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40 reviews in total 
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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Why They're Called "Disaster" Films, 2 December 2004

This movie has it all - all the trite situations, hackneyed dialogue and banal clichés you can think of. It reminded me of a National Lampoon magazine cover from the disaster-film-craze days of the mid-'70's: depicting a satiric poster for a non-existent film called "Armageddon '75," it showed an aerial view of a major urban center with a tidal wave (complete with capsizing ship) washing over it, a volcano erupting, a plane crashing...all of it during an earthquake, of course.

THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW isn't content with catastrophic global climate change; it has to cover the usual dysfunctional marriage/family ground, visit the hospital ward with the de rigueur kid dying of cancer (with whom the noble doc must stay behind after all others have evacuated) and trot out a pack of ravenous escaped wolves roaming frozen Manhattan (how come they can stay alive when the storm is flash-freezing everybody else who ventures out into it?) for good measure. Characters who are supposed to be smarter than everybody else ignore their own dire warnings and venture out on a mission of (practically) certain death, because (heavy music here), "I made a promise." Did I mention the young lovers who discover they've worshiped each other from afar but were too shy to make a move (what year is this, again?), and find romance only when it's (practically) too late?

One of director Roland Emmerich's earlier efforts in this vein, "Independence Day," tacky as it was, at least had the benefit of not taking itself too seriously; a virtue missing here. It's easy to see why those who realize the gravity of the issue of global climate change felt this silly exercise would do more damage than good to the cause.

Oh, sure, the special effects are well-rendered and impressive, but when they can do so much - so convincingly (like sail an oil tanker down a flooded Fifth Avenue) - these days without leaving the comfort of the computer terminal, one really doesn't expect any less (with a $125 million budget, anyway). It kinda takes the "special" out of "special effects."

All in all, I'd put it down at the bottom of the dramatic dumpster with "Twister," If you absolutely must see how Lady Liberty looks in snow up to her skirts - or are wondering whatever became of Perry King - and have a couple of hours to kill, go for it. But consider yourself warned: been there; done that.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
One Of the Milestones, 16 September 2004

Like Phantom Of the Opera in the '20's, Frankenstein in the '30's and Psycho in the '60's, THE EXORCIST was one of those must-see, everybody's-talking-about-it rite-of-passage movies (regardless of your age) which, like the earlier ones, actually did send people screaming from the theaters and have them swooning in the aisles (at least the first week it was out). Sure, a lot of it was the hype which approached mass hysteria, but 30-plus years on, this film holds up, due to its sure-footed direction, excellent casting and solid craftsmanship.

THE EXORCIST is something of a textbook on story construction, pacing and the art of audience manipulation (in the best sense of the term). It sometimes relies on tricks, but that's okay, because they work. Director William Friedkin cleverly unnerves and agitates the viewer early on with exaggerated and sudden sound effects (phones that ring extraordinarily loudly; medical equipment that blasts the eardrums), and inoculates against unintended humor in later scenes. For example, streams of obscenities unexpectedly bursting forth from a child who has been shown to be almost sickeningly sweet is just the kind of thing that can set an audience to tittering, but Friedkin defuses its shock value with earlier potty-mouth dialogue from Ellen Burstyn and Jack MacGowran, so the audience can get its initial humorous reaction to such things out of its system.

Just as with Hitchcock's Psycho, THE EXORCIST demonstrates that an out-and-out shocker needn't necessarily be a second-class film. It's intelligently written, it effectively places the implausible squarely in the context of the real world - employing three-dimensional characters who react believably to events that logic tells them shouldn't be taking place - and the first-rate cast (Burstyn, Cobb, Miller and Von Sydow in particular) delivers performances that demand the entire enterprise be taken seriously. Beyond the "pea soup" and "head-twirling" set-pieces, there is much to appreciate; rich and subtle moments such as Lt. Kinderman's (Cobb) interview with Chris (Burstyn). There are so many emotions boiling beneath her controlled exterior - her daughter's "illness," her friend's death and the realization that the tyke may be responsible for it - while she deals with this nosy and starstruck detective. Watch for Burstyn's understated, but dead-on, reaction when, politely offering another cup of coffee and expecting him to just as politely refuse (and get the hell out of her house), Cobb replies, "Yes, thank you." Her 'oh sh--' expression is priceless.

