The Great Lie (1941): I Ain’t Gonna Lie on Maggie’s Farm No More   2 comments

 

Rich country girl, Maggie (Bette Davis) loves Peter (George Brent). Peter loves Maggie, but he can’t commit. In a weak and drunken moment, he marries Sandra (Mary Astor), a globe-trotting concert pianist. She’s sort of awful though so when a paperwork glitch nullifies their marriage, Peter marries Maggie.


“You’ll do.”

All is happiness and light until Sandra drops a bombshell—she’s pregnant. When Peter’s plane is lost during a mapping expedition to the Amazon, Maggie has an idea. She’ll take Sandra to a secluded cabin where she’ll have her baby privately, then Maggie will claim the child as her own so the kid has a dad, at least on paper. The two women travel to Arizona, where Maggie takes care of the difficult Sandra during her pregnancy. When Maggie returns, she has a new baby with Peter’s name.


“No, I don’t have any eights!”

Despite her heartbreak at the loss of her husband, Maggie soldiers on and focuses on raising her son, who she names Peter, after his father. Maggie is a wonderful mother and young Pete thrives with the help of Maggie and maid superwoman, Violet (Hattie McDaniel). Things proceed swimmingly until Peter returns from the dead and eats the rest of the cast. I’m kidding, but that would be an interesting plot twist, wouldn’t it?


“This is a human child, right?”

Peter comes back to Maggie and is overjoyed to see her and to meet his son. He’s a loving and dedicated husband and father and he, Maggie, Young Pete, and Violet live happily ever after. Not so fast, bub. Sandra finds out Peter is back from the jungle and she wants him AND her baby. During a tense visit to Maggie’s farm, Maggie has a head full of ideas that are drivin’ her insane. Sorry, I couldn’t resist.


“Don’t trust her, Pete.”

Anyway, Sandra threatens to tell Peter that Young Pete is hers, claiming Peter will leave Maggie since the baby is the only thing holding their marriage together. This is a film made in 1941 in which a boozy career woman has a child out of wedlock, so you can guess who wins.


“Dammit.”

The Great Lie is a terrific melodrama with great performances by all the leads. Bette Davis is lovely as the good girl with confidence issues. In the beginning of the film, Maggie’s idea of domestic bliss is a little too dull for Peter. He’s not ready to settle down. Brent plays Peter as a bit of a playboy, but overall, he’s a decent guy. When he finds out his marriage to Sandra isn’t legal, he offers to remarry her. Of course, he wants her to give up a gig to do it. You could call that dirty pool, but she wants him to give up his job to follow her around while she plays concerts too. It’s more like the two alpha personalities just don’t mesh. I like how he handles the news about Young Pete, too.


“I double dog dare ya!”

Davis and Brent are good together. She always said Brent was her favorite leading man and the two were close on and off the set. They had a passionate affair, but stayed friends even after it ended, making eleven films together.


“Race ya!”

Brent is more talented than he gets credit for because he makes it look easy. He excels at playing the cad with a heart of gold. Clark Gable does that too, but I’ve always preferred Brent. He’s smoother and doesn’t wear his emotions on his sleeve. Keeping his thoughts and feelings closer to the vest makes him more mysterious and more appealing.


“It’s sweet of you to wait four years for me to commit, then watch me marry and impregnate someone else. Is supper ready?”

Mary Astor, as Sandra, is fantastic! She’s a demanding prima donna with genuine talent who wants everything done yesterday. She’s accustomed to getting her own way and is put out when anyone challenges her. She’s not evil though. Astor could easily have played this as a one note character, but she gives Sandra depth. Maybe the marriage wouldn’t have lasted, but not because Sandra doesn’t love Peter. When Sandra sees Maggie, Peter, and Young Pete living so happily together, she wonders if she’s made the right choice. The forties were not exactly the ‘have it all’ decade. Sandra has chosen a career and perhaps she has moments in hotel rooms in Sydney or Budapest when she regrets not having a family. The audience sees flashes of these thoughts as Sandra holds her baby.


“TA DA!”

The Great Lie is fleshed out by a cadre of veteran character actors. Lucile Watson, Jerome Cowen, Grant Mitchell, Russell Hicks, and the charismatic, Hattie McDaniel lend their enormous talents to the film. Warner Brother had an impressive well of talent to draw from and that’s obvious when watching any film they made, especially in the 1940s.


