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post #451 of 1347 Old 02-14-2011, 04:38 AM - Thread Starter
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The Americanization of Emily (1964), directed by Arthur Hiller.

Surprisingly cynical comedy about honor and cowardice, and how love copes with both.

James Garner is a proud coward. He sees life as it "is", not how it "ought" to be and can find no reason why he should fight and die in something as abstract as WW2. So he works as a dog robber, supplying all his admiral's needs while living well himself far from the fighting. This is not a comical pose; he's serious about what he wants.

The twist is that his crazy admiral arranges for him to be the first man on the beach during the Normandy Invasion.

Julie Andrews is his British driver, much disapproving of their sybaritic lifestyle in the face of years of deprivation and sacrifice in England. Screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky tends to have his characters rant and speechify and has Garner reply:

Quote:
You American-haters bore me to tears, Miss Barham. I've dealt with Europeans all my life. I know all about us parvenus from the States who come over here and race around your old Cathedral towns with our cameras and Coca-cola bottles... Brawl in your pubs, paw at your women, and act like we own the world. We over-tip, we talk too loud, we think we can buy anything with a Hershey bar. I've had Germans and Italians tell me how politically ingenuous we are, and perhaps so. But we haven't managed a Hitler or a Mussolini yet. I've had Frenchmen call me a savage because I only took half an hour for lunch. Hell, Miss Barham, the only reason the French take two hours for lunch is because the service in their restaurants is lousy. The most tedious lot are you British. We crass Americans didn't introduce war into your little island. This war, Miss Barham to which we Americans are so insensitive, is the result of 2000 years of European greed, barbarism, superstition, and stupidity. Don't blame it on our Coca-cola bottles. Europe was a going brothel long before we came to town.

The character lectures and blasts everyone within range, including war widows. It's a 60s message: nonconformist, anti-war and anti-military, or more exactly, anti-officer. Still, the touch is lighter than say M*A*S*H*. Chayefsky doesn't hate the crazy admiral, and he knows war is necessary, he just doesn't want it ennobled or glorified.

Normally in romantic comedy both the man and woman must evolve and accommodate each other (Pride and Prejudice is the textbook) and Julie Andrews does, finally accepting his morals. But he doesn't change apart from a little noble wavering in the last scene, but she talks him out of it.

Andrews is incandescently lovely. I would rather have had more of her and less of the drunken admirals and interservice rivalry plot. This was just after Mary Poppins and before The Sound of Music. She had such a wholesome "good girl" image during this period that is odd to see her mauling and being mauled in passion scenes. I keep meaning to read her autobiography. She was under 10 years old during the War and I've heard she would give performances in the underground shelters during air raids.

The wikipedia article says that in the novel, "Americanization" refers to trading sex for chocolate bars, stockings, etc. That doesn't happen to Emily in the movie: she's in love. So is he, and says he would die for her, coward that he is.

I notice the houses have no blackout curtains. Didn't that continue throughout the War?



-Bill
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post #452 of 1347 Old 02-14-2011, 06:10 AM
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I know this isn't a comments thread but this is one of my favorite movies. I own a copy and now I want to watch it (yet) again! I'll keep this short.

This is Julie Andrews' favorite movie.

Also, it was the first of several movies in which James Garner co-starred with her. I recall listening to the commentary track on Victor Victoria in which Blake Edwards, Andrews' late husband, and she extolled the acting of Garner. They remain close friends.

Blackout curtains may well have been discarded after the Battle of Britain was over - considered by the Brits to be October 31, 1940. The English had established air superiority and Hitler then turned his attention to the Eastern front.

Garner incidentally served with the US Army in Korea for 14 months and received two Purple Hearts. So his pacifist speech didn't reflect his personal views.

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"If you think you can, or think you can't, you're probably right." Mark Twain
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post #453 of 1347 Old 02-15-2011, 04:40 AM - Thread Starter
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The Rocking Horse Winner (1949), directed by Anthony Pelissier.

Young Paul has a nice family with a suburban house and garden, but his father gambles and his mother spends too much. The house whispers to him "need more money, people are laughing at you." If he rides his toy horse in a frenzy he is able to predict horse race winners. But the money is never enough and he rides so hard he burns out.

From the DH Lawrence story. John Mills produced and plays the working-class handyman and ex-jockey. Vivid score by William Alwyn.

If made a few years later they would have played up the occult thriller nature of the story. As it is, it's a mildly dark fantasy with a few striking scenes. In a bitterly sad bit, Paul's adult partners continue to place their bets even after he falls ill. The theme is the sins of the parents visited on the young, with intimations of the wild ride of puberty everyone must endure.

Great job by the kid, and by Valerie Hobson as the mother, who is initially irresponsible but has almost psychic knowledge of the crisis after it is too late.

It's been ages since I read Lawrence, but I remember this one and I recall his short stories were rather good and his novels bad.

The DVD includes a 23 minute short version: The Rocking Horse Winner (1998), directed by Michael Almereyda and featuring Eric Stoltz and Paula Malcomson (later in Deadwood). It was shot in "Pixel Vision" with a PXL-2000 toy digital camera producing 120x90 resolution at 15 frames per second. It's interesting as experimental low-rez film art.



