Archive for the Classics Category

Footlight Parade

Posted in Classics, Comedy, Movie Reviews, Musicals with tags , , , , , , , on August 23, 2018 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

The last–and to some aficionados, the best–of choreographer Busby Berkeley’s three Warner Bros. efforts of 1933, Footlight Parade stars James Cagney as a Broadway musical comedy producer. Cagney is unceremoniously put out of business when talking pictures arrive. To keep his head above water, Jimmy hits upon a swell idea: he’ll stage musical “prologues” for movie theatres, then ship them out to the various picture palaces in New York. Halfway through the picture, Cagney is obliged to assemble three mammoth prologues and present them back-to-back in three different theatres. There are all sorts of backstage intrigues, not the least of which concerns the predatory hijinks of gold-digger Claire Dodd

What people are saying:

“…generates laughs at a criminal rate” 4 stars

“What a gem! Saw it in the TCM’s on demand line-up, started it and just was transfixed. Dated, but in a timeless way that goes back not just to the 1930’s but to what it must have been like in vaudeville. Cagney is in top form and terrifically supported by Blondell, Keeler and a all round great cast. Powell is ok, being not nearly as annoying as he usually is. Great music/dance numbers with pussy cats, a honeymoon hotel, a waterfall and – the topper – Shanghai Lil. All of it wrapped up in snappy, risqué dialogue.” 4 stars

“It has singing. It has drama. It has comedy. It has a story. It’s one of the greatest movies ever made … period. If you can’t enjoy this movie, then you must be either asleep or in some kind of mental disarray. In “Yankee Doodle Dandy” James Cagney sings and dances his way to an Academy Award; but in this movie he is BETTER! This is James Cagney at his quisessential BEST! He’s fast with the one-liners! He’s fast with his feet! It’s nonstop action. And the song-and-dance skits are classics, especially “Shanghai Lil.” And the supporting cast is great; and the entire movie is upbeat, fast moving, and exudes confidence. And even though this movie was made over 70 years ago, it’s still watchable, even today. And of course, this movie features Miss Ruby Keeler (who was married to Al Jolson). She is the perfect partner for James Cagney … and Dick Powell too! If you like upbeat, fast paced movies, with lots of singing and dancing, this is the movie to watch.” 5 stars

“This is an example of one of those “super cutesie” type of flicks. Every character is loveable and silly in their own way. Though the Busby Berkeley dance numbers aren’t the best, the achievement of complexity and style is still in others choreographers left field.” 5 stars

“This fabulous movie must be viewed knowing that millions scraped together 10 cents to see it and forget the gloomy day-to-day economic conditions during the 30’s. Remember, 10 cents bought a loaf of bread back then, so this was a minor luxury for many people. It’s testimony to how Hollywood did its best to make the USA feel a little better about itself. You’ll note that with the studio system in Hollywood at the time many of the actors and actresses were type-cast in similar movies, e.g. James Cagney, William Powell, Ruby Keeler, Frank McHugh, Joan Blondell and Guy Kibbee . Then too, branches of the U.S. military were always respected with enthusiasm and patriotism as in the use of military precision marching by the great choreographer, Busby Berkeley, at the end.” 4 stars

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Belle of the Nineties

Posted in Classics, Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , on August 16, 2018 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

In this film, Mae West is cast as cabaret entertainer Ruby Carter, plying her trade along the Mississippi. Having no trouble surviving on her own terms in a man’s world, Ruby fends off the unwarranted attentions of a steady stream of libidinous males, reserving her affections for a muscular boxer.

