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Track the Films You Watch (2008)

Discussion in 'Movies' started by Michael Elliott, Dec 16, 2007.

  1. Michael Elliott

    Michael Elliott Lead Actor

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    It's funny but one of my favorite Cagney films is TAXI, which co-stars Loretta Young who just happens to star with Chaney in one of my favorite pictures of his, LAUGH CLOWN LAUGH. [​IMG]

    I was around twelve or so when I first watched MAN and only PHANTOM and HUNCHBACK were available then. It was impossible to see anything else (for me at least) so at the time I always got a kick out of seeing the posters to his other films. You also have to remember that LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT wasn't a lost film when this movie was made.
     
  2. Jean-Michel

    Jean-Michel Supporting Actor

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    In which case I would think he deserves at least the blame for the In the Land of Don Quixote footage that is liberally used throughout the film, even though that was a completely separate project and nobody has claimed otherwise. One can forgive Franco with the excuse of "extenuating circumstances" -- the framing sequences with Patty McCormack were unavailable to him, so the documentary stuff was used in its stead -- but the "reconstruction" nevertheless gives an extremely misleading impression of Welles' intentions. (Franco's poor selection of the documentary material is, I suppose, a moot point; in any event, In the Land of Don Quixote is worth seeing in its own right -- there's far more interesting footage there than in the Franco excerpts.)
     
  3. Michael Elliott

    Michael Elliott Lead Actor

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    Thanks for that info. Since I haven't seen the film I wasn't aware that a different documentary was thrown into the film. Is that documentary available anywhere? A quick search doesn't show too many votes on IMDB. Are there notes by Welles on how he wanted the movie to be? This is the confusing part because I read somewhere that a film critic viewed a "workprint" of the movie back in the day and apparently whatever he was shown was a lot different than the Franco cut. Outside of this I haven't ever read or heard at what Welles wanted. From what Franco has said, Welles kept reshooting footage for no reason and came across as never planning on finishing the film and instead just using it as an experiment.

    Apparently Welles and Franco were rather close and Franco has stated that the most influential advice he ever got was when Welles told him "live to film, not film to live". Another thing that confused me were all the legal battles over this film. Some have claimed that Franco and the other director "stole" a lot of this footage or paid off certain people to get it. From what I've heard Franco has never saved a dime of money so I'm curious how he could have bought any of it.
     
  4. Martin Teller

    Martin Teller Cinematographer

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    Yeah, I'd like to see that doc.


    Drole de drame - I'll give Carné credit, he's certainly versatile. I've seen three of his films, and they've been a romance (Children of Paradise), a crime drama (Port of Shadows) and now a screwy farce. Part comedy of errors, part comedy of manners, it's brilliantly constructed. The situation becomes more and more ridiculous but never feels forced. Some beautiful camera work too. Michel Simon can be an annoying actor, but here he's perfect, as is the entire cast of memorable characters. I wouldn't say it was a knee-slapper, but it was all very clever and amusing. Still, like the other Carné films, although I was impressed with the work, it didn't truly grab hold of me. And in a movie like this, you have to accept some absurdity, but Simon making himself unrecognizable to his relatives by donning a hat and fake beard was a little hard to swallow. Rating: 8


    Sokout (The Silence) - A young blind Tajikistan boy works as an instrument manufacturer's apprentice in order to pay his mother's rent. The problem is, he is continually distracted by sounds he encounters and is always late for work. It's a simple but very poetic and beautiful work by Mohsen Makhmalbaf. The use of sound and music, particularly the repeated motif of Beethoven's 5th, is stunning, and the imagery is quite memorable as well. To be honest, I didn't care much for the young actor in the lead role, but I really adored the girl who helps him out. I still haven't found a Makhmalbaf film as sublime as A Moment of Innocence, but I'm eager to explore more of his work, as well as catching up with some of the Kiarostamis I've missed... and hopefully digging deeper into Iranian cinema. Rating: 9


    Vampyr (rewatch) - Seeing this in a much improved DVD presentation has really enhanced my appreciation of it. In fact, it's now my favorite Dreyer film and I might even buy it. It's got magnificent camerawork and a foreboding air of menace throughout. There's a surreal essence, not just in the content, but also in the storytelling, which always feels slightly off. Creepy and nightmarish. Rating: 9


    Ninotchka - My first Garbo picture, and I didn't like it. Lubitsch (the director) and Wilder (the co-writer) are both hit & miss with me, and this one is definitely a miss. McCarthy would have loved this movie, it never misses a chance to get in a broad jab at Soviet Russia. Ninotchka's transformation is ridiculously abrupt, and quite unbelievable, considering how much Garbo overplays the cold, no-nonsense Bolshevik role. And Melvyn Douglas is an unlikeable, smarmy little twit. Some of the one-liners are funny, but it's more like they're funny on paper. In the context of this irritating crap, they barely elicit a smile. Very little fun to be had here. Rating: 4


    Obaltan (Stray Bullet) - Post-war Korean neorealist film about a man with a chronic toothache he can't afford to treat, stuck in a dead-end clerk job. His wife is pregnant, his young son is selling newspapers instead of attending school, his veteran brother can't find work, his sister is a prostitute and his mother is demented. It's a real sunny story. There's about three minutes of semi-happiness in the whole film, when the brother reunites with a nurse from the war. And then... well, I won't spoil it, but it sure isn't good news. Of course, some of the best movies are depressing ones. This isn't one of the best, but it's not bad at all. A little over-the-top in its melodrama, but it kept me interested and all the performances seemed fine. Too bad the only surviving print is in such lousy condition. Rating: 7
     
  5. Mario Gauci

    Mario Gauci Cinematographer

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    12/02/08: THE GHOST AND MR. CHICKEN (Alan Rafkin, 1966) [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    The first Don Knotts vehicle I’ve watched is widely considered his best effort; however, I was let down by it following the internet hype back when the film surfaced on DVD (including an endorsement by Mario Bava biographer Tim Lucas on his blog). The title explains all: the star is a milquetoast who works as type setter at a small-town newspaper – of course, he really wants to be a journalist (though his inexperience leads him to report a murder solely on hearsay, only to be embarrassed when the alleged victim turns up shaken but very much alive at the Police station!) and eventually finds his great opportunity with a story about a legendary local haunted house (where a violent death and suicide had occurred twenty years earlier).

    Asked to spend the night there by his editor, the hero comes across secret panels in the library, organs that play by themselves (complete with bloodied keys), not to mention a portrait slashed by a dagger! Consequently, by the next day he’s a celebrity – with frequent off-screen enthusiastic goadings of “Attaboy, Luther!” – which also earns him the attention of the woman he had long fancied but who, of course, is the girlfriend of his biggest persecutor, a hot-shot at the same paper; the latter’s constant wheedling of Knotts causes the couple to split and, needless to say, the hero gets the girl himself by the end of it.

    Let me put it this way: THE GHOST AND MR. CHICKEN is a pleasant enough diversion (especially the last half-hour featuring the courtroom scene – the current owner of the haunted house has filed a libel suit, in which it’s established that Knotts has always had a vivid imagination – and the eventual disastrous on-site verification of the haunting – since the manifestations, unbeknownst to the hero, were only the handiwork of the helpful Irish janitor at his workplace!). Still, plot and characterization are so clichéd as to render the film utterly predictable which, coupled with its own inherently unassuming nature, makes for something less than classic (at least in my book)!

