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5 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

O'Toole & Foster Match Up

7/10
Author: Christopher (mrcaw1@hotmail.com) from New York
29 December 2005

Apparently this was a made for TV movie, anyway, the reason to watch this film is not the riveting storyline or spectacular visuals.

What is good about this movie is seeing O'Toole work his magic. He can take a rather silly re-working of the Pgymalian storyline and almost make it seem like art. He really is a wonder to behold.

Foster is not the actress yet she will become in Accused & Silence of the Lambs but you can certainly see the control starting to take shape. Foster shines when she's standing up to O'Toole's dogmatic ways but she falters in romantic moments with O'Toole, you just don't believe that she has romantic feelings for O'Toole.

Elizabeth Ashley is a bit of a disappointment. I was expecting to see some fire from her but I just kept getting the feeling that she was just so much in awe of working with O'Toole that she came off flat. It's a shame cuz it would have been fun to see Ashley & O'Toole spark...ah well.

Sure, the move is a bit melodramatic at times...OK..but if you're an O'Toole fan, you really should check this out. I don't know if he was nominated for an Emmy for this but he should have been.

Oh and there's a great cameo by Holly Hunter in an early performance before her breakout role in Raising Arizona.

Again, this is not the worst movie you'll ever see. It's just a dated early 80s movie that just happens to have a great part for O'Toole which he makes the most of and it's fun to see Jodi Foster as well in a part that we haven't seen her in over and over again..and don't forget, it's always fun to see an actor using their own voice to sing in a movie!

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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

"He stuck his fingers in my mouth and called me a pig..."

5/10
Author: moonspinner55 from las vegas, nv
31 March 2009

George L. Du Maurier's novel "Trilby", first filmed as "Svengali" in 1931 with John Barrymore and Marian Marsh, gets an embarrassing '80s make-over here, with New York bar-band singer Jodie Foster discovered and sent to vocal tutor extraordinaire Peter O'Toole for refinement. They share a begrudging relationship at first, accented by ego-mad Svengali O'Toole's stormy temperament, until Foster's Zoe eventually lands a record deal--putting into question her need to rely on this man who has come to be her mentor and love-interest. Well-produced for television, the movie gets off to a good start but eventually flags, with Foster unconvincing as a vocalist and O'Toole looking ragged and disinterested. There's a funny bit performance by a young Holly Hunter (whose screws are so loose, she clashes with the relatively somber tone of this piece), and Elizabeth Ashley has some fine moments near the beginning before she is unceremoniously lost in the shuffle.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Beautiful teacher-student story with great actors

10/10
Author: CinefanR
1 March 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I had never heard of this movie when I accidentally stumbled across it on the internet, and I couldn't believe it… It's so good, it's a crime not having it available for sale in a DVD format. This is definitely a must-see for O'Toole and Foster's fans, and generally for anybody who enjoy real acting from real actors. Why this movie remains unknown is beyond me.

Peter O'Toole is so amazing he seems to be from another world. A very young Jodie Foster makes quite an impression as an intelligent child-woman on her way to self-discovery. The character development is very well done, and their Teacher-Student relationship resonates because it looks and feels real.

It has no importance whatsoever that Foster and O'Toole can't really sing. All that matters is that they can ACT, and they have such chemistry, it's a pleasure to watch their relationship unfold. Peter O'Toole seems so fit to the role as the eccentric and domineering but soulful mentor, and he is splendid as usual.

And for the love of God, will someone release this terrific movie on DVD already?!

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3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

One of my faves!

10/10
Author: vicente_ss2005 from Spain
14 September 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

WOW, EXCELLENT CAST, EXCELLENT STORY, EXCELLENT JODIE'S VOICE AND SONGS!!!. I'm really proud to have a copy of this gem. I can't take off of my mind the beautiful song by Jodie. I like very much the picture of ZOE in the album cover. isn't she beautiful?. She's the most beautiful woman i ever seen in my life. And the act of Ms. Foster in this film is amazing. She's the best actress in world. O'toole is convincing too, but Foster is the BEST ALWAYS. When she sings in the concert, i realised that Jodie can do everything, act, sing, direct, the list never ends... Larry Joshua is good as Zoe boyfriend, and Holly Hunter is good too as Leslie, a girl who want have sex with Johnny (Joshua) when Zoe isn't at home. Fortunately, Zoe discover the truth and abandon him. Well done, Zoe!. Thanks for read my little review.