“You’re paying me scale?”

Edmund Goulding directed The Great Lie and two other Davis/Brent vehicles, Dark Victory and The Old Maid, along with a gang of other films, including the amazing, and completely different, Nightmare Alley and The Razor’s Edge. This is a low-key melodrama with sympathetic characters who act like normal, flawed human beings. There are some noble moments, but overall, the story, written by Lenore Coffee from Polan Banks’ novel, is realistic. Sure, everyone is rich and no one has to go to the bathroom, but it’s a movie. The film also looks and sounds great thanks to Orry-Kelly’s gowns and Max Steiner’s music.

I was thinking this plot could have taken an entirely different path. What if Maggie brought Sandra out to Arizona to steal her baby, kill her, and bury her under a cactus? Then, Peter comes back to Maggie after fighting off piranha and anacondas and junk and finds out he has a baby. He’s thrilled until detectives come calling at the farm asking where Maggie was for nine months a while back. Oh, and why were she and Sandra going to Arizona anyway? When a thirsty man, stranded in the desert, cuts open a saguaro to survive, he notices a woman’s shoe poking out of the dry ground. After he makes it back to civilization, he tells the story to a doctor with ties to law enforcement. His friend, a local deputy with political aspirations, digs up he body, connects the dots, and bingo! Maggie’s doin’ hard time and Peter’s looking for wife #3.


“These new taffeta jail duds are stunning.”

I digress. The Great Lie is an entertaining story made by a talented director, a veteran cast of lead and character actors, and produced at the height of Warner Brothers’ powers.

This is a good one.

Advertisements

Twins of Evil (1971)   6 comments

Gustav Weil (Peter Cushing) is an avenging angel, burning folks at the stake for doing horrible things like living alone, being too pretty, and not attending church regularly. He’s looking for evil in all the wrong places though because living right next door is a super evil guy, Count Karnstein (Damien Thomas), who worships the devil and rents local girls for torture, sex, and blood-letting. The aristocracy protects the Count though so Gustav’s out of luck. Into Gustav’s already full life enters his twin nieces, Maria and Frieda Gellhorn (Mary and Madeleine Collinson), who come to live with Gustav and his wife Katy (Kathleen Byron) after the deaths of their parents. Since the girls are twins, one is good and the other bad. Natch. Maria, the sweet, pious girl does what she’s told and falls for her teacher, Anton (David Warbeck), while Frieda, the scamp, falls for horny Count Karnstein and his torture chamber of fun.


“We’re all out of dip.”

Count Karstein and his agent, Dietrich (Dennis Price) continue with their late-night debauchery until some loose blood makes its way to the gates of Hell or Vampire Town or somewhere and Countess Mircalla (Katya Wyeth) transubstantiates to chew on Karnstein’s neck. Now that he’s a vampire, none of the peasant girls he leases from their families have a snowball’s chance in, well, you know where. Since Frieda’s been hanging out at Karnstein’s grotto, she too goes vampiric, but since her guardian’s a religious zealot, she keeps it to herself. When more villagers turn up with small neck holes they weren’t born with, Gustav and his minions decide to switch from hunting random hotties to chasing down actual murderers.


“And I-I-I will always love youuuuu!”

Twins of Evil is a fun entry in the vampire exploitation genre Hammer perfected. The village and castle look appropriately provincial and the story, written by Tudor Gates and J. Sheridan Le Fanu, is more fun than similar films. Peter Cushing does sanctimonious well and you can see he really believes he’s doing the right thing. Later, when he realizes the true impact of his actions, he makes a huge sacrifice to redeem himself, save the good twin, and release his town from the clutches of Satan. John Hough, who also helmed The Legend of Hell House and Dirty Mary Crazy Larry directs, highlighting simply the difference between the daylight world of goodness and the dark, malicious world of the Devil. The film moves at a good clip and the Collinson twins can act and are lovely to look at. Since this is a Hammer film, the women are between 19 and 25, buxom, and not averse to a little gratuitous nudity. It’s like the producers invaded the Castle Anthrax to cast their picture.


“A spanking?”

I’m a big Hammer fan, but I’ve seen more of their thrillers than straight Gothic horrors. Watching this crisp, high-definition transfer makes me want to see more.


“Oh, hi.”

