Monday, December 15, 2014

Cantinflas


Highly recommended if you get the chance. It's a biography of the great and beloved Mexican film comedian Mario Moreno aka Cantinflas, told from the perspective of his first international triumph in Mike Todd's AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS and looking back over his life. Spanish actor Oscar Jaenada does an at times amazing visual impersonation of the film's subject, with US character actor Michael Imperioli excellent also as the eccentric and quirky producer, Todd.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Who Killed Teddy Bear?



This picture undoubtedly gave heart attacks to the still very much in force local censors of the day. This is very much a gritty 1970s movie. Unfortunately it was made in 1965!


The plot alone would seem unacceptable. Rapes, murders, obscene phone calls, a terrorized woman. The killer is obsessed with pornography but so is the detective! 


Written by comic book legend Arnold Drake--creator of Deadman and the Doom Patrol--the cast is if anything more impressive in retrospect than it was at the time. Sal Mineo--always underutilized--gives perhaps his best performance and looks pretty darn hot throughout if I do say so myself as a devout heterosexual. Juliet Prowse, whom I always think of as a dancer, is a good actress here and effortlessly sexy.


Also in the cast are the great Elaine Stritch, future HILL STREET BLUES star Daniel J. Travanti, Margot Bennett (later married toMalcolm McDowell) and great character actors like Rex Everhart, Frank Campanella and Bruce Glover.


And surprisingly the hero--or what passes for one here--is played quite well by comic Jan Murray in a  tough but quirky perfomance.



One of the real stars of the picture though is the city of New York itself, caught in all its raw glory in noirish black and white with a feeling that wouldn't be felt again until Martin Scorsese, all done up in a nice package directed by Phoebe Cates' dad!

Friday, November 21, 2014

R.I.P. Mike Nichols


Like so many, I mourn the passing of Mike Nichols this week. To say he was a cultural icon would be a definite understatement. That said, and although I give him his due, I was NOT a fan of his movies. 

I adored his comedy with Elaine May, another whose solo directorial efforts I don't care for at all. But together, they made magic. Their humor strongly influenced my own sense of humor and comedy timing.

Oddly, the only one of his movies that I really cared for was THE BIRDCAGE which, until his passing, I never realized was written by...Elaine May.
Rest In Peace, sir.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Christopher Lee as Dracula



When I was a teenager, Christopher Lee's portrayal of Count Dracula in Hammer films was one of my absolute favorite things, even though most of them were pretty dull affairs when he was off screen. The first I saw was his second, DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS, was double featured with, of all things, BATMAN in '66. HIS first, though, was simply DRACULA...


Except, of course, in America and a few other countries where it was renamed HORROR OF DRACULA



After that he played a lookalike vampire in the Italian comedy, UNCLE WAS A VAMPIRE.




He probably figured he was through with the Count, then but Lee returned 7 years later in DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS.




And then in DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE.



This was arguably the best installment in spite of the inappropriately silly US ad campaign. 





By TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA, Lee was growing tied of the increasingly feral role.


But he nonetheless reprised it in a cameo in the Jerry Lewis-directed ONE MORE TIME.



And then again in the all-star flop, THE MAGIC CHRISTIAN, his character billed as "Ship's Vampire."



But he was back full force, complete with dyed black hair and red contact lenses, in SCARS OF DRACULA, only to call it quits after that.




He was then given the opportunity to do a version of his most famous role that was true to its book, Jess Franco's COUNT DRACULA. Lee looked great but the ultra-low budget showed and the film was quite poor.



So he once again returned to hammer 2 years later for what would be both my favorite installment and, by now, the most dated installment as well!






It did wel enough to generate one final entry with Lee...although not well enough to gte it released in the US.





Well, at least not for about 5 years when a recut, retitled version was just dropped on the market.


Lee still loved the character, though, and portrayed him on this LP.


Finally agreeing one final time--and once again in a European-only release, to do the role in DRACULA: FATHER AND SON.



 Many years later, he would don a cape and play a very different Count in the STAR WARS series!