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The Bickering Critics – Anita and George

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Feast (2014) – reviewed by George

A really cute puppy (a Bston Bull Terrier, I think) is very happy because he is being fed french fries, but when he wakens – only a dream. In real life we see him fed dry dog food, wet dog food, dry food topped with bacon and eggs, and realize that this is over time. And he loves it all. Then he starts getting green vegetables. What an insult!
He won’t eat this stuff. Phooey! Then back to people food and the world is fine. And then later the ending is so touching that it’s just unforgettable.
Head of Story is Jim Reardon, Directed by Patrick Osbourne.

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Get a Horse (2013) – reviewed by George

A great cartoon that I thought at first was from the early days of sound when most film was  still Black&White. And I didn’t understand why the picture was so small. Mickey and Minnie are enjoying a drive when Pegleg Pete drives by and kidnaps Minnie. As Mickey tries a rescue he gets tossed through the screen into the theater, and you understand the size of the picture. It’s the screen in a movie theater, and everything that leaves the screen and enters the theater is now in full color. There are many, many wonderful moments, but for me the primo example is a chase in a circle, going onto the stage (color) and back into the cartoon (black and white). Tons o’ fun!
Story by Lauren MacMullan and Paul Briggs and Nancy Kruse and Raymond S. Persi, Directed by Lauren MacMullan.

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Olsen and Johnson in “Country Gentlemen” (1936) – reviewed by George

I had never seen an Olsen and Johnson movie before this. I knew that they were hugely successful in New York vaudeville theaters, but little else. Watching this movie I quickly understood that Chic Johnson is the smarter one and that Ole Olsen is the one with the high-pitched laugh, and at least in this film, the married one, whose wife is Gertie (Joyce Compton). And Gertie has a huge Great Dane named Fluffy (played by Prince).
Here they play conmen who sell phony stocks, then leave town, and at the beginning they are running the Consolidated Gold Mining Corporation. It’s a good scam – until Ole sells stock to the Mayor’s wife and they have to leave this town too.
They stop at a roadside shed that sells food – and a sirloin is 50 cents and a New York cut is 60 cents. Wow! Talk about the good old days!
They are in a small town near an Army post – a town already interested in oil. The first thing they do is let Gertie out to walk Fluffy. Then they kindly give a ride to a kid who looks about nine, but acts (or tries to) like an adult. And they get arrested on a kidnapping charge. The boy, Billy Heath (Sammy McKim), talks to his Mom, Mrs. Louise Heath (Lila Lee), and then she explains things to the police chief and gets the guys out of jail. And they promptly start selling stock in an imaginary oil field (the field is not imaginary, just the oil).
But our country gentlemen have acted as pretty much everything, so oil baron is a cinch.
The rest of the film consists of comic problems and how they always seem to get out of them. At least until the end, where they suffer a serious reversal, only to see everything come out okay again after all.
A good solid little comedy, with a team that I liked, but still it is definitely a “B” picture – the second film on a double feature bill.
Original Story by Milton Raison and Jack Harvey and Jo Graham, Screen Play by Joseph Hoffman & Gertrude Orr, Directed by Ralph Staub.

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Ian Carmichael is Lord Peter Wimsey in “The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club” (1973) – reviewed by George

Wimsey arrives at the Bellona Club and runs into George Fentiman (John Quentin), whom he is delighted to see. George is glad to see him as well. He bemoans the state of the club, calling it a morgue. Peter says, “Oh no, surely not. A funeral parlor perhaps.” And they drink martinis and chat. George is unhappy and loud, offending many by saying that the place is full of corpses. And indeed the members do all seem much older that Peter and George, who we now find out is disgusted at being “kept” by his wife Sheila (Vivien Heilbron). However, he is here as he always is (only once a year) for the Remembrance Day dinner. George is angry at the War and at the wounds he suffered that keep him from getting a job, and at the wife who loves him, because she has the money. He tells Wimsey that he should have been killed in battle. Then his grandfather (also a club member) is found to be, not asleep in his chair, but dead, apparently from a heart attack while dozing by the fire. And while notifying the old man’s sister they learn that she has died the same day, opening a can of worms over the inheritance. Who died first?
The general died at an unknown time, and his sister Lady Dormer at 10:30 a.m. The general left everything to George, with the complete approval of George’s older brother Robert (Terence Alexander). The legacy amounts to about 2000 pounds, which could go a long way toward restoring some of George’s confidence in himself. Lady Dormer’s will left everything to the general IF he outlived her. If he did, then it all goes to George, and raises his inheritance to half a million.
Lady Dormer’s will also provides a smallish bequest for a young woman, an artist who lived with her, Ann Dorland (Anna Cropper), so if the general died first – Miss Dorland gets 498,000 pounds.
Quite a case for Lord Peter and his cohorts Bunter (Derek Newark) and Detective Inspector Parker (Mark Eden), and also the attorney Mr. Murbles (John Welsh), because it is intriguing and really seesaws back and forth after the discovery that the general was poisoned with digitalis.
By Dorothy L. Sayers, the wonderful Title Music was Composed by Herbert Chappell, Directed by Ronald Wilson,

