Review older films here: 1979 and earlier - Page 17 - AVS Forum
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post #481 of 1377 Old 03-24-2011, 04:35 AM - Thread Starter
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The Thomas Crown Affair (1968), produced and directed by Norman Jewison.

Millionaire Steve McQueen masterminds a bank heist from a distance; none of the robbers have ever met him or each other. Faye Dunaway is an unscrupulous insurance investigator who is on to him. Oops: chemistry catches, sparks fly and they play a sexy game of chess. During a love scene, instead of fading to black they go prismatic! Can they reconcile love with two strong wills, or does one have to crack?

It's been decades since I last saw this and I liked it quite a bit better than I expected. The 1999 remake with Pierce Brosnan and Rene Russo is well done and more polished, but even less probable and lacks the 1960s cool. Russo was also much less likeable than Dunaway, who was already hard to take.

McQueen usually plays roughnecks and it's hard to imagine him as a millionaire thrill addict, but he makes it work with his innate cool and risk-taking persona. Dunaway has a variety of hairstyles; the ones where it is all piled on top of her head are unfortunate.

Jewison makes extensive use of multi-pane screen segments. I remember when this was predicted to be the next big thing in movie-making. It was irritating at the time, but now kind of nostalgic fun.

We want contradictory things from any heist or caper film: we want to see it go like clockwork, and we want to figure out how it is going to fail. Flaws of technique or of character, or just bad luck? The failure is of a different sort this time.

Filmed in Boston with a great in-the-streets look. Michel Legrand score. "The Windmills of Your Mind" was a famous 1960s tune. Yaphet Koto's first major film credit, age 31.

The DVD is 4:3 letterboxed with 4:3 pan-and-scan on the flip side. I see an expensive Blu-ray: an import?



-Bill
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post #482 of 1377 Old 03-25-2011, 04:15 AM - Thread Starter
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Rosemary's Baby (1968), directed by Roman Polanski.

A young couple move into a spooky old apartment building. The other tenants are eccentric older people and we have a continuous stream of weird hints and intimations, including outright satanic chanting nearby. Mia Farrow dreams of being raped by a demon ("This is no dream! This is really happening!") and wakes up with scratches. We understand husband John Cassavetes, a struggling actor, has joined in a conspiracy to make her a bride of satan.

Her pregnancy is painful and she is sickly for a long time. As she figures it out (the audience is miles ahead of her from the very beginning) she tries to break away but the net grows tighter. She has the baby and the film ends with a satanic Nativity scene, which is surprisingly ambiguous: is this the triumph of evil or will a mother's love have power to defeat the devil?

Well done, all around. At the outset the camera is constantly moving, ungrounded, but seems to become more fixed toward the end, as if presenting an inevitable fate. Maybe a bit long at 136 minutes; about 90 minutes is just the suspense of watching her discover the truth that we already know. Actually, she never does figure it out: she thinks witches want her baby for a sacrifice.

It's a women's horror film: pregnancy is scary, as is the prospect of a disloyal, manipulative husband.

Cassavetes is devilishly fine as the seduced, lying husband. Ruth Gordon is a hoot as a brassy satanist. Once we understand, a lot of the little quips are darkly funny.

As with many 1960s movies, my first exposure was via the Mad Magazine parody, "Rosemia's Boo Boo", caricatured with devastating wit by Mort Drucker. I should hunt down some of the movie compilation books.



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post #483 of 1377 Old 03-28-2011, 04:30 AM - Thread Starter
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The Magician (1958), written and directed by Ingmar Bergman.

In 1846 (the year of revolutions!), a gang of spiritualists and quack medicine operators are detained by a skeptical nobleman and his cronies. They want a demonstration of the supernatural and intend to ridicule. But even charlatans can be kicked around only so much and give back more than expected.

It's a (mostly) light comedy and light thriller, with just a bit of sex farce. The locals expect quick romance from traveling mountebanks, not without reason: some are willing, though some aren't.

In a way it's part of a well-known thriller genre: the stage magician who can do real magic, the skeptic who wants to believe, the scoffer who stays in the haunted house. Interesting commentary on the IMDB says that the Magician is the director and the plot illustrates his relation to his art and the critics.

