Platinum Blonde

US (1931): Comedy
90 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette

Frank Capra's early talkie about a glib newspaper reporter (Robert Williams) who marries an aristocratic heiress (Jean Harlow, ludicrously miscast but fun to watch anyway). Almost a catalogue of the movie conventions of the period, complete to an effete valet (Claude Allister) and a comic butler (Halliwell Hobbes). The film's considerable attractions include Robert Riskin's uninhibited dialogue and ravishing Loretta Young, who, as a tough-minded girl reporter (prototype of the later Jean Arthur roles), is a natural aristocrat. With Louise Closser Hale, Reginald Owen, and Walter Catlett. From a story by Harry E. Chandlee and Douglas W. Churchill, which had been adapted by Jo Swerling, with continuity by Dorothy Howell; Riskin, a former playwright, livened it all up, and went on to do a series of hits with Capra. (The central performer, Robert Williams, whose style suggests that of Lee Tracy, was on the verge of stardom, but this was his last film; he died of a ruptured appendix.) Columbia.


US (1986): War
120 min, Rated R, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Vietnam, as seen by the writer-director Oliver Stone, who dropped out of Yale and, feeling, he says, that he needed to be an anonymous common soldier, enlisted and saw action with the 25th Infantry along the Cambodian border. The film has been widely acclaimed, but some may feel that Stone takes too many melodramatic shortcuts, and that there's too much filtered light, too much poetic license, and too damn much romanticized insanity. Charlie Sheen plays Chris, the autobiographical figure (who, regrettably, narrates the movie by reading aloud the letters he writes home to his grandmother). Chris finds two authority figures in two sergeants who represent good and evil. Willem Dafoe's Sergeant Elias is a supersensitive hippie pothead, who cares about the men--he's a veteran fighter who's kept his soul. Tom Berenger's Sergeant Barnes is a kickass boozer--a psycho, whose scarred, dead-eyed face suggests the spirit of war. There are fine, scary scenes, but there are others where you think, It's a bit much. The movie crowds you; it doesn't give you room to have an honest emotion. And when Chris calmly, deliberately shoots a fellow soldier, and the murder is presented as an unambiguous justified execution you may wonder at the mixture of war elegy and pulp revenge fantasy. With Keith David, Forest Whitaker, and Kevin Dillon. The score, by Georges Delerue, includes a soupy orchestration of Samuel Barber's "Adagio for Strings." Cinematography by Robert Richardson; editing by Claire Simpson. Academy Awards: Best Picture, Director, Film Editing, Sound. Orion-Hemdale.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Hooked.

Play It As It Lays

US (1972): Drama
99 min, Rated R, Color

About empty lives, acute anguish, Hollywood and Hell. As Joan Didion's hurting waif-heroine who has discovered the nothingness of life, Tuesday Weld wanders around numbly, looking like a great pumpkin-headed doll. The movie is a touchstone, like the book: people have different levels of tolerance for stories celebrating soulless high life, and catatonic alienation has never been more poshly narcissistic than in this one. Frank Perry directed; it's visually handsome but a peculiarly passive viewing experience. With Tony Perkins, Tammy Grimes, Adam Roarke, and Ruth Ford. Universal.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Reeling.

The Pleasure Garden

UK (1925): Drama
75 min, No rating, Black & White

The first film that Hitchcock (previously a movie designer and writer) directed. It's about two chorus girls from the Pleasure Garden Theatre; the parts are played by two American actresses--Virginia Valli is the virtuous one, Carmelita Geraghty the villainous one. The picture has ingenious sequences, and it's good to look at, though the story is vintage melodramatic hokum; actually, some of that hokum is hilariously campy now, such as the sequence about a depraved white man in the tropics. With another American, Nita Naldi, and Miles Mander. Silent.


US (1985): War/Drama
124 min, Rated R, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

David Hare's sick-soul-of-England play, which he adapted for the screen and Fred Schepisi directed, turns his own preachiness into the intellectual clarity of an abrasive woman. After serving courageously as a British courier for the French Resistance, Susan Traherne (Meryl Streep) has her youthful idealism destroyed by the hypocrisy and materialism of postwar life. She keeps exercising her gift for cultured, sardonic invective, and her outspokenness turns her into a scourge, and eventually into a basket case. Schepisi works with his usual team--the cinematographer Ian Baker and the composer Bruce Smeaton--and also with the celebrated production designer Richard MacDonald; together they give the movie a lustrous, sensuous texture. Their craftsmanship is superb. But Hare's means in this movie are every bit as constricted as what he's attacking. Angry Young Manhood has become mannerism. And as Streep plays Susan there's no imploded energy in her rudeness and no force in the film. She just isn't there. With John Gielgud, Tracey Ullman, Charles Dance, Ian McKellen, Sam Neill, Burt Kwouk, and Sting.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Hooked.

