An ex-prostitute (Constance Towers) relocates to a small town where she hopes to live down her past and start a new life. Written, produced and directed by Samuel Fuller. Films about small town hypocrisy and the moral rot hiding under the surface of a wholesome community have been done before, KINGS ROW and PEYTON PLACE being two notable examples. But Fuller's take is less polished and more raw than those two movies. It's pulp to be sure but there's more Art in this piece of pulp than most "prestigious" Oscar bait movies. It's an odd little film in many ways, tough minded in its tabloid approach yet incredibly mawkish in spots. For example, one minute the film stops in its tracks while Towers and a room full of crippled children sing a sentimental ballad then Towers barges into a brothel and shoves a bunch of money down the madam's (Virginia Grey) throat! But the film is pure Sam Fuller! He draws a marvelous performance from Towers that no other director was able to do, not even John Ford. With Anthony Eisley, Patsy Kelly, Michael Dante and Betty Bronson.
A single mother (Doris Day) raising two children (Teddy Rooney, Gina Gillespie) runs a fresh lobster business in Maine. But when a railroad tycoon (Ernie Kovacs) causes a delivery of her lobsters to die, she files a lawsuit. This small lawsuit barrels into a national case of her David against his Goliath. Directed by Richard Quine (BELL BOOK AND CANDLE), this folksy comedy about the little man (or woman in this case) against the machine is too Frank Capra-ish for my taste and it's one of Day's weakest star vehicles. The film was a box office failure but fortunately she was rescued later in the year with her biggest success, PILLOW TALK and her career took on a new trajectory. Day veers toward shrillness here and the script doesn't allow either she or Jack Lemmon as her boyfriend to shine. Indeed, the pedestrian screenplay muffles their star power. With Steve Forrest, Mary Wickes, Jayne Meadows, Betsy Palmer and Max Showalter.
The six year old son (Vincent Winter) of a bank employee (Lee Patterson) is accidentally sealed in a bank vault with a 63 hour time lock. The vault cannot be opened manually and with less than ten hours of oxygen left inside the safe, it becomes a race to save the boy. Based on a television play by Arthur Hailey (AIRPORT) and directed by Gerald Thomas. The movie starts off promisingly and the first half hour is very tense and very good. But after that it sinks into obvious melodrama and I began losing interest. It's pity that it couldn't follow through with that earlier intensity. If it had, the film might have been a minor classic of its type. As it is, it's highly watchable but not something that will linger much. Notable for an early film appearance by a young Sean Connery as a welder trying to blow his way into the vault. With Robert Beatty, Betty McDowall, Robert Ayres and Sandra Francis.
In 1900 Paris, a married gentleman (Alec Guinness) is attracted to his neighbor's beautiful wife (Gina Lollobrigida). When his own wife (Peggy Mount) is out of town, he arranges for a rendezvous at the notorious Hotel Paradiso with the lovely woman. But when the woman's husband (Robert Morley) turns up at the hotel, along with an assortment of friends, servants and relatives, things get complicated. Based on the classic farce L'HOTEL DU LIBRE ECHANGE by Georges Feydeau and Maurice Desvallieres and directed by Peter Glenville (SUMMER AND SMOKE). I'm quite fond of farces especially the French variety but it's a genre that requires crack comedic timing for it to play. The pacing must be just right and the actors must be expert farceurs. Glenville's screen adaptation gets it right in a lot of ways but it is also lacking in many respects. Alas, while Gina Lollobrigida can do light comedy (like COME SEPTEMBER), she doesn't have a farcical bone in her body. Alec Guinness (reprising his stage role from ten years earlier) is okay but it's the supporting players who carry the laughs. In addition to Morley and Mount, there's Akim Tamiroff, Douglas Byng, Leonard Rossiter, Derek Fowlds, Ann Beach and David Battley. Laurence Rosenthal's underscore gets it right, too.
When the Chief of Police (Danny Aiello) transfers a police captain (Suzanne Pleshette) to head up a crime infested inner city precinct known as The Sewer, she discovers a level of police corruption so prevalent that she doesn't know who to trust. Directed by Georg Stanford Brown, who also plays a cop in the film. The term "TV movie" is often used as a term of derision when applied to films but there were actually some very good TV movies made and this police drama is one of the good ones. It's no PRINCE OF THE CITY or FORT APACHE THE BRONX when it comes to police corruption or crime ridden precinct movies but it's a well written (for the most part) and well crafted drama. As an actress, Suzanne Pleshette has always had a commanding presence so she's entirely believable as a tough minded by the book police captain determined to clean up department corruption. The movie bogs down when it focuses on the domestic scenes between Pleshette and her husband (Frank Converse) but when it sticks to the police work, it's an absorbing and gritty crime drama. With Tony Shalhoub, Joe Morton, Jon Tenney, Jon Polito, Charlotte D'Amboise and Brad Greenquist.
Unaware that she is a woman, a Chicago police detective (Dennis O'Keefe) doggedly pursues a criminal mastermind (Judith Anderson) to New York with a plan to trap her. But an innocent pair of newlyweds (Rand Brooks, Mildred Coles) accidentally get mixed up in the trap when they are mistaken for members of her gang. Directed by Frank Woodruff (TWO SENORITAS FROM CHICAGO), this pulp programmer is modestly enjoyable on its own B movie terms. Coming in at a refreshingly short hour and six minutes, it doesn't have a chance to wear out its welcome. Despite playing the title role, Anderson is given little screen time with the focus on the detective played by O'Keefe and the feisty girl reporter (Frances Neal) right on his heels. Nothing special at all but if you come across it, it's not an unpleasant way to spend the time. With Eric Blore, Marion Martin, Arthur Shields and Marc Lawrence.
