Family Viewing Time

rod-taylor-the-time-machine

How are we getting on with our teen-supervision activities, you ask?

Films watched with Louis this week include THE WRESTLER (which I didn’t see, but which Fiona found pretty old-fashioned, like a marginally more disfigured version of King Vidor’s THE CHAMP — “I like his scary fridge film better,” says Fiona, referring to REQUIEM FOR A DREAM), HEAVENLY CREATURES, and THE PUMAMAN, a bizarrely homoerotic Italian superhero movie about ancient Incan space technology which gives the hero the powers of a puma: sensing danger, achieving a death-lke trance, flying — you know, just like a puma. “I always seem to end up watching something really weird with you guys,” Louis observed affably.

Best of all, we watched George Pal’s THE TIME MACHINE, which gives new pleasures every time I see it.

While Pal’s best pal couldn’t argue that he’s particularly sophisticated as a director, he has a very smart script to work with here, and has obviously been looking around and drawing inspiration from some pretty cool sources. When intrepid chrononaut Rod Taylor (marvellous perf!) goes for a walk in the Eden-like future forest, Pal throws in a variety of tracking shots suggesting that he’s been impressed by Kurosawa’s RASHOMON. The giveaway shot is the one looking up at the sunlight blinking through the branches.

Later, when Taylor discovers that the savage Morlocks (paunchy blue guys with unsightly body hair — the Scots of the future?) have a Gremlin-like aversion to bright light, he dazzles them for a moment by lighting a match, and Pal steals from the Master, with an orange glare of POV dazzle filched from REAR WINDOW. This struck Louis as implausible: “Just how bright IS a match, anyway?” Since the Morlock’s have Jawa-style glowing eyes, do they not get equally blinded whenever they look at each other?

As a fan of TV’s The Mighty Boosh, Louis has a fine eye for absurdity, and enjoyed such moments while still appreciating the beauty and craft of Pal’s special effects sequences and the sweep of the story, which must have made some impression: when I loaned him my battered copy of the Watchmen graphic novel later in the week, warning him that it might crumble to dust, he sagely remarked, “Like the books in THE TIME MACHINE.”

Yvette Mimieux: a bit too Paris Hilton for Louis’ taste.

Another weird coincidence: on Monday morning I was lecturing on Orson Welles, doing his whole film career only in reverse, and mentioned the amazing moment in the MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS screenplay, deleted from RKO’s edit of the film, where the voice-over suggests a future time when George Amberson Minafer’s shade might be seen, kneeling, its head and shoulders disappearing through a partition wall that wasn’t there in his era (you really have to read it to make sense of this). That evening, as Rod Taylor fired up his elegant steam-punk time-sled, Louis speculated about what would happen if he materialised halfway through a yet-to-be-constructed wall…

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11 Responses to “Family Viewing Time”

  1. Arthur S. Says:

    I liked REQUIEM FOR A DREAM too. A little overdone yes but good. I haven’t seen THE WRESTLER yet. But I like Vidor’s THE CHAMP a lot.

  2. Haha, I was just thinking of The Pumaman. The stalkerish Indian who tells our generic-white-man hero that he is puma man later appeared as the engineer/spy from Fitzcarraldo.

    I’m just a kid from the Halloween/Pumaman generation, so tell me: was Donald Pleasence ever convincing in any movie, or does he always play a campy goofball?

  3. Pleasence was remarkably creative — from his unblinking Blofeld (“BLINK!” you roar at the screen, but he won’t), to his EXTREMELY sarcastic policeman in Deathline, which has to be one of my favourite detective inspectors ever… all campy goofballs, perhaps, but an amazing range. And the sarcastic copper is pretty convincing, I’ve never seen the sarcasm of the British copper captured so well.

    Someone said that Aronofsky makes films about hot topics that he has nothing to say about. I have a slight fear this may be true. But Requiem was compelling and stylish.

  4. Don’t you DARE dis Yvette!

    Surely worthy of serious consideration for her performance in <i.Where The Boys Are alone.

    A number of years back the Los Angeles Film Critics Association gave Stanley Done its Career Achievement Award. Even though she and Donen had been divorced several years before, Yvette insisted on coming to speak and sing his praises — whcih she did most eloquently.