What people are saying:

“It’s fast, fun and funny — and the best-looking movie Mae West ever made, having the shimmery luster you only saw in Paramount movies.” 4 1/2 stars

“…a hopelessly forgettable effort that seems to have been assembled around a series of admittedly strong one-liners (ie the story is generic to an almost absurd degree).” 2 1/2 stars

“Mae lacks a charismatic male lead to play off here, so this is less funny than it could be. but the surreal vision of Mae as the Statue Of Liberty is worth the ticket price – and some great musical numbers with Duke Ellington’s band.” 2 1/2 stars

“Mae West throws all the curves in this one as a singer (?) in the 1890s who dumps her boxer boyfriend in a mix-up and runs off to New Orleans to perform and live there. She’s featured in a stunning musical number where she models a shimmering gown against which numerous costumes are superimposed by a projector! One pose has her as lady liberty. Unfortunately, this is a less liberated, somewhat cleaned-up Mae West. She still likes to have fun, and enough gags remain to make this one worth a few solid laughs. Good production by Paramount.” 3 stars

“This movie is classic Mae West, full of one-liners with carefully disguised meanings to escape the censors. It’s interesting to note that this is the movie where she really began to fight with the Hays Office and the Breen Office to get her movie past the censors…She had to change the title from “It’s No Sin” (people picketed in the streets with signs that said, “Yes, It Is”). Therefore, this movie could be seen by some as not quite as good as her 3 previous movies. However, it is still a gem from Mae’s classic period. Everyone should see a Mae West movie at least once…” 3 1/2 stars

The War Wagon

Posted in Action/Adventure, Classics, Movie Reviews, Westerns with tags , , , , , , , , on August 11, 2018 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

John Wayne and Kirk Douglas spend half of The War Wagon trying to knock one another off and the other half working shoulder to shoulder. Settling an old score with avaricious mine owner Bruce Cabot, Wayne plans to steal a $500,000 gold shipment from his enemy. Douglas, at first hired by Cabot to kill Wayne, goes along with the robbery scheme. Also in on the plan is Howard Keel, superbly cast as a world-weary, wisecracking Native American (it’s the sort of part that nowadays would go to Graham Greene). The titular war wagon is the armor-plated, Gatling-gun fortified stagecoach wherein Cabot’s gold is transported. Thus the stage is set for a slam-bang finale, and director Burt Kennedy isn’t about to disappoint the viewers.

What people are saying:

“…that comparative rarity, a Western filmed with quiet good humor. It is also a point of departure for John Wayne, who plays a bad guy for just about the first time in his career” 4 stars

“John Wayne (in his 162nd film) joins forces with Kirk Douglas in this revenge Western that propagates rather dangerously vigilante justice, a theme Clint Eastwood will carry to an extreme in the Dirty Harry pictures.” 3 1/2 stars

“The expected clash of two headliners in the same Western is not as apparent as expected, it plays out as a mildly amusing adventure with Douglas’ lighter approach helping to offset Wayne who is as ever unchanged in another gunfighter role.” 3 stars

“This is a “caper” film, about what would be a heist in other circumstances. Since the ethics of the perpetrators are those which should have made the authorities make the robbery unnecessary, their act is justified in this situation. This noir western is a bit slick-appearing at some times; but it is physically attractive, has a good cast portraying colorful and somewhat desperate characters, and a strong theme song. Dimitri Tiomkin supplied the very capable score; and Burt Kennedy did a solid job of directing throughout. The very appealing storyline concerns Taw Jackson, played ably by John Wayne, who returns from prison to get back what he can from Bruce Cabot, who stole his ranch and framed him. All he can do is to recruit a group of “mission fighters”, beginning with the man who had shot him 5 years earlier, Lomax, played by dynamic Kirk Douglas-and raid the “war wagon”–his enemy’s vehicle for transporting gold, a Gatling-Gun-equipped armored stagecoach. Taw’s team includes a drunken young dynamite expert he met in prison Robert Walker Jr., Keenan Wynn who is insanely jealous of his young wife, Valora Noland as the wife, Levi Walking Bear in the charismatic person of Howard Keel, his liaison to needed Indian allies, and more. Gene Evans, Joanna Barnes, Ann McRea, Terry Wilson and Frank Mcgrath are among those also doing good professional work in this interesting narrative. Only Noland is a bit weak in this cast. There are some humorous lines and interesting character moments as Wayne assembles his group and plots an attack worthy of “The Dirty Dozen” or “Where Eagles Dare”, involving trees that fall at the right moment, Indians faking an attack as a diversion, dynamite used to block off access to a bridge, and a log that swings down and opens the rolling piggy bank violently. What happens after this successful robbery leads to a compromised denouement and ending; but the film is vividly put together, professionally mounted and decently scripted by Clair Huffaker from his own novel. The film stands as a reminder of what any well-made film about an ethical central character can provide relative to any un-ethical and not-fictional man’s story competing for a cinema viewer’s attention. Moments such as Wayne’s visit to his ranch and his talk with the man who stole it, the recruiting of Lomax, the relations of the group, and the raid itself are all memorable. Underrated and always visually interesting.” 4 stars

