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Also, check out Lars' lists from previous years:
Sick sixties. This colorful, kinky Spanish production caught me right between the eyes. Boris Karloff is top-billed, but he is very old here, playing a blind man in a wheelchair with a blanket in his lap. Still, he's Karloff and his presence helps the movie. The stars who actually get all the scenes are Jean-Pierre Aumont, a moth-eaten ladies-man type; and the middle-aged Viveca Lindfors as Karloff's villainous, perverse, promiscuous wife. The plot is the old - wow, these sculptures are so realistic - also, girls keep disappearing - chestnut. But Lindfors is so good at playing this kind of rotten sophisticate and the depiction of an Ibiza-like Mediterranean hippie/beat scene is so vulgar and tasteless that it becomes a special artifact of its time. Throw in some cheaply done psychedelic horror freakout interludes and it's just my kind of movie.
Note: I watched Blake Edwards' cut of the film. Really unfair that this is grouped with the generally vapid musical roadshows that "made the New Hollywood necessary" like DOCTOR DOLITTLE, PAINT YOUR WAGON, STAR! etc. Those films are dinosaurs. They don't have any of the litheness and vivacity that often make smaller musical movies work. Their size is a paralyzing factor. DARLING LILI is a big-budget film, with the leading musical star of the era, but it's no dinosaur. The expensive WWI aerial sequences are very impressive - it's almost hard to believe what we're seeing, and Julie Andrews as a conflicted good/bad girl with a sex drive is very nice. The plot, which is about a Mata Hari-type spy played by Julie Andrews attempting to work a lead (Rock Hudson) and getting worked herself, works on multiple levels. There is a play on the secrecy and deception of states and another on the secrecy and deception of lovers and they are woven together with mastery and lightness. Blake Edwards makes us realize that Julie Andrews, who seems like a brand of soap in her Robert Wise and Disney movies, is a special talent - sexy, a really terrific actress, and, when she has songs by Henry Mancini and Johnny Mandel to work with, a welcome singer.
This was intended to be a pilot episode for a show about a villain who guns down a different guest hero in every episode. John Astin plays Slade. It's jam packed with Mad Magazine style zingers, absurdities and wordplay. As written by Jerry Belson and Garry Marshall, the gags don't ever stop or even slow down. Astin is very funny. With Mickey Rooney, Dom DeLuise, Milton Berle, Alice Nunn, Edie Adams, Pat Morita (as Turhan, a fair example of the film's humor) and Dick Shawn, funnier than everything else in the movie combined, as the guitar-slinging Marshal on Slade's trail.
Live action and animation mix ingeniously in a movie that looks like nothing else you've seen. The intention of Czech director Karel Zeman was to make the old engraved illustrations from Jules Verne novels appear to come to life. The technical challenges must have been enormous. Live actors appear to operate illustrated machines in stylized pen and ink seascapes or cloudy skies. Like most people, I am too aware of special effects and how they work to be astonished by them very often. This was one of those cases. It produces a mixture of astonishment, admiration and curiosity. It's like a trick performed by an extraordinarily proficient illusionist. We know its not real but we applaud the art of its creator as something equally wondrous.
From the Italian master Mario Monicelli, a comedy of revenge. Monica Vitti shows her formidable comic skills as a high spirited, rustic-minded Sicilian girl, seduced by a mangy Lothario, who pursues him to London where he has gotten a job in an Italian restaurant. She stalks him with her gun, eager to get revenge on him for his perfidy. As he remains one step ahead of her, she becomes entangled with a number of other men, until her heart softens and she finds love with doctor Stanley Baker. But then a perfect opportunity for poetic revenge arises, and she must choose between her newfound happiness and a chance to get back at the sleazeball who took her virginity. Vitti is amazing, really a force of nature. Her character is a combination of country mouse, angel of death and sex goddess.
An awful lot has been written about this movie on this site. I'm so glad I finally watched it. George Burns, Art Carney and Lee Strasberg play three elderly roommates, bored to death, who decide to rob a bank. It's funny, but it's also realistic. The stars kick it to another level. I think George Burns' performance here is my new favorite film performance period. Art Carney carries scenes too, and Lee Strasberg has one of the best monologues I've ever seen. This deserves to be considered a major classic film on a level with the best Coppolas and Scorseses of the '70s. Martin Brest also found the absolute best supporting cast member to play Carney's good-guy, struggling nephew Pete, Charles Hallahan.
From Fassbinder collaborator and prolific schlock horror machine Ulli Lommel. Apparently the video distributor who released Lommel's film THE BOOGEYMAN was so impressed with sales of that title that they signed him to make several other films for them. This one was intended to capitalize on the home video success of ROMANCING THE STONE. Lommel himself stars, along with his girlfriend and collaborator Suzanna Love in this tropical mystery/doublecross romance that may remind you of light pulp from the '40s like MR. MOTO. Stealing the show here is Klaus Kinski as the duplicitous uncle of a wide-eyed American yokel hero Barry Hickel. Kinski was apparently so drunk and out of control on the set that Lommel made the decision to make his character a ghost in the story, as a plausible reason for his bizarre behavior. No masterpiece but much funnier than you might expect.
Super dark, super cheap noir nightmare from Anthony Mann. A female medical researcher (Brenda Marshall, excellent) has her face destroyed in a lab explosion. Her romantic rival (Hillary Brooke), is responsible for the 'accident.' There are twists, turns and fake-outs that I won't spoil here but the whole effect is commendably sick, trust me. The cat and mouse game between the two women builds to an exciting and suspenseful resolution.
One of those "minor" Altmans that I had never gotten around to watching. Whenever I catch up with one of these I am blown away by how good it is. None of them are perfect of course, but proximity to perfection is not an Altman value. In fact it may be the least Altmanesque value of all. Anyhow, a couple is getting married on a large estate. The groom's family are aristocratic old-world Italians and the bride's family are simple small-town protestants. The situation allows for numerous levels of social interaction as mother-of-the-bride Carol Burnett is swept off her feet by drunk cousin Pat McCormick, as wedding planner Geraldine Chaplin loses her considerable cool, and too many other subplots to mention, some brilliant. With Paul Dooley, Lillian Gish, Tim Thomerson, Mia Farrow, Dennis Christopher, Vittorio Gassman and seemingly hundreds more stars.
Here at AFS we did a nice miniseries of Dorothy Arzner's films. This one, available from the UCLA Film and Television Archive, was the biggest surprise, since no one had seen it before. With all the gum-popping sass of Joan Blondell and Barbara Stanwyck vehicles, this pre-code film about two blonde sisters making it in the big city adds an extra helping of sheer ruthlessness and desperation as the sisters find themselves on parallel career and romantic tracks that eventually intersect in a classic "to-hell-with-it" absurd plot resolution.