Friday, December 27, 2013

"American Hustle" Features Sleazy guys, Floozies

Big screen offerings have been disappointing of late, but this one has got something for everyone.  Howard Hughes, if you are reading this, Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence are your kind of women.  There’s more hooch kookie in AH than I can remember in “Underwater” or “The French Line.”
I worry that Robert DeNiro, in a cameo scene, runs the risk of being typecast as a gangster, heaven forbid.  It doesn’t bode well for any future romcoms with DeNiro and Katherin Hegl or Tina Fey.
I also worry that gents of Italian origin from New Jersey by inference are viewed with suspicion in this 2:20 minute look at the seamier side of politics and business American style.  The story comes alive when the Jeremy Renner character appears onscreen.  Christian Bale mumbles and whispers so I need to await the DVD with closed captions for his lines.  daz

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

"Secret Partners" Book Reveals 1920s Corruption

The lawless anarchy that disrupted the lives of many St. Paul residents in the Roaring Twenties did not occur in a vacuum, but rather was aided and abetted by corrupt business owners, police officers, politicians and an inept FBI headed by J. Edgar Hoover.  
The speakeasy era fascination never fades and now is being revived  by Timothy Mahoney’s excellent book, “Secret Partners: Big Tom Brown and the Barker Gang.” Most recently a cable TV move, “Bonnie and Clyde,” capitalized on the public interest in Depression era gangsters.
Unlike the glamorous movie characters, the real life gangsters were monsters and with no assurance of police protection for law abiding residents. that led to lives of desperation here.
Tom Brown, the discredited officer and police chief, is just one actor in this sordid bit of history that also includes the Hamm and Bremer families, the prominent St. Paul brewers, the county attorney and the police commissioner.
Elsewhere on my blog I wrote about “Bloody Mama” wherein film director/producer Roger Corman portrays Ma Kate Barker as a “blood thirsty gangster” when in reality the FBI killed an “old woman who had not committed a crime,” Mahoney writes.
There are many characters in the St. Paul Twenties crime spree and often it gets confusing,  but it’s worth the effort.  If you enjoy true crime stories, this book is for you.  
Many landmarks of the era exist today in the Twin Cities and the political payoffs of the Twenties explain why gangsters migrated to St. Paul.  It wasn’t for the weather.  daz

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Gangster Lovers Get Four Hour Cable Movie

The big thrill in the four-hour cable TV movie “Bonnie and Clyde” is the epilogue which features newsreel footage of the funeral for the notorious Depression era pair (40,000 attended Clyde Barrow’s and 50,000 Bonnie Parker’s).  Also shown is the newsreel is the bullet riddled car where the couple met their violent demise.
The locales and costumes are noteworthy and Holliday Grainger and Emile Hersch are believable in the leads, but it’s not worth four hours (50 minutes of commercials).  We also learned that the two had visions; for Clyde it was a white house and for Bonnie it was an acting or dancing career.  Poor girl was born too early.  She could have been swingin’ and swayin’ with Jack Osbourne on DWTS 80 years later.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Minnesota Monster Trucks Event Draws Crowd

Forget the Ordway, Guthrie and Minnesota Orchestra, real Minnesotans love their Monster Truck Pulls and that was the happening event last night at the Dome.  We were on the train from Bloomington with an enthusiastic crowd of truckers — moms, pops and the kids all with their sound deafening ear muffs in hand.
Monster Truck Pulls reduce Idaho’s Snake River Stampede to sedateness of a church choir picnic.  I don’t get it but then I’m from Idaho, a refined state of tranquillity compared to roar of those monster engines.  Keep on truckin’.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Corman's Shlock Movie Legacy Chronicled in Book

Although several directors churned out lurid, cheap drive in movies in the 50s and 60s no one is more acclaimed in this genre than Roger Corman who is remembered in the new biography “Crab Monsters, Teenage Cavemen and Candy Stripe Nurses ” by Chris Nashawaty.

The advertising posters are far more interesting than many of the actual movies. This is illustrated in the 1957 Corman epic “Attack of the Crab Monsters,” wherein angry, expensive seafood make amends for the nuclear holocaust by murdering scientists stranded on an island.  One of the scientists is Russell Johnson who must have benefited from the tropical life since he recycled the role in “Gilligan’s Island” as the professor.  The lovely Pamela Duncan provides romantic interest for the professor in this Allied Artists film.

In the next decade the posters became more suggestive.  See page 98 for “Angels Hard as They Come” (“big men with throbbing machines and the girls who take them on.”)  The interview with Scott Glenn, leading man in this biker thriller, is worth a read.  On the next page, I enjoyed comments by Bruce Dern on “Bloody Mama,” possibly Corman’s best movie for American International Pictures.  Shelley Winters headlines this 1920s gangster movie that introduced Robert DeNiro, a Winters’ protege.  “Mama” has everything you want in a Corman movie, including gang rape, incest, nudity and gratuitous violence.

Nashawaty speculates that Corman had a vision that resonated with shlock movie fans.  The last half of the book is less interesting because the movies had lost much of their cheap vulgarity.  The book lacks an index and is not organized by chapters so you have to thumb through it to find what you want.