Sunday, March 31, 2019
Joan Hollingsworth is a disappointed girl. Restricted by her stern mother, whose traditional nature makes her favour the eldest daughter in the family, Joan feels like an unwanted lump, so she tries having a bit of fun by pretending to be a maid, to gain access to one of her mother's parties. She quickly bumps into the attractive J. Waldo Barnes, and Becomes smitten. She doesn't have long to react though when she ends up accidentally on the run outside, and in the company of a burglar who mistakes her for a getaway driver...
The Kid Sister is a pretty simple affair, but an amusing one! Running at 53 minutes, it moves very briskly. Perhaps too briskly! It rarely feels rushed, but I do feel it could've been a bit longer, if only because I was enjoying myself so much. This is a pretty funny film, with a good story. Simple, and to the point, with just the right amount of misunderstandings, and a dash of romance.
Joan is a fun lead character to follow. She's a rebellious soul with a proactive streak, and her snark is appreciated. I particularly liked her role in the climax, where she saves the day single-handed, and is both badass with her words and actions!
The romance is handled well. The main couple has good chemistry, to the point where I didn't even notice the large age gap until it was pointed out to me.
Waldo is a fine love interest. Never unreasonable or unlikeable, even if he does get annoyed by the deceptions flying past his head all the time, as well as his loud maids and their brawling. Joan's old friend Tommy meanwhile is a bit of a wet blanket. His personality is a bit weird, actually. We see him at the beginning as an impressionable partner in Joan's mischievous antics, then suddenly he's a stern voice of reason. It's not that his behavioural shift doesn't make sense, but it feels a bit out-of-character when in literally the only other scene we saw him in before this point, they were as thick as thieves. I guess the solution would be to have had him appear a bit more, or cut the character out altogether, since we've already got a potential love interest/exasperated male in the form of Waldo.
Lastly, Joan's family doesn't really appear enough for my liking. We see them enough to totally understand Joan's predicament, but I still feel they could've had more screentime.
The short length of the film does detract in a couple of moments. It feels like there's a bit missing when Joan finally gets home, and the reaction of her mother is only related to us in her voiceover.
The dialogue in The Kid Sister is a real hoot! I won't reveal it all, but I'll give you a couple of samples...
Burglar: "You alright, lady?"-Joan: "I'll answer that as soon as I pull my feet out of the floorboard" "Well I gotta hand it to myself, huh". "I'd like to pick one right up from the ground and hand it to ya." "What are you crabbin' about?" "Didn't you get me into this weird mess of grief?" "Didn't I get you out of it?" "I don't know, the final returns aren't in yet.".
Waldo: "Don't forget now, you were going to have a talk with Martha."-Mrs. Wiggins: "Oh, I won't forget. When I get through telling what I got to tell her, she won't forget it in a hurry, I tell you that"
The acting here is all good. Everyone delivers fine performances, especially leading lady Judy Clark. She's simply adorable as Joan, and you really both the admiration and exasperation/frustration that poor Waldo feels with her. Frank Jenks is quite good as the villain too, getting across both a harmless humourous side in the funnier scenes, but also more of an intimidating edge in the later scenes. Not too extreme of course since this is still a comedy, but it was pretty impressive to me.
As expected with PRC films, this works within its means, and thus doesn't look low-budget at all! I don't get at all why these kinds of pictures were called 'Poverty Row'!
The Kid Sister feels like it could've been longer by all means, and I think would've made a fun little movie or tv series! A shame it never went beyond one 53 minute movie, but oh well. At least what we got was a funny time to be had. Definitely a good example of how charming and innocent older comedies could be...
Tuesday, March 26, 2019
On the 5th of April 1941, the eve of the German invasion of Yugoslavia, a collection of varied and often at-odds people end up stuck together on a long bus trip from the country to Belgrade. Along the bumpy ride they come across many trials and have plenty of misadventures, all while hoping they get to Belgrade before the day is out...
Who's Singing Over There ('Ko to tamo peva' in its mother tongue) is an interesting comedy courtesy of Serbia (then Yugoslavia). Isolated to a single bus for a lot of the running time, the movie is devoted entirely to the antics of its cast. Never boring or ill-paced, this is very funny, and utilises its concept well. It feels in a way like a microcosm of the people of Serbia, with all their quirks, similarities and differences, and failings present, often colliding with each-other like a chemical reaction.
