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Discussion in 'The Moving Picture' started by Amy Jeanne, Aug 5, 2007.
LOL! I guess we can list that as another uncredited appearance!
Angel Face from 1953 with Jean Simmons, Robert Mitchum, Herbert Marshall, Barbara O'Neil and Leon Ames
Moral of the story: Stay away from the crazy girl, even if she's pretty.
There are a lot of very good noir movies, like Angel Face, that are a notch below the great ones, but are still incredibly engaging pictures.
Robert Mitchum is an ambulance driver who meets Jean Simmons on an emergency call to her father and stepmother's home. Did the rich stepmother try to kill herself by leaving the gas on in her bedroom fireplace or was it attempted murder?
Wealthy, refined and pretty Simmons, with crazy eyes and a haunting mien, immediately pursues Mitchum with a single mindedness that flatters his ego while she also tempts his greed with an offer to find financing for the auto-repair shop he wants to open.
Pretty much cheating on his regular girlfriend, Mitchum begins dating Simmons. Shortly after, he accepts Simmons' job offer to be her parents' chauffeur, so as to be close to Simmons and the potential financing for his garage.
But Simmons is playing a different game. She's convinced herself she and her novelist father, Herbert Marshall, both of who are living off his wealthy second wife, Barbara O'Neil, are being abused and degraded by the wife.
Director Otto Preminger does an excellent job of leaving you unsure about everything: is Simmons reasonable, wrong or insane; is Mitchum a bit of a rogue but a good guy or a truly bad guy; is the stepmother evil or misunderstood?
Then it all speeds up and gets much more serious. Simmons' father and stepmother are killed when their car, with the gear shift oddly in drive, shoots backwards out of their driveway and down the steep abutting ravine.
Angel Face now shifts to trial mode where the state tries to prove Mitchum and Simmons plotted together to kill her father and stepmother for their money. Preminger continually keeps you guessing, not only about the trial outcome, but where the real guilt lies.
(Spoiler alert) After a full acquittal for both of them, Simmons confesses her guilt to her attorney (wonderfully played by Leon Ames): she did it all in a mad attempt to kill her stepmother and keep Mitchum for herself (her father was collateral damage).
Ames explains that double jeopardy - you can't be tried for the same crime twice - makes her confession moot (challenge, since her confession would be new evidence, but it's a movie, so you just go with it and I'm not a lawyer anyway).
(A final spoiler alert) There's one more twist, echoing The Postman Always Rings Twice, when a guilt ridden Simmons kills Mitchum and herself the same way she killed her father and stepmom - another car goes backwards over the ravine. It's a tough house for automobiles.
Angel Face is a wonderfully moody noir mystery with engaging characters and suspense that holds up right to the end. It should be better known today.
N.B. At one point, Mitchum tells pretty but mentally atilt Simmons, "...look, I don't pretend to know what goes on behind that pretty little face of yours - I don't 'want' to. But I learned one thing very early. Never be the innocent bystander - that's the guy that always gets hurt." Or he could have just followed the eternal rule of dating noted at the top: Stay away from the crazy girl, even if she's pretty.
I (re)watched the "Graduate" last night on TCM... interesting that they ( those at TCM) called the movie a comedy? while certainly quirky.. there aren't really many laugh out loud moments.
Homer and home run.
Homer: "Aphrodite robs the wits of the wise, so'er prudent."
Good advice about pretty psycho girls. Especially those gals capable of wielding a monkey wrench.
Simmons' confession to her attorney falls under privilege. I believe the state erred in non severance,
trying collective instead of opting singular, and double jeopardy res ipsa loquitor.
Basic Instinct with Sharon Stone had that psychologic component kick in that as I recall-admittedly
did not focus on its plot as much as couldawouldashoulda since I was somewhat distracted-had not been
resolved at the end. Cannot remember if Basic I was prequel-to-a-sequel either.
Preminger was visceral. In Harm's Way when Hugh O'Brien drove off a cliff on December 7, 1941,
so soon after film's opening dance scene and subsequent surf was masterful.
Sidebar: Speaking of pretty girls. Told by a LA acquaintance with studio connects that JFK had chased
Jean Simmons all over that town but her agent warned her to stay away from a certain leprechaun.
She did but never forgave her agent.
Really? My friends (the ones who like the movie, that is) and I laugh right through most of it, mostly because Ben (Dustin Hoffman) seems to be so clueless about the world he lives in. "Different strokes for different folks", I guess.
