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post #1231 of 2269 Old 03-17-2014, 08:12 AM
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post #1232 of 2269 Old 03-17-2014, 08:55 AM
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This is a great thread, I've learned a lot….thanks Bill
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post #1233 of 2269 Old 03-19-2014, 02:44 PM
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Originally Posted by wmcclain View Post

Throne of Blood (1957), directed by Akira Kurosawa.

-Bill

Looking good.
Another pearl to checkout, thanks.
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post #1234 of 2269 Old 03-21-2014, 12:02 PM - Thread Starter
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The Haunted Palace (1963), produced and directed by Roger Corman.

Vincent Price finds himself possessed by the spirit of an evil ancestor: a malevolent, vengeful sorcerer. The really bad kind: he has a Necronomicon and knows how to use it.

Originally titled Edgar Allan Poe's The Haunted Palace, this is actually based on "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward" by HP Lovecraft, who does get credit. Today they'd probably reverse that: Lovecraft is more popular than Poe. Is this the first film use of his mythology? Cthulhu, Yog-Sothoth, the Elder Gods...

It's a good entry in the series, but perhaps more entertaining for those who know the original story. Recently Lovecraft has been implicated in some pretty lurid productions -- From Beyond and Reanimator -- but his better and longer works are more suggestive than explicit, dealing with the fear of vast gulfs of time and space and god-like extra-dimensional beings.

This is pretty Debra Paget's last feature film. She suffers from possessed Price's sexual menaces and just might be made to mate with a demon-thing in the cellar.

Many familiar faces. I always like seeing Elisha Cook Jr, but Lon Chaney Jr always seemed like a non-actor to me. Sorry.

Shot in 15 days, well-reviewed and a big hit.

Available on Blu-ray with two truncated commentary tracks, no one actually watching the film.



-Bill
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post #1235 of 2269 Old 03-22-2014, 05:12 PM
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Bill, I know what you mean about Lon Chaney, Jr. I always wanted to like him, but they kept putting him in things he just wasn't suited for; an overweight Frankenstein's monster (the opposite of Karloff's cadaverous creature), an overweight mummy! In the end, at a time when I was seeing him in new films, he seemed puffy, like someone's alcoholic uncle. I think his legacy would be as Lenny in "Of Mice and Men", but he's best remembered as Larry Talbot.
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post #1236 of 2269 Old 03-23-2014, 11:24 AM
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Imagine yourself trying to break into the movie biz, and being the son of one of the icons of the industry.
A piece if cake, right?
After several years of using his own name, Creighton Chaney was forced into accepting the moniker Lon Chaney, Jr....then later dropping the Jr. to become known as Lon Chaney.
Do not forget that the studios owned the actors back in those days and dictated to them the roles they would be cast in. Certainly the pathos and tragic portrayals of Lennie Small and Larry Talbot, are his greatest performances ....and IMHO, they truly are, but being cast into the shadow of a famous father, was certainly nothing simple to do, and his own feeling of having to measure up to Sr. pushed him into the escape of the bottle....and in later years, taking its toll physically, as can be seen in about any film roll after 1944.
He did not choose to follow Karloff, and Lugosi in the roles of the Frankenstein monster or Dracula, but Univeral Studios used their 'Master Character Creator' for their means to maximize profits, so he was cast in their array of horror films. He made them a fortune during the '40s.
IMHO, Chaney gave his all in any role given him. His ambition, like many of his peers, was to continue to work at the trade he loved.
He did some good work in numerous westerns, like High Noon....on stage, and television. He had a long list of credits.
I think he was 'a darn good actor' to steal the phrase from TCM.
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post #1237 of 2269 Old 03-23-2014, 12:17 PM
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I agree with almost everything that has been said, good and bad, about Lon Chaney Jr. as an actor. He did seem like a non actor, often no more suited for a role than someone's alcoholic uncle. Yet, I can't remember any of my movie-loving buddies in the day ever discounting him or one of his movies on the late-late show based on his performance or acting ability. And we were not shy about slamming someone for being a bad actor or giving a bad performance. That was true even as he got older. Indestructible Man (1956) was a favorite on the late-late show. Something still came across on screen. An endearing quality perhaps. Was that in part due to his seeming to be a "non actor" or the "uncle" element? Don't know. Maybe that elusive quality was what made him "a darn good (film) actor". Contrast his impact on my generation as one of the giants of the genre, right up there with Karloff, Lugosi, and Price vs someone who was a much more highly trained and capable actor like John Carradine, who had his shot at it but never did make it to the Mount Rushmore of Monster Movie Stars. I'm talking about for the tv generation that wasn't even all that familiar with Chaney Jr.'s Super Star dad.

