Film Diary, Feb 1-22, 2017

What I watched in the past few weeks…

I’ll start off with this month’s Mad Movie Challenge from Mike’s Take on the Movies: The Secret of Santa Vittoria, from director Stanley Kramer whose comedy It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World is a favourite (and obviously the inspiration for the name of this monthly switcheroo). Anthony Quinn plays the resident drunk of a small Italian town, who becomes mayor after the fall of Mussolini, then has to quickly hide a million bottles of wine from occupying Nazis. It’s a long and leisurely paced, amusing look at how this underestimated, uneducated village (only one citizen per generation goes off to college) unites to resist the occupiers, and how “stupid Bombolini, stupid mayor of Santa stupid,” as Quinn’s raging wife Anna Magnani calls him, becomes a hero in a battle of wills. Liked the part where the villagers line up all the way out of town and move their only resource, the wine bottles, in an epic version of the fire bucket brigade. Virna Lisi plays the local aristocrat who falls in love with Sergio Franchi, Giancarlo Giannini plays Quinn’s son-in-law.

Now click here to see the Alain Delon thriller I suggested for Mike.

In the rest of my recent viewing, my Clint Eastwood fest rolls on, this time with more Pat Hingle and Sondra Locke. I’ll miss seeing so much of Geoffrey Lewis once this binge is over:

  • Every Which Way But Loose, haven’t seen this since I was a kid. You had me at beer-swilling Orangutan sidekick, but there are also great fight scenes and it’s just a ridiculously fun and rowdy buddy/road movie. If I believed in such things as guilty pleasures this would be one.
  • Hang ’em High, a simple, riveting revenge tale and exploration of justice, viewed differently by the legal system than by the wronged man left for dead by a mob.
  • Escape from Alcatraz I’ve seen a few times now, one of my favourite Clint/Don Siegel movies. The slow dig, dummy heads and fake grilles never get old when Siegel lays out all those details and plans in such a suspenseful way, and gets us to so strongly sympathize with the inmates. Patrick McGoohan’s sadistic warden, crushing all hope in the few prisoners who have any, along with the claustrophobic and dangerous conditions, are dehumanizing, but they can’t kill Clint and crew’s determination.
  • Coogan’s Bluff, Siegel’s quirky fish-out-of-water tale featuring the Arizona (not Texas!) cowboy Clint scours oddball corners of New York looking for wayward prisoner Don Stroud, then rides off into the sunset on his helicopter. Introduced me to a string of words I’ll never forget: pigeon-toed orange peel.
  • The Gauntlet, a bonkers chase, with Clint as an alcoholic cop assigned to get smart, mouthy prostitute Sondra Locke to court alive so she can testify against the mob. Except there’s a hit on the pair, who manage against an army of baddies to get back to Phoenix any which way, including plowing into town on an armored bus. Epic us-against-the world action–everything this poster promises.


Other highlights:

  • It Always Rains on Sunday, a good Brit Noir about a family’s dating and work dramas, plus tangential gangster plotting, while unbeknownst to all but Googie Withers, fugitive John McCallum hides out in their home.
  • 2 more William Castle movies after last month’s fun find Homicide: Macabre, in which despised small town doctor William Prince (also seen in The Gauntlet) races to discover which of the many folks with grudges and motives has buried his daughter alive. Then The Night Walker, with Barbara Stanwyck playing rich widow and target of a hoax haunting. So fun to see her and Robert Taylor in this type of chiller.
  • The Conjuring 2 I liked nearly as much as the first one. Long, spooky fun-house ride, and the overly cartoonish “Crooked Man” is more than made up for with the demon nun in the painting and the toy fire truck.
  • Kingsman: The Secret Service, entertaining spy genre spin; stylish, darkly funny and ultra-violent.
  • Sam Peckinpah’s The Killer Elite and Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia: Liked them both, Elite for the fun rapport between rival assassins James Caan and Robert Duvall, Caan’s grueling rehab and the motley crew he assembles (funny bomb-under-the-car bit). Garcia is unforgettable, somehow as brutally violent and bleak as it is tender and touching. Favourite Warren Oates performance I’ve seen so far.
  • Caught up on all of The Expanse, a good sci fi/noir detective series where a missing heiress case ties into an interplanetary political conspiracy and discovery of a bizarre new life form. Thomas Jane is great.
  • I’m a die-hard X-Men comics fan since childhood, always happy to see good adaptations, and Legion is a great, inventive one that puts the wry multiple-personality mutant in a weirdo psychedelic melodrama. First episode featured some incredible visuals and ended with a fantastic one-take mountainside breakout and escape sequence.
  • Time Bomb aka Terror on a Train finds engineer Glenn Ford tasked with finding and defusing a bomb hidden in a load of mines. Well done, nice photography and suspense, the last few minutes rushed through his wife (Anne Vernon’s) inconvenient arrival, plus one predictable twist.

