Review: ‘Middle of the World’

16 September, 2014 (09:37) | by Rick Hermann, Film Reviews | By: Rick Hermann

[Originally published in Movietone News 44, September 1975]

A thin mist covers an eerily silent, seemingly uninhabited countryside; a car carrying two men seeps into view and, without warning, tumbles off the road and into a field. We suddenly realize that we have viewed what is perhaps death (we never do find out what happens to the men) with what amounts to a stylistic shrug of the shoulders. We hear one or two muffled bumps, the car finally comes to rest, and that’s it: no preparation, no comment, just the bare incident itself seen as though dissociated from any point of view that seems reasonably human. I’m not sure I can say just why I find that scene—which happens about three-quarters of the way through Alain Tanner’s fourth feature film—so effectively chilling. Whatever it is about it seems to spring from unanalyzable sources concealed beneath some mysterious veil of tonal incongruity, and yet the intimations of detachment one receives may find support in a more solid stylistic articulation that serves to integrate Tanner’s themes of communication and perception with a soft-spoken visual approach that is deceptively arbitrary and surprisingly precise.

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Review: ‘Posse’

15 September, 2014 (10:11) | by Robert C. Cumbow, Film Reviews, Westerns | By: Robert C. Cumbow

[Originally published in Movietone News 44, September 1975]

All right. Posse is an unusual Western. But not that unusual. And it doesn’t end like nothing I’ve ever seen. In fact, it ends very much like a number of other films I’ve seen (The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie was only the first of several to come to mind). The sociopolitical message of the confrontation between a brilliant outlaw and a self-serving politician offers little that Abe Polonsky’s Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here didn’t provide with greater subtlety—and few people have ever accused Polonsky of understatement. Posse really doesn’t have much to say, old or new, yet it does keep insisting. The grizzled typesetter’s comment that “All politicians are full of shit” might as well have Author’s Message flashed over it. A flagrant anachronism, neither appropriate nor cute, is the remark of a newspaper editor—a double amputee whom we are forced to think of in terms of Vietnam—that “This is the age of New Journalism.” And it’s not clear whether the highly visible eagle logo at the beginning and end of the film—”To the Polls, Ye Sons of Freedom”—is intended to exhort (we should all go out and vote to keep Howard Nightingales out of office) or to ring ironically (why vote at all when “all politicians are, etc.”?). This has less to do with ambiguity than with sloppiness, a sloppiness that carries over to the film’s style.

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The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for the week of September 12

12 September, 2014 (08:24) | by Bruce Reid, by Sean Axmaker, Links | By: Bruce Reid

Young women’s roles in the movies

In response to an industrial bias that has grown from little-remarked upon oversight to universally decried embarrassment in a few short years, the New York Times’s movie section of late has a decidedly female slant, from A. O. Scott and Manohla Dargis’s roundup of the new roles (or at least more complex variations on the old ones) movies are offering women; to Brooks Barnes laying out the reason Hollywood has leapt on the female-centric bandwagon (which, yeah, is exactly the reason you think).

“The fact that [Victim] features a sympathetic homosexual protagonist—the first in British cinema—was no small matter, and the effect it would have had on a boy of 16 struggling with his own homosexual feelings is incalculable. At the same time, its depiction of the gay lifestyle as one of despair and social invisibility could have proven to further frighten him; in fact, it seems to have laid the emotional groundwork for his cinematic intimations of love as tragic and doomed.” In the latest excerpt from his book on Terence Davies, Michael Koresky contextualizes and defends the director’s controversial conflation of shame and sexuality. Via David Hudson.

In an excerpt from his forthcoming book on British silent cinema and the First World War, Lawrence Napper finds Walter Summers’s 1927 The Battles of Coronel and Falkland Islands both an heir to British Instructional Films’ then-current series of wartime recreations and a movement beyond, “a moment when BIF shifted the aesthetic of its battle reconstruction films towards fiction, possibly in response to the more general popularity of the first world war as a subject for film stories.”

