It's changed overnight. Looks, hmm, bigger...
THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES (1959)
I haven’t read any of Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes adventures, so I don’t know how accurate a retelling of the story this movie is. This 1959 film comes highly recommended, both from devotees of Conan Doyle and Hammer movies. I may be missing something.
The film kicks off with an extended prologue explaining the legend of the Hound of the Baskervilles: Sir Hugo Baskerville – a tyrant of Neroesque qualities – abuses his lordly position, tortures his servants, demeans his friends, commits murder because he feels slighted and is mauled to death by a fabled big dog. There's also the unpleasant squirming suggestion of a planned gang-rape of a servant girl. This opening has all the trashy, tacky hallmarks of Hammer. It’s quite unsettling. I disliked it intensely. Not only was the acting over the top, but so was the insanely noisy music. The day-for-night shooting is far too obvious; the studio set scenes are darker than dark, the exteriors virtually sunlit. The bloody murder is high melodrama.
Then were in Holmes’ cramped little apartment listening to a suspicious-looking doctor try to explain the relevance of this story to the death of Sir Charles Baskerville and the threat he believes it poses to his nephew, Sir Henry. That’s a lot of Baskervilles to pack into fifteen minutes. Peter Cushing is Sherlock and he’s playing the detective as facetious, irritable, impatient and thoroughly unlikeable. He treats his friend Dr Watson like a pet dog: “Fetch my tobacco – Go to Dartmoor for me – Don’t let Sir Henry out on the moor alone at night [this one twice] – Oh, well done, Watson!” Was Conan Doyle’s writing like this? Is this part of Holmes’ personality make up? When he makes conversation, it is almost always specifically to make a point. All niceties are removed from his dialogue, other than invitations and greetings. I’m not saying Cushing’s bad at what he’s doing, I simply didn’t like what he was doing. It lacks class.
I expect most of us know the story. It’s a detective yarn with lots of hidden clues, plots twists, red herrings, sudden reveals and a worthwhile ending. There are plenty of plot holes and a tale such as this ought not to have any. Sir Henry’s non-recurring heart complaint was the most obvious – the man should have died several times, I feel – and I disliked the Spanish heritage angle as it was irrelevant [again, no idea if this was in the book]. The clue within the missing painting had to be taken with an enormous pinch of salt; I could think of at least two different and more likely ways this piece of information could have been arrived at. The production values are standard for Hammer at the time: plywood and papier mache looking outdoor studio sets, garish photography, costumes okay. Terence Fisher directs with a firm unexcitable hand. The film feels very long even at 86 minutes.
Out of interest, did Christopher Lee ever play Holmes? I think he’d ’ve been rather good. I always liked Tom Baker in the 1980s TV version of this story and was disappointed the BBC never followed it up. I have this image of Holmes being tall. Cushing isn’t. He looks insignificant next to Lee. I am afraid I found this version of The Hound of the Baskervilles to be underwhelming.
Not mad about that one but not mad about the story overall personally. Lee played Holmes' brother in the Billy Wilder's underperforming film adaptation in the late 60s or early 70s, he wasn't in it that much, Robert Stephens was Holmes in that. Lee did play Holmes I think in a TV series that pops up in blurry lo-res on one of the 'other' Freeview channels from time to time, from the 1980s I think.
Peter Cushing is Sherlock and he’s playing the detective as facetious, irritable, impatient and thoroughly unlikeable. He treats his friend Dr Watson like a pet dog: “Fetch my tobacco – Go to Dartmoor for me – Don’t let Sir Henry out on the moor alone at night [this one twice] – Oh, well done, Watson!” Was Conan Doyle’s writing like this? Is this part of Holmes’ personality make up? When he makes conversation, it is almost always specifically to make a point. All niceties are removed from his dialogue, other than invitations and greetings. I’m not saying Cushing’s bad at what he’s doing, I simply didn’t like what he was doing. It lacks class.
yes thats pretty much the way Doyle wrote Holmes. Holmes is an eccentric, obsessed with logic but only as it applies to the solving of crimes, and what we might call autistic today. He falls into a self-destructive sulk when his great brain is not occupied with a challenge (in one book he injects cocaine to alleviate the boredom). He is egomaniacal, stating shamelessly he is better than all around him. He lectures people on logic, and on first meetings typically shows off by telling people their whole life story which he has derived from a spot of mud on their shoes, a self-aggrandizing parlour trick he does nearly once in every story, to create a deliberate first impression. Watson is used to all this and puts up with a lot of abuse, because he knows his old friend's ways. In one of the later adventures, Holmes saves Watson's life and it seems like they are about to kiss as Watson is so thrilled by this sign Holmes really cares.
