Films Worth Viewing

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"Train to Busan"-Sang-Ho Yeou-2016

Zombies; let me say it again, zombies. E. Wright director of a zombie film many of you have seen, "Shaun of the Dead," said "best zombie movie I've seen in forever." Sang-Ho Yeou had never made a live action film before "Train to Busan." It cost $8.5 million and grossed $98 million world wide. This was a huge hit all over Asia; surprisingly including India where it was dubbed in four languages. Horror films have found a huge world wide market. Korea has produced a number of high action/high bloodshed films which have done well in the world market. We started this effort with "Oldboy"; that was probably the first Korean film I've watched. This film isn't of that undeniable quality.

The story concerns a bullet train trip between Seoul and Busan. An infected individual gets on the train and chaos ensues. The film hints at the cause of the infection as possibly radiation. Early on we see a deer run over and apparently dead, but it comes back to life. So the infection is not limited to humans; we don't know if it can be spread cross species. Any cut made by a zombie causes a full blown infection within minutes. Those infected lose all higher order brain functions. They are attracted by movement, and they can distinguish between zombies and non zombies. Darkness seems to quiet them. They attack humans and convert them to zombies; the zombie population increases exponentially; and they continue to attack. The government had no prior knowledge of the problem; they are trying to create safe zones protected by the military.

The central characters are a senior hedge fund manager and his 8 year old daughter. He is a workaholic and he is separated from his wife. His mother watches his daughter while he is consumed with work. This caused him to miss his daughter's performance of"Aloha 'Oe". She fails to finish the song because her father isn't there. She wants to visit her mother in Busan for her birthday; her father doesn't want her to travel alone. He ends up taking her to Busan on a high speed train.

The the zombies attack; they turn passengers into zombies. Each attack generates more zombies, and our protagonists come closer to disaster. We become acquainted with other survivors, each with his or her own story. The film ends with only the girl and a pregnant woman as survivors. The track is blocked so they must walk through a tunnel to reach safety behind military lines. The soldiers behind barricades think they may be zombies, but fortunately Su-an Kim the 8 year old girl sings the song she wanted to sing for her father . The soldiers know they are still human. The film ends.

I don't know what the zombie toll is; they aren't really a body count. This is well made, and some considerable effort is made to develop characters. The one memorable character is Su-an Kim; her facial expressions are amazing. Her caring and warm personality is shown; despite being in constant fear; she always shows concern for others. However, this is basically a film about a zombie dystopia. Is it worth viewing? Recommended.
 
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"Chef"-John Favreau-2014

"You don't know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, but that ain't no matter. That book was made by Mr. Mark Twain, and he told the truth mainly. There was things he stretched, but mainly he told the truth."

Carl Casper is a well known chef in LA. Casper (John Favreau) has a disastrous personal life. He is divorced from Inez (Sofia Vergara), becoming increasingly distant with his son Percy(Emjay Anthony), having on and off
again relationship with Molly (Scarlet Johanssen) who works as head of the house, and his job while taking almost all his waking time, no longer brings him satisfaction. He is a man on the edge, and he is pushed over by a visit from Ramsey Michael (OliverPlatt) a noted food blogger and critic. Casper wants to make a new menu for the event, but profit conscious owner Riva (Dustin Hoffman) stops that. Naturally, the critic finds the food wanting, and he writes a mean spirited review. Favreau becomes involved in a twitter war with Platt. Despite his son's coaching, Casper is basically unarmed. When he looses his cool and explodes live berating Ramsey Michael; he loses his job and becomes unemployable in his profession.

Favreau is a well known director largely for his work in the Marvel Universe (Iron Man) and a remake of "Jungle Book" for Disney. Like many other people he got his start in the Indie world. Some critics wrote this film off as a vanity project; others find the ending too pat. However, Favreau trained for this role with Roy Choi who served as technical advisor for the film. Choi had an LA based food truck. Five years after the film Choi and Favreau have a a show on Netflix called "Chefs." Choi gave his help only on the condition that the film would depict the culinary world accurately.

Casper is forced to return to his roots. He will cook from a food truck and make what he likes. On a trip to Miami, where he started his culinary career, he gets a ravaged truck from Marvin (Robert Downey Jr.) another of Inez's ex-husbands. Casper restores the truck with the help of his son, Percy, and his former line cook Martin (John Leguizamo). They set off to drive the truck, El Jefe, from Miami to LA, selling food along the way. Casper is in love with his profession again.

Many of you may know that I am something of a food nerd, who has two privately published limited edition
cookbooks to his discredit. I am therefore not to be completely trusted as an observer in this case. My knowledge of how restaurant kitchens work is limited and in the distant past; however, the depictions are accurate. I do have one major caveat; Casper would have a working knowledge of Spanish. He came up in Miami, and he worked for years in LA. In most professional kitchens; the staff is predominately Hispanic, and this is even more true in Miami and LA.

The first half of the movie is o.k., but once the truck enters; the quality of the product improves. The acting by the guest stars is good; they were having fun. Oliver Platt's brother is a food critic for New York magazine, and Pratt has accompanied him. Leguizamo is excellent as Martin. The second part of the movie is excellent, but it is comfort food.

Recommended; if you like food and want an inside view of the restaurant world; this is a must see. Favreau told the truth mainly.
Jon Favreau has done so many things both in front of and behind the camera, but for me he will always be "D-Bob". He steals every scene he is in, in that movie.
 
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"Arrival"-Dennis Villeneuve-2016

I'm not sure where to start. Dennis Villeneuve is a quality young director with some range. This was his fourth feature; he was brought on after the script By Eric Heisserer based on a short story/novella by Ted Chiang was written. While the concept of time manipulation/time travel is hardly novel; think H.G. Welles' "The Time Machine," this is a different take. The audience reaction based on comments on IMDb is fractured much worse than our current politics. Those who hate the film first contention is that it is totally boring. Some of them attack the film for plot holes. This is not Star Wars; there aren't any big action scenes. One reviewer compared it very unfavorably to "2001 A Space Odyssey;" noting that this film is still influential decades later and, that "Arrival" will be quickly forgotten. Can this reviewer see the future?

Huge alien spaceships land at 12 different places on earth. There seems no logical reason for the choice of landingpoints. There are many questions to be answered, Perhaps the single most important question is why have these aliens come. There is a semi coordinated effort to co-operate among the nations which have a space ship on their territory. Meanwhile, humans all across the globe are behaving badly. The ship in the US set down in Montana far from population centers. The government is scrambling to assemble a team to deal with the aliens. The government recruits Louise Banks (Amy Adams) a practical and theoretical linguist and Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) a theoretical physics professor with practical experience to head sub-teams on site and to attempt to communicate directly with the aliens. not

Typically, the response to alien contact is paranoia. This dates back to Orson Welles' Mercury Theater radio presentation in 1938. This broadcast was accepted as news coverage of a real event by millions of Americans.
The fact that the military is running the US contact program is verification that paranoia is underlying this effort. That's not to say that the military is without intelligent representatives. The base commander Colonel Weber (Forrest Whitaker) who recruited the principals is highly intelligent and openminded. Louise Banks makes several communication breakthroughs; most importantly she is able to decode the written language. Secondly, she and Ian establish a personal bond with two aliens. They name them Abbot and Costello.

