Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Noir 100 at the Brattle - A Rain Day, Double Feature, Noir Matinee

August has been a hectic month and I've been out of the loop of everything online that is classic film related. I've been MIA from this blog mostly because I've been spending every spare moment working on moving in with Carlos. I haven't had much time to ::gasp:: watch any movies or ::double gasp:: write about them. Carlos and I worked non-stop all day on a Saturday, Sunday and a Monday. By Tuesday we were exhausted (heck by Saturday evening we were exhausted) and even though there was so much more to do, we needed a break. We took all of last week off for the move but for the first half of the week it rained. And rained. And rained. Which made moving rather tricky. In fact by Wednesday, the heavens must have open the flood gates because it was just pouring buckets of water. We needed a break. Something to do that was NOT moving.

So what does one do for fun on a rainy weekday? Go to a mid-afternoon matinee noir double-feature at a repertory theatre of course! And what a luxury it was...

The first film on the bill was Murder, My Sweet (1944). To me, this movie and Double Indemnity (1944) have always been the two films from which the noir stereotype derives its main characteristics. All the key elements are there: a jaded man, a dangerous blonde, a sweet brunette, a convoluted plot and narrative voiceover. Murder, My Sweet is a decent film and enjoyable to watch but please don't try to follow the plot too closely. Also, don't worry too much about getting the character names and their individual straight. If you do, you won't enjoy the film. Just sit back, relax, munch on some popcorn and enjoy the ride.

Carlos hadn't seen this one before and when he asked me about the plot I made a valiant effort to try to explain it. However, my memory had escaped me and I ended up sounding like a dimwith. What I should have down was just shrug my shoulders and grunted out an "I don't know". If he were to have asked me the same question after the film, I probably should have done the same thing.

The second feature was The Big Sleep (1946). This one was a surprise as we were actually expecting to see Key Largo (1948), another Bogie-Bacall flick. I've always really enjoyed The Big Sleep and prefer it over Key Largo so I was very happy about the switch.

The thing I love the most about The Big Sleep is that the film is oozing with sexuality. If sexuality were a sauce, it would be dripping out the corner of your takeout box if you took this film to-go.

First of all there is the electric chemistry between Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart. By the time of this film, Bogie and Bacall are already married but the passion hasn't died down at all. The way they look into each others' eyes, you expect them to rip off each other's clothes at any moment and start procreating right in front of you. Both Bogie and Bacall were so effortless in their movements. Each motion seemed sensual and sexual. Whether it was a smile, a firm grip on the arm, the smoking of a cigarette, it all screamed SEX.

Then there is delightfully young space cadet Carmen played by the luscious Martha Vickers. Watch her movements. She never seems to be able to stand upright on her own. It's as though her limbs don't function at full capacity. Carmen is always falling into a man's arms or into a chair or resting against a wall. However, these seem like temporary places for her to rest. It's as though her proper place should be lying prostrate on a bed! Besides, she's too high or drunk to notice what you are doing to her anyways, so have at it. If people only looked a little more closely at classic films, they would realize how blatantly sexual and scandalous they really were!

My favorite scene is the one in which Philip Marlowe (Bogart) walks into a bookstore across the street from the Geiger Used & Rare Bookshop (which doesn't actually sell any books) and asks the bookstore clerk for information about Geiger. They flirt like mad and they exchange some hot and heavy zingers.

Marlowe, when he notices that it's raining outside, "I'd rather get wet in here."

Marlowe offers the clerk some rye from a bottle in his pocket, she closes the front door, turns the sign from Open to Closed and she replies: "It looks like we're closed for the rest of the afternoon."

Hot damn! She takes off her glasses and lets down her hair and Marlowe replies with a "Hello!". I almost expect there to be a huge bolt of lightning and some thunder and for the camera to pan away while they make love on the bookstore floor. Alas, my dirty mind gets carried away with itself sometimes and things didn't quite work out that way. But good grief that was one sexy scene! Worth the $7.75 we paid for the double feature alone.


