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Hello JPFmovie fans I know we are a little late in paying tribute to the late Elvis Presley 40th anniversary of his death on August 16, 1977. We wanted to wait until all of the gushing died down before we paid our respects to the King. We’re going to look at one of his lesser known films Roustabout (1964). Who knew you could make a musical about a carnival worker that actually turned out to be one of his bestselling albums?

On August 16th, 2017, people lined up to have their bags probed and prodded by security officers to get inside the barrier near the mansion for the annual vigil honoring the King, who died of a heart attack Aug. 16, 1977.  Elvis Presley is still one of the most revered entertainers even 40 years after his death.  Putting aside how he died, as a young man he had a remarkable career and only when the temptations often put in front of celebrities got the better of him did we lose one of the finest performers of all time.

 

Roustabout was Elvis’s 16th movie made in 1964 by Paramount pictures.  The film’s soundtrack was one of the King’s most successful reaching number one on the Billboard Album Chart.  Despite the soundtrack’s success, this film remains one of his lesser known productions.  Co-starring in the film is the legendary Barbara Stanwyck, who needs no introduction.  Stanwck’s long career spanned over 90 films and in 1944 the government listed her as the nation’s highest-paid woman, earning $400,000.  She received four Academy Award nominations and in 1982 was awarded an Honorary Academy Award for her contributions to the acting industry.  She was nominated five times for Emmy Awards, winning three of them, and she received four Golden Globe nominations, winning one. She received Life Achievement Awards from the American Film Institute, the Screen Actors Guild and the Los Angles Film Critics Association.

 

Legend has it Elvis made this movie so he could work with Stanwyck and, as is typical of many of his films, other cast members appeared in subsequent roles of the King’s future films including “Paradise, Hawaiian Style,” “Blue Hawaii,” “Girls! Girls! Girls!,” “It Happened At The World’s Fair,” “Viva Las Vegas,” (previously reviewed), “Kissin’ Cousins” and “Girl Happy.”  So, the film has a sort of a duality to it, its musical score reaching number one on the Billboard charts yet reviled by the critics as clichéd and formulaic– which is true.  But enough of that, let’s take a look at the movie.

As with many of the King’s movies the plot is relatively simple: Musician Charlie Rogers (Elvis Presley) is fired from a gig at a teahouse after brawling with several college. After a night in jail, Charlie hits the road on his Honda 305 Superhawk motorcycle. He spots Cathy Lean (Joan Freeman) driving with her father Joe (Leif Erickson) and their employer, Maggie Morgan (Barbara Stanwyck).  When Charlie tries to become friendly with Cathy, Joe forces him off the road and the bike is wrecked after crashing into a wooden fence.

 

Maggie offers him a place to stay and a job with her struggling traveling carnival while the bike is being repaired. Charlie becomes a “carnie,” a “roustabout.” Maggie recognizes his musical talents and promotes him to feature attraction.  His act soon draws large crowds.  Off stage, Charlie romances Cathy, which creates animosity with Joe.  After the two men repeatedly clash and Charlie is accused of holding back a customer’s lost wallet that Joe was accused of stealing, Charlie leaves to star in the much better financed show of rival carnival producer Harry Carver (Pat Buttram).

Once again, he is a great success. However, when Charlie learns that Maggie is facing bankruptcy, he returns to her carnival.  In the musical finale, he is happily reunited with Cathy.  In the carnival saved from bankruptcy.

 

When members of the JPFmovies crew visited Graceland, we went to the Elvis DVD gift shop and asked to purchase a copy of the DVD version of Roustabout.  Incredibly, the store did not carry the film.  We couldn’t believe our ears, here we are at the King’s headquarters and we couldn’t by a copy of his 16th movie, you’re killing me!  We made fun of that store manager for at least 20 minutes and asked if there were any other Elvis movies they didn’t have in stock.  He offered to order it for us and pay the shipping costs; however, we turn down this “generous” the offer of the Presley Empire knowing we could acquire the DVD from other sources probably at a much lower price.  What kind of operation focused on one performer does not carry all of his movies for sale?  Graceland is geared to making money, but when asked to purchase one of his films they didn’t have it?  Are you kidding?

Leaving all that aside, Roustabout remains one of the JPFmovie team’s best liked films, because it involves such a strange plot, a bad boy going good while working as a carnival worker?  Obviously, this film was not written by a brain trust, yet it is worthy of watching.  So, if you want to honor the King’s memory, Roustabout is a good choice to watch.

 

We still miss you Elvis and you are still the King.

 
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Posted by on August 30, 2017 in Movie Reviews

 

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Talk about getting the screw job–you’ve got to see this The Betrayal (1966).

As you all know, Ichikawa Raizo is one of my favorite actors of all time.  His stock only increased after seeing this hard to find film.

