Category Archives: VINTAGE MOVIES

Vintage Movies: “All Fall Down”

MAGNET contributing writer Jud Cost is sharing some of the wealth of classic films he’s been lucky enough to see over the past 40 years. Trolling the backwaters of cinema, he has worked up a list of more than 500 titles—from the silent era through the ’00s—that you may have missed. A new selection, all currently available on DVD, appears every week.

AllFallDown

All Fall Down (1962, 110 mintues)

Who would have thought you’d ever run across an all-but-forgotten little gem of a movie that features two of the red-letter performers from On The Waterfront (Eva Marie Saint and Karl Malden) and a pretty decent replacement for Marlon Brando in a bad-ass, very young Warren Beatty? Berry-Berry Willart (Beatty) is the no-good older brother of Clinton—played by the teenage, died-too-young Brandon de Wilde, a budding star in the early days of TV.

It all takes place in southern Florida’s claustrophobic Keys region where it feels like a slight misstep would land you into the briny. The heat and humidity are palpable throughout this land of single-lane bridges. Clinton has made his way down to the end of Florida to beg his idolized older brother to come home to mom and dad in Squaresville, Ohio. You get the feeling Berry-Berry (admittedly a pretty lame moniker) would rather join the Marines than return to his roots. The screenplay was penned by William Inge, a very hot commodity in the ’50s and early ’60s (Picnic, Bus Stop, Come Back Little Sheba) with lucid direction by John Frankenheimer.

Clinton arrives in some small town in the heart of the Keys via the Greyhound bus to find his brother and heads for the white-washed Victorian hotel to make enquiries about his whereabouts. “If I was the brother of Berry-Berry Willard, I wouldn’t be bragging about it,” says the hotel manager, brusquely waving Clinton off in the direction of a seedy strip club at the end of the pier and well known as one of Berry-Berry’a haunts. “Ask for Hedy and maybe she’ll tell you where to find your brother, and maybe she won’t,” he says pevishly.

Pulling the hair off her forehead, Hedy (Evans Evans) shows Clinton a two-inch scar. “That’s what happened to me when Berry-Berry threw me clean across the room and into the television set,” she says. The kid is tossed from the strip joint by the armadillo-like woman who runs the joint. “You want me to lose my license because of a dumb kid like you?” she bellows while pointing to the front door.

Hedy runs after Clinton and catches up to him down by the boat where they’re uynloading this afternoon’s catch of tuna. She tells the young kid to explain to his brother that she’ll take him back anytime, that she bears no grudge against Berry-Berry, then kisses Clinton on the cheek and goes scurrying aback to the strip joint. The two hundred bucks the kid has brought with him to ferry his brother home must be used, instead, to bail him out of the local pokey on an assault-and-batterty charge. Then, as expected, things get even messier for Berry-Berry Willart.

—Jud Cost

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Vintage Movies: “The Caine Mutiny”

MAGNET contributing writer Jud Cost is sharing some of the wealth of classic films he’s been lucky enough to see over the past 40 years. Trolling the backwaters of cinema, he has worked up a list of more than 500 titles—from the silent era through the ’00s—that you may have missed. A new selection, all currently available on DVD, appears every week.

CaineMutiny

The Caine Mutiny (1954, 125 minutes)

Escaping the clutches of a possessive mother, Ensign Willis “Willie” Keith (Robert Francis) has been assigned as a junior officer to the Caine, a beaten-up minesweeper after two years of heavy combat in the South Pacific during World War II.

The Caine’s skipper, Lt. Commander William DeVriess (Tom Tully), reviewing Keith’s file with a jaundiced eye, remarks, “Top five in your class at Princeton, a pretty good record.” He looks the new man squarely in the eye and asks, “Disappointed they’ve assigned you to a minesweeper, Keith?” The ensign says, “To be honest, yes, sir.” DeVriess replies, “You saw yourself on a carrier or a battleship, no doubt?” “Yes sir, I had hoped … ” DeVriess cuts him off, “Well, my only hope is that you’re good enough for the Caine.”