Poil de Carotte

France (1932): Drama
90 min, No rating, Black & White
(It could be translated as "Carrot Top.")

Julien Duvivier established his mastery of the sound film with this remake of his 1925 silent about the desperate estrangement of a young red-headed boy. Harry Baur plays the father and skinny little Robert Lynen is the boy who tries to hang himself; their performances are delicate and psychologically complex, but the film achieves its lyric intensity largely through the rhythmic use of imagery. (There's none of the didactic dialogue that might have marred an American film of the period, with a doctor or analyst explaining that the mother felt unloved and so she rejected the child, and so on.) Here, Duvivier isn't the masterly entertainer that he became a few years later; this film is more exploratory, more searching. From a novel by Jules Renard, adapted by the director. In French.

Point Blank

US (1967): Crime
92 min, No rating, Color, Available on videocassette

Showoffy, brutal, somewhat inexplicable account of a crook (Lee Marvin) who seeks justice on his own murderous terms. But it's director John Boorman's virtuosity that is the star. Intermittently dazzling, the film has more energy and invention than Boorman seems to know what to do with. He appears to take the title literally; one comes out exhilarated but bewildered. With Angie Dickinson (she has her best scene slapping Marvin repeatedly--to no effect), Carroll O'Connor, Keenan Wynn, Michael Strong, and John Vernon. The West Coast settings include the actual (though no longer in use) prison on Alcatraz. Cinematography by Philip Lathrop. MGM.


US (1982): Horror
114 min, Rated PG, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Steven Spielberg's suburban gothic about a family besieged by nasty, prankish ghosts is no more than an entertaining hash designed to spook you. It's THE EXORCIST without morbidity, or, more exactly, it's THE AMITYVILLE HORROR done with insouciance and high-toned special effects. Because Spielberg is a dedicated craftsman and a wit, he can make a much better low-grade, adolescent entertainment than most directors. But he isn't really thinking in this film--he's just throwing ideas and effects at us, and there's no rationale for the forms that the poltergeists (there seem to be multitudes of them) take on or for what they do. If the picture succeeds to a degree, it's because of the warmth of the family itself in its tract home, full of toys, in a fast-expanding new subdivision. The cool, jazzy mother (JoBeth Williams) and the blandly handsome father (Craig T. Nelson) are terrific, groovy people--they're kids at heart. When the ghostly manifestations start in the kitchen, what happens seems so benign that the mother reacts as if her household objects were staging a vaudeville show for her--she's turned on by it. The 4-foot-3-inch actress Zelda Rubinstein, as the psychic Tangina who comes to "cleanse" the house, gives the movie new life and makes a large chunk of it work. With Beatrice Straight, who, as a doctor of parapsychology, bores the audience blind and brings the film to a momentary halt, and, as the two younger kids, Oliver Robins and Heather O'Rourke. The credits indicate that Tobe Hooper is the director, but Steven Spielberg wrote the initial story, rewrote the other writers' work on the script, storyboarded the shots, produced the picture, and supervised the final edit. It appears that he also took over, in considerable part, on the set. MGM.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Taking It All In.

Poor Cow

UK (1967): Drama
104 min, No rating, Color

An English film with Carol White as Joy, a young London barmaid who learns about life as she drifts from one thief to another. But she doesn't learn enough to keep one's attention from drifting in this ambitious but flat version of Nell Dunn's novel, directed by Kenneth Loach in a semi-documentary style. He uses the poor cow Joy as an example of modern urban anomie. Joy is having a baby pulled out of her and is crying in pain as the movie opens, and Donovan is singing Christopher Logue's words: "Be not too hard/For life is short/And nothing is given to man � Be not too hard/For soon he'll die/Often no wiser than he began." So you can't say Loach hasn't warned you. Adapted by Dunn and Loach. With John Bindon as the cloddish burglar who impregnates her, and Terence Stamp as the thief she takes up.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Going Steady.


US (1970): Musical
85 min, Rated G, Color

It's a trap: hardly enough footage of the Rolling Stones and a few other groups to make a short has been stretched to feature length with surfing, shots of Twiggy, a disc jockey mugging for the camera, a sickeningly cheery singer named Johnny Farnham, a Western gundown, fictional shorts, travelogs, and documentary footage of a cremation in India. The rock footage is intercut with animals being butchered and views of Vietnam and the atomic bomb--you'd have to be a real ninny to accept the film's claims to significance.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Deeper into Movies.

The Pope of Greenwich Village

US (1984): Drama
120 min, Rated R, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

An entertaining but shallow movie that gives itself heavyweight airs. Based on Vincent Patrick's adaptation of his own 1979 novel about the ties among small-time Italian and Irish hoods, it's a candied MEAN STREETS, evenly and impersonally directed by Stuart Rosenberg. It has no temperament--it doesn't even have any get-up-and-go. But Patrick supplies colorful "ethnic" dialogue, and the actors run with it. As the two young pals who get into trouble together, Mickey Rourke is fatherly and protective (and a little repetitive), while Eric Roberts tries for something outr�--he brings off some wild, androgynous effects, and gives the film whatever drive and point it has. As a crooked cop's tough old mother, Geraldine Page gives an enthrallingly hammy performance--smoking, boozing, and picking horses. As her son, Jack Kehoe has just the right kind of cagey, sallow anonymity. Kenneth McMillan is sly and astute as an ex-con safecracker. Playing a detestable Mafia boss, Burt Young has mad little porcine eyes. And Tony Musante, M. Emmet Walsh, Philip Bosco, and several other actors have big moments. Daryl Hannah plays Rourke's girlfriend--the one Wasp in the picture. The cinematography (which has a shine) is by John Bailey. MGM/United Artists.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book State of the Art.


US (1980): Musical/Comedy
114 min, Rated PG, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Sometimes the components of a picture seem miraculously right and you go to it expecting a magical interaction. That's the case with POPEYE, with Robin Williams as the squinting sailor, and Shelley Duvall as the persnickety Olive Oyl, and Robert Altman directing, from a screenplay by Jules Feiffer. The picture doesn't come together, though, and much of it is cluttered, squawky, and eerily unfunny. But there are lovely moments--especially when Olive is loping along or singing, and when she and Popeye are gazing adoringly at the foundling Swee'Pea (Wesley Ivan Hurt). The songs--an uneven collection--are by Harry Nilsson. With Paul Dooley as Wimpy, Paul L. Smith as Bluto, and, as Pappy, Ray Walston, whose rambunctious Broadway pizzazz cheapens everything. A Paramount and Walt Disney Presentation; released by Paramount.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Taking It All In.


US (1936): Drama/Comedy
75 min, No rating, Black & White

W.C. Fields did not write this script on the back of an envelope. It was a play first, and Fields himself had had a hit with it on Broadway in 1923--how could he miss in the role of the con man Eustace McGargle? He had even appeared in a silent movie version in 1925, directed by D.W. Griffith, with Poppy, the title of the original play by Dorothy Donnelly, changed to SALLY OF THE SAWDUST. (It was Fields' first success with the movie public.) But the talkie version doesn't allow for the way Fields had developed: the public now enjoyed him because he snarled at sentimentality. He was given sticky-sweet, cow-eyed Rochelle Hudson for his ward, and she was given sticky-sweet, cow-eyed Richard Cromwell for a sweetheart, and really they're not the sort of people Fields should be mucking around with. Or maybe he should--if he could just show us how he really feels about them. With Fields, you want any indication of virtue in his character to be a fraud or a momentary aberration; damned if this picture doesn't make him just a scowling angel. The adaptors, Waldemar Young and Virginia Van Upp, and the director, Eddie Sutherland, give the old heart-of-gold stuff a workout, and Fields never gets a chance to cut loose and be mean and dirty-minded. With Lynne Overman, Maude Eburne, and Catherine Doucet. Paramount.

Port of Shadows

France (1938): Drama
91 min, No rating, Black & White
Also known as QUAI DES BRUMES.

This film was the first of the three major collaborations of director Marcel Carn� and writer Jacques Pr�vert--followed by the infinitely superior DAYBREAK in 1939 and by CHILDREN OF PARADISE in 1944--the movies which helped to create the French film style of poetic fatalism. In PORT OF SHADOWS, which is a drearily predictable film, the central figure of the French movies of the period was, nevertheless, created--the hopelessly rebellious hero, the decent man trapped by society; it was the beginning of the Jean Gabin era. A man (Gabin) is running away from the police; he arrives at a dock-side backstreet looking for a ship in which to escape. He meets a girl, the exquisite, raincoated Mich�le Morgan, and tries to free her from her disreputable guardian (Michel Simon) and his crony (Pierre Brasseur). He doesn't escape. PORT OF SHADOWS, rather like Robert E. Sherwood's THE PETRIFIED FOREST, is gloomy and shallow, but at the time the defeatism of the film was like a breath of fresh air to American filmgoers saturated with empty optimism. In French.

