This Week on TCM Underground: THE CAT O’NINE TAILS (1971)


Il gatto a nove code

A journalist and a blind man join forces to stop a serial killer in Rome.

Cast: Karl Malden (Franco Arno), James Franciscus (Carlo Giordani), Catherine Spaak (Anna Terzi), Pier Paolo Capponi (Superintendent Spini), Horst Frank (Dr. Braun), Rada Rassimov (Bianca Merusi), Tino Carraro (Dr. Terzi), Cinzia de Carolis (Lori), Aldo Reggiani (Dr. Casoni), Carlo Alighiero (Dr. Calabresi), Ugo Fangareggi (Gigi the Loser). Directed by Dario Argento. Written by Dario Argento, Dardano Sacchetti, Luigi Collo. Produced by Salvatore Argento. Music by Ennio Morricone. Cinematography by Enrico Menczer.

Italian title: IL GATTO A NOVE CODE. Showtime: Saturday 11/22 @ 11:00pm PST/2:00am EST


10 Things You Might Not Know About Rod Taylor


I’ve always liked Rod Taylor. The broad shouldered, barrel-chested actor with a booming voice is intimidating on screen but there’s a warmth in his smile that’s undeniably inviting. He was universally good in every film genre he took part in and made the challenging transition from serious drama to action movies, thrillers and romantic comedies seem effortless. He was at home in military fatigues or a three piece suit and that breadth and depth of character makes him extremely fun to watch. Tonight TCM viewers can tune in and catch Taylor in some of his best films including THE BIRDS (1963), THE TIME MACHINE (1960), DARK OF THE SUN (1968), SUNDAY IN NEW YORK (1963) and HOTEL (1967) so it seemed like a good time to share some of the interesting facts I recently discovered about him after reading Rod Taylor: An Aussie in Hollywood. Stephen Vagg’s 2010 book is typical of most movie star biographies and provides a general overview of Taylor’s career as well as his personal life. I didn’t know much about the Australian born actor beforehand so it was an eye-opening read that gave me a new appreciation for Taylor as well as the film’s he appeared in.


The Mysterious Intruder, Serials, and Richard Dix

Later tonight on TCM, Mysterious Intruder (article by yours truly here) airs, an installment in the Whistler series of the forties.   As I write in my article, the Whistler serial was a proto-anthology series, along the lines of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Twilight Zone, because they tell a different story each time, with different characters, narrated by the same person each time, the Whistler.  The voice of the Whistler was provided by Otto Forest, who remains unseen throughout.  Unlike Hitchcock and Rod Serling, the Whistler’s voice is heard while the viewer sees his shadow against the buildings and sidewalks he passes.  He tells the viewer what’s about to happen, much like Hitch and Serling, always intoning that something dark will soon happen that will change the life of one of the characters forever.  The Whistler sees all, even as none of the characters ever see him.



The Perils of Colleen: Colleen Moore in Synthetic Sin and Why Be Good?



Through serendipity, skill and plain dumb luck, the last two silent films featuring comedic firecracker Colleen Moore have been restored through the work of The Vitaphone Project and Warner Brothers. Presumed lost, Synthetic Sin (1929) and Why Be Good(1929) were sitting in a Bologna archive, waiting for money and TLC to set them free. They received their restoration premieres at Film Forum in NYC, and both are risque flapper comedies in which Mrs. Moore’s high-spirited subversive tests the boundaries of accepted female behavior. Why Be Good? was just released by Warner Archive on DVD with its full Vitaphone audio (which adds synchronized sound effects and a jazzy score). Each was directed by William A. Seiter, an inventive gag man as well as a sensitive shaper of star personas, from the Dadaist antics of Wheeler and Woolsey through the stubborn independence of Ginger Rogers. One of his earlier star-whisperer jobs was for child actor Baby Peggy, in The Family Secret (1924). A preserved Library of Congress print screened at MoMA’s To Save and Project festival of film preservation last month. Though Baby Peggy and Colleen Moore are after different things (chocolate and men, respectively) they each destabilize the society around them by daring to be independent.


Thank Heaven for Little Film Festivals

accidentsposterAs Hollywood continues its love affair with 12-year-old boys, who make up the desired demographic, real movie lovers seek alternatives to the noisy blockbusters that are long on CGI and short on story. Film festivals of all types and sizes have proliferated in the last fifteen years to fill the void created by Hollywood for well-crafted films with an engaging story and three-dimensional characters. I recently attended the Cine-World Film Festival in my adopted hometown of Sarasota, Florida, and I was impressed with the selection of foreign, indie, and documentary films.

Though a small, low-key fest, Cine-World has been a Sarasota fixture for 25 years. Opening day included Mike Leigh’s latest feature Mr. Turner, a biopic of Romantic painter J.M.W. Turner, while the fest closed with Jean-Pierre Dardenne’s Two Days, One Night starring Marion Cotillard, who redeems herself after slumming in Anchorman 2. Film festivals prove that Hollywood no longer has the lock on feature filmmaking; indeed, studio blockbusters seem like lumbering behemoths compared to the stripped-down indie dramas that do so much with so little. Sadly, a lack of distribution to medium and small markets continues to keep these films from audiences who would doubtless appreciate them.


