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Review older films here: 1979 and earlier - Page 15

post #421 of 1259
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by hitchfan View Post

Isn't the evil spirit called "Bazoozoo"

"Pazuzu". It's been decades since I read it but I think that's from the original novel, as is the backstory about the demon's history with Fr Merrin.

and manifests itself by a grapefruit popping out of James Earl Jones' mouth or something like that?

Well now you've got to see it!

post #422 of 1259
Thread Starter 
Juno & the Paycock (1930), adapted and directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

One of Hitchcock's least-liked early movies, it's a filmed version of Sean O'Casey's stage play and a chore to get through. The wikipedia has a plot summary.

From the Hitchcock/Truffaut interviews:


AH: I could see no way of narrating the play in cinematic form. The film got good notices, but I was actually ashamed because it had nothing to do with cinema.

FT: Critics generally tend to assess a picture on the basis of its literary quality rather than its cinematic value.

"Paycock" is dialect for "peacock", Juno's sarcastic name for her shiftless husband.

post #423 of 1259
Thread Starter 
Lord of the Flies (1963), directed by Peter Brook.

I suppose everyone knows this story: shipwrecked schoolboys revert to savagery. I'd forgotten that a few holdouts argue for civilization and are eliminated one by one, until the frantic pursuit of the last one and the exciting, disorienting final moment.

It's an art film treatment with some striking photography under the tropical sun. Paradise already seems tainted because we know what's coming and it won't be pretty. When I hear "art film" I think "weird-god-help-us", but this is not so arty as that, and presents the story pretty well.

We don't believe in ghosts or the "Beast" some of the boys are reporting, but hunting and finding it are pretty tense segments. And, as one of the boys suggests: maybe the Beast is "us".

Filmed in Puerto Rico.

Criterion DVD. Subtitle track but no menu control for it.

post #424 of 1259
Thread Starter 
Dog Day Afternoon (1975), directed by Sidney Lumet.

One of the admirable things about 1970s movies is the film-makers' love for New York City during that stressed, unglamorous decade. Tough, gritty, mean streets, hard times, garbage, crime and corruption: they still loved it, and loved using real people and locations.

This is a dark, satirical tragicomedy with Al Pacino and John Cazale, together again, as hapless bank robbers. The police can't run a siege very well and the media and bystanders are loving it. Seduced by the attention, Pacino puts on a little revolutionary street theater ("Attica!") and even the hostages start having a good time.

The second half becomes more episodic with material not directly related to the robbery. We have Pacino's mother, his wife, his other "wife", and a medical emergency for the bank manager. We find the whole point of the robbery was to finance a sex change operation for "Leon" (Chris Sarandon). The cops snicker over this, but everyone else seems beyond surprise.

In one sense it's the little guy vs The System, but on the other hand, consider the mob of spectators. A mob is a dangerous animal: they love you, they hate you.

Pacino has an awkward, despairing intensity. Watch him after it's all over: defeated, grieving, no longer special, practically ignored, just another prisoner.

Cazale only made 5 films, but he patented this mute, depressed loser persona. All of his films were top notch. ("They keep sayin' two homosexuals. I am not a homosexual. I want you to stop them saying that. Stop.")

Lance Henriksen is the FBI triggerman at the end.

Based on a true story, they say. Available on Blu-ray.

post #425 of 1259
Thread Starter 
The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958), directed by Nathan Juran.

A children's adventure story with Ray Harryhausen's Dynamation special effects. Unusually, we start in the middle of the plot and get to the action right away. It's fun, but not as much as other Harryhausen projects.

The common sailors are "ethnic" actors, but as we rise to the leads they become Anglo-American, until we reach the genie who is apple-cheeked Richard Eyer, age 13.

I don't think a square-rigged sailing ship is right for Sinbad; he should be using the triangular lateen sail. I'm positive he shouldn't have a spyglass.

At one place on the island it looks like they are striding through a field of hemp.

Bernard Herrmann score.

Available on Blu-ray.

post #426 of 1259
Thread Starter 
Night of the Hunter (1955), directed by Charles Laughton.

This is an exceedingly strange film. Purely as a thriller, Cape Fear is a better Robert Mitchum picture, but this one has more dimensions and people talk about it more. Laughton's only film as director, it is better liked now than when it was made.

