Saturday, August 27, 2016

It's a Small World After All

Around the World in 80 Days is not so much a movie as it is an event, and one in which producer Michael Todd worked tirelessly to bring to the screen.  The background to this film is almost, if not more, interesting than the movie itself.  Robert Osborne of TCM fame gives an 8 minute long introduction on my DVD that enlightens with panache.

This was the ONLY movie that Michael Todd produced.  Given that it won the Academy Award for Best Picture, that is rather impressive on it's own.  The movie also has a plethora of cameo appearances. (Some 50 or so are listed on the wikipedia page, and there are probably even more, since I only can identify by sight about ½ of those on THAT list).  Todd was apparently quite the expert at talking people into doing appearances for him in this film.

In particular was the addition of Cantinflas (a Mexican playing a Frenchman, without, I might add, even trying to pretend that he was French).  Cantinflas had never made an English language film before, and in fact, had not made a film in which he was not involved in all aspects of the filming for quite some time.  But Todd got his Passepartout.  As well as his Fogg.  It seems David Niven was the only person Todd considered for the part, and Niven was enthusiatic about playing him.  But both of those are the stars.

Niven and Cantinflas

As far as cameo roles (and according to Osbourne's commentary, Todd's movie was the first to co-opt the term "cameo role"), the list is astounding.  People who have no lines, as well as certain roles that are a bit meatier than you would expect for a role termed as "cameo" fill out this film.  Just a smattering of names to drop : Frank Sinatra, Peter Lorre, Marlene Dietrich, Caesar Romero, John Carradine, Charles Boyer, George Raft, Victor McLaglen, Buster Keaton,  Sir John Guilgud, Noel Coward and many more.

Sinatra as a piano player, one of the many "cameos"

The picture really does not convey all it's magnificence on a small screen, even in wide screen format.  To do it justice, you really should view it on the big screen.  I vaguely recall seeing it that way on a re-release when I was a wee lad.  I don't think I knew half of what was going on, but I have memories of some magnificent vistas.  The film was the first to use Todd-AO film process, which incorporated the stle of Cinerama, but instead of having to use three separate cameras to capture the scenes, it only used one.

If you are blessed with a big screen TV and surround sound capabilities, I highly recommend this film for family movie night.  Even if you don't have $$ coming out the wazoo for that, it's still worth a look.

Around the World in 80 Days (1956)

The movie starts out with a bit of trivia, designed to show how the world has shrunk, in effect since man first walked on the Earth.  Included is a monologue, delivered by Edward R. Murrow, and a viewing of the Georges Méliès' film adaptation of Verne's moon trip novels, called A Trip to the Moon.  Also included is a wistful conjecture that man may actually make it to the moon in the near future.  (The movie was made in 1956, and the actual first moon landing was still in the future).  Gradually the movie gives way to the actual film we came to see.

Phineas Fogg

It is set, at the beginning, in Victorian London.  Phileas Fogg (David Niven) approaches the Reform Club, and we are given evidence of his punctual nature by the fact that he checks his watch as he steps in the door.  Around the club we see various patrons engaged in being very, very conservative British aristocrats.  At the same time we are introduced to Passepartout (Cantinflas) as he is engaged in navigating a bicycle (what is known as a "penny-farthing", the one with the over-sized front wheel) around the city, as well as his attraction to those of the opposite sex.


Passepartout is in search of a job.  While waiting in the employment office, he observes a despairing valet (Sir John Guilgud) announce to the employment agent (Noel Coward) that he cannot take any more of his job, at which he has been employed only 20 days.  The frustrating employer, as it turns out, is our Mr. Fogg, who is particular about every aspect of his life, from the time he takes his meals to the temperature and level of water of his bath.  Passepartout volunteers for the job and is immediately hired (the employment agent has a hard time keeping Fogg supplied with valets...)

Meanwhile back at the reform club, discussion during a game of whist centers on the recent robbery of the Bank of England, of which one of the members at the table is the President (Robert Morley).  The discussion turns to the size of the globe where the culprit could had, which leads to Fogg stating that you could navigate the entire globe in only 80 days.  A wager is made in which Fogg agrees to prove his statement, rather impulsively stating that he will leave that very evening.

