My Week in Movies: June 30 – July 6

Three O’Clock High (1987) One of the great 80s high school movies, brilliant stuff all around, a master class in both tension and comic timing. Oh, and it’s also far more deeply philosophical than I had before realized, which I wrote about earlier this week.

Jaws (1975) and Independence Day (1996) If it’s the Fourth of July, it must be my annual Spielberg/Emmerich double feature. This year marks the first time my daughter watched Jaws, and aside from wishing it ended with a bigger explosion (sheesh, the kids these days), she loved it. Meanwhile, Independence Day remains big, dumb fun, and this time around, I think I cracked a decades-old plot hole problem (read about it here).

Sh! The Octopus (1937) What a title! And the film mostly holds up, at least in terms of all-out nuttiness. This gonzo spoof of the dark old house genre barrels through a heap of absurd ideas as it collects its characters in an empty lighthouse on a rainy night, although to summarize what happens next is rather impossible. It’s a crazed collection of half-ideas and throwaway comic bits, never mind the plot. It’s all rather uneven, but it’s bizarre enough to tickle my fancy. Better, it leads up to an encounter with a surprisingly impressive octopus puppet, and, later, a knockout visual trick involving makeup and lighting that makes sitting through the whole movie worth it.

The World, the Flesh and the Devil (1959) The opening scene rushes through its exposition a little too quickly for my taste, but no matter – once we get to the story proper (in which Harry Belafonte finds himself the last man on Earth, roaming free and going nuts in an empty New York), it’s terrific stuff. Director Ranald MacDougall’s visual flair adds a haunting style to the picture, while the eventual human drama packs a solid punch. The script gets bogged down in heavy-handed moralizing here and there, its weighty message-making at odds with the subtler character study that surrounds it. Oh, and the end title card is so corny it made me laugh out loud, counteracting an otherwise very impactful finale. Still, for the most part, it’s a slick, engaging entry in its genre.

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