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, 30 July 2012

Kay in 1956

A nice interview with Kay Kendall in 1956, from "Films & Filming" ... (click to enlarge)

Actors: those early '60s guys continued ...

I was right about LA NOTTE BRAVA (above and left) - it played in London in 1960 as NIGHT HEAT, my then bible "Films & Filming" is very illuminating on it and those late '50s-early '60s boys making a stir then. (click pictures to enlarge...). 

Tomas Milian is Cuban, trained at the Actors Studio and found his early fame in European cinema. He is still working at almost 80, did lots of spaghetti westerns and police thrillers, as well as films like JFK and LA LUNA, and lots of tv series.

Laurent Terzieff (1935-2010) of Russian descent, had a distinguished career too, in films like Buneul's MILKY WAY, KAPO, TWO WEEKS IN SEPTEMBER with Bardot in 1967. I have ordered Pasolini's MEDEA with Callas, where he plays the centaur.

Jean-Claude Brialy (1933-2007) also in LA NOTTE BRAVA and of course those early Chabrols like LE BEAU SERGE and LES COUSINS seems to have been friends with them all, including Romy Schneider and Alain Delon (whom he took to the Cannes Festival in 1957, launching Delon's career). One of France's openly-gay actors, he also owned a restaruant in cenrtral Paris. 
Others too include Gerard Blain, Hardy Kruger, Maurice Ronet (see labels), Jean-Louis Trintignant, Renato Salvatori, Raf Vallone, Vittorio Gassman,  more on these in due course.

Here in Jean Sorel (see Sorel label) in THE ADOLESCENTS (I DOCLI INGANNI - SWEET DECEPTIONS), 1960, which I reviewd last year.
and a photo-spread on Sorel's unknown to me: LA GIORNATA BALORDA another by Bolognini, with Lea Massari, and below, a first 1960 photo-spread on Rene Clements' PLEIN SOLEIL....

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Summer re-runs: Il Deserto Rosso

Well, reading the reviews the most interesting films of the week are those revivals of Antonioni's RED DESERT and that 1957 WOMAN IN A DRESSING GOWN (see post below). The Antonioni has been hailed as a welcome restoration of his "bleakly intoxicating" 1964 film which is about a woman cast mentally adrift in the desolate, ash-blackened landscape of a new industrialised Italy. 

I have reviewed RED DESERT a few times already (as per Antonioni, Vitti labels). One can't take one's eyes off Vitti as Giuliana, the russet-haired, almond-eyes young mother and unhappy wife and survivor of a suicide attempt as she wanders around Ravenna - all greys and greeens. She finds a kindred spirit in Richard Harris (it should have been Hardy Kruger, who would have been ideal here) who plays the anchorless engineer recruiting staff for a new project in Patagonia, and together they embark on a sort of affair, against a backdrop of what the late Andrew Sarris called "the architecture of anxiety": smoke-belching factories, shacks hidden in the mist. Antonioni's bold modernist angles and innovative use of colour (as in BLOW-UP he painted trees and grass to tone with the industrial landscape - a whole street and stall of vegetables is painted grey to match the heroine's mood or vision of the world). This was his first use of colour.

Almost half a century on, RED DESERT, remains a film of rare beauty and brooding intensity. It is oddly placed between Antonioni's early '60s trilogy (L'AVVENTURA, LA NOTTE, L'ECLISSE) and before his English-speaking movies: his trio for MGM (BLOW-UP, ZABRISKIE POINT, THE PASSENGER), and its his last with Vitti until 1980 (THE OBERWALD MYSTERY, reviewed here recently). Vitti is marvellous as ever but Harris seems like an uninterested zombie here - Hardy Kruger (so good in Losey's BLIND DATE and Hawks' HATARI) would have brought much more to the role  ... I had thought Harris had walked off the film but according to David Hemmings' autobio (as per my post on that, Hemmings label) he caused a brawl on set punching Antonioni in the mouth and was thrown off the film, so he exits and a stand-in was used where necessary. It is good though to have RED DESERT around again.