On days like this, I count my lucky stars that I have a place like the Brattle which shows quality films like these for discerning patrons like me. Next up, Kevin and I see The Sleeping City (1950). The last film in the Brattle's Noir 100 series.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

DVD Boxed Set Review ~ TCM Spotlight: Errol Flynn Adventures

Errol Flynn. Saving the world, one country at a time.

This assignment came as a surprise. I'm not a war movie type of gal nor do I watch many Errol Flynn flicks. In fact, I was looking forward to another blogger reviewing this boxed set. However, the stars aligned and it seemed like Errol and I were meant to be together, for nine hours at least. Errol Flynn, although gone some 50+ years, was already charming me with his bad boy image and delicious accent (which may or may not come from lips that are dressed by a killer moustache). So watching this boxed set was just meant to be.

Watching this was far more enjoyable than that Film Noir Collection Vol. 5 atrocity I recently reviewed. Possibly because I came to the experience with no expectations. It also helped that the collection of films were pretty even in quality and content. In fact, I had looked forward to tasting something different than my usual fare.

In one way the films in the set are formulaic and run-of-the-mill. Errol Flynn's character fights against Nazis in 4 out of 5 of the films and all 5 are WWII films dripping with patriotism or anti-German/anti-Japanese sentiment. The first three are almost completely identical in terms of basic plot. It was like having three chocolate cakes, each with different frostings.

Desperate Journey (1942) - Errol Flynn plays an Australian who becomes a prisoner of war when captured by the Nazis. He must try to escape and fight against the Nazis for the sake of his country.
Edge of Darkness (1943) - Errol Flynn plays a Norwegian who becomes a prisoner of war when he is lined up for execution by the Nazis. He must try to escape and fight the Nazis for the sake of his country.
Northern Pursuit (1943) -  Errol Flynn plays a Canadian who becomes a prisoner of war when he is held hostage by underground Nazis. He must try to escape and fight the Nazis for the sake of his country.

The next two are a bit different which is refreshing after watching the first three.

Uncertain Glory (1944) - Errol Flynn plays a professional criminal in occupied France who is about to go the guillotine. An air bomb kills everyone in the prison, except for him, just as he is about to be executed. He is captured by a French officer who has been following him for years. Nazis have 100 Frenchmen held hostage and will execute them if the person responsible for bombing a bridge doesn't come forward. Flynn and the officer work out a deal to save the 100 Frenchies but things get complicated when Flynn falls in love.

Objective, Burma (1945)- No Nazis here. Two American troops are dropped off in Burma to complete a mission of blowing up a Japanese radar site. Everything goes well but just as they are about to leave things get really complicated.

No matter how formulaic the first three may be, watching all 5 films back-to-back provides you with a very varied WWII-movie watching experience.

Things I enjoyed about the boxed set:
1) Errol Flynn takes you on adventures through Germany, Norway, Canada, France and Burma. Movie goers back in the mid-1940s must have felt like they were traveling the world with Flynn. I know I did.
2) Each DVD has a set of extras including short films, war-related newsreels, musical numbers, cartoons and movie trailers. You can set up the DVD so as to watch all the extras first before watching the movie. This kind of gives you a cinema-experience in your own home. And while many of the extras are strange or just plain propaganda, they are still fun to watch.
3) Desperate Journey was by far my favorite film. It was funny, suspenseful and at certain points quite sad. Flynn and his tag team of soldiers are being chased by the Nazis and it's fun to see how they escape over and over again. The scene where Ronald Reagan's character deceives a Nazi general by confusing him with double-speak is hilarious!
4) Objective, Burma is worth the purchase of this set alone. You follow the troops through everything. While they are on the plane, making their way through the jungle, waiting for an approaching group of Japs, etc. You don't get the highlights, you get every single excruciating moment. Sometimes the minutae is just as interesting as all the guts and glory.
5) The boxed set design is gorgeous as are the last few Warner Bros. sets I have reviewed.

