26 January 2012

More Dickensian Celebrations

More Dickensian Hits!
By Kristin Battestella

You can bet your imaginary hoop skirt I’m going to spend some time talking about a Charles Dickens’ adaptation or two this winter!  It is after all, the bicentennial of the celebrated Victorian author’s birth.  And guess who else was born on February 7th? Yep, that’s right. Me!

Biography: Charles Dickens – Why not start with this 45-minute spotlight from the longstanding A&E series? Dickens experts and historians shed light on the more uncommonly known aspects of his 19th century superstar life, from the novelist’s poor early years filled with stifling workhouses and family shame in a debtor’s prison to the darker adult depressions, marital losses, and his would-be inspiring infidelities. Despite having such a heavy, complex subject in a short television window, the focus remains on Dickens’ rising above social and personal difficulty and turning his pains into literary magnitude. While some of the stuffy interviewees and scholars might be 1995 dated, yes, (Gasp! 1995 is dated?) this streamlined but no less insightful documentary is perfect for a classroom conversation.

David Copperfield (1999) – Not only do we have all the heart breaking, cord striking 19th century lows and sadness expected from this highly autobiographical Dickens tale; but this 2 part adaption boasts an all-star who’s who and interconnected Potter cast. Seriously, a fun Maggie Smith as Betsey Trotwood, Bob Hoskins (Who Framed Roger Rabbit?), Emilia Fox (Merlin), Pauline Quirke (Birds of a Feather) as Peggotty, Ian McKellan (Gandalf, people!), and the little HP himself, an utterly endearing Daniel Radcliffe.  And did I mention Madame Hooch and Viserys Targaryen? Forget any presumed nineties television datedness, the production values- ranging from Regency thru Victorian styles- are excellent.  Colorful characters are wonderfully stuffy, charming, or tongue in cheek over the top as needed in contrast to the loathsome Trevor Eve (Waking the Dead) as Murdstone. Dickens’ innate distinctions between high - or those who pretend to be upstanding but are cruel- and those who are poor but rich in character come across perfectly.  Again, though immediately autobiographical and of its time, it is also a little tragic how incredibly relevant David Copperfield still is. Today’s good-natured are still punished by the ruthlessness of others above, and the scenes of little David in pain could be too close for many or at the least, too upsetting for the classroom.  Naturally, there are changes due to the relatively short 3-hour length against the heft of the novel, but there’s still a lifetime’s worth of sacrifice and pathetic-ness to go around and then some. The second half, unfortunately, does drag a bit with the adult Trot Ciaran McMenamin (Primeval) as all goes ill. However, even in that darkest advantageous hour above love or happiness, Dickensian hope wins out in consummate fashion.

Oliver Twist (1948) – This restored adaptation written and directed by David Lean (also helmer of the 1946 version of Great Expectations) opens in frigid black and white fashion and continues the cruel, depressing youth impoverishment and desperate criminal childhood throughout.  Oscar Winner Alec Guinness (The Bridge on the River Kwai, Star Wars) gives a lovely performance as Fagin- unrecognizable and unlikeable but witty and twisted all the same- though the work is nevertheless jaded by the stereotypical makeup of the time and Dickens’ off color style. Some of the accents and forties screaming women might be annoying to contemporary audiences as well. Thankfully, John Howard Davies is so tiny and touching as Oliver. Today we often mock the ‘Please, sir…’ line- and the snotty dark humor of the material is here, make no mistake.  However, Oliver’s is such a heart-breaking request; no child should ever have to ask for food with such trembling necessity and mistake the humblest slop as indignation. We think we need more and expect to have everything handed to us because it is owed to us.  By contrast, itty-bitty Oliver is a sickly little starving thing- and yet he wants more. Suffice to say his want is not the indulgent desire as we perceive it in the 21st century, and in one line Dickens’ encapsulates all that was wrong with the establishment of the day.  Strangely, in some ways, we have become the opposite- rewarding those who circumvent the system to their advantage while the hard working, rule-abiding poor go without.  Corners are cut of course, but social and literary critics might enjoy a new study on this relatively saucy post-war America subject matter. The anti-Semitic controversies of the novel and the subsequent delaying and editing of the film also provide plenty of material for modern analysis. Although charming in Oliver’s boyish innocence, this edition is too old and mature for kids. Younger schooling should stick to the Oliver! musical instead.

