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November 1-7, 2006

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This Week's Revivals

By Richard von Busack

Movie Times Alien
(1979) Especially beloved for its art direction, an amalgam of H.R. Giger, Ron Cobb and Moebius, as well as for the then- innovative way the ship is warmed by the hominess of cigarettes and beer, wind chimes and Hawaiian shirts. Evidence of humanity counters the industrial funk of the Nostromo, an outer-space barge layered with grit, oil and moisture. As for the central love story, time cannot stale it. The tall, dark leading man is a 9- foot-tall cephalopod with molecular-acid blood and titanium teeth. "Its structural perfection is matched only by its hostility," observes science officer Ash (Ian Holm). The creature's partner is Sigourney Weaver, whose hostility is matched only by her structural perfection. The film made a star out of Weaver, and the Alien saga is a success due to her and her evolution: as a motherly macha in Aliens, as the shaven- headed prisoner in the honest if thoroughly depressing AIDS allegory Alien³ and as the spawning hum(alie)n in Alien Resurrection. The morals of the story, both useful, are "Don't trust corporations" and "Don't let the cat out!" (Plays Nov 3-4 at midnight in Palo Alto at the Aquarius Theater.)

Movie Times The Black Swan/Sitting Pretty
(1942/1948) Photographer Leon Shamroy may well be the unsung star of this Technicolor pirate opus, set in the days of Henry Morgan (Laird Cregar). Buckaneer Tyrone Power is forced onto the right side of the law when Morgan becomes governor of Jamaica, but there's still one pirate at large: Redbeard (George Sanders). Maureen O'Hara stars in the governor's daughter role, a la the later Pirates of the Caribbean. BILLED WITH Sitting Pretty. Clifton Webb, best known as the insidious Waldo Lydecker in Laura, plays a comically fussy baby-sitter named Belvedere; he brought the character back for two sequels. (Plays Nov 3 in Palo Alto at the Stanford Theatre.)

Movie Times Carmen Jones/Stormy Weather
(1954/1943) See story.

Movie Times Hangover Square/The Ghost and Mrs. Muir
(1945/1947) One of the nastiest of movie heavies, Laird Cregar. Cregar excelled at playing sweaty, epicene hulks with unguessably ugly motives and tastes. Worn out by crash dieting, Cregar died young, but here he is in his last picture playing a composer who goes homicidal in London. Film noir mastermind John Brahm directed; the Guy Fawkes Day finale is particularly hellish. BILLED WITH The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. Sublime romantic fantasy about an Edwardian widow (Gene Tierney) romanced by the specter of a drowned sea captain (Rex Harrison). George Sanders is the proverbial grain of salt amid the sweetness as a sleek but horrible children's book writer ("Lord knows I hate the little brutes"). Magic, in a word. (Plays Nov 1-2 in Palo Alto at the Stanford Theatre.)

Movie Times The Nightmare Before Christmas
(1993) Tim Burton's stop-action marvel never gets old. This Halloween return engagement is being shown in 3-D in limited theaters. Adding the 3-D effect seems like overkill to us. Don't mess with a classic, we always say. (Plays at the Century Oakridge 20.)

Movie Times The Sheik
(1921) "Concerning the literary merits of this effusion, it is kindest to be silent."—A Pictoral History of the Movies by Deems Taylor, 1943. Rudolph Valentino shows the world how a real man flares his nostrils in this sandy opus, about an English heiress (Agnes Ayres) captured by a tempestuous Bedouin. Plus selected shorts with Charlie Chaplin and Laurel and Hardy. Gene Turner at the organ. (Plays Nov 4 at 7pm in San Jose at the Divine Science Community Center, 1540 Hicks Ave; $7 at the door; www.

Movie Times Tobacco Road/The Grapes of Wrath
(1941/1939) The Dukes of Hazzard of its era. Shiftless hillbillies in Georgia fight off the bankers, hit the jug and say colorful things; their pappy, Jeeter Lester (Charles Grapewin) schemes to hold off the foreclosure. With Gene Tierney and Ward Bond. John Ford directs. BILLED WITH The Grapes of Wrath. The drought and dust storms of the 1930s drive a family to California, but trouble and torment wait for them. Based on John Steinbeck's far more radical novel, this was still a risky film, despite elements of commercial compromise that seem worse with every year this film ages. (By contrast, Jane Darwell's mom replaces the memory of what the real old-time Oklahoma mothers of the Depression were like: a lot tougher and a lot less maudlin.) Despite that matter, Henry Fonda's Tom Joad seems like the genuine article, John Carradine's Casey is a classic of character acting and Gregg Toland's photography bears comparison with Georges de la Tour's paintings. (Plays Nov 8-9 in Palo Alto at the Stanford Theater.)

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