A good portion of today's target demographic, unborn when THE EXORCIST was released, might well find it tame by their standards, even as I, shy of 10 years old, found Frankenstein and The Phantom Of the Opera. I nonetheless loved them and recognized their artistry. Intelligent, sophisticated viewers of today will similarly find themselves appreciative of all this film has to offer (even if they were brought up on ubiquitous CGI and an excess of, well, everything).

THE EXORCIST was a landmark of the '70's, which was arguably the last golden era of American film (think Cabaret-Chinatown-Network). But that's a discussion for another time.

The Raven (1935)
20 out of 23 people found the following review useful:
Boris and Bela At Their Best; Nothing More Is Needed!, 15 July 2004

This is the Boris & Bela show all the way. Like its sort-of companion piece "The Black Cat," THE RAVEN involves young lovers held captive by a madman with an odd hobby, in a large house which is elaborately tricked-out with amenities not usually found in even the most exclusive residences. This time out, Boris is the nominal "hero" (as with "The Black Cat," the male half of the young couple proves remarkably useless) and Bela the nut-case: Richard Vollin; doctor, Poe aficionado and do-it-yourself-er without peer. Summoned from retirement to perform life-saving surgery on Jean Thatcher, a lovely young dancer, he subsequently falls head-over-heels for her, and the trouble starts.

Lugosi was a better actor than he usually gets credit for being; his downfall seemed to stem from a lack of selectivity about what projects he accepted, frequently landing him in dreck. THE RAVEN gives him ample opportunities to shine, and he makes the most of them. Some consider his work here over-the-top, but scenery-chewing is entirely appropriate to the character, who is written as an arrogant egomaniac - he refers to himself as "a law unto myself" and even "a god" - and probably the only out-and-out lunatic Lugosi ever played. The desires or welfare of others simply don't enter into the equation for Vollin. After repeated refusals to perform Jean's operation, only an appeal to his ego ("So, they DO say I am the only one!") can induce him; that the object of his affection makes no secret of her love for someone else is of no consequence to him, and for the one "nice" deed he does for someone else - making Jean's fiancé his research assistant - he flatters himself that he's being magnanimous, though his true motivation, keeping the young rival too busy to interfere with his pursuit of Jean, is nonetheless self-serving.

The gloriously unrestrained nature of his performance notwithstanding, he gives us some of his best moments here: when he finds himself in Karloff's clutches, totally helpless and at Boris' mercy, the panic beneath his thin veneer of casual bravado is palpable. Likewise the barely-controlled fury and pain when, ostensibly speaking about Poe, he tells of the madness that grips "a man of genius denied of his great love," and how that madness can drive him to conceive of "torture....torture for those who have tortured him." His perverse glee in inflicting that torture is chilling, and he even displays some unexpectedly dry wit. When Vollin demands of Jean's father, Judge Thatcher, "There are no two ways; send her to me," the Judge gasps an incredulous "Do you know what you're saying?" Lugosi, in a deliberate monotone, answers the question literally; repeating, "There - are - no - two - ways - send - her - to - me!"

If I've put the emphasis here on Lugosi, it's because he truly dominates all around him, including Karloff. That's no reflection on Boris; he just plays a mostly passive character: Edmond Bateman, bank robber and escaped con, who seeks Vollin out for an operation to make him "look different." Given the shady-looking hood who passes Vollin's name and address to Bateman, and the seedy surroundings in which the meeting takes place, one can't help but wonder at Vollin's social contacts, and the kind of services he's previously solicited (or performed). The unfortunate Bateman soon finds himself in over his head, the victim of Vollin's particularly sadistic blackmail.

As with Frankenstein's creation, Boris suffuses Bateman with pathos. "I don't want to do them things no more," he pleads, when Lugosi sets out to enlist his help for some dastardly deeds. Because of his predicament, we can feel sympathy for Bateman, even as he does more of "them things" at Vollin's behest. Under heavy and restricting makeup, as was often the case, Boris is able to communicate a great deal with his eyes (or, in this case, eye). Watch the excitement in them (it?) as Lugosi removes the post-op bandages; your heart fairly breaks because you know the shock that's in store for him.

