Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Great Galloping Insanity!

 This is my entry in the Addicted to Screwball Blogathon hosted by Pfeiffer Pfilms and Meg Movies

On Broadway, this absolutely hilarious play was a huge hit.  The author, Joseph Kesselring, wrote a dozen plays, four of which were produced on the Great White Way, but this one was his biggest hit.  It ran for 1,444 performances, which was good enough to rank it in the top 100 list of longest running plays.  The original cast of the play included Jean Adair, Josephine Hull and John Alexander, who would reprise their roles in the film version.  The cast also included Boris Karloff as the renegade prison-escapee brother.  (This makes the lines in which the brother is said to "look like Boris Karloff" all that much funnier.)  Karloff was still portraying the brother on stage at the time of filming, so Raymond Massey was tagged for the movie.  Massey was good, but imagine if Karloff had actually been available...

Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)

Mortimer Brewster (Cary Grant) and his fiancee, Elaine (Priscilla Lane), a trying to get a marriage license.  Mortimer is hampered by the fact that he has been, in the past, an outspoken advocate against the institution of marriage, and has in fact written at least one, possibly more, books on the subject.  So from the outset he is trying to avoid publicity.

Meanwhile his two doddering aunts, Abby (Josephine Hull) and Martha (Jean Adair) are quietly going about their business back home.  Part of their "business" involves inviting older, retired gentlemen who have no family to their home, ostensibly to rent a room in their old house.  But instead they are doing their part for "charity" by poisoning the men and burying them in the cellar.

They are assisted, unwittingly, by Mortimer's brother, Teddy (John Alexander), who is under the delusion that he is actually Theodore Roosevelt (former President of the United States Theodore Roosevelt, that is.)  He buries the victims, believing they are victims of "yellow fever". They are buried in the cellar where Teddy believes he is digging new locks for the Panama Canal. Some of the funniest moments of the movie are when Teddy, acting out his delusion, believes he is reenacting Roosevelt's famous charge up San Juan Hill (actually the staircase of the old house).

When Mortimer comes home to tell his aunts of his glad tidings, he finds the most recent victim of his aunts' "charitable" work in the window seat.  He actually believes it was Teddy who committed the crime,until his aunts correct his misconception.  Mortimer is shocked to say the least over his aunts' indiscretions.  He seeks to have Teddy committed so he can blame him if the time comes that the murders are discovered and frantically tries to get the paperwork underway.

Meanwhile, Mortimer's other brother, a psychotic killer named Johnathan (Raymond Massey) escapes prison and comes to his aunts' home with his personal doctor, also a prison escapee, Dr, Einstein (Peter Lorre).  Johnathan has also killed someone and has the body stuffed in the car he stole until he can get rid of it.  He discovers the dead body of the latest victim in the window seat and assumes his brother Mortimer had something to do with it.  Thus he feels he has something to old over old Mort if his brother follows through with calling the police.

Hijinks ensue as Teddy carries the latest "yellow fever" victim to be buried in the "Panama Canal".  Jonathan and Einstein replace the body with their own body.  Poor Mortimer thinks his aunts have struck again, even though they are innocent.  At the same time, Elaine (remember Elaine, Mortimer's new bride?) still tries to get Mortimer to get going on their honeymoon.  Which isn't going well, since Mort is preoccupied with trying to get his family under control.

As Mortimer says "Insanity runs in the family. It practically gallops."  He desperately tries to get Teddy committed as well as tries to get Jonathan and his unwanted companion to leave.  And he also has to deal with his aunts who don't want Teddy to be committed, and when that doesn't work, want to go with him to the mental institution.

This movie is the most fun I've ever had with a movie that didn't depend on crass farting jokes or drunken fraternity gags or two brothers trying to run from the cops.  It's a classic, and Cary Grant's facial expressions are absolutely priceless.

All three insane relatives in the house are exquisite too.  Even Peter Lorre manages to be funny on occasion (though I find it hard to separate him from his more dramatic roles, since those are the ones with which I'm most familiar).

As I stated before some of the humor with describing Johnathan as "looking like Boris Karloff" is lost simply because it's not Karloff.  But in defense of the movie, he actually DOES look a bit like Boris at times.

This one should be immediately added to your "to watch" list, if you haven't seen it, or queued up for a re-watch, if you have.

I'm off to go visit my own insane family members, now.  Drive home safe, kiddies.


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Risque Business

This one is dedicated to Chris (Angelman), a fellow blogger, who has inspired me to check out more than a few movies I might never have watched otherwise.

