News in a nutshell: TCM and Disney partner up, a few television channels prepare their holiday programming, and what’s new on DVD and Blu.
Before Twilight Time’s recent release I’d never heard of Man Hunt, odd considering it’s directed by acclaimed director Fritz Lang, and starring 1940s heavy-hitters Walter Pidgeon, George Sanders, and Joan Bennett. This could be partly based on the WWII-setting and its encouraging propagandist message, or the fact that its stars and director hadn’t hit the big time yet (M was still Lang’s best known feature, while Pidgeon would be catapulted to fame with Mrs. Miniver the year after this). Strip away those two concepts and it could be that Man Hunt isn’t well known because it’s all over the place, a comment both good and bad.
The 1970s wasn’t a good decade for Walt Disney Studios. With the horrors of Vietnam and the Civil Rights Movement behind us, how could the family friendly studio whose work never commented on the situation try to stay relevant? Why, by commenting on the situation in their own special way. Unfortunately, blending Disney and the “turn on, tune in, drop out” generation was never a good mix to begin with and Superdad is the evidence. Starring infamous television star Bob Crane as a mild-mannered suburban father, the film comments on the rise of shiftless teenage layabouts, but provides a plot just as shiftless as the characters it’s mocking. Add in a blatant Charles Manson figure and you have the makings of the weirdest, most pointless Disney film ever.
Certain classic films are able to overcome their artificiality and transcend towards a level of camp that’s endearing and entertaining, while other films get crushed under the weight, taking everything so seriously and eliminating the fun. Tennessee Williams called Jose Quintero’s adaptation of The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone his favorite of all his works. I believe he said that about The Rose Tattoo as well, so excuse me for not taking Tennessee’s word on this because The Roman Spring is a bizarrely hollow reiteration of themes seen in the superior A Streetcar Named Desire. The movie is so derivative it even includes Vivien Leigh in a performance that’s less Blanche Dubois and more Vivien Leigh herself. And I haven’t even started on poor Warren Beatty.
News In a Nutshell: Another biopic is being prepped for a Hollywood production, another place to access the Criterion Collection, TCM and Macy’s prepare for a Miracle on 34th Street, and what’s new on DVD and Blu-ray.
Anne Baxter played the calculating Eve Harrington in the 1950 drama All About Eve to grand aplomb. Eve is a character so villainous you’re left dying for some type of comeuppance. Well, if you didn’t find the end of that film satisfying, jump ahead eight years to this thriller. Chase a Crooked Shadow borrows liberally from the director of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock, to create a crafty little thriller with some genuine surprises.
Disney cooked up “a whale of a tale” in 1954 with their epic adaptation of Jules Verne’s novel, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Their fifth live-action movie at the time, 20,000 boasted the biggest budget for a single film under the Disney banner and required the use of other studio backlots and the only CinemaScope lens held by 20th Century Fox. The proof is in the pudding; not a dollar is wasted and is in abundance upon the screen. But there’s only so much that amazing set design can yield. The story itself is a lumbering 127-minute giant with enough filler to make a hearty meal.