I realize some distinction has already been made between the Universal Studios monster era and his later sad shoestring budget years. But I don't know how much the lack of better material offered him by better directors was the factor by then. Can't say I was disturbed by bad acting on his part in The Haunted Palace under the direction of Roger Corman. But even Corman's 4 day wonder movies were given more loving attention than most of the junk Chaney was appearing in by then and later. And there was his role in The Defiant Ones (1958) under the direction of Stanley Kramer.

My sense about his having more acting chops than the material and direction allowed in those later years is due to his performance as Lenny Small in Of Mice and Men, duly mentioned here as well. I have seen another movie version of that book/play starring Oscar nominee-level actors, seen productions of it on television, seen a couple of professional stage productions of it. Lon Chaney Jr.'s performance as Lenny is the only one that reduced me to tears. It does so every time I see it. Go figure.
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post #1238 of 2269 Old 03-23-2014, 12:46 PM
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Agree....'39 Mice and Men does bring on the tears.
The Golden Junkman from tv in '56 is another tear jerker.

His tendency for the bottle surely impacted his ability to secure 'quality' roles, but again, you take what you are presented, and make lemonade from the lemons.
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post #1239 of 2269 Old 03-23-2014, 02:54 PM
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Interesting topic for a Sunday morn. ;)

 

Probably not a surprise, but I agree with JSUL and hitchfan. Lon's performance may seem a bit stilted in Haunted Palace, but it's a pretty "quirky" film, and he fits right in.

 

I liked Lon, Jr. in most of his stuff because he brought a certain humanity to his roles,... even some of the more monstrous ones. I've heard he was highly allergic to the latex masks used in some of his horror flicks btw.

 

A few of my favorite B&W Lon horror/suspense flicks, from back in the day...

 

The Mummy's Tomb (1942). Trailer. Lon also reprised his role as the mummy in two more sequels: The Mummy's Ghost (1944), and The Mummy's Hand (1944).

 

Son of Dracula (1943). Lon is pretty convincing as the romantic lead in this (and his costar Louise Allbritton is also pretty easy on the eyes). One of Universal's lesser-appreciated B-movie gems. Trailer.

 

Some publicity shots of Allbritton...
http://www.doctormacro.com/Images/Allbritton,%20Louise/Annex/NRFPT/Annex%20-%20Allbritton,%20Louise_NRFPT_02.jpg
http://www.el-trastero.eu/caddie/images/Louise%20Allbritton.jpg
http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-sc3Vz1Ds1qM/To7PIDvUA_I/AAAAAAAAKpg/jvcw6fnF8Jk/s1600/Annex%2B-%2BAllbritton%252C%2BLouise_04.jpg
http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-T8TwmQI6UJA/TrvbUWmdUFI/AAAAAAAAFQ4/RJ3hqgotvGQ/s1600/1943_SonDracula_img9.JPG
http://imagehost.vendio.com/a/35104116/aview/SCAN0083_080.JPG
http://24.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_ma1ujtArHz1qaun7do1_1280.jpg
http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-5OOrUI8g8UI/T5QWgioKb-I/AAAAAAAAHWY/lKBUugz_UkY/s1600/1943_SonDracula_img11.JPG

 

The Black Castle (1952). This is actually a beautifully made period drama/suspense picture set in 18th century Austria. It's also the directorial debut of Nathan Juran, who went on to do some of the most popular "giant creature" flicks of the 1950s, including some of the better Harryhausen films. No trailer available, but here's a brief clip, which contains some spoilers.

 

Witchcraft (1964). A pretty solid little 60's British thriller. Trailer contains somewhat disturbing imagery and spoilers btw.

 

The Alligator People (1959). A B-movie gem. Trailer. Full movie (significantly cropped down from the original 2.35 Cinemascope ratio).

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post #1240 of 2269 Old 03-23-2014, 08:36 PM
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Albritton is a fellow Okie, as she and Lon were both born in Oklahoma City.

