Review older films here: 1979 and earlier - Page 13 - AVS Forum
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post #361 of 1426 Old 10-08-2010, 06:06 AM - Thread Starter
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Kings Row (1942), directed by Sam Wood.

A dark toned soap opera set around 1900, a sort of Peyton Place tale of embezzlement, insanity, sadism, murder and suicide beneath a small town facade.

According to the wikipedia article, the book had to be drastically toned down. No mercy killing, gay themes, nude swimming, and much less sex all around. Still, for people familiar with the book (as people often were in those days) much of this is suggested in a code-compliant way that makes the film a bit better than it might otherwise be. You see similar efforts in The Big Sleep where readers of the book recognize little sister Carmen's psychosis and drug addiction and the subplot with the pornographic book store.

Here we see that Drake (Ronald Reagan) is a cheerful character who knows a lot of women, but is also intimate with Parris (Robert Cummings). In Betty Field's haunted performance we have a victim of incest, locked up up at home for years by her scary father, Claude Rains.

Rains is such a reliable actor of the period that I sometimes forget how fine he can be. Look at his sad, corrupt senator in Mr Smith Goes to Washington, one of the best parts of that film.

Neither Reagan nor Cummings are very strong actors, and Parris is too timid a character to be a satisfying lead. The women are better, particularly Ann Sheridan as Randy from the wrong side of the tracks.

We have Reagan's famous "Where's the rest of me!" scene where he wakes up to find both legs unnecessarily amputated by sadistic doctor Charles Coburn, more sinister than I have seen him before.

Cummings recites "Invictus" and we have an improbably joyful ending.

Not well-liked at the time (who needs such a downer during WW2?) but critics appreciate it more in retrospect. I'm somewhere in the middle. It's a soap opera.

Korngold score, with James Wong Howe on the camera.



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post #362 of 1426 Old 10-12-2010, 05:22 AM - Thread Starter
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Village of the Damned (1960), directed by Wolf Rilla.

A sturdy, effective Quatermass-genre plot only 71 minutes long. Everyone in an English village drops unconscious for several hours and no one can get in without also fainting. Afterwards their recovery seems without incident until they find that all women of childbearing age are now pregnant. This obviously causes much consternation, even more so when the implications become clear. Alien force? Mutation? It turns out the same thing has happened elsewhere.

The children, creepy blonde Aryans, are all healthy but grow abnormally quickly, are emotionless and intelligent and reveal dangerous psychic powers. What to do about them, given they can read and control minds and have a lively survival response?

We're still in the classic science fiction era: the heroes are stalwart and the alien menace must be eliminated. The military is smart and efficient. That the menace are children...it gives one pause, but not a lot.

The film largely avoids the complication that parents will naturally feel affection towards the children, no matter how strangely born. With one exception: George Sanders is an older man with a younger wife, and his joy at having a son is mixed with the understanding that he is not the biological father, as well as the fear that the boy is entirely alien and perhaps dangerous.

Many familiar faces from later British film and TV; look for Peter Vaughn as the policeman on a bicycle.

Adapted from John Wyndham's The Midwich Cuckoos. He was a prolific SF author whose work could be mined for more screenplays. And his Day of the Triffids (1962) exists only in a dismal cropped DVD version and needs a good upgrade.

The DVD has commentary track with production details. He points out that it is easy to think of the children as little Nazi supermen infiltrators.



Children of the Damned (1963), directed by Anton Leader.

Made only three years after the first film but during the interval we have crossed over into an entirely different era. The Sixties, when everything changed. In particular, when dividing science fiction films into "classic" and "modern", that decade has a boundary line.

Instead of a peaceful country location we are in a gritty urban setting. The children are now a multi-racial set from different countries, although the leader is still an English boy. The government agents and military are a clumsy, violent lot. And the children have no Plan to take over the world -- when asked "Why are you here? What do you want?" Paul replies: "We don't know."

Cast into the world without guidance or explanation, they are just seekers looking for answers and want to be left alone while they figure it out. In the commentary track the screenwriter says it is a Cold War fable, but to me it seems amazingly prophetic of the 60s counterculture. The children are new people, trying to make a fresh start, like the Whole Earth Catalog hippies who went back to the land.

In the end there is just the slimmest chance of reconciliation before the universe plays a cruel joke and we have the bloodbath. Surprise: in the end the children would rather die than kill any more.

Writer John Briley later did Gandhi. His commentary track is mostly autobiographical. He says "I've always been political" and he spends a lot of time on that.



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post #363 of 1426 Old 10-13-2010, 04:34 AM - Thread Starter
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The Warriors (1979), directed by Walter Hill.

