Dorian's Pick: Lady in the Lake (1947)
|Every P.I. needs leads—Lila Leeds!
|Adrienne Fromsett in The Big, Big Phone!
|Director /star Robert Montgomery's advice:
Don't look directly into the tomato-cam!
|Whaddaya mean, I'm mugging?
|Is Marlowe out of his skull to trust Adrienne?
|On Christmas Eve, Mrs. Fallbrook knows who’s been naughty and who’s been nice!
Between LitL and the rueful Humphrey Bogart/Lauren Bacall noir drama Dark Passage, 1947 seemed to be The Year of the Subjective Camera. Before all those slasher movies came along during the last few decades, LitL used the subjective camera treatment; hell, the camera was practically a character in the flick!
Throughout most of LitL, we see everything exactly as Marlowe sees it; the only times we see Marlowe/Montgomery’s mug is when he looks in a mirror, as well as in a brief prologue, an entrè-acte segment, and an epilogue. In the trailer featured on the spiffy DVD version of LitL (along with an enjoyable and informative commentary track by ace film historians Alain Silver and James Ursini), MGM’s publicity department did its best to push the film as the first interactive movie experience: “MGM presents a Revolutionary motion picture; the most amazing since Talkies began! YOU and ROBERT MONTGOMERY solve a murder mystery together! YOU accept an invitation to a blonde’s apartment! YOU get socked in the jaw by a murder suspect!”
|Sgt. Preston of the Yukon, a gigolo? Say it ain't so!
|The mirror has one face and a beautiful babe!
|Adrienne gets close-up and personal
|"DeGarmot, it's times like this that
I wish I was back on the U.S.S. Caine!"
|"I wish my sister Audrey was here!
Robert Mitchum), the phone chat Marlowe overhears in the Press Room (“Palm Springs? What’s the matter with Anaheim?”); the coroner’s mild disappointment when he’s told that the corpse in question, Lavery, is a man; and my favorite, Captain Kane’s phone conversation with his wife and child as he prepares to play Santa Claus for his “little dumplin’ darlin’” on Christmas Eve. Montgomery’s sardonic snap mostly works well for cynical Marlowe, though he sometimes forgets to tone it down during tender dialogue with Adrienne, making him sound like cinema’s crankiest Marlowe! Totter eventually tones down her mugging and becomes genuinely affecting as her Adrienne, after trying to be “the bright, hard lady,” lets down her guard and her hair (almost literally), with love growing between Marlowe and Adrienne at last. You may love or hate this Lady..., but if you enjoy Chandler’s mysteries and film noir in general, and you’re intrigued by offbeat movie-making techniques, I urge you to give her a try! Don’t forget to watch it on TCM on Friday, December 23rd at 10:00 p.m. EST
|YOU play detective with cinema's crankiest Philip Marlowe!
(And play house at Christmas with Audrey Totter!)
Vinnie's Pick: Trancers (1985)
"Mommy, that man shot Santa Claus!"There are Christmas movies and there are Christmas movies. Some movies are about Christmas itself, and usually involve a young child helping someone regain the spirit of Christmas; usually a relative, or if you're really lucky, a bear or an alien or something. Then there are the films that merely happen AT Christmas, which are usually more fun as they become holiday perennials almost by accident, much in the same way that the classic and controversial song "Baby it's Cold Outside" has become a de facto Christmas song, presumably because it involves snow.
Trancers is one of the latter. It takes place in Los Angeles at Christmastime, which means you wouldn't be able to tell at all save for the occasional holiday greeting, the punk band singing "Jingle Balls" and the zombie Santa trying to kill our hero with a set of mounted reindeer antlers. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
Jack Deth (Tim Thomerson) is a policeman in the 23rd century of Angel City, a city built after The Great Quake sank most of California into the ocean. After losing his wife to psychic cult leader Martin Whistler, he dedicates his life to bringing Whistler down, as well as his near-zombie mind slaves, known as Trancers. When Trancers are killed, the promptly disintegrate, leaving behind nothing but a scorch mark on the floor, hence the term for their execution; being "singed". The film starts off seeming to be an...oh, let's go with "homage" of Blade Runner, but very quickly reveals itself to be more of a Terminator pastiche. Whistler is revealed to be alive, surviving his last battle with Deth and has escaped into the past, planning to kill the ancestors of the city's High Council. He's already destroyed one of the three when Jack is called in to go after Whistler.
|"Nice tan, squid...very Christmassy."
His job is relatively simple - protect the ancestors of the remaining council members. Well, simple unless you count the fact that all he has to go on is a photo of one, a baseball card of the other, a gun (with two doses of the time-drug antidote in the handgrip) and a funky watch that slows time for a few seconds, and Whistler has the LAPD at his command, and a growing army of Trancers. Indeed, by the time Deth catches up with one of the Council's great-times-your-age-grand-father, he's already been Tranced. They track down the last remaining ancestor, former baseball player and now drunken Sterno-bum Hap Ashby.
|Who wouldn't want young Helen Hunt under the mistletoe?
The plot is solid, and pretty original, with moments of great dialogue. The film is played fairly straight until the first reel, then goes a bit broader and witty. After being saved from nearly being roasted alive in a turned-up-to-11 tanning booth, Jack's first words as he comes to is "How's my tan?" You know things are gonna be fun shortly after the fight in the mall starts and Mrs. Claus calls security with an ominous "There's trouble at the North Pole". It's hard to ride the balance between a straight sci-fi film with moments of comedy and an out-and-out parody, but they do it well here. The film also features Telma Hopkins, half of Tony Orlando's Dawn who built up a solid acting resume in the '80s and '90s and well-recognized "That Guy!' character actor Art LaFleur.
First appearing at Charles Band's Empire Pictures and the franchise moving with him to New Moon, they made 5 Trancers films, two of which written by talented comics and sci-fi writer Peter David. One of the most successful series they had, along with the Puppet Master series, they tried to make a new film a few years back, but without Thomerson, and suffered a deserved failure. As is true of a lot of the low-budget horror flicks, if you don't blink you'll see people who went on to really be somebody. Look in the credits, down in the art team, you'll find one Frank Darabont.
The first two films are on Netflix Instant, and are well worth your time. The last film's for squids.