"They Were Expendable" - For about the thousandth time.
"Recognize him Smokey?"
"Sure do, used to shave his father."
Heat Lightning from 1934 with Aline MacMahon, Preston Foster, Ann Dvorak and Lyle Talbot
This gem of a pre-code B Movie should be better known, but perhaps has been eclipsed by its subsequently famous cognate, The Petrified Forest. All of the latter's themes are here in Heat Lightning and explored in rawer form with a feminist angle as was often the wont of the pre-code era.
Two sisters, a still-young, but world-weary older one, Aline MacMahon, and the younger one, Ann Dvorak, run an isolated motor court (gas station, diner and spartan lodge) in the Mojave desert.
MacMahon was a party girl in a big city who was played hard and tossed aside by a former boyfriend, so she's retreated into her role as an asexual auto mechanic/motor-court owner in greasy overalls. MacMahon tries to prevent her cute sister, Dvorak, from repeating her mistakes with men.
The younger sister is a good kid, but like any late teen, she wants to go out and have fun, in this case, with a local bad boy, which has Dvorak seeing a dangerous echo of her own failed youthful romance.
Into this family drama, coincidentally, drives MacMahon's old boyfriend, Preston Foster, and his buddy, Lyle Talbot. We quickly learn they are on the lam from a jewelry-store holdup and murder, the latter, which only Foster committed.
You can feel the physical heat between MacMahon and her old boyfriend as it's clear that sexual passion was a big part of their former relationship. Foster's sudden appearance shatters MacMahon's desert armor of sexual abstinence, which has her now scrambling to rebalance herself.
Driving right into the middle of this passion storm are two bejewelled Reno divorcees who, like the ex-boyfriend and his buddy, are stuck spending the night. Upping the drama, Foster, now that he's seen the women's jewelry, plots to steal it.
What follows is a defining evening as young-sister Dvorak sneaks out to be with her bad-boy date. Meanwhile, Foster flirts MacMahon into bed, but as she learns later, only to distract her so he and his partner can steal the jewels the divorcees have stored in the diner's safe.
We're now fifty minutes into this sixty-minute movie and everyone's world has been rocked as the young daughter (we think) slept with the bad boy who is now cold to her when he drops her back at the diner (cow, milk, free - lesson learned). Hurt and tearful, she walks in to see Foster leaving her big sister's bed - yup.
But there's more (spoiler alerts from here on out), MacMahon, still freshly glowing, dreamily walks into the diner only to learn she's been played by Foster again as he's forcing his partner to break into the diner's safe. In a girl-power moment, 1934 style, MacMahon gets a gun and shoots Foster dead in cold blood. That's one way to handle it.
She then lets the partner get away because he wasn't trying to break into her safe. She now, also, shows empathy to her younger sister as she gets that you can't just lock your passions and urges away and call it a life.
Marvel at the pre code. In an hour, we watched a world-weary woman get sexually played by the same man who played her in the past, so she shoots him dead. At the same time, her late-teen sister appears to have slept with a guy for the first time who proceeds to all but ignores her as he dumps her back at the diner and drives off.
The cold-blooded shooting will be dismissed legally since the dead man was stealing from MacMahon's safe at the time, but the message is clear: he was shot for manipulating this woman emotionally and sexually one too many times. Pre-code justice was also okay with letting the partner escape as he had only held up a jewelry store, but didn't kill the guard or emotionally abuse a woman.
None of this would be allowed a year later when the Motion Picture Production Code was enforced and a year after that when Heat Lightning's same themes were explored in a similar construct in 1936's The Petrified Forest.
In that code-handcuffed, but still outstanding effort, the sex has been reduced to kisses and the criminals are all either killed or arrested. It's a powerful movie for other reasons, but it lacks the raw carnal passion and realpolitik justice of Heat Lightning.
N.B. Amidst all the other things going on, it's still worth noting the "girl power" meme in Heat Lightning of two women running a successful motor court with one of them doubling as the gas station's mechanic. History is rarely as black and white as it's often portrayed.
The Barbarian (1933) with Ramon Navarro and Myrna Loy, via TCM On Demand.
A terrible remake of a (probably also terrible) silent film Navarro had starred in 1924 that was essentially a ripoff of Valentino's The Sheik. Shot entirely on MGM soundstages, and without an actual Arab anywhere in sight, this one's particularly guilty of all kinds of Orientalism and stereotypes that have aged REALLY badly.
