Oz: The Great and Powerful (2013) Dir. Sam Raimi

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I’m not sure how exactly to judge a film like Oz: The Great and Powerful.  The movie is pretty much everything I expected it to be.  There were no real genuine surprises.  It’s everything that you would expect from a film that is basically meant to set itself up as a franchise for more Oz movies, making The Wizard of Oz now into a kind of Lord of the Rings Epic, only setting up everything that would be so familiar to us from what we know about Oz, and never deviating towards any new or interesting concepts.

One of my personal favorite Oz films was Disney’s Return to Oz, which came out it 1985.  It’s extraordinary.  Not only that, it’s also frightening as hell, with truly terrifying villains (The Wheelers, Mombi, The Nome King), and a dark gritty world.  Yet it’s everything I feel an Oz film should be.  Heck the original Wizard of Oz from 1939 and the Wicked Witch of The West is one of the greatest and scariest villains of anyone’s childhood.  With Oz:  The Great and Powerful, if there was anything that disappointed me more about the film, it was that complete lack of darkness that, to me, has always been the underbelly of the Oz movies.  The witches in this film are not scary.  Neither are the flying monkeys, or the green faced guards.  When the transformation occurs for The Wicked Witch of the West, for some reason they didn’t bother to change Mila Kunis’ voice.  They still kept her somewhat pretty.  In the back of my mind I kept thinking…this is supposed to be the thing of nightmares?  When Evanora makes her transformation into the Witch of the East, that was the only time I got any sense of fear because she actually looked like a terrifying witch!  It’s ironic that Raimi never explored this dark side considering he’s responsible for The Evil Dead films.  The Evanora witch at the end reminded me of one of Raimi’s creepy witch characters from those films.  But “Oz” never gives any thought to exploring the dark side of the Baum books, which to me shows the greatest misunderstanding for what theses stories are supposed to be about.

This is pretty much the essence of what comes from setting up a completely safe franchise film.  The story, not surprisingly, has absolutely nothing to say about itself.  It throws in some stuff about Oz, who starts out as a charlatan, but really wants to be a good person, making himself a combination of Houdini and Thomas Edison.  At the beginning of the film, it doesn’t make a lot of sense why he has to act the part of being a charlatan, because he’s actually a really good magician.  He does an incredible act in the Kansas carnival, and its surprising that nobody at all really takes him seriously.  With the act that he does, you’d think he would be the headliner for the whole carnival, because it’s really that good.  Franco does a decent job playing Oz, but there was something about his performance that just felt too modernized for me.  I didn’t believe he could have been somebody out of the early 1900’s.  Even though it’s clear to us he’s supposed to obnoxious and kind of a pain in the ass, I felt like didn’t get enough indications in the beginning about his sweeter side.  This is supposed to be Oz when he’s younger, but it’s hard not to compare him in some ways to Frank Morgan, who is also a bit of a trickster and charlatan as well, but he also has a sense of compassion for other people in the early Professor Marvel scenes, like when he wants to help Dorothy go back to her Auntie Em.  I didn’t understand this need for Oz to have to prove to people he was “good” or why he needed convincing in himself.  I’m not sure why the film didn’t make him out to be more of a really bad magician, which I thought was kind of the point in The Wizard of Oz.  Remember his line? :  “I’m a very good man, but just a very bad wizard.”