Slither (1973): No Snakes on the Plains   Leave a comment

James Caan polishes his comedy chops in this meandering story about an ex-con who takes a field trip with a gang of oddballs.

Dick Kanipsia (Caan) and Harry (Richard Shull), two cons just released from prison, head to Harry’s house to drink a few beers, have a sandwich, and relax in front of the TV. As soon as they start to get comfortable in the ramshackle cottage, gunshots ring out. Neither of the men can tell who’s shooting or where the gunshots are coming from and let’s just say things go poorly for Harry.


Harry and Dick in happier times.

Soon, Dick’s on the road, hitchhiking. He gets picked up by nutty Kitty Kopetzky (Sally Kellerman), whose manic behavior belies an off-center brand of innate logic, and the two begin a quasi-romance. Dick wants to keep moving though because he has a destination in mind. You see, Harry dropped a name and hinted about a big payday, so when Kitty takes a little too much speed and pulls a gun at a truck stop, Dick takes off again in search of Harry’s fortune.


Their denim game is strong in this.

Dick contacts Barry Fenaka (Peter Boyle), Harry’s old friend, and Dick, Barry, and Barry’s wife, Mary (Louise Lasser) hit the road in Barry’s Airstream camper.


“Mary who?”

Pulled by his shiny red Cadillac, the trio take off followed by an ominous black super van.


Got your copy of Catcher in the Rye?

I recently recorded a podcast (The Forgotten Filmz podcast) to discuss Slither and I stick by my theory that the mission to find the missing money is just a MacGuffin. The real point of this film is to let us meet and get to know these offbeat characters. It’s one of the reasons I love 70s films so much. In quite a few of them, the characters are the plot. Eccentric characters meet haphazardly, and because of their idiosyncrasies, they get into mischief. Their weirdness either extricates them from their problems or gets them in deeper. That’s a 70s film. By the time the film ends, you either love them, hate them or mourn them, but you’ve long since stopped caring about their quest.


“Course it’s a good idea!”

Another great thing about 70s films is the natural look of the actors. They’re not all shined up with perfect teeth and zero body fat. They look like regular people. They wear bellbottoms and jeans shirts and crappy poly blend sports shirts with white belts. They have average complexions and sticky-outy teeth. Slither has that in spades. It’s hard to shine up Allen Garfield and Alex Rocco, who, by the way, is billed as Man with Ice Cream. Man with Ice Cream! The year before, Rocco was Moe Greene, who was making his bones when you were going out with cheerleaders!


“I got a business to run. I gotta kick asses sometimes to make it run right.”

Slither is a weird, slice-of-life film with a road trip thrown in. Howard Zieff, who also directed The Main Event, House Calls, and Private Benjamin, keeps the structure loose even as he ramps up the tension. I mean, who are those guys in the scary black vans? The dialogue was natural, quick-witted, and perfect for Boyle and Caan, who have more comedic ability than they get credit for. The screenplay, an original by W.D. Richter, who also wrote the screenplay for Home for the Holidays and adapted Big Trouble in Little China for the screen, was a mix of road movie, crime film, and madcap adventure.


“Just one more thing.”

I have to admit, this film was completely off my radar before Todd Liebenow of the Forgotten Filmz podcast suggested it. I’m glad I saw it. I will say, Slither is a misleading title for a road movie. There’s not a single snake in this. I can only assume they called it Slither because of the labyrinthine plot. OK, I guess. I wonder if a gang of folks came to this film hoping to see Marjoe Gortner wrestle a boa and left scratching their heads.


Marjoe does not appear in this film.

Sidenote: There is a made-for-TV version of this film, directed by Daryl Duke ( The Silent Partner) starring Barry Bostwick and Patti Deutsch, made one year later. I have not seen this, but now I must.

Please listen to the Forgotten Filmz podcast  to hear the always gracious, Todd Liebenow and I discuss Slither. Find Todd @ForgottenFilmz and me, @echidnabot on Twitter.


Serpentine!

The Best Films I Saw in 2017   Leave a comment

franc

2017 was a great year for film watching. I got to see a bunch of new movies in the theatre and at home. Seventy-three ‘new to me’ films made it onto my list, ten of those in the theatre. Here are the top 20 films I saw this year. Well, 22. After I started this, I remembered two more. They’re not all new. In fact, here’s the breakdown.

