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Ankerich, Michael - Dangerous Curves Atop Hollywood Heels

Entertaining volume of fourteen biographs on Silent film actresses.
Straight off, author Ankerich said he was going offtrack. He was not covering Pickford, Clara, sisters Gish and Talmadge, Theda. He was heading into forgotten territory.
I am a slight cinema buff, and that includes the Silent era, but I was only familiar with Barbara La Marr and Marie Prevost.
Most of these girls (and most were girls, enjoying success in their early twenties) were worked to death, and found solace in booze, philandering men, and double edged notoriety.
For the majority, their ends were pretty squalid.
Packed with photos, this makes essential, if perhaps specialized, reading.
Aside from typos and the usual “lack of editor” errors, the lure has to do with filmographies.
Yes, there are complete listings of anywhere from 30 - 120, depending on how busy the girl had been, but no marking of what was still available. Since roughly 70% of Silents are lost, it would be nice to know what I have a reasonable chance of finding.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Crawl - 2019 - 6/10

“There’s a gator in the bushes, he’s calling my name …” (courtesy M Hatchet)
Gator country! Wail, baby!
In the middle of a Force 5 hurricane, the estranged daughter decides to check on dear ole pa.
She finds him, under the house, in a HUGE crawl space, where he’s busted up.
Meanwhile, the basement fills with water. Jeopardy!
Hold on, boss. There’s an alligator down there. Double jeopardy!!
Make that two gators!!! Outside, in the flooded streets, there are even more. Chomping down.
Fairly serious Nature killing film (not Sharknado crap) has great saurians, though too much family time.
Hurricane effects look good, and there are meals aplenty!

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Tracks - 2013 - 6/10

Based on the true story, and I gather this was more or less accurate as two of the original participants appear in the Bonus section, along with numerous photos.
27 year old female decides to hike 1600+ miles across the Australian outback to the Indian Ocean.
With her are four camels and her faithful black dog.
A photographer acquaintance helps her get National Geographic sponsorship, but Tracks is a lonely trip.
Existential, metaphysical journey, though difficult to tell if she actually “changes.”
We don’t really grasp Robyn’s before and after. The physical journey is the movie.
At the end, I was like, “Is that it?” “Why did she …?’
Self discovery - perhaps best understood by oneself.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Des Femmes Disparaissent - 1958 - 6/10
AKA - Women Disappear

Pierre argues with his girlfriend, Beatrice.
He orders her to stay home, she replies we’re not married.
“It’s girls night out,” she exclaims, and off she goes, along with her friends.

Yes, she lied. The girls are going to a party put on by successful men. Suitable men.
Those men, fashion designers, shipping magnates, doctors, are likewise liars.
They peddle skin to exotic Mediterranean locales.
White slave trade, older than Rome.
Fast moving, busy French film with a memorable assortment of villains.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Victorian Sensations - 2019 - 6/10

Three part documentary set in the late 1890’s, when starchy Victorians hurtled into the Modern world.
Scientific advancements, decadent literature, and interest in the paranormal.
Each topic is hosted by a different presenter, like a docent guide through the era of change.
Writers most mentioned include Wells (in each episode), as well as Wilde, Symons, and Stoker.
Beardsley devotees, fear not, there is a titillating side path into several of his illustrations.
There are omissions, to be sure, in this jaunt, but what is here should hold your interest throughout.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

The Guest - 2018 - 6/10
AKA - The Hand //

A hot-headed cop, an exorcist priest, and a psychic from a shaman family meet in a bar.
In between bottles of soju, they strategize how to combat Park Il Do.
Park Il Do, or Sohn, is a powerful demon who possesses humans and forces them to murder.
Such is the arc of this K-drama.
Individual stories play out, two episodes at a time, as the trio get drawn into a lopsided struggle.

The contrast of Catholicism and shamanism is a curious one, and I wish that had been explored deeper.
The series finale is excessive and wordy, but many of the episodes are pretty creepy.
Gruesome, too.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Dawson City: Frozen Time - 2016 - 7/10

Documentary manages to mingle the Klondike gold rush, with the history of a boom town, with a celebration of resurrected silent cinema.
In 1976, during a construction dig, 500+ reels of nitrate film were excavated and eventually shipped to curators.
The story relates the rise and demise of boom town, Dawson City, with newsreels and old photos.
For film buffs, there is plenty of name dropping of those who passed through and later became giants.
The most eye-opening was the owner of the brothel, whose descendants peddled different real estate, and rose in prominence.
The rescued reels themselves, as presented, seem in poor to atrocious quality.
I enjoyed the history parts, town and gold fever, but the found film stock, literally the reason Dawson City got back on the cultural map, to be meager and of abysmal quality
With the credits, I was going, “That’s it?”

