Archive for Kathryn Grant

Big Day

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 28, 2017 by dcairns

Yesterday —

9am THE ROAD BACK — major James Whale, a rediscovered director’s cut. Huge production values and a brilliant script by R.C. Sherrif which mingles humour with the tragedy. “It was nice to see Andy Devine being given big things to do.” If it has a flaw, it’s an over-literal approach to emotion, an on-the-nose quality, so that if a character is written as wistful, Whale casts the most wistful guy he can get and has him play it wistful. This cuts down on the humanity you get in something like THE MORTAL STORM or (showing here later) LITTLE MAN, WHAT NOW?

10.45am SHERLOCK HOLMES. Kept my seat and let them project another movie at me. This was William K. Howard’s 1931 tongue-in-cheek travesty, with Clive Brook dragging up and Ernest Torrence hamming it up. I’d seen a very fuzzy copy in which it was clear Howard was trying interesting things, mainly montages in between the scripted pages — on the big screen, in splendid quality, his direction seemed even more dazzling. Second John George sighting this fest.

12 DESTINATION UNKNOWN. Early thirties Tay Garnett is a mixed bag, but after HER MAN wowed everyone last year, we had high hopes for this. Visually, it doesn’t deliver anything like the same panache, but it fascinates by its oddness. A semi-wrecked rum-runner drifts aimlessly, becalmed. The gangsters, led by Pat O’Brien’s mild wheedle, have control of the water supply. The sailors, led by Alan Hale’s ridiculous Swedish accent, want to get it. Nobody is sympathetic. Then Ralph Bellamy turns up, effulgent. Everyone seems to think they recognise him — from long ago when they were innocent. A religious parable is clearly being palmed off on us, but we’re also tempted to anticipate the line, “He looks like that guy in the movies, what’s his name, Ralph Bellamy.”

The creepy Jesus pulls off one startling miracle, changing wine into water.

Very spirited work from Chas. Middleton (Ming the Merciless), who actually throws in a dog bark at the end of a line, out of sheer joie de vivre.

Fish and chips for lunch, with Charlie Cockey.

14.15 KINEMACOLOR — running late I missed the explanation of how this miracle process worked, but the results are striking, and became even more so when I remembered to take off my sunglasses.

16.00 I remained in my seat to see MILDRED PIERCE, stunningly restored — better than new? “I’m so smart it’s a disease.”

18.15 THE SEVENTH VOYAGE OF SINBAD. In a way, I was remaining in my seat to see the thing that terrified me on a small black and white screen as a kid. Here it was on a huge colour screen and I was front row centre, looking right up that cyclops’ nose. I guess they’ll never be able to get the grain remotely consistent — that would be remaking, not restoration — the cave entrance, which I assumed was a matte painting, looks very granular indeed, as do the titles. During monster bits, the monsters are much finer-grained than their backgrounds, but oddly the matte shots with tiny Kathryn Grant seem very sharp. All this will be less problematic on a smaller screen and if you’re not front row centre, of course. The efforts to get the film looking as good as it can (faded Eastmancolor negative — the image is now vibrant again) are appreciated.

Dinner with friends Nicky, Sheldon, et al.

22.15 CARBON ARC PROJECTION. More early colour processes, two vintage projectors. Beautiful. I was very tired and snuck away before the end.

His Name Was Ernie

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , on September 30, 2015 by dcairns

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Sometimes I watch a Richard Quine film and I’m disappointed and it takes me a while to watch another, sometimes what I see is very inspiring — OPERATION MAD BALL, though not a masterpiece, inflates a slender premise to a reasonable size, and gets some good comedy going.

France, right after WWII. There’s an army base full of nurses and enlisted men, but they’re not allowed to date because the nurses technically count as officers. The wily Jack Lemmon lots and schemes under the nose of stickler-in-chief Ernie Kovacs to organise a super-celebration at which the guys and girls can dance and hold hands and like that.

Kathryn Grant is extremely cute, sporting the same little curl above her big spherical forehead that she wears in THE SEVENTH VOYAGE OF SINBAD — a hairstyle apparently popular in both 8th century Persia and the 1940s US military. There’s an energetic cameo by Mickey Rooney. Kind of horrible, but undeniably energetic. And there’s Lemmon and Kovacs.

