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Category Archives: Classic Films

The Shining

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Image credit: The Shining, 1980

I always thought the scariest place a person could be is in The Overlook Hotel with a murderous Jack Nicholson and a whole bunch of angry ghosts. Not to mention, those hallways of hypnotic carpet patterns! But that was until I made the decision to renovate my home. A decision which has forced me to become trapped, in increasingly smaller spaces, as the days and weeks bleed into one another. Suddenly, this quote from The Shining (Disc/Download) makes so much sense: “A kind of claustrophobic reaction which can occur when people are shut in together over long periods of time.” Let’s just say, I’m looking increasingly vacant-eyed over my keyboard. The dog is calling out to Scatman Crothers.

Directed by Stanley Kubrick, The Shining is based on the Stephen King novel of the same name, inspired by his own stay at a Colorado resort (the Estes Park Hotel, which I can personally say is quite lovely… in the summer). Jack Torrance (Nicholson) moves his wife and son to a remote hotel for the winter, accepting the job of caretaker. As a writer, he thinks an empty resort will be the perfect spot to work on his novel. However, the ghosts of the hotel have other plans for the Torrance family. Slowly, Jack begins to go mad, while his telekinetic son senses the presence of the hotel’s previous dead occupants. Little Danny has a touch of “the shining”, just as the hotel itself “shines”. There are a lot of hallucination scenes in this, several times involving a bathroom. I too have been hallucinating a bathroom during long stretches of isolation, so this part of the film makes sense to me. When Jack and I dream, we dream of a beautiful, spacious retreat fit for a luxury hotel. My nightmare is that I’m as old as the decaying woman in Room 237 by the time my soaking tub gets installed, but that’s probably just the claustrophobia talking. Surely, my contractor will get his act together by then.

Another dream sequence involves one of my favorite movie bars, host to many glamorous parties throughout The Overlook’s storied history. Lloyd the bartender may have served up a mean Bourbon and Advocaat, but I prefer to take my cocktail cue from Danny. While watching The Shining, I recommend drinking this variation on the Negroni, a Redrum cocktail.

Redrum

1 oz Dark Spiced Rum

1 oz Campari

1 oz Sweet Vermouth

Blood orange slice

Combine rum, Campari, and vermouth in a mixing tin with ice. Stir until chilled, then strain into a glass over a large ice cube. Garnish with a slice of blood orange.

If you’re not typically a Negroni drinker, this may change your mind. Rum gives the cocktail a sweeter, spicier edge, and I actually prefer this to its gin-based cousin. It’s the perfect drink to toast five miserable months of home renovation, and the irreparable harm it has caused me. Cheers!

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?

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Image credit: What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? 1962

When I start to feel fatigued by feel-good sibling stories, I turn to movies that show us the darker side of familial bonds. After all, sisters don’t always perform cute song-and-dance numbers like Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen in White Christmas.  Sometimes, sisters are merely two women who share some DNA and nothing else. And then there’s a darker sub-category, exclusively reserved for the Hudson sisters in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (Disc/Download).

This film had been on my watch list for a long time, and I finally took the plunge last summer after watching Ryan Murphy’s Feud miniseries. Surely, I thought, the movie isn’t nearly as bonkers as the making of the movie. Oh, how wrong I was. With over-the-top performances from Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, this tale of an aging child actress imprisoning (and torturing) her paraplegic sister in a Hollywood mansion is equal parts scary and campy. With a perfect blend of horror and suspense, the audience is taken on Baby Jane’s journey into madness, as resentment turns to homicidal rage. Davis’s clown makeup is truly terrifying, and she’s absolutely brilliant in the role of a washed-up vaudeville star. Crawford provides the melodrama, as intense as those trademark eyebrows. I’m sure Blanche was probably wishing she’d invested in an elevator before her little sister went crazy, however after a recent viewing of Olivia De Havilland in Lady in a Cage, I’m rethinking that idea. Baby Jane looks like the type to cut the power.

As many people are aware, Joan Crawford was not just an actress, but also a cola executive! Through her marriage to Pepsi-Cola’s president and CEO, she held a seat on the board of directors and often shilled the beverage in print ads and appearances. This week, I’m making a drink in honor of “Miss Pepsi” herself. While watching What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, I recommend drinking this Paralyzer cocktail.

Paralyzer

4 oz Pepsi

1 oz Coffee Liqueur

1 oz Vanilla Vodka

2 oz Milk

1 Maraschino cherry

Fill a glass with ice, and pour in the Pepsi. In a shaker, combine coffee liqueur, vodka, and milk. Gently pour over the Pepsi slowly. Garnish with a maraschino cherry.

