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post #541 of 1427 Old 06-19-2011, 05:13 AM - Thread Starter
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While the City Sleeps (1956), directed by Fritz Lang.

The lives, loves and office politics of reporters while a strangler runs wild in the city. We have a decent five minutes of chasing in the streets and subways, but the rest is soap opera.

Despite that, the strong veteran cast is good: Dana Andrews, Rhonda Fleming, George Sanders, Howard Duff, Thomas Mitchell, Vincent Price and Ida Lupino. I had the feeling that some of the cast were drunk during filming: I know Andrews had alcohol problems for a while, and here it's hard to see if his hard-drinking reporter performance is entirely an act.

The psycho-killer is son of John Barrymore, father of Drew.



-Bill
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post #542 of 1427 Old 06-19-2011, 01:26 PM
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Originally Posted by wmcclain View Post

You mean urban crime dramas of the 1970s? It was a good period. Maybe:

Dog Day Afternoon (reviewed above)
The French Connection
Marathon Man
The Conversation
Chinatown (set earlier)
Frenzy
The Anderson Tapes

-Bill

Thanks man, I'll look into those I haven't seen yet
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post #543 of 1427 Old 06-21-2011, 04:44 AM - Thread Starter
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The Window (1949), directed by Ted Tetzlaff.

A dandy little thriller only 73m long, from a Cornell Woolrich story. The director was a noted cinematographer and it shows in his fine depiction of the city slums during a heat wave.

Young Tommy tends to tell tall tales. One hot night, sleeping on the fire escape, he witnesses a murder. His loving but irritated parents don't believe him and neither do the police. The murderers take note, and Tommy is in the sort of trouble where no one can help him.

Many tense scenes, with exciting action shots in a collapsing condemned building, remarkable for such a low budget film. The film's job is to terrorize the kid while the adults are oblivious; I'm glad I didn't see this when I was his age. Bobby Driscoll is great as the lead, as are Arthur Kennedy and Barbara Hale as his frustrated parents.

Paul Stewart and Ruth Roman are the killers, apparently a pair of grifters living upstairs. They seem so normal, which is scary. How can such violence be so invisibly close by?

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



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post #544 of 1427 Old 06-23-2011, 04:42 AM - Thread Starter
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Ride Lonesome (1959), directed by Budd Boetticher.

Another entry in the Boetticher/Randolph Scott/Burt Kennedy series of better quality B westerns.

The story has similarities to Seven Men from Now (1956): Scott is seeking revenge for his murdered wife. He picks up a possible future love interest as well as semi-shady tough guys Pernell Roberts and James Coburn. Lee Van Cleef is the villain who needs killing.

Fine Lone Pine locations, superior horse handling, and more thoughtful dialogue than is usual in small westerns. The final confrontation is like a Sergio Leone scene, who said he owed a lot to Boetticher. As to the final Scott vs Roberts showdown: I was hoping it would end the way it did (the director had to fight the studio for this). And as a bonus the love interest does not develop into something sappy. I liked Seven Men from Now (1956) better, but this is certainly a keeper.

They do mow down a bunch of Mescaleros, always inscrutable in their needs and customs.

James Coburn's first film credit. Karen Steele has a bust-line of Jane Russell proportions and it's featured in a lot of shots. She dated the director for a while.

Shot in 13 days without a single interior. No money to build sets so they didn't. The score is generic western music which becomes irritating if you listen to it.

The DVD has an informative commentary track.



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post #545 of 1427 Old 06-24-2011, 12:59 AM
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I saw HUD the other day. Hard to believe that Paul Newman was around 38
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post #546 of 1427 Old 06-27-2011, 04:48 AM - Thread Starter
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Dark City (1950), directed by William Dieterle.

How's that for a film noir title? Add a Franz Waxman score and Edith Head costumes and the circle is complete.

Quote:


Danny Haley: We are under arrest?

Capt. Garvey: No, guys like you seldom get arrested. You get killed first.

Charlton Heston (in his first Hollywood role) is a heartless gambler and leader of a group of other tough guys. In a poker game they fleece an out of town businessman who goes back to his hotel and hangs himself. Turns out he has a brother with a fearsome reputation who now stalks the group. The tough guys have reason to be worried.

It's a great setup and a strong drama throughout, although the noir tone stalls a bit in the middle. Heston has a girl who is crowding him: Lizabeth Scott, singing a few too many nightclub songs (dubbed). Dean Jagger is a humane police detective who tries to convince Heston he is not as bad as he thinks he is. Heston travels to LA and then Las Vegas to try to get a lead on the avenging brother, and there is a guilty interlude with the widow and her little boy.

