Category Archives: Movies

Return of the Witch

Movie night!

Uh…This’ll be quick.

FINNISH HORROR FLICKS OF THE FIFTIES.

I may write the definitive book of that title. It’ll take about fifteen minutes. I think there were two.

Tonight I’m watching one of them; Noita Palaa Elemaan (no need to buy a vowel there). The English title is Return of the Witch (I’m thinkin’ something may have been lost in the translation).

My friend Joe would give this a “thumbs-up” – much sheer, back-lit fabric, when there’s any fabric at all. But he’s a one-issue voter. Aside from the titillation factor, there’s not much here – not even a Helsinki-stompin’ monster.

I may pass on completing my survey of Finnish films.

…an unfinished Finn film fest…

Se on liian huono.

And hard to say!

Geezer Survey

A friend of mine had an epiphany recently. He dolefully claims he now knows he’s a codger. He’s a smart guy who’s picking up on the hints; knee replacement, triple bypass …the mirror in his bathroom.

Good for him for being so perceptive.

What about the rest of us? How will we know when codgerdom assumes control?

I see all these surveys on Facebook and what they promise to tell me about myself. No disrespect, but I don’ need no stinkin’ surveys, especially ones powered by my birth month and the first letter of my second dog’s name.

I can make my own survey.

Here is a Lexington Geezer Survey and I invite you to take it. If you do, I’ll be happy to evaluate your response using the same scientific protocols currently being used to determine charge/blocking calls in college basketball – I’ll guess wildly.

Be honest now…because…well…why not?

Also feel very free to relate stories, rationales, and/or pertinent limericks to enhance your response.

Seriously, you don’t really have to be honest about this nonsense…because…well…who cares? And nobody’s fact-checking.

Lexington Geezers, here’s your chance to demonstrate if you’re a real “Nighthawk Special” or merely a “Tabletopper” (extra credit for understanding those references).

Here goes;

  1. Just to get it out of the way right away and establish a base line; choose – Ginger or Mary Ann?
  2. It’s 2am Sunday morning and you’ve dropped off your date; choose – Jerry’s on North Broadway or Southland Drive?
  3. More nuanced questions; choose – Warner Oland or Sidney Toler? Sean Connery or Daniel Craig?
  4. The Ben Ali or the Strand?
  5. The best Felix Leiter; choose – Norman Burton, Bernie Casey, David Hedison, Cec Linder, Jack Lord, Rik Van Nutter, or Jeffrey Wright? Good grief!
  6. Did you ever attempt the “Steak for Two” at Columbia’s by yourself? How many drinks do you remember having had that evening?
  7. The best Bond girl; choose – Ursula Andress, Daniela Bianchi, or Ursula Andress…or Ursula Andress?
  8. Artie Kay or Billy Love?
  9. The Torqués, the Mag 7…or…the Mercy Men?
  10. And for more extra credit – a) Did you ever get a 9-cent banana split from those balloons at Woolworth’s? And b) Do you think they really existed? If you answered yes to “a”, I hate you. If you answered yes to “b”, I have a bridge I’d like sell you.

Knock yourself out!

Or should I say; “Sock it to me!”

Avoiding Covid Nightmares

I have a friend who loves movies, but was forbidden horror flicks as a child by parental decree. As an adult, he has always been a busy, busy guy; works hard (and a lot) and plays just as hard (and yes, a lot).

At least he did.

Ol’ Mr. Covid has him workin’ from home these days and nights, hidin’ his face, and checkin’ the TV guide.

Now, his age having earned him his Most-At-Risk achievement badge, and having burned through most of Netflix, he was thinking of finally dipping his toe into the horror movie pool (provided he be assured of getting his toe back).

He knew of my fascination with awful films (content and competence) and asked if I might suggest a sampler of gruesome cinema.

Oh…I might…I very well might……and I did.

I suggested a double feature with a lagniappe.

I would start by queuing up Manos, Hand of Fate (1966) and setting a timer for two minutes. That’s all you need. It’s kinda like most of the songs in “Phantom of the Opera” – the same six words rolled around forever in various permutations. Don’t get me wrong, Manos is a truly, deeply, greatly, lousy film and well deserving of every ugly thing that’s been said about it. However, even loving it as I do, two minutes is plenty. It justifies all the parental decrees against horror films and validates the reverence you feel for your folks.

Then I suggested The House of Usher (1960). It’s a Roger Corman effort; safe, distant, costumed from another time, featuring moonlit seas and a castle, dark and looming. In short, a solid horror film vocabulary, but nothing too close to home to keep you up at night. However, the Richard Matheson script is scary. The performers? Well, Mark Damon is a total cypher, but Vincent Price’s hair is to die for, and someone may.

My main feature for the evening would be a Hammer Dracula flick; The Scars of Dracula (1970). It’s not my favorite Hammer Drac but it contains all the basic food groups; bright crimson blood, buxom babe, blood, strange dental work, blood, foolish old man, blood, Michael Ripper, blood, Chris Lee, blood, and blood. Yum-m-m-m-m! Even if you hate it, you’ll be able to go through life saying you’ve seen a Hammer Dracula. And again, nothing too close to home to disturb your sheltering-at-home slumber.

Now, that’s an awful night.

Thanks fer askin’.

It’s The Angry Red Planet for me tonight. It’ll be a great escape from the angry blue planet I’m currently on.

Wrong for 99 Years!

Movie Night!

In my teens and twenties, I rarely saw any footage of silent pictures and when I did it was painful to watch. The flickering, herky-jerky movement of the film made me physically flinch and filled me with pity for my grandparents who would have had to watch these abominations. Because of those flickering images, I doubt if I ever watched more than two minutes of any silent film until I was in my fifties. How was I to know that what I was seeing was not correct?

I owe Turner Classic Movies for so much. Maybe the greatest debt is for giving me silent films at the correct speed.

I watched The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, a 1921 epic (no sarcasm here – epic is accurate) directed by Rex Ingram and starring Rudolf Valentino and featuring the father of Gilligan’s Skipper Alan Hale in a major role. Yes, it’s necessary to wade through some acting styles that are not of our time (hoo boy!), but this is a powerful and well-told story of the horror and ultimate folly of war. I wonder if the final scene of Saving Private Ryan wasn’t inspired by the final scene in Four Horsemen.

Thank you again TCM.

Creepy Times

We’re living in creepy times.

There’s the in-yer-face daily creepiness covered by breathless reporters on CNN/FOX/MSNBC/OAN/EEYI-EEYI-OH and promulgated with ghoulish delight by Mr. Trump and his how-many-fingers-am-I-holding-up swarm.

  • Life-stealing creepiness like 120,000 US citizens dead from a worldwide plague while we fret over bits of cloth — flags and masks.
  • We fret about whether professional baseball should play 60 games this year or 75, while black parents and spouses worry about whether their loved ones can even make it home alive this evening. I think that qualifies as pretty creepy.
  • We are titillated by the daily televised travails masters of hard-eyed greed like Manafort, Stone, Cohen, and Flynn, while nuclear-equipped hard-eyes like Putin, Kim Jong-Un, Erdogan, and Xi chat with our president regularly and off-the-record about who knows what. How creepy of us and them.

But enough of all that mundane, casual life-sucking, je ne sais yuck.

Let’s talk real creepy.

Like…

…how Facebook and Amazon and Google seem to know what we’re thinking, almost before we do.

I wrote a blog about my battle with beetles on our roses and the next day an organic bug spray was offered to me by Amazon. The beetles were creepy enough, thank you very much.

I watched a Roger Corman/Vincent Price flick; The House of Usher. It was my disc, copied from a VCR tape of a local late-night TV showing (commercials intact) from the 80’s. Facebook flashed a sponsored ad for a Lego Castle-Building set. I adore Lego, but my skin crawled.

