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Stuff I've Been Watching: "Samson & Delilah," "This Is 40"

By Rich Heldenfels Published: March 12, 2013

And how's THAT for a double feature? Actually, I watched them somewhat apart. "This Is 40" was last night, with the bride, as we looked at a generally empty prime-time TV schedule (and no, "The Bachelor" does not count as filling). It was a movie we had discussed seeing in theaters and just did not get to. So there was the Blu-ray, due out along with the DVD on March 22, and into the player it went.

Cut ahead two hours, when the bride and I have spent a lot of time half-watching the movie, while playing games on our iPads. There were laughs here and there, but they were sporadic at best. There was Graham Parker, a fabulous musician and a pretty funny actor, but I'd rather listen to his vintage music than watch him in this movie.

Even with Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, Albert Brooks, John Lithgow, a surprisingly good Megan Fox and some support from Jason Segel and  Melissa McCarthy, the thing didn't work. Everyseemingly improvised  scene seemed to go on too long. Way too long. I won't push the point because Ken Levine already made it better -- noting the running time of a lot of acclaimed, even classic movies which were shorter than "This Is 40."

This morning, while doing some other things at work, I put the Victor Mature-Hedy Lamarr "Samson & Delilah" on. It is out in a gorgeous, authorized DVD rendition today. It is also a fabulous example of the awfulness of '50s epics: with outrageous costumes, absurd dialogue (especially when it tries to serve as clever banter) and George Sanders trying to act under a helmet you can't take your eyes off.

But, as I said on Facebook earlier today, it is still worth seeing on an authorized, crisp and colorful DVD from Paramount today. Look for a young Angela Lansbury being wooed by Mature, and for the unbound physicality Lamarr and Mature bring to the screen. There is nothing naturalistic in their performances, nor is either a particularly skilled actor -- but they are forceful, even magnetic, and you can imagine how they struck audiences watching on the giant movie screens of old.

David Thomson has said this of Mature: "Simple,crude and heady -- like ketchup or treacle -- he is a diet scorned by the knowing, but obsessive if succumbed to in error. It is too easy to dismiss Mature, for he surpasses badness. He is a strong man in a land of hundred-pound weaklings, an incredible concoction of beefsteak, husky voice and brilliantine -- a barely concealed sexual advertisement for soiled goods. .. The more lurid or distasteful the part, the better Mature comes across."

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