Friday, November 28, 2014

THE PINK PANTHER (1963)

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#1,564. The Pink Panther (1963)

Posted: 27 Nov 2014 10:45 PM PST


Directed By: Blake Edwards

Starring: David Niven, Peter Sellers, Robert Wagner



Tag line: "You only live once... so see The Pink Panther twice!!!"

Trivia: Yves Saint Laurent created the gowns for Capucine and Claudia Cardinale. This was the designer's first Hollywood film project







The majority of the Pink Panther sequels, from 1964's A Shot in the Dark all the way up to 1978's The Revenge of the Pink Panther, put the focus squarely on Inspector Jacques Clouseau, the bumbling French detective played by Peter Sellers. This is what makes The Pink Panther, the 1963 original, such an interesting motion picture; unlike the other entries in the series, Clouseau is merely a supporting character in this film. In fact, you might even say he's the villain of the piece.

Despite his worldly demeanor, British playboy Sir Charles Lytton (David Niven) is, in reality, The Phantom, a notorious thief whose specialty is fine jewelry. In an interesting twist, Sir Charles' accomplice and lover, the beautiful Simone (Capucine), is actually the wife of Inspector Jacques Clouseau (Sellers), the very man who has sworn to bring The Phantom to justice! All three converge on a ski resort in the small Italian town of Cortina d'Ampezzo, where Princess Dala (Claudia Cardinale), owner of the fabled Pink Panther diamond, is vacationing. In an effort to steal the Pink Panther, Sir Charles cozies up to the Princess, only to discover he actually has feelings for her. This, combined with the sudden and unexpected arrival of Sir Charles' American nephew George (Robert Wagner), puts the entire plan in jeopardy. What's more, Clouseau, who has no idea his wife is deceiving him, believes he's closing in on the Phantom, and, in an attempt to capture him, doubles the guard around the Pink Panther. Unbeknownst to all, someone else is also after the diamond, resulting in a weekend none of them will soon forget.

Directed by Blake Edwards, The Pink Panther is a sophisticated caper comedy, with David Niven at his dashing best as the worldly Sir Charles. The scenes in which he's trying to woo the Princess have an almost regal feel to them, and his ability to remain calm in any situation is the mark of a true gentleman. Yet as debonair as Niven is in the role of Sir Charles, The Pink Panther belongs to a bumbling idiot, namely Inspector Jacques Clouseau. Despite playing what was essentially a supporting character, Peter Sellers was given ample opportunity throughout The Pink Panther to show the world how gifted a comedian he was; at one point, Clouseau burns his fingers on a fireplace, then tries to cool them in a beer stein that his associate Tucker (Colin Gordon) is drinking from (naturally, his hand gets stuck in it). Yet as funny as the slapstick and pratfalls are, Clouseau's best scenes take place in the hotel room he shares with his wife (one in particular, where Simone is trying to conceal the fact that both Sir Charles and George are hiding in the room, is absolutely hilarious).

Though initially intended as a vehicle for Niven, The Pink Panther will instead be remembered as the film that introduced Jacques Clouseau to the movie-going public, thus earning it a sacred place in the Pantheon of comedy history.







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Monday, November 24, 2014

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Dave's 2,500 Movies Challenge


#1,560. The Fortune Cookie (1966)

Posted: 24 Nov 2014 11:51 AM PST


Directed By: Billy Wilder

Starring: Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, Ron Rich



Tag line: "Some people will do anything for $249,000.92"

Trivia: Several scenes were filmed at the Minnesota Vikings vs. Cleveland Browns game, held at Cleveland Municipal Stadium on the afternoon of Halloween 1965







Director Billy Wilder, who was responsible for some of the best motion pictures ever made, worked in a number of different genres throughout his career. After practically inventing film-noir with Double Indemnity, Wilder would go on to direct hard-hitting dramas (The Lost Weekend), lighthearted romances (Sabrina), a brilliant courtroom thriller (Witness for the Prosecution), a biopic (The Spirit of St. Louis), and a funny wartime flick that was also an intriguing mystery (Stalag 17). In addition, he helmed a number of great comedies, including The Seven-Year Itch, Some Like it Hot, and One Two Three. Of them all, though, the funniest is 1966's The Fortune Cookie, a movie that features the first onscreen pairing of Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, who, after this film, would appear together nine more times (The Odd Couple being my personal favorite).

Harry Hinkle (Lemmon), an on-field cameraman for CBS Sports, ends up in the hospital when star football player Luther 'Boom Boom' Jackson (Ron Rich) accidentally bowls him over during a game. This near-calamity sparks the imagination of Harry's brother-in-law, Willie Gingrich (Matthau), a lawyer who specializes in frivolous lawsuits. Sensing a huge cash settlement, Willie tries to convince Harry (who's not really hurt) to fake a lower back injury. At first reluctant to go along with this scheme, Harry changes his tune when Willie convinces him that a huge payday might help him win back his ex-wife Sandy (Judi West), who Harry never stopped loving. But to pull this scam off, the two are going to have to outwit Purkey (Cliff Osmond), an investigator with the insurance company who's convinced Harry is faking his injuries.

