Search This Blog

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

The Ambushers (1967)

After a U.S. spaceship is hijacked in mid-flighta 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 spaceshipwho has no memory of the hijacking or how she escaped from her captors. Very loosely based on two novels by Donald HamiltonTHE 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 reasonthe 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 filmsthey have very little personality outside of lusting after Martin's Helm. The humor is pretty lame. For exampleMartin: "Now? It's broad daylight?" Rule "What's wrong with a broad in daylight?" or Senta Berger (as a foreign agent): "Skol!" Martin: "Of courseit's cold. It's got ice in it". With Albert SalmiJames GregoryKurt KasznarAlexandra Hay and Beverly Adams. 

Bury Me Dead (1947)

The body of a wealthy heiress is found in a burned out stableher 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'DonnellHugh BeaumontSonia 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 Day After (1983)

Set in a small town in Kansasthe 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 timea 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 bluntlythe characters are trite (yesthere'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 happenthe hysteria and fear and of coursethe 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 RobardsJobeth WilliamsJohn LithgowAmy MadiganSteve GuttenbergJohn CullumBibi BeschArliss HowardGeorgann Johnson and Jeff East.   

As Young As You Feel (1951)

When a mature but vital man (Monty Woolley) is forced to retire at the age of 65 because of company policyhe 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 PetersConstance BennettThelma RitterDavid WayneAlbert DekkerRuss TamblynAllyn Joslyn and a young Marilyn Monroealready showing signs of star quality as Dekker's put upon secretary.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

A Patch Of Blue (1965)

A young girl (Elizabeth Hartman)who is blindlives 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 dayshe 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 (racismblindness) 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. Yesit'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 DixonElisabeth Fraser and John Qualen.   

Weird Woman (1944)

A college professor (Lon Chaney Jr.) returns from the South Seas with a new bride (Anne Gwynne) who still believes in the pagan ways of the island population. She brings with her some amulets and artifacts that will "protect" her and her husband from evil. Based on the novel CONJURE WIFE by Fritz Leiber (later remade in 1962 in England as NIGHT OF THE EAGLE) and directed by Reginald Le Borg. One of the better Universal horror offerings (under their Inner Sanctum franchise) from the 1940s that isn't part of their Monster legacies: FrankensteinDraculaMummyWolf 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 (duplicityneuroticism and sass). It lacks the sophistication of the superior 1962 filmwhich was called BURN WITCH BURN in the U.S. but its mix of the supernaturalsuperstition and human spite does its magic. With Ralph Morgan and Lois Collier.

New York Stories (1989)

Three short films by three directors: 1) An artist (Nick Nolte) is obsessed with his protege (Rosanna Arquette) and when she announces she's leaving himhe 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 GianniniTalia 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 BuscemiPatrick O'NealDebbie HarryIlleana DouglasAdrien BrodyCarole BouquetLarry DavidJulie KavnerBrigitte Bako and Kirsten Dunst. 

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Joker (2019)

Set in 1981an 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 wrongit'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 illnesschild abusematricide and social anarchy and Phillips keeps rubbing our faces in it. If this isn't a true horror filmI 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 NiroFrances ConroyBrett Cullen and Zazie Beetz.

From Here To Eternity (1979)

Set in 1941 Hawaii in the months preceding the attack on Pearl Harbor. The film follows two soldiers: a Private (Steve Railsback) from Kentuckywho 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 markthis version is more faithful to the Jones' novel incorporating elements that had to be excised (like prostitutionhomosexualitySTDs 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 exceptionthe 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 GriffithPeter BoyleSalome Jens and Will Sampson. 

Friday, December 27, 2019

Another Stakeout (1993)

Two Seattle police detectives (Richard DreyfussEmilio 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. Sometimesit'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 FarinaMiguel FerrerMarcia Strassman and John Rubinstein. 

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Stingaree (1934)

Set in 1874 Australiaa 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 herethey fall prey to a ludicrous Robin Hood type of romantic adventure. In the 1920swomen 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 herehe seems like a creepy kidnapper and the very idea that a promising opera singer would give up everything for him iswell ..... 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 BolandUna O'ConnorAndy Devine and Henry Stephenson.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? (1962)

A once famous Hollywood actress (Joan Crawford) is now wheelchair bound due to an accident which occurred in 1935 at the height of her career. She is taken care of by her demented and psychotic sister (Bette Davis in an Oscar nominated performance)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" genreit'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 poignancyshe 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 BuonoMaidie NormanAnna LeeMaxine Cooper and Marjorie Bennett.    

Bombshell (2019)

Under the Chairman and CEO of Fox News Roger Ailes' (John Lithgow) leadershipa toxic work environment exists for its female employees. But it isn't until Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman) files a lawsuit against Ailes for sexual harassment that the lid is lifted and the ugly facts exposed that will eventually bring about Ailes' downfall. Directed by Jay Roach (MEET THE PARENTS)this is a terrific movie. Not without its flaws but there's no denying the film's powerful story. As with most "true" storiesconsiderable dramatic license is taken. One of the film's three major characters, expertly played by Margot Robbieis a fictional character created for the film. I can understand why she is there but it makes the film too "Hollywood" when it should have tried for a more semi-documentary effect. Charlize Theron as Megyn Kelly gives her best performance since her Oscar winning turn in MONSTER. I just wish Charles Randolph's script hadn't strayed so far from the real story which was strong enough without the need to be punched up. All that being saidit's the kind of message movie that doesn't forget that as a movieit still has an obligation to entertain its audience. The first rate cast includes Allison JanneyKate McKinnonMalcom McDowellConnie BrittonRichard Kind and Holland Taylor.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

The Law And The Lady (1951)

Set at the turn of the centurya maid (Greer Garson) joins forces with a con man (Michael Wilding) and they pass her off as a "Lady" of the British aristocracy as they travel the world from Monte Carlo to Shanghai swindling people. But when they arrive in San Franciscoshe finds herself attracted to a Spaniard (Fernando Lamas) of royal blood and begins to waiver in her choice of a life of crime. Based on the play THE LAST OF MRS. CHEYNEY  by Frederick Lonsdale and directed by Edwin H. Knopf. Lonsdale's play had been filmed twice previously. In 1929 with Norma Shearer and in 1937 with Joan Crawford. I've not seen either of those versions. If I had perhaps I wouldn't have found this version so winning. I found this comedic romp quite charming and well acted and it went by quickly. One doesn't think of Garson as a comedic actress but she's delightful and even the normally dull Michael Wilding rises to the occasion and he's quite likable here. The movie is nothing more than a lightweight piece of celluloid but I found it a pleasant diversion. With the scene stealing Marjorie Main (playing a society matron instead of her usual domestic)Natalie SchaferMargalo Gillmore and Rhys Williams.  

Friday, December 20, 2019

The Other (1972)

Set in the summer of 1935 in a rural country homea pair of twin brothers (Chris and Martin Udvarnoky) amuse themselves while their recently widowed mother (Diana Muldaur) suffers from depression. But the brothers have different personalitiesone is a typical ten year old kid while the other shows sociopath tendencies. Based on the best selling novel by Thomas Tryon and directed by Robert Mulligan (TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD). It's fairly easy to quickly guess the film's "twist" which comes at around the one hour mark so there's not much suspense value. As far as "evil child" movies gothis one is slightly better than THE BAD SEED but not as good as THE OMEN. To the movie's creditit doesn't embarrass itself like THE BAD SEED did (that ending!) but for a psychological thrillerit's surprisingly tedious. Tryon himself disliked the film. The acclaimed stage actress Uta Hagen makes her film debut at 52 here as the twins' Russian grandmother. The underscore by Jerry Goldsmith lifts the film a bit. With John RitterJenny Sullivan and Portia Nelson. 

