Big Mouth Billy Fish

Leave a comment

streets-of-fire-moranis

Elizabeth Daily, Diane Lane and Rick Moranis

In 2011, a 45-year-old director completed a long-gestating project which was viewed with confusion as a vanity project, an inchoate mash-up of his childhood obsessions, his adult obsessions, and his lust for micromanaging every aesthetic detail. Suckerpunch will be a fascinating time capsule in 20 years, but will never inspire romantic reveries, and in its own time it was a failure, bringing to life the latent fantasy landscape of very few people other than Zack Snyder.

27 years earlier, another maker of populist masculine films, slightly younger than 45, was met with similar public indifference for his own labor of love. Writer/director/producer Walter Hill used the power he had assembled from The DriverThe GetawayThe Warriors, Alien, 48 Hrs. et al. to expand his world beyond “tough little stories” into a whole fantasy landscape, a seamless intermingling of greaser/sock-hop and New Wave fashions, a world of young-forever romance and nighttime and rainstorms and neon and highway underpasses but no highways. A world where you’re never more than a block from someone who owes you a favor, or vice versa. I’m not going off on creative-writing flights of fancy here, this is exactly how Hill describes his inspiration.

Streets Of Fire, is, by design, comic book in orientation, mock-epic in structure, movie-heroic in acting style, operatic in visual style and cowboy-cliche in dialogue. I tried to make what I would have thought was a perfect movie when I was in my teens – I put in all the things I thought were great then and which I still have great affection for, custom cars, kissing in the rain, neon, trains in the night, high-speed pursuit, rumbles, rock stars, motorcycles, jokes in tough situations, leather jackets and questions of honor.”

No protestations here of intricate allegories tackling tough issues, like we got from Snyder when he was challenged by accusations of masturbatoriousness.

Streets of Fire features a hero with two qualities: tough-guyness, and honesty, played by Michael Paré [evoking a young Peter Weller, or a Travolta unable to smile]. A dream girl who talks tough but is fated to be kidnapped and fought over [Diane Lane as Ellen Aim, rock singer whose onstage apparel looks like something Sarah Vaughan would wear, except made out of spandex]. A variety of non-dream girls who actually are tough [Amy Madigan as a soldier, in a brave performance written for a man much taller than her; Elizabeth Daily as a plucky superfan; Deborah van Valkenburgh, the tough girl from The Warriors, here as your typical soulful waitress and Paré’s sister]. A bad guy who wears by far the most outlandish outfit in the movie. Gang wars in which what matters is ritualized combat between leader and leader, in which the loser doesn’t necessarily even get hurt, he just… loses, and leaves town, in a form of fairy-tale logic which would soon be labeled video-game logic. A world where people pay for everything in coins.

Amy Madigan and Michael Paré

Amy Madigan and Michael Paré

The plot of Streets of Fire: Gang leader Raven [Willem Dafoe] kidnaps Ellen Aim, not to make any particular point, just because he wants her. Her lover/manager Billy Fish [Rick Moranis] recruits her ex-lover Tom Cody [Paré] to assemble a small posse to get her back. Billy Fish himself is enlisted to tag along for the ordeal because he knows the territory. Cops [1950s-style, but racially diverse] get in their way. Gangsters get in their way. She is returned to safety, and then Raven challenges Tom to ritualized combat. That’s about it.

Did you notice the phrase “tag along”? That’s a red flag. The movie moves fast and is full of memorable images and moments. But Billy Fish is the most annoying character in any movie of the 1980s.

One of the most notoriously annoying characters of the decade is Willie Scott [Kate Capshaw], who tags along in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, who whines steadily, diminishes the adventure by giving persuasive arguments for turning around and avoiding all risks, and seemingly doesn’t need to be tagging along anyway. Billy Fish combines all these attributes with the other annoying aspects of Rick Moranis characters, being a socially awkward nerd who is also an impulsive loudmouth who gets others in trouble by never shutting up. And not only that, he’s also the rich guy who bosses everyone around, calls people “pal” or “sweetheart”, and lauds himself for being smart enough to escape his childhood neighborhood and eclipse the losers he grew up with. And he’s constantly asking what’s going on, because there can’t be a moment of peace.

The following, unless I missed something [surely did], comprises all of Billy Fish’s lines from Streets of Fire. I watched it after reading that Moranis left acting because his strengths were in improvising and writing, and he had no interest in the roles that fit his persona in if there was no room for creativity in the dialogue. Nothing is unplanned about Streets of Fire. Some actors are comfortable playing a one-note role. Moranis got bored early when filming this one.

