July 31st, 2010

Cinema Dave  Swashbuckling ournalist and

"Mao's Last Dance"

For those seeking class, dignity and a sensational true story about recent history, then go see **Mao's Last Dancer.**

**Mao's Last Dancer** is based on the autobiography by ballet dancer Li Cunxin, who defected to the United States during the Cold War. Living in poverty with his agrarian family until age 11, Li was selected by Madame Mao's cultural delegates and taken to Beijing to study ballet. With a full curriculum of singing songs praising Mao Tse Tung (with echoes of current elementary school children singing the "Obama" anthem), Li is the worst student in this class.

However one mentor sees an individual talent in the boy, so the teacher does something illegal under Red China. The teacher smuggles a video tape of Communist defector Mikhail Baryshnikov performing high jumps. Inspired by another person's individual achievement, Li performance improves.

Through a cultural exchange program, Li (Chi Cao) becomes a lead performer with the Houston Ballet, among whose patrons include former Vice President George Bush. While he is taught to be paranoid of all things non Communist, Li learns about the common sense simplicity of individual freedom. Falling in love with another dancer, Li defects.

While **Mao's Last Dancer** suffers from a few stagnant legal procedure scenes in the second half, the film succeeds as a cultural drama. Director Bruce Beresford lovingly displays the power and the passion of ballet with attention to detail. Actor Chi Cao was trained by two of Li Cuxin's former mentors.

There is a sense of history about **Mao's Last Dancer" that will remembered far longer than a Piranha chewing on a topless beach bimbo. Casting Shanghai born Joan Chen, (who became an American citizen in 1988,) adds an authenticity to this important motion picture opening this weekend.

Here he/they are MICKEY MAOs another creation by sculptor Jim McNalis in his series The Dictators.
Cinema Dave  Swashbuckling ournalist and

Public Domain Horror Maniac?...or Sex Maniac?

"Maniac" is the most amatateur looking movie released in this collection. The lead actors are extremely hammy, while the fifth business players who are extremely self concious.

The Mad Scientist Meirschultz (Horance B. Capenter) has a fetish for organ transplants, so he had multiple organs strewn accross his laboratory. Things get more bizarre when the bad doctor sends his assitant (Bill Woods) on a mission to retreive a "shattered" heart from a local morgue. During this failed heist, the aisstant is frightened by cats and dogs fighting each other. (Filmed in 1934, before animal protection laws were written). Thematically, there is a payoff during "Maniac" climax in which two bitches combat each other.

Like the auteur Ed Wood, "Maniac" makes an effort to educate. The film opens with a title card that discusses the taboo topic of mental illness. After a character is shot, another title card is posted that explains what "dementia praecox" is. After the vocabulary word is defined, the film returns to the scene of the shooting.

At one point, the assitant takes over the professor's practice. The assistant injects a serum into man, who becomes a maniac. The maniac abducts a woman (who seems to be into a trance, until she puts her arm around the actor's neck) and carries her off. Later in the forrest, the grunting maiac takes off his victim's top. Yes Joe Bob Briggs, there are naked breasts.
Cinema Dave  Swashbuckling ournalist and

Public domain Horror Metropolis

"Metropolis" is a film from which cinemamatic legends were born, most notably director Friz Lang and camera man, Karl Freud. This one minute short, two hour movie is the first science fiction epic, first seen on the silent screen. The musical score enchances the visual story line, however once should see "Metropolis" on the big screen with a piano accompiant.
Cinema Dave  Swashbuckling ournalist and

Public domain Horror The Vampire Bat

When Cinema Dave interviewed Fay Wray in April 2003, he kicked himself for not asking the actress about her frequent co-star, Lionel Atwill. Given that she informed Cinema Dave that that she did not like being known as a "Scream Queen," it is probably just as well that she did not discuss "Myster at the Wax Museum" and "The Vampire Bat."

Fay Wray is another charming heroinine in "the Vampire Bat," this time she is romanced by Melvin Douglas and is eventually menanced by Lionel Atwill. "The Vampire Bat" also features "Frankenstein" stock players, Lionel Belmore as (what else?) the burgomiesier and Dwight Frye as what else?) as a creepy assitant who frequently makes use of the word, "Blood."

There are some good moments and a forced, but funny running gag involving a hyperchdriac old woman. Being an early talky, the film suffers from static stage direction, so common of the era. However when Fay Wray, Dwight Frye and Lionel Atwill is on the screen, "The Vampire Bat" has some dynamic moments.
Cinema Dave  Swashbuckling ournalist and

Public Domain Horror The Monster Maker

Character actor J. Carrol Naish is "The Monster Maker," a nasty little scientist who injects his subjects with acromegaly, a disease that destroys one's harmones. His orderly is portrayed by Glenn Strange in a white suit. In "House of Frankenstein," Glenn Strange (as the Frankenstein Monster) threw J. Caroll Naish (as Daniel the Hunchback) out of a glass window. In this movie, Strange and Naish are fiendish friends.

Naish is infatuated with the daughter of a concert pianist, Ralph Morgan. When Morgan tells Naish to leave his little girl alone, the pianist. receives the acromegaly treatment. When the "The Monster Maker" plays out it's 64 minutes, one character faces a final curtain call.

Of note, acromegaly is the same malady that affected character actor Rondo Hatton. For monster mavens across the world, the Rondo Hatton Award is the holy grail of monster achievement.

Cinema Dave  Swashbuckling ournalist and

Public domain Horror The Ape

Boris Karloff stars as "The Ape," an unitentional comedy that thrives on Karloff's sinister screen image. The film opens with loud circus music and the audience sees a small town that Norman Rockwell would have painted. Karloff's entrance garners sympathy when a bunch of kids stone his house. He is mocked by the townspeople, yet Karloff has a soft spot for a woman in the wheel chair.