Tuesday, December 31, 2019
, a secret agent (Dean Martin) is sent to Mexico on a mission to locate the missing flying saucer. His partner on the mission is the pilot (Janice Rule) of the spaceship, who has no memory of the hijacking or how she escaped from her captors. Very loosely based on two novels by Donald Hamilton, THE AMBUSHERS and THE MENACERS and directed by Henry Levin (JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH). Hamilton's Matt Helm books were as serious as Ian Fleming's Bond books but for some reason, the film versions of these books (there were 4 of them) were constructed as spy comedies. The Matt Helm films (all starring Martin) are relics of a bygone sexist era. Martin plays him as a total lech and the women are objectified and unlike the Bond films, they have very little personality outside of lusting after Martin's Helm. The humor is pretty lame. For example, Martin: "Now? It's broad daylight?" Rule "What's wrong with a broad in daylight?" or Senta Berger (as a foreign agent): "Skol!" Martin: "Of course, it's cold. It's got ice in it". With Albert Salmi, James Gregory, Kurt Kasznar, Alexandra Hay and Beverly Adams.
, her death assumed to be a tragic accident. But on the day of her funeral, everyone is stunned when she (June Lockhart) shows up very much alive. So whose body was buried? Based on a radio play by Irene Winston and directed by Bernard Vorhaus (a blacklist victim who moved to Europe before retiring from films). This poverty row B murder mystery is often mistakenly referred to as film noir but that's likely because of the great John Alton's (THE BIG COMBO) noir like B&W cinematography. The film makes the mistake of adding some lame comedy to the narrative which lessens the impact of its core mystery. Most of the suspects are too obvious so I went for the least likely person to have committed the crime and I was right! With Cathy O'Donnell, Hugh Beaumont, Sonia Darrin (THE BIG SLEEP), Mark Daniels and the muscle bound Greg McClure (whose life would make a pretty good movie on its own).
Monday, December 30, 2019
, the townspeople nervously await while Cold War tensions escalate between the Soviet Union and the U.S. and the possibility of nuclear war suddenly becomes very real. Directed by Nicholas Meyer (THE SEVEN PER CENT SOLUTION), this telefilm (which was also released theatrically in Europe with five additional minutes) was an event movie and became the highest rated TV movie of all time, a title it holds to this day. It still holds up (North Korea now having taken the place of the Soviet Union) and retains its power. But the flaws it had when first aired still remain. To put it bluntly, the characters are trite (yes, there's even a woman about to give birth during all this) as is much of their dialog. One can't invest much care into their fate. TESTAMENT which also came out the same year solved the problem by focusing exclusively on one family rather than a group of disparate characters. What THE DAY AFTER does accomplish is showing their growing fear of what may/will happen, the hysteria and fear and of course, the unspeakable aftermath. The quality of the acting is all over the place. The score by David Raksin incorporates Virgil Thomson's THE RIVER. With Jason Robards, Jobeth Williams, John Lithgow, Amy Madigan, Steve Guttenberg, John Cullum, Bibi Besch, Arliss Howard, Georgann Johnson and Jeff East.
, he poses as the president (Minor Watson) of the company in order to get his job back. Solidly directed by Harmon Jones (GORILLA AT LARGE), this unassuming little comedy is (unfortunately) still relevant today in its depiction of ageism in the workplace. Its denouement is simplistic and unlikely but its heart is in the right place. A sweet diversion all the way around. The likable cast is a solid asset and bolsters the modesty of the project. The other players include Jean Peters, Constance Bennett, Thelma Ritter, David Wayne, Albert Dekker, Russ Tamblyn, Allyn Joslyn and a young Marilyn Monroe, already showing signs of star quality as Dekker's put upon secretary.
