Films Worth Viewing Year 3

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Just a bit of housekeeping before the first full comment; I will post a table of contents for year two shortly. I will try and post regularly. Suggestions about particular films, or more general suggestions for instance; more foreign films, more films from this century, etc, are worth consideration. I will return momentarily.
 
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"2001 A Space Odyssey: Stanley Kubrick-1968

I couldn't find a free streaming option with these two exceptions. On YouTube there is a complete version; all the shots are there, but they are in no discernable order. A jigsaw puzzle which you cannot assemble, unless you are
something of a computer genius and have access to the original film. The second option is a version using the original film assembled by Stephen Soderburg. It runs 30+ minutes less than the original. I haven't watched it.

Stanley Kubrick was a meticulous craftsman. In his entire career he directed I believe 13 films. There were four years between "Dr. Strangelove" and "2001." In addition to directing, writing, and producing this film; he designed and oversaw the special effects, shot many bits with a hand held camera, sent off a crew to Africa to shoot background stills while maintaining direct communication. He negotiated the financing with the British Government, using his own company enabled the production to tap into British government subsidies. Even the MGM logo is totally stylized.

I found this to be one of the most difficult films to write about. It cost me a sleepless night. There is no doubt that it changed the perception of SciFi films. Visually it is one of the most impressive films ever. It's length and the lack of dialogue caused some reviewers problems. It also moves slowly. It has a structure which remains opaque. This is not a film which moves the viewer emotionally. This is by design. The film proper opens after several minutes of black screen and classical music with the birth of man.

We see on screen a group of apes surrounding a water hole. The apes were played by mimes in great costumes. There is a community, and a territory. Another group of apes appear; this invading group drives the original group away. The first group sleeps in a cave. When they awake, there is a smooth slab outside.
the slab has a smooth surface and a rectangular shape. It somehow affects the consciousness of one ape in particular. He picks up a (thigh?) bone. He starts hitting other bones with it. He smashes a skull of bones. We have the first tool. It is used to kill small animals. Other apes acquire similar tools. This community re-takes the waterhole. At least one of the opposing apes is killed. One ape throws his club/bone into the air. We see an orbiting military satellite. The connection is obvious, weapon to weapon.

Let's return to the mysterious slab. It appears from nowhere, and it vanishes (that's an assumption). It obviously is the product of an advanced species/civilization. Most believe that Kubrick was wise not to physically depict an alien. The argument is that any particular example is limiting. However, we are led to believe that these beings may no longer have corporeal bodies. Leaving that aside, let's examine the tool.
Why a weapon? Apes and men are omnivores. Could not the first tool be one to better dig up plants, or perhaps to take water from the waterhole more efficiently? The super intelligent beings are responsible for the choice, aren't they?

We next find ourselves on a spaceship heading for the moon. An individual has been sent by an earth governing body to examine a find on the moon. This is a very well kept secret. We discover that 4 million years ago this site was constructed to hold something of value. The object of value is another slab. A group of scientists approach it. It emits a terrible noise. It is sending something to Jupiter. A decision is made to to mount an expedition to Jupiter to discover what received the message. The set up takes 18 months. With great fanfare a ship is readied. It has two crew members and three scientists in cryogenic sleep. There is a sixth member of the crew HAL. This is a very advanced computer; it can interact with crew members. It plays chess and looks at drawings as well as running the ship. On the ground there is a twin HAL 9000 computer which works with the humans at Mission Control. The HAL 9000 series has never made a mistake. HAL communicates directly with the crew with its voice.

Let me quickly mention that the noted British Science Fiction author Arthur C. Clarke was recruited to be Kubrick's mentor. The plan was for them to write the movie script and a novel covering the same material.
The original idea came from one of Clarke's stories, but it was amplified and changed into something new.
Clarke finished the book; this was published after the movie opened. Clarke wrote several sequels including one "2010 The Year We Made Contact" which was filmed.

I will return.
 
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I'm not going to describe the film's ending, but I am going to look into the HAL dilemma. The HAL 9000 series has never made a mistake. The on board HAL reports that a communications antenna will fail within 72 hours. It will run normally until the moment of failure. After the entire struggle with HAL plays out, the Keir Dullea character discovers a message that explains the purpose of the voyage. They are searching for evidence of the intelligent life which was responsible for the slabs. The question is whether or not HAL was in the know. In conversation with the Dullea character, it seems as if HAL may not be in the know. However, why would HAL claim the antenna is faulty? This sets up a conflict with the twin at Mission Control. Was the onboard HAL informed while the twin doesn't have a "need to know?" This seems a more likely possibility. HAL has an over riding obligation to keep this secret.

We need some help here. I thought about Isaac Asimov's "Three Laws of Robotics." I realize that HAL isn't strictly speaking a robot or an android, but if Asimov were still alive; I'm sure he would apply the same laws to HAL. Here are the laws: Law #1: A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction allow a human being to come to harm. Law #2 A robot must obey the orders given by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law. Law #3 a robot must protect its existence as long as it doesn't conflict with First or Second Laws."

A Law 0 has been proposed: A robot may not harm humanity, nor through inaction allow humanity to come to harm. This opens up the possibility that a robot may be forced to consider harming one human being to prevent harm to many human beings. Take the situation of a bomber; employing law zero the artificial intelligence has a conflict. The expectation would be that the AI would act for the greater good. Let's posit that the AI HAL was instructed that the secret of intelligent non human life must be kept at all costs. This decision was made before the Jupiter trip. If the ship were to remain in contact with Mission Control during the investigation process, then the likelihood of leaks would expand astronomically. The only problem with this is why not give the Mission Control HAL the same information and the same order to maintain secrecy?

