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July 30, 2016
David Kalat
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I Did It My Way (How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Buster Keaton’s Doughboys)

So, gentle readers, this is my farewell. I started writing for TCM’s website ten years ago; I joined the Movie Morlocks six years ago. Since my debut here in the fall of 2010 I’ve posted over 300 blog posts. Between the Morlocks posts and my work on the website, I’ve contributed significantly more than 500,000 words—the equivalent of something like 6 full-length books.

It has been a phenomenal experience. I’ve been so grateful for the opportunity to share the stage with my fellow Morlocks—an extraordinary collection of worldclass film writers—and speak to such an engaged, knowledgeable audience. It’s been a blast. But I’ve chosen to resign from TCM so I can spend more time yelling at the raccoons in my neighborhood. Raccoons have got to be an atheist’s best argument for evolution—what Intelligent Deisgner worth his salt would deliberately invent hyper-intelligent trash-eating scavengers with thumbs? And really, if after 500,000 words I haven’t totally exhausted everything I could possibly have to say about classic movies, you’ve got to agree I’ve certainly long ago run out of useful or interesting things to say.

In the spirit of going out as I came in, I’m going to take my final post as an excuse to once again bang the drum in favor of an unloved, underappreciated gem by a slapstick clown. My first post was about Charlie Chaplin’s Kid Auto Races, and today I’ll go down swinging in favor of Buster Keaton’s MGM talkie Doughboys. Yes. Seriously. Come on, click the fold to keep reading –this will be our last time together, let’s make it special!

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KEYWORDS: Buster Keaton, Doughboys, MGM
COMMENTS: 10
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The Next Voice You Hear Won’t Have the Right Accent…

… but does it matter?

Tonight on TCM, the 1979 adventure adaptation of The Man in the Iron Mask, in this case titled The Fifth Musketeer, airs and it’s a good case of a movie that has no genuine concern for what anyone sounds like.  The actors playing the famous characters from Alexandre Dumas’ The d’Artagnan Romances include Beau Bridges as Louis XIV / Philippe of Gascony, Cornel Wilde as D’Artagnan, Ian McShane as Fouquet, Alan Hale, Jr. as Porthos, Lloyd Bridges as Aramis, Jose Ferrer as Athos, Olivia de Havilland as the Queen Mother, and Rex Harrison as Colbert.  No need for a double take, you did indeed see Lloyd Bridges listed as Aramis.  And no, he does not at any point attempt to sound like anyone other than Lloyd Bridges.  Nor does he attempt any different inflections or mannerisms that would indicate anything but a 20th century man.  The same goes for Alan Hale, Jr.  Beau Bridges plays himself for one role, Philippe, and engages in an accent and foppish mannerisms for the other role, Louis XIV.  The movie has a lot of problems but the actors aren’t one of them.  It doesn’t matter at all that none of them sound particularly French.

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Poster Gallery: Remembering Jack Davis 1924-2016

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Artist and pop culture chronicler Jack Davis passed away this week at age 91 after a long and productive career that spanned decades and traversed many mediums. Throughout his life, Davis won numerous awards and was inducted into the Will Eisner Hall of Fame in 2003. Today the prolific illustrator is probably best remembered for his work in comic books but he also designed some iconic movie posters and worked hand-in-hand with Rankin/Bass productions on some of the company’s most beloved animated movies and TV shows.

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ABBA: The Movie

Earlier this year I made a trek with three friends to Stockholm where we got to experience firsthand the Eurovision Song Contest, that annual feast of musical excess, questionable taste, vocal acrobatics, and international squabbling. This year proved to be no exception, and though it’s still a niche event in the United States, all of Europe and many other countries (particularly Israel and Australia) treat it like a major sporting event. Tradition holds that the winner’s country hosts the following year’s contest, so it was Sweden’s sixth turn to be taken over for a couple of weeks by Eurovision fans.

Not surprisingly, you couldn’t walk through a store or sit through an event without hearing the name “ABBA” at least a few times. Sweden’s greatest pop music export, the fabulous foursome famously won the contest in 1974 with “Waterloo,” energizing a career that would burn brightly until the group’s dissolution in 1982. Since 2013, Stockholm has also been home to ABBA: The Museum, an eye-popping immersion in the group’s music, impact, and blazingly colorful outfits (including the weirdly lifelike figures in the photo below). However, the group’s popularity is perhaps greater than ever around the world, and as I concluded walking through rooms flickering with concert footage and music clips, they’re also one of the most cinematic music acts of all time. [...MORE]

Summer of Rohmer: The Romance of Astrea and Celadon (2007)

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I am ending my Summer of Rohmer series with a film set in the spring. Yes, it is a shocking betrayal of the series’ seasonal brand, but I was eager to revisit The Romance of Astrea and Celadon (2007), and extend my stay in Rohmer’s world. Over the last six weeks I have traveled to a variety of France’s hottest vacation spots for romantic anxiety, from a Saint-Tropez country house in La Collectionneuse (1967) to Dinard, the beachside town in A Summer’s Tale (1997).  The Romance of Astrea and Celadon transported me to the valley of the Sioule in Auvergne, a bucolic green landscape for star-crossed lovers in 5th-century Gaul to suffer in. For his final feature (he passed away in 2010), Rohmer adapted Honoré d’Urfé’s L’Astree (ca. 1607 – 1627), a 5,000 page hit at the royal courts. Rohmer focused on the spine of the digressive novel – the romance between the shepherd Celadon and the shepherdess Astrea, and the miscommunication, madness, and masquerades that delay their union. Though set millennia in the past, the film works over familiar Rohmerian ground, as it ponders the nature of love and fidelity, while trying to square the contradictory impulses of each.

