Finally Jean Pierre Melville’s 1958 film Two Men In Manhattan is coming to the USA. It was never released here, I’ve never seen it and I think I’ve seen all of his other films, except an early short 24 Hours in The Life Of A Clown, so I’m looking forward to this one. Melville stars in this film, the only time he put himself in a leading role, another reason to check this out.
He acted in a few other films , most notably he played the novelist interviewed by Jean Seberg at the airport, a great character. I recently watched La Silence de la mer, an interesting early film that I enjoyed, a story of German occupation of a French village. The fatherand daughter refuse to speak to the German officer bivouacked with them even though he is obviously a refined, sensitive person. Not a compelling story for the screen you might say? Maybe in today’s marketplace but it is a very engaging film. All of Melville’s work has a lot of deep thought behind it, nothing is as simple as it may seem on the surface, the interior lives of his characters comes bursting through their polished exteriors at unexpected times. For example when the police marksman in Le Circle Rouge (Yves Montand) suddenly takes his rifle off the tripod and shoots the target freehand or when he insults his former colleague as he lays dying, or when Gian Maria Volonte shoots the two thugs that have the drop on Alain Delon. Melville’s Cinema is dark and deep and worthy of a major retrospective and exhaustive study. Like an abandoned mine, still full of treasures for the curious explorer.
P.S. I just ordered the Blu Ray so I’ll review it soon.
As a lot of you have heard Deanna Durbin has left this plane of existence. I’ve been reading several of her obits and they all put down Christmas Holiday. A great film she made with the brilliant director Robert Siodmak. In the film she plays a prostitute and Gene Kelly a dissolute killer that she falls in love with. I think this was too much for the audiences and the critics of that era. But why do contemporary journalists repeat this wrong headed opinion? Because the movie didn’t make a lot of money when it first came out? The same could be said of Charles Laughton’s Night Of The Hunter, which is now recognized as one of the greatest films of all time. Maybe critics should re-evaluate Christmas Holiday and give Deanna and Siodmak their due. Here is a link to my piece on Christmas Holiday.
Here’s a quick follow up to my posting about The Chase, I just remembered another connection to an infamous serial killer! Peter Lorre’s daughter Catherine was driving along one night back in 1977 when she was pulled over by who she thought were the police, it turns out it was Angelo Buono and Kenneth Bianchi better known as The Hillside Stranglers. When the killers discovered who they had pulled over and who her famous father was, they let her go, afraid a famous victim would put too much heat on the case. Supposedly Angelo and Kenneth saw this picture in Catherine’s purse and recognized her father.
The Picture That Saved Catherine’s Life
Hey fans of Film Forno I’m back after some technical difficulties. Thanks for standing by. I have since subscribed to Hulu Plus. They have a big selection of films and TV shows, including a lot of the Criterion collection.
Murder by Angel’s Flight!
But the film I’m writing about is not one of those.The Indestructible Man was a staple of WPIX’s Chiller Theater back in the 60’s. It is probably the film that made me fall in love with Los Angeles and want to move there. It features some of the coolest LA locations, Angel’s Flight, streets of downtown LA, the Bradbury building, where a murder is committed. Just a plethora of wonderful settings for this low budget Horrorfest. Lon Chaney, Jr. plays the Butcher, a career criminal who is executed then revived by a Mad Scientist and wants revenge. I mean you couldn’t ask for a better plot to please a 10 year old. Check this one out, it’s delicious even if it’s bad for you like hot dogs and cotton candy.
Here it is, on Youtube no less, the doc I saw at the Rock and Roll Film Festival a couple years back,Nancy And Lee. A glimpse into the life of Nancy Sinatra and her musical guru, Lee Hazelwood, as they put on a show in Vegas with Billy Strange as their conductor. Strange supplied the guitar for Bang, Bang, You Shot Me Down and Theses Boots Are Made For Walkling. He also played on the duet between Nancy and her old man, Francis Something Stupid. Hazelwood wrote Boots and a bunch of other hits, many with guitar man Duane Eddy. He was a Producer’s Producer. But here he’s just part of the act. This is a great peek into American culture and backstage at a big Vegas show circa 1972. A follow up to their album of the same name from 1968. Check it out, it’s pretty cool. Thanks to Ken Adamson for turning me onto this Youtube find. We were at the Rock Film Fest together and saw this film projected at the CineFamily. Tres Groovy!
Here is a real blast from the past, some enterprising soul has uploaded a broadcast of Chiller Theater from the 70’s, I grew up watching this show on WPIX Channel 11 in NYC. This is complete with commercials ! Talk about Time Tripping, And the movie is none other than The Crawling Eye! Starring that fugitive from F Troop, Forrest Tucker, The animated title sequence, featuring long arrows entering the frame brought to mind rumors of Forrest’s physical attributes. Anyway in honor of BLOBFEST, check out The Crawling Eye (originally titled The Trollenberg Terror).
There was a great article in the New York Times this weekend about restoring Penn Staion Manhattan to it’s former glory. The original was razed in 1963, a horrible crime against the people of NYC, driven by greedy real estate interests.
I used to commute through that station and one evening while waiting for a train to arrive, I sat in the depressing waiting room and someone stole my hat from right next to me as I dozed off. I used to watch hookers steal slices of pizza from the little pizzeria in that same subterranean waiting area. Anyway it was an incredible work of Art, all girders and glass with a delicate filigree feel and I’m sure the people of the greater metropolitan NY area would benefit from it being restored. So I started thinking what films feature the station in it’s original state. Off the top of my head I came up with a couple. First Stanley Kubrick’s Killer’s Kiss, the film opens in Penn Station. And you can watch it in HD on Netflix streaming. Another great movie that used the location, The 10th Victim, the opening of this film is shot outside the recently demolished station, Ursula Andress runs by the rubble.
Ursula in front of another magnificent structure, an interesting contrast, in Rome they preserve the great edifices of the past, in the USA nothing is safe from the wrecking ball of Greed.
I will try to find some more examples of this magnificent structure captured in the celluloid time machine.
Opening Of Killers Kiss
The great R&B music maven has passed on. Johnny Otis was a colossal influence on American music from the 40’s till now. He discovered many great talents and influenced, inspired many others. Like James The Godfather Of Soul” Brown who got his seminal funk guitar player, Jimmy Nolan, from Johnny’s band. Frank Zappa recalled going to Johnny’s Rock n’Roll shows at El Monte’s Legion Stadium. I always thought Zappa’s signature mustache was a nod to Johnny’s facial fuzz.
Johnny with Don and Dewey, that’s Don SugarCane Harris on the left
When FZ was makingPeaches in Regalia he asked Johnny to get him Sugar Cane Harris to play on the album. Johnny did, although FZ had to pay SugarCane’s bail, and Johnny’s son Shuggie played on it as well. Zappa returned the favor by getting Johnny a contract with Kent records for his great Cold Shot album.
Johnny with his son , incipient guitar genius Shuggie
Johnny was a white kid who grew up in a black neighborhood and basically lived as a black man. Black people assumed he was black, even my mailman, an ex-jazz drummer, told me that when he was a kid The Johnnie Otis TV show was the first time he saw black musicians on TV. Johnnie had a hit with Harlem Nocturne with his big band, then Willie and The Hand Jive with his Rock/ R&B outfit, and he would have been rich if he had gotten his fair share of Hound Dog, the original version of which he produced for Big Mama Thornton, but Leiber and Stoller ripped him off on a technicality. Farewell Great Johnny O, we all here on Earth will miss you but we’re all better off for your having been here.
And you can see it on Netflix! A documentary about the legendary Maxwell Street in Chicago, a Sunday carnival, flea market fish fry, outdoor dancehall, preacher zone, crazy place that’s long gone. You can see the amazing, reclusive Robert Nighthawk performing on the street, although I was bummed that they cut away from him whenever he played a solo, it’s too bad because he had one of the most unique electric slide guitar styles of all time. I didn’t know the editor personally, the late Howard Alk, but I worked on the Isle of Wight documentary with his collaborator Murray Lerner. They did Festival together and I believe Alk edited Reynaldo and Clara, Bob Dylan’s foray into directing. Anyway check it out, See the man with a chicken on his head, the 2 fingered guitar player, Robert Nighthawk, and many other vanished attractions!
Another Netflix streaming find! Emir Kustarica’s first film Do You Remember Dolly Bell?, a magical start to a great series of films by this unique director. Coming across like a mashup of Fellini. Godard, and early Milos Foreman, but already revealing the personal touches that make Kustarica so great. His obsession with hypnotism, and hypnotizing animals in particular. The super cool Italian rock and roll music, the 1959 film screened at the Social Center, Europe By Night. This film features a striptease by a performer named Dolly Bell, and a local girl, is named after her by her pimp. The way of life under Communism, the idealistic father who calls meetings at the dinner table and has the youngest son take minutes. The rock band, started by the Party members for the good of the community. A wonderful film, unfortunately the copy on Netflix looks like a bad VHS but still it’s better than nothing. Check it out, a good time is guaranteed for all.