Wednesday, February 28, 2018

I Like Your Nerve (1931)

I Like Your Nerve (1931) title card

"Why must you always be so unsociable in motor cars?"

Rich people behaving badly always makes for good comedy. The Pre-Code I Like Your Nerve (1931) stars Douglas Fairbanks Jr. as Larry O'Brien, an American causing mayhem in Central America. He gets booted out by the local authorities but decides to stay when he spies the beautiful young Diane Forsythe (Loretta Young). They have a brief meet-cute moment before she's off. Once he finds out she's American and not a local, he sets his sights on her. Diane likes the look of Larry, and his nerve!, but she's already spoken for. Her step-father Areal Pacheco (Henry Kolker), is the Minister of Finance for the unnamed Central American country, he's set her up with middle-aged businessman Clive Lattimer (Edmund Breon). Pacheco has been dipping into government funds and Lattimer's $200k would help him avoid the fate of the previous Ministers of Finance which have all been killed for their corruption. Meanwhile, up-to-no-good Larry gets bailed out of jail by his "eternal bachelor" friend Archie Lester (Claud Allister) and sets off to break up Diane and her fiancee. Can he win Diane's affections and save her step-father from the firing squad? Not without some hilarious antics and trickery.

Douglas Fairbanks Jr. in I Like Your Nerve (1931)

Loretta Young in I Like Your Nerve (1931)

Douglas Fairbanks Jr. in I Like Your Nerve (1931)

Loretta Young in I Like Your Nerve (1931)

I Like Your Nerve was directed by William C. McGann for First National Pictures. That studio had been absorbed by Warner Bros. but was still making pictures under that name. McGann had a career directing B pictures and went on to work as a cinematographer and special effects technician. The story is based on an original idea by Roland Pertwee and adapted by Houston Branch. Boris Karloff is in the film but has a dreadfully small and rather useless role as Luigi, the butler for the Pacheco mansion.

I love really early talkies and can forgive some of the clunkiness of the final product. The film industry was still trying to work out the kinks of their transition from silents to talkies. Some people are turned off by this by I find it quite charming. I was even amused by the choice of music which often times didn't even match what was going on in the story.

Technically I Like Your Nerve is not complete. According to the AFI:

"Contemporary reviews describe an opening scene that was not in the viewed film. In this scene, Douglas Fairbanks Jr. is a spectacled bookworm with a straight-laced mother who goes to the tropics when a fortune-teller advises him to travel to Central America."

This may explain why the beginning of the film seems so abrupt. However, it also feels out of character for Larry who is more playboy than bookworm. Unless the fortune-teller encounter somehow transformed him.

I Like Your Nerve is more silly comedy than racy Pre-Code. The stars Loretta Young and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. are delightful in this frothy, cheesy romp. I generally don't care for Loretta Young except for in her early films. Cars play an important role in the film. They are harbingers of chaos but also a means for the couple to be together. I love vintage cars and enjoyed watching these early models zipping through different scenes.

The film is only 62 minutes long and if you want a palate cleanser after a long or difficult movie, this would be a good fit. It's a bit backwards, a bit sexist and the Central American setting (why couldn't they have picked a country?) is more a plot device than anything substantial. It's just a fun movie that you shouldn't take too seriously.

I Like Your Nerve (1931) is available on DVD-MOD from the Warner Archive Collection. You can listen to George Feltenstein, D.W. Ferranti and Matt Patterson of WAC discuss this film on their podcast. D.W. calls this film "bonkers" and Matt calls Fairbanks Jr. "anarchy in an automobile". Both are statements I heartily agree with.

Warner Archive Wednesday - On (random) Wednesdays, I review one title from the Warner Archive Collection. Thank you to Warner Archive for sending me a copy of I Like Your Nerve (1931) to review!

Thursday, February 22, 2018

My TCM Swag

Today on my YouTube channel I'm sharing my favorite TCM swag. These are TCM branded items that I've collected over the years.

A few years ago I shared two posts about my favorite items in my classic film collection. Not only movies themselves but lots of other stuff too. Some of the TCM items I mention in the video are also in these posts.

Coolest Classic Film Stuff I Own Part One
Coolest Classic Film Stuff I Own Part Two

The item featured in the image above is TCM's Noir Alley Gardenia & Lily Candle. In the video I do a fun unboxing.

