The Cyclops

OK, The Cyclops from 1956 isn’t quite up there with Forbidden Planet or Invasion Of the Bodysnatchers or War Of the Worlds in 1950’s science fiction. It’s more down there with The Amazing Colossal Man, The Killer Shrews and From Hell It Came. I watched it anyway, every single frame. And I sometimes backed it up to watch the stupid parts over again. The over the top score in places helped. And that Gloria Talbot was cute as a bug, of which there were no giant versions in the movie. Lizards, a rodent, a snake and a hawk though. And a cyclops. Anyway, Lon Chaney Jr gets to be an idiot, and I didn’t recognize anyone else. Gloria Talbot, incidentally, was the great great great granddaughter of the guy who founded Glendale, tho’ I didn’t even know it had been losted.

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The Strange Love of Martha Ivers

“Look! I don’t like to get pushed around! I don’t like people I like to be pushed around! I don’t like anybody to get pushed around!”

That was Sam Masterson, played by Van Heflin at his peak, in the noir classic The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946).

It’s a startling, electrifying line for a film noir, it rings out amid the corruption and murder and adultery and beatings and strong armed cops like something out of the Grapes of Wrath. You can hear Henry Fonda’s Tom Joad saying it, explaining why he has to brain the goons. You can’t here Bogie’s Rick saying it in Casablanca, not at all, not even after he shoots the Nazi. But then Heflin’s character is no hard boiled anti-hero, he’s the real thing, and he exposes the rotten heart of capitalism in Iverstown and brings it crashing down, if only because he doesn’t like anybody to get pushed around.

Marriage Italian Style

[Belched up on Facebook from 2018 tho’ I don’t remember writing it all.]

Exhausted after watching Marriage Italian Style. I’d seen it once before and loved it but my eyes were so brutalized by the hurricane of subtitles I went blind for several weeks. For one thing, the actors never stop talking even when they’re not talking. When they do talk, they talk really fast, subtitles flying past like cars on a super highway. When they’re arguing, which is 90% of the time, the subtitles are a blur and you just stare in shock, involuntarily ducking the frantic gesturing that provides an untranslatable Italian visual subtext to us gesturally illiterate Americans. The 10% of the time spent not fighting is spent fucking, which we can’t see—this was 1964–but leads to the next argument. Finally, Sophia Loren marries Marcello Mastroianni and with nothing else to argue about the movie ends. Wonderful film, Sophia is radiant, Marcello manly, the acting terrific, cinematography gorgeous and it’s a helluva love story. One of my favorites, though I don’t think my eyeballs could take it again.

Hillbillies in a Haunted House

Hillbillies in a Haunted House (which would be one word in German) seems dumber than a rock, but Ferlin Husky just picked up a guitar and sang a beautiful ballad so I’ll keep watching. Sonny James just sang another. It was shot in 1967 without a hippie in sight and set in a haunted house on the road to Nashville. John Carradine, Lon Chaney Jr and Basil Rathbone (in one of his very last roles) provide the spooky parts, but they’re not really ghosts but Russian spies, back when being a Russian spy was a bad thing. Imagine that. If you would betray your country you would betray us, Basil says to a treasonous FBI agent in a rare plot complication, and shoots him.

Anyway, waiting here for Merle Haggard and figure Ferlin’s got more sanging to do. Joi Lansing is in a shirt a size too small except when she moves and it’s three sizes too small. They really knew how to fasten buttons on in those days. She’s supposed to be a country singer. But this tacky torch tune she’s singing is about as country as chicken fried steak in Santa Monica.

Oops, Merle’s on, cooler than fuck. Someone told his story, he’s singing, in a song.

Warren William

No one remembers him anymore, but Warren William was an extraordinary actor. His Perry Mason is so morally deficient, alcoholic, shrewd, tough, venal and hysterically funny that there is no character in film even remotely like him. The Case of the Curious Bride is a wild ride, with be bop tempos and dialog so razor sharp there must have been blood everywhere. Imagine a cross of the Thin Man, Duck Soup and one of those very dark and troubled Dick Powell film noirs, plus the Galloping Gourmet. Warren Williams nailed it. Hugely popular in the thirties, his characters were apparently a little too much for the forties and fifties and with that came oblivion. There’s never been another like him, though it’s obvious that many of the classic film noir anti-heroes–Bogie, Dick Powell–picked up some of their shtick watching Warren William. If you dig old flicks then The Case of the Curious Bride especially is a must see.