The captain sighs and sinks back into his chair. “This is a beaten-up tub, not a battleship. After the last 18 months of combat, it takes 24 hours a day just to keep her in one piece.” Keith sticks out his jaw and says, “I understand, sir. I’ll try to be worthy of this assignment.” The captain barely shakes his head and replies, “I don’t think you do, but whether you like it or not, you’re in the junkyard navy.” He turns to the officer escorting Keith and says, “Steve, put him with Keefer in communications, and tell Tom, when he’s free, to show this Princeton Tiger around the ship. And don’t take it so hard, Keith: War is hell.”

At the next officers’ mess, the skipper turns to his new man and asks, “Tell me, Keith, now that you’ve studied the Caine more closely, do you like her any better? Or is this ship too messy for you?” Lt. Tom Keefer (Fred MacMurray) chimes in: “The question is, is this mess a ship? We are all sentenced to do penance on this outcast ship, named for the greatest outcast of them all,” he adds, referring to the biblical tale of Cain who killed his brother, Abel.

The captain interrupts, “I received this dispatch from Admiral Walsh, about an hour ago.” He reads, “‘With your approval, we request the transfer to my staff of Ensign Willis Seward Keith.'” Shocked, Keith blurts out, “Sir, I didn’t know anything about this request!” The skipper says, “It could be just a coincidence, or it could be someone pulling strings. So, what’s it to be, Keith, the Admiral’s staff or, as Tom puts it, ‘the hell of the Caine?'” Keith gulps hard and says, “I’ll stay on board, sir.” Keefer quips, “Ahh, Willie, you will live to regret this day.” With the imminent retirement of Capt. DeVriess and the arrival of the intractable new skipper, Lt. Commander Philip Francis Queeg (Humphrey Bogart), they will all live to regret more than just today.

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Vintage Movies “Apollo 13”

MAGNET contributing writer Jud Cost is sharing some of the wealth of classic films he’s been lucky enough to see over the past 40 years. Trolling the backwaters of cinema, he has worked up a list of more than 500 titles—from the silent era through the ’00s—that you may have missed. A new selection, all currently available on DVD, appears every week.

Apollo13

Apollo 13 (1995, 140 minutes)

Numerology fanatics might have warned NASA (and probably did in large numbers) against using the unlucky designation of “Apollo 13” for its flight scheduled to put two of a three-man crew on the moon for the third time. By comparison, the true story of the major problems of Apollo 13 makes the fictional account of Sandra Bullock in Gravity seem like just another bad day at the office.

The Houston home of astronaut Jim Lovell is throwing a huge party tonight for family and friends to watch CBS News’ Walter Cronkite describe the July 20, 1969 landing of Apollo 11 with the first men to set foot on the moon. Cronkite dabs at a tear as Neil Armstrong proclaims, “One small step for man and one giant leap for mankind,” before planting the American flag in the lunar surface.

“Neil Armstrong,” smiles Lovell (Tom Hanks), shaking his head in disbelief as he and his wife Marilyn (Kathleen Quinlan) stack up the dirty dishes, afterwards. “Christopher Columbus, Charles Lindberg and Neil Armstrong. From now on we live in a world where man has walked on the moon,” marvels Lovell. “I’ll bet Sandy Armstrong doesn’t get a wink of sleep tonight,” she commiserates.

A few months later, Lovell is ushering a party of congressional big-wigs around Florida’s space center as one of them asks, “When are you going up again, Jim?” He answers, “I’m slated to command Apollo 14, sometime late next year.” “If there is an Apollo 14,” pointedly replies another of the congressmen. “People in my state are asking why we continue to fund this program now that we’ve beaten Russia to the moon.” Lovell bristles at an argument he’s heard all too often and replies: “Imagine if Christopher Columbus had returned from the New World, and no one followed in his foot-steps!” Suddenly, Lovell’s boss, former astronaut Deke Slayton, takes Lovell aside to give him an update on Apollo 13.

