The Fox Movie Channel is running My Wife's Best Friend tomorrow morning at 6:00 AM. It's a movie with an interesting presence that unfortunately doesn't quite live up to its set-up in the execution.
Anne Baxter and Macdonald Carey star as happily married couple Virginia and George Mason. They're about to head off on a vacation, and do so in style, going by plane back in the days when plane travel was still considered a glamorous luxury. Unfortunately for them, things are about to hit a snag. Not too long after the plane takes off, the pilots, as well as Goerge and Ginny, notice that one of the engines is belching smoke, which can't possibly be a good thing. Now, it is possible to run a plane on fewer engines than it's designed for, but it's understandable for passengers to get exceedingly worried. Ginny fears she's about to die, so she confesses to George that she hasn't been the wife that she vowed she would be when they got married. George, for his part, confesses to Ginny that when Ginny visited realtives a few years earlier, he spent quite a bit of time with her best friend Jane (Catherine McLeod). And they all lived happily ever after, until the plane crashed, killing them in a violent fireball.
Well, no, that of course isn't what happened -- otherwise, we'd have a pointless two-reeler. This isn't even Phone Call From a Stranger, where some passengers die, leaving others to deal with the aftermath. Instead, the plane simply turns around, flies on its fewer engines, and lands at the airport from which it took off, leaving all of the passengers to go home and live happily ever after. Well, of course, they don't quite live happily ever after, since that wouldn't make for an interesting movie either. Ginny decides that she's going to extract her pound of revenge, since she fears that George might still have some feelings for Jane. And she's going to do it by being an utter bitch to George, too.
My Wife's Best Friend is a comedy, somewhat along the lines of Alfred Hitchcock's Mr. and Mrs. Smith which inovlves a couple finding out they're not really married, and how the news affects them, with Carole Lombard using it to get back at Robert Montgomery. Here, though, the comedy is laid on with a trowel. Ginny asks her father (Cecil Kellaway), a mainline Protestant minister, for advice, and he tells her to take it like a saint. So she gets images of Joan of Arc, reminiscent of the way Shirley MacLaine keeps thinking about movies in What a Way to Go! Here, though, Anne Baxter's character takes things to an extreme, first as the saint, and then as a "regular" housewife and later as Cleopatra. All of this is set against a backdrop of George having a possible business deal with a playboy played by Leif Erickson, whom Ginny thinks she can use; also is Jane's birthday party and her constantly showing up at George and Ginny's house.
The problem with My Wife's Best Friend is that the comedy is just so irritating: Anne Baxter makes her character unsympathetic enough that it's no longer funny. There are also some plot holes. Why wouldn't the airline just send everybody on the next flight out? Why would this business deal show up if George was never supposed to be in town in the first place?. And the ending doesn't make much snese either.
My Wife's Best Friend has received a DVD release from the Fox Cinema Archive.
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
The Fox Movie Channel is running My Wife's Best Friend tomorrow morning at 6:00 AM. It's a movie with an interesting presence that unfortunately doesn't quite live up to its set-up in the execution.
Monday, May 20, 2013
Hypnotism, or more specifically the idea that hypnosis could be used as a form of mind control, has a long history in the movies, that I think goes back all the way to The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, if not further. Even if the idea is a bunch of bunk, it makes for some fairly entertaining movies. A good example of one that's incredibly entertaining -- enough so to become a camp classic -- is The Hypnotic Eye.
The movie starts with a shocker, even before the opening credits: a woman washing her hair with flammable chemicals, then turning on a gas burner in her kitchen, and putting her face up to it, setting her hair on fire! The paramedics arrive, and so do the police, looking for information for her. But she dies before she's able to give them anything useful. Why are the police there? Well, apparently this is about the tenth case of some formerly pretty woman mutilating her pretty face in bizarre circumstances. Obviously there's got to be something behind this, and it's up to the police, in the form of Detective Dave Kennedy (Joe Partridge) to figure out why.
