Archive for the ‘Hitchcock’ Category

Movie Millisecond: Apocalypse yesterday, or, It’s the end of the [ ] as we [ ]

November 1, 2012

The Birds (Alfred Hitchcock, 1963).

It’s not. It never is.

Movie Millisecond: The Birds, “hectic” edition

July 10, 2011

The Birds (Alfred Hitchock, 1963).

Click here to visit Shambala Wildlife Preserve online, established in 1972 and funded by the ROAR foundation, which Tippi started in 1983 when she purchased Shambala. Shambala is an exotic pet and big cat open range preserve, primarily catering to animals which have been abandoned by irresponsible owners, dumped by zoos or bankrupt circuses, or found wandering.


This is not the doll from the following story. It’s just a doll.

You may have previously heard about Shambala. But did you know that Tippi Hedren’s daughter is Melanie Griffith? She was already a primary school student when The Birds was filming. Hitchcock gave her a doll that was a replica of her mother, creepy to begin with — kept in a wooden box. Melanie thought it was a coffin and started crying.

KNOWLEDGE BOMB.

Truth in advertising: Vintage ed. — For fun and profit

April 26, 2011


Popular Science Vol 133, No. 5. 1938, via.

A light bulb just went off over Norman Bates’ head. A boy’s best friend is his mother, but everyone needs a hobby. I’ve always said that. Miss D can attest.

Movie Millisecond: Spellbound, featuring Gregory Peck as the unmitigated Sex

January 14, 2011


via.

Spellbound (Alfred Hitchcock, 1945).


UNMITIGATED.



Not only did this Movie Millisecond inspire me to create a Gregory Peck category (can’t believe I didn’t have one yet), but I get to trot out the unintentionally seldom-used Hitchcock category, too. It’s a razzle-dazzle day!

Girls of Summer: Jonnie Nicely, Miss August 1956

July 30, 2010


Photographed by Hal Adams.

Total sassafrass: brace yourselves for the sap flood.

Playboy readers are a strongly partisan bunch, quick to tell us when they like something — or when they don’t. Last October, we were faced with the delightful dilemma of choosing between two potential Playmates, each lovely in her own way.

(“Command Performance: A near miss makes a curvy comeback.” Playboy, August 1956.)


We hemmed, hawed, made our choice; and in addition to the Playmate proper, we printed photos of the girl who didn’t quite make it. The result was a deluge of letters telling us we were blind as the well-known bat and should have picked the other girl.

(Ibid.)

I think even in 1956 if a man said simperingly to a fellow bachelor, “Blind as the well-known bat,” with his pinky up all hmmhmmHMM, he would’ve got his ass kicked. Unless it was Noel Coward. That dude was hard core.


The other girl’s name was, and is, Jonnie Nicely. She’s Miss August, and we’re glad. It grieved us to turn her down before.

(Ibid.)

Nice fawning write-up, but the wiki suggests the murky October shenanigans went down differently:

Nicely was originally supposed to be a Playmate for the October 1955 issue, but scheduling and creative conflicts temporarily pushed her aside in favor of Jean Moorhead.

Creative conflict? What an interesting and euphemistic phrase. I wonder what the real story is.

This picture was not included in the original spread but comes rather from The First Fifteen Years. Seeing as it is so close in composition to the picture which was ultimately selected as the centerfold, my guess is that it was down to those two poses and perhaps a few others as to which would be run as the main gatefold shot. I also conjecture that this one didn’t make the cut because she is not quite looking in to the camera.

Ms. Nicely hails from Fort Smith, Arkansas, where the US Marshals have their National Museum. Fort Smith’s nickname is “Hell on the Border.” The town motto is: “Life’s worth living in Fort Smith, Arkansas,” which I understand is to encourage residency and visitation, but all I can think when I read it is, “… unlike in Detroit.”

This picture was not included in either of her Playboy appearances. It must have come from a shoot for a different periodical. I threw it up anyway because I dig the “Girlfriend of the Whirling Dervish” vibe that’s happening here. If you know the photograph’s provenance, please feel free to lay it on me.

This is so Psycho. Yes? The italian boy hairstyling, the thick brows and light-bullet bra, the pencil skirt and mirrored moment of intimacy. Very Janet Leigh as dictated by Hitchcock. But the picture predates the film by four years, so I’m not suggesting it was deliberate. Just echo-y.

These pictures are markedly different and grainier than all the others, so they may be the early October shots in question. Alternately, they may be poses for a different magazine, and the photos which are mentioned in Ms. Nicely’s write-up are the ones where she has very short hair and is goofing around in her bedroom with “go, team” type get-ups.

