#313- Meet Me in St. Louis

Quick recap: The Smith family encounters many ups and downs leading up to the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1903. A better title for the film could’ve been, If You Love St.Louis so Much, Why Don’t you Marry it?

a special ‘thanks’ to Judy Garland for getting this song stuck in my head for a week straight

Fun (?) fact: The mother of Margaret O’Brien (who played Tootie) wanted her child to get paid more, but the studio refused. Instead, they randomly chose a lighting guy’s daughter to fill the roll, going so far as to dress her and give her lines. The studio eventually backed down and O’Brien took her roll back over. The lighting guy then dropped a light during one of Tootie’s scenes, just narrowly missing her. He was later committed to an institution. Hollywood didn’t play around back then.

let me tell you, though, this kid was amazing

My thoughts: I love a good musical, and Meet Me in St. Louis didn’t disappoint. There were infectious songs, beautiful costumes, romance and an absolutely terrifying Halloween scene that gave me nightmares, so what else could I ask for?

So, first off, the entire cast was fabulous, especially Margaret O’Brien (as mentioned earlier) and Judy Garland as Esther Smith. I have heard her voice over and over in the Wizard of Oz but never really appreciated its depth until this movie. Side note: I had no idea this was considered a Christmas film. Garland singing Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas was damn depressing, which is just about what I expect all my holiday movies to be, so I’m on board. Anyway, I loved everything about Garland except for her eyebrows, which really weirded me out. But I also feel guilty about that knowing how much she went through with her looks. And maybe that was the style at the time? They were a little much, but didn’t detract from the overall tone.

Oh, honey. No.

And then there is that crazy Halloween scene, which just comes out of NOWHERE. The scene begins with Rose helping the little girls, Tootie and Agnes with their costume and I’m thinking it’s just going to be another cute peek into this family’s life. But then the girls go outside to join their friends, who have started a freaking BONFIRE in the street. What are they burning?Why are they burning things? Girls are dressed as boys and boys are dressed up as girls and it’s madness. There’s apparently some game going on where the older kids pretend to kill the neighbors by throwing flour in their faces and screaming, ‘I hate you!’. And the thing is, Agnes and Tootie already had a conversation with their mother about the flour so it’s a known thing. The rest of the movie is your typical romance and family fare, but this scene was downright creepy and I’d like to not think about Halloween before, let’s say, 1950.

The hell?

Final review: 5/5. I was originally going for a 4 but when you get a song stuck in your head for a week, it does things to you.

Up next: Grease

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#304- Fantasia

Quick recap: 8 pieces of Western Classical music are illustrated by the Walt Disney company.

Me, after eating that whole pizza the other night

Fun (?) fact: To this day, Disney still receives complaints from parents about the ‘Night on Bald Mountain’ sequence. It was removed from the film for several years after so many people complained that it frightened young children but later brought back to teach those kids to suck it up.

I blame the large nipples

My thoughts: I made invited my seven year old to watch Fantasia with me, hoping to further cultivate a love of music like I have. I loved this movie as a kid, but then again, I’ve always had a thing for Classical. My grandmother used to listen to it often and I remember falling asleep to various pieces at night, painting pictures in my head as the music swelled around me. Alas, this bonding moment with my son was not to be because he was asking to turn it off within 5 minutes. It wasn’t a complete wash, as you will see as I break down each segment:

Toccata and Fugue in D Minor– the animation was just a bunch of abstract art, which is basically the very definition of torture for a kid. The look in his eyes as the music continued was one of betrayal, since I had promised him he would enjoy it.

Nutcracker Suite- My kid loves The Nutcracker and wanted to listen to it constantly around Christmas. He enjoyed this segment better but would’ve much rather seen the ballet than the changing of seasons. The mushrooms dancing (albeit a little racist) was pretty cute.

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice– Mickey Mouse saves the day! My son thought the animation was really funny, except for the scene when he chops up the broom into little pieces.

Rite of Spring- The animation for this one started with the birth of our planet and ended with all the dinosaurs dying off. My kid has never really been into dinosaurs so he was mostly bored. I was amused watching what people in 1940 understood about our universe.

The Pastoral Symphony– The setting for this piece is Mt. Olympus. There are various centaurs, unicorns, and gods and not a nipple in sight. It was really creepy after awhile, this nipple-less world. My son thought the baby pegasus were cute but lost interest with the centaurs were hooking up. I don’t blame him.

Dance of the Hours-My son enjoyed this one as well, but didn’t understand how an alligator could lift a hippo. Buddy, you have no problem with an ostrich ballerina but an alligator and hippo dancing gives you pause? Moving on.

Night on Bald Mountain- My kid’s favorite holiday is Halloween so I thought for sure this would win him over. NOPE. Not even the screaming ghouls did the trick.

I’m sad that this movie didn’t really hold up as I remembered. On the positive side, I know what I can put on as punishment the next time my kid drives me crazy.

Final review: 2/5, although I would’ve rated it higher had I watched alone

Up next: Man of the West

#227-Now, Voyager

Quick recap: Charlotte Vale is a Crazy Cat Lady without any cats. On the verge of a mental breakdown because her mother is basically the worst, her doctor at a sanatarium  helps her come out of her shell. While on a voyage, Charlotte meets Jerry Durrance who is handsome, sweet and also married. The two have a very heavy affair and at the end of the trip, decide to part ways. As anyone who has ever been in love can testify, that’s easier said than done.

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You can never go wrong with a makeover montage! Too bad they weren’t around when this movie was made.

Fun (?) fact: People went nuts after seeing Paul Henreid’s act of lighting two cigarettes. He couldn’t go out in public without someone asking him to light one for them.

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Cancer is sexy as hell

My thoughts: Makeover scenes in movies generally make me cringe, but Now, Voyager takes it to a whole other level. I couldn’t decide which one was the worst: When a niece of Charlotte ridicules her during her nervous breakdown, or when the doctor breaks her glasses because she doesn’t need them now that she is ‘normal’ or when Charlotte shows Jerry a younger picture of herself to which he calls her the ‘fat lady with the heavy brows and all the hair’. But I guess women were cool with stuff like that back then because she fell in love with him shortly after. Damn, girl.

So, I’m torn with how I feel about Charlotte. Good for her for gaining all that confidence although the only thing that really did any good was getting a man. Later on in the film she breaks off an engagement to a guy because she isn’t feeling it, which is awesome, except that she still in love with Jerry, who is still married. I came around a little when Charlotte checked herself into the sanatorium when she feared another breakdown, until it became apparent she was only there to get close to Jerry’s depressed daughter, Tina. Damn ,girl.

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different Tina

I guess the love Jerry and Charlotte had was cute, but the thing with Tina kind of ruined it for me. When she initially saw the girl at the sanitarium and befriended her, I thought that was kind of sweet, especially seeing as how the two had a lot in common. I was even into the scene where Charlotte helps Tina call her father because she missed him so much and I admired her for not jumping on the phone and declaring her love for him. But then that night, Tina had a nightmare and Charlotte went in and cuddled her. Still a little sweet until that voiceover when she spells out that she had her lover’s daughter in her arms. I cringed even more when Charlotte had the girl call her the pet name Jerry gave her on the voyage and then at the end when she admitted to Jerry that keeping the girl felt like she was raising ‘their’ child. Damn, girl.

Final review: 2/5

Up next: Duck Soup

#218- Detour

Quick Recap: There are many reasons why hitchhiking is a bad idea, one of them being that you might be accused of murder.

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Or it might be Rodney Dangerfield. You just never know!

Fun (?) fact: Tom Neal, who played the main character Al, was convicted of killing his wife in 1965. I’d add something witty here, but that’s just sad and Tom Neal was an asshole.

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Tom Neal is an example of someone you wouldn’t want to pick up.

My thoughts: As I have most likely mentioned before (but am currently too lazy to verify), I have an extreme fear of being accused of a crime I didn’t commit. There are some people who go so far as to save all their receipts for the sole purpose of having an alibi in case they are in a situation that would warrant it, but (as mentioned before) I’m too lazy to do that. Plus, knowing my luck, if I did keep all of my receipts and was accused of a crime, the prosecution would probably use that as evidence that not only was I guilty, but that it was premeditated. And exhibit B would probably be this entire paragraph, so it’s for the best that I get on with the review and stop incriminating myself.

So…..Detour. IMDb calls this film one of the best B-movies ever made, which, on the surface sounds like an oxymoron. I get it, though. Director Edgar G.Ulmer had a very small budget and instead of trying to create what would’ve been really bad scenery, he just had fun with it. Case in point, the beginning of the movie shows Al hitchhiking his way west and later heading east. There wasn’t a budget to show both directions, so Ulmer simply reversed the film. The result is Al hitching with his left thumb and riding in cars where the driver is on the right side. There are also many scenes where Al is staring off into the distance as his voice explains what he is thinking. Low budget, yes, but the story is simple enough to have not needed an expensive set.

The main plot of the film is about as outlandish as you might expect: Al hitchhikes to LA to reunite with his girlfriend and along the way gets picked up by a really rich guy. The rich guy dies and Al realizes that if he calls the police, it’s going to look really suspicious. So he instead buries the body, switches identities and continues on his way. Being the idiot that he is, Al picks up his own hitchhiker, who just happens to be a woman that knew the dead rich guy and now she is in on what happened. The two fight about what to do and in one of the best (worst?) scenes I’ve encountered on this list, the woman locks herself in a hotel room to call the police on Al. On the other side of the door, Al pulls as hard as he can on the phone cord and when that doesn’t work, kicks down the door. That’s when he finds the cord wrapped around the woman’s neck and she too is dead. Rotten luck, indeed. It’s such a wonderfully silly story, but somehow, it works. The acting wasn’t great but it didn’t need to be to get the point across.

Final review: 4/5. And thanks to the Hayes code which stipulates that murderers aren’t allowed to get away with their crimes, Al is picked up at the end of the movie and brought to justice.

Up next: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly