Category Archives: VINTAGE MOVIES

Vintage Movies: “Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas”

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 ’90s—that you may have missed. A new selection, all currently available on DVD, appears every week.

FearAndLoathing

Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas (1998, 119 minutes)

That’s the trouble when they make a movie out of one of your life-changing books. I’d had a similar problem with seeing The Grapes Of Wrath and On The Road for the first time after revering the print versions. The characters I’d envisioned weren’t much like those on the big screen. It took a third trip through Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas before I came to terms with Johnny Depp’s somewhat guttural voice of the main character, gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson—and the lack of the book’s beyond-visionary, ink-smeared illustrations by Ralph Steadman.

Like the novel, the movie opens with Raoul Duke (Thompson) and his “attorney” (Benicio Del Toro) roaring through the Nevada desert, headed toward Las Vegas in a powerful 1971 Chevy Impala convertible. The top’s down and the trunk’s loaded with weed, mescaline, coke, blotter acid, amyl nitrate, assorted uppers and downers, booze and a tank of ether, all purchased with the cash advance from a magazine for Duke to cover a big motorcycle race in Vegas. It’s an assignment, they must have reckoned, in keeping with Thompson’s first book where he tried to imbed himself with the Hell’s Angels.

“I feel a bit light-headed. Maybe you should drive,” says Duke, squinting into the sun through aviator sunglasses and swatting away at a swarm of Mesozoic era-sized bats, dive-bombing the car. He performs a full-speed, gravel-spewing stop, worthy of Steve McQueen in Bullitt and gets out as small reptiles scurry for cover. There’s no reason to tell his attorney about the bats, Duke concludes. “The poor bastard will find out soon enough.”

As the car tops out at 100 miles an hour, a blond, long-haired kid in a T-shirt carrying an overnight bag appears on the side of the road, standing next to a giant saguaro cactus and thumbing a lift. The attorney mutters, “Let’s give him a ride,” and slams on the brakes. Jolted into semi-coherence, Duke screams, “What?! No!!” It’s too late. The kid is already running toward the car, in utter delirium. “Hot damn! I’ve never rode in a convertible before!” he shouts. “Get in,” smiles Duke, dressed in a Hawaiian shirt and floppy golf hat, his teeth gripped around a cigarette holder. Janis Joplin And Big Brother wail away on the FM radio, and the kid is already having second thoughts as he sits down in the back seat.

“How long before one of us starts raving and jabbering at this boy?” ponders Duke. “What will he think when he realizes this is the same desert that was the last-known home of the Manson Family? Would he make the connection when my attorney starts screaming about bats? If so, we can’t turn him loose. We’ll just have to cut his head off and bury him somewhere in the desert.”

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Vintage Movies: “It’s A Wonderful Life”

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 ’90s—that you may have missed. A new selection, all currently available on DVD, appears every week.

Wonderful

It’s A Wonderful Life (1946, 130 minutes)

Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without returning to Bedford Falls, the home town of Frank Capra’s three-hanky gem, It’s A Wonderful Life. It revolves around the family of its noblest money-lender, George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart), who sacrifices his college education to step into his late father’s shoes as the driving force behind Bailey Bros. Building & Loan, the tiny outfit that invigorates his town by giving home loans to those who have nowhere else to go.

Bailey Bros. has always been hot ashes in the eye of Potter (Lionel Barrymore), the unscrupulous tycoon who runs his business like he’s acquiring property in a game of Monopoly. With its factory shut down by the Great Depression, Bedford Falls is as vulnerable as any other town for a bank with insufficient funds to cover the balances of its customers to have to close its doors.

Just as George and his new bride Mary (Donna Reed) are driving to the train station for their honeymoon in New York City, he notices an unhappy crowd lined up in a torrential rainstorm outside Bailey Bros., demanding their funds. George hops over the counter of his office and delivers a Gettysburg-like speech to quiet down what threatens to become an angry mob.

“I beg of you not to do this,” he pleads with his customers. “If Potter gets hold of this company there will never be another decent house built in this town. He’s already got charge of the bank, the bus lines and all the department stores. And now he’s after us. He wants to keep you living in his slums, paying the rent he decides. Now, Ed,” he says to one of his oldest customers, “last summer when you couldn’t make your payments, you didn’t lose your home, did ya? You think Potter would have let you keep it? We don’t have the money on hand to repay you. Your funds are being used to build the house of your next-door neighbor. Listen, we can get through this thing. We’ve just got to stick together.”

