From Michael’s Origin: Don’t get duped by evil trolls!!!
Pre-Code Hollywood movies like LADY KILLER are always fun to watch. They’re filled with risqué business, sly innuendos, and are much more adult in content than post-1934 films. This little gem features James Cagney in one of his patented tough guy roles as Dan Quigley. Dan’s a brash, cocky movie usher who gets fired for insulting his patrons. While indulging in rolling some dice at a hotel lobby, he sees Myra (Mae Clarke) drop her purse as she’s leaving. Ladies man Dan follows her to her apartment with it, hoping for some afternoon delight.
Myra’s grateful, and offers him a drink (Her: “Chaser?” Him: “Always have been!”). Myra’s “brother-in-law” Duke (Douglass Dumbrille) emerges from the next room, and invites Dan to play a little poker. Losing all his dough, Dan leaves the apartment. He comes across a gentleman holding another purse in the hallway looking for Myra. Realizing he’s been set up, he storms back in and demands his money back. Yet another sucker comes in with a purse, and Dan muscles his way in on the con. Soon he’s leading the gang, and they make enough to open their own speakeasy, the Seven-Eleven Club. The gang branches out into burglary, targeting a rich widow. Dan fakes a car accident, weaseling his way into her home to get a layout of the joint. Things go awry when a maid is “brutally slugged” and dies. One of the gang squeals and gets iced by his pals just as the cops raid the Seven-Eleven. The gang takes it on the lam, with Dan and Myra ending up in LA. The coppers pick him up at the train station for questioning, and hold him on bail. He calls Myra at their pre-arranged hotel room to post bond, but the devious dame has hooked up with Duke scramed to Mexico, leaving Dan high and dry. Dan’s released when “New York can’t get the goods” on him, with a warning to find employment in 48 hours or get out of town. At a pool hall, Dan’s discovered by a Hollywood producer looking for new faces, and begins working as an extra in a prison picture.
LADY KILLER now shifts gears to give us a backstage look at Hollywood. Cagney does bits as a con and an Indian chief (!) as the tone turns from gangster pic to comedy. He meets up with leading lady Lois Underwood (Margret Lindsey) and becomes a star in his own right. Seems the studio’s looking for the “rough and ready” type, and Dan writes bogus fan letters extolling his popularity! Now a star (complete with pencil-thin moustache), Dan and Lois start dating. She facetiously tells him she wants “a crate of monkeys, Tyrolean yodelers, and an elephant” for her birthday party, and wise guy Dan obliges in a hysterical scene.
Dan’s still the same street kid he’s always been, as we see where he makes a critic literally eat his words (an actor’s dream!). Dan brings Lois to his apartment, only to find Myra waiting in his bed! Lois storms out. In a scene that could only happen in a Pre-Code movie, he drags Myra out by her hair and kicks her ass out the door! It’s not the first time Cagney brutalized Clarke on screen. Film fans all remember the classic grapefruit scene in PUBLIC ENEMY.
Next day, we find the old gang back in town (including Myra), wanting Dan’s Hollywood contacts to set up more robberies. Dan gives then ten grand to keep away from him and leave Hollywood, but Duke and his boys take a guided tour of star’s homes to do their own dirty work. Lois’s house gets robbed and a cop is killed during the escape. Dan busts in on their hideout, gun in hand, and demands the loot to return to Lois. The cops then arrive and arrest him, allowing the gang to flee. They bail him out, and Myra is waiting for him in a car. She confesses to Dan he’s being set up by his old pals who plan to bump him off on the highway. But Dan’s no dummy. He’s alerted the coppers, and they’re in pursuit. A wild car chase with tommy-guns blazing sets up the final shootout. Dan is exonerated, and he and Lois fly to Yuma for their wedding.
