Films Worth Viewing Year 2

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ClifSpliffy

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"This Gun For Hire"- Frank Tuttle-1942

This film is almost 80 years old. It is based on a Graham Green novel published in 1936. Paramount bought the screen rights for $12,000. Tuttle was a studio director. He worked regularly, but his career is devoid of peaks and valleys. W.R. Burnett who co-wrote the screenplay is a major Hollywood figure. His novels often were adapted for the screen beginning with "Little Caesar." He also wrote screenplays; one of the better known is "The Great Escape." Walz, his writing partner, was one of the Hollywood 10; he was blacklisted, He was a committed Communist.

Several commentators criticize the script for its use of remarkable coincidences. They were in Green's book as well. Raven (Allan Ladd) is a professional hitter. He is not one for staging accidents or suicides; he just shoots people at close range. Raven betrays little emotion. He likes cats; he believes they are his luck. In the beginning of the film Raven hits a blackmailer. He had been informed that the individual was alone. He ended up having to kill the girlfriend. Raven meets Willard Gates (Laird Cregar) who pays him $1,000 in counterfeit tens. Raven gave Gates incriminating technical documents, the chemical formula for a new poison gas which is being sold to the Japanese. Pearl Harbor occurred mid-way through the shooting. This is more contrivance than coincidence. Why would you pay your hitter in hot money? If he is caught; he has a story to tell. The police probably wouldn't believe him, but wait the company is already being investigated for trading with the enemy.

Raven sets out after Gates. Gates runs a nightclub in LA. He hires Ellen Graham (Veronica Lake) a singing magician as an act for his club. Ellen is the girlfriend of LT. Crane (Robert Preston) who is investigating the marked money. Gates, Raven and Ellen Graham are all on the same train to LA. Raven and Graham are seatmates. Written out like this it sounds hokey. On the screen it works. Lake, Ladd, and Cregar are excellent. Preston is okay. This film made Ladd a star; it is easy to see why. This is one of the very happy accidents produced by the studio system. Highly recommended; this early noir really delivers.
man, you are awesome, but I repeat myself... this sounds like another good one. thanks.
 
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"This Gun For Hire"- Frank Tuttle-1942

This film is almost 80 years old. It is based on a Graham Green novel published in 1936. Paramount bought the screen rights for $12,000. Tuttle was a studio director. He worked regularly, but his career is devoid of peaks and valleys. W.R. Burnett who co-wrote the screenplay is a major Hollywood figure. His novels often were adapted for the screen beginning with "Little Caesar." He also wrote screenplays; one of the better known is "The Great Escape." Walz, his writing partner, was one of the Hollywood 10; he was blacklisted, He was a committed Communist.

Several commentators criticize the script for its use of remarkable coincidences. They were in Green's book as well. Raven (Allan Ladd) is a professional hitter. He is not one for staging accidents or suicides; he just shoots people at close range. Raven betrays little emotion. He likes cats; he believes they are his luck. In the beginning of the film Raven hits a blackmailer. He had been informed that the individual was alone. He ended up having to kill the girlfriend. Raven meets Willard Gates (Laird Cregar) who pays him $1,000 in counterfeit tens. Raven gave Gates incriminating technical documents, the chemical formula for a new poison gas which is being sold to the Japanese. Pearl Harbor occurred mid-way through the shooting. This is more contrivance than coincidence. Why would you pay your hitter in hot money? If he is caught; he has a story to tell. The police probably wouldn't believe him, but wait the company is already being investigated for trading with the enemy.

Raven sets out after Gates. Gates runs a nightclub in LA. He hires Ellen Graham (Veronica Lake) a singing magician as an act for his club. Ellen is the girlfriend of LT. Crane (Robert Preston) who is investigating the marked money. Gates, Raven and Ellen Graham are all on the same train to LA. Raven and Graham are seatmates. Written out like this it sounds hokey. On the screen it works. Lake, Ladd, and Cregar are excellent. Preston is okay. This film made Ladd a star; it is easy to see why. This is one of the very happy accidents produced by the studio system. Highly recommended; this early noir really delivers.
As mentioned in this review, "This Gun For Hire" is one of the early examples of a style of film that became known as film noir. For the last few years, Turner Classic Movies has been running a film series called "Noir Alley". There are two showings each weekend, Saturday night/Sunday morning just after midnight (really, the perfect time for this sort of stuff), with a repeat at 10am on Sunday. The commentaries at the beginning and end of the movies by Eddie Muller are a real hoot to watch and listen to. Anyway, "This Gun For Hire" was shown on "Noir Alley" a few months ago, and it is always interesting to see what will pop up in this series.
 
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"I Served the King of England"-Jiri Menzel-2006

Menzel is best known for his Oscar winning "Closely Watched Trains." He scripted this from an epic novel by Bohunmil Hrabel. This was the Czech nominee at the 2008 Oscars. It is a patische of visual styles. The dialogue is in a half dozen languages with only Czech being translated. It is brilliantly photographed; the narrative tells two stories with one central character, Jan Dites. The best translation of the last name is child. The lead character is short, but perhaps the name refers more to his character and his behavior. There is one scene near the end of the film where Jan Dite sits before a bevy of mirrors looking at multiple reflections of himself. In some of the mirrors he sees scenes from his past, but he is the only one visible.

The film narratively begins in two places. We see a graying man emerging from a Czech prison. He has been released as part of a general amnesty after having served 14 years and nine months of a 15 year sentence. In the past we see a young Jan as a hotdog vendor in a railway station. He serves a departing passenger, but even after chasing the train he is unable to give the man his change. In the present day his coat is caught in the jail door. The narrator mordantly comments: "It was always my luck to run into bad luck." It is also necessary to mention that the opening sequence in the past is a silent slapstick comedy bit. The customer Wolden becomes a guide to the young Jan Dites as he makes his way as a waiter. His goal is to own a hotel and become a millionaire. Dites reaches the peak of hotel service on the recommendation of Wolden. He trains under a maitre d' who served the King of England at the Hotel Paris in Prague. Dites receives a sash and huge medal from the Emperor Of Ethiopia for his service at a state banquet, or is it because he is the only waiter who is short enough so that the Emperor is able to place the sash with the medal upon him?

There is considerable social commentary particularly about the Nazis and the Communists. Menzel is known for his political views, but the protagonist, Jan Dites is pretty oblivious to politics. Probably the only political gesture he makes is coming to the of a racially Aryan girl being assaulted by Czechs on the streets of Prague.
It may be because she is short. She is the only girl he meets who is shorter than he is. Jan marries the girl who is a devoted Nazi. He gets a job at a hotel converted into a breeding center to produce the next generation of Aryans. She makes their fortunes by confiscating rare stamps from Jewish collectors. This was a suggestion of Molder; when war is coming invest in stamps. His wife doesn't survive the war, but the stamps do. Selling some provides the capital for a hotel for millionaires. Dite runs his hotel successfully, but when the Communists come to power, he is sentenced to one year in prison for every million.

This is a solid viewing experience. I don't find it a comic masterpiece, but the superior acting, beautiful scenes, and an engaging story carry the day. I couldn't find a free streaming option. This is worth putting on a watch list if you like a creative diversion.
 
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"Touch of Evil"-Orson Welles-1958

This is the last American film that Welles had control over; that lasted until the film was shot. Then Universal took over. After that film, Welles wrote a 58 page memo. That memo formed the basis of a new version released in 1998. It was supposed to be the opening film at Cannes, but Welles' daughter prevented it. She had a history of threatening law suits. She prevented a commentary from being included on the DVD re-issue.

Considering Welles' reputation with studios; actors wanted to work with him. He called Marlene Dietrich in the middle of shooting and got her to sign on for equity minimum. Heston thought that Welles was the director when he signed on; actually he was only signed as an actor. It was Heston who enabled Welles to get the triple
threat job:actor,writer, and director. Janet Leigh's agent refused the role without consulting her. She was furious and agreed to do the role at a rockbottom salary. Leigh detailed how co-operative Welles was. The actors' input was sought regularly. Dialogue was often re-worked during shooting. The budget was only $850.000.
Welles brought the film in in 39 days and roughly on budget. Unfortunately, it was not a success in the US; however, it received first prize at the Brussels World Fair from a panel of judges including Goddard and Truffaut.

We are lucky the current version exist, and it is available to stream for free on Potlucker. A Mexican police official, Vargas (Charlton Heston) is honeymooning with his wife Susan (Janet Leigh) inthe border town of Los Robles. The film opens with a long tracking shot which follows the couple walking to the border. It also follows a car with an older man and a young woman as they approach the American border. Just as the car passes through the border it explodes. Miguel Vargas and his wife have also passed through the border on the way to their hotel. There is an immediate problem; Vargas can't ignore the explosion. The explosives might well have been placed in the car in Mexico. It is even more likely that the fuse was lit in Mexico. This could be a major rupture in US/Mexican relations. Even though Vargas has no investigatory status; he has to become involved. What happens to his wife and his honeymoon while he is investigating? That is the first conflict the film explores. The second is the conflict between the Grandi crime syndicate and Vargas. He has an upcoming court date with a Grandi brother in Mexico City on a major drug ring charge. Joe Grandi (Akim
Tamaroff) tries to reach Vargas through his wife. The third conflict arrives with Captain Hank Quilan (Orson Welles) the legendary detective. He wants to solve this murder quickly, and he immediately takes issue with Vargas' presence.

Welles' character is compelling. He is a hero to cops. In his 30 years he has lost only one murderer, the mad who strangled his wife. Quinlin is overweight and with heavy stubble. He has been sober 12 years and he doesn't suffer fools gladly. Quinlin is results centered; Vargas is law centered. Welles is a giant in this role; he commands the camera. His limping walk (he took a bullet for his partner Menzies (Joseph Callela) still conveys authority. Vargas and Quinlin recognize almost immediately that they are antagonists.

The plot can seem to be an overly spiced bowl of chilli, but the images, the acting, and the dialogue are still most flavorful. The soundtrack is generally the music ofthe environment: car radios, juke boxes, a player piano, and music from various establishments spilling out into the street. I really like this film. Heston said that his biggest acting mistake was not adopting a Hispanic accent for Vargas; I want to hear the accent before I make any judgement. This is a film with a bushel of quotable lines. I'm going to end with one sequence between Quinlin and the fortune teller Tanya (Marlene Dietrich).

"Come and read my future for me."
"You haven't got any"
"Hmm, what do you mean?"
"Your future's all used up."

As Ebert points out in his Great Movies review; this was Welles' last significant American production as a director. Watch this film; 60+ years after its release and it is still riveting.
 
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"Touch of Evil"-Orson Welles-1958

This is the last American film that Welles had control over; that lasted until the film was shot. Then Universal took over. After that film, Welles wrote a 58 page memo. That memo formed the basis of a new version released in 1998. It was supposed to be the opening film at Cannes, but Welles' daughter prevented it. She had a history of threatening law suits. She prevented a commentary from being included on the DVD re-issue.

Considering Welles' reputation with studios; actors wanted to work with him. He called Marlene Dietrich in the middle of shooting and got her to sign on for equity minimum. Heston thought that Welles was the director when he signed on; actually he was only signed as an actor. It was Heston who enabled Welles to get the triple
threat job:actor,writer, and director. Janet Leigh's agent refused the role without consulting her. She was furious and agreed to do the role at a rockbottom salary. Leigh detailed how co-operative Welles was. The actors' input was sought regularly. Dialogue was often re-worked during shooting. The budget was only $850.000.
Welles brought the film in in 39 days and roughly on budget. Unfortunately, it was not a success in the US; however, it received first prize at the Brussels World Fair from a panel of judges including Goddard and Truffaut.

We are lucky the current version exist, and it is available to stream for free on Potlucker. A Mexican police official, Vargas (Charlton Heston) is honeymooning with his wife Susan (Janet Leigh) inthe border town of Los Robles. The film opens with a long tracking shot which follows the couple walking to the border. It also follows a car with an older man and a young woman as they approach the American border. Just as the car passes through the border it explodes. Miguel Vargas and his wife have also passed through the border on the way to their hotel. There is an immediate problem; Vargas can't ignore the explosion. The explosives might well have been placed in the car in Mexico. It is even more likely that the fuse was lit in Mexico. This could be a major rupture in US/Mexican relations. Even though Vargas has no investigatory status; he has to become involved. What happens to his wife and his honeymoon while he is investigating? That is the first conflict the film explores. The second is the conflict between the Grandi crime syndicate and Vargas. He has an upcoming court date with a Grandi brother in Mexico City on a major drug ring charge. Joe Grandi (Akim
Tamaroff) tries to reach Vargas through his wife. The third conflict arrives with Captain Hank Quilan (Orson Welles) the legendary detective. He wants to solve this murder quickly, and he immediately takes issue with Vargas' presence.

Welles' character is compelling. He is a hero to cops. In his 30 years he has lost only one murderer, the mad who strangled his wife. Quinlin is overweight and with heavy stubble. He has been sober 12 years and he doesn't suffer fools gladly. Quinlin is results centered; Vargas is law centered. Welles is a giant in this role; he commands the camera. His limping walk (he took a bullet for his partner Menzies (Joseph Callela) still conveys authority. Vargas and Quinlin recognize almost immediately that they are antagonists.

The plot can seem to be an overly spiced bowl of chilli, but the images, the acting, and the dialogue are still most flavorful. The soundtrack is generally the music ofthe environment: car radios, juke boxes, a player piano, and music from various establishments spilling out into the street. I really like this film. Heston said that his biggest acting mistake was not adopting a Hispanic accent for Vargas; I want to hear the accent before I make any judgement. This is a film with a bushel of quotable lines. I'm going to end with one sequence between Quinlin and the fortune teller Tanya (Marlene Dietrich).

"Come and read my future for me."
"You haven't got any"
"Hmm, what do you mean?"
"Your future's all used up."

As Ebert points out in his Great Movies review; this was Welles' last significant American production as a director. Watch this film; 60+ years after its release and it is still riveting.
The long tracking shot at the beginning of the film is an amazing piece of work.
 
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"Harvey"-Henry Koster-1950

This was adapted for the screen by Mary Chase from her Pulitizer winning Broadway smash. It has been re-made several times for tv and films. The show has been revived for Broadway several times. It is available for free streaming on several sites including putlucker. Henry Koster a Jewish expatriate from the Nazis directs. His first US film was the Deanna Durbin smash "Three Smart Girls." He generally directed comedies and musicals.
Jimmy Stewart played the Elwood P. Dowd role in London's West End for 6 months prior to making the film.
Dowd is a genial man without a job, unmarried, and apparently with no purpose in life. His best friend is a 6 foot rabbit (more precisely 6' 3 1/2) named Harvey. Harvey is a pooka. This is a figure of Celtic mythology which often appears in animal form. This genuinely benign but somewhat playful character has several amazing powers including the power to stop time.

This is a farce, but one with a layer of thought underlying the comedy. Dowd opines to Dr. Chumley(Cecil Kellaway) that: "Years ago my mother said to me, she'd say "In this world you can be oh so smart, or oh so pleasant'. Well for years I was smart...I recommend pleasant .You can quote me." Elwood P. Dowd is a gentleman of considerable charm. He enjoys conservation,and he is a great listener. He is also a social democrat; he will talk with anyone. He wants to socialize with all classes. He puts everyone at ease. The only problem is that he insists on introducing Harvey to everyone. Harvey is visible to few people, and often intermittently. His sister Vita Louise (Josephine Hull) is one of those. However, she considers Harvey the bane of her social life and a threat to her daughter's' ,Myrtle May's social life. When the arrival of Elwood and Harvet disrupts an important social event she is hosting; that is the final straw. Vita Louise decides to have Elwood committed to Dr. Chumley's looney bin.

Opinions differ about this film's quality. The differences generally are based on whether or not you accept the whimsical premise of a pooka appearing or not appearing as a giant rabbit. If you do, then this film particularly the second half is escapist platinum. Like most pieces of whimsy, it is extremely fragile. Hull won an Oscar for her performance. Jesse White launched a very solid movie career with his performance as the orderly Martin. Let me leave you with the immortal words of the convert Dr. Chumley: Flyspecks, Flyspecks!
I've been spending my life among flyspecks while miracles have been leaning against lamposts at 18th and Fairfax. The DVD has an introduction to the film by Stewart which both intrigues and enlightens the viewer.
 
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"Harvey"-Henry Koster-1950

This was adapted for the screen by Mary Chase from her Pulitizer winning Broadway smash. It has been re-made several times for tv and films. The show has been revived for Broadway several times. It is available for free streaming on several sites including putlucker. Henry Koster a Jewish expatriate from the Nazis directs. His first US film was the Deanna Durbin smash "Three Smart Girls." He generally directed comedies and musicals.
Jimmy Stewart played the Elwood P. Dowd role in London's West End for 6 months prior to making the film.
Dowd is a genial man without a job, unmarried, and apparently with no purpose in life. His best friend is a 6 foot rabbit (more precisely 6' 3 1/2) named Harvey. Harvey is a pooka. This is a figure of Celtic mythology which often appears in animal form. This genuinely benign but somewhat playful character has several amazing powers including the power to stop time.

This is a farce, but one with a layer of thought underlying the comedy. Dowd opines to Dr. Chumley(Cecil Kellaway) that: "Years ago my mother said to me, she'd say "In this world you can be oh so smart, or oh so pleasant'. Well for years I was smart...I recommend pleasant .You can quote me." Elwood P. Dowd is a gentleman of considerable charm. He enjoys conservation,and he is a great listener. He is also a social democrat; he will talk with anyone. He wants to socialize with all classes. He puts everyone at ease. The only problem is that he insists on introducing Harvey to everyone. Harvey is visible to few people, and often intermittently. His sister Vita Louise (Josephine Hull) is one of those. However, she considers Harvey the bane of her social life and a threat to her daughter's' ,Myrtle May's social life. When the arrival of Elwood and Harvet disrupts an important social event she is hosting; that is the final straw. Vita Louise decides to have Elwood committed to Dr. Chumley's looney bin.

Opinions differ about this film's quality. The differences generally are based on whether or not you accept the whimsical premise of a pooka appearing or not appearing as a giant rabbit. If you do, then this film particularly the second half is escapist platinum. Like most pieces of whimsy, it is extremely fragile. Hull won an Oscar for her performance. Jesse White launched a very solid movie career with his performance as the orderly Martin. Let me leave you with the immortal words of the convert Dr. Chumley: Flyspecks, Flyspecks!
I've been spending my life among flyspecks while miracles have been leaning against lamposts at 18th and Fairfax. The DVD has an introduction to the film by Stewart which both intrigues and enlightens the viewer.
Count me in as one of those people who think "Harvey" is a very good film. I like a bit of fantasy, whimsy, and escapism to some of the films I watch, and in my mind "Harvey" and Jimmy Stewart carries it off well. It's one of those films that I have watched a number of times, and wouldn't mind seeing it again.
 
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Sorry for my absence.

Fantasia 2000-Disney-1999

The premier of this film was in December 1999. Disney had for years looked to update the Fantasia concept. Various pieces of music and animation concepts were viewed with as potential options for segments in a new film. It is perhaps incongruous to view Walt Disney the man as a radical,yet, "Fantasia" was not only a brilliant animated feature, but a true artistic leap. The basic concept of using animation, sometimes even abstract animation (if there is such a thing), to illustrate classical music was more than a creative leap. It attempted a restructuring of how we understand music, and yes animation. "Fantasia" wasn't a financial success. In fact theater chains refused to commit to showing re-issues of the film. It is well know that part of the Disney model is to re-issue classic animated films every 7 to 8 years. This meant that a new generation would experience the films in a theater setting. With the advent of home viewing options, Disney would re-issue first VHS and then DVD's using the same pattern.

This sequel is hard to find. but it is rewarding. I agree with the critics that the human intros can be a little lame.
My favorite this time Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue." I hesitate to call it a story, but I'm not sure what to call it.
A series of scenes with different characters actions intertwined with the music is my best approximation.. The scenes all occur in a fictional/fantasy New York City in the 1930's. The city itself is a connecting theme in the segment. One segment is taken from the original; Mickey Mouse returns in "The Sorcerer's Apprentice. Both films brought me back to my childhood and teachers' efforts to open the ears of primary school students to the world of classical music. My entry to this world was through vocal music. I sang in choirs from elementary school through college. I found opera on my own. It particularly appealed to me because of the combination of visual and auditory stimulation. That is of course what these two films do.

Unfortunately, you will have to wait until your local library re-opens to borrow a copy of "Fantasia 2000." The original is available to stream for free. I think that this is great cinema; you may not agree. The very nature of the endeavor may be more than daunting. Then there is the fact that neither film is perfect. I believe that both films reach for the stars. Virtually all films lack this dual complexity. Yet, they are experiential rather than intellectual and/or logical. I probably have confused you as much as I have confused myself. Finis.
 
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"Young Frankenstein"-Mel Brooks-1974

Gene Wilder had an idea; he would write a comedy based on Mary Shelly's original "Frankenstein." He sold the idea to Mel Brooks. They co-operated (?) on a script which evolved into a movie which is considered a comic classic.. This is deceptively simple. The film was made for a modest budget, 2.8 million, but it moved from Columbia to Fox to secure the necessary budget. After shooting the team had an ungainly beyond epic length product which wasn'treally funny. Editing reduced the length, and suddenly the film was funny. All the gags worked instead of one in four. It was a fight to make the film in black and white and not widescreen. Of course the film steals many scenes from the first two classic Universal Frankenstein films.

This film reminds me of the Marx Brothers. The Marx Brothers totter on the edge of fast paced insanity. In their great films; the comic madness is blessed, This film achieves a restoration of the atmosphere of the Universal films of the '30's. This provides a setting for both scripted and improvised brilliance. One of my favorite scenes in "The Bride of Frankenstein" is where the monster meets a blind friar. The two individuals spend a most pleasant evening eating taking and smoking cigars. This shows the humanity of the monster. Here we have a series of misadventures which include the monster being scalded with hot soup and having his finger lit on fire by the blind recluse. This is now very broad and very funny comedy.

This is a brilliantly talented cast: from Gene Wilder as the young doctor Frankenstein and Peter Boyle as the engaging monster to Kenneth Mars as the police inspector to who wears a monocle over an eye patch. I would like to single out Marty Feldman as Igor the assistant whose hump mysteriously moves from shoulder and whose eyes have to be seen to be believed. Gene Hackman plays the blind recluse so convincingly that his identity is only discovered reading the credits. Madeline Kahn plays Elizabeth, Frankenstein's fiance, but she ends up as the monster's bride. Peter Boyle ends up as a song and dance man in a scene where he and the doctor perform "Putting on the Ritz."

Since this classic is available to stream for free, you have no excuse not to take the train leaving from the Transylvania Station
 
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"Young Frankenstein"-Mel Brooks-1974

Gene Wilder had an idea; he would write a comedy based on Mary Shelly's original "Frankenstein." He sold the idea to Mel Brooks. They co-operated (?) on a script which evolved into a movie which is considered a comic classic.. This is deceptively simple. The film was made for a modest budget, 2.8 million, but it moved from Columbia to Fox to secure the necessary budget.
I heard Mel Brooks tell the story that the only way Gene Wilder would agree to star is if Brooks promised to not cast himself. "He didn't want me playing to the camera". And I find it amazing that Brooks needed to scrounge up money since he had just delivered the number 1 box office movie of the year.
 
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I heard Mel Brooks tell the story that the only way Gene Wilder would agree to star is if Brooks promised to not cast himself. "He didn't want me playing to the camera". And I find it amazing that Brooks needed to scrounge up money since he had just delivered the number 1 box office movie of the year.
Brooks and Wilder did fight, and I read that Gene didn't want Brooks on camera. It is reported that Brooks contributed several sounds. "Blazing Saddles" was a huge hit. The Western was seen as a dead genre; there was concern that a black and white parody of #0's horror films would be box office death. Brooks pushed the envelope a full length silent feature and a musical parody of Robin Hood to mention two other of his films.
 
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"Young Frankenstein"-Mel Brooks-1974

Gene Wilder had an idea; he would write a comedy based on Mary Shelly's original "Frankenstein." He sold the idea to Mel Brooks. They co-operated (?) on a script which evolved into a movie which is considered a comic classic.. This is deceptively simple. The film was made for a modest budget, 2.8 million, but it moved from Columbia to Fox to secure the necessary budget. After shooting the team had an ungainly beyond epic length product which wasn'treally funny. Editing reduced the length, and suddenly the film was funny. All the gags worked instead of one in four. It was a fight to make the film in black and white and not widescreen. Of course the film steals many scenes from the first two classic Universal Frankenstein films.

This film reminds me of the Marx Brothers. The Marx Brothers totter on the edge of fast paced insanity. In their great films; the comic madness is blessed, This film achieves a restoration of the atmosphere of the Universal films of the '30's. This provides a setting for both scripted and improvised brilliance. One of my favorite scenes in "The Bride of Frankenstein" is where the monster meets a blind friar. The two individuals spend a most pleasant evening eating taking and smoking cigars. This shows the humanity of the monster. Here we have a series of misadventures which include the monster being scalded with hot soup and having his finger lit on fire by the blind recluse. This is now very broad and very funny comedy.

This is a brilliantly talented cast: from Gene Wilder as the young doctor Frankenstein and Peter Boyle as the engaging monster to Kenneth Mars as the police inspector to who wears a monocle over an eye patch. I would like to single out Marty Feldman as Igor the assistant whose hump mysteriously moves from shoulder and whose eyes have to be seen to be believed. Gene Hackman plays the blind recluse so convincingly that his identity is only discovered reading the credits. Madeline Kahn plays Elizabeth, Frankenstein's fiance, but she ends up as the monster's bride. Peter Boyle ends up as a song and dance man in a scene where he and the doctor perform "Putting on the Ritz."

Since this classic is available to stream for free, you have no excuse not to take the train leaving from the Transylvania Station
"The Producers" and "Young Frankenstein" are by far my favorite Mel Brooks movies. Both are brilliant. In my mind none of Mel Brooks other movies come close to these two. As for "Young Frankenstein", there is lots of good stuff in this film, but Marty Feldman pretty much steels the proceedings.
 
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"The Producers" and "Young Frankenstein" are by far my favorite Mel Brooks movies. Both are brilliant. In my mind none of Mel Brooks other movies come close to these two.
Blazing Saddles is awesome!
 
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Blazing Saddles is awesome!
I know I am in the minority on that one and that Blazing Saddles is regarded by many as one of Mel Brooks best movies, but it just never did much for me.
 
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"The Flight of the Phoenix"-Robert Aldrich-1965

Aldrich was a top flight director. His hits include "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane" and "The Dirty Dozen." This film is based on a novel of the same name by Trevor Ellison who is better known for "The Quiller Memorandum>" The film wasn't a box office success despite having a high powered cast headed by Jimmy Stewart as Frank Tooms. The story is really interesting. A group of oil workers are flying from the fields to RnR on an old and poorly serviced plane belonging to a third rate airline. Stewart is the plane's captain; he is flying without a co-pilot. He does have an engineer, Lew Marsh (Richard Attenbouragh) who has a major drinking problem. The plane encounters a major sand storm; they are 159 miles off course. One engine fails and just before the second engine fails Tooms brings the plane down, but the under carriage is so badly damaged that the plane won't be able to fly out.

What follows is more of a character study than an action film. The basic question is how will they be able to escape their dire situation and with what cost. They have very limited stocks of food and water. They hope to be found by a search, but that becomes increasingly unlikely. One of the passengers is a British army captain, he attempts to walk out and reach an oasis. That fails and the group is left with two options wait to die, or attempt to build a new plane from the wreckage under the tutelage of a German aircraft designer, William Dorfman (Hardy Krueger). Dorfman and Tooms have a monumental disdain for each other. They are strong willed prickly characters, and it falls to the engineer, Lew Marsh, to bridge the gap.

Through the years this film has attracted a strong following. The acting is very solid,the script and dialogue are tight. The conditions on set were difficult. It is worth noting that the principle stunt pilot, Paul Muntz, died filming a take-off of the plane built from the parts salvaged from the wreckage. The only thing I know
which is comparable is the moving of a steamboat in "Fitzcarraldo." We have become used to CGI giving viewers spectacular special effects, but this is well before time. Everything is done primitively. The pace is more leisurely and character development is far more important than action sequences.

Most highly recommended, and it is available to stream for free. This is truly a forgotten gem. Beware the remake.
 
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"The Natural"-Barry Levinson-1984

This is based on a Bernard Malmaud novel of the same title. The script is by Robert Towne. Levinson is a topdirector:The Diner. Good Morning Viet Nam, Rain Man, Bugsy, Wag the Dog, et al. Forthose of you who haven't seen the film; this is a brief synopsis: Roy Hobbs, a promising young left hander is traveling with a scout to Chicago for a tryout with the Cubs. He meets a mysterious woman on the train, Harriet Bird. He goes to her hotel room.She shoots him with a silver bullet. Then she jumps out the window apparently to her death. Roy Hobbs vanishes for 16 years. He r--appears in 1939 as a new signon for a New York major league club. His only possession from his past is his handmade cat, Wonder Boy. The bat has lightning carved into its surface.

This is beautifully filmed. Great care was taken to create the period ambiance. Location scouts looked at dozens of ball parks until they settled on War Memorial Stadium in Buffalo. This is not the current stadium, but a venue where the Triple A Buffalo team played. Cue the eerie music. Many critics believe that the novel and film are mythic. The two most popular interpretations are the search for the Holy Grail and the Voyage of Odysseus. Of the two, Odysseus makes more sense to me. I'm sorry if I have poisoned the well. However, you have free will,
and you may choose not to watch this film. You may choose to watch the film without myth and mystery.

If you are still undecided; it is available for free streaming, but Ebert writes a scathing review. It has a stellar cast:
Robert Duvall, Wilfred Brimley, Robert Prosky, Joe Don Baker, Darren McGavin, Robert Redford. Barbara Hershey, Kim Bassinger, and Glen Close. It made solid money at the box office. It employs various special effects which can cross the line into cliche fantasyland. In one scene Roy Hobbs literally hits the cover off the ball; if that isn't bad enough, the joke continues for pages of the script. However, those who like this film
are messianic in their support. I kind of like the film.
 

storrsroars

Exiled in Pittsburgh
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"The Natural"-Barry Levinson-1984

This is based on a Bernard Malmaud novel of the same title. The script is by Robert Towne. Levinson is a topdirector:The Diner. Good Morning Viet Nam, Rain Man, Bugsy, Wag the Dog, et al. Forthose of you who haven't seen the film; this is a brief synopsis: Roy Hobbs, a promising young left hander is traveling with a scout to Chicago for a tryout with the Cubs. He meets a mysterious woman on the train, Harriet Bird. He goes to her hotel room.She shoots him with a silver bullet. Then she jumps out the window apparently to her death. Roy Hobbs vanishes for 16 years. He r--appears in 1939 as a new signon for a New York major league club. His only possession from his past is his handmade cat, Wonder Boy. The bat has lightning carved into its surface.

This is beautifully filmed. Great care was taken to create the period ambiance. Location scouts looked at dozens of ball parks until they settled on War Memorial Stadium in Buffalo. This is not the current stadium, but a venue where the Triple A Buffalo team played. Cue the eerie music. Many critics believe that the novel and film are mythic. The two most popular interpretations are the search for the Holy Grail and the Voyage of Odysseus. Of the two, Odysseus makes more sense to me. I'm sorry if I have poisoned the well. However, you have free will,
and you may choose not to watch this film. You may choose to watch the film without myth and mystery.

If you are still undecided; it is available for free streaming, but Ebert writes a scathing review. It has a stellar cast:
Robert Duvall, Wilfred Brimley, Robert Prosky, Joe Don Baker, Darren McGavin, Robert Redford. Barbara Hershey, Kim Bassinger, and Glen Close. It made solid money at the box office. It employs various special effects which can cross the line into cliche fantasyland. In one scene Roy Hobbs literally hits the cover off the ball; if that isn't bad enough, the joke continues for pages of the script. However, those who like this film
are messianic in their support. I kind of like the film.
I guess the movie had to have a happy ending because "Hollywood", but the ending and the Glenn Close character were very, very different in the book, which did not end as happily.
 
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"The Silence of the Lambs"-Jonathan Demme-1991

I've watched this film more than a few times, but I haven't watched in quite a few years. It's surprisingly watchable. It's a thriller/horror movie; you know the plot; you know the ending, but as with other great films; repeated viewings provide new pleasures. I really enjoyed the beginning; Clarice Starling is running the obstacle course at Quantico alone. It is tough, but she is handling it. The FBI loved this film because they believed it would help them to recruit more female agents. She is summoned from the course to meet Jack Crawford, head of the FBI Behavioral Science Unit. She rides an elevator to the meeting. Jodi Foster looks tiny compared with the male trainees. The offices are tiny and windowless. Clarice looks at the wall; there is a panoply of clippings, pictures, and notes from a current investigation. There is a serial killer, Buffalo Bob, who skins his female victims and dumps the bodies in rivers. Crawford enters the room. We find out the Starling was a student in a class he taught at UVA. She asked tough questions, but Crawford still gave her an A. Clarice corrects him; she received an A-. Scott Glenn was recently interviewed about the film; he maintains that the film's popularity was due to its coming of age story. Clarice starts the movie as a girl, but she ends up a heroic woman. Even Hannibal Lecter respects her.

Ah, Hannibal Lecter, he s one of the greatest of screen villains. Some critics find him likable; I don't. I do find him compelling and Charismatic. I wont go into great detail about his initial appearance. There is a calmness, a self possession as he stands in his cell as Clarice approaches. We have no doubt that he is supremely intelligent and intuitive as the conversation progresses. It is hard to picture any other actors in the roles of Starling and Lecter. Demme was interested in Sean Connery first. Hopkins was primarily known as a stage actor, but Demme loved his portrayal of a doctor in "Elephant Man." BTW if you have Netflix, the film is free. However, there is a two hour plus documentary about the film available on Youtube.

Demme was a first rate director; however, if you review his career, you will film that much of it is of musical performances. We covered "Stop Making Sense" in the first year. One can argue that this is the greatest concert film ever. He directed a handful of quality films: Melvin and Howard, Philadelphia, Married to the Mob, and Adaptation. The range is surprising; almost Wilderish. Gene Hackman bought half the film rights,
but in never got off the ground. Tully had begun scripting the film. Demme read the book as his preparation. The crew searched long and hard for a setting. They settled on the area around Pittsburg, but they filmed at Quantico. Let me mention the iconic poster. It depicts Jody Foster with a moth over her lips.
Her eyes mimic the colors of the moth. In real life Jody Foster has blue eyes. In real life Jody Foster was stalked by John Hinkley , erstwhile Ronald Reagan Assassin.

The film captured the five big Oscars: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Screenplay.
Surprisingly, it opened in February; Conventional wisdom has Oscar contenders opening later in the season.
At the close of the film, Lecter calls Starling at her FBI graduation. "Well, Clarice, have the lambs stopped screaming?" Lecter has escaped, and he is going to meet an old friend for dinner. Beneath the closing credits we focus on a small street with pedestrians in view. Lecter is stalking the slimey Dr. Chilton.

Wow!
 
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I was a bit squeamish and didn't watch SOTL first-run. What a fool I was, it's one of the best of all-time for me. And don't leave Something Wild of the list of first-rate Demme flicks.
 

Dove

Son of Wayne. Friend of Tony.
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"Young Frankenstein"-Mel Brooks-1974

Gene Wilder had an idea; he would write a comedy based on Mary Shelly's original "Frankenstein." He sold the idea to Mel Brooks. They co-operated (?) on a script which evolved into a movie which is considered a comic classic.. This is deceptively simple. The film was made for a modest budget, 2.8 million, but it moved from Columbia to Fox to secure the necessary budget. After shooting the team had an ungainly beyond epic length product which wasn'treally funny. Editing reduced the length, and suddenly the film was funny. All the gags worked instead of one in four. It was a fight to make the film in black and white and not widescreen. Of course the film steals many scenes from the first two classic Universal Frankenstein films.

This film reminds me of the Marx Brothers. The Marx Brothers totter on the edge of fast paced insanity. In their great films; the comic madness is blessed, This film achieves a restoration of the atmosphere of the Universal films of the '30's. This provides a setting for both scripted and improvised brilliance. One of my favorite scenes in "The Bride of Frankenstein" is where the monster meets a blind friar. The two individuals spend a most pleasant evening eating taking and smoking cigars. This shows the humanity of the monster. Here we have a series of misadventures which include the monster being scalded with hot soup and having his finger lit on fire by the blind recluse. This is now very broad and very funny comedy.

This is a brilliantly talented cast: from Gene Wilder as the young doctor Frankenstein and Peter Boyle as the engaging monster to Kenneth Mars as the police inspector to who wears a monocle over an eye patch. I would like to single out Marty Feldman as Igor the assistant whose hump mysteriously moves from shoulder and whose eyes have to be seen to be believed. Gene Hackman plays the blind recluse so convincingly that his identity is only discovered reading the credits. Madeline Kahn plays Elizabeth, Frankenstein's fiance, but she ends up as the monster's bride. Peter Boyle ends up as a song and dance man in a scene where he and the doctor perform "Putting on the Ritz."

Since this classic is available to stream for free, you have no excuse not to take the train leaving from the Transylvania Station
No lifting of the knockers to Teri Garr?!?
 
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Demme was a first rate director; however, if you review his career, you will film that much of it is of musical performances. We covered "Stop Making Sense" in the first year. One can argue that this is the greatest concert film ever. He directed a handful of quality films: Melvin and Howard, Philadelphia, Married to the Mob, and Adaptation.
Adaptation is a wonderful film. However, it was directed by Spike Jonze. Demme was one of the producers.
 
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House Cleaning

I've run into quite a dryspell; the one film I really wanted to discuss, "Hope and Glory" directed by John Boorman, is impossible to find at present. Not only is there no free streaming; there is no streaming at all. It is the story of a young boy (told from his viewpoint) of the beginning of WWII in England. It is deftly made with some superb photography. It features a magnificent performance by Ian Bannen as the grandfather. Films made from a child's viewpoint are rare. One that you are probably very familiar with is "E.T.." Spielberg was very conscious of emphasizing Elliot's viewpoint. The cameras were set at his eye level for many scenes. I was hoping that this viewing of "E.T." would be like the revelation I had viewing "Jaws" last summer. Sadly, that wasn't to be. Several hours of viewing the film and all the extras, and then several hours of research and still no calling to write a full commentary. The poster is great. I don't want to disappoint you with an analysis that is remiss.

Moving on; I've always Thought "Singing in the Rain" was a great musical. Comden and Green are an exceptional writing team. Gene Kelley, Debbie Reynolds, and Donald O'Connor are all great. "Make Them Laugh" is a special favorite. Still after viewing the film and delving deeply into the background; I wasn't moved to contribute to your ennui.

In desperation I turned to "Rocketman" this morning. I liked the music, but again where was the Watford football club? Where was Princess Di? "Candle in the Wind" is the biggest selling single of all time, 33 million copies. I bought a few as gifts.

I realize that I am congenitally grumpy, but please Gods Of the Yard; I beseech you let me find the way back to films worth viewing and writing about. Do it not for me, but for the Glory of Your Church!
 

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