A recent screening of Renoir’s little-seen Simenon adaptation Night at the Crossroads has inspired Richard Brody (“Here’s what Renoir displays in a brisk seventy-five minutes at that unappealing crossroads, home to a gas station, a few houses, and little else, amid the mud and the fog: xenophobia, anti-Semitism, craven penny-pinching, liberal alcohol-slogging, unremitting squalor, sneaky adultery, drug addiction, and a general closed-ranks conspiracy of cold and brazen crime.”) and R. Emmet Sweeney (“It’s a traditional whodunit, except all of the motivations are missing. Instead of attributing the crime to a single perpetrator, the whole town becomes culpable through their xenophobia and greed.”). Sweeney also does a good job dismissing the apocryphal explanation of the film’s fractured narrative to missing reels: “this expository lack fits the whole theme of the film.”

Joan

Like too many careers that began in the silent era, the early films of Joan Crawford are lost or difficult to come by. Dan Callahan sifts through her “phantom” career, including a turn as Norma Shearer’s body double in Lady of the Night, and pines for the roles unseen.

John Bailey is so impressed by “the way in which [Ménilmontant] defies but simultaneously embraces both avant-garde and commercial narratives” he offers nearly a scene-by-scene breakdown of Kirsanoff’s famed silent film.

“[T]he power of the ephemeral real can be driven by what we don’t know enough to know—even by what we don’t want to know. Some images of the real defer our recognition.” Drew Johnson considers one of the most disturbing intrusions of reality into fiction film, the notoriously hard-to-source execution footage that makes a grisly appearance in Antonioni’s The Passenger.

At This Long Century, Yto Barrada offers a brief account of her frustrated efforts to track down a bit of family lore: the Ahmed Rachedi film her mother claims to have played a small role in. A quest that may finally get a happy ending now that Barrada’s has founded the Tangier Cinematheque.

Art of the Title offers not just Saul Bass’s title sequence for Attack but his boldly graphic 10-page advertisement for the film from Hollywood Reporter. And an interview with Captain America: The Winter Soldier’s Erin Sarofsky on the film’s vivid title sequence reminds you Bass’s legacy only keeps growing.

“I remember being at rushes and not really getting what I was seeing. It all seemed so blank, the sets were sparse, and everything seemed to be white in the background. Everyone else watching was thrilled with the footage. I said: ‘It looks kinda blank to me,’ and someone replied: ‘That’s David’s style,’ to which I answered—like the bitch I can be sometimes—‘Style? It looks like a fuckin’ dentist’s office!’ Of course, I was later to grow to appreciate such backgrounds and even the occasional nurse’s uniform. That’s progress.” Cronenberg fans can argue about his best film or the general direction of his career but we’ve long been united on the worst lead performance in the oeuvre. Now Scanners’s Stephen Lack gets his own say, interviewed by Emma Myers, and turns out a smart, funny guy with a better-than-halfway-decent explanation for his affectless turn in the movie.

“Of course, Iranian people love cinema. At the beginning, poetry was the voice of Iranian culture; today, cinema has taken over. For my film, Hello Cinema (1994), I announced that I had some roles I wanted to give out to whoever was interested. To my surprise, thousands of people flocked to ask for these few roles. The audience is well aware of the strength of cinema. Banned films [in Iran] are circulated on the black market and millions of copies are sold. Three million copies of one of my banned films have been sold.” The great Mohsen Makhmalbaf talks with Mohammed Rouda about his latest, The Dictator, and the unique concerns—including assassination attempts—of being the head of an Iranian filmmaking family in exile. Via Movie City News.

A pair of video companies are offering packaging sure to delight horror fans both new school and old. For a Halloween-themed release of 13 titles from the MGM/Fox library, design company Skuzzles has come up with some elegantly creepy covers. (Via Keith Phipps.) If, despite the inarguable awesomeness of putative EC fan Ghoulish Gary Pulin’s design for Teen Wolf, the crisp lines and compositions of those turn you off, the vintage era covers for Gorgon Video might be more up your alley, each living up to company rep Nicole Mikuzis’s praise of Evils of the Night as “prime example[s] of going to the video store and realizing the cover doesn’t make sense at all.”