-Bill
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post #454 of 1347 Old 02-21-2011, 06:40 AM - Thread Starter
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They Might Be Giants (1971), directed by Anthony Harvey.

George C. Scott is a looney who thinks he is Sherlock Holmes. As such he actually functions better than anyone else around him. He has doubts: he can't play the violin, has no memory of his earlier life, and is told that he is actually a judge deranged by the death of his wife. I think he understands that Holmes and Prof Moriarity aren't real; the question is how much does that bother him?

But when he meets a new shrink, Dr Mildred Watson (Joanne Woodward), he knows his companion and chronicler has arrived and we're off on a zany search for Moriarity. Coincidentally, a menacing gangster really is after Holmes...

Low budget and haphazard, with on location sound and filmed in the streets of New York City, it has goofy charm and a few laughs and tears. The last 10 minutes have a painfully absurd comic climax in a supermarket, but then a strangely ominous closing.

Many familiar faces: M. Emmet Walsh and F. Murray Abraham (his first screen credit) have small roles.

In a small way it's a message film: a revolt of the loonies and disaffected against the boredom and indifference of mundane life. And an acceptable way of arranging romance between Holmes and Watson.

John Barry score, alternately romantic and daffy.

The DVD is long out of print and Netflix doesn't have it.

Quote:



Man: I thought you were dead.

Holmes: The Falls at Reichenbach. I came back in the sequel.

* * *

Holmes: Listen to the misery. It means we're getting close.



-Bill
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post #455 of 1347 Old 02-21-2011, 10:18 AM - Thread Starter
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A Bridge Too Far (1977), directed by Richard Attenborough.

Ambitious presentation of Operation Market Garden, the Allied attempt to win WW2 in 1944 by dropping 35,000 paratroopers in enemy territory. They would seize the bridges around three Dutch towns and hold them for an armored relief column coming up the single available road.

What could go wrong? Quite a lot on both sides. It was a bold plan that failed.

Large cast of many known actors, including Sean Connery, Anthony Hopkins, Robert Redford and Michael Caine. There is no one lead, and so many characters to follow that we spend little time on human interest side plots. It's mainly history. The actors fit their roles, although I think Gene Hackman looks out of place as a Polish general, and it's hard to take Elliot Gould seriously in anything. Redford needs a haircut.

I find it pretty satisfying as a war history/adventure. It's sort of a sequel to The Longest Day, which was also adapted from a Cornelius Ryan book. The wikipedia article has details on the cast and the historical characters they play.

We see gliders being rigged for towing but none actually in the air.

Available on Blu-ray, often on sale.



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post #456 of 1347 Old 02-22-2011, 04:30 AM - Thread Starter
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The Whisperers (1967), written and directed by Bryan Forbes.

Bleak, sad story of a poor, crazy old woman (Edith Evans). She collects rubbish and piles of newspapers, insists she is some sort of aristocrat, and hears voices in her slum apartment (we don't).

She has surprising encounters with crime. Her no good son hides stolen loot at her place. She is robbed of that by a delightful family and spends time in the hospital. The welfare people find her long missing husband (Eric Portman) and send him back to live with her. He absconds with a satchel of gambler's money, leaving her to face the music. Fine performances from these two.

Filmed in Manchester, it's an example of grubby kitchen sink realism, which I've seen lampooned as "It's Grim Up North".

John Barry score.

Here's a mystery I can't explain. She makes her daily visit to the police station to describe what her "voices" are saying, and to report that someone is rifling her apartment when she's out. I could swear the Sgt tells her "Inspector Maigret is working on it full time." There is a book, Maigret and the Mad Woman, which has similar events, but it was not published until three years later.

The DVD is 4:3 letterboxed, 1.66 OAR, an MGM DVD-R available for rent from http://www.classicflix.com/.



-Bill
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post #457 of 1347 Old 02-23-2011, 06:05 AM - Thread Starter
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Don't Look Now (1973), directed by Nicolas Roeg.

Quote:


It's ok. I've found the real world. It's down here. Come on.

After the drowning death of their young daughter, Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie go to Venice where he is restoring a church. (It's always "death in Venice", isn't it?) They meet two dotty English sisters, one of whom is blind and psychic. She says their daughter is still with them and happy, but that the husband must leave Venice or die.

The wife is credulous and the husband skeptical, but he starts seeing things, like glimpses of the little girl and premonitions of his own death. He's in pursuit of mysteries, but it is not clear what he's chasing, or what he will find.

Some movies are explicit and some suggestive. This is very much the latter sort. Nothing is really explained, there is no solution. Intimations of surrounding mysteries suggest the mysteries of life and death, but they are never clearly shown.

The film has a floating, dream-like quality throughout. Roeg was a cinematographer before directing, but his approach here is less formal than in Walkabout. Lots of handheld camera work, improvised scenes, quick cuts, clever juxtapositions and non-linear sequences.

The stars do a famous nudity and passion scene, quite controversial at the time. See the wikipedia article for details.

Christie definitely has a spot on the pre-1979 babes list. Love her nose. Sutherland looks like a 1970s porn star; it must be the hair.

From a Daphne Du Maurier story.



