In 2010 I saw 100 different movies in 100 different theaters. Here are the details.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Captain Blood

Paramount Theater

(Previously reviewed)

This is the most beautiful theater I've seen so far, and therefore the building most likely to inspire dawdling, taking in the sights, enjoying the splendor.  But when the movie ends, the ushers descend like paratroopers to kick everyone out.  I've had an usher walk up to me, say, "Thanks for coming," and then stand there staring at me, waiting for me to get scarce.  Tonight, as I headed into the aisle, I heard an usher tell a still-seated patron, "The theater's closed now."

In defense of the Paramount, it takes a long time to clear out thousands of people, and employees want to go home at night.  But in defense of patrons, these classic movies have no closing credits (time we normally would have spent exiting or chatting), the theater is gorgeous, and no other theater's staff behaves in this way, even when shows run past midnight.  And it's not the entire staff that kicks us out, either.  Ken Walters was happily chatting up some folks in the aisle.  Meanwhile snipers in the rafters where targeting seated patrons with adrenaline darts, sure to get those feet moving.  I get the sense that the Paramount contracts out to some ushering union or organization, and that the usher organization runs a very tight ship.  This might be appropriate for their other performances (symphony, bands, ballet, stand-up comedy), but after a fun movie it seems a bit rude.

Come on, double-oh-five!


Tonight's news comes to us fresh from 1955.  An earthquake in the Philippines has killed hundreds and toppled or twisted many buildings and streets.  In Paris, RAF Captain and war hero Peter Townsend comes from behind to win a horse race.  People celebrate Easter around the world, including in Yosemite, Hollywood, Rome, and New York.  At the White House, kids roll Easter eggs on the White House lawn.  Walking down a greeter's line, President Eisenhower accepts eggs as gifts from some kids, only to give them away to other children further down the line.  What a scam!

The 1958 Looney Tunes cartoon "Baton Bunny" has Bugs Bunny conducting an orchestra.  At various points he pantomimes being a cowboy, being a Native American chasing the cowboy, and then being the calvary, running down and shooting the native.  (Remember the fifties when it was childhood entertainment to pretend to kill an already-decimated people?  Good times.)  Bugs's conduction is complicated by a fly buzzing around his head; he waves his baton frantically about trying to shoo the fly, only to succeed in changing the orchestra's tempo.  When the performance has ended, the house is empty, but the fly gives an appreciative clap.

No luck tonight in Deco-win, but there were a few memorable moments.  Ken Walters, addressing the audience but realizing his microphone wasn't working, said, "Larry, run up and get me turned on."  Later, the wheel spinner announced the numbers 6-4-1, but the ever astute Mr. Walters corrected her, "You sure that's not 8-4-1?"  Good thing, too, because for some reason noone had 641, but we had a taker for 841.


King Kong (1933) (Trailer 2)

This trailer is evidence that the advertising gimmick of recutting trailers to suit particular occasions goes way back (i.e. the teaser, the full trailer, the it-opens-tomorrow reminder, the critics-are-raving and audiences-are-thrilling bragging, the you-gave-us-ten-dollars-so-why-not-twenty ploy, and finally the home video release).  I don't know if this trailer is for a re-release or what, but it certainly assumes that audiences are already familiar with the plot.  Giant gorilla.  A dame.  New York City.  Swatting at airplanes from a skyscraper.  Did we mention the giant gorilla?  Cuts unknown.

Tarzan's Hidden Jungle (1955)

Perhaps fueled by post-colonial guilt, the story of Tarzan was popular in film from the first movie in 1918 well into the late 1960s, averaging one film a year.  What was the attraction of seeing Tarzan year after year after year?  I just don't know.  Beginning in the late 1960s, the character saw less attention in the U.S., but did receive several foreign adaptations.  My introduction to the character came in the form of Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes (1984), with Christopher Lambert in the lead.  There are four indications that a character's popularity has reached its nadir.  1) His films show only in Mexico.  2) He's featured in a string of unsuccessful television shows.  3) He's made kid-friendly by a Disney cartoon.  4) He's played by Christopher Lambert.  Anyway, the most famous portrayal of Tarzan was probably by Johnny Weissmuller, who wore the loincloth twelve times from 1932-1948.  Tarzan's Hidden Jungle comes after Weissmuller's run, and after Lex Barker grabbed the vine five times.  Gordon Scott stars in the first of his six performances as the king of the jungle.   Here's the basic plot: a good looking guy with a shaved chest and no comprehension of the English article gets to wrestle with giant jungle beasts, rescue a beautiful woman from quick sand, and deliver some come-uppance to encroaching colonials and their servants who are just trying to earn a buck.  I can't venture a guess at the material covered by the first thirty films, because this one seems to hit on all the major points.  Cuts unknown.

Captain Blood (1935)

Pirates, arrgggh!  They're such a wonderful archetype, in both of two rigid incarnations.  First, we have savages who roam the seas looking to rape, loot, pillage (not sure how that differs from looting), and avoid bathing.  Parrots and peg-legs, warts and black teeth, hooks and sneers, these are not attractive men, but they give our hero someone to kill with impunity, and for that we owe these brigands our gratitude.  Second, we have gallant heroes rebelling against oppressive societies by embracing the freedom of Neptune's skin.  Legitimate businessmen all, they tame the seas with their nautical mastery, bringing much-needed goods to the far reaches of the Earth.  With the wind blowing through their clean, lightly-colored hair, they laugh merrily, drink Napa Valley wine, and gladly lay their jackets over defeated villains so a passing lady needn't get her shoes bloody.  God bless 'em.

James II ruled England in 1685.  Many Protestants felt he was too sympathetic to Catholics, and thus rose up in arms against him.  Doctor Peter Blood (Errol Flynn) has no love for the King, but fighting and adventuring are in Blood's past.  He spends his days caring for the sick.  It is in this capacity, while tending to a wounded rebel, that Blood is arrested and tried as a traitor.  He makes a defiant speech in court (first having the audacity to present a defense at all), which would have won him a quick execution were the colonies not in need of laborers.  Instead of meeting the rope, Blood and his fellow condemned are shipped off to the island of Jamaica where they are auctioned as slaves.  In walks Colonel Bishop (Lionel Atwill) and his fair niece, Arabella Bishop (Olivia de Havilland).  The Colonel wants to see Peter's teeth, but Peter refuses.  Angered, the Colonel is content to let someone else work Peter to death in the sulfur mines.  But Peter's defiance endears him to Arabella, so she buys him for herself.  (Now, I know what you're thinking.  "Those two look just like Robin Hood and Maid Marion!"  What, just because they're English?  You racist.)

Let me jump ahead to the part we've all been waiting for, when mild-mannered doctor-by-day, insurgent-by-night Peter becomes Captain Blood, scourge of the Caribbean.  Does he kill people?  Yes.  But they were all bad.  And the Hippocratic Oath, like stop signs, is really more of a suggestion than a principle.  What makes Captain Blood's ship so warm and fuzzy is that his crew have so much in common.  They're all English (actually, Blood is Irish), hate the King, hate court appearances, hate baring their teeth to fussy mustached plantation owners, and love making an honest living by stealing at sword point.

Blood, who has charisma by the barrel full, makes pirating look respectable.  He solicits loyalty by reminding his crew that they were once slaves together, and by providing economic incentives to be courageous in battle (600 pieces of eight for losing a right arm; 500 for the left arm).  Rather than sleeping around in port cities, Blood spends his free time brokering a deal with French pirate Levasseur (Basil Rathbone) on similar capitalistic principles.  When Peter and Arabella are reunited, Peter is more dashing than ever, and now has a ship full of treasure.  Whereas she bought him for but a few coins, he gains her release (from less good-natured pirates) with a bag full of diamonds.

The film is an interesting artifact of the industry.  Coming just a few years after silent movies disappeared, the movie retains some aspects of that legacy in the form of text, mid-movie, that fills in the gaps between scenes.  Flynn has many great speeches, one of which talks his men out of a mutiny Tom Sawyer-style.  His facial expressions are acted to the back row, but hey, with a face like that.  A few good sword fights, lots of laughs, and the climactic battle sequence is so chaotic you have to assume that at least twenty actors actually died during its filming.

1 comment:

  1. Great review Will. Glad I finally made it out to your blog! Thanks for introducing me to the Paramount film series. Eva experienced her first movie here last week - The Man Who Knew Too Much. It was great.

    Another gripe worth mentioning, however, is that they made Eva buy a ticket. She's not even 3 months old!