Scenes That I Love: Battle At S-Mart From Army of Darkness (Happy Birthday, Bruce Campell!)


Today is an unofficial holiday for everyone who loves a good cult film because the one and only Bruce Campbell is 63 years old today!  Whether he’s battling Deadites or making a cameo appearance in a Coen Brothers film or just being himself, it’s impossible not to love Bruce Campbell.  In many ways, he epitomizes everything that people love about the movies.  He’s a good actor, he’s a good storyteller, and — perhaps most importantly — he’s smart enough not to take himself too seriously.

In honor of Bruce Campbell’s birthday, here’s one of his best moments.  From Army of the Dead, it’s the Battle of the S-mart.  Hail to the king, indeed.

 

Scenes That I Love: George Bailey Tells Off Mr. Potter In It’s A Wonderful Life (Happy Birthday, Frank Capra!)


Today is the 124 anniversary of the birth of Frank Capra and, in honor of this day, here’s a scene from one of my favorite films of all time, 1946’s It’s A Wonderful Life. In this wonderfully acted and directed scene, George Bailey tells off Mr. Potter, for the first but certainly not the last time:

Scenes That I Love: Falstaff at Price Hal’s Coronation from Chimes At Midnight


The great Orson Welles was born 106 years ago today, in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Orson Welles was one of the greatest directors of all time, a showman and an artist who changed the way that people watched and thought about films. He was the visionary who helped to usher in the era of modern filmmaking and who proved that movies could be art and Hollywood never forgave him for it. Merely seven years after the release of Citizen Kane, Orson Welles found himself as such a pariah in the American film industry that he relocated to Europe. There, he made some of his best films though few of them would be fully appreciated when first released.

(Indeed, there still seems to be the strange need among some to try to diminish Orson Welles’s talents and achievements. Just last year, Mank tried to deny him the credit that he most certainly deserved for Citizen Kane. Interestingly enough, David Fincher claimed that his father’s original script portrayed Welles even more negatively than Welles came across in the finished film. One has to wonder about the motives of anyone who would slander Orson Welles while deifying Upton Sinclair.)

1965’s Chimes At Midnight is one of Welles’s best. Filmed in Spain, Chimes at Midnight is combination of five of Shakespeare’s plays, primarily Henry IV, Part 1 and Henry IV, Part 2, but also Richard II, Henry V, and The Merry Wives of Windsor. Welles cast himself in the role of Falstaff, enjoying life while educating the young Prince Hal in the ways of the world. When Prince Hal becomes Henry V, Falstaff attends his coronation, just to be rejected. The new king has new place in his court for someone like Falstaff. Was Prince Hal perhaps a stand-in for the many filmmakers who claimed to have been inspired by Welles’s work but who still refused to help Welles when he later came to them for help? Perhaps.

In the scene below, Falstaff is rejected by the new king. It’s a heart-breaking moment and one that features some of Welles’s best work as both an actor and a director.

Scenes That I Love: Christopher Walken In Pennies From Heaven


PENNIES FROM HEAVEN, Christopher Walken, 1981. © MGM/Courtesy Everett Collection

Today, we wish a happy birthday to the one and only Christopher Walken! And what better way to do that than with a little song and dance?

Walken only has one big scene in the 1981 film, Pennies From Heaven, but it’s a showstopper. In this satirical and downbeat musical, he plays Tom, a stylish pimp who seduces a school teacher named Eileen (Bernadette Peters) by singing, tap dancing, and stripping on a bar. Director Herbert Ross did five takes of the scene and, each time, Walken performed the entire dance without stopping once. This is a scene that, in my opinion, shows that Christopher Walken is more than just a character actor with a unique way of speaking. At his best, he’s a force of nature.

Scenes That I Love: Cliff Booth Beats Up Clem Grogan in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood


Today is Quentin Tarantino’s 59 birthday.  In order to celebrate the occasion, here’s Brad Pitt beating up a hippie.

This scene, of course, is from my favorite Tarantino film, 2019’s Once Upon A Time In Hollywood.  While some may say that Cliff goes overboard on the hippie, you should understand that this is no ordinary hippie.  This hippie is meant to be Steve “Clem” Grogan, a real-life member of the Manson Family who, in 1969, murdered an actor and stuntman named Donald “Shorty” Shea.  Shea, who worked on the Spahn Rannch, had apparently once taken Grogan under his wing but, when it was decided the Shea knew too much about Manson’s crimes and that he was a threat to Manson’s control of ranch owner George Spahn, the order apparently went out that Shea had to die.  While Manson, Grogan and Manson’s second-in-command, Bruce Davis, were the only three people convicted of Shea’s murder, it’s felt that they were probably aided by Tex Watson (played by Austin Butler in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood).  In real life, Grogan was sentenced to death for Shea’s murder, though his sentence was later commuted to life imprisonment, with the judge reportedly saying that Grogan was obviously too stupid and too stoned to decide to murder Shea on his own.

