Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
Phantom Raiders (1940)
Watch Your Back!
Conceived in the 19th century by Ormond G. Smith and realized as a literary character by several writers, detective Nick Carter has had a long life in newspaper serials, novels, movies, radio series and comics. From his first appearance in September 1886, Carter has evolved according to the times, and it would not be a surprise for a revival in this century with new adventures and cases to solve. In 1939 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer launched a trilogy with Walter Pidgeon in the role of Carter, composed of "Nick Carter, Master Detective", and the following year by "Phantom Raiders" and "Sky Murder", all three based on original scripts.
«Phantom Raiders» (known in Latin America as "Nick Carter in Panama") has the peculiar distinction (for Panamanians) of being set in the city of Colón, on the Atlantic coast of Panamá, and belonging to a group of films that use the country as exotic location and little else. As in many productions imagined in Los Angeles, the cities below the Rio Grande are rather rural villages, with music combining Spanish cadences, rancheras and Cuban rhythms. The first establishing shots are places on the other ocean (Pacific), giving way to the Colón of Culver City, a Moroccan-looking set with hotels and a club for cheerful sailors and women called La Cita Café, where much of the plot takes place.
That bizarre mishmash seems a hint of what continues, an agile and funny plot of sabotage (although there are countless dead on the road... or at the bottom of the Caribbean sea) which, fortunately, has nothing to do with Asian or Eastern European spies trying to destroy the Panama Canal. No, this time it is a knife-throwing villain from San Francisco, one Al Taurez (Joseph Schildkraut), who sinks ships from his office in Colón, by exploding bombs ingeniously located on the vessels, in order to collect insurance. But his greed betrays him, because, when the third ship is sunk in the course of a fortnight, the insurance company Llewelyn's of London hires Carter to solve the case.
In addition to the traps that Taurez tends, in which Carter falls and escapes from, with the usual elegance of Pidgeon, the plot is dotted with humor and spark, thanks to the interventions of the "bee man" Bartholomew (Donald Meek), Carter's assistant; and from a Mexican prostitute named Dolores Arango (played by Hungarian Steffi Duna), who entangles everything, including her boyfriend (Nat Pendleton), a jealous former boxing champion who wants to finish Carter off. The direction is aptly handled by Jacques Tourneur, the man behind the classics «Cat People», «I Walked with a Zombie», «Out of the Past» and «Night of the Demon», which guarantees a pleasant 70-minute ride. Enjoy.
La morte viene dallo spazio (1958)
A rare sci-fi Italian movie
«Death Comes From Space» is one of those films whose good intentions and effort to create stunning visual effects, contrary to their low budget, surpass its achievements. Earth is in danger once again, because of a meteor shower that diverted to the planet, when space travel goes wrong. The main plot involves the American astronaut who went to space and a female scientist (Swiss actors Paul Hubschmid and Madeleine Fischer, respectively), who have the mission of finding the solution to save everyone. In the middle of the story, a family sub-plot interferes, but the moments of destruction are stronger, as shown on the screen, thanks to footage of natural disasters and people in danger, combined with images created by cinematographer Mario Bava, famous for creating effects and atmospheres with little. A minor and certainly rare contribution of Italian cinema in the science fiction genre, but welcome.
