Every Friday, we look back at films released 10-100 years ago this week.
Visit Remembering the Movies to further peruse the past
After acknowledging Stallone's remake last fall, this week we return to the roots of Get Carter (I missed the actual release date a few months ago, but seek to make amends with the anniversary of the U.S. premiere). Another first-timer pops up too: the first adaptation of a classic play, eventually gender-bent into His Girl Friday (and then remade again under its original title). Meanwhile, Italian comedians spoof Fellini and Mastroianni, while Jeff Bridges and John Heard team up with an exiled Czech New Waver. All in all, this week sees a number of cult favorites, solid classics, and intriguing oddities. Nonetheless, a ridiculous film, striking a nostalgic chord, steals the top spot. So scroll down to view Edward G. Robinson at sea, Fred Astaire on the ceiling, and yes, Vanilla Ice kicking it on stage...
10 years ago (March 23, 2001)
"Sometime in the last 10 years, the spiked punch of Hollywood romantic banter fermented into throat-scouring moonshine. In teen flicks lately, most boys undergo all manner of verbal abuse as prelude to physical gratification. Julia Roberts is perpetually sniping, screeching, and foot-stamping at an endless procession of shrugging guys, and all the while hangs onto her crown as America's sweetheart. And in the farce Heartbreakers, Jennifer Love Hewitt and Jason Lee start playing Martha and George in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? upon their first meeting; the girl's wild mood swings and unprompted outbursts of cruelty suggest not your garden-variety beeyatch but a bipolar cocktease. Her swain's stalwart patience would be understandable if all he wanted were a toss in the sack—the bodacious Hewitt, bound and taped into economy-size dresses and tarted up in Sharon Tate maquillage, evokes Barbarella as mallwalker. But in a studio rom-com, people have to say I Love You and mean it; they're conscripted to marry." - Jessica Winter, Village Voice
"So here they are, fighting two miniature kaiju in a thumping dance club, its patrons too coked out like Corey Feldman to realize something is up. In order to prevent panic, Vanilla Ice and the V.I.P. (Vanilla Ice Posse) heroically decide to hide the Turtles’ identity – by composing a rap! An ad hoc, on-the-spot 'Ninja Rap' filled with plot-specific knowledge – all this to make the Turtles seem a part of the club’s obviously-ridiculous show. Oh, and with pre-choreographed dance moves, of course, and so many other elements which rather shatter the illusion that The Secret of the Ooze is anything more than an advertisement for itself." - Hindlay, A Series Man
"Gurian gave Fiskin a list of directors and Ivan Passer's name was the only one the screenwriter didn't recognize. Passer, a Czech émigré, got his start as Milos Forman's screenwriter on Loves of a Blonde (1965) and The Fireman's Ball (1968) before fleeing the country in 1968 when the Russians invaded. Fiskin and a couple of United Artists executives screened Passer's Intimate Lightning (1966) and agreed that he was the man to direct Cutter and Bone. The director was already involved with another project but after reading Fiskin's screenplay he wanted to do it.
Despite Field's support for the film, it seemed like United Artists did everything in their power to prevent Cutter and Bone from being made. The initial budget was supposed to be $3.3 million but then Field found out that U.A. would only make the movie if the filmmakers were able to reduce the price tag to under three million dollars. Passer and company played along. Then, U.A. said that the film needed a big name star for it to succeed at the box office. The studio liked Jeff Bridges' work in the dailies for Michael Cimino's opus Heaven's Gate (1980) and said that they would only make Cutter and Bone if the filmmakers got the actor to be in their movie.
