The First Annual Bronco Nagurski: The Best of Times (1986)

Today’s entry is for the First Annual Bronco Nagurski Flick Fest at My Floating Red Couch. The fest runs until September 3rd — Read ’em all here! *** There are so many quirks. missteps and mistakes in The Best of Times (1986) that it overrides what would otherwise be some fine comedic and sentimental moments. The story, such as it is: The town of Taft, California, is a town of losers. Jack Dundee (Robin Williams) narrates an opening montage of a series of failures the town has endured, up to and including a November, 1971 football game lost to bitter rival Bakersfield. Why a small town like Taft is playing a large city like Bakersfield, I do not know. During that 1971 football game, star quarterback Reno Hightower (not joking) has his knees smashed, ruining his burgeoning football career, and professional doofus Jack Dundee misses the important toss that would have won Taft the game. Dundee still mopes about this and everyone, including his father-in-law, tease him about it. Because this is a town that is still stuck in high school. That’s the plot, which makes sense. Nothing else did! * Reno and Gigi were pregnant by the big 1971 Homecoming game, and unless I’m mistaken, having to get married the second you graduate from high school would have been just as big of an obstacle to overcome as knee problems — especially knee problems that don’t cause very much limping, allow you to do physical labor as a mechanic … Continue reading

Diana Dors: Sex Symbol

Miss Diana Dors: Singer, actress, and professional sexpot. One of my favorites. The photo shoot with this silver swimsuit must have lasted for days, considering how many pics are floating around.     There is something very Ed Woodian about this one. *** Yes, I was late again! And for my last entry on Diana Dors week, too. Today’s allegedly good reason is because I am in a tizzy, as some newbie film blogger is stealing my shtick! They’re becoming quite popular, too, because I am a genius, and even pale imitations of me glow like a uranium suitcase in the hands of a modern day Pandora. (Impressed? Of course you are. Excuse me while I practice the Queen’s wave…) Speaking of being popular, as Bryce recently pointed out to me, I have hit and passed the 200 mark for Google Followers. Thank you all. I do appreciate it and I love every one of you, even if I get into tizzies and can only express myself in hipster sarcasm. Have a good weekend everyone.

Diana Dors: The Unholy Wife (1957)

The Unholy Wife proves that Diana Dors could, in a pinch, act. It also proves she needed a strong director and a good story, both of which are sadly lacking in this film. The poster tagline — “HALF-ANGEL, HALF-DEVIL, she made him HALF-A-MAN!” — is pretty much a lie. You see nothing of Phyllis (Dors) to indicate she’s an angel at all; one supposes they’re talking entirely about her physical appearance. However, what makes her a “devil” is nothing more than her rejection of a checklist of stereotypical female traits. She doesn’t really like kids, she won’t care for her elderly nutball mother-in-law Emma (Beulah Bondi), she doesn’t like being married to a man who apparently had his whatsit shot off in the war (Rod Steiger)… and it’s that issue with his whatsit that makes him “half a man”, not his wife Phyllis. Oh, and she murders someone. This was all kinds of confusing, but allow me to try to explain: The film opens with Phyllis (Diana Dors) just randomly shooting a gun to scare her mother in law. She pretends there was an intruder in what I assume was part of a cunning plan. Mom-in-law Emma (Bondi) calls the cops. They arrive coincidentally along with Phyllis’ brother-in-law, a priest (Arthur Franz). The cops are satisfied with Phyllis’ story, priest goes home, Emma goes back to bed, then Phyllis’ boyfriend on the side shows up (Ton Tryon). They kiss and argue and kiss and he sneaks out, but Phyllis’ young … Continue reading

Diana Dors: Deep End (1970)

Note: This post deals with disturbing themes and sexual content. The pics are safe for work, but the overall post may not be safe for work, for your brain, or for your spirit. *** Jerzy Skolimowski’s Deep End (1970) is messed up.  I know that sounds weak, that I should properly be calling it “disturbing” or “dark,” but those words gives the film an air of propriety that I don’t think even Skolimowski intended. I caught Deep End a few minutes into it the first time it was on TCM and, without having seen the beginning, I was convinced that this was another example of lackluster shock film-making of the era. On a second and complete viewing, I confess my first impression was more cynical than it should have been. Now, I think Skolimowski fully intended his characters in Deep End to be so selfish and confused that they appeared soulless. The film, however, seems to be exploring what happens when an excitable teen boy is mistreated and lost in the swinging, sexually free London of the early 1970s. Early in the film, you see the beginnings of what young Mike (John Moulder-Brown) has had to go through. However, the transformational and abusive treatment he endures contains an undeniable undercurrent of sexism, and is often based on the alleged “fact” that women are out of control and need to be put in their place. There is a distinct difference between the female and male characters that underlines this problem. The … Continue reading

Diana Dors: Swingin’ and Actin’

Yes, I’m a little late today, but again I have a very good reason: I spent the evening accidentally covered in ants. Little tiny ants. I had to get a little tiny gun so I could shoot off their antennae and save the world. Today, allow me to treat you to some fine poster art featuring Diana Dors and, inevitably, two of her most famous assets. This is the only album she ever released, although she did sing in several films during her career. The “Swingin’ Dors” album name never gets old. George Brent and Diana Dors. Why have I not seen this movie? Sometimes I just don’t understand myself.

