Thursday, June 28, 2012

(30) Stars of Summer - Day 28: Barbara Steele

Today's entry is for the cult movie fans, since everyone else is probably all "Who?"

You've got it by now, but once again here are the rules. Check out this list of all the month's actors with links to what's available on Netflix Instant. If you're not a Netflix subscriber, maybe this will help.

Day 1: Jimmy Stewart
Day 2: Catherine Deneuve
Day 3: Christopher Lee
Day 4: Bette Davis
Day 5: Nicolas Cage
Day 6: Diane Keaton 
Day 7: Orson Welles 
Day 8: Catherine Keener 
Day 9: Kurt Russell
Day 10: Pam Grier
Day 11: Clint Eastwood
Day 12: Susan Sarandon 
Day 13: Cary Grant 
Day 14: Barbara Stanwyck 
Day 15: Keith David 
Day 16: Frances McDormand 
Day 17: Gary Oldman 
Day 18: Marilyn Monroe 
Day 19: Dick Miller 
Day 20: Jennifer Jason Leigh 
Day 21: Laurence Fishburne 
Day 22: Whoopi Goldberg
Day 23: Kevin Bacon
Day 24: Christina Ricci 
Day 25: Jack Nicholson 
Day 26: Melanie Griffith
Day 27: Jackie Chan


  1. The Crimson Cult (AKA Curse of the Crimson Altar) (1968)

    Disappointing horror movie features a bunch of British horror icons (including Boris Karloff and Christopher Lee) but mostly doesn't work. Barbara Steele shows up in some flashbacks/dream sequences as a witch, covered in blue body paint. That part was ok, because Avatar. It's a good thing we only have two more days to go.

    1. That's a rather sad film because Karloff is so close to the end of his life, and Christopher Lee is almost openly contemptuous of the material.

  2. Caged Heat (1974)

    Standard women-in-prison film, done with more panache because it was written and directed by Jonathan Demme. Steele plays the uptight prison warden, who doesn't have much to do save for one whacked-out dream sequence. The movie becomes genuinely suspensful at the end, as one of the more sympathetic women faces a lobotomy at the hands of the prison's crazy doctor. I quite enjoyed the phony radio ad for a funeral parlor that kicks the movie off - "We've got just the box to put you in."

  3. 8 1/2 (1963)

    Watched this on Criterion Blu-ray which looks gorgeous, one of the sharpest and more film-like B&W presentations I've seen in high-def. Fellini's flights of fancy and ability to switch with ease between a variety of self-reflective meta themes (autobiography, meditation on creativity, mid-life crisis, battle of the sexes, showbiz satire, etc.) are firmly anchored by Marcello Mastroianni's career-best work as the maestro's on-screen representation. Problem is that Barbara Steele is just another pretty female face out of many (Claudia Cardinale, Anouk Aimée, Fellini's then-mistress Sandra Milo, Caterina Boratto, etc.) in and out of Guido Anselmi's life, real or imagined, and doesn't really register as strongly as her talent and beauty should. As part of the patch quilt of elements (acting, writing, cinematography, etc.) that makes "8 1/2" a one-of-a-kind movie masterpiece Steele's is fine.

  4. Shivers

    David Cronenberg's first foray into body horror, a subgenre in which he is an undisputed master. A luxury apartment building is besieged by squirming parasites that turn people into sex-starved zombies (for lack of a better term). As a commentary on the rampant fear of venereal disease it's a little on the nose, but there are some truly haunting scenes and images. Early on, Steele has a horrific scene in a bathtub that will stay with you long after the credits roll.

  5. The Pit and the Pendulum (1963)

    In terms of Roger Corman's Poe adaptations, this one lies in the middle. As with all of them, Vincent Price carries it on his shoulders, but he's not supported as well visually or texturally as the more successful adaptations.

    Strangely, this is the only film that Price and Barbara Steele made together, which is a real shame as they produce sparks during their brief scenes. Steele herself is excellent as Price's vicious wife, secretly plotting his mental breakdown.

  6. I also went with THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM. Steele is OK, but it's really Vincent Price who carries the film. He's so good at combining menace with tragedy. He's the villain, and yet is every word is filled with so much sadness, you can't but feel for the guy.