A young lawyer (James Stewart) fresh out of law school is on a stagecoach when it is held up by the notorious Liberty Valance (Lee Marvin). When he attempts to rescue a woman (Anna Lee) from being molested, he is brutally beaten and whipped by Valance. When rescued, he is taken in by a family of Swedish immigrants but he is stunned to find the town's populace weak and helpless against Valance's thuggish ways. Directed by John Ford. One of Ford's highly regarded films, I find it a decent film but remain perplexed at the esteem in which the film is held in certain critical circles as well as western fans. There's simply too much that's wrong with it. There's the length for one thing. It feels padded out and could easily lose some twenty minutes. The casting of a 53 year old Stewart as a young law school graduate is impossible to surmount. And a good amount of the acting is just bad. Notably Edmond O'Brien's scenery chewing alcoholic newspaper publisher. He makes John Carradine's pontificating orator almost subtle by comparison and you can add Marvin's snarling villain to the list too. And the dialogue is often stuffed with cliches, John Wayne actually tells Vera Miles, "You look beautiful when you're mad". On the plus side, Wayne is very good in one of his best performances and William H. Clothier's pristine B&W cinematography is to be savored, even if much of its exteriors are filmed on sound stages. Still, I'm in the minority in my lack of enthusiasm. With Andy Devine, Jeanette Nolan, Lee Van Cleef, Woody Strode, John Qualen and Ken Murray.
An ex-soldier (Stewart Granger) has a reputation as a fashionable bon vivant despite having no visible income. He strikes up an unlikely friendship with the Prince of Wales (Peter Ustinov) and although they are genuine friends, he isn't above using the friendship to his own benefit. Based on an 1890 play by Clyde Fitch (and made into a 1924 film with John Barrymore as Brummell) and directed by Curtis Bernhardt (INTERRUPTED MELODY). What would MGM have done without Stewart Granger in the 1950s? Who else could they have used for these period productions like SCARAMOUCHE, PRISONER OF ZENDA, YOUNG BESS, MOONFLEET etc. This gorgeous looking but stodgy historical drama is the least interesting of these vehicles. Possibly because Beau Brummell, at least as portrayed here, was a rather arrogant and unlikable chap. As the female lead, Elizabeth Taylor is merely decoration, used for her jaw dropping beauty. There is some good acting done by the supporting players. In addition to Ustinov, there's Robert Morley playing the mad King George III and in her film debut, Rosemary Harris as Ustinov's mistress. With James Donald, Paul Rogers and Peter Bull.
Set during WWII, major league baseball is suffering a setback with men at war. The owner (Garry Marshall) of a candy company also owns a baseball team and persuades the co-owners to bankroll a a woman's league for the duration of the war. Directed by Penny Marshall, this is a fictionalized account of the All American Girls Professional League which lasted from 1943 to 1954. It's hard not to fall under the movie's spell as it chronicles an important part of sports and feminist history. The film's story is strong enough to overcome the frequent lapses into mawkishness which threaten to undermine the good will engendered by the subject matter. Two things stand out that bothered me. The whiny "blame everybody else but you for your problems" character played by Lori Singer gets a pass by the film makers and the fact that Tom Hanks (who I adore) isn't quite believable as an alcoholic washed up baseball player reduced to coaching girls baseball. I kept on thinking how much better a James Caan or a Burt Reynolds would have been in the part. Hanks is a sweetie, there's no getting around it and the role calls for an edgier actor. With Geena Davis, Madonna, Rosie O'Donnell, Bill Pullman, David Strathairn and Jon Lovitz.
Set during WWII in 1944, three Navy pilots (Cary Grant, Ray Walston, Larry Blyden) orchestrate a 4 day leave in San Francisco where they plan to celebrate with booze and broads! Based on the Broadway play by Luther Davis which in turn is based on the novel SHORE LEAVE by Frederic Wakeman and directed by Stanley Donen (CHARADE). A bit of a slog to get through. Why anyone thought to resurrect an unsuccessful play which closed in four months on Broadway in 1945 is anybody's guess. It's not as if it was a critically acclaimed gem waiting to be rediscovered. A miscast Cary Grant is a bit mature for the role of a hot shot pilot out for a good time (a young Richard Widmark played the role in the play) and the film accomplishes something one wouldn't think possible. It renders Grant utterly charmless. Nothing works except for the occasional spark Jayne Mansfield (playing Judy Holliday's stage role) brings to the film. With Suzy Parker, Leif Erickson, Werner Klemperer, Kathleen Freeman, Nancy Kulp and Richard Deacon.
Taking place in a single day in a small New Jersey town during which a total solar eclipse is set to occur, the film follows an ensemble of characters but focuses specifically on three women: a young woman (Edie Falco) who has illusions of being an actress and leaves for Hollywood, her school teacher mother (Barbara Barrie) and a housewife (Madeline Kahn) in an unhappy marriage. Directed by Eric Mendelsohn (who's made only one other film since this one), this was a popular film at Sundance and earned him a prize for his directing. In many ways, it's a captivating film but in this case, it is not greater than the sum of its parts. It's a piecemeal movie and not all of those pieces are equal. The real star of the movie is the luminous B&W cinematography of Jeffrey Seckendorf that takes you into another dimension. I found Falco's character irritatingly upbeat and not entirely believable. Madeline Kahn in a rare dramatic role gives the film's best performance. She was the only character I could relate to, which considering she appears to be recovering from or on the verge of a nervous breakdown doesn't speak well of me, I suppose. Recommended with reservations. With Anne Meara, Julie Kavner, Carlin Glynn, Bob Dishy, Aaron Harnick, Novella Nelson and Bette Henritze.
Although he has a mistress (Jennie Linden, WOMEN IN LOVE), a man (Ian Holm) is devastated when his wife (Lee Remick) asks for a divorce so she can marry her psychoanalyst (Richard Attenborough). Based on the novel by Iris Murdoch and directed by Dick Clement (OTLEY). This satire on the British upper class bourgeoisie and their so called superiority to conventional social mores is quite witty and well acted. Their seemingly laissez faire attitude only a mask for insecurities and conventionality. The film stays faithful to the novel although making Remick's character more glamorous and younger than her counterpart in the book changes some of the dynamics of the narrative. This romantic/sexual roundelay includes Claire Bloom as Attenborough's sister and Clive Revill as Holm's brother as they change partners as readily as they change their clothes. A comedy about adultery and incest was probably quite shocking in 1971 (the book was published ten years earlier) but it presaged the coming sexual revolution of the 1970s. The breezy underscore is by Stanley Myers. With Ann Firbank as Holm's sister, the only other major character in the movie.
