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Author Topic: FilmStruck
Brad-
Nelson
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Brad Nelson
Post Re: FilmStruck
on: August 20, 2018, 11:31
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The immediate superior of Nosey Parker was played by the long-time British actor, John Le Mesurier. I don’t know if he’s known for any specific movie or movies, but his is an easily-recognizable face to anyone who loves British film. He played Barrymore in 1959’s “Hound of the Baskervilles.” I love that face.

And as close as this movie comes to over-the-top is when this Assistant Commissioner, while staking out a sting operation, is undercover as an ice cream truck operator, complete with a white suit. To maintain his cover (such as it is), he must sell an ice cream cone to a yute who comes up to the side door of his van. The kid says (perhaps referencing the Assistant Commissioner as well), “Hey, what’s with all these coppers hangin’ all over the place?” The cops are no match for this street-smart yute.

Brad-
Nelson
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Brad Nelson
Post Re: FilmStruck
on: August 20, 2018, 12:31
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I watched about a third of another Peter Sellers flick: Two Way Stretch. Sellers plays another criminal type, this time one serving time in prison. One of his outside contacts has found an opportunity for a big heist. And if Sellers and Lennie Price (again…Bernard Cribbins) can escape for a night and do the job, what better alibi could one have? And it was a lack of alibi that landed them in the slammer in the first place.

The setup is very slow. We spend a lot of time jabbering around in prison. And then (again) Lionel Jeffries enters the scene as Chief P.O. Crout who is the replacement for the “softie” who is retiring. And then the movie becomes about disciplinarian Crout yelling at all the prisoners. This wasn’t funny the first time it happened and it wasn’t funny the tenth. There is zero charm (and absolutely no humor) to this movie so far. I’m going to give up on it.

But it’s interesting that this has pretty much the same cast as “The Wrong Arm of the Law” and yet is a waste of film. Of course, it could get better but I’m not hanging around to see if it does. This film is slow, tedious, and decidedly unimaginative.

Timothy-
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Post Re: FilmStruck
on: August 20, 2018, 12:44
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Based on what I read in wikipedia, I doubt it gets better. They do pull it off, but naturally they don't end up getting the diamonds in the end. It was a popular movie, but we don't know how much of that was the cast. They do quote a single favorable review. Of course, humor is very subjective. One book I had on the subject had an inventory of 30 jokes, and noted that every joke received a 5 rating from some people and a 1 from others.

Brad-
Nelson
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Brad Nelson
Post Re: FilmStruck
on: August 20, 2018, 13:19
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Of course, humor is very subjective. One book I had on the subject had an inventory of 30 jokes, and noted that every joke received a 5 rating from some people and a 1 from others.

I do think humor is subjective. But I think I have a wide range of experience in humor, particularly movie humor. And British humor can be a challenge for anyone. But I think there is good British humor and the kind of humor that people laugh at because they’ve paid their 3 dollars (or whatever) and are going to get their goods.

I distinguish between humor that is funny and the kind of CNN or SNL humor which is funny only because you’re supposed to laugh it at (or you’ve paid your money and you’re there to get your goods). And with everyone else with the same mindset, you join the laughter and it never occurs to you whether it’s actually funny or not.

There’s also low-brow humor. I do think there are vulgar, simple people who will forever laugh at fart jokes and progress no further. And, actually, a good fart joke is still funny to me. But nothing-but fart jokes would not be.

My self-appointed task here is to ease people into good taste by separating the wheat from the chaff. I don’t want people to sit down in front of an old “classic” and think they have to like it because it’s been called a classic. I think it has become a habit for people to gobble down junk and call it caviar. This can become a habit and it can ruin your taste.

So I want to point out the good movies and I don’t think one has to call every movie “good,” whether because you’ve paid your money or because of groupthink.

Expect more. Cultivate better. Appreciate excellence.

Timothy-
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Post Re: FilmStruck
on: August 20, 2018, 13:36
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I think a lot of political "humor" results not in laughter but in cheering an attack on a hated target. That's probably what you mostly get from the late night hatefests.

Here's a joke that Isaac Asimov liked to tell even though he considered it racist. I disagree, and would like to give it for you and our readers.

