Thursday, June 7, 2018

Dad's Movies: "Battleground" (1949)

Next up, Battleground (1949).

This is one of those films I'd heard about for years but had never gotten around to watching.

I think this movie sometimes gets overshadowed by its reputation as a symbol of the forces of change affecting the Hollywood studios in the post-WWII years. Battleground was produced by up-and-coming studio producer Dore Schary who clashed with studio chief Louis B. Mayer (the "Mayer" in MGM). Schary was trying to make films with a more modern sensibility whereas Mayer stuck to his guns and backed films that were more similar to the studio's output in the 1930s-40s that had made the company so successful. There were a few years where the two executives fought it out but soon Mayer was forced into retirement. Schary held on and made more progressive movies but MGM eventually collapsed along with the rest of the Studio System.

All of that is certainly important and interesting but it was instructive to evaluate this movie on its own merits.

The film has what I would say one foot in the past and one in the present/future. The film was shot entirely on sound stages with contract players at MGM at the time. It really feels like they just plugged the casting needs in from whomever was available on the lot at the time.

On the other hand the film, shot in black/white, looks somewhat gritty and not like a movie that would have been made just a few years earlier about the war. The scenes look pretty convincing, even though they were depicting snowy wintertime scenes indoors (I guess they didn't want to move the production to an ice house to make it realistic like Orson Welles did). The characters are pretty well developed; the film takes time to allow us to know several of them and doesn't bog down with a lot of light diversions. No, this movie was, as much as a studio movie in 1949 could, trying to show the audience a more realistic, scary, and at times hopeless view of the war. There are some heroic scenes but it's no commando raid. The soldiers are really just trying to make it out alive.

The cast does well:  Van Johnson rises to the occasion in a role I wouldn't normally associate him with and it's always great to see a new (to me at least) Ricardo Montalban performance.

It's a war genre classic and one that still deserves its reputation.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Dad's Movies: "The Silver Fleet"

I was going to do these in alphabetical order but I had watched this one shortly before I decided to embark on this little (ahem) project so I am doing it early.

The Silver Fleet (1943) is a very English film about Dutch resistance in occupied  Holland during World War 2. It's an interesting film that came out of Powell and Pressburger's Archers production company but not directly made by the pair (this was unusual).

This film certainly does have the flavor of a wartime morale booster but doesn't quite fall into the realm of propaganda which makes it hold up better to modern standards. From what I understand, the story is only somewhat true. The primary inspiration for the film is the story of a German submarine, built by Dutch workers, that was stolen from the shipyards in Holland and sailed to England before the Germans could seize it. The screenplay does set a serious tone, even if the Nazis are watered down, as far as how ruthless they were to people in the nations they occupied. Fortunately the movie holds your interest enough for details like this to be overlooked.

The principal character, van Leyden (Ralph Richardson) is smart, cunning, and cool as a block of ice on the North Sea. But he's not a super hero. Van Leyden uses his position as the supervisor of the shipyard to outwit and schmooze the Nazis who are constantly pressuring him and his workers to crank out more subs for the war effort. Van Leyden comes off as such a professional spy that even his wife and kids believe he's sold out and is helping the Germans.

So, an interesting film of its time and a side of the war I haven't seen displayed very often in WW2 films. The pacing is a little on the slow side and the acting a bit stiff, but quite good overall. For all I know, Dad saw this one during the war (not sure how widely it played here in the States) but I'd bet he knew of the incident with the subs.

If you're interested in World War 2, this one is worth a look.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Dad's Movies: "The Awful Truth"

Up first:  The Cary Grant classic, The Awful Truth (1937).

I think my folks had/have pretty much the entire Cary Grant filmography; our family were exposed to his movies at an early age and many of them still hold up well today.

I can't believe I never got around to watching this one as it's really one of his better films. The performances and script are tight and funny. The basic idea of its plot probably dates back to Shakespeare and the whole "broken up couple tries to sabotage the other's romances" thing has been done many time; but rarely better than this. Grant and Irene Dunne really nail the comic timing and have a good on-screen chemistry. Dunne is possibly underrated; she totally holds her own in her scenes with Grant, not an easy feat.

Naturally this being 1937, the film has the typical Depression-era trappings of many Hollywood films of the time:  relatively wealthy people in swanky apartments and clubs with an endless supply of booze. People must have enjoyed seeing movies in these settings as they cranked out a lot of them. When done right, the effect is quite charming. In fact, this is one of those movies where you pretty much know how things are going to turn out and getting there is all the fun.

I've read that a lot of the performances on this film were improvised and that Grant really disliked working in this way; to the point of wanting off the film. It doesn't show and he really seems to be perfecting his "Cary Grant" persona.

So, this is an easy one:  if you like Grant/Dunne at all, seek this one out.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Tuskout Podcast Episode 79: Star Trek Discovery Episodes 1 and 2

Today we review the first two episodes of Star Trek:  Discovery, "The Vulcan Hello" and "Battle At The Binary Stars".

Check out the feed for the podcast here.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Dad's Movies

One of the interests of my late father was what we would call, Classic Film.