The 18 year-old Grogan was a high school drop out and was also nicknamed Scramblehead, due to even the members of the Manson Family considering him to be abnormally dumb.  Grogan, reportedly, wrecked several cars, including one owned by Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys and, shortly before the murders, he was arrested for exposing himself.  That said, it’s also been suggested that Grogan was never as dumb as he pretended to be.  According to Ed Sanders’s book, The Family, Grogan did turn his life around once he was locked far away from the rest of the Family and free from Manson’s influence.  A model prisoner, he eventually led the police to the location of Shea’s body and he was paroled in 1985.  To date, he is the only one of the Manson murderers to have been released from prison.  (Bruce Davis, who was also convicted of killing Shea, has been ruled suitable for parole six times over the past ten years but, each time, the decision has been overturned by California’s governor.  He was mostly recently ruled suitable for parole on January 22nd of this year but Governor Newsom has yet to announce whether he will be blocking the decision.)  Grogan is 69 years old now and, as of a few years ago, he was working as a musician in the Los Angeles area.  Regardless of whether Clem Grogan turned his life around or not, considering what happened to Shorty Shea, it does seem appropriate that Once Upon A Time In Hollywood sees Clem getting his ass kicked by a stuntman.

In fact, Cliff’s entire visit to the Spahn Ranch is one of the best moments in Tarantino’s entire filmography.  It plays out like a combination of a horror flick and a western and there’s just enough odd humor tossed in to keep the audience especially nervous.  Given just how creepy the entire sequence is, there’s something very cathartic about Cliff’s refusal to play any games with Clem and the other hippies.  Cliff’s refusal to even let Clem wipe the blood off his face feels especially satisfying, in an odd sort of way.

Anyway, a happy birthday to Quentin Tarantino!  Last year, I observed Tarantino’s birthday by ranking all of his film, in order from worst to best.  You check that out by clicking here!

Scene that I Love: The Finale of Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo


Yojimbo (1961, directed by Akira Kurosawa)

The great filmmaker, Akira Kurosawa, was born 111 years ago today, in Tokyo.  Kurosawa would go on to become one of the most influential directors of all time, making 30 films over a career that lasted 57 years.  Though Kurosawa is often cited as an influence on westerns (Seven Samurai became The Magnificent Seven, Yojimbo inspired Serigo Leone to create The Man With No Name), Kurosawa’s influence goes for beyond just one genre.  He directed action films.  He directed gangster films.  He directed social problem films.  He directed historical epics.  Kurosawa taught an entire generation of future film film directors the language of cinema.

In honor of the anniversary of Akira Kurosawa’s birth, here is a scene that we all love from his 1961 masterpiece, Yojimbo.  Playing the lead role of the lone swordsman is, of course, Kurosawa’s frequent star, Toshiro Mifune.

 

Scenes That I Love: The Opening of Staying Alive


We’re still in the process of recovering from last week’s winter storm down here and I have to admit that, for me personally, it’s been a bit of a struggle to actually maintain my focus.  Last week’s combination of power outages and freezing weather threw me off of my usual rhythm and I’m still getting it back.

Fortunately, I have a little help from my friends.  Earlier tonight, a group of us watched the 1983 film, Staying Alive.  Staying Alive is the somewhat notorious sequel to Saturday Night Fever.  If Saturday Night Fever was actually a dark and gritty coming-of-age story disguised as a crowd-pleasing musical, Staying Alive is …. well, it’s something much different.  It’s a film about dancing and Broadway, directed and at least partially written by Sylvester Stallone.  Why exactly would anyone think that Sylvester Stallone was the right director to make a movie about dancing and Broadway?  Your guess is as good as mine but, in the end, the important thing is that Stallone wrote a key supporting role for his brother, Frank Stallone.  Frank not only performs several songs but he proves that he can glare with the best of them.

As for the film itself, it opens with Tony Manero (John Travolta) having left behind Brooklyn and the world of disco.  Now, he lives in Manhattan, he teaches a dance class, he humiliates himself looking for an agent, and he’s struggling to make it on Broadway.  (Basically, he’s turned into Joey from Friends.)  When Tony’s lucky enough to get cast in a lavish musical called Satan’s Alley, Tony has a chance to become a star but only if he can …. well, I was going to say control his ego but actually, his ego isn’t that much of a problem in Staying Alive.  Actually, there’s really nothing standing in Tony’s way, other than the fact that — in Staying Alive as opposed to Saturday Night Fever — he’s portrayed as kind of being an irredeemable idiot.  If Saturday Night Fever was all about revealing that Tony was actually smarter and more sensitive than he seemed, Staying Alive seems to be all about saying, “Whoops!  Sorry!  He’s just as obnoxious as you thought he was.”