Friday, 27 July 2012

A Discovery: La Notte Brava

"The moral bankruptcy of desperate youth brought stunningly, shockingly to the screen"-  or the glamour of delinquency ?

LA NOTTE BRAVA (NIGHT HEAT), aka "The Big Night" aka "Les Garçons", is an Italian-French co-production starring Rosanna Schiaffino, Elsa Martinelli, Laurent Terzieff, Jean-Claude Brialy, Franco Interlenghi, Antonella Lualdi, Anna Maria Ferrero, Mylene Demongeot and Tomas Milian. It was directed by Mauro Bolognini from a screenplay by Pier Paolo Pasolini and Jacques-Laurent Bost.

This 1959 movie is a socially conscious drama chronicling the exploits of three Roman thugs. The young men spend the day committing petty crimes, beginning with gun theft and culminate it in a rendezvous with three streetwalkers. After taking their pleasure, the guys attempt to cheat the hookers out of their money, but the women outsmart them ahead of time. That night, the hoods return to the city for more exploits, including an attempted car theft, and the harassment and robbery of three rich men. By daybreak, the guys have all separated, with nothing but feelings of loneliness and disgust for their troubles.

This is another of those ground-breaking movies about delinquent youth in 1959 - at the same time Jean-Pierre Mocky was shooting LES DRAGUEURS (THE YOUNG HAVE NO MORALS) in Paris (when Truffaut was shooting his 400 BLOWS there..). Antonioni may well have set the template with his alienated youth in I VINTI in 1953 (Antonioni label), before THE BLACKBOARD JUNGLE or REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE. LA NOTTE BRAVA is a key '50s film too and catches its young cast at the cusp of the 1960s when they were going places. It is a perfectly Pasolini story of low-lifes but with a more attractive cast - Pasolini had yet to shoot ACCATONE or MAMMA ROMA with his own real low-life discovery Franco Citti.
Brialy & Terzieff watch Martinelli & Lualdi
Mylene smoulders ...
LA NOTTE BRAVA is not available now except on YouTube where it can be seen in full and with English sub-titles! Pity it has never played in London since my arrival in 1964; it is a great discovery for those interested in Italian cinema of the '50s and '60s - like those others now only available on YouTube like my recent reviews of SENILITA and LA CORRUZIONE, both early '60s Bolognini's with that perfectly early '60s black and white look and attractive players like Cardinale and Perrin, and that rarity: Vancini's  THE LONG NIGHT OF '43. Mauro Bolognini (he died in 2001 aged 78) is now becoming another Italian director of note for me, I must seek out his other successes like IL BELL' ANTONIO with Mastroianni. GRAN BOLLITO (Italian label) was a great discovery last year. He also did amusing episodes in those favourites of mine LE BAMBOLE and LE FATE.
Brialy, Terzieff & Tomas Milian (background)
Back to the film:
My friend Daryl says: "It's a glittering movie about wasted youth: beautiful young people with no jobs and nothing to do who get into all sorts of trouble". That captures it perfectly.
I had not noticed Laurent Terzieff much before but he is the real discovery here, with that angular face and frame, its a perfect look: the look I had in the early '60s (he died in 2010 aged 75 - he is a centaur, half-man half-horse, in Pasolini's MEDEA). The girls are lookers too: Elsa Martinelli and Antonella Lualdi as cat-fighting prostitutes .... Demongeot as the wealthy girl Terzieff would like to know better - or is she the maid dressed up in her mistress's finery? - and Schiaffino as the nice girl Brialy and Terzieff want to impress. These layabouts want to sell their stolen goods ignoring the fact that their fence is in the middle of his grand-mother's funeral, then the streetwalkers steal their money; then they try to rob three rich young guys and pretend to fight but get taken back to their plush home where a different scenario seems to be unfolding, are these guys gay looking for some rough thrills? some intense homoerotic tensions seem to be simmering - is the stunning Tomas Milian coming on to Brialy?, who wants to borrow money from him. It's all very Pasolini... I wasn't expecting a scene like this in a 1959 film.
Milian smoulders ...
They have to flee though when Bellabella (Interlenghi), a real opportunist, steals a wallet full of cash  - which they then squander in an expensive restaurant (after Terzieff wants them to return it so he can continue his flirtation with Demongeot). By dawn nothing of the money is left as Terzieff screws up the last note and tosses it away - so they start all over again. Its a stunning climax to a fascinating film which is also great social document of that time.  I am currently watching a violent  Italian weekly crime series ROMANZO CRIMINALE here, the gang in it would surely be the less violent NOTTE BRAVA boys 50 years ago.... 
Here it is:

