I saw William Wyler’s The Big Country when I was knee-high to a grasshopper, and for some reason it seared into my brain, which is why it’s my favorite western, ever. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance gives it a push, but not enough of a push. Jerome Moross supplied one of the best musical scores for a western, ever. The only score that I can immediately think of that gives it a run for its money would be The Magnificent Seven. If you’re a fan of westerns and haven’t watched TBC, you are really missing a great one.
Fine early Peckinpah western, with Joel McCrea and Randolph Scott as geezer tough guys. When the west is ending the hard men have to go with it, also a theme in John Ford's westerns. Old actors and westerns sort of passed away together.
Nothing like the level of violence of his later pictures. Beautiful California mountain landscapes, although the foliage on the DVD is not very saturated. Could we get a new transfer?
The plot structure is unusual, with the normal western action segments coming well into the second half. The first part has a lot of comedy, although Mariette Hartley's prospects on her wedding night are uncomfortable to watch. This is her first film; she was 22.
Many familiar faces. LQ Jones, Warren Oates and RG Armstrong appear in other Peckinpah films.
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Whenever someone says The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly is Leone's best film (and it IS a great film), you can pretty much guarantee that they haven't seen Once Upon a Time in the West. Easily the greatest western ever made.
Fantastic cinematography. Charles Bronson's finest hour (with thhe possible exception of The Great Escape). Claudia Cardinale, one of the most beautiful women in the history of cinema. Great performance by Jason Robards. Henry Fonda as you've never seen before (playing a heartless, cruel villain like nobody's business). Another magnificent Ennio Morricone score.
This film also opens with the greatest performance by a fly in the history of the movies in a fabulous scene with the great Jack Elam.
I mean....what's not to like? Few films are as operatic as this one. The day this film is released on Blu-ray can't come soon enough.
Sorry, Eastwood destroys Bronson. Not to mention Eli Wallach, Upon upon a Time..... is too artsy.
The Wild Bunch (1969), directed by Sam Peckinpah.
A sad brutal epic, it could not be improved.
You seldom see such a concentration of acting talent. Many fine performances. In particular, I will see anything with Robert Ryan, one of the great film noir actors.
When I first saw this, famous for its new level of violence, I thought of it as an anti-western, or as someone put it, the gravestone of westerns. Now I see the old mythic power is still there: honor among thieves (although it is a bit of a struggle). Separating the Men from the "gutter trash". Mexico as a land of suffering and savagery, always waiting for its deliverer. The great heroic gesture, ending in death.
This movie really kicks ass!!
Don't forget "Red River" from 1949, another Howard Hawks Western.
Rita Hayworth in a memorable role as a very naughty (maybe?) gal who hates her ex "so much I'd destroy myself just to bring you down." This classic noir tale has intrigue, tension, and great innuendo-filled banter. Among the latter is one of the all-time greatest lines in movie history, as Gilda is tempting a would-be suitor: "Haven't you heard about me? If I had been a ranch, they'd have named me the 'Bar Nothing.'"
If you've seen "The Shawshank Redemption" (from King's "Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption"), then you've seen Rita's introduction in this movie. The inmates are watching this one as Andy asks Red for a specialty item: "I want you to get me ... her."
Knowledge isn't Truth; it's just mindless agreement.
I'm not sure anyone who did not see this when it first appeared can appreciate it's mythical power. We'd had a good ten years of the space program, back when the TV networks covered all of the launches, all day long. And I watched them.
Then the first Earth Day and the intense concern for nature, anger at people for spoiling it and fear that it might all be lost. (And nuclear bombs; we thought a lot about those).
There was a moment when these came together; nature in space. Does anyone remember The Whole Earth Catalog with it's strange combination of space colonies, geodesic domes and dirt soup? (Recipe: lots of lentils and cumin).
And this moment had a beautiful, heartfelt movie, so strange and poignant.
After ten years of playing psycho killers and degenerates (no one did it better), Bruce Dern gives a tremendous performance as the semi-crazed space-ecologist trying to save one last fragment of nature from the fire. He has so many good scenes: watching the Earth with his telescope (an original Celestron C8 orange tube), reading the Conservation Pledge in his bunk, and the oddly moving sequence when the drones operate on his leg.
