Friday, November 30, 2018

Pulp (1972)

Sleazy fiction writer/author Mickey King is hired by a reclusive figure to pen his 'auto'biography. After being taken on a = tour through =, he eventually finds out his new employer is none other than Preston Gilbert, an old Hollywood actor famed/adored for his on-screen gangster =[antics], and [scandal] because of his off-screen mob connections. King is reluctantly persuaded to stay on with Gilbert and his entourage, = Ben Dinuccio and the sultry Liz Adams, and write] =. Along the way, King has to deal with dead men in bathtubs, =, and a dangerous hitman on the loose who's determined to keep a political secret from the past dead and buried...

Pulp is a movie I definitely have mixed feelings about. The first time I saw it many years ago, I quite enjoyed it, aside from the ending, but the second time I was bored off my ass. This third time I was somewhere in the middle, able to reflect back on the things I like about it, but also still see what I didn't. This is a film with a slow moving pace that some might find boring, and this definitely isn't something to watch if you're in the mood for something faster paced.

The best and most distinctive thing about Pulp is its aesthetic. From the typewriter credits, to the fanciful and sometimes misleading narration that makes the proceedings feel like a self-aware pulp fiction novel, this lives up to its title.

Where the movie starts to disappoint is in its story, which feels lacking. Not much at all happens in the first hour/at all, and you're liable to be bored by the lack of any salacious or outrageous instances and/or goings-on. Things don't improve a whole lot in the climax, which has a decent final showdown, but one that doesn't fully satisfy.

Another issue is that Pulp feels like an ensemble piece without the ensemble. Mickey Rooney takes about 50 minutes to finally appear], then when he does he gets killed a short time later, while other distinctive characters like the Alice in Wonderland fellow is out of the picture after a couple of scenes, the womanising cheat of a fortune teller only gets one, and even the defacto antagonist contract killer barely appears or has any dialogue after his first scene. All of this leaves us with Dinuccio and Liz, the two least interesting characters as far as I thought, who accomplish practically nothing between the two of 'em. It

As far as protagonists go, Mickey King's not really likeable, nor is he meant to be, but he's amusing to follow. His only really annoying moments are the fact that he ditched his wife and kids like a dickhead before the events of the movie, and what his actions do to his ally at the end. His funniest parts of the movie are the moments of disconnect between his narration and his actions. They don't come a lot, but they still entertain plenty when they do. "=="

King's narration never gets insufferable, but there are a few points where it feels like it's telling us too much and actually showing too little. For all his talk of the jigsaw pieces coming together, we're not really privvy to the [uncovering]  mystery, not until we're just told the new developments.

Now comes my biggest frustration with Pulp-Its conclusion! There's a lot of problems to unpack. The first is that the big secret the main bad guys are trying to cover up is ultimately underwhelming. For all the build-up it gets it's a pretty paltry development, and this weak reveal almost ruined the movie for me.  Secondly, the climax is an action piece with pretty much no story attached to it and no character for the hitman, who dies without a word, and this is followed by a non-ending if ever there was one. The credits just start rolling after a random scene! We are at least treated to a little more film as the credits whizz by, with a dialogue-free flashback to the ill-fated hunting party [not really doing much], and a couple more lines from King. His final line is ok, and gives the impression that he will eventually end up exposing the truth, but doesn't really help make this ending any more palatable, since we don't get to see any of that.

The Italian setting (though filmed in Malta) is very lush, with its arid plains, seaside vistas, and ancient ruins. Something that adds a bit of  to the movie is how we see political pictures of a certain figure all over the place. You don't notice it at first, not because it's not obvious, but because political ads are so common you don't take notice of them or think they're relevant, and then when you find out this is an important player in the story, you're suddenly like 'Ohhhh!'. It's a disappointment that we rarely (if ever) actually see this character outside of pictures, and never get to know him. We don't even know what the dude's damn politics are!

Michael Caine is a great lead, handling his character's deadpan delivery and glib reactions very well. Despite his limited screentime, Mickey Rooney does well in his [twenty-minute] block, and definitely has a substantial role, so its not like this top-billed actor is merely getting an extended cameo. Though I do wish there was more of him before the character dies.

