Some Fun Science: How Dolphins Get High

Pufferfish will spew out a toxin when threatened that’ll paralyze or kill their enemies.

But dolphins only get stoned off it. And being dolphins, amazingly intelligent animals, they’ve learned to seek out & pass pufferfish amongst themselves, all taking hits off the bong, according to this Smithsonian article.

Money quote: “The dolphins’ expert, deliberate handling of the terrorized puffer fish, Pilley told the Daily News, implies that this is not their first time at the hallucinogenic rodeo.”

Fa loves pa, but loves getting blasted a bit more, I guess.

Me? I’ll be finishing a bottle of wine I started the other day with my dinner tonight. Flipper was not invited.


Possibly The Greatest Cast Ever Assembled

Let’s park ourselves on the sofa for tonight’s entertainment, shall we?

Sweet! Another cop-gone-bad early ’50s crimefest, with tough talkin’ fedora wearin’ men and dangerous dames.

Our cop gone bad finds a dark alley, shoots a numbers runner in the back and lifts the twenty five grand he carried. And then he starts the big cover up, claiming the guy ran on him and a shot went bad.

You can tell the bad cop by the Bill Belichick scowl and ciggie… none other than Edmond O’Brien, stalwart character actor found across genres. His former protegĂ©, now Det, Sgt, is John Agar, who’d go on to appear in tons of westerns and some notably awful scifi like Attack of the Puppet People.

So why did O’Brien murder for money? Well, to afford his 1950s dreams of domestic suburban bliss, you dummy! Can’t do that on a cop’s salary, ya chucklehead. Watch him take his good-girl squeeze to the model house in the new neighborhood.

A swell modern living room.

Yes, a fully furnished model! None of this real estate-staging BS for these two. A place where you can dream that every dinner party has the candelabra for that Liberace feel.

The innocent girlfriend is Marla English in her first credited role. She’d do a few more minor films in the ’50s before getting married for real and leaving the biz behind. I’d like to think she got an actual living room like that.

But outside…. our crooked cop is hiding the dough.

And it goes from there.

Continue reading “Possibly The Greatest Cast Ever Assembled”

Bookending Anthony Mann, 2 Movies: The Great Flamarion (1945) and A Dandy In Aspic (1968)

I’ve always liked Anthony Mann’s directorial work, especially the old cheap noirs he mostly started his career with, as well as the string of westerns he did throughout the 1950s. While deciding to work my way through his later 1960s material by beginning with his final film, 1968’s A Dandy In Aspic, I also wanted to go back and hunt out any other noirs or westerns I might have missed out on.

The late 40s-early 50s noirs like Raw Deal or Border Incident are especially good, so I thought I’d check out an earlier cheapie from his catalogue, 1945’s The Great Flamarion, with Erich Von Stroheim, Mary Beth Hughes and Dan Duryea.

Told in flashback, this one has a nice creepy vibe throughout. Von Stroheim tells us the story of how he fell prey to scheming femme fatale Mary Beth Hughes. It’s weird to watch Von Stroheim as a would-be romantic in this movie, especially knowing all the entertaining stuff about his real life escapades, never mind not being able to blot out the image of him playing Max in Sunset Boulevard every time he turns up on screen.

And the vaudeville act he does will make yer skin crawl! Hughes and her husband (Duryea) pantomime a wife & her lover sharing a drink, but then in what is supposed to be comedy, the angry husband returns (Von Stroheim) and his sharpshooting act begins.

Continue reading “Bookending Anthony Mann, 2 Movies: The Great Flamarion (1945) and A Dandy In Aspic (1968)”

That Was Pop: Relistening to XTC, Part 1

I got treated to the 2017 documentary XTC: This Is Pop via a free promo weekend of Showtime. It’s a solidly made doc following the history of the band from its earlier Helium Kidz incarnations to its 1977 album debut, personnel changes, rise, fall, re-rise, strike, sputtered comeback and eventual demise. It’s a great intro to the band if you’re not at all familiar with them or only know them via “Dear God” or wonder whatever happened to that offbeat sounding band with the odd sounding lead singer who sang “Senses Working Overtime.” Lots of music and old wonderfully cheap-styled circa 1980 rock video is presented, along with interviews with musicians, critics, and principal band members, notably Dave Gregory, Colin Moulding, and Andy Partridge.

