Well, it did not take long for my resolution to be more productive here on the blog in 2015 to blow away into the fierce four blogosphere winds; my inactivity is due to many factors: pure dagnasty laziness, my mother’s crossword puzzle obsession, and a battle currently raging with the alleged competency that is customer service at AT&T U-Verse. (I will talk about this another time when there aren’t quite as many swear words.) But if I had to lay the blame for my sloth at the feet of someone, Netflix would be the clear winner.
I’ve been a Netflix customer a couple of times in the past, and I never had any controversial issues other than the fact that I rarely got around to watching some of the rental DVDs, and thusly had difficulty justifying the expense. With the streaming, there’s no problem: I watch the movies I want, and there’s no envelopes to return or any of that hassle. I can see why Netflix, Hulu Plus and the other services available on the WiFi portion of the player are an attractive option to folks who are declaring their independence from cable (and good for them, I say). Los Parentes Yesteryear cannot exercise that option because they enjoy sportsball too much…and if my Dad were to suddenly be separated from his cable news I can’t promise you things wouldn’t get ugly.
So in addition to some Radio Spirits assignments and some ClassicFlix stuff (here’s a review of 1928’s A Lady of Chance that’s just gone up recently) the rest of my time has been spent watching movies on Netflix. What do I have to report? Let’s find out.
I bought the VHS in 1991 and tried to watch it on two separate occasions, falling fast asleep within the first half-hour every time. The videocassette eventually got sold and I later purchased the 2000 DVD release…only to start snoring a third time, again around the thirty-minute mark. (That bit o’DVD Sominex later got sold as well.)
I thought it might have just been me; maybe I was just lethargic due to lack of rest. But, no—while I was successful on the fourth try (though I did nod off a couple of times) to see all of Fantasia, that movie is a sure fire cure for insomnia. I know it’s heralded for its innovations in animation; I know it made great strides in stereophonic sound; I know it’s an acid trip for some. But honest to my grandma, I think this film may be one of the most overrated I’ve ever watched. Maybe it’s the classical music that puts me to sleep, but I’m pretty sure it’s the repetitive nature of the segments in the movie that does the trick. With the possible exception of the Dance of the Hours ballet (the one with the hippos, gators, etc.), every sequence in Fantasia follows the same pattern: a period of tranquility…then upheaval…then tranquility again. You could argue that this is due to the nature of music chosen, and I probably wouldn’t offer up too much of a rebuttal except for a yawn.
But the movie as a whole is way too long for my attention span…and you’re going to think me positively mahd but I actually preferred Fantasia 2000 (1999; which I also watched) more. (I loved the shorter running time and variety of the segments in that—my favorite is probably the Al Hirschfeld-inspired Rhapsody in Blue number.)
Scott Brady plays the lifer who’s reluctantly dragooned into going along with a dream cast of cons that includes Whit Bissell, Stanley Clements, DeForest Kelley, Henry Brandon and Charles Russell. Actual Colorado State Pen warden Roy Best plays himself (and was smart to keep his day job), and silver screen Dick Tracy Ralph Byrd plays a screw who’s taken hostage. If you didn’t know this one was written and directed by Crane Wilbur you’d swear it was an Anthony Mann noir…no doubt due to the superb cinematography that’s the work of the incomparable John Alton. You can hear Great Gildersleeve announcer John Wald as a radio commentator (the ubiquitous Reed Hadley is the narrator), and City also features appearances by John Doucette, Howard Negley and Mabel Paige as the elderly hostage who waits patiently for Corey to be distracted so that she can introduce him to the business end of a hammer. Definitely in the running as one of the best “new” classic movies I’ve seen so far this year.
Stewart gets a phone tip from a woman named Brenda Ralles (Suzanne Alexander) about one of the cases…and is gunned down by an assailant when he and supervisor John “Rip” Ripley (Broderick Crawford) pay Brenda a visit.
