Sunday, March 30, 2014
(September 1932, U.S.)
Last night, when watching the 1932 film version of Richard Connell's THE MOST DANERGEROUS GAME, I reaffirmed what a true black and white, scary movie watching experience really is. Picture it - it's late at night, the house is dark and quiet because the rest of your family has gone to bed, it's raining outside and you're all alone watching a truly chilling motion picture. Those who grew up in the 1970s and early 1980s will equate such a viewing experience with late-night movie broadcasts on TV such as "Fright Night" or "Chiller Theater". This, I might add, is also clear evidence of how much older I've gotten. Twenty years ago, I would have been doing some very different things at 11:30 on a Saturday night! But that's another story...
If you ever saw a couple of films in the 1990s called GAME OF DEATH (1993) and SURVIVING THE GAME (1994), or if you remember a particular episode of GILLIGAN'S ISLAND in which Gilligan was being hunted by another man for sport, then the story of THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME will ring true. The original story has been covered numerous times, but like all adaptations, the first is usually the best. This first version with Joel McCrea as Bob Rainsford and Leslie Banks as Zaroff is a tremendous example of how to fit a whole lot more into less. At a running time of merely 63 minutes, the film packs more thrills and excitement than most Hollywood films today manage to squeeze in two hours or more with their damn computer generated images! Starting out simply enough, the story begins with the shipwrecking of the only survivor Bob Rainsford on a small an lush island inhabited only by mute natives and the rather diabolical and expatriate Russian Count Zaroff. Both men are obsessive hunting enthusiasts. Zaroff's enthusiasm, however, goes beyond the traditional normal means. Besides the natives, Zaroff's castle is also populated by several guests, including brother and sister played by KING KONG's Fay Wray and Robert Armstrong. There were two other guests, but they seem to have mysteriously disappeared (???). We learn much of Zaroff's love of hunting through his own stories, including the inevitable boredom he felt which eventually lead him to the lust for hunting man himself, which he refers to as the "most dangerous game". In a rather deluded manner, Zaroff expects Rainsford to view the matter like himself and is gravely disappointed when Bob calls him a madman. As a result, Bob has now become Zaroff's new target. With Eve (Fay Wray) in tow, if they can survive from midnight until dawn, they win the game and will be allowed to leave the island. The game begins and it's hunter versus human prey. Cliche and decency dictate who will come out on top in the end, but one can help but feel the true savagery of what's taking place here. Animal has hunted animal for food. Man has hunted animal for food and for sport. Animal has hunted man, more often than not, for self-defense of their own territory. Man can only be accused of hunting man for the sport of his sick mind and lustful urges. In any situation of hunter verses prey, you have to figure that one may just be a little smarter (or luckier) than the other. If the hunter and prey are both man, then the game can go either way. In the case of film literature, one can only presume the basic elements of good verses evil. In the movies, good is often meant to triumph.
As an actor, I don't know too much about Leslie Banks, except that he does possess some rather sinister-looking physical qualities that are present in this film, as well as in Alfred Hitchcock's JAMAICA INN (1939). There's one particular black and white image from this film that's most frightening to look at, especially when it's late at night in the dark. Take a look...
(do I lie??)
I briefly mentioned KING KONG (1933) a moment ago, but would now like to expand on its relevance here. Not to its story, but to filming and casting. Those who are true fans of the great monster movie will easily notice many cross-overs from this film. In total, there are four stars (including Wray and Armstrong), two producers and one director (Ernest B. Schoedsack and Merian C. Cooper), and some recognizable movie sets from this film, including the giant log that bridges the ravine. It's rather curious to watch Fay Wray as a brunette in this film when the entire world has always associated her as the screaming blonde known as Ann Darrow. Don't worry, though - she screams in this film, too.
Favorite line or dialogue:
Doc: "I was thinking of the inconsistency of civilization. The beast of the jungle, killing just for his existence, is called savage. The man, killing just for sport, is called civilized. It's a bit inconsistent, isn't it?"
Bob Rainsford: "Now just a minute. What makes you think it isn't just as much sport for the animal as it is for the man? Now take that fellow, for instance. There never was a time when he couldn't have gotten away, but he didn't want to. He got interested in hunting me. He didn't hate me for stalking him anymore than I hated him for trying to charge me. As a matter of fact, we admired each other."