2010s-9 films
2000s-2
1980s-2
1970s-7
1960s-1
1950s-1

These are in alphabetical order.

100 Bloody Acres (2012)

bloody-acres

100 Bloody Acres is a nifty Australian horror/comedy about a trio of friends stranded in the Australian countryside, who hitch a ride from the wrong guy. It has enough weird little eccentricities and twists to keep you engaged. I like Australian horror in general. I think it’s the accents. This is a gory one, but I was laughing all through it.

68 Kill (2017)

68-Kill-New-Poster

A couple with the most dysfunctional relationship ever, rob a rich guy and then everything goes pear-shaped. Part After Hours, part Midnight Run, part every Tarantino, Rodriguez, Ritchie film ever made, 68 Kill moves fast. The breakneck pace, fun characters,and unexpected turns make it a terrific watch, and the sexual role rehearsal adds a nice twist. AnnaLynne McCord and Matthew Gray Gubler are excellent in the leads. A nice surprise.

And Soon the Darkness (1970)

soon

Two young British women, bicycling through the French countryside, become separated. It doesn’t go well. Is one friend lost or has she fallen victim to an unseen killer? Pamela Franklin, Michele Dotrice, and Sandor Elès star in this fun British thriller. I love these smaller British films. I’m happy I found this one.

Baby Driver (2017)

baby

What a fun movie! Ansel Elgort stars as a sad young guy with a tragic past who is forced by criminal boss Kevin Spacey to work as a getaway driver to pay off a debt. It’s a stylized sort of heist fantasy and the direction by Edgar Wright, cool stunt driving, and performances by Jon Hamm and Eiza González make it an edge-of-your-seat winner. I know people have a love/hate relationship with this one, but I enjoyed it.

 

Deadly Strangers (1976)

_Deadly_Strangers__(1974)

Hitchhiker, Hayley Mills gets a ride from Simon Ward. Pretty soon, a friendship with possible romantic undertones develops. As they motor along the M-5 to Prudenham-on-Twee or whatever, they have a row and get separated. Oh, there’s also a killer on the loose and Sterling Hayden! This is another terrific British thriller.

Deadpool (2016)

deadpool

A wisecracking mercenary finds out he’s terminally ill. He signs up for a treatment program which may be a bit off the grid. What’s great about this superhero film is that the superhero, Ryan Reynolds, is a funny, sharp, smartass who truly loves Morena Baccarin. I’m not sure who wouldn’t love her, but that’s not important right now. This and The Nice Guys are the two funniest films I’ve seen this year.

Don’t Torture a Duckling (1972)

dont-torture-a-duckling-banner

A child killer in a small Italian village brings police and a reporter from the big city. Everyone is a suspect. This is a terrific crime film that doesn’t belittle the villagers or the police. Really well done.

Free Fire (2017)

free

Two groups meet in an abandoned warehouse in a town which may or may not be Boston. Oddly, since these folks are criminals, a fight breaks out. Since the deal they were doing involves a large number of firearms and it’s set in the 1970s, a major gunfight ensues. Ben Wheatley, who also directed the amazing Sightseers and High-Rise, actually choreographed this film in Minecraft, which I think is way cool. It seems like a simple plot line and it is. That simplicity allows Wheatley to develop the characters and enable them to smart off with impunity. I had a blast with this film and seeing it in the theatre with Wheatley introducing it and a gang of weirdo cinephiles in attendance made it even better.

I Drink Your Blood (1970)

Satanic hippies, led by the nasty Bhaskar Roy Chowdhury, mess with some folks in a small town. To retaliate, a young boy doses their food with rabies. Yeah, not a great plan. The gang runs amok, killing and maiming the townsfolk and each other. I know this sounds less than stellar, but the film is actually pretty good. Chowdhury and friends can act. There’s character development and a score and everything. Seriously, check this one out.

The Last Shark (1981)

squalo

This is a weird one. It’s an Italian Jaws knockoff set in the United States, during a windsurfing contest. “Close the beaches?” It’s kind of nutty how much this film rips off Jaws and Jaws 2, but the acting, by James Franciscus and Vic Morrow, makes up for it. This film is so much fun because of scenes like this.


“Ouch!”

