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DVD Reviews

HTF REVIEW: JFK - Two Disc Special Edition (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED).



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#1 of 66 OFFLINE   Herb Kane

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Posted November 03 2003 - 09:09 AM

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JFK – Two Disc SE





Studio: Warner Brothers
Year: 1991
Rated: R
Film Length: 205 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Enhanced Widescreen
Audio: DD 5.1
Color/B&W: Color (with B&W footage)
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish & Portuguese
MSRP: $26.99
Package: 3 panel Digipak with slipcover






The Feature:
With the 40th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy looming, Warner Bros. is about to release Oliver Stone’s Two Disc Special Edition version of the captivating movie, JFK. On November 11th, they’ll release this new SE to coincide with the pending anniversary of the tragic event that occurred almost forty years ago.

Even though the Kennedy name is more of a legacy now, it still seems to hold as much interest today as it did some forty years ago. The mysterious circumstances surrounding the alleged cover-up, is as intriguing as the murder itself and is the reason for the topic being so contentious after all these years. After the assassination of the President, the family seemed predestined to crumble due to an eventual group of events that no single family should ever have had to endure.

What Oliver Stone tries to do is deliver a theory that may very well have taken place and which legitimately creates reasonable doubt from the findings of the Warren Commission… hey, anything is as possible in light of what they wanted us to believe. The story is based on Jim Garrison’s novel, “On The Trail Of The Assassins” as well as Jim Marrs’ book, “Crossfire: The Plot That Killed Kennedy” and directed by Oliver Stone. We’re not going to settle what happened on that fateful day – bigger and better people than most of us here have tried with little or no success.

The story which is set in the Big Easy, has District Attorney Jim Garrison (Kevin Costner) discovering details that don’t add up and decides to investigate the assassination of John F. Kennedy. He takes it upon himself and the staff of his office to initiate an investigation, after feeling deceived by the Warren Commission and the FBI investigation that followed. Garrison and a few of his staff members ask a few questions but quickly, his queries fizzle out.

Fast forward three years and during a flight with Senator Long (Walter Matthau) a few comments are made that again, piques the interest of the determined D.A. to learn that Kennedy wanted to remove any U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. The supposed motive was to escalate the involvement of the United States, after learning Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson made comments regarding his election, and then promises to "give them their war”.

After the basis is set, we then learn how the plan was set into place with a host of characters (and I mean literally) and their so-called involvement in the conspiracy plot. One of the key figures is Clay Shaw (played brilliantly by Tommy Lee Jones) who is a prominent socialite in New Orleans. Obviously Lee Harvey Oswald is present (played by real life chameleon Gary Oldman). Sissy Spacek plays the Southern Belle, Liz Garrision perfectly. And finally, an absolutely brilliant performance by Joe Pecsi, playing the enigmatic role of David Ferrie.

Who was responsible for the assassination? Was it Lee Harvey Oswald? Was it the mafia? Was it the CIA? Were the Russians or Cubans involved? Was it in fact the US Government? Perhaps we’ll never know. But one thing is for sure, the allure surrounding the controversial subject will always be a topic capable of dividing like no other.

I haven’t seen this film since its original theatrical showing, when I had seen it twice. I had forgotten how intense and stirring the film was. The movie is three and a half hours long and seems to fly by. The film and all of the actors seem to have an energy that keeps this film moving pretty quickly. I’m not usually a fan of having big stars pop in on scenes sporadically, but this is a film where it happens – man, does it happen! I can’t think of a recent film that used big profile appearances to the extent this film did, and was completely successful doing so. Besides the main characters, we see Donald Sutherland (in what I believe to be the best scene of the film), John Candy, Walter Matthau, Jack Lemmon, Kevin Bacon, Brian Doyle-Murray, Ed Asner, Wayne Knight, and an appearance by Jim Garrison himself as Chief Justice Earl Warren. Fans will remember him playing himself as Judge Jim Garrison a few years earlier in 1987’s The Big Easy.

Also worthy of mention are the awards the film won – and those it didn’t - but should have. Even though the film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture, it lost – er … was robbed by The Silence Of The Lambs. It was also nominated but lost in the following categories: Best Supporting Actor, Best Director, Best Music-Original Score, Best Sound and Best Writing - Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium. The film did win and deservedly so, for Best Film Editing and Best Cinematography. Obviously some of the old and original B&W footage was included into the film, but much of what appeared was actually new footage made to look like it was from the period – to great effect.

This is a thought provoking movie that has received its share of criticism, though I find it’s interesting that most of the criticism comes from conspiracy critics, not from movie critics.



Video:
While this transfer is a vast improvement from the original release, it is the same remastered transfer as the previous version from “The Oliver Stone Collection”.

The movie starts with many of the old original clips of archival footage that were gathered during the period of the assassination. When the actual movie itself starts, it appears as though the colors are rather muted and washed out. Only after we fast forward the next three years do we see the color palette come to life. During the assassination period, the colors are muted to allow for a depressing or dismal atmosphere. During the meeting on the plane with the Senator, we see how vibrant they are. I noticed this effect a few times throughout the film. Skin tones looked exceptionally accurate.

Black levels were always exceptional and whites were crisp. Though it appears the film was shot soft during many scenes, the level in detail is at times, also equally impressive as can be demonstrated by the many facial close ups shot throughout the film (which unfortunately includes Joe Pecsi’s eyebrows…).

I could not locate any sign of dirt nor were there any scratches to speak of. Also of equal importance, no enhancement issues to report.

Film grain was at an absolute minimum and the movie had a beautiful film like quality to it that I found visually enjoyable.

All in all, this is a very solid film transfer that I found to be very pleasing on the eyes.



Audio:
If I recall correctly, the original JFK was a DD 2.0 offering. On this new SE as well as the previous “Oliver Stone Collection” version, the audio track is a DD 5.1 – and it delivers.

As we see a visual montage of old clips, there is a group of drummers playing various drum rolls and rudiments – which sounds as though we are front row in an actual army barracks. The rolls lead up to the inevitable shot that finally rings out, and then – wow! I was checking to see where I was hit… During the opening music and drum rolls, the front soundstage gave me the impression it was twice as wide as it actually is. This opening sequence really sounds great!

Dialogue always sounded clear and never muddled. The film is accompanied by the brilliant but haunting score of John Williams which always sounds tastefully mixed and never overly aggressive. This is a rock solid track that is as full-bodied as you can imagine. When a few of the shots ring out, the reverberation from the high powered rifles really make you feel as though you are right there! Very well done.

The use of surrounds are also tastefully and tactfully employed. Not only are they deployed during a few of the action scenes but also during the flashback sequences leading to a great effect. Never gratuitous, always tasteful.

There is also a decent amount of LFE with this track. During the motorcade sequence and an initial thunderstorm, your sub will get a very decent workout. It’s also a very effective tool during the many flashback sequences and it certainly grabs your attention.

A very solid offering – great job.



Special Features:
The entire feature is located on side one of the disc and at 205 minutes, I would have preferred to see nothing else accompany it on the same side. But they have included a couple of extras starting with:
[*] Cast & Crew which is a two page text listing with attached links for many of the members.
[*] Up next is a text page listing of the Awards the film garnered.
[*] Lastly on side one is a Commentary By Oliver Stone. While it’s obvious that Stone is passionate about his film (and so he should), listening to him for three and half hours would be a rather arduous task. He does offer up some interesting information relating to the original parties involved as well discussing some the integration process where actual actors are blended into old footage. This is thorough and interesting… and dry. If you can get through the three and half hours, you’re a better man than me. Duration: 205 minutes.


