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Category Archives: Classic Films

Cleopatra

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Image Credit: Cleopatra, 1963

I hope you stocked up on alcohol this week because Cleopatra (Disc/Download) is a real endurance test. It’ll take at least a few refills to carry you through a runtime of over four hours—and this is the short cut! If the director’s cut ever gets released, you’ll need a barge to carry all your liquor home.

Insane length aside, this is actually an incredibly sexy movie. History buffs will enjoy the scenes of Ancient Rome and Egypt, but personally, I’m here for the sizzling chemistry between Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. “Liz and Dick” caused quite the scandal when their onscreen love story moved off-screen, but having now sat through hours worth of footage, it appears their romance was almost inevitable. How could Burton possibly resist Taylor in those cleavage-baring costumes? How could she not want to climb his muscular legs like a tree? It was always a question of when, not if. The film’s plot is interesting, if a little meandering, but if you enjoy a cornucopia of wigs, pink shag bedrooms, opulent baths, and the haughty attitude of Elizabeth Taylor in glittery eye shadow, you will not be disappointed.

Speaking of Taylor, this gal likes her gold. From boats to drinkware, Miss Cleo doesn’t skimp on the opulence. Celebrate her majesty with this gold-flecked drink, perfect for a Baccus-themed party. While watching Cleopatra, I recommend drinking a Golden Girl cocktail.

Golden Girl

4 oz Dry White Wine

1 oz Gin

½ oz Honey Rosemary Syrup (1/2 cup honey + 1/2 cup water + 3 sprigs rosemary, simmered then cooled)

½ oz Lemon Juice

2 ½ oz Club Soda

Pinch of edible glitter

Sprig of Rosemary for Garnish

Combine wine, gin, honey syrup, and lemon juice in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a rocks glass filled with ice. Top with club soda, and a pinch of edible glitter. Stir to combine, then garnish with a sprig of rosemary.

I will admit, it took me over two days to get through this movie. I was so alarmed by the sight of Archie Bunker stabbing Ceasar in the back that I needed a break. However, once Antony and Cleopatra began their epic romance, I was officially hooked. This turkey may be all breasts and thighs, but those parts sure are delicious. Cheers!

Rear Window

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Image credit: Rear Window, 1954

There’s nothing like a hot, humid night to make you want to cool off with an effortlessly chic film and icy cocktail. Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window (Disc/Download) may take place during the dog days of summer, but it never fails to chill me to the bone.

With a main character loosely based on real-life celebrity/lifestyle photographer Slim Aarons, this movie seems tailor made to fit my mid-century sensibilities. But throw in a tense murder mystery, voyeurism, and Hitchcockian suspense, and this Edith Head-flavored eye candy becomes a masterpiece. I’ve always loved Jimmy Stewart in a Hitchcock film because it’s an opportunity for cinema’s favorite everyman to dig a little deeper. As we see him lock eyes with a killer across the courtyard, it becomes apparent—this Jimmy has a dark side. One that compels him to watch his neighbors with the lights off, studying their movements, becoming involved in their dramas from afar. He can joke with Thelma Ritter and flirt with his socialite girlfriend, but there’s no denying the slight element of criminality to his behavior. Watching isn’t murder, but it’s still a violation.

Speaking of Thelma Ritter, I’d like to toast this 20th Century Queen of “Telling it Like it Is”. As the nurse who tends to Jimmy’s  L. B. “Jeff” Jeffries and his broken leg, she admonishes his semi-creepy voyeur habits while simultaneously musing about body disposal and blood spatter. Murderinos unite! When the action heats up, cool down with this Peeping Tom Collins.

Peeping Tom Collins

2 oz London Dry Gin

1 oz Lemon Juice

1 oz Ginger Liqueur

1/2 oz Simple Syrup

Club Soda to top

Lemon Wheel for garnish

Build drink over ice, stirring to combine. Garnish with a lemon wheel.

