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
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
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
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
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
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
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
In the many peaks and valleys of his long career the Mickster never shied away from taking on difficult or questionable roles in his relentless desire to perform and entertain. While this adventuresome spirit might alienate part of his fan base that prefers to remember him as Andy Hardy or Judy Garland’s musical partner, it has won him an entirely new set of admirers. I’m talking about those who have seen and been amazed by his participation amid those lost post-MGM years in such eclectic fare as The Private Lives of Adam and Eve (1960), Platinum High School (1960), Everything’s Ducky (1961 with Buddy Hackett and a talking duck), Roger Corman’s The Secret Invasion (1964), How to Stuff a Wild Bikini (1965), the Mafia-Hippie-LSD comedy Skidoo (1968), and 1971’s The Manipulator (aka B.J. Lang Presents), where he plays a psychotic former director living in an abandoned warehouse with a female captive.
Rooney’s energy, range and versatility are truly awe-inspiring from his desperate loser of Quicksand (1950) to his subtle, moving portrayal in Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962) to his unexpected cameo in Babe: Pig in the City (1998). But I’m willing to bet that La Vida Lactea (aka The Milky Life), made in Spain in 1992, is probably the weirdest thing he’s ever done and very few people have seen it. Continue reading
Among the French New Wave directors, Claude Chabrol was the most prolific filmmaker after Jean-Luc Godard but his work was always divided between personal projects and commercial vehicles which he felt obligated to make so he could finance the former. Unfortunately, most of his “for hire” projects like Code Name: Tiger (1964) and Who’s Got the Black Box? (1967) were not successful with the public and ended up adversely affecting his reputation among film critics after his acclaimed film debut, Le Beau Serge (1958). Although he enjoyed a major comeback in the late sixties-early seventies with such well-received efforts as Les Biches (1969), La Femme Infidele (1969) and Le Boucher (1970), the films he made between 1959 and 1967 were mostly regarded as minor or flawed works by French critics, which hurt their distribution chances outside of France. One title that fell through the cracks and is now being reassessed as one of his most important early works is The Third Lover (1962), which was released on Blu-Ray in late February of 2020. Continue reading