    For what it’s worth, Vic Mizzy’s bouncy yet atmospheric score clearly proves an asset – with the antics of an old ladies’ group keen on the paranormal, while essentially silly, being a fairly amusing touch as well. Incidentally, I should be able to get my hands on five more of Knotts’ films – but the one I’ll be sure to check out presently is THE SHAKIEST GUN IN THE WEST (1968), since it’s a remake of the Bob Hope classic THE PALEFACE (1948)…


    12/02/08: CARRY ON LAUGHING: AND IN MY LADY’S CHAMBER (TV) (Alan Tarrant, 1975) [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    Typically vulgar and empty-headed latter-day drawing-room TV skit by the “Carry On” team (included on the R2 Special Edition DVD of CARRY ON MATRON [1972]): following the arrival home of one of the doddering but lecherous master’s off-springs, various people (father, daughter, brother, friend, society hostess neighbor, servants) engage one night in comic – yet repetitive and confusing – bed-hopping antics. If anything, the practiced cast – including series stalwarts Kenneth Connor, Barbara Windsor, Joan Sims, Jack Douglas and Bernard Bresslaw – moves the ultra-thin plot along to render this decent episode palatable enough.


    12/03/08: CARRY ON LAUGHING: THE CASE OF THE COUGHING PARROT (TV) (Alan Tarrant, 1975) [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    Third and last of the ‘Lord Peter Flimsy’ detective spoof entries in the “Carry On” TV series: this has an archaeology backdrop involving the theft of jewels belonging to the mummy of the Pharaoh Ram-it-up-em (the episode’s single best joke, which is then repeated incessantly throughout). Making an ideal team are Jack Douglas as Flimsy and Kenneth Connor as his servant/sidekick Punter, while David Lodge is the flustered Inspector on the case; Joan Sims has fun with her role of the archaeologist and Peter Butterworth has a bit as an employer of the Post Office detailed with the “Lost & Found” department.

    The episode has a very convoluted plot in which it manages to balance interior and exterior scenes (with the latter being perennially shrouded in thick fog); the villainess of the piece turns out to be Sims’ young assistant under whose guise an aristocratic lady thief hides. By the way, the title is a reference to that particular bird’s reaction to poison – as explained by Connor at the climax…after which he’s pecked by the bird and, while believing himself doomed, immediately starts to cough!


    12/03/08: STORK MAD (N/A, 1926) [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    O.K. Silent comedy short included with the edition I’ve just acquired of Howard Hawks’ A GIRL IN EVERY PORT (1928): there are no credits other than that for obscure lead actor Bobby Ray, whose characterization isn’t sufficiently developed (at least judging by this one film) to make the star stand out from other more popular comics of the time.

    The film itself is stretched out to 25 minutes but it includes a fair smattering of nice gags: the title is a reference to a couple’s wish to have a baby and, soon after, a child is dumped on their doorstep; of course, they’re overjoyed but, come nightfall and the baby’s cries for food, they’re at a loss at what to do! The heroine orders her servile husband to handle the task but he’s a fiasco at every turn: first, Ray cooks a steak for it(!), then heats a milk bottle (which obviously explodes and later substitutes the container with an empty whiskey bottle) and, after managing to conveniently find a cow to procure fresh milk, expects it to do the job by itself…which, in a vaguely surreal sequence, the cow eventually does!

    That’s the first reel; the second has Ray receiving a letter informing him that his mother’s not well: the couple speed to the train station but forget all about the child. Ray causes havoc at the baggage stand of the station (since he believes the baby to be locked inside theirs but all the luggage happens to look alike!), after which he rushes back home (a sequence which includes an incredible stunt where he flies off a bike and into a moving car). The hero’s agitated state causes him to be chased by the Police where, however, the infant is nowhere to be found – thus forcing him to substitute it with a monkey(!) to make his story believable to the cop. But just as he’s about to be booked, cries are heard coming from underneath a table where the baby had been (covered by the cloth) all this time…


    12/03/08: MOON PILOT (James Neilson, 1962) [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    I’d missed out on this one as both as a VHS rental and on local TV in the past but which, bafflingly, hasn’t been available anywhere else (not even on DVD) until now…or, perhaps, not so strange – since it’s considered pretty much an outdated early movie about the space program!

    That said, the film has always enjoyed a reputation as one of the better Walt Disney live-action efforts – an opinion I was happy to share after watching it for myself (especially given my recent disappointment with such other popular albeit ultra-juvenile fare as THE GNOME-MOBILE [1967] and the two “Witch Mountain” outings). In fact, this has very few concessions to the typical Disney ‘cuteness’ (basically extending to the inevitable romance and an over-eager member at the space center breaking into a would-be hip “Go, man, go!” routine with every shuttle launch) and is clearly elevated by the presence of strong actors – Tom Tryon is ideally cast in the lead, though it’s Brian Keith as his constantly exasperated superior and Edmond O’Brien as the dogged yet bewildered Federal Security man who dominate much of the proceedings (especially when the two engage in shouting matches between themselves).

    Anyway, as can be gleaned from the title, the plot involves attempts by the U.S. to orbit the moon: the first guinea-pig is a chimp which, however, goes berserk on returning home; undeterred, a human volunteer is requested – Tryon, of course (though he’s actually air-sick!). Soon after, he begins to be followed by a petite girl of obvious foreign origins (Dany Saval, whose gaucheness starts off by being corny but eventually proves disarming) – who not only knows all about his supposedly top-secret mission but actively wants to impart to him vital information about his safety ‘up there’; however, he believes her to be a spy and tries his best to avoid her! Still, she manages to turn up at the most unexpected places (even after O’Brien has him ‘kidnapped’ to a hotel) and eventually confesses to being an alien – clearly possessing advanced knowledge and who, atypically for the sci-fi genre, intends to extend help to Earth people rather than conquer them!

    MOON PILOT, then, resorts agreeably to such well-worn albeit effective suspense/spy movie trappings as the “McGuffin” (in the form of the missing element which would allow humans to adapt to the atmosphere in outer space), chases, impersonation and, it goes without saying, the growing affection between hero and heroine thrown into this unusual situation. Apart from the obvious space gadgetry, the sci-fi aspect of the film is evident in the scene in which, to demonstrate her powers, Saval gives Tryon a foretaste of his/their future. As always with Disney films, however, comedy is as much an intrinsic ingredient of the formula: best of all are the running ‘unreliable elevator’ gag with Tryon and O’Brien, and the potentially campy suspects’ line-up of beatniks (under whose guise Saval has descended to Earth – clearly a sign of the times). Keith’s queasy look during the latter sequence is priceless…as is his final flustered off-screen outburst when Tryon and Saval sign off in space courtesy of a Sherman Brothers love song!


    12/03/08: DOUBLE CROSSBONES (Charles T. Barton, 1951) [​IMG][​IMG]

    Swashbuckling comedy, not as bad as I had anticipated but clearly no more than a footnote within the annals of this colorful action genre (here in its heyday). Donald O’Connor is an amiable and undeniably energetic lead (obviously, he gets to sing and dance too) – playing a shop-keeper’s assistant who wants to make good for love of heroine Helena Carter. She, however, is coveted by her much older guardian…who also happens to be the (actually treacherous) Governor of the colony in which events are set.

    Immediately falling foul of pirate Charles McGraw, O’Connor eventually finds himself serving under him – after he, his pal and their employer are accused (by none other than the Governor himself) of accepting and selling stolen goods. The villain, in fact, is in cahoots with a society of legendary pirates comprising Sir Henry Morgan, Blackbeard, Ann Bonney (Anne Of The Indies – whose story, incidentally, was being told contemporaneously in a much more satisfying film by that title), Captain Kidd, etc.; apparently, this Governor’s so mean that even they are no more than his mere underlings!