This drink definitely seems like something Jane would’ve enjoyed while posing next to her lookalike doll, or perhaps carried on a silver tray for her big sis. I don’t know how well it pairs with “dead rat”, but if you’re #teamCoke like me, you’ll still get a good scream. Cheers!

Lover Come Back

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Image Credit: Lover Come Back, 1961

When life is busy and stressful, I find myself yearning to seize the Day. Doris Day that is. Because no problem is too great that it can’t be solved by making a date with my favorite Classic Hollywood gal pal and her coordinating pastel outfits. In Doris’s world, I don’t have to think about my endless home renovations or work demands—I can just relax and enjoy the familiar tropes of mistaken identities and enemies-to-lovers. She’s basically a classic Shakespearean comedy wrapped up in a pillbox hat.

If you’ve seen Pillow Talk, then you’ve essentially seen this week’s film Lover Come Back (Disc/Download). Doris and Rock follow largely the same formula where she’s a competent career woman (this time it’s advertising instead of interior design), and he’s a playboy rival determined to take her down while simultaneously taking her to bed. Even Tony Randall pops up again as Rock’s wealthy best friend/boss, who inadvertently sets the madcap plot in motion by putting fake commercials for a fake account on the air. Suddenly, everybody’s wild to see the mysterious new product model Rebel Davis is selling, known only as “VIP”. Rock has to find a scientist to invent it, Doris mistakes Rock for the scientist, and by the end he’s got her trying to convince him to give her his formula, and his virginity. We’re missing the dreamy Rex Stetson accent in this, but we do get Rock with a beard, so I’ll take that tradeoff.

Lover Come Back is a great movie to watch with your favorite cocktail because VIP turns out to be an alcoholic wafer cookie that’s equal to a triple martini and comes in a rainbow of colors. Apparently it tastes like an after-dinner mint, and you know what that means—time to break out the Crème de Menthe! For everyone who has ever been stuck with this green bottle in their bar after making one lousy Grasshopper, here’s another drink to make you feel like it wasn’t a totally wasted purchase. While watching Lover Come Back, I recommend drinking this VIP Martini.

VIP Martini

1 oz Chocolate Vodka

2 oz RumChata

½ oz Green Crème de Menthe Liqueur

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice, and shake until chilled. Strain into a chilled martini glass.

If you want to crank up the fun, take a drink every time Doris shows up in a new hat, or every time a VIP commercial plays. By the end, I kind of want to try it in every color. Guess that makes me the target audience—a ten-cent drunk. Cheers!

Bringing Up Baby

Image credit: Bringing Up Baby, 1938

So a leopard, a dog, and a paleontologist walk into a bar… Not really, but this week’s film Bringing Up Baby (Disc/Download) definitely feels like one long, preposterous joke you tell after a few strong drinks.  From Cary Grant in a frilly bathrobe, to Katharine Hepburn hanging off the edge of a Brontosaurus skeleton, the hits just keep on coming.

Directed by Howard Hawks, this fast-talking screwball comedy shows what happens when a buttoned-up paleontologist (Grant) meets his match in a flighty, chaotic socialite (Hepburn). She steals his golf ball and his car, he laments the cruel twist of fate that sent this #hotmessexpress careening into his ordered life, and before you know it, they’re ripping each other’s clothes off. Things get really crazy when a “tame” leopard gets delivered to Hepburn’s mansion, the family dog buries a priceless dinosaur bone, and the circus comes to town. I love any movie with a fast-paced plot and rapid dialogue, and it doesn’t get faster (or zanier) than this. Having been a longtime fan of the Grant/Hepburn pairing in The Philadelphia Story, it’s fun to see them in the meet-cute stage of a relationship, as opposed to bickering divorcees. Almost as though Bringing Up Baby is the prequel to their later film, back when this onscreen couple was just figuring out how to be “yar”.

Fans of The Thin Man will probably recognize doggie star “Skippy”, who achieved even greater fame as Nick and Nora Charles’s pooch Asta. Here he plays George, a pampered scoundrel who likes to steal bones and hide them all over his owner’s sprawling estate. One such bone is the missing piece to Cary Grant’s prized Brontosaurus skeleton, so while you’re watching Bringing Up Baby, I recommend joining the fun with this Skeleton Key cocktail.

