Peter Pan (1960)

PETER PAN (1960)
Article 2351 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-2-2007
Posting Date: 1-19-2008
Directed by Vincent J. Donehue
Featuring Mary Martin, Cyril Ritchard, Maureen Bailey

Peter Pan whisks away a girl and her two brothers to Neverneverland to meet the lost boys. They do battle with Captain Hook.

The story of “Peter Pan” never really did much for me in the first place, and I’m not partial to musicals either. Therefore, about the best I can really do with this is to admire it from a distance. Make no mistake; it’s a fine adaptation of the work; Mary Martin is spirited in the title role, the songs are good, the dancing is fine, Cyril Pritchard is well cast as both Mr. Darling and Captain Hook, etc. It’s just that I only occasionally feel the magic myself. Still, there are at least three things I really like in this TV-Movie adaptation of the play. The dance with Tiger Lily and the Indians is a lot of fun, and is my favorite moment in the movie. I’m truly impressed with how a whole character is created with nothing more than a flickering light and a few sound effects (Tinkerbell, in case you were wondering), and I absolutely love the Nana costume and the performance of the actor inside; it’s not that the costume was convincing (that would have been impossible), but that it’s so charming that I willingly buy into the illusion. For me, this was real magic, and it was even before Peter Pan appears on the scene. Still, the experience may have dampened for me by the simple fact that I saw just a short time ago the SCTV parody in which Peter Pan is played by Divine.



The Princess and the Magic Frog (1965)

aka At the End of the Rainbow
Article 2346 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-28-2007
Posting Date: 1-14-2008
Directed by Austin Green
Featuring David Alan Bailey, G. Edward Brett, Nancy DeCarl

A boy gets lost in the forest. He saves a leprechaun and gets his bag of gold coins in return. The coins are magic coins, but they can only grant wishes to help others. He must use them wisely if he wishes to return home.

You know, I bet this movie would be great entertainment for a six-year-old. It’s also very family friendly; its most violent scene has a genie hit in the face with a pie, and its most risque scene is a performance by puppet can-can dancers. Feel free to set your child in front of it and let him or her enjoy it. Whether you want to watch it yourself is another matter; it’s cute at first, but after awhile the slightly condescending air to it (plot points are fatiguingly belabored) becomes wearing, the golly-gee-whiz-gosh style dialogue is insufferable, and, for a movie with wizards, knights, gypsies, genies, leprechauns, talking signs and self-ambulatory puppets, it looks like it was made for twenty dollars and shot in the nearby park. There are many lessons to be learned along the way. As I said, fun for your six-year-old. I would have enjoyed it forty-two years ago.


The Picture of Dorian Gray (1973)

Article 2338 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-20-2007
Posting Date: 1-6-2008
Directed by Glenn Jordan
Featuring Shane Briant, Nigel Davenport, Charles Aidman

A young man wishes that a portrait made of him would age instead of him. When he embarks on a life of cruelty, sin and debauchery, he finds out that his wish has come true; the picture ages while he remains youthful.

Dan Curtis’s TV adaptations of horror classics were all quite well done, and this one is no exception; it’s literate, well-acted from all concerned, and manages to show a class and a sense of period that is often missing from TV-Movies from the period. Nigel Davenport steals the movie as the cynical but witty Lord Harry Wotton, but that’s to be expected; as the primary exponent of Oscar Wilde’s wit as well as the character who lures Dorian Gray into temptation, it’s the type of character that’s destined to steal the movie. Still, I do feel a bit in the way of disappointment for this one. One reason is over-familiarity with the story; though the story is certainly very good, it’s not one that I find really grows with repeated viewings, and when I watch a version of it anyway, I find myself more enticed with Lord Harry’s bon mots than with the story details and revelations itself. As a result, the movie seemed overlong to me, especially during the second half when Lord Harry rarely appears. I almost found myself wishing that the movie would stray enough from the familiar story just for the sake of variety. As it is, I hope that there will be a fairly large gap between my viewing of this version and my viewing of whatever new version comes along. simply in the hopes that the story will seem a little fresher.


The Perfect Woman (1949)

Article 2334 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-16-2007
Posting Date: 1-2-2008
Directed by Bernard Knowles
Featuring Patricia Roc, Stanley Holloway, Nigel Patrick

A dotty inventor has created a robot modeled off of his lovely niece. He hires a down-and-out playboy and his butler to take the robot on the town as a test run. The inventor’s niece, tired of being cooped up all of the time, decides to take the place of the robot. Hilarity ensues.

Usually when I use the phrase “hilarity ensues” in my plot description, it should be taken ironically. However, this movie isn’t half bad; Stanley Holloway is consistently amusing as the put-upon butler, and there is the occasional good laugh (usually involving Holloway or Miles Malleson as the inventor). It is, however, not as funny as it would like to be; the basic setup is rather forced, and the more frantic and shrill it gets, the less funny it becomes. The Swiss bellhop and the hotel manager are both potentially funny, but neither one is used well, and I do think they could have been more creative with the robot’s reactions to the various orders that are given; I’m thinking of some of the shtick they gave to the robot Hymie on “Get Smart” as examples. At least the robot is given enough screen time that it doesn’t turn out to be just a Gizmo Maguffin, and there have been science fiction comedies that have been far worse than this one.


