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post #661 of 1347 Old 01-17-2012, 04:47 AM - Thread Starter
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Silent Running (1972), directed by Douglas Trumbull.

I reviewed this previously and will let my earlier appreciation stand as is. I wanted to report on the region B Blu-ray and give some thumbnails.

It's a favorite but I'd almost forgotten what it looked like. This is a fine transfer from Masters of Cinema, a good value with a commentary track, isolated score, making of and other extras, plus a 48-page booklet.

I enjoyed the apology screen when trying this on a region A player:

Quote:


BLEEEEEP!

We hoped you wouldn't have to see this screen.

This Blu-ray is region B coded (Europe). Your player must be a different region.

We apologise profusely but we have been forced to encode the disc region B at the express insistence of the film's licensor and a global industry afraid of a level playing field.

Music and books are not region encoded -- why should films be?

If you are able to locate a multi-region Blu-ray player, this disc will play okay.

We recommend that you obtain a multi-region Blu-ray player so your time isn't wasted unnecessarily in the future.

Sorry.

-- the Masters of Cinema Series

Highly recommended if you are a fan of the movie and can cope with region B Blu-ray.



-Bill
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post #662 of 1347 Old 01-19-2012, 04:29 AM - Thread Starter
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Cross of Iron (1977), directed by Sam Peckinpah.

A soldiers-eye view of the chaotic German retreat from a Black Sea front in 1943. Cold weather uniforms are not the problem this time: the emphasis is on muddy trenches, lice, blood, dismemberment and close-quarters vicious combat.

The central story is a conflict between weaselly Prussian aristocrat Maximilian Schell and non-com James Coburn, tired but the best soldier in the unit. The officer wants to collect an Iron Cross and scoot back to Paris as quickly as possible; he blackmails his men to get what he wants. At least he's not a nazi.

Coburn is not so much insubordinate as displaying a fiercely bad attitude. Well beyond fed up, he says to the kindly officers played by James Mason and David Warner:

Quote:


Do you think that just because you and Colonel Brandt are more enlightened than most officers that I hate you any less? I hate all officers, all the Stranskys, all the Triebigs, all the Iron Cross scavengers in the whole German army.

Do you know how much I hate this uniform and everything it stands for?

But he goes back into action when he could have gotten out.

The lost patrol has an ugly encounter with a group of Russian women soldiers. It's bad on both sides.

At the end, approaching Valhalla, Coburn gives Schell a weapon and says "I'll show you where the Iron Crosses grow."

Because they are so recognizable as "Peckinpah" techniques, some scenes of extreme violence take us out of the story: bodies flying through the air in slow motion, hosing blood. Is this the insanity of war? Was The Wild Bunch about the insanity of bank robbery?

Filmed in Yugoslavia. His only war film. I think Coburn is pretty tremendous here, more restrained and quieter than usual.

This is in print on region 1 DVD but beware older 4:3 pan & scan editions; I think that's what Netflix has. My thumbnails are from a region B Blu-ray. It is 24.0hz, which is part of the standard but rare.

The reviewer at DVDBeaver thinks the green coloring is intentional. I've been seeing excess green in many Euro titles for years and have always presumed some issue with color standards has contributed.



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post #663 of 1347 Old 01-21-2012, 04:48 AM - Thread Starter
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Trooper Hook (1957), directed by Charles Marquis Warren.

Quote:


They hate the Indians for what they themselves might have done. They hate me even more.

Another "white woman captured by the Indians" western. Nearing retirement, Army Sgt Joel McCrea captures a group of wild Indians and rescues Barbara Stanwyck, who now has a son by the chief. The Sgt escorts her back to her original husband, who we just know is not going to be happy to see them. Meanwhile Chief Nanchez has has escaped and wants the boy back. The resolution in the final minutes is ridiculously convenient.

The Stalking Moon (1968) is a parallel story. This one has some good points but both Comanche Station (1960) and The Stalking Moon (1968) are miles ahead in quality.

The story emphasizes the contempt people feel for her for living under such degradation. She was supposed to kill herself. Not just the men, but the women feel that way. She says it was the same among the Apaches: the women treated her the worst.

Only a few can break through the social barrier and show her kindness; others want to but aren't strong enough. McCrea understands what it means to survive under harsh conditions: he lived like a dog -- literally -- for a month in a prison camp during the War. He and friendly cowpoke Earl Holliman are her defenders.

Quote:


Salesman: Is that the fashion these parts? I mean your hair. Cut it might short it looks to me. Any reason for it?

She: Lice.

I'm not sure what to make of one scene: surrounded by hostile Apaches, the Sgt threatens to kill the boy unless Nanchez lets them go. He's serious. Is that part of the Code of the West? The troopers also burn the Indian camp at the beginning.

