A riotously funny satire on the advertising agency of the 50’s featuring the colourful direction of Frank Tashlin, Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? engages with over the top humour and the comedic talents of Tony Randall and Jayne Mansfield. Some of the barbs may not be as witty as they once were, but most of them come off well in this lampooning of celebrity hype, movie stars and advertising. Along with his previous satiric venture The Girl Can’t Help It with Jayne Mansfield, Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? is a success for Frank Tashlin.
Rockwell Hunter, commonly called Rock, is a writer for TV commercials at a prestigious agency on Madison Avenue. Unfortunately for him, he isn’t high up on the success as some of his superiors. The company is about to lose the account for the lucrative ‘Stay-Put Lipstick’. With his job on the line, the hapless Rock concocts a plan to keep them in business. He sees the curvaceous and ubiquitous actress Rita Marlowe, the girl with the ‘Oh so kissable lips’ and decides she may be the key to securing the account. Little does Rock realise what he is letting himself in for. Rita wants to make her ex boyfriend and muscle man Bobo jealous after he gave her the brush off, and Rock provides the perfect opportunity for this by walking unaware into the plan. Soon Rock is snapped up by the press as Rita’s new lover and he is forced to play along with this charade in order for Rita to agree to the lipstick deal. This of course has a bad effect on his relationship with his fiancée Jenny, who feels slighted by this attention to his so-called relationship with the glamorous Rita. Will Rock begin to see that fame doesn’t bring happiness? All will be revealed in this comic satire on the nature of celebrity and the mad world of advertising.
Frank Tashlin brings a comic glee to the proceedings and lampoons the outrageously colourful world of media with gaudy colours and over the top set designs. The witty and acerbic script pokes fun at celebrity culture and the price of fame with exaggerated moments of hilarious humour, the most funny being Rock chased by female fans and barely managing to get away. Some of the quips don’t quite have the zing that they once had, but the use of lampooning and mocking of Hollywood is still enjoyable to watch. A jaunty music score encapsulates the sarcastic view of stardom with an exuberance that is hard to resist.
Tony Randall is a joy to watch as the hapless title character, caught up in this hilarious situations because of his ambition. Jayne Mansfield delivers a funny performance by sending up her blonde bombshell image to the max with outrageous glee. With her squeaky voice, outrageous get ups and comic timing, she is a standout in a talented cast. Betsy Drake is quietly effective as Rock’s neglected fiancée, while Joan Blondell is on wise-cracking form as Rita’s right hand woman. Henry Jones and John Williams contribute humour as two of Rock’s co-workers who cajole him into the scheme to get Rita’s signature. Lili Gentle is gushing and adoring as Rock’s niece who idolizes Rita Marlowe and Mickey Hargitay(Mansfield’s then boyfriend and later husband) is a hoot in the small role of the muscle man who split up with Rita and accidentally spills the gossip of the ‘relationship’ between Rock and Rita.
Outrageous and satiric, Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter is a humorous look at the media with colourful direction and comic performances.
A wild and funny satire on the emerging rock n roll music industry of the 1950’s, Frank Tashlin’s The Girl Can’t Help It is a colourful, eventful and rocking comedy musical. It may be dated in some ways, but the comedic performances and music keep it a watchable experience.
Tom Miller is a down on his luck talent agent who hasn’t discovered a singing sensation in years and drinks heavily as a result of these crises. He is approached by mobster Marty Murdock, also referred to as Fats. Having been released from jail, he wants Tom to do a job for him. He wants Tom to turn his attractive, curvaceous and seemingly gullible moll Jerri Jordan into a star in under six weeks. The one hitch is that Jerri can’t sing and freely admits this fact to Tom. Jerri says she just wants to be a wife and live a life of domesticity, but with Fats as a partner this seems impossible. Daunted by what Fats could do to him if he doesn’t oblige, Tom agrees to the task, little realising he will get more than he originally bargained for. Matters become very complicated as Tom begins to fall for Jerri and Fats begins to suspect something about the two. Witty lines, satiric barbs and a host of cameos from many of the music stars of the 50’s heyday all come together in The Girl Can’t Help It.
