I’ve known about this movie forever and that it was supposed to be good, but I never really knew that much about it – I think I thought it was some comedy about folks going on quiz shows or something. Well, it is about people on quiz shows, but not so much a comedy. It’s a real-life story of a 1950s quiz show scandal involving contestants who claimed they were given the answers to make them win, and were told when to take a fall so the show would get a new champion.
It’d be a good companion piece to Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, which I haven’t seen in far too long, a double-feature on the scandals and cover-ups of early television. In this case, the producers saw that whole thing as entertainment and as long as the ratings stayed up and viewers were enjoying the show, who cares if it’s legit? Well, Herbie Stemple (John Turturro), one of the dropped contestants, cares quite a bit, and soon young lawyer Dick Goodwin (Rob Morrow) is on the case as well, while current champion Charlie Van Doren (Ralph Fiennes) his best to pretend he’s on the up and up – as a Columbia University professor moonlighting on the quiz show, he’s got the most to lose, aside from the network itself of course.
It’s pretty well-known among my friends and acquaintances that I’m a huge Alfred Hitchcock fan, so assigning me a Hitchcock film I hadn’t seen was a kind of a gimme. This, I believe, was one of two American Hitchcock films I hadn’t seen (now the only remaining American one is The Paradine Case, but I have basically everything pre-1934 to catch up on). While I Confess isn’t usually considered top-drawer Hitchcock, I still expected to enjoy it, and I did.
Montgomery Clift is a priest who hears the confession of a murderer, but confession is sacred and even when he himself is implicated in the murder, he cannot reveal the truth to save himself. It’s not really a MacGuffin, but is pretty straightforward – Hitchcock is sincere here, which I enjoyed.
Alongside the so-bad-it’s-good ridiculous pleasures of Birdemic, Ricky decided to give me something a little more cerebral, with this movie detailing a high school philosophy class’s thought experiment about how they would survive the apocalypse. I generally love cerebral movies about philosophy, so this was a good pick for me.
It’s the final class period of senior year, and their professor Mr. Zimit (James D’Arcy) posits a final exam of sorts, with the premise that a nuclear disaster is incoming, there’s a bunker that will protect 10 people (there are twenty students plus the professor) for a year so they can rebuild civilization after it’s safe to come out of the bunker. He gives them all cards at random defining their jobs (structural engineer, electrician, poet, opera singer, organic farmer, etc.) and, in a second round of the experiment, a secondary characteristic that may or may not change their “value” to the collective.
When I did the little preview post for this challenge with how much I was looking forward to various films, I listed this under “I’m Terrified” – not really so much because I knew it was supposed to be one of the worst movies ever made (I have a soft spot for so-bad-they’re-good movies), but because for some reason I thought it was like extra violent/gory/gross or something. I don’t know why I had that in my head, because it isn’t at all. It’s pretty tame, really, in that department.
So back to having a soft spot for so-bad-they’re-good movies. If you’re that type of person, THIS MOVIE IS AMAZING. It’s clearly supposed to be a sort of remake/homage to The Birds, but the incompetence, oh my. It makes the fake-looking rear projection shots in The Birds look like masterful special effects. It makes ‘Tippi’ Hedren seem like the greatest actress the screen has ever seen. (Before it seems like I’m bagging on The Birds, that movie is in my Top 100 – those are some things people complain about in it, but I do not complain about them.)
We start off following Rod, a Silicon Valley salesman. He sees Natalie at a diner and awkwardly picks her up (just assume that every verb I’m going to use in this whole post is modified by “awkwardly”, because everything in this movie is sublimely awkward). They go on some dates, his company is bought out by a bigger one, he starts a green energy company, etc. Oh, yes, the environment is a big part of this, so if you’re annoyed that The Birds didn’t give its birds a motivation, Birdemic fixes that.
For this one, Naomi REALLY reached deep into the vaults, pulling out a 1937 British mystery I had never ever heard of. It’s fallen into the public domain, but the print I saw was pretty decent for being in that condition, and I had an overall good experience with the film.
Some of the story was a little hard to follow in the beginning, as it seems like it’s going to be some kind of relationship/marriage drama between French banker’s daughter Ranie Racine (Annabelle) and her beau, the Baron Philippe de Beaufort (Paul Lukas), but then quickly some kind of banking fraud plot is introduced courtesy of Ranie’s father, and then he turns up dead, an apparent suicide, but Ranie is convinced that it’s murder and heads out on her own to uncover the fraud ring behind it. Soon she’s joined by dashing David Niven and American detective Romney Brent (who also cowrote the screenplay).