Dr. T and the Women (2000)

dr. t and the women film review

I was reluctant to watch this film due to its low score on imdb.com (currently 4.6) and the copious negative reviews. But I decided to watch it albeit with low expectations and prepared to bail out after fifteen minutes. It is a Robert Altman film after all. Could it be any worse than Popeye, a film I thought was just OK? Given the presence of Richard Gere in the lead role seemed to indicate that I was in for something lightweight and vapid. The opening scenes in which we are introduced to a bevy of annoying, vacuous, clothes obsessed, wealthy women all talking at once didn’t seem promising. It was then I realized that they were supposed to annoying and that the film is meant to be satire. Many have criticized the film and Altman, who surrounded himself with women in his professional life and who has featured women in leading roles perhaps more than any other male director, as being misogynistic, overlooking the fact that the screenplay was written by a woman, Anne Rapp, who also wrote the screenplay for Altman’s previous film, Cookie’s Fortune. One may criticize Altman for his rendering of the screenplay but is it fair to criticize him for the content and viewpoint contained within the screenplay? In contrast to all the status seeking trophy wives in the film there is Bree (Helen Hunt), a golf pro whom Dr. T (Gere), a wealthy gynecologist, meets at his golf club. Bree is obviously the film’s ideal woman and perhaps she’s a fictional version of the screenwriter. She’s independent, forthright, uninterested in climbing social ladders, and rejects conventional gender roles. Dr. T’s wife (Farrah Fawcett) has been institutionalized due to a rare disorder that causes affluent women who are overly pampered to regress into a childlike state. When Bree rejects Dr. T’s offer to make her his next trophy wife he is literally thrown into a whirlwind. Perhaps the reason so many viewers loathe this film, though they may not be conscious of it, is that it exposes some ugly truths about American society. Most members of the general moviegoing public want to see the hero slay the dragon, win the princess, and live happily ever after. They want a couple hours of escape from their stressful, monotonous lives. Real art, however, is a mirror and one shouldn’t blame the mirror if one doesn’t like what is being reflected. It seems the majority have decided to avoid mirrors.

★★★★★★★☆☆☆ (7/10)

Dr. T and the Women at imdb.com

As of August, 2016 Dr. T and the Women is available to rent from Netflix.com.

Miquette et sa mère (1950)

Miquette et sa mère film review

The general consensus seems to be that this is the weakest effort from French director Henri-Georges Clouzot who is probably best known for The Wages of Fear (1953) and Diabolique (1955). According to Wikipedia, Clouzot only made the film to fulfill a contract and it was neither a financial nor critical success. It is based on a comedy first produced on the stage in 1906 about a naive young girl, Miquette (Danièle Delorme), who works in her mother’s variety store in a small town and dreams of being an actress much to her mother’s disapproval.  She catches the eye of Monchablon (Louis Jouvet), the hammy leader of a traveling theatre group when he stops in the store. She reveals her theatrical aspirations to him and he invites her to contact him if she ever visits Paris. Urbain (Bourvil), the awkwardly shy nephew of the town’s wealthiest citizen, Le marquis (Saturnin Fabre), is in love with Miquette but his uncle is pressuring him to marry an ugly heiress. When Le marquis catches the two together he chases his nephew off and, finding himself attracted to Miquette, takes her to Paris to fulfill her acting ambitions with hopes of making her his wife or mistress. In Paris she joins Monchablon’s group and begins acting in comedies. Her mother arrives in Paris intending to take her back home but ends up joining the the theatre group as well. Meanwhile, Urbain, still in love, sends anonymous gifts and attends her performances. The play performed by Monchablon’s group is cleverly blended with the story in the film. The use of intertitles setting the scenes and the actors making asides to the film audience lend a vaudevillian aspect. As this is the third film adaptation of the play perhaps the story was overly familiar to the French when the film was released but I found it witty and amusing. It’s lightweight material, a style of entertainment the French term boulevard theatre, but if you haven’t seen Clouzot’s other films or if you can watch it without expecting something on par with The Wages of Fear you may be pleasantly rewarded.

