The co-founder (John Hamilton) of a chemical company fears his life is in danger. To this end, he seeks out a well known Chinese detective (Boris Karloff) to protect him. But on the morning of the day they are to meet, the businessman is killed. Based on a character from a magazine serial by Hugh Wiley and directed by William Nigh. Asian detective were fashionable in the 1930s with Charlie Chan and Mr. Moto at 20th Century Fox being the most popular. Boris Karloff cast his hat into the ring at the poverty row Monogram Pictures and the Mr. Wong franchise which saw him do five films between 1938 and 1940 before Keye Luke took over the role. This was the first film in the franchise and while Karloff brings a gracious dignity to the part, quite simply the series isn't as fun as the Chan or Moto movies. The writing isn't as good and the bargain basement cast (Karloff and Evelyn Brent being exceptions) can't disguise its poverty row origins. With Grant Withers, Maxine Jennings and George Lloyd.
A fledgling psychic (Peter Haskell) uses his newfound powers to help a disturbed young woman (Sharon Farrell, overacting shamelessly), who insists her brother has been murdered even though he's alive and well in London. Co-written by Henry Farrell (WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE?) and directed by Reza Badiyi. A formulaic thriller that was a feature length pilot for a potential television series that was never picked up. Haskell is as bland a leading man as one could find and he's a cipher while almost everyone else is acting up a storm around him. Joan Bennett as Haskell's aunt is subdued but her very presence dwarfs him. The solution to the movie's "mystery" is obvious to anyone who has ever watched mysteries on a regular basis. The film has no credited score but they've recycled Henry Mancini's underscore to WAIT UNTIL DARK and its use is adequate. With Barbara Rush, Bradford Dillman and Adam West.
A former concert pianist (Charles Aznavour) now plays piano in a neighborhood dive. A complex past history has him retreating into himself but the waitress (Marie Dubois) at the bar begins to bring him out of his shell. Based on the novel DOWN THERE by David Goodis and directed by Francois Truffaut. This follow up to Truffaut's acclaimed THE 400 BLOWS is a totally different cinematic experience. It's a pastiche (unlike the novel which is straightforward) of film styles: film noir, comedy, romance, thriller, tragedy yet somehow it all fits together. It's Truffaut's valentine to American pulp film making. Aznavour's protagonist is weak and held together by the women in his life. When his attempt at rejoining the world backfires terribly, the film's haunting final shot pretty much makes it clear that he's emotionally dead. The underscore is Georges Delerue at his finest. With Nicole Berger, Michele Mercier, Daniel Boulanger and Albert Remy.
A group of incarcerated juvenile delinquents (Sean Roche, Ron Lake, Robert Cokjlat) with the help of a teenage girl (Kerry Lynn) on the outside plan the daring robbery of an armored car. The driver (Ralph Meeker, who's also one of the movie's producers) of the armored car is the father of one of the boys (Roche). Directed by Bethel Buckalew, previously known for directing such classics as THE DIRTY MIND OF YOUNG SALLY, COUNTRY CUZZINS, MIDNITE PLOWBOY and THE PIG KEEPER'S DAUGHTER. Bloody awful doesn't begin to describe it! Although top billed, Meeker, Ida Lupino and Lloyd Nolan play second fiddle to the juvenile leads whose acting is atrocious. Three of the four never acted again and one gave up acting to beccome a writer which says it all. The film is yet another film in which juvenile delinquents are portrayed as misunderstood and it's all the grown ups' fault for not understanding them and giving them enough love! There's also an unpleasant misogynist undercurrent to the film as the only two women in the movie, Lupino and Lynn, are portrayed as rotten to the core. Stunt drivers got a lot of work on this one. With David Doyle and Brice Coefield.
Set in Budapest, two sales clerks in a quality leather goods shop get off on the wrong foot and have an antagonistic relationship. Meanwhile, he (James Stewart) is engaged in a through the mail relationship with a young woman who he hopes to meet soon. What he and she (Margaret Sullavan) don't know is that she is the woman he has been corresponding with. Based on the play PARFUMERIE by Miklos Lazslo and directed by Ernest Lubitsch (NINOTCHKA). This delightful confection is one of cinema's greatest romantic comedies. The screenplay by Samson Raphaelson is sharp and droll, the chemistry between Sullavan and Stewart is palpable and Lubitsch's "touch" evident in almost every frame. It's rare to get a romcom so artfully intelligent, this is a real treasure. Remade as a musical in 1949 (IN THE GOOD OLD SUMMERTIME), a Broadway musical in 1963 (SHE LOVES ME) and an updated version in 1998 (YOU'VE GOT MAIL) but never equaled. With Frank Morgan (perhaps his best performance), Joseph Schildkraut, Felix Bressart, Sara Haden, William Tracy and Inez Courtney.
A 30 year old woman (Carey Mulligan) has a dead end job at a coffee shop and still lives at home with her parents (Clancy Brown, Jennifer Coolidge). But she was once a promising medical student who dropped out of medical school when her best friend now deceased, also a medical student, was raped while intoxicated while others stood by and watched. Written and directed by Emerald Fennell in her feature film directorial debut. There's nothing more thrilling than watching an actor give a totally unexpected performance that seems to come out of nowhere. As an actress, Carey Mulligan's career has been uneven, ranging from excellence (AN EDUCATION) to weak (her Daisy in THE GREAT GATSBY). But nothing prepared me for this fierce performance simmering with rage. I only wish the film equaled her performance which is a career best. Don't get me wrong, it's a very good film but there are weaknesses like yet another pop song playing over a montage of cute romantic moments between Mulligan and Bo Burnham. There's a satisfying clever (perhaps too clever) finale which somewhat offsets the downbeat ending but Fennell never lets up on the attack on a male dominated society which marginalizes women and sides with men. With Alison Brie, Laverne Cox, Chris Lowell, Connie Britton, Molly Shannon, Alfred Molina and Max Greenfield.