Latitude Zero (1969)

Latitude-Zero-film-images-aa26ee6e-c2e2-4f12-a035-4682134c843

Joseph Cotten and Cesar Romero earned their house payments in this Japanese 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea kinda deal. Cotten is trying to solve problems and save the world and junk while Romero just wants to make his own griffins by cutting the wings off condors and sewing them onto lions in his weird-ass Dr. Mengele/Moreau lab. The fashion alone makes this film worth watching. Thanks, #DriveInMob !

lion
Just look at this guy!

Layer Cake (2004)

layer

A smart, experienced lieutenant (Daniel Craig) in a British criminal organization is forced into an impossible situation by his double-crossing boss. Will he be able to extricate himself and leave the business with his fortune and his health intact? Craig is excellent as are Kenneth Cranham, Colm Meaney, Sienna Miller, and Michael Gambon. This is a terrific entry in the London crime film category. Highly entertaining.

The Nice Guys (2016)

nice

Fast-paced, clever, and surprisingly warm, The Nice Guys pits Ryan Gosling, a grieving, mostly drunk, private detective and Russell Crowe, a thug-for-hire, against major players in government and the automotive industry. The two unlikely partners join forces to solve a few murders and redeem themselves. Angourie Rice, as Gosling’s daughter, is impressive. I hope to see her in a lot more. Also, Gosling and Crowe need to make about 600 more movies together.

Night of the Demon (1957)

Nightofthedemonposter

Niall MacGinnis, an occultist who doesn’t like scientists telling the world that he’s peddling bunk, battles Dana Andrews, who believes none of his scary monster crap. Jacques Tourneur directed this atmospheric and beautifully-shot film and it’s terrific. There are some great smoke effects, a scary soundtrack, and effective cinematography. Critics have argued about showing the monster vs implying the monster since 1957. While I love me some Cat People-type subtle effects, I also love this creature. It’s incredibly scary and the sound accompanying him is perfection. You should probably watch this right away.

Phantasm (1979)

phantasmtallmanbw

Phantasm is a legitimately frightening film. A metric shit ton of evil centers around a funeral parlor and the Tall Man (Angus Scrimm) who works there. Terrific practical effects, a scary, heart-pounding score, and characters who aren’t stupid, make this horror film stand out. I enjoyed the hell out of this film. I can’t believe it took me so long to see it. Don Cascarelli made this for $300,000 and it looks like he spent 20 times that. So good.

Prevenge (2017)

prevenge

Alice Lowe wrote, directed, and starred in this black comedy about a very pregnant woman listening to the voice of her unborn baby, who tells her to kill. This film is full of sick, British humor and I loved it. Grief is a bitch.

Rolling Thunder (1977)

rolling-thunder-poster

William Devane and Tommy Lee Jones return from a Vietnamese prisoner-of-war camp to a world they don’t recognize. As they sink into an abyss of depression and loneliness, a brutal, senseless murder wakes them up and gives them purpose. Yay, revenge! Paul Schrader and Heywood Gould wrote this and the dialogue, though spare, works. The action scenes are well done too and the 95-minute running time seems to fly by. Rolling Thunder is great 70s grit.

Surveillance (2008)

surv

A violent highway killer strikes in a remote town. FBI agents Julia Ormond and Bill Pullman arrive at the police station to interrogate the witnesses. What unfolds is a Rashomon-like thriller that keeps you guessing and on the edge of your seat. Jennifer Lynch directed this fun little gem. Another nice surprise.

The Suspicious Death of a Minor (1975)

Mortesospettapost

Sergio Martino directs this crime thriller about an undercover police detective, the excellent Claudio Cassinelli, investigating the death of a prostitute. His search leads to a human trafficking ring involving a number of powerful people. I love police procedurals and the giallo addition makes it even more fun.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)

3 bill

Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell, and Woody Harrelson are all fantastic in this surprisingly warm black comedy from the mind of writer/director Martin McDonagh. After seeing In Bruges (one of my favorite films of all time) and Seven Psychopaths, I couldn’t wait to see this. It was worth it. There’s so much going on in this film, I feel like I need to see it a few more times to do it justice. McDonagh is a huge talent. I look forward to seeing what he does next.

Turkey Shoot (1982)

turk

I have a thing for The Most Dangerous Game story and films with people hunts. This one is set in post-apocalyptic Australia and stars Steve Railsback and Olivia Hussey as prisoners in a concentration camp for social deviants. It has an evil prison warden, two kinky jet-setters, a score by Brian May, and a werewolf. Seriously. You owe it to yourself.