Cut to Kennedy's private life. He's going out to a show with his girlfriend Marcia (Marcia Henderson), and her friend Dodie (Merry Anders). This is a hypnosis show, and any halfway astute viewer shoud take a wild guess that the hypnosis show and the mutilated women have something in common. The hypnoist, the great Desmond, is played by Jacques Bergerac, while his lovely assistant Justine is played by Allison Hayes. As part of the hypnosis show, Dodie gets called up on stage, and is hypnotized to do something involving levitation that's totally impossible, since you can't violate the laws of physics under hypnosis. But whatever. Things are about to get much more fun. After the show, Dave and Marcia go one way, while Dodie ostensibly heads for home. However, we see her tricking her friends and going back to Desomnd's dressing room. Clue #2 that something untoward is happening. The next morning, Dodie is found with her face mutilated as well. Clue #3.
The police, of course, are preternaturally stupid in this movie, so Detective Dave and his police pyschologist friend Dr. Hecht (Guy Prescott) are absolutely baffled. The one person who does have an idea about what's going on is Marcia. And she sets out to prove it. Her plan? Go back to the hypnosis show, get called up on stage, pretend to be hypnotized, and then follow the same path that she believes all those other women must have taken, with the difference being that they really were under hypnosis, and unaware of what they were doing. The only problem with this plan is that, once in Desmond's dressing room, she sees the "hypnotic eye" that Desmond uses as part of his act, and does get put under hypnosis, putting her in severe danger. At least she had the smarts to tell Dave of her plan beforehand.
The plot is ludicrous, and there are even more outrageous parts to the story that I haven't mentioned yet. The actual hypnosis scenes are hilarious, from the first one involving a bunch of men in suits, to one at the end that looks like the sort of scene William Castle would insert into a film to try to get the audience involved. After the backstage hypnosis, Desmond takes Marcia out for a night on the town, which involves going to a beatnik club, since the movie was made during the beatnik craze that lasted for about a year either side of 1960. It's another scene that was presumably added in the thought that it would bring in more people wanting to see a famous beatnik performer, but a half century on just looks silly. And then there's the climax; the less I give away about that the better. The movie closes with a dour, Reefer Madness-style warning from Dr. Hecht about the danger of hypnotism that, after 75 minutes of previous schlock, only comes across as more hilarious. The Hypnotic Eye should be terrible on so many levels, but it's one of those movies that goes so badly wrong that it's a hoot.
The Hypnotic Eye has gotten a DVD release courtesy of the Warner Archive, which owns the rights to the Allied Artists movies. For some reason, however, this MOD release hasn't shown up at Amazon yet, even though many other Warner Archive selections can be purchased through Amazon.
Posted by Ted S. (Just a Cineast) at 8:22 AM
Sunday, May 19, 2013
One of the issues of having blogged pretty much every day for five years is tht sometimes there isn't anything on that I've seen, would like to recommend, but haven't already done so. Today seems to be one of those days. I saw the short Where Is Jane Doe? on the TCM schedule a little after 5:30 PM, or just after The Three Faces of Eve. I was pretty certain I'd blogged about it, and sure enough, I did back in May 2012. It's airing just before Leave Her to Heaven at 6:00 PM, which was one of my earliest blog posts.
Overnight, or early tomorrow morning at 4:45 AM, TCM is showing Two Women, the movie that won Sophia Loren her Best Actress Oscar back in 1960. That, too, was the subject for a blog post back in September of last year. The movie that follows Two Women on TCM is Speed, at 6:30 AM. It kicks off a morning and afternoon of movies celebrating the birth anniversary of James Stewart. I recommended it the last time it aired, back at the end of March.
Leave Her to Heaven and Two Women are available on DVD; Where Is Jane Doe? and Speed don't seem to be. And as I look at the March post on Speed I see that, sure enough, I mentioned the Warner Archives "Legends" box sets, and how Speed would be a great choice for one of those sets. Of course, looking through Stewart's filmography, it looks as though a lot of the stuff Stewart did back in the 30s before he became a big star has already been released by the Warner Archive on single DVDs.