A young boy (Jimmy Hunt) is awakened during the night by a thunderstorm. When he looks out the window, he sees a spaceship disappear into the large sand pit beyond his home. When he attempts to tell his parents (Leif Erickson, Hillary Brooke) what he saw, they don't believe him and neither do the authorities. Directed by William Cameron Menzies (THINGS TO COME), the film has a large cult following and is greatly admired in some corners by sci-fi film buffs. Personally, I found it rather dull and unimpressive. The plot line seems typical of 1950s low budget "it came from outer space" invasion movies except that it is shot in color (Eastman color by way of CineColor prints) which distinguishes it from the rest of the pack. One can argue that (like Siegel's INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS which would come three years later) there's a subtext, a fear of "Red" invaders but of the Russian kind rather than the Martian kind. To be fair, the transfer I saw was unrestored and the color seemed rather dingy and the look of the film seems too dark. I'm sure I would have enjoyed it more if I saw a cleaner transfer. Remade in 1986. With Helena Carter, Arthur Franz, Morris Ankrum and Barbara Billingsley.
In medieval Denmark, a prince (Mel Gibson) is dismayed when his mother (Glenn Close) marries her brother in law (Alan Bates) so soon after his father's (Paul Scofield) death. When he discovers the King was murdered by his brother in order to get both the throne and the queen, he plots his revenge. Adapted from the play by William Shakespeare and directed by Franco Zeffirelli. While purists may be disturbed with how Zeffirelli has pared down Shakespeare's tragedy to the essentials, as cinema, it works quite nicely. Zeffirelli's ROMEO AND JULIET (1968) was a popular box office success because it attracted the youth crowd by casting teenagers (however inadequate they were as actors) in the leads. Here by casting Gibson (who at least was a classically trained actor) known at the time for his role in action movies like MAD MAX and LETHAL WEAPON, he hoped to attract the younger crowd again. It didn't repeat ROMEO AND JULIET's success but it's a solid effort. There are many things to admire about it and Gibson's performance (while unlikely to be listed with the great Hamlets) is among them. The film's best performance comes from Helena Bonham Carter as Ophelia. I've seen many Ophelias and I've never been as moved as I was by Bonham Carter's "mad" scene(s). She doesn't overplay it yet you ache for her descent into madness. The film is immeasurably aided by Ennio Morricone's strong underscore. With Ian Holm, Nathaniel Parker, Pete Postlethwaite and John McEnery.
An American tourist (Leticia Roman) witnesses a murder in the middle of the night but when there's no evidence of a body, the police think it was a product of her imagination. She convinces a young doctor (John Saxon) to help her investigate. Directed by Mario Bava (BLACK SUNDAY), this moderately entertaining B&W thriller is referred to as an early example of the giallo but really, it comes across more like an Agatha Christie style murder mystery (Christie's THE ABC MURDERS comes to mind). It's rather convoluted (that sounds nicer than messy) in its execution. In the film's first 15 minutes, our heroine sees a woman stabbed to death, gets her purse stolen by a mugger, has her unconscious body molested and watches her Aunt suffocate to death! Bava wastes no time! When the murderer is eventually unmasked, the motive makes no sense. In fact, I'm still not sure there was a motive. There's style to spare so one can overlook the senseless plot. With Valentina Cortese and Dante DiPaolo (Rosemary Clooney's husband).
An American expatriate (Elvis Presley) in Mexico works as a lifeguard during the day and a singer during the evening in Acapulco. A secret from his past keeps him from returning to the U.S. Directed by Richard Thorpe (IVANHOE). KING GALAHAD (1962) was Presley's last dramatic film and following that, super lightweight fluff crammed with songs was typical of Presley's film output for the rest of the decade. Presley's people knew his audience because this was one of the biggest hits of 1963. Curiously, although the Acapulco exteriors are handsomely shot, Presley clearly didn't set foot in Mexico. All of his "Acapulco" scenes are done before a rear projection screen with a body double for the exteriors shot there. The thinnest of plot lines seem like padding in between the ten musical numbers, all of them forgettable except for Bossa Nova Baby. The Mexican stereotyping wears thin after awhile. For Elvis fans only! With Ursula Andress and Elsa Cardenas providing eye candy, Paul Lukas and Alejandro Rey.
A precocious six year old girl (Sofia Vassilieva) lives at the Plaza hotel in New York City with her nanny (Julie Andrews) while her mother (Donna Feore) travels the world. Based on the Eloise series of books written by Kay Thompson (FUNNY FACE) with the drawings of Hilary Knight and directed by Kevin Lima. While the greatest appeal of ELOISE AT THE PLAZA is perhaps toward kids (the movie is a child's fantasy of running amok without reprisal), a few older curmudgeons might find her an annoying spoiled brat. The Disney film stays close to the charm of the books in both its look and attitude. Young Vassilieva makes for a delightful Eloise, one would have to be a sourpuss to get irritated with her shenanigans. It's nice to see Julie Andrews play another sort of nanny, quite different from her starchy Mary Poppins. This nanny is rather slovenly, unsure of herself and a pushover for Eloise. Also in the cast: Christine Baranski, Jeffrey Tambor and Debra Monk.
Before she dies, a Queen (Catherine Deneuve) makes the King (Jean Marais) promise that he will never remarry unless his bride is more beautiful than she. The King promises but the only one more beautiful than the Queen is their daughter (Catherine Deneuve)! When the King proposes marriage, with the help of her fairy godmother (Delphine Seyrig), the Princess flees the castle and hides in anonymity as a scullion in the forest. Based on the 17th century fairy tale by Charles Perrault (CINDERELLA) and directed by Jacques Demy (UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG). Though it was his biggest hit (in France, anyway), Demy's PEAU D'ANE doesn't have the stature of his other musical films like CHERBOURG or YOUNG GIRLS OF ROCHEFORT. True, that may be because it simply isn't as good as the other two but it's a lovely simulation of an adult fairy tale, much the same way as Cocteau's BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (whose influence is clearly felt here). The songs, again by Michel Legrand, aren't as memorable either but there is one charming musical moment as Deneuve bakes a cake. Shot by Ghislain Cloquet (THE FIRE WITHIN), it's vividly colorful with beautiful costumes courtesy of Gitt Magrini (THE CONFORMIST). With Micheline Presle, Jacques Perrin and Ferdinand Ledoux.