LADY KILLER is fast paced fun, loaded with snappy dialogue. One of the gang asks Dan where he’d like them to go, and he replies with a smile, “Need I say?” Offering one of them some fruit, Dan slyly says, “You like fruit. That I know.” In one scene, he sneakily kisses Myra on the breast (through her dress). The film’s director Roy Del Ruth got his start as a Mack Sennett gag writer. The veteran also worked with Cagney in BLONDE CRAZY, TAXI, and BLESSED EVENT. Other films include THE BABE RUTH STORY, the noir RED LIGHT, and horror entries PHANTOM OF THE RUE MORGUE and THE ALLIGATOR PEOPLE. Del Ruth was by no means a top-flight director, but he did some interesting films and his career deserves a second look.
LADY KILLER abounds with familiar faces, Besides Dumbrille (who’s good as Duke), the gang members are Raymond Hatton, Leslie Fenton, and Russell Hopton. Others in various roles are Henry O’Neill, Luis Alberni, Herman Bing, George Chandler, Edwin Maxwell, Dewey Robinson, Sam McDaniel, and Dennis O’Keefe. While not a classic, LADY KILLER is a great example of Pre-Code filmmaking, with an energetic performance by Cagney. Pre-Code fans, gangster buffs, and movie manques looking for a peek at the soundstages of 30s Hollywood will all enjoy this well made time capsule.
VANISHING POINT is one of the best films of the 1970s. Much more than just an extended car chase, the movie explores the eternal struggle between the individual and the system. Though a product of its time, it still resonates as an exploration of the rejection people have for the establishment and the desire for liberty.
The film starts at the end, as we see the police setting up bulldozers to block the road. News media are arriving, people are gathering in the streets, and helicopters fly overhead. A white Dodge Challenger, driven by a man only known as Kowalski (Barry Newman), is heading straight for the dozers at full speed. He bangs a U-turn, only to have three cop cars coming at him in the other direction. After smashing through a barbed wire fence to avoid the cops, he stops for a moment near some junked cars, then turns back on the road and heads toward the bulldozers….
The movie then switches gears to two days previous. Kowalski drops off a car in Denver and decides to immediately take another one to San Francisco. He stops at a biker bar to cop some speed from his dealer. Telling the dealer he’s going to make it to Frisco by tomorrow at 3:00pm, they make a bet that Kowalski won’t make it. He cruises down the open road at breakneck speed, when two motorcycle cops tell him to pull over. Kowalski runs then both off the road and the chase is on. Blind DJ Super Soul (Cleavon Little of BLAZING SADDLES) acts as his eyes and ears, guiding him past the police by monitoring their radio frequency. When some local yokels crash Super Soul’s station, beating up the DJ and his engineer (John Amos), Kowalski discovers he’s truly on his own, as police in three states try to hunt him down.
We learn Kowalski’s background through a series of flashbacks. He’s a Vietnam veteran (and Medal of Honor winner) who became a cop. Discharged form the force on trumped up charges, he raced motocross and stock cars. His girlfriend (Victoria Medlin) died in a surfing accident, and Kowalski dropped out of society altogether, trying to outrun life itself by swallowing copious amounts of speed and delivering cars at a fast pace. He’s always on the move, restless, dissatisfied with the world as he knows it. Kowalski represents the last of the rugged individualists, a free spirit who’s decided to create his own world unencumbered by the restraints of establishment standards.
There are short vignettes through the picture highlighting Kowalski’s brief encounters with other humans. While driving through the desert to elude the cops, he gets a flat tire. A rattlesnake threatens him, but an old man (veteran actor Dean Jagger) appears and captures the snake, putting it in his basket with others. He’s also a societal dropout, trading the snakes for coffee and beans. The old timer helps Kowalski hide from police helicopters under some tumbleweeds, then takes him to some hippie “Jesus freaks” (led by character actor Severn Darden) to get some gas. The old man has what Kowalski longs for…total freedom from the world at large. But Kowalski always has to keep moving, unwilling to put roots down in one place.