Scrooge (1970) - Golden Globe winner Albert Finney (Tom Jones, Murder on the Orient Express) stars as the titular miser along with Sir Alec Guinness (yes him again) as the chain rattling Jacob Marley in this acclaimed first musical adaptation.  Many lines from the book are faithfully retained despite the addition of a few questionable song selections.  We don’t really need this extra sentimentality, the thoroughly Cockney kids’ singing, or a begrudgingly tuneful Ebenezer to further heighten this quintessential holiday turnaround.  Actually, the cranky tunes and somber notes seem counterproductive for what is such a serious and scary ghost tale- the dark imagery and freaky effects are indeed superior to the would be musical fervor.  Having said that, the music is great for introducing A Christmas Carol to younger audiences- the locales are glorious, the costumes and Victorian décor enchanting. Yes, some sequences might be too scary for super youngins even with the upbeat tunes, but Albert Finney is an absolutely delight as both Scrooge the grump and the younger Ebenezer.  His almost unrecognizable dual portrayal makes viewers wonder why this seemingly obvious casting route is the exception rather than the norm for this oft told Dickensian tale.

I do mention Dickens in the classroom a lot, simply because I think such literary exercise is an essential part of today’s education.  Instead of bemoaning the difficult language and changed reading structures of modern audiences, we need to study Dickensian circumstance and irony, and continue to learn how we can make more strides and better changes in the next 200 years.

“This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. Deny it.' cried the Spirit, stretching out its hand towards the city. 'Slander those who tell it ye. Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse. And abide the end.'
'Have they no refuge or resource?' cried Scrooge.
'Are there no prisons.' said the Spirit, turning on him for the last time with his own words. 'Are there no workhouses.'”

We spend up all of our educational resources and efforts on red tape, finances, and technicalities that either put away our youth in constant downward spirals or dismisses them to the humdrum of Working for the Man where they can never rise above.  Dickens’ manuscripts and their numerous adaptations still show us there is so, so much more.  Amen.


10 January 2012

The Glenn Miller Story

The Glenn Miller Story is Just Dynamite!
By Kristin Battestella

James Stewart stars as Glenn Miller, a poor musician courting Helen Burger (June Allyson) in this 1954 biopic. Miller pawns and borrows instruments as needed between gigs - which he’s usually tossed from thanks to his radical, jazzed up arrangements. When Glenn and piano man Chummy (Harry Morgan, Dragnet, MASH) finally get a steady tour with the band, success comes calling- only to be followed by more pawnshops.  After years of ups and downs, adoptions, and scrimping and saving; solid acclaim finally arrives thanks to ‘Moonlight Serenade’ and the ‘Glenn Miller Sound’.   When war breaks out, Captain Miller and his entire Orchestra enlist and embark on an overseas tour. The boys entertain the troops through the blitz- literally- before a pre-Christmas tragedy intervenes in 1944.

“He’s not dead, he’s missing!” So says Bea Arthur as the Glenn Miller obsessed Dorothy Zbornak on The Golden Girls.  When asked if she’s a fan in the fifth season episode ‘Dancing in the Dark’, Dorothy responds, “Are you kidding? I was in the search party!”  Today’s younger generation probably only knows ‘In the Mood’- if you’re lucky and they know Miller at all.  Although, I suppose I’m a bit of an over fan; my husband says people our age aren’t supposed to like Glenn Miller.  When I say put on a record, he chooses one from thirty years ago when I’m thinking 1930s!   Unfortunately, as of yet, I’ve been unable to find Miller’s headstone at Arlington National Cemetery, though I have searched for it on a trip or two.  There’s simply so much more to this World War II MIA casualty than to be forgotten by contemporary audiences, and The Glenn Miller Story highlights the famed musician from his humble rise and big band heights to career success and his final military service. 