It's a collage of style and tone, sometimes subtle, at other times obvious. Mitchum is at first a comic villain, but then sadistic and crazy. The action can be cartoonish, as when he charges up the cellar stairs. It's often called a fable or fairy tale and perhaps some of the mood comes from the children's point of view, but the material is all mixed together.

It's good in a thriller to see a suspicious kid like John, who has the Preacher's number from the outset and is capable in a survival situation. In the end he doesn't want Mitchum shackled or hung; bad as he is, the Preacher is a type of Father. Such is the confusion of loyalties and emotions.

Many striking images, with a couple of gorgeous segments. The first is when the children escape and are bourn away on the river, surrounded by innocent nature, and Pearl sings her eerie little song. The river takes them to Lillian Gish (whose first film was in 1912 at age 9). She's a saintly tough woman with a shotgun; good thing, too.

A second fine scene is when Gish is sitting up at night, on guard while Mitchum is outside the house watching. He starts that hymn ("Leaning on the Everlasting Arms") and she sings along. It's like an angel and a devil singing the same words but with entirely different intent. Yet they harmonize. When she shoots him he howls like an ape or a demon.

I'd forgotten the last act. What's with the drunken lynch mob scene? We finish with a glimpse of homely paradise and Gish's homily on the endurance of children.

Available on Criterion Blu-ray, which uses the original 1.66 aspect ratio. My thumbnails are from a 1.33 DVD.

post #427 of 1259
Thread Starter 
Swiss Family Robinson (1960), directed by Ken Annakin.

I'm catching up on the family classics I missed in my first childhood.

This has a strong beginning with emphasis on the survival details essential to the best adventure stories. It succumbs to typical Disney diddling around, but comes back for a big battle with the pirates (who weren't in the book) which includes a massive exploding landslide defense, as well as coconut grenades.

Like the book their new land has every large animal species on Earth. And the film is set in the correct time period: they have flintlock firearms.

John Mills and Dorothy McGuire are mom and dad, both getting more action scenes than their usual films. James ("Book 'em, Dano") MacArthur is the eldest son. It's trouble in paradise for him and #2 son when Janet Munro shows up mid way. I remember her fondly from Darby O'Gill and the Little People and The Day the Earth Caught Fire. She had a brief life and career; alcohol was the problem.

The only other thing I recall from the book is that the family is exceedingly devout and often stops for prayer breaks. Well, that's fine, but I kept hoping one of the boys would say "Gee, Dad, could we give thanks later and just skin the crocodile now?"

Filmed in Tobago, but set in the East Indies. There's a bit with some dogs worrying a tiger that I think would not be allowed today.

post #428 of 1259
Thread Starter 
High and Low (1963), directed by Akira Kurosawa.

The literal title is "Heaven and Hell".

Hard working millionaire Kingo Gondo (Toshirô Mifune) lives in an air-conditioned mansion high above the city ("heaven") while a smart but ruthless kidnapper watches him from the sweltering slums below ("hell").

In the first act, Gondo is maneuvering to take over the shoe company where he works. Crisis: his chauffeur's son is kidnapped and the extravagant ransom will ruin Gondo if he pays it. Should he or shouldn't he? Gondo is a pretty good guy, but we see a weakness of the strong-willed man of business: he always has a reason for what he wants to do, which clouds his judgment.

This part culminates in a riveting money drop from a train.

Act 2 is about the intensive, detailed police hunt for the criminal. We have a horrific visit to Dope Alley, where the junkies look like the living dead. At the end we get back to Gondo. He says he is the same man, but he actually seems a better one now. Such transformations are very expensive.

The criminal is an enigma to the end: was it money or envy? Mental illness or intentional wickedness? Society's fault or his own?

Adapted from Ed McBain's King's Ransom (1959), part of the long running 87th Precinct series. McBain claimed to have invented the type of police procedural novel where the squad room itself is like a main character and individuals rotate in and out. In the 1980s he started adding humorous jibes at Hill Street Blues, saying they were stealing his ideas and owed royalties.

Criterion DVD with a detailed and wide-ranging commentary track.

Since I began posting thumbnails, this is only the third scope aspect ratio black and white film I remember. The others were The Innocents and The Day the Earth Caught Fire.

post #429 of 1259
Thread Starter 
Donovan's Reef (1963), produced and directed by John Ford.