I hope you enjoy!

What's your favorite TCM branded item in your collection?

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

For Love of Ivy (1968)

Today is Sidney Poitier's birthday! The legendary actor turns 91. To celebrate I'm taking a look at Poitier's film writing debut from 1968: For Love of Ivy. 1967 was a good year in Poitier's career especially with the release of Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?, In the Heat of the Night and To Sir, With Love. He was in a position to take on a new challenge. Poitier wanted a part as a romantic lead; something in the same vein as a Cary Grant movie. In a rush of inspiration Poitier wrote down an outline for a story. He simply called it Ivy. Poitier later collaborated with Robert Alan Arthur who would be integral in taking the outline and fleshing it out into a full fledged movie. The story was a romantic comedy, meant for a mainstream audience, with two African-American leads. It would be ground breaking. The end result was For Love of Ivy (1968).

Ivy Moore (Abbey Lincoln) is a 20-something who works full-time for the wealthy Austin household. She's not just their maid, she's like a member of their family. She's an integral part of what holds them together. When Ivy announces to Doris (Nan Martin) and Frank Austin (Caroll O'Connor) that she plans to leave her job for a new life in the city, they panic. The Austin kids, free-spirited hippie Tim (Beau Bridges) and boy-crazy Gena (Lauri Peters) concoct a plan to keep Ivy around. Tim, who does a bit of gambling on the side, enlists his one African-American friend Jack Parks (Sidney Poitier) to go out on a date with Ivy. If Ivy finds a guy and settles down, surely she'll reconsider leaving the Austin household. Tim and Gena try everything to get Jack and Ivy together. Jack is comfortable in his bachelor lifestyle. He runs a shipping company called Par-Tal which is really just a front for his illegal underground casino. Ivy has no idea what she's getting into. Thrust into an awkward situation, she makes the best of it while keeping true to her fiery independent spirit. Will these two fall in love or will Tim and Gena's plan be a total and utter disaster?

More than 300 women tried out for the title role of Ivy. It ultimately went to jazz singer Abbey Lincoln. This was her second film in a very short film career. Both Lincoln and Poitier are charismatic on screen. However I didn't buy them as a couple. Something seemed off. Maybe it was a lack of chemistry with each other, the deliberately slow pace of the story or some other factor. Once something started to happen I was relieved because the waiting was torturous. Intended to be a romantic comedy, For Love of Ivy isn't very funny. With the exception of a few outrageous scenes, it doesn't try very hard to be comedic. According to Poitier biographer Aram Goudsouzian "Daniel Mann's direction sapped the pungency from the better one-liners. He rendered the actors excessively mannered, and the picture moves slower than the light script demands. Thanks to Mann, the romantic comedy had little comedy." The film is more heavy-handed than it is light-hearted. For Love of Ivy has potential that it does not deliver. The film made a modest profit at the box office and Sidney Poitier received on-screen credit for his original idea.

Race is not intended to be at the forefront of the story but it's always there on the surface. The story juxtaposes a wealthy white family whose antics are always ridiculous with more grounded sensibility of Ivy and even Parks. I thought it was interesting that Parks' underground casino is run by African-American and serves a strictly white clientele only. When Ivy tries to bet, Parks refuses saying that he doesn't allow his people to gamble there.

The performances really save the picture. Poitier is charming and it is so good to see him in a bonafide romantic leading role. Lincoln proves her worth to be the center of the story. Beau Bridges is a delight as scheming hippie son of a wealthy family. Caroll O'Connor is the confused and angry patriarch in an all too short a role. Nan Martin is over-the-top as the flustered matriarch. I also enjoyed Leon Bibb as Billy Talbot, one of Parks' main men who is eager to take over the business.

For Love of Ivy (1968) is available on Blu-Ray and DVD from Kino Lorber.

Thank you to the folks at Kino Lorber for sending me the Blu-Ray for review.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

In Search of Fellini (2017)

In Search of Fellini

Have you ever fallen head-over-heels in love with a movie? That's what happened to voice actress Nancy Cartwright when she saw Frederico Fellini’s La Strada (1954). So much so that she wrote letters to Fellini and traveled to Italy to meet him in hopes that he would grant her request to adapt La Strada into a play. She never got to meet the director, who passed away in 1993, but her wild adventure to Italy inspired her one-woman play appropriately titled In Search of Fellini. For years Cartwright, who is best known as the voice of Bart on The Simpson’s, wanted to adapt her story into a film. In 2017, the film In Search of Fellini, loosely based on her own story, came to life. Cartwright produced the story with her production company Spotted Cow Entertainment, co-wrote the screenplay with Peter Kjenaas and even has an on screen role as Cosima, a character very much inspired by La Strada.

