A family consisting of father (Ray Milland), mother (Jean Hagen, SINGIN' IN THE RAIN), teenage son (Frankie Avalon) and daughter (Mary Mitchel) are off for a weekend fishing trip when a nuclear war breaks out. As civilization collapses, armed with guns, the family dwells in a cave in the mountains and the father finds himself descending into barbarism to protect his family. Although he only directed a handful of films, actor Ray Milland was a more than decent director. This piece of apocalyptic science fiction is very well done. In short strokes, the movie makes a terrifying case for survival in a topsy turvy world. At times, the film seems reactionary but it does make its points succinctly and without the preachy narratives of more "liberal" anti nuclear war films like ON THE BEACH. Bare bones but effective. With Richard Garland, Willis Bouchey and Richard Bakalyan.
In 1890s Brighton, a puritanical chemist (Mervyn Johns) rules his family with an iron fist as they chafe under his martinet like domination. Meanwhile, the wife (Googie Withers) of the local pub owner (Garry Marsh) is having an affair with one of the customers (John Carol). These two stories will merge into a tale of murder. Based on the play by Roland Pertwee and directed by Robert Hamer (KIND HEARTS AND CORONETS). This is an odd schizophrenic film with the two stories going in different paths for the longest time before merging. My dislike for the bullying father was much more intense than for the homicidal femme fatale stuck in an unhappy marriage. Yet the cruel father gets a pass by the end of the film while the immoral woman must pay for her sins (after all this is 1945). Still, the entertainment value is in full force and the acting is quite good. Notably Withers' manipulative landlady, Gordon Jackson's naive young man and Sally Ann Howes (CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG) is perfectly charming as an animal loving teen distressed by her father's experiments on animals. With Jean Ireland, Mary Merrall and Catherine Lacey.
After making a generous donation to a girls school, a wealthy matron (Helena Phillips Evans) is kidnapped. One of the school's students, Nancy Drew (Bonita Granville) takes it upon herself to find her. Based on THE PASSWORD TO LARKSPUR LANE by Carolyn Keene and directed by William Clemens. The first movie to be based on the popular Nancy Drew series makes significant changes from the books to the point that the Nancy Drew in the film is unrecognizable from the books' Nancy. The film's tone shifts more to comedy mystery rather than a more serious mystery. Many of the books' characters are either changed or eliminated entirely. That being said, this programmer is quite enjoyable and Granville makes for an appealing if somewhat ditzy Nancy Drew. The film goes out of its way to be family friendly and there is no violence on screen. The most violent incident where a family doctor (Brandon Tynan) is almost beaten to death is done off screen. In the books, Nancy had a boyfriend but here, her relationship with the boy next door (Frankie Thomas) is strictly platonic. With John Litel, James Stephenson and Frank Orth.
When a novice nun (Meg Tilly) surreptitiously gives birth and the infant found strangled, the courts appoint a psychiatrist (Jane Fonda) to determine if the girl is fit to stand trial. But the Mother Superior (Anne Bancrfot) is against the psychiatrist's probing the novice's mind fearing it will destroy her innocence and connection to God. Based on the play by John Pielmeier (who did the screenplay) and directed by Norman Jewison (MOONSTRUCK). Pielmeier's play which only had the three principal characters suffers from the "opening up" to make it more cinematic. Like another good play that suffered in its transition to the screen, Peter Shaffer's EQUUS, it suffers from the literalness of the film adaptation whereas the stage play was more loose and suggestive. Pielmeier's dialog is strong as is the acting, most notably Fonda and especially Meg Tilly in an Oscar nominated performance. Tilly, in fact, is extraordinary in a role (played on the stage by Dianne Wiest, Amanda Plummer and Carrie Fisher) as written is almost impossible to carry off believably but Tilly is totally convincing in both her innocence and naivete. A strong film compromised by the unnecessary scenes outside the convent which serve to dilute the potent confrontations between the three protagonists. The lovely underscore is by Georges Delerue. With Annie Pitoniak (who played the Mother Superior in the play's pre-Broadway incarnation) as Fonda's mother.
In 1834 Texas, Jim Bowie (Sterling Hayden) returns to his home only to find that things have changed. Embittered Texans are plotting rebellion against his old friend General Santa Anna (J. Carrol Naish). Bowie discovers power has gone to Santa Anna's head and made him a despot, so he joins forces with his fellow Texans. Directed by Frank Lloyd (1935's MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY), this seems like a run through of the superior if bloated (3 hours plus) 1960 John Wayne epic, THE ALAMO. In fact, Wayne was attached to this project at one point in the late 1940s. It's a sincere but unimpressive recreation of the events that lead up to the fateful battle of the Alamo. The production values are impressive when you consider this is a Republic film, a studio not known for its big budgets. Too bad they couldn't come up with a stronger screenplay than the patchwork quilt that the movie is. The final battle is decent enough but too much time is wasted on a romantic triangle subplot involving Hayden, Anna Maria Alberghetti and Ben Cooper. Max Steiner did the score and Gordon MacRae sings the title song. With Ernest Borgnine, Richard Carlson, Arthur Hunnicutt, Virginia Grey, Eduard Franz, John Russell and Otto Kruger.
In the unspecified near future, a virus decimates the population as the survivors struggle to stave off the infection by quarantining the victims in what are essentially concentration death camps. In this post apocalyptic world, a farmer (Arnold Schwarzenegger) tries to protect his infected daughter (Abigail Breslin) until the inevitable moment. Directed by graphics designer Henry Hobson in his directorial debut. Poor Schwarzenegger! He gives a career best performance in a film no one saw. He disappears into his role of a distraught father, there's no "Ahnold" to be found. Which begs the question, was there ever going to be an audience for this kind of movie? The art house crowd wouldn't be caught dead at a "zombie" movie starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and the multiplex crowd would be bored to death. There are no action sequences (Arnold doesn't grab a gun and annihilate zombies), no horror, just a slow methodical march to an inevitable downbeat conclusion. The closest film cousin would be Cronenberg's THE FLY. It's a dark and grim film, literally. All dull browns, grays and greens and even the skies seems perpetually overcast. I liked it but damn, did it leave me depressed. With Joely Richardson (looking more like her mother with each passing year), Douglas M. Griffin, Bryce Romero and Raeden Greer.
