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Monthly Archives: February 2012

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Flick Clique: January 29 – February 4

Invasion of the Bee Girls (1973). I’ve wanted to check out this campy sexploitation flick ever since Roger Ebert rhapsodized over it on an old episode of Sneak Previews (what, 30 years ago? I’m old!). I’ve had it on my Netflix instant queue for a while now, but since I spotted a copy in the DVD racks at Big Lots (paired with Invasion of the Star Creatures), I decided to pick it up instead. The film follows a federal investigator (William Smith) as he looks into a series of strange deaths in a desert town containing a top-secret bio lab. The victims, all men who died during intercourse, eventually point to a sadistic ring of killer ladies headed by Dr. Susan Harris (lovely Anitra Ford), a research doctor who uses radioactive energy to transform herself and many of the local women into foxy, lethal “bee women.” While it doesn’t quite reach the levels of greatness Ebert proclaims (read his take here), it is a grubby, cheesy and undeniably fun time. It’s basically like an old Cannon episode with lots of T&A and a few weird set pieces — the gloopy bee-woman transformation scene is a can’t miss moment.
Shark Night 3D (2011). A silly film about college students who spend their Spring Break at a remote home in the swamplands of Florida. One by one, they become shark food. There, I just saved you 91 minutes. You can thank me later.
Story of a Love Affair (1950). A disc I requested (and got!) for a DVD Talk review. The sordid, fascinating Story of a Love Affair was the first dramatic film from the legendary director Michelangelo Antonioni (L’Avventura, Blow-Up). Though it doesn’t share too much in common with his ’60s output, this is still a worthwhile drama which combines elements of Italian Neorealism and Film Noir. The story begins in a Milan detective office with a wealthy older man, holding unfamiliar photos of his new, younger wife, wanting to know more about who she knew before she met him. The detective hired to investigate tracks her earlier life to a smaller Italian town, where he calls upon the home of one of her old friends. A letter alerts the woman under investigation, Paola (Lucia Bosé), to the idea that the detective may find out about the accidental death of a third girlfriend that involved Paola and her ex-lover, Guido (Massimo Girotti). Back in Milan, Paola gets back in touch with Guido and the two rekindle their affair. Meeting in tucked-away places in the desolate city, the couple’s paranoia escalates to such a degree that the predatory Paola convinces Guido to do something drastic, before their terrible secret is exposed. Compelling, grimy little noir which is immeasurably aided by Antonioni’s shooting much of the film at various outdoor locales (cafés, roads, bridges, etc.) — the postwar Italian setting is just as much a character as the people. Lucia Bosé as Paola is quite a presence, sashaying around in stunningly modern outfits. She and the other cast members contribute fine performances to this worthwhile flick.
Tess (1979). “Why did you want to see this?” – C. “I dunno, I always wanted to see it.” – M. So began our viewing of Tess, Roman Polanski’s plush literary adaptation of yesteryear starring a young Natassja Kinski. The film, long but involving, revolves around Kinski’s Tess d’Ubervilles, a 19th century British farm girl. Tess’ father receives word that the family may be related to a wealthy noble family living nearby, so they send Tess to their estate to investigate. She winds up working on the estate, and ultimately is seduced by her cousin Alec (Leigh Lawson). The pregnant Tess goes to work on a different farm, where her baby ends up dying young. Her travels take her to yet another British farm where she meets Angel (Peter Firth), an earnest young man who is so smitten by the young beauty that he goes to unspeakable extremes to keep her safe and happy. This film has an oddly out-of-date feel, coming across more like a ’60s historical drama like A Man For All Seasons. Polanski has a wonderful eye for accurate details that envelope the viewer, however, with some scenes appearing as if they came right from an 1800s oil painting of country life. It’s also abundantly clear that he’s fascinated with Kinski, bestowing her face with long, loving close-ups. This film plays at times like an old-style Hollywood Actress Costume Epic, starting with Kinski’s resemblance to Ingrid Bergman and following through to the melodramatic finale. Performance-wise, she’s pretty good if somewhat tentative. If she seems unfeeling and faraway at times, that’s because the character is supposed to be that way. Tess isn’t the kind of film I’d return to often, but I’m happy I finally got to see it.

Flickr Friday: Republic and Gazette Playing Card

I came across some playing cards with a unique design at a Tempe, AZ Goodwill. The cards were lying around loose on a shelf, so I snuck a few in my pocket (shhh!). The cards depict an ornate Spanish tile design with an architectural rendering of a fountain using said tiles in front of a building with a “Republic and Gazette” sign. These cards were a promo item from The Arizona Republic newspaper, and they date from prior to the 1990s, when the companion afternoon paper The Phoenix Gazette was shuttered. Oddly, though I worked at the Republic for 11 years, I don’t recognize this building!

The Password Is ‘Funnies’

Making out way though our fabboo Best of Password DVD set, we came across this 1965 episode with guest stars Betty White and the elegant Arlene Francis. The Betty White Passwords are always lots of fun. She has a great, flirty repartee with host Alan Ludden (a.k.a. Mr. Betty White) and her fellow players in addition to being a sharp player. What makes this one even more interesting is that the players are well-known comic strip artists of the day, including Al Capp (‘Lil Abner) and Mort Walker (Beetle Bailey). The artists were playing for charity to support a gallery show they put on in response to Pop Artists using their comic book imagery. The artists aren’t too great at playing Password, really, but the episode is an excellent little window into that (white, male, mostly stodgy) world of newspaper comic strips of the mid-sixties.

The fascinating story behind the comic book artists (and the Pop Art show) featured in this episode can be read on this CSBG weblog post from comix expert Greg Hatcher.