Along with its clever script (co-written by Wilder and I.A.L Diamond), The Fortune Cookie owes its success to the fine performances of its two stars. Lemmon's Harry is something of a sad sack (a lonely guy who longs to reunite with his conniving ex), yet he's also basically a good guy, and has second thoughts about faking his injury when he sees how guilty Boom Boom Jackson feels for having caused him so much pain. Lemmon has his share of funny moments (the scene where the insurance company is subjecting him to a round of tests is particularly funny), but its Matthau's fast-talking Willie who steals the show. The first time we meet him, Willie is in his office talking with Mr. Cimoli (Howard McNear), a prospective client. It seems poor Mr. Cimoli was injured when he slipped on a banana peel while walking out of a small neighborhood delicatessen. "Too bad it didn't happen further down the street in front of the May Company. From them you can collect", Willie tells a surprised Mr. Cimoli, adding "Couldn't you have dragged yourself another twenty feet?" Willie is a cad throughout the entirety of The Fortune Cookie, and Matthau's performance is so good that it won him an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.

While his career after The Fortune Cookie was hit-and-miss (1974's The Front Page and 1981's Buddy Buddy, both of which also featured Matthau and Lemmon, were absolute duds), Wilder's overall body of work is damned impressive, and its movies like The Fortune Cookie that have cemented his place in Hollywood history.







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Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1910)

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#1,556. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1910)

Posted: 19 Nov 2014 08:31 PM PST


Directed By: Otis Turner

Starring: Bebe Daniels, Hobart Bosworth,, Robert Z. Leonard


Trivia: This movie was partly based on the 1902 stage musical





While browsing through the More Treasures from the American Archives collection, a 3-DVD set featuring movies made between 1894 and 1931 that have been preserved by various organizations (including the Museum of Modern Art and the George Eastman collection), I came across a title too intriguing to pass up: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, a 1910 short that marked the first time L. Frank Baum's classic tale was ever produced for the screen.

Based on a 1902 stage play as opposed to the Baum novel, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz introduces us to Dorothy (portrayed by 10-year-old Bebe Daniels), a Kansas farm girl who, after discovering that her family's scarecrow (Robert Z. Leonard) is alive, is swept up by a tornado and transported to the enchanted land of Oz. Joined by the Scarecrow, as well as such animals as her dog Toto, Hank the mule and a cow named Imogene, Dorothy makes her way through this magical kingdom, meeting such fascinating characters as the Tin Woodsman, a cowardly lion, and Glinda the Good Witch (Olive Cox). Alas, she also encounters Momba (Winifred Greenwod), an evil witch who's tricked the Wizard of Oz (Hobart Bosworth) into handing his entire kingdom over to her. With nowhere to turn for help, the Wizard issues a decree stating that he'll give his crown to whoever defeats Momba, a challenge Dorothy and her friends happily accept.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz does feature several elements present in both the novel and the 1939 movie The Wizard of Oz, including Dorothy's encounter with the rusted Tin Woodsman and her final showdown with the witch. Yet what makes this film so interesting is how it differs from its more famous counterparts. Aside from bringing the scarecrow to life before the action shifts to Oz, this version also abandons such key plot points as Dorothy's desire to return home (she seems content to stay in Oz forever) and the witch trying to get Dorothy to surrender the ruby slippers. In fact, this witch only wants one thing: to take control of Oz, and it's up to Dorothy and her pals to stop her.

With elaborate set pieces and costumes that, though they appear silly now (especially those worn by Dorothy's animal companions), were probably quite impressive back in the day, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is a charming fantasy film that offers fans of the 1939 Hollywood classic a different take on the story they've come to love.






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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

San Quentin (1937)

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#1,546. San Quentin (1937)

Posted: 09 Nov 2014 08:57 PM PST


Directed By: LLoyd Bacon

Starring: Pat O'Brien, Ann Sheridan, Humphrey Bogart



Tag line: "It's dynamite...! A prison full of rioting men!"

Trivia: Humphrey Bogart plays Ann Sheridan's kid brother in this film, even though in real life he was actually older than her by eleven years







In 1985, my brother and I spent two weeks in California visiting out Aunt, who lived in Marin County. One day, she treated us to a tour of Alcatraz, and during the ferry ride out to the island, we passed yet another famous prison: San Quentin. We were quite a ways away, of course, but I clearly remember seeing inmates in what must have been the courtyard, some of whom were waving at us. I thought about this as I watched the opening scene of 1937's San Quentin, which were shot on-location at the prison. Alas, this brief walk down memory lane would prove to be one of the few highlights for me; San Quentin does have its moments, but not nearly enough of them to make it a worthwhile experience.

When Lt. Druggin (Barton MacLane), the acting Captain of the Yard at San Quentin, goes a bit too far handing out punishments, the warden (Joe King) decides it's time for a change. To this end, he hires Capt. Stephen Jameson (Pat O'Brien) a military man who favors rehabilitation over reprimand. His first day in town, Capt. Jameson visits a night club and immediately falls in love with the singer May Kennedy (Ann Sheridan). But as he soon discovers, May has a brother named Red (Humphrey Bogart) who likes to get into trouble. When Red is caught stealing, he's sentenced to several years in San Quentin, and shortly after his arrival he befriends "Sailor Boy" Hansen (Joe Sawyer), a thief who's planning a daring escape. Red announces that he wants in, but will his conscience, as well as his new-found respect for Capt. Jameson, allow him to go through with it?

