Notorious (1946)

notorious

Aah, a Cary Grant movie – delicious Cary Grant movie…and Ingrid Bergman… delicious Ingrid Bergman movie…

Alfred Hitchcock… confusing Alfred Hitchcock movie…

Notorious has Nazis and spies and beautiful women and beautiful men (well a Cary Grant anyway and a lot of old white men wearing suits) and is confusing.

Notorious is a good film but it’s not great. I’ve seen better Hitchcock films like Vertigo (my fave!) or, well, most of the other Hitchcock’s I’ve seen really.

Notorious is pure noir which is a little bit lovely. Cary Grant is suave and mysterious and Ingrid Bergman is clever and gorgeous. Her character isn’t dumbed down and she is strong in her own right. She isn’t just there to get fridged. She is a beautiful love interest though.

If you like black and white films and noir you’ll love Notorious. Cary Grant is at his spymaster best – keeping it cool and (figuratively) killing the ladies. The Nazi storyline feels a bit odd to me. Was Brazil a Nazi hideout I should have known about? They were certainly living the highlife in the film. I needed a WWII hand book to explain it to me.

Here’s another thing – how did Ingrid make a roast chicken dinner in a hotel room in Brazil? Is it just because she’s Ingrid and she can do anything? Why is a home cooked dinner the most romantic thing? Roast chicken is pretty amazing though so chicken and romance – maybe it’s a noir thing? I need to rewatch all the noir films and look for the chicken…

Notorious is a gorgeous noir fest and you should see it. Especially if you sometimes crush on dead guys…

 

 

 

Touch of Evil

TOE

Watching Touch of Evil is a difficult experience to describe. It is terribly dated and because we are so inundated with ‘murder mystery’, ‘bad cop/good cop’, ‘outsider/insider’, ‘alcoholic jaded cop’ ‘modern/old school’ TV shows and films I felt like I already knew most of what was going to happen. Then again TOE was released in 1958 so I’m cutting it a whole pile of slack.

First let me tell you what I didn’t like – the dreaded “black face” was in action with Charlton Heston playing a darkened up Mexican cop (literally from the wrong side of the border – note ‘outsider’ status); the women apart from Janet Leigh’s wife character were barely there and the ‘gypsy Mexican fortune teller’ in love with the alcoholic cop was a cringey stereotype and all the other women were strippers (wives or whores ladies? You choose – aah, the 50s…); the wife started out kind of tough and interesting for a 1958 flick but totally paid for her sins (of being kind of tough and interesting) by being threatened and drugged leading to a general need for being saved by Mexican Charlton H; Orson Welles’ acting was to say the least wooden (I’m not sure if this was because I was judging the acting with a 2014 viewpoint or because he was on some sort of downward spiral in terms of acting, not sure) but it wasn’t too big an issue because his character was alcoholic/insider/US cop; also there was too much exposition, there is such a thing as too much talking in a film, obviously a lesson screenwriters were yet to learn in 1958.

But, oh, the things I loved about this film!!! That opening sequence… even for 2014 this baby is a jaw dropper. We follow the progress of a car with a bomb in the boot (opening shot so no spoiler there) as it heads from south of the border down Mexico way back to the US side. The tension is amazing as we watch the car go past groups of people, children and two newlyweds we realise are probably the characters we will be getting to know, of course they separate for a while (eeep!! The TENSION!!!). Just waiting and waiting for the bomb to go off as the car slowly rolls past and the most amazing thing is that this is somehow all one shot! How the heck did Orson (also Director) do it! Seriously, so tense, so impressive.

TOE car

I also loved: the Mexican bad guy hipsters, so cool, so creepy, so good at what they do; the lesbian 50s biker hipster druggies (I know right? What’s not to like? I’m going with lesbian50s biker hipster druggies but maybe I’m doing too large a queer reading on that one. Needs to be discussed with other over-thinkers.); the use of the dry and dusty environment as reflected in the characters; the use of the border to delineate so much about the characters and their lives; Mexican = dodgy but American = boring, just look at the difference between the partying Mexican side of the border and the air-conditioned rigidity of the other; racial profiling/racism in all its 50s grandeur (not in a good way at all); 50s technology! modern Mexican Charlton H loves that stuff; and, the depiction of loyalty and how it can play out over a lifetime, within a workplace, within relationships and within families, as well as where loyalty begins, was so beautifully done.

TOE is a really clever, beautiful, stunning film. Yeah, it’s dated. Yeah, the acting wouldn’t win any awards at the 2015 Oscars (the cinematography could though). But for a film that is almost 60 years old, it holds its own. We’ve seen it done again and again since 1958 through more movies than it’s worth mentioning but have we seen it done this well with this much style? Probably yes, but I still love the original!

Bubba Ho-Tep

from imdb

‘The King vs the King of the Dead’ – Yeah!

Bubba Ho-Tep is a very cool little film. Who knew Elvis impersonating an Elvis impersonator (or is he?) could be so charming?

This film kind of feels like it started out as a short film concept that got expanded to feature length because there was a lot of fun to be had. There is a noir-ish feel throughout which gives it a quirkiness especially considering the whole thing is set in a nursing home in Texas and the main characters are two old fellas who may or may not be delusional.

The story is very silly with a cursed Egyptian mummy being involved in a train accident and ending up in the swamp behind the nursing home. The mummy dubbed “Bubba Ho-Tep” by our favourite Elvis impersonator (or is he?) decides to munch on the souls of the old folks. (I wrote ‘soles’ in that sentence the first time, not the same thing at all. Disturbing really.)  When the old folks start dropping like flies nobody really notices because they’re old.

Our favourite Elvis impersonator (or is he?) realises something is up and with the aid of JFK (or is he? well, no, he’s not) goes on the hunt for BHT. (JFK is now an African American man, the CIA dyed him black so nobody would know he was still alive, and he has a sand bag for a brain because everyone knows JFKs brain went missing – apparently it’s quite hard to formulate a plan with a sand bag for a brain, fair enough I say.)

This movie is hilarious in parts with our favourite Elvis impersonator (or is he?) using a walking frame throughout, will he or won’t he use the bedpan, aargh the suspense!, and JFK thoroughly charging his wheelchair for a nights’ hunting. These two are possibly the nicest old folks ever. Our favourite Elvis impersonator (or is he?) frets about his breakup with Priscilla and wonders how LisaMarie is doing without her Dad in her life.

There's an action figure! With walker of course!

There’s an action figure! With walker of course!

The backstory of the Elvis ‘is he or isn’t he’ mystery is told in flashback and I’m pretty convinced the King’s not dead (or am I?)… It all makes sense when you think about it (or does it?).

While the macguffin of this story is fighting a mummy, the delight is seeing these two guys reminisce about their past and finding their mojo through the hunt. It is impossible not to like our favourite Elvis impersonator (or is he?).

There’s a mummy but this ain’t no horror film it’s definitely all about the laughs. If Bubba Ho-Tep was made now it would be directed by Wes Anderson. It’s that kind of film. I’m glad this one was on the list. I obviously had good taste in movies that day.

Also our favourite Elvis impersonator (or is he?) is played by Bruce Campbell. Woot!

Thank you very much.