He thinks that his mission, his forest and his robots are enough, that he doesn't need anything from other people. But he is wrong, and the growing loneliness and guilt overcome him and he has to make an End of it. Giving the forest one last chance, a bit less each time, the message in the bottle...
Seeing it again reminds me how exciting early programming and robotics was, how ambitious were all our projects.
The Ring Passage sequence is very exciting, echoed later in the air-braking scene in "2010". My one regret about the finale to the recent Battlestar Galactica is that they did not do something similar when they sent the fleet into the Sun. I wanted to see the Galactica's interior as it approaches its end, with a final pan of the Picture Wall. Would that have been too cliche?
Joan Baez sings two lovely songs composed by Peter Shickele. They'll be in my head for days now.
The thumbnails are from a region B Blu-ray.
William Holden's adventures with a Chinese prostitute, played by the lovely Nancy Kwan.
The first half is fairly light. Holden is a perfect gentleman withstanding great temptation; in fact he seems to be made of asbestos. The second half turns romantic and weepy, with a dramatic mudslide disaster in the city hills at the end.
Pretty girl and impressive Hong Kong locations, but that's about it. Two hours is a bit long for this.
Kudos for letting Asian actors play Asian roles; it took a while to happen. By contrast look at LORD JIM made five years later, where they still can't quite bring themselves to allow it.
When I was young my favorite parts were the flying monkeys and haunted wood and witch's castle. That's still the case. The scary bits. The fortress and goblin soldiers now have a sort of Tolkien aspect, a mini-Mordor.
You can keep the Munchkins.
This time I noticed Judy Garland breaking character and starting to smile when she first meets the Lion and he is crying and wiping his eyes. Also how often the ruby slippers reflect off of the polished floors.
When Dorothy is locked in the castle and sees Auntie Em in the crystal ball I had the strangest sensation of having drifted into a David Lynch film. Like "Mulholland Dr", where the dreamer is under such stress that she must break out of the dream and awake into the outer reality.
Toto holds it all together. It takes a lot of skill to keep wagging that tail and keep up with the dancers without being trampled. He's really very good, without seeming like a show dog.
Review older films here: 1979 and earlier | 1980s | Combined reviews: Strange Picture Scroll
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The Wizard of Oz (1939)
I urge anyone who is a fan of this film to watch the BD....it is just incredible and it will provide a new experience of the film.
A.P.S. deserve our protection....join the cause today!
I first saw this in the 1970s a few years after it was first released and I hated it. Just hated it. I must have changed because slowly over the years it has become one of my favorite films and is now on my desert island list.
Setting aside the assaults, rape, sadism and murder, it is a really funny film. People want to talk about what it means but miss what a rich dark comedy it is.
Times have changed, too, and people are perhaps inured to ultra-violence in films. Pornography is much more mainstream than in 1971. It was tectonically controversial at the time, but I don't know if new viewers will see it that way now.
On Blu-ray. Malcom McDowell and a film historian contribute a chatty commentary track, full of interesting details and background.
The film and the book have about 90% overlap. Actor Tom Hollander has a very nice audiobook reading. He makes the Nadsat slang intelligible.
One-season TV series, 30 episodes. A comedy/action show, probably meant to copy "The Avengers" from the UK. Twenty-five minutes is not enough time to develop and solve good plots, so it is all a bit rushed. The stories tended to become more silly as the season progressed, which was not a good idea.
The humor is often pretty feeble and stunt doubles in the action scenes more obvious than usual. Still, Honey and Sam sometimes have a bit of chemistry (did they or didn't they? I still don't know) and occasional repartee. Anne Francis is easy on the eyes.
When I was young the title was a synonym for moral hypocrisy, adultery and other steamy lewdness. That must have come from the book; the movie (they say) has been toned down quite a bit. Still, it was a big hit at the time and earned a bunch of awards.
Big screen soap opera. Good cast (Arthur Kennedy was always a favorite), location filming in New England, lush Franz Waxman score. On the other hand the dialog can be a bit stiff. The hair styles and clothing don't look much like 1941.
That normal, respectable life is a thin layer over corruption has been a popular theme for about a century. You might call it a movie cliche.
Rosalind Russell screwball comedy about two sisters trying to make it in New York. Not exactly top-drawer but it has good bits and keeps moving.
Their basement apartment looks like the same set used for "A Night to Remember" made the same year. Both films had Brian Aherne, who sometimes looks like a less buff Errol Flynn, and Donald MacBride, who made a career playing flustered cops.
Apparently the Code allowed prostitution if referenced comically.
Great Films Category -
My Fair Lady (1964) - Occasionally on critics' lists as their #1 film and occupying that spot on my list. The film "is a musical based upon George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion and with book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner and music by Frederick Loewe. The story concerns Eliza Doolittle, a Cockney flower girl who takes speech lessons from professor Henry Higgins so that she can pass as a lady. Higgins takes credit for Eliza's success, but she realizes that she can now be independent and does not need him." The charm of the movie is equal parts the score, the libretto, the production values and the choice of actors/performers. All come together to make a classic which will be enjoyed as long as English is a spoken word, "even in America where they haven't spoken it in years." Fortunately, the film has been laboriously restored to pristine quality in recent times.
If you love or even appreciate musicals this is a must see and own. If you do not, then rent a Dracula movie or something, and the Lord have pity on your soul.
Obscure But Worth It Category -
Bright Leaf (1950) - The film is a period piece taking place in the late 1800s in the deep South. Gary Cooper plays a man wronged (?) by a rich tobacco magnate who comes back to reek revenge on the man through his daughter played by Patricia Neal. The third in the love triangle is the gorgeous Lauren Bacall. The interest in the story to me is the transformation of Coop's character from a greatly sympathetic one to a revenge obsessed villain...perhaps Coop's only such role.
"Without music, life would be a mistake." - Friedrich Nietzsche
Of the many things that happens to this soldier, meeting a young lady in a train car is a highlight. The actress plays the role perfectly, and is both beautiful and spunky
These 2 have some very funny scenes earlier in this film. This movie also features some nice footage of WW2 era equipment including the majestic Russian T34 tank.
Another Rosalind Russell vehicle. She's fun to watch as a brainy psychiatrist, but add the physical comedy and it is a strange combination. Lee Bowman is too bland as the leading man. Uneven tone and pacing; some funny segments but other stretches are pretty clunky.
Check out her fabulous Chicago apartment. The war years have obviously been good for her.
The last half hour is largely devoted to a skit on the double meeting of "to marry": (1) something a couple do, and (2) something the judge does to them. The joke dates back to Shakespeare, but he thought it was worth about three lines.
My Man Godfrey (1936), directed by Gregory La Cava.
One of the very best screwball comedies. William Powell and Carole Lombard, although divorced at this time, are still great friends and have superb chemistry and comic timing. Wonderful cast.
It has a Depression-era social consciousness background, but the changes are head-spinning. Godfrey is a Forgotten Man living at the city dump, picked up by some idle rich kids to display at one of their society games. This gives us a chance, along with Godfrey, to sneer at them. On the other hand, they seem to be having a lot of fun. When he moves to the vast marble mansion we see the rich family are funny but also crazy, making them less contemptible and actually pitiable. Then Godfrey recovers his self-respect by being a good butler and the daughters of the house turn out to be simultaneously appealing and scary, which is always a problem. We discover he was once one of the suspect rich, now one of the noble poor. He then turns the tables by making a fortune of his own, which would make him suspect again, but he is generous in his success. He moves back to the dump, turning it into a nightclub (that 1930s paradise) and employing the other bums, which again would make him suspect, but they all like him and the project is not making any money anyway. In the final scene he loses the war of the sexes and it ends as all good screwball comedies and Jane Austen novels should.
All in 90 minutes.
Six Academy Award nominations, although not for Best Picture, and no wins. It was a tough decade.
