An ex-Union officer (Randolph Scott) traveling with two ex-soldier friends (James Garner, Gordon Jones) are robbed of their clothes and money. Disguised as devout Quakers, they enter the town of Medicine Bend in search of the men who robbed them. What they find is a terrified town run by a corrupt businessman (James Craig). This run of the mill "B" western is an inoffensive programmer that holds your interest for its brief running time (under 90 minutes) but quickly starts fading from memory as soon as it's over. Scott was doing some great westerns during this period with director Budd Boetticher between 1956 and 1960 so this modest B&W seat filler seems out of time with with those more memorable efforts. It's fun to see two young emerging stars at the very beginning of their careers. James Garner already displaying his likable screen presence and Angie Dickinson is lovely though as the "good" girl swathed in gingham, she has no opportunity to display her special brand of carnality. Directed by Richard L. Bare. With Dani Crayne (soon to retire and become Mrs. David Janssen) as the "bad" girl, Myron Healey, Ann Doran and Nancy Kulp.
In 1920s India which is still under British colonial rule, an elderly woman (Peggy Ashcroft) visits India along with the young woman (Judy Davis) who is expected to marry her son (Nigel Havers), the magistrate of a small provincial town. The young woman who is unsure if she wants to marry is enjoying the sense of adventure she feels in India but a fateful encounter at the Marabar caves will have tragic consequences for all concerned. Based on the 1924 novel by E.M. Forster (A ROOM WITH A VIEW) about the British colonialists contempt for and disassociation from the very people whose country they are governing, this was the last film directed by David Lean and a better swan song, one could not have hoped for. Intelligent and literate but never stuffy, Lean never lets the landscapes overpower the intimate story which was problematic for his prior film, RYAN'S DAUGHTER. Eschewing his usual cinematographer Freddie Young, Ernest Day takes charge of the lensing shooting in a modest 1.85 ratio rather than scope. Apparently Lean wanted to shoot the film in scope but HBO which invested money in the film wanted a more TV friendly format. With the exception of Alec Guinness in a rare bad performance, the acting is excellent with Ashcroft (in an Oscar winning performance) especially splendid. With Art Malik, Saeed Jaffrey and Roshan Seth.
In Vienna, a Lieutenant (Maurice Chevalier) becomes enamored of a violinist (Claudette Colbert) in an all girl orchestra. But trouble pops up in the form of the Princess (Miriam Hopkins) of a small country who feels the Lieutenant has slighted her but it's all a misunderstanding. Based on the operetta EIN WALZERTRAUM by Oscar Straus by way of the Hans Muller Einigen novel NUX DER PRINZGEMAHL, Ernst Lubitsch's Oscar nominated (best picture) musical is a real charmer! Both the screenplay and the song lyrics are witty and naughty and the three leading players perform with zeal. This is a pre-code film and boy, does it get away with a lot. Colbert enters Chevalier's apartment then a blackout then they're having breakfast after having spent the night together. I'm not a fan of Chevalier's overly Gallic charms but he's very tolerable here. Colbert and Hopkins aren't known for their singing abilities but they put over the delightful Jazz Up Your Lingerie number with gusto. With Charles Ruggles and George Barbier.
In 1934 France, a young drifter (Alain Delon) walking through the Burgundy countryside is offered work by a lonely widow (Simone Signoret). But the machinations of her venomous sister in law (Monique Chaumette) will lead to a disastrous end. Based on the novel by Georges Simenon and directed by Pierre Granier Deferre. Lovely but terribly pessimistic tale about two loners just looking for a little patch of peace in their lives and how outside forces propel them to their doom. I've never been a fan of Delon, he just seems so distanced (which makes him perfect for Melville's films) much of the time but he's excellent here and it may be my favorite performance of his, even more than his Rocco. Signoret is, of course, perfection and everything we need to know about her character is in her body. The background of Delon's character is never fully revealed so the massive overkill on the part of the police seems perplexing. The subdued underscore is by Philippe Sarde. With Ottavia Piccolo and Jean Tessier.
A man (Burt Lancaster) returns to Los Angeles after having been away for 8 months after the break up of his marriage. But his ex-wife (Yvonne De Carlo) is still under his skin and they renew their relationship even though she's married to another man (Dan Duryea). But it's the kind of love that will destroy them all. Directed by Robert Siodmak (THE KILLERS), this film is the very definition of film noir! It's all here: the doomed hero (Lancaster), the femme fatale (De Carlo), the tough police detective (Stephen McNally), the charismatic villain (Duryea), the atmospheric B&W lensing and lighting (Franz Planer), a Miklos Rozsa score and a fatalistic ending! All packed in a taut 90 minute package. While many noir films are often a case of style over substance, Siodmak and his writer Daniel Fuchs (adapting Don Tracy's novel) shore up the narrative with an almost poignant portrait of a man so obsessed with a woman that he can't see anything else and follows her to his own doom, the film's dark ending is among the best in the genre. Remade by Steven Soderbergh in 1995 as THE UNDERNEATH. With Richard Long, Percy Helton, Alan Napier and in his film debut, Tony Curtis.
A young singer (Terry Moore) with a sordid past is trying to make a new life for herself when her hoodlum ex-boyfriend (Lionel Ames) and his hard hearted accomplice (Debra Paget) coerce her into helping them rob the nightclub she works at. But when the owner (Phil Harvey) of the nightclub is killed during the robbery by the accomplice, it's the singer who is arrested for the murder. This "B" movie is an obvious knock off of I WANT TO LIVE (1958). The film makes a clear case against the death penalty but it's an exploitation film at heart and if it has good intentions, they're almost coincidental. In the hands of stronger actresses, they might have given the film some weight regardless of its low budget programmer status. But Moore and Paget, while often effective in other films, don't have the acting chops to make weak material like this work. The underscore by Richard LaSalle shamelessly steals from Herrmann's VERTIGO. Directed by veteran Roy Del Ruth (ON MOONLIGHT BAY). With Bert Freed, Sid Melton and Jackie Joseph.