    Anyway, O’Connor eventually captures a ship practically single-handed (and sets free the convicts within, among them James Arness, on their way to Debtors’ Prison), which wins him the moniker “Bloodthirsty Dave” and – naturally – a place in the pirate brotherhood. Recognizing the Governor’s right-hand man as the courier of his message to them, the hero realizes the statesman’s dual nature and determines to meet Carter in order to stop her impending marriage (she had earlier shunned O’Connor for his own buccaneering activity!).

    This he does by impersonating a foppish aristocrat at a ball (whose presence causes a snobbish lady to enquire “Who is that weird creature?”), though his ruse is discovered soon after and lands him once again in jail. Needless to say, everything comes out right by the end: the villain receives his come-uppance after engaging in a fencing duel with O’Connor on a ship’s mast, hero and heroine marry, and the pirates – given a royal pardon – turn respectable…or do they?


    12/03/08: BUCCANEER’S GIRL (Frederick De Cordova, 1950) [​IMG][​IMG]

    When this swashbuckling DVD set was announced, I was rather annoyed about the inclusion of three obscure efforts with the popular and vintage AGAINST ALL FLAGS (1952) starring Errol Flynn; well, having watched all three now, this proved to be perhaps the most resistible of them. For the record, my copy jumps from the Universal logo (preceding all their DVD releases) to the beginning of the film omitting the credits entirely, then it pixellated terribly around the 64-minute mark, so that I had to skip to the next chapter (thus missing a couple of minutes) in order to keep watching the thing through to its conclusion!

    The plot has a New Orleans setting with a pirate named Baptiste (Philip Friend, an unknown actor to me but an okay lead under the circumstances) who hides under the guise of an aristocrat in order to keep up the fight with chief villain Robert Douglas (aided in his nefarious deeds by two other notable character actors – Norman Lloyd and Henry Daniell). Guttersnipe Yvonne de Carlo – I recall watching her other swashbuckler with director de Cordova, THE DESERT HAWK (1950), as a child – and upper-class Andrea King vie for the dashing Friend’s attentions (at one point, the two let their hair down and engage in a catfight over him during a ball!), while Jay C. Flippen appears as the hero’s right-hand man. Incidentally, having seen this immediately after DOUBLE CROSSBONES (1951), it was amusing to realize that some of the sea-battle footage from BUCCANEER’S GIRL was replicated wholesale into the Donald O’Connor vehicle!

    The film itself would be tolerable enough if it weren’t for two huge flaws: for one thing, the action-less climax has to be the lamest ever devised for this type of fare; much more queasy, unfortunately, are de Carlo’s trio of songs (under the tutelage of typically eccentric Elsa Lanchester) – with the last of them occurring just minutes before the end titles! – and for which the creator of the embarrassingly corny choreography ought to have been made to walk the plank himself.


    12/04/08: THE ADVENTURES OF BULLWHIP GRIFFIN (James Neilson, 1967) [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    This is another fondly remembered Walt Disney live-action effort which I’d never watched: it’s an episodic Western spoof set at the time of the California gold rush. The protagonists are an impoverished Bostonian family and their resourceful butler (an ideally-cast Roddy McDowall); the young son, obsessed with a legendary rugged cowboy figure called “Bullwhip”, is prone to tall tales – so that he makes up the mild-mannered Griffin to be as brave and experienced as his hero!

    This eventually lands them in trouble with both con-man Karl Malden (who has a lot of fun with his role, which also allows him to don plenty of disguises) and saloon owner Harry Guardino or, more precisely, his imposing but dumb henchman (a typecast Mike Mazurki) – whom McDowall fells with a lucky punch but which Guardino wants to turn to his advantage by organizing a boxing match between the two! The bout is delayed until the climax: in between, our heroes have several adventures as they make and lose a fortune in gold (following a map possessed by Richard Haydn who’s constantly flaunting his theatrical background), with the wily Malden never too far off their trail. Suzanne Pleshette provides feminine interest and eye candy, though she doesn’t quite cut it as a saloon chanteuse.

    The film is a generous 110 minutes long (compounded by those relentless Sherman Brothers songs) but it’s never less than enjoyable, with pleasant color photography and a barrage of technical gags (not just the animated titles but such oft-used devices as the subject of a portrait changing his expression, angels sounding their trumpets when someone is knocked-out, etc).


    12/04/08: YANKEE BUCCANEER (Frederick De Cordova, 1952) [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    The best, if not exactly satisfying, of the three seemingly randomly-chosen swashbucklers by Universal to accompany the above-average Errol Flynn vehicle AGAINST ALL FLAGS (1952) is this unusual entry in the genre.

    As the title has it, lead Jeff Chandler is a U.S. naval officer who’s ordered to carry out acts of piracy in order to ferret out the real culprits behind the sinking of American ships. These prove to be an amalgamation of Brazilian, Portuguese and Spanish villains (led by our own Joseph Calleia hiding under the respectable guise of the Spanish governor – whose appearance is delayed until the last half-hour, but he’s as reliable as ever…and like the Robert Douglas of BUCCANEER’S GIRL [1950], from the same director, is allowed to go free after being made to walk the plank).

    Chandler himself – who would later star in the similarly-titled genre outing YANKEE PASHA (1954) – is a bit of a martinet, with rebellious first-mate and ex-student Scott Brady usually at the receiving end of his ire; when he tries to make up for his errors behind the captain’s back, by fixing the ship’s rudder at night, Brady’s attacked by and kills a shark! This animosity eventually intensifies when the latter comes back from a scouting expedition to the Indies with a Portuguese countess (luscious Suzan Ball, whose debut this was: she had a brief and tragic career, dying in 1955 at the tender age of 21!).

    Though the film is far from a classic, slightly marred by the resistible comic antics of George Mathews and featuring little traditional action before the last reel, it’s a reasonably enjoyable romp nonetheless – with a rousing score by an uncredited(!) Milton Rosen and shot in glorious Technicolor by the distinguished Russell Metty.


    12/06/08: ALI BABA AND THE SEVEN SARACENS (Emimmo Salvi, 1964) [​IMG][​IMG]

    To begin with, the name of the most popular Arabian Nights character i.e. Sinbad has been variably spelled over the years and around the world – from Sindbad to Simbad and Szindbad. Moreover, the character of Sinbad has been included in films in which he had nothing to do with originally – the Russian adventure outing SADKO (1953) became THE MAGIC VOYAGE OF SINBAD in the U.S. – just as, in this case, he became Ali Baba when it crossed over the Atlantic! These facts alone are more interesting than anything that occurs in this film…because where are the seafaring adventures of Sinbad The Sailor to be seen in this one, not to mention the sundry creatures he generally struggled with? On the other hand, if this is Ali Baba, whatever happened to the Forty Thieves?

    One thing is certain: I wasn’t expecting Gordon Mitchell – who had previously portrayed such legendary heroic figures as Achilles and Maciste – to be the villain here, nor Sinbad to be incarnated by a teenager still wet behind the ears, thus making for possibly the lamest Sinbad in film history! Appropriately, then, the seven Saracens of the title are even more anonymous than the hero – and, what’s worse, they don’t even engage him in battle! At least, the heroine’s physical attributes are well in evidence…but that’s small compensation when set against the obligatory and unfunny comic relief provided by Sinbad’s midget cellmate/sidekick and, for good measure (ugh!) a court eunuch with a bad facial tick; the pits, however, are reached by the silly gyrations of a particularly animated dancer preceding every ritual at court!
     