Cats (2019)

A cat (Francesca Hayward) in a bag is dumped by her owner in an alley and abandoned. Rescued by a tribe of catsshe is just in time for the Jellicle Ball where Old Deuteronomy (Judi Dench) will announce which cat will ascend to the heavens and come back to a new life! Based on the smash Broadway musical (it ran for 18 years and 7,485 performances) and directed by Tom Hooper (LES MISERABLES). I'm a cat lover but the popularity of the stage show has always eluded me. I saw the show during its Broadway run and I thought it was just awful. Is it possible to make a good movie out of a bad stage show? Yes but CATS isn't it. As movie musicals goCATS isn't as bad as THE GREATEST SHOWMAN (what could be?) but the question is should it have been made into a movie at all? The stage musical is such a theatrical conceit that a film version was doomed to failure. I think the critics have been sharpening their knives for this one since the film version was announced! Stillconsidering the strikes against itit's surprisingly enjoyable in a WTF way. The show's strong suit was its choreography (the songs are pretty bad) and Hooper allows Andy Blankenbuehler's choreography to take center stage without too many distracting cuts. Some of the performers acquit themselves admirably (Idris ElbaJames CordenTaylor Swift) while others aren't so lucky (Ian McKellenRebel Wilson). It's almost impossible to redeem a song as dreadful as Memory but Jennifer Hudson almost does it which is a testament to her talent. This has cult film written all over it. With Jason Derulo and Laurie Davidson.

King Solomon's Treasure (1979)

An adventurer (John Colicos) accompanied by two English gentlemen (David McCallumPatrick McNee) goes into an uncharted area of Africa in search of the legendary treasure of King Solomon. Very loosely based on two novels by H. Rider HaggardKING SOLOMON'S MINES and SHEand directed by Alvin Rakoff. This silly adventure film benefits from being filmed on location in Swaziland and the volcanic destruction of the Queen's (Britt Ekland) palace is impressive. But other than thatthe movie is pretty lame. Once they get to Africathey discover prehistoric rubber dinosaurs right out of a cheesy Japanese sci-fi movie. Bizarrelyno one expresses any shock or surprise at prehistoric creatures in 19th century Africa! The dialog tries at times to be witty but it doesn't make any sense. For examplewhen the safari's French cook (Yvon Dufour) says he'll make hot soup for everyone but is told he can't build a firehe says he'll make vichyssoise instead. The script ignores the fact that he still has to cook the potatoes to make the cold vichyssoise. It's that sloppy a movie. With Wilfrid Hyde White and Ken Gampu.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

In Our Time (1944)

As war clouds hover over Europe in 1939a young Englishwoman (Ida Lupino) is traveling in Poland with her employer (Mary Boland)an interior decorator buying antiques. When she meets a handsome Polish Count (Paul Henreid) they fall in love and marry despite the extreme reservations of his class conscious family. Directed by  the veteran Vincent Sherman (MR. SKEFFINGTON)this mixture of romance and propaganda film is too ambitious for its own good. Trying to cram in too much in a two hour running timeit ends up being unsatisfactory as both a romance and as a talky moral boost to the war effortmost notably sympathy for Poland's fight for freedom against the Nazis. Lupino is curiously sexlessperhaps rendered so by the lack of chemistry between her and Henreid. The first part of the film is rather enjoyable in its own faux REBECCA way with Lupino as the shy companion to a vulgarian (Boland) rescued by a handsome aristocrat (Henreid) but that all quickly evaporates when the Nazis invade Warsaw. This kind of thing has been done betterWATCH ON THE RHINE comes to mind. With Alla NazimovaNancy ColemanMichael Chekhov and Victor Francen.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Five (1951)

After a nuclear bomb destroys the planeta disparate group of five survivors find each other: a philosopher (William Phipps)a pregnant woman (Susan Douglas)a banker (Earl Lee)an African American (Charles Lampkin) and an explorer (James Anderson). Howeverit isn't long before the racist explorer sows seeds of discord among the group. Producedwritten and directed by Arch Oboler (who also is credited with production design). The film is a well intentioned microcosm of humanity that must deal with the aftermaths of a nuclear war and working together to establish some sort of new beginning. Alasit comes across as an extended episode of the TWILIGHT ZONE which used this theme several times. Other films have dealt with the subject better and certainly in a more entertaining way. THE WORLD THE FLESH AND THE DEVIL and TARGET EARTH come to mind. It's rather cliched in its execution. As soon as Anderson reveals his racismwe know Lampkin will soon be sacrificed and Douglas's pregnant woman is pretty dim witted and weak. The movie is not without interestit's just a pity that it offers us stereotypes rather than original characters. Stillthe film does have a cult following. The Malibu cliff side house where the action takes place was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.    

