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Review older films here: 1979 and earlier - Page 4

post #91 of 1259
I watched recently "The Man Who Never Was" which ...


... is a nonfiction 1953 book by Ewen Montagu and a 1956 World War II war film, based on the book and dramatizing actual events. It is about Operation 'Mincemeat', a 1943 British Intelligence plan to deceive the Axis powers into thinking Operation 'Husky', the Allied invasion of Sicily, would take place elsewhere.

The film was directed by Ronald Neame and starred Clifton Webb as Lt. Cmdr. Ewen Montagu, Gloria Grahame as Lucy Sherwood, Robert Flemyng as Lt. George Acres, Josephine Griffin as Pam, Stephen Boyd as Patrick O'Reilly, Laurence Naismith as Adml. Cross, Geoffrey Keen as Gen. Nye, André Morell as Sir Bernard Spilsbury, Michael Hordern as Gen. Coburn and William Squire as submarine commander Bill Jewell. It was entered into the 1956 Cannes Film Festival.

I read the book a million years ago and may have seen the film when it first came out. I bought the SD DVD about five years ago. But I'd never played it on my OPPO BDP-83.



Operation 'Mincemeat' involved the acquisition and dressing up of a human cadaver ... as a 'Major William Martin, R.M.' and putting it into the sea near Huelva, Spain. Attached to the corpse was a brief-case containing fake letters falsely stating that the Allied attack would be against Sardinia and Greece rather than Sicily, the actual point of invasion. When the body was found, the Spanish Intelligence Service passed copies of the papers to the German Intelligence Service which passed them on to their High Command. The ruse was so successful that the Germans still believed that Sardinia and Greece were the intended objectives, weeks after the landings in Sicily had begun.

It was only in 2004 that the true identity of the body was established.

It's a rattling good story. The film was shot in CinemaScope and while the SD DVD offers both a full frame and wide screen version, I chose the latter. OAR 2.55:1 anamorphic. It plays with big black bars top and bottom and stretched fully across the 16x9 TV screen. (If ever there is a good reason to have a large screen, this is it!) Audio was DD 4.0 which availability is not noted on the keep case. It's filled with UK character actors from that era. Apparently shot on location. In color.

It played well.

post #92 of 1259
Recently I watched the 1968 film "Madigan."

It's a police crime drama that takes place in New York City. I think it was intended to be an update - color, wide screen - of the B&W 1948 4x3 film "The Naked City." While it has some top notch actors including Richard Widmark and Henry Fonda, overall it isn't as good. Both films spun off TV series of the same name. Madigan ran for one season; The Naked City TV series ran for six seasons. I remember it well.

For one thing, the late '60s is a period that does not age well. Narrow lapels, narrow ties, narrow brims on men's hats, bulbous cars that bounce on their soft suspensions, ugly "fashionable colors," women's bee hive hairdos and rather laughable police procedures. A period piece. I lived through it and can only shake my head now at what I see. Widmark is always good. Fonda seems to sleep walk through his part.

On a Netflix rental SD DVD. Filmed in something called Technovision which apparently was akin to Panavision. OAR anamorphic 2.35:1. I used the 1.3 Zoom to get it to fill the screen horizontally with black bars top and bottom. Color. Mono sound.

Swedish born Inger Stevens had a prominent role in the film as Madigan's wife. In real life she died at age 35 as an apparent suicide in 1970, two years after the film.

It played without a problem.

post #93 of 1259
Recently I watched the just released on a SD DVD PAL Region 2 "Western Approaches."

For those that don't know, the term refers both to an area in the sea west of the UK



(t)he term is most commonly used when discussing naval warfare, notably during the First World War and Battle of the Atlantic during the Second World War in which the German Navy (Kriegsmarine) attempted to blockade the UK using submarines (U-boats) operating in this area. Since almost all shipping to and from the UK passed through this area, it was an excellent hunting ground and had to be heavily defended.

This film was originally created during WW II as propaganda for the Home Front in the UK with particular emphasis on the heroic role of the Merchant Marine. It was also a classic bit of cinema in that there were no professional actors used. All the men in the film are either in the Merchant Marine or Royal Navy. The disc was made from a print preserved at the Imperial War Museum.

I watched the feature, a short extra and then watched the feature again with the Director's Commentary. (Amazing that he was still alive 60 years after he made the film!)

Very interesting both as a documentary of a little appreciated aspect of WW II but also as a remarkable bit of film making under difficult circumstances. Technicolor. Mono audio of good quality. OAR 4x3.

The playback was problem free.

post #94 of 1259
Recently I watched "The Eddy Duchin Story" which...

... is a 1956 biopic of band leader and pianist Eddy Duchin. It was directed by George Sidney, written by Samuel A. Taylor, and starred Tyrone Power and Kim Novak. The musical soundtrack recording, imitating Duchin's style, was performed by pianist Carmen Cavallaro. Harry Stradling Sr. received an Academy Award nomination for his cinematography in the film. It had four nominations in total, but won nothing. However it was one of the highest grossing films of 1956. Some of its box office success can be attributed to the appearance of Novak in ads for No-Cal diet soda. Novak became one of the first celebrities to be featured in advertisements for soft drinks, and each ad also featured a reminder to see Novak in The Eddy Duchin Story.