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The Story of DeMille’s Lost City

blogopenerA few weeks ago, my friend and wonderful colleague Daphne Rosenzweig left an article in my mail cubby at Ringling College titled “The Lost City of Cecil B. DeMIlle. ” The article described the enormous Egyptian-style set built for Cecil B. DeMille’s 1925 version of The Ten Commandments and also chronicled the efforts of filmmaker Peter Brosnan to make a documentary about the set, which still exists beneath the sand dunes near Guadalupe, California. Originally called the City of the Pharaoh, the set was the largest built to date.

Film historians live for these kinds of stories, and I decided to track down the documentary. My search led me to Mr. Brosnan, who spent 30 years making a film about the City of the Pharoah, now referred to as the Lost City. He and his friend Bruce Cardozo began their quest to find and excavate the Lost City as well as to document their efforts in 1982. Sadly, just before the final cut of the film, The Lost City of Cecil B. DeMille, Mr. Cardozo died unexpectedly.

Mr. Brosnan was kind enough to allow me to interview him about the Lost City, its excavation, and his film. He is currently shopping for a distributor while the film makes the rounds of the festival circuit, most recently playing the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. Check out the movie’s website at www.lostcitydemille.com and view the trailer at https://vimeo.com/151442490.

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The Shooting

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Made on roughly the same budget as The Blair Witch Project (1999) and shot shortly after the assassination of J.F.K., Monte Hellman’s The Shooting (1966) is a western very much of its time that was not properly released in its time. It’s informed by films like The Virginian (1962), One Eyed Jacks (1961), Stagecoach (1939), and My Darling Clementine (1946), yet infused with an aesthetic not far from L’Avventura (1960) or Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. It stars Warren Oates, Jack Nicholson, and Millie Perkins. It also stars a ghostly and lunar landscape that ceased to exist with the completion of the dam on the Colorado river in 1966. Strange to think kids partying on a houseboat atop Lake Powell now skim water a hundred or so feet above the totemic panorama that gives The Shooting so much of its visual power.

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July 23, 2016
David Kalat
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This isn’t your father’s Ganja & Hess

I ran across the IMDB listing for Spike Lee’s 2014 film Da Sweet Blood of Jesus the other day and chuckled at its inept attempt at classification: the film was identified simultaneously as a comedy, thriller, and romance. And since that same set of classifications nicely describes His Girl Friday but fails to encapsulate the many other attributes of Sweet Blood, I couldn’t help but laugh. In case you didn’t know, Da Sweet Blood of Jesus is Spike Lee’s lovingly faithful remake of Ganja & Hess. And, in case you also didn’t know, Ganja & Hess is an absolutely singular American independent film from 1972 that blended arthouse aesthetics, Blaxploitation horror, vampire themes, and experimental theater into a heady broth. I played a small but significant role in getting Ganja & Hess rescued from obscurity and back into circulation on DVD and later Blu-Ray; I also played a small role in getting the remake made, since I mailed a copy of Ganja & Hess to Spike Lee back in 2006. Of course, he’s a knowledgeable student of film who didn’t need me to tell him about this landmark work of American arthouse cinema, but at the very least I saved the man $25 and a trip to Tower Records (which still existed in those days).

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KEYWORDS: Bill Gunn, Da Sweet Blood of Jesus, Ganja & Hess, Spike Lee
COMMENTS: 2
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Let’s All Go To The Planet of the Apes

“Get your stinking paws off of me, you damned dirty ape!”

There are classic movie lines and then there are lines delivered by Charlton Heston to talking apes. The latter is pretty unbeatable. From that iconic moment when the apes realize that Bright Eyes, aka Taylor, aka Chuck Heston, can talk to his fist pounding damning of the human race to hell for destroying everything, there isn’t a lot about the original 1968 original classic, Planet of the Apes, that isn’t known to viewers these days so spoiler warnings seem about as necessary as a “No Diving” sign over a lava pit. Nevertheless, there are those lucky few who haven’t seen it yet and an even luckier few who don’t actually know the big final twist that comes in the last scene of the movie. So, all things considered, SPOILER WARNING. Let us now delve into the wonder that is Franklin Schaffner’s 1968 sci-fi marvel, Planet of the Apes, playing this weekend in theaters around the country, courtesy of Fathom Entertainment and Turner Classic Movies.

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Pioneers of African-American Cinema

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On the last two Sundays of July, TCM is airing a selection of groundbreaking films made by African-Americans during the early 20th Century. Faced with racism within the industry these pioneering filmmakers were forced to work outside of the Hollywood studio system. Independently they created hundreds of diverse “race films” addressing the concerns of black audiences that were screened in segregated theaters across the country. Due to neglect, many of these films have been lost but what remains is an innovative, wide-ranging and fascinating record of black culture.

The films will be hosted by TCM’s own Ben Mankiewicz along with Jacqueline Najuma Stewart, a Professor at The University of Chicago and author of Migrating to the Movies: Cinema and Black Urban Modernity. Stewart’s research and teaching explore African American film cultures from the origins of the medium to the present. She also directs the South Side Home Movie Project and is co-curator of the L.A. Rebellion Preservation Project at UCLA as well as an appointee to the National Film Preservation Board. Stewart is currently completing a study of the African American actor, writer and director Spencer Williams.

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