Mr Arkadin: Don’t Believe That Scorpion

arkadinopenerMore than twenty years have passed since I last saw Mr. Arkadin, Orson Welles’s unconventional tale of an eccentric but powerful man. I look forward to revisiting this dark drama when TCM airs the film Friday, May 8, at 11:45pm as part of this month’s Friday Night Spotlight on Welles. The film is part of “Classic Noir” night, which also includes Touch of Evil, The Lady from Shanghai, and Journey Into Fear. While Mr. Arkadin is hardly ‘classic noir,’ any context for showcasing the film is alright with me.

Distributed in 1962, the film was shot in the mid-1950s. Welles had been reprising one of his signature roles for a second season of the BBC radio series Adventures of Harry Lime when he wrote an episode titled “Man of Mystery.” Intrigued by his own premise for this episode, in which a powerful man hires Lime to investigate his mysterious past, Welles decided to turn it into a feature film, Mr. Arkadin. The film stars Robert Arden, who had worked alongside Welles on the radio program, as Guy Van Stratten, a small-time criminal. Van Stratten crosses paths with the enormously wealthy Gregory Arkadin, a shadowy figure who dotes on his beautiful daughter Raina. Arkadin, who claims to remember nothing about his life prior to 1927, hires Van Stratten to research his past. The criminal-turned-investigator travels across Europe interviewing people who knew Arkadin, but the mystery deepens when these former acquaintances turn up dead.


Stanley Film Festival with Stuart Gordon

stanley hotel

The 3rd annual Stanley Film Festival calls it a wrap today. The first year was a modest affair, but in the 2nd year the programmers brought their A-game and branched out to include the Historic Park Theatre and repertory programming that included importing two rare 35mms prints from Europe – one was of Who Can Kill a Child? (Narciso Ibanez Serrador, 1976) and the other was for Kubrick’s uncensored Eyes Wide Shut (1999). This year, attendance has tripled from last year, and the SFF repertory offerings included The Bride of Frankenstein, Diabolique, Repulsion, Shivers, Rocky Horror Picture Show, and a 35mm print of Re-Animator. [...MORE]

May 2, 2015
David Kalat
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The Back of Joan Crawford’s Head

Up above, that’s a picture of the back of Joan Crawford’s head.

You might be wondering why I think that’s worth looking at, or how I expect to squeeze 1500 words out of it. I happen to think this is a potent and symbolic moment in the history of American screen comedy.

Longtime readers are used to my familiar soapbox rantings by now—I’ve spent most of my time here at TCM’s Movie Morlocks spinning my argument that the transition from silent slapstick to talkie screwball is *not* about the advent of sound. Most historians, if asked to demonstrate why screen comedy changed so radically in the 1930s, would point to a blackface Al Jolson singing his heart out and say, “here, lookit.” Not me. I’m going to point to the back of Joan Crawford’s head. “Here, lookit.


KEYWORDS: Frank Capra, Harry Langdon, Joan Crawford, Screwball Comedy, Slapstick, Tramp Tramp Tramp

You Never Forget Your First Love

May 6th, 2015 is the one hundredth birthday of the great Orson Welles, and tonight, even though it’s not quite his birthday yet, TCM is airing Citizen Kane and Magnificent Ambersons back to back.  After that it’s Orson in Jane Eyre and then Too Much Johnson, his short from 1938.  Fellow Morlock Kimberly Lindbergs gave us a great piece on Welles yesterday (which you can read here) so this post isn’t about Welles, really (except in small part), it’s about the first director you love and where you go from there.  You see, Welles was the first director that I really, truly fell in love with.  Several followed and I can trace the course of my journey clearly still.  You never forget your first.



Orson Welles at One Hundred


Part man, part myth and part mystery. 100 years after his birth, Orson Welles remains a towering figure in cinema history and a difficult character to pin down. Welles’ immeasurable talents, larger than life personality and elusive nature along with the countless unfinished projects he left behind have made him a favorite subject of filmmakers, historians, writers and film enthusiasts who’ve worked tirelessly to keep Hollywood’s enfant terrible in the spotlight since his death in 1985. Throughout the month of May, TCM is taking up the torch and placing Welles in their popular Friday Night Spotlight hosted by film critic David Edelstein. For the next 5 weeks, viewers will be able to see Welles’ most revered and beloved films including CITIZEN KANE (1941), THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS (1942), THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI (1948), THE STRANGER (1946), A TOUCH OF EVIL (1958), MR. ARKADIN (1962), THE TRIAL (1963), OTHELLO (1952) and MACBETH (1948) as well as many films that Welles appeared in such as THE THIRD MAN (1949), JANE EYRE (1944) , THE V.I.P.S. (1963) and A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS (1966). Subscribers will also get to enjoy the debut of the director’s silent comedy, TOO MUCH JOHNSON (1938) and CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT (1967), which Welles considered to be his finest work.

