Ida Lupino, William Castle, FrightFest

"By any standard, [Ida Lupino's] body of work is intriguing, but as a female in sexist mid-century Hollywood, it is particularly remarkable," writes Justin Stewart in the L Magazine. "MoMA makes dual claims for Lupino's acting and directing bravura with its series Mother Directs. The title refers to her preferred nickname among film crews and the phrase on her director's chair — 'The Mother of Us All.' Pictures by Raoul Walsh, Nicholas Ray, and Don Siegel here showcase some of Lupino's best performances, and they're featured alongside all seven of her directorial jobs."

"Lupino was growing restless by the late 1940s, tired of standing around on set while 'someone else seemed to be doing all the interesting work.'" Melissa Anderson in the Voice: "What Mother wanted to do was direct 'socially conscious films.'... Lupino may have been drawn to social melodramas, but she also liked stories about psychopaths. Her finest work as a director, The Hitch-Hiker (1953), which she also co-wrote, is a taut desert noir about two pals on a fishing trip who unknowingly pick up a palsy-eyed murderer." The series opens today and runs through September 30; the image above is from Harry Horner's Beware, My Lovely (1952).

The Return of William Castle happens tomorrow at New York's Film Forum and carries on through September 6. Nick Pinkerton in the Voice: "Gimmicks aside — and Film Forum will revive them all in a fully rigged-up theater — there is a particular pleasure in the ornate plot twists of Homicidal (1961) and Strait-Jacket (1964), Castle's sicko female-hysteria slashers. The first has a knockout scene with leading person 'Jean Arless' (a unisex pseudonym for actress Joan Marshall) rampaging through a florist's shop in a Solvang, California, Danish-style strip mall — perhaps chosen to put viewers of this gender-bender in mind of the era's sex-change poster boy/girl Christine Jorgensen, though the plot lifts from Psycho as surely as the glissandi of The Tingler's score come straight from Vertigo. Strait-Jacket reunites a just-released ax-murderess (Joan Crawford, indefatigable) with her daughter. Playing a spooked, broken woman fumbling to look convincing in a new maternal role, Crawford is as crawlingly uncomfortable as a Tingler down the back of your shirt; Castle's take on family life is nothing if not consistently bleak."

Update: More from Paul Brunick in Slant: "For Castle completists, the retro's highlights are a handful of rarities from the decades before he began producing his own work. There are three of Castle's four entries in The Whistler franchise — a series of well-reviewed star vehicles for the largely forgotten movie star Richard Dix — and a pair of 3D Technicolor westerns, Jesse James vs the Daltons and Fort Ti. I'm most excited for the single screening of When Strangers Marry, a noirish domestic thriller starring Kim Hunter and Robert Mitchum. I don't know anyone who's seen the film, but the approval of Orson Welles ('One of the most gripping and effective pictures of the year') and James Agee ('I have seldom seen one hour so energetically and sensibly used in a film') is more than enough enticement."

Update, 8/27: "[T]he lengths Castle went to to poke fun of marriage as an institution, usually making husbands either suicidal or homicidal, are pretty impressive," writes Simon Abrams for the New York Press.

 


LOS ANGELES


"Gone With the Pope is a 70s-era low-budget exploitation flick about a crew of bumbling Italian gangsters who come up with an ingenious plot to kidnap the pontiff, demanding a ransom of 50 cents from every Catholic around the globe," writes Karina Longworth in the LA Weekly. "It's gloriously, hilariously offensive, including all manner of racist and sexist jokes and one sequence of WTF? grotesquerie worthy of John Waters." At the New Beverly Cinema tomorrow at midnight.

In the Los Angeles Times, Susan King rounds up more local screenings, beginning with the Mods & Rockers Film Festival, opening today and running through the weekend.

 

LONDON


Film4 FrightFest opens in London today and runs through Monday. Mark Pilkington for Sight & Sound: "Highlights of this year's programme include Srdjan Spasojevic's award-winning A Serbian Film, billed as the most stomach-churning film yet shown at the festival, Helene Cattet and Bruno Forzani's retro-giallo Amer, Jorge Michel Grau's cannibal drama We Are What We Are (screened at this year's Cannes Director's Fortnight), Mark Morris and Jake West's documentary Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship And Videotape, and a rare screening of Tobe Hooper's early experimental Eggshells (1969)."

A Serbian Film is also one of Nigel Floyd's "ten to catch" in Time Out London. But here's the thing. It won't be screening. As Drew McWeeney reports at Hitfix, the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) "demanded over four minutes of cuts to the movie before they would certify it for screening." FrightFest co-director Alan Jones has released a statement to the press: "[A]s a festival with a global integrity, we think a film of this nature should be shown in its entirety as per the director’s intention. Several film festivals across the world have already done so. Unlike the I Spit on Your Grave remake, where we are showing the BBFC certified print as requested by Westminster Council, the issues and time-line complexities surrounding A Serbian Film make it impossible for us to screen it."

 

BANGKOK


"The longest-running film festival in Thailand, probably the best (and not just because it's free), and increasingly well-liked by students and enthusiasts, the Thai Short Film and Video Festival returns for the 14th edition," writes Kong Rithdee in the Bangkok Post, where he also looks ahead to coming attractions. For example: "Without any doubt, exaggeration or cynicism, the Bangkok International Film Festival (BKK IFF) is the world's most troubled, nervous, and scandal-strewn movie festival, a prime case study of a misguided, mismanaged state-run movie event that escalated, at one point, into a filthy corruption case." But it may be on the mend. "The last two editions of the festival were actually quite solid and cost-effective. This year, despite the riots, the budget cutback, and the resurfacing of the corruption case, the BKK IFF has been confirmed from Nov 19 to 29."

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