Movie Diary 8/6/2019

Cul-de-Sac (Roman Polanski, 1966). Polanski in high absurdist mode, taking a group of characters who might have slipped out of genre cinema and trapping them in a very mid-century kind of No Exit. Lionel Stander may have been a pain to work with, but he’s ideal in the role, and Donald Pleasence is all herky-jerky stylization. As he could be. Francoise Dorleac is a little uncertain in her English, but carries an intriguing quality of willfulness throughout. When I first saw this film years ago it seemed funnier; now it looks bleaker. But that variation is on me; the movie itself has full command of its strange mix of tones.

Angel Has Fallen (Ric Roman Waugh, 2019). There may be an embargo on comments for this movie, which actually suits me fine. But hey, Nick Nolte is in it. (full review 8/23)


Movie Diary 8/5/2019

The Incredible Shrinking Man (Jack Arnold, 1957). A triumph of special effects and philosophy, in Richard Matheson’s story about how unexpected calamity can change a person. A film that, among other things, truly wastes no time, even when it slows down for the little man’s life in the gigantic basement.

Bay of Blood aka Twitch of the Death Nerve (Mario Bava, 1971). Groovy design, cheesy murders, and an array of zooms. Lots of people getting what they deserve in this kill-spree. The title (the Twitch one, that is) haunted my adolescent imagination from the time a neighbor kid asked me whether I’d seen the movie (how would I have seen the movie?), and in some ways the film itself does not quite live up to that shiver.

Movie Diary 8/4/2019

Deluge (Felix E. Feist, 1933). Special-effects curio, in which earthquakes and floods destroy the world, causing mankind to, you know, rebuild. Rapid-fire opening sequences, with panicked officials including Edward Van Sloan (Van Helsing himself) and Samuel S. Hinds. When the waters subside, lonely survivor Sidney Blackmer hooks up with long-distance swimmer Peggy Shannon, unaware this his wife (Lois Wilson) and children have survived elsewhere. A bunch of miniature cities are destroyed, with ingenious effects. Strangely, almost the entire remainder of the film is obsessed with the threat of sexual violence against women, an unpleasant emphasis that ignores lots of other storytelling possibilities.

Desert Fury (Lewis Allen, 1947). I think watching this movie once every 30 years is about right, especially to check out the Technicolor-iffic DVD from Kino Lorber. You can get drunk off these colors and costumes (Edith Head in high gear) and designs. The story is soporific, as spoiled kid Lizabeth Scott returns home to Nevada, where her mother (Mary Astor) runs a casino and local lawman/failed rodeo rider Burt Lancaster nurtures a torch. Scott, whose character is completely infuriating, falls into romance with gambler John Hodiak, much to the irritation of his longtime companion Wendell Corey. A lot of scenes of people getting into cars (very nice cars) to go places, some of which look like they were shot in Sedona. Scott’s performance is swallowed up by her costumes, which, given her nonsensical tendency to smile broadly at the wrong time, is a good thing. Astor wipes the floor with her in their scenes together, and is the standout human in the cast.

Hobbs & Luz (This Week’s Movies)


Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham: Hobbs & Shaw (Universal Pictures)

Links to my reviews published this week in the Herald, and etc.

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw. “It’s ridiculous. And so help me, I dug it.”

Luz. “The images have a wonderfully grainy quality, as well as occasional scratches — the kind of thing we don’t get from digital moviemaking these days.”

This week also brings Denys Arcand’s The Fall of the American Empire for a regular run. At the Scarecrow Video blog, I contribute a Seasoned Ticket post recalling a couple of Arcand’s past works. Read it here.

Movie Diary 7/31/2019

Daisy Kenyon (Otto Preminger, 1947). Not only is the central relationship interesting – career gal Joan Crawford torn between married man Dana Andrews and returning vet Henry Fonda – but the film touches on a series of unusual issues. For some reason Preminger’s ambiguous style agrees with Crawford’s mien here: “I love you, I guess.” Footnote: This may be the only movie where a character, standing at the bottom of a staircase, comments on the way that the bottom of a staircase symbolizes upward aspirations.

The Crimson Kimono (Samuel Fuller, 1959). A fluid Fuller scenario that has potent racial implications. The ideas and the mise-en-scene are strong, even if the actors – Glenn Corbett, James Shigeta, Victoria Shaw – look under-rehearsed. But maybe Glenn Corbett always looked under-rehearsed.

Movie Diary 7/30/2019

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw (David Leitch, 2019). The ampersands run wild, baldness prevails, and this absurd movie turns out to be daft fun. (full review 8/1)

David Crosby: Remember My Name (A.J. Eaton, 2019). Interesting stuff along the way about this unusual American life, but it feels like a skim: Certainly needs more than 95 minutes, at least. (full review 8/8)

Movie Diary 7/29/2019

Psych-Out (Richard Rush, 1968). Susan Strasberg comes to the Haight in search of her missing brother, who has dropped out and become a bearded weirdie calling himself “The Seeker.” Ladies and gentlemen, Bruce Dern. But he’s in it only briefly; Strasberg’s main dude is Jack Nicholson, as Stoney, a gregarious free-love guy who shares a house with a ragtag collection of hippies, among them Adam Rourke and Max Julien. Lots of footage on the streets of San Francisco, and lots of vintage Sixties cinematographic gestures (Laszlo Kovacs shot it). Dean Stockwell is in the zone as a blissed-out meditative type who constantly calls out Stoney for his “games.” The Strawberry Alarm Clock and The Seeds appear. It is, in short, a must-see.