King of the Uglies Mike Mazurki (he's everywhere!) is the murderously psychotic brother; we see his face only in the final minutes. Jack Webb and Harry Morgan, later together on Dragnet, are members of the gang. And spot leprechaun Walter Burke behind the bar.

I liked this one quite a lot. It's about the redemption of a fallen man.



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post #547 of 1427 Old 06-29-2011, 04:44 AM - Thread Starter
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Logan's Run (1976), directed by Michael Anderson.

In a perfectly bland, sealed utopia, healthy good-looking young people live to be 30, then must be terminated in a ceremony of religious exultation. They are told they will be reincarnated in newborn babies, and some believe it. The others become Runners seeking to escape to a mythical Sanctuary. They are hunted and killed by the Sandmen.

Logan is a Sandman ordered to become a Runner. He is a Runner for real because his life-clock has been reset to the end...

It's a well-worn theme in written SF and this film borrows from other movies: Planet of the Apes, THX 1138, etc.

I saw this in the theater and thought it was weak. It still seems so to me, although now I wonder if they weren't going for a retro-SF look that I didn't realize at the time. The DVD commentary track makes the project a bit more interesting: for example, I missed the notion that clothes were color-coded by age, just like the gems in the palms. Red is the oldest cohort, getting close to termination.

Every scene looks cheesy in that specifically 1970s SF way. The plot is explained in the dialogue, always a mistake. The narrative just halts when Peter Ustinov appears as the Old Man with his many cats. Confusing a future computer system so that it self destructs seems improbably easy.

I always enjoy seeing Jenny Agutter, although honestly it could have been anyone else with the same result.

Brief nudity. Jerry Goldsmith score, at times also very golden-age retro SF with electronic effects.

Available on Blu-ray.



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post #548 of 1427 Old 07-01-2011, 04:19 AM - Thread Starter
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From Russia with Love (1963), directed by Terence Young.

James Bond films have always been a mixture of the exciting and the silly in different proportions for each entry in the series. This is the second film made and it orbits closer to reality than many of the others. Bond is caught up in Cold War shenanigans in Istanbul; the fate of the world is not at stake and he doesn't ride around in little vehicles in a secret installation under an exploding volcano.

SPECTRE wants a Soviet code machine and arranges for Bond to fetch it for them. Wheels within wheels and he knows it's a trap, but not the scale or who's arranged it. He bombs the embassy so he can get to the machine: wouldn't that cause a diplomatic incident?

The suspense comes from SPECTRE being ahead of Bond throughout the picture; we never know when Robert Shaw will move in for the kill. We have the same shock trick several times: Don't open that door! -- oh, wait, it's one of our guys.

Sinister, crypto-lesbian Rosa Klebb is played by Lotte Lenya, the only Bond actress mentioned in "Mack the Knife".

I suppose there have been many studies of the sexual politics of Bond. In the early years women are his willing playthings, while in more recent times they have to be more respectable, able to challenge him and make him take emotional risks. I suspect this was done to appeal to a broader female demographic.

John Barry score, just now reaching the top ten playlists in nearby star systems. Look for renewed interest in surf guitar by contactees.

Available on Blu-ray.



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post #549 of 1427 Old 07-02-2011, 05:15 AM - Thread Starter
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Lolita (1962), directed by Stanley Kubrick.

Visiting America, Prof Humbert marries a widow so he can be close to her very young daughter. He's in love (or something more obsessive and adoring). When his wife dies he has Lolita all to himself, but it doesn't last.

The first half is like a British comedy of social awkwardness and embarrassment. After Humbert achieves his goal the story becomes a more tragic one of jealously, lies, shouting, lost love and murderous revenge.

On one hand I think movies should be judged on their merits apart from the books from which they are made. On the other, the makers pick a famously controversial literary work for a reason: they are trying realize the author's vision in some way, and it's inevitable that we compare the two and think about how it was done. If you've read the book you just can't help it.

Nabokov gets screenplay credit for adapting his novel, but I've read that his version was little used in the end. Most of the book takes place in Humbert's head, his reflections and desires, excuses and apologies. Not much of that is dramatized in the movie (and how would you?); instead we have a dark comedy of manners, a satire on the refined European among the vulgar Americans, and a bit of sex farce:

Quote:


Charlotte: You just touch me and I... I... I go as limp as a noodle. It scares me.

Humbert: Yes, I know the feeling.

When Humbert embraces his wife while looking at a photo of the daughter, she cries: "Oh, you man!" But after telling him Lolita will be living at a boarding school, in a reproachful tone: "Darling, you've gone away."

