Whoever Slew Auntie Roo? (1972)

Christopher and Katy (played by Mark Lester and Chloe Franks, respectively) are troubled siblings who spend their days at the orphanage dodging the mean adults who work there and refusing to speak at all. They both hope to go to the lavish annual Christmas party held at the mansion of the nice Mrs. Forrest (Shelley Winters), but only 12 children are picked each year, and neither of them make the list. The two stow away in the trunk of a car headed to the party and sneak in anyway, which horrifies the orphanage staff, but which Mrs. Forrest has no problem with. It’s a nice sentiment, but if she doesn’t care that there are more than 12 children at her home, why can’t all of the kids in the orphanage go? As lovely as the rich Mrs. Forrest seems — “Call me Auntie Roo,” she tells the kids — in reality, she’s disturbed, having never gotten over the death of her young daughter Katherine years ago. In fact, as we learned in the opening scenes, she keeps her daughter’s decomposed corpse in a cradle upstairs, and no one, save a few people close to Mrs. Forrest, even know the girl is dead. Auntie Roo is not well.   After repeated séances with no result, Mrs. Forrest starts to believe that little Katy is the return of Katherine. She wants to adopt Katy, but her brother Christopher is against it. With narrowed eyes and a lot of hate in his heart, … Continue reading

Doc Hollywood (1991)

Doc Hollywood hearkens back to the days of older, inoffensive entertainment, including a scene with an outdoor late night showing of The General (1927), though there are a few moments that belie the film’s mild-mannered demeanor, mainly an early scene when Lou is introduced to us, completely and gratuitously nude. A local resident who was present for much of the filming in Micanopy, Florida, the stand-in for the fictitious Grady, later said that the nude scenes were included specifically to avoid a G rating. Continue reading

It’s a Date (1940)

It’s a Date is impressive in that it presages the post-war bobby soxer films by a few years, as well as the Hawaiian fashion trend; in fact, Peter Stackpole’s now-famous photo spread featuring Hawaiian and Polynesian fashions in Life Magazine didn’t go to print until after It’s a Date was released. This was clearly meant to be a trendy film, one to appeal to the younger crowd, particularly the ladies who were Durbin’s biggest fans. Continue reading

My Fellow Americans (1996)

My Fellow Americans is exceedingly kind to its two leads, who are allowed to be charming and charismatic and fun, and whose sheer exuberance turns a strange tale about the attempted assassination of two former presidents into a delightful, lighthearted comedy. Continue reading

The Russian Woodpecker (2015)

It’s that connection between the corrupt past and the corrupt neo-Soviet present that gives The Russian Woodpecker its heft. The film never unearths anything startling, and its attempts to fool you into thinking it has are done in bad faith, but the film remains a compelling reminder of just how quickly we humans tend to fall back into old habits, even old habits that are likely to kill us. Continue reading