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post #1621 of 1716 Old 09-30-2015, 10:43 AM
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I rewatched The Ipcress File on Netflix recently. Had forgotten what an intricately plotted and entertaining film it is. I have read, and really enjoyed all of Len Deighton's spy novels. Every one was dark and very, very smart. The screenwriters did a great job of translating The Ipcress File, a very good book, into an equally good film, 8 Stars out of 10.
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post #1622 of 1716 Old 10-01-2015, 03:23 AM
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Originally Posted by wmcclain
Seconds (1966), directed by John Frankenheimer.
 
Thats interesting Billy....... The record Im listening to right now (Human League - Dare) the current song is called "Seconds"

Ah man!!
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post #1623 of 1716 Old 10-06-2015, 09:00 AM - Thread Starter
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Tales of Terror (1962), produced and directed by Roger Corman.

Three tales loosely adapted from Poe.

Morella. A trial run for The Tomb of Ligeia (1965). A long-absent daughter returns to the decaying family manse to find her drunken, dressing-gowned father unhealthily obsessed with his dead wife. Add red candles, do some ghostly body-swapping and finish with a burning house and you've got a Corman/Poe picture.

The first 15 minutes is talky but then it turns creepy with cheap ghost effects, just a superimposed negative. One of the commentary tracks calls this a "Bert I. Gordon" effect, not a compliment, but I found it strangely effective.

A cast note: Mary Leona Gage...



... who plays the living/dead Morella, had a tragic life. She was Miss USA in 1957 and made it to the Miss Universe pageant as a finalist. She lost the title when it was discovered that she had been married and had a child at age 14. She became a showgirl, stripper, sometime actress and hairdresser. She attempted suicide at age 26 and was married six times.



The Black Cat. A comedy segment, although Peter Laurie's lurking violence is disconcerting. A professional drunkard suspects his wife is entertaining the town wine snob (hilarious Vincent Price) and bricks both up in a wall. With that damned cat.

A warm up for the comic The Raven (1963) and The Comedy of Terrors (1963). As with those films I'm not very happy with Les Baxter's silly music, although he's fine in the other segments.

Joyce Jameson...



... is another sad case. A well-endowed blonde, she got only certain types of roles. She lived with Robert Vaughn for many years; he said she suffered from depression. When she got fat and couldn't reduce she committed suicide. On the commentary track a film scholar who knew her well said he told her to turn to comedy, that she didn't need to be thin for that. When young she did hilarious impressions of Marlene Dietrich, Marilyn Monroe, etc. But no. I remember her fondly from many TV shows, The Comedy of Terrors (1963), Death Race 2000 (1975) and The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976).



The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar. A hypnotist keeps a dying man suspended at the moment of death for months, with ghastly results.

Basil Rathbone joins the crew this time. Debra Paget...



... will return for The Haunted Palace (1963); these are her last two films. She married an oil millionaire and retired.



Available on Blu-ray from Kino. Two commentary tracks with an abundance of wild stories. No subtitles.

-Bill
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post #1624 of 1716 Old 10-09-2015, 07:53 AM - Thread Starter
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Phantasm (1979), written, photographed, edited and directed by Don Coscarelli.

Horror film fans have a soft spot for the tiny budget, semi-pro, indie efforts. Sure, the results are often rough, but sincerity counts for a lot and cheap can sometimes be scary. Some outfits spend vastly more money and produce less. Quality horror does not easily survive the corporate studio pipeline.

Phantasm is one of the more ambitious such films of the 70s. Funny, gruesome, and inventive with a surreal dreamlike small town setting, depopulated except for our characters. The combination of graveyards and science fiction portals to other dimensions is almost Lovecraftian, although he had no taste for sex or nudity, of which we have just a bit.

It's gratifying to have characters who know how to do things: fix cars, drive and handle firearms. Unfortunately they are facing the Tall Man, and bullets won't stop him.

The bond of orphaned brothers is balanced against the horrible suspicion that diabolical, unworldly forces are transforming dead loved ones for evil purposes.

This is famous for the evil flying sphere which kills in horrible ways, but my favorite bit is when the kid climbs into the mortuary through a basement window. In the dark, a foam head holding a wig falls on him. He catches it and does not jump.

On DVD with a commentary track from the laserdisc days. No subtitles. Phantasm II is available on Blu-ray.



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post #1625 of 1716 Old 10-14-2015, 09:01 AM - Thread Starter
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Scream of Fear (1961), directed by Seth Holt.