Our Betters (1933)

A wealthy American heiress (Constance Bennett) marries an English aristocrat (Alan Mowbray) but it isn't long after the wedding that she discovers he married her for her money and is in love with another woman (Finis Barton). Based on the play by W. Somerset Maugham and directed by George Cukor. This sophisticated adult comedy isn't very cinematicits proscenium roots all too obvious but it's a wonderfully wicked comedy of manners. Except for a fortunately brief scene between Bennett and her sister (Anita Louise) which spoils the fun with its moralizingit's a good time with its shallow and morally decadent upper class engaging in backstabbing and self serving behavior. Bennett is marvelous as she slinks around purring catty remarks while looking sensational in her Hattie Carnegie frocks while Violet Kemble Cooper as her aging Duchess pal with a young Latin gigolo (Gilbert Roland) for a lover comes pretty close to stealing the picture. With Charles StarrettGrant MitchellMinor WatsonPhoebe Foster and Tyrell Davis.

Monday, December 16, 2019

The Mouse That Roared (1959)

A minuscule European country of no importance finds itself bankrupt when the U.S. stops buying their only export: wine. The Prime Minister (Peter Sellers) devises a plan where their country will declare war on the U.S. and lose and thus be eligible for U.S. funds to rebuild their economy. But things don't go quite as planned when they win the war! Based on the novel by Leonard Wibberley and directed by Jack Arnold (CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON). This political satire is mildly amusing but its one joke premise quickly runs out of steam. Curiouslywhile not especially popular in Englandthe film was an art house hit in America and spawned a sequelTHE MOUSE ON THE MOON. Sellers gets an opportunity to show his talent for mimicry. In addition to the Prime Ministerhe plays the country's Grand Duchess and the mild mannered game warden hero. It could have been a sharp and biting satire but insteadit's on the sweet and gentle side. With Jean Seberg in the ingenue roleLeo McKernDavid Kossoff and William Hartnell. 

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Murder She Said (1961)

While traveling by traina spinster (Margaret Rutherford) witnesses a woman being strangled on a train on a parallel track. When the police turn up nothingshe decides to take matters into her own hands and investigate. Based on 4:50 FROM PADDINGTON by Agatha Christie and directed by George Pollock. For die hard Christie fansthe film is almost a travesty of the novel. But Margaret Rutherford is so delightful as Christie's Miss Marple that you can forgive the fact that she doesn't resemble the book's Marple in the least! Not physically and not in temperament. The film is also infused with whimsy and humor which are not part of the novel or Miss Marple's nature. But the film was a popular success and spawned three more Marple movies with Rutherford. It's lightweight and charming but it's not Christie. That asideit's a perfectly decent murder mystery. With Arthur KennedyJames Robertson JusticeMuriel PavlowCharles TingwellRonnie Raymond and Joan Hickson (who would go on to become the definitive Miss Marple on the BBC Miss Marple TV series). 

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Pressure Point (1962)

Told in flashback forman older psychiatrist (Sidney Poitier) recalls his most difficult case to a young colleague (Peter Falk) who is frustrated over a particular case and wants to quit. The older doctorwho is blackrecounts how twenty years earlier 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 ithis fingerprints are all over it. Its preachy tone and heavy handedness asideCornfield 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 performanceperhaps too intense as his performance could have been reined in a bit. Poitierno surpriseis marvelous. With Lynn LoringCarl Benton ReidMary MundayJames Anderson and Barry Gordon. 

