Moments

Great (or at least, favourite) scenes and shots.

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Christmas In Connecticut (1945):

Elizabeth Lane (Barbara Stanwyck) is a successful magazine writer whose columns on cooking, house-keeping and interior decoration have made her – and her ideal home, complete with husband and baby, in Connecticut – famous country-wide. There’s just one catch: Elizabeth is a great big fake, with no home, no husband, no baby, and no interest in home-making; while her cooking skills are such, she could burn boiling water.

She is, in other words, not merely my namesake, but my role-model.

When Elizabeth’s overbearing boss, Alexander Yardley (Sydney Greenstreet), invites himself to her house for Christmas, she goes to desperate lengths to keep up the pretence, with John Sloan (Reginald Gardiner), who wants to marry her, only too happy to pose as her husband, and friend and restaurateur, Felix Bassinek (S. Z. Sakall), doing the cooking behind the scenes. Elizabeth even manages to borrow a baby; although her failure to inquire its gender results in a few awkward moments. All goes swimmingly for her, in fact, until Mr Yardley insists upon, not just eating her famous pancakes, but watching her make them—complete with her trademark mid-air flip:

 

What can a girl do but close her eyes and pray?—



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San Antonio (1945)

In this Warners western, the town is under the control of a criminal organisation headed by Legare (Victor Francen) and Roy Stuart (Paul Kelly). Cattleman Clay Hardin (Errol Flynn), who opposed the gang, has been framed for murder and taken refuge in Mexico. Hardin has found the evidence that will clear him, but that doesn’t mean his life is safe; not when he still means to take down Legare and Stuart by whatever means necessary. Tensions escalate, and outbreaks of violence are frequent.

And then—
for no reason at all
—this:

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“Get that drunken cat off the bar!” demands Stuart coldly. “Yeah, he is a little drunk, isn’t he?” responds the bartender (Fred Kelsey) as he obediently removes the dipsomaniacal feline…which continues to gaze longingly at the glass of whiskey as it is hauled away…

We then return to our regularly scheduled murder, cattle-rustling and shoot-outs.

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The Bad And The Beautiful (1952)

Vincente Minnelli’s 1952 drama is one of the great “Hollywood eats itself” films, telling in flashback the story of the rise and fall of ruthless producer Jonathan Shields (Kirk Douglas), who steps on people, uses them and tosses them aside, and ruins lives on his way to the top—and creates great art in the process.

While The Bad And The Beautiful is stuffed full of references to real people and incidents, the highlight of the film may well be its affectionate and funny tribute to the genius of Val Lewton.

Early on in their careers, as they slave away in B-pictures and try to build their professional reputations, producer Shields and director Fred Amiel (Barry Sullivan) are assigned a low-low-budget horror film:

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They are somewhat less than impressed with the resources that the studio has placed at their disposal:

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The two men retreat to commiserate with each other and try to figure out some way of not undoing all the professional progress they’ve made together. Then Jonathan Shields has a brainwave—what is that the human race most fears? – has always most feared?

The dark…

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Their little horror movie, full of shadows and suggestions, showing nothing explicitly, is a smash hit. Justifiably pleased with themselves, a confident Shields and Amiel await their next studio assignment…forgetting for the moment that, well, this is Hollywood…

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The Big Circus (1959)

Tales Of TerrorThe RavenA Comedy Of Terrors, sure—but what about this team-up of Vincent Price and Peter Lorre?

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Vinnie is the ring-master and Pete a smart-mouthed clown at the circus run by Victor Mature, which finds itself suffering an outbreak of “accidents”. It is Vic’s opinion that his former partner is trying to run him out of business, and has planted a saboteur amongst the circus staff:

Henry Jasper Whirling (Victor Mature):  “It wouldn’t surprise me if he had one of his killers travelling with us right now.”
Zach Colino (Gilbert Roland):  “Who do you think it could be?”
Henry Jasper Whirling:  “You know as well as I do, Zach—it could be anyone…”

At which dramatic moment, the camera gives us this:

bigcircus2

Our Vinnie? A dastardly saboteur?? Could it be!?

Or could he be just a big, fat red herring instead?

Well—I’m not going to tell you. Instead, I’ll leave you with the news brought by a police detective, after fingerprints are found at the scene of a deadly act of sabotage:

Detective:  “It seems this killer spent six years in an institution for the criminally insane, just before joining your circus…”

Background checks, people! – I cannot stress that enough…

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Hawaii 5-0: Once Upon A Time (1969)

Before The Machine That Goes ‘Bing’, there was Dr C. L. Fremont’s Miraculous Diagnosis Software.

