Friday, January 11, 2008

A Year-long Movie Argosy

I've been lazy about writing about the movies I've seen in the past year, so I thought I'd try to jumpstart my interest in it by setting myself a goal for the new year. Thus, my current project is a variant of the October movie challenge. It is my intention to watch at least one movie for every day of the year (and it's a leap year, to boot). At least half of them--183 of them--must be horror movies. I can only count any individual movie once for the year, though I am free to watch movies multiple times if I like (subsequent viewings just won't be counted). This is my goal. We'll see if I can get there without becoming barking mad by mid-year. As a result, the number at the beginning of my reviews this year will designate where I am on this project.

To start the year:

1. The Face Of Another (1966), a weird, weird portrait of alienation and shifting identity by Japanese director Hiroshi Teshigahara. Slow, but visually arresting and creepy as all get-out.

2. MadHouse (1974, directed by Jim Clark), in which Vincent Price gives a committed performance beyond his usual hamming, in service to a screenplay that is entirely undeserving and to a director who is a clod. Still, it's nice to see Price share the screen with Peter Cushing.

3. A Bucket of Blood (1959), one of Roger Corman's three-day wonders, and better than any movie made in three days has any right being. Dick Miller is terrific as a hapless wanna-be hipster who finds his muse by encasing corpses in clay. Fun, and witty.

4. Bloody Mama (1970) isn't one of Corman's finer pictures. Shelly Winters is Ma Barker, and her brood of degenerates includes a very young Robert De Niro. Lots of sex and violence, but it suggests that Corman has looked hard at Bonnie and Clyde and seen only the exploitation potential without the rigor of the filmmaking. Corman was getting tired of directing by this point, and it shows.

5. Holiday (1938, directed by George Cukor) questions the pursuit of wealth. This film couldn't be made today--it's too openly critical of capitalism and class--but give it a couple of years. Cary Grant is superb as a young idealist marrying wealth, only to find the world of wealth to be stifling. Kate Hepburn is the free-spirited sister of his fiancee, who knows exactly what kind of gilded cage he's entering. This is sometimes billed as a comedy, but I can't for the life of me understand why. Good supporting parts from Henry Daniell and Edward Everett Horton (who always makes me think of Fractured Fairy Tales).

6. The Haunted Strangler (1958, directed by Robert Day). Interesting Karloff programmer in which Boris plays a writer obsessed with a strangler he believes to have been wrongly convicted. Unfortunately, Karloff himself--unbeknownst to his conscious mind--is the true murderer. Well mounted on a budget with relatively good performances from all involved. Karloff gets to screw up his face with aplomb when the strangler comes to the surface. Not great, but engaging at 80 minutes of length.

7. The Quiet Duel (1949, directed by Akira Kurosawa) follows a doctor who contracts syphillis while operating on a patient during WW II, and his life back home as he deals with the shame of it. In general, this is good, but not great. It plays like a first draft without the resources of, say, Red Beard. Still, there's a lot to admire. Kurosawa's regulars are fine, including an early performance from Toshiro Mifune and a fine appearance by Takashi Shimura, who I can always watch.

Current total: 7 movies. 4 horror movies.

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