The Cinema Penitentiary Diaries – July 7-13

  1. Manglehorn and Sea of Love Seven years ago, Al Pacino was still playing action characters, and already he is in the eccentric old man zone.  He must seem to the young as ancient as Art Carney did to me when he starred in “Harry and Tonto” way back in 1974. But Carney was only 56, playing a character in his 70’s,  while Pacino is already  75. When Pacino was 56, he was in his prime, making movies like “Heat, “City Hall,” and “Donnie Brasco,”  but once he played the weird old Dr. Death in 2010, he entered the eccentric old man zone, and has stayed there. His performances as these cranky old codgers are becoming tediously repetitive.  “Manglehorn”  is the third such movie I have seen this year, and I have just about had enough. I wonder if Pacino is wistful about his early days, when he played charismatic young guys in erotic thrillers such as “Sea of Love.” The only reason we went to see that mediocre precursor to “Basic Instinct” was because it was the new Al Pacino movie, and we  went to see all of them.  And for the next  thirty  years or so, we kept on standing in line to see the new Al Pacino movie.  But if he is going to keep on playing old men with ridiculous names like Manglehorn, perhaps it is time to move on.
  1. Massacre, Mafia Style Writer/Director/Star Duke Mitchell kills just about everyone in sight in this wacky 1974 hit list of a movie. Unless you feel the necessity to plug up some of the holes in your history of film, there is not a whole lot of reason to watch it. Dr. X If you are watching this because you want to see Humphrey Bogart play a zombie, turn it off.  If you want to see what Fay Wray looks like in color, you could do worse.
  1. Frantic Since we know that this movie is about the kidnap of Harrison Ford’s wife, director Roman Polanski has us by the throat from the get go. We are nervous about every movement from every corner of the screen. When will the kidnapper strike? At the airport? No, she is safe in the taxi. But we are watching every bend in the highway, and then the taxi breaks down.  It is sure to be a ruse.  but no, it isn’t.  the couple arrive safely at the hotel.  We are hyper aware of the spacial relationships between the wife and everything else, especially her husband.  She is vulnerable not only when  he is out of the frame, but when there is some barrier between them, even a transparent glass partition.  As he did when showing us the partial view of the bedroom through a door that is not fully open in “Rosemary’s Baby,” Polanski has us trying to peek around corners to make sure nobody else is in the room. Then boom. We close our eyes and she is gone.  The end of the move is somewhat disturbing.  Once all the business is settled at the end, with the wife safely returned and the villains dead, the girl of questionable morals who assisted Ford in his quest is murdered, not because she needs to be, but because their is no place left in the movie for her. What is most disturbing  is the sequence of shots concluding the movie.  Ford walks away with his wife, carrying the body of the dead girl.  The lid of a garbage truck closes.  Ford and wife are alone in a car.  What are we to make of this?  Have Ford and wife thrown the corpse into the garbage truck?  If not where is she?  And what then did the shot of the garbage truck mean?
  1. Command Decision Clark Gable seems willing to sacrifice the entire Air Force to prevent the Germans from developing an airplane that can fly higher and faster than anything the US has.  Sam Wood, a versatile director whose movies were notable for exceptional performance s from actors ranging from  Gary Cooper to Ginger Rogers, surrounds the capable Gable with an outstanding supporting cast that includes Walter Pidgeon and Van Johnson.  Like Robert Aldrich’s 1956 “Attack,”  “Command Decision” was based on a  stage play, which accounts for its surprising literacy. White Fang Just because the title character is a dog doesn’t mean  it is a children’s movie. Lucio Fulci’s version of Jack London’s classic novel makes for a superior spaghetti western.  Jurassic World REVIEWED
  1. We Are Still Here A sleazy cheapo pot of horror that masquerades as an artistic film with its pensive shots of snowy isolation until the psycho villagers meet the charred monsters in the haunted house. Pillars of the Sky One of the many westerns in which the lead character knows the Indians are in the right and the treaty-breaking Yankee army is in the wrong, but is willing to switch moral sides when the orders come down to massacre the recalcitrant redskins.
  1. Five Dolls for an August Moon Mario Bava is a fleshy director, and this is one of his fleshiest movies. It flares with the color of cosmetics and the smell of tanning lotions, a murder mystery clad in sunlight and bikinis. Sodom and Gomorrah Why have so many of the 1960’s biblical epics disappeared? I’m still trying to find a decent copy of 1959’s “The Big Fisherman” the final film of director Frank Borzage. The worn-out pan and scan on YouTube is unwatchable. Is it just the print, or does the movie stink?  I don’t know, but Robert Aldrich’s 1962 look at “Sodom and Gomorrah”  boasts some lucid battle scenes, and several sideways glances at the post-orgy ambience of the tempting city of Sodom. There are, however, too many boring stretches and the ignorance of the screenwriters is apparent in their mis-identification of Ishmael and Isaac as the sons of Lot.
  1. Judgement at Nuremberg I never understood the critical dismissal of director Stanley Kramer. I loved the movies he made between 1958-61, especially “Judgement at Nuremburg.”   The acting is impeccable, with each character allowed the dignity of their point-of view.  Kramer pulls off a stroke of genius in his solution to the problem of language authenticity without subjecting the audience to repetitive translation throughout the entire proceedings. And that final line of dialog delivered by Spencer Tracy kills me every time.  It is interesting that Kramer chose the trials of the judges to dramatize, rather than those of the  more heinous war criminals, but that is exactly his point.  There is no moral challenge in making a judgement against the mass murderers of the Gestapo, while the condemnation of the judges who signed the death warrants of people they knew to be innocent marked a refusal to believe in the lie of non-complicity on the part of those Nazis who claimed to have no knowledge of the fates to which they were sending their condemned innocents.

3 thoughts on “The Cinema Penitentiary Diaries – July 7-13

  1. “We stand for justice, truth, and the value of a single human” Go, Spenser!
    I agree wholeheartedly with Kramer’s fine cinematography and the acting of Tracey and Judy Garland, et al. As far as Al Pacino goes, interesting speculations. He should take a lesson from other members of the over 70 crowd who act not in a tiresome, scene-chewing way. I’m thinking of Christopher Plummer who has my respect now more than when he was younger. Ian Mckellen is 76. Michael Caine is 82. They still manage to impress!


    1. Ernst Janning: Judge Haywood… the reason I asked you to come: Those people, those millions of people… I never knew it would come to that. You *must* believe it, *You must* believe it!

      Judge Dan Haywood: Herr Janning, it “came to that” the *first time* you sentenced a man to death you *knew* to be innocent.

      Liked by 1 person

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