Oz’s quest to “find himself” is an illusion because that’s essentially what franchise filmmaking is all about…giving the impression the film is about some kind of moral or lesson the character has to learn, when the true reason for the film is making it as grandiose a spectacle as possible, giving us pretty visuals, a couple of cute sidekicks, not so scary villains who wants to take over the world, something about a prophecy, establishing a heroic group of characters, and by the end setting itself up for more films.  The thing you have to remember too about the original Wizard of Oz was that it was not a hit at the box office.  It was actually considered a failure and didn’t find success with audiences until it started appearing on television, and finally video years later and people started to see and accept what an incredible story it really was.  The original story resonates with all of us…because what that film is really about is finding your way home to yourself.  That theme is what encompasses the entire original movie, and while it has spectacular visuals just like this new Oz film, the theme holds out more than anything and The Wizard of Oz never loses sight of what it is supposed to be.  When Disney made The Return to Oz, it took the story to another level, taking Dorothy deeper into more frightening aspects of her psychology.  The destruction of Oz represents her crumbling psyche into insanity.  It’s brilliant.  Ironically, someone felt they should do a prequel to The Wizard of Oz, but whoever made that decision doesn’t understand one crucial aspect to the story:  Oz is nobody else’s world except Dorothy’s.  It’s kind of like we’re entering somebodies dream world without the actual dreamer being present.  Oz is Dorothy’s world.  Not Oz The Great and Powerful’s.  Oz represents the wonderful place inside yourself.  So what is it supposed to mean for Franco’s Oz, who comes to this place but nobody tells him he can ever go back home?  He’s trapped there, and what’s interesting is that he never struggles with the notion that he might want to leave and go back to his old life.  Even if he finds out how great his is to these new batch of people, he has no chance to go back home and prove himself to the people of Kansas.

But like I said, this is a franchise film, which is not a film that’s supposed to be about something, but instead inducing as much spectacle as possible into the film to please movie fans and get them to want to come back for more.  Oz: The Great and Powerful isn’t about anything other than that.  If we were clued into the fact that we’re in Dorothy’s world without Dorothy being present, the whole concept would shatter.  Already to me it’s the reason this film can never do justice to itself because it introduces a setup to something that was never really meant to have a setup to begin with since its a part of somebody else’s imagination.  It’s a film with little to no real imagination, relying strictly on those familiar aspects of the Oz story so the audience can play a guessing game with it: “Oh…that’s supposed to be the poppy fields…that’s supposed to be the witch of the East/West/North…There’s the scarecrow!  But he’s not alive.  I wonder how they will make him alive in the next film?”  Yet these are all questions that never really needed answering to begin with.

To be honest, I didn’t hate the film, but the movie just never convinced me it needed to exist.  It didn’t really surprise me that I couldn’t find a reason for it being here.  But it almost would have made more sense if the story fell into the realm of satire, or allowed itself to just be intentionally goofy.  Sam Raimi has a great knack for comedy, but here the gags just all fall flat.  We have no investment in the characters, and the film won’t rise above its own concept and allow itself to be more silly and fun…or even scary.  It’s just completely Disneyfied and completely inoffensive.  I wasn’t bored by the movie, but after awhile I just found that it really had nothing going for it, and a concept that doesn’t make much of any sense to begin with.

Olympus Has Fallen (2013) Dir. Antoine Fuqua

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Olympus Has Fallen is pretty much in the category of what I like to refer to as the scripted thriller.  I use the term scripted because that’s pretty much what the movie feels like, where none of the dialogue comes out naturally or sounds like how people actually talk in real life.  Instead, all the dialogue is on the nose.  All aspects of the script are categorized:  this is the funny moment, the serious drama moment, the action moment, the quirky silly moment, etc.  I similarly remember this feeling when I saw the film Patriot Games, starring Harrison Ford, another example of a film where the script is boiled down into a typical cliche Hollywood formula script.  Olympus Has Fallen has been referred by most people as “Die Hard in the White House”, except this movie is what happens when you take a script like Die Hard and yank out all the personality, all of the fun things that make the characters who they are, and take away any and all consequences that would give you any reason to care about what’s happening on the screen.

I pretty much knew what I was in for after watching the first two minutes of the films Camp David scenes.  The one thing I had expected by then was that the film was going to play it safe all the way through.  In the opening sequence, the first lady is killed in a freak car accident, which puts a lot of guilt on secret service agent Mike Benning (Gerard Butler), who is is close friends with the President (Aaron Eckhart), and Mike essentially is retired to an office position after his failure to rescue the first lady.  The personality of the characters is all pretty much one note.  Everyone walks through their role with no changes in their personality.  Nothing about them is really tested based on the events of the film.  Later in the main story, the White House is taken over by Korean terrorists, and the villain Kang, who is the leader of the operation, is absolutely all business.  Seriously, you don’t get a hint of what this guy feels outside of being the straight laced villain.  Unlike say Hans Gruber from Die Hard, who was not only devious, but he actually had a kind of sense of humor, and on top of that he was an expert at manipulating everyone in sight.  We get none of that sense of fun out of Kang.

