29 May 2016

DOLORES CLAIBORNE and MISERY: A DOUBLE REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.

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DOLORES CLAIBORNE and MISERY: A TERRIFYING DOUBLE BILL OF STEPHEN KING AND KATHY BATES HORROR COLLABORATIONS. REVIEWS BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

DOLORES CLAIBORNE. (1995) BASED ON THE BOOK BY STEPHEN KING. DIRECTED BY TAYLOR HACKFORD. STARRING KATHY BATES, JENNIFER JASON LEIGH, DAVID STRATHAIRN, JUDY PARFITT, JOHN C. REILLY AND CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER. MUSIC BY DANNY ELFMAN FROM 'THE SIMPSONS.'

MISERY. (1990) BASED ON THE BOOK BY STEPHEN KING. DIRECTED BY ROB REINER. STARRING KATHY BATES, JAMES CAAN, LAUREN BACALL, RICHARD FARNSWORTH, FRANCES STERNHAGEN AND ROB REINER. MUSIC BY MARC SHAIMAN.

I was going to review these two brilliant Stephen King movie adaptations separately as there's more than enough material there for two reviews. In the end, though, I couldn't do it. I've always associated both these films with each other, if you know what I mean.

The two DVDs sit side-by-side in my movie collection. Whenever I watch one of the films, I usually follow it up with the other. And, of course, each film stars Kathy Bates, an excellent actress whom I greatly admire, and both films number among the better Stephen King book-to-screen adaptations. That's all the argument I need, folks. A nice fat juicy double review it is...!

Kathy Bates is superb in both films. I personally think that these are her two best movies, although I liked her in TITANIC too. DOLORES CLAIBORNE and MISERY, however, allow her to give full rein to her impressive acting ability and facial expressions. She's an infinitely watchable central character as the sinister events unfold quickly in both films and the viewer is left wondering just who, if anyone, will make it out alive or at least mentally intact...!

Dolores Claiborne (Bates) is an ordinary Maine housewife struggling to bring up her daughter Selena while simultaneously trying to keep both her exacting employer and her abusive alcoholic husband happy. Dolores is hard-working and decent and honorable and she deserves a good life. Circumstances conspire, however, to see that the opposite happens. Sigh. Don't they always...?

DOLORES CLAIBORNE is made brilliant by the uniformly excellent performances of the entire cast and not just Kathy Bates herself. Jennifer Jason Leigh is superb as the closed-off, edgy Selena who gobbles pills and swills down whiskey to block out the awful secret from her childhood. David Strathairn plays a blinder as the repulsive drunken wife-beater who turns his attention to his teenage daughter when relations between himself and his wife turn sour.

The other characters are top-notch too. Judy Parfitt is wonderful as both the top-of-her-game 'high-riding bitch' Vera Donovan and the poor bedridden stroke victim Vera Donovan for whom life is no longer worth living. The scene where a kindly Dolores distracts Vera with a musical china pig is heartbreaking and always makes me sniffle. But let's not forget Vera's wise words, folks:

'Sometimes, being a bitch is all a woman has to hold onto...!'

Christopher Plummer co-stars as the detective who won't rest until he puts the poor put-upon Dolores behind bars and comedy actor John C. Reilly does a great job as the local copper who, even though he's just doing his job, can't help having qualms about the whole brutal business of charging a downtrodden, middle-aged housewife with murder on remarkably patchy evidence.

You'd think, wouldn't you, that a famous novelist would be thrilled skinny to meet his 'Number One Fan...?' Not so in MISERY, the story of Paul Sheldon, a writer of romances, who does meet his 'Number One Fan,' an ex-nurse called Annie Wilkes, and ends up sincerely wishing he hadn't...

Have you ever seen the episode of THE SIMPSONS where the family goes to the dude ranch to
escape Homer's chart-topping Christmas hit about 'Stupid Flanders?' Moe the Bartender fortuitously (don't ask me how!) finds himself with TALKING HEADS singer David Byrne in his car and also in his power. When David Byrne responds in the negative to the question:

'Have you ever seen the movie MISERY...?' Moe responds with the following:

'Then this is aaaaaall gonna be new to ya...!'

Anyway, Paul Sheldon finds himself in Annie Wilkes's power when his car crashes during a blizzard and the capable and hefty Annie drags him to the safety of her nearby farm. She sets him up in the bed in her front room for the duration. He's got broken legs and all sorts of other injuries and there's precious little he can do about it when Annie makes it her sworn mission to, erm, nurse him back to health. Among other things...

It turns out that Paul is tired to death of writing about his romantic heroine, the titular MISERY Chastain, and in fact has killed her off in his last book, MISERY'S CHILD. Unfortunately for Paul, the lonely and friendless Annie just lives for the adventures of her favourite fictional character.

Well, let's face it, out there in the sticks with only her pet pig Misery (yes, Misery!) for company, what else is there to do? When Annie finds out what Paul has done to her beloved Misery (Misery the character in the book, not Misery the pig!), Paul finds himself fighting for his life. Or should that be 'writing' for his life, heh-heh-heh...? Yes, dear readers, it should indeed be 'writing' for his life, but I won't reveal any more than that...

