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Yet another film that I've always wanted to watch, but never have, "Rebel without a Cause" is such an American icon that even the title alone breeds familiarity. I'm not sure I've ever seen a film with James Dean in it before, either. Dean stars as Jim Stark, Natalie Wood co-stars as Judy, and Sal Mineo is in a supporting role as John "Plato" Crawford. Other famous names include Jim "Mr. Magoo" Backus as Frank Stark, Dennis "Blue Velvet" Hopper as Goon, and Edward "Sorry About That, Chief" Platt as Ray Fremick - what an all-star cast this was! And there was plenty more talent in this picture, too - you might even recognize Jesse "The Maytag Repairman" White in an uncredited role as a policeman, questioning Sal Mineo early on. The title instantly reminds of Marlon Brando's line in "The Wild One," in which Kathie Bleeker asks Johnny Strabler, "What're you rebelling against, Johnny?" To which Brando replies, "Whaddya got?" I had never before heard of a Sam Browne before this scene: From what I've seen so far, it's no coincidence that this "teen angst" film came out just four years after J.D. Salinger's "The Catcher in the Rye" (which, incidentally, may be the most overrated book I've ever read - at least, that's my interpretation of it upon first reading - if anyone can convince me otherwise, I'll have another go at it at some future point, but I found it very dated and painfully boring). "The Wild One," Rock-N-Roll music ... this is all Post-WWII expression, I suppose. I hate to say it, but we almost *need* another World War to remind ourselves of just how good we have things (and no, I'm not hoping for another World War, because the cost of that lesson would be far too expensive). Wow, this movie is more intense than I thought it would be, and from what I see in the scene where Jim's tires are slashed, he's a rebel *with* a cause - a very solid cause. Buzz Gunderson (played by Corey Allen) is a real shit-and-a-half, and why Jim agreed to go for round two after he so decisively won round one is beyond me. The editing (and cinematography) in this film is really good - it has a "slashy" feel to it, which mirrors a knife fight. Also, the juxtaposition of family problems (between families) is really effective at telling separate, but similar, stories. With 45 minutes left in the movie, I'm starting to wonder if "Rebel Without a Cause" means something entirely different than what I always assumed it meant. Jim has plenty of reason to be a "rebel" (if that's even the right word for it); but there was no good "cause" that should have made him this way. Restated, there was no justifiable "cause" that Jim should have become so troubled - and here I thought that James Dean was going to be a Marlon Brando-type character (in "The Wild One") - rebelling without any end game in mind, rebelling simply for the sake of rebelling. It's the difference between asking "What caused the rebel?" and "What's the rebel's cause?" Yes, he had a lousy family life, but that was a needless situation - it shouldn't have been like that, but, alas, it was. At 1:09 in the movie (on Amazon Prime), the song playing over the radio - dedicated to Jim from Buzz - is the exact same song in the Bugs Bunny cartoon, "Little Red Riding Rabbit": "The Five O'Clock Whistle." I'm having some trouble figuring out the meaning of the scene in the abandoned mansion with Jim, Judy, and Plato - I understand them needing some refuge, but it's an extended scene, and it doesn't seem like it quite fits in with the rest of the film - I suppose Jim and Judy needed some "alone time" to develop their relationship. Wow, now *Plato* - he was a rebel without a cause. Roger Ebert succinctly pointed out that Plato was gay in this film - something that I didn't pick up on, but I'm almost certain is correct - this shows you why Ebert is such a legendary film critic, and I should probably stick to writing about food and wine. DIShGo (who is watching the movie as I type) pointed out that Plato has a picture of "Shane" in his locker, lending further credence to Plato most likely being gay. You know, I'm observant enough, and I've watched enough films in my lifetime, that I *really* need to be picking up on things such as this - shame on me. This movie left me with some thinking to do - I'm not sure that I just watched a great film; I am certain that I just watched an important piece of Americana. It is certainly fitting that the movie ended where it was shortly after it began - in the planetarium, where the lecturer essentially gave an Existentialist talk about mankind. Foreshadowing? Oh, yeah. Rebel Without a Cause was also the final Hollywood film played by Marietta Canty, an important Black-American actress we should all know about.
It sounds kind of pathetic, but I sometimes try and link together two small themes when it comes to selecting my next film - in this case, the theme was Jacqueline Scott, who co-starred as Polly Baron in "Macabre," and also co-starred as Carol Maxwell in "The Galaxy Being," the very first episode of "The Outer Limits." It's a thin, tenuous link, to be sure - not unlike throwing a dart, blindfolded, at a global map to determine your next family vacation, but I wouldn't have discovered "Macabre" without it. "Macabre" was one of the first "huckster" films, where director William Castle gave each patron a $1,000 "frightened-to-death insurance policy" upon entering the theater, written by Lloyd's of London. If anyone died of fright during the film, their beneficiaries got $1,000. There's also a plea at the very beginning to "look out for your neighbor" showing any signs of distress, so that appropriate medical attention can be obtained quickly, and another plea at the end, urging customers not to tell anyone about the film's surprise ending. The campy, promotional aspect of this film is, by far, the most important and historical thing about it; nothing else is of any merit. Although "Macabre" is completely dated, the one thing about it that's not is the basic premise: A man's daughter is kidnapped, and placed into a coffin, where she has about five hours of air before she suffocates. The film is a "race-against-time" pioneer that would be very typical in today's landscape - in that regard, it was truly a groundbreaking movie (although I don't really know whether or not it was the first of its type). Two people whom you may recognize from "Macabre" are Jim Backus (Mr. Magoo, and The Millionaire on "Gilligan's Island") and Ellen Corby (Grandma Walton on "The Waltons," whom I've been running into a *lot* in shows aired around the turn of the 50s-60s decades - I've seen her in several anthology series, and have written about her on this website). About 2/3 of the way through the film, I sneak-peaked a look at some reviews in order to get some characters straight (I still don't know the infamous "twist ending"), and Leonard Maltin seems to sum things up nicely when he said, "promises much, delivers little." Despite William Castle's hype about the film (this is apparently the first movie ever to have "gimmick promotion"), this is shaping up strongly to be typical, B-level 1950's suspense (so far, there's very little horror to be found). I found it very difficult to sort through the relationships of the characters in this film, so I'm going to explain them to you here (this is after about thirty minutes of research, and will save you time without ruining anything about the movie). I very much recommend that you read them *before* seeing the movie (if you get the five following bullet points straight in your mind, the movie will be *much* easier to comprehend); nevertheless, since they reveal some relationships - albeit none that harm the plot - I will mark them as spoilers: *** MILD SPOILERS FOLLOW (SORT OF - THEY'RE MORE HELPFUL THAN HARMFUL) *** * There are three "families" involved, the Wetherbys (Wealthy older man), the Barretts (Doctor), and the Tyloes (Sheriff). * There are two deceased girls, both daughters of the wealthy, older Jode Weatherby. * Alice Wetherby Barrett was one of the daughters, died a few years before, and was married to Dr. Barrett. A nuanced point is that Alice also apparently had a relationship with Sheriff Tyloe before Dr. Barrett took her away from him (this issue is presented very subtly in the film, and is easily missed, but you will notice obvious animosity in how the Sheriff feels about the Doctor). * Nancy Wetherby (Tyloe?), who was blind, was another daughter, died just a few nights ago, and had some sort of relationship with Sheriff Tyloe. I cannot figure out whether or not they were married, but imdb.com implies that they were, perhaps incorrectly (I don't think they were). There is a flashback in the film that shows the relationship between Nancy and Sheriff Tyloe - Nancy is also a girl who sleeps around, and has gotten pregnant by one of her lovers (even she doesn't know who it is). * Marge Barrett (the daughter of Dr. Barrett and Alice) is 3 years old, is Jode Wetherby's granddaughter, and is the one who's kidnapped. *** END MILD SPOILERS *** This movie was neither scary nor suspenseful. Unless you are a hardcore, and I mean hardcore, movie fan, your time is best spent as far away from this drivel as possible. There was almost nothing to like about this movie, and it was one of the worst films I've seen in a long time. But not *the* worst: That honor goes to "Five" (but not by much). To show how much William Castle evolved in ten years, and also to show how much of an influence "Psycho" had on the genre when it came out in 1960, William Castle was the Producer, believe it or not, of the 1968 classic, "Rosemary's Baby."