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The Bat (1926) – reviewed by George

This “silent classic” (says so on the case) was directed by Roland West, who just four years later would direct a sound version of “The Bat” in an early widescreen process, but with a title change to “The Bat Whispers”. I reviewed that movie on June 16, 2015. It was fun to watch this earlier try, but the sound version is a better film. This has a nice mix of comedy and suspense, but it is just a bit slow.
The set-up is simple: a master criminal who calls himself The Bat taunts the police by announcing his evil plans in advance, and never fails to get the loot and get away. This time his target is Gideon Bell (Andre de Beranger) and his famous Favre Emeralds. With Bell and his jewels on the top floor of a skyscraper, surrounded by police, The Bat still manages to succeed and leave behind a nasty little note about how crime is too easy in this city; he intends to go to the country for a short vacation. The Chief demands that Detective Moletti (Tullio Carminati) be called in, yet says that he personally will send The Bat to the chair.
But The Bat robs the Oakdale Bank on his way out of town (to finance his country visit?), and drives on to the lonely mansion designed and built by Courtleigh Fleming, the President of the Oakdale Bank. The mansion has been leased by famous mystery writer Cornelia Van Gorder (Emily Fitzroy), who just wants some peace and quiet. She is still awake downstairs sewing when the electric lights start acting up. She stands and calls, “Lizzie!”. That would be her maid Lizzie Allen (Louise Fazenda), who is busy out on the lawn setting a bear trap for The Bat. She shows Cornelia the newspaper article that has frightened her. The Headline: “Detective Moletti says ‘Bat’ may be Merchant, Lawyer, or Doctor by Day”, Lizzie says, “For 20 years I’ve stood by you through Socialism, Theosophism, and Rheumatism – but I draw the line at Spookism!”
Another article says the loot from the bank robbery was $200,000, and that the bank’s President, Courtleigh Fleming, has died in Colorado, survived by a spendthrift nephew, Richard Fleming (Arthur Houseman). Richard, we learn, has agreed to a plan to frighten Cornelia and her niece Dale Ogden (Jewel Carmen) right out of the mansion.
The cast also includes the Japanese butler Billy (Sojin Kamiyama), Dale’s boyfriend Brooks Bailey (Jack Pickford), who is presented to overprotective Cornelia as the new gardener, the Fleming family doctor Dr. Wells (Robert McKim) who drops by, and two (count ’em, two) detectives, Moletti and Bloodhound Anderson, Supersleuth of Oakdale County (Eddie Gribbon). But who is The Bat?
From the Play by Mary Roberts Rinehart and Avery Hopgood, Adapted by Roland West, Titles by George Marion Jr., Directed by Roland West.

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Short Cuts (1993) – reviewed by George

Raymond Carver was a writer of short stories, some good and some great, but he had a certain tone, a sort of hard-luck take on life. Well, they’re short, so they’re kind of profound. But take a bunch of them and cram them into a long movie (3:08), and it becomes a parade of sad rotten husbands, sad put-upon wives, and mistreated children and dogs. Exceptions may die.
Irresponsible men and dismissive women (and of course in this movie they’re not ALL like that) hardly make for a fun evening at the movies. Especially when in the same time you could see two actual comedies.
So see it at your own risk of not being entertained, despite the large cast of stars.
Based on the Writings of Raymond Carver, Screenplay by Robert Altman & Frank Barhydt,  Directed by Robert Altman.

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The Young Girls of Rochefort (1967) – reviewed by George