Skeleton Key

1 ½ oz Bourbon

¾ oz Elderflower Liqueur

½ oz Lemon Juice

4 oz Ginger Beer

8 dashes Angostura Bitters

Combine bourbon, elderflower liqueur, and lemon juice with ice in a Collins glass. Stir to combine and chill, then top with more ice, and ginger beer. Stir, and top with eight dashes of Angostura Bitters.

Fizzy and sweet, the drink also has a bit of a bite to it, mirroring the sharp tongues of our hero and heroine. For witty banter, hilarious physical comedy, and chemistry that’s off the charts, give these screwballs a watch. Cheers!

Leave Her to Heaven

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Image credit: Leave Her to Heaven, 1945

All aboard the crazy train as we attempt to go inside the twisted mind of Ellen in this week’s film Leave Her to Heaven (Disc). Played by the impossibly beautiful Gene Tierney, this femme fatale will stop at nothing to claim the undivided attention of her man. Obviously, nobody ever taught this gal how to share her toys.

When novelist Richard Harland (Cornel Wilde) first encounters Ellen on a train to New Mexico, he assumes she’s merely an attractive bookworm. The fact that she’s holding one of his books is a nice stroke of the ego, but here’s his first mistake—underestimating Ellen for even a second. Indeed, every interaction from here on feels plotted; part of a grander scheme to fully possess this man. She takes out everyone who gets in her way, from a disabled polio survivor, to her unborn baby, and even <spoiler alert> HERSELF!!!! That’s right, Ellen finds a way to make sure this man thinks only of her, even from beyond the grave. It’s a stunning psychological thriller, made haunting by the cool, calculating eyes of Tierney. Even the movie’s end credits can’t stop her effect on the audience.

Although the acting and script are huge draws, I also enjoy the Leave Her to Heaven’s settings. From the rocky desert of Sedona to the crisp, clean wilderness of Maine, this movie is a celluloid vacation. But rather than getting in the lake with Ellen, I think I’d rather stay on shore sipping a classic Remember the Maine cocktail.

Remember the Maine

2 oz Rye

¾ oz Sweet Vermouth

½ tsp Absinthe

2 tsp Cherry Heering liqueur

Luxardo Maraschino cherry

Combine rye, sweet vermouth, absinthe, and cherry liqueur in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a cherry.

Having read the book this is based on, I can confirm the film adaptation does a great job of capturing Ellen’s mysterious, devilish allure. In a weird way, you start to understand where she’s coming from. Like her, I wouldn’t want my husband’s relatives to interrupt my romantic vacation, nor would I be thrilled to find myself with child. I don’t think satin pumps and a trip down the staircase would be my solution to that problem, but the way things are going with our reproductive rights, who knows? And that’s what makes Ellen so scary—she could be any woman, who gets pushed just a little too far. Cheers!

Fun in Acapulco

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Image credit: Fun in Acapulco, 1963

Cinema Sips is traveling this week, to 1960s Acapulco! If the question ever arises of where and when I would go if I had a time machine, at the top of the list would be this glittering resort town in the era of movie stars, margaritas, and luxury hotels. And no film makes it look as glamorous as the Elvis Presley classic Fun in Acapulco (Disc/Download).

As with most Elvis movies, we’re given a fairly thin plot and almost zero character development. However, there are beaches! And Edith Head dresses! And a charming song “Margarita” that I would love to play on a vinyl record during my next cocktail hour. But back to the clothes. Ursula Andress’s costumes are a technicolor feast for the eyes, and I wish I could find even one or two of these ensembles in current retail shops. Elvis does a decent job of playing a PTSD-suffering former circus performer, whose only solution to overcoming his fear of heights is to dive from the famous Acapulco cliffs. He also gets a gig singing in a hotel nightclub, along with a daytime job as their lifeguard. I’m not even complaining about this paper-thin excuse to show Bond Girl Andress in a bikini again because I enjoy nothing more than a good swimming pool scene, and this movie is full of them.

Something else this movie is full of is margaritas! Frankly, I don’t think the prop guy had ever seen a margarita before making this because the ones in the movie look like salt-rimmed coupes of water. Loyal readers of Cinema Sips (or literally, anyone who’s ever been to a Mexican restaurant) know better. So this week, let’s make a cocktail worthy of The King- the Cadillac Margarita.

Cadillac Margarita

1 ½ oz Anejo Tequila

¾ oz Fresh Lime Juice

¾ oz Agave Nectar

½ oz Grand Marnier

Lime Twist

Combine tequila, lime juice, and agave nectar in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a glass filled with fresh ice. Slowly float the Grand Marnier over the top. Garnish with a lime twist.