Jack Lemmon must have seemed a colossal breath of fresh air in 50s American film — it seems like, after the war, there was a rush to re-cement gender roles and men had to be Glenn Ford or nothing. The comedies gradually got less daring, as if you couldn’t even joke about the relationship between the sexes. Of course, there was still a lot of good stuff happening, but the appearance of a Jack Lemmon facilitated a lot of interesting developments. Lemmon is light, and not super-masculine. He doesn’t have a camp bone in his body, which made him safe to cast in SOME LIKE IT HOT, but he doesn’t radiate machismo. His insertion into the cultural mainstream opened a duct allowing about a hectolitre of excess testosterone to be drained off. This was later frozen and chiselled into the form of Charles Bronson, so nothing was wasted.

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Here, he’s playing a bit of a schemer, and the plot requires him to break down the resistance of a very proper young lady. At a key point, he has to threaten her with incipient spinsterhood if she doesn’ yield to what I suppose we must call his blandishments — a slightly nasty, and definitely sexist speech. Lemmon makes it a lot less hateful than it would have sounded coming from your typical tough guy, and he throws in a guilty look at the end which I’m positive wasn’t specified in the script.

Kovacs, asides from his creative genius as a television comedian, is just an amazing actor — his choices are really bold, but credible. To make Capt. Lock loathsome, he does a lot of work with his mouth, making it seem very wet and eager — canine qualities which can be endearing in a mutt, but are also a bit repulsive if you imagine getting too close. While his TV character Percy Dovetonsils would draw the edges of his mouth as far back as possible as if his head were attempting second-stage separation, lips parting tightly to admit little gasps that seem to ellicit our approval. By contrast, Capt. Lock’s lips seem slack and slobbery, his grin loose, stupid, ingratiating, somehow suggesting an abyss of self-doubt behind his bullying facade.

Lock is finally defeated when Lemmon frames him, getting him picked up by the military police. By chance, his own C.O. happens to pass, and Kovacs appeals for help — surely this man will vouch for him. But it’s one of those rather mean humiliation comeuppances — his C.O. doesn’t like him, and declares he’s never seen this guy before. (We’re to believe that this will all be straightened out in the morning, but Kovacs will spend the night in the cooler.)

Lock’s reaction to this apparent lack of recognition is stunningly played by Kovacs. Lock, of course, can’t comprehend why his superior officer is denying knowledge of him — he’s crossed over into the Twilight Zone. What he does, deprived by shock of the power of speech, is to point at his own moustache. With both index fingers. “This is my moustache,” the gesture seems to say. “So surely this is me?”

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An existential crisis we can all relate to, I think.

Things Roddy and Fiona said during “The 7th Voyage of Sinbad”

Posted in FILM, literature, Mythology with tags , , , , , , , , on January 4, 2011 by dcairns

I’d been meaning to revisit Ray Harryhausen’s first and best Sinbad picture for a while, and it occured to me that Fiona’s brother Roderick might also enjoy it. In the event, brother and sister formed an excellent double act, and a good time was had by all.

Fiona: “What’s with her hair? What’s that? It’s horrible!”

We all liked Kathryn Grant, the spunky princess, but her cowlick was an abomination. For a fifties kids movie, the film finds a lot for her to do, especially considering she spends most of the movie miniaturized.

Roddy: “Is their any insects in this one?” Roddy likes bugs and spiders in movies. It might seem that MYSTERIOUS ISLAND or SINBAD AND THE EYE OF THE TIGER, with their big bees, would suit him better, but 7V is such a superior film to those two, I felt the choice was justified.

F: “Oh, he’s a sweet talker, that Sinbad!”

Ken Kolb’s screenplay provides surprisingly decent dialogue, allowing the romance to convince more than usual. Kerwin Mathews is an appealing hero, more so than John Philip Law or Pat Wayne in the sequels. None of them were exactly major personalities, but at least this time Sinbad has a personality, kind of.

F: “She is cute. Needs to get that hair fixed though.”

The story hits the ground running, with Sinbad transporting his new bride by sea, hopelessly lost in the fog. A mysterious island is discovered and then, in a scene that had seven-year-old me torn between fleeing the television and leaping forward to switch channels in terror, Torin Thatcher comes fleeing from a cave pursued by the Cyclops.

As always with Harryhausen, the mythological animal gets an upgrade, with satyr’s goat-legs and a horn added to the design. The legs are a nice touch: a purely humanoid giant could be played by an actor, but only stop-motion “Dynamation — the new wonder of the screen” could allow a creature’s legs to bend backwards like Cy’s.

F: “That hair’s going to drive me crazy.”

Torin is after a magic lamp, the perfect Arabian Nights MacGuffin, but he loses it escaping the giant. (In one of the original Arabian Nights tales, Sinbad does meet a giant, and although he’s not specified as of the one-eyed variety, the story is clearly plagiarized from Homer’s Odyssey, so Harryhausen is fully justified in making the monster cyclopean.