A medical student (Blake Lively) makes a pilgrimage to a secluded out of the way beach in Mexico (with Australia standing in) in honor of her recently deceased mother. But while surfing, she is attacked by a shark and finds herself stranded on a piece of rock as the shark waits ... and waits. The film starts off promisingly and the director Jaumet Collet-Serra keeps the tension simmering for awhile. But alas, he can't sustain the tension or momentum that he began. It's essentially a one woman show and while Blake Lively is very good, the long (and I mean long) stretches of her suffering on the rock just aren't very compelling. A good thriller shouldn't have so much down time. Some pretty good moments but overall ... a disappointment. Marco Beltrami's flabby synth score only shows how much JAWS owed to John Williams classic score. I hated the sappy "one year later" coda. With Oscar Jaenada and Brett Cullen.
In 1890 Paris, a struggling writer (Ewan McGregor) living in Montmartre meets a showgirl and courtesan (Nicole Kidman) at the Moulin Rouge music hall and falls in love. But she must string along a wealthy Duke (Richard Roxburgh) with false promises in order to get him to fund a show written by the writer. An unholy mess! A musical for people who hate musicals. Loosely based on Puccini's LA BOHEME and directed in a fevered frenzy by Baz Luhrmann. The idea of a contemporary LA BOHEME using a pastiche of well known contemporary pop songs is intriguing and full of possibilities. But Luhrmann's frantic pacing and substitution of silliness and vulgarity over wit and style undermines the film at almost every level. He teases us with the promise of a killer opening dance number, the can-can, but he refuses to let the dancers shine and strut their stuff, the camera and the editing do the dancing for them! His musical numbers assault us, Like A Virgin and Roxanne being the most egregious. Sometimes he takes mercy on us and allows the camera and the editor a rest and McGregor gets a chance to just sing Elton John's Your Song or Kidman singing One Day I'll Fly Away one gets the sense of what might have been. The acting isn't very good, Roxburgh is awful but somehow Kidman (in an Oscar nominated performance) cuts through all the crap and gives a real performance. With Jim Broadbent, John Leguizamo, Jacek Koman and Kylie Minogue.
A young man (Troy Donahue) moves with his mother (Claudette Colbert) to a Connecticut tobacco farm where his mother will work as a chaperone to the daughter (Diane McBain) of a struggling tobacco farmer (Dean Jagger). But it isn't long before he finds himself caught between the farmer and a ruthless tobacco tycoon (Karl Malden) as they fight over land. Based on the 1958 best seller by Mildred Savage and directed by Delmer Daves. Daves' previous film A SUMMER PLACE (also with Donahue) was a big hit so it was inevitable that Warners would want to reunite the two to test Donahue's potential star power. Savage's novel got good reviews but the film plays out like a juicy potboiler with one major flaw. The title role needs an actor with enough charisma and a soupcon of talent that can hold the screen and that ain't Donahue. The vanilla Donahue can be acceptable when he isn't pressed to actually act but here, the demands of the role are beyond his limited ability and we're not talking Eugene O'Neill material here, more like Erskine Caldwell. Colbert is wasted and only two performers manage to make an impression: Malden's rancorous baron and McBain's spoiled rich girl. With Connie Stevens, Sylvia Miles, Sharon Hugueny, Madeleine Sherwood, Hampton Fancher, Bibi Osterwald and Hayden Rorke.
As the youngest daughter, a young girl (Lumi Cavazos) is forbidden to marry by family tradition as it is her duty to care for her mother (Regina Torne) until she dies. So the boy (Marco Leonardi) marries her sister (Yareli Arizmendi) just so he can be near her. Based on the best selling novel by Laura Esquivel and directed by Alfonso Arau. Like Esquivel's novel but unfortunately not as detailed, the film makes a connection between passion and food. There is something very sensual about a delicious well prepared meal and Esquivel ties it together with the emotional and physical passion of love. The film is a sort of contemporary fable accepting magic as a realistic part of life. For example, when Cavazos' tears drop into the pot as she cooks, when the dinner is served, the guests feel the tremendous sadness that went into the food's preparation. The film has a visual glow to it (the cinematography by the great Emmanuel Lubezki) and imparts a sense of alchemy. But because of a major blunder in the casting, the film never quite worked 100% for me. Leonardi is bland and unable to suggest any sort of passion whatsoever. The film frequently talks about fire but Leonardi can't seem to ignite anything more than a dying ember. With Mario Ivan Martinez and Claudette Maille.
In 1850 San Francisco, a sea captain and seal hunter (Gregory Peck) wanted by the Russians for poaching seal pelts on Russian territory falls for a Russian countess (Ann Blyth), herself fleeing an unwanted marriage to a Russian prince (Carl Esmond). Based on the novel by Rex Beach (THE SPOILERS) and directed by the veteran Raoul Walsh who had directed Peck in another high seas adventure the year before, CAPTAIN HORATIO HORNBLOWER R.N. This is a colorful and rambunctious action/adventure that races quickly to its conclusion with a small detour for some romance and when the lady involved is the lovely Blyth, who's going to complain? About the only sour note is the all too obvious rear projection which makes the film's highlight, a sea race between Peck's ship and a rival ship captained by Anthony Quinn, less thrilling than it would have been if filmed entirely on a real ocean. With John McIntire, Andrea King, Hans Conreid, Rhys Williams, Eugenie Leontovich and a young Bryan Forbes (yes, the director).
A maitre d' (Mickey Rourke) with aspirations of opening up his own restaurant is saddled with a cousin (Eric Roberts) always looking for the easy way to make money which mostly means criminal activity. The cousin assures him that a plan to rob a safe is fool proof but, of course, it's not and things go horribly wrong. Based on the novel by Vincent Patrick, who adapted his book for the screen, and directed by Stuart Rosenberg (COOL HAND LUKE). If you can accept that the film's two main characters are scumbags and try not to be too judgmental about it, you can find the movie entertaining. Which doesn't mean it's a good movie because it's not. The film feels fake and doesn't have the authenticity that a Scorsese would have brought to the project and the film brings up more questions than it has answers. Like what does Daryl Hannah who could do better see in Rourke's low life or is Roberts' character high on something or just mentally defective etc. Roberts overacts shamefully but in a film like this, that's not necessarily a bad thing. He gives the film some much needed juice and so does Geraldine Page, who in only two scenes punches a hole in the screen. With Burt Young, Tony Musante, Kenneth McMillan, M. Emmet Walsh and Philip Bosco.
