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post #1651 of 1687 Old 12-31-2015, 03:55 AM - Thread Starter
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The Lady Eve (1941), written and directed by Preston Sturges.

A father-daughter team of grifters is on board a luxury ocean liner when it picks up a rich brewery heir who has been pursuing his ophiological studies in the Amazon. The most eligible bachelor on board, he is shy and awkward and would rather avoid entanglements, but Henry Fonda is no match for Barbara Stanwyck, who takes him down effortlessly three different times.

A complication: she falls in love half way through and has to defend him from her less fastidious father. Then it's break up to make up until the last scene.

"Isn't It Romantic?" plays in the background.

Witty dialogue and it is more earnestly romantic than your average screwball comedy.

Sturges was always at war with the censors, but had a way of getting things past them. I think he must have gotten them drunk, else how to explain the orgasm scene? No, really:

Quote:

[Reclining, she hugs him and messes with his hair. He becomes increasingly flustered throughout...]

She: When I marry, it's going to be somebody I've never seen before. I mean I won't know what he looks like or where he'll come from or what he'll be. I want him to sort of... take me by surprise.

He: Like a burglar.

She: That's right. And the night will be heavy with perfume, and I'll hear a step behind me, and somebody breathing heavily. And then...

[She gasps, sighs, lies back and stretches...]

She: You better go to bed, Hopsie. I think I can sleep peacefully now.

He: I wish I could say the same.
Edith Head costumes.

Available on DVD. Other Sturges -- Sullivan's Travels (1941) and The Palm Beach Story (1942) -- are available as Criterion Blu-rays, so maybe we'll get this one, too.



-Bill

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post #1652 of 1687 Old 01-07-2016, 08:30 AM - Thread Starter
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The Front Page (1931), directed by Lewis Milestone.

A day in the life of wise-cracking, hard-drinking, cynical newspaper reporters as they wait for an execution. Holy smokes: the prisoner got a pistol from the sheriff, shot his shrink and escaped!

Ace reporter Hildy Johnson is fed up and wants to depart on his honeymoon. Will his wily publisher be able to keep him in harness for one last sensational story?

Vivid, witty writing and some pre-Code hilarity. Remade several times, including as a screwball comedy: His Girl Friday (1940). Cynical as it may be, it is also a tribute to a golden age of newspapers, already a fading glory when the picture was made.

The most amazing thing about this film is the camera work: we have long tracking shots, 360 degree panoramas around the newsroom, another complete circle around the reporters' table, and other clever tricks. The newsroom has four real walls, unlike the standard movie set. I can't recall anything else like it from that year.

This was Lewis Milestone's last picture for Howard Hughes. His direction became more conventional after.

Its age and pre-Code nature give us elements not seen again for a long time (and even this was toned down from the stage play):

  • There is a race angle to the crime: a black woman is "colored" and her baby a "pickaninny". (Neither meant as a slur at the time).
  • Also a political angle: "Reform the Reds with a rope!"
  • The newsroom walls are decorated with nudes.
  • ... and it has an adjoining toilet.
  • One reporter flips the finger.
  • We have a working prostitute and VD jokes.
  • ... and she attempts suicide by jumping out of the window.

For the male lead, producer Hughes rejected James Cagney ("that little runt") and Clark Cable ("his ears look like a taxi-cab with both doors open"). Both men survived the snub.

Available on Blu-ray from Kino. No subtitles, which is unfortunate because the sound is really rough in spots. This is the nature of the title: all the sound was recorded live while filming. No audio editing in those days. So all the effects (banjo, gunshots) are being done just off-camera at the time. For dialogue the mic is sometimes out of position. Maybe worse in the first reel, or maybe I just got used to it.

The disc does include a detailed and helpful commentary track.



-Bill

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post #1653 of 1687 Old 01-07-2016, 11:09 AM
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^^^ The Front Page (1931) is a joy. I watched it again on TV not too long ago and thought it was as terrific as ever. It was based on the 1928 Broadway play of the same name, written by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur. MacArthur was married to "The First Lady of the American Theater," Helen Hayes. Their adopted son was the actor, James MacArthur (1937-2010).

I was disappointed to learn that the BD of this great old film lacks subtitles.

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post #1654 of 1687 Old 01-15-2016, 08:41 AM - Thread Starter
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Two psychedelic hippie exploitation films, both from American International, both featuring Bruce Dern and Susan Strasberg and available on the same DVD.

The Trip (1967), directed by Roger Corman.

Written by Jack Nicholson.

A director of TV commercials (Corman: "they always called me a commercial director even though I made feature films") does his first acid trip under experienced supervision. Some of it is good and some bad. Much of his hallucinatory journeys deal with the women in his life. Corman: "the LSD trip is fundamentally erotic".

Quite a few nudity and passion scenes, although they are obscured by body paint (for dancers) and psychedelic image projection (for lovers). Which is indeed kind of erotic.

We also drift into Cormanesque Poe medieval sequences which must mean something. Or not. The trip incidents and imagery are not at all coherent.

The presence of the acid "guide" is supposed to be reassuring, but in retrospect seems ominous and creepy. Later we have one of the more unsettling moments I have seen recently: the runaway tripper wanders into a strange house in the middle of the night, has a conversation with a little girl in her pajamas and gets her a glass of milk. Then her Dad gets up. Yikes.

The guide keeps a hypo of Thorazine (!) handy. "Brings you out of a bad trip instantly".