There are about a dozen characters to keep track of in your head here. It may seem overwhelming at first, but since the movie is set in this confined space with pretty much just these guys, you memorise them all eventually, aided by the distinctive and quirky personalities they all exhibit. While we never learn the names of a lot of them, their personalities shine through and make you recognise them straight away. There's the dishonest busdriver and his simple son, the constantly late hunter, The fancy singer with his eyes on any woman in the area, the naive and travelstruck newlywed and her lustful and blissfully unobservant husband, the hypocritical and nazi sympathising businessman, the perpetually downbeat hypochondriac, and many more.
Each of them gets their chance to shine, such as Miško's blindfolded bus drive, the hunter's explosive mishaps, the 'roll in the hay' the young lovers partake in and their pervy audience (leading to one of the film's funniest lines), and many more. A lot of the dialogue here is golden, and very quotable, having become popular staples among Serbian people!
As the film progresses, there are many setpieces and amusing confrontations, with the group never getting a moment's rest even when simply trying to sit down and have lunch or fix a tire. They can never just follow the main path to Belgrade either, because there's always something in the way, like a cosmic practical joke. Military checkpoints, irate farmers, and broken down bridges are some of the things opposing these folk from reaching their destination
Even in its darker moments, Who's Singing Over There is never overtaken with depression, keeping a fun tone all the way through. When it begins to feel truly confronting is in the ending, showing the danger of stereotypes and hostility.
Filmed on location in the countryside, there are many nice bits of scenery to look at! The desolate surroundings give the movie a definite ambience, and you really feel like you're in the middle of nowhere, and just like the passengers on the bus, you feel every single mile of the journey alongside them.
The actors here all do good jobs, with not one of them feeling forgettable. Quite impressive given the number of them! Even minor characters really pop out from the screen.
My complaints with the movie are minimal. My biggest would have to be with the score. It's mostly very good, with its boing boing percussions, almost spaghetti western style tune, and of course the Gypsy songs that act like a Greek chorus of lamentation. The only issue I have is that the western bits are sometimes a bit piercing.
Still popular in Serbia even to this day, Who's Singing Over There is a fine example of their cinema, showing the great promise the Yugoslavian people have for film! I recommend it if you're interested in foreign pictures, as well as thought-provoking comedies in general...
Monday, March 25, 2019
Doris Evans is on a cruise ship with her journalist fiancee John Franklin. Together they're hounding the man believed to have murdered a gangster and left her brother to take the blame for it. This man, Gordon Wayne, has another story, which neither of those two are willing to hear, but he's made a good pal in amateur showman Eddie. One night, the boat is suddenly capsized, and the four are cast away on their lifeboat to the shores of Africa. There's hostility at first, but Doris gradually becomes more comfortable with her previously unwanted company, soon realising after Gordon saves her from a lion that he's not a vicious/ruthless killer after all...
Jungle Bride starts off pretty amusingly, with a dash of intrigue, before suddenly turning into Titanic! From here on the movie is good, but a little too staid. The characters never really make much of an effort to go exploring, and instead just stay It's like the script was written for characters stuck on a deserted island, but was changed sometime during production to Africa, which has the effect of making you wonder why the characters just don't trek for the couple of miles that'll no doubt take them to a populated city, like Johannesburg or something.
There are some neat scenes as we progress, and though they don't quite give the movie enough oomph for it to be great, they're still certainly engaging. The ending is pretty abrupt, and leaves a fair bit unsaid. It's decent as far as getting across the bare minimum goes, but is otherwise a tad unsatisfying. The 'Fin' title card at the end however is very well designed!
The characters are a fine bunch to be shipwrecked with for the duration of a motion picture, with plenty to them. Doris begins as a woman determined to get revenge for a perceived crime, only to gradually soften after life in their new home. I feel the romance develops well. Even though Doris doesn't know for sure what really happened yet, her newfound love for Gordon either overcomes that, or allowed her to understand the truth instinctively. Gordon is enigmatic at first, and becomes a heroic figure once we realise the truth, though I feel he's a bit gutless in the end, with how he doesn't tell Doris the truth about her brother, with her coincidentally hearing a report on the radio confirming his absolute guilt. Given he got into a brawl with his best friend over the matter of telling her the truth, I feel he should've been the one to tell her.
