Rachel Carson vs. Irwin Allen

You wouldn’t think there would be a connection between these two people but they were linked forever in 1953 over the film adaptation of Rachel L. Carson’s award-winning book, The Sea Around Us. Carson was a respected marine biologist and an unusually eloquent nature writer whose first book, Under the Sea Wind, received critical acclaim in 1941. Irwin Allen, on the other hand, was relatively unknown at the time. A journalism graduate of Columbia University, he was trying to break into the film industry and wasn’t yet famous as the producer of such sci-fi TV series as Lost in Space and disaster genre films like The Poseidon Adventure (1972) and The Towering Inferno (1974).   Continue reading

Akira Kurosawa’s Record of a Living Being

The Japanese film poster for I Live in Fear (1955), directed by Akira Kurosawa and starring Toshiro Mifune.

One of the first Japanese commercial features to directly address the fear of nuclear holocaust and the implications of the atom bomb, Record of a Living Being, which is better known as I Live in Fear (1955, aka Ikimono no Kiroku) was an unusual and unexpected movie for director Akira Kurosawa. He had recently completed Seven Samurai (1954), a huge box office and critical success in both Japan and around the world, but his new work was much smaller in scale compared to that sprawling period epic.   Continue reading

Movie Streaming in the Year of the Pandemic

For most Americans, life, work and daily interactions with the outside world have been interrupted indefinitely and self-isolation at home is the new normal. How we fill those hours are a personal decision but even in the worst of times people need escapism. If you are an avid movie lover, you have a lot of options.

Hundreds of movies are available for free streaming from a variety of legal websites as long as you have access to a computer and a good Wi-fi connection. Below are a handful of options in no specified order for the more discriminating cinephile. These offer everything from classic Hollywood films to cult and indie fare to foreign language selections.   Continue reading

Downsizing

Somewhere between William Castle’s rebirth in the late fifties as the genius movie marketeer of such gimmicks as Emergo (House on Haunted Hill), Percepto (The Tingler), Illusion-o (13 Ghosts) or death by fright insurance policies (Macabre) and his prolific stint as a B-unit director at Columbia Pictures and later at Universal-International is the missing link that connects the two. Although it probably qualifies as Castle’s most exploitive film in the true sense of the word, It’s a Small World (1950) is also the director’s most forgotten film. Continue reading

Joshua Logan’s Fanny in Cinemascope and Stereophonic Sound

Joshua Logan, director of the Broadway stage musical and the 1961 film version of Fanny, based on the famous Marcel Pagnol trilogy.

The Way It Was Meant To Be Seen! This was allegedly Logan’s proposed marketing tag line for his 1961 film adaptation of Marcel Pagnol’s famous trilogy which included Marius, Fanny and César. More grounded in urban myth than reality, this silly anecdote does call into question how audiences responded to movie marquees displaying the title Fanny. The expensive Warner Bros. production turned out to be a boxoffice hit but it might have sold even more tickets if Logan had called it Leslie Caron’s Fanny. At least in France there was nothing funny about the name. It was in their cultural DNA and was a name with a beloved literary pedigree that went all the way back to 1929 when Pagnol first premiered his play Marius which introduced his colorful cast of characters from the Marseilles waterfront.  Continue reading

Stranger in a Stranger Land

Have you ever felt like you didn’t fit in or were completely out of sync with everyone in your immediate world? That is the existential dilemma that drives the narrative of Smog, a 1962 film from little known Italian director Franco Rossi that depicts a European traveler’s first impressions of Los Angeles.  The man in question is Vittorio Ciocchetti (Enrico Maria Salerno), a lawyer from Rome who arrives at LAX airport en route to Mexico on business, and the title of the film, of course, refers to the toxic mixture of fog and car exhaust that has characterized Los Angeles weather since the 1940s when cars began to clog the streets and freeways of the city.   Continue reading

The Hunter Gets Captured by the Game

Released in the U.K. as The System and the U.S. as The Girl-Getters in 1964, this unheralded little gem of a film is not only a vivid snapshot of the swinging sixties but a surprisingly frank and intelligent treatment of sexual gamesmanship and barely disguised class warfare promoted as a typical youth exploitation picture in the style of a “Beach Party” movie by distributor American International Pictures.   Continue reading