Doc: "Perhaps, but would you change places with the tiger?"
Bob: "Well, not now."
Thursday, March 27, 2014
(November 1986, U.S.)
Had Harrison Ford not been so damn impressive in Peter Weir's WITNESS (1985), there's a good chance I might not have bothered to see them re-team for THE MOSQUITO COAST. Let's face it - by the mid 1980s, Harrison Ford was Han Solo and Indiana Jones and it was beginning to look like he might not amount to a whole lot more than that. For myself, BLADE RUNNER (1982) changed much of that, but for most folks, it was WITNESS that brought him out of the action hero closet. Looking back now at his entire career, Ford has portrayed the hero in many popular forms. For this film, though, the actor breaks out into a role he can really sink his teeth into; a role that if watched and studied carefully enough, can cause the viewer to truly accept that Ford believes in the character he's playing and the beliefs he's promoting. This is a character who's true discontent for his country and it's negative values and philosophies and his ambition to try and make a difference is one that would have likely made author Ayn Rand very proud had she lived to see the film. Perhaps she lived long enough to read the original novel by Paul Theroux.
This film tells the story of Allie Fox (played by Ford), a man who leaves the United States with his wife and four children in a desperate search for a happier and simpler life in the jungles of Central America. However, their jungle paradise inevitably turns into a dystopian hell as their stubborn father's behavior becomes increasingly aggressive and erratic. When we first meet Allie, he doesn't hesitate to tell his oldest son Charlie (played by the late River Phoenix) and the viewing audience just how fed up he is with the so-called American Dream and American consumerism, believing that Americans "buy junk, sell junk and eat junk," and that there's an impending nuclear war on the horizon as a result of American greed and crime. His solution - leave! What immediately strikes me as interesting is just how willing and enthusiastic the rest of his family, particularly his wife whom he only refers to as "Mother" (played by Helen Mirren), are to going along with him and just abandon their home and their life. So, with the consent of the Belize government, Allie purchases a small village called "Jeronimo" in the Panama rain forest along the river. The family meets the local inhabitants and they all proceed to start building a new, "advanced" civilization, in the process inventing many new things that have never been seen before in this part of the world. The locals take kindly to Allie and his family, but Allie's will to build a utopic civilization keeps them working to their limits. Allie becomes increasingly fanatical in his desires to change the world around him and in the process, denounce all religious structure and discipline being practices by a missionary occupying the same region. His ultimate goal during all of his creation is a giant machine that will produce ice, something new to the locals and other neighboring tribes. It's only a chance meeting with the wrong sort of men (with guns) that brings Allie's paradise and productive ice machine into an exploding and toxic disaster. His solution - go back home? We wish! Allie is now a man of irrational thought and process, taking his family further down the unknown river and into a part of the world that they may not likely survive. It's only through his eventual murder (by a missionary, of all people!), that the hope of returning to civilization and freedom manages to shine through on this poor family.
The irony of this film is truly astounding, in my opinion. It's the one film where Harrison Ford absolutely shines in exemplary fashion as a dramatic and literary actor. It's also one of the few films of his impressive film career that didn't score too well with the box office or the critics (though it's considerably more popular today). What does that tell you about the average multiplex movie-going moron? That intelligent drama and Harrison Ford simply don't mix? That any story involving strength and survival in a primitive setting that doesn't involve GILLIGAN'S ISLAND or the reality show still fourteen years away, SURVIVOR, is simply not worth their time or their ticket money? Who can honestly account for or try to rationalize these things? But for those who read this now and are willing to take heed of my words, it's important to know that director Peter Weir orchestrates the action of THE MOSQUITO COAST to match Allie Fox's progressive mental state, from rage to explosion to ocean squalls and finally to hurricane velocity. In the end, we're literally left feeling exhausted having just watched the entire saga of one man's madness unfold in front of us. Exhaustion may not exactly be the typical bullshit happy Hollywood ending too many people crave after two hours of film time, but it works here because while many of us seek our true paradise, too many of us come up empty-handed. That's exhausting!
