Skimming through prime video, I came across this very well made film.
A rather forgotten picture from 1964, starring the legend Sir Sean Connery, Gina Lollobrigida and Ralph Richardson.
Cleverly plotted drama, fine acting and unexpected twists.
Vibrant colors, dark hues, 2 hours 2 minutes.
A masterpiece by Basil Dearden.
Formerly known as mogumogu
I’ve always liked Woman Of Straw and Connery is excellent in this. Snooty critics dismissed it, but let’s be honest, what do they know?
Not a lot.
PRETTY WOMAN (1990)
Romantic comedy without much humour beyond the bedroom, but charmingly played and presented by Richard Gere, Julia Roberts and director Garry Marshall. Unlikely looking L.A. prostitute Vivian [Roberts] is running out of cash but lucks in after being pulled by hedge fund asset stripper and multi-millionaire Edward Lewis [Gere]. It’s a Cinderella story for sure, countered by the fact she changes him but he doesn’t change her at all, only dolls her up like an elegant version of Barbie in red curls. Of course, she doesn’t need to change because her heart and ethics are in the right place all along; his merely need coaxing from beneath an unemotional exterior. Kissing helps, apparently. Textbook storytelling. Compulsive viewing once you start, but only because the dresses and suits look good, and Richard Gere looks dishy, and Julia Roberts never looked more like a ‘babe’. Able support from Ralph Bellamy and Hector Elizondo keep the background story moving cutely along. There’s a whiff of scandal, mostly underplayed and easily resolved, and a terrible attempt at aggressive blackmail which sits badly among the niceties. Shamelessly fairy tale romantic, this was a date movie to end all date movies until it was subverted by the more adult themes of loss and redemption featured in Ghost, which came out a month or so later. I saw both films with my girlfriend of the time, it was that kind of summer, but while Pretty Woman had the better soundtrack, Ghost had more emotional impact. I was lucky, Debbie preferred Richard Gere to Patrick Swayze – and so did I – so when the videos came out there wasn’t a contest. I hadn’t watched this since we broke up all of thirty plus years ago, so a nice trip down Memory Lane.
And yeah, really good soundtrack. Mercy…
A couple of pics of Sir Sean in Woman Of Straw-
Here he is getting his orders from M
And that's him entering a casino.
Of course I'm joking, but for many years stills from this film have mistakenly been posted online identifying them as from Bond movies. Have a look yourselves, there are plenty more from this film and others of the time such as Marnie
which could be mistaken for stills from a Bond movie (of course Tippi Hedren was never in a Bond movie, but you get my point).
I'm performing that song tonight- Mercy....
actual picture of Barbel performing 'Pretty Woman':
All the president's men (1976)
I guess most of you have at least heard of this movie and knows that it's about two journalists investigating the Watergate scandal. Dustin Hoffman plays Carl Bernstein and Robert Redford plays Bob Woodward. In spite of containing a lot of typing, phone calls and interviews this is a tense thriller. It's expertly directed , scripted and acted. I found myself wishing movies like this were made and seen more today. The reason we don't get blockbusters like this today certainly isn't because of any lack of material! Whatever your political standpoint is I think many will agree the real-life material is both more serious and more comedic today. This movie deserves to be watched.
Do THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR next.
THE SENSE OF AN ENDING (2017)
I watched this because I had read the book. Julian Barnes’ novel is an examination of self-delusion and as such while it was interesting, the story attached to it seemed too slight to provide the emotional shock the author intends. It is well written, beautifully observed, but ever so slightly dull. It won a Booker Prize – for the effort and longevity of the author, perhaps? I digress.
This film adaptation is okay. Nothing special. A decent telly movie really. Good performances keep us watching. Occasionally light-hearted forays into an older, out of date man’s world are distracting, but lessen what might have been a too tortuous load. Jim Broadbent is very good as the major protagonist who unintentionally discovers a long-kept secret about his ex-girlfriend, rekindling his interest in what he terms ‘the nostalgia of the past.’ It is fairly nostalgic, I suppose, in a rose-tinted spectacles with blood on kind of way. He’s given able support by Charlotte Rampling, Harriet Walter and Michelle Dockery as the women most important in his life.
You might be entertained, you might not. It is ever so slightly dull.
