The Watch List For 6/13/13
|L.A. Gets Dial M, But Not in 3-D|
Dial M has as bonus a sock story and resolution I never tire of, here being a case where a great play was the thing, and all Hitchcock needed do was film as is and count satisfied faces going out. He was wise this time not to tinker. A second half is goosed by Yard man John Williams entering the scene, a witty relief to suffering so far of the stars. His stuff is some of the funniest in all of Hitchcock. The attempt murder of Kelly is a wow. No wonder it's been excerpted ad nauseum in AH tributes. Milland is nicely suave and selfish, but imagine if original intended Cary Grant had done it, non-participation of the latter we chalk up to ... what ... not enough money? ... his possible reluctance to play a cuckolded husband? Dial M being an all-time deepest repository of cat-and-mouse dialogue accounts perhaps for my never tiring of it, and here at last is 3-D to assure many visits to come.
MOBY DICK (1930) --- John Barrymore Ahab'ing again, and only four years after The Sea Beast. Moby Dick was one great American novel that was also a movie natural. Anyone from an industry's top down could frame a yarn off its concept, and many did, from Warners and prestige of Barrymore input to Monogram and similarly motivated seekers of outlaw sharks, killer cats, whatever wildlife gave offense. We don't see Barrymore even when we see him, a pretending double at the masthead for much of the great man's initial scene. Jack was forty-eight and feeling each day of it, his age better measured in dog years for wear and tear self-inflicted. Still, he's dynamic with dialogue and sure puts over anguish of a man who's had a leg torn asunder. Weak partners aren't a help, Joan Bennett still the simpering blonde she'd need to discard before real stardom beckoned, and silent escort to dinosaurs and stronger lead ladies Lloyd Hughes is no worthy opponent for Barrymore when they finally showdown aboard storm-tossed rigging. WB corrects Melville error of a bummer ending so as not to punish Barrymore beyond inconvenience of a leg lost. Hadn't he suffered enough after all? This plays TCM often in dark of night --- for whale carnage and Noble Johnson alone, you'd almost call Moby a cousin to horror pics of the day.
PORKY IN WACKYLAND (1938) --- I confess ignorance to details of Bob Clampett's 70's touring of colleges and elsewhere to talk over classic cartoons he directed decades before, but would like to know what shorts accompanied him, plus how he (or hosts) came by prints that were shown. Most (all?) were presumably booked out of UA/16 in New York and returned to Cincinnati, but those available only amounted to a small percentage of what Clampett generated over his career at WB. Was there legit rental access to black-and-white Porkys from the 30's that were not owned by United Artists? I ask because Porky In Wonderland was such a perfect specimen with which Clampett could establish youth cred during a psychedelic era when besotteds could inquire as to what Bob was "on" when he directed such a trippy subject. Did BC own a 16mm print of Wackyland for carry-along to lecture appearances? Maybe hosting collectors supplied him. It just seems that any Clampett event before flower-powered viewership would go wanting without Porky In Wackyland to rev up stoners in attendance. I can attest to 16mm prints being rare at the time, it being years and past Clampett's passing before one came my way. Now it's on Warner Blu-Ray, of course, and vivid-er than ever.
ONE DESIRE (1955) --- Something-for-everybody Universal shows how to turn a fallen woman/gambling man melodrama into a kid-centered family pic with a hopeful, if not altogether happy, finish. Anne Baxter and Rock Hudson cohabit from Desire's start, pretty blunt in light of a Code still in effect, but ease off once they adopt youngsters Barry Curtis and Natalie Wood (a last kid part before Rebel's teen torch was lighted), then connect again after Rock marries atypically mean Julie Adams, the actress glad to for once play against her goody-good image. The house fire that caps the story almost gave Julie a hot foot, as she relates in her recent memoir. It's convincingly done and players look to have been in harm's way. One Desire stays firm on U-I ground, not an inch shot anyplace other than comfort of home lot. Budget consciousness is a given, but this too is basis for joy of watching their output. You near-expect to see commissary-bound Jeff Chandler or Mara Corday pass Rock and Julie emoting on the backlot, or maybe John Agar in adjacent pursuit of oversize Tarantula. The most colorful Universal tours were conducted in 50's stuff like One Desire, especially ones done wide and in color. Their Vault Series DVD lately out is 2.1 as opposed to usual 1.85, and quality is excellent.