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Die Hölle von Macao (1967)
Great Time Waster
"The Corrupt Ones" is a Cold War-era adventure story about a chase for the Peking Medallion, which is the key to an ancient Chinese treasure. The stars are Robert Stack and Elke Sommer, but, as is usual in this type of film, the villains, of whom Nancy Kwan is the chief, are more colorful. The film starts with a fight for the medallion on board a train, and the pace rarely lets up from there. It's a great time waster, if you've got the time to waste. Of course, this particular genre was done practically to death by the Indian Jones series, but, if you can get past the low budget, there's a lot to enjoy here, not the least of which is Dusty Springfield's singing of the title tune. It's one of those multi-country productions, and that makes for an appealing supporting cast, but someone ought to have been shot for dubbing Elke Sommer's beautiful voice in English. She sounds like a real simp. Citizens of Macao, by the way, must have been shocked by the tagline: "The Deadliest City in the World Is about to Get Deadlier!"
Voor een verloren soldaat (1992)
This is a thoughtful, tasteful look at a forbidden subject.
With all the furor over "Lolita," one might think a film such as "For a Lost Soldier," the story of a barely pubescent Dutch boy who has a sexual affair with a Canadian soldier in the closing days of WWII, would raise a few eyebrows as well. Perhaps there is a different standard for the relationship between an "older" man (albeit, in this case, an older man barely out of his teens) and a child. But, for those inclined to explore this issue on film, "For a Lost Soldier" does an admirable job of making such a relationship seem acceptable, and perhaps even inevitable, in view of the hysteria that accompanied the Liberation of Europe by the Allied troops. The relationship between Walt and Jaroen seems particularly idyllic when contrasted with those of Walt's comrades-in-arms with the village girls, who graduate almost overnight from schoolgirls to strumpets. If a book version exists, I look forward to reading it.
A marvelous teaching tool
This latest version of the greatest of Shakespeare's tragedies has proved to be a marvelous teaching tool. For once, students are able to follow the dialogue word-for-word in their texts without getting lost. What Branagh, as director, has added includes the flashbacks that help to fill in the background to the tale. Of course, I'm not sure depicting Hamlet and Ophelia in bed together advances the cause of scholarship, but it seems an almost inevitable contemporary emendation. The actors are uniformly good in the major roles, but Julie Christie comes in for particular commendation. She's just the right age to play Gertrude, and she brings a good deal of insight to a difficult role. Speaking of age, however, I would like the next production of Hamlet to feature a younger actor. It's getting harder and harder, even in these days of non-traditional students, to picture a man in his thirties or forties as having just come from his studies at Wittenberg. Hamlet's mood swings are better suited to a young man in his twenties. As Branagh has followed the tradition of casting a comparatively youthful Ophelia, the scenes in which he appears with Kate Winslett are abusive in the wrong sense.
Smoke Signals (1998)
The best film about native Americans since "Pow-wow Highway."
This is, for my money, the best film for and about native Americans since "Pow-Wow Highway," which also featured the much-underused actor Gary Farmer. It is a touching tribute, not just to these vanishing Americans, but also to the idea of fatherhood, which likewise appears to be an endangered concept in the closing years of the 20th century. The young men who play Victor and Tommy are inventive actors with good professional prospects, if only Hollywood would cast more Native Americans in major films. As it is, this "sleeper" film should make cult stars out of them both. I want the soundtrack!