Laguna (2001)

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What will you do for “family”?
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vt Segreti di Famiglia; vt Hotel Laguna; vt Vendetta
UK, Italy, France / 92 minutes / color / Metropolitan, Davis, Caimano, ReteItalia, FDC (Laguna) Dir: Dennis Berry Pr: Augusto Caminito, Samuel Hadida, Alan Latham Scr: Augusto Caminito, Claude Harz, David Linter Story: Augusto Caminito Cine: Roberto D’Ettorre Piazzoli Cast: Joe Mantegna, Emmanuelle Seigner, Sergio Castellitto, Henry Cavill, Daniela Alviani, Charles Aznavour, Davide Bozzato, Sam Douglas, Gustavo Frigerio, Francesco Fichera, Paolo Paoloni, Karin Proia, Terry Serpico.

Many years ago, when Thomas Aprea (Fichera) was just a child, his father Terenzio (Serpico) was the saxophonist in a musical trio with singer Nicola “Nico” Pianon (Mantegna) and violinist Joe Sollazzo (Castellitto). As we discover much later in the movie, Terenzio soon decided to supplement his musical income by working as a bagman for mobster Tony Castellano (Aznavour)—so-named in the credits but throughout called Tony Castell.

Terry Serpico as Terenzio

Sergio Castellitto as Joe.

Unfortunately, Terenzio then decided to supplement his musical income yet further by skimming a bit off the top. The result was that one day Terenzio’s car blew up, killing Terenzio, his wife and Thomas’s two siblings—Thomas himself escaped solely because he’d run back into the house to fetch a forgotten present. Since then, “Uncle” Joe Sollazzo has raised the boy on his own in New York City, even putting him through college.

Joe Mantegna as Nico.

Now that Thomas (Cavill) has graduated, Joe sends him off to Venice, to be Continue reading

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Indestructible Man (1956)

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Is he insane, or is he just dead?
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US / 71 minutes / bw / CGK, Allied Artists Dir & Pr: Jack Pollexfen Scr: Vy Russell, Sue Bradford Cine: John Russell Jr Cast: Lon Chaney (i.e., Lon Chaney Jr), Casey Adams (i.e., Max Showalter), Marion Carr (i.e., Marian Carr), Ross Elliott, Stuart Randall, Kenneth Terrell, Robert Foulk, Marjorie Stapp, Rita Green, Robert Shayne, Roy Engle (i.e., Roy Engel), Peggy Maley, Madge Cleveland, Marvin Press, Joe Flynn, Eddie Marr.

To all intents and purposes, this is a fairly good second-tier film noir in the mold of The NAKED CITY (1948)—we keep expecting Max Showalter’s voiceover to inform us that “There are eight million stories in the Naked City. This has been one of them”—with the single exception that it has a daft scientific/technological premise, thanks to the presence of an idealistic maverick scientist who, in his quest of a cure for cancer, manages instead to resuscitate the dead.

First of all, the noirish setup:

After an armored-car robbery gone wrong, Charles “Butcher” Benton (Chaney) awaits execution on the morrow in the gas chamber at San Quentin. Visiting him is his shyster lawyer, Paul Lowe (Elliott), and it’s clear at once that they don’t enjoy an ordinary lawyer–client relationship.

Lowe (Ross Elliott) visits the Butcher (Lon Chaney Jr) in San Quentin.

Lowe tells the Butcher that he might as well tell him where the $600,000 proceeds of the robbery are hidden, because the Butcher’s not going to be able to spend the loot when he’s dead. But the condemned man is having none of that. He knows that his confederates in the holdup, Joe Marcelli (Terrell) and Squeamy Ellis (Press), squealed on him, which is why he is here, and he knows that Lowe betrayed him in the guise of defending him.

Joe Marcelli (Kenneth Terrell, left) and Squeamy Ellis (Marvin Press) hear on the radio the news of the Butcher’s death.