An opportunistic scheming womanizer (George Sanders) in 1880 Paris uses a series of women as a stepping stone from a clerk to a titled Count. The director Albert Lewin had a great success previously with his film of Oscar Wilde's PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY (1945), a film about another amoral scoundrel. This time he tackles the novel by Guy de Maupassant with mixed results. This being 1947, it was cleaned up considerably and saddled with a horrendously sanctimonious ending. No one plays a cad better than George Sanders who sails effortlessly through the film but is there anything more unappealing than masochistic women groveling and pining over a man who mistreats them and beg for more? Unfortunately, there are several of them in this film. It renders an appealing actress like Angela Lansbury unappealing. The story is compelling enough for awhile but eventually it becomes tedious and you just wait for our "hero" to either redeem himself or get what he deserves. Nicely shot by the great Russell Metty and a good score by the modernist composer Darius Milhaud. Remade and better made in 2012. The large cast includes Ann Dvorak, Frances Dee (the only woman able to resist Sanders), Warren William, John Carradine, Marie Wilson, Albert Basserman, Katherine Emery, Susan Douglas and Hugo Haas.
An ambitious young girl (Peggy Ann Garner) moves to New York City and immediately begins using people including her uncle (Otto Kruger), wealthy boyfriend (Skip Homeier) and a Broadway producer (Van Heflin) on her climb to the top. But when she turns up dead in the producer's apartment, he becomes the prime suspect and it's a race against time to prove his innocence before he's arrested for her murder. Based on the 1952 novel by Patrick Quentin and directed by Nunnally Johnson. It's a more than decent murder mystery a la LAURA set among the posh theatrical and artistic set in a stylish Manhattan. Although filmed in Deluxe color and CinemaScope, the film is often referred to as noir but I wouldn't call it that. It's just a good old fashioned whodunit though Garner's deadly femme fatale certainly fits in the noir mold. Garner's not bad at all here and one would have thought this film would prove a nice transition from child actress to grown up roles, but she only did 2 more movies in her lifetime (including Altman's A WEDDING) though she worked steadily in TV. This was director Johnson's second film in CinemaScope and apparently nobody ever told him he could do close ups in the format! The star studded cast includes Ginger Rogers, Gene Tierney, George Raft, Virginia Leith, Reginald Gardiner, Cathleen Nesbitt and Hilda Simms in a remarkably non-stereotypical role for a black actress in the 1950s.
A capricious and spoiled rich girl (Dorothy Mackaill) falls in love with an enterprising young man (Joel McCrea) who works at her father's steel factory. The difference in class and financial status doesn't deter her but after their marriage, he begins to resent her presumptions that he accept her lifestyle rather than the other way around. An early pre-code effort directed by Lloyd Bacon (42ND STREET), the film is interesting in its look at the class differences during the depression era America as well as the accepted role of males and females in a "traditional" marriage which is certainly different than today. It's not a heavily serious film on the subject and there's humor in the film but it's yet another film of the era where a strong and independent minded woman eventually subjugates herself to the man. Not that the husband isn't right in wanting to support his wife on his salary rather than her (or her father's) money but the film makes it so black and white. McCrea is immensely appealing (when wasn't he?) so a case for the husband is easily made. A trifle but enjoyable. With Ned Sparks, Mary Carr and Florence Roberts.
A young widow (Patty Duke) pregnant with her late husband's child takes a long bus ride from Los Angeles to Minnesota to meet her mother in law (Rosemary Murphy) for the first time. But the meeting is not only not as warm as she would have liked, it's downright deadly! Based on the novel by Naomi Hintze and directed by Lamont Johnson. This minor thriller slipped out quietly in 1972 but those who saw it have formed a growing cult through the years. I couldn't help but think of MY NAME IS JULIA ROSS (1945) as there's a distinct similarity between the two films. It's efficiently directed by Johnson with excellent performances especially by Murphy as the mother from Hell and it's nice to see Richard Thomas as a psychotic rapist killer without a trace of John-Boy from THE WALTONS. The secluded mansion (which became the site of a real double murder 5 years later) and snow bound Minnesota location provide a sense of claustrophobia that only adds to the film's tension. Since there are essentially only four characters (there's only one other minor character that's important), it leaves much room for character development. With Sian Barbara Allen and Dennis Rucker.
In 1802 in a coastal territory of Germany, a French soldier (Jack Nicholson) finds himself lost and detached from his troop. He spots a pretty but mysterious maid (Sandra Knight) on the beach who leads him to fresh water. But when he attempts to find her, everyone claims she doesn't exist. This low budget horror entry (reputedly shot in 4 days) from director Roger Corman doesn't have the style and focus of his Poe adaptations. There's no real narrative to speak of and much of the movie is Nicholson walking down castle corridors, fog shrouded graveyards, lush forests or the beach while the audience waits for something to happen. It's a handsome looking film however with John M. Nickolaus Jr.'s cinematography making the most of the California coastline locations and leftover sets from THE RAVEN and THE HAUNTED PALACE. But there's no getting around that the film moves at a snail's pace and has no real tension. Also, there's a revelation at the film's end that makes no sense whatsoever! With Boris Karloff, Dick Miller, Jonathan Haze and Dorothy Neumann.
The famous book editor Max Perkins (Colin Firth) has previously discovered F. Scott Fitzgerald (Guy Pearce) and Ernest Hemingway (Dominic West) but his biggest challenge is still ahead of him. The unstable and self centered hothead Thomas Wolfe (Jude Law) whose opus LOOK HOMEWARD ANGEL is thousands of pages long. Based on the non fiction MAX PERKINS: EDITOR OF GENIUS by A. Scott Berg and directed by the actor Michael Grandage in his feature film directorial debut. This is a frustrating film because there is so much good about but also so much that's very bad! Let's start with the bad. This is the ugliest dingiest "who forgot to pay the light bill?" movie since Eastwood's J. EDGAR. The film is so totally devoid of color that one wonders why didn't they just shoot it in B&W. Jude Law is, to put it bluntly ..... godawful! It's a great part and well written but with the wrong actor. He's not believable for a second. As to the good, John Logan's screenplay is literate and intelligent and manages to make the process of turning thousands of pages into a cohesive publishable book fascinating, no small feat. There's also a killer performance by Nicole Kidman as the older woman who abandons her husband and children for Wolfe. She's the only character I related to or cared about. With Laura Linney who's wasted in the wife role.
