Martin Scorsese by Gary Gershoff/
Martin Scorsese sells out by directing commercials? And more movie questions

Question: I've heard that Martin Scorsese is doing some kind of liquor commercial overseas, but I can't believe it - I never thought he would sell out that way, or that he needed money so badly. Is it true? - Barbara

FlickChick: It is true, but fortunately Martin Scorsese's foray into advertising is nothing like the sorry spectacle of Orson Welles shilling for the wines of Paul Masson. Freixenet, the Spanish maker of sparkling wines, commissioned Scorsese to make a short film that subtly plugged their Carta Nevada Reserva. The result: the nine minute Key to Reserva, part mockumentary and part stunning homage to Alfred Hitchcock. It opens with Scorsese - who's well known for his work in film preservation - explaining to a documentary filmmaker that he's discovered three and a half pages of the script for an unmade Hitchcock thriller.

Preserving a film that was made is one thing, he muses. But preserving an unmade film - that's the cutting edge! And then we see the film (beginning with Saul Bass-style credits), a pitch-perfect pastiche of Hitchcock's themes and style that's heavily indebted to the 1956 version of The Man Who Knew Too Much; the wrap-up brings together the fake film and the fake doc with a pretty amazing riff on The Birds (1963). It's a must-see.

Question: I just saw Juno. Great movie! In it, Ellen Page and Jason Bateman have a discussion about horror movies debating whether or not Dario Argento is better than Herschell Gordon Lewis. I've already seen the Argento movie they reference, Suspiria, but was wondering about Lewis' work. So I've got two questions: What was the name of the movie they watched about the psychotic magician? And which other Herschell Gordon Lewis movies would you recommend? - Adam

FlickChick: The movie is The Wizard of Gore (1970), about a magician who kills the pretty female volunteers who participate in his "illusions" but hypnotizes both the audience and the victims so they don't realize it. The victims die disgustingly after they're safely off stage, which makes no sense whatsoever since they've been sawed in half, crushed to pulp or otherwise mutilated beyond repair.

It's a late entry in the, um, colorful career of pioneering splatter-meister Herschell Gordon Lewis. As to my recommendations, I'm at a little bit of a loss, since Lewis' brand of broad, coarse, gross-out shocker isn't really my cup of tea. I suppose the must-sees are Blood Feast (1963), the movie that began it all, and Two Thousand Maniacs (1964), which wags have dubbed "bloody Brigadoon" - it's about unsuspecting Yankees who wander into a ghostly Confederate town. The theme, "The South is gonna rise again," will give you tune disease that resists the most strenuous application of Hall and Oates songs.

Question: I have been looking for a movie for quite some time now. I have a very sketchy description, but maybe you can help me. It's black-and-white and I believe the male star is a detective. They're at the home of the female star's great aunt or grandmother; she died recently. A pair of robbers have broken in and are trying to steal a trunk in the attic; there's a scene about midway through where the couple is hiding in the basement - I believe there was a bit of romance - and at the end the man chases the robbers into the barn. While they're attempting to escape, they fall into a hay baler and are swiftly delivered to the awaiting detective and cops. I saw this movie years ago, so I'm amazed I can still remember that much. At one time I thought the man was Fred McMurray or that Alfred Hitchcock might have directed it, but neither of those turned out to be true. - Muriel

FlickChick: Are you sure the man wasn't Fred MacMurray? Because this sounds an awful lot like a peculiar thriller/dark comedy called Murder He Says (1945) that I saw some years back. It has a certain cult following, but it's pretty obscure and isn't available on DVD.

The tone is similar to that of Arsenic and Old Lace (1944) and it involves a poll taker (MacMurray) whose predecessor disappeared in a tiny Ozark town; he's sent to find out what happened - like a detective. He stumbles onto the bizarre hillbilly Fleagle clan in the middle of a family feud involving $70,000 in stolen loot; only the family's dying grandmother knows where it is and she won't say, but just before she dies she gives MacMurray's character an obscure clue. There's some flirtation between MacMurray and the female lead - who says she's granddaughter Bonnie Fleagle, who just busted out of jail (she's the one who stole the 70 grand) but turns out to be someone else - and as I recall, the ending is as you describe.

I highly recommend checking out this odd little picture, which features Marjorie Main - best known for playing Ma in the Ma and Pa Kettle movies, a series of light comedies about funny country bumpkins - as a monstrous, whip-crackin' backwoods mama whose brood includes murdering twin sons and a comely daughter who's touched in the head. The funny thing is that I had never heard of the film until another reader sent in a question about a song he remembered from an old movie. The song is a key element in Murder He Says and it's damnably catchy.

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