Butcher: “I’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that none of you three crumbs are going to spend it.”
Lowe: “What about Eva? Don’t you owe her something? You tell me where the money is, I’ll see she gets your share.”
Butcher: “I’ve got a different idea. I’m going to kill you and Squeamy and Joe. Then I’ll take care of Eva myself.”
Lowe: “You thick-headed ape—you’re going to die tomorrow.”
Butcher: “Remember what I said. I’m gonna get ya—all three of ya.”
Lowe: “Even for you, Butcher, that’d be quite a trick. So long, dead man.”
Butcher (to Lowe’s retreating back): “Remember what I said. I’m gonna kill ya. All three of ya.”

In real life you’d laugh off a threat like that one in a debonair fashion, which is what Lowe tries to do; but in this class of movie you know Continue reading

o/t: leisure reading in August

I’ve gotten out of the habit of reading long books, which means they tend to accumulate unread on the shelves, so this month I decided to revisit the fabled Halls of Stonkerdom and tackle a couple of really long ones, plus another that was getting there in terms of wordcount. I’ll be doing a bit more of this catching up in the months to come.

Links are as usual to my Goodreads notes.

o/t: Janis Ian’s Annual Pearl Foundation sale starts today!

It’s a great cause, she’s a great person, and there are always great bargains to be had! Here’s the info in her own words:

 

Annual Pearl Foundation Sale Starts
Saturday, August 26th

Come one, come all! Our once a year sale will start this Saturday, August 26th at 12:00 noon (CST).

Be sure to visit the Janis Ian Store on Saturday, as many of these items are available in very limited numbers.

You’ll find lots and lots of items that are only available during this once a year storewide sale. Lots of regular items will also be reduced in price. Remember, the products you purchase benefit the Pearl Foundation!

Here are just a few of the special items you’ll find during the sale:

* Please note that these links won’t work until Saturday at 12:00 noon!

o/t: a brief hiatus

I’m working hell-for-leather to get the current book completed for Publisher A by the end of the month, Publisher B wants a couple of book proposals out of me as soon as I’ve delivered Publisher A’s book, and a couple of days ago Publisher C turned up out of the blue wanting me to work on a book presentation for Frankfurt with a view to writing the book itself assuming the project’s successful at the fair and goes ahead . . . whichj I very much hope it does, because it’s a fun one!

All in all, I’m a bit busy. So I’ve decided to give this site a rest for three or four weeks — perhaps a week or so more or less than that, depending on how things go.

I’m just nervous about how many “likes” this post will get . . .

Murder at the Windmill (1949)

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“Always something coming off, always something going on!”
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vt Mystery at the Burlesque
UK / 65 minutes / bw / Angel, Grand National Dir & Scr: Val Guest Pr: Daniel M. Angel Cine: Bert Mason Cast: Garry Marsh, Jack Livesey, Jon Pertwee, Elliot Makeham, Diana Decker, Donald Clive, Jill Anstey, Jimmy Edwards, Margot Johns (i.e., Margo Johns), Genine Grahame, Pamela Deeming, Johnnie Gale, John Powe, Constance Smith, Barry O’Neill, Ron Perriam, Christine Welsford, Peter Butterworth, Ivan Craig, Robin Richmond, and members of the Windmill Theatre Company: Raymond, Anita, Pat, Margot, June and Maureen.

“Wherever it was practical to do so this story was filmed on the actual sites in and around the Windmill Theatre and the parts played by the Girls and Staff of the Theatre were re-enacted by themselves.”

The Windmill Theatre, just off London’s Piccadilly Circus, was famed for two things: the fact that its variety shows (the closest, but I think rather misleading, US equivalent would be burlesque) featured nude tableaux, and its claim (which may have been truthful) that it missed nary a performance all through the Blitz. “We Never Closed!” was the boast—indeed, here it is:

The idea of a murder mystery set within the Windmill and featuring a number of its real-life performers must have seemed irresistible to producers, to director Val Guest and indeed to potential cinema audiences. Of course, the screen censors wouldn’t allow the inclusion of any of the famed tableaux, even though it was censorship that was responsible for the tableaux in the first place: moving performers weren’t at the time permitted to be naked on the London stage, for fear of undue jiggling, heaven forfend, but motionless tableaux featuring classical themes were exempt, being clearly of educational interest.

