No, I’m Still Here

No Im Still HereNo, I’m Still Here
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Hello again. How are you? Any better?
Yeah, I’ve been locked down too, socially distant and self-isolated for nearly 8 weeks…just starting to come out of it now. Here in South Australia, I have been amazed by how compliant / obedient the vast majority of the population has been…and as a result, we’re not doing too badly. Economically, we are a disaster zone of course but at least we didn’t turn into Brazil, y’know? So here’s cheers to our leaders who (mostly) listened to the health & science experts and didn’t make too many dangerous blunders that got people killed.
How did I spend my inside time? Well, as regular readers of this blog (all 7 of you) would know, I didn’t release a new post last month, mainly because, bizarrely, I didn’t actually watch that many movies. With all that free time on my hands, I instead turned to documentaries (Ken Burns’ JazzCapturing the Friedmans), boxed sets (Foyle’s WarOne Foot in the Grave) and animated features (Superman: Red SonPersepolis). I finally got around to stocking my virtual music jukebox, filled close-to-50 orders of books through my online shop [masted books] and briefly joined a pop culture / nerdy chat-group.
Let me tell you about that chat group. Claiming to be all about films & superheroes & all things pop-culture-ish, I signed on. Usual topics, one of which was the recently-regularly-discussed Dreamcasting the Upcoming Fantastic Four MCU reboot. (Yes, yes…John Krasinski & Emily Blunt are the fanboy faves). Now, as a newbie, I thought I should contribute something here…and I recalled a wonderful site by an artist named Joe Phillips [his site can be found HERE]. Joe had made up a collection of Superhero Movie posters as if the films had been made during Hollywood’s Golden Era. A bit of a hoot (even though Lucille Ball as the Scarlet Witch is a bit much). So, I put this concept to the chat group as my first topic: Dreamcast the FF as if it was 1939. You know how many replies I got?…ONE, from a dipshit with the handle of RocketRacer who wrote that it was a boring idea. And stupid. And old.
Hence, my earlier use of the word “briefly”.
Below is what I came up with anyway. And I had a good time doing it. So there. (bloody whippersnappers)



MR. FANTASTIC = Henry Fonda
HUMAN TORCH = Robert Walker (21 in 1939 and started in films that same year)
THE THING = Ward Bond
DR DOOM = Basil Rathbone (or do I mean Boris Karloff?)
GALACTUS = Boris Karloff (or do I mean Basil Rathbone?)
SILVER SURFER = Randolph Scott (with the least amount of dialogue possible)
THE WATCHER = Charles Laughton
BLACK BOLT = Robert Montgomery (not Paul Muni because he couldn’t shut up)
Vision%2B%2526%2BScarlet%2BWitchMEDUSA = Ann Dvorak
CRYSTAL = Lana Turner
NAMOR = Errol Flynn
ANNIHILUS = John Carradine (he was born to play an insect lord from another dimension)
AGATHA HARKNESS = Edna May Oliver (who else?)
ALICIA MASTERS = Sylvia Sidney
MOLE MAN = Eugene Pallette (wouldn’t you pay to see that?)
WILLIE LUMPKIN = James Gleason
RED GHOST = Finlay Currie
MAD THINKER = Oskar Homolka
NATHANIEL RICHARDS = Walter Huston (probably the most perfect casting-choice here)
DIABLO = Gilbert Roland
WIZARD (Bentley Wittman) = George Macready
and, of course….for the Voice of H.E.R.B.I.E. = Edward Everett Horton

A Selection of Movies Watched     

A+ = Adored Masterwork   A = Excellent   A- = Very Good   B+ = Good   B = Nice Try   B- = Just Scrapes By 
C = Significantly Flawed   D = Pretty Bad   E = Truly Dreadful: Looking Into the Void   F = Absolutely Vile: The Void



d: Orson Welles
CAST: Orson Welles; Joseph Cotten; Dorothy Comingore; Everett Sloane; Ruth Warrick
>  I am currently halfway through Barbara Leaming’s 1985 bio of Orson Welles (a recommended read) and just had to rewatch Kane for the umpteenth time; no point listing the film’s many merits…been done to death…and rightly so…it is dazzingly-constructed and highly entertaining; so I want to mention the two features which have always slightly irked me and kept it from my Movie Jukebox: #1 I don’t think it is especially well-acted …Orson always had the tendency to be hammy (most apparent when Kane ages…Orson’s most memorable performance is in The Third Man; his most impressive performance is in Chimes at Midnight) + #2 it is mentioned in passing ONCE that Kane’s first wife and their only child (a son) were killed in a car crash…surely an event as monumentally tragic as this in a loveless man’s life warrants an aftermath scene


