Monthly Archives: April 2016

Glamora Mora’s Career Peaks!

Movie Night!

ATOM AGE VAMPIRE; the title pretty well tips you off that we’re takin’ the high road tonight. The title is an issue itself. It’s not a vampire flick. It’s more of a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde story, and the connection to anything atomic is incoherent and contrived.

Who cares?

It’s Italian and probably lost something in translation.

We have elements of great film-making present here…if your definition of “great” is generous in the extreme.

  • It’s black and white, and grainy, and the contrast dial is set at “11”. Ouch.
  • We have an “Igor” assistant who of course cannot speak. This always augers well, though I found myself longing for Marty Feldman.
  • We have a handsome leading man who smokes, drinks, hangs out at the strip club, spurns his adoring lover because she works at the strip club, and basically contributes nothing positive to the resolving of the case. Naturally, he gets the girl at the end of the film.
  • We have a script that can’t even spell “plausible”.
  • We have cool (sorta) lab equipment like vials that glow and bathtub-like domed chambers that glow. Both seem to do things to people of which the FDA would never approve.
  • We have a cool convertible for the protagonist and his victim to drive around in for no discernible reason.

AND what an assemblage of talent!

  • A beloved director; Anton Giulio Majano. What? You’ve never heard of him? Obviously you haven’t watched enough television…Italian television, that is.
  • Alberto Lupo plays the mad scientist/doctor/monster with a George Zucco-ish panache. What? You’ve never heard of him? Obviously you’ve not seen his nuanced work in MINOTAUR, WILD BEAST OF CRETE and THE GIANT OF MARATHON.
  • Susanne Loret (you loved her in UNCLE WAS A VAMPIRE) wears flimsy well. Unfortunately, her acting does too.
  • Glamora Mora (I kid you not) plays the belly dancer……….and upon that we will discreetly pull the shade…

It’s mis-named, it’s mis-cast, it’s a mistake. I loved it.

Italian Bleak

Movie Night!

Michaelangelo Antonioni has commanded too much of my film-watching time – way-y-y-y too much.

I think I saw his L’AVVENTURA about 1971. I loved it and I loved Monica Vitti in it. I’ve seen it three or four times since and still love it and her.

The next Antonioni flick I saw was ZABRISKIE POINT. What happened? This was one of the most tedious cinematic experiences in my life. Oh sure, the explosion’s cool, but repeated 821 times? It was like a Philip Glass score. I’m pretty sure nothing was left on the cutting room floor here.

Still, I really liked L’AVVENTURA. I reasoned I should go back and see the films he made right after that film. I watched LA NOTTE. I watched L’ECLISSE. (In the background I could hear the loud buzzer and the announcer’s voice saying; “Thank you for playing”).

So.

Tonight it’s one more swing at Mr. Antonioni; RED DESERT.

I’m encouraged that RED DESERT also features Ms. Vitti. This was the flick she made before she played the title character in MODESTY BLAISE (think James Bond movie with Bond girls but no Bond. I know, I know guys, that doesn’t sound half bad, but trust me, go have lunch at Hooters instead).

RED DESERT is bleak. It’s shot in a polluted industrial quarter of Ravenna. The skies are grey when you can see them. Mostly you see smoke of various un-reassuring hues and fog, lots of fog. The ground barely exists. It’s unhealthy-looking mud and marsh and industrial seaport. Everything is tastefully furnished in mid-twentieth century factory debris. Dante and William Burroughs would be impressed.

The people are bleak.

Ms. Vitti works hard and is effective, but at what? Her character must drive this film, but how? She’s a bewildered victim buffeted from husband to lover to infant son, fearful of everything (“…colors…”) to the point of incapacitation. This is the focus of the whole film. John Cassavetes and Gena Rowlands did this far better in A WOMAN UNDER THE INFLUENCE.

And then there’s Richard Harris. He acts as if he thought he was in film by Alain Resnais. Look around you, Mr. Harris. This is Ravenna, not Marienbad.

And I gotta let ya know up front. The desert’s not red…it’s not even a desert. It’s a rocky beach with pinkish sand and adds no discernible value for the viewer except as visual relief from the ravages of Ravenna.

No, the film’s not as dreadful as ZABRISKIE POINT, but….I think I’ve invested enough of my time in Mr. Antonioni.

Besides, ATOM AGE VAMPIRE is comin’ up. You just know that’s gonna be choice.

Son of Japanese Noir

Movie night!