I recommend first two collections of short stories (Adventures of... and Memoirs of...). And Hounds... is the best of the four novels. See if you can find the one volume hardcover edition The Original illustrated Sherlock Holmes that compiles the original plates as published in the Strand with the Sidney Paget illustrations. This volume only includes about half the Holmes books Doyle wrote, but by coincidence Paget illustrated the best ones so you see the definitive illustrations and cut straight to the best stories.
Christopher Lee played Holmes at least 4 times to my knowledge, the latter two with Patrick Macnee as Watson. He was just fine as Holmes.
@caractacus potts thanks, that's cleared that up for me
Peter Cushing later played Holmes in a BBC series, including another (and much inferior) version of "Hound".
Many years later he played the part a final time in "The Masks Of Death", a TV movie with a starry supporting cast which I found very disappointing.
DONOVAN’S REEF (1963)
John Wayne stars in this knockabout comedy as an ex-USN whose put down roots in French Polynesia, running the titular bar and brawling with Lee Marvin. John Ford is the named director, but by all accounts he was so ill during filming that Wayne did half the work. None of the major players seem to be taking more than a passing interest in proceedings; they had after all been told by Ford that the production was a good excuse for a holiday in Hawaii.
Reunited with Marvin after Liberty Valance, Wayne gives one of his most uncomfortable looking performances of the sixties. The script doesn’t help as it isn’t remotely amusing. The plot is a hash up of misunderstanding, cute kids and comedy bar-fights. The representation of the islanders is very poor. Some of the language couldn’t be used in a movie today without provoking outrage. Some of the landscape photography is beautiful, but then if a cameraman can’t make Hawaii look beautiful, he ought to get a new job.
The movie feels like it was perceived as a vague follow-up to Howard Hawk’s safari movie Hatari, which Wayne starred in the year before. Unfortunately Donovan’s Reef lacks animals, a decent love story and a sense of humour.
WITCHFINDER GENERAL (1968)
SPOILERS ABOUND !!!
This historically inaccurate horror traces the career and death of Matthew Hopkins, the self-appointed ‘Witchfinder General’ of the title. Hopkins was responsible for hundreds of witch trails during the English Civil War, and the hundreds of subsequent deaths of the accused. He firmly believed he was doing God’s work. Since his assertion that a witch was anyone who disagreed with his absurdly extreme protestant views, that didn’t leave anyone else with much room to manoeuvre.
The story is set in East Anglia where Richard Marshall, on leave from the Roundhead army, is betrothed to Sara Lowes, the beautiful niece of a local priest. Diabolical lies have been spread about the clergyman. Hopkins and his nasty, drunken assistant John Sterne [also a true character] have been summoned to deal with the errant priest. Sara allows Hopkins to seduce her, thinking it will save her uncle, but Sterne, angered by what he perceives as Hopkins dereliction of duty, rapes her and continues the torture. Chastised and blackmailed, Hopkins carries out the execution. Out for revenge, Marshall pursues the two examiners to the death, but not before both he and Sara encounter the full terror of inquisition.
Witchfinder General is a great and shocking film not because of its violent content – it is violent only in spasms – but because the beliefs expressed by Hopkins, the incredulous question and non-answer interrogations, the obscene methods of torture, the blind compliance of his allies, the dread of those accused, the fear of those laying charges, all of these are behaviours we genuinely believe could, and indeed did, occur at such a time of vast societal upheaval. This is the true horror. Man’s viciousness towards his fellow man.
At the time the film is set, England has been through the Reformation, the dissolution of the monasteries, expelled or executed many prominent Catholics, inherited a Scottish king and is now being torn apart by factions opposed or supporting the monarchy. People’s possessions are being confiscated by one side or the other, spies are legion, food is scarce, war is everywhere. It is no wonder a sudden spurt of righteous anger erupts and assaults those who choose to be different, who displease the disinherited, the disenfranchised, the slighted. There are frightening parallels with the rhetoric and actions of extremists today, who seek to purge societies of all who do not conform.