I do lean toward that explanation because it would mean that the shots where Ms. Nicely has longer hair and is in and around the house are more thematically unified instead of the kind of jumble it all looks like now.


This is my favorite shot and I wish I could see it in color.

The first group of pictures had an angle of youth and “oopsie, you caught me dressing,” and these latter group are suggestive of a more mature, consenting, young wifey type leading you around her house after she picks up the milk.

Does this make sense?

She apparently did other modeling work for a bit in the late 50’s, but she jumped ship to pursue work of a totally different nature. Ms. Nicely spent a long and trailblazing career as a mechanic for Rockwell International at their B-1 bomber plant.

The various Rockwell companies list a large number of firsts in their histories, including the World War II P-51 Mustang fighter and the B-25 Mitchell bomber, and the Korean War-era F-86 Sabre, as well as the Apollo spacecraft, the B-1 Lancer bomber, the Space Shuttle, and most of the Navstar Global Positioning System satellites. Rocketdyne, which had been spun off by North American in 1955, was re-merged into Rockwell in 1984, and by that time produced most of the rocket engines used in the United States.

(the wiki.)

I said goddamn, Jonnie Nicely! Way to do it.

Above is a recent picture of Jonnie promoting her Playboy issue and doing signings for fans. Below is a picture from one of my favorite ladies, Dolores del Monte (Miss March 1954), a vintage model who is super-active in the convention circuit and maintains a lovely website.


l to r: Ms. Nicely, Rick Linnehan (astronaut), Dolores del Monte (Miss March 1954), very special Valentine Vixen Kona Carmack (Miss February 1996), Cynthia Meyers (Miss December 1986), and Peggy McIntaggart (Miss January 1990) at the Los Angeles Glamourcon, November 2008.

Keep on rockin’ in the free world, ladies!

Movie Moment: A story in stills — I Tre volti della paura, aka The Three Faces of Fear, aka Black Sabbath

April 21, 2010

A touch of giallo and genuine fear in the rainy April. In honor of the upcoming thirtieth anniversary of his death, I declare this Mario Bava Movie Moment Week. He was a really terrific director of plenty of genres, though he is best known for his work in horror, with a good sense of fun AND fear, and a truly great gift for cinematic expression. His colors, lighting, and cinematographic choices are amazing. I look forward to highlighting some of my faves from him over the next seven days!


Bava big pimpin’! image via Thizz Face Disco right here on the wordpress.

Thought I’d start with I Tre volti della paura, aka The Three Faces of Fear, aka Black Sabbath (1963). It’s a story in stills edition, folks, so skip to the bottom if you don’t want spoilers!


(stills via proximity seamstress in the Nostalgia Party community on the lj. YOU ARE SO COOL!)

Arguably Bava’s masterpiece, Black Sabbath is broken in to three segments. I feel that each of the three segments explores a various type of terror: from the psychological, to the monstrous, to the uncanny. The only element of continuity between the three stories is a cinematic one: Boris Karloff, one of the kings of classic horror, comes out to introduce each segment in the version with which I’m familiar (though I’m told this is not the case with the original U.S. release), and plays a vampire in the second of the segments.

These screencaps are exclusively from what I’d term the strictly psychological thriller segment, “Part I: The Telephone,” a noirish story about wicked people with ulterior motives couched in deceit, coupled with the dramatic sexy violence and twists characteristic of giallo films. Set in Paris, the short is familiar pulp territory, with the titillating added thrill of bisexuality, but it’s shot with a Hitchcockian tension to the angles and edited with sustained, lingering frames interrupted by abrupt cuts that really ratchet up the anxiety level.

The story takes place in pretty much one location over a single evening, almost in real time, which contributes considerably — along with the short length of the segment — to a swiftly rising pitch in suspense.

This hot ticket is Rosy, played by mega-hottie Michèle Mercier. Rosy is a call girl whose boyfriend and former pimp, Frank, has just escaped from prison. As she testified against him in his trial, she’s understandably concerned after hearing the dramatic news of his escape that he is going to seek her out soon for reprisals.

(And you thought nervous girls getting all naked and wet was a trope that was invented for seventies slasher flicks. Silly you. Friday the 13th ain’t got nothin’ on Sgr. Bava!)

It seems Rosy’s concerns are well-placed, because she begins receiving mysterious, threatening phone messages from a gruff caller who says he is Frank and warns that he is coming to get her.

Rosy calls a girlfriend, Mary, to confide her fears. Over the course of the conversation, you realize, oh, snap! This is a girlfriend-girlfriend! And Rosy is now even hotter. A high-femme damsel in distress, she is relieved when her more strong, slightly domineering and weirdly “off” ex promises to hurry over to the apartment and help Rosy relax.


