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Archive for March 2nd, 2009

My mother, by and large, hates the movies I review.   By hates, I mean, she tells me all the time that she just wishes that I would review something that didn’t involve massive explosions, decapitations and blood splatters.

Okay, fair enough.

So I made a deal with her that we’d do one movie a month that she got to pick where I would even sit down and watch it with her.   This month, Mom picked The Thin Man with Myrna Loy.

I have a fondness for mystery flicks in the first place.   The Thin Man is about wealthy socialite Nora Charles and her husband Nick.   Nick’s a famous private detective who’s retired to the easy life, helping Nora manage her family’s multitude of businesses.  When they return to New York City after a few years away, Nick finds himself the target of a young woman whose inventor father has disappeared and is now implicated in a series of murders.   She begs and pleads Nick to take the case, but to no avail.  Nick winds up intertwined in the case and has no alternative but to solve it.   The basic premise and plot development is pretty standard but The Thin Man’s witty back and forth sparring matches between Nick and Nora is what’s made it so memorable.

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Nick: (after sending Nora off to a tourist attraction without her approval)  How’d you like Grant’s tomb?

Nora: It’s lovely.   I’m having a copy made for you.

My mother watched this a lot as a child and claimed she wanted to live just like that when she grew up, only when she grew up she came to the sudden realization that Nick and Nora lived in the ’30’s.   My poor mother.

You can see the appeal of Nick and Nora as my mother pointed out – during the midst of the Great Depression, Nick and Nora were fabulous, glamorous and living the high life without a care in the world.   Snappy dialogue and characters soaked in booze, as my mother pointed out, let audiences live vicariously through the Charles’s while most folks were struggling to make ends meet.  Nora wore wonderful, expensive outfits and Nick is, well, to put it kindly – eccentric.   He spends his Christmas morning shooting balloons off the Christmas tree with a BB gun in their Manhattan hotel room.

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Speaking of being soaked in booze, one of the many things I find amusing about The Thin Man is how much the characters drink.   If Nick and Nora were representative of even one tenth of Manhattan island, I’m shocked that the fumes of gin and vermouth didn’t float across the pond and choke the residents in London or Paris.   There’s one point in the movie where Nora realizes Nick’s had six martinis already, so she instructs the waiter to bring her five martinis in addition to the one in her hand…. SO SHE CAN CATCH UP.  Hot damn.

It’s a miracle these people weren’t stumbling down the street drooling on themselves.   I take it back – in some parts of the film they really are stumbling and drooling, but that’s neither here nor there.  They’re charming cinematic drunks but my god – Nick and Nora must have consumed 85% of their daily categories in Manhattans and martinis.

My mother loves the costumes in The Thin Man.   I’m not a huge costume person yet I can see the appeal of this classy number.

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Note the drink in Nora’s hand.  Alcohol clearly solves everything.

I really like The Thin Man.  I don’t like it nearly as much as my mother does, but hey, that’s life.   I love the Nick and Nora dynamic, though, and it’s nice to see that it holds up many years later and eventually, it will be a welcome addition to the DVD collection.

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Well, what else do you expect from William Shatner?

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Comanche Blanco tells the tale of two twin brothers who are half Comanche and half white. Notah has chosen the war-path (har har) and lives among the Cherokee, raiding stagecoaches and generally being a major pain in the ass. Johnny Moon instead lives among white folks and Notah’s constant killing and stealing causes big problems for him. See, when your identical twin robs people and then shoots them all dead, it may cause a few issues for you in the town.
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Johnny issues an ultimatum: he declares that the two are no longer brothers and that he will see Notah in four days in a little town called Rio Hondo. There they will face off and whoever survives, wins. Johnny rides ahead to Rio Hondo and waits, but other problems present themselves while Johnny is waiting for the showdown with his “former” brother.
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In other words, Comanche Blanco isn’t anything we haven’t seen before.

In fact, it’s a horrible mess in the loveliest of ways.

I have a notorious soft spot for William Shatner. I grew up watching Star Trek with my mom and I watched him for years on Rescue 911. (Please tell me someone remembers this show.) He seems to be someone who can laugh at himself and his portrayal of Denny Crane is so sweet yet insane that I just can’t help myself. Shatner seems well aware of the fact that he is no great shakes as an actor, but embraces it and laughs at it. I can’t snark on someone for that.

And here we see Shatner in full on hammy glory: Gone are the stilted inflections of Star Trek, but Shatner’s still pretty bad as the twins Johnny and Notah. He’s fun to watch, though, as either twin. Sure, he’s not good, but he is entertaining.

The rest of the movie is what’s truly awful: bad sets and crummy acting are rounded off with some very atrocious dialogue and actors who couldn’t deliver a good line to save their life. The depiction of the Comanche is equally hilarious: a mixture of Spanish and what appear to be Asian actors portray the Comanche (this film was made in Spain after all) complete with the “Me Tarzan, You Jane” type of dialogue that is painfully stereotypical for Native Americans in film.

Is it an entertaining film? I’d put it this way: Shatner’s entertaining, and the rest…not so much. It’s ridiculous: Comanche squaws run around in full sixties-style makeup. Shatner as Notah has facepaint that constantly changes so you’re left with glaring continuity errors. The supporting cast is fun to watch just to see them struggle through it.

Comanche Blanco good? Nay, never, but I think you could probably make a damn good drinking game out of it. Now that’s saying something.

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He made Dr. Ian Malcolm hot!   And he was charming, geek-sexy in The Fly before he busted out the Brundlefly crazy.

(I know some of you may want to hurl rotten food at me now, but… you’ll live, eh?)

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