Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Witches (1966)

Since today is Halloween I tried to watch a “scary” movie to honor this wonderful American tradition of eating way too much candy and spending way too much on costumes. I chose to watch Joan Fontaine’s 1966 film The Witches… and I could not have picked more of a stinker.
            The film starts off with school teacher Gwen Mayfield (Fontaine) clearing her classroom trying to get away. Gwen is teaching in Africa and there is a tribal rebellion and they want all the foreigners gone.
            Back in London Gwen has an interview with Alan Bax to work at a school the small town of Heddaby. He mentions her work in Africa and how she had suffered a nervous breakdown after what had happened. Despite the breakdown Alan gives Gwen a position at the private school he and his sister Stephanie.
            Gwen meets Stephanie before Alan comes home. When Gwen mentions something about Alan being a priest Stephanie goes around the conversation. She finds out that Alan is not a priest he had wanted to but he failed, he wears the collar for security.
            At school in Gwen’s class is a shy quiet girl named Linda. She carries around a doll with her wherever she goes. Gwen is told that Linda goes around with a boy in named Ronny. While in town that weekend Gwen sees Linda Ronny together and they get yelled at for courting in public. The following day Linda is not in class. She gets a note from Ronny that he saw Linda’s grandmother run Linda’s hand through a laundry machine and that is why Linda is not in that day. Gwen goes to check on Linda. Linda tells Gwen that Ronny saw everything and that he should not have followed her. When Gwen leaves she notices the cat that comes to her place is there waiting. The grandmother tells Gwen that the cat is really hers. As Gwen is walking away the grandmother takes the cat and tells it to keep an eye on Gwen.
            Gwen tries to get Ronny into a better school. She wants him to go to a school away from the town where he will have more opportunities since he is so smart. Ronny’s father does not want his son to go away. Gwen tells them she will give Ronny more homework to help him boost up his grades so he can eventually get into a better school. Alan says it would have been better for Ronny to go away. Gwen cannot understand why Ronny should go away because it is not benefiting him or Linda if he goes away. Soon Ronny does not show up to school. When Gwen goes to check on him Ronny is being taken away in an ambulance to the hospital. Ronny is in the hospital for a few days. Gwen talks to Ronny’s father. The father says that the mother is Welsh and she is very superstitious. She came down with the shingles the year before and thought someone had made it happen to her. Gwen confronts the mother about possible witchcraft that could have been used against Ronny. The mother freaks out and Gwen finds out from the father the following day that the mother has taken Ronny away to Wales to her family. The next day the father is found dead in the pond after he had told Gwen he wanted to go speak to Linda’s grandmother.
            Gwen goes down to the pond to investigate what could have happened. She finds other footprints in the mud that were not made just by the father. All the sudden a herd of sheep com running towards her and she falls and cuts her forehead. Stephanie comes up to her since she was chasing her dogs that had been chasing the sheep. Gwen tells Stephanie that she believe the father had stumbled onto something going on and he was drowned. That night Gwen is given a sedative to go to sleep. In the middle of the night she thinks she sees tribal things like she had seen in Africa. Next thing Gwen knows she has woken up a year later in a rest home with no memory about what happened. The doctors tell her her nervous breakdown had returned and it was worse than before. Gwen begins to remember things such as Linda and the town.
            What happens next I am not even going to write down because it was so damn bad and ridiculous and embarrassing for Joan Fontaine and the entire cast.
              Just have to throw this out there because I am a nerd: the English town of Cornwall was mentioned. One of Joan Fontaine's best roles (maybe even her greatest) was in Rebecca. The film takes place in Cornwall where the author of the book, Daphne Du Maurier, was from. 

            The Witches was terrible. The beginning of the film was not too bad but the second half is a load of crap. This was not much of a Halloween film. I feel bad for Joan Fontaine this was her last major starring role and she went out on a bomb. I think I could have watched the other Witches film with Angelica Houston and gotten away with that being a Halloween film more than this one.  

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Lady and the Mob (1939)

“I may have come from gorillas, but that doesn't mean I have to mix with them socially!” 