A lot of the real sex has to be toned down and there are no passion scenes. In the book Lolita is 12 ("four feet ten in one sock"). Actress Sue Lyon was 14 or 15 when making the film and is supposed to be in high school.

James Mason is master of dignified demeanor and repressed emotion, but Humbert is consumed by selfish desire. He's also a life-long nympholeptic, whereas in the film we can believe that this is a one-time thing, that he was somehow struck by Lolita herself, rather than her as a member of a type.

Quilty's role is much expanded. This may be to take advantage of Peter Sellers, but it also makes Humbert look better by contrast: bad as he is he's not multi-perverted Quilty. His bits go on too long for me.

I think I have under-appreciated Shelley Winters. Here and in Alfie she just owns the dim sex-starved older woman role.

At the end the film explains that Humbert died in prison awaiting trial. It doesn't mention that Lolita died in childbirth a month later. Charlotte and Quilty are dead. All are punished.

The book was filmed again with Jeremy Irons as Humbert in 1997. It is closer to the text (but also borrows from Kubrick) and more erotic, but omits all the comedy. It's a funny book. Irons also does the audiobook reading for Random House.

If you haven't read Lolita, note that it is a vastly greater book than the summary would suggest. It's not a celebration of or excuse for pedophilia.

Nelson Riddle score.

Available on Blu-ray.



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post #550 of 1427 Old 07-06-2011, 04:42 AM - Thread Starter
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Desperate Journey (1942), directed by Raoul Walsh.

A bomber crew downed on the far side of Germany make their way back to England, stealing secret plans and committing extra sabotage along the way. I lost count of the number of times they were captured and escaped again, always making the Germans look foolish. Sometimes they use their fists, at other times they machine gun Huns by the dozen.

It's Warner wartime entertainment, pretty unserious with lots of wisecracks and comic interludes. Errol Flynn and Ronald Reagan (a Yank in the RAF) star with other familiar faces, including young Arthur Kennedy and Raymond Massey as the chief bad guy.

The aircraft model work must have been exciting at the time, and the road chase at the end with cars, motorcycles and a stolen aircraft is exciting now, if approaching Indiana Jones levels of excess. Walsh could film action sequences.

Reagan has the best joke: "Why do you have to wake me up every time I have a date with Ann Sheridan?" She made five films with him and five with Flynn.

Max Steiner score.



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post #551 of 1427 Old 07-08-2011, 04:03 AM - Thread Starter
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The Anderson Tapes (1971), directed by Sidney Lumet.

Safe cracker Sean Connery is out after ten years in prison and immediately starts working on a big heist: he's going to clean out an entire rich apartment building over a holiday weekend. Christopher Walken (his first big film credit) handles the electronics and a very swishy Martin Balsam is his "bird-dog", the guy who finds and appraises the loot.

What can go wrong? The Mob is funding the effort and the money comes with strings: they have to take a stupid hard man along on the job and kill him there. Connery has a prostitute girl friend (Dyan Cannon) in the building and her sugar daddy appears, knowing way too much. A kid in another apartment seems harmless because he is in a wheelchair; what about that ham radio set in the closet?

The whole film has a gimmick: everyone is always being filmed and recorded by a slew of police agencies and private eyes. It doesn't matter: no one detects the heist because the watchers don't talk to each other and each is watching someone other than our gang.

It's a small film but has that Lumet 1970s cops-and-crooks real city streets ambience. There is something about the light blue police uniform shirt of the era: the color of ineffectual authority.

We're with the thieves on this one. The civilians who get smacked around deserve it. The other victims are having a good time, as in Dog Day Afternoon. We want Connery (at least) to get away and agonize with him over the murder he must do. He tries some rhetorical justification for crime, but admits it's all dog-eat-dog.

Comedian Alan King is the Mob financier, pretty menacing. Connery uses his real hair. The police do some impressive rope climbing work.

Quincy Jones score, with computer beep-boop effects to go with the surveillance state message.



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post #552 of 1427 Old 07-14-2011, 08:00 AM - Thread Starter
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Lemora: A Child's Tale of the Supernatural (1973), written and directed by Richard Blackburn.

There is a type of horror movie I'm sure you've seen: independently made, shoestring budget, amateur acting, bad sound recording, cringe-worthy dialogue.

This is one of those. And yet, I stuck with it. Cheap is sometimes effective, and atmosphere: who knows where it comes from? People sometimes spend millions and produce nothing more interesting. This one has that persistent nightmare sensation of displacement from reality, and moments of nice composition.