John makes for a believable antagonist. I like how his overly macho 'alpha male' posturing basically turns him into a law enforcer It's reflective of his forceful and arrogant personality, I think, how he immediately tries to settle into a dominant position when given the opportunity and power. Lastly, Eddie is a bit weird at first, but he's pretty endearing, even getting a few effectively dramatic moments.
The acting is fine all round. Anita Page in particular looks like a silent film star. On that note, I wonder where she's getting her make-up from. Desert Island Cosmetics Ltd.? Charles Starrett does a good job with his character, leaving the audience unsure as to what the truth really is, with it becoming apparent to the audience through his actions first rather than any exposition, as well as other non-verbal moments. Eddie Borden proves/shows himself to be more than just comic relief. Kenneth Thomson is likable enough to begin with, then undergoes a well-executed/handled transformation into a real asshole after the lion fight.
There's interesting direction in more than a few places, such as the funeral pyre ship, and the fight interspersed with the signalling to a boat near the end. The location work is great, always looking convincing. The presence of local African animals also feels authentic, and you can plainly tell little to no stock footage was used, even if it does sound like the monkey noises are guys offscreen going ''Unh, unh'. Lastly, I don't know how these guys managed to make a friggin' hut as good as the one they've got, but it loos really fancy! I wouldn't mind staying there myself.
The score is quite nice, with a few good songs one tune almost sounds like that famous Hawaiian guy's version of Somewhere Over the Rainbow. A coincidence of course, as this film predates even The Wizard of Oz by nearly 10 years.
Perhaps better titled Beach Bride, or Island Bride (and even that's putting it too strongly, given they never even explore that much land!), Jungle Bride is a decent watch, and while it's not the best Hollywood film to make use of Africa's landscape, it's not awful at all, and worth checking out.
Sunday, March 17, 2019
The terrifying crimelord known as The Phantom has conducted a daring jailbreak on the eve of his execution, and he has his eyes set on revenge. He sends an ominous note to the District Attorney responsible for sending him up the river, who's given round-the-clock police protection, along with his daughter Ruth, whose journalist fiancee Dick has also come along to investigate the Phantom's sinister promise. What could he want? And what does he have to do with the sinister Doctor Welden at the creepy old sanitarium?...(Nothing. He has nothing to do with him, I tell you!)
What in the name of the Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia did I just watch?!
I had read a few things about 1931's The Phantom before I watched it, which described it as a 'comedy chiller', or 'one of the looniest films of the horror-comedy cycle'. Now that I've seen it, I can tell you that it's neither chilling nor funny for the most part, but if there's one word that could describe this film in a nutshell, it's weird! It's not weird in a straightforward way, like a detective film starring a unicorn private eye with a chip on his shoulder solving the mystery of unpaid parking tickets that rewind time, but is instead weird in the sense of how mundane and uninteresting it all seems for the longest time, before suddenly veering into a bizarre plot about mad doctors, deranged freaks, and human brain transplant.
The Phantom starts out pretty normal, with a plot concerning a devious master criminal known as The Phantom escaping prison just before his execution in order to get revenge on the people he blames for his capture. So far, so good. Then he makes a mysterious proposition with the District Attorney, which we're not privvy to. The plot thickens! Because we didn't hear this straight out the gate, it must be important! This meeting is interrupted by the arrival of the police, and the Phantom flees...And is literally never seen again!
The first 23 minutes of the film are devoted to building up this escaped convict after revenge story, but after he leaves the meeting at the 21 minute point, the story suddenly shifts gears into this completely different insane asylum story. Making things weirder is that the characters frequently refer to the Phantom as if he's still present and playing an integral role in events, even though he's clearly not.
The asylum portion of the story doesn't make much sense. If this doctor was forced to go on the run after a (murdered) dead body was discovered on his property, how come he's still running an insane asylum packed with patients? If this place is still full of patients that suggests it's still operational, so why is it so run-down and abandoned-looking? Did it officially shut down, but nobody ever noticed that it was still filled with howling loonies?
The characters are largely negative, but with some high points. The two leads are wholly unremarkable, and often disappear into the background. Despite his spooky name and fearsome reputation, The Phantom is just a garden variety mobster, and since he vanishes, there's nothing of note from him. The DA is likewise set up to be important, before becoming largely irrelevant.
The sanitarium villains are interesting, though underdeveloped. The doctor is typically mad. We never find out who the mystery 'thing' in the fancy clothes is, nor what he was doing in the Hampton household to begin with when he took a fancy to Ruth. The Dutch or Swedish inmate/servant Oscar is also a little confusing as a character in that at first he seems like he's gonna be one of the baddies, but...isn't? He's almost helpful to the heroes in a way.
The most distinguished characters are the family servants Lucy and Shorty, who are both equally hysterical scaredy cats. They get the lion's share of the screentime, and while they can sometimes get grating, they're by far more entertaining than the two heroes, and get some funny moments.
Lastly, one character that got a surprising amount of depth was Ruth and Dick's boss, who's in love with her, but finds it isn't reciprocated, and he concedes graciously and helps the two young lovers rather than being vindictive and vengeful. I thought for sure he'd end up being the villain and try to split the two apart, but nope!...But then in the final act...Nothing happens. There seemed to be a few suspicious glances, but otherwise he's totally innocent of any wrongdoing, and is always honest. Because his acceptance of Ruth and Dick's romance isn't a ploy, it aids in fleshing out his character to an interesting degree for a silly little horror film from this time.
The acting is pretty bad. Some performances are better than others, but a lot of them don't impress, namely the screechy Janet Gaynor-like voice of leading lady Allene Ray.
Another off-putting thing about The Phantom is the complete lack of a score! Not even any background or incidental music! It's really quiet, and makes the dull scenes drag out even further.
The best thing by far about this movie is the cinematography, which is beautiful! Say what you will about the movie itself, but the direction cannot be faulted! Just a shame it wasn't for a better movie.
The Phantom is a truly bizarre little film, equal parts boring, annoying, and unsatisfying. I guess I'd recommend it for the visuals, but really I screengrabbed some of the best moments in this very review, so you probably needn't go further than this very post. Still, if you're in the mood for something truly strange, you certainly couldn't go wrong with this!...
Tuesday, March 12, 2019
Spanish actor Paul Naschy was a latter day veteran of horror. Inspired by all the multi-faceted and multi-faced icons of the genre such as Boris Karloff, Christopher Lee, Bela Lugosi, and the Lon Chaney's, he carved himself out a considerable career in his home country. He managed to play all the classic monsters, from a Wolf Man (more than twelve times, in fact!), Dracula, Frankenstein, a Mummy, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and even a few distinctive characters of his own.
18 years after the dreaded Fu Manchu was seemingly stopped for good by the noble hero of Scotland Yard, Sir Nayland Smith, his daughter returns to wreak trouble for her old enemies...
A short film for a Spanish comedy TV series, I think, La Hija de Fu Manchu is quite a fun watch to begin with! The biggest problem right out of the gate though is the fact that the titular antagonist barely appears. I kept waiting for him to show up again, lurking in the shadows as he watches the arcane tortures of his prey, but nope! He's actually dead I guess (except he's not?). Really, the fact that the movie's name is The Daughter of Fu Manchu probably should have tipped me off.
The film is a good mix between parody and homage. It pokes fun at the old films and plays everything with a silly tone, but never in a mean way, and you can tell the people behind the camera really cared for the source material. The humour works most of the time, getting a few laughs, such as during a torture scene where the interrogator has to tear away the heroine's already ridiculously skimpy outfit.
Some moments are more farcical, while others are played pretty straight, such as the portrayal of Fu Manchu himself, who wouldn't be out of place in a proper entry! One moment that didn't feel as fitting though was the torture scene. It certainly could've been funny, but what spoils it is the bloody (literally) effects, making it seem a little too brutal for you to feel like a lighthearted chuckle. Really, that whole scene could've been cut down by half, since the movie's only 19 minutes long, and almost a third of it is devoted to Fu Manchu's daughter victimising this lady with various means.
Unfortunately the ending left me unsatisfied. Not much really happens and it's kinda anticlimactic, and what we get is a 'comedically' subversive ending that I'm not quite sure I understood. It's rather quite unpleasant and depressing, really.
La Hija de Fu Manchu is strange at times. It's relatively light on dialogue (so not speaking Español is no excuse to give this a miss!), has dreamy music, and a weird psychedelic dream involving filtered stock images of Bruce Lee. This has the effect of making you feel like you're watching a student grade arthouse film at times.