You don't often get a John Ford comedy starring John Wayne and Lee Marvin set in a tropical paradise and filmed in lush technicolor, so it's worth seeing for that alone. And it's a Christmas picture!

It's fun but could have been better. The comic mugging is very broad and the sentiment syrupy sweet. The business with the bigger-than-life brawling, saloon-destroying old Navy pals: a little goes a long way. Well, sometimes you're in the mood for it.

Set in French Polynesia, filmed in Hawaii, it's Pacific fantasy with a mix of Hawaii, Japan, loads of comical Chinese and brawling Aussie sailors. That a beautiful young woman could fall for Wayne's ugly mug: only in the movies. And we have the King of the Uglies: Mike Mazurki as a gendarme, a terrifying sight in knee socks.

And yet: we learn a backstory that is strangely moving, of the War over 20 years earlier when the Americans were shipwrecked on the island and helped the locals fight a guerilla war against the invaders. Afterwards some stayed and some kept coming back. The Doc married a Princess and had three children. That the comical old folks have a serious history always comes as a shock to the younger generation when they unearth it.

Which leads to the race angle. In the traditional screwball device of a conspiracy to conceal what doesn't need concealing, they try to hide the children's parentage from Doc's grown, supposedly prim, Boston daughter. The eldest girl sums it up: "It's because we're not White." The conspirators get off easily for that one.

Edith Head costumes.

post #430 of 1259
As usual, a swell write up. Donovan's Reef was the last picture that John Ford made with his friend, John Wayne. In the Wikipedia article about Ford, the film is described.

Filmed on location on the Hawaiian island of Kauai (doubling for a fictional island in French Polynesia), it was a morality play disguised as an action-comedy, which subtly but sharply engaged with issues of racial bigotry, corporate connivance, greed and American beliefs of societal superiority. ... It was also Ford's last commercial success, grossing $3.3m against a budget of $2.6m.
I recall reading somewhere - can't find it now - after watching "They Were Expendable" that Ford also directed with John Wayne in a starring role, that the two suspected that Donovan's Reef would be their last picture together and that the party atmosphere was pretty real.

Ford was born in Cape Elizabeth, a suburb of Portland, Maine just across Casco Bay from my location. Portland claims him as its own and erected a statue in his honor some years ago that ...

... depicts him sitting in a director's chair. The statue made by New York sculptor George M. Kelly and commissioned by Louisiana philanthropst Linda Noe Laine was unveiled on the 12th of July 1998 at Gorham's Corner in Portland, Maine ... as part of a celebration of Ford that was later to include renaming the auditorium of Portland High School the John Ford Auditorium.
John Ford was a complex person who had a lasting influence on the making of motion pictures.

post #431 of 1259
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by drbonbi View Post
As usual, a swell write up. Donovan's Reef was the last picture that John Ford made with his friend, John Wayne.
Thank you, as always!

Someone should start a "Film Cures for the Winter Blues" thread. People in northern climes with hard winter, or anywhere with a dark and rainy season, need happy films set in Mediterranean and tropical climes.

I'll prime the pump:
  • Donovan's Reef
  • Much Ado About Nothing
  • Enchanted April
  • A Room With a View (Blu-ray!)

The last two are of a distinct sub-genre of stiff English folk who go to Italy and are zapped by the light, color, good food and romantic setting.

post #432 of 1259
Originally Posted by wmcclain View Post
Thank you, as always!

Someone should start a "Film Cures for the Winter Blues" thread. People in northern climes with hard winter, or anywhere with a dark and rainy season, need happy films set in Mediterranean and tropical climes.

I'll prime the pump:
  • Donovan's Reef
  • Much Ado About Nothing
  • Enchanted April
  • A Room With a View (Blu-ray!)

The last two are of a distinct sub-genre of stiff English folk who go to Italy and are zapped by the light, color, good food and romantic setting.

Looking out onto a snow storm, a classic Nor'easter, that seems entirely reasonable. But, I find little fault with light, color, good food and romantic settings - to include wine, women and song - no matter where it takes place!

post #433 of 1259
Thread Starter 
The Fortune Cookie (1966), directed by Billy Wilder.