Pure Lila Lee is a devout girl, a singer in her church choir. Wanting to find her father, a killer on the run, she embarks on bad-dream escapades to get to him. She hides in a car going to town. She wanders the nighttime streets, witnessing depravities and being leered at by degenerates. She takes a special bus into a nightmare region where ghouls lurk in the woods, finally arriving at the house of the vampiric Lemora. Many weird happenings -- she drinks blood and eats raw meat while being prepared for her "ceremony". Then much running, hiding in coffins, and fighting between the ghouls and vampire-witches.

Was it all a dream or fantasy? A parallel reality? A cheap film excuse for an ending?

The wikipedia article has notes on the production. It's been popular in France. The director says he was inspired by classic fantasy: Lovecraft and Machen.

The Netflix DVD (Synapse Films) has a 30th anniversary commentary track by the director, producer, and actress who plays Lemora. They have some fun and don't pretend it's a great film, and give insight into low budget filmmaking. The print used for the DVD is said to be much better than the one used for TV broadcasts. It also has the script as a pdf file.

This version is 85 minutes, 5 minutes longer than the theatrical cut. I've read that reports of a 113 minute cut are wrong: no such thing.



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post #553 of 1427 Old 07-19-2011, 04:30 AM - Thread Starter
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The Hill (1965), directed by Sidney Lumet.

A British military prison in North Africa, where they send the AWOL, drunks and thieves. It's a hard-working camp where the prisoners run and drill all day long. For punishment they repeatedly climb "the Hill" with heavy packs under the blazing sun: it's a man-made pyramid of sand and stone.

Now and then they get someone like Sgt Major Sean Connery from the tank corps: a professional soldier court-martialed for disobeying orders and striking an officer. He comes in with a group who are all trouble in their own ways.

Harry Andrews is the Regimental Sgt in charge ("The Commandant signs bits of paper. He'd sign his own death warrant if I gave it to him"). His job is to break the men down and build them up into soldiers again. He seems to be good at it, as brutal as need be without being murderous: "I've dented a few but never killed one." But then a prisoner does die, worked to death by a new Sgt, sadistically overdoing his job. (Ian Hendry, last seen as the sole surviving critic in Theater of Blood). Who will take the blame?

Great cast. I'm reminded of the saying "The Empire was built on the bones of Scotsmen". There are a lot of them in the British army, all pretty tough.

Ossie Davis is a soldier from the West Indies. I've always wondered what happens to prisoners who just sit down and refuse to drill any more. In reality I suspect they get kicked around until they change their minds, or are sent to a worse place. For some reason this line struck me as funny for 1965: "Don't answer back, you different-colored bastard!"

You can tell the story is adapted from a play because of the many conversation scenes. Lumet compensates with swooping handheld camera work. A couple of shots look consciously composed for graphic symmetry but it's all good photography, convincingly miserable. Good looking DVD.

Filmed in Spain.

A lot of people think this is Connery's finest performance, vying with another Lumet film: The Offense.



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post #554 of 1427 Old 07-22-2011, 04:58 AM - Thread Starter
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It! The Terror from Beyond Space (1958), directed by Edward L. Cahn.

Not really from beyond space: from Mars in the futuristic world of 1973. Only 69min long.

A rescue ship is bringing back the sole survivor of the first Mars expedition. They think he murdered his crew. He says it was a mysterious, barely seen creature, but who's going to believe that? Then members of the second crew begin vanishing...

Bullets won't stop it. Neither will grenades, bazookas or poison gas. An impressive arsenal in space!

It's a good setup, more sinister than your average low-budget rocketship movie. Two big problems: (1) during the monster hunt and fighting the crew periodically stop to talk things over or just mope, which halts the action. The creature bangs around in the basement in frustration. (2) The creature itself is the average man-in-a-rubber-suit. The less seen of him the better.

A lot of commentary claims this is an acknowledged inspiration for Alien (1979). I don't know about that (I should listen to the Alien extras) but there are some striking plot parallels. The final creature disposal technique is very similar.

In the Big Hollywood Handbook of Screenwriting Laws, it says:
  • Submarine movie: dive below crush depth and force decoy refuse out the torpedo tubes.
  • SF movie: crawl around in the ventilator ducts.

The crew includes two women scientists who also work in the galley and wait tables. No guns for them. Lots of cigarette smoking in space.

The space starry field background has several recognizable constellations around Orion, which is unusual. Who made that? Did they photograph a planetarium show?

On disc the image is cropped from 1.85 to 1.37. Netflix has this for streaming but not on disc; I rented mine from http://www.classicflix.com/ and it's also available for about $5 new. The DVD includes The Monster That Challenged the World.



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post #555 of 1427 Old 07-23-2011, 04:56 AM - Thread Starter
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Lady in a Jam (1942), directed by Gregory La Cava.

A minor screwball comedy, it starts slow but gets better.

Irene Dunne is a ditzy heiress facing bankruptcy. Psychiatrist Patric Knowles helps her out, first by posing as her chauffeur, and then just by hanging around. (I'm fuzzy on his method and what he was trying to accomplish). They head to Arizona (on location in Mesa) so she can try to extract gold from a derelict family mine. Costume cowpoke Ralph Bellamy is romantic competition.

Universal Vault Series DVD-R, available for rent from http://www.classicflix.com/.



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post #556 of 1427 Old 07-24-2011, 08:51 AM - Thread Starter
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The Misfits (1961), directed by John Huston.

Here is a case where it is hard to separate the poignancy of the story from the production of the film, the actors from their characters. Clark Gable's last film, Marilyn Monroe's last film: both died soon after. Montgomery Clift lived a while longer, but was in the middle of "the longest suicide in Hollywood history". (As I write this, Eli Wallach is still working in his 90s). A "troubled" production, you can read the details in the wikipedia. A hard-drinking director is a bad influence on the crew.

It's a rambling plot, mostly about a group of people, their conversations and relationships. But given that, it's one of the finer films I'd never seen before. Arthur Miller wrote this while married to Monroe: maybe this punches my American playwright ticket for another six months.

Monroe is the center of the picture and is in almost every scene. Again, it's hard to separate her acting from her personal problems, but at times the performance is amazing. Her uncertain, distracted demeanor is perfect for the role of a woman in Reno for a quick divorce. She's like a sex goddess just starting to reach the age of wisdom, sad but with a good heart, still willing to hope.

She falls in with gal pal Thelma Ritter and they hook up with real cowboy Clark Gable and his pilot buddy Eli Wallach. Much drinking, dancing, and driving in the desert. She moves in with Gable, but then becomes distracted by quirky, busted up rodeo rider Montgomery Clift.

Then it's up into the mountains to catch wild mustangs. What they don't tell her until it's too late is that no one rides mustangs anymore ("Kids ride motorscooters these days") and these will be sold to a dealer who slaughters them for dogfood. This is the crisis segment: arguing about it, chasing down the horses, roping them and tying them to the ground. No stunts here, it's all done for real and is both cruel and impressive.

It reveals a chasm of time and culture, and between men and women. The men are of that old world where everything living kills to survive, and even kind men can kill. It's true, but she's not having it, doesn't want to think or hear about it. She's crossed over into that fantasy realm where blood and killing are always wrong and no one ever causes pain intentionally. In the end, it looks like she may win the argument.

Strangely enough, Gable's acting style helps here. He's old school, enacting a character, where the others are more "method", living the parts. He symbolizes the old world, but their new realism, fantasy realm or no, breaks him down in the end. He says he can no longer recall the way the world used to be: "It's like trying to remember a dream."

How is it that Monroe whacking the paddle-ball in the bar is not an iconic image for her? It's an amazing scene.

A tiny technical point: a movie convention is to show views through binoculars as two intersecting circles. That's not what it looks like when you use them. They do it correctly here.

Available on Blu-ray, for rent from http://www.classicflix.com/. Netflix has no version of this on any media, but they do have a "making of" DVD!

I have no thumbnails because I'm not able to make them from Blu-ray yet, but there is some fine photography here.



-Bill
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post #557 of 1427 Old 07-24-2011, 11:49 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wmcclain View Post

The Misfits (1961), directed by John Huston.

How is it that Monroe whacking the paddle-ball in the bar is not an iconic image for her? It's an amazing scene.

I seem to recall a backstage story about the scene where she rushes to help Clift as he is drunk in the gutter, bends over and a portion of her anatomy falls out of her dress. It's cut, but you can see it coming.
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post #558 of 1427 Old 07-25-2011, 04:42 AM - Thread Starter
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THX 1138 (1971), directed by George Lucas.

Robert Duvall is THX, a factory worker, drugged into docility. Sex is not allowed, although there is holographic porn and what looks like some sort of masturbation machine. He has a mate, LUH, and she is dissatisfied. She withdraws his medication (a felony), and with the return of desire he feels like he is dying, but they begin having sex. They are busted and sent for remediation, which involves being test subjects and eventually organ donors. Is this the end of THX?

Try as they might, the social engineers of the future cannot entirely extirpate the Old Adam. Corruption and ambition persist, but so does passion and the desire for freedom, for something better.

The sterile dystopian future, a combination of 1984 and Brave New World, has never been better shown. In a project of this type it's easy to suspect satire and social commentary, and easy to find it. I never thought I'd say it, but a few scenes actually have a stark, antiseptic beauty.

I hadn't seen this for decades and was startled by how vivid the images seemed on Blu-ray. I didn't remember the animated expressways and large interiors; I read now that this is CGI added in a famous Lucas recut. Those parts look good, but nothing like a film released in 1971. The movie was much more disturbing in my youth; I've become jaded.

I never noticed before: the toilets not only have no lids, they have no seats. I thought the deity in the confession booth was Che Guevara; it's actually a medieval image of Christ. A segment in the large white prison room goes on way too long, stalling the story.

I'm shocked to read in the wikipedia that the motorcycle crash stunt was done by a living human being.

Some passion and nudity.

Available on Blu-ray. Bless the subtitles: a lot of background dialogue is lost without them.



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post #559 of 1427 Old 07-27-2011, 04:26 AM - Thread Starter
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King Kong (1976), directed by John Guillermin.

This version is not much admired, and in fact it doesn't have a lot to offer. They spent a lot on the ape effects, but the illusion of size and space is mostly missing. Hawaii provides some nice Skull Island locations, but there is also too much soundstage work.

We're used to the Beauty and the Beast aspect. We always feel pity for Kong and wonder at the strangely emotional and sensual bond between him and Dwan (yes, that's her name). They try to hit something more here: the worship of celebrity, parallel to the natives worship of their ape god.

Introducing Jessica Lange as our heroine, guided by horoscopes and torn between fame and love. It's hard to see stowaway scientist Jeff Bridges through that hair, but he either has his mouth hanging open in astonishment, or clenched tight with outrage: "There's a girl out there who might be running for her life from some gigantic turned-on ape!"

Charles Grodin is supposed to be both funny and irritating as the oil company big cheese. He gets the irritating part right. He's stomped in the end, thank goodness.

Kong climbs the World Trade Center in this version and jumps between the towers. His end is bloody but reasonably quick. They say 30,000 people showed up as extras for the street scenes.

John Barry score.



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post #560 of 1427 Old 07-29-2011, 04:02 AM - Thread Starter
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The Haunting (1963), directed by Robert Wise.

Quote:


Eleanor: Who's in the house?

Caretaker: No one you'd want to meet.

I reviewed this before but just read The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson and had to see it again. The movie follows the book pretty closely in many respects; differences are listed in the wikipedia. The film omits one fright scene (the blood and writing in Theo's room) and adds another: the madness of the doctor's wife (Lois Maxwell, who was Miss Moneypenny in the early Bond films).

It's 40 minutes before the scary stuff begins, which will be too long for many people these days. It's Eleanor's story both in print and on the screen: her loneliness and paranoia, her fear that she is the cause of the happenings, her need to be cherished and belong somewhere, and her growing belief that Hill House is where she belongs.

A favorite bit: she and Theo clutch each other while a mysterious entity slams the walls and doors in the hallway. She jumps up and screams "Go away! Leave us alone!" Silence. She thinks: "It was looking for a room with people inside. Now it knows we're here." Then "it" starts craftily working on the door...

A discussion in the book suggests some thoughts on horror films. The doctor points out that the conscious, rational mind can resist the supernatural, but that no one controls their subconscious, so even skeptics must be careful in haunted houses.

Horror films can range from the barely suggested to the gruesomely explicit. The former end is sometimes called "psychological horror", although that's not well defined. I propose that the explicit can be dealt with by the rational mind, as with any other problem where we apply positive thinking and craft. (Revulsion is another dimension, though: you can't necessarily reason your way out of disgust).

The merely suggested is more insidious: it creeps under your defenses, into the subconscious where intellect and reason cannot cope.

It's like trying to describe a nightmare, one of your really bad ones. Words fail. You can summarize it, but never communicate why it was so bad. You can't even explain it to yourself. Feelings of dread, fear of the inexplicable, the sense of spiritual loathsomeness: these are not engendered in the conscious mind, but come out of the depths. That's scary.

Movies that can prompt those sorts of responses go on a special list.



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post #561 of 1427 Old 08-01-2011, 04:29 AM - Thread Starter
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Dirty Harry (1971), produced and directed by Don Siegel.

I've always wanted to stand up in a movie audience and yell "Peter Finnegan!" See if anyone responds with "My, that's a big one", although I'd probably get "Hubba hubba hubba, pig bastard." (If the reference is obscure, see Dirty Harry, 52:10).

In some ways it's a revision of Bullitt: same studio, city and score composer, but deeper into the fantasy action universe.

Callahan's lonely trek across the city at night with a bag of money is fine movie making. He crosses the line under the lights at the stadium: until then Harry has been tough but within legal boundaries. He pulls the trigger when he doesn't have to; torturing the psycho for information quickly follows. We mind and we don't. It's brutal, but anything to shut up Scorpio's whiney crazy-talk. Andy Robinson is really good at it.