Time Lightbox offers a gallery of behind the scenes material from Gone With the Wind—make-up stills, concept art, but shockingly only two memos—culled from the collection of packrat supreme David O. Selznick, housed at Austin’s Harry Ransom Center.

Richard Kiel from earlier days

Obituary

Richard Kiel is most famous as the villain Jaws opposite Roger Moore’s James Bond in two films, The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) and Moonraker (1979), but his career spanned decades. His hulking 7′ 2″ frame made him a go-to guy for such roles as the intimidating alien in the memorable “To Serve Man” episode of the original The Twilight Zone or a comic creature in the episode “I Was a Teenage Monster” for The Monkees, among his many TV appearances. He had a regular role on the short-lived seventies TV series Barbary Coast, had small but memorable roles in The Longest Yard (1974), Silver Streak (1976), and most recently voiced a character in the animated Tangled (2010). He passed away at the age of 74. More from Ryan Gilbey at The Guardian, and an affectionate tribute to the unique evolution of his Bond baddie Jaws by Peter Bradshaw, also for The Guardian.

Denny Miller, a college athlete who made his film debut in an uncredited role in Vincent Minnelli’s Some Came Running (1958) (he joked “I was the only one who came running”), played Tarzan in the 1959 feature Tarzan, the Ape Man and played Duke Shannon on Wagon Train from 1961 to 1964. He spent most of his career doing guest spots on TV shows (including a Tarzan-like character on an episode of Gilligan’s Island) well into the 1990s, but he was notably memorable as “Wyoming Bill” Kelso in Blake Edwards’ The Party (1968). He died this week at the age of 80. Highlight Hollywood pays tribute.

Seattle Screens

Film historian and movie poster archivist Mark Fertig will be at the Fantagraphics Bookstore and Gallery on Saturday, September 13, from 6-9pm to discuss and sign copies of his new book, “The 101 Best Film Noir Posters from the 1940s-1950s.” A gallery of featured posters will be on display through November 10. More details here.

Robert Horton hosts another “Magic Lantern” event at the Frye Art Museum this weekend, discussing the films of Zacharias Kunuk, the Inuk director most famous for the 2001 film Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner. It’s on Sunday at 2pm and it is free. Details at the Frye website.

Visit the film review pages at The Seattle TimesSeattle Weekly, and The Stranger for more releases.

View complete screening schedules through IMDbMSNYahoo, or Fandango, pick the interface of your choice.

The weekly links page is compiled and curated by Bruce Reid, with obituaries curated by Sean Axmaker, and other contributions from friends of Parallax View.

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Videophiled Classic: ‘Godzilla 2000’ and more giant monster mashes of the new millennium

11 September, 2014 (17:37) | Blu-ray, by Sean Axmaker, Film Reviews, Science Fiction | By: Sean Axmaker

When it comes reviving the past, timing and presentation is everything.

Sony’s first wave of “The Toho Godzilla Collection” of second- and third- generation Japanese Godzilla films on Blu-ray came out in May, timed to the theatrical release of the American remake (the discs are reviewed on Cinephiled here). This second wave arrives the week before the American 2014 Godzilla arrives on disc and digital formats.

Godzilla2000After Roland Emmerich’s Godzilla flopped, Toho took back their home grown movie monster turned cinema hero for the second reboot of the franchise and the third generation of movies. In Japan it was called the Millennium series and like the previous reboot, The Return of Godzilla (titled Godzilla 1985 in the U.S.), Godzilla 2000 (1999) swept away a generation of sequels and pretended that most (if not all) of the films since the original Godzilla never actually existed. Though clearly a landmark in the Japanese franchise, I can only guess that Godzilla 2000 (Sony, Blu-ray) wasn’t included in the first wave of Blu-ray upgrades because it, quite frankly, is not one of the better films of the series.