The Void (2017)

Void

The Astron-6 guys make funny horror films. I really liked this. I don’t love the ending, but directors Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski build the tension and characters so well during the first four-fifths, I don’t care. I liked The Editor more, but I’m always happy to see whatever weird films these guys make.

2018, here I come!

31 Days of Horror: 2017   Leave a comment


Scary!

Here’s my list! I watched a bunch of stuff. 20 new films and 6 in the theatre. Huzzah!

  1. Kill Baby, Kill (1966) *+
  2. Black Sabbath (1963) *+
  3. Dracula (1931)
  4. Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
  5. Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key (1972) *+
  6. Don’t Torture a Duckling (1972) *+
  7. Theatre of Blood (1973)
  8. The Legend of Hell House (1973)+
  9. Ban the Sadist Videos (2005)+
  10. 100 Bloody Acres (2012)+
  11. And Soon the Darkness (1970)+
  12. Grabbers (2012)
  13. Hellbound: Hellraiser 2 (1988)
  14. Friday the 13th: Part II (1981)&
  15. Friday the 13th: Part VII (1988)&+
  16. Suspiria (1977)*
  17. Inferno (1980)*+
  18. Psycho-Circus (1966)+
  19. Die Screaming Marianne (1971)+
  20. Surveillance (2008)+
  21. House on Haunted Hill (1959)
  22. Cube²: Hypercube (2002)+
  23. The Asphyx (1972)+
  24. Frightmare (1974)+
  25. Night of the Demon (1957)+
  26. The Wicker Man (1973)
  27. Hell House LLC (2015)+
  28. What Have You Done to Solange? (1972)+
  29. Dracula A.D. 1972 (1972)
  30. Hannibal (2001)
  31. The Old Dark House (1932)+
  32. The Haunting (1963)

    *watched in the theatre
    &watched outside in the woods with a machete-wielding guy running around
    +watched for the first time

Patrick Magee: Food? All Right?   7 comments

A Clockwork Orange

Perenially vexed and menacing with a gravelly voice that retained just a hint of his Irish roots, Patrick Magee played doctors, policemen, military officers, and the occasional psycho in films and television starting in the late 1950s. Though he worked most often on the British stage, Magee alternated theatrical roles with TV and film appearances, working with directors like Joseph Losey, Roger Corman, Francis Ford Coppola, and Stanley Kubrick.

f973f3727c97e584a86b0d9a7779eb65
Kubrick films Magee and Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange.

Born in Armagh in Northern Ireland in 1922, Patrick George McGee, who changed his name to Magee, began performing Shakespeare and other classics in Ireland in the early 1950s. After coming to London for a series of Irish plays, he met Samuel Beckett and recorded some of Beckett’s plays for BBC Radio. Beckett and Harold Pinter, who Magee acted with in Ireland, remained close to him throughout his career and the two writers often requested Magee for pivotal roles in their plays and film adaptations. Beckett even wrote Krapp’s Last Tape with him in mind and said, while writing the play, Magee’s “voice was the one which I heard in my head.”

NPG x127341; Patrick Magee as Krapp in 'Krapp's Last Tape' by Ida Kar
These whale songs aren’t as calming as I had hoped.

After a handful of appearances in British television shows including Dial 999 and the BBC Sunday-Night Theatre, Magee started working in small, British crime films like Concrete Jungle (1960), directed by Joseph Losey. Stanley Baker stars in the film about the brutal lives of small-time criminals both in and out of prison. Magee has a small, but memorable part as a sadistic warder.

baker-prison
Magee sizes up Baker.

Magee married another Armagh native, Belle Sherry about this time and later had twins, Mark and Caroline. Despite Magee’s bouts with alcoholism, the couple stayed married until his death in 1982.

His stoic, aristocratic manner often tinged with cruelty and/or wisdom worked well in his roles in Roger Corman’s The Young Racers and Francis Ford Coppola’s Dementia 13. In the modern gothic horror, Dementia 13, Magee is Dr. Caleb, a creepy physician who seems to live on the estate of the wacky Haloran clan during a series of grisly murders. Until the end of the film, we’re never sure whether Magee is good or evil, but he plays the part like he has a locked room in his house where he keeps his collection of femurs.

08-1
“That’s right, little mouse. Just one more step and you’re in a sandwich.”

