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.

Friday, 27 April 2012

Rainy day flicks

Its been raining here all week, after a warm March, its now a very wet and windy April - ideal weather for afternoons watching favourite old movies .... and quite a good bunch are on this week, ones I can settle down in front of any time, (despite having the dvds!)

I regard Fritz Lang’s MOONFLEET [and Richard Thorpe’s QUENTIN DURWARD [reviewed at Kay Kendall label] as the high points of mid-50s MGM costume dramas. MOONFLEET in '55 is a marvellous re-telling of the childrens’ classic suitably changed for the cinema with great Scope compositions. Lang shot it in California but it just looks perfectly right. Stewart Granger is another dashing hero, Jon Whiteley is the little boy in search of his inheritance [he co-starred with Dirk Bogarde in THE SPANISH GARDENER (Bogarde label) the next year], George Sanders is the perfect scoundrel and Joan Greenwood only has two (but very memorable) scenes as the mocking villainess. It captures the 18th century saga of smuggling and country churchyards just right . It’s a treat I can watch anytime…. I like the book too but Lang's version is a suitably changed for the cinema version.

THE VIKINGS is a movie kids enjoyed hugely back then in 1958, and we still do now 50 years later. Its just a perfectly made period romp by Richard Fleischer, photographed by Jack Cardiff in Norway, great supporting cast, score by Nascimbene and narrated by Orson Welles. Douglas and Curtis are the warring half-brothers and Janet Leigh the Welsh princess they fight over. Janet is at her loveliest here – I have always liked the scene when Tony rips her bodice so she can row the boat as they escape, Eileen Way is great as Kitala the witch who saves Curtis from those crabs! Borgnine chews the scenery as Ragnar while Frank Thring essays another study in villainy as Ayella with the wolf pit. It all certainly brings the dark ages to life! - great castle seige too. and that final fight between Kirk and Tony as the waves crash against the rocks below -  and it remains a television staple. James Donald, Maxine Audley and Alexander Knox are all sterling support. Its always a laugh now when Kirk manhandles Janet's maid who is "silly moo" Dandy Nichols!

THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK - another television staple but this is a better than average telemovie, with a sterling cast playing out the Dumas warhorse, as directed by Mike Newell in 1977 and lensed by the great Freddie Young in those real French locations. It is the oft-told tale of Louis XIV of France and his attempts to keep his identical twin brother Philippe imprisoned away from sight and knowledge of the public, and Philippe's rescue by the aging Musketeers, led by D'Artagnan (Louis Jourdan, a dab hand at this kind of thing). Richard Chamberlain is both the man in the mask and Louis XIV. A glowering Patrick McGoohan is our prime villain Fouquet and Jenny Agutter is lovely as usual. For me the movie is made by Ralph Richardson in his element as Colbert, also with Ian Holm, and the marvellous Vivien Merchant as Maria Theresa - who soon spots the duplicate King but realises she is better off with him than the real king who ignores her, also Brenda Bruce as Anne of Austria. Great derring-do then played out by a splendid cast.

Other perfect rainy afternoon movies would be sitting back again with ALL ABOUT EVE or A LETTER TO 3 WIVES or Wyler's THE HEIRESS, or indeed THE GIRL CAN'T HELP IT or some '50s epics like LAND OF THE PHAROAHS or THE PRODIGAL, Sophia's BOY ON A DOLPHIN or LEGEND OF THE LOST, Janet Leigh's musical MY SISTER EILEEN with Bob Fosse, Joan Crawford's JOHNNY GUITAR or of course Kay Kendall in Cukor's LES GIRLS or Minnelli's THE RELUCTANT DEBUTANTE, which I am seeing again on the big screen at the London British Film Institute's National Film Theatre in a few weeks with my IMDB pal Timshelboy, so more on that then ...
Saturday is rainy too, and HOW TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE is scheduled, but much as I like hanging out with Pola, Loco and Schatze, I think I will go with another Negulesco I have written about quite a bit here: WOMAN'S WORLD, that great 1954 Fox charmer with Clifton Webb leading that cast ... and fighting off the attentions of go-getting Arlene Dahl! - poured into that slinky green number with the little fur-trimmed bolero she very knowingly removes ...

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