It's probably not a spoiler to mention the 'hobbling' scene in which the demented Annie does something unspeakable to Paul's Ten Little Piggies with a sledgehammer. That scene is always making its way onto list shows which document THE 100 SCARIEST MOVIE MOMENTS and suchlike. You'll need a strong stomach to be able to watch it, though.

In fact, the whole film is hard to watch, with the claustrophobic build-up of horror and intensity as MISERY wends its way to its gruesome climax. The cuddly old sheriff Buster gets the full Milton Arbogast treatment towards the end of the film, which is only a spoiler if you're a fan of Alfred Hitchcock's horror classic PSYCHO, haha.

My favourite line in the film belongs to the sheriff. He tells Lauren Bacall, who's playing Paul Sheldon's agent, that they'll definitely start looking for the missing writer straightaway.

'He's in our system now,' he says as he sticks a yellow Post-It note to the desk in front of him. 'He's in our system now...???' Yeah, right. I know some utility companies and government agencies who seem to use that exact same system to keep track of their customers' accounts...!

Both these films are thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining, even if their subject matter is a little dark and hard to bear at times. You couldn't do better than watch 'em both back-to-back on a nice dark stormy night. And if you have any comments on this double review, don't hesitate to post 'em and I'll get back to you as soon as possible. Don't worry, folks, here's what I tell everyone:

'You're in the system...!'


AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

 You can contact Sandra at:


http://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com





28 May 2016

ONLY ANGELS HAVE WINGS. (1939) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.

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ONLY ANGELS HAVE WINGS. (1939) DISTRIBUTED BY COLUMBIA PICTURES. WRITTEN, PRODUCED AND DIRECTED BY HOWARD HAWKS. MUSIC BY DIMITRI TIOMKIN. STARRING CARY GRANT, JEAN ARTHUR, RITA HAYWORTH, THOMAS MITCHELL AND RICHARD BARTHELMESS. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Aw, I do like a nice bit of Cary Grant, the actor to whom the appellation 'suave' has been applied probably more than to any other actor who ever lived. He's so handsome, isn't he, with those gorgeous eyes, and he can be sooooo dominant at times. I love when he's shaking hysterical or agitated women by the shoulders angrily and saying: 'Stop it, you little fool...!' or words to that effect. Mmmm, sooooo masterful...!

Cary Grant's co-star in this film, Jean Arthur, remarked some thirty years after making the movie that she'd absolutely loved 'sinking her head into Cary Grant's chest.' I can't say I blame her, frankly! This isn't my favourite film of his- that would be SUSPICION, in which he co-starred with the beautiful Joan Fontaine, the star of Alfred Hitchcock's REBECCA- but he's still terrific in it.

If you're expecting to see the normally immaculately-tailored Mr. Grant in one of his trademark suits, I'm afraid you're going to be disappointed. On the other hand, I think he looks even sexier in the slightly more rough 'n' ready gear he sports in the film. He's a pilot, see, and he looks bang-tidy in his battered leather flying jackets and goggles, light-coloured slacks, flying scarves and knee-boots. Again I say: 'Mmmmmm...!'

He manages a small airfield in the fictional South American town of Barranca and he flies the planes too. He and the other pilots transport airmail and sometimes other things through a high and treacherous pass in the Andes Mountains. Now, these are the mountains in which that college rugby team crashed in the early 1970s and were forced to resort to cannibalism to avoid starvation, so we already know how dangerous that whole area can be. It's a beautiful place too though, and the shots of snow and clouds and mountains and thick fog are utterly breath-taking.

The planes in ONLY ANGELS HAVE WINGS are those fabulous little old 'Forties planes that look like childrens' toys and apparently fans of the golden age of aviation really dig this film. I love the noise the planes make. There's a certain noise made by planes in World War Two films that's absolutely unmistakable. Do you know the noise I mean? It's a kind of a droning sound and when you hear it, you know that any minute now the bombs are gonna start falling over England or Germany. Obviously, these planes are mail carriers and not bombers but they make the same noise.

Basically, the film shows us the workings of this little independent airfield and the pilots who work there and, to a certain extent, their loves and lives. The relationship between Cary Grant's character Geoff Carter and his co-workers is lovely to see. They all love and respect him, from cuddly old Dutchy, the owner of the airfield, to 'Kid' Dabb, his bestest buddy. 'Kid,' of course, is played by Thomas Mitchell who was Scarlett O'Hara's beloved Pappy in GONE WITH THE WIND.

Jean Arthur is Geoff's love interest, but it's the ravishing Rita GILDA Hayworth who draws all eyes to her in this, the film that first made her a big star. She hams it up big-time as Geoff's ex-girlfriend who turns up at the airfield unexpectedly, and married to a pilot that Geoff's not particularly keen on to boot.

She's all quivering red lips heavily coated with gloss and big eyes and she's just sex-on-legs, to be honest. Check out the scene in which Cary Grant gives her fabulous hair a surprise wash. I don't even want to say what I would do to a man who did that to me...! Oh, who am I kidding? If it was Cary Grant, I'd probably melt in his arms and say: 'Thank you, Sir! May I please have another...?'