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As for Mike Benning, who is in the John McClaine role as the lone, ex secret service agent who has to save the White House.  Apart from the chance of getting his job back as a secret service agent through this ordeal, Benning never has anything serious at stake.  His journey through the film plays out like fulfilling objectives in a video game.  Save the presidents son.  Check.  Take out mole secret agent.  Check.  Take out the villain and save the president.  Check.  The problem here is that everything Mike accomplishes never comes with any consequences.  For instance, Mike manages to go in and save the presidents son.  Okay.  But what does saving his son say about him as a character?  If it’s just going to play out and the kid just manages to be rescued, how is that going to affect anyone in the film?  The answer is, it doesn’t.  The kid is saved without anyone (apart from the terrorists) falling victim to serious harm.  What if Mike failed to save the first kid after already failing to save the first lady?  The question is never really brought up.  When the kid is saved, Mike simply moves on to the next objective.  All the while we’re never given any reason as to what all of this means to anyone.  The agent (Dylan McDermontt) who goes rogue…what’s his motivation for turning against the president apart from not liking his political strategies?  The film never says.  Even when Mike gets him to “do the right thing” and tell Kang that Mike is dead, we never know what the purpose of this was or how the relationship affects the film.  Because about 10 minutes later, Mike just arbitrarily reveals to Kang that he’s alive.  So what was the point of trying to hide himself?

The other thing I want to point out is the president, played by Eckhart, who comes off to me as a man who has absolutely no faith in himself or the universe.  There’s this funny line that’s always said in movies like this: “The United States doesn’t negotiate with terrorists.”  Yet negotiating almost always happens in these movies!  The president tries to save his cabinet members by ordering them to give the destruct codes for the nuclear missles to the terrorists.  Umm….why would you do that?  His cabinet members are prepared to die to save the United States.  They know what they’ve signed up for.  In a real life scenario, the terrorists would have his cabinet members killed anyway after they got the launch codes.  The point is even made…if the terrorists actually killed these people, they lose getting the launch codes.  So what if they have to endure pain, I think its worth it to keep millions of American lives safe.

As for Morgan Freeman…well…unfortunately he’s given nothing interesting to do in this film.  He steps in as House Speaker to be acting president (although I can’t recall where the vice president is during all this), but he pretty much does his job without any crucial problems getting in the way, apart from reacting to terrorists destroying the United States.  I also think, regarding the first lady, the reason she’s killed in the beginning is simply to write her out of the script.  The script makes it sound like the characters are going to be impacted, but her death never resolves anything except to set up a reason for Mike to lose his job and then work to get it back again by the end of the movie.  Really, she’s killed just to be one less body the writers wanted to focus on, and instead the focus is shifted to saving the presidents son.  Mike’s wife, who is a nurse at a hospital, also has nothing to contribute to the film except cutting back to her once in awhile for him to “check in” with her.  The terrorists bluff about knowing about his wife and threatening to get her, but they make no attempt to kidnap her or cause her any real harm.

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So is there anything especially good about Olympus Has Fallen?  Well, the 20 minute action take out of The White House is entertaining, but again, because we have no real emotional investment in the characters, the action sequences are all spectacle.  I found some of it even filmed in confuse-o-vision, making it difficult to track whose killing who.  I’d also forgot occasionally about certain characters that were supposed to be important, but we’re given nothing out of their personalities to latch on to or hold our interest.  The film overall could be regarded as stupid fun, but even the problem with that is that the best films that are dumb actually acknowledge themselves as being silly.  In the case of this film, it tries to play everything seriously, and it just doesn’t work.  The characters make so many dumb decisions throughout the movie that we can’t really take what’s happening with any sense of reality.