The Lighthouse (2019)
Two hags in search of a plot
I do not know what is wrong with cinéphiles. They are mistaking the epidermic values of a movie with good cinema... But I cannot tell which movie is worse... «Midsommar» or this pointless thing you cannot make heads or tails of, inspired not so much in Melville or Lovecraft, but in all the bad horror movies that Los Angeles has been making after the 1970s. «The Lighthouse» takes about thirty-something minutes to make a tiring exposition concerning two men, alone with their secrets, in charge of a lighthouse, which has its own secret. All that first act is dominated by omnipresent amplified sound and gimmicky music cues, because --I repeat it again-- filmmakers seem not to trust the images they shoot, and because someone told them (from Bernard Herrmann down) that cinema without music is useless. Cheap aphorism of populist cinema with cultured pretensions... And then the secrets of all are revealed when the movie turns into a piece of chamber theater, delivered by two drunks: the endless dialogues were perhaps inspired by Melville or diaries of sailors and lighthouse keepers (as the credits claim), but to me they sounded like the verbal fencing between two crazy hags exchanging ridiculous lines of nineteenth-century melodrama, about beans, wood and nuns. While the man in charge of the lighthouse (Willem Dafoe) goes from tyrant to old queen, his slave/assistant (Robert Pattinson) hallucinates with mermaids, octopus men, Hitchcockian seagulls, storms, seaweed and whatever sea thing you can imagine. Second film by Robert Eggers, the decorator and costumer who tricked everyone with "The VVitch," his first movie, «The Lighthouse» mimics the format and black-and-white of silent films to no avail. Unless you have watched very little cinema and do not know Dreyer, you may find it fascinating. For me it is irremediably silly.
Ég man þig (2017)
The Mystery of the Crosses
While watching this Icelandic film, I remembered what happened to a similar movie, «I Am the Beautiful Thing That Lives in the House", a Canadian production that was misunderstood, maligned and unjustly underrated. Both works address a favorite conflict in horror motion pictures, stories and myths: that of the spirits that seek peace, after violent deaths or when their bodies have not been found. In «Pretty Thing», a nurse is haunted by the specter of a beautiful young woman who was killed by her groom. In «I Remember You», we find two children who were mistreated and mocked by their peers and suddenly were missing. These stories frequently reflect on the sense of responsibility or guilt felt by those who remain alive when someone close dies, in whose deaths they were somehow involved. Their responsibility or guilt take the form of ghosts that generally only they can see and "free" them from the attachment to this plane of existence.
Based on a novel by Yrsa Sigurdardottir (Reykjavik, 1963), an Icelandic author specializing in two genres perhaps antagonistic (crime novels and children's books ...), «I Remember You» involves complex characters and biographies full of ungrateful incidents, from the psychiatrist who has never been able to locate the body of his missing son, to the man and two women trying to open a hostel on an abandoned island, without knowing that they are in the house with a horrific past. One of the missing children is somehow connected to the strange mutilations and deaths of elders who seem to be part of a sect and, above all, with the psychiatrist's son.
The evolution of the drama is always interesting, the performances and the cinematography of Jakob Ingimundarson are all good, and there is no lack of tension and a couple of scares, but here we do not find the primary, ancestral and classic horror so dear to the British Hammer films, to the Italian horror master Mario Bava or to the Mexican studios Churubusco Azteca, but a more adult and contemporary approach to horror. «I Remember You» has enough merits to enjoy an evening of good genre cinema in its of 21st century version. See it.
Les affamés (2017)
Very good genre movie!
Fast-running, shouting zombies, with a flair for the erection of huge totems with objects of contemporary consumer society; plus ordinary characters (including a little girl, a "perfect wife", a family's black goat, a porn-shop worker, a lesbian couple, and an old man with a boy guide) who have their own, simple motivations, all pointing at "survival", are the main ingredients of this fine Canadian horror movie. The director Robin Aubert expresses his gratitude to George A. Romero in the end credits, and it is quite understandable, for all the visual references and ideological content that relate his movie to Romero's work. A Netflix production, this and "Atlantique" are the best genre films dedicated to zombies that I have seen in a long time... Done with little resources and effects, this is more "cine popular" (something like the "cinema that the people like"), than artistic horror film, although it does have more style than most similar movies. Let the end credits roll until the end, or you will miss the real conclusion, with a ravishing, red guest star.
Le quattro volte (2010)
Extraordinary Film Work
Good surprises are always rewarding, even if they take 10 years to cross your path. Acquired months ago, the film "The Four Times" (2010) had been shelved until I decided to sit and watch it, and the experience has been extraordinary.
