And the hiring of Universal horror films writer Curt Siodmak to write the script is a nice touch of linking with the ‘grand tradition’ of Frankenstein films. It is certainly entertaining and moves quite well, and everybody puts their best into it. (The “making of” featurette on the DVD is a wonderful look into the making of a higher budgeted ‘indie’ movie by the way.) But there is one serious flaw to the film, and that is Renée Zellweger’s performance. Whenever https://www.gclub.co/gclub168/ the character undergoes pressure, she gets all wobbly and quirky, like a character actor playing a supporting role – but she’s not only the lead, she’s what the picture is all about, so this is definitely a flaw that threatens to derail the whole project.Fortunately, it doesn’t. First, of course, everyone else in the picture submits wonderful performances. Logan Lerman is a marvelous young actor who strikes chemistry with practically everyone he interacts with.
Of course, the broadcast network owners knew better (they knew that TV audiences had a lower “lowest common denominator” than film, and that less money could be spent accordingly).AS a TV pilot, this is actually not so bad – cheap, quick with an interesting twist at the end. The actors are certainly trying their best, and – for television – it is more than competently made. For some reason this fine old Joseph Kuo feature disappeared for a while.
But I expected more – a solid story taking advantage of the animated media. Karloff’s Wong compares quite favorably to the various screen interpretations of Charlie Chan. He doesn’t play a stereotypical Chinese according to Hollywood formula (and neither does Keye Luke in a later film in the series).
Karloff brings a wit and a quiet air of command to the character, he is always moving steadily toward a solution to the crime at hand. He presents Wong as quite the most intelligent character in every film. The mysteries themselves are about average for the period. In most of the Wong films the clues are there for the audience if they care to look for them.
Hitchcock, for better or worse, is the most overtly Freudian of directors – as the birds gather in the background preparing their assault, the central players quietly dance around the problem of the lead female’s sexual attraction to a man whom his mother has effectively neutered. Only the sudden onslaught of the birds allows him the moment to reclaim his status as head of the family, and by that time his would-be lover has been severely damaged. Anyone who knows Hitchcock’s body of work will recognize how this resonates with themes of sexuality and fear in his other films.But, again the birds are an open metaphor – Hitchcock is clever enough not to bind their threat too tightly to his own paranoias here. We are free to interpret them as we please, and to read the domestic drama as mere back-story to their unpredictable attacks. The film’s suspense thus hinges, not on our concern for the family’s problems, but on our own fears of inexplicable and sudden catastrophe.
But the images keep pulling me along.This is a great film, for two reasons. But so much of this is rich in construction and detail that I insist it remains a classic – unrecognized but undeniable. I am an admirer of many of Billy Wilder’s movies – Stalag 17, Days of Wine and Roses, Some Like it Hot – and other wonderful, trend-setting, sophisticated, stylish films. It opens well; the title sequence is basically a snapshot of Dean Martin’s Las Vegas act of the time, and his twisted turn playing someone who might be himself has an undeniable fascination.Unfortunately, he is not the male lead of this film – RAY WALSTON is!
I think the effort to achieve that is entirely successful, and this is one of Hitchcock’s most unsettling, and most memorable, accomplishments. Some B movies transcend, others lower themselves into the “so bad t’s funny’ category. But most fall into the general category of ‘good B-movie” – entertaining but forgettable.This film can be enjoyed as a good B-movie, If one doesn’t know much of film history, there it ends – a solid B- movie from the early ’40s.But pay attention! I’ve watched this film several times – it’s actually difficult to watch, the scene where the young boy gets wasted by Japanese machine gun fire is not fun.
And the film is really beautiful to look at, and filled with pleasantly eccentric characters, in situations highly evocative of the era in which they occur, the 1950s.Secondly, part of the problem with Zellweger’s performance may have to do with the character herself. Although she fancies herself a Deep-South Southern Belle, deserving of the better things in life, once we meet her sister we realize that she really comes from the mid-South commercial class, and that her attitude of entitlement is a self-delusion. She is thus out of touch with her own life, and in need of review of her identity.
The best review here so far has been Timothy Farrell’s from 2007, that remarked this film as the best-paced and most consistent from director Mikels. But most of the comments, both favorable and unfavorable, have been largely on the money – which in itself tells us we have a rather strange critter here. I.e., how can we say of a film that it is a camp classic in one comment, and that it is not a camp classic in another comment, and yet both comments be right? How can we mock such a film for its cheesiness and then admit that it wallows in that cheesiness, as if cheesiness were among its redeeming values? The answer of course is that Mikels made this film with tongue firmly in cheek. It is simply a mistake to take this film seriously – Mikels is rushing this product through to the drive-in circuit targeting a teen-age audience (hence the lack of nudity or really gory effects), giving them moments allowing them to exclaim “oh, gross!” or “wow, that’s weird” while they take a breather from necking in the back-seat.
It may be that the core of the character is really hard to define.Otherwise, I have no trouble recommending this often amusing, insightful glimpse into a complex family during an era of change. It may have no more weight than an old family snapshot of the era, but it is as telling and well-developed a snapshot as one could wish. We think of television as beginning in the ’50s, but that’s simply not true.This probably played in theaters as filler, but it is almost certainly a pilot for early television. There is no way else to explain the opening wherein the male lead introduces his supporting cast.There are a number of pilots for unsold TV series still available, including a Sherlock Holmes pilot from the same era. There was even a brief series shot on film along similar lines (I think it was Boston Blackie). In any event, the interesting thing here is that some studios thought they could produce television shows the way they had produced theatrical B-movies.
Actually, it’s a joke.Here’s the tell-all moment about the budgeting of the film and the incompetence with which it is made – I think it half, but I remember the percentage higher, of the shots used to depict the effect of Miami’s freezing and the response of the population there are localized on a single hotel swimming pool. That’s right, a swimming pool, and a rather small one (low budget hotel for a low budget movie). But Once the film returns to Miami for the remainder, it sinks to a level of casual incompetence that only television allows for.Not even a decent time-waster; I stayed just to see how dumb it could get. Daphne Du Maurier’s work largely falls into he category of ‘gothic romance’ – not the kind that has glutted supermarkets since the ’50s, her best known books really hark back to the genre’s roots in the 19th century.