Mummy Dearest

DATELINE:   Tut-Tut!

Mummy Dearest Karloff!

Of the Quartet of Classic Horror from the early 1930s, the fourth entry in the series is often relegated to the bottom tier. The Mummy follows the legendary Frankenstein, Dracula, and Invisible Man. But he is no also-ran.

Unfortunately for him, we learn in the first few minutes of the 1933 film that the mummy is actually a misnomer. He is not mummified at all, having been buried alive.

So much for false advertising.

Beyond that, we have a whale of a movie—not James Whale: the director was famous cinematographer Karl Freund in his first directing effort.

As star Lita Johann said, he was a nasty guy—to her. Exotic star Lita was married later to John Houseman (Professor Kingsfield to you). Whatever he did to her during their 23-days of filming, she is marvelous as the reincarnation of a Pharaoh’s daughter.

As for Karloff, what can you say? He is so tall in his scenes, we think he was wearing lifts under his rakish robes. He looks like a bag of fragile bones, as the mummy-come-to-life.  His face is dustier and has more riles than a Moon crater as he plays Im-Ho-Tep (not to be confused with IHOP).

The biggest special effect is Karloff’s eyes, which is impressive indeed.

Scenes of a second unit, or stock footage, of Egypt, surely gives us a sense of the pre-Howard Carter King Tut world. And, audiences in the 1930s knew what a mummy’s curse was, which is played to the hilt.

The climactic scene is when the Mummy relates his unfortunate murder by the Pharaoh’s men. Juicy and grotesque horror!

As a love story, this is thriller covers 3700 years and incantations about the dead, which transcend undying love.

What a treat.

 

 

Tab Departs

DATELINE:  Our Loss

Untitled Tab & Divine!

Bashing Tab Hunter was a media entertainment form since he first came to Hollywood in the early 1950s as a pretty boy.  Most critics held the opinion he must be a vapid blond male equivalent of Marilyn.

Yet, Tab stuck around for decades, playing everything from beach boys when he was too old for that, to athletes, soldiers, and assorted heroes. He dressed up whatever story he acted in.

Now at 86, looking 60, he suddenly and unexpectedly expired on us. It comes when he was about to oversee a new movie docudrama of his life. Well-known gay actor Zachary Quinto has decided to produce a movie about Tab and his torrid, secret affair with Anthony Perkins in the 1950s and 1960s. The new movie is to be based on Tab’s autobiography of a few years ago, entitled Tab Hunter Confidential.

Yes, that Damn Yankee killer met the Psycho Bates off screen for a closeted love affair.

We always enjoyed Tab and look forward to this new movie of his life. However, we can also turn back to five films today’s young film aficionados may not know or appreciate.

One of his early successes, or weird films, was Track of the Cat, directed by Wildman William Wellman. He played callow younger brother to dangerous Robert Mitchum in a movie that played on Technicolor downgraded to black clothes on a white snowfall.

Not long after he appeared with John Wayne and Lana Turner in The Sea Chase in 1955. Audiences loathed a film in which Duke Wayne played a German naval officer. Looking perfect as the Aryan in the cast, he managed to come off as a good actor next to Wayne’s deplorable performance.

Tab came into his own as the young version of Joe Hardy, who makes a deal with the devil to beat the Damn Yankees in baseball for one season. He was stunning and the boy that Lola wanted. The director mistreated him and almost sabotaged his performance.

Soon, Tab wanted to prove his worth and did a film called They Came to Cordura. He was the villain, opposite Gary Cooper and Rita Hayworth. It was a shocking turn of events—but not well received by Hollywood which would soon return him to surfing movies and light comedy.

His rediscovery in the 1980s cast him in wild comedies like Polyester and Lust in the Dust, a parody Western, both films in which his romantic interest was zaftig Divine, cross-dressing delight.

Not Tab’s full oeuvre, it is enough to give you a sense of his career.

Man in Orange: Cottage in Oil

DATELINE: Parallel Stories or Tag Teams?

cast that never appears together

Cast actually never appears together.

Not to be confused with dull plotting, Man in an Orange Shirt is a Masterpiece PBS drama.

