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post #1591 of 2275 Old 08-18-2015, 07:25 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by ChromeJob View Post
Tin Men had musical interludes by a band that later had a hit with "She Drives Me Crazy," The Fine Young Cannibals.
Coincidence: I just saw Roland Gift in Scandal (1989), recently reviewed in the 1980s thread.

-Bill
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post #1592 of 2275 Old 08-18-2015, 01:59 PM
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Oh yeah,that's right!

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post #1593 of 2275 Old 08-20-2015, 03:54 PM - Thread Starter
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Dodge City (1939), directed by Michael Curtiz.

A cattleman (big hat, lots of cattle) and his pals don't want to take law jobs cleaning up Dodge, but when a little boy is killed-- that's just too much. The villains murdered the boy's father earlier; this is actually a bit brutal for an action/adventure western of this type. It has rich detail, but still more fantasy gloss than the more realistic titles from John Ford, Raoul Walsh or Howard Hawks.

Errol Flynn is -- again -- in pursuit of Olivia de Havilland, who hammers him unmercifully during the first three-quarters of the film. As usual, they have good chemistry.

Here is a photo of the two actors (holding hands!) during a tour. I imagine she is saying something like "I care about you but you need to dial down the crazy...":



Ann Sheridan wears dance-hall outfits and sings, but doesn't have much else to do.

The ending is a bit abrupt: the bad guys should have ridden out of rifle range.

Misc notes:

  • In this story the good guys are ex-Confederate and the villains Union.
  • A pre-Casablanca (1942) moment: the battling saloon singers, the selections this time being "Marching Through Georgia" vs "Dixie".
  • The huge ensuing bar fight used every stuntman in town.
  • I love the helpful townspeople: they let the killers run wild but form an instant lynch mob when one is in jail.
  • I recall that when drinking with Guinn 'Big Boy' Williams ("Tex") you were at risk of real bar fights.
  • Trivia: the country/rock band Pure Prairie League is named for the fictional temperance organization in this film.

Max Steiner score.

Available on Blu-ray. The image is often quite good, and the whole disc a great upgrade over the DVD, where the Technicolor registration was so off you could see prismatic fringes on every edge.



-Bill
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post #1594 of 2275 Old 08-21-2015, 06:51 AM
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Huh, I've no memory of this western. Thanks for the review, Bill. Ordered.
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post #1595 of 2275 Old 08-25-2015, 04:10 AM - Thread Starter
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House On Haunted Hill (1959), produced and directed by William Castle.

Quote:
[Vincent Price narrates...]

I am Frederick Loren, and I have rented the house on Haunted Hill tonight so that my wife can give a party. A haunted house party.

She's so amusing.
An eccentric millionaire invites five strangers to spend a night locked inside a haunted house, for which each will receive $10,000. He has a troublesome wife: might this night be a cover for a murder plot? Might there be more than one such plot?

Party favors include loaded .45 automatic pistols. They keep a vat of acid in the basement. What could go wrong?

I remember this as trash, but seeing it again I liked it better. Lighting and camera work are rather good and the cast put a lot into it. Vincent Price and Carol Ohmart as the warring couple are a joy to watch, and drunken terrified Elisha Cook Jr would steal the movie if Price weren't in it.

Many of the jump scares and ghostly effects have no explanation. William Castle was a promoter and he designed the picture as a funhouse scream-fest, nothing more. This is the one with "Emergo", a theater gimmick where an inflated skeleton floated above the audience and then was reeled back in, matching the action on the screen.

Influences: Castle got into horror films after seeing Diabolique (1955). I've heard many times that Hitchcock was inspired by the low-budget filmmaking examples of Castle and Corman to try it himself, culminating in Psycho (1960). (I can't find that in my current Hitchcock references, but maybe in others?)

Available on Blu-ray with a fact-filled commentary track.

This completes Shout Factory's Vincent Price Collection vol 2. Earlier titles were:


I didn't review Return of the Fly (1959) because I had nothing much to say about it, but it was a decent sequel with lovely black-and-white cinematography.



-Bill

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post #1596 of 2275 Old 08-25-2015, 09:24 PM
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Originally Posted by wmcclain View Post
House On Haunted Hill (1959), produced and directed by William Castle.

...Influences: Castle got into horror films after seeing Diabolique (1955). I've heard many times that Hitchcock was inspired by the low-budget filmmaking examples of Castle and Corman to try it himself, culminating in Psycho (1960). (I can't find that in my current Hitchcock references, but maybe in others?)

-Bill
I've only heard it from the Joe Stefano, screenwriter of PSYCHO, interview:

http://www.labyrinth.net.au/~muffin/...h_stefano.html
(about 2/3 of the way down the page)
Quote:
RA: Before leaving behind Psycho: I am interested in the time when you first became involved in the project, read the Bloch book, and realized that this was the film that Hitchcock wanted to make. At that stage of his career, he had just done North by Northwest, and although he always had an ironic side, in the fifties he was still a director of romances. What did you think when you realized that Hitchcock was interested in making this novel which even Peggy Robertson felt was a bit much?

