DATELINE: Goon from the Lagoon
Master director of all genres at Universal Studios during the 1950s, Jack Arnold brought us so many low-budget classics: from the Incredible Shrinking Man to Space Children to No Name on the Bullet.
One of his most famous tales was the directorial gem, Creature from the Black Lagoon. It’s supposed to be in 3-D, but you won’t know it. Film recognition may be enhanced by the odd-ball Best Picture of the Year from Oscar, called The Shape of Water. It’s more like the stolen picture of the year as The Shape of Plagiarism It’s the same movie with a bigger budget, computer effects, and less panache.
So, we wanted to see what Jack Arnold did with his movie with no budget, no big effects, and more panache than horror.
The de rigueur monster of the 1950s, the creature was actually a Gill Man, covered in scales with poorly manicured, webbed fingers. He swims like a cross between Esther Williams and Michael Phelps. And, he is photographed like a choreographed water sequence at Metro from Busby Berkley.
Arnold knew enough to bring in two stalwart 1950s leading men, Richard Carlson and Richard Denning. Carlson was always some kind of scientist with heroic demeanor, and Denning comes off as a proto-Trump businessman on expedition.
Throw in Julia Adams as a research assistant and Whit Bissell as the throwaway scientist, and you have a classic gem of a cast.
Silly plot holes may have you rolling your eyes: the underwater repellent is supposed to be knock-out drops to Gill Man, but it has no effect on the regular guys in snorkel protection mode.
Everyone goes out on a dig at night and leaves Whit Bissell to fall asleep guarding the monster. And, this scholarly scientific expedition claims not to have enough weapons to fight the Creature, though every man has a rifle.
Perhaps Arnold’s most amazing feat is that he put this film together in 75 minutes without bloody gore and with a sense of fun. Victims seem to be scratched like an encounter with one of T.S. Elliott’s cats.
No, this is not Jack Arnold’s best, but it is his most well-known movie, now more than ever.
DATELINE: Lady in a Caged Lawsuit
DeHavilland as vindictive Heiress (1949)
Perhaps the 101-year-old legendary star actress has outlived her own values.
According to a California court, Miss Olivia De Havilland has no right to stop an unflattering portrayal of herself in Ryan Murphy’s ripe black comedy called Feud. It’s the nasty tale of how Bette Davis and Joan Crawford spoiling for a fight over their careers and in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane.
Miss DeHavilland’s character called her own sister, actress Joan Fontaine, a “bitch” on screen, to which De Havilland objected. She called her many things, but never bitch.
She would have preferred “dragon lady,” but the producers of Feud and the courts felt that it was too archaic and not colorful enough to suit the story. Olivia De Havilland was kicked harder than Joan Crawford in Baby Jane, all in the name of artistic expression.
If the law is to be understood nowadays, you don’t have a right to stop the First Amendment, however disabused you may suffer at the hands of hack writers.
In all likelihood, Ryan Murphy, smug as ever, never realized Olivia DeHavilland, a two-time Oscar winner for 1940 and 1949, was still alive. He continued to call her “Olivia” this year, as if they were on a first-name basis, throughout the legal case.
So, Miss De Havilland stayed in seclusion in Paris while Hollywood glamour types and writers now have open season on living beings. A screenwriter can put whatever words he wants into your mouth, all in the name of artistic freedom, and therein rests the script.
Hollywood’s new bread-and-butter is the documentary bio-film with re-enactors and colorful revisions to history. Miss De Havilland did not stand a chance, and we wouldn’t blame her for calling Ryan Murphy “a son of a bitch.”
DATELINE: Strike Three!
Hit & Run?
Pit-stop for Orient Express!
When dainty detective Poirot is transformed into a Belgian Sam Spade, we know the troubles are just beginning. Director and star Kenneth Branagh has tackled Agatha Christie with hairy results on his upper lip and elsewhere in this latest version of Murder on the Orient Express.
