College students are coming to the Hotel Casa Del Mar–in pairs they come, two by two. It’s a veritable Noah’s Ark for young scholars. Why they have come is a matter of some debate, however. The new manager of the Casa Del Mar (Jack Benny) has told the coeds that they are going to be the summer entertainment for the hotel, a promotional gimmick to help rope in some tourists. And sure enough, he gets them to put on a show, full of elaborate song and dance numbers. But that’s just a ruse–the hotel’s deep in debt to a socialite (Mary Boland) with a fixation on using eugenics to engineer a new super-race, and the students are going to be her unwitting guinea pigs.
DVR alert—thanks to this month’s Marie Dressler tribute, coming up on June 6th TCM is running the 1914 comedy feature Tillie’s Punctured Romance. This is a hugely important work in film history—just about any film reference will tell you so. Here’s what Wikipedia has to say: “Tillie’s Punctured Romance is notable for being the first feature-length comedy in all of cinema.” Wow. I mean, right? Just wow.
Except… it’s hard to give credit to Tillie’s Punctured Romance for being the “first feature-length comedy in all of cinema” when there was another feature-length comedy released on August 10, 1914, four months earlier.
And you want to know the best bit? This earlier film, arguably the true first comedy feature in film history, is a gender-bending treat that suits today’s mood much better than the fusty old melodramatic complications of Tillie’s Punctured Romance. Click the fold below and let’s find out more!
Posted by Kimberly Lindbergs on May 26, 2016
TCM’s month-long celebration of American International Pictures comes to an end tonight with some of the company’s best productions from the seventies including Martin Scorsese’s Boxcar Bertha (1972), Brian De Palma‘s Sisters (1973), Roger Corman’s Bloody Mama (1970) featuring one of Robert De Niro’s early screen appearances, William Crain’s Blacula (1972) and the little-seen A Matter of Time (1976), which was the last film directed by Vincente Minnelli. I haven’t seen the Minnelli film myself so I’m looking forward to finally catching up with it but today I thought I’d focus my attention on filmmaker Robert Fuest. Fuest directed the first AIP film airing in tonight’s impressive line-up, The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971) featuring Vincent Price in one of his most memorable roles.
The late Robert Fuest, who died in 2012 at age 84, has become one of my favorite filmmakers over the years thanks to his artistic direction and ability to mix fear and humor into a creative combustible cocktail that yielded such gems as The Abominable Dr. Phibes and its sequel Dr. Phibes Rises Again (1972) as well as the brilliant, stylish and utterly bonkers Michael Moorcock adaptation, The Final Programme (1973). Other films in his impressive oeuvre include Just Like a Woman (1967), And Soon the Darkness (1970), Wuthering Heights (1970) and The Devil’s Rain (1975).
Posted by Kimberly Lindbergs on May 19, 2016
TCM continues their month-long celebration of American International Pictures tonight with a series of films that showcase their efforts to capitalize on the youth zeitgeist of the 1960s. Movies scheduled to air include the original Beach Party (1963) along with more controversial fare such as the Roger Corman’s outlaw biker extravaganza The Wild Angels (1966), the experimental drug film The Trip (1967) which I wrote about a few months ago, and the political farce Wild in the Streets (1968). Tonight also marks the TCM debut of Three in the Attic (1968), a fairly bleak sex comedy that loosely dabbles in gender politics and became the studio’s highest grossing film of the decade. Despite its financial success and popularity with audiences, Three in the Attic has largely been forgotten and has yet to find its way onto DVD.
The film was the brainchild of Richard Wilson (The Big Boodle; 1957, Al Capone; 1959, Invitation to a Gunfighter; 1964, etc.), a longtime cohort of Orson Welles who had produced and acted in a number of Welles’s films including Citizen Kane (1941) The Lady from Shanghai (1947) and Macbeth (1948) before he started making his own movies. Wilson’s eighth directorial effort was Three in the Attic and it came about after he spotted an article by author Stephen Yafa in a 1967 issue of Playboy where the writer discussed his recent novel titled Paxton Quigley’s Had the Course. In the article, Yafa humorously explains that he wrote the book “. . . out of venomous contempt for all the claptrap I’d ever seen which presumed to examine the sex life of young Americans and succeeded only in vilifying our lower regions.” Wilson was intrigued by Yafa’s off-color sense of humor and he convinced American International Pictures to let him produce and direct an adaptation of the book retitled Three in the Attic.
So this week, on May 15 and 18th, TCM is teaming up with Fathom Events to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Ferris Bueller’s Day off by returning it to theaters for a select engagement. You can click this link to find a local screening and book your tickets. And, in honor of this event, I’m taking the day off. See y’all later!
Greetings, Movie Morlocks readers. I am Julie Stapel, the only member of the Stapel-Kalat family not to have guest blogged here. And what better time to do it than now—when David has gone on a madcap Chicago adventure just like our protagonist Ferris Bueller (see photos).
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off means a great deal to me and I’m happy for the opportunity to talk about why. First, a bit of origin story on me. I grew up in Columbia City, Indiana, a bodaciously small town (to quote Charles de Mar in another of my favorite movies, Better Off Dead). Growing up, Chicago was my Shangri-La—mythical, perfect. I was fortunate to take both family and school trips to Chicago with some frequency when I was growing up. I would cry as soon as the skyline came into view and again as the skyline faded into the distance as we were going home. Now I commute in every day for work and it still gets me sometime. It’s an impossibly beautiful city.
So imagine my delight when, in 1986, when I was 16, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, was released. Of course, Columbia City had no movie theater at the time so we had to go to Fort Wayne to see it. (Fort Wayne is very nice too but never had the ability to quite capture my heart with its skyline). Not only was I precisely in the John Hughes age demographic, but the movie is a love letter to Chicago with its sweeping aerial shots of the lake and the city that served no narrative purpose at all. They were just beautiful. I saw it at least 5 times in the theater and dozens of times on TV and video in the years since then, including with my own children who never had to long for Chicago.
