Saoirse Ronan and James McAvoy in Atonement courtesy Focus Features
The Atonement house, mysterious movies and an actor after more than fame... Ask FlickChick!

Question: This may sound shallow, but after seeing the movie Atonement - which I thought was really good and moving - the thing I keep thinking about is the house. Is it a real place, and if so, can you tell me anything about it? - Seth

FlickChick: Tallis House, the site of the terrible family betrayal in Atonement, is a real house and the filmmakers shot both interiors and exteriors there. This is often not the case: Crews frequently use the exterior of one place and either build sets for the interiors or shoot them someplace else.

The house is Stokesay Court, which stands on 1,000 acres in Shropshire, some three hours north of London; it was built in 1891 in what's called the Jacobethan style, which combined elements of English Renaissance, Elizabethan and Jacobean architecture. The style is often dismissed as vulgar and ugly, in part because it was favored by newly minted millionaires looking to impress their friends and neighbors by building the McMansions of their day.

Caroline Magnus, who inherited the country estate unexpectedly from an aunt, gives tours, including special Atonement-themed ones. Keeping up vast country mansions is expensive.

Question: I remember an old movie from the 1950s that was similar to the current movie I Am Legend. It was about postapocalyptic earth where there were only six or seven humans remaining on earth. I believe the title was "Six." Can you verify the title, year, etc? I'd like to see if I can find it somewhere online. Thanks!

FlickChick: It's Five (1951), with William Phipps, Susan Douglas, James Anderson, Charles Lampkin and Earl Lee, and was directed by Arch Obler, who graduated from the vintage radio show "Lights Out" (which inspired the famous Bill Cosby "Chicken Heart" routine). Like the later The World, the Flesh and the Devil (1959) - which even more closely resembles I Am Legend because the first half follows a lone man ( Harry Belafonte) as he roams a deserted New York City in search of other survivors of a worldwide apocalypse - it's a parable about racism and the human capacity for self-destruction.

Question: Years ago when I was a child, probably between 1965 and 1967, I saw the beginning of two movies and would like to know the titles. In each case they were at the bottom of a drive-in triple bill, and my mother wouldn't stay for the third feature: I saw the openings as we drove out.

The first one started with a character who resembled the Queen of England. She would go to do a dedication - of a skyscraper, a bridge, the launching of a ship - and each time when she cut the ribbon or swung the bottle, disaster ensued: The structure collapsed or the ship sank.

The other began under water with three swimmers - two men and a woman - approaching an underwater city, which was a series of connected, dome-like structures. They came up inside one, where it looked like they climbed over a swimming pool rim onto the deck of the dome, then they took off their gear and hung it on some hooks on the wall. Thanks. - Ann


FlickChick: I'm totally baffled by the first film and hope one of my readers can help.

But I'm pretty sure the second is The Underwater City (1962), a low-budget sci-fi movie about three scientists - William Lundigan, Julie Adams (famous for the white swimsuit she wore in The Creature from the Black Lagoon) and Carl Benton Reid (amazingly enough, a last-minute replacement for Raymond Massey) - working on the construction of a pioneering underground community. There's a pretty interesting behind-the-scenes interview with veteran B-movie producer Alex Gordon about the making of the film here.

Question: How can I get a copy of the Groucho Marx movie "Hell-A-Poppin"? - Clayton

FlickChick: The short answer is, you can't. The anarchic comedy Hellzapoppin' (1941) - which featured comedians Ole Olson and Chic Johnson, plus Shemp Howard before he was a Stooge, but none of the Marx brothers - used to be on television regularly, but it's now rarely if ever shown, and the film is unavailable on DVD or video.

I'm going to quote director and lifelong film buff Joe Dante, who pays fanboy homage to Helzapoppin' in his first feature, Hollywood Boulevard (1976) and owns his own 16mm print of the movie, as to the reason:

"The rights are held by the estate of the Broadway producer Alexander Cohen, who tried to mount a theatrical revival with Jerry Lewis in the 1980s. Although Universal apparently has a first-rate negative, they cannot distribute the movie, which is virtually unknown to most of today's audience. So while it used to run all the time on TV when I was a kid, it's in danger of becoming a lost film. So I bought a 16mm print so that I would be able to screen it whenever I wanted. I didn't realize that this would be the only way I could get to see it." (See the rest of the piece here.)

So unless you're willing to take a gamble on a bootleg - even they're rare - you can only hope that one day the legal problems will be resolved.

Question: How many films and shows has the actor Henry Holden made? I read his biography and it really touched me because he's an actor, activist and comedian. - Chris

FlickChick: His legs twisted by polio when he was a small child, 59-year-old Henry Holden is a lifelong disabilities activist who has worked extensively on stage - coincidentally, I saw him earlier this year in an offbeat production of Shakespeare's Richard III - and television; I haven't been able to find a complete list of his TV appearances, but Holden's own website mentions episodes of T.J. Hooker, AFTERmash, Hill Street Blues, Knots Landing, Hunter, Dear John, and Kids Incorporated. He has made one released film, the 1991 Misplaced, about Polish refugees in America in the early 1980s, in which he played a music teacher and polio survivor who uses crutches. He also plays a doctor in Art Imitating Life, which was shot in 2006 but has not yet been distributed.

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