Just released from prison, a gangster (Gerald Mohr) plots an elaborate armored car robbery. To this end, he needs the help of a nightclub owner (Grant Richards) and a sexy blonde (Mamie Van Doren). But when the blonde's jealous ex-husband (Lee Van Cleef) escapes from prison, will they be able to pull off the heist before the ex finds them and ruins everything? Directed by Edward L. Cahn, this low budget B crime movie delivers the goods. Tight and efficient, it follows a predictable path but you pretty much know where it's going after the first 10 minutes. Mohr is almost laughable in his snarling tough guy mode before he inexplicably softens in the movie's later half. Van Doren is, well Van Doren and Cleef takes what little acting honors there are. Short enough that it doesn't wear out its welcome. Van Doren gets to do two songs. Her voice isn't that great but who's listening when you're looking. With Elaine Edwards and Paul Fix.
Set in the 1950s, the British author C.S. Lewis (Anthony Hopkins), best known for the THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA, meets an American poet (Debra Winger) and her young son (Joseph Mazzello, BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY) visiting England. Although she is married at the time, when they meet again she is divorced and a friendship turns into love. Based on the 1985 TV movie later turned into a 1989 play, both written by William Nicholson who did the screenplay and directed by Richard Attenborough. As a director, Attenborough was always in need of a good editor and SHADOWLANDS is no different. Dragging on past the two hour mark, the film seems padded out. For example, there's the character of a young student (James Frain) in financial trouble who adds nothing to the narrative. Why is he even there? As a film, this is essentially LOVE STORY for the cerebral crowd. They snickered at LOVE STORY (rightly so) but this is tasteful and discreet and somber so they can feel better about themselves when they tear up. I found the material sluggish and morbid. What saves it is the acting by Hopkins and especially Winger (in an Oscar nominated performance) who bring a sincerity to their portraits that one can't help but respect. With Edward Hardwicke and John Wood.
On an island community, a down on his luck fisherman (Matthew McConaughey) is approached by his ex-wife (Anne Hathaway) to murder her abusive husband (Jason Clarke). At first, he refuses but when he finds out the second husband's brutality is affecting his son (Rafael Sayegh) who lives with them, he changes his mind. Written and directed by Steven Knight (an Oscar nominee for his DIRTY PRETTY THINGS screenplay). The film is really two movies. The first is an awful inept noir-ish thriller that had me thinking about walking out. Halfway through the movie, it suddenly switches gears and turns into an M. Night Shyamalan psychological game that makes you question everything you've seen before. It doesn't make the movie any better but it makes it more interesting so I stayed. All the actors flounder in an almost impossible script to carry off but it was especially disheartening to see the wonderful Diane Lane reduced to playing a cat lady waiting around to get screwed by McConaughey! Still, it's the kind of bad movie that develops a cult in the ensuing years though not for the right reasons. With Djimon Hounsou, Jeremy Strong and Charlotte Butler.
Set in Paris, a naive young model (Kay Francis) is used by an amoral con artist (Claude Rains) into setting up a financial empire. As she moves from model to high fashion couture designer, he moves from petty con man to the head of a business conglomerate based on criminal stratagem. Directed by Michael Curtiz (MILDRED PIERCE), this romantic melodrama balances what was commonly referred to as a "woman's picture" with a political scandal not unlike the U.S. financial crisis of 2008 (though unlike that event, the bad guys are punished for their deeds). Though her stardom didn't survive past the 1930s, Kay Francis wore clothes better than any other actress of that decade and Orry Kelly's designs take full advantage of her mannequin's physique. Rains' con man is one of the most amoral characters I've seen portrayed on the screen. No conscience whatsoever and using anyone he can to his advantage. Certainly not requisite film watching but well made. This was one of 12 films Rains made with director Curtiz. With Ian Hunter, Alison Skipworth and Alexander D'Arcy.
A college student (Rebecca Balding) rents a room in a secluded but dilapidated beach mansion turned boarding house. When one (John Widelock) of the boarders is found stabbed to death on the beach, it is just the beginning of a series of violent deaths. Directed by Denny Harris, this low budget horror movie is surprisingly effective. The film was quickly and cheaply reshot and partially recast after the first cut was deemed unreleasable. Diane McBain was replaced by Cameron Mitchell and Barbara Steele, Yvonne De Carlo and Avery Schreiber were brought in for name value while the young unknowns were kept. The mansion itself is a marvelously creepy relic and provides an unsettling atmosphere. The film never rises above its B horror movie status (and the ensuing cliches) and would have benefited from some originality but for the most part, it holds the interest. The film's major nagging point is Roger Kellaway's derivative score which is overly influenced by Bernard Herrmann. With Steve Doubet, Brad Reardon, Thelma Pelish and Juli Andelman.
A bisexual film producer (Campbell Scott) options a film script by a gay writer (Peter Sarsgaard) with the provision that the gay lovers in his script are made heterosexual. They enter an affair although the writer becomes close to the producer's wife (Patricia Clarkson). But when the wife learns of the affair, it leads to a complicated and disturbing tragic path. Based on the play by Craig Lucas (PRELUDE TO A KISS) and directed by him in his directorial film debut. An engrossing and ambitious complicated work but also contrived and borderline pretentious. At its center of his psychological thriller, Lucas has three unlikable characters who do things that make no logical sense except to propel the narrative to its downbeat conclusion. Clarkson is the heart of the film and she's wonderful but Scott is also impressive. On the other hand, Sarsgaard can't resist overacting and he gives an uncomfortably mannered performance. He may as well have unstable tattooed on his forehead yet this Hollywood power couple are entranced with him. Still, with all its flaws (and there are many), this is the kind of original movie making that I wish we saw more of. With Robin Bartlett and Ebon Moss Bachrach.