I have now unearthed some rare photos of Tomas Milian, Laurent Terzieff, Jean Sorel . watch this space!

Summer re-runs continue with some choice Italians: THE RED DESERT, YESTERDAY TODAY & TOMORROW, MARRIAGE ITALIAN STYLE, LE BAMBOLE and LE FATE again,  and Wertmuller's unseen since the '70s, the stunning SEVEN BEAUTIES, which I must experience again before I lend it to Jerry on Tuesday when we are having a boozy afternoon out. Then its on to Almodovar, Chabrol, Deneuve and so many others ...
Laurent Terzieff (centre) LES TRICHEURS, 1958
I have been familiar with this image since my teens from "Films & Filming" magazine


The Olypmic Games are finally here and starting today. IT HAPPENED IN ATHENS and now its happening in London. Lets hope it all goes well - security and transport are issues for us Londoners. I will be particularly looking forward to the swimming and diving, but no doubt we will get caught up in it all. 

One games movie it would be fun to see again now is the 1960 Fox film IT HAPPENED IN ATHENS - its one Jayne Mansfield film that's never shown now. I know I saw it as a kid, but cannot remember a thing about it - well, I was 12. Its supposedly about those first games in Athens in 1896, Jayne is a famous Greek actress (!) and Trax Colton (the new Barry Coe or Brett Halsey?) is the young Greek shephard who can run ...

The 1970 (that year again, see below...) THE GAMES is a Michael Winner that is also never seen now. A dvd release of this would surely attract some sales this year .. I would want to see it. I missed it on release, but it should be another interesting time capsule now, with those athletes Ryan O'Neal, Michael Crawford, Charles Aznavour and Athol Compton competing, with Stanley Baker as the martinet coach. It can't be that bad can it ? 
Four marathon runners (one from England, one from the U.S., a Czech and an Australian Aborigine) prepare to run in the Olympic games. The film follows each one and shows what their motivations are for running in the games. 

Summer re-runs: Utter Trash

In the age of Aquarius, the deranged Gemini twins share everything - teddy bears, lovers and murder! Judy Geeson (TO SIR WITH LOVE) and Martin Potter (FELLINI'S SATYRICON) play 20-year-old siblings with an unusually close relationship. Their bizarre fantasy world is shattered by the arrival of Clive (Alexis Kanner) a flamboyant London criminal with a massive gambling debt. As the twins become exposed to the sleazy underbelly of swinging London nightlife, they tumble into a bubbling cauldron of kinky sex, blackmail and sickening violence.

Directed by Alan Gibson (DRACULA AD 1972) with cameos from Freddie Jones and the legendary Sir Michael Redgrave, GOODBYE GEMINI is an unsettling tale of incest, obsessive jealousy and death. Unseen since the early '70s, the movie is one of the most controversial, and taboo-busting, British exploitation pictures ever made. - That's how the dvd cover bigs it up!

Well, there is Trash and there is Utter Trash. I think this qualifies for the latter, or as Pauline Kael used to say "the higher trash" and "the lower trash". This is another key exhibit in how crazy movies went circa 1970 - I coverered the 1970 DORIAN GRAY a week or so ago (Trash label) - here we are back re-visiting the very same drag pub watching the same drag queen as Dorian (Helmut Berger) and pals - this is presumably "the sleazy underbelly of swinging London nightlife" mentioned in the new dvd blurb, above. 

