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  • Mod Movie Monday: Murder By Death, 1976

    Posted on November 26th, 2012 "Tiki Chris" Pinto No comments

    murderbydeath-poster“2-2-Twain”. It’s puns galore in Niel Simon’s hilarious spoof of just about every murder mystery detective of the mid-20th century, the movie that uses more old-time gags and goofy plot devices than a thief has disguises…

    Murder By Death, 1976

    Starring David Niven, Truman Capote, Eileen Brennan, Peter Falk, James Coco, Alec Guinness, Elsa Lanchester, Peter Sellers, Maggie Smith, Estelle Winwood, James Cromwell, Richard Narita, and Nancy Walker. (Whew! That’s a lot of stars!)

    There’s no way to tell you much about the storyline without giving it all away…so I’ll give you the basics. Lionel Twain (Capote) invites each of the most famous mystery detectives of all time to “Dinner and a Murder”. With slightly-off names like Sam Diamond and Jessica Marbles, the guests reluctantly come to Twian’s mansion (address: 22 Twain), and are soon treated to exactly what they were invited for…dinner, served by the blind butler (Guinness), and a murder. Yes, Obe Wan is a blind butler, aided by the deaf made (played by Nancy “Rosie” Walker). It’s all about devices.

    The lights go out. Someone is stabbed in the back. Rooms change. The moose on the wall talks. People’s clothes disappear. There is thunder and lightning, the bridge is out, and everyone is a suspect. It’s up to the spoofish detectives to overcome their goofy lines and solve the mystery before it’s too late…but will they? Yes, they will. Or will they?murder-by-death-niven

    Directed by Robert Moore in a 1940’s Noir style (although it’s in color, which was probably also meant as a joke), Murder by Death is packed full of just about every cliché possible, from the “Milo Perrier” character (aka Poirot) mixing up English and French words:

    Marcel: Something isn’t right in all of this, eh. I can feel it in my buns.
    Inspector Milo Perrier: Your what?
    Marcel: My buns.
    Inspector Milo Perrier: Buns? Your buns? You bought buns and you didn’t tell me? Where are they? Where are the buns?
    Marcel: Oh! No, monsieur. The BONES in my body.
    Inspector Milo Perrier: You should not speak with an accent when you know I am so hungry.

    murder-by-death-movie-dinnerTo Sam Diamond talking like Bogie in a BW flick:

    Tess Skeffington: There’s nothing on him ’til ’46, when he was picked up in El Paso, Texas, for trying to smuggle a truckload of rich white Americans across the border into Mexico to pick melons.
    Sam Diamond : I think we picked ourselves a queer bird, angel.

    Because it’s by one of our favorite cats, Niel Simon, the writing is incredibly rich and intelligent, in spite of the crazy wandering and goofy puns. Just when you think the mystery is solved, something else comes along to throw the “Twain” off the tracks (sorry, couldn’t resist). There are more twists than a bag of Twizzlers. All this, plus the fantastic performances from some of old Hollywood’s brightest stars, makes Murder By Death a fun movie to watch any time.murder-by-death-sellers

    Food & Booze: This is a grand dinner, so go all out – roast turkey, baked ham, the works. Or, serve invisible soup (you’ll see). Vintage cocktails are in order: Martinis, Manhattans, and straight whiskey.

    My Take: I first saw this movie in the mid 1980s, then again in the early 1990s. It’s part of what made me decide to start my own murder mystery comedy dinner theater, and to later write Noir murder mystery novels. Even though it’s a spoof, I rank it up there with The Maltese Falcon, The Big Sleep, and Murder on the Orient Express.

    -Tiki Chris, reporting from the other dining room at Tiki Lounge Talk.

  • Lolita, 1962 – Your Old Movie Recommendation for Mod Movie Monday

    Posted on September 10th, 2012 "Tiki Chris" Pinto No comments

    lolita-1962Get a new suggestion for an old movie every Monday at Tiki Lounge Talk.

    This week we venture into the slightly disturbing yet engaging mind of Stanley Kubrick, with his first independent film,

    Lolita, 1962

    Starring James Mason, Shelly Winters, Peter Sellers and Sue Lyon.

    For those of you who don’t know the original story of Lolita, it was a book about a middle-aged man who fell in love with a sexually active 12 year old girl. The censors insisted on making the movie slightly less creepy by increasing the girl’s age to 14…and Kubrick took off with it.

    Lolita

    Lolita

    Kubrick scrapped much of the book (and a screenplay written by the book’s author) to make his own brand of dark comedy, a movie fun and disturbing at the same time. He masterfully turns each scene, making the viewer sympathize with Professor Humbert (Mason) just long enough to then realize he is basically a starstruck pedophile. By the end of the flick you don’t know what’s right, what’s wrong, or how to feel. It’s a groovy scene, man.

    lolitaConsider this flick, which goes pretty far in suggesting Professor Humbert is sleeping with Lolita, was released in 1962. This was the same era when absolutely zero cursing, nudity or realistic gore was allowed in American movies. This was the era when Rock ‘n’ Roll music was still considered “devil music” and Chuck Berry was in jail for transporting an underage girl across state lines.

    The plot is simple…Humbert, a British literature professor, takes up residence in a quaint New Hampshire house run by Charlotte Haze (Winters). At first he doesn’t want to take the room…until he sees Charlotte’s daughter, Lolita. We assume he probably doesn’t realize at first how young she is, considering she looks like she’s about 20 and acts as sleazily flirtatious as an experienced stripper. This sets up the audience to accept the blooming relationship, at least on some level, as one of a guy in his 40s with a chick in her 20s (perfectly acceptable, right?). Then Kubrick slams us over the head with scenes that very definitely show us her true age, and our brains go swimming with idea of a grown man cheating on his wife with his 14 year old stepdaughter. In a sort of a dark, funny way, of course. Eh, yeah.

    Lolita and Humbert in a very suggestive scene.

    Lolita and Humbert in a very suggestive scene.

    The movie moves from a sordid fantasy to a sordid affair, to a journey across America for the stepfather and stepdaughter on the run from themselves and others. I won’t give anymore than that away, you’ll have to watch the flick for yourself to get the details.

    Keep in mind this movie was made under the probing eyes of strict mid-century censors. It’s almost unbelievable that the flick passed ANY censorship, considering its context. I suppose calling it a “dark comedy” helped, but even with Peter Sellers in the movie you won’t find too many “laugh out loud” moments. It’s more like “it’s funny because it’s so far out and so damned uncomfortable”, IMHO.

    sue-lyon-lolita-1962-09-gYou also won’t find as much symbolism in the movie as you will in later Kubrick films. There is some, no doubt, but I’m guessing he was having a hard enough time getting the movie made without getting arrested without having to figure out two hours of symbolism.

    Trivia: Carry Grant turned down the Humbert role “in indignation”. Haley Mills turned down the roll of Lolita…probably under the direction of Walt Disney. Over 800 girls auditioned for the roll of Lolita…proving that plenty of young actresses and their stage Moms were A-OK with this controversial role.

    Food & Booze: Just booze. The hard stuff. You’ll need it watching this flick.

    Sue Lyon: Went on to make a few more movies, including Night of the Iguana in 1964 and Tony Rome in 1967. Her last movie was Alligator (yes, the one with the giant alligator in the sewers) in 1980 where she had a small part as a newswomen. She retired after that and, at the time of this posting, she’s 66 years old. Yep.

    Here’s the Mod Movie Trailer for Lolita:

    -Tiki Chris reporting from a seedy motel where the clerk doesn’t check ID, for Tiki Lounge Talk

  • VERTIGO, 1958 – Hitchcock’s Finest for Mod (Noir) Movie Monday

    Posted on September 4th, 2012 "Tiki Chris" Pinto No comments

    vertigo_posterI know it’s Tuesday…gimme a break, yesterday was a national Holiday!

    What happens when a middle-aged detective suddenly learns he has an intense fear of heights? He quits the force…only to get dragged back into the investigation business at the behest of an old friend.

    VERTIGO, 1958

    Starring Jimmy Stewart, Kim Novak & Barbara Bel Geddes
    Directed by Alfred Hitchcock

    Stewart brilliantly plays the ex-cop who, as a favor to an old college buddy, agrees to follow his wife. It seems she’s been traveling to strange places, and the guy believes she’s actually not herself when she does…in fact, he believes she’s been possessed by the spirit of her great grandmother. He fears for her life, of course, since the GG ended her own life with a nosedive out of a tower. Stewart follows…and winds up falling for the dame (Novak). You can probably see where this is heading…but in true Hitchcock style, you must be prepared to expect the unexpected.

    Helloooo, Kimmy

    Helloooo, Kimmy

    Giant redwoods, an old Spanish mission, and tons of great shots of late 1950’s San Francisco play into this strange mystery. Throw in a mod-style cartoon depicting Stewart’s fear of heights and some very kool 50s rides, and you’ve got a sort of time capsule that swings you back to CAL in the mid-20th century.

    Vertigo was nominated for two Oscars and Hitchcock was nominated for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures by the Directors Guild of America. Unlike some of Hitchcock’s other infamous flicks, it’s filmed in Technicolor, which adds a lot to the vibrance of the characters and the “historical” qualities of this 1950’s slice of Americana.

    vertigo-stewart-desotoSome interesting tidbits about the film (no spoilers)

    “Uncredited second-unit cameraman Irmin Roberts invented the famous “zoom out and track in” shot (now sometimes called “contra-zoom” or “trombone shot”) to convey the sense of vertigo to the audience. The view down the mission stairwell cost $19,000 for just a couple of seconds of screen time.”

