Review: Izzy & Moe (1985)

>> Sunday, August 26, 2007


USA/TV/C-92m./Dir: Jackie Cooper/Wr: Steven Patrick Bell & Robert Boris/Cast: Jackie Gleason (Izzy Einstein), Art Carney (Moe Smith), Cynthia Harris (Dallas Carter), Zohra Lampert (Esther Einsein), Drew Snyder (Agent Harris), Dick Latessa (Lt. Murphy)

Although Prohibition was reviled by the majority of the American public, Prohibition agents Isadore Einstein and Moe Smith were a couple of the best-loved personalities of the time. From 1920 to 1925, the middle-aged, overweight duo managed to gain entrance to speakeasies and score arrests while trimmer colleagues failed, because they didn’t look like federal agents. The fame the boys gained through newspaper accounts of their exploits didn’t impair their arrest record. The pudgy pair simply donned disguises and used fake accents to eventually arrest over 4,000 suspected bootleggers and to impound an estimated 5,000,000 bottles of hooch. In the realm of buzzkillers, Izzy and Moe rank very near the top.

Jackie Gleason and Art Carney of The Honeymooners fame saw the story of Izzy & Moe as a perfect vehicle to reunite one last time in front of television cameras. Being a fan of much of their previous work, it pains me to say that Izzy & Moe simply isn’t very good. One would think it impossible to take the story of the exceedingly colorful Prohibition characters and turn it into a bland, predictable bore, but the producers of the telefilm did just that. The film has very little humor, no dramatic impetus, and terrible production values (even by TV movie standards).

Gleason and Carney try hard to make the most of the miserable material, and occasionally there are glimmers of their old magic. In fact, the first part of the film plays like a variation on Kramden trying to talk Norton into a new get-rich-quick scheme. Unfortunately, the dramatic scenes involving Izzy’s family are as lifeless and stilted as a grade school production of Our Town; and the gangland scenes convey no sense of menace. In short, the film is as dry as a gin mill after a raid by the two title characters.

Drinks Consumed--Whiskey, beer, and wine

Intoxicating Effects--Staggering, belching, and sneaking sips

Potent Quotables--Izzy (referring to his partner in drag): Hey, buddy, can I get a drink? That is a very ugly woman.

Video Availability--Izzy and Moe DVD (Universal)

Similarly Sauced Cinema--Jimmy Durante portrayed a dynamic Prohibition agent of the Izzy & Moe variety in the message-drenched melodrama The Wet Parade (1932).

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Booze News: McLovin Me Some Superbad!

>> Saturday, August 18, 2007

It’s been a great summer for comedies. Both Hot Fuzz and Knocked Up were smart, well-made, laugh-out-loud flicks, but neither can claim the crown as the funniest film of summer 2007. That title goes to Superbad, a celebration of horny adolescence.

The script by Knocked Up’s Seth Rogen and his buddy Evan Goldberg is the story of a couple of unpopular high-schoolers (coincidentally named Seth and Evan) and their quest to obtain alcohol to impress the ladies at an end-of-the-year blowout. The screenplay is truthful about the fears and urges of high school boys, and the cast is note perfect. Jonah Hill manages to bring a certain sweetness to the heavy, foul-mouthed Seth; and nobody is better at awkward discomfort than Michael Cera (as Arrested Development fans can attest).

In short, I don’t think I laughed this hard since Bad Santa (2003). Superbad earns Booze Movie’s highest recommendation!

Parents be warned--Superbad is R-rated for a reason. This film is vulgar in the extreme. Shortly after Mrs. Boozemovies and I found our seats, some guy walked into the theater with five kids ranging in age from eight to thirteen. Turning to my wife, I said, “I sure hope those kids like dick jokes.”

Cheers,
garv

Superbad: The Drawings (Hardcover)

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Review: Tales of Terror (1962)

>> Tuesday, August 14, 2007

USA/C-89m./Dir: Roger Corman/Wr: Richard Matheson/Cast: Vincent Price (Fortunato Luchresi), Peter Lorre (Montresor Herringbone), Joyce Jameson (Annabel Herringbone)

In 1960, Vincent Price starred in House of Usher for low-budget auteur Roger Corman, and the success of that project led American International Pictures to embark upon a series of gothic horrors adapted from the works of Edgar Allan Poe. When it came time for the fourth Price/Corman/Poe collaboration, there was a need to freshen up the cocktail, so Tales of Terror was conceived as an anthology film, featuring a trilogy of stories from the morbid author. The first and last tales are fairly standard mixtures of blood, cobwebs, and melodrama; but the center story, “The Black Cat,” is overflowing with both wine and laughs.