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post #458 of 1347 Old 02-24-2011, 04:17 AM - Thread Starter
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Bonnie and Clyde (1967), directed by Arthur Penn.

It's a strange story. A couple and their gang became folk heroes for robbing stores and banks and murdering over 10 people. Thirty years later this became a semi-comic film vehicle to celebrate the late 60s values of youth, revolution and cleansing violence, along with the obligation to denigrate straight society as much as possible. The outlaw as hero, true representative of the common people.

What's also strange is that it works so well. We always excuse gun-crazy when it is accompanied by love-crazy. It's mainly an exterior story in that we don't get much of the inner life of the characters. The exception is Faye Dunaway, who projects dangerous sexual heat from the first scene. Warren Beatty tells her "I'm not much of a lover-boy", meaning he's not capable, which causes them considerable frustration. They work it out just before the end. The sexual innuendoes with guns are pretty obvious.

Notable at the time for explicit violence: people being shot and producing blood.

It's a much fictionalized story, as described in the wikipedia. Most interesting is the case of Texas Ranger Frank Hamer (played by Denver Pyle): "In 1968, Hamer's widow and son sued the movie producers for defamation of character over his portrayal and were awarded an out of court settlement in 1971."

The soundtrack: bluegrass wasn't invented until the 1940s. O Brother Where Art Thou used mostly appropriate period music, but all the reviewers described it as bluegrass.

Available on Blu-ray.



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post #459 of 1347 Old 02-24-2011, 11:00 AM - Thread Starter
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Night and the City (1950), directed by Jules Dassin.

Harry Fabian (Richard Widmark) is a hyperkinetic "sports promoter", a cheap hustler with big talk and big plans. He's a modern man-boy, an "artist without an art" who never gets a break and is always mooching from his friends (so-called) and his girl (lovely Gene Tierney), a nightclub singer. We don't even know where he lives; he's always on the move.

Harry devises a cunning plan to dominate wrestling in London. All he has to do is lie to and cheat everyone in sight. For all his scheming he is tragically oblivious to what is happening around him: he is playing games with people who will kill him for a nickel. He's still running at the end, being hunted.

Mean and gritty, this is deep in the "we're screwed" end of the film noir pool. A critic at the time described it as "little more than a melange of maggoty episodes". It's not true that there are no sympathetic characters. Gene Tierney and Hugh Marlowe are decent and likeable, although they are barely in it. Herbert Lom, gangster boss, honors his father, a proud champion wrestler of the old school, so that's one commandment obeyed. The old man himself has a fierce, uncompromising sense of honor.

Mike Mazurki, last seen here in Donovan's Reef, is "the Strangler", and also served as an uncredited wrestling technical advisor. He was a pro not only in wrestling, but also in football and basketball (6'5"). Both he and Stanislaus Zbyszko (the old man) were the real deal and perform a long, brutal wrestling match.

Franz Waxman score. Remade in 1992.

Criterion DVD with an informative commentary track. Quite a lot about Dassin's struggle with the blacklist. This is the American cut, the director's preferred version.



-Bill
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post #460 of 1347 Old 02-25-2011, 05:40 AM - Thread Starter
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Sometimes a Great Notion (1970), directed by Paul Newman.

Aka Never Give a Inch.

Sometimes I live in the country
Sometimes I live in the town
Sometimes I get a great notion
To jump into the river an' drown

--

Goodnight Irene During a logging strike in Oregon, an independent family continues working. The union and town are getting mad and it looks like there will be blood, because the Stampers are tougher than tough and will never give in.

I've seen criticism of the movie from fans of Ken Kesey's mammoth novel (its the one you can't find in bookstores), but given the time constraints I think it is an admirable effort. Well photographed, and the house, river and woods are just as I had imagined them.

They don't develop one important plot element: young Leland's (Michael Sarrazin) desire for revenge against his older half brother, Hank (Paul Newman). Hank had an affair with Leland's mother and Leland decides to bed Hank's wife, Viv (Lee Remick) in return. Which he does the night of the day that Joe Ben (Richard Jaeckel) dies and old Henry (Henry Fonda) loses his arm. I read that a love scene between Remick and Sarrazin was shot but not included.

There are also brutal fist fights in the book. The film substitutes a motorcycle race, picnic, football game and then a fist fight.

I remembered two scenes from having seen it years ago. First, the great opening when the family sees off an unwelcome visitor by throwing dynamite at his boat. The second is the death of Joe Ben: trapped under a log in the river with the tide coming in. What do you do? It's heartbreaking.

Joe Ben is a wonderful character in the book. Always happy, the first to pitch in and help, in love with his wife and family, praising the Lord throughout the day.

Old Henry is crazier in the book. Originally set around 1960, it looks like they moved it to 10 years later. In a minor bit of circularity, Paul Newman is mentioned once in the text.

Costumes by Edith Head. Henry Mancini score. They use country music for the loggers, but both Hank and Leland are jazz men. That doesn't fit with our preconception of these men and that place, but it would have been interesting to try it.

My thumbnails are from a region 2 PAL disc which I bought when I couldn't find a region 1 DVD. Now I see that Amazon has a Universal Vault Series DVD-R.



-Bill
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post #461 of 1347 Old 02-25-2011, 05:52 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wmcclain View Post

Sometimes a Great Notion (1970), directed by Paul Newman.



My thumbnails are from a region 2 PAL disc which I bought when I couldn't find a region 1 DVD. Now I see that Amazon has a Universal Vault Series DVD-R.

-Bill

Netflix has this for streaming only, but it's from "StarzPlay" so the quality probably sucks.
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post #462 of 1347 Old 02-25-2011, 08:19 AM
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Hey, it's all about content, isn't it?

Also, since I'm horrible at writing reviews, I'll just recommend this movie:

The Killing (1956), a Stanley Kubrick film - unknown to me. It's a decent heist movie with Sterling Hayden and Vince Edwards(!) aka Ben Casey. This popped up on MGMHD.

larry

Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work. -- Thomas Alva Edison
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post #463 of 1347 Old 02-25-2011, 11:18 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wmcclain View Post

Sometimes a Great Notion (1970), directed by Paul Newman.

Aka Never Give a Inch.

...I remembered two scenes from having seen it years ago. First, the great opening when the family sees off an unwelcome visitor by throwing dynamite at his boat. The second is the death of Joe Ben: trapped under a log in the river with the tide coming in. What do you do? It's heartbreaking.

You're right, that was a memorably disturbing death scene. Imo, made so by the performances of the actors involved (Jaeckel and Newman) and the fact that it might have been avoided if only Joe Ben (Jaeckel) hadn't been clowning around at a certain point. Every time I see this movie the impossible idea crosses my mind that maybe one of those small details leading up to his death will change and it'll turn out ok this time...
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post #464 of 1347 Old 02-26-2011, 11:16 AM - Thread Starter
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Pickup on South Street (1953), written and directed by Samuel Fuller.

Pickpocket Richard Widmark acquires some top secret microfilm on a crowded subway and now everyone wants to meet him: the courier, the Feds, and a Red spy ring. He's really sleazy, but with Crooks vs Commies, do we even have a choice who to root for?

Poor Jean Peters gets bashed up and down, all over this picture. First she's the innocent dupe of the commies. When she tries to get her stuff back from Widmark he knocks her cold, wakes her up by pouring beer on her face, romances her, then slaps her around and sends her out for piles of money. And she still falls for him! Then her commie contact beats her up, practically demolishing her apartment, and shoots her. And we still have a Hollywood happy ending!

It's a tough story, but a bit spoiled by too much tough talk and snappy patter.

Thelma Ritter is fine as a stoolie with a heart who will talk to just about anyone for a price. Except to the commies, which is patriotic but a tactical mistake.

Picking a purse has never before seemed as intimate a violation as shown in the first five minutes.

Criterion DVD.




-Bill
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post #465 of 1347 Old 02-28-2011, 04:27 AM - Thread Starter
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The Naked Prey (1966), directed by Cornel Wilde.

Pure survival adventure story with very little adulteration, although the Hollywood conventions are torqued a bit. Set "about 100 years ago".

Big game guide Cornel Wilde has an arrogant and stupid client who insults some local African warriors, who then massacre the safari. The survivors are taken back to the village and tortured and killed in all sorts of inventive and festive ways; one is battered and baked up extra crispy.

Because Wilde has been respectful, stoic and uncomplaining, they treat him better: stripped naked, he gets a head start. But when he kills his first pursuer they are really pissed and are no longer playing games. He runs and runs and runs. And fights. And runs and fights some more. This goes on for days.

You know how when watching thrillers everyone yells at the movie in disgust when the feeble good guys don't pick up the villain's gun? Not a problem here. He takes everything they've got. The spears are particularly impressive: like steel broadswords with throwing handles.

Wilde was 54 years old and still impressively buff. He was ill but wouldn't stop production. During the segment when he's supposed to be naked we can see he's wearing flesh-colored briefs.

Exciting African drumming music throughout. Impressive widescreen vistas of the plains.

The Africans in pursuit are all well drawn individuals and show a range of emotions and character, which is unusual in this type of story. They are obviously unhappy that their leader (Ken Gampu) has become obsessed with this chase. They aren't actually villains: the white people have trespassed and now quite properly have to pay. But: you'd think the warriors would know not to step on twigs that make snapping noises at the wrong moment: Mark Twain zinged J. Fenimore Cooper for that one.

A lot of real hunting: elephants shot and butchered, deer stabbed, and also wildlife fighting, killing and devouring each other. This aspect reminds me of Walkabout, although that story is somewhat reversed: the European kids find aid and friendship in the wilderness.

Wilde does have one tender encounter: he rescues a girl from slavers and she saves him later. This is verging on cute but she soon wisely takes off on her own. Both the slave raid and the "we'll give you a head start" motifs were reused in Gibson's Apocalypto.

The story is said to be based on Colter's Run, relocated from the American Plains to southern Africa.

Criterion DVD. The commentary track has quite a lot on race relations and the film's combination of traditional Dark Continent fantasies with new thinking about dignity and respect for non-white people. Wilde receives praise as an innovative director.



-Bill
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post #466 of 1347 Old 03-01-2011, 05:13 AM - Thread Starter
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Canyon Passage (1946), directed by Jacques Tourneur.

A traditional western in an unconventional setting. Starting with convincing river-of-mud streets in Portland Oregon, we move to a new town among the trees on a mountain side. They have just about everything except a sheriff.

Some gorgeous landscapes and the soundstage sets are particularly lush this time. Rich Technicolor.

The plot is a jumble. Dana Andrews is torn between Susan Hayward and Patricia Roc. His best pal Brian Donlevy is no good. Hoagy Carmichael sings a bit. Andy Devine (using his own kids) is a homesteader and we have a nice cabin raising and wedding. Indians are on the warpath but they have their reasons and we are pleased when they catch Ward Bond and scalp him. Horses are shot, cabins and town burned, women and children massacred. But our leads are together at the end.

Did you know: in his books, Ian Fleming wrote that James Bond looked like a more homely Hoagy Carmichael.

The Texas Rangers (1936) is on the same DVD.



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post #467 of 1347 Old 03-04-2011, 06:34 AM - Thread Starter
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The Red Tent (1969), directed by Mikhail Kalatozov.

In 1928, General Umberto Nobile (Peter Finch) led a disastrous airship expedition to the North Pole. Forty years later he has many sleepless nights and convenes panels of ghosts to try and judge him over and over. The story is told in flashbacks during one of these long nights.

It's an expensive, elaborate effort at mixing together several plot lines: (1) the expedition and survival story itself, (2) the multinational rescue effort, (3) a brief love story with Claudia Cardinale, and (4) the General's guilt and desire to justify his decisions.

Interleaving these lines tends to drain the drama from the survival story, which is the best part, although strangely undeveloped given all the trouble they went through to film it. The film was a joint Italian/Russian effort and there is a subplot on the rescue from the Russian side. Some gorgeous arctic aerial photography.

According to the wikipedia article, production was contentious because the producer wanted more scenes for his wife, Cardinale. You can spot these and they are Dumb with a capital "Duh".

Sean Connery is a low-key Amundsen, the famous explorer who died during the rescue attempt. His body was never found. The ghost of Amundsen tells Nobile he must forgive himself.

Ennio Morricone score. Very rough dubbing of the dialogue.

Adventure and survival stories make me think about national character: how do different cultures view themselves, and how do they present themselves when faced with extreme conditions? Here, the Italians seem emotional and the lone Swede is suicidal. The Russian rescuers are hard working and warm hearted. Anglo-Saxons would (no doubt) have been more stoic and systematic.



-Bill
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post #468 of 1347 Old 03-05-2011, 06:08 AM - Thread Starter
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Battle of Britain (1969), directed by Guy Hamilton.

Another large-scale, technically accomplished historical reenactment film. Hitler wants to destroy the British air force in preparation for an invasion. The Brits hold on, barely. Which is a victory, although the Luftwaffe advisor (who ran the operation for the Germans during the war) would never admit that. How the Brits won against such odds is left a bit vague. It was very close.

Some stunning flying and fighting sequences over the areas where they actually occurred, with nice shots of the Dover cliffs and beaches.

We meet a lot of pilots on both the German and British side, but (a) it's hard to tell who they are when wearing oxygen masks, (2) most get killed before we know them well anyway.

A few bits of human interest, including an irritating romance subplot with Susannah York and Christopher Plummer. They argue a lot and then it is just left hanging.

Available on Blu-ray and often on sale.



-Bill
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post #469 of 1347 Old 03-07-2011, 07:03 AM - Thread Starter
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Alien (1979), directed by Ridley Scott.

I saw Alien 20 or 30 times the summer it opened. Really. I was 24, a serious life-long SF reader and had a big circle of like-minded movie-going friends.

It was the best opening night ever. Audience is essential and we had a packed, motivated crowd. As was my habit for big films I'd arrived early at the fine Cinerama theater and bought about 15 tickets, handing them out to friends who saved me a seat. During the film all the tough "show me the monster" guys were running from the theater, crying. After the whole wrenching experience we drifted out to Howard Hanson's Symphony #2 ("Romantic"). Other friends were waiting in line for the second show and we just couldn't speak to them. Then down to King Ying Lo's to talk it all out and take our revenge on shellfish.

When everyone else was out of town I'd drive down the interstate to the grand theater and sit through double showings. I had this old junker vehicle with a rag stuffed in the driver's side vent. One night, driving back after a double showing, I felt a blast of cold air and this thing scuttling up my leg. You think I didn't scream and scream and scream? Just like a little girl.

It's not the same with home theater.

Any genre film is going to have fans who enjoy that genre. We were desperate for seriously toned SF and although this is in large part a monster-in-the-closet horror film, we were nuts for it anyway. But its genre should not obscure what fine movie-making we have here. Lighting, tone and music were influential for years afterward.

Tremendous cast with no obvious leading character at the outset.

Jerry Goldsmith's score is an absolute barn burner. People were terrified even before the action started. Who invented that "blowing over bottles" sound effect?

The color scheme on the Blu-ray is distinctly more blue than I remember, and in this case I remember it pretty well. The change makes the image brighter, cleaner and less grungy, unfortunately subtracting what we used to call the "Giger-green", named for the principal artist. That's the unwholesome industrial-organic color of the Alien itself; now it is just a neutral, much safer color.