“Fun tongue in cheek Western that survives an initial slow start to be entertaining afterwards throughout. Both John Wayne and Kirk Douglas do great and have tremendous on screen chemistry together. Their friendly,competitive rivalry that mirrors their off screen persona’s. Works extremely well and carries what would have otherwise been an average western. Even though they had their differences in real life, such as politics, you can tell they had a real respect for one another, and this movie does a good job of capturing that. One of the few roles that put the Duke on the wrong side of the law. Let down by the Western scenery, but was impressed with Howard Keel. I liked it but seeing Wayne and Douglas jell as well as they did makes me wish they could have joined together for a better Western. Good but unspectacular movie is highlighted by a hilarious bar room brawl and an extremely catchy theme.” 3 1/2 stars

Panic Button

Posted in Classics, Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , on August 3, 2018 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

A businessman enlists the acting talents of two cinematic stars in the comedic romp Panic Button. After developing some tax problems, Frank Pagano (played by Michael Connors) decides to make a feature film version of William Shakespeare’s +Romeo and Juliet, and hires two star talents (played by real-life stars Jayne Mansfield and Maurice Chevalier) to act in it, and lands a top-notch director (Akim Tamiroff) to helm the movie. The film becomes an unexpected smash, as critics and audience alike view it as a comedy and it premieres to acclaim at a popular film festival.

What people are saying:

“I watched this yesterday and thoroughly enjoyed it. How to write off a vast sum of money in a movie that’s doomed to failure and thus evade the revenue investigation………yes the plot is an earlier incarnation of The Producers’ like mischief and invention. It’s no where near that great masterpiece in achievement but is still a delightful excursion in to some good old fashioned boulevardier fun. Chevalier as the has-been matinée idol underplays with subtlety where he could have been gruesomely hammy.Oh the joy of seeing him play Romeo to Jayne Mansfield’s Juliet!! However he does sing a couple of numbers which are entirely pointless to the plot and immediately forgettable. The true star of the piece however is the GREAT Akim Tamiroff as an acting guru par excellence.As ever he scene steals effortlessly and rewards us with an immensely funny characterisation of vanity and dodgy intellect succumbing to the power of a few dollars wafted under his nose. To see him direct an advancing close up on a potted plant is to witness his genius. See the movie for this moment alone.” 4 stars

Panic Button is a cute, campy Italian comedy with a plot similar to The Producers. Overall, a light hearted and enjoyable watch!” 4 stars

“If one ignores the pathetic quality of the actual film stock used to bring this to the screen, If one ignores the sad overacting of Mr. Chevalier, If one ignores the convoluted plot, If one ignores the eccentric direction, One will find some redeeming qualities in Panic Button: The scenes of Europe, a more innocent Europe, a different mannered Europe were handled well. I really felt transported to the early 60’s. One is able to observe the way that our sensibilities have changed in such few years. We observe that the sophistication of moviemaking has come a very long way from those days. I watched this movie with not as much cringing as other reviewers. I tend to discern some of the good things that directors try to bring to movies. And lastly, I did laugh and I did smile where I should have.” 3 stars

“Not even the label of “camp” can save this one. A precursor of The Producers, but without its sparkle or satiric bite. Chevalier does everything short of winking at the camera–a sad final chapter to his career. The project ends up resembling the intentionally bad TV pilot that the film is about.” 1/2 star