Hopkins supports these degenerate people, invariably the poor and ill-educated, with his own callous and single-minded vision. He lays markers as warnings. The opening scene describes a woman, guilty of witchcraft, being hauled up a prominent hilltop where she is hanged, her body left as a cautionary signal to others. Hopkins watches hawk-like from afar, shadowed in black. He’s the embodiment of evil, yet he claims to do good. His tongue has the persuasive silver of the devil. He has ensured the magistrates are always on his side. His arguments are fool proof because there is only one possible answer: he is right and you are wrong.
Hopkins is played with fine restraint by Vincent Price. Along with Hammer’s Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, Price is probably the actor most associated with the horror genre during the sixties. The cycle of Edgar Allen Poe adaptations he made for Roger Corman are some of the most inventive chillers of the decade. He’s prone to overacting, to pansy things up too much. Not here. Apparently Price clashed repeatedly with young director Michael Reeves, but once he saw the finished result, he understood exactly Reeves’ intention. Hopkins is a vile sadist and a trickster. Yet he also fundamentally believes what he is doing is just and right. It is only when his own morality is tested his manner unravels. His demeanour remains unruffled throughout; only once does he hint at panic: when Sterne accuses him of cavorting with Sara, he loses control and raises his voice. Robert Russell as the accomplice remains scurrilous throughout.
Ian Olgilvy brings a sturdy hand to the hero. He’s become a Roundhead soldier for a career, but as his search for Hopkins begins to obsess him, his comrades doubt his loyalties and his priorities. Hilary Dwyer’s Sara shows just the right mixture of innocence and permissiveness to convince us she could contemplate and succeed in seducing the repugnant witchfinder. Early on in the film, the priest knowingly leaves his niece in the company of her lover, the suggestion being he condones of their copulation. It may be this liberal attitude which has got him into trouble with the locals, it isn’t clear; although later the church appears to have been ransacked so he may have been a secret Royalist in a Roundhead stronghold. Whichever it is, Hopkins is well aware of Sara’s sexual tendencies; he spies her from the parsonage and strikes his deal with her away from Sterne’s prying eyes.
Exquisite details such as these can get lost among the intended bloodletting, torture and burnings. We know times are hard because the Lowes eat a sparing meal, lit by two candles. There is a long shot of a squad of Roundheads before the battle of Naseby, reclining exhausted against a hillock. Villages are dirty, **** infested places. Cromwell is beset by warts. Forced conscription is in evidence. Other times the details are less accurate; flintlock pistols are close quarter weapons only but are fired with accuracy at distance; guineas were not a currency until well after the Civil War. The costumes are suitably ugly, as if everyone’s been wearing them for too long. Hair and beards are unkempt. Sets are spartan. Rooms are small. John Coquillon’s photography is excellent, highlighting the darkness of the times. The gentle music score from Paul Ferris uses medieval folk songs and dances as a counterpoint to the violence.
The climax comes after a long chase sequence which has an overbearing sense of doom, magnified by the witches being burned in the village square. There is no escape for anyone. The whole population has turned out to watch the execution, standing as silent witnesses to a heinous crime. The lovers are caught by their own physical desire, exactly that which betrayed Hopkins’ to Sterne. Lust has broken everyone’s defences. The ensuing pricking torture is eye-wateringly gripping. Olgilvy’s eyes seem to bulge in anger as his Dwyer’s back is lanced. Price remains aloof to the proceedings. When he finally gets his comeuppance, the scene – the film – concludes devastatingly not with a reunion but with Sara’s blood curdling screams echoing throughout the chamber. There is, it seems, no end to the nightmare. It’s probably one of the greatest closing shots ever put on film.
Witchfinder General sits easily within a group of excellent ‘breakout’ movies directed by young, brash up and coming artists: The Wicker Man from Robin Hardy, Women in Love from Ken Russell, Get Carter from Mike Hodges, Performance from Donald Cammell, Don’t Look Now from Nic Roeg, even Oh What a Lovely War from Richard Attenborough; this sudden flurry of activity marks a high watermark of achievement for British film and Michael Reeves’ movie deserves its place among them.
Thank you, that was a detailed and intelligent review. It's never been a favourite of mine but I might watch it again now.
Reeves and Price did, indeed, clash repeatedly on set. One exchange was:
Price: I’ve made 80 films, how many have you made, young man?
Reeves: 3 good ones!
Reeves died aged 25 from an overdose, a talent tragically lost.