When TV cameraman Jack Lemmon is clobbered at a football game, his shyster brother-in-law ("Whiplash Willy") Walter Matthau persuades him to fake a spinal injury.

Wry and acerbic, as you would expect from Wilder, but at 2h05m a bit long for the material. It turns sad: Lemmon hopes that his no-good ex-wife will return, but she's still no good. The football player who clobbered him becomes his best friend and ruins his own career.

Matthau won an Oscar for best supporting actor, beating:
  • The Sand Pebbles: Mako
  • Georgy Girl: James Mason
  • Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf: George Segal
  • A Man for All Seasons: Robert Shaw

He has many funny bits, but it's mostly one liners and comic expressions.

Andre Previn score. Another black and white scope film.

post #434 of 1259
Thread Starter 
The Lost Patrol (1934), produced and directed by John Ford.

One of the original "Lost Patrol" stories, now practically a genre: the combat unit cut off in enemy territory, the men picked off one by one. Other examples would be Sahara, Men in War, and The Warriors. Scholars say the plot goes back at least to Xenophon.

Set in WW1 Mesopotamia (Iraq), but filmed in California and Arizona, it looks more like the planet Dune. Victor McLaglen is the big Irish sergeant in charge. Boris Karloff is the unit's religious hysteric, although all the men crack up to some extent.

No twists and turns, just a straight slide to ruin. They all seem to have poor survival skills. They hate Arabs but remember fondly the dark women of other places. We don't see the enemy until the final moments.

Max Steiner score. Only 71 minutes long.

post #435 of 1259
I stumbled across this thread by following your sig link from the Oppo BDP-93 thread (mine should arrive soon, I hope, upgrading from my 971-H). It was a slow day at work so I got to browse all 15 pages:-) Anyway, I enjoyed it immensely. Reminds me of all the movies I've been planning to catch up on but just haven't got around to.
Given your appreciation of both Jacques Tourneur and classic American Westerns, I figured it was my duty to point you in the direction of Tourneur's remarkable Canyon Passage (1946), available as part of Universal's "Classic Western Roundup, Volume 1", with Dana Andrews, Susan Hayward, Brain Donlevy, Ward Bond and, best of all, Hoagy Carmichael. It's a stunningly-made film, beautifully shot with eye-popping colours and the best vertical compositions (it's 4:3) I've seen in any Western, John Ford's included. The story is great, too - well constructed and nicely acted.
It's not a particularly well-known film, but it's a real beauty. Track it down if you can.
post #436 of 1259
Thread Starter 
Gambit (1966), directed by Ronald Neame.

A heist film that is also a satire on heist films. I suppose that has become pretty common these days. The first half hour is the trick setup: the caper perfectly imagined, the cunning plan that goes like clockwork. Then we have the real execution, messy and comical.

It's pretty leisurely paced, although a final segment of stealing the precious artifact is more exciting. They've been talking about a remake for years; I suppose that will be more action oriented.

I don't think Herbert Lom has gotten the appreciation he deserves. The setup gives all three main characters the chance to play two roles: we have both the stiff fantasy and the screwball reality.

This was Michael Caine's first American picture. Shirley MacLaine got to choose her leading man and she wanted him. His autobiography describes his sudden fame and star-struck wonder at being dropped into Hollywood. One day he's just hanging around the hotel because he doesn't know anyone, the next he's flying in Frank Sinatra's jet and dating his daughter, Nancy.

Maurice Jarre score, too whimsical in the serious setup.

Universal Vault Series, available for rent from http://www.classicflix.com/.

post #437 of 1259
Thread Starter 
The World, the Flesh and the Devil (1959), directed by Ranald MacDougall.

Trapped in a mine for several days, Harry Belafonte digs himself out to discover the world has ended. He seems to be the last man on Earth. Everyone else has been killed by "atomic poison", radioactive dust with a short half-life. There are no bodies, but maybe that's just a movie convention.

He goes to deserted New York City. In a great scene he rings church bells and we get quick cut reactions from assorted stone lions. Then, in a reverse Crusoe moment, we have a shot of a woman's feet following him.

This is Inger Stevens, another survivor who spies on him for a while as he sets up house, electrifies a city block and starts cracking up. He throws a mannequin from a window and she thinks he's jumped and runs forward, screaming. Boy meets girl: what could go wrong?

