Monday, May 3, 2021

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Old Friends of '72

In addition to what I'd never seen before, there are, of course, a good amount of 1972 movies I had. Cabaret, The Godfather, Man of La Mancha, and these...

What's Up, Doc?
dir/pr: Peter Bogdanovich
scr: Buck Henry and David Newman & Robert Benton, story by Peter Bogdanovich
cin: László Kovács

First saw at my Aunt Jenny's, summer of 2000. That was also the last time I saw it, so I was struck by how much I remembered. A tribute to screwball comedies of the '30s, in which kooky Barbra Streisand drives buttoned-up Ryan O'Neal crazy amid a series of mixups, accidents, and mistaken identities. Constantly going, one gag after another, barely room to catch your breath from the excitement, the laughter, the hotness of the two leads. Great supporting performances from Austin Pendleton, Kenneth Mars, and, in her film debut, Madeline Kahn. Pretty sure it's my favorite Bogdanovich. 

Dr. Phibes Rises Again
dir: Robert Fuest
pr: Louis M. Heyward
scr: Robert Fuest and Robert Blees
cin: Alex Thomson

Who knows when I first saw this? I was well into my Vincent Price fandom by fourth or fifth grade, but I feel like I didn't see this one until sixth... Anyway, it's a sequel to The Abominable Dr. Phibes; here, Dr. Anton Phibes revives himself (?) and takes his dead wife Victoria to Egypt (!) so that they may cross the River of Life, resurrected and blessed with immortality (!?!?). More fantastical than its predecessor, it's also loosened itself from the themed kills, opting instead for "clever" traps against people who...don't really need to be treated so. Phibes goes from grieving antihero to homicidal toymaker. Pace is leaden, sets look cheap, script a shrug. John Gale's score is still a highlight, some sections even better than the first.

Play It Again, Sam
dir: Herbert Ross
pr: Arthur P. Jacobs
scr: Woody Allen
cin: Owen Roizman

First saw while prepping for my high school's production. Watching it with today's sensibilities does raise the eyebrows some: a minute-long joke about rape, and how women secretly want it? Wacky! Based on Woody Allen's play about a newly-divorced film critic obsessed with Humphrey Bogart who falls in love with his best friend's wife. It's still a funny film about the wild expectations and bizarrely high standards people set while dating, just very dated. Diane Keaton, set to perpetual worry in The Godfather this same year, is radiant here - I'm not talking looks, but just the energy she has on screen, the one person in the cast who consistently makes the dialogue feel like human conversation.

A Bay of Blood
dir/cin: Mario Bava
pr: Giuseppe Zaccariello
scr: Mario Bava and Giuseppe Zaccariello and Filippo Ottoni, story by Dardano Sacchetti and Gianfranco Barberi, dialogue by Gene Luotto, collaboration with Laura Betti / Sergio Canevari / Franco Vanorio

First saw in college. Credited with being the original slasher, multiple murders occur around a lakefront property, with method, motive, and murderer constantly in flux. There is no final girl, no hero, just vicious brutality as people grasp at wealth and power over survival. Many of the kills leave you gasping, or laughing nervously, or noticing their influence on subsequent slashers. Beautifully scored by Stelvio Cipriani.

Private Parts
dir: Paul Bartel
pr: Gene Corman
scr: Philip Kearney and Les Rendelstein
cin: Andrew Davis

First saw in college, first revisit since then. Teenage runaway bunks down at her aunt's hotel in Downtown Los Angeles and meets its quirky inhabitants, unaware that bodies are piling up around her. Great use of genuine locations: the main set of the King Edward Hotel (now owned by AIDS Health Foundation; the lobby looks much the same as it does here); the streets of DTLA, from still-present bus stop to long-gone sex shop; MacArthur Park, a perfect place for both concerts and cruising (to this day!). This isn't the glamorous Hollywood, but the seedier LA! A hideously beautiful film, dreamy and nightmarish, somehow topping itself with each subsequent twist. I adore it!

Pink Angels
dir: Lawrence Brown
pr: Edward Atkinson / Mas Kamatani
scr: Margaret McPherson
cin: Michael Neyman

First saw in college, probably my third viewing. A group of friends disguised as scruffy bikers heads to Los Angeles for a drag ball; meanwhile, some sort of Army officer plans some sort of attack in his tiny office. A plotless hangout flick featuring queer characters who get laughs without being jokes, pleasant enough until the gut-punch final shot. Clearly, a patchwork affair - an IMDb reviewer claiming to be executive producer Gary Radzat implies the ending and military subplot were tacked on after principal photography to give the film an ending. It's a tough movie to describe, and I'm sure many wouldn't have the patience for it, but I kind of like it.

Black Belly of the Tarantula
dir: Paolo Cavara
pr: Marcello Danon
scr: Lucile Laks, story by Marcello Danon
cin: Marcello Gatti

First saw in 2011, when Netflix had a bunch of Giallo films available. A detective investigates the grisly murders of women who are paralyzed before being disemboweled. Less exciting in execution than you would suppose from such a logline, as the actual plot is presented so distractedly, a "giallo's greatest hits!" collection of beautiful women, voyeurs, and animal symbolism, none of it fitting together quite right. Its most memorable aspect is the score by Ennio Morricone, a breathy, steamy composition that, for me, ranks among the composer's best work.

The Big Bird Cage
dir/scr: Jack Hill
pr: Cirio H. Santiago / Jane Schaffer
cin: Felipe Sacdalan

Or was it The Big Doll House that I saw before? Wealthy hellcat winds up in a women's work-camp prison in an unidentified Southeast Asian country. Jack Hill's spoof of women-in-prison films has everything your heart could desire: Sid Haig as a lazy revolutionary, a musical number from Pam Grier, a prison staffed entirely by openly gay prison guards, and oodles of sex and violence. Filmed in the Phillippines, making use of some great talent: Vic Diaz as the lead guard, the uncredited Zenaida Amador as the camp doctor, Rizza as a desperate prisoner. This is a good time!

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