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Farewell, My Lovely (1975)
Robert Mitchum, as Philip Marlowe, takes on 1941 Los Angeles in a classic film noir remake
"Farewell, My Lovely" is another film version of the Raymond Chandler novel, "Murder, My Sweet," and thrusts Robert Mitchum in the role of the overly tired, beat-up but willing to take on a case private detective known as Philip Marlowe. As the film opens in 1941 Los Angeles, Marlowe has just tracked down a runaway girl, returned her to the parents, and gotten a good slug to the midsection for his troubles. Out of the shadows of a nightclub steps Moose Malloy, freshly released from prison, who tells Marlowe that he wants him to find his missing Velma. At first glance, it seems like a simple case, but it drags Mitchum, (Marlowe) through several shootings, muggings, an injection of a narcotic, and other mishaps before Marlowe can wrap up the matter of the missing showgirl, Velma. Mitchum manages to provide a great voice-over to move the film along, but it goes at a good pace on its own. The supporting cast includes John Ireland, Charlotte Rampling, Sylvia Miles, and introduces Jack O'Halloran as the Moose. Also, catch a young Sylvester Stallone in some work prior to his Rocky Balboa films. A great film noir for fans to enjoy.
5 Card Stud (1968)
Martin and Mitchum tracking down a killer in a western mystery of the five-card game murders
"Five Card Stud" is one of a few westerns that combine a western background spun with a murder mystery. As such, the formula works fairly well. Starring Dean Martin as a gambler and Robert Mitchum as a preacher with a hidden past, the scene takes place in Rincon, Colorado, where a gold strike of some size has been discovered and where tensions are a bit high. One night, Martin, as Van Morgan, hosts a 7 player game of 5 card stud, a game at which he is fairly competent with. He takes a break, Roddy McDowell takes over, and immediately catches an outsider trying to palm a card, and a lynching ensues. Morgan attempts to stop the lynching, but is knocked unconscious for his effort, and the hanging concludes. Later, two murders occur, and the connection seems to be that both murdered players were in this particular card game. Mitchum arrives on the scene, playing a western preacher as only he could, and unfortunately, the murders keep happening, again by some form of strangulation or hanging. Tensions continue to mount, until finally only Morgan and McDowell's character are left, and the preacher, Jonathan Rudd, is watching with some degree of mystery and an aura of suspense. The final confrontation does take place, and the murders do stop in Rincon. Good musical background by Maurice Jarre, fine support cast in Inger Stevens, Denver Pyle, Yaphet Katto, and Katherine Justice, with able direction by Henry Hathaway. Good western fare.
Young Guns II (1990)
The continuing story of the western legendary outlaw called Billy the Kid
"Young Guns II" picks up the story of the outlaw capers of Billy the Kid, after they escaped the clutches of the law in the Lincoln County war of New Mexico Territory in the 1870's. There is one unique part of this film that "Young Guns" wasn't able to use, and that is, in the 1950's, an old-timer named Brushy Bill Roberts claimed to be William H. Bonney, better known as Billy the Kid. Brushy Bill desires a pardon, says that the governor of 1870's New Mexico, Lew Wallace, promised him one, but never came through on that promise. Now, he is willing to tell his story to the media, in exchange for a pardon from the current governor. The reporter is, of course, skeptical, wants some proof of Brushy Bill's story, and therein lies the story of "Young Guns II." Told in flashback style, the film recounts the few years following Billy's escape from the legal factions in Lincoln County, New Mexico, and his new gang's outlaw capers.
The cast returns several of the actors from the prequel film, and adds some new faces, as well. Besides Emilio Estrevez, Kiefer Sutherland, and Lou Diamond Phillips, the gang adds Christian Slater, who wishes to make a name for himself in outlaw legends. James Coburn adds some class to the film in the role of John Chisum, big ranch owner in the New Mexico territory, and William Petersen plays the role of Pat Garrett, who is hounded by the legal authorities to bring Billy in to justice, dead or alive.
There's the story, and one has to decide for himself, was Brushy Bill really telling the truth as to his being Billy the Kid, or was he simply trying to make a memorable place for himself? The film also features a Golden-Globe Award-winning Best Original Song,"Blaze of Glory" performed by Jon Bon Jovi. A good film to fill an afternoon with, but not quite up to the height of "Young Guns."
Young Guns (1988)
A pack of young stars take on the western legend known as Billy the Kid.
The year is 1870 and the place is Lincoln County in New Mexico territory. A young William H. Bonney is rescued from a possible hanging by John Tunstall, who befriends the youth and makes him part of the family of young guns known as Regulators. This puts Billy in the midst of a territorial dispute between Tunstall and the Santa Fe Ring, led by Lawrence G. Murphy, villainously portrayed by Jack Palance. Another western legend, Pat Garrett, is played by Patrick Wayne, the son, of course, of John Wayne.