A lot of the scenes are stagey, almost as if taken from a play, although it makes me think we are peeking into a storybook. For contrast, a few moments show more dramatic camera work.

Plaintive guitar score. Inspired by a G.K. Chesterton play; I did not know that.

Criterion DVD.



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post #484 of 1377 Old 03-29-2011, 04:52 AM - Thread Starter
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The Valley of Decision (1945), directed by Tay Garnett.

A mill town melodrama of 1873 Pittsburgh. Greer Garson, from a poor Irish family, becomes a maid at the big house of the mill owner. Unexpectedly, it is a friendly and happy place. Young Gregory Peck is the eldest son of the magnate, and he works hard on new ways of making steel. It's a tale of frustrated love, with labor disputes, murder, and struggle for control of the mill thrown in.

Not a bad example of the type, but unless you are a fan of the stars you can safely skip it.

There's something wrong with the sound mix: the music is quite a bit louder than the dialogue, but luckily they don't play at the same time.

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



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post #485 of 1377 Old 03-30-2011, 05:08 AM - Thread Starter
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Thieves' Highway (1949), directed by Jules Dassin.

Richard Conte returns home from the sea to discover his father has been robbed and crippled by produce buyer Lee J. Cobb. Pursuing revenge, he gets into the trucking business with partner Millard Mitchell who knows the ins and outs. Its all very shady: the only other help comes from a prostitute hired to distract him, and we're never very sure about her.

Fine on location filming with realistic presentation of the trucks and drivers, the highways at night and the busy markets. Exciting runaway truck segment and a brutal climax with a moral coda to make it more Code-compliant.

Alfred Newman score.

Criterion DVD. A commentary track discusses the director's style, how it conforms to and varies from film noir methods, and describes differences between the film and the book, which sounds harder and more bleak.



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post #486 of 1377 Old 03-31-2011, 04:52 AM - Thread Starter
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The Magus (1968), directed by Guy Green.

An English schoolteacher (Michael Caine) arrives on a Greek island and the mystery music plays continuously, even before anything mysterious happens. He encounters an eccentric recluse (Anthony Quinn) and a beautiful young woman (Candice Bergen) who play all sorts of psychodrama games with him. Is she a ghost, a mental patient, an actress? Are they putting him through some sort of gonzo treatment to cure him of being such a jerk? Why are people so willing to enter into the games of manipulative millionaires?

It's one of those islands where no one answers a straight question and the stories are all lies within lies. He goes through many levels of deception, the final 15 minutes being particularly absurd. When they shoot a drug into him and he hallucinates all sorts of weird things, does plot coherence even matter any more?

Beautiful island, attractive stars, decent photography, and a plot that approaches a waste of time. Brief nudity and passion scenes.

Bergen is exceedingly lovely, though. Caine wrote that they had no idea of what the film was about. It was like experimental theater.

Adapted by the author from his novel, which I haven't read in either its original or revised form. I think it is an example of a tiny genre: the "rascal guru" who enlightens his disciples by lying to them and putting them through all sorts of trials and travails. The Illuminatus! books would be an example. The only other movies I can think of would be Guy Ritchie's Revolver (2005) and maybe David Fincher's The Game (1997).



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post #487 of 1377 Old 03-31-2011, 09:08 PM
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Omega Man (1971)

I have an inordinate fondness for this one because I saw it at the theater when I was in high school...
-Bill

I remember that night - Merle Hay Theater in DM. Those were good times!

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post #488 of 1377 Old 04-02-2011, 12:45 PM - Thread Starter
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These two sequels were planned even before The Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954) began shooting. Neither are as good as the original. Both are on the same DVD.

Revenge of the Creature (1955), directed by Jack Arnold.

Minding his own business in his lagoon in a remote part of the Amazon, the Gill Man is captured and taken to Florida where he is chained to the bottom of a public aquarium for the amusement of tourists and gawkers. Science babe Lori Nelson flaunts herself and sadistic John Agar works him over with an electric prod, trying to teach him things like "No!" and "Stop!", an endeavor of great scientific value.

Well, obviously, when he breaks loose he will rampage, causing mass hysteria while he claws people and turns over classic cars. He also stalks the science babe with intent to carry her off. Breeding issues? Worry about that later.