In the end, well it doesn't have much of an ending. The trip is over. "Ask me tomorrow".

Peter Fonda was an important cult film actor during this period, but for some reason I've never warmed up to him. He's well-suited to this role of a "straight" character taking a walk on the counter-cultural wild side. The hippies accept him as such.

Dennis Hopper, is -- of course -- quite believable as a druggie patriarch. He's often kindly here.

In the commentary track Corman says:

  • He had a very positive LSD experience and wanted to show that side, without making what he called an "acid commercial". So he shows the paranoia of a bad trip and the dangerous wandering of a tripper without supervision.
  • He totally disclaims the anti-drug public service message added by the studio.
  • It's ironic that Bruce Dern plays the experienced acid guide: he was a marathon runner, almost went to the Olympics and was about the only person involved who wouldn't do drugs.
  • Nicholson advised him to scale back on the language because "most hip" = "soonest dated". (I wish everyone understood that). Corman disagreed: if the film is a time capsule, so be it.
  • All the little plot incidents meant something at the time, but Corman no longer always remembers what he intended.
  • One of his self-criticisms is that the scene with Hopper as some sort of inquisitor in a carnival-themed afterlife goes on too long and is too obvious in its message.
  • The open ending is intentional: make of it what you will.



Psych-Out (1968), directed by Richard Rush.

A deaf runaway (Susan Strasberg, last seen in Scream of Fear (1961)) arrives in San Francisco searching for her brother, an artist who doesn't want to be found. She's taken in by musicians and eases into a world sex and drugs, insanity and death.

STP overdoses seem to be a particular problem: sometimes you have to rescue friends armed with circular saws. Sometimes they run into the middle of traffic and scream and scream.

These hippies believe in peace, love and nonviolence for a while, but when junkyard bullies push them too far they will punch back. Are they dirty hippies? They look like they bathe but also complain of lice. No one cleans house and heaps of dirty dishes and cockroaches are a problem.

And yet: they can be kind and generous, too. Jenny has left home for a reason and her new family help without pressure for sex or anything. Not much pressure.

Jack Nicholson wrote the original version but gets no screen credit. He wrote the character of "Stoney" for himself.

Dean Stockwell is his usual eerie self as a cynical guru with a headband.

Contemporary score: Strawberry Alarm Clock and others.

The DVD is of the 82m cut. Now available on Blu-ray (the full 101m cut, I presume), but my thumbnails are from the DVD.



-Bill

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post #1655 of 1687 Old 01-20-2016, 04:29 AM - Thread Starter
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To Have and Have Not (1944), directed by Howard Hawks

Quote:
She came in this afternoon. The plane from the south.
A deep sea fishing guide gets wrapped up in Vichy vs Free French struggles during WW2. He has a boat, in demand for dark deeds in the dead of night. More importantly, when a seductive tough cookie arrives: "they come together -- WHAM -- like two taxis on Broadway" (-- Thelma Ritter in Rear Window (1954)).

This is set at the same time and is a story similar to Casablanca (1942), but does not have the magic, direction or cinematography of that film. What it does have is Bogart and Lauren Bacall, together for the first time and instant movie chemistry.

Bacall is 19 years old (is that possible?) and you can tell this is her first film: that self-conscious, deliberate slink needs some work. That's ok: I love the little shimmy she does in the last scene. Deep, smoke-flavored voice, she does her own singing. Kissing Bogie a second time, she says: "It's even better when you help."

Notes:

  • Bogart's clothes are too neat for a working fisherman, but you can't fight the costume department.
  • He calls her "Slim" and she calls him "Steve", nicknames director Hawks and his wife used for each other.
  • Does Bogart have a little guillotine on his desk, maybe for cutting cigars?
  • Hemingway's novel uses Spanish Cuba, which is changed to French Martinique for the film. We also come forward a few years to WW2 and drop the bitter political commentary in favor of a big romance plot.
  • In the book Frank Morgan is married with children and is a hard, dangerous man. He loses an arm after being shot, but continues smuggling.
  • Walter Brennan's funny, loose-jointed walk is taken from the book. The film uses quite a bit of dialogue from the first part.

A commenter on one forum was complaining that Hoagy Carmichael's music was too "dated". People patiently pointed out that the film is from the 1940s and that, yes indeed, the music, language, clothing, etc, will be appropriate to that period. I suspect what he was really objecting to was Carmichael's own "Hong Kong Blues":

Quote:

It's the story of a very unfortunate colored man
Who got arrested down in old Hong Kong
He got twenty years privilege taken away from him
When he kicked old Buddha's gong
Turns out it is actually opium that keeps him from getting home.

The novel was filmed again as:

  • The Breaking Point (1950), Michael Curtiz with John Garfield and Patricia Neal.
  • The Gun Runners (1958), Don Siegel with Audie Murphy.
  • Captain Khorshid (1987), an Iranian version.

Available on DVD.



-Bill

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post #1656 of 1687 Old 01-28-2016, 08:49 AM - Thread Starter
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Black Sunday (1977), directed by John Frankenheimer.

During a raid on a Black September compound in Beirut, an Israeli commando lets the woman in the shower live. He doesn't know she's planning a terrorist attack in the US. The race is on to discover and stop it before she and her troubled Nam-vet ally kill 80,000 people at the Superbowl.

