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Accidentally Uncheesy

Spoiler Alert! I don’t know why I’m even putting a Spoiler Alert on this one, because I am really going to try not to spoil anything.

I usually like to write about cheesy movies, but I accidentally watched kind of a good one yesterday and thought I’d like to write a few words about it.

When I first decided to DVR The Whole Truth, I thought it starred Farley Granger. Then I saw it was Stewart Granger, who I am not at all familiar with. Still, the plot involved a wife who did not believe her producer husband had stabbed his actress lover (that was in the description on digital cable). That sounded pretty good. Maybe it would be like a Bluebeard thing, with the wife all unsuspecting and the husband plotting against her. Perhaps it would include some stupid movie female behavior I could rail against.

The wife is played by Donna Reed, which is movie shorthand for Perfect Wife. Who would plot against Donna Reed? OK, I’ve only seen Donna Reed in a couple of things and the only one I recall with any clarity is It’s a Wonderful Life. But I’ve heard.

Stewart Granger, it turns out, is pretty hot, in a ’50s leading man sort of way. I can see why the actress lover won’t let him go easily, although, truth be told, she is the sort whose motto is “Every man for myself.”

The movie opens right at the exciting part, then flashes back to what got us there. And that’s about all I want to tell you about the plot, because it is a nice twisty, turny one. There are a couple of “What the hell?” moments, and a whole lot of “How’s he going to get out of that?”

I recommend the movie. I don’t know if it’s available on DVD, because it is not listed in VideoHound’s Golden Movie Retriever 2005 (Thomson Gale, 2005). I thought VideoHound listed everything. Leonard Maltin doesn’t list it either. But if you come across it on TCM like I did, check it out.

I Become a Fan

I had been wanting to go to Little Falls, NY, and watch the Diamond Dawgs play baseball for some time now. Last night I finally got the chance to do it.

I don’t follow any sports, but I like to watch almost any sport live. I say almost, because I haven’t tried them all. I’ve seen minor league baseball on a couple of occasions and enjoyed it very much. I had high hopes for the Dawgs, and they didn’t let me down.

Our friends Jim, Phyllis and Kelly (Jim and Phyllis are married, Kelly is their daughter; that sort of information always helps my mental image) are huge Yankees fans and have gone to see them play, so I was a little hesitant to ask if they’d like to go see the Little Falls team. Turns out they’ve been Diamond Dawgs fans for years. We made a plan to go.

We met for dinner first at Crazy Otto’s Empire Diner in Herkimer (just to give them another shout-out; love the fresh-made chips). We thought we knew where we were going but were happy to follow Jim just in case. The stadium is behind the Little Falls Hospital, which we have been to (perhaps I should start doing blog posts on medical facilities as well). We found parking spaces int he street fairly close and went in to find seats.

Last night’s giveaway was a coupon for a free Whopper. Not just a Whopper, I pointed out, but a Whopper Value Meal. I’m not a fan of fast food, but I might take advantage of something free (to be honest: it tastes good going down then sits there like a lump).

We decided on the bleachers rather than the benches right by the fence and sat in the first row. This still put us pretty close to the field. There was a platform behind home plate with some folding chairs and a small picnic table. I asked if it was VIP seating. Phyllis told me you could rent it for parties and that it seats about ten. That would rock for a kid’s birthday party.

The players in this league are college students from all over the country. They often get recruited into the major league from here. I liked how the announcer told us where each player was from whenever he was mentioned. I was especially happy to cheer the pitcher from Herkimer County Community College.

Every time the opposing player from Finger Lakes Community College was up to bat, I asked him why he didn’t bring any wine. I suspect he did not hear me, but it amused Phyllis and Kelly. We love Finger Lakes wine. And for anybody from the Finger Lakes huffing that there is more to the region than wine, oh, lighten up. Wine is a fine thing to be known for.

There were several prize giveaways as well as a 50/50 raffle, but we didn’t win anything. Of course, I only bought one 50/50 ticket, not an arm’s length as many others purchased. I told the ball player selling the tickets that I had spent the rest of my money on beer (stop shaking your finger at me; it wasn’t that much money or that much beer). He seemed to think this was an acceptable alternative.

