Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Grab Bag: Werewolf of London, Machine Gun McCain, Seven Chances, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The Landlord

Hey, everyone! Time for another grab bag of reviews. I'm tired of being so behind, so I'm writing short reviews for several movies instead of long reviews for one. The movies have little to nothing in common with each other, they're just whatever I've watched recently. Got five more for you here. Enjoy!

Werewolf of London by Stuart Walker, 1935

A Universal monster movie starring Henry Hull as a renowned botanist attacked by a wolf on an expedition to Tibet looking for a rare flower. Back in England, he begins to transform, but is able to hold off the transformation with the flower he acquired. That is, until the specimens are stolen.

There's some pretty cool stuff in Werewolf of London. I liked the fantastical plant specimens that Hull's character has collected. They were great looking props. Also, I liked a transformation sequence where he's walking and each time he walks behind something in the foreground, he's a little further along. The makeup isn't as cool as The Wolf Man, though, which came a little later. The ending is actually a pretty clear influence on that of An American Werewolf in London, though the latter improved upon it.

Machine Gun McCain by Giuliano Montaldo, 1969

An Italian gangster movie shot on location in America and using Hollywood stars in the lead roles. John Cassavetes stars as Hank McCain, a tough-as-nails convict sprung from prison to pull a job on some mobsters in Vegas. As you'd expect when you're dealing with the mafia, it doesn't end well. The cast also features Peter Falk as a gangster trying to horn in on the Vegas territory, and Britt Ekland as a girl McCain meets and marries right away, who helps him out with his heist. The highlight of Machine Gun McCain, though, is the score by the great Ennio Morricone. Pretty cool tough guy movie. It screened at Cannes.

Seven Chances by Buster Keaton, 1925

Buster Keaton stars as a junior partner at a law firm that is having financial difficulty. When his uncle dies, he is given the chance to inherit seven million dollars, but only if he is married by 7:00 on his 27th birthday, which happens to be that day. He then proposes to every woman he knows, but circumstances always thwart him. The first half has a lot of smaller laughs, though there are a few racial and ethnic jokes that don't age well.

The second half is where Seven Chances becomes the Buster Keaton comedy you've been waiting for. After inadvertently causing every eligible woman in town to want to kill him, Keaton goes on the run, pulling one incredible physical stunt after another. He dodges rocks in an avalanche, gets lifted high up into the air by a crane, and so on. Keaton was and still is unparalleled when it comes to physical comedy and stunts. Definitely worth watching.

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre by John Huston, 1948

This is another one of those movies that probably deserves a full review of its own. One of the all time greats. John Huston directs his The Maltese Falcon star Humphrey Bogart as Dobbs, a broke and down-on-his-luck American in Mexico, looking for a bit of money to get by. When he and his buddy meet an old prospector (played by John Huston's father Walter Huston, who won an Oscar), the three of them hatch a plan to go off and dig for gold, strike it rich, and live it up.

As their plan succeeds and they get richer and richer, Dobbs gets bitten by the greed bug, becoming more and more paranoid and suspicious of his partners. By the end of the movie, Bogart's greed is his own undoing.

I wasn't too into The Maltese Falcon, though I respected its importance in cinema history. I didn't even care that much for Bogart in it. But I think he's fantastic in this. He gives a varied and rich performance, steering his character through comedy, adventure, and tragedy, and slowly transforming into a bit of a monster. Walter Huston is awesome too, in a fantastic role that is often referenced and parodied in pop culture to this day. I love getting to see movies like this for the first time. I've been watching movies my whole life, yet I still have a lot of catching up to do.

The Landlord by Hal Ashby, 1970

Hal Ashby's first film, stars a young Beau Bridges as a privileged, well meaning white guy who buys a run down tenement in Brooklyn with the intention of evicting the residents and fixing it up. He soon finds himself personally involved with the black tenants of the building, who often can't even afford to pay the rent, much to the dismay of his rich, racist family.

The Landlord is decent, but not great. Ashby's distinct visual style and his social conscience are on display here, but as a filmmaker, he's not quite there yet. He tackles issues of racial and class disparity pretty fearlessly, though. The next year would bring his first true classic, Harold and Maude, and The Landlord can be seen as a stepping stone to that, and of mild interest if you're a fan of Ashby's work.

No comments:

Post a Comment