Wednesday, January 26, 2022


Wealthy American businessman Rock Hudson has a mistress (Gina Lollobrigida) in Italy with whom he spends every September. This year, however, he gets the urge to go visit in July. He calls Gina to let her know. Unbeknownst to Rock, Gina, tired of her arrangement with Rock, was about to marry a drab Brit (Ronald Howard), but his call revives old feelings so she cancels her wedding and heads off with Rock to his lush villa. But the caretaker of the house (Walter Slezak) is also in for a surprise: without telling Rock, he's been running the house as a small luxury hotel between October and August. Despite trying to hide the evidence (including a front desk and a plaque out front for the Hotel La Dolce Vista), Slezak can't hide the current guests, a group of sightseeing teenage girls and their adult chaperone. Rock blows up when he finds out, at least partly because, since he and Gina aren't married, they can't indulge in any romantic interludes while the guests are present. He tries to get them all to another hotel, but the chaperone falls and hurts herself and they must all stay put for a few more days. In the meantime, a group of somewhat obnoxious American teenage boys end up camping out on the villa's front lawn, and, well, boys and girls do get along--and cocky Bobby Darin and innocent Sandra Dee in particular get along well--so Rock tries his best to stop any canoodling between the groups. Eventually, Gina gets fed up with Rock's moral hypocrisy and decides to go back to her Brit, so Rock makes one last attempt to patch things up permanently.

If you just go with it, this is a cute and colorful romantic/sex comedy. Because coitus interruptus farce can get tired fast, I tried fighting it for a while. Logically, Rock and Gina should have just pretended to be married, but of course, then there'd be no conflict, or not as much conflict. The problem for me is that the plothole seemed so huge, I couldn't get past it. But I eventually quit fighting and enjoyed the light comedy skills of Hudson and Lollobrigida, who work well together, as well as Hudson and Doris Day. Walter Slezak does some nifty scene-stealing as the caretaker who keeps getting fired and rehired. Darin and Dee, who married in real life not long after filming, are so-so, but they pretty much remain secondary characters. A young Joel Gray is one of Darin's buddies. The location shooting in Italy is lovely, as is the villa. This was probably considered sophisticated in 1961 (the fact that Rock and Gina are sleeping together out of wedlock is a given and not punished). Now it's a little threadbare in plotting, but it's nice to see the lead actors have fun with the fizzy comedy. [TCM]

Sunday, January 23, 2022


A French actress from the town of Nevers is in Hiroshima in the last days of filming a movie that seems to be at least partly an anti-war, anti-nuclear weapons story. She meets a local Japanese architect and the two have a torrid affair despite both claiming to be happily married. Each is still dealing with past traumas: he lost his family in the bombing of Hiroshima; she took a German soldier as her lover during the war and was punished as a collaborator after the soldier was killed. Sex is had, as are philosophical post-coital conversations; he wants her to stay, and for a time it seems like she might, but in the end, they part at the Café Casablanca, her calling him Hiroshima and he calling her Nevers.

This is not a movie that a plot summary can do justice to. Not that I am all that enamored of Alain Resnais’s new wave film: I saw this many years ago and remembered little about when I sat down to watch it again, and I suspect not much of it will stay with me this time, either. The movie is known for its fragmented narrative and its often lovely and sensuous visual imagery. The first thing we see is entangled naked bodies with glittering ash falling on them, surely intended to refer to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima; later, we see more graphic and upsetting footage of the bombing’s aftermath (though most of the very graphic things we see are actually from a fictional recreation of the bombing for a 1950s Japanese movie). The first ten minutes or so of the movie consists mostly of our naked lovers embracing and engaging in an odd conversation: she insists she has seen a number of sights in Hiroshima and he insists she could not have. We get footage of the town and the bombing museum; I took it that she did “sightsee” but that he insists that such behavior is not the same as having truly engaged with the horrors and tragedies of Hiroshima. We also get flashbacks of her affair and its aftermath--the villagers shave her head and she is exiled to her parents’ basement until she just leaves one day. The presentation of past and present events is not strictly chronological, though the ending of the movie is also the ending of their fling. The most interesting insight (to me) was her proclamation that, despite being married with children, she feels that by telling her story to the architect, she has betrayed her soldier lover. Emmanuelle Riva and Eiji Okada do the best they can with their amorphous characters. Interesting as one of the earlier new wave films. [TCM]

