Did you get out to see a movie? Saw something good or bad on DVD or TCM? Read a good book? Sing, brother, sing.
Friday night I watched X The Unknown on TCM, despite the fact that it’s been sitting on my DVD shelf for years untouched. Great little movie, though. Basically a Quatermass film sans Quatermass. At least one really gruesome death (surprisingly so, for 1956), genuinely endangered kids, a neat blob monster and some nice effects. A thrifty run time (no major women characters and romance foregone entirely) and nice turns by Michael Ripper (a bit larger of a role than he normally got in his ubiquitous Hammer appearances), the mighty Leo McKern, and especially Dean Jagger as the Quatermass surrogate. I miss the days in which the lead of a movie could be a 50-something bald guy.
I also watched the end of the brilliant Quatermass and the Pit. A rousing climax, with James Donald (one of the stars of The Great Escape) playing the hero instead of Quatermass, and some really, really good special effects for the Martian. Great stuff.
Meanwhile, I watched The Magician on DVD, from Criterion. I’ve not really seen any Bergman, other of course than The Seventh Seal, which is essential viewing for film and particularly fantasy film buffs. However, Magician looked pretty gothic-y, so I gave it a try. It definitely is horror inflected, starring a mute and weirdly young Max von Sydow as a Mesmer-trained scientist (maybe) being persecuted by some village bigwigs.
Sydow wears a small beard that prefigures his appearance as Jesus in The Greatest Story Ever Told by a few years, but with the beard paired with his long face he also appropriately looks a bit like Vincent Price.
According to the video essay that accompanies the film, Bergman meant the film as a screw you to the film critics that dogged his work. I was more caught by the air of ambiguity. Is Sydow really mute? Does he really have ‘powers’? Is a scientist, or a magician, or a charlatan?
The film offers (or suffers from, arguably) some pretty radical tonal shifts, and although I realize the world was a MUCH more proscribed place back in the day, you just can’t believe that anyone would accept Sydow’s wife as a man, clothes or not. Still, a pretty interesting film. More of a sidenote than an essential watch, I think, so if you haven’t seen The Seventh Seal, check that out first. Needless to say, The Criterion presentation is gorgeous. Man, it’s so sad that they don’t make black and white films anymore. They can be so lovely.
I spent a good part of the weekend working my way through the first season of Community on DVD, which I had checked out of the library. Really funny stuff that got stronger as the season progressed, and I had only seen a few of the episodes, so that was nice. One advantage of shows not really being able (in most cases) to garner a mass audience anymore is that the tone of the shows can be quirkier. I particularly liked one bit that not only referenced Stallone’s Over the Top armwrestling movie, but had a character (without explaining it) turning his ballcap backwards like Stallone does in the movie. Even the extras on the DVDs are really quite funny, and pretty much every single episode has an amusing commentary track with the show’s producer and some array of the stars. Very nice stuff.
So, how about you?