Last week, Janie and I were working in the yard (our lilies are spectacular this year BTW) and we commented that the bushes had exceeded our capacity to keep up and several trees had pruning needs that were above our pay grade. That evening, a gypsy landscaper dragging his tools behind him knocked on our door. What are the odds? Two hours later, our urban farming needs were met…and at a reasonable tariff. I’m convinced that Google was somehow eerily involved.

And now, just when I was thinking there’d be no vacation for the Leasors this year and how much I might be missing an ocean (I have long believed that my beloved Lexington was pretty much heaven on Earth but for the lack of an ocean and a major league baseball team) when Turner Classic Movies read my mind.

Presto!

The next thing I know I’m watching Annette and Frankie in a yellow jalopy convertible toolin’ down a Pacific-bound highway singin’ “Beach Party Tonight” in several unrelated keys, three chords, lotsa breath, and devoid of harmony. Annette’s hair helmet and Frankie’s skinny arms are impervious to the breeze of the convertible and the demands of the curvaceous road. Soon I’m thrilled by Frankie and Deadhead and the boys challenging the fearsome one-and-a-half-foot waves on their surfboards, Annette and the girls bouncing from beach blanket to beach blanket in their hair helmets and Mouseketeer-approved one-piece swim suits (which have clearly never known dampness), and the wearisome wonder of Candy Johnson gyrating in her fringed swim suit (which has clearly never known…) to the sterile rockin’ sounds of Dick Dale and his Del-Tones.

I, of course, have all his albums.

There it is! There’s the missing ocean vacation, courtesy of TCM.

It’s an all-night bikini binge of beach movies from 50 years ago.

I can lose myself for a night to Deborah Walley, Tommy Kirk, surfboards, Annette, Harvey Lembeck, skateboards, Connie Stevens, Troy Donahue, ersatz mermaids, Frankie, Morey Amsterdam, chimpanzees, Tony Curtis, Claudia Cardinale, feeble motorcycle gangs, Annette, Yvette Vickers, and Sharon Tate.

How. Did. TCM. Know?

Creepy.

But it was great…

…just what I needed…

…for about fifteen minutes.

Then, insidiously, a notion crept into my head.

What if Mr. Trump had been around this frolicsome group?

  • Surfing?
  • Dancing in the sand? To Dick Dale and his Del-Tones?? With Candy???
  • Leading a motorcycle gang?
  • Getting his hair wet?

Grim…and yes, creepy.

Suddenly, the bloom was off that rose.

I drifted off to sleep, pondering what a beach flick made by Ingmar Bergman might have been like; Summer With Santa Monika, Smiles of a Summer Surf…The Virgin Summer……

Twitch, But Don’t Blink

I freely acknowledge that Mario Bava’s 1971 Euro-trash classic Twitch of the Death Nerve probably does not show up on most people’s lists of favorite Easter movies, but with so much gruesome in the news these days, I thought it might be good to lighten things up with a dose of mayhem you can actually see and perhaps run away from.

Plus it involves many useful ingredients for rollicking good/dreadful ride;

  • 1) I actually do like director Mario Bava’s work, especially his Black Sunday (1960), featuring the ultimate scream queen, Barbara Steele. It’s an excellent “first film” if you’re looking to dip your toe in the cheapo-Euro horror film pool of the 60’s. Of course you may not get that toe back.
  • 2) There’s a “Bond Girl” in the flick. That alone will probably prick the attention of half the audience. Claudine Auger is featured here a few years after her turn as the tragic heroine “Domino” in 1965’s Thunderball.
  • 3) The body count in Twitch is jaw-dropping. Not since A Fistful of Dollars or the final scene of “Hamlet”…
  • 4) The gamut of death-inducing weaponry exceeds that of a game of Clue. It includes a spear, a shotgun, a rope, and a hatchet…not to mention weird insects and a freshwater (?) squid.

You’d think with all that going for it, how could it miss?

Well…it does.

I started watching this jewel with Chloe, our resident canine critic.

Her opinion? “If you want me, I’ll be in the bar”.

She’s a big Joni Mitchell fan.

Pottersville?

I fear we are living in Pottersville.

The aspiring angel Clarence failed and did not get his wings. George Bailey leaped from the snowy bridge to his death.

Messieurs Potter, Trump, McConnell, Bevin, Kushner, Carson, Mnuchin, Ross, Nunes, DeVoss and fellow ravagers with their toolkits of greed, grift, groping, grabbing…and coarseness are reshaping and renaming our country.

Pottersville.
It’s cold.
It’s venal.
It’s violent.
It’s coarse.
It’s wrong.
It’s inevitable……no, wait……I don’t believe that.

But tonight I need some reminders of hope and honest goodness and competence.

I need to hear Greg Turay sing “Anthem” from the musical Chess. I need to hear Michael Preacely sing anything at all. I need to see Dr. Everett McCorvey conduct 22,000 basketball fans singing our national anthem. I need to see the Texas softball player sink to her knees in tears when her soldier brother appears at her Senior Night game after three years of service overseas. I need to read some more Paul Prather. I need to remember my friend Becky Johnson’s noble attempts to learn how many children every cab driver in San Miguel has, in her high school Spanish that seemed to improve with every cab ride.

These reminders have nothing to do with generating a monetary profit exploiting other humans, or driving another species to extinction, or further wounding our planet.
They are the antithesis of Pottersville.

I’ll work on all that.

I’ll also vote, as early and as often as the law allows, to get us out of Pottersville.

But for tonight I’ll have to settle for watching Governor Andy motivate an entire state to do the next right thing, and admiring Col. Virginia’s silent bellow; “We go together.”

They are both better and far more interesting than Pottersville.

End-of-the-Earth Day

Yesterday was Earth Day and I hope you had a jolly one…or a merry one…or at least a hopeful one.

Well, that’s over with now. If you need proof of that, check out Turner Classic Movies’ (TCM) schedule for tomorrow. I’m thinkin’ it must be End-of-the-Earth Day. It’s one mad scientist after another.

It’s devil bats (floppy puppets), giant shrews (big dogs with fake plastic teeth), human flies, perilous body fluids, disappearing corpses, human panthers, living heads on the wrong bodies, and of course man-made men who tap dance (“Oh, sweet mystery of life…”).

Whatta buffet of planet-threatening buffoonery.

I love it.

And I love TCM.

A few days ago, an affable representative from Metronet called on us to explain their new venture aimed at competing with Spectrum for our cable and internet service.

Janie will make that decision for us. She’s a smart modern gal who watches a wide selection of TV and visits a large number of useful websites and services, all of which make our lives infinitely better. That’s what she said.

I’m a well-oiled geezer who toddles from TCM to CNN to MLB. It’s about the same number of channels I watched when I was ten and three channels were all we had. I’m told we grow and progress, but sometimes the evidence…

As Janie absorbed the pros and cons (and prose and cons – see what I did there?) of the pleasant and earnest sales rep, I perused the list of channels offered by Metronet. It was the usual 5,436 channels.

I skipped through the 400-page document until I had assured myself that TCM, CNN, and my beloved Reds were represented.

My work here is done.

Wait!

If we switch to Metronet, will I still be able to see the Spectrum “monster” commercials? I would truly miss that sandstorm-loving mummy and his murderous puppet friend.

That might be a deal-breaker for me.

And that friends, is why we let Janie make those decisions.

Happy End-of-the-Earth Day!

On Dangerous Ground

Movie night!

Tonight’s treat is as old as me, and no it’s not silent.

On Dangerous Ground features Ida Lupino, Nicholas Ray, Robert Ryan, and a raging Ward Bond; strong ingredients in this noir that ranges from the alleys of New York City to the snowy hilltops of Upstate New York.

