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PostPosted: Mon Mar 07, 2016 2:41 am 
Bringing Out El Duende
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Thanks, dh. Enjoyed your write-up and I concur with all your judgements, which are precisely the charms of the film. It never gets past surfaces on any level, which is why someone like Vivian Leigh, who spent her career manipulating her image is the best thing about it. She certainly has the best lines and the most fun. Perhaps she realized that Kramer was on too much of a crusade to even admit that Captain Thiele, for example, is in love with the good ship doctor. If Kramer gave that tip to Charles Korvin , who plays he captain, it did not inform the rest of this "smart" film. Oskar Werner as Doc Schumann "should have" slugged the captain when he went blathering on about the "woman like that", with whom he fell in love with but had to leave in the lurch. But the film remains respectably comatose, nevermind the predictably patronizing. It doesn't run the gamut of humanity as much as illustrate examples of white male prerogative in a world no longer giving a damn, but remining servicable to it. But Kramer should have at least spared us the fiction of grown men - even in steerage - exclaiming, We are the pigs! No man whoever braved a slave ship or steerage class (hosed down or not) ever stood up to say that.

Love the Curve ball on the outside corner/Lee Marvin scene. He was great with small moments like this, which seemed to exist quite outside the narratives of the films in which he worked.

It's certainly well cast and the film makes me want to read Porter's novel precisely because of what it doesn't - or (for some reason) can't say. Fine time to get aquainted with her work, at any rate.


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 08, 2016 2:51 pm 
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I'm probably never going to get to A Thousand Clowns so I might as well as post about Ship of Fools now. This isn't Kramer's worst film, an honor still held by me for The Pride and the Passion, but certainly it is his most asinine film revealing in all its lame and pathetic glory what a racist and regressive person this champion of the people really is. There's a lot to highlight just how vile Kramer's politics are, but two portrayals in particular smell of vomit to me in this caricatured whine. The first is the portrayal of the sugar workers. I could see Kramer smiling craftily to himself thinking he was bringing Metropolis' class struggle out of the world of metaphor into pure reality. Instead he just portrays them as a fractured bunch of savages who do nothing to help their own cause. Instead it seems like they need their white savoir. After all they throw their native one over board. The most personally offensive thing though is the portrayal of Jews in the film. Now, I'm not usually bothered by blue face given the physical differences that Jews encompass, but when you have at least one Jew in the cast and you cast Heinz Ruhmann that's madness. Already casting Ruhmann as a Jew is a bit like casting Adolphe Menjou as a communist, but then you have Puerto Rican Jose Ferrer as a devilish Nazi, that statement made far too literal in the film, and then you almost have to wonder if Kramer was actually pulling a brilliant stunt forcing the audience to be confused like casting a black man as a slave owner and a white man as his slave. Nothing in the film though indicates that Kramer put that much thought into the movie though. That wouldn't be much more then a nuisance, but then you get to how Ruhmann and Kramer portray him and frankly it is the same sort of infantile safe portrayal that's so offensive on most modern LGBT portrayals today, think of the comments to The Danish Girl. He's not afforded to be a character for fear that America might find the idea of a Jew with a personality and opinions and anything which makes for an engaging character as unwatchable ignoring that even a POS like Gentleman's Agreement cast Jews as Jews with some level of personality nearly two decades earlier. Being as good as Elia Kazan's worst film is all I ask out of any movie. Honestly with all of this said and done I suspect Oscar Werner was nominated for the oscar exclusively because his is the character that comes closest to being something other then a cliche spouting ball of nonsense. He still doesn't succeed mind you, but that's at least as much a fault of the film surrounding him as it is the terrible direction. Wow, I just realized I've gone this far without even talking about the terrible aesthetic aspects. Then again I would have to bring up the insanity of Lee Marvin's character and his scene with the dwarf or Kramer's continued misunderstanding of how humour works before I get there and I think I've written enough.


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 Post subject: Re: Stanley Kramer
PostPosted: Sat Sep 03, 2016 12:20 am 
Dot Com Dom
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I gave Kramer's the Domino Principle all of twenty seconds' worth of rope before it managed to hang itself. I am not exaggerating. The film opens with the most unintentionally hilarious preface I think I've ever witnessed. The ricochet sound effect Godard used ironically in Masculin Feminin sincerely accompanies the word "ASSASSINATION," which is supered on the screen in different languages before being "shot" to pieces while the narrator, who is so self-serious that I briefly thought the film was supposed to be a comedy, tells us about “THEY.” You see, THEY run our lives. THEY, like Santa Claus, know all, see all, control all. According to the narrator, THEY even made you, the viewer, watch this movie through manipulation (though, based on the poor box office, THEY suck just as bad in real life as they do in the film), which proves to be a valid reason to hate them.

