APES ON FILM: Romance on the High Seas and the Docks

Posted on: Jul 20th, 2020 By:

By Anthony Taylor
Contributing Writer

Welcome to the first installment of Apes on Film on ATLRetro! This column exists to scratch your Retro-film-in-high-definition itch. Going forward we’ll be reviewing new releases of vintage cinema on disc of all genres, finding gems and letting you know the skinny on what to avoid. Here at Apes on Film, our aim is to uncover the best in Retro film. As we dig for artifacts, we’ll do our best not to bury our reputation. What will we find out here? Our destiny.

 

 

ROMANCE ON THE HIGH SEAS (1948)
2.5 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: Jack Carson, Janis Paige, Don DeFore, Doris Day, Oscar Levant
Directors: Michael Curtiz, Busby Berkeley
Rated: Not Rated
Studio: Warner Archives
BRD Release Date: June 16, 2020
Audio Formats: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono
Video Resolution/Codec: 1080p AVC/MPEG-4
Aspect Ratio(s): 1.37:1
Run Time: 99 minutes
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Film Still: Doris Day Romance on the High Seas

Doris Day bows on film as a cabaret singer caught in a wacky web of marital deception in the sort of screwball musical comedy she’d go on to perfect. This one is a bit too enamored of itself and the oh-so-whimsical, Preston Sturges-esque dialogue of the era; the problem is that no one bothered to have Preston Sturges actually write the film, so much of it just seems stilted and flat. The most entertaining lines and comedic bits come from background players. The musical numbers are forgettable and mostly fail to enthrall, the exception being “It’s Magic,” the picture’s finale. Throughout, the saving grace is Doris Day, who remains sparkling and a joy to watch. Hard to believe this was her first film, truly.

Warner Archive’s Blu-Ray release includes the film, its theatrical trailer, and a classic Bugs Bunny cartoon (“Hare Splitter”)—which is not presented in HD and laden with artifacts. The film itself looks gorgeous with deep blacks and vivid colors. Sound is adequate in MA 2.0 Mono.

Recommended for the completist, Doris Day fans, and lovers of period musicals.

 

CANNERY ROW (1982)
2 out of 5 Bananas
Actors: Nick Nolte, Debra Winger, Audra Lindley, Frank McRae, M. Emmet Walsh
Directors: David S. Ward
Rated: PG
Studio: Warner Archives
BRD Release Date: June 9, 2020
Audio – English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono (48kHz, 24-bit)
Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Resolution: 1080p
Aspect ratio: 1.85:1
Run Time: 121 minutes
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Film Still: Cannery Row, Nolte and Winger

Like Robert Altman’s POPEYE a mere two years earlier, David S. Ward’s CANNERY ROW concerns the effects a stranger’s arrival has on a small, seaside town filled with hobos, eccentrics, and the feeble-minded, and like the earlier movie, it misses the mark. Also based on well-loved source material, written and directed by a true wunderkind of the era (Ward wrote arguably one of the best movies of all time, THE STING), and featuring a cast of enormously talented performers, CANNERY ROW is the victim of its first-time director’s self-indulgent excess and misunderstanding of the process he was into up to his neck. Almost everything about the movie is too “on-the-nose,” eschewing innovation for cliché, from the production design to the score. Especially rancorous are the performances of the supporting cast, who Ward must have encouraged to chew scenery like it was bubble gum. The good in all of this are the performances of Nolte and Winger, who keep things on track even as the film meanders around aimlessly for its second half. Also, of note is Director of Photography Sven Nykvist’s cinematography, which is lush and evocative throughout.

Warner Archive’s Blu-ray release is bare bones, including just the film and its original trailer. Film grain is apparent throughout and heavy in many of the darker scenes, but overall, it’s a very watchable presentation. Audio seemed uneven from a volume aspect, but otherwise serviceable.

I wish I could recommend CANNERY ROW, but it is a very mixed bag. Nolte’s performance is nuanced and subtle at times, from the era when he was still capable of such a thing. Worth a watch for that if you have time to kill.