  6. Mario Gauci

    Mario Gauci Cinematographer

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    Michael and Martin,



    I have been meaning to reply to several of your posts lately but, as can be seen from my recent review posts (see above), I'm understandably not in much of a mood to write anymore after those brain-racking bouts!

    Still, I couldn't forego an opportunity to pull both your legs amicably by saying that I have had a VHS copy of the Orson Welles 4 1/2-hour 9-episode documentary, IN THE LAND OF DON QUIXOTE (1964) for some 3 years now (it was actually shown a couple of times on late-night Italian TV) but have been stalling on it because of its length and the unavailability to me of even the Jess Franco-edited version of Welles' DON QUIXOTE. Curiously enough, the IMDb gives this as an Italian TV-production by the state-funded RAI so, technically, the copy I have is in its original language and I might get to keep it after all (rather than erase it...which is the way all dubbed VHS I have go in the long run)!
     
  7. Michael Elliott

    Michael Elliott Lead Actor

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    After doing more reading some say that the English dubbed version of DON QUIXOTE is a lot worse than an apparent Spanish language, French subtitled version but it appears the two DVD releases are of the English dub.


    Two posts in a row where you've watched something that I can't pull the trigger on. I plan on going through the rest of Garbo's work at some point but even stranger is that I've seen just about all of Lugosi's work from the 1930s with the exception of this film and a few others. It looks like I would have watched this already just for the small Lugosi scenes but the trailer has always struck me as being rather unfunny and the plot hasn't ever really grabbed me. I'll eventually get it on but considering the cast it should have happened long ago.
     
  8. Martin Teller

    Martin Teller Cinematographer

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    Well, don't take my word for it. It seems to be a fairly well-beloved classic, and for whatever it's worth, "george kaplan" rates it as Lubitsch's best.


    Wallace and Gromit in "A Matter of Loaf and Death" - Another cracking adventure featuring W&G. It's a little predictable and doesn't bring much new to the table (the story is something of a cross between "The Wrong Trousers" and "A Close Shave") but as always, it's very entertaining, and expertly crafted. Loaded with the usual sight gags and references, including a terrific tribute to Aliens. Rating: 9


    Central Station - Something like a Brazilian version of Record of a Tenement Gentleman, as an older, cynical woman finds herself unwillingly burdened with the care of a young boy. Fernanda Montenegro is excellent in the lead and Vinícius de Oliveira isn't bad as the little kid either. The film tries to yank on the heartstrings a little too hard at times, and it's all a bit familiar, but it's still a moving story with a compelling central character. Nicely done. Rating: 8
     
  9. Michael Elliott

    Michael Elliott Lead Actor

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    Wanted (2008) [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG] Timur Bekmambetov

    James McAvoy plays a common man who has a girlfriend cheating on him while he's at work with a boss his hates. One day he gets swept up into a league of assassins and learns that he must avenge the murder of his father. This is the type of action movie that not only asks for you to turn you brain off but also asks that you rip it out, shred it up and then eat it down just for entertainment. This movie doesn't contain a single shot that doesn't have some sort of CGI going on, which to me is a major drag but at the same time you have to give the film credit for its imagination, which is on overdrive from the opening scene to the closing credits. The plot of this film really isn't all that important, although you could call it a dumbed down, male version of Le Femme Nikita. The reason people are going to jump at this film is for its action sequences, which are all very entertaining as soon as you learn not to take them very seriously. If you take the movie too serious you're going to wonder how, in the first chase sequence, the fastest car in the world can't out run an assassin driving a beat up truck, which probably couldn't hit more than sixty-five miles per hour. The other action scenes including killing someone from a L-train, a train falling off a bridge plus countless other explosions with some including rats. All of these scenes will keep you entertained but for my money they aren't great scenes since all of them are faked with CGI. Give me The French Connection or any Buster Keaton film for real action. For a video game the stuff here is good but I could never call them among the greatest ever made. The performances are better than you'd expect from a popcorn film with McAvoy once again impressing me very much. He perfectly captures his character's weakness early in the film and is believable as the trained killer. Morgan Freeman is pretty much wasted as the leader of the cult and Angelina Jolie at least looks good in her brief nude scene.

    Killing of John Lennon, The (2006) [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG] Andrew Piddington

    The first of two films looking at the murder of John Lennon in the past couple of years. This one here tells the story of Mark Chapman (Jonas Ball) starting three months before the murder and a year afterwards. This here is certainly a little better than Chapter 27 but both movies have major problems, which in the end means that neither are worthy of the subject matter. On a technical level this one here is pretty strong with its nice direction and performances but I think it's tries to do too much. The movie covers a pretty long period but it kept hitting me as a been there done that feeling. We've seen countless movies trying to get inside the head of a crazy person and this is where the movie fails. I never did feel as if we were inside Chapman's mind no matter what crazy sayings were coming out of his mouth or how many times he read from The Catcher in the Rye. This here makes the first thirty-minutes really drag as we are seeing Chapman in Hawaii as he slowly comes to realize that it's his destiny to kill the ex-Beatle. When things get to New York the movie picks up a bit but we still have to listen to Chapman talk, talk and talk. The most interesting part of the story being told happens after the 77-minute mark when Lennon is killed. Unlike other films, we get some rather graphic details of the murder with all five bullets shattering through Lennon. I'm sure some fans might find it hard to watch these moments but we also continue with what Chapman did after the murder. Everything involving what happened minutes and hours after his arrest are very well done and are quite interesting but soon we get more dragged out scenes of talk. I'm positive there's a very good movie to be told here but perhaps someone should look at the murder away from Chapman's eyes. Ball delivers a fine performance as Chapman and others in the cast fit their roles just fine. In the end there's a lot of interesting footage here and it's very well made but there's also a lot of weak stuff that really kills it.
     
  10. Joe Karlosi

    Joe Karlosi Producer

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    There's a book by Jack Jones, who spent countless hours talking with the killer and recording them, called LET ME TAKE YOU DOWN, which is probably the place to go if you want to "get inside the mind of the killer". It's much more thorough. I'm sorry I ever wasted my time with that pile of garbage called CHAPTER 27, and I have no desire to see this other film here. But if you're serious about getting all the details - before, during, and after (and in between) they're in the book, and straight from the killer's troubled mouth. And the Jack Jones conversations also formed 1/4 of the the basis for the CHAPTER 27 movie (I don't know about this other one).
     
  11. Mario Gauci

    Mario Gauci Cinematographer

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    12/05/08: THE ALL-NEW POPEYE HOUR: POPEYE AND BIG FOOT (N/A, 1978) (TV) [​IMG][​IMG]

    12/05/08: THE ALL-NEW POPEYE HOUR: POPEYE’S ENGINE COMPANY (N/A, 1978) (TV) [​IMG][​IMG]

    12/05/08: THE ALL-NEW POPEYE HOUR: GETTING POPEYE’S GOAT (N/A, 1978) (TV) [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    I used to lap these up as a kid but, catching an episode of the series comprising three cartoons back-to-back now i.e. several years later (they preceded the theatrical screening of the pirate yarn RAIDERS OF THE SEVEN SEAS [1953]), I can see how they don’t hold up all that well! The character of Popeye isn’t exactly sympathetic to begin with, Olive Oyl distinctly overbearing and Bluto’s antics failed to elicit much interest either – in short, the scripts were alarmingly thin, fairly awful and generally unfunny to boot. They’re strictly juvenile fare, yet I doubt today’s kids would even have the patience to stick with them!; furthermore, the animation style is unattractive.