Between innings the team mascot would have some sort of competition with a few kids. They ran around the bases doing calisthenics and had the dizzy bat contest. I think they got ice cream for their participation.

Of course we spent a good deal of time making silly jokes and smart remarks (I always say, go with your strengths). I observed that one player was pretty gorgeous. On being reminded I was old enough to be his mother, I replied, “I’m just looking. I can window shop things that aren’t my size.”

Jim told the opposing pitcher not to worry about the Dawgs trying to steal bases. “I’ll keep an eye on him! You can trust me!” Then when two of them were going for a fly ball, “I’ve got it!” One of them got it.

The stands weren’t filled but there was a goodly number of people there. Phyllis pointed out that it was a weeknight while school was still in session. Everybody seemed to be having a good time. I know I was.

Our guys lost, so that was a little disappointing. It was still a fun everning. I hope to catch more of the Diamond Dawgs. I’m a fan now. For more information, visit their website at http://www.mydiamonddawgs.com/. You can find them on Facebook under Mohawk Valley Diamond Dawgs.

Beastly Cheese

I DVR’d two movies from TCM on the strength of the word “beast” in their titles. I felt sure a monster would be involved.

Spoiler Alert! There isn’t really a whole lot to give away, being as there’s not a whole lot to the movie, but what little there is, I’m going to consider fair game.

I’ve only watched one of the beastly movies so far, The Beast from the Haunted Cave. I couldn’t make out the year during the credits (beastly Roman numerals), but it has a definite ’60s feel to it due to the music and the font of the credits.

It also has a definite B-movie feel to it. B for boring. I wondered why they were taking so long to get to the beast as well as so long between beastly sightings. Then it occurred to me: the purpose of the movie was to give teenagers at the drive-in an opportunity to make out. Really, the movie makers were practically performing a public service. If only my husband would have been home, I could have honored their original intentions.

As it was, I watched and knitted. And, you know what, I’m going to render my spoiler alert unnecessary and just talk about the movie in a general sort of way, because as I sit here with my pen in my hand (before my shift starts at work), I don’t feel like recounting the by-the-numbers plot and the so-obvious characters.

I could probably digress at this point into theories of writing, most particularly the Don’t Wait Till You Feel Like It school of thought. After all, today is Monday. It could be a Monday Middle-aged Musing. It would fit the movie, too, because this one gives plenty of opportunity for your thoughts to wander.

The action of the movie (Oh, OK, I’ll write about the movie) takes place on a snowy mountain, first at a lodge then at the hunky, upright ski instructor’s remote cabin (at least, he wasn’t my type, but they obviously meant for him to be hunky). Three bad guys plus the head bad guy’s girlfriend (or maybe secretary)(you know I don’t pay attention to these things) are planning to blow up a mine, steal a bunch of gold, then cross-country ski to the aforementioned cabin to meet their plane which will take them to Canada.

I would have liked to see the plane that could land on a mountain in the middle of the woods. Unfortunately, it never shows up, due to a blizzard which we also don’t get to see. We also don’t get to see the mine explode, which I think would have been pretty cool.

Speaking of not getting to see things, we also don’t get a good look at the beast till nearly the end of the picture. This, of course, is often an excellent means to build suspense and render the monster even more scary when it finally shows up. The technique was used to great effect in Jaws. I’m pretty sure Spielberg didn’t have anything to do with this movie.

When we first encounter the beast (as I said, not as early as I would have liked), we see some weird double-exposured gossamer-looking stuff, then a hairy tentacle — a giant spider leg? — grabbing a beautiful brunette (never be a beautiful girl in a monster movie unless you’re the main one; she’s the only one with a shot at making it to the end).

Then we get to watch a LOOOOONG sequence of everybody cross-country skiing to the cabin. They even camp out in the snow. What kind of a getaway plan is this, anyways? But I suppose one mustn’t look too closely at the plot gyrations which lead the characters to encounter the beast. I think I’ve mentioned before, if movie people behaved sensibly, we would have much shorter movies (which might not have hurt this one, but then what would I be writing my blog post about?).

I’d just like to also mention, we don’t get to the Haunted Cave till almost the very end. Hunky ski instructor and secretary/girlfriend are escaping on cross-country skis when the blizzard hits (of course, the effects budget only covered grey skies). He suggests they hole up in a “haunted cave” that just happens t be nearby till the storm is over.

