Thursday, May 29, 2008
Monday, May 19, 2008
- "We saw other films, of course, but none made an impact on me approaching that of the vampire films. The lurid technicolor: the unnatural red of the blood; the lushness of the forest;the atmosphere of the village inn; the mystery of the castle on top of themountain; the wolves and bats; the mist; churches and buildings made of stone; the villagers' fear; the thrilling power of the Count; his lure of the village women; his fangs sinking into their throats; the climb up the mountain to confront him; the grim-faced man of God battling the arrogant Count; the ritual elements deployed in battle: garlic, holy water, fire, wooden stakes, ice, crucifixes; the superstition, the dread; the social order; the ancient customs of the village; the fearsome majesty of the castle; the thick woods at night."
Friday, May 16, 2008
- ROCK AND ROLL DREAMS COME THROUGH by Meat Loaf
- MLK by U2 (there's a story behind this one)
- NEVER by Heart
- HURDY GURDY MAN by Donovan
- QUESTION by The Moody Blues
- DROP THE PILOT by Joan Armatrading
- LIL SOMTHIN' SOMTHIN' by Insane Clown Posse
- THE AIR THAT I BREATHE by The Hollies
- BEST OF FRIENDS by Pearl Bailey
- WHISPERING PINES by Johnny Horton
- RUNNING BEAR by Johnny Preston
- CAPTAIN FANTASTIC & THE BROWN DIRT COWBOY by Elton John
- ROY ROGERS by Elton John
- ROCK AND ROLL NEVER FORGETS by Bob Seger
- UNDER ICE by Kate Bush
- GALILEO by Indigo Girls
- GOODBYE by Night Ranger
- FIRE IN THE TWILIGHT by Wang Chung
- NO ONE IS TO BLAME by Howard Jones
- WHEREVER I MAY ROAM by Metallica
- THE CHAUFFER by Duran Duran
- OLD FRIEND by Elton John & Nik Kershaw
- SPIRIT IN THE SKY by Norman Greenbaum
- JUST LIKE BELGIUM by Elton John
- ONE MORE ARROW by Elton John
- PUFF THE MAGIC DRAGON by Anyone!
And in the spirit of benevolence, I even spared him mentioning that OTHER song (J.F. and A. B. B.) in order to spare him the embarrassment. I'm sure there are other songs but this pretty much gives you an idea. So once again, here's wishing the Doddy a Happy, Happy 40th -- your "Happy Birthday" in 74 different languages is in the mail!
Thursday, May 15, 2008
Satanists start bounding across the river towards them as the mobile home skids off into the night as if the Devil was after them. And of course, he kinda is. The four drive to the next town where they report the crime to the local sheriff who (I'm sure I won't be spoiling anything when I tell you this) is IMMEDIATELY obvious as a member of the Devil Cult himself. I mean, the way R. G. Armstrong plays the part, the way his introduction is shot and just the way he looks SCREAMS he's one of the Satanists. And of course, knowing this is a 70's movie, there could be no other option. Truly, while I was watching the first shot of the sheriff it's almost like a loud bell went off proclaiming "Villain"! After examining the scene of the crime, the Sheriff finds a dead dog and intimates the four probably mistook what they saw and were probably drunk besides. We the viewers, of course, know different -- and so do our heroes. As the drive off towards their far off destination, they keep encountering devil worshippers who beat the living hell out of their mobile home. Suspicious people are everywhere the quartet stops and, after the movie passes its first hour of running time, things really begin to heat up.
That nicely bleak, downbeat 70's thing can be found especially at the end of the movie (and come on, were you REALLY expecting anything different from a 70's movie?!? As Bugs Bunny said at the end of "WHAT'S OPERA, DOC". . . .well, you know what he said. I suppose RACE WITH THE DEVIL loosely qualifies as a horror film; although it's more of a car chase thriller owing to the fact that the occult trappings of the Satanic cult are only seen during two scenes of the film. All the rest of the time the Satanists are almost impossible to tell from the everyday rednecks populating the rural highways and byways. The rather nice thing about the film is that our four protagonists are not blissfully unaware of the machinations lined up against them; from the very beginning of trouble they are ALWAYS pretty sure that some skullduggery is afoot. Witness the surreptious way that Peter Fonda secretly picks up his OWN blood sample at the bonfire site; already suspecting that the local sheriff isn't going to prove too helpful. The problem is the four are simply unable to wrest themselves loose from the seemingly endless parade of Satanic cult members hounding them across the highways.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
- PLEASE DON'T TAKE YOUR LOVE FROM ME (Henry Nemo) - My favourite Sinatra song, I think. Vulnerable Frankie pleading not to be dumped...crooning: "Would you take the wings from birds so that they can't fly?/Would you take the ocean's roar and leave just a sigh?/All this your heart won't let you do/This is what I beg of you/Please don't take your love from me." And of course, there's that killer line: "Tear a petal from a rose and the rose weeps, too."