***Note to the Fainthearted:  Both of these movies are VERY adult-oriented.  The movies herein were originally rated X and, although they have been since retroactively rated R, they could be construed as very offensive to some of my more conservative readers.  I don't intend to intentionally try to glorify either one, just make some comments on the background and the content of the movies themselves, but they are graphic in their content.  It goes without saying, if you decide to watch either one, the kids should be put to  bed early first.  You have been warned.***

In the early years of cinema, pretty much "anything goes" (within reason) was the adage that movie producers followed.  In retrospect, even the most audacious and prurient aspects of the movies in the "pre-Code" days are pretty tame, if you watch movies today.  But there was an outcry over the violence and sex as it was portrayed, and "glorified", in the eyes of its detractors  in the movies ca. 1930.  Hollywood chose to be pro-active on the outcry and created a set of rules (known as the Hays Code, after its writer,  Will Hays, then president of the MPAA).

These rules addressed many issues that were being expressed by concerned citizens about the way things were presented in the theaters.  Some of the concerns were how violence and the lawbreakers in movies seemed to be glorified (in the eyes of the detractors).  Sex was another issue.  Moral decency in general was what was wanted by the opposition.  So in 1934, there began to be enforced a code of decency designed to appease these people.  And you had to abide by these rules or your movie wouldn't get released in a manner that would guarantee you a wide release to the public.

But by the early 60's, this began to be a problem for some in Hollywood.  Some directors would push the envelope so to speak, trying to get things in their movies that the code prevented, but they felt compromised their artistic integrity by leaving out.  (It's up to you to decide whether anything they left in was "artistic".)  Eventually, Hollywood and the MPAA had to abandon the Code altogether, and instituted instead a ratings system.

Originally these ratings consisted of four: G, M (later replaced by GP, then PG), R and X (later replaced by NC-17).  PG-13 was added in the 80's in response to Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, which was considered to graphic, violence-wise,  for PG, but not entirely worth pushing it into an R-rating.

X (or NC-17) originally did not mean, entirely, a movie of a provocative sexual nature.  In fact, X was never really an officially recognized rating in the beginning.  It was what movies which did not receive official MPAA ratings or its "Seal of Approval"  were rated (signified by one of the three tamer ratings).  Although this eventually came to mean sexual content, other things might push the Ratings Board to not approve the movie for  recognition, including language, drug use and aberrational behavior.  But if you are of a certain age, say 40 or over, you couldn't be faulted for thinking X was strictly for sex movies.

 ***Confession: In the early 1980's I went to a drive-in to see a horror movie that had been rated X, thinking I'd get to see zombies having sex.  The only thing I got was an upset stomach, as it was pretty graphic, but not for any sex (of which there was none)  It still remains the ONLY movie I ever left in mid-showing.***

Myra Breckinridge (1970)

My first impression on viewing this movie, which I checked out from my local library, was that the library must have no idea what they got.  I'm not easily shocked.  After all, I have seen and even  liked A Clockwork Orange, and truth be told, that one is probably even raunchier on some levels than this movie (it was originally rated X, too.).  I can't even imagine what went through the executives minds when they saw the final output.  If the commentary on my DVD can be believed, however, there was a cloud of smoke over the entire production, and I don't mean cigarette smoke... it would explain a lot of the bizarrenes that floats throughout the movie.

In the beginning we have Myron Breckinridge (Rex Reed),  a gay man who is undergoing a sex change operation.  John Carradine plays the surgeon performing the operation.

The surgeon extraordinaire

And he must be one HELL of a good surgeon, and it must one HELL of a good job, because Myron comes out the other side as... Raquel Welch???

Myron and Myra

Now called "Myra", (although Reed as Myron makes quite a few appearances, which will confuse you, unless you realize that it is the inner self of Myra coming to the fore...at least, I THINK that's what its supposed to be), she starts out on her goal.

Myra (again)

What's her goal?  That's a good question.  I'll let Myra (Myron) herself state it:

"My goal is the destruction of the last vestigial traces of manhood, in order to realign the sexes, while decreasing the population, thus increasing human happiness and preparing humanity for its next stage"

In other words, pervert what is considered normal, and make normality a perversion.... or something like that.  (Hey, don't blame me.  I haven't smoked pot in many years, and I doubt I could figure it out even if I was stoned.)

Myra goes to the Buck Loner Studios in Hollywood where she tells Uncle Buck (John Huston), a former cowboy star and owner of his own studio, that she is Myron's widow.  She claims that through that marriage she is privileged to half of the Buck Loner empire, by virtue of being married to the son of Buck's sister, Gertrude.  Since Buck knows that Myron was not into women, he immediately disbelieves her and sets out to prove it.  But in the meantime he gives her a job in his acting studio, teaching "posture and empathy".  (If you have to ask what those two subjects have to do with each other, you aren't paying attention.  Go back up to the last sentence of the  first paragraph of this movie review...)