Excuse me, what? Like a haunted cave is a feature just anybody might have on their vacation property. What does that look like on the real estate listing?

The ending (guess I did need the spoiler alert) is extremely disappointing. Basically, the beast dies and its the end of the movie. You don’t even get to find out which characters live (there’s even some question about the beautiful brunette, remember her?) or what happens to the gold. I don’t mind assuming hunk and secretary get together, but are the other bad guys all dead, do they go to jail or reform their life of crime? What?

I know what regular readers are thinking: I need to start paying better attention to these movies I write about. Well, I thought I was, and I’m not about to subject myself to this turkey again to find out. I can only hope I like the next beast better.

As an added note, I looked the movie up in VideoHound’s Golden Retriever (Thomson Gale, 2005) and learned that the movie, which was made in 1960, was produced by Gene Corman, who is Roger Corman’s brother. A Roger Corman movie, of course, has unimpeachable cheese credentials. I had noticed Gene’s last name but hadn’t thought he could be related. Small world. And speaking of brothers, one of the actors was Richard Sinatra, Frank’s brother. VideoHound thought highly of his performance.

Hush…Hush, Sweet Cheese

I know I’ve mentioned Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964) in passing, but I don’t believe I’ve written a full post on the movie. I watched my DVD of it Memorial Day. I don’t like war movies, and that was all TCM showed all weekend. Yes, I KNOW it was in tribute to our fallen soldiers. I can’t help what kind of movies I like.

I guess you could call Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte (I can’t shorten it to Hush because of a rather hideous movie of that name made many years later) a Gothic horror. There’s an ill-lit Southern mansion, well past its prime, and a Southern belle in similar condition. That’s Bette Davis, tearing into her part with gusto. I love Bette Davis.

It’s kind of a contradiction in Davis’ character. She was vain enough to insist that she play her younger self in the flash back, but she eschews all glamour in the “present day” scenes (don’t know if I really need the quotation marks; it was the present day at the time). Maybe not such a contradiction. She was rightfully proud of her acting ability, and uglying oneself up for a part is a time-honored way to show one’s acting chops. To this day it’s what glamour girls do do prove they can so act.

Charlotte (see there, I can short the title) is as interesting for its background as for the movie itself. It was kind of a follow-up to Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? and was to have again paired Davis with Joan Crawford. Baby Jane famously re-ignited both actress’ careers. I have to admire Oscar winners who don’t scruple to do cheesy horror movies just to keep working.

I’m not sure, though, I would call Charlotte cheesy. For one thing, there are no cheesy special effects. There is no need for them: the horror comes from what the characters do to each other, not ghosts or monsters (ooh, I could do a whole blog post on how people are the most horrible monsters) (preview of coming attractions). The atmosphere is excellent, a brooding threat and air of mystery hangs over the whole. We slowly find out what’s going on, but all is not fully revealed till the end.

At least, I guess some astute viewers guessed the big reveal ahead of time. I almost never do, which is perfectly fine with me. How much fun is a horror movie where you can see everything coming? (Ooh, another future blog post: suspense vs. surprise. Discuss amongst yourselves.) (Oh, and I just heard another amongst you sniff, “What fun is ANY movie where you can see everything coming?” Read the sentence again without “horror.” It doesn’t sound as good.)

The movie boasts an excellent cast, especially Agnes Moorehead as Davis’ faithful servant. Speaking of eschewing glamour, it’s a far cry from her Endora on Bewitched. Olivia deHavilland, Joseph Cotton, Cecil Kellaway and Mary Astor round out the cast.

I realize I have not said much about the plot of Hush.. Hush Sweet Charlotte. I think this is a movie best enjoyed when you let it unfold before you. I recommend it. Would I say if you liked Whatever Happened to Baby Jane you’ll like Hush… Hush Sweet Charlotte? I guess I wouldn’t, because I never really liked Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? And that might be a subject for a whole other blog post.

By the way, I got all my information about the movie’s background from a wonderful book called Bette and Joan: The Divine Feud by Shaun Considine (E.P. Dutton, New York, 1989). Highly recommend that, too.

So That’s a Cyclops?

