Archive for the ‘1951’ Category
Monday, March 29th, 2010
Genre: Classic, Romance, Adventure
Country: United States
Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Katherine Hepburn, Robert Morley, Peter Bull, Theodore Bikel, Walter Gotell, Gerald Onn, Peter Swanwick, Richard Marner
Director: John Huston
Run time: 105 minutes
DVD distributor: Paramount Home Entertainment
Special feature: Embracing Chaos: The Making of The African Queen
The African Queen is one of the most over-rated movies of all time. The American Film Institute comes out with these lists every year, the 100 Greatest American…whatever…of all time. The best movie songs, the best actors and actresses, the best thrillers and romances and so forth. The very first one, more than ten years ago, listed the 100 greatest American movies of all time. The African Queen was 17th. Not to say it’s a bad movie. But the 17th best American movie ever made? Hardly.
The African Queen is a good movie. That’s it. It’s far more historically significant than it is “great”. That’s for a couple of reasons. Back to the AFI for a moment, in their “100 greatest stars” list, they ranked Humphrey Bogart the #1 actor of all time, and Katherine Hepburn the #1 actress of all time. The African Queen was the first, and only, screen pairing of the two, coming fairly late in both their careers.
The African Queen, with surprising box office success, marked the resurrection of Hepburn’s career (she had recently been deemed “box office poison”) and began her extremely successful run of films late in her life. Without this film, and those that followed (through On Golden Pond many many years later) she would not be the icon she is today.
Another historically significant aspect of The African Queen is that it was Bogart’s only Best Actor Oscar win. That being said, he deserved one long before this, for Casablanca and The Maltese Falcon and countless other movies. This was more of a “lifetime achievement” Oscar, the way Paul Newman got his for The Color of Money and Sandra Bullock got hers for The Blind Side. Frankly, there were three other Oscar nominees (Montgomery Clift in A Place In The Sun, Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire and Fredrich March in Death Of A Salesman) who were better in 1951.
Also, the fact that the movie was shot by John Huston in Africa, which was almost unheard of at the time, and some intrigue involving the Hollywood blacklist and some other factors made the making of The African Queen almost as interesting as the movie itself. The story of that journey is told in the one-hour documentary Embracing Chaos, which is featured on the new DVD as well.
The fact that The African Queen is just now coming to DVD is a story in itself. This is the last movie on the AFI’s top 100 list to make it to DVD, and it has been a long wait. I was hoping for a little more bonus material. Embracing Chaos is fascinating, and it adds an awful lot to this DVD edition, but I was hoping for something along the lines of the Centennial Collection, where Paramount has been re-releasing classic films with a ton of special features. The African Queen deserves more special features.
This movie holds up well. It’s just two people on a boat for the bulk of the picture, but the fact that it’s Bogey and Hepburn is terrific. The fact that they’re both middle-aged and don’t exactly still have matinee idol looks is not just interesting, but refreshing. And the sense of adventure is still palpable. I maintain that this is not one of the 100 greatest American movies ever made. But The African Queen is still very good. And the release of this film on DVD, March 23rd from Alliance Films, is still a very big deal.
Monday, May 25th, 2009
To hear the review
To hear the review
Thankfully, on Paramount Home Entertainment’s Forever Funny TV Set, there is no Walker Texas Ranger to ruin the mood. Instead, this is just a solid collection of the premiere episodes or pilots of some of the most classic comedies ever to grace the television sets of North America. I Love Lucy, The Honeymooners, The Brady Bunch, The Odd Couple, Frasier, Cheers, and Taxi are all represented here. Now, Paramount also distributes The Beverly Hillbillies, Petticoat Junction, Happy Days and several other classic comedies which might have made a little more sense than Frasier, in terms of old-school classics, but I love Frasier. So I won’t complain. Much. Here are the premieres, in chronological order:
I Love Lucy (1951):
“Happy Anniversary, Ethel.”
The very first episode of I Love Lucy sees Fred and Ethel fighting over what to do on their anniversary. Fred (and of course Ricky) wants to go to the fights, while Ethel (and of course Lucy) wants to go to a nightclub. Soon, the old cranky couple have decided to go sepearately, and Lucy stirs the pot by trying to find dates for her and Ethel. Of course, this makes Ricky and Fred decide to find dates for themselves, which end up being Lucy and Ethel in disguise and…well, you can guess the rest, I’m sure. We all know I Love Lucy, we all know it’s hilarious, and one of the best comedies ever.
