainly lives in the shadow of the original classic.


The Happy Hooker 

Another infamous sex movie of the 70’s, The Happy Hooker is based on the memoirs of a prostitute Xaveria Hollander, who became a bit of a celebrity during the 70's through her books and these films. I did read her original book, but I assure you it was all in the name of research. The ad, which features just a picture of a shapely leg with a hundred dollar bill in a G-string screams Lynn Redgrave is a Delight!...Risqué Fun. There were sequels of sorts which I probably watched on late night cable, including one starring my personal heartthrob Joey Heatherton in The Happy Hooker Goes to Washington


Love and Death


First Woody Allen movie I ever saw at the theater (Emory Cinema, a movie house that tragically died in a fire in 1978) and is still one of my favorites in the Allen canon. This nice, big ad includes the memorable picture of Woody in the countryside with Death.

Mitchell

The ad above is not for the Joe Don vehicle Mitchell, but from the Joe Don Baker vehicle Framed...But these mid-70's Joe Don Baker flicks were mostly the same, weren't they? I actually watched Mitchell as part of a memorable episode of Mystery Science Theater. Word has it that Joe Don wasn't overly pleased about being spoofed.


Night Moves

This quirky little mystery adventure film seems to have achieved a bit of a cult status over the years. I only saw it in recent years and it features a nice role for Gene Hackman and a very, very young Melanie Griffith. There is also a scene when Night Moves takes a verbal shot at art films when the Gene Hackman character compares watching an Eric Rohmer film (My Night at Mauds?) to watching paint dry. I still haven't got around to seeing My Night at Mauds yet, so I don't have an opinion on whether or not this assessment is correct.

The Other Side of the Mountain

Basically a mid-70’s version of something that would have been written by Nicholas Sparks if he had been around then. 

The ad claims that… 

It takes a rare and special movie to each week attract larger audiences than in each preceding week!

The above description really isn’t exciting enough for me. Just say instead that-Mountain gets bigger and bigger every week and there aint’ no stoppin’ this behemoth! ...or something to that effect.

The Return of the Pink Panther


Nice ad featuring a giant shadowed Inspector Clouseau looking through a magnifying glass at the actual cartoon Pink Panther. I remember being excited when this movie came out and still think it’s the best of all the Peter Sellers/Blake Edwards Panther films.


The Prisoner of Second Avenue 

Prisoner of Second Avenue was a pretty funny Neil Simon play which I saw on TV a couple of years after 1975 and on stage a couple of years after that with Sid Caesar in the title role. The above ad is actually the monthly installment of Cablevision news, which was basically the 1975 version of Netflix. The difference between Dekalb Cablevision and your modern day Netflix (as you see below) is that we only had five new movies to choose from plus two encore movies. This was preceded by Key Cinema, which had about four movies per month. Plus, we also had to watch them only on the specific times they were shown. Oh, what a hard life we had in the 70's!





Shampoo



The ad from Shampoo was a simple picture of hairdresser Warren Beatty holding a comb against the head of Gloria Hawn as Hawn and Julie Christie stare blankly into the camera. Understated and effective as ads go. I'm a little surprised this one was left out of the 1001 movie book. Details on the making of this film and others from this period are detailed in Peter Biskind's excellent book, Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the Sex-drugs-and Rock 'n' Roll Generation Changed Hollywood.



Tommy

The Ken Russell film based on The Who’s rock opera would definitely be on my 1001 list, though it isn’t on any of the 1001 actual lists. The cast pictures wrapped around this ad features Ann-Margaret as the Mother, Roger Daltrey as Tommy, Eric Clapton as the Preacher, Keith Moon as Uncle Ernie, Oliver Reed as The Lover, Elton John as the Pinball Wizard, John Entwistle as Himself and Tina Turner as the Acid Queen. Interestingly, there is no side picture of Who frontman Pete Townsend. Go figure.



The Man with the Golden Gun

The first James Bond movie I ever saw was indeed the above listed feature of The Man With the Golden Gun and Live and Let Die. Some Bond fans don't care for Roger Moore's whimsical take on 007, but since he's the Bond I grew up going to see in the theater the next ten years, I'm good with him in the role. Of course, there's still only one Sean Connery.

Once is Not Enough

This theatrical soap opera based on the Jacqueline Susann novel spawned perhaps the silliest of all the movie ads that feature the pictures of the cast/characters at the bottom of the ad with a little blurb at the bottom. They are worth repeating in full.