Bombast and exaggeration are the hallmarks of every performance, as if the actors had to make a cartoon version of Christie’s classic. Oh, yes, the sets are gorgeous and breath-taking, but filled with dead red herrings.
Alas, Branagh has miscast himself in the lead role.
We found Branagh’s bold mustache leaving the detective ripe for plucking. When your first visual image of Poirot does not work, you leave little wiggle room for the rest of the clever story. Throwing in a few fights and action scenes for Poirot is too much like James Bond than Hercule. The film even gives Poirot a girlfriend!
Agatha’s Christie’s perps in this edition match the number who likely deserve to be killed on the Calais sleeper car. Once again, famous faces take on minor roles in an ensemble cast meant to delight us. There is a tad much emphasis on political correctness as the cast is far more diverse than Dame Agatha ever envisioned, which is not a criticism.
Like Hamlet, the story can be done with an all-black cast, or an all-nude cast, though we are not convinced it adds anything to the tale.
Everyone is working extremely hard to pull this off, and the pretend fun from the cast is exhausting.
Inevitably, it is Branagh who botches the climax revelations and the explanation of the murder on the Orient Express, wasting stars like Judi Dench, Willem Dafoe, Michelle Pfeiffer, Penelope Cruz, Derek Jacobi, and even Johnny Depp, in underwritten roles for the attention deficit audience.
Try one of the other two, preferably Suchet’s version.
DATELINE: ‘Feud’ Subject & Creator Continues in Court
Just when producer/director/writer Ryan Murphy thought he had beaten the clock on the lawsuit filed by Olivia DeHavilland, the 101 year-old movie star legend, she has risen up again.
It’s back on, set for a March trial.
She, as you may recall, took umbrage with her portrayal and use of name in the infamously entertaining series Feud, about the relationship of Bette Davis and Joan Crawford.
Miss DeHavilland insists that no one asked her permission to use her image and give words to her actress voice.
That’s probably because Ryan Murphy figured she was already deader than a doornail, like the rest of the characters in his hilarious series about Hollywood’s most rotten segment of the Golden Age.
Instead, Olivia rose up like Marley’s Ghost, warning Ryan Murphy. Now she is demanding the trial be held at a university where students may attend to see the shenanigans play out. Talk about a sense of drama.
Whether Miss DeHavilland will make the flight from her home in Paris is unknown, as she is elderly and frail. However, her spirit is not about to be buried by the likes of Hollywood upstarts like Ryan Murphy.
Murphy’s lawyers insist that if DeHavilland has her way, it will have a chilling effect on making docudramas where old historical figures come in and out of scenes uttering misquotes.
His money is on Miss Olivia DeHavilland croaking before the case, and his inevitable loss to a living legend, occurs. Our money is on Gone with the Wind‘s Melanie Wilkes, the survivor of The Snake Pit, the vindictive Heiress, and the Lady in a Cage.
DATELINE: Two Bills & Lots of Sense
ESPN’s latest documentary is a look at the remarkable relationship of two NFL coaches who figure prominently in the conversation of greats.
Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick cannot merely be compared as winning NFL coaches. They actually have linked together and bonded in a variety of ways over 40 years.
To put them together at a table in the football Giants locker room and let them watch and listen to clips may actually be a device to give viewers fireworks, contradictions, and hostility. Nothing could be further from the actual event.
You may be surprised what a loud extrovert and a introspective quiet man have in common. They were never friends, but were always respectful colleagues—even at times when tense competition separated them.
What they do have in common is an irascible controlling attitude. It may boil down to the kind of relationship you’d expect between an elder brother and his over-achieving younger sibling. They were rivals, but under the skin shared too much to be anything but blood kin.
Parcells always regretted not being more diplomatic and less inclined to fly off the handle. On the other hand, Belichick admired the way his mentor could deal with the media and see the big picture.
It winds up being a mutual admiration society now that the days of fiery fights across the field have come to an end. They have played golf together and enjoyed dinner to reconcile their former differences after the Jets flare-up when Belichick declined to be drafted into a bad coaching situation, as the heir apparent to Parcells. A Greek chorus of football greats and witnesses to their flare-ups and cool-downs adds to the history lesson.
