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Author Topic: FilmStruck
Timothy-
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Post Re: FilmStruck
on: August 17, 2018, 12:04
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I just checked Battleground on wikipedia, and it sounds good and overall very accurate, with one major error (there were no Greifers in the area, though the soldiers were very concerned about them anyway all over the front) and one minor one. (The specific company they picked -- I (Item) Company of the 327th Glider Regiment -- didn't in fact exist. This was partly deliberate -- they didn't want anyone from the actual company saying, "That didn't happen.")

Many incidents were based on actual occurrences, and the scriptwriter based it on his own experiences in the battle, though not at Bastogne. They brought in 20 101st Airborne vets to train the actors and also serve as extras, and the division's second-in-command during the battle (some top officers were away because of Christmas furloughs) was the technical advisor. Tony McAuliffe attended the movie premier in DC.

I do wonder about the timing of events. Apparently they had an outdoor Christmas service with some townspeople including an actual priest. Then the weather cleared, enabling the Allied airplanes to attack the Germans and supply the surrounded troops. Then Patton's 4th Armored broke through (the combat command in the lead was under Col. Creighton Abrams) to break the siege. But the weather cleared on December 23 and Abrams broke through on December 26, so you'd think the Christmas service is between them.

I may have seen this, or at least part of it. I recall a scene in which troops trapped at Bastogne were reading some sort of newspaper, and one noted that "We're holding off the best von Rundstedt can throw at us." When another asked who von Rundstedt was, he said, "The kraut commander." Incidentally, there were other troops there besides the airborne -- most importantly, a 10th Armored combat command that played a key role in keeping the Germans from getting to the city (with its critical road/rail junctions, rivaled only by St. Vith in its importance).

And this might be a good time to mention that my father's last posting was as commander of the division's 39th Engineer Battalion (the Bull of the Woods), working on a facility they named Port Lane after he was killed. (I assume the name was changed later by the new management.) I found his unit patch at the Quartermasters Museum in Hopewell, Virginia (in the Petersburg area; we came across it by happenstance on our way to City Point).

Brad-
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Brad Nelson
Post Re: FilmStruck
on: August 17, 2018, 22:04
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“Night Nurse” turned out to be quite dull. William Wellman isn’t batting a high average right now as director.

But “Battleground” was better. I known I’ve seen this before because I remember a wounded Ricardo Montalban taking refuge underneath an overturned jeep. As far as gritty, realistic WWII movies go, I’d highly recommend watching A Walk in the Sun with Dana Andrews with a stronger cast and a much stronger story.

We get some silly shtick in this one, such as Van Johnson trying to make scrambled eggs but always being interrupted. The overt attempt is to give a G.I.-Joe-ground-level-view. But it comes off simply as a stereotype of a G.I.-Joe-ground-level-view. I still think Mel Gibson’s We Were Soldiers is the most realistic-looking G.I.-Joe-ground-level-view that I’ve ever seen. I can, of course, only imagine that this is what combat looks like.

This film would have benefited from a tripling of the budget. This is almost a stage play in its minimalism. There is very little sense of a large battle taking place. There are no enemy tanks. Realism suffers. If this is about the Battered Bastards of Bastogne, you get almost no sense of what Bastogne is, how big the battle is, or the layout of the forces. And probably a better realistic view of the Ardenne, in particular, can be found in the “Band of Brothers” series.

Nobody is particularly good in “Battleground” but then no one is bad either. I think John Hodiak as Jarvess was the best and the film would have done better to center more on him, making him the squad leader. There’s not heroism and almost nothing substantial takes place. The men are more or less bystanders. And I understand this is supposed to be more of a “slice of life” thing. But the real Battle of the Bulge was apparently a fast-moving, terrifying thing. There is no sense of that in this.

The movie is watchable but it’s ultimately anticlimactic. One reviewer notes that there was no real ground in the entire film, the whole thing having been filmed on a stage in a back lot, thus allowing for not much battleground realism. Although this film is supposed to be a character study of various grunts, as this same review aptly noted, “the grunts are stereotypical.” As much as the conceit of this film is to realism, the soldiers just seem to be acting out well-worn stereotypes.

The best aspect was the sense that the soldiers did not have a sense of the big picture (and they likely did not). The often noted how family back home via the newspaper (which the soldier would get belatedly) knew more about the battle than they did. Too bad more of this ground-leve detail was not included.

Brad-
Nelson
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Brad Nelson
Post Re: FilmStruck
on: August 17, 2018, 22:07
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I do wonder about the timing of events. Apparently they had an outdoor Christmas service with some townspeople including an actual priest. Then the weather cleared, enabling the Allied airplanes to attack the Germans and supply the surrounded troops. Then Patton's 4th Armored broke through (the combat command in the lead was under Col. Creighton Abrams) to break the siege. But the weather cleared on December 23 and Abrams broke through on December 26, so you'd think the Christmas service is between them.

Patton isn’t even mentioned in the film. The film does start with some of the trappings of Christmas, but no point is ever made of this. You get no sense that this was a Holiday spoiled by the Germans. The scenes in “The Battle of the Bulge,” although not extensive, at least gave you a sense that someone was defending something desperately. There is almost no sense of that in “Battleground.” They call in some artillery at one point (although you ever see it land), but that’s about the most they can manage. This really is a film done on the cheap.

Timothy-
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Post Re: FilmStruck
on: August 17, 2018, 22:26
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Needless to say, some of my comments were based on historical knowledge. It should surprise no one that I've read a number of histories of the Battle of the Bulge. But if they weren't having a regular Christmas service (which is the impression I got from wikipedia), then the timing works out.

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Nelson
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Post Re: FilmStruck
on: August 19, 2018, 19:49
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Is FilmStruck worth $6.99 a month? I think at this point I can still answer “yes.” It’s true there’s a lot of mediocre movies on there (depending one one’s taste), but it’s also full of good movies that you’re not likely to run into anywhere else. This is all predicated on the basis of liking old movies.

Here are some recent gems:

Rich and Strange. This is an early Hitchcock film from 1931. Whether intentional or not, it’s got the look of a silent movie. But it’s a talkie, for sure.

Fred Hill (Henry Kendall) is bored with his life and wants to really live. Providence obliges him when a rich relative leaves him an early inheritance. He and his wife, Emily (Joan Barry), are off to see the world.

This is a good movie and I won’t give anything away. There are some strange aspects. For some reason, Henry Kendall is asked to play a bit of Buster Keaton from time to time in some mild slapstick. It’s out of place. But otherwise Kendall is excellent at playing the bitterly disappointed man. And, try as I might, I didn’t see Hitchcock in any walk-through in the background. But he’s easy to miss. But I assume he’s in there somewhere.

This is an intelligent picture that generally stays inside the moral movie standards of the day. Well…sometimes. The film itself (on FilmStruck) looks to be in need of restoration. Let’s hope they do.

Summer of ’42. I may have seen bits and pieces of this before. But I doubt that I had ever watched it all the way through. And I’m glad I did.

In the hands of lesser talent, this would have been simply an excuse for salaciousness. But the plot is deeper than your typical teenage exploitation film a la John Hughs. There is the crassness of youth combined with some deeper and much more poignant themes. Modern audiences would no doubt laugh at those older notions of shame or shyness. But awkwardness is inherently a part of youth. As is uncouthness. But this is a quiet gem.

Claire's Knee. Okay, this one may be a bit more salacious. But it’s French. What more do you need to know? This is not for everyone. But if you enjoy foreign films, give this one a go.

When Were You Born? This is an odd Charlie Chan-ish movie from 1938. With better casting and more depth to the story, this might have been a gem, even if an odd one.

