Daily Archives: July 2, 2022

“Homage to Carole Landis” by Donald Phelps

From Rouge No. 11, July 2007.


Chiefly known as a B film actress who later played a few supporting roles in A pictures at Fox, Carole Landis (1919-1948) appeared in over fifty films. Almost half of these were uncredited before she achieved some recognition in One Million B.C. (Hal Roach, 1940), in which she and her co-star Victor Mature were both cast by D.W. Griffith (who filmed her screen test). She would work again with Mature at Fox in I Wake Up Screaming (a 1941 noir, also co-starring Betty Grable and Laird Cregar) and My Gal Sal (a musical biopic of 1942, also co-starring Rita Hayworth, in which Mature plays Paul Dresser – the popular 1890s composer and older brother of Theodore Dreiser, who started out working in a carnival). A feminist since her youth who tried to start a girls football team at her Wisconsin high school, Landis was born Frances Lillian Mary Ridste, and chose her first name because of her admiration for Carole Lombard. In 1944, she published Four Jills in a Jeep – a book about her first wartime USO tour, entertaining troops in England and North Africa – and appeared as herself in the Fox film derived from it. Read more

The Unobserved Life [KILLER OF SHEEP]

From the August 3, 2007 Chicago Reader. — J.R.




WHEN Opens Fri 8/3

WHERE Music Box, 3733 N. Southport

INFO 773-871-6604

Thanks to the excellent restoration work of the UCLA Film and Television Archive and the patient heroism of Milestone Films’ Dennis Doros — who has spent years acquiring the music rights for a film largely built around pieces of music — Charles Burnett’s monumental first feature, Killer of Sheep (1977), is finally getting its first commercial release. Shot by Burnett himself in black-and-white 16-millimeter for less than $10,000 — as his master’s thesis at UCLA — this portrait of everyday life in Watts has steadily grown in resonance and reputation over the past 30 years. It’s centered on the melancholy off time of the title hero  — a weary abattoir worker (the wonderful Henry Gayle Sanders) — with his family and friends. The slow burn and slow drip of this off time while he stews in his own juices is essential to the movie’s experience.

We also catch a few glimpses of the hero at his job, but most of what we know about his work and how he feels about it comes from seeing his general alienation and exhaustion when he’s at home: repairing the kitchen sink or laying out linoleum, sluggishly dancing with his wife in the living room, berating his son for addressing her in a “country” fashion as “dear,” refusing to participate in a robbery being planned by a couple of neighbors, or trying to fix a broken down car. Read more


From the Chicago Reader (February 20, 1998). — J.R.

Scotch Tape

Rating *** A must see

Directed by Jack Smith

With Jerry Sims, Ken Jacobs, and Reese Haire.

Flaming Creatures

Rating **** Masterpiece

Directed by Jack Smith

With Francis Francine, Sheila Bick, Joel Markman, Judith Malina, Dolores Flores, Marian Zazeela, and Smith.

You’d never imagine this from the mainstream press, but experimental film is on the rise again, as a taste as well as an undertaking — even if it’s often returning in mutated forms like video or in areas of filmmaking where we least expect it. At the Rotterdam International Film Festival three weeks ago, hundreds of Dutch viewers, most of them in their 20s, stormed the largest multiplex in Holland — one of the best-designed facilities I know of, suggesting an unlikely cross between a Borders and a Beaubourg, a mall and an airport — to see work that’s thought to have little or no drawing power in this country. They watched short experimental videos from Berlin, London, and Providence, Rhode Island, at a crowded weekday afternoon program called “City Sounds.” They watched Blue Moon, a charismatic Taiwanese feature by Ko I-cheng whose five reels can be shown in any order (they all feature the same characters and settings, but whether the five plots match up chronologically or as parallel fictional universes — signifying flashbacks, flash-forwards, or variations on a theme — is left to the viewer). Read more