Favorite line or dialogue:
Allie Fox: "We eat when we're not hungry, drink when we're not thirsty! We buy what we don't need and throw away everything that's useful! Why sell a man what he wants? Sell him what he doesn't need! Pretend he's got eight legs and two stomachs and money to burn! It's wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong!"
Thursday, March 20, 2014
(June 1979, U.S.)
MOONRAKER is perhaps, in my opinion, the most unfairly picked-on and mocked James Bond film in the entire franchise. Note that I specifically use the word unfairly, because it's considered more than fair to pick on crap like THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH (1999) and DIE ANOTHER DAY (2002), because, let's face it, they deserve it! The serious James Bond film aficionados of the world (fellow California blogger and friend Richard K. - kindly stand up and take a bow!) feel it's their appointed duty to mock MOONRAKER for it's obvious attempt by United Artists and writer Christopher Wood to take full and shameless advantage of the runaway success that STAR WARS (1977) had brought to the world at the time. You see, had STAR WARS not existing, FOR YOUR EYES ONLY would have followed THE SPY WHO LOVED ME (1977).
Okay, perhaps it's easy to pick on a James Bond film that decides to take advantage of the new space film genre and center itself around the adventures of the newly-introduced space shuttle and it's adventures in outer space; adventures that include an actual laser gun battle in space...
MOONRAKER is an easy target for its silliness, but consider other more popular Bond films also guilty of the same "copy cat crime" that preceded it. YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE (1967 - also directed by Lewis Gilbert) decided to bank on the space race of the 1960s and actually features space capsules being literally "swallowed" by the ship of the film's enemy. LIVE AT LET DIE (1973) took full advantage of the "blaxploitation" genre of the time and even threw in voodoo and snakes, to boot. Are you seeing my point just a bit here? Whatever unfair and unjust crime of film making MOONRAKER can be accused of was very much already committed by James Bond film's past. Please note that at this time, my fellow California blogger and friend and serious James Bond aficionado is very likely shaking his head in dismay and trying to figure out just how he's going to "deprogram" me from this unfortunate opinion of mine (cheers, Richard!)!
So now that I've tried to defend what I consider to be my second James Bond film of all time (we still haven't gotten to the first!), let me get into why I love it so much. The first is for the very same reason most Bond fans hate it. By 1979, science fiction movies were king and I was a young boy who was hooked! At the age of only twelve, I was still just getting to know who the character of Bond was. When I heard the next film would be a space epic, I was hot to get to the theater (MOONRAKER, by the way, being only the second Bond film I ever got to see on the big screen!). Like it or not, MOONRAKER is a fun movie of action, suspense and sci-fi effects during the Roger Moore period that I have always considered to be the most fun of the entire history of actors who played the role. The performances are solid and a whole lot less campy than those that followed in later films of the 1980s. Michael Lonsdale is a villian of pure evil who's ultimate purpose of world destruction is actually quite frightening when you consider how intends to pull it off from outer space through mass genocide by poison gases and then launch a brand new race of superior physical human beings. Lois Chiles as Bond girl Holly Goodhead (that's the best sexually-explicit Bond girl name I've heard since Pussy Galore!) may not be in the same league with Ursula Andrews or Jane Seymour, but I wouldn't exactly kick her out of my bed and she sure as hell tops the scale over Britt Ekland and Denise Richards (the worst Bond girl in history!). And hey, Richard Keil as Jaws is back in action, and that's nothing to sneeze at! I would also point out that despite its billing as a sci-fi Bond film, less than a third of the film actually takes place in outer space. Venice, Italy and Rio De Janeiro, Brazil are beautifully and exotically photographed for this film's story and purpose.
Despite the film's unfair reputation over the decades, MOONRAKER was, like it or not, very successful at the box office and scored a lot more positive reviews with critics than you might think. There was also a lot of merchandise, some of which I had, including trading cards and a novelization of the film to completely separate itself from Ian Flemming's original novel. It was part of a big year of what I've come to refer as "Sci-Fi '79" that also included films like ALIEN, STAR TREK-THE MOTION PICTURE and THE BLACK HOLE. It was a real big James Bond movie back in the day and it's still big in my mind, my heart and my memories. So there you have it, folks! I defend MOONRAKER as one of the best James Bond films of the franchise for the very same reasons that too many attack it! Sue me!