I was so taken by Yoshitaro Nomura’s ZERO FOCUS (see previous blog) I had to watch his reputedly best film; THE CASTLE OF SAND. Lucky me.

THE CASTLE OF SAND contains a satisfying quota of “noir” elements.

  • It pairs an older/wise investigator with a younger/energetic partner. They work separately and come back together to compare their discoveries. Those discoveries are meagre, but spark progress in each other through this cross-pollination. Yes, there are some “Eureka!” moments, but not the usual Hollywood kind. Mind you, I’m not knockin’ Hollywood “Eureka!” moments. They’re usually pretty exciting storytelling. But it’s intriguing to see these two hard-working, sweating, high-integrity guys tease just enough new information to keep their investigation from fading away.
  • It has bar scenes, dining car scenes, and police headquarters interview scenes. Check, check, and check.
  • It has trains. I know that sounds strange but this is always good for me. I’m a passenger with no control. I am caught in a powerful, loud machine hurling me towards the next chapter in the adventure at hand. Gulp.

It does not have Ginzu knives.

But wait! There’s more!!

Unlike ZERO FOCUS, this film is in color. Mr. Nomura uses that color to exploit the beauty of rural Japan. Imagine if the Ingmar Bergman of SMILES OF A SUMMER NIGHT had shot a film in rural Kentucky in early summer. The vistas are impossibly green – the people are small against it. The roads/trails are generally straight and so are the people. Integrity is high – tolerance is low. Hospitality is ubiquitous – charity is rare.

The acting in this film is perhaps not as uniformly fine as in ZERO FOCUS, but the older detective portrayal by Tetsuro Tanba (fellow James Bond aficionados will remember Mr. Tanba as Tiger Tanaka in YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE) is very nice.

The treasure in this film is the remarkable way the resolution is revealed. Our detectives apply for a warrant to arrest their suspect. To do so, they must present their case to an assembly of police officials. As they tell their story we see their story in painful and lush flashback. As they speak and we watch, everything is underscored by a piano concerto written and played by our prime suspect. The camera smoothly and logically and relentlessly moves from police conference to rural saga to concert performance. I could not look away. The plot twists as the story is unveiled are effective and startling………and plausible.

This is a gem.

Japanese Noir

Movie Night!

I watch some fairly awful movies with great regularity and glee. What could possibly promise less and truly deliver on the promise than THE GIANT GILA MONSTER or I WAS A TEENAGE WEREWOLF?

I also watch Japanese movies with regularity. They generally fall into two categories;

  • Delightful foolishness featuring Godzilla or his friends Mothra, Rodan, Ghidra, et al.
  • Seriously engaging films directed by Akira Kurasawa (the man is a god to me).

But tonight’s 1961 Japanese flick is a new experience for me. None of the actors are wearing rubber suits, Tokyo is not destroyed, Toshiro Mifune is not in the cast, and thousands of mounted warriors are not raising the dust.

ZERO FOCUS (I haven’t a clue as to the meaning of the title) is beautifully directed by Yoshitaro Nomura. I prowl the overnight offerings of Turner Classic Movies just in hope of finding flicks like this.

If you are a fan of film noir and Hitchcock, this is your meat.

It’s in black and white. There are trains. The characters speak Japanese, but the language of the film is “bleak”. I am fluent in bleak. There are trains. The plot twists and twists again. The characters play for keeps. Those who die stay dead, though sometimes we wonder. There are trains. Segments of Japanese post-war society of which I was totally ignorant are explored (dredged?). I cared about every one of the characters in this story. This is very fine storytelling.

The acting is also very fine. Excuse me for throwing some names at you, but these ladies are new to me.

  • Yoshiko Kuga is plain, pathetic, smart, and determined. That can’t be easy to do.
  • Hizuru Takachino is polished and desperate.
  • Ineko Arima is heartbreaking……………….heartbreaking.

These women drive the film. How unusual is that for 1961?

Ko Nishimura and Yoshi Kato provide mighty support.

Behind these performances, the music is gripping.

I understand Mr. Nomura’s best film is THE CASTLE OF SAND. I gotta find that.

“You Talkin’ to Me?”

Movie night – TAXI DRIVER.

“You talkin’ to me?”

The first time I watched the film TAXI DRIVER I don’t believe my eyes ever closed…not one blink…until DeNiro’s big payoff scene near the end of the flick. At least, that’s how it felt to me.

“There’s no one else here…….you talkin’ to me??”

The soundtrack was seductive, narcotic, and relentless.

“I do not believe one should spend one‘s life in morbid self-pity.”