Set during WWI, two French aviators, an aristocratic Captain (Pierre Fresnay) and a working class Lieutenant (Jean Gabin) are shot down over Germany. In the prisoner of war camp they're assigned to, they meet a disparate group of French and English prisoners. Directed by Jean Renoir (RULES OF THE GAME). As film lovers, we all have blind spots when it comes to certain revered classic films and I must confess GRAND ILLUSION is one of mine. I don't dislike it, far from it but I can't drum up much enthusiasm for it either. There were moments watching the film where I wished I was watching THE GREAT ESCAPE instead. If that makes me a Philistine, so be it. But Renoir's movie inevitably shows up on any list of the greatest films ever made. Renoir's emphasis isn't on the POW escape but on how war breaks down social classes and weakens it to the point that it can never be the same after the war is over. The aristocratic officers of Fresnay and Erich von Stroheim as the German commandant are a dying breed and it's the working class like Gabin's mechanic that will survive the war. My favorite sequence in the film is the interlude with the farm widow (Dita Parlo) which brings an elegiac close to the film. The acting is impeccable. I just wish I liked it better. With Marcel Dalio, Julien Carette and Jean Daste.
Set in the Soviet Union, a young girl (Linda Hamilton) from a small village is recruited by the KGB as an English translator. However, when she reports for training, it soon becomes clear that she is being groomed to be a spy for the KGB and expected to seduce American officials and businessmen to obtain information. Loosely based on the non fiction book SEXPIONAGE: THE EXPLOITATION OF SEX BY SOVIET INTELLIGENCE by David Lewis and directed by Don Taylor (DAMIEN: OMEN II). This tawdry exploitation film was made for television so it doesn't get the chance to to go all the way so it's not as much lurid fun as it should be. It wants to titillate us without going softcore. It takes itself much too seriously to be "camp". The actors acquit themselves nicely with Sally Kellerman as the hard nosed head of the spy school standing above the pack. The cast includes Geena Davis (whose character suddenly disappears without any explanation), Viveca Lindfors, James Franciscus, Christopher Atkins, Barrie Ingham and Hunt Block.
After escaping from an African country where he spent two years in prison for attempting to assassinate its President (Pierre Saintons), a French secret service agent (Jean Paul Belmondo) returns to France with revenge on his mind as he seeks to get the men who sold him out. Based on the novel DEATH OF A THIN SKINNED ANIMAL by Patrick Alexander and directed by Georges Lautner (ROAD TO SALINA). This is a solid if not very credible action thriller with the always charismatic Belmondo commanding the screen. We can't help but be complicit in his vengeance gone amok even if Belmondo's character is less than noble but to the film's credit, its downbeat ending is more realistic than the usual Hollywood heroics. The film is sloppy in some areas. Belmondo's rogue agent would surely be recognizable with his picture in the newspapers and most certainly with law enforcement yet he seems to move throughout the city with ease. By now, a car chase in a movie of this sort is a given and they're usually of the standard variety but there's a corker of a car chase in this one. The underscore is by Ennio Morricone. With Robert Hossein, Bernard Pierre Donnadieu, Jean Desailly, Elisabeth Margoni, Cyrielle Clair, Michel Beaune and a nice turn by Marie Christine Descouard as a call girl.
On the first Sunday in May, the cast and musicians of the just opened Stephen Sondheim Broadway musical COMPANY gather to record the cast album. The exhausting marathon session goes into the wee hours of the following Monday. Directed by D.A. Pennebaker, this superb documentary serves as a record of not only a groundbreaking musical but of what it was like to record these albums in the era before musicals began using pre-recorded tracks. For lovers of the Broadway musical, this documentary is indispensable. The behind the scenes tension and drama, the exhausted performers struggling to perform as their tired voices are on the verge of failing them are all on display. The film's highlight is Elaine Stritch's performance of The Ladies Who Lunch just before dawn and try as she might, her voice gives out and she just can't do it so she is forced to return a couple of days later when her voice is refreshed and she knocks it out of the ballpark. In addition to Stritch, the COMPANY cast includes Dean Jones (who would leave the show 30 days after it opened), Barbara Barrie, Donna McKechnie, Charles Kimbrough, George Coe, Beth Howland, Teri Ralston, Charles Braswell as well as its creators: composer Stephen Sondheim, director Harold Prince and the book's author George Furth.
On the day of her wedding to a Duke (Claud Allister), the bride (Jeanette MacDonald) leaves him at the altar and flees to Monte Carlo. Penniless, she meets a Count (Jack Buchanan) who poses as a hairdresser while he woos her. Based on the play THE BLUE COAST by Hans Muller Einigen and directed by Ernst Lubitsch. Another of the saucy and witty musical innovations that Lubitsch did in the early pre-code 1930s. The stage star Jack Buchanan (some 23 years before his triumph in THE BAND WAGON) steps in for Maurice Chevalier and he's charming. Jeanette MacDonald is in top form and sexy in her satin slips and form fitting negligees. When she went to MGM and they paired her with the stolid Nelson Eddy in those cloying operettas, that sex appeal disappeared and she atrophied. The songs by Richard Whiting and W. Franke Harling are clever and even spawned a hit song, Beyond The Blue Horizon. A sterling example of what is referred to as the Lubitsch touch. With Zasu Pitts and Tyler Brooke.
When Mississippi secedes from the Union and the Civil War begins, a land baron (Ward Bond) declares his property neutral and independent of the state of Mississippi. Naturally, this does not sit well with the Confederacy. Based on the novel by James H. Street and directed by George Marshall (DESTRY RIDES AGAIN). Susan Hayward was one of many actresses that were tested for the role of Scarlett O'Hara in GONE WITH THE WIND (1939). She didn't get the part but as Bond's daughter, this movie is as close as she ever got to her own Scarlett O'Hara. The most refreshing thing about the film is the absence of nostalgia for the Old South which permeated so many of the films of its era. The film's plot is loosely based on the true story of a farmer who attempted to secede from Mississippi which was made into a film called THE FREE STATE OF JONES in 2016. Shot in luminous three strip Technicolor, it's an enjoyable entertainment although the film's final battle between the Confederacy and the land owners goes on too long. With Van Heflin, Boris Karloff, Julie London, Richard Long, Ruby Dandridge and Whitfield Connor.
