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Weekly Mishmash: March 8-14

House of Cards (1990). British actor Ian Richardson is the whole show as a scheming House of Parliament member in this 1990 BBC miniseries. Christopher saw this back in the day; it was a first time viewing for me. Absorbing and surprisingly not too dated; Richardson’s soliloquies to the camera and the constant establishing shots of rats crawling around London are highlights in this twisty tale.
Juke Girl PosterJuke Girl (1942). Gritty and well-meaning, if unmemorable, tale of Florida farm workers fits snugly amongst the cycle of Warner Bros. “plight of the common man” melodramas. Ronald Reagan is the picture of blandness in the lead (strange seeing him starring in such a liberal-minded film), playing a drifting farm worker facing off against an exploitative produce distributor. Although the film is titled after Ann Sheridan’s saucy dance hall dame, her character is actually pretty incidental here. What really made this movie worth watching is the supporting cast — Richard Whorf, Gene Lockhart, George Tobias, Alan Hale, and Howard Da Silva. Individually, all of those guys were the kind of undervalued meat-and-potatoes actors that added spice to otherwise standard ’40s b-movies. They’re all great here. Oh, and like a lot of WB films of this era, the cinematography is moody and nice all around. Lots of barroom fights here, too.
The Mirror Crack’d (1980). Those all-star Agatha Christie adaptations from the ’70s and ’80s are guilty pleasures of mine. The Mirror Crack’d came third in line chronologically; after Murder on the Orient Express (1974) and Death on the Nile (1979), preceding Evil Under the Sun (1982, still haven’t seen this although the film’s tie-in paperback was the first “grown up” book I remember reading). Here Angela Lansbury plays Miss Marple, with Elizabeth Taylor and Kim Novak hamming it up as aging movie stars. Rock Hudson and Tony Curtis play the men in their lives. Hands down, Taylor and Novak’s one scene together forms the catty highlight. The rest of the film is somewhat flat and TV movie-like, the kind of thing you’d pick out of the library bins when nothing else looks interesting (which, coincidentally, is how I came across this!). It appears that Christie based her story on a real-life incident involving actress Gene Tierney.
Third Man on the Mountain (1960). James MacArthur plays a young Swiss lad who yearns to climb the same dangerous mountain peak his father died on, in this colorful Disney adventure. It’s a strictly okay production with a few exciting mountain climbing scenes sprinkled amongst the blah drama. MacArthur’s mom, Helen Hayes, has an amusing cameo as a tourist. Ironically, this forgotten movie’s main claim to fame is that it inspired the Matterhorn Bobsleds attraction at Disneyland — making it one of the few cases where the cash-in ride is better than the movie.

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