A lot of truly great films came out in 1976, but Murder by Death wasn’t one of them. Critics kindly referred to it as “breezy.” Another word that popped up was “insubstantial.” Even some of the actors involved in the production were a little concerned about how it would be received. True,Murder by Death did not deliver high drama, nerve-rattling suspense, or any deep moral questions. What it did provide was a light, fluffy, humorous tone while being blatantly rude with political incorrectness. And the audiences loved it. They let their hair down, relaxed, and let loose with guffaws and hoots over simple gags and repeating jokes. The movie allowed them to indulge in guilty pleasures, leaving them gleefully tittering about how naughty they were. Murder by Death might not have been the highest grossing film that year, but thanks to receptive audiences, it did rank within the Top Ten for earnings. Murder by Death might never make it into “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die,” but you might want to consider it for an evening of frivolity. It also passes the Bechdel Test.
The Home of the Creative Mind
Welcome to PooBahSpiel, the online voice and home of the creative mind of Mark Monlux, Illustrator Extraordinaire. Prepare yourself for an endless regaling of art directly from the hand of this stellar artist. And brace yourself against his mighty wind of pontification. Updates are kinda weekly and show daily sketches, current projects, and other really nifty stuff.
Monday, June 27, 2016
Monday, June 20, 2016
George Lucas made a student film that caught the eye of Frances Ford Coppola. The two of them founded the studio American Zoetrope where they took the idea of that student film and expanded it into the full length movie feature THX-1138. It did not do well at the theater and critics of the day had differing opinions. But over the years, THX-1138 developed a cult following with both audiences and other film makers. You can find Easter eggs referring to THX-1138 in films by Lucas and other filmmakers. In fact you can find hidden references to the film in countless television shows, books and software. The setting of THX-1138 is a future in which mankind has been hollowed out into working drones whose purpose is to support the automated society governing it. The population is medicated and brainwashed. History is absent. The populaces are blank people living on a blank slate. Even the android policemen have blank chrome faces that show only a reflection. Consumption has no meaning as the content of the consumption has no meaning. THX-1138 shows what happens when the irregularities of the human condition rise from this imposed stupor. THX-1138 is an elegant science fiction movie that relies less on special effects and more of the underlying message of the conditions in which its characters are placed. If you’re wondering why the title of the film sounds so familiar, you might have seen the letters more than once when the sound system THX is being introduced at the start of a film.
Monday, June 13, 2016
Destry Rides Again is a well-constructed movie. It provides just the right amount of lush details so your suspension of disbelief is firmly established. A few shots of horses barreling down
dangerous mountain roads and a few head of cattle going past a fence and you completely discount the fact that nearly every scene is either inside a studio set or a backlot façade of a boomtown. A string of comedic elements and dialog entertains us so well that its somewhat thin storyline is overlooked. We are all wrapped up in the characters—the town drunk who gets appointed sheriff, the Iron Matron of the dance hall with a secret heart of gold, the easy mannered deputy with a sly mind, and the silent but crafty mayor. All of these roles are filled with well-accomplished actors and character actors. The true charm of Destry Rides Again is that there is nothing wanting. You get song, humor, action, suspense, and a tug on the heartstrings. While Destry Rides Again performed well at the box office, it was not an extravagant success at the time. However, and I think this is because of how well the movie was constructed, Destry Rides Again remains high on the list of memorable westerns. A couple of quick side notes: Destry Rides Again was James Stewart’s first Western. It was also credited with revitalizing Marlene Dietrich’s career.