On Disc two, the first special feature is:
[*] Beyond JFK: The Question Of Conspiracy. This is a documentary that was produced in 1992. This is an excellent documentary where numerous witnesses to the actual event and actors from the film are interviewed. Also discussed are the theories demonstrated in the film. Duration: 90.00 minutes
[*] Up next is a healthy group of Deleted/Extended scenes. All of which are available with or without Oliver Stone’s commentary. They are:
- Jack Ruby injected with cancer
- Jim Garrison & Dean Andrews – extended
- Jim Garrison & Liz Garrison at home
- Jim Garrison and Colorado businessman
- Beverly Oliver interview – extended
- Jean Hill interview – extended
- Jim Garrison in the book depository
- Antoine’s restaurant Oswald information – extended
- Clay Shaw trial 1 Oswald information – extended
- Clay Shaw trial 2 Oswald information – extended
- Fantasy sequence – Oswald from the grave
- Alternate Ending

Not really anything that would have made a difference to the film… surely the 205 minute version is satisfactory.
[*] Multimedia Essays Features “Meet Mr. X: The Personality And Thoughts Of Fletcher Prouty”. A rather interesting interview with the real military man, himself. He seems very credible and obviously has information that seems to back up the theory offered. Duration: 11:02 minutes.
[*] Assassination Update – The New Documents. This documentary discusses the formation of The Assassination Records Review Board and records that surfaced after the investigation. Duration: 29:41 minutes.
[*] The Theatrical Trailer is also included, which in my opinion, is one of the best trailers ever made. It’s in great shape. Duration: 2:22 minutes
[*] Finally there is a DVD-ROM feature. There are a number of collected reviews of the film, trailer samplers, additional essays and web links.



Final Thoughts:
Your enjoyment of this great film might be contingent upon whether you are a conspiracy buff or not. Really, the two issues have nothing to do with each other. Oliver Stone doesn’t deliver the absolute solution to a forty year old mystery, but he does deliver a pretty gripping theory that’s responsible for three and a half hours of riveting entertainment. As for what I believe…? Well, let’s just say Oliver did a better job than Mr. Warren did in terms of “believable possibilities”…

I’m not sure there is enough new material offered here to warrant an upgrade for those who already have the current “Oliver Stone Collection” version, unless you want the new documentary, Beyond JFK: The Question Of Conspiracy. Of course, if you don’t have this disc yet, the new SE is the version to buy.

The audio and video presentations for the film are outstanding. The extras are plentiful and most of all, interesting. As for the film, I think it’s a masterpiece and is the career highlight of Oliver Stone. For those of you who don’t yet have this film, this is a must have. For those of you who do, you’ll have to decide if the newly included documentary is worth the extra money.

Highly Recommended..!!




Release Date: November 11th, 2003
My Top 25 Noirs:

25. 711 Ocean Drive (1950), 24. Odds Against Tomorrow (1959), 23. Desperate (1947), 22. Pushover (1954), 21. The Blue Dahlia (1946), 20. The File on Thelma Jordon (1949), 19. He Ran All the Way (1951), 18. The Asphalt Jungle (1950), 17. The Killing (1956), 16. I Walk Alone (1948),...

#2 of 66 OFFLINE   Jari

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Posted November 03 2003 - 09:20 AM

This is still the best movie I have ever seen. It just grabs me every time I watch it. Simply amazing piece of work.

#3 of 66 OFFLINE   Bill Williams

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Posted November 03 2003 - 09:33 AM

I already have the previous 2-disc set and am very happy with it. While the only new extra in this set is the DVD premiere of Beyond JFK, I've got this documentary already on VHS when it came out the same time as the extended cut on VHS. No return dipping for me on this one.
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#4 of 66 OFFLINE   Eric Paddon

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Posted November 03 2003 - 10:00 AM

"What Oliver Stone tries to do is deliver a theory that may very well have taken place and which legitimately creates reasonable doubt from the findings of the Warren Commission…"

The only world where that theory "may have very well taken place" is in a universe where human beings have three legs and five eyes.

What a pity there isn't a DVD release available of the documentary "False Witness" that tells the real story of the real Jim Garrison and his despicable witchhunt of an innocent man named Clay Shaw.

