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by Michael Barrett

17 Aug 2015

Although the leering poster for this movie promises something naughty while the trailer calls it “hilarious” and “riotous”, this is a comedy of misunderstanding and discomfort that’s almost not a comedy, except in the broadest sense that nobody dies. This slice of midcentury unease is now available on demand from Warner Archive.

Jim Fry (Jose Ferrer) is a complacent manager in a company of obtuse import where he’s worked for 15 years. He and his wife of nine years, Ginny (Gena Rowlands in her film debut), have arranged their lives into such a clockwork routine that no dialogue is necessary for the lengthy opening sequence of waking up (from twin beds), showering and eating breakfast. If you’re an arty film buff who’s seen Chantal Akerman’s Jeanne Dielman, where the characters make and eat breakfast in real time, it’s strangely reminiscent and almost avant-garde.

by Michael Barrett

13 Aug 2015

Beefcake star Cornel Wilde took control of his career in the mid-‘50s by becoming one of the actors who founded his own company to produce vehicles for himself, usually co-starring his wife Jean Wallace. His first such effort for Theodora Productions was the terrific noir film The Big Combo, and that same year he undertook his feature debut as a director, Storm Fear. He’d consistently be drawn to rugged, violent themes in which his directing style was vigorous and confident. And knowing his strengths as an actor, he was prominent with his shirt off.

Among its other remarkable qualities, Storm Fear  was the first feature from a hot young writer of TV plays, Horton Foote, who was several years away from an Oscar for To Kill a Mockingbird  and many more years from another for Tender Mercies. Even though Wilde’s film is a mere melodrama of criminals holing up in a family’s remote cabin, the characters are packed with enough backstory and complicated relationships to choke Tennessee Williams. Poor choice of words—let’s say enough to make Tennessee Williams blanche. Oh, let’s make it Eugene O’Neill. In any case, Foote was working from a novel by Clinton Seeley.

by Michael Barrett

11 Aug 2015

Foreign Intrigue is a fascinating curio for the connoisseur of cinematic byways. No classic, it’s mainly a talky and derivative tale as generic as its title. Yet it’s very well done: a continual pleasure to the eye, shot in various locales of mid-‘50s Europe with creamy colors and elegant camera moves by Bertil Palmgren, always tilting upwards or downwards at its actors amid Maurice Petri’s beautiful production design, edited with quaint and pretty transitional swipes, and at all times anchored by Robert Mitchum’s cagey authority as he wanders the shadowy streets between dalliances with the decorative seductiveness of Ingrid Thulin and Geneviève Page as the good/bad female opposites in his life.

The opening sequence, set on a lavish Riviera estate, unfolds to the strains of a romantic “Foreign Intrigue Concerto” by Charles Norman. The aging lord of the manor (Jean Galland) brings a red carnation inside and promptly has a heart attack in his library. His press agent, Dave Bishop (Robert Mitchum), discovers the dying man and, out of curiosity and cussedness, embarks on a trail across Europe to learn the secrets of his employer’s fortune and mysterious past, which may have something to do with blackmailing wealthy industrialists.

by Michael Barrett

10 Aug 2015

The Crimson Cult  (onscreen title: Curse of the Crimson Altar ) is a half-demented, half-plodding little British horror item, basically a botch with moments too fascinating to miss.

Robert Manning (Mark Eden) is an antiques dealer who traces his missing brother (who looks nothing like him, but never mind) to the hamlet of Graymarsh, where they have an annual celebration re-creating the burning of a witch named Lavinia a few centuries ago. The first thing that happens to him is running across the type of outlandish pseudo-orgy found in certain 1960s films where partiers engage in bizarre subsitutes for actual debauchery, such as chasing women with cars or painting each other. Supposedly hip and decadent without being able to prove that anyone is stoned, it just looks exhausting.

by Michael Barrett

6 Aug 2015

Bill Morrison assembles fading, deteriorating nitrate film footage into ethereal historical collages and combines them with commissioned music, so that they become symphonic “music videos” that are at once avant-garde yet obvious and accessible to any viewer.

His latest 40-minute work, Beyond Zero: 1914-1918, is scored by Aleksandra Vrebalov and played by Kronos Quartet in seven movements. It’s essentially a dirge in memory of World War I, with the soundtrack adding occasional garbled spoken-word passages from old recordings and finally finishing with chanting by monks, completing the sense of prayer.

//Mixed media

Notes, Hoaxes, and Jokes: Silkworm's 'Lifestyle' - "Ooh La La"

// Sound Affects

"Lifestyle's penultimate track eases the pace and finds fresh nuance and depth in a rock classic, as Silkworm offer their take on the Faces' "Ooh La La".

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