I own the SD DVD, having bought it when I got my first HD TV set in 2004. But, I'd forgotten much of it so I decided to give it a spin tonight on my 47" LCD with my OPPO BDP-83. I'd heard some of Duchin's music which reminded me of the film.

It's in CinemaScope OAR 2.35:1 anamorphic, audio is 3.1. In Technicolor. I thought the film was a little soft focus, maybe intentionally done in those days to give the stars a break. Tyrone Power was 42 at the time and playing a much younger man. (He died at age 44 of a heart attack.)

It's a tearjerker that reflects a real life hard luck story. The music is grand and I enjoyed watching/listening to it.

post #95 of 1259
Recently I watched the 1957 Russian film "The Cranes are Flying."


The Cranes Are Flying, directed by Mikhail Kalatozov in 1957, is one of the landmarks of Soviet film and, in Josephine Woll's words, the first indisputable masterpiece of post-Stalin cinema. The film was instantly greeted as a revelation in the Soviet Union and became an international success, winning the Palme d'Or at Cannes. Even today, seeing The Cranes Are Flying is a moving experience, and it may not be difficult for contemporary viewers to recapture the sensation which the film is said to have evoked in those who saw it when it was new: that of a fresh wind sweeping through a musty house.

In large and small ways throughout the film, the filmmakers affirm their commitment to personal drama above public platitude. Early in the narrative, which starts on the day of Germany's surprise invasion of Russia (June 22, 1941), the hero, Boris (Alexei Batalov), volunteers for the front. Avoiding glib appeals to nation and duty, the film foregrounds Boris' reluctance to tell his lover, Veronica (Tatiana Samoilova) that he has volunteered, and the pain and anxiety felt by Veronica and Boris's father, Feodor (Vasily Merkuryev), when they learn the truth. The film goes as far as to undercut rote patriotismin what must have been perceived as a daring stroke in 1957when Feodor impatiently cuts short and mocks the clichés of a farewell tribute addressed to Boris by two girls from the factory where he works.

It's a Netflix rental. SD DVD. 4x3 OAR. B&W. DD mono sound. English subtitles. A Criterion Collection disc. It played well.

post #96 of 1259
Recently I watched the 1966 Russian film "Wings," one of two highly regarded films by Soviet-era director Larisa Shepitko released in a two DVD box set in 2008 by Criterion on its Eclipse label.


A decorated fighter pilot from the glory days of World War II, Nadezhda Petrukhina (Maya Bulgakova), has been rewarded by the Soviet state with a position as the director of a provincial trade school. This heroic woman, with the clear blue eyes and high cheekbones of a figure on a propaganda poster, now finds herself in charge of disciplining unruly students who demonstrate the same spirit of independence she once did, and hates herself for being the voice of authority.

Unfortunately, this promising director was killed in an auto accident in 1979. She made a total of four films.

This is a Netflix rental. B&W. OAR 4x3. DD stereo. I used the English subtitles. A well made film. It played without a problem.

post #97 of 1259
Tonight I watched "Across the Pacific," a 1942 action spy film depicting a Japanese threat to the Canal Zone on December 7, 1941 thwarted by our hero Humphrey Bogart.

There's a short subject on the SD DVD that puts this film in historical perspective which makes the film more interesting than solely as standalone entertainment. It was one of the first films to be released post Pearl Harbor, in 1942. It has a propaganda agenda, but so does "Casablanca," a film classic that Bogart made also in 1942 immediately following this one.

This film is no classic but is interesting until believability falls by the wayside towards the end. This is apparently because the legendary director John Huston (this was his third film) left the set and joined the war effort, leaving the final scenes of the film to be shot by an uncredited lesser director as confirmed here. It shows.

The actors are good. Bogart, Mary Astor and Sydney Greenstreet are reunited following their success in "The Maltese Falcon" shot in 1941. Victor Sen Yung who was better known as Charlie Chan's son gets to play a duplicitous nesei here. In a bit part is Richard Loo, who was typecast during WW II playing Japanese villains although he was Chinese in ancestry and Hawaiian by birth.

The title is misleading. Not one scene in the film takes place in the Pacific! Only in Hollywood.

On a Netflix rental SD DVD. OAR 4x3 B&W. Mono sound. I watched all the Special Features, all but one of which were also circa 1942. It played well.

post #98 of 1259
Originally Posted by Kilgore View Post

Whenever someone says The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly is Leone's best film (and it IS a great film), you can pretty much guarantee that they haven't seen Once Upon a Time in the West. Easily the greatest western ever made.

Fantastic cinematography. Charles Bronson's finest hour (with thhe possible exception of The Great Escape). Claudia Cardinale, one of the most beautiful women in the history of cinema. Great performance by Jason Robards. Henry Fonda as you've never seen before (playing a heartless, cruel villain like nobody's business). Another magnificent Ennio Morricone score.

This film also opens with the greatest performance by a fly in the history of the movies in a fabulous scene with the great Jack Elam.

I mean....what's not to like? Few films are as operatic as this one. The day this film is released on Blu-ray can't come soon enough.

Gotta listen to the commentary track or documentary - I forget which (probably the commentary track) that points out the homages and references to other Westerns and films.

OUATITW - I, too, prefer it to TGTBATU
post #99 of 1259
Originally Posted by hitchfan View Post

I'm going to have to agree with you there. The Searchers is the greatest western on so many levels.

The enjoyment of "Once...", "The Good, The Bad..." and the other Leone westerns is predicated on our being in tune with a certain comical quirkiness of his directorial style. Which is not to say they aren't entertaining. I like them quite a bit. But they tend to work more as goofs or riffs on what we had grown to expect from a western than as great westerns in their own right. And when the time comes that we are no longer amused by the directorial quirkiness, there isn't much else there.

My vote for a great western of another kind and a pre-1979 movie worth revisiting or seeing for the first time is Howard Hawks' Rio Bravo (1959).

But ya gotta watch THE BIG TRAIL in the 70mm version (both versions come in the DVD set). Awesome in scope and cinematography. And, it has John Wayne!
post #100 of 1259
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The Umbrellas of Cherbourg.

The remastered DVD is better than the original Fox Lorber one I have - better framing, better PQ - but this would be STUNNING in a good Blu-Ray edition. The colors, even the pastels, would hurt your eyes!

All the dialogue is sung - ALL of it. There's not a "spoken" word in the movie.

A radiant Catherine Deneuve.

Part 1/9 (don't know if the rest is on YouTube): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rQatoXwFLHM
post #101 of 1259
A few posts back are my notes on the playback of "Across the Pacific" on a Netflix rental SD DVD. On the same DVD is a well done commentary on the role of film in the days leading up to and following our entry into WW II. It includes some clips and theater posters from such movies as "Sergeant York" (1941), "Yankee Doodle Dandy" (1942), and "Hollywood Canteen" (1944). One actor who appeared in all of those and many more is Joan Leslie.

As a kid growing up in this period, I really liked Joan Leslie. So, I was taken aback to see Joan Leslie participating in the discussion! OMG! How old can she be? If the various references are correct such as this one, she was born on January 25, 1925. She got started in film early as a child. She looks great in this short subject, thin and still beautiful - with flaming red hair! (All the movies I really remember her being in were B&W.) She talks coherently and with feeling about her involvement in the Hollywood Canteen (The real one, not the movie about it in which, by the way, appears Joan Leslie!) and patriotic films of the period. She was active in movies from 1936 to 1991. She married once, in 1950, had identical twin girls, and lived with her husband for 50 years until his death in 2000.

A normal, admirable life by a one-time big star on the celluloid who worked in the motion picture business but apparently never was adversely affected by it. She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. I remember her fondly.

More here.

post #102 of 1259
I watched recently a Netflix SD DVD "Father Brown" Set 2, Vol. 1. The Netflix summary explains:


Father Brown (Kenneth More), a kindly priest turned detective, unravels a string of 1920s-era stumpers in this second collection of episodes from the long-running PBS Mystery series. Although he appears absent-minded, the clever clergyman is anything but, using his unassuming nature to get to the bottom of robberies, disappearances and murders and ultimately surprising the criminals who've discounted his abilities.

For some reason Netflix doesn't offer Set 1. As reported here:


In 1974, Kenneth More starred in a 13-episode Father Brown TV series, each episode adapted from one of Chesterton's short stories. The series, produced by Sir Lew Grade for Associated TeleVision, was shown in the United States as part of PBS's Mystery! They were released on DVD in the UK in 2003, and in the USA four years later, both versions by Acorn Media UK.

I was a bit put-off at first, having failed to fully appreciate that any TV series from 1974 is going to be 4x3 and likely recorded on tape. The opening credits looked very soft; the teleplays themselves are better. But, the plot of the first episode got my attention and I watched all three on the DVD before I put it down. Good fun if not technically the equal of current day productions. (But, after all, they were made 36 years ago for TV!) In colour.

post #103 of 1259
Not long ago I watched Night Boat to Dublin:


Night Boat to Dublin is a 1946 British thriller film directed by Lawrence Huntington and starring Robert Newton, Raymond Lovell, Guy Middleton, Muriel Pavlow and Herbert Lom. During the Second World War a refugee Swedish scientist is accidentally passing information to Germany through the neutral Republic of Ireland. British intelligence attempts to break this link.

It was recently released on a Region 2 PAL DVD that I bought from Amazon UK. I thought it was pretty good! It was interesting to see some actors who later became better known. Robert Newton in particular. Herbert Lom, too. Wilfred Hyde-White had a very small part. He later came to Hollywood and became a popular character actor with over 150 films to his credit.

