Tuesday, January 26, 2010

THE BERMUDA TRIANGLE (1979) (shown August, 1992)

Let's talk narrators - specifically, narrative voices. There have only been a handful of narrators whose voices one would instantly identify - you may not know their names, but you know them. The most recent (and recently passed away) was Don LaFontaine ... don't recognize the name? How about this - you're in a movie theater, waiting for the feature to come on, and the coming attraction trailers start - the narrator starts the trailer with "In a world ..." Oh, yeah, THAT guy! :)

Another familiar voice was Ernie Anderson, who was the voiceover guy for ABC during the 1970s and '80s, with his signature voice particularly effective during previews for THE LOVE BOAT (or, as Ernie would say ... "The Luvvvvvv Boat"). Back in the 1960s, he was known to kids all over (especially in Ohio) as "Ghoulardi", a late-night TV horror-movie host - we'll revisit Ernie in detail in a later blog entry, as pertains to Conjure Cinema and my life.

Which brings us to Brad Crandall. Before there was such a thing as reality TV, back in the hoary and forgotten 1970s, there was Sunn Classics Films. They would inundate the TV and radio airwaves with shock and awe ads for their theatrical "reality" documentaries: salacious titles like IN SEARCH OF NOAH'S ARK (a surprise hit that made the company and started the ball rolling), THE LINCOLN CONSPIRACY, BEYOND AND BACK, and my personal favorite from 1979, THE BERMUDA TRIANGLE. They were all crazy beyond belief, with every lunatic theory you could think of (and many you couldn't) that normally you would dismiss without a second thought except for one thing: the fervid narrative tone of Brad Crandall.

Before this film, Brad was just a voice - authoritative, introspectional, and compelling. In BERMUDA, however, he also served as on-screen host. Brad is a BIG guy - he fills a suit like beans fill a burrito. Seeing him on-screen adds exponentially to the delight of this film - it's like he's DARING you to disagree with what he's saying. UFO's buzzing Christopher Columbus in 1492? Freak storms and tsunamis that drag ships to a watery grave? Atlantean Death Ray Crystals that are still blowing ships out of the water, thousands of years later? You wanna make something of it, bub??? I don't! If Brad said it was so, that was good enough for me ... at least for the hour and a half I was in the theatre! :)

Based on the best-selling book by Charles Berlitz, Sunn Classics backed Brad's words up with (for the time) astonishing visuals, and a surprisingly competent music score for a film of this type (by John Cameron). In 90 minutes, you got to see everything I mentioned above, plus a stunning recreation of The Philadelphia Experiment, and a universe of UFOs of every size, shape, and saucer-like variety!

My favorite moment in the film happens right at the beginning, in the aforementioned Christopher Columbus segment - Chris and his crew are being buzzed by those pesky aliens and are looking on in horror and shock ... all that is except for the "actor" (and believe me when I say I use the term loosely) who is trying (unsuccessfully) to keep the grin off his face! I guess all the money went to the special effects, so they couldn't afford a re-take on this ... take a look 1 minute, 30 seconds in to see for yourself.

How? Here's the best part: the ENTIRE FILM is online for your viewing pleasure, via YouTube! It's all right here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dRV__ST2Poc

So sit back, relax, and let yourself be abducted by the hypnotizing deep bass wonder that is Brad Crandall - believer, non-believer, it really doesn't matter ... it's still a great deal of nonsensical fun!

Next Time: The Goddess-like beauty of Ava Gardner springs magically to life in the enchanting musical ONE TOUCH OF VENUS - be there!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

BELL BOOK AND CANDLE (1958) (shown July, 1992)

Happy New Year! I hope you all enjoyed your holidays, as well as our K.A.C. holiday countdown - but enough about Christmas ... let's get back to what we do best here, talking about the films we've shown and all that entails. So let's pick up where we left off with ... well, what do you know? A Christmas film!

