Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Monday, 26 July 2010


What happens when toys aren't needed anymore?. The first TOY STORY passed me by, I had no interest in a kids' cartoon about toys, though I loved Pixar's FINDING NEMO. Now suddenly as TOY STORY 3 hits the screens, I have fallen in love with TOY STORY 2 - so will have to see the other two... TOY STORY 2 is an endlessly charming and yes moving delight with superb animation and that fabulous range of toys - I particularly like Hamm the piggy bank! But Woody and Buzz are timeless creations too. This film has more to say about friendship, loss, loyalty and the value of life itself than any of the more mature epics - there are so many delightful moments:
It is Yard Sale Day and the toys are understandably tense. You see, Yard Sale Day means that the old toys go out to the sale. Woody has reason to be nervous, he's starting to show his age. Poor Weezie the Penguin was laid forgotten on Andy's bookcase and he promptly gets put in the sale box. It's up to Woody to save him, which he does. But he gets picked up by a greedy toy-collector named Al and taken to Al's Toy Barn. Seems Woody is pretty valuable and Al wants to sell him to a toy auction. Can Buzz and friends save him in time? Jessie the Yodelling Cowgirl is played brilliantly by Joan Cusack, and the toys have to face the fact that Andy their owner is growing up and will not need them any more as he goes to high school ... its all nicely worked out and it will be fascinating and emotional seeing how TOY STORY 3 finishes and of course Barbie gets her Ken! T S 2 has that splendid scene too where they have to cross the road which is brilliantly designed and directed - Pixar are genius! I am now feeling guilty about all those toys I casually discarded as I was growing up ...!

HAIR (1979). One of my best nights in the theatre was seeing A CHORUS LINE at Drury Lane in London on my 30th birthday in 1976. When the movie came along by Attenborough with Michael Douglas I had no interest in seeing it as I just knew it would not be the same experience [or even the same story] so I have never seen it. Its the same with HAIR although I did not see the stage version, but I know it was unique as a statement about the sixties, culture, war, music and race relations. We knew the songs at the time and there have been so many versions of them. Then the movie by Milos Forman came along in 1979 with choreography by Twyla Tharp, but again I gave it a miss - as it seemed a whole new story was created for the film which of course could not replicate the stage show. But now I have seen the movie and I like it a lot. Treat Williams as Berger leads a small group of anti-war hippes living in Central Park who happen upon Claude (John Savage) new in town, who has been drafted into the US Army for service in Vietnam. Beverly D'Angelo is the society girl he falls for, and Cheryl Barnes as Hud's discarded girlfriend sings "Easy To Be Hard" which is just plain astonishing. I only knew her from singing that terrific song "Love and Passion" for the soundtrack of Schrader's AMERICAN GIGOLO for the disco scene. I also like the look of the film and of course that choreography!
The hippies though come across as selfish and think nothing of wrecking a dinner party, stealing cars or begging for money - at least Treat Williams is terrific and looks the part, with or without clothes. Some scenes pack an emotional wallop like at the start as Claude and his father wait for the bus (reminiscent of my own father and me) and those soldiers heading off overseas - still topical today. I thought the general looked familiar: its director Nicholas Ray in his last appearance! Below: Treat in Richard Lester's THE RITZ with Jack Weston under the bed, and Rita Moreno as Googie Gomez!

EXPERIMENT IN TERROR. Lee Remick (subject of a forthcoming post here) had a big hit in 1962 with Blake Edwards' DAYS OF WINE AND ROSES. Edwards and Remick got together again the same year for the tense thriller EXPERIMENT IN TERROR (called THE GRIP OF FEAR here in the U.K.!) which never gets revived now, so its been good to finally see it on dvd now. Its quite creepy actually as bank clerk Remick is persuaded by the unseen (until the climax) villain Ross Martin to steal a lot of money from her bank and he persuades her by kidnapping her younger sister Stephanie Powers. Enter Glenn Ford as the detective on the case .... its fascinating and gripping as it unfolds.
Ford is a curious case - not forgotten but regularly overlooked in lists of great stars but he was one of the most dependable players from mid-40s [GILDA!, A STOLEN LIFE] to mid-60s, being a major player in the '50s where he could do it all: westerns (THE SHEEPMAN, COWBOY, JUBAL), dramas (THE BIG HEAT, THE BLACKBOARD JUNGLE) and comedies (THE GAZEBO, THE COURTSHIP OF EDDIE'S FATHER) etc. He and Remick are a good team here and its still a very effective creepy thriller.

FATE IS THE HUNTER - Another Glenn Ford drama, from 1964, by Ralph Nelson, one of those proficient directors (like Robert Wise, J Lee Thompson, Richard Fleisher) who can work in any genre without any distinguishing trademark. This one re-unites THE BIRDS' Rod Taylor and Suzanne Pleshette as it features the aftermath of a plane crash where the only survivor is stewardess Pleshette (who is perfect here, as of course she is in everything, above with Tippi Hedren in THE BIRDS). Ford is the airline investigator whose pal Rod Taylor was the pilot of the plane so he has extra reason to discover what went wrong and quickly. The sterling cast also features Nancy Kwan who has a few scenes at the end, Jane Russell "as herself" in flashbacks and an unbilled Dorothy Malone who has a good scene as a ritzy socialite who was engaged briefly to Taylor, who is also dependable as ever here. This was a pleasant programmer at the time, good to see it again after 45+ years.

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