Thursday, October 29, 2009

Wasted Postage: Reports from the Netflix theater

The Night of the Hunter (1955)
When John, the grade-school-age protagonist, is enveloped by the shadow of Robert Mitchum's black hat in the first act, you know you're in for one of the grimmest film noirs of the era — a special feat for a genre named after the French word for "dark." The children first see Mitchum standing ominously outside the front gate of their southern home like an owl waiting for its prey's first mistake. Initially, John and his sister don't know that Mitchum is at their home for a very sinister reason, a realization that comes to John much faster than adults easily taken in by Mitchum's dark charm. Mitchum's character, a sociopath with delusions of divinity, dresses like a preacher and has the the duality of man tattooed on his fingers. His perverted sense of love and hate is delivered with the power and articulation of an earnest sermon, though it has more in common with the hollow televangelists of today, interested in taking, not giving.

In "Night of the Hunter," he has come to take the fortune hidden by John's father shortly after a murderous bank robbery. John's father was arrested shortly after, and while on death row was cellmates with Mitchum, in jail briefly for auto theft. Only little John knows where the money is hidden. Before long it's a tension filled game of cat and mouse, with Mitchum slowly terrifying the children whenever the mother is in the other room. Despite a slightly disappointing second half and ending, the nearly flawless and unnerving first half has enough sparse and desolate scenes to fill plenty of quiet nightmares. A

The Big Steal
Robert Mitchum again stars here, a fast-moving and action-orientated noir set in Mexico. Standard plotting here, some money is stolen and everyone wants their hands on in. Mitchum is framed for a payroll he didn't steal and has to chase the guy who has it, while US military personnel pursues him below the border. A classic car chase is framed by Mitchum and co-star Jane Greer's stylized dialogue and solid chemistry. B+

Shrooms (2007)
"Hey, You guys wanna eat some ... SHROOMS?!?"
"OK, sure, let's go eat them SHROOMS (!!!) in the woods outside a haunted orphanage where children were tortured and killed!"
"We're just a bunch of cool and hot American kidz fornicatin' and takin' SHROOMS!!! in Europe, what could go wrong?"
"But watch out, don't eat the SHROOMS!!! with the black dot on top!"
"I really wish I hadn't eaten those SHROOOOOOOOOMS!!!"
The End.
I was just gonna leave this review like that, but two points: the whole thing is sort of a horror "Reefer Madness" for the shroom set, and the "twist" ending rips off ::SPOILER:: "High Tension." D


Anonymous said...

When I saw the preview for Shrooms I thought it was a spoof, if for nothing than the name of the movie itself, seriously? Shrooms? That's the best these movie people could come up with? It seemed clearly evident that there was an intended audience...

Malcolm said...

Mitchum is one of my favorite actors. One of the freakiest scenes in "The Night of the Hunter" is when we see what's become of Shelley Winters' character.

"The Big Steal" is one of the best chase films. I wish Mitchum and Jane Greer (aka "Chicquita") had made more films together.