The Set of 400: #77 – My Favorite Face Plunger

Today! Because I was not myself last night/Couldn’t set things right with apologies or flowers –

Phantom of the Paradise (1974)

Directed by Brian De Palma (x3)

Starring William Finley, Paul Williams (x2), Jessica Harper (x2), Gerrit Graham, George Memmoli, Archie Hahn, Jeffrey Comanor, Peter Elbling

Despite being a lifelong Paul Williams fan – who lands fully three musicals in my top 100, er, 77 films – Phantom of the Paradise didn’t get onto my radar for a very long time. In fact, and in fairness, it probably shouldn’t have even been eligible for this list, as I only first saw it a few years ago, almost certainly since the release cut-off date I used for new movies. But I’m exploiting the loophole wherein that rule only applies to new movies, not when I first saw them, plus it’s my list, and who gives a shit? So welcome to the countdown, Winslow!

I have no good sense of what Phantom of the Paradise‘s place is in the world. I don’t remember ever hearing of it before I saw it – I’m pretty dismissive of De Palma films, even if this is his third appearance on this list – but the fact that this is a full blown Williams musical is more surprising it didn’t come up at some point. And I mean, it is pretty bizarro stuff. This Phantom of the Opera/Faust mash-up, updated for the ’70s, is part parody to be sure, but also part horror movie, as a lot of the goings on are played very seriously, after a point. Plus again, there are like ten songs, which don’t always perfectly fit with the plot or the film in general, as they vary from total Broadway to surf rock, and it’s kind of a low budget affair. So I get the feeling this movie is way off in the cult realm, if anywhere.

The aforementioned face plunger

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Movies

The Set of 400: #78 – My Favorite Fort Knox Dust Up

Today! Because all my life I’ve been in love with its color, its brilliance, its divine heaviness –

Goldfinger (1964)

Directed by Guy Hamilton

Starring Sean Connery (x6), Gert Frobe, Honor Blackman, Shirley Eaton, Harold Sakata, Bernard Lee (x4), Tania Mallet, Lois Maxwell (x4), Cec Linder (x2), Martin Benson, Desmond Llewelyn (x2), Burt Kwouk (x2), Bill Nagy

The greatest of the early Bond pictures (get out of here, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service fans!) featuring the most iconic death (poor Jill Masterson!), the most iconic henchman (film MVP Harold Sakata’s Oddjob!), and most sexist character name in the history of literature, cinema, and all yet to be created mediums. Like, if there was a porn version of Goldfinger (and there probably is, right?), they couldn’t come up with something worse than Pussy Galore (crack work, Ian Fleming). As terrific as From Russia With Love was, this would quickly become the 007 adventure against which all others would be judged, and all others would be deemed lacking for a very long time, if this has ever indeed stopped.

But, none have featured a death quite like Jill’s

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Movies

The Set of 400: #79 – My Favorite Zither Soundtrack

Today! Because in Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance –

The Third Man (1949)

Directed by Carol Reed

Starring Joseph Cotton, Orson Welles (x3), Alida Valli, Trevor Howard (x2), Bernard Lee (x3), Siegfried Breuer, Erich Ponto, Paul Horbiger, Ernst Deutsch

Not coincidentally the basis for my favorite Pinky and the Brain episode, The Third Man is the classic film-noir mystery of Vienna, supposed murders, tense philosophical Ferris Wheel conversations, perpetually wet streets, and yes, a soundtrack dominated by a zither. I imagine this is an instrument with some manner of pedigree and respect, but I’ve always thought of it as a child’s toy, not unlike a kazoo. This is certainly because I had the small kid’s version back in the day, where you’d place the sheet music (shaped like the instrument) behind the strings. Let’s Google that quick:

This was it! Still couldn’t play it worth a damn!

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Movies

The Set of 400: #80 – My Favorite Balcony Rat

Today! Because I’m the guy who does his job. You must be the other guy –

The Departed (2006)

Directed by Martin Scorsese (x4)

Starring Leonardo DiCaprio (x5), Jack Nicholson (x6), Matt Damon (x8), Mark Wahlberg, Vera Farmiga, Alec Baldwin (x3), Martin Sheen (x2), James Badge Dale (x2), Anthony Anderson (x2), Ray Winstone, Kevin Corrigan (x2), David O’Hara, Mark Rolston (x3), Kristen Dalton

One would think that a person committed to living in apartments for as long as humanly possible would at least be in their largest one as years and successes accrue. But considering the square foot-to-penny ratio in Chicago compared to North Scranton, it is unlikely I will ever live as vastly as I did from the fall of 2005 to the summer of 2008. It wasn’t the world’s nicest apartment, but it was huge, featuring this giant open staircase area, which afforded me the opportunity of displaying wall decor far larger than I possibly could before or since. Thus, I procured the biggest movie theater poster I could find – the six-foot-by-four-foot Departed canvas, seen above. Man, whatever happened to that poster? I didn’t bring it to Chicago, because come on, the only place that would’ve fit in apartment #1 here was a ceiling.

