Deneuve, Polanski, and Repulsion

repulsion-imageRepulsion, Roman Polanski’s first English-speaking film opens with an extreme closeup of Carol’s (Catherine Deneuve) eye and ends with a vintage family photo of Carol as a child. In the photograph, Carol is isolated from the rest of the family as Polanski’s camera slowly moves in on her same vacant looking eye. An absolute masterpiece of psychological horror, Repulsion ushered in, along with Hitchcock’s Psycho and Powell’s Peeping Tom the modern-day horror film. Polanski presents a nightmarish, hallucinogenic world full of dark expressionistic shadows with extreme close-ups and wide angles all edited to perfection.  The film is the first in an unofficial trilogy of “apartment films” with Rosemary’s Baby and The Tennant completing the threesome.  In all three films, Polanski conveys a disturbing unreceptive view of life in city dwellings. Continue reading

Rosemary’s Baby and the Dark Side of Motherhood

rosemary-posterMotherhood can be a joyous thing; the miracle of birth, a child the result of a bond between two people. Watching the child grow and discover life can be heartwarming and reaffirming. Then again, the idea of a live organism, another person growing inside you, just might be a bit unsettling and disturbing as you watch your body change, and who knows what the child will be like. He/she could turn out to be a bright, upstanding member of the community. Then again, your little precious could turn out be another Al Capone or Jeffrey Dahmer or even worse.

Many films have focused on the dark side of motherhood: Psycho, Mildred Pierce, Mommie Dearest and most recently the current movie Tully. There are plenty of other films with motherhood gone wrong. Angela Lansbury in The Manchurian Candidate is one of the best bad mothers. On the other side of the fence are mothers who love too much; they are self-sacrificing and end up with a daughter like Veda in Mildred Pierce.

And then there is Rosemary’s Baby. Continue reading

Seven Days in May (1964)

Seven4In the opening scenes of Seven Days in May we find picketers from both sides demonstrating outside the White House. Tempers are high. A riot breaks out, and the police come in attempting to break up what has turned into a free for all. Those divisive times were more than fifty years ago. It’s amazing how times have not changed. Today it is no different, tolerance and respect are in short supply. For many of us, emotions are driven by fear. We live in a period where Americans fear foreigners, terrorists, North Korea, Iran, Nuclear war and more. Fear drives irrational behavior. Continue reading

Censorship, The Pawnbroker and Me

the-pawnbrokerFor many years, around the holiday season, the Catholic Church had a pledge they brought forth to their parishioners. The oath was for “Good” Catholics not to attend any film considered morally objectionable, that is, the big C word was applied…Condemned!For years, the Church’s list of objectionable films was a dominant force that changed filmmaking. Many directors, among them Stanley Kubrick (Spartacus) and Billy Wilder (The Seven Year Itch), edited their films, eliminating scenes found objectionable. While it’s true most of the films on the list were foreign that received the condemned rating there were exceptions. In 1953, Otto Preminger’s lightweight romantic comedy, The Moon is Blue was given the dreaded C rating, this after the Hays Office refused to give the film its seal of approval and Preminger and United Artists refused to make what today seem like ridiculous deletes.

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Who Killed Teddy Bear (1965) Joseph Cates

whokilledteddybear-1600x900-c-defaultConsidering the subject matter, it’s amazing that the low budget, Who Killed Teddy Bear was released in 1965. The film is a smorgasbord of Production Code taboos broken one after another: incest, masturbation, homosexuality and more. It all set in the seedy lurid world of 1960’s slime filled Times Square. It’s an oddity for sure, and a definite bump up above the typical sexploitation movies that decorated the deuce and Times Square back in the day, if for no other reason than the cast includes Sal Mineo, Juliet Prowse, Jan Murray and Elaine Stritch. One other reason to watch is due to the gritty, noirish cinematography provided by Joseph C. Brun (Odds Against Tomorrow, Edge of the City). One word of warning. Though over fifty years old and not as graphic as films today, Who Killed Teddy Bear may still be unsettling for some. Continue reading

Chaplin, Brando and A Countess From Hong Kong

Hong4There was a lot of buzz about A Countess From Hong Kong when it was first announced. After all, it would be Charlie Chaplin’s first film in more than ten years. The buzz increased, even more, when it came out that Marlon Brando and Sophia Loren would star. What a combination! The Little Tramp, Stanley Kowalski and Italy’s greatest export since pizza and pasta. How could it miss? Continue reading

Bette, Joan and Baby Jane

On my other blog, John Greco: Musings on Film, Photography, Writing and Other Things That Go Pop Culture into the Night,  I recently posted an article I wrote eight years ago on Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? adding in a new introduction related to the current TV series Feud: Bette and Joan. You can read it by clicking here.

While over there take a look around and give it a follow if so desired.

 

Private Property (1960) Leslie Stevens

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Private Property is an independent film from 1960 about two young and dangerous drifters who spy on and eventually work their way into the home of a beautiful young married woman. At the time of its release, the film was condemned by the Catholic Legion of Decency for its lascivious themes and violence. Thought to have been lost for many years, Private Property is a voyeuristic journey into the minds of the morally corrupt. Corey Allen, of Rebel without a Cause fame and later a TV director, and Warren Oates star as the two vicious losers out for a good time at any expense.

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The Victors (1963) Carl Forman

victorsThe Victors has had a long history. Released in 1963, it was quickly pulled and edited, then released back out to the public. Since then the film has been hard to find and when it has been available, there have been multiple edited versions. It’s been a film I have been wanting to see for many years. Recently, a local cable station showed the film on Memorial Day (I wrote this a few months ago and never published it) giving me the chance. Which version I have no idea, but it did not disappoint. Continue reading

The Manchurian Candidate (1962) John Frankenheimer

   Manchurian Candidate 1   Frank Sinatra was never shy about expressing his political beliefs. As far back as 1945, he made The House I Live, an eleven minute short film with a plea for tolerance. By 1960, Frank was back on top of the entertainment world. He was one of the most powerful figures in Hollywood. Still a political liberal, Sinatra wanted to produce and direct a serious film. He chose William Bradford Huie’s non-fiction book, The Execution of Private Slovik (1954), the story of the only American soldier executed since the Civil War. Sinatra hired Albert Maltz, who coincidently happened to have written the The House I Live In script to do the adaptation. Maltz was one of the original Hollywood Ten blacklisted in Hollywood. By 1960, HUAC and the witch hunts were over, though remnants of the stink it created remained. Many writers still could not get a job, at least under their own name.  Continue reading