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This is one of television's most successful documentary series. In program
after program "American Justice" presents informative, fascinating, and
beautifully scripted and edited histories.
A case in point is 2003's "The Witness and the Hitman," which relates the moving story of an ordinary witness (Bob Lowe) to a neighborhood murder (of Billy Logan) by a high ranking Chicago mob hitman (Harry Alleman).
While the case has many twists and turns, its focus is on Lowe's plight as he enters a makeshift witness protection program and the consequences of Lowe's trying to do the right thing under the law.
The series is dead-on in its honesty, clearly presenting the facts, which allow the viewer to arrive at his/her own conclusions. What's so remarkable is that the series never seems to drop in its level of excellence. Truly, this is American justice in action.
Bill Kurtis is the charismatic narrator, Stefanie Wetzel the 2002 writer-producer, Adam Zoll the copy editor, and Bob Colton, composer of original score.
Tower Productions, Inc. takes credit as the production company for the series, which is shown on Arts & Entertainment Network.
Tim Burton's satirical tribute to Ed Wood here obviously paved the way for
Bill Condon's more serious biopic four years later on James Whale ("Gods and
Burton created a rather weird atmosphere for his entire opus, through eerie black and white photography, spooky soundtrack, offbeat camera angles and movements, and Martin Landau's mesmerizing impersonation of Bela Lugosi.
Great date flick for the college crowd, that'll dig Wood's unusual wardrobe preferences, along with other Burton hip references.
Johnny Depp does himself proud--all bright, chipper and optimistic--young man in love with movie making, no matter what. And the thought of a no-retake approach to shooting is a hoot.
"Great, wrap it, on to Scene 54! . . . "
There is a significant social statement contained within the body of this
harrowing tale. Just where does consensual sensuality leave off and blatant
The meager stats for court convictions of males in rape cases speaks to the futility of provable evidence to bring about justice. It's one thing for a woman to experience a violation, yet another to prove it to a jury.
With clever defense attorneys twisting facts around to suggest enticement, women face an uphill battle to overcome reasonable doubt.
"Lipstick" dramatizes such a scenario in graphic terms--possibly so much so that its potent social commentary might become blurred. Just as there can be a fine line between consent and assault, so can there be also between legitimate expose and sleazy exploitation.
The cast, headed by Margeaux and Mariel Hemingway, Chris Sarandon and Anne Bancroft, all invest deep emotion into their roles. It's certainly a sobering enterprise, with little in the way of character background, particularly as to the accused. Other than that he creates what some might consider "weird" art, there's nothing to suggest his rationale for physical abuses of not one, but two, sisters.
All we know of him is that he's a respected educator and dance theater professional. Further, casting handsome Sarandon in the role begs the question, "Why do things the hard way?"
By not addressing character background the scriptor left a decided void, suggesting an interest more on surface than substance. Nor does the film's slick title or glossy production design help raise the product's standard.
When originally shown on the large screen in 1976, it apparently was too much for some audiences, and the film gained a poor rep. Viewed today, while it's still a rough enterprise, it does raise awareness as to the painful plight of abused women. In that regard, the film has relevance--for it does indeed affect us all.
Considering the tremendous challenges which face today's independent film
company, it's always encouraging when one comes along that manages to make a
some sort of statement.
"The Trip" offers two attractive leads (Larry Sullivan and Steve Braun) and
supports, along with some nice scenery and photography.
While the actual road trip doesn't occur until well over half of the film's running time, the title may also suggest the lengthy relationship of the two leads.
Even so, there's something which seems slightly off-balance in the way of formal structure and focus to the proceedings. So much action takes place--even by years --before the actual road trip begins, that its theme becomes a bit vague.
One part of the difficulty may be the lack of close perspectives of the two leads to set them apart from all the other action. We're kept at such a distance that it's hard to really get into their relationship and fathom it as a true focal point of this comedy-drama. In a way it reminds me of another "road" film, "Y Tu Mama Tambien," and the black comedy, "In the Company of Men," in which the camera likewise remains at a distance.
Still, there are engaging moments in "The Trip," allowing one to feel for the leading pair by the end. Writer-director Mike Swain obviously gave it good effort on limited budget and succeeded in making a statement that apparently touched some people.
This meaty role of an alcoholic initiated several similar type roles for
A rather cold, determined talent, Hayward saw no reason but to sock it to post-WWII audiences. In many instances she assailed to impressive histrionic heights, garnering critical praise and public acclaim.
"Smash-Up, the Story of a Woman" was the role to jump start this career turn. She was paired here with benign Lee Bowman--a sort of watered down George Brent--who looked like a standard leading man without much point of view. Best photographed with a mustache and bow tie, he neither added nor detracted much from a scenario. He was just present, doing his stock duty, while allowing his co-leads to shine.
While the film alerted viewers to Hayward's then untapped potential, it has not aged very well, and "Smash-Up" today seems a quite tepid, predictable and over-wrought melodrama. Film buffs may appreciate it as a turning point in the prolific Hayward career.
During Det. Scottie Ferguson's first day of tailing Madeleine Elster, she
goes up the steps into the McKiptrick Hotel, after parking her
A few moments later she's clearly seen pulling up the shade in the corner room of the second floor.
When Ferguson goes in the hotel lobby within seconds, the hotel landlady insists she's been at the front desk all the while and that no one's entered the building.
To prove it, she takes Ferguson up to the room in question, to find no one there. He looks out the window to find Madeleine's parked car gone . . .
Intriguing stuff, to be sure. Trouble is, neither Writer Pierre Boileau nor Director Alfred Hitchcock come back to this perplexing point again. It's an incident never referred to, never explained, and treated like it never happened.
Yet it is important, in a good mystery writing, that all loose ends be tied together at some point. True, "red herrings" are sometimes employed, but they must make sense within themselves while cleverly throwing the viewer off.
But not like this. An ultimately serious flaw in an otherwise well constructed and executed script.
Mario Lanza's beautiful tenor soars on the soundtrack of this fairytale,
loosely based on Sigmund Romberg's beautiful operetta.
In an interview on a Lanza bio program, Music Director George Stoll shared how Lanza came into the recording studio and rendered perfect one-takes on the entire score, within a remarkable single session.
The glorious timbre of his voice is a highlight of this film. A special treat is hearing the pleasant lyric soprano of Ann Blythe, who was a trained, experienced singer even before making her film debut. The two are heard to advantage in the lovely "Deep in My Heart" park scene duet.
Composer Nicholas Brodszky contributed two ravishingly beautiful added songs, "Beloved" and "I'll Walk With God," intoned to perfection by Lanza.
Alas, Director Richard Thorpe lets the production down with very routine and uninspired direction, allowing for often tedious pacing and formatting. Despite having a great cast to work with, his contribution produces a lethargic bent to the proceedings.
In the end, "The Student Prince's" attributes rest primarily on a beautiful soundtrack, rich score, attractive players, and Lanza's thrilling singing.
It was a good thing they had a cast-audience group discussion following
off-Broadway weekend performances of "Fortune and Men's Eyes."
That way whatever questions may have been on attendees' minds could be fielded directly to cast members and director, which were seated across the proscenium.
After the performance I had the pleasure of attending, I was struck by the candor of that production's "working family." Somehow, the intimate nature of the play appeared to make for great cast cohesiveness, and the discussion was lively and informative. It also provided greater clarity as to what both Playwright John Herbert had in mind and what the director was trying to express.
Unfortunately, in the film version (scripted by the playwright) there was something missing. Despite a fine cast delivering thoroughly thoughtful performances, an unrelenting downbeat pall seems to hover over everything.
It's been reported that the film's producers wanted the sensational qualities emphasized; they got their wish--probably at the expense of a broader, more poetic and philosophical statement of the human condition.
Michael Greer offered an outstanding Queenie, a character that is quite convincing. However, it's a bitter, sardonic soul whose surface sense of humor's only a cover for a wounded interior.
Zooey Hall's Rocky is likewise expertly rendered and completely believable--yet a crafty and cold individual with few redeeming qualities.
Wendell Burton's Smitty is the most empathetic character, yet a "pothead" and "looser"--not at all the "innocent" he purports to be.
Harvey Hart's & Jules Schwerin's codirection is adequate, given their parameters. Yet the entire production fails to rise much above the norm, despite many powerful and effective expose scenes.
It's interesting to note the careers of the above three lead actors: Burton had the most work, yet roles were few and far between, and he retired from acting at the early age of 40. Hall, despite his good looks and fine talent, only did three more films after this. Greer likewise had a very limited film career (his Queenie role perhaps seriously type casting him).
Though I never saw Sal Mineo's stage production, I heard that it was even more controversial and sensational than either of the above two versions.
And that's going some.
By the time Lana Turner and Ray Milland were paired in this romantic drama,
they both seemed to have the "mark" of their respective studios written over
Turner's was MGM, and indeed this film was made at that studio. Milland's was Paramount, and he seemed a "guest visitor" to the Metro ambiance.
While both actors were certainly equally successful in their respective careers, their casting did seem a bit strange to me. I kept thinking, what's Paramount doing at MGM?
Not that Milland offered anything but his usual solid work; he just seemed a bit unusual in the total scheme of things. However, being the solid pro he was, he carried off his "slumming millionaire" role with aplomb; likewise Turner gave her part her all.
The script was fair, and Director George Cukor made the most of what he had to work with. In the end an interesting "hybrid," adequately carried off by two thespian entities of varying affiliations.
This version of the life of Jesus is a respectable passion play, whose
production was carefully assembled by Metro Goldwyn Mayer.
Made just four years before George Stevens' poetic rendering of the same subject was released (and probably in planning stage simultaneously ) "King of Kings" offers a traditional presentation of the scriptural legend.
The choice of Nicholas Ray as director was wisely made, resulting in a production that moved well and offered some striking scenes, particularly the Sermon on the Mount. Of the large cast, Siobhan McKenna's Mary and Robert Ryan's John the Baptist are memorable.
The ultra-challenging (if not impossible) role of Jesus went to the youthful Jeffrey Hunter. Hunter had shown in many past roles that he possessed talent--though perhaps of limited range--and had a rather ordinary voice. His physical appearance was traditional and his over all performance rather without contrasting levels. Still, his work seemed to please general audiences at that time.
Writer Phillip Yordan's script was professionally crafted and Orson Welles' narration was expertly delivered.
The near three hour running time of "King of Kings" almost matched the final cut of "The Greatest Story Ever Told." Both far exceeded the duration of the DeMille '27 version of the same story, which made an impact on audiences of it's time.
After these three-plus versions it seemed there could be nothing more rendered on this subject-- but no, other versions followed and there may be still more to come.
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