Feature: Movie Posters from France

I have done posts in the past comparing U.S. movie posters for American films to those advertisements that were produced internationally for the same flicks. Italy has proven to be a good source of interesting posters (see this post for examples), but France is no slacker when it comes to out doing the Americans on the artsy side. The following are some comparisons between the American posters and French. Which versions do you prefer? If you have your own favorite French posters, please share.

FRANCE VS. AMERICA

The American poster is not bad for Touch of Evil, but the French one is even more dramatic. While the U.S. made the poster suggestive via the embrace between Janet Leigh and Charlton Heston, the French more subtly suggested the bedroom action by framing the characters with a bed post. The foreign version might actually convey to audiences that Heston is responsible for the horrible bed-based action Leigh will suffer in two different settings, whereas the American version is a bit more romantic.

You can see the similarities between where the French and the Americans were going with the poster for Operation Petticoat. Both are provocative with the woman’s legs, but I must say the French had a bit more fun with the depiction of the men’s reaction. I’m laughing more at the French one than the American.

Another sexy movie with two different posters approaches is The Lady from Shanghai. All versions of the American poster featured that same pose by Rita Hayworth, but the French version certainly has a more interesting and artistic quality. This might be a matter of taste. What do you say?

Now for some comedy/war fun. Although the American version assures us there will be laughs to be had, the French poster draws a very serious picture. It is not bereft, however, of two men dancing together, so a close enough look sheds some light into the elements of Stalag 17. However misleading, I do appreciate the artistry of the French approach.

This difference might be my favorite. The Lost Weekend approaches both emphasize the seriousness of the film, but where the American take crowds in unnecessary elements, the French took a simplistic view. For those who have yet to see the picture, the bat surely will present some confusion, and it references only a minor, yet memorable, scene in the movie tracing an alcoholic’s helplessness under the influence of drink.

What it your analysis?

Operation Petticoat

Ring a Ding Ding

Operation Petticoat (1977)

I shied away from Operation Petticoat for about eight years now because why on earth would I want to watch a Cary Grant movie that costars another man. If he’s not being romantic, I have little motivation to watch Grant. Thankfully, I did finally convince myself to sit down with the war comedy that costars Tony Curtis and is directed by the fabulous Blake Edwards, a favorite of mine.

Although the majority of the plot focuses on a clash between experienced submarine Lt. Cmdr. Matt Sherman (Grant) and the new recruit whose military experience has been in the realm of “entertainment”, the story does eventually introduce a host of women, one of which will bring out Grant’s romantic qualities, however reluctantly.

The vessel, the “Sea Tiger”, is ready to head to battle from its station in the Philipines when the base is bombed by enemy aircraft. The submarine then must undergo serious repairs even though it is nearly beyond remedy. Showing up in time to help is Nick Holden (Curtis), who arrives in a glorious white uniform, attracting the attention of all around. He does not know how to behave as part of an actual naval command, but the skills he does have prove immensely helpful.

With little backing from the higher ups, the crew of the Sea Tiger struggle to get the materials they need to make repairs. Holden leads a number of theft operations that involve absconding with materials as absurd as a portion of a metal wall. At last the men are ready to head to sea, and Holden has all the amenities a man could want in his officer’s cabin, including his custom-made uniforms.

A leak in the archaic submarine forces a stop at an island for repairs. Holden scouts the land and returns with half a dozen women officers who had been stranded there. Sherman is reluctant to let them on board, but eventually concedes. He immediately interacts with the clumsy, busty Dolores (Joan O’Brien) in helping to dislodge her shoe from the sub’s deck. Their accidental encounters will continue.

Holden starts in on the women romantically, raising Sherman’s ire and eventually getting himself confined to his quarters. Holden’s motivation for joining the Navy was merely to secure a uniform and with that to lure a wealthy wife. He has such a fiancée on land, but the woman he has targeted on board is ignorant of this.

During another repair stop, the crew endeavors to repaint the Sea Tiger. Before putting on the grey topcoat, the men use the only base paint available –red and white. The result is a pink ship that is unable to be topcoated before enemy planes force an exit from the island. Tokyo Rose speaks over the air about the silly, American pink sub, but other U.S. forces think this might be a trick. When the pink submarine comes into view, they attack it. With the help of the women, and their undergarments, the crew is able to save themselves.

