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post #751 of 2290 Old 06-07-2012, 05:30 AM - Thread Starter
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It Came from Outer Space (1953), directed by Jack Arnold.

I have an enduring fondness for 1950s science fiction movies, no doubt because I lived on them when young. Universal's titles, often directed by Jack Arnold in the California desert, were central to the genre, and this one played almost continually on TV back then.

I think it's one of the best. I love the eerie theramin ambience and admire the boldness of having totally non-humanoid aliens.

Barbara Rush is exceedingly beautiful and actually lethal in an evening gown. She screams as required.

From a story by Ray Bradbury and he wrote the screenplay but didn't get credit. You can hear his dialogue in a few places, such as the musings on the desert by the linemen and prospectors.

It was commended for its restrained use of 3D. I saw a 3D showing once and found the effect gimmicky, but I'm the wrong person to consult about that art form. I think the composition and photography are quite nice. The mixture of location, studio, and rear projection shots can be annoying, but in this case I think the mix contributes story-telling power.

The DVD has a busy commentary track by a SF film authority. I thought he said that this was a widescreen picture, but I can't find references to it being other than 1.37:1.

He also debunks the notion that this is a rare SF picture with benevolent aliens; they were not uncommon back then. On the other hand, these visitors don't give many reasons to trust them and he thinks our hero Richard Carlson is nuts to do so.

While preparing this I heard that Ray Bradbury had died. He was an incredible writer. His Something Wicked This Way Comes was one of my favorites way back then and very strange: don't the boys climb a tree to watch an orgy? How did that get into the school library? I didn't read Dandelion Wine until I was an adult.

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-Bill

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post #752 of 2290 Old 06-08-2012, 12:33 PM
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Chinatown (1974), directed by Roman Polanski.



Beautiful, seductive Jerry Goldsmith score, written in 10 days. Using horns instead of saxes or violins was just perfect.


Available on Blu-ray. Uncensored, adulatory commentary from big fan David Fincher and writer Robert Towne.

This film never gets old. Thanks for reminding me about the commentary. A great excuse to grab the BD wink.gif
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post #753 of 2290 Old 06-10-2012, 05:20 AM - Thread Starter
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The Detective (1968), directed by Gordon Douglas.

Frank Sinatra plays a hard working, serious police detective. He reflects on an unhappy marriage with Lee Remick (she's a sex addict who can't help stepping out and sleeping with strangers) while investigating two seemingly unrelated cases: the murder and mutilation of a wealthy gay man, and the apparent suicide of a man involved in political corruption. Both cases come together in the end.

It brings a new grittiness to the police procedural and blunt talk about homosexuality that I don't think we had before. The police station is actually pretty clean; it would become grungier in a few years.

Surrounded by bad cops, the Detective is incorruptible but also hard, ambitious but ambivalent about doing the political maneuvering necessary to advance. He can extract a confession from a psycho suspect, but is something of a radical, defending protesters and expressing outrage because of the little people harmed by corruption. When asked if he minds dealing with gays on the murder case he shrugs: "I've got my own bag." A bag of trouble.

With Jacqueline Bisset, age 24. Robert Duvall and Ralph Meeker are bad cops.

Jerry Goldsmith score.

This is from the 10-disc "Frank Sinatra Film Collection." The titles I've seen so far have all been anamorphic and dual-layer.

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post #754 of 2290 Old 06-11-2012, 05:16 AM - Thread Starter
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The Man with the Golden Gun (1974), directed by Guy Hamilton

When he is targeted for death, James Bond must find the mysterious master assassin first.

In Bond #9, Roger Moore's second, the emphasis is on action-comedy. The plot is a matter of "who cares?" and this entry is near the bottom of most lists. That's too bad; it's smoothly produced, has few gadgets and looks better than I recall. But there is just a general lack of energy and interest from all concerned. The hot topics of the period were the energy crisis, solar power, and a new fascination with martial arts. All the locations are East of Suez this time: Beirut, Macau, Hong Kong, Bangkok and somewhere in the China Sea.