    Taking each short per se, I guess they improved from one to the other: after the initial shock, one adapted to its mediocre quality as it were, so that the third cartoon easily results in being the most enjoyable of the lot – Popeye is entrusted with a mascot army goat whose immense appetite causes him no end of mischief (hardly original, I know, but always an amusing ploy). One interesting element here was that the shorts were bookended with Popeye delivering moralistic bits of wisdom to the kids in the audience.


    12/05/08: RAIDERS OF THE SEVEN SEAS (Sidney Salkow, 1953) [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    My fourth trip to the Maltese sexton who’s been an avid film buff/collector/projectionist all his life provided me with the opportunity to watch this solid seafaring adventure (albeit opening rather incongruously in a Moroccan Sheik’s harem!) which, in the words of the award-winning lyricist friend who (as usual) set up the screening, was very popular locally in its day among schoolboys and is still fondly remembered today among people of his generation. Although perhaps not one to be mentioned in books on film history (much less criticism) – I don’t think I’ve ever come across it in essays I’ve read specifically dealing with the swashbuckler genre – the title itself has a familiar ring to it and, actually, I do recall catching a glimpse of it in the early days of Cable TV.

    Another reason for the film’s relative neglect over the years is the fact that it was not a major studio effort (Global Productions but released theatrically through United Artists) and has second-league stars (John Payne and Donna Reed) as leads. Furthermore, the film-makers behind the low-budget studio-bound RAIDERS OF THE SEVEN SEAS may not have had the required dough to erect the necessary sets but at least proved savvy enough to shoot it in Technicolor – by pioneering color cinematographer W. Howard Greene, no less – for added vividness (even though the print I saw screened theatrically boasted the tell-tale signs of aging via a constant reddish hue for most of the film’s first half). Having said that, this negative aspect is ironically suited to the material at hand since Payne stars as legendary Pirate Barbarossa (Red Beard) with his hirsute attributes appropriately colored in that fashion (even when posing as a beggar in his nemesis’ household, which begs the question of why he wasn’t suspected at all); wondering why Payne seemed to drop off the cinematic radar in the late 1950s, I learned from his IMDb biography that that he had suffered facial scars in a terrible car accident in 1962! For the record, I have obtained (and have further access to) several John Payne movies of late – although, regrettably, not his other Technicolor pirate yarn CARIBBEAN (1952).

    Anyhow, to get back to the film proper: no self-respecting pirate goes without a genial sidekick by his side and Lon Chaney Jnr. (as the one-legged old sea dog Peg-Leg) fits the bill here and in turn has a resourceful kid to take care of. Perhaps thankfully, however, we are spared the would-be comic relief characteristics that usually pervade both these personalities in similar fare and, in truth, it must be said that RAIDERS OF THE SEVEN SEAS has an admirably somber tone throughout that is atypical for pirate adventure pictures. Indeed, having Peg-Leg murdered by a duplicitous member of their gang (Anthony Caruso) and the awaiting folk – including, so we are told, women and children – mercilessly wiped out at their hide-out by the villainous Spaniards (Gerard Mohr and Henry Brandon) gives the whole an unexpectedly Shakespearean tragedy feel a` la “Henry V”!

    It also goes without saying that Reed is, at first, understandably miffed that Payne has abducted her from her pampered surroundings to his island hideaway and that she bribes Caruso to set her free but, what is also unusual here is that Payne’s predictable love for Reed actually seems to cloud his judgment and make him see red [sic] with jealousy whenever she’s around Caruso and, if that wasn’t enough evidence of his true feelings for her, he gives up the gold ransom he had been paid for her freedom! Director Sidney Salkow – who was an old hand at this type of thing, including a Sterling Hayden/Rhonda Fleming swashbuckler called THE GOLDEN HAWK (1952) which, happily, also proudly forms part of the above-mentioned projectionist’s collection – doubled as a co-writer/producer here but, at least from this one preliminary viewing, it’s rather unfortunate that, for all its incidental pleasures and uncommon ingredients, RAIDERS OF THE SEVEN SEAS lacks the requisite number of memorable sequences or characters (perhaps even strong musical backing would have sufficed) which might have made it a much-better known film of its type – rather than being relegated to the hazy recollections of an age-old theatrical visit in their childhood days of an appreciative few.


    12/06/08: THE SHAKIEST GUN IN THE WEST (Alan Rafkin, 1968) [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    The second Don Knotts star vehicle that I've watched is perhaps more readily enjoyable than the first - THE GHOST AND MR. CHICKEN (1966) – but the fact that it was an unnecessary remake of the classic Bob Hope comedy THE PALEFACE (1948) hurts the overall effort. In fact, Knotts takes the role of a dentist out West who comes up (at least, initially) against an attractive sharp-shooting female robber (Barbara Rhoades) - played in the original by Jane Russell; when the latter is pardoned by the U.S. government and enrolled as their agent in hot pursuit of Indian gun-runners (one of whom is played by Jackie "Uncle Fester" Coogan), she is forced to hastily take the understandably awed Knotts for a husband as a cover (following the killing of her original intended).

    The amusing opening sequences depict Knotts' misadventures in dentistry – highlighted by his energetic encounter with a generously-built female patient who beats him up repeatedly within an inch of his life - but he is soon on his way westward because his hometown is already overrun with dentists. His wagon train is attacked by marauding Indians before long and, consequently, he earns himself a reputation as a fast gun (even though, in reality, it was Rhoades who mowed down ten Indians). After their marriage, Knotts is naturally more of a hindrance than a help to Rhoades in fulfilling her mission - even going so far as to bring about her abduction by the two villainous gun-runners to a nearby Indian camp when he follows her to a midnight rendezvous in a chapel.

    However, he proves his real mettle to his wife when, dressed up as a squaw(!), he infiltrates the Redskins' camp at night and frees Rhoades - but not before stirring up trouble (of the romantic jealousy type) between two Indians who, incongrously enough, had found Knotts' sinewy figure attractive in their eyes! At the end, yet another Indian wants to exert his lawful rights on the squaw-attired Knotts but he has to contend with the now-gushing Rhoades and her gunmanship. A harmless, moderately entertaining Western comedy, therefore, but nowhere near the shining examples of the genre (which, incidentally, include THE PALEFACE itself).


    12/06/08: THE SARACENS (Roberto Mauri, 1963) [​IMG][​IMG]

    It may well be because I'm watching too many movies of a similar nature in too short a time-frame but, lately, I've found myself almost totally forgetting about the events occurring in a particular movie after a mere couple of days have elapsed from its first viewing. This obscure Italian peplum is another such example alas because, frankly, the only two things that have stayed with me after these three days were: that it was a slight step up from the dismal (and similarly-titled) 'sword-and-sandal' flick I had watched previously on that same day i.e. ALI BABA AND THE SEVEN SARACENS (1964), and also the fact that I couldn't stop myself from laughing for a couple of minutes on end afterwards when, during a court dance sequence, a man comes tumbling down to the floor and drags his dancing partner with him; that it was a goof and not an intended gesture is borne out by the way the woman giggles in embarrassment after regaining her composure!! All I can add at this juncture is that the film stars Richard Harrison, a staple of this type of unassuming fare, but his character - and, by extension, characterization - is too bland to merit more than a footnote in this already skeletal review...