A Christmas Carol (1984)

In 1843 Londona miserly money lender (George C. Scott) detests Christmas and doesn't celebrate it. He refuses invitations from his only living relativea nephew (Roger Rees)to spend Christmas with he and his wife (Caroline Langrishe) and he begrudges his clerk (David Warner) a Christmas day off. But the night will bring him four apparitions that will show him what a wretched man he is. Based on the beloved classic by Charles Dickens and directed by Clive Donner (WHAT'S NEW PUSSYCAT?). There have been countless version of Dickens' Christmas classic on filmTV and the stage. Unlike many versionsthis version adheres closely to the original source material. Scott is a wonderful Ebenezer Scrooge. He avoids the usual mannered caricature that too many actors who've played Scrooge fall into. Scott doesn't overdo the grouchy miser and plays him in a naturalistic manner rather than the stereotypical distortion. I don't know that I would go as far as calling it the definitive version but it certainly ranks with the best adaptations. With Susannah YorkFrank FinlayEdward WoodwardNigel DavenportJoanne Whalley and Michael Gough.   

Friday, December 13, 2019

The Hunters (1958)

Set during the Korean Wara veteran WWII fighter pilot (Robert Mitchum) returns to combat and is eager to fly the latest 86 Sabre fighter. Prior to reporting to duty howeverhe encounters a Lieutenant (Lee PhilipsPEYTON PLACE) with a drinking problem and marriage problems who will be under his command. The problems increase when he finds himself attracted to the Lieutenant's beautiful wife (May Britt). Based on the novel by James Salter and directed by actor turned director Dick Powell (THE ENEMY BELOW). The focus of the novel (whose only major female character is a 19 year old Japanese girl) is changed somewhat to emphasize the romantic relationship between Mitchum and Britt whose character does not exist in the book. Dramatically speakingthe three way relationship between MitchumBritt and Philips is the most interesting aspect of the movie. The war aspect of the film is routine but visuallythe aerial sequences shot by Charles G. Clarke (CAROUSEL) in CinemaScope are stunning while Arizona stands in for Korea. With Robert WagnerRichard EganVictor Sen YungNina Shipman and Nobu McCarthy.    

Warpath (1951)

A man (Edmond O'Brien) has spent eight years hunting down the three men responsible for the death of his fiancee in a bank hold up. After killing one (Louis Jean Heydt) of themhe joins the 7th cavalry under the belief that the two other men have changed their names and joined the cavalry. Directed by Byron Haskin (THE NAKED JUNGLE). Who doesn't like a good revenge western? Unfortunatelythis one is a disappointment. The film goes all soft on us at the end thus depriving us and its hero of catharsis. The film seems schizophrenic in that it can't seem to make its mind up whether it wants to be a revenge western or the usual cavalry versus the Indians western and ends up being unsatisfactory on both counts. If you're a fan of westernsyou should be able to sit through it but if you're notskip it. With Polly Bergen as the romantic interestForrest TuckerDean JaggerHarry Carey Jr. and James Millican as Custer.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

The Fan (1981)

A legendary film and stage actress (Lauren Bacall) is stalked by a psychotic fan (Michael Biehn). Based on the novel by Bob Randall and directed by Edward Bianchi. There's something rather unsavory and even sleazy about this thriller. The novel and its original screenplay focused on the psychological aspects of a famous woman being stalked by an unstable fan who eventually turns homicidal. Howeverwith the success of De Palma's DRESSED TO KILL the previous yearthe original screenplay was changed and took a more violent and gory turn. This made Bacall very unhappy and it seems to have affected her performance which is very dour. Biehn as the psychopath and Maureen Stapleton as Bacall's secretary (the only character I really liked) give solid performances which compensate somewhat. The musical numbers (Bacall is doing a stage musical) are cheesy and resemble a gaudy Las Vegas floor show rather than a classy Broadway musical and Bacall's croaky voice doesn't help. The Pino Donaggio underscore is very effective. A film that might actually benefit by being remade. With a wasted James GarnerHector ElizondoDana DelanyGriffin Dunne and Kurt Johnson. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Her Twelve Men (1954)

