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.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

A mixed bag ...

KITTEN WITH A WHIP - A delicious 1964 farrago with the then rising Ann-Margret who is the sole reason to see this one. She is the wild teen running away from reform school who takes up residence in nice but dull guy John Forsythe's suburban home while his wife is out of town. Instead of calling the police the very wooden Forsythe tries to help her! Life with Ann is a rollercoaster as her mood swings drive Forsyth (a long way before DYNASTY) around the bend as he tries to get rid of her before family and neighbours find out. Ann then invites her teen hood friends to the party, including Skip Ward (the bus driver from NIGHT OF THE IGUANA) and then they all go slumming to Tijuana over the Mexican border... as they all cheat and double-cross each other to a fitting finale. Its certainly one to laugh at, now has anyone got a copy of Ann's THE SWINGER or BUS RILEY IS BACK IN TOWN?

TROOPER HOOK - I really liked this 1957 western when I saw it as a kid so nice to see it again 50 years later. I like Barbara Stanwyck's other '50s westerns too (CATTLE QUEEN OF MONTANA, THE MAVERICK QUEEN, THE FURIES, 40 GUNS), this is a nice black and white one made the year after THE SEARCHERS and is also about a woman being rescued from living with the indians - here though its a mature woman with her son by the Apache chief Nanchez (Rudolfo Acosta). Joel McCrea is the Trooper Hook of the title who has the task of taking Cora and her son back to her husband as they travel though Indian territory on a stagecoach which also has Senorita Susan Kohner, cowboy Earl Hollimann, and the splendidly venal Edward Andrews on board). Stanwyck is very compelling as Cora and plays it mainly silent as she re-adjusts to civilisation. Nanchez is also in pursuit as he wants his son. John Dehner is the husband who wants his wife back but not her half-breed child ... its tense and nicely resolved and its one of Stanwyck's better '50s films, all wrapped up in 80 minutes and there is even a Tex Ritter theme song!
RAW WIND IN EDEN - Another delicious farrago from 1957 this sudser has playgirl Esther Williams (though she seems rather mature...) and Carlos Thompson crashing their plane in a remote Italian island where mystery man Jeff Chandler lives with the locals including Helen of Troy herself Rosanna Podesta. Esther and Carlos move into their shack and its a mystery how Esther has a never ending supply of clean clothes and makeup. She and Jeff eventually get together and it all gets rather steamy. Esther's career was practically over by this time (she made one more little regarded melodrama) but Jeff had a good run in the '50s squiring those ladies like Loretta Young (BECAUSE OF YOU), Lana Turner (THE LADY TAKES A FLYER), June Allyson (STRANGER IN MY ARMS), Kim Novak (JEANNE EAGELS) and Susan Hayward (THUNDER IN THE SUN) as well as adventures like SIGN OF THE PAGAN, MAN IN THE SHADOW, 10 SECONDS TO HELL and YANKEE PASHA. He died in 1961 after complications following an operation... Esther later wrote in her autobiography that Jeff was a cross-dresser with a penchant for polka-dot dresses, but it seems it was not true.

THE SPANISH GARDENER - 50+ years later this is still a compelling drama, from a A J Cronin bestseller, and is a nice look at the Costa Brava in the '50s as stuffy minor diplomat Michael Hordern and his neglected son Jon Whiteley (the little boy in MOONFLEET) arrive, following the father's divorce. Dirk Bogarde is the gardener hired by the father who soon forms a bond with the lonely boy who has no friends as he and the father move around a lot. The father though soon grows jealous of the friendship between gardener and boy - is he jealous of his son or of the gardener? Hordern excels as the buttoned-up repressed man unable to express his feelings. Things take a melodramatic turn as the father forbids his son to continue associating with Jose, the gardener, and the servant (Cyril Cusack) engineers a theft for which Jose is blamed. Soon Jose is on the run with Nicholas (Whiteley) seeking him out and the father now humbled and sorry for his actions in pursuit as it is all nicely resolved. Director Philip Leacock made some interesting movies before moving into television.

NO WAY TO TREAT A LADY - Jack Smight's 1968 black comedy was a treat back then and is still so now, as serial killer Rod Steiger dons different disguises to con his way into the homes of lonely middle aged women ... it of course boils down to his mother complex! Rod runs a theate so has access to lots of disguises as we see him in turn as an Irish priest, a Polish plumber, in drag as a woman scared to go leave a bar, and hilariously as a camp hairdresser! George Segal is Mo Brummell, the harrassed Jewish detective on the case - plagued by his very Jewish mother Eileen Heckart who is great fun here. Lee Remick is the girl who may provide a clue and she is charming here making something special of the standard girl role. Just one quibble: wouldn't the mother fixated killer go after Segal's mother rather than his girlfriend? It's got a nice late '60s feel .... below, right: Steiger in drag with another victim...

PARANOIA, or A QUIET PLACE TO KILL - a friend into those Italian giallo thrillers lent me this Umberto Lenzi thriller from 1970 and its a whole lot of fun as the melodramatic plot twists and turns as racing driver Carroll Baker crashes her car on the circuit and ends up slightly wounded in hospital. During her period of recovery, she accepts to stay at her ex-husband (Jean Sorel) and his new wife's mansion. Two attractive women and one handsome guy in one house can only result in extended sequences of sexual intrigue, double-crossing and conspiracies to murder, particularly when the precocious daughter of the second wife arrives with a plot of her own. Baker and Sorel excelled as this kind of thing and Carroll frequently disrobes to add to the sexual tensions. It all rises to a crescendo and a final twist that leaves one dazed !

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