In 18th century France, a calculating aristocrat (Glenn Close) asks her former lover (John Malkovich) for his help in revenge against her latest lover who has abandoned her. She wants him to seduce the man's intended bride (Uma Thurman), who is a virgin. Based on the play by Christopher Hampton (who adapts his play for the screen) by way of the oft filmed novel LES LIAISONS DANGEREUSES by Choderlos De Laclos and directed by Stephen Frears (MY BEAUTIFUL LAUNDRETTE). A juicy screenplay, vital direction by Frears and generally superb performances (save one) elevates this above the usual dull and prissy "tasteful" BBC Masterpiece Theatre vibe so many period costume dramas have. In her best screen performance, Glenn Close displays just the right subtle balance of corruption and faux sincerity. This is not a woman you want to mess with. Alas, while he has many good moments, Malkovich can't restrain himself. If he had a mustache, I'm sure he'd twirl it. His corruption is so obvious that it renders Michele Pfeiffer's hapless victim as a backward twit for believing anything he might say. Fortunately, Pfeiffer's performance is good enough to overcome that fault. The Oscar winning production design and art direction by Stuart Craig and Gerard James is amazing as is James Acheson's breathtaking costume design. With Keanu Reeves, Mildred Natwick and Swoosie Kurtz.
A womanizing American nightclub entertainer (Don Ameche) performing in Rio de Janeiro does an impeccable impersonation of a local celebrity, a Brazilian Baron (Don Ameche). When the Baron must leave Rio immediately to secure a business deal, his two aides (S.Z. Sakall, Curt Bois) arrange to have the American impersonate the Baron at a business function as well as a party the Baroness (Alice Faye) is giving for Rio society. Based on the play THE RED CAT by Rudolph Lothar and Hans Adler and directed by Irving Cummings (DOWN ARGENTINE WAY). This Technicolor musical romp is intermittently amusing with the daffy Carmen Miranda doing her usual "chicka chicka boom" shtick. The affable Ameche is surprisingly good in a dual role, nicely delineating the differences in character while Alice Faye is stuck in the dreary wife part. Remade (but not necessarily better) in 1951 as ON THE RIVIERA with Danny Kaye. With Maria Montez, J. Carrol Naish and Leonid Kinskey.
A young man (Heinz Ruhmann) is depressed with his life and plans on killing himself. When a professional burglar (Raimund Janitschek) breaks into his apartment with a gun, he offers the burglar money to kill him in 12 hours. The burglar agrees but when the man falls in love with a pretty blonde (Lien Deyers) that night, he changes his mind about dying and the race is on to find the assassin to tell him the deal is off but will he find him in time? Based on the play by Ernst Neubach and directed by Robert Siodmak (THE SPIRAL STAIRCASE). Despite the grimness of the plot synopsis and film noir master Siodmak at the helm, the movie itself is a black comedy. It plays out like a live action cartoon with the assassin a sort of Wile E. Coyote to the victim's Road Runner. I couldn't help but think this might have worked even better as a silent movie comedy. Sadly, the film doesn't exist in complete form. About a half hour is missing and considered lost. The film is notable for not only Siodmak's direction but others who would also emigrate to the U.S. and find fame like Billy Wilder (who co-wrote the screenplay) and Franz Waxman (who conducted the score). With Hermann Speelmans and Greta Keller.
Just out of prison, a criminal mastermind (Sam Jaffe) plots a detailed jewelry heist that could net over half a million dollars. A shyster attorney (Louis Calhern) funds the heist and a crew consisting of a safecracker (Anthony Caruso), a driver (James Whitmore) and a hooligan (Sterling Hayden) is assembled. But everything that could go wrong goes wrong. Based on the novel by W.R. Burnett (HIGH SIERRA) and directed by John Huston. An undisputed classic of the noir genre, it's a sharp and unsentimental look at the seamy underbelly of a midwestern city where corruption isn't restricted to the typical thugs and hoods but extending to police and socially prominent lawyers. No one is untouched and one can't even like the pompous police commissioner (John McIntire). The cast is excellent right down the line and Harold Rosson's stark B&W cinematography is superb. Outside of the opening credits and the last three minutes of the film (effectively composed by Miklos Rozsa), there's no score during the film. With Jean Hagen, Marc Lawrence, Barry Kelley, Brad Dexter, Helene Stanley and as Calhern's mistress, Marilyn Monroe already showing signs of star quality though it would be another three years before she hit the jackpot.
Set in Georgia in the waning days of the Civil War, a mother (Pat Crowley) struggles to hold her family together while her husband (Charles Aidman) is away at war. This includes fending off the unwanted attention from a brutal bushwhacker (Albert Salmi). Based on the novel by Mary Alice Hancock and directed by Vincent McEveety (FIRECREEK). Surprisingly decent effort from Disney that manages to avoid being cloying and providing some genuine tension. This being Disney however, the sexual threat of Salmi's thuggish bully against Crowley is downplayed even though he's upfront in his desire for her. A lot of the film falls on the shoulders of 14 year old Mitch Vogel as Crowley's son attempting to be the man of the house while his father is gone. Unfortunately, he's not a very strong actor so the movie suffers. With 7 year old Jodie Foster, Richard Anderson, Eric Shea, Dub Taylor and a scene stealing pig named Blossom.
Set in 1935 fascist Italy, a painter and writer (Gian Maria Volonte) is arrested by Mussolini's regime and sent and confined to a small rural town in Southern Italy. An intellectual with a medical degree, he finds the dire poverty appalling and the ignorance and superstition of the townspeople difficult to deal with. Based on the memoir by Carlo Levi (played here by Volonte) and directed by Francesco Rosi (HANDS OVER THE CITY). A remarkable political film that exists in two versions. The 2 1/2 hour theatrical cut and the 3 hours and 45 minutes television cut (which is the version I saw). The film examines the forgotten peasants living away from the metropolis of Rome and other urban Italian cities. Their situation dismissed as an unsolvable problem by the Fascist powers, Volonte's political prisoner becomes empathetic to their problems and while the villagers are at first suspicious of him, eventually they accept him as one of their own. Excellent as his performance is, Volonte doesn't dominate the film but serves as a reactor and observes. Gritty and real, it's an affecting film on several levels both intellectually and emotionally. With Irene Papas, Lea Massari, Alain Cuny and Francois Simon.
