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Weekly Mishmash: April 5-11

All Through The Night (1942). Humphrey Bogart appears to be having a ball in this action packed thriller with comedy elements. Here he plays a Guys & Dolls-like gambler who gets mixed up with a murderous gang of undercover Nazis posing as New York City antique dealers. Starts off peppy and fun with the usual Warner Bros. zing and a peppery cast that includes a young and unknown Jackie Gleason. The comedy never jells, however, and after an hour the film surprisingly becomes a drag which never seems to end. Too bad. I loved Judith Anderson here as a Dragon Lady in a sequined black gown.
The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008). Add another one to the “needless remakes” pile. Why did they bother? Keanu Reeves (typecast as a robot) and Jennifer Connelly are boring, the CGI is gratuitous, and the script succumbs to a lot of stupid lapses in logic (e.g., bugs that can destroy a stadium in seconds can’t touch a tiny bridge?). Worst of all is Jaden Smith as Connelly’s stepson. I don’t remember the part of the kid being that prominent in the original; here, the role balloons into that of a shrill brat who stops the film dead in its tracks whenever he’s onscreen. Not since The Phantom Menace has a movie been so sabotaged by an annoying, screen-hogging moppet.
I Married A Monster From Outer Space PosterThe H-Man (1958) and I Married a Monster from Outer Space (1958). The TiFauxed gatherings of a night of ’50s sci-fi broadcast by TCM on March 31st. Produced by Toho Studios of Godzilla fame, The H-Man concerns a bubbling blob of goo that attacks Tokyo denziens at night — leaving only their clothes behind. Campy fun tempered with effectively creepy scenes of people liquifying in their own clothes. I also loved the colorful ’50s atmosphere, including a nightclub where the dancers wear surprisingly skimpy outfits for 1958. TCM’s showing was the dubbed, pan and scan Americanized version, but I enjoyed it just the same. I Married a Monster from Outer Space was another dark gem — don’t let the kitschy title fool you. This story of a young bride (Gloria Talbott, who’d previously played Jane Wyman’s bratty daughter in All That Heaven Allows) who comes to realize that her new husband (Tom Tryon) is not the man he used to be reeks of ’50s paranoia. As the film unfolds, it is revealed that aliens are taking over the bodies of all the men in the town so that they can eventually impregnate the women and save their kind. This movie is very well-made and has that proper anti-Commie slant — but I could also detect an unspoken homophobia in there as well, which makes this doubly fascinating. A major premise of the movie is that all of the alienized men have a sudden kinship with each other that the women don’t understand; helping further is the fact that the lanky Tom Tryon actually was gay and gives off some serious gaydar in this role. Or am I reading too much here?
Pirates of the Caribbean: From the Magic Kingdom to the Movies by Jason Surrell. A nicely written history of the theme park attraction in all its incarnations, beautifully illustrated with tons of old concept renderings. For an official Disney-sanctioned book, the text surprisingly depends on many imagineer quotes taken from the fan-run vintage Disneyland magazine The E-Ticket. This book also chronicles the making of the first PotC movie, which had its moments but isn’t my cup of tea. I also liked reading the company’s namby-pamby rationalizations for giving the Pirates a P.C. makeover in the late ’90s, and more recently for adding an animatronic Jack Sparrow to the ride. For today’s Disney, it’s all about raking in the bucks.
Strangers with Candy (2005). I used to enjoy Strangers With Candy when it was on Comedy Central. Amy Sedaris was a riot as tough talking ex-druggie convict turned high schooler Jerri Blank. This big screen adaptation, however, was a disappointment. In opening the premise up to filmic proportions, the hilarious “after school special” flavor of the series was tossed aside for a dull plot in which Jeri and her nerdy classmates try to win the school’s science fair. The one saving grace is Sedaris’ complete lack of vanity as Jerri Blank, and in that respect she scores.
Secrets (1933). A well-mounted period production in which Mary Pickford and Leslie Howard play a couple whose loving relationship spans fifty years. At the age of forty, this was Pickford’s final film. The silent screen legend strains credibility as a teenager in early scenes, and her cutesy-poo mannerisms sometimes go too far (at times she reminded me of Georgette from The Mary Tyler Moore Show). The melodrama is also hobbled with being too episodic and old fashioned, but Frank Borzage directs smoothly and Pickford gets one fantastic scene when her ranch home gets attacked by vicious rustlers. Worth a look for the curious.

2 Thoughts on “Weekly Mishmash: April 5-11

  1. Yes, The Moppet Movie was a major disappointment. Doesn’t Keanu Reeves play an emotionless robot in all his films?

  2. did you know that i married a mosnter from outer space has been remade? it seems to be on tv here quite a bit. i wish they’d show the original though.

    i’m glad more than ever that i never saw the remake of the day the earth stood still.

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