Reviews written by
Arne Andersen (aandersen@landmarkcollege.org)

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648 reviews in total 
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Dodsworth (1936)
7 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
Outstanding drama of long-term relationship, 19 January 2006
10/10

This is one of the best written, acted and directed films of the 1930s. It brought Wyler his first directorial nomination plus one for Walter Huston as best actor. Seven noms in all including Best Film, and one win for Best Interior Decoration (Art Direction).

One has to take issue with the Academy's selection of Maria Ouspenskaya however with its Best Supporting Actress nomination - She has only one scene, not five minutes long, and is in no way memorable. Simply a cameo. In the same film is Mary Astor's truly memorable supporting performance of nine exceptionally acted scenes. She is the true heart of the film. It was also a crime that Ruth Chatterton's performance as the immature Mrs. Dodsworth did not receive a nomination - it was probably her best work on screen.

Wyler's direction is never better than in the one scene where Astor at dinner notices the growing "relationship" between Chatterton and the gigolo played by Paul Lukas. Taking her aside for a private moment, she utters "Oh, my Dear", then shooting a glance towards Lukas, continues "Don't." An exquisite moment of sophistication and kindness on the part of the Astor character, told with an absolute minimum of words and expression, but decidedly getting the point across.

The film is amazingly mature for 1936. Highly recommended on all levels.

5 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Modest nonsensical comedy with songs, 1 December 2005
3/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

SHE MARRIED A COP is practically a lost film. My former comment on this site records preservation materials being housed at UCLA, none of which is in a viewable state. I just recently found a perfect print on video (after a ten year search) from a private collector and will report below. Since I reveal the plot, I'll warn readers with a spoiler alert.

SPOILER ALERT!!!!!!! Plot synopsis follows: Linda is a cartoon producer at Mammoth Pictures. Their biggest hit is a cartoon pig named "Paddy." Linda is auditioning singers for Paddy's singing debut, when Jimmy Duffy, a cop, shows up at the bequest of neighbors and asks them to quiet down. Linda hears Jimmy sing and wants him for the part. She attends a policeman's charity ball, where he sings MY WILD IRISH ROSE and she romances him.

Afraid he'll balk if he learns the truth about his singing debut, Linda and her team lie to him and even film some fake love scenes between them. Jimmy believes he is co-starring in a film with Linda. At the debut he learns he is the singing voice of Paddy The Pig. His family and his cop friends laugh and he is humiliated. He goes on a bender.

Meanwhile Linda, who has married him prior to the debut, moves in with him and his Irish family. Linda continues working at the studio on the sly and Jimmy and family are concerned that she is two-timing him with her co-producer. Jimmy meanwhile has reconciled his anger when he learns he is a hero with his child fans. A rumor that Linda is pregnant causes him to think he has been cuckolded, but all is peacefully reconciled when he learns the child is his.

Jean Parker - looking again like Jean Arthur's twin - is fine in the role of Linda - a true professional. Phil Regan is likable as Jimmy and sings beautifully. This B film is pleasant and competently directed and played.

The script has Linda making a career of lying to her husband (first about his singing voice and secondly about working nights at the studio while he is on night cop shift) - hardly a workable scenario for a successful relationship.

The score was nominated for an Oscar, but with the exception of two lovely songs, I REMEMBER and I CAN'T IMAGINE (not written by the nominated score composer, Cy Feuer), it's only serviceable: main title, montage, band and some underscoring of scenes using the music from the two songs, including a park carousel. The songs are reprised often. Burton Lane (FINIAN'S RAINBOW and ON A CLEAR DAY) is listed as composer for the songs.

The print on my video runs 53 minutes, not 66 as indicated in the IMDb records.

It's a pleasant little film but memorable only for its two songs. The Oscar nomination for score was not deserved (in the forties every studio could submit a nomination for the sound categories: sound, score, scoring and song - and be guaranteed a nomination, whether it was deserved or not).

Alexander (2004)
1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Competent epic hampered by motivation and continuity problems, 24 October 2005
5/10

Alexander wasn't half bad - I had been expecting an abomination from all the vitriol that has been heaped on it.

It's virtues - beautiful cinematography, a rousing and romantic score, excellent editing, and a supporting performance by Jolie that could have netted an Oscar nom if the film had registered with voters. Also the young actor who plays the juvenile Alexander (Connor Paolo) shows a natural acting instinct and a command that belie his years - he may be someone to watch out for in future.

It's faults - narrative confusion. As Ptolemy, Anthony Hopkins frames the film with voluminous historical speeches that fly past so quickly that we become lost even before the prologue is over. Then there are numerous flashback scenes (10 years earlier in this location, 9 years earlier in that location) and we can't make head nor tail why we have gone back in time or where we are and when on the occasion of returning to the narrative proper.

Also we really never know anything intimate about Alexander himself or why he is doing this world conquest thing- what is it feeding in him? The sexual issue is deftly and subtly handled - the only love scenes (without sex) are between Alexander and Hephaistion, their gazes and their passion for each other quite obvious in the beautiful underplaying of Farrell and Leto. Alexander's preference for men is played out in two scenes - grabbing the male of a dancing duo and planting a long kiss on his lips and later eying a servant as he slips under the covers and puts a lamp out. The only time you see him with a woman is his wedding night- something he has to go through to cement relations with her conquered people and beget a child. It's a combo of lust and power in his grappling and coupling with her - there is no affection or love. Even when he is ready to kill her in belief that she is behind Hephaistion's poisoning, he only spares her when he learns she is carrying his heir.

So it's beautiful to the eye though confusing to the mind - and because we know so little of the history of the times, we have nothing to compare Alexander's conquests to for perspective.

It's certainly competently made in the visual sense. It just doesn't make much sense intellectually.

3 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
Image DVD release - pitifully poor but gorgeous to watch, 19 September 2005
4/10

I am discussing the dubbed English version released on Image DVD - This film frightened me as a teen-ager. As an adult, I find it poor indeed. While the gorgeous and striking black and white cinematography is magnificent, the dubbing is awful and the score is worse.

Since the visuals are so good, I turn off the sound and watch it as a silent film, filling in plot details for friends. Play some eerie music for effect and it's a much better film.

Note the goofs - Barbara Steele's name is misspelled in the credits - Barbara Steel. The doctor's cut hand switches from his left to his right by the time he is out of the crypt and back in the carriage.

The facial changes in Katya and Asa near the end uses the same technique for the 1931 DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE - color sensitive layers of make-up - an homage to the film and Max Factor.

30 out of 34 people found the following review useful:
Garbo and Cinematographer William Daniels are the real co-stars, 10 March 2005

This is a rather long - for the period - tale of brotherly friendship interrupted by a femme fatale. The plot is simple - a woman destroys at least her husband's life and almost those of two best friends through loose morals.

Garbo is alluring as always and she looks much more glamorous here in her third MGM film than in the prior two (THE TORRENT, THE TEMPTRESS). The plot is interesting but evaporates as soon as one is through watching. What lingers in the mind and heart are Garbo's beauty and the physical beauty of the film.

Daniels'cinematography boasts a number of tracking (inside arriving and departing trains - the latter a premonition of a classic shot in SINCE YOU WENT AWAY) and dolly shots as well as some stunning compositions. Note the first shot - the bugler in silhouette against the rising sun, the swirling overhead shot of Garbo and Gilbert waltzing.

Three are standouts - the lighting of Garbo and Gilbert's faces in the grove with a baby spot acting as light from a lit match; the dolly in on the clenched fist of the husband who throws open his wife's boudoir door to find her with Gilbert - a perfect diagonal splitting the screen; and a penultimate piece of cinematic art - the entire duel sequence done in silhouettes of figures and trees - an extraordinary sequence.

There is excellent composition and lighting in the scene when Hanson discovers Garbo and Gilbert together and a fine use of multiple dissolves in the scene of the final duel.

The original music composed by Carl Davis for the Thames restoration of this film and released on the MGM/UA VHS of 1988 - now sadly out of print as are all of Garbo's silent films - is appropriate, especially the love theme (heard also on Kevin Brownlow's Hollywood documentary series). This lovely and unforgettable theme is heard in a number of scenes, primarily over the main title, the train meeting of Garbo and Gilbert, the ball where they dance, their idyll at her home, her imploring of Gilbert to return to Hanson's friendship, the final seduction scene and the last embrace.

A film to be seen as an example of how far the camera had come in a few short years - since Murnau's invention of the moving camera in THE LAST LAUGH (1924)and for Garbo's undying beauty.