After the killing of Tunstall by Murphy's henchmen, the Regulators and Billy hit on all cylinders in extracting revenge for the slaughter of their benefactor. The Regulators are branded as outlaws, and the "legal forces" of Murphy attempt to pare them down to nothing. This leads to a final shootout on the streets of Lincoln, and very few of the original Regulators escape, which leads to the sequel of "Young Guns," appropriately called "Young Guns II." The cast of young and upcoming Hollywood stars include Emilio Estevez as Billy, Kiefer Sutherland, Charlie Sheen, Lou Diamond Phillips, Casey Siemaszko, and Dermot Mulroney.
One final note: the DVD includes as part of its special features section a Trivia Track, which flashes western facts and information about the stars or the characters being portrayed on screen without detracting from the viewing of the film. This is worth seeing and owning.
Yellow Sky (1948)
A band of outlaws on the run take refuge in a deserted ghost town, only to find two inhabitants with a golden secret.
Some westerns don't allow people to change, or reform, during its run on the screen. "Yellow Sky" allows peoples' true natures to emerge, once the influence of a gold strike in a near-empty ghost town appears. Filmed in b&w in 1948, the film stars a youthful Gregory Peck, a starlet named Anne Baxter, and a superb villainous performance by Richard Widmark.
The story begins with the band of outlaws, led by Peck, hold up a town and escape the clutches of the law by fleeing to the desert sands. They can't go back, because the legal authorities will capture them, and they have to continue to cross the flats, with an ever-dwindling water supply. One outlaw, in fact, filled his canteen with whiskey in the town they held up, and now he's begging to swap a belt of whiskey for just one sip of cool water.
Finally, just before giving up all hope, the band comes to a town called Yellow Sky, which once prospered, but now has all but expired. The two remaining occupants of the town, Anne Baxter and her grandfather, agree to let them rest, spend a few days, and that's when the outlaw band, or rather, Widmark, figures out that the two have a gold strike in the mountains nearby. Why else would they stay in a town going nowhere? Peck wishes to split the gold claim with the two occupants, while the rest of the gang, spurred on by Widmark, desires the whole cache, and if Peck doesn't agree, then they can fix that problem, too. The final shootout in the ghostly buildings of Yellow Sky resolves the conflict.
Look for good supporting performances from John Russell and Harry Morgan, as two outlaw gang members, and providing comic relief is Charles Kemper, whose career in the movies came to an end just a few years after this film was released. He plays the whiskey-guzzling Walrus to the hilt, and some film viewers would wish he had left more film roles on the screen. Overall feelings, a solid 8/10, and happy to see the release of this western classic on DVD.
Edge of seat suspense while US Navy commandos attempt to get aboard a disabled German sub during WWII and capture a top-secret decoding device.
"U-571" is a simple enough story from WWII. A German submarine has been disabled, but not sunk. A team of Naval commandos is assigned the task of getting aboard the sub, capture the device, then safely return to home port. Simple, but the plan goes awry when the team manages to get aboard the German sub. A destroyer from the German navy sinks their own sub, and the US Navy team is left to return safely to base in a crippled German U-boat. To make matters worse, the Germans have gotten wise to their plan, and are making efforts to put the crippled U-boat to rest permanently, at the bottom of the ocean. Depth charges are dropped every few minutes, just to shake the viewers up, and attempts are made to make the U-boat an effective weapon to use against the destroyer trying to sink the craft.
The cast includes Matthew McConaughy as the leader of the US team, and ably backed by Harvey Keitel, Bill Paxton, and David Keith. There's also a batch of fresh, new faces on screen and these young actors do show some potential. There's highly explosive entertainment for the viewer as U-571 sets sail across the screen of his/her wide-screen digital television.
Pre-Revolutionary War America focusing on the latter stages of the French and Indian War
"Unconquered" was one of those Cecil B. DeMille productions that did not quite make it as a true epic, but it did qualify as good film entertainment. Set in the American colonies of the 1760's, the film brings into conflict a love triangle, Indian uprisings, dastardly dealings by greedy whites in selling arms to tribes for furs, and the rights of indentured servants in the colonies. Featuring Gary Cooper and Paulette Goddard in the lead male and female roles, plus Howard Da Silva in the role of the sneeringly evil fur trader, this film moves at a decent clip, even if some history is ignored for the sake of the story in the film.
Ah, the story. Paulette Goddard has run afoul of the British judicial system and is given the choice of execution in England or slavery in the colonies for a period of 14 years. She chooses the route of an indentured servant, and is placed aboard a British frigate heading for the colonies. While on board ship, she catches the eye of both Cooper and Da Silva, and in a shipboard auction, is purchased by Cooper, much to the chagrin of Da Silva. Cooper intends to free her when the ship arrived in the colonies, but Da Silva forces the auctioneer to resell Goddard, unbeknownst to Cooper.
In later scenes, the three engage in one conflict after another, which brings in to the arena, the Indian tribes led by Boris Karloff, playing a Seneca chief named Guyasuta. Da Silva's role, Martin Garth, had earlier married the chief's daughter, and that gives him an inroad with the Indian tribes. Cooper, as Captain Chris Holden, is able to rescue Abby Hale, Goddard's role, from the Indians, and they make their escape down river, which leads to a trip through the rapids and over a waterfall. Finally comes the showdown in which the Indians attack the nearby Fort Pitt, garrisoned by British regulars and frontiersmen and their families. While the battle rages outside the fort, Holden and Garth have to settle their disagreements in the fort's stable.