The stereo track sounds most like what I remember, but that could be my ears or the theater where I saw it.

Finally: that screech the chestburster makes? I encountered that in nature once and learned where the effect came from. You might say I jumped.



-Bill
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post #470 of 1347 Old 03-08-2011, 04:46 AM - Thread Starter
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Romeo and Juliet (1936), directed by George Cukor.

Lavish treatment, not entirely stage-bound but still pretty formal. MGM was racing with Warner to put big Shakespeare on the screen. The other studio had Reinhardt's A Midsummer Night's Dream (1935). Neither film was very successful.

The lovers are supposed to be teenagers and our actors are quite a bit older. In the case of Leslie Howard it gives us a more mature, good humored and reflective Romeo than we might otherwise have. Norma Shearer is more of a problem. Apparently the cast was intimidated by some high-culture theater consultants and she particularly was shocked into artificially stiff blandness. She's better at the tragic than the romantic bits.

They spend time on a horror-movie segment that often gets skipped over: Juliet considering the sleeping potion. Is it really poison, and is the Friar trying to cover his tracks? What if it works and she awakens in the tomb surrounded by mouldering corpses? Only the vision of Romeo been attacked by her cousin's ghost enables her to go through with it: she has to be there to save him.

The courtyard scenes are presented in front of a bordello, to the vast entertainment of the prostitutes (when "the bawdy hand of the dial is on the prick of noon").

John Barrymore as Mercutio is madcap throughout. Andy Devine (in tights!) is given a prominent part. Speaking of prominent parts: Benvolio wears a monstrous fringed doily in front of his crotch. I don't know they were trying to conceal but it's distracting.

A bit of Tchaikovsky ballet music is used for the balcony scenes. For the wedding night we do better than a simple fade to black: first stars, then flowing water, flowers, stars again and then the dawn. We find Romeo leaning on the bed, but with both feet on the floor.

This is a production of impressive profiles: Leslie Howard, Barrymore (famously), craggy-featured C. Aubrey Smith (born 1863), and Basil Rathbone. Even long-faced Edna May Oliver would be hard to mistake in silhouette.

I have capsule reviews of other versions of the play here.



-Bill
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post #471 of 1347 Old 03-09-2011, 04:33 AM - Thread Starter
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The Naked Kiss (1964), written, produced and directed by Samuel Fuller.

A combination of the lurid and sugary sweet, with awkward, sometimes nonsensical dialogue. Rough, amateurish performances. People say this is the whole point of Sam Fuller, but it was not always so.

A tough prostitute arrives in a small town and decides to change her ways. She becomes an angel of mercy at a children's hospital, but the local police detective continues to harass her. She's going to marry the local rich guy but discovers he is a child molester. Well, hell: got to kill him, go to jail and be charged with murder.

The title refers to the way a psycho kisses: she can tell there is something wrong with him.

Criterion Blu-ray. As always with Fuller, the disc extras are worth watching. He was quite a character. He liked the age of studio moguls because they could get it done. Later everybody and his dog had to be involved and he couldn't get pictures made anymore.



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post #472 of 1347 Old 03-11-2011, 04:34 AM - Thread Starter
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Belle de Jour (1967), directed by Luis Buñuel.

After a year of marriage, Catherine Deneuve still cannot make love to her husband, an understanding and very patient doctor. Despite lack of practical experience, she has a rich masochistic fantasy life and secretly starts working as a prostitute in the afternoons. Of course. A young gangster becomes obsessed with her and it does not end well.

We can't always separate her dream life from her work at the bordello, where she explores the nearer and farther shores of unnatural juncture (*). She is mysterious and unreadable; we don't know what she is thinking or what she wants. It's the old story with men and women.

At first it seems she cannot have sexual pleasure without being forced, but then she just becomes a sex addict. Or maybe she's in love with the gangster.

No (well, very little) actual nudity and the sex takes place off frame or in the next room. Decades ago I saw a showing of this with an crowd of unhappy college kids who were throwing things at the screen, displeased at watching a French film without nudity. They were also disgusted by the gangster's poor firearm handling skills.

According to the wikipedia article, the title literally means "daylily", which is also slang for a prostitute who works during the day.

The DVD is 4:3 letterboxed, but retains the 1.66 original aspect ratio.

(*) Jack Vance, one of the Lyonesse books.



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post #473 of 1347 Old 03-14-2011, 04:22 AM - Thread Starter
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That Forsyte Woman (1949), directed by Compton Bennett.

Rich adaptation of the first part of The Forsyte Saga. It's all relationships, conversations, and the shuffle of partners: soap opera of a superior sort. Galsworthy won a Nobel Prize for Literature, and the film/TV adaptations have all been well done.

It will be of most interest to people who already know the story but dull for anyone else. Like any well-established mythology (Shakespeare's plays, Sherlock Holmes, Robin Hood) we watch the same stories over and over again just to see how a new treatment looks. I've been wanting to see this one for years because of the older Errol Flynn's rare opportunity for a dramatic role.

This is just an unrestored Warner Archive title, but the Technicolor image sometimes has amazing dimensionality.

