Monday, December 21, 2009

Five Strange Little Movies I Like, but You Probably Never Heard Of

There are a bunch of funny little movies out there that are little jewels. When you see them, they make you smile every time and you're glad you watched them and wonder why no one else seems to know this movie exists. 

1. The Captain Is a Lady - Charles Coburn and Beulah Bondi star in this sweet film about a retired sea captain who is swindled by the local mayor and evicted from his home. His wife moves into a home for single elderly ladies, but sadly, no men allowed.  The residents including Marjorie Main (Ma Kettle) smuggle Captain Abe into the old ladies home where he is listed as Old Lady 31 to his utter embarrassment.  The Captain performs an act of heroism and with the help of a bunch of very determined widow women, wins back his nest egg and his wife's little home.  The thing is an absolute delight from start to finish and the scene where the old ladies confront the swindling mayor is priceless.

2.  Dark Star - John Carpenter's quirky sci-fi picture screws with your head. A bunch of grungy space travelers fly about the universe searching for unstable planets to destroy with a frozen captain, a batch of talking bombs and the odd inflatable alien lurking about the hold waiting to pounce. Just to give you an idea, there is an ongoing philosophical argument between the acting captain and a defective bomb that insists it is time to blow itself and the ship to bits. The theme song is a country ballad about the theory of relativity as it relates to a girl in Benson, Arizona. 

3. Hobson's Choice - Charles Laughton is a widowed boozy London shoemaker with three troublesome daughters. His eldest daughter, Maggie (Brenda DeBanzie), decides to get all the sisters a husband including herself.  She picks the best shoemaker in her father's shop, marries him and sets up in competition with the old Man.  John Mills as Willie Mossop is wonderful as the shy cobbler she takes in hand and makes into a man every bit as formidable as her father. Hobson never has a chance...........or a choice. I love this movie.

4. Haunted Honeymoon - This little gem stars Gene Wilder, Gilda Radner and Dom DeLuise and takes place in the golden age of radio. Wilder is the neurotic nephew of Dom DeLuise as his Aunt, the matriarch of an odd collection of screwy relations who come to a spooky old mansion on a stormy weekend, apparently to scare Larry Abbott, Wilder's character, to death.  At one point DeLuise as the portly Aunt Kate does a hysterical dance version of "Ballin' the Jack" with Radner's Vickie Pearl character.  Complete with a surprise ending, this lovely film is perfect for some delightful Halloween fun!

5. Serenity - Arguably the best science fiction TV series ever, Firefly was canceled in its first season.  For some reason people don't "get" this show.  The premise is that the Earth collapses and two civilizations escape - Americans and Chinese.  Most people speak English and curse in Chinese. Everyone has settled in a large star system that has a whole flock of habitable planets and moons that have been terraformed for human habitation.  Some planets are less terraformed than others and became a sort of frontier with the characteristics of the American West complete with cowboys, outlaws and smugglers.  Set after a failed war for independence, a bunch of ex-rebels under the command of a laconic former sergeant cum smuggler ramble from planet to planet in an old Firefly class space freighter looking for work of dubious legality. Serenity, the movie, closes the series and solves the mysteries introduced in the series. Nathan Fillian is terrific as Captain Malcolm Reynolds, coping with vengeful corporate operatives who are in pursuit of one of his crew and the secrets locked in her head.  This movie is just plain good if you give it a chance to get under your skin.  Watch the series first for a complete "Firefly" experience.

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