For me the story is complete at the bleak dawn scene when Ann Mary Deacon's body is recovered under the bridge, but it goes on for another packed 30 minutes: Harry's rage against the system, tailing Scorpio, the psycho's purchase of a vicious beating, liquor store robbery, schoolbus hijacking and final chase and shootout.

This has always been one of my desert island films, although with many viewings I've become aware of it's flaws. The dialogue is stiff and artificial, sometimes sounding like a boot banging around in a bucket. It's distasteful when you become aware of your blood-lust revenge buttons being pushed.

It was pretty well received at the time, although controversial for civil liberties abuses and police brutality. According to the wikipedia:

Quote:


Feminists in particular were outraged by the film and at the Oscars for 1971 protested outside holding up banners which read messages such as "Dirty Harry is a Rotten Pig".

What the hell was that all about? Was catching rapists and murderers an offense against wymynkind? Harry's only extended contact with a woman is Chico's wife at the hospital and he is extraordinarily kind. Well, there is that Rear Window moment during the rooftop stakeout. And Hot Mary.

Gorgeous San Francisco panoramas, dynamite Lalo Schifrin soundtrack.

Available on Blu-ray.



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post #562 of 1427 Old 08-03-2011, 03:57 AM - Thread Starter
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Burn, Witch, Burn (1962), directed by Sidney Hayers.

Aka Night of the Eagle.

Despite the lurid title, this is one of those mild supernatural thrillers where the protagonist resists the awful truth for most of the film, becoming a believer only in the final moments. It's quite well done and finely photographed, but could have used a bit more adrenaline. Nice mood and atmosphere, but slowly paced at first.

A college professor's wife is practicing witchcraft to advance his career. He makes her stop: big mistake, as malevolent forces crash in on them from all directions. When you are searching for your wife in a crypt at midnight, you know you've gotten off the path somewhere.

It inspires some thoughts: when a loved one starts talking crazy and seems to live in an alternate reality, you either go with them or you don't. And: women sometimes exhibit secret spite and malevolence that is really scary.

I read Fritz Leiber's Conjure Wife ages ago. In the book all the women are witches, taking faculty infighting to a new level. The men are all oblivious.

His father, Fritz Leiber Sr, was a busy actor of the early 20th century. In the 1930s you often see him as Grand Inquisitors or bloodthirsty French Revolutionaries.

MGM "Limited Edition Collection" DVD-R, available for rent from http://www.classicflix.com/. Apparently early buyers of this from Amazon got a mislabeled copy of The Nun and the Sergeant (1962) instead, an error that has since been corrected.



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post #563 of 1427 Old 08-08-2011, 04:48 AM - Thread Starter
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Will Penny (1968), written and directed by Tom Gries.

A fine western partly in the new realism trend of the time but also with more traditional action segments and a big romance plot. To its great credit we do not get a Hollywood ending: love does not conquer all, sometimes it tears us apart. Again.

Penny is an aging cowboy (nearly 50!), illiterate and with no other prospects. His life is cold and dusty and he works hard. He doesn't look for trouble but handles it when it comes. He crosses paths with a bizarre clan of sadistic "rawhider" degenerates, and later winters over with a widow and her son way up in the mountains. Got to kill the rawhiders before it's over.

Charlton Heston is the star and this was said to be his favorite role, but the other actors get plenty of time and we have great ensemble performances: Joan Hacket, Donald Pleasence, Ben Johnson, Lee Majors, Bruce Dern, Slim Pickens, and Anthony Zerbe (last seen with Heston in The Omega Man).

Jon Gries was the director's son and on the DVD extras describes how he was drafted to play the little boy. He was honestly afraid of Bruce Dern, who was seriously into his role.

Gorgeous mountain landscapes. The David Raksin score is unusual for a western, but that's good because standard cowpoke music becomes tedious.



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post #564 of 1427 Old 08-10-2011, 04:29 AM - Thread Starter
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The Getaway (1972), directed by Sam Peckinpah.

Steve McQueen is doing hard time in a Texas prison. His only way out is to do a bank job for a corrupt parole officer. He doesn't get to pick his own crew and it goes badly: one dead guard, one dead robber.

That's the first 40 minutes. The rest is about surviving the aftermath. It has many good moments and exciting chase and shootout scenes, but the pacing is a bit off. We have way too much time with the surviving heist doofus, still after the money, alternately terrorizing a veterinarian and bedding his willing wife (Sally Struthers).

McQueen is excellent at showing the shock of being outside again, and the time needed to get to know his wife. Ali MacGraw is both wife and partner and seems loyal, but she had to do some things to get him out and is now compromised. In the end it's a love story. McQueen can't do what DeNiro does in Heat: walk away.

