April 27, 2013

Come Back to the Five and Dime Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean (1982)

When I saw Come Back to the Five and Dime Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean (a play by Ed Graczyk about the reunion of a James Dean fan club) on Broadway, Cher, Karen Black and Sandy Dennis stopped the performance midway through and herded the audience out to the New York street because of a bomb threat. Despite this eventful scare (and my Hello, Karen shout out during the quiet and orderly exit to which she responded Hello there - now keep moving) the performance finished with no loss of artistry or poignancy. This thought-provoking production (with a bullying theme that was ahead of its time) has pretty much been transferred from stage to screen intact by director Robert Altman and loses nothing - except the bomb scare in the middle.

April 23, 2013

The Lords Of Salem (2012)

Rob Zombie has tried, with The Lords of Salem, to make a movie you can take grandma to see. To be sure we're talking teen birth grandmas but this story of Salem witches, a somewhat bizarro mashup of Roman Polanski's Rosemary's Baby and Mario Bava's Black Sunday, is an attempt on the director's part to stretch as a filmmaker, make something less horrific and broaden his audience. The jury is out on the latter because the movie's just not consistently interesting OR scary (although a great game of guessing the actors not seen in decades did help pass the time: Meg Foster, Dee Wallace and sweet holy mother of god academy on i love jesus street Judy Geeson aka Miss Pamela Dare).

April 18, 2013

Jeanne Eagels And The Letter (1929)

(Eugenia) Jeanne Eagels, a theatre and film actor who died at age 39 from a mix of booze, pills and heroin, is best remembered for a salacious 1957 film biography starring Kim Novak and her performance as Leslie Crosbie in the 1929 film of the W. Somerset Maugham play The Letter (for which she is also recognized as the first actor posthumously nominated for an Academy Award). Eagels plays Leslie Crosbie who kills her lover, claims rape to her husband and is jailed, a story with more than a few similarities to the 1928 play Chicago in which Eagels was cast as Roxie Hart but quit during rehearsals. Although Katherine Cornell originated the Crosbie role on Broadway and not Eagels (who did originate the role of Sadie Thompson on Broadway in W. Somerset Maugham' play Rain), Eagels is convincing in a crazed sort of way and the film feels contemporary - with a visceral end that must have been a real shock back then because it was a real shock right now.

Watch The Letter now from archive.org

April 17, 2013

Evil Dead (2013)

I'm not sure when hacking off infected body parts yet surviving to fight evil became a horror film staple but Evil Dead hacks and survives in droves. It adds even more unbelievability to this remake of 1981's The Evil Dead while the new back story adds nothing (unlike the remake of The Hills Have Eyes). There are plenty of homages to the original (from the cellar to the tree to the chainsaw) so watch the original instead for frights and laughs - two things it has in droves.