The supporting cast is filled out with familiar and capable players such as Inez Courtney and Ian Wolfe (who has one of the film's best lines when, as Bela goes on his torture rampage, protests with an oh-so-civilized, "See here, Vollin, things like this can't be done!").

The ever-dependable and versatile Samuel S. Hinds provides us with one of his delightfully stodgy curmudgeons as Judge Thatcher, and he deserves a special nod on general principle. Hinds was one of those "oh, I've seen him a hundred times before" actors (whose face is probably known by far more people than his name) who, during the '30's and '40's, seemed to pop up in every third film released. His persona varied little (and he seemed doomed to rarely being cast as anything besides judge, doctor or lawyer), but he was able to bend it in whatever direction a role required, enabling him to move with ease from the tight-ass Thatcher to Slade, the corrupt, tobacco-spittin' judge in "Destry Rides Again," to the sage and kindly family physician in "The Boy With Green Hair." Too bad he never did a "Huck Finn;" he'd have been great as The King.

Despite the improbability (oh, all right; absurdity) of the plot, the script provides some wonderful dialogue. Hinds has the great good fortune of uttering the catchy phrase, "stark-staring mad" on more than one occasion. But the delivery of even the pithiest exchanges, such as "'You monster, you like to torture.' 'Yes, I like to torture.'" gives them a vitality far beyond what is on the page. When all is said and done, though, THE RAVEN is, above all, B & B's show. Each is at the top of his game, and together, they own it.

37 out of 39 people found the following review useful:
More Enjoyable Than It Has Any Business Being, 14 July 2004

Other commentaries will fill you in on the nearly-incomprehensible plot (if that's possible) but, as has been pointed out, you don't watch a film like this for plot.

Despite the story inconsistencies and implausibilities, everything here just seems to "jell:" the fabulous sets, elegant photography, evocative music (drawing heavily from Schubert, among others) and the downright creepy atmosphere woven from the themes of jealousy, lust, revenge, murder, sadism.....all sounds delightfully sick, doesn't it? Truly, it's nowhere near as threatening as it sounds; indeed, if Astaire and Rogers had ever made a spooky thriller, it might have looked and felt something like this one. THE BLACK CAT possesses a lyrical, rhythmic quality, upon which we drift through a sleek, ultra-modern nightmare world.

One of the reasons it all works is its ability to pull us into a sort of parallel universe which, though it looks more or less like reality as we know it, glides along on a barely-concealed undercurrent - an "atmosphere of death," as Lugosi's character puts it - where things happen that "could never actually happen" (an inside reference for those who know the film).

There are some wonderful set-pieces, such as Karloff's tour through a most unusual basement mausoleum/museum memorializing all of his dearly departed earlier "wives." And of course, Boris and Bela deliver, with their restrained but full-bodied performances. Karloff conveys menace just entering a room, and Lugosi has an all-too-rare opportunity to display some tenderness; notice the single tear that rolls down his face as he learns - and sees - what became of the wife that Karloff stole from him years before.

A very stylized - and stylish - film which grants us the unusual treat of seeing Lugosi play a (more or less) "good guy," and the unique one of hearing him pronounce the word "baloney," as only he could.

Call It Fable; Call It Fantasy; I Call It Wistful and Magical, 14 July 2004

Unusual and definitely not for everyone, THE LEGEND OF 1900 is a magical tale that should have great appeal for those possessed of a certain kind of sensitivity. What kind? I wish I could tell you. I imagine this is a film that will say different things to different people. Is it sad? Could be. Is it triumphant? Yeah, that case could be made. Is it enigmatic? Now you're getting it.

What will a story about a man who, from infancy, has spent his entire life on board a luxury liner (and become a musical prodigy along the way), never having set foot on dry land, say to you?