Let's take a break from the plot. The film had a budget of $47 million and returned $204 million worldwide.
It was very successful outside the US. The language of the aliens is termed logograms. This is far from alphabetic, closer to Mandarin which uses symbols to represent words, pairing of symbols create new words.
The hptapods writing appears in a circular form. It isn't read right to left or left to right. The communication pattern doesn't have a begining or end. The thought expressed is non-linear. I'm grappling here. Think back to Welles. Time is a fourth dimension; think perhaps a mobius strip. Time is continuous all points in time are on the strip. There is no begining or end merely points on the mobius strip. Thus the heptapod language can "predict" the future. Learning this language frees our minds from the necessity to think linear.

There have been longer and more profound explanations of this movie's intellectual moorings. Google "Arrival" and several immediately pop up. The logoram language was developed by Christopher and Stephen Wolfram. They developed over 100 thought patterns; 71 of which are visible in the movie. Two important concepts are developed in the movie. The first is a quote from the preface to one of Louise's books. She says of language:"It is the first weapon drawn in a conflict." This is dealt with not only in the "sticks and stones..."
sense, but also in the sense that misinterpretations can cause conflict. There are such things a using language not to communicate i.e. promote mutual understanding but to provoke conflict or to disguise intent. The second is an answer she gives her daughter Hannah "zero sum games." Virtually all the games we play have a winner and a loser. However, both theoretically and actually there are solutions which can benefit both sides or multiple sides. One major for instance is the Marshall Plan; the rebuilding of Western Europe benefitted not only the countries affected but the United States.

I found this to be far from boring; I found in enthralling. The focus is almost entirely on the efforts of the team to communicate and understand the aliens. The outside world emerges as a threat. Louise's understanding saves the situation. Remember her daughter's name Hannah is a pallindrome. It has no start or finish, like a circle, or a mobius strip.

I think Amy Adams' performance is one of the five best female performances I have ever seen. This is great film making. Obviously, it isn't everyone's choice, but I find it involving, invigorating, mesmerizing, and challenging. This is a must see, and I will watch it again today. Finally; this performance made me look over
her filmography. I own over 20 of her films. Just reading over the list of films including: "The Master", "Sunshine Cleaning", "Charlie Wilson's War", and Julie and Julia to name a few, gave me a warm feeling.
"Arrival" is a new level of achievement for this talented actress.
 
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"Arrival"-Dennis Villeneuve-2016

I'm not sure where to start. Dennis Villeneuve is a quality young director with some range. This was his fourth feature; he was brought on after the script By Eric Heisserer based on a short story/novella by Ted Chiang was written. While the concept of time manipulation/time travel is hardly novel; think H.G. Welles' "The Time Machine," this is a different take. The audience reaction based on comments on IMDb is fractured much worse than our current politics. Those who hate the film first contention is that it is totally boring. Some of them attack the film for plot holes. This is not Star Wars; there aren't any big action scenes. One reviewer compared it very unfavorably to "2001 A Space Odyssey;" noting that this film is still influential decades later and, that "Arrival" will be quickly forgotten. Can this reviewer see the future?

Huge alien spaceships land at 12 different places on earth. There seems no logical reason for the choice of landingpoints. There are many questions to be answered, Perhaps the single most important question is why have these aliens come. There is a semi coordinated effort to co-operate among the nations which have a space ship on their territory. Meanwhile, humans all across the globe are behaving badly. The ship in the US set down in Montana far from population centers. The government is scrambling to assemble a team to deal with the aliens. The government recruits Louise Banks (Amy Adams) a practical and theoretical linguist and Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) a theoretical physics professor with practical experience to head sub-teams on site and to attempt to communicate directly with the aliens. not

Typically, the response to alien contact is paranoia. This dates back to Orson Welles' Mercury Theater radio presentation in 1938. This broadcast was accepted as news coverage of a real event by millions of Americans.
The fact that the military is running the US contact program is verification that paranoia is underlying this effort. That's not to say that the military is without intelligent representatives. The base commander Colonel Weber (Forrest Whitaker) who recruited the principals is highly intelligent and openminded. Louise Banks makes several communication breakthroughs; most importantly she is able to decode the written language. Secondly, she and Ian establish a personal bond with two aliens. They name them Abbot and Costello.

Let's take a break from the plot. The film had a budget of $47 million and returned $204 million worldwide.
It was very successful outside the US. The language of the aliens is termed logograms. This is far from alphabetic, closer to Mandarin which uses symbols to represent words, pairing of symbols create new words.
The hptapods writing appears in a circular form. It isn't read right to left or left to right. The communication pattern doesn't have a begining or end. The thought expressed is non-linear. I'm grappling here. Think back to Welles. Time is a fourth dimension; think perhaps a mobius strip. Time is continuous all points in time are on the strip. There is no begining or end merely points on the mobius strip. Thus the heptapod language can "predict" the future. Learning this language frees our minds from the necessity to think linear.

There have been longer and more profound explanations of this movie's intellectual moorings. Google "Arrival" and several immediately pop up. The logoram language was developed by Christopher and Stephen Wolfram. They developed over 100 thought patterns; 71 of which are visible in the movie. Two important concepts are developed in the movie. The first is a quote from the preface to one of Louise's books. She says of language:"It is the first weapon drawn in a conflict." This is dealt with not only in the "sticks and stones..."
sense, but also in the sense that misinterpretations can cause conflict. There are such things a using language not to communicate i.e. promote mutual understanding but to provoke conflict or to disguise intent. The second is an answer she gives her daughter Hannah "zero sum games." Virtually all the games we play have a winner and a loser. However, both theoretically and actually there are solutions which can benefit both sides or multiple sides. One major for instance is the Marshall Plan; the rebuilding of Western Europe benefitted not only the countries affected but the United States.

I found this to be far from boring; I found in enthralling. The focus is almost entirely on the efforts of the team to communicate and understand the aliens. The outside world emerges as a threat. Louise's understanding saves the situation. Remember her daughter's name Hannah is a pallindrome. It has no start or finish, like a circle, or a mobius strip.