In the Poseidon Adventure, Gene Hackman played a smart guy who led others to safety because he alternately knew what to do or could figure it out in real time. In this film he plays out the life story of one of the idiots who stayed in the dining hall waiting for help while the water rose. I will not parse words: every last character in this film is so stupid that either they’re all mentally retarded and we should feel bad for hating them or they were concocted by a Freshman Comp creative writing assignment. I have never in my life witnessed a dumber, more illogical, and less likely conspiracy than the one that unfolds in this film. Ramblings by halfmad hobos trying to make it onto the next Godspeed You Black Emperor album are Spock-like in their soundness in comparison to what’s offered here. I will not “spoil” the deed Hackman is recruited to complete in the film, only ask a general question: Why would anyone, THEY or otherwise, who are ostensibly involved in a conspiracy, do everything possible to be as visible as possible, engage as many people as possible, and extend unnecessary resources and exposure in every direction for what ends up being an astonishingly simple and perfunctory act, one that at no point requires Hackman at all for any part of it? That level of impractical and unlikely conception is par for the dead horse here, though. And how about the scene where a high-ranking member of the conspiracy, who is so observant that he never allows Hackman to get away with a single infraction without chastising him, misses a dude walking right up to his car, planting a bomb inside it, and then walking away... while standing less than three feet away from the car in question with no distractions?

The film, which is shot and scored with all the visual wit and style of a television news broadcast, is ugly and so painfully square and embarrassing in its attempts to co-opt the growing conspiracy trend in films of the day that I half expected Hackman to preach to the audience about how Jesus Christ is waiting for us all to accept him into his hearts, and now here’s some footage of Billy Graham. But that’s an insult to poorly made witnessing films. This film is artless and, worse, brainless. It makes no sense, and doesn’t care. It has contempt for its subject and even more for its audience. It treats the genre like a conspiracy itself, and it is one its makers do not understand. THEY did however make sure to include the missing element lacking from all other conspiracy films: A closeup of a shirtless elderly Mickey Rooney spitting into his fingers and styling his nipple hair into proud peaks.

tl;dr: Stanley Kramer is the worst. THEY comes in second second. Stanley Kramer is also in third place.


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PostPosted: Sat Sep 03, 2016 1:40 am 
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domino harvey wrote:
Is Stanley Kramer the worst high-profile studio filmmaker of the 50s? I just can not come up with a better candidate.
Going by Andrew Sarris' epochal tome, Michael Curtiz and Jean Negulesco are two directors whose artistic careers took a major dive in the 50s and early 60s, but those films are probably just forgettable, whereas Kramer's are bad in a more egregious way.


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 Post subject: Re: Stanley Kramer
PostPosted: Sat Sep 03, 2016 3:58 am 

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I don't know about the rest but It's a Mad, Mad, World and Inherit the Wind are both great. Haven't seen anything else he made


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PostPosted: Sun Sep 04, 2016 2:48 am 
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Rayon Vert wrote:
domino harvey wrote:
Is Stanley Kramer the worst high-profile studio filmmaker of the 50s? I just can not come up with a better candidate.
Going by Andrew Sarris' epochal tome, Michael Curtiz and Jean Negulesco are two directors whose artistic careers took a major dive in the 50s and early 60s, but those films are probably just forgettable, whereas Kramer's are bad in a more egregious way.

Curtiz's films from the '50 and '60s are about on the level good and bad of the rest of his career. Negulesco though I would say in certain respects got more interesting during this time with some of the best colour experiments of the time and showing real talent for light melodrama. It's also nice for him to get a stretch where he could actually finish the features he was hired to do. Though all of this wasn't really connected to Dom's original comment which was more about directors associated specifically with the ate studio period.


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 Post subject: Re: Columbia Classics
PostPosted: Wed Dec 14, 2016 4:13 pm 
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swo17 wrote:
People who like that movie deserve whatever happens to them.

Pretty much.


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 Post subject: Re: Columbia Classics
PostPosted: Wed Dec 14, 2016 4:34 pm 
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knives wrote:
swo17 wrote:
People who like that movie deserve whatever happens to them.

Pretty much.

Not that I disagree, but it probably has the dubious distinction of being Kramer's "best" film.
It would also be fairly high on that list of general stinkers known as "Tracy & Hepburn" films; the two Cukors notwithstanding.


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 Post subject: Re: Columbia Classics
PostPosted: Wed Dec 14, 2016 4:50 pm 

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Is it that awful? I like both Mad Mad World and Inherit the Wind, so far my track record with Kramer is a positive one


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 Post subject: Re: Columbia Classics
PostPosted: Wed Dec 14, 2016 4:51 pm 
Dot Com Dom
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I hate Kramer as much as anyone can, but even I like Inherit the Wind. Broken clock, &c


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 Post subject: Re: Columbia Classics
PostPosted: Wed Dec 14, 2016 5:00 pm 
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I'm not a Kramer fan, but I find ...Dinner? to be the most insufferable of his films.


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 Post subject: Re: Columbia Classics
PostPosted: Wed Dec 14, 2016 5:00 pm 
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This forum somehow has the strange habit of being the magnetic central point where everyone on the planet Earth who dislikes Stanley Kramer is drawn for some reason.

I love Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, Judgment at Nuremberg, and It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. I'm a fan of Inherit the Wind. I've still not seen Ship of Fools. I find the universal disdain for him that is exclusively around here pretty amusing, though.


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 Post subject: Re: Columbia Classics
PostPosted: Wed Dec 14, 2016 5:15 pm 
Dot Com Dom
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Hatred of Stanley Kramer is not exclusive to this site, what an absurd notion. Blu-ray.com and HTF are not the world


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 Post subject: Re: Columbia Classics
PostPosted: Wed Dec 14, 2016 5:22 pm 
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Wrong thread for it probably but since we've turned Kramer-centric, I'm reminded he spent several retirement years (early 80s) living in and being very visible in Seattle. Had a local TV show talking about and introducing movies. Straight to camera, kinda cranky. At the same time doing a regular movie column in the local daily. A propos of little, just kind of a weird turn for a famous director.


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 Post subject: Re: Columbia Classics
PostPosted: Wed Dec 14, 2016 5:56 pm 
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I enjoy It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World's absurdity, I like the ideas and performances in Guess Who's Coming to Dinner even if it is often cloying, and I respected - but don't think I'd ever revisit - Inherit the Wind, The Defiant Ones, and Judgment at Nuremberg. I turned The Secret of Santa Vittoria off after 15 minutes because I was bored out of my mind. Haven't seen (or attempted to see) any other films he directed. I liked (but didn't love) The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T., of which he was a significant creative producer. Taste is a funny thing.


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 Post subject: Re: Columbia Classics
PostPosted: Wed Dec 14, 2016 6:17 pm 
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I think Kramer is at his best working with Spencer Tracy: Yes! to INHERIT THE WIND, certainly one of the best scripts he produced. And in the case of JUDGEMENT AT NUREMBERG, which is all kinds of bad, Tracy's scenes outside the courtroom often feel like a different film entirely. One rooted in his quiet, judicious presence (and his relationship with Dietrich) rather than the shrill bombast of Schell, Widmark and Lancaster. MAD, MAD WORLD feels the least Tracy-centric, he kicks the bucket early on
[EDIT: I got this all wrong! Durante is the one who kicks the bucket. Thanks Ribs for the catch.]
and then there is so much of a muchness following that I get restless, and have never been able to sit through it from beginning to end. In this context I love Merman's shrillness, finding her the funniest thing in the film.

GWCTD? I've long thought (and I was around, and aware of the film, as a kid, on first release though I didn't see it until a few years later) suffered, almost immediately and ever since, from being perceived as something like instant-camp, per it's discussion of race: because "we are all so much more sophisticated than that!" Which, obviously, still isn't true (different now not being the same as resolved, as such things no longer being an "issue") but we love to flatter ourselves about all such things, and the movies love to do likewise. So a film about an educated, privileged, socially progressive white couple who have "issue" with their daughter's marriage to a black doctor (in the person of Sidney Poitier with the c.v. from God!) has more to say, I find, than is generally allowed. The extremity of the central characterizations, their near-perfection, becomes both huge part of the social commentary, and so of its dark comedy. I'm also fond of Sam Leavitt's cinematography in this film which looks closer to his more open work for Preminger (color and widescreen help a lot with that) than his previous work for Kramer. Such as THE DEFIANT ONES which, like most of Kramer's b&w films looks more than a little like a television production, tending to feel cramped, which in turn works well-ish for ON THE BEACH. Broken clock indeed!

I don't want to seem to be making any great case for GWCTD? It's all relative, though I confess to genuinely enjoying the film, but I would offer NOT AS A STRANGER (Yikes! If ever a cast formed a motley crew!), THE PRIDE AND THE PASSION, THE DEFIANT ONES, JUDGEMENT AT NUREMBERG, SHIP OF FOOLS and THE RUNNER STUMBLES (which all suffer from the kind of stunt casting that plagues Kramer his whole career - though it's perfect for MAD WORLD. Check that clock!) as the short list of his worst work. I've not seen it in forever, but I recall rather enjoying OKLAHOMA CRUDE, and the interplay between George C. Scott and Faye Dunaway in their prime.

My apologies for helping driving this thread too into Kramer territory. I think he's so magnetic because he is so central to the history of Hollywood cinema and to what Hollywood consistently advertises itself as being proud of. And he also seemed to work with everybody who was anybody for a very long time.


Last edited by George Kaplan on Thu Dec 15, 2016 3:30 am, edited 7 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Columbia Classics
PostPosted: Wed Dec 14, 2016 6:20 pm 
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Spencer Tracy isn't the one who dies at the beginning of Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.


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 Post subject: Re: Columbia Classics
PostPosted: Wed Dec 14, 2016 6:26 pm 
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Ribs wrote:
Spencer Tracy isn't the one who dies at the beginning of Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.

Ah! Thank you. Is it Jimmy Durnate who does?
That's what comes from never being able to pay close attention to the film.
Perhaps Tracy being the lone dramatic presence in the film helps account for my marginalizing him so in my memory.


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 Post subject: Re: Columbia Classics
PostPosted: Wed Dec 14, 2016 6:29 pm 
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Tracy is one of my favorite elements of IAMMMMW. He's like a 60s proto-Douglas from Falling Down.


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 Post subject: Re: Stanley Kramer
PostPosted: Wed Dec 14, 2016 8:00 pm 
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I still really like On The Beach. I recently watched the UK Blu-ray edition of it and it still packs a punch. I also got the impression from the extra features that Ava Gardner wasn't really many people's favourite person on the set!

There is something weirdly powerful about a film all about slow lingering death that itself is so drawn out. It is such a doomed film yet filled with people trying to carry on what life is left for as long as they can. Is that delusional? Probably, but what else is there to do while waiting? There are some flaws in the film - none of the main cast can really do convincing Australian accents, and you have to be okay with the pervasive and inescapable sense of futility throughout. Oh, and it might cause a lifelong aversion to the Waltzing Matilda song after seeing how much it is used (even in a frantic, mantra style screech at one point over the final love scene)

It also seems rather bizarre to cast song and dance man Fred Astaire and trap him in a sub or behind the wheel of a racing car for the whole film, though I think that pays off beautifully in the amazingly perverse scene of Astaire committing suicide by gassing himself to death behind the wheel of his prize winning Ferrari inside his garage, whilst the camera does an incredible fast swing upward from the bonnet up to Astaire's beaming face that seems very much in the style of those transcendent climaxes of big MGM musical numbers!

But yes, I generally agree on the quality of Guess Who's Coming To Dinner. I tried to watch it when it was on the television a couple of weeks ago and it was just too uncomfortable to watch for long. Mostly in the way that its one of those films that probably 'looked' progressive back in the late 60s but which feels full of unexamined prejudices bubbling under all of the big grandstanding speechifying going on about the examined surface level prejudices (that's still an issue in cinema today, with the recent film Pride coming to mind. Are the gays 'humanising' the miners? Or the miners 'humanising' the gays? Or are they both one-dimensional cyphers for the non-miner, non-gay, very liberal middle class metropolitan audience to 'have their eyes opened to the issues'? Of course the change is now the crusading films are generally about historical events rather than torn from the headline ones). Also the girl in the film is one of Kramer's standard 'oblivious to the point of being deluded' young women characters about the situation that they are involved in - strangely similar to Donna Anderson's young mother in denial in On The Beach!
captveg wrote:
Tracy is one of my favorite elements of IAMMMMW. He's like a 60s proto-Douglas from Falling Down.

Or perhaps the Robert Duvall character from that film, especially since they both have telephone conversations with their wives during the course of their respective films!


Last edited by colinr0380 on Sat Jan 14, 2017 2:00 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Columbia Classics
PostPosted: Thu Dec 15, 2016 9:32 am 
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George Kaplan wrote:
...Perhaps Tracy being the lone dramatic presence in the film helps account for my marginalizing him so in my memory.

I don't know about "dramatic" - I find Tracy's slowburn among the funnier things in a film that desperately wants everything to be funny. His is the subtlest comic performance, at least.


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 Post subject: Re: Stanley Kramer
PostPosted: Thu Dec 15, 2016 4:05 pm 
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Roger Ryan wrote:
George Kaplan wrote:
...Perhaps Tracy being the lone dramatic presence in the film helps account for my marginalizing him so in my memory.

I don't know about "dramatic" - I find Tracy's slowburn among the funnier things in a film that desperately wants everything to be funny. His is the subtlest comic performance, at least.

Yes, agreed. I was being imprecise, and meant that he is the one cast member recognized as a dramatic actor rather than a comedian. His being the "odd man out", in that way, I've always taken as part of the comic scheme. Which is not to say that he is not funny in this film or many another. Personally, I'd swap out his BOY'S TOWN Oscar for FATHER OF THE BRIDE.


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