The general manager (Charlton Heston) of a large circus struggles to keep the wolves at bay. To this end, he hires a world class trapeze artist (Cornel Wilde) which antagonizes the current trapeze headliner (Betty Hutton) who must surrender the center ring to the newcomer. Directed by Cecil B. DeMille, this Oscar winning (best picture) movie is a valentine to the circus. The only problem is that not everyone is as enamored of the circus as DeMille. The film runs over 2 1/2 hours but if you eliminated all the circus acts, it would easily be under two hours. The storyline is simplistic but it's colorful and unlike the circus sequences, the dramatic portions are watchable. DeMille's narration reeks of pomposity, you'd think he was reading out loud from the bible! The film does have one (literally) smashing sequence, a train crash that's pretty spectacular. As cinema, it doesn't hold up well today and its best picture Oscar win is inexplicable. The large cast includes James Stewart, Gloria Grahame, Dorothy Lamour, Mona Freeman, Edmond O'Brien, Lyle Bettger, Lawrence Tierney, Nancy Gates, Bing Crosby and Bob Hope.
After an auto accident that left him paralyzed from the shoulders down, an architect (Christopher Reeve) applies his trade from his loft flat but he begins observing his neighbors across the way from his wheelchair. When a sculptor (Ritchie Coster) and his wife (Allison Mackie) have a violent argument and she suddenly disappears, the architect suspects the sculptor has done away with his wife. Based on the short story IT HAD TO BE MURDER (previously filmed in 1954 by Alfred Hitchcock) by Cornell Woolrich and directed by Jeff Bleckner. If the 1954 classic Hitchcock had never existed, this would be a better than average TV movie but the Hitchcock film does exist so it's almost impossible not to compare the two films. This production eliminates all of the stories involving the neighbors which gave texture to the 1954 film and instead focuses just on the wife killer. There's also an absence of humor here. I never thought I'd say it but Thelma Ritter's wisecracking nurse is sorely missed and she's replaced by a Jamaican male nurse (Ruben Santiago Hudson) who's not as amusing. The film's strength is Christopher Reeve, here returning to acting for the first time since the riding accident that left him permanently paralyzed. His performance, not surprisingly, has the ring of authenticity and there's genuine anxiety as he's terrorized by the villain. David Shire's score keeps the suspense quotient high. With Daryl Hannah (in the Grace Kelly role), Robert Forster (in the Wendell Corey part) and Anne Twomey.
A jet setting playboy (Alex Cord) has a secret life. He's also an assassin for the Mafia. But when he decides to retire, the mob won't let him. Based on the novel by Harold Robbins (THE CARPETBAGGERS) and directed by Bernard L. Kowalski (KRAKATOA EAST OF JAVA). Who else but Robbins would make a hero out of a rapist and assassin? The film is a crime/action movie set among the beautiful people without a protagonist to root for. Cord's nemesis is a Manhattan federal prosecutor (Patrick O'Neal) but his tactics are highly unethical and ultimately renders him no better than Cord's hitman. The film benefits from Jack Priestley's attractive lensing of the Puerto Rican locations and the eye candy provided by Britt Ekland and Barbara McNair as Cord's romantic interests. As a piece of pulp cinema, it goes down easily enough but one would be hard pressed to remember it a few months later. The huge cast is crammed with familiar faces including Roy Scheider, Raul Julia, Olympia Dukakis, Joseph Wiseman, Charles Durning, Eduardo Ciannelli, John Dehner and M. Emmet Walsh.
Set in WWII Italy, a lazy private (Paul Newman) is constantly escaping from army stockades before he eventually gets caught and sent back to the guardhouse. With his talent for escaping, the Army decides to use his particular talent to help five Allied generals escape from an Italian villa where they are being held as POWs. So they temporarily promote him to General and let him get caught by the Italian military and sent to the very same Italian villa. Directed by Jack Smight (HARPER), I'm not a fan of war comedies (is war ever funny?) in general and this tepid comedy plays out like a TV sitcom. It's not as bad as HOGAN'S HEROES (what could be?) and the Nazis are not portrayed as comic buffoons, they're real Nazis. This may be Paul Newman's worst performance. Let's face it, comedy is not his forte. This is the kind of role that a James Garner could do effortlessly. Here, you can't help but be conscious of Newman trying hard to be funny. But even Garner couldn't make this a better movie, just more tolerable. This being a Universal film, "Italy" is the Universal backlot with a Southern California villa standing in for the Italian villa. With the lovely Sylva Koscina, James Gregory, John Williams, Andrew Duggan, Tom Bosley, Charles Gray, Buck Henry and Vito Scotti.
A radio crime reporter (Bob Hope) mistakenly thinks he's shot a man and hides in the trunk of a an attractive girl (Paulette Goddard) who's going to Havana on a ship. The girl has inherited a supposedly haunted castle off the coast of Cuba. Based on the play by Paul Dickey and Charles W. Goddard and directed by George Marshall (HOW THE WEST WAS WON). One of the classic examples of the horror comedy, it may not be as hilarious as ABBOTT & COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN but it's still a great deal of fun. It's not a Bob Hope vehicle as such since much of the focus is on Goddard's character and Hope is off screen frequently. As Hope's valet, Willie Best has his best screen role but it's still a stereotypical portrayal and the racial humor uncomfortable to contemporary audiences. In another case of a director remaking his own film, Marshall directed a remake of GHOST BREAKERS retitled SCARED STIFF in 1953 with Dean Martin in the Bob Hope role and Jerry Lewis in the Willie Best role. With Anthony Quinn, Paul Lukas, Richard Carlson and Paul Fix.
An elderly man (Anthony Hopkins) suffering from dementia lives in a state of constant confusion and paranoia as his daughter (Olivia Colman) attempts to balance her personal life with taking care of him. Based on the play LE PERE by Florian Zeller who adapted his play for the screen (along with Christopher Hampton) and directed it. Frankly, I wasn't looking forward to watching this. There have been many films already dealing with the subject of dementia and Alzheimer's like AWAY FROM HER (which I liked) and STILL ALICE (which I didn't). But I was riveted to the screen from the very start. Unlike other films on the subject, Zeller throws us right into Hopkins' world so we can feel the confusion and panic of losing one's memory and worst of all, the record of our life receding away. When Hopkins asked, "Who am I?", I couldn't hold back tears. Hopkins is nothing short of sensational here and he gets good support from Oliva Colman (not an actress I'm particularly fond of) as his daughter. This isn't a sentimental tearjerker, it's a powerful experience and if the tears come, they're honest tears, not manipulated. With Olivia Williams, Rufus Sewell, Imogen Poots and Mark Gatiss.
