KIND HEARTS AND CORONETS
Ealing, 1949, B&W,106 mins.- Alec Guinness Collection DVD
Dennis Price: It is so difficult to make a neat
job of killing people with whom one is not on friendly terms.
Well, we all have our problems. Prices mother, spurned by her upper-crust family after marrying below her station, has instilled in him a sense of entitlement, as he is technically in line for the family Dukedom. All that stands in his way are a number of pesky relatives- and after his mother suffers a final snub from them, Price vows revenge.
His plan is slow, methodical- and deadly. Its also the meat of one of the most entertaining black comedies ever made, filled with a dry wit that embraces the main characters twisted sense of justice. We first see Price in a prison cell on the eve of his execution for a crime that he did not commit- but while hes waiting, he writes out the story of the crimes that he did commit, narrating the story for our amusement.
His plan involves insinuating himself into his mothers family and helping the ones who are in his way to shuffle off this mortal coil. Thats where Alec Guinness comes in, playing all eight of the offending relatives- including the female one. But that isnt the only female trouble faced by Price, as he courts the widow of one of his victims while dallying with a married girlfriend- a situation which ironically makes more trouble for him than his campaign of vengeance. Everything in this movie, from the script to the acting and direction, is impeccable, and a key virtue is that it doesnt compromise- while not completely evil, Price is a murderous, self-serving cad, and he stays one until the delicious final twist. The disc comes with the trailer and a Guinness bio. Highly recommended for fans of dark, sophisticated humor.
SINGIN IN THE RAIN
MGM, 1952, Color,103 mins.- Special Ed. DVD
Jean Hagen: If we bring a little joy into your humdrum lives, it makes us feel as though our hard work aint been in vain for nothing.
Indeed, and rarely has so much hard work had such a payoff as
in this, one of the glossiest and best-loved of all movie musicals. Even those
who think that there is a special circle of Dantes Inferno reserved for
this sort of thing may find themselves charmed by this picture. It trades on
our fascination with the magic of filmmaking as it simultaneously makes full
use of that magic, in a deft mixing of fantasy and reality that remains fresh
some 50 years after it was made.
Set during the Good old days in Hollywood, the story shows us how Vaudevillian Gene Kelly breaks into the movies, accompanied by pal Donald OConnor, and eventually finding success with co-star Jean Hagen. Kelly Meets cute with and falls for young Debbie Reynolds, to Hagens displeasure, but Hagens got a bigger problem- the newfangled Talkies which will reveal her hilariously squeaky voice. That problem is just part of the films funny and insightful look at the movie business, which is one thing that makes it so entertaining- its not just about the musical numbers. But those numbers are the driving force, and they are all classics, from Kellys titular ode to precipitation, to OConnors running up the walls in Make em laugh, to the balletic, impressionistic Broadway melody sequence.
Co-directors Stanley Donen and Kelly, along with OConnor and Reynolds and the rest of the cast, are at the height of their game here, infusing the film with the energy output of a small power plant. The two-disc sets extras include an audio commentary, documentaries and music cues. If you can watch it without smiling once, youre probably deceased.
THE STORY OF ADELE H.
Les Artistes Associes, 1975, Color, 98 mins.- MGM DVD
Bruce Robinson: Miss Hugo is a highly strung young
And how! The woman in question, played by Isabelle Adjani, is the daughter of exiled literary great Victor Hugo, so its no surprise that she has a romantic streak. But her notoriously wild emotions lead her into real trouble when she follows military man Robinson to Nova Scotia after their brief fling in Europe.
She is obsessed with the man, who is a womanizer and wants nothing more to do with her. She throws herself at him, threatens him, spies on him, lies to her parents (and everybody else) about him, and generally makes a fool of herself. But she doesnt care- her head tells her one thing, but her heart is calling the shots. So she flings herself into a downward spiral of obsession, illness, and madness, all of it passionately detailed by director and co-writer Francois Truffaut.
The story, based on actual events, mines a vein of doomed romance that evokes a distant era (the 1860s), a feeling bolstered by nice period details and lush photography. Adjani was nominated for an Oscar for her role as the tormented, conflicted young lass who just cant help herself, and as you watch youll alternately feel sorry for her and want to give her a good slap- surely the sign of a good performance! The story isnt what youd call uplifting- in fact, it all seems somewhat pointless and sad when you get to the end of it......in other words, its very French. Just keep in mind that its not a popcorn picture if you decide to check it out. The disc is a bare-bones affair but the film itself is nicely presented.
© Melt Magazine 2002