“The visionary is the only true realist.” – Frederico Fellini

Lucy (Ksenia Solo) is a naive 20 year old woman. Her over-protective mother Claire (Maria Bello) has sheltered her all her life. Claire used to be an adventurous young woman alongside her no nonsense sister Kerri (Mary Lynn Rjskub). After a series of bad relationships, Claire got pregnant with Lucy and from the moment she gave birth she decided to protect her daughter from all of life’s trials and tribulations. Fast forward to 1993 and Lucy is essentially a 13 year old in a 20 year old’s body. Faced with terminal lung cancer, Claire, with the help of Kerri, wants to help Lucy grow up and get a life. When Lucy has an ill-fated trip to Cleveland for a job opportunity, she stumbles upon a Fellini film festival and is mesmerized by La Strada. She watches all the Fellini she can get her hands on and an obsession begins. Lucy travels to Italy in search for Fellini but discovers many hardships along the way. Her fantastical trip mirrors several Fellini films in the odd occurences and encounters she faces in Verona, Milan, Venice and Rome. She meets two men, Angelo (Lorenzo Balducci), who will unlock her dormant sensuality, and Placido (Paolo Bernardini) who proves to be dangerous temptation. Will Lucy ever find Fellini? Or is this a journey of discovery for something completely different?

Ksenia Solo and Maria Bello, In Search of Fellini

In Search of Fellini

In Search of Fellini

"You guys just pretend you're on a cloud and watch movies." - Kerri

I was drawn to In Search of Fellini (2017) because I myself am a cinephile who will travel far to pursue my passion. However, what happens to Lucy in the movie is so fantastical and unbelievable that I had a difficult time relating to the character even though I found so much of myself in her. I had a difficult time believing this was based on a true story. I can't tell you how many times I've been to Europe and wished that something magical or extraordinary would happen to me there. It never did. But in the span of a few days numerous events happen to Lucy. I wasn't buying it. This film is pure fantasy.

In Search of Fellini is a love letter to cinema, to Fellini and to finding your true self. It's about breaking free from what holds you back. There is a lot here for classic film lovers. There are numerous references to It's a Wonderful Life (1946) and Romeo & Juliet (1968), two films both Claire and Lucy watch extensively. It's a Wonderful Life represents how Lucy is stuck in a sheltered life and Romeo & Juliet represents her imminent sexual awakening and her journey to Italy. Lucy attends a Fellini film festival and is so in love with La Strada that she comes home with a stack of Fellini movies on VHS. In addition to La Strada, we see references to La Dolce Vita (1960), Amarcord (1973), 8-1/2 (1963), Roma (1972) and more. I love how Lucy becomes Lucia, or light in Italian and people are drawn to her quiet energy. It was interesting to see how different notable scenes from Fellini films are recreated in Italy circa 1993. Any Fellini fan will find much to savor and enjoy with this film.

The fantastical elements of this movie drove me nuts. Maybe because I once was a sheltered cinephile, I wanted this story to be more realistic. I kept asking questions like "how did she get a passport so quickly?" "why didn't she book a hotel?" and "how did she do so much walking and not get blisters?". The film kept trying to elevate me to another dimension and I kept trying to drag it back down to reality.

In Search of Fellini DVD

In Search of Fellini (2017) is available on DVD and digital.

DVD: Amazon
Digital: Amazon — iTunesFandango
Also available to rent on DVD Netflix

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

My Favorite Classic Movies, A Milestone and a New Look!

This post is a big deal. Why? It's my 1,000th! To celebrate I have four big announcements to make.

The FIRST is Out of the Past now has a brand new design courtesy of the super talented Kate Gabrielle. Take a look around and let me know what you think! The look also extends to my social media channels. I love the retro vibe, the animated header and the color palette. Kate is an incredible artist and I'm so grateful for all the hard work she did in creating this original design. Make sure you head over to her store to check out what she has to offer.

