Monday, January 17, 2011

Happy King Day!...some items coming in...and a revival of a weekly Forgotten Films multiple-blogfest...


Happy King Day, folks...my favorite of the national holidays here in the US, because it's the only one devoted to someone who strove to make sweeping change through suasion rather than through armed power. And, while not alone in doing so, succeeded...and, tragically, and not alone in this either, paid too great a price for that.


Among the items I've picked up over the weekend is the new F&SF, including new work by Kate Wilhelm, and, particularly amusingly in concept, a sequel, apparently, to Richard Lupoff's recurring-day story "12:01 AM"..."12:02 PM."

Which is an odd bit of synchronicity, inasmuch as I've been mooting encouraging a return of the Neglected or Overlooked Movies (and other A/V) roundelay, which Steve Allan (apparently now pursuing an MBA and not blogging much) sparked and Patti Abbott picked up on, briefly...but it didn't really catch on as did the "Friday's Forgotten Books" roundelay Patti hosts, or the "Monthly Forgoten Music" Scott Parker hosts, at their blogs. I'm restarting the recommendation posts as "Tuesday's Overlooked Movies and/or A/V" here tomorrow, to go forward weekly, and will post links to any other blogs where the bloggers wish to participate (or will post here any contributions by the blogless who wish to join in and send their items along). And why it's synchronicity? One of the films I mentioned in one of my posts back when was 12:01, the Showtime-commissioned film, also an early Fox Broadcasting offer, the fine adaptation of Richard Lupoff's story first published in the Robert Silverberg & Roger Elwood 1975 anthology Epoch.

And I've taken advantage of the Lulu sale ending today to buy Lupoff's collection of fantastic-fiction parodies, published as if by "Ova Hamlet" (illustrated by Trina Robbins).

So, tune in tomorrow, to see at least a few items cited that might've slipped by you...

And here's that post again:

10 "forgotten" films (from August 2009)

Three Cases of Murder (1955): There are a lot of horror films, and only a few of them don't have a number of exponents...they'd have to be pretty damned obscure not to have some sort of coterie, and actual quality doesn't have much to do with that. But this one is rather little-known among even those reasonably well-versed in horror film, an apparent crime-drama anthology of three stories, only the second of which, "You Killed Elizabeth" based on a "Brett Halliday" story, is traditional crime drama...it's also the weakest. "You're in the Picture," the lead segment, is what lifts this well into the realm of the memorable...a genuinely creepy and allusive horror drama, involving haunted paintings (of all things). "Lord Montdrago," based on a Somerset Maugham story and featuring a fine jocund performance by Orson Welles, wraps up things well with what falls over on the horror side of a borderline case...in this case, a Conservative MP is haunted by the ghost of a Labourite he mocked and hassled in life. While such other modest or clangorous classics as The Haunting or Carnival of Souls, Spider Baby or The Masque of the Red Death, Dead of Night or Black Sabbath are pretty consistently in print in various media (we could use the dvds, at least, of Ingmar Bergman's The Devil's Eye, or ofThe Night of the Eagle aka Burn, Witch, Burn!)[international all-region dvds of those two have since been issued]...I'm definitely waiting to snap up a more durable form of this one than my VHS cassette. Runner up among the more obsure anthology films: Torture Garden, another poorly-titled British film (with nothing to do with Mirbeau's novel), this one the first and only good Amicus film of Robert Bloch's fine scripts for that inconsistent studio.

Castaway (1986): Lucy Irvine wrote a memoir of her year on an otherwise deserted island, some distance from the Australian mainland, with a fellow Briton, a lunkish middle-aged man who advertised for a younger female companion to take on this challenge with him. In the film, these roles were taken by Amanda Donohoe and Oliver Reed, fairly brilliant casting that meshes well with director Nicholas Roeg's eye for gorgeous composition...all of which, given the utter beauty of the surroundings and Donohoe within them, almost completely trumps Roeg's inability to tell a story (see also, Walkabout and Don't Look Now, for further examples). For whatever reason, this film has been all but eclipsed in the public mind by those other Roegs and by the other film with the same title starring a volleyball and Tom Hanks.

12:01 (1993): A television film made from Richard Lupoff's novelet "12:01 AM"...and as deft an adaptation of a recurring-day sf story as I've seen. Runner-up in this instance: Of Time and Timbuktu, a melange of Kurt Vonnegut's works in tv-movie form, unavailable for decades in part for being made for PBS by the folks who would later do the fine Ursula Le Guin adaptation The Lathe of Heaven and the absolutely miserable adaptation of John Varley's "Overdrawn at the Memory Bank" with a lost and bewildered Raul Julia.

