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post #1441 of 1544 Old 11-29-2014, 03:23 PM
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Thank you buddy for your continued updates on this thread!!
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post #1442 of 1544 Old 12-01-2014, 03:39 PM - Thread Starter
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Samson and Delilah (1949), produced and directed by Cecil B. DeMille.

Quote:
Nasty Philistine tax collector: "Next time we'll take your goats!"
As a Judge of Israel, Samson doesn't put much into the job and seems awfully susceptible to female charms, but when the chips are down he can summon the strength to pull down the temple, destroying his enemies and the oppressors of his people.

This has DeMille's characteristic stiff performances and lovely storybook backgrounds. The exception among the actors is acerbic George Sanders as the king: he's in a better film than the others.

The story gets a bit better when Delilah repents after Samson is blinded and enslaved. He forgives and tries to save her in the end...

Hedy Lamarr was known for her beautiful face and figure, limited acting ability, notorious litigiousness, and for inventing and holding a patent on Frequency-hopping spread spectrum radio control, originally intended as an anti-jamming technique for torpedoes, later the basis for Spread spectrum telecommunications.

Note that one of the posters features quite a bit of her underboob, pretty saucy for the time:



Edith Head is one of five costumers. Part of the set was rebuilt so that DeMille could appear as himself directing the picture in Sunset Blvd (1950).

Available on Blu-ray. The rich color scheme looks very similar to The Ten Commandments (1956). Detail is good, if not quite as fine as for the later film.



-Bill

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post #1443 of 1544 Old 12-08-2014, 06:00 AM - Thread Starter
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Cotton Comes to Harlem (1970), directed by Ossie Davis.

A charismatic preacher running a "Back to Africa" campaign enjoys wide community and political support. The only ones not buying it are some neighborhood Militants and -- more importantly -- police detectives Coffin Ed Johnson and Grave Digger Jones: "Two damn black maniacs on a powder keg". These would be Raymond St. Jacques and Godfrey Cambridge, who should have gotten a series out of this.

When the funds are stolen in a violent heist, it's off the races to find out who's doing what to whom. And why is everyone after a stray bale of cotton that has mysteriously found its way into Harlem?

I hadn't seen this for decades and it has a more filmed-in-the-streets look than I remember. I'd also forgotten gorgeous Judy Pace (nudity!) who worked a lot but was never a big star.

It's called early blaxploitation and does have a bunch of those characteristics: funny, sexy and violent, black vs white, people vs The Man, ordinary decent folk vs the exploiters.

It has has unusually pointed criticisms. Militants, crooked clergy, sincere clergy, church ladies, street hustlers, pathetic junkies: all spend time in the barrel.

On the down side, the plot loses coherence at times, and the crowds are hard to understand: they love you, then they hate you, but it's not clear why. It's also disappointing that our heroes have to be bailed out by the mafia guy in the end.

I'd forgotten: (1) Detective Grave Digger Jones carries a flare gun he uses to visit pyrotechnic mayhem on the bad guys, and (2) the Traveling Man: a character walking through several scenes who seems to be looking for a bed.

Small roles for Redd Foxx and Cleavon Little.

Available on Blu-ray from Kino.



-Bill

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post #1444 of 1544 Old 12-11-2014, 08:06 PM - Thread Starter
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It Happened One Night (1934), directed by Frank Capra.

Quote:

He: (referring to a bus seat) That upon which you sit is mine.

She: (pause) I beg your pardon?
A runaway reporter picks up a runaway heiress and teaches her to get some grit and be less spoiled. Do you think they might fall in love, too?

Much is made of noir photography in later decades, but look at it's precursor in the lovely composition and lighting here. This is the magical Silver Screen. Moonlight on the water, a haystack under the stars, smoking in bed with faint light from outside, rain beating on the window.

Made right at the end of the pre-Code era, there is nothing really outrageous here, although an unmarried man and woman -- registered as Mr & Mrs -- did not often share a motel room, undress and spend the night together in film, even if separated by a hanging blanket.

Claudette Colbert in her undergarments: I think the censors put an end to that for a few years.

Clark Gable was from Ohio. What accent does he use? It seems to me he sometimes tries to talk "black" as way of demonstrating style and rebelliousness.

He also threatens quite a bit of violence toward her as a means of instruction and discipline. Does he mean it? She accepts it passively and appreciates his manliness.

This is what Depression audiences wanted: a peek at the frivolous but likeable rich, but also reassurance that the stressed common folk had kindness, dignity and fortitude of their own. You want a director sympathetic to the down-and-out, their hopes, humanity and good humor? Frank Capra is your man.