Posted by Ted S. (Just a Cineast) at 9:07 AM
Saturday, May 18, 2013
Looking through today's TCM schedule, I saw a short called Little White Lie showing up just after Murder By Death, or a little after 1:00 AM overnight (or late this evening for those of you on the west coast). I'd never heard of it before, but apparently it's about a girl (Sharon McManus, who danced with Gene Kelly in Anchors Aweigh) who decides to go back to the orphanage because of something involving her parents and the young son they're adopting. I can't comment much further, since as I said I'd never heard of this one, much less seen it.
Tomorrow after Here Comes Mr. Jordan, at about 11:35 AM, is Public Ghost #1. TCM's schedule doesn't have a synopsis for the short, but IMDb reveals that it's a Charley Chase short. I don't think I've seen this one, but in general, if you've seen several of Chase's other shorts, you probably have a good idea what you're getting into. More irritating was trying to find this short on IMDb. The TCM schedule lists it as Public Ghost No. 1, and when I typed that search into IMDb, I didn't get any matches. Simply searching on "Public Ghost", however, did. In fact, I'm finding myself having increasing difficulties with IMDb's search. I was looking for another film not too long ago, where IMDb had difficulty finding a title based on a compound word instead of splitting it up into two discrete words.
The last short I'd like to mention is A Boy and His Dog (approx. 1:40 PM tomorrow), about a boy (Billy Sheffield, brother of Johnny from the Tarzan films) who finds and befriends a stray dog, only to discover that the stray is not a stray at all, but owned by a very cruel man (Russell Simpson) who wants the dog back. This short shouldn't be comfused with the 1975 feature bearing the same title.
Friday, May 17, 2013
Today marks the birth anniversary of character actress Ruth Donnelly, one of those names you've probably seen in the credits of a bunch of famous movies, even if you don't recognize which role she's playing. In Donnelly's case, that's quite a few well-known movies, including a showing of Autumn Leaves early tomorrow morning (or overnight tonight) at 4:00 AM, in which Donnelly plays Joan Crawford's landlord. At least, this according to the IMDb reviews; this is one of those many movies where I'd recognize the name but wouldn't have remembered which character she played.
In fact, I've only actually mentioned Donnelly's name once before, if Blogger's search function isn't acting up. That's in the 1934 movie Heat Lightning, in which she plays a divorcée on her way to Reno with her friend Glenda Farrell. It's a bit of a shame I've only mentioned her once, since I really should have mentioned her when I blogged about A Slight Case of Murder, seeing as she plays Edward G. Robinson's wife, which is a fairly important role in the proceedings. Other famous movies include Mr. Deeds Goes To Town, in which I'd guess she's one of the women back in the small town Gary Cooper comes from. There's also Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, in which she plays the First Lady opposite the Governor played by Guy Kibbee. She's also Ruth, one of the mental patients, in The Snake Pit.
Posted by Ted S. (Just a Cineast) at 7:46 AM
Thursday, May 16, 2013
I've stated before how the Fox Movie Channel pulls movies out of the vault, shows them a bunch of times in a short period, and then puts them back in the vault. Another film that had been missing for years only to show up earlier this month is Satan Never Sleeps. It's getting another airing tomorrow afternoon at 12:50 PM, with a couple more airings in June.
William Holden stars as Father O'Banion, a Catholic missionary priest in China in 1949 making his way to his new assignment. He's being followed by Siu Lan (France Nuyen), whose life he saved and who now feels she's in his debt, and even wants him to marry her. Catholic priests of course can't get married, but it's not as if the Chinese could be expected to know this. Anyhow, O'Banion tries to get rid of her, with one of the results being that it makes him late getting to the mission that is his new assignment, something with greatly irritates the old mission priest, Father Bovard (Clifton Webb).
