Tag Archives: Humphrey Bogart

Octopi Flicks

It’s an understudied genre.

Why?

And why should we…

Make that…why should I…care now?

Well, I’m always arrested by synchronicity. I noticed and leapt on the opportunity to see the Golden Gate Bridge destroyed on successive nights by movie monsters from the sea. Both films featured a giant octopus. It got me thinking (eight to the bar, no less) about my favorite cinematic cephalopods.

Here’s a useless little list;

Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus (2009) is a classic zero on a scale of one to ten, BUT it does posit and show in a flash the perfectly implausible result from an aerial giant shark attack on an airplane, and an equally implausible performance by Debbie Gibson. On the positive side, the Golden Gate goes down, and the truly big octopus achieves a deadly draw in his death match with the titular fish…though to honor true disclosure, I should point out there are sequels. I suspect the sea creatures and the sequels should be avoided.

It Came From Beneath the Sea (1953) also destroys the Golden Gate, but this time the octopus gets the assignment and does a much better job. This flick had serious world-ending talent involved. Faith Domergue was in the midst of a great few years of weird movies. She was imperiled twice in 1955 in This Island Earth and Cult of the Cobra. Kenneth Tobey was capping off a trilogy of sci-fi adventures; The Thing from Another World (1951) and The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953). And of course the star of the show was the creation of Ray Harryhausen, genius of stop-action wonders. All of this talent and effort just to produce instant calamari – a San Francisco treat?

Isle of Fury (1936) is a tedious little film that allows Humphrey Bogart to shuck his impeccable South Sea Island white suit and wrestle with an octopus. I’m believin’ every minute.

Sometimes the octopus is human. Maud Adams plays the title role in Octopussy (1983). The actual octopi in the film are fairly inconsequential. Ms. Adams is most certainly not.

Two films depict the same octopus. Bride of the Monster (1955) is a truly dreadful Ed Wood-directed exercise that features a ludicrous performance by Tor Johnson and an even more ludicrous watery struggle between Bela Lugosi and a rubber octopus. Ed Wood (1994) recreates that cinematic moment in a funny and pitiful way. I loved them both.

Without hesitation, my favorite octopus film is Cannery Row (1982). There are special performances by Nick Nolte, Debra Winger, Frank McRae, and M. Emmet Walsh. John Huston’s narration, the frog hunt, Doc and Suzy thinking they could dance, and the beer milk shake are all remarkable elements, but it all revolves around those eight baby octopi and their ill-fated dangling of a misplaced hope at the edge of the end of the Western World.

What’s my takeaway from this foolish survey?

Perhaps a word of advice to San Francisco;

Yer gonna need a bigger bay.

Asta and the Octopus

Movie night!

It’s a Margaret Lindsay/Donald Woods double feature thanks to TCM.

You know, if I were forced to choose one and only one TV channel to watch forever, it would surely be TCM. Where else could you see a Margaret Lindsay/Donald Woods (whoever they are) double feature? Actually, Ms. Lindsay is lovely and bland, and Mr. Woods is earnest and bland. Nuff said ‘bout dat.

Fog Over Frisco (1934) is one more flick that demonstrates that any film shot in San Francisco ought to open the cast list with “starring San Francisco”. The city invariably steals the show. It prompts an addition to the old warning to actors; “Never do a scene with children, dogs, (or San Francisco.)” Bette Davis, Alan Hale Sr. (the Skipper from Gilligan’s Island’s dad), and Asta (the Thin Man’s precocious and less than brave pup) are also in the film but who cares? It’s San Francisco.

Isle of Fury (1936), besides showcasing Lindsay and Woods (ZZZZZZZZ), also features Humphrey Bogart being cruelly assaulted by an octopus in the pearl-infested waters around a South Sea island nobody’s ever heard of (but looks suspiciously like Catalina). Every non-native character trots around the island in impeccable and crisp white clothes. The local laundry must be world-class. Also lurking around the isle is Frank Lackteen, a bit actor who amassed over 200 credits with his skulking, murderous ways. I spotted him recently in The Mask of Dimitrios, The Mummy’s Hand, The Sea Hawk, and The Law of the Tong. None of Mr. Lackteen’s efforts were nominated for Oscars. They apparently don’t give Oscars for Best Persistent Felon.

God bless TCM.

A Prequel to CASABLANCA?

Are you a fan of the film Casablanca?

Do you have a pulse?

Are you worth knowing at all?

Depending on what day I’m asked, my reply to “What’s your favorite film?” is any one of about a half a dozen films, one of which is Casablanca. I could go on and on about the flick, but I’ll spare you the gush except on one point. Every time I see the ending of Casablanca, I wish there was more.