Buck Loner doing his impression of the Flying Nun

Myra goes about trying to achieve her goal, which includes seducing both halves of a straight couple in one of her classes, Rusty and Mary Ann (played by Roger Herren and then newcomer Farrah Fawcett).  Meanwhile she still has to keep old Uncle Buck on his toes, who keeps trying to discredit her claim to half of his empire.

Sweet innocent Rusty

Sweet innocent Mary Ann

Also included in the cast is Mae West who, by this time in her life, looked like a badly made kewpie doll, but she still has the acting chops that got her started in the industry 50 years earlier  (At least that's what I'm calling them.).  She plays Leticia Van Allen, a casting agent, but she only deals with men, if you get the idea.  Tom Selleck made one of his first appearances (sans mustache) as one of her stable of actors. ("stable"... Gives a whole new meaning to the word "stud" doesn't it?)

Leticia and her stud of the moment

Along the way in this confusing romp West gets to sing a song (it was in the contract).  Otherwise he appearance in the movie only seems to serve as an excuse for backbiting between Myra and Leticia (and according to the rumor mill, West and Welch did more than a little backbiting behind the scenes.)

I won't give away how the movie ends.  (For one thing, I'm not entirely sure it DOES end...maybe its still running on my DVD player and I just don't know it.)  In case you couldn't tell, this movie is ranked as one of the worst movies ever made.  I can't say anything to that, because many of the other movies on lists I've seen are just plain bad.  Bad acting, bad script, bad directing (think anything done by Ed Wood...)  No one's work in this movie is really worthy of being rated as "bad acting" (except MAYBE Mae West who is basically a caricature of her persona from years before).  Bad script?  Well, I never read the book, so I have no idea how it was originally written, although I have a great deal of respect for what I HAVE read by Gore Vidal (the author of the original novel).  Bad directing?  Now there you could make a case.  It is relevant that Michael Sarne never was asked to direct another Hollywood movie, as much for the fact that this movie bombed and lost a bucket full of money as anything else.

It garnered a lot of bad reviews at the time.  My favorite quote is from Time magazine which says the movie, supposedly a comedy, is "about as funny as a child molester".  And, truth be told, I didn't get half of what was probably supposed to be considered "comedic" in the movie.

There was a lot of controversy upon the release of the movie, including a couple of lawsuits.  See, the director interspersed the movie with cuts from older films, the point being to emphasize the emotions in the scene, I guess.  But some of the real people (older actors and actresses) in those clips took great offense to the use of their images in such a film and sued.   Loretta Young and Shirley Temple's images were the issue, and I guess they didn't take too kindly to the film content and how their images were being used in the context of the film.

Its a wonder some of the actual stars didn't sue over the use of their images in the movie.  Then again none of the major names in the movie is really surprising, considering their output in the same time period.  John Huston in particular stands out.  He seems to be a slimy character, but then you have to remember he was also a VERY slimy character in Chinatown.  

Midnight Cowboy (1969)

Joe Buck (Jon Voight) is a young man with stars in his eyes of going to New York City and becoming rich, doing the only thing at which he thinks he has any skill; being a sexual escort (male hooker).  .Joe is a very naive individual.  And from the start he has no real idea what he is doing.  His first few attempts are colossal failures.

The wide-eyed newcomer

The first time he actually thinks he's picked up a potential client (Sylvia Miles) it actually turns out she is in the same line of work.  One of the rare funny scenes in the movie is when both are trying to surreptitiously bring up the subject of payment.  She goes off on a tear, berating him for asking for money from her.  (She tells him she is 28 years old.  Miles was actually in her late 30's at the time of this movie, and she looks like she's in her middle 40's in this scene, so if she is 28, I'm a recent 18 year old high school graduate...)  Joe, embarrassed, pays her and leaves.

The old hooker with delusions of youth

 While at a bar, Joe meets Ratso Rizzo (Dustin Hoffman), a street hustler, who gives him some advice that he should get a go-between (pimp).

Ratso and Joe meet

 He takes $20 of Joe's money, promising him to hook him up with a person (John McGiver) to help him.  But it turns out that the guy is a street preacher who seeks to convert Joe.  Joe leaves and goes looking for Ratso.