Robert DeNiro’s character was a walking time-bomb that you feared and rooted for at the same time. It’s hard to watch this performance now and realize this is the same actor that years later peeled an egg in ANGEL HEART as if he was peeling a man’s soul from his body. Same madness…completely different level of intelligence and power. And, frankly, better hair.

“One day a real rain’s gonna come.”

Jody Foster, Peter Boyle, Cybill Shepard, Albert Brooks, and a remarkable turn by Harvey Keitel; whatta cast!

Put vague but potent outrage in a human receptacle of limited mental and social capacity but possessing finely honed skills of violence, bathed and stoked in the same streets and the same desperate messages day by day, night after night. Now, tease that gentleman with glimpses of an unobtainable woman and a visible but distant political lifestyle and then slam that door. Now, show him a teenage runaway in need of a white knight to rescue her from a sterling piece of slime like Harvey Keitel’s character. What could possibly go wrong?

When I saw this movie at a first-run house, the general buzz about the film was; “How terrible. What can we do about this?”

Today I fear the reaction is more like; “How can we exploit this for profit and/or votes?”

Janie and I Got Married Last Night…

again…

…for about the twentieth time.

Every time we are honored to attend someone’s wedding, it’s our wedding.

We’re discrete about it: we don’t try to horn in on another couple’s big day…but it’s our big day too. Jes’ sayin’.

Other couples celebrate their anniversaries: we celebrate our weddings.

Last night’s wedding was particularly nice. It had all the check-em-off ingredients;

  • A bride, lovely in the extreme.
  • A groom, bustin’ with pride.
  • Personalized vows with charming personality.
  • Impossibly tiny and appropriately bewildered flower girls.

But there was more.

This wedding was in a castle.

It was my first time to actually be in Castle Post on Versailles Road. It was a lovely event. The weather was spectacular. We were able to have the actual ceremony outdoors in sunny comfort. The food, the music, and the company was fine. Janie and I walked to our car afterward under a moon framed by turrets and crenelated walls.

Married again.

I could not be more pleased.

“Everything’s Gonna Be Alright”

Hey pal, lemme give ya a coupla tips.

  1. On a cool spring afternoon at Keeneland, eat the burgoo. You can’t lose.
  2. If you ever find yourself in a horror movie and someone says to you; “Everything’s gonna be alright”, rest assured…it won’t be.

Yes, boys and girls, it’s Movie Night!

Tonight’s 1973 delight might be known to you as CRYPT OF THE LIVING DEAD…but probably not. Or you might know it as HANNAH, QUEEN OF THE VAMPIRES…but probably not. In fact, if you know this film at all I have to assume your parents did NOT know where you were at night.

Understand, I’m not qualified to judge the fine points of film production but;

  • I know when I can’t decipher half the words spoken, the sound is poor.
  • I know when half the scenes are 90% totally dark, the lighting is poor.
  • I know when half the cast (male and female) are wearing turtleneck sweaters, a bit more thought could have been put into the costuming.

You get my gist; this film’s not good.

However, it does feature a cast of interest (interest, not quality, mind you).

  • Teresa Gimpera, fresh off her triumph in LOVE BRIDES OF THE BLOOD MUMMY, is deadly, silent, and pretty. These acting choices seem to work for her.
  • Mark Damon reminds me of the lead singer of Paul Revere and the Raiders. This acting choice…not so good, but the hair looks great.
  • Patty Shepard, fresh off her triumph in the title role of THE WEREWOLF VS THE VAMPIRE WOMAN (also silent and deadly), is actually not bad. She’s sort of a cross between Barbara Steele and Barbara Bach; not a bad scream queen pedigree.
  • Imagine, if you will, Roddy McDowell playing a role written for Steve McQueen. McFoolishness! That would be Andrew Prine’s performance in this flick.

No, the film’s not good, but just keep telling yourself; “Everything’s gonna be alright.”

Besides, I loved it.

“They’re Coming to Get You Barbara”

Movie Night!

“Come on, Barb. Church was this morning, huh?”

THE NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD…the original…black and white…shot in Pittsburgh on a budget of thirteen bananas and a big rubber snake.

“They’re coming to get you, Barbara.”

It would have been the summer of ’68 or ’69. I would have been at the Family Drive-In or the Circle-25 Drive-In in East Lexington.

“Johnny, stop it!”

One of my friends (probably the one we hid in the trunk of the car to reduce our admission charge) came back from the refreshment stand and tapped on the window of our car just as the first real living dead guy in the movie attacked Barbara in the car. I left a brown spot on the seat of our car.

