Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Tuesday's Overlooked Films and/or Other A/V: the links

Thanks as always to those who have contributed reviews and such, and to you readers. Please let me know if I've missed your contribution, this week...

Bill Crider: Bronco Billy (trailer)

Brian Arnold: Noel (NBC 1982); "Miracle on 34th Street" (The 20th Century Fox Hour, 1955); The Great Santa Claus Switch

Chuck Esola: A*P*E

Evan Lewis: 3 Lost Films: Babe Comes Back; Tarzan the Mighty; Charlie Chan's Chance

George Kelley: The Girl in the Cafe; Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame

Iba Dawson: It Happened on Fifth Avenue; O. Henry's Full House; About a Boy

Ivan Shreve: Dragnet (the radio and television series)

James Reasoner: Trail of Robin Hood

Jerry House: The Six Shooter; Captain America (1944)

John Charles: Mean Johnny Barrows; Death Journey

Kate Laity: Spacedog

Michael Shonk: The Delphi Bureau: The Merchant of Death Assignment (pilot for the series)

Mike Tooney: "The Accused" (Daniel Boone)

Patti Abbott: I Want to Live

Pearce Duncan: Tucker & Dale vs. Evil; Trapped Ashes; The Woman

Randy Johnson: A Page of Madness

Rod Lott: Point Blank (1998); Grave Encounters; Tucker & Dale vs. Evil

Ron Scheer: Just Tony

Scott Cupp: Attack of the Mushroom People (aka Matango)

Sergio Angelini: Nightmare (1964)

Steve Lewis: Torn Curtain; East Lynne

Todd Mason: Coming Apart:
A 1969 cult item, which might well've influenced such later films as The Conversation...this Milton Moses Ginsberg film has been his only full-length feature (as writer and director) aside from the somewhat similarly unusual The Werewolf of Washington, released four years later, though he has been relatively busy as a film editor over the last two decades. Coming Apart features Rip Torn as Joe, a philandering, somewhat unstable NYC psychologist who sets up a hidden film camera with sound-recording equipment in a small but well-appointed apartment he's using for trysts and infrequent legit therapy sessions. The "kinetic sculpture" he hides the camera in helps mask its noises, as he records various encounters with women, young and less so (but most younger than Torn, already in his late 30s when filming this), most often an ex-patient of his, Joann (Sally Kirkland), though by no means Joann alone. In fact, Joann, who has been active as a sex-partner-swapping "swinger," brings a party of fellow libertines to Joe's apartment, slightly improbably including a tranvestite homosexual man who was not "provided for" in their party of six; after initially flirting and playing with "Sarabell" (dressed initially as a clown similarly to The Howdy Doody Show's Clarabell), Joe simply stares at him, after he removes his falsies and reveals his XY status, while Sarabell moans a bit as the other two couples, more conventionally hetero, make out around the room. The various women who come to visit Joe seem improbably attracted to him, though the film suggests that he might only be filming those with whom he's likely to have a tryst (aside from a pair of McCarthy for President campaigners who surprise him at one point), and he does prefer to keep company with women he can manipulate relatively easily, the primary exceptions being his wife, and his former mistress (Viveca Lindfors; the scenes with Torn and Lindfors are the most blatantly actorly and stagy, whether because of the nature of their relation or due to everyone losing some of their grip on the project isn't quite clear). All the action takes place in the apartment, from the vantage point of the camera in its box/sculpture, facing a large, mirrored wall, and the camera theoretically stutters and jumps frequently (we are quickly given to understand that this might well reflect Joe's state of mind rather than his playing with switches or the unreliability of his [various sorts of] equipment), noisily cutting in and out in the course of a single action on the part of its subjects, the film frequently running out in the "middle" of a scene. Very much a film of apparatus, with the final scenes apparently reflective of the self-medicating Joann's perspective instead (with time-dilation), and a soundtrack that, when the characters play music, intentionally makes the dialog hard to hear (and in the Kino Home Video version I saw, the music was rather obviously replaced from original contemporary songs by newly-written and recorded music to avoid rights issues, but which required tricky rerecording of the dialog around the music which distorts the voices even more). An interesting, flawed film, and one which has never had particularly reliable distribution...unless one picks up a copy of the out-of-print Kino dvd, one has to watch it, as far as I know, as I did, in pieces on DailyMotion (and one must register, for free, with DM, to cut off the "family filter" which blocks access to half the segments; Amazon streaming no longer has rights to show it), which probably doesn't detract too much from its cumulative effect given the intentional technological limitations of the project. Barry Malzberg offhandedly cited it as an important film, and one which I just might've heard of, some years back, due to a John Simon or other review, and which is definitely largely Overlooked these days.