The color line between them is strong. She warms up but he's not having it. He still has his pride and being an acceptable mate only because he's the last man on Earth is not very flattering. She has him cut her hair, which is awkward and intimate for both of them.

Third survivor Mel Ferrer, a man with attitude, appears and things get complicated. The men go for their guns.

The deserted city is well done and you can tell the makers of later films like The Omega Man and I Am Legend have watched this one. Stories about "relationships" tend to become soap opera and there is some of that here, but the plot keeps moving.

Miklós Rózsa score. I've been waiting for decades to see this again and it's a keeper. Yet another b&w scope film -- they're everywhere!

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

post #438 of 1259
Thread Starter 
Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965), directed Russ Meyer.

Three large-breasted go-go dancers, each in her own sports car, tool around the Mojave committing all sorts of debased mayhem. They kill a man, kidnap and terrorize his girlfriend, and try to find a cache of money at an isolated ranch belonging to degenerate locals. The leader of the gang violently dominates everyone else in the story.

It's not quite as heavy as the summary suggests, but as is usual with exploitation films that have become cult classics, it's tough sledding. Intentionally ludicrous dialogue with no acting required: it can be funny and offbeat, but that's not enough to sustain a full length movie.

Some nice desert shots; Meyer was a combat and glamour photographer and could take a picture. This film has no nudity as such from "the King of the Nudies".

post #439 of 1259
I am very much enjoying your thread here. Especially some of the primo BW movies of the late 50's and early 60's.

No mention yet that I've seen:

The Americanization of Emily (1964) BW

Screenply Paddy Chayefsky (I didn't remember that)

Directed by Arthur Hiller (also The In-Laws, one of my favorites!!)

James Garner, Julie Andrews, Melvyn Douglass, James Coburn

A really sharp movie, about cultures and people and "history". The chemistry between Garner and Andrews is excellent, brilliant performances. Coburn is a kick also. I've only seen it on VHS and would love it if someone would redo on a high-quality DVD or even BD. Reputed to be James Garner's favorite movie.

Next up is another film seldom mentioned,

The Duellists (1977)

Directed by Ridley Scott (his first major one I think)

From a short story by Joseph Conrad "A Point of Honor" --Historically based tale of two cavalry officers who over 16 years of the Napoleonic Wars met some 30 times to try and kill the other.

Harvey Keitel, Keith Carradine, Tom Conti, Albert Finney

Tag line: The Sword is Science, Loving is Passion, Dueling is an Obsession.

Incredibly beautiful camera work. Very nicely scored. Possibly the best period film of the Age of Battles (late 17th to early 19th Centuries), one other might be Kubrik's "Barry Lyndon".

Same as above, sadly I don't even think Paramount will consider an update of this flick. No real star power, as much as Keitel is great
in it, very little instant-cash fan base.

And just to round things out:

The Wind and the Lion (1975)

Directed by John Milius

Sean Connery, Candace Bergen, Brian Keith

also John Huston as a campy John Hay, Secretary of State to Keith's President Theodore Roosevelt. Steve Kanaly as the Captain of Marines who is having way too much fun.

I seem to remember that Milius consulted/assisted on Steven Sommers' 1999 "The Mummy", largely for locations and historical firearms.

The only DVD I've found of this is not of the best for PQ, and is stereo only. Still, a pretty jewel of a movie in parts. Score is very grand and sweeping. Does have some very good cast and director (The making of....) interviews. I always got a kick out of how they have the Marines go start a war accompanied by a marching band. Oh, and the war starts with the Capt. commanding "Prepare to Charge the Palace!" the troops go "u-rah", "Charge!" Great fun.

I saw earlier in your thread someone mentioned "Soldier Blue" (1968?), with a very young Candace Bergen and I think, Peter Strauss. I saw it in 1970 in a make-shift theater at Ras-at-Tanura oil terminal Saudi Arabia. Very disturbing view of westward expansion.

Anyways, thanks for the thread--very fun and interesting.

post #440 of 1259
Thread Starter 
The Steel Helmet (1951), written, produced and directed by Samuel Fuller.

This has one of the best openings I've seen in a war film: a steel helmet with a bullet hole, resting on the ground. Then we see a man is wearing the helmet. He moves very cautiously and we find that his hands are bound behind him. As he crawls forward we discover the rest of his unit has been executed and he is the sole survivor.