A beauty contest winner (Paulette Goddard) finds herself penniless in New York City. In desperate straits, she takes a job shilling at a shooting gallery. She finds herself attracted to a handsome attorney (Ray Milland) who already has a girlfriend (Virginia Field) but by posing as a fortune teller, she hopes to break up the romance. Directed by Elliott Nugent (UP IN ARMS), this star driven hybrid fluff of screwball comedy and romcom goes down pleasantly if one doesn't ask too much (like a stronger script). Milland and Goddard have a nice chemistry (they made four films together) and William Bendix provides some nice comic support as Milland's valet with Ernest Truex and Iris Adrian quite amusing as a battling married couple. Curiously, the film was a Paramount production (Milland and Goddard were Paramount contract players) but the studio sold the film to United Artists which released it. If you're in a nostalgic mood, this might fit the bill. With Gladys George, Cecil Kellaway and Hillary Brooke.
An obnoxious American student (Tommy Kirk) studying architecture on a scholarship in Italy falls for another American student (Annette Funicello) who is studying art. But when they discover a priceless masterpiece is hidden beneath her painting of a bridge, they find themselves plunged into an adventure involving art forgery. Based on the novel THE GOLDEN DOORS by Edward Fenton and directed by Steve Previn (Andre's brother). This is typical of the often mundane family friendly live action fluff Disney was churning out in the 1960s. Being Disney, there's no sex and the "violence" is of the comedic sort. Even when they're kidnapped and held prisoners, we're not worried. Who's going to shoot Annette in a Disney movie? It's crammed with the usual cliches. When we see a wagonful of hay crossing the road, we just know a car is going to crash into it and when Kirk on his Vespa races through an open air market, we know it's a matter of seconds before the fruits and vegetables go flying. The film is padded out with several songs by the Sherman Brothers (MARY POPPINS) sung by Funicello and Nino Castelnuovo. As a travelogue of the city of Florence, I give it points. With Ivan Desny, Ivan Triesault and Helen Stirling.
Set in 1983, a young female doctor (Oksana Akinshina) is recruited by the military to assess a cosmonaut (Pyotr Fyodorov) who has recently returned from space but not alone. Apparently, he returned with a dangerous organism inside him. Directed by Egor Abramenko, this is one of the best sci-fi horror films I've seen in years! There have been attempts to compare the film to ALIEN (1979) but other than the creature living inside of a human, there's very little to connect the two. This intelligent piece of science fiction/horror stands on its own. While it definitely falls into the horror category, the film makers are obviously not interested in "Boo!" moments. There was only one scene where I "jumped". Like the best horror movies, the film has underlying themes like the moral choices one is forced to make and the immorality of a soulless military. The film benefits from the performances of Akinshina and Fyodorov whose characters' strong bond give the movie a backbone. The creature design is a marvel of CGI and Oleg Karpachev's score is sensational. An absolute must for fans of sci-fi horror. With Fyodor Bondarchuk and Anton Vasiliev.
Set in 1925, an American archaeologist (Michael York) comes to Africa with the intention of locating and unlocking the secret of the "speaking mountain" which is in the Sahara desert. Some believe it contains great treasure while others say it contains the secret of mankind's existence. Based on the novel by Emilio Salgari and directed by Alberto Negrin. This silly piece of desert adventure takes itself too seriously. There were times that I wished Maria Montez and Sabu would come along and put some fun into it. To the best of my knowledge this has never been seen in the U.S. It was made for Italian television with a running time 7 1/2 hours and later shortened considerably for a theatrical release. It's overlong and never have I seen so many shots of riders crossing the desert in one film, sometimes leisurely and sometimes galloping. A whole half hour could have been cut out if those shots had been eliminated. The acting is bad with James Farentino as an Arab caliph (that accent!) and David Soul as a sadistic legionnaire being the most embarrassing offenders. And whose idea was it to cast Andie MacDowell as an Arab warrior princess? The score is unmistakably Ennio Morricone and it's one of his weaker ones. With Ben Kingsley, Jean Pierre Cassel, Miguel Bose, Delia Boccardo, William McNamara, Mathilda May, Daniel Olbrychski and Diego Abatantuono.
A new teacher (Glenn Ford) at an interracial inner city school finds his students hostile and anti-social and show no interest in education. In an attempt to reach them, he reaches out to one student (Sidney Poitier) who the other kids respect. Based on the novel by Evan Hunter and directed by Richard Brooks (ELMER GANTRY). In 1955, this movie caused quite the ruckus. The film was banned in Tennessee and Georgia, there was violence in theatres and Great Britain insisted on major cuts in the film before it could be released there. It was also the first film that used rock 'n roll on its soundtrack. Alas, nothing dates faster than topicality and the film doesn't hold up. It's so contrived that it comes across as phony and sometimes unintentionally funny. If the film is to be believed, the entire student body is comprised of thugs and bullies. Surely there must have been a handful of good kids. And since this is a public school and not a private school, where are the female students in the film? There's not a single female student to be seen! The students are as believable as the high school students in GREASE. Poitier was 28, Vic Morrow was 26. As cinema, it can't touch REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE, still the best film about "juvenile delinquents" ever made. It's of interest today solely because of its historical impact. With Anne Francis, Louis Calhern, Richard Kiley, Margaret Hayes, John Hoyt, Paul Mazursky and Rafael Campos.