Owner Robert Kraft slips between them, owing to fancy editing by the director, and notes the complex troubles of managing difficult coaches. It’s business, not friendship. It’s living with a colleague for years and never socially.
The Two Bills is a fascinating portrait of hard-driven men doing what they love with people they grow to love.
DATELINE: Unfair Coverage of Natalie Wood’s Sad Death
Cheap fake news is not limited to politics over at CBS.
The network that glorifies its infantile approach to dramatic TV series has now moved its news department into the field of fiction. Airing something called Natalie Wood: Death in Dark Water, they used movie stills of angry acting Wagner when it suited them.
The latest TV investigation is an attack on actor Robert Wagner, thirty-six years after his beloved wife Natalie Wood died in a tragic accident. Three actors, who make a living with emoting, were drinking and emoting that night.
With purveyors of sensation and people looking for a reputation or notch in their career rung, have taken to calling Mr. Wagner: “a person of interest,” which just happens to be the name of a brilliant series that CBS canceled because it was too cerebral.
Because he was on the yacht where the incident occurred does not mean he saw what happened or knew what happened. The two, other people on the boat also never saw what transpired, heard Wood call for help, or witnessed what occurred.
Christopher Walken, a friend and costar to Miss Wood, has consistently refused to talk about the death of Natalie Wood or his relationship to Robert Wagner.
It is likely that the victim and the three men present were heavily drinking. Speculation has centered on Natalie Wood leaving the ship in a dinghy out of anger, spite, or disorientation. Falling into the ocean, no one saw or heard her plight—and she drowned.
Why, some ask, didn’t her husband Robert Wagner come to her rescue like something out of a movie scenario?
Knowing Mr. Wagner, we cannot be objective. We answer that he did not hear any commotion that made him attentive, or surely, he would have jumped to his wife’s rescue.
Their love transcended two marriages. Divorcing in their youth, they had remarried. He told me in a conversation that he “lost the woman I loved twice.”
A sensitive man, erudite and well-read, Robert Wagner has played philanderers and playboys in movies and TV, but in real life he is pleasant, intelligent, and suffering from an accident that occurred forty years ago.
The disservice of continued attacks on his honor and his grief are inexcusable. Now turning 88 years next week and looking decades younger, he may be considered a target by those who have always been jealous of his looks, his debonair attitude, and his fortuitous career.
However, it is not right to haunt a man to the point of despair in the midnight of his life. CBS ought to be rightfully vilified for its so-called documentary. Have they no shame? There is not enough evidence to indict for murder. Police investigators want to continue till the truth will come out. They mean their truth, based on the boat caretaker’s testimony, a man who has changed his story repeatedly, sold his story to tabloids, and has had addiction problems—and a bitter sister, Lana Wood, who despises Mr. Wagner.
RJ Wagner has suffered enough.
DATELINE: Time for Episode 4
If your neighbor, the best CPA in the world, insisted on showing you his home movies of how his job interferes with raising his children, you’d run for the exits—or a caffeinated drink.
Instead, this is Tom Brady’s home movies: and millions are clamoring to watch.
“The Emotional Game” is the moniker slapped on the fourth show of the personal philosophy series of Tom Brady, called Tom Versus Time.
Beginning with a trip to China (not mentioned is that it is a promotional trip for one of his products), Brady provides some intriguing looks as he and his son Jack climb up to the Great Wall on a lift, and take the toboggan down.
His son shows what you expect, some physical talents, catching a football on the Great Wall. Tom continues to be politically correct, noting the great culture and place he has been given a chance to visit. He also takes in the Sumo wrestlers with his son.
Back home, we see his visit with his parents and mother who had been sick for over a sick and unable to attend games, until the Super Bowl. Because of her attendance, Robert Kraft appears on a smartphone of Tom’s to have him present her with a ring given to coaches and players.
