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Review older films here: 1979 and earlier - Page 18

post #511 of 1259
Thread Starter 
Point Blank (1967), directed by John Boorman.

During a heist on deserted Alcatraz (it's a money drop of some sort), laconic Lee Marvin is betrayed by his wife and best friend, shot and left for dead. He survives (we suppose) and is after them and the money.

It's a strange, experimentally off-beat revenge film, tough at the outset but becoming wry and even absurd by the end. Since it begins and ends on the Rock, we have to wonder if it isn't all a dying dream and the characters just specters. The project was a collaboration between Marvin and the director.

A weakness is the crime Organization he goes up against: it's feebly white bread and unthreatening.

Angie Dickinson had "issues" with Marvin; she didn't like him (something to do with being hung out of a window by her ankles in The Killers). She shows motivation in the scene where she tries to beat him up, putting a lot into it, exhausting herself and falling to the floor. He was bruised but appreciated her effort.

The DVD has a chatty commentary track with Boorman and Steven Soderbergh. Since both are directors we get a lot of technical analysis as well as funny stories about the business.

Johnny Mandel score. Mel Gibson's Payback was based on the same story. The directors joke that he must have used the preliminary script that Marvin threw out the window.

post #512 of 1259
Thread Starter 
The Admirable Crichton (1957), directed by Lewis Gilbert.

Aka Paradise Lagoon. From the play by J.M. Barrie, now remembered only for Peter Pan.

Crichton is the perfectly proper butler. He knows his place and would never step outside of it. His employer, Lord Loam, is a Radical who wants the servants and aristocracy to mix and socialize. His commitment to equality is tested when one of his daughters is arrested at a suffragette rally.

In Act 2, Lord Loam, his three daughters, two suitors, Crichton and chambermaid Tweeny are shipwrecked in the south seas. Since he is the only one with any survival sense, Crichton politely but firmly points out that he should be running things.

Jump to two years later. Crichton is now the "Guv" and everyone else works for him. They have built a Gilligan's Island paradise with bamboo huts and hot running water. Everyone works hard and is happy. The women are all in love with Crichton and the men with Tweeny.

But: what will happen when they are rescued? Has the topsy turvy experience changed them, or does life go on as before?

It's all charming and pretty wry. I don't know what the moral would be, except: "You can't fight civilization."

The island scenes were filmed in Bermuda.

I've seen it announced, but I can't find that this was ever released on DVD in North America. My disc is a region 2 PAL import. The image is pretty bad. The DVD is slightly narrower than 1.33 and the IMDB says VistaVision 1.96:1. Obviously we need a new effort here.

post #513 of 1259
Thread Starter 
100 Rifles (1969), directed by Tom Gries.

An entry in a well-known western genre: running guns to Mexico, blowing up trains and having massacre-level gunfights.

Lawman Jim Brown has crossed the border to bring back half-breed bank robber Burt Reynolds, who has spent the money on rifles for peasant revolutionary Raquel Welch. Brown becomes tangled up in the cause, gets hot and steamy with Welch (an interracial novelty at the time) and when Welch takes even a mostly clothed shower under the water tank, you can bet the train will stop for her. (The disc is PG today; times have changed).

It's large scale and action-adventure-packed with fine Spanish locations. Jim Brown was still a semi-pro actor but is likeable and studly. Reynolds is funny and Welch gets to do more running, jumping and fighting than usual. Fernando Lamas and Eric Braeden are the villains.

Some of the dialog drags and the plot is a problem: a jumble of chasing, fighting, shooting, blowing things up, drinking, getting caught and escaping. The same director did the Rat Patrol TV series and you can see the similarity: lots of episodic desert action that doesn't get anywhere. We do have a final big battle: train vs town, both sides having machine guns and artillery.

Certainly not top drawer (as, for example, The Professionals) but I liked it better than the IMDB rating would suggest.

Exciting Jerry Goldsmith score and a rather good-looking dual-layer DVD.

post #514 of 1259
Thread Starter 
Twelve O'Clock High (1949), directed by Henry King.

War from the management point of view. One of the best, with an unusually spare structure: just the men and the mission, no wives and sweethearts, no "why we fight" lectures, no comically colorful characters. We don't go on a bombing mission until the last segment of the film. Some real aerial combat footage from both sides.