I think Amy Adams' performance is one of the five best female performances I have ever seen. This is great film making. Obviously, it isn't everyone's choice, but I find it involving, invigorating, mesmerizing, and challenging. This is a must see, and I will watch it again today. Finally; this performance made me look over
her filmography. I own over 20 of her films. Just reading over the list of films including: "The Master", "Sunshine Cleaning", "Charlie Wilson's War", and Julie and Julia to name a few, gave me a warm feeling.
"Arrival" is a new level of achievement for this talented actress.
Arrival is indeed a good movie. The kind of film that you pick up new things in it when watching a second or third time. However, my favorite Amy Adams film is "Leap Year", only because the location shooting and scenery is just stunning. Besides that if you're looking for good film making try something else. Lol
 
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"Charlie Wilson's War"-Mike Nichols-2007

George Crile spent ten years in a biography of Charlie Wilson. He was ostensibly an obscure Congressman from Texas' 2nd District. He had considerable personal charm and lack of intense commitment to most political issues. He also had intelligence and craft Until the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, no issue really captured him intellectually and more importantly morally. Aaron Sorkin was an early choice to write the screenplay. When Mike Nichols came on as director, there was no difficulty in getting top professionals in technical and acting areas. The film was a big budget mediocrity as far as the box office was concerned. It is another one of these films which divide the audience. It's many detractors are opposed to US foreign policy in aiding the Afghans which they say led directly to 9'11 and Osama ben Laden. The film was made as entertainment, and it has a point of view. That point of view is that this intervention was valuable for US policy, and it was what most Afghans wanted. Crile's book is over eight hundred pages long; so any treatment for the screen would never be able to capture the complexity of the book much less the real life situation in Afganistan which was and is enormously complex.

I think this is a very solid script; Sorkin balances Wilson's personal flaws against his achievements. Tom Hanks does an excellent job as Charlie Wilson despite some major physical differences. Phillip Seymour Hoffman as Gust Avrakodos is even better. The two form a team which generates weapons and money to purchase them to aid the mujaheddein push the Soviets out of Afghanistan. Charlie Wilson is moved by what he sees in the refugee camps; the film does a really good job in depicting conditions there. The other cast members: Emily Blunt, Amy Adams, Ned Beaty, and Om Puri are all top flight. There is some excellent dialogue, and the pllot situations are interesting. The portrayals of Wilson and Avrakodos are accurate. The story is improbable , but true. CIA aid to the Afghan rebels grew from $5 million to $1 billion (matched by Saudi), and the Soviets were expelled. The Soviet Union broke apart at least partly because of the unpopular war in Afghanistan.

The film ends with the cautionary note:"These things happened. They were glorious and they changed the world...and then we f----ed up the endgame." I like this film a lot, but I realize that for many the politics may overpower the artistic elements. Highly recommended.
 
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"Charlie Wilson's War"-Mike Nichols-2007
I like this film a lot, but I realize that for many the politics may overpower the artistic elements. Highly recommended.
This is another "way much better than I thought going in" movie for me. Not the biggest Hanks fan but I thought he nailed this one.
 
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"The Fog of War"Errol Morris-2003

The subject is Robert Strange McNamara, and it is basically his picture. If you can watch this on DVD, you will have the advantage of viewing some highly revealing outtakes. The Secretary offers his 10 lessons to be learned. They differ from the 11 lessons Morris provides. The structure is basically a long form interview intercut with appropriate images. Sometimes they may be interviews recorded at the time; sometimes it is documentary footage; sometimes it is confidential recordings, but they always add to the picture. Morris invented a device the Interrotron which makes it possible for the audience to observe McNamara as if we were actually there. Morris has always been most interested in discovering the nature of the subjects than in assessing them on some kind cosmic scale measuring good/evil.

I will offer two of the 11 precepts Morris advances and how they are developed in the film. The first is: empathize with your enemy." This is used to understand how the US could appeal to Khrushev. He needed a victory in 1962. Could the "Missiles of October" standoff be settled in such a way that it would appear the Nikita could sell the resolution as him saving Cuba? This worked. Not directly pointed out in the film, but it is apparent that the US never really understood how the North Vietnamese viewed the conflict.

The second precept is:"Rationality will not save us." McNamara emphasizes that all three of the major actors in the Cuban Missile Crisis, Kennedy, Castro, and Khrushev were rational actors, and they avoided nuclear conflict by luck. Still the better the guard rails, the better the chance that luck is not needed.

I found this absorbing; McNamara admitted mistakes, and was open in taking responsibility for many of his actions. He questioned his participation in the fire bombing of Japanese cities in 1945. Some things he hadn't settled in his own mind, namely many of the issues surrounding Viet Nam. He served as head of the World Bank for more than a decade, and he spent the rest of his life promoting charitable endeavors.

I recommend this highly; generally docs aren't my thing, but this is excellent.
 
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"Superman"-Richard Donner-1978; "Superman II"-Richard Donner-2006

I saw "Superman" in Washington, D.C. when it first came out. It was pretty amazing; the special effects were brilliant. "Superman" marked something new in film making, and it isn't just comic books for a source. This was the beginning of an industry wide movement to develop special effects blockbusters. Giant leaps forward in technology allowed special effects un-imagined even a few years before. Smaller films are still made, but they are generally independent productions. These special effects blockbusters generally fared poorly where the principal Oscars are concerned.

"DC comics are good comics." Superman and Batman are still the most recognized names in comic mythology.
That gave DC a huge initial advantage over Marvel; that has dissipated. Superman had a recognized mythology surrounding him before he made major films; yes, there were the serials and "Superman and the Mole Men," but it took the '78 film to bring him to life. You believed a man could fly. Of course Superman is almost beyond rah rah. Clark Kent is a nebbish with a heart of gold. Christopher Reeve managed to comfortably fit both characters. Margot Kidder gave him solid support. Lex Luthor makes a quirky, but reliable villain. Gene Hackman is widely considered to be lead standard for Luthor portrayals. The world of the Daily Planet and Metropolis is comforting. The audience is on home turf. Viewing these two films to receive the best impact., it necessitates a relaxing of critical faculties. We all know the story; Krypton is facing imminent destruction. Jar El sends his son out in a life boat. He arrives on earth as an infant; he is adopted. He grows to maturity hiding his powers. He visits a secret site at the North Pole where he can learn practically anything. Clark Kent shows up at the Daily Planet where he has been hired as a reporter. We are introduced to the principal characters and, Superman performs some amazing rescues. Of course Superman foils Lex Luthor's evil plans.

