Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Sunday, August 29, 2010
Thursday, August 26, 2010
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
The Spiral Staircase 1946
Set mostly in a beautifully cluttered Victorian mansion at the turn of the last century with a dark and stormy night raging outside, this is a top notch scary femme jep thriller. The film beautifully opens with the lovely and mute young housekeeper Helen played by the marvelous Dorothy McGuire ...watching a silent film in a hotel Nickelodeon, while unknown to her and everyone else a young pretty thing with a club foot is being murdered one floor above. It turns out that a crazy killer is on the loose killing young women who are in various ways physically challenged. So right off the bat we know that McGuire is in danger for her life, and because of McGuire’s lovely performance we also worry about her. McGuire who has lost her ability to speak because of a traumatic childhood incident is employed as a house worker by the fail and ailing Ethel Barrymore who spends most of the film in bed being nasty to all except Ms. McGuire who Barrymore is genuinely fond of. Ethel has two sons from different husbands who also live in the house and cause not only her but everyone else lots of aggravation, One is a do nothing vagabond and the other is a professor. The professor played by George Brent has employed the very pretty Rhonda Fleming as his secretary who by the way is carrying on with the do nothing other brother played by an actor I’ve never seen before or since. Also around the house is Kent Smith (not one of my favorite actors) as the kind doctor who believes that McGuire can be cured of her muteness and who is also in love with her. Some really good character actors also have nice parts including the somewhat tipsy cook played by the delightful and very watchable Elsa Lancaster, Sarah Allgood as a put upon nurse is very amusing even though its a small part and Rhys Williams as Lancaster’s husband and handyman around the house. The art direction which is superb is by Albert S. D'Agostino & Darrell Silvera who worked uncredited it seems on The Magnificent Ambersons. The Amberson’s feel is very evident in the film and some of the sets look to me to be recycled from that film. The richness of detail can be seen in every frame of the movie, and the great cinematography by one of the masters of noir and B’s Nicholas Musuraca also brings a richness to the film and is evident from the great transfer. And even though I’ve seen this film at least three times and know the outcome, this movie is still so entertaining and a pleasure to watch. The credit for this must go to to the suave direction of the great German director Robert Siodmak who made a small amount of films in Hollywood including Phantom Lady, The Killers, Criss Cross, Cry of the City and the questionable but campy The Cobra Woman and Son Of Dracula. Siodmak brings a high degree of Expressionism and art to a sub genre that had long reached its peak by then and brings all its components (including stress and tension) together in a terrific package. This is the Hollywood factory at its best height The subject matter is not only original but is also disturbing, and the situations of danger are full of tension especially if seeing it for a first time. One of the best films of the year.
Alex Gildzen and Bill berger and wearing some of my designs
The Bicycle Review
The current issue of The Bicycle Review has just posted and they have used 9 of my drawings and paintings. You can view the issue at this link, sorry you need to copy and paste the link. They didn't put my name under the works, but hopefully you will be able to tell which ones are mine, some have my signature.
Sunday, August 22, 2010
The Man I love. 1947
This film begins on a very promising note. Two drunks are trying to get into a jazz club on 52nd street in Manhattan, but a guy fixing the sign outside the joint tells them its late and the place in closed. The two drunks hear music coming from within and the sign guy tells them that a private jam session is in progress. The camera enters the club and there is a group of musicians performing while Petey Brown played by Ida Lupino sings the title song, but she’s not really singing she’s dubbed by Peg La Centra. If you want to hear Ida really sing which is not very pretty check out the movie Road House. Anyway there’s some snappy talk between Ida and the boys, and before we can get comfortable and settle in for a nice New York cigarette smoke filled noir story, she announces that she’s going back to California to visit her family for the Christmas holidays. Going back to California what the fuck, she’s leaving 1947 New York City for California? Now here is where the film goes down hill very fast. So Ida goes home to visit with her two pretty sisters one who slings hash in some restaurant and another younger sister who would rather stay at home and baby sit for the couple next door than go out. There is also a not so good but dull brother who is dabbling in the underworld by working for a swarthy pussy hound nightclub owner Nicky Toresca played by the good-looking Robert Alda, the father of Alan. Robert has the hots for the waitress sister played by Andrea King but she will have nothing to do with him, because she is married to a soldier who has shell shock and is bidding his time in some military loony bin. They also have a little son, who gets into fights because his friends tease him about have a crazy father. They all live in a small dumpy apartment that could be anywhere US of A, and has no sense of being in California. There are also some next door neighbors a mismatched husband and wife team with newborn twins. The wife is very good looking, bored and is hot to trot and the henpecked husband who works at night has no idea that when he’s at work she’s on the town with any guy who will pick up her drink tab. The boob thinks she’s out with her girlfriends taking in a show. You see there’s way too much plot and this is all in the first 20 or so minutes. So it’s Christmas eve, and in pops Ida fresh as a daisy with lots of presents and looking as if she was right next door just sitting around in her dressing room, which she probably was and not on some Goddamn train going cross country. Soon Ida is making plans for the family, playing big sister, putting her nose into everyone’s business and slinking around town until she crosses paths with Robert Alda who of course tries to get his mitts on her muff. But Ida being Ida or Petey won’t have anything to do with him, except accept his offer of a job to chirp at his nightclub. So Ida’s stand in voice starts belting out a few songs, and more and more complications happen. In a clumsy plot twist she falls for a sad down on his luck jazz piano player Sand Thomas (now that’s a name for you) played by hunky Bruce Bennett who a year or so before was taken for a ride by Mildred Pierce, so no wonder he’s blue. Ida falls immediately in love with him, but he’s feeling only so so for her, but still he boffs her in the usual uptight Hollywood 1940’s way. You know the roaring fireplace the couple on the floor having an after sex smoke, and of course we know they did it, even though they are as tightly clothed as if they were about to take a walk around the block. More and more melodrama follows, the sluttish neighbor comes to a bad end, the sister’s army husband suddenly recovers and is his old self again just in time for the closing scene, and Bruce Bennett who is still carrying the torch for his ex society bitch wife who by the way we never see hops a Warner Brothers steamer to some place foreign. The film ends with Ida walking away after saying goodbye to Bruce in the fog with Glycerin tears staining her cheeks. The end. Now you might be thinking hey this film sounds like fun, but it wasn’t and if you want to spend 20.00 bucks getting it from the Warner Brothers archive please go ahead be my guest. Me I got it for free from the library. There are also scenes that have been cut from this print according to whats on the trailer, which is the only extra on the disc. The director Raoul Walsh was the wrong guy to helm this load and it looks like he couldn’t decide if this was a melodrama, a woman’s weepy or a film noir gangster film and so we are left with a little of this and a little of that. The writers of the screenplay didn’t give him much help with things either. There are a few good lines like Ida telling Robert Alda 'Do you always come in without knocking? You almost scared me right out of my new hair dye.' but the screenwriters also lift some of the closing lines from Casablanca and to me that is unforgivable.