The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972)

THE DISCREET CHARM OF THE BOURGEOISIE (1972)
aka Le charme discret de la bourgeeoisie
Article 2932 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-18-2009
Posting Date: 8-24-2009
Directed by Luis Bunuel
Featuring Fernando Rey, Paul Frankeur, Delphin Seyrig
Country: France / Italy / Spain

Six friends are thwarted by circumstance in their attempts to have meals together.

Given that Luis Bunuel is one of the great surrealistic directors, I’m surprised that I haven’t covered more of his work; this is only the second movie I’ve covered of his, the first being THE EXTERMINATING ANGEL. It’s basically a plotless series of setpieces tied together by the concept of several friends trying to have a meal together, but who are constantly interrupted by any number of bizarre events; the events get stranger as things go along, and eventually any sense of linearity or reality goes out the window when the events turn out to be dreams (and even dreams within dreams). One meal is cut short when the hosting couple sneak out of the house to have sex and the other guests fear that the reason for their departure was an impending police raid (it turns out some of the characters are involved in drug smuggling); another is interrupted when the chosen restaurant is keeping a dead body in the next room. There are various distractions and side issues, such as the attempted assassination of the Mirandan ambassador and the appearance of a bishop that wants to be a gardener. Three of the distractions are ghost stories, which further adds to the fantastic content. What does it all mean? Well, I have no doubt there’s some political subtext (I’d expect that from any movie with the word “bourgeoisie” in the title), but it really doesn’t matter to me; I find the movie positively hilarious at times, and it’s a great deal of fun, albeit in an art-house film way. It’s recommended for anyone with an absurdist sense of humor.

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Blood for Dracula (1974)

BLOOD FOR DRACULA (1974)
aka Andy Warhol’s Dracula, Dracula cerca sangue di vergine… e mori di sete!!!
Article 2733 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-30-2008
Posting Date: 2-5-2009
Directed by Paul Morissey
Featuring Joe Dallesandro, Udo Kier, Vittorio De Sica
Country: Italy / France

Dracula must leave Romania because of the distressing lack of virgins; he can ingest only the blood of the untouched. He goes to Italy, where he’s sure the religious traditions will make a virgin bride easy to find.

When this movie played in my area during the seventies, I remember the local reviewer gave it the lowest rating I’ve ever seen; he used to rate them on a scale of 1 to 100, but he rarely gave ratings less than 80. He gave this one a 20. I don’t think the movie is anywhere near that bad, though I do think it’s so-so at best. It’s at least partially conceived as a comedy, with our Dracula here being perhaps the least intimidating version of the character I’ve seen; he’s sickly and given to vomiting, especially if he’s drunk the blood of a non-virgin (for what it’s worth, actor Udo Kier does an excellent job of vomiting, though I’m not sure it’s a talent really worth pursuing). Despite the fact that it’s an Italian/French movie, there’s no dubbing problem, as it was shot in English, and we get a fascinating cornucopia of accents, what with the Count’s Romanian accent, the Italian accents, and Joe Dallesandro’s New York accent. In the sex and gore departments, it’s out to out-Hammer Hammer, and though this may make it of some interest to horror fans, as a comedy it’s not really that funny (my favorite moment here was hearing Vittorio De Sica ruminate on Dracula’s name), and once you get the gist of where it’s all going, it’s fairly predictable. The movie features two famous directors in the cast; the aformentioned De Sica, and a cameo from Roman Polanski who plays a bar game in one of the movie’s more memorable scenes. One question I’ve always had is this; just how much artistic input did Andy Warhol really have in this one? And I’d love to hear confirmation on one curious fact; according to the “Fantastic Cinema Subject Guide”, Italian sources do not credit Paul Morrissey as the director of this movie, but Antonio Margheriti.

Escape (1971)

ESCAPE (1971)
TV-Movie
Article 2664 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-5-2008
Posting Date: 11-28-2008
Directed by John Llewellyn Moxey
Featuring Christopher George, William Windom, Marlyn Mason
Country: USA

A former escape artist turned private eye agrees to help a scientist who is on the run from the law for a murder he didn’t commit. However, when the scientist is kidnapped along with the scientist’s daughter, he must undertake to discover their whereabouts and rescue them.

It may be just my imagination, but it seems that most of the TV-Movies I’ve seen from the seventies have the look and feel of potential series pilots; the credit sequence here clearly demonstrates that this was intended to be that way. It might well have made a decent series; all it really would have needed to do is pick up the somewhat sluggish pace of this TV-Movie, and find some way to transcend what could have ended up as a tiresome gimmick. The gimmick is that the private eye is constantly placed in traps whereby he must use his abilities to, as the title puts it, escape; in some ways, it hearkens back to the Harry Houdini silent serial, THE MASTER MYSTERY. The fantastic elements here are a Gizmo-Maguffinish plot involving a new virus that can enslave the world, a hideously scarred man, and a scene in a house of horrors. The movie also features William Schallert and Gloria Grahame, though both of them appear so slightly that you might forget they’re there. It also features two straight performances by two actors who are better known for their comic turns; namely, Huntz Hall and Avery Schreiber; the latter would have most likely been a regular on the series had it sold. It’s entertaining enough, especially during the final chase that makes good and interesting use of its amusement park setting. It’s not great, but I’ve seen a lot worse.

 

Space Ship Sappy (1957)

SPACE SHIP SAPPY (1957)
Short
Article 2657 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-21-2008
Posting Date: 11-21-2008
Directed by Jules White
Featuring Moe Howard, Larry Fine, Joe Besser
Country: USA

The Three Stooges apply for jobs as sailors, unaware that the ship they’ll be sailing on is a space ship bound for Venus.