After a convocation of street gangs breaks down, the Warriors have to make it back to Coney Island through miles of enemy territory, making this a Lost Patrol story. They face many challenges and temptations. Walter Hill aims to please and we have loads of running and fighting.

What I notice after all these years is how young, whiney and un-tough the kids seem. The gang costumes were always strange but now they seem ludicrous. Still, it's a fable with comic book transitions; every off-beat bit just serves to make it more mythical.

My favorite part is when some clean scrubbed party-goers board the train and sit across from our worn and travel-stained heroes. We have fear from the "straights", but both embarrassment and disdain from the gang. That's why young people cheer the Warriors: the gang life is raw and authentic as contrasted with the phoney life of social convention the rest of us live.

According to the wikipedia article, the critics hated it at the time ("a ghastly folly", "banal dialogue") but now it gets 93% at Rotten Tomatoes. How does that happen? Do new generations of reviewers have entirely different sensibilities, or do the reviewers just herd together, even when revising their opinions over time?

Available on Blu-ray. I don't remember what this looked like originally (did I see it in a theater?) but the colors are neon bright and the image is super-sharp and de-grained. Even if that is cinematic abuse of the source, it is undeniably vivid.



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post #364 of 1426 Old 10-13-2010, 11:44 AM
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Originally Posted by wmcclain View Post

What I notice after all these years is how young, whiney and un-tough the kids seem.

Nothing, and I mean nothing beats "West Side Story" for that.

A bunch of supposed "tough guys" flitting around like a bunch of FTD Florist runners.

I mean, when you think about it.
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post #365 of 1426 Old 10-14-2010, 04:38 AM - Thread Starter
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Halls of Montezuma (1950), directed by Lewis Milestone.

While invading a Japanese-held island, a Marine patrol must capture some prisoners to find out where the damn rockets are coming from. It's a race against the clock to knock them out before the general invasion starts. The Lt (Richard Widmark) is tired, having migraines, and he fears that none of his men are going to survive the war.

After a slow start with several pre-war flashbacks, it's pretty exciting, although brutal with almost continuous bombardment. We get details of the landing craft, making a beach-head, and bringing up the tanks to spray napalm on entrenched positions (some real footage).

Tough guys to spare: Richard Boone, Jack Palance, Karl Malden (dies), Neville Brand (blinded), Jack Webb, Bert Freed. Plus Robert Wagner (dies) and Skip Homier (goes nuts and dies). Philip Ahn is the chief prisoner (survives). Although he gets to be the typically inscrutable, insidious Oriental, the other Japanese are a mixed lot of ordinary guys.

It's a story of considerable suffering; the brassy Marine's Hymn at the beginning and end is jarring, as is the little patriotic recitation. The Lord's Prayer is easier to take. The sound-track choir sings the older "admiration of the nation" version of the Hymn.

Widmark's call sign is "pansy baker".



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post #366 of 1426 Old 10-18-2010, 04:39 AM - Thread Starter
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The Sonny Chiba Collection

Found for $5 in a bargain bin. It's a good value, even though from Mill Creek, known for cheap economy packs. Anamorphic widescreen, Japanese audio tracks with optional English subtitles. (The tags on the DVDs are wrong: some say English audio and Japanese subtitles, but that's backwards. The Amazon listing says 1.33:1, also incorrect).

Enough sex and violence for an R rating on each.



G.I. Samurai (1979), directed by Kôsei Saitô.

Aka Sengoku jieitai.

A group of modern soldiers are mysteriously transported back to medieval Japan. The film wastes no time explaining how; it's just a weird unexpected phenomenon. They have an assortment of vehicles including a tank, a helicopter and a patrol boat.

A local warlord immediately likes what he sees and proposes a partnership. Lt Iba resists for a while, then goes all in. His excuse is that if they do everything they can to change history, the God of Time will expel them back to the future, but it seems more likely that he just wants to rule the country.

First he has to take care of some his own men who have gone excessively medieval, enjoying the rape and pillage part of the job way too much.

It's a bit better than it sounds. Whoever operates the camera knows how to take pictures. The last hour has a vast amount of mayhem with a big cast for the battles. You might think pre-modern armies are out-gunned by future technology, but it is a fair fight. The samurai are smart, adaptable, skilled at what they do, and are not going to lay down just because the invaders have a flying steel box. Gas and ammo don't last forever.

The musical selections are painfully light and inappropriate pop tunes.

With different editing and better music it could have been a superior action/adventure fantasy. As it is: guilty pleasure.



Ninja Wars (1982), directed by Kôsei Saitô.

