MW1: Private School Scandal, Fay Wray and a Murderous Blood Beast

Years ago, I started writing a weekly column with the goal of watching every movie ever made. Obviously, this is an impossible task, but the point was to break me of my bad habit of watching the same movies over and over again.

I love movies and yet, when I have free time, I find myself gravitating to the films I’ve already seen a dozen times. Fired Up! and My Bloody Valentine 3-D are high on the list right now, along with Sister Act, The Birds, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Jaws 2 and The Brady Bunch Movie.

I have eclectic tastes.

This week, after a 3 am viewing of Fired Up!, I made a vow to get back on the varied movie wagon and set my DVR to pick up a variety of films. Here’s my report for the first week. I’d love to hear your thoughts on these films or the movies that made your watch list.

The Children’s Hour

I began my journey with an gripping, emotional movie about two women who pour their hearts into a private school for girls only to become the victims of a terrible rumor. The movie was released in 1961 with Shirley MacLaine and Audrey Hepburn in the lead rolls. I chose this film because it was based on a play by Lillian Hellman and when I was a theater student it was commonly used for scenes between two females.

In the film, a vindictive student tells her guardian about the strange and “unnatural” relationship between Karen and Martha and soon they become the victims of a lesbian witch hunt. Though certainly exaggerated, her story isn’t completely fabricated leaving the audience with an equal sense of unease as the women struggle to move on after losing everything.

An excellent movie with a subject matter that, sadly, is as applicable today as it was when it was filmed.

Completely coincidentally, Miriam Hopkins, who co-stars in The Children’s Hour, starred in the next film on my list:

The Richest Girl in the World

Miriam Hopkins stars as Dorothy Hunter, an heiress who maintains her anonymity by having her assistant Sylvia (Fay Wray) pretend to be her in public. It all works out just fine until Dorothy (pretending to be Sylvia) meets the man of her dreams at a party and decides to test which is stronger his love for her or the Hunter fortune. She pushes Tony (Joel McCrea) on Sylvia (who he thinks is Dorothy) despite the fact that Sylvia has just agreed to be married and her finance is not to happy about the idea of his wife stringing along another man. Will Tony figure it out? Will he pass on the cash and agree to marry Sylvia – only to find that he’s really proposing to the richest girl in the world? You’ll have to watch the move to find out.

I chose this movie because of the period (1934) and because of Fay Wray. I love the art deco production design and the women’s gowns make me long to live in the era.  There’s not a lot of plot, but Miriam Hopkins is great fun to watch. She’s tomboyish and little crazy, the perfect opposite to the feminine and composed Fay Wray. The movie is a comedy but it never quite reaches the screwball level despite the contrived plot. It plays mostly as a light romance with enough twists and turns to keep you hanging on until the end.

Mystery Science Theater 3oo0: Night of the Blood Beast

My final film for the week came courtesy of my new blu-ray wireless LAN and Netflix. We streamed MST3K’s Night of the Blood Beast and I’ve never heard my husband laugh so hard at a movie. The 1958 Roger Corman film stars Ed Nelson as part of a team of. . . rocket scientists (?) who fall prey to an alien blood beast. The truly absurd film begins with an ill-equipped astronaut falling to Earth in his capsule. The recovery team (2 random guys, 2 doctors and a teenage girl who thinks she’s a photographer) arrive by pick-up truck and discover a carpet of gooey mud on the capsule and a dead astronaut inside. But is he dead and is the mud really mud?

They take his body back to their super secret, super tiny, facility in the woods where they discover that not only is astroboy not dead, but he’s been impregnated with the shrimp-like children of the blood beast. How’s that for a racy twist?

The movie is so ridiculous that it’s an easy MST3K target and time and again you’ll hear them say the things you were thinking. If you’re a b-movie fan or you’re just looking for a good laugh, add this one to your Netflix download queue.

That’s it for me. What movies made it on to your viewing list this past week?

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