Archive for George Hamilton

Fortnight Elsewhere

Posted in FILM, literature, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 22, 2013 by dcairns

I don’t know, I thought MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: GHOST PROTOCOL was pretty good for what it was.

The film is TWO WEEKS IN ANOTHER TOWN, in which Vincente Minnelli dives into la dolce vita with Kirk Douglas and Edward G Robinson shooting a euro-pudding super-film in Rome, 1959.

Here, they seem to have acquired the wallpaper from VERTIGO.

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Maybe it’s the fault of Irwin Shaw’s source novel, but the movie, often seen as a follow-up to the Minnelli-Douglas Hollywood melo THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL, sometimes seems to lack logic — characters do whatever is required to bring on the next emotional frenzy. One second Robinson is scorning his desperate wife’s suicidal tendencies, the next she’s sympathising with him about his creative crisis. Their joint betrayal of another character at the end seems under-motivated or under-explained, but is nevertheless powerful — it’s a movie where power, exemplified by the jutting, dimpled Easter Island chin of Mr Douglas, is more important than sense. Just like the industry it deals with, in fact.

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George Hamilton is quite good, stropping about pouting, Rosanna Schiaffino is sweet, Daliah Lavi is a lot of fun as a luscious but fiery diva. We get a few minutes of gorgeous George MacReady, and Erich Von Stroheim Jnr plays an assistant while simultaneously BEING the real-life assistant director on the picture. Douglas does his usual muscular angst, amped up to eleven.

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In fact, everybody’s playing it big, broad, and on the nose, including composer David Raksin, who seems to be competing with Claire Trevor for the Volume and Hysteria Prize (given out every year at Cinecitta). I didn’t mind, though — there are acerbic comments on life and movies which sometimes feel accurate or at least heartfelt, and Minnelli trumps up an incredible climax as Kirk falls off the wagon and endures a long night of the soul in a series of Felliniesque night spots. As with SOME CAME RUNNING, Minnelli has saved so many of his big guns for this sequence that it almost feels like another movie, that other movie being TOBY DAMMIT. If Fellini influenced Minnelli, it obviously worked the other way too, as Terence Stamp’s nocturnal Ferrari phantom ride seems very much influenced by the screeching rear projection ordeal Kirk puts Cyd Charisse and his Lambourgine through.

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Mae-September

Posted in FILM, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , on February 14, 2013 by dcairns

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Mae West and yes, that is George Hamilton.

SEXTETTE will long live in infamy, I guess. The essential innocence of Mae West’s banter is suddenly rendered sickly and peculiar as it emerges from the mouth of an eighty-something woman. And I don’t mind the idea of old people having sexuality or sexiness: an actor friend found himself in the presence of Honor Blackman, and couldn’t help but feel, er, the impact of her presence. And it wasn’t purely nostalgic, by any means.

But SEXTETTE gets it wrong. Maybe director Ken CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG Hughes wasn’t the man for the job (my old pal Lawrie Knight, who knew him well, referred to him with some awe as “the dirtiest man I ever met”), although who ARE you going to get to make a Mae West pop musical in 1978?

Here’s a clip that’s actually rather lovely ~

Yes, that’s Alice Cooper.

Now read the review, over at The Daily Notebook: this week’s edition of The Forgotten.

The Man of Tomorrow

Posted in FILM, literature, Politics, Science with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 21, 2012 by dcairns

I had no fond memories whatsoever of George Pal and Byron Haskin’s THE POWER, but having enjoyed THE SEVEN FACES OF DR LAO so much on revisiting it, I thought I’d give it a try. Pal’s cinema seems to swing from the rather dry spectacle of WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE or DESTINATION MOON to something mixing the poetic and strange in with its pulpier elements, as in THE TIME MACHINE.

In fact, THE POWER is a good bit more interesting than I remembered — I’d probably never watched the whole thing, and had probably been put off by a certain surface blandness: late sixties studio espionage thriller + George Hamilton… it’s the kind of film where computers are all whirring tapes and blinking lights and everything is clean and colourful. But in fact I enjoyed it so much I might give DOC SAVAGE, MAN OF BRONZE a try next — now that was a film I couldn’t get along with as a kid at all.

So, there’s this top secret agency devoted to torturing people in order to test human endurance for NASA, but one day some intelligence tests reveal that one member of the team there has an abnormally advanced brain — so intellectually powerful that s/he can be assumed to have weird telekinetic abilities. This makes no sense, but everybody accepts the dubious logic even as they doubt the premise. And soon, somebody is causing the scientists to die, starting with LAO’s Arthur O’Connell, who falls into a trance and accelerates himself to death in a human centrifuge — cue a grisly makeup effect by William Tuttle —

George Hamilton goes on the run with Suzanne Pleshette (I’d like to team her with Diane Baker in something I’d call Hitchcock’s More Interesting Brunettes) and tries to trace a single name that could explain what’s going on. Along the way he meets — guest stars! Lots of guest stars! Yvonne De Carlo, Aldo Ray, Michael Rennie, Nehemiah Persoff and “Miss Beverly Hills.” It all ends in a spectacularly weird psychic face-off which should remind us of SCANNERS but actually gets into peculiar ALTERED STATES imagery — even including a shot of the hammer dulcimer that’s playing Miklos Rosza’s theme music, a shot that’s as non-diegetic as the music itself. That vaguely Eastern European sound always has the effect of making you see Reds under the beds in a film like this, which is ironic as this is one Cold War thriller in which neither the Russians not the Chinese play any role at all. Probably, when Homo Superior gets through with us, there will be no nations at all…

Miss Beverly Hills actually has some pretty interesting credits, but screenwriter John Gay (adapting a sci-fi thriller by Frank M. Robinson, who was Harvey Milk’s speechwriter and plays himself in MILK) takes the cake — Minnelli’s FOUR HORSEMEN, NO WAY TO TREAT A LADY, SOLDIER BLUE, A MATTER OF TIME… crazy stuff.

When I first saw this big old bag of mismatched elements, which feels like what you might get if you blended Gay’s entire CV in a human centrifuge, I wondered who the hell it was for, and I suspect 1968 audiences did too. But now I have the answer — it’s for me.