At the Reform Club

Fast forward a bit, because the next scenes are of Fogg and Passpartout in Paris, where they are busy trying to engage a train trip.  But a kink in the plans causes Fogg to have to abandon the train trip in favor of using a hot air balloon.  This is good, in a sense, because, at least according to the story, Fogg gains some time in his itinerary due to this development.  (We also get to see some of the first magnificent vistas for which you will wish for the big screen...)

The duo land in Spain where, due to a need to use a visiting dignitary's private boat, Passepartout is engaged to perform in a bullfight.  There are some very comedic acrobatics when Cantinflas enters the ring.  (He was among other things an acrobat).

In the bullring

Meanwhile a police inspector named Fix (Robert Newton) has begun a systematic attempt to find some way to arrest Fogg whom he suspects is the bank robber involved in the previously mentioned Bank of England robbery.  He will doggedly pursue Fogg, and use his wiles to get to be a passing acquaintance who just happens to be on the same ships and trains that Fogg is using for his wager.

Inspector Fix

At every point, there is some predicament that seems to interfere with Fogg's potential success at winning his wager, including a train that is derailed, a ship that sails without him but with Passeportout aboard), and the need to rescue a princess (Shirley MacLaine, looking astoundingly young and beautiful in only her third role) from a sacrifice ritual.  Aouda, the princess, becomes their companion through out the rest of the journey.

Fogg, Fix and Aouda

Spoiler Alert!  If you don't already know the ending and  want to watch the movie before you know the ending stop now! As I intend to reveal an important fact, as well as the ending.

When Fogg finally arrives in England, Fix finally gets his proper papers to have Fogg arrested.  This causes an extra delay, which Fogg thinks causes him to lose his bet.  He is released, but he goes about normal business as if he had lost.  Passeportout discovers, however, that during the journey they had gained a day by crossing the International Date Line from the West to the East.  Meaning that Fogg wins the wager, that is IF he can make it to the Reform Club before the final bell tolls on the clock.

The question that is skimmed over, in case you missed it, is, if they crossed the International Date Line, and Fogg's itinerary was actually a day ahead, wouldn't he have noticed long before he got to London that he was running a day ahead of schedule? Everything was planned according to a set schedule, and Fogg, if anything, is a perfectionist about being on time.  This little slip can be blamed on Verne, since it is the key fact at the end of the novel and the filmmakers were faithful to that part of the book, at least.

That little bit does not reduce the enjoyment of the movie, for me, anyway.  I just tend to be a nitpicker sometimes...

Well, it's time to pack up the timetables and cruise on home.  The old Plymouth is dependable for at least that short distance.  Have a safe trip home kiddies.


Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Future of the Drive-in

Well, folks, 2016 is almost 2/3 over (and I am rapidly approaching the first anniversary since its inauguration).  In the words of The Grateful Dead "What a Long strange trip it's been".

I have co-hosted one blogathon (The Oscars Snubs Blogathon) and have gone solo on another (The Film Noir Blogathon).  Both of them had lots of participation and I hope they were fun for those who got involved.

Looking forward to the future, I hope to do another blogathon (this one dedicated to John Wayne) in the near future, if I can wangle a fellow blogger to co-host with me (that one is still pending.)  Update: It is no longer "pending".  Hamlette @ Hamlette's Soliloquy has stepped up to the plate to help me run the blogathon, coming to a blog near you in December.

I will also be finishing out the year with a few more entries into other blogathons.  Keep your eyes peeled for those.  As well, since my anniversary is on or about Halloween, I want to celebrate with a week long tribute to some of my favorite horror movies.

Next year I am also going to celebrate the 55th birthday of James Bond movies by posting a year long tribute titled "The Year of Bond" (24 movies so far, so @ 2 movies a month, I will finish in December of 2017.  These will appear regularly on the "007"th day of the month...)

Plus there will be plenty more fellow bloggers' blogathons to enter and fulfill.  If you were one of the early readers of this post, you will notice that I replaced "Killer Klowns from Outer Space" with "Creepshow" for my Halloween tribute.  That's because since I wrote this, I joined a circus themed blogathon, scheduled for mid-November, and decided to move Killer Klowns to that blogathon instead, so keep watching the blog.

 I have no plans to go anywhere.  But I am going to take a break for another week to rest up from The Film Noir Blogathon I finally put to bed.  Take care, and look for "Dazed and Confused" for Pop Culture Reverie's Back to School Blogathon as my next post next weekend.