One of the last 3D films made in that era. Some recycled footage from the first film. Jack Arnold directs again and Nestor Paiva returns as the boat captain. Ricou Browning is again the Creature in the water; a taller actor plays him on land. Browning could hold his breath for four minutes and the swimming stunt scenes are very good.

Otherwise, it's a fairly tedious wait for the Creature to get his revenge. I know whose side I'm on.

Clint Eastwood has his first uncredited bit part as a lab tech.

Chatty DVD commentary track with Lori Nelson and two film historians. They discuss the production but not much about the film as a story, other than to point out that taken together the first two Creature films have a plot parallel to King Kong.



The Creature Walks Among Us (1956), directed by John Sherwood.

Lurking in the Everglades this time, the Gill Man is harassed by a rich doctor, his psychotic wife and their lunkheaded "scientist" associates. After suffering severe burns, he is stripped of his outer hide and backup lungs are connected. He mopes as a land dweller for a while. When they try to frame him for a murder, he breaks out, gets revenge, and decides to end the series.

On the one hand, it's lower budget and less of a story, leisurely paced, or some might say "padded". On the other, we have beautiful underwater shots, some nice pictures of the Everglades, and a pretty good hunt-and-be-hunted sequence in a boat in the dark. The transformation of the flesh borders on Cronenberg country, but the land creature is mostly just pathetic.

More of a jealously plot this time, and some sexual banter. The creature's land costume makes him look like a plantation zombie. That is so racially suggestive it is barely metaphorical.

Jeff Morrow and Rex Reason return from This Island Earth.

DVD commentary track with just the film historians. Again, there is a lot about the series, actors, and production, but little about the story. They point out that this one has the most listenable soundtrack of the three, with young Henry Mancini providing quite a bit of the music.



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post #489 of 1377 Old 04-06-2011, 04:45 AM - Thread Starter
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Mutiny on the Bounty (1935), directed by Frank Lloyd.

The famous Gable vs Laughton contest. We're supposed to hate Bligh, but even in this version we have to admire his command of "the most remarkable open-boat voyage in maritime history", 3000 miles with no charts and little food. Bligh is at his best, and closest to his men, in a survival situation.

In the ship's interior scenes they rock the camera a bit and swing the lanterns, but I don't for a moment believe they are actually at sea. Master and Commander has spoiled me.

This is supposed to be an account of actual incidents, so we don't have the swashbuckling of adventure films like Captain Blood or The Sea Hawk, even though the ships and gear are much the same. We do have an ethical dilemma: years of privation on a ship, or the easy life of a tropical paradise? What would you do? Gosh, but the women are pretty. But you'll hang if they catch you. In the real history it didn't go well for the mutineers on Pitcairn.

George Macdonald Fraser, in The Hollywood History of the World, says that the actual history of the mutiny (see the wikipedia article) outstrips fiction and contains material for better movies than have yet been made. In the existing film versions, "history, truth and fair play took a frightful beating." The 1935 movie is "a libel on a flawed hero, a travesty of truth -- and a splendid film." First rate cast, script and images.

The Blu-ray is a decent upgrade over the DVD. Netflix doesn't have it; my rental was from http://www.classicflix.com/.



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post #490 of 1377 Old 04-10-2011, 05:28 AM - Thread Starter
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The Beguiled (1971), produced and directed by Don Siegel.

A wounded Yankee soldier finds his way to a remote girls school behind Confederate lines, deep in the hanging moss country. They take him in and he immediately begins working on all of them from the youngest to the oldest. His goal: safety, freedom, and a little pleasure along the way. He's quite the operator and the school is fertile ground for his efforts. But it's an unstable situation: clever and manly as he is, he can't manage all of them at once. He's bad, but jealous women are crazy. The combination is a bit of a nightmare.

It's a fine lesser-known Clint Eastwood film. He plays a manipulative, darker character than usual. He's good at it, one of his better performances. I'd forgotten the final segment where he has a chance at redemption, saved by love. Too late.

The camera work is unusual without being totally eccentric, giving a disorienting perspective on a gothic female world of secrets and suppressed desires. We can hear their thoughts sometimes. I've never appreciated Geraldine Page before; she's very good here.

This deserves to be better known. The studio didn't know how to market it and Eastwood's fans prefer him a different sort of role.

