Lost in the Movies (formerly The Dancing Image): Remembering the Movies, Jan. 14 - 20

Friday, January 14, 2011

Remembering the Movies, Jan. 14 - 20

Every Friday, we look back at films released 10-100 years ago this week.
Visit Remembering the Movies to further peruse the past

This entry was completed on January 12, but was inadvertently saved as a "draft" by Blogger, even after I scheduled it for Friday morning. So much for getting a head start...

This week, the macabre takes the screen, with exploding heads, serial killers, disfigured psychopaths, and abominable snowmen. I also have a little more input than usual here, including a personal recollection of the 1991 film and an excerpt from an earlier review of the 1911 pick. Warning to the faint-hearted: the eighties entry features a graphic, and memorable, screen-cap.

10 years ago (January 19, 2001)
 "The story pleads for the comical David Dhawan treatment, but is instead loaded with so much melodrama and unpleasant dramatic exposition, you wonder when on Earth it will all end.  Rahul Rawail has never directed a comedy before and the viewer will feel it watching the pointless pre-intermission romantic angle with Kajol and Sunil Shetty.  What is worse though is Rawail´s repetitive use of strip joint sequences in a movie which should be aiming for a family-audience.  And before you regain your composure, out comes a post-interval  massage sequence with a very obese gentleman, so unfunny, it would give the most crude Jim Carrey and Adam Sandler comedies a run for their money.  Must we emulate everything shown in Western flicks, including the offensive?" - Mohammad Ali Ikram, Planet Bollywood


20 years ago (January 18, 1991)

"The London novel was intended as a comparison of dogs and men, in which most men came up short. In the book the dog eventually becomes the property of a mining engineer, who takes it back to a sunny retirement in California. The Disney version of course transmutes the adult into Jack the teenager, and ends with a joyous reunion of man and beast after the human decides not to go to California after all but heed the call of the wild. Jack has good reason to stick with White Fang, who by the end of the film has saved him from being eaten by a bear and killed by thieving claim jumpers. We are agreed then, that the movie makes no serious claim to be a version of the Jack London novel. (That project would be mostly about dogs, and require patience on the order of the 1989 film "The Bear," which took a year to film because each of the animal movements had to be separately photographed. Fans of The Bear will be pleased that its star, Bart, makes a guest appearance here.) White Fang is, however, a superior entertainment on its own terms, a story of pluck and survival at a time when men poured into the Yukon dreaming of riches, and found mostly disease and death." - Roger Ebert

I saw White Fang in the movie theater when I was seven years old. This was a time when I was first engaging with the wider movie world for the first time, reading about films like Goodfellas and The Godfather Part III. White Fang introduced me, by proxy, to two other more "grown-up" movies: Dead Poets Society, which also starred Ethan Hawke, and Dances With Wolves, the other "wolf" movie in cinemas at this time. I still have fond memories of hearing about these films from my parents and older relatives; the secondhand nature of the retelling made the movies seem all the more alluring. As for this movie, I was already familiar with Jack London; my dad had been bringing home new editions of Classics Illustrated, the comic book adaptations of literary classics. One of his first selections was The Call of the Wild. Encouraged by that and by this film, I borrowed a book from the school library that had both White Fang and Call of the Wild in one binding. I never returned it (or, truth be told, read the whole thing), and it remains in my possession today. White Fang was also one of the first videotapes I collected as a kid, and, as with the book, the tape's still with me.

White Fang (1991)

30 years ago (January 14, 1981)


"Perhaps even more than horror, as a child science fiction was a huge part of my life and interests.  Although the two genres are very closely linked, maybe it is more acceptable to parents for their kids to be in to aliens or little green men than knife wielding killers covered in blood.  Unbelievable.  Scanners is one of those movies that blur the line between sci-fi and horror because if its gore.  It's present day (in the 1980's) and there is a seemingly growing group of powerful psychics and mind controllers called Scanners.  Now a group of scientists take up the services of an informant to destroy them. The actual scanning, or mind infiltrating, leads to some quite staggering scenes that may never leave me.  Huge veins protrude out of the side of their faces and along their arms.  They gain size so fast that blood begins the ooze and squirt out of them.  And then they catch fire in a way that can only be described as a thing of beauty." - Scare Sarah


"Much has been made of the fact that Cronenberg cast Stephen Lack in the lead role because of his piercing, glassy eyes, clearly not bothering to check whether he could actually act or not. And while his flat non-delivery leaves a lot to be desired, it's not entirely at odds with the film's cold and detached tone, and strong performances from Patrick McGoohan and a wonderfully creepy Michael Ironside compensate. Scanners is certainly not first-rate Cronenberg, and the director has described it as the most difficult shoot he ever worked on. But it's a pretty enjoyable, sometimes thought-provoking yarn that succeeded in breaking Cronenberg out of the horror niche he was in, making his name as one of modern cinema's most distinctive film-makers." - Daniel Auty, The Spinning Image
Scanners (1981)

40 years ago (January 15, 1971)

