Sunday, October 30, 2011

Bisk Limpet

I don't know why I listened to Netflix when it suggested Don Knott's 1964 The Incredible Mr. Limpet. I vaguely remember some of my film bloggers praising this movie, and I don't think I'd seen it as a kid, so I figured, what the heck?

It stars mild-mannered accountant Don Knotts, who lives only to dream about fish. He lives in Flatbush with a glamorous redheaded wife (who has a slight resemblance to a goldfish), who plainly prefers their chubby sailor friend Stickle (as in stickleback?). It is 1941, just before the war, and the navy won't accept Knottts, because he has poor vision and is generally Don Knotts.

But what he really wants to be is a fish. And on a trip to Coney Island, his wish is granted. He falls into the water and becomes an animated fish - with a musical number and everything.

After some adventures with a crusty crustacean (really, he gets called Crusty) voiced by Paul Frees and a sexy lady fish (yes, he names her Ladyfish), Knotts realizes that he could be helping with the war effort. So he gets in contact with his old friend Stickle (chubby Jack Weston) and becomes a secret reconnaissance weapon.

It was Jack Weston who got me thinking of recasting this movie for a modern remake - he wold be perfect played by Jack Black, or even better, Seth Rogen. But who would do Don Knotts part? That's when it hit me: Johnny Depp! It's just the kind of wacky thing he would do!

And then it came back to me - the vague memories of film blog discussions. A little googling did not turn up the exact blogs, but I had remembered correctly. Johnny Depp was planning to star in a remake. I don't know if it is still on, but I'm looking forward to it, more than to his upcoming Dark Shadows.

I can't say I'm in love with this, although there are a lot of "pretty good" things about it. I do think it would be a nice opener on a double bill with Mr. Peabody's Mermaid. Ann Blythe's uninhibitedly amorous mermaid seems to represent the same kind of male fantasy as Ladyfish. A fishy kind of a kink, I must say.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Master of Reality

Since it's getting to be Halloween, we naturally thought of streaming some Vincent Price. Since The Abominable Dr. Phibes is not available on streaming, we thought we'd try some non-horror, adventure Price:  Master of the World (1961). 

It starts in pre-Civil War Pennsylvania, where strange explosions and Bible-quoting voices are heard from the top of Great Eyrie Mountain. Government agent Charles Bronson goes to the Philadelphia Ballooning Society to recruit a balloon for aerial surveillance, and picks up arms magnate Henry Hull, his daughter Mary Webster and her fiance David Franken. In short order, they are up in a balloon and just as quickly, shot down by a mysterious missile.

They wake up in a great steampunk airship, run by the Nemosque Capt. Robur (Price). They soon find that he plans to use his mastery of the air to destroy all armies and navies and abolish war - regardless of the wishes of the nations of the earth.

Price is clearly a noble, altruistic genius, and his "guests" are a war profiteer (Hull), a simpering ninny (Webster), an arrogant bully (Franken) and sadly miscast (Bronson). And yet, he's the villain.

But this irony is intentional. What is not intentional is the woefully threadbare special effects - scant models, international locations that never get much past Malibu, and what appears to be extensive stock footage. By the time it gets to the - I think - genuinely exciting climax, this movie had used up all of my good will, and I was just making fun of it.

I understand that most of Vincent Price's oeuvre represents a triumph of art over budget. I'd call this a draw at best.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Still here

I am still here, just not watching movies.

1. I'm still fairly jet lagged, and can't stay awake after 9 o'clock.
2. We haven't gotten around to renewing our Netflix disk account or visiting the video store.

Last night, I started watching Hellgate with Sterling Hayden on streaming. Somehow I had gotten the idea it was a pirate movie. The tiny picture of the poster seemed to show a guy in a Robin Hood hat fighting in front of a ship's rigging. Well, it was a Civil War military cap, and the rigging was the wooden grating over a the entrance to a subterranean prison - the titular Hellgate.

So, basically a prison Western. It looked like a pretty good one, and you've got to love Sterling Hayden, looking stern and strong-jawed whether faced with a horse having trouble with a foal or a pest-infested military hellhole.

But, you know, it was on streaming, and for some reason I just don't commit to watching streaming the way I do to disks. So I watched about 25 minutes - just enough to ensure that he wasn't going to suddenly get on a ship and turn pirate - then gave up.

I do that a lot with Netflix streaming. Partly because the selection has a lot of bombs in it, but partly because of some psychological quirk in me. I don't like to watch part of a movie. I hate to come into a movie after it has started, or stop before it's done. I want to commit to a movie, give myself up to it. Something about streaming feels casual to me, makes it too easy to lose focus and drop out of the experience.

So, Netflix, it isn't you - it's me. I'm feel like I want more than a streaming relationship. I want the commitment that comes with a solid disk in the mail. And I don't know if I trust you to provide that.

Monday, October 10, 2011

I'm Back and Qwikster is Gone

Well, I'm back from Japan. Flew into Miami Beach BOAC - no I didn't, that's something else. I'm still suffering from from jetlag and a serious sinus issues (deaf in right ear, constant vertigo) but I'm very happy to be back.

And it looks like Netflix is welcoming me back by cancelling (postponing, I suppose) their plans to spin the DVD-by-mail business off to a new company, derisively called Qwikster. I still kind of want to try out the local video rental place, but I know I am going to reward Netflix by signing up for disks again.

And the dirty secret is, we are hooked on streaming as well. Yes as many bad things as I have to say about streaming, we watch about an hour and a half of streaming every day. That's right, 2 episodes of Have Gun, Will Travel washed down with an episode of The Addams Family.

The way I see it, streaming is for TV, movies should be watched on disk. At least as long as that remains an option.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Plan B

I'm a big fan of the B-Movie Cast, a couple of chuckleheads who discuss their favorite B movies (along with guests and lately, the lovely, non-chuckleheaded wife of the host). Lately, I've been listening to the Naschy Cast as well. This is a different set of chuckleheads discussing the B movies of Spanish horror auteur Paul Naschy.

These are both great fun. The hosts are funny and interesting, neither intellectual nor dumb. They have great affection for the movies they cover, without losing track of their basic trashiness. Thanks to Curtis in Mountain View who got me started listening to them.

But one thing they don't do is inspire me to watch the movies. I love me some B movies, but am not a big fan of the horror genre. They aren't the same thing you know. Not all B movies are horror, monster, thriller or gorefests.There are B comedies, gangster, melodramas, westerns - OK, I don't like the melodramas or westerns much, either.

But they never seem to inspire the same kind of fandom, do they? Was there ever a magazine like "Famous Comedians of Filmland"? Did kids stay up at night waiting for a Jack Haley or Joe E. Brown movie to come on (other than me, I mean)? I suppose that's the key - the visceral experience a kid hiding behind the couch scared silly just sticks with you in a way that a few corny jokes or a tough guy noir doesn't.

I still love these podcasts, and enjoy listening to them much more than I would enjoy watching the movies. So, thanks to Curtis from Mountain View, frequent B-Movie Cast commenter, and the guy who turned me on to these 'casts. I know he enjoys hearing about, say, Yolanda and the Thief, but would never want to watch a musical. Well, to each their own.