Not in the same spirit as, say, IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE, but both that film and this take place at Christmas time. BB&C opens on Christmas Eve, with the drop-dead gorgeous Kim Novak as witch Gillian Holroyd - she and her Siamese familiar Pyewacket are bored on this evening, and she takes a fancy to her upstairs neighbor, book publisher Shepherd Henderson (James Stewart). Gil toys with the idea of making Shep love her WITHOUT the use of witchcraft, but does nothing about it until she finds out that Shep is engaged to her old college rival Merle Kittridge (Janice Rule). Then all bets are off ...

Shep meets the rest of Gil's family - her pixie-like, nervously befuddled Aunt Queenie (Elsa Lanchester) and her sardonic, sly brother Nicky (Jack Lemmon). The Holroyd's all go off on Christmas Eve to the Zodiac Club, a swinging jazz club for those "in the know" (i.e., only open to witches). Shep and Merle decide to check it out for themselves (even with all the clues, Shep is still not the brightest bulb in the socket; just as well, or we wouldn't have a film!) - Gillian, upon seeing Merle, remembers her charming college ways, including ratting out Gil to the Dean for going to classes barefoot, stealing other girls' boyfriends, etc., and decides it's payback time.

While seated at their table, Gil tells Shep about Merle's greatest fear: thunderstorms. As an amused Queenie looks on, Gil remarks how strange it was just how MANY thunderstorms they had their senior year - she then motions to Nicky and the band (in a very funny bit) to surround Merle with their trumpets and bongos and serenade her in a vivacious rendition of 'Stormy Weather', which sends her screaming from the club! :)

Gil is determined to make her revenge complete and, using Pyewacket, performs a love spell to make Shep hers. Then the unexpected happens - she actually DOES fall in love with him, which is a "witchy no-no". You see, according to the lore of the film, witches can not blush, they can't cry, and if they ever fall in love, they lose all their powers!

Nicky throws a magical monkey wrench into the whole proceedings, however, by going public about his abilities with author Sidney Redlitch (Ernie Kovacs), threatening Gillian's happiness. Nicky wants the money from the book, Gil wants Shep, and they both come to loggerheads. She casts a spell making the book unpublishable, and Nicky promises retaliation in her love affair. Gil beats him to the punch, however, and admits all to Shep. He doesn't believe her at first, but when she proves he's under her spell and that he broke off his marriage to Merle because Gil was bored and "liked him", he breaks off their relationship and moves out of the apartment building. Nicky and Redlitch take Shep to master witch Mrs. de Passe (Hermione Gingold), who undoes Gillian's spell (via a Very Nasty Brew) and makes him a free man. Still ...

Months later, Shep is a total grouch, yelling at his secretary and miserable; Gil has a new store, has traded in her sexy black outfits for more demure clothing ... and is miserable; and Queenie is miserable and determined to bring them back together. Queenie sends Pyewacket to Shep's office, who then has to bring Pye back to Gil. Seeing her for the first time since his move, he notices the change in her store, her clothes ... and her. Gillian tells Shep Pyewacket is no longer her cat, but Queenie's, and Shep notices her in a new light. He sees her blush, sees her cry ... and (having read up on the subject) knows that can only mean one thing: she has fallen in love (with him) and has lost all her powers! While the lovers embrace, Queenie and Nicky look on from outside, walk down the street with Nicky hexing out all the lamp posts, including the very last one on the street, which has a perching, purring Pyewacket getting in the last word of the film!

The movie was based on the 1950 play by John van Druten, and was only the second film to feature a witch as a romantic lead (the earlier one being 1942's I MARRIED A WITCH {see my earlier blog on this title}). It preceded the TV series BEWITCHED by six years, and along with I MARRIED A WITCH is considered the basis for the series.
Aside from the "interesting witch lore" used in the film, it is a charming (no pun intended) romantic comedy, that holds up to repeat viewing. One final note: there were nine Siamese cats used in the film - Kim Novak was supposedly so taken with her 'close-up' Pyewacket during the filming of the movie that she adopted him at the film's end ... and they lived happily ever after!

Next Time: Our Space Brothers descend again for our annual UFO Party, and this time drag us kicking and screaming into ... The Bermuda Triangle!