Found-Again Friday: Shadow of a Doubt

Why Found-Again? I recently visited home, and this is my mother’s favorite Hitchcock film, so it seemed like a natural choice. (It was also, according to the DVD’s special features, Alfred Hitchcock’s favorite.) After being unexpectedly bored stiff by Vertigo, I wondered if I should even bother revisiting this one, but I’m glad I did.

The Premise: A little tired of her suburban family, late-adolescent eldest daughter Charlie is thrilled to discover that her namesake uncle (played by Joseph Cotten) will be paying them a visit. But as you might expect, Uncle Charlie has one heck of a dark secret: he’s also known as the Merry-Widow Murderer. When Little Charlie begins to smell a rat, it’s a tense contest of wills.

It’s a good thing Mom likes this film, since I immediately recognized myself in the movie family’s middle child, the never-silent bookworm Ann. Everything about this movie is close to perfect, in fact: the characters are multifaceted, there’s plenty of humor and pathos along with the suspense, and it’s a great portrayal of relationships…of people with the world at large, within families, within towns.

The Verdict: Very good, and thank heavens: hating on a legend always makes me feel terrible.

Might go well with: Charade remake The Truth About Charlie. Also, it looked like they were having crème brûlée in one of the scenes; on the other hand, is there anything that doesn’t go well with?

(Warning: trailer telegraphs most of ending and is wildly spoiler-y with regard to Uncle Charlie. I almost recommend against watching it.)


Found-Again Friday: The Three Lives of Thomasina

Sorry for missing last week: I guess I’m about as good at keeping to my writing schedule while distracted as you people are at voting in blog polls.

Here we are, at the third of perhaps six live-action Disney movies that occupied my youth (I’m trying to decide whether to buy the fifth, and the sixth is The Misadventures of Merlin Jones, to which I am declaring the less well-known eternal No).

Why Found-Again? It’s probably hard to find an adult audience for this: Unlike The Moon-Spinners with its intrigue or Darby O’Gill with its grown-up problems, this is pretty definitely a child-focused movie. Thanks to my natural immaturity, however, I persevered.

The Premise: What if James Herriot had been a widower with no bedside manner whatsoever?

Widower/veterinarian/emotionally crippled person Andrew MacDhui * (the Secret Agent Man himself, Patrick McGoohan) has an already strained relationship with his young daughter when he kind of kills her cat. Fortunately, the titular feline Thomasina is more resilient than she looks, and she’s taken in by a woman rumored to be a witch (Susan Hampshire:  if you told me she was the prettiest woman on earth when this was filmed, I’d believe you).

I think the ideal audience for this movie was probably kids exactly like me: raised on James Herriot stories and not allowed to have a cat. (Fans of Egyptian myth will also enjoy Thomasina’s brief trip to kitty heaven.)

The Verdict: Can you doubt it? Right back down the rabbit hole for me. Sure, it’s Disney, but beneath that is a story about the problems we have relating to each other as humans and the role our relationships with animals can play in solving those. And if that’s too sappy for you, there’s a snooty cat in a bonnet.

On the other hand, I’m still not sure what to make of the plot point where it’s essential to save the life of a guide dog who wandered into traffic. I hope that village also has a good doctor.

Might go well with: Fish, the All Creatures Great and Small TV series.


*When I saw this movie at age 8, I loved learning how to spell this. It’s still fun to type, in fact. MacDhui MacDhui MacDhui.


Next time: Connor MacLeod + fun. Weird.


Found-Again (Maybe) Friday: Vertigo

Why Found-Again? An usually good question! When I told my mother I’d added some Hitchcock to the ol’ Netflix queue, she said, “Ooooh. Vertigo. Have you seen it before?” and I had to admit I was stumped: the end of Mel Brooks’s Hitchcock parody High Anxiety borrows heavily from Vertigo, and so I wasn’t sure whether I’d seen the real deal or a cunning imitation that would fool a five-year-old. I’m still not, either.

The Premise: Ex-cop with a well-founded fear of heights Scottie Ferguson (James Stewart) is asked by an old friend to do a spot of surveillance. The subject? The friend’s wife, who is feared to be having a breakdown.

Is our hero being played as a pawn in a web of psychologically complex intrigue that will eventually involve tall buildings? Is this Hitchcock?

First, the good parts: Vertigo is a beautiful, beautiful movie, with gorgeous San Francisco scenery and costumes by Edith Head. It stars Kim Novak, the archetypical Hitchcock blonde, and features Barbara bel Geddes as an adorable artist who’s still sort of in love with Scottie. As someone whose youthful fear of heights once led to hyperventilating in a lighthouse, I expected to be sympathetic to the protagonist, if nothing else.