Gen Savage's advice to his men (all volunteer air crews, by the way -- does he need to kick butt quite so hard?): "Stop thinking about home. Consider yourselves already dead." His job is to figure out how much they have to give and get it all. He fires officers for caring too much about the men, but then, ironically, does the same thing himself, flaming out at the end.

I've heard this film is used in management training courses, which seems to me a spectacularly bad idea. I've never known a hard as nails, 100% committed to the cause boss who did any good at all.

The wikipedia article has details on the film and the real people who inspired some of the characters.

The B-17 belly landing at the beginning was the real thing: no models.

Alfred Newman score.

The Blu-ray resolution is a good upgrade over the DVD, but I see a lot of film damage in the first half, like a wavering or fluttering of large sections of image.

The sound is much improved, something I don't usually notice.

Grayscale is about the same as on the DVD: variable, very poor in spots. This is not a good demo for black contrast. The Blu-ray might blow out the whites in a couple of spots.

Despite the issues, if you like the film I recommend the upgrade.

My Blu-ray rental was from http://www.classicflix.com/. Netflix doesn't have it.

post #515 of 1259
Thread Starter 
The Manchurian Candidate (1962), directed by John Frankenheimer.

After being out of contact for three days, a squad returns from the Korean War and the men begin having nightmares about brainwashing and murder. One of their members is an unconscious sleeper agent, an assassin who will be triggered to kill as part of conspiracy to take over the country.

It's a great cold war fantasy that manages to satirize both the communists and phoney anti-communist politicians. It has quite a lot of humor, but turns progressively darker and tragic as Sgt Shaw is forced to commit vile acts. The climax is exceedingly tense, during a fine evocation of the hot, sweaty, boisterous political conventions of the past.

Fine cast. Laurence Harvey is tremendous as the aristocratically prissy and unloveable Raymond Shaw. As a weapon he is like a relaxed attack dog, ready for a command at any time. But in a painful sequence, he starts to break down because of what he has been made to do, and is eventually freed to seek revenge.

The timeless Angela Lansbury is his monstrous mother, actually only three years older than Harvey. You hear about Oedipus, Hamlet and Gertrude, but this is the only time I remember Orestes and Clytemnestra being mentioned in a movie.

Frank Sinatra is more troubled than usual and it's a good role for him. I hear he didn't like to work and the camera focus is not right on several scenes because he wouldn't do another take.

Janet Leigh was fortunate in her projects: Touch of Evil, Psycho. Here she is something like a tender screwball love interest for Sinatra, just what he needs to bring him back from a breakdown. But her quirky approach and odd dialogue make us wonder if something else isn't going on: is there another level to the conspiracy and is she Sinatra's controller? The director said he was just using what was in the book, which has nothing about that.

There are some clunky bits: using Henry Silva as a Korean seems odd now, and the big karate fight is not that special.

The David Amram score has the great Copland-like sound popular during the period. I should try to collect them all.

I remember nothing about the 2004 remake except that it was poor.

Available on Blu-ray, and pretty good looking.

post #516 of 1259
Thread Starter 
Hannie Caulder (1971), directed by Burt Kennedy.


You don't mind riding double with the dead man?

Another Raquel Welch western, R-rated and more brutal than Bandolero! or 100 Rifles. Lots of blood splatter with vivid red paint, a color not found in nature.

Welch's husband is killed and she is raped by three vicious but comically moronic bank robbers: Ernest Borgnine, Jack Elam, and Strother Martin. Wandering the desert she falls in with bounty hunter Robert Culp. After some resistance he takes her to master gunsmith Christopher Lee and we have a long segment of her discipleship in the gunfighting martial arts. Then she's after the Clemens Bros.


Lee: Fine looking woman.

Culp: Wants to be a man.

Lee: Never make it.

The rape and revenge plot would be pretty grim but the story is softened with some humor and light romance. Originally wearing nothing but a poncho, she later adds pants but still wears nothing else above the waist. It's a wool blanket; that must be rough. She picks up some snappy comeback patter.

The villains are just strange, as if wandering in from a different movie:


Martin: I stole a Bible, Emmett. Do you want to read over Frank?

Borgnine: You know damn right well I can't read! The hell with him anyway!

Would you believe there is a walking on the beach holding hands at sunset with girly music scene?

Stephen Boyd appears uncredited as a mysterious gunman. There's no explaining him.

Filmed in Spain.

post #517 of 1259
Thread Starter 
Prime Cut (1972), directed by Michael Ritchie.

Chicago mob enforcer Lee Marvin goes to Kansas City to straighten out some problems with Mary Ann Meats. Gene Hackman is Mary Ann. Like a knight errant, Marvin rescues sex slave Sissy Spacek (age 22, her first film credit) and deals with all the country tough guys who need killing.

An off-beat, low-budget crime story; I'm not sure there's anything else like it. The plot is barely coherent. It's all meat throughout, and the ambience not very appetizing. We open at the meat-packing plant where you don't want to know how the sausage is made: sometimes it's used to send hard men back to Chicago as tube steak. KC is grotty and looks like the Depression. We have drugged naked girls on exhibit in the hay at the sale barn. Marvin and Spacek have a strenuous afternoon running from a combine in the wheat fields, and there is a big shootout at the barn.

A lot of it is on location with real people at a county fair. I think this is supposed to be the weird and unwholesome underbelly of God's Country, but the effect has worn off over time and it all looks more normal now. Compared to the rural degenerates, the city mobsters are clean-cut: they wear suits and stay in nice hotels. Marvin, in particular, has tough guy style.

Lalo Schifrin score. Brief nudity.

post #518 of 1259
Thread Starter 
Seven Men from Now (1956), directed by Budd Boetticher.

Ex-sheriff Randolph Scott's wife was killed during a gold robbery, and now he's after the seven outlaws involved, who obviously should not be making long term plans. He helps out a tenderfoot couple in a wagon, and they are joined by shady character Lee Marvin and his partner who are more interested in the stolen gold and the settler's wife. We run out of outlaws by the end: one by one, and then there were none.

It's a combination of revenge action and tense personal relations. Scott's virtues as a western hero are readily apparent: the impassive, deep-lined face, upright posture, laconic manner and dry wit. But he also has something else that is harder to define: intimations of loneliness and yearning.

Lee Marvin is, as always, outstanding. Here he occupies a gray area between the sheriff and the men he is hunting. We don't hate him, but recognize he is on the other side of a line. He has a great "what the hell just happened?" moment in the climactic quick-draw shootout.

The director has a reputation for better quality westerns of the 1950s, but this is the first one I can remember seeing. I'll be looking for the others now. All have Scott and the plot outlines are similar to this one.

The DVD has an informative commentary track by a film historian and Boetticher expert. He says the film was restored and is "immaculate", but the video image looks soft to me. He calls it a lost masterpiece and says that Boetticher has been more appreciated by other directors than the public at large. But several titles are available now, so that may change.

Produced by Batjac, John Wayne's company. Only 78 minutes long. I don't know who sings the theme song: it's that painful type of men's western chorus I think of as "The Chuckwagon Boys". Lone Pine, used for hundreds of westerns and desert SF films, has exceedingly eerie rock formations.

post #519 of 1259
Originally Posted by wmcclain View Post

Seven Men from Now (1956), directed by Budd Boetticher.

The director has a reputation for better quality westerns of the 1950s, but this is the first one I can remember seeing. I'll be looking for the others now. All have Scott and the plot outlines are similar to this one.


There's quite a few that are well worth watching.
post #520 of 1259
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by rdgrimes View Post


There's quite a few that are well worth watching.

I forgot to point out that Burt Kennedy, screenwriter of SEVEN MEN FROM NOW and other Boetticher/Scott pictures, was also the director of HANNIE CAULDER (above) and a bunch of lesser-regarded westerns of the 1960s-70s.

post #521 of 1259
Thread Starter 
Murder on the Orient Express (1974), directed by Sidney Lumet.

Steaming west from exotic 1935 Istanbul, the luxury train is stopped by snow drifts and a man is found murdered next to Hercule Poirot's compartment. It turns out he was the mastermind of the kidnapping, ransom and murder of a little girl in America several years earlier. Poirot is on the case; this is the one where:

Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
...they all did it. Poirot lets them go because the victim deserved to die.