Duh-h.

Well, it’s Movie Night and tonight’s entrée is the 1937 French offering; Pepe le Moko. This is well worth a look. There is much about this flick that is reminiscent of Casablanca, though Casablanca was actually made five years later.

Claude Rains played Captain Renaud in Casablanca as a man despicable in action but sympathetic in heart…and as smart as Rick (Humphrey Bogart). In Pepe le Moko, we have an outsider policeman named Slimane. He is played wonderfully by an actor I know nothing about; Lucas Gridoux. He also is despicable in action, but despicable as well in heart…and as smart as Pepe Le Moko (Jean Gabin). Gridoux slithers. He insinuates. He invades people’s space. He smokes their cigarettes…and needs a light. I felt the need for a shower after each of his scenes. It’s a fine performance.

Pepe, a thief and all-around rascal, is perfectly free to live as he pleases in the Casbah. The police are incapable of touching him there. He is also imprisoned in the Casbah. His power and immunity evaporate should he leave his safe haven. He pines for freedom. He pines for a Paris he remembers with a street-by-street affection. Sound like someone else you know? Maybe someone named Rick?

His memories of Paris are re-ignited by Gaby, played luminously by Mireille Balin. I watched their scenes with the phrase “We’ll always have Paris” running in my heart.

The connection between these two films is further emphasized by the inclusion of Marcel Dalio in the casts. He plays an ill-fated messenger in Pepe, but is better remembered as the unfortunate croupier requesting additional funds in Rick’s Café Americaine in Casablanca. Mr. Dalio in real life was also married to the beautiful Madeleine Lebeau, who played Yvonne, Rick’s jilted local lover in Casablanca. Their real life desperate escape and winding journey from France to Portugal to Canada to the United States mirrors that of the refugees pictured in Casablanca. Marcel Dalio also appeared to good effect in La Grande Illusion, To Have and Have Not, The Rules of the Game, and Catch-22. Interestingly enough, he also played Captain Renaud in the TV series of Casablanca (1955-56).

Finally, there’s Jean Gabin.

I really like watching Mr. Gabin work. I have seen him referred to as a French Humphrey Bogart and I can see why though I see him more as a French Jean Gabin. His work in Port of Shadows and La Bete Humaine (both 1938) is compelling. Later in his career, in Four Bags Full (1956) he gives a performance full of surprise and relatively free of cliché. I’m a fan.

If you cherish Casablanca as I do, you will find much to delight you in Pepe le Moko.

Rescue Me!

 

janie 40 sprite in the bag
Sprite, Our Lady of Daily Distress aka Gloria Talbott

Movie night!

I’m completing my own little Gloria Talbott film festival by following up We’re No Angels and The Leech Woman with I Married a Monster From Outer Space.

Hey, someone’s gotta do it.

What a career stretch this was for Ms. Talbott; from Humphrey Bogart to Tom Tryon. Ms. Talbott seemed best at playing characters that were moderately perky and cute, not particularly bright nor quick, and perpetually anxious and in distress – in short, always in need of rescue. Perhaps that’s why Sprite, my kitten, enjoys her performances. Sprite believes her own raison d’etre on this planet is to be always in need of rescue…from everything…hunger, swinging gates, other cats, outdoors, indoors, Tuesdays…she’s a feline Gloria Talbott. We may change her name to Gloria.

We’re No Angels is one of my favorite Christmas movies, probably because of its un-Christmas-like ingredients. You don’t expect a Christmas flick to feature;

  • Humphrey Bogart and Basil Rathbone.
  • A poisonous snake.
  • A convicted murderer, an embezzler, and a safecracker – all just escaped from prison and all apparently unrepentant.
  • Palm trees and 100-degree heat.

Despite the outré components, the Christmas payoff at the end is genuine and moving, and the redemptive dénouement, though fatal, is pleasing if not exactly plausible.

Oh, and Ms. Talbott is rescued in the end from her wicked uncle. Thus fulfilling her contract.

The Leech Woman is better than the title implies. How could it not be? And Ms. Talbott is again rescued, this time from a gruesome crone while the native drums pound. Nuff said ‘bout dat.

Our third film comes from a time when a significant part of our population was living in fear and sometimes considering poor decisions because of that fear. My current fear is we may be living in a similar emotional state now. My hope is that we will resist making catastrophically poor decisions as our parents resisted in the 1950’s. In the United States in the 50’s, people were fearful of surreptitious infiltration by enemies of our way of life. Spies were everywhere. Communists were everywhere. Free-thinkers and agitators disguised as Protestants were everywhere. A goodly number of movies in that decade picked up on those fears to scare the be-jeezus out of us.

