Sunday, January 14, 2018

LOVE STORY (1970), EL TOPO (1970, MEXICO)

1970 

Love means never having to say you're sorry
Ryan O'Neal and Ali MacGraw in Love Story

There really wasn't a movie out there in year of 1970 bigger than Love Story. Based on the best-selling Erich Segal book and with it's somber musical theme, romantic New England setting, and likable leads of Ali MacGraw and Ryan O'Neal and the catchphrase "Love means never having to say your'e sorry," and did I mention that the leading lady gets a terminal disease?... this was the movie to see...though I was too young at the time to really be interested in it. I finally watched it all these years later and though it does look a little dated, it still had a certain appeal to it...though that appeal may be slightly nostalgic to a time and a movie galaxy far, far away… 

You have just entered the strange world of El Topo


Alejandro Jodorowshy's El Topo may be the most famous cult film of the 70's that I had never seen before and it is quite a head trip.In fact, it's pretty much like Sergio Leone and Federico Fellini went to Mexico and had a love child and named it El Topo in one of the most bizarre Westerns (if you want to label it as such) that you will ever see. Personally, I thought it well worthy of the cult status it has, though I probably would have liked it even more if I had seen back in the day...


Here are a list of other films released in 1970 that I have seen but are NOT listed in the 1001 Movies Book.


1. Airport-The first of the disaster films of the 70's and formula setter of having an all-star cast, an airline in peril (or building, boat or entire city as the case may be), placing a high priority on special effects and for some reason, George Kennedy in a supporting role.



Dean Martin tries to charm his way out of trouble in Airport

2. The Baby Maker-Hippie chick agrees to give birth to a baby for a square couple. Would probably be interesting to go back and watch a young Barbara Hershey in the title role.


3. Beneath the Planet of the Apes-My least favorite film in the Ape series did have some cool mutants and end with a bang (the destruction of the earth). Obviously since there are three more films in the series, the earth did return in Escape from the Planet of the Apes.


The mutant choir in Beneath the Planet of the Apes

4. Bloody Mama-One more time so I can keep it straight. Cloris Leachman was Crazy Mama, Angie Dickinson was Big, Bad Mama and Shelley Winters was Bloody Mama. During this period, Cass Elliot released an album called Don't Call Me Mama Anymore...though that may be beside the point...What was the point again?


5. Getting Straight/The Strawberry Statement/ R. P. M.-The three films listed here are what I refer to as the Student Protest Film Trilogy. I admit to having an affection for these movies that may or may not be warranted. From what I remember, Getting Straight was the most commercial of the three, The Strawberry Statement was the most radical of the three and R. P. M., the story of the cool teacher who eventually sells out to the establishment, was probably my favorite of the three...though no one else seems to like R. P. M. very much.


Elliot Gould sees the light in Getting Straight

 The students accelerate their protest in The Strawberry Statement

Anthony Quinn inspires the students until he sells out in R. P. M.

6.Flap-During the 70's and before movies on cable were in the picture, it use to be a big deal when the network would present the television premiere of a film that had been in the theater a couple of years (or sometimes longer) before. I remember the ABC movie of the week was always presented as a big deal along with a mini-trailer and dramatic music. It certainly worked on me. By the time the network got around to showing Flap (a so-so movie featuring Anthony Quinn as hard drinking Native American who eventually comes around to being an anti-establishment protester) the build-up did make me want to watch...but I remember the buildup as being better than the film. I wouldn't mind seeing Flap again, though.

Tonight on the ABC Monday Night Movie of the Week
we present Anthony Quinn as FLAP! Dramatic music ensues

over flashing credits...Those were the days...

7.House of Dark Shadows-As someone who was under the hypnotic spell of the creepy, campy soap opera reruns of Dark Shadows during the late 70's, I found it interesting that the movie House of Dark Shadows managed to encapsulate the entire run of the hundreds and hundreds of episodic shows into a two-hour movie that was actually pretty good. 


Jonathan Frid as Barnabas Collins in House of Dark Shadows


And an autographed picture to me from
House of Dark Shadows star Katherine Leigh-Scott

8. C. C. and Company-That brief period when the powers that be decided to try to make Joe Namath a movie star. This one did have Ann-Margaret and a cool chopper. Does anyone else remember Namath's series The Waverly Wonders? Where he was a basketball coach? Just a random thought.


9. Let it Be-The Beatles documentary swan song that did feature some good songs, a lot of the lads griping at each other and that memorable rooftop concert. Not the Beatles finest hour, but still worth seeing.

Free concert! The Beatles in Let it Be

10. The Adventurers-The reputation of this epic South American set soap opera is not particularly a good one. I remember watching it many (many!) years ago. I can't remember why I even watched it, maybe it was a Candice Bergen thing? Or even a Leigh Taylor-Young thing?


