Friday, January 21, 2011

Remembering the Movies, Jan. 21 - 27

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

On schedule this week (finally! - and from now on, I promise), we've got devils, werewolves, masked wrestlers, and Cruella De Vil. And the Disney's not the only cartoon; there's also a Suess-authored short with an imaginative soundtrack. Add in one of Bogart's best tough-guy roles, and it's a surprisingly strong field this Friday, perhaps breaking the January doldrums. Then again, there's a fair share of critical grumbling to be savoured, and early Oscar winners are not exempt...


10 years ago (January 26, 2001)
"The Wedding Planner is one of the first big studio releases of the post-Clinton era, but it feels like a pure Clintonian artifact. It seems written and directed by a savvy Washington PR firm: It's mostly spin in which people do terrible things to other people but it's never their fault, and they never have to face any consequences." - Stephen Hunter, The Washington Post

"And consider a 'comic' sequence so awkward and absurd it not only brings the movie to a halt but threatens to reverse its flow. While Mary and Steve wander in a sculpture garden, they accidentally knock over a statue, and the statue's male hardware gets broken off. Mary has some crazy glue in her purse, and they try to glue the frank and beans back in place, but alas the broken part becomes stuck to Steve's palm. If he had gone through the rest of the movie like that, it might have added some interest. But no: Mary also has some solvent in her purse. When you have seen Jennifer Lopez ungluing marble genitals from the hand of the man she loves, you have more or less seen everything." - Roger Ebert


20 years ago (January 25, 1991)
"This odd and zany AIP entry has some wacky humor thanks to Chris Lemmon. He's always yelling 'Jesus Christ!' Most of his lines in the film either start or end with him exhorting the name of some people's Lord and Savior. His 12 year old daughter in the film, inexplicably named Smith (Levy), is a plucky genius who drives a car and seems to have some fun saying wordy, scientific dialogue. She has an ALF doll in her room. She practically steals the film, in much the same way Sarah Dampf did for Stealth Fighter (1999). Too bad the two tweens never starred together in a movie. They could team up and fight crime or something. Her energetic, loquacious performance contrasts completely with Brett Porter's monosyllabic, monotonous Arnold Schwarzenegger/Dolph Lundgren/Matthias Hues-style delivery. The film does borrow somewhat from Red Heat (1988). I guess we were running low on English-as-a-second-language action stars. Thank you Brett Porter." - Comeuppance Reviews

Firehead (1991)

30 years ago (January 22, 1981 at Avoriaz Fantastic Film Festival)

"Director Joe Dante recounts screening the film for some children, one of whom asked why the heroine didn't flee during the big transformation scene, instead of watching helplessly as a bad guy slowly becomes a werewolf. That's a perceptive question, but it's also the sort a true horror buff wouldn't ask, since transformation scenes function as a werewolf movie's money shots. Accordingly, Dante's much-loved 1981 cult hit affords the audience time to appreciate every intricate detail of the sequence, created by monster-makeup guru Rob Bottin. The Howling was released the same year as John Landis' similar horror comedy An American Werewolf In London, which is funnier and scarier, and features more convincing werewolves; The Howling's lycanthropes look a little bit like the Big Bad Wolf on stilts. But the artisanship on display throughout the film appeals to the adolescent Fangoria subscriber in everyone." - The A.V. Club

The Howling (1981)

40 years ago (January 21, 1971)

"Back at the secret laboratory of the Black Hand, we watch as the evil scientist scolds his midgets. My God, I believe in fighting for justice, but if becoming a criminal mastermind would guarantee me an army of midget henchmen in red suits - well let's just say that the world would tremble at the mention of Darth Borntreger. Anyway (must...not...be distracted...by...desire for...midget henchmen), Black Hand has invented a machine to turn his midget henchmen into super midget henchmen! Each of them will be imbued with the strength of ten athletes! Why doesn't Black Hand do the same to his regular henchmen? Who cares! I wouldn't worry about them either. Every minute spent creating a super wrestler is one that could be spent making another super midget." - badmovies.org