* * *

  • How we doing here, we all set?
  • Yeah, not one of them’s got a pot to piss in. I never should’ve let myself get talked into this dumb benefit, I could’ve been making some real money tonight. All right, let’s get this thing started.
  • Yeah. So what gives? And make it fast, my time is valuable.
  • You and what army?
  • Easy. All you gotta do is earn it.
  • I started out there. It’s the shits. I wouldn’t go back to that dump if you paid me.
  • I don’t think so. It’s not my scene.
  • Look, Cody, you sound pretty dumb. But nobody’s that dumb. I’m the one paying you. That means you go get her, I wait here, and you bring her back to me.
  • Can you really get her back?
  • Alright, I’ll go. She’s real important to me.
  • That’s right, Cody.
  • Hey, what’s your problem? We’re not takin’ no skirt along.
  • Listen, skirt, lemme make it simple for ya. Take a hike.
  • Hey, what is this? Get serious. I’m not paying you any extra to take some sweetie pie along for company.
  • Look, I’ll take you through the Battery and where the Bombers hang out, but I’m not taking any risks. I’m not paying you to add any thrills to my life, that’s not how it works.
  • Look, Butch, I buy and sell people more valuable than you every day.
  • Let me tell you something. These clothes are worth more than you make in a year.
  • If they got her anywhere, they got her at Torchie’s. It’s a real knockdown joint, no class. I used to book bands in there. It’s right in the middle of a big factory, it’s the shits. You’ll love it, McCoy, it’s just your style. Okay, Cody, what’s the plan? How do you figure on handling all these guys and their motorcycles? You start killing Bombers, we’re gonna be in worse shape than we’re already in.
  • Just keep going straight ahead, then make a left under the bridge.
  • Look, I know my way around. That’s why you brought me along, remember?
  • Walk? I’m not gonna walk around here, I’d get killed!
  • What are we talking to this creep for? Let’s get out of here.
  • Just trying to get away from you. We’ve got some business here.
  • I’m not gonna pay this jerk!
  • Don’t call me shithead.
  • Go buy some soap.
  • I don’t need this guy to tell me she’s at Torchie’s, I said they have her at Torchie’s.
  • Are you crazy? They’ll notice me in a second down there!
  • What about her? I thought she’s supposed to do the driving.
  • Jesus, Ellen, am I glad to see ya! I thought you were gone forever!
  • You’re not going with him, you stay in the car!
  • McCoy, can’t you drive this car any faster? I don’t want any Bombers sneaking up on us. Let’s get our asses outta here real quick. And where’s this Grant Street anyway, I never heard of it before, are you sure you know where you’re going?
  • Listen, I say we give it a couple minutes, then get outta here, okay?
  • I’m talking about saving our ass. We’ve got a lot to live for, Ellen!
  • Don’t worry about him, he’s getting paid a lot of money to look after Raven.
  • What, do you think he’s doing this for love? You think he’s doing this ’cause he’s your biggest fan? He’s getting paid, dear. He takes his chances.
  • What’s this old flame stuff?
  • What, is she kidding?
  • Well, Cody, we’ve had our differences, but it looks like we’ve got it made now, huh? We just zoom along here for a couple hours, then we’re home and dry.
  • Bury the car? What are you talking about, bury the car?
  • Gonna get rid of the car? What’s wrong with the car? Is this what I’m paying you all this money for, to come up with these brilliant ideas? Why don’t we just hand ourselves back over to Raven and ask him to shoot us?
  • What are you talking about? What are you going with him for? Hey, I don’t like the way this looks, Ellen. I’m paying the bills around here, how about some respect?
  • Wonder what they’re talking about.
  • Cute.
  • How big a thing do you think they had, anyway?
  • Yeah, well, she’s with me now.
  • I hope you two got everything straightened out.
  • What’s he mean, he hurt your feelings? What’d he say? Did he say anything about me? What’d he say?
  • We’re nobody. We’re going nowhere.
  • Look, knock it off. We’re not interested in conversation, okay, moron?
  • Great. We just got rid of the old wheels. Wonderful leadership, Cody.
  • This is great. Just great.
  • Changing flat tires isn’t exactly my line of work, dear.
  • The famous Sorels sure put a lot of money into that bus, huh?
  • Listen, Cody, I didn’t know you had a thing with Ellen in the old days. You better get some smarts. Learn to adjust to the fact that you’re out of the picture now. See, Cody, I do things for her. Things that a guy like you could never do. Things that matter in the real world.
  • Keep your hands off the suit, buddy.
  • Come on, hurry the hell up with that flat tire! It’s time to go.
  • Way ahead of you, Cody. Whaddya think, I gotta be a genius to know what you’re going for?
  • I’ll handle this. I’ll talk us through.
  • Aw, knock off the crap, will ya? As far as I’m concerned anybody that goes into the Battery and does some damage deserves a medal.
  • Look, cut the shit, okay? You guys got a big job to do, we’re trying to get where we’re going, now let us through. Or do you want to come to some kind of financial arrangement?
  • You guys talk my language.
  • Glad to see there’s some integrity left in the force.
  • First he dumps the car, and now he’s dumping the bus!
  • Don’t worry, babe. Everything’s gonna be okay from now on.
  • It’ll be great.
  • No, she’s not. She’s tired. She’s been roughed up. I’m gonna take her back to the hotel so she can get some rest. This whole thing started ’cause I had to do a gig in this shithole. I shoulda stayed the hell away from this dump.
  • Now you’re talking, kiddo. C’mon, let’s get out of here.
  • I’ve been expecting you. I know what you want. Ten grand. As good as my word. I pay on time.
  • You know, you play rough, Cody, but you do a good job. You should do a little more work for me when you get a taste of what that money’ll bring you. Then you’ll realize I’m the one with the brains around here and you’ll start treating me a bit nicer.
  • Where do you get off talking to her like that? She’s way out of your league, musclehead.
  • You know what’s wrong with that guy? He’s stupid.
  • What’re you sorry about? Where are you going? Where are you going?
  • What is this? You can’t get away with this! You think you can ride into any town and kidnap anybody you want? Now get the hell out of town and leave these people alone.
  • You know something, Waldo? We’re gonna be rich.
  • Great, huh? New discovery. I’ll take them right up the ladder.
  • But don’t worry, Cody, I’m not going to stand in your way with Ellen. I know how it is between you two.
  • She needs me, but she loves you.
  • Is that what I’m supposed to tell her?
  • Take it easy, Cody. Thanks.

* * *

Despite the presence of Billy Fish, and the fact that the kids of 1984 were more in tune with musicals starring Prince or Kevin Bacon, Streets of Fire has inspired love from many hard-bitten romantic teenagers in the following decades, particularly apparent in the form of fan art.

Read a more fair assessment of Streets of Fire here, from Robert C. Cumbow.

Tonight is what it means to be young.

Tonight is what it means to be young.

Advertisements

MAGFest 11: Arcade game assessment

Leave a comment

Space Invaders

Space Encounters

Space Encounters


Classic, of course. Perfectly calibrated. You wonder, should I eliminate the enemies row by row? Clearly I should, because that gives me more time long-term. Or should I go column by column? After I shoot one guy, it’s easiest to shoot the guy right behind him, so this makes sense practically if not in an ideal world. Which of these is best if we are concerned about minimizing the amount of damage to our shields? We need our shields. Like Centipede, this combines mutually unmaximizable objectives with a milieu that rewards patience rather than frantic reflexes.

Space Encounters
Like its near-namesake, there’s a colored overlay on the screen which helps define the zones of the game. But the important part of this game is the controller. It’s fantastic! You actually lean forward to push your ship forward, and pull back to pull it back. It’s also a steering wheel and of course you shoot with it. The controller is so heavy, requiring physical effort to manipulate, that it gives a better feeling of being within the space of the game than any other game I’ve played. And the other interesting feature is the lack of enemies. There really aren’t many things to shoot. Which is good because to shoot them you have to get really close, or at least I did since there seems to be no way to aim. The haptic controller and realistic-in-a-way randomness make this a unique experience.

