There’s nearly as much to the story behind the making of Old Acquaintance as there is to the movie’s story. The most notorious being that the two female leads loathed each other. Maybe it was because Bette Davis had had an affair with Miriam’s husband during production of another movie some time before. They were pros when the camera rolled. And no doubt, their off-screen relationship helped with their on-screen performance. Old Acquaintance easily passes the Bechdel Test. The women have names, they talk to each other, and their conversation isn’t about men. Men are a topic a portion of the time, but a great deal of the conversation has to do with careers and life goals. I noticed something else about the men. There’s hardly a scene where two of them are in the same room, let alone talking to each other. And something I found very interesting is that the main male characters in the story bear a strong resemblance to each other with slicked back hair, pencil mustaches, and wry smiles. When the war comes around, they become even more identical. The dialog is well written, so much so that the audience is tuned into the dialog, listening for the carefully selected words. When a blunt statement is finally made, it’s almost a shock as well as a catharsis. Old Acquaintance is a well-told and visually strong movie that’s become a staple amongst classics. And while I have fun with it in the strip, this film truly does show off Bette Davis’s eyes.
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.
Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Monday, December 4, 2017
Newsreels used to be a way of presenting news that was otherwise only heard on the radio or read in the newspapers. But it wasn’t long before the oddities of the world were also brought into theaters, the all too common history of sensationalism winning out over substance. While these short news features were a way to warm up the audience before the feature attraction, Mondo Cane is the first of these slightly blue voyeuristic vignettes I know of to arrive as a feature length film. Mondo Cane was the first to string together a collective of odd known and unknown cultural rites for the purpose of shock and social commentary. The depths of grief reflecting the deep love Americans feel towards pets was parlayed against dogs being used by different cultures as a meat source. Stereotypes were brazenly reinforced to a level of absurdity so that the audience fights back with the rational thought of the absurdity of stereotypes. The awful dubbing and odd selections of music* to go with the scenes are orchestrated to poke a stick at many societies’ conventions. Mondo Cane set the template for a series of exploitation documentaries. These in turn inspired others to craft their own documentaries in the same style. Sex, death, gluttony, and fanaticism have all been explored and have become a standard recipe used in reality television shows and Internet videos. Mondo Cane came out the year I was born and a lifetime of exposure has numbed me a bit to the movie’s original source material.
*The score, "More (Theme from Mondo Cane)," was nominated for an Oscar.
Monday, November 27, 2017
A common question asked about Stalag 17 is, “Did it come from a book?” No, it didn’t come from a book, but from a fairly successful play. But like many scripts that arrive in Hollywood, it received heavy rewriting. Perhaps the reason the movie envelopes audiences is the great care Billy Wilder took to make sure the authenticity of the camp was captured as accurately as possible. You can feel the texture of the shabby barracks with its weathered walls and mud-slogged yard. Your skin tightens with the thought of the cold the prisoners are huddled against. And very prevalent is the dark humor flowing from crass mouths struggling to find cheer in a cheerless environment. Wilder takes us to a situation so true-to-life that, when the story starts and character motivations are revealed, we’re also made prisoners of the stalag and unfolding events. He worked to keep an air of suspense amongst the cast as well by filming the movie chronologically. He hid a key plot element from most of the cast until the last few days of shooting. Wilder so masterfully maintained the illusion that more than half a century later, Stalag 17 can still take viewers back to a frigid WWII P.O.W. camp as effectively as when it was released. And just as effectively capture new audiences with its story. It remains one of the best prison escape stories of all time.
Won an Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role.
Monday, November 20, 2017
I want to talk about the great actors in this film. In the title roles we have Tyrone Power, who’s flexing all of his muscles for the audience in the first ten minutes of the film, and Maureen O’Hara, who was often called “The Queen of Technicolor.” This movie would be worth viewing just for them, but we also have other huge talents involved. Laird Cregar strides forth as the legendary pirate, Henry Morgan. Cregar’s presence is very imposing; you half wonder if this film isn’t about him. A couple of villainous pirates are George Sanders as the oily Captain Leech, and Anthony Quinn as the one-eyed Wogan. In the role of Tommy Blue is Thomas Mitchell the great character actor. Mitchell became the first actor to receive the “triple crown” of acting awards (Oscar, Emmy, Tony). I could write at length about any one of these terrific performers. Most of them won Oscars, received stars on the Walk of Fame, and had terrific careers. To have them all working in a swashbuckling pirate movie, with model boat pyrotechnics, sets with garish details, matte-painted landscapes and spliced sunsets is a visual festival full of fun. The only way a modern movie could be this much fun is if they broadsided it with a CGI cannon. It’s well worth a viewing just to see how they did it back in the day.
