Friday, July 23, 2021

Summer Indulgence: A Day with John Carpenter

Today's indulgent double feature is brought to you by Brother John who was shocked and dismayed to learn that I had never seen Big Trouble in Little China, and immediately provided the movie to rectify such a glaring omission in my movie viewing experience. He also kindly added to my John Carpenter collection with Assault on Precinct 13, since I had not seen it in nearly 40 years. 

Big Trouble in Little China (1986)

"It's all in the reflexes."

This film is a martial arts action comedy that starts out with the requisite John Carpenter synth rock n roll music, and some quippy lines from Kurt Russell, who is the cocky, unlikely hero in this movie. While the movie begins with a gang war, we are quickly brought into the supernatural based in Chinese mythology as Jack Burton helps his friend Wang Chi rescue his green eyed fiancĂ©, who has been abducted by ancient sorcerer David Lo Pan, who needs her to marry him in order to release him from a curse. It makes absolutely no sense, but it doesn't need to. 

Heroic rescue.

Blow up.

David Lo Pan

Eyeball monster is my favorite. 

Eyeball tongue puts it over the top.

Why wouldn't there be a demonic beast?

When can we expect Part 2 of this film?

"I was born ready."

I thought this movie was a lot of fun to watch, and it really brings me back to my childhood days when pre-CGI movie monsters required a lot more skillful creativity to give them life. Perhaps it is just the nostalgia factor that allows me to appreciate them a bit more, and may be in part what had me thinking of the first Star Wars movie, in addition to Jack Burton, Wang Chi, and Gracie's similarities to Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, and Princess Leia engaged in an adventurous fight against evil. This film would make a great double feature with They Live, and I was tempted to follow up with it, but instead decided to revisit one of John Carpenter's early films...

Assault on Precinct 13 (1976)

"Got a smoke?"

In this film, the cops ambush gang members in LA, who swear a blood oath against them, and apparently the ice cream man and little girls as well, as they go on a murderous rampage, laying siege to a police station that is in the process of being closed, forcing the few staff and prisoners to fight off the relentless gang. I first saw this film when I was too young to be able to appreciate it, and felt somewhat reticent to revisit it since the shocking vanilla twist scene was quite traumatizing to me. That, along with the moody opening music was what stuck with me most about this movie from my first viewing. 

A dad and his daughter on a hopeful drive.

Blood brothers off for a neighborhood crime cruise.

Why torment the ice cream man?

Because he's an evil monster.

Is she thinking she should have kept the plain vanilla?

Badass heroine.

Facing death.

Criminal vs. criminal.


He finally gets a smoke.

I have to say I've developed a new appreciation for this movie and really enjoyed seeing it again. It is a horrifying, tense, action packed movie with a memorable score and great acting. It is essentially Night of the Living Dead without the dismal ending. Unlike Barbra from that movie, Julie stands out as one of the toughest characters in the fight as she takes a bullet with barely a flinch, and then faces down an attacker with a gun and easily takes him out. One thing I enjoy about John Carpenter films is that you can appreciate them at face value, but if you take some time to examine them under the surface, you'll find some interesting commentary lurking. 

Thanks for adding these enjoyable movies to my collection, John! I look forward to exploring more John Carpenter movies in the future. 

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Summer Indulgence: June Recap

The best laid plans... Here are some of the movies I caught on the Criterion Channel in June because it was easier to flip on a streaming movie than open up the player and pop in a disc. That pretty much says it all for how June went for me.

Experiment in Terror (1962)

Glenn Ford, Lee Remick, Stefanie Powers and Ross Martin come together for a shadowy crime thriller from Blake Edwards that is a must see. Once I started watching it, I realized I had seen it before, which is a true testament to the unreliability of my memory, since it is not an easy film to forget. This is why I need to write these things down. Fortunately, it's a great movie to see again. The opening scene is worth the price of admission and will have you thinking of David Lynch. 

Days of Wine and Roses (1962)

Another Blake Edwards movie with Lee Remick, Jack Lemmon and Jack Klugman. A social drinker turns his wife on to booze and the good times quickly turn sour. Interesting to see Jack Lemmon not be funny. It's a good movie, but not the kind of film that makes me want to go back for seconds. 

No Man of Her Own (1950) 

A Mitchell Leisen film with Barbara Stanwyck and John Lund, not to be confused with 1932 version which is an entirely different story with Clark Gable and Carole Lombard. A woman gets knocked up and dumped by her boyfriend. She meets a nice newlywed couple on a train, and is mistaken for the woman, who is also pregnant, when the couple is killed in a train accident. While she initially tries to clear up the mistaken identity, she soon realizes that being taken in by the wealthy parents will be what's best for her newborn's future. She's placed in jeopardy when her old beau decides to show up and blackmail her. An engaging film with an interesting ending. 