Christopher Lee is one of the better Bond villains, although we never get a fix on him and his agenda: sex, money, power, killing? Too bad he has to have a secret island base. Who knew that solar energy stuff could produce such titanic explosions?

We have two nordic Bond Girls: the alluring Maud Adams and the somewhat dim spy sidekick Britt Ekland. Fatality rate: 50%.

For even more comedy than we want we have little Nick Nack ("I may be small but I never forget!") and the return of Sheriff JW Pepper. Bond rides around in a speedboat and does stunts in an AMC vehicle -- a Hornet? Now that's scary.

John Barry score, his least favorite of the series.

Available on Blu-ray with a fine image. Said to be the last Bond film in 1.85:1 aspect ratio.

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post #755 of 2290 Old 06-13-2012, 05:01 AM - Thread Starter
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Bell Book and Candle (1958), directed by Richard Quine.
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Auntie, don't you ever wish that you weren't...what we are? That you could just spend Christmas Eve in a little church somewhere, listening to carols instead of bongo drums?

A witch casts a love spell on her upstairs neighbor to spoil his engagement with an old rival. Paradoxically, she wonders if she could make it as a normal person...

It has some good bits (James Stewart getting de-hexed) but is strangely low-key. They quickly assemble a little fantasy world but could have done more with the plot. Stewart was getting too old for the women he was paired with: Grace Kelly in Rear Window, Kim Novak here and in Vertigo -- you could count her twice for Vertigo.

I think it is clear they are actually doing a bit "more" by suggesting another subculture, not witches. People who are invisible to the mainstream but who recognize each other. They have their own clubs. They are not suited to marriage, but yearn for a different, unhidden life.

Twilight Time limited edition Blu-ray with isolated score and subtitles.

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post #756 of 2290 Old 06-15-2012, 05:06 AM - Thread Starter
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Von Ryan's Express (1965), directed by Mark Robson.

Shot down in Italy, American flyer Frank Sinatra is dumped into a mostly Brit POW camp, where he takes command as senior officer. Some amount of conflict here, but when Italy surrenders they have a chance to break out, evade the Germans and hijack a train to freedom.

It's exciting! Obviously improbable without being totally fantastic. Trevor Howard is good as the sour but stalwart British commander, and Edward Mulhare is a hoot as their padre who speaks German and looks swell in the uniform.

The location shooting helps a lot. The final scene where Frank runs for the train is an iconic clip in studio retrospectives.

Jerry Goldsmith score.

From from the 10-disc "Frank Sinatra Film Collection."

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post #757 of 2290 Old 06-15-2012, 07:41 AM
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Originally Posted by wmcclain View Post

The final scene where Frank runs for the train is an iconic clip in studio retrospectives.

-Bill

To be copied a few years later in The Dirty Dozen (1967) when Jim Brown gets gunned down running to the vehicle. Same dramatic impact and poignant pause in the action. smile.gif

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post #758 of 2290 Old 06-18-2012, 05:14 AM - Thread Starter
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Picnic (1955), directed by Joshua Logan.

A studly drifter arrives in a small Kansas town just in time to fluster the womenfolk on a hot Labor Day.

I see criticism that William Holden is too old, but I think that's the point. As for Kim Novak being passive: that, too, is her role: to be pretty and hurting but otherwise characterless. Her kid sister is the smart, lively one: Susan Strasberg doing a great job at age 17.

All the cast is fine, but I particularly like Rosalind Russell as a spinster teacher who really shouldn't drink, with Arthur O'Connell as her beau.

Two incidents of off-stage sex. You just have to understand.

1950s drama often implies "theater-based", and when the story is adapted from a play and the director is from the theater, then it's going to seem stagey at times and you can hear the playwright-speak in the dialogue. But James Wong Howe's cinematography opens it up nicely and makes good use of the wide open spaces.

