Some good, some bad, some really sucked, some were stellar, some were just so-so. That pretty much sums it up.
My Second Life character looks and acts exactly like me except he can fly.
One Upon a Time In The West (1968)
This the best western ever made IMO be it a "spaghetti or hamburger".
It deals with subjects that are common in the genre, but it was portrayed with such substance and style that I've yet to see matched on screen even by Leone.
Some of the most memorable scenes afforded by Leone's style of photography that could create nail binding tension without the use of dialog or music score. Talking about the later, it is one of the most recognizable of all of Morricone's works and Edda Del Oro's haunting vocals will send chills down on your spine, but for a good reason.
Some heavy talents from the Italian cinema were involved on the story, like Dario Argento, and Bernardo Bertolucci. This is also the first time to my knowledge that Henry Fonda took on a part that was a villain, and what a villain he made here.
Both Jason Robards[ Cheyenne] and Charles Bronson[Harmonica] are stands out as well. This is a timeless classic.
Amazing film. Not only the best Western in my opinion, but one of my all time favorite movies. I also consider the opening scene to be the best ever. "You brought two too many"! (there are actually a few minutes missing from this clip at the beginning):
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My favorite political thriller. Notice how important black & white has always been in this genre? Perhaps because it seems more serious than color, but I also think they are trying to evoke the 1950s television look, when most people started watching congressional hearings and presidential news conferences live.
It is also curious that although the military coup conspiracy has been a favorite plot in fiction and film, I am not aware of a hint of anything like that actually occurring in US history. During the Civil War I suspect Gen. McClellan's army would have marched on Washington if he had told them to, but he didn't (and they wouldn't have been able to keep it anyway).
I've never seen a more presidential performance than Fredric March, or a more steely would-be Napoleon than Burt Lancaster. Kirk Douglas and Edmond O'Brien are both very fine, and Ava Gardner still has those eyes; even with circles under them it's jump back or fall in.
Rod Serling screenplay; the dialog sometimes sounds like him. Jerry Goldsmith score.
I know this is considered one of Spielberg's clunkers, that the critics hated it, and that my wife did not laugh once. But I saw it about ten times in the theater. I must have been in love with Dianne Kay.
Well, it's not as funny now. Still, I think the jitterbug competition and driving the tank through the paint factory are worth the price of admission. Some fun references to Jaws, Dr. Strangelove and Star Wars.
The DVD is a disaster:
- It's 4:3 letterboxed
- They cram 2 hours 25 minutes into 3.8GB of space (on a dual-layer disc!)
- This is an extended cut with an extra half hour of unfunny scenes that fatally slow the pace. Comedy needs a faster tempo (and it does pick up in the last hour).
- The encoding is just ugly.
All I need is a nice new Blu-ray encode of the theatrical cut.
John Williams score.
Exotic locale romance/adventure. Stiff and unconvincing, but with lots of elephants. This is the slightest movie I have seen Robert Ryan or Barbara Stanwyck in; they do what they can.
Glenn Ford and Ann Sheridan get hot and sweaty in 1910 Central America. They suffer from unreliable companions (including the lady's inconvenient husband) and a plethora of animal attacks. Just ok.
Light but pretty funny version of a familiar plot. The "two husbands by accident" device, like the "we're not really married" device, is a way of introducing bedroom farce into an era when too much explicitness was not allowed. Comedies could get away with a lot, and Jean Arthur's zesty response to her interesting dilemma is pretty racy.
From a play by W. Somerset Maugham, which accounts for some of the good quips.
I did not go to the theater much as a child, but I did have a pal whose Mom would drop us off for an afternoon. He would tell her we were seeing Son of Flubber or That Darned Cat but instead we would go to Deadlier Than the Male, Some Girls Do, and Modesty Blaise. (Such subterfuge would never have occurred to me).
These were in no sense "adult" films; just a bit of bikini art and softly smutty innuendoes that were mere accessories to an action film. We loved them.
Fathom, Raquel Welch's first starring vehicle, is another I remember. She is, of course, gorgeous.
It's a Maltese Falcon caper with a Chinese dragon sculpture. With beautiful Spanish locations, planes, trains, sports cars, helicopters, speed boats, bulls, spear guns, parachutes and a screen goddess often mostly undressed -- we don't need much in the way of sparkling dialogue or clever plot.
The DVD is out of print and Netflix no longer has it. Available for rent from http://www.classicflix.com/.
Another Jean Arthur comedy, this time with Herbert Marshall, who shows a gentle and urbain comic talent.
It has some typical screwball themes: rich guy pretending to be poor and a couple pretending to be married. Less smirking than usual; in this case it's funnier that way.
When trying to remember comedies from this period I often confuse Jean Arthur and Irene Dunne. They are really not much alike but appeared in the same sorts of roles. Arthur has an endearing crooked smile and funny voice.
I just read that Marshall had a wooden leg from WW1 injuries, which he concealed from the public all his life. Here he plays an automobile tycoon. Those new car designs of his: ouch! Painful to see.
Laura (1944), directed by Otto Preminger.
Dandy murder mystery/romance, one of the most famous of its kind. Big plot twist at the halfway point, although it is not entirely unexpected. Lush David Raksin score.
Gene Tierney is an actress I seek out; Ida Lupino is another. I don't know if Tierney could get a job in movies today; that overbite looks good on her but she'd probably have to have her jaw broken to get in the door.
Clifton Webb's performance of acidic columnist Waldo Lydecker deserves special mention. After "creating" the perfect woman he must possess her completely, even though showing no inclination for physical intimacy. He's both witty and scary.
A lot of catalogs call this "film noir". Categories and definitions aren't very important, but you can't call every non-comedic black & white film from a certain era film noir. I saw this breakdown once:
- film noir: we're screwed (The Asphalt Jungle)
- hardboiled: we're tough (The Big Sleep)
- romance: we're in love (Laura)
Review older films here: 1979 and earlier | 1980s | Combined reviews: Strange Picture Scroll
Unofficial OPPO FAQS: BDP-103 | BDP-93 | BDP-83 | BDP-80
Science fiction with a serious tone was rare in the 1960s, so I tend to remember it all fondly. Honestly, this series delivers pretty low-intensity thrills, but I still like it. The beginning seemed a bit weak; there are better episodes later. It ends without a resolution.
This two season series was filmed on 35mm and, although a bit variable, looks great on DVD, with wonderful detail and vivid color. The special effects are rudimentary, but not a problem.
Roy Thinnes as David Vincent is always cool, mostly humorless and dresses very GQ. Smokes a lot and carries a gun, which is unusual for an architect. He has an eye for the ladies but not much time for them. Series from this era did not have much of a story arc, but toward the end he does assemble a group of like-minded alien fighters and they begin to have some success.
The big problem is that the science fiction content and any sense of alien-ness quickly drains away. After the initial mythology is established the Invaders become just a sinister force. They are competent and all-pervasive but might as well be foreign spies or domestic gangsters. The writers should have given us more on their home world, society, technology, or even their biology. We never even get a good idea of what they look like when at home.
"A Quinn Martin Production": I used to hear that a lot in the 60s and 70s. It usually meant well-done dramas with a least some action component.
The show is a gold-mine of names and faces of the character actors and guest stars. Some I have not thought of for decades, other became superstars.
There's trouble in River Falls: a giant, if variably-sized, hairy spider. Plucky townspeople eventually deal with it.
I'll watch anything with theremin music, but this is pretty bad even by the standards of 1950s monster movies. But I've seen worse. Some interesting shots of Carlsbad Caverns.
The spider can be stunned with DDT, but will be revived by rock music. Wouldn't you know it? I don't know where they get the high school kids: they look 20-30 something.
Mostly comic western, although much of the comedy comes from Yul Brynner's delivery. Frankly, he's better as a bad guy. Here he's the lovable rogue, with Richard Crenna as the marshal and Leonard Nimoy as the seldom seen bounty hunter.
Weak plot only loosely stitched together. Filmed in Andalusia Spain with some nice desert landscapes.
I've seen Sam Wanamaker as an actor but did not know he directed as well.
I've seen the first three seasons. At 39 twenty-five minute episodes per season it has taken me years to get through them as part of my morning exercise bike rotation. The DVDs are quite good considering the age of the material.
Some serious plots, but many episodes are pretty whimsical. Few are very memorable, although not many are positively bad. I don't recall seeing any of them before. My memories are of the later Alfred Hitchcock Hour, which had a much darker tone. Hoping it will appear on DVD someday.
Not much Hitchcock content. He directed a few episodes and in the beginning picked directors and stories, but had less to do with the show over time. But a lot of the actors from his films appear in the series.
An old TV show is fascinating not just for the cars, houses, fashions and period technology, but for the way these things are presented, what they are supposed to mean to the viewer. How homes and offices are supposed to look, what is elegant and what is shabby, what bankers and policemen and gamblers look like. All on a budget, of course.
For me, it is time travel back to my early childhood when I was barely aware of the world at all.
I saw fragments of this long ago, probably chopped up for network TV. I remembered nothing about it apart from the shocking final moment.
The film is vastly better than I recall. And very wise in its way. If you could have whatever you wanted: a fresh start, renewed youth, wealth, total freedom: would you be happy? Why do you think so? Did you earn it? Did you walk the miles needed to get there? Does the situation make you a different person?
Edgy, experimental camera work, with strange lenses and angles, extreme close ups and early shaky-cam. Jerry Goldsmith score.
Rock Hudson is fine at projecting the sadness of the reborn man.
The bacchantic wine-making festival looks like fun but I don't suppose they drank any of the resulting product. I wouldn't.
Pure haunted house story, with psychic researchers lodging where no one else will. Much spookiness, but is it the house or something they brought with them? Is it a supernatural force, or the growing dementia of one of their members?
Strong cast, great house. A combination of nighttime knocks and banging, weird psychodrama between the characters, and the increasingly distracted interior monologue of one of them.
To the contemporary eye this will seem inexplicit and talky, but there are some moments of extreme terror, of the "if I were there I would probably be losing my sanity too" sort.
Set in New England but filmed in England.
First time for me!
Remarkably lush, detailed and rich-looking children's musical from Disney. Gorgeous color and nice effects. Some spectacular dance numbers.
Julie Andrews is, as always, bright and shiny. Dick van Dyke (awful accent!) is an odd case: he has such a familiar comic face, but in some of the close-ups looks like a different person. He can dance too.
Two and a quarter hours; maybe a bit long.
GI view of WW2 fighting in Italy, made shortly after the event. Just a few hours of one day, from the predawn landing craft to what looks like an ill-advised assault on a farmhouse.
Long periods of watching, waiting, talking and slogging down the road, punctuated by moments of violence and unsentimental death. The conversation ranges from the very natural and inconsequential to the high-flown and meaningful. All the soldiers are "characters".
The photography is plain and raw, sometimes verging on the surreal. The sound-track includes an unfortunate balladeering narration song from time to time.
As an aside: I recall George Macdonald Fraser writing than anyone pulling a grenade pin with his teeth would be needing dentures. Maybe the Brits had different gear.
A low-budget psychological thriller with hints of the supernatural and wonderful use of light and shadows. Intimations of awful revelations lurking just off screen.
A young bride cannot be intimate with her husband for fear of an old world curse that will turn her into a black panther. She believes it so much that others begin to believe it too, and then when she becomes jealous...
In The Bad and the Beautiful the eager film-makers, assigned a dumb no-budget "cat people" project, salvage it by realizing that not showing the creature is scarier than showing it, a clear reference to this film.
The 1982 remake retains one fine scene, where Irena stalks Alice at the swimming pool.
Valuable commentary track on the DVD.
I've just discovered Val Lewton and now have to see all of his films. He did not live long enough to make more than a few. I think he may be the patron saint of those who produce works of art for bosses who don't give a damn. The studio execs hated it when they saw the final product: too sophisticated, too arty. As it turned out, Cat People was enormously profitable for RKO, which needed a hit after taking a big loss on Citizen Kane.
In post-World War II Germany, a small boy who survived Auschwitz wanders alone - feral, mute and terrified. He finds a makeshift home with a big-hearted GI, while the mother he does not remember searches desperately for him. Starring a then-unknown Montgomery Clift in his movie debut, directed in a near-documentary style by Fred Zinnemann and filmed in the ragged, rubble-strewn skeleton of Nuremberg, The Search vividly captures the horrifying human cost of war. This milestone of filmmaking won two 1948 Academy Awards(r): Best Motion Picture Story and a special award to Ivan Jandl for his haunting performance as the lost child.
This is a wonderful film that shouldn't be missed. Montgomery Clift was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar as well.
In some ways a sequel to Cat People in that the actors reprise their roles and refer to the previous film. In other ways an entirely different intent and tone, a dark look into childhood fantasies and imaginary friends. On location photography in an old town with big trees and old houses.
Some rough and smooth; as explained in the commentary track we are missing quite a few scenes that were never made. The parts dealing with the eccentric old woman with her scary daughter in the scary house are not worked out very well. Films featuring much dialog with children tend to be a bit stiff, but there are some exceedingly odd and disturbing moments. The title and studio advertising are entirely misleading.
Comic tale of a vivacious Greek prostitute and the nerdy American intellectual who tries to reform her by preaching philosophy at her.
Films about happy, singing and dancing drunken people who live life to the fullest and break lots of glassware -- a little bit goes a long way.
Famous theme song.
Often described as "Jane Eyre in the West Indies with voodoo" you might as easily compare it to Rebecca or The Woman in White. Sixty-nine minutes is not a lot of time to develop literary allusions, so those are just passing fancies. It is, as we have come to expect from Lewton and Tourneur, gorgeously filmed, more mysterious and suggestive than explicit. It was Lewton's favorite from his RKO horror series.
RKO's conditions for Val Lewton's pictures were:
- We pick the titles.
- Must be under 75 minutes.
- Must be on time (about three weeks) and within budget ($150,000).
#1 gave him the most heartburn, but he worked around it by producing the films he wanted rather than the ones the studio expected. He did not seem to mind the budget restrictions. Being a "B" film director gave him more freedom to do things his own way.
The film has levels of indirection and plot bluffs: who is doing the fooling, and who is being fooled? It might be a metaphor for Lewton's relationship with the studio.
One of the complements always paid to Lewton is that he gave realistic and dignified roles to minority actors. The voodoo religion, although strange and scary to the outsider, is treated rather respectfully here. They did quite a lot of research on it.
The DVD has an informative commentary track by two film historians talking a mile a minute.
I presume that viewers understand that "zombie" did not originally mean "flesh-eating ghoul".
In Japan, after the Occupation, a gang of rude rich kids spend their summer on the shore, drinking, water skiing, being bums. Two brothers meet a girl with secrets. Cupid gives it to them all, good and hard. Tragedy.
Remarkable effort from a first time director. The DVD commentary track has quite a lot on how the film was a breakthrough in Japan, and how influential it was.
A young girl is murdered, and an Inspector calls on a prosperous Yorkshire household investigating the sad circumstances behind her death. Each one of the family has a secret - and each one is partly responsible for the girl's fate. The determined Inspector must prove their collective guilt and the shattering denouncement reveals why. An adaptation of J.B. Priestley's classic play.
The classic play referenced is a stage play of the same name. (It may help to remember that an inspector in the UK is the equivalent of a detective here.)
An Inspector Calls is a play written by English dramatist J. B. Priestley, first performed in 1945 (in Russia) and 1946 (in the UK). It is considered to be one of Priestley's best known works for the stage and one of the classics of mid-20th century English theatre. The play's success and reputation has been boosted in recent years by a successful revival by English director Stephen Daldry for the National Theatre in 1992.