After surviving an auto accident when a car she was a passenger in drives off a bridge in Kansas, a young woman (Candace Hilligoss) moves to Utah where she has a job as a church organist. But she has strange visions and feels that she is being followed by a mysterious man. She is also strangely attracted to an abandoned carnival on the outskirts of town. Directed by Herk Harvey, this low budget (reportedly filmed on a $13,000 budget) "horror" film is amazing in its ability to convey an atmospheric milieu that is surrealistic, dreamlike and paranoid. The film is amateurish in many ways especially the acting. While Hilligoss's static acting works for her distanced character, the other performers are of the community theater caliber at best and some like Art Ellison who plays a minister are just awful. But the film itself is a gem. I don't want to oversell it but its striking images (courtesy of Maurice Prather) and unsettling mood would do Jean Cocteau proud. With Sidney Berger and Frances Feist.
A privileged young man (Josh Brolin) who comes from a wealthy family returns to the small town he grew up in. After he picks up a girl (Reese Witherspoon) in a bar and has sex with her, she informs him she's going to call the police and tell them she was raped. In a drunken panic, he beats the girl up and ties her up and calls on a friend (Alessandro Nivola) to help him get out of this mess. Directed by Mike Barker, this is a nasty piece of goods. All the characters (and I do mean all) are screw ups and losers. How does one relate to or have any empathy for losers who are directly responsible for the crap they find themselves in? Maybe with a better director at the helm and a more observant screenplay, we might have found some empathy for their situation but at every turn, I kept thinking, "you idiots!". Witherspoon brings as much grace to her character as she can but it's a losing battle. The movie paints itself into a corner so there's no way out that avails itself of any shreds of sympathy. With Terrence Howard, Jamie Marsh and Rocky Carroll.
Ten people, all strangers to each other, are invited to an isolated estate on an island. When they arrive, they are greeted by a butler (Richard Haydn) and his cook wife (Queenie Leonard). But that night, all twelve of them are accused of murder and then they start dying, one by one. Based on the classic novel by Agatha Christie and directed by Rene Clair (I MARRIED A WITCH). The Christie novel has been adapted for both film and television many times over the years but this remains the definitive version. It adheres closely to the Christie novel except for the ending. The novel's ending is much more grim but this being Hollywood, a happier ending was deemed more commercial. The cast is first rate though the Dudley Nichols screenplay and Clair's direction provide more humor than is in Christie's book which seems to encourage a bit of overacting from some of the actors (like Walter Huston). The rest of the murder suspects include Louis Hayward, Judith Anderson, Barry Fitzgerald, Roland Young, Mischa Auer, C. Aubrey Smith and June Duprez.
An older man (Paul Dooley) still living at home with his Greek family dominated by his father (Titos Vandis) meets a much younger girl (Marta Heflin), who sings in a rock band, through a dating service. Co-written and directed by Robert Altman, this offbeat romantic comedy is an atypical film for him. It's not one of his best films but I liked the quirky vibes. Its two protagonists aren't your standard good looking (and usually vapid) Hollywood's idea of a romcom couple. They're plain looking, ordinary people and their situation seems entirely plausible (at least for 1979). The film's biggest problem is the overabundance of music. Heflin is a singer in a rock band and the film is crammed with the band performing songs and the majority of the songs just aren't very good. Altman may not be at his creative peak here but there's enough charm to carry the movie over the patchy parts and Dooley and Heflin make for a refreshing pair of conflicted lovers. With Heather McRae, Ted Neeley (JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR), Dennis Franz, Belita Moreno, Henry Gibson and Dimitra Arliss.
While on safari in Africa, a big game hunter (Michael Latimer) is captured by a hostile tribe and taken to a temple guarded by a statue of a white rhinoceros. When a bolt of lightning splits the temple wall, he runs through it and finds himself in a barbaric prehistoric world dominated by an evil Queen (Martine Beswick). Written (using the pseudonym Henry Younger) and directed by Michael Carreras (CURSE OF THE MUMMY'S TOMB). Perfectly silly and nowhere near as fun as it should be. Hampered by Carreras' lackluster screenplay and direction, not to mention an appalling performance by the wooden Michael Latimer in the male lead. Utilizing leftover sets and costumes from the previous year's ONE MILLION YEARS B.C., the film has so many dance numbers (I counted at least four) that it's practically a musical. Denys Palmer gets the blame ..... I mean credit for the choreography which consists of scantily clad cave women and/or natives bumping and grinding. It's entertaining, I'll give it that but for all the wrong reasons. With Steven Berkoff, Carol White and Edina Ronay.
Set in London, an aspiring actress (Jane Wyman) attempts to help a young man (Richard Todd) she's attracted to hide from the police after he is suspected of murdering the husband of a famous actress (Marlene Dietrich). She decides to go undercover posing as the actress's maid to discover evidence that might clear him. Based on the novel MAN RUNNING by Selwyn Jepson and directed by Alfred Hitchcock. If there was any other director's name attached to the film, this would be a very good murder thriller with a neat little twist at the end. But with the Hitchcock stamp on it, you expect more so this ends up as one of Hitchcock's lesser efforts. Which isn't to say it's not worth checking out but there's very little real suspense in it. Actually, it seems more Agatha Christie than Hitchcock in many ways. Normally, Jane Wyman is a strong presence in her own right but here she's eclipsed in every scene by Dietrich (and this is coming from a non Dietrich fan). To be fair, Wyman has the non glamorous mousey role but Dietrich's Dior gowned character is so much more interesting. With Michael Wilding, Sybil Thorndike, Alistair Sim, Joyce Grenfell, Andre Morell, Kay Walsh and Patricia Hitchcock.
In a small Pennsylvania town, a meteor crashes in the countryside. An old man (Olin Howland) discovers it and a gelatinous substance from the meteor attaches itself to him. Two teenagers (Steve McQueen, Aneta Corsaut) discover the injured man and take him to a doctor. But the "blob" gobbles up humans and increases in size. Directed by Irvin Yeaworth, the film has grown into a cult favorite in the ensuing years but I just found it rather silly and poorly acted. The young Steve McQueen is appealing but you'd never guess from his work here that he would be one of the biggest male stars in Hollywood in the 1960s. The blob itself is rather cool looking, sort of like a rolling piece of raspberry jam. But honestly, the 1988 remake is far superior as a horror film than this blobby (pun intended) piece of kitsch (it's not bad enough to qualify as camp). The kind of movie where all the teenagers look 30 something. The awful title song was written by the great Burt Bacharach but hey, we all have to start out somewhere. With Robert Fields and Pamela Curran.
