Thursday, March 24, 2011

No Nukes is Good Nukes :: A Vid-Cap Review of Frank and Eleanor Perry's Ladybug Ladybug (1963)

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"Until further notice they've advised me to treat the alert as real."

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As a cautionary Fairy Tale, Frank and Eleanor Perry's melancholy ode to mutual self-destruction, Ladybug Ladybug, is a fascinating piece that is most effective in its quiet and disquieting moments but tends to unravel a bit when it tries to be as subtle as the nuclear bombs it's railing against. Kind of like Stanley Kramer's On the Beach, another effective anti-nuke think piece that is ultimately undone by just one (or two or three or forty) too many repeating choruses of Waltzing Matilda and too heavy of a hand in spots when it would have been better to take the foot off the gas pedal and let the message slowly coast and wash over you and settle instead of having it hammered into you with a ten-pound sledgehammer. Here, when a malfunctioning Civil Defense alarm indicates an atomic attack within the hour, a grade-school principal sends his students home, most on foot with a chaperon. Is it just another drill? Or is it really happening this time? No one can get a straight answer until it is too late for some as fear turns into hysteria, which can only lead to tragedy. And then there's that ending, two endings, really. The first focusing on a frightened girl, the other on a hysterical boy that serves as a microcosm on the whole subtle and not so subtle way of getting your message across. Sadly, the Perry's should have quit while they were ahead.

Littered with many familiar faces and aided and abetted greatly by a soundtrack that muddies the waters between sweet and menacing, the film's biggest debt is probably owed to some great camerawork
by Leonard Hirschfield, who turns a simple walk home to something akin to the Bataan Death March, and leaves several indelible images like the cardboard silhouettes on the school's windows, bringing to mind a perverse twist on the permanent shadows left in Hiroshima and Nagasaki (illustrated above). Add it all up and Ladybug Ladybug probably deserves to be better known than it is and appreciated more for what it is than just what it was.

Currently available for streaming on Netfilx.

Ladybug Ladybug (1963) Francis Productions Inc :: United Artists / P: Frank Perry, Stephen F. Kesten / D: Frank Perry / W: Eleanor Perry / C: Leonard Hirschfield / E: Armond Lebowitz / M: Bob Cobert / S: Jane Connell, William Daniels, Nancy Marchand, Jane Hoffman, James Frawley


Soiled Sinema said...



Anonymous said...

Once again, Chad, you are way ahead of me in finding movies I'd love to watch. Adding it to the list!

W.B. Kelso said...

Basically it's Harper Lee's Failsafe: Or Why You Should Start Worrying and Fear the Bomb.

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