After WWII ends, a young woman (Meryl Streep) who had been a courier for the resistance in France, finds adjusting to peacetime life difficult. The dreams she had of a better world are dashed by the stagnancy of Great Britain following WWII and her anger manifests itself in mental illness. Based on the acclaimed play by David Hare (who wrote the screenplay) and directed by Fred Schepisi (SIX DEGREES OF SEPARATION). Although Hare's screenplay is perhaps too tightly constructed (I've not read the play) to allow much room for anyone besides Streep's narrow focus, I still found it a compelling film. Considering that Streep's character is essentially Hare's mouthpiece as she rants and raves about the corruption of the British ruling class as the character's malignant ennui begins to poison not only her but everyone around her, she's a surprisingly empathetic character. It helps that Schepisi has surrounded himself with some top talent like Ian Baker's cinematography, Bruce Smeaton's underscore and Richard Macdonald's production design. Streep is very good here, she hides the turning wheels and doesn't go all actressy on us. With John Gielgud (excellent), Charles Dance, Tracey Ullman, Ian McKellen, Sting, Burt Kwouk and Hugh Laurie.
Set in Las Vegas, an unmarried couple (Frederic Forrest, Teri Garr) are about to celebrate their fifth anniversary together. But instead, they find their relationship unraveling and turn to other partners in the hope they can be rescued in the romantic sense. Like NEW YORK NEW YORK, this is another attempt at telling a love story with contemporary sensibilities against a stylized "Old Hollywood" studio backdrop. On a technical level, director Francis Ford Coppola and his production designer Dean Tavoularis have knocked it out of the ballpark. Filmed entirely on sound stages, Tavoularis and the art and set directors have created the city of Las Vegas and it looks straight out of an MGM musical. Vivid bright Technicolor hues, streets crowded with dancers, even a plane taking off but Coppola forgot a story to hang his visuals on. Scorsese's NEW YORK NEW YORK wasn't consistent in its visuals and stylization but at least it had a focused script. Not only does Coppola not have a script but his actors aren't good enough to compensate, they're pawns on Coppola's chess board. Forrest is a good actor but he lacks the kind of charm that an actor would need to pull something like this off. The movie teases us that it might turn into a full blown musical at any moment but outside of a tango between Garr and Raul Julia that gets you hoping, we get Nastassja Kinski singing off key and Kenny Ortega's sloppy choreography. There's a great song score by Tom Waits and sung by Waits and Crystal Gayle. With Harry Dean Stanton, Lainie Kazan, Rebecca De Mornay and Allen Garfield.
After 2 years of waiting for her fiance (George Brent) to return, a girl (Miriam Hopkins) marries someone else. He returns on the day of her wedding but she refuses his attention. Her cousin (Bette Davis) however has always loved him and follows him. He dies in the Civil war leaving the cousin an unwed mother. The married cousin adopts the child and raises her as her own while the real mother becomes a bitter old maid watching her daughter brought up by someone else. Based on the Edith Wharton novel by way of Zoe Akins' Pulitzer prize winning play and directed by Edmund Goulding. Bette Davis had a stellar year in 1939. In addition to this film, she was the doomed heroine of DARK VICTORY, the going mad Empress in JUAREZ and Elizabeth I in PRIVATE LIVES OF ELIZABETH AND ESSEX. She's rather reined in here which makes a good contrast to Hopkins' bubbly belle and they have a good chemistry together although reputedly once the camera stopped, it was a different story. The film is an excellent example of a quality soap opera, repressed emotions with things left unspoken for years as the two women live under the same roof and the conflict builds. With Jane Bryan, William Lundigan, Donald Crisp, Jerome Cowan, James Stephenson and Louise Fazenda.
A secret agent (Kerwin Mathews) is sent to Thailand to replace an agent (Raoul Billerey) that has been murdered. His mission is to find out who is behind replacing a cholera vaccine with a plague virus thus causing an epidemic. Based on the novel LILA DE CALCUTTA by Jean Bruce which was one of some 250 novels about OSS 117 agent Hubert Bath starting in 1949 written by Bruce, then his wife after he died and then his daughter after mother died. The popularity of the novels didn't reach the U.S. shores but the series was popular enough in Europe to have several films made in France starting in 1957 and popular enough that Michel Hazanavicius (THE ARTIST) did two popular comedic parodies starting in 2006 with Jean Dujardin as agent OSS 117. BANGKOK was the second film in the series and seems to have used DR. NO as a template. Both films start with an airport arrival and chase sequence, there's the sexy secretary (Dominique Wilms) who works for the bad guys and the evil doctor (Robert Hossein) bent on world domination. Raymond Pierre Lemoigne's wide screen cinematography does justice to the lush Thailand landscape which compensates for having to listen to Michel Magne's trite score. Predictable and sluggish. With Pier Angeli as Mathews' love interest.
It's 1777 and the British army is fighting the American rebels. A pious preacher (Burt Lancaster) attempts not to take sides while a black sheep and rebel (Kirk Douglas) from the village taunts him. But when British soldiers come to arrest the minister, the rebel does something astonishing. Directed by Guy Hamilton (GOLDFINGER) and based on the 1897 George Bernard Shaw play but with some substantial changes from Shaw's text. For example, in the play, once Douglas's character inherits the family home after his father dies, he kicks his mother out of the house. To make Douglas's character more sympathetic, she leaves voluntarily while he implores her to stay. In the film, Lancaster's character is given some action scenes including a brawl with a British Captain as he attempts to blow up casks of gun powder. But the changes aside, it's fairly entertaining and performed well (with one exception) especially Laurence Olivier's General Burgoyne who effortlessly puts the movie in his pocket. The one exception is a miscast Lancaster. One has to admire him for tackling challenging roles that are beyond his ken like COME BACK LITTLE SHEBA, THE ROSE TATTOO and here. The next year he would fare much better playing a different kind of preacher. The excellent score is by Richard Rodney Bennett. With Janette Scott, Harry Andrews, Eva La Gallienne, Basil Sydney, Mervyn Johns and Allan Cuthbertson.