So in a nutshell, you can pass on Olympus Has Fallen.  The script just doesn’t play with any sense of believability, including the dialogue, with which nobody talks to each other like normal human beings.  It’s simply a mediocre outing.

How The Iron Giant Changed Me As A Human Being

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This may surprise some people (even those who know me personally), but I have actually known who Brad Bird was for most of my life, long before I even saw The Iron Giant for the first time.  I was first exposed to his name when I was 8 and The Simpsons first came on, for which Brad served as Executive Consultant, and on occasion director for at least two 1st season episodes.  My parents have been taking me to the movies since I was a baby, and because my dad worked in the film business, we always stayed for the end credits.  Even at an early age I started to recognize names that would show up again and again.  Not just big names like Steven Spielberg, but I’d catch on to actors, writers, directors who would frequently show up.  I recognized Brad’s name from The Simpsons simply because I thought Brad Bird was kind of a funny name.  Over time, I started watching The Simpsons, and Brad was responsible for directing the season 1 classic episode, Krusty Gets Busted, where Krusty the Clown is framed for robbing a convenience store, and it was the introduction to the villainous Sideshow Bob.  It’s a funny episode for many reasons, one of them being that once Krusty’s goofiness is behind bars and Sideshow Bob takes over, he turns the show into an overly-intellectual droll literary hour.  But it’s a great episode and it got my attention as a kid.  After awhile I started to discover more of Brad’s work, eventually seeing Family Dog, the animated short film from Spielberg’s Amazing Stories series, and I began to think, “man, this guy’s pretty good.”

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But everything changed for me on August 6th, 1999.  It was the day The Iron Giant was released into theaters.  I was 17 years old at the time.  There was some pretty bland advertising surrounding the film.  As most of us know, the film bombed at the Box Office in part because of Warner’s failure to properly market the film.  But I didn’t have doubts going in, because I had heard Brad Bird was directing it, and from what I knew of the past works he had done, there was a chance the movie was going to be good.  By the time the end credits rolled, the word “good” for this film was an understatement.  Even “great” seemed low on the scale for a film like this.  At the time when I saw this movie, it was the single most life changing film I had ever seen.  It shattered all my expectations of what I thought an animated film should be.  It was a film so beautiful, so powerful in its message, story, and animation, that I never looked at animated films the same way again after this.  Before this film, I had been a Disneyite.  I based much of what I wanted for myself as an animator, like many people, through Disney films.  Pixar had not yet established itself, although Toy Story came out before The Iron Giant and I loved that movie.  But it was in no way the pinnacle life altering film that The Iron Giant would become for me.  Before when I was into Disney movies I had my sights set on becoming an animator and working for Disney as one.  After I saw The Iron Giant, I decided I wanted to become a storyteller,  a director, and a filmmaker.  The thing that attracted me the most to this film were its moments of darkness.  The Giants transformation into a killing machine is frightening and real, and it shook me out of my skin when I saw the sequence played out.  This was a character that had suddenly lost all hope in himself.  This is someone who lost all faith in the world and turned on a murderous spree.  True, in the movie, we never see the Giant actually kill anyone because the consequences would be too great and there would be no turning back for him if he actually ended someones life.  It’s only Hogarth who manages to stop him and bring him back from the abyss.  But what that sequence also showed me was the things you could do in animated films that Disney could not go.  There were people who already knew this if you had watched a lot of Japanese Anime, which tackles far more serious adult subjects for animation.  But this was the first American animated feature I had seen that was a family film, but took on serious adult themes, with serious consequences attached to the characters actions.  The Giant’s nightmarish transformation was unlike anything I had seen in an animated film.  It made me want to tackle darker themes in my own work and my own storytelling.