Frank Tashlin brings his experiences from working in cartoons to the film and shoots it sumptuously in CinemaScope. His skill at larger than life spectacles is perfectly suited to the piece and brings an exuberance and vibrancy to the work. His eye-popping use of colour and blending with rocking music is shown to full effect when Jerri wiggles down the street in a figure-hugging dress and sends men into a frenzy, causing a man’s glasses to break and ice from the cooler to thaw in her curvaceous presence. The musical interludes of the film are outstanding and showcase the talents of many a 50’s singing sensation in inventive ways. Most of the humour in The Girl Can’t Help It comes from the satiric vibe aimed at the underhand world of the music industry and the script nicely gives this a fresh spin. Some of the story may be dated and more than a little silly at times, but these are minor flaws in a cracking musical comedy with visual flair.
Tom Ewell manages to be funny and sympathetic as the down and out Tom, whose life becomes more complicated because of his involvement with Fats and Jerri. The gorgeous Jayne Mansfield brings sexy energy to the part of the seemingly dumb blonde bombshell, who isn’t as dim as people think she is. Mansfield owns the film with her seductive shimmy,witty lines, girlish squeals and quiet intelligence that is masked by her beauty. Edmond O’Brien brings humour and a little menace to his part of Fats, his many outbursts at those around him a particularly funny occurrence. Henry Jones is quietly amusing as the enforcer of Fats, who isn’t as tough as he sometimes looks and has a decent heart.
A rollicking satire on rock n roll, The Girl Can’t Help It can’t quite escape its age but is still a whole lot of fun because of the performances and soundtrack.
A creepy psychological entry into the realms of Hammer Horror comes Fear in the Night, a neatly constructed and suspenseful piece of sinister horror and rising menace. It may not rank as high as other movies from the studio, but it certainly gives off a creepy atmosphere and good performances that are hard to shake off.
Peggy Heller is a young woman who has recently married her teacher husband Robert after a short courtship. A few months prior to the marriage, Peggy suffered a nervous breakdown of which she is now recovering from. Her recovery is disturbed after she is attacked by an unknown assailant with a prosthetic arm. Although Peggy believes the attack on her was real, everyone around her believes her fragile mental state is to blame for it. Robert invites Peggy to stay in a cottage on the grounds of the school he works for. The old building is empty as the children have gone home for half term. After meeting the mysterious headmaster Michael Carmichael, who has a habit of appearing out of nowhere and his vindictively bitchy wife Molly, Peggy is again attacked by the unknown assailant. This plunges Peggy into a terrifying search for the truth in the ominous building and suspect individuals that occupy it as more creepy events begin to occur. Is all of this in Peggy’s mind? Or does she really need to be worried about her safety in the school? As the tension rises, will Peggy be able to figure out the mysterious events before it’s too late?
One thing to praise in Fear in the Night is the way it keeps you guessing for a long time. We are made to doubt our suspicions of characters because of conflicting stories and this quality makes the film very creepy indeed. One minute we’re suspecting one character, the next it’s completely turned on its head. Jimmy Sangster adds the spooky atmosphere to the film and the constant shift in suspicions by cutting scenes very close together, so it appears that they are all linked in the most sinister way. Sometimes this style may over complicated things, but he admirably keeps it in line for the majority of the picture and keeps us guessing what strange events are occurring around the terrified Peggy. Relying on sound and atmosphere, Sangster makes sure Fear in the Night is psychological if nothing else. The music for the film is an eerie mix of creeping rhythms and sudden jolts of terror that really envelop the film in a twisted glee.
Judy Geeson makes an impact as the vulnerable and childlike Peggy, capturing how her already precarious hold on events begins to crumble as she becomes more terrified by her surroundings and the repeated attacks on her by someone who no one has seen. Ralph Bates is suitably enigmatic as Robert, we are never sure whether he knows more than he is letting on or not. The sultry Joan Collins is feisty and devilishly bitchy as the headmaster’s wife, whose cutting remarks and seductive appearance begin to threaten Peggy. Although only playing a brief part, Peter Cushing cuts an imposing figure as the headmaster who seems to be around when creepy events happen.
