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Rosso sangue

A brutal and disturbing second half.
While I've seen over a dozen of Joe D'Amato's films, this was my first foray into his horror films (unless you count Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals, and his Caribbean Horror/Porns, which I have seen.)

For the first half of the movie I wasn't that impressed. But, the second half was relentless, suspenseful, brutal and agonizing. I've seen hundreds of horror/gore/splatter/slasher films, but the infamous 'oven scene' (which I won't spoil) had me literally covering my mouth to keep from making too much noise.

The rampage of the second act works well because the horror comes from the THOUGHT of what is happening, rather than the more visceral deaths of the first half. There is blood and gore, to be sure, but Joe D'Amato shows a modicum of restraint, letting the suspense build in a way it was unable to in the first act.

So, if you decide to give this film a try, and I hope you will, stick with it. Not only does the film really get going in the second half, the final shot of the film has to be one of the most unexpected, shocking and unexpected moments I've ever seen.

Anne of Green Gables: A New Beginning

It's not bad...but it's not Anne.
Throughout this film, I kept asking myself: "Who let the air out?" The story did seem to go along like a balloon, hanging close to the grown, the air slowly seeping out. All the ingredients were there, fine performers, beautiful photography, an interesting why do things still seem so amiss?

Had this film been a standalone story, with no connection to Anne Shirley, I think it would have been much better received. The tragic upbringing of young Anne was heartrending...but didn't ring true.

There were fine points to this film, to be sure. The final monologue by the middle-aged Anne Shirley, sitting on the veranda at Green Gables and writing, was beautiful:

"Everything that's happened in my life, the good and the bad, is more than I could have ever made up. I do long to write, and I will write about all of it. My life has been unexpected, exceptional really. Eventually, the more love a person gives, the easier it is to find. That's the only part that matters, nothing else. And it's so much nicer to be Anne of Green Gables than to be Anne of nowhere in particular."

That last line brought a tear to my eye, because it's full of so much truth. However, most of the rest of the film was flat in comparison. I shan't criticize Sullivan's deviation from the books, as he was not permitted to adapt any more of the novels (which was the right decision, given the debacle that was Anne 3.) Sullivan did, however, stay truer to the television "Avonlea" universe in this film. In the series "Road to Avonlea" Anne and Gilbert were married when Marilla died, however in Anne 3, she has long since died when the Blythes finally marry. There are no such plot holes in this film, thankfully.

Many of the performances in this film were quite good. I think Barbara Hershey was rather fine as Anne. Hannah Endicott-Douglas was an inspired choice as young Anne, at times bearing an uncanny similarity to Megan Follows in appearance and delivery. Rachel Blanchard, who I was mostly familiar with through her performance as Cher in the series "Clueless," has shown that she is quite a capable dramatic actress.

I have always admired and enjoyed Shirley MacLaine. In this film, however, she seems to be phoning it in. I was left wondering if there had been script changes she didn't like after signing on the dotted line. That is mere supposition on my part, however.

Sullivan's direction and writing, while adequate, don't really serve the performers well. There's a pitch to the performances that doesn't always ring true. It feels as if Kevin Sullivan kept asking them to make it bigger and bigger, until it was just TOO big.

Another issue I had with the film was the way the characters motivations were a complete departure from what had gone before. Anne as a can believe a child from such circumstances doing the things young Anne did to hide her painful background. However, this is simply not Anne. For all her faults, Anne's saving grace was her honesty. That is missing here. Also, Marilla hiding the letter from Anne's father was unbelievable. While Marilla may have been reluctant, she was a woman with a strong sense of duty and of right and wrong. It is the essence of her character, and that was disposed of without a thought.

There were a few interesting uses of stock footage in this film that actually work rather well. The Colleen Dewhurst footage was seamless, and quite welcome.

Jayne Eastwood returning briefly as the cruel Mrs. Hammond was well played. Eastwood recreated the vocal part of her earlier performance perfectly. We only see her in long shot, so she doesn't seemed to have aged at all. That was nicely done.

Patricia Hamilton's cameo as Rachel Lynde was most welcome, and it's good to know she and Hetty King are still going strong (however it is implied that Hetty King is standing next to Rachel, but there was no attempt to cast an extra that resembled Jackie Burroughs.)