One final interesting point to make about this and some other Bond films. It would seem that on more than one occasion, I was first introduced to brand new innovations of technology and progress through James Bond films. Before THE SPY WHO LOVED ME, I'd never seen a jet ski. Before A VIEW TO A KILL, I'd never seen a snow board. And before MOONRAKER, I'd never seen the space shuttle. The first launching of the real-life shuttle would not be for another two years; Columbia on April 12, 1981. Now the entire program is defunct. Too bad.
It's been a pleasure arguing this film with you all!
Favorite line or dialogue:
Jaws (speaking for the first time while toasting champagne): "Well...here's to us."
Sunday, March 16, 2014
(April 1975, U.S.)
Where do I even begin with this one?? I suppose one of the first points I'll mention is that over the years I've come to discover that the subject of Monty Python, in general, breeds it's own share of geek followers in the same manner that STAR TREK and STAR WARS breeds it's own community. Ask anyone who's spent enough time watching DVDs of the BBC TV series MONTY PYTHON'S FLYING CIRCUS (particularly ME!) and it's very likely they can sing all the words to "The Lumberjack Song" and can recite the entire "Dead Parrot" and "Spam" sketches verbatim! For my own personal history, I discovered the film of MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL long before I ever got into the FLYING CIRCUS. I discovered the film during my early college years in Buffalo, New York at a midnight movie theater across the street from my dorm. Simply put, by the time I was a sophomore, my friends and I had every single hilarious moment and line of that film, from "Bring out yer dead!", to "I fart in your general direction!" to the entire sequence of the "Knights who say Ni!" down cold! Yes, my friends, it was the late 1980s, when midnight screenings of popular '70's lunacy made certifiable geeks of us all! Ah, those were the days!
This was Monty Python's first film that dove into original material without regenerating any of it's old BBC sketches (as did AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT). With their own take on the tale of King Arthur, Camelot and the quest for the Holy Grail, history is turned upside down on its ass and severely violated without protection, with outrageous and insane results. From the moment the opening credits insists on going on and on about a moose, we're laughing and the laughter doesn't stop until the final moment. This film is a cult classic as gut-bustingly hilarious as it is blithely ridiculous. As King Arthur himself, Graham Chapman actually looks the part, as if he could play it seriously if he wanted to. Many other roles in the film are interchangeably mixed-and-matched between all members of Monty Python's legendary group, including Sir Lancelot and the ever-taunting-and-insulting French knight with the "outrageous French accent" by John Cleese (my favorite Python!). Plot ain't exactly key here. It's a quest for the Holy Grail and the misadventures that occur along the way; misadventures that include the Black Knight without arms and legs claiming they're just "flesh wounds", the Trojan Rabbit without knights inside to infiltrate the castle, the "perilous situation" of horny women between the ages of sixteen and nineteen and a half at Castle Anthrax who only wish to be spanked by Sir Galahad (played by Michael Palin), the search for a perfect shrubbery, and the Legendary Black Beast of "Aaaaarrrrrrggghhh", just to name some. Oh, and here's one of my favorites...
Even by the film's climax, when for just a moment, things get rather spiritually and musically intriguing at King Arthur's point of conclusion when battle will ensure and victory will be won against his enemy (the French!), he and his men are suddenly arrested by England's modern-day police force for the slaying of a modern historian somewhere during the course of the film. And remember, if much of this makes little sense to you, keep in mind that much of Monty Python is never supposed to make sense! Laughter is key here, and it's here in abundance!
Those who know me know that I'm often very loyal and consistent with those that I regard to be my favorite things. My favorite film, rock song, classic TV show, food, etc., have likely remain unchanged since I was a kid and a teenager - and so it is with MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL - my favorite film comedy of all time. That's quite an honor in my book when you consider that it goes up against some other very viable candidates as ANIMAL HOUSE (1978) and CADDYSHACK (1980). In fact, try to imagine comedy that one would watch if they truly needed something to bring them out of real misery or depression and that will give you some idea of just how seriously I take the rather unserious antics of Monty Python! And by the way, for those who don't know, this film spawned a Broadway musical called SPAMALOT. Despite my extreme love for this film, the stage show sucked! In fact, since seeing that show, I've come to draw the line at paying good money and wasting valuable time with Broadway musicals based on movies! As a result of that conviction, I haven't been to the theater in a long time.
Favorite line or dialogue (believe me when I tell you this was no easy task for this film, but here we go!):
King Arthur: "It is I, Arthur, son of Uther Pendragon, from the castle of Camelot. King of the Britons, defeater of the Saxons, Sovereign of all England!"
Soldier: "Pull the other one!"
King Arthur: "I am, and this is my trusty servant Patsy. We have ridden the length and breadth of the land in search of knights who will join me in my court at Camelot. I must speak with your lord and master."
Soldier: "What? Ridden on a horse?"
King Arthur: "Yes!"
Soldier: "You're using coconuts!"
King Arthur: "What?"
Soldier: "You've got two empty halves of coconut and you're bangin' 'em together."
King Arthur: "So? We have ridden since the snows of winter covered this land, through the kingdom of Mercia, through..."
Soldier: "Where'd you get the coconuts?"
King Arthur: "We found them."
Soldier: "Found them? In Mercia? The coconut's tropical!"
King Arthur: "What do you mean?"
Soldier: "Well, this is a temperate zone."
King Arthur: "The swallow may fly south with the sun or the house martin or the plover may seek warmer climes in winter, yet these are not strangers to our land?"
Soldier: "Are you suggesting coconuts migrate?"
King Arthur: "Not at all. They could be carried."
Soldier: "What? A swallow carrying a coconut?"
King Arthur: "It could grip it by the husk!"
Soldier: "It's not a question of where he grips it! It's a simple question of weight ratios! A five ounce bird could not carry a one pound coconut!"
King Arthur: "Well, it doesn't matter. Will you go and tell your master that Arthur from the Court of Camelot is here?"
Soldier: "Listen, in order to maintain air-speed velocity, a swallow needs to beat its wings forty-three times every second, right?"
Wednesday, March 12, 2014
(November 2001, U.S.)
By the time MONSTERS, INC. had been released in 2001, I felt that these family computer-animated films were already becoming too abundant, and I was still about four years away from becoming a father. Because as we all know, when you become a parent in the 21st Century, you're doomed to have your brains turned to mush on this stuff just to keep your kids happy. So, it's safe to say that when my wife of only two months insisted that we (and my best buddy, too) accompany her to see this film, we went into the theater kicking and screaming! Well, clearly, my initial instincts were wrong and I was laughing my ass off or I wouldn't be writing about this now.
The film centers around two monsters employed at the titular Monsters, Inc. We have top scarer James P. "Sulley" Sullivan (voiced by John Goodman), and his one-eyed partner and best friend, Mike Wazowski (voiced by Billy Crystal). Monsters, Inc. employees generate their city's power by targeting and scaring children in the "real" world. You see, the powerful the child's scream, the more power can be stored for the city's use. However, the monsters themselves live in constant fear that the human children may enter their own world and contaminate them. The plot point occurs when one child accidentally enters the city of "Monstropolis" and Mike and Sulley must return her to where she came from without detection from the company's powers-that-be, as well as a particularly sly, corrupt and competitive slithering monster named Randall (voiced by Steve Buscemi). As Mike and Sulley race against time to return the little girl, they (naturally!) grow quite fond of her. I mean, why not? She's real cute (she rather resembles my own wife when she was at about that age with short hair - love you, Beth!) and let's face it, no matter how scary a monster is meant to come off as on screen (Mike Wazowski is NOT scary, though!), they're pretty damn cute, too. In the end, when the film climaxes to not only saving the little girl and defeating the bad guys (sorry...monsters!), an alternate means of energy is discovered through children's laughter as opposed to screams, which perhaps suggests some version of a real life message in our own human abilities to discover new means of energy for our own planet. It's an idea, anyway.