Naturally, The Glenn Miller Story is not quite a traditional fifties musical as we might expect, nor is it actually that accurate for a biography.  Embellishments on the stories behind Miller staples like ‘String of Pearls’, ‘Pennsylvania 65000’, and ‘Little Brown Jug’ are reaching just a bit towards the love story and over dramatization. Even so, frequent Stewart director Anthony Mann (Winchester ’73, Bend of the River), and writers Valentine Davies (Miracle on 34th Street, It Happens Every Spring) and Oscar Brodney’s (Tammy and the Bachelor) Oscar nominated tale is still light hearted, toe tapping, and charming.  Though only ten years removed from his tragic crash, The Glenn Miller Story doesn’t capitalize, but rather celebrates an American rags to riches story with great people and awesome tunes.  Even with said liberties on the facts and the not a musical per se label, the innocent romance, musical scenes, and dynamite compositions are balanced together wonderfully.  We have concert sequences and stage performances to accent the human story, and as superior as the music is, it doesn’t replace the focus on the man and his dreams.  The Glenn Miller Story also breaks a few 1954 taboos and features black and white musicians playing together- even though there are segregated club scenes, too.  I can see some die-hard Miller enthusiasts actually being upset with The Glenn Miller Story; the entire presentation is actually pretty unrealistic. There are obvious errors, timeline confusions, musical anachronisms, and more embellishment than the real deal.  I wouldn’t recommend this for the formal classroom either. Here we have a film about one of the greatest composers of the 20th century, and you hardly ever hear any musical terms!  So what if parts of The Glenn Miller Story are completely ridiculously, fifties faults, and marshmallow? This is still an endearing little encapsulation of great pre-war music and mid century sentiment, and it’s an absolute delight!

He’s Jimmy Stewart and he’s Glenn Miller. We instantly like golly gee Glenn because he certainly has a touch of George Bailey, doesn’t he? Stewart (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Harvey, Rear Window, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, I’ll stop…) is himself- the actor and veteran we know and love- and yet, he is also completely in the vein of Miller’s look, persona, and mannerisms.  Miller is a man often down on his luck and low on cash, but he never lets that interfere with his seemingly outrageous dreams. Yes, Stewart is obviously not playing diddily on that slide trombone, but so what? It sounds good; looks good, the man and the music come across perfectly and wonderfully embody an iconic American success story.  It’s just amazing how a little pair of glasses can make such a big difference! Of course, the June Allyson romance is a little too Wonderful Life as well, and Allyson doesn’t have much to do beyond being the sassy, good little woman doing all the Mrs. Miller inspiring behind the scenes. However, Allyson does have that button cute style and does sassy so well- heck, she practically made a career out of playing Stewart’s good little woman with Strategic Air Command and The Stratton Story. Unfortunately, there are a lots of great tunes that aren’t heard because room was made for laying the sappy on so thick, but The Glenn Miller Story is still a fine introduction for a younger casual big band fan or a trip down memory lane. This is how a rock bio should be! Who needs all that sex, drugs, and rock n roll thrust on us today when we can have music and stars like this?  Not to be outdone, surprise appearances by the likes of The Modernaires, Gene Krupa, and Louis Armstrong add more fun to The Glenn Miller Story.  In that regard, there is a lot of footage and musical history that you can’t get anywhere else.  

 And let’s talk some more about that charming music, because it just needs a paragraph all its own! From the opening bars of ‘Moonlight Serenade’ sweeping in with the credits to the tear jerking ‘Little Brown Jug’ finale, Joseph Gershenson (Thoroughly Modern Millie) and Henry Mancini’s (Breakfast at Tiffany’s) Oscar nominated adaptation and scoring of Miller’s tunes are like a character unto themselves in The Glenn Miller Story. Even with such a heartwarming story, this is an incredible film just to listen to- for the budding forties music fan or those unfortunately unaware, it is simply amazing to hear so many great songs and realize, well, that these are great songs! Though it can be frustrating that all the songs aren’t named onscreen, there are so many recognizable hits and melodies both lingering in the underscore or being played to the hilt with full orchestra arrangements.  I simply adore the totally feigned serendipitous appearance of ‘I Know Why and So do You’ and there’s a great dance routine to accompany ‘Tuxedo Junction’. ‘Over the Rainbow’ and ‘At Last’ are here as originally envisioned without Judy Garland and Etta James, and ‘Chattanooga Choo Choo’ arrives just in time to rally the troops. Damn this show gets me every time! I want to cry, I want to get up and dance, gosh darnnit I can’t help myself. If you don’t want the sappy embellished story, you can always pick up this hit soundtrack. Though obviously the compositions here are rerecords and some original Glenn Miller Orchestra names and musicians are entirely missing from The Glenn Miller Story, these tunes are still ten times better than the quivering pop drivel of today.