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Good drama with two acting giants

7/10
Author: Wuchak from Ohio/PA border
25 March 2014

Made for TV, the 1983 version of "Svengali" tells the tale of Zoe Alexander (Jodie Foster) being discovered singing at a night club in New York City. The talent scout invests in her by giving her free singing lessons with Anton Bosnyak, a top-of-the-line singing coach (Peter O'Toole). He's difficult and demanding, but he's the best at what he does and Zoe eventually experiences success, but she also falls for her singing coach, even though he's 28 years older than her! The ages of the characters pretty much match the ages of the actors, since Jodie (Zoe) was 20 and O'Toole (Anton) was 50 at the time of filming.

Some people criticize this film as unintentionally funny because Jodie does her own singing and it doesn't really change that much over the course of the film (in fact, she sounds best at the beginning with the bar band) and also because of O'Toole's over-the-top performance. It didn't strike me as funny, however, because it's all about the characters, the story and the acting, not how good Jodie sings or how eccentric Anton is. Besides, it's a made-for-TV movie for crying out loud.

I'm not a big fan of either Foster or O'Toole -- I can take 'em or leave 'em -- but who can deny their acting skills? These are acting giants and here they pull off two very tough roles. With difficult parts like these everything has to be right; if the written dialogue is bad the actors won't be able to make their characters believable, but I found both Zoe and Anton believable. In fact, Anton's a great offbeat character. What's more, I enjoyed Anton & Zoe's relationship arc and I didn't think what ultimately happens was going to happen. So the film's not predictable, which is always good.

On the downside, Zoe's hit and the style of music her band plays are too bland to be believable. So what else is new? (In other words, if the songs/music were really that awesome they wouldn't be using them for a TV movie; they'd be real-life hits).

BOTTOM LINE: This 1983 version of "Svengali" is a solid drama and better than similarly-themed theatrical releases like "The Rose." Foster and O'Toole pull off two tough roles and make their characters come alive. O'Toole in particular is outstanding. Plus, the topic of falling for a too-young woman or too-old man is always a fascinating subject.

The film was shot in New York City and runs 100 minutes.

GRADE: B

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Good work, weakish plot

7/10
Author: Matt James from Blighty
14 March 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This story was more engaging because Peter O'Toole took the role (the kind he does best) and multiplied it up. Also he had a very capable co-star to do it with.

The story was mostly engaging up to the point Zoe (Jodie Foster) develops feelings for her teacher Bosnyak (O'Toole). Though understandable, when she began her overtures I expected Bosnyak to keep her at arm's length until she understood that he wasn't the talisman she thought. Understandable she would think so, yes. Understandable that Bosnyak would find it difficult to resist her amorous advances, hoo yes! But Bosnyak, no stranger to involvement with his pupils, knew the inevitable result of involvement - at odds with his assertion that the teacher-pupil relationship was a "sacred trust."

Still, Zoe was heading for the stars with only her philandering ex-boyfriend hanging onto her ankles threatening to keep her earthbound.

Though not a trained singer, Jodie can carry a tune and the performance she gives of "One Dream at a Time" was good enough to fill the part. She couldn't be good enough to convince us that she could take a more classical route in singing though it's how I would have preferred the story to unfold. This film has its moments.