A widow (Greer Garson) with no previous teaching experience becomes the first female teacher at an exclusive all boys school. She must deal with the hostility of her students and prejudice against women teachers by both students and staff. Based on the novel SNIPS AND SNAILS by Louise Maxwell Baker and directed by the veteran Robert Z. Leonard (IN THE GOOD OLD SUMMERTIME). I'm not especially fond of movies about teachers in general and films about inspirational teachers who overcome resistance to be loved by their students are my least favorite type of teacher movies. There a few exceptionsof course like GOODBYE MR. CHIPS (both the 1939 and 1969 versions) but I tend to avoid them. This one isn't offensiveit's rather innocuous really but entirely predictable. Greer Garson had been one of MGM's biggest and most popular stars for 15 years so it's rather sad that his bland effort was her last film at the studio. It's family friendly in a Disney live action film kind of way so the kids might like it. With Robert Ryan (out of place in a movie like this)Barry SullivanBarbara LawrenceRichard HaydnFrances BergenIvan Triesault and Rex Thompson (THE KING AND I). 

Planeta Bur (aka Planet Of The Storms) (1962)

Three manned soviet spaceships are on their way to Venus when one of them is destroyed by a meteorite. Instead of waiting for a replacement spaceship that would take four months to arrivethe two surviving spaceships decide to land and explore on their own. Based on the novel by Alexander Kazantsev and directed by Pavel Klushantsev. This Russian science fiction film was never released in the U.S. and is probably better known by film buffs for the used footage from this film that shows up in two inexpensive (and rather silly) Roger Corman B sci-fi films VOYAGE TO THE PREHISTORIC PLANET (1965) and VOYAGE TO THE PLANET OF PREHISTORIC WOMEN (1968). This film is far more serious in intent than the Corman films. The special effects and art direction are primitive (to put it mildly) but it gives the film an almost fairy tale quality. I still don't think it's a very good film (it's no SOLARIS) but nonetheless there are several good moments that show up in the narrative and the ending is lovely. With Vladmir YemelyanovGeorgiy ZhzhonovGennadi VernovGeorgi Teich (playing an American) and the only female in the cast, Kyunna Ignatova.  

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Seberg (2019)

The American film actress Jean Seberg (Kristen Stewart) returns to the U.S. in 1968 to shoot the film PAINT YOUR WAGON. It is during this period she meets the black activist Hakim Jamal (Anthony Mackie) and begins an affair with him and becomes politically radicalized. But it isn't long before she becomes the target of a smear campaign directed by the FBI. Directed by Benedict Andrewsthe film diffuses the truth of Seberg's story by adding a fictional FBI agent (Jack O'Connell)who becomes attached to Seberg and regrets his involvement in her downfall. Too many scenes are wasted on he and his wife (Margaret Qualley) which take away from Seberg's powerful story. Plus there are too many contrived scenes in which dramatic license also tarnish the film which doesn't need padding. Did an FBI agent really kick Seberg's dog to death? I seriously doubt it but it makes for a dramatic scene. It's yet another case of a middling movie redeemed by a powerhouse performance. In this caseKristen Stewart as Seberg. It deserves a better movie. Film makers have been trying to make a movie about Seberg for years. Maybe in a decade or sothey'll try again and get it right. With Vince VaughnColm MeaneyYvan Attal and Zazie Beets as Jamal's wife in a terrific performance. 

Monday, December 9, 2019

A Woman Of Affairs (1928)

When a disapproving father (Hobart Bosworth) prevents his son (John Gilbert) from marrying the woman (Greta Garbo) he lovesshe weds another man (Johnny Mack Brown). But when her husband commits suicideshe is blamed and the scandal causes notoriety so she begins to live up to the reputation society has branded her with. Based on the controversial novel THE GREEN HAT by Michael Arlen and directed by the underrated Clarence Brown (NATIONAL VELVET). The novel it is based on was considered so shocking for its day that they couldn't use its title (THE GREEN HAT) and changed it to A WOMAN OF AFFAIRS and eliminated the novel's references to homosexualityheroin and syphilis. What we're left with is a kitschy and overheated melodrama with very little meat to it. But we have the divine Garbo at the center of it and that's more than enough to recommend it. Her potent screen presence and acting ability transcend the hokum and bring some movie magic to the forefront. With Lewis StoneDouglas Fairbanks Jr. and Dorothy Sebastian.   