In the back of the room, Mary waves the wad of cash they’d saved up to use for their honeymoon that weekend. Thinking fast, George offers to pay back a portion of each patron’s savings with his own funds to tide folks over until the bank re-opens. As the office clock is about to strike six, George counts it down: “Three, two, one … Bingo! Bailey Bros. is still open!” He ceremoniously walks his last two dollars into the safe and raises a glass in toast, “To poppa dollar and momma dollar. And you’d better have a family, real soon.” Immediate crisis averted, certainly, but what could cause such a good man, a few years later, to want to throw himself into a raging river on Christmas Eve?

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Vintage Movies: “The Kennel Murder Case”

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 ’90s—that you may have missed. A new selection, all currently available on DVD, appears every week.

Kennel

The Kennel Murder Case (1933, 73 minutes)

The Kennel Murder Case is the fourth and final entry in a series of films starring William Powell that brought the popular Philo Vance crime novels of S.S. Van Dine to life. The first, 1929’s The Canary Murder Case, co-starring the enigmatic, helmet-haired Louise Brooks, was initially shot as a silent. When the studio decided to re-cut the movie to cash in on the “talkie” craze, Brooks refused to return from Europe to dub her dialog. When informed she would never work in Hollywood again if she didn’t play ball, she replied, “Who wants to work in Hollywood?”

Upper-crust with excellent powers of deduction, Powell would later co-star with Myrna Loy as Nick and Nora Charles in the even more popular Thin Man series. Powell’s mastery of patrician behavior was perfect for Vance, whose character is not far removed from Conan-Doyle’s archetype of the private detective, Sherlock Holmes.

The Long Island Kennel Club is buzzing with serious canine competition among New York’s high society, and no one is more eager to win than the cantankerous Archer Coe (Robert Barrat). “Great Scots in ring number two, please. Have your dogs ready,” announces the public address system. Vance’s Scot’s Terrier, Captain, finishes out of the money, prompting Coe to offer two-sided consolation. “Tough luck, Vance. I was looking forward to beating you tomorrow.” Vance soothes his dog, saying, “Don’t be too down-hearted, Captain. You’re still a champion with me.”

In a serious dig at her despised uncle, Coe’s niece, Hilda Lake (Mary Astor), brings his terrier into a grooming station to compare him with the dog of her fiancée, Sir Thomas MacDonald (Paul Cavanagh). “Well, what do you think?” she asks. “I think it’s a pretty close thing when these two get into the ring tomorrow,” he chuckles.

Just then, Coe storms into the room, demanding an explanation for removing his dog from its cage: “What the devil do you think you’re doing, Hilda!?” She replies, “I wanted to prove you’re going to lose tomorrow. I want you to loan me $2,000 to place on Ghillie, Tom’s dog.” Coe sniffs, “That’s cheek for you. She wants to bet against me with my own money.” Hilda bristles, “I wasn’t asking for your money. I merely wanted you to loan me some of my money.” Coe brushes off her request and leaves. “You know how much I hate him, Tom,” she says. “The things he’s done to me.”

Later that night, with the kennel grounds drenched by a summer storm, a frantic MacDonald notices Ghillie is missing from his cage. Two kennel attendants burst into the room, saying, “Sir Thomas, we’ve found Ghillie. He’s out back in the alley.” Hilda gasps, fearing the worst. As they bend over the mangled pup, a red-eyed MacDonald swears, “I’ll kill the man who did this!”

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Vintage Movies: “The Buddy Holly Story”

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 ’90s—that you may have missed. A new selection, all currently available on DVD, appears every week.

BuddyHolly

The Buddy Holly Story (1978, 114 minutes)

It’s obvious by their early body of work which original American rocker meant the most to the Beatles. It was the brash-yet-melodic, workingman’s rock ‘n’ roll of west Texas legend Buddy Holly that seemed to fit the Liverpool foursome the best. They even pinched their band name from Buddy’s backup combo, the Crickets.

Although he’s become a punching bag these days for late-night TV hosts, Gary Busey was born to play Lubbock’s favorite son here, needing no pinch-hitters to nail the roll of Buddy Holly, both on and off the stage. Anyone who’s familiar with how Holly’s career was cut short, bear this in mind: When the film was first released, Southwest Airlines was showing it on their in-flight TV screens.