I’ve not heard good things about the shorts in which Joe Besser took over as the third Stooge. I’ve not seen any of the others as of yet, but this one is passable, though hardly the Stooges at their best. It does feature a space ship, female cannibal Venusians, and a slurpasaur. Joe Besser’s twittery persona is definitely an acquired taste, and it’s said that he wouldn’t allow Moe to slap him, so Larry had to take all of the blows himself. I thought I saw Besser take a blow or two in the course of this one, but I may be mistaken. Still, one thing’s for sure; Larry’s at the receiving end of the abuse a lot more often.

 

Sole Survivor (1970)

SOLE SURVIVOR (1970)
TV-Movie
Article 2650 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-8-2008
Posting Date: 11-14-2008
Directed by Paul Stanley
Featuring Vince Edwards, Richard Basehart, William Shatner
Country: USA

The wreckage of a military plane lost for seventeen years is found in the Libyan desert. The military investigates the wreckage, with the sole survivor of the plane’s last crew on site; he was rescued seven hundred miles away in the Mediterranean and is now a general. He claims that he bailed out with the rest of the crew, but, in truth, he deserted the plane against orders. However, the plane is haunted by the unseen ghosts of the former crew members who intend to prove to the investigators what really happened.

Though I’m not fond of TV-Movies in general, I’m always glad to find one with an interesting premise, an excellent script, and strong acting, and this has all three. There are a number of memorable scenes; my two favorites include the opening sequence in which the ghosts gather to play baseball, and the scene where an investigator approaches the ghosts who are standing in formation and saluting, looks toward them, lifts his hand and… adjusts his hat. The movie makes excellent use of the desert location, and Vince Edwards, Richard Basehart and William Shatner all give excellent performances. Oddly enough, it’s based on a true story. The ending is very memorable.

 

The Intruder (1977)

THE INTRUDER (1977)
aka LES PASSAGERS
Article 2112 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-27-2006
Posting Date: 5-25-2007
Directed by Serge Leroy
Featuring Jean-Louis Trintignant, Mireille Darc, Bernard Fresson

A man driving to Paris with his stepson finds himself being tailed by a psychopathic killer in a black van.

Before my commentary on this movie, let me begin by quoting verbatim the quotes on the back of the VHS copy of this movie that I obtained.

“…a very good suspense thriller…creditable acting, and tight direction all help to make this film a cut above most…” – Geoffrey Marks, Austin Citizen

“…a film of considerable – if not really maximum – suspense.” – Ellen Pfeifer, Boston Herald American

Now, these comments are by no means uncomplimentary. The problem is that the quotes on the back of the box for a copy of a movie are usually the ones that offer the highest praise and promise the most fun and excitement for the viewer. Both of these are rather blase – “creditable” acting isn’t “great” acting, and why would you choose a movie that offers “considerable” suspense over one that offers “maximum” suspense? These quotes almost encourage you to check out some of the other product for something better, and that’s not really the best way to sell a movie. Even cutting out the “if not really maximum” part of the quote would improve things.

As for the movie itself, I think it lives up to those quotes. It’s a decent enough movie, but it could have been a lot better. I think its main problem is that it fumbles its mystery elements. I get the impression that we’re supposed to be as puzzled by the motivations of the stranger in the van as the man and his stepson are, but I found the identity of the van driver and his reasons for pursuing the car were obvious. It would have been far better to keep the van driver out of the story until the very end, so we would puzzle over how he managed to keep on his prey’s trail the whole time. This is one of the reasons the movie never attains “maximum” suspense. Outside of that, I like the appearance of Adolfo Celi as a police inspector, and I don’t care much for the kid (who is one of those precocious sorts that get rather annoying on occasion). Still, it does strike me as a not-as-effective clone of DUEL.

 

The Gypsy Moon (1956)

THE GYPSY MOON (1956)
aka Rocky’s Odyssey
Article 1890 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-18-2006
Posting Date: 10-15-2006
Directed by Hollingsworth Morse
Featuring Richard Crane, Scotty Beckett, Sally Mansfield

Rocky Jones encounter a pair of wandering moons which share the same atmosphere, Posita and Negata. He is taken prisoner on Posita, where an attempt is made by the ruler to force him to destroy the moon of Negata, which is inhabited by siren-like creatures.

For the second day in a row we are being mooned by Rocky Jones. Actually, it’s possible to watch five of these Rocky Jones movies with moon in the title; besides this one and THE FORBIDDEN MOON , we also have THE MAGNETIC MOON, BEYOND THE MOON and CRASH OF MOONS . Fans of the latter story may find this one interesting, as it introduces the moon of Posita and the character of Bovaro, played by John Banner of “Hogan’s Heroes” fame. This is one of the strangest of the Rocky Jones series; it is consciously modeled off of Homer’s “The Odyssey” (though, in truth, the Trojan horse story which comes into play at one point does not appear in that work). The sequence on Negata is particularly surreal, and once again I admire the special effects work that went into this series; it wasn’t necessarily convincing, but it was interesting to look at. It’s also one of the more exciting episodes, though it is also quite confusing at times. Oddly enough, this is the first movie I’ve covered that does not have a listing on IMDB, and I thought it would turn out to be that this was one of those Rocky Jones episodes that wasn’t converted to movie form. Having seen it, though, I can say otherwise; the original Rocky Jones episodes for this one were titled “Rocky’s Odyssey”.