Category: film

The Bird

The Maltese Falcon
Jessica May ought to have the edited version of FlashCast 25 in my grubby little hands shortly, but, in the meantime, have you fully enjoyed our weekend releases?

Tonight we’re off to the bright lights and cold pavement of the city, so that we might take in The Maltese Falcon on the big screen. You’ll have to excuse me if I get a little wound up on the topic in today’s blogging: it probably ranks above Casablanca for my favourite Bogart film.

Warner hated to see actors smoking on the screen, fearing it would prompt smokers in the movie audience to step out into the lobby for a cigarette. During the filming of _Maltese Falcon, The (1941)_, Warner told director John Huston that smoking in the film should be kept to a minimum. Bogart and Lorre thought it would be fun to annoy Warner by smoking as often as possible, and got their co-stars, Mary Astor and Sydney Greenstreet to go along with the joke. During the initial filming of the climactic confrontation, all four actors smoked heavily. After seeing the rushes, Warner furiously called Huston to his office and threatened to fire him from the picture if he didn’t tell Bogart and Lorre to knock it off. Realizing their prank had backfired, Bogart and Lorre agreed to stop smoking on camera. However, when the next series of rushes came back, it was obvious that the *lack* of smoking by the actors was taking away from the sinister mood of the scene. Huston went back to Jack Warner, and convinced him that the smoking added the right amount of atmospheric tension to the story, arguing that the characters *would* smoke cigarettes while waiting nervously for the Maltese Falcon to arrive.


Bogart & Lorre, still from The Maltese Falcon

The topic also reminds me of this fantastic Adam Savage talk from TED. It’s a bit of a geek-out-on-pixie-sticks, but the ride is definitely worth the price of admission.

[youtube_sc url=]

Sam Spade refers to Wilmer as a “gunsel”, a term the censors assumed was a slang reference to a gunman. […] It is more usually an “underground” term which refers to a person who is either a “fall guy” or a “stool pigeon”, in which case Spade is making both a direct and an indirect reference to Wilmer’s character.


Wilmer the Gunsel - still from The Maltese Falcon

Punctuation & Baby Killers

Cry Baby Killer 1958

I’d never heard of this film till today, but maybe that’s due to the poster’s punctuation?

Does he kill babies who cry, or are they trying to raise a warning about an approaching baby killer? Do they mean he blubbers as he kills?

Wait – are they trying to taunt an infant murderer? (“Baby-killer gonna cry? Cry baby-killer, cry!”)

Whatever the case, at least he’s keeping the mad-dog population down – going from a teenage rebel to an animal control technician may not seem like that great of a film plot, but Corman was working with tight budgets back in the late-’50s.


Many to collectTaken today, at the center of the consumer madness.

Tonight’s Flash Pulp will be posted on Sunday, as the whole crew is down with a bad case of the egg nog. To make up for our poor work ethic, on this, the most Victorian of holidays, we’ll also be releasing FlashCast 003 on the same evening.

Till then, blogging will be incidental at best, but know that we love you.

In the mean time, to fill your pulpy needs, why not browse the archive (or on iTunes), or check out our yulerelated episodes?

I myself am about to depart to undertake the annual viewing of MST3k’s Santa Claus Conquers The Martians.

Feel free to join us:


An Uncomfortable Song & Dance

I’m a big fan of older films, including musicals, and, like many buffs, I’ve found myself in the “no one likes to watch black & white movies, and that goes double for musicals” discussion.

While I do agree that a large portion of the viewing population is lost to the simple visual issue of aesthetics, I think many of my fellow enthusiasts downplay the fact that a lot of old film content is simply unpleasant. The glossing of the silver screen has lead me to notice some uncomfortable naïveté.Clark Gable smokingFor example, were you aware that in 2007 the MPAA, who gives the motion pictures their ratings, decided that excessive smoking can lead to a film being rated R? It’s apparently why Sigourney Weaver’s character begins Avatar as an intense smoker, then, midway through – post-MPAA announcement – she suddenly drops off.