After he injures his brother (Red West) in a fight, a troubled young man (Elvis Presley) is put under probation and sent to live with his Uncle (William Mims). Part of his probation is to see a psychologist (Hope Lange) once a week and it is she who discovers his literary talent and urges him to pursue a writing career. Based on the novel THE LOST COUNTRY by J.R. Salamanca with a screenplay by Clifford Odets (GOLDEN BOY) and directed by Philip Dunne (BLUE DENIM). There was a time early in his film career when Elvis Presley actually did some serious acting rather than the lightweight musicals that became the basis of his later film career. This was probably his last decent acting job although he has a terrible drunk scene. What is it about drunk scenes that bring out the worst in actors? But the film itself is a mixed brew. It's cliched, predictable and compromised. Lange is miscast as the older woman (she's only 2 years older than Presley) and the film gives us a "happy" ending (in the book, she commits suicide). The film has also added a couple of songs for Presley to sing which seems out of place in the dramatic scenario. With Tuesday Weld (in the film's best performance) as a trampy unwed mother, Millie Perkins, John Ireland, Gary Lockwood, Robin Raymond and Christina Crawford (of MOMMIE DEAREST fame) as Lockwood's girlfriend.
When his parents (Irene Tedrow, Norman Foster) plan a celebration of their 50th wedding anniversary, a couple (Richard Crenna, Susan Clark) reflect on the emptiness of their own marriage as their 25th anniversary approaches. Based on the play by Robert Anderson (TEA AND SYMPATHY) and directed by Paul Bogart (TORCH SONG TRILOGY). Since this is a filmed play, this is a talking heads piece. Unfortunately, Anderson's dialog isn't insightful enough or witty enough to prevent this from being anything more than a garrulous anti-marriage diatribe. Perhaps it wasn't Anderson's intent to be anti marriage but from the pain, misery and antipathy we see in these characters' lives, it seems a miserable existence! On the plus side, the acting is quite good considering the long dreary speeches the actors are saddled with. It might have worked more effectively on the stage but Anderson's play lasted only a month on Broadway in 1971 which suggests it didn't work well there either. With Norma Crane, Harold Gould and Nicholas Hammond.
Set in 1944, a U.S. Army Major (James Garner) with vital information on the D Day landing at Normandy is drugged and kidnapped by German agents and transported to Germany. When he awakens, he believes he is at a U.S. Army hospital in the mountains and is told by his doctor (Rod Taylor) that he has amnesia and that the year is 1950 and the war has been over for several years. In actuality, the "Americans" are all Germans and it's a plot to get him to reveal information about D Day. Based on BEWARE OF THE DOG by Roald Dahl and directed by George Seaton (AIRPORT). This WWII thriller is so expertly done that you easily accept the incredibly far fetched premise and just enjoy the ride. The screenplay (also by Seaton) is tight and intelligent and covers all the bases (at least I didn't catch any goofs). It's beautifully shot in B&W Panavision by Philip H. Lathrop (PINK PANTHER) with Yosemite National Park doubling for Germany and one can't help but think of Ansel Adams' magnificent B&W photos. The acting is quite good with Rod Taylor giving one of his best performances and Eva Marie Saint as a concentration camp survivor forced to be part of the masquerade brings a lot of depth to her role. Dimitri Tiomkin's weak underscore doesn't serve the movie well. With Werner Peters, Oscar Beregi, Alan Napier, Celia Lovsky, John Banner and Marjorie Bennett.
When a prominent attorney (Nicholas Joy) is murdered at a resort hotel, suspicion falls on the bellhop (Lou Costello) who threatened to get even after the lawyer had him fired. Directed by Charles Barton, this is one of the better Abbott & Costello vehicles. Costello really shines here doing what he does best. The comic bits may not be particularly original but they're done expertly, particularly the multiple disappearing dead bodies and their attempt to hide them sequence. Curiously, at the time, the episode was considered too morbid and major portions of the scene were edited out in several foreign countries and, in fact, it was banned in Denmark. Despite his top billing, Boris Karloff as a mysterious Swami is wasted. A&C fans will eat this up but even if you're not a fan, you might find yourself enjoying it. With Lenore Aubert, Alan Mowbray, Donna Martell, Gar Moore and James Flavin.
Two college students (Kathleen Quinlan, Stephen Collins) are in love and are on the way to be married when they are involved in a horrendous auto crash. The girl is horribly disfigured and while in the hospital, the boy's wealthy mother (Beatrice Straight) offers to pay all the expenses to have her face reconstructed by a top plastic surgeon. The price? Never to see her son again. Directed by Gilbert Cates (I NEVER SANG FOR MY FATHER), this soap opera romance is poorly constructed and with glaring plot holes that render it near ridiculous. I won't even go into the cringe inducing dialog. In truth though, it's no worse than those awful Nicholas Sparks (THE NOTEBOOK) movie romances that are popular. It doesn't help that Stephen Collins is one of those generic good looking actors with the personality of a glass of milk. Laurence Luckinbill as Quinlan's plastic surgeon is much more attractive as both a character and an actor. The classiest thing about the film is the beautiful David Shire score which includes the Oscar nominated song I'll Never Say Goodbye sung by Melissa Manchester. With Bibi Besch, Michael O'Hare and William Prince.
A doctor and professor of medicine (Cary Grant) finds himself the target of an investigation into his past by a jealous colleague (Hume Cronyn). While this is going on, he finds himself attracted to an unmarried but very pregnant patient (Jeanne Crain) who has just survived a suicide attempt. Based on the German play DR. MED HIOB PRATORIUS by Curt Goetz and adapted for the screen and directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz (ALL ABOUT EVE). An unusual (for its day) romantic dramedy dealing with adult issues rarely played out on the screen. One can't help but see the obvious parallels between the then current McCarthy HUAC witch hunts and the unsubstantiated accusations against Grant's doctor. In an atypical role for him, Grant steps outside his usual persona and brings a gravitas to his doctor while still retaining his charm. The lovely Crain also gives one of her better performances. The only flaw is Cronyn's one dimensional performance which he tends to overdo. With Walter Slezak, Finlay Currie, Margaret Hamilton, Sidney Blackmer and Will Wright.