Despite the serious flaws in direction and storytelling, "Anne of Green Gables: A New Beginning" was an interesting, and sporadically entertaining evening of television viewing for me. While I understand what Kevin Sullivan was trying to accomplish, I really do think it's time that he put Anne to bed. I was never one of those fans who clamored for another sequel. I would have been happy if we had simply been left to imagine what happened to Anne and Gilbert after they declared their love on the bridge. I always hoped that it would inspire young and old alike to explore the books by Lucy Maud Montgomery.

Taken on its own merits, the film can be enjoyed, but only if one can divorce it from all that has come before in the Anne franchise.

Tail Spin

Entertaining Little Soaper
Quite a change of pace for an Alice Faye film. Gone are the glorious gowns and exotic locales, but instead we find our Miss Faye as an aviatrix, trying to make ends meet and win the Cleveland Air Races. Her arch rival is the society belle Gerry Lester, played with an arched eyebrow by Constance Bennett.

The performances are a bit overwrought, but that's part of the fun. Faye only gets one song in the final cut, but it's a great sultry number called "Are You in the Mood for Mischief?" Throw in an awkward slap fight in the powder room, a dash of tragedy, and you've got a fun cinematic soapie/tearjerker/stand up and cheer kind of film.

Basically an A-picture that plays like a B, with all the entertaining trappings that implies.

Joan Davis is great fun as the comic relief. Nice rainy-Saturday entertainment.

The Ghost of Rosy Taylor

A rare glimpse into the Mary Miles Minter phenomenon.
Few films starring Mary Miles Minter exist, and even fewer are in wide circulation. Viewing this film, it's easy to see why Mary Miles Minter became such a star. She is lovely to look at and absolutely charming on screen.

As the other reviewer mentioned, the surviving print has some moments in absolutely dire condition. But Minter's talent and charm overcome this and make this rare opportunity to witness Minter's talent something no movie fan or historian should miss.

This film is also important because while many are familiar with the scandal that destroyed Mary's career (through no fault of hers, I might add,) few have experienced her first-hand, and this is a perfect example of Mary's charisma, and the style of silent film before 1920.

The Wonderful World of Disney: Child Star: The Shirley Temple Story
Episode 13, Season 4

Mildly entertaining, if inaccurate, biopic of Shirley Temple
(May contain very mild spoilers.) This film is short and sweet, and does give a fairly decent overview of the young stars career in movies for those not previously acquainted with Miss Temple's amazing life story. However, there are occasions where the truth behind the events of her life are played down and personalities altered to suit the filmmakers' vision.

For one, Gertrude Temple was a remarkable, articulate, savvy and driven woman. She always kept a tight reign on Shirley and made sure that she had as normal an upbringing as possible under extraordinary circumstances. However, in the film, she is portrayed as an average housewife who just happens to have a famous daughter. The noble strength of this woman is certainly worthy of praise and truthful representation. Connie Britton does a lot with the little bit she's given to work with, and is as charming as ever. She is a fantastic actress who could certainly have handled playing a more accurate depiction of Gertrude Temple.

The rest of the cast does well, too. Some of the film recreations are quite well done, but I was surprised that Shirley's famous dance with James Dunn in "Stand Up and Cheer" was overlooked. Also, the recreation of Shirley's credit appearance in Baby Take a Bow looked nothing like the one in the original film.

It was nice to see Dorothy Dell portrayed, as the young actresses' tragic death prevented her from becoming the star she certainly could have been. It's nice to see her remembered and her look so accurately recreated. I would have liked to see James Dunn portrayed as well, as he co-starred with Shirley in more films than most people and was good friends with little Shirley.

Young Miss Orr does very well as Shirley, portraying her over a rather long range of years. Her rendition of "Auld Lang Syne" brought a tear to my eye. This young girl has quite a future ahead of her! The closing scenes of Shirley's career fading with advancing years is too brief, and the sudden change from young blonde to teenage brunette was rather jarring. The teenage years were one of the most eventful periods of Temple's life, and it would have been nice to see more of that. But, you can only do so much in 90 minutes.

All-in-all, not bad, but could have been so much more! A little too Disney-esquire, with the darker moments of Shirley's life swept under the rug, and an occasionally tenuous relationship with the reality of the world on the 1930s.

5 out of 10.

The Littlest Rebel

Talk to your kids afterward...
There are two very good opportunities afforded by this film. One, it's entertaining, fast-paced, and Shirley really shines.

The second is a chance to talk to your children about the way black characters and white characters interact in this film. Some younger children may be confused by the divide between the black characters and the white characters (especially those who attend racially-diverse schools,) but this is a good time to explain to them the racist attitudes of the time period, and ask them how it makes them feel.

The best way to combat racism is not to sweep it under the rug, but to teach children where we were, how far we've come, and how far we still need to go. Give children the credit they deserve, they will understand.

This film is a perfect opportunity to relate to your children and instill guidance.

Il mondo dei sensi di Emy Wong

What kind of film does "Emy Wong" aspire to be?
From the promotional materials of the time, "The Sensuous World of Emy Wong" (better known by the unfortunate title "Yellow Emanuelle") one would think Bitto Albertini (aka Albert Thomas) was intending to churn out another soft-core romp, similar to the films of Joe D'Amato. However, after the opening montage around the seedier parts of Hong Kong, viewers finds themselves in the midst of a very different kind of film.

This is not unusual with Albertini's work. His legendary "Emanuelle nera/Black Emanuelle" (1975) was essentially a melodrama, with lots of soft-core fondling thrown in to attract the grindhouse crowd. Albertini concentrates more on dramatic tension and melodrama then his counterparts, with mixed results in most cases, including "Yellow Emanuelle." On one hand, you've got Ilona Staller (who later became on of the more off-the-wall figures of Italian porn) and Giuseppe Pambieri engaging in much (simulated) sleazy sex, accompanied by Nico Fidenco's pornoesque score. On the other hand, the romance between Chai Lee's Emy Wong and Pambieri seems to come from another film entirely. It's sensitively told, the actors really seem to believe in what they're doing, and their love scenes are beautifully shot (including one in an unfurnished bedroom that is just this side of art.) The drama works on some levels, Chai Lee creates a sympathetic heroine, although her plight (which I won't spoil for you) seems a little contrived and out of left field. The television version deletes the entire ending subplot (which, again, I won't spoil) and actually works better. The original theatrical ending seems hurried and contrived, so much so that it's intended effect is replaced by a giant "Huh?" from the audience.

All-in-all, the film is enjoyable and beautifully photographed. Those who prefer their sleaze a bit warmed-over but with *some* dramatic oomph will enjoy this picture. Those looking for something a bit more sordid may want to look elsewhere, perhaps to Joe D'Amato's huge catalogue of sexploitation.

Swingin' Together

Works as a one-off...
...but I can't see it sustaining much interest as a series. There are too many principal characters (all broad stereotypes) to really develop much affection for any of them.

One exception, however, is James Dunn. Jimmy Dunn seems happy and enthusiastic with his role, which is always a joy to watch. Broad comedy being his forté, he acquits himself well here as the jovial father figure to the group of boys in his charge.

The band itself is pretty standard early-1960s fare, but nothing to really write home about. The title song is catchy, but soon grates a bit. The appearance of a young Stefanie Powers adds some historical interest, but beyond that it's not hard to see why this pilot failed to become a series.

Fans of Bobby Rydell, James Dunn or Stefanie Powers will find this enjoyable, as will aficionados of rare television.

The Baby-Sitters Club

Not as bad as all that...better as it went along.
Wow, some pretty strong comments on this show! Honestly, it's not as cheesy as some make out. Sure, it's not Citizen Kane, but for what it is, it's not bad at all.

First, I think the casting was great. I often found it unbelievable in the books that the girls were only in Middle School, considering all the things they were able to do (go to NYC at the drop of a hat, babysit infants, etc), so casting older actresses made the whole thing more plausible. Also, I think the actresses have been unfairly criticized, I think it was the writing that was a bit off, it was geared a little too young to be believable, not the writers fault or the actresses, just how it worked out. Also, those who have commented on the lack of television and film appearances of the actresses post-BSC should be aware that the majority of the performers on this show were from the stage, and many returned there after this series.

The series was much closer to the books than the film was, and the supporting cast did well. As the show progressed, it improved drastically. The performers had gotten the chance to get to know each other and develop a working relationship, and the story lines also began to embrace heavier topics, such as divorce and the destruction of our environment.

Good fun to revisit on rainy Saturdays, and something I will surely share with my own children if I am blessed to have any.

The Ellen Show

Good fun, shame CBS was so inept at promotion.
"The Ellen Show" was hilarious, with a fun cast, good chemistry amongst the regulars, and situations that could only happen to Ellen.

CBS, as you've already read in the other comments, made little effort to promote this show, just sticking it in different spots thinking that it would magically find an audience. I'm a huge Ellen fan but could never find this show to watch! Fortunately I've now seen nearly every episode thanks to a mate in the UK and it really saddens me that this wonderful sitcom was never given its due. But, with Ellen's talk show doing so well and the DVDs of her earlier sitcom, Ellen, selling so well, perhaps "The Ellen Show" will one day see the light of day again!

Selena: The Final Notes

Rather lurid and sensational, but interesting doco of Selena.
Like many people outside of the Southwest and other areas where Tejano music is popular, I sadly only became aware of Selena after her tragic death. After hearing some of her recordings I sought out whatever information I could find on Selena's life and legacy, and came across this video.

While very interesting with some rare footage of fans talking about their reactions to Selena's death and how her music affected their lives, the film has a bit of an exploitative edge to it. It's an extremely low-rent affair, with loads of stock footage and music that has little to do with Tejano music in general or Selena in particular. Also, long lingering shots of Selena's wake push the boundaries of taste. They also go straight for tabloid TV territory when her murderer, Yolanda Saldivar, comes into the picture, with over-the-top, creepy music and lame video effects.

Also of note, the narrator consistently mispronounces the singer's name. Selena Quintanilla is pronounced "SeLEEna KEENtanEEah" but the narration calls her "SeLAYna KWINtanEEah." On a brighter note, some of the fan interviews are really quite moving. Also well represented is the constant stream of fans pouring into Corpus Christi, marking upon the Quintanilla property with good intentions, but much disrespect for the Quintanillas and their property.

All in all, worth a view, despite the shortcomings of the production. The VHS edition viewed was on low-quality videotape in EP mode. The audio levels are uneven, with background music drowning out the narration at times, and the picture quality varies from passable to diabolical.

This Selena fan was disappointed with the production, but is glad to have it as part of his collection.

Kids Incorporated

Rather addictive...
Random fact: in the last season you can see me in the audience in two episodes.

Anyhow, that aside, as a preteen, I adored this show and it's cast of regularly vanishing performers. Some have gone on to great things, Stacy is in Black Eyed Peas, Martika did quite well on her own, Haylie Johnson pops up on TV occasionally, Reneé Sands(trom) is in the group "Wild Orchid," and then there's TV darling Jennifer Love Hewitt.

Looking back at this show, I suppose it was all a bit silly, but it was harmless enough, and is ripe for a revival. How about it, Lynch Entertainment?

Stand Up and Cheer!

A mess with one bright spot-but you already knew that.
As a whole, "Stand Up and Cheer" is quite a mess. The story that frames the musical numbers is silly and poorly executed, the musical numbers are rather drab and rife with racial stereotyping. But, most people who've sought out this film are watching it for one reason-Shirley Temple.

Temple and James Dunn are really the only bright spots in this production. Their on screen rapport is magic, and contrary to what others have stated, they BOTH hold their own during their crowd pleasing number "Baby, Take a Bow," in my opinion.

Truly a product of it's day. It's widely reported that this film brought smiles to the faces of many, and try as I may to ignore it's racial stereotypes, and bland dialogue, somehow the whole thing doesn't work.

But, as I have already mentioned, Jimmy and Shirley are pure magic.

Lady on a Train

Good fun for a snowy evening!
This was the first Deanna Durbin film I've seen, and while it's much different than her other films, it seems a great place to start! The first thing that struck me was how likable Ms. Durbin is in the lead role. She keeps the tone light and airy, and the film flies along at a joyous speed! The photography is amazing (the snowy Manhattan sets and Ms. Durbin's close-ups are wonderful!) Deanna's vocals on "Night and Day" hint at a sensuality that wasn't present in her other pictures, and her rendition of "Silent Night" is divine.

I won't summarize the plot, as it has been done in other comments, just suffice to say that this hilarious whodunit is perfect viewing while curled up with a hot drink on a snowy winter evening!


Very, very special.
"Roseanne" is a very special program, as it showed people as they really are, not prefabricated, starched and pressed, cookie-cutter characters (such as "The Brady Bunch," for example.)