Loy was not yet "the perfect wife", she was still playing "exotics" at this point, so it's mentioned twice that she had an English father and Egyptian mother... though it never becomes the explicit plot point I expected (e.g., giving her some kind of in-the-blood reason to fall for Navarro's Arab prince.) You get German/Jewish Edward Arnold, familiar for all those sleazy politicos and businessmen, e.g., the machine boss in Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, as an Arab too. Oy. Further embarrassments are C. Aubrey Smith and Reginald Denny, phoning it in, playing the same clueless upper-crust Brits as ever. And the sets and costumes are awfully weak for "Do it right. Make it big. Give it class." MGM.
Despite putting Loy in flimsy costumes, it doesn't even satisfy as a pre-Code film. Only recommended for Navarro and Loy's game performances amidst this nonsense, and as evidence of how much worse Hollywood's treatment of "orientals" used to be. Though ironically, and to its credit, it at least TRIES to treat its Arab protagonist and culture with respect... and fails badly.
Nothing as period as this for me, alas. Last night I watched Zombieland: Double Tap which has finally arrived on Netflix UK. A rare sequel to a surprise cult hit that really hits the mark. Stick around for a surprise appearance during and after the end credits. Woody Harrelson is especially on form, and does a very credible Elvis impression, it turns out. Even if he doesn't fit Elvis' actual shoes.
Meh, I didn't like the first one enough to want to watch the long-delayed sequel.
And as I've said here before, I find zombies the absolutely least interesting monsters ever, and don't understand why they're so popular. Most monsters - vampires, witches, werewolves, even the Frankenstein monster - are actually about sex, and society's futile attempts to control it, which is always interesting. Zombies are only about the implacability of death and decay, which isn't. At least, to me.
But then, not understanding why popular stuff is popular, and generally going 180 degrees the other way when something is especially popular, is the thesis statement of my life!
Heat Lightning wraps a lot inside sixty minutes. And the stark contrast between pre-and-code quite vivid.
This forum provides introductory acquaintance to many pre films and those that followed and it is clear
that artistic freedom allowance makes a difference with mature themes.
Both Foster and Talbot are criminally liable for the jewelry store homicide under the Felony Murder Doctrine.
And Foster's later killing by MacMahon is justifiable homicide; Talbot cannot be held complicit in Foster's death
by MacMahon because the doctrine does not embrace adversarial agency; however, had MacMahon suffered
a fatal heart attack after shooting Foster, Talbot would be liable for MacMahon's demise and be charged
There are so many gems to be found. I never heard of this jewel.
Our family love both films.
Speaking of zombie films, last night's Friday Night Flick was The Dead Don't Die, 2019, starring Adam Driver and, ahem, Bill Murray, as two small town cops dealing with the effects of the earth's core not spinning, or something (the McGuffin).
Zombies arise (including one played by Iggy Pop), mayhem arises.
This is a love it or hate film. Three of us loved it, daughter 1 found it "strange". 5.5 on Imdb.
It has a deadpan approach and humour, perhaps why some do not "get it".
9.5 at the Cairo house. Made by the dude who did Coffee and Cigarettes.
Tom Waits plays a hermit. Carol Kane has a one word role. Nuff said..
Minor correction required--Jim Jarmusch had nothing to do with Sling Blade; it was written and directed by Billy Bob Thornton.
My wife told me that, she read it off the internet! Apparently, not everything you read there is true!
Misinformation on the Internet??? Say it ain't so!
The Grand Illusion (1937)
One of the best, ever.
Finally saw that one over the Summer - it seemed to take forever to come to streaming, and I missed it in the cinema. Very much enjoyed it. The only mis-step, imo, was the breach of the fourth wall and the references to "the script" - I felt that fell rather flat. Otherwise, excellent cast. Iggy was hilarious (sort of a pity he didn't get a line or two, though). There's no-one quite like Bill Murray; truly an irreplaceable player in anything he's been in.
And God Created Woman from 1956 with Brigitte Bardot
And God Created Woman is a love letter to a very young Brigitte Bardot. I had that thought before learning, after the movie, director Roger Vadin was Bardot's husband at the time. Instead of jewelry, a car, clothes or a vacation, Vadim gave his wife a starring role in a film as a gift. Not bad.
There are the lithe beautiful women of the world, like Grace Kelly or Audrey Hepburn, and then there are the amped up everything women, like Marilyn Monroe or Sophia Loren. Bardot is firmly in the latter group.