The opening of the film on Krypton where three evil beings are being tried with Jar El as the prosecutor sets up the first two films. Brando was supposedly paid $3,000,000 for his few screen minutes; I liked the solemnity that they add. This Superman has a real purpose to help humanity; he doesn't have the darkness of Batman. Originally Superman I and II were shot together. This makes sense thematically and financially. Peter Jackson did it with the "Ring" saga. There was a rush to finish up "Superman," so the work on II was delayed. When it was time to resume; Donner had been dismissed and Richard Lester had been brought on to finish the film. Lester's version was shown in theaters. The film shot by Donner was luckily not destroyed.
There was considerable agitation on the part of fans to issue a Donner "Superman II;" there were legal issues particularly with using the Brando material. These were sorted out; it was thought that the Donner version might have a wide theatrical release, but it ended up with a couple of charity since the re-issue there have been periodic showings at fan events and film festivals. The editor Michael Thau is responsible for the reconstruction with input from Donner. Donner brought in film writer Mankiewicz to help. Generally, the Donner version is preferred both by critics and fans.

I think it is best to watch the films back to back. I enjoyed the films; they are not great films, but they are good films. I believe the Donner pair works better than a Donner film with a Lester sequel, but others differ in their views. Recommended; for those who are interested in superhero films; they are essential.
 
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"The Battleship Potemkin"-Sergei Eisenstein-1925

Well into the 21st century this was considered one of the ten most influential films ever made. This is another one of those films I saw first the college film society. I am going to try and make a cogent argument as to why this is a must see. If you have an interest in cinema history and/or film technique; you may well already have seen this film; if not it should go on a to be viewed list now. If you are interested in the social impact of films and/or propaganda; this is a must see. Those of you who watch films for enjoyment are probably rolling your eyes upward at the sky at this moment. It is silent and in black and white, and I don't care how good the backstory is. My last gasp argument is memorable visual images. The type of images you can remember 50 years later without difficulty; this film has them. If I haven't caught your interest by now; return to whatever you were doing before.

This film was commissioned as part of an 8 film celebration of the 20th anniversary of the 1905 revolution. This is the only film which was actually made. Russia lost a war against Japan; there was massive urban discontent about working conditions, and there was a culmination of a long drive for constitutional government which resulted in a working Duma. The revolt of the crew of a Russian battleship was remarkable; naval mutiny is rare, and in Russia it was unheard of. What made this even more significant was that urban protesters and the sailors worked together. The first point of conflict was over rotten meat full of maggots. The sailors refused to eat the borscht; this behavior would not be tolerated by the officers. When the officers couldn't get the sailors to eat the food; they had a group of protestors covered with canvas and ordered them to be shot by a firing squad. At this point Vakulnichuk (the protest leader) tells the firing squad not to shoot; they don't, and the sailors take over the ship.

On land there are massive protests in Odessa; thousands march in the streets. Vakulnichuk's body is brought ashore as a rallying point. The city dwellers send provisions to the Battleship. Protest leaders from the city speak to the sailors aboard the Potemkin. The government has become worried; troops are sent to restore order. These troops are Cossacks, brutal mounted troops from the interior. They have been used by the Tsar's to put down revolts and terrorize minorities. They kill hundreds of men women and children in the city.

The film is divided into five chapters; the most famous chapter is "The Odessa Steps." The sequence wasn't n the original script, and it is ahistorical. Remember this film was conceived as a propaganda effort. Eisenstein and Edward Tisse, the cinematographer, designed a complicated sequence. Dismounted Cossacks appear at the top of a seemingly endless series of stairs. They are armed with rifles; they fire into the crowd. The crowd breaks up and hundreds start running down the steps away from shooters. Early a mother loses contact with her son; he is shot. She runs back and picks him up; she continues with the child in her arms running not away but toward the shooters. There are other images presented in a montage: a woman is shot in the face, a man with glasses is shot and then we view his glasses with a hole through the lens ; the Cossacks pause and then march metronomically down the steps, boots in perfect unison; they stop and fire again; we see little clusters of people crouching to hide; the troops keep moving down the stairs, but now they are joined by mounted Cossacks who attack people fleeing the shooting; a mother is shot in the stomach; she falls back into her baby carriage, and it bounces down the steps with her baby inside, and finally a woman with glasses
screams, and screams, and screams; her open mouthed anguish is shown multiple times.

One final note the film didn't have a score to be played when it was originally shown; however since that time many classical composers have written scores; the have been joined by many pop composers like the Beastie Boys. This is readily available in a variety of free downloads. Finally, when the film was first shown Eisenstein literally painted on the frames so that the flag the mutineers raise on the Potemkin would be red when the film was shown.

This is a great and enduring film. It still retains the ability to shock and move the viewer over 90 years from its first viewing.
 
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"The Battleship Potemkin"-Sergei Eisenstein-1925

Well into the 21st century this was considered one of the ten most influential films ever made. This is another one of those films I saw first the college film society. I am going to try and make a cogent argument as to why this is a must see. If you have an interest in cinema history and/or film technique; you may well already have seen this film; if not it should go on a to be viewed list now. If you are interested in the social impact of films and/or propaganda; this is a must see. Those of you who watch films for enjoyment are probably rolling your eyes upward at the sky at this moment. It is silent and in black and white, and I don't care how good the backstory is. My last gasp argument is memorable visual images. The type of images you can remember 50 years later without difficulty; this film has them. If I haven't caught your interest by now; return to whatever you were doing before.

This film was commissioned as part of an 8 film celebration of the 20th anniversary of the 1905 revolution. This is the only film which was actually made. Russia lost a war against Japan; there was massive urban discontent about working conditions, and there was a culmination of a long drive for constitutional government which resulted in a working Duma. The revolt of the crew of a Russian battleship was remarkable; naval mutiny is rare, and in Russia it was unheard of. What made this even more significant was that urban protesters and the sailors worked together. The first point of conflict was over rotten meat full of maggots. The sailors refused to eat the borscht; this behavior would not be tolerated by the officers. When the officers couldn't get the sailors to eat the food; they had a group of protestors covered with canvas and ordered them to be shot by a firing squad. At this point Vakulnichuk (the protest leader) tells the firing squad not to shoot; they don't, and the sailors take over the ship.

On land there are massive protests in Odessa; thousands march in the streets. Vakulnichuk's body is brought ashore as a rallying point. The city dwellers send provisions to the Battleship. Protest leaders from the city speak to the sailors aboard the Potemkin. The government has become worried; troops are sent to restore order. These troops are Cossacks, brutal mounted troops from the interior. They have been used by the Tsar's to put down revolts and terrorize minorities. They kill hundreds of men women and children in the city.

