My in-laws were in town for part of last week and a chunk of this one which put a bit of a dent in my nightly horror marathon. They have zero interest in modern horror, but can be temped by the older stuff, especially when tempered with some comedy. When they left I managed to see a couple of giallo classics and here we go.
Arsenic and Old Lace
Nobody in their right mind would consider this Frank Capra comedy a horror film, but it does star a Boris Karloff look-alike (to which much humor is derived) and a couple of old ladies who are in fact serial killers. It's also got one of Cary Grant's best and rubber-faced performances. Based on the stage play of the same name, Grant stars as Mortimer Brewster, a theater critic and author of several best-selling books on why marriage is a fraud. He is also about to get married. Before he leaves on honeymoon, he stops in to see his sweet old aunts who it turns out have been poisoning the old, lonely men who come to their home as boarders. Things get even more complicated when Mortimer’s psycho brother enters the scene along with Peter Lorre as his surgeon sidekick. Capra keeps the tone light and the laughs coming. It was all we could do to keep our laughter from waking up my daughter as we watched.
Bette Davis stars as twin sisters, Edie, who is rich and callous, and Margaret, a down-on-her-luck, night-club owner. When Edie’s husband, who was stolen away from Margaret thus taking the lush life with her, dies, Margaret kills Edie and assumes her life. This is more complicated than it first seemed especially when Margaret’s boyfriend/police sergent starts snooping around. Directed by Paul Henreid, Dead Ringer is far from a great movie, but it's well made and Davis is clearly having loads of fun playing two roles.
Blood and Black Lace
Mario Bava’s classic horror film essentially created the giallo genre and influenced countless films behind it. It is a murder mystery about a black-clad killer murdering beautiful and scantily clad models in the most fabulous of ways. Bava is a master at creating interesting visuals and his use of color here is fantastic. I’ll have a full review up very soon.
Without Bava, there would be no Dario Argento, and the influences are clearly on display here. Anthony Franciosa stars as an American mystery author promoting his latest novel in Rome. After a young woman is murdered, her mouth is found stuffed with pages from his novel. Later, the killer sends him notes saying he will kill again. Naturally, he begins trying to solve the case himself with bloody results. Argento fills the screen with interesting visuals including a lot of modernist architecture and a stunning tracking shot up an apartment complex. The kills are stylish and blood soaked, and the music is excellent.
One of the best streaming services around announced it is closing its virtual doors come the end of November. Filmstruck included a huge collection of Criterion Collection films and an increasing number of classics from TCM. The films were lovingly curated and loaded with special features. It was a cinephile's dream. Many of the films I've talked about in these cool things (including this week's Arsenic and Old Lace) come from Filmstruck. Unfortunately after the ATT/Time Warner merger, the big wigs at the top decided they have no time for niche products that don’t make them giant piles of money every day.
This is not a cool thing in the least, in fact I’d call it a huge blow for movie lovers, but after its announcement this morning, I can’t stop thinking about it.
Natalie Portman stars as a aging pop star trying to remain in the spotlight no matter what. The trailer looks like a glittery satirical horror. Portman has been getting rave reviews about it and I’m totally on board.