Bovard wants to leave the mission as soon as possible in part for a more comfortable life, but also in part because of the recently concluded civil war. The Communists have finally pushed the Nationalists out of mainland China and onto Taiwan, and the Communists are of course officially atheist. Being religious in a society that's de jure atheist is a problem, as I mentioned yesterday in my review of Rome, Open City. And Father Bovard is right to want to get out of the country: O'Banion's late arrival means that Bovard is unable to leave, as the Communists waylay him on his way out, forcing him to stay at the the mission, which is ostensibly still free to practice Catholicism. So, Bovard has good reason to be irritated with O'Banion. That, and the fact that in his eyes (and in no small part to Siu Lan's pursuing him), O'Banion comes across as unorthodox at best, and blasphemous at worst, in the eyes of Bovard.
I wrote in the last paragraph that the mission was still ostensibly allowed to practice Catholicism. In reality, it's just a reprieve, as the Communists are going to get around to expropriating the property eventually, if not imprisoning the clergy as well. The Communists are represented by local Party boss Ho San (Weaver Lee), who at one time was, along with his parents, a congregant at the mission. But he's a committed atheist now, and he leads the local forces on several raids of the mission, all with the ultimate goal of discrediting the Catholic Church by getting all the priests to sign forced confessions. Ho San, additionally, has his eyes on the lovely Siu Lan. Eventually, Ho San does O'Banion and Bovard put in prison and tortures them in an attempt to extract that confession, while raping and impregnating Siu Lan.
When you have local leaders acting like dictators, there's always the possibility that somebody higher up the food chain will turn his eye to the local boss, something we recall from Man on a Tightrope. In this case, that somebody comes in the form of Soviet attaché Kuznetsky (Martin Benson), who officially doesn't have any power, but does have influence. He and the higher-ups have noticed that Ho San has been slow in obtaining those confessions, and also living in luxury. Granted the national Party bosses lived in luxury, but one could always use such a lifestyle against the locals if need be. Eventually, O'Banion and Bovard are told they're to be expelled from the country; Siu Lan wants to escape with them. It's all likely a trap, however....
Satan Never Sleeps has some problems in that it runs too long (at 126 minutes, it could probably stand to have had a script running about 20 minutes less); also, the ending makes no sense and might infuriate some viewers. Whether the script is fair to the Chinese Communists is a question that should probably be left to the individual viewer. I think the internal affairs of Communist China at that point would have been a pretty big question mark to the American public, even more than early Soviet Communism had been. Also, the excesses of the Cultural Revolution hadn't yet occurred. On the other hand, there was no way an American movie of that time could portray communists as having sincere revolutionary zeal. As for the acting, there's a good performance from Webb, whose character doesn't know the truth about Holden's priest, and a workmanlike performance from Holden. There's an obvious lack of location shooting, in that there's no way the filmmakers could have gotten into Communist China. Instead, England and Wales substitute for southern China.
All in all, Satan Never Sleeps isn't the worst movie ever made by any means, but it's also not particularly great or even novel, since something like The Left Hand of God had covered some of this material several years earlier. Satan Never Sleeps is, I think, better than The Left Hand of God, but not nearly as good as the aforementioned Man on a Tightrope. Satan Never Sleeps has gotten a DVD release, so if you don't have the Fox Movie Channel, you can still watch the movie.
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
I am very pleased to see Rome, Open City show up again on the TCM schedule tonight at midnight ET (ie. this evening at 9:00 PM out on the west coast). If you haven't seen it before, don't miss this chance! It really is that worth watching.
The scene is Rome around late 1943 or early 1944. The Allies have already started the invasion of Italy, but the Nazis are still in control of Rome, or at least the parts of Rome that we get to see. As with any place that the Nazis occupied, there is also an underground resistance fighting the Nazis with whatever means they have, which just as often means using the printing press to produce anti-Nazi newspapers or small acts of resistance. Leading the bit of the resistance that we see is Giorgio Manfredi (Marcello Pagliero). He's apparently a pretty high-up person in the resistance, because at the start of the movie, the Nazis knock on the door of the apartment where he's currently staying with two little old ladies, who of course claim to know nothing about him. Anyhow, Manfredi is forced to flee across rooftops, and eventually shows up at the apartment of Francesco (Francesco Grandjacquet), another resistance member living in a decrepit apartment building next to Pina (Anna Magnani), a war widow with a child, in whom Francesco takes an interest.