Saving Joe's soul

After several days of wandering the streets looking for Ratso and sitting alone in his hotel room, not making any money, Joe is locked out of his room, due to his delinquency in paying his bill. Eventually Joe runs across Ratso, but Ratso is broke.  He offers Joe to let him stay at his place, which turns out to be an abandoned building.

Life in the desolate side of town

You can't help but feel for these two characters, despite the seediness of their existence.  Joe scrounges money any way he can, including selling blood, while Ratso shows him how to steal stuff.  The two develop a relationship, and because deep down Joe is really a caring person, he is concerned for the gradual deterioration of Ratso's health.  Ratso's dream is to get out of New York and go to Florida, where he believes his health will improve.  Meanwhile Ratso struggles to carry on, and does so in the best fashion he can.

"I'm walking here.  I'm WALKING here!"

Like the previous movie, there are several intercut scenes, some showing Joe's life as a kid, and some seeming to be drug-influenced intercuts which have nothing to do with the movie other than emphasizing the emotion of the scene.  Jennifer Salt, daughter of the screenwriter, shows up as the girlfriend of Joe in some of the scenes in his earlier life. Joe is more or less shown to be a product of his upbringing.  He was raised by a grandmother. The grandmother was either a slut or a kept woman herself.

You don't really get too much of the background of Ratso, since the focus is on Joe, but we do find out that his father was an uneducated immigrant.  The two visit his grave during one scene.  As Ratso's health gradually worsens, Joe's friendship becomes stronger and eventually he does what he has to do to get Ratso and himself to Florida.

On the way

Spoiler Alert! Jump to the next paragraph if you don't want to know how it ends: This movie is stark all the way through and if you are expecting a happy ending, you are doomed to disappointment.  Although Joe and Ratso do arrive in Florida, it is ultimately too late for Ratso as he dies on the bus just as they arrive in Miami.  You can see the sadness in Joe's eyes as he closes his friend's eyes so people will think he is just asleep.

The movie won the Academy Award for Best Picture (the only X-rated movie to achieve that accomplishment).  It also won for Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay.  Both Voight and Hoffman got nominated for Best Actor, but lost to John Wayne who finally got a long deserved Oscar for True Grit.  And believe it or not, 40+ year old trying to pass for 28 Sylvia Miles got nominated for Best Supporting Actress (although, personally, I think the Academy was off its rocker for that one. Fortunately Goldie Hawn took home the trophy, however.)

This movie still holds up, even after almost 50 years. But don't take that warning at the header too lightly.  Like a previously reviewed movie here, A Clockwork Orange, it is not a movie for the average family-oriented person.  Exercise caution!

Time to fire up the old Plymouth and head home.  After these two movies, I think I'll avoid Hollywood and New York City and just stay in the relatively saner part of small-town Texas.


Friday, May 12, 2017

A Dog and His Boy

This is my entry in the Favorite Tearjerker Blogathon sponsored by Moon in Gemini

As I explained to Debra at Moon in Gemini, I am not a fan of the sobby, tearjerker trope.  However, even one of my books, dedicated to movies for guys, says that Old Yeller is a classic coming of age movie that should not be missed.  I admit it, however, I only recently watched it.  But I read the novel by Fred Gipson when I was a wee lad.  So I knew going in how it ended.

The movie was directed by Robert Stephenson.  You know, I wasn't ALWAYS a director type person. (I am now.  See our Favorite Director Blogathon if you feel the same way).  It was only after I turned 18 that I started paying attention to whose name was listed last in the credits.  But after looking at Stephenson's output as a director, much of it under the Disney logo, I find that some of my most beloved movies of childhood were directed by him:  Blackbeard's Ghost, The Absent-Minded Professor AND Son of Flubber, Bedknobs and Broomsticks,  The Love Bug AND Herbie Rides Again.  He also directed Mary Poppins,  not one of my favorites, but still a classic.

Remarkably, there are only 7 characters in the entire movie (8 if you include Spike, the dog that portrayed the title character).  That's pretty rare in itself, but each of these actors and actresses were pretty good at their craft.  You get Dorothy McGuire as the mother.  She was the veteran, so to speak, having been in movies longer than anyone with the exception of Jeff York (as the neighbor, Mr.  Searcy)  Fess Parker had been around for a few years, but it was Walt Disney who made him a star.  This was an early title role for him (before his famous roles as Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone, for Disney).  Chuck Connors, who had a brief appearance as Mr. Sanderson, the original owner of Old Yeller, had just left a career in baseball (did you know he played both in the MLB and the NBA? I didn't.), and went on to TV fame from here as Lucas McCain on The Rifleman.   Tommy Kirk and Kevin Corcoran got the roles as brothers (and went on to play the same brothers in the sequel to this movie, Savage Sam, as well as playing brothers in a few other Disney movies). While Kirk went on to a career as a star in movies (including a fond favorite of mine as one of the Martians in Mars Needs Women), Corcoran pretty much ended his career as an actor when he left the industry to attend college, but came back and continued to make movies, only this time behind the camera as assistant director in hundreds of TV shows. Rounding out this cast was Beverley Washburn, as Searcy's daughter, Elizabeth.  Washburn says in the features section of my DVD that she was up against nearly every female star of the Mickey Mouse Club and that she was proud the producers honored her with the role.