50 years ago (January 25, 1961)

"101 Dalmatians (Buena Vista) is one of the nicest things that have happened so far this year to dog's best friend: a full-length (80 minutes) animutted curtoon that should please just about everybody but cats and will probably make the youngsters yap-happy. It is the wittiest, most charming, least pretentious cartoon feature Walt Disney has ever made. Based on a beast-seller by Dodie Smith, the picture took three years to produce, cost $4,000,000, soaked up 800 gallons of paint, and during the passage of its 101 Dalmatians through 113,700 frames of film, places exactly 6,469,952 (count 'em) spots before the moviegoer's eyes. But it is the tale that wags the picture." - Time Magazine


60 years ago (January 25, 1951)

"This classic, Oscar-winning cartoon introduces Gerald and his quirky speech disorder. Narrated in a rhyming, Seussian style, the story has Gerald ostracized by his friends and family until he finds employment at a local radio station, mouthing the sound effects for radio dramas. The style is visually inventive, and the story is unusual and sweet—it's easy to see why UPA followed up this critical and audience favorite with a handful of new adventures penned by their own writers." - DVD Verdict




70 years ago (January 21, 1941)

"We wouldn't know for certain whether the twilight of the American gangster is here. But the Warner Brothers, who should know if anybody does, have apparently taken it for granted and, in a solemn Wagnerian mood, are giving that titanic figure a send-off befitting a first-string god... Yes-sir, Siegfried himself never rose to more heroic heights than does Mr. Humphrey Bogart, the last of the great gunmen, when, lodged on a high mountain crag with an army of coppers below, he shouts defiance at his tormentors ere his noble soul take flight." - Bosley Crowther, NY Times

High Sierra (1941)

80 years ago (January 26, 1931)
"Cimarron is often said to be the only western to win the Best Picture Oscar until Dances With Wolves in 1990. Is this the sign of a western? After the Oklahoma land rush, Richard Dix and Irene Dunne marry and settle in a growing town. But Dix has wanderlust, and he leaves Dunne in search of adventure, at which point the movie  - forgets about Dix and follows Dunne's rise in local society for the next 50 years. This isn't a western. It's a soap opera, a women's picture, to use the genre terms of the time. Let it be shouted from the hilltops: no real western won Best Picture until 1990. (Or maybe 1992.)

Sentimental, poky, and overlong, this soap-western Cimarron is today the least watchable Best Picture winner of all - though note that, far from being an aberration of Oscar's (as is sometimes written), it was popular across the board - including among the general Photoplay-reading public."
 - Michael Gebert, The Encyclopedia of Movie Awards

Cimarron (1931)

90 years ago (January 24, 1921)
"[Dreyer] personally visited libraries and archives and collected illustrative material to be used as visual references. Nordisk assigned the prestigious playwright Edgar Hoyer to collaborate on the script but the two men essentially wrote two different screenplays. Once the official script was completed, Dreyer continued to revise the text for an additional three months, much to Hoyer's chagrin (the Finnish sequence is entirely Dreyer's creation). The film grew more ambitious in scale and elaborate in design. The start of production was delayed until summer of 1919." - TCM


"The war in heaven is over and Satan has lost.  As his punishment, Satan is sentenced to tempt humans into evil actions.  If people give into temptation, Satan receives another 100 years of punishment.  However, if they can resist, God will remove 1000 years from Satan's sentence. Leaves from Satan's Book follows the devil as he attempts to sow the seeds of evil at the time of the Crucifixion, the Inquisition, the French Revolution and the Finnish Civil War.  There is one good movie here, two okay ones and one that is terrible." - 100 Years of Movies
  

Leaves Out of the Book of Satan (1921)