He has a name (a mouthful), but they call him "1900." Every conceivable segment of society - the world in microcosm - has walked the decks of the Virginia, and he's seen it all, touched it all, but it's a world he's never been a part of. And with the Virginia now scheduled to pass from existence, what choice will he make? Can he choose? Has he already chosen?

Much analysis of various themes has been done in other commentaries about this film, but ultimately, each viewer will decide - or, perhaps, feel - what it's telling them. In any case, I'll wager that for many, this will be one of those beloved movies they'll want to revisit regularly through the years, and from the thought of which, between viewings, they'll feel that little tug in whatever special place it's touched them.

3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
They're Young, They're In Love, They're Gay and....They're Italian!, 12 July 2004

Angelo wants to come out to his family, but they already drive him nuts with their old-world Italian values; can you imagine how they'd react? Angelo's boyfriend Nino, with whom he lives, is happy in their private little closet; he's not only Italian, he's a cop! Can their relationship survive? Can Angelo's sis keep their secret? Should she?

This gem of a film has been aptly compared to "My Big Fat Greek Wedding;" they share many themes and elements. MAMBO ITALIANO is every bit as good (if a bit more off-the-wall), a smidge more clever and two smidges funnier. There's absolutely no reason, from a quality standpoint, that it shouldn't have been just as much the sleeper hit "Wedding" was. It wasn't, of course, and we all know the reason why.

Needless to say, that's a shame, especially when audiences miss out on performances by actors like Paul Sorvino, who manages to raise the always-superb level of his work even a notch higher here, and is priceless in his scenes with Ginette Reno, who appears as his wife.

I really believe the day is not far off when another little picture like MAMBO will come along and break out just as "Wedding" did, overcoming in the process the cultural obstacle that kept predecessors from receiving their due.

In the meantime, it's very much worth our while to seek out all the MAMBO's we can at the indie houses and on video, and spread the word when we find them.

18 out of 22 people found the following review useful:
Glamour and Romance To The Max.....Surrender!, 7 July 2004

Much abuse has been heaped upon this film in users' comments here ("tripe," "hokum," etc.) and, yes, in later years even Marlene herself called it "twash," (along with most of the rest of her movies). But it's gweat twash and, in all fairness, much-loved weepies like "An Affair To Remember" have got nothing on this picture. The fabulousness (that's definitions 1 & 2 in Webster's) of the plot, the emphatic performances, the overblown dialogue and the sheer absurd audacity of full silver service and "dressing for dinner" in a tent in the middle of the Sahara; these are the very things for which you watch such a film. After all, if life was never like this anywhere, at any time, it sure should have been.

The user who suggested the "right mood" is necessary is absolutely correct, and it helps to remember the perspective of audiences of the time who, while the Depression dragged on, desired escapism that bore no resemblance to their real lives. We certainly have our escapist fare today and, believe me, "Spiderman," "The Matrix" and "The Fast and the Furious" are going to look at least as ridiculous - if not more so - after a half-century (if not before). So, please, let's not have any more carping about implausibility.

The aspects that have garnered the most criticism are some of the very elements that make it so much fun, but you must abandon your jaded cynicism and surrender yourself to the experience. I'd never recommend this film to everyone I know, but of those to whom I have done - people I knew could appreciate it - not one has gotten all the way through it without choking back a tear or two (if not outright bawling like a baby).

One thing everyone does seem to agree on is the ravishingly beautiful look of this picture, and they're oh-so-right about that. The DVD from Anchor Bay is particularly stunning - there are scenes that look like they were shot yesterday - so, if you decide to see the film, try to get your hands on a copy of that release.

Incidentally, this was not the first Technicolor picture in the three-strip process (as opposed to the two-strip, which goes back to 1922) shot on location, as one comment said. That honor most likely belongs to "Trail Of the Lonesome Pine," which was shot and released a few months earlier.

12 out of 12 people found the following review useful:
I'm Green (Or Should That Be Blue?) With Envy, 5 July 2004

This is a film about people who have found that "one thing" that Jack Palance talks about in "City Slickers." I've never cared much one way or the other about surfing, but I can appreciate the commitment, passion, artistry, daring and athletic achievement embodied in the denizens of the sport that this film presents, all of it captured in some stunning and bravura cinematography.