Anna May Wong (or she might not be) plays Mei Lei Ming who is an astrologer. The opening of this film is unique in that it has some fellow at a desk explaining what each of the astrological signs mean. We move onto the movie in which a murder is committed. Mei Lei Ming was tangentially involved (she predicted the death of the man). She’s summoned by the police as a suspect but soon, because of her amazing abilities at astrology (and analyzing people, and predicting events), she’s unofficially retained by the police to help in the investigation

This is actually pretty good for the first 35 minutes or so. You wouldn’t think an astrological detective would work. But it does for a while. But at some point the movie (much like so many other crime or detective films) simply gives you a rotation of suspects with Mei Lei telling the police why this new one couldn’t have done it. Rinse and repeat.

But it’s campy and unusual enough to be enjoyable. If you like the general low-budget style of Charlie Chan (although the production values are better in this one), you’ll like “When Were You Born?”

Last but not least (well…it probably fits in the middle somewhere) is 1954’s Hobson's Choice. Charles Laughton plays Charles Laughton and because that is unique enough, he generally works as the owner/operator of Hobson’s Boots.

He lives with his three unmarried daughter who take care of him and help out in the business. He’s none to keen to see any of the daughters married off.

The secret to the success of the business is craftsman Wiliam Mossop who is generally unseen and unheard by the customers, working as he does under a trap door in the shop on the bottom floor. Brenda de Banzie plays the hard-driving elder sister who soon (and I forget the circumstances) has a split with her father. She takes off with Mossop to set up a boot shop elsewhere.

A young Prunella Scales (Sybil Fawlty from “Fawlty Towers”) has a minor role as one of the younger sisters. This is clearly a British comedy and to American audiences, it will suffer somewhat from that. There’s just a bit of oddness to the genre.

Nothing of stupendous importance happens, but the characters are fun to watch. Although John Mills as the meek William Mossop is just fine, I kept wondering how this movie would have gone with either Peter Sellers or Alec Guinness in the role. They would have brought much more depth to the transformation of this character from Hobson’s doormat to a sort of henpecked, but bolder, mouthpiece for his eldest daughter. I’m not taking anything away from Mills. It’s a fine interpretation of the character. But it could have been more.

Although Laughton is a giant of an actor (in more ways than one), his character is more of a McGuffin than a fleshed-out character. He's gruff and grumbles and that's about it.

Timothy-
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Post Re: FilmStruck
on: August 19, 2018, 20:49
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I checked wikipedia, and Rich and Strange isn't one of the movies with a Hitchcock cameo, although he had already started doing them.

I don't recall seeing any of these, though I do remember bits and pieces of the MAD parody of Summer of '42.

The wikipedia plot summary of Hobson's Choice (a title that has no connection that I can see to the "take it or leave it" concept known as "Hobson's choice", from a 17th Century stable owner) says that he didn't care if the other 2 daughters married. He needed the first. And after she married Hobson's top bootmaker and combined his skills with her managment ability, she made a success of it.

Brad-
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Brad Nelson
Post Re: FilmStruck
on: August 20, 2018, 09:19
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I checked wikipedia, and Rich and Strange isn't one of the movies with a Hitchcock cameo, although he had already started doing them.

Aha. That’s why I missed it even though I was being fairly diligent.

The wikipedia plot summary of Hobson's Choice (a title that has no connection that I can see to the "take it or leave it" concept known as "Hobson's choice”

I couldn’t find the connection either. I guess it’s just a play on words then.

Last night I watched Peter Sellers in 1963’s The Wrong Arm of the Law. It’s a sort of “Mad Mad Mad Mad World” movie of hijinks and some pretty good running shtick. This is what comedians had to do before audiences became so easily mesmerized and seduced by low-brow f-bombs as a substitute for comedy.

You can tell this movie is working hard at it. In many ways, it’s much too sophisticated for today’s audiences.

Peter Sellers plays Pearly Gates, his criminal name that his associates know him by. He also runs a legitimate business as a fashion designer and he plays the somewhat effete French designer to good laughs. He is part of an organized loose confederacy of gangs in London. But the gangs are being picked clean by the cops. Or so it seems. At the end of every big heist there are cops waiting for them who take the loot but strangely don’t arrest the perpetrators.