After that it's a combination of the hardcore and sappy, callous and sentimental, patriotic and cynical. There is no doubt that the communists in Korea must be fought, but great skepticism about how it's being done and the competence of the leadership. Some social commentary and a big two-way massacre at the end when the GIs are besieged in a Buddhist temple.

The low budget soundstage work tends to make it look cheap, but we have great tired and grubby faces: Gene Evans (the dad in My Friend Flicka) is the gruff Tech Sergeant. Richard Loo, who usually played the insidious oriental, is here an American soldier. James Edwards, the pioneering black actor, did a lot of good work in the 1950s and often had soldier roles. I see at least four more of his Korean War films at the IMDB: Men in War, Battle Hymn, Pork Chop Hill and The Manchurian Candidate.

This is said to be the first Korean War film, and the first to mention internment of Japanese Americans during WW2. According to the wikipedia, Fuller, a decorated soldier, had definite ideas about the film he wanted to make:


The film infuriated the military, which summoned Fuller for a conference on the film. The U.S Army was upset over Sgt. Zack's shooting of a prisoner of war. Fuller replied that in his World War II service it frequently happened, and had his former commanding officer, Brigadier General George A. Taylor, telephone the Pentagon to confirm it. In contrast, the Communist newspaper, The Daily Worker condemned The Steel Helmet as a right-wing fantasy.

Taylor is quoted in the film as the guy at Omaha Beach who said:


There are two kinds of people who are staying on this beach: those who are dead and those who are going to die. Now let's get the hell out of here.

Criterion Eclipse DVD. Optional subtitles but no menu control for them.

post #441 of 1259
Thread Starter 
I Shot Jesse James (1949), written and directed by Samuel Fuller.

In this version Bob Ford wants to quit the gang to marry his girl. He shoots James for the amnesty and reward. Things go badly for him and we have a noir-like descent to the tragic conclusion. Several incidents are used again in the recent The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford: Ford's attempt to replay the murder on the stage, and his encounter with a balladeer singing about that "dirty little coward."

Fuller's first film, it is a traditional looking western where the outlaws dress like gentlemen and everyone is pretty clean. Loud, lyrical musical score. It's mostly static and not very exciting, and yet there is something about it... part western, part noir and weepie.

It must be John Ireland. Soft voiced but with a menacing aura, he's much better than I remember him, hard but full of pain and guilt. He did it for love, but the act removed any chance of happiness. The director doesn't go soft on him, and neither do we.

Criterion Eclipse DVD. Optional subtitles but no menu control for them.

post #442 of 1259
Thread Starter 
Between Two Worlds (1944), directed by Edward A. Blatt.

A type of metaphysical fantasy that used to be popular and still gets made from time to time.

During WW2, ten people find themselves on an ocean liner headed for Heaven and Hell. They pick their own destinations. It takes them a while to figure out they are dead; until then everyone has to interact with everyone else in various psychodrama segments.

Sydney Greenstreet appears as the Examiner, a departed soul who sorts out the new arrivals. The rich and proud have a hard time of it, but there is some precedent for that.

Adapted from a stage play and it often sounds like it. In particular, John Garfield rants in playwright-speak. It is a bit much, but actually better than it sounds. Somehow the wheels don't fall off entirely. It descends into sweetness in spots, but the spiritual spookiness of the journey is never completely absent.

Korngold score. Many familiar faces.

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

post #443 of 1259
Thread Starter 
The Search (1948), directed by Fred Zinnemann.

A tale of the mobs of starving and ragged children of Europe at the end of WW2, filmed in occupied Germany and making use of the bombed buildings and rubble and apparently some of the children themselves. It starts with a documentary narration, but this is dropped after a while.

There is an agency (UNRRA) to feed and sort out the kids, but it is an overwhelming task. Many of them are from prison camps and are terrified of anyone in uniform. GI engineer with a heart of gold Montgomery Clift picks up a runaway and sort of adopts him. Miraculously, the boy's mother has survived the war and is searching for him. Will they tragically miss each other, or will they be reunited in the last seconds of the film, with a heavenly choir for background music?

It combines a grim, history-in-the-making story with tear-jerking sentimentality.

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

post #444 of 1259
Thread Starter 
Alfie (1966), directed by Lewis Gilbert.