Was Stanwyck the best choice here? Her invincible strength and dignity tend to overpower the role. I recall McCrea looking younger in Ride the High Country (1962), made five years later.

Other familiar faces: Royal Dano as the irascible stage driver ("Sit up here and you can watch me snap the heads off of rattlers") and Edward Andrews, who never had a sympathetic role. He was always the big loud guy with heavy glasses. Young Susan Kohner was last seen in Imitation of Life (1959). John Dehner is the unlikeable husband.

The music is pretty poor, including the balladeering narration by Tex Ritter. Some of the stagecoach shots have one side removed entirely so we can see the whole interior, which looks really strange.

MGM DVD-R, available for rent from ClassicFlix.



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post #664 of 1347 Old 01-24-2012, 03:10 AM - Thread Starter
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The Wild Geese (1978), directed by Andrew V. McLaglen.

Mercenaries Richard Burton, Richard Harris and Roger Moore get the old gang back together to rescue an African politician from his captors. After getting in they are betrayed by their employer and have to fight their way out of the country, with heavy losses.

The team are mostly old timers, but this makes them steady and they know what to expect. Money provides some motivation, but there is also a bit of idealism. To most of the men this is just what they do, they're good at it and really don't enjoy anything else as much. The Brits are good at these commando stories.

The first 40 minutes are assembling the team in London, then we have a quick comical training episode getting everyone back into shape. I want to point out an actor I've seen in many British movies and TV programs: Jack Watson, the big tough-looking Regimental Sergeant Major who whips them into shape. He really did that work for the Royal Navy in WW2.

The leaders are cultured, obviously trained in the regular army, but as vicious as they need to be. Their mission involves poison gassing a few hundred troops at the enemy garrison and they show no qualms. When escaping they are pursued by the elite "Simba" troops, guys so nasty that you shoot your own wounded rather than let them be captured. The Simbas are mowed down in their banzai charges but keep coming.

There is some discussion of white and black and the chances of conciliation across racial and colonial divides. It's well intentioned if a bit rushed. It could happen as shown: survival situations can form bonds.

Filmed in South Africa. Burton and Harris agreed to stop drinking while on location. The Joan Armatrading folk song used as the theme seems out of place.

My thumbnails are from the region 1 4:3 letterboxed DVD with commentary track but no subtitles. I see the PAL editions are anamorphic and there is a UK Blu-ray.



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post #665 of 1347 Old 01-26-2012, 04:40 AM - Thread Starter
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The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970), written, produced and directed by Billy Wilder.

This was a find I'd never seen before: a classic "unknown" Holmes story. It's probably not of interest to devotees of the more recent action-hero detective, but if you like the older style it is well presented here. It's low-key but the setting and characters are just as we have come to know them.

It opens with a slightly bawdy preface: when a retiring Russian ballerina coolly propositions the brainy detective, wanting him to father her child in exchange for a Stradivarius, Holmes begs off by intimating that he and Watson have been romantically involved for years. (I know that sounds like Wilder is trying to do a gay Holmes & Watson, but it's just a gag).

Watson, who has been happily cavorting with the other ballerinas, is outraged and scandalized. But it does start him thinking about Holmes and women: why is he so cranky on the topic? He likes being mysterious and won't answer a direct question. But we come to find that just as Holmes will never get over Irene Adler, so his anguish over their latest client will send him back to the needle.

After the opening it is more like a traditional Doyle story with many funny bits. They go to Loch Ness and Queen Victoria makes an appearance. Christopher Lee is brother Mycroft. The pretty client looks just like Francesca Annis but isn't.

The Miklos Rozsa score gives it a classic movie feel.

The DVD extras include some scenes that were removed from the original cut. We have subtitles but no audio for the flashback sequence, "The Dreadful Business of the Naked Honeymooners".

I posted some notes on the Doyle stories in my review of The Hound of the Baskervilles (1939).



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post #666 of 1347 Old 01-28-2012, 05:01 AM - Thread Starter
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The Nickel Ride (1974), produced and directed by Robert Mulligan.

Jason Miller, last seen in The Exorcist (1973), is great as a moody mid-level manager in a crime organization. He's responsible for a specific street and operates a warehouse block. He's been doing it for years and is a well-liked capo in his neighborhood. But the area is shabby and business is declining. He has a boxer who won't take a dive, police who want more money, and new management who don't care about old loyalties. Now he's been saddled with an irritating kid from Tulsa (Bo Hopkins, last seen -- briefly -- in The Wild Bunch). Is the kid dumb, or too smart to show how smart and dangerous he is?