With just a hint of a spicy kick from the ginger liqueur, this drink will make you aware of how hot it is outside, but grateful you have air conditioning (unlike the poor folks in this Greenwich Village apartment complex). And be sure to watch out for a scene in which three people swirl brandy for about ten minutes straight, literally hypnotizing the viewer. If this was Hitch’s brand of misdirection, consider me duped. I have no idea what happened in that scene, other than the fact that Grace Kelly likes to aerate her alcohol and wear chunky charm bracelets. Cheers!

The Revolt of Mamie Stover

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Image credit: The Revolt of Mamie Stover, 1956

It took all of ten seconds to get me hooked on The Revolt of Mamie Stover (Disc), a campy 1950s melodrama directed by Roaul Walsh. As we watch Jane Russell step out of a police car to noirish music, the camera zooms in just as she turns to face the screen with a scowl of defiance. Talk about an entrance!!!!

Set in Hawaii on the cusp of the Pearl Harbor attack, this DeLuxe Color soap opera features strong female characters, romance, tiki drinks, and vinyl records. In other words, just a typical Sunday night in my living room. As sex-worker Mamie Stover, Jane Russell is smart, acerbic, and focused on one thing and one thing only—money. Although tempted into the straight life by writer Jim Blair (Richard Egan), Mamie understands sex is her ultimate weapon. If a guy can’t handle that, then aloha, buddy. Don’t let the bamboo door hit you on the way out. Sure, she makes a legit fortune buying up cheap properties in the wake of the Pearl Harbor attack (shot in an incredibly moving, realistic way), but she still can’t relinquish the power that comes with her regular dance hall gig. Mamie is the star attraction, and club owner Agnes Moorehead (!!!) will stop at nothing to prevent her meal ticket from leaving.

If there was ever a movie that begs for a tiki cocktail, it’s this one. I’m taking inspiration from our red-headed star seductress for this drink, which goes up in flames just like Mamie’s love life. While watching The Revolt of Mamie Stover, I recommend drinking a Flaming Mamie.

Flaming Mamie

3 oz Jamaican Rum

1 oz Brandy

1 oz Lime Juice

1 oz Orange Juice

1 oz Cinnamon Syrup

½ oz Velvet Falernum

2 dashes Angostura Bitters

½ Fresh Lime

1 oz 151-proof Demerara Rum

Combine first seven ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake until chilled. Set aside. Fill a scorpion bowl with crushed ice, then strain cocktail into it. Place a hollowed-out 1/2 lime in the center reservoir, fill with 151-proof rum, and light on fire. Serve with two straws.

This spicy cocktail is a lot like Mamie herself- complex, hot-headed, and dangerous if you get too close. As much as I love to think of Mamie in a tropical paradise, cashing those rental checks forever, a part of me is glad she eventually decides to head back to her small, judgmental hometown. It means this revolt isn’t over yet. Cheers!

La Piscine

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Image credit: La Piscine, 1969

There’s a film I’ve wanted to feature on this blog for many years, but resisted because it’s never been widely available. In fact, for a long time La Piscine (Disc) was my white whale, missing from every streaming platform and physical media source out there. Eventually, my dad took pity and purchased an expensive Alain Delon box set for me, and I was finally able to watch and fall in love with this gorgeous film. Several years later, thanks to the fine folks at Criterion, it’s officially coming to a Blu-ray player near you. This calls for a toast!

Although I’ve previously covered Luca Guadagnino’s remake A Bigger Splash on Cinema Sips, La Piscine is the quieter, sexier, deadlier version of this psychological thriller. Impossibly chic, it features Alain Delon and Romy Schneider as wealthy vacationers in the south of France who spend their days lounging by the pool, drinking wine, and making out like teenagers. Talk about a dream summer! Things seem idyllic, until Maurice Ronet and model Jane Birkin arrive to throw chaos into the calm. Although the plot mirrors that of A Bigger Splash quite closely, the difference is in the visuals. The 1969 version is like a step back to a world where style reigned supreme, and tension lived in silences instead of shouts. There was never a world so beautiful, or so anxiety-inducing, as that of La Piscine.