"My understanding of women only goes as far as the pleasure. When it comes to the pain I'm like any other bloke -- I don't want to know."

In my youth this film had the reputation of a controversial sex romp with a famous theme song (which plays only in the closing credits). Not until I saw it years later did I realize how much better it is than that. It seems to be a famous picture that no one watches, with is a shame. Funny in spots, tragic in others.

Alfie is a lover, not a fighter. He claims to be a realist, just seeing life as it is. Affable, witty and live and let live, a lot of girls have a good time with him, as long as they don't expect loyalty, commitment or excessive generosity of spirit. In his asides to the viewer he tends to call his women "it", as in "It's getting all weepy now."

Sometimes he breaks his rules and becomes attached to a "bird", and when one has his baby he grows quite fond of the boy, while pretending it doesn't matter. Then health problems remind him of his mortality and another pregnancy leads to a wrenching abortion segment. So: what's it all about?

Sometimes his asides so dominate a scene that his actual dialogue, as during the doctor's exam, becomes secondary. They add a comical bar fight scene; I don't know why that keeps happening in films.

Alfie made Michael Caine a star and he tells many stories about it in his autobiography:
  • He initially used an extra thick cockney accent, but when the producers decided to give the film international distribution he recorded a toned down audio track. Shelly Winters, playing a sexually voracious older woman, said: "I couldn't understand a word you were saying. I said my lines when your mouth stopped moving."
  • Since he and Alfie were both cockney, it became common wisdom that he was Alfie, which irritated him to no end.
  • When first meeting Shelly Winters she said "Shall we **** right away?" Caine (aghast): "What?" Winters: "I like to **** my leading men first thing and get it out of the way." Caine fled, to her laughter. (She was kidding).
  • Denholm Elliott (one of my all time favorites) is the shabby abortionist. Caine wrote "He just showed up one day and proceeded to act me off the set."
  • He tried for the part when it was on stage and didn't get it and didn't imagine he could get the film, but a lot of prominent actors turned it down because the abortion segment was too risky.

Remade in 2004.


I could have dropped on the spot with the shock. All I was expecting to see was... Well, come to think of it, I don't rightly know what I was expecting to see. Certainly not this perfectly formed... being. I half expected it to cry out. It didn't, of course. It couldn't have done. It could never have had any life in it. I mean, not proper life of its own.

Still... it must have had some life, of course. And as it lay there, so quiet, so still... it quite touched me. And I started praying something, saying things like "God help me" and things like that, and then I starts to cry. Straight out. The tears were running down me face, all salty, like I was a kid meself.


It don't half bring it home to what you are when you see a helpless little thing like that lying in your own hands. He'd been quite perfect. And I -- I thought to meself... "You know what, Alfie? You know what you done? You murdered him."

post #445 of 1259
Thread Starter 
King Rat (1965), directed by Bryan Forbes.

Incredible presentation of the ultimate dirty, sweaty, disease ridden and starving WW2 Malaysian prison camp. From James Clavell's novel, based on his experiences as a POW. Strong Anglo-American cast.

On one hand the camp is well-ordered: they have a functioning chain of command, a doctor and hospital, and even a Provost (policeman) complete with bamboo cells. There are classes and plays and the food is weighed and rationed. No one escapes because there is nowhere to go. We don't see a Japanese soldier for the first 35 minutes.

But extreme conditions bring out darker influences. The ragged prisoners snitch on each other. Hungry people will steal food and when the officers themselves are corrupt, it can be very sad. This is one of the rare times you will see John Mills as anything other than absolutely heroic.

One man in camp is having a good war: American Corporal King (George Segal) an accomplished hustler and operator. He's well fed and clothed and has a retinue of lackeys to serve him. His nemesis is the Provost (Tom Courtenay, very fierce), just looking for an excuse to lock him up.

I kept trying to fit this into a known plot narrative but the movie doesn't behave that way. I was trying to see it as a western (the sheriff vs the gambler) or an urban noir (the detective exposing the corrupt world under the official facade), but there is no dramatic climax or even a single plot thread that dominates the others. We have:
  • The Provost vs Cpl King
  • The radical working class Provost vs the corrupt upper crust officers
  • The unexpected friendship between King and the posh accented Peter Marlowe (representing author Clavell), played by young James Fox
  • The struggle to maintain some human decency under vile conditions
  • The camp's transition following the surrender as the prisoners wait for liberation

What they wore: many of the men have dysentery and wear wrap-around skirts rather than trousers.