Kirk Douglas as “The husband for sale-bought for $3 million!”

Brenda Vaccaro as “The high-fashion editor with low desires!”

David Janssen as “The novelist who couldn’t live the fantasies he wrote about”

Deborah Raffin as January “The daughter-a virgin eager to make up for lost time”

George Hamilton as “The playboy-the swinging set’s most wanted ‘escort’”

Melina Meccouri as the lady with “Untold wealth, untold marriages-her real love”

Gary Conway as “The Astronaut, but we know by the description that he is “a hero-but to his wife-something else.”

The ad’s tagline in bold print reads, JACQUELINE SUSANN’S BOLD BEST SELLER THAT EXPLORED ALL THE AVENUES AND DARKEST ALLEYS OF LOVE AMONG THE INTERNATIONAL SET!

I can’t say I miss this type of theatrical soap opera on the big screen, but I do miss the ads for them.




Race With the Devil


This is one of those movies that I remember seeing when it came out (In 1975, of course) and haven't seen since. However, I do seem to still have strong memories about what it was about. Two couples (Peter Fonda & Lara Parker and Warren Oates & Loretta Swit) go vacationing in a Winnebago when they witness a group of Satanists performing a virgin sacrifice. The Satanists spot the couples witnessing the crime and spend most of the movie chasing them down. The two couples try to tell the authorities, but everyone seems to be against them and they have no idea who they can trust. At one point, they are at a roadblock where there is a school bus accident and Peter Fonda yells out, "A school bus on a Sunday! I don't think so!" After this proclamation, Fonda wheels the Winnebago around at breakneck speed! The Satanists kill Lara Parker's little dog and put a snake in the Winnebago at different times. Loretta Swit also steals a library reference book in the film's most controversial scene (At least to a librarian). The Satanists do catch up to them at the end. In retrospect, the film seems like sort of a combination of The Exorcist and Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

Lara Parker is also know for playing a wicked witch in the 60's gothic soap opera, Dark Shadows. I met her at DragonCon in Atlanta a couple of years ago and she signed this picture of Race With the Devil 
for me below.




The Reincarnation of Peter Proud

“1975 will be the year of The Reincarnation of Peter Proud,” said Tower Ticker of the Chicago Tribune. Well, not quite. It was the year of Jaws, actually. It did mark the first movie in which I ever saw a woman topless in a movie (Gotta love Margot Kidder and Cornelia Sharpe!) so it does mark a personal historical cinematic landmark,

Other films I remember seeing in the past that came out in 1975, include

Crazy Mama
, (the one with Cloris Leachman. Not to be confused with Bloody Mama with Shelley Winters or Big Bad Mama with Angie Dickinson),

W. W. and the Dixie Dance Kings (I couldn't go through a 1975 film list without mentioning at least one Burt Reynolds movie), 

Scenes From a Marriage 
(Ingmar Bergman's long Swedish mini-series got a theatrical release in a shorter form during 1975), 

The Passenger
, (Michelangelo Antonioni's Italian drama which has one of the greatest final scenes in film history in my opinion), 

Inserts 
(a film that got an X rating, but thought it was a pretty tame movie to get an X when I actually saw it), 

The Yakuza (American/Japanese crime drama that was pretty good for action fans and fans of Robert Mitchum), 

Smile (An underrated cult film about the behind the scenes goings on at a beauty pageant), 

A Boy and His Dog
 (apocalyptic sci-fi film based on a Harlan Ellison story), 

The Sunshine Boys (The more prominent Neil Simon release of 1975 featuring the team of George Burns and Walter Matthau), 


The Sensuous Nurse (One simply doesn't get much sexier than Ursula Andress as The Sensuous Nurse!)


Ursula Andress tries on scrubs
in The Sensuous Nurse...
I'm missing 1975 already...

Monday, November 28, 2016

GIANT (1956)

MORE 1001 MOVIES FROM THE 50's
(Post 10 of 10)



I've always thought this was to the 50's  what Gone With the Wind was to the 30's. A truly epic American tale of Texas, oil, ranchers and featuring the star trio of Elizabeth Taylor (Leslie Benedict), Rock Hudson (Bick Benedict) and James Dean (Jett Rink). My favorite part of the film (I'm sure this is covered in Edna Ferber's book as well) is the evolution of rich cattle rancher Bick Benedict from clearly being a racist at the beginning of the film to becoming by the film's final scene a staunch defender of his Mexican grandchild...I can hear The Yellow Rose of Texas playing in the background now.