Carole Lombard died at age 33 in a plane crash during WW2, selling war bonds.
Fine film noir with an unusual amount of boats, marlin fishing and sharks. You also don't often find a cop as conflicted as our hero. Striking chase and shootout amidst the fireworks at the end.
Robert Taylor is adequate as the leading man; actually his stiffness helps with this role. Charles Laughton and Vincent Price are at their slimy best.
Ava Gardner is in her exceedingly gorgeous phase, which lasted all of her life. She's like an angel who fell to earth and developed the most amazing bedroom eyes. I remember that one-strap top she wears being a famous celebrity photo.
I had been wanting to see this for years. It was featured in Steve Martin's "Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid" as the long final segment.
Warner Archive DVD.
Men in War (1957), directed by Anthony Mann.
Low budget, very gritty lost patrol story set in Korea, 1950. As you would expect it is a "and then there were none" story as the men are picked off one by one. A lot of cliches but still very powerful. The shell-shocked Colonel, the mine field, the Sgt Rock with an attitude, the sneaky invisible enemy. The semi-psychic powers required for survival.
The always outstanding Robert Ryan is the old army Lt, competent but very, very tired, starting to forget the names of his men, who's living and who's dead. Also with Aldo Ray, Nehemiah Persoff, James Edwards, and the very young Vic Morrow and LQ Jones.
The territory seems like a deserted wilderness; no buildings, just lurking death and strange, inexplicable phenomena like the incoming pattern of artillery shells blocking the road.
As a kid, it was always the mine field scene that scared me. My father had mine stories from WW2 and I know they scared him, too.
The IMDB does not list the original aspect ratio of this title, but comments say the narrow 1.33 (1.37?) ratio is correct. In any case, 4:3 DVD is all we have.
[Later: thumbnails from the Olive Films Blu-ray]
Pure adventure, like they used to make them. I wish there were ten more like it. No fantasy gimics, no cute kid, no romantic interest tagging along. Just clever Michael Caine and great-hearted Sean Connery as imperial soldiers looking for fortune on the far side of Afghanistan, and their shock when they find it.
The short story is elaborated into a tale told to Kipling himself, expertly played by Christopher Plummer. I don't recall the masonic theme being in the text.
I presumed Kipling's Kafiristan was mythical, but it was a real place..
All of Kipling's early stories are tales of India, a country he loved. If you haven't read them you may think you know what they are like, but I promise you that you don't. Tremendous literature.
The theme song is The Minstrel Boy.
We need a new disc version. The DVD is properly widescreen but has a lot of problems in the fine detail.
The DVD has a "making of" segment where Connery performs his own stunt of falling off the rope bridge, a long way down to a huge pile of cardboard boxes. Huston says "That's one of the damnedest things I've ever seen."
Experiment in Terror (1962), directed by Blake Edwards.
Very fine thriller and police procedural with Lee Remick, Glenn Ford, and the young Stefanie Powers. Many long tense sections. Good San Francisco locations and panoramas.
Black and white, traditional noir look. Apart from being wide screen many of the shots could have been composed 15 years earlier. The content has changed from the early years, though. Sometime in the 50s and 60s movies and and TV started featuring more terr-o-rama: psychos, home invasion, sadism and crimes against women. You see a new level of fear that hadn't been presented before.
The IMDB notes say that people think David Lynch must like this film. That's easy to believe from the opening credits, the way it is shot and the combination of ominous industrial drone and cool, bassy jazz.
In fact, Henry Mancini's score is tremendous throughout; it seems to have a keen following. You can picture Angelo Badalamenti given it a close listen.
The DVD is out of print. Netflix doesn't have it, but I was able to rent it from http://www.classicflix.com/.
[Later: thumbnails from the Blu-ray]
Omega Man. My favorite CH film. Who would have thought he could carry a 90 minute monologue and be so entertaining.
Silent Running. Best Dern movie. I thought I was the only person to see this movie as no one I talk to knows of it. It introduced robots with broad personalities well before Star Wars. And these couldn't even speak. I even mentioned this movie in the Avatar thread and nobody blinked.