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My sense of humor has always been on the dark side, as have been the themes I wanted to explore in films.  In a way, it always felt edgy and cool to me because American Animation rarely ever tackled these areas, or at least, they used to until after The Little Mermaid came out, and it’s like it all suddenly stopped because everyone had their eye on animation as a moneymaker, and nobody wanted to do anything that would scare children and families away.  What’s interesting is the Iron Giant helped me unlock my love for films I saw growing up as a kid that were filled with dark themes, such as Pinocchio, The Adventures of Mark Twain, The Secret of Nimh.  Even films like The Brave Little Toaster had plenty of moments with frightening imagery, and it was great because these movies were never afraid to scare kids.  The simple truth is, unlike what most adults want to believe, kids love to be scared.  It’s not about always protecting our children, because as kids…the thing is…what frightens us also intrigues us at the same time.  Scary images are burned into our skull because it forces us to ask ourselves why the images frighten us.  What is it about watching an animated character in serious peril, or being attacked by a giant monster that makes us want to know where that monster inside us comes from.  It frightens us because we know that monster exists in all of us, and we see it exposed when we watch a film that traumatizes our minds.  I was much older when I saw The Iron Giant, but the killing spree frightened me just the same, knowing that myself or anyone that I loved could become a killer, or could be knocked off course from wanting to be the beautiful soul that they are.

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The soul however is the deeper layer to what The Iron Giant is.  I watched a seminar once taught by voice actor, Crispin Freeman, entitled Giant Robots and Superheros, which analyzed the mythological aspects and cultural differences where the Japanese like to write stories about Giant Robots and Americans like stories about Superheroes.  The Iron Giant brings the best of both worlds and takes it a step farther.  Here is the notion of a giant robot having a soul.  A machine having a soul and wanting to be more than it’s limitations.  It’s interesting because at the same time this film came out, there was another film that examined this aspect, called The Matrix.  That was another film combining machines and spirituality, where in that case the machines became self aware and wanted to turn against humanity, and the human, Neo discovers in his avatar form that he can bend the Matrix to his will, and eventually merging with it.  The Iron Giant is more family fare than the darker Matrix films, but at the same time the human element finds its way into The Giant.  Through his own spiritual journey he finds not only mentorship through a 9 year old boy, he also discovers Superman, and discovers in himself that is what he wants to be, an empowered being who uses his abilities for goodness in a harsh world.  The giant instantly relates to Superman because he is also misunderstood by those around him who fear him as a threat.  He is conflicted by his machine body, his ego telling him what he really is, which is an engine for destruction.  But he finds he doesn’t want to be that at all.  He wants to grow beyond everything he was designed for.

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There was a story where during the finale of the film when the Giant sacrifices himself to save the town, somebody in a story meeting for the film asked why didn’t the Giant just take one of his rockets and destroy the missle from a safe distance.  Brad’s point was that the Giant wouldn’t do that because it would mean turning himself into a gun, which is not what he wants to be.  The message, “You Are Who You Choose To Be”, becomes the center of the Giants whole purpose of being.  When I heard those words for myself as a teenager, it became the center of my own being as well.  They were powerful words I wanted to live by.  It led me down a hard road later in college, because I found myself drifting from the Disney animation status that I thought I wanted from the beginning.  I discovered that I came into conflict with my own desires as an artist when animation was suddenly not as important to me.  I have always had to struggle with my drawing, I couldn’t keep up with my peers at the time, and overall it made it a struggle for me when I felt I wanted a job vs. what I wanted for myself.  In a funny way, I could take The Iron Giant as an example of someone going through the same thing, as he was a being that was in conflict with what he was built for vs. the being he wanted to become, in a decision made on his own.  He fights and struggles because his body that he was built to be wants to keep him down and conformed, but his “soul”…and his awakening into his own being is the thing that transforms him and makes him the defining hero he always wanted to be.

