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October 25-31, 2006

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This Week's Revivals

By Richard von Busack


Movie Times AFANA: Not the Day of the Dead Night
Cine16 returns, for one night only, with a program celebrating this special time of togetherness and violent horror. Tonight: Vampire (1979; 30 min.). Striking fear into the hearts of criminals—a cowardly, superstitious lot—the bat is also seen here plying its disgusting trade in Trinidad by sucking the blood of cattle. Locals take matters into their own hands with baticide. Masque of the Red Death (1970; 10 min.), directed by Pavao Stalter/Branko Ranitovic. The Zagreb animators take on Poe, and it's a little more uncanny than Brock Savage getting Poe in a headlock on a recent episode of The Venture Bros. Operation Cue (1964; 15 min.). How often has this supplied stock footage or been used as a source for horror? Let's name the movies, anyway: Kalifornia, The Hulk, the remake of The Hills Have Eyes. The Office of Civil Defense is seen setting up little mannequin villages in the desert, all the better to watch them be blown to smithereens during a nuke test. Frank Film (1973; 9 min.). Director Frank Mouris' whole life story in 11,592 collage shots. Plus The Hangman (1964; 12 min.); Day of the Dead (1957; 15 min.); and lastly, Rail Rodents (1954). Everyone knows the idiomatic expression "the cat's ass" is synonymous with "quality," but you wouldn't want to be Katnip the Kat's kartoon keister, menaced by the evil psychotic rodent Herman the Mouse. Archivist Geoff Alexander counts 10 murders and three maimings in this Eisenhower-age progenitor to Itchy and Scratchy. (Plays Oct 25 at 7pm in San Jose at Works/San José Gallery, 30 N. Third St; suggested donation $8 but no one turned away; www.Afana.org)

Movie Times The Brasher Doubloon/Kiss of Death
(Both 1947) The most obscure of all Raymond Chandler adaptations, at long last revived. Philip Marlowe (George Montgomery) takes on a case of a stolen coin, which leads to a string of murders. The 76-minute movie is based on Chandler's The High Window. The change of title couldn't have helped the film's chances, since you can imagine the theater being mobbed with pirate-movie fans. Noir ace John Brahm directs. Original nitrate print. BILLED WITH Kiss of Death. Victor Mature stars as a New York thief facing a 20-year ticket to prison who is persuaded to squeal on his accomplices by a DA (Brian Donlevy); but hit man Tommy Udo (Richard Widmark) tries to persuade Mature that there is a certain wisdom in silence. Ultimately, Widmark is what people remember about this classic noir, shot in real Manhattan locations by director Henry Hathaway; the moment of Udo helping an old lady with her wheelchair is particularly affecting. (Plays Oct 25-26 in Palo Alto at the Stanford Theatre.)

Movie Times Casablanca
(1942) You must remember this. In a remarkable studio re-creation of North Africa, an elaborate story of wartime loss and love is played out. Club owner Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) is confronted by his old lover (Ingrid Bergman) and her husband (Paul Henreid), who try to shake the isolationist Rick into action against the Nazis. Not a movie, but the movies, as Umberto Eco argued; in Casablanca, every film genre is sampled and merged, played by a cast that included 34 nationalities. (Plays Oct 26 at 10am in San Jose at Eastridge 15 and Saratoga 14 Theatre.)

Movie Times Hangover Square/The Ghost and Mrs. Muir
(1945/1947) One of the nastiest of movie heavies, Laird Cregar. Cregar excelled at playing sweaty, epicene hulks with unguessably ugly motives and tastes. Worn out by crash dieting, Cregar died young, but here he is in his last picture playing a composer who goes homicidal in London. Film noir mastermind John Brahm directed; the Guy Fawkes Day finale is particularly hellish. BILLED WITH The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. Sublime romantic fantasy about an Edwardian widow (Gene Tierney) romanced by the specter of a drowned sea captain (Rex Harrison). George Sanders is the proverbial grain of salt amid the sweetness as a sleek but horrible children's book writer ("Lord knows I hate the little brutes"). Magic, in a word. (Plays Nov 1-2 in Palo Alto at the Stanford Theatre.)