The film is out on Blu-Ray at the moment, complete with extra features and all that jazz, courtesy of THE CRITERION COLLECTION. It features the immortal line 'Yes, we have no bananas,' which later made its way into THE SIMPSONS in an episode in which Homer mourns the sad but inevitable passing of time. I think Bart's going out on his first date or something like that.

One thing that really struck a chord with me in the film is as follows. On many occasions, I've attempted heart-to-heart conversations with various boyfriends that were interrupted by calls from their work or mates or mother or whatever. In ONLY ANGELS HAVE WINGS, Cary Grant's tete-à-tetes with his ex-girlfriend and his possibly new girlfriend are constantly broken into by the sound of the airplanes' switchboard:

'Come in, Barranca! Are you there, Barranca?'

Naturally, Cary Grant couldn't get to that old-timey phone fast enough.  Hell, he was tripping over his own legs to get to that phone. Anything to avoid having to talk to a woman about the relationship...! It was actually good to know that I'm not the only girlfriend to have endured such head-wrecking nonsense from a man. Seems like guys from the 'Thirties and 'Forties weren't any different to the guys from today. That should be a comfort of sorts but you know what? It's not really...!

    AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

 You can contact Sandra at:


http://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com





27 May 2016

SPEEDY. (1928) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.

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SPEEDY. (1928) DIRECTED BY TED WILDE. STARRING HAROLD LLOYD, ANN CHRISTY, BERT WOODRUFF, BABE RUTH AS HIMSELF AND A REALLY CUTE DOG. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is a silent comedy that's so old that there couldn't be too many of the actors left alive today. Maybe some of the children, but even then they'd surely have to be in their nineties by now. Isn't that an incredible thought? It's the first thing that comes to my mind whenever I watch something this old.
It fills me with a kind of awe, knowing that all the players, as they called them back then, have all gone to their heavenly reward. Call me morbid, but that's the kind of thing that impresses me...!

Anyway, the titular SPEEDY is played by a comedian of the time called Harold Lloyd. He's kind of goofy-looking, with thick black-rimmed nerd glasses to give the impression of oafishness, but the comedy is actually pretty well-realised for something so old. In fact, the Oscar for BEST DIRECTOR OF A COMEDY was awarded to the film's director Ted Wilde for what was apparently his last outing as a director of a silent film. Pretty nifty, huh? Not a bad way to go out.

The film revolves around Speedy's noble but hilarious attempts to save his girlfriend's grandfather's business from being taken over by a bigger, more modern company. Pop Dillon- the grandfather- owns and operates the last horse-drawn streetcar in 'Twenties New York. His gentle, more old-fashioned way of life is all set to be swallowed up by the march of progress. Speedy gets himself into some pretty funny sticky situations as he tries to save Pop's business.

He takes his girlfriend Jane Dillon, as cute a 'Twenties popsy as you'll ever see, to this gorgeous old-fashioned carnival where they go on all these brilliant old rides and eat candy floss and stuff. A cute stray dog attaches himself to the pair and stays on to become one of the stars of the show. The bit where Speedy covers him in shaving foam and pretends that he's a 'mad dog' to scare some goons away from Pop's streetcar is laugh-out-loud funny. The dog is adorable. I wish he was my dog...!

Another brilliant bit is where Speedy is driving a cab around New York all day but he's getting no customers and he's greatly puzzled as to why. Maybe the OUT OF ORDER sign he's accidentally hooked onto the door of his cab on the way out of the yard has something to do with it...?

Fans of baseball, and the Yankees in particular, will be thrilled to see the real Babe Ruth taking his chances in the back of Speedy's cab as Speedy drives him to the nearby stadium to play a baseball game. There's even some footage of a game which I'm nearly sure is real footage of an actual Babe Ruth game. Babe Ruth himself seems absolutely lovely. He's big and cuddly and solid and I really just wanted to give him a big huge hug when I saw him. What an old sweetie-pie he is...!

There are also these fantastic sepia-coloured scenes in which Speedy enlists the help of some of Pop's friends to fight the goons who are threatening Pop's business. The old-timers are so ancient it's like looking at a gathering that includes George Bernard Shaw, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Bram Stoker. Some of them, on their own admission, date back to the Civil War, which is pretty ancient all right!

Check out the scene in which the old-timers are squaring up to the goons. It's like watching a scene from THE SIMPSONS in which old Grampa Simpson and his octogenarian friends muster themselves to 'roll up their sleeves, put their shoulders to the wheel, their noses to the grindstone and their backs to the wall' to get a job done that the younger generation simply isn't up to. Aren't old folks great? I'm only being patronising in a nice way, by the way. I really do think that old folks are great...!

This terrific old film is enjoying a new lease of life at the moment thanks to the good folk at THE CRITERION COLLECTION. It's out on Blu-Ray with a few nice little extra features to tickle your fancy and if you're looking for something different to watch that just so happens to be quaint, charming and funny to boot, I think this'll do the job nicely. There's something inherently fascinating about a silent film from the 'Twenties. Give SPEEDY a chance. He won't let you down!

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

 You can contact Sandra at:


http://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com