I DVR’d Cyclops (1957) from TCM with high hopes and it did not disappoint. Oh, it was not a good movie by any stretch. But I had a good time making fun of it.

Oh yeah, Spoiler Alert! I’m probably going to spoil practically everything.

In the first scene, a girl is meeting with a Spanish-accented official who is denying her permission to fly… somewhere, looking for her fiance whose plane crashed there some three years ago.

So let’s start with that. Three years ago? If your fiance disappears in a plane crash, how do you wait three years before going to look for him? Or am I asking too much of a movie female? I suppose the expedition was a little complicated to arrange. For one thing, the girl couldn’t finance it all on her own (I can go on calling her “the girl,” because she’s the only one in the picture). She has joined forces with a guy who has invented something that detects uranium. Gee, do you suppose he is in this only to make a buck and is likely to cause trouble later?

The official plans to send someone with them to make sure they fly straight home and nowhere else. It’s not really spoiling anything to tell you that they circumvent the official and head for the restricted place, is it? I was hoping they would do something at least marginally clever and fool the guy, but no, Lon Chaney, Jr. sucker punches him and they take off. Nobody follows them.

In retrospect it occurs to me that they could have used that fact as foreshadowing: the place is so dangerous the officials will leave them to their fate. I think the script writers got lazy (if they ever invent a time machine, I may try to get myself a job as a movie writer in the ’50s). Well, that’s OK, we want to see the mysterious, dangerous place with the Cyclops; we don’t want to spend the whole picture getting there.

Regarding Lon Chaney I kind of got my hopes up when I saw his name in the credits. Well, I guess actors have bills to pay, too. Actually, Chaney does a good job as the uranium-seeking trouble-maker. It’s just that I had kind of wanted to see him get turned into a Cyclops.

And may I just insert a word about movie slugs? In movies and on television, one sock to the jaw is all it takes. The slugee is down for the count. Men especially like to do this to women “for their own good.” So the man can go off and have all the adventure while the girl stays “safe” (I use the terms “man” and “girl” intentionally). No women get slugged in this picture, so it’s got that going for it.

Lon Chaney is apparently a very good slugger. His next is administered to the pilot of the plane. Even in the close confines of the cockpit, he knocks the guy out so he can grab the controls. Chaney wants to land while his whatevermeter is clicking high. He almost gets his wish in a big way as the plane plummets toward the earth. You see, the other guy has grabbed him from behind and pulled him away from the controls.

Excuse me, what? The pilot is out cold. Why are you pulling the one left awake away from the controls? Luckily the girl shakes the pilot awake in time to avert disaster. I’ll pass over my wonderment that you can shake somebody awake in that situation. Likewise I’ll pass over their extreme luck in finding, inches before impact, a strip of ground sufficient to land on in a huge mountain range. I know, I have to suspend some disbelief. I didn’t even blink when the girl’s map shows they are very close to where the fiance’s plane went down.

So she and the other guy go off hiking into the jungle (yes, a jungle in the mountains, get over it), leaving Lon Chaney to try to talk the pilot into flying him home so he can “stake his claim” to the supposedly uranium-rich area. OK, so they weren’t even allowed to fly there legally, but this guy can just claim it for his very own, like in the Old West? The knock-out slugs and safe landing were easier to swallow than that one!

Never mind, it’s a movie. Let’s get to the monsters. Through the miracle of perspective, we get giant lizards, a giant mouse and a giant hawk. The first time a character sees a giant lizard, he stands there watching it and smoking his pipe in a contemplative fashion. When the lizard retreats behind a rock before anyone else can see it, the guy says it must have been his imagination.

You see where this is going, right? Fiance isn’t dead, he’s a giant. And his face has been hideously deformed by reasons which are never made clear (after all, the animals are all intact) so that he only has one eye and can only talk in grunts. We don’t know if he can understand anything, but the girls tries to talk to him.

Bringing movie female stupidity to new heights, she does not realize that this scary creature is her fiance. She just wonders why looking at him makes her sad. Come on! Even I know who he is, and I never met the guy! Oh well, I suppose three years and radioactive deformities can change a person.