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Blinded By The Light - 2019 - 6/10

Late 80’s England. Javed is buffeted by skinheads, a domineering father, and the thought of being lost.
Then he is turned on to the music, rather lyrics, of Bruce Springsteen.
The Boss is considered passé in the New Wave 80’s, but his words still resonate with the disenfranchised.
Midway, I turned to the person who picked this and said, “This reminds me of Bend It Like Beckham."
Terse answer. “Same writer, same director, same producer.”
Feel good material, and a bit recooked.
Springsteen fans (I am not one) should enjoy.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Gone Girl - 2014 - 6/10

I got stuck watching this, but I knew it would be coming so I never read a single review, comment, blurb.
Only knew it was about a wife who vanishes from a troubled marriage.
That encapsulates the plot, and the less you read or know, the better you may enjoy.
The problems regarding habeas corpus absentia are glossed over.
Unless I missed an update to Law 101, no body = no crime.
Not that that curtails media sharks and the resultant street circus.
Ben Affleck fine as out of his depth, slippery husband, though the film is awash with repellent creatures.
Nasty little time, more or less recommended.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

A Bay Of Blood - 1971 - 7/10
AKA - Reazione a catena

An elderly lady is noosed from her wheelchair and left dangling.
The assassin emerges from shadows and is himself slain.
Next, greedy and murderous heirs begin to migrate to the bay manor.
And blood flows and flows.
This ain’t high art but it is an excellent Giallo by Bava.
Film is packed with killings and attractive females.
If you anticipate swim sequences and couplings, so did Bava.
Often hard to keep track of who is killing who - I mean that as a plus.

Be sure to check out insightful audio commentary by Bava biographer Tim Lucas.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

La Fille Inconnue - 2016 - 6/10
AKA - The Unknown Girl

After a long day, female doctor and intern prepare to close the office for the night.
They ignore the door buzzer of a much-too-late caller.
Next day, police arrive, examine surveillance footage, then tell the doctor the young girl - who had perhaps been seeking refuge - had been murdered after fleeing from the clinic door.
Guilt then drives the doctor. To find out who the dead girl was, why she was running, from what.
Thriller suffers from detached presentation.
My (admittedly) limited empathy never engaged and I never cared about a single character.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Agatha Christie And The Truth Of Murder - 2018 - 6/10

I wonder if this will be an ongoing holiday series? Like the iffy ghost stories?
Agatha Christie famously disappeared for eleven days in 1926.
In this mystery, she responds to a plea to solve a murder.
Set in a country manor, Christie lures suspects with the ruse of an inheritance.
Nicely photographed, with recognizable faces in the cast.
Decent story, and certainly miles ahead of any Hallmark mystery (of which I get to view plenty).

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

The Great Battle - 2018 - 6/10
AKA - Ansisung // 안시성

Do you still have an appetite for epic siege warfare?
Along the line of Helm’s Deep and Minias Tirith?
This is, at least, is based on a historical event, circa 650.
Chinese Emperor Taizong invades Goguryeo (Korea) with 200,000 battle tested warriors.
Armies and forts collapse before him, until he faces the relatively small fort of Ansi.
This features some amazing set pieces mixed with slo-mo sequences that seem derivative of 300.
The series of move-counter move strategies are inventive.
Although over two hours, lulls are sparing are serve to aid character development, which is lacking in this.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

The Mask Of Dimitrios - 1944 - 7/10

Old Warners Brothers chestnut pairing Peter Lorre and Sidney Greenstreet.
A writer of mysteries learns of the death of a career criminal in Istanbul.
Curious, and seeking inspiration for the next book, he follows the trail of crime across Eastern Europe.
Along the way, an old henchman for the villain enters and offers to pool information.
Film filled with flashbacks, betrayals, lies, and increasing danger.
The look is straight up Film Noir, hard shadows and fog, and while locations bounce from Istanbul to Athens to Budapest, the reality is 100% back lot. (Europe was a bit unstable in 1944.)
This is a terrific rainy night film, with Greenstreet and Lorre superb. Numerous low angle shots of Greenstreet make him seem enormous and imposing.
Supporting characters memorable, as well, as you find yourself believing their stories, only to wonder afterward how much is deception, how much self deception.
How little kindness there is in the world today.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

L’année Des Méduses - 1984 - 6/10
AKA - Year Of The Jellyfish

Beach story of young girl (from sixteen to eighteen) learning ébats de boudoir.
She is attracted to an older male, a cross between pimp and gigolo.
To her annoyance, he finds her mother more alluring.
The girl hones her seduction technique on others, from cynical jades to unwary innocents.
When injuries occur, too bad.
Cynical narrative of souls lacking moral compass.
An unexpected and, for me, enjoyable surprise, is the score, which seems lifted from a period Slasher film.
Menacing, descending scales and staccato reveals! Out of place, yet rather amusing.

