Julie Newmar

I don’t know what movie this is, but Julie Newmar looks like she could hurt James Mason. In fact, Julie Newmar looks like she could hurt me. Pretty good Swedish accent, too, quite musical. Though imagining Julie Newmar hurting me and James Mason in a Swedish accent seems weird.

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Dunkirk

Saw Dunkirk. Quite a let down. As an action flick it was pretty good, and a lot of it was gorgeous, but as far as being in anyway a reflection or retelling of the battle and rescue at Dunkirk, it flopped. It failed badly as history, which wouldn’t be an issue except that it presented itself as a historical epic. The three primary narrative threads–the RAF pilots, the soldiers on the beach, and the boat–all avoided showing the evacuation completely. The pilots engaged in dog fights over the channel, the soldiers spent the entire evacuation in the hold of a beached fishing boat acting like a cowardly mob instead of a platoon of Royal infantry, and the boat picked up soldiers without getting anywhere near the beach. All three subplots were arranged so that we never saw the evacuation off the beaches at all. It’d be like shooting The Longest Day or Saving Private Ryan without showing the D-Day landings. Perhaps there was no financing. So we get an action flick instead of a historical drama. But it’s a shame, as it was an epic operation,  some very high drama, and an extraordinary tale, and we miss nearly all of it in this film that promised all of that. Imagine what David Lean could have done with such material.

Scenes From the Class Struggle In Beverly Hills 

Just watched Scenes From the Class Struggle In Beverly Hills for the first time in decades. Funny flick, man, though I suppose it’s even funnier if you’re from L.A. It’s kind of a really fucked up Philadelphia Story. It ends and I turn it off and switch on the radio and there’s Dwight Trible and my mind tripped over itself shifting from one to the other.

Too Late For Tears

Saw the 1949 film noir Too Late For Tears last nite. Great LA location shots, money is the root of all evil, Dan Duryea was a drunken bum with a yellow streak down his back wide as Wilshire Boulevard, you used to be able to rent motor boats in MacArthur Park (then still Westlake Park as MacArthur was hadn’t yet faded away) and that dame Lizbeth Scott is up to no good. Also way less trees in town back then. You wonder what they did for shade. Much harder to lurk in all that sunshine. And in film noir, one lurks.
Also saw Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946) for the zillionth time. I had a dream, a scene stealing Kirk Douglas (even more cowardly than Dan Duryea, with a yellow streak wide as the San Fernando Valley) says to quintessential everyman he man Van Heflin, and you were in it. You did not make a handsome corpse. Van Heflin was too cool to care, and Barbara Stanwyk slithered into the room, the most beautiful snake ever. No anklet tho’.

Big TNT Show

Speaking of Boomers, we watched the Big TNT Show at our neighbor’s pad last night. Never seen it before. My faves were Bo Diddley (who I saw open for the Clash a zillion years ago), The Lovin’ Spoonful (who were incredibly loose and high and actually fucked up and had to start over again, giggling, it was beautiful), Donovan, and Roger Miller, tho’ it was nearly all great, and judging from his conducting chops, David McCallum didn’t have a musical bone in his body.

I sprained my pinkie sleeping yesterday (my lamest injury ever, a big man with a sprained pinkie) which could give me the excuse to watch Monterey Pop, Don’t Look Back, Gimme Shelter, Woodstock and A Film About Jimi Hendrix in one long pseudo acid trip on TCM today. Some of the same acts as the Big TNT Show, though much, much higher. Tina Turner was in the Big TNT Show (with a big bruise on her arm), but I remember seeing her in Gimme Shelter at the Wilshire Theatre when I was sixteen and thinking I wanted a girlfriend just like that, or even a school teacher. 

I had no idea I used my pinkie to hit the tab key until just now.