Sunday, December 29, 2019
, who is blind, lives in a two room apartment with her abusive hooker mother (Shelley Winters in an Oscar winning performance) and her alcoholic grandfather (Wallace Ford). In the park one day, she meets a young black man (Sidney Poitier) whose acts of kindness will change her life forever. Based on BE READY WITH BELLS AND DRUMS by Elizabeth Kata and directed by Guy Green (THE ANGRY SILENCE). A beautiful film about two people who must overcome adverse obstacles (racism, blindness) that stand in their way to a better life. Poitier gives one of his very best performances displaying strength and dignity in the face of hate (perfectly encapsulated by Winters' monster) and Hartman gives a lovely performance that just about breaks your heart. Yes, it's a "message" movie (a genre I'm not fond of) but it makes its point through its succinct narrative without lecturing to us as if we were attending a civics lesson. The gorgeous score is among Jerry Goldsmith's very best. With Ivan Dixon, Elisabeth Fraser and John Qualen.
, Dracula, Mummy, Wolf Man etc. Chaney is his usual stolid self and Gwynne is okay but it's a trio of actresses that help keep the movie afloat: Evelyn Ankers (in a rare villainess role), Elizabeth Russell (CAT PEOPLE) and Elisabeth Risdon. All of them providing interesting and contrasting layers (duplicity, neuroticism and sass). It lacks the sophistication of the superior 1962 film, which was called BURN WITCH BURN in the U.S. but its mix of the supernatural, superstition and human spite does its magic. With Ralph Morgan and Lois Collier.
, he does everything in his power to hold on to her. Directed by Martin Scorsese. 2) A 12 year old girl (Heather McComb) lives alone in a luxury hotel while her parents (Giancarlo Giannini, Talia Shire) travel around the world. 3) An attorney (Woody Allen) has a nagging mother (Mae Questel) who is unhappy with his choice for a wife (Mia Farrow). Directed by Woody Allen. The quality of the short films vary but none of the films are anywhere near the best of their directors' work. The worst is Coppola's film which is basically a weak riff on Kay Thompson's Eloise At The Plaza stories. Allen's film is fine up to a point but it's a one joke premise that loses steam very quickly. The best of the lot is Scorsese's mini drama with two people using each other in an unhealthy way. The large supporting cast includes Steve Buscemi, Patrick O'Neal, Debbie Harry, Illeana Douglas, Adrien Brody, Carole Bouquet, Larry David, Julie Kavner, Brigitte Bako and Kirsten Dunst.
Saturday, December 28, 2019
, an aspiring stand up comic (Joaquin Phoenix) working as a clown descends into madness and murder as society crumbles around him. Based on the DC comics character of The Joker introduced in the Batman comic books and directed by Todd Phillips (THE HANGOVER). This is easily the most depressing and misanthropic film I have ever seen! Don't get me wrong, it's superbly made with a sensational performance by Phoenix in the title role but damn is it dark! This isn't your usual DC/Marvel fodder. There's mental illness, child abuse, matricide and social anarchy and Phillips keeps rubbing our faces in it. If this isn't a true horror film, I don't know what is. The film has infuriated some critics who called it socially irresponsible. I wouldn't go that far but there's an irritating sense of pompous self importance that leaves an unpleasant aftertaste. The screenplay lacks originality but its execution is almost good enough to forgive it that (I said almost good enough). I'm honestly taken aback that the film is a huge hit because of its nihilistic attitudes. But there's no denying this is strong stuff. I guess I'm ambivalent about it. I'm impressed with its raw power but I still want to take a shower to wash it off me. But I'll still take it over any Marvel/DC superhero movie. There's an excellent score by Hildur Guonnadotir. The cast also includes Robert De Niro, Frances Conroy, Brett Cullen and Zazie Beetz.
, who is a career soldier and former boxer who is harassed because he refuses to box for his unit and a First Sergeant (William Devane), who has an aversion to officers and is having an affair with his commanding officer's (Roy Thinnes) promiscuous wife (Natalie Wood). Based on the novel by James Jones (previously made into an Oscar winning 1953 film) and directed by Buzz Kulik (BRIAN'S SONG). Running past the 4 1/2 hour mark, this version is more faithful to the Jones' novel incorporating elements that had to be excised (like prostitution, homosexuality, STDs and brutality) from the 1953 film because of the censorship of the era. The longer running time also allows more detail in the relationships between the First Sergeant and the Captain's wife as well as the Private and his prostitute girlfriend (Kim Basinger). The film keeps some of the 1953 movie's changes like the character of Maggio (Joe Pantoliano) who was combined with another character (Maggio doesn't die in the book) for dramatic effect. With one exception, the acting is strong although I would have liked Devane's performance more if I weren't so conscious that he was acting. The weak performance surprisingly comes from Basinger who you would think would be perfect in the part. Obviously not as tight as the 1953 film but a more than decent version that gives an inkling of the novel's power. With Andy Griffith, Peter Boyle, Salome Jens and Will Sampson.
