A Few Thoughts On Five Cary Grant Movies

I do this thing when I read a book about someone or watch a documentary about them where I want to absorb as much of their art as possible. Usually, I can’t get to the material fast enough and something else catches my eye, but I’m trying to stay focused on watching Cary Grant movies after reading Marc Eliot’s book on the actor. I’ve borrowed a number of his films from the library and only watched half of one, but recently took advantage of several of his films appearing on TCM On Demand. In the last few months, I’ve come to realize that TCM doesn’t keep its films on there for very long, so I’m not sure if they’re still there. Hit the jump to read my quick roundups of To Catch A Thief, Mr. Lucky, Houseboat, Walk, Don’t Run and The Philadelphia Story!

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Dastardly Double Features Episode 2 – The Haunting & Legend Of Hell House!

ddf-logoThis week, Mr. Dastardly and I watch two haunted house classics: The Haunting and The Legend Of Hell House!

Listen to the episode here!

Audiobook Review: Jaws by Peter Benchley, Read by Erik Steele (1974)

jawes audiobookAlfred Hitchcock once said that you shouldn’t make a movie out of a good book. That’s what he supposedly did with The Birds and that worked out pretty well, right? Well, apparently Steven Spielberg did the same thing with Peter Benchley’s Jaws. The book, much like the movie, finds a resort town terrorized by a great white shark. Sheriff Brody, shark scientist Matt Hooper and grizzled fisherman Quint are the only three people willing to go out and put a stop to all this.

I spent most of the day listening to this book while doing work and watching our daughter and have to say, I was pretty bored. Things start off interesting, with Brody trying to figure out how to handle this unusual problem. While, in general, I think the movie is all around better than the book, I will say that the complexities of keeping the beaches open are more deeply explored in the book and make more sense than “the mayor’s a jerk.”

Speaking of the mayor, he’s a far more detailed character in the book, but I’m not sure if that’s such a great thing. The overall problem with the book is that it spends far too much time away from the shark. As you may or may not know, there’s an entire subplot the finds Brody’s wife having an affair with Hooper, whose older brother she dated in high school. There’s a whole dinner party scene and then one where they go to dinner. All of this took about an hour in audiobook form. AN HOUR! Even worse? It didn’t really have much to do with the story other than to make us feel a little better when SPOILER Hooper dies in his shark cage (something Spielberg was supposedly going to keep in the film version, but changed for a bit of a happier ending). At the end of the day, when you’re writing a book about sharks, write about sharks.

I know I shouldn’t be comparing the book to the film as much as I am, but it’s nearly impossible because I’m so familiar with the movie and it’s one of the best films ever made. Still, there are some interesting meta elements that I noticed while listening to the book. First and foremost, the movie kicked off huge interest in sharks that we’re still experiencing today. In a roundabout way, that makes the shark action in the book much easier to picture. In fact, with the ending, I was basically watching a slightly edited version of the film in my head while it was going on.

I don’t think Jaws is necessarily a bad book — it sold like gangbusters when it came out in 1974 — but I do think it’s a less focused version of this story than Spielberg’s. In fact, had the affair subplot been excised or shortened, I would have liked it a lot more. I even enjoyed some of the characters who aren’t in the movie like Hendricks and Meadows, though completely understand why the nicer version of Hooper in the film was able to carry a lot of their weight. At the end of the day, if you’re interested in both the book and the movie, I’d read the book first and then watch the movie, which is the exact opposite thing I would suggest if you’re interested in The Shining.

Finally, I absolutely loved Brody’s line, “I’ll never be as old as I feel today.” I feel like that at least three times a week.

Halloween Scene: The Psycho Legacy (2010)

Not technically a horror movie, I think The Psycho Legacy still makes a fitting Halloween Scene entry because a) it’s about one of the most important horror movies of all time and b) I haven’t done one of these posts in a while and wanted to get back to them!