Also taking an interest in the children is the Catholic Church, which was still a fairly strong institution in Italy in those days. The Church is represented here by Don Pietro (Aldo Fabrizi), whose church presumably runs the local Catholic school, although that's never really shown, except that the kids are around all the time, or at least whenever it's necessary for the plot. When the plot requires them to be elsewhere, who cares whether they're in school? But, Don Pietro is also a member of the resistance. The Catholic Church had a difficult relationship with the Italian Fascists and the Nazis. Even if they had been 100% opposed to the ideology, they were still surrounded. The Vatican's status as we know it today was finalized by the Lateran Treaty of 1929, but the Vatican is a tiny enclave within Italy, and the Italian's could easily have made life a nightmare for the Church. (I presume they also saw the example of what the Soviet Union and Communism did to religion; certainly the post-war clergy did.) At any rate, who would suspect this portly, charming little priest of being a member of the resistance? Not only that, but the kids favored fighting against the Nazis if they could. They saw the daily deprivations the adults were facing, and with the impetuosity of children, decided to fight the only way they knew how.
Of course, being in the resistance is dangerous. We already see this at the beginning of the movie when Manfredi is forced to flee for his life, but we see it in all sorts of other ways, such as when the Nazis have no compunction about forcing everybody out of a building in a search for one person, or in trying to buy information, as from Marina (Maria Michi), the nightclub singer with whom Manfredi is in love. She eventually does let the Nazis know Manfredi's whereabouts, with tragic consequences for all....
Rome, Open City was made by director Roberto Rossellini in 1945, at a time when filming a movie was extremely difficult. Film stock was not easily obtainable, and it's not as if you could get studio time. Everything was done on location, with a bunch of non-professionals playing most of the roles. This leads to some problems in that the acting or lighting might not be as polished as Hollywood or even British movies from the same time, but it also led to the Italian genre of neo-realism, for which we should be eternally grateful. What neo-realist movies lack in polish or acting, they more than make up for in a vibrant immediacy. The poverty on display here is nothing like the sanitized version you'd get in the tenements of Hollywood movies, not even movies that were deliberately trying to make a social point such as Dead End.
Rome, Open City was the first of three movies Rossellini made about the war that are often considered his war trilogy. It's gotten a DVD release -- or, should I say, the entire war trilogy has received a release as part of a box set. Unfortunately, the set is a bit pricey.
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
For those of you who have the Fox Movie Channel, you have another chance to watch the 1955 movie Untamed tomorrow morning at 9:30 AM.
Tyrone Power plays Paul Van Riebeck, a Boer who is visiting Ireland in the 1840s in order to obtain some horses. The British gained control of the colony in 1815, and increasing numbers of settlers from the UK, combined with new politics, led to tensions between them and the earlier settlers who had come from the Netherlands, to the point that some of the Dutch (or Afrikaaners as they called themselves since they had been in the region for several generations by this point) decided to migrate inland and create what would be a new state, a migration known as the Great Trek and the people known by the Afrikaans term Voortrekker. Paul needs horses for the trek, and he's found a source in Ireland, which is why he's visiting.
Anyhow, while in Ireland, he meets Katie O'Neill (Susan Hayward) after the two have an incident with their horses. It's not quite love at first sight, although Katie seems to develop some sort of attachment to Paul. Paul, for his part, is more concerned with building that new land than he is with Katie or any woman. So even if he feels any attachment to Katie, his duty to his country is going to come first, much to Katie's regret. Paul buys his horses, and heads back to South Africa, presumably never to see Katie again....