100 years ago (January 23, 1911)
"How sadly ironic, then, that Mary Pickford's second IMP release, a one-reel drama entitled The Dream, features her playing opposite her real-life husband in a scenario that reflects their life together. According to film historian Charles Musser the story was written by Mary herself, which suggests that when it was made this movie represented both a disguised slice of autobiography and (in its hopeful ending) a wish-fulfillment fantasy. Moore portrays a drunken, philandering husband who staggers in after a night on the town, torments his wife with his infidelity, then passes out on their living room sofa. Unconscious, he dreams of a role-reversal turnabout in which it is Mary who misbehaves. He envisions her as a wild, 'loose' woman, garishly dressed, smoking, drinking and carrying on with men. The vision is so horrific that he awakens as chastened as Scrooge on Christmas Day, vowing to stay sober and treat his wife with respect." - wmorrow59, IMDb
The Dream (1911)

6 comments:

Sam Juliano said...

Another cinematic potpouri of exceeding memorability and artistic worth. I had a childhood crush on 101 DALMATIONS at an impressionable age, and well recall wearing out the film's soundtrack on vinal at an age when video was non-existent. I enjoyed the TIME MAGAZINE blurb about the film's production, which used up hundreds of gallons of paint and treated the human eye to thousands of spots. It's as formidable an animated treasure today as it was upon release, as is GERALD MC BOING BOING, which rightly placed in the Top 50 Cartoons of All-Time (a seminal volume by Beck that gathered in the ballots of some of the most esteemed animators and film historians)
Of course Dreyer's early film, BOOK OF SATAN is far more than just a goal of teh completist, and it showcases some of the stark and haunting compositions the director became known for.
HIGH SIERRA is a minor classic which always rewards an entertainment-starved viewer, and CIMARRON is a lightweight Western that stands infamously as an Oscar footnote; in the perception of many it's one of the Academy's most undeserved winners ever. I actually saw the early 60's re-make by Anthony Mann, which all things considered probably eclipses this early version, whatever it's issues.

MovieMan0283 said...

I haven't seen the Dreyer yet though I'm really curious to see it & other pre-Joan silents. Cimarron was not particularly good, but I found it mildly diverting - I always enjoy films that cover a wide range of time, as people and landscapes slowly transform. For my money, the weakest Oscar winner of the 30s is the plotless and self-important Great Ziegfeld, though I haven't seen Cavalcade or The Life of Emile Zola yet.

Apparently 101 Dalmations was the first film I ever "saw" (a re-issue circa 1986 or so) though apparently I spent the screening walking around the theater, no doubt to the annoyance of the other moviegoers...

MovieMan0283 said...

Oh, and I like High Sierra a lot.

Max said...

Joel-

Where are your thoughts on these movies? I'm fond of the review clips you choose, but c'mon! Write something!

Sam Juliano said...

THE GREAT ZIEGFELD did, however, have that famous "phone scene" which yielded the master-class of acting by Luise Rainer, ultimately landing her the first of her two consecutive Oscars. Rainer is still going at 101.

MovieMan0283 said...

Max

Fair enough - though in any given week I've only seen a few of the films. The good thing about this series is it keeps the site busy when I can't watch/write much; it's a good placeholder for slow periods, so the place doesn't collect cobwebs like some other blogs that dry up and then no one's around when they come back.

I would like to return to watching & writing a capsule on one of these films a week (as I did for Flash Gordon or Just Imagine in December). But right now I'm barely finding the time to do it this way; I'll have to build up a head of steam and do a few weekends in advance (and make a list so that I don't have to google the date every week to find out what was released) before I can return to that model.

Besides, any time I can find would be better spent playing trivia on Newbury St or drinking cheap beers & watching VHS tapes from the 90s, don't you think (especially now that I have a shelf, ha ha...)?

Sam,

To be honest I couldn't stand that scene - Oscar show-boating at its worst! (From some of his comments, I think our friend Fish agrees.) Congrats, though, to Rainer for hitting 100. Olivia's still out there too right?