The acting here is pretty exaggerated, with reaction times being intentionally either too slow or unnaturally fast. Some play it straight though, namely Paul Naschy himself, who does a fine job, despite appearing so fleetingly. The actress playing his daughter does an alright job too. Not so much so that I'd rather see a Fu Manchu feature with her at the helm rather than Naschy, but ok.
The sets and effects are all convincing and convincingly reminiscent of old pulp films. Because this is trying to imitate the effects of older films, it actually manages to look very good for a no doubt low budget TV short! The best effect has got to be the miniature for Fu Manchu's castle. It's obviously a miniature, but it's a good one!
Overall, La Hija de Fu Manchu isn't great, but it's certainly an interesting curio, and if nothing else it allowed Paul Naschy the chance to cross off another horror icon off the list!...
Monday, March 11, 2019
Newlyweds Johnny and Jane have gotten married only days after meeting, much to the surprise of his friends and family. They're about to embark on their honeymoon cruise when Johnny is called back into work to complete a court case. Since he's eying a promotion to junior partner at his law firm, Johnny reluctantly takes charge of the case, but it's all for naught as a less talented coworker gets the position thanks to nepotism. Time passes, and eventually the couple have a baby, but life is hard for them, with the Great Depression tightening their belts, and Johnny's position in life not really changing. Things come to a head when their baby comes down with pneumonia during a blizzard, and desperately needs a serum only available on the other side of the country...
Made for Each Other is a pretty stellar example of 1930s drama, and Hollywood in general. When you watch it, you really get a sense of how great these older actors were, and why they're still fondly remembered! Does this mean I found the film to be perfect though? Oh god no!
The big problem I had with Made for Each Other is that it feels like two different movies in one. More specifically it feels like the first half of one movie, and the second half of another. It starts out as a typical 1930s screwball comedy, with a well defined cast, plot, and tone. You expect to see the couple being torn between fiiinally going on their honeymoon cruise, and completing Johnny's important new case before he gets fired. Then things suddenly take a turn for the more dramatic, and time starts passing quite considerably, with the two now having a baby! This time jump kinda effects the main conceit of the movie, of the blossoming romance between two people who've only known each-other for a few days, and also torpedoes any kind of character for Eunice, or even so much as dialogue.
The drama begins to ramp up after the non-promotion. It gets a little depressing, honestly! For every little victory there is in Johnny's life, something gets in the way and ruins it, and isn't solved for months, meaning these poor people are wallowing around in misery for simply ages before getting any respite. This never lets up until the final minutes, and the film never goes back to being a comedy, which is a shame, as it was funny early on!
As for how the drama is handled, it's really good. You feel for these people! Something the film accomplishes really well is the oppressive feel of the Great Depression. It's so well portrayed that you feel your wallet is a bit tight too, like the Depression's only just happened two days ago, and not 80+ years!
The characters here are well written. Despite only having me days before their wedding, Johnny and Jane never have any problems with each-other, and not a moment goes by when you don't doubt these people deeply love one another.
The mother on the other hand is just as annoying as Mrs. Stevens from Bewitched. She's such a negative, passive aggressive, ultra critical bitch that it's genuinely hard to watch. To give an example, she'll intentionally aggravate people by constantly harping on something, then act all innocent when they dare complain, then try and shift the blame on them, and act like a poor defenseless lamb being persecuted. By the end I was hoping she'd die of pneumonia! She does redeem herself somewhat in the final 20 minutes though.
On the other end of the spectrum, Judge Doolitle might be a touch abrasive, and nigh impossible to deal with, but he does come across as a good boss most of the time, and feels human and likeable in places.
One thing I feel is really effective is Doollitle's deafness. It really hammers home just how impossibly difficult Johnny's life is, and the sheer insurmountable odds the couple faces, with Doolittle's stubborn ear being a perfect visual representation of all these troubles.
Lily the maid is a nice presence, adding a sweet charm to her scenes. Another character I really liked is the pilot in the climax. He's only onscreen for a few minutes, and you expect the one who undertakes the mercy run to be the seasoned and mature veteran, but no, instead it's the goofy comic relief guy who takes his life into his hands to fly the serum to New York! Very impressive!