Well done and realistic, as an action thriller it never quite gets where it wants to go. We come to know the terrorist couple better than their pursuers, and they honestly seem more human, but there is no way we can cheer for them. Bruce Dern is, as always, excellent as the unsteady ex-POW looking for revenge.

Always a pleasure to see Robert Shaw. Watch his Mossad agent cut through the law enforcement red tape.

Filmed at a real Superbowl (Steelers vs Cowboys), with many known sports figures and the actual blimp. That the NFL and Goodyear would cooperate with this: it's inconceivable today.

John Williams provides a good thriller score; I don't usually think of him in that context (despite Jaws (1975)).

From a book by Thomas Harris who later moved on to the Hannibal Lector stories.

Another stadium murder thriller, Two-Minute Warning, was out about the same time and this confused the marketing.

The film was banned in Germany and Japan.



-Bill

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post #1657 of 1687 Old 02-01-2016, 04:25 AM - Thread Starter
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High Sierra (1941), directed by Raoul Walsh.

After eight years in prison, an old boss has bought a pardon for bank robber and killer Roy Earle, who immediately heads west to start work on a jewelry heist at a resort hotel. Quiet, disciplined, tough when necessary, Earle's biggest problem is the hot-headed youngsters he has to manage. That and a young woman they have brought with them. Earle may be the first real man Marie has ever seen, and she wants him badly.

This is a remarkable turning point in gangster film history. According to the Code, criminals could not succeed or be glorified, and yet we are entirely with Earle in this story, with no sympathy for the police, guards or hotel guests, and a visceral contempt for reporters, who call Earle "Mad Dog" just to have a headline.

What elevates this above a formula crime picture is the character of Earle, deftly played by Humphrey Bogart. A country boy who would like nothing more than to go back to the farm, he meets a family of poor migrants and thinks if he can do a favor for young Velma, maybe she'll marry him and he can get back where he belongs. But you can't engineer love in a pretty young woman, and instead we have the short, tragic romance with Marie. They adopt a little bad luck dog.

He tells her there will be "nothing special" between them, which is Code for "it's just sex". She agrees, but of course that's not how it really goes.

It must have been influential, because so many of the plot points seem modern:

  • the dying big boss, trying to run one last score from bed
  • the society of the older generation of hoods, how they remember the good old days and complain about the young punks
  • the tough guy formula of the older man putting the kids in their places

This is the film that moved Bogart (billed second to Ida Lupino, age 22!) into starring roles. Raoul Walsh had been directing for more than 25 years, but I'm sure it didn't hurt him either, and he became the go-to guy for tough, serious action films.

Elfin-eyed Lupino was a favorite, too. She wrote and directed in later years.

Early work for Arthur Kennedy, Joan Leslie and Cornel Wilde.

Willie Best is the standard comical black character of the period: he wakes up with eyes crossed. But he has an important foreshadowing function, telling us about the bad luck dog.

The dog is Bogart's dog, and a fine little actor.

Mixed studio and locations, with majestic mountain shots when they get outdoors, and a score to match in those parts. Great high-speed chase scene up the mountain.

Co-written by John Huston and W.R. Burnett from the latter's novel.



-Bill

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post #1658 of 1687 Old 02-06-2016, 07:08 PM - Thread Starter
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Late Spring (1949), directed by Yasujirô Ozu.

A deceptively simple story: a young woman lives with her professor father and cares for him. She enjoys her life and feels no need to change. He is easy to get along with and she gets out and does what she wants otherwise. Simple pleasures; she's a good girl. But the father and an auntie won't be satisfied until she is married off. Should she resist, or just go along with what is expected of her?

In the conflict between freedom (selfishness?) and tradition is anything resolved? Everyone has regrets. The father has the last scene: has he made a mistake, or is this just the pain that life inevitably brings?

The tone and setting are very curious: it's 1949, but we see no evidence of the War and little of the American occupation. (That's partly due to censorship). Everyone is happy and pleasant with one another. They wear both traditional and modern clothing and seem comfortable with both old Noh theater and new commuter trains.

And yet: we have oblique references to wartime forced labor and food shortages. Perhaps Noriko is so attached to her father because they lost years of family time during the war. When and how did her mother die? Has post-war modernity brought new freedom to the single woman? With that freedom comes what other problems?

As the commentary points out, Ozu's minimalism makes him seem more contemporary to us than other directors of that time. His camera shots are often from a very low angle, even below the eye-line of a person sitting on a floor mat. Scenes that would be essential to another storyteller (the wedding, for example) are omitted, but in scene transitions he will cut to landscape shots for a few moments of restfulness.

A variety of music is used, sometimes meditatively ambient.

This is my first Ozu film. I found these essays instructive:


Criterion Blu-ray. Quite a lot of film damage with many vertical lines. Insightful commentary track.



-Bill

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post #1659 of 1687 Old 02-08-2016, 04:23 PM
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Originally Posted by wmcclain View Post
The Ipcress File (1965), directed by Sidney J. Furie.

His spymaster superiors don't much like cheeky, insubordinate Harry Palmer, but he seems to get results. In fact he's quickly in too deep. Brainwashed and disoriented, can he still locate and shoot the traitor in his own organization?

This was intended as a darker, "not James Bond" spy thriller. In many ways that's true: Harry is a working class cockney recruited from an army prison. He hates the bosses who want to drown him in paperwork. The intelligence agencies waste their time spying on other. This is in gray rainy London, not sunny exotic locales.