“A laugh-less low water mark in the very long career of Maurice Chevalier. He’s a washed up actor hired to appear in a television version of ROMEO & JULIET (his co-star being none other than Jayne Mansfield) that is an almost certain disaster. The backers of the production are looking for a losing proposition as a tax shelter. Though the premise is pretty similar to the later Mel Brooks masterpiece THE PRODUCERS, this film lacks any of that classic’s wit or subversiveness. Instead, it’s a labored, lame brained mess that wastes Chevalier, Eleanor Parker and Akim Tamiroff and makes very ill-use of the great Mansfield.” 1 1/2 stars

Female Jungle

Posted in Classics, Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , on June 13, 2018 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Also known under the title The Hangover, this crime film follows Sergeant Stevens (Lawrence Tierney) as a detective who must clear his name when incriminating circumstances make him the prime suspect in a film-actress’ murder.

What people are saying:

“A muddled but diverting B film noir melodrama from cheapie American International Pictures. Future sex queen Jayne Mansfield, known as the blonde bombshell, made her acting debut, costarring as a nymphomaniac. Its attempts to be hard-boiled fall apart when it becomes apparent that writer Burt Kaiser couldn’t get a handle on the plot line, and instead lets the narrative get mired in too much silliness. It also suffers from a weak directing effort by Bruno Ve Sota and cheesy production values” 3 stars

“Rather lurid and somewhat boring.” 2 stars

Female Jungle is a fairly good and at times noteworthy low budget indie feature. Produced by star Burt Kaiser, who plays a down on his luck sketch artist with the longest 1950’s hair this side of Elvis, the film also features Lawrence Tierney, who sleepwalks through his role as a drunken cop trying to win back the respect of his sergeant by helping solve a murder mystery. Tierney’s career was entering crisis mode at this point thanks to his own drinking problem, and though he’s obviously trying his best here, it shows. The story is fairly feeble, but the fine cast–which also includes John Carradine, Attack of the Giant Leeches man Bruno Ve Sota, an unglamorous looking Jayne Mansfield, and Davis Roberts–is worth watching. For a poverty row cheapie the film looks quite good–a testament, perhaps, to the effective work of DoP Elwood Bredell, who always did good work with little money on ‘B’ classics like Man Made Monster and Phantom Lady.” 2 stars

“I’m not into old flicks from the 50’s and even the 60’s but still, I have to buy some to complete my collection. But it came clear after this one, I don’t like horrors from that era but crime stories I do like. The reason is very simple, they don’t use cheap effects. But still, they have to give you a special reason to watch them. This one still stands after those years due the perfect editing, what I mean is that they use single camera to make those flicks, so when you see a cut it’s been taken from another take. Mostly faults are visible in expression of faces or drinks that are for example empty and suddenly they’re full again. Another reason to watch it is to see sex symbol Jayne Mansfield in her screen debut. Already in some sexy outfit and as seducer. A strange life she had dying at age 34. All acting is well done, of course no nudity in it but the use of blood dripping from one’s hand is impressive for that era. When one is killed due gunshots, the close up and the blood running was also well done. It’s not a master piece but it surely is still enjoyable.” 2 1/2 stars

“Even allowing for the fact that it was a low budget, quickly made picture (like many film noirs were), this picture for me was more bad than good. First the bad, the film suffers from some stilted acting by the supporting players and so-so dialog. The film even manages a couple of moments of unintentional humor. It is about a murder that takes place outside a bar where an off duty cop is drinking heavily. The cop is played here by Lawrence Tierney (who looks more like his younger brother, Scott Brady, than he has in any other role of his I’ve seen). The cops on duty browbeat Tierney into helping out with the investigation. I did not understand why they expected Tierney’s character to help, he was off duty after all. Now for the good, after a few false leads and dead ends, the killer is revealed. I must admit, the killer’s identity was unexpected. I was fooled. The leading performers here are competent but the one person that really stands out, literally, is a young temptress played by Jayne Mansfield. It is easy to see why she ended up with a Hollywood career playing Marilyn Monroe type parts. This film was released as the second half of a double feature. That is where it belongs. The western it was released with, Oklahoma Woman, is a much better film.” 2 1/2 stars

The Three Musketeers (1948)

Posted in Action/Adventure, Classics, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 23, 2018 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

The third talkie version of Dumas’ The Three Musketeers, this splashy MGM adaptation is also the first version in Technicolor. Gene Kelly romps his way through the role of D’Artagnan, the upstart cadet who joins veteran Musketeers Athos (Van Heflin), Porthos (Gig Young) and Aramis (Robert Coote) in their efforts to save their beloved Queen Anne (Angela Lansbury) from disgrace. They are aided in their efforts by the lovely and loyal Constance (June Allyson), while the villainy is in the capable hands of Milady De Winter (Lana Turner) and Richelieu (Vincent Price).

