Uncanny Cats: Not Exactly T.S. Elliot

DATELINE: Cat Got Your Tongue? 

Way back in 1977, on the heels of a career of low budget horror movies, Ray Milland took off his toupee and faced the snarling, pouncing faces of cats. The film was titled The Uncanny, which is hardly catty enough.

Yes, what Alfred Hitchcock did for The Birds, this film wanted to do for your cute and cuddly pussycat. Don’t ask what’s up, pussycat, because writer and scientist Peter Cushing believes that cats are the devil’s messenger—and they have it for him. He has written a book and is trying to sell it to publisher Milland.

Like Erich van Daniken, Cushing’s paranormal writer has tackled the Pyramids, UFOs, and other topical crypto-science subjects—and has turned his attention to a conspiracy of cats. And, his feline nemesis is not a happy camper.

If your idea of fur balls turning evil is good for a laugh, this movie is for you. If you belong to Internet websites that features kitty cats doing funny things, you may be horrified. Well, that is the point of this film.

As for us, we never grab a pussy by the tail—and recommend you don’t either!

The sordid little tales are set in London in 1912, Hollywood in 1936, and in contemporary Montreal. We should tell you that the cold winter of Montreal does not stand in well for Los Angeles.

The cast is downright overblown: Donald Pleasance and Samantha Eggar are in Hollywood, and Simon Williams—fresh off Upstairs/Downstairsas wastrel James Bellamy has a cat moment himself. A few other known faces, like John Vernon, are also in the storyline.

The film did not ruin anyone’s career, having been lost for decades and forgotten by everyone involved. It isn’t HItchock level, and it is of varying brutality and humor, but you seldom find a movie in which cute kitty-cats are filmed like horrid monsters, leaping from balconies to kill.

As a curio, this one is worth peeking at.

 

 

New England Patriots Blow Up Twitter and NFL!

DATELINE:  2-Headed Monsters!

First Rosey Grier, Now This!

Once again, the New England Patriots have turned this blogger into Al Pacino in Godfather 3.  Every time we try to get out, they pull us back in.

This marks the second, or perhaps third, season we will not do a Patriots book on the season: main reason is economic, mostly because Patriot fans can’t read and don’t buy books. The other reason has to do with personal sanity.

Not since Rosey Grier and Ray Milland played one man with two heads have we seen anything as horrific. It was 1972, and the movie was The Thing with Two Heads!

And now Bill Belichick and Tom Brady have done the impossible: they have doubled the combustion factor on their Super Bowl team. Perhaps they like challenges, or perhaps they are fire bugs. The horrid monster of Belichick & Brady has found a mate.

Tom Brady is about to pour kerosene on top of the two most flammable players in NFL:  Josh Gordon and now Antonio Brown. These Bobsey Twins could bring down governments if they were involved in Brexit.

They would be hurricanes that would defy Category 5 and find themselves the objects of Trump’s madhouse White House sharpie.

Indeed, we expect a presidential tweet pardoning anyone writer who sets the tandem on a course to blow up records of pass catching and yardage.

Since Bob Kraft is owner of the Patriots, you might be a cynic and say this will permanently prove that there is no video of Kraft in a massage parlor, as it has been destroyed in an explosion of Tom Brady inflated footballs.

This makes Deflategate look like inflation pumped up to extremes that the football will look like the Goodyear Blimp in the endzone for Patriot fans.

We may now watch a few games after this Near Earth Object/asteroid crashes into Planet Foxboro.

 

Hostile Witness: Not Agatha Christie

DATELINE: Good Intentions Not Well Done

ray Milland, director and star.

Alas, Oscar winner Ray Milland loved movies and he directed several feature films and a dozen TV anthology episodes during the 1950s and 1960s. He was not box-office, except as a character actor—and movies had changed.

So, the Welsh actor returned to England to film his final director effort in 1968 in which he also starred as a barrister whose mental breakdown makes him a prime murder suspect.  It’s a second-rate court-room murder mystery on the lines of Agatha Christie, called Hostile Witness.

Milland is juicy with those eyes and old Hollywood’s courtly gestures. However, the material (a Broadway murder mystery, no less) lets him down. All the actors are superior Brits like Felix Aylmer as the court justice.  Sylvia Syms plays a surprisingly modern career woman working in Milland’s office, removed when Milland arrogantly decides to defend himself in court.

The barrister cracks when his daughter is killed by a hit-and-run driver. It elicits little sympathy from fellow lawyers whom he regularly embarrassed in his court-room victories. His professional colleagues let him stew in his own juices.

