Archive for Sextette

The Late Show

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 1, 2013 by dcairns


I created this second banner because Fiona said the dead Santa one was “horrible.”

Welcome to the blogathon! I’m going to sellotape this post to the top of Shadowplay using science, so it will be the first thing you see this week. But the new posts will be immediately beneath it, so keep scrolling.

If participating in the blogathon, this is the post to link to. You can add a comment below to let me know about the post, if you don’t have my email.



And we have a first entry — David Ehrenstein applies his wits to F FOR FAKE, one of Orson Welles’ last movies as director, and another that is sometimes cited as his greatest film. Here.

My own first piece deals with a truly hard-to-see, unconsidered final film, from the wonderful Frank Borzage. Here.

Christine Leteux was our researcher on NATAN, is Kevin Brownlow’s translator, and in her own right she’s the author of the first book on Albert Capellani and the splendid French-language film blog Ann Harding’s Treasures. She’s traveling at present, researching her next book, but gave me permission to link to a relevant piece from AHT — TUMBLEWEEDS was William S. Hart’s last directorial gig and feature starring role. Ici.

Eddie Selover casts a not-unsympathetic eye over two swan songs from 1930s divas, Marlene Dietrich’s JUST A GIGOLO and Mae West’s jaw-dropping SEXTETTE. Here.

Marilyn Ferdinand at Ferdy on Films looks at a film I only just realized exists, the 1934 version of THE SCARLET LETTER, which was Colleen Moore’s last feature. Here.



Every Shadowplay blogathon must contain an intertitle. Here.

Over at Mostly Film, Paul Duane raises the tone with an entry on EMMANUELLE V, tragically Walerian Borowczyk’s last gig, but finds some bizarre merit. Here.

Tim Hayes looks at SPAWN not as a naff superhero flick but as a late Nicol Williamson film and gets fascinating results. Here.

We have a scintillating line-up of guest Shadowplayers this year, and the first among them is Judy Dean, who looks at James Mason’s last screen appearance in THE SHOOTING PARTY. Here.



Imogen Smith, a regular star writer at The Chiseler, revisits Anthony Mann’s last western, which is also a late Gary Cooper, and elegiac as hell. Here.

Regular Shadowplayer Simon Kane waxes mysterious about Tom Schiller’s first, last and only theatrical feature, aptly titled NOTHING LASTS FOREVER, also the cinematic swan song of Sam (“Professor Knickerbocker”) Jaffe. Here.

My own Tuesday piece takes a brief look at Peckinpah’s THE OSTERMAN WEEKEND, both version. And there’s a song! Here.

Gareth McFeely looks at the final feature of the late Georges Lautner, in a particularly timely tribute. Here.



Filmmaker Matthew Wilder looks at Billy Wilder’s unloved BUDDY BUDDY and, uniquely, finds something to admire. Here.

From Scout Tafoya, a typically ruminative and emotive valediction to Raul Ruiz. Here.

My post deals with a late Richard Lester, the largely ignored/forgotten FINDERS KEEPERS, which actually has some great slapstick. Here.

Louis Wolheim’s last movie, the 193o railroad melodrama DANGER LIGHTS, is examined by The Man on the Flying Trapeze. Here.



Nobody Knows Anybody, the Spanish cine-blog, considers the career of Alfredo Landa in the light of his final work. Yonder.

As part of the ’68 Comeback Special, I consider a late film by Albert Finney, made early in his career. Confused? Now you know how CHARLIE BUBBLES feels. Here.

Critica Retro assesses the charms of Louise Brooks’ oddball last picture. In Portuguese — try auto-translate, or try reading Portuguese! Aquí.

Two from Jeremy Rizzo, on Howard Hawks last, RIO LOBO, and Kubrick’s semi-posthumous puzzle box, EYES WIDE SHUT. Here and here.



Michael Pattison on what MAY be Tsai Ming-Liang’s final movie. Here.

A tip of the hat to THAT OBSCURE OBJECT OF DESIRE at No Man’s Land. Here.

