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post #181 of 1373 Old 04-15-2010, 10:13 AM
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Originally Posted by tim3320070 View Post

Little Big Man 1970. One of my favorites and a wonderful story (if not overly true to the book).
"You have to learn to shoot before you touch the gun"
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0065988/

Loved Little Big Man and I bought the DVD the day it came out. I saw it one night years ago on TNT. They had commentary during commercials about the movie. Apparently Dustin Hoffman went into a sound proof room and screamed at the top of his lungs for hours to get his voice 'gravely' for the old man in the rest home scenes and commentary. Talk about devotion to a role!
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post #182 of 1373 Old 04-19-2010, 06:45 AM - Thread Starter
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The Sea Hawk (1940), directed by Michael Curtiz.

Errol Flynn at his swashbuckling peak. He had it all: face, physique and athletic ability, intelligence and charm, and a comedic talent that was never fully exploited. He had about ten good years on the screen; too much hard living ruined his career.

Amazing what they could do in the studio in those days. Epic hand-to-hand sea battles and great sword fights. Steamy Central American jungles, trial before the Inquisition, chained to the rowing benches as a galley slave, then escape and the heroic conclusion.

We also have a romance subplot, but it is a pretty low simmer.

Rich cast: Flora Robson was born to play QE1, which she did more than once. The conspiracy of the homely queen with her dashing privateer is fun to watch. The plot is already heavy with 1940 political significance; her rousing speech tacked on at the end just drives it home.

Claude Rains and Henry Daniell provide their reliable villainy. For comic asides we have Alan Hale and Una O'Connor.

Brenda Marshall is the romantic lead. I have nothing against her, but was Olivia de Havilland unavailable, or had she had enough of Michael Curtiz by this time? I know she also got fed up with Flynn although they did work together again. Asked if she was ever a Flynn conquest she said, "I was tempted, but never succumbed."

Famously lush and rousing score by Erich Wolfgang Korngold.

As I recall, Warner owned the film rights to Rafael Sabatini's book, but in this case they used just the title and not his plot.



-Bill
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post #183 of 1373 Old 04-22-2010, 06:21 PM - Thread Starter
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Berlin Express (1948), directed by Jacques Tourneur.

A multi-national set of travelers try to find a missing German diplomat. Set in that post-war period just before the Cold War, when Germans were still suspect and Soviets not (quite) yet the enemy.

This teeters on the edge of being a good movie but never quite makes it. A few good scenes and some stunning location shots of bombed-out Frankfurt and Berlin. Marred by way too much voice-over narration, clumsy plotting, and a syrupy give-peace-a-chance message, subtle as a hammer.

Robert Ryan is my favorite actor, but he really can't save this. He's just "the American character." I can't tell if Merle Oberon is supposed to be German or French. Not much chemistry.

The IMDB score for this is 7.0, which is generous. It's probably for Ryan, Tourneur, and writer Curt Siodmak.

Warner Archive title, available for rent from http://www.classicflix.com/.



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post #184 of 1373 Old 04-23-2010, 02:55 AM
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Originally Posted by wmcclain View Post

I can't tell if Merle Oberon is supposed to be German or French.

French, but the accent's terrible.
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post #185 of 1373 Old 04-24-2010, 11:57 AM - Thread Starter
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The Big Combo (1955), directed by Joseph H. Lewis.

Police detective Cornell Wilde hates a gangster with a white hot hate and has an unhealthy obsession with the gangster's girlfriend. Both emotions are tearing him up, ruining his judgment. The hood (Richard Conte: smart, smooth, vicious) understands the hate and even appreciates it, but is not so generous when it comes to the girl (Jean Wallace). A high body count ensues.

Effective hard-boiled film. The plot advances in fits and starts, but the ominous noir tone is very good. We see the continuing advance of violence and sadism during this period.

Cornell Wilde often has to play Ken dolls, but here he looks and acts like a real person. Many other familiar faces, including Brian Donlevy and Ted de Corsia.

Lee Van Cleef and Earl Holliman play a couple (in every sense) of hoods called "Fante and Mingo", names fans of Joss Whedon's Serenity will recognize.

David Raksin's score is bright, brassy and up front throughout the movie, particularly fine during the opening credits and montage, very 1950s. You need reeds for the sultry bits; a saxophone is traditional but Raskin uses a clarinet instead.



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post #186 of 1373 Old 04-26-2010, 06:55 AM
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The Heart of the Matter ...

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... is a 1953 British film based on the book of the same name by Graham Greene. It was directed by George More O'Ferrall for London Films. It was entered into the 1953 Cannes Film Festival.

Plot, cast and production

Trevor Howard plays Scobie, a policeman in Sierra Leone. He is unhappily married to Louise, played by Elizabeth Allan. While she is away, he begins a love affair with Helen, a European played by Maria Schell. However, Scobie's Catholic faith leaves him tormented with guilt.

The film also stars Denholm Elliott, Peter Finch, Gérard Oury, George Coulouris and Michael Hordern.