The film can now be seen in its full uncut version, the added scenes are a grimy colour but it’s worth seeing that version. American audiences know this film as The Conqueror Worm.
The film is based on Ronald Bassett’s 1966 novel.
A great review, chrisno1, of one of my favourite British horror films.
THE TWO FACES OF JANUARY (2014)
A good looking thriller set in 1950s Greece / Crete and starring Viggo Mortenson and Kirsten Dunst as a husband and wife in financial difficulty. He’s a con man and an American detective is on his tail seeking compensation for the insurance frauds he’s been committing. Oscar Isaacs is the drifter who falls in with them and in love with Dunst.
A tale of murder, cross and double-cross, I spent most of the film thinking how much like a Patricia Highsmith novel it was – and at the [end] credits learnt that, sure enough, it was based on her book. Ultimately, it is a tad under-cooked. There isn’t enough tension and it seems to lack a happy core. I didn’t have much sympathy for any of the characters. It was somewhat unbelievable that Dunst’s wife had absolutely no idea her husband was a con man. It passed a couple of harmless hours.
FILM STARS DON’T DIE IN LIVERPOOL (2017)
Good central performances can’t hide the deficiencies in this weepy true story from director Paul McGuigan about the dying, troubled film actress Gloria Grahame.
Annette Bening is excellent as Grahame. Jamie Bell holds his own as Peter Turner, her British toy boy lover. Bell is reunited with Julie Walters, who plays his mum, and it brings back awkward memories of Billy Elliott (Bell’s better, Walters is worse.)
The screenplay doesn’t do enough with the characters or the situation. If you don’t know the life story of Gloria Grahame you won’t learn very much here either. Good period look (1979 – 1981) and a classy soundtrack. Interesting to note they filmed the American scenes in the UK with painted / photographed backdrops, which gives those sequences the feel of a colourised film noir of the 40s, exactly the type of movie Grahame built her reputation with.
Oh yes and Barbara Broccoli produced it.
I did manage to get some of the films on the list of westerns that you all recommended and have been slowly making my way through the first few while on overtime night duties. I did watch my spaghetti western set and am glad that I watched them in order as I think I might have been put off if I had watched the rambling TGTB&TU first.
I must say I have not been disappointed with any of the recommendations so far. I have watched 'High Noon' 'The Outlaw Josey Wales' and 'True Grit' (John Wayne). Not on the list but I watched this on TV yesterday was a very good western called 'The Gunfighter' with Gregory Peck. I recommend that.
Other DVD's I got while I was searching for the westerns on the list were 'The Longest Day' 'The Battle of Britain' and 'Tora Tora Tora'. I have not watched these yet but am looking forward to seeing them for the first time.
Although I am not particularly interested in crime films, I have been told that 'The Godfather' and 'Good Fellows'(?) are good films. They too have been added to my list.
You're getting through some great films there, Joshua. I'm glad you caught The Gunfighter. I wasn't familiar with that film until I came across a podcast discussion of it on the excellent 'How the West was Cast'. I immediately watched the film and it jumped straight into my list of favourite westerns.
The Longest Day, Battle of Britain and Tora! Tora! Tora! are all terrific. They are really definitive examples of the classic world war II epic. They restage the great battles of WWII on a grand scale with wonderful widescreen cinematography and Longest Day and Battle of Britain boast incredible star studded casts. Tora's cast is a little less famous, but are all quality character actors including the likes of Martin Balsam and Jason Robards. The aerial scenes in Battle of Britain are a sight to behold, as is the impressive recreation of the Pearl Harbor attack in Tora! Tora! Tora! I hope you enjoy those films!
THE GODFATHER, THE GODFATHER PART 2, and GOODFELLAS are phenomenal films. You're in for a real treat.
Note: THE GODFATHER PART 3 is not in the same league as the first two films. It's worth watching to 'complete' the saga but lower your expectations on it.
Goodfellas is overrated in my book. I like it, but Scorsese isn't doing anything here we haven't seen before. I felt he glamorised the gangster lifestyle too much. The characters are wholly unsympathetic so there's little empathy from the audience towards anyone. It does though have a brilliant sound edit at the beginning, the cut to Rags to Riches by Tony Bennett - a brilliant piece of editing and a great song which encapsulates much of the story's feel.
