Archive for Batman

Chalice in Wonderland

Posted in FILM, Mythology with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 3, 2023 by dcairns

“There’s no place like Rome!” effuses Albert Dekker, barging back into THE SILVER CHALICE with wholly inappropriate gusto. “Someone actually wrote that?” asked Fiona, wandering into the living room to find me numbed to somnolence by the movie’s relentless onslaught of leaden verbiage and gaucherie.

A servant of two masters, Paul Newman as Basil is sculpting Jesus and Nero at the same time, rendering unto Caesar I suppose. We then get, by way of climax, Jack Palance — as Simon Magus, a “real” biblical figure — trying to prove the superiority of his magic over that of the Christians. He causes to be built — by enslaved Christians, adding insult to injury — a Great Tower, from the top of which he promises to fly. This is initially going to be done via a concealed contraption, a bronze wheel and rod arrangement. A meaty assistant will crank a lever causing Palance to orbit the tower on the end of this rod, which will be invisible to the audience and emperor below because, as we all know, bronze cannot be seen when held up to the sky. It’s absolutely foolproof, at least enough to convince Virginia Mayo, and we all know what a stickler she is.

I can’t really be bothered with anything Paul Newman does from here on in because he’s a complete bystander in the film’s rivetting concluslion. Palance, crosseyed with hubris, decides that he’s going to fly for real, wearing a bat-cape (which may be why he was cast in the Burton BATMAN) and a leotard printed for some reason with tadpoles or black spermatozoa. I guess the idea really is a phallic one — our man is, after all, going to come popping out the top of a great erection, his skintight cossie alive with little swimmers. Costume design is credited jointly to Rolf Gerard (also the fiend responsible for prod des) and Marjorie Best on the IMDb, but in the film she has a mysterious “Wardrobe Executed by” credit and he has only Production Design. If both are true, then the film’s great achievements in Stylistic Unity can certainly be laid at Rolf’s wardrobe door, while Best, a very experienced movie costumier, was presumably forced at gunpoint to carry out the schemes.

The script has promised us a magical duel between Saint Peter and Simon Magus (who is annoyingly never referred to by that really cool name). But we don’t get a fun Merlin-Madame Mim battle, nor a Dr. Craven vs. Dr. Scarabus one. Peter sits this one out. Various biblical apocrypha describe Simon actually flying, and Peter sabotaging his maiden flight with a well-aimed prayer, causing the soaring sinner to crash to earth in several pieces. (Accounts vary: one bloodthirsty version has Simon smashed up by the fall, then stoned by his disappointed fans, and finally bled to death by the surgeons labouring to save him. But this is act three, we’re in a hurry, folks.)

I would have liked to see that ending, but I can’t say I didn’t enjoy what Victor Saville and Lesser Samuels served up. Palance, going fully off his rocker (and, to be fair, this can be used to retroactively justify JP’s very eccentric performance up to this point), mounts the tower. Virginia Mayo sends the chunky flunky after him to stop him breaking his neck. Good high and low angles. Jack executes a magnificent swan dive into the studio floor.

Various species of chaos now erupt. Nero, for no particular reason, orders Mayo thrown off the tower. “If she can fly, her life will be spared.” Fiona at this point reasoned that since the hefty bronze rod operator is already up the tower, Virginia ought to be able to pull off Palance’s planned levitation trick. But we never see this and the assumption has to be that she dies. It would make a great reveal in a sequel, THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF HELENA FROM THE SILVER CHALICE, but alas it was not to be.

Screenwriter Lesser Samuels’ talent may have deserted him, but his brain — alas! — is still working. As Basil and Deborah sail off into a brown sort of sunset, St. Pete (Lorne Green of Bonanza!) gives a big speech in which he predicts the rise of skyscrapers and electric light bulbs. This ties in with the curious panelled design of Simon’s tower of power — it’s a prophetic sculpture of a skyscraper. The story COULD have enlisted Basil to work on it — a silver rod for Palance might have made more sense than a bronze one — but making him entirely passive was thought preferable. Peter’s bizarre monologue about the twentieth century is needed to explain how the Holy Grail vanishing could possibly be a positive thing — apparently it’s going to turn up sometime soon and maybe do some good. Keep watching the shelves!


