Archive for January, 2019

Character

Posted in FILM with tags , on January 31, 2019 by dcairns

When I was changing from a kid who liked movies, kinda like any kid but a little weirder, into an actual I-supposed-you’d-have-to-say cinephile, I noticed a guy who seemed to turn up a lot. Not at the movies, IN the movies. Here he is in AFTER HOURS, which was the first Scorsese film that came out properly during this formative period. (I was aware of THE KING OF COMEDY but I don’t think it even made it to Edinburgh screens as part of its actual release).

It was a while before I learned his name, and when I did I kept forgetting it, because it was so ordinary. Dick Miller. It suited his blue-collar, tough-but-decent, warmly paternal aspect, but it took a while to catch. So me and my movie-going chum Robert called him The Character Actor. He was turning up in Joe Dante films, of course, but also in 1941, THE TERMINATOR, early Zemeckis and Demme, a lot of recent things we were catching up with. I’d seen a scattered bunch of Corman films but maybe not the ones that featured him prominently so I don’t think I knew how far back he went. He was one of those guys, like Charles Napier, who just turned up in stuff and gave a pleasurable glow of recognition along with a no-nonsense performance, the eighties equivalents of the Preston Sturges stock company.

Here’s Dick Miller catching an airborne kiss blown by Rosanna Arquette in the manliest manner possible, and with fucking APLOMB.

 

RIP Dick Miller. 90 is a good age, and you seem to have enjoyed life all the way through. A great way to go, but I wish you didn’t have to.

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Cuisine of the Crime

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 30, 2019 by dcairns

I hadn’t seen WHO IS KILLING THE GREAT CHEFS OF EUROPE for decades and Fiona had never seen it. And I only just realized that Peter Stone had a big hand in the script — he’s also a key figure in the writing of CHARADE, ARABESQUE, MIRAGE, FATHER GOOSE, SWEET CHARITY… which are all quite sprightly examples of the dying days of the golden years of Hollywood. And this one tries hard to evoke the feel of classic romantic comedy thrillers, while sharing some DNA with the novelty murder cycle begun by THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES.

Someone IS killing the great chefs of Europe, in their own kitchens and using their own favourite methods. Meanwhile dessert chef Jacqueline Bisset (last on the menu) and her ex-husband, fast food entrepreneur George Segal, are squabbling and wooing in a manner vaguely reminiscent of Cary Grant & Ros Russell in HIS GIRL FRIDAY. Jackie B proves a very able performer in this genre, and Segal of course is a very fine light comedian but perhaps makes his already seedy character a bit too brash and unlikable and lupine. The only moment where he begins to gather some sympathy is a fine bit of writing where he seems about to be humiliated on UK TV after trying, in a quite well-meaning way, to save his ex’s life. But this happens at the very end of the film, so it’s a little too late.

The Hollywood trick of casting actors who are NOT like the character they’re playing — think Joel McCrea as a pretentious film director in SULLIVAN’S TRAVELS — might have been handy here. But for a brash and sleazy businessman, who do you cast in the seventies who’s NOT a bit sleazy?

Robert Morley hams with relish, but one of the film’s real treats is the casting of top European acting talent in rare English-speaking roles: Jean-Pierre Cassell, Philippe Noiret, Jean Rochefort and walking special effect Daniel Emilfork. Fascinating to watch them in a second language: Cassell’s suavity transmutes into an engaging goofiness, Rochefort hams it up enormously and is a joy, and Noiret is really extraordinary, holding the eye and producing an effect of massive comedic overemphasis while actually underplaying like crazy. His tiniest ocular glint is like an explosion.

The mystery is well-played, delivering a genuine surprise out of a very limited (and ever-shrinking) field of suspects, and plays reasonably fair, though when you think about it, given the identity and motive of the killer, it does seem highly unlikely that they’d choose the novelty homicide MO we’ve all been enjoying. But Jackie gets to sleep with the most attractive Frenchman and doesn’t get punished for it, even though the plot positions her as potential final victim. (Neither the PHIBES films nor THEATRE OF BLOOD think of making the most sympathetic character the last person in jeopardy — though maybe we’re *intended* to care about Joseph Cotten and Ian Hendry?)

If the film, as directed by Ted Kotcheff, doesn’t quite come off, maybe it’s because it’s set in and made in the late seventies, with a brownish colour palette and all-location shooting in cavernous rooms. It somehow never has the lighter-than-air soufflé feel the story demands. We’re in London and Paris and Venice, and it always seems overcast and a bit dreich. Not Cary Grant weather at all. Although, if you have Cary Grant, ALL weather is Cary Grant weather. If you have George Segal instead, better hope for sunshine.

WHO IS KILLING THE GREAT CHEFS OF EUROPE? (AKA TOO MANY CHEFS) stars Miss Goodthighs, Quiller, King Louis XVI, King Louis XIII, Cardinal Mazarin, Le colonel Louis Marie Alphonse Toulouse, another different Cardinal Mazarin, Dr. Branom, De Nomolos, Krank, Ralph Earnest Gorse, Sgt. Wilson and Wallace.

The Shadowcast: Let’s Get Small

Posted in FILM, literature, MUSIC, Science with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 29, 2019 by dcairns

New podcast up!

Fiona and I take a microscopically close look at the TIMELY and IMPORTANT subject of human miniaturization, with a particular focus on THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN, FANTASTIC VOYAGE and INNERSPACE. Mike Clelland suggested the middle film, and from there things kind of snowballed. Shout-out to Mike.

Still audibly suffering from slight colds on this one, but the NEXT one was recorded earlier and you’ll hear some seriously bunged-up sinuses on that. Here, we just sound like a sexy, husky couple of Glynis Johnses, than which nothing could be better.

The discussion also encompasses (or brushes past) DOWNSIZING, FIRST PAVILION, BODY TROOPERS, THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING WOMAN, and there are audio extracts from… well, I’ll let that be a surprise (and perhaps a mystery). Momo the podcat offers his views on the miniature human’s potential as snack.

Annoyed with myself for failing to mention the excellent (if slightly racist) miniaturization joke in Kurt Vonnegut’s Slapstick, which demonstrates the virtue of sandwiching virtually a whole novel between set-up and pay-off (more authors should try that). So I’m mentioning it here.

The 30s novelette He Who Shrank which is quoted from is by Henry Hasse and is worth seeking out online. Other literary works referred to are Richard Matheson’s all-important The Shrinking Man, Isaac Asimov’s Fantastic Voyage II: Electric Boogaloo*, Alice in Wonderland and The Arabian Nights.

The audio mixes at the start and end are designed to make genre fans dance around the room in a gleeful sugar rush. Let us know if this happens. Send photographic evidence.Very small people may already be inside all of us. Is there a message you would like passed on?

*Not its actual title.