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MVG Goes Hollywood

Well,  let’s see if I can do this.  I’m on my tablet, trying to make my post about the costumes at the mall.  This first photo is front the Grace Kelly section.  The dress in the foreground is from Rear Window,  the background is from To Catch a Thief.

We love Rear Window.

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As I have mentioned  before, it is awkward to post on the tablet. Still, one must persevere.

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I was a little disappointed that the Better Davis dress was just one from an awards show.  When I had heard there would be one of her dresses there, I confess I got my hopes up for the iconic party dress from All About Eve.  Still, Bette Davis.  There could be no possible objection.

In many people’s minds Bette Davis and Joan  Crawford go together.  Both are represented here.  I liked Joan’s dress even better.

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I had to take the plaque separately.

Likewise,  I needed two shots for Drums Along the Mohawk , which of course has a delightful local connection.

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Many will recognize Audrey Hepburn’s dress from My Fair Lady.

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We didn’t recognize the movie these costumes were from,  but we liked them.

The display continues at Sangertown Mall through tomorrow,  Oct. 29.  Sorry for giving local readers such short notice in case you want to check it out, but these things happen.  I hope at least you enjoyed my photos.  Happy Friday, everyone.

 

I Liked Philo’s Dog

This week I offer Mystery Movie Monday. I would prefer Monster Movie Monday, but I didn’t have a monster movie to hand. Instead, I asked Steven to make a selection from his DVD set of 50 Mystery Classics. He chose The Kennel Murders (1933), a Philo Vance mystery.

Spoiler Alert! I probably won’t give away the solution, because I didn’t properly understand it, but I will certainly give away some major plot points.

I was a little concerned to see the word “kennel” in the title, knowing Hollywood’s history of NOT being kind to animals (perhaps you read my blog post about it). I did not want to watch a movie where dogs die.

Sure enough, a dog gets murdered. Philo does not seem too exercised about that murder, although the dog’s owner threatens to kill whoever did it. I was not clear on who did do it, and I couldn’t figure out how it fit in with the rest of the plot. Then again, as regular readers know, I don’t always pay a whole lot of attention to these things. Another dog gets hit on the head with a poker, which does figure in, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

The movie opens on a dog show. There is Philo Vance with an extremely cute Scotty dog. His dog does not win, but Philo loves him. So there’s one reason to like Philo Vance, at any rate.

Next we meet a beautiful heiress (is there another kind?) who can’t seem to get any of her own money from her unpleasant trustee or guardian or whatever he is to her besides unpleasant. It’s pretty clear who the victim is going to be and there will be no shortage of suspects.

It is a bit of a surprise later on when one of the suspects who was starting to look really good (as a suspect, I mean) ends up dead. I guess I should have seen that coming. After all, it’s “murders” plural in the tile, and I’m pretty sure they didn’t count the dog.

The dog that gets hit on the head seems to make a full recovery and I guess helps solve the mystery. Or helps Philo prove he has correctly solved the mystery. Like I said, the solution kind of mystified me. As is often the case, the “proof” would never hold up in a court of law. For that matter, the medical evidence was pretty spurious, too. But these are mere quibbles. One must take movie mysteries at their own estimation or not at all.

Philo’s dog has a pretty good scene where he shows Philo something important. I just love a cute little dog.

In retrospect, I’m thinking it might have been a good idea if I had paid more attention to the movie, maybe made a few notes, before I tried to write about it. Then again, it’s Monday.

Not a Scooby Doo Plot

Spoiler Alert! I don’t really give much away this time, but it’s become a habit to include an alert.

I admit I DVR’d The Mummy on TCM thinking it was the black and white version. You know how I love old horror movies. When I found out it was the Hammer Films production from 1959, I figured it would still be worth a watch.

