What’s Screening: July 10 – 16

No film festivals this week, but there are still plenty of movies.

The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T, Castro, Sunday, 1:00

An evil, megalomaniac music teacher imprisons young boys in his strange world and forces them to play the piano. The only Dr. Seuss feature film made during his lifetime and with is input is as creative, visually daring, and funny as one would expect. Even the sets, photographed in three-strip Technicolor, look as if Seuss had painted them himself. At least that’s how I remember it. I haven’t seen Dr. T in many years.

A Airplane!, New Parkway, Thursday, 9:30

They’re flying on instruments, blowing the autopilot, and translating English into Jive. So win one for the Zipper, but whatever you do, don’t call him “Shirley.” Airplane! throws jokes like confetti–carelessly tossing them in all directions in hopes that some might hit their target. Surprisingly enough, most of them do. There’s no logical reason why a movie this silly can be so satisfying, but then logic never was part of the Airplane! formula. I’d be hard-pressed to name another post-silent feature-length comedy with such a high laugh-to-minute ratio.

? 3-D Rarities, Rafael, Sunday

I’ve seen two collections of 3D shorts in recent years (SFIFF and Mill Valley), but as near as I can tell, there aren’t many repeats in this one. It includes the earliest extant 3D film (from 1922), a color 3D short from the 1940 World’s Fair, a Casper the Friendly Ghost cartoon from 1953, and various 3D trailers.

B- Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Castro, Sunday

Howard Hawks’  musical battle of the sexes contains a handful of wonderful dance numbers and some good comic moments, but there are too many weak scenes to wholeheartedly recommend it. The real surprise is in the leading ladies. Gentlemen helped turn Marilyn Monroe into a star, but co-star Jane Russell blows her out of the water, giving a far funnier and sexier performance. On a Marilyn Monroe double bill with Niagara.

A+ Groundhog Day, UA Berkeley, Thursday, 9:00

Spiritual, humane, and hilarious, Groundhog Day wraps its thoughtful world view inside a slick, Hollywood comedy. Without explanation, the movie plunges its self-centered protagonist into a time warp that becomes his purgatory, living the same day over and over for who knows how long (it could be thousands of years). Bill Murray’s weatherman goes through stages of panic, giddiness, and despair before figuring out that life is about serving others. And yet not a frame of this movie feels preachy. Fast-paced and brilliantly edited, it’s pure entertainment. For more on this great comedy, see Wait 20 Years, and Then You Can Call a Groundhog Day a Classic.

The Maltese Falcon, Castro, Wednesday

Dashiell Hammett’s novel had been filmed twice before, but screenwriter and first-time director John Huston did it right with the perfect cast and a screenplay (by Huston) that sticks almost word-for-word to the book. The ultimate Hammett motion picture, the second-best directorial debut of 1941 (after Citizen Kane), an important precursor to film noir, and perhaps the most entertaining detective movie ever made. This movie is truly the stuff that dreams are made of. On a double bill with In a Lonely Place.

A Blade Runner, Castro, Monday and Tuesday

Based on Philip K. Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, Blade Runner remains surprisingly thoughtful for ’80’s sci-fi–especially of the big budget variety. It ponders questions about the nature of humanity and our ability to objectify people when it suits our needs. The script’s hazy at times; I never did figure out some of the connections, and a couple of important things happen at ridiculously convenient times. But art direction and music alone would make it a masterpiece. Read my longer essay.

Christopher Lee double bill: Horror of Dracula & the Wicker Man, Castro, Thursday

I haven’t seen either of these films in decades, but I have fond memories of both of them. I remember Horror of Dracula as a stylish, lurid, and–for 1958–rather sexy adaptation of Bram Stoker’s novel. I recall loving The Wicker Man as an anti-Puritan, pro-Pagan movie until…I should stop before giving too much away.

? The Lighthouse By the Sea, Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, Saturday, 7:30

I haven’t seen this 1924 Warner Brothers programmer, but it stars Rin-Tin-Tin–the most charismatic movie star ever to walk on four legs and wear his own fur coat. The plot has something to do with outsmarting smugglers. But the title worries me; where else would you put a lighthouse? Also on the bill is the cute and entertaining A Canine Sherlock Holmes (it played at this year’s San Francisco Silent Film Festival) and the Keystone classic Teddy at the Throttle, which I haven’t seen. With Bruce Loeb on the piano.

C+ Way Out West, Pacific Film Archive, Sunday, 4:00

Many fans count this western parody amongst Laurel and Hardy’s best movies, but I’m not one of them. It has its funny moments, including a very famous dance routine, but in too many places  the film drags. Like so many of their features, it gets hung up in plot (a plot, by the way, which the Marx Brothers stole for their western parody, Go West). L&H were always at their best in plotless or near-plotless stories.

? Mystery Science Theater 3000New Parkway, Friday, 10:30.

Regular readers know that I’m a fan of the classic bad-movie-with-commentary TV show, Mystery Science Theater 3000. I have never seen an episode on the big screen with a full audience, but I suspect I’d enjoy it–especially if it’s a really good episode. I hope this will be a good episode; no one is telling us which one will be screened.