The Oldest Profession (1967)

THE OLDEST PROFESSION (1967)
aka e Plus vieux metier du monde
Article 2868 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-15-2009
Posting Date: 6-20-2009
Directed by Claude Autant-Lara, Mauro Bolognini, Philippe de Broca, Jean-Luc Godard, Franco Indovina, Michael Pfleghar
Featuring Michele Mercier, Enrico Maria Salemo, Gabriele Tinti
Country: France / West Germany / Italy

The history of prostitution is presented in six tales.

You know, it takes time to watch a movie. And when you watch a movie a day and you find the print of the movie you were watching has a fatal flaw, you don’t often have time to watch another movie. That’s my excuse for covering this one, despite the fact that my print is missing one whole episode. That might not have been fatal in a movie in which only certain segments contain fantastic content if the missing segment had been one lacking said content, but alas, I’m missing the one segment that takes place in the future directed by Jean-Luc Godard, reportedly the best one of the bunch. But I’m in no mood to watch another whole movie, so I’m reviewing it as is, with the addendum that I’m going to hunt for a more complete copy, and should I find one before I post this review, I’ll add the review of that segment as an addendum.

So what can I say about this episodic comedy about prostitution? It’s mostly lame. The prehistoric section (which has no prehistoric creatures and nothing to recommend it), the Roman section, and the one in Modern-day Paris are all forgettable and of little importance. The other two sections (one in revolutionary France and the other during the Gay Nineties) come off better and actually do a good job of giving us similar but opposite stories; in the first, a customer pulls a trick on a prostitute to keep from paying, and in the other, the prostitute tricks a customer (who she discovers is a banker) into marrying her. These two are good, but not great. Still, it’s the Godard piece that is supposed to be the highlight here. Let’s hope I have an addendum to add to this in the near future.

ADDENDUM – Well, I found a copy with Godard section, and it is easily the best of the bunch. It’s the one that shows the most creativity, and its view of the future is somewhat similar to the one in ALPHAVILLE. It mainly involves a time when visitors supply robot prostitutes for its guests, but a man wants a replacement because his can’t talk, but he finds that robots are a bit specialized, and the one that can talk isn’t able to… well, I won’t give anything away on this point. The weirdest touch has people eating from aerosol cans (there goes the ozone layer), and the big question I have is this: why is the character who is supposed to be human the one who most talks like a robot? It’s a good segment, but not great, and overall, the movie is on the weak side.

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Onibaba (1964)

ONIBABA (1964)
Article 2853 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-28-2009
Posting Date: 6-5-2009
Directed by Kaneto Shindo
Featuring Nobuko Otowa, Jitsuko Yoshimura, Kei Sato
Country: Japan

An old woman and her daughter-in-law survive during the wars by killing stray samurai warriors, disposing of their bodies in a hole, and selling their equipment for food. When her daughter-in-law discovers that her husband has died in the wars, she falls in love with the local man who brought the news who has returned from the wars and is now hiding to avoid being sent back to fight. The old woman hatches a scheme to keep her daughter-in-law from being taken from her by using a demon mask taken from one of the warriors.

If the fantastic content in this movie were boiled down to its essence, it could have made a nifty “Twilight Zone” episode. When I make a comment like this, it’s usually my way of saying that a movie has stretched its content too thin, but that is not the case here at all. In this one, the story is effectively fleshed out, and even though the masked samurai does not appear until about two-thirds of the way through the movie, we are given plenty of meat to chew on before then. It’s an exploration of war and its effects, and how an extreme situation can nullify normal morality; though the murder and robbery of lost samurais may seem like an awful way to make a living, if one looks at the actions in the context of the situation (a seemingly unending war that has depopulated the land and depleted food supplies for all), one would be hard pressed to find another way for these characters to survive. One is left wondering at one point a character makes the transition from being a human being to becoming a demon, and the question as to whether the old woman has actually made that transition is a fascinating one; it’s significant that the last line of the movie is her claiming that she’s a human being. Even though the fantastic content that makes this a horror movie doesn’t manifest itself until well into the movie, the movie has built up a great amount of dread already by that time; all the action takes place in a field of reeds that towers over the heads of the human occupants, and one can easily feel the fear of never knowing how close one’s enemies are while still being unseen by you. This is also one of the first Japanese movies to feature nudity and sex, and there’s quite a bit here. This one is highly recommended.

An Over-Incubated Baby (1901)

AN OVER-INCUBATED BABY (1901)
Article 2830 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-5-2009
Posting Date: 5-13-2009
Directed by Walter R. Booth
Cast unknown
Country: UK

A woman leaves her baby at a new-fangled baby incubator designed to make him grow one year in one hour. However, a clumsy assistant overheats the incubator, and…

It’s a one-joke early trick short. You’ll probably guess half of what happens. As for the other half… well, let’s just say that in some ways, the baby doesn’t grow. And there’s a reason this movie is a short.

