THUNDERBALL (1965)--- The Bond that arrived at
a highest pitch of excitement for the spy series. I was Liberty-there on
2-26-66, the first through doors at 9:40 AM on a Saturday. How many movie mornings
can be recalled so vividly? 007 was worth waiting a year for. Substitutes,
other than reissued Bond pairs, wouldn't do. NBC broadcast clip-laden 007
specials to precede each new one, and large format mags put the agent on
covers. Advance publicity didn't suffocate as it now would thanks to fewer
outlets spreading word, 1965-66 still an ad world limited to print,
radio, and TV. I should add toys that inundated Christmas '65, Bond being much
aimed at kids from early on. What they offered wasn't mere gimcracks --- Santa
could bring little else down chimneys when youth asked for a 007 road race set
or attaché case, these representing expense beyond ordinary gifts.
Thunderball broke beyond success of so-far
Bonds. They spent more, and it showed to a point of making Goldfinger and
before look like programmers by comparison, but what choice was there? The
series was now a recurring event, and nothing less than spectacular would do.
Critics took harsh note, saying Connery's Bond was swamped by size and decor.
Partly that was true, as sets do dwarf he and co-stars much
of the time, but my recent view found 007's wit and personality much intact,
even as ceiling levels above him increased by a seeming thirty feet. What
series chroniclers forget is that we wanted Thunderball to be a most
extravagant of Bonds. Summer '65's run-up encore of Dr. Noand From Russia With Lovefound both wanting so far as fans (many) whose first exposure had been
slicker-than-either Goldfinger. How could movies but a couple years old
suddenly have seemed old-fashioned? Maybe Thunderball falls appropriately into
you-had-to-be-there category, and for having indeed been there, I treasure it
all the more.
THE VIRGINIAN (1946)--- Some have knocked this
remake of admittedly more memorable 1929 adapt of Owen Wister's story, but it's
such a natural for picture-telling that it's hard blaming Paramount for another go. Characters so vivid
would even tube-endure from 60's into early 70's weekly riding at NBC,
Universal being heir to the property thanks to MCA purchase of pre-48 Paras in
a meantime. Retroplex ran this '46 rendition in startling HD, a kickstart
toward enjoyment that made me happy to have waited lo these years to watch.
Joel McCrea takes Coop's part, Sonny Tufts isill-fated Steve (what's all this
bad actor stuff? --- he's fine here), and Brian Donlevy, kitted out all-black,
does Trampas for he and Joel's reprise of deathless When you call me that, smile.
Top-lined by Paramount in that biggest of all movie attending years,
gad-zillions saw this Virginian and likely recalled it better than an early
talkie original that had been out of wide-view since a '34 reissue. Big
westerns needn't be great westerns to be a joy, as proved by this and super-A's
Paramount did to showcase 40's stars (I'll wait now for Retroplex to H-Do
Whispering Smith with Alan Ladd, and maybe Streets Of Laredo).
THE MUMMY'S SHROUD (1967)--- This mummy has
been pilloried for loping about in a union suit (some have even detected
zippers). Hammer's Egypt
forays kept better faith with fans than did Universal with earlier, and
diminishing, Kharis chapters. Bray restaging of ancient environs came across
like English drawing rooms, a tomb just entered well lit and near-spotless
despite three thousand years' passage of time. Hammer hadn't run out of style
by 1967 --- far from it --- they could still do lush from a lemon budget, and
actors never played down to content, however ludicrous such often was (stalwart
Michael Ripper gives probably his best-ever performance here). You'd nearly buy
into this Mummy but for grievous shortcutthey took with his costuming, a fatal
decision to dress rather than wrap him. Would a Rugby uniform have been any less inapt? I skipped The
Mummy's Shroud in 1967 ... something about the trailer put me off. Others may
have done the same, as it earned but $256K in domestic rentals. Now I've
watched a gorgeous Region 2Blu-Ray, and thanks in part to that, The Mummy's
Shroud fills modest expectation nicely after a forty-six year wait.
SALT WATER DAFFY (1933)--- It's a "Big
V" comedy from Warners, now packaged by courtesy of their DVD Archive.
What a treasure find these are. Salt Water Daffy turns out to have been largely
remade as Buck Privates eight years later. Same set-up, a near identical first
half. Comic writers had long memories ... of other writer's stuff. Some of salt
water seems to have lodged in these clown's throats, as Daffy evolves into a
contest of harsh voicing by Jack Haley vis a vis tough drill master Lionel
Stander. Haley sure tamped down by the time he became the Tin Man. Here he
sounds more like Bud Abbott to come, another linkwith Buck Privates, to which
parallel add an awkward squad routine with Stander anticipating Nat Pendleton's
frustration. Funny after a curious fashion as oddball two-reelers invariably
are. We're disc-supplied with this because Shemp Howard's a clown in support of
Haley, which goes to further flavor an already must-see short. Is it a wonder
comedians worried of Shemp stealing their spotlight? He does so handily here, being among most naturally funny faces to ever go before a