I already knew that Hammer had revitalized the horror genre in the late ’50s and early ’60s. What I learned from Ben Mankiewicz’s pre-movie commentary was that for the first few movies they made — Dracula and Frankenstein flicks — they had to be careful not to infringe on the copyrighted portions of movies previously released by Universal. After the success of the earlier films, Hammer was able to negotiate with Universal for re-make rights. The Mummy is the first of those re-makes.

That was very interesting to me. Now I want to see the older version more than ever, to see what they changed. And I may like to write a blog post contrasting the earlier, non-infringing movies with the re-makes.

The movie stars Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, veterans of previous Hammer films. Lee gets to be the monster this time, and he was not nuts about the extensive make-up, according to Mankiewicz. I can see where an actor might find it limiting, although Lon Chaney reportedly found it liberating. I wonder if George Clooney would like to try it. But I digress.

Cushing plays one of the archaeologists responsible for desecrating the tomb of… oh dear, I don’t recall the lady’s name. I may have written it in the TV Journal as I watched, but even if I did I am not at all confident in my spelling. It was some high priestess or other. There is a rather elaborate backstory about how the Mummy became her guardian. Someday I’ll have to look up some actual Egyptian legends to see how much Hollywood was really pulling our leg.

Speaking of leg, Cushing’s is broken, and his uncle has this nutty idea Cushing should return to civilization and get it properly set by a doctor. Of course he does no such thing. For one reason, he would avoid the Mummy’s curse and how would that have helped the movie? Later on he gets to walk around with a romantic limp that, quite frankly, I thought was going to figure into the plot more prominently.

Speaking of romantic, Cushing has a beautiful wife who, in one of those typical movie coincidences, happens to look JUST LIKE the lady in the tomb. Oh well, I suppose you could make up some rationalization about how Cushing is such a dedicated Egyptologist that he subconsciously fell in love with a girl who looked just like an Egyptian. Or something of that nature. I guess I don’t really have a problem with this sort of thing. It figures into the plot and makes the flashbacks easier to cast.

All the usual elements are here: warned against desecrating the tomb, desecrating the tomb anyways, leaving the Mummy’s first victim alone so that nobody quite knows what happened. At one point I said, “Oh, that would be a good plot: the guy that warned them does the killing himself and makes it look like the Mummy’s doing it.” Then I remembered that is the plot of almost every Scooby Doo mystery (although they didn’t usually deal in murder). I only steal from the best.

Cushing indulges in some typical stupid movie male activity. I know I usually rail against stupid movie females. In fact when movie males do it, it is brash or daring or refusing to play by the rules. As usual I must admit, if people in movies had any brains they would sit quietly at home and we would have boring movies (although I bet these days there is some yahoo with a webcam showing exactly that on YouTube). Cushing’s wife doesn’t do anything too stupid. Alas, she does not do much of anything else, either, the sad fate of many a movie female.

The movie does have what was for me a major “Waaaait a minute” moment, but to tell you that would entail quite a long plot summary and a major spoiler (alert notwithstanding). I enjoyed the movie. I think I am becoming a Peter Cushing fan.

Be Kind to Animals, Hollywood

What is it with animals coming to bad ends in movies?

I recently wrote about What’s the Matter with Helen?, in which some very beautiful white rabbits suffered at the hands of a lunatic. I watched a movie yesterday in which a perfectly nice looking dog had an even shorter and more thankless role. And now I am looking at a movie where every third or fourth scene, I hear myself saying, “Nothing bad better happen to that cat!”

So far the worst thing that happened to the cat is a lady took away the yarn he or she was playing with. I only wrote my remark about nothing bad happening in the TV Journal once, but as I continued to repeat it, I thought to myself, hey, this could be a blog topic.

Many of us get more upset when bad things happen to animals than we get when bad things happen to people, especially in the movies. After all, animals are more defenseless and often more harmless. Most of them are a good deal less annoying than some people, especially in a work of fiction.

