People like this one much more than I did… I’m losing my touch, I’m enjoying the wrong movies. I figured Minnelli plus Shirley MacLaine as an automatic good time, and throw in Frank and Dean for some buddy comedy, but everyone’s in morose drama mode, enacting a novel by James Jones and trying to replicate From Here to Eternity‘s oscar success.

The first problem is casting Frank and letting his brother be named Frank. They changed the ending of the novel, killing off Shirley instead of Sinatra, they couldn’t change a character name? Sinatra wishes the annoyingly intellectual Martha Hyer would fall for him, he shacks up with traveling gambler Dean, and finally settles for Shirley since she won’t leave.

L-R: Frank’s Brother Frank, the real Frank, Agnes and Dawn:

Verboten! (1959)

Fuller WWII film six months before The Crimson Kimono with a Paul Anka theme song (oh no), starring nobody in particular. Our not-so-bright hero Sgt. Brent is The Killer Shrews star James Best. He survives the sniper attack that killed a bunch of his men, is rescued by German girl Susan Cummings (Bavarian, of Corman’s Swamp Women), then stays behind after the war to marry her.

Post-war, Brent works for Captain Harvey (Fuller regular Paul Dubov, a master criminal in Underworld USA) in cleanup, along with wide-mouthed Bruno (star of High School Big Shot), his new wife’s secret confidant and a member of the Werewolves, a secret Himmler youth army aiming to carry on the war after defeat. “Hungry people are easy to bamboozle.” Susan’s little brother Franz (not great) is of course a werewolf, but comes to his senses, rats on his mates and pummels his werewolf boss to a fiery death. “Ride of the Valkyries” soundtracks a bombing/assassination montage twenty years before Apocalypse Now. The cuts to stock footage are hardly seamless but all the postwar Germany film is interesting on its own.

Dogface (1959)

“Siegfried has located the enemy” – the nazis send a dog to locate dogfaces, and Infantry Sergeant Rock’s first mission in this would-be TV series is to assassinate the nazi dog. I imagine network TV execs weren’t on the edge of their seats wondering what unseemly missions Rock would take on next. Good movie though, better than Verboten!. Our lunkhead hero injures the dog but lets it live, and it saves him after a steamy shower shootout. The plan was an authentic war series with basic tech, tough-guy actors, and a ton of military slang – since this never aired, Sgt. Rock’s career went nowhere.

New York is getting a Buñuel In Mexico retrospective. I wish them luck – I prefer to space these out, though after Death in the Garden and Nazarin this one’s my third of the year.

Quintin is Fernando Soler of Susana, walks out on his family after he catches his wife cheating and she hollers that their daughter isn’t his. Pretty good 20-year edit while the camera’s in a pantry, now the wife is dying and wants Q to know she was lying, while Q is off being a dangerous asshole club boss. Their daughter Marta has been raised by an abusive stepdad, she runs off to the city with her man Paco (Rubén Rojo of Brainiac), immediately runs into her dad who decides to kill Paco for some minor slight. It all gets cleared up in time, nobody dies except probably the mom, and Q is forgiven for some reason. MVPs are Q’s comic henchmen smarter than their boss: Angelito (Fernando Soto, Lupita’s brother in Illusions Travel by Streetcar) and Home Run.

Q, Angelito, Home Run, Stepdad (Roberto Meyer of at least ten Buñuels):

Happy young couple:

Q explains his philosophy:

Either the pre-credits scene was filmed by the Manos second unit or this is gonna be a baaaad movie. Chris has been hit in the face by a molten meteorite and isn’t feeling too well… meanwhile, Dr. Q is mad that the money men won’t fund his moon base, so he goes driving and just finds a moon base out in the desert (this influenced everything from Contact to Moonbase 8). After watching this guy grouse through the first Quatermass movie, I’m perversely following his adventures in order to get to the higher-rated third one. Val Guest, who is still not Val Lewton, somehow made four other films in the under-two years between Quatermasses, including They Can’t Hang Me (which is not The Man They Could Not Hang).

Sub-assistant Marsh (Stepford Wives director Bryan Forbes) gets face-impregnated by a meteor-egg, and everyone scoops up the deadly meteorites with their bare hands to investigate. Inspector John Longden (an early Hitchcock regular) pawns them off on a senator, then they bounce to a reporter (Sid James of The Lavender Hill Mob) – most of the movie is watching an impassioned person trying to convince a skeptical Brit about a crazy alien conspiracy. Finally they start blowing up domes and a giant blobby beast (it means to win Wimbledon) lumbers after them, until they blow it up, too.