Yvette Banek: The Man Who Came to Dinner (1942)

Related Matters:

Bill Crider: The Vampire Film

Ed Gorman: Jerry Lewis; James Franco

Stacia Jones: The Hammer Vault

Todd Mason: television notes:
I've been catching some of the more important, or most interesting, or at least most hyped of the productions on some of the more overlooked channels. Borgen (The Government), the Danish political drama, remains consistently good and intelligent and believable, and a real feather in the cap of Link TV; I haven't yet returned to Starz's Boss, but the companion Encore channels have begun offering a British mob crime-drama import of some interest and no little brutality (probably too much, as the series goes on), The Take.

In a co-production with BSkyB, Cinemax has been offering another import, Strike Back, more into kinetic hugger-mugger than its closest correspondent, Showtime's Homeland, but similarly obsessed with terrorism and espionage in this New World Order we find ourselves in...in this case, a British counterterrorism detail, somewhat segregated from MI-5 or MI-6, tries and rather often fails to aid victims around the world (and mostly in Commonwealth states) of arms dealing and its collateral damage, while pursuing a Pakistani zealot and his organization. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the series is the toll, in casualties and psychic discomfort, taken on the members of the task force; plenty of aw, shucks machismo, but also a pretty fair indictment of the use of political violence by anyone, including all governments. (Iba Dawson pointed out to me in comments that the season I saw was actually the second, with the first not yet imported to the States at all...the third season is apparently in production.)

Another small group is the focus of the public-broadcasting project V-me (a name which puns on the Spanish-language command "Watch me" or "Veme") import from Spain's Antena 3, El barco (The Ship...or The Barque), a goofy (because) Lost-inspired science fantasy series involving the adventures of the crew on an oceanographic vessel meant for educating high school and college-aged young adults, with adult supervision and ship's officers, in a world suddenly submerged by the oceans after a vaguely-referred-to incident at the Swiss particle accelerator. Not atypically for a telenovela, the cast averages even more improbably pretty, particularly the female cast, than even a comparable US production, but there is a certain charm about the two episodes I've seen, and doped out in my halting Spanish (if you think closed captioning is weak for entirely too many Anglophone productions...goodness).

Thanks to LionsGate's pay channel Epix, the other weekend I got to see a kinescope of the 1954 Climax live production of "Casino Royale," famously the first dramatization of the James Bond novels, with a Yank Jimmy Bond (Barry Nelson) conspiring with a British variation on Felix Leiter to best Le Chiffre (Peter Lorre), with the uncertain loyalties of Linda Christian's Valerie Mathis a question at first. This version has almost inevitable early-tv awkwardness (watch Bond's taking shelter behind a pillar to avoid the least adept attempt at a drive-by ever); however, it makes Le Chiffre's predicament rather more stark than the recent film bothered to. Happily, this item is also available for online viewing:

In part since this hasn't been the best season for the larger broadcast or cable tv sources (with such series as House and Dexter having their still-watchable worst seasons so far), I'm happy to also see little bits of history popping up on the nostalgia-oriented broadcast networks This TV and Antenna TV (competitors Retro TV and Me TV aren't easily viewed in the Philadelphia area, even if the quasi-competitive FamilyNet is accessible), such as This's run of The Hospital, the 1971 black comedy starring George C. Scott and Diana Rigg, somewhat censored but not too terribly (I'm sure it was chopped far worse when I first saw it on a large network in the '70s), or the Antenna run of two 1964 episodes of Kraft Suspense Theater aka Crisis aka Suspense Theater (the series title depends on whether you were watching the first run, the summer repackage, or the syndicated repeats), from some of the same folk who would produce I Spy for NBC the next year. The better of the two, "That He Should Weep for Her," featured Milton Berle of all people (the series apparently enjoyed stunt casting) as the accidental killer of the younger of two stick-up men at his jewelry store; the sister of the slain young man (Carol Lawrence) cozies up to Berle's character, with thoughts of at least humiliating him, which she does...not realizing that the man (Alejandro Rey) who got her brother involved in the holdup, and who seems to think he has a right to her love, was ready to kill the jeweler in jealous rage, stoked in part by her continuing rejection of him and in part by his band-mate buddy, a cross between Iago and Eddie Haskell, who also wants to get next to the sister. It's all rather like a somewhat more realistic, somewhat less ramped-up (if a bit rushed), noir tale, scripted by tv veterans George Kirgo and Halsted Welles (notably the adapter of 3:10 to Yuma, among his film work). Anthony Boucher was script consultant to the series, Franz Waxman did the scores, with the main title theme attributed to "Johnny" Williams. It is interesting to see this NBC series, otherwise comparable to such contemporary (or nearly so) anthologies as Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Thriller, The Twilight Zone, or The Outer Limits, in color, if indeed the same sort of faded colors that I Spy tends to sport these days.