The astronaut hurries home to share the good news with Marilyn by warning her they will have to cancel that Caribbean holiday they’d planned for Easter. “Allen Shepherd’s ear infection has flared up again, and we’ve been bumped up as the prime crew for Apollo 13,” he tells his wife. Three weeks before the April, 1970 mission, Marilyn dreams that Jim and his crew have all perished on the upcoming flight. She awakes to find her husband talking with their young son. “Did you know the astronauts in the fire?” the boy asks, referring to the tragic 1967 blaze that killed all three Apollo 1 astronauts as they were strapped into their module. “Oh yes, I knew them all. Their door, the hatch, wouldn’t open,” he explains, matter-of-factly. “Did they fix it?” the boy asks his dad. “Oh, yes, we fixed it,” he reassures his son.

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Vintage Movies: “Boogie Nights”

MAGNET contributing writer Jud Cost is sharing some of the wealth of classic films he’s been lucky enough to see over the past 40 years. Trolling the backwaters of cinema, he has worked up a list of more than 500 titles—from the silent era through the ’00s—that you may have missed. A new selection, all currently available on DVD, appears every week.

BoogieNights

Boogie Nights (1997, 155 minutes)

Those who only remember Burt Reynolds for a series of hillbilly-flavored Smokey And The Bandit comedies back in the ’70s should be urged to see him as the owner of a Los Angeles-based, porn-movie outfit when that cottage industry was booming. With a cast that also includes Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, John C. Reilly, William H. Macy and a baby-faced, 26-year-old Mark Wahlberg, Boogie Nights is the sanitary way to sample a pay-for-sex world without the specter of an STD rearing its itchy little head.

Anyone who was around in 1968 might recall a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court making local government the only entity that could regulate a growing industry depicting on-screen sex. And how little movie houses began to spring up like lawn daisies to show these poorly shot, barely scripted, feature-length films with complete impunity to a stupefied army, mostly of men, identified only by their onscreen shadows when they finally stumbled to their feet and returned to home and hearth. In San Francisco, the Mitchell Brothers even had curious society types visiting their North Beach theater, just out of curiosity, so they claimed.

It’s Saturday night in Reseda, Calif., in the heart of Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley, and things are swinging like never before. Jack Horner (Reynolds) is back in his favorite nightclub after a couple of weeks spent with one of his film stars, Amber Waves (so tarted up, it’s hard to recognize Moore). Always on the prowl for new screen talent, Jack’s had his eye on one of the club’s employees to offer him some movie work on the side.

When Eddie Adams (Wahlberg, looking like he’s about 16) wanders out of the kitchen lugging a tray of glasses to the bar, Jack follows him back inside to his dish-washing station. “Hey, how old are you?” he asks the kid. “Seventeen, but I have a work permit,” answers Eddie defensively. “No, nothing like that,” assures Jack. “You from around here, Canoga Park?” The kid asks, “You know where Torrance is?” of a place 25 miles to the south.

“Yeah, how do you get here?” asks Jack. “I take the bus,” answers Eddie. “Can’t you get a job like this in Torrance?” Eddie changes direction: “Yeah, but I don’t want to. If you want to see me jack off, it’s 10. But if you just want to look, it’s only five.” The older man says, “My name is Jack Horner, and I make adult films. Now you know I’m not full of dog doo-doo. Come back to my table, and we’ll talk.” The kid answers, “Sorry, I just couldn’t leave work, but I know who you are.” Jack nods and says, “Well, I’ve got a feeling that underneath those jeans, something wonderful is just waiting to get out.”

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Vintage Movies: “8 1/2”

MAGNET contributing writer Jud Cost is sharing some of the wealth of classic films he’s been lucky enough to see over the past 40 years. Trolling the backwaters of cinema, he has worked up a list of more than 500 titles—from the silent era through the ’00s—that you may have missed. A new selection, all currently available on DVD, appears every week.

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8 1/2 (1963, 138 minutes)

When legendary Italian director Federico Fellini released 8 1/2 in 1963, it was touted as the pinnacle of a career that had already produced La Strada and La Dolce Vita, a pair of gems that had a significant impact on American cinema. Nowadays, 8 1/2 is considered one of the best films of the 20th century. Along with the tantalizing work of Sweden’s Ingmar Bergman and fellow Italian Michelangelo Antonioni, Fellini was a heavy-hitter on America’s art-house circuit 50 years ago.

