I Got It Bad and That Ain’t Good

Suffice it to say that work has not been the high point of my existence lately.  These past few weeks have found me consumed in thought, both on and off the clock. Hence, not much mental energy left for blogging. Before I get so far behind that I don’t even care anymore, I’ll attempt to wrap up a number of items that I wanted to post about.

Creature Double Feature

Them! (1954)
USA, Gordon Douglas

The quintessential “Honey, the Atom Bomb Blew Up the Bugs!” movie that defines the era of atomic monster movies.  Santa (Edmund Gwenn), Sheriff Matt Dillon (James Arness) and the Alpo Dog Guy (James Whitmore–ouch, that cultural reference shows my age) team up to take out a nest full of really big picnic-crashers.  Effective (and fun) B-movie-making that overcomes the slight unbelievableness (wink) of its special effects.

The Magnetic Monster (1953)
USA, Curt Siodmak

Hilarious “fear the atom bomb” B-picture featuring a team of A-Men (like G-Men but with a big letter “A” for Atomic.)  These are science detectives, special agents in lab coats, pipe-smoking-black-rimmed-glasses-wearing good guys who spend the movie chasing a monster that doesn’t really exist. See, what these suit-wearing super heroes must save the world from is a big scary MAGNETIC FIELD that sucks the life force out of anyone who comes in contact with it.

Like all movies and public service announcements from this era, the film is hilariously naive about atomic power and radiation.  The dialog and hyped-up scientific mumbo-jumbo had the audience laughing throughout. Great fun on a Saturday night, in a west-side revival house full of people of all ages who love old movies.

Wilder Film Class Wrap-Up

Avanti! (1972)
USA, Billy Wilder

After years of avoiding this late-period Wilder film, I was pleasantly surprised. Opposites attract when Juliette Mills (TV’s Nanny of Nanny and the Professor fame) and Jack Lemmon fall in love on an Italian island after they discover their parents had been carrying on an annual tryst for years.  Oh, yeah…and they meet when they arrive on the island to pick of the bodies of their mother and father respectively, who died together in a car accident. A very sweet, adult romance.

Ball of Fire (1941)
USA, Howard Hawks

I love love love this movie.  I remember discovering this film while I worked at the video store and immediately began recommending it to everyone.  Barbara Stanwyck is perfect as the smart-mouthed nightclub singer Sugarpuss O’Shea.  Dodging a “supeaony” from the DA to testify against her gangster boyfriend, she finds the perfect place to lay low–with eight lexicographers, setting the household of stuttering, goggle-eyed, adorable elderly men all a flutter.

And then there’s Gary Cooper as Bertram Potts, the youngest professor in the group, whose research on slang gives Sugarpuss the perfect excuse to move in.The way these hep cats sling the hash is hilarious, with Sugarpuss talking a mile a minute and Potts scribbling down notes as fast as he can, recording what must seem to him a foreign language. Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett wrote an excellent script, matched by Howard Hawks’ direction and excellent character-acting all around.

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