The play is a three-act drama, which takes place on a single night in 1912, and focuses on the prosperous middle-class Birling family, who live in a comfortable home in Brumley, "an industrial city in the north Midlands". The family is visited by a man calling himself Inspector Goole, who questions the family about the suicide of a young working-class woman, Eva Smith (also known as Daisy Renton). Over the course of the evening, the entire family, under interrogation by Goole, are revealed to have been responsible for the young woman's exploitation, abandonment and social ruin, effectively leading to her death. Long considered part of the repertory of classic drawing room theatre, the play has also been hailed as a scathing critique of the hypocrises of Victorian/Edwardian English society and as an expression of Priestley's Socialist political principles. The play was studied in English secondary schools for many years as one of the prescribed texts for the English Literature GCSE examination. An Inspector Calls is still part of the syllabus for GCSE in some secondary schools.
(Sorry to cut and paste but these clips tell what needs to be said better than I can.)
It's a classic - at least across the pond. The most notable actor is the venerable Alastair Sim. OAR 4x3. Mono audio. B&W. The film is in excellent condition. The disc is "spiffy."
But, don't get your hopes up. This is a "G" rated movie. (One wonders about the rating system, however, as this movie is all about seduction.)
Set during World War I, it centers on Lili Smith (Julie Andrews), a popular British music hall performer who is regarded as a femme fatale. She is actually a German spy, and the uncle she dotes upon is really Colonel Kurt Von Ruger (Jeremy Kemp), a fellow spy and her contact with the German military. In hopes of gaining valuable information, Lili begins using her feminine wiles on Major William Larrabee (Rock Hudson), a top American pilot. However, Lili soon falls in love with Larrabee and cannot find the courage to betray him. When Larrabee discovers Lili's secret, he refuses to turn her in.
I always thought this movie was considered a clunker so I watched it tonight thinking I was taking one for the OPPO team. (I bought it about two years ago before I smartened up and started renting, but never got around to watching it until tonight.) I was wrong. It's really a very good film. A top notch cast, a great director in Blake Edwards (who is the husband of Julie Andrews), new songs by Johnny Mercer and Henry Mancini (plus plenty of WW I era authentic songs), musical numbers staged by Hermes Pan, great costumes and ancient automobiles, realistic WW I flying combat scenes with replica planes, it has everything!
So why a box office flop?
The film's distribution was badly managed by Paramount executives and barely got a release in most of the United States. Despite setting box-office records at Radio City Music Hall, the film was a critical and commercial failure. Budgeted at $25 million, it grossed only $5 million in the US, and later earned $3.3 million in videotape rentals.
A knowledgeable commentator notes:
I remember seeing DARLING LILI when it ran its short original theatrical release. I also remember being the only person in the theatre during the particular showing I attended. It saddens me now as it did then that this beautifully crafted and delightful film was so sneered at and snubbed by critics and audiences alike. Movie musicals made a brief comeback in the early sixties and peaked with THE SOUND OF MUSIC in 1965. Hollywood continued to make them and even though two of them, OLIVER! and FUNNY GIRL, were mildly successful, the genre was again on the decline. The movie musicals of the late 60s all died at the box office including DOCTOR DOLITTLE, CAMELOT, FINIAN'S RAINBOW, GOODBYE MR. CHIPS, CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG, PAINT YOUR WAGON, HALF A SIXPENCE, SWEET CHARITY, HELLO DOLLY! as well as Andrews' other underrated drama with music, STAR! which I consider a companion piece to both DARLING LILI and Andrews' comeback film, VICTOR,VICTORIA. But even in 1970 the movie musical struggled to survive with not only DARLING LILI but two other large scale musical extravaganzas, ie: ON A CLEAR DAY YOU CAN SEE FOREVER and SCROOGE. Much salt was added to the wound when not only 'LILI' but also 'CLEAR DAY' and SCROOGE tanked at the box office. These films failed not because they were bad films but because audiences had grown cynical and no film was any good unless it was "realistic". It seemed that going to the movies was no longer an exercise in temporarily putting one's troubles aside for a few hours of nurturing the spirit and soul with beautiful singing and dancing...