I’ll admit, the rat is a little on the nose

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Movies

The Set of 400: #81 – My Favorite Insulting Frenchman

Today! Because this is supposed to be a happy occasion. Let’s not bicker and argue over who killed who –

Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)

Directed by Terry Gilliam (x4) and Terry Jones (x2)

Starring Graham Chapman (x2), John Cleese (x3), Eric Idle (x2), Michael Palin (x4), Terry Gilliam (x2), Terry Jones (x2), Connie Booth, Carol Cleveland, John Young, Sandy Johnson

For the longest time, the only Monty Python product I liked was Life of Brian. Meaning of Life then and now is a little too all over the place for me, Holy Grail I felt was bizarrely over-praised, and I had no access to the Flying Circus whatsoever. Really, circa 1992, how were people seeing that show? Did it still air late on PBS? Because I just never saw it. Even now you never see it on television, so you better pony up for that gigantic DVD collection!

But in time, I came around to the cult of Holy Grail. I was probably rejecting it for its massive popularity until I was well along in college. Like, everyone knew that one guy who would quote this movie endlessly, and out of context The Knights Who Say Ni just aren’t funny. Hell, most Monty Python bits aren’t funny when your dumb buddies are dead-parroting the lines. No one much seemed to talk about Life of Brian, so for reasons discussed back in #251, that was the one I adopted early. My gateway into Holy Grail, oddly enough, was straight up buying the DVD around 2002 – because I was still buying a lot of discs in those pre-streaming days (Okay, I still buy a few here and there). On that Special Edition was a closed caption feature “Subtitles for People Who Don’t Like the Film (taken from Shakespeare’s Henry IV, part II)” which I found hilarious, and ended up getting me solidly hooked on the movie. Weird, right?

I don’t know, this just squarely appealed to me

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Movies

The Set of 400: #82 – My Favorite Fishing Strategy

Today! Because when he turned up dead, I let it go. And I said to myself, this is the business we’ve chosen –

The Godfather: Part II (1974) Directed by Francis Ford Coppola (x2) Starring Al Pacino (x4), Robert De Niro (x5), John Cazale (x2), Robert Duvall (x2), Diane Keaton (x4), Michael V. Gazzo (x2), Talia Shire (x4), Lee Strasberg, G.D. Spradlin, Bruno Kirby (x3), Gastone Moschin, Richard Bright, Morgana King, Troy Donahue, Dominic Chianese (x2), Joe Spinell (x2), Abe Vigoda (x2), Gianni Russo, James Caan (x3), Harry Dean Stanton (x4), Danny Aiello (x3), John Aprea (x2)

The Godfather was my dad’s favorite movie. To be more specific, what he really loved was the collection he referred to as The Complete Novel for Television – which came to be known in a variety of different ways on home video and re-airings over the years. This compilation, first aired on network TV in 1977, pulls apart The Godfather: Part II and rearranges the whole thing chronologically, while removing some of the violence and nudity. And this was the most frequent way Rosco (not his real name, or the customary spelling) would watch it. You know how I’ve mentioned before about series of films in my early life blending together into one mass? I think it can all be attributed to seeing The Godfather movies meshed together like this almost exclusively for years. He preferred this huge, six-hour version of the story to the separate films, so that’s what he’d watch. I’m not sure I actually saw The Godfather: Part II the way it was originally intended until I was in my twenties. And, yeah, it probably works better in the original format – with young Vito’s rise set opposite Michael’s epic struggles. As iconic and basically perfect as the first film is, my favorite part of the whole series is early 1900’s Vito arriving at Ellis Island and clawing his way up through New York organized crime.

It’s everyone’s favorite, isn’t it?

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Movies

The Set of 400: #83 – My Favorite Leper Chorus

Today! Because every time I look at you I don’t understand/Why you let the things you did get so out of hand –

Jesus Christ Superstar (1973)

Directed by Norman Jewison (x2)

Starring Ted Neeley (x2), Carl Anderson, Yvonne Elliman, Barry Dennen (x4), Josh Mostel, Bob Bingham, Larry Marshall, Kurt Yaghjian, Paul Thomas

I’m concerned how this movie was translated overseas, as the above tagline – “Love Message Forever” – doesn’t manage to resonate with me, anyway. Nonetheless! Norman Jewison’s follow-up to the damn near perfect #114 Fiddler on the Roof wasn’t the same sort of awards darling, even following a similar template of no name stars, grand location shooting, and excellent source material. Where Superstar leaps ahead in my personal preference is that it’s about an hour shorter, and has just about my favorite rock opera soundtrack of all-time.

Used copies available in record stores everywhere!

Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under Movies