It contains no original score, but instead features indigenous music from Sierra Leone in West Africa, where location filming took place. The interiors were filmed at Shepperton Studios in London. It was lensed in black and white by noted cinematographer Jack Hildyard.

The movie is based on a 1948 novel by the famous author Graham Greene. He worked for British intelligence during WW II in Sierra Leone, then a British Crown colony and the interior of which a British protectorate. The same time and place is the setting for the novel and movie.

At first I thought it was overly "talkie." Part of my problem I suppose is seeing Trevor Howard in a less than heroic role, under stress, caught in a maelstrom of conflicting values and issues. But, after it was over, I couldn't let it go and thought about it for hours.

For one thing, it is rich in content trying faithfully to bring to the screen the drama of Greene's novel. Some critics thought it was one of Howard's best screen performances. The film is loaded with A-list actors in minor roles.

I was particularly interested in watching Maria Schell, the late sister to Academy Award winner Maximilian Schell. Some time ago I saw the 2002 tribute film he produced "My Sister Maria" on a Netflix rental DVD. She was a big hit in Germany post WW II. After her brother won the Academy Award for his role as the defense attorney in the 1961 film Judgment at Nuremberg, he thought he'd finally get some personal recognition at home. But, it was not to be. In his native Austria, he was always known as Maria Schell's younger brother.

Here she is.



The film is on a recent PAL Region 2 UK SD DVD release. B&W. OAR 4x3. Mono. It played perfectly.

A well-acted film that raises some uncomfortable issues. An interesting view of life by English expatriates in far off places circa 1940s.



Dana

"If you think you can, or think you can't, you're probably right." Mark Twain
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post #187 of 1373 Old 04-27-2010, 04:38 AM - Thread Starter
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The Hard Way (1943), directed by Vincent Sherman.

Weepy show-biz drama with hard-bitten, ruthless Ida Lupino doing anything to get her kid sister Joan Leslie out of their grimy mining town. They latch on to song and dance team Dennis Morgan and Jack Carson; much yelling, crying and back-stabbing thereafter.

Quite a bit of singing and dancing with one fine revue number.

According to this the story was suggested by the life of Ginger Rogers and she was offered the role, not of "herself", but of the older woman. One of the early lines regarding Joan Leslie: "Doesn't she remind you of Ginger Rogers?" A lot of the tunes are from her films.

We have two suicides here. I thought that was forbidden by the Motion Picture Production Code, but I don't see it listed in the article. In any case, the Code was not iron-clad.



Warner Archive title, available for rent from http://www.classicflix.com/.

-Bill
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post #188 of 1373 Old 04-30-2010, 07:39 AM - Thread Starter
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Once Upon a Honeymoon (1942), directed by Leo McCarey.

A very odd combination of genres: screwball comedy, wartime thriller and patriotic propaganda effort. Might be a good companion to To Be or Not to Be (1942), a higher rated film.

Made when WW2 had been raging for a while but the US was not in it yet, like Casablanca, also from Warner. During a scene in Paris, Eiffel Tower in the background, our lovers sip champagne on a cafe balcony when the Nazis march in to town; my wife and I both said "Where's Rick and Ilsa?"

It starts in a familiar zany way: "dancer" Ginger Rogers pretends to be Society so she can marry Baron Walter Slezak who is a Nazi stooge pretending to be a patriotic Austrian. Newsman Cary Grant pretends to be a diplomat and then a dress fitter so he can do a story on the Baron ... and so on. Lots of good physical comedy in this part.

She does marry the Baron and they travel the continent, Grant in pursuit. Strangely enough wherever the Baron goes the German armies soon follow. Grant convinces her that the Baron is a bad guy and she transforms from a shallow gold-digger into a concerned patriot and then into an undercover agent. Of course they fall in love: given the choice between Cary Grant and a Nazi stooge, what's an all-American girl to do?

The story bogs down in a couple of places, notably when Rogers recites the Pledge of Allegiance with a secret agent who recruits her for a mission.

Things take an ominous and unsettling turn in Poland. The assassination of a Polish general is surprisingly bloody. After Rogers helps a Jewish family escape the country she and Grant are arrested as Jews and sent to a concentration camp. This is not wacky camp humor, but a very grim episode. Fortunately for our stars they are sprung and go on to further adventures and eventually more comedy. It is very strange to see this material presented at this time and in this sort of film.

The European characters almost always speak their own languages here; no pretending that the world speaks English on film.

Gary Grant: there has never been anything like him. He's in his light-hearted mode here. Ginger Rogers always had the girl-next-door appeal, but she was also called the hardest working woman in Hollywood: "she could do everything Fred Astaire did, backwards and in heels." No dancing this time.

Warner Archive title, available for rent from http://www.classicflix.com/.





-Bill
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post #189 of 1373 Old 05-01-2010, 04:54 AM - Thread Starter
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Bullitt (1968), directed by Peter Yates.