Aka Death of a Ninja and Iga ninpôchô. Chiba was the stunt coordinator; he's barely in it otherwise. The image is inset within a black frame.

A sorcerer aids a noblemen to (a) get the woman he wants, and (b) become absolute ruler. It's magicians vs ninja and we're cheering for the ninja. Throw in some warrior monks and mysterious masked samurai for good measure.

Abundant magical stunts and fighting but not enough coherent story to make it interesting.

Did you know that if two women swap heads, the sense of identity goes with the body and not the head?



Legend of the Eight Samurai (1983), directed by Kinji Fukasaku.

Aka Satomi hakken-den.

A princess on the run, the last of her family and with revenge on her mind, is assisted by magical warriors. It's a complicated multi-generational curse story, but they were born for the job and want to get to it. Her enemies are demonic powers so it won't be easy. The princess is willing to pick up a sword and wave it around, but is too girly to make a satisfying heroine.

The magic and creature effects are pretty weak this time and the synthesizer score is terrible, surpassed only by the pop music love ballad in English. But there are good fight scenes, particularly when the Eight, against fearful odds, storm the demon castle to rescue their princess. The warriors don't expect to survive and seven don't.

Chiba is leader of the Eight. Is he supposed to be a leper? He keeps wrapped up and says he has only a month to live.

The video is not very good on this one. Another narrow black frame. 136 minutes.



The Resurrection of the Golden Wolf (1979), directed by Toru Murakawa.

Aka Yomigaeru kinrô.

A meek office clerk by day is a capable tough guy at night, doing bank robbery, murder, drug deals and all sorts of nastiness. This is an intriguing setup and the beginning is strong. But it soon turns into Bond-like silliness. He has a cunning plan I did not follow very well and he eventually muscles his way into corporate management. We have time for an overblown tragic finish.

He is able to use his nerdish cover as a weapon; unfortunately neither alter ego has a good haircut -- both are pretty comical, which detracts from the action sequences. Some car stunts and a burning man.

A few nudity and passion scenes. Soft image and washed out color. Chiba is a side character.



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post #367 of 1426 Old 10-20-2010, 05:10 AM - Thread Starter
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Uncertain Glory (1944), directed by Raoul Walsh.

In France during WW2, a condemned prisoner escapes the guillotine by seconds when his prison is bombed. He almost gets out of the country but the implacable police inspector recaptures him and is bringing him back in cuffs when the fugitive proposes an ingenious plan: he will confess to being a wanted saboteur, thereby saving a hundred civilians from being executed in reprisal by the Germans. It's a cynical ploy for another escape, but as in A Tale of Two Cities, in the end the cynical man sacrifices himself for a higher cause.

This is a good vehicle for Errol Flynn, a chance to do something neither action/adventure nor lushly romantic. It could have been a straight wartime drama, but having Flynn they must insert some comic touches and romantic interest. This muddies the tone a bit. Still it is well made and better than I expected from its reputation. Walsh is better than your average B movie director.

Paul Lukas is fine as the policeman, a sort of Maigret character who struggles with his conscience and finally steps over the line for a greater good.



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post #368 of 1426 Old 10-20-2010, 09:54 AM
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Unfortunately, no matter how good it may be otherwise, any Eastwood movie (or movie, period) that Sondra Locke shows up in is unwatchable for me.

But then any film in which the glorious Chief Dan George appeared overcomes any shortcomings like the repellent Sondra Locke. Had he been in it even The Gauntlet might have been watchable, and that's a mighty big "might" considering the level of unwatchability that movie holds featuring the repulsive Ms. Locke.

.........

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post #369 of 1426 Old 10-22-2010, 03:59 AM - Thread Starter
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Peeping Tom (1960), directed by Michael Powell.

Famously controversial thriller, hated at the time but now more respected, especially by film theorists. Powell said it ruined his career.

A psycho photographs women as he murders them. He is building a film documentary of his life and includes the police investigation of the crimes and plans a big finish featuring his own death.

I first saw this about ten years ago and did not much like it. I revere Michael Powell, but it seemed like the student effort of a lesser director. I was outvoted about 20-to-1 when I expressed this opinion in public. The film is widely held to be a masterpiece.

I liked it a bit better this time, noticing more of the dark humor and little jokes Powell uses. The lampoon of the movie studio is obviously something close to his heart.

Good to see Moira Shearer again. And I always enjoy Anna Massey, just 23 here. She's not classically pretty, but always interesting. Sticking with the genre, she was prominent in Frenzy twelve years later. She's still working and has been doing old lady roles for a long time.