An inventor and scientist (Arnost Navratil) and his assistant (Lubor Tokos) are kidnapped by a Count (Miloslav Holub) who wants to use an invention by the scientist to harness energy in a nefarious plan for world domination. Loosely based on FACING THE FLAG by Jules Verne and directed by Karel Zeman. This distinctive fantasy is a triumph of imagination. Zeman uses live actors but creates a fantastic world through animation, painted backdrops and puppetry that dazzles the mind's eye. The result is a stunning recreation of the antique illustrations that seem to leap from the pages from Verne's novels. There's nothing remarkable about the plot (bits and pieces from Verne's bibliography) but Zeman's magic is remarkable! It's a case where the movie's style as it were defines the film's artistry. Released in the U.S. in a dubbed version called THE FABULOUS WORLD OF JULES VERNE, the Czech dialog (or its subtitles) subtly changes the film's tone from the English dub. With Jana Zatloukalova and Frantisek Slegr.
In 1949 Poland, a musical director (Tomasz Kot) mentors a young singer (Joanna Kulig). The film then follows their tempestuous love affair through the ensuing 20 years and reflecting the political landscape of the times. Co-written and directed by Pawel Pawlikowski (IDA), this stark romance shot in B&W and in the Academy ratio of 1.37 is one of the most unique love stories you'll ever see. The title refers less to the political climate of communist Poland but the cold war between the two lovers who can never seem to find the right balance in their relationship as they fight each other, betray each other yet can never break the bond that holds them together. In this age of bloated film making, I loved how Pawlikowski pared down his story which covers 20 years to the essentials and results in a concise narrative which has a running time of less than 90 minutes! Kulig gives a superb performance. Her character is hard to decipher and often unlikable (does "love" justify questionable behavior?) but you can't judge her. Tomasz Kot has the less flashy role but his performance anchors the film. It's not a musical but music plays an important role in the film's account. A must see!
In 1912, a blacksmith (Bing Crosby) bumps his head after hitting a tree while riding a horse and falls unconscious. When he wakes up, he finds himself in 528 AD in the Britain of King Arthur! Based on the novel by Mark Twain and directed by Tay Garnett (THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE). Twain's popular novel has been adapted for films, the stage and TV many times. Aside from this 1949 film, its most famous adaptation is the 1927 Broadway musical with songs by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart. Curiously, when Paramount decided to make this musical version as a vehicle for Bing Crosby, they didn't go with the Rodgers & Hart musical (which had spawned several hit songs) but had Jimmy Van Heusen and Johnny Burke do new songs. I suppose one's affection for the movie might depend on your tolerance for Crosby. I'm not a fan so I found much of it hard going. The songs are forgettable, Crosby's "charm" is lost on me and the film never manages to capture the wit and charm of the Twain novel. On the plus side, Ray Rennahan's (DUEL IN THE SUN) three strip Technicolor lensing is eye candy. With Rhonda Fleming looking delectable, William Bendix, Sir Cedric Hardwicke, Henry Wilcoxon, Virginia Field, Richard Webb and Murvyn Vye as Merlin.
Set in one zillion BC (or so the movie tells us), a sort or prehistoric nerd (Ringo Starr) is in love with the beautiful woman (Barbara Bach, THE SPY WHO LOVE ME) who belongs to the tribe's leader (John Matuszak). After he is banished from the tribe, he runs into a group of misfits like himself and they form their own tribe. Co-written and directed by Carl Gottlieb (he co-wrote the screenplay to JAWS) in his directorial debut. This good natured satire isn't ha-ha funny but amusing enough to keep a grin on your face through out most of the movie. Gottlieb has assembled a strong cast of physical comedic actors which is good because the dialog consists of about 15 prehistoric words and lots of grunts. Matuszak and Bach are cast because of their physicality (strong man and babe) but they bring a lot more to their roles than their bodies. Dennis Quaid and Shelley Long are expert comics but Starr brings a loopy sweetness to his caveman. The stop motion animated dinosaurs (by Jim Danforth) are charming in the crude manner of the early pioneer efforts of Willis H. O'Brien (LOST WORLD, KING KONG). Some of the stuff doesn't play well today like Starr trying to have intercourse with an unconscious Bach and the gay cavemen are pretty lame. With Jack Gilford, Avery Schreiber and Carl Lumbly.
At an excavation site that was once ancient Pompeii, archaeologists discover the perfectly preserved body of a man encased in stone who died during the eruption of Vesuvius. But when some violent deaths occur, suspicion falls on the stone man. Could he still be alive? Directed by Edward L. Cahn (ZOMBIES OF MORA TAU), this is a rather ridiculous attempt at horror. Essentially a rip off of Universal's THE MUMMY franchise, this is the kind of bad movie that becomes entertaining in its awfulness. Although the film is set in Naples in Italy, the low budget film (shot in seven days) is obviously shot in Southern California. The Griffith Observatory subs for the museum of Napoli and L.A.'s Palos Verdes Peninsula stands in for the Bay of Naples but it doesn't fool anybody. The characters do the usual stupid bad horror movie things. For example, when the faceless man attacks Elaine Edwards, she runs out of her apartment. But does she run out into the street and safety? No, she runs in the apartment's basement where, of course, there's no escape from the faceless man. For fans of bad horror movies only. With Richard Anderson, Adele Mara, Luis Van Rooten and Jan Arvan.
After his fiancee (Arlene Dahl) jilts him for a rich man, a bitter insurance attorney (Barry Sullivan) cooks up a scheme where he gets a high commission for returning stolen goods to the insurance company by dealing with the criminal element. Soon he is a very wealthy man but when his ex comes back into his life, it leads to his downfall. Directed by the Oscar winning film editor (TOWERING INFERNO) and occasional director Harold F. Kress. This little known film noir isn't half bad! It's a minor entry in the film noir canon to be sure but the film avoids judging the ethical and moral actions of its protagonist as if they knew it would make him unsympathetic. Still, it's good enough to hold your attention through most of the movie even if it never rises above the standard screenplay by Sidney Sheldon (THE OTHER SIDE OF MIDNIGHT). Noir buffs should find it entertaining if they don't ask for much. With Jean Hagen, George Murphy, Mari Blanchard, Richard Anderson, William Reynolds, William Phipps and Madge Blake.
