Friday, October 1, 2010

Old Movies Ate My Life!

Sally (1929) - ** ½. The first time seeing the fabled Ziegfeld star Marilyn Miller (only a passable actress but sings and dances like the dickens), rubber-legged Joe E Brown, former Sennett star Ford Sterling (quite funny in a Billy Gilbert-like ethnic role) and the hit song “Look for the Silver Lining”… these novelties barely make it bearable to sit through this early sound musical’s inane rags and riches dramatics. The stage version was Brown’s big break and he does a great dance number with Miller. Oddly, I don’t recall Brown dancing in his films at all! Wonder why he gave it up?

The Captain Hates the Sea (1934) - **. This hodgepodge on the high seas stars alcoholic John Gilbert as a drunk in his last role, comic Leon Errol plays it straight and the Three Stooges have barely any screen time (only Larry has dialogue). Unfortunately even with these oddities, the comedy is unfunny and the drama is contrived.

Blow-Out (1981) - **. A wildly inappropriate noirish score and an awful performance by Nancy Allen sink this so-called DePalma “thriller”. The director’s Hitchcock fixation and misogynistic view are in full bloom in this sleazy variation of Antonioni’s Blow-Up. Still one of Travolta’s better performances.

The Chief (1933) - * ½. Fascinating failed attempt to bring radio’s Ed Wynn to the screen. By this time, Wynn (immensely popular on stage , radio, and early television) was about 40 years too old for his “Perfect Fool” persona. Film (by MGM no less) actually ends contrived plot early to showcase Wynn’s radio show. Perennial mug Nat Pendleton is good though.

Hot Rod Girl (1956) - * ½. Tease of a low-budgeter with hardly a ‘hot-rod gal’ in sight. It does have Chuck Connors and Frank Gorshin in early roles. Best seek out the similar but superior Dragstrip Girl (1957) also with Gorshin.

Cotton Comes to Harlem (1970) - ***. Considered by many the film that ushered in Blaxploitation, Cotton is slicker than most and thus less fun, but you still have good period detail, anti-whitey sentiments and gorgeous, naked Judy Pace seducing everyone in sight. Directed by Ossie Davis from Chester Himes’ novel.