More here.

B&W. OAR 4x3. Mono audio. It played well.

post #104 of 1259
I wasn't in the mood for anything too serious when I watched "Shenandoah," a 1965 film about the Civil War...


...starring James Stewart and directed by Andrew V. McLaglen. Though set during the American Civil War, the film's strong antiwar and humanitarian themes reflect attitudes at the time of the movie's release, toward the Vietnam War. Upon its release, the film was praised for its message, as well as its technical production. ...

It's a little slow and preachy but interesting when the action kicks in.

Jimmy Stewart plays the lead and is good as usual, if predictable. Stewart plays himself essentially just as John Wayne and some other big stars of that era did. In real life Jimmy Stewart was a WW II air force veteran, a decorated bomber pilot and squadron commander unlike Wayne and some other screen only WW II "heros." (As I recall, it was Wayne's widow who said his failure to serve in WW II embarrassed him for the rest of his life.)

The sound track - 2.0 mono on this SD DVD - was nominated for an Oscar. It plays as if this is an epic film, a bit pretentious. Technicolor. OAR 1.85:1. It filled my 16x9 screen.

post #105 of 1259
Not long ago I watched the 1956 British film "The Battle of the River Plate" by the director-writer team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. It portrays the actual battle of the same name in the early days of WW II (in late 1939 for the British) between a Royal Navy force of two light cruisers (HMS Ajax and HMS Achilles) and the heavy cruiser HMS Exeter, and the German pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee off the coast of South America. The German ship suffered damage and sought refuge in the neutral Uruguayan port of Montevideo. When it appeared that an overwhelming British naval force was waiting outside the harbor, the ship's captain scuttled the ship rather than allow the British a propaganda triumph (and soon after took his own life although not depicted in the movie).

This film was once available on VHS in the USA under the name of "The Pursuit of the Graf Spee." There is some doubt that it ever was released on a Region 1 NTSC SD DVD. TCM says not. I bought my Region 2 PAL SD DVD from Amazon UK some years ago. It was originally released in March of 2003.

This was an important film for Powell and Pressburger. It got its initial screening before members of the British Royal Family in 1956 and reportedly was the most commercially successful film Powell and Pressburger ever made.

For the battle scenes at sea (actually filmed in the Mediterranean), the heavy cruiser USS Salem played the part of the Graf Spee. Amazingly, the HMS Achilles was still in commission (by the Indian Navy) and played herself while the HMS Exeter and the HMS Ajax were represented by sister ships still in commission. The heavy cruiser HMS Cumberland which put in a remarkable voyage to get into position to thwart the Graf Spee from returning to sea was also played by herself. A stirring sight to behold as it is shown arriving on station.

I have read the naval history account of the battle of the Graf Spee and the film sticks closely to the actual facts. The Graf Spee is described as a "pocket battleship" but in fact was built by Germany to be a commerce raider and had relatively light armor, thus explaining how it was relatively easily damaged by British light cruisers. Also unusual for the time, it was powered by Diesel engines that could use lighter weight fuel than steam boilers. However, they required special equipment to refine the heavy crude oil available that necessitated fresh water. This proved to be an Achelles Heel when a shell disabled this equipment during the actual battle.

Although made in VistaVision for wide screen, there is some quirkiness about the film's OAR and it plays 4:3 letterboxed. When I watched it on my hardware modified region-free 83 connected by HDMI to my 47" 1080p LCD HD monitor using the 1.2 zoom feature, it completely filled the screen and looked great. I believe the 83 upconverts it better than did prior OPPO DVD players. (I've watched it a few times over the years with region-free OPPO DVD 981 and 983 DVD players.)

Apparently the OAR is 1.66:1. Color. Mono audio.

A bit of trivia. The film starred the UK actors John Gregson, Anthony Quayle and Peter Finch. Cast in a supporting role is a British character actor who later became better known in this country and I dare say in the UK, too, than any of the then "stars" of this picture. The late Bernard Lee played James Bond's boss "M" in the first eleven 007 movies between 1962 and 1979. He is one of my favorite UK actors. Every one of his performances rings true. And, besides, he looks a little bit like my father.

post #106 of 1259
Recently I watched "Murphy's War," a 1971 British film starring Peter O'Toole. It's really good!

The Netflix description sums it up nicely.


An Irish merchant sailor, Murphy (Peter O'Toole), survives a German U-boat attack and pledges payback. Rescued by a Frenchman (Philippe Noiret), he recuperates in a village hospital under the care of an attractive doctor (Sian Phillips). But more than anything else, revenge takes precedence with Murphy; he decides to rebuild an old plane he's discovered and prepares to take on the Germans all by himself.