Maxine Audley is fine as the blind mother, always drinking but the only one who suspects our psycho. "The blind always live in the rooms they live under," she tells him; she's been listening to him moving around and guesses at his secrets.

And yet. It still doesn't work for me. Carl Boehm is rather one note: shy, hardworking, always obsessing about his fetishes. He doesn't care if he gets caught, so why should we? Apart from sympathy for his victims...

The music hammers the themes too hard.

It seems to be an intricate Freudian essay, but does that make it a good film? The plot apparatus required to support the design grows clumsy and finally terribly overblown in the last minutes. Other Powell films had heart and depth and sweep which I don't find here. It is often compared with Psycho, which appeared about the same time, but as a thriller Hitchcock's film is much more satisfying.

Criterion DVD. Subtitle track but no control for it on the menu.

I endured the 1993 commentary track by film critic Laura Mulvey, specialist in Phallocentrism and Patriarchy. I'm not qualified to critique PoMoLitCrit studies and will only say it's not for me.



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post #370 of 1426 Old 10-23-2010, 05:23 AM - Thread Starter
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Quintet (1979), produced and directed by Robert Altman.

In an arctic wasteland of the future, Paul Newman returns to a dying city. After his wife and brother are killed, it takes him about forever to discover that the decadent denizens are playing a murder tournament game.

True story: I saw this in the theater and it ruined movies for me for years. I always dreaded that I would see something like it again. I remember dogs devouring corpses just lying in the open, and men jumping out of the darkness to slash throats. I thought: "Is this what I have to look forward to in avant garde experimental film-making by the foremost artists?"

I must have been extra sensitive that day because now it seems more inexplicably tedious than disgusting. Not a big Altman fan. And yet it has stuck with me and I had to see it again.

They put a ring of vaseline around the lens, giving the image a wide translucent border. I thought this might be to suggest ice, but in the making-of it is said to connote "mystery". More than anything else it looks like photos from 1970s soft porn magazines.



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post #371 of 1426 Old 10-23-2010, 06:07 AM
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Originally Posted by wmcclain View Post

Quintet (1979), produced and directed by Robert Altman.

Interesting. Any time I see widely disparate user reviews like this one carries, I am drawn to watch it. The reviews on this one are either "love it" or "hate it" and split about 50/50 so it must have some value. Added to my queue.
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post #372 of 1426 Old 10-26-2010, 07:16 AM - Thread Starter
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The Innocents (1961), directed by Jack Clayton.

A new governess arrives at a huge country house to care for two children. Her predecessor and that woman's lover both died and no one wants to talk about it. She begins to detect strange happenings. We wonder if she and the dead woman aren't somehow the same person, but she suspects the children are possessed by ghosts of the dead couple. Tension builds to a shattering climax.

The story is ambiguous and dream-like and we are never quite sure of what is happening. Is the governess cracking up? Is she somehow the dead woman returned, and is this her hell? Do the children know about the ghosts, or does she imagine that? The dialogue gives all sorts of suggestive hints: the house is a "heaven for children" but someone else has "the devil's own eye."

Deborah Kerr is perfect at this type of role: an intelligent, loving, dignified woman being challenged in extreme, wrenching ways.

Striking B&W photography. The black levels on the DVD fluctuate a bit, but it is a good presentation.

Adapted by John Mortimer and Truman Capote from The Turn of the Screw. The screenplay captures the disorienting nature of the story better than I could have imagined.

I've read a bit of Henry James and my reaction has always been: Why did I read this, why did he write it, and why is he held to be a great author? The Turn of the Screw seemed purposely incoherent. For literary critics that is a feature; the story is subject to many interpretations. The movie handles that aspect pretty well.



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post #373 of 1426 Old 10-26-2010, 10:41 AM
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I watched Morituri last night and was pleasantly surprised.

The plot is pretty simple.
Quote:


A German living in India during World War II is blackmailed by the English to impersonate an SS officer on board a cargo ship leaving Japan for Germany carrying a large supply of rubber for tyres. (sic.) His mission is to disable the scuttling charges so the captain cannot sink the ship if they are stopped by English warships.

The cast is top loaded with Marlon Brando, Yul Brynner and Trevor Howard in a cameo role. But, along the way we meet lots of German character actors who played in many films of that time. All are excellent.

Janet Margolin is an actress I didn't know anything about. Very attractive in an unattractive role. (Only 22 at the time this film was made. She was fated to die at age 50 of ovarian cancer.)

The German director Bernhard Wicki did a great job. Probably his best known film was The Longest Day (1962) in collaboration with others. It was shot in wide screen B&W and the print on a DVD is in pretty good shape. Excellent camera work including aerial shots by cinematographer Conrad Hall.