Portrait of Jason

US (1967): Documentary
No rating, Color

A monologue film, in which a black homosexual hustler and sometime entertainer (Jason Holliday) talks directly to Shirley Clarke's camera crew. The idea is that, faced with the camera, his defenses will be stripped away and the "inner" man revealed--an idea both sadistic and na�ve.

Portrait of Jennie

US (1948): Romance
86 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette

At the start, a glorious con of a preface, designed to soften the audience for the fantasy to come, states, "Since the beginning, Man has looked into the awesome reaches of infinity.� Out of the shadows of knowledge, and out of a painting that hung on a museum wall comes our story, the truth of which lies not on our screen but in your heart." What follows is a story about a painter (Joseph Cotten) who spends his life in love with the spirit of a dead girl (Jennifer Jones). David O. Selznick's deluxe exercise in mystical romanticism was taken from a Robert Nathan novel. William Dieterle directed, but Selznick poured on the gloppy grandeur-a Dimitri Tiomkin score based on themes from Debussy, an impressively large-scale skating scene, a hyperdramatic hurricane sequence-and though the story may not make much sense, the pyrotechnics, joined to the dumbfounding silliness, keep one watching. Cinematography by Joseph August; with Ethel Barrymore, Lillian Gish, Cecil Kellaway, David Wayne, Florence Bates, Henry Hull, and Felix Bressart.

The Poseidon Adventure

US (1972): Disaster
117 min, Rated PG, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Expensive pop disaster epic, manufactured for the market that made AIRPORT a hit. An ocean liner turns turtle, and the logistics of getting out of an upside-down ship are fairly entertaining; the script is the true cataclysm in this waterlogged GRAND HOTEL. The writers (Stirling Silliphant and Wendell Mayes) achieve real camp only once: just before the ship capsizes, a crewman says to the captain (Leslie Nielsen), "I never saw anything like it--an enormous wall of water coming toward us." With Gene Hackman, Ernest Borgnine, Stella Stevens, Red Buttons, Carol Lynley, and Arthur O'Connell. There's also a lot of Shelley Winters, who yearns to see her grandson in Israel and makes endless jokes about her bloated appearance. (She's so enormously fat she goes way beyond the intention to create a warm, sympathetic Jewish character. It's like having a whale tell you you should love her because she's Jewish.) Ronald Neame directed, with dull efficiency. Based on a novel by Paul Gallico; the score is by John Williams. 20th Century-Fox.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Reeling.


US (1947): Drama
108 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

"'I love you' is such an inadequate way of saying I love you," the impassioned Joan Crawford murmurs to her sweetheart (Van Heflin). When Heflin, who is an engineer as well as a cold-hearted lady-killer, points out, in a passage of technological ecstasy, that he finds a girder he has devised more beautiful than Miss Crawford, she whimpers, "Why don't you love me like that? I'm a lot nicer than a girder." Heflin can't see it her way, and presently, in despair, she marries Raymond Massey, a big oil man with a lively daughter (Geraldine Brooks). Watching Heflin fall in love with her stepdaughter proves too much for Crawford, who comes down with a case of schizophrenia that really rattles the walls of the Massey homestead. Then psychiatrists take her in tow. In terms of suspense, this picture, directed by Curtis Bernhardt, is often very striking, and, clearly, he and the cast are doing their damnedest. Insanity is used, in the usual 40s Hollywood manner, to provide an excuse for high-on-the-hog melodrama; there isn't a trace of believability--that's part of what makes it enjoyable. With Stanley Ridges, Moroni Olsen, John Ridgely, and Monte Blue. Cinematography by Joseph Valentine; music by Franz Waxman; art direction by Anton Grot; editing by Rudi Fehr. The script by Sylvia Richards and Ranald MacDougall is based on Rita Weiman's One Man's Secret. Jerry Wald produced, for Warners.