What I didn’t expect was to be slightly bored as our hero spends an awful lot of time 1) driving around while wearing a hat and 2) professing deep, passionate love for a woman he’s barely met. There are ways to pull this off—I may have mentioned I’m a fan of old-time radio, where plot contrivances aren’t exactly unfamiliar territory—but I don’t think it worked this time.

The Verdict: …Maybe? As someone whose favorite Hitchcock will probably always be an eternal tie between Charade and Rebecca, it’s possible I’m just not the audience for this one.

Might go well with: After the Thin Man, a good stiff drink like the ones all the characters have in abundance—even the artist with the tiny, crappy kitchen.


Next time: I’m so glad I’m not a relationship counselor. Related: is a book ever a bad gift?


Found-Again Friday: Candyman

Long ago, I started my first little blog, in which I mainly wrote about horror things: movies, art, the occasional book, and a little bit of goth culture. When I started Our Cynical Omelet, I decided I was going to try to 1) be a little more dignified and varied in subject matter and 2) make sure I had no fewer than two things per week to write about.

One of those regular features per goal number 2 turned out to be about Highlander, so that was the equivalent of taking goal number 1, killing it, and desecrating its body. Which…kind of brings us to Candyman, in fact.

Why Found-Again? Because I am totally susceptible to horror movies: easily creeped out, easily grossed out, you name it. Candyman is chock-full of both of those things—it’s kind of what Clive Barker does—so I only watch it every other year or so.

The Premise: Doing your dissertation on a hook-handed urban-mythical boogeyman is a phenomenally bad idea. (I could have told the main character that: if you ever want to see a bunch of English professors become horrified about your career prospects, tell them you’re interested in folklore studies. Don’t ask how I know this.)

I suspect Tony Todd isn’t actually the scariest person on earth, but for the duration of Candyman, he absolutely is. The understandably vengeful spirit of a lynched artist, Candyman enjoys:

  • emerging from mirrors if his name is said five times
  • haunting housing projects in Chicago
  • killing people with his hook hand
  • striding around in a big swingy coat while monologuing seductively, and
  • framing folklore-studies majors for murder (sort of) while pursuing them with unholy persistence.

Yes, the unhappy grad student Helen (Virginia Madsen) is in his sights, and all she wanted to do was make a name for herself at conferences and get her husband to stop being such a pompous dick.

Actually, given the end of the movie, I suspect both of those things happened. Let me revise that to add “…while still being able to enjoy it.”

The Verdict: This is, though hardly without flaws, a great horror movie—smart and atmospheric and fascinating and disgusting, occasionally all at once. It helps, of course, that I’ll watch Tony Todd in anything.

Might go well with: Anything that won’t cause repeated trips to a room with mirrors, if you know what I mean.  (Honey is probably also right out.)


Next time: I cover a reasonable amount of ground in watching Highlander.

Found-Again Friday (on Saturday): Octopussy

Sorry for the delay: the snow and the recent loss of a pet have been sapping my will to blog.

Why Found-Again? Free association from seeing someone throwing knives on TV, as a matter of fact.

Octopussy was the second James Bond movie I ever saw (the first being Live and Let Die, which still has my favorite opening sequence of any Bond movie ever) and is regarded by a surprising number of people as one of the worst. Helpful empirical tip: nothing that starts with a clown murder can be completely bad. That… is just science.

The Premise: Following a trail that begins with a Fabergé egg, James Bond foils a nuclear plot by the evil Kamal Khan (the late Louis Jourdan) with the help of nefarious smuggler/entrepreneur/cult leader Octopussy, whose dealings with Khan are going sour and who has a pet poisonous octopus. Who are these people who hate this movie??

I will concede that it’s a bit formulaic, and I know Mr. Moore isn’t everyone’s favorite glass of shaken-not-stirred. As a freshly minted young fan, though, I found this an excellent Bond 101: exotic locale, tuxedos, beating the bad guy at a game of chance, scheming Soviets, chase scenes, bizarre weapons…and the women!  I’ve always wondered whether Magda using her sari to escape Bond on the balcony would get old for me, and recent viewing has proved it probably never will.

The Verdict: Those of you who remember the scenes of Octopussy fighting bad guys with a sword can hardly doubt my verdict. It’s one of the few times I’ve watched a Bond movie and not wanted to be Bond: who needs MI6 when you have an octopus cult?

Might go well with: Sushi, Indian food, and a look at some Fabergé.


Next time: You know. Sword stuff.



Found-Again Friday (Well, Valentine’s Day): Singin’ In The Rain

Why Found-Again? This one, like a few before it, is cheating: I watch this every year on Valentine’s Day.