Both of these are fine examples of one actor carrying a movie almost by himself and yet you don't get board with them.
About great westerns, people don't mention How the West Was Won (1962). One of my favorites. I saw this at the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood with the triple projectors. It was so broad a panorama that I have refused to watch it on TV. I finally bought the DVD and will view it just to see if it holds up on the small screen. Also, talk about a movie with a lot of big name stars. Right up there with It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1963).
Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954), directed by Jack Arnold.
I grew up on Universal science fiction fiction films of the 1950s. Many directed by Jack Arnold! The Creature is one of the better rubber suit monsters and the Florida and California locations serve pretty well for the Amazon. The science class intro was a standard feature of the genre.
We always feel sorry for the Creature; didn't Marilyn Monroe say that in The Seven Year Itch? It's another Beauty and the Beast story; he just wants a mate and to be otherwise left alone. Guys sympathize with that, too.
The male leads tend to make speeches, but Julie Adams is very good. I award her Best Intelligent Clean Scrubbed Actress in a Custom Swimsuit for 1954. Not even a living fossil gill-man can resist her. Big wardrobe for the Amazon but it is all pretty sensible. The scene where the Creature secretly swims with her and watches her aquatic ballet is very creepy.
I appreciated the "we are exploring the oceans just as we are beginning to explore outer space" sentiment. At the time it was quite true.
The original aspect ratio is 2.0:1 but all the DVDs appear to be 4:3. Originally in 3D.
[Later: thumbnails from the Blu-ray]
Aka Silent Star and Der schweigende Stern.
Space adventure made in East Germany with an international cast. I was expecting a lot of politics, but that's not in the 78 minute cut I saw; maybe in the longer versions.
On the one hand it is an interesting display of what the future looked like to the filmmakers of that place and time, fifty years ago. Obviously an expensive production with elaborate spaceship interiors and intriguing Venus surface models.
On the other hand the acting and presentation are really clunky and voters at the IMDB give it a dismal 3.7. The final segment builds into an everything-goes-wrong catastrophe story which could have been exciting, but is just sort of jumbled and incoherent.
Finally, I think they ran out of money when designing the space long johns, and I have never met a cute robot I liked.
All are black & white, 4:3, no subtitles, little restoration.
Girl in the News (1940), directed by Carol Reed. Romance/thriller. Margaret Lockwood as a nurse always being accused of murder. Many familiar faces of the period, Roger Livesey being a particular favorite. Some nice Reed touches. I wish there were subtitles so I could pick up a bit more of the comic patter.
Siege of Sydney Street (1960). True story of a big shootout after a heist gone wrong. Features in Churchill biographies because he was on the scene as a government minister. I would see this again if there were a 2.35:1 version; this one is 4:3. Donald Sinden is the policeman; when playing the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game his name is always appearing.
Tread Softly Stranger (1958). Rather good crime drama with George Baker and Diana Dors, the latter as a tough, pouty 1950s sweater-girl. Some passion scenes; aren't the English supposed to be cold-blooded?
The Frightened Man (1952). Another crime drama, not very memorable.
The Hooded Terror (1938). Amateur sleuth Sexton Blake vs a world crime league. First use of closed circuit TV that I recall seeing in a movie.
Crimes at the Dark House (1940). Rather silly version of The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins.
(Also see PooperScooper's review above).
Exciting WW2 desert battles story, meant to be both heroic and realistic. Richard Burton is the lead, with James Mason reprising his role as Rommel. Burton plays the toughest character called "Tammy" that I can recall.
Robert Newton (the old school master) is always eccentric, always memorable. He can ham it up in a way that seems natural and appropriate to the situation.
We tend to think of directors as auteurs, putting their personal stamp on their films. Sometimes it is true (Hitchcock, Kubrick, Lynch) but many fine directors can produce movies where they seem to be almost invisible. Look at some of Robert Wise's other films:
- The Setup
- The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
- West Side Story
- The Haunting
- The Sound of Music
- The Sand Pebbles.
No pattern, other than a job well done.
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