He enjoyed revisiting older films he saw when he was younger and was fortunate enough to see new availability of many classic movies that, prior to the boom years of home video, were rarely seen. Television reintroduced a lot of classic movies to new audiences but if you were looking for titles that weren't very well known, you had to be lucky enough to catch them on the few times they aired.

Dad began collecting his favorite old movies in the 1980s when we got our first Betamax VCR which he often used to record movies when they aired on TV. He also bought a few commercial tapes but for a while, the selection was poor and the price was high. By the time DVDs came on the scene, Dad had switched to buying movies. The DVD boom years were a time that a lot of classic films were issued, many had never been released on video before. Dad liked DVDs for the same reasons we all did; the picture quality was just so much better than what we had before and every month there were new releases of movies he'd thought he would never see again.

When my father passed a few years back, I made it a point to rip/borrow/acquire the movies he had in his library. Our tastes did overlap but he had a lot of films I have never seen.

Which brings me to this post and (hopefully) a new viewing project. It might take a while...

I am going to try and watch all of the films I got from him that I haven't seen before and write something on each one. I may not have a lot to say but I'll write something. I suspect he had seen all of these titles at some point in his life and had a reason to buy them. I also suspect that some of the films on this list won't exactly be Citizen Kane. Sadly, he didn't get to every one as some of the discs were still in the shrink. I'm pretty sure that I am missing some titles but this is a good start.

So Dad, let's see what you've got!

Here's the list, in alphabetical order, of the films I'll be watching:

The Awful Truth (1937)
Battleground (1949)
Beau Geste (1939)
The Bitter Tea of General Yen (1933)
The Black Rose (1950)
Blood and Sand (1941)
The Blue Max (1966)
Captain From Castile (1947)
Cheyenne Autumn (1964)
The Four Feathers (1939)
Great Expectations (1946)
Heaven Can Wait (1943)
How Green Was My Valley (1941)
Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949)
King Rat (1965)
The Ladykillers (1955)
The Lavender Hill Mob (1951)
The Lives of a Bengal Lancer (1935)
The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner
The Long, Hot Summer (1958)
The Longest Day (1962)
The Lost Patrol (1934)
Love Me or Leave Me (1955)
The Loved One (1965)
Lullaby of Broadway (1951)
Man Hunt (1941)
The Man Who Laughs (1928)
The Man Who Never Was (1956)
The Mark of Zorro (1940)
The Mask of Dimitros (1944)
Mister 880 (1950)
The Moon is Down (1943)
Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948)
Mr. Lucky (1943)
My Favorite Wife (1940)
The Naked Truth (1957)
A New Leaf (1971)
Night Train to Munich (1940)
None But the Lonely Heart (1944)
Northwest Passage (1940)
On The Rivera (1951)
Once Upon a Honeymoon (1942)
Only Angels Have Wings (1939)
Our Man in Havana (1959)
People Will Talk (1951)
Please Don't Eat the Daisies (1960)
Prince of Foxes (1949)
The Prisoner of Zenda (1937)
The Prisoner of Zenda (1952)
The Purple Plain (1954)
The Rains Came (1939)
Random Harvest (1942)
The River (1951)
Road to Morocco (1942)
Run Silent, Run Deep (1958)
Scaramouche (1952)
Sea of Sand (1958)
The Secret War of Harry Frigg (1968)
Sergeant Rutledge (1960)
The Silver Fleet (1943)
Sitting Pretty (1948)
A Song is Born (1948)
A Song to Remember (1945)
Stanley and Livingstone (1939)
The Tales of Hoffman (1951)
Tales of Manhattan (1942)
The Talk of the Town (1942)
That Hamilton Woman (1941)
The Shop Around the Corner (1940)
The Thief of Bagdad (1940)
Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (1944)
Too Hot to Handle (1938)
Tunes of Glory (1960)
Unfaithfully Yours (1948)
The Uninvited (1944)
Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950)
The Wolf Man (1941)

Wish me luck!

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Podcast Update

Yes, I am still updating this musty old blog!

 Hello, and welcome!

 If you're reading this, you may be one of the few proud people who listen to our podcasts such as TOS Rewind. I've found a new host for the old episodes and this change allows them to be accessed in a real podcast platform, not just as file downloads (primitive!). I am posting the Star Trek review episodes in broadcast order and not in the order we recorded them in so while there may be some weird continuity, I think it works well.

 Eric, Rob, and I will be shortly resuming our recordings with reviews of Star Trek: Discovery so watch for them. 

You can subscribe to the Podcast in Apple Podcasts/iTunes at this link:

 The direct address for the podcast feed is:

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Tuskout Podcast 02: "Walkabout" (1971)

We're back at it with another film review, the 1971 Australian film, Walkabout.

Listen to or download the podcast here:

And here's the RSS feed:

If you're reading this, you may have noticed that the old podcast links no longer work. Google shut down the way of hosting the files I was using so I will need to find another hosting provider. I'll get the old pages updated as soon as possible.

Update 3/21/2018:  I've moved the podcast archive to Anchor, click here for more details.