On the other hand, like 007, Harry can fight, shoot and find the bad guys. He's cultured and likes women and good food. The studio complained that he did his own cooking, which an action hero is not supposed to do. And why is he wearing glasses?

And look who is making the film: one of the same producers as for Bond, same editor and art designers. Even John Barry for the score, with themes suggestive of the moodier Bond bits, and with what sounds like a cross between surf guitar and the zither from The Third Man (1949).

Notes:

  • It made Michael Caine a star.
  • A supermarket is called -- with disapproval -- "an American shopping method".
  • The agencies waste a lot of time, but when needed they show clockwork spycraft, as when paying ransom for a kidnapped scientist.

There is no region A Blu-ray of this and although DVDs are in print (at least Amazon seems to have new copies) they are expensive.

The thumbnails are from an all-region Blu-ray imported from the UK. The label is ITV, the encoding mpeg2, and the framerate the oddball 24.0hz. Black levels are not very good, but detail is acceptable given the large amount of grain in this one.



-Bill
Ordered this from Amazon.uk not realizing it was Region B locked. Fortunately Panny has remote hack and I was able to watch this gem. Thank you Bill!

Special features, however are encoded in PAL, does anyone know if they are available somewhere to view?
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post #1660 of 1687 Old 02-09-2016, 01:29 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wmcclain View Post
Late Spring (1949), directed by Yasujirô Ozu.

This is my first Ozu film.

-Bill
I look forward to your review of TOKYO STORY, Bill, should you choose to watch and review it. That was my first Ozu film and it sneaked up on me and packed quite a wallop that has been hard to forget. Maybe I watched it at just the right time in my life for that particular response.
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post #1661 of 1687 Old 02-09-2016, 02:27 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by iamian View Post
Ordered this from Amazon.uk not realizing it was Region B locked. Fortunately Panny has remote hack and I was able to watch this gem. Thank you Bill!

Special features, however are encoded in PAL, does anyone know if they are available somewhere to view?
Glad you liked it!

I'd use MakeMKV to make hardrive copies of the extras. If your player still won't accept the 50hz content, you should be able to view them on a PC.

-Bill

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post #1662 of 1687 Old 02-09-2016, 06:25 PM
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Glad you liked it!

I'd use MakeMKV to make hardrive copies of the extras. If your player still won't accept the 50hz content, you should be able to view them on a PC.

-Bill
Cool, thanks

Don't have a BD drive so this will have to wait.


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post #1663 of 1687 Old 02-11-2016, 04:12 AM - Thread Starter
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The Day of the Jackal (1973), directed by Fred Zinnemann.

An experienced English assassin is hired to kill French President Charles de Gaulle. It runs like an "assassination procedural" thriller, with both the Jackal and the police forces methodically developing their plans and seeking their goals. He knows they are on to him, but he won't give up. Both sides have setbacks, both recover. Who finishes first, the fox or the hounds?

We know how it must end. Who are we rooting for? Edward Fox is cool but not cruel, meticulously professional. He leaves an unfortunate number of bodies behind him.

Although the story is fiction, the incidents in the first section are actual history: the OAS, a group of disgruntled army officers, tried several times to assassinate de Gaulle, including the incident shown where they machine-gun his motorcade. Leader Jean Bastien-Thiry ("No French soldier will raise his rifle against me") was the last person in France executed by firing squad.

The French government assisted with production. Lavish use of real locations in France, Italy, Austria, and England.

Brief soundtrack. Most of the film is without music, emphasizing a documentary tone.

Loosely remade as The Jackal (1997) with Bruce Willis.

On DVD, poor quality. Where's the Blu-ray?

I recently came across this list: Akira Kurosawa’s Top 100 Films, where he is limited to one film per director. For this film he says:

Quote:
The method the movie follows with very composed eyes is how the hero carries out every preparation for an assassination one by one, so to speak, without fat, I mean, brief and clear. A very thrilling touch.


-Bill

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post #1664 of 1687 Old 02-16-2016, 06:18 AM - Thread Starter
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The Desperate Hours (1955), produced and directed by William Wyler.

A little boy doesn't have time to put away his bike before school. This begins the whole frightful story: three escaped convicts looking for a hideout see the bike in the yard and know they have found a family that can be controlled by terror.

Home invasion stories as a film genre took off in the 1950s. The ethical trap is excruciating: who can afford to be a hero when innocent loved ones are held hostage? Criminals use our kindly, cautious natures against us. It's actually easier for the little boy to be brave because he doesn't gauge the consequences.

The sexual menace against the wife and daughter isn't played up, but it's there. The threats of violence are pretty brutal.

Some moving moments when the dialogue stops and we watch a few quiet scenes: the younger convict spying on teenagers having fun across the street, having the life he probably missed. Bogart sitting in an easy chair, staring into space, just pondering the circumstances of his life. Fredric March at the gas station, looking at a pay phone, wondering whether to risk it.

March plays the sort of character he was so good at, as in Wyler's own The Best Years of Our Lives (1946): not a tough guy, but intelligent and with moral grit.

This is Bogart's second to last film and he can still be an unlikable villain. You can see some resemblance to The Petrified Forest (1936) and Bogart said his character was something like "Duke Mantee grown up".

Also among the villains: hulking Robert Middleton with poor impulse control.

For the cops we have a big set of familiar actors: Arthur Kennedy, Bert Freed, Ray Collins, Whit Bissell, Ray Teal.

Based on actual events, with the novel, stage play and screenplay all by the same author.

Edith Head costumes.

