Tuesday, October 02, 2012

October Revivals

Hey all. Mike here with a revival list for the month of October. Yep, the entire month. I have no time to do any splitting-the-month-in-half posts. Most Halloween-themed films and a few Midnight movies will go by the wayside, in favor of those films I think I can make. I'll try to make the descriptions as brief as possible. Here we go: 

DIAL M FOR MURDER in Digital 3-D- Now thru Thurs Oct 4 at 3:20, 5:30 and 7:40- Film Forum- Just before it's October 9th Blu-Ray release, Dial M For Murder returns to the Forum in digital 3-D. Not the the original 2 strip 2 projector version that the Forum has screened off and on for years, but a digital 3-D version (you know, like Avatar?). The blu-ray will be in 3-D for those TVs that can handle that, but you have a chance to see it yourself as it kinda was intended, on the big screen. I'm locked in for the afternoon of Tuesday, October 2nd, but I post the rest of the days/times for you to go on your own.

A Hitchcock classic, that may not have strayed all that successfully from its stage roots, but is still quite good. Ray Milland finds out his wife, Grace Kelly, is cheating on him and is getting ready to dump him. Seeing his wealthy lifestyle about to be taken away from him, he plots his wife's murder. Complications ensue, etc. . . .

Cool performances from Milland, Kelly, and character actor John Williams, reprising his Tony winning role as the dogged Chief Inspector. Talkier then usual from a Hitchcock film. I'd argue it's about as talky as Hitchcock and Kelly's other 1954 film together, Rear Window. Window had a better script, with sly insights and a somewhat better realized film. Dial M is a more straight forward, ably executed mystery, with a great scene involving Kelly and a large shiny pair of scissors.

Now at about this time, 3-D was enjoying about the same kind of popularity it's having at the moment. You had studio heads pushing to have films made in 3-D, but unlike now, where pressure can be applied to have films that were never shot in 3-D converted (Clash of the Titans, The Last Airbender), the pressure in the 50s had to be applied in pre-production. So while Hitch was forced to shoot it in 3-D he must have said something along the lines of "Screw them", and did as little as possible in terms of 3-D. Playing a little with perspective, a few low angles, some objects blocking some actors, not much. That's why I wrote in the first paragraph in terms of "as it was kinda intended". Hitch basically looked at 3-D as a fad, shot in 2-D and 3-D simultaneously, and just tried to make a good film, which he did. The 3-D version was released first but didn't play too long, followed by the 2-D classic version. It was re-released in 3-D in 1980 (I thought it was 81, but imdb disagrees), but in a flat version that wasn't popular, and different from how it was screened back in 1954.

For about 20 years off and on, the Forum has screened the original 3-D print, scratches hair and dirt off and on throughout the print, according to friends who attended the more recent screenings. But now we get the the original 3-D presentation, but in a cleaned up modern format:  

LAWRENCE OF ARABIA- Thurs Oct 4 at 1 and 7- AMC Empire, AMC Kips Bay, AMC Village 7 and Regal Union Square in Manhattan, College Point Multiplex in Flushing, both theaters in Westbury, plus other theaters in Upstate New York and in the other U.S. states except Hawaii- But this is one of top 5 all time favorite films. That is TOP 5 all time. Whenever one of my top 5 is available to see, I must post it, no matter if I own it, or how many times I've seen it on screen. The best film on the list; maybe by a little, maybe by a lot, but noticeably better. The intimate moments are treated with as much care and respect as the epic scenes, the script deserves just as much respect as the visuals, and has there been a better leading debut for a star than Peter O'Toole in the title role? Ok, Chaplin and Brando, but I can't think of any better lead debuts in color films.

On both AFI Top 100 lists. 10 Nominations, including Actor for O'Toole, the Screenplay, and Supporting Actor for Omar Sharif (don't get me started on his entrance!). 7 Oscars, including Picture, Score (maybe the best film score ever; not sure, but if you have better choices, let me know), and Director for Lean. If you haven't seen it, the big screen is THE way, there isn't a TV screen big enough to pull this entirely off.

INVESTIGATION OF A CITIZEN ABOVE SUSPICION- Thurs Oct 4 at 5:20, 7:30 and 9:40- A new 4K digital restoration of the very good Italian film. Winner for Best Foreign Language Oscar in 1971, and nominated for its Screenplay in 1972. A famous detective from Rome (Gian Maria Volonte from the first two Eastwood-Leone Spaghetti Westerns), who specializes in cracking political dissidents, accidentally kills his mistress. He's put in charge of the murder investigation, but how much of his guilt and how much of his ego will come out? And will it interfere with his crackdown on radicals? Obviously not a whodunit but more of a whydunnit, with its heavy critique of police corruption. Volonte is terrific and the film has a great Ennio Morricone score. NOT available on DVD in this country and is rarely screened on American TV, so this might be your only chance to catch this. It plays for a week, though I'll only post the October dates if there's no interest for Saturday, September 29th:

DR. NO for free (subject to ticket availability)- Fri Oct 5 at 8- MOMA- The start of MOMA's 50 years of James Bond series. All the official Bond films (for the very last time Bart, Never Say Never Again and the 1954 and 1967 versions of Casino Royale don't count!), all in new 35mm prints provided by the series' producers, Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson.

A free screening of Dr. No, subject to ticket availability. Being screened on THE actual 50th Anniversary of Dr. No's first day of release in Britain. The first of the Bond films with Sean Connery. Featuring the Theme, and Ursula Andress, rising from the sea like a goddess. Everything you think about Bond that isn't Daniel Craig or gadget/Aston Martin related, comes into play here, and sets the template well. Hasn't aged well (the dialogue scenes on the beaches of Crab Key are cringing) and at times, Dr. No moves like molasses. Luckily, Connery's characterization, the theme, some action/fight scenes, and Ursula's looks makes this worth catching and hey it's free. If you can get your tickets on time that is

THUNDERBALL with either FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE or GOLDFINGER- Sat Oct 6 at 2 (Russia), 5 (Goldfinger) and 8 (Thunderball)- MOMA- Part of the 50 years of James Bond retrospective at MOMA. 3 Sean Connery Bond films, all in new 35mm prints. Now for one admission, you can see all 3 Bond films on the 6th. If you want to join me however, I'll only be doing two film, and one of them will be Thunderball. Partially because I've done both Russia and Goldfinger on the big screen already, and partially because I don't want to commit to doing almost 9 hours straight with barely anytime in-between for coffee and/or junk food (outside because remember, MOMA is a museum and not a movie theater). I'm ok with either starting with Russia, walking away for a late lunch/early dinner, and then come back for Thunderball. I'm equally ok with showing up for Goldfinger, stepping outside for coffee or something very quick, and then come back for Thunderball. I'll let majority rule with regards to who wants to see which Bond the most.

First, Thunderball. When Bond mania was at it's highest, the highest grossing Bond film, when you take inflation into account. Bond must deal with SPECTRE's deadliest threat yet; holding the world ransom, by threatening it with its two stolen NATO nuclear weapons. No one knows where the bombs are. But because Bond kinda recognizes a face he's barely seen in a day or two earlier, and said face is someone's sister who resides in Nassau, off Bond goes for more than he bargained for. It's taken me awhile for me to warm up toward Thunderball, years actually. The remake, Never Say Never Again, is what I saw first, and that is fun. Lighter than the original, with better Bond girls. But the elements that make Bond Bond, from M Q and Moneypenny, to the villains, to the action sequences, are done far better in Thunderball. Ok, the idea that the one eyed villain with no depth perception is used to not only trigger and un-trigger nuclear devices underwater but to lead his henchmen in a massive underwater knife/harpoon fight . . . it's no wonder SPECTRE's plan failed. And the lyrics to the title song, just ignore them.

It takes a while for the film to get going; not badly, but merely ok when it's Bond, and good everywhere else. Once the film moves to Nassau, it picks up steam. Climaxes in a very good underwater action scene and an even better closing fight scene. All with minimum dialogue, and heavy emphasis on good editing and John Barry's score. An Oscar for its Visual Effects.

Next, From Russia With Love. In my opinion, the Best Connery Bond. Yes, even over Goldfinger. Has the best fight scene, between Connery and Robert Shaw. Has an effectively creepy villain in Lotte Lenya's Rosa Kleb. Plus good action scenes in a Gypsy camp, on a truck when chased by a helicopter, and involving a boat chase. If you know Bond, you know how good this is. Nuff said.

Finally, Goldfinger. Arguably one of the best Bonds, though that argument won't be made by me after seeing this and From Russia With Love and On Her Majesty's Secret Service on the big screen. The cheese factor is notably higher then in the previous installments; as Sean Connery battles the title character, Odd Job, a castrating laser, and in his own way, Pussy Galore. But it's still a lot of fun. To me, it works best as a Gateway to the Bond series; if you're not a fan of this particular Bond, with high cheese, gadgets, and production values, you won't like most of the rest of the Bonds. An Oscar for its Visual Effects, but not even a nomination for the theme song. Actually I understand that: the music is good, but the lyrics are lousy, though better than Thunderball's. Much like Tom Jones with his rendition, Shirley Bassey is a miracle worker, making chicken salad out of chicken shit lyrics.

