Rage in Heaven

Ring a Ding Ding

Rage in Heaven (1941)

Rage in Heaven (1941)

Rage in Heaven has the distinction of a stellar cast and a clever and enticing plot, but it stops short of being a terrific movie merely by virtue of the time it puts into telling its story. It is not that the film feels rushed by any means, but it could have packed a bigger punch for audience members if it had drawn out the action and put more time into letting the narrative sink in. At around 85 minutes in run time, the picture definitely could have elongated its duration.

The story opens at a French mental asylum where a patient named Ward Andrews –whom we do not see– escapes. He suffers from a personality disorder that makes him emotionally detached and potentially capable of murder. In the next scene, we see one Ward Andrews, played by George Sanders, encounter his childhood and longtime best friend Philip Monrell, played by Robert Montgomery. The two reignite a friendship and Monrell invites his pal to his mother’s English estate where he is returning after some time in Paris, from where Andrews is also returning.

Upon arrival at Mrs. Monrell’s (Lucile Watson) home, Philip first encounters is mother’s new companion/secretary Stella Bergen, played by Ingrid Bergman. He is immediately captivated by her. The scene also alludes that Mrs. Monrell is anything but well. She convinces her son that he must finally take a role in the family-owned steel mill.

During the brief time Ward spends at the Monrell home, Stella becomes quite enthralled by him but declines to indicate any willingness to enter a relationship. When Ward leaves, followed by Mrs. Monrell’s retreat to a better climate, Philip works to convince Stella to marry him.

The couple are quite happy at first, but Philip becomes apparently upset by any creature that siphons away any affection Stella could instead shower upon him. He kills a kitten given to her by Ward, making it look like an accident but flying into a rage at the slightest suggestion by household staff that the circumstances seem odd.

At some point during the story it becomes plain that Philip was in fact the man in the French asylum, who assumed his friend’s name while there. His dispassionate personality and growing jealousy about his wife’s relationships –particularly her fondness for Ward– play out to an increasingly frightening degree. Philip invites Ward to visit and offers him a job as his chief engineer at the steel mill, only to attempt to kill him. The danger escalates for Ward and Stella and the plot takes an unexpected turn that puts Ward on death row.

Rage in Heaven does a great job of gradually revealing Philip’s insanity. What it does not do is draw out the suspense and drama associated with the twist in plot, which I am loathe to discuss here and spoil for those unfamiliar with the story. Suffice it to say, the movie would have been an excellent one if the last quarter of the film had been elongated.

Montgomery does a fantastic job; however, for those unfamiliar with his work, he might come off as a boring actor. Montgomery –who made a plethora of movies in the roll of wealthy playboy– is certainly cast against type here and pulls off his role by playing with a completely flat personality. The upbeat and sometimes zany performances we usually get out of the man are absent here as he works to play the emotionally bereft psychopath. So to the unknowing viewer, Montgomery’s performance might seem lackluster next to the typically stellar Bergman and Sanders.

At the close of Rage in Heaven, I could not help but think it would make an excellent remake. The story could be translated into modern times; however, there is a certain haste about the end of the story and the attempts to save Ward from his death that would be lost given modern technology. Still, a new version set in the 1940s would make for a delightful rendition, given certain changes to heighten the drama.

2013 CAPA Summer Movie Series (Columbus, OH)

It’s my favorite time of year in central Ohio, or nearly. CAPA, our local arts organizing group, has announced its lineup for the 2013 Summer Movie Series held in Downtown Columbus’ historic Ohio Theatre. For those of you unfamiliar with this seasonal gem, the June 28 through Aug. 25 series features a plethora of classic movies shown in the theater that was originally built as a movie house and is now used for concerts, ballets, etc.

Among this year’s offerings are two Hitchcock movies, which you know delights me. The wonderfully amusing The Trouble with Harry, To Catch a Thief and the Jimmy Stewart rendition of The Man Who Knew Too Much will certainly be on my schedule.

Other prize showings include An American in Paris, Grand Hotel, Citizen Kane, Bonnie and Clyde, The Thin Man, 1974′s The Great Gatsby, and Touch of Evil.

I have been notoriously bad about achieving all the CAPA Summer Movie Attendance goals I have set in years past, and I won’t pretend this year will be any better. I do hope to at least catch the Hitchcock flicks, but I’ll admit The Man Who Knew Too Much won’t be at the top of my list.

Blondie of the Follies

Dullsville

Blondie of the Follies (1932)

Blondie of the Follies (1932)

It is possible I have never seen a movie with more ups and downs in story quality than Blondie of the Follies. At the movie’s opening, it becomes immediately clear that the directorial quality of the flick is on the low side and our characters are hard to immediately relate to.

Blondie (Marion Davies) and Lottie (Billie Dove) live in the same low-rent, uptown Manhattan apartment building and are friends, sort of. Lottie is about to leave with some hot shot men and introduces Blondie, who immediately insults one and storms off. Minutes later the two girls are in an all-out brawl. When Lottie informs her “friend” that she is getting a job in a burlesque joint in midtown, Blondie begs her to stay in touch.