A socially awkward overweight girl (Toni Collette in her breakthrough role) in a provincial Australian town is treated abysmally by both her family and her "mean girls" friends. Stealing a large amount of money from her father (Bill Hunter), she heads off to Sydney in search of a new life. Written and directed by P.J. Hogan (MY BEST FRIEND'S WEDDING), this comedy is anchored by a strong performance by Toni Collette and the part needs her because Muriel is far from likable. She's shallow and a phony, a liar and a thief and her obsession with getting married is downright creepy yet Collette manages to keep us rooting for her and it finally pays off in the end despite the rough road getting there. The material is far from fresh but the movie's sincerity aids in its journey and Muriel's awakening washes away her past sins. In addition to Collette, two other performances stand out: Rachel Griffiths as her wheelchair bound friend with a built in bullshit detector and Jeanie Drynan as Muriel's put upon mother. With Daniel Lapaine and Gennie Nevinson.
Two sisters working as geishas in a working class district are quite different in their outlook on their profession and men. One sister (Isuzu Yamada) sees men as predators who use women and discard them at their convenience while the other sister (Yoko Umemura) is more traditional in her acquiescence to the patriarchal culture. Directed by Kenji Mizoguchi, this is an unsparing look at a society that offers women few acceptable choices, the Madonna or the whore syndrome if you will. While the sisters follow different paths, one defiant in her refusal to bow down to men and the other defers to their dominance, both end up victims. Normally, the calculating sister who uses men to her advantage would be seen as the "bad" sister while the sweet polite sister would be seen as the "good" sister. But I found Yamada's character an unsentimental realist, someone who refuses to be a toy to men except on her own terms while I found Umemura's sister complicit in her own victimization. One of Mizoguchi's best! With Benkei Shiganoya, Fumio Okura and Eitaro Shindo.
Set in 1834, the spoiled and privileged son (Alan Ladd) of a Boston shipping magnate (Ray Collins) is shanghaied and forced to serve on one of his father's own ships. The ship's captain (Howard DaSilva) is a sadistic man who treats his men cruelly. Based on the non fiction book by Richard Henry Dana (played by Brian Donlevy in the movie) and directed by John Farrow (THE BIG CLOCK). An above average sea yarn, the film takes many liberties with Dana's book which had a profound effect on the way seamen were treated without any rights of their own. Perhaps the most notable addition is Ladd's character which doesn't exist in the book and a romance between Ladd and a Spanish senorita (Esther Fernandez) traveling on the ship. There are no women in Dana's book. But what we get is an exciting adventure along the lines of MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY, not as good mind you but more than passable. The public lapped it up and the film was a big hit. With William Bendix, Barry Fitzgerald, Albert Dekker, Darryl Hickman and Luis Van Rooten.
In order to get some publicity, a fan dancer (Carole Lombard) "adopts" an elderly lady (May Robson) from an old folks home for a mother. But this is no ordinary old lady, she's a street wise drunk who won't take crap from anybody. Directed by David Burton, the film superficially resembles Frank Capra's LADY FOR A DAY which starred Robson the year before. It's a pleasant enough comedy, the sort of movie that's often referred to as heartwarming but don't let that put you off. Lombard and Robson make for a great team and while it's a pity none of their male co-stars are on their level, those two are all we really need. There's not much to say about a sweet little movie like this other than if it crosses your way, you could do worse. With Walter Connolly, Roger Pryor and Arthur Hohl.
An ambitious journalist (Peter Breck) has himself committed to a mental asylum under false pretenses in order to solve a murder that occurred there. But it isn't long before he starts unraveling under the strain. Written and directed by Samuel Fuller, this over the top piece of pulp is completely bonkers (no pun intended). It's greatly admired by Fuller's admirers (which I count myself as one) but it's too crude and inconsistent for me to fully embrace. The mental patients are painted with the broadest brush imaginable, they're all frothing at the mouth batshit crazy but suddenly become incredibly lucid when it serves the script's intentions. There's even a "nympho ward" where sex crazed women are kept and woe to the poor guy who wanders in. I'll give Fuller the benefit of the doubt and that all this non stop hysteria is intentional but this mixture of social comment and exploitation are often at odds with each other. With Constance Towers, Gene Evans, James Best, Hari Rhodes and Philip Ahn.
Set in 1987 San Francisco, a woman (Helena Bonham Carter) is committed to a mental health facility where she is given antipsychotic drugs against her will. A lawyer (Hilary Swank) with the American Civil Liberties Union takes on her case and the medical establishment in allowing patients the right to "informed consent". Based on the true story of Eleanor Riese and a landmark court decision in California and directed by Bille August (PELLE THE CONQUEROR). A film like this can't help but be fascinating not only in its attack on the arrogance of the medical establishment in not allowing mental patients a choice in their treatment but in their automatic assumption that "mental" patients do not have the ability to make a conscious choice about their health and welfare. But what takes this movie out of the usual "David against Goliath" true story realm is the friendship and love between the two women, lawyer and client. The film doesn't try to make Bonham Carter's mentally challenged Eleanor a poor put upon victim saved by the smart lawyer lady. Her Eleanor is not only a feisty fighter, she's often downright obnoxious and infuriating while Swank's lawyer is full of her own neuroses. And it's their story that will bring tears to your eyes by the film's end. The film opened in Germany in 2018 but was never released in the U.S. theatrically which is a pity. With Jeffrey Tambor and Tim Plester.
Set in Manhattan during Christmas, a struggling actor (Eric Stoltz) owes his bookie (Charles Durning) money which he doesn't have. To avoid a beating, he tells his girlfriend (Moira Kelly) that he needs to raise money for his sister's (Daryl Hannah) abortion. In order to help him, the girlfriend tells her brother (Campbell Scott) that she's pregnant and needs money for an abortion and the brother spends the night trying to raise the money. Written and directed by Roger Hedden (his only directorial credit), this quirky roundelay of a romantic comedy must have looked pretty good on paper so how does one account for the inertia up on the screen? The cast is game but they're left floundering like sailors on a ship without a captain. Heddon had some critical success with his screenplay to BODIES REST AND MOTION which he didn't direct so I suspect blame for the movie's stagnation falls at the feet of Heddon's direction. That being said, it's quite watchable if you're in an undemanding mood. LOVE ACTUALLY would do this so much better five years later. With Katrin Cartlidge, Peter Riegert, Anne De Salvo and Saundra Santiago.