I keep a reference copy of the movie on my shelf solely in the event I have to do a research piece to highlight one of the over 100 documented falsehoods and distortions of the historical record that take place in this movie. No reason for me to buy a new version just to see historical accuracy and honest scholarship take a drubbing in a better picture quality.

#5 of 66 OFFLINE   Anthony Neilson

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Posted November 03 2003 - 10:40 AM

Thanks for the review, Herb.

But Eric -with respect- can't we just discuss the movie on its own merits for once? Stone's movie doesn't present any coherent alternative theory and never intended to. It's a film about the tactic of obfuscation frequently used by governments throughout history, and it throws up plenty of its own on the way.

The whole JFK debate boils down to Lone Gunman or not and, frankly, people will believe what it suits them to believe ;
that system of beliefs will be instilled in them well before they ever clap eyes on Oliver Stone's movie.

SO . . . on the subject of the DVD - Herb, can you go into a little more detail on the doc ? I've heard conflicting reports of how much it focuses on the film and how much on the assassination itself. Does it serve as any kind of Making Of ? Is there any bts footage etc ?
I've been going to bed early . . .

#6 of 66 OFFLINE   Magnus T

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Posted November 03 2003 - 11:05 AM

What was the point of your post Eric? Your opinion of this movies has allready been well documented in this thread:

http://www.hometheat....2051#post42051

This thread is about the technical merits of the DVD, not what Oliver Stone tries to convey.
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#7 of 66 OFFLINE   Eric Paddon

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Posted November 03 2003 - 11:12 AM

"But Eric -with respect- can't we just discuss the movie on its own merits for once?"

I have to confess, I find it amazing that when a movie deals with a subject in real history and real people and the reasons why it was made in the first place are openly admitted by the director to be for the purpose of influencing historical scholarship, that the "merits" of that movie in the eyes of some can never include its integrity to the factual record and whether the whole point behind making the movie in the first place is rooted in dishonorable motives, because any movie that does that fails completely on its "merits" as surely as a movie that has bad acting has failed on its merits.

At any rate, my comments were prompted by remarks in the review that endorse the movie as great *because* of its content, and that I think makes it fair game for me to offer a dissenting view on that. If the review simply said, "let's not discuss the subject, here's what the video and audio look like" but the review I saw chose not to do it that way.

#8 of 66 OFFLINE   Ricardo C

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Posted November 03 2003 - 11:14 AM

Since the review isn't restricted to the technical aspects of the package, I'd say Eric's comments are perfectly acceptable.

And before anyone calls me biased, I've never seen this film, so I have no opinion on whether Stone is at fault. The end Posted Image

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#9 of 66 OFFLINE   Seth--L

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Posted November 03 2003 - 11:37 AM

I agree with Eric. Whatever the reviewer wrote is fair game.



What Oliver Stone tries to do is deliver a theory that may very well have taken place and which legitimately creates reasonable doubt from the findings of the Warren Commission… hey, anything is as possible in light of what they wanted us to believe.


Except that the only fact Stone has to backup his theory is a document where JFK stated that he was interested in looking into removing troops from Vietnam after the election.

Unlike a non-fiction book, Stone is not expected to provide any foot notes to back up his claims.

was robbed by The Silence Of The Lambs


I disagree. While JFK was brilliantly directed and edited, Stone accuses so many people of having a hand in the assassination it becomes goofy. It's not a question of who do it, but who wasn't involved.
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#10 of 66 OFFLINE   David Von Pein

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Posted November 03 2003 - 11:41 AM

Although I haven't dug deep into the Clay Shaw/Jim Garrison trial/investigation, it appears to me that Stone's film is indeed based (at least in some measure) on fact. "Fact", that is, in the sense that there really WAS a Jim Garrison and a REAL Clay Shaw and an actual Shaw Trial.

