Archive for Steve McQueen

It rolls

Posted in Comics, FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 18, 2022 by dcairns

Remarkable that I’d never seen THE BLOB since (a) I’ve seen the remake (b) I’ve seen a comic strip detailing the production of the made-for-TV sequel (c) I’ve read The Talking Blob, the Cracked magazine pardy (d) I’ve heard the theme tune and (e) I’m an Olin Howland completist.

Howland is great value in his brief appearance before he gets ingested by the titular jelly. Wish they’d written him more lines. And spelled his name right. Other notes —

Burt Bacharach, the most distinguished contributor not counting “Steven McQueen” and Howland, receives no credit. His song, written with Mack David, ascribes powers of creeping, leaping and flying to the title character, yet all we ever see it do is sluggishly roll.

Director Irvin S. Seaworth Yeaworth Jr has real trouble framing conversations so you can see the principles, and is content to do quite long scenes without visible faces. And not in a good way.

The gorgeous, lifelike colour by Deluxe is SUPERB. It’s not as if the film is beautifully photographed, but it’s BRIGHT, and that’s enough for the colour to really get in amongst things, seep into everybody and everything, and then glow out of them with radioactive effulgence. Colour graders take note, this is what ’50s Deluxe is supposed to look like.

McQueen is a bit uncontrolled, but charismatic and interesting, at one point interrupting himself, since no one else will, doing that selfoverlapping dialogue thing pioneered by Jerry Lewis.

The movie is as sluggish as its monster, with McQueen boldly trying to inject some energy into the barely-proceedings, and his leading lady, Aneta Corsaut, hungrily leaching it out with every moment of screen time. The other supposedly ebullient teenagers are dull, including the one named “Mooch,” who ought, with that name, be some kind of comedic Shaggy type. But the film is sympathetic to them, it’s a rather sweet piece of pro-teen propaganda wrapped up in a rampaging extraterrestrial protoplasm thriller.

Hats off to visual effects artist Bart Sloane, a veteran of religious films (which must need a lot of effects, when you think about it, and for not a lot of money). I like to think he worked on the Jesus film that got mailed to Kenneth Anger accidentally and wound up featuring in SCORPIO RISING. Sloane pulls off every crazy thing the script calls for, including having the blob ingest a diner, then get electrocuted, set fire to and frozen. True, he pulls that off mainly by doing a painting of it, and by having actors react and say things like “It’s on fire now.” But that is adequate to the film’s flimsy purpose. Pushing jelly through photographs of sets and locations is a MARVELOUS technique, and I want to try it myself. For maximum effect, I would do it in a film where none of the characters are aware there’s a constant blob seeping into the room with them. Maybe a Terence Rattigan adaptation.

A mystery wrapped in another religious film: apart from THE 4D MAN and DINOSAURUS (rhymes with rhinoceros), director Seaworth made very little, but in 2004, the year of his death, he came out of what seems to have been 47 years of total inactivity, perhaps frozen at the North pole, to make a short film, THE JORDAN EXPERIENCE, under the name “Shortless Yeaworth.” Starring Pope John Paul II.

Just had a look on YouTube, you know, in case. The film isn’t there, but all the rushes are, dated 2000.

But why was he Shortless? I know it’s warm in Jordan, but you have the Pope’s feelings to consider.

The Do-Over

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

Firstly, don’t read this if you haven’t seen ONCE UPON A TIME… IN HOLLYWOOD yet and are planning to. I will discuss the ending. The first review I read was in The Guardian where they coyly described it as “audacious” and said they could reveal no more, and I immediately flashed on what it could be and was correct.

Oh, potential spoilers for INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS and GRAVITY also.

Fiona turned to me with her adorable WTF? face when this one revealed its hand, an expression I recall from the similar moment in INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS (and from GRAVITY, where it seemed, in the moment, impossible that a certain actor could be exiting the picture midway). But she explained afterwards that it wasn’t that her mind was blown by this twist, but that Tarantino was brazenly recycling the twist from IB (“What we must never do,” says Jake Hannaford, that wise and wizened old goat, “is steal from ourselves.”)

“What’s the POINT?” she wanted to know.

First section of movie: skilled recreation of 1969 LA. Some very good lookalikes and performances from people playing Bruce Lee, Steve McQueen (sympathetic here, “an asshole” in Polanski’s opinion, and I take him to be a fine judge of that quality with special insight), Connie Stevens (!), James Stacy (?), Charles Manson, though they needed a Polanski who looks more like a twelve-year-old (though Rafal Zawierucha does good Polanskian grunts of disgust). Product placement of defunct and/or fictional products. An evocation of the plight of the actor on the slide, both sympathetic and skeptical. Numerous lingering and lascivious shots of young girls’ feet.

Paul Duane, on Twitter, seemed to like the same parts of the film I did, and noted: “I was relieved about one thing: no grandstanding QT monologues.” Well, Bruce Lee (Mike Moh) gets one grandstanding m., but it’s supposed to make us want to see him get punched, so yes, that does feel like QT has figured something out about the way audiences process the grandstanding m.

