Tuesday, October 21, 2014

October revivals part 2

Hey all. Mike here with a revival list for the rest of October. Small list, but let me not waste time, here we go:

RETURN OF THE PINK PANTHER (1975) and THE PINK PANTHER STRIKES AGAIN (1976)- Thurs Oct 23 at 6:30- Howard Gillman Theater at Lincoln Center- One admission for both films. A double feature of a couple of the biggest comedy hits of the 1970s. Also among the most successful comedy sequels ever made (adjusted for inflation). Return of The Pink Panther and The Pink Panther Strikes Again, screened in time for the 40th anniversary of the start of the Panther series. The key for me wanting to see this double feature is Return, which is NEVER shown in revival houses around here. United Artists refused to fund the film, after A Shot in the Dark and Inspector Clouseau (without Blake Edwards and Peter Sellers) flopped in the Sixties. Lew Grade's ITC funded the film (UA refused to partner, merely to distribute), and enjoyed the bulk of the profits. After Grade died and his estate was (still is?) in disarray, many works from ITC languished in rights/distribution limbo, including Return of. Only available in a slapdash, pan-and-scan DVD (and not on Blu-ray), you would have to wait for the occasional TCM screening to see this film the way it was shown in 75-76. Until now, for one night only.

2 films that revived the careers of star Peter Sellers and director Blake Edwards, that some fans of the series prefer over the first two from the 1960s. Or at least prefer certain sequences over whole films in the series. First, Return, from 1975. Once again, the famous Pink Panther jewel has been stolen from the museum of Lugash, and once again Inspector Clouseau has been assigned, over his increasingly manic boss Dreyfus' objections, to find the jewel. The inspector has the notorious Phantom, Sir Charles Lytton, as his prime suspect. But Sir Litton didn't do it, not wanting to lose his luxurious retirement life or time with his beautiful wife (Catherine Schell). So as Clouseau travels around Europe trying to pin this on Lytton (nearly destroying his mansion in the process), Lytton's wife tries to stymie Clouseau at every turn, while her husband travels to find the real thief. As all this goes on, the Lugash secret police has its own issues, and Dreyfus stews with that blinking eye of his . . .

Lots of plot(s) as you can see, something that hurts the pacing as we are forced to slow down from hysterical moments to merely ok moments. Christopher Plummer is an interesting replacement for David Niven. Not really given much that is humorous, but arguably more virile and physical than Niven. Fans of Plummer's work over the past 10 or so years or strictly from Sound of Music might be surprised by his physicality. And Schell, as his wife is probably a secret ingredient to the success of this film. Beautiful, with chemistry with her husband similar to Nick and Nora Charles, and more than a match for anyone she goes up against. 

Many elements that are considered important elements to those Panther films were established in the first two Panther films, but stood out more in a film that was more successful than either The Pink Panther or A Shot in the Dark. Henry Mancini's music. Burt Kwouk as Clouseau's overly aggressive man-servant Cato. Herbert Lom as Dreyfus, the Chief Inspector slowly driven mad the incompetent and oblivious Clouseau. Edwards's favorite character actor Graham Stark stealing his scenes from Plummer. DePatie-Freleng's animated credits, featuring the cartoon Pink Panther and Inspector characters; Return features the best animated credits of  the entire series.

And then we have Peter Sellers, returning to A ist status as Clouseau. Not a role he wanted to return to, but whose success kept him as an A-lister until his death five years later. Return has what I feel is Seller's best scenes in the entire series. His argument with "the Be-lind Bee- gaarrr" with his "min-key" while a bank robbery takes place, his losing battles with a doorbell, a vacuum cleaner, a telephone, and a parrot. His examining the crime scene. Plus the best confrontations with Cato and Dreyfus in the entire series. Throw in cinematographer Geoffrey Unsworth's work and the great location work in France, Morocco and Switzerland, and you have a gem of a film rarely seen in the way it was intended. Time to change that.

Followed by The Pink Panther Strikes Again, from 1976. Dreyfus is driven insane one time too many by Clouseau. To the point that Dreyfus is driven permanently insane. To the point that the former Chief Inspector becomes a criminal mastermind, forming his own gang, and threatening world domination. Dreyfus won't commit that last act if all the nations of the world don't conspire to kill Clouseau. A harder job than it looks for all involved. A broader film than most in the Panther series, but a tighter film than Return. This film has a few excellent scenes: When Clouseau accidentally undoes a year of Dreyfus's therapy in mere minutes, another Cato/ Clouseau fight plus Clouseau's time in his Hunchback disguise, Clouseau's interrogation of a manor's staff in England, all the world's best assassins trying to kill Clouseau at an Oktoberfest. Plus there's the scenes most famous line, where Clouseau asks "Does your dog bite?". Overall, a fun night for all:

VERTIGO (1958)- Sat Oct 25, Mon Oct 27, Tues Oct 28 and Thurs Oct 30 at 7 and 9:45, plus Sat Oct 25 at 3:30- Film Forum- A 4k digital restoration. Possibly the same glorious DCP restoration that premiered at the Forum a few years back. If you're the kind of person who looks at sites like this, than you're familiar with the Hitchcock classic. A tragic romance with poor guy Jimmy Stewart, going down the emotional Rabbit Hole of Doom as he falls for Kim Novack, and tries not to literally fall due to his vertigo. The story of obsessive love that has never been done better than this. Not on the big screen anyway.