It's "fact" when you think about the movie as looking at things "through the eyes" of Garrison. (With, of course, a healthy dose of Stone fiction tossed in along the way -- such as Donald Sutherland's "X" character. This type of fiction is, IMO, where the film falters, and misleads).

I certainly do not think the movie represents "facts" when looking at the JFK murder case as a whole. But, through the skewed eyes of a really oddball New Orleans prosecutor, yes...it's "based" on the facts of the Garrison case.

Question (for anybody more familiar with the Shaw Trial): Did Garrison REALLY spout forth to the jury in 1969 the "Six shots / Three assassination 'teams' / Triangulation of crossfire" theory? Or was that bit of drama totally concocted by Mr. Stone?

I can't seem to recall if Garrison actually maintained to the real jury that there were six total shots, or whether he simply claimed there was a conspiracy of some kind, but without going into the specifics (such as we see exhibited at the end of Stone's film).

Anyway, to segue the above into a comment about the "technical merits" of Stone's artistry ..... I love the film! (Especially the great [and, I think, quite eerie] John Williams music score). A fabulous job of mixing the real "stock" footage with all-new 1991 re-created footage. I can always tell what's the "real" footage and what's not...but sometimes it's not easy. I'm guessing someone who hasn't looked many times at the various Zapruder/Hughes/Nix/Muchmore films would have a very difficult time (given the quick, crisp editing done) discerning the real deal from Stone's re-creations.

"JFK" certainly, in no way (IMO), reflects what really occurred in Dealey Plaza, Dallas, on November 22, 1963. But on the level of pure entertainment and drama, it succeeds wonderfully in this writer's considered view.

#11 of 66 OFFLINE   Magnus T

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Posted November 03 2003 - 11:52 AM

Here we go again... Posted Image
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#12 of 66 OFFLINE   Eric Paddon

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Posted November 03 2003 - 11:55 AM

I'm not sure Garrison ever used that phrase in the courtroom or anywhere else. In fact, it's worth noting that the real Garrison was not present in the courtroom for much of the questioning of witnesses! What he did do was occasionally offer his strange theories centering on the "tramps" (whose arrest records were finally located in 1992 and it turned out they were indeed nothing more then tramps) as gunmen. On another occasion, he was pointing to assassins in storm drains, from whence it is impossible to fire any shot. So "triangulation" was likely Stone's neat and tidy way of tying together numerous theories that contradict each other and offering it as a substiute for what Garrison did.

The real irony is how Stone gave Garrison's real star witness Perry Russo a bit part in the film, yet Russo himself was totally zapped out of the movie even though he was the one Garrison's whole case rested on, and Russo later admitted everything he said implicating Shaw was false.

Incidentally Magnus, if you don't want to see me feel the need to chime in on the movie, then may I suggest reviews that don't invite praising of it as the greatest movie ever because of its content? Or are the rules such that Stone's movie can only be praised in this kind of thread?

#13 of 66 OFFLINE   David Von Pein

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Posted November 03 2003 - 12:06 PM

Quote:
Question (for anybody more familiar with the Shaw Trial): Did Garrison REALLY spout forth to the jury in 1969 the "Six shots / Three assassination 'teams' / Triangulation of crossfire" theory? Or was that bit of drama totally concocted by Mr. Stone?
Quote:
I'm not sure Garrison ever used that phrase in the courtroom or anywhere else. ... "triangulation" was likely Stone's neat and tidy way of tying together numerous theories that contradict each other and offering it as a substiute for what Garrison did.
OK. Thanks Eric (I thought you'd probably know the details of that). Interesting.

A "how did they do that" question for somebody out yonder........

How does a filmmaker, like Stone, get 1991 film footage to gain that "1960s" look, with excessive graininess and a general bleached-out and "old" look to it? (Do they take brand-new film and drag it through the mud at the Grassy Knoll for that "aged" appearance? Posted Image)

In any event, I love how he/they accomplished that seemingly-old look to some black-and-white scenes in "JFK".