The house exterior was used in the final season of Leave it to Beaver and I see another crossover: character actor Burt Mustin has a bit part and was also "Gus the Fireman" in the series.



-Bill

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post #1665 of 1687 Old 02-21-2016, 06:05 AM - Thread Starter
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The Swimmer (1968), directed by Frank Perry.

He appears from nowhere, wearing only swimming trunks late in the season. He's well-known in rich suburbia, kindly and large-hearted. The women seem especially fond of him.

He conceives an eccentric plan: to swim his way home across the county through backyard swimming pools and cocktail parties. He can do it, naming the route after his wife: the "Lucinda River".

It starts well: he has the strength and masculine confidence, but we begin to notice something "off". He seems to have lost a few years, doesn't remember that he is ruined and that his wife and daughters are... gone?

He becomes more troubled as the day proceeds, tired and limping, melancholy after his studly pretensions fail him. We discover his story as he does.

Burt Lancaster is -- unbelievably -- 55 years old here. A fine performance. I know he had it in him but I'm always surprised to see it.

Janice Rule (last seen in 3 Women (1977)) is beautiful in a one-piece bathing suit.

I'd never heard of this before it appeared on an excellent Blu-ray from Grindhouse Releasing. Finely constructed, very moving.



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post #1666 of 1687 Old 02-21-2016, 09:09 AM
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^^^ The Swimmer is a fine film indeed. It is based on what is often acknowledged to be John Cheever's best short story. I would love to see it again but it's not available on TV right now. Although uncredited, Sydney Pollack directed the film. I think it was one of the best of Pollack's career.
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post #1667 of 1687 Old 02-22-2016, 10:31 AM
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Originally Posted by gwsat View Post
^^^ The Swimmer is a fine film indeed. It is based on what is often acknowledged to be John Cheever's best short story. I would love to see it again but it's not available on TV right now. Although uncredited, Sydney Pollack directed the film. I think it was one of the best of Pollack's career.
Pollack did not direct the whole film. The original director (Frank Perry) screened a rough cut that the studio hated. Perry was fired and Pollack was brought in to do some reshoots.
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post #1668 of 1687 Old 02-22-2016, 11:42 AM
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Pollack did not direct the whole film. The original director (Frank Perry) screened a rough cut that the studio hated. Perry was fired and Pollack was brought in to do some reshoots.
Sigh. No good deed ever goes unpunished when a potential Gotcha! is in the offing.
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post #1669 of 1687 Old 02-24-2016, 11:17 AM - Thread Starter
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Random Harvest (1942), directed by Mervyn LeRoy.

Remember how in Sleepless in Seattle the women made a big deal about the weepy romance An Affair to Remember? They should have used Random Harvest. It's a better film and even weepier.

The two leads carry it. Ronald Colman is tremendous as the shell-shocked soldier, that great voice and urbane demeanor reduced to silence and stammering, a little boy lost, uniform or no. Greer Garson has not only luminous beauty and those perfectly symmetrical features (aside: anyone remember Jaclyn Smith?) but also moral courage and fortitude that shames the rest of us.

Heavily melodramatic with the usual colorful English characters. Bitter and sweet, romantic and soapy, without much moderation. Love and amnesia. It plays up those childhood fears of "What if my parents went away and forgot to come home again?"

Nominated for seven Academy Awards. It would have been eight, but Greer Garson was ineligible, being already nominated for Best Actress for Mrs. Miniver (1942) -- which she won.

Available on DVD.



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post #1670 of 1687 Old 02-28-2016, 06:50 PM - Thread Starter
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The following four films are worth reviewing, but not really top-shelf, so I'm going to post them all at once to get them out of my queue.

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post #1671 of 1687 Old 02-28-2016, 06:51 PM - Thread Starter
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Adventures of Captain Fabian (1951), directed by William Marshall.

A fiery Creole woman -- from an aristocratic family but now a servant -- claws her way back into society with the intermittent aid of a tough sea captain.

I review this one only because I'm an Errol Flynn completist and it's on Blu-ray. But it is a dull affair. Flynn is a secondary character in his own film and there is very little adventure, and no scenes at sea.

For good features it has Vincent Price and Agnes Moorehead. Filmed in France, substituting for New Orleans.

Flynn gets screenwriting credit although it is disputed how much of it he did. The female lead was an accomplished French actress. Her husband was the producer and took over directing, probably a mistake.

That we have inexpert writing and direction helps just a touch: we don't know where the story is going, if anywhere.

See this exciting poster?



That's not in the film and he doesn't take off his shirt. I doubt if his body would look quite that chiseled if he did. I'm not sure that's even him in the final scene: it looks like a stand-in with a voice-over.

Do you remember the Citadel Press large-format "Films of..." picture book series? They are worth picking up if you are a classic films addict, although I find errors on every page if I know something about the topic. I don't believe the authors have actually seen all the films they describe in these books.

In The Films of Errol Flynn for Captain Fabian they have not much more than:

Quote:
... undoubtedly one of the dullest pictures extant... Why Flynn would want credit, justified or not, on such an old-fashioned, stilted piece of claptrap is something to ponder... Flynn plays with little spirit or conviction, and there is virtually no action until the last reel.
Available on Blu-ray from Olive Films. No subtitles.



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post #1672 of 1687 Old 02-28-2016, 06:52 PM - Thread Starter
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Beat the Devil (1953), co-written, produced and directed by John Huston.