The Godfather is a magnificent film. The opening monologue is superb and superbly presented, the whole of the wedding sequence is a bravura slice of filmmaking which introduces us in twenty minutes to all the characters, all their relationships, the dynamic of the Corleone family, their histories. That the film maintains this high level of standard is a tribute to Coppola and his scriptwriter Mario Puzo. The scenes in Sicily are particularly striking and demonstrate how Al Pacino's Michael Corleone comes to encapsulate the titular Godfather.
The second film is good, but other than the flashback scenes, it basically repeats exactly what we saw in the first film. The third is a grand operatic tragedy, quite fitting as it climaxes at the Teatro Massimo in Palermo.
THE PASSENGER (1975)
Michelangelo Antonioni’s The Passenger is one of the great unsung movies of the 1970s. For many years, due to a legal rights wrangle, the film never had a television showing and was rarely exhibited in cinemas. Recently, this has changed and this masterful film has come to be reappraised and reappreciated, much more so than it was on its initial release.
“People disappear every day,” says the beautiful female Passenger to Jack Nicholson’s David Locke, a disillusioned journalist making a documentary about the civil war in Chad. When we join him, he is attempting to sight the rebel leaders, but each contact he meets proves fruitless. Nobody is doing for him what they claim to. Nobody communicates with him. Even his car gives up. Back at his hotel, staffed by the same uncommunicative people, Locke finds the only other guest – a businessman called Robinson – has died. The dead man bears an uncanny resemblance to Locke.
The Passenger is a film about identity. Locke has lost his way, not only geographically, but psychologically, personally. He’s suffering depression, brought on by his wife’s affairs, is drinking hard and appears to have a form of journalistic writer’s block. His investigations have led him nowhere. His editor, Martin Knight [Ian Hendry], plays back some of his final, messy and ill-informed interviews. One with a witchdoctor is turned on its head when the native reverses the camera and interviews Locke. “Your question are much more revealing about yourself than my answer would be about me,” the witchdoctor explains.
Uncertain of his own personal worth from these earliest moments, Locke, in attempting to reinvent himself, only reinforces the confusion in his mind. When the Passenger asks him: “Who are you?” he explains that he’s trying to be someone else: a novelist, a waiter, a gunrunner. Later she questions him directly: “Which me? […do you mean]” As the story progresses it becomes clear what Locke really wants to be is like the real Robinson: dead. “Wouldn’t it be better if we could just forget all places, forget everything that happens and just throw it all away?” he says.
Instead of suicide, he has swapped rooms and bodies, stealing the man’s passport and luggage. He uses Robinson’s appointment diary to trace the man’s movements. In Munich he discovers a portfolio of weapons Robinson has been sourcing for the Chad revolt and meets the rebel paymaster. His paranoia increases in Barcelona when he realises Knight has flown from London to chase down ‘Robinson’ in the hope of discovering how ‘Locke’ died. He escapes discovery with the help of a beautiful student [played by Maria Schneider] and they continue to follow the itinerary, but every other contact fails to show up. She never learns exactly who he is, and he never learns her name. At one point, she suggests he’d learn more unpacking her luggage, but she carries only a small bag, deepening for him the non-communications of his past life.
Assuming another man’s identity doesn’t help Locke to elude his past. People are still uncooperative. His unfaithful wife still pursues him. So too do the police and we learn, the Chad rebels, who are missing the armaments. He feels more hunted now than he was by the inquisitive witchdoctor. Luciano Tovoli’s stark photography highlights his state of mind. The colours are vibrant. The sun bright. Everything moves. For such a still film, there is a tremendous amount of sudden rapid progress. When night falls, everything is pitch, slow, shadowy, difficult to penetrate. The collaborative script holds the same mysteries, gentle conversation interspersed with moments of bustling energy, the characters are all searching for David Locke, but they all search in the day time.
Locke understands exactly what is happening, what he’s propagated. He understands his fate and he welcomes it. He knows the danger and tries to send the girl away, but she refuses to leave him. It is at this moment that Nicholson delivers one of the finest monologues of his career as Locke finally recognises the world he inhabits:
“I know a man who was blind. When he was nearly 40 years old, he had an operation and regained his sight… At first he was elated, really high. Faces, colours, landscapes. But then everything began to change. The world was much poorer than he imagined. No one had ever told him how much dirt there was. How much ugliness. He noticed ugliness everywhere. When he was blind he used to cross the street alone with a stick. After he regained his sight he became afraid. He began to live in darkness. He never left his room. After three years he killed himself.”