Riveting action thriller, one of everyone's favorites from that period. The famous car chase is still raw and exciting, looking less standardized and choreographed than later attempts. I like that there is relatively little handholding in the plot; you have to pick up who's who and what's happening without much explanation.

The insubordinate cop, doing whatever it takes, has become something of a cliche, but it was less so when this was made and Steve McQueen just owns it: speaking as little as possible, expressing with his eyes, stoic but still human. As much as I like Dirty Harry (same studio, same city, another Lalo Schifrin soundtrack!) this film outclasses it in many ways.

Very serious, very real, before the formula became worn out. Watch and listen to the doctors and nurses in the surgery: none of the phony polish of later films. Watch the police procedures: this is no fantasy land where rules and command structure don't count. The law has to be obeyed, reports filed and everything made right on Monday morning.

Jacqueline Bisset, age 24, is awfully pretty, like a late 60s dream of the perfect girlfriend. Her one extended speech is a preachy little lecture that I would have omitted. The writers did well at not reciting the plot aloud apart from that bit.

Realistic and gritty but still very cool with gorgeous SF locations. Love the music.

Available on Blu-ray.



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post #190 of 1373 Old 05-01-2010, 06:22 AM - Thread Starter
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The Mad Miss Manton (1938), directed by Leigh Jason.

Very silly, erratic comedy that has society brat Barbara Stanwyck and her band of rich girl pranksters solving a set of murders. We have the undeniably diverting spectacle of a mob of young women in fur coats covertly breaking glass doors and climbing through windows.

I felt like I had dropped into the middle of a series: it should have been an episode from something like the "Melsa Manton Mysteries"; that might have worked. I confess I didn't follow the plot very well and some of the girl-quips flew by me.

Henry Fonda is the romantic lead. I think his purpose at this time was to be the hunky guy with an endearing yokel accent. With Sam Levene as the exasperated police Lt and Hattie McDaniel as the comical maid.

Warner Archive title, available for rent from http://www.classicflix.com/.



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post #191 of 1373 Old 05-03-2010, 12:11 PM
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Starring Andy Griffith. Also has Don Knotts, Nick Adams, and Myron McCormick. A really funny flick. Andy Griffith plays a country bumpkin, Will Stockdale, who is drafted into the Air Force. Its a funny adaptation of a Broadway comedy that also starred Griffith, Knotts and McCormick. Griffith actually was nominated for a Tony. Andy and his sidekick, Nick Adams, give their Sargent, McCormick all sorts of comedic trouble getting passed through basic training.

I've seen this a few times and just remembered it today as after all this time it is finally getting a DVD release, tommorrow!!! I may pick one up, or at least get it in the netflix cue.
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post #192 of 1373 Old 05-03-2010, 12:36 PM
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Originally Posted by drbonbi View Post

Also I recently watched "Somewhere in the Night," a 1946 murder/psychological mystery of the film noir genre.

Thanks for the review. I recently rewatched this one. The plot became ridiculously complex and nonsequitur toward the end, in the way people like to stereotype noirs. The directing was a little stilted at times. I didn't think Hodiak had enough personality to carry the lead, but the other players more than made up for his blandness.

The most interesting aspect for me was the depiction of a returning vet's disorientation from American society. He literally did not fit in, nor feel at home, anywhere, except perhaps in Nancy Guild's arms. And because she represented the new, more assertive role that women took while the men were away fighting, he became a sort of pet under her wing.

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post #193 of 1373 Old 05-03-2010, 02:10 PM - Thread Starter
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The Manxman (1929), directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

Friends since boyhood, a lawyer and a fisherman both love the pub owner's daughter. She and one of them will deceive the other. Tragedy.

This is not a favorite among fans of Hitchcock's early work, but I liked it more than I expected. Silent films must somehow communicate the thoughts of the actors without constant use of intertitles, with expression, gesture, posture, direction of glance. It's a balance between too much and too little. This one is very good at showing people thinking one thing but pretending another.

At one level it is just soap opera, but there are dark themes underneath. When a man falls in love with his best friend's girl, when she has made a promise she immediately regrets -- these can be deep waters. Even good people sometimes have unkind thoughts and wicked desires; Hitchcock shows us this.

There is a funny Romeo & Juliet balcony scene where the fisherman stands on the lawyer's shoulders so he can propose. Later, a sad scene: the husband returns home to a empty house (apart from the unattended baby). First he sees the table has been set for one instead of two. Then he finds his wife's ring and a note.

The copy from the Mill Creek Alfred Hitchcock: The Legend Begins economy collection is not very good. Enough is trimmed off of the left margin that I have a hard time reading some of the intertitles. They are available at the Hitchcock wiki.





-Bill
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post #194 of 1373 Old 05-03-2010, 07:22 PM
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Tonight I watched the 1971 film Von Richthofen and Brown (aka The Red Baron) ...

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... directed by Roger Corman. It starred John Phillip Law and Don Stroud as the titular characters.

I thought the production notes were more interesting than the film itself. People wander in and out of scenes without much significance.

