Sunday, June 29, 2008

"My Son John" (1952) reviewed (briefly)

The HFA was kind enough to screen this 1950's anti-communist rarity a few weeks ago, indeed I think I've been waiting a full fifteen years to see it as it is unavailable on VHS or DVD or anything...hell even my favorite video bootleggers don't have it!
Well for once it was worth it, Helen Hayes plays a coying somewhat deluded middle class mom who slowly discovers her bright Ivy League educated son, the rising man in the State Department is in fact a Soviet Spy.
Unlike a a lot of the other anti-communist movies of the era, "My Son John" delves into the whole notion of Ivy League perfidy, that well educated young men were themselves vulnerable to KGB recruitment. Senator Joe McCarthy helped put this cliche on the map when he went after Secretary of State Dean Acheson and some of the allegedly bright young men around him back during the Korean War.
It's a sort of red-baiting soap opera enlivened by a strong performances from Hayes and the title star Robert Walker who died before shooting concluded. This required the director, Leo McCarey to use stock footage and out-takes from Hitchcock's "Strangers on the Train" to finish off the final reel! This is why "John" must deliver his final recantation before the graduating class of his alma mater via tape recorder complete with beatific spotlight on the machine as the late spy drones on about the possibility that they grads themselves were already under KGB surveillance.
Why this film isn't more generally available is a mystery to me....hell they don't make em' like this no more.

Pick of the Week:

The Brezhnev era Russian 'western" "The White Sun of the Desert" (1969) which screens today at the Coolidge Corner today at 1pm. Legend has it the director simply imbibed all the Joh Ford iconography and then simply exported the whole western setting to the Russian Civil war complete with bandits and wild tribesmen and a stern hero on horseback.
Should be interesting.
(In Russian with English subtitles)
Let the record show though, that when Channel Zero was in residence at the Coolidge Corner Theater, we were the first to start screening contemporary Russian cinema as a means to excite the interest of Brookline/Brighton's sizable Russian expat population.
We did well with it and were looking around for new titles to screen when we were tossed out. Nice to see the Coolidge Corner has taken up with the notion.

Monday, June 23, 2008

George Carlin is dead...

the heavens do quake.
I can recall with the simplest nostalgia that dozens of guys I knew growing up slavishly imitated Carlin's tone, inflection and demeanor...he was a very common influence for a lot of high school kids growing up in the 1970's. For all his irreverence (and that was a consider component of his personality) Carlin was an ubiquitous presence on television for years, yes he hosted the first "Saturday Night Live" but does anyone else remember his guest appearance as a DJ on Welcome Back Kotter? Lenny Bruce once famously observed, "I'm a hustler, as long as they are willing to give, I'll tak!e".
And of course Bruce's shadow falls long over George Carlin's career it was Lenny's free form act that inspired Carlin to go solo and start really pushing boundaries on stage.
There however, the two men diverge, Lenny ultimately destroyed himself, whilst the tide of his career dropped Carlin safely down in Malibu sans appreciable damage to his sensibility.
At least until last night when the squarest of square maladies, heart disease took Carlin's life at age 71.
Should satirists die in bed? Or is that just their secret fantasy?

Sunday, June 15, 2008

"Pick of the Week"

Clearly it is "My Son John" seminal anti-communist McCarthy era film that was coincidentally Robert Walker's last film.
Helen Hayes plays the cloying mother to a nice young man who just might be a Soviet Spy!!!
For some reason "My Son John" has never been released on VHR or DVD nor does it circulate on the bootleg circuit making it an authentic rarity from the 1950's.

"My Son John" screens at 9pm tonight at the Harvard Film Archive 24 Quincy Street in the teeming heart of Harvard Square Cambridge.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Grace Note in Fresh Pond

Like a damn fool I accidentally left my huge trade paperback copy of "The Impossible Mencken" (a compilation of his newspaper columns)behind at Whole Foods in the Fresh Pond Shopping Center.
Sure enough I went back after supper and some kind soul had left it at the customer service desk, no fuss no bother no theft more importantly.
So kudos to Whole Foods it is patronized and run by honest people.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Sure enough...

Swarms of little blonde girls from the suburbs came lopin' thru Alewife Station this morning clutching trade paperback Harry Potter books bound for Harvard's Commencement wherein JK Rowling is scheduled to speak.
More than a few were being escorted by beaming parents...I guess they though hooking school to attend the augustan proceedings at Harvard constituted extra-curricular educational enrichment.
Still and all that, maybe I'm an old cuss, but I just can't see JK Rowling making much of an impression as a commencement speaker at Big Red. She is quite literally standing on a platform where George Catlett Marshall once proclaimed a new world order...what will Rowling discuss? Broomstick aerodynamics?

Oh well hope the rain lets up.