Alligator People is a hoot, and is available in a widescreen dvd. Fellow player Bev Garland recalls seeing Chaney first time in character for this film being "scary as hell!"

For me, any actor or musician, singer, etc. the bottom line is, did they 'touch me' and impact my feelings, with their performances. Lon Chaney does that in many films
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post #1241 of 2269 Old 03-23-2014, 10:08 PM
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Growing up, one of the things that was cool about Lon Chaney Jr.'s great legacy character, Larry Talbot, is that, among the King's Row of the Universal Studios Monsters, the Wolf Man was the scariest one to me. Consequently, he was the one I wanted to be on Halloween. I suspected I could out run the Frankenstein monster and the Mummy, probably beat up or at least put up a good fight against Lugosi's Dracula, avoid Opera House basements easily enough and never dip my foot into a dark and swampy Lagoon. The Invisible Man? Hard to come up with a convincing Halloween costume for that one and, besides, half the time he was laughing like a loon, a dead giveaway, and mostly behaved like a mischievous prankster rather than a deadly menace. But the Wolf Man was a different matter altogether. He was strong, fast, athletic, armed with fangs and claws and could show up anywhere on the planet exposed to a full moon, which means everywhere! eek.gif
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post #1242 of 2269 Old 03-24-2014, 10:56 AM
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And the Wolf Man (Larry Talbot) was truly distraught over his killings....and understanding his plight, sought death as a means to end his murderous lycanthropic ways.

Chaney's tragic portrayal is a cinema classic.
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post #1243 of 2269 Old 03-24-2014, 10:59 AM - Thread Starter
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I was over-harsh to LC Jr. I saw him recently in High Noon and The Defiant Ones and he did a credible job.

One last shot from The Haunted Palace:

Lavc55.39.101

-Bill

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post #1244 of 2269 Old 03-26-2014, 01:35 PM
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Kumonosu-jō (Throne of Blood) (1957) - 8,5
Already covered by Bill here.

Magical film from Akira Kurosawa. The japanese director made Macbeth, play by Shakespeare, the pseudo-script for this film temporally set in Sengoku period in Japan. Very inspired cinematic glance at the eternal tale about the thirst for power led to the limits of sanity and self-integrity of men. Throne of Blood easily transports me into a dreamlike, haunted world but there are a few dragging moments that distract a bit. The nature of the acting is ludicrously caricatural as was customary in this period, this brought good and bad things to my experience but in the end I always like it because everything has a way to flow coherently in old japanese cinema for which I've been lusting these times... and it's part of the charm and appeal anyway. Beautiful film, recommended!

I don't really add much to what has already been said, but I'd like to introduce a rating element in my impressions so to better express my appreciation for each movie. Starting with Throne of Blood.
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post #1245 of 2269 Old 03-27-2014, 08:00 AM - Thread Starter
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The Best Years of Our Lives (1946), directed by William Wyler.

The last chapter of any war story is "coming home".

Three servicemen, eager and nervous, yearn for simple things: just a life after the war. Family, good food and coffee, civilian clothes. They meet in a bomber, now carrying them home instead of reducing Germany and Japan to rubble. We'll revist the scene again toward the end: the aircraft scrapyard is one of the great moments in American cinema.

Their families, wives and sweethearts have been through the war too. So much has changed. It has to be a new life; for the better?

The human drama includes quite a bit of comedy. It's hard for me to appreciate an entirely humorless film (see Citizen Kane). Serious as this story is, it still has moments of wryness and even absurdity. Our three characters, in declining order of the amount of humor allowed them:

  • Fredric March is the banker who became a sergeant. Loving family, good job, you'd think all would be well, but he drinks and is troubled by the inequities of civilian life and the way veterans are treated. Still, he gets the most laughs.
  • Dana Andrews is the soda jerk who became an Air Force captain and bombadier. He barely knew his wife before leaving for the war. Just as well. They're not compatible and he's in love with loveable Teresa Wright. But it is all painful. He has nightmares of the war. His comedy is of the bitter, wincing sort we all know from the workplace, the indignity and triviality of the drugstore in his case. Harder for him because his war effort, much as he hated it, was important and gave his life meaning, now gone.
  • Harold Russell, not an actor, is a double amputee with spring-loaded hooks that he uses with amazing dexterity. He has no self-pity except for his doubts about burdening his fiance. He takes her up to his bedroom and shows her his stumps, a tremendous act of courage. She doesn't run away so it must be love. He gets barely any comedy, apart from the parents' suspense at the wedding where they wonder how he will get the ring on the bride's finger, which he does with ease.