You know, now that I’m writing this, I believe I have touched on the topic before. My defense for repeating myself is: I think it was previously a remark in passing and now it is the topic of the post. Also, it is a topic that bears repeating. Who doesn’t love cats, dogs and beautiful white rabbits (or at least one of the three)?

Hollywood, apparently.

Sometimes it is movie shorthand for a really, really bad person. Ooh, look at them, they were mean to a dog! They can’t be any good AT ALL! Just in case the viewer was looking for socially redeeming characteristics. Now we know there are none to be found.

I still don’t like it. I just don’t LIKE to see bad things happen to good animals. I don’t particularly like it when characters I like die either, but at least I can comfort myself with the thought that actors like to play death scenes. I don’t know that any animals feel the same way.

I don’t think any Hollywood screenwriters are likely to heed my words and start writing movies where all the animals live happily ever after (humans can take their chances). But I wanted to express myself. Now I’ll go back to the movie I was viewing and check out what happens to that cat.

Bela and the Baboon

I seem to remember mentioning a cheesy horror flick involving Bela Lugosi and a baboon. Having no other topic at hand, I thought I’d try to write about it: Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932).

Full disclosure: I did not watch the whole movie. I didn’t even pay a whole lot of attention to the parts I did watch. For a horror movie based on an Edgar Allen Poe story, starring Bela Lugosi and featuring a killer ape, I found it to be a pretty dull movie.

According to the Guide on digital cable, the movie concerns Lugosi murdering women for his experiments with apes. They had me at Bela Lugosi, but mad scientist and murders (after all, they go together) sounded good too.

The picture opens during Carnival in Paris. Many revelers are having a wonderful time, including a beautiful girl, a handsome man and his not so handsome friend. They go into a side show where they meet Lugosi and the killer ape, although of course they don’t know it’s a killer at the time.

“It’s only a baboon,” comforts Handsome Man when Beautiful Girl is frightened. I don’t know if it was a baboon, a gorilla or an overgrown chimpanzee. I can’t even be sure whether it was an authentic animal or a guy in a suit. These days I suppose they would have faked something up with CGI, quite possibly having first indulged in a little research. I made him a baboon in the headline for alliterative purposes, but you probably guessed that.

I’d like to just say a word about Bela’s hair (I know it’s more proper to refer to him by his last name, but I just feel I want to call him Bela). It’s not the elegant, slicked back Dracula look we are used to. It’s wild, shaggy and almost curly. Like he used volumizing mousse instead of maximum hold gel, although I have no idea what hair products were available at the time this movie was made (I did not indulge in any research while writing this post. Sorry). As a theatre person myself, I have no problem with an actor mixing it up a little, changing appearance to serve the character. It was just a little disconcerting is all. He still has the scariest eyes in show business.

Do I really need to tell anybody that he meets Beautiful Girl and is immediately taken with her? When she gets too close to the cage and the baboon snatches her bonnet, Bela smoothly promises to send her a new one, what’s you address, my dear? Handsome Man blocks that gambit, but not to worry. Bela has at least one henchman who can follow Beautiful Girl home. Just in case anybody was worried that the mad scientist would not get her into his evil clutches eventually.

Apparently he has already had other women in his evil clutches. We only see him actually abduct one, but when the authorities find her dead body (did I need to include a spoiler alert that somebody dies in a movie with “Murders” in the title?), we learn that she is not the first. Soon Handsome Man is investigating the murders, something to do with something in their blood, while letting his Not So Handsome Roommate eat all the lunch.

I stopped paying attention about the time Beautiful Girl gets the new bonnet from Bela and doesn’t worry too much about how he found her, because it’s such a fetching piece of headgear. So I don’t really know how she gets into his evil clutches or even what his evil plan is (although I know it has something to do with blood). Naturally there is a dramatic climax involving the baboon getting loose and climbing all over the city, but like I said, not really watching by that time. I may yet go back and watch it again, paying more attention this time. Which may or may not be worth another blog post.