I find that this movie only improves with repeat viewings, especially once you stop trying to make sense of the plot and just enjoy the pretty scenery and hilarious songs. “No Room to Rhumba in a Sports Car” is a personal favorite, as Elvis laments the difficulties of getting it on with a female matador in her tiny vehicle. Viva el amor, indeed. Cheers!

Magnificent Obsession

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Image credit: Magnificent Obsession, 1954

I’m always up for a good Rock Hudson catfishing scheme, and after watching him ensnare Doris Day in Pillow Talk and Lover Come Back, I’m ready for him to hook Jane Wyman in Magnificent Obsession (Disc). So long Rex Stetson and Linus Tyler—meet Robbie Robinson.

In Douglas Sirk’s classic melodrama, Hudson plays Bob Merrick, a supreme jerk who enjoys fast boats and fast women. That is, until his actions contribute to the death of Helen Phillips’s husband, and eventually, to the loss of her sight. Realizing he has to make a change, he seizes his chance when the newly blind, widowed Helen encounters him on the shores of her lakeside retreat. They begin a relationship, which becomes a… wait for it… magnificent obsession as Merrick does everything in his power (including going to medical school and becoming a world-renowned brain surgeon???) to transform himself into a man worthy of her. The only catch? She doesn’t immediately realize the person she’s falling in love with (Robbie) is the same guy (Bob) who brought so much tragedy to her life.

If this sounds like a soap opera, that’s because it is. And because it’s made by Douglas Sirk, you can expect glamorous gowns, gorgeous homes, beautiful scenery, and schmaltzy music. Crafting a drink that’s fitting for the elegant Helen is no small feat, but this lovely sipper seems like something she’d enjoy either sitting beside Lake Tahoe, or on the balcony of a Swiss chalet. While watching Magnificent Obsession, I recommend drinking this Saint Helen cocktail.

Saint Helen

1 ¼ oz Gold Rum

½ oz Velvet Falernum

¾ oz Lime Juice

½ oz Lillet Rosé

Champagne, to top

Lime twist

Put all the ingredients except champagne in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a coupe glass. Top with champagne, and garnish with a lime twist.

Although I wouldn’t have immediately thought to pair Jane Wyman with Rock Hudson, somehow, their chemistry just works. I love them together in All That Heaven Allows, and I love them in this movie. Catfishing aside, it isn’t the worst thing in the world to become obsessed with doing good deeds for others- just maybe don’t wait until you’ve killed someone to start. Cheers!

Network

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Image credit: Network, 1976

If you live in America, you’re more than likely mad as hell right now. The question is whether you can take it anymore. As the mad prophet of UBS instructs us in this week’s 1976 classic Network (Disc/Download), open the window and scream. Listen to the screams of others.

If I had to pick one word to describe Network, that adjective would be ‘angry’. All the characters are angry about something (ratings, the general state of the world, market shares, etc.), and they do a lot of shouting about it. But the interesting thing is that these characters were angry about many of the same things in 1976 as we are today. News as entertainment is a problem we were warned about forty-six years ago, and now we’re seeing it play out in real time. Unfortunately, we no longer have a Howard Beale (Peter Finch) on the airwaves to get up from behind his desk and shine a spotlight on the corporate greed that fuels the television networks. Now we have something scarier—a whole generation of anchors whose only job is to shock, enrage, inflame, and pretend they’re doing the opposite. Diana Christensen would be so proud.

Veteran newsman Howard Beale and his colleague Max Schumacher (played terrifically by William Holden) start out the movie getting roaring drunk, before becoming passionate critics of a changing industry. For this week’s pairing, I used spicy Habanero peppers to infuse some Añejo tequila, resulting in the angriest of cocktails. While watching Network, I recommend drinking a Mad Prophet.

Mad Prophet

2 oz Habanero-infused Añejo tequila (let tequila soak with peppers for at least 1 hr, then strain pepper out)

1 oz Orange Juice

1 oz Lime Juice

1 oz Passion Fruit Syrup 

Combine tequila, orange juice, lime juice, and passion fruit syrup in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a glass filled with fresh ice. Garnish with a pepper slice.

Network is a dark satire of television journalism that only gets darker as time drags on, letting us see the effects that pandering to our most racist, sexist, darkest tendencies can have on a group of people. And if that doesn’t make you mad as hell, then you’re not paying attention.