To accent all the solid sounds, The Glenn Miller Story also has fun fifties scenery, great club locales, and sweet, classic décor. Oh, the cars, the hats, the candlestick phones! Men in dinner jackets and fedoras, gloves, flashy showgirls, and cool color slides.  Yes indeed, it is a little more fifties than some of the earlier decades supposedly portrayed, but it all still looks just golden. Those turntables and newspaper montages, sigh. That house, sweet Jesus and those great old-fashioned microphones!  The wartime styles, real military footage, and a forties Christmas…If this film doesn’t put a smile on your face, bring a tear to your eye, or have you tapping your toe, nothing will.

Again, The Glenn Miller Story will be too dated or picture perfect rather than true biography for many.  For nostalgia lovers, music fans, budding big band connoisseurs, and classic film aficionados, however, this little ditty is tough to beat.  Relive that Glenn Miller sound anytime of year with The Glenn Miller Story.Remember, after all, “He’s not dead, he’s missing!”

07 January 2012

Winter Horror Pros and Cons

Winter Horror Hits and Misses
By Kristin Battestella

Are you displeased with all the happiness in the New Year?  Snowed in and afraid you might do something…rash… unless you can have a scary movie marathon? Here are a few freaky flicks to enjoy and one or two open for a chilly debate.

The Changeling- An awesome cast- including Oscar winners George C. Scott (Patton) and Melyvn Douglas (Hud) with John Colicos (Battlestar Galatica) and Trish Van Devere (One is a Lonely Number)- is simply delightful in this old school 1980 haunted house tale purportedly based on an actual experience. The wonderfully creepy mansion scenery and touches of 19th century grandeur gone awry highlight this convincing murder mystery beautifully. Fine music, scares, and tragedy are tossed in, too- along with a few bits of unintentional humor, yes. Perhaps a few styles, fashions, and mannerisms are dated now as well. The mismatched look of real life couple Scott and Van Devere might bother some audiences, too- along with some genuinely heart stopping moments that might have you checking your pacemaker. Nevertheless, the poltergeist aspects, psychic action, and ghostly revenge build excellently for a solid and spooky finale.

The Other – The coming of age style and innocence gone wrong in director Robert Mulligan’s (To Kill A Mockingbird) 1972 horror mystery is slightly obvious, granted.  Twins Chris and Martin Udvarnoky are filmed in such a way that careful viewers will spot a lot of the forthcoming mysterious fun, brewing twists, and freaky psychic action. Fortunately, Uta Hager (Reversal of Fortune) is great as the wise grandma Ada. It is a typical role in a horror movie, but Hager adds warmth, old-fashioned clout, and class to the spooky spins. Brief Star Trek alum Diana Mulder is also lovely as our not quite all there widowed mother, but she isn’t there enough- nor is the very young, very briefly onscreen John Ritter (Three’s Company).  The 1935 scenery is a little more seventies dated, but the nostalgic element adds to the rural fears, farm horrors, and great juvenile morbidity.

The Rite – Anthony Hopkins (must I?) is superb as always in this 2011 exorcism thriller co-starring Colin O’Donoghue (The Tudors) and Alice Braga (Predators). While there are spooky elements here- and very scary and creepy demonic things do occur- I’m not sure this deserves a horror classification or the frightful expectations of boobs and slice and dice that come with the contemporary horror label.  Director Mikael Hafstrom (1408) and writer Michael Petroni (Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader) present a more spiritual film dealing with faith, doubt, possession, and the mysteries of god and man with supernatural turnabouts and twists tossed in. The Rite makes the viewer think before it scares. Who actually becomes possessed? When?  Why?  The great use of Italian language and Roma locations adds real world international culture and panache, even if O’Donoghue is a little lightweight against Hopkins.  But really, who isn’t?  Rutger Hauer (really?) is also greatly under utilized, but overall, I’m not sure why people don’t like this one.