Movie night

So at movie night last night the host said go ahead Brick, you pick the movie and I instantly picked The Beast of Yucca Flats before anyone could tear the keyboard from my cold dead hands. Alas I was mortified, as it was the edited for incredibly bad television version and the scene where the children feed soda to the pigs was cut, losing all that pathos and and rendering the complex multi dimensional narratives a confusing mess. Not even Tor Johnson’s wailing and stumbling and Russian scientist turned into a psychopathic killer by an unexpected atomic blast shtick could save it. Imagine a Plan 9 without the 9. I say stick to the Criterion edition, where the restored director’s cut shows the children feeding soda to the pigs as well as lots more driving around. There is also audio commentary by Tor Johnson and the pigs, as well as several clips from the original Broadway production of the Beast of Yucca Flats, with James Coco as the Beast.

As soon as that ended, the keyboard still in my colder and even deader hands, I selected Bucket of Blood, perhaps my favorite Roger Corman flick, full of stoned beatniks and uptight narcs and murderous artists (well, one) and bad poets and Paul Horn playing some truly gorgeous tenor sax, much cooler than anything he did inside the Great Pyramid. Indeed all the jazz—these are beatniks, remember—in the flick is cool, with Fred Katz providing his usual amazingly hip jazz score, or maybe his identically hip jazz score, since he handed Corman the same recordings for a couple different flicks, just changing the title on the can, figuring nobody would notice, which they did not. Which just goes to show you can never trust a cello player.

Finally, the evil artist hoisted on his own metaphorical beatnik petard beneath the jagged swell of saxophones and brass, it’s over. I hate when it’s over as I don’t think there’s another film quite like it. I sat back on the couch, they pried the keyboard from my cold dead hands and said I could keep coming to movie night but I couldn’t pick the movies. I said cool, Daddy o.

A Lion In Winter

[Just found this, a pretty rough first draft from a while back, but I’ll post it as is.]

A Lion In Winter would be a lot less Lion In Winter without all that beautiful English, which in all likelihood none of the characters personally could speak much of of, if any. Rather all the soliloquies would have been intoned in a variety of the French languages at the time. Peter O’Toole’s Henry II in Norman (which the language of the English royal court till Henry IV was raised speaking English a couple centuries later), Katherine Hepburn’s Eleanor of Aquitaine in Poitevin, and Anthony Hopkins’ Richard I in Occitan. I’ve no idea what form of French Geoffrey connived and young John sniveled in. Philip II, I assume, was speaking what eventually became standard French though doubtless he could make himself understood in a variety of the regional Frenches of the north, though perhaps Richard I’s Occitan would have been a stretch. I’m not sure what language mistress Alais did her sulking in, she was raised everywhere by everybody. Any of the above, I suppose, and as she’d been spent some of her childhood in England she probably picked up some English from the household help. In what tongue the various characters would have sniped, raged, conspired and hit on each other is anybody’s guess. Various of the Frenches, mostly, though Henry II and Eleanor both were fully conversant and literate in the Medieval Latin of the time (which is considerably closer to the Latin of the Catholic mass than the Latin of Caesar’s Commentaries), which would have been useful in front of the children. Qui auditunt quod stupri nocte?

Despite the characters enunciating some of the most glorious English you will ever hear on film—“he came down from the north with a mind like Aristotle and a form like mortal sin; we shattered the Commandments on the spot”—it’s unlikely that any of the characters could utter more than a smattering of English. Enough on some rare trip across the Channel to order some peasants this way or that, or curse like in Beowulf, or say something filthy to a maid in the market. Otherwise the only character in the whole of the film that could actually be fluent in English would have been William Marshall, who spends the movie scurrying about obeying Peter O’Toole or arresting people. He’s the character you forget. O’Toole’s Henry II, though, is unforgettable. “I hope we never die!” he bellows at the close as only Peter O’Toole can bellow. “Do you think there’s a chance of it?” Alas, there wasn’t, he was gone soon enough, as was Eleanor. Indeed as was every man of royal blood in the story, beginning with Geoffrey, trampled to death at a jousting tournament. It’s William Marshall who came close to never dying, by medieval standards anyway, outliving Henry and his wife and sons by decades. He died in his bed at 72 and was buried with honor in London, the mass said in Latin, the eulogies in French, the throng of onlookers murmuring in English.

It would be two centuries before an English king could bellow at his wife and sons in the same language as Chaucer, another couple centuries till an English speaker could rage like Lawrence Olivier’s Richard II raged three centuries after that, and it’d be deep into the twentieth century before they could bellow like they bellowed in A Lion In Winter, a high medieval Francophone drama spoken in twentieth century English.