Saturday, June 30, 2012

My Week of Movie Watching

Alice’s Restaurant –This 1969 Arthur Penn adaptation of the Arlo Guthrie song was surprisingly good. I expected this to be a time capsule snapshot of the hippie era, and it is that, but I was surprised by how hard an edge it takes when viewing the free love era. It has some things to say about heroin, and the climactic wedding sequence is poignant in how it digs beneath the do-your-own-thing-man ethos of the 60’s and reveals loneliness and resignation. Recommended.

It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World – The granddaddy of extravaganza comedies. An all-star cast (Spencer Tracy, Milton Berle, Sid Caesar, Mickey Rooney, etc) go on a wild chase to recover a hidden stash of money. There’s no question that there are a lot of good laughs here, but it sometimes seems that there’s too much stuff for one movie. There are a couple of instances where it seems like a lot of time lapses between story threads. Still, recommended.

All Through the Night – Humphrey Bogart vehicle from 1941 featured Bogie battling a nest of Nazi spies led by Conrad Veidt and Peter Lorre.  It’s a bit peculiar that although Hitler is referenced in this film, the world “Nazi” is never uttered. That may be due to the fact that in 1941, the outcome of the war was not a certainty. Also, I couldn’t really get a handle on who or what Bogarts’ character is. He calls himself a promoter, but seems a lot like either a flat-out gambler, or perhaps a mobster. There’s some OK action here, and I recommend it, but it’s far from a perfect film. A young Jackie Gleason is here, as are William Demarest and Phil Silvers, who coincidentally are both also in It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World.

Donovan’s Reef – First time seeing, this, the last teaming of John Wayne and John Ford, and it wasn’t quite what I expected. I expected a brawling comedy with a lot of interplay between the Duke and Lee Marvin. This starts out that way, but DR is really a love story, as Wayne acts as an escort for a somewhat spoiled rich girl played by Elizabeth Allen, and Marvins character blends into the background a bit. Wayne is good in a romantic role that is a little out of his normal vein, and Allen is sexy. There are times when Fords penchant for easy slapstick get in the way, so I only give it a lukewarm recommendation.

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