The movie is full of “Why would they…?” moments. For example, why does the Cyclops block the people into a cave with a big old rock which he is then unable to reach them over, as he tries to do? Then he leaves (why?) and they do NOT (a) look for an alternative escape route, (b) see if he’s still there, or (c) try to come up with SOME plan. Instead they opt for (d) go to sleep. I thought it was still morning!

At least this gives Lon Chaney a chance to steal the rifle, which eventually leads to his coming to a not very exciting end at the hand of the monster (who can only get one hand into the cave far enough). Oh, but first he goes back to sleep, and when they all wake up, nobody says, “Hey! Gimme that rifle back!”

The movie can’t seem to make up its mind if the Cyclops is scary or sad. They kind of go back and forth, ending up on scary in one of those “Oh, now the movie is over” endings. I see I’m over 1000 words and I haven’t even started on how that’s not what I thought a Cyclops was. I guess I’ll just end with, if you like a stupid movie you can make fun of, Cyclops is a good choice.

Crazy Good Show

I spent the first part of Act I of The Crazy Time at Ilion Little Theatre worried my husband might leave me for a younger woman. I spent the second part kind of hoping he would.

Just only kidding, Steven!

Last night (Friday, March 8), we went to Ilion Little Theatre (ILT) to see The Crazy Time, written by Sam Bobrick and directed by Julianne C. Allen. The play deals with what problems can ensue when a man leaves his wife of over 30 years for a young chippie. Julianne promised giggles in a Facebook post earlier this week, and the show delivers.

I don’t want to tell you too much about the characters and the plot, because I think it is funnier to let it unfold before you. I didn’t know much about it beyond the above paragraph, and I was thoroughly entertained.

Christopher Casey plays Miles, the 50-something man trying to keep up with his 30-years-younger chippy wife (I can call her a chippy; I’m almost 50 myself). He has a challenging part, because he is on stage for practically the whole show. He does a fine job with it.

George Malavasic also does a fine job, making a character who is really kind of a slime bucket be actually pretty likable. Malavasic gets some of the best laughs of the evening. Also getting a lot of laughs was Raphael DeLorenzo, who has been in several ILT productions. I had the pleasure of being on stage with him in Harvey, when he played the brilliant, buttoned-down Dr. Sanderson. I’ll just say he has quite a different part in this play.

Speaking of laughter, I was so impressed with Jennifer Brown, a newcomer to the ILT stage for her ability in that area. It is WAY harder to laugh on stage than to cry (I’ve done both). Brown goes off into peals of delightful laughter, sounding completely natural.

I have to admit, though, my favorite character was Kate, Miles’ dumped wife, played by Julianne Allen. Maybe it’s because I’m approaching 50 myself, but to see the divorced, older woman so sexy and sure of herself did my heart good.

The play continues today, Saturday, March 9 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, March 10 at 2 p.m. at The Stables, Remington Avenue, Ilion, NY 13357. For more information you can visit their website at www.ilionlittletheatre.org. You can also like them on Facebook.

Witness to a Lucky Murderer

Spoiler Alert! I’m pretty much going to recount the entire plot of Witness to Murder, including the dramatic climax.

I did not think Witness to Murder (1954) was going to be particularly cheesy when I saw that it starred Barbara Stanwyck, but you never know. They were still cranking out movies at a pretty good pace in the ’50s. They couldn’t all be cinematic masterpieces.

Things start right out excitingly with Stanwyck looking out her window to witness a murder (hence, the title) in an apartment across the street. She really has quite a good view. Some may carp over a murderer acting in front of an open window with the lights on, but, hey, it almost worked for Raymond Burr in Rear Window. Anyways, when we meet the murderer, played by George Sanders, we quickly learn that he is egotistical enough to feel he can get away with anything.

Stanwyck quite sensibly calls the police. This is about the last sensible thing she does, but we can’t really complain about that, because the movie would have been much shorter otherwise. Also, Sanders would have probably gotten away with murder and that character is definitely not likable enough for us to want that to happen.

Gary Merrill and Jesse White play the cops that show up to investigate. White doesn’t really have much of a part. His presence at least enabled me to make a couple of bad jokes about the Maytag repairman, but I must also say, kind of a waste of a good comedic actor.