Diana Dors: Early Years

I’ve been on a mini Diana Dors kick lately, so I thought I’d spend the week flashing you all with the ill-gotten contents of my hard drive. The plan is to post once a day this week. We’ll see if that really happens. Diana Dors was a child star, if you can call it that. She started modeling in swimsuits at age 12 and taking them off to pose for art classes by age 15. Her first film role was at 15 as well. By the time she genuinely was 17, she had reportedly been passing as 17 for several years. Here are a few photos of her during her early years that I’ve found online. Tons more can be found at the official Diana Dors website. The Diamond City (1949) Oliver Twist (1948) All of 20 years old.

Recently Watched: Kurosawa #1

Between the recent Akira Kurosawa month on TCM and the always-changing order of my rental queue, I have seen a lot of Kurosawa’s films. “The Bad Sleep Well” was one of the first. Called “Kurosawa’s unofficial Hamlet“ by critic Ed Park, I found the movie to go far beyond the usual adjectives attached to it: Cynical, realist, obsessive. It is also devastating. This movie ruined my life. It ripped out my heart and flattened it with a heavy heel, grinding it into the concrete and then kicking the pieces apart with its pointed toe. There are moments in film that are difficult to watch. They hit you just right, they move you to an extreme that’s uncomfortable. In “The Bad Sleep Well”, there is a moment you don’t see. Someone’s death, the death of a man whose life-ruining obsessive hate still wasn’t enough to right the wrongs done; a death not shown save a lingering shot of an empty, ruined, bloody Studebaker. The worst thing I have ever seen on screen is not seeing that death, only seeing it acted out by a man who can never be himself again. It’s a cliche to say a movie changed your life. Neophytes say that, people whose lives are so devoid of strong feeling that even the slightest stirring of emotion causes them to believe their lives are irrevocably altered. So it’s not easy for me to say, but it’s the truth that “The Bad Sleep Well” changed my life. It dashed … Continue reading

Summer Movie Blog-A-Thon: Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)

This post is part of the Summer Movie Blog-A-Thon hosted by Kate of Silents and Talkies. *** As a kid growing up in Missouri and later Kansas (ugh), I didn’t watch a lot of films. I saw maybe 10 films in the theater before I was in high school and able to occasionally go on a date or with friends to movies. As a kid, most of the movies I watched were of the CBS Saturday Night movie variety. My biggest memories are of The Omen and The Amityville Horror, both of which scared the hell out of me. I also recall coming home early on Halloween night in 1980: Behold! Undeniable proof that Halloween happened in 1980! I still have that chair and small table, and am in fact sitting between them right now; they’re part of my office furniture. Alas, I no longer have the large stuffed poodle.     I curtailed my candy plundering activities that night specifically to get home for the Jeff Goldblum Legend of Sleepy Hollow, and I really wanted to post about that, but finding a copy is depressing and it is expensive, two words I hate. For the most part, any movies I saw during this era were made for television or showing on TV in edited form. One exception, maybe the only exception, was getting to see Raiders of the Lost Ark in Camdenton, Missouri, a few months after my Halloween Goldblum-hap. (It’s like a mishap, except involving Jeff Goldblum.) It … Continue reading

In This Our Life (1942): The John Huston Blogathon

  Today’s entry is for the John Huston Blogathon, hosted by Adam at Icebox Movies, running from August 5th through 12th. Both the submissions and Adam’s own entries have been exceptional thus far, and more are coming in the days ahead. I highly recommend checking them out! *** Nobody likes “In This Our Life” (1942). Oh sure, some people enjoy the camp, or like it because Bette Davis plays such a rotten woman, but that’s as far as it goes. I found some really unfortunate reviews of ITOL online, reviews that had major facts wrong, that described the movie as “icky” or “just okay” or even “obnoxious”, that repeated long-discredited rumors about cameos. ITOL doesn’t get a lot of respect, and I — self-appointed champion of the underdog — wanted to change that. About the cameos: There are no cameos in this film save Walter Huston as a bartender. I’ve got a screencap of the guys in the bar, people, so don’t push me on this. See?   ITOL is not a bad film, but it is an odd film, as it’s supposed to be a melodrama in the midst of the languid American South, not like you would realize this without being told. No one bothers with a Southern accent save Billie Burke, and the exterior shots of the house are so unconvincing they look as though they were shot for a New England area film like “Arsenic and Old Lace” instead. It’s undeniably a standard Warner Bros. film, … Continue reading

Recently Watched: The Laughtoniest!

When I watched these films, it had been a while since I had seen a movie made before the 1960s, and that felt very odd. I was glad I had these 2 Charles Laughton films ready to watch. “The Private Life of Henry VIII” is the movie that put Laughton on the map, at least in the U.S., so it’s a little disconcerting that I don’t like this movie much. Part of it, I’m sure, is that I was a huge Henry VIII buff during my misspent youth, and the historical inaccuracies made my teeth grind. It was as though the bare outline of the real Henry VIII’s life was used merely to toss about some semi-witty banter with jokes, such as how his daughter Elizabeth “couldn’t rule a kitchen.” But the biggest part of my problem with the film is Laughton. Early on, he is fidgety, shifty eyed, practically hopping around, and unfortunately made up with heavily penciled eyebrows and sporting a rather thin beard to make him look like the famous painting of Henry VIII. He’s just caricature, but he’s not caricature throughout the film; sometimes his performance is quite measured and pitch perfect, which makes the spazzy bits even harder to understand. The real stand outs in this film are Binnie Barnes and Elsa Lanchester, both extremely good, and much of the male supporting cast — especially Robert Donat — were terrific. Merle Oberon, bless her heart, has more confidence than ability. Wendy Barrie is an actress … Continue reading