Sunday, August 17, 2014

Silent Sundays: The Perils of Pauline: Chapter One (1914)


Imagine going to movie theaters in the early 1900s when movies were still new. Every story idea was fresh, every idea and camera angle were new and inventive. They were a great adventure, a great romance, a great comedy. They were all still innocent and sweet and exciting. There are so many films that make me wish I could go back in time and see them in the theaters. One series of films I would like to travel back in time and see is the very first chapter of The Perils of Pauline that was first released in 1914.
            Pauline Marvin (Pearl White) has been left in the care of an older man named Sanford after her father died.  Pauline is set to inherit a large fortune but while she waits for her inheritance Sanford looks after her money.
            Sanford has a young son named Harry. Harry is madly in love with Pauline but she is in no rush to get married. She wants to live her life and travel the world.
            The old man has a secretary named Koerner. One day Koerner is approached by a man he used to run around with. The man wants money from Koerner or else he will tell Sanford that Koerner was once in jail and escaped. He tells the man to wait that Sanford will likely die soon and leave him something.
            Sanford does eventually die. He places Koerner in charge of Pauline’s money. The secretary relays this information to the man he knows. The man comes up with a plan to have Pauline go up in a hot air balloon at Pallisades Park and fly away. The man bribes a few people at the park to put his plan of killing Pauline into motion.
            Pauline is thrilled to be going up in the hot air balloon. Of course her ride does not go over as she had hoped. When the rope to the air balloon is cut Pauline finds herself sailing over the Palisades cliffs. In a smart move she climbs down the rope and lands on the cliff side.
            Harry and Koerner had been following Pauline. Harry gets to Pauline first and attempts to pull her up by tying the rope to his car. He climbs down to get her. When he gets to her to rope falls. Koerner and the man have cut the rope. Pauline comes up with the idea to inflate the balloon again and fly back up. Koerner comes down. He knocks Harry down and carries away Pauline. Koerner takes her to an abandoned house. He has Pauline tied up, places her on the floor, and sets the room on fire.
            Luckily Harry arrives before the house can burn down and saves Pauline. Back at the house Koerner calls the police to report Pauline missing thinking she is dead. Pauline comes walking into the house with Harry. They are both a bit shaken but they will alright.
            The last few seconds literally end with a question mark since Koerner walks away with the other man. The last title card tells the audience to come back the following week to see another chapter of Pauline’s story.
            I had first heard about the Perils of Pauline through the Betty Hutton film of the same title. That film is good especially because Betty Hutton is hilarious and her Rumble, Rumble, Rumble number is one of my all time favorite musical numbers in a film ever but it barely has anything to do with the real story of the film series or Pearl White. Ever since that time I have been interested in seeing the original Perils.
Fire was put under my behind to watch the series after I began interning at the Fort Lee Museum in Fort Lee, NJ. For those of you who might not be aware Fort Lee was where the motion picture industry really took off. The motion pictures studios in New York would send their troupes over the Hudson River to film outdoor scenes. Soon studios such as Goldwyn, Selznick, World, Solax, Universal, and Éclair built studios in the town. Many films from the various studios filmed along the Palisades Cliffs. At the museum I have seen and handled several photographs and pieces of memorabilia from The Perils of Pauline and also those pertaining to Pearl White. Every few years the museum shows one of the chapters from the series along the cliff side of the Palisades where White filmed many of her famous scenes. The museum even uses a famous photograph of White, camera man Arthur Miller, director George Seitz, and Antonio Moreno on their business cards and other professional signs and posters to advertise. The Perils of Pauline hold a special place in the heart of the local cinephiles in Fort Lee with its view of the Palisades but I believe they take more pride in that Palisades Amusement Park is featured (PAP, even though it closed down, is a huge part of the area’s history).

I greatly enjoyed watching the first chapter of The Perils of Pauline. It was cute and I must say it was even exciting. It is definitely a film and a series I would have liked seeing had I been alive one hundred years ago. Pauline Marvin would have been my hero and someone I admired. 
If you live in New Jersey or would like to take a trip to see some silent film memorabilia please come by The Fort Lee Museum. Also, please visit the Fort LeeFilm Commission’s website for more information on the early film industry. 

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Soap Dish (1991)


Of course I'm an egomaniac! I have America's Sweetheart climbing up my drainpipe!”

            I remember when I was in either middle school or high school all my friends would go home and watch this really weird soap opera. I cannot for the life of me remember what it was called but it was about witches and supernatural things. I caught an episode once when I went to my one friends’ house and it was so weird. When I was really small I kind of remember my mom and grandma always watching General Hospital. I just thought it was a weird grown up show. The closest thing I have ever become to being hooked on a “soap opera” was Grey’s Anatomy (is it weird that I have not watched the show in ages but I still adore Meredith Grey and Cristina Yang?).
            When I found the movie Soapdish on Netflix I knew it was about a mock soap opera and that it was a comedy. For some reason even though I do not like soap operas I felt like I had to watch it. I was not prepared for how outrageously silly Soapdish would be and I enjoyed it even more because of that.
            Celeste Talbert (Sally Field) is the darling of daytime TV. On set and in life she is given everything she could possibly want. Her life seems to be going well when she wins a Daytime Emmy but when she gets home she finds her boyfriend has left her.
            The creator of the soap opera is a young guy named David Seton Barnes (Robert Downey Jr.). He has two actresses around his arms at all times one of them being Montana Moorhead. Montana wants more screen time, she wants to take over the show from Celeste and she will stomp on anyone and anything to get her way. She gives David the idea to bring back an actor named Jeffrey Anderson (Kevin Kline) whom Celeste had fired years before.
            To throw another wrench, this time an unforeseen one, Celeste’s niece Lori (Elizabeth Shue) comes to town from the Midwest. She does not tell her aunt she is coming. Instead Lori tries to get a part on the show to surprise Celeste. Lori does wind up getting on the show and completely surprises Celeste. Celeste is very happy to see her niece but is willing to do anything to put a stop to Lori becoming an actress.
            The entire movie plays out as if it was an actual soap opera. The characters are the actors and actresses and their set and story are spontaneous and real life. Many twist and turns and plenty of drama happen.
            The cast was perfect. Everyone fit their characters to perfection. Sally Field was hysterical. I loved her outbursts and panic attacks and phoniness. Kevin Kline always reminds of a classic movie star with his acting. Whenever I watch him in a movie I feel like watching more he was in. Elizabeth Shue I have never seen in anything besides her current role in CSI. I liked her as well. It was interesting to see her really acting after seeing her be this one solid character over and over again. Robert Downey Jr. was adorable he was so young. He downplayed his character and that was what made me like him. Or maybe it seemed like he downplayed his character because everyone else was nuts! The movie is practically stolen by Cathy Moriarty who played Montana. Her character was such a bitch but her twist ending was hilarious.