On the Road with Hackman and Pacino


Having spent most of my life in Colorado, I take note of films that bother to put us on the map. I’m also a sucker for humanist studies of working class drifters or other misfits who seek salvation outside of the traditional institutions of marriage and family. Small surprise, then, that I’d be a fan of Scarecrow (Jerry Schatzberg, 1973). I first saw the film at the Telluride Film Festival a few years ago, but last year it received a wider revival thanks to a digital restoration commemorating its 40th year anniversary. Gene Hackman (who worked opposite of Al Pacino on the film) has cited it as his favorite role, because it was the only film that he ever made that allowed him to work in absolute continuity that allowed him “to take all kinds of chances and really build my character.” Odd to think now that this buddy film was originally intended for Bill Cosby and Jack Lemmon, and who is to say what kind of film that would have been? All I can say in retrospect is that Hackman and Pacino shine in a way that makes it hard to picture anyone else in the title roles of, respectively, Max Millan and Francis Lionel “Lion” Delbuchi.


November 15, 2014
David Kalat
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Cosby, Welch, and Keitel

This is a classic movie blog, you know, so it’s supposed to be about classic movies. But there are different ways of defining “classic.” Personally I’m drawn to the definition offered up in a recent Frazz comic strip, that classic is defined by how it takes to forget something. But there are other definitions, too—and it’s worth remembering that “classic” doesn’t always mean “classy.” And that sometimes movies can be thoroughly entertaining and worthwhile without being classic. Because, let’s face it, Peter Yates’ 1976 Mother, Jugs, and Speed is not going to find itself on just about anyone’s roster of “classic films,” but it’s a surprising gem worth revisiting. It’s also not likely to turn up on TCM anytime soon, which is a shame, because it may have been too quickly forgotten for how well it works.


KEYWORDS: Bill Cosby, Harvey Keitel, Mother Jugs and Speed, Raquel Welch

This Week on TCM Underground: IT’S A SMALL WORLD (1950)

It's a Small World

TCM Underground, Saturday November 15th, 2014: IT’S A SMALL WORLD, 11:00pm PST/2:00am EST. Directed by William Castle. Cast: Paul Dale, Lorraine Miller, Will Geer, Nina Koshetz, Steve Brodie, Anne Sholter, Todd Karns, Margaret Field, Shirley O. Mills, Tom Brown Henry, Harry Harvey, Paul E. Burns.

Having spent his childhood hidden away from society by his well-meaning but unenlightened father, a dwarf enters the real world, where he encounters prejudice and exploitation at the hands of a criminal gang.

When a promised A-list assignment failed to materialize at Columbia Pictures, where he had slaved for the better part of a decade making programmers for the studio’s B-unit under the vulture eye of Harry Cohn, writer-director William Castle asked to be released from his contract. Hiring on at Universal-International for a three-year separation from Cohn (who later hired him back and got him working in Technicolor), Castle also pitched projects to independent Eagle-Lion Films, the American distribution arm of England’s J. Arthur Rank Organization. Founded in 1946, the company had absorbed the bankrupt Poverty Row outfit Producers Releasing Corporation and was by 1948 producing B-pictures to accompany into the cinemas such lofty British imports as Powell and Pressburger’s THE RED SHOES (1948) and Laurence Olivier’s HAMLET (1948). Seeing the cinematic possibilities in Robert Heinlein’s 1947 science fiction novel Rocket Ship Gibraltar, Castle proposed a space exploration film to be titled DESTINATION MOON but Eagle-Lion chief Arthur Krim turned him down, declaring the concept too fantastic. (Producer George Pal latched onto the discarded title and won a 1951 Academy Award for his DESTINATION MOON.) Undaunted, and with no shortage of big ideas, Castle took his sales pitch in another direction entirely. [...MORE]

Artist, Activist & Star-Maker: Photographer Eliot Elisofon

Kim Novak & Eliot Elisofon (self-portrait; 1958)

When I first started writing about Hollywood glamor photography here at the Movie Morlocks, one of the photographers I was particularly keen on featuring was Eliot Elisofon. His captivating images of numerous Hollywood stars have mesmerized me for decades but back in 2010 there was very little information about the man available online. This year that changed significantly thanks to the Smithsonian museum, which launched the first retrospective of Elisofon’s photography at the National Museum of African Art. The exhibit is titled “Africa ReViewed: The Photographic Legacy of Eliot Elisofon” and it features an extensive selection of photographs Elisofon took for Life Magazine between 1947 and 1972 as well as pieces from his African art collection that were donated to the museum after his death in 1973 at age 61. The exhibition comes to an end on November 16th but since its debut nearly a year ago it’s received extensive media attention and sparked a renewed interest in Elisofon and his work. In an effort to keep interest in Eliot Elisofon alive I thought I’d finally delve into his fascinating career in Hollywood where he helped make Marlon Brando and Kim Novak household names and worked on a number of films including MOULIN ROUGE (1952), BELL BOOK AND CANDLE (1958), THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD (1965) and KHARTOUM (1966).


“Quiet on the Set and… PANIC!”

This month at TCM is doing things a little differently with its Star of the Month.  Instead of one, it’s selected Silent Stars as the Star of the Month and its an honorable choice.  Silent film is so different than sound film, and now so much older than the majority of films available (excluding hold-outs like Chaplin and random entries like The Artist, the last time silent films were regularly made in America was 1928), that it rarely gets the attention it deserves and this is one way to do it.  And now, 86 years removed from the last year in which silent movies were an expected commodity, it’s interesting to look back at those moments after The Jazz Singer unleashed the talking picture on the world, and see the reactions and predictions.  Below are some headlines from The New York Times to give you an idea about how momentous the event really was.


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