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  • 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.

  • The King of Marvin Gardens, 1972 for Mod Movie Monday, Atlantic City Style

    Posted on January 31st, 2012 "Tiki Chris" Pinto 2 comments

    king-of-marvin-gardens-posterWe now return you to our regularly scheduled programs…

    Mod/Noir Movie Monday is back, after a brief detour due to the New Year, some crazy happenings, and too much booze (or not enough).

    This week we have a somewhat obscure doozy from the early 1970s, a time when movies were in that transitional period between Ocean’s 11 and Jaws, when a film maker could hire Jack Nicholson, Scattman Crothers, Ellen Burstyn and Bruce Dern on a shoestring budget, throw in a bunch of quirkiness, some natural breasts and a TON of location shots of Atlantic City before the casinos invaded…then have that movie become an iconic time capsule of the end of the “old Atlantic City” era, right down to the interior shots of the Marlborough-Blenheim Hotel, doomed to the wrecking ball seven years later.

    The King of Marvin Gardens, 1972

    The Blenheim, c. 1972. This was the main setting of The King of Marvin Gardens.
    The Blenheim, c. 1972. This was the main setting of The King of Marvin Gardens.

    is about a con man (Dern) who asks his brother (Nicholson) to help him start a resort in Hawaii. There’s not much about that storyline going on that’s worth paying any attention to. What you’re watching this flick  for is atmosphere, images, and lifestyles that are long, long gone and mostly forgotten.

    Most of the movie takes place in and around the Blenheim part of the historic Marlborough-Blenheim Hotel. Like most things historic in Atlantic City, someone (probably) got paid off to allow it to be imploded so a POS glass and steel casino could be built in its place (but that’s a rant for another post). Anyway, you’ll get a lot of eye-candy of old Atlantic City, including the boardwalk auctions, shots of the piers, the interior of the Atlantic City Boardwalk Convention Hall, interiors and exteriors of some of the great hotels, and even a few cool old cars. Overall, the skyline of Atlantic City in 1972 didn’t look too much different than it did in the 1920s or 1950s…so it’s a fun glimpse into the past.

    Atlantic City Skyline, 1972

    Atlantic City Skyline, 1972

    What? Is the movie any good? Well, that depends on your tastes, of course. If you like movies from this era at all, you’ll probably dig it a lot. Don’t look for a lot of action, suspense, or deep storyline…this move is about characters, and some intense acting  (the acting is very good). It’s basically a slice of life kind of thing, and the characters make it interesting to watch (remember, in this kind of movie the buildings, the boardwalk, the beach are as much characters as the people). It’s sometimes depressing, sometimes funny. You guys who read my posts know I don’t get all “in depth and analytical” about flicks, so if you want a “deep” convo about how groundbreaking or historically important the film is, check out this blog.

    I used to shop for trinkets at Irene's Gifts...THIS Irene's Gifts. In the late 1980s, they still had a lot of new-old stock souvenirs from the 60s & 70s.

    I used to shop for trinkets at Irene's Gifts...THIS Irene's Gifts. In the late 1980s, they still had a lot of new-old stock souvenirs from the 60s & 70s.

    Food and Booze: There’s a great scene where they’re eating in Captain Starn’s Seafood Restaurant, which was one of the world famous restaurants right on the boards in the Atlantic City Inlet. They’re entertaining potential investors….so I’d say a nice whole Maine lobster with black butter and Filet Mignon tips, rare would be appropriate. And might I suggest pairing with a 1972 vintage Baron Philippe de Rothschild Sauvignon Blanc…or, for that real old Atlantic City flavor, fried flounder and a Michelob!

    atlantic-city-1972

    Atlantic City

    My Take: Although I was born in Philly, my family moved to and operated the Star Dust Motel on the Black Horse Pike in West Atlantic City from 1969 to 1973. Like everything kool and old, it was torn down in ’73 and is now an empty lot. I grew up 10 miles west of Atlantic City, but my family hardly ever went there…it was in pretty sad shape in the 1970s, and known more for gang violence and other crimes than as a fun tourist destination. We went to the boardwalk once when I was very young…I have vague memories of looking up at the Marlborough-Blenheim, seeing the rides (but not going on them) on Steel Pier, and driving by The Knife and Fork Inn. We went again when Resorts opened as the first Casino in the old Haddon Hall Hotel (one of the few survivors) in 1978, and I have a few memories of that.

    A scene from The King of Marvin Gardens, on the Boardwalk with the world famous Traymore Hotel in the background (imploded 1974).

    A scene from The King of Marvin Gardens, on the Boardwalk with the world famous Traymore Hotel in the background (imploded 1972).