Tom’s father has a shrine to his son’s career—and Brady gives them credit for uncompromising support all his life. He enjoys having his children, wife, and siblings with parents all in the luxury box at Gillette to watch him play.
Once again, the narrative jumps from Super Bowls to final games against the Dolphins.
Perhaps most intriguing is to see Brady explain that he must learn new techniques to his son as his watches videotape. Even the boy knows this is the secret to success.
Middle-class values are at the heart of his parenting. His wife, supermodel Giselle, notes that for six or seven months, he is a rare commodity in family life: as Brady notes, he is running a marathon during the season and cannot really stop to smell the roses, but his children do seem to keep him balanced.
As personal documentaries go on living subjects, this series is a milk shake frappe served up in a luxury home theater.
DATELINE: Truth as Shocker
Snapshot of Margaret & Bindon
John Bindon was a 1970s British character actor who played a series of dangerous thugs in movies like Performance (with Mick Jagger & James Fox) and Man in the Wilderness (with John Huston & Richard Harris).
He was also real-life gangster in London, a violent shakedown artist. He mutilated and thrashed men and abused women. His acting chops were not far removed from his life on the street.
There was one big difference for him: when he met Princess Margaret, the royal bad girl before Princess Di, he was smitten. She had a thing for younger men. They vacationed together in posh resorts and spent time in magnetic attraction. She never met anyone quite like the witty mobster.
He was a Jekyll/Hyde character: he could be as witty as Oscar Wilde—amusing the Princess often, or as scary as Jack the Ripper—chopping off an arm of another mobster in retribution.
His life, as it was, is show-cased in The Princess and the Gangster—a documentary that reveals how Margaret, sister of Queen Elizabeth, immersed the Royals in scandal.
When it was rumored that he had compromising photos of Margaret in flagrante delicto—the British secret service threatened him with extermination if he were to breathe a word or sell the pictures.
When he went on trial for murder, someone pulled strings—and he walked free, the jury compromised apparently.
When he died of AIDS before he was 50 in the scourge of the 1990s, the crime world was shocked. Yes, he was known for his foot-long talent, which he displayed often in bars to win bets, but he must have used his prowess on more than the Princess and a few queens.
It is a staggering story, deftly told in this short film.
DATELINE: Time is Short
We have just informed well-intended friends who always recommend long movies to us, that our tolerance level has passed beyond endurance.
We are no longer putting three-hour movies on our dance card.
Gilligan’s Island started out as a three-hour tour, but turned into an epical series with TV movie sequels.
In our misspent youth, we watched Lawrence of Arabia multiple times. That was four hours a shot. We also took in films like Cleopatra, or Ben Hur. It may be we saw them more than once.
Today long films are not a sign of epic historic proportion, like the Bridge on the River Kwai. We watched recently again Once Upon a Time in the West, which was not only long—but slow. Those oldies were fascinating, whereas today’s movies are pompous, overwritten stories by directors who happen to think of their own self-importance before the audience’s bladder.
Hitchcock thought film should err on the short side to match the human kidney tolerance. Even he exceeded our new guidelines by pushing movies to two-hours.
Nowadays we always figure there are six minutes of credits at the end. That helps if we skip that, though we are loath to do so.
We still believe the best movie is under 90 minutes. As much as we dislike Woody Allen, he had the right idea. Many of his best movies were only 75 minutes in length. Including credits.
Before you point out that we have watched many series like Downton Abbey, Bette and Joan, and Endeavour, all recently, we would point out that those are episodic and run usually an hour.
Most of the time they’re also self-contained. It took 25 years to film all of The Poirot Agatha Christie stories. We don’t intend to take 25 years to watch them. However, they are usually about an hour in length. A few of the classics are shorter movies. More than tolerable.
The upshot of our complaint is that we are no longer in the market for epic movies to be watched in one long sitting. Our life is now counting down to a precious few days.
If we’re going to spend time on a movie, hovering over three hours in length, it had better be special.
DATELINE: Free Speech & Concussed Politicians
North Korea has it wrong. Trump is not the Commander-in-Grief. He is the Lord of the Flies, the William Golding horror reborn.