Lalo Schifrin score. Filmed in Louisiana. Part of a boxed set which includes Coogan's Bluff, Play Misty for Me, and The Eiger Sanction.



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post #491 of 1377 Old 04-12-2011, 04:42 AM - Thread Starter
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Coogan's Bluff (1968), produced and directed by Don Siegel.

An Arizona Deputy Sheriff goes to NYC to fetch a prisoner. He encounters one pretty probation officer but otherwise nothing but chiselers, degenerates, hippies, drug addicts, prostitutes, psychos and unhelpful policemen. Bulldozing through the system to get his man, he gets conked on the head and loses him. Now everyone is mad at him. Got to get the fugitive back fast, which requires many fist fights and much broken furniture.

It's kind of fun, but kind of half-baked, sort of a trial run for Dirty Harry. Every decadent, citified person and thing is a foil for Clint Eastwood, just reflecting off that stoic and understated demeanor. All the women melt for him. The only person to hold his own is Lee J. Cobb as a tough police detective who turns out to be right in the end.

Good use of city locations and an exciting motorcycle chase through a park, but the interiors are cheap and studio-looking.

As is traditional in 1960s movies, the hippie freakout venue (the "Pigeon-Toed Orange Peel") is just excruciating to watch.

Lalo Schifrin score. Brief nudity. The title is a place name in NYC; it doesn't make any sense otherwise because Sheriff Coogan isn't bluffing.



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post #492 of 1377 Old 04-15-2011, 04:47 AM - Thread Starter
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The Two Mrs. Carrolls (1947), directed by Peter Godfrey.

Humphrey Bogart is a grumpy painter showing signs of lunacy. When he meets Barbara Stanwyck he poisons his wife and remarries. Then he meets Alexis Smith and suddenly Stanwyck isn't feeling too well. During a dark and stormy night she discovers the awful truth.

It's a women's thriller wrapped in film noir atmosphere. It's hard to know where to stand: we don't cheer Bogart as he becomes increasingly insane and kills off his wives, but on the other hand he is being blackmailed which makes him more sympathetic. And he sincerely loves his daughter, which makes us like him more.

We've seen crazy Bogart before, as when infected with gold fever, and he really doesn't need to roll his eyes and clutch his forehead while strange chords clash on the soundtrack, but that's the story. This is the only screen meeting of the two stars.

To Alexis Smith he says "I have a feeling this is going to be the beginning of a beautiful hatred."

Special mention goes to Ann Carter, the intelligent and beautiful little girl last seen in Curse of the Cat People. Carter was a child actress for about ten years who contracted polio and recovered but did not return to acting.

Franz Waxman score, lush but way too dramatic in spots. Edith Head costumes for Stanwyck.

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



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post #493 of 1377 Old 04-16-2011, 11:17 AM - Thread Starter
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Play Misty for Me (1971), directed by Clint Eastwood.

In his first film as director, Eastwood is a late-night DJ who plays light jazz and reads poetry over the air.

You know the worst thing about being as hunky as Clint? Psycho-women. The sort who latch on after a little innocent sex and can't be shaken off. He picks up a doozy this time. Turns out she is fond of knives.

He's not a tough guy here; he's at the mercy of the women in his life. The long bits with the other girlfriend throw off the pace and their dialogue is awkward.

Nice coastal locations around Carmel and Monterey, and an interlude at the jazz festival. Roberta Flack contributes "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face". The song of the title does not play until the closing.

Brief nudity and passion scenes. Some girly walking-on-the-beach-at-sunset moments.



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post #494 of 1377 Old 04-16-2011, 02:33 PM
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This reminds me that Jenny Agutter really belongs in the "hottest girls" thread. Between Logan's Run and American Werewolf in London, she really scorched up cinema screens in the late '70s/early '80s.

Old post, but I had a massive teenage crush on her. Farrah Fawcett was also in that movie but I considered Jenny much hotter.
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post #495 of 1377 Old 04-18-2011, 04:31 AM - Thread Starter
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The Night of the Generals (1967), directed by Anatole Litvak.

A murder mystery in an unusual setting: a prostitute is horrifically murdered in 1942 Warsaw and three German generals are suspects. One (Peter O'Toole) is an obvious psycho. (Coincidentally, the other two, Charles Gray and Donald Pleasence, both played James Bond's nemesis Blofeld).