HAL causes the death of the three scientists in the pods and the death of the astronaut who goes into space to repair the antenna. Is this murder? The Keir Dullea character is forced to kill HAL. HAL had his orders, which called on the AI to pursue the greater good. The question one would ask if HAL were human is; did HAL follow an illegal order? We can continue going down this tunnel; however, Dullea's character's behavior leads him to the next stage of evolution. He will move beyond the need for machines.

This is ranked among the most influential films ever made, and it makes virtually all lists of the greatest films ever made. This is a must see of must sees. That said it is not one of my favorite films. That makes me seem like I'm saying eat your spinach; it's good for you. Not quite; I could discuss this film almost forever; it just isn't one which makes me feel good. I'm not afraid to admit being shallow.
 
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This is a must see of must sees. That said it is not one of my favorite films. That makes me seem like I'm saying eat your spinach; it's good for you. Not quite; I could discuss this film almost forever; it just isn't one which makes me feel good. I'm not afraid to admit being shallow.

My wife and I pretty much feel the same way about this movie. It is certainly a must see, but not one of our favorite films.
 
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"2001 A Space Odyssey: Stanley Kubrick-1968

I couldn't find a free streaming option with these two exceptions. On YouTube there is a complete version; all the shots are there, but they are in no discernable order. A jigsaw puzzle which you cannot assemble, unless you are
something of a computer genius and have access to the original film. The second option is a version using the original film assembled by Stephen Soderburg. It runs 30+ minutes less than the original. I haven't watched it.

Stanley Kubrick was a meticulous craftsman. In his entire career he directed I believe 13 films. There were four years between "Dr. Strangelove" and "2001." In addition to directing, writing, and producing this film; he designed and oversaw the special effects, shot many bits with a hand held camera, sent off a crew to Africa to shoot background stills while maintaining direct communication. He negotiated the financing with the British Government, using his own company enabled the production to tap into British government subsidies. Even the MGM logo is totally stylized.

I found this to be one of the most difficult films to write about. It cost me a sleepless night. There is no doubt that it changed the perception of SciFi films. Visually it is one of the most impressive films ever. It's length and the lack of dialogue caused some reviewers problems. It also moves slowly. It has a structure which remains opaque. This is not a film which moves the viewer emotionally. This is by design. The film proper opens after several minutes of black screen and classical music with the birth of man.

We see on screen a group of apes surrounding a water hole. The apes were played by mimes in great costumes. There is a community, and a territory. Another group of apes appear; this invading group drives the original group away. The first group sleeps in a cave. When they awake, there is a smooth slab outside.
the slab has a smooth surface and a rectangular shape. It somehow affects the consciousness of one ape in particular. He picks up a (thigh?) bone. He starts hitting other bones with it. He smashes a skull of bones. We have the first tool. It is used to kill small animals. Other apes acquire similar tools. This community re-takes the waterhole. At least one of the opposing apes is killed. One ape throws his club/bone into the air. We see an orbiting military satellite. The connection is obvious, weapon to weapon.

Let's return to the mysterious slab. It appears from nowhere, and it vanishes (that's an assumption). It obviously is the product of an advanced species/civilization. Most believe that Kubrick was wise not to physically depict an alien. The argument is that any particular example is limiting. However, we are led to believe that these beings may no longer have corporeal bodies. Leaving that aside, let's examine the tool.
Why a weapon? Apes and men are omnivores. Could not the first tool be one to better dig up plants, or perhaps to take water from the waterhole more efficiently? The super intelligent beings are responsible for the choice, aren't they?

We next find ourselves on a spaceship heading for the moon. An individual has been sent by an earth governing body to examine a find on the moon. This is a very well kept secret. We discover that 4 million years ago this site was constructed to hold something of value. The object of value is another slab. A group of scientists approach it. It emits a terrible noise. It is sending something to Jupiter. A decision is made to to mount an expedition to Jupiter to discover what received the message. The set up takes 18 months. With great fanfare a ship is readied. It has two crew members and three scientists in cryogenic sleep. There is a sixth member of the crew HAL. This is a very advanced computer; it can interact with crew members. It plays chess and looks at drawings as well as running the ship. On the ground there is a twin HAL 9000 computer which works with the humans at Mission Control. The HAL 9000 series has never made a mistake. HAL communicates directly with the crew with its voice.

Let me quickly mention that the noted British Science Fiction author Arthur C. Clarke was recruited to be Kubrick's mentor. The plan was for them to write the movie script and a novel covering the same material.
The original idea came from one of Clarke's stories, but it was amplified and changed into something new.
Clarke finished the book; this was published after the movie opened. Clarke wrote several sequels including one "2010 The Year We Made Contact" which was filmed.

I will return.
One of the greatest films ever made. In my all top five. In reality, in my top two.

People miss the central theme of the film ---evolution. The monolith is always present when evolution makes its next great jump. From beast to man. From man to thinking machine (AI). From physical reality to cosmic.

It is a masterpiece in every way. Space is empty. Our tiny, banal, irrelevant lives are lost in it. Yet the enormous, consequential drama of existence can be packed into seconds. As Poole struggles mightily to reattach his air hose, there is no sound track, he disappears into nothingness (in every way) fighting to last. This scene is intensely emotional and unemotional at the same time. This is the stuff of brilliance. If that's not enough Kubrick creates a visual language to express ideas unbounded by convention narrative. People walk out of this film not knowing what they have watched but feeling the immense power of what they have seen.