He's started to worry about survival, and after a vivid dream sequence of death and disaster we're no longer sure of our ground. Fine mid-70s scruffy real streets ambience.

I don't know what the title means, unless it is a carny reference.

The DVD is sold as part of a two-disc set with 99 and 44/100% Dead (1974), a mad-cap mob-war comedy that is not very funny, erratic in tone, and pretty sluggish.

Netflix doesn't have either DVD.



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post #667 of 1347 Old 01-30-2012, 03:45 AM - Thread Starter
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Stars and Stripes Forever (1952), directed by Henry Koster.

Light biopic of John Philip Sousa with lots of his music and some song and dance numbers wedged in. Happy, sappy, with a romantic subplot for young Robert Wagner and Debra Paget. She's cute but often angry; I'm not sure why. Clifton Webb is fine as Sousa, although that mainly means looking stern with an occasional raised eyebrow and witty quip.

We think of his work as American patriotic music, but it has long spread to the entire world. The Monty Python theme is a Sousa number, and in the science fiction of John Varley the centaurs of Titan are crazy for it.

The Blu-ray has a rather good image. Lush Technicolor.

ClassifFlix has it, Netflix doesn't.



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post #668 of 1347 Old 02-01-2012, 04:22 AM - Thread Starter
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Meet Me in St. Louis (1944), directed by Vincente Minnelli.

A gorgeous fantasy of 1903. The color, sets and costumes are very fine. The cast is appealing and the music catchy, although not much like 1903. This is in the "large and eccentric but loving family" genre. On the down side the plot is slight, but that's a known curse of musicals (with some exceptions: Singin' in the Rain).

Judy Garland, age 22, was never a great beauty in the traditional sense, but had undeniable appeal: dark shining eyes, cherry lips, and one of the great singing voices of the century. Her comically romantic performance is both innocent and knowing, as if she has it all figured out in theory but is still waiting for practical experience. Her lavishly banged bouffant: it must be a wig.

Margaret O'Brien, age 7, gives a great devil-child performance. I recall a quote about the actress: "Once they would have burned a child like that at the stake." Her Halloween segment in the center of the film is a bizarre interlude.

The film introduced a new Christmas standard, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, one of the more melancholy selections in the songbook. I've been curious about how often new Christmas tunes appear and become widely known and the wikipedia has lists, combinations of sacred music, show tunes and shopping songs.

Good looking Blu-ray. ClassicFlix has it, Netflix doesn't.



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post #669 of 1347 Old 02-08-2012, 04:09 AM - Thread Starter
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Burnt Offerings (1976), directed by Dan Curtis.

A couple (Oliver Reed, Karen Black) with their son and Auntie (Bette Davis) rent a large estate for the summer at a suspiciously low price. It's a bit run down but not particularly spooky with all that bright California sunshine. The caretakers are odd and the flowers are all dead.

We quickly understand that the house absorbs the life of visitors to rejuvenate itself, the grounds, and the original owners. We watch to see how the evil will be manifested in unexplained happenings and personality changes in the family.

This puts it in the same genre as Amityville and The Shining, if slower and much more modest in execution. I would call the acting and direction very rough. In it's favor we have intimations of a back story involving depression and career and marital difficulties. Also: a standard trope of the family-in-the-haunted-house story is that everyone gets away when they flee on the final night. A film where no one gets away is bold by comparison.

It's soft filtered throughout with actual vaseline on the lens sometimes.

How did they get Bette Davis? She said that her age she was grateful for any role that was more than a single scene cameo.

The director did the Dark Shadows TV series earlier. Same composer. He said the book had no ending so he added his own.

The DVD has a commentary track with the director, writer, and Karen Black. If I made a feature film I'd be proud of it too, but their appreciation is overly effusive. But it's true: everyone loves Burgess Meredith.

They say that theater audiences were crazed with terror during early showings and that many viewers wrote to say it was the scariest film of all time. That is hard for me to believe, but: (1) as I suspect everyone has found, a good audience can really heighten the experience of a film, and (2) different people are scared by different things. Some people can't stand clowns or devil dolls with teeth. In this case the film would frighten those with phobias about being unable to get away from an evil place, and the common terror of having loved ones change.

(Me? I find ghosts, vampires and werewolves ludicrous, but insanity is really scary. In general, the fundamental element of all thrillers and horror films is being in a situation that you cannot cope with. That's why John Wayne or Clint Eastwood could never make a horror film: they can always deal with whatever comes).



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post #670 of 1347 Old 02-10-2012, 04:24 AM - Thread Starter
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The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), directed by Robert Wise.

It's a simple tale but I love the architecture of this movie: it starts in the distant universe (unrealistically) flying by the galaxies and nebulae, approaching Earth and orbiting it, and then a flying saucer slows over DC and eases down onto a ballfield on a sunny afternoon.

