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Wednesday, Nov 19, 2014
We wrap up our cinematic overview of former flops that became movie masterworks with a tantalizing Top 10 including three efforts now considered the greatest of all time.

When last we left off with “Films That Went From Bombs to Beloved: 20 - 11”, we were talking about bombs. Motion picture bombs. No, not those big (or small) budgeted behemoths that stumble into the Cineplex, announce their mediocrity, and then wander out with little to show for it except an IMDb listing and a lot of negative social media screeds. In this case, we aren’t concentrating on films that flopped because of their lack of creativity or invention.


No, with this overview, we are concentrating on films that failed in spite of their final evaluations. Put another way, we are going back over the history of cinema and staring in wide-eyed disbelief at some of the titles that, today, we adore, but years ago were marginalized and miscalculated. Yes, a few of them made money (if you consider a million or so over budget a “gold mine”), but for the most part, they strutted and fretted their hour upon the big screen stage, only to really gain respect and recognition much later on.


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Wednesday, Nov 19, 2014
The moral predicament of Escape Me Never rings as hollow from the start, making it watchable at best, but not swallowable.

Escape Me Never is a handsomely produced disaster that sat on the shelf for almost two years before Warner Brothers released it to widespread disinterest. Classic starwatchers can shake their heads in bemusement, for it’s now available on demand from Warner Archive.


It’s Venice in the year 1900, and a poor woman called Gemma (Ida Lupino) causes a commotion in a snazzy palazzo. Gabbling out the exposition of her life story while overplaying bits of business all over the room, she tells the swells that she’s an orphan with a baby and that she lives with a composer. By coincidence, her listeners think she means Caryl (Gig Young, with mustache), the composer who’s wooing their rich and proper daughter (Eleanor Parker, beautiful), but it’s actually his womanizing brother Sebastian (Errol Flynn, without mustache). This misunderstanding leads the quartet into a muddled and unmerry dance where Gemma is anguished by the cad she loves while he’s smitten by his brother’s girlfriend, and all anybody’s going to get out of it is a lousy ballet.


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Tuesday, Nov 18, 2014
This film is, above all, a technical accomplishment, but it has languished since its 1938 release.

This expensive epic focuses on a little-told historical subject. While the initial California Gold Rush of 1849 has often been used as a background for films and stories, this screenplay by Warren Duff and Robert Buckner (from Clements Ripley’s novel) focuses on the Sacramento Valley rush of 1877, specifically on the use of hydraulic mining to wash away tons of mud onto the farmland below, leading to environmental and legal conflict between farmers and miners. The latter aren’t rugged individualists but employees of fatcat syndicates in San Francisco, who are depicted as shallow and greedy while the farmers are the salt of the earth. Real issues and philosophies are discussed before the destructive climactic action literally washes everything away when everyone disregards the law.


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Monday, Nov 17, 2014
This RKO item will appeal to fans of Olivia de Havilland and those with a sociological interest in wartime propaganda, but few others.

As a romantic comedy, Government Girl has one of those plots where the two leads annoy each other instantly and spend the movie shouting, the better to prove their love, which they don’t figure out until the audience is long past ready to go home. In this corner: Miss de Havilland as an efficient secretary who indulges the kind of slapstick shenanigans she didn’t usually get to deploy. In the other corner: Sonny Tufts as the new loud honcho in charge of building airplanes for the war effort, and who’s ready to cut every corner as he bulldozes through the bureaucracy. Alas, the one looks mainly like de Havilland crawling on the floor and jumping on sofas, and the other looks like Tufts in full bellow.


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Friday, Nov 14, 2014
A 20 years too late sequel with some sporadically funny stuff measured out across an ever decreasing level of interest.

Want to know the difference 20 years makes? Two decades ago, Twitter was still 12 years away, Facebook a mere ten. Taylor Swift was four. Justin Bieber had just been born. The Matrix had yet to be released, and the only success Marvel could muster was the original Fantastic Four. If you live to be 80, two decades is one fourth of your life, and if you were a new parent at the start of 1994, your kid is either in college or moved back in with you by now.


Thomas Wolfe wrote the famous book You Can’t Go Home Again way back in 1940, but its titular sentiment still applies, even today. You really can’t recapture lightning in a bottle. About the best you can do is set-up your current situation to mimic the past as closely as possible, thereby hoping that, via karma or some unspoken magic, you can once again taste the fruits of your previous labors. That was clearly the plan for the Farrelly Brothers’ Dumb and Dumber To.


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