JS: Everybody told him not to do it. Paramount didn't even want to own it. I thought it was interesting because it was kind of crappy but maybe there was some way that Hitchcock would make it differently. So I was kind of disappointed. In the first conference, he said, "Have you ever heard of American International, the film company? They are making very inexpensive movies and making a lot of money. I was wondering how it would be if we made one of those.'' I think he was using the royal "We'' at that point. He meant: let Hitchcock make a movie under a million dollars to see what happens. My agent, his face went grey. I don't know why I thought this could be a typical Hitchcock film. Because actually when you look over his work that I had seen, Psycho isn't typical at all.
But my memory tells me there is more to it than that elsewhere, perhaps in some bonus material interview on one of the PSYCHO dvds/Blu-rays, where Stefano says Hitchcock told him he wanted to see what a movie of that kind would do if a "good" director directed one. Which, unlike the above, suggests it wasn't all about the money for Hitchcock, but also about the challenge and to honestly see if he could generate as much or more screams than the current top practitioners of the ultra low-budget fright film genre. I believe it was where Stefano also relates an early discussion of the novel, gets to the part where Marion is killed off within the first few pages, Hitchcock looks delighted by the prospect of pulling the rug out from under the audience in that way and says with a smile, "We could get a star."
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post #1597 of 2275 Old 08-25-2015, 10:11 PM
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Originally Posted by wmcclain View Post
House On Haunted Hill (1959), produced and directed by William Castle.

Vincent Price and Carol Ohmart as the warring couple are a joy to watch, and drunken terrified Elisha Cook Jr would steal the movie if Price weren't in it.

Many of the jump scares and ghostly effects have no explanation...

-Bill
I wonder if Edward Albee happened to stumble into a NYC movie theater in 1959, ruminating over his next project, and was in any way inspired by the acerbic yet highly entertaining interchange between Price and Ohmart here. Although it was supposedly inspired by a real life couple known to Albee and other Manhattan socialites, I think much of the sniping and back biting between the married couple in this movie was very much in the mold of what the world saw 3 years later on stage in Albee's "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" Even the basic set up is weirdly similar; the warring couple inviting people over to spend the night "partying", where the challenge, blatant and literal in "HOHH" but certainly strongly psychologically implied in "Woolf?", was essentially proposed for show on behalf of the hosts and, in the end, to see who among them could survive the evening.

Another thought; as primitive and low tech as the scares are in this movie, I'd put a modern audience's reaction to the grimacing old lady unexpectedly standing behind the damsel in distress in the cellar chamber and the hairy-gloved hand reach around at the door bit against 90% if not more of the recent Big Deal CGI effect "scares" ya' got!
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post #1598 of 2275 Old 08-26-2015, 12:50 PM
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Another thought; as primitive and low tech as the scares are in this movie, I'd put a modern audience's reaction to the grimacing old lady unexpectedly standing behind the damsel in distress in the cellar chamber and the hairy-gloved hand reach around at the door bit against 90% if not more of the recent Big Deal CGI effect "scares" ya' got!
I saw this theatrically last year and the audience started out laughing (as they often do with older films) but as it moved into the story they got more caught up and, yes, there a few screams and jumps at those bits you mention.
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post #1599 of 2275 Old 08-26-2015, 09:03 PM
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I saw this theatrically last year and the audience started out laughing (as they often do with older films) but as it moved into the story they got more caught up and, yes, there a few screams and jumps at those bits you mention.
Yes, almost without exception. I've had home theater screenings of HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL (1959) with family members in their 20s and 30s where the guys noticeably flinch and the girls literally jump out of their seats and turn away during those moments. lol. Just like young women did in 1959 at my local theater. Then we'll all go to the latest zombie apocalypse or poltergeist/evil entity rips apart a mansion movie filled with the latest greatest high tech effects and, just like everyone else in the audience, the only jump scares you see out of anyone is from one of those ear bursting soundtrack effects no more imaginative than if someone sneaks up behind you and blasts an air horn in your ear. Comes and goes in an instant.

By the time one of those high tech effect entries reaches home theater, you could watch it with a fresh audience without so much as a ripple of noticeable reaction from anyone.

Seems to me the blame can be laid to a combination of the technology being too far removed from the physical human touch (an actual lady standing there, a real hand reaching around, neither being CGI'd effects floating in cyberspace) and a lack of understanding for how to set up and stage a scene in order to actually elicit an audience response. The jumps in HOHH were all due to Castle's understanding of exactly where the audience was emotionally the second before his camera captures the scary image, where to place the camera for maximum effect, how much stinger music or sound effects should accompany it without drowning out or replacing the screams he expected to get at that instant, so many things understood and lined up much better about audience psychology than they know or, frankly, seem to care about knowing today.
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post #1600 of 2275 Old 08-26-2015, 09:47 PM
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Review older films here: 1979 and earlier

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The Wind and the Lion (1975), written and directed by John Milius.