Now I’m no film scholar and my observations are a bit meandering, but here goes . . . .
As regular readers here know, I’ve got a thing for documentaries that ruminate on the meaning of “art” and dig into the gray areas of artistic expression. Well, I also like fictional satires on the art world, too—and one of the cleverest, Roger Corman’s gloriously bonkers A Bucket of Blood (1959) is on TCM on Thursday the 5th (set your DVRs).
A Bucket of Blood stars Dick Miller as “Walter Paisley,” lowly busboy in a coffee bar/art gallery. The poor guy is a little slow, and as impressionable as a child. Too bad his biggest influences are self-absorbed young adults preening with affectation: they wear bathrobes and creative facial hair, blather on about organic farming and obscure foodstuffs, constantly projecting an air of bored indifference. They rally around a beatnik poet whose manifesto declares that Art is more important than anything, even the lives of other human beings. And Walter wants nothing more than to be one of them.
The joke is that he wins their accolades and respect only by taking that callous screed literally – he kills people and turns their corpses into Art. That part is familiar – on loan from House of Wax (1953), the film that made Vincent Price a household name just a few years earlier. A Bucket of Blood distinguishes itself not by plot points but by context – let Vincent Price mummify his victims with nary a tongue in cheek, but Dick Miller’s body of work is gloriously absurd.
So, this weekend TCM has got it into its corporate head to screen the 1953 comedy Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. In case you didn’t already know, this is one of the lesser-regarded, least-loved entries in the already rather shopworn and degraded pile of B-movie fodder that is the Abbott and Costello oeuvre. I know I’m misusing several words there—both oeuvre and B-movie, at least—but I do so advisedly. I’m a sucker for Golden Age Hollywood comedies, and comedy teams, and slapstick, so I have a soft spot for old Lou and Bud, but seriously it’s hard to defend their Universal films as anything more than programmatic filler recycling some vaudeville schtick well past its sell-by date. That being said, Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is substantially better than its reputation suggests, and definitely worth the time of anyone who bothers to read my weekly rantings here. Just go in with sufficiently lowered, realistic expectations, and let the isolated bright spots of this thing impress and surprise you.
But that’s not what I wanted to write about this week. I’m more interested in the movie TCM won’t be screening, because it doesn’t exist. The movie that might have been, in some alternate universe, where the original ideas for this film didn’t get curtailed and redirected into stale formula. Because at one point, this movie was set to be called Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mrs. Hyde. And boy, what a difference that extra letter makes.
Posted by David Kalat on April 2, 2016
While vacationing in Paris recently I was struck by how much Parisians love their artists. The streets are named for major cultural figures, the city is awash in museums, and at the newsstand kiosks at the entrances to the subway you can find, nestled between the tabloids and porno mags, a huge portfolio of works by Modigliani. That’s how they roll. And it’s ever been thus: once upon a time, Auguste Rodin was commissioned to do a sculpture in honor of the author Balzac. The resulting statue was perceived as being “too avant garde” and triggered outrage, public complaints, and threats of lawsuits. Has anything remotely like this ever happened in the US? Has there ever been an artist, in any media, who was so beloved and so intimately intertwined with our national sense of self that anyone would bother to complain that an honorary statue wasn’t sufficiently reverent?
(Well, I mean aside from Lucille Ball, naturally)
DVR alert: there is a fabulous block of Roscoe Arbuckle comedies coming up on Sunday night, way past your bedtime. Roscoe appears onscreen in only a couple of them, but taken together this is an opportunity to see the great Roscoe Arbuckle working and collaborating with a wide variety of comic talents of the teens and twenties: Mack Sennett, Mabel Normand, Ford Sterling, Buster Keaton, Al St. John, Lloyd Hamilton, and Johnny Arthur. (Don’t worry if you didn’t recognize that last name—you’re not missing out on much. But hopefully the other names rang some bells, and if not, just keep reading and I’ll catch you up).
Seeing Arbuckle’s collaborations with some many disparate talents is important, because it can help settle some misunderstandings—but I won’t tell you just why, yet, because I want you to click the dashed line below and keep reading. So, if you can’t already guess why comparing Arbuckle’s work with different comedians might be revealing, or if you’re burning with curiosity to find out why “Lloyd Hamilton” is, then come on, click the fold, and let’s party on!
For the last several weeks I’ve been circling around the legacy of Charlie Chaplin, with posts about him, his influences, and his contemporaries. This week I return to where I started, the man himself, to look not as Chaplin’s aesthetics but his ethics. There’ s something very important about the little fella I haven’t remarked on, and now is the time.
Let’s just start by saying that The Immigrant is my favorite Chaplin film, but that it got to be that by earning the spot. You see, I used to go around to elementary schools with a 16mm projector and put on an hour-long show of short comedies. I’d originally intended it to be a rotating selection, chosen by my mood at the moment and whatever tied in best with what the class was working on at the time. Sometimes I might include Big Business if it was Christmastime, or some Melies shorts if the class had been studying France, and so on. But very quickly on, I realized that for every class and every time I did this, The Immigrant got the biggest reaction. It became the tentpole of the show, by default.
I’ve had kids come up to me, years later, and recognize me—you’re the guy who showed us that Charlie Chaplin film. I showed a bunch of stuff, but that’s the one they remember. Keaton’s One Week, the two reel version of Harold Lloyd’s Hot Water, Harry Langdon’s Remember When—those were fleeting, ephemeral moments. Chaplin’s The Immigrant made an impression on these kids, and I decided to start studying it closely.
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