Godzilla is on the move again just as an ancient UFO is dredged up from the ocean. In a fitting bit of turnabout, the script appropriates Roland Emmerich’s Independence Day, though on a significantly smaller scale and with a Japanese giant monster sensibility: this lone silver spaceship parks on a Shinjuku skyscraper, drains the city of all computer information, and transforms into a mutant monster the resembles something between a skyscraper sized Predator and Jabba the Hut’s dungeon ogre from Return of the Jedi. Meanwhile an all-volunteer force of science nerds called the Godzilla Prediction Network, run by peacenik professor Yuji (Takehiro Murata) and his precocious adolescent daughter, clashes with their arch rivals, the Crisis Control Institute, a government strike force armed to destroy Godzilla run by Yuji’s bloodthirsty nemesis Katagiri (Hiroshi Abe, whose eyes bug out in glee every time he launches a missile).

Continue reading at Cinephiled

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Film Review: ‘The Drop’

11 September, 2014 (05:58) | by Robert Horton, Film Reviews | By: Robert Horton

Tom Hardy and pup

The easiest knock against The Drop is that it operates in an overexposed milieu: current urban American crime. It’s hard to pump something new into this world, but the film succeeds because of its rich attention to detail and a Dennis Lehane script with a surplus of tasty dialogue. Lehane, the author of Mystic River and Gone Baby Gone, adapted the screenplay from his short story “Animal Welfare.” Two initially unrelated incidents make the plot go: the rescue of a wounded dog and the closing-time robbery of a Brooklyn tavern called Cousin Marv’s. The bar’s mild-mannered, mind-my-own-business bartender, Bob Saginowsi (Tom Hardy, late of Locke), is walking home one night when he hears the pathetic mewling of an abandoned pit bull. The abused dog is on the property of Nadia (Noomi Rapace), and these two strangers strike up a friendship around the dog; it is just possible they might be interested in each other. The robbery, meanwhile, puts hapless Cousin Marv (James Gandolfini) in a tight spot; he’s already lost ownership of the bar to Chechen gangsters, who would really like their stolen money back. They play rough.

Continue reading at Seattle Weekly

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Film Review: ‘Jealousy’

11 September, 2014 (05:51) | by Robert Horton, Film Reviews | By: Robert Horton

Olga Milshtein, Louis Garrel, and Anna Mouglalis

In the opening scene of Jealousy, a relationship comes to an end. Shaggy-haired actor Louis (Louis Garrel) is leaving his girlfriend Clothilde (Rebecca Convenant) as their young daughter Charlotte looks on. The moment isn’t hugely original, or even especially dramatic. It’s a thing that has to happen, and everyone knows it, and each person’s reaction is honored. Then we move on—but everything that happens after depends on this sequence. Louis goes to live with his new lover Claudia (Anna Mouglalis, the Chanel from the dreary Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky), herself an actress, albeit one who mysteriously hasn’t worked in six years. The design of veteran director Philippe Garrel (Louis is his son) takes all of this situation’s developments in stride—sometimes literally, as he likes walking scenes—as though observation, not manipulation, is his primary interest.

It lacks the clocklike inner workings of movies devoted to storytelling, but Jealousy does a lot of things right.

Continue reading at Seattle Weekly

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Film Review: ‘Love Is Strange’

11 September, 2014 (05:46) | by Robert Horton, Film Reviews | By: Robert Horton

John Lithgow

Of the titles from Hollywood’s golden age that aren’t broadly recognized as classics but really ought to be, Make Way for Tomorrow is on the short list—no arguments brooked. Leo McCarey, a director with a notable human touch, crafted this 1937 masterpiece from a simple story about two long-married folks forced to live apart when their money runs out and their grown children prove inept at compassionate problem-solving. This outline proves remarkably durable in Love Is Strange, a new film that finds an ingenious variation on the same story. Here, the couple has not been married long, but they’ve been together for 39 years; in fact, it’s the gift of their marriage that inadvertently causes the unwanted separation.

Meet Ben (John Lithgow) and George (Alfred Molina), whose cohabitation stretches back long before same-sex marriage was a realistic goal.