CROSSFIRE (1947) with Robert Mitchum, Robert Ryan, Robert Young, and Gloria Grahame.
A Jewish man is killed and the investigation into his murder involves some demobilized soldiers and possible anti-semitism.
Quite a good movie. Very well acted and directed. I appreciated the fact that the film only got heavy handed once (during a long monologue by Robert Young as the lead investigator) and otherwise allowed the viewer to 'get' the themes of the film on his/her own.
This came out the same year as GENTLEMAN'S AGREEMENT which also dealt with anti-semitism and was also nominated for several Oscars, including Best Picture. CROSSFIRE didn't win any Oscars but did help launch a more active career for Gloria Grahame (nominated for Best Supporting Actress).
Film4 showed a Danish film, Riders of Justice, last night. In it, a systems analyst or something is fired from his job (I missed that bit) and on his subway train home is caught up in a fatal accident with many dead. However, he learns that one of those killed was due to testify in court against a local criminal gang, and that his lawyer had also been killed the previous week. He tots up the numbers and finds this is a statistical anomaly that suggests it's murder and no accident. The police however are not interested.
He tracks down the husband of a woman killed in the accident - an experienced soldier forced to return home from a tour of duty in the Middle East I think - and makes his case. The soldier is played by one of ours, Mads Mikkelsen, unrecognisable from his Casino Royale days with clipped hair and a big bushy beard (do soldiers wear those these days?) There are possibly a couple of nods to Bond, about how the first time you kill someone is the worst, and a morning shot that looks like Hamburg in Tomorrow Never Dies.
The movie is darkly comic and the fun comes from the interaction of the nerdy guy and his mates and the stoical, unimpressed Mads. You don't quite know how seriously to take it much of the time. You can quibble that the gang seem really too dim to pull off the terrorist stunt they're accused of - and I guess you'd be right - but mainly it is so enjoyable and you're waiting to see what happens next, you don't care. It has a touch of that British film about Islamist terrorist - Three Lions, was it?
Well worth a watch.
THE LEGEND OF THE SEVEN GOLDEN VAMPIRES (1974)
Well, I am glad I watched this Hammer / Shaw Brothers combi of a Dracula movie and a kung fu flick simply because I can now say I have seen it and I won’t ever have to watch it again.
Horror isn’t the word I would use to describe it. The film would be virtually unwatchable if it wasn’t for Peter Cushing and the admirably scary scenes of zombies rising from the grave. A mix of Bruce Lee influenced kung fu, vampires, zombies, Seven Samurai and Fu Manchu, the screenplay is all over the place plot wise and barely existent character wise. A quite dreadful experience. I believe this was the 110 minute Hong Kong version, but only because the martial art fight scenes went on and on and on and on and on…. I was monumentally bored during the vampire’s final assault on a besieged village. There simply wasn’t anything to keep me watching other than sheer bloodymindedness.
Kah, a High Priest of the Undead, has travelled to Transylvania to worship at the tomb of Count Dracula. He gets more than he bargained for as the fanged one takes over his body and spirit and proceeds to return to China and wreak havoc in a tiny Chinese village so far from any major source of virgin blood you wonder how the vampires have survived for so long. When a posse of seven brothers travel to Shanghai to persuade journeying lecturer Professor Van Helsing to help their beleaguered village, the vampire killer extraordinaire has a sense of déjà vu, as if he has experienced this honourable hunt before. By the time we reach the climax and the old enemies confront one another, the martial art high kicks and bloody aftermath have been consigned to the stall of fate and we are right back where we began with Van Helsing and Dracula fighting for the ages.
The film really needed Christopher Lee as the black hearted Count. It wouldn’t have helped matters much, but at least there would have been some moments of gravitas. His replacement is John Forbes Robertson and his voice is dubbed. That is how low Golden Vampires sinks. Frequently unintentionally hilarious, often as dull as a ditch missing all the water, the rousing finale simply can’t compensate for the ninety minutes which came before.
A sorrowful end to Hammer Studio’s Dracula cycle.
Indeed it was. I think if Lee had been involved then Drac would have had a bigger role than two minutes at the start and another two at the end which would certainly have improved things. As you say, Cushing is pretty much the only thing worth watching here and he's surprisingly energetic in some of the fight sequences for his age.