Cutter's Way (1981)
"The character created by Caine is particularly interesting. He's tough and ruthless, but very quiet and charged with a terrible irony. An early scene at a racetrack, where he quizzes a chauffeur hiding behind blank dark glasses, is as good a Caine scene as anything since he found the girl in his apartment in The Ipcress File. A later scene, which cinematically compares lovemaking and sports car driving, is as funny as e. e. cummings' 'She being brand new,' the poem that's maybe about a Model T." - Roger Ebert
Get Carter (1971)
"Funny parody of La Dolce Vita, which had production problems with censorship (for the ironies and some political reference). The director should have been Camillo Mastrocinque that, though, came in sharp contrast with the production. He is succeeded by Sergio Corbucci, who was summoned by Toto at home. Toto said the director, 'So, tomorrow we start shooting.' Corbucci replied: 'Yes, but what?There is nothing, not even the script.' And Toto said, 'Do you want the script too? Do not worry, we do everything, Peppino and I.' So always remember that Corbucci began to turn with nothing in hand, but two star players who could improvise like few others in the world." - Franco Baccarinni, ERA2000 Cinema
"Antonio (Toto) is sent from a rich uncle to Rome to try to bribe the politicians to move the path of a highway on their land in order to increase the value but he, instead of providing you the pleasures of the capital, although not and a steady job and instead, the parking abuse." - TV Dream
"This is an engaging concoction of songs and dances in a standard musical framework, brightly dressed in color to show off its physical attributes. Score uses up nine tunes to back the singing and terping, and two of the numbers are sock enough to almost carry the picture by themselves. They are Astaire's solo dance on a ceiling, upside-down, and the teaming with Powell in a sort of Frankie-and-Johnny-apache-hepcat presentation that will click with audience." - Variety
"The stars run no risk of being out-sparkled by a film for which the best that we can say is that it has one swell number in it, built on the world's longest-titled song. But that's how it is with "Royal Wedding" — one swell number, three or four that are good, a laugh here, a laugh there; colored newsreels of the British royal wedding and so long pal. Mr. Astaire has fared better in his lifetime—and he has also fared much worse." - Bosley Crowther, New York Times
Royal Wedding (1951)
"Jack London envisioned The Sea Wolf as an attack on the superman philosophy espoused by Nietzsche, while screenwriter Robert Rossen updates Larsen to make him purposely reminiscent of Adolph Hitler. Intrigued by his contradictory character, the sensitive silver spooner Van Weyden takes an interest in the dignity stripping dictator, who despite subscribing to the better to be the big captain in a small ship theory spars intellectually with Van Weyden for the fun of beating him at his own game. Rossen's attempts to maintain all of London's philosophical implications are as literal as they are literate, often turning meaningful into melodramatic by maintaining the dialogue while scrapping the narrative basis. The strength of the film lies in the contrast between "Wolf", who uses his head to abuse, feeding a titanic ego by running rampant over his poor demoralized crew of broken men and hardening them through cruelty, and tender mild mannered Van Weyden, whose money has protected him from adversity, allowing a false sense of humanitarianism. Robinson probably gives his best performance as the conflicted going blind captain who is at once pitiable and repulsive. He's terrifyingly relentless though hardly heartless in spite of never being able to rise above being a wolf in sheep's clothing. Robinson often created larger than life characters, but here he scraps the broad strokes and cartoon mannerisms of his weaker performances such as the hammy Little Ceasar, playing big and small as he needs to and constantly surprising with subtle aspects of his character." - Mike Lorefice, Raging Bull
The Sea Wolf (1941)
"Adolphe Menjou, a peaked and spindling personage suited to tailcoats and equipped with a devilish little mustache, has long been identified in the cinema with the roles of enervated clubmen, sleek playboys, roues too tired to be dashing. Required to impersonate, in The Front Page, a city editor addicted to coarse epithets and unscrupulous behavior, he does so with surprising success, without even removing his boutonniere. In order to retain the services of a reporter who wants to leave town for a more respectable position, he arranges for police to arrest the reporter. "The son of a —* stole my watch," he says.
The Front Page (1931)
"This film presents a fairly straightforward and simplified retelling of Hugo's novel. Comparisons to the Leni version [The Man Who Laughs] are inevitable, so here goes: although the Leni film had superb production values, its depiction of early 18th-century England was not especially convincing. (I still cringe when I recall the Ferris wheel in the funfair sequences.) This Austrian film was made on a far lower budget, but the costumes and sets are vastly more convincing than in Leni's version.
Leni's film boasts the splendidly sensitive performance of Conrad Veidt, and several excellent supporting performances. In this Austrian 'pre-make', most of the actors are dull and stolid. The actor who plays Lord Dirry-Moir should have been deleted from this movie altogether. One exception is Nora Gregor as Princess Josiana, the jaded heiress who is attracted to Gwynplaine precisely *because* of his deformity. Gregor makes it clear that Josiana is sexually aroused by Gwynplaine's deformity; the Leni remake was very close-mouthed on this subject." - F Gwynplaine MacIntyre, IMDb
Das Grinsende Gesicht (1921)
"Films and trains were actually joined together over a century ago, with Edwin S. Porter's eleven minute The Great Train Robbery (1903), one of our first truly narrative films. A few years later, D.W Griffith's The Lonedale Operator (1911), pioneered the intercutting of scenes: villains tie up heroine at railroad tracks, cut to speeding oncoming train, cut to the bad guys escaping on horseback, cut to the good guys on horses racing to the tracks to rescue heroine, cut back to heroine tied to tracks, etc. This technique speeded up the perception of elapsed time and built suspense. Reportedly, most audiences of the time leapt from their seats and fled in terror." - John Farr, "The Best Train Movies by Farr"
The Lonedale Operator (1911)