Humphrey Bogart does a fine job as Red Kennedy, a role that pre-dated his star-making turns in The Maltese Falcon and Casablanca by a few years. Playing the part with plenty of gusto, the actor showed the world he had what it took to be a star in Hollywood. Unfortunately, the remainder of the cast isn't nearly as good. The normally reliable O'Brien practically sleepwalks through his role as Jameson, the stern but fair Captain of the Yard, giving the film a ho-hum leading man. Ann Sheridan fares a bit better as the Captain's love interest, though her best scenes are with Bogart, and not O'Brien (during one of her conjugal visits, she's caught passing money to Red, a clear violation of the rules). Story-wise, San Quentin is far too preachy for its own good (the "give a prisoner a second chance" mentality wears thin pretty quickly), and aside from a brief protest staged by the prisoners (most of whom object to the Captain's new work schedule), there's a car chase towards the end of the movie that finally kicks things into high gear. Other than this, San Quentin has very little to offer.

Those looking to delve into some of Humphrey Bogart's earlier film roles may get a kick out of San Quentin. For everybody else, it just isn't worth your time.







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Saturday, November 8, 2014

if charlie parker was a gunslinger,
there'd be a whole lot of dead copycats
If Charlie Parker Was a Gunslinger,There'd Be a Whole Lot of Dead Copycats (noreply+feedproxy@google.com) 11/06/14 Keep this message at the top of your




If Charlie Parker Was a Gunslinger,There'd Be a Whole Lot of Dead Copycats

<center>if charlie parker was a gunslinger,<br>there'd be a whole lot of dead copycats</center>


Illusion Travels By Streetcar #36: The Films noir of Otto Preminger (1944-1952)

Posted: 05 Nov 2014 09:00 PM PST


The cast for episode #36

Stuart Collier
Brian Risselada
Max Slobodin
Tom Sutpen

This episode was recorded on October 30, 2014

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Francois Truffault's "Wild Child" (1970)

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#1,540. The Wild Child (1970)

Posted: 03 Nov 2014 08:05 PM PST


Directed By: François Truffaut

Starring: François Truffaut, Jean-Pierre Cargol, Françoise Seigner



Tag line: "At last an adult film to which you can take your children"

Trivia: This film is based o an actual incident that occurred in France at the beginning of the 19th century






Francois Truffaut's 1970 film The Wild Child is based on the true tale of Victor of Aveyron, a young man who spent the majority of his adolescence living in the wild. A so-called "feral child", he was placed in the custody of Dr. Jean-Marc Gaspard Itard, a physician who dedicated 5 years of his life to trying to teach Victor how to communicate with others. Shot in black and white, The Wild Child takes a very basic approach to Victor's story, yet manages to convey the frustration that both he and Itard felt over the course of the boy's training.

After being captured by hunters, a boy (Jean-Pierre Cargol) who, for most of his life, lived on his own in the wild, is brought to the Paris Institute for the Dead and Dumb, where Dr. Itard (played by director Truffaut) takes a special interest in his case. Relocating the boy, who he would nickname "Victor", to his home in the country, Dr. Itard, with the help of his housekeeper Madame Guérin (Françoise Seigner), sets to work teaching the young man the finer points of the French language, a task that's every bit as aggravating as it is rewarding.

Aside from the first half-hour or so of the film, which deals with the boy's capture and eventual transfer to the institute, The Wild Child focuses primarily on the training sessions set up by Dr. Itard, which, despite the occasional success (Victor does learn to identify the letters of the alphabet), prove to be a challenging experience (whenever he becomes frustrated, Victor lashes out, tossing objects across the room or writhing around on the ground as if he was having an epileptic seizure). The performances are quite good (especially Jean-Pierre Cargol as Victor), but it's the straightforward manner in which Truffaut relates this story (like using the "iris in", a time-honored cinematic technique dating back to the silent era, to focus our attention on a specific area of the frame) that makes The Wild Child such an engaging motion picture.

With The Wild Child, Francois Truffaut once again explores a theme close to his heart: that of a youngster who doesn't fit in with "normal" society. His first movie, The 400 Blows, a semi-autobiographical work in many respects, was about a confused adolescent dealing with the injustices heaped upon him by parents and teachers alike. Naturally, the situation in The Wild Child is much more severe; this time around, the young man at the center of it all has no experience whatsoever with the outside world, entering society with all the innocence of a newborn. Yet the premise remains just as strong; like Antoine Doinel in The 400 Blows, Victor is striving to find his way in the world, and it's fitting that both movies conclude with a close-up of their central character's face, each looking as puzzled as ever. Their stories may have come to an end, but for Antoine and Victor, the search for inner peace carries on well after the credits roll.







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