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The American Barony The American Barony

There are many strange and sinister tales of European settlers in America, perhaps none stranger than that of James Reavis. His scheme in the 19th century to establish a claim on Arizona based on ties to 18th century Spanish nobility formed the basis of Samuel Fuller’s very strange 1950 film The Baron of Arizona. An…

The Elusively Common Art The Elusively Common Art

How much volition is involved in the ways people become important to one another? Presumably it varies on a case by case basis, which is one of the things that makes Seijun Seisuki’s 1991 film Yumeji a bit dizzying. A post-modernist nightmare version of a biography of painter and poet Yumeji Takehisa, Suzuki portrays…

Three Out of Three Three Out of Three

In love and relationships, passions run so high and people have so much pride on the line, each party in a dispute may be fully committed to a different version of reality. Many comedies and dramas have been written from this premise, including the charming 1957 musical Les Girls. Featuring songs by Cole Porter that…

Pictures from the Waning Year Pictures from the Waning Year

I don’t know much about Anthony Bourdain, the widely loved celebrity chef who committed suicide this morning. I have a lot of friends who love his work and I’ve seen a thing or two from him I liked. His death naturally has provoked a lot of discussion online to-day—I’ve seen a few comments along the line of depression…

Wardrobe for Any Climate Extreme Wardrobe for Any Climate Extreme

If there’s one thing fantasy has taught us it’s that hot and cold don’t get along, a thematic struggle perhaps best distilled in Ralph Bakshi’s 1983 film Fire and Ice. Bakshi’s infamous rotoscope animation technique gets a big aesthetic boost for designs by Frank Frazetta. Along with Bakshi’s great talent as a…

The Hundred Year Soldier or Tree? The Hundred Year Soldier or Tree?

This year marks the 100th anniversary of Shoulder Arms, one of several films Charlie Chaplin directed and starred in in 1918. But at forty-six minutes it was by far the longest film he’d directed and remained so until 1921's The Kid. Shoulder Arms remains a brilliant film. It lacks the pathos his films became known…

A Vague Sketch of Anti-Semitism A Vague Sketch of Anti-Semitism

One of the most important steps in combating bigotry is to shine a light on it, and that’s just what investigative reporter Phil Green attempts to do in 1947's Gentleman’s Agreement. An Elia Kazan film that’s not half as good as his great films from the 50s, its portrait of anti-Semitism in the U.S. is lacking in too…

King John and Robin Hoods King John and Robin Hoods

It’s eighty years this year since the best film version of Robin Hood was released. Starring Errol Flynn, Basil Rathbone, Olivia de Havilland, and Claude Rains, it managed a combination of action, adventure, romance, and heartiness that’s never been matched as a cinematic experience either by films that sought to…

Ink of the Yakuza Ink of the Yakuza

No matter how far you run, you can’t escape your tattoos, which can be a problem if you have the kind of tattoos Tetsu has in 1965's Tattooed Life (刺青一代). An uncommonly straightforward yakuza film from Seijun Suzuki, it keeps the experimental flourishes to a minimum. But there’s plenty of Suzuki’s unique voice and…

This Wine is Yours This Wine is Yours

Claude Rains reigns over a kingdom of grapes in 1959's This Earth is Mine, a sweeping, soap operatic melodrama set in California’s Napa Valley during Prohibition. Big doses of Tennessee Williams and Douglas Sirk influenced the flavour of this Henry King film in which Rock Hudson and Jean Simmons are tormented by…

Fewer Parsecs than Desired Fewer Parsecs than Desired

There’s a lot of speculating going on about Solo’s disappointing performance, falling about two hundred million below the 300 million expectation for Memorial Day weekend and flopping in China. I don’t blame Ron Howard. Rogue One had reshoots with a different director and that didn’t hurt its performance. I do think…

Various Battlefields Various Battlefields

What’s loyalty to a nation for someone who sells her body? Seijun Suzuki’s 1965 film Story of a Prostitute (春婦伝) follows a young woman in a small group of sex workers sent to service a battalion of Japanese soldiers in China during World War II. Starring Yumiko Nogawa, who also starred in Gate of Flesh, Suzuki’s…

He's Going Solo and Chewbacca is Going
with Him He's Going Solo and Chewbacca is Going with Him

I went to the first showing to-day of the nice new Star Wars movie, Solo: A Star Wars Story. To-day was opening day but there were only five or six other people in the theatre with me. I guess people are getting used to Star Wars movies coming out all the time, though I suppose there were probably a lot more people at…

Kind Of Beat Kind Of Beat

When Beat culture came to Britain it probably looked nothing like 1960's Beat Girl. Slightly more upscale than one of Ed Wood’s issue films, this one began development as an exploitation film about strippers but somewhere along the way it was decided it was going to pretend to have a serious view on the post war youth…

When a Boy's Fancy Turns to Fighting! When a Boy's Fancy Turns to Fighting!

When a boy can’t have sex or masturbate, what else can he do but fight? 1966's Fighting Elegy (けんかえれじい) is the story of an earnest Catholic lad desperately picking fights all over town. It’s part of an effort to curb all the nervous energy that seems to build up after he vows not to pleasure himself. Set in 1935 on…

The Fat of the Skull The Fat of the Skull

Of all the pirate names to inspire fear on the seven seas, “Puddin’ Head” ranks pretty low. But the film featuring that character, 1952's Abbott and Costello Meet Captain Kidd, is a decent pirate adventure. It succeeds more at that than at comedy, in fact, but Abbott and Costello are always a delight.

Stolen Cars and Dizzy Madness Stolen Cars and Dizzy Madness

To a young person, morality can seem so crystal clear that quick, extreme actions seem perfectly reasonable for any transgression. So in 1960's Everything Goes Wrong (すべてが狂ってる, “everything is crazy”), also known as The Madness of Youth, a teenage boy feels bitter disgust when his mother starts sleeping with a man who…

Robots Bring Zombies and Disorder Robots Bring Zombies and Disorder

Nowadays television and movies have us well prepared for a day when we wake up and find most of the populace is either dead or mindless walking corpses. It was somewhat unusual, though, when 1964's The Earth Dies Screaming was released. This entertaining and oddly short post-apocalyptic film by Terence Fisher features…

Close Shadows and Inmates Close Shadows and Inmates

Is it selfish to be angry all the time? What if anger is the only sensible response to a ridiculous and dying world? 1959's Look Back in Anger, based on John Osborne’s play, doesn’t spend much time explicitly talking about the past but one scene where one of the story’s more mild mannered characters vaguely observes…

The Life of Lois The Life of Lois

After hearing Margot Kidder passed away yesterday I decided to watch Superman II again last night (the Donner cut). The first film’s better than either version of the sequel but I feel like Kidder has more screentime in II, despite being fifth or sixth billed. This is probably do to other actors’ agents being better…

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