Quite a disparate trio to review…
Tobacco Road (1941): Both compelling and hard to take in its extremely broad stereotypes, this John Ford tale of inbred hillbillies. To avoid offending religious folk and to skirt the cultural critique, Ford described the production this way: “We’ve eliminated the horrible details and what we’ve got left is a nice dramatic story. It’s a tear-jerker, with some comedy relief. What we’re aiming at is to have the customers sympathize with our people and not feel disgusted.” I need to read the original play, but for now I can say there were some great performances, an effectively creepy feeling, and casting that threw me for a loop, especially Gene Tierney as Ellie May (a wild gal obviously redone for The Beverly Hillbillies), an unrecognizable Ward Bond as Lov, and a small straight role for Dana Andrews. RECOMMENDED for the mess it is.
Dead Ringer (1964): There comes a point in many an actor’s life where, if they live long enough, they become a gross cartoon of themselves. Joan Crawford is probably the most obvious example, but the same can be said for Laurence Tierney and Robert DeNiro, eh? This is quite true for Bette Davis as well, and painfully vivid in Dead Ringer. The lipstick that runs wide of the mouth, the raspy voice that breaks when she yells, and the scenery chewing. I don’t know. Maybe she always did it, but it was “cute” when she was young (e.g. The Petrified Forest) and delicious when she had great material (All About Eve). Not as good for camp as Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, it still held my attention. Karl Malden is particularly endearing in it, and Peter Lawford at his slimy best. RECOMMENDED but you’ve been warned.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016): Why the hell did this get bad reviews? I watched it on the plane home from London and enjoyed every moment. The novel was fun for the first half but bored me too much to finish, but the big screen was the perfect place for this delightful satire. The casting is great, and the main characters are lovely exaggerations of the Austen original. Darcy is particularly hilarious in his broodiness and Mrs. Bennett just wildly over the top. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED when you need some delightful escapism, complete with skulls crunching under ladies’ boots and a dagger at the naughtily exposed hip.