Against a matter-of-fact plot of fear, suspicion, the spaceman's struggle to complete his mission and some soap opera, we move outward again, not just into contact with an interplanetary community, but in other dimensions of trust and love, and the metaphysical boundaries of life and death. And then back out into space the way we came in.

As a boy the story seemed awfully one-sided to me: Klaatu so wise and warm, the Earth people irrational and bumbling. Now of course I see that he issues blood curdling threats from the beginning: the prospect of Earth as a burned out cinder. What is still odd is the tour of American patriotic monuments, as if his submit-or-die diktat is compatible with the existing system. All we'll give up is our freedom to act irresponsibly.

It's a Message film: war is bad, we share this world so let's not blow it up.

Michael Rennie was a new face at the time and has an otherworldly look. They considered Spencer Tracey and Claude Raines; obviously an unknown was the better choice.

I find Patricia Neal strangely appealing; it must be those cheekbones and her obvious intelligence. Her tense Klaatu barada nikto scene with the robot is a famous moment of classic SF.

Need I mention the tremendous Bernard Herrmann score? The theremin music seems more muscular than usual, better integrated into the soundtrack.

The Blu-ray image is rather fine and the disc has an isolated score and two commentary tracks: Robert Wise with Nicholas Meyer in a technical discussion of the production, and four film music experts discussing the score and composer.

I'm fond of Robert Wise as editor and director. The auteur directors get more attention, but a craftsmen who does not impose his own style or personality on the film can produce some great work.



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post #671 of 1347 Old 02-10-2012, 01:48 PM
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^^^
This movie is hugely more effective than the remake with Keanu Reeves.

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post #672 of 1347 Old 02-13-2012, 04:24 AM - Thread Starter
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Dr. No (1962), directed by Terence Young.

Can you believe that 2012 is the 50th anniversary of the first James Bond film? What a long strange trip it's been. I suppose there are studies as to how much of the real world was created in imitation of the fiction, but it's beyond me.

In this first entry Bond investigates the disappearance of another agent in Jamaica and finds a sinister mastermind tampering with American rocket launches. The villain has a lavish underground base and minions who will commit suicide rather than be questioned. I don't know why later Evil Overlords didn't pick up on that cool beaten copper motif of his base/resort.

It was the year everyone was singing "Under the Mango Tree". We get a peek at Bond's apartment -- is he an art collector? We see Jack Lord as the first of many Felix Leiters, CIA agent. Surprise: all the Bond Girls survive.

Would you believe Bond crawls through ventilator shafts? Is an attack spider the best the evil doctor can come up with? And would anyone really be fooled by a diesel-powered dragon?

The action music is not right yet, but we have the James Bond Theme right at the beginning. John Barry arranged and performs it but doesn't get credit for composing, although that was later the subject of litigation.

Available on Blu-ray.



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post #673 of 1347 Old 02-16-2012, 04:46 AM - Thread Starter
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Bad Day at Black Rock (1955), directed by John Sturges.

The sleek modern diesel electric train never stops at Black Rock, a shabby set of buildings in the California desert. One day it does stop and off steps a white-haired WW2 vet with one hand. They don't like strangers or questions in Black Rock. He persists in asking the wrong questions and finds himself in a death trap.

A well made thriller with an efficient 81 minute noir plot, unusually in color and Cinemascope (MGM's first), and set in the desert rather than city streets. The tension builds right to the action finale: what is the stranger after, and what are the locals concealing? Is he going to get justice? Is he even going to get out of town?

We have an especially fine concentration of talent:
  • Spencer Tracy: the stranger, not looking for trouble but finding plenty.
  • Robert Ryan: the town boss and my favorite actor of the period. I love how he first appears wearing a ball cap instead of a stetson like the others. He doesn't need to put on a tough guy show; it's built in.
  • Anne Francis: a cutie and the only woman in the picture, last seen in Girl of the Night and Forbidden Planet. She has a tom-boy automechanic thing going. I'd forgotten that John Ericson plays her brother here; they later co-starred in the Honey West TV series.
  • Dean Jagger: the useless drunken sheriff. Not a bad man, but weak and beaten.
  • Walter Brennan: the doc and vet, friendly but "consumed by apathy".
  • Ernest Borgnine: a stupid thug. He gets the wrong end of a karate lesson.
  • Lee Marvin: a less stupid thug.

Spencer Tracy had alcohol problems in his later years and it shows up in his acting. He's sometimes a bit mushy in his speech here, but I don't see that he's actually drunk.

Hard charging score by Andre Previn. Filmed at Lone Pine with gorgeous mountain backdrops.