Locke is really describing himself, out of clarity, into confusion, and then trapped inside that uncertainty. The film ends in a crummy Andalusian pension near Almeria with a fantastic snail’s pace tracking shot through a window, accompanied by a single gunshot. The camera reverses, like Locke’s despairing life, so we can see his murdered body. “Do you recognise him?” asks the policeman. “Yes,” replies the girl. Locke has finally achieved his objective: in death he gains an identity.
A magnificent achievement.
Yes Golrush, The Gunfighter is a splendid film.
I am looking forward to watching the war films I mentioned.
I wonder if you all would like to hear about some of the other films I have got. I usually pay £1 each but can get them sometimes for as little as 50p. As I mentioned in another post, I will keep them if I really like the film but usually give them back to the charity shop. The western films I have mentioned I will be keeping.
These are a few more films which I have collected but not yet seen. They are all first time viewing:
Harry Brown (I bought this because I have become a Michael Caine fan)
The Untouchables (I bought this because Sean Connery is in it)
Defiance (I bought this because Daniel Craig is in it)
Not a film but a DVD set 'Band of Brothers'. I am not sure how many DVD's are in it but there are quite a few. I paid £10 for this.
For the first time in over a year, I was in a genuine, actual, 100% real movie theater. And I even had popcorn. Not many other people were there, but it felt just so darn normal that I loved it. Oh--the movie? CRUELLA, Disney's latest attempt to explain and redeem one of its classic female villains. It's actually pretty enjoyable, with two Emmas--Stone and Thompson--warring over who will become Swinging London's hottest fashion designer. Some good laughs and an absolutely superb soundtrack of great 1960s/'70s rock classics.
FIVE GOLDEN DRAGONS (1967)
A quicker than quick-off-the-press movie from writer / producer Harry Alan Towers. This one comes via the Shaw Brothers Studios in Hong Kong and takes place entirely on the island. The chief attraction of it now is the scenery, the gorgeous villainess played by Margaret Lee and the three sultry songs squeezed into the middle of the movie during an extended nightclub scene.
The half decent plot is spoilt by the lame humour. The film doesn’t know whether to take itself seriously or not, so it fails as both a thriller and a comedy. The lead is Bob Cummings. I have no idea who he is, so I looked him up. Still no idea. He is terrible. I mean really, really poor. It’s one of the worst performances I think I’ve ever seen in this kind of hokum. He’s bad when delivering humorous asides, even worse when it comes to the action. He doesn’t convince as a hero in any shape or form. For some peculiar reason he’s allowed to chew gum through most of the film.
A whole slew of guest stars feature. Klaus Kinski is the best of them as a scary hitman, but he’s hardly given much to do. For the record the Golden Dragons of the title are a cabal of international gold smugglers played by Christopher Lee, Brian Donlevy, Dan Duryea, George Raft and Sieghardt Rupp.
This sort of thriller used to be churned out by Warner Bros week after week in the forties. You can feel the noir elements creeping into it before director Jeremy Summers buries them under mirth and sunlight. It’s too long and simply not good enough.
The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming
directed by Norman Jewison, 1966
starring Alan Arkin, Carl Reiner, Eva Marie Saint and Jonathon Winters
Spielberg borrowed a lot of this for 1941, didnt he? but he left out all the 60s optimism that is the point of the film, instead expanding on all the potential for visual chaos inherent in a panicking mob. (I think audiences may have been too cynical by the Reagan era, yet within a few years we would all be partying on the rubble of the Berlin Wall.) A dose of Dr Strangelove, without the artistic ambitions and the bummer ending, and two doses of It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (which also featured both Reiner and Winters) except with more of a plot and a point to all the madness.
Alan Arkin in his first big screen role steals scenes from experienced veteran Reiner. Supposedly the accent he is doing is the way his own Russian Jew grandparents spoke, is why he does it so convincingly. Was his apparent gift at accents here the reason he was chosen to replace Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau? if so, the logic was off, as his grandparents did not speak Silly Imitation French.
Andrea Dromm plays the cute babysitter who falls in love with a Russian sailor while the rest of the townsfolk are getting into fights over which is the correct way to panic. She went on to star in her own long-forgotten spymania product Come Spy with Me, which I have added to my queue.
YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE on the big screen!