Set and shot in Calabria, by Calabrian filmmaker Michelangelo Frammatino, the film was inspired by the philosophical ideas of Pythagoras, who created a brotherhood precisely in a city in the region of Calabria, composed of men and women who practiced asceticism, were vegetarians and believed in metempsychosis or the transmigration of some psychic, spiritual and even physical traits from one being to another, regardless of whether it is between humans, animals, vegetables or minerals, unlike the concept of reincarnation.
Of course, illustrating this requires talent and good execution and, fortunately, director Frammatino reveals himself as an artist capable of producing a composition of four stories, with four "protagonists" that, apparently, migrate from one to another, as the passage of seasons. From a story about an old shepherd, followed by others about a little goat, a fir tree and coal, to finally go back to the origin, may sound like poor dramaturgy, but, on the contrary, it is that transparent progression executed with great skill by natural actors and the technical crew that takes the film to the field of great works.
An economic movie as I have rarely seen, but a rich one in aesthetic value, «The Four Times» is a masterpiece of contemporary cinema of observation and reflection, and a great portrait of nature and human condition, that place it among the best film works that I saw in 2019 and in this decade.
Le meraviglie (2014)
Life in the country and the sea, depicted without ornaments is a theme that always reappears in Italian cinema through an overwhelming work. From time to time, these films follow up on a perhaps Mediterranean tradition, which evokes the rites of the gods associated with natural phenomena and that govern life on Earth. The three great examples that come to my mind, are by Visconti, who gave us "The Earth Trembles" in 1948; by Olmi, who in 1978 created "The Tree of Wooden Clogs", and by Alice Rohrwacher, who in 2014 chose for her second feature a tale similar in spirit, "Le meraviglie" (The Wonders), in which days pass on a farm . They are rigorous works, concentrated in basic activities, without volatile escapism in the style of Bertolucci's "Novecento".
No doubt a beautiful and thoughtful film, "The Wonders" won the Grand Jury Prize in Cannes, but, curiously, the film does not arouse passion or seek to wonder its audience, despite its title. The moments that aspire to a certain lyricism are mixed, suddenly, with a tone "out of focus" and deliberately, with a gaudy television contest, presented by a mature star, who looks bored and jaded (Monica Bellucci). Perhaps the reasons for the "soft focus" of the story are the various conflicts of a family of dad, mom, aunt, four daughters, and German child in probation; a social worker, an irritating neighbor, TV people and a friend of the past, all with their own agendas and interests. At the center of the plot, there is Gelsomina (Maria Alexandra Lungu), in the process of leaving adolescence behind, and there is her German father, Wolfgang (Sam Louwyck), an adventurer struggling to be a farmer.
However, this film and her third feature "Lazzaro felice" (with which Alice Rohrwacher took a big, significant step) confirm that the filmmaker is in the same league as Paolo Sorrentino and Matteo Garrone, integrating a kind of trio of archangels of the current Italian cinema, as confirmed by my young "film advisors". Thanks to them. The others, watch the movie with patience and tranquility, as if you were spending a holiday in the farm of a grandfather, an aunt or a friend, under the shade of a tree, near a brittle, hearing the noise of running water animals, letting time pass.
The Blood on Satan's Claw (1971)
A good horror motion picture
With the exception of the final confrontation --which is truly a chaotic mess, apparently with no planification of the action involved, resulting in a scene with not enough sense of rhythm--, the rest of this motion picture is very good, relying on a few representations of horror and disturbing scenes, as the mark of Satan's skin on the victims' bodies, the long claws fleetingly seen, the threat of sexual abuse that women constantly have to endure, the violent demise of endearing characters... These visuals and moments are vivid enough to build tension and lead to the climatic eradication of evil. Clever and enjoyable.
A 2018 compilation of Zora Neale Hurston's registers of activities in American black communities from the rural South, it possesses a highly anthropological value. Shot in 1928-29, the collection includes children's games, capers and dances, a festive baseball crowd, a baptism and portraits of a beautiful black young woman and a tall man with an axe. The images are enhanced by the score composed by Renée Clark Baker.