Set in the Italian city of Verona, two warring families are warned by the city's Prince (Robert Stephens) that any future violence will have harsh consequences. When the son (Leonard Whiting) and the daughter (Olivia Hussey) from opposing families fall in love, it will lead to tragedy. Based on the play by William Shakespeare and directed by Franco Zeffirelli (TEA WITH MUSSOLINI). Quite possibly the most popular Shakespeare film adaptation (at least in terms of box office success), the movie is lush and rich thanks to Pasqualino De Santis' cinematography, Danilo Donati's costumes, Nino Rota's lovely score and Zeffirelli's staging of the ball where Romeo and Juliet meet and the swordfights are excellent. When an actress lamented that she never played Juliet and was now too old, Dame Sybil Thorndike once said, "You can never be too old to play Juliet, just too young" and that's the problem here. Quite simply, although they are the perfect ages (Whiting was 17, Hussey was 16), they are inadequate in the acting department. This is a Shakespearean tragedy but they read their lines without seeming to comprehend the intensity of passion and the poetry of the language. This isn't a tragedy, it's Shakespeare puppy love. With Michael York, John McEnery (in the film's best performance), Milo O'Shea, Pat Heywood, Natasha Parry and Paul Hardwick.
With a second hand trumpet and the mentoring of a brilliant bluesman (Juano Hernandez), a young boy (Orley Lindgren) grows up into a great trumpet player (Kirk Douglas). But personal demons prevent him from enjoying his success. Based on the novel by Dorothy Baker (itself inspired by the life of Cornet great Bix Beiderbecke) and directed by Michael Curtiz (CASABLANCA). As far as movie bios go, this one is a bit better than average but once again, the usual cliches rear their head. The film even eschews the book's downbeat ending for the typical Hollywood happy ending. The most interesting character in the film is Douglas's bitter bisexual wife (Lauren Bacall) whose unhappiness with her own life causes her to destroy other people's lives. Both Douglas who brings his usual intensity and Bacall are perfectly cast. The third lead, Doris Day's band vocalist doesn't have much to do as an actress but we're treated to several songs sung in her inimitable style. With Hoagy Carmichael, Mary Beth Hughes and Jerome Cowan.
Two newspaper reporters are writing stories about drug trafficking in Japan but while one (Kodaka Yuji) is content to report the news, the other (Nagato Hiroyuki) becomes part of the story when he unethically mixes in with the underworld. Directed by Seijun Suzuki (GATE OF FLESH). I'm a fan of Suzuki's work but even the greatest directors come up with a dud or two in their filmographies and this is the case here. It's watchable but the whole thing seemed for a lack of a better word ..... amateurish. Hiroyuki's character is ill defined. He's no better really than the drug smugglers he's trying to expose. Just one example: when his sister (Shimizu Mayumi) is kidnapped and subjected to rape because drug smugglers want some information from him, he refuses to aid her rather than talk. Yet by the film's end, we're expected to respect him for doing it "his way". At least, that's the way I read it. Suzuki's visuals are lacking here and while many of his movies lack argumentation and are more focused on style, it doesn't work here. With Nakahara Sanae and Takashina Kaku.
A college professor (Don Ameche) has written a book on jealousy which he believes has no place in modern marriages. This upsets his wife (Rosalind Russell) because she feels jealousy shows that she is loved. When the publisher (Van Heflin) of the professor's book shows a romantic interest in her, she attempts to make her husband jealous. Directed by W.S. Van Dyke (THE THIN MAN), this rather dire comedy espouses the dubious theory that jealousy in a relationship is healthy. Rosalind Russell is one of the great screen comediennes but she's off course here. She's best at playing strong, smart confident women and here she's playing an unconfident (and often whiny) wife who needs her husband to punch any man who flirts with her to prove he loves her. She's even delighted when her husband drags her through the forest (think THE QUIET MAN) like a caveman. It's embarrassing! If there were some wit to the proceedings, we could excuse the outdated sexual politics but there's none to be found. With Kay Francis, Sidney Blackmer, Henry Daniell and Donald Meek.
A middle aged gay man (Woody Harrelson) is known in Washington D.C. circles as a "walker". A single man who escorts married ladies to social events. He's a confidante to several political wives and they play cards once a week at an exclusive private club. But when a murder turns into a political scandal, he finds himself adrift and on his own. Written and directed by Paul Schrader (AMERICAN GIGOLO). If you enjoy a good conspiracy political thriller then this minor entry in the subgenre should please you. While the film received good reviews in Europe, it was barely released in the U.S. which is a pity. Harrelson is very good and a trio of actresses (Kristin Scott Thomas, Lauren Bacall, Lily Tomlin) are also fine as his social circle. It works just fine as a political thriller but it also works as a character study of a marginalized gay man who becomes a social pariah and discovers that in Washington D.C., when friends have used up their usefulness that doors start closing. There's a nice score by Anne Dudley. With Willem Dafoe, Mary Beth Hurt, Ned Beatty and Moritz Bleibtreu.
A brash and arrogant American athlete (Robert Taylor) receives a scholarship to attend the University of Oxford in England. His cocky Yank manner turns off his fellow British students and he starts to make more enemies than friends. Directed by Jack Conway (LIBELED LADY), this MGM production actually went to Great Britain to film it rather than shoot it on the studio backlot. It's an agreeable clash of cultures romantic comedy with an appealing cast. It's really no more than another college comedy but the British setting gives it a unique atmosphere. There's a scene stealer in the film and that would be the cat eyed Vivien Leigh as a married woman having an affair with an Oxford student (Griffith Jones). The very next year she would be cast as a Southern belle in a Civil War epic and become a screen icon. With Maureen O'Sullivan, Lionel Barrymore, Edmund Gwenn, Robert Coote and Edward Rigby.
A down on his luck Hollywood director (Mel Brooks) is trying to make a comeback by making a silent movie but no movie studio is interested except a studio in danger of being taken over an evil conglomerate. The failing studio's head (Sid Caesar) says he will back the film if the director can cast it with big movie stars. Directed by Mel Brooks, this affectionate parody of silent comedies is so eager that you're rooting for it to succeed and it does although it wobbles near the end. Ironically, some 36 years later there would be a silent film (THE ARTIST) released that would go on to win a best picture Oscar. Brooks' movie is filled with sight gags, pratfalls and a congenial zaniness. It's not the kind of movie with hysterical laughs but there's bound to be a continuous grin on your face throughout. The film has some cameos by Paul Newman, Burt Reynolds, Anne Bancroft, Liza Minnelli, James Caan and Marcel Marceau and they all appear to be having a ball at the chance of being silly. John Morris provides an effective underscore to accompany the hijinks. With Bernadette Peters, Marty Feldman, Dom DeLuise, Harold Gould, Ron Carey and Yvonne Wilder.