    I was only four years old when The Traymore was imploded, but remember hearing about it, remember my parents saying how sad it was. In 1988, I stood on the boardwalk and watch a crane take apart the last bits of the burned-out, crumbling Steel Pier. A few months my buddy Steve and I sneaked into the back of the house at Resorts, went up to the ballroom and watched the Steeplechase Pier burn to the ground (it was directly across the boardwalk…we could feel the heat inside Resorts).

    Ocean One Mall, as it looked when I was Tourism Director in 1989.

    Ocean One Mall, as it looked when I was Tourism Director in 1989.

    That same year I got a job working as “the balloon guy” for a display company that had 400 semi-permanent Mylar balloons decorating Resorts for its 10-year anniversary. Two years later I was working as a costumed character (kind of like Mr. Peanut) for The Shops one Ocean One, a mall built on the pilings of the original Million Dollar Pier, and eventually became Tourism & Marketing Director. I learned a lot about Atlantic City history while there, not realizing I was living it, and making it, every day. The owners went out of business in 1990, and it eventually closed in the early 00′s, was bought by Caesars, and turned into a high-end Vegas-like shopping mall connected to the casino.

    So much of old Atlantic City is gone now…all the hotels, except for The Dennis, that were in The King of Marvin Gardens are gone now, replaced by new casinos. Captain Starn’s in long gone. Marven Gardens (they spelled it wrong in the movie) is still there, in Margate, but is never shown in the movie. All of the piers are either gone, or have been completely rebuilt as modern structures except Central Pier, which still retains its original facade, although badly stuccoed and gaudily painted. The city is an insane mix of mega-modern casinos and decaying 100-year-old buildings, and will eventually become fully modern…so enjoy The King of Marvin Gardens, one of the only remaining glimpses of this great City’s past.

    Here’s a short clip from the beginning of the movie…

    -Tiki Chris Pinto reporting from the Warner Theater, on the Boardwalk in Atlantic City c. 1972 (metaphysically, of course).

  • Madigan, 1968 for Mod Movie Monday

    Posted on November 15th, 2011 "Tiki Chris" Pinto No comments
    Madigan, 1968

    Madigan, 1968

    This is one of those 1960s cop movies that kind of faded away over the years, but holds up nice as a very kool slice of life from the time. With plenty of shots of NYC in the late 60s, cars, slums, fancy hotels, police precincts inside and out, this film is an hour and forty-one minute time capsule.

    Madigan, 1968

    Starring Richard Widmark, Henry Fonda, Harry Guardino, James Whitmore and Inger Stevens.

    madigan-guns

    These are the short-brimmed hats that have made a comeback today.

    Set in the present of 1968, this movie is an old-fashioned crime drama with a gritty edge. The detectives are all tough guys with short-brimmed fedoras, the cops look like they could have stepped out of a 1930′s flick, the cars are all big American sedans and there’s litter everywhere. The director managed to help capture the era for all posterity by grabbing plenty of shots of food joints, bars, commercial signage, and even a nice shot of the Coney Island boardwalk. Hard-swingin’ crime drama music by Don Costa and a lines like “he needs a hair cut” and “aw, the hell with these (bullet proof) vests, let’s go” juice this goody up but good.

    Richard Widmark as Madigan, a real tough cop

    Richard Widmark as Madigan, a real tough cop

    The story: Madigan and his partner get suckered into losing up their rods to a hood during a routine check. They spend the next couple of days tracking the guy down, while he uses the heisted rods to kill cops. Meanwhile the commish is dealing with police corruption that goes all the way up to the top. Bad news all around.

    I’m sure audiences in 1968 who were expecting an old-fashioned crime drama were surprised (maybe appalled) by the split-second female nudity, the few curse words peppered around and the mean-street violence, even by the cops themselves. By today’s standards it’s practically a Disney flick. But still fun to watch, especially for the images of 43 years ago.

    Lots of cool cars in Madigan, like this Lincoln Continental

    Lots of cool cars in Madigan, like this Lincoln Continental

    Food & Booze: These are hard-drinking tough-guy cops. Drinking anything less than 100 proof rye whiskey would be crime. Wash down a dirty-water dog or a Rubin on rye with a pickle and you’re all set.

    My take: The thing I found really interesting about this flick was the offices inside the police station. Dull green walls, wooden desks, steel grating over dirty windows and everything covered in a film of nicotine is exactly what you see, and exactly what I envisioned when I wrote my murder mystery book Murder on Tiki Island, where Detective Bill Riggins has a desk, a phone and a chair to conduct his investigating. Now, I may have seen this movie when I was a kid, say, 35 years ago on TV. Don’t remember it. But it seems my imagination has a pretty good handle on what police stations looked like in the middle of the last century. Kookie, huh?

    McGinty's Bar, Madigan 1968. Lots of great imagery in this flick.

    McGinty's Bar, Madigan 1968. Lots of great imagery in this flick.

    Here are the opening titles, with lots of cool 1968 shots of New York and some swingin’ crime drama riffs by Don Costa…

    Man, they just don’t write movie music like that anymore, huh? Swingin’, rockin’, crazy stuff.

    -Tiki Chris Pinto reporting from the screening room at Pirate’s Cove Tiki Lounge, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

  • Murder on the Orient Express, 1974 for Mod Movie Monday

    Posted on September 13th, 2011 "Tiki Chris" Pinto 2 comments

    murder_on_the_orient_expressposterNot all detective stories feature a tough guy in an old fedora, lugging around a .45 caliber piece of iron and bedding every hot dame that crosses his path. One of the best and most entertaining characters in the realm of Who-dunnit mysteries is that of Hercule Poirot, the wax-mustached Belgian detective created by Agatha Christie. Without doubt in the top ten of the most famous detectives ever in print, Poirot is absolutely most known for his role in

    Murder on the Orient Express.

    Originally written in 1934, this masterpiece of murder was transformed into an all-star movie by director Sidney Lumet and screenplay writer Paul Dehn 40 years later. Dig this lineup:

    Albert Finney Hercule Poirot
    Lauren Bacall Mrs. Hubbard
    Martin Balsam Bianchi
    Ingrid Bergman Greta
    Jacqueline Bisset Countess Andrenyi
    Jean-Pierre Cassel Pierre
    Sean Connery Colonel Arbuthnot
    John Gielgud Beddoes
    Wendy Hiller Princess Dragomiroff
    Anthony Perkins McQueen
    Vanessa Redgrave Mary Debenham
    Rachel Roberts Hildegarde
    Richard Widmark Ratchett
    Michael York Count Andrenyi

    murder-on-the-orient-expressfinneyShot in an old, classic-era Hollywood style, the film is a nice diversion from some of the grittier, dirtier movies of the 1970s. It’s also a nice look back at the way life was at a time when people took trains instead of cars or planes to far-off destinations. The story is intriguing and the acting top notch, as you might expect from such a hip roster of stars. orient-still

    Finney is great as the somewhat strange Poirot, playing the part much older than his actual age. And of course the ending…the resolve…is one of the most famous in history, with dozens of other books and movies borrowing from it or parodying it. (I won’t give it away here).

    Don’t forget this was a book first…watch the movie, then read the book.

    Food & Booze: I would suggest an aperitif, perhaps a Champagne Cocktail or Negroni to go with this upper-crust flick. Roast chicken, Brussels sprouts and Waldorf Salad should make an entertaining dinner. Then again, a pizza and beer works just as well.

    Here’s the original trailer from 1974:


    Tiki Chris reporting from the terminal at the Orient Express

  • High Plains Drifter, 1973 with Clint Eastwood for Mod Movie Monday

    Posted on August 23rd, 2011 "Tiki Chris" Pinto 1 comment

    high-plains-drifter-posterI don’t usually swing with cowboy flicks, but there are a fist full of really kool Spaghetti Westerns that definitely make the cut. One such classic is

    High Plains Drifter

    from 1973, starring and directed by Clint Eastwood.

    Now, I said Spaghetti Western, which isn’t entirely true. This flick was made right here in the good ole U.S. of A, not in the mountains of Italy. But…it certainly has the SW look and feel, except maybe for the lack of dubbing over Italian actors’ Italian dialogue.

    This is one of those “man with no name comes into town, shows he’s a great gunslinger and gets hired to kill the bad guys” movies. With a twist. Eastwood’s character is so tough and mean, he’s got the whole town under his thumb in the first 10 minutes. You find out later that the stranger has a secret…as does the town…and thinks veer off slightly into the paranormal.highplainsdrifterclinteastwood

    Yes, I said paranormal. Very subtly. I won’t give it away here.

    There’s some heavy-duty violence in this one (still makes me cringe) so keep the kiddies away. The story is weird and keeps you guessing, even when you figure things out. This was Clint’s first time directing a western, and man, did he nail it.

    If you’ve never seen this flick, there is one main part that you may have come across over the years: The Stranger paints the entire town red, and renames it Hell. It’s one hell of a tough image.

    highplainsdrifter-girl

    Food & Booze: There’s a scene in the movie where they’re having a dinner of fried chicken and French wine. Seriously. Add a side of home made mashed taters and some BBQ beans and yer all set, Stranger.

    Here’s the original theatrical trailer for the film. Following it is a fan-made trailer, that IMHO is actually better. Check it out.

    eastwood-highplandrifter-Cowboy Chris reporting from the Tiki Saloon.
    Don’t forget to visit StarDustMysteries.com!