Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Warner Archive - BELLS ARE RINGING and THE YAKUZA on Blu-ray ""

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Warner Archive - BELLS ARE RINGING and THE YAKUZA on Blu-ray

BELLS ARE RINGING (1960; Vincente Minnelli)
What an adorable movie this is. Some of it can be credited to the play that the film is based on, but even more is due to the always delightful Judy Holliday (for whom the role was written - based a good deal on Judy herself). Sure, Dean Martin is charmer with some pipes on him to boot - he isn't a slouch either, but this film gets its sweet core from Judy. She plays a gal who works for an an answering service called "Susanswerphone" that services various folks in the big city. One of said clients is a failing party boy of a playwright who needs somebody to keep an eye him and give him a little confidence in his abilities. In short, he needs a mother and a muse. Judy is both. In fact, she plays the character of an old woman who goes by "Mom" when Dean calls in for his messages. It's silly but very cute. The drama comes in by way of the vice squad who suspects that Susanswerphone is a from for an escort service. In actuality, there's a bookie business being run under the guise of a classical record company that Judy's boss doesn't even know about.
This is a bit lighter and fluffier than a lot of Minnelli musicals, but I like it and I feel like it's the kind of movie that could make a Judy Holliday fan of most anybody. After seeing it, I just wanted to watch more Judy. Be it BORN YESTERDAY or IT SHOULD HAPPEN TO YOU, I just felt the need for more Judy. She has this remarkable everywoman quality about her that pulls you in and breaks your heart when she doesn't get what she's been seeking. She's the perfect guardian angel, an absolute down-to-earth delight and whenever I see one of her films, I always wish that she'd made more of them.
Supporting cast highlights include Frank Gorshin as a Brando-esque beatnik actor and Jean Stapleton as Judy's naive boss at the answering service. 

Special Features:

-Featurette - "BELLS ARE RINGING: Just in Time"
-Outtake Musical Numbers "Is it a Crime?" and "My Guiding Star"
-Alternate Take of the song "The Midas Touch"
-Theatrical Trailer
Buy BELLS ARE RINGING on Blu-ray here:
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THE YAKUZA (1974; Sydney Pollack)
This was one of those films that I discovered in college when I was beginning my formal cinema education. I was very high on OUT OF THE PAST at the time and was always digging around to find new Robert Mitchum movies to watch. When I came across THE YAKUZA, it immediately hooked me and I wondered why I hadn't heard more people talking about it. After all, it had Mitchum, was directed by Sydney Pollack and the credited writers were Paul and Leonard Schrader (who wrote the original script) and Robert Towne (who Pollack brought in to rework that script). That's quite a pedigree and the movie is as good as you'd imagine it would be based on those credentials. It's a blend of neo-noir, gangster and romantic elements that make for a great, involving story. There was just something about seeing an older Mitchum in this role that really hit home for me when I was in college though. The movie also stars Richard Jordan, who I'm a big fan of and who is  Mitchum's backup here. He's one of those great character actors from the 70s that people don't remember as well as they should these days. Always a memorable presence.
In watching THE YAKUZA again, I started to feel some Sam Fuller vibes that I had overlooked the first few times. The basic story of an ex-G.I. returning to Japan after twenty years to see the woman he had fallen in love with during his WWII service really reminds me of something Fuller might have done. Fuller was certainly enamored with Japanese culture because of his military experiences and that came up a lot in his own films. Of course that ex-G.I. (Mitchum) isn't only going back to see his lady, he also has to help a friend with Yakuza troubles. It's a very East-meets-West, fish-out-of-water kinda thing.  So though the film is interestingly talky in spots (much explaining of the way debts are paid and dealt with in Japanese culture), there's also some action to be enjoyed in smaller bursts. Guns, swords, hands getting chopped off and flying through the air - you know, the usual stuff you see in a Robert Mitchum movie! Mitchum is great here though. He's always worn his world weariness on his face and here it plays well in his expressions and his eyes. As much as his character thought he knew about this society's traditions and obligations, he still finds himself learning and eventually abiding by them throughout the course of the film. Really, if you're a Mitchum fan and you've not checked out much from his latter career, this is well worth your time folks. The transfer looks quite nice too!

Special Features:
-This disc features an old audio commentary from the late great Sydney Pollack. It's a good listen as he is a thoughtful and skilled craftsman and THE YAKUZA came relatively early in his directoring career. He speaks to the themes of the film, refers to a Robert Frost poem that inspired him, talks about Mitchum and what he was like to work with (which I found fascinating) among other things.
Also included is a Vintage Featurette called "...Promises to Keep" that runs about 20 minutes which features a lot of Sydney Pollack on set working on the movie and plus has some footage of Japan shot around the time the film was made. 

Buy THE YAKUZA on Blu-ray here:
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1 comment:

Robert M. Lindsey said...

The Yakuza is a great movie. So much subtext.