Omar Sharif is a German officer who won't let go of the case, as dangerous as that may be ("I have a zealous nature, sir. I can't help it.") Everyone involved is together again in Paris in 1944, when there is an identical murder. We have parallel developments 23 years later. The murders have still not been solved, but an INTERPOL inspector is closing in.

It's well done but leisurely paced at 2h28m. A long section involves the bomb plot against Hitler. Christopher Plummer appears briefly as Rommel.

The characters discuss an interesting point: can civil law function in an occupied country during wartime? Even among the nazis? They never really work that out: justice of a sort is finally done, but not until years after the war.

Maurice Jarre score.

No one did wild-eyed crazy better than O'Toole. Michael Caine wrote about those days: Never go out drinking with Peter O'Toole. You'll black out, wake up three days later in an unknown location, and he'll tell you not to ask how you got there, it's better not to know.



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post #496 of 1377 Old 04-19-2011, 04:33 AM - Thread Starter
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The Eiger Sanction (1975), directed by Clint Eastwood.

Ouch. This is a clunker with a low grade comic book plot. It's a shame because the climbing and aerial photography scenes in Monument Valley and the Alps are truly spectacular. Eastwood did his own stunts.

He is Dr Hemlock, a nasty professor of Art with a secret collection of paintings; the IRS doesn't need to know where he got the money. He's a retired "C-2" assassin. The spymaster who calls him back is Dragon, an ex-nazi albino who lives in a germ-free red-lit hospital office where he gets complete blood transfusions from time to time. (How did he manage when he was a spy management trainee in a cubicle?)

C-2 is staffed by imbeciles and we get the standard "we're no better than they are" spy riff. Eastwood gets to combine work with murderous gay-bashing. The plot does not make a lot of sense. Some of the getting-back-in-shape training bits are funny.

Brief nudity and passion scenes. John Williams score.

One man died during filming and people blame Eastwood. Details in the wikipedia article.



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post #497 of 1377 Old 04-20-2011, 04:28 AM - Thread Starter
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Ben Hur (1959), directed by William Wyler.

In the genre of spiritually-moving epic spectaculars, what else comes close to Ben Hur? One of my favorite films, I love it all except for the smooching scenes with the horses. The sea battle is often praised, but the ship models are a bit weak.

It's a transitional film. You can still see the tradition where the actors dress up and bluster their lines, but they have added new emotional sensitivity, an amount of realistic sweat and dirt and blood, and a dimension of suffering seldom seen before. How many epic spectaculars end on such a moving note of redemption: "And I felt his voice take the sword out of my hand."

They say the better the villain, the better the story. We might add: the better the villain's death, in which case Stephen Boyd could take the trophy. He goes out ugly here. GM Fraser wrote that he seemed born to wear Roman armor.

The famous chariot race is still astonishing film-making. Miklós Rózsa's tremendous score is his best, and that is saying quite a lot.

I've read the book and it's tough sledding. Before the film era, it was often played on the stage, including huge treadmills for full-speed chariot races. I would like to have seen that.

In the thumbnails below, look at the different ways the 2.76:1 aspect ratio is used. Sometimes it is filled up, sometimes an isolated face appears in the center. Such a luxury of space without seeming lost or unbalanced.



-Bill
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post #498 of 1377 Old 04-25-2011, 04:23 AM - Thread Starter
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How to Steal a Million (1966), directed by William Wyler.

Slow moving caper comedy, a residue of the imitation-Hitchcock genre that includes Charade and Arabesque. Audrey Hepburn and Peter O'Toole are always appealing, and he can do the Cary Grant gentleman burglar thing, although he is more convincing as a madman like Lawrence or Lord Jim.

A bit of early product placement: Hepburn's fashions (some of which are hideous) are credited to Givenchy, and when she has to wear scrub-woman disguise, O'Toole tells her "it gives Givenchy a night off."

"Johnny" Williams score.



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post #499 of 1377 Old 04-26-2011, 04:27 AM - Thread Starter
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Diary of a Chambermaid (1964), directed by Luis Buñuel.