Sanders is one of those lucky movie murderers who is easily able to cover his tracks. He has one bad moment when he freezes, mid-drag while moving the body, to stare at the elevator dial, afraid the cops are in it. Which struck me as a little silly. I guess I don’t think like a movie murderer, but if I’m dragging a dead body by the elevator and think the cops might be on it, I think I would be more likely do drag the body FASTER, not stand staring at the elevator to see if I’m right.

Now that I’m pondering the point, though, it occurs to me that perhaps he thought the dead lady’s high heels would ka-thunk on the floor and the cops would hear. Maybe he was trying to come up with a good story, one that might begin, “Thank God you’re here! Look what I just found!” We’ll never know, because the elevator passes by, and Sanders is able to stash the body in a handily located empty apartment (did I mention he’s a lucky murderer?) and change into pajamas in time to open the door to the cops, all sleepy-eyed innocence.

The cops are easily convinced that Stanwyck dreamed the whole thing. They are later on very amenable to being convinced that she’s crazy. Stanwyck obligingly has hysterics when confronted with Sanders’ trumped up evidence, landing herself in the loony bin.

I was a little disappointed she doesn’t spend more time in the Snake Pit (it isn’t really very snakey or even very pitty, but I thought I’d throw in another old movie reference to sound more erudite) (did it work?). For one thing, she might have reformed things, like that lady did in Bedlam (perhaps you read my blog post about that movie).

She gets sprung fairly quickly and easily, I believe due to the good offices of Merrill. You may have guessed the two of them fall in love. I always enjoy a love interest, especially when the guy falls for a girl who has a little on the ball, which Stanwyck does, even though the script calls for some typical stupid movie female behavior.

Which brings us to the dramatic climax.

OK, Stanwyck has figured out how Sanders broke into her apartment to type the poison pen letters that convinced the cops she was crazy (yeah, I didn’t explain that part very well earlier, but I’m sure you can keep up). However, she does not, for example, call an all-night locksmith to put in a dead bolt or even spend the night with a girlfriend (actually, I’m not sure Stanwyck has any girlfriends in this; the producers didn’t really spend a lot on minor characters). Well, I suppose one can’t think of everything. She is awfully tired, having not gotten a lot of sleep in the loony bin.

Anyways, guess who’s waiting for her in the bedroom, having already typed a fake suicide note. Stop! As I type this in, I suddenly say, “Waaaait a minute!” The police have Stanwyck’s typewriter. They took it to prove she typed the poison pen letters. Either they nicely put it back rather than properly in the evidence room, or Sanders, in addition to being lucky, is foresighted enough to have ALREADY typed the note. But I digress.

Sanders’ plan is to pitch Stanwyck out the window. Suddenly a lady cop shows up, sent by Merrill to check on Stanwyck. Sanders is, of course, ready with his story, that he was trying to STOP this poor, suicidal crazy woman. Does Stanwyck realize she is now safe? Sanders can’t possibly thrown her out the window and pretend it’s suicide with a lady cop standing right there, for heavens’ sake!

In her second biggest Stupid Movie Female Move of the picture (stand by for number one), Stanwyck runs away screaming. Nobody seems to believe that the guy chasing her wants to kill her, but for some reason they all join the chase. Soon a whole crowd is after her. Boy, can that woman move in a pair of high heeled pumps! Sanders is the only one who can keep up with her!

Then she does the single, absolute biggest Stupid Movie Female Move imaginable: she runs all by herself into a deserted high rise building, all the way up all the stairs and OUT ONTO THE ROOF!!! What a good place to go when you are running away from a man who wants to throw you out of a building and pretend it’s suicide.

It’s a good thing this was the climax, because I was ready to wash my hands of the Stanwyck character after that.

Predictably, nobody in the busybody crowd follows them up the stairs. Equally predictably, Merrill arrives on the scene, armed with Proof that Sanders is a killer. I don’t suppose anybody will be surprised to know that Merrill’s proof is a spurious as the stuff he’s been rejecting from Stanwyck all through the picture.

No matter. This is a movie, he’s the hero, and he’s going to save the day. I didn’t need to include another spoiler alert before I told you that, did I?

A Capitol Time

Friday night, Steven and I traveled into Rome, NY to the Capitol Theatre to attend a screening of Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window.