The film is divided into five chapters; the most famous chapter is "The Odessa Steps." The sequence wasn't n the original script, and it is ahistorical. Remember this film was conceived as a propaganda effort. Eisenstein and Edward Tisse, the cinematographer, designed a complicated sequence. Dismounted Cossacks appear at the top of a seemingly endless series of stairs. They are armed with rifles; they fire into the crowd. The crowd breaks up and hundreds start running down the steps away from shooters. Early a mother loses contact with her son; he is shot. She runs back and picks him up; she continues with the child in her arms running not away but toward the shooters. There are other images presented in a montage: a woman is shot in the face, a man with glasses is shot and then we view his glasses with a hole through the lens ; the Cossacks pause and then march metronomically down the steps, boots in perfect unison; they stop and fire again; we see little clusters of people crouching to hide; the troops keep moving down the stairs, but now they are joined by mounted Cossacks who attack people fleeing the shooting; a mother is shot in the stomach; she falls back into her baby carriage, and it bounces down the steps with her baby inside, and finally a woman with glasses
screams, and screams, and screams; her open mouthed anguish is shown multiple times.

One final note the film didn't have a score to be played when it was originally shown; however since that time many classical composers have written scores; the have been joined by many pop composers like the Beastie Boys. This is readily available in a variety of free downloads. Finally, when the film was first shown Eisenstein literally painted on the frames so that the flag the mutineers raise on the Potemkin would be red when the film was shown.

This is a great and enduring film. It still retains the ability to shock and move the viewer over 90 years from its first viewing.
The Odessa Steps sequence is one of the most famous set pieces in film history. I've heard that it is also one of the most copied sequences around in subsequent films. I believe it.
 
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"The Body Snatcher"-Robert Wise-1945

I assume that most of you are familiar with the classic Universal horror films. In the early '30's with the advent of sound horror films became even more popular than they had been during the silent era. "Frankenstein" and "Dracula" were the gold standard, but there were other classics i.e. "The Invisible Man" and "The Wolfman." Other studios produced horror films. RKO a citizen of "poverty row" wanted the ability to make quick low cost B films which could be second features. They hired Val Lewton to produce these and other films which could be made quickly; the average time was 18 days of shooting. Lewton added his insights to the horror genre; he was interested in psychological horror, rather than relying on monsters. His first film for RKO was "Cat People." It was a huge success financially and critically. This success gave Lewton some influence with the studio heads; he used it in several ways. He found young directors, and he signed Boris Karloff to a two picture deal at RKO.

Lewton was clever in choosing literary sources; he adapted works of prominent authors which were in the public domain. "The Body Snatcher" movie is based on a story by Robert Louis Stevenson; yes, the author of "Kim", "The Jungle Book", and "Treasure Island." The initial treatment was rejected by the censors; Lewton revised the script and it was approved. According to Wise Lewton did produce the final shooting script for all/nearly all of his films. He never took screen credit, but for this movie he took credit under an alias.

The story is based on the crimes of Burke and Hare who supplied bodies to doctors for use in teaching anatomy.
In "Oliver Twist" there were called "resurrection men." In Scotland they were called body snatchers. Burke and Hare didn't just dig up corpses; they created them. They were "Burked" suffocated by a hand. The film has two key characters Cabman John Gray (Boris Karloff) and Dr. McFarlane (Henry Danell). Gray supplies corpses for Dr. McFarlane. They have a history going back to McFarlane's student days when they both were body snatchers. They were acquainted with Burke and Hare. The film opens with Gray's cab arriving at the medical school McFarlane heads. Gray charms a paralyzed girl passenger. She and her mother have come to McFarlane to beg him to operate on Meg.

There is a balance in the film between the good that medicine can do and the evil of the "Body Snatchers". Gray gets paid 10 pounds for each body; this was a huge sum in 1831 Scotland. We are of course going to get Gray murdering to get bodies. The porter/handyman for the school,Joseph (Bela Lugosi) attempts to blackmail Gray "Burks" him. He has already committed murder of a blind street singer to provide a needed body. Gray has leverage over McFarlane because of their shared past. He is forced to dismember the the bodies of Gray's victims for anatomy class.

Robert Wise, the director, was an editor for Orson Welles when he was at RKO. He actually ended up directing some scenes in "The Magnificent Ambersons" to preserve continuity after the major cuts RKO forced. Wise was brought into finish "Curse of the Cat People" when the director was working too slowly.
Wise became a very solid director, but here he acknowledges learning from Lewton, and from Boris Karloff.
Let me mention two particularly well shot atmospheric scenes. The opening scene with Gray and Meg almost makes Karloff seem cuddly. This pays off when Meg who has refused even to try and stand after her operation, stands because she thinks she hears Gray's horse. The second scene is the off stage death of the street singer; the song just stops. It had gotten softer as she moved away from the camera into a covered alley way. When Gray and his cab follows her into the alley; we know what is going to happen; we don't need to see the actual crime. This was set up early on in the film; on several occasions we see the street singer, and we see how she travels home. That is craft.

Well worth a view. Lewton has a zombie picture set in Haiti based on a Bronte novel. The "Cat People" involves a hereditary curse. Horror with a difference, but still class on view despite limited budgets and quick shooting schedules.
 
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"The Body Snatcher"-Robert Wise-1945

I assume that most of you are familiar with the classic Universal horror films. In the early '30's with the advent of sound horror films became even more popular than they had been during the silent era. "Frankenstein" and "Dracula" were the gold standard, but there were other classics i.e. "The Invisible Man" and "The Wolfman." Other studios produced horror films. RKO a citizen of "poverty row" wanted the ability to make quick low cost B films which could be second features. They hired Val Lewton to produce these and other films which could be made quickly; the average time was 18 days of shooting. Lewton added his insights to the horror genre; he was interested in psychological horror, rather than relying on monsters. His first film for RKO was "Cat People." It was a huge success financially and critically. This success gave Lewton some influence with the studio heads; he used it in several ways. He found young directors, and he signed Boris Karloff to a two picture deal at RKO.

Lewton was clever in choosing literary sources; he adapted works of prominent authors which were in the public domain. "The Body Snatcher" movie is based on a story by Robert Louis Stevenson; yes, the author of "Kim", "The Jungle Book", and "Treasure Island." The initial treatment was rejected by the censors; Lewton revised the script and it was approved. According to Wise Lewton did produce the final shooting script for all/nearly all of his films. He never took screen credit, but for this movie he took credit under an alias.

The story is based on the crimes of Burke and Hare who supplied bodies to doctors for use in teaching anatomy.
In "Oliver Twist" there were called "resurrection men." In Scotland they were called body snatchers. Burke and Hare didn't just dig up corpses; they created them. They were "Burked" suffocated by a hand. The film has two key characters Cabman John Gray (Boris Karloff) and Dr. McFarlane (Henry Danell). Gray supplies corpses for Dr. McFarlane. They have a history going back to McFarlane's student days when they both were body snatchers. They were acquainted with Burke and Hare. The film opens with Gray's cab arriving at the medical school McFarlane heads. Gray charms a paralyzed girl passenger. She and her mother have come to McFarlane to beg him to operate on Meg.