In celebration of Orson Welles’ Centennial, I thought I would take a look ahead and highlight some of the events that are being planned to honor the man as well as the various new books, DVD and Blu-ray releases that will become available in the coming months. Welles’ fans like myself will be able to indulge in a variable smorgasbord of cinematic treats in 2015 that should satisfy his most ardent admirers and even intrigue the most weary Welles’ skeptics.


This week on TCM Underground: The Return of Roller Boogie!


A rich girl from Beverly Hills and a poor boy from Venice Beach become partners to win a roller boogie contest and save a local skating rink from being torn down by unscrupulous developers.

ROLLER BOOGIE (1979) Cast: Linda Blair (Terry Barkey), Jim Bray (Bobby James), Beverly Garland (Mrs. Barkley), Roger Perry (Mr. Barkley), Jimmy Van Patten (Hoppy), Kimberly Beck (Lana), Sean McClory (Jammer Delaney), Mark Goddard (Thatcher), Stoney Jackson (Phones), Albert Insinnia (Gordo), M.G. Kelly (D.J.), Chris Nelson (Franklin). Directed by Mark L. Lester. Written by Barry Schneider, from an original story by Irwin Yablans. Cinematography by Dean Cundey.

Showtime: Saturday May 2, 2015, 11:00pm PST/2:00am EST [...MORE]

Horseplay: Black Midnight (1949)


In June of 1949, Roddy McDowall was twenty years old, and it appeared his acting career was winding down. He had been in the business for over a decade, having first appeared on screen at the age of nine in the British production Murder in the Family (1938). At twelve he signed a contract with Twentieth Century Fox, and in 1941 appeared in both Fritz Lang’s Man Hunt and John Ford’s How Green Was My Valley. The studio saw money in pairing the cute kid with animals, from the horse in My Friend Flicka to the collie in Lassie Come Home. Fox dropped him from their contract in 1945, as adolescence started dimming that innocent young boy glow. McDowall recalled that, “My agent told me I would never work again, because I’d grown up.” In this uncertain period, he took on parts at independent Poverty Row studios, including a part in Orson Welles’ Macbeth, for Republic Pictures, and a few “grown up” animal films for Monogram. One of these was Black Midnight (1949), directed by Oscar (not yet “Budd”) Boetticher. Released on DVD by Warner Archive, it’s a 66 minute programmer that pairs McDowall with an unruly black stallion that he befriends, tames, and defends against a murder charge. Filmed in the windy mountains of Lone Pine California, it emphasizes McDowall’s open, easy charm, and his awkward, spindly body. Almost every sequence ends in a pratfall  – into a creek, party punch, and a pond. But by the end he’s reached something approaching adulthood, in a trial by fists.


‘Night Moves’ vs. ‘The Long Goodbye’


TCM airs one of my favorite film noirs, Night Moves, tonight at 12:15am as part the evening’s tribute to production designer George Jenkins. This 1975 film has been on my mind recently because I am scheduled to teach a course in film noir in the fall. It has been a long time since I have been able to devote an entire semester to one genre, and I want to give my film selection some serious thought. I am torn between using Night Moves by Arthur Penn and The Long Goodbye by Robert Altman to represent the Film School Generation, when certain directors experimented with the conventions, norms, and standards of Hollywood genres. These films have been dubbed experimental noirs, deconstructed noirs, and even anti-noirs, but whatever you call them, they do represent a different treatment of the genre.


A Sporting Try

Today on TCM, the 1942 classic Pride of the Yankees runs, the fictionalized account of Lou Gehrig and his all too young departure from this world due to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a disease that eventually took his name, so associated with him it became.   Like many sports dramas, the real drama comes not from the game (baseball, obviously) but from the dilemmas and conflicts of the characters.  And I like it, to a degree.  If nothing else, it has the real Babe Ruth in it and, for me, that’s enough right there to recommend it as a living piece of history.  But as a sports fan, I’ve never much liked any sports movie, even the good ones.   Of course, there are exceptions and Pride of the Yankees is one of them, but in the end, they don’t work and, at least for me, I think I know why.



April 25, 2015
David Kalat
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How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Rodan!

When I was a kid, Ted Turner’s Superstation WTBS ran this thing practically every week. It became as comforting as an old blanket, as familiar as my own skin.

Eventually, as an adult, I revisited the world of Japanese giant monster movies. I wrote a couple of books, gave some lectures, recorded some audio commentaries, blah blah blah. And along the way I came to recognize this film about a doomed dinosaur is basically a doomed dinosaur itself.

In so many ways it prefigured the future: Rodan boldly leaps into full color, introduces one of Toho Studio’s most enduringly popular monsters and introduces one of the studio’s most enduringly prolific movie stars (Kenji Sahara). But for all it innovates, it’s the last gasp of what was then a dying way of making giant monster flicks. This approach to storytelling was almost instantly rendered obsolete.


KEYWORDS: Godzilla, Ishiro Honda, King Kong vs. Godzilla, Mothra, Rodan, shinichi sekizawa, Takeshi Kimura
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