Reviews of Classic Film, with artwork and news

LAST UPDATE June 17, 2024

Repo Man 1984

The 1984 quasi-punk sci-fi mystery film Repo Man is coming out on Criterion Blu-Ray disc (4K digital restoration, approved by director Alex Cox, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack – one 4K UHD disc and one Blu-ray disc) in September. The Criterion page about their HD edition.

Fast Review: Cactus Flower – 1969

At the start of Cactus Flower, a prone Goldie Hawn is on her couch as her tiny apartment fills with gas from her tiny oven. Like a sacrifice to a shrine she positions herself with arms crossed below a large framed photo of Walter Matthau, who has just broken a dinner-date with her, and she lays still and breathes in the killing fumes. Her suicide goes awry when her neighbor, unsuccessful playwright Julian (played by Rick Lenz), sniffs the gas out in the hall, and unable to get through the door, smashes out one of her windows to climb in and turn the gas off. He then administers mouth-to-mouth respiration to the passed-out young woman which turns into a heated kissing session until Hawn's character snaps awake, realizing these aren't middle-aged Walter Matthau lips!

Goldie Hawn was in her early twenties when Cactus Flower was made, but at times she looks more like a teenage Oliver Twist waif come to hippy-1969 life and not a young woman that Walter Matthau is having an extra-marital affair with. As a "waif" her appearance makes middle-aged Matthau's philandering dentist seem (unintentionally, I suppose) extra predatory and certainly less than sincere as we watch the relationship between the two progress with his coming-and-goings from her very small New York City apartment. The actual extra-marital affair, though, is fictitious. Matthau's character doesn't have wife or children, using the story of them as a handy way to stave off commitment with the young women he philanders (Goldie Hawn's character is the only one we actually see in Cactus Flower, but there are others we learn of through telephone calls.)

Ingrid Bergman is sort of the "main character" in Cactus Flower though this doesn't become evident until later and most of the attention by director Gene Saks' camera is aimed at the young Goldie Hawn. Bergman is the office manager at Matthau's character's dental practice, with a small potted cactus on her desk, and she gets looped into a scheme of Matthau's to do two things: first to convince Hawn's character she is the (fictitious) wife Matthau has used as a shield, and (2) convince her also that the "divorce" they're getting is amicable but also worthwhile, because, as Hawn's character says, "I don't want to be a housebreaker," and all of this screwball chicanery is because Matthau's guilt is strong enough to make him want to "do right" by the devoted, large-eyed Goldie Hawn. To do this he must kick the phantom wife out of the picture first to please Hawn's character's appreciation of propriety.

The script for Cactus Flower was written by I. A. L. Diamond, but the film is based on the Broadway play of the same name by Abe Burrows, which in turn was adapted from the French play "Fleur de cactus" by Pierre Barillet and Jean-Pierre Gredy, and it is a well-machined story that furnishes opportunity for many one-liners and arch comments to have a place to breath, and as a comedy, Cactus Flower does all that and more, letting Bergman's tightly-uniformed (a visual clue of her repression) to finally let-loose and "live," 1969-style. Why Matthau isn't nursing a dozen STDs and why is Goldie Hawn's character so gullible, and why is Rick Lenz a fairly accurate photocopy of a young Jimmy Stewart, well none of that is explained, but as a retooled-screwball comedy for a different era of go-go boots and psychedelia, Cactus Flower excels.

Columbia 100 Anniversary will have Lawrence of Arabia and Close Encounters of the Third Kind returning to movie theaters. Also, Rear Window will be in Theaters, too, as part of that film's 70th anniversary.

Fast Review: The Maze – 1953

As a mystery/horror film, The Maze digs right into a 1953 obsession, that of evolution gone wrong, but it is combined with a Gothic "haunted house" story about how to keep a dark family secret very secret for literally hundreds of years (though they keep a copy of a book titled Teratology laying around in the open).

Richard Carlson stars in The Maze though the story really features Veronica Hurst's character trying to sort out a mystery, somewhat like Frances Dee's character dealing with an elusive question that looms over Val Lewton's 1943 I Walked With A Zombie, and in fact The Maze has a "night-walk" section that is reminiscent of a Lewton film, that transition visual that carries the viewer out of reality and into a heightened state of the fantastic, which director William Cameron Menzies does well, along with the heavy atmospherics of the rest of the film.

Carlson went on in the year after the release of The Maze in 1953 to deal with a wholly different evolutionary phenomenon in Creature from the Black Lagoon. A difference between these two films is that the film-makers at Universal want us to get a good look at the fast-swimming "Gill-Man" throughout that tale, but Allied Artists Pictures rations glimpses of our enigmatic subject of The Maze right up until the end. When the final reveal is made, getting to finally see the "gill-man" that lives in Craven Castle and frolics in the pool at the center of the maze out back, well, is it as earth-shattering as the story tried to imply? Not really, though not for lack of trying. Director Menzie's provides a good build-up, but ironically, this being a Menzies movie, the visual of our "monster" simply isn't good enough for a sustained inspection, and doesn't improve when you get to see it even more, progressing in a peculiar but obvious way up a flight of stairs (and looking a bit like a re-used green outfit from Menzie's more famous Invaders from Mars that released just a few months before The Maze hit theaters.)

Otherwise, The Maze is a good-looking, likeable film that has a Gothic-madness to it, starting off with star Carlson playing in the waters of the Riviera, then shifting us in to the Scottish Highlands (though we barely get to see Scotland outside of the grounds of Craven Castle) and the cold waters of this latter place gets plenty of swimming-action, too, it's just not the warm kind Carlson had on the Riviera.

Katherine Emery (as a level-headed Aunt) and Veronica Hurst (as the Nancy Drew-like ex-fiancé who won't take "no" as an answer) carry the film by doing most of our investigation and providing most of the drama. Carlson's cinema personality is eclipsed almost entirely by family-doom as soon as he inherits the title back in Scotland, becoming a grim-faced wall backed-up by an equally grim-faced staff of servants all dedicated to hiding what's going on. Hurst, Emery and some side characters who gather in the castle toward the end help penetrate the wall of secrecy, or should we really say, hedge of secrecy, referring back to the twisting walls of foliage in the locked-up, no visitors allowed The Maze.



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