It sounds like an erotic farce, doesn't it? We have just a hint of that: Celestine is a Parisian servant now at a big house in the country. She manages her employers pretty well: the lecherous monsieur and his frigid, domineering wife. The old man is an eccentric sweetie: he has Celestine model boots for him which he then inspects more closely behind closed doors.

It turns darker. Just before WW2, the political crazies are out. They're talking about killing and mean it. Then a little girl is raped and murdered: a ghastly scene shows her lying in the woods, her legs covered with blood, snails crawling on her.

Celestine knows the killer and wants him punished. She seduces him and promises to marry him, even planting evidence, but there is no justice this time. Their lives go on separately, each doing pretty well as war approaches. The End.

Criterion DVD.



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post #500 of 1377 Old 04-27-2011, 04:33 AM - Thread Starter
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The Offence (1972), directed by Sidney Lumet.

During interrogation, a policeman beats a suspect to death. In a non-linear presentation we get the whole wrenching story.

It's intense and often hard to watch. We have a movie-myth that cops become calloused and inured to the horrors they see, but what if that is not so? Sean Connery, in one of his best performances, is a tough cop who has seen too much and can't get the images out of his mind. The hunt for a child molester has driven him over the edge and now he is unbalanced and dangerous.

His wife asks him to talk to her about it. After he does she wishes he hadn't.

It gets worse: he is sexually frustrated and has begun to envy the criminals he hates. When he finds the latest victim, an abused little girl, he rescues and comforts her. Objectively it's innocent and even heroic, but the postures and camera angles are suggestive. When the other police arrive and shine lights on him, it's as if he were caught in a violation. He looks guilty.

Fine cast: Ian Bannen as the suspect, Trevor Howard as a police bigwig, and Vivien Merchant, last seen in Alfie, as the wife.

MGM DVD-R. An Amazon exclusive? I don't know what the film looked like in the theater; the DVD is dark and of only fair quality.



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post #501 of 1377 Old 04-28-2011, 04:39 AM - Thread Starter
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The Long Haul (1957), directed by Ken Hughes.

Another gritty, realistic looking trucks-roll-at-night story, this time in the UK. Victor Mature is an ex-GI driving for his uncle and fighting with racketeers. He gets involved with a kingpin's girlfriend, to their mutual regret. He tries to resist, but some femmes are just too fatale. The wife-and-family vs girlfriend drama is a bit overwrought, but the emotions are honest and the situations plausible. No Hollywood ending.

The tough guys try to talk American. Good locations and some exciting mountain driving. The truck is a Leyland Octopus with four front wheels. They show it driving with one removed.

Diana Dors was "the Marilyn Monroe of Britain". She looks more like Jayne Mansfield at times: a large-breasted blonde who might have been able to act, but now we'll never know. She's pretty good but it's hard to see her through the glamour allure.

Mature is 54 here. His face is so expressive at times, but often just a mask. He had no illusions about his acting talent, much preferring the golf course.

Sony DVD-R, available for rent from http://www.classicflix.com/.



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post #502 of 1377 Old 04-30-2011, 04:41 AM - Thread Starter
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Pretty Poison (1968), directed by Noel Black.

For years, Anthony Perkins has been institutionalized for teenaged arson and (accidental) murder. Now he's out and pursuing his avocation as secret agent and industrial saboteur. High school senior Tuesday Weld (age 25) joins in and it's youthful fantasy rebellion (with a bit of real sex and fake drugs) vs the stodgy straight world of mothers and polluting factories.

That part is a mildly quirky comedy, but it turns darker when on one of their "missions" Weld kills a night watchman. It seems easy and natural for her and we realize Perkins is not the crazy one. They plan a getaway but he knows it will be a quick slide to doom.

The turnabout at midway is the big plot development: Perkins is initially in charge but then becomes an adjunct to her craziness. He asserts a moral compass at the end, not that it does him much good. We never know if she gets away with it.

Filmed in small town Massachusetts.



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post #503 of 1377 Old 04-30-2011, 11:56 AM
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I wonder how many know that Weld and Perkins were distantly related?
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post #504 of 1377 Old 05-02-2011, 04:17 AM - Thread Starter
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The Texas Rangers (1936), produced and directed by King Vidor.

When the Rangers make it too hot for a pair of stagecoach stickup artists, they join up. It takes them a while to get used to being on the right side of the law. The influence of a good woman and a cute kid are decisive, but it's hard when they have bring in an old partner who is still a desperado.

