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Showing posts from May, 2010

Roman Polanski - Special Report

By Monica Sullivan

Every time I think that the bashing of Roman Polanski has peaked, someone else emerges to punish him in print again. The man receives more hostile attention these days than the thugs who murdered his wife, son and friends in 1969.

Much of the hostile attention comes from guys who were not angels when they were younger. How do I know this? Because when they were not pontificating for the record, I would see and hear very different stuff off the record. They were clever, they were never caught, the years passed and then guess what? It never happened? They never had sex with underage kids? (They may have fooled around, but not that!) They never beat up anyone smaller than they were (slapping doesn’t count.) They never created a hostile work environment for young women with 1 % of their power. (It was okay for them to ask “You’re not going to get pregnant are you?” because business is business.) Blah. Blah. Blah. If you take guys seriously when they get sanctimonious, eve…

Karl Dane - Book Report

By Monica Sullivan

Built into the concept of stardom is the reality that, inevitably, the star will flame out, fade and die. Young actors don’t want to think about this certainty: how could they, when they’re being lionised all over the planet? Smart stars prepare for not being stars by expanding their interests, looking great in public and saying hip things about the present.

When “The Big Parade” was released in 1925, John Gilbert, Renee Adoree and Karl Dane
were the stars of the year in the picture of the year. By 1933, Renee Adoree was dead and Karl Dane had made his swan song in “The Whispering Shadow”, a Bela Lugosi serial. The following year, he died by his own hand. John Gilbert had a brief reprieve in 1934 in “Queen Christina” opposite Greta Garbo, but by 1936 he was dead.

“Karl Dane” by Laura Petersen Balogh shows the rise and fall of this unforgettable character star. In silent movies, his thick Danish accent was no handicap, but in the early sound era, film offers when they ca…

Savage Detours - Book Report

By Monica Sullivan

Ask film buffs who was the best actress of 1945 and you’ll hear names like Joan Crawford, Ingrid Bergman, Greer Garson, Jennifer Jones, Gene Tierney or newcomer Angela Lansbury. All were or are good actors who enjoyed great stardom. But many feel that the best performance by an actress that year was delivered by Ann Savage in “Detour” at lowly Producers Releasing Corporation. Recognition for her achievement was very slow in coming: forty, fifty, sixty years later, young audiences would see this unforgettable woman acting her guts out as a hard, desperate character who’d do anything for a buck, even though she knew she was doomed. When Bette Davis shocked the world with her interpretation of a “vulgar slut” like Mildred Rogers in “Of Human Bondage” she made a splash that rippled through the rest of her career. Ann Savage played Vera in “Detour”, a “B” movie (that should have been an “A”!) and went back to making more “B” movies, thirty in all.

“Savage Detours: The Life…

The Killing - Movie Review

By Monica Sullivan

After 1955's “Killer's Kiss”, Stanley Kubrick received $200,000 to make “The Killing” for United Artists. There were only two strings attached: He had to cast a star as Johnny Clay and U.A. had to like his script. Sterling Hayden turned out to be perfect as a grizzled small-time convict in hot pursuit of the big time & who WOULDN'T like the masterful screenplay by Kubrick and Jim Thompson?

“The Killing” examines crime and sexuality with a laser-like beam that looked and sounded like nothing else in the Fidgety Fifties. Listen to the dialogue between Elisha Cook and Marie Windsor as George and Sherry Peatty. Was any guy ever whipped as graphically as George was by Sherry? Watch the classic racetrack sequence with Timothy Carey as vicious hood Nikki & James Edwards as the parking attendant. Ever see racism delivered with such a startling flick of rattlesnake venom? The presence of fresh-faced Coleen Gray & the voice-of-God narration are reassurin…

Peter Graves and Fess Parker - Tribute

By Monica Sullivan

When the “Mission Impossible” movie franchise was launched in 1996, I sat next to a guy who recognized what’s-his-name every single time he showed up in a disguise. But there were many more problems with the big screen series than that. Numero uno: “The real Mr. Phelps would never sell out” bumper stickers made their debut on the nation’s highway almost immediately. Damn right the real Mr. Phelps would never sell out. And that’s the reason Peter Graves was a trusted American treasure for sixty years, even when the screenwriters made it clear that some of the characters he played simply couldn’t be trusted.

Not too many people remember Mr. Briggs from Season 1 of “Mission Impossible”. With good reason! Steven Hill dissolved into the role so completely, he was practically invisible. In the first 27 episodes, viewers remembered Barney, Willie, Cinnamon and Rollin, but not Dan Briggs. And then in episode 28, “The Survivors”, the self-destructing tape said, “Good Morning M…

Ramon Navarro - Book Report

By Monica Sullivan

Ramon Novarro may be a name better known by true crime buffs than by vintage movie fans. The reprinting of Allan R. Ellenberger’s fine 1999 biography gives 21st century readers a fresh chance to see Novarro in the context of his own time in a very different Hollywood. One of Ramon’s early ambitions was to be a priest: The book includes a baby picture taken with his older sisters Guadalupe and Rosa, both of whom outlived him. Each became a nun.
Instead of becoming a priest, Ramon became an actor. Like many actors, then and now, Ramon was gay. He tried to keep it a secret. His coping mechanism was alcoholism. He couldn’t keep that a secret: He was busted many times for drunk driving, the alcohol clouded his judgment. When Ramon Novarro was a rich young movie star, there was no such thing as A.A. to help him: It didn’t exist until 1935, the year he left MGM. In the last half of his life, he would not have sought help for his drinking anyway, since he didn’t believe he ha…

12th Far East Film Festival , Udine Italy, Report 1

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By Moira Sullivan
The Far East Film Festival in Udine now in its 12th year ran from April 23—May 3. It is still one of the largest panoramas outside Asia of new films from South Korea, Japan, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, the Philippines, Singapore Indonesia and Thailand. All in all 72 films were screened this year, many of them international festival debuts. The majority of the selection is popular film that appeals to a wide audience. Judging by the well attended festival of primarily young people from the medium sized town of Udine, its fair to say that the directors who chose Udine for their international premiere have a good chance of seeing how the film might do in Europe at the box office. Many of these directors come first hand to see for themselves and sit with the audience. Directors such as John To are regular visitors. To's latest film Vengeance presented at Cannes last year starring Johnny Halladay was released first in Udine for the Italian premiere April 22. This year th…

Capsule Movie Reviews - San Francisco International Film Festival

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By Jonathan W. Wind

Two broadcast combined report:

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The 2 week long 53rd San Francisco International Film Festival is the oldest film festival in the Americas. This year featuring 177 films from 46 countries in 31 languages it will attract a crowd of 80,000 to the venues in San Francisco. Though a primary objective is wider circulation, that happens somewhat rarely, so the only chance to see some offbeat foreign films is at a good festival, and San Francisco's is considered one of the best.

I have been fortunate enough to view many of the films available, here are some capsule review of the movies I have liked the best so far.

First, of course, there is Joan Rivers in A Piece of Work



When you think of Joan Rivers you don't think maybe she needs money, but there she is, here and just about everywhere; "I'll wear a diaper" she says, but it's more than money. Her agent says "Joan knows if you stand…