James Bond Screenings at the Waterfront Cinema (Greenock, UK) — ajb007
There are those who will tell you that the most exciting sound in a cinema is the first chord of John William's "Star Wars" theme, accompanied by the title card.
And there are those who will say that while that's not bad at all, the most exciting sound in a cinema is the opening of the "James Bond Theme" accompanied by the gunbarrel.
Make a wild guess which category I'm in- as long as it's done properly, of course.
I'm not long home from watching YOLT, in the way it is best seen. The most obvious example is the reveal of the interior of the volcano which is spectacular in the truest sense of the word, and so much better than it appears at home. If anyone has a chance to see this film on the big screen, take it!
Tickets for next week (DAF) already bought.
(Ignore the quote above, please)
I'm envious, Barbel. 😱
A knight's tale (2001)
Why are there so few jousting movies? The sport is so cinematic and dramatic there should be more of them. The movie has Heath Ledger as the commoner who dreams of becoming a knight, a performance that promised a great career that ended far too early. Paul Bettany's ass shortly followed by the rest of him is introduced to the Hollywood, a funny role. Costumes and particularely the music isn't historical ly correct, but this is very much on purpose. The music is used the way Tarantino does it, conveying mood instead of time and place. It also contributing to making the movie feel young and fresh. I enjoyed A "knight's tale" very much.
I do enjoy these film reviews. Parts of Spectre reminded me of The Passenger, that wandering around In the desert thing. I realise that comment doesn't do justice to ChrisNo1's excellent review.
The Jungle Book
Umpteemth viewing of this Disney classic with never a dull scene. As a kid it didn't strike me that the Vultures were a pastiche of The Beatles. Only today did I realise that the excellent George Saunders as Sheer Khan the tiger is scripted very similarly to the Captain Von Trapp in The Sound of Music just a few years earlier, that same sardonic appraisal. As with that film, most of the authority figures are English, while the more fun, morally adventurous types are American, and all the kids American - the cast has a caste system.
Movies with two villains - Kaa the Snake AND Sheer Khan - not bad, are they? Often in movies you have a mock villain to hold fort until the main one turns up - the Mayor of Amity in Jaws for instance, disappears quickly once the threat is real and recognised, to be replaced by Shaw's shark hunter I guess. But these aren't true villains, more irritants. Can anyone think of a movie like The Jungle Book where there are two villains - I mean, come to think of it, I found the snake and its prospective killing to be more horrible than the tiger, despite his man-hating backstory. It's a plot hole now I think of it - I mean, the arrival of the tiger is the reason for Mowgli to leave the jungle but it's not like Kaa the Sanke made it a happy hangout really now, was it? Did he never appear before or was it just in that part of the jungle they were passing through? And is it possible I am overthinking things?
Sheer Khan's final flight reminiscent of that of Captain Hook across the sea, exit pursued by crocodile, in Peter Pan.
Spoilt today with two Elvis movies available to view.
Clambake is probably the nadir of Elvis Presley’s acting career and quite possibly his singing career as well. This fluff comes from director Arthur H. Nadel and writer Arthur Browne Jr, two men both so obscure they don’t even have a Wikipedia entry.
This time out, Elvis is Scott Hayward, an oil millionaire’s son, who decides to trade places with a water ski instructor to see if people will accept him for his personality, not his dollars. He meets girls, sings songs and builds a race winning powerboat using his own experimental waterproof reinforcement called ‘gloop.’ Yes, gloop.
Will Hutchins, a serviceable T.V. actor, is the skiing guy and his performance is so forced and over eager it’s as if someone held a gun to his head. Shelly Fabares is undeniably pretty, but vacant. She looks desperate to escape. Shelly’s worked with Elvis twice before and ought to know what that entails. Bill Bixby is bland beyond belief and doesn’t convince as a rival millionaire speedster. The only decent performers are Gary Merrill and James Gregory as Elvis’ mentor and father respectively. Their greater experience shows. They know the product is terrible, but they do their best to bring touches of humour and humanity while everyone else simply acts foolish.
The less said about the songs the better. The title number is a frantic dirge sung during another beach party full of bikini clad go-go girls. There was a lot of this kind of scene in Elvis’ latter career, but never so bad as this. It isn’t the worst though: I actually had to leave the room through sheer embarrassment when the King started singing Confidence to a playground full of kids.