Simple, loving portrait of John and Debbie Nicholson, who relate to the camera the affectionate relationship that they had with their pets, and all the care they gave them to have a happy animal life.
Tossin' and Turnin'
Many years ago, being still very young and facing the imminence of a sexual encounter, I had a strange reaction when I was face to face with the object of my desire, alone, at dawn and in the same hotel elevator. It was like... soft but intense shaking, shuddering, almost convulsing. That reaction was perhaps rooted in the feeling of guilt I experienced a few times in my youth for having sex and besides enjoying it. Believe me: 12 years in a Catholic school was not easy! Things can be even worse, luckily not being my case, if you are raised in a home of religious fanatics - and I am not talking about extremes, like Margaret White, Carrie's mother, but of those people who welcome all the delirious fund raisings, processions, papal visits and "pious pilgrimages."
I remembered that experience when I saw a similar scene in the first act of the great Norwegian film «Thelma», which narrates the drama of a country girl who arrives in the city to go to college and begins to suffer strange convulsions. It is a story of guilt, religious fanaticism and evil. However, it is not evil from supernatural beings or Satan, but of terrestrial, human people like you and I who live to make life miserable to others. Thelma has an incredible gift that she does not understand and cannot control. She believes it is epilepsy, but when somebody has an epileptic seizure neither the birds collide with glass windows, nor does the huge chandelier hanging from the ceiling of a theatre begin to swing.
«Thelma» looks like a horror film but it is not, and at the same time, it is. It is not the vulgar horror that we find in mainstream cinema, nor in classics like «The Exorcist» and «Carrie», two movies that also contain in the center of their stories the duel between religious faith and scientific knowledge. Obscurantism, superstition and the magical thinking of all human beings are expressed in very varied ways. Thelma directs against herself all the irrational hatred of people who reject LGBTQ and sex education, when it is another girl, the lovely Anja, who awakens her sexuality. What a mess in Thelma's little head! It is more poignant because of her goodness, but little by little, she will find out that her "problem" goes beyond her love relationships.
It is terrible, it is terrible and cruel that since you are a little girl someone comes and lays down the law and tells you that you were born with a goddamned "original sin". "Whose law? Sin of what, now what did I do?" In addition, she has to endure it until the end of her days, because there is no confession, communion or exorcism that will free her from the sin of the apes.
Lazzaro felice (2018)
The Greatest Heart
A visionary film. Alice Rohrwacher's "Lazzaro felice" surprises you, abstracts you, transports you and moves you with the most lucid and complex set of characters I've seen in any film in recent days. For tastes there are colors, and this rural fable about an immensely good man, is closer to the cinema that I prefer, a cinema that enraptures me and puts me in contact with my interior and my best traits.
Shot in 16 millimeters, "Lazzaro felice" reminded me of Lina Wertmüller, when back in the 1970s, she said "You can't make the revolution with one movie." Nor can people's awareness can be raised with one film that calls to reflection and urges us to be better beings, through Lazzaro (Adriano Tardiolo), a character that illustrates all the possible goodness that a person can express.
In spite of the title and despite his inclination to be nonjudgemental with people and shake hands without expecting anything in return, Lazzaro is certainly not happy. His ignorance is a condition that prevents full happiness, as well as that of his relatives, isolated from knowledge and the mundane, exploited in a kind of Medieval farm without labor laws by a ruined marquise (the "Queen of Tobacco", as she is called by the media, or "the poisonous snake", as her servants call her, played by Roberto Benigni's "principezza", Nicoletta Braschi). The title is an irony about the human condition.
On the other hand, his name also evokes the biblical character who rose from the dead, a process that starts from the day he meets Tancredi, son of the Marquise (played by singer Luca Chikovani). Lazzaro is born, he dies and reborns, he is mistreated, abused, but remains forever young, healthy and redeemed, rising above the misery of his peers, like a naive saint who is unaware of his own beatitude and who, as a good saint, will not escape his immolation.