A note on the film:  The movie poster and the credits feature Fess Parker as one of the stars (in fact, his name appears second in the list of credits), but Parker's character is only on screen for the first 10 and the last 5 minutes of the film.  The stars are really Dorothy McGuire as the mother and Tommy Kirk as the young Travis, as well as Kevin Corcoran as Arliss.

Old Yeller (1957)

Spoiler Alert!  It would be impossible to explain why I classify this movie as a "tearjerker" without revealing the denouement.  So be forewarned.

In Texas, circa post Civil War, Jim (Fess Parker) and his wife, Katie (Dorothy McGuire) are running a farm.  Jim has to leave to help run a conglomerate group of ranchers (which we don't see) run a herd of cattle up to Kansas.  He leaves his oldest boy, Travis (Tommy Kirk), in charge.

The next day a stray dog shows up and creates havoc, scaring the family mule which knocks down several yards of fencing.  Initially, Travis is angry and disgusted with the mongrel, but his brother, Arliss (Kevin Corcoran) takes an immediate liking to the mutt.  Despite Travis' objections, mom allows Arliss to keep the dog.  Named Yeller (or Old Yeller), more because it is yellow than because it makes a yelling noise, the dog does a few things, including stealing a rack of meat hanging on the porch, that puts him on Travis' bad side.

But Arliss is protective of Yeller.  Arliss is a spoiled brat in some respects.  This being Disney, you wouldn't see Arliss taken out to the woodshed, although in real life in the late 1860's, he probably would have visited that locale  several times.

Travis eventually grows to respect Yeller for his bravado and his gusto, and even gets him trained to be a good farm dog.  Along the way Travis eventually grows to love the dog, and so, its not surprising that,  even though initially Yeller is Arliss' dog, Travis comes to consider him his dog.

When Mr. Sanderson (Chuck Connors) appears on the scene to claim his dog (it actually was Sanderson's dog in the first place), Arliss becomes irate and thinks Sanderson is stealing his dog, but this being Disney, instead of going away, Sanderson makes a trade with the boy.  Interestingly enough, at this point, although Travis respects and loves the dog, he is willing to let Sanderson take what is rightfully his.

Travis claims towards the end that Yeller is his dog.  To wit, when Travis and Yeller go hog hunting, Travis accidentally falls from the tree he is in. He is attacked by the wild hogs, and Yeller is seriously hurt by the hogs trying to defend him,  Travis puts Yeller in a safe place and goes to try to get help.  His mother insists that his, Travis', injury is too serious to go out, but Travis defies his mother to go retrieve Yeller.  He insists that he promised the dog he would return, and since it's "my dog", he has to keep his promise.

Later, after Travis is recovering from his attack by the hogs, Elizabeth (Beverley Washburn) tries to give him a puppy, a member of a litter delivered by her dog and fathered by Old Yeller.  But at this point Travis has come to consider Yeller his dog and rejects the puppy, to the disappointment of Elizabeth (who apparently has her own "puppy love" for Travis).  She gives the puppy to Arliss, and Arliss instantly transfers his ownership rights to the puppy.

When Elizabeth and mother are attacked by a rabid wolf, Yeller comes to the rescue.  Travis eventually shoots the wolf, but not before Yeller has been bitten by it.  Mother insists on what has to be done, but Travis' love for the dog makes him refuse to see the truth, until its almost too late.  Yeller does become rabid, and Travis tells his mother that he, Travis, must be the one to shoot the rabid dog, because after all, "Yeller is my dog".  And I defy even the hardest, most cynical person to not get teary-eyed when Travis pulls that trigger.

Papa returns the next day, having been away the entire time that Yeller was a member of the family, and gives Travis some Disneyesque advice on how to cope and continue on.  The movie gives new hope for Travis as it is revealed that the puppy is just as rambunctious and reckless as Yeller was when he first appeared at the farm.  Thus giving an indication that Travis may have a new outlook on life, helping make the puppy a useful farm critter.

Dry your eyes, folks, before attempting to drive home.  And we'll see you next week at the drive-in.


Sunday, May 7, 2017

The Bond Age (Part V)

2017 marks 55 years of James Bond on the movie screen.  To celebrate this momentous year, I am undertaking to review the entire oeuvre of Bond films, all 24 of them (at this juncture in history), two at a time.  These will appear on the 7th day of each month  (Bond's agent number being "007").  At the beginning of each entry I will give my personal ranking of each movie and of each movie's theme song.  (These are subjective rankings and do not necessarily agree with the view of the average Bond fan, so take it as you will).  I hope you enjoy them, nay, even look forward to the next installment.  As an added note, I am deeply indebted to Tom DeMichael, and his book James Bond FAQ,  for tidbits of information with which I am peppering these entries.                                                                                                                                                                                                  -Quiggy

Note: To the reader.  Because of the presence of a recurring villain in these two movies ("Jaws" played by Richard Kiel), I have chosen to skip over the sequential format for this and next month's entry in order to pair these two in one entry.  Apologies to anyone who expected the sequential format.  The sequential format will be resumed in the July installment.

The best Bond villain wasn't the primary villain in any movie.  The best Bond villain was just a henchman, but he was a henchman for hire.  Richard Kiel, a gigantic menacing looking actor in his own right, played a character only known as "Jaws".  (He got this moniker, apparently, from the fact that his teeth had been replace by steel dentures, and he had a bite that could cut through steel cables and chains.)

"Jaws" appeared in two Bond entries.  His first appearance was as a henchman for Bond villain Karl Stromberg in The Spy Who Loved Me.  Unlike most Bond villains and their henchmen, Jaws was virtually indestructible, and survived at the end of that entry.  At the beginning of the next Bond entry, he is a henchman of an unnamed villain in the opening sequence of Moonraker.  Even falling without a parachute from an airplane does not kill him.  (He fortuitously lands on a circus tent, which somehow, miraculously, softens his fall.)  Later in the film, he is hired by that movies villain, Hugo Drax, to continue to harass Bond.

Kiel had a career before and after Bond playing menacing people, most prominently as a henchman for Dr. Loveless in the 60's TV show Wild Wild West. And later as some of the more memorable co-stars in such movies as the Burt Reynolds flick, The Longest Yard.

The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

Quiggy's Personal Ranking of the Movie: #8

Quiggy's Personal Ranking of the Theme Song:  #5

Best Bond Quote:  "Can you play any other tune? (to Anya who seems to be having trouble getting their escape vehicle into the right gear)

Best Bond Villain Quote:  Stromberg: "Well, well, a British agent in love with a Russian agent.  Detente, indeed."

Best Weapon:  Who wouldn't want a car that doubles as a submarine?

The pre-credits sequence involves a hijacking of a British nuclear submarine.  At the same time, a Russian submarine is also hijacked.  England calls in it's best spy ("007" James Bond, of course).  Russia calls in its best spy Agent XXX.  Of course the surprise in the love scene where XXX is involved in a romantic tryst is that Anya Amasova (Catherine Bach) is the secret agent (women's lib, indeed).  A third scene involves Bond in a snow chase in which he kills one of the Russian agents chasing him.

Then we have the opening credits with a song by Carly Simon "Nobody Does It Better".  This is one of the better Bond themes.  As a matter of fact, the song garnered a nomination for best song at the Oscars, but it lost to "You Light Up My Life"...(gak!!!!)

The scene then transfers to the Kremlin where Anya is informed that her lover has been killed (If you were paying attention, it is the guy Bond killed.  She swears she will kill the agent when she discovers who he is.  (We are left in suspense, of course, since if she knew right away, she probably wouldn't work with Bond, and then we'd have no movie...)

At a secret location, Bond meets up with M and others where they discover that someone has copies of the (supposedly) top secret routes that the submarine takes.  The scene switches to an underwater fortress, and we finally meet our villain, Karl Stromberg  (Curt Jurgens).  He has his secretary fed to the sharks for smuggling out secret plans.  He pays off two scientists who helped him develop the submarine tracking device which got him his two submarine prizes.  Typically of these villains, however, he has  their helicopter exploded as it leaves the fortress.  He then sends Jaws and another henchman out to find the stolen plans and kill anyone who has seen them.

Meanwhile, both Bond and Anya are trying to recover the stolen plans for their respective governments.  Thus they frequently encounter each other, which eventually leads to a cooperative liaison, in which the two work together, both in trying to achieve the stolen plans, bu also in avoiding being killed by Jaws, the indestructible "superman".

Nothing deters Jaws.  Not a collapsing archaeological dig, not being shoved out the window of a speeding train, not in a one-on-one battle with a shark.  Those steel teeth of Jaws must also be running through his entire body.  One thing I can say about Jaws is, he is not easily deterred from his mission.

Anya eventually discovers that Bond is the one who killed her lover, but she swears to postpone her revenge until after their mission is complete.  (She is obviously the consummate dedicated patriot to he country, first).

They discover the secret to the disappearance of the subs; it's a supertanker owned by Stromberg, capable of opening up and engulfing the submarines.  Stromberg's plan comes out, he wants to get a nuclear war started, one that will make the surface world uninhabitable.  Thus his dream of a civilization of his own beneath the sea.  (hey, at least its better than creating a new civilization on a space station...)

And if you want to know if Anya actually kills Bond after its all over, you are in the wrong theater...

Moonraker (1979)

Quiggy's Personal Ranking of the Movie: #18

Quiggy's Personal Ranking of the Theme Song: #12 (see below for an explanation of this one)

Best Bond Quote:  "How do you kill five hours in Rio.  If you don't Samba?"  (Bond has a great way of getting to the real action...)

Best Bond Villain Quote:  Drax:  Mr. Bond, you defy all my attempts to plan an amusing death for you..."

Best Weapon:  What's better than a gondola that can get up out of the water and drive on land, too? (a reverse of the previous movie's theme of a best weapon...)

Moonraker was the first Bond movie I actually had the opportunity to see in a theater, and started a tradition that would continue for the next 20+ years, in which I would eagerly go to the next installment in the movie run.

The movie opening sequence, a U.S. space shuttle being hijacked while being transported under loan to the  U.K.  England is very distraught, as is the U.S., and M calls Bond back from his current mission.  He narrowly escapes free fall without a parachute, disposing of one bad guy and sending Jaws to a new career as a circus clown... (see intro)

The Bond movie theme was sung by Shirley Bassey (her third try at the job).  Although the song is not all that bad itself, I didn't particularly like it.  I probably would have rated it in the high teens or low 20's on my list.  However, the saving grace for it, in the end credits, a disco-themed version was used.  This jacked the theme up a few notches to it's ranking stated above.  (What can I say, I liked disco and still do...)

Moonraker tried to cash in on the then current space wave started by the release of Star Wars.  Of course, there isn't any futuristic spaceships or light sabers or unfathomable Force here.  But there are a few laser guns, and of course, there is a major scene on a space station (launched by Drax), and we are introduced into what was then pretty cutting edge technology with some space shuttles.

Bond is sent as an emissary to Drax's headquarters to find out why there was no wreckage of the stolen space shuttle among the wreckage of the plane.  This particular movie is one of the few in which Bond does not go undercover as someone else, only to later be discovered to be "James Bond".  Bond is not necessarily overt in his secret agent guise, but he does represent himself by his real name to Hugo Drax (Michael Lonsdale) from the outset.  He also is introduced to a female doctor, Dr. Goodhead (who comes up with these slightly or even overtly prurient names...?)  This being 1979 in the real time, and Bond not being quite as cosmopolitan in his view of women in general, it comes as a surprise that the doctor is not male.

Of course, Drax, for his part, doesn't have to wait until the dramatic mid-point discovery that Bond is a secret agent either.  He sends his #1 henchman, Chang (Toshiro Suga), to see that some unfortunate accident befalls Bond.  This one involving a G-force machine which Chang manipulates so it will kill Bond.  (Of course, Chang is unsuccessful, but at least he has another chance later in the movie.)   Bond leaves from there on his own two feet and, with the assistance of one of the secondary Bond women in this outing, Corinne (Corinne Clery), finds blueprints in Drax's safe for glass vials which leads him to Rio De Janeiro.

In Rio several things happen.  One:  Bond finds a secret lab where he quite by accident discovers the scientists are working on a potion that becomes a gas, but it only kills humans (the scientists are the victims in this accident, not Bond).  It does not, however, kill the mice or the plants in the room, so it is being designed for nefarious purposes (but you already knew that, didn't you?)  Second, Chang makes a second attempt on Bond, but is dispatched himself instead.  When Drax gets the bad news, he has to hire a new assassin.  (Guess who?)

In the process of Jaws' attempts to dispatch Bond, he is involved in a crash of a cable car into a mountain (which musses up Jaws' clothes) and goes over a waterfall in a speedboat (which gets his clothes wet).  This continues the legend of indestructibility of Bond's nemesis.  But in the process Jaws meets a short, buck-toothed, glasses wearing, pig-tailed blonde and it's love at first sight.