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post #674 of 1347 Old 02-16-2012, 09:54 AM
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Bill, thanks for the review of one of my favorite scifi films. For a long time I had felt a disappointment in Robert Wise for copping out near the ending and allowing for a religious overtone to Klaatu's resurrection until I read on Wikipedia that the MPAA had managed to get the script changed. However the addition of the line just muddied the story and left more questions. Klaatu is going to die again and when? Why can't an advanced civilization bring a brain and body back to life if conditions allow? Starman did it. Do aliens actually believe in the same god as earthlings? And if they do did God give them a pass on blowing up the Earth if they felt like it (ala the Death Star in Star Wars)? The late Mr. Wise is one of my favorite directors and now that I know that the line was not originally part of the movie my faith in him has been restored.

Quote:


In a 1995 interview, producer Julian Blaustein explained that Joseph Breen, the film censor installed by the Motion Picture Association of America at the Twentieth Century Fox studios, balked at the portrayal of Klaatu's resurrection and limitless power. At the behest of the MPAA, a line was inserted into the film; when Helen asks Klaatu whether Gort has unlimited power over life and death, Klaatu explains that he has only been revived temporarily and "that power is reserved to the Almighty Spirit." Of the elements that he added to Klaatu's character, screenwriter Edmund North said, "It was my private little joke. I never discussed this angle with Blaustein or Wise because I didn't want it expressed. I had originally hoped that the Christ comparison would be subliminal." The fact that the question even came up in an interview is proof enough that such comparisons did not remain subliminal, but they are subtle enough that it is not immediately obvious to all viewers which elements were intended to compare Klaatu to Christ. For example, when Klaatu escapes from the hospital, he steals the clothing of a "Maj. Carpenter," carpentry being the profession Jesus learned from his father Joseph.


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post #675 of 1347 Old 02-18-2012, 05:11 AM - Thread Starter
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Candy (1968), directed by Christian Marquand, screenplay by Buck Henry from a novel by Terry Southern.

Not so much a movie as one of those late-60s film projects, a mostly painful jumble of comically groovy outrageousness. The Magic Christian, also by Southern, is a similar effort. Candy was made right at the cusp of that time when the sex restrictions in film were collapsing. It was meant to be saucy, although we get only flashes of nudity and brief simulated sex.

I was going to complain that the satiric episodes don't actually have any targets worth satirizing (Mexican biker girls avenging the lost virginity of a brother? A transvestite magic show?) but then read in the wikipedia that this is meant to be a satire on pornographic stories themselves. That went right by me. Whatever I knew of such literature in my youth has faded away.

It has some moments, but is really not worth it unless you are fascinated by that era or film genre.

The major characters and skits:
  • Ewa Aulin (Miss Teen Sweden) is Candy, the obdurately innocent seeker, provoking uncontrollable lust in every man she meets. She has that vacant English girl look. Candy = Candide, get it?
  • John Astin plays twin brothers. One is Candy's uptight father, the other her lascivious and degenerate uncle.
  • Richard Burton is a hammy Byronic poet, hair blowing in the wind even indoors. He's in it for the money, booze, and college girls. We see him licking whiskey off the floor and molesting a mannikin.
  • Ringo Starr is a Mexican gardener who speaks kind of rasta.
  • Walter Matthau is a repressed, crazed general.
  • James Coburn is a maestro surgeon, operating to bullfight music. John Huston is his hospital administrator. A bit where they bellow insults in the hallway is funny.
  • A mobster bar.
  • A frantic Italian filmmaker (played by the director).
  • A hunchback criminal mastermind (?)
  • The transvestite magic club.
  • Marlon Brando is a rascal guru with a fully furnished semi trailer. A long skit includes the usual kama sutra sex position jokes.
  • We have a weird visit to an underground Hindu "temple of doom".
  • At the end, everyone reappears for a grand hippie festival on the hillside.

I kind of liked that final bit: the seeker arrives, the vision quest completed.

80% at RottenTomatoes? Far out.

The rock score by Dave Grusin includes songs by the Byrds and Steppenwolf.

The DVD is out of print and expensive on the used market. Netflix has it in their "saved" listings.

For some reason looking at the thumbnails makes me like it better.



-Bill
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post #676 of 1347 Old 02-18-2012, 05:35 AM
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Cool! If I've ever seen this, it's been so long ago I've forgotten. Every now and then I enjoy watching the movies like this from that era. So, I take it you bought a used DVD?

I just looked at prices.... I don't need to see it that badly. I've spend good money on OOP discs before only to have them come out again the next year. Looks like you may be able to watch it on YouTube in multiple parts. I didn't look to see if all parts were there.