The joyous fulfillment and camaraderie radiated by the exuberant folks in this film is infectious. How many people are really fortunate enough to have found a singular, driving passion that becomes central to their entire existence? Too few, I fear. It's something you can't help but envy and - especially when it involves such sublime and spectacular abilities - admire.

Do give this one a try. Unless you're part of the culture this film portrays, you're sure to see (and maybe even feel) some things you never have before.

10 out of 11 people found the following review useful:
If You Get The Chance To See It, Do So, 27 April 2004

I'm glad to see all of the positive comments for this unjustly neglected - and, apparently, largely unknown - made-for-TV movie. Can't imagine why it's not available on home video (or at least on the Mystery Channel or some such).

This whodunnit is presented with style and economy; a lean, mean little thriller, with a prestigious cast that just won't quit. In case you didn't peruse the names, I'll spotlight a few: Janet Leigh, Julie Harris, Walter Pigeon, Keenan Wynn, Barry Sullivan, William Windom, Ed Asner and, of course, Chris George, a solid and dependable actor with screen presence and authority, who was taken from us too soon. Not many made-for-TV movies that weren't big-deal miniseries had casts like this (if any).

Along with these are some players whose names may not be as well-known, but whose talent is as illustrious as those named above, and whose faces will be quite familiar to anyone who was a TV viewer during the late 60's-early 70's. Tim O'Connor, Paul Fix and Joanne Linville deserve honorable mention.

This production is intelligent, witty and literate; indeed, some elements of the plot, dialogue and visuals were pretty strong for TV of the day. At any rate, it's far superior to so many of the tired retreads that pass for mystery-thrillers today (unless you watch the BBC a lot.)

All in all, a nifty picture that deserves to be seen

33 out of 33 people found the following review useful:
Funny, Melancholy, Fascinating, Charming and Totally Genuine, 12 January 2004

I don't know where you'll ever find another film quite like STRANGERS IN GOOD COMPANY (or The Company Of Strangers, as the title appears on the DVD). If you want more from a movie than action, special effects and cliche situations and characters, are willing to be just a bit patient (as life sometimes requires) and, most importantly, understand that every human being is interesting in their own way and has their own story to tell, this film will reward you generously.

Eight women - all senior citizens, except for the driver - are on a small bus traveling through the Canadian countryside. We don't know who they are, or where they're going (though the production notes on the DVD explain it), except that they're making a small detour to see the lakeside cottage at which one of them spent summers in her youth, when the bus breaks down and strands them.

As they set about dealing with their predicament, we come to know these women, and learn that each is a survivor of one or more cruel blows: major calamities such as the Blitz, a bad marriage or the death of a child, or the more quiet calamity of illness and the alienation that can come with old age. To put it another way: life. Mind you, these are not tragic, "damaged" people; it's just that they've experienced the range of ups and downs that any full life contains, and therefore assess their situation as not much more than a temporary inconvenience, coping with it in the most practical of manners: attempting to repair the bus, seeking shelter and food, making sleeping arrangements and, yes, even entertaining themselves and each other, until help can arrive or be found.

In the purest sense, this film is about surviving, and living, which can often be two different things. If there is a "message" here, it's embodied in the moment when several of the women gather on the porch of the abandoned house in which they've taken refuge and, both as a call to anyone who might be within earshot, and as a personal affirmation, shout into the wilderness, "We're here....we're alive!"

The characters and their interaction are so genuine and moving, the effect is almost startling. In the midst of idle chit-chat during a mundane task such as picking berries, long-harbored and deeply felt pain can be revealed and shared and, within moments, the small talk is resumed. This is, of course, not the way such things are handled in major studio movies, but it is the way they often happen in real life, and this - along with the 110% believability of the performances - is what gives these scenes their power.

Both the film and the characters are at once open yet enigmatic. This is not the geriatric version of The Big Chill; questions are left unanswered and issues remain unresolved. Without standard contrived crises and manufactured conflict, what this film delivers is so fascinating simply because it's so real. If you possess even half a brain and an ounce of sensitivity, I can't imagine your finding this group of women anything but the very best of good company.

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