I’ve had this double disc documentary about Psycho I-IV sitting around for quite a while. I thought about maybe rewatching the classic original and then going through and watching the rest for the first time before watching the doc, but decided against it. Maybe I should have because the doc is spoiler heavy. I wasn’t mad, though, how else would they talk about the flicks without talking about their twists, turns and endings.

As it is, I’m not the world’s biggest Psycho fan. I’ve seen it a time or two and respect it like crazy, but for some reason it never made its way into my top three (Jaws, Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Halloween), which is funny because all of those movies owe a debt to Psycho and Hitchcock. After watching this documentary, I want to watch it again and hopefully like it even more.

It also made me want to watch the sequels, something I’ve never been particularly interested in. I had never thought about or researched them much, so I didn’t know that Anthony Perkins was involved throughout all of the movies, even directing one. I also wasn’t aware that one time interviewee of mine Mick Garris directed the fourth installment or that Elliot himself Henry Thomas starred as a young Norman Bates in the fourth movie.

It’s interesting watching something like this because it’s got a great mix of cast and crew from all the movies–all of whom seem to have had a wonderful time making all the flicks–as well as directors, writers and bloggers who had nothing to do with the making of the films, but have become fans. I think it’s interesting to get their perspective on the flicks and while they might wind up a bit skewed–no one complains about the sequels, I mean–I like hearing the good about movies that I’ve only really heard being panned.

There’s a ton of extras that came along with the disc, but I haven’t gotten to them yet, but probably will after watching the sequels. All in all though, I found the documentary to be well made, very interesting and made me want to learn even more about Anthony Perkins. He seems like he was a really classy dude who knew how to be in and make movies. Maybe the Psycho flicks will be part of this year’s daily Halloween Scene October celebration? Hopefully I’ll remember…

Ridin’ With Hitch: The Trouble With Harry (1955)

I’m embarrassed to say that I have seen too few Alfred Hitchcock movies. I’ve seen Psycho, Vertigo, The Birds and Rope and I hardly remember Vertigo. Luckily, NetBox has a ton of Hitch’s movies available for watching. I’ve got them all organized into a clump on my queue that I hope to start making my way through. First up was a fairly different film for Hitch called The Trouble With Harry which is essentially a comedy with some horror elements (Harry is a corpse  being dragged around a small New England town being buried and dug up).

This was a delightful film. It’s black comedy at its best, which I love. But it’s also intricately written without getting overly complex. Here’s the deal, Edmund Gwenn (Santa from Miracle On 34th Street) is out shooting at rabbits in the woods. After he’s done he comes across a dead body, assumes he accidentally shot the man and tries to figure out what to do. Of course, it seems like the whole town comes out to take a walk in that exact area and either don’t notice the body or seem generally nonplussed by its appearance. From there, it gets a little complicated and I won’t get all the way into it, but Gwenn and John Forsythe go back and forth about burrying the body, meet some ladies who both claim to have had a hand in Harry’s death and have to dig up and bury him over and over and over again. If I had one complaint it’s that the movie  gets a little repetitive with various people returning to the burial site. Aside from that, though, this one’s a home run for me full of strange and interesting characters. Oh, this was also Shirley MacLaine’s first flick and she was hot stuff and funny as you’d expect. My favorite character, though, has to be MacLaine’s son played by none other than Jerry Mathers who would go on to play Beaver on Leave It To Beaver. The kid is just SO weird. He calls tomorrow today and yesterday tomorrow or some such craziness. It might seem like throaway dialogue from a character who’s not super important, but it’s touches like that that elevate a movie from pretty good to outstanding in my book.

So, do yourself a favor and give The Trouble With Harry a shot. I know I had some reservations when I saw that this was a comedy from 1955. Not knowing the humor would still hold up or whether I’d even get it (what if they ONLY make jokes about Victrolas?!), but it felt really fresh and I’d like to think that little towns like this still exist somewhere in New England filled with interesting folks, strange kids, hot single moms, people who don’t care about murder and snooty artists who don’t like cities because everyone’s wearing hats!