Twilight Time limited edition Blu-ray with an isolated score and a blank subtitle track. That's an authoring glitch: subtitles are not on the menu or listed on the case. 2.55:1 aspect ratio.

Someone at TT must like Kim Novak: this is their third Blu-ray with her I have seen.

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post #759 of 2290 Old 06-20-2012, 05:03 AM - Thread Starter
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The Horse Soldiers (1959), directed by John Ford.

Ford's only Civil War film, inspired by Grierson's Raid, a Union cavalry mission deep into Confederate territory during the Vicksburg campaign.

As you would expect with this director the historical details look realistic. Union destruction of railways involves heating the rails and twisting them into bow-ties, a nice touch. Some authentic period music, although we also have a generic action score.

On the down side it wavers on what sort of story to tell: historical reenactment or improbable romance? I think the silliest part is Colonel John Wayne's hatred of all medical men (his wife died in surgery) and his conflict with the humane army doctor, William Holden. The commander's drunken emotional outbursts seem childish.

Constance Towers, last seen with a shaved head in The Naked Kiss, plays a crafty southern belle. When she discovers their plans the raiders must take her along.

The story is mostly from the Union point of view, but the rebels (apart from two drunken deserters) are treated respectfully. In a funny and poignant bit the blue-bellies are routed by cadets from a local boys school.

An unlimited number of film epics could still be mined from the history of the Civil War. The Vicksburg campaign itself is an incredible story.

Available on Blu-ray. ClassicFlix has it, Netflix doesn't. I've seen it economically priced in stores. The image quality varies and is never better than "fair".



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post #760 of 2290 Old 06-20-2012, 08:31 AM
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Bill, thanks for this review, will have to revisit this title.

As a Western aficionado have you ever seen Saddle the Wind (1958)? Would be interested in your take on this.

http://www.julielondon.org/J/Saddle_The_Wind.html

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post #761 of 2290 Old 06-20-2012, 08:48 AM
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Good review, I just checked and have the Horse Soldiers from HDNet Movies on my Westerns drive, will have to re-watch also...
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post #762 of 2290 Old 06-20-2012, 09:29 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Mr.G View Post

Bill, thanks for this review, will have to revisit this title.

As a Western aficionado have you ever seen Saddle the Wind (1958)? Would be interested in your take on this.

http://www.julielondon.org/J/Saddle_The_Wind.html

I've never even heard of it, but it looks like a great cast and crew. I'll get it in the queue. Thanks!
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Good review, I just checked and have the Horse Soldiers from HDNet Movies on my Westerns drive, will have to re-watch also...

Thanks, much appreciated.

I don't often reply to comments here, but just want to say: thanks to everyone for reading! I hope you find movies to enjoy.

-Bill

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post #763 of 2290 Old 06-26-2012, 05:36 AM - Thread Starter
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The Enemy Below (1957), produced and directed by Dick Powell.

One of the classic submarine warfare movies. A lone American destroyer escort stalks and is stalked by a German u-boat in a contest of skill between two crafty commanders.

The opposing captains are just what we want: Robert Mitchum is a cool citizen-soldier, laid-back and competent. His wife was killed in a u-boat attack but it is not a personal war for him; he just wants to get it over. Curt Jurgens is a war-weary, anti-nazi old timer. Neither man enjoys the job any more, but both will strive to kill the other.

The strong parts of the story are (1) the hunt and battles, and (2) the characters of the two opponents. This is wrapped in some standard war-movie fluff: colorful seamen and lots of talk-talk, although that serves to build our knowledge of the captains.

Twelve years after the end of the war we see no hard feelings: the Americans do what they can to rescue their enemies and treat them respectfully as prisoners.

Does the climactic action scene seem improbable? Ships ramming u-boats during battle happened several times during the war.