Watch Gable wave at the tramps on the train, and see how they laugh and wave back.

Finally let me note the bouncing bus ride. A lot of films from the period didn't even try to suggest that level of realism.

Criterion Blu-ray. The quality is nothing special by today's standards, but still a great improvement over earlier home video, with some variation between reels. It looks fine for an 80 year old film.



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post #1445 of 1544 Old 12-12-2014, 06:51 AM - Thread Starter
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I have wanted to create an index of my reviews for a while, but that's hard to do with forum software. I've started copying reviews to my own off-site pages.

First results here: Strange Picture Scroll.

I'll add to it bit by bit, probably doing batches by director.

Please forgive the rudimentary layout; I'll spiff it up later, time and energy permitting. There may also be dead links until I get more reviews transferred.

On the other hand, the bare-bones style lacks adverts and javascript, which is kind of novel these days, eh?

Thanks everyone for reading! Hope you find good films.

-Bill

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post #1446 of 1544 Old 12-12-2014, 07:25 AM
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Bill -- Thanks for your review of It Happened One Night. It is one of my favorite films. Gable and Colbert were at their charming best. If a better romantic comedy was ever made, I'm at a loss to name it.
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post #1447 of 1544 Old 12-13-2014, 07:13 AM
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I havent ever sen IT HAPPEND ONE NIGHT.... But I know how good Mr. Gable is!!
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post #1448 of 1544 Old 12-13-2014, 07:23 AM
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Great movie and one of my personal favorites. I believe it was the first movie to win the "big 3" of Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Actress.

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post #1449 of 1544 Old 12-14-2014, 12:56 PM - Thread Starter
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The Gospel According to St. Matthew (1964), written and directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini.

A life of Jesus, closely following the gospel, shot in a simple matter-of-fact style -- including the miracles -- using mostly natural locations and local non-actors.

The costumes suggest a variety of time periods and the music is an eclectic mix: Bach, Mozart, Prokofiev, Odetta ("Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child") and Blind Willie Johnson ("Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground").

It's remarkably reverential for the controversial, non-believing director. No satire, no political agenda. Dedicated to the Pope.

The actor playing Jesus has a big head and tiny body, which is very weird in some shots. Some of the teachings are delivered in a rapid monotone.

Like all Christmas pageants or Shakespeare plays, seeing the story shown again, from a new angle, lets us see it and think about it in fresh ways.

The DVD is poor quality, with English subtitles burned into the image.



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post #1450 of 1544 Old 12-15-2014, 09:50 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RoyGBiv View Post
Great movie and one of my personal favorites. I believe it was the first movie to win the "big 3" of Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Actress.
It actually won the Big Five: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Screenplay. The only two movies to repeat that success have been One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and The Silence of the Lambs.

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post #1451 of 1544 Old 12-17-2014, 11:24 AM - Thread Starter
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Duck, You Sucker (1971), directed by Sergio Leone.

In 1913 Mexico, a scruffy bandit patriarch picks up a disillusioned Irish revolutionary who specializes in explosives. Juan now sees his life's dream within reach: cracking a big bank. Sean may have other ideas.

Although I have enjoyed some of his earlier work, with his fifth western I finally warm up to Leone. I like it better than anything he did previously:

  • Gone is the tough-guy fashion show. Much more dress-down now.
  • No big arena duel, less sadistic violence.
  • The characters are no longer types, but actual people who change and develop new depths in the story.
  • The buddy-film formula works out nicely here.
  • Once we are past the bank job at the midpoint, I couldn't have predicted where the story would go.
  • Actions have consequences. Leone still loves trains, titanic explosions and mowing crowds down with machine guns, but doing so causes later tragedy.

Normally I would be restless during his long mood shots or those extreme closeups, but Leone and his editor seem at home with their techniques now and have delivered a film that keeps me involved, uncomplaining.

Rod Steiger's "method" lays on the Mexican peasant bandit pretty thick. His accent reminds me of Pacino in Scarface (1983). Leone would do two dozen takes just to wear him down and make the performance smaller.

James Coburn's Irishman is more laid back, if tormented with secret sorrow. ("I used to believe in many things. Now, I believe only in dynamite"). Coburn asked that his lines be reduced as unnecessary to the performance. Steve McQueen and Clint Eastwood would do that, too.

Neither actor was Leone's first choice. He wanted Eli Wallach for Juan and Jason Robards or Malcom McDowell for Sean, but the studio decided to go for bigger names.

