Angela Pleasence, like her father, has a face made for the cinema though not in the realm of conventional leading ladies. Even as a young actress appearing in bit parts in movies like Here We Go Around the Mulberry Bush (1968) and The Love Ban (1973), she was never a winsome ingénue or the lovable girl next store. Her uniquely peculiar beauty – especially those hungry eyes that bore holes right through you – must have somehow hindered her movie career because her film roles have been few and far between. She is mostly remembered for her television work, particularly her role as Catherine Howard in the 1970 TV mini-series The Six Wives of Henry VIII, but she should have had the film career her father had on the basis of Symptoms (1974) alone.Continue reading
Hollywood has churned out countless musical biographies on popular musicians, singers and songwriters over the years, jazz artists and their life stories have remained a virtually untapped genre with few exceptions (Bird, Clint Eastwood’s 1988 portrait of Charlie Parker, 2015’s Born to be Blue with Ethan Hawke as Chet Baker). There was a brief time in the fifties, however, where public interest in some of the big band legends and early jazz innovators resulted in a spate of high-profile biopics: The Glenn Miller Story , The Benny Goodman Story , and The Five Pennies [1959), starring Danny Kaye as jazz trumpeter Red Nichols. Coming at the end of the cycle was The Gene Krupa Story  which featured Sal Mineo (twenty years old at the time) in his first adult screen role.Continue reading
Hollywood’s penchant for remakes is not a new development but a strategy that has served some of our most acclaimed directors in often surprising and unique reworkings of the original source material. Take, for instance, Billy Wilder’s 1964 sex comedy, Kiss Me, Stupid. It was actually adapted from Anna Bonacci’s 1944 play, L’ora della fantasia [The Dazzling Hour], which, in turn, became the 19th century costume farce Wife for a Night (1952, aka Moglie per una notte), directed by Mario Camerini, a popular Italian film director who is best known for a number of 1930s hit comedies starring Vittorio de Sica and a 1954 version of the Greek myth Ulysses with Kirk Douglas.Continue reading
The cinematic concept of telling a story in reverse order might seem like a creative rejection of the traditional chronological narrative but it is nothing new. Polish filmmaker Jean Epstein experimented with this approach as early as 1927 with the avant-garde short The Three-Sided Mirror (La Glace a trois faces) but in recent years we have seen numerous examples of the reverse narrative in Atom Egoyan’s The Sweet Hereafter (1997), Michel Gondry’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) and two films by Christopher Nolan, Memento (2000) and Tenet (2020). Betrayal (1983), the brilliant screen adaptation of Harold Pinter’s 1978 play, is probably my favorite example of the backward narrative in terms of its cumulative emotional power but Happy End (1967) by Czech filmmaker Oldrich Lipsky might be the funniest and most visually inventive example of this novel gimmick.Continue reading
When the subject of Japanese film comes up, you might assume that Akira Kurosawa is that nation’s most famous filmmaker in terms of international recognition and critical acclaim. Yet, a 2014 book by August Ragone (published by Chronicle Books), makes a good case for another filmmaker from Japan whose worldwide popularity, especially among sci-fi/fantasy fans, is probably greater than Kurosawa, Yasujiro Ozu, Kenji Mizoguchi and Kon Ichikawa combined. His name is Eiji Tsuburaya. What? The name doesn’t ring a bell? Maybe you’ve heard of Godzilla (1954) or Mothra (1961) or Destroy All Monsters (1968) or Rodan (1956) or countless other sci-fi/fantasy films from Toho Studios that featured Tsuburaya’s special effects?Continue reading
Anyone who is familiar with Bollywood cinema knows that every film that is churned out by the Bollywood film industry contains musical numbers. That doesn’t mean they are all classified as musicals. Quite the contrary. Almost every film genre you can imagine exists in the Bollywood universe – romantic dramas, historical epics, action-adventure yarns, spy comedies, soap operas, even horror films – and they all have musical interludes that relate to the plot. Jewel Thief, one of the biggest Bollywood hits of 1967, falls under the category of crime caper but this is not a gritty noir like Rififi (1955) or The Asphalt Jungle (1950). Instead, it is a noir-lite delight that is closer in tone to the more comic heist classics like Topkapi (1964) or romantic suspensers like To Catch a Thief (1955). What sets it apart from all of the above movies are the stylish and elaborately choreographed dance/song numbers.Continue reading
Forget about Boys Town, Judge Hardy and Son, Babes in Arm, The Human Comedy or National Velvet. This is the less traveled road of Mickey Rooney’s post-MGM career where anything goes like co-starring with a talking mule (Francis in the Haunted House, 1956) or managing a troupe of trained monkeys (Babe: Pig in the City, 1998).