It’s the summer of 1956, and the nation’s airwaves have been inundated with something disc jockeys are calling “rock ‘n’ roll.” Seminal platters by Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Fats Domino, Carl Perkins and Little Richard are blaring from the tinny speakers of transistor radios, given last Christmas as stocking-stuffers. This heart-pumping sound has not been lost on recent high school grad Charles Hardin Holly who’s enlisted two of his pals to accompany him on upright bass and drums.

Buddy’s band even has a gig every Saturday night at the local roller-skate palace, playing rinky-dink stuff to accompany grandma and grandpa as they coast around the concrete oval. A DJ in the studio sets the stage for Buddy’s remote broadcast by announcing, “You’re in tune with KDAV, 1310 on your dial! And now, brought to you by Verti-grow, we take you live and direct to Parker’s Roller Rink for this weekend’s Holly Hayride!” Buddy and the boys open with a soporific reading of “Mockingbird Hill” by Les Paul & Mary Ford. “Hey Buddy, c’mon, play some bop!” shouts a teenager afterward from the sidelines. And Buddy decides to take a chance.

“We’d like to do this one for the boppers—those of you who bop,” the bespectacled frontman slyly announces. “Hey Buddy, I don’t think we should,” warns bassist Ray Bob Simmons (Charles Martin Smith) while drummer Jesse Charles (Don Stroud) just grins and readies his sticks for a real workout. The tune’s blistering, rockabilly-style guitar intro has the heads of a dozen teenage girls, lounging around the hot-dog stand, snap in perfect unison toward the bandstand, while adult chaperones cover their ears in agony. As Buddy belts out the lyrics to “Ollie Vee,” the roller rink is engorged with teenagers skating to this wild and crazy stuff. “Ollie Vee says she’s gonna do me right tonight/Gonna put on my blue suede shoes tonight/Cuz tonight we gonna rock around with Ollie Ollie Vee!” It’s this thrilling live reaction that convinces Buddy Holly, more than ever, that he’s onto something special here.

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Vintage Movies: “Anatomy Of A Murder”

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 ’90s—that you may have missed. A new selection, all currently available on DVD, appears every week.

Anatomy

Anatomy Of A Murder (1959, 160 minutes)

My old man was an attorney who handled a few high-profile murder cases that made headlines in the San Francisco Bay Area. He didn’t care much about movies, but he admired Anatomy Of A Murder as an accurate portrayal of less than savory courtroom proceedings.

Cruising with the top down in his 1950 Pontiac Chieftain, Paul Biegler (Jimmy Stewart) turns right at the sign that says Iron City and makes it back to his Michigan home from a fishing trip just as the local bar is closing. He brings his fishing tackle into the house that also serves as his law office, dumps two fat trout from his creel into the kitchen sink, runs cold water over them and checks for phone messages impaled on a deer’s antler in the mud room.

Just as his pal Parnell McCarthy (Arthur O’Connell) stumbles into the kitchen from that same bar, Biegler returns to the trout he’s already gutted, wraps them in wax paper and stores them in the fridge. As Biegler hands the old man a bottle of red wine in a brown paper bag, he sits down at the upright piano and pecks out a few jazz chords. “Paulie, it’s a fact. Since Mitch Ludwig beat you out for the office of public prosecutor you haven’t been worth salt for peanuts.” says McCarthy as he opens the bottle and begins to pour. “Not that I don’t understand how you feel. A man loses an office he’s held for a long time, he feels his community’s deserted him.” Biegler smiles from the piano bench, “None but the lonely heart shall know my anguish, counselor.”

The phone rings, just as McCarthy pulls a heavy volume from Biegler’s law library for tonight’s reading of heroic legal decisions. “I may have a client,” says Biegler, answering the phone. “Mr. Biegler, I’ve waited all afternoon for your call,” says an anxious Laura Manion (Lee Remick), the subject of Biegler’s lone message. “Well, I just got home, Mrs. Manion,” replies Biegler. “If that’s from Thunder Bay and she wants you to represent her husband, tell her you’ll take the case,” urges McCarthy breathlessly.

“Have you read about my husband?” she asks from a pay phone, with pool balls cracking audibly in the background. “Yes, a little,” says Biegler evasively. “Will you defend him? He’s in the county jail. Will you see him?” “I guess I could see him. Let’s make it 10:00 o’clock tomorrow morning.” After hanging up, Biegler quizzes McCarthy about his new client. “A man named Barney Quill raped Mrs. Manion, and her husband, a lieutenant in the Army, goes to Quill’s place and plugs him five times, which causes Quill to promptly die from lead poisoning. If you hadn’t been fishing in some god-forsaken backwater, you’d know all about it.”