After the questionable suicide of a co-worker (Saul Rubinek), a Madison Avenue advertising executive (Lee Majors) becomes suspicious of the new boss (Robert Mitchum) who has recently acquired the company. Based on the novel by Paul Gottlieb and directed by George Kaczender. A rather wan conspiracy thriller with an intriguing storyline but the screenplay is a botch. A good conspiracy thriller (think THE PARALLAX VIEW or THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR) should keep you unsettled and on the edge of your seat. But the inadequacies in this movie draw attention to the loopholes and silly dialogue. Lee Majors is one of those actors who seems just fine in TV roles but lackluster when he's on the big screen and quite simply, he's just not believable as a Madison Avenue hotshot. Mitchum coasts along in the movie (it's a paycheck job) but he's Robert Mitchum and he can afford to do that. I've not read Gottlieb's novel but I suspect this could use a remake with stronger talent involved. With Valerie Perrine and Jonathan Welsh.
A nightclub singer (Janis Paige) falls in love with a no good gambler (Zachary Scott). When he kills a fellow gambler (Sheldon Leonard), he goes on the lam to Florida while she goes to New York. It's there she meets a newspaper reporter (Dane Clark) and they begin a romantic relationship ..... until the gambler reenters her life. Directed by Frederick De Cordova (BEDTIME FOR BONZO), I was turned off by all the film's major characters. All of them either corrupt, enabling corruption or looking the other way. I don't have much sympathy for women (or men) like Paige's character who fall for scumbags and ignore their crimes or wimpy men like Dane Clark's character who follow a woman around like a pet poodle when she's clearly in love with another man. Even the film's most sympathetic characters, Scott's sister (Faye Emerson) and brother in law (George Tobias) while not criminal are complicit. It would need a better script and stronger direction to lift it out of the routine. The most interesting character is Harry Lewis' (possibly gay) thug who seems to have a crush on Scott which proves to be his undoing.
Set in 1962 Hong Kong, a journalist (Tony Leung) and a secretary (Maggie Cheung) who live next door to each other discover their spouses are having an affair. Often left alone by their spouses, they begin spending time with each other. Written and directed by Wong Kar Wai (2046). Like David Lean's BRIEF ENCOUNTER (1945), this is a bittersweet romance that is never consummated though much more luscious in its execution (immeasurably aided by the cinematography of Christopher Doyle and Mark Lee Ping Bin). Much of the film's power comes from what remains unsaid but the beautifully subtle and excellent performances of Leung (who won the Cannes film festival's best actor award) and Cheung (looking exquisite in her gorgeous William Chang costumes) allow us to see the emotional arc their characters are living through. Wong's understated direction never pushes but lets the simplicity (but not simple) of its narrative carry us to its poignant conclusion. A one of a kind movie romance. With Rebecca Pan, Kelly Lai Chen and Joe Cheung.
After 14 years of forced labor in a prison camp, a Kazakhstan journalist (Sacha Baron Cohen) is released to go to America with a gift of a monkey porn actor for then vice president Michael Pence. But when the monkey's crate arrives in the U.S., the monkey is dead and instead the journalist's daughter (Maria Bakalova) in in the crate. Directed by Jason Woliner, this is a sequel to the 2006 BORAT. As a mockumentary, the film is uneven. Cohen frequently crosses the line from outrageous humor to bad taste but I confess, I laughed. Normally, I'm uncomfortable with the idea of filming people who don't know they're being made fun of or ridiculed but in this case, they deserved to be. It's a political satire on reactionary American culture and some scenes although funny are infuriating to watch like the pastor of a pregnancy crisis center more concerned with preventing an abortion than the fact that a father impregnated his teenage daughter. The film allows the humanity of two of its filmed "victims" to shine through: a Holocaust survivor who attempts to educate Borat on his anti Semitic views and a black babysitter who takes Borat's daughter under her wing and encourages her to stand on her own two feet. In addition to its biting satire on conservative American culture, the film focuses on the daughter's emergence from a destructive patriarchal culture to a feminist leader. As the daughter, Maria Bakalova received sterling reviews and justifiably so, she's a real find.
The publisher (Jerome Cowan) of a woman's magazine forces a writer (Robert Montgomery) on the editor (Bette Davis) of the magazine. The two have a romantic past that didn't end well and she fends off his renewed advances when the two travel to Indiana to do a story on a small town wedding. Based on the play FEATURE FOR JUNE by Eileen Tighe and Graeme Lorimar and directed by Bretaigne Windust, a theatre director (FINIAN'S RAINBOW, STATE OF THE UNION) who only did a handful of films. When one thinks of 1940s romantic comedy, one doesn't think of Bette Davis. Her previous two films, DECEPTION and WINTER MEETING, didn't do well at the box office so Warners thought putting her in a romcom might up her ante and they were right, the movie was a modest hit. But the wit isn't there and Davis looks uncomfortable in the part though to be honest I don't think a Jean Arthur or Rosalind Russell would have made it a better movie. Being a 1940s film, of course Davis tosses her career aside for being a good little wife and following her man around the world while he's doing his job. With Fay Bainter, Barbara Bates, Tom Tully, Betty Lynn, Marjorie Bennett, Mary Wickes (who manages the few laughs available) and in her film debut, an uncredited Debbie Reynolds though you'd be hard pressed to find her.
A rough talking newspaper editor (Clark Gable) fires the snooty society dame (Constance Bennett) working as the paper's music critic. But he rehires her when he sees she can be useful to the paper in opening the door to New York society. They can't stand each other so naturally they fall in love. Written by Herman Mankiewicz (CITIZEN KANE) and directed by Robert Z. Leonard (ZIEGFELD GIRL). Newspaper settings with rapid fire talking editors and wisecracking reporters were a staple of 1930s cinema. This minor entry in the subgenre has its charms, notably the pairing of Gable and Bennett who show how important star power can be to a trifling romantic comedy. There's an added murder mystery element although since we know who the murderer is, it's not so much a mystery as waiting to see when and how he's caught. Audiences liked it enough to make a profit for MGM and it remains a good example of solid film making in the studio system. With Billie Burke doing her patented ditzy act as Bennett's mother, Harvey Stephens, Katharine Alexander, Henry Travers and William Demarest.