Viewer alert - Most of the proceedings transpire on a class conscious nude beach.
Brace for generous displays of full frontal nudity.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Scent Of Mystery - 1960 - 6/10
AKA - Holiday In Spain

Vacationing Mr Larker thinks he witnesses a murder attempt and becomes a busy body.
The target, a fetching female, informs him how very mistaken he is.
Nevertheless, with a foot-dragging cabbie (a droll Peter Lorre), he continues to meddle.
Despite the shallowest of plots, the picture quality and scenery of Spain is breathtaking.
In 1960, this was a wide, three screen Cinerama production.
The print I saw had been seamlessly configured into the Smilebox format.
Originally, this was also released in Smell-O-Vision (another gimmick to lure TV viewers). Missing here, but you can figure out what the aromas were and where.
Empty headed, but should please those drawn to this.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

The Revenge Of Doctor X - 1970 - 3/10
AKA - Venus Flytrap // The Devil Garden // The Double Garden // Body Of The Prey

Indescribably bad, even for me. And boring, to boot. Calamity!
Rocket scientist, Doctor Bragan, grows increasingly unstable at NASA command.
A Japanese vacation is suggested.
While driving up from Cape Canaveral, he pit stops at a Tarheel car garage / snake farm.
Out back are Venus flytraps. He digs one up, boxes it up and carries it past Japanese Customs.
Relaxing near an active volcano, he has a brainstorm that humans might be descended from plants!
Ipso boingo, a scientific genius might be able to transform that Venus flytrap into a humanoid.
The dialogue is stilted, the dialogue is muffled. Lead actors took thespian lessons from drain plugs.
Music bounces from lounge to koto to Bach, and is inappropriate throughout.
Aside from a bevy of topless diving girls, the only entertainment in this is the giant flytrap.
Clearly, the veggie claptrap took Method classes. Script by Ed Wood, Jr.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Family Romance, LLC - 2019 - 7/10

Above, the man is a fraud, the fish is mechanical, in the back, the hotel clerk is a robot.
A Werner Herzog film, do not trust your eyes, do not trust your ears.
Herzog is a trickster. His documentaries often contain fictitious elements, and vice versa.
After being absent 11 years, a father arranges a meeting with 12 year old daughter Mahiro.
Only he is not her father. He is an actor hired by Mom to impersonate him.
Paid impersonators are a cottage industry in Japan, actors hired for weddings, funerals, parties, etc …
Globally, this has gone on for time immemorial (think escort services), but Japan has taken this further.
A Bride For Rip Van Winkle (2016) was the first I heard of this.
Thus noted, Herzog has given this a realistic edge, this does not feel like a movie.
The camera keeps a chilly distance, while “father” seems inappropriately close, creepy at times.
For Herzog fans, this is a good one. Just be wary.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

A Bride For Rip Van Winkle - 2016 - 6/10
AKA - Rippu Van Winkuru No Hanayome // リップヴァンウィンクルの花嫁

The plight of the painfully shy in the conformist world.
Sharper if the individual is seemingly friendless and adrift.
Part time / temp teacher casually drifts into wedding with blasé boyfriend.
She hires “friends” to fill her side of the chapel, her divorced parents pretend they are together.
False fronts for appearances. Society can be a harsh judge, however.
In the middle section, she begins a relationship with one of the phony friends.
The third act, I viewed as the inevitable flowering of her fake sandcastle.
Three hour “awakening” story, I suppose, can be broken up into one hour episodes and viewed as a J-dorama.
The director makes his points about loneliness and alienation, though I wish he trimmed and pushed the pace.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Maelström - 2000 - 6/10

Bibi (Bibiane) is having another bad day. From the looks of things, she’s on a streak of hard luck.
The abortion, losses inside her boutiques, the post dismissal she’s been dodging.
Curiously enough, her story is told by a fish. Gasping its last breath, waiting its turn on the chopping block.
What goes around, comes around, however, the fish declares to a heedless fishmonger.
Dark film of individuals unhappy or empty. And yes, there is a difference.
Ostensibly a personal journey, Bibi is flawed to the core and it is hard to imagine her straightening her trajectory.
Unexpected use of “Hair” music adds a touch of bizarre.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Altered Carbon: S01 - 2017 - 6/10