A la Quentin Tarantino these days, 8 1/2‘s title refers to its place in the Fellini filmography, then composed of six full-length works and three shorter ones he counted as a half movie each. Starring the director’s favorite leading man, Marcello Mastroianni, as Guido Anselmi, a worried movie director with writer’s block, it also features Anouk Aimee (A Man And A Woman) and Italian cinema goddess Claudia Cardinale (Rocco And His Brothers). The music was done by the prolific Nino Rota, who would go on to score the first two Godfather films.

8 1/2 reels you in like a big fish about to be mounted on someone’s den wall. It opens with a monumental traffic jam in some urban Italian setting, as the camera pans slowly over the blank faces of an army of commuters, imprisoned in their vehicles. One man is not taking it well. He’s beating on every surface inside his tiny car, trying to escape, gasping for breath like he’s about to have a stroke. Suddenly, the distressed man, dressed in a black cape and homburg, is set free to fly, arms spread wide, into the cumulo-nimbus high above. He soars over an urban power station (like the giant pig balloon on the cover of a Pink Floyd LP yet to come). Abruptly he’s reeled in, like some absurd kite, by a man galloping down a deserted beach on horseback. And that’s only the first 10 minutes into this A-ticket Fellini masterpiece (helmet not included).

A terrific bonus disc included here is a must for Fellini fanatics. It’s a fascinating collection of oddities, butt-ends and scraps from movie projects that never got off the ground. It includes something called Provino Mastorno with candid shots of a grumpy Marcello being made-up before shooting—and nobody did world-weary better than Mastroianni. Fellini planned to film him in the subway, a location he compares to the ancient catacombs below Rome.

Another proposed Fellini film site sports a tattered, life-sized cardboard re-creation of the cathedral in Cologne, standing alongside the skeleton of a giant wind tunnel, housing a mock-up of a commercial jet-liner. A small party of hippies is planning an outdoor wedding as Fellini revisits the place. “When I come back here,” he notes, “it is even more beautiful now, all covered up in weeds.”

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Vintage Movies: “Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid”

MAGNET contributing writer Jud Cost is sharing some of the wealth of classic films he’s been lucky enough to see over the past 40 years. Trolling the backwaters of cinema, he has worked up a list of more than 500 titles—from the silent era through the ’00s—that you may have missed. A new selection, all currently available on DVD, appears every week.

Butch

Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid (1969, 110 minutes)

Now looked upon as one of the silver screen’s last epic westerns, Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid went through many changes before its 1969 release. Robert Redford was looked upon at the time as a lightweight by some, more suited to his role in Barefoot In The Park than playing Sundance to Paul Newman’s Butch Cassidy. “I always knew I could play that part and beat this stereotype that I was too clean-cut,” said Redford recently.

Rumors circulated that either Marlon Brando or Warren Beatty would partner up with Newman. Steve McQueen could have copped the part, so they say, if he hadn’t squabbled about who would get top billing. Even Newman was confused at the casting, uncertain whether he was playing Sundance or Butch, until just before director George Roy Hill began shooting in such glorious locations as Zion National Park. “What made the movie was its complete unconventionality,” said Newman, who died in 2008. “Whenever you expected something to turn left, it turned right.”

Winning every hand at cards, Sundance is accused of foul play by the man who’s losing. “I know you’re cheating, but I don’t know how,” he says. Sundance takes a gunslinger’s stance as Butch tries to avert bloodshed by saying to the loser, “All you have to do is ask us to stay around.” Now realizing he’s facing the notorious Sundance Kid, the man nervously mumbles the odd request. Before the stranger can make a move, Sundance fires six shots that blow the holster off the man’s hip and send his pistol scurrying across the room like a squirrel.