Darling, How Could You! (1951)

Another Mitchell Leisen film with John Lund and Joan Fontaine. A doctor and his wife have been away for five years curing diseases during the construction of the Panama Canal while their three children are cared for by a nanny in their absence, which makes for some awkward interactions upon their return. Their teenage daughter inadvertently sees a play about an unfaithful wife, causing her to assume her mother is having an affair after overhearing a phone conversation with a male friend. It was a bizarre story, and only somewhat funny when the daughter goes to break up the assumed affair. I didn't care much for this one.

The Mark of Zorro (1940)

A Rouben Mamoulian movie with Tyrone Power, Linda Darnell, and Basil Rathbone. I think I enjoyed Tyrone Power playing the part of a useless dandy even more than being a masked crusader. Wonderful filmography in this picture, and though I'm quite fond of Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes, it's always fun to see him relish the role of villain. This is an infinitely rewatchable film.

Mr.& Mrs. Smith (1941)

A Hitchcock comedy with Carole Lombard and Robert Montgomery that has a married couple learn that they're not really married because of a technicality. Before learning this inconvenient information, the husband foolishly admits to the wife that he wouldn't marry her if he had it to do all over again, so when she finds out that they're not really married, she decides to let him go, kicks him out, and begins dating his best friend. He sets about trying to win her back, but has little success. It's a curio in the Hitchcock filmography that's entertaining for what it is. There is a requisite Hitchcock cameo lest you forget who was directing this atypical film. 

The Revolt of Mamie Stover (1956)

This was one of three in a collection of Jane Russell films on the Criterion Channel and was directed by Raoul Walsh. I had never seen any of her films, and ended up watching all three, beginning with this one. Mamie Stover is a prostitute who gets run out of San Francisco and ends up on a boat to Hawaii, where she meets and falls in love with a writer, who expects her to change her ways in exchange for his love, but her desire for money puts her at odds with her new boyfriend. Jane Russell gets to show off her assets in some lovely fashions. There is a frightening portrayal of the Pearl Harbor attack and a great appearance by Agnes Moorhead. It was an enjoyable film, though probably not one I'd revisit. 

Macao (1952)

Josef von Sternberg began directing this film, but was fired by Howard Hughes during the making of it and replaced by Nicholas Ray. Jane Russell, Robert Mitchum, William Bendix and Gloria Grahame make for an entertaining cast of characters to watch. It's a nice noir adventure with a drifter, a salesman, and a singer arriving by ship to Macao, where a crime boss has been making sure any police detectives who come after him to interfere with his jewel smuggling business don't leave alive. He knows a detective has just arrived by ship, and goes after the guy who is also making time with the beautiful singer he's just hired. It was an engaging movie with all the shadowy shots I love to see. 

His Kind of Woman (1951)

Of the three Jane Russell films I saw, this is the one I enjoyed the most. Directed by John Farrow, with Robert Mitchum, Jane Russell, Vincent Price, Jim Backus and Raymond Burr. A professional gambler is offered a lot of money to go to Mexico, and is told the details of the job will be provided when he gets there. He meets up with an interesting group of people, including a lovely singer who is dating a well known actor, and soon finds out that his job is to provide a gangster with his identity to enable him to return to the United States. Vincent Price steals the show throughout, but especially during a suspenseful ending. I highly recommend this film.

Anatomy of a Murder (1959)

A stylish, thought provoking film directed by Otto Preminger with Jimmy Stuart, Lee Remick, Ben Gazzara, Eve Arden, George C. Scott, and Murray Hamilton. A soldier kills a man he believes to have raped and beaten his wife and is defended by a small town lawyer. This is one of the best courtroom dramas I've seen portrayed in film, with an amazing score by Duke Ellington. Don't miss seeing this one. 

Thelma & Louise (1991)

A Ridley Scott film with Geena Davis, Susan Sarandon, Harvey Keitel and Brad Pitt. What starts out as a fun getaway vacation for two gal pals turns into a crime spree. I haven't seen this film in over 20 years and wanted to peer back into that era. It's still an interesting and relevant film.

During the month of June, I've also been revisiting The Twilight Zone and Sherlock Holmes in print, TV and film, and continuing to update My Film Collection while shelving recent arrivals and acquisitions. At the same time, I am finally getting around to working on The Invaders, now that my adventures in Dark Shadows is about to finally wrap up with Night of Dark Shadows in the next few weeks. Since Brother John has kindly donated some films he was shocked to hear I had not seen, there will be some days coming dedicated to John Carpenter and George Romero. I also hope to dig into more film noir, French film, and silent movies, and finally get around to indulging myself properly.