The Navy provided a real ship and crew and the technical details of sub hunting are all accurate as far as I know. The depth charge photography is spectacular. The clean and roomy u-boat interior is not at all realistic: compare with Das Boot.



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post #764 of 2290 Old 06-29-2012, 05:11 AM - Thread Starter
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The Prowler (1951), directed by Joseph Losey.

Van Heflin, last seen in 3:10 to Yuma, is a pushy, resentful and manipulative patrolman. After investigating a peeping tom report he becomes involved with a lonely married woman. Maybe her husband could have an accident? Can he get away with it and keep the woman as well as her money? We know such plans always end in tears.

We never completely figure him out. How bad is he? Is he (can he be?) in love, or is he driven by the dark pleasure of taking another man's wife, of crossing over from the wrong side of the tracks and invading the rich part of town? Lonely Evelyn Keyes is made for him; she's like a prisoner in her own house, waiting for rescue. It has a couple of action scenes, but the rest of the time is repressed melodramatic passion and class conflict.

It's unusual to have a policeman as stalker and seducer, and for the central character to be so unlikeable. Also rare for the evidence that can put him away for murder: an unborn child.

John Huston was an uncredited coproducer. He was married to Keyes but they were shutting down the marriage (amicably) at that time.

Eddie Muller's commentary track has quite a bit about working around the blacklist and production code. Writer James Ellroy calls this "perv-noir" and says it's his favorite film. The DVD extras celebrate the film and describe the restoration effort by the UCLA Film and Television Archive.

prowler.jpg

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post #765 of 2290 Old 07-02-2012, 05:17 AM - Thread Starter
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Moonraker (1979), directed by Lewis Gilbert.

Who hijacked a space shuttle? An evil genius needs it so he can wipe out humanity and start again with a new master race. Can we rely on James Bond to save the world?

Bond #11 is the last of the 1970s. Roger Moore is, as usual, suave and uninvolved. Dumb gadgets and too many ineffectually clever ways of disposing of 007. Strained comedy and limp action, although launching the shuttle fleet is undeniably exciting. The space station battle has some impressive moments, all clouded by laser beam and zero-g video game silliness. The locations are California, Venice and Brazil, where it's always Carnival.

The pre-credit bit of diving out of an airplane without a parachute was a ballsy stunt and I remember the theater audience going wild. The stuntmen had emergency chutes under their clothes, but still... The wikipedia article says the team did 88 dives to film the scene.

Bond girl fatality rate: 33%. Richard Kiel's second appearance as "Jaws".

John Barry score, lovely in spots. Shirley Bassey sings her third Bond theme.

Available on Blu-ray.

* * *

I believe I've now reviewed all the pre-1990 James Bond films currently on Blu-ray:

The rest are expected soon:
  • You Only Live Twice (1967)
  • On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)
  • Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
  • The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
  • Octopussy (1983)
  • A View to a Kill (1985)
  • The Living Daylights (1987)

...along with the 90s Brosnan titles GoldenEye and Tomorrow Never Dies.

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post #766 of 2290 Old 07-04-2012, 05:23 AM - Thread Starter
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Dirty Mary Crazy Larry (1974), directed by John Hough.

A drive-in car chase and crash film. After a bit of home invasion and supermarket robbery, outlaw gear-heads Peter Fonda and Adam Roarke race for freedom. Unwelcome passenger Susan George, last seen in Straw Dogs, invites herself along.

Vic Morrow is the only sheriff who can catch them and is a rebel as well: no badge, gun, uniform or haircut. He was always my favorite troubled tough guy. His dangerous helicopter stunts suggest his death eight years later when he and two children died in a helicopter crash while filming the Twilight Zone movie.

It's raw mid-70s low-budget action material and the car and helicopter work are impressive, but we have problems. We were celebrating very cool outlaws at that time, but the home invasion where they threaten a woman and her daughter put them beyond the pale. I was rooting for the cops, silly and ineffective as they are.