See this movie in a theater with a 70mm screen. Do not watch it on your cell phone.
 
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One of the greatest films ever made. In my all top five. In reality, in my top two.

People miss the central theme of the film ---evolution. The monolith is always present when evolution makes its next great jump. From beast to man. From man to thinking machine (AI). From physical reality to cosmic.

It is a masterpiece in every way. Space is empty. Our tiny, banal, irrelevant lives are lost in it. Yet the enormous, consequential drama of existence can be packed into seconds. As Poole struggles mightily to reattach his air hose, there is no sound track, he disappears into nothingness (in every way) fighting to last. This scene is intensely emotional and unemotional at the same time. This is the stuff of brilliance. If that's not enough Kubrick creates a visual language to express ideas unbounded by convention narrative. People walk out of this film not knowing what they have watched but feeling the immense power of what they have seen.

See this movie in a theater with a 70mm screen. Do not watch it on your cell phone.
I definitely agree see this film in a theater with 70 mm and the best sound system available. This film attempts to cover 4 million years of history. There is a tension between the individual and the community; only one person achieves the next level of existence. The achievement of this new level happens after the community aboard the spaceship is destroyed. I think I understand why many people find this film magical; it is stunning visually, and the sound track amplifies the visual. Kubrick is brilliant, a true visionary. Just one bit, in the chess scene he deliberately inserted a mistake in the game. He wanted to get a reaction from chess masters; he did.
I tried to show how dedicated he was to making this film. I didn't deal with post production; that would take another article as long as my initial one. Just one point; the voice of HAL was left out. He had to find a correct voice and record it. That took only one day; yet, he spent a year in post production. He talked his
way way out of a 2 million budget over run. I think I should stop now. This is a must see; his influence on other filmmakers has been monumental.
 
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"The Dirty Dozen"-Robert Aldrich-1967

This is one of many American Films which benefitted from British tax breaks. An additional benefit was that American and Canadian actors resident in England could be hired at very low rates. This was Donald Sutherland's best paying role ever at $600 a week. More importantly it led directly to his role in "Catch 22" which made him a star. The film was a huge financial success, despite being relatively expensive to make. The construction of a huge mansion of the MGM lot was one example. It was built too well, part of it had to be re-built so that it wouldn't take as much explosives to blow up.

Aldrich was a solid director with credits like: "Kiss Me Deadly," "Attack,"and "The Flight of the Phoenix." This film allowed him to form his own production company; it collapsed after two box office failures. Aldrich thought he was making an anti-war film. The American public didn't take it that way. The scenes of packing the vents with grenades were cut for British release. Robert Ryan thought it was ironic that the "Heroes" were rapists and murderers. This was the first major release to show US troops committing war crimes.

While the cast got along well together, despite Marvin's drinking and disputes over haircuts. There were two major problems. Jim Brown decided to retire from the NFL rather than quit the film. Trini Lopez was advised to quit the film by Frank Sinatra because it would take momentum from his singing career. He asked for more money, so Aldrich killed him off early and off camera.

The film was based on a novel by E.M. Nathanson. He'd heard stories about a special unit of prisoners who were offered reinstatement for volunteering for dangerous behind the lines duty. They were called "The Dirty Dozen." He could find no confirmation for this story, so he wrote a novel. This was Nunnaly Johnson's last Hollywood script. Several TV movie sequels were made, and a short lived TV series came from the book/movie.

The principal cast was full of high profile Hollywood types: Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, Robert Ryan, and Charles Bronson. Then there were a group of actors who went on to make it pretty big: Donald Sutherland, John Cassavates, Jim Brown, George Kennedy, and Telly Savalas. This was action casting gold. What makes this film highly watchable today is the lead up to the mission. Major Reisman, Lee Marvin, makes a unit out of these criminals. We care about them. When they are killed, many spectacularly, we feel a sense of loss. The exception is Maggot (Telly Savalas) who gets what he deserves when Jefferson (Jim Brown) shoots him. The final scenes in the Chateau where they are trying to kill as many German officers as possible, generate some real suspense, and the special effects are still pretty spectacular.

This film still retains a loyal following after 50 plus years. I couldn't find free streaming for the original, but the TV sequels are well represented. This merits a solid recommendation.
 
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Zy, perhaps you know the answer to a question which has taken on a life as an urban myth. The name HAL is said to have been chosen because each letter is the one before IBM. I have a friend who befriended Arthur C. Clark as a pen pal when my friend was a kid. My friend maintained a lifelong friendship with Clark until his passing. He even visited him in Sri Lanka. I asked him the same question and he said it never came up. Any idea if this is true.
 
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Zy, perhaps you know the answer to a question which has taken on a life as an urban myth. The name HAL is said to have been chosen because each letter is the one before IBM. I have a friend who befriended Arthur C. Clark as a pen pal when my friend was a kid. My friend maintained a lifelong friendship with Clark until his passing. He even visited him in Sri Lanka. I asked him the same question and he said it never came up. Any idea if this is true.

For what it is worth, I have heard the HAL - IBM story before as well. It is definitely out there in the sci-fi culture.
 
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Zy, perhaps you know the answer to a question which has taken on a life as an urban myth. The name HAL is said to have been chosen because each letter is the one before IBM. I have a friend who befriended Arthur C. Clark as a pen pal when my friend was a kid. My friend maintained a lifelong friendship with Clark until his passing. He even visited him in Sri Lanka. I asked him the same question and he said it never came up. Any idea if this is true.
The accepted explanation is that the three letters come from the term Hueristically Programmed ALogrithmic Computer. This utilizes the first letter H and the first two letters from the third word. I apologize for my spelling.
The IBM deal sounds just as reasonable; it works into an fear of the great corporate giant. Remember "The President's Analysist" it cleverly played on the distrust of Bell referred to as the phone company.
 
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The accepted explanation is that the three letters come from the term Hueristically Programmed ALogrithmic Computer. This utilizes the first letter H and the first two letters from the third word. I apologize for my spelling.
The IBM deal sounds just as reasonable; it works into an fear of the great corporate giant. Remember "The President's Analysist" it cleverly played on the distrust of Bell referred to as the phone company.
Yes, I LOVED the The President's Analyst. One of my favorite movies growing up.

I'll shut up about Space Odyssey after these last two points. The first is very minor. Years later George Lucas ripped off a scene from Space Odyssey to start his Star Wars movie. The opening scene of A New Hope, that slowly reveals a huge starship, is almost a direct lift of the reveal of the Discovery One in Space Odyssey.

Lastly (I promise), it's impossible to talk about Space Odyssey without mentioning Kubrick's use of classical music. It is as epic as any film score in history. The brilliant pairing of music that is centuries old with images from centuries yet to come works on every level. Space travel becomes poetry. His use of Also Sprach Zarathustra turned that piece of music nto a worldwide icon still used today. I'll end on these notes......
 

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His use of Also Sprach Zarathustra turned that piece of music nto a worldwide icon still used today. I'll end on these notes......
Hal Ashby also used it to great effect in an iconic scene in one of my favorite movies of all time, Being There. This clip is the only one I could find of that scene and unfortunately it does not include the part where he you can see the DC skyline with with sun over the roadway, which I recall as one of the most striking images in the scene, accompanied by that great music (which is also a frequent and excellent cover song played by the band Phish):

 
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Hal Ashby also used it to great effect in an iconic scene in one of my favorite movies of all time, Being There. This clip is the only one I could find of that scene and unfortunately it does not include the part where he you can see the DC skyline with with sun over the roadway, which I recall as one of the most striking images in the scene, accompanied by that great music (which is also a frequent and excellent cover song played by the band Phish):

Nice. It was an updated Deodato version used in Being There (another tremdous film). It worked really well.

Not to get too far off track, Being There was shot by Calab Deschanel. I used Caleb to shoot a number of commercials. Movie cinematographers often direct TV commrercials. He said that the scene at the end the movie where Sellers sticks his umbrella in the lake was his idea. Not the whole scene. But the bit where he puts the umbrella in the water was a spur of the moment suggestion he made to Ashby. Can't verify that is true but it's what I was told.
 
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"Frankenstein"-James Whale-1931

Let's start by looking at the date both this film and "Dracula :were released. This is very early in the sound era, and it is in the depths of the depression. James Whale came to Hollywood from the theater. Sound paved the way for many theater directors and actors to thrive in Hollywood. This version of "Frankenstein came from the theater rather than directly from Mary Shelly's novel. Studios were flailing, how could they entice audiences into the movie theaters? Warner Brothers found the gangster film, Universal became associated with Monster films.
However, it took Deanna Durbin to rescue Universal from failure. Carl Laemele headed Universal, but it was his son who produced and advocated for monster films. When the Laemele's lost control of the studio, James Whale lost control of his films. We often forget that movies are a business. I don't think that we are facing what will happen to the industry as a result of covid 19. Major theater chains like Reagal are closing until further notice. There may be no Academy Awards for the 2020 season. Huge productions are stalled; many won't see the light of day..

James Whale has an interesting background. He served in WWI; he spent part of his time as a POW. He worked his way up in the London theater. He had a variety of jobs including stage manger, lighting, set construction before he became a director. He met and worked with Colin Clive. He believed he had a great face. He was also able to choose from 30 scripts before he settled on Frankenstein. Like Hitchcock, Whale was controlling, not just of actors, but the technical aspects as well. In terms of casting; Whale was able to chose Clive and Mae
Clarke(Elizabeth) . Clarke is mainly remembered today for a grapefruit in the face, but she was an up and coming star in 1931. Whale brought in a number of London stage actors for key roles. He also changed the script. The movie was going to be based on an adaptation of the most popular stage version. An adaptation was commissioned, but it wasn't used. It is difficult to know exactly who bears responsibility for major changes like the insertion of the assistant Fritz (Dwight Frye). The most puzzling script addition is that of Vicktor Moritz (John Boles). He serves as an additional suitor for Elizabeth while Henry Frankenstein is delving with creating life.

The story is that Whale saw Karloff in the Universal commissary and liked the the contours of his face. Then there is the famous make up. Who should receive credit? Apparently, Charles Hall, the art director, conceived of the look, but it was Jack Pierce who developed and applied the make-up. Whale played a part in development. He was concerned that the makeup allowed Boris Karloff enough movement to express emotions. Karloff, unlike Lugosi and others, didn't complain about being type cast, but the monster suit exacted a toll. Continually reshooting the scene where the Monster carries Frankenstein up the ladder in the mill ruined Karloff's back. Clive was an erratic person as well as a noted drunkard in real life His hyper personality fits the role perfectly. "It's Alive!" is justly one of he great lines in horror history.

The famous laboratory was filled with gadgets collected by Ken Strickfaden who received no immediate credit, but whose gadgets appear in "Young Frankenstein." I'm going to reference two bits which are inventions during the filming. First Fritz steals the wrong brain. Well he actually knocks the average brain of an exhibit table. He exits with a criminal brain. This is important to the plot and provides some humor to release tension. The second is the justly famous scene where the monster meets Little Maria (Marilyn Harris). She is playing with flowers at the lakeside. The monster comes and sits down beside her. She isn't afraid, together they throw the flowers in the lake and watch them float. The monster tries the trick with Maria; she doesn't float. When Harris met Karloff in costume, she was immediately drawn to him. The scene was problematic to film. Harris didn't know how to swim underwater. Whale promised her anything to reshoot the scene, she asked for a dozen hard boiled eggs, Whale gave her two dozen after successfully filming the scene.

This was a huge success with critics and the public. It has remained in high regard 90 years later. Compare this to "Dracula"; Dracula hasn't aged well. Tod Browning is a horror legend, but Whale's work is superior.
This is a must see for anyone interested in classic horror.
 
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This was a huge success with critics and the public. It has remained in high regard 90 years later. Compare this to "Dracula"; Dracula hasn't aged well. Tod Browning is a horror legend, but Whale's work is superior.
This is a must see for anyone interested in classic horror.

I would agree "Frankenstein" is a better movie than "Dracula", however I feel "Dracula" is still a good movie that is worth seeing. I would agree it certainly hasn't aged as well as "Frankenstein". However, the performance and charisma of Bela Lugosi (together with Dwight Frye as the absolutely loony Dracula ally Renfield) put "Dracula" in the plus category for me. I should add that I am no doubt influenced by my wife who is a big Lugosi fan.
 
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"The Night Stalker"-John Llewellin Moxley-1972

This is one of the most popular TV films of the '70's. It was made for $450,000 and shot in 12 days. The driving force behind the film was Dan Curtis and his production company. He is best known for "The Winds of War" and "War and Remembrance." "The Night Stalker" was an ABC movie of the week, and it was watched by 70 million people. McGavin had been around since the 1940's. He has over 200 credits, mostly on TV, and mostly in supporting roles. Mc Gavin plays plays a seedy Las Vegas crime and investigative reporter. He was once a much more highly regarded byline in major cities like Boston, Washington, and NYC. He starts investigating some strange deaths on the strip. The Richard Matheson script is excellent. Kolchak isn't likable, but he is compelling. McGavin is surrounded by quality supporting actors some of you may remember them: Simon Oakland, Claude Aitkins, Ralph Meeker, Elisha Wood Jnr, and Carol Lynley. Ah Carol Lynley, she began as the teen heartthrob, pregnant teen in "Blue Denim" in 1959 when she was 17. She plays McGavin's girl, possibly a prostitute. Oakland is the sarcastic editor, Aitkins is the Sherriff, and Ralph Meeker is a friendly FBI agent.

Chuck Kolchak discovers that the murder has been around for many years in many countries. This serial killer has many assumed names, and he has been active in Europe. Darren McGavin's theory is that the killer is actually a vampire. Nobody wants to believe him; Kolchak becomes more and more convinced. I don't want to
spoil the ending for those of you who have not seen this. The vampire's real name is Janos Skorzeny, Otto Skorzeny was the Nazi commando who captured Mussolini for Hitler. This film is part of the wave of paranoia/conspiracy films of the '70's. "Parallax View" is a highly regarded thriller of the era. This is well worth a view, but so is "The Night Stalker", and both are available to stream for free. It spawned a cult classic TV series which lasted only one season. This isn't greatness, but it is highly entertaining. Sometimes stereotypes can be used creatively. Highly recommended.
 
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Hey Zy, I don't know if you do requests but whould be curious what you think of one of my guilty pleasure movies. Fire in the Sky (1993), based on the true (?) story of Travis Walton. I have probably watche this thing 15 or 20 times.
 
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Hey Zy, I don't know if you do requests but whould be curious what you think of one of my guilty pleasure movies. Fire in the Sky (1993), based on the true (?) story of Travis Walton. I have probably watche this thing 15 or 20 times.
I'll check it out.
 
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"The Addiction"-Abel Ferrara-1995

This is one I found by accident. I like vampires: movies, books, TV it doesn't really matter. I just binged "True Blood"; I know it isn't great, but I liked it better this time. In reading about vamps in movies and TV, I came across this title. I had no idea Ferrara made a vampire movie. Ferrara has a tortured world view. His films always seem off kilter to me. I do suffer from synoptic mind disorder, don't worry; it's only a mild case. However, if you choose to film a subject where there are rules, then you should have reasons for switching between lanes.

The film is the story of Kathleen Conklin (Liv Tyler) a PHD candidate in philosophy at NYU. We meet her in a class where a documentary about My Lai is shown. This disturbs her somewhat. We follow her in a very long tracking shot through the village. Late in the sequence we see an unusual woman following her. This turns out to be Cassanova (Annabella Scioria) a vampire. She accosts Kathleen and pulls her into an alley. She feeds, but she doesn't kill Kathleen. She ends up in student medical services. A policeman tells her she was lucky not to have her throat cut.

This is filmed in black and white, and very effectively by Ken Kelsch. The music is an excellent mixture of classical and 90's contemporary. Some songs were written for the movie. Ferrara doesn't take writing credit (Joe Delia), but I feel his influence. Is there a more artificial real world setting than a graduate school philosophy program? Kathleen has been turned; she wasn't buried with her maker. She goes off food, and blood extracted by syringe from a homeless man doesn't satisfy her craving. We are thrust into the world of addiction treatment. Because this is blood, we get a peek at AIDs treatment. The signs of a blood addiction increase. She is becoming very sensitive to light, her strength is growing, and finally going out in daylight becomes impossible.

Victims are found both in graduate school, particularly the library, but she also feeds off her thesis advisor and her best friend, but also in the streets for example a young black man looking for white girl action. Along the way Kathleen and Jean (Edie Falco) visit the Simon Wisenthal Center to view the Holocaust exhibits. The film uses philosophy to help understand Kathleen's situation. She rejects "Those who refuse to learn from history are condemned to repeat it." She plays with Descartes: "Cogito ergo sum (I think; therefor I am). "Dedita ergo sum", I am dedicated or addicted to what I do; therefor I am. Alternatively. "pecco ergo sum", I do evil, therefor I am. She meets an old vampire, Pena (Christopher Walken) who tells her he has mastered his addiction, but then he feeds off her, and leaves her with no real answers.

Surprisingly, Kathleen gets her life back together again; she completes her dissertation. At a party she throws; she offers to tell everyone what she has learned. She begins by feeding off the Dean. The party has a full compliment of vampire guests. A feeding frenzy occurs, Kathleen overeats, and she ends up in the hospital again. She gets a nurse to open the blinds, but Cassanova appears and closes them. A priest appears and offers her communion. We cut to an ending where Kathleen is in a graveyard looking at her tombstone.

What does one make of all this? "Existence is the search from relief from our habit; and our habit is the only relief we can find." Kathleen really needs True Blood. Peter Bradshaw (The Guardian) one of the world's top critics ranks this as one of his 10best films of all time. Most critics didn't agree, and neither did the public. However, this has some striking visual elements, a script that provokes thought, and very solid performances. I spoiled any unexpected surprises, but I think this is an experiential film, and one which leaves questions to ponder, but almost certainly not to answer. I enjoyed writing about this film. It is available to stream for free. Just remember: "We are not evil because of the evil we do. We do evil because we are evil."
 

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"The Night Stalker"-John Llewellin Moxley-1972

This is one of the most popular TV films of the '70's. It was made for $450,000 and shot in 12 days. The driving force behind the film was Dan Curtis and his production company. He is best known for "The Winds of War" and "War and Remembrance." "The Night Stalker" was an ABC movie of the week, and it was watched by 70 million people. McGavin had been around since the 1940's. He has over 200 credits, mostly on TV, and mostly in supporting roles. Mc Gavin plays plays a seedy Las Vegas crime and investigative reporter. He was once a much more highly regarded byline in major cities like Boston, Washington, and NYC. He starts investigating some strange deaths on the strip. The Richard Matheson script is excellent. Kolchak isn't likable, but he is compelling. McGavin is surrounded by quality supporting actors some of you may remember them: Simon Oakland, Claude Aitkins, Ralph Meeker, Elisha Wood Jnr, and Carol Lynley. Ah Carol Lynley, she began as the teen heartthrob, pregnant teen in "Blue Denim" in 1959 when she was 17. She plays McGavin's girl, possibly a prostitute. Oakland is the sarcastic editor, Aitkins is the Sherriff, and Ralph Meeker is a friendly FBI agent.

Chuck Kolchak discovers that the murder has been around for many years in many countries. This serial killer has many assumed names, and he has been active in Europe. Darren McGavin's theory is that the killer is actually a vampire. Nobody wants to believe him; Kolchak becomes more and more convinced. I don't want to
spoil the ending for those of you who have not seen this. The vampire's real name is Janos Skorzeny, Otto Skorzeny was the Nazi commando who captured Mussolini for Hitler. This film is part of the wave of paranoia/conspiracy films of the '70's. "Parallax View" is a highly regarded thriller of the era. This is well worth a view, but so is "The Night Stalker", and both are available to stream for free. It spawned a cult classic TV series which lasted only one season. This isn't greatness, but it is highly entertaining. Sometimes stereotypes can be used creatively. Highly recommended.
I like your choices for this round. They are diverse, interesting, and all movies I enjoy.

I remember seeing The Night Stalker as a kid and it scared the living crap out of me. Something about the contemporary setting, the reluctant realization of Kolchak that the killings were something supernatural, the bumbling terrorized Kolchak as an anti hero and, of course, the cover up made it terrifying.
 
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I like your choices for this round. They are diverse, interesting, and all movies I enjoy.

I remember seeing The Night Stalker as a kid and it scared the living crap out of me. Something about the contemporary setting, the reluctant realization of Kolchak that the killings were something supernatural, the bumbling terrorized Kolchak as an anti hero and, of course, the cover up made it terrifying.

When I was a kid I watched a lot of television. I recall I was a big fan of The Night Stalker television series. It also turned me into a something of Darrin McGavin fan as well. My wife (who I met several years later at UConn while we were students there) has told me several times that she was a big fan of Kolchak and "The Night Stalker" movies and television show. Now that I find scary.
 
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"Fire in the Sky"-Robert Lieberman-1993
"Travis: The True Story of Travis Walton::-Jennifer Stein-2015

The second title is a documentary about probably the best data supported story of an alien abduction of an American. This is available on Amazon Prime. I want to discuss this first. As Yarders might expect, any story of an alien abduction is viewed skeptically. The story and the controversy had escaped my notice completely. I searched the usual sites. Wikipedia's entry is strongly favoring the hoax premise. The documentary is more persuasive and fact based to my mind. I'm still not convinced about any single incident; however, I believe that the trillions of possibilities for intelligent life argue that it is more likely than unlikely. I have mentioned my interest in Science Fiction in several comments, but I've never had much interest in UFO sightings.

The incident in question took place in a national forest outside of Snowflake, Arizona. Contracts to clean brush and cut down and remove dead or dying trees are awarded to private contractors by the forest service. One such contract was awarded to Mike Rogers. He assembled a small crew that included Travis Walton. Somewhat behind in their contract, the crew worked until dusk. They traveled from the work site in a single truck. While driving through the National Forest, they saw a strange light. Travis Walton exited the truck and ran toward the light. He and the men still in the truck saw a strange object in the sky. A beam of light came from the object and hit Travis Walton. He fell to the ground. Mike Rogers drove the truck away. Moments later he and the rest of the crew returned in the truck. They searched, but were unable to find Walton. They drove to a bar and they phoned the police. This was before the days of cell phones.

The next morning a very large search was undertaken. The search included men, dogs, helicopters, and investigators from the State of Arizona. It became a huge media event. It attracted not only the regular press, but the tabloid press like "The National Examiner." Five days later Walton made a phone call, and he was picked up. His work crew had been interviewed and given lie detector tests. The tests results i'e' answers to the questions were consistent among the rest of the crew. During the time Travis Walton was missing; theories abounded and many included Walton's death and murder. When he returned and after hospitalization told a story of alien abduction to a space craft; there was a new media storm. Several years Walton wrote a book. About 15 years after the publication, the movie "Fire in the Sky" was made. The movie diverges significantly from the story in the book. The documentary follows the book exactly, and has interviews with several of the crew members. Walton takes a significant role in the documentary. His life since the abduction has revolved around the experience. He has a web site which among other things provides a list of public appearances. Unfortunately, it isn't up to date. There are no appearances listed for 2020. These appearances it should be noted are at various public events in the alien observers universe.

The 1993 film differs significantly from the story told in the book and the documentary. The studio/financing interests didn't believe the original story would have enough audience appeal. The screenwriter, Tracy Torme,
was a well known TV SciFi writer and producer of such shows as Sliders and Carnivale. The script fills in the back stories of the logging crew, particular those of Rogers and Walton. I should mention the cinematographer Bill Pope. His work in the part of the movie showing what happens to Walton after he is abducted is stunning. I wont offer any details, this is a time when revealing the details will spoil the experience. This is quite a good cast: D.B. Sweeny as Walton, Robert Patrick as Mike Rogers, Noble Willingham as Sherriff Blake Davis, and James Garner as state investigator Frank Watters.

There is a quote from the Roman moralist Senaca which appears before the film: "Chance makes a plaything of men's life" which provides an insight to the tumult which follows from the sighting and the abduction, The film closes with Travis Walton saying to Mike Rogers: "They won't be back, I don't think they like me."
This is a solid film which made decent money at the box office. Since this is based on a real life incident, reactions often fall into several categories; some find the fictionalization to be a fatal flaw; others dismiss the entire story as a hoax. The topic of contact with alien intelligence intrigues me, but I was motivated to look into the "true" story. This is despite my being an SCI_FI classicist. Asimov's Foundation Trilogy is my all time favorite. I highly recommend this. Both of these films are well worth viewing. Seeing both didn't diminish the value of either for me. I have tried in this comment to provide you with enough information to decide whether either or both of these films are something you might be interested in viewing.
 
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"Our Hospitality"-John Blystone and Buster Keaton-1923

This film entered the public domain in 1919; there is a solid free streaming option available at archive.org. Keaton was the child of vaudevile parents. He went to school only one half day. He skipped out never to return. He was a huge star on the stage often appearing with Harry Houdini who gave him the name Buster.
The family act involved a lot of physical comedy. Keaton made his first films with Roscoe "Fatty: Arbuckle.
He borrowed a camera; he took it apart and reassembled it. This began his life long interest in the technical side of film making. After a short stint in the army; he returned and gave up the stage ($250 a week) for films ($45 a week). Along with Chaplin, Keaton did practically everything, but unlike Chaplin he gave a lot of credit to his collaborators.

Keeton in later life described his creative process as finding a beginning for the story. When he was sure the beginning worked as film and drew the audience in; then he went to the ending. They filled the middle in as they went along. This film is a riff on the well known Hatfield and McCoys story. Two families are involved in a death feud which runs for generations. In this film the feuding clans are the Canfields and the McKays. The film
opens with a McKay and a Canfield being killed. McKay's widow takes her infant son to live with her sister in New York. Twenty years pass, Willie McKay receives a letter from a lawyer stating he is the heir to McKay property. He purchases a ticket to take the train.

Before he leaves New York we see him riding around on an early bicycle. It didn't have pedals. This was so accurate the Smithsonian asked to have it. The train is as meticulously correct. The engine is an exact copy of the Stephenson's Rocket. The cars are direct copies of the coaches the DeWitt Clinton coaches of the Mohawk and Hudson railroad. The train is very slow; McKay's dog easily keeps up; the dog makes the entire trip and greets McKay when he arrives. McKay meets an attractive young woman who is in his coach. Virginia (Natalie Talmidge) is attracted to Willie; the attraction is mutual.

Upon arriving Virginia is picked up by her two brothers and her father. Meanwhile Willie questions locals about the location of the Mckay property. Of course Virginia is a Canfield, neither she nor Willie is aware that they belong to families in a generations long blood feud. The McKay house is a total wreck. On his way back to town; Willie sees Virginia working in her garden. She invites him for dinner. This of course sets up the rest of the film. The laws of Southern Hospitality won't permit the murder of a guest in the house. Outside he is fair game. I should mention Joe Roberts who played Virginia's father suffered a stroke during filming. He was a Keaton favorite; he returned to complete the film. He died shortly after the film's release.

There is an extended stunt where Willie falls into a raging river through rapids towards a waterfall. Yes, you guessed it Virginia also ends up in the river, The line holding Keaton in real life breaks. He is able toreach a branch and hold on long enough for the crew to rescue him. He was bruised and battered, and he had swallowed so much water that he was sick. The entire sequence is caught on film. In another film Keaton broke his neck. He didn't know it for years he suffered bad headaches. In the film he rescues Virginia and they are married which ends the feud. This river stunt has to be seen. While this is not as great a film as "The General", it shows Keaton's expertise as a filmmaker. The gags never disrupt the story. The visual invention is
otherworldly, yet, in context we readily accept what we see on the screen. This an early example of heightened reality. Willie McKay really earns his happy ending.
 
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"Fire in the Sky"-Robert Lieberman-1993
"Travis: The True Story of Travis Walton::-Jennifer Stein-2015

The second title is a documentary about probably the best data supported story of an alien abduction of an American. This is available on Amazon Prime. I want to discuss this first. As Yarders might expect, any story of an alien abduction is viewed skeptically. The story and the controversy had escaped my notice completely. I searched the usual sites. Wikipedia's entry is strongly favoring the hoax premise. The documentary is more persuasive and fact based to my mind. I'm still not convinced about any single incident; however, I believe that the trillions of possibilities for intelligent life argue that it is more likely than unlikely. I have mentioned my interest in Science Fiction in several comments, but I've never had much interest in UFO sightings.

The incident in question took place in a national forest outside of Snowflake, Arizona. Contracts to clean brush and cut down and remove dead or dying trees are awarded to private contractors by the forest service. One such contract was awarded to Mike Rogers. He assembled a small crew that included Travis Walton. Somewhat behind in their contract, the crew worked until dusk. They traveled from the work site in a single truck. While driving through the National Forest, they saw a strange light. Travis Walton exited the truck and ran toward the light. He and the men still in the truck saw a strange object in the sky. A beam of light came from the object and hit Travis Walton. He fell to the ground. Mike Rogers drove the truck away. Moments later he and the rest of the crew returned in the truck. They searched, but were unable to find Walton. They drove to a bar and they phoned the police. This was before the days of cell phones.

The next morning a very large search was undertaken. The search included men, dogs, helicopters, and investigators from the State of Arizona. It became a huge media event. It attracted not only the regular press, but the tabloid press like "The National Examiner." Five days later Walton made a phone call, and he was picked up. His work crew had been interviewed and given lie detector tests. The tests results i'e' answers to the questions were consistent among the rest of the crew. During the time Travis Walton was missing; theories abounded and many included Walton's death and murder. When he returned and after hospitalization told a story of alien abduction to a space craft; there was a new media storm. Several years Walton wrote a book. About 15 years after the publication, the movie "Fire in the Sky" was made. The movie diverges significantly from the story in the book. The documentary follows the book exactly, and has interviews with several of the crew members. Walton takes a significant role in the documentary. His life since the abduction has revolved around the experience. He has a web site which among other things provides a list of public appearances. Unfortunately, it isn't up to date. There are no appearances listed for 2020. These appearances it should be noted are at various public events in the alien observers universe.

The 1993 film differs significantly from the story told in the book and the documentary. The studio/financing interests didn't believe the original story would have enough audience appeal. The screenwriter, Tracy Torme,
was a well known TV SciFi writer and producer of such shows as Sliders and Carnivale. The script fills in the back stories of the logging crew, particular those of Rogers and Walton. I should mention the cinematographer Bill Pope. His work in the part of the movie showing what happens to Walton after he is abducted is stunning. I wont offer any details, this is a time when revealing the details will spoil the experience. This is quite a good cast: D.B. Sweeny as Walton, Robert Patrick as Mike Rogers, Noble Willingham as Sherriff Blake Davis, and James Garner as state investigator Frank Watters.

There is a quote from the Roman moralist Senaca which appears before the film: "Chance makes a plaything of men's life" which provides an insight to the tumult which follows from the sighting and the abduction, The film closes with Travis Walton saying to Mike Rogers: "They won't be back, I don't think they like me."
This is a solid film which made decent money at the box office. Since this is based on a real life incident, reactions often fall into several categories; some find the fictionalization to be a fatal flaw; others dismiss the entire story as a hoax. The topic of contact with alien intelligence intrigues me, but I was motivated to look into the "true" story. This is despite my being an SCI_FI classicist. Asimov's Foundation Trilogy is my all time favorite. I highly recommend this. Both of these films are well worth viewing. Seeing both didn't diminish the value of either for me. I have tried in this comment to provide you with enough information to decide whether either or both of these films are something you might be interested in viewing.
Thanks for that. I'm just happy you didn't consider it a waste of time. I've watched it dozen times. The cast is very good and deep. The chemistry between Patrick and Sweeney -which is the heart of the movie- is terrific. I thought the special effects were excellent. In a way the movie dares you NOT to believe. You end up rooting for it to be true. We'll probably never know if the abduction ever happened.

I also agree that the Foundation Trilogy is one of the best works of science fiction ever written.
 

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