            Soapdish is a very funny movie. I will admit there were times where it felt like it went a little off the handle and became too much but for the most part I enjoyed it. I recommend seeing Soapdish for the acting and if you are looking for something fun to watch. 

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Renegades (1930)


Today is the lovely Myrna Loy’s birthday. It is only fitting since I adore her to no end, that I watch a film of hers today. The film I shall be reviewing is an early talking film titled Renegades in which Loy is a seductive vamp.
            A group of four French Foreign Legion officers have been placed in jail for disorderly conduct. They stationed with the rest of the legion in the middle of the sweltering desert. The men are a Belgian named Deucalion (Warner Baxter), a German named Machwurth (Noah Beery), a Russian named Dmitri and an American named Biloxi. All of the men joined the French Foreign Legion because they are trying to hide from shameful things in their past. The reason they were disorderly was because they got bored and got drunk. They are told by their captain that they will be staying in the prison at the fort while the other better men will be fighting the Arabs.
            Deucalion and the others manage to escape the jail and join the legion. The captain is furious. As payback he forces the four men to bring a TNT charge to the wall of an Arab fort. He is hoping the men will be shot and killed and taken off his hands. Deucalion and the others manage to blow up the wall. Again the captain is furious with them. This time he does not let them pick up a gun to fight claiming he wants them all back in one piece to finish out their sentence.
            Deucalion, Machwurth, Dmitri, and Biloxi are given medals for their bravery in blowing up the wall. At the ceremony Deucalion sees a woman, she catches his attention and is obviously shaken. The men crash an officer’s ball that night. The woman, Eleanor (Loy), is there. Deucalion pulls her outside. They had once been engaged years ago when he was an eager young officer with the French Army. The army was everything to Deucalion and his family. To serve for their country was a great source of pride. Everything changed for Deucalion when he met Eleanor. He told her things about the army important things that she would later go and tell the enemy. Eleanor was a spy sent to use Deucalion. He was branded as a trader even though deep down he was not it had all been Eleanor. He could have given her up but he could not he loved her too much. For five years Deucalion tried to find her. He goes to strangle her but a couple from the party sees what has happened. Eleanor tries to play it off she does not want trouble. Soon the incident turns into a brawl between the officers. Deucalion, Machwurth, Dmitri, and Biloxi manage to run away from their pursuers and jump into the water. Biloxi unfortunately cannot swim and he is left behind to take the brunt of the punishment. The captain puts on the other men’s records that they are deserters.
            Not long after their escape Deucalion has made a deal with the Arabs to lead their rebel armies against the legion. He has Biloxi kidnapped from the fort and brought to his camp. The same night Deucalion disguises himself as an Arab and kidnaps Eleanor. At the camp he has her treated like the Arab women who are seen as worthless and nothing. For a few moments Machwurth, Dmitri, and Biloxi are on Eleanor’s side because she is a white women, until they hear what she did to their fearless leader.
            To make the rest of this short: Eleanor shifts her loyalty to the Arab leader Deucalion was trying to control. The men are sent to attack the legion but when it comes down to it they cannot attack their own men. During the fight, Eleanor is out in the field. She sees Deucalion coming towards the fort. She has the machine gunner shoot at Deucalion. Dmitri sees what Eleanor is doing and shoots her in the back. The former lovers are gravely injured. Eleanor calls out for Deucalion and they crawl towards each other. When she is near Deucalion Eleanor shoots him with nothing but evil in her eyes. After the battle Deucalion, Machwurth, Dmitri, and Biloxi are made heroes.
            So, the only one that gave a decent performance in the film was Myrna Loy. This was definitely most vampish, evil role I have seen her in yet. She was perfect. She looked and acted like a spoiled woman and you can totally believe she could use men then throw them away like trash. Loy was twenty-five when she made this film. She looked gorgeous especially in the scenes where her hair has fallen out of its clips and it blows in the wind. Loy’s face looked beautiful. I went crazy with her evil face when Eleanor shot Deucalion it was perfect and so not what I am used to seeing from Loy! Warner Baxter was not too bad. He over acted a bit too much for my liking. The acting besides Loy and Baxter was not that great all the actors were stiff and some over acted especially the actor who played the captain.

            Renegades is a film I will only suggest seeing for Myrna Loy and partly for Warner Baxter. Other than Loy and Baxter it is not a film I would say should be seen by everyone. I found the story boring and a bit drawn out. Renegades is definitely only a film Myrna Loy or Warner Baxter fans will like seeing.