Tuesday, January 18, 2022


Philip Vickers, whom everyone calls Vic, walks into his big country home where his wife is throwing a party. He causes quite a sensation because he's been missing, presumed dead, for four years. He'd been with three business partners (Bill, Job and Harry) on a fishing trip in Portugal when he apparently slipped over the side of the boat and was never seen again. He remembers a voice threatening him, a blow to the head from behind, then blackness, then amnesia. His memory back, his return indeed proves a disruption to the friends and to his wife Angie, who appears to have taken Harry as a lover; in fact, she faints when she sees Vic. As Vic hopes his memory will clear even more so he can identify his would-be killer, Harry is found dead, and Vic thinks his wife did it to get him out of the way, and even wonders if she was involved with the initial attack on him. Meanwhile, we discover that Joan, Angie's secretary who lives in the house, resents Vic because her father killed himself years ago after some financial problems which were laid at Vic's feet. Vic sends Joan away to isolate himself with Angie in an attempt to reestablish their relationship. When a company accountant named Sessions is found dead, pressure increases on the police to straighten out the tangled motives and secrets of Vic and Angie and friends.

Frankly, my attention wandered a bit during the running time of this sluggish melodrama so I may have a few of the details off. I blame lackluster direction; the script is promising and most of the acting is adequate, with William Sylvester (Dr. Floyd in 2001) as Vic and Alvys Maben as Joan especially good. Unfortunately, Paulette Goddard, in one of her last screen roles, is atrocious as Angie. Her first few scenes are fine (she pulls off her faint convincingly) but after that, she's all downhill, with her big eyes and her squeaky little-girl voice that does not fit the character. Though I was interested enough to care about Vic's fate, most of the other characters didn't engage me, and by the time the solution was presented, I didn't care. I liked seeing this other side of William Sylvester (pictured at right); we wonder for a while how far he might go in seeking revenge, and though this isn't really a film noir, his character would have made a good noir lead. Based on a crime novel by actor George Sanders (actually ghostwritten by sci-fi author Leigh Brackett who went on to contribute to the script for The Empire Strikes Back). The YouTube print I saw is in the wrong aspect ratio--it looks like a more or less full screen movie that got stretched to widescreen. Also released as The Stranger Came Home. [YouTube]

Friday, January 14, 2022


In the Old Town section of Stockholm, the person everyone calls the Count is a cheerful older man whose sole support is as a newspaper delivery man. Business is good lately because of the headline-making actions of a daring diamond thief. The Count and his buddy Gurken (named for the pickle) mostly saunter about town trying to get a few drinks, which is difficult to do as the country has begun rationing alcohol to cut down on alcoholism. We meet other denizens of the Old Town including the chief policeman, Goransson, who is generally disliked and referred to as "the Lord," a blind man named Karlsson who helps a widow write a personals ad for the "joint happiness' section of the paper, and Berglund, a slick suitor to the widow. When a stranger named Ake arrives in town and takes a room at the local hotel, some suspect he may be the thief, especially when he seems anxious to avoid the police. But the Count comes to like him because he lets the Count use his liquor ration card. The hotel keeper's wholesome young maid Elsa has a meet-cute moment with Ake and they begin a flirtation. Still, we wonder what he’s up to with his comings and goings. And why does the blind man leave a light on in his apartment at night? This cute character-driven comedy occasionally spins its wheels a bit but is overall a pleasant viewing experience. The conflicts here never get too serious and the mystery of who might be the jewel thief does become fairly engrossing. This is the movie that introduced Ingrid Bergman to the silver screen, in the role of Elsa; she is fine in the role but she hasn't quite yet come into her own. One problem might be Edvin Adolphson (pictured with Bergman at left) who plays Ake in a rather gruff and uninvolving way (he also directed the film), so their chemistry never really sets off sparks. Waldemar Dalquist is fun as the Count as is Sigurd Wallen as his buddy who has a distinctive chuckle. Its Swedish title is Munkbrogreven, and it crops up sometimes as The Count of the Old Monk’s Bridge. This doesn't seem to have gotten any kind of major theatrical release in the United States in its day. [TCM]

