RSS Feed

Category Archives: Classic Films

Fun in Acapulco

Posted on
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

Posted on

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

Posted on
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

Posted on
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

Posted on
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!

Doctor Dolittle

Posted on
Image credit: Doctor Doolittle, 1967

Having previously imbibed through the other four Academy Award-nominated films of 1967 (Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, The Graduate, In the Heat of the Night, and Bonnie and Clyde, respectively), I decided I may as well complete the ballot with one of the most maligned movies of all time, Doctor Dolittle (Disc/Download). I know what you’re thinking: one of these is not like the others. And gosh, isn’t that the understatement of the year!

 For all the criticism it receives, let me come right out and say that I don’t think Doctor Dolittle isn’t nearly as bad as people say. Yes, it’s long. Yes, the songs are weird (and not even in a good way). Yes, the special effects are a little cheesy. But for all those faults, there’s nevertheless a fun, deadpan humor to the whole thing, particularly in the way Dolittle banters with his animal friends. Just the idea that a duck would have a “missus” he has to get home to, or that a Great Pink Sea Snail has a cousin in Scotland he’s been meaning to visit (Nessy, in case you were wondering), genuinely makes me chuckle. I can probably go the rest of my life without hearing the vegetarian song, or see Rex Harrison sing-speak an uncomfortable love ballad to a seal dressed in Victorian garb, but I am here for the quaint English homes, the beautiful beaches of Sea Star Island, and the teased crown of Samantha Eggar’s hair. You can take the girl out of the sixties, but you can’t take the hairspray out of Hollywood.

At 2 ½ hrs, you’ll probably need several cocktails to get through this movie. Let’s take inspiration from the living quarters of a snail shell with this perfectly pink drink- the Snail Mail.

Snail Mail

2 oz Malfy Rosa grapefruit gin

¼ oz Aperol

¼ oz Grenadine

½ oz Lime Juice

½ oz Simple Syrup

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a coupe glass.

When you compare Doctor Dolittle to live-action Disney films of the era, it comes up short. Without the catchy songs of the Sherman Brothers and the uncannily great casting Walt’s team seemed to deliver, we’re missing a lot of the magic that made films like Mary Poppins and Bedknobs and Broomsticks so good. But I’ll tell you what—I’ll still take Dolittle and his two-headed llama over films like Camelot or The Music Man any day of the week. If this was the end of the big-budget studio musical, at least we went out on the strangest note possible. Cheers!

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

Posted on
Image credit: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

Sometimes, you just need a good excuse for a Tiki cocktail. And what better excuse than Walt Disney’s CinemaScope extravaganza 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (Disc/Download)? With island names like Volcania, and talk of “grog”, this movie seems like a perfect match for drinks involving fire and rum. Let’s climb aboard the Nautilus and pour one out!

Starring James Mason as Captain Nemo, with Peter Lorre, Paul Lukas, and Kirk Douglas as the men tasked with investigating a mysterious “sea monster”, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is based on the Jules Verne novel about the adventures of a futuristic underwater ship in the 19th century. What makes this such a joy to watch is the sheer opulence of the production design, with pipe organs, circular viewing portals, and grand salons not often found below deck. Additionally, the cinematic practical effects make this a true fantasy experience. You can practically taste the saltwater coming off that giant attacking squid, or feel the warmth of a lush, blue, tropical isle thirty seconds before the natives attack.

Speaking of tropical, with location shooting taking place in the Bahamas and Jamaica, a rum-based drink is practically required. This one is a slight variation of the Sea Serpent’s Embrace, served at Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar in Disneyland. In a fun twist, I’m setting it on fire by using a hollowed-out lime filled with overproof rum. When watching 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, I recommend drinking this Volcania cocktail.

Volcania

1 ½ oz Dark Rum

1 ½ oz Gold Rum

¾ oz Gin

¾ oz Brandy

¾ oz Falernum

½ oz Passionfruit Syrup

1 oz Lime Juice

1 oz Orange Juice

1 oz Pineapple Juice

16 oz Crushed Ice, divided

½ Hollowed-out lime

½ oz Overproof Rum

Combine all ingredients with a cup of ice in a shaker. Shake until chilled, then strain over a glass filled with a fresh cup of ice. Top with half a hollowed-out lime filled with overproof rum. Light it on fire.

If sexy, bearded James Mason in a tight knit turtleneck does it for you, then you’ll definitely want to give this film a watch. Even if you’re not into sci-fi, there’s enough adventure in this to make 20,000 Leagues worth your time. It is, indeed, a whale of a tale. Cheers!

Yours, Mine and Ours

Image Credit: Yours, Mine, and Ours, 1968

Lucille Ball is having a moment. From podcasts to documentaries to feature films, it seems the whole world is in love with Lucy again. Thanks to Nick-at-Nite reruns in the mid-90s, I’ve seen every episode of her iconic television show (including several spin-offs), so imagine my delight in discovering a more earnest side of Lucy in the hilarious romantic comedy, Yours, Mine and Ours (Disc/Download).

Don’t get me wrong—as Helen North Beardsley, Lucille Ball is still extremely funny. But it takes more than wacky facial expressions and slapstick physical comedy to handle a brood of eighteen (yes, EIGHTEEN) children. In a tale that is basically The Brady Bunch on steroids, widowed nurse Helen meets cute with widowed Naval officer Frank in the commissary, bumping their overflowing shopping carts into one another. It isn’t until later, when they finally go out on a date, that they reveal their true number of offspring- eight for her, ten for him. Setting aside all my thoughts about birth control and smart family planning, it becomes obvious that these two are made for each other. Blending their family proves a challenge, as does finding a big enough house, but as Frank and Helen prove, with enough love and a little discipline, anything is possible.

Of course with families this large, it’s not all smooth sailing. Before they can make it to the altar, Frank’s kids spike Helen’s drink so she’ll make a fool out of herself at the initial meet-and-greet. She asks for a light screwdriver and gets a mouthful of gin, scotch, vodka, and a tiny splash of OJ. Ball’s face is priceless, as is Fonda’s description of the sabotage as “the alcoholic Pearl Harbor”. Let’s come up with a tastier version of this abomination, hopefully one that won’t cause you to dump mashed potatoes onto a little girl’s lap. While watching Yours, Mine and Ours, I recommend drinking this wonderful-wonderful Screwball cocktail.

Screwball

1 oz Orange Gin

1 oz Vodka

½ oz Cointreau

½ oz Lemon Juice

½ oz Simple Syrup

1 oz Fresh-squeezed Orange Juice

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a glass filled with fresh ice.

If you’re celebrating the Academy Awards this year, this is a great drink to make because it references two nominees—Being the Ricardos and Licorice Pizza. Paul Thomas Anderson doesn’t specifically reference Yours, Mine and Ours in his script for LP, but Gary Valentine’s role was inspired by his childhood friend Gary Goetzman (who played Henry Fonda’s son, and one of Lucille Ball’s drink spikers in this classic film). And once you’ve gotten Nicole Kidman’s Lucy out of your system, treat yourself to the real thing. You won’t regret it. Cheers!

Planet of the Apes

Posted on
Image credit: Planet of the Apes, 1968

I have no idea how this happened, but somehow, I’ve become a massive fan of the Planet of the Apes franchise (Disc/Download). Watching the original 1968 film for my weekly “Bad Movie Friday” tradition turned into a lost weekend of Ape movies, including the original five as well as the more-recent four. You’d think I would have gotten tired of watching man and “beast” clash after a few of these, but nope! I was riveted by superior storytelling, endings that left me wanting more, and thought-provoking social commentary.