Corman’s The Masque of the Red Death (1964) came next. Magee’s evil in this one. Then, in Bryan Forbes’ phenomenal Séance on a Wet Afternoon (1964), he’s a police detective tasked with finding a kidnapped child. In Zulu (1964) Cy Endfield’s vivid retelling of the massacre at Rorke’s Drift, he plays a military surgeon. Sensing a pattern here?

Patrick Magee Seance on a Wet Afternoon
“I’m not a doctor, but I play one on TV. I’m a detective? Oh. Nevermind.”

The wonderful Amicus film, The Skull, which, by the way, is awesome, has Magee as a police medical examiner and stars a couple nobodies named Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. It also features a malicious floating skull, so you should probably run out and watch it right now.

theskull-still
The skull in question

In the 1965 film, Die, Monster, Die! Magee and Boris Karloff do Lovecraft and again, he plays a doctor. The film isn’t as good as the title, but it does involve radiation and large plants.

XUpGDoc
Not the plant in question

The skull I mentioned earlier belongs or belonged, depending how you look at it, to the Marquis de Sade, who Magee played later in Marat/Sade (1967). The film takes place in an insane asylum in France and has the famous sadist directing a play about good and evil set during the French Revolution. Magee won a Tony for playing the role on Broadway.

marat1
“You’re rushing it. Relax and follow through.”

William Friedkin directed the disturbing Harold Pinter play, The Birthday Party (1968) in which evil torturers, Magee and Sydney Tafler, team up against a vulnerable Robert Shaw. I’m sorry to say I haven’t seen this one yet, but after reading the description, it jumped to the top of my watch list.

3b4da896a134a7886488019e9235b566--movie-tv-birthday-parties
“THAT BOOK WAS DUE ON THE 14th!”

Magee got a chance to do some serious emoting in the 1971 Stanley Kubrick film. A Clockwork Orange. He plays the writer, Mr. Alexander, victimized by Alex (Malcolm McDowell) who exacts revenge using a little Ludwig van, big speakers, and a plate of pasta. Kubrick cast Magee in Barry Lyndon too. In the sprawling epic, he plays sympathetic gambler, the Chevalier du Balibari, who takes young Lyndon under his wing.

Patrick-Magee=Barry-Lyndon-1975
I love Barry Lyndon, but hahahahahahaha.

My favorite Magee performances are in the Amicus films The Skull, Tales From the Crypt, Asylum, and And Now the Screaming Starts!. I’m a big fan of the Amicus portmanteau films and Tales From the Crypt and Asylum, in which he plays a blind man pushed a bit too far, and a doctor in a mental institution, are two of my favorites. All of the films here were directed by Freddie Francis and Roy Ward Baker and they’re terrific.

asylummagee
“I sat on my keys.”

Magee even shows up in a Charles Bronson classic, Telefon as a Russian KGB officer and in The Oscar-winning Chariots of Fire, as Lord Cadogan, head of the British Olympic committee. His last film roles were in Roy Ward Baker’s The Monster Club with Vincent Price and Lucio Fulci’s The Black Cat in 1981. In the Fulci film based on the Edgar Allen Poe story, Magee plays a psychic who converses with the dead and has a cat. When he has a bad day, Magee employs his cat as a hitman hitcat.

blackcat1
Patrick Magee in disguise

Between the films in this article, Magee also acted in Antigone, King Lear, many television series, and a host of stage plays. He appeared in Krapp’s Last Tape, the play Beckett wrote with him in mind, in the theatre and on TV as a part of the British anthology series, Thirty-Minute Theatre in 1972.

king
“I’ll divide my kingdom up and give it away. It’ll be great. Trust me.”

Earlier this year (July 2017), the Ulster History Circle honored the life of Patrick Magee by placing a blue plaque in Edward Street, Armagh, Ireland where he was born. Fellow Irish actor, Stephen Rea unveiled the memorial.