Brigitte Bardot has absurdly great hair in this movie, and likes to sunbathe nude in the garden, so all the boys are after her, to the disapproval of her foster parents. Land baron Curd Jurgens (Richard Burton’s rival in Bitter Victory) is feuding with holdout landowner Christian Marquand (Flight of the Phoenix), and both think they’ve got a chance with Brigitte, but when she’s threatened with losing her home, wallflower J-L Trintignant steps up and marries her. Marriage isn’t much of an impediment to the other two guys, and J-L (beaten up by the local ruffian minutes after his wedding) isn’t strong enough to hold onto her, so people get shot and boats get burned up. Good-looking at least, from Clouzot’s usual guy. Not exactly a vital cinema classic, but in the early days of Criterion DVDs, we took whatever we could get.

The silliest Hitchcock movie. The trouble is that Harry’s dead and everyone in town believes they’re responsible. First there’s old hunter Captain Edmund Gwenn (Santa in Miracle on 34th Street). He and Miss Gravely (Mildred Natwick of some major John Ford movies) have just the friendliest chat over the dead body, signaling that this is not going to be a suspense film. The Beaver gets involved, and his mom Shirley MacLaine is glad Harry’s dead, then admits to having killed him. Local artist John Forsythe is hopelessly poor then suddenly rich, and meanwhile takes an interest in marrying newly widowed Shirley – and Harry is buried then exhumed over and over while this all gets sorted out. Some sound recording issues, but incredible color. The NY Times raved: “it does possess mild and mellow merriment all the way.”


This was also an influence on Blow-Up:

Overenthusiastic girl imposes herself on a shabby traveling variety show – this is Lily: Carla Del Poggio, who worked with every 1940’s Italian director I’ve heard of, plus G.W. Pabst, who apparently enjoyed a late Italian phase. She gets hired against the wishes of star Giulietta Masina, and hijacks the show, enjoying her new popularity but getting too big for her britches almost immediately.

We end up following the little-mustached company leader Checco: Peppino De Filippo would pair up with comic star Toto for a series of comedies (including a Fellini parody) and also appear in the cool-sounding Atrocious Tales of Love and Death with Mastroianni and Piccoli. On the street after the company’s destruction, Checco meets a sharpshooter, an American trumpeter and a Brazilian singer, and recruits them to start a new show. But Masina has her own solo gig, and Lily is too ambitious, joins another company behind his back.

Codirector Lattuada made forty-some movies including the Criterion-coronated Mafioso. It’s not clear whether this Fellini debut is the half in 8½ since he co-directed, or if the half was a short film, and I’m not looking it up since I’m not a numerically-oriented film viewer. Very good visual drama, too bad the sound was synched by fifth graders.

Buñuel’s least-well dubbed movie, filmed in Mexico and spoken in French. Diamond miners and soldiers are having a showdown when a mysterious stranger wanders into town, but instead of impressing everyone with his skills a la Yojimbo he’s an asshole to everyone – this is Shark (That is the Dawn‘s doctor Georges Marchal), who needs a place to stay so he shacks up with prostitute Simone Signoret, who is beloved of miner Castin (Clouzot regular Charles Vanel).

The miners-vs-soldiers war reaches a climax in a midnight firing squad which leads to a riot. Our heroes escape (with fake priest Michel Piccoli and a mute girl: Michèle Girardon of the earliest Rohmers), getting very lost in the jungle, walking in circles. They reach the promised land, finding a crashed plane full of food and jewels along the way, rescued and rich, but Castin goes mad, throwing his diamonds in the lake and murdering everyone.


Politically the movie may side with the miners, but once this crew forms and heads into the jungle, Buñuel is more interested in exploring the hypocrisies that exist in every human heart. And so the priest is a fraud, the prostitute is an opportunist, and the miner loses his mind … Death in the Garden concludes with a more subversive poetic image: two figures blithely paddling across a South American lake as if they were in a Venetian gondola, when in fact a literal and spiritual wilderness surrounds them.

Getting back into Buñuel after recently rewatching Nazarin.

Kids interrupt their game of savagely throwing rocks at each other to help a collapsed woman – this is Angela, wife of slick-haired doctor Valerio. She’s desperately bored with this town, but he won’t leave his post, so sends her off alone. His buddy Sandro also has an ailing wife Magda. But while the doctor takes up with a hot new visitor named Bernadine, Sandro stands by his wife to the detriment of his work, and gets fired by shitty capitalist Gorzon, who he later murders, justifiably. The doctor, always helping people, tries to hide the killer as his wife returns home with her meddling dad, who sniffs out Sandro.

Things people are calling this film: sincere (agree), revolutionary (ehh), a study in morality (sure), anti-capitalist (yeah). IMDB Trivia points out subtle insults against other artists hidden in the visuals. Bunuel’s first French movie since L’age d’or. The Doctor had smaller parts in some major Bunuel movies, Clara starred in a couple of Antonionis I haven’t seen, the capitalist in The 1,000 Eyes of Dr. Mabuse.