Interesting to note: Errol Flynn was the quintessential war hero on screen during the 1940s however unlike many other stars (such as Clark Gable, Jimmy Stewart, Burgess Meredith and Ronald Reagan), he never fought during WWII. Not that he didn't try. He attempted to enlist in almost every branch but his poor health. IMDB says he had a bout of malaria and tuberculosis on top of back problems and a heart condition. I'm sure it didn't help that he was an alcoholic with a penchant for opiates. Even though Flynn didn't fight on the battlefield, he did help bring homebound Americans in the 1940s adventure tales and gave them a sense of what was going on abroad. If anything, that's a service in itself.

The TCM Spotlight: Errol Flynn Adventures  is available right now (and I think it might be on Blu-Ray too). If you enjoy war films or like classic adventure stories, I highly recommend this set.

Full disclosure: A special thank you to Warner Bros. for sending this to me for review!

Here are a couple clips for you to enjoy:

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Summer Under the Stars - Norma Shearer on TCM

This starts tomorrow. Here are the Raquelle-approved reasons why you should watch each and everyone (except for one). And if you are not a Norma Shearer fan there is something wrong with you. Watching TCM Summer Under the Stars tribute to Norma Shearer can cure you of your atrocious malady.

Lady of the Night (1924) - Joan Crawford absolutely despised and envied Norma Shearer. Especially because Shearer had an established career and dated and then married MGM bigwig Irving Thalberg. Crawford had to play Norma's double in this picture. I bet that got Crawford's goat! Plus Norma Shearer wears a wicked feather headpiece and dons a busca-novio. Excellent!

A Lady of Chance (1928) - A late silent watches like an early silent. It's Art Deco splendor and by far my favorite Norma Shearer film of them all. Read my previous post about it.

Their Own Desire (1929) - It's even more Art Deco splendor. The film was shot on location at the Norconian Resort which is now a rotting Art Deco relic. It's also the first film in which Robert Montgomery and Norma Shearer co-star. They went on to make several films together.

Complicated Women (2005) - It's a documentary which features Norma Shearer but mostly discusses actresses and films from the Pre-Code era. It's worth watching.

The Divorcee (1930) - Norma Shearer's husband Chester Morris cheats on her with some tramp. So Shearer cheats on Morris with Robert Montgomery. Morris can't take it so he divorces Shearer. Then Shearer goes and nails every rich guy she can get her hands on including Conrad Nagel. Heck yeah! Plus I dressed up as Norma Shearer in The Divorcee for Kevin's Birthday party.

The Barretts of Wimpole Street (1934) - The start of Norma Shearer's prestige film career (period pieces with costumes and big productions). Charles Laughton co-stars as her tyrant father.

Riptide (1934) - A Montgomery-Shearer vehicle. Watch it for the adult-sized bug Halloween costumes. Excellent!

Escape (1940) - This is one of my least favorite Shearer films mostly because it's very depressing. But if you like depressing WWII movies, this is right up your alley.

Idiot's Delight (1939) - Norma's outrageous wig, canned oyster soup and Clark Gable singing and dancing to Puttin' on the Ritz.

The Student Prince of Old Heidelberg (1929) - Classic story of reluctant prince falling in love with a peasant girl (civilian). Shearer & Novarro's chemistry is sweet and playful, not passionate.

Private Lives (1931) - Watching a bickering couple go from hot and cold was never this fun, especially a couple on their honeymoon, WITH OTHER PEOPLE!

Romeo and Juliet (1936) - I would actually say pass on this one. Shearer and Leslie Howard are far too old to be playing Juliet and Romeo respectively.

Marie Antoinette (1938) - The pinnacle of Norma Shearer's prestige films. Thalberg's final gift to her. It's grandiose and over-the-top just as it should be.

Strangers May Kiss (1931) - Football, men in fur coats, airplanes, awesome. And why can't a girl have fun and not have to worry about her reputation?

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