Tag Archives: Howard Hawks

Destroyed by their lust for women: three movies

A GIRL IN EVERY PORT (1928) is another silent Howard Hawks films, wherein swabbies Victor McLaglen and Richard Armstrong go from brawling adversaries to best buddies only to risk falling apart when McLaglen falls for Louise Brooks, whom Armstrong knows from experience is No Damn Good. The male bonding makes this feel more Hawksian than the other silents I’ve caught recently, but it’s still not very good. The homoerotic overtones had TYG snickering when she caught part of it while I watched. “It’s ten after nine.”

THE SOFT SKIN (1964) is the first film in my Truffaut-a-thon that I haven’t seen before, though it turns out I wasn’t missing much. While well-made, this is a surprisingly conventional married-boy-gets-girl, married-boy-loses-girl, wife-gets-a-gun,drama that could easily have been made by a half-dozen other creators (something I wouldn’t say about Jules and Jim). I do, however, like Roger Ebert’s observation that most of the protagonist’s problems come not from adultery but from being a half-hearted, inept adulterer. “I’d rather save that for my talk so as not to reveal myself.”

THE VAMPIRE LOVERS (1970) isn’t as arty an adaptation of Carmilla as Vampyr but it’s much more faithful. Then newcomer Ingrid Pitt plays a beautiful, stranded noblewoman taken in by Peter Cushing’s family, after which Cushing’s daughter suffers a strange, wasting disease — and then it appears the same fate will befall Pippa Steele (above right, with Pitt). While sex and blood were always part of Hammer’s appeal, like Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde, this film shows them getting much more explicit, with nude breasts, vampire bites on breasts and lesbian scenes that must have been eye-popping at the time; that said, it’s tame compared to the lurid AIP poster below (AIP released this and Sister Hyde in the US). The box office was good enough to generate two sequels, Lust for a Vampire and Twins of Evil; Kate O’Mara (later the Rani on Doctor Who) plays a discarded lover. “The trouble with this part of the world is they have too many fairy tales.”#SFWApro. All rights to images remain with current holders.

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When pirates travel at light-speed, they get … younger! Movies and TV

The seventh and final season of YOUNGER suffered from the pandemic delaying it to two years after the last season, which I assume is why Diana (Miriam Shor) and Zane (Charles Michael Davis) disappear from the cast. Much like S6 it feels like a lot of shuffling pieces across the board to keep the game going: Kelsey (Hilary Duff) gets a big promotion, gets sidelined, leaves, comes back … And Josh (Nico Tortorella) continues feeling like a fifth wheel. Maggie’s (Debi Mazur) arc, on the other hand, felt like two season’s worth of episodes crammed into a handful of scenes.That said, I think they stuck the landing: Kelsey, once again unattached to a guy, heads out to LA to start fresh in a new job (there were hopes for a spinoff but Duff picked another show); Charles and Liza break up (but Liza’s last-minute rush to the airport to encourage him to marry someone else was a great twist on the cliche); and Liza (now promoted to publisher) and Josh maybe start over. I’m not sure that resolves anything given Josh wanted to marry her too (the sticking point for Charles was Liza ruling out getting married again) but nonetheless it worked for me. “He’s iconic — like, genuinely iconic, not millennial-stanning-kombucha iconic.”

STAN LEE’S LIGHTSPEED (2006) is a SyFy direct-to-video in which Jason Connery gains super-speed from a freak accident, dons a costume and goes to work against the nihilist reptilian terrorist the Python. On the level of the 1970s TV pilots I watched as a teen, then again for Cyborgs, Santa Claus and Satan, and I do not mean this as a compliment. It’s lacking in imagination (Lightspeed never does anything beyond run fast), acting (Connery, Lee Majors and Nicole Eggert are the big names) and very sexist in the gratuitous torture Python inflicts on Eggert.

SHALLOW GRAVE (1994) has three obnoxious roommates take in an older man as fourth only to have him die on them, leaving behind a suitcase full of cash — well, obviously no downside to keeping it for themselves, right? With Ewan McGregor and Christopher Eccleston as two of the roomies this is a solid little British noir that would double bill well with A Simple Plan.“I would do the same thing only I’m not his type.”

THE CRADLE SNATCHERS (1927) is another early Howard Hawks film, wherein three wives decide to teach their straying husbands a lesson by hiring young collegians to flirt with and thereby make their husbands jealous. This fast-paced comedy feels more like a Hawks film than Paid to Love, but the story is too busy and disorganized to work. “Being Spanish and an osteopath is what got you this job.”

PIRATES OF PENZANCE was last year’s Durham Savoyards production, which I bought on DVD and finally got around to (it’s a shame I didn’t switch the viewing order for this and Lightspeed as the latter wouldn’t have suffered from the dogs distracting me). Not as distinctive in style as many of the Savoyards’ productions but a fun performance of the Gilbert and Sullivan pirate spoof nonetheless. “With courage rare/and resolution manly/For death prepare/unhappy General Stanley.”

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Irish monsters, silent lovers and a controversial Velma

GRABBERS (2012) is an Irish ET Monster film in which a meteor storm deposits tentacled flesh eating horrors on the coast of Ireland; the one chance the local village has is that the creatures find alcohol as deadly as the aliens in I Married a Monster From Outer Space (the creators are aware the jokes write themselves but that doesn’t stop them cracking the jokes). This is a solidly entertaining film and for once the mass of tentacles doesn’t look like just overdone CGI. “It’s always the quiet places where the mad shit happens — just look at the paper.”