The boys attempt to rob the Overland Flyer car of the Great Northern train, pulled to a dead stop in the middle of nowhere. “Hey, Woodcock, open up,” shouts Butch, recognizing the voice of the man posted inside the car by the Pinkertons to guard its valuables. The robbery is interrupted by an old lady who leaves her seat and stomps directly toward the boys. “Get back inside there, lady!” warns Butch. “Oh, I’m not afraid of you. I’ve fought whiskey, and I’ve fought gambling, and I can certainly fight you!” Thinking the worst for one of the train’s passengers, Woodcock quickly opens the door to find Butch mimicking the voice of the old lady as Sundance has a firm hand placed over her mouth.

Recalling their past failure at blowing the safe on the same train, Butch grabs the dynamite from Sundance and says, “Gimme that, and get more, a lot more!” They weren’t short of explosives this time. The blast not only hurls the boys into a ditch, it completely levels the car down to its platform with tiny bits and pieces of the fortified unit, its safe, its money and even Woodcock, himself, fluttering down upon them like autumn leaves.

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Vintage Movies: “The Belles Of St. Trinian’s”

MAGNET contributing writer Jud Cost is sharing some of the wealth of classic films he’s been lucky enough to see over the past 40 years. Trolling the backwaters of cinema, he has worked up a list of more than 500 titles—from the silent era through the ’00s—that you may have missed. A new selection, all currently available on DVD, appears every week.

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The Belles Of St. Trinian’s (1954, 91 minutes)

The opening shot of this rollicking British comedy is a close-up of a wooden sign that reads “St. Trinian’s School For Young Ladies.” Swinging gently in the summer breeze wafting across the English countryside, the weather-beaten plaque seems to be riddled with the handiwork of local woodpeckers, until one hears the unmistakable, rapid-fire cough of a machine gun not far away. Welcome to St. Trinian’s—anything but your ordinary learning institution for young girls.

As a train pulls into the Barchester station, the high-pitched bedlam from a horde of screaming, pre-pubescent girls, about to disembark after a day-long outing, engulfs the surrounding landscape like a tidal wave as it swallows up the mighty roar of locomotive engines. The station’s shop-keepers nervously board up their businesses as the local police are put on full alert. Even the chickens from a nearby farm scurry back into their roost, terrified, as if this were nothing less than the invading army of Attila the Hun, ravaging the British countryside for food.

Clarence Fritton (Alastair Sim) hobbles up the steps to the office of the head-mistress of St. Trinian’s with his 13-year-old niece, Arabella, in tow. He makes polite enquiry of a voluptuous young woman stationed just outside the office and gets no reply whatsoever. “She’s a very odd woman,” mutters Fritton. “What does she teach?” he asks his niece. “Scripture and needlework,” replies Bella, inhaling deeply from the stub of a cork-tipped cigarette.

“Clarence, I thought I’d made it abundantly clear that Arabella has been expelled,” says Miss Fritton, the elderly head mistress and Clarence’s sister (also played by Sim). “Monica Drew wasn’t expelled when she burned down the gymnasium,” says Bella (Vivienne Martin), stamping out her ciggie on the carpet. “The gymnasium was insured. The sports pavilion was not,” explains Miss Fritton. “We can no longer afford to have continual arson about in my school. I had to make an example,” she explains to her brother. “But why pick on Arabella?” asks Clarence.

Miss Fritton closes her eyes to the never-ending din to recall more pleasant times. “When we started the school in 1926, we vowed to make it the happiest, most care-free estate in the whole of Britain,” she replies. “What a gay arcadia of girls it was back then. But once the war broke out, such things as good taste and good manners were replaced by your black-market values. And why are you so anxious for me to take Arabella back?” “Business,” her brother replies. “I hear that the Sultan of Magyid is sending his daughter to school here. And the Sultan has a string of first-class race horses.” Aghast, his sister replies, “You mean to say you want me to re-admit Arabella simply to get you racing information? This is a school, not Newmarket Heath!”

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Vintage Movies: “A Clockwork Orange”

MAGNET contributing writer Jud Cost is sharing some of the wealth of classic films he’s been lucky enough to see over the past 40 years. Trolling the backwaters of cinema, he has worked up a list of more than 500 titles—from the silent era through the ’00s—that you may have missed. A new selection, all currently available on DVD, appears every week.