A New York City police captain (Rock Hudson) is contacted by the daughter (Claudia Cardinale) of an old friend. It seems she needs his help into breaking into an Austrian villa to return the jewels a friend has stolen to the safe before its owners discover they've been stolen. Directed by Francesco Maselli, this anemic crime comedy is the second pairing of Hudson and Cardinale. They had previously co-starred in the thriller BLINDFOLD two years earlier. However, that was an American film. This is Italian and it lacks the effervescence of the earlier 1966 movie. The screenplay is poorly constructed and often muddy. The far fetched method of disarming the alarms during the break in is dubious and seems more of an excuse to strip Cardinale down to her underwear. One would think a movie shot in Austria, Italy and New York would at least be a visual treat but Alfio Contini's cinematography is dark and ugly (though to be fair, it might have been the transfer I watched). Ennio Morricone's score is trite. With Tomas Milian, Tony Lo Bianco, Leon Askin, Ellen Corby and Peter Dane.
A Native American shaman (Chief Dan George) leaves his village and makes a trek to the big city to contact his grandson (Jan Michael Vincent) for help. It seems evil spirits are threatening the tribe and his grandson is the only one who can help. Directed by George McCowan, this is ostensibly a horror film although there's not much horror in it. It's actually rather silly although the film takes itself very seriously. The movie makes very little logical sense but we are supposed to accept the Native American mythology of demonic spirits taking human and animal form at will. Still, it's hard to take seriously when Jan Michael Vincent wrestles a black bear when it's clearly a man in a bear suit. There's is one effective sequence with Vincent, George and Marilyn Hassett on a walking bridge high above a gorge falling apart as they are crossing it. Other than that, it just meanders along which does not make for an effective horror movie. The handsome and lush mountain locations (it was shot in Vancouver, British Columbia in Canada) make for an attractive setting.
A Russian writer (Richard Chamberlain) narrates seven of his short stories. Based on the 1973 play by Neil Simon (adapted from Anton Chekhov's short stories) and directed by Jack O'Brien. Perhaps Neil Simon's most atypical play and one of his least successful (it closed after 208 performances). It's not particularly good Simon and it's not good Chekhov either. Six actors (Chamberlain, Marsha Mason, Lee Grant, Edward Asner, Bob Dishy, Gary Dontzig) play various roles in each of the seven tales. My favorite of the stories is THE GOVERNESS where the lady of the house (Grant) attempts to bully and cheat her governess (Mason) out of her salary. In A DEFENSELESS CREATURE, Chamberlain as a bank manager lacks the ability to do physical comedy which is necessary which weakens the story. I appreciate the attempt but it misses more than it hits. Still, Chamberlain aside, the acting is pretty good.
A small town housewife (Kay Francis) has dreams of becoming a professional actress on the stage. When a stage actor (Ian Keith) makes advances to her, her husband (John Litel) accidentally kills the actor in a scuffle. After he's sentenced to life imprisonment, his wife promises to spend the rest of her life to get him out of jail. But after she achieves her goal of becoming a famous actress and falling in love with another man (Ian Hunter), she must make a decision. Based on a short story by Faith Baldwin and directed by Busby Berkeley. Wow, this melodrama has everything but the kitchen sink! Kay Francis goes from a small town housewife to burlesque to vaudeville to the toast of the Broadway and London stages in record time. Of course, she has to farm out her baby daughter to someone else to raise as the kid would hold her back. So what if the kid grows up thinking that someone else is her mother and becomes attached to her. Kay Francis suffers and suffers in Orry Kelly's gowns till the self sacrificing ending which seems appalling to 2019 sensibilities. I'm sorry but living a lie and destroying two lives doing the "right" thing isn't noble, it's damaging. That being said, in spite of the masochistic and maudlin vibes, I actually enjoyed it. With Donald Crisp, Minna Gombell, Melville Cooper, Sybil Jason and Vera Lewis.
A city police detective (Robert Ryan) is bitter and angry and with a rage inside him that causes him to brutally beat suspects to force confessions out of them. There's the touch of the sadist about him because he seems to enjoy it. His brutal ways cause him to be sent out of the city into a small snowbound upstate community where a young girl has been murdered. Based on the novel MAD WITH MUCH HEART by Gerald Butler and directed by Nicholas Ray (REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE). This film noir stands out for several reasons. There's no femme fatale and half of the film takes place in a rustic small town rather than a metropolitan city. There's no corrupt villain, the film's killer (Sumner Williams) is a frightened psychologically disturbed teenager. But George E. Diskant's (THEY LIVE BY NIGHT) B&W lensing and Bernard Herrmann's dark underscore firmly plant the film in noir territory. It's fitting that Ryan's protagonist literally comes out of the darkness (the city) into the light (the snow covered country) as his psychological journey, aided by the killer's blind sister (Ida Lupino), matches his physical journey. With Ward Bond (overacting), Ed Begley, Cleo Moore, Nita Talbot, Olive Carey and Frank Ferguson.
Set in WWII Burma (now Myanmar), an OSS Captain (Frank Sinatra) must deal with the lack of men, support and supplies from his superiors in holding back the Japanese forces. He and his men have utilized the indigenous Burmese in their fight against the Japanese. Complications ensue when he becomes attracted to the mistress (Gina Lollobrigida in an awkward performance) of a powerful businessman (Paul Henreid). Based on the novel by Tom T. Chamales and directed by John Sturges (BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK). This is a rather schizophrenic film. On one hand, it's an engaging if standard WWII action movie. On the other hand, it's a wartime romance. The film's duality seem to be fighting against each other for dominance and the action portion wins because it's far more interesting. The attention given to the romance pushes the film past the two hour mark. On the plus side, the Burma, Thailand and Ceylon locations are handsomely shot by William H. Daniels (SOME CAME RUNNING) in Panavision wide screen, Lollobrigida looks very glam in her Helen Rose creations and Hugo Friedhofer contributes one of his very best scores. Still, its entertainment value is considerable. With a pre stardom Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, Peter Lawford, Richard Johnson, Brian Donlevy, Dean Jones, Robert Bray, Kipp Hamilton, Philip Ahn, George Takei and James Hong.