Veteran actress Lizabeth Scott plays the ex-wife to Preston Gilbert and current spouse to Prince Cipolla. Her character feels a bit superfluous, and even takes scenes that probably should've gone to other members of the cast, but instead she gets pushed to the background, even in the ending. Not that Scott gets it much better, as the majority of her scenes were purportedly cut. On one hand I can totally see this as her character seems to hold quite a bit of importance yet doesn't appear enough to justify it, but on the other, if the movie makes sense without those scenes, perhaps that's why they were cut. Still, it seems a bit churlish to coax an actress out of a staunchly held decades-long retirement, only to leave most of their scenes on the cutting room floor.

The rest of the acting is ok. Dennis Price is quite funny, and it's always nice to see Luciano Pigozzi

Ultimately, Pulp is an alright movie. It's got some good to it, some bad, and if you really wanna have some fun with the idea, you could view its plot deficiencies as intentionally reflective of the seedy crime genre the movie is homaging/pastiching. Might not make the film any less boring in places, or its ending any less irritating, but it'd be an ok way to look at things if you must watch it, and I suppose you should if you're at all fans of Michael Caine...

typing pool, 25:16, 58:20, 1:03:51

On Moonlight Bay (1951) and By the Light of the Silvery Moon (1953)

It's been a long time coming, but finally I've come to discuss my most beloved Doris Day movies! I'm looking forward to this...

On Moonlight Bay

Much to the annoyance of everyone but the patriarch, the Winfield family has moved into a new neighbourhood. While George feels it's a good change, his wife Alice and children Marjorie and Wesley are all angry at having to pack up their whole life on a whim. They gradually get used to their new location, and while Wesley messes about in school, Marjorie meets the idealistic college boy Bill Sherman, and they hit it off. However, Bill makes exactly the wrong impression on her father every single time, and George forbids the two from getting together. Can true love win out, or this romance doomed?...

On Moonlight Bay is a classic musical starring Doris Day and Gordon MacRae, and no, I did not intend for that to rhyme. Those two were just a movie match made in heaven, I guess!

The story has an episodic structure, which I imagine comes from it being based on a series of short stories. As for how accurate to the source material it is, I don't know. I've never read Tarkington's books, but from what I know, I guess that Marjorie's romance didn't play much of a part (if any) in them. Thankfully Wesley's shenanigans (the crux of those tales) don't take a back seat, as that would've really made this an unfaithful adaption.

There are a few problems I have with On Moonlight Bay. The frustrating and cringeworthy moments, the misunderstandings, and the constant on-off nature of Marjorie and Bill's relationship, as well as the amount of times George swears him off, then is ok with him, then hates him again, etc. It's annoying!

I also dislike how much the movie ditches Marjorie's tomboy demeanor. She starts off as one, wearing boyish clothes, not caring for ladylike niceties, and more interested in sports than marriage. Then she meets Bill and instantly starts acting more ladylike, with her tomboyish habits and personality rarely being mentioned again. It's not so much that the movie is showing her as simply going through a phase before becoming a 'real lady', but more that it totally forgot those were even part of the movie.

One odd thing about the film is how at the start the characters go on and on about how they're in a totally new environment, practically foreigners, and had to leave their old friends behind...But a mile and a half is only a five minutes drive! You could walk that in just over twenty minutes! You city people are assholes!

The characters are all distinctive, and fun to watch. Bill is somewhat annoying here and there, but mostly likeable. The hindrance to the romance is that he and Marjorie have only been dating for a few days! They spend a night together and are already discussing marriage (or the lack thereof rather, due to Bill's beliefs), and before too long he has to leave for college. By the time he comes back they talk like long separated lovers who have been together lo these many years, rather than weeks, at most.

As good a movie as On Moonlight Bay is, it's perhaps not as good a musical as it could be. Some of the numbers are integrated really well, like Love Ya Love Ya Honey, which is turned on its head in a hilariously sarcastic performance. There's also the main rendition of On Moonlight bay, which starts off with Bill saying how stupid the words are, proceeding to quote and mock them before singing them outright. Unfortunately that doesn't lead into a full musical number for reasons I'll never know! More on that later.

Not readily apparent to those unfamiliar with old music is this movie's showtune nature. This isn't much of a problem, as the tracks mesh well with the surroundings, both in recitals and the general period. What really hampers this film musically is how few numbers there even are, and how many are interrupted partway through, or only get a few lines sung before the movie moves on. The titular song gets it the worst! It plays in the opening credits and over the ending, but the main rendition sung in the film itself consists of about four lines, and that's it!

