The AristoCats (Wolfgang Reitherman: 1970) 6

The last movie greenlighted by Walt Disney was amusing enough, and I loved the backgrounds. Eva Gabor does a nice job of voicing the Duchess, and Phil Harris as the tomcat also does a fine job. The main problem here is the villain; Edgar the butler is no Cruella De Vil. She makes ONE HUNDRED AND ONE DALMATIANS a 9/10. Edgar only manages to make this a 6/10.

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Les visiteurs du soir (Marcel Carné: 1942) (FR) 6/10

The best thing in this flick is Jules Berry’s drollicious portrayal of Satan, which makes for a nice compare/contrast with Walter Huston’s Mr. Scratch in The Devil and Daniel Webster. Arletty also does a fine job as one of the devil’s envoys sent to create romantic mayhem on the eve of the wedding of a French baron’s daughter. The romance that develops between the male envoy is way too drawn out a yucky. Alain Cuny is revolting here in a Jean Marais sort of way. Children of Paradise is Carné’s best remembered movie these days, but this was the bigger hit at the time. 6/10

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The Prodigal (Richard Thorpe: 1956) 8/10

Loosely based on an original story by Jesus, this movie really delivers on the luridness I found lacking in the previous year’s The Egyptian, which I nonetheless gave a 7/10, despite complaining about its “dourness”. What’s not to love here? Edmund Purdom, also the titular Egyptian, is cute as a button in his curly Jewish beard, Louis Calhern makes a fine villain, simultaneously slimy and avuncular, and Lana is all fleshy and pouty and sexy in her shockingly brief costumes. Love the scene where she instructs her daughter in the sublimest of mysteries of serving as high priestess to the goddess Astarte, how to apply eye makeup. Also the sequence where Purdom wrestles with a vulture puppet. And the stoning of Lana followed by her free fall into the sacrificial fire pit. What about those sets and costumes? Lavender and purple and puce and teal and chartreuse, oh my! Trash at its finest.

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Lawless (John Hillcoat: 2012) 7/10

I was very curious to see this one, not only because I’m a big fan of screenwriter Nick Cave’s early ’80s band The Birthday Party and wanted to see how his writing chops were, but also because of Sim’s rave review of earlier Hillcoat/Cave collaboration The Proposition. And where I’d say the script is weakest link in this movie, it’s not a bad script really, it just lacks a certain zazz. But the cinematography and period detail are excellent, the violence is fun and bloody, and Guy Pearce’s Charlie Rakes makes a memorably detestable villain. Tom Hardy is also compelling as head of the bootlegging clan; I loved the way he constantly purses his lips in an oddly prissy fashion, even though is character otherwise is all strong, silent, and bad-ass and such. Shia LaBeouf, whom I had yet to see in I role I thought was well-acted but, ahem, “appreciated” on an eye-candy level, pulls off his character and accent quite well. It seems lots and lots and lots of people out there can’t stand Mr. LaBeouf (or “LaDouche”, as they like to call him) and the glee on IMDb’s message board over the scene where he endures a savage beating from Pearce was downright effervescent. Anyhoo, quite good popcorn fun that makes me want to see The Proposition even more now.

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Pontypool (Bruce McDonald: 2009) 8/10

I was a bit cool on this flick when I first saw it, but over the past year, I keep coming back to it; it’s the little horror movie that could. Very low budget, confined to the single set of a radio station in a church basement, a disgraced shock jock reduced to announcing in a tiny Canuck hamlet, his kinda-girlfriend station manager, and a female technical assistant who served in Afghanistan are beset by flesh-eating zombies. What caused the zombies? Language. Specifically, the English language, and more specifically, terms of endearment (“honey”) and phrases that might cause cognitive dissonance.

The budget here is so tiny, that we see none of the zombie-chomping horror outside, so we have this wonderful mash-up of Burroughs’ “language is a virus” made literal, Quebecois Anglophobia where broken French must be spoken to stay safe, Night of the Living Dead with zombies attempting to break in, and a neato reversal of Welles’ War of the Worlds broadcast where the announcers are terrified by their audience call-ins. I gave this a 7 on first viewing but bump it up to an 8 for its hold on me…

Autumn Leaves (Robert Aldrich: 1958) 8/10

Aldrich tries his hand at directing a “woman’s picture” but brings his trademark paranoia and brutality to the fore in the flick’s delirious second half. Lonely spinster Joan marries the 20-years-younger Robertson but soon discovers that he’s, like, totally loony! His schizophrenia isn’t helped by the fact that he’s cuckolded by his own father, Lorne Greene, catching him in flagrante delicto with his bitchy wife, Vera Miles. Greene and Miles scheme to have Cliffy committed in order to get their mitts on property willed to him by his mother, but Joan thwarts them and attempts to save him with her True Love. That is, until he crushes her hand with a typewriter during a schizo rage, after which she realizes that the booby hatch is the best option…

So much to like in this picture: the way the conniving Lorne/Vera pair serve as a mirror image of Joan and Cliff, the creepy way Cliff sobs in Joan’s lap after he totally loses it, the way Cliff flops around when he’s receiving electroshock with Aldrich’s slavering extreme-close-up shots. And Joan calls Vera a slut! This naughty word is also used in 1956’s Carousel; it seems to be the first blue language to eke past the Breen Office censors since GWTW’s “damn”.