Secondly: the tough-guy rebel banter is just awful. I kept wondering if dialogue from some other film could be looped in to improve it. Susan George's lines make her sound semi-retarded.

I think you could call the ending "abrupt".

The DVD commentary track with the director and an interviewer gives valuable background. Shooting was all on location. No process shots or under-cranking at all. Filming was done with the cars at full speed with Fonda doing his own driving. (Crashes and rolls were by stuntmen). No rehearsals and just one take for everything.

No score apart from the opening and closing credits. Music was written for the film but the director could not communicate what he wanted to the composer: something like lonely and sad country & western themes. So he did without and it works.

The director is another Brit who had a vision of rural America he wanted to express.

The DVD is part of an economical Shout Factory two disc set with Race with the Devil.

dirty-mary-crazy-larry.jpg

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post #767 of 2290 Old 07-06-2012, 05:32 AM - Thread Starter
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Saddle the Wind (1958), directed by Robert Parrish.

Robert Taylor (a tough guy with pretty eyes, now aged to sadness) is an ex-gunman turned rancher. His hot-blooded kid brother has brought home a saloon singer as a fiancee. She's not what the others wanted, but that gate swings both ways. She discovers that her boyfriend has always been considered loco, he's gun crazy and everyone knows he's going to kill someone someday. That day has arrived.

It's a tough, modestly-scaled western made during a transitional period. The exteriors are realistic and the death scenes painful and protracted, as when Royal Dano crawls in a muddy street. On the other hand the ranch interiors look like well-appointed western lodges, the men wear those little leather vests from the costume warehouse, everyone is clean-scrubbed and Julie London is made-up. She sings a ballad to John Cassavetes before he tries to maul her and she has to slug him.

Western plots are usually about the wilderness becoming domestic. The problem here is that none of the main characters are suited to the task. We're uncertain and disoriented until close to the end, when by strenuous effort the hard undomesticated men are killed or pushed out and some justice is delivered to the unwelcome settlers who want to put up their barbed wire.

This is also a case similar to The Misfits, where old-school vs new-method acting styles accentuate a generational conflict in the story. In 1950s movies you get the divide from both sides: kids trying to break out of repressive conformity and social hypocrisy, vs the fear adults have of the amoral rising generation, as in juvenile delinquent films. This western is more like the latter.

An aside:
I've often wondered if the youth culture that started in the 1950s (and continues to this day) wasn't sparked by the difference in life experiences between the generations then:

Dad: "You kids have it easy. You didn't have to work during the Depression. I fought World War 2!"

Son: "That's right, Dad. The Depression is over and the nazis are beaten. I can't do it again".

The kids can never earn the respect of their elders so they create their own unrooted, despairing society. Then it was still counter-culture: the biker gang never takes over the town for long, the beatniks don't run businesses. The alternative culture would displace the mainstream later.

Notes:
  • Filmed in Colorado with snow-capped mountain horizons.
  • Elmer Bernstein's score is pretty traditional.
  • Much as I have enjoyed Rod Serling's screenplays, his voice often emerges in his dialogues.
  • The rear projection scenes are out of place here.

saddle-the-wind.jpg

-Bill

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post #768 of 2290 Old 07-09-2012, 05:09 AM - Thread Starter
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The Space Children (1958), directed by Jack Arnold.

Minor -- very minor -- 1950s SF effort, 69 minutes long. For dedicated fans only; everyone else can safely skip it.

A pack of wholesome clean-scrubbed kids living near a missile base are controlled by a glowing alien brain. It's mission: prevent the launch of H-bombs into space. It's also willing to kill abusive alcoholic dads.

You could shelve it with Village of the Damned (1960) and Children of the Damned (1963), both much better pictures.

I wouldn't have reviewed this but (a) it's on Blu-ray with a rather fine image in spots, (b) I'd never seen it and it was on my want-list for a long time, and (c) despite the excruciating acting, it pushes into a (probably unintentional) surrealism that made me think of JG Ballard's SF stories of the 1960s.