I first saw this film on TV years ago. It's been available on SD DVD since June of 2003. Filmed in Panavision anamorphic with OAR 2.35:1. It plays with black bars top and bottom. Eastmancolor. Filmed on location in the Orinoco River in Venezuela and studios in England. Some scenes were shot in the sea near Malta. O'Toole did his own stunt work and actually flew a WW II sea plane, a Grumman OA-12 Duck, a frightening experience which is captured in the film! The plane used has been restored and is on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio

The German U-boat was played by the former USS Tilefish, an actual WW II sub in commission by Argentina at the time.

It's an original script and a lot of fun plus exciting to watch. (Some Nazi U-Boat captains did machine gun survivors floating in the water - the act that so enraged Murphy in the movie that he launched his own private war of revenge - a war crime for which at least one U-Boat captain was hanged after the war.)

A Netflix rental.

post #107 of 1259
Not long ago I watched "Sea Wife," a 1957 20th Century Fox film starring Richard Burton and a very young (24) Joan Collins.


Sea Wife (1957) is a British film, shot in Jamaica, based on the 1955 James Maurice Scott novel Sea-Wyf and Biscuit.[1] Set in 1942, it tells of the conflicts among a group of survivors aboard a small lifeboat from a torpedoed British refugee ship: a beautiful young woman (nicknamed "Sea Wife"), an army officer ("Biscuit"), a bigoted administrator ("Bulldog"), and a black seaman ("Number Four"). The story, told in flashback, is revealed through Biscuit's later search for Sea Wife, with whom he has fallen in love, unaware that she is a nun.

It's in CinemaScope. Digitally restored and released on SD DVD in 2007, only 50 years after the original! It's a modest effort. Author and film historian Aubrey Solomon notes on the commentary track that Burton was under a four film contract with 20th Century Fox, having made his big splash with the first CinemaScope pix "The Robe" in 1953, and didn't put much effort into this one to finish his contractual obligation. Nonetheless, Collins later wrote that he was a vigorous and charming presence on the set.

Joan Collins was a young and very beautiful up and coming star in 1957. Unusual for Fox, it was really an all-British film. Outdoor scenes were shot in Jamaica to substitute for the South Pacific. Indoor scenes were done on location in the UK. Roberto Rossellini was the original director but according to info I read on line, his version of the script had Joan Collins more amped up than the censors thought appropriate for a nun in mufti. There also was concern that the Catholic Church would object. He was replaced by the film's Associate Producer Bob McNaught, also a Brit. Probably more to the point, Burton didn't like the original script and said he wouldn't play in the film unless it - and the director - were changed. So it was - and he was. McNaught was a friend of Burton.

There is a racial equality sub-plot, probably cutting edge for the time.

OAR 2.35:1. It plays with black bars top and bottom. I used the English (original four-track for CinemaScope) stereo audio track. Color. An interesting if not outstanding film lacking in action and carried largely by the stars. A Netflix rental.

post #108 of 1259
A few weeks ago I watched the 1945 British film "Brief Encounter," which ...


... is a 1945 British film directed by David Lean about the mores of British suburban life, centering on a housewife for whom real love (as opposed to the polite arrangement of her marriage) was an unexpectedly "violent" thing. The film stars Celia Johnson, Trevor Howard, Stanley Holloway and Joyce Carey. The screenplay is by Noël Coward, and is based on his 1936 one-act play Still Life. The soundtrack prominently features the Piano Concerto No. 2 by Sergei Rachmaninoff, played by Eileen Joyce.

It is without a doubt one of the great films of all time, especially well known in the UK and undoubtedly a reference work for any film critic - which I am not. That much of the love story takes place in a train station only adds to its value; the Brits love trains and their stations. Witness the continued popularity of Thomas the tank engine!

It's available from Netflix. They don't make them like this any more.

post #109 of 1259
One of the best musicals ever made is the 1958 film "South Pacific." It won an Academy Award for sound and was nominated for the Oscar for color cinematography. It also showcases the genius of Rodgers and Hammerstein, the likes of whom we may never see again.

It was originally photographed on 65mm film, then transferred to 70mm film stock to provide for a sound track in the Todd-AO widescreen process which had fleeting success in competition with CinemaScope in the '50s. (A bit of trivia. Mike Todd was a broadway producer and was married to Elizabeth Taylor until his death in a plane crash in 1958.) It ideally was shown on a curved screen in big movie houses. There was a 35 mm road show version. I watched the general theatrical version in 2.20:1 OAR. It plays with black bars top and bottom.

It was released on BD at the end of May. It may be one of the best BDs yet produced. Absolutely smashing.

I used the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track bitstreamed to my AVR. Glorious. The sound track album was every bit as popular as the film itself.

It was panned by some reviewers at the time of its release but not by Bosley Crowther of the New York Times. Although he finds some faults - after all, he was paid to be critical - such as that the use of color as atmosphere doesn't come off as intended (too saturated and too late to reprocess the film stock before its advertised release) - he was generally positive.