What people are saying:

“…enjoyable corn in the ‘Classics Illustrated’ tradition. You can’t believe a minute of it, but neither can you ignore its rollicking bygone Hollywood charms.” 3 stars

“It starts out as a broad slapstick comedy, and when Gene Kelly has the opportunity to showcase his acrobatic skills, it’s good old-fashioned swashbuckling fun. But after the first 20 minutes it turns into mostly heavy drama, and the swordfights are actually few and far between. The problem with the script is that, trying to cover all the characters and subplots of the book, it has no time to develop them enough, and the story lacks a strong central focus. At times you wonder exactly what each person is trying to achieve, and where some of the characters you know are basic have gone (the main example: Richelieu, excellently played by Vincent Price, has only about three of four scenes in the entire film). Still, it’s a good-looking, entertaining production.” 3 1/2 stars

“Of all versions of this movie this is my second favorite, my favorite is the 70’s version. While the overall quality of the cast is much greater in this one it is missing one key component, Rachel Welch. June Allyson is a very attractive woman but she is not the stuff dreams are made of and as such this movie dips in regards of pure lust. The cast of Kelly, Turner, Price, Heflin, Lansbury are stellar, in fact Price is the penultimate Richelieu and wipes the floor over Hestons take. As a period piece the costumes and sets are fun and colorful, which is what films of this time were like, unlike present day versions which equate drab with realistic. It’s a great timeless story and this is a very good version, done very well in all phases of film.” 4 stars

“June Allyson as Constance Bonacieux?? What were they thinking? Were it not for this painful miscasting and surprisingly slow pacing, this movie would be one of the great swashbucklers. Kelly is everything D’Artangan should be, Turner matches any Lady DeWinter the movies have ever supplied, and only Heflin approaches the standard for Athos which Oliver Reed later set. And Price as Richelieu… that says it all. Sparkling 40’s Hollywood production values finish the film off nicely. But June Allyson as Constance Bonacieux??” 3 stars

“The Three Musketeers (1948)” is an extremely simple tale of a man (D’Artagnan) who comes as a peasant to seek war with the three musketeers who run the village. Athos, Porthos, and Aramis are in shock to believe that young D’Artagnan is able to take them on in dual, but he seems persistent enough to give him a chance. This film may have been original during the reading of the original novel/play, but this film is just a great representation, even if it is extremely cheesy, towards the origin story of the three musketeers. I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed this film, but through some action and romance sequences, it becomes a bit laughable and lazily written. It reminded me of early shakespeare at times, which I thoroughly admired for the risk that the director took. To conclude, I truly believe that they could have had a little more background of the characters instead of beginning with the journey of all four men from the start. This is an all around great film with cheese lurking around every corner!” 4 stars

Invitation to the Dance

Posted in Classics, Movie Reviews, Musicals with tags , , , , , , , , , , on April 25, 2018 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Gene Kelly brings his remarkable talents as star, director and choreographer to this glittering gala of music, dance and pantomime – and the result is a lush, one-of-a-kind musical flight of fancy. The film has three episodes, each with its own distinct period and mood. In Circus, a clown (Kelly) in a small carnival troupe is hopelessly in love with the show’s high-wire walker. Ring Around the Rosy is a satiric tale about a bracelet which travels from the wrist of one fickle lover to another. Sinbad the Sailor blends live action and animation as Kelly dances his way into an Arabian Nights world after rubbing Aladdin’s Lamp. Showcasing talents from ballet companies of New York, Paris, London and Rome, this imaginative tour de force is a must-see for dance lovers everywhere!