Geeson and Potter don't even look like twins and they don't even look marvellous here. She was just right in HERE WE GO ROUND THE MULBERRY BUSH and THREE INTO TWO WON'T GO, and had just been in Joan Crawford's BERSERK,  but has lost her glow here and that lank hair doesn't help - he was stunning in FELLINI SATYRICON but has nothing to play with here and is just a fairly pretty pout. Michael Redgrave is certainly slumming as a concerned probably bisexual MP who stumbles on the "stunning" twins at a Chelsea houseboat party. Those houseboats also featured in that other dotty incest drama from 1969 MY LOVER MY SON (also written by the writer of this) which I was interested to get last year as it was a missing Romy Schneider title (review at Romy label).
This one is equally dotty. Our twins Jacki and Julian arrive in London by coach (couldn't they afford the train fare?) with their giant teddybear, and take over a mansion in Cheyne Walk; they soon dispose of the housekeeper who is meant to keep an eye on them - they don't have to bother with work of course - and soon Clive (the odd Alexis Kanner) has them in his sights. Why is he wearing those awful side-whiskers? His massive gambling debt is all of £400! He blackmails Julian by getting those decadent drag queens to assault him at that grubby hotel room while Clive gets his camera out ... he gets more than he bargained for though when the twins cover themselves in white sheets so he cannot tell them apart, then Julian kills him with a sword. Jacki runs away - into the arms of the MP (who has a time capsule '70s apartment all in browns and oranges with lots of white gloss trimmings) while the now deranged Julian hides out at that grubby hotel, where Jacki finally finds him. Do you want to know how this absurd farrago ends? Ok - here we go: he strangles her and then puts a shilling in the meter of the quaint old gas fire so he sits there fondling her hair as he gasses himself .....  (those big houses were similarly effective in those other oddities of that era: Losey's SECRET CEREMONY and of course PERFORMANCE.

Its the actors I feel sorry for - surely this kind of tosh is not what they envisaged when they started out? How do they try to make this rubbish playable or try to find some motivation for what they are doing? Its a mystery. There is another lost one Redgrave did that year, for the same producers: CONNECTING ROOMS, another drab drama which teams him with Bette Davis (her career was on a downturn then) and the same Alexis Kanner, perhaps it had better stay lost. GOODBYE GEMINI could be an entry in the British horror series, but Hammer were doing it so much better. I must also mention that deliriously awful title song "Tell the world we are not in" played over the credits by a group called The Peddlers. It is simply AWFUL. It is fascinating though in one respect - that look into the gay underworld before the gay liberation movement took off in the '70s and then the arrival of that superclub Heaven in 1979 bringing a whole new culture of gay clubbing for the '80s onwards ... back here though people had to be content with these tatty drag pubs.
A shilling in the gas meter

THE NIGHT DIGGER from 1971 is more of the same but a whole lot better featuring Patricia Neal and her mother Pamela Brown sharing their huge dilapitated mansion with Nicholas Clay who may be that murderer on the loose (I shall have to review it....)  Nicholas gets out of his clothes once more, but it is all a lot more dignified than GOODBYE GEMINI ! but British exploitation cinema was going to get a whole lot worse in those early '70s, with those Confessions of Window Cleaners and Taxi Drivers and even more softcore porn, with PERCY (about a penis operation) and THE STATUE (a David Niven disaster) and anything with Hywel Bennett. GOODBYE GEMINI and DORIAN GRAY and THE NIGHT DIGGER were just the tip ....Then of course there were those Amicus horror compendiums, amusing trash to see at this remove, but back in the early '70s respected thespians (Glynis Johns, Terry Thomas, Richard Todd, Sylvia Syms, Daniel and Anna Massey, Michael Craig, Joan Collins, even Raplh Richardson) a decade or so past their prime were queueing up to play in these, TALES FROM THE CRYPT, VAULT OF HORROR, ASYLUM etc.
The dvd of GEMINI though features a booklet, a 'making of' featurette and a commentary by Judy Geeson, as though its some lost masterpiece - and some amusing trailers: another horrorshow of that era MUMSY, NANNY, SONNY & GIRLY (don't ask...), and that Jean Simmons-Leonard Whiting romance SAY HELLO TO YESTERDAY - what no BABY LOVE or UNMAN, WITTERING AND ZIGO ?