Sunday, December 8, 2019

The Holly And The Ivy (1952)

Set in post-WWII Britaina family gathers at the home of a country parson (Ralph Richardson) to celebrate Christmas. But his three adult childrentwo daughters (Celia JohnsonMargaret Leighton) and a son (Denholm Elliott)are all hiding secrets from him because they fear he can't handle the truth. Based on the play by Wynyard Browne and directed by George More O'Ferrall (HEART OF THE MATTER). This lovely Christmas piece manages to keep sentiment in check and instead focus on a family torn apart by what seems misconceptionsintolerance, familial duty and lack of honesty. One can see the influence of Chekhov as each character speaks out their innermost feelings while still keeping them hidden from the people that matter most. Yesit has a happy ending (after all it is a Christmas movie) but it's not contrived twaddle but instead a genuinely hopeful one that we can all move forward. The acting is especially fine by an ensemble cast with a particularly good performance by Margaret Leighton as a fashion writer who drinks to hide her secret grief. With John GregsonRoland CulverRobert Flemyng and repeating their stage rolesMargaret Halstan and Maureen Delany as two very different Aunts. 

Great Day In The Morning (1956)

Set in 1861 Colorado just before the start of the Civil Wara Southerner (Robert Stack) rides into town when tensions are riding high between the town's Northerners and Southerners. He appears to be disinterested in taking sides but how long can that last? Based on the novel by Robert Hardy Andrews and directed by Jacques Tourneur (CAT PEOPLE). Despite an unsubtle and distasteful pro-South bent (the Northerners are portrayed as foaming at the mouth bullies)this is a pretty nifty western for the most part until its predictable conclusion. There are enough points of interest to hold one's attention. The rivalry of the two different women (Virginia Mayo's dress shop ownerRuth Roman's saloon girl) for Stack's affection is played well and gives the two actresses one good scene together. Then there's Raymond Burr's elephantine villain (he could be a cousin to Orson Welles in TOUCH OF EVIL)who's responsible for the film's most shocking moment. Handsomely shot in SuperScope and Technicolor by William E. Snyder (CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON). With Alex NicolLeo GordonRegis Toomey and Peter Whitney.

Disputed Passage (1939)

A young doctor (John Howard) is taken under the wing of an esteemed surgeon (Akim Tamiroff) whose philosophy is the focus of science and medicine over a personal life. But when the young doctor falls in love with a Caucasian woman (Dorothy Lamour) raised as Chinesethe older doctor takes it upon himself to interfere in the relationship. Based on the novel by Lloyd C. Douglas (THE ROBE) and directed by Frank Borzage (7TH HEAVEN). Douglas was a minister turned author and his novels had a spiritual bent. This tended to make films adapted from his books rather heavy handed and it took a director like Douglas Sirk (who directed Douglas's MAGNIFICENT OBSESSION in 1954) whose lavish style was able to make some sort of cohesive cinematic sense of Douglas's preachy writing. HereBorzage seems to have a handle on the material in the early portion of the film only to ultimately be defeated by the didacticism in the material which makes the latter half (set in China) sluggish. With Keye Luke and Elisabeth Risdon.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Flamingo Road (1949)

A carnival dancer (Joan Crawford) finds herself stranded in a small town in the South. She becomes romantically involved with a deputy sheriff (Zachary Scott) which displeases the corrupt political boss (Sydney Greenstreet) who runs the town. He frames her on prostitution charges and she's sent to jail. But when she's releasedshe begins her climb to respectability. Based on the novel and play by Robert Wilder (WRITTEN ON THE WIND) and directed by Michael Curtiz. This potboiler is typical Crawford late Warners fodder. At age 44Crawford was already rather matronly for stuff like this and watching her bump and grind in a girlie carnival sideshow is rather "amusing" shall we say. As alwaysCrawford is mesmerizing to watch (the woman wasn't a Star for nothing) even if the material is hackneyed. But if you've an inclination toward diva melodramas like this (and yesI've a taste for it)you should find the entertainment value more than adequate. With David BrianGladys GeorgeFred ClarkVirginia Huston and Gertrude Michael.