(Aka Taste of Fear).

A young woman in a wheelchair -- Susan Strasberg, age 22, last seen in Picnic (1955) -- arrives on the Riviera to meet her long-absent father and new stepmother. Surprise: Dad is away and everyone is making excuses as to why. She begins getting glimpses of his dead body, but no one will believe her. Is she cracking up, or are they trying to make her think so? Some great twists in this one.

This is an adventure thriller for young women: the disabled but plucky heroine asserting herself in a hostile setting, an amateur sleuth pursuing the clues with the aid of a handsome, attentive chauffeur. It would have been a good date film back then: being grabbed by your date in the dark theater was always a good thing.

This shows what Hammer could do in their non-horror titles. It's so well conceived, so seriously done, that you can almost forget the hundreds of other thrillers you've seen and pretend it's the first time.

Fine art-film look, efficient without being rushed, lovely composition and emotional sensitivity by the actors. Christopher Lee has a supporting role and said this was the best Hammer film he was in: best director, story, and actors.

Hammer's The Gorgon (1964) is on the same DVD.



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post #1626 of 1716 Old 10-14-2015, 09:50 PM
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I think THE ABOMINABLE SNOWMAN with Peter Cushing and Forrest Tucker is early Hammer as well ... and it's superb. Ratchets up the suspense until the end, and this jaded fright movie fan still was besotted.
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post #1627 of 1716 Old 10-19-2015, 03:43 AM - Thread Starter
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The Thing That Couldn't Die (1958), directed by Will Cowan.

A young woman with psychic powers warns her friends not to dig up an old buried chest. That's because it contains a severed head, still alive after centuries, with evil mind control powers. Don't let it be reattached to its body, you fools!

Why review this very... modest... film? Perhaps because I enjoyed cheesy 1950s SF and horror films in my youth and need to defend them. When any title is lampooned on Mystery Science Theater the program's fans rush to the IMDB and vote it down as the "worst film EVER! OMG!! LOL!!!" That is unappealing herd behavior.

Even a small -- very small -- title such as this has its virtues:

  • Those who saw it when young (I did not) remember how much it scared them at the time.
  • It is a reminder that even major studios were capable of fast shoestring projects. This was made by Universal, not some indie outfit.
  • Cinematographer Russell Metty, known for:


    ...and many others.
  • Score by the uncredited Henry Mancini. I hear themes from the "Creature" films, to which he also contributed.
  • Featuring the mean, tough-looking James Anderson, perhaps best known as the nasty racist farmer Bob Ewell, father of Mayella, in To Kill a Mockingbird (1962). The commentary track on that film suggests he was a dangerous man off-screen as well.
  • Some erotica right out in the open, with the two women in bed. They could pretend it was no such thing at the time. Today this would be heated up quite a lot.
  • Which leads one to consider this as a sketch or trial run for a better production. Remake time.
  • Banned in Finland.

Available on DVD-R, only 69m long. ClassicFlix has it for rent. The IMDB has 1.85 for the aspect ratio; this is 1.33.



-Bill
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post #1628 of 1716 Old 10-19-2015, 05:08 AM
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Originally Posted by wmcclain View Post
Just two years after his work on this movie and 1958's MONSTER ON THE CAMPUS, he won the Oscar for Best Cinematography, Color for his work on Stanley Kubrick's 1960 film of SPARTACUS and was nominated for another Oscar in the same category the following year for FLOWER DRUM SONG (1961). Remarkable career, going all the way back to the 1930s. Odd that he isn't remembered as well as others among his contemporaries.

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post #1629 of 1716 Old 10-30-2015, 07:31 PM - Thread Starter
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Our Man in Havana (1959), produced and directed by Carol Reed.

In Cuba around the time of the revolution (and shot on location then) a mild mannered English shopkeeper is approached by the local British spymaster. He has no interest in spying, but has a grown daughter who needs things. Lots of things. So: just make up some exciting facts and sell them. What's the harm?

Then they send him a staff and his fictions begin coming true. It is now a dangerous game and he actually becomes what he never planned: a real secret agent with a gun.

This is an odd little film, witty and satirical, but approaching the edge of danger and grim reality. Inventive casting:

  • Comedian Ernie Kovacs as the affable but sinister police Captain. ("Some people expect to be tortured, others are outraged by it.")
  • Burl Ives as a German doctor.
  • Maureen O'Hara as a British secret service operative.