  5. Christopher Says:

    Is that a Morlock or is it Edgar Winter?…I had a terrible crush on Yvette “mew mew” as a little kid after seeing her in The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm…Claire Bloom as well

  6. I read an interview with Yvette and she seemed awfully sweet. Said she was fascinated by the Morlock sphinx, and always wondered where it was. She was terribly disappointed to learn it was a glass painting.

  7. Randy Cook Says:

    Can’t disagree that the movie had a very underwhelming cinematic quallity; Pal’s idea of a dynamic camera move was a pan.

    But TAYLOR. Damn. The moment he sets out that little invention before his peers and says — lovingly, simply, quietly yet full of wonder– “This is a time machine” is something that couldn’t be bettered, by my lights. His whole performance has a frankness and sincerity which is very effective.

    His performance in WELCOME TO WOOP WOOP is not to be missed, either, one of the damndest pieces of acting he’s ever done (the film in my opinion is one third dreck, one third pretty good, and one third genius, and that’s good enough for me me).

    He also, at 22 or something, played in an Aussie sequel to TREASURE ISLAND, starring Robert Newton, of course. Seems that Israel Hands, shot in the face by Jim Hawkins on the better-known voyage, was only BLINDED. This gave him issues, as did being marooned among the artificial foliage and matte paintings for a couple years.

    There’s a scene where he’s reunited with Silver, and he’s acting up a storm in long beard and Lon Chaney contacts, and you can SEE on Newton’s face the sentiment “This kid’s bigger than I am!!!”. Priceless.

    Back to TIME MACHINE, film owes a lot to that haunting score by Russell Garcia, dunnit? Beautifully melancholy.

    The line about the Morlocks blinding themselves by looking at each other kept me laughing for the better part of the morning. That same optical effect and that same music sting, over and over, all day long? Funny as hell.

  8. “Argh! Larry, look the other way, willya?” They must have to avoid reflective surfaces too.

    I’m a big Newton fan. I have a movie called Hatter’s Castle where he plays a Scotsman, and I’m actually afraid to watch it, such is the awesomeness implied in that concept.

    I agree re Woop Woop. Taylor’s a powerhouse in it, ad it’s full of good things, although some of them don’t belong in th movie. I heard Stephan Elliot only got around to reading the novel after he’d made the film. “It’s pretty good,” he remarked in surprise.

    Based on TTM, Russell Garcia ought to be better known — there’s eches of Mikloz Rosza in there, but without the excess.

  9. Hi Randy, Mrs David here. (Fiona) Couldn’t agree more about Taylor’s line reading in TTM. It’s a thing of beauty. And the score is wonderful too.

  10. Randy Cook Says:

    Hi Fiona. To my knowledge, Taylor never played any of the roles in the classical repertoire, and I wish he had . Australia has produced so many marvelous actors (as well as Frank Thring, who almost balances the ledger, to inadvertently name another pretty good one); I can’t help but think how well he’d have performed some of the loftier roles if he’d stretched himself in that direction.

    I hear he’s playing Churchill in the new Tarantino film, and imagine he’ll have fun with that and it ought to be worth waiting for. Very underrated artist.

    Newton is a great favorite of mine. His Frank Gibbons in THIS HAPPY BREED is a beautifully understated piece of work, as enjoyable on its own terms as his BLACKBEARD THE PIRATE, a movie which must have had a fully-stocked bar on the set. Wonderful/Awful film (William Bendix’s daughter Lorraine told me in 1972 that there were only two films of her dad’s he wouldn’t let her see: BLACKBEARD and IT’S IN THE BAG, another of my favorites).

  11. Of course, Taylor would make a magnificent King Lear. It could still happen! Rod, if you’re out there…

    Am thrilled he’s playing Churchill (at about 30 years too old, probably) — another example of Tarantino using his powers for good. I get a pretty uncomfortable feeling about that movie though.

    Ah, Bendix! They should build a statue to his performance in Detective Story. A thousand feet high! They could put it at Ground Zero to scare the terrorists away.

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