After seeing Patricia Ward Kelly’s show, “Gene Kelly: A Legacy,” I was dismayed to find that there were still a handful of performances that his widow considered to be among his best that I had still not yet seen. For (my) reference, those were: The Three Musketeers, Thousands Cheer, Words and Music, Cover Girl, Living in a Big Way, and Brigadoon. I covered Words and Music a few weeks back—it happily doubled as a That’s Entertainment entry, which is always a plus for me—but today I decided to set my sights on a film containing Kelly working alongside one of my favorite classic actresses, Rita Hayworth.
Strait-Jacket is a delightfully campy ’60s thriller starring the indomitable Joan Crawford, directed by B-movie legend William Castle, and written by Robert Bloch, whom you may know as the author of Psycho. With all those pedigrees in place, it’s no wonder that Strait-Jacket is a classic of Grand Guignol horror and a thoroughly enjoyable piece of high schlock.
On the surface, The Phantom of Hollywood, a TV movie from 1974, may seem like it’d only appeal to the most devoted of B-horror aficionados. A retelling of The Phantom of the Opera, the film has plenty of inventive killings and questionable dialogue to satisfy those viewers, but it also holds value for fans of classic films—particularly those interested in MGM. That’s because The Phantom of Hollywood was actually filmed on the MGM backlot as it was being parceled off and torn down. The movie makes great use of that decaying, yet familiar, setting, and also creates a fun, rebellious, pro-film anti-hero as its villain.
Generally, when the TV guide describes a movie as “a bit of fluff,” as it did in the case of Everything I Have Is Yours, I’m not expecting much in terms of drama. So, I was perhaps particularly blindsided by this movie, which, although a musical on the surface (and in the TV guide), is also a meditative drama on the volatile nature of relationships, marriage, and family, with a particular focus on the gender roles of its era. Pretty heady stuff for a 1952 MGM musical, especially when I came in expecting a light vehicle for dancers Marge and Gower Champion.
The Show, Tod Browning’s 1927 semi-salicious silent drama starring John Gilbert, is both a great bit of fun as well as a great example of Browning’s skill in visual storytelling. It’s a gorgeously shot film with plenty of the offbeat elements that have made Browning a lasting figure in cult cinema.
The creatures of the night claimed the New Beverly for their own yesterday, as monster fans packed the house for two Frankenstein films, and a chance to see Karloff and Lugosi in person. It wasn’t the famous actors themselves who were appearing, of course, but rather, their offspring–Sara Karloff and Bela Lugosi, Jr. Ms. Karloff sported an elegant white streak in her hair that evoked the monster’s Bride, while the younger Lugosi dressed all in black, enhancing the already uncanny likeness of his father. Both children shared stories about their fathers and their opinions on the films that were playing that night, which were Son of Frankenstein (1939), celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, and House of Frankenstein (1944), celebrating its 70th.