The missile base families live in mobile homes on the beach. The rocky shores (both real and soundstage) are starkly beautiful. The 1950s Twilight Zone ambience gives a sense of unreality and suggests stage plays, but we keep getting back to the real beach. Infusing children with strange knowledge and powers is always disturbing.

Available on Blu-ray from Olive Films. ClassicFlix has it for rent. Bare bones disc, no subtitles. Only 14GB of data, but it still looks pretty good.

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post #769 of 2290 Old 07-09-2012, 11:06 AM
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I started looking at your screen shots and felt there was something familiar about this movie then remembered that Mystery Science Theater 3000 had riffed this. Probably the best way to watch this. It's on YouTube - Episode 906. smile.gif

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post #770 of 2290 Old 07-11-2012, 05:06 AM - Thread Starter
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Suspiria (1977), directed by Dario Argento.

An American student arrives at a hysterically bizarre German dance academy where strange...oh, never mind. It's Argento. Plot is secondary to stylish scares and violence. It's a quirky mannered presentation, like an opera without singing.

I would call it an art/slasher film. How big is that genre? We have a lurid, saturated color scheme lighted like a music video with colored lights shining on every scene. Visually, it's something wild. The soundtrack has moaning, howling voices which only the audience can hear.

Jessica Harper looks like a dancer although we don't see her dance. She has an oddly funny, distracted manner, as if she has something else really important on her mind while dealing with supernatural murder.

Some gruesome slasher effects.

Two cast members from an earlier era: Joan Bennett and Alida Valli.

Frantic, off-kilter but fun score by Goblin, who also did notable work for Argento's Deep Red.

Available on region B Blu-ray, but my thumbnails are from DVD. It has closed captions but no subtitles.

suspiria.jpg

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post #771 of 2290 Old 07-13-2012, 05:26 AM - Thread Starter
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Key Largo (1948), directed by John Huston.

A veteran arrives in the Florida Keys to meet the family of an old army buddy killed in the war. Their hotel is infested with unsavory gangsters who hold the others prisoner while waiting for a business contact to show. Something else is coming: a monster hurricane that terrifies the bad guys. Bullets won't stop it.

One of my favorites. I love what Bogart and Bacall have going here: both play against type. He's not a tough guy and she's not a femme fatale. They have nice married couple chemistry.

Edward G. Robinson is a bullfrog-looking gangster we love to hate. He's both funny and majestically nasty. Claire Trevor (last seen in Best of the Badmen (1951) and Stagecoach (1939)) is touching as his pathetic alcoholic girlfriend. Lionel Barrymore, gutsy but wheelchair-bound, prays for the storm to kill them all and we're rooting for him.

It's adapted from a play and remains a bit talky but that is objectionable only in one of Bogart speeches when he says "All I care about is me." Not being a tough guy is ok, but making speeches about it is playwright-speak. They use it in the story, though: "Your head says one thing but your life says another. Your head always loses."

He gets them all in the end.

Max Steiner score.

key-largo.jpg

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post #772 of 2290 Old 07-13-2012, 12:35 PM
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Originally Posted by wmcclain View Post

Key Largo (1948), directed by John Huston.

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This, along with Casablanca and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, is one of those movies I always enjoy more the next time I view it than I remember enjoying it the last time. I think, "I've seen this already, there's nothing more in it for me." Then within seconds after the opening credits end, I'm hooked and can't look away, big smile on my face. Must be something about Bogart for me. He was so damn good.
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post #773 of 2290 Old 07-14-2012, 01:45 AM
 
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Originally Posted by hitchfan View Post

This, along with Casablanca and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, is one of those movies I always enjoy more the next time I view it than I remember enjoying it the last time. I think, "I've seen this already, there's nothing more in it for me." Then within seconds after the opening credits end, I'm hooked and can't look away, big smile on my face. Must be something about Bogart for me. He was so damn good.
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post #774 of 2290 Old 07-16-2012, 05:13 AM - Thread Starter
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Can-Can (1960), directed by Walter Lang.