“The Black Cat” segment (actually based primarily on Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado”) tells the story of Montresor Herringbone (Peter Lorre), an out-of-work lush who sponges off his wife (Joyce Jameson) to supply the money for his vino habit. After being tossed out of his regular watering hole, Herringbone stumbles upon a wine merchant’s convention, where a connoisseur, Fortunato Luchresi (Price), is about to display his unsurpassed wine tasting talents. Herringbone insists that he can out-taste any so-called expert, so he challenges Luchresi to a taste-off. The contest ends in a draw and an extremely pickled Herringbone, but things take a dark turn when Luchresi takes a liking to Herringbone’s wife.

The wine drinking contest is the highlight of the film, due largely to Lorre’s ad-libs and Price’s fey mannerisms. Roger Corman brought in a real wine expert to demonstrate the proper tasting technique, and then allowed his stars to perform the scene as they saw fit. Price followed the expert’s technique step-by-step but exaggerated each gesture to hilarious effect. Lorre’s guzzling and improvised dialogue provided the perfect counterpoint.

All in all, “The Black Cat” segment is a small gem, marred only by modern editing techniques which occasionally spoil the period feel of the piece. If you are looking for another wino film to complement Sideways (2004), give Tales of Terror a spin.

Drinks Consumed--Wine

Intoxicating Effects--Staggering, hiccups, belching, harmonizing, bickering, destruction of property, passing out, delirium tremens, boasting, and bar-tossed

Potent Quotables--MONTRESOR: Give me my money!
ANNABEL: There is none, Montresor. You haven’t worked in 17 years.
MONTRESOR: Will you--Has it been that long? Oh, stop your silly tactics. What about your sewing money?
ANNABEL: We need that for food.
MONTRESOR: Food--That’s exactly what I want it for. I drink my food.

Video Availability--Available as a Midnite Movies Double Feature DVD with Twice Told Tales (MGM) and as part of the Vincent Price: MGM Scream Legends Collection

Similarly Sauced Cinema--Price, Lorre, and Jameson re-teamed for The Comedy of Terrors (1964), except that time around Price played the lush.

Vincent Price: The Art of Fear (Paperback)

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Review: The Big Hangover (1950)

>> Sunday, August 5, 2007

USA/B&W-82m./Dir: Norman Krasna/Wr: Norman Krasna/Cast: Van Johnson (David Muldon), Elizabeth Taylor (Mary Belney), Percy Waram (John Belney), Gene Lockhart (Charles Parkford), Edgar Buchanan (Uncle Fred Mahoney), Leon Ames (Carl Bellcap)

The best thing about The Big Hangover is its title. It’s a damn good title, evocative of rain-swept city streets, empty bottles, shady characters, and broken dreams--
everything that you would expect from a pitch-black film noir. Unfortunately, The Big Hangover isn’t a noir film, nor is it particularly good.

It starts with an interesting and somewhat strange premise. Van Johnson plays David Muldon, a law school valedictorian starting out at a prestigious law firm. Muldon is also a WWII veteran, and he suffers from a strange form of combat fatigue. He nearly drowned when being submerged in 100 year-old brandy during an air raid, and from that point forward, the slightest taste or even the smell of alcohol makes him instantaneously drunk. Liz Taylor plays the daughter of the law firm’s senior partner. She takes a shine to David, and being that she is an amateur psychiatrist (isn’t that convenient), she takes it upon herself to cure him.

I think The Big Hangover is supposed to be a romantic comedy, except it doesn’t happen to be very funny. Any humor is far outweighed by soapy melodrama. There’s also a secondary subplot about an Asian couple who are refused residence in an apartment building due to discrimination, which is much more interesting than Van and Liz’s story. Regrettably, the subplot is handled in as hamfisted a manner as the comedy, and it is never fully developed or resolved.

On the plus side, the cast is likable, and the acting is professional all
around (except Johnson does a terrible drunk). Although the movie itself isn’t very good, it’s worth seeing for the bizarro storyline. Still, I hope that someday someone swipes the superb title and attaches it to the alcohol-drenched crime film it deserves.

Drinks Consumed--Spiked punch, brandy, Scotch, and wine

Intoxicating Effects--Dizziness, sneaking sips, hearing voices, harmonizing, and loosened inhibitions

Potent Quotables--DAVID (handed a drink): I’m getting like that fellow in The Lost Weekend.
MARY: There aren’t ten drops in that glass. Drink it.

Video Availability--The Big Hangover is available as a manufacture-on-demand DVD-R through The Warner Archive.

Similarly Sauced Cinema--It was Liz’s turn to hit the bottle in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966).

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About Me

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I like to drink. I like to watch movies. I like to watch movies about drinking. I like to write about the movies I’ve watched, but only if I’ve had a drink first.

All text including the title "Booze Movies: The 100 Proof Film Guide" Copyright William T. Garver

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