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July 18-24, 2007

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This Week's Revivals

By Richard von Busack

Movie Times Broadway Melody of 1940/His Girl Friday
(Both 1940) Trouble backstage: both Fred Astaire and George Murphy (Ralph Bellamy crossed with Dick Powell) are in contention for the lead in a big musical. The money part is Astaire beginning a beguine with Eleanor Powell. The other famous minor-key number is "I Concentrate on You"; perhaps the implicit sadness is a hint of the war to come; sadness lifted easily by His Girl Friday. Chicago newspaper editor Walter Burns (Cary Grant) faces the simultaneous loss of his ex-wife and his star reporter, Hildy Johnson (Rosalind Russell), who proposes to remarry, move to the sticks and have kids. Meanwhile, an execution is scheduled, and only Hildy has the smarts to expose it as politically motivated railroading. Grant's Burns is the distillation of every type of movie comedy into one man. Grant uses slapstick, irony, cartoon reactions, silent-film mugging and Hamlet's own wordplay to confound the marks around him—and all the people in the world are his marks, except for Hildy. The cast includes a prime lot of comic types: Billy Gilbert, Porter Hall and Ernest Truex. And as always, there is Ralph Bellamy, playing Hildy's projected husband, an insurance salesman who wants to move his sweetheart into his mother's house in upstate New York. "Albany's a mighty good insurance town. Folks take it out pretty early in life there." (Plays Jul 21-24 in Palo Alto at the Stanford Theatre.)

Movie Times Goldfinger
(1964) If memory serves, years before that Pontiac in Transformers, there was a certain Aston-Martin. After two more or less serious adventures, the James Bond series went cosmic and comic. The title songs turned into arias; the number of extras killed on camera grew to the triple digits. Our hero, the saturnine British agent, began to stake his life against the fate of the world. And from now on, 007 trusted in Balzac's law: Behind every great fortune is a great crime. In this opus, Bond encounters the Swiss industrialist Auric Goldfinger (a chortling, gemultlich Gert Frobe), a gold smuggler who yearns to be the Napoleon of larceny. To pull off his stupendous robbery, he has acquired some pop-art tools: a laser, an atomic bomb and an all-lesbian air force commanded by Miss Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman, the lead with whom the ever-aloof Sean Connery had the nicest rapport). He gets along with the villain nicely, too. This despite the fact that "the man with the Midas touch/ A spider's touch," as Shirley Bassey wails, is the possessor of a fetish so unusual that they don't even know about it San Francisco. Too bad his early victim Shirley Eaton didn't have a "safe word." ("The image of me will last forever," Eaton said, describing her gilded self.) In many ways the best of the series; Bond adventures that followed this map never got very far lost. (Plays Jul 25 at sundown in San Jose at San Pedro Square;; free.)

Movie Times The Maltese Falcon
(1941) After his partner is killed, an amoral private detective from San Francisco called Spade (Humphrey Bogart) tangles with a mob of flamboyant but lethal criminals, all contending for "the stuff that dreams are made of"—a priceless black statuette of a falcon. The thugs include a perfumed Levantine calling himself "Joel Cairo" (Peter Lorre); a gunsel (i.e., prison punk) played by Elisha Cook Jr. and an obese Englishman, ancient in the ways of treachery (Sydney Greenstreet). Mary Astor is the prettiest and most deceptive face in the bunch. Proto-film noir by John Huston, it's more treacherous and rougher than you probably remember it. (Plays Jul 20 at sundown in Campbell at Case de la Cultura Mexica, 247 E. Campbell Ave, Campbell; bring lawn chairs or blankets; free.)