A mild Cole Porter musical, a bit long at 2h21m with overture and intermission. Rich and colorful, with some elaborate dance numbers including a wild Apache dance segment. Sporadic witty dialogue. Not very high energy apart from the high-kicking dances.

It's a love triangle: Shirley MacLaine owns and dances in a nightclub. She's looking for a man who can close her window. Frank Sinatra is her lawyer, defending her against charges of lewd and lascivious displays. Louis Jourdan, possibly the most debonair man on the planet, is a upright judge who wants to shut her down, then has second thoughts. The characters know they are in a musical, which I always find metaphysically disorienting.

Maurice Chevalier does that talking/singing thing. Sinatra and MacLaine do not attempt French accents. Introducing Juliet Prowse; I did not know she was South African, born in India.

I've never known how to take Shirley MacLaine. She can dance, but as for acting: I'm not sure.

Nelson Riddle orchestration.

This was a big film at the time with box office second only to Ben Hur that year.

From from the 10-disc "Frank Sinatra Film Collection." The overture is just a black screen with music; I thought my DVD player was broken. The video fluctuates in brightness throughout, most noticeable in the backgrounds. The aspect ratio is 2.20:1.

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post #775 of 2290 Old 07-16-2012, 09:19 AM
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Thanks for this one. I remember how Shirley MacLaine was quite the babe from Can Can (she was 26) through much of the 60's which spanned my high school years and time in the military. So I had plenty of time to fantasize. Younger guys would probably find this hard to believe. wink.gif

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post #776 of 2290 Old 07-16-2012, 11:24 AM
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^^^ I'm a bit younger than you and don't find it that hard to believe. smile.gif

MacLaine had a pixie-like cuteness and a smoking hot dancer's body in her 20's. But she didn't age well and lost those looks pretty fast.


BTW, I just watched Two For the Seesaw a couple of months ago and that's a pretty decent MacLaine film too. MacLaine wasn't a great actress but was perfectly acceptable when typecast into the right roles.
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post #777 of 2290 Old 07-18-2012, 05:17 AM - Thread Starter
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Baba Yaga, Devil Witch (1973), directed by Corrado Farina.

An Italian supernatural thriller adapted from a comic strip: "Valentina" by Guido Crepax.

A fashion photographer falls under the spell of a lesbian witch. Her camera is hexed and a dominatrix devil doll watches her. Must she submit to the carnal desires of Carroll Baker? Yes, she must. We hope a stalwart boyfriend will rescue her. Eventually.

It has some promising bits but is mostly just ridiculous. It starts out kind of whimsical and arty, becoming darker with time. Just as the plot starts to move the characters have to stop and debate racism and revolution. The groovy fashion ambience and precious radical poses are hard to take.

Some nudity. Models! That's the way to do it. No gore, although there is an S&M flogging scene. During erotic encounters they switch to b&w snapshots and ink drawings, which is kind of clever, linking back to the photography plot and comic origins.

Available on Blu-ray from Blue Underground but my thumbnails are from their DVD. It has only a dubbed English track and no subtitles. Dubbing tends to make a movie seem less serious, so the Blu-ray might be a good upgrade for that reason alone.

The extras:

  • The director talks about what he intended: closing the circle. The comic was inspired by cinema editing and he wanted to turn the illustrations back into film again.

    Neither of the lead actresses were his first choice, but both worked out.

    The final edit was not his doing.

    The actress who plays the living dominatrix doll: they asked her agent, "Will she do nude scenes?" He said: "Try and stop her."
  • A history of comics with emphasis on Guido Crepax.
  • Deleted and censored scenes. Both lead actresses did a few seconds of full frontal that had to be cut.