The last chapter, Coming Home, is an essential part of the story. "Message" can be deadly to a film, but here it works. Russell's is the heaviest part; we know he's an amateur playing a character much like himself, and that takes us out of the movie, but the reality of his disability grabs us.

For the rest, how could you tell the story of coming home without the jarring notes, the outrage over injustice? It meshes with the love stories: three good women relieve much suffering.

Available on Blu-ray.



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post #1246 of 2269 Old 03-27-2014, 08:43 AM
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I think this is a terrific film. As far as Harold Russell, I think his non-actor style (lack of style?) works in this film because of the year it was done. It fits in with the melodramatic, pre-Brando style of acting that was common in those days. It certainly makes it more bearable. In any case, I think he does a pretty good job, particularly in his later scenes with his fiancée.

Besides that, I think it's quite amazing how little this film has dated, partly due to the fact that it is supposed to take place immediately after WWII, which of course is when it was shot. It is also due to the fact that even modern audiences can relate to the issues it deals with, and I think they were handled exceptionally well.

Definitely among my favorite films of the 40's.
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post #1247 of 2269 Old 03-27-2014, 10:21 AM
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I think this is a terrific film. As far as Harold Russell, I think his non-actor style (lack of style?) works in this film because of the year it was done. It fits in with the melodramatic, pre-Brando style of acting that was common in those days. It certainly makes it more bearable. In any case, I think he does a pretty good job, particularly in his later scenes with his fiancée.
I wholeheartedly agree. Reputedly, Wyler blew his top when he found Sam Goldwyn had secretly sent Russell for acting lessons, as Wyler preferred Russell's untutored style. Fun trivia: Look closely at the corporal standing at the ATC counter when Dana Andrews arrives and you'll see a very young Blake Edwards.

If I had "a" favorite movie, this might be it.
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post #1248 of 2269 Old 03-27-2014, 10:34 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kilgore View Post

I think this is a terrific film. As far as Harold Russell, I think his non-actor style (lack of style?) works in this film because of the year it was done. It fits in with the melodramatic, pre-Brando style of acting that was common in those days. It certainly makes it more bearable. In any case, I think he does a pretty good job, particularly in his later scenes with his fiancée.
Quote:
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If I had "a" favorite movie, this might be it.

The Best Years of Our Lives is indeed a great film. I have seen it regularly over the years and it's never lost a step.
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post #1249 of 2269 Old 04-03-2014, 10:27 AM - Thread Starter
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Samurai I: Musashi Miyamoto (1954)

Samurai II: Duel at Ichijoji Temple (1955)

Samurai III: Duel at Ganryu Island (1956)

The "Samurai Trilogy", directed by Hiroshi Inagaki, an epic life of Musashi, from his humble beginnings, through his travails as a soldier and outlaw, to his progress as a masterless samurai who, without training or school, became one of the great sword-fighters in history.

He often fought with a wooden sword and here his climactic duel is with a sword whittled from a boat oar.

If possible, see these over three days to reenforce the continuity of the story. The score, actually very Euro-orchestral sounding, helps bind the films together. They were made separately, but I can't choose between them or review them as single films.

The composition and camera work are very fine, without being arty in a self-conscious way. Some of the scenes are presented as historical pageant, suggesting classical paintings of the events, but the look never becomes dull or formulaic.

It's natural to compare these with the costume stories Kurosawa was doing at the same time. Here Toshiro Mifune seems more like a person and less a broad "character". He suffers from doubt and embarrassment while on his life-long spiritual quest for self-mastery.

We have much better roles for women than you find in Kurosawa, and an intense romance plot that would not interest him.

I love the presentation of spiritual levels: the mass of people are emotional and flailing, while the seeker strives to calm his turbulent ego, but then we have the society of masters -- such as the sword-smith and the prominent priests -- where all is calm, ease, and peaceful mind.

Filmed in Eastmancolor.

Criterion Blu-rays. No commentary tracks, but the booklet says this is the second Musashi trilogy by the director, and that Kurosawa played off Mifune's samurai image as developed in these films.



-Bill

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post #1250 of 2269 Old 04-05-2014, 12:38 PM
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Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975) - 7,5 (Revaluated to 8)
Already covered by Bill here.