There is a balance in the film between the good that medicine can do and the evil of the "Body Snatchers". Gray gets paid 10 pounds for each body; this was a huge sum in 1831 Scotland. We are of course going to get Gray murdering to get bodies. The porter/handyman for the school,Joseph (Bela Lugosi) attempts to blackmail Gray "Burks" him. He has already committed murder of a blind street singer to provide a needed body. Gray has leverage over McFarlane because of their shared past. He is forced to dismember the the bodies of Gray's victims for anatomy class.

Robert Wise, the director, was an editor for Orson Welles when he was at RKO. He actually ended up directing some scenes in "The Magnificent Ambersons" to preserve continuity after the major cuts RKO forced. Wise was brought into finish "Curse of the Cat People" when the director was working too slowly.
Wise became a very solid director, but here he acknowledges learning from Lewton, and from Boris Karloff.
Let me mention two particularly well shot atmospheric scenes. The opening scene with Gray and Meg almost makes Karloff seem cuddly. This pays off when Meg who has refused even to try and stand after her operation, stands because she thinks she hears Gray's horse. The second scene is the off stage death of the street singer; the song just stops. It had gotten softer as she moved away from the camera into a covered alley way. When Gray and his cab follows her into the alley; we know what is going to happen; we don't need to see the actual crime. This was set up early on in the film; on several occasions we see the street singer, and we see how she travels home. That is craft.

Well worth a view. Lewton has a zombie picture set in Haiti based on a Bronte novel. The "Cat People" involves a hereditary curse. Horror with a difference, but still class on view despite limited budgets and quick shooting schedules.
The Body Snatcher is one of my favorite horror movies. My wife considers it essential viewing during this time of year as Halloween approaches. The combination of Boris Karloff and Henry Daniell is wonderful in this film. For my money it is one of Karloff's best performances, as he provides both an odd charm plus his usual threatening air that surrounds him in his films. Others in this Val Lewton series that my wife and I think quite highly of are "Cat People" and "I Walked With a Zombie". If you like "Cat People", then the follow up "Curse of the Cat People" is worth checking out as well.
 
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"Funny Bones"-Peter Chelsom-1995

I first learned about Chelsom form the film :"Hear My Song" which features a rare lead and super performance by Ned Beatty as Joseph Locke, a famous Irish tenor, who can't perform in Ireland because of tax problems. If you can find it; it is well worth viewing. Chelsom both wrote the script and directed both "Funny Bones" and "Hear My Song." The man has an unusual viewpoint on reality. It is messy and complicated, and unexpected happenings to quote Robert Burns: "The best laid plans of mice and men gang oft aglee."

The opening sequence involves the transfer of contraband on the high seas. It seems totally out of place with the second opening where after years of trying Tommy Fawkes (Oliver Pratt) son of a comedy legend George Fawkes (Jerry Lewis) is opening a two week engagement as a headliner on the Vegas strip. Tommy remarks several times: "I'm going to die." This is of course what happens when flop sweat stops your breathing. When the high sea exchange goes wrong, another character, Jack Parker (Lee Evans) adrift in the ocean states:"I'm going to die." Tommy of course fails on stage and departs for Blackpool, England. He was born in Blackpool and lived there for his first six years. His goal is to find comic material routines rather than jokes. There is a scene where various vaudeville acts perform for Tommy. He pays 50 pounds for a view, and more is promised if the material is used. This reminds me of a scene in the "Commitments" where we see auditions for the band. That movie was released in 1991.

George Fawkes, who filled in for his son in Vegas, follows Tommy to Blackpool. There are family secrets to bring out into the open, and ends to tie up in the smuggling operation which opened the movie. I think this is a hidden gem; the major performances: Oliver Pratt, Lee Evans, Jerry Lewis, and Leslie Caron are textured and complex. The photography is top notch; the viewer gets a real sense of place. The dialogue is sharp; one of my favorite lines is Tommy Fawkes asking of a promoter: "Why do all the best things in life belong to the past?" Or as Francois Villon put it: "Mais, ou sont les neiges d'autan?"

I really like this part comedy, part family drama, part nostalgia trip, part magic, and part crime drama. It refuses to be put in a box. I'll definitely be watching this again. My highest recommendation.
 

ClifSpliffy

surf's up
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reporting back from my first viewing of the Potemkin film. worthwhile. thanks..
 
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Tis the season

"Wolfman"-George Waggner-1941

"Every man who is pure of heart, and says his prayers at night, may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and the autumn moon is bright." This quote is used multiple times in this film, and it turns up in films over the next 60 years. Actually this isn't the first wolfman film; Universal tried several times to promote the wolfman.
This effort scripted by Cliff Siodomak established some of the basic rules of the genre. These creatures were vulnerable to silver, bullets, chains, and in this particular case a cane with a silver wolfshead. There were five additional appearances of the wolfman in Universal horror films all played by Lon Chaney Jr.

Larry Talbot returns home after 18 years of absence and the death of his brother. Larry (Lon Chaney Jr.) has a distant relationship with his father Sir John (Claude Rains), but he going to be managing the family estate. Larry helps his father by setting up a telescope. Using the telescope he sees Gwen Conliffe (Elizabeth Ankers). He finds her attractive; he goes to her father's antique shop. He ends up buying a walking stick topped with a silver wolf's head. He wants to date Elizabeth, but he ends up walking out with both Elizabeth and her friend Jenny. She wants to have her fortune told. Jenny seeks out Bela (Bela Lugosi) a gypsy fortune teller. While telling her fortune, he sees a five pointed star in her hand. That marks her as his next victim; Bela is a werewolf. Jenny leaves and Bella follows her and kills her. Her screams alert Elizabeth and Larry; he rushes to help her; he is too late, but he kills the werewolf with his walking stick. Out of the mist a cart emerges driven by Maleva (Maria Ospenskya). She is Bela's mother. She takes the wounded Larry back to Talbot Castle.

We now have the basic setup. Of course Larry becomes a werewolf, and he does terrible things, and he is hunted. In the wolf state he has no control over his actions, but he does remember them. The wolfman has become a favored character in supernatural stories; many times as an adjunct to vampires as in "True Blood" or featured as a principal "Bitten" for example. Some aspects have emerged not covered by the Siodomak script. These include the pack, and the ability to change without the aid of the full moon.

