It may be that the core of the character is really hard to define.Otherwise, I have no trouble recommending this often amusing, insightful glimpse into a complex family during an era of change. It may have no more weight than an old family snapshot of the era, but it is as telling and well-developed a snapshot as one could wish. We think of television as beginning in the ’50s, but that’s simply not true.This probably played in theaters as filler, but it is almost certainly a pilot for https://www.gclub.co/slot999/ early television. There is no way else to explain the opening wherein the male lead introduces his supporting cast.There are a number of pilots for unsold TV series still available, including a Sherlock Holmes pilot from the same era. There was even a brief series shot on film along similar lines (I think it was Boston Blackie). In any event, the interesting thing here is that some studios thought they could produce television shows the way they had produced theatrical B-movies.
Her short story, “The Birds,” is something of an anomaly in her work – on the surface its a sci-fi/disaster story that ends grimly (the farmer’s family is pretty much doomed); but it is also clearly an expressive allegory for what it must have felt like for many British during the Battle of Britain – the description of an army of seagulls appearing on the horizon could easily be that of a fleet of German bombers. The giveaway line comes from the farmer’s wife when she remarks that “surely the Americans will do something.” Of course they did, and they and the British went on to defeat the Germans, which makes the post-war publication of the story a little out of date.Hitchccock had gotten one of his most successful films from Du Maurier’s work – Rebecca – as well as one of his least successful, Under Capricorn. Deciding to take one of her most popular but least typical short stories as source for The Birds may have involved some risk – especially considering what he added to the original material. Obviously there was no longer any purpose served in evoking the Battle of Britain, so the location of the film is moved to America. The birds of the film then take on an entirely different quality – they become what can be called ‘an open metaphor’ meaning that they can be interpreted in any number of ways. To one asking “why are they attacking humans en masse?” the proper response is “what is it you most fear? that’s what they will represent to you.” Hitchcock does provide us with a key to his own interpretation, by adding a clinging mother to the family unit.
The best review here so far has been Timothy Farrell’s from 2007, that remarked this film as the best-paced and most consistent from director Mikels. But most of the comments, both favorable and unfavorable, have been largely on the money – which in itself tells us we have a rather strange critter here. I.e., how can we say of a film that it is a camp classic in one comment, and that it is not a camp classic in another comment, and yet both comments be right? How can we mock such a film for its cheesiness and then admit that it wallows in that cheesiness, as if cheesiness were among its redeeming values? The answer of course is that Mikels made this film with tongue firmly in cheek. It is simply a mistake to take this film seriously – Mikels is rushing this product through to the drive-in circuit targeting a teen-age audience (hence the lack of nudity or really gory effects), giving them moments allowing them to exclaim “oh, gross!” or “wow, that’s weird” while they take a breather from necking in the back-seat.
But it is available on DVD, and if you enjoy old-school kung-fu flicks, I think you will find this highly entertaining. The characters are all likable, the martial arts exquisite, the endangered-princess storyline a classic. It’s very fast paced, and moves well between episodes of fighting, occasional fits of comedy, and there’s even a touch of drama in the relationship between one of the monks and an old friend who has since become a nasty Ching general. The final battle is a wild mêlée and the ending teeters on the tragic without falling over the cliff. I’ve seen reviews of Dreamland that complain of the animation. The animation of Dreamland is clearly based on computer game CGI.
Instead Mikels simply pushes a ridiculous plot device – cats eating human meat go crazy, because desperate racketeers can’t afford the butcher’s bill – as far as it can go, and allows the characters involved to be their low-life selves. Thus we end up with a weird slice of trailer-trash Americana. That’s evident to some extent here as well, but in this case there seems to be a secondary audience targeted – those capable of getting in on the joke. That makes sense in a film made at the end of the ’60s camp fad; by the time Mikels made this film, the notion that cat-food could make monsters of little kitties could be recognized by many of the more ‘hip’ at the drive-in as a humorous excuse, after a few puffs on a doobie, to go back to necking in the back-seat.Ten stars for this bad movie because it is truly one of a kind. I’m not going to talk about the admittedly silly premise of the film, because it happens to be similar to the premise on which Val Guest built “The Day the Earth Caught Fire,” a very good sci-fi/disaster anti-nuke drama from the early ’60s. Guest demonstrated that the way to deal with a silly ‘scientific’ premise was to unravel it gradually, having no one accept it on face value, until it could no longer be denied; while concentrating your film-making abilities on the dramatic interaction between well-developed characters, supplying them with a convincing visual backdrop of the world eroding into chaos.Well that certainly doesn’t happen in this film.
Hitchcock, for better or worse, is the most overtly Freudian of directors – as the birds gather in the background preparing their assault, the central players quietly dance around the problem of the lead female’s sexual attraction to a man whom his mother has effectively neutered. Only the sudden onslaught of the birds allows him the moment to reclaim his status as head of the family, and by that time his would-be lover has been severely damaged. Anyone who knows Hitchcock’s body of work will recognize how this resonates with themes of sexuality and fear in his other films.But, again the birds are an open metaphor – Hitchcock is clever enough not to bind their threat too tightly to his own paranoias here. We are free to interpret them as we please, and to read the domestic drama as mere back-story to their unpredictable attacks. The film’s suspense thus hinges, not on our concern for the family’s problems, but on our own fears of inexplicable and sudden catastrophe.
I think the effort to achieve that is entirely successful, and this is one of Hitchcock’s most unsettling, and most memorable, accomplishments. Some B movies transcend, others lower themselves into the “so bad t’s funny’ category. But most fall into the general category of ‘good B-movie” – entertaining but forgettable.This film can be enjoyed as a good B-movie, If one doesn’t know much of film history, there it ends – a solid B- movie from the early ’40s.But pay attention! I’ve watched this film several times – it’s actually difficult to watch, the scene where the young boy gets wasted by Japanese machine gun fire is not fun.
And the hiring of Universal horror films writer Curt Siodmak to write the script is a nice touch of linking with the ‘grand tradition’ of Frankenstein films. It is certainly entertaining and moves quite well, and everybody puts their best into it. (The “making of” featurette on the DVD is a wonderful look into the making of a higher budgeted ‘indie’ movie by the way.) But there is one serious flaw to the film, and that is Renée Zellweger’s performance. Whenever the character undergoes pressure, she gets all wobbly and quirky, like a character actor playing a supporting role – but she’s not only the lead, she’s what the picture is all about, so this is definitely a flaw that threatens to derail the whole project.Fortunately, it doesn’t. First, of course, everyone else in the picture submits wonderful performances. Logan Lerman is a marvelous young actor who strikes chemistry with practically everyone he interacts with.
- Her short story, “The Birds,” is something of an anomaly in her work – on the surface its a sci-fi/disaster story that ends grimly (the farmer’s family is pretty much doomed); but it is also clearly an expressive allegory for what it must have felt like for many British during the Battle of Britain – the description of an army of seagulls appearing on the horizon could easily be that of a fleet of German bombers.
- Not great, but certainly of its time.The animation of Infinite Quest is also of its time, not great either, although given over to impressive visual effects in the foreground and background.
- It is certainly entertaining and moves quite well, and everybody puts their best into it.
- These characters are all profoundly unpleasant and two-dimensional; except for Martin, who’s rarely on screen.The film is apparently a remake of an Italian sex-farce, Wife for a Night; that in itself tells me that the whole project started off badly.
- We are free to interpret them as we please, and to read the domestic drama as mere back-story to their unpredictable attacks.
On the other hand, her desperate search for a husband to support her has a realistic edge – the ’50’s America was not kind to single moms. The question thus becomes whether the inner struggles involved in her effort to survive repeated crises is well presented. I’m not sure it is, but not from want of trying on Ms. Zellweger’s part.
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