I know from living with two recovering nicotine addicts that my personal safety is always improved by avoiding films with copious amounts of puffing, which excludes a lot of pre-’50s pieces.
James Cagney hits Mae Clark with a grapefruit in Public EnemyWhile it’s never been especially all right to go around pummeling ladies, I’ve certainly had a few moments of “whoa” while watching older films. There’s a scene in The Philadelphia Story where Cary Grant covers Katherine Hepburn’s face with his palm and throws her to the floor – it’s played for comedy, and I think it works as such, but the first time I saw it I had to rewind to be sure that my eyes had just taken in what my brain was telling me they’d seen.

It’s not that every third film had a wife-beater, but there was certainly a lot less room for an actress to be anything other than a saint or a hussy, and the use of ladies as MacGuffins to demonstrate villainous brutality can really grate on today’s viewers.
Astaire in blackface in SwingtimeThe worst offender, however – and this goes double for musicals – is casual racism.

Judy Garland in blackfaceIt’s horrible enough to have a film with a groveling, illiterate black-servant character played for comedy, but there’s a period in musicals in which you can not avoid a well-known actor showing up, under a cake of makeup, to make the modern audience uncomfortable. The picture above is Fred Astaire, in blackface, for the movie Swing Time, which is otherwise a nice little dance & song flick, and the picture on left is Dorothy herself, Judy Garland, from Everybody Sing.

Toto, we’re not in the deep south anymore:


– and let’s not even discuss how much blackface Bing Crosby did.
Bing Crosby in Holiday Inn
The usual reaction is to say these problems are “of their time”, as if that gives them some pass – personally, I don’t mind glaring menacingly at the bad so that I might enjoy the good, but I also understand that people who don’t have the stomach for it are also “of their time.”


Right now this is a blog post about media, but in 20 years I may edit it to make puppies the focus.

Remember that movie, Goldeneye?
In-Game BrosnanPierce Brosnan as James Bond doing the shooty-jumpy-explodey-spy-thing. They turned it into a video game at the time of its release, a classic for the GameCube that I wasted many hours on in my youth.

Like many media properties in these apparently creatively-devoid days, someone thought it was time for a remake. This time around, however, Brosnan isn’t the man facing off against rogue Russians, they’ve opted to update the game by inserting current-Bond, Daniel Craig, into the role.Daniel Craig as James Bond in GoldeneyeThis, to me, falls directly in line with the buggering up of Star Wars, and the removal of weapons from E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial.

At some level these are pop-cultural artifacts that are being monkeyed with – what happens when DVD becomes entirely digital and then that becomes some crazy cloud based share-system, and the “early versions” are progressively culled?

“So what?” I can hear that guy at the back of the room saying, “I don’t care if Han shot first.”

Fine – but what happens when a precedent of historical editing is put in place and Akira Kurosawa’s great-great-great-granddaughter decides Seven Samurai would be better if it featured an animated cyber-rabbit as well as digitally inserted Olsen-Twin septuplets as the leads?


Horror Express

Horror Express Poster I haven’t been writing reviews of all the films I’ve watched so far for the October 31, although I’ll probably go back and chat them up when I have more of an opportunity – still, I wanted to take a moment to mark the watching of Horror Express, (aka Panic in the Trans-Siberian Train,) as it certainly deserves a bit of the spotlight.

The movie features two of my favourite actors, Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, as a pair of scientists traveling back from Siberia, where Lee has recently made a fantastic discovery. Inevitably the find, basically the corpse of something akin to the abominable snowman, almost immediately jumps up and begins murderizing folks.
Horror Express Peekaboo

Filming began very soon after the death of Cushing’s wife, a blow he never entirely recovered from, and the lore is that he only stayed on the set because of the warmth Christopher Lee’s family showed him, and the swapping of stories from previous productions with Mr Lee himself. Lee certainly takes the helm for intensity in this film, although Cushing often gets the best lines, including: “Us? Monsters? We’re BRITISH.”

The cast also includes a Robert Deniro-lookalike as a guy who, wink-wink, nudge-nudge, isn’t at all based on the famous Russian mad monk Rasputin.
Horror Express: Evil Monk

Despite all this fantastic ridiculousness, my favourite part of the film is the barely explained entrance of Telly Savalas in the final act. Kojak comes riding in as a supposed Cossack, spouting barely comprehensible lines and beating people senseless without provocation.
Telly Savalas In Horror Express
The first time I saw this film I thought the director was looking for a Deus Ex Machina to defeat the monster – an American hero to step up and quash the beast – but instead Telly ends up on the floor, dead, no more than fifteen minutes after his appearance.