Lady Marshwood (Julie Andrews) of the British aristocracy is upset that her son (Edward Atterton) is marrying an American film star (Jeanne Tripplehorn). When her son brings the actress home to the family estate, she concocts a plot in the hopes of dashing the impending marriage. When the actress's ex-lover (William Baldwin) unexpectedly shows up, it only helps her plan. Based on a successful 1951 play by Noel Coward (Gladys Cooper played Andrews' part) which inexplicably never had a Broadway incarnation. It's what one would expect from the pen of Coward, an amusing and often witty drawing room comedy and the players are all up to the challenge. There's a slight element of class snobbery in the narrative and the two Americans are portrayed as boors. But I'm quite fond of drawing room comedies if they're good and this one gets a pass from me. It was released theatrically in the United Kingdom but went straight to cable in the U.S. With Colin Firth, Stephen Fry, Sophie Thompson and Stephanie Beacham.
Two silly teenagers (Andi Garrett, Sara Lane) left to their own devices make random prank calls to anonymous strangers whose names they find in the phone book and tell them, "I saw what you did and I know who you are". But it's more than a prank to one man (John Ireland) who's just murdered his wife (Joyce Meadows). Yes, director William Castle (STRAIT JACKET) is up to his old tricks again. Between the awful acting of the two teen leads and the annoying kid sister (Sharyl Locke) and the Brady Bunch underscore, it's hard to take the movie seriously. Throw in the 60 year old Joan Crawford (who looks a decade older) acting like a kittenish femme fatale, you have an irresistible groaner of a movie. The premise itself is good but it would take a better script and a director who took his work more seriously (thankfully, he was talked out of directing ROSEMARY'S BABY) for it to fall into place. But he was a showman all right! The posters warned "This is a motion picture about UXORICIDE!" which no doubt sent moviegoers to their dictionary. With Leif Erickson, Patricia Breslin and John Archer.
Tired of picking cotton for other people, a man (Zachary Scott) leases a piece of land to farm with the option of buying it. But it isn't easy as poverty, jealous neighbors and mother nature conspire to defeat him. The great French director Jean Renoir made only five films in Hollywood during his stay there in the 1940s. Based on the novel HOLD AUTUMN IN YOUR HAND by George Sessions Perry, THE SOUTHERNER is probably the best of the bunch. It's an imperfect film but there are moments of such great beauty and power that pointing out its minor deficiencies seems petty. The film is perhaps slightly romanticized but Lucien Andriot's exquisite location lensing gives the movie an almost poetic feel. With one exception, the acting is strong particularly Zachary Scott in a role far removed from the playboys he usually did at Warners. The one exception is Beulah Bondi who goes overboard as the cantankerous grandmother. A sensitive film without being overly sentimental. The Oscar nominated score is by Werner Janssen. With Betty Field, J. Carrol Naish, Norman Lloyd, Percy Kilbride, Blanche Yurka and Noreen Nash.
On V-J Day in 1945, all of New York is celebrating and a presumptuous and pushy jazz musician (Robert De Niro) foists himself on a promising singer (Liza Minnelli). They eventually fall in love and the film follows their rocky relationship to its inevitable conclusion. One of Martin Scorsese's most divisive films. I've met people who adore it and I've met people who hate it with a passion. I think I'm smack dab in the middle veering toward an appreciation of it. Scorsese's film is an attempt to marry the classic Hollywood musical with the new (1977) Hollywood but he can't find the right tone to make it all work. He uses artificial looking stage bound sets in some scenes, there's a certain glamour to the movie and some of the musical numbers are clearly a homage to the musicals of the 1940s and 50s. But his characters don't resemble the people of those movies, they're contemporary and hold nothing back. You'd never find a character like De Niro's Jimmy Doyle in an MGM musical. He's arrogant, egotistical and an unlikable lout. De Niro plays him perfectly but he's a difficult character to sit with through an almost 3 hour movie. It's an ambitious failure but not without some striking images (Laszlo Kovacs did the cinematography) and moments like Minnelli's rendition of the title song. With Lionel Stander, Barry Primus, Mary Kay Place, Georgie Auld, Clarence Clemons and Diahnne Abbott.
An unemployable pilot (Steve Cochran) because of an air crash in which he was the sole survivor is offered a job in Mozambique. But what he doesn't know is that he's just a pawn in a bigger and dangerous game. Produced by low budget schlockmeister Harry Alan Towers and directed by Robert Lynn, this sluggishly paced international action-adventure never catches fire. This was Cochran's last movie, seven months after its British premiere, he would be dead so it's a pity it's not better. Filmed on location in Mozambique, cinematographer Martin Curtis makes excellent use of the exotic locations including Victoria Falls. The plot is simple (or should I say simplistic) but it's just not very exciting. With Hildegard Knef, Paul Hubschmid, Martin Behson and Vivi Bach.
It begins in 1880 Toledo, Spain as Napoleonic soldiers desecrate a Catholic church before it jumps to modern day Paris where a strange man lures little girls away and gives them "dirty" postcards and from then on a continual surrealistic journey from the dark wit of Luis Bunuel. This was his follow up film to his acclaimed DISCREET CHARM OF THE BOURGEOISIE and they share an absurdist fragmented nature. But it lacks CHARM's precise focus and while that film had a core group of characters through out the film, LIBERTE is a series of black comedy sketches. Fortunately, most of them quite amusing. Bunuel plays on what society deems as proper and what isn't as in the much talked about scene where people gather around a table on toilet seats doing their business while engaging in polite conversation but excuse themselves to go to a small room to eat something in private or how we deliberately overlook the obvious (the "missing" child sequence). Poking fun at conventional morality was a Bunuel specialty and he's having a great time here. So will you. The large cast includes Monica Vitti, Michel Piccoli, Jean Claude Brialy, Adriana Asti, Michael Lonsdale, Adolfo Celi, Jean Rochefort and Marie France Pisier.