A film that was ignored at best and derided at worst in its initial release, but attained instant classic status upon its 1984 re-release. a near permanent fixture on most AFI Top 100 lists. In some recent film articles listing best movies, Vertigo has made the leap to 1st or 2nd. Not quite sure about that, but on my own Top 40 for sure.

Now again, note that I haven't written much at all about the story itself. To paraphrase Martin Scorsese when he wrote about Vertigo, not only is Vertigo required viewing, it also requires a Personal Response. Your life experiences will determine how you will take it. I'm guessing anyone who looks at my lists has seen Vertigo before. Therefore, you jumped past following the plot and can get to the heart (figuratively and literally) of the story and how it connects with you. Now you have a week to see this, I'm only posting the possible days and times I could do it in theory:


Next we have two films playing at the same time at IFC Center. Majority rules as to which one is done:

LIQUID SKY (1982)- Tues Oct 28 at 8 with post film discussion by Slava Mogutin- IFC Center- Part of IFC Center's Queer Art Film series, singling out films that involved and or influenced an artist in New York's Gay/Lesbian community. A New York cult film from 1983, that played for several years as a Midnight movie, at the old theater on the same site as the IFC Center, the Waverly. Aliens land on Earth, seeking the substance they find vital, heroin. Landing on what they think is normal Earth, downtown New York during the punk scene, they become fascinated with a female model and her casual sex ways. They also become interested in an androgynous male model. Both models played by actress Anne Carlisle. And if you don't know the film, I'm not going any further.

The film had champions in a way, in the form of Siskel and Ebert. But after the 1980's, the film has dropped out of sight. Some put it on their list of bad films. Others put it in their list of fascinating cult films. A time capsule of the look and feel of the downtown scene of early 80's New York, in a sci-fi filter. As for who is doing the post film discussion, I'll cut and paste from IFC center's description of this:

 . . . The film’s vision of New York City as the coolest, strangest, most exciting place on Earth was particularly appealing to a generation of artists, freaks and queers, including our guest presenter, Russian-American artist and writer Slava Mogutin who moved here after being exiled for his subversive and pro-gay writings and activism in 1995:


MOON OVER BROADWAY (1998) with post-film Q and A with Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker- Tues Oct 28 at 8- IFC Center- Part of IFC Center's D.A. Pennebaker/ Chris Hegedus retrospective. A rare screening of 1998's Moon Over Broadway, the documentary that covered the very difficult task of getting Ken Ludwig's Moon Over Buffalo rwady and open for Broadway. From the press conference, to the clashes involving playwright Ludwig, the producers, director Tom Moore, and leads Carol Burnett (TV star attempting a Broadway comeback thirty years after her last show flopped under murky circumstances) and Philip Bosco (who might have wished he was never born by the time we get to opening night). Disagreements, backstabbing, bad reviews during tryouts, the kind of thing that made Nathan Lane (when he was praising the film) probably think There But For The Grace of God Go I. Due to rights issues (possibly by people who didn't like the way they were portrayed?), this film is NOT on DVD (therefore not on Netflix), and is rarely screened on cable. So this might be the only chance you get to see this documentary. Directors Pennebaker and Hegedus will talk about the film and the show afterwards:


PSYCHO (1960) for 6 dollars- Wed Oct 29 at 2 and 7- AMC Empire- Honestly, I'm not trying to make a habit of posting this film each and every time it comes up. It's that I haven't seen it each time I've posted, and I'm gonna try again when it's playing at a convenient time for me. Which it is here.

Familiar to many, but I'm telling you, it's a completely different beast on the big screen as opposed to TV. You're not spending time in your living room, check marking all the familiar aspects of the story. This story sucks you in, lulls you into thinking one way, and then turns it around. Now you know the film's story, you wouldn't be looking at this list if you've never heard of Psycho. But this tightly edited story draws you despite what you know. And if you've somehow NEVER seen it, oh boy I'd like to see this with you.

And despite being an unplanned landmark in the horror genre, slasher sub-section, I would argue that this plays more like a suspense thriller then a horror pic. So those that have problems with horror flicks, should be ok with this. Interesting to watch acting-wise, as well. John Gavin's boyfriend performance hasn't aged too well, and Vera Miles's isn't bad, but definitely more then a little annoying. Not as shrill as Julianne Moore's in the remake, but still. Martin Balsam continued his reliable character actor work here, as a more believable ex-cop then Bill Macy in the remake.

There is a reason why this is Janet Leigh's most memorable performance, and it's not because of the shower scene. Go ahead, name another memorable performance of hers. Oops, Touch of Evil, not quite. Being part of the memorable opening scene doesn't qualify as a performance. And Manchurian Candidate doesn't count either. Being the red herring of a story's plot, eh, whatever. Despite Hitchcock's (alleged) feeling about actor being cattle, Leigh gets to play a truly conflicted person. Decent, wanting more out of life, caught up in temptation, then over her head looking for a way out, which is about when she pulls into the Bates Motel.

But Anthony Perkins' performance feels modern today. Creepy, alive, desperate to open up, yet jittery within his own skin, and with just a little anger threatening to bubble up. Ole' Hitch may not have understood what Perkins was bringing to the table, but Alfred was patient enough to give him free rein. Thanks to the success of this, Tony could never be free of the typecasting. Oscar nominations for Leigh (her only one), Hitch for Director (his last nomination), Cinematography and Art Direction. On both AFI Top 100 lists and in my personal top 100:


Let me know if there's interest, later all.

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