Mary’s “offness” is explained when she turns right back around and calls Rosy back, disguising her voice and pretending to be Frank — she is the one who’s been making the threatening phone calls that have Rosy so shaken up. Also, she is a very smart dresser, as you can see in the following still.

Look at you, girl! All a dominant and crafty lipstick sixties lesbian, all suited up and catty in your emerald green, all situated in the bed looking cosmopolitan with your little sherry glass — I said goddamn, Lidia Alfonso: haters to the left. She’s looking mighty good. That shit would sooo work on me.

Mary is just full of good counsel and reassurance for her frightened former lover. As an example, she suggests that Rosy put a carving knife under her pillow …

and take a nutritious, delicious tranquilizer. Those are two things that always go together really, really well, especially in a film called The Three Faces of Fear.

Man. The trustworthy Miss Mary’s lifestyle tips are practically gold. She should start a magazine. How to Put Your Ladytimes Lover in Serious Danger: Accessories and Cocktail Suggestions for the Scheming Butch on the Go!

To Mary’s credit, once Rosy drops off, Mary pens her a letter which explains her motivations (something we’ve been curious about, too, since making prank calls saying you plan to end your lover’s life is kind of a sketchy thing to do).

Mary writes that she had missed Rosy terribly since their breakup and, when she heard about Frank the scary pimp’s prison break, she decided to use the opportunity to invent a scenario where Frank was threatening to murder Rosy so that Rosy would call Mary for help. After being around Mary again, the plan went, Rosy would realize the mistake of their separation and invite her back in to her life. Mary’s sorry it had to be done in a deceitful and scary way (which it didn’t, actually — that kind of convolution is pretty much strictly the logical provenance of giallo), but she writes that she loves Rosy and hopes to make it up to her.

Stop — Boris Karloff time! (Please, Boris Karloff, don’t hurt ’em.) I have inserted this interruption completely out of sequence. I just really wanted to throw it out there. Back to the story. Are you ready for the twisty turn of the screw?

While Mary is busy writing her love letter to the tranqued out Rosy, a man steals in to the apartment, clearly intent on murder. It is Frank, the pimp, now a genuine threat even though thirty seconds ago we thought he was not! He didn’t call but he was actually coming all along.

Crap! Mary, with whom we have just become totally sympathetic due to her big reveal of being a lover not a murderer, does not hear him because she is wrapped up in her lovey-dovey explanatory note-writing, and Rosy is asleep in the arms of Prince Valium in the other room.

He grabs the silk stocking off of the chair where Rosy discarded it earlier before her steamy I’m-scared-so-I’ll-strip bath and subsequent frightened call to Mary.

He sees the back of Mary’s dark head and, oh, no!, without seeing her face, begins to strangle her with the stocking. He assumes she is Rosy, his intended target.

The muffled thumps of Mary and Frank’s struggle Rosy slept straight through, but her lover’s death rattle finally wakes Rosy.

Maybe some kind of sympatico mental thing. She knows she has just heard something bad. She realizes it was Frank and deduces that he killed Mary. She is frozen in fear, looking at his face.


Suddenly, Rosy remembers the knife that poor dead Mary suggested that she stash beneath the pillow back when we still half-thought Mary might end up using it on Rosy herself.

Rosy stabs Frank with the knife, killing him, then breaks down sobbing and freaking out and crying, surrounded by the corpses of people she used to have sex with. I assume someone found her and stopped her screaming eventually. In any case, that knife sure ended up being a danged good idea. Why did you say it wasn’t? Sheesh.


Bava at work.

Mario Bava said repeatedly that this was the best of all his directorial work, placing it even above the classic La Maschera del Demonio/The Mask of Satan/The Black Mask (it is in Italian horror directors’ contracts that all their movie titles have at least three crazy names. Did You Know?). The man — Quentin Tarantino — has cited the narrative structure of Black Sabbath as his inspiration for the disjointed cinematic discourse in Pulp Fiction.


Why did I choose the least-flattering picture of QT ever? Answer: So that he will look at it and think I’m the best he can do and we can get married.

Seeing this motion picture on its release in Great Britain also inspired one Mister Ozzy Osbourne and his associate, a Mister Geezer Butler to change the name of their heavy blues/rock ensemble Earth to the film’s U.K. title: “Black Sabbath.” Previous band names included Mythology and effing Polka Tuck (I have a really hard time with that), so you may thank Sgr. Bava for inspiring one of the badassicalest band names in the history of rock-and-or-roll*, chosen by a group that would go on to become the Greatest Metal Band of All Time. Grazie!