A documentary on the life and career of dancer Gwen Verdon, often considered the greatest dancer of her generation on the Broadway stage. Directed by Ken Bloom and Chris Johnson, the movie follows her journey from a childhood suffering from rickets and wearing orthopaedic boots to a four time Tony winning Broadway legend. The rare footage of home movies and clips of her Broadway, film (she made her dancing film debut in 1936) and TV appearances including interviews with those worked with her like Chita Rivera, Tab Hunter and Helen Gallagher as well as her daughter (Nicole Fosse) and son (James Henagan) all make for an engrossing trek. Of course, Bob Fosse is heavily included but make no mistake about it, this is all about Verdon. I was fortunate enough to see Verdon in the original company of CHICAGO and words to describe her dancing are inadequate, you have to see it and in this respect alone, this documentary is worth a viewing.
An upper class housewife (Carrie Snodgress in an Oscar nominated performance) is stuck in a marriage to a self centered social climbing attorney (Richard Benjamin) and has two undisciplined brats (Lorraine Cullen, Frannie Michel) for daughters. So she embarks on a casual affair with a narcissistic and sadistic writer (Frank Langella). Based on the novel by Sue Kaufman and directed by Frank Perry (MOMMIE DEAREST). Oy! What a specimen of its era this is! The film is a satire, at least on some level, it has to be. Benjamin's husband from Hell isn't a recognizable human being, he's a monstrous cartoon. And what are we to make of a woman who goes from that into the bed of Langella's bitchy mean spirited narcissist? When it was released, the film was acclaimed as a feminist breakthrough in cinema but today, what holds it together is a superb central performance by Snodgress. While everyone else around her is a caricature, Snodgress remains real and her character is one we latch onto like a life preserver. After this film, Snodgress was on the verge of a major career but alas, not unlike Diane Varsi, she walked away from Hollywood and when she decided to come back, the momentum was gone and that promise unfulfilled. With Peter Boyle, Katherine Meskill and the Alice Cooper band.
A rather self absorbed father (Sacha Guitry) is rather indifferent to his 10 year old son (Serge Grave). But after his wife (Betty Daussmond) abandons him and their child, he becomes a more loving parent. Jump 20 years and he and his now grown son (Paul Bernard) have a good relationship but the effects of his mother's abandonment are beginning to show. Based on the 1919 play by Sacha Guitry and adapted for the screen and directed by Guitry. It took quite awhile for me to warm up to this comedy of manners and it was only when the narrative jumped 20 years that I began to enjoy the movie. Guitry doesn't bother to hide the film's theatrical origins. The entire film takes place on one set, the father's study. It's a talky piece with some genuine wit though the film's attitude toward women range from dated to downright misogynistic. With Gaston Dubosc and Jacqueline Delubac.
Continuing the path of revenge she began after emerging from a four year coma, a woman (Uma Thurman) known as The Bride has three more people on her list: a one eyed assassin (Daryl Hannah), a burnt out assassin (Michael Madsen) now working as a bouncer in a strip club and the leader of the assassin group called Bill (David Carradine). Written and directed by Quentin Tarantino, this isn't a sequel but the conclusion to KILL BILL VOL. 1 from the year before. Originally intended as one film, its over four hour running time necessitated splitting it into two parts. Alas, the second half is weaker than the first volume. There's more dead space which there wasn't in the first one. Perhaps the biggest problem is that we finally get to meet Bill here and David Carradine is a disappointment. He's not a strong enough presence or charismatic enough to make us believe that he could install such fear and/or loyalty. Warren Beatty was first announced for the part and what a coup that would have been since he has both a strong screen presence and the necessary charisma. Still, it's good enough and there's a spectacular fight between Thurman and Hannah that's thrilling. As usual, Tarantino's choice of music is impeccable. With Michael Parks, Gordon Liu, Bo Svenson and Samuel L. Jackson.
Set in the Old West, young girls are dying of a mysterious disease in a small town. Is it only coincidence that the appearance of a black clad gunfighter (Michael Pate) coincides with these deaths? Co-written and directed by Edward Dein (THE LEECH WOMAN), this unusual combination of horror movie and a western is enough to hold one's interest through much of its running time. Handsomely shot in atmospheric B&W by Ellis W. Carter (THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN), I found the film's vampire gunfighter a rather sympathetic figure and more engaging than his nemesis, the town's sanctimonious preacher (Eric Fleming). The tone of the film is somber and the actors play it straight so it never veers toward "camp" although reputedly it was originally going to be a satire. Still, it never lives up to its potential and remains a "what might have been" endeavor. The cheesy underscore by Irving Gertz does the film no service. With Kathleen Crowley, Edward Binns, Helen Kleeb and Bruce Gordon.
As war clouds hover over Europe, an American newspaper journalist (Joel McCrea) witnesses the assassination of a Dutch diplomat (Albert Basserman). Suddenly he finds himself thrust into a nest of spies, traitors and a conspiracy plot as he keeps dodging their attempts to kill him. Loosely based on the war memoir PERSONAL HISTORY by Vincent Sheean and directed by Alfred Hitchcock. This was his follow up to his Oscar winning REBECCA. Europe was already at war while the U.S. was still isolationist though it seemed inevitable that we would eventually be at war too. This was clearly a propaganda effort to encourage Americans to get their heads out of the sand. Reputedly, Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels called it a masterpiece of propaganda. But if you're going to make a war propaganda movie, this is the way to do it. It's a terrific entertainment and so gripping that you barely notice or mind that you're being preached to. The film has many thrilling moments but Hitchcock's set piece is a spectacular air crash into the sea that still packs a punch some 80 years later! With Laraine Day, George Sanders, Herbert Marshall, Edmund Gwenn, Robert Benchley (who had a hand in the script), Eduardo Ciannelli, Harry Davenport and Eily Malyon.
