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Stellar: Lee Grant, in Charlie Chan and the Curse of the Dragon Queen

The fine folks at Reelweegiemidget Reviews and Angelman's Place are currently hosting what they've lovingly dubbed The Lovely Lee Grant Blogathon, and I'm more than honored to be participating. Grant is an actress I've long admired, even if I haven't seen as many of her films as I'd like. She left a big impression on me as a kid in films like Damien: Omen II, Airport 77, and In The Heat of the Night, to name a few. This blogathon should go a long way towards proving why some of us think she's one of the best actresses of her generation.


*****


Critics and audiences have never thought very highly of Charlie Chan and the Curse of the Dragon Queen (1981)—if they even think of it at all. The plot is a typical whodunnit, featuring a cast of zany characters played by some talented actors like Roddy McDowell, Peter Ustinov, and Angie Dickinson, to name a few. There are completely bonkers car chases and absurdist physical comedy, making for a gonzo-style mishmash of…
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Catwomen: Julie Newmar

Ranking my top five Catwoman performances in film and television.

Click here for the previous entry in the Catwomen rankings.

2. Julie Newmar, Batman (1966–1968)



Let's get this straight, right from the start: Julie Newmar's performance as Catwoman in the 1960s Batman television series set the gold standard against which all other Catwomen would be judged.

She was the first actress ever to play Catwoman in live action. She left such an indelible mark on audiences, that even today, more than fifty years after she played the part, she's still the Catwoman for many fans.


Newmar is absolutely electrifying. She brought a dancer's elegance and grace to Catwoman's movements, masterfully using her physicality to express the character's innate playfulness. Every time she slinks into frame in the Cat-suit, you can practically feel the heat radiating right through your screen.


Her sexual chemistry with Adam West's Batman was off the charts, and their shared scenes were t…

Michelle Pfeiffer: Charlie Chan and the Curse of the Dragon Queen

Revisiting and celebrating the work of Michelle Pfeiffer, the best actress of my lifetime.

If you're looking to understand the full depth and breadth of Michelle Pfeiffer's excellence on the silver screen, you could be forgiven for skipping her second film, Charlie Chan and the Curse of the Dragon Queen. In terms of Essential Pfeiffer, it's far from it. Still, it's always worth exploring her earliest work, before she became Michelle Pfeiffer, Movie Star, in order to catch glimpses of her unique talents, just beginning to manifest at such a young age.


The best way to describe this movie is “very much of its time”, with all that entails. It’s intermittently funny but sometimes the slapstick style is groan-worthy. Pfeiffer plays Cordelia, fiancĂ© to the bumbling idiot-savant grandson of the famed detective Charlie Chan (who is played by the Russian actor Peter Ustinov—remember, “very much of its time”). Together, Baby Pfeiffer and future hubby literally stumble and careen th…

Michelle Pfeiffer: The Hollywood Knights

Revisiting and celebrating the work of Michelle Pfeiffer, the best actress of my lifetime.
What was the elevator pitch for The Hollywood Knights (1980)? “It’s American Graffiti meets Animal House, only twice as stupid and half as fun!” Sold!

Set during one mildly wild Halloween night in 1965, at and around a Beverly Hills burger joint named Tubby's—home of "The Big One!"—the film clumsily stumbles along at a decent clip, without anything of much consequence really happening. Unless you consider mooning, premature ejaculation, urine-spiked punch, and accidental penis zippering (ouch) essential ingredients for an exciting film.



Still, I have a soft spot for this one for two reasons, and one of those reasons is named Fran Drescher. In only her fourth film, Drescher is a riot, and the most entertaining of the cast. Sorry, Robert Wuhl. At one point she berates her hapless date with the immortal line, “This is a party! We’re supposed to have fun, music, pastrami! What’s wrong wit…

Catwomen: Eartha Kitt

Ranking my top five Catwoman performances in film and television.

Click here for the previous entry in the Catwomen rankings.

3. Eartha Kitt, Batman (1966–1968)

In the 1960s, casting Eartha Kitt as Catwoman in Batman had to be considered a bold move. Women of color were rarely given prominent roles on television before this. With Julie Newmar (stay tuned, she's still to come in the countdown) unable to don the sleek and sexy cat-suit for the series' third and final season (due to a movie commitment), talented performer and singer Kitt stepped into the stiletto boots and turned in a memorable series of appearances. From Bat-Mania:
'We felt it was a very provocative idea,' recalled producer Charles FitzSimonsabout executive producer Bill Dozier’s selection of Eartha Kitt as Catwoman; 'She was a cat woman before we ever cast her as Catwoman. She had a cat-like style. Her eyes were cat-like and her singing was like a meow. This came as a wonderful off-beat idea to do it wi…

Michelle Pfeiffer: I Could Never Be Your Woman

Revisiting and celebrating the work of Michelle Pfeiffer, the best actress of my lifetime.

Few films in Michelle Pfeiffer's filmography feel more like they were created specifically with me in mind than I Could Never Be Your Woman (2007).
Stay with me here.
Pfeiffer's costar and romantic lead is Paul Rudd. I love Paul Rudd. People have said that my humor and overall demeanor reminds them of Rudd. We're both younger than Pfeiffer—Rudd by eleven years, me by seventeen. His character, Adam, falls in love with Pfeiffer's character, Rosie, age disparity be damned. Do you follow me? At one point, Rosie sarcastically cracks to Adam, "Oh my god, you used comedy to cover up for feelings of inadequacy," and it becomes blatantly obvious that she's really talking to me. 

Look, it's silly, but a movie where Pfeiffer and Rudd playfully canoodle as adorably as anyone has ever canoodled in the history of canoodling is destined to be a personal favorite. It sends my pfand…

Catwomen: Adrienne Barbeau

Ranking my top five Catwoman performances in film and television.

Click here for the previous entry in the Catwomen rankings.

4. Adrienne Barbeau, Batman: The Animated Series (1992–1995), The New Batman Adventures (1997–98)

It's almost impossible to understand the insanity that was Batmania in the US (and elsewhere, too), circa 1989 through the early 1990s. Tim Burton's Batman (1989) sparked a Bat-renaissance, the likes of which had never been seen before, or at least not since the 1960s television series. From that moment on, Batman became the most popular DC Comics character, and maybe the most popular character in all of comics—two distinctions he still holds today.


Still riding the wave of Bat-hysteria, Warner Bros. released Batman Returns (1992), Burton's ambitious, batshit (heh heh) crazy follow-up. It's easily one of the weirdest mainstream superhero movies ever made, and even today remains deliciously subversive. Warner capitalized on the film's success, prem…