            The Lady and the Mob is one of hundreds of classic films that deserve to be released on DVD. It is by no means one of the greatest classic films ever made but it is hilarious and silly and a lot of fun to watch.
            Lila Thorne (Ida Lupino) is engaged to Fred Leonard (Lee Bowman). Fred is in New York City on a banking deal so he sends Lila to his home to stay with his mother Hattie (Fay Bainter). Hattie is an eccentric woman but the whole town loves her. One of the crazy things she does is go to the bank on a Saturday where she has an extra key.
            When Hattie returns home from the bank she sees her dry cleaning bill is two dollars which is twenty-five cents more than she usually pays. She has Lila write a letter to the dry cleaner while she dictates. The dry cleaner owner comes to the house to explain the extra twenty-five cents to her bill. The extra money is fee for protection for the mob he pays it every Wednesday at 11am on the dot. Hattie and Lila want to go meet the mobster.
            At the store Hattie sees one of the gangsters steal money right out of the. She wants the laundry store owner to call the police but he will not. Hattie goes down to city hall to the mayor Johnny Jones. He tells her he will clean up the town his own way. With this brush off from the mayor Hattie calls Fred in the city. She asks him to send down a man named Frankie O’Fallon. When Frankie arrives Hattie asks him to get a mob. After the mob is assembled she has the DA make the former criminals deputies. Fred and Lila come home to see all the criminals in the living. They almost beat up Fred and Lila becomes upset. She says she will probably wake up dead!
            Hattie buys a bulletproof car with tacks to throw on the road is anyone is chasing them and a machine gun in the back. Some of the guys tells Hattie that a gangster called Harry the Lug is working for someone named Watson. Hattie finds out where this Watson works and goes to his office. Watson gives Hattie the run around and she promises to put him out of business. She and the guys go to every dry cleaner’s in the city where they beat up all the collectors.
            Lila has had enough of all of Hattie’s craziness and all the former criminals hanging around and leaves. Even the butler wants to quit.
            All the dry cleaners Hattie has tried to help come to her house because the guys have messed up their shops. Hattie tells them to send their bills to her but that one penny of her money will go to Watson. She tells them to be real Americans and standup to the men that come to collect.
            Watson and his men shoot at the house. All the men run hiding behind things. Lila heard Hattie’s speech and after the shooting decides to help. Hattie has Lila go on a date with Harry the Lug to get some information out of him. The guys tie him up and do whatever they can think of to get the information out of Harry but nothing works. Hattie next has Lila show Harry Castor Oil. The Castor Oil works and Harry squeals that Mayor Jones is behind the racket.
            Hattie and the guys storm into Mayor Jones’s office. He has Hattie thrown in jail for being crazy and accusing him of things he claims he did not do. That night the guys spring her out of jail for a little while for a few nights in a row.
            With the DA’s help they catch and arrest the Mayor.
            The whole cast was hilarious. Fay Bainter I have seen in films before but never realized I have. The films I have seen her in I have only seen all those films once so I do not really remember her. Hattie was a good character because even though she was supposed to be an old lady she was feisty and tough and went after what she wanted no matter what it took. Ida Lupino was a panic I was dying laughing almost every time she opened her mouth. I think I was a bit surprised to see Lupino in a comedy because before this I have only ever really seen her in dramas. Her sharpness and snarkiness is wonderful. There are so many little things that Bainter and Lupino do throughout the film that are so fiunny. In one scene Hattie pulls down Lila’s skirt over her knees and in another scene Hattie tries to teach Lila how to shake her hips as she walks.

            The Lady and the Mob is a cute silly film. It is a good satire on the whole gangster culture that was so popular throughout the 1930s. The Lady and the Mob, as I mentioned, is not available on DVD when it should be because it is so enjoyable. It is unfortunately not available to view on Youtube. I watched The Lady and the Mob on TCM, I suggest watching it if the channel ever airs the film again. 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Silent Sundays: Nosferatu (1922)

“Nosferatu! That name alone can chill the blood.”

            Since Thursday is Halloween I decided to get into the creepy spirit even though I am totally out of the creepy spirit since I am doing a haunt this year with my friends and watch Nosfertau. Nosferatu is considered one of the greatest silent films and one of the greatest films of all time. It is a film I have been wanting to see for some time so perfect timing.
            Nosferatu is based on Bram Stoker’s timeless novel Dracula. Murnau did not have the rights to make a full out Dracula adaptation and did eventually get sued by Stoker’s estate.
            A young man named Jonathon Harker  is sent to see a Count Dracula in Transylvania by his employer Renfield to close some kind of deal. Traveling through the small town before Dracula’s castle he says he is in a rush to get to his destination he should have been there. A silence befalls the people in the pub and they tell him that no one travels outdoors at night because of all the phantoms. In his room Harker finds a book on vampires but he just reads it for light entertainment.
            Harker reaches Dracula’s castle at midnight the following day. Dracula has him stay up with him since he sleeps during the day. The next morning Harker awakens alone on a chair and notices he has two bite marks on his neck. He writes to his wife Nina telling him about the bites. Back home Nina is nervous she was not happy about her husband leaving she did not have a good feeling. He begins to figure things out. He finds the Count sleeping in a coffin in the basement. Harker goes back to his room and reads the vampire book. The section he reads says that the Nosferatu drinks the blood of young people to keep himself alive.
            Nosferatu makes the voyage to the small town Harker is from. Renfield is connected to Nosferatu on some level and anticipates his master’s arrival. The men on the ship Nosferatu are on die one by one. No one knows about Nosferatu being on the ship so the captain suspects The Plague.
            Nina is happy that Harker makes is back home with her. He made her promise not to read the vampire book but, of course, she does. She finds the section that tells how the blood of a woman pure of heart can kill Nosferatu by letting him drink her blood and keeping the monster by her side until sunrise and all will be saved. Nosferatu finds her and does exactly what the book said. When the sun comes up Nosferatu is no more.
            I just want to apologize if the names are wrong. These were the name I saw in the copy I watched on Youtube. In my research I read that some of the translations of the film from the 1920s have different names for the characters depending on the country.
            Even though Nosferatu is essentially Dracula with a name change and a very creepy monster it does stand on its own as an extremely innovative and important cinematic feat.  Murnau’s direction is genius as always. Some of the shots of the monster Murnau kept the camera right on him for a stretch of time. The shots are very scary. I think because the monster looks so fake that you look at him and he does freak the hell outta you! The makeup for the monster is very unsettling to look at for a long period of time. Nosferatu is a very good silent film. Not one of my favorites but it is absolutely worth watching.
            For this post I am going to let Lauren Bacall have the last word on vampire films:
            Yes I saw [Twilight], my granddaughter made me watch it, she said it was the greatest vampire film ever. After the ‘film’ was over, I wanted to smack her across her head with my shoe but I do not want a book called Grannie Dearest written about me when I die. So instead I gave her a DVD of Murnau’s 1922 masterpiece Nosferatu and told her, ‘Now that’s a vampire film!’

Have a Happy Halloween. Stay safe and don’t get sick eating too much candy or drinking too much at a party.