Continue reading at Seattle Weekly

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‘Horses of God': The Making of a Martyr

10 September, 2014 (08:14) | by Sean Axmaker, Essays | By: Sean Axmaker

There’s not one reason why a young boy can turn into a suicide bomber. There are many of them.
—Nabil Ayouch, director of Horses of God, in a 2014 interview with Dan Lybarger

In 2003, just a couple of years after the Twin Towers attack, twelve suicide bombers blew up multiple targets in Casablanca. The bombers were all young men recruited from the slums of Sidi Moumen. These attacks did not cause much of a ripple in the western press—Muslims killing Muslims doesn’t inspire the kind of outrage that sells papers or grabs cable news channel eyeballs in the U.S.—but it was shocking event in the Arab world. It’s the inspiration for Horses of God, a fictional story rooted in the real life experiences of hundreds of thousands boys and men in the Arab world.

‘Horses of God’

Four boys kick around a soccer ball in the dusty streets and desolate empty lots of Sidi Moumen, an immense, impoverished shantytown on the outskirts of Casablanca. They’re kids like any other, paling around in wild packs of ragamuffin gangs and playing makeshift soccer games that have a tendency to end in scrappy brawls, but their horizons are limited by their circumstances. The bird’s eye view of the camera reveals the startling proximity of this desperate slum with the cosmopolitan cultural capital of Morocco—and of North Africa at large—but from the vantage point of these boys in the garbage-strewn streets it could be on another planet. Their dreams of a better life come not from experience but television, where they have the choice of European football matches and mom’s glamorous soap opera fantasies. The realities of survival are much less romantic.

Continue reading at Keyframe

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Review: A Boy and His Dog

8 September, 2014 (10:23) | by Kathleen Murphy, Film Reviews, Science Fiction | By: Kathleen Murphy

[Originally published in Movietone News 44, September 1975]

One plunges straight into unknown territory and action in A Boy and His Dog: Tatterdemalion figures dodging about in a wasteland, shooting at one another without apparent rhyme or reason. Some kind of reconnoitering dialogue—but no lips are seen to move and, visually, spatially, we find ourselves allied with … a boy and his dog? L.Q. Jones, writer and director of the film, gets down to business at once; before we know where we are, we have moved past the weird skirmish on desolate mudflats into the weirder realization that the conversation we have been puzzling over is a telepathic interchange between Vic—that’s the young man—and Blood, a shaggy mutt who has mutated light years beyond the Disneyesque canine to whom he bears some physical resemblance. Our suspension of disbelief about a dog who “talks” fast and dirty to his more-protégé-than-master is as immediate as our delight with Blood’s kinkily risqué sense of humor, his “doubletakes” and moués of disgust and exasperation with his sex-starved friend. Conversations between the two are shot with casual expertise and possess more bite and verve than most exchanges between humans in the film (witness the inane passages between Vic and the siren from “down under” he subsequently encounters), and Tim McIntire’s (Blood’s) delivery of irreverent repartee completes the visual identification of Blood as an authentically salty personality.

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Videophiled Classic: ‘High School Confidential!’

7 September, 2014 (09:36) | Blu-ray, by Sean Axmaker, DVD, Film Reviews | By: Sean Axmaker

high-school-confidentialHigh School Confidential! (Olive, Blu-ray, DVD) – Trashy, tawdry, and weirdly energetic, with tough talking high school delinquents played by college grads spouting mock-beat dialogue, this B+ exploitation classic from producer Albert Zugsmith (who went from Written on the Wind and Touch of Evil to such artifacts as Sex Kittens Go to College and Confessions of an Opium Eater) and director Jack Arnold is a terrifically entertaining piece of drug scare cinema. Russ Tamblyn blows into school in a hot rod convertible, all smart aleck attitude and high-rolling hoodlum ambition, and muscles his way into the local drug scene, but this hep-talking cat is actually an undercover agent, the original 21 Jump Street–style baby-faced narc working his way up to the local drug lord known as Mr. A.