The Spy Who Came In From The Cold — Cream

Posted in Fashion, FILM, MUSIC, Television with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 1, 2021 by dcairns

Here’s Shadowplayer Chris Schneider on a late, and underappreciated Frank Tashlin/Doris Day picture…

” … I forgot to mention the sexuality, the anarchy — and the fashion.”~ FB friend Larry Frascella talking of CAPRICE

When I think of CAPRICE, a Frank Tashlin comedy-thriller from the late Sixties, it usually involves one of three things. One: Doris Day in an out-of-control helicopter whose pilot has just been shot, the thought of which terrifies this fear-of-heights sufferer.Two: the unsettling sight of Michael J. Pollard, soon to appear in BONNIE AND CLYDE, with his hand venturing up Doris Day’s leg. Three: Ray Walston in drag. 

“Cary Grant or Rock Hudson maybe,” I say to myself, “but Michael J. Pollard?”

(An Aside: You’ll find so-called “spoilers” in this piece. My reasoning is that, some fifty years after its premiere, anyone interested in CAPRICE is unlikely to be concerned with plot.)

You could say that CAPRICE has an autumnal feel, in that it’s the next-to-last film to be shot in Cinemascope and the third-from-last theatrical film to feature Doris Day. Soon, for Day, it would be strictly television. But that doesn’t fit, ’cause the palette on display in CAPRICE is determinedly bright. Day’s Ray Aghayan wardrobe pretty much never varies from white or red or buttercup yellow, and to go with that there’s music by Robert Aldrich’s pet composer De Vol. (“Smile when you say that name, stranger.”

Yet this is, nevertheless, a spy story, and therein lies the balance. Day plays an industrial spy for one, if not two, rival cosmetics firms.  “The spy who came in from the cold — cream,” she calls herself at one point. The story’s shifting alliances fit in with a mid-’60s John Le Carre world-view, for all the emphasis on comedy and the fact that a man is asked to remove his trousers within the film’s first six minutes. Does Day work for Edward Mulhare, an industrial toff with his own private jet, or rival honcho Jack Kruschen? Answer: What time is it? There’s a Wham! Slam! Ka-Boom! triple-cross in the final reel. There’s also, lest we forget, Ray Walston in washerwoman drag looking mean as he holds a gun.

Nor should we forget that the romantic interest, Richard Harris as an industrial spy and/or Interpol agent who also does Olivier and Richard Burton imitations, jabs Day early on with a non-consensual hypo full of Sodium Pentothal. A tad “rapey,” you say? Perhaps the vigilant will be glad to learn that the last reel’s “romantic” fade-out has Day giving Harris his own non-consensual Sodium Pentothal jab, intoning to him about “a consummation devoutly to be wished.”

Much of CAPRICE is “funny odd” rather than “funny ha-ha.” It’s also highly self-conscious, Ouroboros-like in willingness to comment upon itself like a snake devouring its own tail. Not a surprise, in that other Tashlin-directed films include a poodle named Shamroy (after CAPRICE cinematographer Leon Shamroy) and name-checking of star Jayne Mansfield’s non-Tashlin films. But this one has a BATMAN-like chase running past a television that’s playing BATMAN, Day tailing Irene Tsu (who plays Walston’s secretary) to a theater where the fare is CAPRICE with Doris Day and Richard Harris — that’s where the Pollard scene happens — and the revelation that a supposedly inaccessible parlay is being filmed when we see the film’s image running out. Is it unexpected, given the presence of Shanghai-born Tsu, that the movie encounter happens in the Cathay theater? Or that half of a nearby couple attempting a li’l movie-house grope is Barbara Feldon of the spy comedy series GET SMART? 

CAPRICE was not popular.  The NY Times’ Bosley Crowther dismissed it, saying that “nutty clothes and acrobatics cannot conceal the fact that [Day] is no longer a boy.” As if anyone ever mistook Day for a boy! Or went to Day when looking for one!

