Category Archives: Musical

#223 – Ladies on Parade

(1958, US, 93 min) Dir Blake Edwards. Cast Dean Martin, Tony Curtis, Martha Hyer, Norma Varden

Dean Martin and Tony Curtis are a pair of big gambling, swinging bachelors who elect to skip town ahead of their debts on a transatlantic cruiser with the scheme of hitting the tables of the French Riviera and winning big to pay back their debts. Also on board, luckily for them, are the American contenders for the International Lady competition. Amourous highjinks ensue with the two men trying their best to woo under the nose of the ladies chaperone (Varden). Of course despite having a boatload of beauties to choose from, the two men inevitably fall for the same woman – the morally upright and untouchable Patricia Lewis (Hyer). Further highjinks ensue. A candy-coloured comedy which lets up it’s breakneck pace only for a couple numbers from Dino. Martin and Curtis make a fine double act too, full of genuine cameraderie. The screwball finale in the Casino Magnifique where the two men try to make their winnings while constantly running upstairs to compete for Patricia’s affections as she competes for the role of Queen International Lady is a classic.

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#209 – Manson!

(1973, US, 156 min) Dir Heinz Bohnen.

Tasteless and epic Brechtian musical about the eponymous Charlie and his Family produced by the North Californian experimental theatre company Evlove as headed by the by then octogenarian Austrian-born artist and agitator Heinz Bohnen. It is essentially a filmed performance in the blank space of Smallwater High School’s football ground at night, the arc lights strong enough to bleach out the faces of the participants and, depending on their positioning, cast long black shadows across the pitch like dark fingers threading the grass. The acoustics are also terrible in such a big venue, especially with their basic sound system, but this too turns out to be a distinct advantage with the music leaking out into the night around them, making the proceedings sound as though the troupe were performing in a void or while pitching off into deep space. Despite all of this eeriness of presentation and the uncomfortable subject matter, Bohnen positioned Manson! as an old-fashioned comedy extravaganza complete with trousers falling down to the accompaniment of a slide whistle sound effect, slapstick accidents and the grisly murders for which the Family are famed recast as prolonged Keystone Kops style farce. Bohnen is ploughing the same furrow he’d been working his whole career here and his followers knew what he was getting at but, perhaps to his surprise, the outcry that greeted the film’s release reached places the plays themselves couldn’t reach and some say it helped ease him into his grave a year later when he died following a dinner of ninety-seven oysters and a whole cooked hen.

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#202 – Song for Bibi

(1978, Swe, 97 min) Dir Lasse Hallström. Cast Viveka Vong, Liv Ullmann, Molly Gold.

After the success of ABBA: The Movie and before his ascension to the height of mild-mannered Hollywood prestige, Lasse Hallström was commissioned to make this, the official Eurovision film. Then unknown and now forgotten singer-songwriter Viveka Vong plays herself, a simple country girl whose only dream is to sing her songs of love and peace to as wide a world as she can. Luckily for Vong former Eurovision champions ABBA hear her song when passing through town between gigs and before she can say Boom Bang-a-Bang she’s on national television competing to be that year’s entry. Needless to say she goes through to the main event and I don’t think that I’m spoiling anyone’s fun when I reveal that she ends the film triumphant despite the best efforts of her Irish rival Erin O’Eire (Gold). Song for Bibi was a minor hit in the day but for reasons unknown it’s been mostly forgotten and is all but erased from Eurovision history. This is a shame as it’s as much campy fun as you would expect and production’s pretty high-end too – enough money has been flung at it for Liv Ullmann to have been roped in as Vong’s voice coach, her Bergman collaborator Sven Nykvist hired as cinematographer and the “Swedish Edith Head” Elsa Nöggin employed for the fantastically bonkers costumes.

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#197 – Beat Bourguignon

(1962, US, 118 min) Dir William Lett. Cast Russ Tamblyn, Rosalyn Bier, Lou Jacobi.

Fleeing an enraged landlord after an all night bongo party ends in an unacceptable amount of property damage, even for the dive he’s renting, Russ Tamblyn’s beat wannabe Chico Wow hitches a transatlantic crossing to France, ending up on the streets of Paris where he is mistaken for bona fide hepcat poet Jimmy Coinsberg. Within no time at all he’s holed up in a garret of his own and in love with Rosalyn Bier’s romantic prostitute Candy. Oh, and it’s a musical with some exceptional dance numbers in the streets of a Paris that’s imagined with fantastic colourful sets in the vein of An American in Paris or Irma le Douce – their torn posters and exposed brick walls are worth the price of admission alone. By the end of the film the streets are stuffed with Parisian wannabe hepcats, swinging to Chico Wow’s imported beat. A huge flop at the time and almost devoid of tension, Lett’s film is nonetheless a perfect time capsule from the era.

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