"Pedecaris alive or Raisuli dead." -- TR.l
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Director of photography Billy Williams makes a cameo appearance at the opening of The Wind And The Lion, 1975. It’s a bit of an error, because his character, Sir Joseph, runs out of bullets with this shot in the edited film, but you can see he’s got a full load here. Surely this is an homage to the 1903 silent, The Great Train Robbery, in which Justus Barnes fires point blank into the camera.

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“I want respect. … And I'm going to send the Atlantic Squadron to Morocco to get that respect.” “That’s illegal.” “Now, why spoil the beauty of a thing with legality?”

The film’s director, John Milius, gets his own cameo as a one-eyed, one-armed arms merchant letting the Sultan of Morocco play with a new gatling gun. Milius, in addition to being a brilliant script doctor and filmmaker, was a lifelong military history buff, so this film is stuffed with some historical analogies (though much of the immediate story is contrived), and his battle sequences are exciting, tactically accurate, and are allegedly even shown in war colleges. In the final battle, watch for -- no kidding -- a cannon duel between opposing factions. A gunfight with really big guns. Many of the horse stunts were performed by Terry Leonard, who also cameoed as the Presidential sparring partner.

The fights, particularly the sword fights, were choreographed, performed, filmed, and edited with the precision of Japanese samurai films. Even the sounds are similar (Kurosawa’s sound effects editor used a sword cutting into frozen chicken wrapped in fabric, IIRC).

1975 was a banner year for Sean Connery. Following on Zardoz, he made this film with Milius (co-starring John Huston) and The Man Who Would Be King with Michael Caine, directed by Huston. Surely this was the year that put Connery back where he belonged. His performances here and the Huston film (sans hairpiece!) are hammy, macho, whimsical, and nuanced. His signature on-screen charisma brings it all to the table and leaves no leftovers. His introduction to us is brutal -- he strikes the woman harshly, telling her "Do not laugh at me again" -- but you start to see his nobility later, through the boy's eyes. Watch the fluttering of his turban when he tells Eden Pedecaris, “You’re in the Raisuli’s house, I don’t need guards. My eyes are with you wherever you go, and Allah is beside me, and no one can hide from Allah.”

Candice Bergen says in the 1975 featurette, “I think all women would like to be carried off by a benevolent captor. I always dreamed of being Maid Marian.”


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“See, young man, you’ve made this noble grizzly bear look like a hairy cow. Would you like to be portrayed as a hairy cow?”


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The film is stuffed with great character actors. Huston of course as Secretary of State John Hay, Brian Keith sinking his teeth into the bigger than life role of President Teddy Roosevelt, Geoffrey Lewis as a career-minded US diplomat in Tangier, Steve Jensen as a Navy admiral, Steve Kanaly as a war-happy, young Marine officer.


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Vladek Sheybal, a stage actor originally from Poland, was urged by Sean Connery (whose then-girlfriend, Diane Cilento, had been directed on stage by Sheybal) to take a role in the second Bond film, From Russia With Love. He reluctantly did, and became one of the best known of the Bond villains, the chess master and SPECTRE agent Kronsteen. He appears here as the Bashaw, another great performance. Trivia: Sheybal was a member of the Polish underground in the war, twice captured and interred by the Third Reich, and twice escaped.

Milius is a student of classic film, and this film has homages to a great many of them. There are bits of David Lean, Howard Hawks, Michael Curtiz throughout. The Wind and the Lion has more great set pieces in one film than many modern directors get into an entire career. Mrs. Pedecaris and the Marine Corps rifle company walking through the small town to free the Raisuli is right out of the end of The Wild Bunch (with a decidedly better outcome).


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The 1975 featurette on the DVD (and BD?) shows Milius carrying a revolver around during the shooting of the final battle. At one point, he’s twirling it like a gunslinger. For the benefit of the camera? or just because he’s an overgrown kid playing with bigger toys? You decide, seeing the documentary Milius may help you. I recommend it highly. It’s amazing how many great films of the late 60s, 70s, 80s, even 90s he’s had a hand in. E.g. when Connery was in The Hunt For Red October, he felt he didn't have a good "speech" in it, so asked Milius to write one up. The result is the marvelous "Crazy Ivan" scene where Captain Ramius is reflecting on his years at sea in a cold war, "with no monuments, no parades, only casualties."

Speaking of career highlights, composer Jerry Goldsmith pulled out all the stops for this film. Having such a huge canvas with which to compose a big, historical epic score must’ve been a treat (like The Sand Pebbles). The entire soundtrack is available as a limited edition from La La Land Records. I remember seeing it in the theater (4.0 sound as far as I could tell), and the overture blasted out from all the speakers with incredible definition. It was amazing. There are countless great suites, e.g. when William is sleeping, and dreaming of the adventure he’s just had, ending with the Raisuli’s face almost superimposed on the boy’s, suggesting that this man’s impact on the young lad will forever effect who the boy grows up to be. For me, the score is never better when, finally freed, Raisuli throws down the rifle and battles his way through the village with his great sword. Listen to Goldsmith’s signature action music and climax when
Spoiler!
. Goldsmith leads the orchestra through his signature blend of percussion and brass, and finishes with the main theme. It’s an unforgettable moment, perfectly edited. … Connery was born to play bigger than life scenes like this, and Goldsmith has his back with the musical score.