An American geologist (Sam Waterston) working in Turkey discovers a major oil deposit in the mountains. But after several attempts are made on his life, it becomes clear someone wants this information withheld. On a dilapidated boat sailing from Turkey to Italy, the geologist's fellow passengers are a suspicious lot and he suspects one of them is an assassin. But which one? Based on the novel by Eric Ambler (previously made into a 1943 film) and directed by Daniel Mann (THE ROSE TATTOO). An incoherent international thriller that benefits from its attractive Turkish and Greek locations although the interiors were filmed in Canada. The 1943 version which had a script by Orson Welles, who played the Colonel Haki role (played here by Joseph Wiseman), was pretty much a mess too although that may have been due to studio interference. For the longest time, we're kept in the dark about why Waterston's character is being chased but by the time we find out, we don't much care anymore. Even the normally reliable Alex North can only give us a generic action score way below his standards. The large cast includes Shelley Winters (wasted), Vincent Price (who has a spectacular death), Zero Mostel (overacting shamelessly), Yvette Mimieux, Donald Pleasence, Ian McShane, Stanley Holloway and Jackie Cooper, who is credited but his part seems to have ended up on the cutting room floor.
A transgender "hostess" (Peter) at a gay nightclub is romantically involved with the club's owner (Yoshio Tsuchiya) which infuriates the club's manager (Osamu Ogasawara), a drag queen who is also romantically involved with the club owner. Very loosely adapted from Sophocles' OEDIPUS REX and directed by Toshio Matsumoto. An example of the Japanese New Wave but very much a unique look at the underground gay culture of 1960s Tokyo. I couldn't help but be reminded of the films of Jean Luc Godard as I watched. Matsumoto never lets us forget that we are watching a movie as he interrupts the film's narrative with documentary interviews with gay men, transgender persons and drag queens as well as newsreel footage, artificially speeding up the action and showing the camera filming the movie we are viewing. It's experimental film making and if you're the type that prefers a straight narrative, it may well drive you batty. The film is a product of its era. While it's daring and innovative, the gay lifestyle as shown in the film is pretty depressing. They're all miserable and the ending is a total downer. Peter (aka Shinnosuke Ikehata) is best known to western audiences for playing the fool in Kurosawa's RAN. A must see for anyone remotely interested in gay cinema.
Set in the 1980s, a Korean immigrant (Steven Yuen) and his wife (Han Ye-Ri) relocate from California to Arkansas with their two children (Alan Kim, Noel Kate Cho) to better their lives. He has purchased some land where he plans to farm. Written and directed by Lee Isaac Chung, this semi autobiographical tale shows the power of simplicity. With the exception of a fire toward the end, the film doesn't have any major melodramatics. It simply unfolds in a frugal manner while it lets the distinct dynamics of its characters take center stage. The ensemble acting is flawless with Youn Yuh-Jung's performance as the grandmother a particular standout. The Asian American experience in cinema has been erratic (at least in mainstream cinema) over the last several decades but this film is a testament to the talent (the film editor, costume designer, production designer are also Asian) that's out there. While the film is a chronicle of the Asian American experience as it pertains to one family, the family fluctuation is universal. With Will Patton and Esther Oh.
An American heiress (Betty Grable) and a South American playboy (Don Ameche) find their romance threatened by an old family feud. Thing aren't helped by their going behind his father's (Henry Stephenson) back and racing the father's prize jumping horse. Directed by Irving Cummings (THE DOLLY SISTERS), this featherweight vivid Technicolor musical was Betty Grable's first starring role and the beginning of her reign as the biggest female star of the 1940s placing ten times in the top box office polls (a feat later equaled by Doris Day, Barbra Streisand and Julia Roberts but not surpassed). South American music was all the rage in the 1940s and the film's "exotic" locale (although entirely filmed in Hollywood) and Carmen Miranda in her American film debut made this one of the year's most popular films. As to the film itself, it's moderately entertaining and passes uneventfully. Fox's musicals (with the possible exception of STATE FAIR) never equaled the prestigious output of MGM. With Charlotte Greenwood, J. Carrol Naish, Leonid Kinskey and the fabulous Nicholas Brothers inserted into the film (so their numbers could be cut out in the South).
In 1937 Hollywood, the writer Dorothy Parker (Jennifer Jason Leigh) reflects back on the 1920s and the illustrious group of writers, critics and actors that gathered at the Algonquin Hotel. Co-written and directed by Alan Rudolph (CHOOSE ME), the film was a labor of love for most everyone involved. The producer Robert Altman put his own money into the film, actors worked for less than their usual salaries and the result is a captivating look at the jazz age in 1920s New York. While it's nominally an ensemble film, it's dominated by Jennifer Jason Leigh's committed performance as Parker right down to her speaking voice. Unfortunately, that commitment makes some of her dialogue difficult to understand but it's a small price to pay for such an exquisite performance. Still, it's often hard to have much empathy for this group of talented and creative intellectuals who are often self destructive. I found myself in sympathy with Robert Benchley's (Campbell Scott) wife (Jennifer Beals) who finds herself an outsider in such prestigious company and Parker's first husband (Andrew McCarthy) whose loathing of Parker's friends is one of many reasons the marriage fizzles. The massive cast of actors playing famous faces includes Matthew Broderick, Peter Gallagher, Gwyneth Paltrow, Lili Taylor, Keith Carradine, Wallace Shawn, James LeGros, Heather Graham, Sam Robards, Martha Plimpton, Chip Zien and Jane Adams.
A hot blooded cowboy (Gary Cooper) escapes jail time by pretending to be married to a French girl (Lili Damita). When he accompanies her on the trek to California, his grizzly companions (Ernest Torrence, Tully Marshall) do everything in their power to break up the attraction. Loosely based on the novel by Zane Grey and directed by Otto Brower and David Burton. Having just come off Josef von Sternberg's MOROCCO with Marlene Dietrich, this dreary Zane Grey programmer seems a step down for Cooper. It's awkward blend of comedy and action doesn't come together. The two cantankerous sidekicks played by Torrence and Marshall are supposed to be amusing (I assume) but I found them annoying to the extreme. The most interesting aspect is the possible gay subtext of the two woman hating sidekicks, they are seen walking arm and arm and die in each other's arms. Since this is a pre-code film, there's a madam and her girls traveling on the wagon train and a relaxed look at living together without benefit of marriage. Cooper and Damita don't have much chemistry and surprisingly, Cooper isn't even appealing here. With Eugene Pallette, Jane Darwell and Charles Winninger.