The actors in Made for Each Other do fantastic jobs, and really allow the title to come true! Carole Lombard is fantastic, really nailing purely visual moments, such as the look of admiration she gives when Johnny decides to stick with his honeymoon. Jimmy Stewart is equally great, although a little glum for much of the second half. It kinda brings you down, with how good he is at playing sad! Charles Coburn is fine at the obstinate boss, and Lucile Watson does too good a job at playing unlikeable, though she 's far more palatable in her later scenes
Despite her small role, Louise Beavers' part isn't stereotypical at all, which isn't surprising given what I've read about her. She may have gotten pigeonholed in serving roles but she made the most of it, often doing such a good job that even typically un-inclusive mainstream media publications took attention of her.
There's some inspired direction here, with well thought out shots, including one from below a staircase, and one scene filmed entirely in silhouette.
Made for Each Other is a very good movie, though one I'd recommend you be aware of its tonal shift before you start. That may well make the movie feel less abrupt if you know what's coming. As far as classic Hollywood goes, in both filmmaking and acting, this is great stuff!...
Saturday, March 2, 2019
Out in the deserts of Egypt, an unauthorised expedition has set out to find the resting place of the Pharaoh Rahoteb, led by the unscrupulous Robert Quentin. Wishing to keep an eye on him and get him back if possible, the British military assign Captain Storm and two soldiers to go find the professor. The Captain and his men are accompanied by Quentin's wife Sylvia, who soon begins to take a liking to Storm. Along the way,the group come across the mysterious Egyptian woman Simira, who warns them of great danger at the digsite, and insists they follow her shortcut. The suspicious team refuses, but when strange things begin to befall them, they follow the woman's advice. Have they arrived at the tomb to late though to stop whatever evil may be unleashed?...
Pharaoh's Curse starts out as quite an interesting little horror film. It makes good use of its Egyptian setting, and the time period it's set in, taking place during a time of great native unrest to the colonial British. I also feel the movie does a great job at showing off the line between archaeology and desecration. A good mystery is built up, and you look forward to the gradual reveals.
The characters are alright. Captain Storm is pretty milquetoast, but he's a likeable enough hero, and he has a bit of chemistry with Sylvia. On that note, what really impressed me about this film was the depth of her characterisation with her husband Robert! In films such as these, the husband who's in the way of the love story either gets killed, finds another woman, or turns out to be evil, but here we actually get quite an in-depth examination of why their relationship isn't working out. The actors really sell the feeling of a couple who have since lost all chemistry they once had.
Simira is genuinely enigmatic, and comes across as less cliched than I thought she would on first glance. Unfortunately this is the start of the movie's problems. She gets far too little to do! Most of her fleeting screentime is spent standing around silently, doing nothing. Even in the end where her actions apparently save the day (it's hard to tell since it all takes place offscreen, with no explanation), it felt like Leonard Nimoy's last scene in that Simpsons monorail episode
There are perhaps a few too many supporting characters. I liked the two comic relief soldiers with the Captain, but I lost track of all of Quentin's expedition, who all seemed to be somewhat silly cannon fodder. With that in mind, it's a shame some of them survive whereas not all of Storm's men make it out ok.
Despite starting off strong, the movie loses steam in the last act. Too little happens, mainly due to Simira getting so little to do, nor any other characters for that matter, with the majority of dialogue being commands and exclamations rather than any interesting character interaction. All of this culminates in a pretty unsatisfying ending. I wasn't even sure what happened! Just that the heroes make it out ok, despite not really having done anything to save the day that I could tell.
The movie looks good. The locations and landscapes are convincingly Egyptian, regardless of where they may have actually been filmed at, and the sets look fine, even if a little too clean at times to look properly ancient. The mummy however is a mixed bag. Some elements are quite good, like Numar's first changes, and the severed arm, but the mummy itself doesn't impress, looking like a confused old man who's wandered in from a retirement home. He doesn't look like he could go for more than two feet without breaking a hip let alone suck the blood of the living!
The music sounds decent and ominous at times, with some tracks creeping up on you, and building a good sense of tension.
Pharaoh's Curse is an interesting movie, but it could've been better, certainly. With a few extra scenes to liven up its story, and more for the cast to do, it could've been one of the better mummy horror films. As it stands though, it's still a good enough example of the genre...