I can’t really remember when this became a tradition for me: I decided to watch it one year when I thought I’d have nothing else going on and wanted a movie that would have some romantic aspects, but not too many. Singin’ In The Rain still delivers all that and more, and so it’s become my go-to no matter what kind of Valentine’s Day I’m having that year.

The Premise (to most people): Handsome leading man Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) gets a rude awakening when talkies replace silent films, but prevails with the help of the ingenue he loves (Debbie Reynolds) and his best friend.

The Premise (to me and people I’ve persuaded to watch the movie): The snarky, sensible, and crazy talented Cosmo Brown (Donald O’Connor) rolls with the punches—in some cases literally—as the film industry changes. Also, his friend Don has problems both romantic and professional.

I stand by my interpretation 100%. Gene Kelly is good-looking and an excellent dancer, but Donald O’Connor is the star of the movie, and all too few people seem to know it. Don’t believe me?

(Warning: contains musical number, if you’re against that sort of thing.)

The actual “Singin’ In The Rain” song might be more iconic, but this is friggin’ amazing.

The Verdict: Are you kidding me? Go watch this right now. Here’s some more:


Might go well with: Given that my traditional Valentine’s Day food involves stuffing cinnamon candy hearts into my mouth until I look like a vampire, I’m just going to say champagne.

Next time: One of my favorite parts of Highlander for TCBOM!. Our long(-winded) nightmare is almost over! And no, I don’t mean me.

Found-Again At-Last Friday: Flashdance

You may have gathered from past ruminations on murder shows and evil cartoon cobras that I was not particularly censored in my viewing as a child, and you’d be right. (That doesn’t mean I ran wild: in the days of network TV, just having a child-sized bedtime prevented you from seeing a lot of things—and when Mom figured out those things included The Twilight Zone, I got a dispensation for that, too.)

In fact, the only thing I remember anyone specifically not wanting me to watch was 1983’s Flashdance, and given that one of my parents would later painstakingly explain the “dickless” joke from Ghostbusters on the way back from the theater, it may have been less about censorship and more about being unwilling to take on the annotation.

Happily, Netflix has offered Flashdance on streaming, so I spent part of New Year’s Eve remedying a years-old gap in my education.

The Premise: Spunky, insecure Alex (Jennifer Beals in the role that made her famous) welds by day, dances at the world’s coolest strip club by night, and dreams of being a professional dancer. Also, she has an adorable dog.

Flashdance is one of those movies people know from the pop-cultural collective unconscious even if they’ve never seen it: the off-the-shoulder sweatshirt, the bucket of water splashing down, the dance moves, the amazing soundtrack. What I hadn’t realized was how pretty the movie would be, though it’s no surprise with Adrian Lyne as director. Even the steel mills have a faint halo, buildings are lovingly filmed, and the scene where Alex panics in the dance academy has her moving through practicing dancers who threaten to engulf her like the clockworks of some gorgeous, terrible machine. Even the strip-club scenes (a club where none of the dancers ever completely denudes, and where elaborate costumes and themed dance routines are allowed to flourish) resemble early music videos.

None of that completely disguises the fact that Flashdance is a basic triumph-of-the-underdog movie with a bit of bildungsroman and fairy tale thrown in, but it does help the movie rise above that. To my surprise, this isn’t leaving my streaming list anytime soon.

The Verdict: An emphatic yes. I wish I’d made an effort to see this a lot sooner.

Might go well with: Rocky, Amélie, but probably not lobster.


Next time: How do you solve a problem like Maria Connor MacLeod?



Found-Again Friday (on Saturday): Mister Frost

One of the reasons my college friends and I could play an adaptation of the Kevin Bacon Game called “Four Degrees of Jeff Goldblum” was Goldblum’s European/British period in the early ‘90s: he starred with Emma Thompson and Rowan Atkinson in The Tall Guy, joined Bob Hoskins and Natasha Richardson in The Favour, the Watch, and the Very Big Fish, and was a serial murderer in 1990 psychological thriller Mister Frost.

When I started looking for the movie again, I expected it to be hard to find; I didn’t expect that Amazon wouldn’t even have it available in US format on DVD.* Fortunately, YouTube has hooked us up once again.

Why Found-Again? Until I sat down to rewatch it this week, that basic outline—and the line “Oh, yeah, the body; I was just burying it when you drove up”—were the only things I remembered about this movie other than a longing for something, anything to happen.

The Premise: Serial murderer/man with no first name Mr. Frost, who has spent two years in silence after being apprehended, is sent to a mental hospital, where he chooses as a confidante Dr. Day (the ever-magnificent Kathy Baker).

Did I mention he might be the devil? The movie sure does, most often through the character of Det. Detweiler (Alan Bates).

I can’t for the life of me (hah!) understand my impression that nothing happened in Mister Frost: there are philosophical discussions of evil, certainly, but there’s also a lot of investigation, internal tensions at the mental hospital, a gentle patient Frost pushes over the edge into clergy-murder, and a detective who is maybe mauled by a ghost. (You’d think at the very least the occasional shirtless Goldblum would have kept my attention as a college student, but I didn’t remember that, either.)

The Verdict: This movie was an awful lot better than I remembered, and exactly what I was hoping for when I started this project of revisiting things. Watching it, you realize that at some level it wouldn’t matter whether Goldblum’s character is the actual, just-what-it-says-on-the-Milton devil; as the lives of the characters spin out of control, he is exactly what we expect of Old Scratch.

I’m not going to go buy a European-region DVD player so I can have Mister Frost with me always, but I can at last recommend it.

Might DOES go well with: Since I had little memory of the plot, I sat down with unintentional irony to watch this with a microwave EVOL meal. Tasty!


* Note to self: Figure out why the Dutch are the only people still committing this film to DVD.


Next time: Highlander!

Got Time To Kill This Holiday? Watch This!

Happy Thanksgiving, readers (if any)!


I’m a recent convert to old-time radio, and this Thanksgiving  YouTube, my cinematic Narnia, became Noir-nia when I discovered The Fat Man, the 1951 movie based on the radio series. J. Scott Smart, the same actor who voiced the titular detective in the radio series, stars, accompanied by a young Rock Hudson, Julie London, and Emmet Kelly. Check it out!


Found-Again Friday: The Moon-Spinners

Settle in, children—here, near the fire. (Not that near, little Timmy—whoops, there he goes.) I’m going to tell you all the story of what it was like to have the Disney Channel as a premium channel in the mid-1980s, in the days before ubiquitous original programming. Would someone please pour some water on Timmy?

I suppose that characterization is a little off, both because I have yet to roast a small child and because, in addition to things like their aerobics show Mousercise, technically EVERYTHING on Disney at the time was original programming in the sense of being Disney. It’s just that it was original programming of old Disney movies and even older cartoons, many in heavy rotation. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen Ichabod and Mr. Toad more than I have seen The Thin Man, one of my favorite movies ever.

And so one summer I came into near-constant contact with The Moon-Spinners, the caper film with a nearly grown-up Hayley Mills and Peter McEnery, who seems to have been told “Just do your best Connery Bond swagger: it’ll be fine.” (And it is.)

Why Found-Again? The simple answer is that I took a few decades off between viewings of The Moon-Spinners until tracking down the DVD a few years ago. The honest answer is that, between Blue Labyrinth coming out this week and my local library’s complete dearth of books I may well hate rereading (though seriously, who checked out ‘Salem’s Lot?), none of us are quite getting the F-AF post we deserve.

The Premise: Nikky Ferris (Mills) is a young English girl traveling Greece with her musicologist aunt. While on Crete, she meets a nice young man named Mark who’s being stalked by their innkeeper’s crooked brother (Eli Wallach, who in an unintentional bit of hilarity resembles nothing so much as an evil Walt Disney). Mark is eventually shot, and Nikky’s attempts to help eventually start the caper in motion: can she find out what’s going on and get them both out of this alive?

In case it wasn’t clear from my post on Hart to Hart, I grew up so steeped in the mystery genre that my 10-year-old self watched The Moon-Spinners—the romantic setting, the danger, the bronzed young Englishman—and essentially decided this was a suitable life plan. (If that didn’t work out, late in the movie Pola Negri appears as a fabulously wealthy woman with a yacht and a pet cheetah, which to this day seems like a decent fallback position.) When I rewatched it, I fully expected to be cynical about all those things, but in my opinion The Moon-Spinners still holds up, even now that I can recognize all the unflattering English-tourist-abroad stereotypes.

The movie is based on Mary Stewart’s romantic suspense novel of the same name, and as always, I marvel at the instinct Disney movies of this era had for adaptation. Clearly some of the things in the novel—a dead child, a religious conflict—weren’t likely to stay in the script for a Hayley Mills vehicle, but it would never occur to me to move the pieces around the way Disney did and still come up with a coherent heist movie.

The Verdict: Even now, from the moment the weary travelers open the shutters and the sparkling water stretches before us, I am a goner for The Moon-Spinners.

Might go well with: Greek food, early Bond films…and possibly earplugs, because that song is going to be stuck in your brain for a while.

Next time: Hack (of some definition) and slash.