Les Portes de la nuit (1946)

Article 2286 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-28-2007
Posting Date: 11-15-2007
Directed by Marcel Carne
Featuring Pierre Brasseur, Serge Reggiani, Yves Montaud

In post-war France, a mysterious tramp who claims to be Destiny predicts that one man (Jean Diego) will meet and fall in love with a beautiful women, and predicts another man (Guy Senechal) will die a horrible death. As it turns out, their paths are intertwined; the beautiful woman is married and also a sister to Guy, and Guy turned over Jean’s best friend to the Gestapo during the war. From there, the presence of the tramp guides them to their respective fates.

I knew full well that I wasn’t going to be seeing a subtitled version of the movie when I got this one from a French website, so I took a little time to find some simple plot descriptions to help me along. Along with one I found, I discovered the sad history of the movie itself; it was an incredibly expensive one for France in its time, it was originally supposed to star Jean Gabin and Marlene Dietrich and was written for them, but Dietrich backed out and Gabin proved so demanding that he was replaced by the then unknown Yves Montaud. The movie was a critical and commercial flop, as it touched on certain subjects that were highly sensitive to Frenchmen in that era. That time is now gone, and the movie is ready for reevaluation.

Nevertheless, since I don’t understand French, I certainly can’t be the one to do so here. Nevertheless, there were some things that I really liked. One is the presence of Jean Vilar as the tramp, who does more than predict; he reappears in scene after scene, subtly guiding the characters to their respective fates; he has a nice intense presence. Certain scenes stand out; the scene where Jean Diego first discovers that the woman he loves is married, the fight between Guy and Jean in the chicken coop, and the rest of the movie from the moment that Guy hands the gun to the husband in the hope that he will kill Jean. I can only hope they subtitle it and release it here so I can get the full impact of it.


Peer Gynt (1941)

PEER GYNT (1941)
Article 2272 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-11-2007
Posting Date: 11-1-2007
Directed by David Bradley
Featuring Charlton Heston, Betty Hanisee, Mrs. Hubert Hyde

A ne’er-do-well romances the women, defeats a mountain king, and travels around the world, leaving his true love behind.

The novelty value of this one is immense. Here’s a quick rundown of what is novel about it.

1) It features Charlton Heston’s first screen appearance.

2) It’s based on a play written by Henrik Ibsen, the Norwegian playwright who pioneered theatrical realism. Incidentally, this was one of the plays he wrote before he turned to realism, and is most likely the only one with enough fantastic elements (the mountain king sequence) to get included in this series. At least two other movie versions were made previous to this one, but those have remained elusive.

3) It was directed by David Bradley, who would hit a career peak with his next movie (JULIUS CAESAR), and then settle down to give us 12 TO THE MOON and THEY SAVED HITLER’S BRAIN.

4) It was shot as an amateur movie on 16mm as a (mostly) silent movie; all but a few of the lines of dialogue are on title cards.

5) The music is by Grieg. It’s the score he originally wrote at Ibsen’s request for the 1876 stage production of “Peer Gynt”. You’ll recognize much of the music, especially the famous “In the Hall of the Mountain King”.

Judged as an amateur film, it is excellent and ambitious. However, since it is an amateur film, it does have some problems. It was shot in Illinois and Wisconsin, and it works all right when it’s trying to pass its location off as Norway, but less well when it passes itself off as Morocco. Charlton Heston (who was 17 at the time) definitely had that cinematic charisma even at this time, though he’s a lot more effective near the beginning of the movie when he’s playing his own age than he is playing much older. The cast was mostly made up of non-professionals, but overall they pass muster. Ultimately, the biggest problem I had with the movie is that the story itself isn’t very engaging; to me, it felt unfocused and overly episodic, and the fact that the character of Peer Gynt isn’t very likable makes it that much more difficult to warm up to. Still, as I said before, the novelty value is immense.


Planeta Bur (1962)

aka Planet of Storms
Article 2265 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-1-2007
Posting Date: 10-25-2007
Directed by Pavel Klushantsev
Featuring Vladimir Yemelyanov, Georgi Zhzhyonov, Gennadi Vernov

When a Russian spaceship gets stranded on Venus, a second spaceship lands on the planet to rescue them. They encounter dinosaurs and monsters, and search for signs of intelligent life.

Even if you haven’t seen this Russian science fiction epic, you may have seen several scenes from it; it was pillaged for footage twice by AIP, once for VOYAGE TO THE PREHISTORIC PLANET and again for VOYAGE TO THE PLANET OF THE PREHISTORIC WOMEN . I’ve only seen the latter of those two recently, and the original movie does not have any of the shell-bikini clad all-female tribe headed by Mamie Van Doren. Instead, we get a lot more speculation on life and evolution and a subplot about the lone female cosmonaut waiting in space to hear from the two parties on Venus. I find this one easily the better of the two movies, though I’m sure that a number of people would prefer the Mamie Van Doren subplot (for obvious reasons). The movie is good, if not great; the special effects are strong for the most part, though some of the alien creatures are unconvincing and even a little silly (like the bearded octopus). The most memorable scenes here are ones that were borrowed for VTTPOPW; the robot’s trek through the lava while saddled with two human passengers, and the revelation of what is hidden in the triangular stone. The stone scene works much better here as well, since the presence of the Mamie Van Doren tribe in the other movie gives it less impact, and it has a moment here (involving a reflection seen in a small puddle of water) that was not included in the other movie; it is quite eloquent.