The Capitol Theatre is a truly gorgeous old time movie palace. It is where I saw my first movie (Mary Poppins), roughly a hundred years ago. I saw other movies there, till it closed. The building fell on some hard times. It was used occasionally for stage shows such as Rome Catholic High’s musical. Now it’s a Center for the Performing Arts, and they do all kinds of fun stuff there. This is the first event we’ve been able to make it to.

The Capitol first opened in 1928, I recently learned. I just knew it was old. It’s never been renovated, that is, chopped up into a six screen cineplex, for which I am grateful. The ceilings are high and ornate. The balcony goes back forever. It seats over 1,000 people (1,788, according to the brochure I picked up).

Steven and I got there early, so we had time to walk around a little and explore. We climbed up the steps to the balcony. There is a large foyer-type of room with a few comfy chairs and a piano, then you go up another small set of steps and through an opening about a third of the way down the balcony.

We walked up toward the top of the balcony. It went back just about as far as I remembered. I also remembered there being bats, once during a performance of Oklahoma! I was in, one summer during high school. I didn’t see any Friday night, though. With the theatre more occupied these days, perhaps the bats have found other quarters.

We decided to sit right in the front of the balcony. First we went and got popcorn and soda (me) as well as coffee (Steve). I don’t usually drink soda, but they were having a special on a large soda and large popcorn. I didn’t finish either.

The movie was wonderful. Rear Window is one of our favorites, but I have never seen it on such a big screen. The movie concerns Jimmy Stewart, wheelchair bound with a broken leg, looking out his window at his neighbors in the surrounding apartments. It was fascinating to notice all the details I missed on a television screen.

The Capitol hosts a variety of events. We picked up a flier that listed movies, a Celtic-Rock group called The Elders, Joshua Kane’s Psychic show, and others. We voted on next year’s Hitchcock selection (Steve wants Lifeboat, I picked Strangers On A Train). We also hope to return in August for CapitolFest II, three days of silent and early sound films.

For more information on the capitol, visit their website at www.romecapitol.com. You can also like them on Facebook.

I Was in the Mood for a Fiend

I think any movie with Vincent Price is worth a watch. Of course, you never know what you may be in for. I’ve seen him in the cheesy William Castle flick House on Haunted Hill and the stylish noir Laura, to name two of my favorites. When I saw something called Diary of a Madman on TCM, I reached for the DVR button on the remote.

Diary of a Madman (1963) is based on a story by Guy de Maupassant. I’ll have to read the story sometime so I can compare/contrast. However, I thought I would write this blog post before I did any such thing.

The movie opens on a funeral — always a good start for a horror flick. A “good man” is dead — at least, that’s what the eulogy says. One lady emphatically does not buy into that description. Several people meet, at the behest of the dead man, for the reading of his diary. That’s right, not the will, the diary. Didn’t you see the title of the picture?

Flashback to Vincent Price as a highly respected magistrate, going to see a condemned killer before his execution. The killer protests his innocence: it’s not him, it’s the demon that possesses him. Then he tries to kill Price. Well, I guess the demon tries to. Price kills the murderer first, so what do you suppose will happen to the demon?

That much we read in the description of the movie on the guide channel. To continue a plot summary would, I think, call for a spoiler alert. I don’t intend to exactly recount the plot, but just to be on the safe side, consider yourself alerted for possible spoilers.

The demon, it seems, does not so much possess Price as follow him around, taunting him and occasionally making him do things. And to my mind, not nearly enough things. Come on, the first guy the demon possessed — and this is just backstory — killed four people without motive. It takes forever for Price to start murdering!

When he finally does kill someone, he is not nearly as fiendish as we like our Vincent to be. There is a rather satisfyingly macabre bit involving a sculpture of somebody we don’t like much anyways, so that helps. Price was an excellent actor. He could play the tormented sufferer who wants to do right and it is a fine performance. I was just in the mood for a fiend.

The ending has a definite “Waaait a minute!” quality, but then, movies using a diary as a framing device often do. I mean, people are very rarely able to describe their own death in a diary before it actually happens (I didn’t spoil anything; remember? it opened on his funeral).

