Elizabeth Taylor in ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’

Elizabeth Taylor is the kind of actress that could easily qualify as the number one representative of classic Hollywood stardom and financial success. Along with her considerable attributes as a businesswoman and humanitarian, Elizabeth Taylor was a stunning beauty.

Image via Rich Glare

Taylor got her start as a child actress and her big break starring in the movie National Velvet. As an adult, she appeared in roles in which her beauty certainly did her no harm.

However, Taylor was not content to play parts based on beauty alone. Nothing proved this to the world with more force than her appearance in the movie Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? In it, she costars with her on-again, off-again husband, Richard Burton, as a married couple caught in a marital crisis. Burton plays George, an associate history professor at a small New England college. Taylor plays, Martha, the university president’s daughter. Cozy!

And speaking of cozy, the movie starts with George and Martha walking home from a party. Turns out Martha invited a young couple to their house for an after-party drink (or two or three). When Martha and George enter the house, Taylor does her best Bette Davis impression! 🙂

Image via Cinematheia

The couple eventually arrive: Nick (played by George Segal), a biology professor and Honey, his wife (played by Sandy Dennis). And when everyone’s settled in for a drink, George and Martha proceed to tear each other to shreds—verbally.

Image via Cinematheia

The cozy after-party get-together turns distinctly sour as Nick and Honey watch Martha taunt George viciously and repeatedly for his inadequacies, while he responds with passive aggression.

Image via The Film Experience

However, George can remain passive for only so long. He and Martha end up screaming at each other in the parking lot of a roadhouse (where this cozy party moves at one point). This shouting match culminates in a declaration of “total war”.

Image via Cinematheia

Image via Cinematheia

In the course of the evening, various secrets are revealed about both couples. Martha even turns her scorn on Nick, with whom she attempts to have a drunken fling. Unfortunately for her, Nick can’t seem to get it up perform. He blames this on excessive drink. Martha sneers at this excuse and dismisses him as a “houseboy”.

Image via Cinematheia

Taylor plays the role with such passion and ambandon that the performance would be outright comical if she weren’t portraying a woman burdened with so much emotional baggage.

Image via Cinematheia

Of course, the biggest, most painful secret of all is reserved for the climactic ending.

Image via The Film Experience

This movie is positively gut-wrenching to watch. At the same time, it can be bizarrely funny. It is, without a doubt, Elizabeth Taylor’s boldest and bravest performance. In order to play the role of Martha convincingly, Taylor gained weight, wore a wig, and was made up to look old and tired—a complete departure from her public image as a glamorous star. She also received the best reviews of her career for this role, which earned her a second Oscar award.

The fact that Taylor was willing and able to take a part like this proves the depth of her acting abilities and her devotion to the craft. And while Elizabeth Taylor was spectacular in all her movies, I think she gave the performance of a lifetime in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Image via The Film Experience

I submit this as my contribution to The Elizabeth Taylor Blogathon hosted by In The Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood!

Posted in Actors, Black Comedy, Blogathan, Classic Movies, Drama | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

Part Five of ‘The Invisible Man Vs. The Human Fly’

Once again, it’s time for the film voted least likely to win an Academy Award have been seen by anyone before this. I certainly hope not! 🙂

Without further delay, here’s Part Five of The Invisible Man Vs. The Human Fly!

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My Book Review of ‘10,000 Ways to Die’

I’ve been a fan of Spaghetti Westerns for a long time. But, up until now, the Spaghetti Western began and ended for me with the great director Sergio Leone. I knew there were others, but was blissfully unaware of their names, stories, and individual styles.

This book discusses the origins of this subgenere of Western in the Japanese film Yojimbo directed by Akira Kurosawa. Not the first time a Western was derived from Japanese cinema. Witness The Seven Samurai and The Magnificent Seven.

But, to my surprise, the author Alex Cox (who is himself a director) discusses the contribution of Dashiell Hammett’s Continental Op to the Spaghetti Western. In particular, he draws analogies between works like Red Harvest and Corkscrew to the tropes prevalent in the Spaghetti Western tradition. Both stories involve gang warfare in crappy little towns in the middle of nowhere. Both involve the nameless detective, the Continental Op. Shades of “The Man with No Name”? 🙂

The book then gives a comprehensive overview of plots and analyses on various Spaghetti Westerns released from 1963 to the 1970s. It is not only a treasure trove of information for Spaghetti Western fans (or, for that matter, anyone interested in the history of cinema), but the book describes each movie in loving (and, occasionally, very funny) detail. That’s not to say that Cox heaps praise on all these movies. But, when he criticizes them, you can tell his critiques come from a place of caring about movie quality.

The reviews also include fascinating anecdotes from behind the scenes of these pictures. Including, I was amused to see, the fact that Italian filmmakers had a tendency to overwrite the dialogue. Actors like Lee Van Cleef would improvise shorter lines, thus showing how the genius of performers can improve on a writer’s work.

The book concludes with a discussion of how much the Italian Western was a sociopolitical reaction to the standard Hollywood Western, as well as a reflection of the turmoil of its time. No wonder a film noir enthusiast like myself enjoys these films so much.

I highly recommend this book for all serious cinephiles. You can buy the book online here!

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Part Four of ‘The Invisible Man Vs. The Human Fly’

Yes, once again, it’s time for another part of a barely comprehensible bizarre unique sci-fi/crime/post-atomic/fantasy/horror (?) B-movie.

Please feel free to suggest a genre for this film! 🙂

Check out my film reviews by clicking here! And please share this post! 🙂

Posted in B-Movies, Crime Movies, Foreign Films, Public Domain Movies, Saturday Matinee, Science Fiction, Serial Shorts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My Review of ‘Baby Driver’ (2017)

I chose to see this movie under the impression that it was a heist film with music. It is an action/crime film crossed with a musical. It also employs some of the most over-the-top and unlikely special effects and scenarios I’ve seen lately on-screen.