Bosconian
This is a space shooter with a huge map. Your ship stays in the same place, and the background scrolls behind you. This was revolutionary at the time – before Sinistar! There’s a mini-map next to the background, telling you where you are, and where the ships you need to blow up are. It’s quite optional whether you blow up the smaller things – they aren’t that much of a risk, though it helps if there’s fewer of them. In addition to the free scrolling and the mini-map, this game pioneered having a computer voice, and pioneered the continue screen! Players must have been infuriated that a continue screen had been possible all these years. But how is the gameplay? Excellent. The ships you need to blow up have one spot in the middle you need to hit. If you approach from the right angle you can destroy the ship right away – otherwise its 8 projectiles (which you can also destroy, rendering it helpless, if you want to do things gradually) shoot at you. Some need to be approached from above/below, and some from left/right.

Centipede
Exceeded my high expectations. You’ve got the ordinary mushrooms you have to destroy. Then more appear from the fragments of any unkilled centipedes. Then more are dropped by these snake guys that go sideways, and by these other guys that just fall accompanied by a loud BLOOP. With the interplay of these various sources of trouble you need to be reactive, while still focusing on eliminating the mushrooms at the bottom of the screen first. Then in carrying OUT this challenging combination of tasks, you use a trackball and a fire button. You generally move left to right only, which seems odd for a trackball, but it’s great because you can fine-tune your speed to catch up with or overtake your foes. And whacking the ball to go as fast as possible, unlike in most games where it’s a sign of desperation or a cocky flourish, is actually a strategy when you want to overtake the centipede before it makes a U-turn. Finally, the ball’s 3D capabilities soon become essential, when the creatures reach the bottom of the screen and you need to shift paradigms and go above them. A real game of skill.

Donkey Kong
Frankly it is amazing that this is where the empire started. The enemies move slowly. Mario moves slower. The enemies follow rules that are frustratingly unclear. It’s unclear whether it’s safe or deadly to be in a certain pixel. There are no surprises except death. The action once you reach the top of the screen is a little different from the action you take to get there, but not different enough. Even among single-screen platformers, which I never spend much time on, this is lacking.

Donkey Kong 3: Where Donkey Kong becomes King Hippo

Donkey Kong 3: Where Donkey Kong becomes King Hippo

Donkey Kong Jr.
An improvement over the original. I like how you climb slowly on one vine, but if you grab two vines you climb quickly. That adds a little complexity. The enemies don’t follow clear rules again, which is now more “caution-inducing” than “maddening” despite increased speed and difficulty. And right off the bat, Mario has gone from good guy to bad guy! Maybe there’s a reveal at the end showing Mario was framed or impersonated, as has become so popular in later decades of the franchise?

Donkey Kong 3
Where’s Mario? Instead, there’s some Fix-It Felix looking guy. Where’s Donkey Kong? He’s just sitting there taunting me. This isn’t a platformer? I just shoot these bugs? Wasn’t this a Game & Watch game? It was! I call shenanigans on Donkey Kong 3 and deny its existence.  The progression of the franchise has a lacuna here.

Gorf
A “best of” of various shooters. Slick and enjoyable. If it was less predictable or had any mash-up qualities this would be a great one to own at home.

Joust
I played this for a while without reading the instructions. All I perceived was a NICE use of inertia. Inertia is satisfying. Upon finally learning the rules it became an exhilarating experience, somehow enhanced by my inability to figure out why I was sometimes zooming super-speedily [horizontally speaking] and sometimes couldn’t build up the slightest head of steam. The basic premise is you crash into the enemies and whoever is higher, vertically speaking, wins, that being the rule of the lance. An epiphany hit after a while: This is almost the same as the paradigm of “jump on your enemies, otherwise any contact with them is fatal.” Nice new perspective. I just wish the look of the enemies or other graphics would change between levels. Maybe it does after a while.

Berzerk

Here’s something I could play for hours. Why aren’t there more classic games where you walk from room to room? The Guardian Legend‘s indoor segments owe a debt to Berzerk. The “walk from room to room” function allows you to ease into difficulty levels. If there are too many robots to shoot, you can bail out, leave the room and come back. If the bouncy smiley face pens you in, run away and leave the room and come back. You can play this game evasively And the robots talk! And they make fun of you! The only problem is, you can’t touch the walls. I think it would be just as hard to shoot the robots if you COULD touch the walls, so dying as a result of wall contact is a constant source of frustration. The robots are challenging enough despite their slow pace. No need for even slower, even deadlier enemies in the form of load-bearing constructional elements.

Berzerk: "Intruder Alert. Stop the Humanoid"

Berzerk: “Intruder Alert. Stop the Humanoid”

Excitebike
This is the one game that let me get a high score. So right off the bat, it’s recommended. That being said, it would be nice if the stages were somewhat randomized. In theory. It would be nice for me if the game were EXACTLY LIKE IT IS because this is the game I have mastered, relatively speaking. This game was lodged in a Mario Bros. cabinet so I don’t know what the instructions look like, but it’s probably hard to explain what the buttons do. You can push one button to accelerate, but don’t push it for too long or you overheat. You can push the other button to maintain speed, or to accelerate but less effectively but with no risk of overheation. Also, on my 298749823948th play, my little bikey fella suddenly turned yellow and black, and the rules regarding overheating SIMPLY DID NOT APPLY. That was awesome. According to a YouTube comment and no other sources, this happens if you unbrokenly wreck five other guys without wrecking yourself. I couldn’t do it again, but it was awesome. All this game needs is well-known Nintendo characters to be the racers. I would have played 23974239842398742 times instead of merely 298749823948 if I could race as Kirby or A Boy’s Blob or Alex from River City Ransom. Has any chapter of the Mario Party saga EVER included an Excitebike level?

Marble Madness
One of my favorite NES games so I can’t quite judge this one except to say the joystick makes a lot more sense than the D-pad for a diagonally oriented game. Much like Excitebike, the gameplay is a few discrete stages and it would be nice if you could start at a later stage instead of wasting time in lower stages again and again. And this is such a good idea for a game that it’s a missed opportunity. Make longer stages. Randomize the geography a bit (for NES at least). Why not have 3-minute-long stages? You get more margin for error and more gameplay.

R-Type
This game is super hard and the enemies are grotesque and off-putting. Nonetheless, I like the unified color scheme, and the game advances slow enough that you can memorize what to do pretty well.

Zaxxon: Maybe the 8-way joystick that comes with the handheld game works better.

Zaxxon: Maybe the 8-way joystick that comes with the handheld version works better.

Zaxxon
Kind of like R-Type in that you advance slowly and need to memorize what to do. This one has an even steeper learning curve because of its use of 3D space (traversed diagonally) combined with a controller that doesn’t move diagonally. You move it one way for horizontal, another way for vertical [northwest/southeast[, as you advance toward the northeast. It’s quite hard to know where you are vis-a-vis the other things on the screen (missiles mostly). But it looks great, with walls and fences and buildings that almost compare to the original SimCity. I would have hated this one if I had to pay a quarter per turn.