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Summer re-runs: Woman in a dressing gown

My pal Stan liked this one. I mentioned it last week when writing about BITTER HARVEST (below) as it too was written by Ted Willis, that well-known '50s writer of TV dramas, and now here it is back in selected cinemas. Well directed by J.Lee Thompson in 1957 it is a solid drama about an untidy woman, forever in that dressing gown, letting the housework getting on top of her, annoying her rising executive husband Anthony Quayle, whose modern go-getting secretary, that bitchy Sylvia Syms, wants him for herself ..... as it focuses on that emerging rising class of middle-management in those new office blocks. Can poor Yvonne Mitchell hang on to her man and get over her depression and clean up her house? Great cast of course and that downbeat '50s milieu anticipates the Kitchen Sink era to follow ... Yvonne Mitchell (who was also a writer) was wonderful in these roles (YIELD TO THE NIGHT, THE DIVIDED HEART, TIGER BAY, CONSPIRACY OF HEARTS, SAPPHIRE and her marvellous Constance opposite Peter Finch in the 1960 TRIALS OF OSCAR WILDE (Finch, Mitchell labels) and a great '73 BBC series of Colette's CHERI. She died in 1979 (aged 63) after playing Glenda Jackson's maid in THE INCREDIBLE SARAH - I must dig that one out, it would be a hilarious summer treat !

Summer re-runs: a lesser Bette !

I had never seen it but it was always considered one of the lesser Bettes after ALL ABOUT EVE, but TCM here dug up PHONE CALL FROM A STRANGER, 1952 which proved quite compulsive. A talky (very) drama with that lovely early '50s 20th Century Fox black and white look - before they went over to CinemaScope and De Luxe Color - written by Nunully Johnson and directed by that favourite of mine Jean Negulesco, it turns out to be another of those "doomed flight" scenarios popular that decade (JET STORM, JET ACROSS THE ATLANTIC, BACK FROM ETERNITY (Anita Ekberg label), SOS PACIFIC (Trash label) and of course THE CROWDED SKY - review at Troy Donahue label).

Our lead here is Garry Merrill, still looking good after ALL ABOUT EVE, who gets chatting to some others on a cross-country flight: showgirl Shelley Winters who looks great here, and her name is Binky Gay! on her first (and last) flight, moody Michael Rennie drinking and nursing his own secret, and that very annoying salesman Keenan Wynn - which increases one's resolve never to converse with strangers when flying. It is no secret that the plane crashes in bad weather and Gary is the only survivor of "the gang of four" - so he tracks down the families and loved ones of the other three ... and we find out all about them. There is exensive footage on the plane (and flying was certainly more roomy in those days) and all those flashbacks. Rennie had caused a fatal crash from reckless driving and blamed his passenger, alienating his wife (Beatrice Straight) who had to cover for him and their son does not know but blames the mother .... Binky (Shelley) was at loggerheads with her old actress mother-in-law but was setting her up as Bloody Mary in SOUTH PACIFIC with Oscar & Hammerstein! - take that Evelyn Varden!  

Bette appears in the final scene (just like she did as Catherine the Great in JOHN PAUL JONES in 1959) as the now crippled wife of Wynn whom she had left to run off with a playboy but he abandons her when she bangs her head while diving and is going to be left paralysed, but the annoying Keenan comes back to look after her.   So, nice little stories all tied together nicely with those plush Fox values and a cast and director who know how to deliver material like this. Pity there was not more for Bette to do, another missed opportunity after EVE then. She would have been getting into her mid-'40s here but, like those other early '30s stars, was already considered "old" or middle-aged ....

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Summer re-runs: Romcoms

My best friend's ugly proposal ... 

The heat has finally hit London, and I am having a season of summer revivals and some newies too, just to have a change from that summer of sport about to hit us. Let's start with some romcoms. I am not really a romcom person - I don't rush to the latest Jennifer Aniston or the latest LOVE ACTUALLY rip-off.  I did like those romcoms for adults like Vanessa and Franco in LETTERS TO JULIET or Meryl and Alec in IT'S COMPLICATED, as per reviews here (Valentines label), and I also covered those recent smart ones like CRAZY STUPID LOVE and FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS.