It's optional for Lumet completists, being mainly of interest to cozy mystery fans, or to those who enjoy the cavalcade of stars casting:

Albert Finney, Lauren Bacall, Sean Connery, Ingrid Bergman, Michael York, Vanessa Redgrave, Jacqueline Bisset, Richard Widmark, John Gielgud, Anthony Perkins, Martin Balsam, Rachel Roberts, Wendy Hiller, Denis Quilley, Colin Blakely, Jean-Pierre Cassel, George Coulouris.

It has to be slow moving because there are twelve suspects (and others) who have to be introduced, then questioned, then accused and explained when Poirot gets everyone together in the dining car for the traditional big resolution.

post #522 of 1259
Originally Posted by wmcclain View Post

Twelve O'Clock High (1949), directed by Henry King.


Glad you did this. I bought the BD and thought about writing a review but it's just not my "thang" compared to you and some others here. Funny how the cup looks like Clark Gable.

post #523 of 1259
Thread Starter 
Bob le Flambeur (1956), directed by Jean-Pierre Melville.

Bob the "Gambler" or "High Roller" is an older ex-con who has settled down to a comfortable life. He dresses well, has a nice apartment and drives a Plymouth convertible. He's well-known and respected in his part of town. He once saved a police detective's life and they are now pals. He tries to keep a young aspiring hood out of trouble and takes in a young woman to keep her off the streets.

He's up every night gambling compulsively, and after a losing streak, is nearly broke. He sees an opportunity for a colossal casino heist and can't resist getting back in the game. The problem: it takes a big crew and not everyone can keep a secret, especially from their women.

Can the plan hold together? Can the detective warn Bob off before it all goes to hell?

The heist itself in not particularly well developed and the final fifteen minutes employ a twist that seems more like a fantasy, a jarring intrusion into the crime formula.

Criterion DVD. Very brief nudity (1956!) Remade as The Good Thief in 2002.

post #524 of 1259
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by PooperScooper View Post

Funny how the cup looks like Clark Gable.

Well, he was in bombers during the War. Or it could be a souvenir from:

According to the wikipedia:


Adolf Hitler esteemed Gable above all other actors; during the Second World War, he offered a sizable reward to anyone who could capture and bring Gable to him unscathed.

post #525 of 1259
Thread Starter 
The Big Country (1958), produced and directed by William Wyler.

A grand, rich-looking western with several strong angles to it.

We have the East vs West notions of law and justice. Sea captain Gregory Peck is aghast at the violent feuding between two powerful families. But is patriarch Charles Bickford wrong when he points out they have to enforce their own law on the frontier? You'd think Peck, used to long sea voyages, would understand that, but as a newcomer perhaps he sees opportunities for compromise more clearly. And he might be wiser and more just than the others.

There is also the contest of characters: between those whose courage must be publicly displayed, conforming to a social code, and those who follow conscience and an internal moral compass, regardless of public opinion. Ranch foreman Charlton Heston is the perfect example of the former: the tough and virtuous cowboy challenged by Peck's contrary example.

Apart from that, the setting is oddly domestic: the West has been settled and now it's struggles over water rights, property titles, love and marriage. The big ranch house with grand parties is a frontier fantasy. The story has more comedy than I remember.

At 2 3/4 hours it takes some endurance to get through. A few "relationship" scenes could have been compressed. Burl Ives, Jean Simmons and Carroll Baker are all fine.

Available on a great-looking Blu-ray, currently a Walmart exclusive: a bargain at $10.

What an ugly original poster for a Technicolor film.

post #526 of 1259
Thread Starter 
Mogambo (1953), directed by John Ford.

Clark Gable is apparently content as a hunter, guide and animal collector in remote east Africa, when two women arrive the same week. One is wisecracking New York showgirl Ava Gardner who missed connections with her maharaja, the other is stiff and proper Grace Kelly, with her nice-guy-who-finishes-last scientist husband.

Gable must be drenched in alpha-male pheromes because both women fall for him instantly and he makes the most of both opportunities. We have minor Dark Continent adventures but it's mostly a talky love triangle that goes on too long. Some good locations (and some studio), but it's an unusually bland story and direction for Ford.