It’s a thoroughly bizarro collision of teens-gone-wild hysteria and drug scare edutainment (“If you start on the weed, you graduate to the hard stuff”), with beatnik dialogue (“I’m puttin’ it down” / “Well I’m pickin’ it up!”), clueless parents, and stiff authority figures delivering the “truth” about drugs in the high schools in scenes that grind the movie to a halt for moralizing sermons. It opens with Jerry Lee Lewis pounding out the rocking theme song on a piano in the back of a pickup (which then drives off, never to be seen again), co-stars Mamie Van Doren as a sloshed slutty suburban housewife who is supposed to be Tamblyn’s aunt but keeps trying to seduce him, and features John Drew Barrymore (Drew’s dad) as the drawling high school kingpin who delivers the story of Columbus as a piece of beat performance art, which is merely prelude to a full-blown beat poetry recitation. Jan Sterling plays the “cool” teacher determined to really understand youth today that she lets her students get away with utterly disrespectful behavior, button-nose cutie Diane Jergens is Barrymore’s weed-head kitten, Michael Landon the clean-cut big man on campus who isn’t as square as he looks, and Jackie Coogan the coffee-house owner with a sideline in mary-jane and heroine.

Jack Arnold is best known for bringing intelligence to fifties science fiction cinema (It Came From Outer Space, The Incredible Shrinking Man) but actually had quite a range, making everything from westerns to comedies. He has an eye for staging and a great sense of timing, not to mention a way with making overdone performances fit into the same movie universe, and he embraces the outré elements with such energy that they take on a life of their own. It’s camp, to be sure, but great fun as a crazy take on adult fears of high school delinquency and Arnold’s commitment to this ridiculous portrait of teenage life and corruption in suburbia pulls it all together in a crazy warped mirror that has a life all its own. “Tomorrow is a drag, man, tomorrow is a king-size bust.”

This is a CinemaScope production and the only previous legitimate DVD release was non-anamorphic. It’s been remastered in HD for the Blu-ray debut and new DVD release, which alone makes it a necessary upgrade. It’s not perfect, mind you, and there’s a brief rough patch with major scuffs and scratches and damage that sends the picture shaking for a second or two, but it offers a sharp image and a clean soundtrack. No supplements.

More classic and cult releases on Blu-ray and DVD at Cinephiled

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The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for the week of September 5

5 September, 2014 (10:30) | by Bruce Reid, by Sean Axmaker, Links | By: Bruce Reid

“At this point, John had been burned three times by commercial animation: during the Disney strike, at UPA, and by Finian’s Rainbow. Faith had never had anything but distrust of commercial projects to begin with. So as a condition of their marriage, they made a pact: They would make one serious film a year, for themselves, and do whatever they had to do to support it.” In a sterling example of lateral thinking, The Dissolve ends its Movie-of-the-Week coverage of Hedwig and the Angry Inch with Matthew Dessem’s thorough history of the Hubley family’s trail-blazing career in animation. (Since, if you’d forgotten, Hedwig’s explanation of Aristophanes’s take on the origins of the sexes is illustrated by second-generation Hubley genius Emily.)

Cristina Álvarez López and Adrian Martin’s latest, typically engrossing video/text essay pairing explores some paths through Lang’s Secret Beyond the Door…, “a broken puzzle at every level, virtually begging us to rearrange its pieces and find its key.”

“One of the most talked-about shots in all of Davies’s films is a galvanizing image about two-thirds of the way into The Long Day Closes. In Davies’s published script, it is inconspicuous: the simple sentence “Hold on floor” in no way augurs the impact of the scene as it appears on-screen.” In an excerpt from his book on Davies, Michael Koresky gives a fine reading of the metacinematic and queer subtexts behind the carpet shot that will forever be the dividing line between the director’s detractors and admirers.

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Channeling Movies: Sex and Sin on Pre-Code Fridays on Turner Classic Movies

4 September, 2014 (16:28) | by Sean Axmaker, Film Reviews, Pre-code Cinema, Television | By: Sean Axmaker

Turner Classic Movies is turning all the Fridays in September over to films from that brief period in the early thirties when the studios thumbed their collective noses at the toothless Production Code and pushed the boundaries of sex, violence, and bad behavior without judgment or consequences in film after film. The iron boot of censorship came down in 1934 and stomped out all that deliciously salacious content, but for a few years Hollywood acknowledged and even flaunted sex between consenting adults (married or not). The films from this era were branded “Forbidden Hollywood” when they were rediscovered and revived for audiences in the 1990s, but today they are better known as Pre-Code. Turner Classic Movies has four full Fridays full of forbidden Pre-Code delights.