The film is a complex examination of gay life across 60 years with a focus on two generations: the post-World War II veterans, and the modern 21st century.  If there is any relief here, it is that this is not your typical gay story about randy American teenagers, charging out of closets.

However, the angst spreads over the decades. The older generation keeps a stiff upper lip and sucks in their tears, whereas the contemporary gay men let it all out. The tale is about a gay banker and his artist lover, separated by social convention and a wife in the 1940s. His grandson is also in the closet with a different inability to be monogamous, and never knew about his grandfather.

The stories share Vanessa Redgrave as the difficult grandmother, a painting of the man in an orange shirt, and a remote love-nest cottage, shared by the two divergent generations.

Suffering seems to be hereditary in this tale. Vanessa Redgrave took the role because her father, Michael Redgrave, was gay. She understood the sturm und drang in the script.

The cast includes Redgrave, Julian Sands in the modern tale, with Laura Carmichael (of Downton Abbey), and James McArdle in the past. As always, you have the best actors in the field, unlike American gay casts of beauty pageant boys.

Since England has been about 50 years ahead of the United States on the subject of homosexuality, it seems to have smaller moments of fraught tension. Young men forced themselves into a bisexual mold, whether it fit or not, in the old days.

Today’s gay men must fight to be faithful, and open relationships appear to be compromises that make for overwrought drama.

This is not your teenage gay disco dolly gay movie. Thank heavens.

Serpent’s Time in the Pup Tent

 DATELINE:  Best Actor for Mamba

serpent

The Serpent is an effort under 90-minutes that tries to rejuvenate an old Hitchcock claustrophobic situation.

Two people are stuck in a small tent with a black mamba.

Well, okay, we are ready to give it a go: it seems a shorthand for giving us the creeps. Since most people have a great disdain for snakes, you immediately build in a horrid, bone chilling concept.

Like all movies of this sort like Snakes on a Plane, the first 30 minutes is exposition on what is the set up. Director Amanda Evans has her snake and cake too. From the get-go, you have role reversals. The husband is at home making dinner, and the philandering wife is now being pursued by her stalking boyfriend.

Oh, yes, the husband happens to be an etymologist with creeping insects at his research heart. He plans to go out on a highly important trip somewhere to the outback of South Africa (well, you don’t find black mambas in upstate New York).

The wife is American, and the husband is one of those bland scientists who looks like a boy scout. He dumps his co-scientist and takes his wife to the Edenic wilderness. Big mistake and rather unprofessional.

By now you realize the husband is named Adam, and the wife is named Gwynn. The serpent is named mamba. He warns her that a little birdie will go crazy if there are snakes around, but she never notices—and leaves the tent flap open during a bush visit.

Suffice it to say, the best performer here is the snake. With his open mouth and smiling visage, he seems to coil around the naked bodies with all the perversity of Jack the Ripper. He’s the star.

While using his wife’s phone for a nightlight, hubby Adam finds texts from her boyfriend. Talk about a night killer.

There’s a biblical story in here somewhere.

 

 

 

 

Re-fighting the Battle of the Sexes

DATELINE: Gay Lib, Not Gay Lob

Bobby & Billie Truly a Doubles Match!

Many viewers may not know the story of Bille Jean King and Bobby Riggs and their ridiculously hyped tennis match of the early 1970s.

The earlier TV movie was called When Billie Beat Bobby. This new version is the Battle of the Sexes, but it’s more of a coming-out story.

Many may not know that an earlier cable movie effectively told the story with all the limitations of small screen propriety. If you wonder about the differences, there was no hint of gayness in Billie or her marriage. She had no bedroom scenes with a female hairdresser.

She did not have a gay best friend (marvelous Alan Cumming as Ted). She did not have a cantankerous relationship with Margaret Court in the first movie who is always holding a baby in the remake.

You did not see Bobby Riggs’ nude layout. You did not see his marital problems, or his hilarious attendance at a Gamblers Anonymous meeting.

You had a greater sense that Bobby and Billie were, above all else, “good sports” and actually remained lifelong friends.

The big screen smash has magnificent performances from Emma Stone and Steve Carell, looking more like their real counterparts. Carell is making an industry out of playing peripheral sports characters (Dupont in Foxcatcher). There are some marvelous effects too, bringing Howard Cosell back to life to play himself.

