March 26, 2016

The Money Pit Is Well Shot

Unwinding and watching The Money Pit this weekend, I appreciated how well it is shot, especially compared to other Tom Hanks comedies of the 80s, like The Burbs.
For example, there's one clever shot in The Money Pit where Anna and Max are haggling over a painting Anna wants to sell to Max. They walk down a Manhattan sidewalk, cross Park Avenue and East 56th Street, and enter a Mercedes dealership. The whole shot is done in one take from inside the showroom picture window (see screenshots). I exclaimed to Emily "this is shot like a Woody Allen movie!" and I was more right than I knew:
The Money Pit was shot by legendary cinematographer Gordon Willis, who shot that extremely long take of Alvy (aka "Max") Singer and his friend Rob as they walk down a long stretch of East 66th Street in Annie Hall (12 blocks north and 9 years earlier).
Willis also shot a bunch more Woody Allen films, and some other famous movies, such as Klute, The Parallax View, Presumed Innocent, and The Godfather trilogy!
Meanwhile, I love The Burbs, but it's shot on Universal's "Wisteria Lane" back lot (of Desperate Housewives fame) and it looks like a overlit television show. Sure enough, it was shot by Robert M. Stevens, who has shot a handful of feature films, and a lot of television.

When the shot begins you can barely seen Anna and Max in the distance. Here they're crossing Park Avenue...

Stepping onto the sidewalk...

Entering the showroom...

...and into the Mercedes showroom, all in one shot.

March 19, 2016

Thunderball Re-Evaluated

I have always liked Sean Connery's underwater classic Thunderball. I suspect it's one of the Bond films that ABC used to show as their Movie of the Week on Sunday evenings? Last year I discovered it's not universally loved, while listening to the James Bonding podcast. So when a slew of Bond films became available for free (again) on Amazon Prime Video, I put my critical hat on and tried it again.
I have seen the movie many times but the plot is confusing when you pay attention to it, especially the first act:
In the cold open (before Tom Jones sings the terrific theme song), Bond attends the funeral of SPECTRE's Number 6, Jacque Bolvar, who has faked his death and then attends his own funeral in drag as his own grieving widow. Why does he risk this? Bond susses out the ruse, follows him home, and after a furniture-wrecking melee, murders Number Six. Bond recovers from his injuries (getting whacked by Number 6 with a fireplace poker) at a health clinic.
Hard to be intimidated by a supervillain
who drives a white Ford T-Bird convertible?
Meanwhile SPECTRE's Number 2, Emilio Largo, has hatched a scheme to steal an RAF bomber for its two atomic bombs, then extort millions from the world's governments. NATO pilot Major Francois Derval has been invited to fly on the bomber. SPECTRE has recruited a pilot "Mr. Angelo" to undergo reconstructive surgery to mimic Derval. Mr. Angelo, face wrapped in bandages to conceal his "Derval" face, is at the same health clinic as Bond pretending to be recovering from a terrible car crash.
The actor who plays SPECTRE #5
also played Delbert Grady in The Shining.

Mr. Angelo visits Major Derval - where SPECTRE agent Fiona has been seducing him - kills the pilot, and replaces him. They bring Derval's corpse to the spa to complete the swap. It's just bad luck for SPECTRE (and clunky screenwriting for the movie) that James Bond is recuperating at the same clinic as your NATO impostor, but it's sloppy espionage to "sneak" a dead body into the clinic in an ambulance, under a red blanket?
Thunderball features Bond at his most predatory. The filmmaker's sexual philosophy seems to be "women don't want to have sex with Bond, but intercourse with Bond is so pleasurable to the woman, by forcing himself on them, he's doing the women a favor - 'you might not think you want to screw me, but you'll be thanking me later.'"
While recuperating at the spa, a SPECTRE agent attempts to kill Bond, but he's saved at the last moment by Pat the masseuse. Pat takes responsibility for the "accident", and Bond exploits this misunderstanding to extort sex from her in exchange for his silence. Thanks to the filmmakers' sexual philosophy, in the aftermath of this sexual bargain, Pat seems to have enjoyed this sex-for-silence deal.
The band (in the red vests) are "playing" their instruments
but the filmmakers forgot to add any music for this slow dance scene?

Some scattered thoughts and ideas while rewatching Thunderball:
  • I love that the front for SPECTRE's headquarters in Paris is the charitable "International Brotherhood for the Assistance of Stateless Persons" - an especially relevant cause during the Syrian migrant crisis of 2016!
  • Everybody in SPECTRE wears octopus signet rings, which seems to give away their membership in this secret cadre, so why do they wear them?
  • Every new car in the movie is a Ford or a Lincoln. Largo drives a white T-Bird convertible - in Paris no less - the redhead Fiona drives a sky-blue Mustang convertible, and Bond drives an enormous Continental while visting the Bahamas.
  • Great score, and good theme song sung enthusiastically by Tom Jones.
Love love Q's pineapple-print tropical shirt!