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Vintage Movies: “The Long Riders”

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 ’90s—that you may have missed. A new selection, all currently available on DVD, appears every week.

LongRiders

The Long Riders (1980, 99 minutes)

Seven hardened men, all wearing dusters that hang below their knees, ride through the grassy hills of rural Missouri soon after the end of the Civil War and pull up their horses before a small town’s bank. Two remain mounted while the other five stride inside with pistols drawn, to strip the place of everything of value. “Can’t he go any faster?” says one of them of a nervous teller shoving wads of bills into a saddle bag. “He’s goin’ fast enough,” says another. “All the money’s in the strong box and the cash drawers,” volunteers the teller, shaking.

“I don’t believe you,” says the first robber, grabbing the man by the shirt collar and jamming a pistol into his forehead. “Now, you’ve got a safe in here someplace. Tell me where it is or I’m gonna put a bullet in your brain pan.” The teller recoils in fear, and the robber shoots him in the chest. He staggers backward, triggering a series of reflex actions by the employees of the bank and its customers. A dozen shots ring out, and bodies litter the bank floor as the robbers make their escape with a modest amount of cash.

“How long do you think it’ll take a posse to get here?” asks the baby-faced Younger brother (Robert Carradine). “There won’t be one,” answers Frank James (Stacy Keach). “They’ll go about 10 miles, get tired and call the Pinkertons.” “Then how come we’re standing guard?” asks Robert. “Because every once in a while, I’m wrong,” replies Frank, lighting a hand-rolled cigarette.

“Come here, Ed,” says Jesse James (James Keach) to the outlaw who fired the bungled job’s first shot. As Ed Miller approaches Jesse, he is back-handed to the ground. “Shit! What’d you do that for?” demands Ed (Dennis Quaid). “For panickin’ and shootin’ innocent folks,” replies Jesse, who caught a stray bullet in the bank shoot-out. “And for goddam near gettin’ me killed!” Rubbing his jaw, Ed says, “Shit, I didn’t mean no harm.” Looking down at Ed like he’s a rattlesnake that’s been cut into two pieces by a wagon wheel, Jesse snarls, “You’re through, Ed! You ain’t gonna ride with me no more.”

Ed turns to his younger brother Clell (Randy Quaid). “You gonna take that off him?” Clell shakes his head and says, “I seen what you done. You may be family and everything, but I ain’t sidin’ with ya. You’re on your own.” As he turns to mount his horse, Jesse shouts out, “Cole, give him his cut.” Cole Younger showers a handful of bills over Ed, looks him straight in the eye and says, “Now listen good. Anybody connects the Jameses or the Youngers with that bank job and you’re a dead man,” as the six men ride off into the setting sun.

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Vintage Movies: “Left Right & Centre”

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 ’90s—that you may have missed. A new selection, all currently available on DVD, appears every week.

LeftRight

Left Right & Centre (1959, 95 minutes)

British film comedies from its mid-’50s to mid-’60s Golden Era usually featured at least one of a brilliant revolving cast of comic actors that included Ian Carmichael, Terry-Thomas, Peter Sellers and Alastair Sim. They were frequently directed/produced by such luminaries as Frank Launder, Sidney Gilliat and the Boulting brothers, John and Roy. You’d be hard-pressed to find an example of this genre that didn’t feature at least one of these.

Left Right & Centre is fortunate enough to have four. Bobby Wilcot (Carmichael) is an empty-headed game-show TV personality, just vain enough to think he has the right stuff to run for the House of Commons on the Conservative ticket, naturally. After all, he is the nephew of Lord Wilcot (Sim), owner of a large country estate near the seat the younger man has targeted in Earndale.

As the screen shows a brick wall with a neat piece of Elizabethan graffiti (“A plague o’ both your houses”), a narrator’s somber tone describes English politics most succinctly. “Every nation, they say, gets the government it deserves. With the House of Commons, one might sum up the enormous differences between its two major political parties by saying, with the Conservatives it’s the exploitation of man by man. And with the Socialists, it is exactly the other way round.” And woman, too, we might add, a notion whose time had finally come by the end of the ’50s.

The Socialists, otherwise known as the Labour party, have selected a young lady named Stella Stoker (Patricia Bredin) to run against Wilcot in the upcoming by-election, meaning the seat is currently vacant. Earndale’s residents are described by the narrator as “intelligent, serious-minded citizens, for are they not the inheritors of 3,000 years of civilization and culture?” This as a gum-chewing young couple enters Earndale’s cinema with a garish poster outside depicting an eight-legged creature about to have its way with a scantily clad spacegirl to advertise its current feature, Spider Man From Mars.