Curiously, Elvis appears to be enjoying himself. You do wish film producers had taken his abilities more seriously as his personal charisma remains undimmed despite the poor quality of what surrounds it. I rather fancy Elvis identified with his character and would have given anything to swap places with a ski instructor, dance with babes on the beach and not have to sell a million records a year.
FLAMING STAR (1960)
Intended as a vehicle for Marlon Brando, this Don Seigel western features Elvis Presley as a half-breed son of a Texas rancher whose family is caught in a war between the homesteaders and the Kiawah Indians.
Flaming Star was the last attempt Elvis had during his heyday to prove he could be taken seriously as an actor. After this, and following his previous success with the family friendly G.I. Blues, his manager Tom Parker insisted all scripts were musical comedies. There’s one scene in the first five minutes were Elvis sings a hoedown tune which fits in just about okay with the story and isn’t obviously an excuse to demonstrate he can rock n roll. Instead we get a demonstration that he can act. Playing the brooding Kiawah Pacer Burton seems to suit the King, who triumphs mainly because his character is pretty much monosyllabic. There’s a couple of scenes where he shines: a discussion with the Indian chief about brotherhood and honesty, and another where, grieving for his mother, his pent up anger spills out and he lets loose a series of home truths about the treatment he and his Kiawah blood-kin experience.
The movie is well filmed by Charles Clarke, much of it shot in half-light which increases an already tense atmosphere. The landscapes look gorgeous in Cinemascope. If the movie occasionally dips into melodrama and cliché, that’s rather to be expected. A lot of the racial issues had already been touched on during the previous decade, although this movie is much clearer on the native Americans’ grievances. The Kiawah specifically claim the land has been theirs since the dawn of the world and the white man has stolen it. It’s a credit to writer Nunnally Johnson that despite this, he makes Sam Burton [John McIntire, playing Elvis’ father] sympathetic. Sam’s love for his wife [the excellent Dolores del Rio] conflicts with his need to toil land, which he’s done freely for twenty years, with the blessing of the old Chief. It is the influx of new, brash, intolerant settlers and new brash intolerant Indians which sparks the Kiawah uprising and forces his sons to choose sides.
A very good movie which isn’t quite a great one. The end feels a little half-baked – it isn’t clear what Pacer is hoping to achieve by returning to fight the Kiawah – but it is great to see Elvis not have to sing for his supper.
Two stroppy adolescents flee Paris for an idyllic life in the Camargue. He gets a job at a vineyard; she has a baby. A very odd, soft focus romance from Lewis Gilbert. It’s expecting a lot from the two teenage leads to carry almost the whole film, but they do an admiral job under the circumstances, which includes risible dialogue and fairy tale story.
I wasn’t sure what to make of this. The age of the central characters as well as the age of the actors is somewhat unsettling given the story content, although it may not have been quite so in 1971. Discreet nudity doesn’t help and gives one the feeling of being a voyeur.
Andreas Winding’s photography is excellent. Several scenes are shot to resemble French impressionist paintings, which provides interesting visual references to the scenario. Elton John provides a series of low-key songs for accompaniment and was subsequently nominated for a Grammy. The sudden ending, despite the ridiculously saccharine story, is both heart-warming and prescient of a darker tale which never comes. A curio, if nothing else.
THE GHOST OF FRANKENSTEIN (1942)
Along with Bond, Hammer and the Carry On, a particular favourite of mine is the Universal Monsters series. This is the fourth of 8 movies in the series and the first one to have a reduced budget.
Carrying on from the previous entry, Ygor frees the monster from a sulphur pit and brings him to the second son of Frankenstein, Ludwig, to restore the Monster with Ygor’s brain so he can take revenge against his enemies.
Even with the reduced budget this is an extremely well made movie with a top notch cast. There are a number of continuity errors from the previous film in the series (Ygor was shot dead in the previous movie), but it is very atmospheric. Bela Lugosi is excellent as Ygor and Lon Chaney Jr. is also good, replacing Boris Karloff as The Monster.
Although this is certainly the weakest entry up to this point I enjoyed it very much and recommend the Universal Monsters series to anyone who has not seen them.
We share similar tastes, CHB. The Universal series is about third on my list (if I made lists) of cinematic things I love (No 2 is the Hammer films, and I think we all know what No 1 is) and is the source for how my lady wife is known in these parts, ie Bride Of Barbel. My son is obviously Son Of Barbel, and I live in the House Of Barbel.... 😁
I thought you were going to say you refer to her as 'the Monster'!