Sure, there is a story here, and it's surprisingly okay (compared to most of John Derek's all but unwatchable love letters on film to his wife Bo twenty years later), but you watch this movie to see Bardot being Bardot.
From the opening shot of her sunbathing nude (other than a very brief side shot of her bare bottom, she's clothed, albeit scantily, throughout) to her final dance scene in her unbutton-up-to-there dress, it's all about seeing Bardot. It wouldn't work if she was just beautiful; it works because her youthful joy sparkles on film.
Eighteen-year-old orphaned Bardot is fostered by a family - a mom and three sons - in Saint Tropez. Bardot is oddly spoiled and acts ungrateful to her foster family. What mom with three sons ranging in age from early teens to mid twenties thought bringing this sex-on-steroids woman into her family was a good idea is a question for the ages.
In addition to dating the oldest son, Bardot is pursued by a wealthy middle-aged businessman who is also trying to buy the fostering family's failing boatyard. But when the mother, finally fed up with Bardot's attitude, is about to send her back to the orphanage (can you even do that with an eighteen year old?), the middle son surprisingly steps up and marries her.
Oddly, now is when the love triangle - quadrangle - really kicks in as the older brother, the one Bardot seems to really love, becomes angry that he didn't marry her when he had the chance, while the wealthy businessman continues to circle both Bardot and the family's boatyard.
The rest of the movie is waiting for the marriage to break. Bardot, showing more insight than most of the others, recognizes that she makes bad decisions. Yet, like many eighteen-year olds, she can't help herself and she knows she can't.
Bardot gives her marriage a chance while the middle son tries his best, but Bardot is too full of life and sexuality to settle down at eighteen. The marriage does break in expected and unexpected ways with a surprisingly cool outcome, but you'll want to see that end for yourself.
While And God Created Woman's surface and subliminal lust was scandalous for its time, today it doesn't shock, but it still works because of Bardot's evergreen sensuality. The movie is also neat time travel to San Tropez in the 1950s. It's not a great movie, but there are worse ways to spend an hour and a half than watching Bardot's youth and beauty lift off the screen.
^Vadim was married to Jane Fonda, directed her in Barbarella; also directed Pretty Maids All in a Row.
Never saw And God Created Woman for some reason. On the list, of course. Vadim I admit was never
a favorite of mine, but Barbarella carved a notch or two in adolescence and later college film classes.
My (off on a tangent cannot help myself) favorite BB film is Dear Brigette directed by Henry Koster.
Aside from the fact that Koster directed Flower Drum Song with a Nancy Kwan song and provocative
bedroom dance prance for which I will forever be grateful, he successfully directed Deanna Durbin,
and a later Jennifer Jones feature, Good Morning Miss Dove; and, he directed The Bishop's Wife with
Loretta Young, Cary Grant, and David Niven. Koster directed Jimmy Stewart in Dear Brigette, a sweet
comedy and lovely BB is her wonderful virginal self. (BB never rocked my boat as I fell hard for another
siren, Gina Lollabrigida, my own Esmerelda gypsy princess.)
A word or two for Victor Hugo's masterpiece... The film Hunchback of Notre Dame has been screen
adapted several times, but most notable is the 1939 film with Charles Laughton as Quasimodo opposite
Maureen O'Hara, directed by William Dieterle. Gina appeared in the later 1956 movie with Anthony Quinn,
cannot recall the director. Laughton captured the namesake utterly. And Gina will always be Esmerelda
for me, the ultimate girl cast off page to life. I always recommend Hugo's novel to young men for its
wisdom about life, but more importantly, love. Seldom the chance find, such beauty and wisdom inside
so slim a volume. But all the more magical for the discovery.
...and speaking of Bo Derek: I once found myself virtually alone with her inside Breakstone's Bookshop,
Terminal Three, O'Hare Airport. Having returned Chicago, a fast hello to a Chicago Police officer acquaint
outside the bookshop relayed the info as to who was inside. A fast dash inside for Hawthorne's
House of The Seven Gables (which I knew from a recent stop wasn't there) and a hoped for chance
encounter, small talk & me Irish charm, did not occur. A clerk approached, inquired if her assistance
needed, and Bo moved further back, beyond polite discourse. In Law, this is called an inchoate occurence.
Agreed on the fourth wall/script bits. Added nothing to the film.