I saw the Director's Cut version, where Peter Weir eliminated around 7 minutes of play from the original theatrical release. I read several opinions from people who deplored such move because they judged it harmful to the original quality of the movie, I don't know if this is why I failed to connect or to feel engaged in the experience... a shame. Shame because in retrospective I realise that Picnic at Hanging Rock was one of the most enriching cinematic experiences I ever had, I'll explain why in a bit.

Picnic at Hanging Rock reminds me of Caché from Michael Haneke and L'Aventura from Michelangelo Antonioni, 3 films where we are haunted by unsolved mysteries, but each one with a different premiss. The australian film seems to be the one that truly focuses in exploring the emotional and psychological effects that the elements of mystery and the inexplicable have upon the human subject and does it in a very sagacious manner. This movie plays an admittedly manipulative game with the viewer, the less attentive might be led to believe that the depicted events actually happened in real life (like me in the first view). The mystery is about the disappearance of 4 people, 3 young girls and 1 woman, in the whereabouts of a geological formation known as Hanging Rock and the movie depicts, up to a certain point, the efforts that the local community goes through to find the missing ones and the influence the tragedy exerts upon certain characters. But a more careful look reveals that we are in fact observing a work of pure fiction with possibly another layer of meaning underneath the main coating and there are even some prophetic revelations before the impossible disappearance phenomena. Right at the beginning the premiss of this work is conveyed through a voice over citing a beautiful phrase inspired by a poem from Edgar Allan Poe in which the keyword is "Dream", the gist is to make us experiment a surreal universe where the convoluted logic of the reality is reminiscent of dreams with everything it brings as emotional and psychological imprint. This is not done in a literal way à la David Lynch. Instead in a subtly evocative fashion because the bizarreness is not immediately obvious to the viewer, it is suggested and unraveled little by little while the depicted world never departs from its realistic and coherent appearance at the surface even if frustratingly hermetic for those expecting or hoping to see the mystery solved.

Until we arrive at the scene which, in my opinion, is the culmination of Picnic at Hanging Rock, it was this instance that made the "click" in my head where I really understood the premiss of this film - the out of nowhere and unexpected collective hysteria in the dance class demanding explanations to a key piece of the mystery that had been rescued alive but makes no attempt whatsoever to clarify about what happened. Seems like Peter Weir deliberately wanted to repress and frustrate our impetus to know the truth throughout the movie so that he could forge this brilliant scene where, in a way, he gives us what we really want to see after so much ceremony but where at the same time he truly assumes the exploitive and dreamlike nature of this work, it's clear to me because what happens here is highly unlikely in reality so there has to be a second meaning. I loved this cinematic execution because it was something new, I never experienced this before in cinema, at least not in this way so subliminally alluded by the plot itself. In this scene (which has made its way to my favorite scenes list and seems carved out of a Lynch masterpiece) the film becomes self-evident to me - here several key characters of the story are developed in ways that allude to the perspectives (role and intent) of the public (us viewers) and performer (director) through their actions and the way they are treated. This is where the film basically tells us that it is performing a perverse exploitation of our own feelings and attention, so it becomes self-evident. What impresses me is the amount of thought and craft put into it to work so well, it's genius. Perverse exploitation because the film makes it clear that it won't give us any satisfaction, this is a game where the director is in dominant position, it's his film so he dictates the rules. One might think that he "plays dirty" because he's only flirting with us and we remain in the blind (as if tied to a wall from where we cannot move) about the mystery leaving us all the more vexed... or not because it's now obvious that the movie is not at all about what happened to those vanishing girls. The game is practically over now, the film ends shortly after this scene. Not everyone will make the same reading as I do since this film is relatively open to interpretation and those who do might not go well along with this exploitive agenda and think that Weir is being unfair and arrogant, but not really because this movie is actually based on a novel and with such reaction one could fail to notice the extraordinary cinematic feat, in my opinion, from Peter Weir. I can't help but grin every time I watch this scene, it's so revealing and even hilarious that I can only contemplate in wonder.