Winner of the Best Screenplay Award (written by director Rohrwacher) at the Cannes festival, the scenario is a compendium of fortune changes, miraculous events that are the order of the day, and sober parallels with the reality we live daily, with a handful of millionaire families dominating here and there, while the millions of poor people only survive. A sad, great work.
La familia (2017)
The Venezuelan drama "The family" has the characteristics that I most look for in a film in these years: brevity, transparency, a plot of interest, aesthetic dignity; design, planning and execution of accurate plans (example: the leading child takes a motorcycle ride, the camera follows the motorcycle that suddenly enters a tunnel and the cameraman, without stopping, lets motorcycle and passengers move away) , all of which transpires self-assurance, alternating still, fixed, observational shots, with vigorous, agile, electrical ones.
This is how the film begins: children in a poor Caracas neighborhood improvise a game, throwing on the wall what looks like a ball, they quarrel, play, shout, compete; the girls arrive, so begin the excitement, the "vacilón" (fun) and the erotic play (all of them not beyond 12), they escape to the roof, witness the city, the location of a drama that seems without truce. Pedro, the protagonist, is a child of the street, reckless and emboldened, who lives alone with Andrés, his father, a man poor in resources and imagination, who makes a living as a bricklayer, waiter and thief, who arrives with the sun to the apartment in the block, exhausted, with almost no exchange of dialogue or life with his son. There is never any mention of the absent mother, only a photo that Peter shows fleetingly or the mention of a pleasant memory. And suddenly, the scenario explodes: another neighborhood boy, gun in hand, tries to assault Pedro and his friend Johnny, and tragedy happens. They have to run away.
Andrés and Pedro's escape will trigger an adjustment of accounts, mutual understanding and the possible start of a somewhat happy stage in the lives of father and son. The child now knows death, knows his own potential for violence and takes the reins of their destinies, facing a father who seems already defeated in the daily battle to live, to survive, with dignity. Everything is said, but without psychological verbosity or analysis of the material dispossession of the great masses of Latin America. There is no need to delve into that: all of us who live in this space of the world know; and those who deny it or hide from it are hypocrites.
A beautiful portrait of paternal-filial love in which there is no room for tenderness, caress or terms of endearment, but that conveys the warmth of affection that, at least, the father feels for his child. An excellent opera prima, which I don't know if it's on Netflix or whatever, but if you can see it, please do, don't miss it. It is better than most of the L.A. stuff (I will not give up on this) that we are offered in cinemas.
The Bawling and the Insipid Stud
«Midsommar» identifies with a widespread definition among Northern filmmakers that art, while larger and more spectacular, is better, as witnessed from Griffith to Linklater, through Gance, DeMille, Lean, Bondarchuk and even Coppola, along with all the rest. Immersed in music to provoke emotions that the images do not transmit by themselves, it is a film of excessive duration to tell an essentially simple story of fanaticism, cultural shock, materialism and primitivism in a hippie-like community in Sweden, with two pathetic leading characters who have traveled from United States to Scandinavia, and that, at least on my part, did not have my sympathy and did not allow me to connect: a woman who does not stop bawling, clinging to the memory of dead relatives, and a man who, in the end, is nothing more than an insipid stud. Along with the decent photograph of Pawel Pogorzelski, embarrassing and sometimes laughable incidents accumulate: the mating of the flabby stallion with the Swedish little virgin, the millennials' reactions to the sacrifices, the collective hysteria of the community in the Loudon nuns' style, the fake anthropological approach to the story, the bear costume... I don't know why I thought it was a very strange crossing of «Boyhood» with «The Blair Witch Project», «The Wicker Man», «Private Vices and Public Virtues" and «Triumph of the Will». Proceed at your own risk, considering the film has legions of fans, but if you ask me... how I regret having lost those three hours of my life!