This is a big budget film with a great music score, pictures of celebs of the times, and the Houston Astrodome itself.

We recall the match was a grand joke, only taken seriously by those who’d be willing to buy the Brooklyn Bridge from Bobby Riggs. How could anyone think that old man could beat a young athletic woman?

Well, as we recall, yes, there were men crushed by the defeat. This movie brings it all back to us.

Kinky Puss’n Boots

DATELINE:  A Really Big Shoe

 kinky boots Kinky-Dinky!

Kinky Boots may kindly be called an old-fashioned character drama. The difference is that it’s about drama queens in men’s shoes. It was later turned into a smash stage show, but the 2006 version is one of those working class British angry young man movies (except the young man dresses like a woman).

The two characters in juxtaposition are, first, the son of a shoe factory heir facing bankruptcy for making traditional footwear for men when disposable sneakers are the rage.

The second young man likes to wear high-heels and becomes a cabaret star in drag shows.

Under normal circumstance, you almost would expect the two men to slip into each other’s loafers at some point. Thank heavens, Kinky Boots keeps us in our own lanes and avoids any moments with glass slippers.

Joel Edgerton is the scion of shoemakers who learns that market niche for men’s boots with stilettos is high end. He meets Chiwetel Ejiofor in a career-busting role as Lola, the giant man in glitter. They kick up the story. Chiwetel also sings us a torrid version of “Whatever Lola Wants.”

Unfortunately, to walk a mile in one man’s shoes, or high-heels, may be a stretch too far. The movie makes its points early and often but keeps on giving us more. The climax on the runways of Milan for shoe biz is too much glitz for our own good. Hero and audience fall flat.

Lessons in what defines masculinity and manhood are made a few times too many. It’s always hard to figure out British men anyhow since, to American eyes, they all look ready to put on a feathery boa and dancing shoes.

Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool

DATELINE: Movies Imitate Life

Film Stars Film Stars!

The tragic and sensitive final days of Oscar-winning actress Gloria Grahame make for an ironic version of Sunset Boulevard, without the cynicism and cruel take on Hollywood.

Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool is the antidote to all those anti-Hollywood movies. Yet, its story is the pathetic truth about an aging film star who spent her last days with a younger man. Gloria is no deluded Norma Desmond, and Jamie Bell’s Peter is no reluctant William Holden.

With Anette Bening in form as the pouty Grahame in her failing days, the film has at its core a rather pathetic love story.  Peter Turner was a young British actor who was Gloria’s last companion. Bening certainly eschews vanity playing a woman with cancer and fighting the clock.

Jamie Bell returns to his roots as a British working-class boy with a show biz heart as Peter. He dances too like Billy Elliott, and Bell’s charm remains in full blossom. Their love story may strain credulity among many but has the world of actors all over it.

As an aging ingenue with a scandalous past, Gloria still wants to play Juliet for the Royal Shakespeare Company, however improbable. Bell and Bening have definite chemistry, even as they attend the movies on a date to see Alien.

Your Hollywood gossip reference level will be satisfied with enough detail to titillate.

Supporting Bening and Bell, you cannot do better than Julie Walters as the Liverpool mother and Vanessa Redgrave as Gloria’s mother.

With clips of the young luminous Gloria in her heyday, the film plays on echoes on the past.  Gloria won her Oscar as support to Kirk Douglas and Lana Turner in The Bad and the Beautiful, another classic Hollywood tale.

Elegiac movies often sink into sentiment and nostalgia, but this film keeps its head up throughout. Forget about happy endings. They only happened in the old movies.

Tom, Giselle, Boris & Natasha!

DATELINE: Met Gala Stun Guns Again

Tom, Giselle, Boris, Natasha

Yes, right after the Kentucky Derby “and they’re off—” comes the notorious Met Gala in New York where the show horses and would-be celebrities fall all over themselves on the red carpet.

Yes, on the heels of the bizarre nature of Westworld’s second season comes Evan Rachel Wood, Kim Karadasian, and Elon Musk, on the red carpet.

Our favorite had to be Tom Brady, erstwhile ageless quarterback and his wife (the billionaire), looking like refugees from 1960s Gilligan’s Island. Indeed, you had to wonder if Jonathan Nolan had produced the glitzy extravaganza as a means to publicize his TV HBO weirdo series.