This may not go over well with the film’s many admirers, aka, everyone in the world, judging from the onslaught of accolades this film has received, but there are good things and notably bad things about this picture.

Baby Driver is about a young man who goes by the name of Baby, who’s coerced by a professional slimebag (played fittingly by Kevin Spacey) to serve as wheelman in a string of robberies. This is all to pay off an old debt Baby owes the slimebag.

Image via Digital Trends.

Baby is rather constantly plugged into his iPod and seems to do everything from walking down the street to escaping cop cars in hot pursuit to the beat of his ever-playing tunes. The whole point being that he’s musically inclined.

Image via VIP Fan Auctions.

Let me explain my thoughts about Baby Driver in terms of “pros and cons” or “hits and misses”.

So, here are the hits:

The relationship between Baby and his adoptive father (who happens to be deaf and black). Even though Baby’s father is deaf, he can feel the rhythm of music when Baby plays it. He knows Baby could be doing much better things than robbing banks and so on for some scumbag. But Baby does it with the expectation that he can pay off his debt and get out from under. Do I have to tell you how well that works out? I won’t, but you can imagine, right? So, it becomes all about how Baby can protect his father (plus an eventual love interest) against Scumbag and his thugs.

Frankly, the father-son relationship plus Baby’s budding romance with an unhappy waitress, is the movie’s saving grace. Any story worth seeing is usually about the characters. If I weren’t a patient viewer, I might have given up on this film based on the opening scenes alone.

And the reasons for that are discussed under the misses:

The movie opens with Baby sitting behind the wheel of the world’s least inconspicuous red car. Who uses such a car to rob a bank? Seriously! Then, the bank robbers get out (All wearing sunglasses and black suits—ala Tarantino—including the girl, because there’s always a girl, right? Except she’s wearing a skirt. Who wears a skirt to rob a bank? But I digress …) and walk across the street to the bank.

Image via Gentleman’s Journal.

Why would Baby park across the fricking street from the bank? Wouldn’t it take less time to make a getaway if he parked closer? But then, in a move that makes even less sense, right after the bank robbers return to the car, Baby pulls a 180-degree turnaround maneuver (ala Jim Rockford, if you’ve ever seen The Rockford Files), when he could have been parked on the other side and just gone straight.

So, parking across the street was just a feeble excuse for letting Baby make some cool (and time-wasting) moves to music before the big chase gets underway.

Implausibility 2: finding two red cars on the road and using them to confuse the police. Yeah, not only are Baby and the crew being chased by black-and-whites, but of course there’s a chopper after them. And, fortunately, our (anti)heroes happen to run across two red cars right next to each other on the road. Red cars just like theirs! Yeah, I believe that!

Then, in a plot device so ridiculous I had to wonder how anyone could agree to use it, Baby squeezes his red car into the lane between the other two red ones (who happen to be positioned just right). Then, they’re lucky enough to disappear under a bridge, where Baby gets the opportunity to make a maneuver that forces one car to switch lanes with him (but the helicopter can’t see it), thus eluding capture by getting off the freeway, while the chopper pursues the wrong red car! Um … right! This is all done to musical accompaniment, so that makes it novel or something. I guess.

And that’s just the opening.

I think my second peccadillo was that the movie was a bit too much like a cross between a video game and a music video. If a movie is supposed to be an immersive experience in which you buy into the idea that music is part of the world, my feeling was that this film was so choreographed throughout that it came across just a bit too self-consciously cutting-edge. It was kind of like a Gene Kelly musical on steroids. Except with music that isn’t as old.

Image via Vulture.

Let’s just say the movie practically stood up on its hind legs and begged for our acknowledgment of how clever it was.

Finally, the big climactic scene at the end. You realize there has to be one of those, right? Because Baby must do a high-stakes battle with the bad/worse guys. Well, there’s one bad guy in particular who just refuses to die. Over and over. After a few times, the movie appears less like a musical crime caper and more like one of those horror movies where the end drags on and on, because the monster (which should have died 20 tries ago) keeps coming back to freaking life!

Image via Digital Trends.

Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play? 🙂

I loved the characters and the music. But … see above.

This movie was saved for me by the main characters and relationships.

I’ll give it a thumbs up for that! And the music. Okay …! 🙂

But if you want to see much better car chase movies, check these out!! 🙂

PS: I think they missed one!

PPS: Two words: Bill Hickman!

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The Face On the Lunchbox

I so admire Michael J. Fox!

Taking Up Room


There have been a lot of famous last words spoken throughout history. John Lennon’s aunt famously told him, “A guitar is nice, but you’ll never make a living with it.” Neville Chamberlain waved the Munich Pact and declared “Peace in our time.” The Titanic was called “unsinkable.”

Then there’s this little gem: “I’m telling you, this is not the kind of face you’ll ever see on a lunchbox.”

Those words were spoken about Michael J. Fox. It might seem funny now, because few actors from today are as iconic as he is. I knew guys at school who wanted to be Michael J. Fox in the worst way, and would do their best to strike a Fox-worthy pose in their class pictures. Their wannabe-ness is hardly shocking.  Michael J. Fox was (and is) a hero to a lot of people, although he’d be the first one to tell them…

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Part Three of ‘The Invisible Man Vs. The Human Fly’

Once again, we have an awful awesome treat for you on this lovely Saturday! 🙂

It’s Part Three of The Invisible Man Vs. The Human Fly!

I’m not sure exactly how to describe this movie. It simply must be seen to be believed. 🙂

Posted in B-Movies, Foreign Films, Parody, Public Domain Movies, Saturday Matinee, Serial Shorts | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment