Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Versatility of Caroline Munro

No, no, I'm not talking about a new perfume she's launching, like Meryl Streep did some years back. I'm talking about the other kind.

After perusing The Carfax Abbey, a wonderful blog in tribute to horror films, I remembered why Caroline Munro is one of my favorite recent finds. Despite the fact this actress has remained under the radar for anyone not obsessed with B-movie Hammer Queens from the '60s/'70s, Munro has run the gamut in the roles she's played.

From lost Lenores...

To doomed, hippie go-go dancers...

To Arabian damsels-in-distress...

 (John Phillip Law was pretty smokin' in this movie, by the way. Facial hair works for him.)

To some kind of...what is she? A gypsy sidekick vampire hunter? I dunno...

To conniving Bond villain henchwenches...

To Barbarella-ish/female Han Solo /dominatrix space heroines...

(That collar is very integral to the plot, don't worry)

To, yes, even a Goody Two Shoes of sorts.

I admire this lady. Save for her turn as the baddie Naomi in The Spy Who Loved Me, she was never in any super blockbusters. Few of these films are even really remembered these days outside of their aforementioned cult followings. Plus, she refused to ever go nude in any of her films, which--let's face it--is a rarity in her genre. Yet this Hammer dame is incredibly beloved in her still sizable fanbase. Even though she turned down roles in Hollywood to stay in England and remain close to her family (she's sane, in other words), she's a constant at Hammer Conventions. I've read nothing but glowing reports from fans who've met her, saying she's a wonderfully warm and genuine human being.

If I were going for any sort of film career, I'd want--well, maybe not some of the movies she's made, but essentially the level of fame she has: just obscure enough to avoid parasitical paparazzi and tabloid reporters, but beloved enough in my own genre that the devoted fans I do have are enthusiastic about my work and are lovably nerdy and appreciative. My ego is flexible, in other words.

So long story short, I think I've found my new obscure (though not totally obscure) B-Movie Queen to idolize. There've been quite a few--Elsa Lanchester, Lisa Marie, Edwige Fenech, Sue Lyon, Arlene Martel, Marian Thompson, Dolly Haas, Marisa Berenson, Lara Parker, Frances Dee, Jessica Harper, Sherry Jackson, and a gallery of others I can't remember just now. Have I seen every single movie or TV show these gals have acted in? Hell no. What instead draws me to a lot of these actresses is probably what draws a lot of Audrey Heburn fangirls to her stuff--a certain iconic style, whether in their looks or personality, that just resonates in the clips and pics I've seen.

Munro, even in awful '70s perms or wearing an overabundance of eye-makeup, always carries herself with an engaging, innocent class alongside her sex appeal. She has a very expressive face, and that helps sell her performances even when producers inexplicably dub her (why would they do that? She's released singles, fer Gadssakes). In a Hammer Horror flick, an expressive face is just as good as any method actor. Gets the job done.

And about those looks of hers. She's like God head-butted Vivien Leigh and Claudia Cardinale together and smushed them into one really, really pretty person.


I'll leave you with two videos I found yesterday while I was researching Ms. M. The first is a rare treat from moggy23. It's a longish segment of a 1966 TV show called "A Whole Scene Going" that predicts the wild, hot new fads teens should expect in the coming year (including skateboarding! So foreign and exotic, from before the times every jerk on campus rode one to class, and I had to get out of their way to avoid getting run over! Sweet!).

Munro, at age sixteen, had just won Britain's "Face of the Year," and she's analyzed by the snippy hostess at about 2:00. I'm sure she loved being called just "a continuation of 1965." Then at about 4:40 she's awkwardly listening to The Who up on her pedestal in front of the audience. It's a great clip showcasing the crossroads between The Early Mod 1960s and The Late Psychedilic 1960s, and the young Munro is very cute in it.

The second is an insane '80s Meat Loaf music video, compliments of RCAFFBWurzel, to "If You Really Want To." It's...well, it's this.

I'm not gonna lie, I love everything about that. Added to Munro's versatility list, I guess, is the ability to play Office Manager/Edwardian Vampire/Shoulder Pad McHairdo.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

I Done Been Lassoed in by the Internet Memes: 15 Movie Questions

Swiped from the hands of Rachel, The Girl with the White Parasol. Following her lead, I hereby tag whoever wants to fill this thang out to fill it out. If you do, feel free to leave a link in my comments. I'd love to read 'em.

*Edited once I realized I left out no. 6, durr-hay.*

1. Movie you love with a passion

 The Bride of Frankenstein, 1935.

I just about wore out the old VHS of this one when I was a wee sprite. There's almost a homey vibe to this macabre slice of camp, and it's camp done classy, and smartly, with hilariously warped humor. Skeptical? Then you've never met Dr. Pretorious, as played by Ernest Theisiger. That erudite, bitchy madman.

Plus, you've got Karloff, the achingly doomed Colin Clive, and Elsa Lanchester, whom I maintain is still one of the most beautiful women I've ever seen, "unconventional" as that beauty may be. Not to mention one hell of an actress.

Another treasured movie I'm passionate about is The Nightmare Before Christmas, which I associate a lot with this one. How can you not, when you compare Sally to both The Bride and The Monster?

2. Movie you vow never to watch

Old Yeller, 1957

I actively avoid movies about animals. Something in the plot always puts the animals in peril, or they die. It's supposed to be heartwarming and teach you about life, but I call bullshit. THERE IS NOTHING EDUCATIONAL OR UPLIFTING ABOUT INJURED OR DYING ANIMALS. And I don't care how you try arguing with me differently, I refuse to watch. Put Marley & Me on the list, too.

3.  Movie that literally left you speechless.

Now you get to call me a hypocrite, because I'm choosing Jeux Interdits (Forbidden Games), 1952.

Even knowing about the infamous puppy scene I watched it, thanks to that damn Pauline Kael's review. I was left speechless afterward because I was crying. Crying and crying and crying. And then I cried. I couldn't stop for the longest time after I finished watching.

While the puppy scene--and the whole movie--wrenched my heart out, maybe I find it preferable to other animal and children related movies because there was nothing mawkish or manipulative about it. Directors wanting to make a beautiful but simple movie about war or growing up should all be required to watch this one. The frank and touching performances from the children, Brigitte Fossey and Georges Poujouly, combined with the haunting strain of guitar music and the slapstick comedy from the rustic parents demonstrate more raw human feeling than any other movie I've seen.

But I warn you: it will tear you apart. Big time.

 4. Movie you always recommend.
The Big Lebowski, 1998.

Why? Because it has a little bit of everything for every type of viewer. On a basic comedy level, it's pure gold. But do you also like Raymond Chandler mystery noirs? Beautiful parodies therein. Like Westerns? You've got the wonderfully weird "Stranger" narrator played by Sam Elliott. Are you a Busby Berkeley fan and an acid rock fan? You've got the "Gutterballs" sequence set to "Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)" by The First Edition. Do you like bowling? Are you a disaffected hippie? Disaffected Vietnam vet? Disaffected nihilist? It's all here.

You can't find another movie with more opportunities for in-jokes and one-liners that you can (and will) repeat ad infinitum with your group of friends. This movie is a good way to judge friends, by the way: do they like it? They're your friends. They don't? Oh, I guess they don't exist. For example: my last birthday, my friend took me to Seattle's Lebowskifest. There I saw an exact clone of Jeff Bridges in perfect Dude garb. Therefore, my friend is a good friend. See how it works?

"You're like a child, who wanders in in the middle of a movie and wants to know--"

5. Actor/actress you always watch no matter how crappy the movie.

This is tricky for me, because if I really like an actor, it honestly makes me cringe to see them in something I know--and you can tell they know--is bad bad bad. However, I'll pick Roddy McDowall, because he once said:

I absolutely adore movies. Even bad ones. I don't like pretentious ones, but a good bad movie, you must admit, is great.
That makes me feel a little bit better if I inadvertently catch him acting in something crappy, hoping he maybe enjoyed making stuff like Fright Night and, hell, possibly even Laserblast.