My favorite of these films is Invasion of the Body Snatchers. It posited the classic conundrum of conspiracy fear; your neighbor/colleague/spouse looks like your neighbor/colleague/spouse, but is it really them? I harbor an intense fear of pods to this day. If I’m elected I will build a wall to deter all pods…except laundry detergent pods…we might need food.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers has been remade twice…and I don’t mind. My usual dim view of remaking good films is pushed aside by my suspicion that this plot has something new and old to say to us about every ten years. It is a story of today, and this year’s today is not the 1950’s today. The story of paranoia and response needs to be updated regularly to the current mythology and technology. How we respond to suspicion and difference may ultimately determine if we are condemned or redeemed.

But I still recommend keeping a watchful eye on any pods you encounter.

I Married a Monster From Outer Space is another of these paranoid delicacies. Gloria Talbott’s fiancé’s body and identity is taken over by a Cthulhu look-alike space alien the night before their wedding.

Whatta buzzkill.

The marriage proceeds anyway and a year later Ms. Talbott notices her husband has changed. It took a year – like I said before, she’s good at playing not particularly bright nor quick. From this point the film proceeds along the lines of Body Snatchers with Ms. Talbott assuming the storytelling duties Kevin McCarthy performed in Snatchers. This film is pretty interesting but is burdened by Tom Tryon’s performance (or non-performance) as the husband. There’s no discernible difference between the original husband and the alien co-opted husband: both are uniformly wooden and both are uniformly Tom Tryon. You can almost understand why it took his wife a year to sense a change…almost.

The bottom line is the repulsive aliens are repulsed, the planet is saved, and Gloria Talbott is once again rescued, but with some ‘splainin’ to do to her real husband.

Whew!

Now, I’d best go see how Sprite the cat is currently imperiled.

My raison d’etre…

A Prequel to CASABLANCA?

Are you a fan of the film Casablanca?

Do you have a pulse?

Are you worth knowing at all?

Depending on what day I’m asked, my reply to “What’s your favorite film?” is any one of about a half a dozen films, one of which is Casablanca. I could go on and on about the flick, but I’ll spare you the gush except on one point. Every time I see the ending of Casablanca, I wish there was more.

Duh-h.

Well, it’s Movie Night and tonight’s entrée is the 1937 French offering; Pepe Le Moko. This is well worth a look. There is much about this flick that is reminiscent of Casablanca, though Casablanca was actually made five years later.

Claude Rains played Captain Renaud in Casablanca as despicable in action but sympathetic in heart…and almost as smart as Rick (Humphrey Bogart). In Pepe Le Moko, we have an outsider policeman named Slimane. He is played wonderfully by an actor I know nothing about; Lucas Gridoux. Slimane is despicable in action, despicable in heart…and almost as smart as Pepe Le Moko (Jean Gabin). Gridoux slithers. He insinuates. He invades people’s space. He smokes their cigarettes…and needs a light. I felt the need for a shower after each of his scenes. It’s a fine performance.

Pepe, a thief and all-around rascal, is perfectly free to live as he pleases in the Casbah. The police are incapable of touching him there. He is also imprisoned in the Casbah. His power and immunity evaporate should he leave his safe haven. He pines for freedom and longs for a Paris he remembers with a street-by-street affection. Sound like someone else you know? Maybe someone named Rick?

His memories of Paris are re-ignited by Gaby, played luminously by Mireille Balin. I watched their scenes with the phrase “We’ll always have Paris” running in my heart.

The connection between these two films is further emphasized by the inclusion of Marcel Dalio in the casts. He plays an ill-fated messenger in Pepe, but is better remembered as the unfortunate croupier requesting additional funds in Rick’s Café Americaine in Casablanca. Mr. Dalio in real life was also married to the beautiful Madeleine Lebeau, who played Yvonne, Rick’s jilted local lover in Casablanca. Dalio and Lebeau’s real-life desperate escape and winding journey from France to Portugal to Canada to the United States mirrors that of the refugees pictured in Casablanca. Marcel Dalio also appeared to good effect in La Grande Illusion, To Have and Have Not, The Rules of the Game, and Catch-22. Interestingly enough, he also played Captain Renaud in the TV series of Casablanca (1955-56).

Finally, there’s Jean Gabin.

I really like watching Mr. Gabin work. I have seen him referred to as a French Humphrey Bogart and I can see why though I see him more as a French Jean Gabin. His work in Port of Shadows and La Bete Humaine (both 1938) is compelling. Later in his career, in Four Bags Full (1956) he gives a performance full of surprise and relatively free of cliché. I’m a fan.

If you cherish Casablanca as I do, you will find much to delight you in Pepe Le Moko.