In 1977 England, a young girl (Madison Wolfe) becomes possessed by a former owner of the house. A married couple (Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson), who are paranormal investigators, is asked by the Catholic church to investigate. Based on a "true" story. The first THE CONJURING (2013) was a huge hit but more importantly, it was a first rate horror film. This film opens badly with an Amityville pre-credit sequence then it shifts into high gear only to infuse it with some unneeded sentimentality (which the first one didn't have). The movie stops dead in its tracks so Patrick Wilson can sing Presley's Falling In Love With You! Just what a horror film needs, right? There are a couple of genuine "jump" moments and the acting is rather good with some excellent actors like Frances O'Connor, Franka Potente and Simon McBurney in the cast. But it's as if director James Wan felt that he had to up the ante and give us more. So what we get are endless shots of the characters walking in dark corridors or into dark rooms almost in slow motion while Joseph Bishara's underscore rattles on the soundtrack that something terrible is going to happen. Not bad but very disappointing.
Set in Germany, a narcotics detective (John Mills) is insanely jealous of his sexy younger wife (Luciana Paluzzi) and it's beginning to affect his job. Meanwhile, he's attempting to track down a drug lord but all his contacts get killed before they can talk! Directed by Massimo Dallamano, this movie is often erroneously referred to as a giallo which it's definitely not even though there are some brutal murders. A crime thriller would be a more accurate description, it's not a mystery as the killer is revealed quite early in the film. If it had been made in the 1940s in B&W, it would be film noir with Mills as the poor doomed patsy and Paluzzi as the calculating femme fatale. John Mills gets to bring a lot of shading to his besotted policeman, much more than is usually displayed in such pulp which I suppose is what attracted him to the unlikely (for him) role. With Robert Hoffmann as the hit man who's not as clever as he thinks.
Set in the city of Savannah in Georgia, a highly respected antiques dealer (Kevin Spacey) is arrested for the murder of his sometime lover (Jude Law). He states it was self defense but a New York writer (John Cusack) begins doing some investigation of his own. Based on the huge non-fiction best seller by John Berendt (almost a year on the New York Times best seller list) and directed by Clint Eastwood. Although the book was based on fact, the film makes many changes from the source material. There were actually four trials with two different lawyers but in the film, it plays out as one trial. The screenplay adds a romantic interest (played by Alison Eastwood) for Cusack that wasn't in the book and which slows down the movie. There's a great movie in there somewhere instead of just a decent film and maybe with some judicious editing shears, it could be found. There's no reason for it to be over 2 1/2 hours long. The amount of time wasted on the Cusack/Eastwood romance could have been used for more detailed development and too much time is spent on the character of Chablis Deveau (Lady Chablis) which adds little to the film (like the whole black cotillion sequence). With Jack Thompson, Kim Hunter, Dorothy Loudon, Irma P. Hall, Bob Gunton, Paul Hipp, Anne Haney and Jo Ann Pflug.
A paid companion (Ida Lupino) to a financially secure ex-actress (Isobel Elsom recreating her stage role) living in the country is taking care of her two sisters (Elsa Lanchester, Edith Barrett) in London who aren't quite right in their heads. But when they are thrown out of their flat, she must bring them to live with her which doesn't sit well with the older woman. But the companion will do anything to protect her sisters ... even murder! Based on the Broadway play by Reginald Denham and Edward Percy and directed by Charles Vidor (GILDA), this is a well executed and well acted melodramatic thriller. As far as Victorian thrillers go, I'd say it ranks right up there with the much better known GASLIGHT. Vidor does a superb job of slowly building the suspense scene by scene until the very end when instead of a catharsis, the film ends with a heartbreaking poignant moment. Lupino gives a beautifully subtle performance making her desperate murderess an affecting character which is more than one can say about Louis Hayward (very good) as her despicable nephew who you want to get his just desserts. With Evelyn Keyes, Emma Dunn and Queenie Leonard.
As labor and management at a pajama factory fight over over a 7 1/2 cent per hour wage increase, it can't help but affect the romance between a plant superintendent (John Raitt) and a union leader (Doris Day). This delightful musical with a leftist bent (it's reputedly one of Jean Luc Godard's favorite musicals) is that rarity. It makes the transition from Broadway to Hollywood almost intact and with one major exception, the Broadway cast gets to repeat their stage roles. The exception is Doris Day taking over from Janis Paige but it's understandable that Warners wanted one box office name for insurance and Day is hardly a compromise. It's just about a perfect musical: it's actually about something (the exploitation of workers by big business who graft profits for themselves), a terrific batch of songs by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross, excellent choreography courtesy of the great Bob Fosse, solid direction split between George Abbott (who directed it on Broadway) and Stanley Donen and all performed by a dream cast. With Carol Haney, Eddie Foy Jr., Barbara Nichols, Reta Shaw and Thelma Pelish.
An internationally famous Nazi hunter (Laurence Olivier) living in Vienna is contacted by a young American (Steve Guttenberg) in Paraguay. The American has seen a gathering of important ex-Nazis and senses something big is going on. But no one is prepared for the shocking plan! Based on the novel by Ira Levin (ROSEMARY'S BABY) and directed by Franklin J. Schaffner (PATTON). The film starts off on shaky ground and never quite stabilizes. The premise is intriguing but so far fetched that even a leaping suspension of belief can't make it work. Which isn't to say it isn't entertaining, it is but probably for all the wrong reasons. I adore Gregory Peck but who in their right mind would cast the most straight arrow of American actors as a frothing at the mouth Nazi sadist? It's hard to suppress a giggle when Peck as Josef Mengele snarls in a terrible Teutonic accent, "Shut up, you ugly bitch!". Olivier fares better because he seems to be having a bit of fun with his role. The Oscar nominated Jerry Goldsmith score is good though. With James Mason, Lilli Palmer, Uta Hagen (in a rare film role), Rosemary Harris, Denholm Elliott, Bruno Ganz, Anne Meara, John Dehner, John Rubinstein and young Jeremy Black playing four roles and awful in all four of them.