Though it gives way to one of the series’ grimmest episodes, it is impossible not to grin delightedly during the opening sequence of this two-parter about a quack doctor. A desperate mother, Mary Ann Whalen (Nancy Malone), turns for help to Dr Fremont (Joanna Linville). Dr Fremont assures Mary Ann that she offers the most cutting-edge diagnostic equipment, which can return a detailed health assessment in a matter of minutes, from a single drop of blood. You see, it’s all done by—computer!

Slotting a piece of paper carrying that one drop of blood into her equipment, Dr Fremont flicks a switch. The lights turn on—and flash and blink and beep—the screen comes to life—its blue lines jump and flicker—and then—

—the theremin kicks in.

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Unfortunately for Dr Fremont, however, this time she’s picked the wrong person to blind with science—namely, Steve McGarrett’s sister…

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The Awakening (1980)

This filming of Bram Stoker’s The Jewel Of The Seven Stars is ponderous and rather dull, but around here, there is one aspect of it that never fails to bring the house down.

Charlton Heston and Susannah York play archaeologists who have located the intact tomb of a previously unknown Egyptian queen, whose wicked deeds led people to try and expunge her from the record. The very few outside references to her call her only “The Nameless One” (along with various warnings not to disturb her, but of course no-one listens to that). Inside the tomb, the archaeologists finally discover the queen’s true name, as York’s character translates some hieroglyphics:

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“Daughter of the Sun…”
“…beloved of Osiris…”
“…Queen of Egypt…”
“…Ka…Ra…”
“…Kara.”

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“I always knew I was special!”—Kara K.

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12 Responses to Moments

  1. Pingback: Et al. – Latest entries | and you call yourself a scientist!?

  2. Bill says:

    Ironic that MGM, of all studios, would do a blatant Val Lewton salute in Bad and Beautiful.

    Like

    • lyzmadness says:

      It’s a strange film in many respects: the all-star cast and the size and gloss of the production are very MGM, but a lot of what goes on in it, and the people and incidents it chooses to reference, don’t feel like MGM at all. My guess would be that Vincente Minnelli was given a free hand as a reward for the success of An American In Paris.

      Like

  3. Maura B says:

    Is that your cat? Cutie- but keep her away from the whiskey, I guess!

    Like

    • lyzmadness says:

      Yes, that’s my little Daughter of the Sun. She was actually named for Supergirl after coming through a couple of unfortunate incidents in her kittenhood unscathed, but she’s much more like a wicked Egyptian queen. The first time we saw The Awakening we didn’t know about that detail and couldn’t stop laughing (much to the indignation of its makers, I’m sure, who intended it to be Very Serious Indeed).

      She’s not much for alcoholic beverages, but will steal ice cream if given a chance.

      Like

      • therevdd says:

        Awww, kitty!

        What a pretty girl. Is she a tuxedo cat? Looks like she could be.

        What is it with pets and ice cream? My family had a couple of miniature schnauzers that loved licking our ice cream bowls.

        I keep meaning to watch The Awakening and Manhattan Baby back to back, but keep forgetting. Ah well. I still have to get to War of the Insects and Halloween III anyway, now that I’m through my giant monster movies.

        Like

      • lyzmadness says:

        No, she has a black saddle and tail but is completely white underneath. I like that shot of her because it shows off the colour of her eyes. Also, she doesn’t like having her photo taken (like her mother!) and isn’t usually so cooperative.

        Aww, I LOVE schnauzers!

        I keep meaning to watch The Awakening and Manhattan Baby back to back

        Oh, HELL, yes!! 😀

        Congratulations on your monster movie success! I look forward to hearing your views on the other stuff, too.

        Like

      • therevdd says:

        Yeah, they’re great dogs. I’d definitely consider having one of my own someday.

        Our older cat is very easy to photograph; he’s mellow enough to not really care. The younger one tends to hear you coming and move out of whatever adorable pose he was previously sleeping in, and always seems to look away right before the shutter clicks. I did once get a wonderful shot of him sleeping with one paw thrown over his eyes and his fangs juuuuuust poking out of his mouth. He looked like the feline Dracula (Catula?) shying away from a cross. Unfortunately, it and quite a few other great photos are currently stuck in a phone with a broken screen. 😦

        Like

  4. I wonder what was in the “alcohol” on that bar.

    That reminds me of the second X-Men movie, where Iceman’s family cat has the uncontrollable urge to lick Wolverine’s claws, and when Bobby freezes whatever’s in his mom’s cup, the cat starts licking it with all speed. My theory: mom was drinking fish juice.

    Like

    • lyzmadness says:

      They used cold tea to stand in for whiskey, didn’t they? Possibly that cat’s liking for cold tea prompted it, but even so that scene is so out of place in the film it’s hard to imagine the circumstances that caused someone to dream it up.

      Like

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