The Omega Man (1971)

THE OMEGA MAN (1971)
Article 2747 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-13-2008
Posting Date: 2-19-2009
Directed by Boris Sagal
Featuring Charlton Heston, Anthony Zerbe, Rosalind Cash
Country: USA

The sole survivor of a world-decimating plague finds himself in a one-man war against a gang of surviving mutants bent on his destruction. However, his life changes when he discovers he may not be the only survivor…

This is the third version of Richard Matheson’s novel “I Am Legend”; there appears to be a Spanish short version made a few years earlier which I’ve not seen. I’ve also not seen the recent Will Smith remake, so all I’ve got to compare it with is the Vincent Price version called THE LAST MAN ON EARTH from the early sixties. This one is certainly better made, and was a great deal more popular. I myself quite like some parts of this one; I was always charmed by the scene where Charlton Heston’s character goes to a movie theater to see WOODSTOCK, a movie he’s seen so many times he can mouth the words. I’ve also never forgotten the climax of the movie in the fountain outside of the mansion. Still, taken as a whole, I prefer the earlier version; there’s something about the weariness and stark bleakness of the earlier movie that fires my imagination more than the standard action setpieces that drive this one. This is not to say that this is a bad movie; it’s quite entertaining in its way, though it does get a little slow at times. It just doesn’t have the same impact on me, especially in the closing scenes. On a side note, I wish I had known that craggy-faced John Dierkes was one of the members of the Family in this movie; I would have kept my eyes open for him.

Onesime horloger (1912)

ONESIME HORLOGER (1912)
aka Simple Simon, Clock Maker
Article 2705 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-29-2008
Posting Date: 1-10-2009
Directed by Jean Durand
Featuring Ernest Bourbon, Raymon Aimos, Berthe Dagmar
Country: France

Unhappy to discover he has to wait twenty years for his inheritence, Onesime (aka Simple Simon) modifies a clock to make it go fast, thus causing the world to go in fast motion.

This is an amusing enough silent short, but I suspect that the amusement is somewhat blunted by the fact that fast motion has been used many times since, and also by the fact that for years, silents were projected at the wrong speed, thus causing us to get used to silents appearing to be undercranked. In fact, the outdoor scenes of cars going by looks almost normal. Still, the short has one clever moment involving one of the speediest courtships on film; you’ll see a baby grow before your very eyes. Incidentally, writer Louis Feuillade would go on to fame as a director of early French serials, including FANTOMAS, JUDEX, and LES VAMPIRES.

 

Outer Space Jitters (1957)

OUTER SPACE JITTERS (1957)
Article 2659 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-23-2008
Posting Date: 11-23-2008
Directed by Jules White
Featuring Moe Howard, Larry Fine, Joe Besser
Country: USA

The Stooges go to the planet Senuv (Venus spelled backwards) and encounter electrical women and a monster.

This being the Three Stooges, there is a certain amount of energy to the proceedings. But the energy feels forced and somewhat desperate, the gags are weak, and the timing is off. This is the Stooges near the end of their career in shorts, though they would have a few more features come their way once Joe Besser departed and Curley Joe DeRita came on board. This is probably the weakest of their shorts that I’ve seen.

 

Oh! What a Lovely War (1969)

OH! WHAT A LOVELY WAR (1969)
Article 2638 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-26-2008
Posting Date: 11-2-2008
Directed by Richard Attenborough
Featuring Wendy Allnutt, Colin Farrell, Malcolm McFee
Country: UK

World War I breaks out, and the British send their young men to war. While some people see the war as a game, others die by the millions.

The fantasy element here is that the conflicting views of the war manifest themselves within the reality of the movie by contradictory stylistic approaches, from the more realistic ones of the soldiers on the front to the fantasy ones of those in the higher chains of command; to them, World War 1 is an amusement park, and you can be sent to war by such methods as winning a shooting game or going up to dance with one of the girls during a musical number. As such, the movie is a marginal fantasy, though one which may not appeal to fans of the form specifically. The movie isn’t perfect; it’s a little too long, somewhat confusing at times, and American viewers may not find it as effective, as the movie focuses very strongly on the British view of the war; in fact, the Americans don’t show up until ten minutes before the end of the movie after the lion’s share of the British casualties have occurred. The movie is also a musical, though the songs actually come from the time period; it may be possible that some of the lyrics are new, but I can’t attest to this one way or another. It can be chillingly effective as an anti-war statement at times; my favorite moments involve a general reporting to his superiors the success of a battle in which a vast number of casualties occurred and no ground was gained, and the sad final moment of the movie in which the camera pans back far enough for us to see a graveyard that seems to go on to infinity. The movie has a huge cast, with a number of famous names, including Sir Laurence Olivier, Sir John Gielgud, Sir Ralph Richardson, Dirk Bogarde, Michael Redgrave, Vanessa Redgrave, Maggie Smith… well, I could go on for quite a while. This was the first directorial effort from Richard Attenborough.