Whether you’re watching this film or relaxing next to your own gorgeous pool (hey, I still think my inflatable version is quite attractive), you’ll want a cool beverage to take the edge off. Easy to make and perfect for the hottest days of summer, I recommend pouring a chilled Lillet Spritz.

Lillet Spritz

2 oz Lillet Blanc

3 oz Prosecco

1 oz Club Soda

Strawberry and mint for garnish

Fill a wine glass with ice, and layer in the Lillet, Prosecco, and Club Soda, stirring gently to combine. Drop in a few strawberry slices and sprig of mint for garnish.

Having seen several stunning screenshots from this film cross my feed over the years, I knew the aesthetic of La Piscine would be one that would appeal to me. However, I didn’t fully realize just how much this movie would be like a Slim Aarons photo come to life. It’s a world I want to dive into (pun intended), and now, we all finally can. Don’t forget your bathing suit*, or the wine. Cheers!

COCOSHIP Retro One-Piece suit, $29.99 on Amazon.com

*If you’re in search of your own sexy suit for pool-time this summer, I highly recommend this one! Unbelievably flattering, you’ll be ready to hit the beaches of the Côte d’Azur (or, more realistically, the backyard).

The Great Escape

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Image credit: The Great Escape, 1963

This might make me a traitor to the 1960s, but I’ve never totally understood the lure of Steve McQueen. After watching several of his films recently… I still don’t. (side note: am I the only one who realizes this man had a terribly unflattering haircut???). However, this week’s film The Great Escape (Disc/Download) is so much more than just a McQueen vehicle (pun-intended). Rather, it’s a well-choreographed ensemble piece that surprised me at every turn.

First, I assumed that a movie about military prisoners in World War II-era Germany would feature scene after scene of torture and random killings at the hands of the Nazis. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. The film opens with a jaunty Elmer Bernstein score, where we catch our first glimpse of a POW camp that encourages gardening and crafts instead of starvation and forced labor. It’s all so… civilized? I was slightly amazed by how frequently the prisoners are left to their own devices, allowing them time to dig three tunnels, sew new clothes, forge documents, and manufacture gadgets to aid in their escape. My second surprise was that although McQueen gets top billing, he doesn’t necessarily get the most screen time. I actually thought Charles Bronson and James Coburn were the true MVPs of the cast. Watching Bronson crawl through those tunnels with his RIPPED arm muscles was a sight to behold, and I can’t help but be reminded of my late father, who served as a tunnel rat in Vietnam. Now it makes sense to me why he owned this movie (and why I’ve now inherited it)- it wasn’t about McQueen. It was always about The Tunnel King.

You’d think alcohol would have no place in a POW camp, but remember this is a civilized camp. Prisoners make their own hooch with the potatoes they’ve grown, which serves two purposes—getting rid of the excavated tunnel dirt, plus letting off a little steam. This week, pay tribute to those Allied prisoners of The Great Escape with this Dirty Martini!

Dirty Martini

2 ½ oz Potato Vodka

½ oz Dry Vermouth

½ oz Olive Brine

Olives for garnish

Combine vodka, vermouth, and olive brine in a shaker with ice. Stir until well chilled and combined, then strain into a martini glass. Garnish with olives.

It’s so interesting that the escapees didn’t just want their freedom—rather, they wanted to force the Nazis into devoting valuable resources to recover the prisoners. In that sense, the escape was successful. Yes, it has an unsatisfying ending for some of the characters, but nevertheless, this remains a fantastic cinematic example of what it means to be brave, selfless, and strong. Cheers!

Mildred Pierce

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Image credit: Mildred Pierce, 1945

This week, we’re taking a step back to 1940s Hollywood to examine one of the most iconic onscreen mother/daughter duos, Mildred and Veda in the classic Mildred Pierce (Disc/Download). Maybe, like me, you grew up with the Joan Crawford NO WIRE HANGERS image seared into your brain. Thus it might be jarring to see her playing a part like Mildred, a fabulous working mom saddled with a spoiled hellion of a daughter. If Joan was an abomination in real life, watching her play this patient, loving character only proves that she’s one of the greatest actresses of any generation.

