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.
Dr. T and the Women at imdb.com
As of August, 2016 Dr. T and the Women is available to rent from Netflix.com.
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.
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.
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.
The Extraordinary Adventures of Saturnino Farandola at imdb.com
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.
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