Bond and Dr. Goodhead are reunited, but not for long, if Drax has his way.  He puts them in a chamber below a launching space shuttle.  But Bond and Goodhead are not really in the mood for barbeque , so they escape.  They manage to finagle their way into piloting one of the remaining space shuttles.  And Drax's real plan becomes clear.  He is taking a selected bunch of superior physical and mental young humans and plans to launch his deadly gas, killing off the Untermenschen (sorry, it was just too easy.   If Lonsdale had had no beard, but just the mustache, it would have been even MORE obvious.)

BTW, in case you were wondering about Jaws and his girlfriend, when he hears about Drax's plans to eliminate undesirables from his heavenly cadre, Jaws revolts to Bond's side.  Left on the space station after helping Bond, the section he and his girlfriend are in breaks off and goes hurtling through space.  Spoiler Alert!: (Now you didn't REALLY think something like free fall through the Earth's atmosphere would really destroy Jaws, now did you?  You can hear a mention they found a piece of the wreckage with two survivors at the end of the movie)

I'm not sure I'd rank Michael Lonsdale's portrayal of Hugo Drax as being very high if I were ranking Bond villains.  He just doesn't have the personality.  He doesn't even deliver the best Bond Villain line (see above) with much more menace than a snapping turtle in a drug-induced coma.  Without even saying anything for most of two movies, Kiel's Jaws has more charisma.

Time to go relax with another martini.  You folks drive careful.


Friday, May 5, 2017

The Most Fabulous Place in the World

This is my entry in the Favorite Film & TV Homes Blogathon sponsored by Phyllis Loves Classic Movies and Love Letters to Od Hollywood

It looks like the coolest vacation spot in the world.  On the other hand, anyone who goes in, never gets out.  It's a prison.  It's the place where the secret service sends all their rogue agents.  Or maybe its some foreign power who wants his privileged information.  You can't really know. The Prisoner was the genesis of  Patrick McGoohan, who had previously been the star of a series called Secret Agent (British title: Danger Man).  In it, Number Six (Patrick McGoohan) has had enough of his job as a secret agent (maybe the same character  as in Secret Agent/Danger Man?), and quits.  His superiors, or some other entity, drugs him and deposits him in "The Village".  The Village represents a prison only in the fact that escape is impossible.  Number Six (the titular Prisoner) can go anywhere and do anything he wants, except leave the premises of The Village.

And why would anyone want to leave The Village?  After all, it's an idyllic place (if you don't mind being kept a prisoner, at any rate).  The only really disconcerting part of living in the Village is that the powers that be, in the guise of Number Two, continually try to extract from Number Six his reasons for quitting the spy business.  Number Six , over the course of the entire series, refuses to cooperate, but rather than be tortured, he is allowed to live as he pleases, albeit within the confines of the Village.

The Village is, in real life, the resort of Hotel Portmeirion in North Wales.  It is an exquisite looking place, what is described as an Italianate designed by British architect Sir Clough Williams-Ellis.  A view of this exquisite resort is all you need to want to go there immediately.

As the "prison" in The Prisoner, it is fairly sedate. Number 6 has his freedom to wander the entire grounds at will, just not the freedom to leave the confines. If he does try, "Rover", a guardian which looks like nothing more innocuous than an enormous beach ball, captures him and returns him to the prison.

Number 6 is able to acquire a map of his surrounding area:

Number 6 tries to find out just where exactly he is in relationship to the rest of the world (when he's not defying authority or trying to escape, that is).  But the map is less than helpful.  For my own part, I'd just take the easy life and try to find my center of happiness in the sedate surroundings.  Of course, there's that niggling little problem with the reigning authorities trying to get inside your head and find out why you quit, but I think I'm enough of a jackass to tell them to "go to Hell and leave me be."  Then I can enjoy the place.

It should be noted that Number 6's digs are fairly nondescript.   Nothing to write home about.  But then nothing says he has to stay in his apartment 24/7.  He can get out and enjoy the surroundings.

A final addition to this blog entry are several pictures to show you why I find this place a desirable alternative to my current digs.

BTW, if you've never seen "The Prisoner", I highly recommend it.  It is only a 16 episode series.  Patrick McGoohan began an ended the series in one season, with a fairly odd but somewhat satisfying resolution to the series. (so there's no annoying drop in which the overriding dilemma of the series doesn't get resolved).  Not only that, but you get to see why I love this place so much.