I never read the story the movie is based on. The next time I go to the library I’ll look for it. Not that I expect it to inform any subsequent viewings of the movie. Hollywood is famous for taking liberties with adaptations and never more so than when they attempt Poe. In their defense, Poe is a very literary writer. Perhaps I should watch a series of movies based on Poe stories, read the stories and write a doctoral thesis (I bet you thought I was going to say blog post). Do you suppose I could find a university that would give me a degree for that?

Cheese from the DVR

Spoiler Alert! I may ruin not one but two cheesy thriller movies with today’s and tomorrow’s posts. Then again, I think most reviewers give away too much, and theatrical trailers sometimes give it ALL away. People are still watching movies. I can’t destroy too much.

Every Saturday morning I scan the listings for TCM for the weekend. Perhaps I will subscribe to their program guide and do this by the month including weekdays. Then again, how many movies do I have time to watch? Not enough, I tell you! (With a wrist to my forehead, of course.) (But I digress.)

Two Saturdays ago I DVR’d a promising entry called The Whistler. Something about some guy hiring a hit man then wanting to call if off. It was when I saw that it was directed by William Castle that I reached for the remote. As cheesy as Ed Wood and more prolific. I suppose personally Castle was less colorful, or maybe Tim Burton would have made a movie about him, too. (As a side note: I just remembered that the sadly overlooked 1992 movie Matinee, starring John Goodman and Cathy Moriarty was inspired by William Castle. So there, Burton; you missed a bet.)

I had not had a chance to watch The Whistler before the following Saturday, when I noticed a listing for The Power of the Whistler. It must be a sequel, I thought. The description when I hit “info” did not say so, nor could I find it in Steve’s Leonard Maltin book (which is almost a cheesy bonafide in itself). But really, what else could it be?

Steven and I watched both movies last Sunday. The Whistler opens eerily with the mysterious shadow of a man and the sound of whistling. Voiceover narration introduces the story. I am not a fan of voiceover narration, but sometimes we must live with these things.

The main guy hires a hit man using an intermediary and only gives the guy a name and address. Then we find out that the name and address are HIS OWN (see, that’s why I needed the Spoiler Alert). It seems he has been having dreadful mental problems which have been effecting his unnamed business (movie people are often employed in Business the nature of which is never fully explained; I think that is because movie writers have never had a real job, don’t quite know how the rest of the world works, and can’t be bothered doing research) (I would have loved have been a movie writer during the studio era) (although it didn’t do William Holden much good in Sunset Boulevard) (but, once again, I digress).

Where was I? Ah yes, main guy’s mental problems stem from the unvoiced belief of his friends that he was responsible for his wife’s death. It’s a complicated backstory, and I don’t know as the details are all that important. When he finds our via telegram (it’s a OLD movie!) that his wife isn’t dead after all, he wants to live again (all you husbands out there just be quiet; I know what joke you were about to make). Unfortunately, the middle man has been killed and the actual hit man is elusive. What do do? What to do?

Cut to the hired murderer, who is the most interesting character in the picture. He’s reading a psychology book (I stupidly did not write down the title and I already deleted the movie from my DVR) and decides he is going to try to scare the guy to death.

And then a bunch of other stuff happens. Hey, alert notwithstanding, I don’t what to spoil EVERYTHING!

Where is the Whistler during all this? Around, apparently. We occasionally hear whistling and see a shadow. At least one guy is opportunely killed, and the hit man says he is not responsible. The Whistler also has a final voiceover at the end.

The convoluted plot made for some interest, but I was not sorry to pause the movie some twenty minutes before the end and take the dog for a walk. In other words, the suspense wasn’t killing me. I did go back and watch the end, though, so it didn’t completely lose me. It was a short movie (it had that going for it), so we continued the movie watching portion of our evening with The Power of the Whistler, which provides the subject for tomorrow’s blog post. Stay tuned.