A biker named Angel (Timothy Scott) passes him on the highway, giving him the thumbs up. Kowalski is now a media sensation, thanks to Super Soul and the public’s hunger for sensationalism. Angel invites Kowalski to his shack and gives him more speed, when they hear Super Soul broadcasting the only way out is through Sonora. But the DJ’s voice sounds “mechanical, square” according to Angel’s completely nude (and uninhibited) girlfriend (Gilda Texter). Angel heads down the highway to check. Sure enough, there’s a roadblock waiting for Kowalski, so Angel devises a way for the Challenger to get through. Kowalski continues to the California border, as we see scenes of the ultra-efficient California Highway Patrol machine determined to stop him. The film circles back to the beginning now, as Kowalski heads towards the bulldozers. Putting the pedal to the metal, he rams head-on into them, going out his own way in a final, defiant blaze of glory.
Director Richard C. Sarafian made some good movies (this one, MAN IN THE WILDERNESS, THE MAN WHO LOVED CAT DANCING) and some clunkers (SUNBURN, STREET JUSTICE, SOLAR CRISIS). VANISHING POINT is his best, from a script by Guillermo Cain. The beautiful Western scenery was shot by cinematographer John A. Alonzo, who cut his teeth on documentaries, then went on to lens Roger Corman’s BLOODY MAMA, HAROLD AND MAUDE, LADY SINGS THE BLUES, CHINATOWN (Osacr nominated), FAREWELL MY LOVELY, and SCARFACE. Editor Stefan Arnsten got his start with Hugo Haas (HIT AND RUN), then did mostly television; his film credits include HARPER and KID BLUE.
The soundtrack features Delaney & Bonnie and Friends (who also appear as the Jesus freak’s hippie band), Mountain (doing their classic “Mississippi Queen”), Big Mama Thornton, Jerry Reed, Kim Carnes, and the Doug Dillard Expedition. VANSHING POINT was an influential film, inspiring Quentin Tarantino’s DEATH PROOF. The movie’s iconic ending was paid tribute in the series finale of SONS OF ANARCHY. I first saw it at the drive-in, and wanted a Dodge Challenger bad (I still do)! And I still want that elusive freedom sought by Kowalski, still elusive to many in this uptighter than ever world.
This is a simple reminder that tomorrow morning I will be conducting my bimonthly Meet and Greet. These are usually very popular so be sure to get up early and get your blog near the top of this comment thread!
Also, I will be reblogging posts starting at 8:30 am est. All you have to do is leave your link in the comments of that post. Please do not leave posts today!
And lastly, I will also provide a link for everyone to connect across social media platforms. This is a great way to drive your page awareness even deeper. If you don’t have social media pages for your blog you are truly missing the boat.
If you could please reblog this post and help spread the word!!
I hope everyone is having a great Thursday!
I don’t normally review new films. I usually leave that to more established bloggers, preferring to stick with my little “1930s to 1970s” niche. But I went to see BLACK MASS tonight, and feel the need to take a crack at it. I’m a Massachusetts guy, familiar with the saga of James “Whitey” Bulger. I followed the press coverage of Whitey’s criminal career through the Boston Herald’s great columnist Howie Carr, read multiple books on the subject, and have known a few “acquaintances” who claimed loose associations to some of the players. I’ve been eagerly awaiting BLACK MASS, and I was not disappointed.
The film is told through Bulger’s Winter Hill Gang members ratting out their boss to the FBI. Everybody drops dimes on each other in BLACK MASS, proving there is no honor among thieves. We follow the career arcs of mob boss Whitey and FBI agent John Connelly, who use each other to get what they want. For Connelly, it’s getting information to take down the Mafia and move up the agency ladder. For Bulger, it’s an “alliance” to get carte blanche for his own illegal activities. But Connelly is quickly seduced by his friendship with the notorious Whitey, and becomes involved way over his head. Both men prove the old adage, “Absolute power corrupts absolutely”, as Connelly sinks deeper and deeper into the quagmire he’s created. Bulger, his Mafia rivals vanquished, becomes more bold in his crimes, believing he’s untouchable thanks to his “alliance” with Connelly.