It may not be up there with the greats of Hammer Horror, but Fear in the Night is a neat little horror flick with just enough atmosphere to keep you interested for an hour or so. Plus, it makes for creepy viewing with Halloween just around the corner.
A slice of creepy thriller from Hammer Horror, The Nanny is an unexpected and interesting addition to the studio’s work as it doesn’t have any supernatural elements but chills aplenty with the legendary Bette Davis on fine form.
The Nanny of the title works for the well off Fane family, consisting of strict father Bill, his nervous wife Virgie and their ten-year-old son Joey. The family had a young daughter who drowned in the bath two years ago. The mischievous Joey was blamed for his sister’s death and many thought he was a dangerous young boy because of his previous history of lying and playing tricks on those around him. As the film begins, Joey is returning home from a hospital for mentally disturbed children, although the doctor warns of his increasingly troubled behaviour. Upon arriving back home, he immediately acts with hostility against Nanny; refusing to eat what she cooks, changing his room because she decorated it and being as unpleasant as he can when she is around him. His mother and father are baffled by this as Nanny seems to genuinely care for him and his wellbeing. Joey continues to spin tales about Nanny, yet no one listens to him because of his history of lying and scheming. No one believes him except his neighbour Bobby, a worldly teenager who lives in the apartment above his and often keeps the young boy company. Is Joey really disturbed or is he in fact right about the seemingly harmless Nanny? As different and conflicting points of view take centre stage, you’ll be left biting your nails trying to figure out the truth in this creepy and effective thriller.
Seth Holt provides interesting and intelligent direction by playing the first half an hour of the film as simple and innocuous, but steadily he pulls the rug from under your feet and gets you to question the events occurring and the validity of them. The crisp yet ominous use of black and white hints at the darkness that may lie beneath the surface of both Joey and Nanny, while roving camerawork takes in the supposed safety of home and reveals the creeping danger within its trappings. A sombre yet menacing score keeps the suspense building as the line between truth and fallacy blurs. Admittedly some of the plot elements creek a little with a lack of originality, but for most of The Nanny’s duration it keeps you riveted.
Bette Davis turns in a subtle performance as the eponymous Nanny and shows us the many sides to her with little nuances clouded with a hint of secrecy. Because of her amazing delivery, the audience is really left until the last-minute wondering whether Joey is right to be afraid of her. As seemingly kind and considerate as Nanny is, there is something uneasy about her character and as played by Davis we begin to question our judgement of her. William Dix is similarly effective as the young Joey, whose string of antics leaves others questioning whether he is lying or not. Dix manages to dig beneath the unpleasant exterior of the character and show fear and intelligence as he attempts to explain his story. Wendy Craig is suitably nervy and highly strung as Joey’s mother, while Jill Bennett provides quiet understanding as the Joey’s aunty who is frustrated by her nephew yet senses something isn’t right. James Villiers is somewhat wasted as Joey’s father and doesn’t really contribute much to the film. On the other hand, Pamela Franklin is precocious and loyal as Bobby, the neighbour who begins to believe Joey’s stories about Nanny.
A sinister and nail-biting watch, The Nanny is a creepy entry into Hammer Horror that boasts a chilling atmosphere and a compelling performance by Bette Davis.
And God Created Woman was hardly the first film starring Brigitte Bardot, but it was the one that announced her as a seductive sex kitten to the whole world and caused a stir upon its release. Whilst the film may be slight in terms of the story and writing from director Roger Vadim (Bardot’s then husband), Brigitte Bardot entrances from beginning to end with her sexy persona and keeps And God Created Woman watchable if for anything its liberated look at sexual power of one woman.
Set in a strict town in sunny St Tropez, the film centres on a young orphan by the name of Juliette Hardy. She is a seductive nymphet whose string of provocative behaviour, which include naked sunbathing in her backyard, wearing skimpy clothing and sneaking out to dance at night, have the whole town talking and the male population entranced with everything she does. The three main men in her life are the much older businessman Eric Carradine, the handsome Antoine who often spurns her and his younger brother Michel, who genuinely feels love for the wild girl. When her foster parents try to get her sent back to an orphanage for her depraved behaviour, a loophole is discovered. If she marries, she can’t go. The naive Michel proposes to her in the hopes that his love will be reciprocated. Juliette does marry him, but it is clear that she cares more for his brother Antoine. Complications arise as Juliette’s wild ways are at odds with the restrictive role of a dutiful wife and she craves her freedom.