Our own David Melville Wingrove illuminates the trailing end of Rex Ingram’s mighty career. Down here.

John Greco tackles the knotty problem of William Wyler’s last work, a film I love unreasonably. Here.

Stacia at She Blogged By Night weighs in on HER TWELVE MEN and Douglas Shearer, brother of the more celebrated Norma. Here.

And Tony Dayoub offers a close reading of three scenes in GIANT, the last film of James Dean. Here!

Daniel Riccuito, editor of The Chiseler, considers Jean Epstein’s last short, LIGHTS THAT NEVER FAIL aka LES FEUX DE LA MER. Here.

prairie home.preview


Dennis Cozzalio of the legendary Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule joins the blogathon for the first time with a joint look at the final films of two old masters: Altman and Penn. Here!

Seijun Suzuki’s wild, pop-art penultimate pic inspires this Shadowplay gallery. Here.

Guest Shadowplayer Ted Haycraft reflects on one of the biggest, boldest and bloodiest final films, ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA. Here.

Grand Old Movies tips the hat to Marie Dressler. Here.

Late Bresson via Philip Tatler IV at Diary of a Country Pickpocket. Here.

The Girl with the White Parasol covers Frank Borzage’s second-last film, CHINA DOLL. Here.


Unable to recognize too much of a good thing, I keep going with John Frankenheimer’s last theatrical release, REINDEER GAMES. Here.

Chandler Swain revisits Losey’s STEAMING. Here.

Scout Tafoya’s second blogathon post details the last film to end them all, PP Pasolini’s positively final SALO. Here.




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


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.

G is for La Generala

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , on December 6, 2011 by dcairns

David Melville, as part of both Cine Dorado, his ongoing alphabet of Mexican melodrama, and The Late FIlms Blogathon, presents this profile of Maria Felix’s last delirious cinematic outing. This has necessitated a slight departure from alphabetical order — the letter “F” will now follow the letter “G” as soon as the Blogathon is finished. Please adjust your dictionaries accordingly.

D Cairns


(in collaboration with the Late Films Blogathon)

The Golden Age of Mexican Melodrama 

G is for La General

It’s one of my long-held ambitions to devote a cycle of films to the absurd vanity projects of ageing stars. Once a screen goddess has lost everything but her fame and her ego, she can easily make Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard look like a model of taste and restraint. Alas, such movies tend to vanish rather quickly – crushed by an avalanche of critical opprobrium and public indifference. It is possible (just about) to catch Mae West as a much-married movie star (complete with disco numbers) in Sextette (1978) or Lauren Bacall as a Broadway diva menaced by a psycho killer in The Fan (1981). But what of Merle Oberon as a rich widow cruising for toyboys in Interval (1973) or Hedy Lamarr as Helen of Troy, Genevieve of Brabant and the Empress Josephine in The Love of Three Queens (1954)? To the despair of film buffs of a certain ilk, these legendary fiascos lie buried in an unmarked tomb, somewhere in the Elephants’ Graveyard of Camp.

So it may or may not be good news that María Félix – Mexico’s greatest star and perhaps the walking, breathing embodiment of the word ‘diva’ – has left her last and most disastrous vehicle behind her on DVDfor the world to marvel at. (To add a note of poignancy, it’s the ‘B’ side to one of her bona fide classics from the 40s, La diosa arrodillada/The Kneeling Goddess.) Made in 1971 when its star was pushing sixty, La Generala was largely financed by her fifth husband, a French millionaire. It’s an epic of the Mexican Revolution, a genre that was already shop-worn when María’s career was at its peak in the late 40s. In a desperate bid to shock this material back to life, director Juan Ibáñez drowns it in a trendy stew of cod-Surrealism and graphic gore. It’s like a cheesy telenovela directed at odd moments by Alejandro Jodorowsky and Sam Peckinpah. Only not as good.

