Big Bands and Tap Dancing: World War II Escapism

Reveille with BeverlyWhen Reveille with Beverly was first released in 1943, it was viewed as little more than a snappy little B musical programmer that showcased a star on the rise (Ann Miller) along with some of the top musical acts of the day. It was also a reflection of the type of assembly line escapist fare being released by Hollywood for war weary audiences and servicemen who needed a distraction from the harsh realities of a global conflict.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SXAXCezjj9M

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Hamlet on the Range

Chip Corman is a pseudonym for actor Andrea Giordana

Chip Corman is a pseudonym for actor Andrea Giordana

The plays of William Shakespeare have provided a bottomless well of material for filmmakers as either faithful adaptations or unacknowledged inspirations since the birth of cinema. Yet, the western genre seems under-represented in this regard with only a few examples coming to mind such as a thinly disguised version of Othello (Delmar Daves’ Jubal,1956) or a re-imagining of The Tempest (William A. Wellman’s Yellow Sky, 1948) or a gender twist on King Lear (Edward Dmytryk’s Broken Lance, 1954).     Continue reading

Roger Ebert, Sam Fuller, Woody Strode, Les Blank and Others at the 1981 Telluride Film Festival

telluride_1981 posterLabor Day weekend for most people means a farewell to summer and a final official holiday before the Fall season but for me Labor Day usually means “The Show” – the annual Telluride Film Festival in Colorado. I have been lucky enough to attend several of the festivals over the year but since I won’t be able to attend the 41st annual event (Aug.29-Sept.1), I wanted to pay tribute to it with a blog about my first visit there – The 8th Telluride Film Festival in 1981Continue reading

Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves: The Bohemian Girl

Image courtesy of www.doctormacro.com and Dieter

Image courtesy of http://www.doctormacro.com and Dieter

Even though the 1936 Laurel and Hardy feature The Bohemian Girl is not ranked among their best by the duo’s fervent fans or film historians, I have a fondness for it because I saw it at an early age before I was even aware of their silent films or the movies which would later become all-time favorites – Way Out West (1937), A Chump at Oxford (1940) and Sons of the Desert (1933). What stood out were the hilarious sight/audio gags such as Ollie’s bafflement at his partner’s slight-of-hand tricks, the horse scrubbing sequence, and Stan’s switch from high soprano to basso while singing; those have a resonate power to make you laugh in the worst of times. Unfortunately, most operetta aficionados dislike it because the music is secondary to the narrative and is not given a showcase deserving of the libretto. And L&H devotees find the music as insufferable and annoying as those musical passages in the MGM Marx Brothers comedies where you just want the boys to get on with their business. For those who fall between both camps and have never seen The Bohemian Girl, this is your homework.   Continue reading

Romain Gary’s Cinematic Overdose

kill-kill-kill-movie-poster-1972-1020367435How many times do you need to say Kill! In a movie title if you want to stress that it is about murder on an international scale? Apparently the distributors of this 1971 oddity were uncertain about that so they created various poster versions for the global market that ranged from four emphatic Kills! to a succinct single Kill! for promotional purposes. They covered all their bases but forgot to identify a target audience for this chaotic, frenzied and wildly improbable mash-up that freebases elements from conspiracy thrillers, secret agent exploits and sexual melodramas with a political agenda. Of course, you wouldn’t expect anything less from author-turned-filmmaker Romain Gray whose only other directorial effort was the pretentious art house mega-bomb Birds in Peru (1968), which starred his wife Jean Seberg as a suicidal nymphomaniac in the Caribbean.   Continue reading

A Western for Adults

The Hanging TreeUnderrated at the time of its release, The Hanging Tree (1959) is now considered a superior western from the waning years of that popular genre which coincided with the end of the studio era. It is also considered one of Gary Cooper’s best performances from his final decade in film, comparable to his fine work in High Noon (1952) and Man of the West (1958), and a late period achievement for director Delmer Daves (Broken Arrow, 3:10 to Yuma). I was encountered the film at a Saturday matinee in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania when I was seven years old and remember being disturbed by it. This is an adult western. It is not a film for children.  Continue reading

Marco Ferreri’s Hairy Angel

Annie Girardot in THE APE WOMAN (1964)

Annie Girardot in THE APE WOMAN (1964)

I can remember being fascinated with Marco Ferreri’s The Ape Woman (La donna scimmia) from the first time I saw a still from it in the May 1964 issue 28 of Famous Monsters of Filmland. A woman wearing eye makeup and sporting a beard and hairy legs poses provocatively for the camera while her mate, either a man in a tacky ape costume or a prop gorilla, rests his head in her lap. The photo description, “Beauty (?) and the Beast make a hairy horror pair in THE APE WOMAN,” was the only information offered about this upcoming release and, since it was being featured in FFofF, I assumed it qualified as fantasy cinema. Continue reading