The plot is weak and stereotypical. The film is apparently filed with many factual errors that undercut the historical significance of the film. Even the planes - magnificent reproductions - are not the right ones for the time periods shown.

So we have cardboard cutouts of famous persons and historical events inaccurately portrayed. Why did they bother?



The SD DVD, a Netflix rental, played well.

Dana

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post #195 of 1373 Old 05-04-2010, 05:53 AM - Thread Starter
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White Heat (1949), directed by Raoul Walsh.

"Made it, Ma! Top of the world!"

Cody Jarrett (James Cagney) is tough. His gang is tough. Even his mother is tough. The cops are pretty serious, too. They say Cody is crazy, but I think he just has headaches and a quirky sense of humor.

It's an exciting, good looking classic, but the high body count and casual killing make it seem more comic book than realistic.

I'm always watching for Edmond O'Brien; here he is the undercover policeman who seems to spend most of his life in prison.

This is one of the films reused in Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid.

Max Steiner score.



-Bill
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post #196 of 1373 Old 05-04-2010, 07:51 PM - Thread Starter
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Zabriskie Point (1970), directed by Michelangelo Antonioni.

At last! After decades of stalling I have finally seen Zabriskie Point. As Zonker used to say in Doonesbury: I didn't think I was old enough.

The photography is just gorgeous in spots. The content is more of a problem.

It seems to be a celebration of youthful revolution, counterculture, and a rejection of all the evils of America. According to this vision, what is Good: the young, freedom, cleansing violence, sex and weed. What is Bad: age, authority, the police, business, tacky consumer goods.

The plot is unhurried and meandering, but in summary we have:
  • self-important campus revolutionaries
  • riot and murder
  • a hippy who can fly a plane
  • a pack of feral children
  • great Death Valley scenery
  • a dusty orgy sequence where the people aren't really there but their impressions remain in the sand (Trippy, man)
  • a foolish gesture ending in death
  • a big-big house explosion, repeated many times
  • further spectacular slow motion detonations of all sorts of consumer products
  • the end

Either time has changed our perspective on this story or the director is more subtle than I had imagined. With time the normal, un-hip people seem more interesting and sympathetic: the old and poor, the blue-collar workers. When the police are processing some protesters, one gives his name as "Karl Marx" and the cop not only believes it (laughter), he spells it C-A-R-L (more laughter). It's like Norman Lear kicking Archie Bunker in the gut year after year.

One arrestee gives his occupation as "Associate Professor of History". The cop says "That's too long. I'll put down 'Clerk'". Did Antonioni see that the humor goes both ways here?

The movie was a complete bomb at the box office. I had the soundtrack on vinyl ages ago (probably bought it for the cover art) but remembered nothing about it. We have Pink Floyd, Jerry Garcia, others.

The young lovers had never acted before and did little acting after. They tried to live the movie afterwards, with tragic results.

Wasn't this announced for Blu-ray? I'm not seeing it on the lists now. The DVD is rather fine and I think a Blu-ray could be stunning.





-Bill
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post #197 of 1373 Old 05-06-2010, 07:40 PM - Thread Starter
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The Gypsy Moths (1969), directed by John Frankenheimer.

On a hot July 4th weekend in a small Kansas town, three skydivers bring their thrill show to town. Gene Hackman is loud and gregarious, a natural salesman. Burt Lancaster is laconic and brooding, maybe thinking about dying. Scott Wilson ("the kid") worries a lot.

Some great aerial stunt shots, just a few are faked. Good color. The town is realistic and has both the wholesome high school marching band and the seedy strip club downtown.

It's not a complex drama. Sort of a passion-and-danger soap opera. But the cast is strong and it is fun to watch the ensemble. See how Lancaster and Hackman deal in their different ways with William Windom, sad and passively malicious under formal politeness.

Each jumper has a bit of romance. Lancaster with unhappily married Deborah Kerr, 16 years after From Here to Eternity. At age 48 she does her only (very brief) nude scene.

Gene Hackman hooks up with stripper (or "go-go dancer") Sheree North. The "kid" holds hands with Bonnie Bedelia, age 21.

Elmer Bernstein score.



-Bill
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post #198 of 1373 Old 05-07-2010, 04:42 AM
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Captains of the Clouds ...

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... is a 1942 Warner Bros. war film in Technicolor, directed by Michael Curtiz and starring James Cagney. It was produced by William Cagney (James Cagney's brother), with Hal B. Wallis as executive producer. The screenplay was written by Arthur T. Horman, Richard Macaulay and Norman Reilly Raine, based on a story by Horman and Roland Gillett. The cinematography was by Wilfred M. Cline, Sol Polito and Winton C. Hoch and was notable in that it was the first feature length Hollywood production filmed entirely in Canada.

The film stars James Cagney and Dennis Morgan as Canadian pilots who do their part in the Second World War, and features Brenda Marshall, Alan Hale, Sr., George Tobias, Reginald Gardiner and Reginald Denny in supporting roles. The title of the film came from a phrase used by Billy Bishop, the First World War fighter ace, who played himself in the film. The same words are also echoed in the narration of the The Lion Has Wings documentary (1939).