Green For Danger

d: Sidney Gilliat
CAST: Alastair Sim; Trevor Howard; Sally Gray; Leo Genn; Rosamund John
>  like Margaret Rutherford, Alastair Sim was a character actor who managed to make the leap into major stardom primarily due to being so quirky…and a joy of British cinema for evermore; here, he is an Inspector from Scotland Yard, investigating a double murder in an English village during a time of WWII V-1 doodlebugs; while as a murder-mystery this is no Inspector Morse, as a comedy-mystery, it is one of the very best (beats Knives Out); the ending is a twisty punchline par excellence which lifts the whole show, but it is Alastair doing his bumbly schtick which is the highlight; if only the film title wasn’t such a loudly-trumpeted clue
Award-Worthy Performance
Alastair Sim

ZODIAC (2007)


d: David Fincher
CAST: Jake Gyllenhaal; Mark Ruffalo; Robert Downey Jr; Anthony Edwards; Chloe Sevigny
>  the Zodiac killings of 1969-1971 are to the USA as the Jack the Ripper killings of 1888 are to the UK…mysteries of slaughter that went unsolved, abruptly stopping but never actually going away; this nearly 3-hour police procedural shows the crimes, the investigation, the reporting and the obsession, making a strong plausible suggestion as to who the killer was; the story is about 3 men (a journalist, a homicide detective and a newspaper cartoonist who becomes the last man standing in the case) and how they do their very professional best but are tripped up by bureaucracy, the incompetence of others and just plain bad luck…and the personal price each pays when the killer remains unfound; the occasionally-drudgy overlength is balanced out by 3 terrific (and terrifically-cast) actors who manage to keep us with them all the way 

IT HAPPENED HERE (1965…maybe 1964)

It Happened Here 1965 poster

d: Kevin Brownlow; Andrew Mollo
CAST: Pauline Murray; Sebastian Shaw; Reginald Marsh
>  a counterfactual / alternative history story…what if the Nazis HAD successfully invaded Britain in 1940 after Dunkirk…what would an occupied England have been like?; eight years in the making by a pair of (initially) teenagers, this production went cap-in-hand for finance and assistance (even Stanley Kubrick kicked in with a few bucks and some film stock); quite impressive if not wholly engrossing (some odd structural & editing & shot set-up choices…and the dialogue is a little leaden at times), this doesn’t shy away from showing that Britain would have succumbed to the propaganda / terrorism / self-preservation instinct just like the German people did; some confronting scenes here (the sequence in the hospital is pure horror + the sight of a Jewish ghetto in London chills); give the two young filmmakers a round of applause


Starstruck movie poster

d: Gillian Armstrong
CAST: Jo Kennedy; Ross O’Donovan; Margo Lee; Pat Evison; John O’May; Ned Lander
>  an Australian musical-comedy that actually works (if you like post-punk electro-pop…and even if you don’t, the film’s sheer exuberance will get to you…unless you’re dead and don’t know it); the plot isn’t too far-removed from the old Hollywood show musicals of the 30’s: urban girl (living in a pub at the base of the Sydney Harbour Bridge) is determined to escape her humdrum existence through the music she loves…goes out as a youngster but comes back a star; while Jo is wonderful in an I-Don’t-Care-What-You-Think-Just-Look-At-Me-Shine performance, what is really up-&-centre is the film’s tone…a peculiar of-this-world-but-not-really persona which later appeared in other Aussie films such as Muriel’s Wedding and Priscilla, Queen of the Desert…odd to think that this was/is a feature of classic Australian Cinema…hardly what you’d call blokey 


Obsession %2528The Hidden Room%2529 poster

B+    SECOND VIEWING   UPGRADED   Original Grade: B 
d: Edward Dmytryk
CAST: Robert Newton; Phil Brown; Sally Gray; Naunton Wayne
>  Hitchcockian trickily-plotted psychological suspenser that isn’t up to the lofty standard of Strangers on a Train, but is certainly superior to Dial M for Murder; Robert is a psychiatrist who is sick ‘n’ tired of his wife screwing around, so he decides that this time, he’s going to knock the new boyfriend off…a cunning plan unfolds involving underground captivity, martinis, a spoodle named Monty and an acid bath…can Scotland Yard work out what’s going on before it all goes down the drain?; howlingly-implausible with unreal characters, this remains entertaining purely because it is so novel; made by Director Edward in England after he fled the USA & its HUAAC blacklist, this is a polite mystery that talks a lot about murder without actually having one…it begins & ends in a London gentlemen’s club…get me a sherry, Jeeves…good chap