In early 1970s Harlem, a young girl (Kiki Layne) and a young sculptor (Stephan James) are childhood sweethearts who hope to get married. But before they can be married, he is accused of rape by a woman (Emily Rios). With the support of her family, when she becomes pregnant, she continues to fight to prove his innocence. Based on the novel by James Baldwin and directed by Barry Jenkins (MOONLIGHT). Jenkins' MOONLIGHT was a phenomenal piece of film making so expectations were high on this follow up vehicle. I wasn't disappointed. BEALE is a lovely film, at turns heartbreaking and joyful. The film's methodical pacing makes the film seem longer than it is but it's necessary to linger over these moments and not rush through. Baldwin's book came out in 1974 but its topicality makes it relevant in 2018. Baldwin's voice resonates through out Jenkins' beautifully crafted adaptation, there's the anger and the despair is there but so is the eternal hope. The performances are impeccable with Regina King as Layne's mother especially notable. The superb underscore by Nicholas Britell may be the best film score I've heard in a 2018 movie. With Brian Tyree Henry, Colman Domingo, Michael Beach, Finn Wittrock, Dave Franco, Diego Luna and Aunjanue Ellis (only one scene but she kills it).
When an employee (Jim Hutton) at the U.S. Mint accidentally destroys $50,000, he comes up with a scheme to break into the mint and print the money and replace it. But in order to accomplish his plan, he finds that he needs a group of people to help him including a cutter (Dorothy Provine) at the mint, a pawn broker (Milton Berle), a retiree (Walter Brennan), a gambler (Joey Bishop), a safe cracker (Jack Gilford), an ice cream man (Bob Denver) and a boat maker (Victor Buono). Directed by comedian Howard Morris, this is an amusing if sometimes laborious farce. The cast is comprised of accomplished comic actors and they do what they can with the often thin material. Milton Berle fares best since he has the best gags and nobody does a double take better than Berle. In the company of such comic hams, Hutton and Provine tend to recede into the background at times. It's no IT'S A MAD MAD MAD MAD WORLD but if you're into frenzied comedy, this has its moments. With Paul Winfield, Jamie Farr, Jackie Joseph and Corinne Cole.
In 1832 New Mexico, a marshal (Ed Harris) and his deputy (Viggo Morensen) attempt to bring a powerful rancher (Jeremy Irons) to justice in the murder of the previous marshal (Robert Jauregui). Things become complicated when a woman (Renee Zellweger) with dubious loyalties moves into town and catches the marshal's fancy. Based on the novel by Robert B. Parker and directed and co-written by Ed Harris. Westerns, once a staple of Hollywood film making, are so infrequent today that there might be a tendency to overrate them. In the case of APPALOOSA (not to be confused by the 1966 Marlon Brando film of the same name), there's a solid decent western here. Harris keeps the narrative simple while investing his characters with enough layers that they take on a richness and depth which elevates the stakes. The film has an authentic feel to it and fortunately the four leads (Harris, Mortensen, Zellweger, Irons) have ideal faces for a western. None of them look "Hollywood", they all have unglamorous lived in faces. Harris and Mortensen have a nice camaraderie and the movie is smart. Genre fans should be pleased. With Timothy Spall, Lance Henricksen, Ariadna Gil and James Gammon.
Set in the Great Depression, specifically 1932, a young drifter (Michael Sarrazin) finds himself recruited in a dance marathon and partnered with a bitter cynic (Jane Fonda). They are among several desperate characters hoping to win the $1,500 first prize. Based on the 1935 novel by Horace McCoy and directed by Sydney Pollack. This critically acclaimed and commercially successful movie is one of the great films of the 1960s. McCoy's novel was greatly admired by the French who viewed it as existential. Attempts to film it had been talked about since its publication. Reputedly, there was talk of filming it in the thirties with Bette Davis and ironically Henry Fonda which never came to fruition and in the early 1950s, there were rumors of Charles Chaplin doing it with a young Marilyn Monroe. Pollack's film (the best film he ever made) is a fairly faithful adaptation of the McCoy novel although there is some additional material (like the Susannah York character) not in the book. It casts a beautifully crafted (Harry Horner's art direction and Donfeld's costumes are impeccable) if bleak eye on the human condition. With minimal exceptions, Pollack keeps a claustrophobic atmosphere by keeping the film confined within the dance ballroom. The film features a fiercely committed performance by Jane Fonda that never slips out of character. Her rage, bitterness and anger simmering beneath her restive personality. The performances down to the bit parts are superb although Sarrazin's character is more reactive than the other characters which makes him less interesting. With Gig Young (in his Oscar winning performance), Red Buttons, Bruce Dern, Bonnie Bedelia, Allyn Ann McLerie, Madge Kennedy and Robert Fields.
Because his camera store is heavily in debt, a man (Red Skelton) decides to freelance as a newsreel cameraman to get the money to pay his debts. But when he accidentally films two crooks (Leon Ames, Richard Rober) discussing their plans to swindle an heiress (Arlene Dahl), he soon finds himself in danger. Directed by Jack Donohue (ASSAULT ON A QUEEN), this ineffectual comedy feels padded out even at a brief running time of one hour and 11 minutes. I find Skelton amusing in small doses but the film makers have decided one Skelton isn't enough so they have him playing his father and grandfather too! His scenes as the father and grandfather are the dullest in an already dubious comedy. Skelton does have one funny scene in a crowded dressing room but even then, the scene goes on too long. The only other laugh is provided by Ann Miller as a beauty contestant trying to pose with a group of turkeys. Even if you're a Skelton fan, you might find this sluggish. With Pamela Britton and Dick Wessel.
