The 30-Foot Bride of Candy Rock

The 30-foot Bride of Candy Rock. Columbia Pictures Corporation 1959.

Before watching the movie:

It seems like the 50s and 60s had a fascination not just with science shenanigans making small things gigantic, but making women gigantic in particular, and apparently even Lou Costello got in on it.

This is notably the only film Costello made without Abbott, and I’m not sure how that will work out because while in modern comedy, comedians work solo just fine, I know that back in the day it was considered correct and proper to pay Abbott more than Costello because anyone could be a comedian, but a good straight man for the comedian to play against was worth his weight in gold, and that’s something that’s evident in the duo’s greatest hits.

After watching the movie:

Artie Pinsetter is a broke garbage collector who studies science in his spare time and hopes to make his name by uncovering an atomic energy source behind the strange activity in the cave outside of town. His girlfriend Emmy Lou wants him to marry her already, but he’s too preoccupied with his research, and after an argument, she runs into the cave and suddenly grows to 30 feet tall. When Artie tries to explain what’s happened to her wealthy uncle Raven Rossiter, he says that Emmy Lou has gotten “big”, and Rossiter assumes he means she’s pregnant, and sends a priest to perform a shotgun marriage so they won’t wreck his chances at being elected to public office. But the problems inherent in suddenly being a giant woman outside of town won’t go away so easily, and Artie and Emmy Lou’s relationship is strained by the hardship. Also the army decides she’s obviously an invading Martian and diverts a war game exercise to shoot her down.

Gale Gordon’s Rossiter is somewhat of a type with Bud Abbott, and he’s certainly the main straight man to Artie’s antics, but it wouldn’t have worked with Abbot because Bud and Lou are always friends or at least partners, and Rossiter is more of an antagonist. He berates Artie constantly and doesn’t want him anywhere near his niece until he thinks she’s already pregnant, and then she’s suddenly just as poisonous to his image and power as Artie is. He’s also reminiscent of The Beverly Hillbillies’ Mr. Drysdale.

Of course, the giant effects rarely avoid having the characters seem isolated. The budget doesn’t have room for much more than high/wide shots and low/tight shots, but they go a long way with tiny props. There are a handful of shots that might have been optically printed, and there’s at least one very successful shot that I think was done with rear projection where the camera actually tracks with Artie as he walks along the length of Emmy Lou’s reclining figure and they actually share a shot while trading dialogue.

The finale gets really weird, to the point that I was anticipating a reveal that it’s all a dream. It’s not really incorrect to say that everything is resolved from Artie’s scientific skill, but it’s much more informed and indirect than earned. It feels more like it’s just time to have exciting comedic hijinks, and then once those are over, so is the movie.

I appreciate that it’s clear throughout that Artie earnestly loves and cares for Emmy Lou. He’s not just quick to reassure her when she’s scared and putting herself down about suddenly being five times her old size, but his reaction seems to come from a genuine place of having more of his sweetheart to love. He only wavers when they have an argument and she goes against his advice and orders, but he’s already ready to forgive her when she comes back. His attempt to assert authority as her husband is not something that’s aged well, but for the kinds of characters that Costello plays, trying to claim authority is kind of a character growth moment, so I try not to let it bother me too much.

This is a sweet, fun movie that tells its story with the visual tools available pretty well. I would have liked the end to have been stronger from a story perspective, but the character work makes up for it. It’s probably not the worst thing Costello could’ve gone out on.

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Invisible Invaders

Invisible Invaders. Premium Pictures 1959.

Before watching the movie:

Here is a sci-fi B-movie. B-movies can be fun. Very few B-movies are legendary enough to be well-known. This is not one of them.

Apparently John Agar is a big name of B-movies, but I don’t recognize him. Mainly because I’m not steeped in B-movies. But they are fun.

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Compulsion

Compulsion. 20th Century Fox 1959.

Before watching the movie:

I have no idea what to expect. This was an algorithmically generated recommendation I’ve never heard of, and all I have to go on is that it’s a courtroom drama about some amoral law students who believe they’re above the law. And Orson Welles is in it.

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The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959)

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The Hound of the Baskervilles. Hammer Film Productions 1959.
The Hound of the Baskervilles. Hammer Film Productions 1959.

Before watching the movie:

After the obvious Rathbone and Brett (at least, I think Brett is obvious), the historical Gilette,  and the modern Cumberbatch and Downey, two of the biggest names I see discussed as great Holmes performances are Peter Cushing and Christopher Plummer, and I was hoping to get to include both in this farewell series. However, in my preparation, I found that Plummer’s most notable outing in the role was Murder by Decree, which I’ve already covered. I don’t want to reprise Holmses, so I’m afraid I won’t be covering Plummer again. However, Cushing is quite acceptable.

I admit my reference is limited, but all I know of Cushing’s career is Moff Tarkin in Star Wars, the forgotten Doctor Who (no, not that one, the other one. The really forgotten one. No, not that forgotten) from the two cinematic films, and that he was in quite a lot of Hammer films, a production company most known for highly regarded 60s and 70s B-horror films (don’t quote me on that summary). This is in fact a Hammer film, and probably considered a horror. So now I’ll have seen a Hammer Horror, probably.

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Ben-Hur

Ben-Hur. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer 1959.
Ben-Hur. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer 1959.

Before watching the movie:

The Ten Commandments is an Easter tradition for many people. The connection seems tenuous to me, but there’s a thread there. I’ve already seen “Commandments”, so I won’t be reviewing it here, but it has me following another connection, that you can already guess at due to the title and the picture to the right.

In my mind, that film is much more strongly linked to Ben-Hur than to Easter, but on examination, it seems circumstantial. They’re epics, set in Middle-Eastern antiquity, informed by religious legend, starring Charlton Heston. It seems accidental, though possibly the success of one got the other made. While I don’t know of it being an Easter tradition like its cousin, if anything, this one should be more Easter-related, since it actually has a few scenes with Jesus.

On the other hand, its overall reputation is more like CHARIOTS CHARIOTS CHARIOTS.

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Journey to the Center of the Earth

Journey to the Center of the Earth. 20th Century Fox 1959.
Journey to the Center of the Earth. 20th Century Fox 1959.

Before watching the movie:

It seems like this is Jules Verne’s most-adapted story, and it’s widely different from version to version. That’s probably because from what I remember of the book, there isn’t so much plot as an excuse to go on a low-tech sci-fi adventure. Exotic locations, exciting science, and fights with dinosaurs. If anyone else had been doing what Verne was doing at the time, we might consider him a pulp author.

So coming into this, I’m mainly expecting some high-budget, relatively innocent excitement. The blockbuster movie of the 1950s. I’m also interested in seeing how much of the parts of Verne’s book that aren’t “dinosaurs underground” still remains.

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House on Haunted Hill

House on Haunted Hill. William Castle Productions 1959.
House on Haunted Hill. William Castle Productions 1959.

Before watching the movie:

What’s more Halloween than a haunted house? A haunted house owned by Vincent Price. Well, it’s probably not so much haunted as the scene of seven deaths and soon more, but “haunted” is in the name. Suspense, horror, death, probably jump scares, but I doubt much gore.

I hadn’t known the more recent movie of the name was a remake until I came across this in the collection of classic movies loaned to me by my grandparents. I haven’t seen the remake either.

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