When an astronaut (Charlton Heston) crash-lands on a distant planet approximately 2,000 years in the future, he’s probably just hoping for a fresh water supply and breathable air. What he gets instead is a topsy-turvy world where primates walk, talk, and hunt the nonverbal humans roaming the barren land like wild animals. Kudos to the special effects teams for making the apes look equal parts cheesy and realistic, like something from a Disney ride that will haunt your nightmares. It wouldn’t be the 1960s if we didn’t also throw in a beautiful woman with teased hair and ripped-to-shreds clothing, a la Raquel Welch in One Million Years B.C. (played here by Linda Harrison as Nova). The movie raises a lot of interesting questions, such as what constitutes humanity, and how enlightened can a society ever be while there is still one group at the top and a different group at the bottom, but it’s also an action-packed flick of pure escapism. In other words, exactly what I need right now.

Although Dr. Zira rejects bananas in Escape From the Planet of the Apes, it’s still a common stereotype for primates to be seen eating them. And after viewing a parched nuclear wasteland for several hours, I need a frozen cocktail. While watching Planet of the Apes, I recommend drinking a Banana Daiquiri.

Banana Daiquiri

2 oz Gold Rum

1 fresh banana, sliced

1 oz Cointreau

1 oz Lime Juice

1/2 oz Coconut Cream

1 cup Ice

1/2 oz Dark Rum

Combine first six ingredients in a blender, and blend until chilled. Pour into a hurricane glass, and top with a floater of dark rum.

If you’re looking for a fun way to spend a weekend, I cannot recommend these movies enough. They were practically designed for our modern binge culture, most clocking in at around 90-100 minutes each, and always with a “WTF??!!!“-ending that leads immediately into the next installment. Part of me wishes I’d stopped at the fifth movie Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973) without sullying the experience with the Tim Burton iteration, but pushing through allowed me to get to Rise of the Planet of the Apes, one of the most successful reboots I’ve had the pleasure of watching. These apes have something to say, and thankfully, this film made me want to stay and listen till the bitter end. Cheers!

Heaven Can Wait

Posted on
Image credit: Heaven Can Wait, 1943

Apparently, the gates of Hell are guarded by some extremely fabulous art deco furniture. At least, that’s how it appears in Ernst Lubitsch’s 1943 masterpiece Heaven Can Wait (Disc/Download). Starring Don Ameche as the recently deceased Henry Van Cleve (a man who thinks he’s done nothing in life to deserve a spot in Heaven), this movie is essentially Henry’s memoirs, as told to the guardian of Hell, His Excellency. Lucky for us, Henry’s life was one of Technicolor, romance, and whiskey- the perfect blend!

Set in the years between 1872 and 1942, the movie tells the stories of Henry’s “misdeeds”, which were actually, as it turns out, examples of his big heart. They were often things that society and/or his family frowned upon, yet Henry did them without malice, and usually for the right reasons. That’s the key to understanding Heaven Can Wait, for a person’s worth shouldn’t be measured in things like perfection or altruism, but in love and good intentions. Henry wasn’t perfect, but deep down, he was good. And damned if he didn’t have one of the most charming bookshop meet-cutes with his future wife, played by the lovely Gene Tierney. The romance sneaks up on you in this movie, but when it hits, it hits hard.

According to Henry, when he dreams of Heaven, it is a Heaven full of whiskey and soda. I might choose a different cocktail for my own personal afterlife (I like to believe there are rivers of French ’75s up there), but let’s at least see if he’s onto something. While watching Heaven Can Wait, I recommend drinking a Whiskey Soda.

Whiskey Soda

2 oz Whiskey (your favorite brand)

4 oz Club Soda

Citrus garnish

Build drink over ice, stirring gently to combine. Garnish with a citrus twist.

It’s a testament to the film’s script that what is essentially a comedy of manners turns out to be such a profound philosophical work of art. With humor and fantastic lines that make you ache inside they’re so good, we learn what the phrase “a life well-lived” actually means. If you believe in Heaven and Hell, then you know Henry carved out his spot in the good place long ago. Cheers!