A young switchboard operator (Isuzu Yamada) is pressured into becoming the mistress of her boss (Benkai Shiganoya) in order help her wastrel father (Seiichi Takekawa) pay back the money he has embezzled. Directed by Kenjii Mizoguchi, this film helped establish him as one of Japan's premier film directors. Narratively, it's not really all that different from some of the pre-code films done in Hollywood with Stanwyck or Crawford but it's certainly done with more artistry. A victim of circumstances, Yamada's heroine finds herself loathed by the very family she tried to help and turn her away. The film's grim final shot suggests her future seems assured and not in a positive way. Japan would not be completely "modern" until after WWII and in 1936, Japan was still traditional enough that Yamada's plight marked her that she would not be acceptable in a middle class society. I suppose in a way, Yamada's young woman is complicit in her own downfall but her ungrateful family all but force her decisions on her. With Yoko Umemura, Chiyoko Okura and Kensaku Hara.
Set in the allied occupied post war Germany, a disparate group of international passengers including an American (Robert Ryan), a Frenchwoman (Merle Oberon), a German (Paul Lukas), an Englishman (Robert Coote), a Russian (Roman Toporow) and a Frenchman (Charles Korvin) find themselves traveling together on a train headed for Frankfurt and Berlin. But this is no ordinary train but one full of international intrigue that involves a political assassination. Directed by Jacques Tourneur (CAT PEOPLE), the film never quite rises above a slightly above average post WWII thriller with noir-ish shadings. The most intriguing aspect of the film is the background of a demolished Germany (this was filmed in Germany, not on a Hollywood soundstage) ravaged by war which is captured in detail by Lucien Ballard's (THE WILD BUNCH) evocative cinematography. Sadly, the film's "message" of countries working together for the good of mankind is still unheeded some 70 years after the film was made. It's no THIRD MAN but it's still worth checking out. With Charles McGraw and Reinhold Schunzel.
In order to avenge his brother (Jean Servais) who was killed attempting to rob an impenetrable security transport, a young man (Gary Lockwood) devises a complicated scheme that will prove that the trucks are indeed penetrable. Based on the novel LES HOMMES DES LAS VEGAS by Andre Lay and directed by Antonio Isasi Isasmendi. Although some exteriors were shot in California and Nevada where the film is set, most of the film was shot in Spain. The cast is comprised of American, French, Italian and Spanish actors which makes the film feel more European than American especially since so many of the roles are post dubbed into English. The movie often has that hollow post dubbed sound where the actors' voices seem to be coming from somewhere else. A heist film like this should be tight but at a running time of two hours and nine minutes, there's a lot of flab to be trimmed. The overly complicated plot is often confusing and the generic Lockwood can't hold our attention, much less our interest. With Elke Sommer, Jack Palance, Lee J. Cobb and Fabrizio Capucci.
Two newly married couples are honeymooning in Deauville, France and unbeknownst to each other are staying at the same hotel. Amanda (Penelope Keith) and Victor (Donald Pickering) and Elyot (Alec McCowen) and Sybil (Polly Adams). What makes it all uncomfortable is that Amanda and Elyot were once married to each other. Based on the play by Noel Coward and directed by John Gorrie. One of Coward's most popular plays, it's constantly being revived in London's West End as well as Broadway as well as TV and film adaptations. Casting is crucial to the success of the production. A high comedy of manners isn't easy to pull off and you need actors with charisma and presence, comedic timing and lots of charm because all four of the protagonists are essentially unappealing upper class twits. Alas, the two leads are unsuited for the roles. Alec McCowen (TRAVELS WITH MY AUNT) is absolutely sexless. He's a character actor in a part that requires a leading man. Penelope Keith is rather frumpy in a role that requires, if not a beauty, an actress dripping with charisma. Keith might have gotten away with it on stage but the camera is cruel and reveals a dowdy actress glammed up. So what we're left with are four actors spouting Coward's clever dialog but the lines fall flat. With Francoise Pascal.
After his best friend (Martin Sheen) commits suicide, a journalist (Michael Parks) becomes disillusioned with the way his life is going so he quits his job and hops on a motorcycle and goes where life takes him. Directed by William A. Graham (CHANGE OF HABIT), this was a TV movie pilot for a projected TV series that came six months after this aired. It was released theatrically in Europe in an alternate cut (including nudity) and that's the cut I watched. It was the era of films like EASY RIDER and FIVE EASY PIECES and this film follows a similar path of someone leaving the establishment behind and searching for "something". The core of the film however is the relationship between Parks and Bonnie Bedelia as a runaway bride who joins him on his odyssey, at least to New Orleans anyway. The ending seems abrupt as if the makers had run out of steam. Parks seems to be channeling James Dean (something which marred much of his career) which gives his performance an artificial quality. There's a nice score by George Duning. With Sheree North, Akim Tamiroff, Gary Merrill and Bert Freed.
After his father (John Kani) dies, his son (Chadwick Boseman) assumes the throne of Wakanda, a country in Africa. Centuries ago, Wakanda was hit by a meteorite made of vibranium which allowed their nation to develop advance technology and isolate themselves by posing as a third world country. Based on the Marvel comic book and directed by Ryan Coogler (FRUITVALE STATION). I'd given up on the Marvel/DC movie universe as I found their movies bombastic, shallow and pretty much the same. So in spite of the praise, I skipped BLACK PANTHER in theatres. But I got a "for your consideration" DVD in the mail and thought, why not? Give it a chance and I can always turn it off. So I was surprised at how very good it was, not great mind you, but very good. It's a grand entertainment! The film has more depth than the usual Marvel/DC concoctions and visually, it's stunning. It's not perfect (Andy Serkis' over the top vulgar villain is cringe inducing but not in the way intended). The film also has a strong feminist bent as its multitude of female characters are strong women and even behind the camera, there's an impressive array of female talent (its cinematographer, editor, production designer, set designer, costume designer are women) too. It's quality and intelligent film making and while I can appreciate its cultural significance for the African American community, in the end it's still a comic book movie. The excellent cast includes Lupita Nyong'o, Michael B. Jordan, Danai Guria, Martin Freeman, Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett, Sterling K. Brown, Daniel Kaluuya, Winston Duke and Letitia Wright.