Michael Curtiz’s suspenseful noir has a lot of things going for it: murder mystery, non-linear storytelling, beautiful clothing, a gorgeous beach house, and cocktails in just about every scene. And pie! Lots and lots of pies. In flashbacks, we learn that Mildred started out as a housewife who was just trying her best to give her children everything she never had. She sells baked goods to the neighbors, and after her husband leaves her for that simpering homewrecker Mrs. Biederhof, Mildred waits tables in a busy restaurant to make ends meet. Eventually, she learns enough about the business to start her own restaurant, which quickly becomes a smash hit. But is this good enough for eldest daughter Veda? Oh, no. She can’t stand the fact that her mother works for a living. No, Veda would rather earn her fortune through blackmailing and pregnancy scares. It can be frustrating to watch Mildred defend her child’s evil actions, but she’s a mom. She can’t help wanting to see the best in her daughter, even when that daughter seduces mom’s playboy husband for herself. Talk about a soap opera!

As I said, there are a ton of cocktails in this. Martinis, straight bourbon, scotch & soda—you name it, they drank it. One beverage in particular caught my attention during a scene where Mildred and her ex have a drink in a California tiki bar. I can’t transplant myself there, but I can mix up this simple, delicious cocktail. While watching Mildred Pierce, I recommend drinking a Rum Collins.

Rum Collins

2 oz Vida Caña 2-yr Aged Rum

1 oz Lime Juice

1 oz Simple Syrup

Topo Chico sparkling water

Lime Garnish

Combine Rum, lime juice, and simple syrup in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a Collins glass filled with ice. Top with Topo Chico, and stir to combine. Garnish with Lime.

If you want to catch a glimpse of my dream abode, look no further than the opening scene at Monte’s beach house. Steps from the ocean, it features multiple bars, a glassed-in patio, spiral staircase, and plenty of lounge spaces, perfect for either entertaining or murder. I guess it depends on whether or not you made the mistake of procreating. Cheers!

Avanti!

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Image credit: Avanti!, 1972

I’ve got a bad case of wanderlust, and it’s all Jack Lemmon’s fault. He makes the Italian island of Ischia look purely magical in this week’s film Avanti! (Disc/Download), an underrated Billy Wilder gem from the 1970s. Though Ischia and it’s highly Instagrammable Mezzatorre Hotel have long held a place on my travel bucket list, this film has moved it straight to the top. What I wouldn’t give to have a room with a view of the sea, thick coffee, an attentive concierge, and a waiter who will ply you with pasta until you forget all about your pesky diet back home. When swimming naked in the Mediterranean is an option, who cares how you look in a bathing suit?

Of course, it’s not all skinny dipping and afternoon prosecco. Jack Lemmon’s character Wendell Armbruster arrives on the island to claim the body of his father, who died in a car crash with his mistress in the passenger seat. The daughter of this mistress is played by Juliet Mills (sister of Hayley), and though Wendell and Ms. Piggott start the film as strangers, they eventually pick up where their parents left off. I watched this film at a weird time in my life, having just spent six weeks dealing with my father’s death and all the legal headaches accompanying it. To say that I identify with Wendell’s frustration about how long and complicated the processes of body transport, death certificates, and funeral arrangements are would be an understatement (and similar to Ischia, nobody works weekends in Florida either). But what I loved about this movie is that by the end, Wendell is able to move past the minutia of death to truly celebrate the life his father lived, in the place where he was happiest. That is how we honor the dead, by experiencing the joy they would have wanted for us.

My one quibble with this fabulous movie is the unfortunate body dysmorphia and fat shaming experienced by Ms. Piggott (even the name is like an underhanded dig at the character). I’m not sure why we’re supposed to believe that the gorgeous Juliet Mills is overweight, but let’s just say by 2021 standards she is not. Luckily, after a couple Bacardi cocktails al fresco, she’s able to loosen up and enjoy herself without counting every calorie. Let’s join in the fun with this rum-based cocktail. While watching Avanti!, I recommend drinking a Daffodil.