Tuesday, January 11, 2022


This is an adaptation of a "play for voices" by Dylan Thomas, originally produced on radio. Two men, identified in the play as First Voice and Second Voice, narrate the occurrences over one day's time in the Welsh village of Llareggub. There is not a traditional plot, just windows into the lives of the villagers, some happy, some sad, though none tragic. Here, Richard Burton (pictured) does the bulk of reading as First Voice (or First Man as the movie credits him) as he and an older companion (Ryan Davies as Second Man) wander through town, mostly unseen by others (except for their rather odd threesome with a woman in a barn, apparently not part of the original play), reading the lovely poetic descriptions of Thomas' play as we see vignettes involving the townsfolk. Myfanwy (Glynis Johns) and Mog (Victor Spinetti) are merchants who send each other love letters but only see each other in their dreams. Mr. Pugh is a henpecked husband who waits on his wife hand and foot, but every day dreams of putting poison in her tea (thriller movie music plays during his dreams). Lord Cut-Glass lives in a small house filled with clocks all set to different times. The bartender is madly in love with a young woman named Gossamer, but never tells her, though when he's pumping the beer taps he imagines himself having sex with her. Mr. Owen spends most evenings getting dead drunk at the pub, and sometimes knocks his wife around a bit, but she always forgives him, and the two seem like the happiest couple in town. The mailman steams open everyone's letters and tells them exactly what's in each message (and the townsfolk don't seem to care). The town prostitute keeps having babies and complains that nothing seems to grow in her garden by the shore except laundry. A twice-widowed woman is visited by the ghosts of her dead husbands whom she orders around as if they were still alive. And the old blind sailor Capt. Tom Cat (Peter O'Toole), who knows what's going on in town despite his blindness, dreams of his late lover, the buxom Rosie (Elizabeth Taylor).

This film is often criticized for being too pedestrian, for lazily showing us the images and actions that Thomas's poetry presents in words. It's true that the procession of images becomes predictable, and the characters remain mostly one-dimensional, more symbols than people, especially a minister who preaches to no one out on the steps of his church. But between Burton's fine handling of the poetic narration and the sometimes amusing, sometimes touching situations depicted, this eventually had me fairly engrossed, though I can't say I ever cared about any of the townspeople. The star billing of Taylor is a tease; she's on screen for maybe four minutes. O'Toole is a bit of a ham in his old man make-up and blind eye contact lenses. But honestly, with the exception of Burton, this is not a showcase for acting as much as direction and cinematography, and on those levels, it's fairly interesting throughout, though certainly not for all tastes. The beginning and end seem to hint that the villagers might be selkies, mythological creatures who can transform from seal to human, but nothing is done with that. However, for a kick, try spelling the town's name backwards. [YouTube; this print was stuttery and a bit murky]

Thursday, January 06, 2022


Calm down, this is not a 30s movie about gay liberation; the "all" in the title refers to prisoners. The assumption given at the beginning of the movie by the real-life director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons is that all prisoners eventually come out and rejoin the world. This film follows the story of two of those prisoners. Joe (Tom Neal, pictured), a down-on-his-luck guy having a hard time finding a job, eats a meal at a diner and then says he can't pay for it. Just as the owner is set to call the sheriff, Kitty (Rita Johnson) pays for it, then offers him a job as a getaway driver for a crook named Reno and his small gang. They pull off a big bank vault robbery, and Reno and Joe hide the money until the heat is off. Unfortunately, they get involved in a shoot-out at an auto court. When Kitty is wounded, Joe stays behind to take care of her and they're both arrested. Reno and the others also wind up behind bars. We are then made privy to the discussions of prison officials. Kitty is sent to a women's prison, and because Joe is new to the life of crime, he is sent to a men's reformatory to keep him from being influenced by other hardened criminals. Both get early releases, with Kitty getting a job at a beauty salon and Joe being trained as a welder. Groper, one of the gang members, is diagnosed as paranoid and gets medical treatment. Bugs is tempted to go straight by the possibility of reclaiming his role as husband and father. But Reno has none of it and gets involved in a prison breakout attempt. Winding up at Alcatraz, he hears that Joe has gotten paroled and has gotten a job, and he sends Vonnie, a former cellmate, off to check up on Joe and make sure he doesn't give up the hidden money, and to try and tempt him back into a life of crime. Can Joe and Kitty beat the odds and stay in the straight life?