And, of course, I await the return, particularly, of Children's Hospital and NTSF: SD: SUV to the Adult Swim block, and have been meaning to catch a few of their new series, including Chris Elliott's new show. And CBS's The Good Wife still remains my favorite dramatic series, even given the strong challenges from the likes of AMC's Breaking Bad and even Showtime'sShameless, the US version with an increasingly engaging cast (as the younger kids grow into their roles) and not quite too much cuteness about its rancidness.


Randy Johnson said...

Somewhere I have that Barry Nelson Casino Royale taped on VHS from a TNT broadcast. Those are long since packed away.

iluvcinema said...

mine is up and ready. thanks todd!

Yvette said...

Mine is up as well, Todd. What a mad rush of a week!!

K. A. Laity said...

After being without internet for several hours today (the horror, the horror) I have got my A/V (more A than V) offering up.

michael said...

I watched the recent reshowing of "Climax" episode "Casino Royale." it was the fourth time I have seen it. I had three reactions.

One, what alternative history would be like if CBS had turned Bond into a TV series? What effect would it have had on the film series? "Thunderball" would have been a TV show, and "Never Say Never" would never had existed.

Two, Bond behind the pillar turned the action scene into a gag worthy of a Warner Brothers cartoon.

Three, that I have been unfair to this James Bond when I have called him Jimmy Bond. The girl is the only one to call him Jimmy, everyone else calls him James or Bond. Even the credits call him James Bond. I am sorry, Bond.

Yvette said...

Todd, you talking about vintage television shows made me think of the old PLAYHOUSE 90 series and how wonderful most of those shows were. I still vaguely remember some of them and am still amazed that they were done live.

I don't have cable anymore so I don't get to watch anything new, television-wise. But if they show up later on Netflix, I'll give them a look. Admittedly, I'm not the best audience for what cable is up to these days.

Can't wait for Netflix to get THE GOOD WIFE though. I've heard really terrific things about it.

iluvcinema said...

I tried to watch Strike Back having seen the first series that was shown in the UK (with Andrew Lincoln and Richard Armitage). Boy what a difference Cinemax makes!

I gave up on House a couple of years ago and the promo for this season "House Goes to Jail" sealed the deal for me ...

Unfortunately I have no experience with the vintage shows you mentioned.

Todd Mason said...

Well, Randy, if you never want to dig out the VHS again, you can at least for some time see this CR online...apparently, it was an "extra" on the DVD of the rather terrible surreal comedy version of CR, too (just saw a scrap of that this morning...comparably bad to, say, SKIDOO or IT'S A MAD X4 WORLD, despite "The Look of Love" and decent performances by Peter Sellers and a few others...one of the few films of Tracy Reed (I can see this one chasing her out of film work).

Thanks again, Iba, Yvette and Kate...audio and on-stage is never a problem by me...this is the performing arts (even lecture or convention) roundelay.

Well, Michael, perhaps NEVER SAY NEVER would be the European theatrical cut of the THUNDERBALL episodes of JIMMY BOND (hey, if Linda Christian can call him that...and that's the character name of Woody Allen in the miserable comedy...).

Yvette, you do still have plenty of options for viewing television, over the air (you just need to get a new antenna and a digital converter, if you only have an old analog tv set), and, of course, all kinds of stuff on the web, including many of the broadcast programs...Netflix certainly had THE GOOD WIFE discs recently, when my housemate Alice wanted to catch up with the series. I suspect I'll be buying those eventually.

Iba, yeah, I didn't realize that what we've seen in the States was essentially only the second season...though the description of the first season doesn't sound too very much different (only with no Brit actor enacting the role of an unjustly disgraced US Special Forces operative).

House in prison wasn't the least-inspired bit of this season, but there have been a few aspects of the season I've enjoyed. I have ever fewer hopes of it achieving the level of the first couple of seasons...the Sela Ward episodes, of course, were the apex.

Ah, the web, Iba, and many other sources, can expose you to any amount of early US television...and from elsewhere as well. www.Archive.org alone!