Incidentally, this is a very white film. Which makes the casual racism (“Don’t cry in front of the Mexicans”) harder to excuse — sure, I buy it as accurate to the period, but it also means the film can be enjoyed by racists without anything to give them cognitive dissonance and we have TWO scenes of white, fair-haired people defeating Chinese people in fights — Brad Pitt and the actual Sharon Tate in THE WRECKING CREW, knocking out Nancy Kwan. Though I was glad of the cutaways of Lee training the movie’s Tate (Margot Robbie), which allows him to close out his role on a positive note, like Travolta in PULP FICTION, who buts for that film’s playful structure would make his concluding appearance dead on the toilet with an inferior paperback thriller by his side.

For about the ninth time running, I was disturbed by Tarantino’s compulsion to make his characters assholes. His impulse to save the inhabitants of Cielo Drive is sort of sweet, sort of adolescent, but certainly tainted by the way he does it — with an alternate, counter-historical bloodbath, a cathartic outburst of movie violence, performed by a hippy-hating alcoholic actor and a possible wife-killer.

Leo’s character gets an ego-boosting compliment from a child actor — and doesn’t return the compliment. Is it because he’s an asshole and QT wants us to notice that, or because he didn’t think about it? Hard to know.

Tarantino said at the time of NATURAL BORN KILLERS that he hated serial killers and thought the right thing to do was execute them, and he hated them even worse for that because he was in all other respects opposed to the death penalty. I can understand that.

I think what’s going on with these alt histories is maybe that Tarantino hates the Holocaust and the Manson killings because they take the fun out of fictional violence, if you really think about them. So wouldn’t it be nice to replace them with fictional violence, take a fantasy revenge on the perpetrators, numb the pain of the real-world horror? Well, no. The only part of this I can approve of is the undercutting of the pseudo-catharsis with fantastical absurdity (the handy flame thrower in the garage), reminding us, in Bokononist fashion, that we’re being given a comforting lie.

MY version of a happy ending to this story would be one in which NOBODY gets hurt. I can feel the visceral energy of the manic gonzo mayhem but I don’t want it or need it in this context.

I think I can get another post out of this movie’s movie allusions, though… so I will.


Posted in FILM, Sport with tags , , , , , , on February 2, 2019 by dcairns

FACT: Steve McQueen liked to have his middle name written on the walls of his sets.

This is from LE MANS, directed by Lee H. Katzin, the man who brought you THE PHYNX, for which you were not sufficiently grateful in my view.

Part of the reason I hate all sporting activity is that it’s noisy, horribly noisy. If the sound of the activity itself isn’t upsetting, the audience steps in and screams its collective nut off to make up for it. Name me a sport that’s pleasant to listen to. I have misophonia, so bear that in mind when you make your terrible suggestions.So you might imagine I’m not keen on racing car action, but in fact I can tolerate it well enough in a fim because films have sound design. They’re not just random awfulness, despite everything Michael Bay can prove to the contrary. So I could put up with the roaring in LE MANS — about seven-eighths of the film is VVVVVVVRRRRRRRRRRROOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM!!!!!!!!!!!! — and I even kind of appreciated the lack of plot, subplot, character development, sympathy, philosophy and sex. After all, John Frankenheimer’s GRAND PRIX, which is equally impressive visually — all those low angles of tarmac skudding by millimetres from our eyes — attempted to have all those elements, and they were boring. LE MANS would probably like you to call it existentialist, since McQueen barely speaks and it’s all about his life-and-death struggle with his gears and the road, but what it is, really, is underdeveloped. But it does offer an array of very good documentary footage into which the meagre story has been inserted with some skill.

The main speechifying bit is when Elga Andersen suggests to McQ that when men risk their lives, they ought to have a very important reason, an unanswerably good argument to which he responds with pure screenwriter bullshit. Move on quickly. There’s some fine visual direction and cutting. Two spectacular crashes at what we could jestingly call the second act curtain illustrate this well. In one, a minor “character” comes a cropper, his car buckling like so much wet cardboard, settling into a tattered heap from which he emerges, jerkily. Katzin and one or more of his five editors have started snipping frames, so that the inevitable slomo jolts back and forth to normal speed, giving the staggering motorist a broken, spasmodic gait — at all makes his progress away from the wreck, which we expect to explode at any instant — seem painfully protracted, and indeed just plain painful.

Moments later, McQueen also crashes, slamming into the barriers, which warp fantastically as the car crumples and splits, finally coming to rest, a twitching McQueen visible through the shattered windscreen (big ugly zoom). And then the action replays — in McQueen’s mind, we assume — and we get the whole thing again from new angles and with more slomo, step-printing until the persistence of vision almost breaks down. Fiona was MOST impressed here — clearly, the action is a traumatic flashback, and she interpreted the exterior views as representing the kind of dissociation, distancing, that some have reported experiencing during accidents.The end credits worried me by thanking one of the drivers for his “sacrifice” — I assumed the poor bastard had died, and thought this was a rather tactless way of describing something that wasn’t, one presumes, voluntary. In fact he “only” lost part of his leg. The lower part, I hope. If it’s the upper part there’s usually not much they can do.

I still wouldn’t call it a sacrifice. “We would like to thank XXX for his horrible mishap” would seem more accurate.

Motor racing, you see, is a very bad thing. Don’t do it. You only have a limited number of legs to sacrifice.