11. Brewster McCloud-Robert Altman cult classic about...well, its about a young guy that wants to fly...and he's in the Astrodome...and...a plot description doesn't do it justice but it should really be in the top ten of any list of cult/midnight movies (I'd now include El Topo in that top ten list as well). I'm also glad we finally get to see Margaret Hamilton finally get the ruby slippers!


I believe it's time for me to fly...Bud Cort as Brewster McCloud

12. Tora Tora Tora-Movie that gives us both sides of Pearl Harbor. I just remember it was a cool movie to say that you had seen when you were in elementary school.

13. The Aristocats/The Boatniks-I mentioned that this was a time period that I might have watched The Aristocats and The Boatniks of these Disney films to boost my memory....Hmmm. Did I really? Maybe I'll look at the movie posters to jog my memory...Looked at the posters...still not sure.

14. The Owl and the Pussycat-Barbara Striesand is a hooker and George Segal is a writer. I remember it being kind of funny..
..

15. Where’s Poppa...Though of the George Segal 1970 comedies, I much prefer Where's Poppa where the constantly flustered Mr. Segal tries to deal with his hopelessly nutty mother (Ruth Gordon). I saw this as a double feature at The Silver Screen theater during the 80's with A Thousand Clowns, another favorite of mine.

George Segal tries to reason with mama Ruth Gordon
in Where's Papa

16.Cockeyed Cowboys of Calico County-I remember watching this Western comedy with Mickey Rooney and Dan Blocker and Nanette Fabray but remember next to nothing about it.


17. Catch 22- Underrated
http://1001afilmodyssey.blogspot.com/2012/02/


 Bob Balaban, Arthur Garfunkel, Alan Arkin and Martin Sheen
in Catch-22

18. The Boys in the Band-Interesting film based on the play featuring the lives of a group of gay men in New York. Lots of strong, dramatic moments from what I remember. Directed by a pre-Exorcist and French Connection William Friedkin.


19. Myra Breckinridge-Often noted as one of the worst movies of all-time. This Mae West sex-change comedy based on the Gore Vidal book features a most unusual cast combination that included Raquel Welch, John Huston, Farrah Fawcett, John Carradine and film critic Rex Reed! I saw this in a double feature with West's later Sextette, with the later film looking like Citizen Kane compared to Myra Breckinridge.


American woman...Mae West in Myra Breckinridge

20. There's a Girl in My Soup-According to Frank Sinatra's biography by James Kaplan, this Peter Sellers/Goldie Hawn comedy was at one time supposed to be a Sinatra/Goldie Hawn comedy. I bring this up only because I can't think of anything else to say about it.

21. The Twelve Chairs
-This Mel Brooks comedy made in-between The Producers and Blazing Saddles is definitely one i need to revisit.


22. Jenny-I remember this partly as being a sort of an attempt at a hip comedy with Marlo Thomas and Alan Alda. The other thing I remember about this is that I watched this at my Aunt's house and she was absolutely outraged that they showed a breast feeding scene (gasp!) at the end of the movie!


An introspective Alan Alda in Jenny

23. The Moonshine Wars-The thing I remember the most about this film is that it included a pre-MASH Alan Alda as a redneck moonshiner. It seems I may have also been partaking something akin to moonshine as I was watching it if memory serves, but that's neither here nor there.

 
A redneck Alan Alda in The Moonshine Wars


24. Husbands-John Cassavetes's deeply introspective film about three guys approaching middle age and trying to deal with the death of their friend and their lives and their married status. I've come to really like Cassavetes's films. They aren't easy to get into, the plots are never laid out easily for you to follow, scenes at times seem to go on, but they often take you to emotional places that a lot of more mainstream movies can't reach.



Long, uncomfortable scene from Husbands


25. Chariots of the Gods?-Did alien cultures come to earth and influence our culture in ancient times? Erich Von Daniken's book was the most famous of this series of seemingly endless paperback books with similar themes that came out during the 70's. I remember fondly that my father read many of them.


As far as the documentary film goes, it looks today like pretty cheesy stuff promoting the pretty far-fetched premise of ancient aliens building the pyramids and such. I was surprised after looking it up that the film was one of the top ten box office hits of the year (and with a minuscule budget) and was nominated for Best Documentary at the Oscars that year! It led to many low budget conspiracy documentaries that decade (many of which I saw, I admit) from In Search of Noah's Ark, In Search of Historic Jesus, Beyond and Back and The Mysterious Monsters, which convinced me at the time that Bigfoot was out there.