INVADERS FROM MARS (1953)
When little Jimmy Hunt wakes up in the middle of the night to see a flying saucer land nearby, no one will believe him, and he finds that most of the adults have been taken over by aliens. Though a low budget restricts the scale of things this a taut little sci-if thriller and some of the sets are really good. For a long one the twist ending was oddly removed from European prints but this one I saw has it, and it’s a nice ending.
@CoolHandBond Wasn't this one originally in 3D? I think that is why the budget was so low as they spent it all on the expensive filming process.
@chrisno1, fyi Invaders From Mars was not shot or presented in 3D; Bwana Devil, which was also released in 1953, kick-started the 1950s 3D fad.
Rumour has it that it was intended for the 3-D format but the idea was rejected before filming began.
Jimmy Hunt plays a policeman in the Tobe Hooper 1986 remake.
Beverley Hills Cop (1984)
Our own Steven Berkoff was the 1980s rent-a-villain, along with Octopussy he was of course in Rambo II, and he's in this action comedy too. A starring vehicle for Eddie Murphy and highly effective, even if originally when you hear him speak you hear Donkey from the Shrek movies, that characteristic indignation and fretful outrage at some mistreatment.
Now a Bond fan checking out this new kid on the movie block may feel there's no real contest. The last two Bonds began with amazing aerial action - 007 hanging off a helicopter above London's Battersea, or piloting an Astrojet plane in some undiagnosed location. This? Undercover police officer Axel Foley is hanging off the back of a lorry as the low-life drug dealer makes his getaway in suburban Detroit, smashing up many cars as he does, to the sound of a contemporary slice of 80s pop. Still, it has a simplistic bravura feel to it. Maybe that's why the next Bond had the main guy tearing up San Franscisco in a fire engine the following year.
Comparisons are apples and oranges; BHC is meant to be a smart, credible flick unlike Bond's escapist fare. That said, the film soon reveals itself to be as far-fetched and escapist as any Moore Bond film as Murphy pulls up in his battered old car outside a fine Beverely Hills hotel (not the finest, it's pointed out, to be fair) and okay, he's smart casual but no Sidney Poitier, the young, eager doorman doesn't ask him to move on but asks if he'd like to check in and can he take his car. And it's kind of like that the whole way through, everyone is happy or about to be happy with each other, it's all rather lovely. It starts kind of slow and conventional but gathers momentum in a way that Bond films tend not to these days.
At no point does Murphy's character face any racial abuse even from the bad guys, the only time the 'n' word is used is by him to stoke up an imaginary row to blag something. Of course, he runs into a white female old pal and there's no sense of anything sexual having happened or about to happen, though she plays the damsel in distress role at one point, I guess it's too early to see a black lead make out with a white woman and still that seems to be the case, over half a century after Guess Who's Coming to Dinner? For all that, as with other 1980s movies such as Midnight Run and Die Hard, the lack of on-screen sexual shenanigans makes the film more wholesome and high-minded. Of course, the older cop Taggart in this went on to play Robert DeNiro's chain-smoking rival bounty hunter in Midnight Run, something it took me decades to learn. His boss is the main villain of course in Arnie's Total Recall.
It's not just Murphy who shoots Berkoff, but his boss too. Is that to alleviate the sense of a black guy taking a gun to a white guy? Or just a plot point to show that Murphy won't be made the fall guy? Do we see his character shoot many white folk in the movie? (For all that, it's good to see he has a black boss back in Detroit.) There's lots of silly gunfire from the bad guys in this where for the most part no bullets ever hit anyone.
Beverly Hllls Cop anticipates films like Crocodile Dundee and Die Hard with its fish out of water theme - Murphy is a Detroit cop heading to Beverley Hills to investigate a friend's death. And, to some extent, Lethal Weapon... the pleasing inter-racial harmony. The comedy grows nicely but to have room to do this, the plot is virtually nonexistent. We don't care much about Murphy's pal who died and just as well, we don't want that hanging over the movie, he's just a McGuffin. Much of the investgation consists of Murphy gatecrashing Berkoff's office, restaurant, factories etc in a manner that anticipates Ferris Bueller in his sausage king of Chicago mode, not to mention Riggs with the late Joss Ackland.