The SECOND is with the new designs I'm launching a Out of the Past Zazzle shop. I already have some cool merchandise for sale including workout tank-tops, iPhone cases, tote bags, magnets and buttons. I'll be adding more stuff to the shop soon.

The THIRD is that I'm reviving my YouTube channel and will be adding lots of great new content. Today I'm sharing my new video where I talk about my favorite classic movies. I discuss in depth about my top five, my favorite contemporary classic and a bunch of other favorites too.

The FOURTH is my new blog! I started a sister site called Bygone Voyager which is all about historical movies and TV shows. I encourage you to go visit and let me know what you'd like me to review!

A big thank you to all of you who have supported me over the years. On to the next 1,000 posts!

Monday, February 12, 2018

Cinema Shame: The Wild Bunch (1969)

Four years ago I created a watch list for 2014. These were the films that I hadn't seen yet that I wanted to make a point to watch that year. The Wild Bunch (1969) was one of those films. Unfortunately I never got to it that year or since. So when Jay of Cinema Shame prompted bloggers to submit their Cinema Shame statements for 2018 I added this one to mine!

Directed by Sam Peckinpah, The Wild Bunch (1969) follows a band of outlaws as they seek out one big heist. The year is 1913. Pike Bishop (William Holden) leads his "wild bunch", consisted Dutch Engstrom (Ernest Borgnine), Lyle Gorch (Warren Oates), Angel (Jaime Sanchez), Tector Gorch (Ben Johnson) and others to a dessert town to rob the railroad office's bank. What Pike and his men don't know is that this was a lure created by the railroad, Deke Thornton (Robert Ryan) and his own band of bounty hunters to trap the wild bunch. The robbery goes south and ends in a deadly shoot-out with the wild bunch getting away. When they discover their loot was nothing but bags of steel washers, they seek out another opportunity for a big pay day to make up for this failure. They head for the border and pick up old Freddie Sykes (Edmond O'Brien) along the way. Pike's past begins to haunt him. He's tired of this life and wants one last big heist so he can settle down. But his former partner Deke has made it his mission to capture Pike no matter what it takes. As the two bands cross the border into Mexico, a long chase filled with more heists, lots of booze, women, guns and violence.

"Being sure is my business." - William Holden as Pike Bishop

The Wild Bunch is a movie that revels in violence. Right from the very beginning when we see children feeding scorpions to fire ants, we realize that this movie is going to be tough as nails. In a post Hays Code world, this movie tested the waters and set the standards for increased violence and blood shed on film. Ernest Borgnine once said, "I made The Wild Bunch, which was the beginning of the splattering of blood and everything else. But there was a moral behind it. The moral was that, by golly, bad guys got it. That was it." The film was highly controversial at it's time. It won praise and disdain from those who were in awe of the filmmaking techniques and the performances and others who were appalled by its graphic and relentless representation of violence.

Maybe that's why The Wild Bunch is a mixed bag for me. I can appreciate the artistry of this film but am also repulsed by its violence. The cast is superb and includes some of my favorites like Borgnine, Ryan and O'Brien. I marveled at the excellent filmmaking and on location shooting. The film felt real to me. Like I was in Mexico right alongside the wild bunch on this outrageous adventure. It's not a film I feel the need to watch again but one I'm glad I saw. The Wild Bunch does make me want to watch more of Peckinpah's work. He received his one and only Academy Award nomination, in the Original Screenplay category, for this film.

Have you seen The Wild Bunch (1969)? What did you think of it? Tell me your thoughts below.
Stay tuned for more reviews or quick takes on my Cinema Shame movies for 2018!

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

The Way West (1967)

The Way West (1967)