Goodbye 60's and Hello 70's

Thursday, November 30, 2017

FOOLISH WIVES (1922), GREED (1924)


Erich Von Stoheim as the sharply dressed
heart-breaker in Foolish Wives

Foolish Wives
The reputation of maybe the two most famous films (though not necessarily most seen) of Erich Von Stroheim are that of the epic masterpieces that were cut to death by the studio and made almost incomprehensible. Foolish Wives was originally over six hours in length and tells the story of a con man (played by Stroheim) in Monte Carlo who takes advantage of rich women in Monte Carlo. You can really see some of the expense of the picture on the screen with scenery and extras and even in cut form, the plot of the film does flow well enough. There are some moments that do seem to be missing (including the death of Von Stroheim's character) but it is worth seeing for its historical value or if you feel you need to see at least one film from the maestro.


The final act of a selfish man
in Greed
Greed
Even more infamous for being cut down to size is Von Stroheim's Greed, which is based on Frank Norris's novel, McTeague. This film was originally over eight hours long...but it kept getting cut and cut and cut...until it was between two and four hours, depending on which version you find. Apparently, there were side stories originally in the film (sounds like Intolerance) that went along with the main story of a dentist's slow descent into greed that are lost to history. To make it harder on myself, the version I found on YouTube to watch had French subtitles-which did indeed make it harder on my viewing. The desert finale is still a fine conclusion and reminiscent of the endings of later classics The Treasure of the Sierra Madre and The Good,The Bad and The Ugly.


 So long...

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

THE BROADWAY MELODY (1929)

 Bessie Love and Anita Page are too swell
kids trying to hit the big time in The Broadway Melody

The Broadway Melody (1929) is the first all-talking picture to win the Best Picture Academy Award..but I don't think this story of a couple of young musical sister starlet wannabees would be any film buff's choice for the top movie prize of that year. It is clunky in the manner of many of the early talkies and certainly doesn't compare favorably with the later Warner Brother's classics of this ilk like 42nd Street (1933) or Gold Diggers of 1933

However, it isn't without some retrospective charm. Anita Page and Bessie Love as the sisters aren't Joan Blondell and Ruby Keeler, but they are fairly engaging in their own right. The behind the scenes story is a bit silly (as all the plots in these musicals seem to be to a degree), we do hear Give My Regards to Broadway a few too many times for my taste and some of the comic bits do fall a bit flat...so it's a mixed bag. But if you're a Best Picture completest (I guess I fall into that category), just relax and try enjoy this artifact like you're Indiana Jones searching for the Holy Grail or the like if that helps.

For further historical context, I also recommend The Speed of Sound: Hollywood and the Talkie Revolution 1926-1930 by Scott Eyman.

 
"Don't be such a crab!" An altercation
at auditions in The Broadway Melody

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

POLTERGEIST (1982), THE THING (1982)

1982

 
Poltergeist


I first remember seeing Poltergeist at the theater during the summer it was released in 1982. It seemed like a big deal at the time...ghosts…a haunted house…and lots of cool special effects. And I have good memories of this film, but that was quite a few summers ago. I’ve never seen it all the way through since and have never seen any of the sequels or remakes. So, I went into watching this with good memories and high expectations....But in watching it again, I thought though it had a lot of the right elements of a ghostly thrill ride, I didn't find that it dated particularly all that well. I don't find it nearly as good as the 60’s The Haunting, for example. It does have the great tag line “They’re here!” a likeable cast, some interesting special effects including a nifty scene where one of the ghost hunters is thinking his face is melting in a mirror. The scene with the corpses popping out of the ground during the finale is pretty good, too. It just feels a little bit like Spielberg lite…which, since it is produced by Steven Spielberg and directed by Tobe Hooper, it probably is. It just didn’t get me all that involved this time around. .The excessive product placement didn’t help get me in the mood either.Maybe I’m just not the audience for this movie anymore. 

I’m not unhappy that I saw it…but I just don’t see myself watching it again.


 The Thing

I first remember seeing John Carpenter’s The Thing on cable  the year it came out. I honestly don’t remember much about it other than Kurt Russell and a band of scientists are in The Arctic fighting aliens. I actually have more vivid memories of the original The Thing from 1951 featuring James Arness as our scary Arctic alien.Watching the Carpenter film now, I think it looks very good all these years later. Not a hit when it was first released, it has deservedly become a classic of the genre. Our band of Arctic macho men are being taken over by an alien force that has been buried in Ice for thousands of years and uncovered by another band of explorers (Damn Norweigians!). Our Icebound band of brothers are taken over one by one and it gives the film an Invasion of the Body Snatchers feel of who can you trust and who do you need to kill...and can you even trust the dog? It is suspenseful, the plot (based on the story by John W. Campbell) is involving and the makeup and special effects are pretty spectacular when you consider this movie is thirty-five years old. 

I'm happy that I saw it. I definitely see myself watching this one again.


 Happy Halloween!