Despite Brando's box office appeal - and he performed well and was in good physical condition - the film didn't generate many rave reviews. The NY Times critic of the time panned it. Some felt its original title was partially to blame.

As Wikipedia explains ...

Quote:


The title "Morituri" is the plural of a Latin word meaning "about to die". Roman gladiators in the arena would begin their battles with "Morituri te salutamus" or "Morituri te salutant" (We/They who are about to die salute you.

Twentieth Century Fox changed the title to "Morituri (The Saboteur)" which apparently didn't help. In reflection, this period was filled with WW II movies and this one just slipped under the radar. Nonetheless, it was nominated for two Oscars in the 1966 Academy Awards, for best black-and-white cinematography and best black-and-white costume design.

It's a rental DVD from ClassicFlix.



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post #374 of 1426 Old 10-27-2010, 03:59 AM - Thread Starter
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Wing and a Prayer (1944), directed by Henry Hathaway.

Life in an air squadron on a aircraft carrier early in WW2. Don Ameche and Dana Andrews are good and I always enjoy seeing Charles Bickford (does he ever smile?), here as the grizzled captain. (I see in his bio: "He was a boisterous child, and at nine was tried and acquitted for attempted murder in the shooting of a motorman who had run over his dog." He was blacklisted at the studios for being quarrelsome and was mauled by a lion once. Nominated for three Oscars).

Some exciting carrier operations and combat footage, more skillfully integrated into the film than is usual in this period.

The weakness is that 3/4 of the time is taken up with human interest soap opera. As is common with these wartime stories, too many of the men are quasi-comic "characters"; it's slow and gets old.

During the climactic battle a bomber kamikazes into the water to detonate a torpedo headed for the carrier. That's ludicrous; if it actually ever happened I apologize and take it back.

According to the wikipedia article:

Quote:


The film loosely portrays actual historic events related mainly with the Battle of the Coral Sea and the Battle of Midway. The scenario is, however, intentionally changed in order to justify the initial defensive rather than offensive posture of a US Navy reeling from the early Japanese victories in 1942. The Battle of the Coral Sea is justified as a calculated plot to deceive the Japanese into believing that the U.S. fleet was scattered and vulnerable, while the Battle of Midway is depicted as the eventual springing of this carefully laid trap which thereby caught the enemy at a disadvantage. In actuality, the losses at Pearl Harbor and the numerical superiority of the Japanese had the Americans operating constantly on the defensive in the early period of the Pacific war. It was mainly superior military intelligence, specifically the breaking of the Japanese code, that made possible the crushing American victory at Midway.



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post #375 of 1426 Old 10-29-2010, 06:07 AM - Thread Starter
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Drunken Angel (1948), directed by Akira Kurosawa.

The intertwined stories of an alcoholic doctor (Takashi Shimura) and a yakuza (Toshirô Mifune, age 28) dying of TB in a shabby neighborhood in postwar Japan.

The young gangster doesn't want to believe that he is sick. If he shows weakness his mob compatriots will use him up and push him aside. But there is no way out: he's coughing and can't hold his liquor, loses his luck at gambling, his girlfriend bails on him and everyone knows he is finished.

He tries to strike back at his replacement in a late scene of tense, unromantic violence, but what is the point? It's tragedy verging on the comic as two gangsters flail at each other while slipping in a bucket of spilled paint.

Yet, as is typical with Kurosawa, it's not all despair; there is something higher. The doctor, drunk as he is, yelling and throwing things, sometimes has small victories over disease and the brutish behavior of the mobsters. And even when love is hopeless, it is still love.

This is the first film Kurosawa felt he controlled, and his first with Mifune. The film source has a lot of problems and the DVD image is soft throughout.

Criterion DVD with an informative commentary track by Donald Richie, who was present at the filming and knew everyone. He gives background on postwar conditions and the director's struggle with the censors; one screenplay was rejected as "too democratic" by the Japanese censors during the war, and then by the allies as "too feudal" afterwards.

The parallels between Kurosawa and John Ford grow stronger; both would bully and pick on their actors. Neither cared for critics or big ideas. I believe Richie says that the doctor was inspired by Thomas Mitchell in Stagecoach.



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post #376 of 1426 Old 10-30-2010, 05:11 AM - Thread Starter
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The Omen (1976), directed by Richard Donner.

I hadn't seen this for decades, but the characters all seem so familiar, probably because they have been reused and lampooned in later movies: the troublesome photographer (David Warner), the sinister nanny (Billie Whitelaw), the guilty, crazed, incoherent priest (Patrick Troughton, Doctor Who #2), and the amoral scientist who knows just what to do (Leo McKern, the real #2).