The women are fun to watch. My wife's judgment: Ava Gardner has a big wardrobe, tiny waist, and dimpled chin, but Grace Kelly was born to be a princess.

This is a remake of Red Dust (1932), with Gable in the same role. The DVD image is soft.

Safari and colonial outpost stories have three types of characters:
  • the natives
  • the outsiders who "belong", eg, the White Hunters
  • the outsiders who don't belong: clients, tourists, scientists

Women outsiders hardly ever "belong", although it happens now and then (eg: Born Free).

post #527 of 1259
Thread Starter 
The Quiet Man (1952), directed by John Ford.

I've seen complaints that this is a falsely precious portrayal of colorfully drunken, priest-ridden, always argumentative and brawling Irishmen. Hell's bells, all movies are fantasies, even the documentaries. I saw Oklahoma! once but never suspected the West to be populated by singing and dancing cowpokes. Do the Scots complain about Brigadoon?

The sexual politics of married life is the center of the film. In the old phrasing, Sean has a right to his wife's body, and Mary Kate a wifely duty to comply. She stonewalls him until she gets her dowry. He's too proud to insist on sex, although there are signs she wouldn't mind his insistence. And beyond that: she doesn't want the neighbors to know about the shameful lack of consummation. Not until Father Lonergan gives her a stern lecture does Sean get his wedding night.

Earlier, drunken Barry Fitzgerald views the broken marriage bed, with improper assumptions: "Impetuous. Homeric."

Many of Ford's favorite actors here. I particularly like Ward Bond as the fierce, hard-fishing parish priest.

Note that shirtless John Wayne looks nothing like a heavyweight boxer. And spot Festus playing the accordion at the tavern.

My DVD is from 1999. The color is super-saturated and the image is just vile. There isn't a bit of fine detail and many scenes have vertical banding. "Digitally Remastered" it says on the case, and the encoding is a generous 8GB. I don't know if there are better editions. 60th anniversary next year: Blu-ray? (What's the deal with movie anniversaries anyway?)

post #528 of 1259
Thread Starter 
Footsteps in the Fog (1955), directed by Arthur Lubin.

A Victorian thriller. Servant Jean Simmons learns that master of the house Stewart Granger has poisoned his wife. This gives her leverage over him, which works for a while, but she had better watch her back. Difficult to do if she has fallen in love with him.

It has the outline of a better movie and some tense moments. The stars, married at the time, have chemistry together. But it would benefit from yet more gothic atmosphere and some insight into the inner lives of the characters. Too much time is spent diddling around with another pair of young lovers and we have a comic interlude with their amazing new automobile.

We're remarkably ambivalent about what ought to happen: we don't like to see a murderer escape but on the other hand he is being blackmailed, which we also hate. The innocent couple are too bland to be of interest. In the end, as always, love-crazy excuses all.

Sony DVD-R, available for rent from http://www.classicflix.com/.

post #529 of 1259

Have you seen Vera Cruz 1954 yet? I enjoyed the western but the BR is coming out next week.
post #530 of 1259
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by dragonbud0 View Post


Have you seen Vera Cruz 1954 yet? I enjoyed the western but the BR is coming out next week.

Years ago. I probably won't have it high up in the queue unless people rave about the BR quality.

post #531 of 1259
Thread Starter 
Destination Moon (1950), produced by George Pal, directed by Irving Pichel.

Another early spaceflight film, more scientifically grounded than Rocketship X-M (1950) which appeared the same year. Technicolor and fine art direction make it more vivid than many classic SF films. One of Robert A. Heinlein's few screenwriting credits from that period.

We don't yet have atomic rockets, and the spaceship belongs to a consortium of industrialists, but the movie is prophetic in other ways:
  • that the space race would be part of the arms race.
  • that the first moonwalk would be broadcast; here they are interviewed on the radio, in our reality they had to endure congratulations by President Nixon (but were on TV!)
  • the moon is claimed by the US, but on behalf of "all mankind".

If you are an SF reader of a certain age, the nostalgia rush is strong in this one. All the aspects of early spaceflight are explained and meticulously presented: the exciting countdown and launch with high-G forces, weightlessness, and a space walk and rescue.

