Fool’s Gold: BARBARY COAST (United Artists 1935)


cracked rear viewer

BARBARY COAST probably would’ve been better had it been made during the Pre-Code era. Don’t misunderstand; I liked the film. It’s an entertaining period piece directed by Howard Hawks , with his trademark overlapping dialog and perfect eye for composition, rivaled by only a handful (Ford and Hitchcock spring immediately to mind). But for me, this tale of rowdy San Francisco during California’s Gold Rush was too sanitized by Hays Code enforcer Joseph Breen, who demanded major script changes by screenwriters Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur.

The result is a film that’s just misses the classic status mark. It’s 1849, and Susan Rutledge arrives in Frisco to marry her rich boyfriend, who has struck it rich in the gold strike. When she finds out he’s been killed by gambling czar Luis Chandalis, owner of the Bella Donna saloon, avaricious Susan sets her sights on him. Chandalis becomes enamored of her…

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Film Review: Savage Beach (dir by Andy Sidaris)


1989’s Savage Beach is yet another Andy Sidaris film that doesn’t make a damn bit of sense.

This time, Donna (Dona Speir) and Taryn (Hope Marie Carlton) have been hired to perform a very important mission.  You may remember that Donna works for a super secret government agency while, at one point, Taryn was in the witness protection program.  As a part of their cover, they fly a plane in Hawaii, making deliveries and giving tours.

(To be honest, you would think that, after everything that happened in Hard Ticket To Hawaii and Picasso Trigger, their cover would have blown but apparently not.)

Anyway, this time, they’ve been hired to fly a very important vaccine to a nearby island.  They manage to deliver the vaccine but a huge storm has come up.  As soon as they get back in their plane and start back towards Hawaii, Donna says, “Shouldn’t we get out of these wet clothes?”  While usually I roll my eyes at all of the nudity in Sidaris’s films, I have to admit that line made me laugh out loud.  Maybe it was just the sincerity with which Dona Speir delivered it.  Or maybe it’s just the fact that Andy Sidaris actually sat down, thought up that line, wrote it down, and then directed someone saying it.  One thing that can definitely be said for Andy Sidaris: as a filmmaker, he was totally without shame.

Anyway, the storm gets really bad and Donna and Taryn end up crashing on what they think is a deserted island.  Neither of them appear to be too upset about being stranded on that island, perhaps because Savage Beach was filmed nearly two decade before Lost.  Make no doubt about it, Donna and Taryn are optimists!

It turns out that they’re not alone.  Apparently, there’s treasure buried on the island and, as a result, all sorts of people are showing up.  Most of them are villainous.  Some of them are heroic.  There’s even another Abilene cousin, Shane Abilene (Michael J. Shane).  Everyone wants that treasure.  Everyone except for … THE WARRIOR!

Who is the Warrior (Michael Mikasa)?  He was a soldier in the Japanese army during World War II.  Left behind on the island, he’s still fighting the war.  Or something.  Actually, it’s not always easy to understand what the Warrior or anyone else is doing on the island.  The Warrior does decide to protect Donna and Taryn and both of them try to keep his existence a secret from the rest of the people on the island but that doesn’t really work out.

Honestly, Savage Beach should not have been as complicated as it was.  It should have been a simple story where Donna and Taryn outwitted a bunch of pirates on a desert island.  Instead, more and more people just keep showing up on that beach.  Good luck trying to keep them all straight.

It’s probably unnecessary to say that Savage Beach was a mess.  I think “mess” is probably one of the words most commonly used in any review of an Andy Sidaris film.  However, like most Sidaris films, the whole thing is too good-natured to really dislike.  In fact, the plot is so incoherent that it actually becomes strangely fascinating.

Add to that, as a result of watching Savage Beach, I now know that you can safely undress and fly a plane at the same time.  If I ever get my pilot’s license, I’ll be sure to remember that!

Book Review: Diamonds Are Forever by Ian Fleming


(SPOILERS FOR BOTH DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER AND FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE)

First published in 1956, Diamonds are Forever was the fourth of Ian Fleming’s original James Bond novels.

This time, Bond has been assigned to investigate international diamond smuggling.  After assuming the identity of a burglar named Peter Franks, Bond infiltrates a smuggler’s ring.  His investigation leads him back to the United States and into the untamed city of Las Vegas.

Diamonds are Forever is one of the weaker of Fleming’s Bond novels.  Reportedly, it didn’t take long for Fleming to grow weary of the demands of coming up with a new Bond novel every year and he even considered killing off the British secret agent all together.  As opposed to the first three books, the plot of Diamonds are Forever often feels rather hastily mashed together.  Worst of all, Diamonds are Forever features the least memorable villains of the series, the Spang Brothers.  The Spang Brothers are mobsters who talk like they’re in a bad crime movie and that’s about it.  Certainly, they never come across like a legitimate threat to James Bond.

Probably the best thing about Diamonds are Forever is Bond’s growing relationship with the tough and cynical smuggler, Tiffany Case.  More so than Vesper, Solitaire, and even Gala Brand, Tiffany seems like Bond’s equal and it’s no surprise when, at the end of the book, she and Bond end up moving in with each other.

(It’s also not a shock when, in the next novel, we learn that Tiffany soon left Bond for another man.  Tiffany’s not the type to get tied down.)

It’s also interesting to read Fleming’s thoughts on Las Vegas.  Remember how much Fleming hated on Florida in Live and Let Die?  That’s nothing compared to what he does to Las Vegas.  Reading his description of the famed gambling mecca, one gets the feeling that Fleming was both fascinated and disgusted by this quintessentially American city.

Finally, an entire chapter is devoted to Bond’s experience flying from the UK to the US.  That may seem like filler to modern audiences.  But you have to remember that Diamonds Are Forever was written at a time when commercial air travel was considered to be something of a luxury.  For many readers in 1956, reading that chapter was probably as close to flying as they’d ever get.

Diamonds are Forever may be one of the weaker Bond novels but it was followed by one of the best, From Russia With Love!

Music Video of the Day: MakeDamnSure by Taking Back Sunday (2006, dir by Marc Klasfeld)


I can never hear MakeDamnSure without thinking about the What’s It Feel Like To Be A Ghost episode of Degrassi.

That’s the episode where aspiring rock star Craig Manning (played by Jake Epstein) returns to Toronto after being on tour and we discover that he’s picked up a nasty cocaine habit.  Despite being coked out of his mind, Craig still gets a chance to perform during a Taking Back Sunday show.  However, no sooner does Craig get on stage and start to sing then he suddenly gets the worst nosebleed in the history of nosebleeds.

AGCK!

Needless to say, the members of Taking Back Sunday are not impressed.

Of course, before everything went so terribly wrong, Craig had bragged to Taking Back Sunday’s Adam Lazzara about how he performed a “stripped down, acoustic” version of MakeDamnSure in his set.  “I’d like to hear that,” Adam replied.

YOU BLEW IT, CRAIG!

Oh well.  Fear not.  By the time Craig returned for Degrassi Goes Hollywood, he was clean of the drugs and hopefully, he got back together with Ellie.

(Actually, as much as I love Ellie, Craig’s soulmate really was Ashley.  Ellie should never have let Sean break up with her…)

(Okay, sorry, I’m getting lost in a Degrassi tangent here…FOCUS, LISA, FOCUS!)

As for the video for MakeDamnSure, it features the band performing in a wind tunnel.  There’s a lot of scary and sad imagery but fear not, things work out for the best.  It turns out that some people do give a damn.

Enjoy!