Trivia: Huston exits, stage left, quoting Kipling, “The bear that walked like a man.” Huston was about to release his long-dreamt of adaptation of Kipling’s The Man Who Would Be King, starring Connery and Michael Caine. .

The film is rather sneaky. It opens with a typical setup “mysterious foreigners are bad, look at how they are destroying Mrs. Pedecaris’ home, gleefully tearing up all the trappings of Western wealth.” But very quickly the film illustrates how the great Western powers (including the US) are trying to control and usurp the Muslim world, while the Muslims are acting (mostly) with honor and adherence to a traditional, moral code. Of course our kidnapping brigand is intended to turn out to be a hero of sorts. At a time when the Middle East and the Arab world were being viewed with suspicion, Milius’ film presents them taking the high ground.

Milius’ script is full of some thoughtful and memorable dialog. I think in an interview Milius said he set out to make a big picture like David Lean’s later films, and for my money, he hit a home run.


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“Sometimes … you find your enemies are lot more admirable than your friends. You take the road to greatness,... you come to realize that the road traveled by great men is dark, and lonely, and lit only at intervals by other great men, and sometimes they’re your enemies. They’re the only true luxury you have. Yes, it’s a dark and difficult road, and I do not look down on anyone who has good sense not to take it.“


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In all, Wind and the Lion is an old-fashioned romantic adventure: the intelligent, sophisticated lady stolen away by a sheik or something who opens her eyes to variety of the world and possibility of a love that crosses social boundaries; add in some political intrigue; some military action; view it all through eyes of an impressionable youngster (William); then pound it home with the classic story of great men who view each other with respect over great distances, each a worthy adversary for the other.

“You are like the wind, and I like the lion. You form the tempest, the sand stings my eyes, and the ground is parched. I roar in defiance, but you do not hear. But between us there is a difference. I, like the lion, must remain in my place, while you, like the wind, will never know yours.”

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Bill’s review is here.

Note: some great matte painting work by, I think, Matthew Yuricich.
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post #1601 of 2275 Old 08-29-2015, 10:59 AM - Thread Starter
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Two with James Stewart, directed by Anthony Mann, on the same DVD. Neither are very representative of the director's other work. Both photographed by William H. Daniels.

Thunder Bay (1953), directed by Anthony Mann.

Just out of the Navy, two wildcatters want to get back to their dream of off-shore oil drilling. They have bar fights with the colorful Louisiana shrimp fisherman, but also romance with their young women. Can they bring in a gusher before (a) their backers cut them off, or (b) the townspeople blow up the rig?

It's not a deep story, but interesting for the people involved and also for the genre: you don't see many industrial adventures any more. Off-shore oil drillers in the Gulf as heroes? Unlikely these days. (Well, Armageddon...) The moral: this is Progress, and You Can't Stop It.

James Stewart is your can-do American engineer, thoughtful man of action. Dan Duryea, often a snotty villain, is his wisecracking but otherwise decent partner. Gilbert Roland: extra "ethnic" and loving it.

Joanne Dru is always lovely, but her character is unpleasantly brittle and hostile through most of the story.

Filmed on location and with real boats and drilling gear.

Originally shot in 1.37 ratio, but cropped to 1.85 for theatrical distribution. This is the version we have on the DVD, and I would have preferred the original. The cropped image is often not framed quite right and has a "zoomed" look.

The Technicolor registration needs work in some scenes, and I see a sort of "pulsing" of the saturation from time to time.

First stereo film for the studio, and the original plan was for 3D, which didn't happen.



The Glenn Miller Story (1954), directed by Anthony Mann.

Reverential bio-pic made ten years after the bandleader's plane vanished over the English Channel during WW2. Much on his struggles and on the romance between Miller and his wife, tending toward the syrupy. Even if you are a fan of big-band music and the people involved I think it is a once-only sort of film.

Nonetheless it was a huge hit at the time. I suspect people had an intense nostalgia for the music that provided much of the real-life background score for the late 1930s and the War years. It is still intensely evocative of those times.

Plus the cinematography is a cut above thanks to William H. Daniels. Some Colorado locations. Technicolor.

Cameos from many musicians, playing themselves. See Louis Armstrong and Gene Krupa together in the thumbnails below.



-Bill

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post #1602 of 2275 Old 08-29-2015, 06:32 PM
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Hrm. No love for Joanne Dru (Red River, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, All the King's Men) or June Allyson? You're slipping, Bill....

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post #1603 of 2275 Old 09-01-2015, 08:18 AM - Thread Starter
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The Iron Rose (1973), directed by Jean Rollin.

Boy meets girl. After some cavorting in a train-yard they picnic in a cemetery, and even descend into a crypt below ground for some first date sex. When night falls they cannot get out of the graveyard. It's kind of a Blair Witch Project situation: no matter how hard they try they can't even find the iron gates.

