Category Archives: 1961

Paris Blues (1961, Martin Ritt)

It’d be easily to blame Paris Blues’s lack of success on the screenplay. With three credited screenwriters and another with the adaptation, there’s literally not enough going on the film to keep it going for the ninety-eight minute runtime. There’s filler, whether it’s a jazz number or a scenic Paris walk, but there’s not enough story. There’s not enough character or there’s not enough story. But director Ritt needs to get some of the blame as well. He’s got enthusiasm, but he’s strangely inert when it comes to medium shots.

Here’s the story–Joanne Woodward and Diahann Carroll are friends vacationing in Paris from the United States. They meet Sidney Poitier and Paul Newman, who are jazz musician ex-patriates. They pair off, Woodward and Newman, Carroll and Poitier, and they all fall in love. Except Poitier and Newman don’t want to leave Paris. Poitier because it sucks to be a black man in the United States while it’s pretty darn cool in Paris; Newman because… he’s a troubled artist. Or he wants to be a troubled artist. He’s a great trombone player, but he’s not a troubled artist. He’s moody because he’s not.

Newman and Woodward’s romance and its problems are mostly just that moodiness. Newman has a bad day, is crappy to Woodward, who’s crazy about him and wants to dote on him. Meanwhile, Poitier and Carroll are having this great philosophical debate, with their romance taking a back burner to their arguments about Poitier’s refusal to participate in the American Civil Rights movement. Sure, the script never goes too far with their arguments and usually just ends a scene–Woodward and Carroll spend most of their time acquiescing to their men’s mood swings–but it’s something. Carroll and Poitier are playing characters. Newman’s a caricature. Woodward’s stuck pretending to be one, just because the script doesn’t give Newman anything more.

Oh, wait. It gives him Serge Reggiani’s cocaine problem. Newman’s trying to keep him clean because deep down he’s a good guy who cares.

There’s occasionally wonderful direction from Ritt–usually just composition, though Carroll’s performance in the third act, basically just watching Woodward and Newman, is fantastic. It’s a slight, because she should have had more to do, but she’s still developing her character. Everyone else has given up by that time. But Ritt loves trying to do the “real” Paris, cutting between sets and location, with the sets often fantastical but grounded thanks to Christian Matras’s black and white photography.

Weak editing from Roger Dwyre–thanks to Ritt’s messy medium shots and general lack of coverage–doesn’t help things. The Duke Ellington score does help things, however. And it’s awesome to see Louis Armstrong cameo as the whole package artist who Newman admires. Shame there’s not enough on their relationship. Or Newman and Poitier’s. Or Newman and Woodward’s. Or Woodward and Carroll’s. Or Carroll and Poitier’s. About the only relationship getting the appropriate attention is Newman and his French lover, played by Barbara Laage. But even she ends up just harboring slightly veiled hostility towards Woodward instead of actual scenes.

Messy, messy script.

Carroll’s great. Poitier’s great. Newman and Woodward are good, not great. Their material’s too thin to be great. Armstrong’s more cute than good. He’s having a blast acting. Reggiani’s good. Laage’s good. The problem’s not the acting. It’s the script, then Ritt, then the editing. Then, I don’t know, the rear screen projection.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Martin Ritt; screenplay by Jack Sher, Irene Kamp, and Walter Bernstein, adaptation by Lulla Rosenfeld, based on the novel by Harold Flender; director of photography, Christian Matras; edited by Roger Dwyre; music by Duke Ellington; produced by Sam Shaw; released by United Artists.

Starring Paul Newman (Ram Bowen), Sidney Poitier (Eddie Cook), Joanne Woodward (Lillian), Diahann Carroll (Connie), Serge Reggiani (Michel Devigne), Barbara Laage (Marie), and Louis Armstrong (Wild Man Moore).



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Bloodlust! (1961, Ralph Brooke)

What’s startling about Bloodlust! isn’t how bad it gets–the film opens on a docked ship, with the principal cast pretending it’s moving violently so the bad is obvious straight away–but how many not bad elements there are to the film. None of them are enough to make Bloodlust! worthwhile, unless someone’s a big June Kenney fan or “Brady Bunch” enthusiast.

