Movie Resolution: Week 16

April 15: Rebecca

I bought this right after I saw Suspicion. Joan Fontaine and Alfred Hitchcock together again–consider me in! I will say, right from the start, that Rebecca wasn’t as good as Suspicion, but that is only because Suspicion is one of the best pictures I’ve seen this year. If I had never seen it, Rebecca would have won me over. This picture is based on the very popular Daphne du Maurier novel of the same name. I tried reading it once, but never could get into it. Now that I’ve seen the film, I’ll try again, the story is quite good. It’s about a rather unlucky girl (Joan Fontaine) with no prospects in the world who falls madly in love with Max de Winter (Laurence Olivier), a very wealthy widow and the master of Manderley. Manderley is a massive manor built on a Cornish beach, such beauty, such luck! Max and…well, there’s no name for her. Oddly, Joan’s character has no name in neither the novel nor book. An interest idiosyncrasy. Anyway, the two of them fall in love while they are both vacationing in Monte Carlo and get married quickly. They have a delightful time, but when they arrive in England, Max changes, Manderley changes him. He becomes introverted and quick to anger. The new Mrs. de Winter is not at all comfortable with her new home at first, the head of the staff, Mrs. Danvers has evident hatred for her and goes out of her way to make her look foolish and inept. This is bad enough, but it feels like the presence of the late Mrs. de Winter, Rebecca, still haunts the place after her tragic death. At every turn there is another sign of her, she still runs the household as surely as if she were alive. The new Mrs. de Winter is absolutely miserable and searches for ways to make herself happier, more comfortable, and liked by her new acquaintances. She decides to throw a masquerade ball. (Let me interrupt for a moment, I should like nothing more than to host a masquerade ball. Imagine me draped in elegant robes wearing a dashing Venetian mask encrusted with jewels and ornamental finery. People would collapse! Look for your invitations soon…once I figure out who to invite and where to hold my event. I’m already thinking about menus!) The ball is poised to be a success, but tragedy strikes! Mrs. Danvers had suggested a costume for Mrs. de Winter and in a desperate attempt to enchant her husband, she agrees to have it made. Sadly, Rebecca wore a very similar gown just a year ago and it brings back such memories. Max is irritated and mad and stalks off, Mrs. de Winter is beside herself. She runs up to Rebecca’s old bedroom where Mrs. Danvers is lurking. There, that horrible woman tries to convince her to jump to the flagstones below and to her death. She doesn’t, but she certainly looks tempted. Instead, they are both distracted with a shipwreck out in the bay. This is particularly devastating because the ship lands on the wreck of Rebecca’s boat and her body is still inside. This is bad because Max had already identified another body as that of his previous wife and because the boat is filled with incriminating evidence of foul play. Max finally confesses to his wife that he was in part responsible for Rebecca’s death, he slapped her and she fell and she hit her head and she died. Max will go to prison if these details are released and their romance will be dead forever. The ending is magnificent and unexpected, which proves to be the case with many Hitchcock films. I truly enjoyed this one and encourage you to check it out. After reading the opening lines, I know you’ll want to: “Last night, I dreamt I went to Manderley again. It seemed to me I stood by the iron gate leading to the drive, and for a while I could not enter for the way was barred to me. Then, like all dreamers, I was possessed of a sudden, the supernatural powers and passed like a spirit through the barrier before me. The drive wound away in front of me, twisting and turning as it had always done. But as I advanced, I was aware that a change had come upon it. Nature had come into her own again, and little by little had encroached upon the drive with long tenacious fingers, on and on while the poor thread that had once been our drive. And finally, there was Manderley. Manderley, secretive and silent. Time could not mar the perfect symmetry of those walls. Moonlight can play odd tricks upon the fancy, and suddenly it seemed to me that light came from the windows. And then a cloud came upon the moon and hovered an instant like a dark hand before a face. The illusion went with it. I looked upon a desolate shell, with no whisper of a past about its staring walls. We can never go back to Manderley again. That much is certain. But sometimes, in my dreams, I do go back to the strange days of my life which began for me in the south of France…” [My Rating: 9/10]