This is a fun movie, but not anywhere near a must see. However, it is important as a starting point for understanding werewolves. "An American Werewolf in London"-John Landis-1981 was a major disappointment. Landis has a major reputation; he directed "Animal House" and "Blues Brothers" among a host of other solid films. Interestingly, this werewolf film has many positive reviews. I will acknowledge that the werewolf change sequences are brilliant. Rick Baker won the Oscar for his makeup/changes. This job is so famous that they made a documentary short 20 years later. There are some okay parts the initial visit to the Slaughtered Lamb being one of the best. The story has two American backpackers traveling in the North of England. They meet up with a werewolf; one is killed the other wounded. The wounded backpacker is sent to a London hospital. His wounds heal, but he begins having nightmares including seeing his dead friend. He falls in love with his nurse, and upon his release from hospital she puts him up. He turns during the full moon, and he goes on a killing rampage. He doesn't really remember the rampage when he comes back to his human form. BTW this is a full change unlike the "Wolfman" change where we see only the feet and the face change. The rest of the body is clothed. So my advice is watch the wolfman and try to find the transformation scene from "American Werewolf" on the net.

More horror to watch in the near future because tis' the season.
 

nwhoopfan

hopeless West Coast homer
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There were five additional appearances of the wolfman in Universal horror films all played by Lon Chaney Jr.
Haven't seen any of the movies, but I have been to the cabin he built that is now in a National Park in California. Sweet location. It was locked up tight so I couldn't go inside but it looked cool from the outside.
 
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Tis the season

"Wolfman"-George Waggner-1941

"Every man who is pure of heart, and says his prayers at night, may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and the autumn moon is bright." This quote is used multiple times in this film, and it turns up in films over the next 60 years. Actually this isn't the first wolfman film; Universal tried several times to promote the wolfman.
This effort scripted by Cliff Siodomak established some of the basic rules of the genre. These creatures were vulnerable to silver, bullets, chains, and in this particular case a cane with a silver wolfshead. There were five additional appearances of the wolfman in Universal horror films all played by Lon Chaney Jr.

Larry Talbot returns home after 18 years of absence and the death of his brother. Larry (Lon Chaney Jr.) has a distant relationship with his father Sir John (Claude Rains), but he going to be managing the family estate. Larry helps his father by setting up a telescope. Using the telescope he sees Gwen Conliffe (Elizabeth Ankers). He finds her attractive; he goes to her father's antique shop. He ends up buying a walking stick topped with a silver wolf's head. He wants to date Elizabeth, but he ends up walking out with both Elizabeth and her friend Jenny. She wants to have her fortune told. Jenny seeks out Bela (Bela Lugosi) a gypsy fortune teller. While telling her fortune, he sees a five pointed star in her hand. That marks her as his next victim; Bela is a werewolf. Jenny leaves and Bella follows her and kills her. Her screams alert Elizabeth and Larry; he rushes to help her; he is too late, but he kills the werewolf with his walking stick. Out of the mist a cart emerges driven by Maleva (Maria Ospenskya). She is Bela's mother. She takes the wounded Larry back to Talbot Castle.

We now have the basic setup. Of course Larry becomes a werewolf, and he does terrible things, and he is hunted. In the wolf state he has no control over his actions, but he does remember them. The wolfman has become a favored character in supernatural stories; many times as an adjunct to vampires as in "True Blood" or featured as a principal "Bitten" for example. Some aspects have emerged not covered by the Siodomak script. These include the pack, and the ability to change without the aid of the full moon.

This is a fun movie, but not anywhere near a must see. However, it is important as a starting point for understanding werewolves. "An American Werewolf in London"-John Landis-1981 was a major disappointment. Landis has a major reputation; he directed "Animal House" and "Blues Brothers" among a host of other solid films. Interestingly, this werewolf film has many positive reviews. I will acknowledge that the werewolf change sequences are brilliant. Rick Baker won the Oscar for his makeup/changes. This job is so famous that they made a documentary short 20 years later. There are some okay parts the initial visit to the Slaughtered Lamb being one of the best. The story has two American backpackers traveling in the North of England. They meet up with a werewolf; one is killed the other wounded. The wounded backpacker is sent to a London hospital. His wounds heal, but he begins having nightmares including seeing his dead friend. He falls in love with his nurse, and upon his release from hospital she puts him up. He turns during the full moon, and he goes on a killing rampage. He doesn't really remember the rampage when he comes back to his human form. BTW this is a full change unlike the "Wolfman" change where we see only the feet and the face change. The rest of the body is clothed. So my advice is watch the wolfman and try to find the transformation scene from "American Werewolf" on the net.

More horror to watch in the near future because tis' the season.
I've seen "Wolf Man" a couple of times, but it is not burned into my brain like some other movies are from this time period. I'm inclined to agree with this review, a solid watchable movie but not necessarily a must see. On the other hand, my wife has seen "Wolf Man" more than I have, and she just loves it. She's a big Lugosi fan, so that no doubt helps quite a bit.
 
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"The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari"-Robert Wiene-1920

This is one of the most influential silent films ever. If and when you watch this film, you will immediately notice that the background is weird. Everything is slanted. The sets were made of paper and painted. Then there is the iris thing. The viewer is often moved visually by the opening and/or closing of the iris. It somewhat takes the place of a fadeout. The basic story is told narrative style, but the backdrop is very unusual. We are not used to the iris technique. The sets could only be shot head on; they had only one dimension in most cases. Is this German Expressionism; or could it be budget limitations? Many things were rationed in post WWI Germany. Electricity was one of them. This helps to explain why in several scenes paint replaces lighting for on screen effects. German Expressionism often used madness for effect; the single most famous painting is Edward Munch's "The Scream."

Two of the central characters:Dr. Caligari (Werner Kraus) and Cesare (Conrad Veidt) have makeup which accentuates their otherness. Their looks influenced horror films for generations. The German Film Industry depended upon export markets. There was a post war depression/currency inflation in Germany; Hollywood had taken over the international film market. Comedy was king. German film makers were looking for something different. There were horror efforts as early as 1913 ("Student of Prague"). Wiene made one other famous horror film, "The Hands of Orlac",and quite a few others like "Genuine" which are essentially unavailable.
Then there other on the edge films like"M" and "Metropolis". Of course the Nazi's takeover changed the film industry, most leading lights fled Germany. Many ended up in the US like Conrad Veidt, Major Steiner, or Billy Wilder. Some left even earlier; Michael Curtiz (Hungary) and Ernst Lubistsch in the mid to late twenties.

Before I forget, I need to mention the site "Open Culture" which directs you to over 1,150 free films on various sites. Yes, "The Cabinet..." is one of them. I'm disinclined to go into a synopis, but I will be very brief.
A carnival comes to a town in Germany. One of the acts is Dr. Caligari and a sonambulist , Cesare. Murders occur in the town. Francis takes the lead in solving the murders. Then there is a 180 degree shift in viewpoint. Okay, this is one of those films taught in film courses. That doesn't have to be a bad thing. This is one of the very few films I haven't seen before. I watched, and then I watched it with a commentary. How does this compare with other silents? I just watched the 1920 "Dr Jeckyl and Mister Hyde" starring John Barrymore; that's a decent film, but this is not only more important, but a whole lot better. It is very striking visually, and the story is pretty decent. Highly recommended, but not a Potemkin.

I was supposed to do four reviews today; obviously I fell short. Maximum push tomorrow and Saturday.
 
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"Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde"

This story was adapted from a Robert Louis Stevenson novella. It was quickly adapted for the stage. The stage adaptation added the female characters. A successful London production was closed when in some minds the lead actor was suspected of being Jack the Ripper. In 1920 a famous silent movie was made directed by John Robertson and starring John Barrymore in the title role. Barrymore was appearing on the Broadway stage while the film was being made. It was filmed in a rooftop studio on 44th street.

Jekyll has a fiance, Millicent Carewe, whose father is quite a rake. Jekyll runs a clinic for the poor and is a noted researcher; he is an exemplary man. Sir George Carewe attacks his probity as a sign of weakness. He says that he has experienced and, Jekyll is cutting himself off from half of human experience. " Your really strong man fears nothing. It is the weak one who is afraid of experience." Jekyll takes up the challenge. He develops a serum which allows him to separate the good and evil in a man. Not only is the change mental and moral; it has a physical manifestation as well. Sir George takes his daughter abroad; Jekyll uses this opportunity to live for several weeks fully as Hyde. He takes up with a dance hall girl , Gina (Nita Naldi). Barrymore literally found her dancing in a revue on Broadway. She became a big star often paired with Ruldolph Valentino. Jekyll tires her and forces her out of the apartment. He takes a ring from her which contains poison. The change which initially required a serum now occurs spontaneously but only from Jekyll to Hyde. Jekyll tries to maintain his identity and re-establish his romance with Millicent. However, when he is threatened by Sir George; Hyde manifests and he murders Sir George. One key element of the serum is unavailable, so Jekyll knows that he cannot become himself again if he transforms into Hyde. His only way out is to take his own life with the poison.

This film was a huge hit with audiences. The critical reception was mixed. Barrymore was universally praised,
but otherwise the critical reception was mixed. For some the subject matter was the problem; there were issues of morality. Readily available for free streaming, worth a look. The transformation is very good, and Barrymore is a quality actor.

"Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde"-Victor Fleming-1941

MGM bought up the rights to the 1931 Paramount production starring Frederic March in an Oscar winning performance. The MGM production was attacked roundly by the critics, for good reason. Fleming was a disaster. He physically assaulted his principal actresses to elevate their performances. The Legion of Decency was already on the case of Ingrid Bergman for being an immoral person (Roberto Rossellini). Reports vary as to whether she wanted the role of Iris the barmaid. It was the bigger female role, but casting Lana Turner as the innocent, demure Beatrice is a stretch. This is far from Spencer Tracey's finest hour; he wanted Katherine Hepburn to play both roles. Well it isn't actually awful, but the 31 Jekyll is available for free streaming.
 
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A little vampire music

"John Carpenter's Vampires' -1998

This is a lesser work from a terror master. I'm offering it up because it has a few very interesting attributes. Carpenter plays fast and loose with some key parts of well documented vampire mythos. First the first vampire was a heretical priest who is turned into a vampire as the result of a failed exorcism. The Catholic Church has teams of vampire hunters hunting down vampires on several continents. When you are bitten by a master vampire you have a psychic link; you can see what the master sees.

The story is simple Jack Crow (James Woods) leads a team of vampire hunters. They are working in the Southwest US. They are hunting out nests, and hoping to destroy masters. The team destroys a nest, but they don't find the master. They return to a motel to party down. The master jan Valek (Thomas Ian Griffith) follows the team. He kills all the team members except Crow and Montoya. One of the party girls, Katrina, survives, but she has been bitten, so she will turn. Before that she can help Crow find Valek. The Master knew Crow's name; Crow assumes that there is a traitor. The traitor turns out to be Cardinal Alba (Max Schell); it is filmic malpractice to have such a talent in such a minimal role. Of course the budget was cut by 2/3 rds just before filming started, so...Worth a look if you like the vampire genre.

"Fright Night"-Tom Holland-1985

Senior citizens probably need no introduction to this film. This is a classic of the sub-genre vampire humor. There a few decent scares, but it is the humor, and particularly Roddy McDowell's classic portrayal of Peter Vincent a forgotten filmic vampire hunter who now hosts a local horror film show, "Fright Knight" that makes this a hoot. A vampire and his undead daytime watchman move in next door to a horror film fanatic, Charlie Brewster. He believes that his neighbors are responsible for recent headless bodies in the town. Naturally nobody believes him. Once Peter Vincent becomes a reluctant partner; this picks up. He does it for money, but he becomes convinced that there are really vampires. One solid scene will remain with you. The un-dead watcher isn't a zombie; he looks like a normal human. He can't be killed; finally in desperation he is stabbed through the heart with a wooden stake and melts into a pile of goo.

Recommended
 
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"King Kong"-Merian C. Cooper-1933

This is the film which saved RKO from bankruptcy; this is the film which is the template for every monster film; this is the film with special effects remained the industry platinum standard for over 30 years; this is perhaps the first film with a coherent musical score (Max Steiner), and it is widely considered one of the top 50 American films. I hadn't seen this film in over a decade, I had forgotten just amazing it is. Many observers tend to dismiss everything before the arrival at the island and the first sight of Kong. I think it really works. We anticipate the mystery. Denham is secretive even with the ship's captain. We have a mysterious island inhabited by a mysterious monster. We are going to make a movie with no script, no technicians other than the cameraman/director. There is only one actor Ann( Fay Wray); she is going because there has to be a girl in the picture, Sullivan's Travels before Sullivan's Travels. Do you really need a synopsis?

The film crew with the recently recruited actress sails thousands of miles away to an uncharted island near Sumatra. They arrive and find that the island is exactly as rumored; including a wall dating back thousands of years. The crew come ashore in a boat just as the natives are picking a bride for Kong. A fight with the well armed crew is avoided, but Ann is abducted from the ship by the natives who want her to become Kong's bride.
Of course the crew must try to get her back. We are treated to some conflicts with various pre-historic reptiles.
Finally Kong is captured and he is brought to NYC as"the eighth wonder of the world." Before a packed theater audience, Kong escapes from his chrome steel chains. He captures Fay Wray and makes his way up the newly constructed Empire State building. Finally he is shot and killed by airplanes, but not before he destroys one.

The film ends with the famous line: It was beauty killed the beast." The 2005 Peter Jackson remake is a fine film. However, you should definitely plan to see the original. It is far more than an origin point film; this is classic film making. This is a masterpiece.
 
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