Friday, August 28, 2009

Pardon Me, But Your Teeth Are in My Neck...

Slate Magazine ran an interesting piece a couple months back detailing the sorry state of today’s vampires called "Vampires Suck: Actually they don’t. And that’s the problem." Vampires seem to be the “it” thing right now, especially in Hollywood, but the vampires nowadays are nothing like the classic vampires. So if you’re like me, and refuse to get into the new vampire craze, or can’t get enough of vampires and need a new outlet to feed your habit, here are a few classic and pre-classic vampire films to try:

Les Vampires (1915): A ten part silent serial about a vamp named Irma Vep, played by Musidora, and a gang of criminals that call themselves Les Vampires. The direction and acting is very artistically done (see the photo above) and each part contains a new and fantastic plot that borders on surreal.

A Fool There Was (1915): Silent film star Theda Bara plays The Vampire, but not your typical bloodsucking vampire. This vampire is a woman who seduces and brings a married man to ruin. This film depicts one of the first vamps which became the prototype for the femme fatal characters of film noir and modern films.

Nosferatu (1922): A German horror expressionist film and the first film adaptation of Bram Stoker's Dracula starring Max Schreck as the Count Orlock. The vampire portrayed in this film is a scary, repulsive version, which contrasts to later films that show a more aristocratic, sensual vampire.

Dracula (1931): The classic vampire film that made a huge impact on all vampire and horror films that followed. Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula set the standard for what a vampire should look and sound like. Two sequels, Dracula's Daughter (1936) and Son of Dracula (1943) followed.

Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein (1948): A comedy/horror film combines the comedy duo Abbott and Costello with the horror trio Dracula, Frankenstein, and the Wolf Man. Bela Lugosi reprises his role as Dracula and gives the same great performance in this film as he did in the 1931 Dracula.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Happy Birthday, Hitch - Love, MTV

August is Alfred Hitchcock's birthday month and the unlikeliest of media channels decided to pay tribute.  

MTV posted a highly complimentary article on their site giving information about Hitch's life and a short retrospective of his films.  We're thrilled to see the Master Of Suspense and classic films in general getting attention on a site that largely caters to a younger demographic.  I rarely say this, but kudos, MTV!

Look, MTV - you actually made Hitch smile!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Classic Film Influence - Gangsters

While I was doing some background research on Little Caesar, I came across an interesting bit in a book called The Great Depression in America: A Cultural Encyclopedia. The entry for Little Caesar discusses how the now cliched lingo for gangsters (mugs, flatfoots, moll, the goods, etc.), was taken not from real street talk, but from the imaginations of Hollywood writers. It's a good example of the enduring influence of Hollywood and classic films. Anybody have some other examples?

Above is Johnny Rocco (Edward G. Robinson) and his boys in Key Largo (1948).

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Classic Film on Twitter

If you've given in and joined Twitter - the latest online craze - you can get news and info about classic film in between all those tweets in your stream about who's mowing their lawn and who had an especially tasty sandwich for lunch.  Here's who to follow:

Turner Classic Movies - @tcm
Updates from the cable movie channel about upcoming programming as well as general discussion about specific films and stars.

Elizabeth Taylor - @DameElizabeth
This one's been certified by the folks at Twitter as Liz's official feed.  Although she doesn't often tweet specifically about the world of classic film, it's still interesting to know what she's up to.

Lauren Bacall - @Lauren_Bacall
I'm not actually sure if this one is run by Lauren, but it's fun to read none the less.  Frequent reminisces about fellow movie star friends and pictures of them together are very interesting.

Nick Charles - @Thin_Man
An anonymous fan tweets solely lines spoken by the dashing detective in any of the 6 "Thin Man" films.  Highly entertaining.

American Film Institute - @AmericanFilm
Mostly links to various videos housed in their newly launched video portal (which we blogged about here) with a few fun tweets thrown in including movie trivia, upcoming events and retweets of other prominent members of the movie world.

Let us know if you find any others worth following - enjoy!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Elisabeth and Essex and the Coolest Boots in Classic Film

Continuing my unintentional Michael Curtiz-a-thon, I watched The Private Lives Of Elizabeth & Essex (1939) last night.  Review is forthcoming, but until it gets posted, enjoy these fantastic boots worn by all the male actors in the film - design courtesy of Orry-Kelly.  Unfortunately, I couldn't find a full-length picture, so this one will have to suffice.  You get the idea.  

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Review: Little Caesar (1931)

Starring: Edward G. Robinson, Douglas Fairbanks Jr.

Co-Starring: Glenda Farrell, William Collier Jr., Sidney Blackmer
Directed by: Mervyn LeRoy
Other notable contributors: Darryl F. Zanuck and Hal B. Wallis - producers.

Favorite scene: Rico meeting Big Boy in his fancy apartment. Rico is out of his element amidst such luxury and his mannerisms are amusing in an otherwise serious film.

Favorite line: "You can dish it out, but you got so you can't take it no more." - Rico

Raves: Edward G. Robinson is fantastic as Caesar Enrico Bandello, a gang member who through smarts and force, eventually becomes one of the most powerful gang bosses in Chicago. Rico is a multi-dimensional character, who maybe isn't the biggest guy on the block, but is sure the toughest gangster in the neighborhood. Robinson is convincing not only as the tough guy, but also when depicting Rico's concern for friend Joe, played by Douglas Fairbanks Jr. shows through.

Rants: Some of the supporting acting is either over the top or not convincing. It can be a bit disappointing when Robinson is so great in his role.

My take: The film is fairly short, only about 80 minutes, and the pace never lags nor does the plot get boring. Even though the plot isn't exactly fresh to modern day audiences, Little Caesar was one of the earliest films to show the life of a big city gangster. In this respect, it's interesting to watch later gangster films, including modern ones, and see just how much influence Little Caesar had on the film genre.

Recommended if: Your in the mood for a good gangster film without a lot of violence but with a great main character.

Modern-Day Counterpart: Scarface (1983). This film is much more violent, but both films have similar story arcs depicting the rise and fall of a gangster.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

AFI Video Portal

The American Film Institute has launched the beta version of a new video portal that classic movie fans may find interesting.  The site houses clips from such events as the Life Achievement Awards, the 100 years... series, and various seminars.  The site is a little slow and difficult to navigate, but hopefully these issues will be addressed during this testing period.  I hope they'll be adding to the content, as there are some Life Achievement Award ceremonies I'd love to see that are currently not posted (Cagney, Welles, Wilder, Bette Davis, etc).

I especially enjoyed watching clips from Alfred Hitchcock's Life Achievement Award ceremony  with appearances by Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman, Jimmy Stewart, Vera Miles, Tippi Hedren, Henry Fonda, Theresa Wright, Jane Wyman, Edith Head, and more.  When dear Ingrid makes a lovely speech to congratulate him and thank him for his guidance, Hitch never cracks a smile.

We'll report back and let you know if/when they add more classic movie-related videos!