Tag Archives: Comedy

#232 – Sometime Stewart, Maybe

(1992, US, 98 min) Dir Jackson Harvey. Cast Phillip Milk, Angela Patrick, Leslie Sophie.

The US indie world pre-Tarantino was the land where deadpan reigned – think Jim Jarmusch, Hal Hartley, Whit Stillman. But none panned deader than Jackson Harvey – his characters were rendered so inert by their ennui that they could have woken in bed next to an expired alpaca without troubling their eyebrows for a raise. The titular Stewart in this his feature debut (following his acclaimed short Whoopee) has just graduated from University and has moved back home to live with his parents toting nothing but a black bin bag full of soiled clothes and an already framed degree in ‘Applied Philosophy’. When he’s not sleepless in bed, staring disconsolately at his bedroom ceiling (an activity he pursues a lot), he’s down at the local drugstore mooning over Olivia (a statuesque, striking and scary Patrick) and hoping that his persistence will transmute into her affections. Despite possessing what he believes to be a soaring intelligence he’s not above having his adoration abused as he becomes, over time, Olivia’s unquestioning slave. Of course there is a second woman, the timid and mousey Frances (Sophie), who watches all this sadly, her declarations varying from subtle to hilariously obvious throughout the film but consistently met with obliviousness by Stewart. Rough around the edges and generic enough in it’s day, …Maybe still marked Harvey out as a director to watch.

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#229 – Astonishing Transparent Man, The

(1958, GB, 99 min) Dir Henry Phillips Breech. Cast Peter Cushing, Alison Lucy, Alex C Bream.

When Albert Meeler (Cushing, with typical gravitas) is accidentally subjected to a large dose of ‘X Radiation’ in the lab he works he soon finds himself see through. That’s right, he has become transparent but not invisible – apparently someone then owned the rights to the story of a man inflicted with invisibility. If you’re so desperate to make a film about a man who has become invisible to go to these semantic lengths then you must need to bring something new to the table. In this instance Albert is totally pleased to have become invisible (sorry, transparent) and instead of railing against his separation from society the rest of the film follows his attempts to leave civilisation behind. Of course he finds himself thwarted at every turn – how can he drive himself to the middle of nowhere where he can live an ascetic life when a car that is apparently driving itself draws so much attention? How can he buy food or even steal it when it appears to everyone else that loaves of bread and that are floating clean through the air? Unable to overcome such logistics for long the films end finds Albert still among society, using his transparency to survive on the detritus of the visible. Basically a feature length Twilight Zone episode, it’s an amusing tale with a bittersweet end.

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#228 – Vacances de Morts Vivants, Les (Holiday of the Living Dead, The)

(2011, Fr, 108 min) Dir Jack Vitesse. Cast Swann Nambotin, Frédéric Pierrot, Géraldine Pailhas.

French zombie comedy set on the French Riviera. Pascal’s travels with his family to the town of Piabo for the summer. Piebo, a former sleepy fishing village on a remote spit of land, is now a vacation complex that lines the coast, an island of luxury that looms over the modest houses of it’s year-round residents. Young Pascal, a shy and quiet young man, doesn’t want to join the resort’s youth groups for enforced fun so he pretends to his parents that he’s participating but instead amuses himself by exploring the many nooks and crannies of the complex – the backroom staircases for example, or the labyrinth of air conditioning passageways. As he amuses himself however he begins to see things that suggest to him that all is not well at the heart of Piebo – a chef who has been tethered to an armchair where he froths at the mouth and writhes with an almost supernatural strength, a family of tourists with a strange illness marched into one of the walk in freezers where there are imprisoned. Something is going on and the owners of the Piabo Hotel don’t want anyone to panic. How can Pascal let anyone know without giving up his lie? When will people be roused from their relaxations to notice those among them who have been reduced to brain-dead cannibals? A lively, subversive comedy blessed with some great locations from Jack Vitesse, the one time enfant terrible of the cinéma du look (see Homme du sous-terre, Les) who seems to have developed an affinity for plot in the intervening years.

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#200 – Fabulous Two Hundred, The

(1935, US, 98 min, b/w) Dir Gerard Handley. Cast Clark Gable, Myrna Loy, Stacy Burch.

Showbiz comedy and the one and only Hollywood picture from British director Handley. Gable plays smooth manager John Jackson who is put in charge of the popular dance troupe of the title when their previous manager leaps from his hotel room window rather than continue managing them. Immediately he spots the source of the problem – strong willed lead dancer Natasha Rudolph (Loy). Jackson figures that if he can cow her he’ll have the group on hand but this proves easier said than done. A fine, breezy film whose production didn’t run as smoothly. Life imitated art when Handley butted heads with Gable on set, becoming so enraged in the course of one argument that, according to witnesses, he pulled the hat from his head and tore a strip from it with his teeth. In a further turn of grim irony Handley would later fall to his death one night from his hotel window under mysterious circumstances while in the midst of filming 1962’s Christmas in February. His body was discovered in the bushes below the next morning when no one was able to satisfactorily explain why he was dressed as Henry VIII.

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#199 – Royal Ridgefort All-Star Palladium, The

(1983, GB, 104 min) Dir Andrew Burgundy. Cast Dexter Fletcher, Norman Wisdom, Clare Grogan.

The Royal Ridgefort All-Star Palladium is on it’s last legs – for the ornate 1920’s picture house in the declining seaside town of Ridgefort a busy night sees all of three customers. That may be a blessing in disguise for the staff runs to a grand total of two people – Albert (Wisdom) the owner/projectionist who wakes only to change film reels and his apprentice Rob (Fletcher) who does everything else from the box office and concession to toilet cleaning and bouncing out trouble customers. The majority of his time on the quiet nights is spent roaming the halls, talking to the old film posters. The trouble begins when the posters start talking back, intensifying when Bogart’s Sam Spade, Eastwood’s Man With No Name and more make the leap from two to three dimensions. Initially Rob makes the most out of his new companions, mining them for advice as to how to approach the object of his affections, motorbike riding older woman Pat (Grogan). Soon enough he realises that he’s not going mad when they start bothering the customers. Will he have to wake up Albert or can he deal with this himself? A sweet low-key film that builds to a climax that’s a movie lover’s dream when the cinema becomes packed with a century’s worth of film characters.

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#198 – Plastic Song (Peullaseutig Song)

(2008, SKor, 131 min) Dir Kim Chang-wan. Cast Shin Ha-kyun, Kim Ok-bin, Kim Roi-ha.

South Korea, the near future. Lonely office worker Joon, disheartened by a life of unrequited heartbreak, orders himself something from the cutting edge of technological advance – a seemingly sentient plastic sex doll that is called a Song. Once released from her coffin-sized packaging she is initially all that he could have hoped for – pretty, meek and sexually insatiable – but after a while he finds himself overcome with conflicting emotions towards her, the chief one being love though complicated by guilt. As you might expect from South Korean cinema Plastic Song juggles genres, morphing from the lighthearted comedy of the opening to a dramatic second act before going out in the world with Joon as he advocates politically for the recognition of the Songs. Not only that but it then becomes an action film as he in co-opted by pro-Song revolutionaries and then it finally ends with a blend of sci-fi dystopia and romance as Joon finds peace and mutual love with an upgraded Song in a shack in the hills of a depopulated post-apocalypse Korea where she lives on forever after Joon grows old and dies. If you can withstand the genre whiplash there’s much to enjoy in this buffet of a film with Kim Ok-bin managing to imbue her Song with an array of emotion despite being limited to a mere half-dozen expression settings.

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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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Twitter: @MadeUpFilms