The band’s history, song by song, is covered in Neville Farmer’s authorized 1998 band bio XTC Song Stories (a book evidently later trashed by Partridge, can’t say I’m surprised for reasons I’ll go into shortly). A lot of the same material is covered in the film visually, but the film adds one amazing scene that’s a true revelation for longtime fans of the band like me.

Andy Partridge has synethesia, where perceptions get mixed up – colors become tastes, sounds become pictures and so on – and this mixed up/associative way of seeing the world is how he writes songs. He strums a guitar and finds a strange sounding chord he claims he’s never heard before…. starts strumming it… says it makes him think of the color brown, but sad, like a brown puddle… and then comes up with lyrics about a sad brown puddle and it all comes together. And all at once the seemingly limitless styles of arrangements, sounds and tones of the vast catalogue of XTC’s music suddenly made perfect sense to me. This scene alone makes the movie worth seeing.

So I thought I’d go back and listen to it all again, bearing in mind Partridge’s synesthesia and seeing (well, hearing…. I don’t have synesthesia) if I could pick elements of it out of his songs. The Moulding songs? No problem, I’ll go along for the ride with ’em… I always liked his stuff too.

Continue reading “That Was Pop: Relistening to XTC, Part 1”

Friday Art: New York Movie (1939) by Edward Hopper

Hopper’s one of my favorites. His paintings of everyday urban life and the fine line between solitude and loneliness in his figures always ropes me in.

This is one of my favorite Hopper paintings, too. Yeah, probably ‘cus I’m a movie guy, and I also love the way he sets up the mystery in what he’s showing us.

The frame is divided in half by the end of the theater wall, separating what looks like an entrance to the balcony on the right from the lower seats to the left. So we get the juxtaposition of the audience watching the screen on the left to the lone woman leaning against the wall under the bright light off to the side.

The red stripe uniform tells us she’s a bored and/or tired usherette (remember, they had movie theater ushers in 1939). She rests her tired chin on her hand, maybe sighing. She evokes the tired & jaded barmaid of Manet’s Foles Bergere – a lone woman jaded at her job, even though the job is connected to the world of flash and entertainment.

And look at the glimpse of what Hopper offers us on the screen – looks like we can see the top of an actor’s head leaning into what looks like a big movie kiss. Is this the magical cinematic promise/fantasy missing from the reality of the usherette’s life?

Those sorts of themes fit in with the rest of Hopper’s output. I also love the colors in this one – the way he uses the oranges and browns to give us the darkness of the theater, with yellows and greens used for both the movie screen and the brightness of that light, illuminating the reds of the curtains on the balcony stairwell. The texture on the carpet is also a nice touch.

And the year fascinates me – 1939 is known as one of the best years for American film. We got The Wizard of Oz, Gone With The Wind, Ninotchka, Stagecoach, Goodbye Mr. Chips, Wuthering Heights, Dark Victory, Confessions of a Nazi Spy, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, The Roaring Twenties… all in the same year! Which one of those amazing classic films is the jaded usherette ignoring, I wonder? How jaded must she be to tune out such wonderful movies… unless of course, it’s The Return of Dr. X with Humphrey Bogart as the blood-sucking rabbit-loving mad scientist.

Hey wait, I actually like that one…

I wonder what Hopper’s favorite movies were. I might need to look that up now.

DVR Theater: British Twit Comedy Duo/Hitchapalooza Edition

We’re talkin’ serious OLD SCHOOL British twit comedy duo, too – Charters & Caldicott, the two Cricket-obsessed comedy relief characters first seen in Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes in 1938, returning in our first film to discuss, Carrol Reed’s Night Train To Munich (1940).