This goes on for a long time. They start cracking up, although that does not prevent an intimate interlude on a pile of old bones in a pit.

Guys, some dating tips: if you're going to hang out in the cemetery after hours, make sure you can keep it together when the going gets weird, and most importantly, make sure your date isn't bat-house crazy.

This is the first film I've seen by the director. His reputation is for atmospheric, erotic vampire movies, but this is more of an art film. No real horror content or any gruesomeness. Not even a strong sense of desecration. Old overgrown cemeteries with lots of stonework and ironmongery have a decadent beauty which is neither completely wholesome nor actually loathsome.

You see the Scary Cemetery Clown of Fate in the thumbnails? That's how you know you're watching a French Art Film.

I see complaints of "boring, nothing happens", but I had no trouble sticking with it, if wondering how long it could go on. Some lovely photography, and Françoise Pascal is easy on the eyes, with her bra-less Earth-mother figure and some nudity, for which many thanks.

Available on Blu-ray on the Redemption label. The Blu-ray had a quick "Client: Kino" title screen. Original French and English dub audio tracks, with subtitles.



-Bill
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post #1604 of 2275 Old 09-03-2015, 02:02 PM
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Review older films here: 1979 and earlier

Zatoichi To Yojimbo (Zatoichi Meets the Bodyguard)(1970)

By the time that Shintaro Katsu's own production company took over making the continuing series of Zatoichi the Blind Swordsman epics, the films became more tongue in cheek, and bloodier. The character was always a bit funny, as a self-deprecating blind masseur (very low class), expert with a sword, and a lowly yakuza gambler who often uncovered crooked dice games after making a killing for himself. Some films are like Shane, with some child or young woman calling out to him. But Zatoichi is destined to always be a nomad, with no friends but those he meets on his journey. Outwardly jovial and friendly, but inwardly regretful and ashamed of his earlier life killing and hurting others (events preceding the first film, The Tale of Zatoichi, 1962). He's presented with multiple opportunities to settle down with a good woman, but he always seems to slip away....

The dark humor associated with some of his exploits (in one film he flicks a booger into an oyabun's sake just before the gangster chief drinks it, and then Ichi comments on the "saltiness" of the sake in that house) calls back to Kurosawa's 1961 dark comedy/action film, Yojimbo (1961), which (like many of Kurosawa's films) introduced global film to a new dialect, in that case, a jidaigeki action film with comedy, gore, and hidden social commentary.

It seemed inevitable that these two friendless, wandering swordsmen should meet. And as filmed by Kazuo Miyagawa, DP for Yojimbo as well, their meeting is hilarious. Toshiro Mifune's rōnin isn't explicitly the same Sanjuro from the two Kurosawa films, but he's similar in demeanor and moral flexibility. Arriving in a back alley, drunk, he thinks he's skewered the blind swordsman. But Ichi-san has pulled a fast one on him, grimacing as if mortally wounded. As the camera pulls back, Ichi's cry fades as he reveals that he's caught the ronin's sword in his own scabbard. Mifune's face is a changing mask of fierceness, suspicion, shock, and disbelief. After glaring at his now-sheathed sword, he utters, "What the h---?!"



It's one of several very funny moments in the film.

Co-written and directed by jidaigeki great Kihachi Okamoto (Samurai Assassin (1965), Sword of Doom (1966), Kill! (1968)), this film pulls out all the stops. Multiple set pieces and dramatic complications include the final, gruesome battle between warring factions,
Spoiler!
, greed, temptation, and the inevitable final showdown between the two "heroes" (itself a point of contention between the stars and the director, allegedly). Intrigue abounds in this film. By the end of the film, we wonder if anyone left standing is worth redeeming.... In the beginning, Ichi suspects that he's in hell; by the end, we're sure of it.

Music by Akira Ifukube, who scored eleven of the Zatoichi films. His music's always fresh, dramatic and a bit different than his previous score. Ifukube also scored Chushingura, Godzilla and many of the Godzilla sequels and spinoffs. His Godzilla theme is unmistakable, and when watching this series in order of release, you can pretty much spot his scores before his credit appears on screen.

Restored and included on DVD and BD as part of the Criterion Collection 25-film boxed set. (More images of the gorgeous boxed set here.) Each of the films looks brilliant on Blu-ray, some with incredibly crisp and colorful juxtaposition of costume, tatami mat, and decorative set dressing. Worth the price of admission, and a great introduction to classic jidaigeki film.

More about Zatoichi in Gregory O'Brien's accompanying essay. Screencaps are from the DVD, the BD's far, far better.


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The last disc of the set has a marvelous interview with film critic Tony Rayns about the series' success, place in Japanese cinema, Katsu, etc.
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post #1605 of 2275 Old 09-08-2015, 06:30 AM - Thread Starter
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Inherit the Wind (1960), produced and directed by Stanley Kramer.

I've been warned many times not to take this film as a documentary of the actual Scopes "Monkey" Trial of 1925. The play fictionalized the original events as a metaphor for the McCarthy period, in an attempt to champion intellectual freedom.