What the hell are we talking about? All of the action described above happens in the first 20 minutes or so of the movie. There's absolutely no point in ending it there. This being the 1840s, those who know their history will also recognize that the potato blight is about to hit Ireland, which lead to a famine and a great migration of Irish to other countries all around the world. Many Irish went to the USA, but Katie, who in the meantime has gotten maried to Sean Kildare (John Justin) and had a child, decides to take the family to South Africa. Apprently, she's still got a thing for Paul and thinks she'll meet him in South Africa. Since this is a Hollywood movie, we know that she's quite right in her belief, as much as it might strain credulity. Not only that, but she takes part in the Great Trek.
Along the way, Sean gets killed in an attack by the Zulu, but presses onward, farming in the inland even though she doesn't know how to farm. She's helped out by Kurt Hout (Richard Egan), who had led the group of Voortrekkers of which the Kildares were a part. He's got his eyes on Katie, although she dreams about Paul. Kurt, meanwhile, is also being pursued by Julia (Rita Moreno), whose ethnicity may or may not have been mentioned. In real life, I doubt many Puerto Ricans migrated to South Africa, though. Kurt continues to pursue Katie until an accident taking care of her lands leads him to have his leg amputated. This eventually leads him to become a bandit, which is important since it sets up the conflict that will serve as the climactic finale.
Katie, for her part, doesn't quite wind up in poverty, because one of the native servants finds a diamond on her land! This makes her wealthy for a while, allowing her to live the good life back in Cape Town, and allowing her to meet Paul again when he comes to petition the colonial governor to make the Voortrekker regions into a new state so that they can have some autonomy. Sparks of a sort fly between Katie and Paul again, although Paul still remains married to his political dream instead of pursuing the women. But eventually the money runs out, forcing Katie and her two children back inland, which is where she meets Kurt again. People are fleeing one of the inland settlements due to the bandits having taken over the town, but Katie presses forward. That bandit leader turns out to be Kurt whom she had known years before, and he still wants her. Paul, of course, is going to show up just in time to save the day and have the right people live happily ever after, while the closing music swells up....
This time, it actually is the ending, what with the movie having run a good 110 minutes already. Well, maybe a mediocre 110 minutes is more like it. There's something not quite right with Untamed. I'm not certain whether the problem with Katie is the portrayal by Hayward, or whether it goes deeper, to the way the character is written in the first place. Katie isn't just strong-willed; she's over the top. It's not quite as extreme as some of Bette Davis' or Joan Crawford's characters, but there are times when you want to take Katie and shake some sense into her. Like why the hell is she so attached to that tree? If she was able to leave Ireland, you'd think she wouldn't be so fazed by one little tree. You'd also think that either the diamond wealth would last longer -- they'd keep finding diamonds on her land -- or not long at all if they only found the one. But that's clearly a problem with the script. There's also some problems with foreshadowing. At the start of the trek, Sean is asked a question about his wheelblock, something he doesn't seem to know about, until he realizes that they're just using a different term than he's used to. It's clear the wheelblock is going to show up again in a key sequence later in the trek. In fact, the whole movie feels at times as though it's just a sequence of vignettes that aren't well-enough connected.
On the plus side, there is some really nice location shooting. For the trek sequences, the filmmakers actually went to South Africa and filmed in Natal. This, along with the Zulu attack, lends the movie a modicum of authenticity that's lovely to look at. Some of the supporting acting is also fun. Even if you wonder what Rita Moreno is doing in this movie, she's a hoot as the ignored woman. And Agnes Moorehead shows up to play the nanny to Katie's children, a role she performs effortlessly. Untamed certainly has its flaws, but it's worth a viewing too.
Untamed doesn't seem to be available on DVD. Amazon's search yields a hit, but that's on a completely different movie also called Untamed, a 1929 movie starring Joan Crawford (that's an interesting movie in its own right, but a subject for a different post).