Winner of the Palme d'Or for Best Film in Cannes 2019, to say «Parasite» is to speak of five shining stars in the cinematic firmament. When you have to spill blood in a film, you have to dose it with genius, hit the target and know where and when to spill it with cunning and, above all, understand well why we spill it and get the viewer to understand that reason as well.
Don't get me wrong «Parasites» is not a bloody drama, but a beautiful film that with humor and gravity touches the three classic themes of art: it is a tragicomedy about love, life and death, it is a film about the joy of living, about survival, about the family of the 21st century, but not like the concept of family defined and defended by many, that sick, stifled definition, confined to religious dogmas and eulogistic of expired and obsolete values. It is about real and living families of the planet in 2019, many dispossessed and a few privileged, in a game of services and currency exchanges, in the last days of capitalism with its agenda of violence, horror and death.
Although director Bong Joon-ho has already made about ten feature films of various themes, I only know one of his films, the cult fable «The Guest», a horrific science fiction tale about the relationships within a poor and dysfunctional family of Seoul, that is put in check when a monster generated by the toxins thrown into the Han River by an American scientist, kidnaps a young member of that family nucleus. Again, in «Parasite», Bong addresses the family issue, opposing a poor family made up of the parents and two children, to a rich family with the same number of members. The moment they cross roads is the basis of the story. A third component, personified by a housekeeper, gives an unexpected twist to the story and leads to the violent climax, which is not the end of the fascinating story; at this point of the story, it still has another 15 minutes of history to tell, until the sad final close-up that ends this work.
When I watch films like "Parasites" my heart skips a beat, I wish that people would have access to a wide and cultured film offer, that we all could see works like this instead of consuming the despicable L.A. garbage that the cinemas offer, week after week, freezing the reasoning of people from the whole world; or having to wait for an exclusive film festival to project them fleetingly, and to be subject to serials of thrones and other lousy dishes. As soon as «Parasite» appears through any of the windows we have today to watch movies, don't miss it.
Banco à Bangkok pour OSS 117 (1964)
Jades Are Forever
This French drama has aged quite well. I remember watching it in the wake of the Bond craze during the early 1960s and it did not fare very well with me, as I was comparing it to Sean Connery's adventures, surrounded by international locations, exotic women and decors. Dubbed in English, "Banco a Bangkok" had little chance against the 1964 entry of the Bond franchise, "Goldfinger", which is regarded as one of the best in the series.
But seeing it again in French, with no reference in mind, "Banco a Bangkok" is an action drama in which finesse, sexual tension and exoticism merge in a gentle way. Car and boat chases, killings or martial arts fights are not lacking, but violence and sadism are handled sparingly, while the usual story of world dominance is told.
The action takes place in Thailand, among colorful characters: an American colonel, Hubert Barton or OSS 117, a code name never used in the plot; mister and miss Sinn, two Caucasian brothers who are supposed to be Thais; Eva, a blonde secretary out of a Bond vehicle, many Thais as assistants of heroes and villains, a free-lance ex-Nazi hustler called Karloff (only in the final roll-up), and a sect of fascist survivalists called The Chosen People.
For Kerwin Mathews (as Barton) this was one of the first movies he made in the last phase of his career, that would evolve into grade-B movies in Europe and the USA. Here he is aging well, with gray hair highlighting his boyish charm, and he seems to be having a good time in a quality product. Robert Hossein plays his usually wicked, handsome villain, while Pier Angeli is the antithesis of the scantily clad, stereotyped Bond girl, properly dressed in Thai fashion.
Sensuality is a game all over (I even felt a homoerotic undercurrent), the tone is light, the humor is kept in check, and the use of Thailand locations is effectively handled by co-director Jacques Besnard. Order Thai food and beer, and enjoy.