The aging founder (Susan Cabot) of a cosmetics company is also the face in the company's advertisements. But as she ages, the sales begin to plummet. But a scientist (Michael Mark) has discovered a serum that can reverse the aging process. Unfortunately, there's a horrendous side effect! One of the many early sci-fi/horror efforts of the young Roger Corman, this rather silly piece of "B" pulp is fun in its own lowbrow way. Even its poverty row budget adds to the entertainment. We get stock shots of Manhattan (where the film allegedly takes place) but some of the location shots are so obviously LA.! It's a knock off gender reversal of THE FLY which came out the year before. The film's straight faced sincerity does a lot in giving the film a bit of charm. With Anthony Eisley and the likable Barboura Morris.
An Indian scout (John Wayne) leads a wagon train of settlers to the West via the Oregon Trail. But his motive is really to keep an eye on the two men (Tyrone Power Sr., Charles Stevens) he suspects of killing his brother. Long before 20th Century Fox and CinemaScope changed the shape of movies forever in 1953 with THE ROBE, Fox attempted to launch an alternate wide screen format in 70 millimeter called Grandeur. It was not a success and it would be another 22 years before Cinerama then CinemaScope arrived before the exhibitors and the public were willing to accept wide screen films. Directed by Raoul Walsh with the wide screen lensing done by Arthur Edeson, the wide screen images and compositions are stunning. This is not a stagnant film, Walsh fills the screen with activity and painterly illustrations. The director may have had only one eye but he knew how to frame a movie. The narrative itself is a simple one, one that would repeat itself often in the genre. The acting is okay with Wayne already revealing a strong star presence though he would have to wait 9 more years for his breakthrough role in STAGECOACH. I could have done without El Brendel's awful comic relief as a dumb Swede. With Marguerite Churchill, Tully Marshall, Ian Keith and Louise Carver.
In rural Victorian England, an attractive but headstrong girl (Julie Christie) inherits her uncle's estates. Three men fall in love with her: a simple shepherd (Alan Bates), a dashing soldier (Terence Stamp) and a gentleman farmer (Peter Finch). But in her case, romance takes a backseat to tragedy. Based on Thomas Hardy's 1874 novel and directed by John Schlesinger (MIDNIGHT COWBOY). It wasn't a success (at least in the U.S.) when first released which is a pity because this is an intelligent and beautiful evocation of Hardy's book. It's heightened by the sumptuous and lush cinematography of Nicholas Roeg which lovingly displays the Dorset countryside that became such an integral part of Hardy's literature. At the time, there were some complaints that Christie was miscast, too modern for Hardy's willful Victorian heroine but her performance works for me. It's Terence Stamp, who seems like he just walked in from Carnaby Street that's an ill fit. But the film's best performance belongs to Finch who's heartbreaking as the aging suitor who becomes obsessed with his beautiful neighbor. The gorgeous underscore by Richard Rodney Bennett was the film's only Oscar nomination. With Prunella Ransome, Fiona Walker and Freddie Jones.
The Prince (Derek Jacobi) to the Danish throne is greatly disturbed that his mother (Claire Bloom) has married his uncle (Patrick Stewart) so soon after his father's death. But a visit from the ghost of his father (Patrick Allen) incenses him even more as he discovers his uncle poisoned his father and he sets on his journey to avenge his father. I've lost count of the countless productions on stage, screen and television that I've seen of Shakespeare's tragedy. The role of Hamlet is considered by many actors the true test of an actor's mettle. This adaptation done by the BBC was highly praised and Derek Jacobi's Hamlet declared one of the best Hamlets. My enthusiasm is more reserved. At over 3 1/2 hours, this is a near complete presentation of the complete HAMLET but there's a good reason why it is usually trimmed down for performance. There's some fat in the bard's opus. This production is on the dull side, presented without much style or imagination and essentially a camera placed on a sound stage for the actors to play out the tale. Jacobi's Hamlet didn't work for me though I imagine it might have been thrilling on the stage which is how Jacobi plays it ... to the back of the theater. I was much more impressed by Bloom's Gertrude and Stewart's Claudius, one of the best Claudius I've seen and I liked Eric Porter's Polonius a lot too. Directed by Rodney Bennett. With Lala Ward as Ophelia, Jonathan Hyde and David Robb.
In an anti-Utopian society that demands people be coupled in 45 days or else changed into animals, a widower (Colin Farrell) goes to a government run hotel to be paired off but that proves disastrous and he escapes into the woods where the loners live and mating is forbidden. After having done the film festival circuit last year and opening in Europe, THE LOBSTER is only now opening in the U.S. Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos (whose first English language film this is), this black (and I mean black) comedy with sci-fi trimmings is both sharp and mercifully restrained. It doesn't go for easy laughs. One just has to accept its insane premise for it to work and fortunately the actors are all in sync delivering their lines in an almost robotic manner but with just the right amount of minimalist feeling. But in its way, it's too much of a good thing. The narrative is essentially a one joke act that wears out its welcome and after awhile, I just wanted it to end. I've never been much of a Colin Farrell fan but he's wonderful here, possibly his best performance. With Rachel Weisz, Lea Seydoux, John C. Reilly and Ben Whishaw.
In 19th century Louisiana, the co-owner (Patricia Medina) of a gambling riverboat surreptitiously takes over the land debt of a plantation owner (John Dehner) and demands immediate payment. To prevent him from going to debtor's prison, his son (Lex Barker) agrees to be an indentured servant to the woman for three years. This low budget Columbia programmer uses stock footage and stock music to cut costs but it's modestly enjoyable in its own "B" movie way what with duels, river pirates and an all girl barroom brawl. Directed by William Castle before he moved into the exploitation horror genre (STRAIT JACKET, THE TINGLER), it's a time killer movie, not wearing out its welcome in its brief 1 hour and 12 minute running time. Not exactly a western but not quite a swashbuckler either, Barker makes for a decent Southern hunk while the exotic Medina makes for a fiery river cat. With Craig Stevens, Warren Oates, Celia Lovsky and Lita Milan.