What I have learned from this film, and what it has taught me has always been about following your guiding light…your intuition and your spirit to become the person you’ve always wanted to be.  This includes deciding how you want to approach your career, what you want to contribute to humanity, deciding the people you want to fall in love with, deciding what you want to take a stand for and what is most important to you.  It’s never about following a particular crowd or a religion because many times a religion forces you to fall back on your own body.  On the one end, its meant to keep you safe and keep you grounded.  But it can also keep you afraid an in the dark from the person you always want to become.  It can also tell you there is no other way except what is meant to keep you in line and in fear of following your path.  They are the voices in your head telling you not to go off into the woods because they are dangerous, they are full of turmoil, and you can damage yourself far greater when you let go of a chosen belief.  The conflict comes when you do go out into the woods, and the voices in your head are constantly telling you to come back, that you are putting yourself in danger and that you cannot survive on your own.  It’s why in The Iron Giant, when the Giant thinks Hogarth is dead and all is lost that he falls back on his “machine” life and turns into a weapon of destruction.  He doesn’t know yet that the choice is always within him, but because he lost Hogarth, there was no one left to make the choices for him accept himself.  And that can be a frightening thing.  When we hear the words, “You Are Who You Choose To Be”, it is exactly that.  There is no fear in deciding on the person you want to become.  We can get angry and conflicted when we suddenly find so many voices making the choices for us that we don’t want there anymore, which is what can lead to anger and a need to strike back.

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After I saw The Iron Giant, I wrote Brad two letters.  The first one I wrote to him because I was about to become an Eagle Scout.  I asked him in a letter to send me a congratulatory card with my Eagle Scout packet.  When you reach that level as a boy scout, you can ask for congratulatory letters from The President, Senators, or people you admire.  Brad’s card was the most important one in there, because for me having accomplished becoming an Eagle Scout, his card defined the person I wanted to become.  Brad has always been that symbol in my mind and my hero for all time and I have continued to aspire to be the image of what Brad is to me and the person I want to be.  He’s my “Superman” so to speak.  Later on I wrote Brad a second letter just asking him about being a director and how to become one, and he returned with a 2 page letter reply talking about schools, and what it’s like to be a filmmaker.  He even ended the letter with the simple words, that no matter where you go or where you end up, never forget the sage advice of young Hogarth Hughes, “You Are Who You Choose To Be”.

What is the film that most defines you as a person or as a filmmaker?  I think we all have it in us.  The Iron Giant was that film for me.  It made me want to be more than the sum of what people in everyday life expected from me.  I had to have faith in myself first to find that place for me and decide this is what I want.  The search continues throughout our lives as we go from one thing to another, working to follow our path until we find the direction that most defines the person we want to be.  It’s what we spend our whole lives searching for, choosing to be who we want to be no matter where the world drops us.  It’s up to you to decide what is most important for you and whether your own path is guiding you there.  If it isn’t, it could be time for a self examination to get yourself on track.  If you can do that, however, that you will discover that the universe is putting you in alignment, and the life you always wanted for yourself will have been laid out for you all along.

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A Look at the Fleischer Studio (1930’s)

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Check out this terrific edition of Popular Science from the 1930’s, which gives an inside look at the Fleischer animation studio and the making of a Popeye cartoon. The Fleischer studio was based in Florida and was Walt Disney’s biggest competitor for most of the 20’s, 30’s, and early 40’s before the studio closed after the box office failure of Mr. Bug Goes to Town. It’s a shame too, because the Fleischer cartoons were tremendous. But check out this cool film and get a glimpse into early animation history!

Hound Of The Baskervilles (1939) Dir. Sidney Lanfield

The Hound of the Baskervilles (1939)

“There’s no doubt of it in my mind. Or perhaps I should say, my imagination. For that’s where crimes are conceived and they’re solved – in the imagination.” – Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes

Today I want to talk about one of my all time favorite films, The Hound of The Baskervilles, starring Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes and Nigel Bruce as Watson.  Basil Rathbone for a few years now has grown to be one of my all time favorite actors.  He is most well known for playing heavy villains in several of the Erroyl Flynn swashbucklers, as well as being involved in one of the greatest sword fights ever filmed, facing off against Tyrone Power in The Mark of Zorro.  Here with Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes, this is the movie that made me fall in love with him.  I have seen all 14 Sherlock Holmes films with him and Nigel Bruce.  12 of them take place in modern times, where in at least one Holmes faces off against the Nazis!  But the first two, The Hound of The Baskervilles and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes take place in their respective Victorian Time periods.  The rest of the films took place in modern times and were considered “B” films making them more inexpensive.  But Hound of the Baskervilles is most definitely an “A” picture, with high production values, a great script, hilarious comic moments, suspense, and an terrific threat to our heroes.