It's in the Bag (1945): What happens when a movie is made of the Fred Allen Show version of The Twelve Chairs? Something as shambolic as a W. C. Fields movie, and about as much fun...with strong support not only from Allen's radio cast, in part, but also from Robert Benchley and Jack Benny (who, in a sense, was a part of Allen's radio cast and vice verse). Even the overdone bits, such as the adventures in a mega-theater showing Zombies of the Stratosphere, are worth seeing at least once. (Runners-up: basically any episode of the PBS sitcom anthology series Trying Times.)

City News (1983): Another PBS offering, one of the items commissioned for American Playhouse, but one which didn't get much circulation in theaters...as a romance between an "alternate" weekly paper cartoonist and the slightly mysterious woman he meets, it was refreshingly low-key and witty, and I wish I could see it again (as the only person who has described it even on IMDb, I compare it favorably to Slamdance). Most people seem to remember it, when they do, for the makeout scene to the Normal's "Warm Leatherette." Runner-up: Edward Herrmann's one-man videotaped play for AP, "The End of a Sentence."

City Lovers (1982): A short film based on Nadine Gordimer's story, and presented on public stations in the 1980s as part of the Nadine Gordimer Stories package, this was the most affecting of the group among those I saw, offering a charming yet telling liason between a young "colored" ("mixed-race") South African woman and an older "white" German visitor to SA, back in the last years of apartheid, and how his foolhardiness and the insanity of the national institutional racism messes them over.

New York Eye and Ear Control (1964): Another item I first saw, as a very young child, on PBS (as a very young network)...an impressionistic tour of NYC, conducted in part by silhouette puppets, to a soundtrack made up entirely of an extended free jazz improvisation by a band assembled around saxophonist Albert Ayler. I've had the ESP-Disk reissue of the soundtrack for more than a decade, but haven't sought out the dvd, if one has been offered, for this curio. Perhaps the best example on my list here of a film that might be more Interesting than Fun for many viewers and auditors...

Born in Flames (1983) ...unless this one is. Lizzie Borden, no less, put together this no-budget bit of agit-prop before she went on to more conventional work such as Working Girls (somewhat famous as a film in large part about the banality of prostitution). BIF is a not-quite-dystopia about the kind of non-utopia that "socialists" of the Bernie Sanders stripe might bring about had they somehow managed to take full control of the US government, and just how disenfranchised leftists, feminists, anarchists and similar folk find themselves still. Not terribly convincing as dramatic art, featuring a fairly amateur cast and a bit too much time showing us underground radio broadcasters before their microphones, it's still an exuberant and rather amusing demonstration (in at least two senses) and not the typical sf film, even at the boho margins. (Such as might be exemplified by Liquid Sky.)

The Magic Box (1952): Like most people who remember this story of the pioneering British tinkerer and developer of the moving picture process, the sequence that sticks most in memory is Robert Donat's exhausted, Eureka-moment William Friese-Greene pulling in off the street a stoic, somewhat skeptical cop, played by Laurence Olivier, to demonstrate the breakthrough he's just made...my runner up, which I like even better but which I suspect is of interest to a narrower audience, is the brilliant horor film Hotel, in which Mike Figgis shows us a film troupe making the mistake of trying to do a version of The Duchess of Malfi in a haunted Italian hotel...

Conversations with Other Women (2005): A fine, fun, funny, and reasonably mature indie involving exes who meet again, years after their breakup, at the wedding of a mutual friend. An example of the kind of film that the voracious maw of our cable-film channels can raise from utter obscurity, even if they don't make them hits...I have to wonder if the elegant use of split-screen here didn't scare cinematic distributors. I'll nominate A Few Days in September, a fine humanistic spy drama, as my runner-up here.

And, really, this just sticks with some of the (essentially) Anglophone films that come to mind.
For the last time the Forgotten Films challenge came up, see this older post...

4 comments:

George said...

I'm certainly interested in FORGOTTEN MOVIES, Todd. Sign me up for next month.

Todd Mason said...

I'm looking forward to it. I'm surprised to have received so many positives as I have for the first round tomorrow, given that I meant to go it nearly alone for the first week (particularly giving short notice as I did), and invite others along as they would...but, even better with others ready to jump in. Now if only the threatened ice storm here behaves...

K. A. Laity said...

So is it TOF or TOM? You must tell me before I post...

Todd Mason said...

Tuesday's Overlooked Films (and/or Other A/V Items), if you want the Whole Smear.