The pacing in this movie is great, although it perhaps stretches on a bit too long. It seems to reach a natural end point, but continues for another 20 minutes and reaches another ending, when the first sufficed.

The acting here is all very good, from Doris Day and Gordon Macrae, who admirably act half their ages. National treasure Mary Wickes is in top form as the sarcastic and snarky maid Stella, while Leon Ames and Rosemary DeCamp do well as the stuffy and strict George Winfield and the more open-minded and calmer Alice, respectively.

As for the singing, it's fantastic! Doris Day is lovely, while Gordon MacRae's voice is operatic goodness. They're pretty much the only members of the cast who sing, which is a shame, but if we're only to get two, at least let them be two wonderful performers

On Moonlight Bay may not be perfect, but it's still a great musical that utilises its leads perfectly...

By the Light of the Silvery Moon

Now that Bill has come back home from the front-line, the war having ended before he saw action, the Winfield family prepares for marriage right away, but it turns out Bill has a new outlook, wanting to postpone the nuptials until he and Marjorie have a nest egg saved up. Pissed at first, Marjorie comes to accept the idea, and soon enough Bill is all ready to get married, but this time its Marjorie's turn to be apprehensive to marriage, since she, Wesley, and Stella discover what they believe to be a letter from the family's patriarch to a lover, really a perfectly innocent note about a play to an actress client of his bank...

By the Light of the Silvery Moon is a great example of a sequel done right. Not feeling unnecessary or too contrived, it's just as good as the first, and even better in a couple of respects.

The plot here is just as episodic than the previous film, And since the romance has already blossomed between Marjorie and Bill last movie, the story has more time to focus on other stuff the whole way through. There's less swearing off in this entry (or perhaps the same amount, but simply better paced), though still some awkwardness. Nothing unwatchable though of course.

One thing that annoyed me all the way through isn't really the movie's fault, but society of the time, expecting the main two to be married at only 18! Why don't you give it at least a few months before you get hitched! Actually date each-other! Old fashioned fuddy duddy's...

On that  note, the idea that the 27/29 Day and 30 year old MacRae are meant to be only 18 in this movie is hilarious!

Marjorie being a tomboy is present early on, and is not quite but almost forgotten as the film rocks on. It's nice seeing her buck societal sexism and get herself a job, even if her choice of career is a bit weird. It's not that I can't believe she can sing, but rather you just get used to seeing everyone in these movies being able to sing during the musical numbers, you don't really think if they can actually sing in their everyday life...I probably could've worded that better, and I hope you all know what I mean!

Bill is a big wet blanket in this movie, putting a damper on everyone's good time. He's also a high and mighty falutin' guy with 'high-minded', 'free-thinking', and 'radicalist' ideas and ideals, but the instant Marjorie wants to get a job to help support the two of them, Bill's all "Business is a man's world, and women have no right forsaking their sacred heritage to meddle in it. Now they're even meddling in politics!" Ughhhhhhh! This makes him very unlikeable, but at least the movie knows it, and treats that attitude is such. It's also annoying how he makes the decision to postpone the marriage without consulting Marjorie, yet when she does the same later on, he's thoroughly against the idea. Outside of these scenes though he's just the same as before.

Wesley is once again a fun addition with his detective subplot, even if it does lead to much awkwardness, as you'd expect. But of the best kind!

Hubert Wakefield stand-in Chester Finley is a genuinely loathsome character. Refusing to take a hint, expecting dates from the woman who's engaged just because her fiance is overseas, as well assuming she'll reciprocate, despite being engaged. And the second Chester finds out Marjorie and Bill aren't having their wedding immediately, he again jumps at trying to ask her out. TAKE NO FOR A BLOODY ANSWER, CHESTER! However, I did really like a later scene, where it's Bill's turn to be unreasonable and hostile, wanting to fight Chester, and this regular nerdy looking professor proceeds to lay him out!

The remaining cast are all fine. Miss LaRue is nice, contrary to what the majority of Winfields and co. think of her. Peewee could be a bit annoying to some, but in the mostly forgiveable precocious child way. He's cute and fun.