If you've seen enough movies as I have, every once in a while you can't help but shake the feeling that you could have written a particular scene or moment better than what was actually done on screen. Come on, you know you've done it! You're sitting there watching the movie and you may actually say to yourself, "Man, I could have done that better myself!". Well, for myself, it's the final concluding moment at the end of MONSTERS, INC. when Sulley is apparently reunited with the little girl he's come to known as "Boo". He opens her closet door after a considerable amount of time has passed and we hear her sweet, little voice say, "Kitty!" (that's what she calls him). Well, maybe it's just me, but wouldn't it have been more poignant and meaningful if so much time had passed and "Boo" had grown into a teenager and still remembered her friendship with her favorite, beloved monster. Now that's a reunion of child and monster that might have actually extracted an "Awwwwwww!" out of me in that movie theater sitting next to my wife and best buddy.
As for the 2013 sequel, MONSTERS UNIVERSITY, I watched it with my son when it was released on DVD. My reaction was less-than-enthusiastic. My son asked me in a rather puzzled manner why I didn't like it. My response was painfully simple, "It wasn't funny."
Favorite line or dialogue:
Randall Boggs: "Wazowski! Where is the kid, you little one-eyed cretin?"
Mike Wazowski: "Okay, first of all, it's "creetin". If you're gonna threaten me, do it properly. Second of all, you're nuts if you think kidnapping ME is gonna help YOU cheat your way to the top!"
Randall (chuckles evilly): "You still think this is about that stupid scare record?"
Mike: "Well...I did. Right up until you...chuckled...like that...and now I'm thinking I should just get out of here."
Monday, March 10, 2014
(November 1931, U.S.)
The period of the Marx Brothers during their years with Paramount Pictures may very well be considered their best years and their best films with titles like ANIMAL CRACKERS (1930) and DUCK SOUP (1933). This, despite the fact that the fourth brother, Zeppo, was just about as unfunny as you could ever imagine! MONKEY BUSINESS, admittedly, is not their best effort during these years, the reason being a very thin plot line. Perhaps plot is not something you strongly consider when watching a Marx Brothers film, but it always helps with any film, in my opinion.
The story (what little there is of it!) takes place in large part on an ocean liner crossing the Atlantic Ocean. The Marx Brothers play four stowaways who get involuntarily pressed into service as tough guys for a pair of on-board feuding gangsters while trying desperately to evade the ship's crew from capture. This, is primarily what takes place through most of the film; the brothers being chased all over the ship and causing their typical unending uproar. After finally arriving stateside, one of the gangsters kidnaps the other's daughter, leaving it up to the Marx Brothers to save the day. Two famous scenes of this film include all four brothers trying to sneak through a passenger checkpoint by pretending to be French actor and singer Maurice Chevalier, and Harpo Marx's attempt to hide from the authorities by posing as a puppet in a Punch and Judy children's show. Another noteworthy feature is a concluding fight scene at the end in which Groucho acts as a wise-ass commentator. Don't get me wrong, though - it's all (or mostly) funny, particularly Groucho's ongoing verbal antics. It's just not worthy of much as a storytelling device. Despite this fact, however, the film was quite successful during an era when laughter was crucial to American survival during the Great Depression. And as usual, my attention tends to get sidetracked as soon as this (or any other Marx Brother's film) turns musical.
Typical for many Marx Brothers films, production censors demanded changes in some lines with sexual innuendos that were considered too racy for the era of the 1930s. Another noteworthy piece of irony with this film is that the female star Thelma Todd died in unexplained circumstances a few years after this film. A line of dialogue in MONKEY BUSINESS coincidentally seems to foreshadow her death. Alone with Todd in her cabin, Groucho Marx says, "You're a woman who's been getting nothing but dirty breaks. Well, we can clean and tighten your brakes, but you'll have to stay in the garage all night." Well, in 1935, Todd died in her car inside a garage, apparently from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning. Creepy, huh??
Favorite line or dialogue:
Groucho Marx: "I'll thank you to let me do the reporting around here! Is it true you're getting a divorce as soon as your husband recovers his eyesight? Is it true you wash your hair in clam broth? Is it true you used to dance in a flea circus?"
Tuesday, March 4, 2014
(February 1936, U.S.)