Victor Frankenstein (2015)
For the Love of Igor
This adaptation of Mary Shelley's novel is quite intelligent in its premise and works well for a good part of the duration. It works despite the fact that the scriptwriters took many liberties with the limits of credibility too soon, suddenly transforming the hunchbacked circus clown not only into an erect monkey, but one full of social graces. It also never assumes the homoeroticism that permeates all the story, but it may be asking too much of a product conceived for assiduous mall crowds and related. So, Victor and Igor and the rest are surrounded by good production design and their performances are credible but cliché (sad and hunchbacked clown, arrogant and boisterous medicine genius): then all the honors go for Andrew Scott as Inspector Turpin, an agent of Scotland Yard, a ruthless and pharisee Catholic fanatic. But then... psychologism bursts in (with the secondary plot about brother Henry Frankenstein, family motivations, tears and that stuff) and the whole construction collapses and never recovers. At least Hitchcock waited until the end to introduce those exasperating explanations of Psychology 101 (usually worthy of a Venezuelan-Mexican soap opera) in the culmination of "Psycho" that almost destroy the fine edifice built in the preceding minutes. That "fine edifice" was so good, that we willingly forgave Hitchcock's impudence... But this is not the case.
The Neon Demon (2016)
Refn is too good a film director to make ridiculous movies, but in this... affected, bad move... he got closer. Extremely long to say the least. It takes 116 minutes of your life to tell you what The Temptations sang in less than three minutes, in their hit "Beauty Is Only Skin Deep".
The Eyes of My Mother (2016)
Dare to see
Impressive opera prima by a New Yorker fascinated with Portuguese fados and body parts. It works very well until section 3 (III. Family), when the movie gets away from Nicolas Pesce's hands. Disbelief was handled effectively in the first two sections, but in this third and final movement all probability, plausibility or credibility of the situation went out the window (even within the horror genre), and the tale's dénouement is way too fast and facile. A bit more of scriptwork was needed. Still this is a good motion picture, although a bit unconfortable to watch in a few moments, but I would not tell you not to see it.
Muertos de risa (1957)
Clean Fun by Resortes
Funny little comedy about the impersonation of Doña Rosita (Resortes), a rich old lady whose heirs want to kill her, by Beto (Resortes), a carnival worker who is her dead ringer. The man is recruited by the Chief of Police to spend a weekend in her house, while several relatives try different methods to get rid of her. People fall from balconies, get poisoned, sit by a bomb that explodes, get scared by spiders, bats and big cats, but nobody dies or gets hurt. It's just silly "white humor", with a couple of musical numbers by María Victoria. The movie has nothing to do with horror, and it is not as wild as other movies with Resortes (who was a great dancer), but you can have a good time, with 76 minutes of light comedy played by an enthusiastic cast.
A Journey of American Success
Of all the Motown documentaries I have seen, this is probably the best, maybe because Berry Gordy Jr., the man who created that legendary record company, was also behind the production. I admit that I was a bit skeptic, considering that a man as controversial as Gordy were the center of the documentary, but he is definitely the heart of the story, the motor of the enterprise and the visionary business man who followed his principles, convictions, dreams and his whims too. Many persons can still deny the importance of Motown, as many rock and roll critics and historians who prefer to see that story from the sexist and racist point of view of white boys with a guitar... but at this point who cares anymore? The facts are there and those who have been wise enough to listen know what Motown meant from different angles, what it meant to music, sociology, politics and civil rights in the United States. I guess that what makes it all more interesting is that Berry Gordy is quite a host, a funny story teller who receives great help from his friend, colleague and artistic accomplice William "Smokey" Robinson. The film also leaves out all the feuds, gossips and sarcasm (for example, Mary Wilson has more screen time than Diana Ross, who only appears in archive stock). In this way the tale of Motown becomes a celebration of love, effort, friendship and collaboration, with revealing sides of the story: Gordy's inspiration to develop his business model, his own tender perception of the love he had for Diana Ross always tied to business, his initial refusal to accept the genius of Norman Whitfield and Marvin Gaye, his failed attempt to conquer Hollywood with Ross, which in the long run meant the musical downfall of the company. However, the legacy is intact, and "Hitsville" is a magnificent homage to all the men and women that rode along with Gordy in this journey of American success.