Rochefort is a small city in France located on the Charente River, near a naval base. The Charente allows the traveling troupe of dancers and singers, on their way to appear at the Rochefort Fair, to arrive by ferry. Impressive, because as they move along up to the dock you have men on motorbikes, two men on white horses, and then the caravan with the collapsible set. They will entertain outside on the square, as will all the acts scheduled. The two men in charge of the act are Etienne (George Chakiris) and Bill (Grover Dale), and while on the ferry the members of the troupe perform in a large dance number. This is a musical, a followup to “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg”, but while that movie was an opera, this one is a dance movie with many ensemble numbers and some two-character dances and a few solo dances. In this film Choreography is King. And the theme is youth and joie de vivre. This is a happy movie, but with a few romantic problems (mostly solvable).
As the troupe constructs their set, the camera pans in to a second-floor dance studio run by the Garnier sisters, Delphine and Solange (Catherine Deneuve and Francoise Dorleac, who are sisters in real life). Solange plays the piano while Delphine teaches. Solange is a composer and has completed a concerto which she hopes to see performed, and Delphine is a dancer whose ambitions involve moving to Paris. After the children leave, the girls break into  a song and dance telling that they are fraternal twins born under Gemini, and that they both have the same birthmark in the small of their backs that their father (unknown to them) had on his face.
Their mother Yvonne Garnier (Danielle Darrieux) runs an open-air diner that fronts on the square, and has a third child, Booboo Garnier (Patrick Jeantet), about 8, by a different man. She can’t leave the diner to pick up Booboo after school, and being sure that Delphine will forget, she asks Etienne and Bill, who stopped there for coffee and are okay with doing a favor. But Delphine has not forgotten and she accuses the guys of being kidnappers or worse. Then she lets them take him anyway, because she has an appointment with Simon Dame (Michel Piccoli), who wants to marry her. She keeps turning him down, and now she tells him she is leaving for Paris, please forget me.
Maxence (Jacques Perrin), a sailor at the local naval base, is to be discharged in three days, but continues to search everywhere for his ideal woman. He has painted her portrait and it looks exactly like someone in the film.
Now Solange visits Monsieur Dame, who is always so encouraging, and asks him to write to his good friend Andrew Miller (Gene Kelly) in Paris to set up a meeting for him to hear her concerto. What neither knows is that “Andy” is on his way to visit Simon. And Solange leaves to pick up Booboo.
Simon has a song about his life and how he met his great love here in Rochefort, and so he has returned – not to see her, she gave birth to twin girls and left with another man for Mexico – just to be in the place with so many memories.
Solange flatly refuses to let Etienne and Bill take Booboo and while Booboo is acting up about wanting to go with the carnies, Andy, who cannot find Simon’s music store, tries to ask Solange, but Booboo’s tantrum causes her to drop her things. Andy helps her pick them up, but she hurries off not realizing she has left her concerto. Andy retrieves it and is impressed. Then he dances in the streets with one small group after another.
Etienne and Bill get dumped by their carnie girlfriends, who are leaving them for their new sailor boyfriends. Yvonne has a song: she left her most recent lover because he had a funny name, and then she had Booboo.
The story may seem complicated, but of course that’s not why you watch. What you want is all the glorious dancing, which is just infused with happiness. Wonderful!
Screenplay, Dialogue, and Songs by Jacques Demy, Music by Michel Legrand, Choreography by Norman Maen, Directed by Jacques Demy.

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The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964) – reviewed by George

Set (at the beginning) inNovember 1957, this French pop-opera (every word is sung) is a love story about a garage mechanic, Guy Foucher (Nino Castelnuovo) and a girl, Genevieve Emery (Catherine Deneuve) who works in her mother’s umbrella shop. He lives with his “aunt” Tante Elise (Mireille Perrey), who is his godmother and also raised him after the death of his parents. Elise is bedfast and has a young friend who takes care of her, Madeleine (Ellen Farner). And Genevieve lives with her mother, Madame Emery (Anne Vernon).
For an opera, the story is suitably big, filled with situations that impede the young lovers, such as Guy’s draft notice for the war in Algeria, and the appearance of a man Madame Emery thinks more suitable, Roland Cassard (Marc Michel).
The color is bright and beautiful, and everyone is a great singer of pop, for this is an opera to appeal to everyone. There’s a clever scene that shows the mechanics at closing time changing into street clothes and talking about their plans for the evening. Guy is asked about his plans and he sings that he’s headed for the opera. One of the men sings that he doesn’t like opera. “All that singing gives me a pain,”
The movie also contains two songs that became international sensations: “I Will Wait For You” and “Watch What Happens”. You’ll recognize the melodies instantly, even if you have to read the subtitles, which of course are not very close to the English translations that became so popular here.
I might have said this is a genuine historical relic, but it seems so fresh, so new, even if filmed in a world of 56 years ago. You just ride with it and enjoy it hugely.
And naturally I recommend it to everybody who doesn’t mind subtitles, but that really is the only way to see it because dubbing would involve changes to match the mouth movements forming words, and that usually strikes me as disastrous.
In short, a great film that doesn’t need me to sell it.
Scenario and Dialogue by Jacques Demy, Music by Michel Legrand, Directed by Jacques Demy.