Chesley Bonestell's lunar landscapes are gorgeous. He was an important figure of the decade when rockets had wings and space stations were giant rotating wheels. In his books Heinlein used "bonestelling" as a verb for a type of artistic rendering.

On the down side we have the usual comic crewman with a Brooklyn accent. The last act has a dumb premise: that they won't have enough fuel to get home unless they lighten the built-like-a-battleship rocket by 110lbs. This is an SF movie cliche: they do the same thing in Sunshine (2007); there it is lack of atmosphere in a vast craft with gymnasium sized compartments.

Note the only real rocket footage they have is of a captured German V2. There weren't any others for a while.

It makes me want to read Heinlein's Rocket Ship Galileo again, one of his young adult novels from that period, a similar story on a smaller scale: a scientist and three teenagers build a rocket from surplus parts and fly it to the moon. They think they are the first, but discover a secret Nazi base. What do you suppose they do about that?

post #532 of 1259
Thread Starter 
The Battle of the River Plate (1956), written, produced and directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger.

Dana reviewed this last year here. Since then an anamorphic region 1 DVD has become available.

Just a few additional notes:

Other familiar faces include Christopher Lee and Patrick Macnee (later "John Steed").

It's one of Powell & Pressburger's most successful films, but I doubt if fans will rank it among their best. Still it's of interest because, although a patriotic history, the Germans are not demonized, which must have been hard then.

The narrative loosens up a bit post-battle when we have the military and diplomatic maneuvering. This section seems more Powell-like than the rest.

Brian Easdale gives a rousing maritime score.

post #533 of 1259
Thread Starter 
The Lineup (1958), directed by Don Siegel.

Based on a TV series, originally a radio show, meant to be a sort of "Dragnet in San Francisco".

After a slow first 20 minutes (which Siegel wanted to cut -- it's the "TV show" intro), the film comes alive when hit men Eli Wallach and Robert Keith arrive. As we follow them through their day we come to understand that they are psychos. They try to recover some missing heroin. In the final 10 minutes we have a deadly encounter with Mr Big and a high speed chase through the city.

The plot is ludicrous: do psychos make reliable employees? Do you have to import them all the way from Miami? Can vast amounts of heroin be smuggled inside tableware? Film noir fans like this one because (a) they revere Siegel, (b) they like the villains, and (c) there are many scenes around SF.

Eli Wallach's second film, the first being Baby Doll. Robert Keith was last seen as the catatonic Colonel in Men in War.

The DVD commentary track is by film noir expert Eddie Muller and novelist James Ellroy, who thinks he's a shock jock. They're having too much fun to be very informative, but care about the film enough to settle down now and then and discuss it.

post #534 of 1259
Thread Starter 
Some Like It Hot (1959), produced and directed by Billy Wilder.

After witnessing a gangland massacre, two musicians hide out in a girl band. It's a classic: nonstop quips and sexy situations. In the second half Marilyn Monroe is the nakedest-looking dressed woman I have ever seen.

I think you have to be in a certain mood for this one. It's the Monty Python formula for comedy: put on dresses and shriek a lot. How much you like it depends on your opinion of: how funny is Jack Lemmon? How roguishly charming is Tony Curtis? How comically alluring is hard-drinking Marilyn Monroe? None of these points have unanimous agreement.

I'd forgotten the big ugly gangsters, including Mike Mazurki, last seen in Night and the City.

The Blu-ray is a big upgrade over my old non-anamorphic DVD and is available for rent from http://www.classicflix.com/. Netflix doesn't have it.

post #535 of 1259
Everyone is entitled to his/her opinion, but I think SLIH is a great movie no matter what mood you are in. The AFI must agree having named it in 2000 the funniest comedy every made.

Even if for nothing else it is worth watching for two reasons: the dress Marilyn Monroe is almost wearing while singing in the club (as obvious from the pics above) and possibly the best last line in any movie.

post #536 of 1259
Thread Starter 
Spellbound (1945), directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

Dr Edwardes (Gregory Peck) arrives to take charge of a mental hospital and it's love at first sight with brainy shrink Ingrid Bergman. But he's acting strangely and it seems he is not really Edwardes, he's just under some traumatic delusion. Actually he has amnesia and feels tremendously guilty about something, and he's pretty sure the real Edwardes is dead...

