Sunday, January 10, 2010

New Year's Day viewings

I finished off the second disk of the Barbara Stanwyck show last year and enjoyed it as much if not more than the other disks. The first three episodes were very strong. The fourth was the only ep not to star Stanwyck. Milton Berle was the lead... and it creeped me out immensely. I'm not sure what I'm supposed to make of the ep. It's not quite humorous enough, but not quite serious enough either, just a weird amalgam of both, and it just gave me the willies. At least it had a cat in it. All in all, the three discs of Vol 1. were well worth watching, and I do hope more episodes are released in the future.

I try to watch a Dana Andrews' movie every Jan 1st, in honor of his birthday, but I just wasn't in the mood this year. I watched Escape from Fort Bravo (1953) and Black Rain (1989) instead. I know, odd combination, but both offered emotional outlets I was seeking. I love Fort Bravo, mostly for the beginning and the end. The middle gets bogged down with dances and weddings and plans and characters falling in love. Fortunately, I love all the actors in this one. William Holden is in his prime here. The other two Williams -- Campbell and Demarest -- are hilarious and have the best dialogue as they constantly nag, tease, and snap at each other, but always affectionately. John Lupton is a long-time favorite (he was in one of my favorite Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea episode), and he's young and earnest here. And I even like Eleanor Parker. She's clever and strong in this one, beautiful but not afraid to get dirty. Dig it. And the entire last third of the film is one of the tensest stand-offs in a Western I've ever seen.

(ahhhhh, perfection...)

(The other two Williams)

There is the First Viewing of a Movie experience, and then, there is the Every Other Viewing experience. Usually they're quite different. The first time, you don't know what's going to happen (unless you've been spoilered) and the unknown always ratchets up the tension. After that first viewing, when you know how it turns out, it's never quite the same. Most of the time, movies just get better and better with subsequent viewings. But sometimes, they're lacking and you discover what made it work so well the first time was your innocence as a viewer. Fort Bravo is a bit like that. The First Viewing experience is outstanding. Not knowing what was going to happen, I was on the edge of my seat the last third. At one point, I actually paused the DVD because I was too wrapped up and had to break the tension, just for a minute.

But the second viewing of Fort Bravo was very different. That tension was gone. I knew what happened. I couldn't quite get as into the moment as I did the first viewing, and I found myself mildly disappointed on New Year's Day. On the other hand, I started liking more of the first half, which had bored me in the first viewing (so much so that the very first time I tried to watch this movie a few years ago, I turned it off halfway through. I need action in my Westerns, and it wasn't delivering. Silly me. If I'd only had another ten minutes of patience...)

Black Rain was also a re-watch. It's one of my favorite Ridley Scott films, and the first one of his films I saw in the theater when it came out. It's still my favorite Andy Garcia performance. I adore him in this movie, even more than in The Untouchables, which is saying a lot. It was also one of the first movies to make me start liking Michael Douglas. I even like Hans Zimmer's score for this film, minor miracle. It think it's probably the only Hans Zimmer score I truly like. But it had genuine character. Yusaku Matsuda, who played Sato, was absolutely brilliant in his role (one of the best things about the movie), and I still remember how shocked and sad I was when he died of cancer just a few months later. He was so young. I'm always fascinated by how alien and unnerving the streets of Japan are in this movie. It's nothing like any city I've been to. I think half of what makes the movie work so well is the setting.


  1. Milton Berle? He is kinda creepy...I think I saw him in a movie when I was kid; of course now all I can think of, is the series finale of The Critic, when he saves everyone from a time-bomb. Or terrorists.

    Ha. Or maybe both. :)

    As for the Barbara Stanwyck show, I've never seen it. I'd like to, though; along with The Jean Arthur Show, but I'm not sure if that one's even available.


    Dana's birthday: Funny; I wasn't in the mood to watch him, either! :)

    Same thing happened last year.

    I did just finish a re-watching of A WALK IN THE SUN, though, so close enough, right?

    Just nine days late. :)


    Never seen FORT BRAVO or BLACK RAIN.


    Do you know anything about an actress named Pamela Blake??

    I think she did a lot of westerns, and maybe that CISCO KID series you watched last year...


    I hope you're well! :)

  2. Anonymous2:30 PM

    Funnily enough, Fort Bravo was on TV here a couple of days ago - but I missed it. Must try to catch it next time.

    Black Rain has always been one of those films that makes me stand in awe of Ridley Scott's abilities. He was so badly hampered in making the movie (apparently the Japanese authorities were really intransigent about how and where he could film), and yet managed to make something really good. That takes talent.

    Plus he made me watch Michael Douglas without wanting to slap the guy. Which is little short of a miracle. :-D

  3. Hi Ginger -- nope, don't know Pamela Blake. It looks like she was in the tv Cisco Kid series, not the films. I read her credits and I haven't seen her in anything, it turns out. New name and face to me!


    Tillane - hah! That's so funny that "Fort Bravo" was on. And very funny about Michael Douglas too. "Black Rain" was the first movie I ever saw that I genuinely liked him in, so I totally agree there. After that, he started making a few movies I liked him in, like "Basic Instinct" (yeah, I'm one of those weird people who really loves that movie - but he's a variant of his "Black Rain" character again in that), and "Falling Down" (and why don't I own this one on DVD, hmmm? It rocks!), and "Don't Say a Word"... though that latter film has Sean Bean in it and that tends to make me forget who else is in the movie. :-D

  4. I can think of, is the series finale of The Critic, when he saves everyone from a time-bomb. Or terrorists.

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