Below average Arbuckle & Keaton. Not worth you’re time.
Better than the average Arbuckle & Keaton short. Probably has something to with things attacking butts, a drunk horse, and molesting a member of the Salvation Army. I could have done without the black guy being made to dance by gunshots.
Fatty goes from butcher boy to crossdresser for his love. He does it all while fighting off the evil Buster Keaton and his fellow henchmen. And he gets help from Luke the dog, of course.
I wanted to be able to say that this film was an exception to the Busby Berkeley rule, but I can’t. The rule says that the musical numbers are extraordinary feasts for the eye and everything in between sucks. Once this film settles into the middle it drags through paint by numbers romantic comedy. With that in mind, let’s get the non-Berkeley scenes out of the way.
Some female singers and dancers lose their job, they hook up with the rich kid in hiding (Dick Powell) next door, they “warm up” to the old men associated with him, and a new show is born from their money along with a lasting relationship. That is all the attention that part of the film deserves.
The first musical number is done to the tune of ‘We’re In The Money’ as sung by Ginger Rogers. eThay irstfay usicalmay umbernay isway oneday otay ethay unetay ofway e’re’Way Inway eThay oneyMay’ asway ungsay ybay ingerGay ogersRay.
Rogers begins in regular English and then switches to a pig latin version. Shortly after Rogers finishes doing ‘We’re In The Money’ in pig latin, the show is shut down due to lack of funds. The song says one thing, but reality says another.
Then comes the best musical number in the film that doesn’t make heavy use of homogenized women arranged in geometric patterns. I say that because the song is called ‘Petting In The Park’ and the number is about making out in the park with sailors, cops, and evil babies around.
Unlike a Chaplin short, Dick can get lucky in a park. After all that excitement, the film settles into it’s boring middle … but then it comes back with two final and glorious numbers that go from high fantasy to the sad realities of WWI and the poverty of the Great Depression.
The high life to simple pleasures to denial to war to poverty, all done through Busby Berkeley musical numbers and nothing more. The boring middle does tie back to the final number by connecting the leading ladies’ “Gold Digging” to the vast out of work population of men. Those men would otherwise be caring for those ladies. That doesn’t make up for how lackluster those scenes are for the viewer who has seen even one of Berkeley’s numbers. Since it begins during one of his numbers, the audience is assured disappointment. I know I was. It’s a real shame that they couldn’t let Berkeley do the whole film. If they had, I would be highly recommending it. As is, it’s a borderline recommendation.
My only real issue with this film is that Bela Lugosi has to speak at all. The film is at it’s best in near silence when the screen is filled by Dracula who is making only small controlled movements. His victims succumb as if any intention of resisting was wiped away the second they saw him. With this effect, director Tod Browning effectively creates a version of Dracula that is only cheesy for the first few minutes. Then we reach the scene pictured above.
An establishing shot of Dracula’s crypt proceeds to zoom in on one of the coffins. It cracks open and a hand begins to reach out. A rat who is watching from a hole in the wall hears the coffin open and scurries away. Another hand reaches out from a coffin while a bug crawls out of a miniature. A sound is followed by a partially opened coffin containing a woman and a rat dives back into a coffin containing a skeleton. Then the squeak of a rat and Dracula standing tall as we zoom in on his face. In the rest of the crypt, three women in white are walking towards him. Then Dracula goes to the steps to leave the crypt and meet Renfield.
Thanks to Browning’s direction, any cheese that may have been picked up in the opening scenes is melted away during the sequence described above. The silences speak volumes and they allow the sounds of the environment to control the atmosphere. The absence of Dracula’s immersion from a coffin on screen in this scene helps maintain his stature by allowing us only a view of him where he is in full control. Later in the film, he transforms from a bat into a human, but we do not see the transformation. The bat is flying, we cut to something or someone, and we cut back to Dracula in all his glory.
