Lee Tracy Does Washington

Whenever a repertory cinema like NYC’s Film Forum or a film archive like the George Eastman Museum programs a Pre-Code series you can bet that Lee Tracy is bound to be in a few of the famous titles such as The Strange Love of Molly Louvain, Love is a Racket, Doctor X, Blessed Event (all released in 1932) and Bombshell (1933). He’s also likely to be playing some kind of shady careerist such as a carnival barker, ambulance-chasing lawyer or tabloid newsman. That’s probably due to his legendary performance on Broadway in 1928 as reporter Hildy Johnson in The Front Page, written by Charles MacArthur and Ben Hecht. Unfortunately, he didn’t get to play the role in the 1931 screen version – Pat O’Brien won that honor and Rosalind Russell played the female version in Howard Hawks’ 1940 remake, His Girl Friday – but Fox Pictures realized Tracy’s potential and brought him to Hollywood in 1929.  Continue reading

Ernesto Gastaldi’s Seminal Giallo

With a tumultuous background of waves crashing against a rocky coast, a descriptive statement from Sigmund Freud on the meaning of libido scrolls down the screen. Part of the Austrian psychoanalyst’s quotation defines libido as “the energy, regarded as a quantitative magnitude… of those instincts which have to do with all that may be comprised under the word ‘love.’” But the film that follows is not about love but rather the perversion of it starting with an opening sequence in which a child witnesses the aftermath of his father’s violent S&M session with a female companion, an incident that scars him for life.     Continue reading

Egypt is No Place for a Satirist

What do you do when your government becomes a military dictatorship and forbids freedom of speech that is critical of the regime? You can fight back with the one non-violent weapon most bullies fear the most – satire. Heart surgeon turned comedian Bassem Youssef knows this is true because he became an overnight sensation in Egypt after launching his own YouTube web series (filmed in his laundry room) that poked fun at his government.

From these humble beginnings to the network launch of his satiric news show Al Bernameg in 2012, Youssef quickly earned a following of 30 million viewers per episode and was soon dubbed “The Egyptian Jon Stewart.” All of this and more is chronicled in the highly compelling documentary Tickling Giants, directed by Sara Taksler and currently in selected screenings across the U.S.

*This is a revised version of an article that originally appeared on ArtsATL.com Continue reading

Norman Lloyd: Hollywood’s Long Distance Runner, Part 2

Actor/Director/Producer Norman Lloyd, born 1914.

*This is the second part of a revised and updated version of a Norman Lloyd interview which was first recorded in March 2010 just prior to the actor/director/producer’s appearance at the first Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival.

Here is the link to Part 1: https://cinemasojourns.com/2017/04/09/norman-lloyd-hollywoods-long-distance-runner/     Continue reading

Norman Lloyd: Hollywood’s Long Distance Runner, Part 1

Norman Lloyd hangs on for dear life in Alfred Hitchcock’s Saboteur (1942).

On November 8, 2017 Norman Lloyd will be 203 and he shows no signs of slowing down. In recent years, he has become the go-to historian for the American film industry’s golden era due to his friendship and working relationships with such cinema legends as Charlie Chaplin, Jean Renoir, Orson Welles, Alfred Hitchcock, John Garfield, Bernard Herrmann, John Houseman, Joseph Losey and others. Lloyd also continues to take acting roles (he has a nice cameo in the 2015 Judd Apatow comedy Trainwreck starring Amy Schumer) and appear as an interviewee in documentaries such as Marsha Hunt’s Sweet Adversity (2015) and Broadway: Beyond the Golden Age, which is currently in post-production.

*This is a revised and updated version of the original interview which was recorded in March 2010 just prior to Lloyd’s appearance at the first Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival.   Continue reading

A $20 Million Cinematic Landmark to Slapstick

When Steven Spielberg’s 1941 opened in December 1979, it was mostly savaged by the critics though a few rose to its defense like Pauline Kael who wrote, “…the film overall is an amazing, orgiastic comedy, with the pop culture of an era compacted into a day and a night. There are such surprising slapstick payoffs that the film’s commercial failure in this country didn’t make much sense.” When I caught up with 1941 in a repertory screening in 1982, I had to concur with Kael that Spielberg’s comic epic was unfairly maligned and great fun if you just go with the chaotic flow of it.   Continue reading

Jess Franco’s Attack of the Robots

Imagine a science-fiction influenced spy thriller about humanoid assassins directed by Jess Franco with a screenplay adaptation by Jean-Claude Carrière (a frequent collaborator with Luis Bunuel), a cool jazz score by Paul Misraki (Alphaville, Le Doulos, Les Cousins) and an international cast featuring Eddie Constantine, Fernando Rey and Francoise Brion. It sounds like a film buff’s fever dream but it actually exists. Released in 1966 during the height of the James Bond craze, Cartes sur table aka Attack of the Robots is a stylish and amusing entertainment that takes a standard world domination-by-madman scenario and infuses it with a cheeky sense of humor. The film will come as a surprise to those who only associate Jess Franco with Eurotrash favorites like 99 Women (1969), Vampyros Lesbos (1971) and Wanda, the Wicked Warden (1977).

Eddie Constantine as Interpol agent Al Pereira in Jess Franco’s Cartes sur table (aka Attack of the Robots, 1966).

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