The Rangers mow down many Indians here, who do get in a few shots of their own. I always love it when the subtitles for Indians read: "[Speaking foreign language]". There are several references to Texas statehood, but this is set 20-30 years later.

This is early enough that cowboys are expected to sing, but late enough that they don't have to sing well. Jack Oakie provides ample comic relief. I don't know about Fred MacMurray as the cowboy lead; I tend to remember his better roles: Double Indemnity and The Caine Mutiny.

Edith Head costumes. On the same DVD with Canyon Passage.



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post #505 of 1377 Old 05-04-2011, 03:43 AM - Thread Starter
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Rififi (1955), directed by Jules Dassin.

Famous heist film. "240 million stolen!" cries the newsboy. "Biggest take since the Sabine Women!" The title means something like the fighting or rumbling the tough guys do.

After 5 years Tony is out of prison, no longer young and with a cough. After playing cards and losing his money all he wants is to beat his ex with a belt. That probably wouldn't have been allowed in an American film of the period, nor the see-through nightie another woman wears.

He joins three others in a jewelry store robbery. Director Dassin is their safecracker. As in The Asphalt Jungle, too much eye for the ladies is the downfall of the plan.

The heist itself is long, silent and business-like. After they have the loot another gang brutally intervenes. They kidnap a child and offer a swap. Tony will get the kid back, no matter what, but he isn't paying for him.

Criterion DVD.



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post #506 of 1377 Old 05-06-2011, 04:39 AM - Thread Starter
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The Young Lions (1958), directed by Edward Dmytryk.

The lives and loves of three soldiers, with a few combat scenes. It's well done, but at 2 3/4 hours tends toward soap opera.

Marlon Brando is a serious-minded but non-political German officer. As the war proceeds he becomes more disillusioned about the cause. Brando's accent is thicker than Maximilian Schell's, who was to the manor born.

Dean Martin is a singer who really doesn't want to go to war, but guilt eventually drives him on. He's good in the role.

Montgomery Clift is a scrawny Jew continually beaten by the hulking antisemites in his barracks. He sticks with it and they eventually let him play cards. I never before noticed how much his ears stick out; maybe it's the haircut.

Martin is his only pal and they meet up again in Europe where both have become good soldiers. They encounter Brando outside a death camp during the German retreat.



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post #507 of 1377 Old 05-07-2011, 05:04 AM - Thread Starter
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Fires on the Plain (1959), directed by Kon Ichikawa.

Horrific tale of Japanese soldiers in hell during the final months of the war in the Philippines. Many beautifully shot but painful to watch scenes. In an excess of Method, the actors really starved themselves and didn't bathe for weeks.

The director's The Burmese Harp (1956) was also about soldiers as victims of the war, but the earlier film was more of a fable. This is much darker, a realistic depiction of the collapse of an army starving and dying of disease.

Pvt Tamura has TB and neither the hospital nor his own unit want him. He wanders, weaker and weaker, with a handful of yams for rations and a grenade for suicide. Often he is alone but sometimes he falls in with other strays looking for a way off the island. He would like to surrender to the Americans, but is afraid they or the Filipinos will shoot him.

His grip on reality is weak at times, but he can't stop and die. He hides and scouts. He wantonly kills a civilian woman, then discards his rifle. In the final segment he encounters two comrades who are killing and eating other soldiers. Debased as he is, Tamura cannot bring himself to eat "monkey meat".

That's a hopeful bit, as are the earlier intermittent acts of kindness between the soldiers. Unbelievably, there are also comic aspects, as when a line of ragged, staggering soldiers discard and put on rotten boots on a muddy road.

It sticks in the mind because it is really not a "message" film, and we keep turning it over, looking at it in different ways. Anti-war? Sure, war is hell, but a proper anti-war story would be about choices, and whatever happened before, none of the soldiers have many choices now.

They are not shown as more noble or base than they probably were. Tamura has both good and bad in him. Does he achieve a stressed glimpse of transcendence at the end, or is he just tired and wanting to finish it?

Criterion DVD.



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post #508 of 1377 Old 05-10-2011, 04:49 AM - Thread Starter
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The Taming of the Shrew (1967), directed by Franco Zeffirelli.