    12/08/08: THE HELLFIRE CLUB (Robert S. Baker and Monty Berman, 1961) [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    Having been aware of this film from its poster found in an old scrapbook of my father's as well as Leslie Halliwell's positive write-up in his film guide and given my own partiality to swashbucklers, I made it a point to catch this one during its sole TV screening in my neck of the woods which occurred in the mid-1990s. Somehow, I didn't tape it back then but, thankfully, I subsequently acquired it via Dark Sky's double-feature DVD where it was coupled with another vintage British genre film (albeit of the horror variety) BLOOD OF THE VAMPIRE (1958; which I caught up with recently during this year's Halloween Challenge) produced by the same film-making duo behind THE HELLFIRE CLUB i.e. Robert S. Baker and Monty Berman. Swashbucklers had been Hollywood's most popular genres during the 1950s so it was almost inevitable that it should also flourish in Europe (Britain, France and Italy) as well. Other British examples were a handful of rather atypical Walt Disney productions and Hammer Films but also rare one-offs like THE MOONRAKER (1958) - another film whose poster graces that aforementioned scrapbook of my father's where he used to paste sundry posters and articles of movies released locally during the 1950s and early 1960s.

    The plotline of a deposed aristocrat fighting to regain his rightful place is an age-old premise - think of Tyrone Power's South Seas adventure SON OF FURY (1942) for example - and this film follows in that fashion as well as Keith Michell is ousted by his villainous cousin (Peter Arne) who claims both his title and lands following the former's departure as a boy (played by the 1960 VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED's Martin Stephens) from under the clutches of his would-be Satanic father and his 'depraved' peers – hence the title which, incidentally, was an underground society that truly existed but, unsurprisingly, this is no historical account. Ironically enough, the flight of the child and his long-suffering (and ill-fated) saintly mother was precipitated by the boy's cousin goading him to witness the debaucheries of their elders being held in the basement! Needless to say, such wickedness is only mildly (in fact, too mildly if you ask me) depicted by the film-makers and these quaint orgies (relagated to the start and end of the film) are more prone to raise a smile than an eyebrow but, even so, there are three instances of censor-baiting where fetching females (including red-headed Adrienne Corri and Kai Fischer) are shown bare-backed!

    The hero had been taken by his loyal guardian (David Lodge) to stay with a travelling circus troupe where he grew up a strong,agile man with a penchant for theatricality, qualities which he will be forced to rely on in his future run-ins with Arne and his men. Swordfights, floggings, prison escapes and impersonations (by Michell of a foppish French ally of Arne's) are the order of the day making for a pacy, full-blooded entertainment punctuated by Clifton Parker's rousing music score (not to mention an amiably goofy cameo from Peter Cushing as Michell's attorney) that, while perhaps falling short of more renowned entries in the genre, is reasonably representative of its British variant made during its time.
     
  12. Michael Elliott

    Michael Elliott Lead Actor

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    I think the problem is that Chapman just isn't very interesting. In the movie he says he's a "nobody who killed a somebody" and that's pretty much true. Nothing, outside shooting Lennon, is very interesting so for a movie to really work it's going to have to be about Lennon and not the man who killed him. I'm sure whenever a bio pic comes along it will look at Lennon but for a low budget film it's probably easier going after Chapman.

    I don't want to get inside Chapman's mind but both films seemed to do that through narration and reading from the Rye book, which just didn't work. I did love the stuff with the police trying to keep Chapman alive after the first twelve hours or so because they were fearing the fans were going to storm the hospital and kill him. It's funny that Lennon was always preaching peace yet those fans were ready for murder themselves.

    From reading some fan reviews it seems this one here was more accurate with the story than CHAPTER 27.
     
  13. Mario Gauci

    Mario Gauci Cinematographer

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    12/07/08: DOCTOR AT SEA (Ralph Thomas, 1955) [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    The second in the popular British comedy series already shows signs of flagging from the class evident in the original film. For one thing, the change of setting proves a bit of a quandary: it both opens up and cramps the jokes (while generally ship-bound, we do get a stretch on dry land – which sees the hero first involved with a drunken blonde and falling foul of her father and then put to jail for being ‘under the influence’ himself!).

    Incidentally, while Dirk Bogarde reprises his role of Simon Sparrow, both James Robertson Justice and George Coulouris (who were also in DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE [1954]) play new characters here – the former’s gruffness, while amusing at first, borders on caricature eventually; similarly, Brenda de Banzie’s middle-aged passenger (pampered daughter of the seafaring company’s President) is somewhat over bearing, evoking memories of Kay Walsh in an episode from the portmanteau film TRIO (1950). Bogarde’s love interest, then, is rather incongruously filled by Brigitte Bardot – who’s undeniably attractive but not yet the sex symbol of subsequent repute (although she does get to be seen taking a shower at one point).

    Gags and innuendo sometimes approach the broad humor one normally associates with the rival “Carry On” series (which was actually still three years away from its inception) and CARRY ON CRUISING (1962) in particular (both films, in fact, culminated in a party on deck which ends in disaster).


    12/07/08: CAR WASH (Michael Schultz, 1976) [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    This modern ‘black’ comedy is something of a cult but also patchy overall: surprisingly, it was written by future Hollywood film-maker Joel Schumacher and director Schultz, then, would eventually go on to make the fiasco that was the film version of The Beatles’ seminal album SGT. PEPPERS’ LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND (1978). It basically provides a microcosm of mid-1970s American attitudes (and converging cultures) in its ‘day in the life’ depiction of the titular workplace: characters, costumes, hairstyles, soundtrack, even language are so obviously of their time that they both make and date the film.

    Popular stand-up comics put in an appearance as well: George Carlin is a taxi driver forever in search of a female customer who ditched him but then doesn’t recognize the girl when he comes face to face with her(!), while Richard Pryor has a showy role as a millionaire (i.e. hypocritical) evangelist. It’s telling that perhaps the film’s funniest gags are both gross in nature: one has a boy constantly throwing up and another in which an old man’s piss sample-bottle is mistaken for an exploding liquid and destroyed!


    12/07/08: SHAME OF THE JUNGLE (Picha and Boris Szulzinger, 1975) [​IMG][​IMG]

    I was first intrigued by this via a still in “The Movie”, an early 1980s British film periodical, where it was mentioned in an entry dedicated to animation; I also recall my father renting it on VHS – under its U.K. title of JUNGLE BURGER – in the mid-1980s but, of course, I was too young to be allowed to watch this or even understand it. The edition I acquired had the benefit of the English-dubbed soundtrack (with the hero, spoofing the popular character of Tarzan, voiced by Johnny Weissmuller Jr.[!] – son of the screen’s most famous “Ape Man” – and the participation of many a “Saturday Night Live” exponent) but I opted to watch the original French version (accompanied by Italian rather than English subtitles).

    Anyway, while the film is moderately amusing, it’s in no way a classic (falling far below the standard of even contemporary artist/film-maker Ralph Bakshi); incidentally, it exhibits a similar predilection for explicit violence and sexuality (indeed it’s swamped by the latter, particularly during the second half, with the hero depicted as impotent and where both characters and landscape are shaped like male and female genitalia)! The villainess, then, is a bald lady with fourteen breasts (perhaps a nod to the then-latest Bond adventure THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN [1974] – speaking of cinematic references, there’s an obscure one involving the maligned but not-too-bad religious epic THE SILVER CHALICE [1954], which I watched for the first time only last month): she’s flanked by a mad scientist with two heads who, typically for such evil “Siamese twins” caricatures, are constantly quarrelling among themselves.


    12/08/08: WHO WAS THAT LADY? (George Sidney, 1960) [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    I’d always wanted to check out this well-regarded if rarely-seen comedy – for the record, some years back I missed out on its sole Italian TV screening (that I know of). For Tony Curtis, it meant something of a follow-up to the classic SOME LIKE IT HOT (1959) – where he’s forced, with his co-star (in this case, Dean Martin), to pass himself off as something he isn’t (an F.B.I. agent), leading to misunderstanding, various complications and imminent danger.

    Similarly, a female is involved in the shenanigans (Curtis’ on and off-screen wife Janet Leigh) though, here, the whole ruse starts off because of her: Chemistry Professor Curtis’ fling with a female student is discovered by his jealous wife, so he turns for help to his best pal – TV writer Martin – who procures him with papers (and a gun) denoting his Bureau affiliations; Leigh is finally convinced of this and, soon after, is contacted by a real F.B.I. operative (James Whitmore) who uses her to keep track of just what Curtis and Martin are up to!

    One of the highlights of the film is the extended yet splendid incident in a restaurant: Leigh accepts Curtis’ excuse to go on the town with Martin, believing it to be another federal job – but, in her over-eagerness to help, effectively blows his cover…which then lands the F.B.I. itself in hot water! The biggest trouble, however, is that enemy agents take the two men to be the real deal and kidnap them (and Leigh) in order to extract vital information they believe Curtis is in possession of! The aftermath of this sequence is again hilarious as, dazed by the drug he’s been given, Curtis thinks they’ve been taken to a Russian sub and persuades Martin to flood it…but it transpires that they’re in the basement of the Empire State Building!

    The script (adapted by Norman Krasna – who also produced – from his own play) balances witty dialogue with inspired zany situations, which are then delightfully put across by an excellent cast. Both male stars, in fact, were already adept at this type of thing (crooner Martin also sings the title tune), but Leigh surprisingly proves a fine comedienne in her own right: it’s a pity that her marriage to Curtis was crumbling by this time which is doubly ironic given the film’s plot, but they were professional enough not to let the real cracks show in their performances.


    12/08/08: SKIN GAME (Paul Bogart and, uncredited, Gordon Douglas, 1971) [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    Though highly rated in the Leonard Maltin Film Guide, this comic Western isn’t as popular as star James Garner’s two other genre spoofs – Burt Kennedy’s SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL SHERIFF (1969) and SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL GUNFIGHTER (1971) – but it’s very much in the same vein.

    For the record, Garner had earlier collaborated with Paul Bogart (even if Gordon Douglas seems to have been involved as well at some point) on MARLOWE (1969), a failed attempt at a noir revival (and on which I’m kind of lukewarm myself); incidentally, I’ve just taped another thriller by this director – MR. RICCO (1975), starring Dean Martin – off TCM U.K. Anyway, while I was disappointed that the version I acquired of SKIN GAME was panned-and-scanned, I was glad to have caught up with it, as the film proved ideal lightweight/entertaining fare for the Christmas season; the same is true of the film I followed it with – coincidentally another Western comedy revolving around sparring partners, TEXAS ACROSS THE RIVER (1966), with Dean Martin himself and Alain Delon.

    This, in fact, has con-men Garner and Lou Gossett Jr. cleaning up small towns by having the two posing as master and slave – with the former purporting to sell the latter to the highest bidder and then have the black man run away to rejoin his pal (who, by this time, has already left)! This ruse has been kept up for quite some time (as seen in flashback) and it’s garnered [sic] the duo a fair sum of money; however, things take a different turn when they run in, first, real slaves (which causes Gossett, born a free man, to rethink his situation) and, then, another con artist in Susan Clark (who targets Garner himself). Gossett even falls for a black girl who’s to be sold at auction (where he too will be present) – so he asks Garner to buy her out of his share of the money…but the whole elaborate scheme is interrupted by the arrival of notorious anti-slavery crusader John Brown (played by Royal Dano)!

    Furthermore, after Garner and Gossett make the mistake of returning to one of the towns they had already ‘hit’, the former lands in jail and the latter (along with his lady friend) is sold off as a slave for real by unscrupulous dealer Edward Asner to despotic Southerner Andrew Duggan. Surprisingly sprung from jail by Clark herself, Garner determines to save his ex-partner: they too take up disguise, this time as preacher and nurse, and start visiting Asner’s clients one by one claiming a slave of theirs is actually a leper! By the time they reach Duggan’s mansion, Gossett has befriended (or, rather, learned to control via his spouting of mumbo-jumbo!) a group of African slaves who subsequently go along with them when our heroes, with their respective women in tow, take off for Mexico. Incidentally, this sequence also contains the film’s biggest laugh-out-loud moment as Gossett, all dressed up to wait at the family table, is fondled by one of Duggan’s pubescent daughters – causing him to jump and drop the contents of his bowl!

    While, as I said, the quality of the film’s widescreen photography is somewhat compromised by the altered aspect ratio in this presentation (culled from a TV screening), David Shire’s fine score retains all of its original impact – incidentally, being remarkably somber, it effectively counterpoints the breeziness generally on display.


    12/09/08: TEXAS ACROSS THE RIVER (Michael Gordon, 1966) [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    I had missed out on this when it was shown as a weekday matinee` on Italian TV ages ago; while not particularly outstanding, it’s a thoroughly engaging (and attractively shot, mostly in exteriors) Western spoof with an amiable and willing cast led by Dean Martin (typically relaxed playing a Texan cattleman), Alain Delon (handsome and charming as a Spanish aristocrat), Rosemary Forsyth (her Southern belle is delightful), Tina Marquand (a cute Indian squaw) and Joey Bishop (in the role of Martin’s wisecracking “Kronk” sidekick).

    Though the latter is nominally entrusted with carrying the film’s comic relief, the other redskins (“Comanche”) actually provide the funniest moments – especially the antics of the chief’s inept son (trying at one point to shoot a flaming arrow, he contrives to set his Dad’s feathered cap on fire!). Also notable is a scene in which a medicine man alienated in tracking heroes’ moves from afar bumps his head against a tree branch, not to mention the amusing charging command of the cavalry unit after Delon – who’s accused of murder – which is so muddled that not even all the soldiers themselves are able to comprehend it!

    The film leads to a pretty good climax – actually redolent of RED RIVER (1948) – as Martin and Delon about to engage one another in duel can’t even agree on whether to do it the official way (stand back to back, walk ten paces in opposite directions, then turn and shoot) or Western-style (face each other at opposite ends of the street, walk closer and then draw). However, the girls (Delon had been engaged to marry Forsyth but, in the meantime, she’s caught Martin’s attention – which he tries to turn to his advantage by keeping his fever going, after being shot with an arrow, for three days straight – while the Spaniard has Marquand, whom he has saved from certain death, gushing over him) have it out between themselves, though it’s actually a ruse to put a stop to the intended showdown between their respective men. Delon is subsequently tried and convicted (with judge and defense counsel being the victim’s brothers!), but Forsyth contrives to demonstrate how it was all an accident; to cap everything, oil is struck soon after while a grave is being dug for the aristocratic Spaniard!

    Curiously enough, just as SKIN GAME (1971) – the comic Western I preceded this with – the film features an incongruous but agreeable lounge score (by DeVol). In conclusion, another Dean Martin Western I own but have yet to watch also hinges on a dynamite star combo i.e. FIVE CARD STUD (1968) with Robert Mitchum – as does, for that matter, ROUGH NIGHT IN JERICHO (1967; with George Peppard) which I might also be able to get my hands on in the not-so-distant future (for the record, I’m not familiar with this one either).
     