That’s my story and I’m not proud.

When and where did you first see the original film? It makes a difference.

The drive-in theater itself was part of the phenomenon. Sitting in our individual, isolated bubbles; too polite (or intimidated) to pay any attention to the other bubbles nearby (who knows what might happening in there). The other cars looked a bit like tombstones in the twilight.

The businessman in me today wonders if NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD was a good bet for concession sales. The “dining” scenes in the flick certainly didn’t leave me longing for a corn dog or a hit of Smithfield BBQ.

But forget that. Almost 50 years later this film is still scary and oddly plausible which compounds its scariness. I know there are people who prefer the sequel, DAWN OF THE DEAD and I like it too, but NIGHT beats DAWN for me and DAY OF THE DEAD is best not spoken of at all. Another variation of this cheap living dead film formula is CHILDREN SHOULDN’T PLAY WITH DEAD THINGS. It saddens me to admit the best thing about this film is the title.

Still, I’ve seen worse and lived (I think) to tell the tale.

It Could Be the Last Thing You Do

Baseball musings while watching Alfredo Simon make a pitching career out of the first inning (48 pitches already and still flingin’ – I’m guessin’ he’s not gonna get a complete game outta this) on a balmy evening (39 degrees and still droppin’) in Chicago. Night games…in Chicago…in April…what kind of mind…? This game is currently on a pace to last 6 ½ hours.

Hey, not to worry, more time to muse. It’s baseball, baby.

Yesterday I caught a few minutes of a Dodgers game described by Vin Scully. One of the batters was blessed with “Socrates” as his first name. Mr. Scully proceeded to give us a biography of the Greek philosopher AND a play-by-play of what it’s like to die from drinking hemlock AND a pitch-by-pitch description of the batter’s plate appearance. You can’t get that kind of service from any other sport.

Right now I’m listening and learning about the circulatory system of ducks as imparted by Thom Brenneman while the Reds pitcher tries to lay down a bunt. You can learn a lot useful stuff in a baseball game.

But what I’m thinkin’ ‘bout tonight is the fearful responsibility involved when buying a ticket to a baseball game. We take it lightly, but think about it.

It could be the last thing you do.

If the game is tied at the end of nine innings we don’t stop playing by the regular rules of baseball until we have a winner. No matter how many innings that may take.

We don’t have clocks, or ties, or judges’ decisions, or goal kicks, or coin flips. We play on. Theoretically, any game you decide to attend could last forever.

Cool……………and a little scary.

W. P. Kinsella wrote SHOELESS JOE, the book the fine baseball film FIELD OF DREAMS was based upon. His next novel was another fine baseball book; THE IOWA BASEBALL CONFEDERACY. In it, he posits exactly such an eternal baseball game. I recommend it. Oh, don’t get anxious, it’s only 310 pages long and it has an ending.

So, the next time someone asks you if you’d like to catch a baseball game, stop and ponder if you’re really ready for that kind of commitment.

I pretty much always am.

She Chose Poorly and Often

Movie Night!

Tonight’s delight is a perennial favorite from Spain and West Germany; THE WEREWOLF VS THE VAMPIRE WOMAN (1971). Maybe “perennial” is a bit strong. Maybe “favorite” is a bit strong.

What’s that? The title’s not familiar to you?

Perhaps you know it as SHADOW OF THE WEREWOLF, or LA NOCHE DE WALPURGIS, or SATAN VS THE WOLF MAN…….or BLOOD MOON?

Could it possibly be you’ve never seen this epic?

Lucky you.

This is a jolly little lycanthropic tale featuring Paul Naschy (aka Jacinto Molina), an ex-circus strongman who fashioned a career by playing a werewolf in about a dozen films. I guess you could think of Mr. Naschy as the Lon Chaney Jr. of Spain.

Gaby Fuchs plays a young vampire researcher with a mass of red hair and a mass of poor judgement as demonstrated;

  • She falls in love with the werewolf within 24 hours of meeting him.
  • She allows her girlfriend into her bedroom though she knows she’s a vampire with less than sisterly leanings.
  • She accepts a ride to the town’s post office with a truly creepy guy who explains; “I’m afraid the post office is closed, but I’d like to show you our butcher shop.” Can I buy a ticket for that tour?
  • Her outfits.

The title vampire is veiled, impervious to bullets, adroit with chains and manacles, laughs a lot, and moves in slow-motion; an unusual skill set for 1971, but could perhaps qualify her to run for president this year.

I loved it.