★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)

Miquette et sa mère at imdb.com

Although there is a DVD available on the French amazon.com I believe the only version available with English subtitles as of July, 2016 is streaming at rarefilmm.com.

The Extraordinary Adventures of Saturnino Farandola (1913)

the extraordinary adventures of saturnino farandola film review

Marcel Fernández Peréz (1884-1929) was born in Madrid and began his career as a circus clown in Paris. After appearing in a few French comedy films he signed up with Ambrosio Films, an Italian production company, starring in and directing several films. For these films he was known as Robinet but he had many other aliases including Marcel Fabre, Michel Fabre, Fernandea Perez, Tweedy, Tweedledum, and Twede-Dan. Ten of his films, five made in Italy and five in America, were released on DVD in 2015 as The Marcel Perez Collection. In 1913, while still working for Ambrosio Films and according to some sources, Perez released a series of 18 films in serial form based on the 1879 novel The Extraordinary Voyages of Saturnino Farandola, in the Five or Six Parts of the World and in All Countries Known and Unknown to Mr. Jules Verne. Other sources indicate that the work originally appeared as four featurettes. It tells the story of Saturnino Farandola, who as an infant was the only survivor of a shipwreck and drifted to an island where he was raised by monkeys. Eventually he is rescued and has a series of outlandish adventures around the world which include escapades under the ocean and an aerial battle involving hot air balloons. The imaginative way in which these scenes are rendered certainly owes much to the films of Georges Méliès, who made his final film the year previous. Lobster Films restored the surviving material for a 1997 DVD release, editing it into a single 100 minute feature though I’ve read that one of the sections was abridged. As far as I can tell the DVD is no longer available but has been uploaded to YouTube and includes the excellent score. There’s no English translation of the Italian intertitles but the film is still enjoyable even if you don’t always understand what’s going on.

★★★★★★★☆☆☆ (7/10)

The Extraordinary Adventures of Saturnino Farandola at imdb.com

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2W0lRsGJVG8

Comrade X (1940)

comrade x film review

MGM’s Comrade X features Clark Gable and Hedy Lamarr in roles similar to those played by Melvyn Douglas and Greta Garbo in MGM’s Ninotchka (1939). Most likely MGM was hoping to repeat the success they had with that latter film and boost Lamarr’s career. If the snappy dialogue seems familiar it’s because it was written by the same guy who wrote The Front Page (1931) and its remake, His Girl Friday (1940), Ben Hecht. Gable is an American reporter in Moscow who manages to get news past the Russian censors back to his paper in America. Much fun is made of the way things are done in Russia under Stalin’s rule. Lamarr is a beautiful Russian trolly car driver whose life is in danger from the Stalinist regime because of her idealistic support of communism. If that doesn’t make sense perhaps these lines spoken by her father (Felix Bressart) will explain: “The communists have ideas. But they found out you can’t run a government with everybody going around having ideas. So what is happening, the communists are being executed so that Communism should succeed.” Considering what was going on in Europe at the time this film was made, the underlying pro-democracy, pro-America themes aren’t surprising and they are handled fairly subtly and humorously. The movie moves along quickly like a good screwball but dialogue takes a back seat to action in the latter part of the film which is weaker than the preceding portion.

★★★★★★★☆☆☆ (7/10)

Comrade X at imdb.com

As of March, 2016 Comrade X is available to rent on DVD from ClassicFlix.com

The Devil’s Eye (1960)

the devil's eye film review

 After directing The Virgin Spring (1960) Ingmar Bergman felt something light was in order or so I’ve read. I’ve also read that The Devil’s Eye (Swedish title: Djävulens öga) was a work for hire which was part of a bargain that allowed him to make the previous film. The Devil’s Eye is more a light-hearted treatment of Bergman’s usual themes than a comedy, a genre the director acknowledged he wasn’t adept in. The narrative is broken into acts and a narrator introduces each act to remind the viewer that what follows is comedy. The title refers to an Irish proverb: a woman’s chastity is a sty in the eye of the Devil. Bibi Andersson plays the virginal daughter of a vicar who is about to marry. The Devil sends Don Juan and his servant Pablo, who have been suffering in Hell for 300 years, to Earth for 24 hours in order to seduce her, thus relieving the devil of the sty in his eye and ensuring other women don’t follow her example for, as the Devil’s advisors warn:

“If she marries as she is, the consequences will be disastrous. Heaven will exalt, the archangels will sound their trumpets and will make an infernal din.”