Johnny Depp gives a chilling performance as the psychopath Whitey Bulger, a man with no remorse for his heinous deeds. Depp plays Whitey as a stone-cold killer who plays everything close to the vest. The most frightening scene takes place in Connelly’s home, when the agent’s wife refuses to come join her husband and his new associates, claiming illness. Whitey goes to her bedroom asks about her health, touching her forehead and feeling for swollen glands, his murderous hands around her throat. It’s quietly creepy, and Depp shows barely restrained anger. You expect him to burst into violence at any time during the course of the film, but he does so only occasionally. I’m sure we’ll be hearing Depp’s name called come Oscar season, he’s that good in a role that would’ve been played over the top in a lesser actor’s hands.
Joel Edgerton is equally effective as Connelly, whose plan to cultivate Whitey as an informer resulted in his undoing. It’s obvious Connelly admires Whitey, and his transformation from ambitious FBI agent to mobster wanna-be to disgraced felon is also worthy of Oscar buzz. We can’t leave out Benedict Cumberbatch as Whitey’s brother, State Senator Billy Bulger, who knows more about his gangster brother than he lets on. Like Whitey, politician Billy plays things close to the vest, never willing to reveal the whole truth. This was true in real life as well, as Billy was never implicated in anything involving his brother’s nefarious activities (though he did lose his job as president of UMass when it was discovered he was in contact with the fugitive Whitey). The rest of the cast shines under Scott Cooper’s superb direction, especially Kevin Bacon, Julianne Nicholson, Rory Cochrane, Dakota Johnson, and David Harbour. BLACK MASS is one of the few films I’ve seen where they actually get the Boston accents right. Kudos on that! (The only nitpick would be how everybody always finds a parking space in Boston so easily. Trust me, that NEVER fucking happens!!)
BLACK MASS is a great gangster movie, and will not disappoint fans of the genre. The acting, the direction, the accents, even the look of 70s/80s Boston are on point. I thought it was a great film, with a terrific performance by Johnny Depp as Whitey Bulger. I highly recommend it.
Foxy Brown is one bad-ass chick, and FOXY BROWN is one bad-ass movie! Action queen Pam Grier plays Foxy, who’s out to get the bad guys that killed her boyfriend Mike (Terry Carter), an undercover narc. Mike has had plastic surgery to disguise himself from the mob, but Foxy’s weasely brother Linc (Antonio Fargas, Huggy Bear of TV’s STARSKY & HUTCH) owes the villians twenty grand for a coke deal, so he drops a dime on Mike. The mob guns Mike down and Foxy is out for revenge!
The gang is run by Miss Katherine and her man, Steve Elias. Foxy, as ‘Misty Cotton’, infiltrates their set-up. The dastardly duo run a ‘modeling agency’ as a front, using hookers to ‘persuade’ judges, politicians, and other authorities for protection for their dope racket. Foxy goes on an assignment with another hooker named Claudia (Juanita Brown) to seduce a judge, but the pair end up humiliating him instead! Foxy and Claudia end up getting in cinema’s first lesbian barroom brawl (that I know of, anyway) and captured by the bad guys. Foxy is then doped up and sent to ‘The Ranch’, run by a couple of horndog redneck drug dealers, who rape and torture her. She escapes of course, being bad-ass and all, then finds out Elias and his crew have killed Linc and his coked out girlfriend. Foxy allies herself with the “Anti-Slavery Committee”, a group of righteous brothers battling dope pushers, and they take down Miss Katherine and her gang in a bloody, action packed climax.
This was Grier’s fourth film with writer/director Jack Hill. The two pioneered the “women-in-prison” genre with THE BIG DOLL HOUSE and THE BIG BIRD CAGE, then scored big with the blaxploitationer COFFY. FOXY BROWN firmly established Grier as the top female action star, and she’s dynamite as always. Miss Katherine is played by Kathryn Loder, who was also a villainess in THE BIG DOLL HOUSE. Peter Brown (Elias) is mainly known for TV Westerns (THE LAWMAN and LAREDO), and his appearances on soap operas. The great Sid Haig has a cameo as a dope smuggling pilot, and ex-wrestler H.B. Haggerty is a hoot as one of the rednecks. Motown producer/arranger/songwriter Willie Hutch provides the funky soundtrack.