#14 of 66 OFFLINE   ScottR

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Posted November 03 2003 - 12:42 PM

My copy of the Oliver Stone Collection version has an audio pop during the scene where Costner and Matthau's plane is flying over the Cherry Blossom trees in Washington....has this been corrected? I also think that the framing is too tight....much has been cropped from all four sides in comparison to the LD.

#15 of 66 OFFLINE   Brian W.

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Posted November 03 2003 - 12:52 PM

I've lost interest in this film a bit since I now doubt much of its story, but it is an amazing piece of filmmaking, fictional or not.

Gee, we're almost to the 30th anniversary of Watergate. Don't suppose Buena Vista will finally issue a 16:9 transfer of Stone's superior (in my opinion) "Nixon"? Nah, they probably won't. I'll have to settle for watching the old one when I'm feeling down. Sorry, I don't approve of what he did, but I find his tenacity exhilerating and inspirational.

Quote:
The belts are comin' off and people are gonna be goin' to the woodshed... Anyone who messes with us, his fuckin' head comes off. You got that?


Sorry. Back on topic. Posted Image

#16 of 66 OFFLINE   David Von Pein

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Posted November 03 2003 - 12:59 PM

Quote:
...we're almost to the 30th anniversary of Watergate.
To be ultra-technical, we've already passed the 30th Anniversary of the actual physical "break-in" @ W'Gate. The famous "plumbers" began plumbing the night of June 17, 1972. Posted Image

But you probably were referring to the resignation of the 37th President, right? [August 9, 1974 - August 9, 2004].

(And, Yes!, an SE 16x9 of "Nixon" would indeed be pleasant. Really liked that Stone film too.)

#17 of 66 OFFLINE   Brian W.

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Posted November 03 2003 - 01:15 PM

Quote:
But you probably were referring to the resignation of the 37th President, right? [August 9, 1974 - August 9, 2004].


Yes, that is what I meant. Thanks.

But Watergate's not the issue, David. Pentagon Papers aren't the issue. It's the lie. Remember, David, back in '48, no one believed Hiss was a spy except me. The documents were old and out of date, like these Pentagon Papers. But the main thing we proved was that Hiss was a liar. Once people believe he was a liar, they bought that he was a spy. It's the lie that gets you.

Sorry, sorry!!! Once I start quoting from "Nixon," I can't stop! Posted Image

#18 of 66 OFFLINE   Herb Kane

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Posted November 03 2003 - 01:25 PM

Folks, just a couple of points. I made a few comments offering my opinion as to a few issues relating to this film. In fact, more than I usually offer up, thus I have no problem with anyone discussing the review or my views... as long as they are respectful.

Eric, discuss all you like. I'd be disappointed if subject matter of this nature was posted and wasn't discussed. Preferably however, I would rather keep the discussion focused on the presentation of the disc itself.

One thing though, if you're going to quote me:

Quote:
it as the greatest movie ever because of its content


Please be accurate. Nowhere in my review do I say this is the greatest movie ever because of its content. Its a great movie for a lot of other reasons... content, actually has little to do with it. What I do state is that the end result makes for riveting entertainment.

Herb.
My Top 25 Noirs:

25. 711 Ocean Drive (1950), 24. Odds Against Tomorrow (1959), 23. Desperate (1947), 22. Pushover (1954), 21. The Blue Dahlia (1946), 20. The File on Thelma Jordon (1949), 19. He Ran All the Way (1951), 18. The Asphalt Jungle (1950), 17. The Killing (1956), 16. I Walk Alone (1948),...

#19 of 66 OFFLINE   David Von Pein

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Posted November 03 2003 - 01:28 PM

Quote:
But the main thing we proved was that Hiss was a liar.
"BRIAN W. OF N. HOLLYWOOD, CALIF., GAINS CONVICTION IN HISS CASE!"

.... Details @ 11!

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#20 of 66 OFFLINE   Justin Bauer

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Posted November 03 2003 - 01:46 PM

Great review, I will be picking this one up. By the way, Herb, any news on the Sopranos review?
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