In 1942, Canada had been at war with the Axis Powers for over two years, while the United States had only just entered in December, 1941. A film on the ongoing Canadian involvement made sense for the American war effort.

You can read more about the plot here. It's not particularly original. Initially, Cagney apparently was reluctant to play the lead, thinking it was another in a series of stereotypical roles. He's quoted as saying "I didn't like this story the last four times I did it and I don't like it now!" Actually, with the exception of a few fight scenes, I thought he was more subdued and carried the picture well.

Other than as a historical cinematic curiosity - the first film in color for Cagney, the first real (reel?) patriotic rouser to be shown in the USA very early in 1942, the first feature film to be made entirely in Canada - I think viewers today (at least I) find the authentic flying shots of real planes of that era the most interesting. That may have been the case when it was first released, too!

Among the bush planes that "starred" in the production was the Noorduyn Norseman seen touching down, and the Fairchild 71C above it, now displayed in the Alberta Aviation Museum.



Quote:


Much of the early footage involved a number of bush planes at the Woodcliff Camp on Trout Lake and nearby Camp Caribou on Jumping Caribou Lake. The aerial sequences were under the direction of Paul Mantz, long-time Hollywood stunt pilot, who used a Stinson Model A trimotor camera ship. MacLean's aircraft, CF-HGO in the scenes, was a Noorduyn Norseman flown by veteran stunt pilot Frank Clarke (who doubled for James Cagney in flying scenes), Johnny Dutton's silver CF-NBP was an actual Fairchild 71C bush plane, while Laurentian Air Service's Waco EGC-7 and AGC-8 cabin aircraft provided the other float planes.

Lots of scenes featuring bi-planes and Harvard trainers on location in several RCAF Air Stations at Uplands, Trenton, Dartmouth, Jarvis, and Mountain View. A "Wings Parade" at RCAF Uplands involved the actual graduation of 110 RCAF cadets. It became the most complex scene of the film. Undoubtedly, some of the young men we see getting their wings from the actual Air Marshal William Avery "Billy" Bishop, a WW I flying ace and well-known at the time in Canada, went off to fight in Britain and lost their lives. A tribute to them rolls at the beginning of the film.

The final chapter of the film is about the ferrying of Lockheed Hudson bombers to Britain from Newfoundland, Canada. The Hudson was designed and made in the USA but used primarily by UK and Commonwealth forces in WW II. A direct descendent of the Lockheed Electra used by Amelia Earhart on her ill-fated last flight in 1937 but little known here, it acquitted itself well.



As a shot from the preview illustrates, the planes and flying scenes are the real "stars" of the film.



The Netflix rental SD DVD played well.

Dana

"If you think you can, or think you can't, you're probably right." Mark Twain
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post #199 of 1373 Old 05-07-2010, 07:10 PM - Thread Starter
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The Killers (1964), directed by Don Siegel.

Brutal hit men Lee Marvin and Clu Gulager hunt for the story behind their last contract. This is kind of interesting, but the story they uncover is less so.

The John Cassavetes and Angie Dickinson passion sequences tend to drag. A lot of auto race track plot. Ronald Reagan has his last film role, unusually as a villain. The story picks up a bit when we get to the heist, but although I was curious as to where the money went, I can't say I cared what happened to any of the characters. Which is good because there won't be a sequel. (The Killers 2: Where is Everybody?)

The complete title is Ernest Hemingway's The Killers but the movie has almost nothing to do with the short story.

Nancy Wilson sings in a nightclub. "Johnny" Williams score.

The Criterion DVD has a fine image in most scenes.



-Bill
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post #200 of 1373 Old 05-08-2010, 05:22 AM - Thread Starter
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The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976), directed by and starring Clint Eastwood.

Westerns fell out of favor in the 1970s. Clint Eastwood continued making them and they are all worth seeing: gritty and real-looking but with heroic action plots. When seeing his movies I always have a shock of adjustment: it sometimes seems he is using scenes and dialog as blunt instruments, all fraught with drama and emotion and message. But inevitably he pulls you into that universe.

"Revenge" has been a continuing theme in his movies, a passion we all understand but still recognize as somehow dark and unworthy. Sometimes revenge is sweet (High Plains Drifter), sometimes it is dirty (Unforgiven) and sometimes it entails complete self sacrifice (Gran Torino). In The Outlaw Josey Wales we have a more complicated structure: the man who goes to war for revenge, then tries to escape to peace and freedom, still pursued by the objects of his revenge until he deals with them. After that cathartic moment he finds forgiveness and reconciliation.

In his journey West Josey picks up the lonely and oppressed, the other losers in the war of life, and together they try to find a new paradise in the wilderness. He becomes their Knight and is particularly good at rescuing women in dire straits, performing Herculean feats of gunplay. He makes peace with the Comanche because they have common cause against the White Man and his governments.