- DANCING ON THE CEILING (Rodgers/Hart) - Useta be my favourite Sinatra song until I heard that one up there. Again an obsessive, lovesick Frankie from the very first LP record EVER: "IN THE WEE SMALL HOURS". That's right; this album was the very first 33 1/3rd long playing record. Here we have Frankie is practically certifiable and will surely be locked up in a rubber room before the week is out -- because he's laying awake in bed staring at the ceiling where all he can see is his love dancing. "She dances overhead/on the ceiling near my bed/in my sight/all through the night." You'd better have that looked at, Frankie. And of course, the greatest line in the song: "I love my ceiling more/since it is a dancing floor/just for my love." Ella Fitzgerald does a version of the song which is almost as good. But not quite.
- TIME AFTER TIME (Cahn/Styne) - the perfect match between a song and a singer. Old Blue Eyes debuted this in the movies way back in the 40's -- and he was singing it to JIMMY DURANTE of all people. But even then, the beauty of the song was arresting. Let's just hope Frankie and Jimmy didn't get arrested! "I only know/the passing years will show/you've kept my love so young, so new."
- YOUNG AT HEART (Leigh/Richards) - probably the most well-known of the standards here, there's just something about Ol' Blue Eyes crooning this song that gets me. Oh, and tellingly, this is the only non-ballad, non-suicidal, more "ring-a-ding-ding" song on this list. "And if you should survive to 105/look at all you'll derive out of being alive/and here is the best part/you'll have a head start/if you are among the very young at heart". The only version of this song that rivals Sinatra's is Wild Man Fischer's. Don't ask. But it is even BETTER!!!
- WHAT'S NEW? (Burke/Haggart) - This one's from one of those suicidal albums: FRANK SINATRA SINGS FOR ONLY THE LONELY. And it's appropriate because Frankie seems ready to take a header off the nearest Vegas casino. The story of the song find the singer encountering a former love after some time. Unfortunately, he's still kinda hooked on her. "What's new?/How did that romance come through?/We haven't met since then/Gee, but it's nice to see you again/What's new?/Probably I'm boring you/But seeing you is grand/And you were sweet to offer your hand./I understand. Adieu!/Pardon my asking what's new/Of course you couldn't know/I haven't changed, I still love you so." Oh come on, Frankie! Haven't you heard The Streets' "DRY YOUR EYES" yet???
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Monday, May 12, 2008
Wednesday, May 07, 2008
- "Remember Belgium? And the Brussels museum? Well, we piled on the front steps like stray cavaliers. Our code of living meant little to others..."
- "But that's OK. There's treasure children always seek to find. And just like us, you must have had a once upon a time."
- "To Flicker And To Fade...on this the longest day..."
Tuesday, May 06, 2008
- REAR WINDOW (1954) - Not only my favourite Stewart film but also my favourite Hitchcock film. Like I said, Stewart's performance is not as towering as some of the movies you'll see later in this list but REAR WINDOW is a stone cold classic among classics. Wheelchair-bound Stewart has nothing to do but voyeuristically peer out his apartment house window and sees some things he shouldn't see. Was there a murder across the way or was there not? Strangely unable to commit to his knockout goddess of a girlfriend (Grace Kelly -- I mean C'MON Jimmy!), there are, as usual, plenty of things going on under the surface of this Hitchcock film. Among them are Hitch's comments on the very voyeuristic nature of cinema itself. Add to all this another classic performance by Thelma Ritter as well as a truly menacing Raymond Burr and a strong performance by Wendell Corey -- particularly when he visits Stewart's apartment and silently takes in the evidence of Grace Kelly's unseen presence. Who could ask for more?
- MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON (1939) - This was a near one. Very narrowly edged out by REAR WINDOW, MR. SMITH is one of those towering acting performances turned in by Mr. Stewart. The justly famous "filibuster" sequence at the end stills gives me goosebumps to this day and I've seen the film countless times. One lone little greenhorn freshman Senator finds out his political idol (Claude Rains) ain't as pure as he thought. The disillusionment and pressure put upon Stewart's character is palpable and we the viewers feel ready to cave in to the pressure when Stewart stands up for what is right. Thrilling! Add to this the spectacular Jean Arthur (boy, I love her -- a hell of an actress often underrated) and we have here the movie that SHOULD have won best picture in the golden year of 1939. Instead of that Civil War mess.
- VERTIGO (1958) - Another Hitchcock classic and a stunning performance by Jimmy Stewart who reaches inside himself to depths which make his character quite unlikeable and creepy. Obsession personified. Stewart takes a job to trail a friend's wife (icy Kim Novak) who has been acting strangely. He soon falls hopelessly in love with her. Then loses her. Then finds someone else who looks kinda like her. Then tries to forcefully mold her into his dead love. Then.... Well, this has been widely called Hitchcock's masterpiece and it just might be. A complex film on so many levels.