The Countess- Actress turned writer and director Julie Deply (Before Sunrise) perhaps wears one too many hats for this 2009 biography. Her make up and hairstyles as the infamous Elizabeth Bathory are too stern, even ugly, and her accent is iffy, with weird pronunciations and strange mixings of languages. Despite strides towards outspoken humor, the titular lady is played a bit too bitchy and unlikeable in what is actually supposed to be an anti Countess Dracula angle. The scripting is slow, disjointed in the first half, and takes too long to get to the reallly nutty bloody everyone’s expecting.  The viewpoint is confusing as well, with the Daniel Bruhl (Inglourious Basterds) narrating Bathory’s internal monologue on speculation from his future deathbed…huh? Such eerie historical feminism might have been too ambitious a subject for Deply’s full length directing debut- just tell it straight one way or the other. We have style and good-looking costumes, but the drab, authentic color lacks opulence and full on period lush. The battles are decent, but brief, natural and rustic. There’s blood, but not proper horror.  There’s weird man slave action, but the nudity is too tame, with murder montages skimping over all the action.  Oscar man William Hurt (Kiss of the Spider Woman, Children of a Lesser God) is also too brief, put aside for a hokey victim of love and weird smear campaign for misunderstood Bathory.  It is quite odd to have a historical drama where there is such a horror opportunity. Normally it is the other way around, with those trying for scares and paranormal at any length. The period music is lovely, but everything here just seems too uneven, first draft, overly sparse, and unable to make up its mind. 

Suspiria – Finally a show without a ‘the’! In addition to a pleasingly threatening atmosphere and discomforting locations, there are some very good scares in this 1977 European witch fest. The performances from Joan Bennett (Dark Shadows), Jessica Harper (Stardust Memories), and Alida Valli (The Paradine Case) are all good, too, carrying the mystery and the suspense and keeping things entertaining. The main theme music from Goblin is also equally juicy.  Unfortunately, the dang music and sound effects are way too much! Everything- but the dialogue, of course- is totally loud and headache inducing.  Some of the odd lighting, weird angles, and color variations from director Dario Argento (Dracula 3D) are great as well. But again, a lot of this subterfuge is much too much, creating a visual excess that overall distracts more than helps the meandering plot and limp ending. All of those soft vocals and poor dubbing doesn’t help the toughness, either.  Naturally, Suspiria is all well and good for out there audiences and innovative foreign horror fans, but this will be quite annoying and odd for more traditional witchy fans. 

Remember, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”

04 January 2012

Band of Angels

Band of Angels Flawed but Yet Classy
By Kristin Battestella

On a bit of a whim, I decided to write about the 1957 Civil War drama Band of Angels.  Though likeable thanks to its stars, and I do like this film, I strangely found this flawed and uneven presentation tough to write about and reflect upon. Do the askew racial perceptions behind the camera ruin the style on screen?

Upon her father’s death, Amantha Starr’s (Yvonne De Carlo) “colored blood” is revealed, and she is subsequently sent to a slave auction and bought by a mysterious gentleman with a past, Hamish Bond (Clark Gable).  Hamish treats Amantha as an equal, despite animosity from maid Michele (Carolle Drake) and Hamish’s second Rau-Ru (Sidney Poitier). Raised with respect, education, and inheritance by Hamish, Rau-Ru nevertheless despises his position and escapes to join the Union Army.  As Amantha and Hamish warm to each other and develop an unusual love, the Civil War unfortunately comes calling.  Will Southern defiance split them apart?

1957, it turns out, was a little too soon for director Raoul Walsh (They Died with Their Boots On, Captain Horatio Hornblower, R.N.) to take on writer Robert Penn Warren’s (All the King’s Men) titular source novel.  The slavery presentation here can be just downright cruel. Either the bound are totally menial, ignorant, and subservient or happy nymphomaniacs who can’t get enough of taking the white master’s proffered treats.  The interracial storylines and culture clashes try to present some goodness, but the execution is too over the top and comes off as inappropriately fake:  “You white trash!” cue dramatic crescendo!  Naturally, demeaning terms like negress or worse are used, and it is indeed tough to hear today. However, such talk is meant to reflect the attitudes of the time onscreen- and it glaringly showcases the tone behind the camera, too.  There’s plenty of latent naughty and kinky innuendo about what these men do to keep their female slaves from getting “uppity”, too.  It all makes Band of Angels so ironic. The breaking of such shocking taboos, showing suicides and shamings- it would seem to make great strides in racial storytelling and portrayals. Yet the ills are inadvertently reinforced by the dated, flawed sensibilities and uneven filmmaking of the day.  Despite some lovely performances, these errors will make Band of Angels tough for many audiences. Things do get a little better when the Civil War enters the stage, though the schism is also subparly handled, or at the least, not recreated on the scope it should have been.  That is perhaps the worst part of Band of Angels- it could have been much, much more.