Set in 1987 in the San Fernando Valley (that's in Southern California), a housewife (Julianne Moore) suddenly develops a mysterious illness even though doctors tell her there's nothing wrong with her. As she gets more and more ill, she seeks out an alternative lifestyle in an Arizona commune. Written and directed by Todd Haynes (FAR FROM HEAVEN), this is a disturbing movie but in a good way. I'm fairly sure Haynes doesn't expect us to take the "new age" psychobabble spouted by the commune's leader seriously. He maintains we are responsible for all our own illnesses, that somehow it's our fault. Haynes perfectly encapsulates the distancing and fear as well as the loneliness of being ill when no one else either understands your sickness or tells you there's nothing wrong with you. Certainly in the current coronavirus environment, the film resonates. Julianne Moore gives a beautifully layered performance, no small feat considering her character is a cipher with no discernible personality. She seems to be an appendage of her husband (Xander Berkeley) and their affluent lifestyle. The film's ambiguous ending offers no solution. Has she traded one dependence for another? Powerful stuff and recommended if you haven't seen it. With Peter Friedman, Jessica Harper, James LeGros, Beth Grant, April Grace and Kate McGregor Stewart.
In 1880 Arizona, a German immigrant (Glenn Ford) follows a Mexican man (Antonio Moreno) looking for a "lost" goldmine into the area known as Superstition Mountain. When the man finds the mine, the immigrant kills the Mexican in cold blood as well as his own partner (Edgar Buchanan). But a scheming woman (Ida Lupino) and her husband (Gig Young) plot to dupe the newly rich German out of his gold. Based on THUNDER GOD'S GOLD by Barry Storm (played by William Prince in the film) and directed by S. Sylvan Simon (THE FULLER BRUSH MAN). If there is such a thing as a western noir, this is it. Although reputedly based on a "true" story, I'd venture to say based on a local legend. The first 20 minutes which take place in the 1940s is exposition before going to a flashback which is the bulk of the film and the film's last 15 minutes brings us back to the 1940s and the film's conclusion. The movie's contemporary framing device is the movie's weakest part but the core story is quite good. The three main protagonists are all morally rotten so you can't empathize with them but that doesn't deter one's enjoyment in this juicy tale of lust and greed and a horrific revenge. With Paul Ford, Will Geer, Arthur Hunnicutt, Hayden Rorke and Jay Silverheels.
In a railway coach, a man (Marcello Mastroianni) who is both sexist and a chauvinist attempts to seduce a beautiful woman (Bernice Stegers). He is so taken with her that he leaves the train when she does and follows her. But she leads him to a town seemingly populated by and run by angry feminists. Directed by Federico Fellini, this film isn't as well liked as his more famous ones and often dismissed as second tier Fellini. But in spite of its flaws (and there are many), I quite like it and actually prefer it to some of his more beloved films like AMARCORD and LA STRADA. Its biggest flaw is its length. At two hours and 20 minutes, it could easily lose about a half hour without suffering. Fellini tends to go on and on when he's already made his point. But there are some wonderful images (courtesy of the great Giuseppe Rotunno) and moments. The surreal night ride with Mastroianni and a carload of underage nymphets is as good as anything he's done but on the whole, the quality of film is erratic. But even if his name wasn't on the film, it's easily discernible as and uniquely a Fellini film. With Anna Prucnal, Ettore Manni and Donatella Damiani.
Set in an isolated oil pipeline station in the Sahara, five men (Peter Van Eyck, Ian Bannen, Denholm Elliott, Mario Adorf, Hansjorg Felmy) live under a great deal of tension in the desert heat. It doesn't help that they share a mutual dislike for each other. The tension only increases when a car crashes at their site in the middle of the night containing a beautiful unconscious blonde (Carroll Baker). Based on the play MEN WITHOUT A PAST by Jean Martet (previously filmed in France in 1938 as S.O.S. SAHARA) and directed by Seth Holt (TASTE OF FEAR). Despite her star billing, Carroll Baker's character doesn't come into the film until the movie's second half. The film is about the men and the mounting tension between them and she serves as a catalyst for that tension. It's a well made film although it's yet another film where the woman is viewed as some sort of Lilith who causes all kinds of trouble by seducing men. Nicely shot in B&W by Gerald Gibbs (WHISKEY GALORE) with exteriors filmed in Libya. With Biff McGuire and Harry Baird.
Taking place on a single night in a seedy boxing venue, the film follows six boxers ranging from promising newcomers to over the hill has beens: an aging boxer (Robert Beatty) hoping to last one more year, an innocent kid (Ronald Lewis) with boxing stars in his eyes, a boxer (Maxwell Reed) on the take who takes falls for money, a height challenged goofball (Bill Owen), a muscle bound kid (Bill Travers) with no brains and a punch drunk boxer (George Rose) losing his sight. Based on the play by Ralph Peterson and directed by Basil Dearden (KHARTOUM). This is a fine gritty drama which casts a bleak eye on the boxing game. But it's the human drama the film is interested in, not the boxing. Indeed, with the exception of the final match, all the boxing bouts are fought off screen. With the exception of Reed, who's not very convincing as a boxer, the acting is very good. The film is slightly hampered by the lack of a musical underscore. It could have used one but I guess the film makers wanted a more semi-documentary approach. Definitely worth seeking out. With Joan Collins, Kay Kendall and Bernadette O'Farrell as the women in the boxers' lives and Alfie Bass, Sidney James and Eddie Byrne.
In the late 19th century, a chemist (Dennis O'Keefe) returns to the small Indiana town of his childhood after living in Chicago to get married to a social climbing school teacher (Ruth Warrick). But soon after they are married, they clash over his interest in carrying on the legacy of his father's (Henry Hull) horse breeding and harness racing. Directed by Joseph M. Newman (THIS ISLAND EARTH), this family friendly horse movie would seem to be perfect fodder for the Disney live action film crowd if it weren't for the sexual tension between a young horse trainer (Gail Russell) and the unhappily married O'Keefe. The film is very conventional in its storytelling but makes a pleasant watch on a rainy evening (which is how I watched it). With Charlotte Greenwood, Arthur Hunnicutt, Clarence Muse and in one of his rare nice guy roles, John Hoyt as Russell's father.