Which I suppose in a way they were, for at least some of the younger spectators among the Windmill’s audiences. Even so, one of the unusual features of the theatre was that opera glasses were forbidden.

By the time I lived in London, the Windmill was Continue reading

Robert Mitchum Centennial

***A splendid essay from Brian Camp on the noirish great.

Brian Camp's Film and Anime Blog

Robert Mitchum was born on August 6th, 1917, 100 years ago today. (My father was born less than two months later.) I was born on August 6th also, on Mitchum’s 36th birthday. Mitchum died on July 1, 1997, a little over a month shy of his 80th birthday. He happens to be my favorite movie star. I wrote about him here three times already, covering his debut film, BORDER PATROL (1943); his 1949 film, HOLIDAY AFFAIR; and in a piece about Sam Fuller’s THE BIG RED ONE, his appearance in THE LONGEST DAY (1962), where he played the general leading the attack on Omaha Beach, site of the bloodiest fighting on D-Day.

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Delavine Affair, The (1955)

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“And don’t forget: make one silly mistake and she won’t be working with you any more!”
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vt Murder is News
UK / 62 minutes / bw / Croydon Passmore, Monarch Dir: Douglas Peirce Pr: Henry Passmore Scr: George Fisher, J.B. Boothroyd (i.e., Basil Boothroyd) Story: Winter Wears a Shroud (1952) by Robert Chapman Cine: Jonah Jones, Bernie Lewis Cast: Peter Reynolds, Honor Blackman, Gordon Jackson, Valerie Vernon, Michael Balfour, Peter Neil, Laurie Main, Peter Swannick (i.e., Peter Swanwick), Katie Johnson, Mark Daly, Anna Turner, Mai Bacon, Hal Osmond, Vernon Kelso, Christie Humphrey.

Robert Chapman, author of this movie’s source novel, was a Fleet Street journalist and columnist—in fact, I vaguely recollect bringing him a cup of tea when, as a schoolboy in the 1960s, I worked a vacation job as a messenger at Fleet Street’s Daily Express. I tried one of his detective novels some while later and found it Continue reading

o/t: July’s leisure reading

Quite a number of books read this month, though several of them are really quite short — refreshingly so, indeed, in these days when far too many novels are stonkbusteringly thick. The links are as usual to my Goodreads notes.

Night to Remember, A (1942)

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Loretta Young and Brian Aherne crack a murder case and some not very good jokes!
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vt Number Thirteen Gay Street; vt The Frightened Stiff
US / 88 minutes / bw / Columbia Dir: Richard Wallace Pr: Samuel Bischoff Scr: Richard Flournoy, Jack Henley Story: The Frightened Stiff (1942) by Kelley Roos Cine: Joseph Walker Cast: Loretta Young, Brian Aherne, Jeff Donnell, William Wright, Sidney Toler, Gale Sondergaard, Donald MacBride, Lee Patrick, Don Costello, Richard Gaines, Blanche Yurka, James Burke, Harry Harvey, Cy Kendall, George Lloyd, George Chandler.

There’s a very famous movie called A Night to Remember. Directed by Roy Ward Baker in 1958, with a screenplay by Eric Ambler, it stars Kenneth More with Geoffrey Bayldon, Honor Blackman, Anthony Bushell, John Cairney, Sean Connery, Kenneth Griffith, Andrew Keir, Frank Lawton, David McCallum, Alec McCowen, Laurence Naismith, Russell Napier, Harold Siddons, Jack Watling and a horde of others, and is regarded as the best extant movie tracing the final hours of the “unsinkable” Titanic, which sank in April 1912 after hitting an iceberg.

This is not that movie.

Nor is it the inauguration of a comedy-crime series to rival the THIN MAN, although there are sufficient resemblances in the setup to make one speculate that this was the intention; here, though, Continue reading