Whisky Galore! (1949)
A Gentle Mackendrick comedy
Of the several Ealing comedies that I have watched, this one is of the gentler kind, although most of them are very kind and compassionate with the characters' naiveté, stupidity or evil deeds. Everybody has a reason. Even if it seems a movie exalting alcoholism, it has a gentle little phrase in the end that makes it also palatable and enjoyable to the abstemious crowd. I am convinced that Alexander Mackendrick has not received all the praise he deserves from film historians, and I believe it is him the one who handles all the desperate goings of the boozers and the single reasonable authority around (Basil Radford's enjoyable Capt. Waggett, leading character in the funny chain of complications). A beautiful, timeless, amiable motion picture.
Salt of the Earth (1954)
La sal de la tierra
We usually tend to demonize labor unions, judge all these organizations according to the worst stories we've heard about their leaders and members, or simply dismiss them as leftist or communist stuff. In many cases, these reactions make evident how ignorant we can be, but in most of the cases, they reveal that we probably have never marched for our rights, struggled for better working conditions, confronted high corporate power or simply our bosses, or been a victim of persecution for what you were convinced was the correct action to take in your place or work. We often have no idea of how comfortable we live because of the jobs many men and women have all over the world, risking their lives and health, so you and I can enjoy our little privileges.
I needed to do this preaching (too short, since this is a subject for long debates) because I found "Salt of the Earth" to be a great motion picture, a black chapter in the evolution of American cinema, with a chain of events that all American filmmakers should never forget. They should never let it die, even if in the end the US Congress included it in its National Film Registry list, as national heritage.
When I saw the movie I searched for information, and realized that it was better to reflect on these matters, or propose persons to read about the demential actions taken by congressmen, simple public officers, rich entrepreneurs and ordinary people. They all went against the movie -before, during and after filming-, just to defend selfish convictions, and preserve power and wealth, in most cases not theirs but someone else's.
Instead of writing a review on how the movie narrates a tale of human survival, how realistic it is or feels, how effective it is in spite of its low budget and cast of mostly natural actors, how good Rosaura Revueltas is... I prefer to remit persons to a brief retelling of what happened, as long as the site of the American Film Institute is up and active. Enjoy the reading and don't miss the movie (like I did for 65 years).
Very Good Silent Movie
102 years after its original release, I was impressed by this feature, that was tightly directed by talented Ruth Ann Baldwin. Based on "The Old West Per Contract", a short story written by William Wallace Hook (who wrote several science-fiction novels), the frame story is quite original: in 1917 a judge wants to revive his happy days as a gold prospector, during the gold rush of 1849, and orders his secretary to stage a fake Old West town where he can spend his last days. However, the following events are a string of common places usually found in the melodrama genre, spiced with lust and greed. Fortunately Baldwin handles the whole show with energy, stages many outdoor scenes, and adds a welcome dose of humor and villainous actions provided by Jean Hersholt as the baddie.
I found interesting how life and death are treated in this film, compared to movies of these days. This has nothing to do with the movie, it is just a reflection of mine, after watching how the script avoids acts of extreme violence or killing the characters. It seems as if life had more value in those cinematic days, and I hope that we come back to reason and start respecting other people's lives. Watch it.
The Undead (1957)
Very entertaining concoction: in spite of its shaky sets, dresses with zippers and carriages definitely not from the 6th century (if the script is alluding to King Mark of Cornwall), verbose dialogs and a few corny performances, this Roger Corman production has the tone and feeling of a fairy tale, as performed by kids from elementary school with naiveté and spontaneity. The time-travelling premise in the script by Charles Griffith and Mark Hanna is clever and it could have benefited from a bigger budget for revisions, re-writes and higher production values. As it is, I find it funny, charming and even daring, as it somehow aspires to have values similar to literary works written in old times, about death, transcendence and the role of science in the evolution of mankind. It is also another proof of Corman's ability to turn almost anything into a pleasant time for the viewers. Recommended.