NFL fans of the game may be coming to a rather harsh realization. Freedom of speech cuts. Two ways. They were counter-free speechified by the players on Sunday.
You may boo your least favorite players in the stadium and to their face as they score winning points to help your team. Then, cheers. What manner is this hypocrisy?
On the other hand, players have a right to express their feelings as well. We think they ought to just thumb noses, instead of a respectful knee to the ground. Save that for the bully-pulpit fans.
You may not like seeing players kneel during Our National Anthem. It’s almost like praying for a better country. Fat chance for that under the Lord of the Flies.
Mr. Trump is completely convinced that he would rather be right than president. Trump is no Henry Clay when it comes to cold feet. He has performed no presidential feat greater than dividing the nation into red and blue. He leaves the white for separatist flags.
Perhaps his wish will be granted. We either will have the end of the world in a nuclear holocaust against another race of the Yellow Peril, or we will have a race war in America. In either case, you have to admit Trump has divided America in ways we haven’t seen since the Civil War.
Russian interference of the election is secondary to Trump hijacking of the Constitution.
Of course, we have come to expect the worst of NFL fans. They laugh and demean the idea of concussions. Ask Will Smith.
They watch gladiator athletes concussed weekly for entertainment. If memory serves, during the campaign President Trump scoffed at the idea of concussions for NFL players as a sign of weakness. Talk about brain bankruptcy.
All this goes to show that what goes around comes around, like Aaron Hernandez and Confederate resurrection. It’s all in a day’s work for the Lord of the Flies.
DATELINE: Producers Wanted!
One of the cleverest and surprising films of 2006 is prepping to have a ten-years later style sequel with all the original cast.
If you remember the delightful novella by Matthew Rettemund turned into a top-drawer comedy of manners by Q. Allan Brocka, you may be in for a big treat. Boy Culture wants to return.
They have a deadline of 29 days to find movie producers to contribute to a new Los Angeles production that will be short TV episodes transformed into a feature-length film.
Yes, Derek Magyar will be in the film as X, with Darryl Stephens reprising Andrew, and Jonathon Trent returning with his extra-long tongue. We are being tongue in cheeky, for sure.
If you ever wondered about all those people who are thanked at the end of a movie, here is your chance to join the conga line that passes quickly while most people are ready to hit the remote button. Well, if you are on the list, you may stick around to the utter end.
It doesn’t cost much to become a recognized Hollywood producer on a big production like this. Immortality seldom reaches out to movie fans, but the filmmakers have gone the Kickstarter way. It’s how small budget, big heart movies are put together: with love of fans.
If you have a big wallet, you might even end up with a walk-on cameo in one of the scenes. Talk about becoming a Hollywood legend. It might repay you with dinner invitations for years to come—as you explain the thrill of it all.
We hate to say what it costs to be one of the co-executive producers but the benefits of being with the cast may be your last chance for groupie rights that only X would appreciate.
Quite frankly, our favorite character was Gregory Talbot in the original: the wonderful actor Patrick Bauchau played the reclusive, well-heeled patron of the extended family of boys.
Yes, we want in on this. But we want to see the movie produced successfully and be part of a legendary hit.
When they call action, Boy Culture TV may be your calling.
DATELINE: See You in September, Release Date
Real J.D. Salinger and the Real Nick Hoult
If we were to pick our favorite recluses, J.D. Salinger is up there with B. Traven and Greta Garbo.
Now comes forth an intriguing film about the years before Jerome David Salinger went private-mad.
Nicholas Hoult has sent out a Facebook message about his new movie, Rebel in the Rye.
The handsome young British actor has perfected his American accent enough to go for playing a New York writer in the 1940s.
J.D. Salinger famously published but one novel and preferred the genre of short story and novella. Who can blame him? His greatest hit is titled Catcher in the Rye, which a few people have read over the past 60 years.
Salinger would never let Hollywood ever come near his cherished novel. And, they threw oodles of money at his feet, but he was adamant.