Elizabeth I (Bette Davis) of England is in love with the much younger Earl Of Essex (Errol Flynn). He ostensibly returns that love but she fears his ambition and the thought that it is her throne and not her that attracts him to her is very much on her mind. Based on the play ELIZABETH THE QUEEN by Maxwell Anderson (ANNE OF THE THOUSAND DAYS) and directed by Michael Curtiz. What the film lacks in historical accuracy, it makes up for in star power, production values and a good story. Davis plays Elizabeth I like a house afire and it's all Flynn can do to keep up with her. He's fine as Essex and brings the right amount of swash to the romanticized hero but clearly out of his league in the acting department. The film looks great and Warners spared no expense with the production design and costumes and the movie has the lush look of something out of MGM (think 1938's MARIE ANTOINETTE). A solid example of the "Golden Age" studio system at its best. Davis would again take on Elizabeth I in 1955's THE VIRGIN QUEEN at 20th Century Fox. There's yet another first rate score by Erich Wolfgang Korngold. The supporting cast is bursting at the seams with familiar faces including Olivia De Havilland, Vincent Price, Nanette Fabray, Donald Crisp, Henry Daniell, Leo G. Carroll and John Sutton.
After her husband (Arthur Edmond Carewe) escapes his brutal slave owner (Adolph Milar), his wife (Margarita Fischer) overhears that their young son (Lassie Lou Ahern) will soon be taken from her and sold. So she flees with her child into the snowy night in attempt to reach a free state. Based on the 1852 novel by Harriet Beecher Stowe and directed by Harry Pollard. Perhaps the most influential novel published in the 19th century, Stowe's novel has a Christian bent and veers toward sentimentality. The Christianity bent is played down in this film version but it's still there. There are some casting issues that deflate any impact the film may have had. The slaves Eliza, Cassy and George are all played by white actors. Thankfully, not in blackface but played as bi-racial to explain their "white" features but they are clearly Caucasian. Granted, in the novel George is of mixed race but in a film about slavery, when you have three of the major black roles played by white actors, it leaves a decidedly uncomfortable taste. Sadly, the character of the mischievous Topsy is played by a white actress (Mona Ray) in blackface. To add to the confusion, Eliza's young son is played by a girl (Lassie Lou Ahern) with curls and ringlets. When a slave trader looks at the child with lust in his eyes and offers to buy "him", it gets downright creepy. There are some effective moments like Eliza's flight across a treacherous ice floe but overall, it loses the novel's impact and is notable as an historical movie artifact rather than as cinema. With James B. Lowe as Uncle Tom, George Siegmann as Simon Legree and Virginia Grey as Little Eva, who would go on to have a long career as a character actress from the 1930s to the 1970s.
As a civil war rages away in the far distance, an apolitical married couple (Max Von Sydow, Liv Ullmann) attempt to live their lives in solitude on their small vegetable farm. But when the war pushes its way into their lives, they can no longer ignore it and the war pushes their relationship into crisis. Written and directed by Ingmar Bergman, SHAME is one of his bona fide masterpieces. A harrowing look at how war dehumanizes people and how it can change how we perceive ourselves and others. At the beginning of the film, the wife is the strong one, the survivor and the husband buries his head in the sand, ignoring the inevitable. By the film's bleak end, the war has changed the husband. He is a brute and the wife is near helplessness. The performances by Ullmann and Von Sydow show why they are considered among the best actors of their generation. If there's a third "star", surely its Sven Nykvist's exquisite B&W images. A brilliant film, both beautiful and horrifying. With Gunnar Bjornstrand.
A middle aged college professor (Anthony Hopkins) is having an affair with one of his students (Bo Derek). When his wife (Shirley MacLaine) finds out, she begins an affair with a young carpenter (Michael Brandon, LOVERS AND OTHER STRANGERS). The four of them decide to spend a two week vacation at the married couple's country house in Vermont. Complications ensue. Directed by Richard Lang, a director more experienced in television than feature films who replaced Noel Black (PRETTY POISON) who left during filming due to creative differences. This is a pretty unpleasant film. The older couple, especially the husband, are a rather obnoxious and self centered pair. They seem to be exploiting the younger people in some kind of bizarre war of retaliation against each other without regard to the feelings of the youngsters. I did appreciate the ending which didn't go where I expected it to but instead seemed rather brutally (but appropriately) honest. As the young girl, Bo Derek doesn't offer much other than her body which is exploited by several nude scenes (none of the other actors are ever naked). Even Henry Mancini's underscore seems anemic. With Mary Beth Hurt and Edward Winter.
While on leave in New York, a solider (James Ellison) falls in love with a nightclub showgirl (Alice Faye). He doesn't tell her he's engaged to be married to his childhood sweetheart (Sheila Ryan). Directed by Busby Berkeley, this piece of outrageous Technicolor fluff became a favorite of "camp" enthusiasts during the 1970s. Notably because of the Freudian production number The Lady In The Tutti Fruitti Hat with chorus girls carrying enormous bananas (the censors said the girls had to hold the bananas above the waist) and the psychedelic Polka Dot Polka which proved as much a "trip" for 70s audiences as the Jupiter and beyond sequence in 2001 A SPACE ODYSSEY. In the 1940s, MGM was the premier studio when it came to musicals. It had Garland, Kelly, Astaire and the Arthur Freed unit. 20th Century Fox had to make do with Betty Grable and Alice Faye and while their films could be quite enjoyable, they lacked true artistry. Outside of the two said numbers, the fun in the movie comes from the supporting cast. Specifically, Carmen Miranda, Edward Everett Horton and Charlotte Greenwood. The scene with Miranda attempting to seduce Horton in his home office is hilarious. With Benny Goodman, Phil Baker, Eugene Pallette, Frank Faylen and in her film debut, Jeanne Crain.
When a gambler's (Dean Martin) debts begin to mount, he agrees to help fix a horserace for a bookie (Sheldon Leonard) he owes money to. To this end, he enlists the help of his naïve animal loving cousin (Jerry Lewis). Based on a short story by Damon Runyon (GUYS AND DOLLS) and directed by George Marshall (DESTRY RIDES AGAIN). This is one of the weaker Martin and Lewis comedies. The attempt to squeeze them into a Runyonesque format just doesn't work and the team's comedic style clashes with the material. There are still a few laughs to be had: Lewis disguised as a harem girl and another bit where he lip syncs to a radio as the station is constantly being changed. Originally shot in 3-D, the movie was their first color feature. I'm a huge Jerry Lewis fan but I must confess I found much of the film tedious. With Pat Crowley, Marjie Millar, Richard Haydn, Robert Strauss, Gerald Mohr and Juanita Moore.
