Tuesday, June 21, 2016


CORNBREAD, EARL AND ME (1975; Joseph Manduke)
I have little doubt that director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon is aware of this movie, or at the very least that novelist Jesse Andrews (who wrote the source book for ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL) has seen it. The whole "AND EARL" part of the title of that film, as well as the feel of the material would lead one to believe that this film might have been at least some kind of a small influence. 
This is one of those oft-overlooked, dramas that really needs more attention. For one thing, the cast is ridiculously stocked with some pretty amazing talent. The likes of Bernie Casey, Moses Gunn, Antonio Fargas and Rosalind Cash are part of the ensemble and if you don't know these actors, you haven't seen enough 70s black cinema. You couldn't throw a rock during that decade without hitting some blaxploitation film or another that featured one or more of these folks. On top of that, it is billed as the movie that is "introducing" Laurence Fishburne to the world (he's credited as Laurence Fishburne III, which I've never seen before). Fishburne was around fourteen when he made this movie and he is already showing his remarkable ability via this little gem. 
My affection for Rosalind Cash started with THE OMEGA MAN and has never waned since. She is one of those actors who doesn't get enough press anymore. She played off of Charlton Heston in all his scenery-chewing glory in that film and in CORNBREAD, EARL AND ME - she's given a much more reasonable dramatic role. Of the many black films of the period, few were sensitive portrayals of inner-city life like this one. Rosalind Cash plays a welfare mother raising a young boy (Fishburne) on her own and trying to keep him out of trouble. The boy looks up to his cousin "Cornbread" who is a very gifted basketball player who is often college shortly with an eye on trying for the pros someday. Antonio Fargas is "One Eye" - a neighborhood hustler who really wants Cornbread to run numbers for him. Cornbread is a good guy, but the neighborhood is dangerous place though and there's always trouble creeping on the horizon. I would put this movie in league with something like COOLEY HIGH (which was also put out on Blu-ray by Olive), though there's less humor here and more drama. Regardless, it is still refreshing to see a story like this with a nearly all black cast and an eye on a different perspective.

CORNBREAD, EARL AND ME can be purchased on Blu-ray here:

Follow the late 60s shenanigans of a American tour group as they careen  through nine countries in eighteen days. It feels a little like IT'S A MAD MAD MAD MAD WORLD initially, but then calms way way down (almost to the point of dryness). It has the ensemble feeling of MAD WORLD (with less comedians of course), but plays more like a travelogue. A somewhat thin plot and several pairs of archetype characters are weaved into "story" of the day to day tour itself as we ride the bus along with this ragtag bunch. It's pretty breezy and pleasant and the amount of ground covered in the tour itself means that it doesn't get bogged down to long in any one place - which could become tiresome. I've often dreamed of taking a trip to Europe myself, but if I did, I'd never it like this. That said, the movie is a nice sampler platter of what it might be like to take this kind of a touristy packaged adventure. I haven't done much traveling myself at all to be honest, so travelogues in general tend to grab my attention longer than they might for other folks. This is kind of funny in that when I do travel to tours it destinations here in the states, I sometimes resist doing the standard touristy activities. I'm always looking for authenticity in my traveling expeditions outside of the stuff portrayed in this film. This film does however have the added bonus of an interesting cast of familiar actors like Suzanne Pleschette, Norman Fell, Murray Hamilton and others to keep it fun. Oh and a nearly unrecognizable Ian McShane plays the womanizing Brit tour guide running the show so there's that as well. Watch for cameos from Robert Vaughn, Ben Gazzara, John Cassavetes, and Joan Collins. Also, it's from the director of WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY!
IF IT'S TUESDAY can be purchased on Blu-ray here:

This film noir crime flick has one of my favorite titles in recent memory. It sounds so...organized. Like a gentlemen going down his list of things to do for the week and ticking boxes. Sounds jovial enough. This movie doesn't open in a jovial way though. Nope, it features our main fella smashing the display window of a jewelry store and reaching in to grab his loot - only to have his wrists crushed by a security gate that was triggered. If that's not bad enough, his co-conspirators in the getaway car make a hasty retreat and leave him to take the wrap alone. Pretty shabby behavior, even for crooks. Par for the course in the film noir world though. Our main fella - he goes by Leo - was hooked into this "smash and grab" scheme and it seemed pretty straightforward, but he ends serving time. And what to do when he gets out? Jump on a plan to get revenge on the man who left him in the lurch. He's not shy about it at all. He even talks up his plan to a bunch of local hoods at a pool hall. In fact, Leo is really quite frank about things and makes his dissatisfaction with his old employer known and rather aggressively so. One thing I like about the movie is that Leo doesn't waste a lot of time. This kind of thing often finds the vengeance-seeker taking a while to work up his plan. Sometimes a slow burn is nice, but sometimes I like it when they cut to the chase. There's also something tonally a little different about British noirs versus the American ones. Maybe they aren't quite as dark and grimy or something, I can't put my finger on it precisely. Or maybe this one in particular feels slightly antithetic because it features a lead guy screwing over the dude who wronged him as opposed to being screwed over himself (which happens a whole lot in the noir world). Bonus - see a very very young Herbert Lom (Clouseau's boss in THE PINK PANTHER movies) in a smaller role.

APPOINTMENT WITH CRIME can be purchased here:

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