An around the world tour is disrupted when one of the tourists is murdered in London. The Scotland Yard detective (Rafael Calvo) investigating the case is stumped but he won't give up. Death follows the tour and three murders later, renowned detective Charlie Chan (Manuel Arbo) enters the case and attempts to solve the killings as the tour reaches its final destination of San Francisco. Based on the novel CHARLIE CHAN CARRIES ON by Earl Derr Biggers and directed by David Howard. In the early 1930s, it was not uncommon for films to be shot simultaneously for the Spanish language market. The 1931 DRACULA is perhaps the most famous example. Ironically, the English language version of CHARLIE CHAN CARRIES ON which featured the debut of Warner Oland as Chan is a lost film yet this Spanish language version survives. Chan doesn't enter the movie until past the 40 minute mark and unlike the English language films, no attempt appears to have been made to make Arbo look Asian. As to the film itself, it's a decent entry in the Charlie Chan canon. Perhaps, it helps that it was actually based on one of Bigger's novels which many of the subsequent films weren't. Fans of the Chan franchise should find much to enjoy in this curiosity. Remade in 1940 as CHARLIE CHAN'S MURDER CRUISE. With Ana Maria Custodio, Juan Torena, Raul Roulien, Martin Garralaga and Blanca De Castejon.
A young girl (Hedy Lamarr) marries a much older man (Zvonimir Rogoz) but on her honeymoon she discovers to her dismay that her husband has no interest in sex. Not able to exist in a loveless marriage, she divorces him and goes to the country to stay with her father (Leopold Kramer) and it is there she meets a handsome engineer (Aribert Mog) working on road construction. Directed by Gustav Machaty, the film's notorious reputation is the result of Lamarr's nude swimming scene and the depiction of sexual intercourse (discreetly, we only see their faces). Those aware of the film's "erotic" reputation are bound to be disappointed. It's all actually quite tasteful although the movie's sexual symbolism gets to be a bit too much. Example: when the heroine is being deflowered, her strand of pearls break and the movie ends on an orgy of work tools used for their phallic imagery. Dialogue is kept to a minimum, so much so that it seems you're watching a silent film, only to be jarred when someone speaks a line. Reputedly, Lamarr's first husband spent thousands trying to buy up all the copies of the film after they married. Definitely a film of interest though I wouldn't call it great.
Spanning two world wars (WWI, WWII) and the lives of two very different career soldiers: an honorable and decent soldier (Sam Elliott) who rises successfully in rank and command and a ruthless and ambitious soldier (Cliff Potts), who will let nothing get in the way of his rise to the top of the military chain. Based on the 1968 war novel by Anton Myrer and directed by E.W. Swackhamer and Richard Michaels. Even at 7 1/2 hours, the film can't do justice to the massive (it's over 1,300 pages) novel which is greatly admired in the military community. The novel's first section and its last section are eliminated. What remains is an examination of integrity and morality versus blind ambition at the expense of ethical standards in the military. The film (done in the mini series format for television) is surprisingly far from jingoistic and its characters frequently question the purpose of wars. While framed by WWI and WWII, the middle section spends a great deal of time on the personal lives of the two protagonists which allows several actresses to shine, notably Amy Irving as Potts' disgruntled wife, Juliet Mills as an Australian war widow and Lynda Day George (used as more than eye candy) as an Army wife in her best performance. There's an excellent score by Dana Kaproff. The huge cast includes Glenn Ford, Melanie Griffith, Ralph Bellamy, Kim Hunter, David Wayne, Phyllis Thaxter, James Shigeta, Barry Sullivan, James Cromwell, Forrest Tucker, John Saxon, Dane Clark, Albert Salmi, David Wayne, Andrew Duggan, Kent Smith, Clu Gulager, Harriet Nelson, Andrew Stevens, Anthony Zerbe, Darleen Carr, William Windom, Ben Piazza, Carmen Argenziano, Jane Merrow and Robert Hogan.
After killing a dog trainer (Vincent Price), a working class man (Henry Fonda) sits barricaded in his room reflecting on the the events which lead up to the murder while the police attempt to force him out of the room. A remake of Marcel Carne's LE JOUR SE LEVE (1939) and directed by Anatole Litvak (THE SNAKE PIT). While I have nothing against remakes on principle, what this movie does to Carne's masterpiece is simply pitiful. The miscasting of Henry Fonda as the doomed factory worker compromised the film from the beginning but still, it doesn't prepare us for the ghastly mawkish "happy" Hollywood ending that has been tacked on to what originally was a bleak slice of cinematic poetry. The film lacks the atmosphere of fatalism that permeated the French classic. The rest of the major players: Barbara Bel Geddes (in her film debut), the undervalued Ann Dvorak and Vincent Price do their best but they can't surmount the film's inadequacies. Dimitri Tiomkin's insistent score doesn't do the film any favors. With Charles McGraw, Moroni Olsen and Elisha Cook Jr.
Set during the Korean war, a U.S. Army sergeant (Laurence Harvey) is given the Congressional Medal Of Honor for bravery upon his Captain's (Frank Sinatra) recommendation for saving his platoon in combat. But on his return home, the Captain has disturbing nightmares involving communist military leaders brainwashing the soldiers. Based on the novel by Richard Condon (WINTER KILLS) and directed by John Frankenheimer. This is the granddaddy of conspiracy thrillers and not only has it not lost its edge, it seems eerily relevant in today's disturbing political landscape. The intensity of the paranoia is occasionally alleviated by the film's black humor. Cleverly constructed, Frankenheimer slowly weaves the twists and turns of the film's narrative until its full horror is revealed. And what performances! The film reminds us what a great actor Sinatra could be when he put his mind to it, it's Harvey's best performance and Angela Lansbury's mother from Hell can truly be called an iconic performance. The subtle score is by David Amram (SPLENDOR IN THE GRASS). With Janet Leigh, James Gregory, Henry Silva, Leslie Parrish, John McGiver, James Edwards and Helen Kleeb.
Five epochs in history are visited: the Stone Age, the Old Testament, the Roman Empire, the Spanish Inquisition and the French Revolution ..... but for laughs. Written and directed by Mel Brooks, this often hilariously politically incorrect and unfairly maligned comedy (I think Pauline Kael was the only major critic to give it a good review) may be his last really good movie. Irreverent and often jaw dropping politically incorrect in its humor, it's a movie that would never get greenlighted today without changes to the material. Only Brooks' insane brand of comedy would conceive the Spanish Inquisition as a musical comedy with dancing monks and nuns doing an Esther Williams water ballet while Jews are tortured. And what a great cast of comic actors. In the Roman Empire sequence, Dom De Luise as a debauched baby faced Nero and the great Madeline Kahn as his nymphomaniac Empress show what great comic actors can do to overcome material that could easily have been offensive (and probably still is to some). In the French Revolution, Harvey Korman ("Don't get saucy with me, Bearnaise!") and Cloris Leachman take their small roles and turn it into little comedic gems. Of course, as usual with Brooks, a lot of the comedy is hit and miss but he keeps throwing the gags and punchlines at us so fast and furious that we don't have the time to worry about it. The large cast includes Gregory Hines, Sid Caesar, John Hurt, Bea Arthur, Shecky Greene, Jan Murray, Jack Carter, Paul Mazursky, Nigel Hawthorne, Spike Milligan, Pamela Stephenson and Orson Welles doing the narration.
Set in a small French village, a sexually repressed schoolteacher (Jeanne Moreau) terrorizes the town with random acts of malevolence like arson, flooding and poisoning animals. But the prejudiced villagers place the blame on an itinerant Italian laborer (Ettore Manni) because he's an outsider and he beds their women. Based on a story by Jean Genet and directed by Tony Richardson (TOM JONES). A mesmerizing but thoroughly unpleasant film. Moreau's deceptive bitch committing motiveless crimes against the villagers (a man is killed in one of the fires she sets) is obviously sociopathic but the horrid bigoted villagers are pretty rotten too. Even the Italian laborer thinks more with his male appendage instead of his head so that reduces the sympathy factor for him. The film works for the most part but Richardson slips up with an interminable scene of Moreau and Manni making love all night while the villagers and police look for Manni. David Watkins' stunning B&W cinematography makes one nostalgic for the days of B&W cinema. With Umberto Orsini, Keith Skinner and Paul Barge.
Set in 1920's Tennessee, a school teacher (Tom Everett Scott) is arrested for teaching Darwin's theory of evolution which is contrary to Tennessee state law. He is to be prosecuted by a famous attorney (George C. Scott) known to be a biblical scholar and to be defended by another famous attorney (Jack Lemmon), a believer in freedom of speech. Based on the 1955 play by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee (previously filmed in 1960 and 1988) and directed by Daniel Petrie (A RAISIN IN THE SUN). A fictionalized account of the famous Scopes trial with, thankfully, all the names changed so as not to be taken as historical fact. The play's authors weren't interested in a factual historical piece but use the Scopes trial as a starting point of addressing the similarity to the the recent McCarthy trials (much like Arthur Miller's THE CRUCIBLE). While not a great play, it's almost fool proof as a piece of theatrical drama. Even Stanley Kramer couldn't ruin it when he did the 1960 film. With one exception (Lane Smith's minister), the acting is good. Lemmon's later performances tended to chew scenery but he's perfectly restrained here. George C. Scott is also notable for his often blustery acting but that quality is perfect for the character he's playing. With Piper Laurie, Beau Bridges, Russ Tamblyn, John Cullum and Kathryn Morris.
Set in 1989, an ambitious FBI agent (Jack Huston) is assigned to a small town in Kentucky. He coerces a drug addict and welfare mother (Emilia Clarke) into acting as an FBI informant. But they cross a line when they begin to have an affair that will have disastrous results. Based on the non fiction book by Joe Sharkey and directed by Philip Noyce (PATRIOT GAMES). This true life crime thriller with noir-ish trimmings was released overseas in 2019 but not in the U.S. until 2021. Normally that would indicate a stinker but not in this case. It's a riveting and intense thriller. Based on the murder of Susan Smith (played by Clarke), the film is narrated by her even though she lets us know she's dead (shades of William Holden's after death narration in SUNSET BOULEVARD). It's a fascinating watch even though all the characters are sleazebags. Even the FBI agent's wife (Sophie Lowe), who at first seem the only sympathetic character in the story ultimately turns outs to be morally corrupt. The film ends with video footage of the real FBI agent, grinning as he tells his story with both his wife and his lover in their graves and he having served only 10 years in prison and released at age 41. Worth checking out if you're a true crime buff or noir enthusiast. With Johnny Knoxville, Thora Birch and Kevin Dunn.
An 11 year old girl (a 24 year old Mary Pickford) comes from a wealthy family but her father (Charles Wellesley) is more concerned with business and her mother (Madlaine Traverse) is more concerned with her social life than with their daughter. Based on the play by Frances Gates and directed by Maurice Tourneur (1920's LAST OF THE MOHICANS). I found this a bit of a slog to get through. I haven't seen all that much of Mary Pickford, often referred to as America's Sweetheart, but enough to know she's not my cup of tea. With rare exceptions (Tom Hanks in BIG), adults acting like children drive me up a wall (yes, talking to you, Ms. Rogers). Audiences at the time ate up Pickford's little girl act but she never comes across as a real child and one is cognizant of the sets being a bit larger than usual to make her seem smaller or some actors who are obviously standing on boxes to appear taller. The most interesting part of the movie is when the maid (Gladys Fairbanks) gives the child an overdose of drugs and she starts hallucinating and enters an Oz kind of land where the people in her life take the form of snakes and jackasses and a two faced character literally has two faces. It's a morality tale where love wins over wealth and I couldn't wait for it to be over. With Herbert Prior and Frank McGlynn Sr.
Covering the years from 1945 to 1965, this is the saga of two brothers, one "bad" (Nick Nolte) and one "good" (Peter Strauss) and a girl (Susan Blakely) from a small town in upstate New York. From their days in high school as they venture forth into the world seeking their fortunes. Based on the best selling novel by Irwin Shaw and directed by David Greene and Boris Sagal, the 600 page novel is spread out over 12 hours in one of the earliest examples of the mini series form. The film simplifies the subtleties and complexities of Shaw's novel turning it into an engrossing potboiler. In a bizarre change, the sister in the novel is eliminated and turned into the character played by Susan Blakely thus allowing her to have a romantic relationship with Strauss. With one exception (William Smith overdoing the sleazy thug), the acting is decent and often more than that. Russell Metty (ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS) did the cinematography while the score is by Alex North (A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE). The impressive cast includes Dorothy McGuire, Ray Milland, Gloria Grahame, Van Johnson, Dorothy Malone, George Maharis, Kim Darby, Edward Asner (Emmy winner for his performance), Talia Shire, Bill Bixby, Fionnula Flanagan (Emmy winner for her performance), Craig Stevens, Lynda Day George, Murray Hamilton, Kay Lenz, Robert Reed, Norman Fell, Andrew Duggan and Julius Harris.
As the celebrated actress Gertrude Lawrence (Julie Andrews) watches a documentary film on her life and career, she remembers back to how it really was. Directed by Robert Wise (WEST SIDE STORY). In 1968, there was no bigger movie star than Julie Andrews who was adored by both the public and critics alike. Then came STAR! and Andrews' meteoric rise (she'd only been in films for four years) hit a wall. Barbra Streisand and FUNNY GIRL had recently been released and the critics and public had found a new darling. As cinema, FUNNY GIRL wasn't really any better than STAR!. Both were the usual rags to riches biographies which traced talented young ladies rise to the top of the show business ladder and the unhappiness and suffering along the way. But FUNNY GIRL had Streisand and no one had ever seen anything like her on screen before while Andrews' screen lineage went all the way back to Jeanette MacDonald. Actually, Andrews is quite good and I think this is one of her best performances but the narrative is as fresh as a bottle of curdled milk. The screenplay is padded with scenes that don't move the plot forward and the whole documentary approach doesn't do anything for the movie. Some of the elaborate numbers (like Limehouse Blues) just sit there. We can see what made Andrews a star (she's never looked more glamorous) but we don't see what made Lawrence a star. The real stars of the film are Boris Leven's production design and Donald Brooks' costumes, both Oscar nominated. With Daniel Massey as Noel Coward, Richard Crenna, Robert Reed, Jenny Agutter, Beryl Reed, Anthony Eisley, Anna Lee and Alan Oppenheimer.
A lonely child (Ann Carter) is "different" from other children and lives in a fantasy world of her own. When she wishes for a friend, a beautiful woman (Simone Simon) appears and fulfills the child's need for companionship. What she doesn't know is that the woman was her father's (Kent Smith) first wife and died under tragic circumstances. A sequel to the 1942 CAT PEOPLE and directed by Gunther Von Fritsch and Robert Wise, both in their feature film directorial debuts. Wise replaced Von Fritsch when he fell behind schedule. Often and inaccurately labeled a "horror" film. The 1942 film was but this is film is more of a fantasy with horror elements. It's one of the few films that captures the loneliness of childhood for certain children who "don't belong" and find it difficult to blend in with the so called normal status quo of childhood infrastructure. A parallel storyline of an old woman (Julia Dean) who cruelly refuses to acknowledge her daughter's (Elizabeth Russell) existence features prominently and one can see the parallel between the lonely child and the woman's daughter, grown bitter by the denial of a parents' affection. A lovely, almost poetic dream of a film. With Jane Randolph, Sir Lancelot, Eve March and Sarah Selby.
Set in the late 19th century, a young girl (Renee Soutendijk) brought up in a sexually repressed religious family is ill prepared for marriage. Her romantic illusions about love and sexually not only destroys her marriage but leads her down a path of degradation and insanity. Based on the novel by Frederik Van Eeden and directed by Nouchka Van Brakel. Portions of this Dutch film (particularly the scenes in the insane asylum) are very difficult to take. The circumstances of Soutendijk's transition from a bourgeois wife to a raving maniac aren't very well defined. She gives birth and goes batshit crazy. Is the baby dead or alive when she stuffs it in a carpet bag? Or is the baby even in the bag? One must admire Soutendijk's commitment to the role, she jumps off the deep end and doesn't look back going from naive teenager to morphine addicted prostitute sleeping on the streets till her final redemption. Theo Van De Sande's cinematography is lovely, capturing the period without calling attention to itself. With Derek De Lint, Adriaan Olree, Erik Van't Wout, Peter Faber and Claire Wauthion playing two parts, Soutendijk's mother and a nun.
Set in 1932, a doctor (Lindsay Wagner) leaves her doctor husband (John Reilly) and their Boston home to go to the Appalachian backwoods to help the people living there. But when she arrives, she soon discovers that she's distrusted and not wanted there as the residents are quite happy with the local medicine woman (Jane Wyman) who uses natural remedies. Directed by Guy Green (A PATCH OF BLUE), the film surprises you when it doesn't go where you think it's going. It's easy to be irritated with the ignorant hillbilly folk who have yet to enter the 20th century but the city doctor is rather arrogant and too confident and dismissive of the folk remedies they have used for decades. Wagner is good but both the actress and her character have a hard time standing up to Wyman's stalwart mountain medicine "granny". At almost 2 1/2 hours, it goes on a bit long but there's very little filler. With James Woods, Dorothy McGuire, Gary Lockwood (almost unrecognizable), Andrew Duggan and Brock Peters.
