Monday, February 16, 2015


WHITE COMANCHE (1968; Jose Briz Mendez)
Ah I'm a sucker for Shatner movies. Obviously my love for the guy originates with Star Trek but seeing him outside of his most famous role is still always entertaining for me. 
WHITE COMANCHE plays out like a alternate universe Star Trek episode crossed with a spaghetti western. Two things I enjoy to be sure. Then you've got a dual role from Shatner to boot which is pretty fun. I've developed an odd fondness for movies with actors in double roles like this. In this case, he plays twin brothers - one a ruthless barbaric Comanche (known as "The White Comanche") and a sharp-shoot in' gunslinger. The gunslinger has had enough of being mistaken for his evil brother. It's hard not to think of the infamous "Mirror, Mirror" episode of Star Trek. No goatees here but it's still tough to ignore
This movie was my introduction to actress Rosanna Yanni. She's quite lovely. Kind of the intersection of Monica Vitti and Raquel Welch.

DIVINE MADNESS (1980; Michael Ritchie)
Fascinating concert film (from performances by Midler at the Civic Auditorium in Pasedena) directed by the great Michael Ritchie (THE BAD NEWS BEARS, PRIME CUT).  An interesting companion piece to STOP MAKING SENSE (though this can't touch that movie). What I have to give Midler credit for is that her energy level on stage is unbelievable. She is literally all over the stage.  Lots of costume changes and dancing too. She does a combination of her stand-up (with plenty of salty language) and songs from her album of the same name. The songs include "Paradise" (Harry Nilsson), "Fire Down Below" (Bob Seger), "Chapel of Love/Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy", "Do You Want To Dance" and "You Can't Always Get What You Want/ I Shall Be Released (Mick Jagger/ Bob Dylan).
For those who only remember Midler for her hit song from BEACHES, this performance will give you a whole new perspective. She's more channeling Janice Joplin here. I must admit that she charmed me with all of it by the end. This disc is part of Warner Archive's "New to Widescreen" collection and had only previously been available in 4x3, but has been restored to it's 2.35 : 1 glory (which helps a lot in terms of how much of the show can now be seen in the frame).

THE MAN WITH TWO BRAINS (1983; Carl Reiner)
"Get that cat outta here!"
Let me just lay this out. Steve Martin does THE JERK in 1979, then DEAD MEN DON'T WEAR PLAID in 1982 and THE MAN WITH TWO BRAINS in 1983. That's a really neat run of great comedies. THE JERK and DEAD MEN are some of my favorites and while TWO BRAINS is a slight dip, it is still quite hilarious and also quite underrated at the moment. These three films are very much cut from the same cloth of that early Steve Martin absurdist comedy that was so wonderfully sublime and ridiculous. Not that I have any problem with present day Steve Martin, but boy when he was firing on all cylinders in the 70s and early 80s, he was truly in a class all by himself. The films he made were not spoofs exactly, but they had a silly self-awareness and goofiness that was truly infectious and brilliant. I watch them and moments remind me of things like the best work that the Zuckers did, but Steve Martin's movies are different (and he was doing it before they were). His style of comedy, his persona and his delivery were all just remarkable. I really put him up there with Monty Python, and The Marx Brothers to a lesser extent. The kind of stuff that if you see it at a young enough age can shift your sense of humor and what you find funny in the best possible way. Also "New to Widescreen".
Oh and I love the DONOVAN'S BRAIN reference in the movie too by the way. 

MY BLUE HEAVEN (1990; Herbert Ross)
"He has a system for eating pancakes."
Steve Martin in that stage between his "earlier funnier" stuff and his bigger, broader comedic roles. Herbert Ross directed this one and it was written by Nora Ephron. While it's one of my favorite things that Ephron ever did, it's still a pretty straightforward studio comedy. The combination of Steve Martin and Rick Moranis helps it quite a bit though. It's really kind of like the comedy flipside of GOODFELLAS or something. Okay, not exactly, but funnily enough, both MY BLUE HEAVEN and GOODFELLAS came out in 1990 about a month apart. It does kind of follow up GOODFELLAS though. It shows how bored Henry Hill would have been living in the burbs and how he might have attempted to entertain himself. I remember when I first saw this movie I felt like Steve Martin was miscast. It might have just been weird to see him with the new hair and taking on a goofy New York accent. I've come around though. I now find this movie to be delightful. Like I said, it was kind of a standard Hollywood comedy for the time, but it has aged in a lovely way. Highly recommended. Glad to see it in the "New to Widescreen" series.

No comments: