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

Friday, March 5, 2010

Wait Until Dark

The Paramount Theatre

I usually sit in the orchestra seating, but had decided in advance to try out the balcony tonight.  I was near the front of the line on one side to get in, and was the first upstairs.  Unfortunately, there was a mixup at my entrance, whereby the usher thought the auditorium hadn't opened yet, and therefore wouldn't let me in.  Meanwhile, the other side of the balcony had opened, and people had taken the two seats on either side of the aisle.  So, my friend and I ended up with the second best set of seats, rather than the very best.  I must say, I enjoyed the balcony experience.  The distance isn't too far away (from sitting in that front-most row, anyway), and there is noone in front of me.  Just me and the screen.

Here's my Deco-Win ticket.  Come on, 002!


With the Oscars just around the corner, the organist treated us to a medley, plowing through excerpts from all the Oscar-winning songs from 1934-1970.  The only one I recognized was from The Magnificent Seven (1960).

The Newsreel is always a delight.  Take even the most mundane news program airing today, and in fifty years it will be fascinating both to those who have been born since, and to those who have forgotten how things were.  "Snow Blitz" informs us that twenty-seven inches of snow had fallen in Duluth.  "Beached Ships" shows some impressive tanker ships washed ashore somewhere during a storm.  They tower over strollers on the beach, waiting for the tide (and tug boats) to come in.  "Born to Speed" chronicles the fateful final attempt by speedster Donald Campbell, record holder for land speed, to break the water speed barrier of 300 miles per hour.  He reaches 303 MPH (Wikipedia says 320+), but his boat breaks apart in the process and we watch as he is killed.  "Indoor Track Underway" is set in San Francisco, where a high jumper leaps seven feet, and, something I've never seen before, he does it face first rather than backward.  I don't know how that's even possible, but he did it.

The 1947 Merrie Melodies short "I Taw A Putty Tat" has Sylvester reigning as the king of the canaries, until an easy-going Tweety Bird moves in.  Sylvester's attempts to eat Tweety are successful on several occasions, but Tweety still manages to escape, by lighting a match in Sylvester's mouth, or using Sylvester's uvula as a punching bag.  I can't be certain, but I think Sylvester actually dies in the end.  The crowd loved this short, laughing throughout.

For once Ken Walters was not away on assignment, and hosted Deco-win.  There was something fishy with the wheel tonight; it kept sticking on sixes.  We also had more winners on a given three digit number than I would think possible.  Assuming the auditorium was full, at 2998 (it was not), then any given trailing three digit string (e.g. 123) should only occur three times, as in 0123, 1123, and 2123.  But on one occasion we had four winners (including the man seated to my right, a regular Paramount patron).  There are two ushers handing out tickets, from two separate roles, though, so that might explain it (though it would favor the low numbers, and lead more often to noone getting a prize for the high numbers).

When I saw North by Northwest (1959) at the Paramount in 2008, Eva Marie Saint's son was in the audience, and had the announcer read aloud to us a letter she wrote discussing her role in the movie.  Tonight we had another surprise celebrity encounter.  In Wait Until Dark Audrey Hepburn has but a single ally, a young neighbor named Gloria, played by Julie Herrod.  Herrod was in the audience with us tonight and received a huge round of applause, both when she stood up before the film, and during the end credits.


Who Killed Teddy Bear? (1965)
I can't tell if this is a romance or a movie about a serial killer.  It cuts back and forth between a man running down a dark street (either chasing someone or being chased, I'm not sure which), and a dance party with really cool outfits.  Running.  Dancing!  Screaming.  Laughing!  Very conflicting, but the outfits are cool enough that I'd watch the preview again.  (Cuts unknown.)

Straight-Jacket (1964)

I've only seen two Joan Crawford movies, one from each end of her career: the silent film Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (1925), in which she plays "Crowd extra in chariot race", according to IMDB, and Trog (1970), about which the less said the better.  Straight-Jacket looks terrible, but it has some great splash text: "May go beyond your ability to endure suspense", and "Warning: Straight-Jacket vividly depicts axe murders".  You don't think Joan has the guts to swing the axe?  Oh, she's got the guts alright.  (Cuts unknown.)

Wait Until Dark (1967)
A drug supplier in Canada fills a doll with bags of heroin (or cocaine), and sends the doll across the border via airplane and in the care of a female accomplice, Lisa.  When Lisa arrives in the U.S. and sees her contact, Roat (Alan Arkin), she waivers.  Instead of delivering the doll to Roat, Lisa passes it off to a nice man she met on the plane, concocting a story about the doll being a surprise for someone.  (You know, airport security never asks us after we get off the plane if anyone asked us to carry anything for them.)  The man agrees to hang on to the doll, and takes it home with him, unaware of the danger he brings with him.

The man is Sam (Efrem Zimbalist Jr., the voice of Bruce Wayne's butler Alfred in the Justice League animated universe), and is married to Susy (Audrey Hepburn).  Susy was blinded a year ago in an auto accident, and is still adjusting to her new, unsighted life.  Sam is a nice guy, and a loving husband, but by the end of the movie, after all that Susy goes through because of the doll, the audience hissed at him.  Lisa's attempt to hide the doll with Sam has proven unsuccessful; soon Roat and two hired goons sneak into Sam and Susy's house, looking for the doll.  Unable to find it, they scheme to get Susy to tell them where it is by calling Sam out of town on made-up business, and then introducing one of the goons to Susy as Sam's old friend Mike (Richard Crenna).

That's the set-up.  Three evil men constantly gaining access to Susy's home, under one pretense or disguise or another, trying to get the doll, and becoming increasingly aggressive when Susy claims ignorance of its location.  As Susy begins to suspect that she is being manipulated, she reaches out to the only two people she can trust: her neighbor, a young girl named Gloria, and Mike, who is actually part of the conspiracy.  I'm not typically a fan of having information as an audience that my hero doesn't have; I want to shout out to them to warn them away from danger.  But that disjoint of information is then entire conceit of this film, and does an exceptional job of building suspense.  Every scene has two elements: audio and visual.  We hear Susy having a friendly conversation with Mike, but also watch with horror as Mike cases her apartment, silently searching for the doll, and fabricating lies as necessary that Susy is unable to verify (Mike tells her there is a police car outside, when, in fact, there is only a van, containing his two allies).  Susy's journey into awareness is riveting, and the watershed moments when realizes some of the more essential truths give me goosebumps even to think about.

This movie has a shock moment that elicited an enormous scream from the audience, and then a good ten seconds of laughter afterward, so joyous was the experience of being surprised like that, and of experiencing it with so large a crowd.  In reading a few books recently by David Mamet, I feel cowed to his maxim that the only purpose to a scene is to make us wonder what will happen next.  This movie is purely that, a sequence of scenes that accomplish little by way of changing the state of things, but rather compound our curiosity.  I was on the edge of my seat for the entire film, with rapt attention, waiting to see the next twist.

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