Friday, December 27, 2019
, Emilio Estevez) go undercover posing as father and son with an assistant D.A. (Rosie O'Donnell) posing as his wife. Their mission: to discover the whereabouts of an escaped Mafia witness (Cathy Moriarty) and bring her back to testify. Directed by John Badham (SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER), this is a sequel to the box office hit STAKEOUT (1987). It did not repeat the critical or box office success of the original. But I enjoyed it quite a bit even though it's a rather simple minded action movie. Sometimes, it's nice to put your mind on auto control and give it a rest and movies like ANOTHER STAKEOUT serve the purpose perfectly. Most of the acting is cartoonish (if you can call what O'Donnell does acting) but the movie zips along so quickly that there's not much time to analyze its faults until it's over. I can't honestly recommend it but it's a painless watch. With Dennis Farina, Miguel Ferrer, Marcia Strassman and John Rubinstein.
Thursday, December 26, 2019
, a music loving bandit (Richard Dix) kidnaps a promising opera singer (Irene Dunne) and promises to make her a star. Based on a story by Ernest William Hornung and directed by William A. Wellman (THE HIGH AND THE MIGHTY). This sentimental piece of romantic twaddle is nonsense. Dunne and Dix had had a popular success with the Oscar winning CIMARRON in 1931 but here, they fall prey to a ludicrous Robin Hood type of romantic adventure. In the 1920s, women swooned when Rudolph Valentino kidnapped Agnes Ayres and broke down her resistance until she gave in to him. Dix lacks Valentino's sensuality and screen presence so here, he seems like a creepy kidnapper and the very idea that a promising opera singer would give up everything for him is, well ..... absurd! The film was a flop so I guess audiences in 1934 didn't buy it back then either. Dunne is at her unbearable worst in claptrap like this. Is there a worse combination than suffering and trilling? With Mary Boland, Una O'Connor, Andy Devine and Henry Stephenson.
Sunday, December 22, 2019
, who delights in mentally and physically abusing her. Based on the novel by Henry Farrell and directed by Robert Aldrich (KISS ME DEADLY). Often relegated to the ungallantly named "psycho biddy" genre, it's easy to forget Aldrich's firm and atmospheric direction and how superbly acted it is. Davis's performance is a triumph. Walking the fine line between camp and poignancy, she keeps her performance grounded in a heartbreaking reality. You may laugh but that laugh can just as easily get caught in your throat. Crawford's role is less flashy and more passive but she shows a remarkable restraint (for her). She's the steady sailboat to Davis's rollercoaster. With Victor Buono, Maidie Norman, Anna Lee, Maxine Cooper and Marjorie Bennett.
Saturday, December 21, 2019
Friday, December 20, 2019
Wednesday, December 18, 2019
Tuesday, December 17, 2019
Monday, December 16, 2019
Sunday, December 15, 2019
Saturday, December 14, 2019
he was a prison psychiatrist treating a racist sociopath and Nazi sympathizer (Bobby Darin). Directed by Hubert Cornfield (NIGHT OF THE FOLLOWING DAY), this was produced by the dreaded Stanley Kramer and while he might not have directed it, his fingerprints are all over it. Its preachy tone and heavy handedness aside, Cornfield and his ace cinematographer Ernest Haller (GONE WITH THE WIND) do some wonderful visual things that make it more interesting than your usual civics lesson movie. Darin gives an intense performance, perhaps too intense as his performance could have been reined in a bit. Poitier, no surprise, is marvelous. With Lynn Loring, Carl Benton Reid, Mary Munday, James Anderson and Barry Gordon.