Have you ever played the game where you imagine the all-time guest list of the perfectly fascinating dinner party? I do constantly. For many of those rosters I include Ida Lupino. She’s smart, strong, smart, pretty, and pretty damn smart. I’m bettin’ she has some tales to tell. I understand she directed (uncredited) this film for several days when Nicholas Ray was ill.

In this film, Ms. Lupino plays a blind person. In spite of a script that calls for the other characters to be oblivious to her lack of vision for ludicrous lengths of time, she’s just fine. And when she huskily rebuffs sympathy from Robert Ryan near the end of the flick, tears are near at hand.

I’m a fan.

For me, Robert Ryan can be intense and effective (The Racket and The Battle of the Bulge) or dreadfully unengaged (The Longest Day). This is pretty good Robert Ryan. He’s scary as a hardened NYC detective, and confused and vulnerable with a brave lady in distress.

I’m buyin’ it.

Ward Bond is a vector of vengeance in the snow. I hope he doesn’t find me.

For me, film noir works best when the ammunition is live.
The pound of flesh must be paid.
Redemption comes, but there are consequences.

Check, check, and check.

This film’s a good’un.

Slouching Towards Hermitude

I find myself slouching towards hermitude these days. Every morning Janie and I sit on the sofa in our living room, with our coffees and muffins and digital newspapers and dog and cat. At some point I ask her; “And what is on your agenda today, young lady?” She usually has one or two things planned. If, between the two of us, we have more than two obligations, something inside of me dims a bit. If we have less, I thrill.

That probably sounds dull and sad.
I don’t care.

I’m grateful for Janie, the sofa, the coffee, the muffin, the dog and the cat… and the space and the time.

After 40+ years of fretting about getting stores open in bad weather and keeping them open in the face of employees’ and lawmakers’ whims and peccadilloes, I am genuinely surprised to learn I prefer fretting about which book I should read next, or which Puccini I should listen to, or whether Fellini should have made Amarcord before I Vitelloni and La Dolce Vita…or whether my beloved Reds could truly be a contender this year given their winter acquisitions.
Of course my fretting doesn’t affect any of those things, but they affect me and I believe I’m made better by them.

Oh yes, I now watch too much news and fret about that also. And no, my fretting doesn’t affect any of those happenings. And yes, they do affect me and I am not made better by them. All I can do is resist and await opportunities to act and vote and stay focused on what’s right and kind.

It’s tempting to burrow into our library and fret in solitude…as long as Janie and the critters aren’t too far away………and as long as my friends are within reach somehow, even if it’s by smoke signals (some of my friends nurture odd Urban Amish habits – one of them just started using email last year though the fake news didn’t report it).

What kind of ersatz hermit is that?

A couple of months ago I babysat with an old friend. He had just had a knee replacement, was recuperating and was challenging his wife with his recuperation. I surmised her sanity remained intact though her patience was exhausted. She needed a break and my friend needed some of Janie’s fine veggie/beef soup. I delivered the soup and a few hours respite.

It was just the two of us and the soup and a movie and the continuation of a conversation that has lasted for slightly over fifty years.

Most of the time it’s been civil.
Most of the time it’s been intelligent.
Occasionally it’s been clever.

100% of the time it has been continued in the blissful belief that this conversation is important to our health and the health of the planet. All problems are solved…even if it’s by disagreeing and going away to ponder a bit.

There’s no hate. There’s no name-calling.
There is some sneering, but that’s just because that’s the way my friend’s face is constructed when he gets excited.

It was a real good time.

I seek these opportunities with my friends, old and new, and grow from them. Janie and I thrive on the laughter and the foolishness and the wisdom of our friends.

What the hell kind of hermit is that?
I fear I’ll never earn my Hermit Union Card at this rate.

I guess that’s OK.

But…
…I slouch on…