The background here is the breakdown of the humorless old time religion and its defeat by lively and good-natured intellectuals.

The authors changed the names but we know who is who:

  • Fredric March is William Jennings Bryan, prairie populist, orator, and three-time Democratic nominee for the presidency. He's played as a clown here: pious and small-minded. (Historical note: Bryan died in his sleep five days after the end of the trial).
  • Spencer Tracy is defense lawyer Clarence Darrow. Skeptical and humanistic, this and the Leopold and Loeb trial (the crime used for another play and adapted by Hitchcock for Rope (1948)) were his most famous cases.
  • Gene Kelly is witty, sardonic journalist H. L. Mencken, who first called it the "Monkey Trial". Note that Stanley Kramer also gave Fred Astaire a dramatic role in On the Beach (1959). Elmer Gantry (1960) had another character reminiscent of Mencken, and the book was dedicated to him.

The histrionic courtroom blustering is a bit much for me. The performances are better when the old friends sit on the porch and rock together, talking over old times. You can be close to someone but still divided by issues and ideals.

The temperature in the courtroom was said to be 97F. It looks about that hot in the film, the way most people are sweating. Here is an historical photo of the two lawyers during the trial:



Available on Blu-ray from Twilight Time. Superb image.



-Bill
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post #1606 of 2275 Old 09-11-2015, 02:19 AM
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Thank you Billy,your doing a good job keeping this thread updated!!

Have you done 'YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE' yet?? (1967) -- Thats one of my favourite BOND films!!

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Thank you Billy,your doin g a good job keeping this thread updated!!

Have you done 'YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE' yet?? (1967) -- Thats one of my favourite BOND films!!
Yes: You Only Live Twice (1967). I've reviewed all of the pre-1990 Bond films, and will fill in the first 3 Brosnan films someday. We'd need a "Films of the 2000s" thread for Die Another Day and Daniel Craig.

A quick index to all my reviews is here: Strange Picture Scroll.

-Bill
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post #1608 of 2275 Old 09-11-2015, 04:25 AM - Thread Starter
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In the Heat of the Night (1967), directed by Norman Jewison.

When a northern industrialist is murdered in a small Mississippi town, a black homicide detective from Philadelphia -- just passing through -- is shanghaied into investigating the crime. He didn't volunteer and no one wants him there, apart from the dead man's wife, who recognizes a real policeman when she sees one. She gets what she wants, but quiet, polite, very smart Virgil Tibbs is going to rub a lot of white people the wrong way before it's over.

The director said he was trying to balance the Message against the dramatic needs of the murder mystery, a story that should be able to stand on its own. That sort of works, but the mystery is not that complex, and the obstacles to its solution all involve racism, so the Message tends to dominate.

This was made when things were happening. It had an electric effect on audiences at the time.

Poitier plays Tibbs as extra-reserved, which is quite sensible given the hostile, even murderous environment And yet, is the sheriff entirely wrong when he rants:

Quote:
You're so damn smart. You're smarter than any white man. You're just gonna stay here and show us all. You've got such a big head that you could never live with yourself unless you could put us all to shame. You wanna know something, Virgil? I don't think that you could let an opportunity like that pass by.
Rod Steiger does something great with his role: big-bellied racist southern sheriff is a cliché, but as we come to know him we see a lonely man who is also something of a new breed, unwanted by his town and not behaving as expected.

Similarly, we are in no mood to like the rich man, but after he is slapped we see his tears of frustration and humiliation, things anyone could feel.

Notes:

  • Young Delores is played by Quentin Dean. This is her first film and she had only a three-year career.
  • In the end Delores is going to be an unwed mother, the father is dead and her brother will be in prison for murder.
  • Note the brief appearance of Matt Clark ("Packy"), seemingly the only non-racist white man in town.
  • The real Sparta IL substitutes for the fictional Sparta MS.
  • Edited by Hal Ashby.
  • Score by Quincy Jones with Ray Charles singing the title song.

Available on Blu-ray with an edited commentary track by the director, cinematographer, Rod Steiger and Lee Grant.



-Bill

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post #1609 of 2275 Old 09-11-2015, 05:48 AM
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Originally Posted by wmcclain View Post
In the Heat of the Night (1967), directed by Norman Jewison.

Notes:

Young Delores is played by Quentin Dean. This is her first film and she had only a three-year career.

-Bill
It was also a hell of a year for young Scott Wilson, who plays a falsely accused suspect in this fictional rural crime story and also plays Dick Hickock in the non-fiction crime story of that same year, In Cold Blood, his first two credited film roles. Unlike Ms. Dean, he wound up with a very long film and television career, but never really surpassed his 1967 role as Dick Hickock in terms of lasting impression along with the double whammy of appearing rather prominently (for a first-timer) in that year's Best Picture Oscar winner.
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In the Heat of the Night - August 1967

Aptly released in the heat of the summer. As Bill says in his review it electrified audiences at the time. I was quite taken with it and remember going back to see it 2 more times.