Then it's off on the old double chase, with the police pursuing the couple, and they, unusually for Hitchcock, searching not for the real killer, but instead for Peck's lost memory. The escape and evasion segments are nicely done, with the added tension of wondering if he isn't a psycho who might kill her before it's all over. In a nice last act twist we have a real killer.

Some notable components:
  • A plot heavy with psychotherapy, as producer Selznick wanted.
  • A bizarre dream sequence by Salvador DalÃ*.
  • Miklós Rózsa score (Oscar for best music that year). Theremin!

According to the wikipedia article Hitchcock was irritated by each of these elements. In the Truffaut interviews he takes a bit more credit but says screenwriter Ben Hecht was the psychotherapy enthusiast. His final judgment: "The whole thing's too complicated, and I found the explanations toward the end very confusing." (He's often hard on himself in that book, but also note he didn't have control over the final film in those days).

The rear projection on the simulated skiing scene is notably bad, as is often the case in his pictures. He hated location shooting and I suspect just didn't care about a certain level of realism: the audience had to contribute some amount of imagination.

Freud and psychotherapy cast a huge shadow over the 20th century, seeming both scientific and avant garde. That's faded out now and it seems more cult-like in retrospect. [An afterthought: the movie undermines it's own therapeutic plot. In the end it is love and woman's intuition that is correct, not Freud].

post #537 of 1259
Thread Starter 
Theater of Blood (1973), directed by Douglas Hickox.

Who is killing off the critics of England in gruesomely theatrical ways? It's ham actor Vincent Price exacting his revenge by "staging" murders taken from Shakespeare. Thought to be dead, he's actually in various disguises, assisted by loyal and murderous daughter Diana Rigg and a team of drunken and deranged street people.

I count eight critics down, a good score. (One is in jail for strangling his wife, Othello-like: that's Diana Dors getting a massage in the thumbnails). It's the same cycle each time with variations: pick the next critic, lure him to the killing location, reveal the truth and perform sadistic execution by some more-or-less textual method, while declaiming appropriate passages from the Bard. When the police start protecting the remaining critics, it's fun to see how our avengers will get past them.

Actors killing critics: that was probably easy casting. It's a combination of British understatement with luridly violent murders and is actually kind of creepy in spots.

Said to be one of Price's favorites.

"You begin to resent an actor if you always have to give him bad notices" -- early line by the only surviving critic. "A remarkable performance. He was overacting as usual, but he knew how to make an exit" -- final line by same.

The DVD is in print; 4:3 letterboxed. Netflix has the title online but not on disc.

post #538 of 1259
Thread Starter 
Savage Messiah (1972), produced and directed by Ken Russell.

Another entry in the director's "lives of the artists" series, this time about Henri Gaudier-Brzeska (previously unknown to me), a young French sculptor who fell in love with a much older Polish woman, a writer. He died in the WW1 trenches, age 23.

The first half is remarkably fine-looking: a colorful, well-photographed, vigorous love story. Many of his earlier biopics were made for TV and were constrained by the small box; his later ones (Lisztomania) become too strange to enjoy. Here he takes full advantage of the big screen and shows a skilled eye for relaxed, natural composition.

Then the director's innate excessiveness comes out and the story becomes more silly and irritating. Gangs of artists tend to be loud, rude and expansively affected. I think this is supposed to indicate their genius, but it's probably Russell's soul as well. The plot stops making any progress.

Young Helen Mirren models all of her abundant charms; see Michael Powell's Age of Consent for more of the same by same. She really didn't want to do it and considered breaking her leg instead. But she seems very relaxed on screen. Full frontal Helen.

A Warner Archive title, "Remastered Edition", and it does look pretty good. I don't see it for rent anywhere: Deep Discount's price is quite a bit better than Amazon's.

post #539 of 1259
Saw the orginial Pelham the other day and was very pleased. Any ideas of other movies from that era
post #540 of 1259
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by buddywhite View Post

Saw the orginial Pelham the other day and was very pleased. Any ideas of other movies from that era

You mean urban crime dramas of the 1970s? It was a good period. Maybe:

Dog Day Afternoon (reviewed above)
The French Connection
Marathon Man
The Conversation
Chinatown (set earlier)
The Anderson Tapes

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