Monday, November 13, 2017
If you think you’ve seen Spartacus, it’s time to watch it again. The last time I saw it was on television during the ‘70s. It had been heavily edited to fit a two-hour time slot. When films were being selected in the ‘90s for restoration, it was discovered that not one complete print of Spartacus existed. Thankfully, many of those involved in the original production were still alive and participated in its restoration. One scene is still missing and is lost to the ages except for the sound recording. Watching the restored Spartacus was a treat. I relished all of the scenes I’d not witnessed before. Characters took on a new depth. The slave revolt on which Spartacus is based occurred over two thousand years ago, so a fair amount of creative license was used in the production of this movie. Still, all of the main players in this film were highly talented actors, each doing their best. Rather than outshining each other, they brought a living glow to the film. Peter Ustinov’s supporting actor Oscar win for his role as an obeisant slave merchant was highly deserved. His willingness to bend to money was not the only delicious portrayal of Roman society. Laurence Olivier and Charles Laughton’s adversarial roles in the Roman senate gave a fair representation of Rome as well. And I encourage you to see the three-hour restored version of Spartacus for the excellent screenwriting by Dalton Trumbo. Whether it was a commentary on his Hollywood blacklisting or something deeper, you can decide.
Received four Academy Awards.
Monday, November 6, 2017
I was tempted to do a review of One Million B.C. (1940) with Victor Mature and Carole Landis as it introduced Victor Mature as a hunky leading man. Carole Landis wasn’t hard on the eyes, either. What was hard on the eyes was its horrific special effects. Thankfully, the director did what he could to hide the rubber suits behind lots of studio shrubbery. With the help of Ray Harryhausen, the historically inaccurate dinosaurs featured in the 1966 remake of One Million Years B.C. were far better. (Please note the slight name change.) There still were real critters blown up large on the screen as in the earlier movie, but Harryhausen claimed he did this so that the audience would think the creatures were real. I don’t think anybody bought that explanation, but they did buy tickets. This is no historical drama. This is a caveman movie. A flick that’s guaranteed to show a lot of skin under skinned skin. It was the highly unrecognized wardrobe efforts of Carl Toms that produced one of the most recognizable images from One Million Years B.C. , Raquel Welch in a fur bikini, that would go on to be a pop-culture icon.
Tuesday, October 31, 2017
Inktober is an annual online event where artists create ink drawings each day through the month of October. Some of the images celebrate Halloween. Some artists follow a calendar of provided prompt words. Others create their own list of prompt words. And others will follow their own themes. I did my best to follow the prompt word list provided by Inktober. And most of the time I added the spin of an obscure horror movie. Some of the words are obvious in the image. Others less so. I had a lot of fun with this year's Inktober Challenge.
Monday, October 30, 2017
I must have been introduced to Frankenstein at a very early age. I cannot remember a time when this movie wasn’t in my mental wheelhouse. And what a film to have on one of your earliest movie experience paving stones. Frankenstein is the story of a human creating a sentient being. It’s a look at how heedless scientific advancement without forethought can bring horror into the world for both the creator and the created. It’s a mirror of the human condition where people can be seen as gentle, but are usually ugly creatures, afraid and superstitious, blindly lashing out at what is not understood. Mankind is as gruesome as the creature, and not nearly so innocent. I wanted to convey that thought in this strip while also portraying a few of the elements so attractive to me as a child. And which remain attractive to me to this day. What truly horrifies me is when I hear that there are people walking the planet who have not seen Frankenstein. This movie is a must-see for anybody. It is in my top ten movies of all time.