Operation Petticoat is not nearly as zany as most Blake Edwards flicks. But considering it is a war picture, perhaps it is the wildest one you will see featuring men at war. The story plays with clashes in personalities with the obstinate Holden constantly proving ingenious ways to veer from standard protocol. Naturally there is also the sexual tension that comes from keeping both genders in such close quarters.

Grant plays the straight-laced Lieutenant Commander part well and Curtis is smashing as the rebel. The women’s performances are nothing special and really are there only to drive the plot, as this movie belongs to the male stars. Operation Petticoat is a lot of fun, probably the most you will see in a submarine.

 

 

Weekend’s Best Bet Continued…

In running through TCM’s lineup for this weekend, I came across far too many good flicks to list in my regular viewing recommendations in the left column. Not only are there a number of gems showing this weekend, but I have already written about them. So click on the links below to learn more about the movies and consider checking them out yourself this weekend. P.S. All times are Eastern Standard Time and on the U.S. programming schedule.

Beware, My Lovely
6:30 pm Friday on TCM
Ida Lupino, Robert Ryan

The Lost Weekend
10 pm Friday on TCM
Ray Milland, Jane Wyman

Sunrise
8 pm Saturday on TCM
Janet Gaynor, George O’Brien

The Great Race
1 pm Sunday on TCM
Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon

Butterfield 8
10 pm Sunday on TCM
Elizabeth Taylor, Laurence Harvey

 

Trapeze

Ring a Ding Ding

Trapeze (1956)

     The circus was not an uncommon subject matter in classic films, but I find most movies on that subject take a grim outlook on the lives of the performers under the big top. Take, for example, Freaks about the out-casting of a lot of circus side-show individuals whose disfigurement makes them unsavory and drives them to mangle the normal-looking folks. In The Greatest Show on Earth we experience the not-so-happy lives of the performers, one of which is hiding behind his makeup to avoid arrest. And if murder is more your appetite, Berserk will have you wishing Joan Crawford had ended her career decades earlier. Trapeze joins those but is more closely aligned with The Greatest Show on Earth in that in makes no strides toward horror but focuses instead on the drama among a couple of trapeze artists.

     Burt Lancaster‘s character opens the film performing the first-ever attempted triple somersault in the air before connecting with his “catcher.” The stunt fails, however, and he tumbles into the net before bouncing onto the ground, injuring his leg. Years later, this Mike Ribble works on trapeze rigging for a Paris-based circus and has no interest in “flying” again. His plans are interrupted, however, when Tony Curtis as Tino Orsini arrives wanting the man to teach him the triple somersault. His display of his skill impresses Mike and they begin working together, eventually agreeing to be an act, with Mike as catcher.

     Meanwhile, Lola, played by the voluptuous Gina Lollobrigida, is quarreling with an Italian trio of acrobats whose act she had forced her way into and repeatedly deals with circus master Bouglioni (Thomas Gomez) while relaying false information back to her colleagues about their act. When Bouglioni tells her the group has not been put on the bill, she convinces the man to allow her to be part of the Ribble-Orsini high-flying stunts. To do this, however, she has to weasel her way in. In doing so, she also convinces Tino she loves him, and he reciprocates. The relationship causes a feud within the now-trio of Lola, Tino and Mike that puts their futures in jeopardy as the men continue to work for the triple in the hopes of impressing the Ringling Bros. owner (Minor Watson) and taking their show on the road. Success is in sight, but we are granted only a neutral ending.

     Before becoming and actor, Lancaster was an actual trapeze artist, so this movie allowed him to combine his talents. Although he found the high-flying work easy, Curtis and Lollobrigida certainly faced challenges. Thankfully, stunt doubles were used expertly in this movie to allow all the tricks to appear the work of the actual actors. These doubles would even perform their flips with their faces passing by the camera, but because it occurs so quickly, one cannot recognize the difference. There are some shots that required the actual actors to be hanging onto bars and each other. Those were clearly shot using back projection to make them appear to be in the air and swinging when they were not. Performances by all actors were very strong and this offered a compelling story. I think I enjoyed it more so than other circus flicks because it focused strictly on the trapeze artists and depicted no bearded women or creepy clowns. Everyone took their professions very seriously and none were outcasts that had no choice but to work in the circus. This made everyone more relatable and resulted in a much more enjoyable experience for me. I think we have masterful Director Carol Reed to thank for that.