  14. Michael Elliott

    Michael Elliott Lead Actor

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    Naked Gun, The (1988) [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG] David Zucker

    The dimwitted Lt. Frank Drebin (Leslie Nielsen) begins to investigate the attempted murder of his partner (O.J. Simpson) and soon gets involved with the attempted murder of the Queen. For my money this is one of the greatest, side splitting comedies ever made and it hasn't lost any of its charm in the twenty-years since it was released. What's so amazing to me is that the movie spits out one gag after another and most movies that attempt this end up having the jokes be hit and miss. I don't think I'm overstating this but to me this movie hits the mark on each joke it tries and that's why this will remain one of the greatest comedies ever made. It's really hard to explain any of the jokes or why they're funny because there's no doubt that they are childish and dumber than dumb itself. Just as you start laughing at one joke before that laugh is over you'll be starting over again on the next one. The jokes are rapid fast and Nielsen handles them with no trouble. His comic timing is perfect for the character and you can't help but feel that Drebin really is that stupid. The supporting characters are all wonderful as they perfectly set up all the jokes for Drebin to bat around. George Kennedy, Priscilla Presley and Ricardo Montalban are all very good and even Simpson comes off quite funny and that's especially true during his opening scene where he gets shot up. What really makes this film is classic to me are its final twenty-minutes, which usually leave me with tears in my eyes from laughing. Being a baseball fan it's priceless seeing Drebin getting involved in a game he clearly knows nothing about.

    Naked Gun 2½, The (1991) [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG] David Zucker

    Lt. Frank Drebin (Leslie Nielsen) is back, this time working in Washington D.C. when he uncovers a plot to kidnap an important scientist so that evil businessmen can push their products onto the American public. This sequel certainly isn't as good as the original film but there are still enough laughs here to make it highly entertaining. The 80's and 90's were full of sequels but what's so amazing about this one is that there isn't a single joke lifted from the previous movie and instead we get a fresh group of jokes. Whereas most sequels were simple remakes of the previous one, this here goes to the limit to create something different. This might be why it took three years for it to come out instead of following the original the next year. Being released a year before an election it's easy to spot all the political jokes with George and Barbara Bush taking quite a few potshots but they are all very funny. The abuse poor Barbara gets from the fists of Drebin are priceless as is the spoof of Ghost and another great sequence where Drebin and Hocken (George Kennedy) visit a sex shop. Once again a lot of the credit must go to Nielsen who owns this character from his speech to his walk. It's really amazing to watch Nielson work through this character that tries so hard yet it never quite ready to understand what's going on. Kennedy, Priscilla Presley and O.J. Simpson are all back and offer up nice support. The screenplay is full of silly situations and dumb dialogue, which makes you laugh and then you end up laughing at yourself for laughing in the first place. The movie might have dumb things in it but it's still very smart at what it's trying to do.

    Naked Gun 33 1/3 (1994) [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG] Peter Segal

    Frank Drebin (Leslie Nielsen) comes out of retirement to go undercover in prison so that he can find out where a mad bomber (Fred Ward) plans to hit next. This third and final film in the trilogy is no doubt the weakest in the series but I think there's enough charm to make it worth viewing even though the laughs are fewer are far between what we're use to. What really brings the film down some is the screenplay, which comes off rather tiresome and weak. Many of the gags just don't work as well as they should and that includes the opening sequence spoofing The Untouchables. The scene looks incredibly well but there just aren't any laughs. The ending, taking place at the Oscars where Drebin causes chaos with people thinking he's Phil Donahue, works pretty well but once again doesn't feature any hilarious gags. Nielsen is his usual funny self here and works well with new bad guy Ward. Ward really has some nice jokes that come off well as does Anna Nicole Smith. George Kennedy, O.J. Simpson and Priscilla Presley return but they're all reduced to rather thankless roles. If you weren't a fan of the first two movies then I'm fairly certain you'll hate this one but I think fans will find this here charming enough for a viewing every once in a while.
     
  15. Pete York

    Pete York Supporting Actor
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    Have you seen the handful of 'Police Squad!' episodes, Michael? They're just as hilarious, even though you'd recognize almost every joke, as they used practically all of them for the films (principal exception being one brilliant running gag with a shoeshine guy).
     
  16. Michael Elliott

    Michael Elliott Lead Actor

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    Pete it's funny but I haven't tried the TV show yet. I watched all of these in the theater as a kid but never knew they were based on a show until many years later. Someone told me that the show was even better and would ruin my love for the movies so I decided to skip them. I might get around to them one day though.


    Dark Knight, The (2008) [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG] Christopher Nolan

    I'll be honest and admit that I'm not much of a fan of the so called "comic book" movies out there. I'll also be honest and admit that I didn't care for the previous series of Batman movies from Burton and Schumacher. Batman Begins on the other hand was a different story as it found it to be incredibly good but a rare occasion as occurred as this sequel is even better. I've always felt that comic book movies didn't contain enough elements of a dark nature nor did they contain very much adult-themed stuff but that's certainly not the case here as this movie contains enough character development and moral questions for three movies. The epic nature of this movie makes it a one of a kind even though I think the 151-minute running time is the only fault in the film. It's rather amazing at how dark this movie is yet movie crowds ate it up but perhaps they ate so much of it up simply because of how dark it is. This film works on so many levels but I think the biggest are its screenplay and actors. The darkness of the story is perfectly brought to the screen by Nolan with his masterful direction, which paints the perfect picture of corruption, greed and moral responsibility. All of the characters from The Joker to Harvey Dent to even Batman must face various moral issues and this type of stuff not only makes for great drama but it brings a lot of depth to this "comic book" movie. The performances are all quite remarkable and that includes the late Heath Ledger as The Joker. Before seeing the film I kept asking myself if his performance could top that of Jack Nicholson but I think that question shouldn't even be asked as both performances are so completely different that you can't compare them. Ledger certainly steals the show and leaves the viewer with goose bumps each time he's on the screen. It really seems as if he just floats through each scene as if he were a ghost roaming around. The walk that Ledger brings to the character is so refreshing and original that I couldn't take my eyes off of him. That wonderful talk and the brilliant line giving just adds to the fun and was it ever great to see such a dark villain. Christian Bale is also once again very good in the role of Bruce Wayne and Batman. Again, the screenplay benefits Bale greatly by having him just as dark as the villains. Aaron Eckhart is getting overshadowed by Ledger but he too really deserves a lot of credit as he probably gives the best performance of anyone dealing with the moral issues. His stint as Dent is perfect for a hero and his turn as Two-Face is perfect for a villain. Maggie Gyllenhaal also does a good job in the love interests role as does Michael Caine, Eric Roberts and Morgan Freeman. Gary Oldman also shines in his role of Gordon. What makes the special effects so great is that the movie isn't in their hand as far as entertainment goes. Yes, the effects and chase sequences look great but they work even better because the screenplay gives us characters to care about. I won't go as far as to call this one of the greatest films ever made but I do think it has to change the way comic book movies are made.
     
  17. Joe Karlosi

    Joe Karlosi Producer

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    I was hoping you and I might be of a like mind on THE DARK KNIGHT, Michael. But I see you're another supporter of "The Most Overrated Film Of All Time"! [​IMG]
     
  18. Michael Elliott

    Michael Elliott Lead Actor

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    One question. Since BATMAN BEGINS and THE DARK KNIGHT didn't feature "POW" "BOOM" or "BANG", are you going to see the third one?
     
  19. Joe Karlosi

    Joe Karlosi Producer

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    It's not the dark subject matter of the film(s) that bugged me. In fact, I prefer Batman done that way.
     
  20. Michael Elliott

    Michael Elliott Lead Actor

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    Your review made it seem as if you thought it was too dark but perhaps I just read it the wrong way.
     

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