Kenney gives a good performance as the level-headed girl. She’s dating Robert Reed, who isn’t any good. He’s not as bad as he could be–Eugene Persson is pretty lame as the other guy (Bloodlust! is a little like “Scooby-Doo (without the dog) meets The Most Dangerous Game”). As the other girl, Persson’s girlfriend, Joan Lora is appealing but bad. Out of nowhere, though, Kenney will turn in some fantastic scene and it’s inexplicable why she’s in this picture.

As the manhunting madman, Wilton Graff does an amiable job chewing the construction paper scenery. Director Brooke is not a dynamic director, not one bit; he does like blood and gore effects though, which occasionally gives the film a pulse. He cuts to hide the lack of action. It goes from an arrow firing to an arrow hitting, for example. It’s budget conscious but Brooke and editor Harold V. McKenzie don’t cut the sound right.

Strangely, Brooke has some good ideas in the script. He improves on Dangerous Game standards. Plus, he gives Kenney to do than the boys.

Bloodlust! is short, bad, dumb and mildly amusing.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Produced and directed by Ralph Brooke; screenplay by Brooke, based on a story by Richard Connell; director of photography, Richard E. Cunha; edited by Harold V. McKenzie; music by Michael Terr; released by Crown International Pictures.

Starring Wilton Graff (Dr. Albert Balleau), June Kenney (Betty Scott), Robert Reed (Johnny Randall), Eugene Persson (Pete Garwood), Joan Lora (Jeanne Perry), Troy Patterson (Captain Tony), Walter Brooke (Dean Gerrard), Lilyan Chauvin (Sandra Balleau) and Bobby Hall (Jondor).


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The Phantom (1961, Harold Daniels)

“The Phantom” is horrific. Between Lon Chaney Jr. trying a Cajun accent and Paulette Goddard’s hilariously bad turn as a Ms. Big, there’s no good acting. But these two guest stars aren’t even the worst–lead Roger Creed is unbearably awful. I’m sure he was hired to put on the purple jumpsuit but still… he doesn’t deliver a single acceptable line.

Daniels’s direction is no help either. He’s a little classier than the rest of the production–which just makes one realize how far Chaney and Goddard had fallen since Hollywood. Another particularly bad element is George W. Merrick’s inept editing. It’s like he tries to cut away from Creed’s deliveries, but just makes it worse.

Thankfully, the pilot never went to series–saving co-star Reginald Denny some amount of embarrassment I’m sure–but it’s terrifying enough on its own.

Unless you love Richard Kiel, avoid at all costs.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Harold Daniels; teleplay by John Carr, based on the character created by Lee Falk; director of photography, Jack Taylor; edited by George W. Merrick; music by Gene Kauer; produced by Robert Gilbert.

Starring Roger Creed (The Phantom), Paulette Goddard (Mrs. Harris), Lon Chaney Jr. (Jed), Reginald Denny (Commissioner Mallory), Chaino (Chaino), Richard Kiel (Big Mike), Morgan Lane (Lt. Hartwell), Robert Curtis (Johnson), Glen Marshall (Deek), Mike De Anda (Jim), Ewing Miles Brown (Barney) and Allan Nixon (Doc Sanders).


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Time Is Just a Place (1961, Donald F. Glut)

I’m sure writer-director Glut understands Time Is Just a Place–and I’m sure he explained it to friends and family who watched it when he made it–but there’s no explanation in the short itself.

There are a couple rocket ships traveling through space. They’re apparently time rockets. One ends up in prehistoric times, the other in the modern day. The prehistoric rocket pilot encounters some dinosaurs–Place has a big fight between a Tyrannosaurus Rex and a stegosaurus–while the other rocket somehow causes the destruction of the planet Earth.

That final sequence is really effective, though Glut appears to have just broken up a disk.

The opening few shots suggests some kind of lyrical film, with the next few minutes suggesting a lot of riffing on time travel. Sadly, Glut delivers neither. Once the dinosaurs show up, he eschews most abstract ambition.

That dinosaur fight’s bitching though.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Written, edited, photographed and directed by Donald F. Glut.


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