Traveling from the Missouri River to the valleys of Oregon, being a pioneer on the Oregon Trail was a hard life. The journey was so treacherous there is no guarantee you'd make it. The motivation of an ultimate reward, a new home and a chance at prosperity, drove many to take that chance. Led by Senator Tadlock (Kirk Douglas), a group of pioneers head forth through what will be a difficult quest. Tadlock, a widower with a young son, has big plans for Oregon. He's drawn out a map of what his new city will look like and works tirelessly to make that vision a reality. Tadlock must find a way to lead his group of pioneers through uncharted territory. He hires a scout, Dick Summers (Robert Mitchum), a man of nature who knows the many dangers of the terrain ahead and can speak the language of the local Native American tribes. In Tadlock's group is a motley cast of characters including Lije Evans (Richard Widmark), the emotional leader when Tadlock gets too caught up in his own devices, his wife Becky Evans (Lola Albright) and son Brownie (Michael McGrevey). Then there is the rough-n-tough McBee clan, Mr. McBee (Harry Carey Jr.), Mrs. McBee (Connie Sawyer) and their daughter Mercy McBee (Sally Field), a young girl on the verge of womanhood. Then there are the newlyweds Johnnie (Michael Whitney) and Amanda Mack (Katherine Justice) who have had a rough start on their marriage. These pioneers must stick together on this journey even when the goings get tough which they will time and time again.

Robert Mitchum in The Way West (1967)

Kirk Douglas in The Way West (1967)

Jack Elam, Richard Widmark, Lola Albright & Michael McGreevey in The Way West (1967)

Jack Elam, Richard Widmark and Robert Mitchum in The Way West (1967)

The Way West (1967)

Kirk Douglas, Robert Mitchum and Richard Widmark  in The Way West (1967)

Sally Field and Michael McGreevey in The Way West (1967)

Robert Mitchum in The Way West (1967)

The Way West (1967) is an epic Western drama based on the Pulitzer Prize winning novel by A.B. Guthrie, Jr. This is the second story in Guthrie's trilogy. The first book, The Big Sky was adapted in 1952 and the third book These Thousand Hills was adapted in 1959. The Way West was independently financed through producer Harold Hecht's production company and distributed through United Artists. Hecht produced several acclaimed films including Marty (1955), Sweet Smell of Success (1957) and Birdman of Alcatraz (1962). He ran Norma Productions with Burt Lancaster before striking it out on his own. In the 1960s, Hecht was one of the top independent producers of his day and The Way West was his swan song. It's his last credited role as a producer. He went on to work on one more picture, Ulzana's Raid (1972), before leaving the business for good.

I didn't know much, if anything about The Way West before I watched it recently. It's become an obscurity in the long history of classic Westerns. Director Andrew V. McLaglen, who had studied under the tutelage of William Wellman and John Ford among others, was considered one of the last great director of Westerns. He had extensive experience directing this genre for both film and television. Unfortunately, The Way West was a commercial failure. It couldn't deliver based on expectations. For an epic Western with a trio of big name headliners, it should have been a guaranteed hit. I believe the film suffers from too many cooks in the kitchen. When the film was in the editing process, United Artists demanded that McLaglen cut the first 22 minutes of the film to make it shorter. McLaglen felt this hurt the picture because audiences were not properly introduced to the three main characters. I felt that the beginning was rather abrupt and there wasn't much time to learn about Tadlock, Summers and Lije. Within a couple minutes we're introduced to all three and then the story kicks into gear. There's little to no character building and this is a crucial misstep as we need to feel connected to these characters to want to follow them on their long journey.

The Way West has garnered mixed reviews and I've read quite a few scathing ones online. I don't feel like this is a bad picture. Even with the abrupt beginning, I found it to be quite an enjoyable film. And this is coming from someone who doesn't like Westerns (I make exceptions for all Mitchum Westerns.) I wish Widmark had more to do in the story but Mitchum and Douglas play to their strengths. Mitchum and Douglas worked together in Out of the Past (1947) and The Way West was their only other film working together (they appear in The List of Adrian Messenger (1962) but not in the same scenes.) Director McLaglen said about Mitchum and Douglas:

 "They were poles apart in personality. Bob was an easygoing guy, and Kirk was more volatile. But there was never a feud. I felt within myself that Kirk probably wasn't one of Bob's favorite guys, but you'd never know it. Bob wasn't the kind of guy that goes spouting off with that kind of stuff."

According to Mitchum biographer Lee Server, Mitchum was offered the choice of the scout or the part of Lije. When Mitchum couldn't make a decision, the filmmakers made it for him. The scout suited him best. Server said, "Mitchum's role was a custom fit, one more lonely, stoic outsider turning his back on civilization by the fade-out." Kirk Douglas supposedly was a pain in the neck during the making of the film. He wanted to control and other cast members remember him being rude to them. But it's hard to imagine the film without him. His off-screen personality suited the on-screen character of Tadlock.