Silvery Moon is a really good musical! While it has more or less the same amount of songs as On Moonlight Bay, they're much better paced from each-other, and they all get played all the way through this time! There are a few numbers where the music is kept quite low, and the actors    showing a great confidence in the singers on the movie's part.  I'm tempted to rattle of what songs were my favourites, but alas there are too many to choose. The only one I'm not so sure about is King Chanticleer. I don't dislike the song, but I'm just not sure if it fit properly in the movie, given it's a random number Marjorie is performing for her job rather than one that's related to the plot and characters.

To describe the acting would be merely repeating myself from the previous section of the post, so sufficed to say, it's all good, as it was in On Moonlight Bay!

By the Light of the Silvery Moon is a really fun movie, and a really good sequel. It's a fitting end to the series, though it is a shame we never actually got to see Marjorie and Bill's wedding. We could've gotten a third movie to round out the series, with that as the focus! Ah well, perhaps it's for the best. If their wedding had gotten a movie devoted to it there'd probably be more of the typical drama and break-ups. If there's one thing we can expect from the Winfields, it's that!...

Thanks to their charming period setting, as well as the songs and storytelling, On Moonlight Bay and By the Light of the Silvery Moon remain my favourite Doris Day films of all! Certain parts of them might make me wanna hide my face between my hands, or outright piss me off, but overall they're wonderful viewing experiences...

Cats and Dogs (1983)

Larcenous Latin lover Tony Roma has come under the radar of a prominent senator, and top police officer Alan Parker is assigned to retrieve him into custody. Things are complicated however when Roma escapes and witnesses a gangland killing, and Parker has to not only find the man again, but also keep him safe from mafia assassins...

I daresay the biggest problem Bud Spence vehicle Cats and Dogs faces is that it's a little overstuffed. The crux of Cats and Dogs is a Midnight Run style cop and crook on the run through midwestern America from bigger crooks, but it takes almost halfway through the film for this to start. It does feel like we genuinely get to know these two characters and what kind of relationship they have, well as what they both get up to in their spare time. Them being a bit fleshed out is appreciated and it doesn't feel too much like padding, but I still wish the whole on-the-run section started earlier.

Alan Parker is a good lead to follow, and the addition of his family adds some extra   depth/dimension to his character (plus it's a nice change of pace seeing a gruff cop who's not estranged from his family). Not only is he a determined cop, but also one juggling work and home life, trying to keep his true career a secret. Tony Roma on the other hand is pretty annoying. More sleazy than charming due to the performance and direction, I have severe doubts as to how he can induce immediate onset hornyness with only a glance, even in decidedly unsexy situations, like lying infirm in a hospital bed after a stomach pumping, or being discovered hiding in the back of a family's panel wagon.

The humour is hit or miss. Some lines or situations are quite funny, but more than a few failed to elicit much of a response from me, and the occasional joke feels a bit mean-spirited and out-of-place in this otherwise lighthearted affair.

The action is ok. There are only a couple of big fight scenes, namely the climax. It's a little too foggy to make out much of anything at first, but this is soon alleviated a bit and we see some great punches courtesy of Bud. There are a few car chases in Cats and Dogs too. The first isn't filmed that great, mainly due to the lethargic pacing and multitude of moments shot in ultra close up, but the following ones are much better handled. There are quite a few impressive stunts on display, particularly one involving a motorcycle, that must've had  Tomas Milian (or his stuntman if that wasn't him...Yeah, this is an Italian flick from the 80s, so it probably was him) having nightmares about his crotch. [Less impressive is a big continuity error when Tony flees the mafia killing. It's nighttime, but once he's run out of the building, all ready for the film's first big car chase, it's suddenly broad daylight.]

Bud Spencer is great, showing that he can certainly carry a movie on his own. Also, his fashion sense is spot on! The man can rock a suit and vest like it's an upmarket accessory. Tomas Milian meanwhile fares less well. To me he comes across as anti-charismatic. It's not that I don't like the guy. I do! Just not in this movie. Ignoring the obnoxious fake Italian accent his dub-actor brings, he comes across/off more like an unappealing little weasel rather than a handsome smooth operator. When in better hands, Milian can be quite dashing and charismatic, so maybe it was intentional to have him be like this? Terence Hill really would've been a good fit for the role, and I kinda wish he'd been here, but I am glad he's not if only to see Bud out on his own for a change.

