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Weekly Mishmash: January 18-24

Congo Maisie (1940). My second dose of Ann Southern’s bubbly b-movie series was a big improvement over Swing Shift Maisie. This was a fun and silly trifle which doesn’t hold a candle to the movie it remade, Red Dust. Instead of going on any further, I will direct you to Ivan Shreve’s scarily comprehensive run-through of all the Maisie movies. Does Ivan ever get any sleep?
k.d. lang — Ingénue. I’d like to thank the Savers store on Bethany Home Road in Phoenix for having a pristine copy of this CD in their bins for a cheap price. This was a good, mellow, consistent album which makes me want to seek out the other works of the talented Ms. lang (whom Christopher now refers to as my lesbian girlfriend).
Star Trek IV: The Voyage HomeStar Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986; neato poster art by Bob Peak). A confession: I’m not much of a Trekkie and never saw a Trek film until The Undiscovered Country in 1991 — so seeing these earlier movies on DVD has been a bit of an education. This one, the “crew time travels back to ’80s San Francisco to Save the Whales” edition, might be my very favorite of the bunch. The cast is obviously having a ball, which casts an infectious spirit over the entire enterprise (or, in this case, the repurposed Klingon ship). The story seems appreciably more human and approachable than any of the other Trek movies, which makes it a lot more appealing to someone like me who enjoys the occasional Trek foray but never gets all fanboyish about it. On a personal note, I loved the scenes filmed at the Monterey Bay Aquarium and couldn’t resist saying “we’ve been there!” every time one popped up.
Super Sleuth (1937). Somebody at TCM just can’t get enough of Ann Southern, since they played an entire morning of her movies this week. Never one to pass up any vintage Hollywood-set film, I recorded this one with Southern a bit wasted playing second fiddle to Jack Oakie’s conceited movie detective. The first half was breezy and light, with a lot of fun scenes of vintage moviemaking in action (it may sound strange, but both Christopher and I have a fetish for anything Old Hollywood). The second half becomes plodding and predictable with Willie Best’s offensive pop-eyed business taking over things. It should be noted that this film was produced by RKO and contains a gorgeous Art Deco office set courtesy of that studio’s legendary designer, Van Nest Polglase.
Stevie Wonder — Signed, Sealed and Delivered. Amazon timed a special deal for the download of this 1970 LP with Obama’s inaguration, and it seemed like a perfect fit for that joyous day (not coincidentally, Obama used “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” in his campaign). Don’t let the crappy cover art fool you, this is actually an excellent album which catches Wonder at a transitional time for him, and Motown in general. Here you still have some assembly-line tracks recorded with the Funk Brothers and the Andantes trilling away in the background — but the LP is dominated by the kind of funky self-produced material that would define him in the ’70s. Not the least of which is the title tune, which would even make Dick Cheney do the Funky Chicken. Digging deeper, I always loved the underrated country-tinged single “Never Had A Dream Come True,” the gospel workout “Heaven Help Us All” never fails to put a chill down my spine, and his version of “We Can Work It Out” trumps the Beatles any day.
The X-Files: I Want To Believe (2008). After ten years, you would think a new X-Files movie would be a bit less blah than this, no? Although it contains a lot of nice moments, both of us were underwhelmed by the plot (which seems more appropriate for a campy ’50s flick). Didn’t it seem strange that this Summer movie was set in the frigid American Northeast?

4 Thoughts on “Weekly Mishmash: January 18-24

  1. The worst part of that “X-Files” movie was when Mulder sniffed that frozen bathing suit and said, “chlorine!” as if someone would swim anywhere else besides an indoor pool in the middle of winter.

    Also, I’ve been reading your site for about four years, two of which I spent shelving the Grosse Pointe Borders’s manga section– unknowingly becoming very familiar with your designs. Weird!

  2. The story of “I Want to Believe” wouldn’t have made a particularly good X-Files episode, but it was worth the investment in time just to see Scully and Mulder together again, and to get some backstory on what happened to them.

  3. The X-Files movie was OK, but it seemed like they missed a lot of really obvious opportunities to be better. Why was there no real MONSTER? Why did the bad guys spend so much of the movie speaking Russian, without subtitles? I had no idea if the gay lover aspect of the Frankenstein monster plot was homophobic, or if it was meant to humanize the villains. It was just this unusual element that was introduced but never really dealt with. Why did Skinner not show up at all until the last half hour? At the end, when (spoiler warning!) Skinner stormed in with a gun, I was sure the monster would rise up and there would be a shootout. But no… the monster was in pieces, and Skinner rounded up a bunch of doctors who were muttering in Russian.

    It was right between a B- and a C+, and had some very good stuff in it. But the stuff they got wrong was just… baffling. Didn’t they do any test screenings at all?

  4. “Never Had A Dream Come True” – Produced by Henry Cosby. Track recorded February 10, 1967; strings added February 17, 1967; lead vocal recorded August 11, 1969. Scheduled as Tamla #54188A, September 30, 1969. Released on Tamla #54191A, January 13, 1970, Pop #26, R&B #11.

    It was basically a 3-year old song by the time it surfaced on the SSD LP. That’s one thing I love about Motown is how sometimes tracks would be cut and then not receive the (released) vocals for a few years. SSD is definitely a great Stevie Wonder album. As the 60s progressed, his albums were usually pretty solid for being Motown production line products.

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