A Southern matron called up the nearby Army training camp during World War II to send her 3 soldiers for her Thanksgiving dinner. She reminded the sergeant handling her call not to send any Jews, since they weren't exactly acceptable in her social class. Came the day, and she answered the door to find 3 black soldiers in their best dress uniforms for her dinner. "There must be some mistake," she complained. One answered, "Oh, no, ma'am. Sergeant Cohen never makes any mistakes."

And while I'm at it, I'm going to tell an Asimov dirty joke.

A man came home for work one day telling his wife that he'd heard a great dirty limerick but thought it was too dirty for her. After a brief exchange, she suggested that he tell her with the too-dirty parts dashed out. He thought for a bit and recited:

Dash-dash-dash-dash-dash-dash-dash-dash-dash,
Dash-dash-dash-dash-dash-dash-dash-dash-dash,
Dash-dash-dash-dash-dash,
Dash-dash-dash-dash-dash,
Dash-dash-dash-dash-dash-dash-dash-fuck.

Brad-
Nelson
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Brad Nelson
Post Re: FilmStruck
on: August 20, 2018, 14:07
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I think a lot of political "humor" results not in laughter but in cheering an attack on a hated target.

Yes, there is that sort of groupthink cheering. But I’m talking about groupthink laughter. They’re obviously connected.

LOL. Good one by Asimov. And everything is racist these days unless you are specifically hating on Whitey.

Brad-
Nelson
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Brad Nelson
Post Re: FilmStruck
on: August 21, 2018, 09:01
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I tried another Sellers movie: The Battle of the Sexes. This is another dull film that can be easily skipped. Constance Cummings plays a corporate consultant, Angela Barrows, who makes acquaintance with the new owner of a Scottish tweed manufacturer which still does things the old-fashioned way.

The new owner (infatuated with the ball-buster) hires Barrows in hopes of more than just gaining efficiency. Peter Sellers plays Mr. Martin, the eldest employee of the company and its chief accountant. He works to undermine the newfangled techniques being instituted by Barrows.

There really isn’t much of a “battle of the sexes going on” although this is 1960 and women in such jobs are a new thing, and presumably resisted by the old guard such as Mr. Martin. But the movie has zero charm. Sellers over-acts his character and his opponent, played by Constance Cummings, is just a one-note screech. There is not the wit to make this rise to the level of comedy, let alone a plot worth following.

However, I watched another movie after this one. It’s a pre-CODE one from 1932, Frisco Jenny, with the underrated, and largely forgotten, Ruth Chatterton.

This is another film directed by William Wellman and I’m still trying to discern why he is held in such high regard. But I’d say aside from a few directorial pretensions, he directs this movie at a good, clear pace. In fact, the shame is that they couldn’t make this movie today because they would have drawn out the story to an eye-glazing length. But this is a crisp 73 minutes. Not all that much time is spent in any one place, but the story does not seem rushed. It just keeps moving on to tell the life of this successful woman in her tawdry business.

This is heavily plot-based so I can’t say much more about it. But one strange thing is the eyebrows on Dan McAllister (played by James Murray). They go halfway across his forehead. It’s the strangest thing. They look painted on. Here's a look at it, but it’s even more pronounced in the film. I know that’s superficial, but it just bugged me.

What didn’t bug me was the gritty story of Frisco Jenny, including a rather good special effects scene of an earthquake in San Francisco. Chatterton does a superb job. One reviewer noted she was the Bette Davis before there was a Bette Davis. I had previously seen her in Dodsworth which also was a pretty good film. FilmStruck also has her in Lily Turner but reviews on that one don’t look so good.

Timothy-
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Post Re: FilmStruck
on: August 21, 2018, 10:41
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I checked wikipedia and found little to add about either movie. Robert Morley is probably most familiar to me from the superb Alfred Hitchcock episode "The Specialty of the House". MeTV had that on last Thursday (at 1:30 p.m., so I got to sleep a good hour later than usual. I suspect the "battle of the sexes aspect" comes entirely from the woman, no doubt abrasive due to the problems you cite. And in the end she's kicked out because her truth about an incident sounds less plausible than Martin's lies, and I gather gets really screechy then. It kind of sounds like what happens to Milton Krest in the movie Licence to Kill.