The creators of this show delightfully smashed through stereotypes and made the show a joy to watch. The fact that both lead actors are heavier than most TV parents, but yet are just as joyfully sexual and in love as anyone else was quite refreshing. On TV, sex is usually reserved for the young and lithe.

Also, when it's revealed that the heavy-makeup-wearing, provocatively- dressed Nancy is really a lesbian, they contrasted that with the fact that straight Jackie was the one who wore flannel and drove a truck, showing that you can't judge a book by it's cover. Leon, although rather persnickety, wasn't preening and promiscuous in the way most other TV shows portray gay male characters.

Another example is that Roseanne (the character) tells DJ that she is half-Jewish, showing for once that not all Jews are affluent doctors or lawyers, most of us are just regular folk like everyone else.

POSSIBLE SPOILERS. Much has been said about the final season being "silly" or "unrealistic." I, myself, wondered what was going on, but the final episode made it all worthwhile. The revelation that the fantastic events of the past year where all in Roseanne's head, a way for her to escape her bleak reality, was touching. I am man enough to admit I shed a tear at the end of that episode.

"Roseanne" is all-around brilliant. Fantastic writing, acting and direction. Hopefully this show will remain in syndication for many years to come...and hopefully will make it's way to DVD.

Anne of Green Gables: The Continuing Story

Um, Mr. Sullivan, what happened?
One thing that really got me about this film was the way Sullivan Productions junked what they had (almost) seamlessly meshed in the past: the "Anne" world with the "Road to Avonlea" world.

Anne and Gilbert had already married and had children by the time of Marilla's death, and it was another few years before WWI happened in the "Avonlea" world. However, here Marilla has died and Anne and Gilbert aren't married yet. Mrs. Lynde, Marilla's long-time friend and confidante becomes a minor character, almost a glorified cameo appearance, and doesn't act like it's been years since she last saw Anne. Josie and Moody are just kinda there as 'fanwank' to placate any fans who might be disappointed that this film wanders so far away from the established 'Anne-iverse.'

That aside, this film still is a bit of a mess. Historical accuracy goes right out the window, and I found it hard to get really involved in these "strangers" lives.

Although, comments made on Megan Follows' appearance is unfair. It's been TWENTY YEARS since the first "Anne" so OF COURSE she's older...duh! Megan Follows does a lot to try to save this film. She's as good an actress as ever. Jonathan Crombie did well also. The radical transformation of Diana's character isn't that out of line with what came before, and Schuyler Grant does very well here.

Sadly, a missed opportunity. This might have worked better as a "Road to Avonlea" reunion movie. I mean, WWI actually was on the horizon when the series ended.

Will & Grace

Funny, but needs a bit of a facelift.
OK, I feel like a bit of a traitor not totally gushing over every aspect of the show, as it has brought me a LOT of laughs over the years, but something seems to have gone amiss, but it's not too late to turn around.

When the show started, I was still upset about the cancellation of "Ellen" and didn't watch, but when I did I was HOOKED IMMEDIATELY! It was fresh, well-acted and written. Due to work commitments, I have to rely on syndication to watch it and it wasn't until recently that I got to see more recent episodes.

Probably the best episode of the first season was "Will Works Out" where Will is terrified that one of his clients would find out he was gay, and his own internal homophobia shone through when he called Jack a "fag." Jack's line "I'd rather be a fag than afraid." was amazing.

One of the show's strengths was that the cattiness was only on the surface and it really showed that these characters were vulnerable and loved each other. But, lately, the comedy has just become, well, mean.

This show is still great and has a lot of potential, I just wish the characters would be allowed to be human again. The episode where Karen gets rejected by that player restaurant manager (Andy Garcia, I think, but don't quote me on that), was a turning point for her character. We really saw that all Karen's mean-spirited barbs were just bravura to cover her insecurity. She and the recently-married Grace had a great moment at the end. Classic.

Lately, the characters have become somewhat one-note, but this can change. If this show is going to survive (which I REALLY hope it does) the lovability of these characters needs resurrection.

Kudos to the amazing cast, brilliant writers and directors. Also, Shelley Morrison (I hope I spelled that right) deserves note, she is very funny as Karen's somewhat frightening maid/henchwoman Rosario.

To all concerned, please bring "Will and Grace" back to it's former glory. You've created a just needs a bit of polishing.

The Backlot Murders

Priscilla Barnes deserves so much better!
I found this film in a DVD bargain bin at a Walgreens of all places. Seeing that Priscilla Barnes was in it, I decided to give it a was to be a decision I would regret for some time to come.