The rest of the acting is pretty uniformly terrible, and that goes for both the original performers, and the dub actors too. The Italian actors perform strange gesticulations and have either blank or overexpressive faces, while the English ones have no sense of timing with their line readings. The dub synchronisation is really bad! The onscreen actors will either barely move their lips while the voice over yammers on, or the two will just be so mismatched that you shake your head.

The music is the saving grace for Cats and Dogs. From the greatly enjoyavle theme song, to the rescorings, and leitmotifs, the score is a real marvel, and makes the film stand out a lot more than it otherwise would have.

For all its musical positives, and its leading man's performance, Cats and Dogs is one of Bud Spencer's weaker pictures, but it's got enough to recommend a watch if 80s style music really appeals to you...

corner, cute face, just before, 24:27,  :25 tie, maybe flower car, flipped car?

The Man Without a Body (1957)

Wealthy businessman Carl Broussard is content with his life, but it's been going downhill lately due to a serious brain tumour. Upon getting the news that it's terminal, he seeks out the assistance of a doctor's experimental new treatment-A full head transplant.  Uncaring of the human cost, Broussard is determined to take someone else's head to be his own. However, he won't resort to murder, but graverobbing, for the head Broussard seeks is that of Nostradamus himself...

The Man Without a Body is a lot more interesting on paper than it actually is in practice, but boring moments aside, this is still a wacked-out picture! Any film with a plotline involving resurrecting the severed head of Nostradamus in order to gain eternal youth is sure to have at least something to recommend it! Like when Nostradamus, in an effort to destroy his enemy and save his skin, gives Broussard bad financial/stock market advice and bankrupts him!

Bizarre elements aside, the story is mostly ok up to a certain point, except for one major problem. If Broussard gets a head or brain transplant, he'll still be dead. Even if he can condition this new brain into thinking it's him, it's not, and he'll still die. It gets even sillier when you see that Broussard's method of mental transference involves telling Nostradamus the basic cliffnotes of his life! I could buy a knowledge swap if the doctor had a weird mind melding machine, but this is a bridge way too far, though it's certainly enough to make you chuckle!

All of this culminates in a pretty unsatisfying ending. Even the villain's death isn't that long or impressive. It happens in a split second then is basically ignored from then on. The inclusion of a borderline Frankenstein monster feels a bit tacked on too

The effects aren't that great. The movie doesn't really have much excuse for cheap effects either when the majority of what happens is people talking in laboratories or offices. The head looks waxy and fake, which I think might be the point, though I'm not sure. The monster at the end though just looks pretty ridiculous, like he's got a refrigerator balancing on his head.

The acting is tolerable at best. Not many bad performances, but they're mediocre all round. Even George Coulouris doesn't get much chance to shine in what's basically a leading role. His sometimes erratic nature comes off more like a random crazy person than a proper villain. I suppose that could certainly work, depending on the story, but I'm not sure if it does here, and again, it's not helped/supported by the acting.

If nothing else, this film is pretty short, at barely over an hour. This doesn't save the production from being a tad boring in places, but I was a lot less annoyed than I would've been if this was a full hour-and-a-half, or longer, god forbid. The Man Without a Body is a strange picture to watch, and those qualities are the only thing saving it from being ignored. While I didn't care for the finished product, I still applaud the mad level of creativity that went into this film!...

Monday, November 12, 2018

The Cranberries-Linger: A Music Video Review and Analysis

I don't exactly make it a habit to review music on this blog, but I've found myself doing it once or twice, like the essay I wrote for the music video of Little Girl by Sandra. The reason why today I'm taking an analytical look at Linger by The Cranberries is because of a Turkish friend who's a big fan of Dolores O'Riordan and wanted to see me tackle this music video to find any meaning behind it...

Firstly, let's discuss the lyrics. They're pretty straightforward, telling of a relationship that's gone south, with the singer expressing her changed emotions to her ex. It's a simple song, but very well, both lyrically, musically, and vocally, and can hold special weight for those who have been in circumstances such as this.