It's very moving. Josey is more or less dead after his family is killed at the start of the story and the war has not brought him back to life. It's only when he starts picking up the others and caring for them that he comes alive again. "Dyin' ain't much of a livin', boy" he says to one of the bounty hunters, a truth he well knows.





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post #201 of 1373 Old 05-09-2010, 08:35 AM - Thread Starter
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The Chalk Garden (1964), directed by Ronald Neame.

Terror-teen Hayley Mills meets her match in formidable governess Deborah Kerr, a mysterious woman with a secret history. She sees her younger self in the girl, whose problem is that she needs a mother's love and isn't getting it. This flaw runs in the family.

Fine little drama with great performances all around. Adapted from a stage play so the little speeches are emphasized, but they open up the scenes and get outdoors and in to town so the story is not so confined. John Mills, Hayley's father, is the decent, sensitive butler. They did several films together and made a good team.

The title is a gardening metaphor for raising a child. Plants won't grow in chalky soil unless they are properly nourished.

Malcolm Arnold score. The DVD is 4:3 letterboxed. A Universal Vault Series title, available for rent from http://www.classicflix.com/.





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post #202 of 1373 Old 05-11-2010, 04:40 AM - Thread Starter
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The Day the Earth Caught Fire (1961), produced and directed by Val Guest.

Superb UK-based end of the world story. It reminds me of the science fiction catastrophe novels JG Ballard was writing in the 1960s.

Cynical, angry newspaperman Edward Judd is divorced, can't see his son very often, drinks too much and is losing his job. His pal, science writer Leo McKern, props him up. He meets and falls in love with the wonderful Janet Munro just as it looks like the world will end in fire.

Simultaneous atomic testing by the US and USSR has knocked the Earth off axis and out of orbit and now things are getting really hot. Yes, the science is absurd, but that's traditional in SF films and I always forgive them. It reflects the reasonable fears of the nuclear age, as well as the frustration of countries caught between the superpowers in their global conflict.

Great hard-drinking hard-working newsroom ambience, filmed on location at the Daily Express offices. One of the paper's editors plays himself. I wished for subtitles at some points because the patter flew by so quickly.

Judd and Munro have great chemistry and their scenes are very sexy, even when sweaty.

A memorable ending:

Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Spoiler  
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The newspaper pressmen are waiting for the go-ahead to run the latest edition, waiting for an announcement as to whether there will be a tomorrow. We see a sample front page with the headline: WORLD SAVED.

Then the camera pans to another: WORLD DOOMED.

Waiting.


The texture of the image on the DVD has a strange look. It goes beyond grain to some other process, as if the film were projected onto rough wood. It doesn't much matter except in the low contrast scenes, as during the fog.





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post #203 of 1373 Old 05-12-2010, 11:59 AM - Thread Starter
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Rich and Strange (1931), directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

An early talky still showing the director's silent film making roots. In some ways a minor effort, it has many good bits and and quite a lot of wit. A surprising amount of location shooting in France and Egypt.

Big comedy setup, turning bittersweet. A young couple receive an inheritance that allows them to take a round the world cruise. They party hard for a time. When the husband is sea sick in the cabin for a few days, the wife (lovely Joan Barry) stays up late for a little romance with a distinguished older man. When the husband is feeling better, he has similar temptations with a fake princess. This is turning tragic until a "Titanic" episode brings them together again.

The title refers not to our leads (neither rich nor strange) but is from Shakespeare: "a sea-change into something rich and strange."



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post #204 of 1373 Old 05-13-2010, 06:20 AM - Thread Starter
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Fahrenheit 451 (1966), directed by François Truffaut.

The film is much different in content from Ray Bradbury's book and entirely different in tone. So much so that I don't see the point in comparing them. Each must stand on its own merits.

I wouldn't have imagined the book being done Truffaut's way, but as the film is, it is a bizarre ... well, I can't say "masterpiece". It's too quirky for that. What do you call a uniquely personal experiment that shouldn't have been tried [teen dating?] but, now that we have it, is watchable and even moving?

It's as if he took several angles on the story and shuffled them together:
  • The skeleton of Bradbury's novel: books are forbidden because they cause trouble and unhappiness. Fireman start fires instead of putting them out.
  • An added layer of fascistic uniforms and police state. A dystopian vision where people take pills and zombify in front of wall-size TV screens showing political propaganda and entertainment tripe. (Hey!...) (Montag's house has a flat panel display much like the ones we use today, but with scan lines).
  • Despite that, it is not a bad-looking world. Spiffy monorails and neat suburban houses with woods and fields.
  • Odd moments of absurd humor that pop up every few minutes: the slapstick discipline at the firehouse, the security sweep of the park, and when Montag and Clarisse visit her school the glimpse of the headmistress clearly shows her to be played by the nasty fireman, Fabian. When her bag is tossed into the hallway it scuttles along the floor under it's own power. Why?
  • The Burning. It is disconcerting to say it, but the several book burning scenes are hypnotically beautiful to watch. The pages curling and charring as we try to read them have a tragic grandeur. Here is a list of books shown in the movie. I read Defoe's Journal of the Plague Year only because it was one of the burning books.
  • Finally, the Book People in the woods end the movie with an entirely different mood, a feeling of escape and deliverance.