Also at the time, the selection of Francesca Marlene de Czanyi von Gerber as the female lead - alright, we know her as Mitzi Gaynor - over the Broadway star Mary Martin was controversial. Mitzi, a personal favorite from long ago, is still pounding the boards at 78 looking fabulous. It shows what exercise can do for ya. For her anyway.

While many of the tunes are well-known to me, I had never seen the picture in its entirety. I was enthralled. The hairs on the back of my neck were up. If you've never seen it - don't miss the BD edition. It's available from Netflix.

post #110 of 1259
A while ago I watched the 1955 musical "Guys and Dolls," which I had never seen. Most of the songs have since become part of the Great American Songbook. I own it on SD DVD © 2006, having bought it before I signed up for Netflix which has it available. (When it was first released, I distinctly recall being somewhat distracted by basic training in the US Army and never saw it in a theater.)

It's another outstanding musical adapted from a Broadway hit along with "South Pacific." The "Golden Age" of Broadway musicals ran from the 1940s into the 1960s. (Guys and Dolls on Broadway starting in 1950 ran for 1,200 performances. "My Fair Lady" - 1956 - starring Rex Harrison and ingénue Julie Andrews ran for over 2,700 performances.)

To say that they don't make 'em like they used to ignores the reality that even then, having a musical stacked with big box office movie stars of that era like Marlon Brando, Jean Simmons, Frank Sinatra and Vivian Blaine was over the top. As told in the two Special Features extras, this was close to Samuel Goldwyn's swan song. As recounted by his son, he saw the Broadway production more than once and loved it. It was all about gamblers and Goldwyn knew a lot about taking chances. He'd been waiting three years for something that would be a capstone on his years of movie making. He hired Joseph L. Mankiewicz to direct even though he'd never done a musical. And Brando had never been in a musical. Goldwyn believed in hiring the best and not getting in the way. Mankiewicz insisted that the actors sing in their own voices. No overdubbing. No problem for Sinatra of course. Brando acquitted himself adequately. (His voice was spliced from the best segments of several takes.) The big surprise was Jean Simmons who had a lovely singing voice. Vivian Blaine sings like she did in the Broadway production - loudly. But, it's in keeping with her character.

Obviously, it all worked out. Although the book was written over 50 years ago, the jokes hold up pretty well.

Miss Adelaide (Vivian Blaine): The doctor says my cold is a chronic condition.
Nathan Detroit (Frank Sinatra): Yah, and it keeps coming back over and over.

The tunes are all familiar - to this old man anyway - but you don't "get" the context until you see the movie. Three new tunes were written for the film; five songs from the Broadway production were never sung in the movie but three were subtly included as background music. Frank Loesser wrote the words and music and was present throughout the filming.

Finally, the choreography by a relatively young Michael Kidd is phenomenal. Kidd lived long enough to be included in the Special Feature interviews and he adds a lot with his first-hand recollections. Many of the dance numbers are taken directly from the stage production since Kidd choreographed both. The film is an interpretation of the stage play and was shot in Goldwyn's studios, not on location.

It was filmed in CinemaScope. The OAR on this SD DVD is 2.55:1 anamorphic and plays with thick black bars top and bottom. Eastmancolor. DD 5.1. (The keep case says the original audio was 3.0. The Internet Movie Database says 4.0.)

The keep case claims it was "Remastered in High Definition." Even so, I thought it was a bit soft. That wasn't unusual in those days, however.

The two Special Feature extras are in widescreen 16x9 and really provide excellent background info including clips of the film to illustrate the commentary.

If you haven't already, watch it. You'll like it.

post #111 of 1259
A double feature. (Anyone here old enough to admit - besides me - that they remember when there were double features in movie theaters? Two movies for one admission.)

Both are recently released (in the UK) WW II era movies.

The first one is "Johnny Frenchman," a 1945 comedy that has more substance than might be thought at first glance. More here.

The second one is San Demetrio London. a 1943 film that recounts a stirring story of how a skeleton crew of a British tanker bound for England after loading oil in Galveston survives a shelling, abandons ship amidst many fires, then reboards it, puts out the fires and successfully sails it to a UK port. Ultimately, the crew gets prize money for saving the ship.

What's best of all, it's a true story.

Both of these films were well worth watching. Both were directed by Charles Frend and featured UK and French actors. They have been restored to first-class shape. B&W. 4x3 OAR. PAL. Region 2. SD DVD. Mono audio.

No problems with playback.

post #112 of 1259
Originally Posted by eweiss View Post

But ya gotta watch THE BIG TRAIL in the 70mm version (both versions come in the DVD set). Awesome in scope and cinematography. And, it has John Wayne!

I've seen that DVD in the stores and will check it out when I can. Wayne's appearance in so many notable westerns is truly remarkable. Right up there with Kelly and Astaire's connection with great movie musicals, Robinson and Cagney's with gangster movies, Karloff and Lugosi with horror movies.

I imagine just about every filmmaker who sets out to make a western is hopeful that his movie will be as well remembered and highly regarded as any one of a half dozen or more westerns John Wayne appeared in.
post #113 of 1259
Tonight I watched the 1952 British film "The Sound Barrier."