I’ve heard people say that this is the film where vampires became romantic figures and I’m not going to argue with that. This Dracula isn’t a romantic figure, but not the rotting death of Nosferatu. He is old evil. The darkest object in every room and when focused upon an individual, an all-consuming death. A death that also takes place off-screen as does every vulgar action he performs. His horrors appear in our minds and we see their consequences, but they never reach us through direct observation. Our thoughts work with the sights and sounds to imbue him with a terror we cannot walk away from.
The film is short at a little over an hour so it wastes no time on anything extraneous. We hit the major plot points and are always moving right ahead. This works well because it limits the amount of Lugosi’s dialog and rids the film of filler. We are griped with his rise from sleep and follow him to his death. Assuming you can keep from falling prey to seeing and hearing Lugosi as campy, you will get the full experience and understand why I am highly recommending this film.
It’s like they wanted to make a soft-core porn film with fun elements of the French New Wave, but had to dial it back in order to get Brigitte Bardot. Even the way it is, I don’t know how they got Bardot. The movie is about the guy enjoying the view in the picture above. He is a writer who has made a career out of the women he sleeps with. He needs inspiration, so his publisher hires Bardot and puts her under a sex slave contract. She knows that’s what it is and signs anyways. The two travel by train while he dictates to Bardot the stories of past relationships.
The women are attractive enough and it will be arousing at times. The rest of the film is a wet blanket. Skip this movie and pick up a Playboy instead.
Between Gates Of Heaven and The Thin Blue Line lies director Errol Morris’ second documentary film called Vernon, Florida. Morris really found some oddballs his second time around. Take the man pictured above for instance. That is a turtle he is holding, he knows that people think it’s a turtle, and he even notes how slow it moves, but still insists that it is a gopher. He also keeps a live possum in that metal container with the turtle.
Then there is the wiggler man. He’s kind of like Bubba from Forrest Gump in the sense that he feels the need to enumerate the many different types of wigglers. There’s orchard-worm wiggler, big red wiggler, eel worm wiggler, big ring-neck wiggler, and they got one they call the night crawler. He says there is a book about how to raise wigglers, but that it’s wrong.
We also listen to a wonderful preacher who gives an entire sermon on the word ‘therefore’. We enjoy in the exciting discovery that ‘therefore’ is a conjunction. Then it’s back to the dictionary to find out what a ‘conjunction’ is, only to discover another mystery word called ‘indeclinable’. It goes on for quite a while and we even end up looking at the Greek meaning of a certain word. Ultimately, he concludes that because of the widespread use of ‘therefore’ in the Bible, you shouldn’t take control of your own life. That would violate the word’s meaning and take away your God given peace.
However, not all of the characters Morris meets are jokes. The turkey hunter who looks like he belongs riding in a car with James Bond or in a Smokey And The Bandit film, turns out to be an enjoyable storyteller. Sure all the stories are about hunting turkeys, but he does it so well that we are mesmerized. Every time he mentions the word gobble, it’s funny, but the more time you spend with him, the more it becomes the call to his lifelong turkey hunt. It’s what he loves to do and hearing his stories lets us into that world for a short time.
While the turkey man who hears the call of the gobble is probably the sanest person in the lot, most are scary ignorant. I joked about the preacher and the old man who thought a turtle was a gopher, but there is a couple who actually believes the sand they retrieved from a nuclear testing site is growing. That’s right, that jar only had a little bit of sand when they first got it, now look at it! Another man actually advocates running people out of town on a rail complete with tar and feathers. I won’t even talk about the three old guys discussing whether taking off your shoe is necessary to blow your head off.
The members of this town can be funny and entertaining, but in the end they are sad. Morris never says this and he never demeans any the people he films. Still, you almost wish a nuke or a natural disaster would let the people and the place die. It’s short at a little under an hour, so as long as you know what you are getting into, it is worth a look.
The film takes place entirely within the apartment of a Maharaja’s daughter who lives in the UK. She invites her dead father’s former tutor to the apartment for an afternoon of reminiscing. She remembers her father like a god, whereas the tutor remembers a great man. It’s not that great, but it is a bearable film exercise made so by the great James Mason who plays the tutor. Approach this film with caution.