Monday, May 30, 2016
Guillermo del Toro said that he wanted to do a Gothic-Romance with a big dash of horror to pay homage to, and to break a few rules of the genre. Crimson Peak starts off right away setting the tone by showing you a ghost within the first five minutes. We get a long creepy look as it utters a cryptic warning. We are then left wondering if perhaps showing a ghost so early in the production was too much of a reveal. But, hey, Hamlet started with a ghost as well and things got very dicey afterwards in that story. The audience is pulled into a Victorian setting with social parties and customs of the time. We wonder if the love our heroine feels is doomed from the start. And how can it possibly thrive when it’s nested in a grand house whose better days are well behind it? The house is like a gigantic decaying body, and we quickly come to feel that the tenants are worms. Crimson Peak is very pretty to look at—in a dusty, antique way. But we’re onto the hidden elements of the story early. The excitement comes from not knowing how the final cards are played. Black, white, gray, sepia, and red, lots of red, fill the color palette of this film. I give this nice homage to the Gothic Movie a solid five points, and then add a point for its having a dog with a name, and another point for easily passing the Bechdel Test.
Monday, May 23, 2016
I’m sure the title of Little Dead Rotting Hood was meant to appeal to the zombie-loving crowd as well as trying to spin the folk tale of Little Red Riding Hood in a new direction. I know that’s what lured this fish to take the hook. The first five minutes of Little Dead Riding Hood told me that I was set for a world of boredom and disappointment. Be warned, you will need to keep yourself alert; otherwise, you will find yourself yawning through the crucial few minutes of exposition that actually explains what is meant to be going on. As is often the case with a gimmick-titled movie, Little Dead Rotting Hood lacks substance. If you want to see a great horror film with a Red Riding Hood spin, I suggest you watch The Company of Wolves (1984). If you want a straight-to-tape zombie movie that at least won’t bore you to tears, I suggest The Video Dead (1986). Which just goes to show that practical special effects from decades ago can still beat the pants off bad editing and CGI.
Monday, May 16, 2016
Originally slated as a B-movie by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, The Thin Man was quickly completed in less than two weeks. The film then surprised the studio by becoming a box-office hit. I’d like to remind my readers that Prohibition was repealed on December 5th, 1933. The Thin Man, which features a tremendous amount of drinking, was released in the spring of 1934. A few audiences complained about the excess, but a thirsty country coming off a dry spell waved them off. Perhaps it was this new tolerance that kept the censors from applying their scissors to the innocent innuendo, often ad-libbed, found in the merry banter of a loving, married couple. The true fun ofThe Thin Man is that the main characters of Nick and Nora have such on-screen chemistry that they come across as intoxicating instead of intoxicated. The dialog provides the humor, not the alcohol. The grace of the performers, William Powell and Myrna Loy, made a statement the audience could rally behind. Smart, happy people could indulge and could still be smart, happy people. Now my theory might seem half-cocked. There’s a mountain of reviews about why The Thin Man was a good movie in 1934. But everyone agrees the movie has legs. You will find it just as clever and entertaining today was when it was released.
You might even be inclined to check out its six sequels:
After the Thin Man (1936)
Another Thin Man (1939)
Shadow of the Thin Man (1941)
The Thin Man Goes Home (1945)
Song of the Thin Man (1947)
Monday, May 9, 2016
It Happened One Night was the first movie to win all five major Academy Awards: Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, and Screenplay. Not bad for a film that initially didn’t fare well when it first hit the theaters. It was when it began its round at second-run theaters and small theaters out in the sticks that audiences started attending en mass. There’s a theory that folks who lived in rural areas identified with the settings of bus travel and pop-up roadside cottage inns. It’s said that tickets on Greyhound buses had a bump in sales as a result of the film. But what I want to talk about is how It Happened One Night influenced popular culture. Clark Gable’s character, Peter Warren, talks while filling up his mouth with carrots. Another character who addresses Warren as “Doc” is then asked by Warren if he’s heard of Bugs Dooley. Six years later, these various tidbits would flow into a cartoon character called Bugs Bunny. Moments, lines and scenarios from It Happened One Night have been paid homage in a slew of films and cartoons. It Happened One Night is a fun romp that audiences went crazy for back in the ‘30s, and it’s well worth your time to watch and see how it became the source of so much material used later in film.