Monday, August 15, 2016

A Final Note on the Film Noir Blogathon

Thanks to all who joined this blogathon, making my first SOLO blogathon a rousing success.  Just a note:  I am not big on time limits (or rules of any kind for that matter...)  If you signed up but were unable to complete your entry before Sunday was over, you can still submit it and I will add it to the blog list.  Hate to see anyone disappointed because Joe Workingman had to fulfill other priorities but still wanted to get an entry in.

Thanks, all.


Saturday, August 13, 2016

Death Wears a Shattered Look

This is my entry to the Film Noir Blogathon sponsored by yours truly, Quiggy.

Film noir.  The concept is one that is familiar to aficionados of classic film, but may be a strange term to the novice.  Film noir (or dark film, or if you will, "black" film) is a term that is used for films made in the 40's and 50's that featured some gritty crime dramas with characters who were not all that socially acceptable by the norms of the day.

The classic film noir characters were bad guys with almost no scruples and good guys who had only a few more scruples than their counterparts.  Or, as in the case of the following two entries, the good guys just found themselves thrown into a hellhole they never expected and had to confront demons that would never have happened to the average person.

Edmond O'Brien, the star of both of these entries, (the man with the "shattered look" of the title of my blog piece), had a stellar career in noir.  He was the star or co-star in many noir movies from the classic period, including The Killers, The Web, An Act of Murder, Shield for Murder, White Heat, and of course D.O.A. and The Hitch-hiker, just to name a few.  He was also a two-time nominee and one time winner for an Oscar (both as Best Supporting Actor, the win coming for 1954's The Barefoot Contessa, not a noir role, but still worth a look-see)

He ended his career mostly as a character actor on various episodes of TV shows, but had one memorable role as one of The Wild Bunch in 1969.  But we are here to discuss the noir O'Brien, so....

D.O.A. (1950)

This is NOT a spoiler!  Frank Bigelow (Edmond O'Brien), in a long opening sequence goes in to the L.A. police office to report a murder, his own.  The police however are expecting him.  He had last been seen in San Francisco.  Bigelow goes into detail, via flashbacks, of what happened since a couple of days before.

The flashback sequence opens with Bigelow making plans to take a few days away from his accountant office in Banning.  He has something of an argument with his secretary, Paula (Pamela Britton), who is also his girlfriend, who resents that he is taking the trip alone.  She thinks he is just going to get away from her.

After, he arrives, he finds a town and a hotel room that is awash in parties.  Apparently he has arrived on the last day of a convention.  He hooks up with a fellow attendant across the hall of his hotel room and ends up in a bar called "the Fisherman" down on the waterfront.  He makes arrangements to meet a girl he sees there later, while, unbeknownst to him a mysterious figure switches his drink on him.  (It will become apparent shortly that the drink was poisoned).

He wakes up, not feeling all that hot, and attributes it to having too much to drink. When the hangover does not dissipate, he goes to a doctor where he is informed that he has ingested a "luminous poison" and that he is going to die and nothing can be done to save him.  He doesn't believe the doctor, and with a "shattered look", apparently runs across the entire city of San Francisco to get a second opinion.  This doctor not only confirms the poison, but also tells him since he didn't know he took it, he has been murdered.

He then runs across town to the bar where he thinks he was poisoned.  (Doesn't San Francisco have cabs or cable cars or something?)  Finding the place closed he goes back to his hotel room, where Paula informs him that a man who had tried to get in touch with him the day before had committed suicide.  Now Bigelow thinks there might be some connection, so he goes to the office where the man worked and then to visit the man's widow.  Since all the remaining figures in this story are in L.A., he flies there.  (Thank God he didn't try to run from S.F. to L.A....)

The plot reveals that Bigelow had unwittingly notarized a bill of sale to the dead man for a batch of stolen "iridium".  The man to whom it was sold, a man named Majak (Luther Adler), tries to dissuade him from investigating any further, including having one of his henchmen, Chester (Neville Brand, a familiarly sadistic character actor) take care of him, but Bigelow gets the upper hand and ditches him.

It turns out, of course, that the notarizing of the stolen "iridium" is NOT exactlyy the reason Bigelow was poisoned.  Red herrings abound within this movie, and all issues are resolved, but if you are a little dense like me, you may have to watch it twice to figure out the real reason he was poisoned.  Still, this classic edgy noir is one of the best of the bunch that I've had the pleasure to see.