Postcards From the Edge

US (1990): Drama/Comedy
101 min, Rated R, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

This tale of a sorrowful, wisecracking starlet (Meryl Streep) whose brassy, boozing former-star mother (Shirley MacLaine) started her on sleeping pills when she was 9 is camp without the zest of camp. It's camp played borderline straight--a druggy-Cinderella movie about an unformed girl who has to go past despair to find herself. The director, Mike Nichols, is a parodist who feigns sincerity, and his tone keeps slipping around. What's clear is that we're meant to be enthralled by the daughter's radiant face, her refinement, her honesty. Nichols keeps the camera on Streep as if to prove that he can make her a popular big star--a new Crawford or Bette Davis. (She remains distant, emotionally atonal.) The tacky, bright-colored film--a near-plotless version of a woman's picture--is weightless, yet it's watchable. Its jadedness appeals to the narcissism of show-biz insiders and to the would-be insider in the rest of us. (Nichols is acclaimed for being hip to the Zeitgeist.) There are a lot of people to look at: Gene Hackman, Dennis Quaid, Richard Dreyfuss, Annette Bening, Robin Bartlett, C.C.H. Pounder, Oliver Platt, Gary Morton, Mary Wickes, Rob Reiner, Simon Callow, Michael Ontkean, Pepe Serna, and Dana Ivey. The screenplay, by Carrie Fisher (with Nichols' uncredited collaboration), is based on her novel; cinematography by Michael Ballhaus. Columbia.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Movie Love.

The Postman Always Rings Twice

US (1946): Crime
113 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Entertaining, though overlong. The director, Tay Garnett, knew almost enough tricks to sustain this glossily bowdlerized version of the James M. Cain novel, and he used Lana Turner maybe better than any other director did. Cain's women are, typically, calculating, hot little animals, and his men doom-ridden victims. Here, Lana Turner's Cora--infantile in a bored, helpless, pre-moral way--is dressed in impeccable white, as if to conceal her sweaty passions and murderous impulses; John Garfield plays the drifter who becomes her lover. Cora's harmless husband (Cecil Kellaway) seems a nuisance to have around, so they decide to finish him off while he's relaxing in the bathtub. The shoddy, ironic twist signified in the title is that the killers get away with their crime but retribution comes anyway. As opposing lawyers, Hume Cronyn and Leon Ames have a showoffy courtroom clash. With Audrey Totter. The script is by Harry Ruskin and Niven Busch. (A French version, LE DERNIER TOURNANT, was directed by Pierre Chenal in 1939 with Fernand Gravet, Corinne Luchaire, and Michel Simon; Visconti made an Italian version, OSSESSIONE, in 1942.) MGM.

The Postman Always Rings Twice

US (1981): Crime
123 min, Rated R, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Taste and craftsmanship have gone into this Bob Rafelson version of James M. Cain's hot tabloid novel, but Rafelson's detached, meditative tone is about as far from Cain's American tough-guy vernacular as you can get. The impulsiveness and raw flamboyance that make the book exciting are missing, and the cool, elegant visuals (Sven Nykvist is the cinematographer) outclass the characters right from the start. As Frank, the drifter whose passion for Cora leads him to kill her husband, Jack Nicholson does a run-through of his overdeliberate, sly, malevolent expressions from THE SHINING while still lobotomized from CUCKOO'S NEST. (His performance could have been given by a Nicholson impersonator.) As Cora, who does the cooking at her husband's roadside caf�, Jessica Lange is the best reason to see the movie. She looks good-sized--muscular but rounded--and with her short, curly blond hair, a Japanese silk wrapper pulled tight, and a lewd, speculative smile, she's both seraphic and steamy. The film needs to be propelled by a growing intensity in the sex scenes, but the first sex, on the table in the caf� kitchen, is the hottest. So things go downhill. With John Colicos as greasy Nick, the husband; Michael Lerner as Katz, the lawyer; and a highly expendable episode that features Anjelica Huston as a lion tamer. The sparse yet maundering script is by David Mamet. An international co-production; released by Paramount.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Taking It All In.