I can't honestly claim that I know, appreciate or understand everything the legendary Charlie Chaplin did on screen. One thing is clear, though - the man always seemed to be there when American movie audiences needed him most, mainly during the years of the Great Depression. Laughter was never more important during those turbulent times and you could have it for no more than about twenty to twenty-five cents per ticket. Despite the fact that by 1936, movies were fully-equipped with sound, Chaplin continued, successfully I might add, on his rather stubborn course of maintaining his loyalty to the silent era. Frankly, that attitude makes my own inability to completely adapt to the modern times of the 21st Century look amateurish! Then again, perhaps Chaplin was simply mocking his own stubborn position against the modern times of motion pictures back then. Who knows.
Well, regardless of the film maker's personal motivation behind MODERN TIMES, it's a black and white classic film that provided the much-need laughter while telling a story of modern industry, humanity and the will to survive during hard times. Chaplin's iconic "Little Tramp" character struggles to survive in the modern, industrialized world of the day. The film is clearly a political comment on the desperate employment and fiscal conditions many people faced during the above-mentioned Great Depression; conditions created, in Chaplin's view, by the efficiencies of American modern industrialization. As a factory worker on a massive modern assembly line, he's subjected to performing the same physical tasks so often that it becomes embedded in his natural bodily movements, and it's meant to be very funny! As human beings, these working men are treated no better than the cattle that they are, almost reminiscent of the underground worker's misery portrayed in Fritz Lang's METROPOLIS (1927). Of course, remember, in a Chaplin film, misery and misfortune in the work place is meant to be funny. As an example, perhaps you've seen this iconic image from the film before...
Despite the harshness of employment, production is always key and the "big boss" is always watching. Particularly humorous is the proposed introduction of a modern feeding machine that can automatically feed workers food while they continue to work during the time that's meant to be the lunch hour. Of course, at Chaplin's expense, the machine goes haywire and the poor man becomes a victim of a major culinary mess. Again, don't forget, it's all funny, but the messages of the time never go unnoticed. As a result of all this hard labor, the tramp suffers a nervous breakdown and ends up in the hospital. Following the hospital, he's mistakenly arrested for being a Communist agitator. Given the hard luck he's experienced on the outside, he's more than happy to be in jail and is disappointed when he's finally released.
As much as this, or any Chaplin film for that matter, manages to focus on the harsh realities of the time, it also reminds its audience to lift its head up and experience hope. The tramp, upon being shoved back into the world's reality, meets the girl he will fall in love with (played by the beautiful Paulette Goddard) and later manages to secure a more stable and rather sane level of employment. But much like real life, the good things we experience are often only for right now. In any of the tramp's films, his good luck never lasts too long. Before we know it, he and the girl are out of work and on the street again during a time when being on the street was nearly a death sentence. But again, Chaplin's ultimate purpose was to offer hope and escape during the bad times, and the end of MODERN TIMES is no exception as he and the girl he loves go walking down the road at dawn toward a very unknown, yet hopeful, future; the same road many moviegoers were hoping to experience once they left the comfortable (yet temporary) escape of the local movie palace showing a film of Charlie Chaplin.
Favorite line or dialogue:
The Mechanical Salesman: "Good morning, my friends. This record comes to you through the Sales Talk Transcription Company, Incorporated: your speaker, the Mechanical Salesman. May I take the pleasure of introducing Mr. J. Widdecombe Billows, the inventor of the Billows Feeding Machine, a practical device which automatically feeds your men while at work? Don't stop for lunch. Be ahead of your competitor. The Billows Feeding Machine will eliminate the lunch hour, increase your production, and decrease your overhead. Allow us to point out some of the features of this wonderful machine: its beautiful, aerodynamic, streamlined body; its smoothness of action, made silent by our electro-porous metal ball bearings. Let us acquaint you with our automaton soup plate - its compressed-air blower, no breath necessary, no energy required to cool the soup. Notice the revolving plate with the automatic food pusher. Observe our counter-shaft, double-knee-action corn feeder, with its synchro-mesh transmission, which enables you to shift from high to low gear by the mere tip of the tongue. Then there is the hydro-compressed, sterilized mouth wiper: its factors of control insure against spots on the shirt front. These are but a few of the delightful features of the Billows Feeding Machine. Let us demonstrate with one of your workers, for actions speak louder than words. Remember, if you wish to keep ahead of your competitor, you cannot afford to ignore the importance of the Billows Feeding Machine."
You know, I might have worked for one or two people in my time that would have likely approved of a machine like that!