You can’t tell the androids from the guests.

What Tom Brady has had to do to cause his wife to agree to let him play for two more seasons? You have only to look at his outfit as the twosome cavorted with other Barbie and Ken dolls.

Yes, Tom is wearing nail polish. You can’t see the multi-colored nail polish on his feet. And he looks like he is storing botox in his cheeks. Yet, the rash comments that he and wife look like James Bond villains is a tad off-the-mark.

Tom is not auditioning to play Dr. No, nor Goldfinger. He is acting like a friendly Russian that would charm President Donald Trump, whose hair would have fit right in on the red carpet.

Tom and Giselle came across as Boris and Natasha, those 1960s spies who gave Bullwinkle Gronk and Julian the Flying Squirrel fits.

Halloween comes early. However, we did see Patriots owner Robert Kraft and his young Baby Mama. To our shock, Kraft was NOT wearing his blue collar/white shirt. He did have de rigueur tennis shoes with his tux.

You have to love insanity with money.

 

 

After the Prejudice and Before the Pride?

DATELINE: Jane Austen Goes Gay!

  chase conner    Chase Conner as Mr. Darcy.

To take the chaste Jane Austen’s comedy of manners, Pride and Prejudice, and turn it into a gay story is an interesting twist. Director and writer Byrum Geisler has entered the brave, new world fearlessly. After gay pride comes the fall?

Before the Fall is tame gay entertainment for an audience with emotional reservations. It will offend gay activists and homophobes alike for being low-key and matter-of-fact.

Ben Bennett is so straight-laced that the only clue we have that he is gay are his professed feelings. He is attracted to a straight alcoholic man Mr. Lee Darcy (Chase Conner). Without overt sex acts and nudity, so often at the heart of gay movie drama, this film’s only sin is to have a couple of queeny friends of Mr. Bennett.

It’s like having Steppin Fetchit and Butterfly McQueen in a civil rights tale. It’s the only false step. Those characters are utterly offensive.

As for the rest of the cast and actors, they are buttoned up and long-suffering.

Indeed, you might think the central casting office found the usual good looking gay actors, but there is here something far more serious and sensitive. We have to laud any so-called gay film that flies in the face of the usual shenanigans.

Filmed in beautiful Virginia, a so-called place for lovers, Ben Bennett hardly puts an overt pick-up on Mr. Lee Darcy. They go hiking, and after some guilty gossip, Bennett works to remove a legal cloud over the other man, perhaps to help him with his alcoholism.

Billed as a comedy drama, which is Austen’s stock-in-trade, the label will confound modern audiences for whom social humor is tied into text messages and Facebook friendships.

If you stick around to the final romanticized happy ending, you may conclude that gay movies are growing up.

 

 

 

From Tea Pot Dome Scandal to Pee Pot Bed

DATELINE:  Pot to Plant Flowers In

glow in dark pee potGlow in Dark Pee Pot

President Warren Harding gave us Teapot Dome Scandal, and President Softing Trump has given us Pee Pot Bed Scandal.

From Teapot Dome to Pee Pot Bed, you cannot embarrass Trump supporters. They’re deplorables all right.

The people who support President Trump are the kind of people who leave the bathroom door open when they go. That’s if they don’t wet the bed. It never Depends on them.

The Russians call it “Kompromat.”

In case you’re wondering, that’s when they compromise an American president with blackmail. No wonder Pee Pot Trump had to send his crooked attorney Lyin’Michael Cohen to Prague to try to get those tapes right before the election.

The Russians could publish them in a book called The Yellow Stream Down Trump’s Backside by I.P. Daily.

Gilbert Gottfried notes that Trump should have kept the tapes on Betamax, not his IPO.

I.P. Daily is a fake journalist who works for UP According to Strumpet Depress Secretary Sarah Suckapee Launders.

Now the crooked FBI must go over the tapes to find whether those damp spots are damp spots. Out, out, redacted, unmade bed.

And this weekend former FBI director James Comey will let us know whether Trump came up to see the Russians and actually has a little rocket after all.