Less stereotyped are parents Gregory Peck and Lee Remick, gradually realizing the awful truth the audience has known since before the lights went down. Remick fears she is going insane and sees a shrink. Peck really does go nuts; how else to work up the will to kill a child you have come to believe is the antichrist?

As religious horror it has some good aspects but is a bit pale compared to The Exorcist. A research topic: when (and why?) did children become proper subjects of evil in movies? Village of the Damned, The Bad Seed, that sort of thing.

As was common during that period they use some sort of lens filter that puts a star or cross on bright points of light; here they look like prismatic fans. It's an interesting effect but can't be good for the fine detail.

Jerry Goldsmith's score was, unbelievably, his only Oscar win. He has this really great "machinery of hell" motif when the car approaches the church wedding. The music is very "up front" throughout, more common then than now.

Available on Blu-ray.

Some thoughts on demoniacal horror movies. I care for only one small sub-genre, best represented by some of the episodes of Chris Carter's Millennium TV series with Lance Henricksen. In a lot of fiction (and rock music album covers) "evil" is represented as majestic and alluring, which of course it must be to be seductive. In the series evil is never any of those things, it is just... sad. The tragic, elegiac, autumnal tone to this treatment is appealing in a different way. I don't know if many movies take this approach; Fallen with Denzel Washington might be one.

Finally, Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman is a pretty good comic novel about the Beast and the Apocalypse. The first section contains a satire on The Omen: the son of Satan is supposed to be born to an American diplomatic family in Britain, but the babies are accidentally switched at the hospital...



-Bill
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post #377 of 1426 Old 11-01-2010, 05:30 AM
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We watched this Sat night from a DVR recording on TCM. A really great flick, and I'd have to agree with the TCM host that this was Sinatra's best performance. He recieved an Oscar nomination for it. The host said that Sinatra had a rep for not being on time, not liking rehersal, and being difficult to work with. In this movie its said he was on time everyday and worked hard every rehersal. It shows.

Sinatra, aka Frankie, plays a reformed heroin addict and card dealer trying to make it as a musican (drummer). He's married to a wife (Eleanor Parker) faking paralysis from an auto accident that Frankie blames himself for occuring. Suffice it to say that Frankie succumbs to temptation, constantly being tempted by a scumbag heroin dealer. Frankie has to dry out on his own while being the suspect of the heroin dealer's murder, with the aid of a girl friend (Kim Novak). I won't spoil the ending and say more, but this is a really good flick. I've never been a big fan of Sinatra flicks, but this is a good one.

According to the TCM host this flick helped break the self imposed Hollywood code for film making. Hollywood had established a self imposed code of sorts of what could be said for discussed in a film in order to prevent the government from stepping in and doing it for them. This flick was one that was on the taboo list of subjects according to TCM and helped usher in the end of the code. Seems mild by today's standards, but definitely racy for 1955.

This movie is available for netflix streaming. (Note, the DVD from netflix streaming says 1.33:1 full screen. The TCM showing was 16:9 widescreen. )
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post #378 of 1426 Old 11-01-2010, 05:35 AM
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This was our halloween flick. A Vincent Price Classic. He plays a man who felt rejected by a group of acting critics for not winning a festival award, the award going to a younger actor. In retaliation, Price acts out each critic's murder as if it were one of Shakespeare's plays, with the aid of some really strange people, his daughter included.

This is an all british flick filmed entirely in London. It is a somewhat humorous movie, with some of that classic dry, subtle british humor. All in all it was a pretty good watch, and an excellent performance by one of the masters of horror.

This movie is available for netflix streaming in 16:9 widescreen format.
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post #379 of 1426 Old 11-01-2010, 01:35 PM
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I've never been a big fan of Sinatra flicks, but this is a good one.

Yeah, that was the only one I ever liked myself.
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post #380 of 1426 Old 11-05-2010, 05:30 AM - Thread Starter
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The Burmese Harp (1956), directed by Kon Ichikawa.

When I was a boy I saw a clip from a Japanese film about a monk who was mixed up with some friendly soldiers somewhere in wartime Asia. The bit that stuck with me is when he finds a gem stone (I remembered it as a pearl, but it is actually a ruby) and someone tells him: "It must be a spirit of the dead." I've always wanted to find it again and here it is.