Eventually they get wise to the fact that this is a gang of IPOs. And that does not mean “Initial Public Offering” but “Impersonating a Police Officer.” There’s an informer inside one of the gangs tipping them off.

This IPO gang is not only an inconvenience for the “legitimate” crime gangs but they’re giving the coppers a bad name as well. Something must be done. But what? In a funny twist, Scotland Yard agrees to work with the gangs temporarily until the IPOs are caught. The first step is a 24-hour truce to allow the police to use all their resources to try to find the IPO gang, especially by looking for any car that is made up to look like a police car. Back at Scotland Yard, all the phones are suddenly silent because of the truce with the gangs which make up about 98% of the crime in London.

Lionel Jeffries plays Inspector Parker who, along with Pearly Gates, has hatched this cooperative scheme and is on the hot seat to try to make it work. Bernard Cribbins, a common associate of Sellers, plays Nervous O’Toole. He’s suitably nervous with a twitchy eye but doesn’t overplay it. The little details and running shtick like this make the movie. I think my biggest laugh was when O’Toole is sitting around with his family and associates observing a plan that has being set into action between Scotland Yard and the crime gangs. O’Toole wonders what the time is and goes to look at his watch but it’s missing. “Who stole my watch?” He looks at his son or nephew who has it. “Give it back to me you bleedin’ little thief.” Or something like that. They’re all thieves or thieves in training, of course.

Many of these types of British comedies go off the rails and can become so convoluted with layer after layer of action thrown on top that the whole thing can just topple. In “The Wrong Arm of the Law,” they actually build a coherent plot (silly though it may be) that even includes a few funny twists and turns at the end. It takes a while for this movie to build. But it does build something longer-range than just the sight-gag-of-the-moment which is the bane of many British comedies.

Timothy-
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Post Re: FilmStruck
on: August 20, 2018, 10:01
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That's a nice nickname for a British cop, Nosey Parker. Very appropriate, probably given to him by the gangs he was going after.

One of the early double episodes of the old Batman series featured the Joker deciding to create his own unique form of a utility belt. It was based on old story that was rerun after the episode came out. One early scene in the original story -- the first use of the Joker's utility belt -- came when some other hoods decided to rob his hideout -- they knew there was more loot there than anyplace else they might hit, and it's not like anyone was going to call the cops on them. It also happened to the Beagle Boys in one of the Gladstone Uncle Scrooge comics (which I got because Louisville cartoonist Don Rosa did most of their stories). It would make a lot of sense if crooks kept their loot stashed away in hideouts that other crooks knew about.

Brad-
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Post Re: FilmStruck
on: August 20, 2018, 10:14
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That's a nice nickname for a British cop, Nosey Parker.

Yeah, that’s another good running gag. Eventually Inspector Parker stops objecting to the use of it, perhaps gently foreshadowing a few twists and turns at the end. Another of Parker’s shticks is, no matter what the problem, he always says to his superiors, “I’ll get your man, sir.” Or something like that. It’s not funny the first or second time. But then you begin to realize he always says that and rarely, if every, gets his man.

At one point while Inspector Parker is working undercover with Pearly Gates. He comes to Seller’s place in disguise. He’s got a hairpiece, eyeglasses, hat, and maybe a beard as well. Seller’s opens the door and immediately says, “Hi, Nosey.” Parker is surprised that his disguise didn’t work on him for he noted that he went clean through Scotland Yard and out the back door without anyone giving him a salute. Gates, of course, quips about “How is that unusual?” Or something like that.

I vaguely remember the Joker episode with his own utility belt. It makes sense in real-life to have one although they might not appear very fashionable.

Timothy-
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Post Re: FilmStruck
on: August 20, 2018, 11:14
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Who was running Scotland Yard, Superintendent Clouseau (and we all know who played him, which would have made that a fun addition to the movie) over from Paris? (Of course The Pink Panther came out the same year, so no one knew Clouseau would be such a popular fool.)

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