    “The building exterior used for Madeleine’s apartment building is located at 1000 Mason St., across the street from the Fairmont Hotel.”

    “Poorly received by U.S. critics on its release, this film is now hailed as Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece.”

    Here’s the trailer…

    -Tiki Chris reporting from the Golden Gate Bridge.

  • Marty, 1955 staring Ernest Borgnine, for Mod (Vintage) Movie Monday

    Posted on July 9th, 2012 "Tiki Chris" Pinto No comments

    ernestborgnineisshowninascenefromthe1955filmmartyIn remembrance of Ernest Borgnine who passed away last week at the cool old age of 95, this week’s Mod-Vintage Movie Monday is

    Marty, from 1955

    When a movie wins best Actor in a Leading Role (Borgnine), Best Director (Delbert Mann), Best Writing, Screenplay (Paddy Chayefsky) and Best Picture, you know it’s got to be good. Damned good. So it is with Marty. Marty is an Italian New York City (Bronx) butcher, who at 34 years old has not yet tied the knot. In fact. looking 20 years older, he doesn’t have much luck with any dames. He lives his life day to day, trying to be a nice guy and an all around good person. And he is…but nice guys finish last, don’t they?

    Marty is constantly hounded by his family to get married. Trouble is, he can’t even manage to hold a girl’s attention for more than five minutes. Then along comes Clara, an average-looking schoolteacher who’s not the flashy-trashy chicks that seems to be swinging off the trees. They connect…but can they make it work?marty-poster

    Marty is a great mid-50s slice of life story, with fantastic performances by Borgnine, Jerry Paris and Betsy Blair. It’s part Noir, part love story and part comedy, with the fun coming from the daily lives of the characters and how they interact, not from cheesy one-liners or puns. One of my favorite scenes is when Marty and his buddy are trying to figure out what to do that night. “Let’s call Mary Feeney…”

    Food: Since Marty is a butcher, it only makes sense to have some meat. Here’s and easy pot roast recipe that’s been a standard in my family for 50+ years.

    5-8 lb Chuck or Bottom Round Roast
    Fresh Carrots, Celery, Potatoes, Onions, string beans
    Canned or frozen peas, corn
    Lipton Onion Soup Mix
    Salt, Pepper, Garlic Powder, Oregano, Bay Leaves
    Bouillon Cubes
    Flour

    Sprinkle salt and pepper on the roast. In a large pot, sear the beef on high heat in a tablespoon of oil, turning until each side is brown. Add one large onion, potatoes, carrots, and celery (all diced into large chunks) and string beans, one can corn and one can peas (with water), and one cup of water. Bring to boil. Separately, dissolve bouillon cube and onion soup mix in one cup cold water. Add on teaspoon each of salt, pepper, garlic powder, and oregano. Pour into pot and bring to boil. Add 2-3 bay leaves. Once at full boil, reduce to simmer, stir and cover. Add another cup of water and let simmer for about 20 minutes. Taste broth; add more water as needed and seasoning to taste. Allow roast to simmer (low) covered for at least two hours. Roast is done when it is tender enough to pull apart with a fork.

    Gravy: Remove two cups of broth, add one bouillon cube and bring to boil. Reduce heat and whisk in flour one tablespoon at a time, allowing to thicken a few minutes between additions. Thicken and add seasoning to taste. I like mine peppery.

    Booze: Schlitz Beer, or Chianti wine, the kind that comes wrapped in a basket weave.

    Here’s the trailer…

    -Tiki Chris P. reporting from the kitchen at Pirate’s Cove Tiki Lounge, Fort Lauderdale, FLmarty-tommy

  • Voodoo Cooler – Your Weekend Tiki Bar Cocktail Recipe!

    Posted on March 9th, 2012 "Tiki Chris" Pinto 2 comments

    tropical-cocktail-artAs most of you mix-o-matic kats and shaker shakin’ kittens know, there’s a biz-zillion ways to combo rums, fruit juices and ice to make a groovy Tropical Cocktail. Some take time, skill and a bankroll to create, some are easy and cheap, and if done right, all are really good.

    The Voodoo Cooler

    is a drink that you can probably whip together with stuff you usually have laying around the bar, so you can have a tropical cocktail without taking a trip to the liquor store.

    1 oz dark or spiced rum (your choice)
    1 oz Midori
    2 oz coconut rum
    1/2 oz orange juice
    1/2 oz pineapple juicetropical-cocktail-2

    Shake everything up in a shaker with ice, and pour into the coolest looking Tiki mug you can find. Garnish with fresh orange and pineapple, a cherry, and an umbrella. This drink is a little sweeter than most, but it’s refreshing and has a real “islandy” taste.

    If you wanna go nutz…

    Put this all in a blender with ice and do a frozen job, then top with a jigger of 151. Woo hoo! Key West style, baby!

    -Tiki Chris reporting from the outdoor bar on the lanai, in sunny Fort Lauderdale, Florida