The Hitch-Hiker (1953)

The movie starts out following a mysterious figure who keeps hitch-hiking, and then hijacking the cars while killing the owners.  The police come across the remains, or at various times, the ditched cars, but we don't see the killer only the victims until later in the movie.

Roy Collins (Edmond O'Brien) and Gilbert Bowen (Frank Lovejoy) are driving in Mexico on a fishing trip.  They pick up a hitch-hiker, who, unbeknownst to the two is the escaped criminal Emmett Myers.  Of course, if you watch the opening credits, you already know that the third star, William Talman, is going to be the titular "hitch-hiker".  Even knowing that, you could hardly be blamed if you didn't recognize him.

Previously, in my own experience, I only knew Talman as the straight-laced D.A. Hamilton Burger on the TV series "Perry Mason".  In this movie, Talman is a lot more rugged looking and has a partially paralyzed eye which gives his face a gaunt look.  Perfectly fitting for the type of character he is essaying, a sadistic, moral-less criminal.

Myers hijacks our reluctant duo and forces them to drive to Santa Rosalita, where he plans to take a ferry across the Gulf of California to safety in Mexico.  Along the way he sadistically threatens to shoot them if the radio reports end up linking him to the two and his whereabouts.  Luckily for them, at least in the early part of the movie, the authorities think he is anywhere BUT south of California.

Myers hampers any success attempts at escape by refusing to let his victims us Spanish when talking to the locals, some of which don't understand any English.  

Collins and Bowen, for their part do any number of various attempts to give away their whereabouts, but Myers always seems to be having the upperhand on any of these tricks.  Things don't look well, even after Collins manages to sabotage the car so that the three have to continue on foot.  They are slowed somewhat by the fact that Collins has a twisted ankle and can't move as fast.

When the trio finally arrive in Santa Rosalita, it turns out that the ferry that was to be Myers salvation had recently burned up, so they are stranded in Baja California.  But they find a willing man to charter his fishing boat to get them across.  Will Myers escape?  Will he kill Collins and Bowen before he does?  Tune in to find out.

Enjoy both of these.  And always watch you drink, and NEVER EVER pick up strangers on the side of the road.  Drive home safely kiddies.


Friday, August 12, 2016

Out From the Shadows: The Film Noir Blogathon is Underway

The Film Noir Blogathon

The Film Noir Blogathon begins in earnest today.  You can post your link here or on the original page.  I will add them here to the main list as I get time.  Keep in mind I'm a working man, so I have to abide by the rules at my job.  I will not be able to start updating anything until I get off work (unless you are one of the early posters...)  Also keep checking back over the next week, as I intend to read every one of these entries at some point and personalize each listing instead of the abrupt link I initially have to use.  A great big "Thanks!" to all those who participated.  (Also, once again, a huge thanks to Connie @ Silver Scenes  for my banners for this blogathon)  Keep an eye out for the next whiz bang (hopefully)  blogathon idea, as this won't be my last.

Please be sure to link your post to this page if you can, to make sure all interested parties can read the other entries in this blogathon.  Thanks.

Seating is Now Available on
The Dark Side of the Theater

Here is the list of the luminaries who have graciously opted in on this blogathon.  Read them one at a time or read them all at once (if you have that many computer screens...)  Enjoy!

One more final note:  You will notice over the weekend that some of these will have a more personal note (indicating I got around to reading it).  I fully intend to oblige all of your entries with this sevice.  If it gets to be the end of August and you notice yours still hasn't been done, feel free to bust my chops about it.


Midnite Drive-In  "Death Wears a Shattered Look" D.O.A. and The Hitch-Hiker

4 Star Films  "The Set-Up (1949)"

"Noir" infiltrates the boxing world, with interesting twists

Angelman's Place "Lovely Rita, Lethal Gilda" Gilda

Even bad, Gilda sounds intriguing, the way Angelman describes her.

Anna, Look!  "Sorry, Wrong Number (Anatole Litvak 1948)"

A bed-ridden Barbara Stanwyck tries desparately to get someone to believe her.

B Noir Detour  "Noir and the Western: John Sturges"  The Walking Hills and The Capture

John Sturges melds the noir with the western

Caftan Woman "The Film Noir Blogathon :New York Confidential (1955)"

The Syndicate gets more personal in Caftan Woman's review of "New York Confidential".

