Flick Clique: July 15-21
I’ve been so busy that I failed to notice that this month marked the 12th anniversary of Scrubbles.net. Happy Birthday to us. I like sharing things…
Cocaine: One Man’s Seduction (1983). Ever notice that there’s a lot of campy made-for-TV movies on Netflix streaming? You have to wonder where they all came from. They must be the primary reason why Netflix-haters decide to cancel their subscriptions. Personally, I gravitate towards them like a cat craves a bowl of milk. The preachy anti-drug opus Cocaine: One Man’s Seduction came as a recommendation from my vintage cheese-loving friend Bryan a few years back, but I didn’t get to check it out until this week. In this flick, Dennis Weaver plays an aging San Diego real estate agent who has a stable roster of clients, a loving wife (Karen Grassle) and handsome son (James Spader) who is about to graduate high school. A nice life, and yet the pressure to be the best durn house flipper in S.D. prompts him to consult with a swingin’ young couple (David Ackroyd and Pamela Belwood) who tempt him into trying out the nose candy. Soon he’s on top of the world, but a few cliché-ridden scenes finds him tail spinning into a shattering crash. This had a lot of potential to be silly, and it is at times (any scene with Jeffrey Tambor as Weaver’s best pal is gold, for instance), but for the most part the film is a fairly realistic portrait of drug addiction. Thankfully the film doesn’t go into hysterics and have its hero fall through a window or spectacularly crash a car. It kinda plays like an early Knots Landing episode, only with McCloud and Ma Ingalls in the lead with Blaine as their kid – and that Dynasty woman who isn’t Alexis or Krystle as the temptress.
Columbo: Try and Catch Me (1977) and Banacek: Detour To Nowhere (1972). More made-for-TV goodness … one of my Twitter followers alerted me that the 1977 Columbo movie Try and Catch Me was being broadcast on MeTV, a pleasant surprise for which I’m eternally grateful. I actually am not too big on Columbo, having only seen a few episodes here and there, but this one was a treat with Peter Falk and guest star Ruth Gordon contributing vibrant performances. Gordon plays an Agatha Christie-like famous mystery novelist who arranges to seal up her son-in-law in her own walk-in vault, making it look like an accident. Not so much a whodunit as a how will Columbo figure out whodunit, this is considered one of the better episodes of that show by fans. I’d have to agree. Spurred on by that, Christopher decided to rent a disc of Banacek, one of his childhood faves. We watched the pilot episode, which was occasionally boring but fun all the same. In Detour To Nowhere, George Peppard’s prickly intellectual Banacek journeys to a tiny Texas town to uncover why an armored truck fully loaded with gold simply vanished in the desert. This one has that typical TV-movie feel with a bunch of stereotypical hick supporting characters and a lacquered leading lady (Christine Belford) who seems like a poor man’s Candice Bergen. I don’t think the whole enterprise induced me to want to watch more Banacek, but it was enjoyable enough in a low key way.
Remorques (1941). This past week, I was fortunate enough to receive Criterion‘s new Eclipse set, Jean Gremillon During The Occupation to review at DVD Talk. This 3-film set explores the work of the underrated Jean Gremillion, who did several intriguing melodramas in France while World War II was raging (it still astonishes me that art can be accomplished in times of intense combat). Remarques, a.k.a. Stormy Waters, is an atmospheric melodrama dealing with a sea captain (played by the magnetic Jean Gabin) whose dedication to his job retrieving ships stranded in turbulent seas places a strain on his otherwise solid marriage to a fragile beauty (Madeleine Renaud). One such retrieval trip yields a fetching female castaway (Michele Morgan) who bailed on both the ship and her marriage to the conniving man who runs the ailing vessel. Back on dry ground, Gabin and Morgan kindle a romance, a dalliance that prompts Gabin to question his very place in life. This intriguing effort was thoughtfully directed and beautifully shot, with nuanced performances all around (American actors from this time almost seem coarse in comparison) — and a heavy-handed finale. The plot is pretty standard stuff, but I enjoyed the ship scenes which combine gritty documentary footage of real tugboats with fake-looking but wonderfully crafted model work. Based on this one, I’m eagerly looking forward to the other two offerings on this set: Lumiere D’Ete (1943) and Le Ciel Est A Vous (1944). Like all my other DVD Talk stuff, a more detailed review will be coming soon at the site.