As I previously mentioned, the story in And God Created Woman is very thin and not really up to much in terms of electric drama. Various subplots surrounding Eric trying to purchase some of the shipping dock owned by Antoine add up to nothing and really don’t fit with the film. Then again I don’t think that was the point of Roger Vadim. I believe he set out to show a story of one woman’s sexuality and how she wields it over the men in her life. What And God Created Woman does have to make up for the slim story is one hell of an erotic impact on the viewer with the pouting Bardot announcing herself as a woman who can make men fall at her feet. With her tousled hair, curvaceous figure and large eyes, Bardot projects a playful sexuality that drives men into a frenzy. She has such a presence on-screen that when she isn’t on it, the film drifts and lags a lot. Some of the scandalous moments that were shocking upon release may seem comparatively tame by today’s standards, but with Bardot many of the seductive elements hold up. Whether she is flaunting her body by the sea, riding barefoot on her bicycle or letting her troubles go by dancing an exotic mambo routine, Brigitte Bardot is nothing short of magnetic.
Because of Brigitte Bardot’s stunning impact, the many men of the film pale in comparison such as Curd Jürgens and Christian Marquand . Saying this Jean-Louis Trintignant manages to be subtly naive as the pining Michel, who loves Juliette with all his heart but knows that she loves his brother. Special mention should go to the music which mixes sultry jazz with a tropical calypso, perfectly capturing the untamed heart of the protagonist as she ties the hearts of men up in knots. St Tropez is shown in all its glory and the camerawork really accentuates the beauty of the place, whilst lingering shots of the gorgeous Brigitte Bardot present her as a passionate sex kitten with wild abandon to spare.
Slim on story, And God Created Woman is far from perfect, yet it serves as an introduction to the charms of Brigitte Bardot and the sexy image that she became known for as well as entrancing with erotic impact.
Based on a Stephen King novella, Stand by Me is a seminal coming-of-age tale that is filled with humour, pathos and the nostalgic longing for the adventures of childhood.
After reading of the death of a childhood friend, a writer named Gordie Lachance begins to recall an eventful summer adventure with his friends back in 1959 Oregon. We flashback to this time and are introduced to the main characters, four twelve-year old boys. Gordie is a quiet and sensitive young boy who is struggling to cope following the death of his older brother. He has a gift for writing but his strict father who always preferred his older brother berates him for it and neglects him constantly. Gordie finds solace in the company of his friends. The rest of the group comprises of Chris Chambers, a natural leader who is from a family of criminals and often suffers the stigma surrounding this; Teddy Duchamp, a funny but internally troubled boy who is scarred from an incident when his father held his ear to the stove and Vern Tessio, a chubby tag along who is often picked on for his appearance and scared personality. Vern overhears his brother revealing the location of the dead body of a local kid who has been missing for a while. Curious about this, Vern informs his friends and they decide to search for the body, hoping they will get money and fame if they discover it. Hiking through the woods, the four friends go through a journey of self-discovery all while trying to find the body before Ace, the vicious local bully can find it and claim a reward.
Rob Reiner directs with a lyrical eye for detail, capturing the wildlife beauty of the Oregon woods and the boyhood exuberance of going on an adventure with your friends. He also creates fully rounded characters who we can all relate to in one way or another. The four boys could be any group of friends and this quality gives the film a touching sensitivity. The childlike sense of adventure is both funny and poignant as we watch them laugh, go through mishaps such as dodging an oncoming train and falling into a swamp infested with leeches and begin to grapple with mature issues of adulthood. A well-chosen soundtrack of 50’s classics gives the film a brisk edge and the fleeting sense of innocence beginning to be lost as the boys journey deeper into the woods by following train tracks. For me, it is the little things that make Stand by Me such a nostalgic and bittersweet watch. Gordie observing a young deer and deciding to keep the memory to himself, Vern and Teddy singing along to ‘Lollipop’, the campfire debate surrounding what animal Goofy is and the boys running away from Chopper, supposedly the most feared dog around who is far from it. I don’t think I’ve seen a film that evokes the feelings of growing up and the various issues surrounding quite as well as Stand by Me. And it does it all without being sentimental, it instead gives us many life lessons and captures the innocence of childhood in all its awkward and strange glory.
The four leads in Stand by Me all contribute believable and relatable performances. Wil Wheaton combines maturity with vulnerability to get to the heart of Gordie, who feels as if he’s in the shadow of his deceased brother. River Phoenix is particularly touching, soulful and intense as Chris, who fears he won’t succeed in life because of the prejudice aimed towards him as a result of his familial ties. Corey Feldman is funny and manic as the scarred Teddy, whose often smiley demeanor hides the pain of his experiences with his father. Rounding out the quartet is Jerry O’Connell as the lovable and timid Vern, who often says things that cause his friends to roll their eyes but who has an earnest and caring heart when it comes to his friends. In other roles, Kiefer Sutherland is menacing as the town bully who delights in tormenting those who aren’t as strong as he is. Richard Dreyfuss utilises his commanding voice as he narrates the adventures of his youth with maturity and wisdom. John Cusack, in flashback, portrays Gordie’s deceased brother whose death has left a void in his life.
Nostalgic, poignant and filled with charm, the joys of Stand by Me still resonate to this day and will probably live on for a long time because of its moving story and wonderful performances.
A genuinely disturbing and complex psychological thriller directed with claustrophobic menace and assurance by William Wyler, The Collector is a creepy film boasting two excellent performances from the leads.
Freddie Clegg is a lonely and awkward young man who collects butterflies as a hobby. In flashback, we see how he won the pools and bought a large and isolated house in the English countryside. Freddie has become obsessed by Miranda Grey, a beautiful art student who he begins to stalk on a regular basis. Events come to a head when Freddie kidnaps Miranda and imprisons her in the cellar of his house. He has set out a bed, drawing paper and new clothes for the girl, this stemming from his obsession and spying on her. The terrified girl demands to be set free, but Freddie keeps her there in the hopes that she will come to love him in return. Although frightened in the beginning, Miranda begins to respect Freddie as she sees the extent of his loneliness and his insecurities. The two form an agreement that he will let her go in four weeks if she keeps him company for a while. Yet Freddie is capricious and as the two begin to form an unexpected bond, a misunderstanding spells dire consequences for both.
The Collector features a spine-tingling atmosphere as Miranda attempts to escape but realises the silent intelligence and ruthlessness of her captor. Moody lighting in the cellar give off a cold feeling, whilst being juxtaposed with images of sun-dappled flowers and the collections of butterflies kept by Freddie. This choice of lighting also makes up for the often stagey set. William Wyler builds the events slowly, this helps increase a sense of dread and lets us understand the complex character of Freddie and his pursuit of Miranda’s love. Instead of the traditional one-dimensional maniac and screaming victim, Wyler allows the characters to take on many faces and become more interesting as a result. A lilting score laced with an undercurrent of menace gives The Collector a strange yet romantic side as Freddie and Miranda begin to understand one another after her initial hatred of him for kidnapping her. We also see the warped romantic actions of Freddie and how he is a troubled young man who has always felt isolated and wanted someone to love him.
What gives The Collector its memorable and complex impact is the main performances from Terence Stamp and Samantha Eggar. Being the main two actors throughout the whole movie, they deliver truly compelling performances. Terence Stamp exudes menace and instability yet gives the role of Freddie a sympathetic side that shows the reasons behind his crazed actions. It’s a testament to the talent of Stamp that we at many times feel revulsion for this disturbed character and then in the next breath feel sorry for him. Samantha Eggar projects a terrified innocence that is haunting to watch and gives Miranda a passionate, forceful side that emerges as she develops feelings for Freddie in these extreme circumstances. Freddie maybe the more complex role out of the two, but Eggar plays her part with a certain intelligence that makes us feel the inner feelings of turmoil in her situation.
Chilling, disturbing and complex, The Collector is a psychological thriller that delves into the heart of obsession and emerges with menace and ambiguity.