Champagne for Lunch "The Killers vs. The Killers"

Two very different takes on an Ernest Hemingway story.

Cinema Cities  "Film Noir Double Feature: Kansas City Confidential and 99 River Street"

John Payne is a man on the edge in two nail-biters.

Cinematic Frontier  "Suspicion (1941)"

Cary Grant in "Suspicion".  Bounder? Cad? Or something more sinister?

Cinema Monolith  "Armored Car Robbery"

An intriguing take on an armored car heist.  Charles McGraw and William Talman are the stalwarts.

Cinematic Scribblings  "Shadows Closing In: Shoot the Piano Player (1960)"

You can run from your past, but it's pretty hard to hide from it.

Crítica Retrô  "A Sombra da Guilhotina/The Reign of Terror"

A noir set in the French Revolution.  History lesson, anyone?

Defiant Success  "The Film Noir Blogathon"  In Cold Blood

Chilling portrayal of a robbery.

The Flapper Dame  "Laura (1944)"

The Flapper Dame presents yet another mysterious noir femme.

Great Old Movies  "Treasure of Monte Cristo"

Duplicitous woman gets herself a scapegoat.

Hamlette's Soliloquy  "The Blue Dahlia (1946)"

Who killed Alan Ladd's promiscuous and alcoholic wife?  Hamlette gives us the lowdown.

Hamlette's Soliloquy  "The Glass Key (1942)"

Veronica Lake makes me wish I was a Depression era babe...

It Came from the Man Cave  "Danger! These Girls are Hot!" Jail Bait

Ed Wood (yes, THAT "Ed Wood") does noir in his unique manner.

It Came from the Man Cave  "Durbin in Her Most Dramatic Glory" Christmas Holiday

Christmas in "Noir" land.

LA Explorer  "Spotlight on The Big Heat"

Glenn Ford is a man on a mission.

The Lonely Critic  "M (1931)"

"Proto" noir at its absolute finest.

Moon in Gemini  "The Romantic Noir Protagonist: High Sierra and After Dark, My Sweet"

Two noirs with a romantic twist.

MovieMovieBlogBlog  "Cry of the City"

Gritty drama of a classic noir theme

Musings of a Classic Film Addict  "The Film Noir Blogathon: My Analysis of Criss Cross (1949)"

Who is on whose side?  A very intriguing take on the noir theme of twisted triangles.

Noirish  "Return from the Ashes (1965)"

A woman returns home from the Nazi Death camp to find her world changed on the home front, too.

Old Hollywood Films  "Leave Her to Heaven"

Gene Tierney is a woman who knows what she wants.

The Old Hollywood Garden  "The Big Combo (1955)"

Fog and shadows, that's the essence of noir in this output.

Outspoken and Freckled  "The Black Pools of Noir in Murder, My Sweet 1944"

Marlowe is on the case, and is one of the best in the business.

Phyllis Loves Classic Movies  "Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid (1982)"

Steve Martin is on the case (with lots of famous guest stars)

Phyllis Loves Classic Movies  "Not Your Typical Noir: Nobody Lives Forever (1946)"

John Garfield falls for his victim in "Nobody Lives Forever".

Radiator Heaven  "The Big Sleep"

Ladies' man Bogie is on the case in a truly twisted story.

Realweegiemidget  "Reviewing John Wick"  John Wick

"Neo-noir" action, (with a puppy).

Shadows and Satin  "The Film Noir Blogathon: The Damned Don't Cry (1950)"

Joan Crawford is a wily woman (as usual)

Silver Scenes  "My Name is Julia Ross (1951)"

Who is Julia Ross? Check out Silver Scenes entry to find out.

Silver Scenes  "Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (1956)"

A Fritz Lang noir, how can you go wrong?

Silver Screenings  "John Garfield: Film in a Dangerous Time"  He Ran All the Way

John Garfield is in trouble with the Heat  (and the heat)

Sometimes They Go to Eleven  "Where the Sidewalk Ends"

The cop crosses the line to bring down the gangster.

Straw Cats  "Rewriting the Noir Canon"  Dementia

Combining "horror" and "noir", in what sounds intriguingly bizarre.

Vienna's Classic Hollywood  "The Enforcer (1951)"

Good guy Bogart goes up against the mob.

Wide Screen World "The Naked City"

New York City in a nutshell.

Wolffian Classics Movies Digest  "The Prowler"

 A switch on the classic film noir pattern.