A thief (Jean Gabin) resides in a one room slum that is shared by several others. When he attempts to rob an aristocratic Baron (Louis Jouvet), he discovers the Baron is impoverished and about to be kicked out of his dwelling. They become friends and the Baron moves to the slum. Loosely based on the 1902 play by Maxim Gorky and directed by Jean Renoir. Whereas Gorky's play was more of an ensemble piece and took place entirely in the slum dwelling, Renoir switches the focus to Gabin's thief and opens up the play. Renoir also gives us a more hopeful ending than the pessimistic ending of the Gorky play. I quite liked it although it's not one of Renoir's more admired works. It could have been an ultra depressing film but Renoir keeps the dreamers' hope alive that they can escape the squalor of a dead end existence and he plays several scenes for comedic effect. Gabin is excellent, of course, but there's a marvelous turn by Louis Jouvet as the resigned Baron. Jouvet isn't as well known as Gabin (at least in the States) but the more I see of his work, my admiration grows. Akira Kurosawa filmed his own version of the Gorky play in 1957. With Suzy Prim, Junie Astor, Vladimir Sokoloff, Robert Le Vigan and Jany Holt.
Set during the Malayan Emergency (a guerrilla war between the Malayan communists seeking independence and the British Commonwealth), a rubber plantation owner (Jack Hawkins) struggles to keep his plantation safe from attack while dealing with the unraveling of his marriage. Based on the novel by Sidney Charles George and directed by Ken Annakin (SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON). The film was released in the U.S. under the title OUTPOST IN MALAYA and that seems a more appropriate title as the wife (Claudette Colbert) in question doesn't seem to be the focus of the story. The domestic scenes are the usual tedious interplay we've seen again and again. Where the film really comes alive is in the film's intense last half hour which is a siege against the rubber plantation by the communist insurgents. It's a real nail biter! There's also an unsettling fight between a cobra and a mongoose captured in detail where I had to look away. The film was a big hit overseas but despite Colbert's presence, it didn't do well in the U.S. With Anthony Steel, Ram Gopal, Sonya Hana, Yah Ming and as Colbert and Hawkins' son, Peter Asher who would grow up to be a pop star as part of the duo, Peter And Gordon in the 1960s.
Returning to England from the West Indies, a widow (Ann Todd) meets a painter (Ray Milland) aboard ship. She falls under his spell and he influences her to reacquaint herself with a school friend (Geraldine Fitzgerald) who is unhappily married with the intention of blackmailing her husband (Raymond Huntley) regarding some indiscreet letters his wife wrote. Based on the novel FOR HER TO SEE by Marjorie Bowen and directed by Lewis Allen (THE UNINVITED). An aptly titled film, this is an excellent example of what is referred to as "gaslight noir". It's a period film set in the Victorian era but the atmosphere is thick with fatalism as a perfectly respectable woman slowly degrades herself under the evil influence of a deceptive criminal mind that corrupts her totally. Milland excels at these kind of roles (think DIAL M FOR MURDER) and Ann Todd has a porcelain delicacy that slowly erodes as she debases herself and even gets an adrenaline rush as she turns to blackmail and murder. Fans of noir should eat this up. With Martita Hunt, Hugh Griffith, Finlay Currie, Leo G. Carroll, Moira Lister and Zena Marshall.
A beautiful scam artist (Monica Vitti) passing herself off as rich tries to swindle a wealthy businessman (Jean Sorel). But when she discovers he's also a swindler trying to scam her, they decide to join forces by passing themselves off as brother and sister while they swindle the rich! Directed by Francesco Maselli, this silly and often incoherent "sting" comedy benefits by Vitti and Sorel in the lead roles. They're as attractive a pairing as anyone on the screen and this comedy needs all the help it can get. How many montages of Vitti and Sorel cavorting around and making love while bad 60s rock music plays on the soundtrack do we need? Apparently very frequently the film makers seem to think. Toward the end of the film, the movie cuts the laughs and become very serious and film noir-ish, hence the title which is as noir-ish as KISS ME DEADLY before it resumes the inane comedy. To be fair, the transfer I watched was dubbed into English from the Italian. Perhaps it played better in Italian but I suspect not. With Roberto Bisacco and Daniela Surina.
An attorney (Jodie Foster) takes on the case of a Guantanamo prisoner (Tahar Rahim) who is being held prisoner for alleged 9/11 crimes for 3 years (he would be held a total of 14 years) but with no charges pressed. Based on the non fiction book GUANTANAMO DIARY by Mohamedou Ould Slahi (played by Rahim in the film) and directed by Kevin McDonald (ONE DAY IN SEPTEMBER). For the most part, this is a riveting tale from start to finish. One can wish that the film was a little more distinctive in its approach rather than taking the usual generic "true story" slant which compromises its effectiveness. But the narrative is so engrossing (and infuriating) that it steamrolls over such nitpicking. Foster gives an excellent no nonsense performance but it's Tahar Rahim who provides the humanity linchpin that propels the film. That a person could go through such torture and abuse for years without going insane is mind boggling. With Benedict Cumberbatch, Shailene Woodley, Zachary Levi and David Flynn.
After a failed marriage, a young woman (Adele Haenel) returns to the South of France where her mother (Catherine Deneuve) runs a casino. The mother/daughter relationship is strained and the daughter begins an affair with her mother's married attorney (Guillaume Canet) which will lead to tragedy for everyone involved. Based on the non fiction book UNE FEMME FACE A LA MAFIA by Renee Le Roux (played by Deneuve in the film) and her son John Charles Le Roux and directed by Andre Techine (MY FAVORITE SEASON). Although based on a true story, Techine takes a section of the book and fictionalizes it focusing on the power struggle of the mother, daughter and lover while still staying true to the facts surrounding the tale. The film is split into three parts: the first part is mainly exposition revealing the mother/daughter tension and the casino takeover, the second part is the unraveling of the daughter's mental and emotional state and the third part jumps 20 years to a murder trial. The film is hampered by the lack of sympathy for the daughter who I found unappealing. Even Canet's heel is more inviting. He doesn't hide his feelings and he's honest about who he is while the daughter is a train wreck. The case itself is fascinating although my unfamiliarity with French law made the film's epilogue confusing. With Jean Corso and Judith Chemla.