Months later Lottie –now going by the false name Lurlene– is playing the sophisticated socialite, enjoying a swell apartment paid for by a millionaire sweetheart. She is appearing in the follies and opts to deliver a gift to her family on Mother’s Day. While there, Lottie and Blondie reunite in a positive way and the latter joins her friend in an immediate visit of her fancy digs. There she meets the millionaire: Larry Belmont, played by veteran rich cad Robert Montgomery. Larry is immediately interested in the blonde and despite Lottie’s desires to send her home, he insists on taking Blondie to the follies show that night.

Taking Blondie backstage during the show, Larry also secures a job for the girl. Next they drop in at a neighboring speakeasy where Blondie has her first experience with liquor. She is deposited by the millionaire on her parent’s doorstep some time after dawn, much to her ill father’s (James Gleason) chagrin. Blondie immediately flees back to Lottie’s apartment –despite the growing tension/rivalry between them– to pursue her new career.

When Lottie informs the girl, however, that she is in love with Larry, Blondie agrees to back off. She instead goes along with an older, oil tycoon, who establishes a posh residence for the girl. Larry, meanwhile, is stuck on Blondie and breaks it off with Lottie. Months later, Blondie orchestrates a reunion between the former lovers in the hopes of reuniting them. It is then Larry hints he has only fallen for one girl, and it wasn’t Lottie. Blondie refuses to see Larry, and the dames continue their extravagant lives in and out of the follies.

When Larry prepares to leave for France, he insists on seeing Blondie before his departure. Lottie catches word of this and tries to flirt her way into a boat ticket of her own. Seeing Blondie with the man, however, sends Lottie into a rage thinking her friend has not kept her word about staying away from the gent. The fight plays out on stage when Blondie goes flying into the orchestra pit, breaking her leg.

Now ready to head home and forget the glamorous life, Blondie bids adieu to Lottie, Larry and others at a party. Her leg is disfigured from the break and she is now fit to be no man’s wife, she thinks. Days later, Larry turns up at the low-income flat with a slew of doctors who insist they can rebreak and properly mend the leg. Only now does Blondie concede to marry her millionaire.

The first portion of Blondie of the Follies, during which our two frienemies, to coin a term, have multiple ups and downs and Blondie gets her job, is lousy. Montgomery stands out as the worst ass of his career roles as it becomes apparent he knows all of the girls in the follies and cares for none of them. Only around the time he breaks up with Lottie does Larry become something more genuine to the audience. From here he even goes through periods of endearing romance that make the picture feel like it is on track for a great romantic ending. The writers let us down, however, with Blondie’s pathetic about-face on her anti-Larry stance. She never particularly convinces us she pines for the man, and her reason for agreeing to the union –that the man will fix her bum leg and make her marriage-worthy– is regrettable.

The one thing that does not vary throughout the movie is the acting quality. Montgomery makes no false move, and Davies is as fun and humorous as ever. Dove plays a marvelous snobby bitch and is purely contemptible in nearly every moment of the film, even when she is repeating, “I like you Blondie; I always have.” The relationship between the girls is obnoxious. We feel Lottie never truly likes Blondie, yet the other is constantly moving between love and hate and assuming the same of her pal. Whereas Lottie never has Blondie’s best interest at heart, the latter does mostly maintain her promises to Lottie.

I might have given Blondie of the Follies a better grade if not for that disappointing ending. There is nothing more irritating than a romantic movie that falters at the end of the emotional crescendo. The couple does not even kiss to seal the deal.

Yo Yo

Ring a Ding Ding

Yo Yo (1965)

Yo Yo (1965)

I often marvel at Charlie Chaplin’s ability to find success with silent pictures after the close of the silent era. When 1929 rolled around and with it the sound technology, all studios realized in order to compete they must produce talking pictures. Chaplin nevertheless issued City Lights and Modern Times with no spoken words after the end of the era in which he reigned supreme.

Fast forward to the 1960s and a French actor/movie maker repeated Chaplin’s success. Pierre Étaix with a background in film and clowning wrote, directed and starred in Yo Yo.  The black and white movie begins in 1925 and is absent any dialogue –emulating a silent film by including intertitles. His unexpressive face reminds us perhaps more of old Stoneface Buster Keaton, but his movements emulate the great silent comedians and we cannot help but laugh at his movements and lifestyle as a lonely millionaire.

The scenes are not absent all noise, however, with the sound of a squeak toy used for the opening and closing of every door and the opening of drawers, etc. The sound effects alone drive many laughs. But the picture does not remain dialogue-free. Come 1929, the intertitles tell us talking movies came in, perhaps as a way of justifying the new presence of spoken words. The stock market crash is the next historical event to affect the picture, sending our millionaire into poverty.

The man reunites with his ex-lover, a bareback rider (Luce Klein), and their young son (Philippe Dionnet) –of which the millionaire was unaware–and joins the traveling circus that employs them. The son, Yo Yo, maintains a photo of his father’s mansion and dreams of restoring the wealth he witnessed there. Time goes on and Yo Yo grows up (also played by Étaix) and becomes a star of stage and screen. When he finally secures the old mansion and throws a party for his parents, they refuse to enter, preferring instead to stay in their trailer and with the circus, thus leaving Yo Yo as alone and miserable as his father once was.

The films of Étaix have recently become available after a long-standing legal dispute with his distribution company. The man is wonderfully entertaining to watch and it is delightful to see a filmmaker embrace the silent way of life as late as the 60s.

Feature: Name that Movie Poster 18

Welcome to the next installment of Name that Movie Poster. Can you guess what movie the poster advertised despite my having concealed its title and key players’ names? If you cannot guess off the bat, tell me the quiz is too hard and I’ll give you a hint. To see if your skills of deduction are correct, submit your answer via the box below (NOT THE COMMENT BOX). Any ideas on this seasonal poster.

For more Name that Poster games and other poster-centric posts go HERE. poster

RBuccicone:

Movies, Silently has posted an absolute gem in the 1910 version of the Wizard of Oz. The movie is complete with dance numbers, intricate sets and fantastic costumes for the animals. It tells the same story we came to love in 1939 but does it all in 13 and a half minutes. You’ve got to see this!

Originally posted on Movies, Silently:

Treasure from the public domain.

Why, yes, there were OZ movies before 1939. Step back in time some 103 years to enjoy the original 1910 version of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

Everyone talks about creative control nowadays and authors are regularly shocked at the changes Hollywood made to their beloved novels. Oz creator L. Frank Baum took matters into his own hand and commissioned motion pictures that would capture the excitement and fantasy of his Oz novels.

(Ok, technically there was a multimedia presentation in 1908 but this is the first true Oz movie.)

Enjoy!

View original

Boy on a Dolphin

Dullsville

Boy on a Dophin (1957)

Boy on a Dolphin (1957)

I know what you’re thinking, and yes, Boy on a Dolphin is as stupid as its name suggests. The only excuse one can find to endure the movie is the occasional shot of Sophia Loren in ocean-soaked clothes.

The story starts with Loren’s Phaedra discovering a statue of a golden boy riding a dolphin. The item is noticed while the Greek woman dives for sponges, which her unkind boyfriend Rhif (Jorge Mistral) sells. While underwater she not only spots the statue but gets stuck and mauled by debris from the ship to which the artifact is attached.

Once on land, an English doctor, Dr. Hawkins (Laurence Naismith), cleans a large wound on Phaedra’s thigh and finds an ancient nail in it. This evidence and Phaedra’s tales of a boy on a dolphin lead the doctor to connect the nail to a ship that sank 2,000 years ago, one that carried a statue of a boy on a dolphin. All see an opportunity to improve their financial circumstances, and Phaedra sets out to find an archeologist willing to finance the statue’s retrieval.

In Athens, she tries James Calder (Alan Ladd), who runs a museum there. He initially resists her tale but is later convinced. Overhearing the discussion is wealthy Englishman Victor Parmalee (Clifton Webb), who wants the artifact for himself. Calder sets a dinner date with Phaedra, but Parmalee slides in to steal her away, saying he received a message that Calder would be two hours late. Thinking Calder left her waiting, Phaedra decides to let Parmalee finance the job.

But if Parmalee’s personality did not illustrate his antagonistic role, his intentions do. Despite a Greek law that says all artifacts discovered must stay within the country (because so many have been shipped out to fill museums around the world), the wealthy gent wants to smuggle the statue out to sell elsewhere.

Phaedra reunites with Calder and, on Parmalee’s instruction, takes the man out to dive in every area around her island except where she spotted the boy on a dolphin. Calder eventually gets wise to the situation but he is starting to fall for Phaedra and she him. Calder gets himself a metal detector to try to locate the artifact by sonar, forcing the conspiring group to move the statue to an underwater cave. When Phaedra finally gives in and takes Calder to it, Rhif and Parmalee have moved the boy again.

Seeing the change in her loyalty, Rhif ties Phaedra onto the boat he is using to haul the statue out to Parmalee’s yacht. Luckily, Phaedra’s young brother sees the situation and comes to the rescue. Just as Parmalee thinks he is receiving the artifact, the authorities step in to arrest him only to find the ropes holding the statue underwater have been cut. The picture closes on the people of Greece riding a boat to shore with the statue.

Boy on a Dolphin has certain country loyalty elements to its plot as an American (Calder) fights to claim the statue for the Greek people while Parmalee endeavors to steal it. Calder often criticizes Phaedra’s loyalty. It is to that end that the close of the movie acts as the triumph of the poor Greeks hauling in their historical symbol.

Despite her beauty, Loren always played an equally good peasant woman as a socialite. She does so here –her American movie debut– complete with native dancing. The romance for her character really suffers in the execution of the plot, however. Although we expect her eventual connection with Calder, Ladd’s lack of emotional acting –with a face that looks paralyzed by Botox– holds back that story element. The scenes should have been filled with panting, sunsoaked and ocean-wet embraces and near misses between the love birds, but we never see it.

More than anything the story is boring. Aside from the occasional underwater scenes –filmed at Italy’s Cinecitta– that were probably impressive at the time, the movie lacks anything that would keep a viewer interested.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 507 other followers

%d bloggers like this: