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Movies, Concerts, and Music Discussion > Review older films here: 1979 and earlier
oink's Avatar oink 10:17 AM 07-01-2013
I recently watched the BD of Badlands.
Really enjoyed this fine first effort by Malick.

The AV of the BD is surprisingly good.

wmcclain's Avatar wmcclain 09:19 AM 07-05-2013
Phantom of the Opera (1943), directed by Arthur Lubin.

A struggling violinist is disfigured with acid, then falls into the sewer just to make a bad day complete. Maddened, he haunts the opera house, advancing the career of the young woman he loves, using whatever violent means are necessary.

Opulent but low-intensity thriller, not really a horror film. Claude Rains and the Technicolor production make it worth watching; not much of interest apart from that. The light love triangle is not very involving.

There is a hint that the young woman is the Phantom's secret daughter but the studio decided not to pursue that because in the original story he is romantically attached to her.

The Technicolor registration looks a bit off, although I've seen much worse. You can see color fringes in some scenes. They also push the yellow towards red, most noticeable in the candle flames. I don't know if that was in the original film source.

Available on Blu-ray.



-Bill
gwsat's Avatar gwsat 11:35 AM 07-05-2013
I loved the 1943 version of The Phantom of the Opera. Despite the inevitable bowdlerization that occurred in transferring the classic novel to the screen, caused by of the strictures of the Hayes Code, enough of the story was left for Claude Raines to shine as the Phantom. In Raines capable hands, it seemed to me that he was more of an object of pity than he was a monster to be feared,
JSUL's Avatar JSUL 06:37 AM 07-06-2013
Mr. Rains brings his usual bravada to the role, and the fact it was shot in color is fun too.

It was an opportunity to showcase Miss Foster's vocal ability....just as she did again in The Climax, with Boris Karloff.
wmcclain's Avatar wmcclain 06:16 AM 07-10-2013
The Man Who Never Was (1956), directed by Ronald Neame.

Before the Allied invasion of Sicily in WW2, the British stage an ingenious deception plan: plant false papers on a corpse which washes up in Spain, where the documents will then be turned over to the Germans. That part works, but the movie isn't over: the Germans aren't stupid. They need to check the story out, which means taking a secret investigation back to London, a tense and dangerous game for both sides.

This is a small war film made when memories were still fresh. The result is much better than I expected. We don't get many good deception plots and the meticulous attention to detail is very fine. It rises above the average by a realism that is more moving than many action pictures: today when someone says "I need a corpse" it's no problem, one is provided instantly. Back then, it's hard to find a body no one claims. When they have a suitable "volunteer" they must promise the dead man's father that the body will be treated with respect. Which they do, very seriously. The submarine crew even reads the burial-at-sea service.

We have an Anglo-American cast: at one time I know the British felt that their films would not draw US audiences without American stars and I suppose that is the reason. Clifton Webb's natural reserve suits his naval officer role. Stephen Boyd is a stone-cold Irish spy working for the Germans. I've always liked Gloria Grahame but since I read that she would stuff paper under her upper lip I can't help noticing and find it distracting. Her shiny makeup is strange here.

This is a fictionalization of the real story of Operation Mincemeat, which -- to my astonishment -- actually worked really well. So much so that when, later in the war, the Germans obtained real intelligence documents they refused to believe them, fearing more deception.

The bit about the Irish spy in London is pure fiction, but a worthy addition to the drama.

Lush sea-faring score. 2.55:1 aspect ratio.

My thumbnails are from the region 1 DVD. I see a region B Blu-ray is available in the UK.



-Bill
Mr.G's Avatar Mr.G 07:59 AM 07-10-2013
Quote:
Originally Posted by wmcclain View Post

I've always liked Gloria Grahame but since I read that she would stuff paper under her upper lip I can't help noticing and find it distracting.

-Bill

"One who has a stiff upper lip displays fortitude in the face of adversity, or exercises great self-restraint in the expression of emotion."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stiff_upper_lip

Sorry - sometimes I can't help myself.
NJPete's Avatar NJPete 12:12 PM 07-10-2013
Quote:
Originally Posted by wmcclain View Post

The Man Who Never Was (1956), directed by Ronald Neame.

Before the Allied invasion of Sicily in WW2, the British stage an ingenious deception plan: plant false papers on a corpse which washes up in Spain, where the documents will then be turned over to the Germans. That part works, but the movie isn't over: the Germans aren't stupid. They need to check the story out, which means taking a secret investigation back to London, a tense and dangerous game for both sides.

This is a small war film made when memories were still fresh. The result is much better than I expected. We don't get many good deception plots and the meticulous attention to detail is very fine. It rises above the average by a realism that is more moving than many action pictures: today when someone says "I need a corpse" it's no problem, one is provided instantly. Back then, it's hard to find a body no one claims. When they have a suitable "volunteer" they must promise the dead man's father that the body will be treated with respect. Which they do, very seriously. The submarine crew even reads the burial-at-sea service.

We have an Anglo-American cast: at one time I know the British felt that their films would not draw US audiences without American stars and I suppose that is the reason. Clifton Webb's natural reserve suits his naval officer role. Stephen Boyd is a stone-cold Irish spy working for the Germans. I've always liked Gloria Grahame but since I read that she would stuff paper under her upper lip I can't help noticing and find it distracting. Her shiny makeup is strange here.

This is a fictionalization of the real story of Operation Mincemeat, which -- to my astonishment -- actually worked really well. So much so that when, later in the war, the Germans obtained real intelligence documents they refused to believe them, fearing more deception.

The bit about the Irish spy in London is pure fiction, but a worthy addition to the drama.

Lush sea-faring score. 2.55:1 aspect ratio.

My thumbnails are from the region 1 DVD. I see a region B Blu-ray is available in the UK.



-Bill


I saw this on DVD for the first time a few years ago and loved it. I remember the ending being particularly melancholy but perfect.

In completely OT WW2-theme movie news, I just saw that Warner announced the November release of The Best Years of Our Lives on Blu-ray. If done well, this could be the release of the year for me.
wmcclain's Avatar wmcclain 08:14 AM 07-15-2013
Three Days of the Condor (1975), directed by Sydney Pollack.

A CIA analyst returns with lunch to find his entire office murdered. He doesn't know it yet but it is all his fault: he asked the wrong questions. Now he's on the run, never knowing who to trust. A secret agency within the agency? It's always a risk.

This is the prototype of the "spy on the run from his own people" thriller. In this case he is not a field agent but he learns quickly. Luckily he knows how to wiretap.

Robert Redford does well enough in the role, but is always too damn pretty. He had a standard look for the entire decade: helmet of hair, jeans, tweedy sportcoat.

We have an odd semi-romantic interlude with Faye Dunaway, a woman he kidnaps. It slows down the middle of the story, although we do wonder where this is going. I suspect this was bait for female viewers who entertained lubricious fantasies of being in that situation, since they know Redford is an adorable good guy.

Max von Sydow is great as an unexpectedly friendly master assassin.

The plot takes advantage of the very bad repute spy agencies enjoyed during the 70s.

Notes:

  • What's with the broken down back door? What's the point of having an armed guard in front?
  • Many shots in and around the World Trade Center.
  • The director obviously loves New York, even in the middle of a hard, stressed decade.
  • It's all about the oil!
  • Our hero sounds hopelessly naive today.
  • It's a Christmas film!
  • Dave Grusin score.

Available on Blu-ray.



-Bill
Josh Z's Avatar Josh Z 12:37 PM 07-15-2013
Quote:
Originally Posted by wmcclain View Post

We have an odd semi-romantic interlude with Faye Dunaway, a woman he kidnaps. It slows down the middle of the story, although we do wonder where this is going. I suspect this was bait for female viewers who entertained lubricious fantasies of being in that situation, since they know Redford is an adorable good guy.

Indeed. Watch the trailer on the Blu-ray. It tries to sell the movie with the completely ridiculous tag line: "Robert Redford and Faye Dunaway - in danger, and in love!"

I like the movie, but that storyline is very weird and unnecesary.
fjames's Avatar fjames 11:48 PM 07-15-2013
I think they make the storyline work - after all, what's a spy story without a babe, not exactly unknown.

It also informs the story throughout, like when the von Sydow character asks Redford about the woman. And of course the actual ending, which says much about the rest of the movie you've been watching - Redford was just using her, but she fell for him and he was so wrapped up in his own issues he didn't realize it.

Tag lines are meaningless - if you could only read books in paperback, and watch movies on video, and only had the back cover to select, well ...
hitchfan's Avatar hitchfan 12:42 AM 07-16-2013
Quote:
Originally Posted by wmcclain View Post

Three Days of the Condor (1975), directed by Sydney Pollack.

Max von Sydow is great as an unexpectedly friendly master assassin.

-Bill

Funny how a moment in a film can stick with you. For me, the moment in this one was when the Asian agent realizes in an instant that she's going to die quickly and efficiently like her co-workers must have died by the time the assassins got to her office, says to the Sydow character with almost no emotion, "I want to scream" and his quiet reply with a sympathetic half smile is simply, "I know" (the top two pics). I remember almost nothing else about this movie after that scene.
Tack's Avatar Tack 01:30 PM 07-17-2013
Quote:
Originally Posted by wmcclain View Post

The Man Who Never Was (1956), directed by Ronald Neame.





-Bill


Willem Dafoe looks a lot like Stephen Boyd in the fifth pic down.
wmcclain's Avatar wmcclain 02:27 PM 07-17-2013
How Green Was My Valley (1941), directed by John Ford.

Another love letter to the Celts, although more sad and bitter than The Quiet Man (1952).

At first the childhood reminiscences are idyllic: a large loving family in a Welsh coal mining town, before the mines grew to absorb the whole valley. Wide-eyed Roddy McDowall is an outstanding child actor, bringing our own innocent age back to us.

It can't last: strikes, family disputes, illness, mine disasters, death, frustrated lovers, loveless marriage, cruel church deacons and the damage caused by spiteful gossips.

And yet: the family remains stalwart and loving, with Donald Crisp and Sara Allgood as the parents who keep it together, although dada seems beaten down by life. Their sons are scattered across the globe.

Walter Pidgeon as the local pastor is warm hearted and upright throughout. His blistering final comments to his congregation contain more explicit religious sentiments than I remember hearing from John Ford before.

Also more Code-compliant sex talk than usual. Maureen O'Hara (age 21 and -- can I say it? -- luminous in her beauty), speaking of an unwed mother damned to outer darkness by vicious churchmen, says something like "That could be me. A woman who loves completely gives up everything".

This film won 5 Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Director. For Best Picture it won over:

Available on Blu-ray with a rather fine image. The whites look a bit bright in some scenes.

I was not able to make my own thumbnails this time and the images below are adapted with the kind permission of Gary Tooze from his full-size screen shots at DVDBeaver: How Green Was My Valley Blu-Ray - Maureen O'Hara



-Bill
RUR's Avatar RUR 04:44 PM 07-17-2013
Quote:
Originally Posted by wmcclain View Post

Maureen O'Hara (age 21 and -- can I say it? -- luminous in her beauty)
Oh, absolutely you can.

I have this vague recollection from the extras that Ford had originally planned to film in Wales and in color. Wartime perils foreclosed that option and it was filmed in SoCal. As any resident can tell you, local colors would never pass for Wales and so B&W had to be used.
wmcclain's Avatar wmcclain 11:28 AM 07-23-2013
The Caine Mutiny (1954), directed by Edward Dmytryk.

November 1943: a new Midshipman from a rich family arrives at his first ship, a broken down minesweeper in the "junkyard navy". He doesn't like it very much, but things take a turn for the worse -- much worse -- when a new captain arrives. Our hero must survive command abuse, terror at sea, mutiny, and the ensuing courtroom drama and aftermath.

Among it's many strengths is the film's casting against type: the usually comic Van Johnson is a sober Lt, careful and serious in his work, but over his head and too much influenced by affable Fred MacMurray, who sets up others for the fall in a sarcastic, snake-like fashion.