  • Trapeze is set for 6:30 a.m. ET Nov. 2 on TCM.

Goke, Body Snatchers from Hell

Gasser

Goke, Body Snatcher from Hell (1968)

     I should preface this review by saying, do not let the rating fool you; Goke, Body Snatchers from Hell is a bad movie. What makes it entertaining, however, is how comically bad it is. This Japanese horror/sci-fi flick presence with its “frights” a blatant moral message: War is bad, the Vietnam war in particular.

     A planeful of a variety of Japanese individuals and one English-speaking woman are in transit above a remote desert part of the country when the two pilots are alerted that a passenger might have a bomb on the aircraft. One pilot Sugisaka (Teruo Yoshida) calmly searches all bags and eventually finds a rifle in the back compartment and is immediately confronted by the villainous passenger (Hideo Ko), who orders the flight’s path to be changed. Just after this takeover, however, lights flash outside the plane and it is sent careening toward the earth. All passengers minus the other pilot survive the slow crash landing of a miniature airplane model, but their troubles are far from over.

     The hijacker takes flight attendant Kazumi (Tomomi Sato) as a hostage and heads out into the desert wilderness. The two eventually come across the landed flying saucer that caused the plane’s crash, and by standing in its mere presence, the hijacker’s face splits vertically along his nose and a mercury-looking goo oozes into the wound, thus making the man an alien slave. Once Kazumi explains the events to the rest of the flight passengers, some clashing emotions among the passengers (“I am a psychologist and it will be fascinating to see how all of you respond to this situation.”) results in one being pushed from a cliff and the hijacker/alien waiting below latches onto his neck like vampire, turning the man into a decayed corpse. The remainder of the film follows the endeavors of the passengers to survive against the alien.

     The moral of the story is that had humans not been so occupied with killing themselves via the atomic bomb and the Vietnam War, the aliens would never have had such a great opportunity to visit and take over the world. One will find it impossible to escape this message as a good amount of dialogue is devoted to furthering this theory. Outside of the moral, Goke‘s story is not a bad one and the cast of characters is fun. Besides the psychologist, we have an alien enthusiast, politician, weapons dealer (who resembles a Japanese version of Jeffrey Combs) and his slutty wife, and the American woman who is on the way to pick up her husband’s body (he died in the Vietnam War and they apparently don’t send bodies home). Despite being evil and having a nasty wound on his forehead, the hijacker looks remarkably like a Japanese Tony Curtis, with fantastic hair and dark eyelashes.

     I understand the print of this I saw at the horror movie marathon was a rare one, but I have also heard the it is not foreign to TCM, so although the likelihood of seeing Goke is low, I would recommend taking the opporutnity if it presents itself, if only for a laugh.

Sex and the Single Girl

Wowza!

Sex and the Single Girl (1964)

     Both Natalie Wood and Tony Curtis have been actors of only moderate interest to me, but after viewing Sex and the Single Girl, I’m changing my tune. This wonderful joke on married and single life and male and female standards plays both leads to their best and makes for a riveting good time.

     Curtis as Bob Weston is managing editor at STOP magazine, a filthy gossip rag that prides itself on being the worst publication in town. Wood as Dr. Helen Brown is the latest feature of the magazine and author of the best-selling “Sex and the Single Girl” advice book. She is a psychologist who, thanks to STOP, is losing clients because they believe she is a virgin. Bob plans to slyly get the truth about Helen’s sexual experience to do a follow-up story, but of course falls in love along the way.

     Bob’s neighbors are the feuding couple Frank and Sylvia Broderick, played by middle-aged Henry Fonda and Lauren Bacall. Frank is a hosiery manufacturer who is obsessed with examining women’s legs on a strictly professional basis, but his wife thinks he runs around. Because Frank hasn’t the time to see a marriage counselor, Bob takes it upon himself to pose as Frank and see Helen professionally, relaying any advice back to his neighbor. Doctor and patient have a moment of love at first sight upon meeting, but Bob, now known as Frank, has established himself as a married man.