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The most obvious reason these films work so well is the tremendous chemistry between Rathbone and Bruce as Holmes and Watson.  The two of them are almost like a comic team, bouncing off one another back and forth, throwing jibes, quips and sometimes hilarious insults at one another.  But there is a bond here that stretches the imagination, and makes for a unique pairing.  Unlike many other Holmes and Watson team ups, here about 90% of the time Watson is constantly getting fed up with Holmes’ erratic behavior.  The two men adore each other, but it constantly gets on Watson’s nerves when he gets almost everything wrong in his deductions next to Holme’s genius.  There’s a funny sequence where Watson comes up with a thorough deduction for the crime, and Holmes praises him for his insight, to which Watson asks, “Did I get anything wrong?” and Holmes’ reply, “Just about everything!”  There is also another section where Holmes has fooled Watson with a disguise as a begger, to the point where even I was surprised I didn’t catch on.  Watson just fumes at being tricked by Holmes.  Holmes: “Come now, Watson, don’t be in such a huff.”  Watson:”HUFF??  I’m in NO HUFF!!”  These are the comedy teams worth paying attention to, as Holmes and Watson make for an entertaining pair.

But getting on with the actual movie, the story for The Hound of the Baskervilles is a great one, with a great nemesis to boot.  The mysterious hound is frightening, murdering people on sight as they rush through the gloomy marshes.  There’s the odd maid and butler couple at the house, helping to give the signal and hide a man out in the marshes.  The supporting cast does a great job here, especially Richard Greene as Sir Henry Baskerville, the next victim in line to the deaths of the Baskervilles.  He comes of as likeable and good natured, making us just as concerned for him and his safety.  The rest of the cast as well is just as good and likable support for Holmes and Watson which the majority of the film is based on.  The villain revealed later on is intriguing, as well as being real and manipulative.  The build up to the climax of the film generates a great amount of suspense as well.  This film is truly a classic above all others, including the terrific production values put into the film.

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The Hound of the Baskervilles in my mind is the penultimate Sherlock Holmes film.  It compares like no other version of Sherlock Holmes film can.  It’s comparable to The Chrismas Carol starring Alistar Sim, which is quite possibly the greatest version of the film, because nobody can compare to the joy and wonderful love for life when Scrooge has his joyous awakening at the end of the film.  In this film, no other pairing of Holmes and Watson can come close to the the classic comic pairing of Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce, and the wonderful, inspiring chemistry they bring to the roles.  The films hilarious and wonderful last line, “Oh Watson…the needle!” makes a subtle reference to Holmes’ morphine addiction, which not to many versions talk about, and even for 1939, those people who are spry enough to catch onto the reference, its a great touch and a great ending to a classic film.  If you haven’t seen Hound of the Baskerville’s do yourself a favor and check it out.  It’s not only a real treat, it may well be the most fun you ever have watching a Sherlock Holmes film.

My Little Chickadee Pic

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I’ve put off for far too long seeing this classic W.C. Fields/ Mae West film, “My Little Chickadee”.  I saw one Mae West film awhile back, the terrific “I’m No Angel”.  She’s very funny, especially when she refers to her black maid servant (Hattie McDaniel) as 8 Ball.  Race gags are funny just to see the kind of stuff we would never get away with in film in our culture today.  I still haven’t seen a W.C. Fields film that’s really sold me on him as a comedian (despite his legendary status).  It just goes to show that even if somebody is considered a legend, you don’t necessarily have to like that actor if you don’t want to.  But I think the pic above is awesome.  Fields and West co wrote My Little Chickadee, so I’m interested to see if I think its any good.  Here’s a trailer for it below.  It’s in my Netflix Queue, so review coming soon!