Night Train To Munich comes across as a clear attempt to crib Hitchcock. Never mind the same screenwriters of The Lady Vanishes & the presence of Basil Radford & Naunton Wayne as the aloof self-absorbed Cricket fans caught up in the middle of the action. We also have the identical star Margaret Lockwood as our plucky heroine, ably assisted by a sarcastic and smug Brit charmer who she first hates and then (of course) falls for. In Lady Vanishes, he’s played by Michael Redgrave. In Night Train, it’s Rex Harrison.

Lady Vanishes manages to balance the droll Brit humor with a nice Hitchcock spy plot and twists, with Lockwood getting boinked on the head and then being told that the sweet little old lady who looked after her and shared tea never actually existed once she vanishes. It’s got a lot of the Hitch formula we’d all grow to love even more with later movies – the average person caught up in the international conspiracy, the mystery/suspense, the use of a train in the plot, and so forth.

But Night Train To Munich one-ups Lady Vanishes in some ways by providing us a more complex spy plot – this time with Lockwood as the daughter of a Czech scientist the Nazis are trying to kidnap and return to Germany. Harrison plays the British agent Continue reading “DVR Theater: British Twit Comedy Duo/Hitchapalooza Edition”

DVR Theater: A Pair Of Fine Noirs, Off The Beaten Path

One of the staples of the crime noir material I love so much is that they are, for the most part, stories told from the male point of view. We often have the male narrator telling us how everything went sour, utilized in Double Indemnity, Murder My Sweet and others. It was an easy way to reproduce the language of the pulp material the films were based on, many of which were in first person narrative from the main male character who lusted/greeded and lost out big time. We’d only see the femme fatale & her motives through his eyes, and be put into the same position as to wondering what those motives really were.

So that’s what makes Too Late For Tears an interesting little number from 1949. This time, we get the story pretty much via the femme fatale’s point of view, following reliable femme fatale Lizabeth Scott’s efforts to hold onto a bag of money literally thrown into her & her husband’s car one dark night. The well-meaning nebbish hubby (Arthur Kennedy) wants to call the cops, she bullies him into stashing the money and waiting… and then things start to get complicated. The always dependable to play a lowlife Dan Duryea shows up as the true target of the drop, and then Scott plays him like the cheap piano he is. Along for the ride are Continue reading “DVR Theater: A Pair Of Fine Noirs, Off The Beaten Path”

DVR Theater: Sssh! Silent Film Edition

In my guise as Professor Film Boy, I have to admit that one of my weak spots is the silent era. I’ve seen most of the major titles of the era, sure, but every now and then as I’m thumbing through one of the Kevin Brownlow histories or rewatching some old documentary on silents (like the excellent 13 part “Hollywood” series from Thames TV in 1980 and golly gee, it’s ALL ON YOUTUBE and I had NO idea, really I didn’t…..), I’ll come across some title or sets of titles I feel like I ought to go back and watch.

First up was the 1924 adventure The Sea Hawk, not to be confused with the other adventure film The Sea Hawk from 1940 with Errol Flynn basically playing Sir Francis Drake. The silent version, based on the Rafael Sabatini novel, is the story of Elizabethan era Brit hero-of-the-Armada-battle Oliver Tressilian and how he gets sold into galley slavery by his wicked half-brother to cover up a murder. Well, he escapes (of course), renounces Christianity because of the un-Christian cruelty of the Spanish towards their captives, and converts to Islam (I’m assuming his circumcision took place offscreen and then everyone ate rugelah or baklava or whatever) when joining the Moors, changing his name to Sakr-el-Bahr (The Sea Hawk) and becomes the scourge of Spanish Christian boats everywhere. And then… it’s time for some personal revenge, although as the story plays out, much like Sabatini’s other notable works (Scaramouche and Captain Blood) the issues of forgiveness and redemption loom large.

Fast moving & fun throughout, and with a rather interesting resolution – after all, how would a 1924 work out the religious issues raised by the character’s transformation? Funny… I kept thinking throughout the thing how no studio would touch this story now Continue reading “DVR Theater: Sssh! Silent Film Edition”

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