6. Actor/actress you don't get the appeal for. 

There are a few, but I'll give the nod to Doris Day. I touched a little on why here, but to reiterate: she's just too bland. I mean, she's adequate and  her voice is okay, but there's just no excitement. Granted, I loved Love Me Or Leave Me, and I got a corny kick out of Pillow Talk, but both movies could have been vastly improved with a more dynamic female lead. Although I get the inkling it was that non-threatening, white-bread vibe that probably attracted a lot of post-WWII audiences: as my dear grandma used to say, "why can't people just be ordinary?" And Doris was in spades.

The runner-up spot belongs to John Wayne, who's a big blank if ever I saw one, and Sarah Jessica Parker, who's all right in a few things, but I never understood why everyone thinks she's such an irresistible romantic comedienne.

7. Actor/actress, living or dead, you'd love to meet. 

...All of them? I don't know. I actually sorta fear meeting people I really respect, because what the hell would we have to say to each other? Lots of awkwardness would ensue, I'm sure. But for the sake of the meme...Lauren Bacall. 

 Her autobiography By Myself was maybe the first Hollywood bio I ever read, and remains one of the best. She managed to make somebody with her looks and talent come across as the lovable and even at times goofy underdog throughout. Plus, um, married to Bogie and witness to the Rat Pack and stuff? Too damn cool to not want to meet. Frankly, any of the surviving stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood--Maureen O'Hara, Joan Fontaine, Olivia de Havilland, Mickey Rooney, Ann Blyth, etc.--I'd most definitely give my eyeteeth to meet and quiz about ye olden days.

8. Sexiest actor/actress you've seen. (Picture required)

Leonard Nimoy, but only as Mr. Spock from the original series in the '60s.


9. Dream cast. 

Oh, gee, I dunno, I've never ever contemplated casting anything before (*cough*this guy*cough cough*and this guy over here). Really, either of those would be a nerd dream come true pour moi, but once again, for the sake of the meme, I'll come up with something original.

I know, I know! How about taking Philip Pullman's mid-'90s trilogy His Dark Materials, stack them up in Mr. Peabody's Way-Back Machine, and actually make a good movie version in one of my favorite dream-casting years, 1945?

Something along the lines of:
Jo Ann Marlowe as Lyra Belacqua (this sadly forgotten kid's cameo role as a young Hedy Lamarr in 1946's The Strange Woman pretty much gob-smacked me with her talent)
George Sanders as Lord Asriel
Vivien Leigh as Mrs. Coulter
Gary Cooper as Lee Scoresby 
Orson Welles as the voice of Iorek Byrnison the Bear

Actually, you know what? I might extrapolate on this some more in its own blog post, so I'll stop right there. Plus I can't think of any other actors right now. But can't you imagine the art deco, Wizard of Oz old school special effects and everything? Hee. Be pretty tough to sneak the controversial religious material past the censors, though...but still, what are dreams for?

10. Favorite actor pairing.
There are a lot, but I'm going with Carole Lombard and John Barrymore in Twentieth Century, 1934. 

Screwball comedy at its finest, natch. Both actors reach unheard of heights in zaniness, and feed off each other like nobody's bidness.

11. Favorite movie setting.

The magical, totally unrealistically spotless and loopy Paris of Amelie, 2001.

In particular, the cafe she works at and her rad apartment. I want that apartment, man.

12. Favorite decade for movies.

Guess I'll cop Rachel's answer and go with the '40s, or mid-'30s to mid-'40s, however you want to put it. So many greats in that time I can't even handle it. Film Noir, Citizen Kane, George Sanders' hottest decade...good times.

13. Chick flick or action movie?

Action movie, simply because I've been won in lately by superheroes like Batman, Superman, and most recently Thor. Most still bore me to tears, granted. But I'll basically take anything over what "chick flick" usually signifies, at least for the past twenty or thirty years. '90s rom coms? The worst.

14. Hero, villain, or anti-hero?

Anti-hero. More compelling than the hero, and more dimensional than the villain.

15. Black and white or color?

I would say depends on the movie, but really it depends on the actors. Some look great in color, yet don't come off in black-and-white, and vice-versa.

You know who's a beautiful exception and looked equally shizam either way? That's right, my girl Viv.

Column A

Column B

And that's the way it's done.