The Way West was Sally Field's film debut. It also features character actor Jack Elam as the stowaway preacher Weatherby. Mitchum's brother John Mitchum plays Little Henry and Patric Knowles plays Captain Grant. Connie Sawyer, who plays Mrs. McBee, passed away last month at the age of 105.

The film was shot on location in Eugene and Bend, Oregon with absolutely no studio work whatsoever. It feels real and the cast and crew went through their own hardships to film in the wilderness. Jack Elam said "the whole picture was one tough son of a gun."

The Way West (1967) Blu-Ray

The Way West (1967) is available on Blu-Ray and DVD from Kino Lorber.  The screencaps above are from the previous DVD edition. Kino Lorber's Blu-Ray is stunning and the quality has improved significantly.

When you purchase through my buy links you help support this site. Thanks! And please make sure to visit my new Amazon shop.

Thank you to Kino Lorber for sending me a copy of the Blu-Ray for review.

Monday, February 5, 2018

The Wilby Conspiracy (1975)

"Don't you love your country?"
"Yes, but is it the same country?"

Prisoner #34, Shack Twala (Sidney Poitier) stands trial. It's Capetown, South Africa in the midst of apartheid. Thanks to the remarkable defense work by his lawyer Rina Van Niekirk (Prunella Gee), Twala is now free. Rina's boyfriend Jim Keogh (Michael Caine) wants to celebrate her victory and Rina invites Twala to join them. On their way to her apartment they encounter the Capetown police who are a little too eager to arrest another black person. Twala, Keogh and Rina get into an ugly fight with the police officers and escape. Rina helps Twala and Keogh flee to Johannesburg. Things begin to escale when two members of the secret police, Major Horn (Nichol Williamson) and Van Heerden (Rijk de Gooyer), are sent out to hunt down the fugitive duo. Twala knows of an Indian dentist Mukerjee (Saeed Jaffrey) who will help them, if his assistant Persis (Persis Khambatta) doesn't get in the way. But Twala is hiding something. Keogh soon learns about the Wilby conspiracy. Mukerjee, Twala and Wilby have a treasure trove of diamonds hidden in a sinkhole. This loot will help finance the Black Congress' revolution, something the secret police are hell bent on stopping. All Twala and Keogh need to do is get the diamonds, find Wilby and escape South Africa before it's too late. But that's easier said than done.

The Blu-Ray is a million times better quality than this image!

Directed by Ralph NelsonThe Wilby Conspiracy (1975) is a political thriller set in the oppressive era of apartheid. Based on the novel by Peter Driscoll, it explores the racial dynamics of the era while also serving as a thrilling chase movie. Some of the politics from Driscoll's original novel were stripped away from the movie but the final product still demonstrates the dangerous political climate of South Africa in the 1970s. The movie was filmed in Keny and at the MGM Pinewood Studios in England. It was far too risky to actually film on location in South Africa.

Actor Sidney Poitier hadn't been in Kenya since filming Something of Value (1957) and found a much different country on his return. He was warmly embraced by the locals and the government as a major movie star. Much had changed politically in Kenya over the past decades. The film has some amazing aerial footage and there is extensive use of small aircraft and helicopters. Chase scenes in the air and on the ground are thrilling to watch.

Independently produced in conjunction with United Artists, producer Martin Baum used to be Poitier's agent and he cast both Poitier and Caine for the film. Director Ralph Nelson had worked with Poitier on Lilies of the Field (1963) and Duel at Diablo (1966). For Caine this was his first "message film." In his memoir he wrote, "my experiences on the set of Zulu had made me an implacable opponent of the apartheid system and I was pleased to be able to make a contribution to highlighting its cruelty." Caine and Poitier were good friends and bonded even further during the making of the film. They both had a near death experience when a 50 pound camera broke loose, almost killing them both. If anything it drew them closer together and they've been friends ever since.

Even without some of the politics of Driscoll's original novel, The Wilby Conspiracy holds a powerful punch as it delivers the painful message of oppression. The film suffers at one point when the story begins lose its purpose and relies too much on the extended chase. Perhaps what was taken away from Driscoll's story should have been left in. The movie is part political thriller and part action drama and I found it wholly engrossing. Caine and Poitier's characters have a contentious relationship and it was intriguing to see what they both had to bring to two very different roles.