Pleasingly, I think all the players including Berkoff are still alive though of course we could have said that about Lethal Weapon 2 a few weeks ago.
The film spawned two belated sequels but never became a thing, though you'd imagine the Axel F theme - a big hit in the UK, one of the Top 30 best-selling records of the year - might compete with the James Bond Theme, that said, the former only does sneaky spying scenes while the latter is brilliant because it accompanies both spying scenes AND breakout triumphant action thanks to its chorus. The very title Beverley Hills Cop doesn't encourage a franchise as of course he's not one, he's a Detroit cop relocated and much of the entertainment lies in the culture clash; you can't do that twice, it's diminishing returns.
Bond fan Kingsley Amis dubbed this a 'comedy masterpiece' I think.
Edit: Turns out there'll be a Beverly Hills Cop 4 out next year, with much of the original cast rejoining.
Also, I knew I'd seen him, but the actor who plays Berkoff's main hitman in this, went to to play gruff fixer Mike Ermentrout in Breaking Bad... Jonathan Banks.
Ridley Scott's "Napoleon" starring Joachim Phoenix is my kind of movie! You may have noticed I'm a history nerd and I like seeing historical epics in the cinema instead of all the superhero movies. Obviously the movie has spectacular battle scenes and Scott does a great job giving each battle a seperate identity, such at battle on ice or battle in the rain. The battles are also very brutal as they must've been.
But the movie focuses even more on Napoleon's relationship with his Josephine. This works very well, giving the viewer pauses between the battles and does a lot to flesh out Napoleon's personality. Josephine is portrayed as a strong and interesting woman (not in a clishe way), who has lovers and the movie doesn't judge her for being unconventional.
While the movie shows Napoleon as a military genius, this isn't a portrait of a hero. He is shown as being immature, not to far from Phoenix' emperor in Gladiator. Phoenix does a great job, and so does Vanessa Kirby as Josephine.
The movie is about two and a half hours long, because Scott understands people need to go to the toilet. This means a lot of the story needs had to be cut. Italy and Spain are among the "small incidents" we don't get to see. But I think this is a good thing because the movie can't be five hours long. Stanley Kubrick tried to include everything in his planned Napoleon movie, but after years of research he didn't manage to finish it. Great movie!
Pig (2021) starring Nicolas Cage.
Cage is on restrained form as a vagrant-type woodsman in a shack who makes a living from his truffle pig, selling truffles. Said valuable pig is stolen, however.
To some extent this is an odd, OMG WTF movie so the less said about it the better, but if you see it coming up on Film4 again in the next fortnight I recommend it. You do wonder where it is going and after an hour or more it seemed to have been on only 15 minutes to me - a compliment. It just doesn't follow the usual by numbers filmmaking to me.
The day the earth stood still (1951)
I have heard of this sci-fi classic for decades, but now is the first time I've watched it. An UFO lands in Washington D.C. I was glad to see the aliens favour the classic school of UFO design. Out comes an alien who looks like a human man and a gigant metal robot that can shoot with lasers from his head. Are they friend or foe?
The movie looks to me like it had a bigger budget than the typical 1950's sci-fi movie. I like the story and the acting is also largely okay. The actor playing the alien is tall, handsome, stoic and calm, much like Keanu Reeves in the moden re-make. His character also has some simularities with a certain JC (not John Cleese), but the director claims this was never on their minds making the movie.
The score sounds stereotypical 50's sci-fi now, but apparently it was groundbreaking then and I think it elevates the movie. Danny Elfman, Tim Burton's go-to musician, says this score was what inspired him to become a musician. The simularities are obvious.
I also think the special effects are good for the time and genere. There's scene that reminds me of a scene in DAF, and in my opinion the effects are at least as good in this movie.
There are reasons why this is a sci-fi classic, and if you're into that sort of thing you should watch this movie.
Hannibal Brooks (1969)
Another story about a man with strong affection for an animal, this time the man is Oliver Reed, a PoW zoo keeper in WWII (was that ever a thing?) while the animal is an elephant called Lucy. When the Munich zoo is bombed near the end of the war, he is asked to relocate the creature to a Innsbruck zoo by train. Carriage in said train is then commandeered by the Gestapo who suggest they make the journey by foot, presumably another train not being offered or made available (I only think of these plot holes once I type out the review).
