Saturday, April 26, 2014

Week in Review

Films I've Viewed

  • Witness for the Prosecution (1957) - Tyrone Power (as Leonard Vole), Marlene Dietrich (as Christine Vole), Charles Laughton (as Sir Wilfrid Robarts), Elsa Lanchester (as Miss Plimsoll), John Williams (as Mr. Brogan-Moore), Henry Daniell (as Mr. Mayhew), Ian Wolfe (as Mr. Carter), Torin Thatcher (as Mr. Myers), Francis Compton (as the Judge), Una O'Connor (as Janet McKenzie), Norma Varden (as Emily French), Ruta Lee (as Diana).  This is one of my all-time favorite films.  The fabulous Tyrone Power plays Leonard Vole, an inventor accused of murdering a lonely old woman.  The woman changes her will and leaves Vole all her money, giving him a motive.  Marlene Dietrich plays his wife Christine, a cabaret singer who marries Vole to get out of war torn Germany.  Dietrich is fantastic as Christine.  This role was tailor made for her talents.  She gets to do everything I think of when I think of a Dietrich role: dramatic acting, fabulous singing, and a strong woman with vulnerability.  Tyrone Power plays Vole amazingly well: sympathetic at the beginning with a fantastic turn at the end (I won't spoil it for you).  To bad it was his last role, but an amazing performance to go out on.  Charles Laughton was charming as the tough, but teddy bear lawyer Sir Wilfred.  Great in the courtroom scenes, but even better playing off the relationship with Nurse Plimsoll, played by his wife Elsa Lanchester.  Clear chemistry, yet in a fun Bickerson relationship.  The cast was amazing.  Everyone had a wonderful performance and was perfectly cast.  Great choice of director.  Billy Wilder did a fantastic job.  And of course, the story is good.  Anything based off an Agatha Christie story is suspenseful, well written, with great characters and wonderful pacing.  A fantastic film.  A definite must for any classic film watcher.

  • House on Telegraph Hill (1951) - Valentina Cortese (Victoria Kowelska/Karin), Richard Basehart (Allen Spender), William Lundigan (Major Marc Bennett), Fay Baker (Margaret), Gordon Gebert (Christopher).  I have seen this film many times since it is plays quite frequently on Fox Movie Channel.  It still is a fun thriller every time.  Valentia plays Victoria, a woman in a concentration camp.  When her friend Karin dies, she steals her identity because she is wealthy and has family in America.  Karin/Victoria goes to America to resume Karin's life and become mother to her son.  She marries the boy's guardian and takes her place in San Francisco society.  Karin soon becomes suspicious of her husband and believes he is trying to kill Chris to gain his inheritance money.  Fun, suspenseful tale.  Valentina is good as the suffering heroine.  Not my favorite character, but good.  The other actors played their parts well.  I was most impressed by the understated performance by Fay Baker.  This film is a good Noir which is readily available on DVD and shown frequently on Fox Movie Channel.  Well worth the viewing.

  • Fear (1946) - Warren William (Police Captain Burke), Peter Cookson (Larry Crain), Anne Gwynne (Eileen Stevens).  Peter Cookson plays Larry Crain, a poor medical student.  Not able to pay his bills or get any money pawning things.  At a cafe, he hears about a professor who is wealthy and everyone hates.  Naturally, he murders him.  I am curious why Peter Cookson got top billing.  While he is the murderer, William clearly steals the film.  But he always does in my view.  His next to last film, William Warren acts circles around everyone in the film.  The ending was a total F.U., clearly proving why it is a "B" movie.  Without William's performance, I would never have watched it.  I don't want to spoil the ending, but it's one of the cliches that makes me angry and feels like I've wasted my time. 

  • Terror (1963) - Boris Karloff (Baron Victor Frederick Von Leppe), Jack Nicholson (Lt. Andre Duwailer), Sandra Knight (Helene).  Jack Nicholson plays a French Lt who I could never figure out if he deserted or wandered off.  He comes across a strange girl, Helene, and follows her to a castle owned by a baron who killed his wife.  I won't tell the odd ending, which was totally out there, but it seems to be usual Roger Corman horror film fair.  Karloff was great as always, the secondary characters were pretty good, but I was shocked by the performance of Nicholson.  Absolutely terrible.  It wasn't solely from the lack of French accent, but he was not in character in the least and his lines were delivered without any regard for the emotion allegedly involved.  It seemed like just an every day, nothing going on voice, like a first read through of a script at a conference table.  I don't mind actors being in on the cheesiness of films, but they should either act it straight or with humor and a wink and a nod about the cheesiness - not like their talking to a store clerk.  Wretched, but I love Boris Karloff.  The title credits were pretty decent, too.

Links of the Week

 Arthur Hiller, Arlene Dahl, Jane Powell, Celeste Holm, Ted Turner, Van Johnson and Robert Osborne in Times Square celebrating the TCM launch in 1994.

  • TCM turns 20!  I adore the channel and frankly, don't go a day without watching it.  Congrats to them on their birthday.  Variety has a fun article with some facts about TCM.

The boys from Mystery Science Theater 3000

  • I've always loved Mystery Science Theater 3000.  It was begun in my own backyard of Minnesota.  What isn't fun about making fun of cheesy movies?  I love the cheesy premise, the funny jokes - heck, I even love the films.  Thanks to Wired for this fabulous article about the Oral History of Mystery Science Theater 3000.  It's fascinating to know the behind the scenes of a beloved show.  I have to say I'm a Joel girl, but Mike has his charms.  Every episode has it's charms.  The Sci-Fi channel episodes are not my favorites.  While the production values are better, I don't find them nearly as funny.  I'm not sure if it's the cast or the writers, but the local and Comedy Central ones are the best.  My favorite episode?  I'm torn between Cave Dwellers and Pod People.  Both are fantastic Cheesefests.

  • Mental Floss is one of my go-to sites for fun and to exercise my brain.  Some of the great posts this week include this fascinating site about those yummy Easter treats, Peeps and How to Act Like a Proper Victorian Lady.  Peeps are delicious and there is not an Easter that I don't have at least one.  I also loved the Victorian Lady post because it is basically a how-to list of how to dress properly.  I wish we dressed that lovely today.  They've had so many other great posts this week, I could spend this entire post talking about them.  They include:
    • How to be Entertaining in 1904
    • The Life and Death of Spuds MacKenzie reminded me of the 1980s.  My sister and I both had stuffed Spuds dogs.  I had no idea Spuds was a she.  My sister and I never associated Spuds with beer - contrary to politicians.
    • 12 Discontinued Boy Scout Badges.  I think the one on bookbinding would have been cool.
    • My dark side is fascinated by the opening of the Morbid Anatomy Museum in Brooklyn.  Macabre things have always been intriguing to me.  Perhaps it's my pessimism, perhaps it's my anti-social nature, perhaps it's the fact I'm a medical oddity, perhaps it's the social ostracism I suffer.  Who knows?  Hair jewelry and taxidermy have never grossed me out.  Anyone who subscribes to my Weird Stuff Pinterest Board is familiar with that.  You can find out more about the museum here or you may contribute to their Kickstarter.
    • 20 Words We Owe to William Shakespeare.  We all know that Shakespeare is amazing.  He invented such iconic stories and iconic plots, but he also invented words we use every day.  Who knew?
    • And of course there are some very cool pictures from the American Museum of Natural History.  They are images I've definitely never seen before, and bring to light a world that is rarely seen.

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