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, 15 August 2014

In the mood for summer repeats

Rapture! - In the mood for IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE again ... (as per review last year, 2000s label). 
Our heatwave seems to be finally over, as rain and cooler weather arrive,with that autumn nip in the air already! I won't have to be drinking too many cool Italian lagers or Belgian ciders then .... but we often get a good warm late summer here in the British Isles, and over on the West coast of Ireland, where I spend time too, right on the edge of Europe ...

Meanwhile, those summer repeats keep on coming. I have a stack on recent releases to watch: THE WOLF OF WALL STREET, DALLAS BUYERS CLUB, INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS, THE GREAT BUDAPEST HOTEL, CAPTAIN PHILLIPS, SAVING MR BANKS, THE GREAT BEAUTY etc. as well as been entranced by Visconti's THE LEOPARD now even more stunning on Blu-ray (see post below), as is Lean's LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, but instead its more repeats of favourites on tv: ROBIN AND MARIAN, Channing's THE EAGLE and boxsets like LOVE/HATE, HOUSE OF CARDS, WHITE COLLAR etc, as well as vintage boxsets on Lee Remick as JENNIE (Churchill) and Francesca Annis as LILLIE (Lily Langtry, which also has Peter Egan as an exquisite Oscar Wilde).. See labels here for more on all these:
ISLAND IN THE SUN was on again, from 1957. Nice to look at, thats a perfect Caribbean island, from that best-selling novel and Fox gave it the plush treatment. I love Joan Fontaine's outfit for meeting her sort of lover Harry Belafonte (Joan received hate mail for appearing in scenes with the handsome Harry, meanwhile it was the other Joan - Collins - who was getting intimate with Belafonte..) but her white gloves and pink pencil halter top dress ensures she looks great; the above is a posed shot - they never touch in the film, apart from where he helps down from the bus ! 
meanwhile starlets Joan Collins and Stephen Boyd romance in the surf and Dorothy Dandridge is marvellous with John Justin (whom I have seen quite a bit lately, in 1943's THE GENTLE SEX and those '70s Ken Russell farragos, as reported below). James Mason is also here, married to Patrica Owens, and he kills Michael Rennie in a fit of jealousy as  policeman John Williams puts two and two together ... delirious stuff, I loved that theme song as a kid.

I can never resist another look at RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, now, like BODY HEAT (also scripted by Lawrence Kasdan) one of the key movies of the '80s. It all works perfectly here, from that perfect opening sequence with Alfred Molina to the high-jinks in Nepal before going on to Egypt .... This and Harrison's AIR FORCE ONE may well be my favourite popcorn movies. Amusing touches here too, like the (male) pupil with an apple for teacher .... with Denholm Elliot and Paul Freeman sterling support and Karen Allen as that very spunky heroine.
Two years ago we had a Hitchcock summer here, as the BFI showed all his films, and canonised VERTIGO as the best film of all time, in their "Sight & Sound" magazine (see details at Hitchcock label) - now our Film4 channel starts a 'frightmare' season with PSYCHO and THE BIRDS. I never tire of THE BIRDS and that marvellous interplay between the characters, its a very witty screenplay, Rod Taylor and Tippi Hedren are ideal - particularly as she dials the telephone with her pencil - and Suzanne Pleshette is ace too.
PSYCHO continues to amaze me, one notices new things - the opening titles tell us its December 12th, but the only sign of christmas is one shot showing street decorations as Janet drives out of town, and of course its the first time a toilet was flushed in a mainstream American film! Janet Leigh is simply astounding here, and should surely have been nominated for an Award.....
Our Sky Arts channel has discovered Ingmar Bergman's THE SEVENTH SEAL which they are showing frequently, maybe most people's introduction to those foreign arthouse movies. It has of course been parodied many times, but it still has the power to mesmerise us as Death plays chess with the Knight, and the family of simple folk make their escape - the unforgiving medieval world is essayed here as the young witch is burned and people flagellate themselves to hopefully avoid the Black Death ..... its still a stunning film full of indelible images, even simple shots of the sea and the waves and the rocks have a stark power of their own. On his return from the Crusades, a Swedish knight, Antonius Block (Max Von Sydow in his signature role), is accosted by Death but staves off his demise by challenging him to a game of chess. Ingmar Bergman's best known early film is not all existential gloom. Well, all right, it is, but is alleviated by the film's inventiveness and audaciousness, and Death is hilariously sardonic. Pity the doomed souls being led away at the end, dancing on the skyline .... 

THE ELEPHANT MAN, 1980.  Nothing new to say about this apart from that I was stunned and mesmerised all over again. It has to to be one of the most powerful films ever made and David Lynch’s keeper. All the elements are there: that Victorian industrial background, the stunning black and white photography capturing it all, and the superlative cast – did John Hurt and Anthony Hopkins do anything better?, with sterling support from John Gielgud and Wendy Hiller, not to mention Freddie Jones, and that perfect ending as we clear away our sobs. Its still a key 80s movie.
SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER remains deliriously over the top too, as Katharine Hepburn's Mrs Violet Venable descends in her elevator to persuade doctor Montgomery Clift to lobotomise her niece Elizabeth Taylor to remove what she saw happen to Sebastian last summer .... poor Monty seems to be sleepwalking through this as Taylor (in that white swimsuit which was "a scandal to the jaybirds") and Hepburn go head to head ...

And then a large helping of cheese: GUESS WHO'S COMING TO DINNER .....  I tried to avoid it but looked in before the end. It seemed even worse than I remembered, but how we loved it back in 1967. I remember friends and I going to a late night show at 11pm – not so common in London then! Watching it now one can see all the glaring faults – its shot like a tv sitcom, that house full of art and the view over San Francisco are laughably opulent and fake now, and that ghastly score.
Thankfully I missed that excruciating scene at the drive-in ice cream parlour where Tracy comes across as just old and doddery and annoying. The daughter of course is an airhead, and Dr Prentice (Poitier) seems a living saint and they just have to rush to Geneva as he has to work for the World Health Organisation so both sets of parents have to give their approval right away for their union. The black servant ("part of the family") still has to serve dinner though – and don’t get me started on this wealthy liberal family who are not Catholics, with their pet priest (dear twinkly Cecil Kellaway) who is Irish and likes that whiskey !  But of course one has to see it in the context of its time:  race relations were still very problematic then and this sugar-coated pill (along with Poitier's other hits that year IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT (which I loved) and TO SIR WITH LOVE) may have helped things along. At least it revitalised Katharine Hepburn’s career (while her contemporaries were mired in cheap guignol flicks, and Kate was even bigger the next year when THE LION IN WINTER was such a hit, winning her another Oscar) – there she was on the cover of LIFE magazine and standing on her head, as a whole new generation fell in love with her - she had really been off the screen since 1959's SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER, Lumet's LONG DAYS JOURNEY INTO NIGHT in 1962 was not widely seen at the time despite winning awards at Cannes, in fact I didn't see it until the dvd became available). I love her costumes and little hats in this film which she breezes through, particularly the great scene where she fires the art gallery assistant. Like all Kramer’s films of the time, it seems hopelessly overdone now.   below: Visconti's sumptuous 1963 THE LEOPARD, once again.


  1. Janet Leigh was nominated for an Academy award in the Best Supporting Actress category for PSYCHO.

  2. She should have won it - but is she a supporting actress? Vera Miles isn't playing a leading role here, but is even more supporting. Janet dominates the first half of the film, and the second half too actually as it is all about looking for her.