6 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
Garbo fascinates in overlong romantic triangle set in Java, 28 February 2005
7/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is not a silent film - this is an early sound film. Although there is no dialogue, the film has a continuous fully orchestrated score and sound effects. It is rather overlong and could have been trimmed by half an hour without any ill effects. Timings vary - Maltin times it at 102 minutes, the MGM/UA VHS box times it at 119 minutes, but my timing of the VHS itself within that studio release comes to 109 minutes.

Garbo is married to an older man, Stone, who neglects her with business duties while on a trip to a tea plantation in Java. A Javanese prince sees his opportunity to seduce the bored Garbo and proceeds apace.

SPOILER ALERT - SKIP THIS PARAGRAPH. When Stone finally catches on, he manipulates the Prince into accompanying him on a moonlit tiger hunt, but first empties the Prince's gun of bullets.

Garbo is most alluring and gives a first rate performance. Memorable close ups include: her reaction to the servant's whipping, a dolly in as the Prince is introduced to her, in her bed on board the boat. There are other well composed moments, most memorably when she is on her balcony at the palace at right of screen in a shaft of light - the shadow of the prince in the doorway is cast upon her and the camera slowly dollies in with the Prince entering the frame from left when he and the camera are upon her.

The sound effects are numerous and well coordinated: traffic, crowd noise, ship's whistle, whipping, triangle dinner call, doors closing, train whistles, hand claps, insects/birds, gongs, gates closing, campfire voices, tigers growls, rifle clicks, rifle shots. There are also two sequences, one a chorus singing a title song, the other an elaborate (overlong and rather boring as well) presentation of native Javanese dancers, complete with a chorus, claps, calls, stomps etc. to illuminate the dances).

It is certainly not Garbo's best silent but holds the attention for the casual viewer and is fascinating as an early sound film for the music and sound effects.

1 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Not of value unless you are a film maker., 25 February 2005
4/10

Although this documentary must be fascinating for anyone involved in any of the departments of film-making, it has a very slim entertainment or educational value for the general public. Basically, it's about a production that had to be "abandoned" due to a number of factors - bad weather, incapacitated star, evaporated financing, etc.

This is not a great tragedy by any means - a movie didn't get made. So what! Yes, it would have been nice to have a really good movie about Don Quixote (God knows the shambles that was MAN OF LA MANCHA despite a perfect cast is an example of a film that SHOULD have been abandoned). But just because one man was obsessed most of his life with making a film doesn't mean it is written in heaven that it should have been made.

We are only shown four sequences of footage, in which Johnny Depp appears, as well as ten real life documentary camera settings in which he appears as well (including the actual filming process of the four footage excerpts) and he as always shows a brilliance, a centeredness, a complete absorption of character, that is admirable. At one point he is wrestling with a fish on dry land and glaring at it with the challenge - "What were you thinking? WHAT were you thinking?" Looks like it could have been a great moment.

Other than that we have Jean Rochefort doing a not very good job speaking his lines or acting the part of Don Quixote - I don't think based on this material, he was a good choice for the lead in any case. The rest of the documentary is between director Gilliam and his crew, producers and backers.

Of mild interest to Johnny Depp fans.

17 out of 28 people found the following review useful:
Dreyer's third film is prosaic silent film making, 7 February 2005
4/10

This was Dryer's third film and while his second, THE PARSON'S WIDOW, is a finely wrought, wry comedy/drama with many of the trademarks of Dreyer's later visual and dramatic forms already evident, LEAVES FROM SATAN'S BOOK is rather a throw back to the old style of silent film making - emotional posturing rather than subtlety, rare use of close-ups, tableaux composition.

So many of Murnau's early films are like this as well, then suddenly a revelation and in 1924 THE LAST LAUGH revolutionizes film making. Dreyer's style in THE PARSON'S WIDOW and MICHAEL (not to mention his masterpiece, THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC) is singular and identifiable. However, not so in LEAVES. One wonders if he simply lost interest in it and directed it pedantically to get it out of the way.

It's a very long film - two hours and ten minutes in Grapevine Video's DVD release (as opposed to one hour, 50 minutes in original release and the TCM print running nine minutes shorter than Grapevine's - 121 minutes). It is divided into four sections, showing Satan coming to earth to tempt man - and always saddened by man's weak will, for every Satanic success means more years in Hell, while every resistant human soul wins a thousand years credit against Satan's sentence.