However, events conspire to prompt Reed, or 'Brooksie', to make the journey part of an escape plan to Switzerland, across the Alps or something, hence the name (referenced only once in the film) owing something to the Roman commander of legend who led elephants into battle.
Some of us may recall seeing this film on the BBC in the late 70s and it holds up well in my view. Reed has the right amount of danger in his persona to make the film less cute or Disney than it might be. It seems to owe something to other 1960s films shown on telly from 76 onwards - The Sound of Music, The Great Escape, Goldfinger (the scenery, the blonde with a headscarf). There's even a bit of stuff with a cable car that owes something to Where Eagles Dare or that year's OHMSS, or especially Moonraker a decade later.
It's nonsense really but it has a certain charm. Michael Winner directs - he once joked about how he'd been offered a Bond movie once but turned it down and looking back didn't know why, and I can sort of see how he could do an 70s Bond film given this, rather than the Death Wish movies. I guess he might have wanted a bigger cut of the profits though, something the producers never wanted to offer. I could be wrong. Some of the explosions however, while a spectacle, didn't look quite realistic - they did look a bit too incendiary.
This sort of larky, visually appealing war comedy thriller was surely the last of its kind, before the grime and grit of the 70s kicked in.
THE TITFIELD THUNDERBOLT (1953)
Stanley Holloway, George Relph, Hugh Griffith and John Gregson enjoy themselves immensely as locomotive enthusiasts who resurrect the local branch line railway from Titfield to Mallingford against opposition from the bus company and the national government. Sticking a finger up at the National Rail Network of the fifties, the movie is inspired by the true story of the Tallylyn Heritage Railway in Wales. Ultimately, this version is rather silly, but the good natured, harmless antics enchant and Douglas Slocombe’s colour photography offers a ravishing view of the English countryside, steam trains and all. Not one of the very best Ealing Comedies, but good nonetheless and a veritable pre-empting of the rural concerns which followed the Beeching report of 1962. A lovely way to spend a Sunday afternoon.
TWISTED NERVE (1969)
Hywel Bennett gives a good performance as a young man with severe personality problems. When he is suffering from stress he goes back to being a 6-year old child and when it gets really bad he does really bad things like stabbing his stepfather to death. He becomes obsessed with his landlady’s daughter (Hayley Mills) and her life is suddenly in danger. Director Ray Boulting gives a Hitchcockian feel to the movie with some imaginative camera angles and a score by Bernard Herrmann. Hitchcock may well have seen this because Barry Foster and Billie Whitelaw both turn up in his 1972 movie, Frenzy.
Worth a look.
Unplanned double bill-
DRACULA (1931) Director Tod Browning
DRACULA (1958) Director Terence Fisher (US Title HORROR OF DRACULA)
Over two days I found myself watching the above two versions of the famed Bram Stoker novel, plus the first again with audio commentary (which explains why I know some of the obscure details below).
It’s unfair to judge the two against each other, but I think it might be the best way to discuss them. The earlier version came at the start of the talkies and Hollywood had still not solved all of the problems that came with sound movies, which does explain some of its drawbacks. For example, there is no music apart from over the titles (and a very quick snatch of classical music when Dracula attends a concert) which doesn’t help the atmosphere at all- but “Frankenstein”, released later that year, didn’t have a score either and it works a lot better.
Neither version is very faithful to Stoker, for different reasons. The 1931 Universal film doesn’t come directly from the novel but via the contemporary stage play (and it’s taken from the US version which was itself adapted from the British one) so changes from the novel were clearly going to happen. The 1958 Hammer film isn’t faithful for a different reason, Hammer’s usual one- money. It was shot on a very restricted budget which limited the number of locations, sets, and cast. No trips to Victorian London, sea journeys, etc, here.
Tod Browning was apparently not too interested in “Dracula” and it was reported later by the cast that very often he simply wasn’t there, leaving cinematographer Karl Freund to handle things. The opening sequences set in Transylvania are atmospheric, use a moving camera part of the time, and are the best in the whole thing. I’m prepared to believe that Freund was in charge of those scenes- a man whose CV includes “Metropolis” and the 1932 version of “The Mummy” is obviously capable. Browning, on the other hand, basically photographed a stage play- there’s a scene about halfway through involving Mina, Van Helsing, and Jonathan Harker where the camera stays stock still for four minutes of not very riveting dialogue.