Patrick Magee had a long, successful career in both stage and screen. Though he tended to play authority figures on the edge of sanity, he had the talent to play a wide range of characters. He’s even in two films with exclamation points in the titles, which can’t be bad. Next time you serve your family dinner, remember his patented method to stop unwanted chatter.

giphy

I wrote this piece as a part of the What a Character blogathon run by Paula of Paula’s Cinema Club, Kellee of Outspoken and Freckled, and Aurora of Once Upon a Screen. Thank you, ladies, for organizing this for the sixth time!

wac2017

 

Coup de Torchon (1981): Once Upon a Time in West Africa   Leave a comment

Lucien Cordier doesn’t have much of a home life. He sleepwalks through his days and sleeps alone at night, while his wife bunks with her “brother” in the next room. His work life is no better. Cordier serves as police chief in the nondescript town of Bourkassa, Senegal. He heads up the force, but we get the idea it’s not because he’s such a crackerjack cop, but because his superiors figured he’d be in nobody’s way out there. Oh, by the way, Bourkassa’s finest is also its only.


Cordier, fighting crime

Bullied by a couple of local pimps, cuckolded by his wife, and ridiculed by the white townspeople, Cordier begins to get headaches and nightmares so he seeks help from his superior stationed nearby, in a larger city. When a fellow policeman abuses him too, all bets are off.


“You’re under arrest.”

Philippe Noiret, who would later play the fatherly projectionist in Cinema Paradiso, does a great job in a part full of subtle changes. Without making any big dramatic noises, Noiret shows despair, longing, innocence, slyness, and more depth than we expect. He’s surrounded by a cast of solid character actors too. Stéphan Audan plays Cordier’s unfaithful wife, Huguette and Isabelle Huppert, his mistress, Rose. Eddy Mitchell is the weakest link, but even he’s appropriately sleazy as Huguette’s wimpy layabout lover, Nono. My favorites are Guy Marchand as Marcel, Cordier’s boss, and Irène Skobline as the teacher, Anne, who may be the only person in Cordier’s life who isn’t morally bankrupt. The fictional town of Bourkassa, Senegal is a character, too. With its streets of yellow dirt and indolent citizens, the village screams dead end. Director, Bertrand Tavernier and cinematographer, Pierre-William Glenn highlight the bleakness and searing heat of Bourkassa by letting the camera linger on the sweat-stained locals and the barren landscape.


“This’ll look great in the brochure.”

Coup de Torchon means something akin to clean slate, and refers to Cordier’s decision to eliminate any impediments to his own happiness and start fresh. Based on Jim Thompson’s 1964 novel, Pop. 1280, the film shifts the story’s location from the American South to West Africa. In the film, Cordier starts out like the Anthony Quinn character at the beginning of The Secret of Santa Vittoria—lazy and beaten down by life, and, like Quinn, becomes a kind of con man, giving his enemies just enough rope to hang themselves. He goes a bit farther than Quinn though and becomes less of a savior and more of an avenging angel by the end of the film. With aspects of the 1970 film, Le Boucher, which also stars Audan, thrown in as well, Coup de Torchon reminded me of quite a few films made before and after. I was picturing Michael Douglas in Falling Down the whole time because of Cordier’s disenchantment with life, along with his ‘taking out the trash’ mentality.


“If I kill everyone, who will make my lunch?”

I enjoyed Coup de Torchon. It’s not easy to find, but if you have access to the out-of-print Criterion version, watch it. Fun flick.

I recently had the chance to talk about Coup de Torchon and films in general with the folks from the Gentlemen’s Guide to Midnite Cinema podcast. They have a neat system, so I’ve included the following ratings. Pssst, here’s the link to the GGtMC podcast.

Make or break: The scene at the police station when Cordier recites his litany of complaints and we see Fête Nat, the poor black servant, mouth the words Cordier speaks as if to say, “I listen to this crap every day.”

MVT: The bleak village had ‘no future’ written all over it.

Score: 7.5/10

30 Years On: 1984 a Great Year for Movies

A Review of one of the Great Years in American Cinema

Atomic Flash Deluxe

Scout's 20th Century Flash

Paula's Cinema Club

"Tiny little pieces of time they'll never forget"

Realweegiemidget Reviews Films TV Books and more

You can take the girl out of Glasgow. Tales from a Wee Scottish Wife and Stepmum living in Finland.

CrazyDiscoStu - A nerd blog

Reviews, film/tv, gaming, tech, music, opinions, observations, nerd culture, musings, general fan-boy geekery.

ASSHOLES WATCHING MOVIES

Our opinions don't stink!

Fade To Black

Movie & TV Reviews - Because everyone is entitled to my opinion.

Monstrous Industry

Whirr. Clank. Grr.