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Weekly Mishmash: October 26 – November 1

Chicago 10 (Independent Lens, PBS). Provocative 2007 documentary uses animation and newsreel footage to reconstruct the trial of the Chicago Seven, “Yippies” accused of inciting riots outside the 1968 Democratic National Convention. Except for the clumsy animation and obtrusive soundtrack, this was a well done film overall. I was amazed at how much news footage and/or home movies of the events the filmmakers found and weaved throughout the film. The scenes with self-absorbed lead Yippie Abbie Hoffman calling a radio deejay were a nice bonus.
Cop Hater (1958)Cop Hater (1958). Guess I was in a tawdry, low budget cop movie mood when this one showed up on Turner Classic Movies. Robert Loggia stars as a guy’s guy detective assigned to investigate a series of police slayings during New York City’s hottest summer. A standard plotline directed with all the panache of a live TV production, sure, but this movie has enough unusual elements to recommend it. For one, the hero’s girlfriend is a deaf mute, the serial killer aspect dates back early enough to be a novelty, and the heatwave setting requires most of the cast to lounge around in their skivvies. Real seedy (dig that poster!). The unfamiliarity of the cast is another real asset. A young and unknown Jerry Orbach just radiates grit as a teenage hood, for instance.
Michael Jackson — Thriller and Curtis Mayfield — Roots. Good week to take advantage of competing mp3 download services — iTunes proffered Thriller for only $4.98, while the 99 cent Roots was worth taking a chance over at Amazon. I’ve never heard Thriller before, since the album’s still jaw-dropping seven hit singles had already burned on my brain for a good 25 years. It’s a solid piece; even the two lesser known LP cuts (“Lady In My Life” and “Baby Be Mine”) are competent bits of early ’80s smooth R&B. But it’s the magnificently claustrophobic “Billie Jean,” the rockin’ “Beat It,” the smooth “Human Nature,” the funky “P.Y.T.” and the epic title tune that make it an album for the ages (“The Girl Is Mine” I can take or leave). Curtis Mayfield’s second album, 1971’s Roots, was another delight. Although the tracks tend to run a bit long, the entire album is suffused with a warm and cautiously optimistic “black is beautiful” spirit.
The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll (1960) and Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb (1964). Two Hammer horror films from the early ’60s, both filled with gorgeous color photography and horrid acting, made for our Halloween entertainment. Two Faces was the slightly better of the two, with a barely adequate Paul Massie doing an unusual take on Jekyll/Hyde (Dr. Jekyll is a hiristute dullard, while Mr. Hyde is a clean-shaven and magnetic stud). Faring better were Dawn Addams as a fetching Mrs. Jekyll and a surprisingly sexy Christopher Lee as her wastrel paramour. Lots of dull padding weighs down this movie, but I was transfixed by the totally artificial Victorian London revealed in the film’s wild photography, costumes and sets. The hokey Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb had nothing at all to recommend it.
Vigil in the Night (1940). The one with Carole Lombard as a nurse trying to make do in a horrible British hospital. She comes across moderately well, often succumbing to the same Excess Nobility Disease that afflicted Norma Shearer in The Women. Character actress Ethel Griffies, strong as Lombard’s nurse matron, wound up making a memorable appearance as a bird expert in Hitchcock’s The Birds 23 years later.

2 Thoughts on “Weekly Mishmash: October 26 – November 1

  1. I recorded COP HATER when I saw it listed on TCM, but haven’t gotten around to watching it yet. Glad to hear I’ve got something to look forward to.

  2. Vince, I really want to find out what you think when you see it. Post a review at yer blog!

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