And the Elisha Cook Jr. supporting player award goes to..Chill Wills

Chill Wills as Uncle Bawley in Giant
In Giant, Chill plays Uncle Bawley, the sort of patriarch of the Benedict family, who seems to spend a lot of time keeping the others out of trouble. He does have one of the best lines in the movie, observing the newfound wealth of Jett Rink, "Bick, you should have shot that fella a long time ago. Now he's too rich to kill."

The long career of Chill Wills as a supporting actor was usually in supporting roles in Westerns, often with his friend John Wayne. He received an Academy Award nomination for his supporting role in The Alamo. The first movies I remember him from were his voice-overs in The Francis the Talking Mule movie series, the forerunner of Mr. Ed.  Chill's signing skills were put to good use in a few films and he made some records as well. If you are so inclined, go to Youtube and take a look at Chill doing the song Mama, possibly the most depressing ditty I've ever heard.

Chill about to warble Mama

Friday, November 25, 2016

THE BIG SKY (1952)

MORE 1001 MOVIES FROM THE 50's
(Post 9 of 10) 


The Big Sky is a pretty good Howard Hawks film about a group of fur traders (featuring Kirk Douglas as a scalawag, roustabout, tag along to the group) attempting to deal with Indians and other ruthless business competitors. It's a nice adventure scene with some beautiful black and white photography, though I'm not sure I would have included this one on the list. One question I have is why is this film so hard to find? I had to get an old VHS copy from inter library-loan because it wasn't available (that I could see) on DVD or Blu-Ray or on any online service that I had access to. Just wondering.

And the Elisha Cook Jr. supporting player award goes to..Arthur Hunnicutt
Arthur Hunnicutt had one that special something that a lot of character actors of the Hollywood Golden Age with long careers seemed to have going for them: Look like a old man even when you're fairly young. It's odd that the grizzled old trapper/narrator from The Big Sky was only in his early 40's when this movie was made. This persona served Hunnicutt well as he played it in many Westerns beginning in the 40's and going through the 60's. The part I will always best remember Hunnicutt is as a recently deceased hunter who goes to tries to find his way to heaven with his trusty hound dog in an episode from The Twilight Zone. which features one of my all-time favorite lines, "A man, well, he'll walk right into hell with both eyes open. But even the Devil can't fool a dog!" The funny thing is, before I looked it up, I remembered Hunnicutt as saying this line, which is incorrect. He has it said to him. Damn.  


Dewey Martin, Arhur Hunnicutt and Kirk Doglas in The Big Sky

Additional note: It's interesting sometimes to look up who the particular reviewers were that chose certain movies for the 1001 book. This one was chosen by Edward Buscombe, a critic who has written articles about genre in films and books on Western films. Clearly he is partial to add films from his favorite genre! He also contributed the blurbs for the 1001 book on Stagecoach and The Searchers, which are certainly no-brainers for inclusion...but clearly went outside the box in the addition of The Big Sky. If I were adding another Kirk Douglas Western, I would have put in Lonely Are the Brave...But that’s me. I do like that the list doesn't always stick to just the obvious choices all the time.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

A STAR IS BORN (1954)

MORE 1001 MOVIES FROM THE 50's
(Post 8 of 10) 


The middle one of the three major versions of A Star is Born. I'm a little surprised that this one was chosen over the 1937 original, but A Star is Born '54 does have a lot more flashy dance numbers than the original and is certainly a must for Judy Garland fans. One problem for me is that it doesn't seem like Judy and co-star James Mason have very much chemistry. I almost feel like Mason accidentally wandered over to the A Star is Born set from a different movie. But I still like the film overall and it's certainly better than the later Streisand/'Kristofferson version.

And the Elisha Cook Jr. supporting player award goes to..Jack Carson

This is Jack Carson
This is the way the world ends, not with a bang, with a whimper

Jack Carson's hulking, tough guy persona seemed tailor made to play a press agent like he does in A Star is Born. He did occasionally did have some leading roles in the 40's, though his best ones seemed to be supporting ones like in Mildred Pierce or Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

Jack is not to be confused with Don Defore, who was best known as playing the father in Hazel during the 60's. I bring this up, because I use to get them mixed up...silly me.

This is not Jack Carson.
It's Don Defore