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

SVENGALI (TV) (Anthony Harvey, 1983) ***

7/10
Author: MARIO GAUCI (marrod@melita.com) from Naxxar, Malta
23 January 2010

The significant alterations to the original source i.e. George Du Maurier's classic Victorian chiller, TRILBY (a novel which I have had the pleasure of reading for myself a few years ago) may perhaps put off some purists from giving this solid film adaptation a fair chance: for starters, the story here is not set in the art milieu of end-of-the-century Paris but in the dog-eat-dog world of the New York pop scene; the main characters are not even called Svengali, Trilby and Billy but have become Anton Bosnyak, Zoe Alexander and Johnny Rainbow; perfectionist taskmaster and rebellious pupil not only match wits word-for-word but genuinely fall in love!; 'Svengali' proves to his by-now established protégé that she does not need his influence to succeed!!; the teacher does not die in the end but, in fact, is seen taking on a new pupil under his wings, etc. Consequently, since hypnotism and kidnapping do not form part of the plot here, it cannot even be considered a horror film and, technically, I should not have included it in this ongoing Halloween Challenge…but, of course, I did not know about that before watching the thing! Anyway, that the film succeeds regardless is a testament to the acting talents of Peter O'Toole (nobody does flamboyant eccentrics like this formidable British thespian – whom I have had the privilege of watching live on London's renowned "The Old Vic" theater in the Summer of 1999 – and, therefore, perfect casting as the Svengali figure), Jodie Foster (at 21, she is totally capable of holding her own ground in her scenes with O'Toole – and she possesses a fine, raspy singing voice to boot), Elizabeth Ashley (a welcome addition to the mix as a former unsuccessful student of O'Toole's that has instead found her calling as a talent scout) and the music of John Barry (Foster keeps singing the same three songs throughout the picture but, at least, they're quite decent). It should also be noted that the film reunites both O'Toole and Barry with their own taskmaster on THE LION IN WINTER (1968) i.e. Anthony Harvey and that future Oscar-winner Holly Hunter makes a brief appearance early on as a nymphomaniac backing vocalist!

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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

What a Waste!

4/10
Author: peapulation (peapulation@hotmail.com) from Ireland
14 February 2011

Most of the people that have seen it, will not have anything bad to say about the performances of the leading actors. Yet, it is obvious that Foster cannot sing, and that O'Toole is being Bela Lugosi, the star of the early Dracula films.

Nevertheless, it is not their fault if in the late seventies they were asked to star in such a tremendously average and weak movie about a young rock star in the making whose mentor is a tough Hungarian and former musical star. Eventually, the 50 year old becomes romantically involved with the 22 year old, and I hate the way in all these movies in the end they actually do 'make it' as they say in the film, but there is never just a strong admiration or platonic love. It would have kept O'Toole's character interesting, before it too crumbles down and becomes a sad little human being.

Anyways, it's free on youtube somewhere so check it out there, though mind you, you could be bored to hell with, particularly every time O'Toole is away from the action.

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7 out of 16 people found the following review useful:

Ya just gotta see this...ya just gotta!!!!!

Author: Lost Johnny from Brooklyn Park MN
27 April 2000

There are few things more entertaining then an unintentionally funny film. Very few. Fewer still are films that fall into this category. If a film is trying to be funny it is not unintentional now is it? This was supposed to be serious. This starred Peter O'toole and of course Ms. Foster. The two of them were still reeling from Calligula and Hinkley respectively and therefore were in no position to turn down work, at least that is what I keep telling myself. Svengali is the story of a singer, a female singer in a band called, get this "The restless nights." A talent scout is in the audience with the big time singing instructor (Otoole) when the nights come on, fronted by Jodie Foster, in all her glory. She sings. She really sings. No really...it's her...not someone else, she is belting out a number that must be heard to be believed, I will spare you the gory details of the lyrics, it suffices to say they were far from great. O'toole takes on the challenge of teaching the little songbird to sing. He works and works and finally says "tell the whole city" they run to the roof of the building and Foster sings on the roof. I am not making this up. She sings. EXACTLY THE SAME WAY SHE HAS BEEN SINGING THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE OF THE FILM!!! Not one note has changed, but never mind that. Oh god..she hits number one...she starts an affair with Peter O'toole, her X boyfriend quips "I didn't know you were into wrinkles" AAAAAARRRRGHHHH!!!!! I am giving this film 10 stars, just like Showgirls. Foster is the greatest film actress ever. Ever Ever. This is one of the greatest bad films ever.....Ever....Ever....You just gotta see this...ya just gotta. PS look for Holly Hunter in this, if you can spot her E-mail me, you need to get a life.

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3 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

Poor adaptation of Pygmalion to music. Even so, worth a watch!

Author: Sanjay Noronha from Austin, TX
16 November 1999

Peter O'Toole has played Henry Higgins in TV's version of Pygmalion (My fair lady). Svengali is almost exactly the same story, except that instead of teaching "Eliza" how to speak, he teaches "Zoe" how to sing. O'Toole displays a lot of the brilliance he has as an actor but the performance is no way close to the one in Lawrence of Arabia -- but then again, there was David Lean directing LOA. O'Toole is an excellent character Actor. The music in the film too is quite good, except that Jodie Foster's song that brings her fame in the movie is too overplayed. In the beginning it's a nice tune and her voice is even dare I say pretty good! Worth seeing once at least.

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