Thursday, June 11, 2015

Sir Christopher Lee, 1922 to 2015, Rest in Peace.

There are some actors who literally perish from their typecasting, George "Superman" Reeves certainly did, others let is burden and cripple them despite their manifest talents Bela Lugosi being a good representative example in this category. And then there are actors like the late Christopher Lee who enthusiastically EMBRACE the typecasting and strive to use it to the very best advantage. Lee had a staggering filmography over the course of fifty years with a good share of junk ("Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace") to outright weirdness ("The Return of Captain Invincible")and even a dose of peplum ("Hercules in the Haunted World"). But if Christopher Lee stumbled into some bad movies he himself is rarely bad in them, the man had a singular talent he could not be corrupted or dragged down by mediocrity. Along the way Sir Chris also managed a true horror film trifecta playing Count Dracula, The Frankenstein Monster and The Mummy a record only bested by Lon Chaney Junior (who was All That AND The Wolf Man as well)... Always welcome in any film he did, never a bore, never miscast Christopher Lee literally caught the last train out of Horror Star-dom. He made it all work for him and managed to keep his marriage intact through-out. And what the hell, he made literally the single greatest exit in the history of sound film, at the very climax of "The Face of Fu Manchu" (1965), when the evil Doctor's plan is thwarted and his secret hideout is blow up Lee is seen superimposed over the conflagration resplendent in his Dragon Robes and intoning in that priceless baritone "The World...Shall Hear From Me....Ahhhhgainnnnnn!!!"

Monday, June 01, 2015

Archie's Betty (2015)

I give Gerald Peary credit, he has managed the implosion in the film criticism market with aplomb reinventing himself as a Professor of film Studies and now lately a director of documentaries. And he wants to spend three years tracking down the real life inspiration for "Betty Cooper" (from Archie Comics) who the hell am I to judge? Gerald Peary is unique, he is a comics fan with no abiding interest in super heroes, his tipple from boyhood was Archie Comics. Hence this his current documentary which among other things explores the career of Archie Comics artist Bob Montana who grew up it turns out in Haverhill Ma and likely based a lot of the characters on his friends at the local high school! And from there Peary traces the inspiration for blonde Betty Cooper to one Betty Tokar, the ninety four year old Hungarian widow of the Police Chief of Perth Amboy New Jersey. The detective work seems pretty definitive & Peary's narration is breezy the whole concoction though is more akin to a "Essay Film" focused as much on the director's lifelong relationship with Archie an his universe as it is on the career of Bob Montana and the quest for "Betty Cooper". Nevertheless the facts are all there and Ms Tokar's claim to being the perpetually lovelorn Betty Cooper's avatar seems as secure as it can be given the slippery committee driven nature of comic book artistry. I think though, Peary have hit on something here, there are literally dozens of good stories from the golden age of comic books begging for documentary treatment. the Rise and Fall of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, Who Really Created Batman? or even good long sit down with Ramona Fradon one of the few women artists who date back to the golden age of comics and that just off the top of my head. Anyhow the ICA is screening this film twice more on June 14th I advise all and sundry to check it out....