KISS ME KATE (1953) adapts the stage musical of that name to tell how actors and ex-spouses Howard Keel and Kathryn Grayson reunite professionally for a musical adaptation while feuding backstage before inevitably reconciling (I don’t think this will come as a spoiler to anyone). A lot of fun (and fitting nicely into The American Film Musical‘s analysis of the Backstage Musical) with great Cole Porter songs including “Brush Up Your Shakespeare,” “Tom, Dick and Harry,” “Always True to You Darling in My Fashion,” ably danced by Ann Miller, Keenan Wynn and James Whitmore (choreography by the great Hermes Pan). Originally in 3D, which explains Keel’s fondness for throwing things at the audience. “So what do you do/when it’s quarter-to-two/and only a shrew to kiss?”
It’s a DOG DAY AFTERNOON (1975) when Jim Cazale and Al Pacino attempt a quick bank robbery so that Pacino’s boyfriend Chris Sarandon can get a sex change, only to discover there’s no money in the bank, cop Charles Durning is on them like white on rice and the whole thing has turned into a media circus. The kind of film that makes so many people speak fondly of seventies movies—off-the-wall and very cinema verité in style, director Sidney Lumet believing that the strange story would only work if it was as naturalistic as possible. LGBTQ being so much more mainstream than thirty-plus years ago reduces the wildness of the tale, but still worth seeing; with Carol Kane as a bank teller and Lance Henrikson as a cop. “We’re Vietnam veterans so killing don’t mean anything to us, understand?”
RADIO DAYS (1987) is Woody Allen’s nostalgic look back at his childhood (with Seth Green as the Young Woody), a world framed by family and radio: Green’s efforts to get a Masked Avenger ring, aunt Dianne Wiest’s perpetual hard-luck romantic stories, Mia Farrow breaking into showbiz, parents Michael Tucker and Julie Kavner’s perpetual dickering and panic induced by Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds. As there’s no real story arc beyond nostalgia, this comes off much like Allen’s early sketch-comic work; charming, but the family stuff is way too sitcomish. This would double-bill well with Neil Simon’s nostalgic look at the era in Brighton Beach Memoirs. “For some strange reason it’s a wonderful feeling having a schoolteacher we’ve seen dance naked in front of a mirror.”
Moving to TV … YES,MINISTER is the early-1980s Britcom in which a somewhat fuddle-headed British politician hopes to do great things and create sweeping reforms as minister, only to run headlong into his department’s permanent secretary, who’s determined that nothing should change, ever. Somewhat reminiscent of Dilbert in its portrayal of insanely dysfunctional organizations, and quite funny.
THE ADDAMS FAMILY Volume One doesn’t collect the complete first season of the series, but covers most of the tale of the creepy, kookie eccentrics who can’t quite understand why everyone seems so freaked out around them (one of the best episodes is when Gomez gets amnesia, making him the one freaking out). Their unshakeable belief in their own normality and their general enthusiasm for life, love and family—for the era, Gomez and Morticia (John Astin and Carolyn Jones are astonishingly passionate to each other—is what gives this its charm. Well worth catching if you’ve never seen the original.
WITCHFINDER: In the Service of Angels by Mike Mignola and Ben Stenbeck tells the adventures of Edward Grey, a 19th-century occultist who serves as Queen Victoria’s witchfinder, first introduced as a ghost in Hellboy. In this TPB, he investigates an archeologist’s fear that in unearthing strange nonhuman bones in a lost city, his expedition has raised something that followed them back to civilization … This is a very good, very fast-moving adventure, with lots of references to “later” Hellboy continuity (and some I don’t believe have been followed up on yet, like the occultist Gilfryd’s mysterious mentor).
WITCHFINDER: Lost and Gone Forever by Mignola, John Arcudi and John Severin is a less satisfying tale in which Grey journeys out to the Wild West where he encounters’ a witch’s scheme to lead a combined Native American/zombie force against local settlers. This is pretty entertaining, and well-drawn, but not as tight or gripping as the original (the creators wanted to do a Western adventure but the setting just doesn’t work as well as London).