The wikipedia has details on the complicated production history. Screenplay by Walter Hill from a Jim Thompson novel, remade in 1994.

Available on an economical Blu-ray ($7.99 recently). Score by Quincy Jones, although Peckinpah wanted the original one by Jerry Fielding. It's included as an isolated score on the disc, but coverage is sometimes spotty.



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post #565 of 1427 Old 08-11-2011, 02:48 PM
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As always, Great Work! Thank You again
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post #566 of 1427 Old 08-13-2011, 10:47 AM
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I finally caught up with John Ford's The Searchers. Agree with some of the earlier reviews that John Wayne can indeed act.

Somehow this is not the kind of western I remembered when I was growing up. Obviously enjoying the human element more as I mature. Natalie Wood was in this one also.

Very memorable and worth watching.
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post #567 of 1427 Old 08-14-2011, 04:47 AM - Thread Starter
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Serpico (1973), directed by Sidney Lumet.

Based on a true story, the career of a policeman from uniformed patrolman through undercover and into narcotics, and his efforts as an informant trying, with little success, to expose police corruption. It begins near the end with Serpico shot and being rushed to the hospital. "Did a cop shoot him?" No one would be surprised.

We see some amount of police work: running, tackling, shooting, but most of the story is Serpico's efforts to find a place where he can be a cop without participating in corrupt practices. Obviously none of his coworkers trust him and it causes a lot of tension. We have a lot of time with the neighborhood and his girlfriends.

He's brave but also irritating: a martyr always complaining about being the only honest cop in the city. He lashes out at the people close to him. Police corruption stories have become more common since then and it was more hard-hitting at the time.

Lumet was brought in at the last moment, but it looks just like his other streets of NY pictures of the 1970s: real people and locations, everything stressed and broken down. Pacino's face, hair and beard tend to dominate all the close ups.

Brief nudity. I see people complaining about the score. It's a nice mixture of old-world folk music (think The Godfather) and 70s police action.



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post #568 of 1427 Old 08-16-2011, 04:31 AM - Thread Starter
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Soylent Green (1973), directed by Richard Fleischer.

A minor science fiction effort, actually a simple murder mystery dressed up in a dystopian setting. It's a "statement" movie made shortly after the first Earth Day when the population bomb, pollution and social regimentation were fresh and vital issues. It's remembered for the famous punch-line and for being Edward G. Robinson's last picture.

New York in the near future is hot and overcrowded: 40 million people without enough water or electricity. The air is yellow-green and garbage trucks collect the dead bodies. Charlton Heston is a cop investigating the murder of a rich man in a luxury apartment building: as a perk of the job he pilfers freely and makes use of the A/C, running water and resident prostitute (called "furniture" for some reason -- as in "piece of"?).

Heston must have liked science fiction, he did so much of it. Robinson died just a few days after the end of filming and I read that he told Heston what was up before their big good-bye scene. That's moving, although I wish it had been in a better movie. And yet: the euthanasia chamber scene is distressingly lovely.

Available on Blu-ray.



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post #569 of 1427 Old 08-17-2011, 04:42 AM - Thread Starter
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The Goddess (1958), directed by John Cromwell.

Scenes from the life of a troubled actress, inspired by the case of Marilyn Monroe, who was still alive at the time. Kim Stanley, last seen in Seance on a Wet Afternoon, is not as glamorous as the original, but she can act (not that Monroe couldn't, but this is a different level).

Born poor during the Depression to an neglecting and flighty mother, Emily has a craving both for love and respectability. In high school, boys date her because of her supposed wrong side of the tracks easy virtue. And, in truth, she can't stand to be alone. When married she becomes a bad mother herself, repeating some of her own mother's lines.

She eventually gets to Hollywood and becomes a superstar after sleeping with the studio heads. We hear about nude photo sessions, nervous breakdowns and suicide attempts. She finds God for a while but it doesn't stick: her temporary faith is just loneliness. In the end she is a total mess, cared for by handlers.

There is a final hopeful moment: maybe the cycle will be broken with her own little girl.

Written by Paddy Chayefsky, structured like a stage play. It's meant to be serious drama as in serious theater. It would be more tragic if we cared about the character. We pity her, but that's not the same. It's hard to get close to characters who are peevish and ill-tempered, whatever their reasons.

We get a glimpse of young Patty Duke as Emily at age 8.

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



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post #570 of 1427 Old 08-22-2011, 07:59 PM
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Another great Sellers' movie was Being There from 1975. With the current capital politics, we could use a Gardener to shepherd our country's future.
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