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post #677 of 1347 Old 02-18-2012, 05:42 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PooperScooper View Post

Cool! If I've ever seen this, it's been so long ago I've forgotten. Every now and then I enjoy watching the movies like this from that era. So, I take it you bought a used DVD?

larry

I borrowed it from a friend who hunts down rarities. He said:

Quote:


I had a lot of trouble and expense with this one.

First, I tried a bootlegger from ebay. It was crap made from a video tape. Next, I tried another bootlegger on the web with a good reputation. Same result.

Finally, I got a copy of the "Collectors Edition" from eBay which came in an elaborate color & embossed metal case with a flyer and cards inside.

-Bill
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post #678 of 1347 Old 02-18-2012, 05:45 AM
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Ah, somebody else spent the time and $$$. Good job. I had updated my post and hadn't seen yours. Candy in "Collector Tin box" is only about $80 on Amazon.

larry

Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work. -- Thomas Alva Edison
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I think you can find it much cheaper in PAL - R2 releases.
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post #680 of 1347 Old 02-18-2012, 07:54 AM
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I read Candy as a twenty-something when it first came out and loved it for its sexy humor - the movie not so much - but thanks for the review and rekindling some memories.

All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Movies

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post #681 of 1347 Old 02-18-2012, 10:14 AM
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I think you can find it much cheaper in PAL - R2 releases.

I keep forgetting to look on Amazon.co.uk. It is quite a bit cheaper.

larry

Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work. -- Thomas Alva Edison
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post #682 of 1347 Old 02-20-2012, 04:15 AM - Thread Starter
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Decision at Sundown (1957), directed by Budd Boetticher.

Two cowpokes ride into town hoping to kill a man on his wedding day.

This is the weakest Boetticher/Scott western I've seen so far, having a cheap 1950s look with the standard town, costumes and character actors. The decade was hard on the genre: westerns were so popular that it was possible to crank them out more or less automatically and the look suffered.

On the other hand, this is the first time in these stories the Randolph Scott character has been clearly in the wrong, which makes it more interesting. His wife committed suicide, but that's no reason to take it out on just one of the many men she was with. He's hot headed and unreasonable and shows no talent for actually achieving his goal. He's drunk and belligerent even in the final scene.

The flawed nature of his character has potential, but in the end he's just not that interesting. Plus we get some preachiness about a corrupt town recovering its self respect.

The score is the generic western action music typical of the series. 77m long.



-Bill
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post #683 of 1347 Old 02-20-2012, 05:24 AM
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Decision at Sundown (1957), directed by Budd Boetticher.

Two cowpokes ride into town hoping to kill a man on his wedding day.

This is the weakest Boetticher/Scott western I've seen so far, having a cheap 1950s look with the standard town, costumes and character actors.

I actually enjoy this one. FWIW, the "Bud Boetticher Collection" of 5 movies is dirt cheap at Amazon and Netflix also has the discs. The bonus features are pretty interesting.
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post #684 of 1347 Old 02-21-2012, 04:28 AM - Thread Starter
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Bus Stop (1956), directed by Joshua Logan.

A boisterous young Montana rancher who has not been much in civilization travels to Phoenix for a big rodeo competition. It's love at first sight when he sees Marilyn Monroe, a country girl singing in a saloon. She can't sing at all and does a comic rendition of That Old Black Magic.

Would you believe she's the first girl he's ever kissed? Her own experience is more...varied. The rest of the plot is his strenuous effort to rope, wrassle, hog-tie and marry her and get her back to the ranch as quickly as possible.

It's more or less a romantic comedy and funnier than I expected. Don Murray yells, yippees and hooraws most of his lines, but that's the character. I wonder about Monroe's makeup; it looks like clown paint sometimes.

The aspect ration is 2.55:1. Whoever wrote the Netflix summary has not seen the film.



-Bill
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post #685 of 1347 Old 02-23-2012, 04:13 AM - Thread Starter
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if... (1968), directed by Lindsay Anderson.

A satirical portrait of an English boys school with both realistic and fantasy segments, filmed with alternating color and monochrome scenes.

This was like a bomb going off in the UK. Everyone who ran the country -- government, broadcasting and arts, industry, military -- had been through these schools and the presentation hit them where it hurt, either because they agreed or disagreed with the content. Someone said the writers should be horse-whipped. The more working-class audiences mobbed the theaters to have their worst opinions of the higher classes confirmed.

The school is shown operating on snobbery and viciousness, each older boy degrading the younger cohort, and so on down. The student prefects (called "whips" here) are evil vengeful little gods, caning troublemakers with pleasure. The noble sentiments of the teachers and clergy are all phony.