 

Anthony Taylor is not only the Minister of Science, but also Defender of the Faith. His reviews and articles have appeared in magazines such as Screem, Fangoria, Famous Monsters of Filmland, SFX, Video WatchDog, and more.

*Art Credit: Anthony Taylor as Dr. Zaius caricature by Richard Smith

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Retro Review: Elizabeth Taylor Purrs on the Big Screen in CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF at the Fabulous Fox

Posted on: Jul 10th, 2011 By:

By Dean Treadway
Contributing Blogger

CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF (1965); based on the Tennessee Williams play; Dir: Richard Brooks; Screenplay by Richard Brooks and James Poe; Starring Elizabeth Taylor, Paul Newman, Burl Ives, Judith Anderson; Tues. July 12; pre-show at 7 PM/film at 7:30 p.m.; Coca-Cola Summer Film Festival at Fox Theatre. Trailer here.

Surely, the recent passing of superstar Elizabeth Taylor is behind the programming of 1958’s CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF at the Fabulous Fox on Tuesday, July 12.  And it’s a good choice, too. Taylor’s sultry, skimpily-dressed Maggie The Cat is one of her most iconic performances, and is certainly the definitive filmed (or televised) portrayal of scribe Tennessee Williams’ most cunning heroine.

Still, the film version of Williams’ Pulitzer Prize-winning 1955 play could be better. In it, Paul Newman plays Maggie’s husband Brick, a former football star who’s literally been crippled by booze (he spends the whole film hobbled by crutches). Living on his bloated, bellowing father’s “plantation,” he’s constantly getting jabbed from all sides. His needling father and mother (the excellent Burl Ives and Judith Anderson) are wondering why he and Maggie don’t have any children while his brother Gooper (Jack Carson) has had a whole passel of kids with his woman (Madeleine Sherwood). Meanwhile, Maggie has moved into full seduction mode; the play takes place on a hot summer day, but that’s not the only reason she’s often seen in her skivvies. She’s trying all she can do to put the fire back into their romance. But Brick won’t have any of it; the idea of he and Maggie together has become distasteful to him, because he still blames her for driving his best friend to suicide.

The problem with the film comes with this final detail. In the original play, it was pretty clear that Brick and his friend, Skipper, were engaged in a homosexual relationship, and that Maggie slept with Skipper in order to break the duo up. But none of this is alluded to in the film, because it was 1958 and the studio, MGM, would have none of it. So the central conflict in the film is incapacitated, just like Brick (Williams himself was disappointed with the film version, telling the press that the movies “would set the industry back 50 years“). And yet Paul Newman wisely conveys some pained undertones that let us know what was REALLY going on.

Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor in CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF. Copyright MGM Pictures, 1958.

The film bogs down in its middle, too, but it’s always handsome to look at, thanks to the Oscar-nominated color cinematography by William Daniels. And it boasts of one of the finest supporting performances in any Tennessee Williams adaptation: that of Burl Ives, reprising his Broadway triumph as the imposing Big Daddy Tabbitt, bemoaning the family’s danged “mendacity” while suffering, as a terminal case, through what might be his last birthday celebration. Somehow, Ives escaped an Oscar nomination himself, but Taylor and Newman got one, as did the film, its director (Richard Brooks) and its screenplay (by Brooks and James Poe).

In the end, although it’s not entirely successful, the main reason to see CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF is for Ives and for Taylor. Both are forces of nature, but for wildly different reasons, of course.  Ives blusters magnificently, while Taylor slinks around like the beautiful cat she is. The Fabulous Fox is the place to be on Tuesday, July 12 (the pre-show, with the Mighty Mo singalong, cartoon and trailers, starts at 7 p.m.); one cannot miss a chance to see the stunning Elizabeth Taylor writ large on the big screen, where her beauty and talent were always meant to be experienced.

Dean Treadway is a longtime Atlanta film analyst and film festival programmer with more than 25 years of published works. His popular film blog is called filmicability with Dean Treadway and can be perused here at http://www.filmicability.blogspot.com/.  He is also a correspondent for Movie Geeks United, the Internet’s #1 movie-related podcast, at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/moviegeeksunited.

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