Oscar Werner has a little-boy-lost appeal that fits in with the images of a society where people are alone in public, touching themselves and their own clothes rather than each other. The flame thrower gear looks like clerical vestments and the burning is a sort of religious rite. He sins when he reads a stolen book. After a period of despair, he becomes an active apostate and eventually joins a new faith. I read that Paul Newman, Peter O'Toole and Montgomery Clift were considered for the role and Terence Stamp was actually cast for it. I wonder what sort of film it would have been with them, especially with the latter two.

Julie Christie plays two roles. From a review at the time:

...strongly supports the widely held suspicion that she cannot actually act. Though she plays two women of diametrically divergent dispositions, they seem in her portrayal to differ only in their hairdos.

I suppose standards change but that is just nonsense. I don't see how anyone can watch the movie and make those claims. The characters are nothing like each other and are played entirely differently.

Bold color design, especially in the reds. The fire engines knock you down. Nicolas Roeg was the Director of Photography. Truffaut was Hitchcock's #1 fan and he borrows some of his techniques: the track-and-zoom, the delirious dream sequence. I'm sure that's why Bernard Herrmann does the music. Exciting score, particularly during the driving and burning scenes.

We might maintain a list of films for bibliophiles starting with:
  • Fahrenheit 451
  • Prospero's Books
  • The Name of the Rose

No text, not even opening credits, appear in the film until about the 40 minute mark. By that time the page of David Copperfield comes as a shock.













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post #205 of 1373 Old 05-14-2010, 05:04 AM - Thread Starter
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Morning Departure (1950), directed by Roy Ward Baker.

During naval exercises a submarine has a catastrophic encounter with an old mine and goes to the bottom with twelve men surviving. This is the story of the escape and rescue attempts.

In submarine movies when something goes wrong it is one damn thing after another. This one is realistic in its own way, but does not have the frenetic survival struggle of Das Boot. It's more about the characters. The technical details of the diesel sub and emergency salvage operation are interesting and well done. It's all done with real gear.

This is something of a genre story in Britain, enacted in many films. The different types of men who serve in the Royal Navy and the different types of women who wait at home for them. The officers are mainly cool and competent, the seaman dutiful and enduring.

John Mills is the stalwart, unflinching captain. Richard Attenborough is the sad sack seaman who gets back on track during the disaster; it helps to have someone else to care for. Bernard Lee (later "M") and Kenneth More always look good in naval uniforms.

The movie was almost not released because after filming was completed the HMS Truculent had a similar disaster.



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post #206 of 1373 Old 05-14-2010, 08:38 AM
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Originally Posted by drbonbi View Post

...It's been reviewed by just about everyone. I won't attempt another. Just outstanding in every way....


Agreed! This new Blu-ray version shows what they can do with the old prints, making them visually current. The mono sound choice takes a bit of time to get accustomed to though as we come to expect remixes of the sound tracks.
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post #207 of 1373 Old 05-15-2010, 07:16 AM - Thread Starter
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The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), directed by Michael Curtiz.

A romp from a Warner crew who had already made several famous adventure films together. A fine picture for the whole family, but I've seen it so often I can start to criticize.

A problem is that another layer of fantasy is put on top of the standard swashbuckler: they want to suggest the storybook appeal of the old legends. This is a bit much because the mythology is so familiar to us. And perhaps the actors are in a comfortable groove and sort of coasting. It also hurts that the landscape is so obviously southern California. The action sequences pick up in the second half and this helps a lot.

Errol Flynn and Basil Rathbone could both fence and you can see it during their great swordfight. Olivia de Havilland, big round eyes, looks constantly kissable. In the extras she delicately describes a bit of wardrobe problem the excitable Flynn had when he jumped in a window to seize her several times: "an issue with his tights."

I heard lines quoted in a episode of the Castle TV series: "You've come to Nottingham once too often!" "When this is over, my friend, there'll be no need for me to come again."

Did you know that James Cagney was originally going to be Robin Hood, and that de Havilland's horse was later named Trigger?

Erich Wolfgang Korngold score.

The Blu-ray looks very fine, although I see a few Technicolor registration problems in spots.



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post #208 of 1373 Old 05-15-2010, 07:50 AM - Thread Starter
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Bandolero! (1968), directed by Andrew V. McLaglen.

Entertaining but formulaic western. Everyone knows how to behave during a bank robbery and when escaping from a hanging. Many familiar faces and the same old sound effects. And where do they get all those little leather vests? It's supposed to be 1867: shouldn't there be more Civil War paraphernalia?

The late-60s twist is to make the good guys dullards and James Stewart a spur of the moment bank robber. A little anti-hero sentiment. This is when westerns had to have a little funky jaw-harp music for background whimsy. But the bandit leader treats his female hostage more or less decently and she has nice outfits.