Frisco Jenny starts in 1906, so you can probably guess which earthquake they're showing. Some would say that Jenny, for all her many faults, does know that her priority is her child, in the end sacrificing herself for him. But I will say that if I saw that photo under normal circumstances, I wouldn't see anything odd about his eyebrows.

I looked at their list of movies directed by Wellman, and there were certainly many you've discussed here, as well as others I've heard of (not always necessarily from the movie in question). But I don't recognize a single one as one I've seen.

Brad-
Nelson
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Brad Nelson
Post Re: FilmStruck
on: August 21, 2018, 11:50
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And in the end she's kicked out because her truth about an incident sounds less plausible than Martin's lies, and I gather gets really screechy then. It kind of sounds like what happens to Milton Krest in the movie Licence to Kill..

There was very little thought put into this story. I think this is one where it was thought that Peter Sellers playing yet another oddball character was enough to keep the audience in stitches. I’m second to no one in praise of Sellers, but that’s not enough to carry a movie.

Some would say that Jenny, for all her many faults, does know that her priority is her child, in the end sacrificing herself for him.

The review I read noted that this was a pre-CODE-era movie. I think this is obviously so because of a rather straightforward portrayal of a somewhat idealized prostitute and criminal (she eventually graduated to being a major player in bootlegging). She did indeed turn to crime as the one way to provide for her son and to chart her own course. There’s a most striking moment in the film when she very self-consciously makes this decision saying something like, “I may not be doing what is right by you but I’ve gotta do what is right by me.”

This is by no means an in-depth look at prostitution. (We see merely the workings of a clip-joint where the girls do all they can to sell liquor but not themselves.) But it’s certainly sympathetic to the “working girl.” And I think appropriately so and without a lot of feminism or political correctness. We see Jenny’s individual case and are appropriately sympathetic to her. And yet (big spoiler alert coming) not sympathetic to the point where we forgive her the sin of murdering her partner for a rather womanly frivolous reason (which makes it all the more believable in a way — huge spoiler alert: the prosecuting attorney is her son and she killed her partner to keep him from revealing to this son who his real mother is….the partnter was going to trade on her name to try to get out of a criminal jam).

(More spoilers) Jenny withholds this information from her son to the very bitter end. So even pre-CODE, her sins do catch up with her. The difference is, it doesn’t seemed forced, as if it is the requirement of the movie.

Brad-
Nelson
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Brad Nelson
Post Re: FilmStruck
on: August 23, 2018, 08:55
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FilmStruck has a set of TV “Westinghous Studio One” movies. The old Westinghouse commercials are about as entertaining as the movies. Westinghouse really was on the cutting edge of technology for the home, among other things. And these are very charming old commercials with the look of a live presentation. Perhaps they were. There are small errors from time to time in the script of the presenter.

The first episode I watched is called Dark Possession. It’s a parlor-room drama written by Gore Vidal. Someone is writing poison-pen letters accusing the wife of murdering her husband. It’s interesting (spoiler alert) that the synopsis at FilmStruck basically gives away the game: “Written by Gore Vidal, this Studio One teleplay was one of the first programs to address the concerns surrounding multiple personality disorder.”

This is a so-so drama. The interesting part is seeing Leslie Nielsen playing the doctor who is also the fiancé of the younger of the three daughters. The elder two were in love with the same man (the one who was murdered). This is actually very watchable. These are presented at FilmStruck in a collection of episodes directed by Franklin Schaffner before he hit the big time in Hollyweird with such films as “Planet of the Apes,” “Patton,” “Papillon,” and “The Boys from Brazil.”

The other episode that I’ve watched so far is The Arena, written by Rod Serling. This is an excellent example of a quality made-for-TV movie. In both, the direction is obviously quite competent. But the story is far better in this one. It’s about a freshman U.S. Senator, appointed by the governor to fill a vacancy, engaging in a feud with the state’s senior Senator who had been an enemy of his father who had been a long-time Senator. I won’t give away anything on this one. It’s very much worth watching. Chester Morris is particularly good as the aid to Senator Norton. John Cromwell (father of James Cromwell…the resemblance is obvious) plays the experienced senior Senator Rogers. Is he the good guy, the bad guy, or something in between? He is so consummately the seasoned politician, it’s hard to tell.

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