PAID TO LOVE (1927) is the earliest extant film by future Thing from Another World director Howard Hawks, a silent comedy in which a banker agrees to invest in a struggling postage-stamp kingdom if he and the monarch can convince the car-crazy heir to the throne (“He won’t even look at a girl if she doesn’t have eight cylinders and a carburetor.”) to find a woman and ensure continuation of the dynasty. The solution is to hire an actor to seduce him but on the way to court the woman falls in love for real with a man she thinks is but an ordinary member of the royal guard.

Like most of Alfred Hitchcock’s early films, nothing about this feels distinctive to the future great director, nor particularly entertaining. The most fun comes in early scenes such as a seedy but quiet Paris bar that fakes underworld brawls for the tourist trade. William Powell plays a lecher. “What he needs is a female alarm clock to wake him up.”

When HBO Max announced the VELMA animated TV series I had my doubts — a Scooby-Doo based series with no Scooby? — but there have been equally implausible prequels I’ve enjoyed. And I do think that diversifying the cast makes good sense (Velma’s Indian-American, voiced by show co-creator Mindy Kaling, and Daphne is Asian-American). However the story of how Velma brought the human members of the team together has the same kind of meanness I despise in Rick and Morty, generally unlikable characters, and the first episode felt blandly, generically edgy. Learning the second episode has a bad #metoo joke (Velma claims she says the truth without filters, “like comedians before metoo!”) killed what interest I might have had. If I get the itch for Scooby Doo material there’s no shortage of better out there. “Have you ever noticed how pilot episodes of TV shows always have more gratuitous sex and nudity than the rest of the episodes?”

I watched the first couple of episodes of the British 1966 TV series THE BARON recently and while not as distasteful as Velma, it’s not very interesting. American actor Steve Forrest plays John “the Baron” Mannering (he has nothing in common with the John Creasey series protagonist he’s nominally based on) a London antiques dealer who in the opening episode gets entangled in international intrigue. What follows is by-the-numbers TV spy stuff, though it does make a fascinating capsule of mid-1960s fashion, cars and Cold War attitudes. The second episode, by veteran Doctor Who writer Terry Nation, has a great opening and a wonderful weasel of a villain, but ultimately it’s more of the same. So I think my viewing time can be better spent elsewhere.

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Shouldn’t women’s roles have improved by 1996?

Rewatching The Thing From Another World (1951) as I worked on the Monsters chapter of Alien Visitors gave me fresh appreciation for Margaret Sheridan as Nikki, the female lead opposite Kenneth Tobey’s Hendry. It’s not that she plays a role in fighting the Thing, but there’s no question she could do it if she had to.

Producer Howard Hawks liked stories about tough guys, and Hendry and his crew are plenty tough.  It’s not emphasized, just taken as a given that they’re willing to go up against this alien menace and fight to the last man to save the world. Scotty, the reporter (Douglas Spencer) establishes his bona fides easily: when Hendry says he should be away from the front lines, Scotty replies he shouldn’t have been at El Alamein or Okinawa during WW II, but he was there. ’nuff said.

The thing is, Hawks liked his women tough too. Contrary to the poster, Nikki never screams, never faints, never needs more protection than anyone else. She never stays behind when they’re going up against the Thing. We learn that on her last date with Hendry she drunk him under the table, a measure of toughness back in those days.

Fast-forward to 1988’s Predator. We have one woman in the cast (Elpidia Carrillo) and her role is a headscratcher. She’s working with a Russian special-forces team fomenting unrest in the region. We never learn what he role is: interpreter? Guide? Marxist guerilla? It comes off as if she’s there solely to provide exposition and avoid criticism the film’s a 100 percent sausage fest.

While Dutch (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and his crew are tough, there’s more self-consciousness about it. One of the team (Jesse Ventura) carries a massive gun way too big to lug for jungle fighting; there’s the early scene where we watch Carl Weathers and Ah-nuld arm-wrestle with an emphasis on their muscles.

And then there’s Independence Day (1996) where as I’ve mentioned before, there’s a lot more worry that the male characters aren’t man enough. Jeff Goldblum lost his wife because he wasn’t ambitious enough for her; as a president, war hero Whitmore (Bill Pullman) is dismissed as a wimp because he compromises and negotiates. Both, of course, prove they’re Real Men.

The flip side of that is that the women have to be Real Woman, which is to say letting the men have all the glory. As the first lady, Mary McDonnell dies because she didn’t listen to her husband; Margaret Colin’s role as Goldblum’s ex is to see how awesome her husband really was; Viveca J. Fox gets to be a little heroic because she’s protecting her son, plus she’s doing what her boyfriend Will Smith told her to, in contrast to McDonnell.

It’s really annoying that Sheridan’s tougher and probably more capable than any of these later films. It should be the other way around, shouldn’t it? Similarly, the female lead in I Married a Monster (1997) doesn’t get to do more than in 1958’s I Married a Monster From Outer Space. All she can do is warn the town doctor and have him do the fighting. The 1995 Village of the Damned is marginally better than the classic 1960s film, but not much (I discussed this about a year ago).

Not that it’s startling news Hollywood is sexist, but it’s still annoying.

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