60 Minutes wouldn’t allow Stormy Daniels to present her weather forecast on Trump’s hail and thunderous tiny pocket rocketman. The tape measure has more impact on your bedspread and spreadsheet.

Perhaps James Comey will offer us more insight into the Pee Pot. Stir, don’t shake.

 

 

The Shape of Water-Logged

DATELINE:  Oscar Goes Glug Glug!

glug glug  Missing the Black Lagoon

Who would have envisioned Creature from the Black Lagoon winning Best Picture of 1954 for director Jack Arnold?  Yet, the wet creature won for its director in the Shape of Water in 2018. How the world has changed into a monster mash.

Guillermo del Toro may be too full of bull with his latest movie. His Gill Man takes place on the heels of the original Creature tale, circa 1960, and likely is meant to be a homage sequel. A real sequel followed in 1955.

This amphibian man is called a ‘god’ more than once, in case you don’t understand the ending.

The film is subtly anti-American, with its sympathetic Soviet spy as one of the few likeable characters.

Of course, you have Octavia Spencer in a key role, which always elevates a movie to a higher standing. Michael Shannon has apparently cornered the market on despicable villains who are sexist, racist, and anti-disabilities. And, we always perk up when Nick Searcy (from Justified) makes an appearance.

As for the Creature, swimmingly played in a wet suit by Doug Jones, we are treated to a Fred and Ginger dance number in one dream sequence. Indeed, the film is rife with clips of old movies—from Betty Grable to the Story of Ruth.

Yes, you will find Bob Denver as Maynard and Mr. Ed as the Talking Horse in a couple of clips. No wonder this struck a nerve with aging Boomers.

Alas, the overdrawn sex scenes seemed superfluous and almost tacky to the point of meanly excluding a younger audience.

The film wants to play off the King Kong-style romance between monster and damsel, but the paws of Del Toro are around the heroine’s throat all too often.

Meant to move us with its horror fantasy, we were simply antsy.

 

Trump: Not a Pretty Picture

DATELINE:  Overexposure of the President

AvenattiMickey Spillane Avenatti

We have not seen any hush money, and Trump’s lawyer has not threatened us with castration, so here goes:

Those who remember history know that the sex scandal element that brought down Michael Jackson and caused him to pay millions in punitive damage was a picture worth a few more dollars than words.

Michael Jackson, under court order and police escort, had to allow photos of his privates, which could be clearly identified by his accusers. Yes, the photos were spot on.

Now we hear from Stormy Daniels’ lawyer, the Mickey Spillane of crime, Mickey Avenatti, that his accuser can prove l’affair d’amour fou by describing the pigmentation of the pig.

If the thought of an obese president “perched” on the edge of his bed is not enough to make you think of snuff movies, the idea that we may hear that Trump’s best defense is to allow photos ‘where the sun don’t shine.’

Mr. Trump can take some consolation that the pictures of Michael Jackson have never been leaked, not even by Wikileaks, one of Trump’s favorites leaks. No, we don’t want to see Trump taking a leak in hand.

You may need more than Depends to hide the image from your mind’s eye.

If there never was a scene in which Mr. Trump was given thirty lashes with a wet newsmagazine on his Trump rump, we may need to have the pictures to disprove it.

At least now we know where the media can hurt Trump on his red rump, according to his Snapchat.

The question is not to be or not, but whether Stormy weather may sink the Trump brand.

A photo of Trump’s genitalia may not be a pretty picture, but Mickey Avenatti seems willing to pose the question for animal crackers. Infra-red pix may finally send the only woman who matters in Trump’s life, Melania, to give him a swift kick to his exposed  scrotum.

 

 

 

How Many Oscars to Put Up a Billboard?

DATELINE:  Ebbing Tide!

McDormand

Two major Oscars went to the star actors of Three Billboards Near Hibbing, Minnesota, or was it Ebbing, Missouri?

We think the ridiculous title seemed laughable at first, but becomes seriously apt by the end.

Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell play borderline sociopathic and violent characters who are held in check by the small-town sheriff played by Woody Harrelson.

Audiences have been deeply bothered by a racist cop (who may be latently gay) and vindictive mother of a murdered girl who become, weirdly, sympathetic, owing to the brilliant performances of Oscar winners Rockwell and McDormand.