Still grieving over her mother's death, an illustrator (Susan Sarandon) is obsessed with the idea that someone is breaking into her home and taking things (photos, clothes, toys). Is it paranoia? Or is it just coincidence that these occurrences began when her husband (Sam Neill) hires a new employee (Emily Blunt). Written and directed by Ann Turner, this Australian thriller was never released theatrically in the United States but went straight to the video market (though it did get a theatrical release in Australia). It has an intriguing premise that is clumsily executed which is a pity because with a stronger screenplay, this could have been a real nail biter. It doesn't help that Sarandon's character is more annoying than sympathetic. As the film plods along, it gives you enough clues that you can eventually solve the motives before the movie actually reveals them. It's one of those could've been, should've been kind of movie that blew it. Sarandon is okay but it's interesting to see a pre-stardom Emily Blunt in an early performance (her breakthrough would come later in the year with THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA). With Charles Tingwell.
Set in the 1920s, a heartless dancer (Ray Danton) has higher ambitions than dancing. He wants to rise to the top of the gangland empire and he'll use anybody (including family and lovers) in his climb to the top. Budd Boetticher is most famous for his superb string of 1950s westerns starring Randolph Scott. Here he steps into the gangster genre, it's almost a homage to those Warner gangster films of the 1930s. As Legs Diamond, Ray Danton doesn't have the acting chops or star power that a Cagney or Edward G. Robinson would have brought to the part though to be fair, those actors didn't have the "pretty boy" looks to be convincing. There's not much Boetticher can do with the standard stereotypical script except give it some style. Lucien Ballard (TRUE GRIT) gives the B&W lensing an elegant look. With Karen Steele, Dyan Cannon (in her film debut), Warren Oates, Elaine Stewart, Simon Oakland, Frank De Kova, Jesse White and Robert Lowery.
Set during WWII, a Lieutenant (William Holden) on a two day leave from the army shows up at the home of a judge (Edward Arnold) wishing to see his daughter Ruth (Joan Caulfield) who has been writing him letters. But Ruth has no idea who he is because it was Ruth's kid sister (Mona Freeman) who wrote the letters without her knowledge! Based on the hit Broadway play by Norman Krasna and directed by William D. Russell. This was the kind of "cute" comedy that was popular on both the stage and in film until TV sitcoms took them over. This one is amiable and inoffensive. Not exactly great praise I know but it has its modest charms. My main problem with the film was Holden, an actor not exactly known for his light comedy touch. It doesn't help that his character is more pushy than charming. The rest of the cast is up for it especially Billy De Wolfe as Caulfield's frustrated fiance who steals the movie. Like the play, the film was a big hit and spawned two sequels, DEAR WIFE and DEAR BRAT. With Edward Arnold, Mary Philips, Virginia Welles and Marietta Canty.
After his father (Jack Harvey) suffers a stroke, a young man (Kyle MacLachlan) returns to the small logging town to take care of his father's business. Walking home from visiting his father in the hospital, he discovers a severed human ear in the grass. From that moment on, he finds himself descending into a dark surrealistic world of violence and passion. Written and directed by David Lynch (MULHOLLAND DRIVE), this is one of the masterpieces of 1980s cinema. It's both startling and disturbing, a coming of age story gussied up in neo noir. It's also often witty, not in a haha way but in a subtle slice of black humor. The film is so rich that multiple viewings only unearth little nuggets that only amplify its status which has grown considerably since its 1986 release when its reviews were often polarizing. In a perfect piece of casting, young MacLachlan as a sort of male Alice in a perverted Wonderland manages to convey both innocence and naivete as well as an unhealthy fascination with the dark side. The film is stylized but not overly so and Lynch, his cinematographer Frederick Elmes (ICE STORM) and composer Angelo Badalamenti pull us into a fascinating look at the ugly underbelly under the surface of small town America. The superb cast includes Isabella Rossellini, Dennis Hopper (absolutely sensational), Laura Dern, Dean Stockwell, Hope Lange, Brad Dourif, George Dickerson, Jack Nance and Priscilla Pointer.
An American (David Birney) is traveling in France when he picks up a hitchhiker (Charlotte Rampling). He is on his way to meet a French land owner (Michael Lonsdale) who has a job for him. That job turns out to be very dangerous and he may not get out alive. Based on the novel by Alistair MacLean and directed by Geoffrey Reeve. In the 1960s and 70s, MacLean was a best selling author (GUNS OF NAVARONE, WHERE EAGLES DARE, ICE STATION ZEBRA) and it was practically de rigeur to have a movie made from his books. I've never read any of them myself so I'll assume they were well written but if this film is any indication, the book was a potboiler. It's the kind of film where we're always one step ahead of the characters and we're always screaming at them ("Don't go with him! He's one of them!") but everyone is incompetent, even the bad guys. This is the kind of film that needs a star in the central role, not the cipher of a generic TV leading man like David Birney. Despite being top billed, Charlotte Rampling is overqualified (not to mention wasted) as the "girl", whose sole purpose seems to be around to be saved. Cinematographer Fred Tammes makes good use of the Provence, France locations. With Marcel Bozzuffi, Michael Bryant and Serge Marquand.
An eccentric dotty "madwoman" (Katharine Hepburn) lives and dresses in the past in modern Paris. When she learns of the dastardly plot by a group of wealthy businessmen and government officials to destroy Paris by digging for the oil they believe is buried underneath, she takes it upon herself to exterminate them. Based on the 1945 play by Jean Giraudoux and directed by Bryan Forbes (SEANCE ON A WET AFTERNOON). Giradoux's whimsical theatrical conceit was a charming piece of fantasy. Alas, the film makers (including Edward Anhalt's screenplay) have removed all the delicate enchantment that is necessary to make the play work. They've updated it with student protests and war mongering villains ready to start a nuclear war. Hepburn does as well as she can considering she's essentially miscast. Always one of the most intelligent of actresses, Hepburn's iconic Yankee common sense can't be hid and she seems to be playing at being dotty rather than being dotty. It's the kind of part that someone like Maggie Smith would have been marvelous in. In the end, perhaps it's the kind of gossamer material that just doesn't transition well from stage to cinema. The huge cast includes Danny Kaye, Yul Brynner, Edith Evans, Charles Boyer, Richard Chamberlain, Margaret Leighton, Giulietta Masina, Donald Pleasence, John Gavin (just awful), Paul Henreid, Oscar Homolka, Nanette Newman and Claude Dauphin.