Netflix has the DVD but not the Blu-ray.

baba-yaga.jpg

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post #778 of 2290 Old 07-20-2012, 05:07 AM - Thread Starter
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Anatomy of a Murder (1959), produced and directed by Otto Preminger.

A compelling courtroom procedural story. I don't know why it is so watchable, but it seems faster than its 2h40m running time. The story is set in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and strangely enough that's where it's filmed.

James Stewart is an ex-prosecutor now in shabby private practice. He'd rather be fishing and often is. He takes the case of a fiercely jealous army officer (Ben Gazzara) who certainly did murder a man he says raped his wife (Lee Remick). Their defense: he was temporarily insane because he had an "irresistible impulse" to kill.

It's praised for its legal realism and detail, although the story it tells is not exactly Civics 101. Stewart is in no way convinced of his client's innocence or the wife's truthfulness or conduct. Without instructing him to lie he guides his client to the insanity defense. His zealous advocacy makes him something of a showboater in court. At one point when questioning one of them on the witness stand he almost seems to plead for the truth, however unwise it may be to reveal that in public.

It should be no surprise to see Stewart playing something more ambiguous than a boy scout. He always had a dangerous ragged edge under the folksy demeanor.

At times the camera has an early hand-held look, without being shaky. It crowds the actors, sometimes casting a visible shadow.

The wikipedia article has interesting background. The story was suggested by a real incident and the author of the book was a former prosecutor and judge who, as you might guess, also wrote books on trout fishing.

Duke Ellington score.

Criterion Blu-ray with a superb image. I think one or two reels may have required different treatment than the others, but it is all very fine.

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post #779 of 2290 Old 07-21-2012, 05:37 PM
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^^^
It's an excellent movie, but the Duke Ellington score is just way too intrusive for my taste. Film composers generally do a better job by devising scores that underline or intensify what's onscreen without constantly drawing attention to themselves. There is a delicate line to walk between "mickey-mousing" (i.e., duplicating every movement of the character onscreen in the music, like early cartoons), adding to the emotion of the image (e.g., many John WIlliams and Bernard Herrmann scores), and being so intrusive that it distracts from the movie (e.g., Ellington's score for this movie).

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post #780 of 2290 Old 07-23-2012, 04:56 AM - Thread Starter
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Wise Blood (1979), directed by John Huston.
Quote:
Your conscience is a trick, it don't exist, and if you think it does, then you had best get it out in the open, hunt it down and kill it.

Two things I can't read: true crime and Flannery O'Connor. Both give me the heebie-jeebies.

Returning from the army, Hazel Motes finds his farm house wrecked and abandoned, nothing left but the graveyard. He heads to the city to "do things I ain't done before". For some reason everyone presumes he's a preacher. Although he claims to believe in nothing, he forms his own "church", which means delivering bitterly angry, hopeless harangues to strangers. He does believe in mortification: "Why? It don't matter why."

It has the ghastly southern gothic feel, this time in contemporary urban settings where the Depression never left. I won't attempt theological analysis, other than to note that the human soul has energies that will come out, one way or another.

We have dark comic relief in Hazel's struggles with his junk car, and with Sabbath Lily's use of her meager charms to land a man. I might have cut lonely half-wit Enoch and his fascination with monkeys, but I see from an outline that he's in the book.

Depending on how comical you find the pathetic human condition there might be more to laugh at while wincing at the same time. I feel mean when I do.

Great cast. Brad Dourif specialized in weirdo roles and there will never be another Harry Dean Stanton.

I never saw much of Amy Wright's work (she was the groupie in Woody Allen's bed in Stardust Memories) but I can't stop looking at her when she's on screen. Her character isn't pretty or smart but the portrayal is magnetic.

Alex North score, variations on the "Tennessee Waltz" and "Gift to be Simple".

Criterion DVD.

wise-blood.jpg

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