The Great Flamarion, The Great Piggy Bank Robbery, and a few more movies

Great Expectations (1946)
Streaming free at Internet Archive

From Chuck Dickens and David Lean, this is a quaintly dated drama of a poor boy who's offered a chance to become a rich boy.

He's in love with Jean Simmons, despite her being relentlessly obnoxious to him. She's pretty, and that's all that matters, so as years follow years he never stops putting up with her rudeness and snide remarks.

Even in Dickens' time, was there ever such a shortage of pretty women that men would fall for a beauty who offers nothing but insults?

I've never read the book, but everyone says this movie is sweet and charming. To me it was only weird.

Verdict: MAYBE. 

♦ ♦ ♦ 

The Great Flamarion (1945)
Streaming free at Internet Archive

This one's as crazy weird as the movie above, but it's a more interesting kind of crazy and weird. 

The inimitably ominous Erich von Stroheim plays 'The Great Flamarion', an arrogant, miserable vaudeville star whose shtick is gunplay. In his act, he stands on stage and shoots a cigarette out of someone's lips, then blam blam blam shoots all his gun's bullets in a tight pattern all around his partner/target.

#304  [archive]
JUNE 29, 2024

Flamarion has great gun control, but the guy he's shooting at every night is annoying, which might affect Flamarion's aim. To complicate matters, the annoying guy's wife is gorgeous, and she's the only human Flamarion doesn't hate. 

The movie is heavy-handed, has a cheap look to it, and the drama is ludicrous — but you can't look away.

Mary Beth Hughes is excellent as the femme fatale, von Stroheim is gloriously unbreakable, and Dan Duryea plays the annoying man so swell I wanted to shoot him myself. 

Directed by Anthony Mann, who made lots of great westerns. Produced by William Wilder (brother of Billy Wilder). Music by Alexander Laszlo, but the only sound you'll remember is blam blam blam. 

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦  

The Great Garrick (1937)
Streaming free at Internet Archive

David Garrick was an actor of some renown in the early 18th century, and this is a light comedy all about him.

Watching it, I soon wondered why I should give a damn about a 300-year-old ham, especially since the guy playing the world's finest actor is himself not a very good actor. But the flick is by James Whale (Frankenstein, The Invisible Man, The Man in the Iron Mask), so I watched it to the end.

The Great Garrick is a mild but passable farce about actors and acting, but there's nothing much more to be said about it.

Verdict: YES, with a shrug.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

The Great Los Angeles Earthquake (1990)
Streaming free at Tubi

Los Angeles topples, with a lame script. The earthquakes are mostly depicted by shaking the camera, dropping prop rocks, and crumpling a few unconvincing balsa-wood mockups of skyscrapers.

The stars are Joanna Kerns (Growing Pains) and Dan Lauria (The Wonder Years), and yes, it's a made-for-TV movie. A few better actors (Ed Begley Jr, Richard Masur, and Brock Peters) have smaller roles.

The only amusing moment is when the quake finally starts, and thwarts an assassination by knocking both killer and victim to the ground before the trigger can be squeezed.

My copy looks like a third-generation dupe of a VHS taped off-the-air, so smudgy that sometimes you can't tell which of the movie's three blonde white women is which. Even if it was clear as vodka, though, I'm pretty sure this made-for-TV movie sucks.

(The link above leads to a much clearer copy that's about an hour shorter than what I watched, but no, I'm not going to watch it again for a reassessment.)

Verdict: NO.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

The Great O'Malley (1936)
Streaming free at Internet Archive

The Great O'Malley has been on my watchlist for years, but wow it's not for me. 

Humphrey Bogart plays a mildly bad guy with a heart of gold, and he's the best part of the movie, but he's a small part. Mostly it's the feel-good story of Officer O'Malley (Pat O'Brien), the best darn cop there ever was, who's basically Mr Rogers with a badge.

Officer O'Malley only cares about fairly enforcing the law, and knows the law better than a judge, and he'll bring presents for your family, secretly finance your child's medical care, and spend his entire shift smiling and saying hello to people on the street, all of whom love him.

If you're looking for a fairy tale, gosh be golly and saints begorrah, The Great O'Malley is sunnier than sunshine on any sunny midsummer day. It's mighty hard to take, though, if you've ever seen a cop. 

Verdict: MAYBE. 

♦ ♦ ♦ 

The Great Piggy Bank Robbery (1946)
Streaming free at Internet Archive

Daffy Duck and Mel Blanc star in this cartoon by Robert Clampett. Daffy is detective Duck Twacy, investigating a series of piggy bank heists, including his own piggy bank.

Yes, there's a cameo by Porky Pig, in disguise. Also a wondrously surreal ending.

Eight laughs in 7½ minutes, with smiles all the way, and a side order of sufferin' succotash.

Verdict: YES. 

♦ ♦ ♦

Erich von Stroheim's review of Citizen Kane 

Documentary, not drama: Man with a Movie Camera


• • • Coming attractions • • •     

The Great Race (1965)
The Great Santini (1979)
The Great Silence (1968)
The Great Train Robbery (1978)
The Great Ziegfeld (1936)

... plus schlock, shorts, and surprises

— — —
Now accepting movie recommendations,
starting with the letter 'H'.
Just add a comment, below.
— — —

Illustration by Jeff Meyer. Click any image to enlarge. Arguments & recommendations are welcome, but no talking once the lights dim, and only real butter on the popcorn, not that fake yellow stuff. 
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  1. Recommendation! "The Hot Spot," a film from 1990 that is very out of time in setting and tone, and also a throwback to old Hollywood-style behind-the-scenes mayhem. Directed by Dennis Hopper during his "hey I'm no longer stoned" comeback era, who blamed Don Johnson for arriving in a helicopter with an attitude and a team of hairdressers for the movie's failure. Virginia Madsen was apparently grossed out at how lurid Hopper shot their sex scenes which are not porn, but probably closer to Cinemax late night content than anything else with this caliber of actors. Years later after Hopper died, Johnson said that Hopper was casting for a heist movie (he even named the screenwriter), then 3 days before shooting began completely subbed out a different script written for Robert Mitchum in the '50s. Seems believable based on what's on screen.

    It's basically a '50s noir film set in a hot Texas small town, an amiable but amoral drifter, bored housewife, etc. and it doesn't make a lot of sense but I don't think I have very high standards for noir films, since they often don't and I enjoy them anyway. Madsen is magnetic, Johnson is surprisingly good, and Jennifer Connelly is one of the most beautiful women in the world and was topless for absolutely no reason except to make a movie with Jennifer Connelly topless. Like no plot reasons at all. You could have done anything with that scene and Dennis Hopper said, let's see Jennifer Connelly's boobs.

    Despite all this, it has one of the greatest soundtracks ever, recorded by John Lee Hooker and Miles Davis (I heard somewhere recorded in different studios at different times, but they play together wonderfully). When the movie bombed it was quickly released on its own.

    1. Your description of The Hot Spot sounds very familiar, and I was certain I'd seen it, but I'm also certain I'd remember Jennifer Connelly's boobs, and I don't, so maybe I haven't. Sounds great, and it's on the list now.


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