Potemkin/ Battleship Potemkin

Russia (1925): War/Historical
65 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Voted the greatest film of all time by an international panel of critics in Brussels in (1958), as it had been in 1950, POTEMKIN (Russians and purists pronounce it Po-tyom-kin) has achieved such an unholy eminence that few people any longer dispute its merits. Great as it undoubtedly is, it's not really a likable film; it's amazing, though--it keeps its freshness and its excitement, even if you resist its cartoon message. Perhaps no other movie has ever had such graphic strength in its images, and the young director Sergei Eisenstein opened up a new technique of psychological stimulation by means of rhythmic editing--"montage." The Odessa Steps sequence, the most celebrated single sequence in film history, has been imitated in one way or another in countless television news programs and movies with crowd scenes; it has also been parodied endlessly. And yet the power of the original is undiminished. Montage is used in this film for revolutionary political purposes: the subject is the 1905 mutiny of the sailors of the battleship Potemkin, and the massacre of the people who sympathized with them. But policies in the U.S.S.R. changed: mutiny could no longer be sanctioned, nor could experimental film techniques, and under Stalin, Eisenstein was purged, partially reinstated, and then fell from grace over and over. POTEMKIN looks astonishingly like a newsreel, and the politically na�ve have often taken it as a "documentary." The more knowing have a graceful euphemism: Eisenstein, they say, "sacrificed historical facts for dramatic effect." Silent, with added musical sound track.

The Power

US (1968): Horror
109 min, No rating, Color

Sci-fi about a couple of men with superhuman mental powers; they can think somebody to death. Naturally, one of them is the villain and the other the hero, but the film is so lacklustre you don't care which one wins. Byron Haskin directed this George Pal production, based on a novel by Frank M. Robinson. The cast includes George Hamilton, Nehemiah Persoff, Yvonne De Carlo, Aldo Ray, Gary Merrill, Earl Holliman, and Arthur O'Connell. MGM. CinemaScope.

The Power and the Glory

US (1933): Drama
76 min, No rating, Black & White Preston Sturges wrote the script (which is sentimental and heavy-handed but is nevertheless almost a warmup for CITIZEN KANE), and the producer, Jesse L. Lasky, who considered it "the most perfect script" he'd ever seen, insisted that the director, William K. Howard, shoot it word for word. Spencer Tracy is the railroad tycoon who has killed himself, and the story is told from his funeral by Ralph Morgan. With Colleen Moore and slinky Helen Vinson. Cinematography by James Wong Howe. Fox.

Practically Yours

US (1944): Comedy
90 min, No rating, Black & White

Fred MacMurray, a presumably doomed aviator in the Pacific, broadcasts a last message to the other members of his combat group. "I wish I could walk with Peggy through Central Park again and kiss the tip of her nose," he says. His friends naturally assume that he is talking about a girl, although the Peggy he has in mind is a little dog (with a passionate disposition). Norman Krasna wrote this comedy of confusion in his usual pushy madcap style; when MacMurray gets back, he finds he is engaged to Claudette Colbert, who's a complete stranger to him. There's one funny sequence with a self-inflating boat inflating in the subway. Mitchell Leisen directed; with Robert Benchley, Cecil Kellaway, Gil Lamb, Rosemary DeCamp, and Tom Powers. Paramount.

The President's Analyst

US (1967): Spy/Comedy
104 min, No rating, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

James Coburn, as the psychoanalyst to the President of the United States, is pursued by a Russian spy (Severn Darden), an American agent (Godfrey Cambridge), and everybody else. This erratic political spoof, written and directed by Theodore Flicker, has sly, ingenious sequences (one involves a super-automated phone company) and sour sequences (William Daniels as the head of an upper-middle-class liberal family obsessed with the threat of right-wing neighbors). Very lively when Flicker is just making sophomoric jokes, but he doesn't seem to know what he's good at, or how to stick to it. Paramount.

Pretty in Pink

US (1986): Drama/Comedy
96 min, Rated PG-13, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Molly Ringwald is enshrined as the teenage ideal in this romantic movie for kids--it's slight and vapid, with the consistency of watery Jell-O. The spoiled-rotten richies are mean to Ringwald's Andie, a poor-girl high-school senior who lives in a dinky, rattletrap house on the wrong side of the tracks. But she's the opposite of trashy: blessed with quiet good taste, she's proudly conventional. And so she wins both a college scholarship and the rich boy of her dreams. John Hughes, who wrote the script and supervised the work of the first-time director, Howard Deutch, never goes beyond a kid's point of view; this picture isn't actually about teenagers--it's closer to being a pre-teen's idea of what it will be like to be a teenager. In its sociological details, it might have been made by little guys from Mars. With the winsome comedienne Annie Potts as Andie's closest friend, Andrew McCarthy as her rather passive young prince, Jon Cryer as the smartmouth nerd who follows her around, Harry Dean Stanton as her daddy, and James Spader as a snobby hunk. Cinematography by Tak Fujimoto. A John Hughes Production, for Paramount.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Hooked.

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