And, of course, Capt Queeg is one of Bogart's most remembered roles. Insecure and tyrannical, insisting on perfection from his men while making excuses and lying about his own failures: a tendency to panic and freeze during emergencies. And actual insanity. Bogart deserves great credit for being willing to play characters -- as in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948) -- that are unlikeable but not majestic or distinguished in their villainy. But the men he has wronged pity him in the end, as do we.

We also have some big flaws: (1) our midshipman is a bland character and the actor seems pretty limited (he died the next year in a plane crash and made only four films), and (2) the romance subplot is not very interesting and has nothing to do with the rest of the movie.

Maybe I'm wrong about that: the romance plot is about his hesitant attempts to be free of his mother's apron strings, while the shipboard story is his search for a father figure, with all candidates inadequate in some way. In the very last scene we see he has finally found one.

Max Steiner score.

Available on Blu-ray.



-Bill
gwsat's Avatar gwsat 02:30 PM 07-23-2013
The Caine Mutiny is one of my all time favorite films, as is the Herman Wouk novel upon which it was based. Humphrey Bogart gave one of the finest performances of his distinguished career, as the sometimes despicable and other times pitiable, LCDR Philip Queeg, Van Johnson was wonderful as the decent but overmatched, LT Steve Maryk. Fred McMurray also did a great job as the personable but oily and treacherous, Tom Keefer. I agree with Bill that the young actor who played Willie Keith was pretty vapid. I'm not sure what the screenwriters could have done with ENS Keith's lady love, nightclub singer, May Wynn. Their relationship is the weakest part of Wouk's otherwise great novel. Nevertheless, I think the film is arguably the finest film about the US Navy in Word War II. 10 Stars out of 10.
fjames's Avatar fjames 03:25 PM 07-23-2013
I grew up with Fred MacMurray in My Three Sons. I had no idea he had even done film acting, that he was anything but another tv guy.

Then I saw Caine, and was dumbfounded, his character is so well written, and he plays him so well, it was a revelation and a learning moment.

The real learning moment for me though, being a young man and all, was Ferrer's dressing down of them in the hallway scene at the end. I was typically hormoned up, screw the old bastard and all, then came Ferrer's speech. Oh, empathy, what a concept.
Kilgore's Avatar Kilgore 06:58 PM 07-23-2013
Quote:
Originally Posted by fjames View Post

I grew up with Fred MacMurray in My Three Sons. I had no idea he had even done film acting, that he was anything but another tv guy.

Then I saw Caine, and was dumbfounded, his character is so well written, and he plays him so well, it was a revelation and a learning moment.

You really need to see Double Indemnity then biggrin.gif
fjames's Avatar fjames 07:23 PM 07-23-2013
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kilgore View Post

You really need to see Double Indemnity then biggrin.gif

Just received it on MoC BD, but saw it first maybe 30 years ago (after Caine.) So yeah, a double (ahem) dose of revelations smile.gif It seems like I should have seen it much earlier than 30 years ago, but I have a memory of seeing it after Body Heat, and freaking out because I didn't know BH was essentially a remake. So there we go with another learning moment - I thought BH was so cool and original ...
gwsat's Avatar gwsat 08:25 PM 07-23-2013
Quote:
Originally Posted by fjames View Post

Just received it on MoC BD, but saw it first maybe 30 years ago (after Caine.) So yeah, a double (ahem) dose of revelations smile.gif It seems like I should have seen it much earlier than 30 years ago, but I have a memory of seeing it after Body Heat, and freaking out because I didn't know BH was essentially a remake. So there we go with another learning moment - I thought BH was so cool and original ...

Billy Wilder's Double Indemnity was a great film. As great as McMurray was in it, Barbara Stanwyck and Edward G. Robinson were his equal. It is clear to me at least why the film is ranked Number 58 on the IMDb's Top 250 list.
hitchfan's Avatar hitchfan 03:48 AM 07-24-2013
Yes, if anyone had only been exposed to the affable Fred MacMurray of My Three Sons and his loonier characters in those hit Disney comedies, not to mention his fine comedic work in movies that had gotten so much television airplay in my generation like Murder, He Says and The Egg and I you might not know MacMurray also logged in some of the more believable slimy heels in movies like Double Indemnity, The Caine Mutiny and The Apartment. Billy Wilder in particular seems to have recognized his ability to turn on the dark side in the most interesting and subtle way. He was a far more fascinating actor than given credit for, imo. If James Stewart hadn't come along, I could see Fred MacMurray tackling some of the more complex roles Stewart became famous for in those Anthony Mann westerns and Hitchcock thrillers; the Every Man with a more complex, darker side than first thought.
wmcclain's Avatar wmcclain 12:54 PM 07-31-2013
The Driver (1978), written and directed by Walter Hill.

A cool, nearly silent driver provides getaway services for bank robbers. He gets a fee and a percentage but otherwise has nothing to do with the other crooks. The problem with crime is the people you have to deal with. He also contends with a hard-assed police detective who is not above setting up a bank job just to trap him.

Both expert and minimalist, it's a combination of action movie and ode to noirish tough guy films, with very exciting car chases and driving stunts. Our hero says little, where the obsessed detective tends to run his mouth and we don't like him for just that reason.

As I wrote in my review of Barry Lyndon, I never gave Ryan O'Neal a fair chance. He has old-school acting skills, simultaneously tough and pretty, with the occasional little-boy-lost appeal that drives the ladies nuts.

Bruce Dern has always been a favorite. If he's going to be a policeman he has to be an oily, unlikeable one.

The beautiful and extremely French Isabelle Adjani is 23 here. My only other clear memory of her is as Queen Margot 16 years later. I had thought she was in the Matrix sequels, but that's wrong; I must have been thinking of Monica Bellucci.

I see several actors from Clint Eastwood's pictures and the gunshot sound effects are just like those from the Dirty Harry movies, but he was with a different studio and I can't find any crew crossover apart from the stunt coordinator.

Michael Small's score is a remarkable collection of styles, reminiscent of cool hardboiled classics, up through Quinn Martin TV series like The Fugitive and The Invaders, to action themes like Lalo Schifren's, and even some shock chords like Jerry Goldsmith would use in Alien.

Filmed in LA. The initial heist scenes are closely repeated in Drive (2011).

Available on Twilight Time limited edition Blu-ray. Grainy image, good natural color and a deep black level. It is a very dark film and blacks sometimes seem crushed, but that may be the light level in the film itself. Isolated score and alternative 3 minute opening.



-Bill
Mr.G's Avatar Mr.G 02:15 PM 07-31-2013
^^^ Saw the challenge in Name That Movie and waited for someone to answer. I wasn't aware the Blu-ray was out and just ordered it this morning from TT. I hear they are going fast! Thanks for the review. Did you know there is a 131 minute version of this film? It's screened occasionally at select film festivals.
fjames's Avatar fjames 02:16 PM 07-31-2013
I never gave O'Neal any credit either, and feel stupid for it now. An interesting double feature would be The Driver and What's Up Doc. Forgot Felice Orlandi was in there - not that I know anything about him, but I loves me some Bullitt. Refreshing not to have the big tragic ending - it's just like Dern's character says, a game, so he turned out not to be the guy you maybe thought he was ... partly at least smile.gif

I'd be harsher on the vid - crushed black all over the place, but not sure where it comes from, source or vid. Glad I bought it though, a fav from the old days.
wmcclain's Avatar wmcclain 09:04 AM 08-02-2013
The Three Musketeers (1948), directed by George Sidney.

The first half -- the adventure of the queen's diamonds -- is light and very silly, taking full advantage of Gene Kelly's athletic ability and comic mugging. The second half -- the exposure of Milady de Winter -- is darker. We might expect that she and Constance would be spared in this version, but it is not to be.

The two-part structure was used again by George MacDonald Fraser in his fine screenplay for The Three Musketeers (1973) and The Four Musketeers (1974). He praises this version in The Hollywood History of the World and I suspect he had it in mind when he wrote his own treatment. It's impressive how much of the original story gets covered in the films.

As adventure entertainment it is only so-so: the light costuming and California country locations take us out of the fantasy, but we have exciting sword fights and impressive acrobatics.

A fine cast:

  • Gene Kelly: brash, love-struck D'Artagnan -- a real historical character!
  • Lana Turner: wicked Milady, keeping a dark secret
  • Van Heflin: anguished Athos
  • Vincent Price: sinister, crafty Richelieu, apparently not a Cardinal in this version
  • Frank Morgan: ridiculous but pitiable King Louis; we hate to see anyone under Richelieu's thumb
  • Angela Lansbury (age 23): the adulteress Queen, although we never seem to mind
  • June Allyson: D'Artagnan's lady love; they marry in this version and we have a Romeo & Juliet morning-after bedroom scene
  • Keenan Wynn: long suffering servant Planchet

This must have been spectacular Technicolor when it was new, but the DVD quality is only fair. Will we ever see a restoration?



-Bill
gwsat's Avatar gwsat 12:31 PM 08-02-2013
I tend to forget how many films Angela Lansbury was in when she was young and beautiful. She proved she was a great actress even then with her Oscar nominated performance in Gaslight, for which she received an Oscar nomination. She was only 20 years old. Lansbury has been the queen of Broadway musical theater for so long, it's easy to forget how much great work she did in film when she was young.
JSUL's Avatar JSUL 04:53 AM 08-03-2013
I enjoy The Picture of Dorian Gray.....we get Angela, plus the lovely Donna Reed too!
Mr.G's Avatar Mr.G 08:35 AM 08-03-2013
Quote:
Originally Posted by wmcclain View Post

The Three Musketeers (1948), directed by George Sidney.

This got me to thinking about how many times the Alexandre Dumas novel has been the source for a movie. About 24 film adaptations not counting the animated versions, sequels and descendants. It seems like every decade or so some producer decides we need a refreshed version.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Three_Musketeers_in_film
wmcclain's Avatar wmcclain 09:03 AM 08-03-2013
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr.G View Post

This got me to thinking about how many times the Alexandre Dumas novel has been the source for a movie. About 24 film adaptations not counting the animated versions, sequels and descendants. It seems like every decade or so some producer decides we need a refreshed version.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Three_Musketeers_in_film

Not forgetting The Man in the Iron Mask, where we have the deaths of 3 of the 4 friends. I won't reveal the last man standing, other than to say that the death of Porthos, who had become a sort of Hercules by this time, is incredibly cinematic. It really would make a hell of an action picture just sticking to the text. Available online: The Death of a Titan.

I wonder if we will see a proper "goodbye to the Musketeers" version some day. In their old age they are still brave and willing to fight, but have more guile and political craft than when they were young and brawling. They can work around a fight as easily as bash their enemies.

The Man in the Iron Mask is actually the final third of the massive Vicomte de Bragelonne, named for Athos's son. I haven't read the bulk of it. English editions seem to vary on exactly where the final third begins.

-Bill
wmcclain's Avatar wmcclain 05:35 PM 08-05-2013
Father Goose (1964), directed by Ralph Nelson.

Cary Grant's second-to-last film is a light, low-energy WW2 romantic comedy of a confirmed drunkard who is marooned on an island north of New Guinea. The Navy wants him to spot Japanese planes and report them in exchange for the location of hidden whiskey bottles. He rescues a strict teacher and her seven school girls. Much hilarity ensues.

There are some laughs and a few exciting survival bits. You can't help liking Cary Grant -- grubby is a new look for him -- but this is the sort of performance he could generate automatically. Leslie Caron: it helps that she's French; she must be appealing, right? Trevor Howard: he's always perfect.

As always, it's all about domestication of the open range male. Shave, put on socks, stop drinking, get married, be a good father.

We have two sets of actual sisters among the girls. Filmed in Jamaica.

Available on Blu-ray from Olive Films. Bare-bones as always, no subtitles.



-Bill
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