Alec Guinness seems very natural as a vacuum cleaner salesman with a busy imagination, and Noel Coward as an upper crust clownish spymaster: of course.

I noticed a repeated bit of business from The Third Man (1949): when meeting a policeman on the sidewalk you step into the gutter.

Novel and screenplay by Graham Greene.



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post #1630 of 1716 Old 10-30-2015, 09:16 PM
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I just received the newly released cornel wilde naked prey... you should do a review. It's quite epic.

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post #1631 of 1716 Old 10-31-2015, 05:07 AM - Thread Starter
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I just received the newly released cornel wilde naked prey... you should do a review. It's quite epic.
I reviewed the Criterion DVD here: The Naked Prey (1966), but that's been out for a while. If I've missed an upgrade I'd certainly like to see it. Wilde deserves more consideration than he gets, both as an actor and director.

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post #1632 of 1716 Old 11-03-2015, 06:13 PM - Thread Starter
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The Private War of Major Benson (1955), directed by Jerry Hopper.

As punishment for opening his big mouth to reporters, a hard-as-nails officer is assigned to a year running ROTC at a Catholic boys school. He also has to coach football and secretly buys a beginners handbook. The school doctor is nice looking, so it may not be a complete waste. He terrorizes the students, but would you believe: everyone learns from each other?

Not a great film, but family-oriented and a rare Charlton Heston comedy. He uses his intense bigger-than-life persona to good comic effect. Some wit, lots of sugar. With Julie Adams, but -- alas -- she has no Amazonian swimsuit:



I mean, she wears normal clothing.

I remember bits of this from when I was a kid and it just became available on DVD. The source quality is just fair.

The school is a real place: St. Catherine's Academy, and the students appear as extras.

With David Janssen (age 24) and Sal Mineo (age 16, murdered at age 37).

The Universal Vault Series DVD-R has a 1.33 aspect ratio. The IMDB and other references say it should be 2.0:1 ("Superscope"?). I believe this edition must be presented open matte, because the composition has plenty of room at the top and bottom; an enormous amount of head room in some scenes.



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post #1633 of 1716 Old 11-04-2015, 02:59 PM
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I reviewed the Criterion DVD here: The Naked Prey (1966), but that's been out for a while. If I've missed and upgrade I'd certainly like to see it. Wilde deserves more consideration than he gets, both as an actor and director.

-Bill

Agreed...



it's a very good release, just watched it a couple days ago.

I believe its the same master as the DVD, but with much better sound and slightly better resolution.
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post #1634 of 1716 Old 11-04-2015, 07:12 PM - Thread Starter
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Night of the Demon (1957), directed by Jacques Tourneur.

Aka Curse of the Demon.

Quote:
Like one that on a lonesome road
Doth walk in fear and dread,
And having once turned round walks on,
And turns no more his head;
Because he knows, a frightful fiend
Doth close behind him tread.

-- Coleridge, "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner"

Much stir in Britain regarding the Karswell Devil Cult. Those who investigate it and won't be warned off are dying under suspicious circumstances. American scientist Dana Andrews is the latest skeptic to become a believer; can he trust his own perceptions in a race against the clock to trap the evil wizard with his own magic?

His gal pal is British actress Peggy Cummins, last seen as an American psycho in Gun Crazy (1950).

The villain is a dapper, witty man, but because of that pointed beard we know he is a satanist. It's interesting: he points out that he himself is motivated by fear. If he fails in his work, the evil powers he deals with will do terrible things to him.

This is well-regarded, and I like it, but perhaps not has much as others. It slows down in spots and becomes talky. Dana Andrews is coasting. It may be well-liked for being an early demonology plot and also for the fright factor of close-ups of the demon's face, with the camera actually diving into his mouth with that slathering tongue.

Director Tourneur -- presumably in a homage to his mentor Val Lewton -- was originally not going to show the demon but the studio insisted it be added afterward. You could do it either way. The suspense shifts from what is suspected and unseen to what has been revealed and is waiting to jump out again.

We have a nicely tense moment of the invisible curse working on our hero in the weird hotel corridors, and the rather simple effects of the fire demon appearing in a cloud of smoke and striding through the night are lots of fun. Harryhausen was approached to do the effects but was busy elsewhere.

Notes:
  • We have a comical seance scene. The women have to warble "Cherry Ripe" to sooth the spirits.
  • For some reason Kate Bush used a clip from the seance in "Hounds of Love": "It's in the trees! It's coming!"
  • Ken Adam's first credit as Production Designer.
  • The aspect ratio is 1.66.



-Bill
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post #1635 of 1716 Old 11-04-2015, 07:19 PM - Thread Starter
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The Night of the Following Day (1968), produced and directed by Hubert Cornfield.

A teenaged girl, traveling alone, is quietly and smoothly kidnapped from the Paris airport and held prisoner at an isolated beach house. Object: ransom from her wealthy father.

This is a quirky crime film, not much liked but somehow sticking in the memory. Evocative of France outside of Paris in that year. It has no real ending, just one of those "was it all a dream?" epilogues.

Rather good cast:

  • Richard Boone is (obviously) the scariest member of the gang. Says he to the terrified girl: "We are professional criminals". And yet we vote him mostly likely to betray everyone else. He's a sadist operating without much restraint; don't leave him alone with with the captive.
  • Marlon Brando, still looking quite fit, is by comparison kindly, just wanting to do the job and get away.
  • Rita Moreno, last seen in West Side Story (1961), breaks my heart. Out of her depth, addicted to Brando and heroin. We judge her harshly for being in a gang that terrorizes another woman in this way.
  • Jess Hahn is her brother, a big ugly guy. This is his last chance for a big score. The actor was an American who worked entirely in French films. I don't remember seeing him before.
  • Pamela Franklin is the young victim, last seen as the little girl in The Innocents (1961).

When a minor director hires a big star like Brando, he has to let the actor loose to do his own thing. Which Brando does, excessively in spots, but not the whole time. He's very good when he reigns it in a bit.

Scenes with a persistently helpful policeman are straight out of Hitchcock.

Production was legendarily chaotic and painful. I've forgotten the details.

Intriguing score with a little bit of everything. Looks like it's never been available as a soundtrack album.



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post #1636 of 1716 Old 11-04-2015, 07:28 PM - Thread Starter
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The Night of the Iguana (1964), directed by John Huston.

An Episcopalian priest goes off the rails -- temptations of the flesh; it seems that young women won't leave him alone and he is too polite to resist -- and he winds up guiding a tour bus in Mexico. This is his last chance. If he loses this job his final recourse is "a long swim to China".

Squiring a load of Baptist lady teachers is not easy: the dragon-lady's niece is an underage babe who has fallen in love with him. Careening from one disaster to another he strands them at an out of the way hotel near the beach where he has friends. And then... well, he hasn't planned that far ahead.

From a Tennessee Williams play: witty and cerebral, a deeply compassionate look at the human comedy. Dialogue-heavy, but that's fine in this case.

I think Richard Burton is fantastic here. Too much? No way. Perfect. Maybe raving drunken reprobate came naturally to him, but he did it well.

He's matched by Deborah Kerr. They're great together. You want a sensitive, intelligent spinster with exquisite, soothing manners -- she is the one you call. That she and her frail poet grandfather are penniless buskers makes them pathetic but pure.

Ava Gardner is more over the top, but that is the sort of brassy character she plays. Apparently also a natural style. Sexually voracious looks good on her. Her custom is to take studly beach boys Pepe and Pedro down to the beach at night and have them both together (we suppose).

Grayson Hall is the crypto-lesbian dragon-lady. I remember her as Dr Hoffman in the Dark Shadows TV series.

All of the above were in their early 40s at the time.

Finally, Sue Lyon as the dangerously aggressive teen babe had just done Lolita (1962) for Kubrick.

Fine cinematography, a location realism that somehow evokes that era. Lovely orchestral score.

Plenty of innuendo in the dialogue:

Quote:

(the young woman is cleaning broken glass off the floor...)

Burton: Get off your knees, it's indecent.

*

Ava: What size shoe you wear, baby?

Burton: I do not get the point of that question.

[...]

Burton: I loved old Fred, Maxine, but I do not want to fill his shoes.

Ava: You could do worse, baby. You could do worse.

*

(last lines)

Ava: Why don't we go down to the beach?

Burton: Well, I can get down the hill, Maxine, but I'm not too sure about getting back up.

Ava: I'll get you back up, baby. I'll always get you back up.
One thing that doesn't work: I'm not sure about Pepe and Pedro. They always appear dancing in place, shaking maracas that make no sound. Is that weird in a good way or just plain bad? Like the Spinal Tap boys say, "It's a fine line between clever and stupid".

Available on a rather good-looking DVD. It would make a great Blu-ray if the elements are in good shape.



-Bill

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post #1637 of 1716 Old 11-13-2015, 07:57 AM - Thread Starter
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Sweet Smell of Success (1957), directed by Alexander Mackendrick.

Quote:
"I love this dirty town." -- J.J. Hunsecker
The frightful tale of a vicious gossip columnist and the desperate press agent who has to serve him. When you are in debt to a monster you do monstrous things: lying just comes with the territory, but also pimping a girlfriend and planting drugs on an innocent man. Call in the tough cops just to be sure.

The title is a bitter joke: success smells more like fecal matter.

We're used to seeing Burt Lancaster in action roles, so it is startling when he plays a gossip writer, but he is utterly convincing. A shrewd observer of human nature, he knows how to sandpaper raw nerves, and when to stick in the knife and twist. He's beyond nasty: so powerfully famous he is actually insane. The character was modeled on Walter Winchell.

Tony Curtis is a hustler hoping for more than crumbs from the table, but he's having a bad week. JJ is mad at him. His office is his apartment and his business sign is hand-made and taped to the door. He reminds me of "Harry Fabian" in Night and the City (1950) but is more slimy

Both actors do fine work here. Neither got much respect from critics, Curtis because he was pretty and a teen heart-throb, Lancaster because he started as a circus acrobat and did swashbucklers. It seems petty not to recognize their real talents.

The film is better liked now than when it was new. The dialogue is often praised, but I have a reservation. I can't stop hearing screenwriter Clifford Odets speaking through each character. That's true of all of his films. The dialogue is good, it's just that when I become aware of playwright-speak it takes me out of the film. The title character in Barton Fink was based on Odets.

Photographed by James Wong Howe. Excellent New York winter street scenes.

Brassy, kick-ass score of the big, bad city by Elmer Bernstein. The commentary track calls this "crime jazz", and looking at Amazon I see this is a known genre. I may get some compilations.

Finally, they do something here that is rare in film: showing how to "get" people through their virtues rather than their vices. You want to get rid of someone in your office? Put him in a conflicted situation where his moral sense requires him to resign. That's how they get the jazz musician to blow up at JJ. I've seen it done in real life by experts.

Criterion Blu-ray. Detailed commentary track, emphasizing the political context. Good set of supplements.



-Bill
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post #1638 of 1716 Old 11-13-2015, 12:31 PM
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^^^ No '50s and '60s actor did better work in portraying charismatic but flawed antiheroes than Burt Lancaster. In addition to his wonderful work in The Sweet Smell of Success, I recall his performance as the hardbitten Sergeant Warden in From Here to Eternity, and in his Oscar winning title role in Elmer Gantry. Lancaster may have been a showboat but he was a great, great actor.
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post #1639 of 1716 Old 11-18-2015, 11:56 AM - Thread Starter
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Dracula (1979), directed by John Badham.

I recall this as being the first ambitious Dracula film after the mythology was exhausted by Hammer Films in its declining years. New life (so to speak), some gruesomeness, and especially a deeply romantic treatment with debonair Frank Langella, who had played the part on the stage. He insisted on doing it without fangs or visible blood-sucking.

At the time it seemed a deft production and fairly exciting. After all these years it's a bit clunkier. They try to pack in too much: the complete mythology plus a new romantic component that leaves us pulling for the lovers, undead or not.

The way the movie has always been presented on home video is a dilemma. On the one hand I want to respect the director's intent, but on the other I'd like to see it again as I remember it from the theater. Badham says he always wanted a desaturated look but couldn't get the film stock at the time. But ever since laserdisc days he's been able to color grade it to his liking. I recall the theatrical presentation was quite lush, but that is gone now.

John Williams score.

Available on Blu-ray with a fond commentary track by the director. In retrospect he finds the editing too stately and would jazz it up if he had the chance to do it again.

He says that Donald Pleasence was a noted scene-stealer. Here he plays a dinner scene with his mouth full, and roots around in a bag of candy at the most awkward moments.

Laurence Olivier had been ill but came back and worked another ten years.

Finally, Frank Langella said that for years afterward, men would come up to him and say, "Man, did I get well-laid that night after seeing your Dracula film!"



-Bill
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post #1640 of 1716 Old 11-28-2015, 02:57 PM - Thread Starter
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Dark Victory (1939), directed by Edmund Goulding.

A hard-partying socialite resists surgery for her brain tumor, but eventually has it done and falls in love with the doctor. What they don't tell her: she has less than a year to live, suffering from a curious "Hollywood" disease. She'll be in perfect health until the end when she loses her sight and dies peacefully a few hours later.

It's a "General Hospital" soap opera, but I think the open discussion of cancer and surgery was rare for that era, as were considerations of suicide. The melodrama works better toward the end when she finds love, acceptance of death and even generosity in her final moments. That's the meaning of the title: the victory is over the fear of dying.

1939 was a famous "golden year" for film, but this doesn't rank with the best of them. It's a Bette Davis vehicle and the rest of the actors are barely there by comparison. Still: it's a chance to look into those Bette Davis eyes and see her close to her peak. Later her characters would become hardened, and later still, caricatures of herself.

You cast her for aggressive, combative female flamboyance. This seems too extravagant today, but sometimes she makes it smaller, more personal, and her character is more interesting then.

Goulding shot it in sequence. The commentary track points out how the lighting changes: standard bright and flat at the beginning, becoming darker, deeper and more shadowed as the tragedy proceeds.

Humphrey Bogart is badly miscast as an Irish horse trainer with a feeble accent. His "intense" scene with Davis in the stable is honestly very poor.

Ronald Reagan is ok in a small role as a drunken hanger-on.

Notes:

  • Look at those smoking doctors in the hospital!
  • Men had great wool suits back then.
  • She says her bed at home is big enough for six.

Max Steiner score.

Available on Blu-ray with a commentary discussion by two film scholars.



-Bill

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post #1641 of 1716 Old 11-30-2015, 11:54 AM - Thread Starter
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That Cold Day in the Park (1969), directed by Robert Altman.

A wealthy woman in a nice Vancouver apartment building hosts a luncheon for her friends, all older than herself. She sees a young man in the park who seems to be living on a bench that day. Homeless? After lunch when her friends are gone it starts raining and she goes to the park and invites him up. In a nice contrast, she who had been served by the help that day puts on an apron and serves him.

He is a bit odd and feigns being mute for the first 39 minutes. He doesn't speak directly to her until 1h25m. Little does she know that he has a life elsewhere and is playing a game with her. Careful with those magic brownies he brings back.

We don't at first suspect a sexual interest on her part, not when she's just buying him new clothes, but she tries locking him in (not that it does any good) and visits a doctor for birth control. Knowing more about the young man than she, we begin to worry about her. We should worry for them both. Tender traps can be the most perilous.

I'd never heard of this until it appeared on Blu-ray. The story is more straightforward than some of Altman's other work, but still mysterious as to the genre: is this a slow-boil thriller or not? That is definitely decided in the last 10 minutes when the pot finally does boil over in a harrowing finale.

Sandy Dennis gives a fine performance, the picture of loneliness. She is supposed to be an "older woman" but is only 32, which is fine: she always seemed to be of an indeterminate age. Among adults, no ten-year gap is as large as from 20 to 30, especially in the youth-worshiping 1960s.

Brief nudity and, for the historical record: some passion sounds.

Johnny Mandel score. Photographed by László Kovács.

I've said before that I'm not much of an Altman fan, but I liked this one.

On Blu-ray from Olive Films. No subtitles.



-Bill
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post #1642 of 1716 Old 12-03-2015, 11:02 AM - Thread Starter
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Five Graves to Cairo (1943), directed by Billy Wilder.

Quick changes in this film: a tank without a driver in the trackless desert, then a sole survivor crawling to an isolated town. Wait, will it be a farce? To evade the Germans he pretends to be a waiter at the hotel, but it turns out the real waiter was a German agent. Which is dangerous but a chance for quality spying.

It turns darker. Anne Baxter (age 20 and looking it) is a French woman who will do anything for the German officers to get her brother out of prison. Sex work? Betrayal of a British soldier in hiding?

In some ways it's similar to a wartime romantic comedy thriller like Night Train to Munich (1940), but we have fewer laughs and no happy ending.

We see the legend of Rommel already in effect, almost contemporary with the events. Erich von Stroheim plays him as rather Prussian.

Wilder's second American film. Miklós Rózsa score.

Turner DVD-R. I could have used subtitles; the cast uses thick German, French and Arabic accents. Franchot Tone briefly attempts a British accent and then gives up; just as well.



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post #1643 of 1716 Old 12-03-2015, 01:18 PM
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This is one of the few Billy Wilder films I have not seen.
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post #1644 of 1716 Old 12-03-2015, 01:29 PM - Thread Starter
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It's not an essential title unless you need to see them all. It has that filmed stage play look so big in the 1930s, but then so did Petrified Forest, which was fine.

There is just no comparison with the films he did after, starting with the very next one: Double Indemnity.

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post #1645 of 1716 Old 12-08-2015, 07:47 AM - Thread Starter
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Billion Dollar Brain (1967), directed by Ken Russell.

Harry Palmer has quit the Secret Service and wants to be a private detective, but of course his old bosses pull him back for a mission to wintry Finland. It is a confusing plot and I gave up on it when he fell in with black-marketeering rebels in Riga, Latvia. It eventually takes us to Texas where we meet a crazed super-patriot in his vast underground facility. He is much like a Bond Villain and is planning to invade the Soviet Union, which is a quirky switch on the 007 plots.

This is unserious throughout, with no tension and vast absurdity, getting into Derek Flint territory. Strong anti-American bias, or maybe just for the aggressive anti-communist cold warriors.

This is the third and final Harry Palmer feature film, following The Ipcress File (1965) and Funeral in Berlin (1966). Michael Caine did two more made-for-tv movies as HP.

Said to be Ken Russell's only mainstream picture as a director for hire. It's not as bizarre as his later projects. Much location shooting in Finland.

Available on Blu-ray from Kino. No subtitles.



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post #1646 of 1716 Old 12-11-2015, 04:16 AM - Thread Starter
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The Bishop's Wife (1947), directed by Henry Koster.

Quote:

Professor: Let's face it, Henry. This Dudley is no mortal man like the rest of us. Is he?

Bishop: How did you know?

Professor: Well, I can't tell. Who is he? What is he?

Bishop: He says he's an angel.

Professor: An angel? From heaven?

Bishop: That I'm not sure about.
A debonair angel helps a troubled bishop through a tough Christmas season. He spends more time with the bishop's wife.

This is a well-liked if lesser known Christmas film. We see it as part of our holiday rotation, but I have problems that keep it from being a Christmas classic for me:

  • Too sugary sweet.
  • The plush bishopric is a glum, unhappy place. The bishop's depressed demeanor drags the whole story down.
  • David Niven and Loretta Young have little chemistry. Maybe clergy marriages were supposed to be passionless.
  • Cary Grant needs to be a little devilish. Too good doesn't look right on him.

A nice subplot has the radical, jovial, free-thinking Professor (who looks a lot like Kris Kringle), to his own amazement, showing up at church on Christmas Eve. A nudge from the angel, a good story and a minor miracle was all it took.

We have two kids from It's a Wonderful Life (1946).

Remade in 1996 as The Preacher's Wife with Denzel Washington and Whitney Houston.

Available on Blu-ray.



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post #1647 of 1716 Old 12-16-2015, 07:50 PM - Thread Starter
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Kings of the Sun (1963), directed by J. Lee Thompson.

Mayan people in Yucatán are driven out by metal-wielding invaders and sail across the Gulf to a new land. They quickly build a new city -- with pyramid and everything -- but have disturbed fierce North American Indians living there. The Mayans capture Chief Black Eagle and plan on sacrificing him as they have always done. Might there be a better way?

This is another title I had never heard of before it appeared on Blu-ray. It was not well-reviewed but I was willing to give the director a look for his early work: Tiger Bay (1959), The Guns of Navarone (1961), and Cape Fear (1962).

The problems:

  • The exotic costumes immediately suggest Bible films, as if they were recycling an old genre.
  • The stiff, declamatory dialogue goes with that genre.
  • Too many known character actors seem out of place.
  • Soap opera romance confuses an action/adventure story.
  • Both cultures speak the same language! And both talk a lot.

Its good points:

  • Yul Brynner, walking like a panther. What a physique that guy had. Maybe they spread on his hyper-masculinity too thickly, but it's hard not to.
  • Nice location panoramas.
  • Big battle and combat melee at the end...
  • ... but also examples of the effort at peacemaking, how hard it is, but how worthwhile.
  • Finally, how many pre-Columbian stories of the Americas do we have on film? Even Apocalypto is set after 1492. This must be about 1200; the historical general Hunac Ceel is the big villain.

The Mayans in the new city seem to have some sort of catapult. Could that be?

Uncredited James Coburn provides narration in the first few minutes. Elmer Bernstein score.

Available on Blu-ray from Kino.



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post #1648 of 1716 Old 12-23-2015, 06:29 AM - Thread Starter
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The Earrings of Madame de... (1953), directed by Max Ophüls.

It begins like a sophisticated, cynical sex farce. French, naturally. The countess has "suitors" but can indulge them only so far. Her husband the general doesn't mind as long as she stays in bounds; he has a mistress for diversion.

Wealthy as madame may be, she needs still more money and pawns her jeweled earrings, claiming they were lost to conceal the act. We figure these are the plot "mcguffin" as we trace their circuitous route in and out of the family several times.

When she falls in love with a diplomat the comedy fades away and we enter the tragic story of a broken marriage. The earrings stop being the plot gimmick and become fraught with meaning, so tainted in the end they are given to the Church as a deodand: a gift to God because it would be improper for anyone to keep them.

I don't remember seeing any of the director's other films, and I particularly wanted to see Danielle Darrieux again, after her screwball performance in The Rage of Paris (1938). "Earrings" was written for her.

Said to be low-budget but the costumes and locations look opulent to me. The main theme reminds me of "It's a Great Big World" from The Harvey Girls (1946).

Criterion Blu-ray. The commentary track with two film scholars wanders into PoMoLitCrit and I bailed.



Darrieux and Charles Boyer were together 17 years earlier in Mayerling:



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post #1649 of 1716 Old 12-28-2015, 09:29 AM - Thread Starter
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Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979), directed by Robert Wise.

When Earth is menaced by a vast alien power, Admiral Kirk resumes command of the refitted Starship Enterprise to penetrate its concealing veils, slowly thrust through its strange orifices, reveal its innermost mysteries and couple with the hidden secret at its very center.



And that's why you hire James T. Kirk.

I am of that generation who watched the original series in its first broadcast, suffered its cancellation twice, mourned for its loss and tried to keep it alive by compulsively watching reruns, building models, putting up posters and playing early computer games. In the pre-Star Wars (1977) era SF films were rare and we were desperate for anything in the right direction, no matter how feeble the plots or cheesy the special effects.

From the end of the series until this first film was just ten years, but it seemed like forever. Too long, in fact. When it arrived it was too little, too late. We were happy to have it back again, but also felt let down:

  • Why did everyone look so much older?
  • And what was up with their hair?
  • Could they have found uglier uniforms if they tried? (We wouldn't have been happy with the original uniforms, either. Too dated).
  • Wasn't the plot simultaneously grandiose and thin?
  • Hadn't we seen it before? Ah, yes: The Changeling.
  • Although the very long fly-by of the Enterprise in space dock was obvious fan service indulging our tearful devotion to the starship, that time (and the long V'Ger approach business) could have been used to do something with the characters.
  • As it is, the extended core of Sulu, Chapel, Chekov and Uhura had a handful of lines and nothing much to do.
  • And Decker and Ilia took over the story because...?
  • Didn't the whole thing seem humorless?

We have the first new-style Klingons and their language, and the start of a trend toward gigantism in the Engineering Dept, culminating in the carnival ride silliness of the current movies.

Special effects were developing so fast back then that you could see something new in every film. Many of the effects here look pretty bad now, like arcade game graphics of the period. I don't remember what we thought of them at the time, but compared to Alien (1979) and Blade Runner (1982) from the same era, this one is weak. The V'Ger cloud interior does have some lovely art.

Very much on the plus side: Jerry Goldsmith begins his long association with Trek and contributes a wonderful sea-faring score.

And you know: the concept itself is a good one. A space probe adopted by a machine intelligence, vastly magnified in power and intelligence, returns home seeking answers. And that humans could find transcendence via this same machinery: that's weird

The production backstory is too much for me to get into. Chaotic and rushed, continual rewrites and reworking of the effects: costs tripled but the film still made a good profit.

Available on Blu-ray. The commentary track is by a happy gang of Trek pros. They are enthusiastic about the film, including the effects and costumes. They have gentle jibes about the plot and characters.

They also point out that there is a modest character development arc: Kirk, Spock and McCoy have been "away" and this is the story of their return and adjustment to being back where they belong.



-Bill
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post #1650 of 1716 Old 12-29-2015, 07:47 AM
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I've always felt the saving grace of Star Trek - The Motion Picture was the intensification of the friendship between Kirk and Spock.

After Spock's mind-meld with V'Ger he realizes that his quest to become a 'pure' Vulcan via the Kolinahr is misguided (his human side winning out).

That the emptiness and logic of V'Ger (akin to pure Vulcan logic) is something he no longer wants to attain.

From here on the dynamics between the two is changed forever.
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