For Hammer, Terence Fisher provided a lively mini-epic utilising his small budget wisely (with a lot of help from the production design, costumes, and set decoration). The plot keeps moving, and we see a lot of S/E Engla…. er, Transylvania. An easily spotted aspect of the budget restraints is that Dracula has only one (very attractive) “bride” while in the 1931 he has three, as per novel. Another is that we don’t see Harker’s initial coach ride, he simply tells us about it in narration.
Sex and violence: for a story with a strong and much written about sexual subtext (in some versions it is plain text, of course) which was made pre-code, the 1931 is very restrained and takes no chances with what it shows the audience. We don’t even see Van Helsing staking Dracula at the end (sorry if that spoils the plot for anyone who doesn’t know), just some groans from offscreen. Hammer don’t show us the actual stakings (yes, plural) that occur but they get a lot closer to it. The ladies in 1958 are also more explicitly sexual (Mina, part of one now restored scene being “lost” for over 50 years) and wearing less (the “bride”, whose cleavage was very daring for the time).
The supporting cast in both versions varies from unforgettable (Dwight Frye as Renfield in 1931) to hammy (Michael Gough as Arthur Holmwood in 1958) to moving wallpaper (David Manners as Jonathan Harker in 1931). The livelier performances tend to be in the later film, Frye aside. David Manners would play pretty much the same part in other films (“The Black Cat” in 1934, the aforementioned version of “The Mummy”) and he’s not alone in this.
Supporting cast aside, there are really only two parts which matter. Van Helsing in 1931 was played very stuffily by Edward Van Sloan, who had played the part on stage and would again (inexplicably as “Von” Helsing) in “Dracula’s Daughter”. As with Manners, he would play pretty much the same part in other films (Professor Waldman in “Frankenstein”, Dr Muller in “The Mummy”). They’re all interchangeable and while Van Sloan is not actually bad (*cough* Michael Gough *cough*) he doesn’t stick in the memory. Hammer had Peter Cushing. I should stop right there and admit (if anyone has been reading my movie reviews it’ll be no surprise) that I am an unashamed Cushing fanboy and could easily gush for several paragraphs. I’ll keep it brief- he knocks Van Sloan out of the room, gives later Van Helsing Anthony Hopkins some lessons in how to act, and hands even later Van Helsing Hugh Jackman his arse. He would be back as Van Helsing more than once- sometimes the film wouldn’t be up to much (“The Legend Of The Seven Golden Vampires”) but he remains superb.
And the other part, which for many is the only one that matters, is the Count himself. Bela Lugosi vs Christopher Lee? Really, I think it’s all down to personal taste or your experience. It’s been said here often that a fan’s favourite Bond is the one he saw first (and no, sit down the member shouting “Barry Nelson”- I’m not that old). Bela Lugosi died before I was born, and it was only much later that I watched his movies on late-night TV. By then I had seen Sir Christopher many times and it was he whose image (and that voice, of course) which imprinted itself indelibly on what passes for my brain as the incarnation of Count Dracula. Lugosi is great, of course, and I think that today he’s probably the only reason to watch the 1931 “Dracula”.
And I forgot to mention - we get The Cushing Finger!!!!
This trademark was, I believe, first mentioned by Christopher Lee who as Cushing's costar in over twenty movies would certainly know -
Whether he's warning Count Dracula, telling Dr Watson how elementary a clue is, or blackmailing Princess Leia
you can usually rely on The Cushing Finger to make an appearance.
Almost as powerful as the Harrison Ford 'finger of doom'.
THE MUPPET CHRISTMAS CAROL (1992)
Not a film I would have chosen myself, but I ended up thoroughly enjoying it. It’s a surprisingly faithful version of the Charles Dickens classic, only with added Muppets. They play most of the main characters as well as lots of minor ones.
Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie, and company are all present and correct but their show is stolen by The Great Gonzo and his sidekick Rizzo The Rat who narrate as, respectively, Charles Dickens and, er, Rizzo The Rat.
Underpinning all the muppetry like a bass part in music is a serious and convincing performance by Sir Michael Caine. He’s one of the best Scrooges I’ve seen and holds this movie together, providing gravitas and pathos where needed.