Terminator Eyes from Horror Express

Who actually quells the menace? Well – I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but the truth is that it’s basically defeated by Russian bureaucracy.

You can find the full film on Youtube, if you don’t have the five dollars to fish it out of a Walmart bargain bin – I’ve certainly left enough of the surprises intact to make it worth your time.


October 31 – #1: Bride Of The Monster

Bride Of The Monster

I’ve long loved Lugosi, in all his forms, and this movie scratches a festering itch every time I sit down for a re-watch.


What follows isn’t so much a review as a series of disjointed notes.

It seemed more appropriate.

  • You know you’re getting yourself into a quality movie when the major set of the film is obviously made up of large stone bricks painted onto drywall.
  • Lugosi explains that Tor Johnson’s Lobo was supposedly found in “The Wilds Of Quebec”. Technically, I was born not far from “The Wilds Of Quebec”, so maybe I am also half monster/big guy with an awkward vest.
  • This was Bela’s last speaking role. His last appearance was in Ed Wood’s next film, Plan 9 From Outer Space.

Whim Wham

  • Bela uses the Dracula hand wave of hypnotism in this movie too. I realized, after seeing him put the main female character under his influence, that I’d probably watch The Mentalist if he played the lead.
  • Oddly, this film actually passes “The Bechdel Test” in spades. Not only does the female lead play a hard-nosed reporter, she blows off her love interest for work, and has repeated conversations about the plot without any males on screen.

The Bechdel Test, sometimes called the Mo Movie Measure or Bechdel Rule is a simple test which names the following three criteria: (1) it has to have at least two women in it, who (2) who talk to each other, about (3) something besides a man. –

  • Finally, despite the fact that the crux of the movie largely revolves around people accidentally falling into the arms of an inanimate octopus, somehow it has really nice looking cars throughout.


31 in 31: Bride Of The Monster, etc.

Poster for Bride Of The MonsterThis poster is way more coherent than the film could ever hope to be. I’m glad they got the octopus in there at least.

Tonight I begin my annual quest to watch 31 horror films over the course of October. It’s not an easy challenge at the best of times, but this year should be especially interesting as we’re still attempting to complete our move and have quite a few social events lined up for the month.

That said – the first movie I will undertake to watch will be Bride Of The Monster, a Bela Lugosi flick. I’ll likely be watching it with The Sevens, so it will have to be the MST3k version. Feel free to watch it at the following link, and, when I write my mini-review, we can compare notes.


Spaceballs 2

Schwartz Fight

This is an odd note, but: Do you remember the sequel to Spaceballs?

I recall as a kid really wondering if the fourth wall breaking gag that Yogurt made near the end of the movie – “Spaceballs 2: The Search For More Money” – would ever actually happen.

For one nation, it sort of did.

From Wikipedia:

In September 2004, news about a sequel, parodying the Star Wars prequel trilogy, appeared on the internet. It was rumored that there was going to be a sequel entitled Spaceballs 3: The Search for Spaceballs 2, but the sequel turned out to be a hoax.
In 1989, the movie Martians Go Home was distributed in the Italian market as Balle Spaziali 2 – La vendetta (Balle Spaziali being the localized title of Spaceballs). – article

I can find no evidence of the original Martians Go Home, nor its Italian variant, on youtube. The cast listing on imdb is a hodge-podge of B-actors of the period, as well as some low-end stand up comedians.

Martians Go Home

My one hope is that, with a title like “Space Balls 2: The Vendetta”, it ends with Randy Quaid’s character beaten by Martian felons.


Nuts From Underground

Last night my brain was assaulted by a commercial for THIS:


I wrote about the original Underground Comedy Movie some time ago, while attempting to figure out what the deal with the Slap Chop Guy’s name was, but I never would have guessed that Vince Offer would throw his Sham-Wow money behind attempting a second stab at his real dream, acting. Image found at http://buzznet.comFor those who don’t recall, we’re talking about a fellow whose original effort at breaking into the movie business was so bad that he ended up selling it himself via late night infomercials; it’s actually how he got into the business of selling garbage no one needs.Arrested ShlomiI would love to show you a youtube clip of the original Underground Comedy, just to demonstrate how drab and soul-sucking it was, but Vince has had every scrap of it removed from the usual public video feeds.

– including the trailer.