Robotron 2084
Man, does THIS one look lovely. For a game where each level is a single room it is so nice. So many colors. Each robot enemy is multi-hued. The game has another punishing learning curve and I would detest it if I was paying per death. But it seems like I should be able to figure it out, since you can run in one direction but shoot in another. Two joysticks! The first two levels are simple, and the third lets you get situated, and it’s such a relief to see those brighter-than-bright colors that you don’t need to spend much time in it. On a darker note, there are so many enemies that it sticks with you. It’s a tough world, especially when humans have been enslaved by robots. And in terms of basic logistics, having played Berzerk for so long before this one, it was hard not to wish I could back out of a room and reenter when the robots were proliferating uncontrollably.

So many robots

So many robots

Mappy
This is a platformer that is easier to figure out than Donkey Kong and less frustrating because it scrolls a bit. The artwork is pretty bad, but I like the door-based combat, and far prefer trampolines to ladders when it comes to inter-platform travel. The doors look pretty terrible, though. In terms of graphics this is the cartoon mouse game equivalent of The Langoliers. If made one year later it would just look like it was done on a budget instead of looking eye-bleedingly cheap.

Asteroids
Total classic. And it’s all about inertia. Your ship has inertia, and so do your enemies. So you can tell what they’re going to do, you can tell they aren’t going to suddenly switch directions unfairly, the whole thing is perfectly calibrated. The button you just pushed combines with your existing trajectory to make smooth curves. Another good thing about the inertia is you don’t necessarily have to shoot in the same direction you’re moving. It would take a while for this to get old.

Defender
For a game generally recognized as the first side-scroller, it’s impressive that it already contains the “rescue your allies” motif as well as the shooting motif, and it’s even more impressive that the rescuing mechanism works and is often more fun than shooting at enemies. Who are these enemies anyway? I have to avoid the terrain, I have to rescue people, violence is a low priority.

Eyes: Look, they're eyes

Eyes: Look, they’re eyes

Nibbler
This is just a version of Snake / Rattler Race. Being limited to the Pac-Man style map is not ideal for this kind of game, and the cabinet had a joystick that couldn’t make two turns in quick succession.

Eyes
Another weird game in Pac-Man maps, this one hit a chord with me. Imagine Pac-Man as a shooter. Yep. You have to shoot the pellets to accumulate them – running over them has no effect. You can run right through the enemies, because what matters is whether you shoot them or they shoot you. [Although by the time you run through one, he’s probably had enough time to shoot you.] The requirement to shoot the dots, and the fact that you can’t shoot THROUGH the dots but your enemies can, makes it challenging despite the enemies’ slow pace. As for why it’s called Eyes, you control an eye. Your looking part is at the front, and the back is red. Your enemies are alien eyes [yellow, green]. Yes, all the characters are Eyes. This game [like Nibbler] was made by a company called Rock-Ola that didn’t really have any hits. I want a copy.

Arkanoid
I was a fan of Alleyway on the Game Boy, despite the lack of power-ups. I love the circular version called Vortex on the iPod Classic. In the original [so to speak] Arkanoid, there are power-ups, but they barely improve it because they don’t last long. You should be powered up until you slip up and lose a ball — it’s only fair. Also it would be nice if brick color meant something, but all we get is that the gray ones don’t break.

Two decadent monarchs, two distinct outcomes

Leave a comment

I had Vatel make it for you, my dear lady.

I had Vatel make it for you, my dear lady.

Vatel [Roland Joffé, 2000] came out at a time of Miramax backlash. One can understand the resistance to another shallow Miramax crowd-pleaser when watching the trailers on the VHS – advertisements for Serendipity, Chocolat, and Behind The Sun, followed by a triumphant montage of all Miramax’s contributions to the new dawning of cinema. Fragments of scenes from their true classics (Life Is Beautiful, My Left Foot, Like Water For Chocolate, Life Is Beautiful, Strictly Ballroom, Clerks, Smoke, Life Is Beautiful, building to a dizzying whirl of title cards ranging from Happy, Texas to Bounce to Just Another Girl on the I.R.T. The home video release followed a ludicrously extragavant Cannes premiere party seemingly designed to create backlash. [Why is the only source I can find for the details of this the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal? It was covered attentively by Travers, Gleiberman et al. at the time.]

The film’s unloved status is understandable, given how prepared everyone was to be annoyed. It is SO lush, opulent, lavish, whichever adjective you prefer, and SO unchallenging. The “bitter/sweet” dual mandate of the indie drama is entirely “sweet”. I enjoyed it tremendously. It just flew by. That is to say, there were no obvious points to stop the tape, because it’s one of those films that resembles a 100-minute montage. Scenes are all about the same length, a minute or shorter, then a cut to another place, then a cut to another place, then a cut back to the first place. Stretches of vibrantly lovely music [Ennio Morricone] carry through scene after scene after scene, which seem to be unified by consistent panning from left to right. Just about every shot has a crowd of people in it, making special the moments of quiet and solitude. I don’t know anything about the technical aspects of filmmaking, but hopefully this makes sense. Directing and editing orchestrated for a smooth ride.

This editing is characteristic of:
1) Movies about drugs and craziness [e.g. Performance]
2) Movies made by Steven Soderbergh and/or Tony Gilroy [not so dependent on music to stitch these together]
3) Movies about the pleasurable preparation for, and anticipation of, some sort of epochal event. These include Big Night, Rachel Getting Married, and Vatel. It may also be the pleasurable development of an unexpected phenomenon [e.g. Be Kind Rewind]. The stakes are nominally high, but throughout the film you realize that life isn’t about whatever is being built up to, it’s about what happens along the way.

Madame, I see these birds are caged. Rather like you, in a way. Do you see, Madame?

Madame, I see these birds are caged. Rather like you, in a way. Do you see, Madame?

Vatel is Gérard Depardieu. He’s the only man without a wig who ever interacts with the men in wigs. His boss is a prince who’s going to go bust unless he successfully sucks up to Louis Quatorze. Vatel is the head steward and comes up with wondrous spectacles on both small and large scale, surprisingly few of which involve cooking. Vatel is in charge of getting the local merchants to keep extending credit because they’ll all get paid back in spades when the prince becomes a royal favorite. The stakes are low, and they aren’t raised by the looming spectre of war with the Dutch, which is brought up in the form of the king making jokes about the Dutch and how silly it would be to go to war with them. Nor are they raised by the emotional turmoil undergone by the king’s mistress [Uma Thurman – this was also part of the post-Avengers Uma Thurman backlash], who occupies many of the quiet and still moments — with her caged bird, looking out the window, talking in the rare privacy of the woods. The only thing we care about is Vatel demonstrating to everyone in the castle, including the foppish Bourbon courtiers who view him with more sneering amusement than Psychlos view man-animals, that he deserves respect.

