Movie Diary 4/6/2020

Perfect Friday (Peter Hall, 1970). Bank-robbery picture with mild manager Stanley Baker (getting lots of mileage out of neatly-trimmed mustache) hatching a heist-from-within plot, for which he rather improbably ropes in a glamorous couple living beyond their means: Ursula Andress and David Warner. Those two act up with glee, which goes a long way to making this otherwise arty exercise enjoyable. No idea why the theatrical giant Hall was interested in movies like this, but the quick-cut devices and time-shifting are strictly trendy indulgences of the era. John Dankworth did the music.


Movie Diary 4/5/2020

Seconds (John Frankenheimer, 1966). One thing I forgot about this film was how its post-surgery section consists of just a handful of big, long scenes, a peculiar structure that emphasizes the strangeness of the storytelling. Around Rock Hudson, Frankenheimer creates an eccentric atmosphere for the other players, with distinctive work by recognizable actors (Jeff Corey, Will Geer) and not-so-recognizable folks; this is a big part of the humor that spikes unexpectedly throughout this otherwise disturbing film.


The Friday (4/3/2020)


Sidney Flanigan: Never Rarely Sometimes Always (Focus Features)

A review for the Scarecrow blog:

Never Rarely Sometimes Always. “A steady and sympathetic—but not sentimental—film about the near-impossibility of getting an abortion for a teenager living in the wrong situation.”

Dip into more of my 1980s reviews at What a Feeling! This week I posted: Guy Hamilton’s Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins, an attempt at a franchise that never was; Duncan Gibbins’ Fire with Fire, a heated melodrama by an ill-fated director; Andy Anderson’s Positive I. D., a rare Texas indie from the Blood Simple mode; Robert Greenwalt and Aaron Russo’s Rude Awakening, a hippie comedy; and a triple review of Sondra Locke’s Ratboy, J. Lee Thompson’s Firewalker, and Richard C. Sarafian’s Eye of the Tiger. Whew.


Movie Diary April 1, 2020

Never Rarely Sometimes Always (Eliza Hittman, 2020). Two teenage girls venture from small-town Pennsylvania to NYC for an abortion; the observations along the way look and feel raw, but are shaped in a very specific way. Sidney Flanigan and Talia Ryder play the main characters, in slightly different but credible styles.

Savage (Steven Spielberg, 1973). A TV pilot, meant to be a series but not picked up, from Columbo guys Levinson & Link. Martin Landau plays a TV journalist (Barbara Bain his producer) on a story about a politician (Barry Sullivan) with a mistress’s skeleton in his closet. Easy to see why this didn’t go to series: Landau is pretty drab, and this particular story is not compelling. Cast included Will Geer, Michele Carey, Dabney Coleman, and an effective Louise Latham as Sullivan’s steely wife. Spielberg, who had already done Duel, tries to jazz up the action with a lot of Frankenheimer-esque business in the TV studio, including one cool sequence rendered in silhouette. Still pretty dull overall, though worth a look for completists.


Movie Diary 3/31/2020

Robbery (Peter Yates, 1967). The British heist picture that got Yates Bullitt. No question why: The movie’s got a deep feeling for cars, and there’s a dandy chase in the first few minutes. It’s also got the part about how a woman (Joanna Pettet, in this case) fails to fit into the masculine ethos at play. The subject is, if not literally the Great Train Robbery, at least a great train robbery, with mastermind Stanley Baker pulling together a group of accomplices that includes Frank Finlay, William Marlowe, and Barry Foster (Hitchcock’s killer in Frenzy); what’s effective about this is the way the fellows aren’t especially colorful or quirky – they blend in. The film itself has lots of saturated colors and a good, workmanlike attitude about the business at hand. You can’t say Yates disguised what kind of director he was.


Movie Diary 3/30/2020

Endless Night (Sidney Gilliat, 1972). An Agatha Christie story that feels very Patricia Highsmith. Hywel Bennett plays a blue-collar hired driver, left out of Swinging London but with a keen aesthetic sense, who meets the fabulously rich Hayley Mills and manages to build the mod house of his dreams in the Welsh countryside. It’s not great, and Mills is stuck doing an American accent, but there’s something authentically unpleasant about the story, and the guessing-game part of it is reasonably fun. Co-stars include Britt Ekland, an eccentric Per Oscarsson as the (I assume supposed to be gay) architect who designs the partly automated house, and a curiously animated George Sanders (his penultimate film). Bernard Herrmann did the music, rehashing some favorite modes and throwing in a Moog for good measure.

Movie Diary 3/29/2020

Outcast of the Islands (Carol Reed, 1951). This is Reed’s next film after The Third Man: an adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s novel (which I read too long ago to remember in a detailed way). The treatment here is full of densely-composed frames and scenes that sometimes have a manic pace; on both counts, it seems as though the influence of Orson Welles loomed large on Reed’s approach. Trevor Howard plays the greedy anti-hero, fetched up in a jungly outpost (shot in Sri Lanka, then Ceylon) and plotting against the ship captain (Ralph Richardson) who saved his life. Robert Morley and Wendy Hiller run the colonial mercantile business at the outpost, and Morley’s real-life daughter (you can’t mistake the resemblance) plays their kid. The physical production of the port is an amazing jumble of pier and docks and little canoes scudding around; Reed really had a talent for creating these kinds of crowded cultures. Howard is terrific in a very nervy, jumpy performance, a true scoundrel on the make. The native woman he pursues is played by Kerima, who later married this film’s assistant director, future 007 helmer Guy Hamilton.