Set in 1820, the Dutch captain (Curt Jurgens) of a slave ship is on his way back to Cuba after procuring a cargo full of slaves off the African coast. But one of the slaves, a lion hunter named Tamango (Alex Cressan) plots a mutiny against the slave ship's crew rather than submit to enslavement. The captain's black mistress (Dorothy Dandridge) will play a crucial role in the battle between master and slave. Based upon the short story by Prosper Marimee (CARMEN) and directed by John Berry. A film that has an overt sexual relationship between a white man and a black woman and blacks massacring whites clearly didn't come out of 1958 Hollywood. Although filmed in English, the movie is a French and Italian production. Outside of New York, the film wasn't released widely in the U.S. until 1962 because of the miscegenation issue. I'm surprised the film isn't better known today considering not only how daring it was for the time but it still retains a punch. John Berry isn't very well known today but he was one of many blacklisted directors who fled to Europe to get work. Worth seeking out. With Jean Servais and Roger Hanin.
Set in Denmark, the frozen tail of a giant reptile is accidentally discovered while drilling in a mine. The tail is sent to an aquarium in Copenhagen where it is accidentally thawed and the tail regenerates itself into a fully formed giant reptilian creature which wreaks terror in Denmark! This inept creature feature was an American-Danish co-production. It was filmed twice, once in Danish and once in English and the American version was released a year after the Danish version. I watched the English language version which is astounding in its awfulness. It makes those Japanese Toho rubber monster movies look like masterpieces! The acting is just awful. The worse offenders being Carl Ottosen as an American General and Dirch Passer who comes across as a Jerry Lewis wannabe. About 30 minutes into the movie, the action stops dead as we're treated to a tour of Copenhagen and its sites and later a nightclub where the characters are serenaded by a singer singing Tivoli Nights! There are many unintentional laughs along the way. Connoisseurs of bad monster movies should have a field day with this one! With Ann Smyrner, Marla Behrens and Bent Mejding.
Set in apartheid South Africa, a Zulu minister (Brock Peters) goes to Johannesburg in search of his son (Clifton Davis). He finds his son living in poverty with his pregnant girlfriend (Melba Moore). Desperate for money, the son joins a gang of thieves and breaks into a house where he kills the owner (Harvey Jason). Based on the 1949 Broadway musical with music by Kurt Weill and lyrics by Maxwell Anderson which was an adaptation of the novel CRY THE BELOVED COUNTRY by Alan Paton and directed by Daniel Mann (THE ROSE TATTOO). Paton's acclaimed novel was one of the first to address the abomination that was apartheid. As a musical, the near operatic songs by Anderson and Weill bring an emotional strength that accentuates the power of Paton's narrative. Unfortunately, they also eliminated the novel's ray of hope which ends the book. This film version was not well received and though I think it's much better than its reputation would suggest, I can see why. The richness of the novel isn't there and there's an awkwardness to the movie as if the film makers couldn't quite figure out how to make the transition from stage to screen. Still, I think it's worth seeing. Alex North (STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE) supervised and conducted the music and Paula Kelly (who plays Rose in the film) did the choreography which is highlighted by the Big Mole dance number. Obviously, the film couldn't be filmed in South Africa (at that time) so Oregon had to substitute. With Raymond St. Jacques, Paul Rogers and John Williams.
An artist (Lon Chaney Jr.) is blinded in a freak accident. His benefactor (Edward Fielding) promises to bequeath his own eyes upon his death to the artist. When the benefactor is found bludgeoned to death, the artist becomes the key suspect. Directed by Reginald Le Borg, this was one of six Inner Sanctum (a popular radio series) adaptations for the screen by Universal. This one is pretty bad. Badly written, badly acted and well ….. just bad! None of the characters are likable, not even the self pitying blind artist who you would think would engender some sympathy. When the real killer and their motive is exposed, it's so far fetched and illogical that you almost want to laugh. I have a fondness for these on the cheap B mysteries but this one tested my patience. Thomas Gomez plays the detective on the case and his place in the narrative seems to be to rehash the plot a couple of times as if the audience was too slow to follow what's going on. With Jean Parker, Paul Kelly, George Meeker and Acquanetta, who gives the worst performance in the film.
Abandoned by her husband many years earlier, an elderly woman (Edith Evans) lives in poverty and is supported by national assistance. She hears voices that harass her and no one seems to care about her. Based on the novel by Robert Nicolson and directed by Bryan Forbes (SEANCE ON A WET AFTERNOON). The power of this film rests on Edith Evans' sublime performance. During the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s, Edith Evans was one of the great actresses of the British stage. Except for a few brief parts in silent cinema, Evans didn't make her sound film debut until she was almost 60! I only bring this up because unlike most actresses who have their roots in the theater, there's absolutely no theatricality to Evans' performance here. It's a naturalistic and potently subtle piece of acting. You can read Evans' face like a map. There's almost a beauty about the film that alleviates the oppressive and depressing atmosphere of the film while still retaining its heartbreaking intent. Loneliness among and the marginalization of the elderly is still a relevant subject in today's culture so the film has lost none of its faculty. With Eric Portman, Nanette Newman, Leonard Rossiter, Avis Bunnage, Ronald Fraser and Margaret Tyzack.
Set in 1885 India, a street urchin (Dean Stockwell) hides his English roots and poses as a native to avoid schooling. He attaches himself to a Buddhist holy man (Paul Lukas) and a horse trader (Errol Flynn), who spies for the British. Based on the novel by Rudyard Kipling and directed by Victor Saville (GREEN DOLPHIN STREET). If you can get past some of the incongruous casting like the Hungarian Paul Lukas, the Irish Cecil Kellaway and the Australian Errol Flynn as Indians, this is a rousing Technicolor adventure. Despite Flynn's top billing, his is definitely a supporting role. The film is called KIM and it's young Stockwell's movie to own. Some of the filming was done on location in India but there are still many rear projection shots and stage bound exteriors obviously shot on the MGM lot. If you're a fan of Kipling or movies like GUNGA DIN, then you should enjoy this one. I imagine young boys around 10 to 12 would also find much to enjoy here. Being an MGM film, it has rich lustrous look courtesy of William V. Skall (QUO VADIS). With Robert Douglas, Arnold Moss, Thomas Gomez, Ivan Triesault and Laurette Luez.