First, the good points. Barnes is EXCELLENT in an over-the-top performance. What made her characterization of Stephanie so appealing is that she was the only performer in the film to not take this mess seriously. It's obvious she's having fun, and that she knows what a stinker this film really is. I can't go into much detail on her role without giving the, uh, plot away so I'll move on.

This film plays out like a nightmare version of Baywatch. Big-breasted women and only moderately attractive fellows run around and scream. Okay, we've seen that before.

The funniest part, however, is in the doco included on the DVD where the director calls this a "thinking man's slasher film." Actually, the direction is just fine, he's just let down by his actors. I've enjoyed the director's other work and will not hesitate to see more of it...providing he is given a bigger budget for better talent. The idea was great, the sets amazing, but something just misses in the execution.

Good job Priscilla Barnes, shame on you everyone else.

The Wizard of Oz

Oy vey!
I approached this film with great interest. Being a fan of Oz in general and silent film in particular, this seemed like a sure fit. Well, it's hard to put all prejudices aside, having (like most people) been bombarded with various adaptations of L. Frank Baum's book that one naturally has preconceptions.

Now, I won't bother to comment on the liberties taken in this film, the 1939 film bears, in all truth, barely a passing resemblance to Baum's dark and bizarre novel. The problem is, the changes made for this film just don't work. It's really just a standard silent slapstick film, but not a very funny one.

It's hard to sit through 90 minutes of lame jokes and vulgar stereotypes. But, as a historical curiosity, the film merits a once-over. I cannot, however, endorse the release pictured on the IMDb page, with it's "Digital Soundtrack" and "Narration." The music is inappropriate and the narration is silly...I mean, I CAN read for myself thank you! It was like sitting in the theatre with some rude patron talking to the screen! I expect this was added for children watching the films, but I really don't think many young children today would sit through this, sadly.

See it at least once, but don't expect too much from it.


Show uss zee vay to ze next viskey barr...
Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant! Jennifer Saunders' pilot for a a potential new series is a classic in it's own right, growing from, but not overshadowed by it's AbFab roots. It is quite unfair (although natural enough) for this one-off to be compared so heavily to Absolutely Fabulous, as it is really quite different, apart from it's raking over the coals of celebritydom.

There are some truly inspired moments here. The scene in which stage great Bonnie Langford loses the role in "Angela's Ashes" (the musical no less!) to the obviously less talented Vivienne is priceless.

The characters are really quite different to the roles the cast played in AbFab. Freda is certainly less prim and prudish than Saffron, Vivienne is calmer and less frenetic than Edina, Jackie is less vapid than Patsy, and Yitta is not the vacant animated corpse that Bubble was, but rather an arrogant, spiteful young woman. Admittedly Dora seems a bit like Mother in some ways, but Dora truly is off her rocker, whereas Mother was obviously calculating her every off-the-wall-remark as a way to drive Edina insane.

All in all, "Mirrorball" is a good time all round and deserves to be enjoyed on it's own merits, not mearly as an offshoot of the AbFab phenomenon. It is available on the AbFab Series 4 DVD set. Don't miss it!

The Opera Ghost: A Phantom Unmasked

PRECIOUS footage!
This hugely interesting documentary includes footage I never thought I'd be able to see/hear...sections from the 1930 sound re-release of 1925 silent version of "The Phantom of the Opera." It has been reported numerous places that this version no longer exsists, and I am so happy to find out that at least some material survives. The audio sounds as if it was discovered on it's own and then matched to the silent footage, but this is still a major treat for "Phantom" fans. We can at last hear Mary Philbin and Norman Kerry's voices!

The sound recording is very scratchy and low in resolution, but this adds a spooky effect when married with the film footage. The booming voice of the man reading the Phantom's lines (which was not provided by Lon Chaney, it should be noticed) is truly frightening. We can at last hear the horrifying crash of the chandelier tumbling earthward as that chilling voice cries "She is singing to bring down the chandelier!"

I was so excited about this footage that it took me a while before I continued with the program, which was very informative and entertaining. Susanna Foster is as lovely and lively as ever, and everyone interview provides fascinating insight into the "Phantom" phenomenon.

This program was featured on the DVD release of the !943 Claude Raines "Phantom" which is now out of print, but is definately worth seeking out!