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The Boyfriend (1971) – reviewed by George

In the 1960’s Twiggy was the most famous model in the world. And in 1970 Ken Russell wanted her to star in his movie version of the stage musical “The Boyfriend”, which had starred Julie Andrews in both London and New York, and was Julie’s first Broadway appearance.
People who expected Twiggy to be less than adequate got a shock – she’s terrific in every department: singing, dancing, and acting. I don’t know what the stage version is like, but Russell’s film uses ideas and scenes from the Hollywood musicals of the 20’s and 30’s, and pays homage to then at the same time. You don’t even have to watch closely to see mockups of sets from Astaire-Rogers films and others as well.
Twiggy plays Polly, a backstage worker and errand girl for the singers and dancers in a play, and when the female lead (Glenda Jackson) injures an ankle she is called in to do understudy duty, since those in charge know she already knows the part. And they can’t cancel because a Hollywood producer (Vladek Sheybal) is coming tonight to see the show and everyone sees themselves in sunny California.
The male lead is Tony (Christopher Gable), and the jealous girl is Maisie (Antonia Ellis), who keeps trying to mess Polly up. A lot of the songs look as though they are staged for film (so what, it is a film!) instead of for the stage, but there are plenty of numbers that use the stage realistically. The Hollywood guy is in a box and Maisie and others keep winking at him and directing lines to him instead of to the audience, which incidentally is abysmally small.
Other cast members are Tommy Tune, Max Adrian, Moyra Fraser, and Georgina Hale.
There’s a lot of singing and dancing, almost enough to qualify the movie as a revue, but it’s all so enjoyable and spirited that I really loved it.
Some of the songs in the show are new, and others are like a trip down Memory Lane. The older songs include “All I Do Is Dream of You”. The newer material includes “It’s Never Too Late to Fall in Love”, “I Could Be Happy with You (If You Could Be Happy With Me)”, the Title Song, and my favorite ” Our Little Blue Room in Bloomsbury”.
A lot of fun packed into 130 minutes, which includes the Intermission, and of course it’s recommended.
Based on the musical play “The Boyfriend” by Sandy Wilson, Screenplay by Ken Russell, Directed by Ken Russell.

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Rita Hayworth in “They Came to Cordura” (1959) – reviewed by George

An action-suspense movie with a very serious matter at its heart.
The Preface: “On the night of March 8, 1916, a large mounted force of Mexican rebels under Pancho Villa crossed the American border and attacked the town of Columbus, New Mexico, killing and wounding both American civilians and soldiers.
As a result of this action the United States Army sent an expedition into Mexico with orders to capture Villa and disperse his forces. It was during this campaign that one man, a United States Army officer, was forced to come face to face with two of the great fundamental questions that affect mankind: What is courage? What is cowardice? This is the story of his search for an answer.”

An Army unit is encamped in the Mexican desert, and Colonel DeRose (Edward Platt) is briefing a small group of reporters. Two or three hundred Mexicans under two of Villa’s generals attacked the town of Carrizal yesterday, defeated the Mexican regulars, and then moved on to a ranch, Ojos Azules (blue eyes), owned by an American woman. One man mutters, “If all she’s got now is a bullet in the brain, she’s luckier than most.”
More muttering. Reporter One: “Not much of a story.” Reporter Two: “Not mush of a war.”
Major Thomas Thorne (Gary Cooper) walks up and is introduced by DeRose. Thorne is the Award officer, and DeRose is happy to tell him that his recommendation was approved. Thorme replies that the boy has died in battle, but he has another soldier with him, a boy named Hetherington (Michael Callan). Out of Private Hetherington’s hearing Thorne says, “What he did was worth the medal and I intend to recommend him for it.”
Thorne asks that Hetherington be kept from action until the medal has been approved, and DeRose agrees, mainly because that last man to be recommended was killed before approval. Of course soldiers are not told about the recommendation until the awarding of the medal has been approved.
The siege of Ojos Azules  is underway and Thorne watches for acts of heroism that distinguish the courageous. He finds four men whose selfless acts are worthy: Sergeant Chawk (Van Heflin), Lieutenant William Fowler (Tab Hunter), Corporal Milo Trubee (Richard Conte), and Private Renziehausen (Dick York).
After the defeat and rout of the men of General Arreaga (Carlos Romero), Thorne is ordered to take the five men selected (don’t forget Hetherington) and the American owner of Ojos, Adelaide Geary (Rita Hayworth), strongly suspected of giving aid and comfort to the enemy, to the fort at Cordura. So they mount their horses and ride, with the men still unaware of the possibility of being awarded The Congressional Medal of Honor. Their trip will take five days, so there is plenty of time to get to know all of them – and Mrs. Geary.
And the trip is much tougher than imagined.
A fine film which tests the audience with partial information, yet allows us to form our own opinion about those two fundamental questions.
From the Novel by Glendon Swarthout, Screen Play by Ivan Moffat and Robert Rossen, Directed by Robert Rossen.

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