Have you heard the one about the mother who has to tell her grown daughter that she doesn’t know which one of three men is her father? You’ve probably heard of it under the name Mamma Mia, the ABBA musical. Less well-remembered is Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell, a Hollywood comedy shot in Italy at the dawn of the MPAA’s rating system. This means it’s a sex comedy in which the characters have actually, at some point, had sex—and in some cases are even having it now, as opposed to merely talking about the possibility of threatening to have it.
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Now available on demand from Warner Archive is Kid Glove Killer, a well-made B-picture in the crime genre that had a good fresh hook for 1942. The trailer, included as a bonus, trumpets “something new” out of the mass of common mysteries. That new thing was what we call forensics, the scientific investigation of evidence while the police around him are standard conclusion-jumping hard-boiled flatfoots ready to sweat a confession out of innocent mugs.
The hero is advertised on the poster and the trailer as “Police Chemist Gordon McKay” (Van Heflin), as if introducing a new series character, though this is the only adventure that materialized. He comes across like a flip, semi-cantankerous Sherlock Holmes with microscopes and cameras and projectors, who’s ready to make like Mr. Wizard in explaining his procedural gizmos. He’s supposedly human by the way he baits his almost equally jaded assistant Jane Mitchell (Marsha Hunt), who embodies America’s wartime schizophrenia about women in the workplace. She must be smart and competent (and pretty), but she must also aver that she “hates chemistry”,and that it’s “no job for a woman” who’s only marking time to fulfill her destiny with a husband.
The central story of Spring begins when Evan (Lou Taylor Pucci) meets Louise (Nadia Hilker), the kind of beautiful, temperamental, and possibly crazy foreign woman that American boys are always falling for in movies. First, however, the film takes its time getting to that point, with much set-up about the painful life Evan’s leaving behind in California: his mom’s death, drunken bar fights, a nowhere job, and general malaise, all shot in an intimate, handheld, yet heightened expressive style marked by color filters and delicate lighting effects.
By the time Evan gets to a small coastal town in Italy, where he decides to try farm work after traveling with two loud, drunken, stoned British yobs, Evan’s more than ready to reinvent himself by shedding the shell of his former life. Louise is doing basically the same, only much more literally.
What was blaxploitation? This topical ‘70s trend in trashy exploitation put a racial angle on revenge. Its method was to appeal to the viewers’ lowest instincts while delivering a fast, violent entertainment that pretended to be “empowering” while touching on real issues of crime, oppression, exploitation, and whatnot. In other words, black folks got to kick ass. Often written, produced, and directed by white guys (with a few notable exceptions), these films ran the gamut from the relatively serious to the distasteful to the fun. Sugar Hill (1974), not to be confused with a Wesley Snipes movie of the same name, tilts to the fun end of the spectrum.
They say the third time’s the charm, a chance to make up for the mistakes made during the first two attempts. In the case of the Terminator franchise, this is doubly untrue. After two amazing installments by James Cameron (who created the concept, via Harlan Ellison). The third was an indifferent cash grab that recycled familiar elements from those films. It was a hit, but not a home run. Instead of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, it was The Matrix Revolutions.
Now, jump ahead a decade and we have another third. This time out, Terminator Genisys wants to reset the entire series. After Rise of the Machines, and the awful McG waste of time Salvation, the new film’s narrative goes back to the beginning, back to the moment when Kyle Reese travels back in time to save Sarah Connor from the seemingly indestructible killing machine of the title. Of course, when the new version of our hero arrives, he comes across an equally new version of our heroine, and she’s got an aging robot companion as her bodyguard/bestie.