In the summer of 1945 the Japanese army in Burma is beaten but not ready to surrender. We follow one ragged unit as they try to escape the country. At the end of the war they become POWs and Private Mizushima volunteers to talk some hard cases out of their mountain stronghold. That doesn't go well. Most of them are killed and he nearly dies. Stealing a monk's robes, he wanders the country pretending to be a holy man. After much travel and travails he is no longer pretending. He takes as his mission the recovery and burial of the thousands of bodies of dead Japanese soldiers in Burma.

His comrades working in the prison camp have not forgotten him. Could he still be alive? That wandering monk looks just like him! How do we get a message to him? He has to return home with us!

It's a moving story of spiritual transformation. Adapted from a childrens' book, it retains some sweet elements: they communicate through song and exchange messages by training parrots to speak.

The score is rather good and there is quite a bit of choral singing. At one point the Japanese and British exchange versions of Home, Sweet Home, both groups sounding like Welsh men's choirs.

Coincidentally, I just finished rereading George Macdonald Fraser's Quartered Safe Out Here, his memoir of the war in the same time and place as the movie. The mission was to intercept the broken and disorganized fragments of the Japanese army trying to escape the dry belt of Burma, so it is the same story from the other side, reminding me of Clint Eastwood's pair of films about Iwo Jima.

Criterion DVD.



-Bill
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post #381 of 1426 Old 11-05-2010, 09:20 AM
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Just an FYI since it's being ignored elsewhere on the forums:

Criterion is releasing a BD special edition of The Night Of The Hunter on 11/16.

Edited to add: http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film/Review...the_hunter.htm
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post #382 of 1426 Old 11-08-2010, 11:30 AM
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Just an FYI since it's being ignored elsewhere on the forums:

Criterion is releasing a BD special edition of The Night Of The Hunter on 11/16.

Edited to add: http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film/Review...the_hunter.htm
At 36.49? No thanks. I'll wait for the next TCM showing.
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post #383 of 1426 Old 11-10-2010, 04:54 AM - Thread Starter
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Paths of Glory (1957), directed by Stanley Kubrick.

In WW1, when French army units refuse to leave their trenches for a suicidal charge, the general has three innocent soldiers selected for trial and execution. Colonel Drax (Kirk Douglas), their commander, defends them at the trial and makes a valiant attempt at blackmail to save them, to no avail.

It is indeed an anti-war film, not only in regard to the madness of trench warfare, but in the unjust and inhuman bureaucratic machinery that chews up everyone involved. As the top general says: we get a lot of pressure from the press and politicians for results and they don't care how it is done. The corruption extends from the top all the way down to the poor soldiers living and dying in the mud.

It is a vivid portrayal of the trenches with stark black and white photography. A long sequence shows a disastrous assault on an impossible target.

A good companion piece would be King & Country (1964), about the trial and execution of a British deserter in the same war, very grim.

A lot of the dialogue seems stagey, although Douglas copes with this better than some of the others. George Macready, playing the most villainous general, gives an over the top performance as a gold-plated self-serving hypocrite.

Watch Richard Anderson as the smarmy officer who serves as prosecutor at the trial, mugging for the court. He's not so funny at the execution itself.

The three condemned prisoners are Ralph Meeker, Joe Turkel, and Timothy Carey, actors I always watch for.

Kubrick married the woman who sings in the cafe at the end.

This is the first time Blu-ray has made a classic film look like an entirely different movie to me, and I have seen it several times before, including in a theater. The Criterion Blu-ray makes my MGM DVD look pathetic by comparison. I never saw the Criterion DVD, but the MGM is cropped to 1.33 (which is why I don't have thumbnails this time).

Even the mono audio is much improved, and I hardly ever notice that.

The Blu-ray has a subtitle track but no menu control for it.



-Bill
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post #384 of 1426 Old 11-10-2010, 09:21 AM - Thread Starter
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Paths of Glory (1957), directed by Stanley Kubrick.

The Criterion Blu-ray makes my MGM DVD look pathetic by comparison. I never saw the Criterion DVD, but the MGM is cropped to 1.33 (which is why I don't have thumbnails this time).

DVDBeaver says that the MGM DVD was open matte, not cropped: http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film/dvdrev...thsofglory.htm

On the Blu-ray their reviewer says:

Quote:


Visually this film has always been very impressive and now with a 'widescreen' 1080P transfer it was akin to seeing the Kubrick masterpiece all over again.

But he also thought the MGM DVD was not bad.

And was there no Criterion DVD before the Blu-ray appeared? Maybe that's why I didn't see it.

-Bill
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post #385 of 1426 Old 11-15-2010, 03:51 AM - Thread Starter
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A Breath of Scandal (1960), directed by Michael Curtiz.