1967 was a very good year for movies.
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post #1611 of 2275 Old 09-14-2015, 04:03 AM - Thread Starter
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The Curse of the Cat People (1944), produced by Val Lewton, directed by Gunther von Fritsch and Robert Wise.

After the strange death of his first wife -- the supernaturally afflicted Irena -- an architect has married his former gal-pal and moved upstate. Their child is "a little different", without friends and always in trouble at school. Her father, having had enough of the uncanny, has a horror of her fantasy life and imaginary friends and punishes her for not being more normal. She finds other friends. Some are living. Some are sane.

At first we object to the title: there is no curse and no cat people. Which is typical of Lewton at RKO: they picked the title and he made the movie he wanted. On reflection: Dad is still haunted by Irena and keeps secret pictures of her. Of young Amy he says "She might almost be Irena's child". That any weirdness might attach to her would indeed curse his life.

And Irena has returned, if visible only to Amy. Maybe she's imaginary, the little girl having assembled clues and produced an extra-sexy guardian angel or fairy godmother. She has no trace of the infernal and at Christmas she sings a French carol: Il est né, le divin Enfant.

Consistency of tone is a problem here. It's like two movies shuffled together: a somewhat cloying family drama and a much better thriller of insanity and haunting. Perhaps related: we have two directors. Editor Robert Wise got his first directing credit when he took over after the film fell behind schedule. Some of the better scenes look just like him but I don't know who was responsible for what. Some bits of gorgeous composition.

The stories do link up: unless she gets some love and acceptance from her obtuse parents at home, she's headed the way of the inmates at that other house: the cracked old actress and her suffering, perhaps murderous daughter. Roy Webb's score covers both halves: at first sweet, becoming ominous.

Ann Carter, last seen in The Two Mrs. Carrolls (1947)...



...is a beautiful little girl and very effective in the role. With children you have to accept some limitations: earnestness is difficult and seems artificial. Just being natural is the hardest thing. Carter left acting when she fell ill with polio, still a child.

If I were a film producer, Val Lewton would be my ideal: the patron saint of all those who labor for bosses who don't give a damn, unable to see quality in front of their noses. They wanted cheap entertainment product; he produced economical little B-film gems, saving the studio after the Orson Welles disaster. Were they grateful? What do you think? They hated each of his films in turn.

On DVD with a commentary track that stresses the personal nature of this project for Lewton, how he put some of himself, good and bad, into several of the characters.



-Bill
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post #1612 of 2275 Old 09-18-2015, 06:04 AM - Thread Starter
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Seconds (1966), directed by John Frankenheimer.

A dull, gray, middle-aged banker has been given an interesting proposition. You can see him mulling it over on the train and at his desk. You can see the terror in his eyes when he realizes he no longer has any desire for his wife, and the dread that he might be expected to make love to her.

Jerry Goldsmith's score provides hints of escape from his claustrophobic existence, intimations a world elsewhere, a fresh start and a new life, for which we all subconsciously yearn.

A mysterious, secret organization -- actually a business venture -- will fake his death, rework and rejuvenate his body, and set him up as a young man in his dream life.

What could go wrong? Well, look at the clues: how can such a dull, bureaucratic entity get him out into a meaningful life? That they need to blackmail him into going through with it: doesn't that seem suspicious?

And what do they promise him: a life of absolute selfishness, with nothing to accomplish or prove to anyone. Does that sound like paradise?

On the other hand: is the organization entirely soulless? The Old Man founder is living his passion and the surgeon sees himself as an artist, admiring his own creations.

It has darkly funny moments, as in the waiting room to Hell where the failed "reborns" sit around doing nothing, maybe plotting how to pull in someone else. Like a scene written by Kafka, who could be a funny guy. If you don't mind the punchline.

Cinematographer James Wong Howe provides a startling vision for the whole project with ultra-closeups and weird, titled angles crowding the actors with early hand-held shakey-cam.

Notes:

  • When he is first trying to locate the company: did you see the flypaper strip in the tailor's shop? And then he's taken in a meat-wagon to the slaughterhouse. First he's trapped and then he's meat.
  • Khigh Dhiegh returns as the giggling psychologist from The Manchurian Candidate (1962).
  • Is there a demand for that special batch of wine?
  • According to the Criterion booklet this is part of the director's "paranoia trilogy" with The Manchurian Candidate (1962) and Seven Days in May (1964).

Criterion Blu-ray with a commentary by the director, where he says:

  • That wine festival was a real thing, where connoisseurs got drunk and enthusiastically naked and smooshed the grapes in a big vat.
  • Howe refused to get in the vat so the director did it himself with a hand-held camera, wearing only swimming trunks. The drunk women weren't allowing that and he was depantsed within seconds.
  • Like his character, Rock Hudson was very uncomfortable with the scene, but like his character he got into it in the end.
  • Hudson was really drunk for his drunken scene.
  • It was Hudson's idea to use two actors. They were going to use one actor with aging makeup.
  • One of Frankenheimer's regrets was Hudson's wardrobe: he looked like a department store mens-wear ad. Should have hired a wardrobe designer. (I thought that look might be intentional, representing the artificiality of his new life).
  • That final scene with Hudson on the gurney: they had to hire two football players to hold him down and find leather straps because he kept breaking the web versions. You can see he means it.
  • He says the film went from flop to cult classic while skipping the middle stage of being actually successful (Well, that happens a lot).
  • He constantly praises all involved, with particular reverence for cinematographer Howe. He's also careful to mention all the actors who were previously blacklisted.