Before taking the train to Earndale, Stella bids adieu to her dad, a local fishmonger, who professes shock that any daughter of his would enter the political arena. “We’ve always been thought of as a respectable family,” he says. Stella is hoisted upon a barrel to give a parting speech. “I can’t promise I’ll win,” she says earnestly, “but I’ll give it a jolly good try.” Once on the train, as luck would have it, she’s seated opposite Bob Wilcot, her worthy opponent. Clueless as ever, Wilcot reveals he’s only been to Earndale one or two times and that he’s running against “some blue-stockinged battle-axe.” By the time the train arrives in Earndale, Stella has Wilcot carrying her luggage onto the platform, a fact the local paparazzi are only too happy to memorialize for tomorrow’s front page.

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Vintage Movies: “Downfall”

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 ’90s—that you may have missed. A new selection, all currently available on DVD, appears every week.

Downfall

Downfall (2004, 155 minutes)

A very old woman speaks directly into the camera in German. “I should be angry with this childish young thing for not realizing what she was getting into. How could I have agreed to it so impulsively? When I came to Berlin, I could have said, ‘No,’ but my curiosity got the better of me. And I never thought that fate would take me somewhere I never wanted to be.”

In November of 1942, five young ladies have been taken under military escort to a heavily fortified compound in Rastenburg in East Prussia. Once they have been cleared to enter, they are asked to take a seat. “The Führer is feeding his dog,” says the officer with an SS insignia on his collar. “He says he will be with you shortly.” One of the girls asks, “Please, tell me, how does one greet the Führer?” The officer replies, “The Führer will speak to you first, and you just say, ‘Heil, my Führer.'” Another girl asks, “What about the Nazi salute?” “That won’t be necessary,” he replies. “The Führer isn’t recruiting you as soldiers. He’s looking for a secretary.” Polite tittering follows these remarks. “Behave normally. I’ll ask him if he has time for you now.”

He knocks on the heavy door of the adjoining room and announces to the person inside the office, “Mein Führer, the ladies from Berlin are here.” With no further ceremony, Adolf Hitler emerges from his office. He smiles and says, “I’d like to thank you for coming in the middle of the night, ladies. But in war, we aren’t always the masters of our time.”

He walks up to the first girl and asks her name. “Margarethe Lorenz, heil my Führer,” she answers boldly. “And where are you from?” Hitler (Bruno Ganz) inquires.” She says, “Fuld, heil my Führer.” He asks the next one, “And you?” “Ursula Puttkammer, heil my Führer.” “Leave that out, child,” he says of the salutation. “Tell me where you’re from.” Finally, he strides toward the fifth girl, taller than the others and quite good looking. “And you?” “Traudl Humps. I come from Munich,” she replies coolly. After five seconds of deliberation, he smiles at her and says, “So, fraulein Humps, shall we start?” Traudl (Alexandra Maria Lara) nods and follows Hitler into his office.

“Blondi won’t hurt you,” he says of the German Shepherd standing quietly next to a desk. “In fact, she’s more clever than most people are. She has a very sharp mind.” Gesturing to the desk next to his, Hitler says, “Just make yourself comfortable. Don’t be nervous. I make so many mistakes when I dictate. You’ll never make as many as I do,” he says, benevolently, as she sits down and rolls a single sheet of paper into a brand new Continental typewriter.

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Vintage Movies: “The Trouble With Harry”

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 ’90s—that you may have missed. A new selection, all currently available on DVD, appears every week.

TroubleWithHarry

The Trouble With Harry (1955, 100 minutes)

Taking in a deep breath of the invigorating air of New England before plunging, a few years later, into the twisted murder of Psycho and The Birds (where nature would become the enemy), director Alfred Hitchcock let his eye wander over the riotous autumnal splendor of Vermont for a romantic comedy called The Trouble With Harry that would co-star Shirley MacLaine in her first screen role.

Arnie Rogers (a seven-year old Jerry Mathers, two years before he became the star of TV sitcom Leave It To Beaver) is wandering the back woods of Vermont, toting an oversized blue plastic raygun. He’s imagining he’s scouring the landscape for aliens in the Martian wilderness, when a man’s voice barks out, “OK, I know how to handle your type!” Two gun shots ring out, and Arnie dives behind the trunk of a towering tree whose leaves have gone crimson. When he regains his nerve, he trudges up the next hill and comes upon a man in jacket and tie, lying dead with a single bullet hole in his left temple.

