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Tag Archives: Glenda Jackson

Weekly Mishmash I: October 31 – November 6

We’ve got more entertainment than usual in the past week, so once again I’m splitting the Mishmash in two:
Fireball 500 (1966) and Thunder Alley (1967). A double bill of AIP stock car racing flicks from the ’60s starring Annette Funicello and Fabian. These have been on DVD for a few years now, but I finally got to catch them when they got shown on our local This TV HD channel, which seems to be a haven for exploitation, action/adventure and cheesy TV movies from the ’60s-’80s (Beverly Hills Madam, anyone?). Just my style, in other words. Both of these movies are honestly pretty dull, but they’re interesting if only to check out how American International morphed from perky teens on the beach to motorcycle/rebel schlock over the course of the ’60s. The earlier Fireball 500 owes more to the Beach Party template, with Annette and Fabian joined by Frankie Avalon and Harvey Lembeck in a tale that uneasily mixes lowbrow yuks, campy songs and lots of stock footage of NASCAR crashes. The same footage seemingly popped up the follow year in Thunder Alley, a film that still wallows in action clichés but boasts a more cohesive story and an improved, appealing cast. A refinement, if you will. The film also has lovely Annette singing one of her best tunes, “When You Get What You Want”:

The House of the Devil (2008). Every Halloween, we have a tradition of turning off the porch light to ward off trick or treaters (why should a bunch of strange kids take our candy?), hide off in the back room, and watch a scary movie. This year’s offering was the recent indie The House of the Devil, writer/director Ti West’s modest yet affectionate tribute to early ’80s “babysitter in peril” flicks. The film concerns a cash-strapped college student (Jocelin Donahue) who accepts a job looking over an infirm old woman in a cavernous home while the woman’s creepy caretakers (Tom Noonan and Mary Woronov) are out for the night. The film initially sets up a nice, period-accurate vibe with grainy film stock, correct clothing and vehicles, and Donahue’s blank countenance which seems right in line with every ’80s horror actress from Jamie Lee Curtis on down. Unfortunately, the film isn’t very exciting or suspenseful with its never-ending scenes of Donahue padding around the house. Once the action does hit in the final 20 minutes, it’s also a huge, cliché filled letdown. Well intentioned, but a bore. I need to pick something better for next Halloween.
cd_nippongirlsVarious — Nippon Girls: Japanese Pop, Beat & Bossa Nova 1966-70. An import compilation CD of tasty girl-led Japanese pop from the ’60s as compiled and annotated by Sheila Burgel of Cha-Cha Charming magazine. This is a delightful set, all the more enjoyable since Japanese music in general is still something of an enigma to these ears. This set concentrates on the Group Sounds movement, an Asian response to the British and American rock scene of the era. On the whole it’s energetic, wonderfully kitschy music that would fit nicely into a go-go discotheque scene from a particularly groovy Godzilla flick. It’s surprising to hear so many women with strong, authoritative voices here, something that must have sounded mighty progressive in ’60s Japan. Highlights include Ayumi Ishida’s dramatic, harpsichord driven “Taiyou Wa Naite Iru” (a cousin to Procol Harum’s “Conquistador”) and Mari Atsumi’s sweepingly seductive “Suki Yo Ai Shite.”
Sunday Bloody Sunday (1971). Over the course of a week in tony London, a prickly divorcée (Glenda Jackson) and a Jewish doctor (Peter Finch) share both a party line and an artist lover (Murray Head) while trying hard not to acknowledge each others’ existence. I’ve always been curious about this acclaimed domestic drama from director John Schlesigner. It’s a shrill, confusing film with the leads seemingly thrown into a chaotic world against their will. The gay angle must have seemed shocking in 1971. It’s nicely handled, however, with Finch and Head delivering subtle, blessedly non-stereotypical work. As a matter of fact, luminous performances are the most timeless aspect of this film; Jackson and Finch especially come across as flawed, funny and above all human here. If ever a film rode on the work of its leads, it’s this one. The film is very hard-hitting and realistic, dealing with themes similar to that of a more durable musical of the era, Stephen Sondheim’s Company. It goes into strange territory in the second half with Finch seemingly having a revelatory moment at a family member’s bar mitzvah ceremony, then delivering an odd monologue directly to the camera. That seemed unnecessary and makes this effort more maddening than anything else.