Perhaps they could have overcome the difficulty with a voice-over narration, something along the lines of, “This is what I plan to do. If you’re reading this, you’ll know it worked.” But they made no use of voice-over narration. Kind of silly of them, since Vincent Price had such a nice voice. Astute readers may remember my saying that I don’t like voice-over narration. True, it’s not my favorite. In this case, however, it may have enabled them to skip over a bunch of the boring parts before he gets around to killing somebody. Then they could have fit in a few more murders.

I guess it’s not the job of a reviewer to tell the movie makers how to fix the movie. I can see the director now huffing, “Fine! You go make a movie!” I guess they have a point. Reviewers ought to review the movie they saw, not the movie they wished they would have seen. Well, leaving aside the fact that I rarely do what I ought to (and brag about it), I’m not a real reviewer! I write a silly blog! Where do these movie makers get off, talking to me like I’m Leonard Maltin? They should just go make another movie. Maybe I’ll write about it next week.

Cheesy Bikinis

I DVR’d Prehistoric Women (1967) based on its description on the digital cable guide channel, something to the effect of brunettes enslaving blonds in the jungle. What’s not to like?

The movie opens on the male protagonist (naturally), the leader of a safari who feels “responsible” for the jungle. Blah, blah, blah, get to the cheese already! He comes across some natives and watches their extended dance sequence. I don’t know if this was the well-researched, educational portion of the movie, but it involved a lot of butt-wiggling, especially on the part of the scantily clad female natives.

Our hero is captured by the natives and faces judgement by the White Rhino or some such nonsense (you know I don’t pay much attention to these details). Suddenly everybody but Hero freezes, some natives with their speeds in mid-air, and a wall to another part of the jungle opens up. This, I felt certain, is where we’ll meet the blonds and brunettes.

And so it proves. First Hero meets this gorgeous, dewy-eyed blond who bites him and runs away. Then they are both captured by the evil brunettes and thrown into a cave/jail.

“Are you here to help us?” the young blond asks, at her dewiest.

He’s like, “Uh, yeah, sure,” even though he really doesn’t know what’s going on yet (neither do we, but who cares?). Soon he meets the head brunette, who naturally wants to make him her boy toy.

At this point I couldn’t quite understand why all the girls were not having sex with him, because it struck me as such a porno plot (no, I don’t watch pornos, but I saw one once and, anyways, it is pretty well known what constitutes the plot of a pornographic movie, so just quit snickering) (you know who you are).

According to Leonard Maltin (Leonard Maltin’s 2007 Movie Guide, Penguin Group, New York, 2006), who gives it a star and a half, the movie has a cult following because of the “commanding, sensual performance” of the head brunette. Oh, please! The movie has a cult following because a whole bunch of women spend a lot of time running around in leather bikinis!

I don’t know where these women found blow-driers and eye-liner in the jungle, but they are certainly all gorgeous. It is not clear who they’re being gorgeous for, because all the men are confined in some cavern doing hard labor (the benefit of which is also not clear, because, you know, jungle). And, no, there is no girl-on-girl action, barring a couple of wrestling matches in which nobody loses a top (so don’t get your hopes up). I’m sure this flick had no problem garnering a PG rating.

Anyways, our Hero naturally does not want to be boy toy, the more so because he has fallen in love with Dewy Eyes. So Head Brunette throws him underground with the rest of the men. While there, he finds out the whole back story of why they are all there, brunettes in charge etc.

It’s a real “Waaaait a minute!” plot. For one thing, it’s been this way for as long as Dewy Eyes can remember, but the women are all in the 18 to 24 age group. The men have a greater age range and are a good deal less gorgeous. Really, I don’t see why they could not have provided some eye candy for us female viewers. But perhaps I ask too much.

One blond, in a moment of wisdom, says they must stop looking at the men as their enemies. I personally am not a fan of the battle of the sexes, so was in agreement with this sentiment, but I had thought this was a story about blond vs. brunette, a premise that could take up a whole blog post all on its own if I were so inclined.

But that’s neither here nor there. I was highly entertained by this ridiculous movie, even thought I saw the “Or was it?” ending a mile away (no, I’m not going to tell you! I didn’t even include a spoiler alert!). Oh, and you can tell Leonard Maltin if you see him that he doesn’t have to make up stories about commanding performances. I don’t mind if he likes to look at ladies in leather bikinis.