Staying Alive is a notoriously ill-conceived film, though it’s also one of those films that’s just bad enough to be entertaining when viewed with a group of snarky friends.  That said, the opening credits montage — which features Tony dancing while Kurtwood Smith glares at him — is actually pretty good.  Travolta smolders with the best of them and the sequence does a good job of capturing Tony’s mix of desperation and determination.  It’s unfortunate that Kurtwood Smith pretty much disappeared from the film following the opening credits.  Judging from what little we see of him, Smith would have been pretty entertaining as a permanently annoyed choreographer.  Finally, how can you not love the neon credits?  This a scene that screams 80s in the best possible way.

So, while I continue to work on getting back to my usual prolific ways, why not enjoy this scene that I love from Staying Alive?

Scenes That I Love: Ruth and Sonny in The Last Picture Show (Cloris Leachman, RIP)


Yesterday, it was announced that the actress Cloris Leachman had passed away at the age of 94.

Leachman had a long career.  I know that most people know her from her comedic work.  Indeed, when it was announced that she had passed, Twitter was full of people posting clips from Young Frankenstein, Raising Hope, and a host of other comedies.  However, Leachman was also just as a capable as a dramatic actress.  She began her career in 1947 and, though she worked regularly (and appeared in the noir classic, Kiss Me Deadly), her career really didn’t pick up until she won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in 1972.

She won that Oscar for playing Ruth Popper in The Last Picture Show.  Ruth is the lonely wife of a closeted high school coach in a small Texas town.  She has an affair with teenager Sonny Crawford (Timothy Bottoms), just for him to abandon her for the beautiful but self-absorbed Jacy Farrow (Cybil Shepherd).  At the end of the film, after realizing that Jacy actually has no interest in him, Sonny attempts to return to Ruth.  It’s a powerful scene, largely due to Leachman’s performance.

In memory of Cloris Leachman, here’s a scene that I love:

Scenes That I Love: The Phone Call From Sam Wainwright From It’s A Wonderful Life


Tonight, NBC will be airing It’s A Wonderful Life.

Watching It’s A Wonderful Life on Christmas Eve is a tradition for many people.  It definitely is for me and my family.  I’ve watched It’s A Wonderful Life so many times that I’ve practically got the entire movie memorized.  It’s not only my favorite Christmas movie but also one of my favorite movies of all time.

Everyone knows, of course, that It’s A Wonderful Life is a film about a man named George (played by Jimmy Stewart) who gets a chance to see what the world would be like without him.  What I think is often overlooked is that it’s also a powerful and poignant love story and that the scenes between George and Mary (Donna Reed) are some of the most intensely romantic ever filmed.

In the scene below, George and Mary get a phone call from Mary’s ex, Sam Wainwright.  Sam has a business opportunity but George has more on his mind than staying in Bedford Falls and making money.  This scene, which begins with Mary upset and George feeling lost, ends with one of the most powerful kisses of the 1940s.

This is a scene that I love from a movie that I love and I look forward to watching it tonight!

Scenes That I Love: Daria Nicolodi in Shock


As soon as I heard the great Daria Nicolodi had passed away at the age of 70, I knew that I had to find a scene from one of her films to share here on the Shattered Lens.

Unfortunately, YouTube was not very helpful.  I was tempted to re-share the scene of her arm-wrestling David Hemmings in Deep Red but I chose not to because, according to our stats, a lot of you already visited that post after the news of her passing was announced.

I also nearly shared the finale of Shock.  This was Daria’s best performance and one that she always cited as being a favorite.  However, I hesitated to do so because that scene features Daria’s character dying in a rather gruesome manner and I worried it was perhaps a bit too morbid to share under these circumstances.  But this scene also shows what a good actress Daria Nicolodi was and, again, Shock was a film that she always cited as being one of her personal favorites.  That said, I just can’t bring myself to pay tribute to someone on the day of their passing with a scene in which they die.  So, I’m sharing a different scene from Shock.  This one is perhaps a bit less dramatic than the finale but it still shows what a good and expressive actress Daria Nicolodi was.  She makes the scene below feel real.

So, in memory of the great Daria Nicolodi, here she is in Mario Bava’s Shock: