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|Index||24 reviews in total|
`Mad Dog' Earle is back, along with his sad-sack moll Marie, and that fickle
clubfoot Velma. So are Babe and Red, Doc and Big Mac, and even the
scenery-chewing mutt Pard. The only thing missing is a good reason for
remaking Raoul Walsh's High Sierra 14 years later without rethinking a line
or a frame, and doing so with talent noticeably a rung or two down the
ladder from that in the original. (Instead of Walsh we get Stuart Heisler,
for Humphrey Bogart we get Jack Palance, for Ida Lupino Shelley Winters, and
so on down through the credits.) The only change is that, this time,
instead of black-and-white, it's in Warnercolor; sadly, there are those who
would count this an improvement.
I Died A Thousand Times may be unnecessary and inferior but at least it's not a travesty; the story still works on its own stagy terms. Earle (Palance), fresh out of the pen near Chicago, drives west to spearhead a big job masterminded by ailing kingpin Lon Chaney, Jr. knocking over a post mountain resort. En route, he almost collides with a family of Oakies, when he's smitten with their granddaughter; the smiting holds even when he discovers she's lame. Arriving at the cabins where the rest of gang holes up, he finds amateurish hotheads at one another's throats as well as Winters, who throws herself at him (as does the pooch). Biding time until they get a call from their inside man at the hotel, Palance (to Winter's chagrin) offers to pay for an operation to cure the girl's deformity, a gesture that backfires. Then, the surgical strike against the resort turns into a bloodbath. On the lam, Palance moves higher into the cold Sierras....
It's an absorbing enough story, competently executed, that lacks the distinctiveness Walsh and his cast brought to it in 1941, the year Bogie, with this role and that of Sam Spade in the Maltese Falcon, became a star. And one last, heretical note: Those mountains do look gorgeous in color.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
People love to trash movies that are re-makes of classics. They seem to
think that there is some disrespect intended if the remake is anything
less than a masterpiece. I'm sure that the makers of this film only
intended to revive an excellent story, and had no idea that a lot of
armchair cinephiles, 50 years later, would consider them audacious for
doing so. After watching I Died A Thousand Times, I read all the
negative reviews and decided to watch High Sierra again so I could
compare them. I decided that each film has it's strengths.
B&W vs Color: I love black and white. 8 out of 10 films I watch are in B&W. So, if I have a prejudice, it is against color. But when a color film is beautiful, it's very beautiful. This film definitely has its moments. Its palette ranges from subtle, (lighting in a hotel hallway) to glaring, (pumps at a gas station). All gorgeous. The shots of mountains are stunning.
One thing about color film which applies to this comparison, is that it is harder to make a good drama in color than in black and white. There is less in B&W to detract from the actors' performances. Orson Welles said that there were no truly great performances in color, and that's why he shot in black and white well into the 1960's. Comparing a B&W drama to a color is a little like apples and oranges. Color films just have a lot more to deal with, and this film does a good job of it.
Performances: In the 14 years that separate these films, there was a shift in popular acting styles. In crime dramas of the 30's and 40's characters were drawn in broader strokes. The characters were almost more "types" than individuals. When Bogie played Philip Marlowe he was playing an archetype of the hard boiled detective, and personality took a back seat. The fact that characters tended to be more 2 dimensional, made any glimpse into their personalities more effective when it came. It also gave the films an almost mythic or operatic feel. But color films of the 50's and 60's had to have more depth to the characters. Winters and Palance succeed in this. A good example is the scene in the car when Roy Earle is telling Marie about Velma. When Palance tells Winters that Velma is a pretty girl and that she is "decent", you plainly see the underlying shame and heartbreak in Winter's face. The same statement seems to just roll off of Lupino. I'm not trashing Ida Lupino, or Bogart. I love them both, and Lupino does a great job and looks fantastic, in that screen goddess way. But I was more engrossed by the performances of both Palance and Winters than by their earlier counterparts. Where Bogie was aloof and cool, Palance was a snarling madman with a tender underside.
I think that goes to the core of why I liked the later version. It just had more impact for me. I was pulled in from the first scene by the beautiful photography, and was more engrossed throughout than I was with High Sierra. That's not to say I preferred it to High Sierra. I feel that, even though they were exactly the same story, they were very different kinds of films and each had their differing strong points.
I Died a Thousand Times is directed by Stuart Heisler and adapted to
screenplay by W.R. Burnett from his own novel High Sierrra. It stars
Jack Palance, Shelley Winters, Lori Nelson, Lee Marvin, Pedro Gonzalez
Gonzalez, Lon Chaney Junior and Earl Holliman. A
CinemaScope/Warnercolor production, cinematography is by Ted McCord and
music by David Buttolph.
It will always be debatable if remaking the excellent High Sierra (Raoul Walsh 1941) was needed or wanted by a 1950s audience? Especially since Walsh had himself already remade it as a Western with 1949 film Colorado Territory, but taken on its own terms, with great production value and Burnett's personal adaptation taken into consideration, it's a very enjoyable film.
Set up is simple, it's one last heist for Roy "Mad Dog" Earle (Palance) before going straight, but as his attempts to break free from his emotional loner status fall apart, so does the heist and his future is written in blood up in the mountains. Heisler and Burnett put Earle up front for character inspection, easing in sympathetic tones whilst ensuring he remains a big physical threat. The air of fatalism is pungent enough and the finale is excitingly staged by Heisler. Cast performances are more than adequate if not comparing to the likes of Bogart and Lupino, while the Warnercolor is gorgeous and the photography around the Alabama Hills in Lone Pine is superb.
While not in the same league as High Sierra, that doesn't mean this is a wash out, more so if you haven't seen Walsh's movie. If you have, like me (it's one of my favourite Bogart performances), then comparisons and a feeling of deja vu will obviously infiltrate your viewing experience. But there is more than enough here to make it worth your time regardless. 7/10
Pure mystery, you never know what's next in this film. In fact I'm going to
keep silent about everything I know, because if you know anything about this
film before you see it, it's just not as good.
Once you start the climax filled beginning of this film you just can't move away. It was co-written by the man who co-wrote Tod Browning's Freaks. I swear if you take the 70 + minutes to watch this film, your life will never be the same.
On a scale of one to ten, this film gets an EIGHT! A classic, a MUST see!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is a movie you will enjoy very much if your a fan of Jack Palance,
Lee Marvin, Shelly Winters or the cast. Turner Classic movies ran this
movie immediately after Humphrey Bogarts classic High Sierra recently.
When you watch this one after the classic 1941 Raoul Walsh production,
you immediately realize they are the same film.
While it is nice to have color, in reality Walsh in many instances uses better camera angles. As far as comparing the casts, comparing Bogart in one of his best roles to Palance is a win-win as they both are great performances.
I think one of the reasons Walsh is better is that Walsh had already directed a movie where the hero's were not exactly heroes before High Sierra. I highly recommend checking out Walsh's Dark Command which broke the mold for western movies much the way High Sierra & this remake break the mold for gangster movies.
Mad Dog gets a parole from jail so that Big Mac can use him to pull of one last big heist. The characters are revealed to the viewer much like peeling skins from from an Onion. When you reach the core of each character, your really glad you stuck around for the story.
Okay: So it wasn't as good as High Sierra and Palance and Winters are not Bogart and Lupino. But the idiot henchmen in this remake were Earl Holliman and Lee Marvin. Big Mac was played by Lon Chaney Jr. and Palance did a great job and was scarier than Bogie was. I grew up with Holliman and Marvin and the movie was also in color. I guess the best way to put it is this. If you demand the greatest actors and a different script for a remake this is not a movie for you. I (a huge Bogart fan) thought Palance played this role better than Bogie. Better because he was made for it.Put it like this. Who would you rather run into in a dark allay? Palance or Bogie? And since when is Shelly Winters a slouch? I really enjoyed this movie even though it didn't have a great director. I recommend it for Jack Palance fans and hope you enjoy it. Remember. Holliman and Marvin were extremely unintentionally funny in this movie. Gibbs
Nobody could match Jack Palance as a fearsome heavy and here, playing a
freshly sprung ex-con lead bank robber, his authority over a couple of
"punks" - junior gang members - including later-to-be star heavy in his
own right, Lee Marvin, is powerful and utterly convincing. Nice details
early on such as when presumptuous Marvin attempts to grab at the plan
for the caper and 6'4" Palance without a word or look just brushes him
aside with a sweep of the arm promises much - but little ultimately is
delivered. Enter "Pard" the mongrel mutt to the accompaniment then and
later of cutesy music. The furry friendly creature, loyal to the last,
refuses to budge from the screen to the very end - unfortunately.
This seemed symptomatic of the movie's uncertain tone - veering from tough as nails crime caper to family fare. Who was to blame? Was it Palance who possessed a face and physique that uniquely qualified him to be the ultimate brute always wanting to demonstrate a reassuring sensitive thoughtful side?
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The problem with this movie with such a beautiful title is that it is a
remake ,nay a re-remake, if we remember that Raoul Walsh remade his
"High Sierra " as a western ," Colorado Territory", which almost
surpassed the original Film Noir.
The most interesting side of the screenplay (in the three versions)is the Roy/Vilma relationship ,which reminds you of one of king Lear's daughter.Vilma is one of those rare characters whose behavior is thoroughly unpredictable :who could believe that the sweet tender romantic girl watching the stars in the sky at night would turn into the vulgar gal dancing the night away with her snob new pals?In "Colorado territory" ,Vilma (Julie Ann)even tries to give her benefactor away to the marshal to get the reward !Vilma ,as far the hero is concerned,means a conventional life ,with a housewife ,all that Mary (Shelley Winters) can't give to him;the actress is as good as usual but Ida Lupino was more moving in "High Sierra".Jack Palance,cast against type ,does a good job too,but it is not easy to take on
a Humphrey Bogart's part.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
To begin with, I haven't seen HIGH SIERRA in years, though I do
remember most of it. Therefore, I was able to watch it with an
objective eye, not constantly comparing the two films.
It does offer panoramic vistas of the mountains and the desolate surroundings. I think the leads, particularly the love triangle of sorts (Marie is involved in two) are to me what sets it's apart from HIGH SIERRA.
SPOILER AlERT We know that Marie (a very good Shelley Winters) is a fallen angel. She's a dance hall girl who's run off to the mountain cabin resort with Babe (Lee Marvin) as the gang Red (Earl Holliman) awaits the right time to pull off it's caper once Roy (Jack Palance) arrives and assumes leadership. But Marie isn't going to be anybodies girl, she's the prize of the Alpha Male of the bunch. Even though he repeatedly tells her he doesn't want her around, lust finally wins out.
In the second triangle, Marie finally meets her rival, the presumed virginal Velma, a young woman whom Roy's opened up a new life for but springing for surgery to correct a club foot. Though Velma's previously rejected him and he's on the lam, he drops in one more time. Interesting that Velma is dancing up a storm with her young friends and Marie begins to wiggle around suggesting this is the proper way to dance (and maybe do other things)? Velma is Roy's embodied fantasy, a life he's longed for while languishing for years in prison. Though, her second rejection is callous, the second time a woman tells you to get lost usually is. He fools himself into believing he can have her and provide that kind of life. He rejects, then warms to Marie because she's a reflection of him...cheap, unrefined, desperate and living for the moment.
Palance reveals both Roy's foolish sentimentality and his vicious streak. When he confronts Babe for slapping Marie, he takes great pleasure in beating the daylights out of him. This act, just like in the animal world, where the strongest males will fight over who gets the female(s) confirms not only Roy's place, but Marie's too. Palance is more brutal than Bogie (who's Roy was only violent when necessary). Palance will back hand a man, rather than speak to him.
These factors I feel were better expressed here.
Going into this, I didn't know it was a remake, but within 10 minutes it was clear. Almost exactly a beat-for-beat remake of HIGH SIERRA. It's in color and widescreen, not that that adds much... the original film didn't have great cinematography, but the more claustrophobic frame gave it a little extra tension. Also, they swapped out a black stereotype for a Mexican stereotype. I guess that's supposed to be progress. Other than that, it really is practically identical to the original. The major difference, of course, is casting. I like Jack Palance, but he doesn't have the world-weariness or charm of Bogart. Likewise, I'm very fond of Shelley Winters, but what she does best is playing pathetic, and this character can't be pathetic. You just end up wanting Palance to ditch her. I don't want to be too harsh on this film, though. It's just that I felt like I'd already seen it (twice, even) and the update doesn't do any real updating. A competent but pointless endeavor, stick with Bogart and Lupino.
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