Daisy Kenyon (1947)

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Original plot
Mr. Freeze directs a chilly love triangle between careers, war and the law.

Big thoughts
I love how Joan Crawford can get dudes to totally blow up their families and ignore their kids for her. And the hammily random car crash – classic!

Obligatory bus anecdote
I have painstakingly shed bringing anything onto the bus that I have to keep holding in my hands. If it doesn’t go in the backpack it doesn’t go. What if you can’t find a seat and have to stand, right? And then some chick gets on holding a full-on mug of hot coffee. Not a tumbler with a lid – an open mug. Crazy!

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The Random Remake
Dan O’Mara (Andrew Lincoln) is a rising political superstar about to upgrade from his small-town mayoralship to enter the New Jersey governor’s race. Only problem is he’s also in the midst of upgrading his love life, from Rosamund (Rose Byrne) to Daisy Kenyon (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). Dan tells Daisy, in one of their rendezvous, that he plans to spill the beans on their secret relationship. He’s told his handlers and advisers about them and he’s been advised to get this news out early ahead of the campaign. He’s got the divorce papers already drawn up. Daisy, who apart from high-profile Dan is pretty secure in her academic research job, is nervous about the high-profile bombshell that’s about to drop, but she consents anyway.

Dan starts to push his divorce on Rosamund, but she isn’t having it. She blackmails him, and says she’ll fight the divorce as hard as she can and ruin his campaign. When Dan brings this news to Daisy, floating the possibility of waiting until after the election, Daisy gets mad and storms out. Soon after, at her university, Daisy meets Peter Lapham (Zachary Quinto), an older student who went back to college after serving in Afghanistan. Peter’s openness and unfettered nature are the complete opposite of controlled and secretive Dan. They hit it off, and to shove it in Dan’s face Daisy dives head-on into her relationship with Peter.

The media sniff out Daisy’s connection to Dan, however, and start slinging mud at the prospective governor. Now Dan pleads with Daisy to take him back, and publicly, too. The only way to save his campaign is to acknowledge the affair and say it’s part of a long-standing separation between Dan and Rosamund. Having been told all about Dan, Peter is gracious and understanding of the situation, but he clearly doesn’t like it. Daisy is torn and her undecidedness leaves Peter to say he won’t stand in the way of her reuniting with Dan. Dan is gloating as if he’s won both her and the election – but that’s when Daisy realizes Peter is her true love.

The pitch
Daisy Kenyon: Only two make a pair

Next up: Beat the Devil (1953)

Strait-Jacket (1964)

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Original plot
Heads roll as Joan Crawford goes full Michael Myers in a heartwarming tale of motherly love and ax murders.

Big thoughts
Hot damn this thing dances around in tone. One minute it’s an Oprah-style makeover and the next someone’s getting an ax to the throat

Obligatory bus anecdote
If you are sitting next right to someone and then a row of seats opens up nearby you must move. It’s a rule. C’mon people.

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The Random Remake
Lucy Harbin (Joan Allen) has just been released from a maximum security mental health facility into the custody of her daughter, Carol (Kate Mara). Carol has to tell her boyfriend Michael (Emile Hirsch) what happened to her mother: 20 years ago, Lucy went off the rails of a crazy train and stabbed Carol’s father to death after she caught her cheating with an ex, all in front of a young Carol. Lucy was able to plead insanity after blaming her psychoactive medication, and after years of therapy Carol says she and Lucy are in a place of healing. Michael thinks re-introducing Lucy into her life is a bad idea, but Carol is adamant that she reconcile her relationship with her mother and to help her mother acclimatize to society. Michael pleads with her that his parents (from a wealthy, rigid lineage) already are leery of his affections toward Carol and he has been working hard on getting them to consent to his marriage to her – and her mother could upset that balance. Carol argues that having her mother around is the last piece to their marriage.

Carol lovingly cares for the timid Lucy on the outside world, giving her a makeover and chauffeuring her around town. But the pleasantness erodes, as Carol’s father’s ex sees them in town and erupts at them. Soon the ex is stabbed and murdered by a shadowy figure. And the murders keep coming: Lucy’s brother, who thinks she should live in the country not the city with her daughter, a doctor who comes by to check on Lucy and sees her frailty, recommending she return to the hospital voluntarily, and Michael’s mother. Lucy soon becomes unstable, and suspects Michael of framing her, even telling the police her theory – even though they are close to charging her, again, with murder.

The endgame comes in the posh house of Michael’s parents as everyone suspects everyone else of murder. Michael’s father is protecting Carol from an enraged Lucy when he’s stabbed by Carol, who explains to Michael that, with his disapproving parents gone and Lucy framed, they finally can be together. Michael stands by helpless as Lucy pleads with Carol to put down the knife. Michael finally musters the courage to confront Carol but she stabs him in the struggle. Lucy and Carol stare at each other as the police arrive, and Lucy turns to the police and holds out her hands, ready to be arrested and take the blame for the crimes.

The pitch
Strait-Jacket: A family. Committed.

Next up: Shock Corridor (1963)

The Naked Kiss (1964)

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Original plot
A call girl tries to reform but a gruff detective won’t let her go straight.