It's the Director's Cut, 136 minutes long on a SD DVD released in 2005. OAR 1.85:1 Panavision. Technicolor. DD 5.1 audio. Top drawer in every way. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Song and won a Golden Globe for Best Original Song. Andrews was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Actress, Musical or Comedy and the film was also nominated for Best Picture, Musical or Comedy.
Thoroughly enjoyable, something I can't say about every film I watch.
Grant plays against type as a scruffy loner who escapes the confines of wearing a tie while teaching history to students who have no interest in it by running away to the South Pacific only to have WW II catch up to him.
It has an all-star cast including Leslie Caron, Trevor Howard and Jack Good. While it's a romantic comedy, the work of coast-watchers which Grant "volunteers" to undertake in actuality was no joke - very serious and dangerous business. The title of the film comes from his radio code name.
It's a grand film and the repartee among the actors is LOL humorous at times. No wonder it won the Academy Award for Best Writing, Story and Screenplay in 1965.
It's on a 2001 SD DVD in Technicolor, OAR 1.85:1 letterboxed. I used the "full" zoom to fill my 16x9 screen perfectly. Mono audio. Filmed on location in Jamaica and on the Universal Studios' back lot in Hollywood.
Cary Grant was 60 at the time of production, easily old enough to have been Leslie Caron's father; she was 33. Yet, their ultimate romantic attraction to each other after initial tension is entirely believable. Grant was quite a comedian; Caron was a delightful foil. The entourage of seven children Miss Caron's character has in tow adds a lot to the fun. None of them had any previous film experience.
From the RL Stevenson story. Doctors in 1830s Edinburgh need cadavers for anatomy studies. With a limited supply, what do you do?
This period thriller is stiffer than others in the Val Lewton series, with the young hero being particularly wooden. Some of the actors have Scots accents, others don't. Nonetheless it was a smash hit.
Henry Daniell and Boris Karloff save it. Their mutual hatred and nasty bantering is vastly entertaining. Karloff was particularly grateful to Lewton for getting him out of the monster movies, and is quoted as saying things like "he saved my soul" and "brought me back from the dead". Many Karloff fans think this is his best performance; he is hypnotically evil, but this is disorienting because the object of his malice is no angel either.
Robert Wise contributes a commentary track for the DVD, but it is not specific to this film. Another commentator gives some ghastly details on the historical facts behind the story, as well as more history of the production.
(s)he appeared in a handful of European films before starring in the 1951 Broadway play Gigi. Hepburn played the lead female role in Roman Holiday (1953), winning an Academy Award, a Golden Globe and a BAFTA for her performance.
One of the "handful of European films" in which Audrey appeared (apprenticed?) has been recently released on SD DVD in the UK and I wanted to see it. It's called "Secret People." It was the last film she made there - released in 1952 - before she won the Oscar for her endearing performance in "Roman Holiday."
While the theater poster for "Secret People"
suggests that Audrey Hepburn had a featured role, in fact it was a small part that cast her as a young novice ballerina which was not far from the truth in real life. At least she had some lines as apparently in some earlier films, she didn't. It is likely that the co-writer/director Thorold Dickinson had in mind that she might be sufficiently well known in the USA to get his film distributed in this country as well as in the UK. It never was.
Audrey went on to great heights. The other actors didn't. There is a brief analysis of the film in a Special Feature I watched. The commentator goes on about the film, its plot significance, the director and actors - never mentioning Audrey - before finally acknowledging that the film flopped at the box office. The director's reputation was damaged and he soon after turned to teaching film studies.
I found the film preachy and boring. Audrey added some life to it but wasn't on screen long enough to save it.
On a © 2010 SD DVD PAL Region 2. B&W. OAR 4x3. Mono audio. It is a very good transfer, the blacks are very black and the detail is very good. Too bad the film isn't.
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