Movie Times Monkey Business/Carefree
(1952/1938) Cary Grant imbibes a youth potion accidentally invented by a chimpanzee. His wife (Ginger Rogers) is similarly reduced to thumb-sucking in this minor Howard Hawks comedy, which has its defenders. They include critic Jacques Rivette, claiming that Monkey Business critiques "the subtle poison of the Fountain of Youth, the temptation of infantilism ..." Tempting infantilism is also represented by Marilyn Monroe, who plays the decorative secretary of old scoundrel Charles Coburn. BILLED WITH Carefree. Unethical psychiatric techniques are exposed in this RKO musical, with Fred Astaire as a therapist who cultivates transference in his latest patient—Ginger Rogers. It seems that she can't figure out why she's broken her engagement with Ralph Bellamy three times, though fans of Bellamy's myriad performances as stodgy fiances won't need counseling to understand Ginger's plight. (Plays Jul 17-20 in Palo Alto at the Stanford Theatre.)

Movie TimesMonster House
(2006) Halloween, about 25 years ago: in a small Middle American town, a haunted house goes off its rocker. In this computer-animated horror story, the phrase "may be too intense for small children" comes to mind—when the rotting planks gape like gnashing, snaggled teeth, when the house going ambulatory on a pair of twisted oaks. But if it's not for kids, who is it for? The answer is that it tries to serve the aging-children market through nostalgia; the look isn't the superrealistic animation of Polar Express but rather a big-head, tiny-body Rankin-Bass look; the hero DJ (Mitchel Musso) looks like he was derived from that stop-motion Christmas special where Fred Astaire played a mailman. The cartoon's best moment is the flashback explaining the curse; that's when it stops being a Steven Spielberg thrill ride and something more like one of Tim Burton's odes to his demented youth. (Plays Jul 25 at 8:45pm in Redwood City at Courthouse Square; bring lawnchairs or blankets; free.)

Movie Times Niles Essanay Film Museum
Regularly scheduled silent movies. Tonight: hero dog Rin-Tin-Tin in The Night Cry (1926). As one film history notes, Rinty was the only silent star who never had to worry about the advent of the talkies, but he's got a lot on his mind here: fingered as a sheep killer, the wonder mutt has to clear his name. Canine-themed shorts include Almost Human, Fearless, and Leo McCarey's Dog Shy (1926), featuring Charlie Chase. Greg Pane at the piano. (Plays Jul 21 at 7:30pm at the Edison Theater, 37417 Niles Blvd, Fremont.)

Movie Times Old School
(2003) Stereo salesman Vince Vaughn troubleshoots Luke Wilson's suddenly single life by establishing a fraternity in Wilson's new rental on university property, much to the consternation of an evil dean (Jeremy Piven). Wilson wants his sudden celebrity status erased while his homie Frank (Will Ferrell) wants to relive his golden years as frat-boy lightning rod. (Plays Jul 18 at sundown in San Jose at San Pedro Square; see for details.) (TI)

Movie Times The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Marathon
(2003) Stereo salesman Vince Vaughn troubleshoots Luke Wilson's suddenly single life by establishing a fraternity in Wilson's new rental on university property, much to the consternation of an evil dean (Jeremy Piven). Wilson wants his sudden celebrity status erased while his homey Frank (Will Ferrell) wants to relive his golden years as frat-boy lightning rod. (Plays Jul 18 at sundown in San Jose at San Pedro Square; see for details.) (Todd Inoue)

Movie Times Shall We Dance/Follow the Fleet
"This is Vincent Price. Did you think the grave could hold me?" (I know, even if that terrifying line is from The Simpsons, it's not a "Treehouse of Horror" episode.) (Plays Jul 20 at midnight in Campbell at Camera 7, and Jul 21 at midnight in San Jose at Camera 12.)

Movie Times Suspicion/A Damsel in Distress
(1941/1937) A shy, well-off girl (Joan Fontaine) marries a man with a reputation (Cary Grant). Gradually, he begins to believe that he is a murderer. It was emasculated by cold-footed RKO executives, who made the exactly wrong decision about its ending. Yet it is still very suspenseful. Grant's "Got milk?" moment on the staircase carries plenty of menace even after all these years. BILLED WITH A Damsel in Distress. Fred Astaire plays a hoofer newly arrived in London trying to make time with an English lady (Fontaine, who tries to keep up with Astaire on the dance floor). Some more typically exhilarating moments are supplied by Burns and Allen, who join Astaire in a fun-house number. (Plays Jul 25-27 in Palo Alto at the Stanford Theatre.)

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