Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Hard drive recovery screenings

A computer genius friend managed to recover most of the files from a dying hard drive, including more than 1,500 movies. So in an effort to assuage my guilt over digital hoarding, I figured I should start, ya know, watching the damn things. And predictably, I was soon knee-deep in sewage:

The Scarlett O'Hara War (John Erman, 1980)
Dramatically inert TV movie recounting the mania around the search for the actress who would play Scarlett O'Hara. Since most of the narrative threads are abandoned (e.g., a fight with the Hays Office over the word "damn"), the viewer must stay awake by judging the impersonations. The Tallulah Bankhead and Clark Gable are cartoon good. Sharon Gless looks uncomfortable as Carole Lombard.
And did you know someone (Barrie Youngfellow[?]) portrayed Joan Crawford a year before Faye Dunaway's world historic performance in Mommie Dearest? It's...not even close.
But at least one holdout from the classical era was on hand to lend the proceedings a smidgen of non-ridiculousness.

The Yesterday Machine (Russ Marker, 1963)
After decades reading both, I've just recently realized how similar Michael J. Weldon and Chuck Eddy are as consumer guides. Simply by cataloging the lunacy of, oh, The Jimmy Castor Bunch: Phase Two or The Beast of Yucca Flats, their reviews wind up far more entertaining than the albums/films themselves, especially this $1.95 turkey. Something about a mad Nazi scientist with a time machine capable of bringing ancient Egyptian and Civil War soldiers to the present. Nearly 15 minutes of screen time is taken up with a dreary explanation of the device. One of the last films of poor Tim Holt, far, far away from his performance as Georgie, my favorite character in The Magnificent Ambersons. Nominated for both "The Worst Performance as a Nazi Mad Scientist" and "The Worst Rock 'n' Roll Lyrics in Movie History" in the Medved's Son of Golden Turkey Awards.
The Climax (George Waggner, 1944)
Forgettable Phantom of the Opera copy with Boris Karloff as a soprano-tormenting madman. The only saving graces are gorgeous Technicolor, florid set design, and the beauty of Turhan Bey here in a scene palming off Joseph Cotten's bored program shredding in Citizen Kane.
Look in Any Window (William Alland, 1961)
Much the best of this sorry lot, Look in Any Window stars Paul Anka as a disaffected teen Peeping Tom in a creepy mask.
And what he peeps in on is the hypocrisy of the suburbs: alcoholism, infidelity, distant fathers. So who's the real pervert here, right? More corny than trashy, it nevertheless has a scrappy energy to it, carried by Anka's unprincipled, mush-mouthed performance. He also sings the moody title tune which recalls Louis Jordan's "Azure Te," one of the jump blues innovator's more sedate moments.