THE SPY WHO LOVED ME- Wed Oct 10 at 8- MOMA-  Definitely the best of the 70s Bond films, though it admittedly doesn't have a lot of competition. One of the better stories, Moore's best Bond performance, great Egypt and Canada/Switzerland locations shots, a standout opening stunt, and one of the better Bond villains in Jaws (you know, the one with the metal teeth). Would have been the big hit of 1977, if that art house film Star Wars hadn't come out. It's a perfect popcorn movie/ summer blockbuster. I liked it on TV, but was blown away by how much fun it was on the Forum's screen. It should play even better on MOMA's larger screen. Oscar nominations for Marvin Hamlisch's score, song (Nobody Does It Better) and the opulent Art Direction/ Set Decoration. Much love for the late Hamlisch's music here, among the best of the series. But as for the film as a whole, if you're a Connery/Craig purist, you probably hate this film with a passion, so I'll move on:

FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE- Fri Oct 19 at 4 for free (subject to availability)- MOMA- If you can't do my favorite Connery Bond on Saturday the 6th, you can do it on Friday the 19th for free at MOMA. Tickets available on a first come, first served basis. Sorry about the 4pm timing, but I don't make up the schedule:

ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE- Sat Oct 20 at 8- MOMA- The last film from MOMA's James Bond retrospective that I will post, also in a new 35mm print. The simple story of Bond fighting Blofeld's latest plot to hold the world for ransom. And oh yeah, Bond falls in love with a woman that he wants to marry and Bond isn't played by Sean Connery in this film. SAYWHAT?!?!?!?!

Not necessarily the best Bond in George Lazenby. Probably the weakest actor to play the role. But they found a successful way to have a Shakespearean actor (I, Claudius' George Baker) about a fourth of his lines successfully, and he pulls off the final scene well. But in my opinion I thought he was the best Bond physically and fight-wise until Daniel Craig came along. There's no shame coming second to Craig, but the gap is a lot smaller than you'd imagine. Compared to the last couple of Connery Bond flicks as well as the bulk of Roger Moore's Bond run, it's such a pleasure to see an actual athlete do as much as Lazenby did with such little stuntman usage.

Two other offbeat-ish casting choices (for a Bond picture) also work well. Diana Rigg may or may not compete with Ursula Andress rising from the sea in that bikini. But she makes us believe successfully that 007 would give up his life of spying for marriage to her, and Riggs comes off as probably the most capable Bond Girl of the entire series. And then we have Telly Savalas as Blofeld. Donald Pleasance's turn in the role in You Only Live Twice was so creepily iconic even then it would have been insane to try to duplicate it note for note, and luckily the filmmakers and Telly don't even try. This Blofeld suffered fools even less than the previous incarnations (though would develop a blind spot for the ladies), and combined with Telly's physicality, we have the most formidable version of the SPECTRE leader in the entire series. 

The big screen really helps the visuals, especially the scenes set in Switzerland. Combined with sharp editing (at times, a healthy use of jump-cutting) and cinematography, a good John Barry score and a good Bond song: We Have All The Time In The World. Recorded by Louis Armstrong shortly after receiving what would be his terminal cancer diagnosis: performing a song knowing that the lyrics he was singing were rapidly no longer applying to him. I always leave the film a bit wistful  Not just because of the song or the ending, but with a feeling of what could have been, if the film had been treated then like it is now: one of if not the best Bond film ever. Yes, the film was a hit, one of the biggest of 1969. But Lazenby quit, public and critical reaction was mixed, and the box office numbers so significantly lower than You Only Live Twice and Thunderball. United Artists' solution was to throw money at Connery to come back, and combined with too many other aspects to get into here, we end up with the mediocre Diamonds Are Forever. So I'm left with a feeling of "What if?". But at least we have On Her Majesty's Secret Service:

SPEEDY- Sun Oct 21 at 3:10 and Mon Oct 22 at 7:30- Film Forum- Part of the Harold Lloyd retrospective. More of a NYC movie than you'd think, especially for 1928. Speedy is a Lloyd classic, where a former soda jerk turned cab driver has to race the actual Babe Ruth to the old Yankee Stadium, and the hi-jinks go from there. Preceded by a recently rediscovered Lloyd short, Look Pleasant Please from 1918. Played with live piano accompaniment:

HALLOWEEN- Thurs Oct 25 at College Point Multiplex, Broadway Multiplex at the Broadway Mall in Hicksville, plus other theaters around the country- Time TBD- A one night only screening of the 1978 horror sleeper hit/ indie classic. It's playing around the country, but as of this writing, for some reason it's NOT playing in Manhattan. That's why I'm posting the only 2 theaters that are remotely easy for me to get to: the College Point Multiplex in Whitestone, and at the Broadway Mall in Hicksville. Times have not yet been scheduled, but if you're interested  I'll keep an eye out. But seriously, why is this so disorganized? I don't get it . . . 

Psycho may have been the first slasher film to hit it big in the U.S., but Halloween is what caused the slasher film to proliferate. Of course they're all carbon copies to this, one of the best horror films ever made. Interesting to look at, tightly edited, but it's director John Carpenter's iconic music that added the final touch. Not a hit in it's first weeks (months?) of release. It basically took word of mouth and a few key critical notices to make this one of the most successful independent films ever made. And as adorable as P.J. Soles is as one of the teenagers, you see a star in the making in Jamie Lee Curtis. Accept no substitutes or sequels or the Rob Zombie remake, go to the original:

Let me know if there's interest. I'll be back in November but when, is a damn good question. Later all.