What people are saying:

“When watching a Gene Kelly musical one could have the feeling that the musical numbers were interrupted by the story, not the other way round. Here Kelly finds a project with a scope big enough to fit his whole ego, finally doing away with all the story (in the way of words, at least) and leaving us with all the dancing. This criminally unseen impressionistic film opens quite a window into the imagination of one of Old Hollywood’s most prolific artists – and not quite unlike Singin’ in the Rain“, he made a movie looking at the core of what it was about to make an MGM musical: it was about being artsy, it was about being kitschy, about working with archetypes and especially about wearing tights and trying to melt icebergs by smiling at the camera.” 4 stars

“this was Kelly’s pet project- a film with dance, and only dance. No dialogue, only mime, movement and music. However to his disappointment, MGM shelved its release and when it was the film was released badly- it was too arty farty to be popular with the audiences at that time. Well, I love this film. It’s adventurous and interesting, and it’s worth a watch to appreciate all the work Kelly’s put into this work, which showcases some of the greatest dancers across many styles. So go watch this under-rated film and you will be in awe of all the talent shown before your eyes!” 4 1/2 stars

“No wonder INVITATION TO THE DANCE found no audience at the box office. The first two musical sequences, “Circus” and “Ring Around the Rosy” are monumental bores dragged down by pedestrian stories and, in the second one, inept use of camera trickery to speed up the action. But the third, “Sinbad the Sailor,” makes expert use of the Rimsky-Korsakov ballet score and makes dazzling use of animated effects, especially for the dancing between Kelly and a couple of Arabian guards which are highly original, intricate and amusing examples of combining live action with animation. It’s the kind of originality sadly missing in the previously mentioned stories. The “Sinbad” highlight almost makes up for the rest of the film with its own brand of originality–but alas, the first two sequences are enough to turn many viewers away from watching the final segment. Summing up: Easy to see why this one failed miserably to attract a target audience with either high or low brow tastes.” 1 star

“this movie is probably one of the most boring pictures I ever saw. it has got nothing to tell, except for the three little stories that are brutally forced into a concept without inspiration, but filled with unusable ideas. oh yeah, Kelly was a genius alright, but this is a perfect example of how geniuses can BEEP the BEEP up. the stories are already known to the general audience, so what I was searching for, was a novelty about them all. I was bitter when I found out Kelly only repeated himself. the story with the clown made me wonder if I washed my feet today… too bad, this truly is a movie to see while washing your feet, so you can do something useful when the torment begins. second part, the ‘crime’: really stupid and boring, it made me compare the good with the bad, and this seemed to be the ugly. the third part made me realize Kelly repeats himself over and over again, like a little child with a doll or when a kid becomes a teenager. too bad for the whole idea, this movie didn’t reach adulthood for me, it should have stayed in Kelly’s brain.” 1 star

“A series of short skits with Kelly dancing. The first is Circus which is done in a minstrel/vaudeville style. Kelly plays a mime/clown, he acts on the stage and dances in the street with a group. There are only 3 actors listed in this part and they are on stage with him, there is no talking in this part only dancing. The dancing goes from Kelly’s style to ballet with the other two actors. The story is about a guy, Kelly’s clown, falling in love with the girl who is in love with the other guy. It shows how some people will do silly and dangerous to get the person we love, in this case the clown tries to do the high wire act to impress the girl, he falls and dies. The second skit is titled Ring Around the Rosy. It involves 8 actors/dancers with Kelly and the other two from Circus. This is a more present day setting going from parties to clubs. Again no talking during the entire skit, just music. It is a series of performances of mainly couples dancing about love and love lost and temptation. The third skit is titled Sinbad the Sailor and to be obvious it has a Middle Eastern theme. After the initial scenes Kelly and a boy go on a series of animated adventures the most visually striking is when he dances with 2 guards. This is Kellys version of Fantasia and fits into the film as art movement of the early 50’s. It is interesting to view as a history of film as it is very much like watching a play on film. The animation is not as stimulating compared with Disney but it is innovative none the less.” 3 1/2 stars