It's a "portrait" because we just don't know much about any of the characters. At the center is Malcolm McDowell (film debut) and two pals who are troublesome malcontents. They yearn for war, revolution and murder, but their actual rebellions are pretty minor gestures. In fantasy segments McDowell goes to town, steals a motorcycle, gets a girlfriend, shoots the padre and finally leads the massacre of a school assembly.

That final bit has always been controversial but it's obviously meant to be a comical fantasy: we have clergy and crusader knights and mothers with big hats picking up machine guns and firing back. The film does not cue us as to what is meant to be real and what fantasy, but it's not too hard to figure.

They used real schools for filming and it's curious how shabby are the dorms, studies and bathrooms. It's not quite the Hogwarts of Harry Potter.

Anderson was another in the long list of directors who idolize John Ford. He tended to fall in love with the leading men in his films, all of whom were straight and unobtainable.

There are a couple of gay subplots. We contrast the perverse interests of the padre and a guilty prefect with the innocent involvement of a couple of other boys. Nothing very explicit. By comparison, McDowell and Christine Noonan grapple like tigers and roll naked on the floor. Definitely a fantasy.

That reminds me of stories from Stephen Fry's autobiography. He went through the system a few years later and confirms what we see here: although they all condemn homosexuality, the older boys make lascivious comments about the younger ones. He also notes that, whatever is wrong with him, boys school and being caned there were not the cause, although I doubt if he was beaten as viciously as is shown here. Finally: school was the perfect preparation for those few months he spent in prison for credit card theft.

Brief nudity. McDowell says he personally went into the editing room and excised all shots of his penis.

He also describes the hidden camera scene on a city street where he and a pal were pretending to have a knife fight. A truck driver stopped, ran over and hit him in the back of the head with a hammer.

The studio hated the film and weren't going to release it, but Barbarella was a flop in the UK and they need a replacement.

Criterion Blu-ray, not available at either Netflix or Classicflix. Netflix has the Criterion DVD. The commentary track has McDowell and a film critic, intermixed and done at different times.



-Bill
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post #686 of 1347 Old 02-28-2012, 04:33 AM - Thread Starter
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Conflict (1945), directed by Curtis Bernhardt.

Humphrey Bogart has fallen in love with his wife's sister and decides to kill the current Mrs (starting a trend he continues in The Two Mrs. Carrolls, also with Alexis Smith). After he makes her vanish strange things begin to happen: she seems to be lurking just out of sight and leaving clues. Is she not dead? A ghost? Is he cracking up, or is someone playing elaborate tricks on him? (Sounds a lot like the later film, Diabolique, doesn't it?)

This is a minor thriller but has a nice dark tone and intimations of insanity and suppressed desires. Sydney Greenstreet is an affable shrink who keeps dropping suggestive hints to trouble a guilty conscience. The plot mechanics are beyond improbable, but we try not to worry about such things.

My earliest memory of a scene from a movie is from this film. I was 4 or 5 years old, up late in a pitch black room with a boxy black-and-white TV set, fighting to stay awake. I remember the final scene where Bogart comes down the slope on a foggy night, using a flashlight to inspect the wrecked car, looking to see if a dead woman is still inside. She isn't.

Warner Archive title, available for rent from ClassicFlix.



-Bill
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post #687 of 1347 Old 02-28-2012, 05:31 PM
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The Nickel Ride (1974), produced and directed by Robert Mulligan.

Jason Miller, last seen in The Exorcist (1973), is great as a moody mid-level manager in a crime organization. He's responsible for a specific street and operates a warehouse block. He's been doing it for years and is a well-liked capo in his neighborhood. But the area is shabby and business is declining. He has a boxer who won't take a dive, police who want more money, and new management who don't care about old loyalties. Now he's been saddled with an irritating kid from Tulsa (Bo Hopkins, last seen -- briefly -- in The Wild Bunch). Is the kid dumb, or too smart to show how smart and dangerous he is?

He's started to worry about survival, and after a vivid dream sequence of death and disaster we're no longer sure of our ground. Fine mid-70s scruffy real streets ambience.

I don't know what the title means, unless it is a carny reference.

-Bill

Glad you liked this one, Bill. Just finished watching it myself and loved it. Miller and Hopkins (who was in line for his own detective series at one point, spun off from The Rockford Files) were both great.
I'm not sure I realised just how good and varied Robert Mulligan's career was - he did To Kill a Mockingbird as well as The Stalking Moon. There's a three-part overview of his films over at the TCM Movie Morlocks blog that's well worth a look: http://moviemorlocks.com/2012/02/28/...lligan-part-3/
Weirdly enough, I also took a quick look at Silent Running last night. Got the MoC Blu from Amazon UK for the absurdly cheap price of £3.99 thanks to an Amazon mistake. I can't recommend Eureka MoC Blu-rays enough - they're beautifully-produced discs. I just pre-ordered Lifeboat directly from their site - where you can get free worldwide shipping on all their releases.
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post #688 of 1347 Old 03-01-2012, 04:21 AM - Thread Starter
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Man's Favorite Sport? (1964), produced and directed by Howard Hawks.