While there are gems aplenty throughout the month, I’ll spotlight a few of the most interesting and audacious rarities and lesser-known glories, including two from the coming Friday line-up.

Set those DVRs now!

Friday, September 5:

Dorothy Mackaill is hardly ‘Safe in Hell’

Safe in Hell (1931) – Think of this as a kind of B-movie riff on Sadie Thompson (the original bad girl in the tropics melodrama) directed with a merciless brutality by William Wellman. It stars the largely forgotten Dorothy Mackaill as a scuffed-up, street-smart answer to Miriam Hopkins and she is amazing as the hooker who is whisked off to a Caribbean island to flee a murder charge. The film’s title is no exaggeration; imagine Casablanca as a lice-infested backwater run by mercenary opportunists and filled with the sleaziest criminals to escape a manhunt. They all take their shot at seducing Mackaill, the sole white woman in this island prison, and she shoots them all down with the brash directness of an experienced urban doll who has spent her life fending off passes. Yet somehow the film manages to give them all a shot at redemption when she is tried for murder (it’s a different murder, and yet the same one, in the crazy logic of the melodrama contrivances) and they line up in her defense. Wellman it snappy and sassy as he winds the story from the cynical to the sentimental to the spiritual with equal commitment.

More highlights at Cinephiled

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Film Review: ‘The Identical’

4 September, 2014 (08:22) | by Robert Horton, Film Reviews | By: Robert Horton

Blake Rayne

The website for The Identical has more endorsements from pastors than movie critics—this is not one of those evangelical pictures trying to hide its agenda. It’s produced by a Nashville-based company with roots in the born-again world and some legit music-biz credentials. That agenda acknowledged, the picture has two notable strong points: an urban-legend storyline that’s been crying out for a movie treatment and an unexpectedly engaging lead turn by a new performer.

The story springs from classic alternate-history stuff. We all know—I certainly hope we all know—that Elvis Presley had a twin brother who died at birth. What if the twin had actually survived and led a parallel existence to his famous sibling?

Continue reading at Seattle Weekly

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Film Review: ‘A Letter to Momo’

4 September, 2014 (08:17) | Animation, by Robert Horton, Film Reviews | By: Robert Horton

Momo and her goblins

Goblins are disconcerting, even if their worst offense (in this case) is stealing food. For an 11-year-old girl named Momo, they are more annoying than terrifying, just another tiresome aspect of moving to the countryside with her mother. Not only is Momo expected to meet new friends and make nice with her grandparents, she’s also trying to get over the death of her father. He left behind a sheet of paper that’s addressed “Dear Momo” but is otherwise heartbreakingly blank. Goblins? Let ’em do their worst.

Hiroyuki Okiura’s gently fantastical animation approach proves apt for this familiar little story.

Continue reading at Seattle Weekly

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Film Review: ‘The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears’

4 September, 2014 (08:12) | by Robert Horton, Film Reviews, Horror | By: Robert Horton

‘The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears’

The Belgian writer/director team Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani are obsessed with the 1970s Italian horror subgenre known as giallo. Their 2010 Amer was a cool one-off, a clever compendium of lovingly imitated giallo motifs that also created a lush experience in and of itself. Except it wasn’t a one-off, because here’s another excursion into a world of saturated colors, sexed-up violence, and utterly incomprehensible storytelling. Cattet and Forzani may have gone to the well once too often, because Strange Color lacks the freshness of Amer. As a technical stunt, though, it’s super-trippy.

The title is meant to evoke long-winded gialli such as Dario Argento’s The Bird With the Crystal Plumage or Mario Bava’s Five Dolls for an August Moon.

Continue reading at Seattle Weekly

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