It is a fictional story about attempts by aircraft designers and test pilots to break the sound barrier. In the US it was retitled Breaking the Sound Barrier. The story was written before the aircraft flew at supersonic speeds.

It's an interesting film - maybe for all the wrong reasons.

On the plus side.

• It is one of director David Lean's early albeit lesser works. He went on to direct The Bridge on the River Kwai, Lawrence of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago among other more notable films.

• It stars Ralph Richardson, Ann Todd, a very young Denholm Elliott and other fine UK actors.

• For aviation fans, it has some scenes of rare, early jets both on the ground and in the air including the beautiful de Havilland Comet, the world's first jet passenger airliner. (An early model of the Comet suffered from a fatal metal fatigue flaw, however, which I thought of when viewing people getting on and later off one in the movie.) Also, a rare two-seater de Havilland Vampire and prototypes of the Supermarine Swift are prominent as is a two seat Tiger Moth biplane trainer.

• The aerial scenes were beautifully photographed by cinematographer Jack Hildyard.

• The black and white photography is particularly strong.

• It won an Oscar for Best Sound Recording.

All of which in my opinion is offset because the facts are wrong. It would have us believe that the Brits were the first to break the sound barrier as depicted in this film. They weren't. The first aircraft to break the sound barrier was the Bell X-1 flown by US Air Force Major General Chuck Yeager in 1947. There are other details in the film that are simply wrong, suggesting that the script was outdated before shooting began.

The most famous recent example of the same issue is the 2000 US film "U-571."


Though the film was generally well received and won an Academy Award, the plot attracted criticism for two reasons: firstly, it was British personnel from HMS Bulldog who first captured a naval Enigma machine, from U-110 in the North Atlantic May 1941, before the United States entered the war. Secondly, ... (t)he real U-571 was never involved in any such events, was not captured, and was in fact sunk in January 1944, off Ireland, by a Short Sunderland flying boat from No. 461 Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force.

The Brits understandably haven't quite forgiven us for claiming that the US Navy captured an Enigma machine from a German U-Boat when in fact the Royan Navy did. All I can say is that it might be payback for "The Sound Barrier" making such an atrocious mistake about when the sound barrier was first broken and by whom.

It's on a Netflix rental SD DVD. B&W. OAR 4x3. Mono sound. No extras. I used the English subtitles. It played well. Just remember. It's fiction.

post #114 of 1259
"Overlord" is a 1975 film that is unique and somewhat of a sleeper.

It is apparently the only feature film (84 min.) made in conjunction with the Imperial War Museum in London, which contains nearly 11 million items or collections.

In many ways, the film defies characterization. It is not a documentary although it uses pristine combat film footage shot by some famous WW II British combat camera men - and camera gun footage. (A supplementary feature describes this aspect in more detail. Some camera men lost their lives as a result of their insistence in getting up close before the days of camera telephoto lenses.) While the film was made in Britain, the director Stuart Cooper is an American. It never had an American showing until a film festival in Telluride about 40 years after it was made. Only then did it get into distribution in US theaters. Criterion made a SD DVD of it which was released in 2008. It's not a war picture; it might be better described as an anti-war film, yet the Imperial War Museum embraces it.

As described in the first link above, the plot blends fiction with fact.


Beginning with a premonition of his death, the film follows a young everyman Brian Stirner through his call up to the East Yorkshire Regiment, his training, his meeting a young girl Julie Neesam he dreams about and his death on Sword Beach. Director Cooper also includes footage of the London Blitz and bombing of Europe to emphasize the events leading up to the invasion and the comparatively short distance between England and France.

Unlike "Saving Private Ryan," the protagonist never gets onto the beach. He dies in the landing craft.

The cinematography is splendid. New footage was shot by Stanley Kubrick's longtime cinematographer John Alcott and it blends in so well with the archival film that one can't tell the difference. That's no coincidence; Alcott searched for, found and used some WW II era lenses and cameras.

The actors are very good but unknown. B&W. The SD DVD is Region 1 NTSC from Netflix. Widescreen. OAR 1.66:1 "Enhanced for 16:9 televisions."

A real gem that brings home what it was like to go to war as one small soldier in a very large undertaking who gave up his life in the doing. A film that leaves us wanting more. Highly recommended.

No problems with playback. I watched many of the special features, too.

post #115 of 1259
"Man Hunt," is a 1941 B&W 4:3 film that is more significant than I realized when I put it in my Netflix queue.

It starred Walter Pidgeon, Joan Bennett, George Sanders, John Carradine and Roddy McDowall, the latter in a small role who was all of 14 at the time.

But, the real significance is that it was a break through film for Austrian born director Fritz Lang who emigrated to the USA in the 1930s to escape persecution of the Jews in Nazi Germany. Lang was well-known in Germany as an excellent film director but had to prove it all over again in Hollywood. This film effectively did it.