-Bill
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post #1613 of 2275 Old 09-24-2015, 06:57 AM - Thread Starter
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Drive, He Said (1971), directed by Jack Nicholson.

A loosely plotted slice of those chaotic revolutionary years revolving around a star basketball player, his crazed radical roommate, and a married ballerina. The roommate (looking and talking a lot like the director) comes to dominate the story: he tries to evade the draft by acting mental, and in the end isn't acting.

This is probably once only for me, but it has historical interest as guerrilla filmmaking. Jack Nicholson only directed three films. I give him points for a certain honesty: the student revolutionaries are a flailing, unlovely lot. Their activism is a limp, posing performance. If they were more serious they'd be setting bombs and killing people, so what are you going to do?

Bruce Dern gets to play a non-psychotic adult. If a basketball coach is an adult.

Bits of nudity, including rare male nudity when the team shake it all about in the showers. Nicholson said he wanted even more: the original plan was to open the film with a parade of male parts.

Adaptable filmmakers, they ran to a spontaneous student demonstration and used it and the arrests in the film. Made in Eugene OR.

Criterion Blu-ray.



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post #1614 of 2275 Old 09-24-2015, 07:11 AM
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Nice review of SECONDS, Bill. One of my favorite films to make me seriously bummed out. The scene where Hudson goes back to see his wife is devastating: "You threw them away..."

Jerry Goldsmith's startling score is also a major element of the film's success, IMO.
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[url=http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0068509/][size=4][b]

Bits of nudity, including rare male nudity when the team shake it all about in the showers. Nicholson said he wanted even more: the original plan was to open the film with a parade of male parts.

-Bill
We have not progressed very far since this film as evidenced by this PSA.

#FreetheBacon
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Drive, He Said (1971), directed by Jack Nicholson.

Criterion Blu-ray.

-Bill
I was just looking at that BBS Story collection. I can't imaging how that release got past me, but I've remedied the oversight.
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I was just looking at that BBS Story collection. I can't imaging how that release got past me, but I've remedied the oversight.
From that set I've also done:


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The Ipcress File (1965), directed by Sidney J. Furie.

His spymaster superiors don't much like cheeky, insubordinate Harry Palmer, but he seems to get results. In fact he's quickly in too deep. Brainwashed and disoriented, can he still locate and shoot the traitor in his own organization?

This was intended as a darker, "not James Bond" spy thriller. In many ways that's true: Harry is a working class cockney recruited from an army prison. He hates the bosses who want to drown him in paperwork. The intelligence agencies waste their time spying on other. This is in gray rainy London, not sunny exotic locales.

On the other hand, like 007, Harry can fight, shoot and find the bad guys. He's cultured and likes women and good food. The studio complained that he did his own cooking, which an action hero is not supposed to do. And why is he wearing glasses?

And look who is making the film: one of the same producers as for Bond, same editor and art designers. Even John Barry for the score, with themes suggestive of the moodier Bond bits, and with what sounds like a cross between surf guitar and the zither from The Third Man (1949).

Notes:

  • It made Michael Caine a star.
  • A supermarket is called -- with disapproval -- "an American shopping method".
  • The agencies waste a lot of time, but when needed they show clockwork spycraft, as when paying ransom for a kidnapped scientist.

There is no region A Blu-ray of this and although DVDs are in print (at least Amazon seems to have new copies) they are expensive.

The thumbnails are from an all-region Blu-ray imported from the UK. The label is ITV, the encoding mpeg2, and the framerate the oddball 24.0hz. Black levels are not very good, but detail is acceptable given the large amount of grain in this one.



-Bill
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post #1619 of 2275 Old 09-30-2015, 08:31 AM
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Thanks for posting - I blind-bought the blu about 6 months back (along with Lumet's The Offense), but have yet to watch it. Do you know if the two immediate sequels are any good? [Funeral in Berlin & Billion Dollar Brain]

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post #1620 of 2275 Old 09-30-2015, 08:50 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by V'ger View Post
Thanks for posting - I blind-bought the blu about 6 months back (along with Lumet's The Offense), but have yet to watch it. Do you know if the two immediate sequels are any good? [Funeral in Berlin & Billion Dollar Brain]
It's been so long I don't remember them. Common wisdom is that they are not proper Harry Palmer stories. I'd see them again, given the chance. Caine also did two Palmer TV movies later in life which I haven't seen.

The Billion Dollar Brain is on Blu-ray and was directed by Ken Russell, so expect a bizarre interpretation.

-Bill
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Last edited by wmcclain; 09-30-2015 at 08:54 AM.
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