As the film opens, the Revolution is officially drawing to a close. A pair of progressive landowners – Mariana and her too-beloved brother Manuel – are prepared to divide their land among their adoring peasants. They even light a bonfire with portraits of their aristocratic forebears, as a ritual of class penance. Then a nasty troop of federales ride in, bent on restoring the status quo. Manuel defies them so they gun him down, along with all the other men of the village, as they are bathing naked in a lake to celebrate the fiesta of San Juan. Mariana watches the massacre in horror – accompanied by her sidekick, a mute hunchback dwarf. (Mexico, in this movie, seems to be populated largely by cripples, lunatics and other Fellini-style grotesques. We also get a shaven-headed madwoman with round pebble glasses, who drags her cat around on a lead. Towards the end of La Generala, she skins it alive and dangles its corpse gleefully in front of the camera.)

Sworn to revenge, Mariana flees to Mexico City. There she seduces and castrates the wicked colonel who ordered her brother’s death. As foolish and over-the-top as this may sound, María Félix with a sickle in her hand – a manic gleam in her lustrous dark eyes – is truly an alarming sight. She cashes in her inheritance, buys some guns and forms her own band of guerrillas. They rampage about the country burning haciendas, shooting the owners and generally spreading chaos. In a token gesture towards decency, Mariana steps in to stop her soldiers raping the captive women. “Remember that we are men,” growls one would-be rapist. To this she answers: “All the more reason not to behave like beasts!”

María Félix works hard to convey our heroine’s revolutionary fervour and lust for revenge. Her face, alas – while it still looks exquisite – has been frozen to an eerie stillness by decades of plastic surgery. Her every close-up is shot (by ace veteran Gabriel Figueroa) through thick layers of gauze. The effect is not so much a feminist rip-off of The Wild Bunch as a spooky Mexican prequel to The Stepford Wives. Unable to act (even by her own generous definition of that term) María falls back on her imperious flashing eyes and her sexy, throaty growl of a voice. Her one good moment happens early on, when she knocks over a blind beggar on her way into church. “What’s wrong with you?” she snarls. “Can’t you look where you’re going?”

Like everything else in La Generala, this fateful outing to church seems to end in a massacre. Soldiers storm in during Mass and gun down a revolutionary on the altar. The congregation flees, only to perish under a hail of army bullets. (María survives, incredibly, because the blind man steps in and takes the bullet for her!) The film’s gratuitous gore spirals here to the edge of parody. We see repeated shots of a horse collapsing, in death-agonies, on top of a bloodstained guitar. One man falls dead with his head in a birdcage; a hungry canary hops over and pecks out his eyes. María, understandably bemused by the mayhem around her, takes refuge in a bizarre dream sequence that can only be described as the film’s highlight.

The scene is a blasted desert landscape littered with corpses. María wanders through it in a kaftan, her face painted ghostly white. Her eyes are thick with kohl, her hair a riot of black curls. A gold snake twines, seductive and sinister, about her forehead. She moves as if lost in a trance, like some queer Aztec goddess come down to earth. Spotting her brother lying dead at the foot of a cross, she kneels and cradles his corpse in her arms – perhaps to revive him, perhaps to dine off his blood? Horses neigh and whinny, galloping away to the horizon. A chorus of shrivelled old women, their faces chalk white, dance slowly round in a circle. Rising from the side of her dead brother, María seizes a flaming torch and walks slowly down towards a lake. On its banks, oblivious to her presence, the old women writhe and wail. She touches her torch to the water, which bursts in a sea of flame…

Suddenly, in this one scene, a film that struggles otherwise to rise to the level of mediocrity explodes with a Surrealist poetry that the late Ken Russell might envy. Not ever having seen another film by Juan Ibáñez, I cannot say if it is typical of his work. María Félix, although she is washed up as an actress, is still potent and hypnotic as an icon. The dream of La Generala places her in a strange and hallucinatory shadow world, a subconscious realm haunted by archetypes and myths. It is the world she most rightly inhabits, to which she will always belong.

David Melville