FOXY BROWN is loaded with 70s slang, outrageous fashions, and plenty of sex and violence. Like any good exploitation flick, there’s lots of gratuitous nudity, too. Blaxploitation fans won’t be disappointed, because FOXY BROWN is one of the genre’s best. Like the poster says, “Don’t mess aroun’ with…FOXY BROWN!”
Other righteous That’s Blaxploitaion entries:
I have mixed feelings about WHERE DANGER LIVES. On the plus side, it features Robert Mitchum in a solid role as a young doctor trapped in beautiful Faith Domergue’s web. John Farrow’s direction is tight, the script by Charles Bennett is full of twists and turns, and Nicholas Musuraca turns in another atmospheric job as cinematographer. But there are two major flaws that make this film noir fall just short of classic status.
Dr. Jeff Cameron (Mitchum) is about to leave work for a date with his fiancée, nurse Julie (Maureen O’Sullivan, wife of director Farrow and mother of actress Mia) when an emergency arrives. A young woman (Domergue) has attempted suicide. Jeff saves her life, but the woman, calling herself ‘Margo’, is still despondent, stating she “has nothing to live for”. The next day, Jeff gets a telegram asking him to meet ‘Margo’ at a certain address. The address turns out to be a mansion, and the woman explains her full name is Margaret Lannington, giving Jeff a vague story about being “lonely” since her mother died, and living under the thumb of her rich father (Claude Rains).
Jeff blows off faithful Julie and begins dating Margo, falling madly in love with her in the process. Margo tells Jeff her father is sending her off to Nassau to get away from him. Jeff gets drunk and decides to confront dad at the mansion. Jeff is shocked when he finds out Mr. Lannington isn’t Margo’s father, but her husband! Dejected and disillusioned, Jeff leaves, but returns when he hears a scream from the house. Margo’s ear is bleeding, claiming hubby ripped her earring out, and Jeff gets into a fight with Lannington. The older man hits Jeff with a poker, but Jeff knocks him out. Woozy from the blow to the head, Jeff goes to the kitchen to get water for Lannington. When he comes back, Margo claims her husband is dead, and the pair take it on the lam.
Jeff’s suffering from a concussion, and struggles to remain conscious. Jeff lets Margo take the lead, and she slowly begins to unravel. The duo head to Mexico, encountering trouble at every stop. Jeff finally finds out the truth about Margo (she suffers from mental illness), and learns through a radio broadcast that Mr. Lannington was smothered to death by a pillow. Margo gets her comeuppance in the end…and then there’s a sappy ending with Jeff getting treated for his concussion in the hospital, faithful Julie waiting patiently by his door.
This ending just doesn’t feel right to me. It seems like it was tacked on for the sake of a happy denoument, and just doesn’t fit the dark tone of the film. Though Jeff is innocent of murder, he isn’t completely blameless in the whole matter. It was Jeff who initiated the whole sordid affair with Margo, kicking Julie to the curb along the way. Julie’s gotta be some kind of doormat to take him back after all he did to her. Then there’s Faith Domergue. One of Howard Hughes’s pet projects, Faith is a desirable woman for sure, yet leaves much to be desired as an actress. She comes off wooden, unable to project the emotions necessary as Margo, and though she tries her best, it hurts the movie as a whole. Most of WHERE DANGER LIVES is good, except those two little things….the ending and the costar. Mitchum fans will still want to see it. Too bad RKO couldn’t get Jane Greer (Out of the Past) to reunite with Mitchum on this one. I guess you’ll have to judge for yourselves, but as for me, WHERE DANGER LIVES is a minor effort in the noir canon.