A gunfighter (Anthony Quinn) rides into a new town and kills a notorious gunman (Barry Atwater). The town then votes to hire him as their new sheriff with the hopes he will get rid of the town's saloon owner (Peter Whitney), who has a destructive influence on the peaceful town. Directed by Harry Horner (VICKI), this interesting B western is more of a character study than a routine western allowing Quinn to give a strong performance as a man hoping to gain respectability, only to find out the townspeople want him to keep their town free of the bad element but refuse to accept him socially as one of them. Horner manages to build some tension as it slowly moves toward its ambiguous finale. It's a solid effort with some nice B&W cinematography by Stanley Cortez (MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS) and an effective underscore by Fred Steiner. With Katy Jurado, Douglas Fowley, John Larch and an almost unrecognizable Whit Bissell as the town drunk in what might be his best screen performance.
Set in 1847 Paris, a well known courtesan (Greta Garbo) mistakes a handsome young man (Robert Taylor) for a wealthy Baron (Henry Daniell) that she hopes to make her "patron". After she discovers her mistake, she still finds herself attracted to the young man as he is to her. Based on the novel and play LA DAME AUX CAMELIAS by Alexandre Dumas (THE THREE MUSKETEERS) and directed by George Cukor. There are those who still insist that Garbo was more of a movie star, a screen presence than an actress. While there's no denying that screen presence that made her a legend, one would think that CAMILLE would put a stop to that nonsense that she wasn't much of an actress. By 1936, the Dumas play was already creaky and the film gets the full MGM treatment in terms of sets and costumes. But it's Garbo's superb performance that holds the film together. Every line she speaks, no matter how hackneyed, rings with authenticity. Praise must also be given to Cukor for his sensitive direction. The score by Herbert Stothart hits all the right notes. With Lionel Barrymore, Elizabeth Allan, Jessie Ralph, Lenore Ulric and getting as close to stealing the movie as anyone, Laura Hope Crews as a shallow, greedy "friend" of Camille.
Set in the Caribbean, a young man (Leigh McCloskey) meets a mysterious young woman (Connie Selleca) on the beach. They seem to have a connection but she is not forthcoming and an island native (Ruth Attaway) tells the young man the girl is a ghost. Directed by Tsugunobu Kotani, this Japanese and American co-production was shown theatrically in Japan but debuted on American television. It's an odd fantasy hybrid, sort of like SPLASH without the laughs or MOBY DICK with all the complexities removed. The film is compromised by the cheap special effects which look like, well ..... a low budget Japanese monster movie. When we see a boat boat being tossed in the waves, it looks like a toy in a bathtub. That being said, the film itself looks great thanks to Jeri Sopanen's (MY DINNER WITH ANDRE) vivid and colorful lensing of the Bahama locations, both on land and underwater. Alas, the film's acting leaves much to be desired. With Burl Ives, Carl Weathers and Julie Woodson.
A New York writer and teacher (Gene Hackman) puts his plans for moving away to California on hold when his mother (Dorothy Stickney) dies. Left alone with his cantankerous father (Melvyn Douglas), he must finally come to grips with their tenuous relationship. Based on the play by Robert Anderson (TEA AND SYMPATHY) and directed by Gilbert Cates (SUMMER WISHES WINTER DREAMS). Anderson adapts his play for the screen and his Oscar nominated screenplay doesn't veer from the source material. It's a well constructed script that touches on the dynamics of a father/son relationship and should hit home for many sons. Anderson is tough and there's little room for sentimentality and when it's over, you may feel devastated as well as empty. But the material is good enough for good actors to sink their teeth into it and boy, do the Oscar nominated performances of Hackman and Douglas bristle and shine! With Estelle Parsons as the banished daughter (because she married a Jew), Lovelady Powell, Elizabeth Hubbard, Conrad Bain and James Karen.
When her parents are forced to go to Europe for work purposes, a young child (Jane Mercer) is sent to live with her wealthy grandfather (Claude Gillingwater). But it is an unhappy household and the child is initially resented by everyone. Based on the novel JEWEL: A CHAPTER IN HER LIFE by Clara Louise Burnham and directed by Lois Weber. This is essentially another variation of the Pollyanna story wherein all the grown ups learn to be better people through the love and innocence of a child. Fortunately, the child isn't as treacly sweet as Pollyanna. She gets sad and cries and doesn't try to ram sunshine down every body's throat and there's even one character that she doesn't reach and who remains as selfish as ever. It's not an essential film but surprisingly pleasant considering the potential saccharine it could have dipped into. With Jacqueline Gadsden, Frances Raymond, Eva Thatcher and Robert Frazer.
In a northern California alpine village, a mountain guide (Christopher George) takes a small group of hikers on a "survival" tour. But it isn't long before they realize something is very wrong as aggressive mountain lions, bears, wolves, snakes and birds begin to attack them. Directed by William Girdler (THE MANITOU), this is a cheesy "animals gone wild" horror film that's developed a cult following (mostly from those who saw it at an easily impressed young age). The suspense level is weak, the acting indifferent except for Leslie Nielsen whose over the top performance should be legendary in the annals of bad acting. It's derivative of films like THE BIRDS, FROGS, WILLARD etc. It's been done better though this one has some unintentionally amusing moments. The large cast includes Ruth Roman, Lynda Day George, Richard Jaeckel, Michael Ansara, Andrew Stevens, Paul Mantee, Jon Cedar, Susan Backlinie (JAWS first victim) and Bobby Porter, 18 years old but convincingly playing a 10 year old.
An infamous lawyer (Edmond O'Brien), who is notorious for defending guilty clients, is asked by a ship company to defend the Captain (Robert McQueeney, who gave up acting to become a priest) of a luxury liner that sank and killed over 100 passengers and crew due to the Captain's negligence. Directed by Fred F. Sears (EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS), this courtroom drama plays out like an episode of PERRY MASON. We get a little domestic background with the attorney and his wife (Mona Freeman), who has a distaste for her husband's clientele but the majority of the movie takes place in the courtroom. As a courtroom drama, it's okay but it's not special enough to make a big screen event. But it was produced by Sam Katzman, Columbia's resident king of cheap so it didn't cost much but ten years later, something like this would have shown up as a TV movie of the week. With Karin Booth, Paul Birch and John Beradino.