Monday, May 13, 2013
Tonight sees this month's Guest Programmer on TCM: Angie Dickinson, who is probably best remembered for the 1970s TV show Police Woman but actually appeared in quite a lot of movies before becoming a TV star. I'd guess that the best known amongst her movies are Rio Bravo with John Wayne, and the original 1960 version of Ocean's 11. That, and she shows up in Point Blank, which is airing tomorrow night at 11:45 PM as part of TCM's look at tough guys in the movies. (Dickinson isn't the tough guy; that honor goes to Lee Marvin.) Dickinson's four selections are:
Gigi at 8:00 PM; starring Leslie Caron as a would-be courtesan who falls for the wrong man;
Yankee Doodle Dandy at 10:15 PM, in which James Cagney portrays American popular music composer George M. Cohan;
Dog Day Afternoon at 12:30 AM, with Al Pacino robbing a bank to pay for an operation, only for the robbery to go wrong and cause a media spectacle; and
The 400 Blows at 2:45 AM; François Truffaut's tale of a youn'g boys angst.
It's an eclectic lineup of films, although I have to admit that it's one that decidedly makes me say "meh". I've mentioned before that Gigi is one of my least favorite musicals. James Cagney, meanwhile, is good, but musicals aren't my genre, which makes Yankee Doodle Dandy a bit of a slog for me. It's been too long since the last time I've seen Dog Day Afternoon to say anything about it. As for The 400 Blows, well, there are Truffaut films I prefer. They're all coming up in July as part of a Friday night spotlight looking at Truffaut's movies, and even though I don't like all of the films, that spotlight is going to be a treat.
Still, I know there are people out there who like movies like Gigi. Just because I have different taste doesn't mean you shouldn't watch the movie. As for me, I suppose it will be interesting to see why Dickinson selected it, but skip the feature.
Posted by Ted S. (Just a Cineast) at 7:41 AM
Sunday, May 12, 2013
Back in January, I did a post on TCM's running a night of movies that Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy made in foreign languages. At the time, I hadn't seen any of them, so I couldn't comment on them. TCM is re-running most of them tomorrow morning, though, and now, I can certainly recommend Politiquerías, which shows up at 10:45 AM tomorrow on TCM.
Politiquerías is a Spanish-language remake and lengthening of Laurel and Hardy's English-langauge Chickens Come Home. The English language movie, like a lot of the Laurel and Hardy shorts, runs about 30 minutes. The plot of that one, which is preserved in the Spanish version, involves businessman Ollie. He's been nominated for mayor by the town's reformists, and is sure to win. That is, until a woman from Ollie's past shows up with some compromising photos -- photos that would most certainly scuttle Ollie's candidacy! So, it's up to Ollie's right-hand man, unsurprisingly played by Stan Laurel and named Stanley, to get those photos, by hook or by crook, before the woman shows up at Ollie's house at the big party he's holding.
Now, Laurel and Hardy's humor can be zany at times and, to be honest, zany to the point that I might want to knock the shorts down a notch or two. That's just a matter of taste, of course; other people probably love that zaniness. And, to be certain, that zaniness shows up in both the English- and Spanish-language versions of this movie. But the much more interseting thing is what shows up in Spanish but not in English. No, I'm not talking about Laurel and Hardy's attempts to speak Spanish. I've never studied the langauge, so I'm not the one to judge how badly they mangle the language. And that's not the most interesting part of the film, anyhow.
Apparently, audiences in Spanish-speaking countries liked variety numbers of the sort that in Hollywood would have been their own one-reel shorts. Here, though, the variety acts are added to the movie during the party scene in what is really a break from the plot having nothing to do with the rest of the story. The first of these is a magician, who does many of the standard-issue tricks involving playing cards, handkerchiefs, and the like. Most of the act is stuff we've all probably seen before, but the magician here is so entertaining that he makes seeing the tricks again still be fun. Even more interesting is the second act. This one is a man by the name of "Hadji Ali" who is called a professional regurgitator. Yes, you read that right. Hadji Ali's stock in trade is swallowing things, and then bringing them back up at will. He swallows a large amount of water, only to spit it back up with surprisingly good aim. Then there are the nuts. Finally, and most shocking, Hadji Ali drinks from a container marked "Kerosina", which he then brings back up to set stuff on fire. It has to be seen to be believed, and makes the whole film worth watching.