Depardieu is the ideal actor for an everyman with the magic touch. The odd thing is, though, is he an everyman, or does he have the magic touch? He seems like a man of hard work and hard-won knowledge. Basically a chef. If he can keep cracking the whip, everyone will do their jobs and everything will fall into place [see Big Night]. But the script is fascinated by the idea that Vatel will win the king’s favor with ingenious fripperies and awesome spectacles that frankly seem magical. When Vatel makes this his job, he seems like one of those wise fools who in some realms of life are simple and guileless, but in other realms operate on a level untouchable to the common human.

The viewer resists being told at first that Vatel is an average schmoe, and later being hinted that he’s a sort of savant or oddity, and later being told that the king’s mistress [cynical at first, like all these courtesans], is falling for him. The unknowability of the main character means we are more comfortable experiencing the movie as a simple parade of visual pleasures, and baubles of wit courtesy of Tom Stoppard.

Alas, monsieur. Ten o’clock, I have an even more attractive offer. Her Majesty has asked me to delouse her spaniel.

Another seemed apt, and also contained a great archaic word use.

Demaury: More than half the eggs are addled. We can’t make the custard.
Vatel: Watch. (beating batter) The sugar will come out like beaten egg whites. If they ask you what it is, tell them it’s an old recipe from Chantilly.

A lot of this movie is confused as to its purpose, but it has too many great ingredients to be ignored.

Tim Roth is not impressed.

Tim Roth is not impressed.

* * *

Tim Roth plays the most human of the sneering fops in Vatel. He’s good in these period pieces. Never one-note. Never seems to be more knowledgeable than the character he’s playing, though he has the advantage of centuries of perspective.

To Kill A King [Mike Barker, 2003] is a more satisfying historical drama, with Roth in the fascinating role of Oliver Cromwell. In British history the Puritans are a sort of weird eruptive anarchic force. In American history they’re our inspirational forebears, seeking freedom, wanting to be left alone. The heart of this movie is its sympathy for four characters. Cromwell, Charles I [Rupert Everett], Thomas Fairfax [Dougray Scott], and Lady Anne Fairfax [Olivia Williams].

Fairfax is the military leader of the parliamentary revolution. The common people love him. The nobility is still okay with him. He has charisma. He’s a swashbuckler. That’s him on the horse in the highly misleading cover art. This is him bringing good news to the masses.

to-kill-a-king-dougray-scott

Fairfax is the only man Cromwell trusts who isn’t a Puritan. The other Puritans see him more as a tool than as a leader, a tool that fulfilled its duty when the king surrendered and now should be put back in the box. Will he continue to do what Cromwell wants? He’s not the Puritan leader, he’s the parliamentary leader. He’s not a political leader, he’s a military leader. Where are the other parliamentarians who will put together a post-royalist government? Only Cromwell has the imagination to start something new. Everyone else with nominal power is equivocating. This is obviously a simplification of history — Fairfax and Cromwell’s falling out was not over what to do with King Charles but over what to do with Scotland — but the goal is to show historical dynamics on a human scale.

Rupert Everett takes to the role of a fop like a duck to water. Here he’s the king. In a ridiculous wig. But he doesn’t sneer, he doesn’t act like he’s cleverer or handsomer than anyone else. He acts superior, by divine right. He gives orders, he demonstrates immense dignity, he makes it clear that although he has no claim to great leadership skills, his existence is impossible if he’s not in charge. With his posture, his voice, he conveys that there can be no compromise. Going down with the ship, as it were. Is he playing mind games with the hope that the Roundheads aren’t really convinced life is better with an empty throne? Is he hoping for an eleventh-hour rescue by the Scots? Everett doesn’t seem particularly smart, but he never wavers. He doesn’t seem brave, but doesn’t bargain with his captors. Very interesting performance.

Lame-duck king Rupert Everett ponders his options.

Lame-duck king Rupert Everett ponders his options.

Lady Fairfax is a royalist. The king enlists her to persuade her husband. All her friends are counting on her to preserve them from the mob, she hears. She wants to settle down on her family estate. This may be a stereotypical female role in that she doesn’t care who started the fussing and the fighting, she just doesn’t want to see more damage to life and limb, and certainly not more property damage. It’s all so senseless. One of the film’s inspired elements is that Lady Fairfax comes over to King Charles’s house arrest to brighten his days by playing music together. These sessions let her act as a go-between. Olivia Williams is great in the part. No matter who she’s talking to she’s serious in the same way. She’s preoccupied by the uncertainty and can’t relax.

Tim Roth’s Cromwell is the live wire. He’s basically a villain, which ruins the movie for some people. But it’s the sober, Michael Corleone sort of villain — with every decision he makes, you think “Given that he needs to adhere to basic principles of trust and loyalty, what else can he do?” Only Puritans trust him. He walks into parliament; sees people who look down on him as a simple-minded ideologue; and he resolves not to let them win, even though they have no particular goals. He goes back to his brethren; sees people who have spent their lives putting him in power and are on alert for signs that he’s being corrupted by that power; and he resolves to make them proud. Cromwell’s advisors show signs of group polarization, as every question boils down to “Is it what the King wants?”, which implies “Is it what the King wants, or what God wants?”, which means better be safe than sorry. No consensus will be reached with the parliament. And speaking of Michael Corleone, it helps that Roth is the smallest man in every room.

to-kill-a-king-tim-roth

Lord Protector Tim Roth, flanked by enforcers

Aside from Sight & Sound‘s extensive assessment, most reviews seem to come out of Britain where the production was notoriously laden with semi-comical errors, none of which are evident in the resulting product. Unless you know the budget and compare it to what you see on screen, with a lot of low lighting, dependence on a few sets, a single character [Lord Denzil Holles, played by James Bolam] representing all the multifarious forms of political venality and corruption that required a dozen actors in a more sweeping film like Amazing Grace. To Kill a King starts with a battle scene, which in limited-budget style is really a post-battle scene, characters stepping over corpses, looking exhausted and having discussions in tents. There’s one action set piece later on, critical to the descent of Cromwell’s rationality, involving the pursuit and persecution of simple folk who are selling royal relics. And eventually, back to the historical record — for the scaffold scene.

“The hand that salutes my father will never hold mine.”

Leave a comment

You have to hear the theme song that plays over these opening credits. It is such a pre-rock apotheosis of cutesy-poo simpering Chordettes-style whitebreadery.

Here’s one movie that’s quite easy to describe. It’s a farce about guys in the US Navy who are stationed in Venice and use a missile-guidance supercomputer and a signaling beacon [or whatever it’s called, a briefcase-sized lamp that they use to transmit Morse code – they call it a “blinker”] to win big at a casino roulette table. So, strict verisimilitude.

The general impression one gets from this movie is that it has a bunch of actors who have spent many years playing teenagers, now playing adult characters but still interacting the way they used to do in the teen movies. The most obvious modern example of this situation is St. Elmo’s Fire. I don’t know if that was really the case, but the characters in THE HONEYMOON MACHINE [Richard Thorpe, 1961] certainly act very silly and seem untroubled by responsiblities.

The actors include Jack Mullaney, age 31, as the slow-witted Southern guy, doing a very loud Broadway Southern accent; Paula Prentiss, age 23, as the sardonic and husky-voiced woman with boring suitors; and Jim Hutton, age 26, as the straight-arrow computer engineer who refuses to marry Paula Prentiss because she’s rich [talk about surmountable obstacles]. And Steve McQueen, age 31 [three years after The Blob], as the fast-talking charming excitable schemer. This is not a role in which McQueen is often found, and he spends most of the time with a furrowed brow and pursed lips no matter how many goofy mannerisms he throws into his snappy patter.

Jim Hutton and Paula Prentiss, both freakishly tall

McQueen does well enough in the Joe Piscopo / Mike Damone role. In the first half of the movie he gets a little annoying [yes, there’s a scene where he’s told of the computer’s powers and starts stroking and petting it and whispering his love]. But later on he’s a straight man. Which is odd, as the farce gets more and more frantic in the second half, as farces do, and yet the comedic moments shrink away. We get scene after scene of people standing around in a hotel suite, as the irascible admiral played by Dean Jagger [clearly the J.K. Simmons of his time] orders people to find the missing blinker, to find out what the ship is signaling to, to start negotiating with the Italian government which will apparently be bankrupted and start an international incident if the casino bank is broken, etc. Eventually he gets convinced that it’s aliens, for no reason at all. Yes, aliens. Come on! And the youngsters run around in another hotel suite hiding the blinker, getting the investigating seaman drunk [Jack Weston, also doing a theatrical accent, of some East Coast locale], bonding under stress, etc.

This is based on a play. As such it has some good dialogue, albeit entirely during the scenes when characters are getting to know one another, not during the farcical parts. The best scenes are Hutton and Prentiss encountering each other in a bar [“Jason. Is it my fault my father manufactures frankfurters?”], and a wholly unexpected outburst by McQueen’s love interest, the admiral’s daughter Julie, played by Brigid Bazlen. Who was 16 at the time but playing a few years older, and fits right in with the adults despite occasionally using words like “dopey”.

This is the scene depicted on the poster. She met the three sailors a few minutes ago, and doesn’t know yet that they’re sailors. McQueen’s character has helped his shipmates find reasons to leave the room. He plasters a smile on his face and walks toward her.

Fergie: Well … here we are.
Julie: That’s the quickest scuttling of chaperones I’ve ever seen.
F: You’re not listening – I said here we are.
J: Well then, what are we waiting for? [removes jacket] Close the drapes, bring out the liquor, let’s get this show on the road! [throws her arms around his neck] Action, that’s what I like! None of that beating around the bush, none of that modesty jazz …
F: Take it easy! Look, Miss Fitch!
J: Call me Julie.
F: All right, Julie –
J: It had to happen! It had to –
F: Not necessarily –
J: Come on, I’m putty in your hands. [pushes him onto the couch … kisses him, then stands up again and grabs her purse]
F: What are you, some kind of a sex fiend?
J: Just teaching you a little lesson. Don’t make jokes with admirals’ daughters. We cut our teeth on sea wolves. Than which nothing is wolfier. [takes out compact]
F: Do you, uh, give out many of these lessons?
J: As many as I have to. But I’ve gotta admit, you scare off pretty easily.
F: I think I feel my courage oozing back. Want to try again?
J: School’s out for the day. [heads toward door; he dashes ahead to block it]

This scene stands out even in this movie for its implausibility, but it’s quite progressive.

Finally, the reason I watched this film. Because the TCM synopsis mentioned a computer. I always like to see how those are depicted, in genre movies from the days when a computer filled a room. HOT MILLIONS (Eric Till, 1968) is highly accurate and has highly believable computer nerds. BILLION DOLLAR BRAIN (Ken Russell, 1967) is more about artificial intelligence and supervillains, and is interesting in that I never considered, for most of the movie, that the voice giving orders was anything other than a man in a control room interpreting the computer’s output and making decisions. No, it’s the computer itself, calling all the shots. Past notions of the possibilities of A.I. are amazing.

As for The Honeymoon Machine, the only insight comes from how the characters refer to “Max” [MACS], the computer, as the “electronic brain”. Or just the “brain”. Occasionally the “computer”. They aren’t necessarily trying to be cute; to the layman it comes naturally to describe this device as a “brain”. I never appreciated that back then, “electronic brain” was a real term, not a marketing exaggeration or a tiresome simplification. Was there was a period when people took “information superhighway” seriously? I don’t remember it.

* * *

For more on computers starring in movies: Starring the Computer.

No Orchids For Miss Blandish: a phonological corpus

Leave a comment

No Orchids For Miss Blandish [St John L. Clowes, 1948] is a lurid, action-packed movie, a British imitation of American noirs.  It’s based on the first of dozens and dozens of novels by James Hadley Chase, a specialist in American gangster/crime subjects who never lived in America.  In a 1944 essay George Orwell cited the massive popularity of No Orchids For Miss Blandish, particularly with servicemen, as a disturbing sign about the seemingly robust British character.  Real name Rene Raymond, Chase had various series of books set in New York, Florida, California, London, and the international theme park of Cold War intrigue (see here for more early book covers).  It contains plenty of evil men (and almost no non-violent men), but No Orchids may be unusual among his work in its lack of evil women.

His books have great titles. Seen below: the third Vic Malloy novel, from 1950, and the third Helga Rolfe novel, from 1977.

Director St John L. Clowes had directing experience, but not in features.  If he hadn’t died at 40 shortly after making this movie, he might have had a real impact on British cinema, because in the department of being…let’s say, not staid and subtle…this movie makes Brighton Rock look like Brief Encounter.  The B&W looks great, everything is shiny and crisp, and whatever room a scene is taking place in contains a spare number of background items which set the scene precisely [chairs, paintings, little horse statues, a cigarette-girl, a Schaefer beer sign,  and whatever the thing is on the wall in the early scene in Ted’s bar — a dartboard in a glass-fronted case?].  The calculated exception is in Miss Blandish’s opulent and dull family home, where there are objects everywhere to a smothering degree.  The best shot is around minute 52, when she’s first seen at peace wither her captivity, leaning on the wall with a new hairdo, next to two wall-mounted masks that look a lot like her.  Or maybe the best shot is one of the occasional bird’s-eye-view shots, in which the spotlight on the performers is an absolute perfect circle.  A spotlight’s view of the action…other examples of that device are not springing to mind.

Flyn (Danny Green) and Slim (Jack La Rue)

The most awkward part of the film, as you might expect, is the falling-in-love part, which happens even faster than you might expect.  It’s so abrupt that one presumes she’s pretending to seduce Slim in order to get him off his guard and escape, as captives do in any number of fairy tales and films like Aladdin, Anaconda, The World Is Not Enough,Big Bad Mama, Toy Story 3, and Sleuth, as well as The Grissom Gang, Robert Aldrich’s 1971 adaptation of the same book.  Although it’s the rare kidnapping/hostage story whose victim is rarely in any danger, this movie is just full of brutality and action.  Lyrically romantic wordless interludes with music swelling [one of them just a 15-second close-up of some orchids and what looks like a decanter of port] stand out, because in general this is a snappy thriller that never gets boring.  It’s not up there with Pickup on South Street, but it’s up there with Kansas City Confidential.  Like Chase’s book, it’s the too-rare instance of the Brits going ALL-OUT to emulate an American genre, with results that America looked at with a patronizing “Whoa there, tiger.  You seem so quiet, little buddy, but you might just be more screwed-up than I am.”

It’s hard to add much to this entertaining Slant review and this piece by John Beifuss.  But I don’t think they focus enough on the diverse range of British actors’ American accents, or on the weird nightclub acts, of which there are more and more as the film progresses.  The jazz clarinetist, the unbilled vaudeville comedy duo of Jack Durant doing Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet while his partner looks on, the amazingly acrobatic terp duo of Toy and Wing [billed as the far more British “Toy and Wyng”], and the schmaltzily melodramatic terp duo of Alicja Halama and Czesław Konarski.  And then there’s the two songs by actress Zoë Gail as Margo.  Every review I can find seems to emphasize this song (thanks, Youtube user deneuve1939!) as exemplifying the movie’s oddly cynical [that is, cynical in an odd way] approach to gender relations, so I won’t say anything about it except to tell you to watch out for the clues that Zoë Gail is not American.  She hits the T at the end of words like “but”, “it”, “got”, can’t” too much, and there’s something about the word “through” that sounds wrong.  As far as I can tell this song does not exist anywhere else but in No Orchids For Miss Blandish.  Such a shame that it wasn’t included on Nancy Walker’s I Hate Men.

By far my favorite aspect of this film is what Robert Osborne advised me to watch out for before TCM‘s prime-time showing — the various fake American accents.   My main experience with inexpert American accents by British actors is in sitcoms, and there can’t be too many movies like this, with a dozen or more honest attempts to sound American by Britishers who may have never done so on film before.  Some sound great, some sound appropriate, some sound weird. Many of the actors only had a few other credits and there’s no way to know their true accents, so I’ll try not to assume too much.  Let’s take a tour through the characters of No Orchids for Miss Blandish.

Bad guys

  • Slim Grissom [Jack La Rue]
    The one American movie star in the cast, La Rue lives up to his reputation as the poor man’s George Raft.  It was a nice surprise that in some of the more happy romantic scenes he actually smiles.  Slim’s motivations are unclear and he’s a good example of the leader who leads by fear and doesn’t really come up with the plans.
  • Ma Grissom [Lilli Molnar]
    I’m guessing Lilli Molnar was Hungarian, based on the name.  And she sounds Hungarian, too.  Oddly enough this might be the most accurate New York accent in the movie because she sounds like any number of stereotypical Jewish mothers.  I guess “Grissom” is her married name, so maybe it was established in the book that Ma Grissom is Hungarian herself, but she certainly sounds weird.
  • Doc [MacDonald Parke]
    I cannot tell what role Doc plays in the Grissom crime family.  Ma Grissom’s husband seems to be out of the picture, and she and Doc are both sixtyish, so presumably he’s with her.  Canadian-born MacDonald Parke also played the American general in The Mouse That Roared.  Here he is the absolute embodiment of the word “pompous”, both in speech and in appearance, and I honestly have never seen a character like Doc in a gangster movie before.  He is both erudite and orotund, as well as rotund.  His accent is great to listen to, halfway between W.C. Fields and Harry Lime.  He has exchanges like this:
    Doc: And you, Edward my boy.  Does this rosy prospect, this rich and heartening future, displease you?
    Eddie: I never count my chickens till I’ve wrung their necks.
    Doc: Then we are reproved.
  • Eddie Schultz [Walter Crisham]
    Extremely thin professional dancer Walter Crisham has great posture and great charisma here.  His entirely malevolent but calculating character steals every scene like Richard Widmark in Pickup on South Streetor John Turturro in Miller’s Crossing.  Of all the obscure actors with big roles in this movie, it’s him whose lack of film credits surprised me the most.  Will have to look out for other Crisham films — John Huston’s Moulin Rouge, the intriguing Joe Macbeth, the non-Ealing Alec Guinness comedy The Captain’s Paradise [1953], and The Beachcomber[1954], a Maugham adaptation that also has Donald Sinden, Glynis Johns and in his first movie, Donald Pleasance as a coolie.

    Walter Crisham as Eddie Schultz

    Crisham does an exaggerated flat, Midwestern gangster accent, with kind of a grinding sound to it.  He was born and died in America so I don’t think he had any trouble with it.  They give him a lot of lines like “Anchor your stern, you,” and the R’s all sound American.

  • Bailey [Leslie Bradley]
    This actor is very intense, he does a whiny voice with emphasis on the R’s, and his accent changes based on who he’s talking to.  He’s actually very convincing in the role, since it’s sort of a Fredo Corleone character.  As this OTHER Slant assessment suggests, Clint Howard would be good in this role.
  • Riley [Richard Neilson]
    Now HE is interesting.  This guy is a caricature of James Cagney in hair, in clothing [bow tie], in mannerisms, and especially in his voice.  He takes the nasal and gritty voice also used by Bailey and Eddie Schultz and goes extreme with it, turning every word into a sneer and every vowel into a short “eh”.  As in “A wise guy, eh?”  He also smashes Ted over the head with a large glass object for no reason at all.  There isn’t even anyone watching!
  • Flyn [Danny Green]
    You might recognize Danny Green as the big dumb guy from The Ladykillers.  Befitting a man whose other movie roles include “Steddings’s Henchman”, “Socks, American Henchman”, “Barton, Moriarty’s Henchman”, “Nightclub Bouncer”, “Gangster”, “Smuggler”, “Safecracker”, “Truck driver”, “Lorry Driver”, and “Big Mo”, he here plays an American gangster henchman, alternating between eager, wary, and dumb.  He sounds cartoonish but plenty of American actors sound cartoonish in the same way.

Good guys

  • Miss Blandish [Linden Travers]
    The biggest English star here [The Stars Look DownThe Lady Vanishes], she just sounds English.  Or mid-Atlantic, I guess.  Extremely posh mid-Atlantic.  Like Margaret Dumont in the Marx Brothers, you know.
  • Mr. and Mrs. Blandish [Percy Marmont and ???]
    Mrs. Blandish does the Margaret Dumont accent and looks and sounds the part.  Mr. Blandish combines the posh English accent with Kentucky-colonel touches.  They’re living in Manhattan but he’s supposed to be “the meat king”, so I guess he could be a self-made man from somewhere else in America.
  • Dave Fenner[Hugh McDermott]

    Hugh McDermott

    Probably the most well-known [at the time] British actor here, McDermott plays a real clean-cut middle-American newscaster type who is either a reporter or a private eye.  He’s prominent in the extended early bar scene, then he disappears for about forty minutes, and then he becomes the protagonist after Mr. Blandish is informed that the ransom situation has become a romanceom situation.  I laughed when looking at a synopsis of the novel, in which his character is treated exactly the same way.  In scenes where he’s being friendly and casual [though underhanded], McDermott definitely works as the guy we’re identifying with.  He melodiously overenunciates a few words, but not any more than Thomas Lennon does.  But later on, he starts throwing his weight around, and suddenly his accent is terrible, like one of Joe E. Brown’s hick characters or Goofy.

  • Police Captain Brennan [Jack Lester]
    I refuse to believe that this is the Jack Lester who was a Chicago radio actor at the time, despite what IMDB claims.  I singled his accent out as the worst of anyone who’s onscreen for more than a couple minutes.  Like Andy Brassell, when he tries to sound American he actually sounds Dutch.  Every sibilant sounds too much like a “sh”, and his pronunciation of “jewelry” is just weird.  And would any American actor be comfortable saying “Good morning” to signal that he’s done talking to someone?
  • The other policeman, with the small moustache
    He has a very good Bogart-type gravelly voice.  The one slip-up is that he pronounces “fiancé” way too accurately.
  • The old guy who runs the gas station
    Pretty good Yankee storekeeper accent.
  • His granddaughter
    She sounds about as American as the kids in Mary Poppins, but what do we expect, she’s 7 or 8.  Why is she here at all?

Minor characters caught up in crime

  • Margo [Zoë Gail]
    The nightclub singer linked above, she sounds very good in the role and I’m surprised this was her only major movie role.  She does a good Midatlantic accent [albeit with a surprising amount of slang] and sounds like Judy Garland when she’s singing.
  • Anna [Frances Marsden]
    A dancer at the nightclub (though we don’t see her perform), she’s the tough working-class Brooklyn girl with a heart of gold.  Given lines like “Get a move on, wise guy” and “I’m a dansah, see?  I got a careeah!”, she’s very convincing.  She must be 80 by now, but I honestly think Frances Marsden, teacher of the Alexander Method to improve poise, posture, breathing and health for the performing arts, is the girl who appeared in this movie and 2 others.
  • Louis [Charles Goldner].
    Born in Vienna, Charles Goldner’s other characters between 1945 and 1953 include Robespierre, Dr. Franz Mesmer, “Colleoni”, “Luigi“, “Ramon”, “Piero”, “Anselmo”, “Paco Espinal”, “General Korsakov”, “Mr. Tsaldouris”, and “Gaston”.  As Louis the French headwaiter, he bulges his eyes, scurries around, sighs watching dancers, and gets top-blowingly agitated when people don’t like his food.  Just think “Manuel” but fluent in English.
  • Ted [Sid James]
    As an American, I’d never heard of Sid James [real name Solomon Joel Cohen], but after this film he starred in several British TV shows and the wildly popular “Carry On” series of movies.  His accent is good here as the friendly bartender.  Known in future decades as a lascivious old man, here he’s a serious youngish man, and having not yet gone gray or bald he kind of looks like Chester Gould’s Flat Top.
  • Johnny [Bill O’Connor]
    Johnny is the young hoodlum who comes up with the whole kidnapping idea.  He sounds American enough, but very upper-class American.  He looks like a college boy, too.
  • Cutie [Annette D. Simmonds]
    Cutie (the nightclub hostess, wearing an absolutely ridiculous outfit — like a cigarette girl but with no responsibilities at all except to be objectified) just sounds English, like your typical Cockney servant-maid girl.  This is also true of Irene Prador as Johnny’s girlfriend, which is odd since she’s from Vienna and mostly played Germanic characters.
  • The guy sweeping the floor when Johnny tries to meet with Slim
    He sounds like nothing I’ve ever heard before.  Australian?  South African?  His only scene is very early in the film and it prepares you for an even more motley onslaught of accents than what comes to pass.

Nobody here uses the Texan-tourist accent we remember from Fawlty Towers or Absolutely Fabulous.  Almost everyone gets a chance to shout or otherwise emphasize their accent, so you can really  analyze their phonemic data if that’s your bag.  Enjoy the nightclub scenes, the isolated barn scenes, the people getting slapped in the face, Lilli Molnar using the word “palookas”, the guy hanging on to a woman’s windowsill while she smashes a wine bottle over his hands, the guy who responds to a woman pounding on his chest by picking her up and dropping her in a full bathtub, and the overall strangeness of the orchids motif.

Older Entries