There's one or two sub-plots whose significance or symbolism I don't feel comfortable discussing yet, but I believe all of it serves to support (or possibly illustrate) the movie's main perverse agenda. This movie has substantial thematic depth, nature is portrayed as an hermetic and potentially dangerous world to Men, the Hanging Rock, one of the main characters of the movie, is often presented in a sinister and haunting tone, animals are constant appearances even in the most improbable places and yet they are as much strange and oblivious to us as we are to them, plants can move, etc... It's apparent that the intent is to show nature as a world impossible to understand, not governed by the same rules as those of the world which humans have built for themselves to evoke the fear of the unknown and incomprehensible, specially around Hanging Rock. Maybe it could be said that Picnic at Hanging Rock is a Psychological Horror movie, and there are indeed a few creepy and disturbing moments, it has elements of Drama, Mystery and Horror. In my opinion, it's above all a self-evident manipulative endeavour intending to engulf us in a pseudo-dreamlike experience and doesn't reduce itself to any particular genre.

So why didn't I feel engaged in this movie? If I see it again (I saw it 2 times before writing these impression) maybe it will have a better grip on me but I doubt... It wasn't the pseudo-dreamlike experience it was supposed to be, I didn't find it boring to watch but I didn't enjoy it either... I think my main issue is with the overall style of the movie and lack of polishment in some acting subjects, it seriously distracts me sometimes. I never manage to extract anything appreciable, or beautiful, or interesting while I watch it (except for that brilliant scene and a few creepier moments), I've seen a lot of praise for the cinematography but I honestly didn't care. The notable soundtrack works to build the singular feel of the movie as much as it does to enervate and distract me often. I will certainly give it another go and try to tune into it, there's a lot to love and admire here and I want to have the complete package by fully engaging in the experience, but I will also search for the theatrical version which many say it's better.

Picnic at Hanging Rock is a singular work where Peter Weir performs, in my opinion, a sagacious exploitation of the viewer and for that I admire him. The merit is not all his alone though, this film is based on a novel of the same name authored by Joan Lindsay. This was such an enriching experience that I have included the book in my wishlist, it's the first movie ever to spice my interest for its source literature. I'm taking my chances with this novel hoping to get from literature what I got from this brilliant work of cinema. Picnic at Hanging Rock is mandatory watch for any cinephile!
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post #1251 of 2269 Old 04-05-2014, 11:28 PM
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Man, that is a hell of a lot of text....and HUGE paragraphs. Very hard on the eyeballs.

Look at Bill's review. Much easier to digest, relatively short and to the point. Bill doesn't give you a complete history of film and assumes that the reader in a forum like this has some knowledge of cinema. He also gives you a lot of information in a short space, and once you're done reading it you know exactly what he thinks.

Much like this post of mine biggrin.gif
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post #1252 of 2269 Old 04-06-2014, 06:46 AM
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Additionally, I want to know if people actually understand what I'm trying to convey in this review. I sort of tried to make it self-evident...

I enjoy Bill's reviews very much for the reasons you state, I want to know if you can understand mine as well as you understand his, despite the major difference in styles. I couldn't make it shorter because I don't have the mindset or I'm not clever enough for that - I'm interested (or obsessed) in developing abstract concepts that are challenging for me to put into words when the movie compels me to... and I usualy assume that others enjoy reading long reviews as much as I do. biggrin.gif

Sorry for wall of text. tongue.gif
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post #1253 of 2269 Old 04-06-2014, 03:16 PM
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"...an eminently stabbable aristocrat" - I'll remember that phrase for a long time!:D

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post #1254 of 2269 Old 04-14-2014, 07:25 AM - Thread Starter
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Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974), directed by Sam Peckinpah.

El Jefe, outraged at his daughter's pregnancy, brutalizes her until she names the father. He then puts a bounty on the missing man. Or at least on just his head.

Not until after this setup do we see modern cars and jets and realize we are not in the nineteenth century, but rather in contemporary if still medieval Mexico.

Bennie -- somewhere between a wannabe and real tough guy, and all loser -- is friendly with a prostitute who knows how to find Alfredo. Already dead? Perfect, we just need a shovel and a big knife. How grotesque can this get?

Well, little villages in Mexico are actually medieval, and terrible, wrenching things happen. Men go mad. You don't know what you've got until it's gone. All the revenge in the world can't make up for lost love.

Warren Oates is phenomenally fine as a desperate, semi-crazed man with one last chance. He sleeps wearing sunglasses, has a clip-on tie and crabs. He's out of his league and everyone suffers for it.

Isela Vega is the prostitute who loves our hero who doesn't know if he can love her back. She is powerful in her frequent, uninhibited nudity.