ClockworkOrange

A Clockwork Orange (1971, 137 minutes)

A single page from a vintage petition went up for auction on eBay recently, originally mailed to Stanley Kubrick before he started shooting A Clockwork Orange. It urged the director to cast Mick Jagger in the film’s lead roll as Alex, an excessively violent gang leader from the near future. Among others, the entreaty was signed by all four of the Beatles. No offense to Mr. Jagger’s flare for the dramatic, but even Jumpin’ Jack Flash couldn’t have topped the brilliant work of Malcolm McDowell in the finished product.

Some of the reviews at the time criticized Clockwork for the havoc that might be raised by copycat teenage gangs who’d seen the film. The subsequent rape of a young girl in Lancashire while the perpetrators warbled “Singing In The Rain” devastated Kubrick to the point that he pulled the film from release in England for decades.

But it was the use of Gene Kelly’s own version of the song from the film of the same name to accompany the picture’s most brutal scene, the rape and murder of an elderly couple in their own home, that raised hackles everywhere. Reportedly, Kelly himself wasn’t too thrilled with the demented use of his classic material in such a manner. No report has surfaced as yet from the camp of Ludwig Van Beethoven, whose fourth movement of his Ninth Symphony, with lyrics by poet Friedrich Schiller from his “Ode To Joy,” was employed in many of the other vicious scenes from the film.

Nor has British composer Henry Purcell checked in yet with his thoughts on the use of his stately “Funeral March For Queen Mary,” composed in 1695. The version employed here is an electronic re-imagination recorded in 1971 by Walter (now Wendy) Carlos. It rolls menacingly behind the film’s opening sequence, Alex and his three droogs lounging drunkenly outside the Korova Milk Bar, the leader decked out in a bowler hat and sporting a false ladies’ eyelash under his right eye. The latter fashion statement came courtesy of one of Kubrick’s film crew who dug deep into her purse to volunteer the essential wardrobe prop after the director said he felt the scene was still missing something.

Perhaps the picture’s most interesting element is the use of a futuristic teenage lingo by Alex and his cronies that may force readers of the film’s original source, Anthony Burgess’ book of the same name, to keep a vocabulary crib-sheet handy, like you would for the multiple characters in a Dostoyevsky novel. Most print copies of Burgess’ work come with its own mini-dictionary in the back. The language in question is a combination of Russian, Slavic and Gypsy dialects liberally sprinkled with Cockney rhyming slang in a way that gives the story an absurdly menacing (yet intriguing) flavor all its own.

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Vintage Movies: “The Endless Summer”

MAGNET contributing writer Jud Cost is sharing some of the wealth of classic films he’s been lucky enough to see over the past 40 years. Trolling the backwaters of cinema, he has worked up a list of more than 500 titles—from the silent era through the ’00s—that you may have missed. A new selection, all currently available on DVD, appears every week.

EndlessSummer

The Endless Summer (1964, 92 minutes)

Anyone looking for a cure for those high-blood-pressure blues should spend an evening with The Endless Summer, 92 minutes that document a pair of surfer dudes literally riding their long boards around the globe. Some may have thought the film, shot in 1963-64, was just an attempt to jump on the surf-rock band wagon fueled by hits from Dick Dale, the Beach Boys and Jan & Dean. This enduring work was nothing like that.

With a tasty instrumental surf-rock score by the Sandals, it looked spectacular on the big screen in the summer of ’64, even though it wasn’t shot with the latest wide-angle hardware employed by Hollywood at the time. But when a 20-footer looms up behind two guys trying to catch a ride, The Endless Summer becomes a hypnotic experience.

The narration by Bruce Brown—who also directed and edited the film and shot most of it—is priceless, flecked with deadpan, surfer-dude humor, previously displayed by Dean Torrence of surf-rock pioneers Jan & Dean. For example: “The only way to avoid a wipe-out,” quips Brown, “is to take this wide, stink-bug stance on the board. Spread your legs and hang onto your trunks as they split right up the back.” The ultimate trip is to ride your board as close as possible to the curl, the breaking white-water behind you, without being engulfed by it. “All maneuvers on the board—turning, trimming, stalling and walking the nose—are directed toward staying in the curl,” explains Brown.