"Of all things living a man's the worst!"

A rich and bawdy slapstick romp, written by the master of romantic comedies. As we all know, Renaissance Italy was non-stop partying, packed with colorful characters charging through streets simultaneously grimy and shining.

Richard Burton is a perfect Petruchio, the blustering blowhard who actually delivers the goods. Physically, Elizabeth Taylor is fine as Kate, particularly in the heaving bosom aspect. She's a bit older, a bit heavier, but that fits the cursed and nightmarish older sister role. Her line delivery is not quite as good, but mostly it's shouting and so doesn't much matter. She shows great talent in comic mugging and awkwardness that I don't remember seeing before.

I always like Michael Hordern and here he's great as the harassed father of the two girls. And: "introducing Michael York" as the young lover.

Given their notorious off-screen reputation as a celebrity fighting couple, it was either very bold or shrewdly calculating (or both) for Burton and Taylor to take on roles like these and in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? They deserve credit for giving Zeffirelli his first feature film as director.

Nino Rota score.

According to Shakespeare at the Movies, by Douglas Brode:

Quote:


It's worth noting that Taylor and Burton produced the film themselves, contributing their considerable salaries to cover growing expenses. Not surprisingly, then, there were none of the temperamental scenes that, three years earlier, caused Cleopatra to go grotesquely over budget. Forsaking late-night drinking bouts, the two concentrated on making the best possible picture at the most economical price.



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post #509 of 1377 Old 05-13-2011, 04:33 AM - Thread Starter
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Touch of Evil (1958), directed by Orson Welles.

Quote:


Quinlan: Come on, read my future for me.

Tanya: You haven't got any.

Quinlan: Hmm? What do you mean?

Tanya: Your future's all used up.

Looking like 10 miles of bad road (all makeup and padding), Orson Welles directs and stars in "The Decline and Fall of Captain Quinlin", a great man revered by his associates and feared by the criminal element. He's also been framing suspects for years, planting evidence on those he knows by instinct to be guilty.

The plot emerges only in retrospect. At first we are trying to figure out how a car bombing (which is never explained) and a Mexican drug ring are connected. They aren't, except by Mexican cop Vargas (Charlton Heston, accentless) who is interested in both cases.

He is tough and competent but idealistic and strangely naive about some things. We have the bombing, threats from the drug gang, and an attempt to drench him in acid, but he lets his bride (Janet Leigh) be carried off to a fleabag desert motel where she is out of sight for about a day, and suffers for it.

This is the standard thriller technique of showing the audience things the characters don't see, used most notably here in the very first scene where we see the bomb being placed in the trunk of the car. Then the long, outstanding tracking shot as it winds its way through the streets and crowds to the border checkpoint.

The story begins and ends at night and the harsh foreground lighting gives it a look simultaneously gritty and unreal. Like some other Welles projects, the dialogue recording sometimes sounds extra "studio". They say he was at war with his sound men.

Dennis Weaver gives one of the most eccentrically bizarre performances I can remember.

Janet Leigh had a broken arm. They cut off her cast and taped it back on between scenes. This knowledge makes her assault scene more painful to watch.

The DVD was the 1998 restored version with two commentary tracks: (1) Heston, Leigh, and the restoration producer, and (2) the producer alone, giving details on the effort to restore the film based on Welles's 58-page memo written after seeing the studio cut.

Heston has memories of the production here, much of it repeated on the commentary.

Henry Mancini score.



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post #510 of 1377 Old 05-14-2011, 04:58 AM - Thread Starter
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Le Samouraï (1967), directed by Jean-Pierre Melville.

The assassin's apartment is rough and austere, although all the other locations we see, including the police station, are rich and modern. He smokes in bed and lives on cigarettes and mineral water. He is empty eyed but a snappy dresser. His girlfriend is only for alibis.

He takes professional precautions, but with that hat and trench coat he looks just like a hit man and it's no wonder there are plenty of witnesses to his latest contract on a nightclub owner. The police are on to him, his employers try to burn him, and a female witness who saw him clearly refuses to identify him. He thinks he knows why...

It's emotionally neutral. We don't care for anyone in it and never pick a side. Much of it is police procedural: finding and tracking him.

Criterion DVD.



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