In the commentary track on the Blu-ray the critics become most excited about a "rape without rape" scene, trying to interpret exactly what happens. I'll give just an outline of events:

  • Dirty biker Kris Kristofferson takes Elita off into the weeds with raping intent.
  • She does not resist, figuring it is the only way to save Bennie's life.
  • But once alone with him, she refuses to be humiliated or degraded.
  • That apparently spoils the experience for him, and he wanders off disconsolate, unable to perform.
  • She follows him, and it is unclear why. Is she feeling actual desire now, or is it just to be sure he is not a threat?
  • When Bennie gets a gun and comes to rescue her, Elita and the dirty biker are found in what looks like a consensual embrace.

Robert Webber and Gig Young are the last people I would expect to show up in this film: a sarcastic, sadistic bounty hunting couple.

This is another film widely hated at the time, a box office failure, but which is now a "masterpiece". How does that happen? The lesson: disregard film critics and reviewers. Particularly when they move with the herd. (Yes! Disregard me too! Although I haven't heard from the herd for awhile...)

Misc notes:

  • Bennie is jealous of Alfredo -- who spent "three days and three nights" with Elita, apparently busy hours -- even after he is dead. He blames Alfredo for everything that goes wrong, but they become pals after Bennie cracks up, though the conversation is a little one-sided.
  • "Bennie" was written to be Peckinpah and that's how Oates played him, but no one knows if the director actually realized this.
  • The body count is somewhere around 25.
  • Oates thought he needed a little "extra" for the scene where he comes out of the grave, so he did it while ripped on magic mushrooms. Took him days to come down.
  • I remember a comment by actor/author Jim Beaver: when he came to Hollywood he told his agent, "I want the sort of roles Warren Oates would be getting today."
  • All the stories about Peckinpah describe him as abusive and self-abusive, out of control and inappropriate. And yet people wanted to work with him and he had loyal friends, for as long as they could stand it.
  • Helmut Dantine, one of the office bad guys, was also a producer for the film.
  • All say that Emilio Fernández (El Jefe) was as crazy and violent as his roles.

Jerry Fielding score. Filmed within a day's drive of Mexico City, all real locations with many local people.

Twilight Time Blu-ray with two valuable, uncensored commentary tracks and isolated score.



-Bill

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post #1255 of 2269 Old 04-14-2014, 08:08 AM
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Bill, thanks for the review. I haven't seen this in a while and I should probably revisit. I can't imagine this movie without Warren Oates, I've always enjoyed his off-kilter twitchy style.

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post #1256 of 2269 Old 04-17-2014, 02:18 PM
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The Informer (1935) - 8,5

After many years I finally re-watch one of my most cherished films while I was studying in university and I'm happy to see it didn't lose any appeal. The plot takes us back to the backstage of Irish War of Independence pitting the Irish Republican Army (IRA) against the authorities of the United Kingdom around 1922. Gypo Nolan is the star of the show, expelled from IRA, he informs the enemy forces about the whereabouts of his friend and former IRA comrade, Frankie McPhillip, in exchange for a monetary reward. McPhillip is killed by the British as a result. Following Nolan after he committed an act of treason, this film is a powerful illustration of the devastating effects that the overwhelming feeling of guilt can stir on a man and it's particularly interesting to see it on a character like Gypo Nolan. A man endowed with imposing physique and superlative strength made all the more intimidating (but also potentially pathetic) by his strange naiveness and volatile temper. I very much enjoy the more or less accomplished interpretation that Victor McLaglen carves of this crude character who ostensibly resorts to alcohol to relieve the weight on his shoulders, he displays good range and even becomes the epicenter of some pretty hilarious situations I can hardly resist. The Informer is a balancing act between sin and redemption, love and patriotism.

