Sunday, February 12, 2012

Raquel Rocks the Stone Age at Lincoln Center Film Retrospect!

2/9/12, New York City-  I attended two films at the Film Society of Lincoln Center- Richard Lester's THE THREE MUSKETEERS (1973) and the Hammer/Harryhausen collaboration ONE MILLION YEARS B.C. (1966).  Both films were part of the Raquel Welch 10-film retrospective.  MUSKETEERS was introduced with a brief Q&A between Ms. Welch and Dick Cavett who retained  his heavyweight title as a pompous blow-hard; always in perpetual awe of his own wit and more interested in talking about himself.  True to form, he talked incessantly, name-dropped about a million celeb friends and touched on just about every topic except the film in question.  Welch tried to keep steering it back to the Lester film but gave up early on.  She did manage to squeeze in a single, interesting antidote about how she tried to get a grip on her character's scripted clumsiness. When director Lester suggested she play it like Buster Keaton and go for slapstick, she didn't see it that way but felt she could channel Stan Laurel instead!  After numerous attempts, the festival director (who kept pronouncing Raquel's last name as 'Welsh'), thankfully, managed to cut off Cavett who had run way overtime.  The 35mm print of MUSKETEERS was somewhat soft and grainy with drained color but the film stands up beautifully nonetheless with a killer, all-star cast.  The film has elements of silent era slapstick, a sense of gritty historical accuracy and a super cool, pre-Monty Python brand of Brit humor (Lester's GOON SHOW pedigree and Spike Milligan's presence helps, of course).  The BC print was super grainy (pretty much the nature of most Harryhausen rear projection, stacked emulsion-to-the-max, optical printer-happy extravaganzas) but surprisingly rich in color and damage free (even the best archival print makes you appreciate a good blu-ray that much more!).  As a Harryhausen stop-motion vehicle it's really not up there with his best work.  The Hammer budget must have been really tight in comparison to his Sinbad films which come off relatively lavish.  I totally forgot that Laurel & Hardy/Little Rascals producer Hal Roach actually has a producer credit on the film which is an official remake of his 1940 version.  It was somewhat frustrating and sadly funny overhearing a mother/daughter conversation before BC unspooled.  The young early teen daughter surprised her mom when she proclaimed how BC was one of her favorite films.  Her mom was surprised she even knew the film let alone had recently seen it.  Of course, within two seconds I knew they were talking about two different films.  The kid was tripping on Roland Emmerich's 10,000 BC (2008) while the mom's faulty memory was vaguely recalling the Hammer film.  They both agreed the saber tooth tiger was ulta-cool (there is no tiger of any stripe in the '66 film!) and how stunning Welch's blue-eyes and dredlocks were?!   After a painful ten minutes, neither one was any the wiser. For a second,  I wanted to turn around and set them both straight.  Then the second passed.  There were also the expected multiple mutterings by attendees that the dinosaur saga was 'historically inaccurate.'  As if Hollywood films like Cecil B. DeMille and Oliver Stone shams are?  Surely, if you visit any psychotic Creationist museum you'll see depictions of prehistoric man and dinosaur strolling side by side!  That's why it's called his-story.
Say 'goodnight' Dick.  Please!

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