I did though sit happily through MY BEST FRIEND'S WEDDING again the other day - I enjoyed this at the cinema back in 1997. I never really got the Julia Roberts love - I didn't care for PRETTY WOMAN for starters - and had no interest in most of her movies (MARY REILLY - I don't think so...) but I get it here, she is quite adorable and looks perfect with that hair and the mouth etc. Her character isn't pretty likeable but she makes us like her even more. The plot is too well known to re-hash here, but she and Dermot Mulroney and Cameron Diaz as the even more adorable Kimmy are all note-perfect and there are some great set-pieces.
The locations are great and it all looks marvellous in widescreen. Have I left someone out ? Oh yes, Rupert Everett on tip-top form re-defining the role of the Gay Best Friend, in fact I understand the role was extended for him and he simply runs away with the picture. That restuarant scene where he leads the singing of Dionne's "I Say A Little Prayer" is one we can watch over and over, as perfectly realised by P.J. Hogan (of MURIEL'S WEDDING). Love too Rupert's delivery of those lines, like to the mother of the bride: "love the bag, love the shoes"  .... the whole movie is full of endearing characters, and that final dance at the end is simply just perfect. "There will be dancing" indeed.

I saw 2009's THE PROPOSAL on a plane but found it engaging enough to get the dvd - and again its quite a pleaser as Sandra Bullock has to get married to avoid being deported! - Ryan Reynolds is her hapless assistant and its amusingly played out. Sandra scores heavily here - and we have Mary Steenburgen and  Betty White back at Ryan's home in Alaska where Sandra gets her comeuppance and it all ends satisfyingly. Some scenes like where the dog was picked up by an eagle and Sandra was chasing it around trying to get her phone back are simply hilarious.

I finally got around to THE UGLY TRUTH, also 2009, which I just couldn't work up much enthusiasm to see, but it went ok following all the usual predictable detours around our main couple. It may be Gerard Butler's best role as it suits him perfectly and Katherine Heigl is new to me, she has that disconcerting resemblance to my '40s favourite Linda Darnell. This is probably the ideal chick-flick which ticks all the boxes: all the women are unpleasantly uptight and work in either television or media, where, in spite of being successful and attractive, they all see themselves as tremendous failures because they don't have a man. The men of course are all coarse and juvenile yet somehow still manage to attract beautiful, accomplished women that in reality would be well out of their league. And, of course, women are expected to change all of their less attractive traits to attract men, but men are to be accepted for what they are. Not much change there then from the days of Katharine Hepburn in WOMAN OF THE YEAR or Bette Davis in JUNE BRIDE ... our silly heroine too goes all to pieces when the new guy next door drops his towel when she falls out of the tree while gazing at him - she has a nice cat though. 

I see Nicole's MARGOT AT THE WEDDING is in the schedules for tomorrow night, not a romcom per se perhaps, but it may be an amusing antitdote to romcom ideas.....


Frank Pierson (1925-2012) scripted some '60s/ '70s classics: DOG DAY AFTERNOON, COOL HAND LUKE, THE LOOKING GLASS WAR, THE HAPPENING, CAT BALLOU - as well as "directing" Streisand's '76 A STAR IS BORN (or A STAR IS BORING as I used to refer to it...). He also did scripts for MAD MEN up to 2012, he also produced the series and THE GOOD WIFE; and his earlier work included tv series like HAVE GUN, WILL TRAVEL.
Chad Everett (1936-2012), that good-looking actor also passed away aged 75, and was also working up to this year. We did not see his extensive television work here in the UK (MEDICAL CENTRE etc and appearances in those iconic shows like 77 SUNSET STRIP or HAWAIIAN EYE). He will be remembered though for those early movie roles like that water delivery boy (left) in THE CHAPMAN REPORT, 1962 - my very favourite trash classic, which I must see and comment on again - and CLAUDELLE INGLISH and THE SINGING NUN  (both at Trash label)