Friday, April 6, 2012

Netflix Friday: Miranda & Mad About Men

As I said last week, Netflix Streaming is not your best bet when you're looking for a specific movie. Last night, for example, I decided to look for some of the weird I had watched during my college years (I think I was curious to see if they made any more sense now than they did then). Alas, none of these were to be had:

On the other hand, they did have the original Andromeda Strain (1971), but not its 2008 remake -- which I might have been interested in watching just to contrast to the original. Amusingly, the listing for the 1971 version features updated artwork that looks very modern. I suppose it's to entice younger people into watching it.

Gathering vs. Hunting
I ran a version of Friday's review of Netflix Streaming over at a friend's blog: Budgeting in the Fun Stuff. One of the readers there commented that it was nice "if you weren't picky about what you watch." I have to take that to task: It's not like we're not picky (in fact, my wife and I are both very picky about what we watch). It's more like the experience you get when you go into a video store or a book store to browse the stacks and see what you can discover. This, by the way, is something I used to do for hours and now still do, but on a smaller scale (and now I'm such a coach potato that it's done from the comfort of my La-Z-Boy). 

One such treasure I pulled from the depths was an old movie that I had never seen before: Miranda. This is an adorable little comedy from 1948 that was based on a play. Here's the description from the Netflix Website:
After an alluring mermaid rescues a physician from drowning, she insists that he take her to London -- but soon begins pining for her watery home.
The film stars the wonderfully quirky Glynis Johns, an actress you'll instantly recognize from having been in numerous films -- and after a few seconds it will click that you know her as the mother, Winifred Banks, from the movie Mary Poppins. Speaking of that classic movie, look for David Tomlinson (the father from Mary Poppins) as the chauffeur who is smitten by her beauty and charm. I think this is the first time these two ever appeared together in a movie.

Glynis has that characteristic lilt to her voice that always reminds me of Glenda the Good Witch from The Wizard of of Oz. The physician referenced above is played by Griffith Jones, an actor who looks vaguely familiar but doesn't ring any bells. The wife (yes, he has a wife and he brings home a beautiful woman to stay with them!) is played by the wonderfully named Googie Withers. For me, however, the breakout character was Margaret Rutherford, who is easily recognizable as Agatha Christie's Miss Marple from a series of films in the 1960s. She was an absolute treat in this movie and pretty much stole every scene she was in.

Diving into the Movie

I don't want to go into the whole plot because, honestly, it's rather thin: A doctor goes on a fishing trip, falls almost drowns, is rescued by a mermaid and she gets him to take her home with him so she can alleviate her loneliness as his house guest for a month or so. The problem is, they have to hide the fact that she's a mermaid (so they put her in a wheelchair like Superman's college girlfriend, Lori Lemaris, and yes, he dated a mermaid -- I suppose when you're an alien you swim in a different dating pool).

I do want to say that the character of the wife (that wonderful Googie)  is surprising in a wonderful way. At first she seems to be a one-dimensional angry wife, but then she changes and acts more realistically like a woman who's been married for a long time and does trust her husband. She adopts an attitude of bemusement, one that I think most older married men have seen in their own wives when they are caught looking at a pretty woman in a movie or on TV. And yes, I mean an older wife who is secure in the knowledge that her husband loves her and isn't going to cheat -- he's just a man and he can't help looking. Younger wives, for the most part, tend to get jealous, but an older wife just gets that "Yeah, like Angeliina Jolee would ever have anything to do with you," look.

But I digress.

The movie plays well and was a nice diversion. Nothing great, but worth the investment of the 80-minute running time. You can watch a scene here on YouTube:

There's also a sequel: Mad About Men, that was released six years later in 1954. Whereas the first film was based on a play, this was an original screenplay. The plot is, again, a bit thin, but it serves its purpose and gets Miranda back on land and suitable love antics ensue. This time from IMDB:
Flirtatious mermaid Miranda swaps places with a schoolteacher who has gone on holiday. All is well until she falls in love with a human.
The schoolteacher, by the way, is also played by Glynis Johns. It's sort of a Patty Duke/Parent Trap thing going on with her playing two parts via split screen. I think the thing I love best about this sequel is the return of Margaret Rutherford who returns as the nurse who knows Miranda's secret -- and loves it. I also love that they didn't waste time with any sort of pretense about how they got Margaret back into the movie: there was no plotting or scheming, they just called her up and she happily joined in the fun.

By the way, that is one of the things I loved about the sequel to Sister Act. Rather than find some lame scheme to get Whoopie Goldberg back in the habit, they just dove in and had the mother superior ask her for help. Perhaps not the most realistic thing (I find it hard to believe that they would have her disguise herself as a nun, rather than just bring her in as a secular adviser, but what the heck, it got the movie moving and that was a relief.

You can see a clip here (in fact, I think the whole movie might be available on YouTube). As I said, these are not great movies, but they are solid, good entertainment. At only 85 minutes, this pleasant B-movie is a worthy sequel and my wife and I enjoyed both of these movies. I recommend them.

See you Monday for the review of the software that I finally selected to start cataloging my comic book collection.


  1. I know what you mean by searching for something, it has a charm all its own, and when you do find something really good, it’s that much more gratifying to have found it yourself rather than having it shoved down your throat by big-budget advertising. The trouble I had with Netflix though is that I sifted through their content far too quickly. So when DISH, my employer, released the Blockbuster @Home service, I decided to give it a try as a type of ‘break’ from Netflix, thinking that maybe I’d hop between the two services while the other secured more shows. But what I found with Blockbuster @Home was that it really rounded out my other entertainment options and I like it far more than I’d ever like Netflix. I think it has to do with choices. I get streaming content of course, but I also get movies AND video game rentals by-mail, in addition to about twenty of the more traditional style of movie channels.

  2. I'm definitely willing to look at Blockbuster's service, but have zero interest in getting discs by mail. My wife and i are not the types to put a movie into a queue and then wait for it to show up. By the time it got here, we probably would not be in the mood to watch that particular movie. For example, I was in the mood to watch the Russian movie Solaris the other night -- couldn't find it and if it showed up today, it would probably sit there for two weeks before I'd be in the mood to watch it again. Also, I don't play console video games of any type (I already waste too much time with electronic entertainment). For me, this is a good streaming service (but I will happily take a look at others). I looked at Hulu Plus, for example, and just didn't see enough content that I would actually sit down and watch on a regular basis.

    I do have a question, though: when you say you get "20 of the more traditional style of movie channels," is that through DiSH or through Blockbuster?