Daffodil

1 1/2 oz Bacardi White Rum

1 oz Cocchi Americano

1 1/4 oz Orgeat

1 oz Lime Juice

2 dashes Orange Bitters

Dried Orange slice for garnish

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice, and shake until chilled. Fill a tumbler with crushed ice, then strain cocktail into prepared glass. Garnish with a dried orange slice (or twist of orange).

There’s a moment in Avanti! where Juliet Mills says, “Italy is not a country- it’s an emotion.” What this film captures so well are the complex emotions of love, loss, humor, frustration, and longing. After living through a year where it seems everything came to a complete stop, what a relief it is to hear the word avanti. In English, it means move forward. Proceed with living. Cheers!

A Streetcar Named Desire

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Image credit: A Streetcar Named Desire, 1951

There isn’t much in this world we can count on, but at least I know I can always rely on Tennessee Williams to give me stories of hot, sweaty men and a lot of alcohol. I’ve already discussed the sex appeal of Paul Newman in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, but running a close second is Marlon Brando in this week’s film A Streetcar Named Desire (Disc/Download). I think Vivien Leigh’s face speaks for all of us when he removes his shirt for the first time- Yowza.

As we’ve seen in other works by Tennessee Williams, this play-turned-film features an unhappy family trying to imbibe their way through the drama of life. Disgraced southern belle Blanche DuBois seeks refuge with her sister and brother-in-law in their derelict New Orleans apartment, becomes the world’s worst house guest, and watches an already-volatile marriage disintegrate. Would Stella and Stanley have lasted if Blanche had never graced their doorstep? I doubt it. Stanley was always a powder keg ready to blow. But throw in a mentally unstable woman who is the exact opposite of everything Stanley stands for, have her drink all his liquor and take baths all day to calm her nerves, and the fuse is officially lit. Honestly, I almost didn’t mind that Stanley and Blanche destroyed one another– they’re both kind of horrible human beings to begin with. Who I truly feel for is Stella, poor Stella, who now has to live with the knowledge that her husband is a brute, her sister is a mid-century Mary Kay Letourneau, and she and her baby aren’t getting air conditioning anytime soon. Somebody get this lady a drink.

Speaking of drinking, these characters only have to step outside their front door to find some of the finest watering holes in the French Quarter. I want to pay homage to a great drink I had at Galatoire’s a few years ago, the Ramos Gin Fizz. Someday, post-COVID, I look forward to having another one there. But until then, give your arm a nice workout with this tasty concoction.

Ramos Gin Fizz

2 oz Gin

3/4 oz Simple Syrup

1/2 oz Heavy Cream

1/2 oz Lemon Juice

1/2 oz Lime Juice

3 dashes Orange Flower Water

1 egg white

Club soda

Orange twist

Combine gin, simple syrup, lemon juice, lime juice, orange flower water, and egg white in a shaker. Shake for about 10 seconds, then add ice. Shake again vigorously for 30 seconds, then strain into a glass. Pour some club soda into your shaker, slosh it around to collect the remaining egg whites, then pour it over your drink. Garnish with an orange twist.

If done correctly, this drink will look as frothy as one of Blanche’s party dresses. It’s fun to see Vivien Leigh in another southern role, and I can’t help feeling that Scarlett O’Hara has really let herself go. Brando was perhaps never as electric as he was in the role of Stanley Kowalski, and no matter what your thoughts are on the man or the movie, you owe it to yourself to watch him scream STELLAAAAAA at least once in this lifetime. Cheers!

Blazing Saddles

Image credit: Blazing Saddles, 1974

Even though I’m not a big fan of westerns, I had to make an exception for this week’s pie pick Blazing Saddles (Disc/Download). It actually wasn’t that hard to do, since this is technically a western spoof, complete with Busby Berkeley dance number, Marlene Dietrich-inspired seductress named Lili von Shtüpp, and a whiskey-swilling Gene Wilder. Mel Brooks, you magnificent genius, you did it again. You made me spit my drink from laughing too hard.