Movie Times The Nightmare Before Christmas
(1993) Tim Burton's stop-action marvel never gets old. This Halloween return engagement is being shown in 3-D in limited theaters. Adding the 3-D effect seems like overkill to us. Don't mess with a classic, we always say. (Opens Oct 20 at the Century Oakridge 20.)

Movie Times The Shining
(1980) Fans are right; the book is better. A simple haunted-house tale is here given a gargantuan widescreen treatment by the ambitious Stanley Kubrick and subverted by a larger-than-life star performance by Jack Nicholson. And if you pick this one apart, you'll realize that what it claims is that giving someone a blowjob while wearing a dog mask is a deed of such terrible decadence that years later it will have enough psychic resonance to turn a 400-room hotel into the antechamber of hell. You just watch your step this Halloween. What one remembers, despite the ridiculously expensive special effects and the at-the-time tony use of the Steadicam, is Shelley Duvall, a most elegant scream-queen, and Danny Lloyd running for their lives from Daddy. It's weird how infrequently the everyday horror of domestic violence is used to propel more monster movies. As overpaid as King is, he did once upon a time have the very good idea of making the supernatural grow out of the kind of evil he knew about: children running out and getting killed by cars in Pet Semetary; men getting drunk and beating their kids in The Shining. (Plays Oct 27 and 28 at midnight in Palo Alto at the Aquarius Theater.)

Movie Times Springtime in the Rockies/The Gang's All Here
(1942/1943) Betty Grable heads for the hills because she can't stand her boyfriend John Payne's flirt-prone ways, but then he follows her to the Rockies with his new secretary (ha!) Carmen Miranda. As a result, Grable is forced to cuddle with the sleek but untrustworthy Cesar Romero to get even. Harry James, Edward Everett Horton and Charlotte Greenwood climb aboard. BILLED WITH The Gang's All Here. (Sober-toned English narrator): So you want to know about the war, do you? The capitals of Europe were in flames, a foaming madman in Berlin threatened the world—meanwhile, on Pico Boulevard, the masterminds at a secret defense laboratory, disguised for the duration as an obscure movie studio, devised the ultimate weapon: an unstoppable Brazilian commando called Carmen Miranda, leading an crack unit of chorus girls wielding 8-foot-long bananas. Shortly afterward, Hitler committed suicide. The most hallucinatory musical ever made, it has a plot: Edward Everett Horton tut-tutting over the antics of his show-biz-loving daughter (the sad-eyed Alice Faye, always a little blue about the troops, I guess). But then Carmen Miranda comes in, shedding malapropisms and lipstick kisses upon all concerned. The ultimate psych-out is Miranda's "The Lady in the Tutti-Frutti Hat," in which giant fruit, gilded oxen and live monkeys elevate the aging song-and-dance woman onto the altar of a tropical Technicolor temple. (Plays Oct 27 in Palo Alto at the Stanford Theatre.)

Movie Times A Tree Grows in Brooklyn/People Will Talk
(1945) Peggy Ann Garner stars in the film version of Betty Smith's celebrated novel about growing up in Brooklyn 1900, with an unsuccessful dreamer of a father (James Dunn) and a strong-willed mother (Dorothy McGuire). Joan Blondell co-stars as the girl's raffish aunt. BILLED WITH People Will Talk. As Pauline Kael pegged it, People Will Talk is a film that thinks it's George Bernard Shaw. It's the story of a doctor (Cary Grant) who personally takes over the case of an unwed mom. God knows it's well intentioned, anyway, but the patronizing air is very clear to the modern viewer. (Plays Oct 28-29 in Palo Alto at the Stanford Theatre.)


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