Besides the trio of leading performers, the cast has several Hollywood regulars. Cecil Kellaway, Ward Bond, and a very youthful Lloyd Bridges add to the protagonists in the film, and Mike Mazurski gives a great performance as Garth's henchman in the attempt to control the Indian fur trading practice.
"Unconquered" gives Cecil B. DeMille a chance to embellish another period of history, and while the production is worth watching, a viewer needs to take the overall work as entertainment, and not completely true to the times of 1763 Colonial America. 8 out of 10.
The Uninvited (1944)
A ghost story that frightens without being gory, or tasteless
"The Uninvited" was made in 1944, and while that may be several decades back, this film still packs a chilling degree of suspense for any viewer. The film features Ray Milland and Ruth Hussey in the lead roles, brother and sister who happen to come onto a sea-coastal house located in Cornwall, England. They fall in love with the place, and are able to convince the owner, keenly played by Donald Crisp, to sell the residence to them. He does so, reluctantly, and the two start to move in the house, unaware of the mysterious past their residence hides, and which Crisp did not fully alert them to.
After they settle in, some strange occurrences take place, such as doors opening and closing by themselves, a pungent aroma of mimosa fills the air at unusual times, and there can be heard the sounds of heart-wrenching sobbing. The mystery is further enhanced when Stella, a relative of Crisp's, visits the place. She lets the two owners in on some of the past secrets the house contains, and each time she comes, something strange and macabre occurs, putting her existence in peril.
This film moves to a conclusion which will leave the viewer in a mood of terror without having been subjected to endless mayhem and gore. The film's cast work well together, and the background music adds to the ghostly mood of the story. It's a very satisfying way to spend a dark, stormy night.
The Quiet Man (1952)
A visual treat for everyone that's Irish, and all those who wish they were Irish
John Ford's 1952 film classic, "The Quiet Man", speaks out as his directorial thank-you to his Irish background. Perhaps, the film could not be made today, because of its downplay of the place women hold in society, but be that as it may, it is a film classic, and meant to be enjoyed on days when one wishes to sit back nd take in the laid-back lifestyle of another land.
John Wayne uses a good amount of acting talent to play the role of Sean Thorton, an Irish born native son who went to America, became a professional boxer, and during a bout, killed his opponent in the ring. This cloud hangs over him, he leaves America, and returns to his native town, Innisfree, where he vows to never fight in anger again.
In his home town, he meets up with Mary Kate Dannaher, played by Maureen O'Hara. These two had an undeniable screen chemistry, and it certainly came out in this picture. Wayne wishes to marry Mary Kate, but he has riled her brother, Big Will Dannaher, played by Ford stalwart, Victor McLaglen, who refuses to permit such a union. In Ireland, the oldest brother, if there was no father, could take this action.
Eventually, thanks to the efforts of the local matchmaker, played by Barry Fitzgerald, and the local priest, played by Ward Bond, Sean and Mary Kate are able to marry, but Will refuses to hand over her dowry, Sean refuses to fight for the dowry, and the Irish landscape begins to boil over.
Eventually, matters do come to a head, or fist, between Sean and Dannaher, in a wild, woolly, brawl that starts in an open field on the Dannaher property, goes over the countryside, spills into the nearby town, and in typical Irish manner, ends up in a local pub. The final punches are thrown, and peace ultimately comes to White O'Mornin', the birth home of Sean.
If one wishes to enjoy a film dedicated to the Irish, this classic is it. A good 9/10
Quigley Down Under (1990)
An American marksman goes to the land down under for a job which turns out to be something he was not quite expecting.
"Quigley Down Under" is the story of an American marksman who takes a job in the land down under, Australia, at the bequest of one of the local land barons. With his saddle and custom-made rifle in hand, Quigley lands in the land of Australia, gets entangled with one of the local "ladies in waiting", and ends up with a complete distaste for the reason he answered the want ad in the first place. Quigley played by Tom Selleck, thought he was being hired to exterminate the local wildlife from the cattle ranch of Elliott Marston, deviously played by Alan Rickman. Marston makes it clear that Quigley's job is to hunt down and terminate the local natives of Australia, the aborigines, whom he considers a nuisance. That prospect sickens Quigley, he and Marston have a falling-out, and Quigley winds up on the Australian wild lands, beaten-up, no water, and a half-loco lady, who keeps calling him by another name.
Selleck is able to give the role a fantastic reason for watching the film over several times, because it seems to fit him so well. He is a moral individual, who will do the job called for, as long as it is in no way a compromise of his own personal principles. Marston represents the complete opposite of those guidelines, and the two eventually end up in the confrontation that stamps movies of the western genre.
Selleck and Rickman do very well in their parts, and Laura San Giacomo plays the loco lady that Quigley has to take under his arm, as if he does not have enough to deal with. The lands photograph well, and the tone is a film worth having in a person's own collection. Enjoy the trip to the Land Down Under, Mate!