DUNKIRK (1958)


d: Leslie Norman
CAST: John Mills; Richard Attenborough; Bernard Lee; Robert Urquhart; Sean Barrett
>  trumped by Christopher Nolan’s 2017 version (especially in SFX, narrative force and structure) of the infamous WWII disaster, this is still worth a watch, if only because the filmmakers are quite open about showing it to be a military cock-up of the highest order; taking a semi-documentary style (newsreel footage of the time, animated maps and subtitled dates & times are all incorporated), this uses the standard focus-on-a-small-number-of-individuals-caught-up-in-the-big-event approach to give us something specific to hang on to; the supposed-ordinariness of the British soldiers is overdone (they only become recognizably human when the panic on the beach sets in), and there are too many speeches about the immorality of war, but Richard gives a nice portrayal of a reluctant participant



d: Sidney J. Furie
CAST: Diana Ross; Billy Dee Williams; Richard Pryor; James Callahan; Sid Melton
>  Billie Holiday gets my vote as the Greatest Vocalist of the 20th Century (#2 is Bobby Bland, natch) and her life was short, troubled and successful…this draggy film (which really is just another The Glenn Miller Story lie, but as 1970’s bleak-chic) does the artist no good…like The Rose, they should have given the central character another name entirely and only hinted at who it was “based” on; a heavy rise & fall story, even the improvised scenes come across as cliched; having said all that, it was a pleasure to watch Diana Ross throw herself into the exhausting role and while she sings the Billie songs beautifully, she doesn’t sing them like Billie (who could?)
Award-Worthy Performance
Diana Ross

DAD’S ARMY (1971)

Dad%2527s Army SSposter

d: Norman Cohen
CAST: Arthur Lowe; John Le Mesurier; Clive Dunn; John Laurie; James Beck
>  film adaptation of the much beloved (in the 70’s…I beloved it too) British TV comedy series; not sure exactly what they were aiming for with this: the intended audience seems to be those who know nothing about the premise of the original show (trying to net the Americans?), which is dubious marketing, because surely those who turned out were all committed fans from Britain & its Commonwealth…so what we get is really just another run through of some early skits and set-ups from the first three seasons…a bit of a rip-off; Corporal Jones (the most popular character and the source of the well-known quotes…”Don’t panic Mr Mainwaring!” etc) is featured too much, and there’s a higher quotient of nudge-nudge-wink-wink humour which is annoying; an attempt to give it an Ealing Studios feel would’ve possibly freshened things up


Malta Story

d: Brian Desmond Hurst
CAST: Alec Guinness; Jack Hawkins; Anthony Steel; Muriel Pavlow; Flora Robson
>  a WWII movie that isn’t overly engrossing or even especially interesting; supposedly about the 1942 siege of Malta (British tries to hang onto the island, ready for an Allied invasion of Italy + the Germans try to cut off the naval and air supply lines by bombing), this is an odd gathering of sideline stories: Alec (in one of his fubsy roles as a trainspotting archaeologist who is now a photo-taking Spitfire pilot) falls madly in love with local girl Muriel + Maltese mama Flora tries to feed her family whilst finding out that her beloved eldest son is a spy destined to be executed + Commanding Officer Jack frets over the departure of his best friend and trying to find the enemy convoy; lots of bombs going off and planes darting about but zero person-vs-person action means that the soapy stuff is front & centre; Sir Alec called this his worst film…I take his point



d: Richard Loncraine
CAST: Imelda Staunton; Celia Imrie; Timothy Spall; Joanna Lumley; David Hayman
>  this is another one of those British feelgood movies that pour out annually ever since Four Weddings and a Funeral was a worldwide smash; you all know the formula by now, surely: middle-class rom-com with eccentric-lite types + a sprinkling of naughty words + a bit of booze ‘n’ drugs + someone beloved dies + two people who initially clash come together and discover a mutual attraction after a few tribulations + they nearly don’t make it…but they finally do = warm glow & forgotten within 10 minutes of viewing; Imelda isn’t entirely up to snuff (not very funny), Joanna is completely wasted and the senior-citizen dancing scenes are suspiciously brief, fast-edited and filmed from quite a distance (Chic’s “Le Freak” turns up though which is nice); Timothy is his usual good and Celia is a bit of a hoot…but it remains a nothing despite them



d: Robert Baker
CAST: Maxwell Reed; Dinah Sheridan; Patric Doonan; Kynaston Reeves; Eric Pohlmann
>  blinded-in-an-accident engineer is dropped off by taxi to the wrong address…where he stumbles (literally) across a dead body, is attacked by gangsters and wakes up in hospital with a lump on his head and a story that nobody believes (the body isn’t there any more, you see)…after a medical-miracle operation, he regains his sight and is determined to prove his story true; one of the British “quota quickies”, this is a germ of a good idea which has deformed into a poorly-scripted (esp. the dialogue), unimaginatively-shot and stiffly-acted 78 minute film which is more drag than zip; while Maxwell is an unconvincing blind man, he is even more unconvincing as a tough, wisecracking action hero + Dinah (she of Genevieve glory) is one of those ghastly Englishwomen who frets politely and regularly says “do be careful”  

Nothing of note…I’ve been very slack…hey, it’s my blog…

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