The characters:
  • Soames: Errol Flynn. Unloveable lawyer, businessman and art collector. Flynn is fine, making us wish he had been allowed a wider range of roles before hard living destroyed his health.
  • Irene: Greer Garson. Music teacher and a great beauty. Soames pesters her until she marries him without love. This is her crime. (An editorial comment from my wife: Redheads are difficult to costume and they do a good job here).
  • Jolyon: Walter Pidgeon. Renegade artist and black sheep. He married three times and had three families, complicating the Forsyte family tree. (He represents the author, by the way). Pidgeon is distinguished and humane, but I have a hard time believing him in a romantic role.
  • Bosinney: Robert Young. Bohemian architect, ladies love him. Young is ok here, but I can't get past "Father Knows Best" and "Marcus Welby".
  • June: Janet Leigh (age 22). Jolyon's grown daughter. A tragic case: every man she loved -- fiance, father, even her grandfather -- loved Irene more.

This version skips a key event: Soames wants a son and Irene is cold, locking her door against him. One night he uses force, an act which is never forgiven. The consequences reverberate down the decades: in the next generation the young people try to reconstruct the ancient history of the two branches of the family: What is this feud about? Why are we not allowed to know each other?

The books have been done twice as miniseries:

If you want an intro to the story, the 2002 version is well done, although the 1967 series is more complete. I read the books after seeing both. My secret to plowing through massive tomes that would be sleep-inducing at bedtime: audiobooks. You can be driving or doing chores and still go all Galsworthy.

Warner Archive title, available for rent from http://www.classicflix.com/.

`

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post #474 of 1347 Old 03-15-2011, 04:24 AM - Thread Starter
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Fuzz (1972), directed by Richard A. Colla.

This is another film that will mostly interest readers of the book, or books, in this case the long running 87th Precinct series. The IMDB rating is a low 5.5, so I would guess most viewers are not fans. True, it's not much, but I kind of like the proto-"Hill Street Blues" thing. The comedy is more absurd than I would have imagined, but the author wrote the screenplay: Ed McBain aka Evan Hunter, originally Salvatore Albert Lombino. Who knows if the result is what he intended?

We have the mean, grubby streets of the big city (El trains!) and the chaotic squad room full of police "characters". The painters are in this week, making everything more difficult. Detective Burt Reynolds is a decoy bum, trying to catch kids who are setting bums on fire. Detective Raquel Welch is on rape decoy. Both have too much star power for this sort of film, but that's show biz.

Yul Brynner is the Deaf Man, a criminal mastermind with a murderous extortion scheme. In the books he pops up every few years and they never catch him. He's a genius, but crazier each time. He kills without compunction and has a strange power over women.

The book had more plot apparatus to support the big "everyone arrives at once" shootout, but I don't recall the details.

Set in Boston. The 87th Precinct is actually in the fictional city of Isola, a parallel Manhattan.

The "setting bums on fire" scene caused controversy when some kids really did it. And look at that nifty little punch-card phone dialer! I saw one on TV once when I was a kid and never again.

Funky score by David Grusin.

The DVD is 4:3 letterboxed. Some of the night scenes are poor.



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post #475 of 1347 Old 03-16-2011, 04:47 AM - Thread Starter
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Girl of the Night (1960), directed by Joseph Cates.

I wanted to see Anne Francis (1930-2011) again. She had a stressed beauty with both bright and dark sides.

Here she's a call girl with nice clothes and apartment, slavishly in love with her pimp boyfriend. Trade is getting rough and she thinks of suicide. Over many months a friendly shrink (Lloyd Nolan) helps her get out. This part is unexpectedly good and quite realistic: it takes a long time to acquire self-knowledge and self-respect. It's a lot of work getting away from the boyfriend and into another job and sticking with it.

It's a minor film but earnestly done. There are some fine scenes but the rest is like a standard B picture of the period, almost as if they had two different people on the camera.

A madam explains the paradox of prostitution: men pay for the illusion of love, but payment destroys the illusion. The trick is to get them to see the one and forget the other.

Francis clues in a new girl who is having qualms: "It only counts if you feel something."

Dramatic Sol Kaplan score. The story is based on a nonfiction bestseller.

Warner Archive title, available for rent from http://www.classicflix.com/. The disc label says "Remastered Edition" and the image is rather nice.



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post #476 of 1347 Old 03-18-2011, 04:58 AM - Thread Starter
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The Wrong Box (1966), produced and directed by Bryan Forbes.

A retro-Victorian madcap adventure, based on the R.L. Stevenson book which was already zany (and funnier).

Eccentric brothers John Mills and Ralph Richardson are the last surviving members of a tontine: whoever is last alive gets a fortune. Grandkids Peter Cook and Dudley Moore are motivated to ensure the correct outcome, while bewildered Michael Caine tries to do the right thing.

There are a few good bits and one-liners, but it is otherwise pretty feeble. Peter Sellers is great as a crazed doctor with too many cats. The police detective does an amazing Charles Laughton imitation. Caine and Nanette Newman (the director's wife) struggle with repressed passion at every turn, but it drags on.

John Barry score.

I'm not going to try to unravel the DVD availability of this title. I had several entries in my want list from over the years that never appeared. I was about to import a PAL version from the UK when I found this Sony DVD-R at Deep Discount; I didn't even know they carried manufactured on demand discs.

The IMDB says that if you like this film you'll also like Kill Bill vol 2 and The Plague of the Zombies. Marvels of productivity, these computing machines.



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post #477 of 1347 Old 03-21-2011, 06:56 AM - Thread Starter
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The Magnificent Seven (1960), produced and directed by John Sturges.

An adventure fantasy without any really serious moments. We spend a lot of time building up the heroic cast. (Could the same thing be said about Kurosawa's original? Have to think about that. Also reflect on which is better for seducing the viewer into a mythical setting: b&w 4:3 or color scope ratio? No answer to that one, I'm sure).

I never noticed before: the moving camera work during the village battle scenes is quite good. The pace flags when the gunfighters stop for self-reflection. In an odd twist our heroes have their butts handed to them and are kicked out of town, coming back for the big final 10 minutes.

They're all tough guys who know just what to do, that old "army buddy" thing they always have.

Curiously, Yul Brynner, a Russian/Jewish/Mongolian/Swiss Romani, is the master gunfighter and team leader. Horst Buchholz ("the German James Dean") is Mexican, and Lithuanian-American Charles Bronson is Irish-Mexican.

Eli Wallach is the bandit leader, one of his many "ethnic" roles. An aside: I remember an internet discussion once about "actor with the most ethnic roles". Wallach was a popular choice but I nominated Nestor Paiva, most often remembered as the boat captain in The Creature From the Black Lagoon. I suggested a companion competition for "actor least likely to have an ethnic role", that is, least likely to play anyone other than vanilla, white bread Anglo-Saxons. This takes some thought: even Rock Hudson was an Indian chief and John Wayne a Mongol warrior once. My nomination was Whit Bissell, who coincidentally is the undertaker at the start of this film.

Famous Elmer Bernstein score. Were some cues borrowed from the Japanese original?

Available on Blu-ray. The DVD is only middling.



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post #478 of 1347 Old 03-22-2011, 04:57 AM - Thread Starter
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Rocketship X-M (1950), written and directed by Kurt Neumann.

This type of film, along with the giant bug movie, was the baseline SF genre of my youth. Build a rocketship, blast off and explore stuff in outer space. That was the plan. I couldn't get enough.

Heavy spaceships built like battleships or submarines. Post-war technology and semi-military organization. Painted globes without clouds out the portholes. A dim understanding of gravity and the solar system. (Bad science is a tradition in SF films; still true today). It's easy to lampoon: Abbot & Costello and the the Three Stooges did it at the time.

Here a five-person crew make the first trip into space. Because of a malfunction and meteor storms they miss the Moon and wind up on Mars. (This is so improbable the leader speculates that some higher force is at work). Taking their guns ("What are you doing with a gun in space, man?" -- Armageddon) they discover the ruins of a civilization destroyed by atomic weapons. The savage survivors attack and kill two of the expedition. They take off and return to Earth but don't have enough fuel to land. They crater. Surprise! All in 77 minutes.

The California desert turns out to be a pretty good representation of Mars, although they didn't know it at the time. According to the wikipedia article it was shot in 18 days in a race to beat Destination Moon to the theater.

Lloyd Bridges was a hero because of his Sea Hunt scuba diving TV series, but he is kind of weird-looking to be a romantic lead.



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post #479 of 1347 Old 03-23-2011, 04:28 AM - Thread Starter
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Four Flies on Grey Velvet (1971), written and directed by Dario Argento.

If I were a proper thriller/horror fan I would know all about the giallo genre, but I haven't seen any of the other films listed in the filmography. Too much splatter for me? This one does not have so much, and I might try others.

Roberto, a rock band drummer, is stalked by a mysterious stranger. He confronts the man in a deserted theater and accidentally kills him. It has all been photographed by a masked figure in the gallery. The persecution of Roberto begins. He dreams of an execution. More murders. Then it gets complicated...

Nice Hitchcockian setup, where we identify with the somewhat guilty protagonist. More like DePalma; I'm sure he was a fan, and we have his sort of scene where a private eye tails a suspect on the subway: we don't see who it is, even though the detective does.

Minimalist in presentation and acting, it has nicely tense scenes but also quirky comic bits. Meant to be a wry thriller? In one gruesome moment we see an eyeball mounted in a special camera: they want to recover the last thing the victim saw by photographing the retina (that's an old myth, by the way).

I've read that fans waited for a long time for the good DVD to appear; for the rest of us it is a minor thriller.

One brief nudity and passion scene.

Ennio Morricone score. No subtitles on the Mya DVD, which is the uncut remastered edition, so you have either the original Italian audio track or the English dub.



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post #480 of 1347 Old 03-23-2011, 04:48 PM
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Originally Posted by thehun View Post
Wow was that your first time? I was lucky enough to see this first on the "silver screen" when I was a kid. Those "Leone close ups" were breathtaking.
BTW while this was an Italian production, it was shot mostly in Death Valley CA. Oh and no cheesy matte paintings like many of the Hollywood ones used.
monument valley, Arizona, i guess it was shot
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