Big thoughts
So much innuendo! Took me 40 minutes to get the champagne stuff. Apparently I need plot developments hit over my head.

Obligatory bus anecdote
I broke the bus once. Opened the backdoor into a snowbank and it got stuck. The bus had to reboot or something before it left seven minutes later. Some daggers were probably stared into my back.

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The Random Remake
Pre-credits: Kelly (Rosemarie DeWitt) is about to film one adult movie scene too much, and it breaks her already withering spirit. Waking up the next day, she decides to leave Los Angeles and the smut business, taking her stored-up savings to Las Vegas and a for-profit college course on being an EMT.

Kelly excels at her studies, and bonds with her classmates and instructors. Her change in hair color and clothes and makeup only conceal her identify for a time, however. Soon the word is out about her past. Everyone gives her long glances. All the men are a little too cozy to her. Finally she finishes her classes and gets a job in Henderson. She again bonds with her peers, especially Grant (Billy Bob Thornton), a divorced city councilor who shares custody of his many children. But again her past is brought up, this time by her jealous boss, Toni (Mo’Nique).Kelly faces a choice to have to tell Grant about her past or leave town before Toni exposes her. She opts for the former and to her amazement, Grant becomes more attached to her and even proposes they marry.

Just before the wedding, Kelly is about to surprise Grant at home with her new wedding dress when she finds him abusing one of his children. Grant tells her that he’s as broken as she is and that’s why he accepted her. She responds that she never was broken. Grant, realizing she is going to turn him in to authorities, lunges at her to attack but she protects herself with a pair of scissors in her work uniform, killing him.

Soon it’s a scandal that a porn star killed a local politician, and the police can’t determine a motive when Grant’s child won’t come clean to the story and Kelly won’t reveal the secret. Only when a tabloid story is published alleging that Kelly was a scamster who was trying to seduce and blackmail Grant does his child speak up and the charges are dropped. Kelly tells the police she didn’t want to implicate the child, plus it seemed to her that no one would take the word of a porn star over a deviant politician. She said she should have recognized his naked kiss (“It was the same as the ones in my old business”) as a sign that Grant was wayward. We see Kelly leaving town on a bus, unsure of her next journey.

The pitch
The Naked Kiss: They’ll never give in to her change

Next up: Strait-Jacket (1964)

Sadie McKee (1934)

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Original plot
Booze, ukulele solos and high society class clashes converge into surprising watchable drama.

Big thoughts
B&W Joan Crawford > color Joan Crawford.

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The Random Remake
Sadie McKee (Amanda Seyfried) is a low-class girl working in a high-class restaurant in Los Angeles. She gets along with everyone (customers and staff alike) but her boyfriend Tommy (Aaron Diaz) is accused of stealing a gift from a table at restaurant party. Fed up with the tone of the accusations, Sadie tells everyone off and the two leave together. Knowing they don’t have their jobs to go back to, Tommy suggests they take a trip to Mexico City, near his hometown. Sadie says goodbye to her friends, including restaurant co-owner Michele (Anne Heche), who all say she is making a mistake trusting Tommy.

In Mexico, Sadie and Tommy are surviving on pennies and they look for work in the crowded city. They decide to get married before seeing Tommy’s family and make a time to meet at a church. Tommy runs into some childhood friends, who seem to be up to some shady business. While Sadie is out in the city, Tommy’s friends say they have work for him but it will require him to leave with them to the countryside. Tommy is tempted to get money for the wedding; Sadie is left at the altar, and returns to their hotel room to find a cryptic note from Tommy.

Sadie is heartbroken, alone and without any money – and as such she accepts a job from someone she befriends at the hotel. She becomes a maid/nanny at a posh estate controlled by a Mexican telecommunications mogul, Edward (Demian Bichir). Edward is a drunk lout who takes a shining to Sadie. Soon the two are arranging to be married; Edward fascinated by her grit and willingness to stand up to him, Sadie looking for a way out of her misery. Soon Sadie is having a calming influence on Edward, even getting him to exercise. The resentment of their friends and staff thinking Sadie was an opportunist subside when they see the effect she’s had on him.

On a routine morning, a group of banditos rush the estate and hold Edward and Sadie hostage. Sadie soon realizes who is the group: Tommy. Without tipping anyone off, the two talk and exchange veiled barbs for what’s transpired respectively in Mexico. Tommy has a change of heart when he sees that Sadie really does love Edward, and he arranges for the banditos to leave with a tiny ransom. Sadie is unable to change Edward’s mind when he sends a team after the banditos. Tommy is brought back to the estate beaten and about to be executed by the bribed federales when Sadie confesses to Edward who Tommy is and how she feels about him. Edward gives the execution order anyway and, despite his reservations that maybe Sadie was in on the raid, lets her leave.

Michele picks Sadie up at the border and brings her to a diner where they talk. She talks of having nothing, of having scorned everyone she’s met. “Life asks big things of big people,” Michele says to her. Scene fades as they get into the car to head back to Los Angeles.

The pitch
Sadie McKee: Life asks big things of big people

Next up: The Naked Kiss (1964)