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, 1 February 2013

'50s classics? Bus Stop or The Vikings ...

Afternoon tv had the little-seen now BUS STOP followed by THE VIKINGS - two '50s classics - one is practically unwatchable now, the other is a tv staple here and remains a film I can immerse myself in anytime and like watching it now as it certainly ticks all the boxes I require from a costume movie/epic: great cast, story, direction, music ....  (I still have that BUS STOP magazine, left, and some stills from the film).

THE VIKINGS has it in spades. It has been a favourite ever since I saw Tony and Janet doing their love scene, a photo of which was in a childhood film annual I had to have. Toss in Kirk and Borgnine doing what they do best and a great supporting cast: Alexander Knox as Father Godwin, James Donald, Maxine Audley as the queen who is Eric's mother, Eileen Way as Kitalla the witch (below) who saves Eric/Tony from the crabs and the rockpool ..... that last seige of the castle is stirring stuff too, and we like seeing Frank Thring again as Ayella get his comeuppance as he too falls into the wolfpit ...
the Norwegian locations are terrific as lensed by ace Jack Cardiff, compelmented by Mario Niscembene's stirring score and Orson Welles' narration at the start on the scourge of the Vikings. That final battle between the viking brothers Curtis and Douglas on the castle ramparts with the sea crashing below them remains brilliant stuff too, as Janet's Welsh princess Morgana tells Einar (Douglas) that Eric is his brother .... and Ragnar jumping into the wolfpit with his sword in his hand. Richard Fleishcher orchestrates it all perfectly.
Then at the end Eric and Morgana are reunited as Eric says "prepare a funeral for a viking" as the boat sets sail and is set on fire ..... also amusing is English comedy actress "silly moo" Dandy Nichols as Bridget, Morgana's handmaiden. Janet though seems to be wearing one of those pointy '50s bras under her Welsh outfits. I love that moment too when Tony rips her bodice showing that shapely back, so she can row the boat as they escape ..... ok, its a movie I love. It remains a gold-plated Hollywood classic of the '50s.

Much more problematic is Joshua Logan's BUS STOP.  Back in that pre-video age BUS STOP was a golden grail for Monroe obsessives (I was one too then) as it simply was not available or being screened anywhere for a long time. Finally it came out on video ..... even now I could not watch it except on fast-forward. It is just painfully dated and I cannot stand the obnoxious dim cowboy, perfectly played by Don Murray, nor the cloying folkiness of Arthur O'Connell's character, Virgil, his mentor.
This of course is pure William Inge but (like that schoolteacher played by Rosalind Russell in the film of Inge's PICNIC, also heavy-handedly helmed by Joshua Logan) it just jars and annoys now. 

The novelty with BUS STOP was Marilyn "acting" here as Cherie after her stint in New York and at the Actors' Studio. The sequence where she badly sings "That old black magic" while changing her spotlight to red as Murray whoops in delight is still an iconic Monroe moment, but a lot of it is painful to endure now. Eileen Heckart and Betty Field and Hope Lange are fine in their roles, but the play itself is the problem, which is probably why it is seldom revived now. The only other production I have seen is the one Lee Remick and Keir Dullea did in London in 1976 - 37 years ago! - above (Remick label)

More Inge: I now have THE DARK AT THE TOP OF THE STAIRS to re-see and review before too long, and Joanne Woodward in THE STRIPPER, that 1963 film of his play "A Loss of Roses", it was also known as "Woman of Summer" for a while, Joanne Woodward is hardly the type to play a stripper (right) and Richard Beymer is no Warren Beatty (who originated the part on stage), but we will see .... I quite liked Inge's script though for BUS RILEY IS BACK IN TOWN in 1965, a compendium of Inge cliches (Ann- Margret label).

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