The next hill over, Capt. Albert Wiles (Edmund Gwenn, who was Santa Claus in 1947’s Miracle On 34th Street) is muttering to his .22 rifle whose shoulder strap is made from clothesline rope. “Well, old faithful, that’s your shooting for the day. If we haven’t run up two rabbits, we deserve to go home empty-handed.” As the captain gets to his feet to retrieve the hare he thinks he’s plugged, he spouts, “Fewer things in life give a man more pleasure than hunting, and this plump rabbit’s waiting for the frying pan.”

He soon comes upon the same dead man that scared spaceman Arnie straight. “I’ve done him in,” moans the captain, inhaling deeply. “A harmless shot at a rabbit, and now I’m a murderer.” Getting up the nerve to poke through the dead man’s jacket pocket, he finds a wallet identifying the corpse as Harry Worp from Boston. “Well, Mr. Worp, you’re a long way from home, and it looks as if you won’t get back for Christmas,” says the old man. He begins to drag the body back to town, when he’s startled by a familiar female voice.

“What do you plan to do with him?” asks Miss Ivy Gravely (MIldred Natwick). “Please don’t say anything, Miss Gravely,” the captain begs. “It was an accident. He was poking around the clearing, and I thought he was a rabbit.” She replies, “Do what you think best, captain. I’m sure you’ve seen much worse.” The captain rambles, “When I was on the Orinoco, this Turk with a machete … ” Miss Gravely politely interrupts, “If I were going to hide an accident, captain, I wouldn’t delay. And perhaps you’d care to come over later for some blueberry muffins and elderberry wine.”

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Vintage Movies: “The Magic Christian”

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 ’90s—that you may have missed. A new selection, all currently available on DVD, appears every week.

MagicChristian

The Magic Christian (1969, 92 minutes)

If Ringo Starr had somehow persuaded the other three Beatles to participate along with him in The Magic Christian, the movie might be looked upon today as a decent successor to their second film, Help!. But if John Lennon is unavailable, then Peter Sellers (a comedic hero of the “literary” Beatle) will do very nicely, not to mention a script by pre-Monty Python stalwarts John Cleese and Graham Chapman. Besides, the Beatles were through with group unity by the end of the ’60s, anyway.

As Badfinger, the under-appreciated Welsh combo recently signed to the Beatles’ record label Apple, bites off its Paul McCartney-produced “Come And Get It,” the film opens with a close-up portrait of Queen Elizabeth. The camera quickly pulls away to reveal it’s the engraving of Her Majesty as seen on a 10-pound note.

The narrative immediately splits in two, first following the filthy rich Sir Guy Grand (Sellers) awakening in his lavishly appointed London town house. Simultaneously, a just plain filthy drifter (Starr) is rudely poked awake with a pointed stick wielded by an ancient gardener working in the park where Ringo’s been sleeping rough for some time. Sir Guy slips a fiver to a strolling violinist outside his home as he fires up the longest limousine ever manufactured by Mercedes Benz. Ringo brushes his teeth using the slimy, algae-choked green water from a public fountain.

On the way to his sumptuous London office, Sir Guy crosses a bridge in a public park and notices a disheveled, unshaven Ringo feeding scraps of bread to the ducks below. “Good morning, feeding the ducks?” asks Sir Guy. “Yes, I feed them every morning,” answers Ringo. “Mind if I join you?” inquires Sir Guy as he removes a slice of bread from his wallet and begins tossing chunks into the pond. Eventually, Ringo gets the notion that this person is up to something more devious than feeding ducks and begins to briskly walk away. “Please don’t go!” begs Sir Guy, finally catching up to Ringo and matching his quick stride to explain in great detail what he has in mind for the two of them.

Sir Guy and Ringo, looking totally out of place with his straggly, unkempt hair and cheap sunglasses, stand across a large office table from a brace of obsequious solicitors and accountants on the other side. Sir Guy is handed a one-page document and a fountain pen for his signature to be affixed to the bottom of the page. He ceremoniously signs the paper, then passes both document and pen over to Ringo who also signs. “Well, Youngman Grand,” Sir Guy proudly addresses Ringo whose name has now been legally changed. Embracing Sir Guy as warmly as if he were the long lost parent he’s never known, Youngman replies, “Father!”

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