I’m a big admirer of John Frankenheimer’s early work from such live TV dramas as The Comedian (1956) and Days of Wine and Roses (1957) to his peak achievements of the sixties: All Fall Down (1962), Birdman of Alcatraz (1962), The Manchurian Candidate (1962) and Seconds (1966). I’ve also enjoyed several of the more commercial projects he helmed throughout his career such as Seven Days in May (1964), Black Sunday (1977) and Ronin (1998). Unfortunately, his reputation has suffered over the years due to several box office bombs and critically maligned movies – The Horsemen (1971), Story of a Love Story aka Impossible Object (1973), 99 and 44/100% Dead (1974), Prophecy (1979), Dead Bang (1989), and especially The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996), which had a highly publicized and chaotic production history. Yet the most notoriously panned film of his career is easily The Extraordinary Seaman (1969) and in Frankenheimer’s own words, “It was the only movie I’ve made which I would say was a total disaster.” So, I finally decided to see for myself if the movie lives up to its notoriety.Continue reading
Not all Oscar nominations are for big budget, prestigious studio pictures like Ben-Hur (1959), The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) and Gone With the Wind (1939), and we’re here to offer further proof, as we did in Oscar Oddities, Part 1 (which covered 1999 -1960), that sometimes flukes and unexpected surprises can and do occur. If a poverty row studio like PRC (Producers Releasing Corporation) can break into the honored inner circle with Academy Award nominations for a tough little no-budget crime drama like Why Girls Leave Home (1945), anything can happen.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).
Among most Fields’ enthusiasts, The Bank Dick is considered one of his best films, right up there with It’s a Gift (1934). It’s also the only film in which Fields enjoyed full creative control and it would be his last. His final starring role in Never Give a Sucker an Even Break (1941) was an unhappy experience and turned into one long battle with the Universal top brass over scripting and censorship issues.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
Have you ever had a fantasy about running and programming your own repertory cinema? Any self-proclaimed film buff probably has and for me it became a slowly emerging fantasy from the time I was seven or older. Unlike those kids who wanted to be firemen, astronauts, professional athletes or other revered professions, I pictured myself as a movie theater owner who could show what I wanted and print availability or attendance was never a concern. While this fantasy faded over the years as I became aware of the realities and headaches of film distribution and theater management, the love of programming movies always stayed with me and for a brief period (Feb. 1980 – Dec. 1981), I ran an invitation only film series out of my home in Athens, Ga. on Pulaski Street that I called Secret Cinema. Continue reading