In 1855 Brooklyn, a young boy (Freddie Bartholomew) discovers he is the heir to the Earl of Dorincourt (C. Aubrey Smith) in England. When the boy and his mother (Dolores Costello) arrive in England, the Earl separates the mother from the child and refuses to acknowledge her but he takes an immediate liking to the boy. Based on the novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett (THE LITTLE PRINCESS) and directed by John Cromwell. This slightly creaky piece of sentiment isn't hard to take. Bartholomew's Fauntleroy is a near angelic child with a kind word for everybody but Bartholomew manges to make him a likable chap rather than sickly sweet. It helps that he's paired for most of the movie with C. Aubrey Smith's curmudgeon to offset the halo. Dolores Costello (billed with her then married name of Barrymore as in Mrs. John) doesn't have much to do but look lovely which she does without effort. The film was a huge hit in 1936. With Mickey Rooney, Constance Collier, Una O'Connor, Henry Stephenson, Virginia Field and Eily Malyon.
A strait laced high school student (Chris O'Donnell) finds himself attracted to the new girl in school, a quirky and eccentric rebel (Drew Barrymore). When her parents (Joan Allen, Jude Ciccolella) have her placed in a psychiatric institute after a suicide attempt, he breaks her out and they hit the road together. Directed by Antonia Bird, I have mixed feelings about the film. On a positive note, there's a terrific performance by Drew Barrymore, quite possibly the best she's given. She doesn't go over the top as many actors playing mentally unstable people do but very gradually peels away the layers until we realize her eccentricity and "free spirit" is actually mental illness. On the downside, if we can see it then why does it take so long for O'Donnell to grasp it? His behavior is irresponsible. We can understand her irresponsibility because of her illness but what's his excuse? I suppose if we take the film's title literally then perhaps O'Donnell goes a little "mad" too. I could have gladly done without the film's incessant rock soundtrack which distracts from the gravity of the situation. With Liev Schreiber and Matthew Lillard.
As a favor to a friend, a posh Harley Street doctor (John Mills) picks up a German actress (Lisa Daniely) at the airport. Things get complicated when she turns up the next day in the doctor's flat ….. murdered! Directed by Gerald Thomas, this overly complicated British thriller has a far fetched plot that has your head spinning in its improbabilities. For a protagonist, John Mills' character is incredibly naïve (some would say dumb) in the way he handles himself. Indeed, one of the most irritating plot points could easily have been dealt with with a simple phone call by Mills to New York! The untidy and baffling plot might have been better served by a more stylish presentation. It's the kind of plot that one might refer to as Hitchcockian and indeed, if directed by Hitchcock and with Cary Grant or James Stewart in Mills' part, the ludicrous plot might have worked (like it did in NORTH BY NORTHWEST). Still, to be honest, as a mystery fan I was still entertained however frustrating the film ultimately proved to be. With Derek Farr, Wilfrid Hyde White, Roland Culver, Mervyn Johns, Lionel Jeffries and Noelle Middleton.
A young doctor (Dirk Bogarde) must not only deal with the cantankerous hospital administrator's (James Robertson Justice) romantic problems but his own infatuation with an ambitious actress (Samantha Eggar). Directed by Ralph Thomas (DEADLIER THAN THE MALE). The early 1960s was a remarkable time for British cinema. Films like SATURDAY NIGHT AND SUNDAY MORNING, THIS SPORTING LIFE, THE ENTERTAINER etc. But they were still grinding out inane fodder like the CARRY ON series and the DOCTOR franchise. This was the fifth of the seven doctor movies (based on a series of books by Richard Gordon). The Brits, for some reason, loved these DOCTOR movies and this one was one of the year's top grossing films in England. DISTRESS is a rather anemic entry with its flat humor and rather irresponsible look at hospital behavior (doctors arguing with each other in front of a patient, doctors slapping a patient during an operation etc.). At this stage of his career, Bogarde had moved pass such fluff and this was his last appearance in the series. Justice manages to squeeze a few laughs out of the situation but overall, it's a dull one. With Mylene Demongeot, Donald Houston, Leo McKern, Fenella Fielding and Marianne Stone.
Trapped in an abusive relationship with a wealthy scientist (Oliver Jackson Cohen), a woman (Elisabeth Moss) escapes from his controlling behavior. Hiding in fear of him finding her, she finds relief when the news reaches her that he has committed suicide. But soon after, she finds herself stalked by an unseen presence. Directed by Leigh Whannell. Despite the film's title, it owes very little to the H.G. Wells novel of the same name. Our protagonist here is female. This is a first rate horror film with an intelligent script that makes the unbelievable believable (at least while we're watching it). The movie has more on its mind than just shocks and scares (not that they aren't there). The psychology of mental (and physical) abuse and the damage it does to its victims is in the forefront. But the director knows not to turn it into a social message movie and turn the heroine into a helpless victim. The film is anchored by a potent performance by Moss. You can feel her frustration, anger, fear and rage. If they're going to continue to remake and reboot film classics, this is the way to go. With Aldis Hodge, Harriet Dyer, Storm Reid and Michael Dorman.
In Edwardian England, a spinster (Emma Thompson in an Oscar winning performance) befriends the wife (Vanessa Redgrave) of a wealthy businessman (Anthony Hopkins). After the wife's death, the husband finds himself attracted to her friend and proposes marriage. But extenuating circumstances begin to tear at their relationship including the new wife's younger sister (Helena Bonham Carter) who resents the husband's lackadaisical attitude toward the poor and more specifically, a young clerk (Samuel West) whose life has been devastated because of the husband's advice. Based on the novel by E. M. Forster and directed by James Ivory. The jewel in the Merchant/Ivory crown, HOWARDS END is near perfect. Every element falling into place: the acting, the screenplay, the cinematography, the score etc. for an exceptional cinematic experience. The scenes between Thompson and Redgrave are pure gold. Even though the film runs nearly 2 1/2 hours, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala's screenplay has no superfluous fat. It's only about halfway through the film that you begin to get an uncomfortable feeling that things aren't going to end well and they don't though the film's brief coda assuages the unpleasant feeling. With Nicola Duffett, James Wilby, Prunella Scales, Adrian Ross Magenty and Jemma Redgrave.