The Betrayal is a black and white cinematography classic that should be more often acknowledged as the great piece that it is. The story is about a naively honorable samurai (played by Ichikawa Raizo) who comes to the bitter realization that his devotion to the moral samurai principles makes him a very vulnerable person. He ends up taking the blame for other’s evil deeds, with an understanding that he will be exiled for one year and restored to the clan’s good graces after the political situation dies down. But as betrayal begins to heap upon betrayal, he realizes he’ll have to live out his life as a ronin at best, at worst hunted down and killed.

The movie opens when a samurai enters the Minazuki clan’s school of Issaka Yaichiro to challenge the master to a fight who is currently away. Kobuse Takuma (Ichikawa Raizo) receives him, and the samurai, from the Iwashiro Clan, calls him into a duel. Kobuse refuses, and the samurai leaves. On his way home, however, the samurai is shooting his mouth off and he is followed by two members of the Minazuki clan and in an act of cowardice, the gum flapping samurai is killed from behind. His clan discovers the murder, and calls for the murderer(s) to be discovered, arrested and punished, whoever they may be. A Minazuki clan official, Kobuse’s soon to be father-in-law, devises a scheme to cover up the scandal: Kobuse will take the blame and disappear for a year while the soon-to-be father in law tries to iron things out even going so far as to say that he will commit seppuku to prove Kobuse’s innocence. Only a fool would buy into this scheme, but as a soon-to-be son in law, Kobuse probably felt obligated to agree.

As we follow his year in exile we see Kobuse degenerate from the upstanding disciple that he was into a soused ronin. But the year in exile is not the heart of this film.

The climax of the film is one of the most detailed, well planned and well executed ones I have ever seen. The integration of a variety of devices (a water well and bucket, ladders, wooden boards, carts, ropes, and several different kinds of weapons), makes Raizo’s sword-fighting worthy of Musashi’s legendary status by enduring one of the most epic battles since Musashi’s clash against the entire Yoshioka school. Typically extended movie fights tend to become superfluous after a while, particularly when the hero never tires or otherwise loses his edge due to battle fatigue, but here, after wave upon wave of assaults, Raizo physically deteriorates, starting on his feet and eventually rolling around in the dirt. He becomes parched, thirsting for water, his hair disheveled, his hand so tense that he can’t let go of his sword even after it is broken and his face is in pure agony. For Kobuse, this is more than a fight; it regresses into an almost reptilian rage to survive.

Even after he is acknowledged as innocent, samurai pride will not permit the carnage to stop. Whether or not he can survive, with our hero’s hard breathing, staggering exhaustion, at times barely able to stand, it is tortuous and agonizing to watch him. The final images of Raizo’s worn-down figure barely still standing above the carnage, with his girlfriend (Kaoru Yachigusa) knelt before him, has less a sense of victory about it than a sense of appalling disgust with a warrior culture that could lead to such a monstrous moment.

A majority of chambara fans (especially those who love samurai for their “exoticism”) probably just watch for the Cuisinart effect, and really don’t care about the nuances of culture and history that may be gleaned from such movies. This is a film that can be appreciated by that lot, and also by those who have a more serious, more academic interest in samurai life on film. Why The Betrayal this isn’t as famous as some other chambara film from the 1960’s is a question I can’t answer. The bottom line is that The Betrayal is arguably the legendary Ichikawa Raizo’s best performance.

 

 
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Posted by on February 26, 2013 in Movie Reviews

 

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Here is a series that is may be lost but not forgotten: The Tick

The Tick was the cartoon version of the comic book that didn’t get nearly enough exposure from comic book stores it deserved.  The show takes place in “The City” which is filled with other superheroes and super villains.

The saga starts when The Tick crashes the annual superhero convention where various heroes and their side kicks are matched with the urban areas they are to defend.  The Tick unintentionally pretty much destroys the convention center while demonstrating his super powers—nigh invulnerably and super strength.  He is assigned to “The City,” and travels there in a bus where he meets up with Arthur, a mild-mannered accountant who walks around in a moth suit dreaming of becoming a superhero instead becoming the necessary sidekick.  The two – along with occasional help from fellow superheroes like the cowardly yet self-styled ladies man Die Fledermaus (The Bat), the capable American Maid who throws her stiletto heals at villains, the Sewer Urchin who uses his smell against evil doers, the Civic Minded 5 and many more.  Some of the super villains  included such inspired creations as The Idea Men, The Breadmaster, Pineapple Pokopo, Chair-face Chippendale just to name a few.

The Tick’s sidekick, Arthur, was a pudgy accountant who found a “Moth Suit” that lets him fly around, and left his old hum-drum life behind to fight crime.  A chronic worrier with a belly, he’s the smart but timid counterpoint to the Tick’s brazenness.  His catchphrase of “Not in the face!” pretty much sums him up.

“The Tick” enjoyed a three season run in the mid-’90s, largely fueled by the fact that the show was enjoyed by adults just as much as it was children – it offered wacky battles between the heroes and increasingly bizarre villains, but was always quite clever. The series, which certainly didn’t take itself too seriously and is a funny today as it was when I watched it originally.

 
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Posted by on October 24, 2010 in Movie Reviews

 

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