The music video is a pretty strange one. Not strange because anything particularly weird happens in it, but just because of its look and feel, where we're shown a combination of things, people, and images that are bizarre in their utter randomness, all taking place in a mundane location, and shot in noir-ish black-and-white. On first glance it seems like it's imitating those French New Wave films you'd see in the 60s, and it turns out that wasn't far off as the look of the video was apparently inspired by Jean Luc Godard's Alphaville. How and if this ties into Linger at all though I cannot say, and perhaps it didn't lend more than a bit of aesthetic value. As for what meaning I read into it, with its imagery of the singer, a group of Jews, Mod women, and a Same Spade lookalike all together in a dingy hotel with repeated burlesque imagery, I...err, I'm having a bit of trouble thinking of anything! Maybe it's all just random. But I'm imaginative, so how about I try and have a sensible series of guesses as to what this collection could represent?...


We're met with an assorted group of characters in a seedy downtown hotel run by a shadowy branch of dentists, as seen on the building's rooftop. They either don't care that the electricity in the place is on the fritz, or this is part of an intentional societal experiment, perhaps to determine how to whittle away man's resistance to various forms of control. The residents of this hotel include a bunch of Mod girls, a group of Hasidic Jews, Dolores O'Riordan, and a determined private detective. The former two seem like part of the experiment. Two radically different groups are put through the same scenario. The detective seems like he's on the side of justice, arriving at the hotel to investigate the sinister goings-on, while Dolores is more of a wild card. Is she a loose cannon out on her own, maybe with similar goals to the PI, or is she working for the villains? This is clearly left ambiguous, up to audience interpretation.

The setting is like a toxic living organism, where the grime is ingrained into the walls, and the signs and machines seem to be lying at every turn. We see a nonfunctional tv sitting on-top of a presumably switched off freezer proclaiming 'Ice cold drinks'. Neither of these promises are fulfilled, and no-one in this hotel can find any satisfaction, as is the plan.

During the moments where the electricity is out, we see both flashes of something resembling a headlight, and a torch. The former seems like a scientific apparatus and is clearly part of the greater plan, while the human controlled sources of light such as the torch seem to be the private eye hard at work searching for signs pointing to the truth.

We can only guess as to what this experiment entails, but a major clue must lie with the subjects. Female mods and Jewish males. In each of their rooms, photos of burlesque woman decorate the walls. It's not enough that these two disparate parties are brought together in close proximity, but even in private quarters the men are exposed to pictures forbidden by their religion, while their impact on the women could be an attempt to hurt their self esteem. The Mod women seem too cool to be affected by the photos, but the same can't be said for the males, who we see standing together out in the darkly lit attic to avoid them, but still unable to leave the establishment, instead retreating further into its confines, which is no true escape at all.

The detective, meanwhile, is not bound by any of the tests at play, but instead seems to be constantly on the trail for clues. Whether or not he succeeds is up for conjecture, since he is but one ill-equipped man up against a powerful corporation-One man fighting against a whole 'living' building-the odds don't seem to be in his favour. As we see him engulfed in the same negative colouring as those he's trying to protect, perhaps he too has become one of the victims, striving to put right what he is simply unable to make an impact on.

Finally, we see Dolores doing quite a few things when not singing. One noteworthy mission is going into an electronics store. Clearly she intends to build some sort of device to either aid or neutralise whatever hold the dentists have on the residents of the hotel.

A possible clue to Dolores' allegiance is when she walks in on the men enjoying a burlesque film. Could they just be other patrons lulled into the same sexy trap as the others, or are these staff members? The way Dolores walks in in front of the projector, not paying the slightest bit of attention or interest to the nudie film, comes across as a power play. She might be telling the people behind this dastardly plan that she's not controlled by their technology and will stop them no matter what, and nothing they can do will get rid of her.

In-between all of this, she also seems to be going through the break-up described in the song, as we start out near Room 106, we're shown someone in a room with a board of keys, then the video ends with Dolores entering Room 306, signifying letting go of her boyfriend and moving out on her own. Though the fact that they're still in the same hotel building, even if in different and floors, means he's still not a great distance away, hence why he might still have a hold on her feelings, unable to let go of her despite dilly-dallying with another woman and lying his ass off.

The music video doesn't seem to end with any answers, but maybe the headlight no longer flashing at a blinding rate but to a much weaker degree is a sign that victory may have been achieved over the nefarious overlords. I guess the moral of the story is don't mess with Dolores O'Riordan!...

So, what are your thoughts? Am I on the right track? I definitely think I am. The evidence is right there to see, plain as night! But I shall let you be the judge...