Saturday, May 20, 2017

The Happiest Millionaire (Norman Tokar, 1967)

I'm stunned at how progressive Disney was with sexual politics in the late 1960s. The Happiest Millionaire follows a homosexual horndog played by Tommy Steele aka Toothy McTootherson (or is that Tusky McMammoth?). He goes cruising the openly secular (!) John Davidson (of That's Incredible! fame).
I mean, he really lusts after him!
Eventually, they get it on at a gay bar.
And a good time is had by all.
Just kidding. That was my willful queer misreading to stay awake in the final third of this Three. Hour. Movie. In truth, it features an ancient heteronormative gambit - not only does the film end with the requisite formation of the heterosexual couple (Davidson and Lesley Ann Warren) but that formation must be celebrated, here by a community of prisoners they just met (although the Detroit song that scores the celebration is one of the few nifty numbers).
There are some touching moments throughout, especially from the underappreciated Fred MacMurray who has a tough time letting go of his daughter.
But as with all roadshow musicals ever, it's too long, too eager to please, too clueless, too too. Worth noting, though, is a cute breaking of the fourth wall...
a mention of Benghazi in song (rendered as "Bengasi")...
and a scene in which alligators are accidentally frozen but then thawed back to life which may have influenced Disney (who died just as production on this film was wrapping) to cryogenically freeze himself.


Sunday, May 07, 2017

L'inconnu de Shandigor (Jean-Louis Roy, 1967)

L'inconnu de Shandigor is a Eurospy parody in the vein of Joseph Losey's Modesty Blaise from just the year before. But where the latter draws out some emotional resources from what feels like a personal project for Losey, L'inconnu de Shandigor rests content with poking fun at the genre. Granted, it does so with curious longueurs and absolutely gorgeous photography courtesy of cinematographer Roger Bimpage. Damn near every frame is screenshot-worthy. And Serge Gainsbourg is in there somewhere playing a cog in some sort of international espionage intrigue. I assume only suckers will follow the narrative trajectory closely. It's all quite wacky and inventive. But that's all it is and too soon, wacky and inventive becomes dreary and exhausting. As with the similarly flashy and empty Les idoles, L'inconnu de Shandigor pats itself on the back for its deep knowledge of and play with genre conventions. So you can pat along with the creators or you could choose a weightier option, say, the forgotten Joan Crawford-Fred MacMurray spy-nonsense thriller Above Suspicion (Richard Thorpe, 1943).

Oh another thing it shares with Les idoles - a grasp of rock 'n' roll as capitalist tool (yawns).