Cinematic sleuths solve mysteries Clues: Name of movie with child, hat with feather and shadow is revealed


July 24, 1998|By Ann Hornaday | Ann Hornaday,SUN FILM CRITIC

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner!

Actually, we have a few. Last week, the Film Desk presented readers with the following trivia questions: Name the 1950s-era murder mystery featuring a child, a shadow and a hat with a feather; and name the song performed during a dance sequence with John Wayne and Donna Reed in "They Were Expendable."

The Sun's own David Folkenflik named that movie: "Shadow on the Wall," a 1949 film directed by Robert Sisk and starring Ann Sothern, Zachary Scott and Nancy Davis (later Reagan). Folkenflik recalled that his mother introduced him and his siblings to this spooky piece of work (imagine the former first lady as a psychiatrist!), years after she had seen it as a small child with her mother at a double feature with "Annie Get Your Gun."

"My grandmother was aghast -- aghast! -- that my mother and her younger sister had seen it as girls, for it was clearly much too scary for them or anyone else," Folkenflik recalled.

Thanks to Dave Brandenburg, who also wrote in with the title.

(Unfortunately, "Shadow on the Wall" isn't available on video; maybe we can start a drumbeat for it at the Charles or the Orpheum.)

As far as "They Were Expendable," the jury's still out: While one reader wrote that the title of the song was "Juanita," James E. Diggs of Abingdon suggested that it was "Marqueita." "While I am not certain of the spelling I do have ample reasons to be sure of the title," he wrote. " 'They Were Expendable' has always been my favorite movie and led to a lifelong interest in P.T. boats and their exploits."

If anyone can clear up the "Juanita"-"Marqueita" mystery, please write the Film Desk, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278.

On local screens

* MicroCineFest, the experimental film and video series programmed by local filmmaker Skizz Cyzyck, will present "Independent Exposure." The showcase of film, video and computer art, curated by Seattle's Blackchair Productions, will be shown at the Lodge tonight at 9 p.m. Admission is $2; doors open at 7 p.m. The Lodge is at 244 S. Highland Ave. in Highlandtown.

For more information, call 410-243-5307.

* Fox 45 and WB 54 have brought terrific family films to the Baltimore area during their Free Friday Flicks series. Tonight the film (which must go nameless) unspools at Double Rock Park in Parkville. Films are shown outside (bring a blanket), and screenings start at sundown. Admission is free. For the movie's title, call 410-467-4545.

* The Columbia Association is sponsoring its own outdoor film series this summer at the Columbia Town Center Lakefront. Mondays and Fridays are Family Film Nights. Tonight's film is "Bugsy Malone" and on Monday it will be "The Little Rascals" (PG). Screenings being at dusk (around 8: 30 p.m.) and are free and open to the public. All films are rated G unless otherwise noted. For more information, call 410-715-3388.

* Baltimore filmmaker Jonathan Slade presents his feature film debut "Forest for the Trees" at the Charles Theatre Saturday at noon. Admission is $6. The movie, about a five-day bike trip that turns into an emotional catharsis for three couples, was shot in Maryland in 1995 and features a cast of local actors.

* "Designer Genes," the summer film series sponsored by the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions Office of Cultural Affairs, continues on Wednesday with "The Island of Lost Souls" (1932), the original "Island of Dr. Moreau," starring Charles Laughton and Bela Lugosi. New York-based writer Matt Gross will introduce and discuss the film. Screenings are held at 7 p.m. at the Preclinical Teaching Building Mountcastle Auditorium, 725 N. Wolfe St., and are free and open to the public.

Shown before its time

"Clockwatchers," a serio-comedy about temporary office workers, was one of the hot movies at the 1997 Sundance Film Festival. Dubbed "the indie '9 to 5,' " it had all the makings for instant pick-up: a first-time screenwriter and a first-time director (who happened to be sisters), pre-festival buzz and Parker Posey.

But instead of being embraced as that year's "sex, lies, and videotape," "Clockwatchers" sent audiences (mostly distributors and industry representatives) out scratching their heads. While the first hour exhibited the kind of quirky humor they expected, by the end of the film, the mood had darkened considerably. What had started as an understated satire had disintegrated into neither fish nor fowl.

What a difference a year makes. Since it opened in New York and Los Angeles in May, "Clockwatchers" has received nearly uniformly rave reviews. So what happened between Park City circa 1997 and now?

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