Stranded in Italy, a motley but dangerous group of swindlers are trying to make their way to Africa to pull off some sort of uranium mining scam. They make almost no progress on that (should have stayed in Italy) and spend more energy on mutual suspicion and romance with some British tourists.

Beautifully photographed with occasionally witty bits, but otherwise a slack, meandering plot, being written a day at a time as it was being made. Truman Capote was co-author of the screenplay. Bogart was unhappy: "Only phonies like it".

Said to be a satire on Huston's own The Maltese Falcon (1941), told from the scoundrels' point of view. Humphrey Bogart and Peter Lorre return from that film. Second of eight films cinematographer Oswald Morris did with Huston.

I need to read something about the director. In my review of The African Queen (1951) I wondered if he hadn't been influenced by Powell & Pressburger. Now I'll add Carol Reed.

Filmed in Italy.

The Blu-ray is a BD-R without copy protection, the first I remember getting, rented from ClassicFlix. Image quality is generally poor, with light gray black levels. Now and then we get a glimpse of hidef detail, but mostly it's like an average DVD. The title is in the public domain and I don't know how much care the film elements have received. Maybe "Film Detective Restored Classics" actually did some restoration, but there is a lot of visible film damage.



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post #1673 of 1687 Old 02-28-2016, 06:53 PM - Thread Starter
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I Want to Live! (1958), directed by Robert Wise.

Fictionalized account of the true story of a woman's journey from small-time criminal to death row for murder. The history is adjusted just enough to make her innocence plausible; apparently much more so than in reality.

It becomes a capital punishment Message film in the long final segment of gas chamber procedures and details.

It was well-reviewed at the time and since, and was nominated for six Academy Awards, with Susan Hayward winning Best Actress.

I'm out of sync with this one because it seems rather poor to me. I revere Robert Wise and have always liked Hayward, probably from seeing David and Bathsheba (1951) when young, but the whole thing seems phony and overblown to me. Standards of drama and realism change, but I think it is weak compared to other films of the era.

The attempts at portraying a seedy crime-class milieu are just painful, with cool hep-cat jazz convulsives, sweaty reefer-smoking drug addicts and feeble tough-talking cops and robbers.

Whether hard-partying or heist-planning or becoming weepy as a doting mother, Hayward is always just way too much, dreadfully over the top. I couldn't find a moment of honest emotion.

Good jazz score from Johnny Mandel, with some performances by Gerry Mulligan's Jazz Combo.

Available on DVD from Kino.



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post #1674 of 1687 Old 02-28-2016, 06:54 PM - Thread Starter
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A Countess from Hong Kong (1967), written, produced, scored and directed by Charlie Chaplin.

A slack, low-energy romantic comedy, reminiscent of a stage play farce. Weak physical comedy. I review it because:

  • It has two superstars: Marlon Brando and Sophia Loren.
  • Chaplin's last film.
  • His only color film.

Patrick Cargill steals the show as Hudson the valet. I remember him from The Magic Christian (1969) and two episodes of The Prisoner (1967).

Extra irritating: the lighting. It is perfectly uniform and perfectly boring.

Chaplin wrote the first draft in the 1930s. It was inspired by displaced people he knew.

It has fans. According to the wikipedia article:

Quote:

Critics such as Tim Hunter and Andrew Sarris, as well as the poet John Betjeman and the director François Truffaut viewed the film as being among Chaplin's best works. Actor Jack Nicholson is also a big fan of the film.
Available on DVD.



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post #1675 of 1687 Old 03-07-2016, 11:16 AM - Thread Starter
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I Married a Monster from Outer Space (1958), produced and directed by Gene Fowler Jr.

The night before his wedding, the groom is abducted on a lonely country road by something alien. After a year the new bride is increasingly concerned: why can't she get pregnant? Why does her husband seem like a stranger, how is it he can see in the dark, and why do dogs suddenly hate him?

His friends change too and they have a secret cabal hiding in plain sight. When alone they talk about the coming takeover and how the human body, although poorly constructed, does afford some pleasures. Our bridegroom is troubled: stirrings of love are unsettling to an alien invader.

After so many lies, it is finally a relief when the husband and wife come clean and tell the truth. She knows and he tells her the plan.

Low budget but much better than it's cheezy title would suggest. Efficient at only 77 minutes: we get right to it. It was actually pretty well liked at the time and since.

I love the 50s ambiance, with the convertibles, country supper clubs, men in sport coats and women with those hefty armored brassieres (or maybe that's all Gloria Talbott).

Bullets won't stop the glowing invaders, but the dogs know just what to do and are eager to tear at that exposed anatomy, as if they've been waiting for this moment. The aliens die ugly.

This is a surprisingly rich story because of several themes running in parallel:

  • A woman's marriage paranoia, of a husband turning cold and unloving. On the other hand: he is strong and mysterious, which is kind of exciting, right? But what if he should turn into one of those terrifying space aliens during an intimate moment: yikes!

    Strange to say: she's having sex outside her species when movies couldn't even show interracial dating.

  • The political metaphor of infiltration by foreign influences: fascists, communists, could be anything. See Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) and It Came from Outer Space (1953) for more on that.

    And yet, we don't like the sleazy drifter (the always dangerous James Anderson) who is stalking our bride, so don't we have a sneaking admiration for the cop-aliens who dispatch him in an efficient police-state manner?

  • Hints of a crypto-gay subculture: childless, unhappily married men who recognize each other and have secret lives that could get them killed. Note that the town doc knows where to find "real men": at the Maternity Ward.

Leading man Tom Tryon said the critics never forgave him for being in a movie with this title. He was happier as a novelist, for example writing both the book and the screenplay for The Other (1972).

The town bartender is "Slapsie Maxie" Rosenbloom, a boxer who had a second career playing comical palookas for Hollywood.

Available on DVD.



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post #1676 of 1687 Old 03-18-2016, 10:58 AM - Thread Starter
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The American Friend (1977), directed by Wim Wenders.

The talented and amoral Tom Ripley has a good thing going, commissioning "newly discovered" paintings from a supposedly dead artist and bidding them up at high-end auction houses.

An associate wants a favor: two small time hoods need to be whacked. I don't think we are ever told what that's all about.

Overhearing a conversation during an auction, Ripley conceives a cunning plan: to offer a dying man a payoff to be an amateur hit man. He gets to leave something for his wife and little boy. Resisting at first, might he actually find it exciting and meaningful? And does Ripley just leave him to it, or has he actually made a new friend, one that needs help?

I remember being befuddled by this one when I first saw it, probably because I wasn't expecting an actual thriller plot. All the other early Wenders I had seen had been light on plot and heavy on improvisation. Back then he seemed to be the sort of director who grabs a camera and hits the road with friends to make a movie out of whatever they find along the way.

(It was sometime in the late 1980s: a Blockbuster just a few blocks over actually had a huge foreign film section and -- I'm not kidding -- a Wim Wenders shelf. I saw them all, and would try them again given the chance. They've been hard to find on DVD, but I see Criterion has a set of three early films scheduled for Blu-ray in 2016).

Knowing what to expect, it makes more sense now, although I'm still confused by the aftermath of the murders: the ambulance, bandaged man, etc.

The most notable aspects of this treatment:

  • In the books Ripley is fastidious, passionless and self-controlled. The film has him as a disorganized, confused cowboy.
  • American dramatic sensibilities tend toward can-do problem solving and heroic happy endings. From a European perspective problems don't have solutions and endings are not happy. They aren't even endings. The melancholy, autumnal tone of the film brings this out nicely.

It uses a common thriller theme: we like Zimmerman, but do we want him to do the murders or not? We can't help sharing his tension and anguish as he approaches and fumbles the deed itself.

Notes:

  • Wenders was obsessed with filming a Patricia Highsmith novel but couldn't get the rights. Meeting her, she gave him the unpublished manuscript of Ripley's Game, later made under that title with John Malkovich in 2002.
  • Wenders didn't know how to portray Ripley, but met Dennis Hopper and wanted him to play it.
  • After that, he decided to use six more directors as criminals in the story. Sam Fuller was the only one I recognized, although Nicholas Ray has a prominent role as the painter "forging" his own work.
  • Americans Fuller and Ray were heroes to the director and he became close to both. The two older directors had never met before making the film.
  • Bruno Ganz is very good as the frame maker who becomes a killer, at first so calm and centered, slowly losing it afterwards. He laughs exultantly after the first murder, but cries after the second.
  • Wenders says his original conceptions never survive the the beginning of filming. The actors and locations set the tone. He went back and refilmed the first couple of days to introduce a moving camera. He kept the natural sound though, which I think keeps the viewer more involved.
  • Highsmith didn't like it on first viewing and particularly hated Hopper as Ripley. She changed her mind after a later viewing, saying the film gets the essence of Ripley correct.
  • It was a huge hit in Europe.
  • Exciting thriller score.
  • Filmmakers: you cannot put a silencer on a revolver.

Available on a rather lovely Criterion Blu-ray. A commentary track from 2002 features a quiet, friendly conversation between the director and Hopper. Many good stories.



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post #1677 of 1687 Old 03-18-2016, 03:06 PM
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The American Friend (1977), directed by Wim Wenders.
I prefer the "Ripley's Game" adaptation of that story.
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post #1678 of 1687 Old 03-23-2016, 07:53 AM - Thread Starter
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House (1977), produced and directed by Nobuhiko Ôbayashi.

Seven schoolgirls vacation at an auntie's house in the country. Which is a haunted witch-place that devours them all in the end.

I scarcely know how to summarize this bizarre title. It is set up like a bit of fluff for pre-teen girls: tons of friendship in the tight-knit group, silly gags and music video moments against painted backgrounds. That angle never goes away, even as the mysteries accumulate, the girls disappear one by one, and we pass through a nightmare freakout toward the end. Still all very girly.

I don't know if a sexual element is intended. Those sailor-suit school uniforms would be fetish material in America, but seem standard in Japan. We have brief nudity.

Who invented the children's literature motif of characters named after their cute characteristics? Don't say the Spice Girls, this was before that. Who named Snow White's dwarves? Here we have:

  • Gorgeous: also called "Angel" in the IMDB; central character and -- with Auntie -- about the only pro actor in the cast
  • Kung Fu: brave, athletic martial artist
  • Fantasy: always imagining things
  • Prof: glasses, bookish
  • Mac: as in "Big Mac", always eating
  • Melody: the musician
  • Sweet: loving

Varied soundtrack, none of it quite appropriate, but this makes the film an even weirder experience. The main theme sounds like "I'll See You in My Dreams" to me.

Audiences liked it better than critics, and it was better received in the US than in Japan.

Criterion Blu-ray. The aspect ratio is 1.37; I don't think it was produced for TV.



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post #1679 of 1687 Old 03-29-2016, 04:05 AM - Thread Starter
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A Clockwork Orange (1971), directed by Stanley Kubrick.

Notes after the last of I don't know how many viewings:

  • We see a director operating at Peak Confidence.
  • It's as if he's gone beyond the desire to be outrageous or shocking. He has a vision and here is what the film of that looks like.
  • Does the absurd humor soften the ultra-violence? It may actually sharpen it: the brawl with Billyboy and gang is theater within a theater where they are raping a (very shapely; of course!) woman with drunken ballet moves. Which makes you think how horrific some fine arts stories are, made genteel and uplifted by the style of the art.
  • At first it's a clear morality tale: as bad as Alex is, he deserves the right to make moral choices with his own free will. This is the priest's position. Then we can leave the theater and have sober debates about the ethics of punishment and deterrence...
  • ...but Kubrick constantly undercuts our attempts to make it a policy debate. Every stance seems absurd. Alex is irredeemable. What do we do with him now?
  • Everyone does real nudity here. No cups or protective pads.
  • Note Dim's berserker bliss when wielding his chain? That's scary.
  • See the obvious rear projection when they race down the road at night? It's supposed to be obvious. Why?
  • Alex and the droogies aren't psychotic, just out of control. Natural primates. This puts the film more in the juvenile delinquent genre rather than one about psycho-killers.
  • Alex finds bliss in the music of LVB. Is that in any sense redemptive? "I was cured" he says in the end, and keeps on going.
  • It always surprises me and makes me laugh: getting out of prison Alex finds his parents have taken in another one!
  • There are strong parallels with this plot and an episode of The Prisoner (1967): "A Change of Mind". Number Six fights with Village guards and is declared Unmutual. He undergoes (faked) brain surgery which makes him docile. After enduring abuse from some thugs he breaks conditioning and fights back.
  • You know the sexually explicit artwork the Catlady has on her walls? Some years later real art appeared that reminded me of that. Not quite so explicit. I can't remember the artist's name.
  • I've been calling married women "Missus" for years. Got it from Alex when he's trying to be polite.
  • There were copycat crimes after and Kubrick pulled it from the UK.
  • McDowell says: "I was born to play this part."

Available on Blu-ray with a commentary track by Nick Redman and Malcom McDowell. A wealth of great stories. Kubrick was open to ideas and McDowell points out the elements he contributed.

Warner has issued this more than once, but I believe it is always the same video encoding.



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post #1680 of 1687 Old 04-04-2016, 05:54 PM - Thread Starter
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Night Of The Living Dead (1968), directed by George A. Romero.

Quote:
"We're coming to get you, Barbara!" -- Ed in Shaun of the Dead (2004).
In retrospect, the sub-shoestring budget and make-it-up-as-you-go production seems like artistic genius. Slow start on the country road going to the cemetery? We don't need any scary prep. Rather rough acting and action sequences? Tough. Live with it and pretend you don't dream about it.

Because this is the source, the origin. For me the base mythology for zombie movies will always be:

  • Black and white.
  • Mostly at night.
  • A siege against impossible odds.
  • Survivors who just don't have what it takes...
  • ...because they have brought their problems with them...
  • ...meaning there is no hope at all.

In the most recent viewing I noticed things about the ghouls that I knew, but hadn't remembered:

  • They are both fast and slow.
  • They use tools, like rocks and a garden trowel.
  • They dislike light and fire.
  • They may feel pain.
  • They eat insects and cooked meat.
  • The story implies but never actually says that radiation from the Venus probe and infected bites are the causes of the horror.

I also revisited that old sinking feeling, the nausea you feel when one mistake -- trying to get gas for the truck -- is a disaster, dooming all the survivors.

It now reminds me of The World, the Flesh and the Devil (1959) because at the outset we have a technically adept black man with a lone white woman. Then the problem was that they were the last survivors of the human race (which is also kind of true here).

I also think of Carnival of Souls (1962) because it was another micro-budget project by first time feature film makers. They had made industrial pictures, where Romero and company did TV commercials in Pittsburgh.

This was a turning point in horror cinema, generating mass outrage at the level of gruesomeness. It didn't help that early showings were part of a double feature for kids. Now you see this stuff in color on popular TV shows during prime time. Maybe the culture has coarsened since then? Naw, that's crazy talk.

The up front score sounds like traditional scary movie music and in fact they bought world-wide rights to a studio compilation of music cues.

A reflection: what is it about the walking dead and these flesh-eating ghoul movies? My theory: it's about our fear of not really living, of sleepwalking through life like zombies. We might want to escape such a condition, but the others pursue us, hunting us down and turning us into them. Just like an office job.

If so, then does the more recent comical or ironic treatment of the genre suggest that we've just decided to accept it?

I was waiting for a good North American Blu-ray to appear when High-Def Digest gave a strong recommendation for this Japanese edition: Night of the Living Dead (Japanese Import). Packaging and disc menus are entirely in Japanese, but there are three English audio tracks. Japan is region A like North America so there are no technical obstacles to playback here. No subtitles.

The image quality is better than I have ever seen it, and that includes projected in a small art theater. Two happy commentary tracks by cast and crew are well worth the listen.

A lot of the cast are friends, family and customers of their TV commercial day jobs.

Also included: a 1h23m making-of: One for the Fire: The Legacy of 'Night of the Living Dead' (2008).



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