Leone was doing political commentary here, replying to left-wing fashions in Italian film at the time. He was more of an anarchist than a socialist. The film opens with quotes from Chairman Mao, then cuts to Juan pissing on an anthill.

Juan later gives his opinion on Revolution:

Quote:

The people who read the books go to the people who can't read the books, the poor people, and say, "We have to have a change." So, the poor people make the change, ah? And then, the people who read the books, they all sit around the big polished tables, and they talk and talk and talk and eat and eat and eat, eh? But what has happened to the poor people? They're dead! That's your revolution. So, please, don't tell me about revolutions! And what happens afterwards? The same ****ing thing starts all over again!
The Italian title means "keep your head down, don't get involved". I always knew the film by its American title A Fistful of Dynamite, but it has also been called Once Upon a Time in the Revolution.

Ennio Morricone score. Filmed in Spain and Ireland.

Available on Blu-ray with an excellent commentary track by a Leone biographer.

He provides a wealth of background and production info, and much insight into Leone's intentions. The film works off the film genre of Mexican Revolution adventures, but also illustrates incidents that happened in WW2 Italy.

He points out that if you use the alternate title, it shows that his final three films are a long trilogy:

  • Once Upon a Time in the West (1968): the end of the West
  • Once Upon a Time in the Revolution (1971): the time of revolutionary turmoil
  • Once Upon a Time in America (1984): the urban darkness

This may be a longer cut than I've seen before. I hear more f-words than I remember, and see several extended scenes.



-Bill

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post #1452 of 1544 Old 12-22-2014, 03:54 AM - Thread Starter
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Holiday Inn (1942), produced and directed by Mark Sandrich.

From an era prolific with singing-and-dancing pictures, this one has some standout features:

  • The intersection of great talent: Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire and Irving Berlin.
  • The gimmick is a good one: a country inn open only on holidays, said to number 15 in the year. We never hear the complete list: is Arbor Day included?
  • Rich settings, more country locations than usual.
  • Introducing the best-selling single recording of all time.
  • Some metaphysical disorientation: they abandon the Inn, move to Hollywood and reconstruct the Inn on a soundstage (obviously the same set as the "real" Inn in Connecticut), film a story about returning to the Inn, then return to the Inn in Connecticut for the finale.

The downsides are the expected limitations of musicals: thin plot, some weak skits and inconsequential love triangles.

The female leads are talented and likeable, but we wonder what a little more star power would have provided. In fact, they wanted Ginger Rogers and Rita Hayworth but didn't have the budget. That would have been something to see!

This has a famous black-face Lincoln's Birthday number, which I'm told has been censored on TV. The song is a good one. Minstrelsy obviously seems very weird today, although not intended as racist or offensive at the time. Patronizing and insensitive: sure. It was still big in the 1940s; by the time we get to White Christmas (1954) they could still do minstrel numbers, but without the blackface.

Misc notes:

  • The scene where Astaire dances drunk: he really was, just trying to be convincing.
  • You know: there's nothing wrong with his singing voice.
  • We get FDR's Four Freedoms in one of the routines.
  • Edith Head gowns.

Available on Blu-ray in both original and colorized versions, with the traditional pastel palette for color. The B&W version is from a better master. A commentary track gives good background info.

For a change I've used the colorized versions for the thumbnails:



-Bill

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post #1453 of 1544 Old 12-22-2014, 02:46 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hitchfan
There is a moment in Bullitt that comes and goes in a flash but I will always remember it getting a sizable smattering of applause in the theater when it occurred. McQueen is getting dressed for the day, looks into a mirror and does nothing more with his hair than brush a couple of fingers through the front and move on. Seriously, that tiny, seemingly unconscious gesture got a round of applause from both men and women in the 1968 theater audience.
 
Yes I reckon it did...... I think the ending is good also when he goes into his house and sets his revolver down and the camera looks @ it.. (Gives some suspense of something else happening)

I finally got an original analogue copy of this movie on VHS.... I first had a 1998 release and they had ripped the audiotrack apart (THEY MADE THIS MOVIE STEREO (It wasnt the original master used (Audio didnt sound that good in analogue either (Some of it didnt and @ first I didnt know why (Then I discovered they did this and was in search for an original PURE copy of the movie))))) -- I finally found an older Warner Bros Release (1986 I think) and this one IS THE ORIGINAL MONO RELEASE on its original analog master))

Im very,very much for PURITY and I cant stand it when they do stuff like this.... THE MOVIE (OR SONG) IS MONO,LEAVE IT THAT WAY!!!

I love BULLIT,one of Steve's best!!!!!!!!
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post #1454 of 1544 Old 12-27-2014, 06:50 AM - Thread Starter
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The Blue Max (1966), directed by John Guillermin.

A German foot soldier of the lower classes gets out of the trenches and becomes an officer in the aristocratic flying corp. He'll do anything to prove himself. The Blue Max medal requires twenty "kills" in the air. For him: whatever it takes.

This plays better than I remember. We're moving into a period when war films also had to be anti-war films and this provides additional tension in story construction. WW1 is a good vehicle for that because no one ever pretended it was the Good War; rather a civilizational disaster for all involved.

Some the interwoven threads work better than others:

  • The aerial photography is spectacular, the best and most beautiful biplane combat scenes I can remember. Forget about any anti-war message here.
  • When in the air, WW1 fighter pilots are smug predator gods. They know it and like it, we know it can can't deny it. They deal death to other planes and also stoop to strafe and bomb ground forces without compunction.
  • We also have one of the better presentations of the muddy, hellish ground war.
  • Our hero is not a likeable character and George Peppard is a cold actor. We sympathize with his need to get out of the trenches, and to force a place among the upper-crust fliers, but he is unnecessarily arrogant and prickly throughout. Most the the British actors do German accents, but he does not, which actually works: American = "common", British posh = German elite.
  • He has some loveless passion moments with the General's wife. One scene was cut from the original American theatrical release because Ursula Andress was showing just a touch too much boobage.
  • As in The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943), we see the passing of an age of the world, where the gentleman must give way to more savage practitioners of total war.

The director was an RAF flier in WW2.

Jerry Goldsmith score, of which he seemed very pleased.

Filmed in Ireland. When watching WW1 flying films I can't help thinking of The Stunt Man (1980).

Twilight Time Blu-ray. An isolated score gives a more complete edit of the music than used for the film itself. The usual commentators provide a fun track with quite a bit about Jerry Goldsmith, and pause to listen to alternative musical cuts not used in the final film.

The image is pretty fine, although sometimes looks "blue", as if adjusted to modern fashion. Maybe this was in the original, but the color contrast of the blue uniforms against the muddy brown fields looks too vivid to me.



-Bill

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post #1455 of 1544 Old 12-31-2014, 04:08 AM - Thread Starter
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The Train (1964), directed by John Frankenheimer.

As the German army retreats from Paris in 1944, an obsessed Colonel wants to take a vast stolen art collection with him. Can the French stop him, and what will be the cost in lives?

The Resistance crew at the train yard could do it, but most are dead and the survivors tired. They care nothing about Art when fighting a war. But this is the Glory of France! Tell that to the men who have to die for paintings. But just because the Germans want that loot should they be allowed to have it? You make a good point... And when comrades begin dying to stop the train: ok, that's another reason. What if they put hostages on the train? Damn.

Probably the last of the great B&W action films. It couldn't be made today; if nothing else the insurance companies wouldn't allow it. Although we have a few scale model shots, the most impressive effects are not effects at all, but actual real world stunts: blowing up a vast train yard (it was scheduled to be demolished anyway), high speed derailments and collisions of locomotives.

Made with astonishing realism throughout. The recent Monuments Men had a similar subject, but you really can't compare them. The contrast between The Train and modern action movies leads to grumpy judgments unfavorable to contemporary efforts.

Neither of the commentary tracks spells out what seems a clear message in the film: War is a machine, as practiced by both the Germans and by the French Resistance. They come together in the train system, also a machine. What is not a machine is the Art. Does that put sand in the gears? The German colonel's desire for it takes him out of the other war and into his own private dementia. And yet: what the last man standing fights for is never revealed.

On Burt Lancaster:

  • He did all his own stunts, and in fact did them for other actors. "The best stuntman I ever saw," said the director. "Not another living actor could have done this."
  • He learned how to repair locomotive parts and set explosives and is absolutely convincing with that competent muscle-memory that normally takes years of practice. Today we see so little work with real things: the details of life in movies are more likely to be fantasy computer controls.
  • He made good contributions to the script.
  • On his one day off he twisted his knee on the golf course. They wrote an injury into the script, having him shot in the leg. And he still did all his own running and fighting, limping now.
  • He had a famous smile, unused here and in some other good films. If he didn't like a director he'd say "I'm giving you nothing except The Grin."

Based on a true story, although with less action: the train was bureaucratically delayed until the Germans had to abandon it when the Allies arrived. The book was written by the woman who is the curator at the beginning of the film.

Fine Maurice Jarre score.

Twilight Time Blu-ray with an enthusiastic commentary track by the usual crew. They call painting the roofs of the rail-cars the "Mission Impossible scene".

The director also proves a quiet, thoughtful commentary, useful but with long silent stretches. Some good stories, for example: when told he was losing a French actor who had another film to do, Frankenheimer immediately stood him up against a wall and had him shot by German soldiers. It's in the film. Other actors got the same treatment, hence the high body count.



-Bill
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post #1456 of 1544 Old 12-31-2014, 10:24 AM
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Lovely... I missed the initial release of The Train because I waited to long, and now i have to bite the bullet and buy it on the secondary market.

See Burt Lancaster running with a full head of steam and flaying face first on a wooden bridge at full gallop is utterly classic... all while doing so with a real life broken leg.

they just don't make them like they used to!

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post #1457 of 1544 Old 12-31-2014, 02:17 PM
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It's got some commercials but available to watch for free via IMBD.

The Train
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post #1458 of 1544 Old 01-04-2015, 12:34 PM - Thread Starter
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Robin and Marian (1976), directed by Richard Lester.

After their Sherwood adventures, Robin Hood and Little John have followed King Richard in the Crusades and France for 20 years. The King (Richard Harris, loving it) has become increasingly erratic and brutal. Robin has been insufficiently subservient ("You've always judged me!" roars the king) and is moments from getting his head lopped off when Richard dies of an arrow wound.

Back in England, Robin and John find Sherwood overgrown and the most outlandish tales being sung about the old days. The Sheriff (cool, competent Robert Shaw) actually seems rather pleased to see Robin: at last a worthy opponent. Till death do they part. (Return match-up between Shaw and Sean Connery 13 years after From Russia with Love (1963)).

Strong-willed Marian has taken orders and runs a nunnery. Robin will persist in rescuing her whether she needs it or not.

Connery and Audrey Hepburn have pretty fine chemistry as the aged lovers. Recovering an old love is like restoring youth, returning to better days, yes? As she says after daring rescue and escape from the castle: "Did we really used to do this all the time?"

The ending is sad: Marian decides to end the adventures with a potion. It's similar to the original legend, when Robin shoots an arrow in the air and says "Where it lands, dig my grave".

As in his The Three Musketeers (1973) and The Four Musketeers (1974), the director gives us historical adventure that is both real in look and details but also exciting, wry humored and often poignant.

John Barry score.



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post #1459 of 1544 Old 01-08-2015, 04:03 AM - Thread Starter
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Sword of Sherwood Forest (1960), directed by Terence Fisher.

I review this only because (1) for some reason I'm compelled to report on obscure Hammer Films titles, and (2) I have a nostalgic attachment to Richard Greene, who was the TV Robin Hood of my youth, starring in a UK series of the late 1950s.

Last week my wife's mother called and asked what we were watching. An old Robin Hood movie. "Is it Richard Greene?" she asked.

This is like an extended episode except -- shocker -- the Sheriff is murdered by other villains. The Sheriff is Peter Cushing, bearded and looking like the devil.

Robin proves his archery prowess. He first meets Marian here and we have hints of marriage by the end.

Young Oliver Reed is one of the aristocratic thugs.

Filmed in Ireland. It's great to see the old TV Robin Hood in color and scope ratio. Even a low-budget film is rich by comparison to the TV versions of the time.

Otherwise: waste of time for just about everyone. Decent score, hideous subtitles.



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post #1460 of 1544 Old 01-10-2015, 07:21 PM - Thread Starter
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Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970), directed by Ted Post.

This was intended as another Charlton Heston vehicle. He didn't want to do the whole film but was willing to come back in a more limited capacity. It was rewritten for a similar lost astronaut: James Franciscus, looking very much like Heston in a loincloth, if not quite as burly.

Here we see the problems of sequels. Having established a mythology the filmmakers want to do more work within it. Fans want to see more. But the original inventive spark is gone and attempts at introducing cleverness fall flat, as in the chimp anti-war protesters and the now-psychic remnant of civilized humanity worshiping a missile with mock-Christian rites. That goes on and on.

I do give them credit for using another down-beat ending.

It was good to see Linda Harrison again, but we spend too much time in fruitless attempts to communicate.

Leonard Rosenman score. Jerry Goldsmith was not available but Rosenman gives us something that sounds like a combination of the first film and his own work for Fantastic Voyage (1966).

Available on Blu-ray.



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post #1461 of 1544 Old 01-11-2015, 08:14 AM
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Beneath is my second favorite ape movie... I think the sub text and message that plays out is very poignant.

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post #1462 of 1544 Old 01-14-2015, 03:54 AM - Thread Starter
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Elmer Gantry (1960), directed by Richard Brooks.

A traveling salesman falls in with a revival show, motivation: lustful interest in Sister Sharon Falconer, their charismatic leader and healer. Something of a hard-drinking, hard-fighting scoundrel, he also knows his scripture and can preach one hell of sermon. He has great organizational and promotional skills and may actually become a valued insider and companion to his lady, but ghosts from the past will turn up and can't be ignored.

The tragedy: he is not entirely insincere.

The studios were afraid of the film because criticizing any faith-group is a touchy business. You can pick on tent-show revivalists because they are poor and unsophisticated charismatics in a culture prejudiced toward the solemn and reserved in religious matters. No sweaty convulsing or howling like dogs in the better neighborhoods.

Burt Lancaster gives a tremendously extravagant performance, but I think a reasonable one. Elmer is like that, larger than life, but he can turn it off and be a normal person when necessary.

Jean Simmons' accent seems odd in the role, but why not? I love Arthur Kennedy's cynical Mencken-like reporter, especially how well he and Elmer get on, though on opposite sides. They are actually two smart guys who can be friends because they are undeceived by the spectacle.

Shirley Jones is touching as the prostitute who knew Elmer "before". She's spiteful yet vulnerable and projects a zesty, uninhibited sexuality. I'd forgotten how fine she looks here. When kissing Elmer her eyes go big -- are we to suppose a physical reaction on one side or the other?

Another character to watch is John McIntire as one of the poorest pastors. He's not in favor of the revival, but when they are in trouble and abandoned by all others, he shows up to support them.

André Previn score, that Copland-like Americanna popular at the time.

Available on Blu-ray.



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post #1463 of 1544 Old 01-18-2015, 05:05 AM - Thread Starter
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The Pumpkin Eater (1964), directed by Jack Clayton.

If you want to be one of the cool kids, you have to get ahead of the crowd and discover -- or make -- the trends before everybody else knows about them.

For movies, that means finding titles or people that art labels like Criterion or Twilight Time should be covering, but aren't yet.

As my attempt at coolness, I offer you: The Pumpkin Eater. (As in "had a wife and couldn't keep her"). That Sony produces this on their DVD-R line indicates they see small demand or value in it, but it is the sort of title I would expect a boutique label to pick up if they can.

Anne Bancroft is on her third husband and has a large set of children (I couldn't keep track of them, neighbor kids confuse the household). She would be happy but her husband cheats on her and she starts breaking down. A shrink suggests she feels guilty about sex unless she's having babies. She's skeptical, and so am I. Her problem is the husband.

Many fine features:

  • Excellent performance by Bancroft, and a fine ensemble.
  • Memorable scenes: her quiet breakdown in a department store, and being accosted by a certifiable crazy woman at the hairdresser.
  • James Mason is remarkably slimy as a cheated-upon man who gets his revenge by spoiling the happiness of the innocent.
  • Gorgeous, inventive camera work.
  • Georges Delerue score, both seductive and despairing.

I came to this because it was mentioned on a Twilight Time commentary track. I enjoyed Jack Clayton's work in The Innocents (1961) and it's fun to pursue lesser-known directors to see what you can find.

The image is excellent for standard definition. Even in the high def world, DVD can sometimes surprise you. It's especially surprising to find this quality on a MOD DVD-R product, which usually have only minimal care or restoration.

No subtitles, and I missed them.

Available for rent from ClassicFlix.



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post #1464 of 1544 Old 01-19-2015, 06:14 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KOA View Post
A truly bizarre movie!

Funny, I had not seen or heard about that movie in 20 or so years - Friday I saw it on the public library shelves and today I see it mentioned again here!

Maybe I should check it out and re-visit it?
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post #1465 of 1544 Old 01-23-2015, 07:26 AM - Thread Starter
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Le Cercle Rouge (1970), directed by Jean-Pierre Melville.

A paroled convict given a crime opportunity by a guard. An escaped prisoner. The police inspector on his trail. An alcoholic ex-policeman with the DTs, maybe with a chance at redemption as a thief. Who are these people?

This might be confusing were it not for our knowledge that it is a heist film, and all the threads will come together for the crime. That's the "red circle": everyone is bound together in the heist. We have to learn the plan as it develops.

We're used to a convention of such films: how will the cunning plan go wrong? This is a good reminder that it's not just the thieves who suffer setbacks: the police and crime bosses also have reverses.

Tremendous 1960s Euro look, filmed in the streets and on real locations, with a distinctive color scheme similar to the director's Le Samouraï (1967), also with Alain Delon.

Lots of American cars. Does this suggest the classic crime or gangster film? The heist itself is about 30 minutes without dialogue, similar to the treatment in a another French film: Rififi (1955).

Criterion Blu-ray.



-Bill

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post #1466 of 1544 Old 01-24-2015, 07:12 PM - Thread Starter
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The Man from Laramie (1955), directed by Anthony Mann.

A secretive ex-Army officer wants to know how his brother came to die in an Indian ambush. He makes trouble for the local cattle baron and his dangerous son.

I have problems with this one. It's way too talky. The belligerent / cowardly / sadistic son of the rich man is just too much. Does he have any need to sell rifles to the Indians?

The violence probably elevates its critical reputation: the psycho shoots Stewart's mules, drags him through a fire and shoots a bullet through his hand. Suffering these things, Stewart is often wild-eyed and panicked, which is a new level of reasonable realism.

Stewart's fifth and final western with Anthony Mann. Filmed in New Mexico.

George Duning's score is fine, but the title song is... well, let me delight you with the lyrics:

Quote:

The man from Laramie
Oh, he was friendly to everyone he met
No one seemed to know a thing about him
He had an air of mystery
He was not inclined to speak his mind
The man from Laramie

The man from Laramie
Everyone admired the fearless stranger
Danger was this man's specialty
So they never bossed or double crossed
The man from Laramie
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post #1467 of 1544 Old 01-28-2015, 07:38 PM - Thread Starter
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The Key (1958), directed by Carol Reed.

An aspect of the Battle of the Atlantic I knew nothing about: ocean-going tugboats -- built for the purpose -- go out to rescue ships disabled by U-Boat attack. Like all things in that time and place, it's dangerous as hell. The ships are on fire and can blow up at any time, and the U-Boats lie in wait to pick off the practically defenseless rescuers.

That's half the story. The other aspect is an eerie on shore romance. Sophia Loren -- age 24 -- loved a tugboat captain who gave a key to the apartment to a friend, saying "Take care of her if anything happens to me". The tradition has continued and she has had a series of captains. After the first she doesn't seem to care as much, and perhaps becomes confused as to their identities. Each shows up with bad news eventually.

Trevor Howard gives his key to old pal William Holden, newly arrived for duty. The expected happens. Holden wants to be a gentleman, but he's not made of asbestos, and actually falls in love with her. Problem: she has premonitions of death -- weird "bad dream" music on the score -- and when he sees that look in her eyes, does he hand off his key to a new man?

Holden does what he always does: the thinking man of action, brave without the pretense of being Superman, hating the war but carrying on.

Trevor Howard is the sort of actor we miss these days. Out on the sea he is just what we want from the character: skilled and stalwart, a dependable rock in terrifying circumstances. And yet, after a mission he collapses and drinks too much.

Sophia Loren's startling, exotic beauty: what can I say? Love has made her a haunted woman. This was made just before she became famous.

There must have been a law that Bernard Lee, later "M" in the first James Bond films, appear in uniform in all British films featuring the Royal Navy. He and Trevor Howard were also in Reed's The Third Man (1949).

I wonder if we could call the naval portions of this film a "war procedural"? Real gear, actual locations, a look at the mechanical details of mounting this sort of military effort. The Cruel Sea would be another such.

As for ramming U-Boats: it really happened. I don't know if any of the tugs did it, but I'm sure they had the torque to do some damage. (1350 HP then, much more now). That was the only scene I remember from The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, an exciting sequence where those engines really make us believe.

Malcolm Arnold score.

Rather good looking DVD-R. Available for rent from ClassicFlix.



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post #1468 of 1544 Old 01-28-2015, 11:56 PM
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The Key (1958), directed by Carol Reed.

Trevor Howard is the sort of actor we miss these days. Out on the sea he is just what we want from the character: skilled and stalwart, a dependable rock in terrifying circumstances. And yet, after a mission he collapses and drinks too much.


-Bill
Wish I could find the actual quote, but I heard that Lawrence Olivier once said Trevor Howard was the only actor he ever knew who could give a perfect performance...even when drunk. lol.

With that in mind, I've always watched a Trevor Howard performance a little closer than most. Can't help it. And I have to say I don't believe I have ever seen him make a gesture or facial expression or recite a line that I might feel should or could have been done better for the character or the circumstances.
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post #1469 of 1544 Old 01-31-2015, 06:42 AM - Thread Starter
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The Wind and the Lion (1975), written and directed by John Milius.

"Pedecaris alive or Raisuli dead." -- TR.

We get right to it: a peaceful day in Tangier is violated by raiding bloodthirsty desert tribesman who carry off an American woman and her two children. President Teddy Roosevelt isn't having that and sends in the Marines.

It takes us a while to understand the intended film genre: this is a light retro-adventure, playing off the romantic action pictures of earlier decades. The captives are not abused and the violence is sanitary. We even get a hint of an old Victorian plot, of the woman expecting to be ravished by the desert sheik and perhaps a bit let down when it doesn't happen.

Sean Connery is the Raisuli: that Scotsman gets around. And yet, there is no denying he makes it work. That confident, amused, great-hearted masculinity suits the desert brigand very well.

Brian Keith is a hoot as President Roosevelt, the happiest man with the happiest family ever to occupy the White House. He was sort of an American Churchill: a strong-willed and visionary imperialist subject to boyish enthusiasms. TR knew his image and used it as a political tool, but wasn't faking it.

Like the viewer, Candice Bergen seems initially uncertain as to what sort of story she is in. She gets better when she settles into old-time action/adventure.

Milius obviously admires each of these strong characters. He's more acerbic about politicians, diplomats and generals.

Misc notes:

  • Suggested by real events, although the historical Perdicaris was a man and the Marines did not take over the country.
  • The Raisuli was also a real character and many of his lines are taken from his biographies.
  • Milius had Julie Christie in mind but offered the female lead to Faye Dunaway. She became sick and Bergen came in at the last minute. She had good horsemanship which helped the production quite a bit.
  • I find it hard to believe, but Milius claims the film is popular in the Muslim world because the Raisuli is shown as such an estimable figure.
  • That wanton slaughter by the tribesmen in the first scene? The Marines do something similar later. Again, it is claimed that bit has been shown in war college classes.
  • This is the sort of film John Huston might have made and he plays Secretary of State John Hay, who was also an aide to Lincoln during the Civil War.
  • Milius calls Huston his mentor but doesn't mention The Man Who Would Be King (1975), Huston's own retro-adventure with Connery released the same year.
  • Milius gives full credit to the other films he imitated, Lawrence of Arabia (1962) in particular. The way the children grow wild among the brigands is a nod to A High Wind in Jamaica (1965).
  • Despite the departures from the historical record, he was meticulous in the details of weapons, clothes, saddles, etc.
  • Filmed entirely in Spain, including the DC and Yellowstone scenes.

Jerry Goldsmith score, nicely evocative of old-school adventure films.

Available on Blu-ray with a commentary track by the director. Warner Archive Collection



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post #1470 of 1544 Old 02-03-2015, 08:24 AM - Thread Starter
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Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), produced and directed by Frank Capra.

Appointed to the US Senate, an earnest wide-eyed innocent runs afoul of a corrupt political machine. They will destroy him rather than give up a plush opportunity for graft. Can one man make a difference? Will the spunky office assistant help him?

Famous bit of Americanna. Both promising -- one man can make a difference -- and cynical, because he is one in 96. Washington, both the politicians and press corp, hated it. The word "dangerous" was used. And yet: this was the film playing to full houses in Paris when the Germans rolled in.

James Stewart seems born to play Jefferson Smith; I think he had to work to escape the image, hence his films with Hitchcock and Anthony Mann.

Many familiar faces and particularly endearing roles for Jean Arthur (cynical gal pal reformed by idealistic Smith) and Thomas Mitchell (hard-drinking reporter who would like to stick it to the Machine).

I want to make special note of two more actors:

  • Harry Carey as the President of the Senate, a folksy representative of the viewer inside the film.
  • Claude Rains as a distinguished but corrupt Senator. This is a moving performance: his pain matches his villainy. We can't hate him, even as he does his worst.

"The more things change" notes:

  • The rube among the DC slickers is well done. I suspect this movie is the foundation of several generations' knowledge of politics.
  • The corrupt manipulation of public opinion and control of the press: very dramatic.
  • Smith punches a bunch of reporters his first day in office: I bet that is a common fantasy in some quarters.
  • Among the many documents Smith reads during his filibuster: the New Testament.

Dimitri Tiomkin score.

Criterion Blu-ray with a commentary track by the director's son.



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