Emanuelle nera: Orient reportage

Sleepwalking through Bangkok...
"Um...ok." is what I heard myself say quite often during this picture. This sequel to Emanuelle nera (1974) is basically just a travelogue as Laura Gemser goes to and fro from place to place and in the process destroys two marriages and smokes opium with Ivan Rassimov. Yep, that's all there is to it.

Gabriele Tinti actually comes off best, and the sex scenes between he and Laura Gemser are quite nice. I was confused by Emanuelle's "struggle" with her lesbian feelings for Debra Berger's character. I remember seeing her have sex with two women in the last film.

Ely Galleani is her usual smiling self (I've never seen her not smile in a film) and Ivan Rassimov has those sexy eyes, and of course Laura Gemser is gorgeous as ever, but this film is just kinda a time-passer. Now, the series would reach it's pinnacle soon with "Emanuelle Around the World," but that's another story...

EDIT (June 2007): On reflection, having seen this film again after several years, I have to admit that I have a new appreciation for how the romance between Emanuelle and Debra was handled. It's really quite sweet. Emanuelle's struggle isn't with feeling attracted to a woman, but feeling stronger emotions, thus she flees India, back to her old ways. If you watch their scenes in Italian with the English subs on (on the Severin DVD release,) the dialogue between Emanuelle and Debra is a bit different, and more moving. It makes the bathtub scene much more significant, rather than just a random moment of titillation as it appears in the English dub.

Trading Spaces

I'd rather watch "CHANGING ROOMS!"
Well, I've sat through a number of these dull American rehashes of the vastly entertaining "Changing Rooms," and I'm not impressed.

"Trading Spaces" seems to lack all of the things that make "Changing Rooms" such a charming and entertaining program. First, the hour-long format is way too long, but only because it's filled with designer posturing and stupid homeowners with these "Hi Mom!" expressions on their faces. In the original show, the designers and host (Carol Smillie) have a rapport and chemistry, and genuinely seem to like each other, despite the odd quarrel. The folks on "Trading Spaces" just seem mismatched. Although I didn't catch their names, the lovely redheaded designer is pleasant and talented as is the female carpenter but these two elements don't make up for a dire show.

Try switching over to "Changing Rooms," on BBCAmerica, it's worth the price of digital cable.

Poor Little Rich Girl

OK, so it had nothing to do with the original...'s still vastly entertaining. It was common practice for 20th Century Fox to buy film rights to a classic novel, and turn it into a Shirley Temple vehicle that has not even a passing resemblance to the original. The book "The Poor Little Rich Girl" is far more tragic than this cute-fest, but as an entertainment film, it certainly succeeds.

The performances are right up there. One of my favourite screen stars Alice Faye is so brilliant, she never gets lost in Temple's glare as do so many of her costars. Jack Haley is hilarious, and the songs are amazing. Alas, Gloria Stuart isn't given much to do but she looks wonderful.

Favourite moments include the spaghetti-eating scene, Shirley's conversation with the curb-side porter and of course "You Gotta Eat Your Spinach Baby." Fine film for parents to watch with their kids.

Try to get the original black and white version if you can, the colorized version looks a little weird.

Polly Tix in Washington

4-year-old Shirley as a call girl???
This is one truly bizarre film! The "Baby Burlesks" were a series of short films intended as an answer to the hugely popular "Our Gang" series, but in the "Burlesks" toddlers enacted adult roles with truly twisted and shocking results.

In this outing, 4-year-old Shirley Temple plays Polly Tix, a high-priced call girl who is sent by corrupt officials to influence a backwoods politician. There's racial stereotypes, racy dialogue and a rather bizarre cake fight. Little Shirley sashays across the screen in a manner that would make Madonna blush. Despite the lewdness of these little films, they are rather interesting, giving us a glimpse of a time when people thought differently than we do now, and child actors were merely cashcows for greedy studios and stage parents. (of course, that may still be the case today.)

Some other films in this series of child exploitation include: "War Babies," "Kid 'N' Africa," and "Kid 'N' Hollywood" in which Shirley Temple plays a Marlene-esque character called Morelegs Sweettrick! Reprehensable? Perhaps, depending on what their original intent was, but still an important capsule of our past.

These films are available on video in several collections, including Goodtimes Home Video's "Shirley Temple Festival" on the same tape as "The Little Princess" (1939).

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