On a side note, in one of the scenes actor Nichol Williamson utters the Dutch curse word "godverdomme". My father, who lived in the Netherlands for a brief time, used this curse word, which translates into g-d dammit, whenever he was angry. I have never heard anyone else use it until I watched this film. My father passed away a couple of years ago (you can read my tribute to him here) and it briefly reminded me of him. It made me smile because even though he said it when it was mad, it was one of those quirks that was unique to my dad.

While watching The Wilby Conspiracy I couldn't help but make the connection to The Defiant Ones (1958). Caine and Poitier as two fugitives on the run reminded me of Poitier and Tony Curtis as two chain-gang fugitives who escaped prison. I would recommend pairing those two films together. You could also pair The Wilby Conspiracy with another Poitier film set in South Africa: Cry, the Beloved Country (1951).

The Wilby Conspiracy (1975) is available from Kino Lorber on DVD and Blu-Ray tomorrow! When you purchase through my buy links you help support this site. Thanks!

Thank you to Kino Lorber for sending me a copy of the Blu-Ray for review.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Musings on Easy Rider (1969)

The other night my husband Carlos and I made a deal. If he'd watch one of my movies, I'd watch one of his. He had his pick and he chose Easy Rider (1969). I recently showed interest in this movie and he immediately perked up. Really? You want to watch it? he asked enthusiastically. Sure, I guess. What was I about to get myself into?

I had avoided this film for mainly one reason: the drugs. I'm not a fan. For me it's not an interesting as a plot device in pretty much any medium: books, TV, movies, etc. However, there seemed to be more to Easy Rider than just two guys getting high. And it's hard to argue the cultural impact of the film and its continued legacy. The image of Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda on their motorcycles cruising through the American countryside is well... a very American image.

Easy Rider (1969) is a story about outsiders. Two lone wolves who don't fit in society and exist in a counterculture, one that the mainstream culture finds threatening. Captain America/Wyatt (Peter Fonda) and Billy (Dennis Hopper) are "born to be wild". They deal drugs and travel across state lines spending time in small towns, jails, hippie communes and brothels. Because of their long hair and the way they dress and comport themselves, they are continually harassed and stared at. Motels refuse to board them. Sleeping by the side of the road is the only way they can get some rest but even that proves to be dangerous.

This film resonated with me in ways I didn't expect. I have always been an outsider. Never in my life have I ever fit in. Ever. Even in communities I helped create, I've always been a member on the fringe with one foot out the door. I don't belong anywhere. I work best on my own rather than as part of a team or duo. It's always been the way. I need and want people in my life but it's hard for me to find anyone who truly understands. I've always felt alone in any sphere of my life: family, school, work, online community, etc.

Captain America and Billy are misfits of the truest kind. They stick together because they have that in common. But in reality they're polar opposites. Captain America is mellow and easygoing and Billy is wound tight like a spring. They need the companionship of someone who understands what it is to be misunderstood. And this film is so much about being misunderstood.

**Spoiler starts**

In the days since I finished the movie, the ending has haunted me. I kept trying to negotiate my way out of it. Captain America and Billy didn't really die. Someone will find them, take them to the hospital. Everything will be okay. Their story will continue.

It can't be that easy to destroy them. All it took was two mean-spirited locals with a rifle. How can they get away with this? Why did this happen? I was taken aback when Jack Nicholson's character George, the drunk lawyer, was killed. But clung on when I saw Captain America and Billy were safe. What am I to do with this ending? Is this the fate of all misfits and outsiders? We'll be destroyed by those who don't understand us?

**Spoiler ends**

I'm still processing this movie and what it means to be alone in a world that doesn't understand. My husband and I are two individuals who are very much the same but also very different. We can't conceive of our partnership being a union of two people to become one. We are two different people. We need time to be together and time to be apart. I often use the phrases "separate but together" and "divide and conquer" when I discuss our relationship. We're kind of like Captain America and Billy. He's the mellow to my tightly-wound spring. We get what the other needs and we understand each other. It works.

If you have that moment in your life where you truly feel misunderstood, watch Easy Rider (1969). That'll be when you are most receptive to its message. Some will say it's just a drug-fueled movie with two iconic stars and a great soundtrack. But there is something deeper there if you're willing to discover it.

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