April 16: Heathers

The drag queens finally let me down, I’m still in shock and I don’t know if I’ll ever truly be able to recover. Last season of Ru Paul’s Drag Race was the Heathers versus the Boogers. I laughed, but never understood, so thought I should watch the film the epic feud was over. Well, it wasn’t all that good, a few funny bits, but I don’t understand why it’s a cult favorite. It is about a group of popular girls called the Heathers, simply because their names are all Heather. (That’s why they’re called that, not why they’re popular. They’re popular because they’re bitches.) The most recent addition to the clique is Veronica. She fits in, but isn’t sure she likes being one of this group. They’re awful to the other kids that go to school, bullying and teasing and hurting feelings. It’s awful really. We didn’t have anything like that when I was in High School. Some kids were losers and some were more interesting, but there was no issues and anybody could talk to anybody. Maybe we were lucky because at the school I work at now, I see an awful lot of similar behavior. It’s tragic. Veronica meets a new guy at school, JD, and falls for him quick. They start to date and she’s having a great time. The head Heather becomes drunk and they “accidentally” kill her with boat cleaner. They forge a note to make it look like a suicide and then everything starts going out of control. Everybody is worshipping the dead Heather thinking that she was sad with her life. Veronica is disgusted by the whole thing, especially with the way everybody fauns over her, even those she abused. Next, a couple of football players spread lewd rumors about Veronica and she is pissed, so JD convinces her to shoot them with him and make it look like they died in a suicide pact because they were gay lovers. This only increased the media attention and Veronica’s ire. JD, on the other hand, was living for it. He absolutely adored that these horrible people were being slaughtered, he was obviously a psychopath, but Veronica couldn’t see it at first. Finally, she came to her senses and dumps him, but you don’t just dump a sociopath. He goes mental and makes plans to destroy the entire school with a bomb. There is a truly epic fight scene down in the boiler rooms as JD and Veronica fight to the death to save the school. Veronica wins, but JD isn’t really dead…he blows himself to bits on the front lawn in a very tasteful scene. His explosion lights Veronica’s cigarette! I really didn’t care much for this, but it did have some rather amusing bits. Disappointed that I didn’t love it as much as my beloved queens, though. [My Rating: 4/10]

April 17: You’ll Find Out

This was one weird picture, in the vein of the Abbot and Costello meet some monster or something terrifying. It was about a comedic band who were hired to play at the birthday party of Janis, the girlfriend of the band’s manager. The venue was the young lady’s creepy family mansion on some abandoned peak, only accessible by a bridge. The house is filled with bizarre trinkets from around the world and other strange and uncomfortable things. At the manor, the band meets Judge Spencer Mainwaring and Prince Sariano played by Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi, respectably. They are an odd duo, both working for the paranormal and seemingly trying to make contact with the late master of the estate. Quite a few charming musical numbers are followed by an amusing seance which in turn leads to the real meat of the story. Getting to bottom of whether the psychic is a fraud or not. Several members of the band find secret passages and levers and all sorts of fun haunted house paraphernalia. The people are frauds and milking the late Mrs. Bellacrest for all she’s worth. It’s good for a late night movie or maybe a comedic Halloween marathon. [My Rating: 4/10]

April 18: The Unsinkable Molly Brown

Not really sure why I haven’t seen this picture before. In my youth, I was absolutely consumed by the allure of the Titanic. I was totally enraptured by the majesty and tragedy and something I’ve never been able to explain–a kind of psychic connection to the wreck. I’ve always felt familiar with it. I don’t know what that means. This picture is quite obviously about Molly Brown, a wealthy American woman who survived the wreck and kept up the morale of those with her with her courage. She was quite a colorful character and this musical adaptation of her life surely has very little to do with much more than basic truths, but it was a good time. It starts at the very beginning of Molly’s life as an infant surviving a flood and moves quickly to her success and riches. The beginning of the film is almost like whiplash, it goes so quickly to get to the good bits. Before we know, the manic and seemingly deranged Molly has left home and is playing piano in a saloon. Then, not too much longer later, she has married Johnny Brown, a kindly man who hopes to strike it rich with his silver claim. Johnny sells his claim for $300,000, a considerable amount in the time, and gives it to his bride to make her happy–he only ever wants to make her happy, he doesn’t seem to give a second’s thought to his own happiness because his happiness is hers. Quelle romance…le sigh! Anyway, in a tragic scene, the money is accidentally burnt after Molly hides it in the stove. I would have never recovered, not ever. Each day, the ghostly scent of the singed money would pierce my nostrils. Thankfully, they’re sitting on top of one of the most loaded silver mines ever discovered and they’re rich in no time sitting in a gaudy house in Denver. Sadly, the Denver aristocrats don’t accept the Brown’s into their circles and shun them. It’s terribly rude because the Brown’s are wonderful people. The kindly priest tells them that they’ll be more respected if they soften their country ways a bit, get a touch more refined. He suggests they take a tour of Europe and Molly is eager to do so. She wants to be the most fantastic woman in the world and she will do whatever it takes to become that. Molly loves, loves, loves, LOVES Europe, but Johnny isn’t quite so keen, he’s homesick. Molly doesn’t seem to notice and she luxuriates in new clothes, learning different artistic talents, speaking foreign languages, meeting and making friends with all the royals of Europe. Basically she is doing just what I would do if I had the opportunity. Molly has always wanted to be something greater than what she is, so she is very happy, but Johnny has always been a simple guy and he just wants to go back to being simple. To placate Johnny, they return to Denver. Molly isn’t going to hide in her manor, though, no! She is going to throw the greatest shindig ever! She does and she impresses the whole town with her royal friends. Sadly, the party goes to Hell and so does her relationship with Johnny. They fight and fight and she decides to return to Europe for a time, a place that she considers home to her. Home is where you’re happy, after all. My home is in Sarasota, Florida. I’ve never been there for more than a week or so at a time, but nowhere on Earth am I more myself, well, that and Paris. I’d split my time between my beach home and my apartment in the fourth arrondissement. What a happy lad I’d be. Molly eventually discovers that happiness is not money and improvement and things, but rather, people. Her happiness is Johnny and she sails home, on the Titanic, of all ships. Sadly, we didn’t get to see much of her time on the majestic luxury liner, but we do see her courage in Lifeboat No. 6, she really must have been some lady. Denver welcomes her back with loving arms and at the end, so does Johnny. A really lovely movie, the only thing that could have improved it is maybe a sedative. Molly seemed hyped on something and her caustic energy at times proved grating. I would have liked a few more songs, as well, but that’s me. [My Rating: 8/10]