16 thoughts on “Film Diary, Feb 1-22, 2017”

  1. Glad u liked the Tony Quinn flick. To me it’s classic Quinn. Every role in the 60’s seemed to have that Zorba flavor. I’ve always liked this one and I like Hardy Kruger as well.
    So glad you mentioned Geoffrey Lewis. What a wonderful character actor I grew up with. And yes I do have that poster of the Gauntlet her at home in the vault. 🙂

    1. Without checking facts, I’m guessing that’s Frank Frazetta art on the Gauntlet poster? Quinn was Zorba the Italian in this case 🙂 liked his cabinet of fools, and it was also fun seeing Giannini that young, after getting to know him through his later movies. I read it was kind of a flop, coming out around the time of Easy Rider, when cinema was changing.

      Now of the Clint movies I still want to see Any Which Way, Play Misty, and thinking of taking another look at A Perfect World, haven’t seen that since it came out.

        1. That’s great thanks! I thought so, I mean his art is easy to spot, and talk about selling a movie, works for me! I will definitely watch Misty, can’t stop this fest now.

    1. One of the many joys of movies is ending up in these rewarding binges 🙂 I’ll have to start on one that gets me some more westerns next…

  2. Good stuff! Enjoyed reading about the Clint-Fest – I just saw ESCAPE FROM ALCATRAZ last year (after visiting Alcatraz!), but the Clint movie I’d most like to revisit from your list is COOGAN’S BLUFF. ALFREDO GARCIA is on the way – can’t wait to see it!

    1. Interested to see what you’ll think of GARCIA, takes its time with the characters which is worth it later, as things get darker.

  3. Brilliant stuff as always and what a choice viewing selection.
    Great Clint fest part two,watch out for ANY WHICH WAY YOU CAN
    with epic punch up between Clint & William Smith.
    Smith noted that it was the longest slug fest filmed without using
    stunt doubles.
    Smith also noted that Clint broke one of Smith’s ribs in the fight
    but never let him know as he knew he’d feel bad about it.
    What a guy!
    When asked about Smith’s rep about being “the hardest man in Hollywood”
    Smith replied that honor goes to Leo Gordon.
    Smith also related a tale of how Gordon knocked the **** out of
    Lee Marvin and Neville Brand on the set of GUN FURY.
    I guess this tale came from Smith’s LAREDO co star Brand.
    Never,never understood why Tarantino never used Smith in
    any of his films.
    Don Siegel called Gordon the scariest guy he ever met.
    Great to see some love for Geoffrey Lewis.
    Just enjoyed him the THE CULPEPPER CATTLE COMPANY
    as a near psychotic wild eyed cowpoke-very scary.
    Great scene where he freaks out poor Matt Clark-you really
    feel for the poor guy. CULPEPPER a great unheralded 70’s Western.
    Again a great selection and just for the record
    IT ALWAYS RAINS ON SUNDAYS is my all time fave Brit flick.

    1. Leo Gordon was intimidating for sure, love seeing him in anything, lately in Riot in Cell Block 11.

      It Always Rains was very good, and almost felt more like the first episode in a series, so much going on. Got a lot of suspense from McCallum hiding in that house–so many close calls. Loved the chase at the end as well, across the tracks, into the cars etc.

      Will look out for Culpepper, agree about Susan Clark, a Canadian, good in Night Moves and now you remind me I should see Valdez is Coming. My parents sued to watch McCloud so it was fun to see how that came from Coogan.

      I first saw Electra Glide maybe a year ago or so, liked it– looks amazing (that last shot!), great police movie. Love Mitchell Ryan in that and and how Blake’s cop gets disillusioned with him.

  4. Whoops!
    Forgot to mention Susan Clark in COOGAN’S BLUFF.
    How could Clint walk out on her (to follow up a lead)
    while she is busy cooking him a lovely spaghetti dinner…
    how very cruel!
    Love Susan’s 70’s work one of my fave leading actresses
    of that era.
    Wish she had made other films with Clint-great chemistry
    I thought-in spite of that dinner.

  5. Sorry to go on and on but
    one of the things I loved about CULPEPPER was when the
    cowboys finally have to confront an enemy who is more
    fearsome and psychotic than they are.
    The actor in question,John McLiam, is not one I am familiar
    with although he seems to have had a zillion credits.
    At any rate I had not seen CULPEPPER since ’72 and it has
    held up exceedingly well.
    Mr McLiam,from Alberta,I might add, comes across like
    an even more scary George C Scott and is certainly someone
    I will be watching out for in future.
    I love those great 70’s character actors like the aforementioned
    Lewis and Clark (Matt) and also Billy Green Bush,Bo Hopkins
    and Luke Askew.
    Kristina,have you seen ELECTRA GLIDE IN BLUE my all time
    fave road movie and one of the 70’s very best films.
    Super roles for vets Elisha Cook and Royal Dano (sensational) as
    well. Mr Dano has an impressive bit in Culpepper I might add.

  6. What – no romantic comedies? 😉

    It’s been years since I’ve seen “Escape from Alcatraz” – what a great flick! I need to see it again.

    February was a slow movie month for me, but I did see the animated “Storks” which was hilarious. I’ve got to see it again.

    Thanks for recommending Glenn Ford in “Time Bomb”. Looks good!

    1. I love Glenn Ford, he’s so comfortable to watch, reassuring…so you trust him to find and defuse that bomb! I have to see Storks, thank you. This is true, I haven’t seen a good rom-com in a while! I think the closest thing to romance in this batch was Clint and Sondra, plus Jason Statham going on a date with a nun in Redemption lol.

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