Fair warning, the language used in this movie is sometimes difficult to hear, and in fact the film is often shown with a special introduction now. It’s actually a very progressive script for 1974 as well as today, but taken out of context, certain elements could be problematic. The thing to remember is, the ignorant racists are the ones who come off looking like fools, while the handsome black sheriff and his friends are the heroes. Like most Mel Brooks films, I don’t watch Blazing Saddles for the plot. I watch it for the one-liners, the funny character names, and the biting commentary on Hollywood and society-at-large.

The reason this movie made it into my month of pie flicks is due to the EPIC pie fight between villains, good guys, and assorted staff members of the Warner Bros. backlot. Normally I’d be sad about all these commissary pies being destroyed, but since it’s in the name of comedy, I suppose it’s okay. While watching Blazing Saddles, I recommend drinking this Pie Fight cocktail.

Pie Fight

1 oz Whiskey

1/2 oz Peach Schnapps

1 oz Bailey’s Irish Cream

2 oz Orange Juice

Whipped cream/pie crust for garnish

Combine whiskey, schnapps, Irish cream, and orange juice in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a coupe glass. Top with whipped cream, and a piece of pie crust (I used store-bought refrigerated crust, cut out a shape, and placed in an air-fryer for 3-5 minutes to “bake”).

This cocktail is a great substitute for a cream pie, and if you’ve inexplicably found yourself with a racist sitting at your Thanksgiving table, feel free to toss it in their face. Far less clean-up than a whole dessert. Cheers!

Psycho

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Image credit: Psycho, 1960.

There’s a fine line between the kind of horror movie I can handle, and the kind I can’t. A great example of a “Liz Locke-approved Scary Movie” is this week’s pick Psycho (Disc/Download). Even though Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece makes me anxious about taking a shower ever again, the psychological suspense is so well crafted that I almost welcome the terror. Plus, you know I love any movie set in a hotel ;-).

Although this film would later be remade shot-for-shot in color by Gus Van Sant, I’ll always prefer the original black-and-white version. It removes the viewer from the action a little bit, reminding us that this is fiction, and Norman Bates is not peering at me through a peephole or waiting behind a curtain with a knife in his hand. The noise I heard halfway through shampooing my hair was just the dog.

IT’S JUST THE DOG.

In his performance as a disturbed serial killer, Anthony Perkins is equal parts creepy and likeable, similar to all those other famous murderers we’ve heard about in podcasts and documentaries. You know the type: average guy next door; he wouldn’t hurt a fly. And as one of his victims, Janet Leigh’s character Marion isn’t exactly innocent, but she’s so sweet and unsuspecting of what’s about to happen to her that the viewer almost forgets she’s a “bad girl” on the run. This is what I love about Psycho– you think you understand who the criminal is in the first ten minutes, only to realize you had no idea what level of depraved criminal you’re soon about to meet.

When Marion Crane checks into the Bates Motel, she’s probably expecting to relax with her suitcase full of money and a nice cold cocktail (I know that’s what I like to do on vacation, anyway). Instead, she’s stuck talking to a sad loner about his taxidermy collection, over a pile of white bread and pitcher of water. Is this the hospitality industry or prison?? Let’s bring some fun to this lobby party with a cocktail inspired by the upcoming shower scene. While watching Psycho, I recommend drinking this 12 Cabins, 12 Vacancies cocktail.

12 Cabins, 12 Vacancies

2 oz Red Wine

1 oz Pineapple Juice

¾ oz Simple Syrup

¾ oz Lime Juice

Club Soda

Add the red wine, pineapple juice, simple syrup, and lime juice to a highball glass over ice. Top with soda water, and stir well to combine. Garnish with a dehydrated blood orange.

As blood circles the drain in one of the most artistic murder scenes ever filmed, notice how it looks remarkably like the red wine in your cocktail. Apparently Hitch used chocolate syrup, but personally I prefer a boozier option. This is a refreshing drink that’s easy to refill as you watch Norman descend deeper and deeper into madness. But then again, don’t we all go a little mad sometimes? Especially after a few tipples? Cheers and Happy Halloween!