April 19: I Confess

Another Hitchcock film–two in one week! This one wasn’t all that great, though. Not bad, but Montgomery Clift always gives me the creeps. There is just something very unsettling about him. I don’t know what it is, but he always makes me uncomfortable. He always seems the same, too. In all the pictures that I’ve seen him in, he’s been a little off. The only time I found him slightly romantic was in The Heiress with Olivia de Havilland. His character ended up being a creep in that, so that cancels it out. I Confess is about a priest played by Montgomery named Father Logan who is suspected of murdering a man. He hadn’t, but the vow of silence incriminates him. In truth, a man who lives in the parish and takes care of the church committed the murder. He needed to get it off his chest, so he confesses to Father Logan. Things get out of control when the police begin to suspect him. The evidence is incriminating and eventually the case goes to court. It looks like he will be imprisoned because it seems evident he committed the crime, but the court shockingly proclaims his evidence due to lack of evidence. The criminal must be caught, though, and Alma, the wife of Otto, the murderer, tries to tell the truth, but Otto shoots her. He goes on a shooting rampage and is caught. It is really lackluster because we know the ending from the very beginning. Hitchcock is known to do this, Stage Fright, for example, but in that picture, what was shown to us was false. This film had no such redeeming factors, very obvious. I wasn’t crazy for it. [My Rating: 5/10]

April 20: Midnight Lace

This was a truly fantastic picture, keeps you guessing right until the very end, which I adore–keeps you invested in what you’re seeing. This is Doris Day’s most dramatic role and it was so emotionally draining for her that she vowed to only do comedies and romantic films for the rest of her career. In this one, she plays Kit Preston, wife of financier Anthony Preston. They appear to have an idyllic life in London–a beautiful flat, affluence, romance, everything they could desire. But things go wrong quickly, as Kit walks home one day in a pea souper (a dense fog that is nearly impossible to see through) she is accosted by an unseen man who threatens her with a sing song voice saying that he is going to kill her. Kit is naturally terrified and runs home to her husband, who calms her down. A short time afterwards, she receives a phone call from the same voice. It tells her filthy things and tells her again that it will kill her. She is absolutely horrified. Her husband contacts the police, but there is really nothing they can do. The phone increase and she begins to lose her mind. Thankfully her Aunt Bea (played by the absolutely fabulous Myrna Loy) is there to comfort her, but Kit thinks that nobody believes her. There is no evidence she can give aside from her memory. I shan’t say another thing because the ending was quite good. The only negative thing I can say about it is that it was too long. Too many phone calls that didn’t enhance the story, but still quite good. [My Rating: 8.5/10]

April 21: My Man Godfrey

This is a wonderful film starring one of my favorite male leads, William Powell. In it, he plays Godfrey, a “forgotten man,” another name for a vagabond who is taken in as a kind of pet by Irene Bullock. She considers him her protege and decides he should be the butler at her home. Godfrey is glad, but not overly enthused to do this, but anything is better than living in the junkyard. Sadly, when Godfrey became a butler, he shaved off his very becoming facial scruff. It’s a tragedy that men’s fashion in the 30s called for shaven faces, a bit of stubble is very attractive on some fellows. Anyway, Godfrey is an excellent butler and excellently puts up with the eccentricities of the family. They’re insane. Very quickly, Irene falls in love with him and he resists. He has never shown any romantic feelings towards her and there is no reason to think these would change. In time, Godfrey decides it is time for him to leave, he has been investing with his old college pal (he was really a rich man who lost everything) to start a club down by the old junkyard. He has a successful life planned, but then Irene shows up and tells him that they’re engaged and forces him into marriage. This was so bizarre that it tainted the film for me. Irene’s character never developed, she was a whiny, spoiled rich girl that always got her way and Godfrey was a harassed kindly gentlemen that couldn’t get away. Kind of depressing in the end, which is too bad since the rest of the film was quite funny and rather good. [My Rating: 7/10]

MOVIE of the WEEK: Though there were a few good movies this week, Rebecca was the obvious best. Gothic and haunting. I’d suggest you watch Midnight Lace and The Unsinkable Molly Brown, though. They were excellent, too.

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