     Bob makes a number of efforts to get Helen in bed, including faking a desire to kill himself that lands both parties in the river. Eventually the scam comes to a head when Helen’s request to meet with Sylvia results in three women showing up at her office, two of which are pretending to be the woman at Bob’s request. Once Bob’s identity is revealed and Sylvia understands the true nature of her husband, a car chase scene consumes the remainder of the feature.

     The last prolonged sequence in Sex and the Single Girl rings of It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and The Great Race (which also features Curtis and Wood). The various parties, while chasing each other down en route to the airport, switch cars, drivers and strangers leading to the institutionalization of a police officer. The action is so distinctly different than the prior three-quarters of the flick that it could almost be it’s own short-subject movie.

    Possibly my favorite running gag in Sex and the Single Girl followed Curtis’ donning of a woman’s robe while he waits for his garments to dry at Helen’s apartment. When asked if he is uncomfortable in such a feminine item, he replies that he thinks he looks like Jack Lemmon, referencing of course Some Like It Hot, which five years earlier had both Curtis and Lemon in drag. The rest of the movie has characters saying Bob looks like Jack Lemmon at least half a dozen times.

     I cannot conclude without referencing two other essential members of the cast. First, an old Edward Everett Horton plays the head of STOP magazine and has few scenes but is a gem nevertheless. Secondly –and I thought I’d never say this– Mel Ferrer is highly amusing. He plays another psychologist in Helen’s office who finds himself fascinated with the girl after reading the STOP article. He had me giggling as he performed a rather adept solo dance while waiting for Helen to prepare for their date. On the whole, Sex and the Single Girl is highly romantic and greatly comedic and is supported by a fantastic cast.

  • Sex and the Single Girl is set for 4 p.m. ET Oct. 16 on TCM.

The Great Race

Ring a Ding Ding

The Great Race (1965)

     With the death of Blake Edwards last week, it was a lucky coincidence I had recorded The Great Race recently. What Edwards had hoped to be “the funniest movie ever” is a great example of the writer/director’s work and one that I imagine will continue to entertain audiences of all ages for decades to come. Edwards was best known for his comedies — The Pink Panther movies and Operation Petticoat – but also contributed significant dramatic films — Breakfast at Tiffany’s and The Days of Wine and Roses.

     By re-teaming the duo seen in the wildly successful Some Like it Hot from 1959 (not his film), Edwards might not have made THE funniest movie of all time, but he sure crammed a load of laughs into this nearly three-hour saga. The relationship between Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis in The Great Race, however, is quite different from the pals who sought Marilyn Monroe‘s affection in their previous on-screen pairing. Curtis plays the Great Leslie, a stunt man of sorts who arranges an automobile race from New York to Paris (moving westward). Lemmon plays Professor Fate, the villain who seeks to foil Leslie’s stunts and to defeat him in the race. Natalie Wood is the suffragette who in this early 20th century time period seeks equality for women. She wrangles herself a test job as a reporter who will participate in and cover the race.

     The story is just a device by which Edwards was able to insert gag after hijink and slapstick galore onto the big screen. Wood is beautiful if not utterly annoying, Curtis is his usual dry, handsome, not-contributing-a-whole-lot sort; and Lemmon steals the show with sidekick Peter Falk as Max. Lemmon is almost unrecognizable with black hair and mustache, hunched back and smarmy villanous laugh. What he is recognizable as, however, is the bad guy from the Wacky Races cartoons that Hanna-Barbera premiered not long after this movie. Dick Dastardly and his canine sidekick Muttley (who really does resemble Falk) starred in the race-based cartoons that I remember watching as a kid in the ’80s and ’90s. This would be yet another example of when Edwards managed to create such absurd and memorable characters that they were equally suited to the world of animation as they were in live-action (the other being Pink Panther, of course).

Max & Prof. Fate/Dick Dastardly & Muttley

     I regret that I only became aware of Edwards over the course of the past months through the Pink Panther movies. Even as an Audrey Hepburn fan, I was not aware he was the brains behind possibly her most famous role. His sort of comedy is the type that really appeals to me — it is stupid, easy laughs over which a person of any age or intelligence level can crack up. Although it is long, The Great Race is the sort of movie you can pick up and leave off anywhere in the film because, as I mentioned, it is not about the story or the climax but rather is important for the fun one has along the way.

Source: Ben Mankiewicz

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