Catherine Spaak

Hotel (1967, Richard Quine)

Hotel comes from that strange period of Hollywood cinema just between the Technicolor melodramas and the seventies realism. The film’s still in Technicolor of course–and Charles Lang’s cinematography is fantastic. He makes the New Orleans location shooting look just wondrous.

But it deals with racism in a very matter of fact way, not to mention the frequent tawdriness. It’s still got the Technicolor sheen to it.

Anyway.

Quine’s got a good handle on the material–he frequently treats Hotel like a silent, with Karl Malden’s hotel thief being the slapstick character. While Malden’s never played for laughs, it’s always clear how much he’s enjoying giving his performance.

It’s maybe the most likable I’ve ever seen Malden.

There are some weak directorial choices–the frequent tilt up and down before scene transitions–but the film’s got a lot of charm and it’d take more than those camera movements to really hurt it.

Rod Taylor does a great job in the lead. He brings a gravitas to it… and still has fun. Melvyn Douglas is excellent as his mentor and boss. Kevin McCarthy’s got a really flashy role here–and must have worked out for it, he spends a quarter of his scenes without a shirt on–he’s great too.

Catherine Spaak is, unfortunately, only okay as McCarthy’s companion who finds a kindred spirit in Taylor… it seems like she’s giving a better performance when speaking French.

The end’s a great twist.

It’s a fine film; nice Johnny Keating score too.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Richard Quine; screenplay by Wendell Mayes, based on the novel by Arthur Hailey; director of photography, Charles Lang; edited by Sam O’Steen; music by Johnny Keating; produced by Mayes; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Rod Taylor (Peter McDermott), Catherine Spaak (Jeanne Rochefort), Karl Malden (Keycase Milne), Melvyn Douglas (Warren Trent), Merle Oberon (The Duchess Caroline), Richard Conte (Detective Dupere), Michael Rennie (Geoffrey – Duke of Lanbourne), Kevin McCarthy (Curtis O’Keefe), Carmen McRae (Christine), Alfred Ryder (Capt. Yolles), Roy Roberts (Bailey), Al Checco (Herbie Chandler), Sheila Bromley (Mrs. Grandin), Harry Hickox (Sam), William Lanteau (Mason), Ken Lynch (Joe Laswell), Clinton Sundberg (Lawrence Morgan), Tol Avery (Kilbrick) and Davis Roberts (Dr. Elmo Adams).


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The Cat o’ Nine Tails (1971, Dario Argento)

I had all sorts of plans on how to start off this post, but the idiotic ending has hindered them. I mean, the whole film suffers from being incredibly stupid (Argento’s characters are the most unbelievable I can remember seeing in recent memory), but the ending actually goes for a kind–not an aspiration for high kind either, or a witty kind–of pretentiousness. It’s not just the ending being terrible in the narrative construction sense, but also… It’s indescribably stupid.

My original opening had to do with me only having seen the film in an edited, pan and scan form some ten years ago. But, Argento is not a very interesting director when it comes to shot construction in this film so it doesn’t really matter if I get to see the whole frame. As for the editing out of twenty-some minutes, well… I suppose if it were scenes with Catherine Spaak and James Franciscus, I at least got to see the best film had to offer. However, if they were more scenes of Karl Malden, giving one of the ludicrous performances I can think of–I mean, how hard up was Malden to do the film?–I didn’t miss anything.

I also was going to start with mentioning Argento has no idea how to write an interesting story. The mystery in The Cat o’ Nine Tails is mysterious and, I suppose, one would want to see it solved. Argento just doesn’t know how to make that story–the solving of the mystery by Franciscus and Malden–engaging. Maybe because everyone is so stupid? I don’t know. Maybe because Argento is a terrible writer and director.

That last one seems most likely.

Franciscus is good as the lead, even if the Italian system of looping dialogue results in a bit of an unnatural performance. Besides Malden, no one else in the cast is terrible.

It’s also interesting how, half way through, the budget appears to disappear. All the scenes are indoors, all the scenes are at night….

Rome’s pretty though.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Dario Argento; screenplay by Argento, based on a story by Argento, Luigi Collo and Dardano Sacchetti; director of photography, Erico Menczer; edited by Franco Fraticelli; music by Ennio Morricone; production designer, Carlo Leva; produced by Salvatore Argento; released by National General Pictures.

Starring Karl Malden (Franco Arno), James Franciscus (Carlo Giordani), Catherine Spaak (Anna Terzi), Cinzia De Carolis (Lori), Carlo Alighiero (Dr. Calabresi), Vittorio Congia (Cameraman Righetto), Pier Paolo Capponi (Police Supt. Spimi), Rada Rassimov (Bianca Merusi), Horst Frank (Dr. Braun) and Tino Carraro (Professor Terzi).


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