It's startling how many 1960s westerns have Rat Pack crew. This is one of several with Dean Martin. Raquel Welch's problem was that she was a notorious beauty and the filmmakers didn't let her do anything else.

Jerry Goldsmith score.



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post #209 of 1373 Old 05-15-2010, 06:15 PM
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As described here ...

Quote:


People Will Talk (1951) is a romantic comedy/drama directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz and produced by Darryl F. Zanuck from a screenplay by Mankiewicz, based on the German play by Curt Goetz, which had been made into a movie in Germany (Frauenarzt Dr. Prätorius, 1950). Released by Twentieth Century Fox, the film stars Cary Grant and Jeanne Crain, with supporting performances by Hume Cronyn, Finlay Currie, Walter Slezak, and Sidney Blackmer.

The film was nominated for the Writers Guild of America screen Award for Best Written American Comedy (Joseph L. Mankiewicz).

It's a lesser known film that features an A-list cast, writer-director and producer. The 1951 film was riding to a degree on Mankiewicz and Zanuck having won an Oscar the year before for All About Eve.

The plot is a bit light-weight.

Quote:


People Will Talk describes an episode in the life of Dr. Noah Praetorius (Grant), a physician who teaches in a medical school and founded a clinic dedicated to treating patients humanely and holistically. The plot contains two parallel story lines: a professional-misconduct challenge brought against Praetorius by his more conventional colleage Dr. Rodney Elwell (Cronyn), who dislikes Praetorius's unorthodox but effective methods; and the struggle of a distressed young woman named Deborah Higgins (Crain), who falls in love with Praetorius while dealing with an out-of-wedlock pregnancy. The film also highlights Praetorius's close friend and confidant, physics professor Lyonel Barker (Slezak), who plays bass viol in the student/faculty orchestra conducted by Praetorius.

But, Grant carries the movie aided by a strong supporting cast. In 1951 (I remember the year well), a "respectable" woman who got pregnant out of wedlock was indeed something about which "people will talk" - and not very favorably.

Jeanne Crain's selection as co-star is interesting since Mankiewicz is quoted as not thinking much of her acting talent.

Quote:


(She) (p)layed a character named Deborah in two Joseph L. Mankiewicz films: A Letter to Three Wives (1949) and People Will Talk (1951). Mankiewicz, who did not particularly care for Crain, once remarked, "I don't like the name Deborah, and I don't like Jeanne Crain."

Producer Darryl F. Zanuck was known to have had an "active casting couch."

Quote:


As with so many other moguls, extramarital encounters were a daily ritual with Zanuck. In his 1984 biography of Zanuck, Leonard Mosley claimed headquarters would shut down every afternoon between 4:00 and 4:30pm for Zanuck's 'amorous' activities. According to dozens of Zanuck's contemporaries, employees, and the women themselves, every single day at four some beautiful young girl on the lot was led into his office like a Christian to the lions. If they denied him, their careers were doomed.

Crain could have succumbed. According to news accounts at the time "... Anne Baxter was initially cast in the part (opposite Grant in "People Will Talk"), but when she had to forfeit due to pregnancy, Crain was given the role after all..." Let's leave it there.

The Netflix SD DVD played without a flaw.



Dana

"If you think you can, or think you can't, you're probably right." Mark Twain
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post #210 of 1373 Old 05-16-2010, 09:51 AM - Thread Starter
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The Wicked Lady (1945), directed by Leslie Arliss.

This is a pure example of that distinguished literary genre, the Bodice Ripper. In 1683, unscrupulous Margaret Lockwood just wants to have fun. And her best friend's fiance, a big house and lots of money. And her own way in everything. Bored with her marriage she sneaks out at night and becomes a masked highwayman, holding up coaches with a gun. She links up with another bandit working that stretch of road, the suave and dangerous James Mason, and they become partners in crime. After a night of stand-and-deliver, they retire to a room at the highwaymen's favorite inn for private unmasking and carousing. What could go wrong?

There is more story than that, but such is the exciting part apart from bawdy banter and assorted hanging, poisoning and smothering. The film is based on a novel suggested by a real legend.

I learned of this film from George MacDonald Fraser's The Hollywood History of the World:

...it fulfilled the popular notion of the Restoration as a time of flopping wigs and bulging bosoms (which it was) when gallants and wenches rioted in four-posters and discarded heaps of fashionable clothing. [...] a considerable success, it was rated the height of daring and vulgarity at the time, with Miss Lockwood being compared to Jane Russell, and cleavages having to be discreetly re-shot for the American market.

We do indeed have ample expanses of heaving bosoms and aggressive décolletage, but I don't know which bits had to be adjusted for the US censors. It is a product of the long-defunct Gainsborough Studios which by this time specialized in "a series of morally ambivalent costume melodramas for the domestic market mostly based on recent popular books by female novelists."

Available only in PAL DVD. My region 2 PAL disc is for sale in the classified section.



-Bill
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