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.

I’m figuring out who Laurie Anderson is before the Big Ears fest. This is a poem-essay film about “the connection between love and death”… still drawings and an animated Laurie give an introductory dream sequence about giving birth to her dog, then straight to the death of her mother over blurry, barely-there archive films and photos. The dog goes blind, Laurie has her make paintings and sculptures and play paw-piano (they show a long stretch of dog piano music, including live performance footage from a benefit concert), and Laurie speaks of dog perception and post-9/11 surveillance. Ends with Lou’s song “Turning Time Around” and in the closing credits you realize her real home movies were mixed with staged(?) archive-looking footage (and Chris Marker is thanked). I kinda loved this – all these years I assumed I would find it tedious. It can go either way with personal docs and poetry.

Oft-adapted Sherlock Holmes story – there are three versions just on my must-see list – but I’ve never known what it’s about until now. In fact I’m struggling to recall if I’ve ever seen any Holmes movie, besides the time I watched the first half of Wilder’s Private Life. It’s set on the southwest peninsula of English on the “moors,” AKA the heath, which are either highlands or lowlands, tundra-related, and don’t seem very well defined. Now I’m suspicious about other vague British landscape terms: fens and bogs and derries and what not.

But on these particular moors, Sir Charles is dead, and young Richard Greene (tormented zombie of Tales from the Crypt) has arrived to inherit the estate, asking for assistance from Holmes (Basil Rathbone, evil mesmerist of Tales of Terror) and unimpressive mustache guy Watson (Nigel Bruce, third-billed in Limelight) because of the suspicious wolfy deaths in the area.

Colorful characters: suspicious John Carradine looks after the house, Barlowe Borland is a sideburnsed maniac who enjoys suing his friends, and beardy Dr. Mortimer (Lionel Atwill, star of Doctor X and The Devil is a Woman) is like oh btw I dabble in the occult, and a minute later they’re all having a seance.

Then there’s pretty girl Wendy Barrie (Dead End) and her brother Morton Lowry, a murderous dog-keeper. His dogs bump off a local convict who’d stolen Basker’s clothes. Holmes is seemingly absent from all this, having sent Watson ahead, but has actually been observing in disguise.

Watson, his unamused friends, Holmes:

Killer on the heath moors:

Christoph Huber in Cinema Scope:

Though only billed respectively second and fourth… Rathbone and Bruce’s immediate success spawned the only long-running Holmes film cycle. Rathbone brings unprecedented authority to the part, conveying both the arrogance accompanying Holmes’ intellectual superiority and the irony necessary to complement Sherlock’s full mystique. Meanwhile, scene-stealer Bruce, not quite as (in)famously bumbling as later Watsons, deserves credit for solving an eternal dilemma: his endearing interpretation humanizes the duo’s relationship in a manner similar to Watson’s exaggeratedly humble narration of the stories, and gives the doctor something to do when not participating in the action, just admiring his friend’s brainy prowess.

JW kills some guys in desert, incl The Elder. Whitebeard Harbinger Clancy “Mr. Krabs” Brown tells McShane the hotel has been condemned, then the Marquis kills Cedric Daniels, blows the place up, and sends blind swordsman Caine after JW. Every scene dramatically drawn out – you get the sense that everyone is playing their assigned role according to fate, except for this fuckin’ Marquis guy, who is annoying and evil.

The Osaka hotel goes down next, Hiroyuki Sanada in charge and his daughter Rina Sawayama in the Cedric concierge role, while a dog-loving bounty hunter called Nobody sits back, waiting for the bounty to get high enough to go after JW. Deals are made: Marquis fucks up Nobody’s hand (why would you do this to a hired assassin) and gets him after Wick, and JW agrees to take on a big metal-teethed dude named Killa to get back into his Russian family’s graces so he can duel the baddie. RIP the big baddie and also Wick – happily, this movie was much better than part 3.

As the Marquis, Bill is the campy SkarsgÃ¥rd, who gets murdered in Barbarian before the even campier Justin Long appears. Blind Donnie Yen was in the Ip Man series and some stuff I’ve seen but don’t remember (Iron Monkey is due a rewatch). As “Nobody” (a Ghost Dog reference), Shamier Anderson, who has been in unrelated movies named Bruised and Bruiser. The guy with the metal teeth, that’s Scott Adkins, the dude you all love so much? Y’all really want me to sit through a Jean-Claude Van Damme sequel to see more of this guy?

Optimistic after Argento’s Four Flies, I jumped ahead a decade to a film that I supposedly watched back in the 90’s but don’t remember at all except for the doberman scene. Editing and dialogue and acting all bad (I switched a couple times, settled on the English version), but lighting good, and that’s all you need.

Black-gloved killer vs. the lighting:

Anthony Franciosa plays an American in Italy (in Across 110th Street he played an Italian in America), a famous author on a book tour, whose acquaintances keep ending up dead. It’s a nonsensical murder mystery with at least three black-gloved killers, including the author, who then dies in a freak modern art accident. Fortunately, John Saxon is here (with a hat on!) to save the movie, the only guy onscreen having any fun. Saxon eventually gets stabbed, the sole survivor being the author’s secretary Daria Nicolodi. Other victims include the detectives, combative audience member Mirella D’Angelo (Caligula), the author’s ex, and Lara Wendel of Ghosthouse as the girl chased by dobermans.

Saxon, with hat:

Some cool camerawork, including a scene where the camera climbs the walls of an apartment building, a precursor to that Massive Attack video. The cool 1970’s synth soundtracks have devolved into 1980’s synth-rock by the Suspiria gang. Commentary guys Jones & Newman say it’s Argento’s most 80’s movie, and influenced by Possession. They supposedly love the film, and spend half their time making fun of it… I switched to McDonagh’s commentary, which was immediately better, but has too much narration. Didn’t stick around for an explanation of why Argento has his stand-in author draw attention to the sexism in his own movies.

Incredible scene:

There is in fact a spider, also a cat and a couple dogs, and MVP: an owl in a tree. Mainly it’s a breakup movie, Lisa moving out of Mara’s place into her own new place, family and friends and neighbors turning out to help, and Mara lurking and sulking. Doesn’t exactly have a strong narrative drive – it does have that surprising sense of discovery in the camera angles and scene structure that I loved in The Strange Little Cat. For the first half I was thinking “ehh there’s not much here,” and in the second half: “I’m German now and everyone in this movie is my friend.” Speaking of German, while listening to the words I learned that Hans Zimmer’s last name is Room, and Carolee Schneemann’s is Snowman.

Blake in ‘Scope:

Character motivation and cause-and-effect logic is either nonexistent or gets buried beneath myriad layers of movement and spoken phrases that may or may not make any sense to us. We can only get caught up and washed along in the film’s beautiful display of things resuming, moving along, never being the same again … A cut in a Zürcher film, especially this one, is almost always a revealing, never a suture. It exposes the mark that we heard being etched; the angle that reconfigures our understanding of the spatial dynamics of the setting or environment; the beholder that we and/or the character couldn’t sense was present watching what we were watching — the subject we never knew our gaze belonged to. There’s an acknowledgment, shot to shot, cut to cut, that there is more to the world than what we can presently see or say that we know … And at the present moment, I can think of few worthier undertakings for a narrative cinema practice than one that challenges and is curious about the ways that humans perceive themselves, others, and the perceptions of others.

First movie watched in 2022. I’d seen this before, but ages ago. Opens with voiceover and archival footage of mustacheless Chaplin directing. He makes fun of Edna, then introduces three classic shorts with new music.


A Dog’s Life (1918)

The Tramp kicks some cops’ asses, and fails to land a job. He gets robbed in a bar, and the proprietor responds by throwing him out – so much injustice in this movie. The bit with sausage-seller Syd is real good, as is the thief-puppeteering of Albert Austin.


Soldier Arms (1918)

He’s actually a war hero in this one, until it turns out to all have been a dream while exhausted during basic training, but for a while there Charlie had his own Inglorious Basterds, capturing the Kaiser along with a mustachioed Edna.

In disguise:


The Pilgrim (1923)

Plays the same cowboy song thrice – again he’s sort of a hero, again with a sort-of downer ending, the bet-hedging version of the better previous film. CC’s a prisoner on the run, stealing an Edward Norton-looking chaplain’s clothes. He gets the hell out of town, and the place where he lands was expecting a new minister, so he’s given lodging with a family with lovely daughter Edna. Runtime is padded when a horrible family comes to visit. More coincidences, sure why not, CC’s ex cellmate is in town and recognizes him, and Edna’s mom keeps a large amount of cash laying around. Criminal CC preventing his own partner in crime from robbing the girls he likes, somewhat ripped from His Regeneration in the Essanay days.

Awful Family feat. Syd Chaplin:

Post-La Flor digressive cinema! Young lovers are kept apart by a curse, trying to find their ways back to each other and to themselves… but then, why not instead follow some dogs who want to watch the World Cup, and isn’t all this just a distraction from larger global issues? Anyway, the main plot ends up with a documentary film screening allowing the romantic leads to see their true selves again. The movie’s somewhat slow and wandering, but the music (in all different styles, by the director’s brother) is fabulous and everything is sufficiently magical (I did close my eyes when the narrator said to).

From the Cinema Scope cover story, Koberidze’s filmmaking origin story is hilarious:

I came home one day and my mom told me she had seen a film by Guy Ritchie called Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. She told me she liked it and her opinions have always been really important to me, so I watched it and it was the first time in my life when I realized that if this is good, than I can make something good too. It was like a switch went off in my mind. I wasn’t very impressed with the film, so I figured it couldn’t be too hard to make something like this.

Michael Sicinski on Patreon:

[The director/narrator’s] tendency to over-direct the viewer, combined with a relative indifference to the ramifications of the basic premise, suggest that Koberidze’s true concerns lay somewhere else … Koberidze makes use of the the flowing Rioni River and other physical features of his location, the Georgian town of Kutaisi. Still lives, portraits, and landscapes are the real stuff of What Do We See, and it is here that Koberidze excels.

A fantastic follow-up to Pig – in fact, I should’ve watched them in reverse order. The men are famed truffle hunters caught up in a lucrative industry (I think the reseller is quadrupling the price he pays the hunters when selling to restaurants) which has become barbaric (at least one dog gets poisoned), while they just want to spend time in the woods with their beloved dogs. Alternates between careful right-angle framing, and other sorts of things (dog-mounted camera!).