Section One involves Judas' betrayal of Christ (27 minutes); Section Two, set during the Spanish Inquisition relates a monk's lust for a young girl (26 minutes); Section Three - the longest at 46 minutes and the most interesting - is set during the French Revolution in 1793; and Section Four was set in Dreyer's contemporary time (1918)and involves Finland and the Russian invasion - 31 minutes.

Section One is a bore since we know the story. Sections Two and Four are mildly interesting, although we can see where they are heading. Quite the best and above all the others is section Three, where the levels of drama and script are multi-layered and where we really cannot predict how it is going to turn out.

For Dreyer fans, since he made so few films (only 9 silent features and 6 talking features, plus many short subjects), this is a must for the collection, but its interest is mainly historical, as it does not contribute significantly to the art of film.

The Racket (1928)
5 out of 12 people found the following review useful:
Stagey early crime melodrama done in by stiffness, 31 January 2005
5/10

I am one of the nay sayers, I'm afraid. Everyone else who has left a comment on this film loved it, it seems. I thought the first half hour or so went very well as this segment contained scenes that opened out the stage play, but the final hour, which is pretty much confined to one precinct house and two sets, is very stagy, very stiff and for me, very dull.

I am surprised that the other early crime melodrama of that time period, UNDERWORLD, which was far more interesting and cinematic, didn't cop the Best Film Oscar nom - it did get an Oscar for writing, so I guess it was the voters' way of being fair and divvying up the spoils, but THE RACKET is no way near as good a film as UNDERWORLD.

Walter Brennan's one scene occurs about ten minutes into the film, George Stone's mug as Joe Scarci is almost as homely as Louis Wolheim, who plays lead heavy Nick Scarsi. At least they match as brothers in central casting.

Meighan is wooden as the idealistic cop. Lucien Prival as Chick reminded me of Pee Wee Herman. I'm glad it was rescued from oblivion, but I for one am not one to think this a great film by any means.

10 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
Amusing WWI buddy comedy, building on WHAT PRICE GLORY?, 22 December 2004

The tremendous popularity of WHAT PRICE GLORY? -a WWI tale of warring "buddies" by the names of Quirt and Flagg - was so great that it resulted in spin-off sequels and this separate but equal take on the theme. This was Lewis Milestone's first important film and oddly enough, it was a comedy (Milestone is not known as a comedy director). It was a blatant rip off of the previous film - same theme- warring "buddies" having escapades in WWI (escape from a prisoner of war camp, escape from a deportation attempt, rescue of an Arabian princess).

The results are amusing and entertaining with Louis Wolheim showing an adept comedy flair (as he would prove to also be a fine dramatic actor- he deserved an Oscar nom at least for his supporting work in ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT). William Boyd would appear in four Academy-recognized films in the two year period of 1927-28 (TWO ARABIAN KNIGHTS, THE LEATHERNECK, THE COP, SKYSCRAPER)and proves an able romantic foil for Wolheim.

The opening amusing foxhole sequence parallels Milestone's harrowing foxhole scene in his dramatic ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT. There's a great overhead shot of a circle of firearms pointed into the hole that reminds one of a Busby Berkeley kaleidoscope dance sequence. There is an unusual and lengthy sequence of male nudity as men are being herded into a delousing station. There's a fun parallel duet of pickpocketing. Both men endure much water - a winter stream, two dunks in the bay, a tub. There are some well composed overhead shots on a sailing vessel. There's a slightly naughty visual joke related to "wetting the floor." Another risqué moment occurs when Wolheim mistakenly attempts to milk a male goat. There's an involved and suspenseful escape involving wriggling under an electrically wired fence. And what is that last shot all about with the Arab standing in the doorway?????

The film, which has existed as negative and print elements in the vaults of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas/Reno for 75 years was restored by UCLA and Flicker Alley and shown for the first time on television on a special Turner Classic Movie segment in December, 2004.

The second half of the film shows spotty but often severe nitrate deterioration, making the film in many spots practically unviewable. It is lucky the decomposition was caught in time.

The film won for Milestone an Oscar for Best Comedy Direction. It is unlikely that it was deserved. That year we had Ted Wilde's direction of Harold Lloyd's SPEEDY -another nominee in the category, as well as Chaplin's THE CIRCUS (for which he won a special Oscar), not to mention Buster Keaton and his masterpiece, THE GENERAL. If anyone deserved an Oscar for Comedy Direction that year it was Keaton.

All in all, an amusing but not great comedy.


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