Movies

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S SEX COMEDY (1982) has investment banker Woody Allen and frigid wife Mary Steenburgen invite their friends (genius professor José Ferrer, womanizer Tony Robbins, polyamorous Julia Haggerty and Mia Farrow as Ferrer’s fiancee in her first Allen film) for a weekend in the country. What follows is a round of bed-hopping, flirting and Allen and Farrow wondering what might have happened if they’d gotten together years ago. This strikes me as Allen’s way to borrow from Ingmar Bergman (Smiles of a Summer Night is assumed to be one of the templates for this) while answering fan complaints about not making funny films. The light-hearted result gets a little slapstick at times (I could have done without Allen’s inventions) but overall it’s extremely charming). “I lost it in a hammock—you have to have good balance.”
Another double-feature from the Carolina Theater’s Retrofantasma series, though I don’t remember the rationale: What got me to the theater was the chance to see THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON (1954) in 3D, though I wasn’t the only one to find the visuals too inconsistent to satisfy (according to Keep Watching the Skies, the early prints were in high-quality Polaroid 3D, but later ones used a weaker process). Interesting to see, even so, and a fun film in its own right, as dueling scientists Richard Carlson and Richard Denning lead an expedition up the Amazon to capture Universal’s last great monster, the Gill Man, who becomes captured himself by the beauty of scientist Julie Adams. Scientifically weak (by the logic given here for Gill Man’s existence, he’d have to be about 50 million years old), but still good. “We’re fighting for our lives and all you’re concerned about is whether anyone will believe us!”
Although I saw BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935) earlier this year, it was a pleasure to see Universal’s last 35 mm print up on the big screen. Rewatching, I find myself admiring the acting even more than on last viewing: Ernest Thesiger’s fey, sneering Pretorious, Colin Clive as a man struggling with his addiction to mad science, Elsa Lanchester’s weirdly inhuman body language, Dwight Frye’s put-upon gravedigger and, of course, “Karloff” as the tragic, lonely monster. A true classic. “We belong … dead.”

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