The Jungle Book

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Image credit: The Jungle Book, 1967

As I conclude my brief journey through 1967, I want to feature a movie from the 2022 Turner Classic Movies Festival (which I was very pleased to attend for the first time this year!!!), Walt Disney’s animated The Jungle Book (Disc/Download). As often happens in the world of film criticism, we tend to forget about children’s fare, but artistically, this movie takes animation in an exciting new direction. Revolution by dancing animals (and not the live ones that peed all over the Doctor Dolittle sets).

Based on the stories by Rudyard Kipling, The Jungle Book is one of the more visually exciting classic Disney films, similar to The Sword and the Stone with its sketchy style. Although not one of my favorite movies plot-wise, this is still a joy to watch at any age because it’s akin to seeing a painting come to life. And while we now recognize some of the harmful racial coding in several scenes, it still feels like an important transitional film for Disney in many ways. In reality, it would be the final animated film of Walt Disney’s life, the great innovator having died during production. With The Jungle Book, the Disney studio would leave tales of western royals and little-girl fantasies behind, in favor of stories that depicted a wide world of adventure. The romantic in me is glad they returned to their happily-ever-after’s with the movies of the early-1990s, but the curious animal lover in me is pretty excited to see a bear scratch his back with a palm tree. And boy, that Louis Prima track on the soundtrack still slaps.

Although tempted to defer to one of my top-five favorite cocktails (the Jungle Bird) for this movie, I decided to switch it up the flavor with Pimm’s No. 1. Plus, the addition of Ginger Beer gives it a fiery kick, perfect for swingin’ jungle VIPs. While watching The Jungle Book, I recommend drinking this Feathered Friend.

Feathered Friend

1 oz Pimm’s No. 1

1 oz Campari

½ oz Dark Rum

½ oz Lime Juice

½ oz Simple Syrup

1 oz Pineapple Juice

1 fresh strawberry

2 oz Ginger Beer

Muddle strawberry at the bottom of a shaker with lime juice and simple syrup. Add ice, Pimm’s, Campari, Rum, and Pineapple juice, and shake until chilled. Double strain into a glass with fresh ice, and top with Ginger Beer.

Thinking about the year 1967, the main word that comes to mind is change. Yes, the films were all over the place that year, and the studio system was disappearing before our eyes. But in looking at what came after, part of me thinks that this needed to happen, like a slash-and-burn of crops. The stuff that grew before was undeniably beautiful and impressive; however, we didn’t experience the truly wild, interesting flavors until new things emerged from the ashes. Cheers!

Wait Until Dark

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Image credit: Wait Until Dark, 1967

Word of warning: DO NOT watch this movie right before bedtime. I made this mistake, and now my days of walking through a dark house in search of a midnight snack or bottle of water are over. If you’ve come to expect humor and lightness in your Audrey Hepburn flicks, Wait Until Dark (Disc/Download) will defy all your expectations—in the best possible way.

Starring Audrey as blind housewife Susy Hendrix, the story begins with a drug smuggling operation wherein a doll stuffed with heroin is unwittingly passed to Susy’s photographer husband at an airport. Soon afterward, he goes off on assignment again, leaving her alone with the doll. Three con-artists attempt to gain entrance into Susy’s apartment, cooking up an elaborate scheme to make her earn their trust, but eventually, she realizes these men are not who they say they are, and in a completely terrifying climax scene, blind Susy turns out the lights and levels the playing field. Or rather, the killing field. Because among her tormentors is one very young Alan Arkin, with an accent like The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’s Lenny Bruce, and a look straight out of an Oasis music video. He’s smart, he’s sadistic, and he will make you afraid to go near your fridge ever again.

With a doll being the thing that sets this plot in motion, it seems appropriate to drink a cocktail fit for Madame Alexander’s. While watching Wait Until Dark, I recommend drinking a Satin Doll.

Satin Doll

2 oz Brandy

1 oz Cointreau

1 oz Pineapple Juice

1/2 oz Lemon Juice

Pineapple Chunk

Lemon Twist

Combine Brandy, Cointreau, and pineapple and lemon juice in a shaker over ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with fresh pineapple and lemon twist.

An unexpectedly great find on my list of 1967 releases, this movie would eventually earn Hepburn a Best Actress nomination and go on to terrify audiences for decades to come. If you’re looking for a smart, adult thriller, it’s time to turn off the lights and hit play on Wait Until Dark. Cheers!