The Honeymooners (1955):
“You wanna go to the moon? You wanna go to the moon?”
Although Ralph Kramden (Jackie Gleason) is constantly threatening his wife Alice with phyiscal violence, he has, to my knowledge, never actually struck her. At least, not on screen. But The Honeymooners must at least present Ralph as a potential domestic abuser and a ticking time bomb of rage. As he and Ed Norton (Art Carney) split the cost of a TV set, and then fight over what programs to watch, I got the sense that Gleason was, at any moment, capable of snapping and commiting a brutal murder. And I found that hilarious.
The Brady Bunch (1969):
“Dad’s gonna take the girls’ side on everything from now on.”
I wasn’t aware that when The Brady Bunch began, Marsha wasn’t yet old enough to be smoking hot. But she was still a little girl in 1969, when the show began with a wedding. The man, you see, has a bunch of boys. The boys have a dog. The woman, obviously, has a bunch of girls. And the girls have a cat. Because men like boys and women like girls and boys like dogs and girls like cats. And they are all going to live together after this big ol’ wedding, and hilarity will ensue! In the meantime, the little kids say all kinds of cute and smarmy things, paving the way for the 80s and the Olsen twins saying “dude” on Full House. Thanks a lot, Brady Bunch.
The Odd Couple (1970):
“They think I’m a hypochondriac? That makes me sick.”
The people who made the Odd Couple TV show must believe that everyone tuning in already knows the whole concept, either from the movie or the Neil Simon stage play. And they’re probably right. I think we all know the idea. Felix is neat and anal. Oscar is slovenly and rough. And they have troubles…the premiere episode of this classic comedy introduces the weekly poker game, the Pigeon sisters who live upstairs, and the angrily tolerant dynamic between Jack Klugman and Tony Randall.
“I’m playing the horse.”
Genre: TV series, comedy, sitcom
Country: United States
Starring: Danny DeVito, Judd Hirsch, Tony Danza, Christopher Lloyd, Andy Kaufman, Jeff Conaway
Eye candy: Marilu Henner
Creators: James L. Brooks, Stan Daniels, Ed Weinberger, David Davis
Run time: 30 minutes
DVD distributor: Paramount Home Entertainment
The first episode of Taxi is a surprisingly sweet one, as Judd Hirsch runs off to attempt to re-connect with his daughter whom he hasn’t seen in fifteen years. And of course, Tony Danza is a stupid guy and a terrible boxer, Danny DeVito is a tiny little loudmouth jerk, Andy Kaufman is just learning to speak English and acting creepy, Jeff Conway is an actor who gets no roles and isn’t very good, and Marilu Henner is the smoking hot woman who just started working as a taxi driver. And they’re in New York. And that’s the show.
“A drunk? A drunk? Why, Sam was the greatest drunk there ever was!”
The first episode of Cheers introduces Cliff and his stupid and questionable facts, Norm and his apathy toward his wife, Carla and her scathing wit, Sam and his womanizing, Coach and his idiocy, and Diane. Mostly, the episode is all about Diane, who has come into the bar for the first time on her way to the airport with her soon-to be husband. He is an intellectual, of course, and he will ditch her in the bar to go back to his ex-wife. Of course. So Diane sits there and annoys everyone in the bar for hours with her snobby holier-than-thou attitude, and eventually ends up with a job there. And so began Cheers.
“My wife had left me, which was very painful. Then she came back, which was excruciating.”
The debut episode of Frasier opens with Frasier Crane on his radio program, explaining succinctly and in a neat little package why he left Boston and Cheers and moved back to Seattle for his own spinoff show. Quickly, we meet neurotic Niles and space cadet Daphne and of course Frasier’s dad Martin, who moves in with his son in the first episode. And the dog Eddie, who stares at Frasier. And Martin’s chair, which drives Frasier nuts. We don’t get to see Maris, but we know she’s a cold ice queen. And Roz is sardonic and mean, but has a heart of gold. Yep.