Two young women (Audrey Hepburn, Shirley MacLaine) manage an exclusive boarding school for girls. When a nasty and venomous student (Karen Balkin) is disciplined, she retaliates by telling her grandmother (Fay Bainter) that the teachers are flaunting their lesbian affair in front of the students. The child's malicious lie has far reaching consequences for all concerned. Based on Lillian Hellman's 1934 hit play and directed by William Wyler, who had previously directed the first film version in 1936 under the title THESE THREE. The 1936 film changed the lesbian accusation to one of a love triangle between the two teachers and a man. THESE THREE is an excellent film and unfortunately, THE CHILDREN'S HOUR is often pushed aside in favor of the 1936 film. HOUR remains a potent piece of film making with terrific turns by MacLaine and Bainter and alas, remains as relevant today as it was in 1934. In actuality and why Hellman had no problem with the 1936 film, the narrative isn't about homosexuality but the destruction of human lives based on a child's hateful lie and the film has many similarities to the 1987 McMartin pre-school trial in California which lasted 3 years. The owners and staff were accused of sexual child abuse but all charges were dropped but lives were already irretrievably damaged. With James Garner, Miriam Hopkins (who played MacLaine's part in the 1936 film) and Veronica Cartwright.
After being diagnosed with a terminal illness by his doctor (Norman Fell), a man (Burt Reynolds) decides to commit suicide rather than face the deterioration and pain that will come with the fatal illness. In addition to playing the leading role, Reynolds also directs this uneven black comedy. It plays out like a series of comedy sketches stitched together, some are okay but some like the sequence with Reynolds and a priest (Robby Benson) are awful. But at the halfway mark, a small miracle occurs. Dom DeLuise turns up as a psychotic schizophrenic and suddenly the picture is actually funny. DeLuise attacks his role with glee and abandon, a plump neurotic demon bubbling over with vitality in between bouts of self loathing. As for the rest of the film, it's mostly Reynolds and there's something unpleasantly narcissistic about his performance and I'm still not sure if it's the actor or the character. With Joanne Woodward, Sally Field, Myrna Loy, Carl Reiner, Pat O'Brien, Kristy McNichol and David Steinberg.
A playwright (Al Pacino) is about to go into rehearsals for his latest Broadway show with a movie actress (Dyan Cannon) who's never done Broadway before. Meanwhile, his unstable wife (Tuesday Weld) is having an affair and leaves him, letting him take care of her 4 kids (from 3 different husbands) and his own son (Eric Gurry). Directed by Arthur Hiller (LOVE STORY), this is sort of a comedic KRAMER VS. KRAMER from an original screenplay by Israel Horovitz. This is the kind of film with movie kids as opposed to real kids. They are all wise beyond their years and talk like 40 year olds and so obnoxious that one can't blame Weld for running off. If they were my kids I'd abandon them too! On the plus side, this is one of Pacino's most likable performances and proof that he can turn it way down when necessary. Cannon's role is underwritten but Weld, probably the film's most realized and honest character, gets a chance to make something of her role. With Alan King, Andre Gregory and Bob Dishy.
In 1845 Paris, a deranged scientist (Bela Lugosi) kidnaps young women and injects them with the blood of his gorilla in the hopes of finding a mate for his ape. Very loosely based on the classic novella by Edgar Allan Poe which has been filmed many times. Directed by Robert Florey (BEAST WITH FIVE FINGERS), this is a very primitive film. The acting is mostly terrible (Lugosi an exception) but Florey and his ace cinematographer Karl Freund manage to create a dark, disquieting climate that instills a sense of morbid dread. This is a pre-code film but apparently the violence was unacceptable even back then so the running time was cut by about 10 minutes. It's the flip side of the beauty and the beast of KING KONG which would come the following year. Part of the film's unsettling titillation is the implied sexual mating of a gorilla with the young girls. With the stiff Leon Waycoff as the nominal hero, he would become a reliable character actor once he changed his name to Leon Ames. Also in the cast a very young Arlene Francis as one of the victims, years before she became one of TV's most famous game show panelists.
Siegfried (Paul Richter), the son of a King, is determined to win the hand of Kriemhild (Margarete Schon), the sister of King Gunther (Theodor Loos). But to do so, he must defeat the warrior Brunhild (Hanna Ralph) who Gunther wants for his bride. Thus begins an epic tale of heroism, deceit, betrayal and revenge. Fritz Lang's astonishing 4 1/2 hour epic really needs to be seen to be believed. It's really two separate films, the first part SIEGFRIED and the second film is KRIEMHILD'S REVENGE. The imagery is stunning as befits one of the great directors of the silent era. It's an increasingly crazy masterwork that starts off like a mythical Arthurian romantic legend and ends up as vengeful and bloody as a Shakespeare tragedy. The word epic is tossed around too often and used to describe films that aren't really epic at all. THIS is the genuine article! You're transported in a way that nothing but cinema can achieve. Visually, I'd say it's even more impressive than Lang's own METROPOLIS. Lang dedicates the film to the German people and at first that seems noble. Yet it's disturbing that the German "Nibelungen" are deemed heroes for their loyalty and standing by their own even with death staring them in the face. However, the person they are protecting is the murderer (Hans Adalbert Schlettow) of a hero whose only fault was trusting a weak king and the same murderer also kills a baby in front of the child's parents! Yet the heroine is deemed evil for seeking justice from the Germans for the murderer of her husband and child? It's unsettling when you realize that Atilla the Hun (Rudolf Klein Rogge) is the most sympathetic character in the film!
When their married best friends (Judy Davis, Sydney Pollack) announce they are breaking up, a married couple (Woody Allen, Mia Farrow) begin to question their own relationship as their own marriage begins to unravel. Between the completion of the film and the film's release, the Soon Yi "scandal" broke and as a result, it's almost impossible to not read into Woody Allen's film. At one point in the film, Farrow asks Allen, "Are you hiding something from me?" and later when asked about his relationship with a girl (Juliette Lewis) young enough to be his daughter, he responds "Everything about it was wrong but it didn't deter me". HUSBANDS is rarely brought up when discussing Allen's best films but when it opened, the reviews were highly positive and I think it's very good. Allen's screenplay received an Oscar nomination as did Judy Davis's fierce performance. If you're not sure you've seen it, this is one that opens with Carlo Di Palma's dizzying handheld camera weaving in and out. The film's faux semi-documentary approach is the perfect setting for this romantic roundelay. With Liam Neeson, Blythe Danner, Ron Rifkin and Caroline Aaron.