In order to solve Stewart’s murder, Ripley will have to close each of the cases in this better-than-you’d-think procedural that also features good performances from Martha Hyer, Marisa Pavan, Casey Adams (I swear that guy’s been everywhere lately), Claude Akins and Harlan Warde. (OTR veteran William Johnstone plays Brod’s boss, and Myra Marsh is also on hand.) I decided to watch Dark Streets after recently seeing director Arnold Laven’s Without Warning! (1952—hopefully the review will be up on the CF site soon); the killer’s identity is pretty obvious but I liked the movie as a whole (film noir fans should definitely check it out). (Incidentally, Laven has a bit part as a reporter in the aforementioned Canon City.)
These two haven’t come up in the Tee Cee Em rotation yet so I gave them a look-see: Carry On Cowboy is one of the weakest I’ve seen, and I think that’s because the jokes that are often featured in these films—some so old they’re collecting pensions—are funnier because they’ve been filtered through a British accent. Cowboy is supposed to be a Western spoof, and since most of the characters use exaggerated “Western” drawls the threadbare verbal gags just fall flat. Here’s a quick synopsis: Johnny Finger (Sid James), a.k.a. The Rumpo Kid (which may have been the only thing I laughed at, since it reminded me of “Ramblin’ Syd Rumpo” from the BBC radio comedy Round the Horne), terrorizes the citizens of Stodge City until sanitation engineer Marshal P. Knutt (Jim Dale) comes in to “clean up the town” (yes, he’s mistaken for a lawman). Cowboy showcases the usual members of the troupe: Kenneth Williams, Charles Hawtrey (funny as a fey Indian), Joan Sims, Angela Douglas, Peter Butterworth and Bernard Bresslaw (it was the first Carry On film for the latter two).
Sid James plays Marc Antony (“Blimus!”), Kenneth Williams is Julius Caesar, and Amanda Barrie makes a lovely Cleopatra—but the focus is on Hengist Pod (Kenneth Connor) and Horsa (Jim Dale), two Britons captured and taken to Rome to be sold into slavery. (I did guffaw heartily at some early scenes where Romans Caesar and Marc Antony go on about England’s beastly weather.) Joan Sims and Charles Hawtrey are also in this one, as are future Doctor Who Jon Pertwee and The Rag Trade’s Sheila Hancock (who exits the movie far too soon) as Hengist’s wife Senna. (No, the jokes don’t get any better.)
Al Pacino (who’s also in Scarecrow) has this one to thank for landing him the plum role of Michael Corleone in The Godfather (1972); in The Panic in Needle Park he plays a drug dealer who falls for a young girl (Kitty Winn) and proceeds to transform her into a heroin addict (and by that token, a prostitute). It’s controversial, to be sure—though it’s a bit tame today in light of movies that have followed; I found myself fascinated by the film (you can’t help but like the couple even though they walk on the seamy side) and enjoyed seeing future stars Raul Julia (as Winn’s ex-boyfriend) and Paul Sorvino, not to mention The Rockford Files’ Joe Santos and Hill Street Blues’ Kiel Martin.
They’re unable to shake loose hitchhiker Susan George (the dirty one), and must elude unorthodox cop Vic Morrow—who’s following in hot pursuit with all weaponry and vehicles at his disposal.
Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry features mucho muscle cars and many vehicles running into things and each other; this sort of thing isn’t really my movie preference but its reputation was such I felt obligated to check it out. Its rep is puzzling; with the exception of Roarke (and even he can be a pill at times), there’s not many sympathetic personages among the main characters…and the chemistry between Fonda’s Larry and George’s Mary is such that I kept hoping he’d run over her with that damn car. (Any movie with Vic Morrow in it is generally going to feature him as a dirtbag, no question.) Some folks will find the ending of this one tragic…but I sighed a sigh of relief, knowing it was all over. (Directed by John Hough, who also did The Legend of Hell House—which might explain why McDowall is in this one.)