Friday, March 1, 2019
Eve Barret is a top-notch swimmer turned established businesswoman, running a swimwear company with a careful and talented eye. Meanwhile, her younger sister Betty is a bit of a ditz who's always falling in love with her flavour of the week. This time it's the South American polo team, and through a series of misunderstandings, she meets the clumsy masseuse Jack Spratt, believing him to be the handsome team captain Jose O'Rourke. Eve is furious when she finds this out, convinced the latin lover is out only for a good time, so she hunts down the real O'Rourke, who's very confused, but deosn't let it show, suggesting that Eve take him out on a date instead, leading to both sisters thinknig they're in love with the same man...
Neptune's Daughter is a wonderful little picture. It's got your typical romantic-comedy misunderstandings, but never to a grating degree, and it tells a couple of good stories side by side, with a dash of trouble thrown in courtesy of some crooks. It's got a few faults here and there, like how Red Skelton's character is never really punished for his (accidental) masquerade, with Betty not caring one iota once the truth is out, but these are pretty forgiveable. The film progresses at a good clip, never becoming boring or staid and always finding something to do, leading to a very satisfying ending.
Eve was my favourite character. It's fun seeing her having grown from a successful swimmer to being hired as a model, then rising up in the ranks to be the co-manager at the top! She's got great business acumen, this is never questioned, and while it's stated that she'll be leaving the company once she's married to Jose, this comes across less as the sexist attitudes of the time, and more because she wants to spent more time with her beau, unfettered by work (remember they've only known each-other a grand total of half a week!), and because she knows she can leave the company in good hands with her partner Joe.
The shockingly coincidentally named Jose O'Rourke is a little bit of a lothario, but he's not that bad, especially considering that he's not quite as much a player as Eve thinks he is.
Jack is a bit cringey at times, but ok at others. Betty meanwhile is adorable, getting across well the sense of someone who knows what they want and how to get it, while at the same time having no real clue.
The only problem is how sudden their romance seems. Betty has only known 'Jose' for a couple of days, and yet she already wants to marry him! I suppose you could just say that's typical of Betty, if not for the factthat Eve accepts just such a proposal too. One thing I do like though is that it's Betty who proposes to Jack, and not the other way around.
One little thing I like is the competence given to the 'dumber' characters. For example, Jack Spratt may be a klutzy goof, but he's a damn good masseuse! And as for Betty, she's scatterbrained, yet she's totally qualified to lead complicated exercise regimes.
Esther Williams is fine as Eve. She certainly proves herself to be just as good an actress as she is a swimmer! Betty Garret (playing Betty Barret, because THAT'S not confusing at all!) is quite good as the flighty and slightly airheaded Betty. Also, it took me about two thirds into the movie before I suddenly realized "You know, she actually looks familiar", and recognized her-She's Edna Babbish from Laverne and Shirley!
Red Skelton is rather painful to watch. Your opinion of him may vary depending on how much of a general fan of him you are, and your tolerance of silly accents. Ricardo Montalban is his usual charming self, delivering a fun performance.
A stealth performer here is Keenan Wynn. I saw his name in the credits and said I'd keep an eye out for him, but promptly forgot until I saw it once again in the end credits. To my surprise, he's Joe! He looks so young! Completely unlike how I usually know him! And with so little of his iconic bluster! It's unnatural! Seriously, of course he does well, since he's Keenan Wynn. Other performers are all fine. We've got Mel Blanc (I knew that one character sounded like Speedy Gonzalez!), and Mike Mazurki in a comedic turn.
The songs here are pretty standard stuff. Nothing groundbreaking, but better than simply disposable. The most well known is definitely Baby, It's Cold Outside, which is loads of fun! It's quite the interesting song, too. It's a positive romance story about a woman wanting to have a nice time with her boyfriend but is worried what nosy and rumour-spreading society will think, that was misunderstood as a very rapey and aggressive piece. There were a couple of years where people on the internet criticised the heck out of it, but now the last couple of years have seen a vindication of the song. The tune's actual meaning is pretty clear from its recital in this film, especially with the flipped genders in the second half. Pretty fitting that the first comedic reversal of It's Cold Outside was in its origin!
There are some neat swimming moments on display, with plenty of skill showcased, and neat fashion displayed. The finale looks really spectacular, with great swimming choreography on display. It almost makes you forget that two of the main leads have disappeared at this point, never to be seen again.
I definitely recommend Neptune's Daughter! The stars are all in top form (except for Red Skelton, but then I might be prejudiced against him), and it's fabulous musical time!...