This B-movie started life as a documentary about the prison system, hence the opening segment as two federal officials discuss the positive aspects of prison. A handful of shots were taken in actual federal prisons. It winds up being largely a propaganda movie about the wisdom of prison officials, which detracts a bit from the character study of Kitty and Joe, who, thanks to the acting of Johnson and Neal, are interesting, and it's a big disappointing that their stories don't get fleshed out a bit more, instead getting squeezed to make room for the other gang members. Reno (Bernard Nedell) is strictly a clichéd and uninteresting thug; Edward Gargan is OK as the frustrated family man, and John Gallaudet has some good moments as the screwy Groper. Overall, this movie is best treated as a novelty, as an early model perhaps for a docudrama, and it's short enough that it doesn’t wear out its welcome. [TCM]

Monday, January 03, 2022


Walking through a gloomy woods at night on the way to Limmeridge House where he is to be the drawing instructor for the young and wealthy Laura Fairlie, handsome Walter Hartwright runs across a pale woman dressed all in white, looking a bit like an apparition. She is flesh and blood, and also shy and skittish, and claims to be running from folks out to get her. When a carriage stops on the road and the driver asks if Walter has seen a woman in the woods who has escaped from an asylum, he says no. What he doesn't see is a large, threatening looking man sitting in the carriage. When the carriage leaves, the woman has gone as well. At the house, Walter meets Marian, friend and companion to Laura; Laura's uncle Frederick who is almost as nervous and impaired as Poe's Roderick Usher; and Count Fosco, the large man from the carriage who is alternately jolly and sinister. When Walter eventually meets Laura, he is shocked that she is a dead ringer for the mysterious woman in white. There are a number of plotlines that get spun out from here: Fosco has talked Fredrick into arranging a marriage for Laura to Sir Percival Glyde; Walter hits it off well with Marian, but then also strikes romantic sparks with Laura. We discover that Fosco and Glyde have plotted Laura's wedding so they can get their hands on the money she will soon come into, but their plans seem to hinge on the woman in white staying out the picture. Walter and Marian, sensing that things aren't right, try to stop the marriage, but aren't successful, and Walter and Marian both leave the house while Laura goes on a long honeymoon. Months later, Marian returns to find Laura changed (for one thing, gasp, she's taken up smoking!). As their devious plotting threatens to fall apart, Fosco and Glyde may have to resort to murder.

This is based on a famous gothic mystery novel by Wilkie Collins. It's been at least 30 years since I read it, but this seems to be fairly faithful to the book, as much as a 110 minute movie can be to a 500 page novel. There are some complications involving who's related to whom that get a bit tricky--I'm still not sure if Marian is related to Laura or not. But if you keep your attention on Fosco, you won't stray far. The acting all around is quite good. Sydney Greenstreet (billed third but really the star of the show) makes a wonderfully malevolent Fosco, truly a villain you love to hate. He goes through all his mannerisms here--the wicked chuckle, the intense stare, the brisk stride--but we'd be disappointed if he didn't. A very young Eleanor Parker (this was her 18th movie in five years) is lovely as Laura, though the character's effectiveness is limited by her role being a bit underwritten. First billed, and almost more important to the plot than Laura, is Alexis Smith as Marian and she's excellent. Some critics find Gig Young miscast as the romantic hero Walter, but to my eyes, he's fine. He disappears from the middle third of the movie and is missed. John Emery is nicely slimy as Glyde and John Abbott is convincingly neurasthenic as Fredrick. Agnes Moorehead drops in late in the film (as the plotting kicks into overdrive) for an important role as Fosco's wife. The sets evoke a Gothic atmosphere without going overboard. The book's famous spooky opening scene of Walter meeting the title character isn't done justice by the movie, but otherwise, it's an enjoyable watch. Pictured are Greenstreet and Smith. [TCM]