"The ninety-minute film can be split into two sections, the first sixty minutes plays like a typical Giallo: it has its black-gloved killer, who never leaves home without his straight razor; and it has its glamorous females and wonderfully dressed males (along with a haunting theme to boot). Here Martino does ‘Giallo’ perfectly, and whilst I was very impressed the first hour does not really go beyond this. Indeed, an hour into the film one finds oneself in a strange situation: yes, the film is perfect and has everything a Euro-trash fan could desire (the music, the melodrama, the tackily exotic characters), however it does not seem to be going [past] that. ... Don’t get me wrong, the film is fantastic and there are some wonderful suspense scenes, including a nail-biting chase in an underground car park, but it is not until the second part – the thirty-minute finale – that things really get interesting. Such an incredible piece of cinema; a snowballing, twist-laden, ever-developing mystery unfolds before our very eyes and reveals The Strange Vice Of Mrs. Wardh to be one of the genre's greatest [artifacts]." - Robert Cowlin, Flickering Myth



50 years ago (January 20, 1961)

"yeti escaped from a packet it was transported in an now is lost somewhere in warsaw. a professor together with his pal - a prisoner are looking for the poor creature, but difficulties a la monty python are mushrooming in front of them. worth seeing, definitely. if you want you can get it :) very specific polish sense of humor, not easily understandable by non-poles. and, unfortunately, by large amount of today's poles as well :(" - pingwinekmalutki, IMDb

60 years ago (January 19, 1951)

"The frail plot is simply a frame on which to hang well-done musical sequences, comic ‘acts’ such as the rehearsal of the physicians’ amateur orchestra, the throat specialist’s lecture on the ridiculousness of fear of the common cold while painfully aware of a dangerous draft. Slight, but good fun." - Jane Lockhart, The Rotarian

70 years ago (January 18, 1941)
"The best scenes in this little-seen Peter Lorre vehicle occur in the first 15 minutes, when Lorre’s immigrant Janos (acting like he belongs in a Frank Capra film) wanders the streets of New York with an enormous grin on his face, happily believing that success is just around the corner. This sunny exposition makes it especially difficult to watch our likable protagonist experiencing such relentless suffering: first from hideous scarring, then from an inability to get any kind of work at all, due simply to prejudice against his shocking appearance. (One can’t help feeling immense gratitude for our current workplace anti-discrimination laws…") - Film Fanatic 


80 years ago (January 17, 1931)

"Other Men’s Women is at its best in its observations of everyday people going about their lives. There is the stuttering landlady, furious at the drunkard living under her roof. Bill imitates her stuttering back to her, causing her to fly off the handle. There’s Marie, slinging hash at the diner, and fielding off lecherous comments from the railyard men who sit at her counter. She declares that she is “APO.” One of the men asks, “What’s APO?” She states, fiery, “Ain’t Putting Out!” The scenes out at the cottage are filmed with a light touch. We aren’t drowned in domesticity in a way that sickens. It’s a lively house. The next door neighbor (J. Farrell MacDonald, a John Ford regular) is a crotchety kindly Irishman with one leg, whom everyone calls “Peg Leg”. There’s a wonderful scene where Mary Astor is planing sweet peas, and Peg Leg goes on before her, digging a hole for the seeds with his fake leg. James Cagney (who would soon be catapulted to fame and notoreity in another Wellman film, The Public Enemy) plays Ed Bailey, another engineer friend of Jack and Bill’s. It is Cagney’s third film, and he is a joy to watch. Watch the scene between him and Bill, where they stand on top of a moving train (this was obviously not shot in a studio, this is a real train with no back projector) and Ed regales Bill with a story of a fight he went to on Saturday night. Cagney is acting out the fight with gusto, and in the distance we can see a beam across the tracks, something that could decapitate them if they weren’t careful. Neither of them look back at it, neither seem aware that it is coming, and I thought to myself, “Boys, you’d best be ducking any time now …” and then, without even looking, and still talking, still throwing jabs and punches, the two men duck, as one. They knew the beam was coming. Of course they did. They know that railyard like the backs of their hands. A beautiful touch" - The Sheila Variations


90 years ago (January 16, 1921)

"Education of Elizabeth was adapted for the silent screen from a play by Roy Horniman. The film version was designed as a vehicle for Billie Burke, still in her ingenue stage (though she's obviously on the darker side of 30). Burke, the real-life wife of Flo Ziegfeld, plays Ziegfeld Follies dancer Elizabeth Banks who falls for a wealthy young man. His parents are shocked--and so is Elizabeth when she decides she'd rather have her beau's nerdish brother. She turns the mouse into a lion so that he'll be a worthy husband. The material was very fey and fluffy, like Billie Burke herself." - Hal Erickson, Rovi


100 years ago (January 16, 1911)

"Mostly of interest as a dress rehearsal (on much smaller scale and much shorter length) for Griffith's formally masterful (and KKK-glorifying) 1915 epic The Birth of a Nation. Here, a "Negro" is the protagonist though, like most of Birth's black characters, he's played in simpering blackface as he charges into the house set aflame by the dastardly Yankees, not just to save his master's family but also the master's sword. When he brings the family back to his cabin, he sleeps outside. The film's condescending conception of race relations is hard to stomach but at least its (racist) heart is in the right place, compared to the out-and-out nastiness of Birth of a Nation. In other words, the slaves are victims instead of villains. Which may be even more noxious, but is the best we can apparently hope for from Griffith. The march off to war and the battle sequences are very much precursors for Griffith's later work although, especially in the latter, he does not yet achieve the same virtuosity." - me, August 2008
His Trust (1911)


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