Hoodlum Saint

Hoodlum Saint, a rather worthless William Powell flick that he somehow got suckered into making. The script appears to have been written by committee, by several committees, none of them on speaking terms, and Powell and a good cast of character actors–Frank McHugh, James Gleason, and Angela Lansbury among them–are totally wasted on insipid dialog, silly gags and plots twists so random that if you leave the room for a minute and come back you’d think that someone changed the channel and found another William Powell movie you’d never seen before. Powell is stuck with Esther Williams as his lead, a hopeless mismatch for an actor used to sparring with Myrna Loy, Carole Lombard, and Jean Harlow. Not only is it hard to tell how he’d be hopelessly drawn to her–hell, she never even swims–but you can tell he’s going easy on the repartee, slowing down so she can keep up. Oddest of all is the role of Angela Lansbury, who probably a few dozen rewrites ago had been a saucy, purring femme fatale but now was a saloon singer sleeping with William Powell. Powell is all set to break the news of he and Esther’s impending nuptials to Angela but Esther insists on meeting her first. They go to the nightclub. Angela is singing. Bill and Esther sit down at a table. He orders champagne cocktails. She has milk, with a straw. (OK, she has a cocktail.) Angela finishes her song and joins them. You have a beautiful voice, Esther says. Angela purrs “Thanks, but that’s all his doing–deep in the throat.” I stare. Blink. Blink. “Resonance”, she adds. Though there’s not a chance in hell that people in 1946 didn’t think what I thought. Hell, there’d been a war on. Lauren Bacall telling Bogie it depends who’s in the saddle. Besides, that was the best line of the movie. It was all downhill from there. And it had all been downhill till then too. Thought I’d never see a William Powell film I couldn’t recommend if only because William Powell was in it. I was wrong. Skip it.

OK, that’s enough writing today, the fog settles in.

HOODLUM SAINT, THE (1946)

The Hoodlum Saint, copped from the TCM site, and the first 3D photo ever on Brick’s Picks.

The poetry of the Beast of Yucca Flats

Touch a button. Things happen. A scientist becomes a beast.

There is about four hundred times as much narration as dialog in The Beast of Yucca Flats and yet there’s very little narration either, just lots of very slow action footage, with random atmospheric moments, all of it shot silently, with sound dubbed in later. Characters talk with their back to the camera so you won’t notice. Cars run. Sometimes you can hear them. Sometimes you don’t. A man runs. Someone shoots at him. The utter lack of continuity gives it the same sense of time as the aliens in The Arrival, a thought that actually occurred to me while watching The Beast of Yucca Flats, I am embarrassed to admit. I mentioned it to my wife and she just stared at me. As the narrator says, nothing bothers some people, not even flying saucers (not that there are any flying saucers in The Beast of Yucca Flats). The result is that each dollop of narration stands out like a random snip of a 1950’s pulp murder mystery intoned like bad beat poetry, always on the prowl, looking for something or somebody to kill. Quench the killer’s thirst. Instead of bongos and saxophones we get Tor Johnson’s occasional growls and wails (he is the noted scientist turned into a beast by an unexpected atomic blast), plus a weirdly musical score (they must have spent the budget for sound on the score.) The words themselves become addicting. There is a theme: Yucca Flats. The A-bomb. Joseph Javorski, noted scientist. Progress. Especially Progress. It’s pops up at random times, like a cop trapped in the wheels of Progress, or as boys from the city, not yet caught by the whirlwind of Progress, feed soda pop to the thirsty pigs. Or even metaphorically: flag on the moon. How did it get there? It’s what gives this film its intellectual cachet above and beyond, say, Attack of the Giant Leaches, with which this shares a DVD. It’s what turns this from being merely an incredibly bad science fiction movie into an appallingly bad use of the English language, those pseudo deep hard boiled snippets of narration full of meaning and heaviness. You have to resist dropping them into your own writing, it’s so easy. Find the Beast and kill him. Kill, or be killed. Man’s inhumanity to man. Reading this review it’s hard to tell what I wrote and what I copped from the script. I am ruined.