Once Don Juan and Pablo manage to get themselves invited to the vicar’s home the narrative splits into three contests: Don Juan’s attempts to deflower the virtuous daughter, Pablo’s attempt to make love to the vicar’s wife, and the vicar’s battle of wits with a demon who has been sent to keep an eye on Don Juan and Pablo. This third contest is mostly philosophical and at odds with the rest of the material. The subject of religious faith is common to many of Bergman’s films but hardly the stuff of comedy.

In later years Bergman professed to despise this film. It certainly isn’t one of his best but even a minor work by Bergman is worth seeing at least once.

★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ (6/10)

The Devil’s Eye at imdb.com

As of February, 2016 The Devil’s Eye is available on a Region 0 DVD from Amazon.com.

Seven Sinners (1940)

seven sinners film review

 How much you like this will probably depend on how much you like Marlene Dietrich as it was written to showcase her. I don’t find her attractive but I’ve never seen her look better than she does in this film. Can’t say she sings any better in this film. John Wayne, whose career was catapulted from B movies into stardom the previous year thanks to John Ford’s Stagecoach, plays a naval officer who becomes smitten with a saloon singer (Dietrich). Broderick Crawford plays a dumb lug, a role he played often and came to detest before his breakthrough in All the King’s Men (1949). This is lightweight fare which occasionally seems headed for more depth but never goes there. The cinematography is good with intriguing compositions of shadow and light but what else would you expect from Rudolph Maté whose credits include The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) and Foreign Correspondent (1940).

★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ (6/10)

Seven Sinners at imdb.

As of November, 2015 Seven Sinners is available to rent from Netflix.

The Little Shop of Horrors (1960)

little shop of horrors film review

Shot in two days on a $30,000 budget using leftover sets from another film this Corman quickie is a hilarious sendup of police procedurals. A lot of the humor is in Mel Welles’ portrayal of Gravis Mushnick, a skid row florist and his unique take on the English language: Girl asking about Seymour’s plant: “I mean doesn’t it have a scientific name?” Mushnick: “Yes of course but who could denounce it? You would like maybe to buy something?” Every character in the film is wacko from Burson Fouch (Dick Miller) who buys flowers in order to eat them to Mrs. Hortense Fishtwanger from the  Society of Silent Flower Observers of Southern California to the masochistic Wilbur Force (Jack Nicholson in his third film). Even the radio station that Seymour’s hypochondriac mother listens to is twisted: “This is radio KSIK. You’ve been listening to music for old invalids. Our next selection is entitled Sickroom Serenade.” The screenplay is by Charles B. Griffith who also plays a robber in the film as well as providing the voice of Audrey Jr., Seymour’s man-eating plant. He is considered by some the father of American black comedy and Quentin Tarantino dedicated his film Deathproof to Griffith, citing him as one of his main influences and calling him the “father of redneck cinema.” Other Corman/Griffith collaborations that have achieved cult classic status are A Bucket of Blood (1959) and Death Race 2000 (1975). I thought perhaps part of the joke was that the score seems written for a straight horror film but apparently it’s the same score written for A Bucket of Blood but re-edited. In fact, composer Fred Katz sold Corman the same score as if it was new music for seven films! I was disappointed by the ending but considering that the screenplay was written in two days, the tiny budget, and time constraint (Corman had to finish before the sets were torn down) one can’t really expect perfection. Corman didn’t think the film had a future after its initial theatrical run so he didn’t copyright it and it’s in the public domain which means that outfits like Alpha Home Video can distribute lousy prints of the film. Amazon streams the same lousy print free for Prime members but they also stream the Legend Films colorized version (not free). The Legend Films DVD also has a restored B&W version and is available from Amazon.com.

★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)

The Little Shop of Horrors at imdb.

As of September, 2015 The Little Shop of Horrors is available to rent from Netflix.

Dialogue from Little Shop of Horrors at allreadable.com