Rock Hudson is the fishing pro who hates fishing and has never actually done it. His boss orders him to enter an annual competition and several women drive him nuts. Paula Prentiss is the chief offender.

As an attempt to recapture the screwball magic of previous decades it's pleasant enough, if awfully silly in spots: after a scooter collision with a bear the bear rides away. The war of the sexes comedy is sometimes forced.

Hudson isn't bad in the role, but when we understand that it was intended for Cary Grant we have to imagine him in it. No one else could do romantic comedy as well.

We can't help seeing a subtext here with Rock Hudson and his then secret private life. For "fish, fishing, camping" substitute "women, sex with same, familiarity with same" and it all seems terribly revealing.

Lazy score by Henry Mancini.



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post #689 of 1347 Old 03-02-2012, 04:32 AM - Thread Starter
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The Mummy (1932), directed by Karl Freund.

The first Mummy picture is quite a bit different from the rest: we never see a shambling bandage-wrapped figure, and there is no slow but unstoppable creature. It is instead a tale of love (or at least obsession) that outlasts millenia of death: "No man ever suffered for a woman as I suffered for you."

A 1921 expedition discovers the mummy of Imhotep, a priest who was entombed alive for sacrilegious acts. A young archaeologist foolishly reads from a sacred scroll. We get only glimpses of what he sees, and he dies in a straitjacket, laughing madly. The mummy and scroll disappear.

Ten years later another expedition is assisted by the mysterious Ardeth Bey, tall, gaunt and leathery, giving an impression of great dignity and both physical frailty and psychic power. He commands powerful ancient magic and directs them to the tomb of Ankh-es-en-amon, a princess loved by Imhotep who he hopes to resurrect. (The commentary track pronounces her name "anak-soon-a-moon" in the modern fashion).

His plans are disturbed when he finds that the princess has been reincarnated as a young woman at the current time. She becomes confused by his magic and it is a fight for her body and soul.

Boris Karloff is, as usual, very fine in an exotic role. The Egyptian sets and costumes are rather good, and as you can see from the thumbnails, the princess's outfit is kind of skimpy.

As is often the case from this period we have stagey dialogue in static drawing room scenes, but it moves along nonetheless.

The theme of reincarnated lovers destined to find and lose each other through the ages is a feature of H. Rider Haggard's She stories. The Mummy screenwriter was working on a treatment of She at the same time as this film. William Hope Hodgson's science fiction epic The Night Land has similar elements. Must have been something in the water back then.

The DVD commentary track spends a lot of time narrating what we are watching, but also has some information on the earlier development of the script and some deleted scenes.



-Bill
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post #690 of 1347 Old 03-05-2012, 04:18 AM - Thread Starter
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Klute (1971), produced and directed by Alan J. Pakula.

Small town private eye Donald Sutherland goes to NYC to hunt for a missing friend who is suspected of stalking and harassing call girl Jane Fonda.

She's an intriguing figure: she's smart and wants to be an actress or model but can't get away from prostitution. Partly it's the money but also because in that work she's in control and is desired by her customers, whereas no one seems to want her otherwise. At home she smokes dope and sings a little hymn. She's afraid of the dark and of whoever is stalking her: feelings of being watched, mysterious callers breathing on the phone. Maybe it's that client who beat her up? The cold-fingers-on-the-spine music is very good in these moments.

The private eye is the pest in her life and she eventually gives in and takes him around to her contacts. This could have been a long tedious segment of PI-procedural, but is really a fine display of what's in store for her, and we see it slowly sinking in: prospects of drug addiction, abusive pimps, all those morgue photos.

To their mutual dismay they start falling for each other. But can he trust someone so good at selling the illusion of love? Can she trust herself? Need I mention that the investigation brings them to a murderous psycho, both smart and scary?

Several scenes of Fonda confessing to her shrink seem ad-libed and go on a bit long, although frank sex talk is of perennial interest. We get some of the surveillance paranoia also used in The Conversation and The Anderson Tapes around the same time.

"Klute" is the detective. The movie should be called Bree or Daniels but that wouldn't have the same kick. At least they didn't call it [ Fatal | Deadly ] [ Passion | Attraction | Instinct | Sin ].

Brief nudity. Best Actress Academy Award for Fonda.



-Bill
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