The ultimate voyage for surfers would be to follow the warm weather and warm water of summer completely around the globe for an entire year. Along the way they could visit the unknown shores of western Africa as well as storied surfing locales off the coasts of Australia and New Zealand. That would accomplish, reckons Brown, what seemed an impossible dream back home in California: a truly endless summer.

As dream becomes reality, the stars of Brown’s global surf epic are Robert August and Mike Hinson, a pair of handsome Angelinos who’ve been planning this type of voyage for years. The pair, with film crew in tow, arrives in Dakar, Senegal, not knowing what to expect. They are shocked at being charged the local equivalent of 30 U.S. dollars per night for their hotel room. But the good news is they find a perfect set of waves breaking off a tiny island no more than 100 yards off the shore in front of their hotel. However, since Starbucks wasn’t even a gleam in anyone’s eye back then, the pair is also dismayed at being charged a dollar for a cup of coffee. But the dream continues next day, as Robert and Mike hire a jeep and move on down the virgin African coast to Accra in Ghana.

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Vintage Movies: “Elevator To The Gallows”

MAGNET contributing writer Jud Cost is sharing some of the wealth of classic films he’s been lucky enough to see over the past 40 years. Trolling the backwaters of cinema, he has worked up a list of more than 500 titles—from the silent era through the ’00s—that you may have missed. A new selection, all currently available on DVD, appears every week.

ElevatorToTheGallows

Elevator To The Gallows (1957, 92 minutes)

There’s a glaring typo on the original Columbia CD version of Miles Davis’ groundbreaking 1958 album Milestones that might have driven the jazz trumpet legend to the corner of Assault and Battery streets. They list the lead-off track as “Dr. Jekyll” instead of by its real title, “Dr. Jackle,” a play on words from a tune originally written by alto-sax hero Jackie McLean. Nothing to do with Robert Louis Stevenson here, guys, sorry.

Davis’ edgy, bittersweet post-bebop—cut on a European tour accompanied by French tenor saxman Barney Wilen, pianist Rene Urtreger and American ex-pat drummer Kenny Clarke—plays a large part in setting the mood of 1957 French thriller Elevator To The Gallows. The debut feature by Louis Malle finds Julien Tavernier (Maurice Ronet), a former paratrooper, lured into a plot to kill the husband of his girlfriend Florence Carala (Jeanne Moreau). The victim also happens to be Tavernier’s boss.

“Without your voice I’d be lost in a world of silence,” says Tavernier to Florence over the phone. “We’ll be free at last, Julien,” she says encouragingly, her eyes all aglow. “You know I’ll be right there with you,” she murmurs.” Of course, she won’t be right there with him. Tavernier will take all the risk alone in this daring scheme, something he’s planned well in advance.

He opens his desk and pulls on a pair of thin gloves, places a large pistol shaped like a German Luger into his jacket pocket and shoulders a stout rope with a grappling hook fixed to one end. He steps outside the window of his office onto a wide landing that surrounds his entire floor and glances down at the bustling city life, at least 10 stories below. Convinced no one will notice, he tosses the hooked end of the rope over the wall of the landing directly above his, then effortlessly rappels to the next floor with the grace of a cat.

Monsieur Carala is so absorbed in the details of his phone conversation that he barely notices Tavernier enter his office, offering a thin business folder detailing Project Pipeline to his boss. Thumbing quickly through the document, Carala finally looks up at his employee to find a pistol aimed directly at his head. “Is this some kind of joke?” he asks calmly. “It’s not a joke? What do you want, money?” Fully in control, he adds, “You don’t scare me.” Carala seems somewhat more alarmed as he utters his final words. “Who gave you my gun?” he demands. Tavernier makes certain he’s left no fingerprints as he places the murder weapon in the dead man’s right hand. He strolls out of his boss’s office and presses the down button of the elevator to meet his lover to let her know his mission has been accomplished.

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