Saturday, May 26, 2012

Spirit Lake, Idaho Theater Memories Recalled

It started at the Spirit Lake, Idaho, movie theater in 1947 where the Zarkins and Barers would go while on summer vacation at Sedelmeyers Resort. So I have been carrying around a snapshot in my head of a movie scene where Victor Moore emerges from  underground in a manhole. Those Spirit Lake days were an impressionable time for a lad starting a lifetime as a movie maniac. 
By dumb luck I was reunited with the scene when last night I watched the 1947 Allied Artist movie ‘It Happened on Fifth Avenue” with Gale Storm, Charles Ruggles, Victor Moore and Dan Defore.  Briefly, it’s a sentimental Christmas yarn about a returning GI coping with the housing shortage and a self-absorbed captain of industry and his daughter (Storm) who falls in love with the GI played by Defore.  With high production values and a good script, it is quite enjoyable.
Spirit Lake’s theater was small and with primitive folding chairs or some other unusual seating arrangements.   The theater also featured “Luck of the Irish” with Tyrone Power which we also saw.  I have fond Spirit Lake memories.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Woman in Black: Unusual Choice for Radcliffe

Daniel Radcliffe makes an agreeable hero in the Gothic ghost horror movie “The Woman in Black” from the Hammer Studios which gained fame in the 60s and 70s with Gothic horror stars Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. 
Children are the victims in this British film and the lad who plays his son in the movie is in real life his God son.  Problem is he’s as blond as Mamie Van Doren in “Sex Kittens Go to College.”  Radclliffe with the soulful eyes makes this film somewhat enjoyable.  Also it reintroduces the Gothic horror genre to an audience reared on teen slasher horror.  I kind of liked it.  Interesting that 21-year-old Radlcliffe was cast in a mature role after being the Harry Potter boy hero for so many years.  Given the fact that some of the Glee high schoolers are old enough to have kids in high school you would expect Radcliffe to be hanging out at the drive in with the other “kids” in post Potter movie roles.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Lewis Book Helps Explain Current Market Scandal

What a timely read:  The best seller by Michael Lewis, “The Big Short:  Inside the Doomsday Machine,” is required reading to understand the current scandal with the missing $2 billion at J. P. Morgan Investment Bank.  Lewis tells the story of hedge fund managers in the early 2000s who went to Securities and Exchange Commission officials with the impending collapse of the lousy bad credit mortgage bond market.  They laid out  the story for the SEC.  The SEC “doesn't dare or bother to” investigate and “the smart people who understood what was or might be happening were paralyzed by hope and fear.”  Crooks and stupid people were running the markets and the rating services, S&P and Moodys, were afraid of losing business by asking the right questions.  The AAA bond rating meant nothing.  We know how that turned out.  The book will put you on edge as the current mess unfolds.  So who else has $2 billion unaccounted for?

Friday, May 11, 2012

“Best Hotel,” Republic Pictures and Monogram’s Judy Garland

A lot of gray heads could be seen at the matinee at the Edina Theater for the British/Indian/Dubai film, “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”.  Some of our favorite actors from PBS/BBC , Maggie Smith and Judi Dentsch, star in this charming story that takes British seniors on a journey to India. 

Dev Patel, who was featured in "Slumdog Millionaire", plays the young hotel owner.   So few films focus on seniors that this was like finding an oasis in the Sahara.  The character played by Maggie Smith voices inspirational words to live by related to dealing with disappointment, moving on and being open to change.  Yes, you can teach an old dog new tricks.

Colin Covert in the Tribune panned the movie but Chris Hewitt in the Pioneer Press gave it three stars.  Wisely, it was promoted on PBS where it is most likely to find an audience. Elsewhere . . .

Gale Storm, best known for the inane 50s sitcom “My Little Margie”, was a talented singer and comedienne and was Monogram Pictures' Judy Garland in the ‘40s.  For her story, read “I ain’t down yet: autobiography of Gale Storm”.  Details are lacking about working at Monogram and Allied Artists except for her dislike of Roy Del Ruth but she made her best best movie with him, “It Happened on 5th Avenue” .   Some of her other Monogram screen credits include “Swing Parade of 1946” with Phil Regan, “Let’s Go Collegiate” with Frankie Darro and “Revenge of the Zombies” with John Carradine which is marvelously bad.  (Veda Ann Borg steals the movie as the walking dead).

Storm also made a horse opera at Republic Pictures which is the focus of a scholarly book,  “Republic Studios:  Between Poverty Row and the Majors” by Richard M. Hurst.  Prominent Republic historian Jack Mathis, who is decreased, had an extensive film collection extensive which includes “Captain America” serial that’s not available for purchase.  Mathis' collection is at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.  Dick Purcell stared in Captain America and died of heart attack shortly thereafter doing his own stunts.  Dick is remembered as the handsome lead in “King of the Zombies” at Monogram.  Hopefully some day the Captain America serials will be available on DVD.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Outer Space Travel Can Be Hazardous

Frightening similar to the killing in Sanford, Fla., in February of an African American teenager is the plot of the 1951 independent film, “The Man from Planet X”.  Did director Edgar Ulmer plan a parable on race relations in 1951?  Who knows but this gem from United Artists is quite provocative with the earthlings taking the attitude, “If it doesn’t look like me, destroy it.”  One of the characters in the film observes:  Too bad we never got to know him.  He may have been a nice person.  That pretty much sums it up. 

 So before he became famous film director Peer Bogdanovich cobbled together a Soviet sci-fi space adventure with Mamie VanDoren and similar babes in clam shell bras and skin tight pants on a California beach.  The result is the amusingly bad 1969 movie “Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women”.  Dubbed dialogue allows for some amusing banter amongst the Soviet cosmonauts visiting a planet inhabited by the voluptuous ladies.  “If you don’t like it here why don’t you get on a bus and go home?  I would if I could find one,” is the response.

In Allied Artists’ campy 1958 hit “Queen of Outer Space” the stateside astronauts are smitten by the beautiful ladies who are sole inhabitants of Venus.   Zsa Zsa Gabor plays a “scientist” who is smartly attired.  In fact Venus ladies are ready to party in revealing cocktail dresses except for the evil “queen” who is horribly disfigured.  Costuming must have been inspired by Vegas musical reviews.   The male lead is Eric Fleming from “Rawhide” and he catches the Zsa Zsa roving eye.  Painfully atrocious acting.  Edward Bernds, a mainstay of cheesy movies, directed this mess which was probably filmed at the Allied Artists sound stage.