Monday, January 24, 2011

Short Takes

Animal Kingdom, 2010. Sensational first film from down under by David Michôd about a small time crime family living and dying in Melbourne. A perfect fit for the genre with standout performances by Ben Mendelsohn and 17 year old James Frecheville who plays the nephew of this highly dysfunctional and dangerous family. In a startling opening scene we see Frecheville on a couch watching tv with a woman who appears to be napping, but it turns out that she is dead from a heroin overdose and is his mother. He is soon brought back to the criminal lair by his grandmother played by Jacki Weaver the Matriarch of the brood and the mother of his dead mom. Looking like a dried up apple with a blonde wig, tiny Weaver plays the mother from hell in a hair raising performance that is low keyed with her cards held close to her chest so you really don’t know where she’s coming from or going. When she tells one of the characters “You've Done Some Bad Things, Sweetie” you want to duck and take cover. If there is any justice, she would be taking home an Oscar. The violence and blood letting is there but its not in your face gory or grisly. With Guy Pearce as a good cop trying to do his job. One of the years best films

Shockproof. Part of the Sam Fuller collection of early films of his, this offers up a screenplay which Fuller co-wrote with .Helen Deutsch .and with direction by Douglas Sirk. The movie starts off real good, with a just released from prison Patricia Knight making her way through a montage of her changing her look before she heads up to meet her parole officer played by Cornell Wilde looking sexy and sharp. Knight and Wilde were married at the time, so the sexual tension and attraction is actual even though by this time they had been married since 1937. Knight who had a nice look, was sort of a second tier Rita Hayworth and is trouble from the word go. Hanging out with bad people, breaking her parole and giving Wilde a ride for his money. Soon Cornell is falling for the dame, and here’s where things get dicey and the film starts to fall apart with unbelievable and improbable twists and turns and an unsatisfying ending that Deutsch soften up from Fuller’s much tougher ending. Still its an easy film to watch, thanks to a nice transfer, good on location L.A. scenes, some tart dialogue and eye candy Wilde and Knight.

Hammer Film Noir. Bad Blonde & Man Bait. This is vol.1 in a 3 set series and features a group of Hollywood has been’s and never been’s in low budget melodramas made in Great Britain that stretch the definition of film noir. Bad Blonde from 1953 stars the real life Bad Blonde Barbara Payton who personal story is more riveting and sleazy than any B movie she could have made including this one. Payton plays the American wife of Giuseppe Vecchi an irritating and vulgar Italian prize fighter promoter played with hammy relish by Frederick Valk. Into the mix comes a young fighter Johnny Flanagan so so played by attractive Tony Wright who when he gets one look at Payton putting on her nylons its Postman Always Rings Twice time. Directed by Reginald Le Borg a master of B’s and shlock including the Joe Palooka series.

Also on the disc is Man Bait from 1952 which stars George Brent, Marguerite Chapman and Diana Dors. whose real name was Diana Fluck. This is a somewhat enjoyable little mess of a movie that I found entertaining and unusual because it’s set in a bookstore, and has a lot of musty bookstore atmosphere that rings true. Brent gives his usual dull sleepwalking performance as the manager of the store who gets caught up in employee Dors sticky tangled web which leads to blackmail and murder. Directed by Terence Fisher who would go on to direct many of the Hammer horror films of the late 50’s and 60’s.


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