Seen through today's eyes, the plot might seem slightly naive, but I am easily taken away by this film because it thrives with that sort of enchantment I worship in Classic B&W Cinema and it is a very well crafted work all around. The Informer was directed by John Ford and it demonstrates just how much cinematic and technical skill this North-American filmmaker possessed with black-and-white pictures, the cinematography and camera work are beautiful and highly expressive, the fog in the outer night scenery adds a layer of surreal claustrophobia to the atmosphere further reinforcing the perception that Nolan is living through a tenebrous situation, there are numerous memorable scenes and images where the contrast between light and dark reveals obvious influence of German Expressionism, the perfect chemistry between moving picture and music effectively builds up the movie's tone and emotional charge. The theatrical and exaggerated acting, typical of this time, fits perfectly in the fabric of this work and is very catchy. Moments of drama, action, romance and even comedy alternate fluently under the insightful conduct of Ford, never hindering the pace. In short, this is a very complete and coherent film where little or nothing distracts me from the wonderful cinematic experience at hand, one of my favorite movies from the 30s, though I still have much to see. The current silence and neglect around this John Ford masterpiece is disgraceful, it deserves much more attention in my opinion. I love it, highly recommended!
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post #1257 of 2269 Old 04-18-2014, 10:41 AM - Thread Starter
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Heavy Traffic (1973), written and directed by Ralph Bakshi.

The loosely plotted adventures of a Jewish-Italian underground cartoonist. Rude, crude, splatter-violent, sexually outrageous, blasphemous. Humanity as repellent toons.

Done to light jazz "Scarborough Fair".

And yet... while no one would accuse Bakshi of subtlety or of having a suave style, his graphic imagination is sometimes very impressive, and he makes good use of a variety of live and animated compositions, processed in all sorts of ways.

In his grubby, brutal world, better times and places glow dimly in the background. Ruin implies past strength, decay remembers past health. Little snatches of old music can hale our souls to times long ago and far away.

He finishes with an innocent little love scene in the real world and I am left thinking I've seen something special, without knowing exactly why.

Rated X and banned in Alberta.

Available on Blu-ray from Shout Factory. Absolutely bare bones, movie-only, no subtitles. 76m long. The IMDB has the aspect ratio as 1.85, but it looks more like 1.66 to me.



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post #1258 of 2269 Old 04-18-2014, 11:44 AM
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Have this on Blu - the father seems like a bizarro version of the very early, cruder version of Homer Simpson.
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post #1259 of 2269 Old 04-18-2014, 11:59 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by V'ger View Post

Have this on Blu - the father seems like a bizarro version of the very early, cruder version of Homer Simpson.

That would be my one question for Matt Groening: "Hey, Matt... Ralph Bakshi?" (I suspect all these animators know each other).

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post #1260 of 2269 Old 04-24-2014, 10:04 AM - Thread Starter
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The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976), directed by Nicolas Roeg.

I hadn't seen this since it was in the theater, when my enjoyment was spoiled by a loudly uncomprehending audience. I don't know why they were there or why they didn't leave.

Science fiction fans can at least understand the plot: a mysterious visitor brings a notebook of new inventions, but has curious gaps in his knowledge. He becomes the secretive head of an industrial empire and builds a spacecraft for his return home, but the powers-that-be (government? mafia? competitors?) won't allow it and he is trapped on earth as a prisoner.

But SF viewers will be less happy with the way the plot wanders, and with the generally unfocussed, tragic story of Mr Newton, who loses his direction and becomes trapped by alcohol and entangled in earthly sordidness.

If you listen to the commentary track on the Blu-ray, the filmmakers take a non-literal view of the project. To them it doesn't matter whether he is a space alien or merely delusional. It's all an arty game with the images and possibilities

I think it could be trimmed without harm.

Misc notes:

  • Much nudity and sex, none of it very appealing.
  • Shy as he is, Newton appears in a TV commercial, a concealed message to his wife, watching from across space.
  • He learned about Earth from watching TV broadcasts. And that's a problem, he confesses.
  • When I first saw it I thought his mission to Earth was to find a way to get water back to his desert planet. The film doesn't say that, though. Maybe he's just a tourist.
  • He says he has seen the signs of other visitors on Earth.
  • Who is the mysterious figure watching him when he arrives? He reappears toward the end. Did the government have advance notice?
  • He is not precisely fixed to the present time, but we get just a hint of that which is not developed further.
  • His amazing new camera is still film-based. Good enough to make a fortune in 1976, of course.

Criterion Blu-ray with a commentary track from the laserdisc days: Bowie, Buck Henry and the director. Artists talking: as is often the case, not necessarily the best use of their time. Is this a longer cut than I saw in the theater? I'm not remembering all the sex games, or the bit with the pistol loaded with blanks toward the end.

The Blu-ray is out of print and expensive on the used market. Netflix still has it, but that can't last much longer.



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