 And yet, there’s something delightful here, largely due to the outgoing grace from Academy Award winner Clark Gable (It Happened One Night, Gone with the Wind, Mutiny on the Bounty). Okay, he’s a little worse for the wear in 1957 compared to those inevitable “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn” memories and pre-war heights. He is long in the tooth and tough to believe now as a young, active leading man, but this adds an extra element to Hamish Bond.  There is a feeling of the old guard-onscreen and off- taking one final bow. Gable carries Hamish as an on form, timeless leading man nonetheless.  The opening bidding scenes are a little too much like the bazaar scene in Gone with the Wind, indeed, and yet Gable’s gentlemanly presence somehow turns this off-kilter mixed slavery melodrama into some sort of star-crossed Southern romance.  Back in the day, I’m sure some women would not mind being bought by Clark Gable for $5,000!   Band of Angels seems slower when he’s off-screen, and you wonder why in the heck Amantha has such an attitude about his treating her so well.  Really, only Rhett Butler can talk his way out of a duel with totally pimp-acity! (and no, I didn’t mean pomposity, either, like spell check thought.)  Hamish’s only fault is he is a little too grey and somewhat out of touch to Amantha and the changes happening around him.

Yvonne “the great Amantha Starr” De Carlo is far, far superior in The Munsters, The Ten Commandments, and McLintock!, oh yes.  Of course, she is without a doubt lovely as always, even when she is supposed to be uglied up. However, De Carlo is just too miscast and out of place. Was it really so unacceptable to have an actress who looked anything but white play a half-black heiress? This hypocritical start only makes Amantha’s actions tougher to swallow. She pouts about Hamish’s saving her from far worse sex and slavery, and then uses his position to pretend she is white and seek other men’s marriage proposals. Amantha hates Rau-Ru, but calls him for help when nasty white men would force themselves onto her!  I love, love Yvonne De Carlo, but the back and forth, up and down, and insipid backhanding from Band of Angels’ supposedly star character is sketchy at best, and downright unlikable and insulting at worst. Even with all the unkosher racial aspects aside, how is the audience supposed to root for a woman who turns out Clark Gable?

Thankfully, fellow Oscar winner Sidney Poitier (Lilies of the Field, In the Heat of the Night, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner) anchors Band of Angels beautifully. His Rau-Ru is classic and suave- the perfect young rival to Gable with the strength and education to gracefully buck the system and stereotypes presented.  Rau-Ru is menacing and threatening as Hamish’s almost pseudo-presumptive heir; he is obviously ready to rebel or supplant and is portrayed as a danger to the already delicate balance. But is the audience really supposed to believe that a slave discontented with his would be higher station and wanting freedom is a villain? Band of Angels gets the racial aspects at its core quite wrong, yes. However, Sir Sidney has the best-written dialogue here and delivers every word with real weight, honesty, and conviction. Rau-Ru’s tug and pull with Hamish is far more interesting than Amantha’s over the top scandal. You can see the off-screen ideologies of Gable’s day giving way to the Poitier’s movements to come. Band of Angels tries- I really think it does.  What it does well is quite classy thanks to the male leads, but the show is inevitably handicapped by the attitudes of the time. Oddly enough, this time capsule also makes the film all the more fascinating to watch.

 Yes, the costumes are a little inaccurate and the music is more fifties than 1850s, too. Fortunately, the gowns are still awesome, and all the colorful styles and Victorian vibes set the necessary tone. The men’s top hats and frocks are so, so much more stylish than today. The boys with their pants around their knees couldn’t handle Gable’s suave even if they tried! Granted, the sets are a little stock; this budget was definitely not on the scale of Gone with the Wind. The plants are also a little too, um, plastic! Some of the New Orleans flavors and panache is just right, but other times the underutilized French touches and clichés imply or presume too much.  Moreover, the over the top Southern accents and 19th century via fifties dialogue may be tough to some- lots of stereotypical “hisself” talk with plenty of double negatives.  It doesn’t make up for all the off color ways by any means, but the grandiose looking staircases and courtyards are pretty pretty!

Strangely, I always think of Band of Angels together with the 1954 Charlton Heston mail order bride yarn The Naked Jungle, though I’m not really sure why.  I suppose both are a little preposterous to start and have classic men to carry what turns out to be a very flawed film. Again, the errors made here mean Band of Angels is not for everyone.  However, film students or social scholars may enjoy an examination of the movie’s mistakes and ill attitudes onscreen and off. Fans of the cast, lovers of sordid Tales of the South, or classic period piece audiences can also enjoy Band of Angels- classy, flawed, and all.