I think the problem, rather, is that CAPRICE — like its central performer — is all too strenuously perky. Sorta like the protagonist of that John Cheever story, the one who insists on lining up chairs at parties and jumping over them like hurdles … long after his athletic prowess is a thing of the past.  See television adaptations involving Gary Merrill and, later, Michael Murphy. 

Like that out-of-control helicopter, CAPRICE has the capacity to be scary.  Then, too, like what happens to the helicopter, CAPRICE settles for cute and “endearing” plot solutions. Alas.

The Bad, The Bad and the Bad

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 17, 2019 by dcairns

FOUR FOR TEXAS is the Aldrich movie which sent him running back to hagsploitation. Apparently he didn’t have a good time with Frank & Dino. Frank & Dino were enough to make Bette & Joan look like a rest holiday. Frank & Dino together in a western is altogether too much of a disputably good thing, I think — it matters in RIO BRAVO that Dino has Duke to balance out the goombah energy with some more “authentic” movie-cowboy attitude.

Talk about spaghetti westerns. In fact, the first ten minutes of this one, a stagecoach raid and a series of reversals with the two stars pulling guns on one another over a carpetbag full of loot, plays quite Leonesque. Cynical, amoral, with a cold-hearted attitude to the little guy, who in this case is Percy Helton so maybe we can say it’s justified? But it’s the “zany” Leone of MY NAME IS NOBODY, all trick opticals and flippancy. Still, it really feels like a miniature dry run for the Italian west, just as VERA CRUZ feels like a more coherent and successful early clue to the new direction.

Then, however, the film gets REALLY bad. It follows the basic pattern of anything that’s died: stinking, bloating and decaying before your watering eyes. Sure, lots of familiar Aldrich faces show up, including V. Buono and that irritating va-va-voom fucker from KISS ME DEADLY. Who tragically doesn’t get blown up in this one.

Admittedly, I was watching a 4:3 DVD (why do such things exist?) but once the movie moves into town and indoors, the effect becomes very televisual, apart from one or two eyeball-searing sets. I can’t be fair to the film having seen it in the wrong ratio, but somehow I don’t WANT to be fair to it.

“Ekberg! Dead ahead!

“Why does this film sound like Batman?” asked Fiona, wandering in like a small child. I looked up Nelson Riddle, composer — her diagnosis was spot-on. I could wish it sounded EVEN MORE like Batman, had the Batman TV theme tune, in fact, and maybe starred Adam West as Batman. Was Buono ever a Batman villain? Any speculations as to his probable villain name are almost certainly going to make me sound fattist, and I’m not skinny enough for that look.

(Here’s how you figure out your Batman villain name: you pick something you always do, and put “‘er” on the end of it and “the” on the front.)

New Batman villain: The Flasher.

The movie is written by a woman, Teddi Sherman, a western specialist. Aldrich liked to selflessly claim the blame for the script also, and IMDb has the great W.R. Burnett playing some kind of wisely uncredited writing role.

The women are all costumed as if for a porno western.

Charles Bronson is maybe the only performer to emerge with credit, and it makes sense that Leone selected him.

Maybe watch the first reel but then avoid avoid avoid.

Everyone’s in it! I really found myself hating the leads. Phonetic transcriptions of Ursula Andress’s line readings would be the only way to get any pleasure out of this one.

“I’m glat you feels zat way. Main who worry about little sings bo-arr me.”

“I like main whoh wurr about me.”

“I was afraid off der disaternoon you may sink my gown wuss too raivealing.”

“Ope erhaps you fail like most American mendoo.”

It’s not clear that the Three Stooges are CORRECTLY UTILISED.

FOUR FOR TEXAS stars Tony Rime; Matt Helm; the killer nun; Honey Ryder; Paul Kersey; Edwin Flagg; Daggoo; Pablo Gonzalez; ‘Knuckles’ Greer; ‘Moose’ Malloy; Lt. Pat Murphy; Dehlia Flagg; Wilma Lentz; Grandma Walton; Alamosa Bill; Miss Hearing Aid; Dr. Lehman; Mr. Peevey; ‘Dum-Dum’ Clarke; Og Oggilby; and Not Themselves.