The SD DVD was released in May of 2009. It went through a meticulous film restoration process. It played well on the 83. I played some of the Special Features on the DVD as well and learned quite a bit about its historical significance as one of the first anti-Nazi films Hollywood produced. It was about to be "investigated" by a US Senate committee in late 1941 as being too "pro-British" during a time when sentiment against getting involved in another "European" war was running pretty high in this country. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 and Hitler's subsequent declaration of war against the USA four days later resolved that issue.

A well-done piece of cinematography in its own right given the time. It was rushed through production which took only four months!

post #116 of 1259
Some months ago, I picked up on sale the four disc complete set of "Danger UXB," a 1979 British ITV television series that was shown on Masterpiece Theater in the USA from 1980 to 1981.

So far the DVDs have played very well and unlike some other "vintage" TV shows from long ago, this series has transferred well to DVD. Note: it was originally recorded on 35mm. film and apparently it was transferred to DVD from film, hence the superior PQ.

I hadn't expected to get "sucked in" to watching all 13 episodes but I have been. The stories are based on the memoir of a British bomb disposal officer. Real life exploits interwoven with a likable cast of characters. Other than the 70s style musical intro, there's no connection to the time period in which the series was made. Costumes and sets are very realistic of the WW II era. The British actors are unknown - to me anyway - but are quite competent.

This little series illustrates that with good writing, direction and actors, films can be made interesting without gratuitous "effects" or gimmicks. (About the only improvement I'd like are subtitles as the accents get pretty thick at times.)

post #117 of 1259
A UK Region 2 SD DVD edition of the 1956 film "Run for the Sun" is a well done adventure chase film with a first class cast including Richard Widmark, Trevor Howard and Jane Greer.

For some reason it's been overlooked. It was just released on DVD in 2007. I recently acquired it from the UK.

It played very well in 1.85:1 AR (The film OAR was "Superscope" 2.35:1, an off-shoot of CinemaScope.) with thin black bars top and bottom. Technicolor.

According to production details, it was filmed entirely in Mexico both in studio and in the jungle near Acapulco, Mexico.

They don't make 'em like they used to.

post #118 of 1259
A 1943 UK war movie, "Candlelight in Algeria" was just recently released after all these years on DVD Region 0! It stars James Mason who went on to bigger and better pictures and the lovely Canadian-born actress Carla Lehmann who appeared in several British films between 1939 and 1947 and then dropped out of sight.

Although as the NY Times said at the time, it's not a major league melodrama, nonetheless an interesting film based on true incidents leading up to the invasion of North Africa.

Black & white, 4:3 with DD stereo, it played without flaws. But, whatever happened to Carla?

post #119 of 1259
One of the finest B&W films ever produced is the 1942 film "Mrs. Miniver" which I watched (again) tonight.

If you doubt me it must mean you haven't seen it. So, try this on for size. As reported here:

It was nominated for twelve Academy Awards in 1942 and took home six: Best Actress (Greer Garson), Best Supporting Actress (Teresa Wright) and Best Director (William Wyler), as well as Best Black-and-White Cinematography, Best Writing, and Best Picture of the year.

There are some paradoxes. Though it takes place in England, it was "made in America" with a cast of leading actors, some of whom weren't British. (Walter Pidgeon was born in St. John, NB, Canada; Theresa Wright was born in Harlem, NYC. Richard Ney was born in NYC. Her obit in the New York Times states Greer Garson was born in County Down, Northern Ireland.) It is a WW II propaganda film with a message.

Winston Churchill called Mrs. Miniver propaganda worth a hundred battleships. The biggest box-office draw in a decade (second only to Gone with the Wind), it reached a vast audience, both in the U.S. and abroad. In addition, the patriotic speech made near the end of the film by the vicar of Mrs. Miniver's village was widely translated, dropped by air over German-occupied territory, ordered to be broadcast over the Voice of America by President Roosevelt, and reprinted in mass media such as Time and Look magazines.

Of course "Casablanca" is also a message picture.

As an example of cinema, "Mrs. Miniver" is superb. No gimmicks. B&W. OAR 4x3. Mono audio. The technical details are primitive by today's standards. The actors, screen play, cinematography - everything about it - is top drawer showing that talent trumps technology. On a SD DVD released in 2004.

post #120 of 1259
Thread Starter 
It's Love I'm After (1937), directed by Archie Mayo.

Quick and witty screwball comedy with Leslie Howard and Betty Davis as ham stage actors, and Olivia de Havilland (taking a break from Errol Flynn) as an adoring fan.

Eric Blore has some priceless lines as the devoted and very swishy valet. Spot Bonita Granville in the annoying kid sister role; she made four Nancy Drew pictures in 1938-39, later doing some film noir work I am still waiting to see.

Leslie Howard died in 1943 when his plane was shot down over the ocean. He will always be the Scarlet Pimpernel and Prof Henry Higgins to me. If he had lived he would be remembered as one of the century's great actors and directors.

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

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