- THE PHILADELPHIA STORY (1940) - This one has my beloved Kate in it along with Cary Grant. This is also the one Stewart won the Academy Award for. Again, not really his greatest performance but the movie is a classic comedy which knocks an alabaster goddess (Katharine Hepburn) off her high horse. Stewart is very fine as the "man of the people" reporter (with whiffs of Marxism, actually) whose distain for the rich folks melts to more tender feelings toward Hepburn. Of course, there's Hepburn's dissolute bounder of an ex-husband (Cary Grant) in the mix and everybody seems to be trying to prevent Hepburn's upcoming marriage to a noodge. Hepburn (labelled box office poison a couple years earlier) snagged the rights to this play written expressly for her and wisely insisted that any studio buying the successful play would star her. She also demanded her choice of leading men: Clark Gable and Spencer Tracy. What she got was Jimmy Stewart and Cary Grant. Not bad runners-up, I'd say.
- DESTRY RIDES AGAIN (1939) - In the same year he made Mr. Smith, Stewart also scored with this incredibly likeable comedy/western in which he plays a loveable gunfighter who just will NOT pick up a gun. This is also the film which revitalized Marlene Dietrich's career (also labelled box office poison the same time Hepburn was) as she plays a boozy strumpet of a saloon singer ("See what the boys in the back room will have and tell 'em I'm having the same"). This role single-handedly changed her image from the aloof, exotic femmes fatales she had been playing for years. A western with real heart and a tearjerker ending. Oh yeah, and the huge cat fight between Dietrich and Una Merkel.
- ROPE (1948) - It's Hitchcock again and not one of the more famous ones. This is a film which a lot of people dog but I still really enjoy. Of course, the concept was that Hitchcock wanted to shoot a movie in single takes; in other words, he started filming and only stopped when the can of film ran out. So the film is acted just like a stage play. And I frankly have never had a problem with movies that feel like stage plays. If the writing and acting are interesting, who cares if there's only one set? Not I? While this is certainly no knock 'em dead classic, it's still very enjoyable as it provides a thinly-disguised riff on the Leopold & Loeb murder for kicks case. John Dall (from GUN CRAZY) is mesmerizing while Farley Grainger is suitably twitchy. Then there's Kate Hepburn's old coach Constance Collier and Sir Cedric Hardwicke along for the macabre fun -- all through a dinner which is served over a dead body.
- IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE (1946) - It may be a predictable choice, it may be corny, but in between the saccharine still can be found a really good movie. The Christmas perennial that answers the question: "What if I had never been born." Frank Capra's relentlessly hopeful movie gives Stewart another chance to deliver a fine performance. The scene where Stewart and girlfriend Donna Reed a sharing a telephone receiver is electric with erotic energy (no kidding, it really is) while Stewart's ultimate despair on the bridge as he contemplates suicide is suitably dark and stunningly enacted. All this can help us excuse the cringingly sappy final scene with the gratingly-voiced child screeching about a bell ringing.
- THE NAKED SPUR (1953) - One of several Anthony Mann directed westerns featuring Jimmy Stewart, this one provides Stewart with an incredibly flawed and sometimes very dark character to sink his teeth into. And this he does as he desperately tries to bring in outlaw Robert Ryan for the reward money. Beautiful technicolor scenery beneath brilliant blue skies and a superb cast that also includes PSYCHO's Janet Leigh and KISS ME DEADLY's Ralph Meeker. Then there's the stunning scene at the rapids where Stewart's character sinks about as low as he can in the movie.
- THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE (1962) - It's been called John Ford's last truly great film. This western finds Stewart in a strange echo of Destry as a man who refuses to pick up a gun. Add to the mix John Wayne and a villainous Lee Marvin -- not to mention a whole passle of superb character actors: Vera Miles, Edmond O'Brien, John Carradine, Andy Devine, Woody Strode, Strother Martin, Jeanette Nolan, Denver Pyle and John (THE GRAPES OF WRATH) Qualen. This is also the movie that gives us the immortal line: " This is the west, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend."
- BEND OF THE RIVER (1952) - Yet another one of those Anthony Mann westerns with Jimmy Stewart this time as a bounty hunter trying to put his shady past behind him by helping found a community in the Oregon territory. Of course, nothing could be that simple as the food and supplies they had previously purchased are never delivered by an unscrupulous money grubber because the goods have skyrocketed in price since they were sold. Stewart has to find a way to recapture the goods that are rightfully theirs as well as fight a mutiny. The role gives Stewart a chance to demonstrate his steely resolve and never-say-quit attitude in a more heroic role than THE NAKED SPUR. Surrounded by another stellar cast: Rock Hudson, Julie (CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON) Adams, Arthur Kennedy, Harry (M*A*S*H*) Morgan, Lori (REVENGE OF THE CREATURE) Nelson, and Frances (ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW) Bavier.
Well, there you have it: the ten Jimmy Stewart films I like the most. I wonder what star I'll look at next??? Any suggestions???