On the Waterfront

After weeks of procrastination (and a few legitimate excuses), here is the Mafia-related movie post. Sorry, Liz!


 I love this poster — it’s so over the top. 

Liz: Waterfront workers line up every morning to unload cargo on the docks, but only those favored by union controller and mob boss Johnny Friendly get work. Those who stand against the mob end up dead. After the murder of a teen, a priest and the boy’s sister seeking justice find help in an unlikely source: Terry Malloy, kid brother of Friendly’s right hand man.

So, did Karl Malden ever play anything other than a priest? On the Waterfront, Poseidon Adventure, Pollyanna…


Seriously though, he did a great job. And he was no quiet spoken priest with a tender touch. I loved his tough, not-too-polite, cigarette smoking, hit-you-when-necessary character as much as Marlon Brando’s simple, but charming in a diamond-in-the-rough way, Terry Malloy.


Brando’s reaction when realizing he’d set up a kid for his death seemed underplayed to me. There wasn’t much reaction at all at first. Otherwise, I thought he did a great job, as did the other actors.

On the Waterfront is not my typical movie choice, but I enjoyed it. People standing up for what’s right is always encouraging, though the thought that people were actually living in such poverty and fear is rather shocking.

Conclusion: Definitely deserves all the awards it got.

Jaz: I have a confession to make: I didn’t know that the quote “I coulda been a contender” originated from On the Waterfront.

Go ahead, judge me. All those years of hearing my father quote it (along with “I thought you was hungry so I brought you a stick of gum” – no idea where that’s from), and me a self-proclaimed classic film fan!

Another confession … You know those movies you enjoy watching, then forget about? On the Waterfront was one of those for me. It’s poignant, well done, based on true events, and Brando and Eva Marie Saint delivered superb performances, blended with perfect chemistry.

thumbs_marlon brando and Eva Marie Saint, on the waterfront

In spite of all this, it didn’t resonate with me. It’s not that I don’t appreciate this or different genres – I watch everything from martial arts films to sappy chic-flicks to mystery/suspense to Westerns to gangster films. Most everything except horror. If I want horror, I’ll just eat a MacBacon-CheeseLovinWhopper right before bed, no monthly Netflix fee required.

But back to the film. Beaver disagrees with me. He feels I’m not reading deeply enough into the film to appreciate its characters and nuances – it’s so much more than black and white. He’s right, I know. Later I’ll re-watch On the Waterfront … in addition to making that felt fedora hat the Beav’s been clamoring for since we watched it.

We give this 4 carrot sticks (out of five).


Murder Comedies: Murder by Death

Liz on Murder by Death

The butler did it. Only the butler isn’t really the butler. He’s someone else, who’s really someone else. Oh, wait. Now, he’s a she. So, she did it. Or did she? Did anyone actually die?

As you might imagine from the title, Murder by Death is a spoof of murder mysteries—a revenge of the reader on the some of the most popular sleuths (and their creators). Several of my favorite detectives are parodied in the movie: Hercule Poirot, Nick and Nora Charles (The Thin Man), Miss Marple, and Charlie Chan. There is also a hard-boiled American detective modeled after Richard Diamond and Sam Spade (The Maltese Falcon).

Made in the 1970s, Murder by Death is, not surprisingly, crude at times. However, from Poirot’s character’s insistence he’s not French to Charlie Chan’s poor grammar and wise sayings to Miss Marple’s tweed to Nick and Nora’s good breeding saving them from danger (you never know when sitting in the proper place at dinner will prevent you from being skewered), the movie is quite entertaining. You needn’t be familiar with the “real” characters to enjoy the movie, but I think you would appreciate it more if you were.

The story is set up to be a stereotypical murder mystery. The detectives and their companions are invited by a mysterious, unknown host to an isolated country house for the weekend. They arrive on a dark and foggy night. The servants are strange. Bodies pile up and then disappear, and there are several attempts on the lives of the detectives. There is also information withheld and crucial characters not introduced until the end—just like in so many mysteries.

So, was there a murder? As Chan’s character says, “Yes, killed good weekend.”

 Jaz: Miss Marple. Hercule Poirot. Sam Spade. The Thin Man. Charlie Chan. Murder by Death spoofs all of these detective greats and throws in a blind butler, a barking cat, and a series of crimes to add to the fun.

You won’t go one second into the film without bumping into star talent. Truman Capote, David Niven and Maggie Smith (Dick and Dora Charleston), Elsa Lanchester (Jessica Marble), Peter Sellers (Sidney Wang), Peter Falk (Sam Diamond), James Coco (Milo Perrier) and Sir Alec Guinness (Jamesir Bensenma’am) all play a part in this quirky crime comedy.

“You are cordially invited to dinner and a murder,” Capote’s invites read in the opening scene. And what a murder it is. Two, in fact. But the most important question, as Perrier points out, is: where is the butler? And why did he not return … with their dinner?!

The detectives are baffled. And even more so when they find a bill in the corpse’s hand revealing that the entire murder has been (gasp!) catered. Who would do such a thing? Who is the murderer? Surely not the host, because he’s dead too. Or so everyone believes…

What ensues involves scorpions, a deaf-mute cook, plenty of sly jabs at the characters, a moose on the wall, and franks and beans, not to mention innumerable hilarious quotes:

Sam Diamond: “I don’t get it. First they steal the body and leave the clothes, then they take the clothes and bring the body back. Who would do a thing like that?”
Dick Charleston: “Possibly some deranged dry cleaner.”

The ending leaves all the detectives stumped for an answer for the first time in their lives, which is rather refreshing. If you’re a fan of classic mysteries, you’re guaranteed to love this film—and get all the jokes.