Join me as I watch Humphrey Bogart take on Sidney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre—not to mention that duplicitous whore Mary Astor—in John Huston’s version of Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon. I compare it to the book a little (it’s nearly identical) and the 1931 version (it’s way better), as well as Citizen Kane and later films noir and hard-boiled detective films.
I complain about Astor’s performance (and general non-sexiness, if you ask me) and about the somewhat repetitive talkiness of the film, but I really do love it. I just can’t quite call it “nearly perfect”. I take it apart and examine the pieces, particularly the character motivations and directorial style and explain what an “automatic revolver” is.
Kurt Russell and a bunch of “scientists” take on Rob Bottin and Stan Winston in a remake/readaptation of the 1950s monster flick, The Thing From Outer Space. The Doctor, of Speakeasy Commentaries, joins me for a third time—this time in glorious stereophonic sound. We both love the film and heap praise all over it (even on the dog) and yet fail to credit the original author, John W Campbell, Jr. (“Who Goes There”) or even the screen adapter, Bill Lancaster. We address such delicate questions as “who gets assimilated when?” “why keep rotting corpses indoors?” and “what’s with Doc Copper’s nose ring?” as well as marvel at the number of Vietnam-haunted alcoholic pot-smokers that were sent to live in the Antarctic for months at a time with firearms, dynamite, and flame-throwers.
Caution: Film-appropriate salty language from time to time.
Bonus: A quick-reference card to help keep the characters straight!
Start the commentary with the Universal title card, on the countdown. (77 MB)
Michael J Fox leaps into the past in a nuclear-powered Delorean in Steven Spielberg’s Robert Zemeckis’s 1985 time travel movie to end all time travel movies (except for the two sequels and the cartoon series). I discuss the nature of time travel, point out the links to other films (like 1960’s The Time Machine), and blather on at some length about the cars and the history of rock and roll from 1951 to 1955.
Start the commentary when the Universal logo fades, on my countdown. (55 MB)
Ridley Scott starts the Alien franchise rolling with Alien, the story of a humble xenomorph born into a hostile world full of potential hosts that he must struggle to maim and prepare for embryo impregnation. But there is a spunky gal in a space panties that has it out for him!
Join me as I dissect this alien. I discuss the structure and pulp origins of the film, the similarities between Ridley Scott and Stanley Kubrick, and the mysterious connections between Gunsmoke and American science fiction. I compare the film to WW2 submarine movies, Star Wars, Mission Impossible (for which I drop a spoiler), and teenage slasher films. I suggest that Veronica Cartwright’s career might have been derailed by snot. I complain about Star Trek: First Contact. I say that Dallas portrays alien characteristics when I mean hero characteristics. I say that we’re “still in the third act” when I mean the second act.
Start the film before the 20th Century Fox title at the same time you start the commentary. (54 MB)
Harrison Ford breathes life into another icon when he picks up the whip and fedora offered by George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, and Lawrence Kasdan. I talk about the film’s origins and episodic nature, call it “nearly perfect,” and point out its various imperfections. I ponder the nature of the triple villain and the character arc that Indy travels. I compare it to romantic comedies and serials of the 1930s and ’40s, and to the other Indiana Jones films. I say 1935 a couple of times when I mean 1936. I say Martin Scorsese directed Tucker when I mean Francis Ford Coppola. And I squeeze in a reference to Yakima Canutt.
I watched the US release on DVD from the boxed set. The commentary should work with any other version unless Lucas does something stupid with the Blu-Ray release (like replacing Marion’s final ‘drink’ dialog with: “By the way, Indy, what do you think of the name ‘Mutt’?”).
Start the commentary just before the Paramount logo fades in.
An imperfect commentary for a nearly perfect film. Bill Murray is chief idiot to Dan Ackroyd and Harold Ramis in a modern Marx Brothers-style epic comedy thriller. Sigourney Weaver, Annie Potts, and Ernie Hudson support, not to mention Rick Moranis, William Atherton, and Yugoslavian supermodel Slavitza. Director Ivan Reitman delivers the goods in thrills and chills while the top-talent cast supplies the laughs. I describe the statue-spirit motif, the dual-story structure of the plot, the cartoonish nature of the Ghostbusters which makes them inherently merchandisable, and the evils of synthesizer music. I mistakenly say that Gozer has a “Grace Slick haircut” when I mean a “Grace Jones haircut.”
UPDATE: I’ve filled in most of the long quiet stretches with more piercing and insightful observations like “Sigourney Weaver is a year older than Bill Murray.”
Start the film at the same time you start the commentary. (48 MB)
Little Judy Garland wins friends and kills witches dead in her vain attempts to just find a way back to Kansas. I compare the movie extensively to the original novel. I explain the concept of a frame story and the minor inconsistencies in the plot, like the troublesome character of Professor Marvel. I use the word brilliant too much. I ponder the possibility that the Wicked Witch is ethnically a Winkie and wonder why the Good Witch isn’t ethnically a Munchkin.
I bust a few myths, like the one about the hanged stage hand and the one about the “Oh-ee-oh” song. I suggest that Playboy, if it had been around in 1939, might have done a pictorial of the “Girls of the Emerald City Wash & Brush Up Co.” I compare the Wicked Witch to Jaws. I suggest that the movie should have been remade in 1985 with Arnold Schwarzenegger. And I beg children not the follow the film’s advice of not looking for a better life beyond your own back yard.
My favorite film. I did a commentary for this a couple of years ago that was good but sounded lousy and was in three parts. With everybody downloading big podcasts over broadband, it might as well be in one file, so I’ve rerecorded it. I describe the historical context as well as the themes and how the plot points are foreshadowed and resolved.
I explain the “General DeGaulle/Weygand” mix-up and how the characters relate to the larger picture of Europe in the midst of World War 2, particularly how characters are introduced early and kept alive in the background until they become important.
Note: I mistakenly say that Rick fought in Spain in 1935, when the film clearly says 1936 (the Spanish Civil War didn’t start until mid-1936).
Start the movie at the very beginning credits when I give the instruction. (49 MB)