Bagdad!

F: “Nice outfit. It’s gone: the cowlick.”

Torin is trying to persuade everybody to return to the accursed island to help him get his lamp. Kerwin speaks of the magician’s obsessive desire which consumes him, and Kathryn sweetly turns the subject around to love, saying she pities Torin as she already has her heart’s desire.

But, after a brief turn by a serpent lady with four snaky arms, the princess is miniaturized by the evil Torin Thatcher (how well the words “evil” and “Thatcher” go together) and is discovered tiny upon her pillow, like a talking mint.

A shame the princess’s pillow looks so lumpy here — possibly it’s stuffed with peas.

To cure his pocket-sized fiancee (marriage seems impractical until this is sorted out), Sinbad embarks for the isle of the Cyclops, taking with him a Dirty Dozen crew of convicts, including Danny “One-Round” Green from THE LADYKILLERS, the only Cockney Arab in the Middle East.

F: “And don’t stand on my fruit!”

Mutiny! A slightly unconvincing fight among the crew: well, they only had three weeks to shoot the live action part of it.

R: “Cheez — missed him! Come on, Sinbad! Go for him! Look out! Whoops.”

The island is reached at last, and Sinbad’s crew start building a giant crossbow designed by Torin.

Fiona, to Roddy: “You need to say more interesting things so David’s got something to write about.”

R: “I’ll say something. Right. He is wandering about, looking at rocks.”

R: “It’s a club, that’s what it is. Told you.”

R: “Sh, sh!”

F: “He could at least kill him before he roasts him alive.”

I fail to point out Fiona’s schoolboy error in the above sentence, and merely add: “Or undress him.”

As the Cyclops prepares to feast on human flesh, Roddy belches, loudly.

R: “I’ve got interjestion.”

Sinbad cunningly plots to escape the giant’s cage with the aid of little Princess Kathryn.

R (confused): “Cannae escape. How can he, when she’s here?”

R: “We’ve got a woman like that at Canning Place.”

“That small?” I ask.

R: “No.”

R: “Don’t stand there, push, woman! Give it all your strength! Well done.”

R (to the Cyclops): “Look out!”

R: “Going mental, that monster, is he? Cheesy peeps!”

“Cheesy peeps!” is a strange expression almost unique to Roddy, who doesn’t swear. Being a true Dundonian, he doesn’t use negatives, either, so “Isn’t he?” is pronounced “Is he?” Somehow this is never actually confusing.

F: “You’d be going mental too if you were there, having spears chucked at you.”

R: “I’m not, though. I’m here.”

The logic of this is inarguable, and we all fall into silent contemplation for a bit.

R (apropos of nothing): “I’d like to be a vampire. In a horror movie, I mean. Do you think I’d make a good vampire?”

Fiona and I: “No.”

The Cyclops, blinded, falls off a cliff.

F: “And, as usual, you do feel slightly sorry for him.”

Sinbad’s crew decide to break open a roc’s egg.

F: You can’t get the staff.”

Harryhausen can’t leave the mythic roc alone either, so this one has two heads.

R: “There’s two of them!”

F: “It’s all cute and fluffy. Don’t tell me they kill it and eat it. Oh no.”

R: “What are they playing at?”

Torin raises a skeleton to attack Sinbad. “Kill! Kill!”

F: “They can’t just say “Kill!” once in these films, can they?”

F: “He knocked down his crocodile.”

R: “That was typical, is it?”

The skeleton fight was of course trumped by Harryhausen in JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS, where there are seven screaming skeletons, a brilliantly choreographed and incredibly elaborate piece of live-action/animation. Wishing he’d set that scene at night, for greater atmosphere, he re-staged it AGAIN in SINBAD AND THE EYE OF THE TIGER, with three bug-eyed “ghouls” who look like starving Selenites.

R (general advice to the cast): “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do!”

R: “That dragon’s no happy, is he?”

F: “Where are all the female cyclopses? How do they reproduce?”

Me: “Sodomy.”

R: “He’s happy, is he?”

R: “He’s still got a – in his -um, what do you call it?”

R: “I wish that was all mine as well. I would save it all up and go on holiday with it. On safari. Or Transylvania.”

UK: Sinbad Collection – Seventh Voyage Of Sinbad/Golden Voyage Of Sinbad/Sinbad And The Eye Of Tiger [DVD] [1958]

USA:The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (50th Anniversary Edition) (1958)

The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad (50th Anniversary Edition) [Blu-ray]