What they ate: rats (they had a rat farm), buckets of cockroaches boiled down to broth for the sick (they had a cockroach farm), and one prisoner's dog.

Here's James Fox and Denholm Eliott harvesting cockroaches:


DE: You really ate them in Java?

JF: Not only in Java. Here in Changi. So did you.

DE: What? Now, we agreed we wouldn't cook anything revolting unless we discussed it. We agreed.

JF: I know we agreed! You were dying. And why do we collect them? It's pure protein. For the hospital, for the seriously sick. You were sick, remember? You were dying.

DE: I really ate them, did I?

JF: You asked for second helpings.

DE: Well, next time I want to know. And that's a bloody order.

John Barry score.

post #446 of 1259
Thread Starter 
Gone to Earth (1950), written, produced and directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger.

A Powell/Pressburger title I had never heard of. It has their usual vivid technicolor and romantic composition. The small story is a bit of a bodice-ripper, though set in 1897.

Hazel (Jennifer Jones) is a slightly witchy young woman. She's always barefoot, studies a spell book, has a pet fox and all the animals love her. All except the hunting dogs. Regarding men: "I keep myself to myself. Eat in company, sleep alone."

Her father keeps bees and makes coffins. When he plays the harp she sings and hales men's souls from their bodies.

In a rash moment she vows to marry the first man to ask. The dangerously manly and masterful fox-hunting squire (David Farrar) stirs her blood, but she winds up with the mild and decent parson (Cyril Cusack). Vast disturbance in the community when the squire carries her away to his halls. It will end in tears.

The moral: innocent beings like foxes and young women cause a certain amount of mischief but it is sad when they are hunted by the predatory forces of the world.

According to the wikipedia article, David O. Selznick (Jennifer Jones's husband) reshot parts of the film and released it as The Wild Heart (1952), which is not as well liked.

It doesn't seem to be available as a region 1 DVD. The one I saw was a Korean import. Uncut, good color, but detail only fair.

post #447 of 1259
Thread Starter 
All About Eve (1950), written and directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz.

Theater stalker makes good, causing much off-stage wreckage. A chance for the actors to act up. A fine film, although talky.

But: fourteen Oscar nominations and six wins, #16 on the AFI list of best 100 American films? Really?

Watching it I can't help thinking about the actors:
  • Bette Davis: It takes courage to play an aging woman. Or for an actress to play an aging actress. I recall someone saying there are three Hollywood roles for women: (1) babe, (2) female prosecutor, (3) Miss Daisy.
  • George Sanders: Always deliciously evil, his off-stage persona seemed to match his performances. His autobiography was called Memoirs of a Professional Cad and his suicide note read "I am leaving because I am bored."
  • Anne Baxter: "Oh, Moses, Moses!"
  • Gary Merrill and Hugh Marlowe: seeing them together makes me want to watch Twelve O'Clock High again. Merrill married Bette Davis after this.
  • Marilyn Monroe: I always wish she had been allowed to play normal people. Try Clash By Night.

I've seen questions about Merrill's line when he hands Celeste Holm a drink: "You're a Gibson Girl." The joke is that (a) a Gibson is a type of mixed drink, and (b) the Gibson Girl was the turn of the century invention of Charles Dana Gibson, who drew pretty girls with hour-glass figures and friendly, slightly bemused expressions:

A bunch of theater references in the film go right by me.

Available on Blu-ray, rather nice looking.

post #448 of 1259
Originally Posted by wmcclain View Post

The Big Heat (1953), directed by Fritz Lang.

Watched this the other day and enjoyed it more than I expected. It's true about the women in this flick, they are all strong characters.
post #449 of 1259
1962 Harakiri - an anti-samurai film, or anti-establishment, very powerful. It's in B&W, not for the fainted heart.
post #450 of 1259
Marlon Brando's "ONE-EYED JACKS", it bears a certain purity. Mr. Brando both starred and directed this film. The most memorable scene for me is when he says to Slim Pickins, 'I'd say you shy a few manners Mister.'
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