The film means to be another Witness for the Prosecution, but even with intelligent actors and directors, they cannot overcome a wild script that uses color-blindness as a red herring and a frame-up as the plot devices.

It just simply isn’t clever enough than to be an overblown film that would soon become a staple of TV made for movies in 1968. It might have made a passable anthology court drama. Within a few years, he gave up all pretense of being a leading man, removed his toupee, and played it as an old reprobate usually.

As it is, with nicely appointed sets, the main action is the second-half in the courtroom with testimony and outrageous and unlikely court etiquette.

We stuck with dapper and aging Ray Milland to see what he tried to do with no budget, no script, and relying on his talents. As he said in an interview, “The problem with being a director is that you also have to eat.” We admire his attempt to make movies no matter what.

X-Ray Milland with X-Ray Vision

DATELINE: See-Through?

Rickles Stares Down Milland Stare down between Rickles & Milland!

One of the first major box-office-poison stars who won an Oscar was also one of the first to go to American International’s low-budget junk division to continue his career when others simply faded away.

Man with X-Ray Eyes is a sight to see.

We think of Ray Milland as a man with an expensive toupee and a weary face.  His career as actor and director fell into the skids after playing the lush DT-suffering alcoholic in the film The Lost Weekend. His Oscar led to a lost career. In this movie, he makes an equally ludicrous choice when he character decides to cheat at cards in a Las Vegas casino.

Milland liked to work, and he was not about to let trashy scripts and bad TV stop him. Here, he plays Xavier, or X-Ray Milland, the savior of mankind gone all wrong.

Milland often transcended much bad material by finding something a cut above:  such was the case with Roger Corman’s delightful X-Man with the X-Ray Eyes.

Oh, it is filmed in lurid, eye-popping color, with boiling hard-boiled eggs standing in for bloody eyeballs in a glass specimen jar.

The film is actually quite modern and quite intelligent, dealing yet again with a researcher (Milland) who uses himself as the guinea pig—despite friend’s (familiar costar Harold J. Stone) objections.

Don Rickles is also around for the cynical laugh part as a carnival barker, perfectly cast as an unlikeable, greedy insulter.

The doctor starts off by seeing through paper folders to read messages or seeing through some clothes to see a missing button. Then, it becomes more sinister and more licentious. Yup, the thrill of voyeurism gives way to seeing bare bones beneath the sexuality.

There is a sense of medical come-uppance in Corman’s morality film that manages to hit on all the sensational aspects but presents them with a sensibility of political rightness. (Our woman doctor colleague demands respect—before the women’s movement in 1963).

You may be surprised that the exploitation elements are actually intriguing issues of ethics. Milland’s performance was regarded as scraping the barnacles off his once-high-toned acting, but in retrospect, he is professional and classy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Disembodied, Disinvited, & Disingenuous

DATELINE: MOVIE MASHUP!

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In our age of spectral reality TV, we may be spoiled. Electronic emissions, night vision, and all the technological gadgets to chase down ghosts has made amusing TV viewing from Ghost Hunters to Ghost Adventures to Ghost Mine.

So, when we heard that 1943’s The Uninvited was being recast as a classic, we had to see it. It started promisingly with Ray Milland giving appropriately compelling narrative about his experience at Windward, a worn down old manse on the sea cliffs of England in 1937. It isn’t Gull Cottage by a mile.

Milland and his sister (!) Ruth Hussey have no money, but pool their resources to buy this white elephant. The relationship of Hussey and Milland is creepier than the ghosts and modern house with no electric lights. Candles only, thank you.

Milland is a music critic and hopeful composer. Their dog recognizes something is amiss and takes off for the hills. The housekeeper’s cat is also smart enough to know those cold spots and crying jags in the night mean trouble.

Add actress Gail Russell to the mix and you know you have something odd indeed. She plays a British girl who sounds American. From the start this doomed actress with her legendary troubles is watchable, but also seems to be a looming train crash.

Special effects are low-key and likely to bring guffaws rather than chills to audiences in the 21st century. If you like your movies to inspire eye-rolling and groans, you have a classic hereafter.

As for the ghosts, we can only sympathize with them. But, put thoughts of The Ghost and Mrs. Muir out of your head. This is more like Abbott and Costello in the Haunted House.

For more movie reviews and insights, read ALFRED HITCHCOCK FRESHLY SHOWERED or MOVIE MASHUP!  Books by Ossurworld’s William Russo are available at Amazon.com in softcover.