The audience faces a story wherein characters repent and try to mend their nasty ways. It’s not looked upon with much favor. It becomes far worse if they turn into outright vigilantes, leaving us with complete moral and ethical ambiguity. We seem to forget Bruce Willis has just released his remake of Death Wish, the ultimate film about taking the law into one’s hands, just to entertain us.

The Oscar winners are surrounded by other tour de force actors, playing small-town Missourians to the hilt. And, there were likely no other stars who could have played the leads: we doubt that Meryl Streep or Tom Cruise could have pulled it off with such aplomb or lack of glamour.

The story has absurdist elements that make for that most deplorable of all genres: dramedy or black comedy, with fewer and fewer laughs along the way.

Perhaps life is not so black and white as good guys and bad after all, but our movies usually refuse to reflect this. This film challenges its audience to live with moral ambiguity in their art, as well as in life.

This is the first movie in quite some time in which characters mention Shakespeare and Oscar Wilde in the same scene, among other quirks, making this the most intriguing film of the year.

 

 

 

God’s Own Country: Forsaken and for Rent

DATELINE: Intelligent Human Drama

 god's grubby country

If you want a movie that combines Brokeback Mountain with Far from the Madding Crowd, you have fallen into the sheep dip of God’s Own Country.

In case you’re wondering, God’s country is in the Northumberland section of Scotland where sheep are sheep, and men are men.

Johnny (Josh O’Connor) is an uptight, hard-drinking, unhappy young man living with his handicapped father and aging mother on a remote sheep farm in cold, desolate, and in a kind of run-down in the dumps setting.  He spends time at the local pub and local urban area and meets a fair share of attractive men, but he is miserable.

He falls down on his homestead duties—and his father brings in a Romanian gypsy-type (but don’t call him that). It’s hate at first sight, until one of those cold, desolate outings to the outback where outing becomes all the rage.

This is actually a fascinating little film, way beyond the ground-breaking of Brokeback and unlikely to be made in America where sheepskin is only for college diplomas.

Actor Josh O’Connor has a rough-hewn attractiveness, and Alec Secareanu is smoldering. They really carry the movie, as the cast is tiny and the lack of population doesn’t make for much company.

When the affair consummates, it enflames, but the drama is far more subdued and intelligent. At least we don’t have to listen to disco dolly music and fashionistas with witty repartee.

This movie is by director and writer Francis Lee and comes from a world of whence he knows. Though the characters seem to think they are in God’s beautiful country, they clearly need to take a trip to the tropics.

In terms of gay films for a gay audience, this slice of life with calves being yanked out of a mother cow, and lambs being yanked out of ewes may be too much for city slickers. It’s nature’s way, apparently, when out in the country.  It will be too much muck for some viewers.

Nutcase Shooter in Trump’s Camp

DATELINE: Trump Rallies the Troops

Cruz Trump Supporter

President Trump promised more federal aid for mentally ill people after the Florida shooter was revealed to be a troubled youth named Nikolas Cruz.

In his inimitable half-baked style, President Trump failed to mention the word ‘gun’ in his speech to the nation, but he did mention crazy people. He must have crazy on the mind.

This apparently was before he had learned that the shooter posted a picture on Instagram wearing one of Trump’s campaign hats, the notorious ‘Make America Great Again’ chapeaux.

Yes, you guessed it, Nikolas Cruz tried to make America great again by killing 17 people. Trump would not want you to know that he was a member of a white supremacist group,as well as a Trump supporter. That makes both Trump and Cruz two-time losers. Too bad we can’t deport those people.

Alas, Trump supporters are the salt of the earth and are genuine American citizens. Because the 19-year-old couldn’t buy a gun in Florida he went for an assault rifle. It’s much easier to shoot, buy, and use. He was partial to merchandise with American logos. Hence, he posted a photo wearing a bandana over his face with stripes on it.

As for more money for mentally ill Americans, already cut out of the health plan proposed by Trump, we think it is a good idea to have more money for the crazy people who voted for Mr. Trump. We can’t think of a group that needs more mental health than Trump supporters.

We can hardly wait for Sarah Shuckabee Slanders to rationalize this one.