*The worst band names ever are “Green Jellÿ”** and “The Alan Parsons Project.” Documented fact.

The first instance is the most idiotic use of an umlaut in recorded human history, and the second name sounds like a public access show about whittling that you watch by accident in a hospital because the batteries in the clicker have died and the only magazine in the deserted waiting room is a copy of People featuring Kathie Lee Gifford. Which you have already read since arriving. Cover to cover. Twice. (“Former ‘Brady Bunch’ star’s new lease on life — thanks to gem meditation!” “Dr. Mehmet Oz lists the surprising holiday foods that you can load up on!”)


image via the smart and sexy towleroad on the typepad.

Agree with me that the second cover story on that phantom hospital waiting room’s phantom Kathie Lee issue of People is: “Plus — Mario López: Why hasn’t TV’s most eligible (and ripped!) bachelor found a lady?” Oh, such a head-scratcher. Poor Mario! Sigh. Just like Liberace.

**In Green Jellÿ’s defense, they actively set out from the moment of their inception to be literally the worst band ever, beginning with their name. To my knowledge, the Alan Parsons Project was titled in earnest and has no such excuse.

Advice: Wordy words of wisdom from Jean-Luc Godard that could be construed as pretentious horseshit, I suppose, depending on your outlook but I like them, featuring Anna Karina (slightly NSFW)

November 29, 2009

Quotes from Godard illustrated by his wife and early muse, my own style inspiration and personal patron saint, the lovely and talented* Anna Karina.


*Not sure if you’d noticed, but I only bill as “lovely and talented” those who take it off. Write that down.

All you need to make a movie is a girl and a gun. (Journal entry, 5/16/91)


“Light me up!” Still of Anna Karina as Natacha van Braun from Alphaville, une étrange aventure de Lemmy Caution / Alphaville (1965)

I don’t think you should feel about a movie. You should feel about a woman. You can’t kiss a movie.


Still with Jean-Paul Belmondo from Une femme est une femme / A Woman is a Woman (1961), previously highlighted with “Look, Ma, no gag reflex!” still here back in September.

“In films, we are trained by the American way of moviemaking to think we must understand and ‘get’ everything right away. But this is not possible. When you eat a potato, you don’t understand each atom of the potato!” (Interview with David Sherritt, The Christian Science Monitor, 8/3/94)


Une femme est une femme / A Woman is a Woman (1961)

Art attracts us only by what it reveals of our most secret self. (Critique called “What Is Cinema?” for Les Amis du Cinéma , 10/1/52, a work which advanced the auteur theory but also kind of ripped off Bazin, which is weird cause Bazin would’ve read it and was a big influence on Godard but this was done contemporaneously of Bazin himself working on something titled this, about this, so maybe the quote is misattributed? … or maybe there is more to it than I know with my tiny ken of French movie guys, maybe it was a done thing to borrow titles from one another, or perhaps it was a continuation of a dialogue they were already having both in person and via publications, or, finally, it could even have been an “understood” question which anyone might use as the title of a book or article … I am probably over-reading it.)


Hands down my favorite picture of Anna Karina

Beauty is composed of an eternal, invariable element whose quantity is extremely difficult to determine, and a relative element which might be, either by turns or all at once, period, fashion, moral, passion. (“Defense and Illustration of Classical Construction,” Cahiers du Cinéma, 9/15/52)


Cover or liner art for her album, a collaboration with the dread Serge G

The truth is that there is no terror untempered by some great moral idea. (“Strangers on a Train,” Cahiers du Cinéma 3/10/52 — Godard wrote extensively and insightfully in his early career about the movies of Hitchcock, one of my favorite and I think misunderstood directors; I’ll try to share some good nuggets from time to time)


Anna cahorts about topless as Anne in 1968’s The Magus, also starring Anthony Quinn (Zorba the Greek), Michael Caine, and Candace Bergen (Murphy Brown) — no one seems to like this movie but me. That’s okay, because I like it a lot.

Photography is truth. The cinema is truth twenty-four times per second. (Le petit soldad / The Little Soldier, 1963.)


With Jean-Paul Belmondo again, this time as Ferdinand and Marianne in the sort of romantic-tragi-comedy-crime-caper Pierrot le fou / Crazy Pete / Pierre Goes Wild (1965).


To be or not to be? That’s not really a question. (unsourced)


Screencap with subtitles from Une femme est une femme / A Woman is a Woman (1961).

October 7, 2009

Just want to go to sleep and have this day be over.