So, how would J.D. feel about a movie depicting his post-traumatic experiences in World War II as the backdrop for writing his “grand” novel. Heavens, Holden Caulfield would have a fit over calling his story grand.
And, boy, would he throw a fit over this movie! Privacy is certainly dead nowadays.
Nicholas Hoult is always fascinating to watch, but he may seem a touch different here. It’s the brown contact lenses to cover up those startling blue eyes that vaulted him to fame among devoted distaff viewers.
With Kevin Spacey as his demanding editor, Hoult’s Salinger comes across as chummy, not reclusive. Ah, youth.
The best we can give you at this point is a trailer. So here goes.
Audie Murphy with Brandon on set of Night Passage
Forty-five years is a long time, no matter how old you are.
It is especially long when you think that young actor Brandon DeWilde died on a road in Denver that many years ago. He’s buried in East Farmingdale, New York.
Brandon is likely remembered as the little boy in the movie Shane who cried, “Come back, Shane, come back!” as the mysterious gunman kept on riding his horse into the clouds.
Our personal favorite movie with Brandon was Hud, though when he stood up to father figure John Wayne, his costar for In Harm’s Way, he gave another interesting performance. Challenging the man playing your father is not an easy trick when it’s the Duke.
Julie Harris starred on Broadway in 1950 and in the movie version of Member of the Wedding, largely forgotten nowadays, with Brandon as her little friend. She once told us in an interview that their bare feet would be so dirty after a stage performance of pretending to be outdoors in the Old South. For years afterward, he would greet her by announcing his feet were clean. She remembered him fondly as her costar on stage and in film.
Who didn’t adore Brandon?
He glowed in every performance, not like so many insipid child actors.
Brandon was such a scene stealer that, when he costarred with dangerous war hero Audie Murphy in Night Passage, he was knocked on his keester by Audie, wearing a black hat and black leather vest for this bad guy role, in one scene. Yes, it was in the script.
You could put Brandon up against Warren Beatty and Paul Newman—and he matched their intensity.
DeWilde is now a trivia piece of history for many movie fans. But his demise so long ago was a shock when it happened. He rode off into the clouds, leaving us to cry out, “Come back, Brandon. Come back.”
Alas, he can only do it in his marvelous movie roles.
DATELINE: Livie Legend
On occasion of her 100th year, AP Camus photo, 2016 image
As much as we loved every hoot from the miniseries Feud: Bette and Joan, apparently the same cannot be said for Miss Olivia DeHavilland. She did not see anything remotely funny.
Now 101 years old and living in royal exile from Hollywood in Paris, the living legend and two-time Oscar winner is now suing the producers of the Feud show for misrepresenting her.
We thought that Catherine Zeta-Jones did not do justice to Miss DeHavilland, a grande dame in the truest sense. A long-time friend and devoted supporter of Miss Bette Davis, Miss DeHavilland was shown in the series giving a series of petty interviews to the press.
She replaced Joan Crawford at Bette’s request in Hush, Hush…Sweet Charlotte because she had fortitude and never buckled under pressure. She now charges modern producer Ryan Murphy of portraying her as engaging in “gossip and other unkind, ill-mannered behavior.”
Miss DeHavilland is not gaga or in her dotage—and she believes FX producers have done her image and her person “emotional harm.” We figure there is not a jury in the world that would disagree.
To show what a heel Ryan Murphy really is, he showed Miss DeHavilland no respect. He admits he never called her or notified her of the impending portrayal. What’s worse, he calls her “Olivia,” as if the slug ever met a woman of such class.
We figure Murphy, as a new age producer of no manners, has no respect for the past, and apparently no respect for his elders.
We admire Miss Olivia DeHavilland for her legal battles decades ago when she took on Jack Warner’s star system—and won. Murphy is decidedly the loser here.
Miss De Havilland is the Last of the Mohicans, which befits the classic model and usual choice of acting roles she carefully selected in her career.
Today we remain a staunch fan of a great star.