Gleaming SciFi series is, at its core, a futuristic gumshoe saga.
A murder is committed in the cloud-piercing spire, home to the über wealthy (think Elysium or Metropolis).
A bygone “name” is resurrected from cryo-prison to investigate (ala Demolition Man).
He prowls neon alleys, sex cafes and drug dens. Sequences recall The Cell, Mad Max: Thunderdome and other movies.
Catching on?
Viewers who have logged a heavy amount of SciFi will see regurgitated themes and scenes.
Writers and producers serve up influences and copies rather than originality.
Two of my pet peevs are here. Cars (but they can fly! Whatever, they are still stupid-ass cars).
And handguns. Really? Three hundred years in the future, guns, really? Not even phasers?
For less fussy types, this boasts slick production values.
The look is Tech-Noir (ref Bladerunner) and every episode is filled with fights.
Disappointing overall - for me - though the final two episodes tighten the threads to an OK conclusion.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Elusive Justice - The Search For Nazi War Criminals - 2011 - 7/10

Incisive documentary hounds the trail of escaped WWII criminals.
After the Nuremberg show trials, and regional / national trials, the major powers opted to put the past behind.
(Rarely on trial were the scientists, whom all nations wanted).
Especially interesting is the Vatican to Argentina conduit, used by hundreds.
The “ratlines” as they were known, used Nazi gold as payment though that was not discussed.
Second half of the doc followed ongoing hunts and extradition attempts.
Race against time, as it were, before now quite old Nazis die off completely.

This was real news in the 80’s, and I often wondered, “What’s the point?"
These are frail, elderly men, just forget it. Except - no - we should not.
There should never be a “statute of limitations” for war criminals or mass murderers.
Otherwise, the next generation will assume they too can kill, and die of old age in their sleep.

I watch a fair amount of war documentaries and their aftermath.
To my eye, history seems on the verge of repeating itself, as nations everywhere place a “strong man” in charge to solve their problems.
People wave and cheer and scream, as the tide eddies us closer and closer into Corryvreckan.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

Fascism In Colour - 2007 - 6/10

Two part documentary pertaining to Fasci di Combattimento, or Fascismo Italiano.
The rise of the Fascist party in Italy following World War I, accepted by half the populace, as well as the Vatican, as a strong force to combat the rising tide of Communism.
First part sees the formulation and street battles between Blackshirts and Socialists.
Second part, foreign military excursions and then the disastrous, jealous alliance with Nazi Germany.
Flaw with this series is its reliance on dramatizing events (ie: staging scenes with actors).
Focus is on Mussolini, caught between wanting to raise Italy’s world rank, yet knowing 30’s Italy is not on the same level as England, France, and especially Germany.

What draws me to these subjects is increasing global polarization.
Many nations now have proto-Mussolinis with broad appeal running for office or in change.

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

La Antena - 2007 - 7/10

Silent cinema continues to flourish, this time from Argentina.
In the metropolis, the citizens have lost their voice. Literally.
Only one individual still has the ability, the mysterious singer, The Voice, her face shrouded in deep black.

The city is controlled and dominated by Mr TV, who owns the silent broadcasts, food, buildings, and enforcers.
Typical of megalomaniacs, he wants still more.
Heavy on German Expressionism and UFA films, experienced viewers will catch Russian elements, as well as modern cinema such as City Of Lost Children.

Visuals in this will be a feast for Silent film buffs, spotting homages and sly references.
The narrative, while simple, seems increasingly relevant to current distracted humanity.
Highly inventive and also fun to watch!

A few reviews . . (film or TV)

The Madness Of King George - 2018 - 7/10

Theatre junkies, roll up!
During the Covid lockdown, the National Theatre began limited airing of stage classics.
The American Colonies have gained their freedom, though none dare mention this in the King’s presence.
Nevertheless, the burdens of state weigh heavily on this industrious monarch.
So much so, that he begins to crack. Perhaps from the strain, or from illness, or something more sinister.
As his governance grows ever shakier, courtiers and pretenders circle for power.
Modern day viewers may be disturbed, watching the most powerful man in the nation grow eccentric, then insane.
Effective use of Handel compositions to punctuate key events.
Mark Gatiss peerless as the king losing his mental faculties and painfully aware of it.