Flick Clique: March 18-24
Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel (2011). Great documentary on esteemed schlock movie producer Roger Corman. This wasn’t particularly revealing or deep, but it’s a fast-paced and enjoyable combo profile/career retrospective. DVD Talk review is here (I see it got a nice write-up in the new Entertainment Weekly, too).
Deadline at Dawn (1946) and Backfire (1950). These two films shared a disc on the Warner Bros. Film Noir Classics Vol. 5 set from a few years back. A crack RKO production, Deadline at Dawn has wide-eyed sailor Bill Williams and cynical dancing girl Susan Hayward tramping about third-shift Manhattan attempting to solve the murder of a woman with whom Williams shared a few badly-timed moments (not to mention a big wad of cash). The story is a little too out-there to be truly believable, but I found the film enjoyable enough. Hayward is excellent, and Williams was quite the cutie back then (some of his good looks were inherited by his son, William Katt). The Warner Bros. production Backfire also had a gritty appeal, although the film wasn’t nearly as engaging. This one concerns a hospitalized serviceman (hunky Gordon MacRae) who sees a vision of a mysterious dark-haired woman in the night. He convinces his nurse girlfriend Virginia Mayo that the woman has something to do with the unexplained disappearance of his best friend, Edmund O’Brien. The two decide to play amateur detectives and uncover a mess of underworld activity in the L.A. area, which eventually leads to O’Brien’s whereabouts. Nicely paced, attractively cast, and having that vintage W.B. style, but the film never really comes together in a satisfying whole.
Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971) and Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972). Having never seen any of the older Planet of the Apes movies besides the original, I put these on the DVR when they showed up on ThisTV. I figured these two sequels were probably pretty cheesy anyhow, so what difference would a few commercial breaks and a pan-n-scan picture make? Escape was actually pretty fun, with the first film’s Cornelius (Roddy McDowall) and Zira (Kim Hunter) going through a time warp and winding up curiosities – and eventual media celebrities – in ’70s Los Angeles. A cheap production (it looks like a TV movie), but McDowall and Hunter contribute good performances underneath all that ape makeup and the silly story (with Zira getting pregnant and the U.S. Feds, fearful of an intelligent ape population, to hold them captive) has just enough intrigue to keep it watchable. Loved Jerry Goldsmith’s campy and delightfully dated score, too. Conquest returns the series to deadly-serious mode, with Cornelius and Zira’s grown son (also played by McDowall) coming to terms with a 1991 America in which the apes have replaced cats and dogs (who were eradicated by a virus) as humankind’s pets/servants. Heavy handed and boring.
No Man of Her Own (1950). An old favorite with Barbara Stanwyck as a destitute single mom who adopts another woman’s identity (in a story that seems to have foreshadowed every film produced by Lifetime Television). I was delighted to find that it’s getting a DVD reissue from Olive Films this month. My DVD Talk review is here.
Out of Sight (1998). You remember this one, right? One of the more acclaimed films of the ’90s concerned the pursuit/flirtation between George Clooney’s suave career criminal and Jennifer Lopez’s tough U.S. Marshall. Although it’s overlong and doesn’t quite hang together sometimes, I found this as excellently written and cast as everybody said. I didn’t quite believe Clooney, but he was charming all the same. Lopez was shockingly good (whatever happened to her movie career, anyhow?). I also loved the supporting players – all of them! This is the kind of film that has talented actors occupying every little corner (including Viola Davis as the consort of one of the thugs Lopez is tailing). Director Stephen Soderbergh employs a fascinating flash back/forward technique here, establishing contrasting moods between the characters and the places they occupy – check out the differences between Miami and Detroit. The film has its share of padded-out scenes (like the Clooney/Lopez seduction), but overall it was successful.