Set in Italy, an archaeologist and recovering alcoholic (Alex Cord) discovers an ancient Etruscan tomb that appear to be dedicated to an Etruscan death god. When a series of brutal murders occur shortly thereafter, could it be the return of the death god? Or a serial killer copycat? Since the murderer puts red high heels on his female victims after he kills them, I'd guess the latter. Based on the novel by Bryan Edgar Wallace and directed by Armando Crispino. This Italian-German production uses three English speaking actors in the lead roles (in addition to Cord, there's Samantha Eggar and John Marley) with Italian and German actors filling out the rest of the cast. As a giallo, it lacks atmosphere and tension and most importantly, style. The cheesy underscore by Riz Ortolani is a liability and one wonders what Ennio Morricone might have done with it. The handsome Italian countryside locations (Spoleto, Umbria and Perugia) are a bonus. The identity of the killer did take me by surprise, I'll give it that. With Enzo Tarascio, Carlo De Mejo, Horst Frank and Nadja Tiller.
Set in 1900 Alaska, a gold prospector (Clark Gable) joins forces with a friend (Jack Oakie) recently released from prison to follow a map to a gold mine. They take with them a vicious St. Bernard, who bonds with the prospector. On their way to the mine, they come across a married woman (Loretta Young) stranded in the snow. Loosely based on the novel by Jack London and directed by William A. Wellman (THE HIGH AND THE MIGHTY). London's novel focuses on Buck, the St. Bernard and his adventures but the film version uses only one of the story's thread and instead focuses on Gable's character and adds a woman (Young) for romantic interest that is not in London's original novel. What we're left with isn't quite Jack London but it's a solid entertainment nonetheless. The screenplay doesn't give us a traditional happy ending but Wellman keeps it gritty throughout. As Buck, the St. Bernard gives a marvelous performance, totally believable while either snarling, showing affection or expressing conflict. With Reginald Owen (suitably slimy) and Sidney Toler.
A gambling addict and drifter (Peter Gallagher) returns home for his widowed mother's (Anjanette Comer) second marriage. He seeks out the ex-wife (Alison Elliott) he abandoned but she's a changed woman and involved with a very dangerous man (William Fichtner). Based on the novel CRISS CROSS (previously made into a film in 1949) and directed by Steven Soderbergh (SEX LIES AND VIDEOTAPE). The 1949 film is considered a classic of film noir so it took a bit of courage for Soderbergh to undertake a remake. In this case, it's an excellent example of how to remake a film without just redoing the original. Told in a non linear fashion, it jumps in time adding a layer of mystery to the narrative. The only problem is that the main protagonists are rather nasty people with only Comer and Paul Dooley as Gallagher's mother and stepfather to provide any sort of recognizable decency. So you can't quite care what happens to them and you become a distanced observer to the proceedings rather than investing in their fate. With Shelley Duvall, Elisabeth Shue, Joe Don Baker and Adam Trese.
Set in 1911 Mexico during the revolution, an Irish miner (Van Heflin) has his gold mine confiscated by a corrupt official (George Dolenz). With a price on his head, the miner is rescued by a group of Mexican guerrillas led by a woman (Julie Adams). Directed by Budd Boetticher (THE TALL T), the movie was originally shown in 3D which may be the only notable thing about it. Although set in Mexico, the movie was filmed on the Universal backlot with Simi Valley used to simulate the Mexican landscape. It's watchable but does it justify the expenditure of your time? Unless you're a Budd Boetticher completist (this seems a paycheck film) or a film geek who tries to see (almost) everything then probably not. With Abbe Lane, Rodolfo Acosta, Antonio Moreno, Pedro Gonzalez Gonzalez (sic) and Noah Beery Jr.
Set in the Bahamas; a marine archaeologist (Keir Dullea), a historian (Ricardo Montalban) and a scuba bum (Aron Kincaid) race to reach a sunken treasure from a Spanish galleon before a well armed dilettante (Bradford Dillman) and his gang reaches there first. Directed by Alan Landsburg, this often incoherent sea adventure is pedestrian (and I'm being kind) in all respects. Granted, the transfer I watched was poor but even if it was a pristine print, it would have looked better but it would still be a mediocre movie. I'm usually a pushover for these sunken Spanish galleon treasure hunts (like THE DEEP) but this one is too tired to drum up much enthusiasm. With France Nuyen, Lana Wood, Jacques Aubuchon and Paul Hampton.
After their latest script fails to get the greenlight, two scriptwriters (Louis Seigner, Henri Cremieux) start from scratch to write a new screenplay. Over several days, they bicker over what direction the film's plot will take as they make it up as they go along. Written and directed by Julien Duvivier, this frothy confection is an absolute delight! What movie lover hasn't wanted to rewrite a film to his satisfaction while watching a movie? In this airy treat for film buffs, as the film moves forward, characters go from bad to good, people are killed off and then brought back to life, lovers are separated then reunited, changes happen so fast that our heads whirl! Everyone has an opinion where the plot should go as the narrative moves back and forth between the battling screenwriters and the story being told and retold. The cast must have loved how they get to play all sorts of riffs on their character. Remade (badly) as PARIS WHEN IT SIZZLES in 1964. The expert players include Dany Robin, Hildegard Knef, Michel Auclair, Micheline Francey and Michel Roux.
When a husband (Paul Lukas) kills his adulterous wife (Gloria Stuart), his friend and lawyer (Frank Morgan) takes on the case. As he plans the defense, he suspects his own wife (Nancy Carroll) has a lover and wonders if his defense works for his client, could it work for him if he murders his own wife. Based on the play by Ladislas Fodor and directed by James Whale (BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN). The provocative premise may sound intriguing but boy, does this hoary pre-code melodrama creak! The acting is stiff, the dialogue is trite and there's an unpleasant undercurrent of misogynism running through the film. The whole argument that a man is justified because of the "unwritten law" in killing his wife is pure crap! The wives are played as glamorous and seductive sirens deceiving their hard working ordinary husbands. The husbands are such a dull lot that one can't blame the wives for looking elsewhere. With Walter Pidgeon, Jean Dixon and Donald Cook.