A fairly bland romantic comedy. The setup is like Roman Holiday with a more hot-blooded princess (Sophia Loren). In 1907 Austria she is a royal merry widow who has been rusticated to a remote castle because of scandalous behavior at court. She tries her damnedest to seduce a straight-arrow American mining engineer, but later this complicates family plans for a royal wedding.

John Gavin is a problem: he is as stiff and handsome as a Ken doll, which is ironic because Loren is one of those rare women actually built like Barbie.

The timeless Angela Lansbury is a society cat, and Maurice Chevalier is the affable papa prince, curiously displaced from Paris. Some of the dialogue aims for Oscar Wilde wit, but it never really catches.

Just a bit of fluff, although richly made, and my wife says it's a keeper. Nice technicolor, especially in the vivid reds. Since this is Vienna we have elaborate costumes and waltzes in huge ballrooms. Rough dubbing in spots.

According to the wikipedia article, Loren had some of the scenes reshot after hours without Michael Curtiz's knowledge.

I never noticed before: she has large hands.



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post #386 of 1426 Old 11-18-2010, 03:45 AM - Thread Starter
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Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958), directed by Richard Brooks.

Dysfunctional family birthday party at a big house in the Delta. Lots of screaming and scheming over money. Fine performances all around, with Liz Taylor in her exceedingly gorgeous phase.

Grouchy, overbearing Big Daddy (Burl Ives) is dying of cancer and he and his wife are the last to know. Second son Brick (Paul Newman) has hit the bottle and either hates his wife Maggie (Taylor) or wants her to think he does. Either way: no sex no matter how much she begs. And no kids, which is a big issue in the family.

The back story is toned down a bit for the film, but in summary: Brick had a football pal named Skipper and Maggie suspected them of being too close. Much too close. So she seduced Skipper to break them up and he jumped from a high window to his death. And now Brick is drinking.

Judith Anderson is Big Momma and Jack Carson, who did comic bit parts for many years, is here the pathetic number one son, Gooper, who has always done everything his parents asked and is not loved or respected by either.

The camera needs to be inobtrusive in a story like this and it seems to practically vanish. It moves when the characters move and is still when they are, achieving different vertical perspectives for variety.

Tennessee Williams hated this film version of his play. I don't remember seeing it before but liked it more than I expected. And my Williams / O'Neill / Miller ticket is punched for another six months. Yeah!



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post #387 of 1426 Old 11-18-2010, 05:50 AM
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^^^ Mendacity!!
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post #388 of 1426 Old 11-18-2010, 05:57 AM - Thread Starter
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^^^ Mendacity!!

No-neck monster.

(Did you see QUINTET yet?)

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post #389 of 1426 Old 11-18-2010, 07:04 AM
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(Did you see QUINTET yet?)

-Bill

Yes. I stayed through the whole thing too. I actually didn't mind it, thought is was a reasonable attempt at the idea. Some obvious flaws but over-all a decent "art-house" piece.
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post #390 of 1426 Old 11-22-2010, 05:18 AM - Thread Starter
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The Sound of Music (1965), directed by Robert Wise.

Autocratic sea captain abducts innocent nun! Forced to sing folk songs in full view of children! A lurid tale of vice, seduction and puppetry during a Nazi jamboree!

I'd seen this before but had no memory of many beautiful scenes. The new Blu-ray is rather good and maybe that made me see it with new eyes.

In memory it is all syrup and silliness and it does begin with much goofiness in the convent. But there is a slow story arc of increasing drama: the distant father, growing romance, love and marriage and finally the tense Anschluss segment and escape from the Nazis. Being a family picture, sexual desire must be constrained, but suppression can be exciting, which I suppose is the secret of women's romance novels.

The stunning landscapes and rich, elaborate sets are a bonus, but the engine driving this production is Julie Andrews. Incredible star power and talent: that voice plus a mastery of her characters: awkward tomboy, conflicted nun, dancing governess, wife and mother.

Christopher Plummer is also an asset. He's 36 here, meant to be a bit older. We like it when the stern father softens a bit, but appreciate his toughness in the final act. It would be easy to dislike Eleanor Parker's Other Woman, but she plays her sympathetically and the Baroness is not a bad sort, doing the right thing in the end.

Traditionally, stage musicals have bad music and worse lyrics. Don't ask me why, I didn't do it. We have a mixture here, from the positively poor ("Maria" and "Do-Re-Mi") to the overblown ("Climb Every Mountain") and adequate ("My Favorite Things"), to the rather good (the title song and "I Must Have Done Something Good"). Apart from "The Lonely Goatherd" not much suggests 1930s Austria, but again that's the nature of stage musicals.

Available on Blu-ray.



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