Many Shades of Eleanor Parker
THE WOMAN IN WHITE (1948) Eleanor Parker stars in this lavish Warner Bros. adaptation of the Wilkie Collins’ blockbuster mystery from the mid-19th century that originally set the template for all haunted romances to come. Gig Young plays art teacher Walter Hartright who encounters an enigmatic beauty dressed all in white on a cold dark knight deep in the woods. Arriving at his employment destination, the Fairlie Estate, Hartright is stunned to discover Laura Fairlie (Eleanor Parker) is a dead ringer for the seductive specter he met in the woods. As the mystery unfolds, the sinister Count Fosco (Sydney Greenstreet) captivates as he weaves a web of conspiracy. Also stars Alexis Smith and Agnes Moorehead. Directed by Peter Godfrey.
LIZZIE (1957) Eleanor Parker delivers a bravura performance as a young woman possessed of three minds. Shy Elizabeth Richmond is plagued by ailments and missing time; Lizzie is a wanton party girl, craving vice and out to destroy her alter ego Elizabeth; and Beth is healthy young woman trapped in her mind since an unspeakable act shattered her mind and destroyed her childhood. Richard Boone is the dedicated doc out to knit Beth well, and Joan Blondell is her dipsomaniac aunt who must be convinced psychiatry is the key to save her niece. Director Hugo Hass doubles up as Walter, the writer next door. Based on a book by Shirley Jackson.
RKO VARIETIES TRIPLE FEATURE In these three anthology films, RKO Pictures plumbed their library of musical and comedy shorts as well as putting some new acts together to produce a series of toe-tapping rib-tickling hour long features. Comedian Gil Lamb hosts Make Mine Laughs to deliver up musical and comedic delights from Leon Errol, France Langford, Anne Shirley & Dennis Day and more. Newcomer Jack Parr emcees both Variety Time and 1951’s Footlight Varieties, bridging the pop culture gap from movies to radio to television. Variety Time enjoys contributions from Edgar Kennedy, Frankie Carle, Pat Rooney, and Harold & Lola. Footlight Varieties in turn serves up a selection that includes The Sportsmen, Liberace, Jerry Murad’s Harmonicats, and Red Buttons.
Another Golden Harvest
A TERRA-COTTA WARRIOR (1989) Following their collaborations on the international art house hits Red Sorghum and Ju Dou, director Zhang Yimou and actress Gong Li re-teamed for this big budget fantasy. This time stepping in front of the camera, Zhang stars as a Qin Dynasty chamberlain who makes the mistake of falling for one of the emperor’s concubines. As punishment, he is transformed into a Terra-cotta Warrior and awakens 3,000 years later, where he encounters an actress who is a dead ringer for the woman who captivated him so many years ago. Written by acclaimed novelist Lilian Lee and directed by Hong Kong action specialist Ching Siu-Tung (A Chinese Ghost Story), A Terra-cotta Warrior is a captivating combination of humor, adventure and romance. Zhang and Gong give winning performances, and their chemistry was no doubt heightened by the fact that at the time they were also a couple off-screen.
HE’S A WOMAN, SHE’S A MAN (1994) Pop music super fan Lam Chi Wing (Anita Yuen) disguises herself as a man so she can meet her idol, Rose (Carina Lau), at an audition for male singers being staged by Rose’s producer/boyfriend, Sam (Leslie Cheung). The couple’s relationship is on the rocks however, and Sam signs the talentless Chi-Wing just to spite Rose. Things get even more complicated when a perplexed Sam develops feelings for the conflicted Chi-Wing, who tries her best to keep Sam and Rose together. One of the wittiest and most heartwarming Hong Kong films of its era, this gentle saga of love and sexual confusion is superbly performed by three of the industry’s biggest stars while also functioning as a knowing send-up of the contemporary music industry. Directed by Peter Chan (The Eye).
THE BLADE (1995) In a reckless quest to avenge his father’s death, sword-maker On loses his right arm and becomes a disgraced outcast in the martial world. On’s only hope for retribution lies in his ability to create a new style of fighting that will both compensate for his disability and overcome the savage force of the fearsome opponent who slaughtered his father. Director Tsui Hark’s reinvention of the Shaw Brothers classic One-Armed Swordsman (1967) is filled with kinetic, gravity-defying combat of a sort previously unseen. Always an innovator, Tsui reinvigorated the Hong Kong swordplay genre film through this new approach to action and by crafting a nightmarish but fascinating world far removed from the civilized nobility where such stories usually unfolded. Visually arresting and exhilarating in its primal intensity, The Blade is one of the most important and distinctive works in its director’s filmography.