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The original poster of this film read in big characters: "Behind the blindfold is the greatest security trap ever devised!" These formulaic promotional campaigns can kill a movie, as in this case, an above average comedy drama that today is almost forgotten. Better than one could expect, considering that Philip Dunne as a filmmaker was not among the best visual stylists from New York, "Blindfold" benefits from his talent for words and structure. He was a very good scriptwriter and for this comedy he wrote a fine script with clever dialogue (with the collaboration of theater instructor and writer W.H. Menger) for an above average mystery thriller based on a novel by Lucille Fletcher, the author of the famous radio plays "Sorry, Wrong Number" and "The Hitch Hiker". Rock Hudson might not have been as solid an actor as others who in the early 60s were in similar films (as Cary Grant in "Charade" or Gregory Peck in "Arabesque" and "Mirage"), but he excelled in romantic comedies and there's a good amount of elements from this sub-genre in "Blindfold", sharing screen time and space with Claudia Cardinale, who also knew how to be very funny. As a matter of fact I prefer Hudson paired with beautiful brunette leading ladies of European origin (Gina Lollobrigida, Paula Prentiss, Leslie Caron, Elizabeth Taylor, Jean Simmons and Claudia) than with Doris Day or Julie Andrews. Recommended.
The Last of Robin Hood (2013)
Time Changes Things
Not worst than any other biographical motion picture produced by commercial American cinema, and certainly not up to the highest achievements in biographical movies made by this industry. But it is done not only with affection but with respect, even to that "moral majority" that causes so much despair and sadness all over the world, with its stern point of view that changes whenever the wind blows. And above it all the film is graced with very good performances by Kevin Kline as Errol Flynn, Dakota Fanning as Beverly Aadland and especially Susan Sarandon, splendidly restrained as Florence Aadland, a role that Shelley Winters would have turned into a thunderous bitch. I liked it and enjoyed it very much maybe because I like every now and then a bit of television, or maybe because I have always liked Errol Flynn, an actor that was so incredulous of his own talent, when as a matter of fact he was a wonderful performer of action and gallantry expressions.
The Time Travelers (1964)
Travels with Aunt Zsa Zsa
Danish filmmaker Ib Melchior is a good example of a man's determination to entertain audiences with stories that played with his vision of things to come (in the early 1960s), but the quality of his k only moderately justifies the effort. He was a counter-intelligence volunteer for the Americans during II World War, relocated to the United States, and at the peak of his career wrote for television series and science-fiction films (including a couple of contributions to the "red menace" trend, and "Death Race 2000", "Reptilicus" and "Robinson Crusoe on Mars") and directed two features. Considering the poor results of "The Angry Red Planet" that he made in 1959, "The Time Travelers" is his greatest achievement: the film has a lot of admirers, but it is quite telling of his capacity as director. Compare it with Edgar G. Ulmer's "Beyond the Time Barrier", a drama with a similar plot, made four years before with half the budget of "Travelers", and one can perceive the difference between an inspired filmmaker as Ulmer and a less gifted director as Melchior. More akin to "Queen of the Outer Space" (1958) without the campiness, "The Time Travelers" is also visually strident (cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond was still years away from the mastery he demonstrated in a long list of classics, including "McCabe & Mrs. Miller", "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" and "Deliverance"), the rhythm is pompous and slow, and leading man Philip Carey is as good an actor as Zsa Zsa Gabor. His character of a scientist (or the way he plays it, I really cannot tell) is too much of a ruffian, and he does not have much support from Steve Franken's comic relief interventions, Delores Wells' "Playmate of the Month" attitude, or Dennis Patrick's expressions to convey a dogmatic soldier. Merry Anders and Preston Foster are wasted, and only John Hoyt and Joan Woodbury maintain the impassivity and good judgment that their parts as regents demand. The script is one of those that give too many explanations while telling something far from original and, although it has occasional "intelligent" sparkles here and there (as the ending) to please the science-fiction audience, it does not prevent the film from being an average product.
The Amazing Transparent Man (1960)
The Amazing Talkative Short Feature
Not as bad as I have read. It always surprises me how Ulmer managed to come up with different camera set-ups considering his budgets and time tables, allowing the editors to add some rhythm to the films he directed. The main problem with "The Amazing Transparent Man", in my opinion, is not Ulmer's direction. He was always resourceful even in the worst conditions, and signed quite a few good movies, as "People on Sunday", "The Strange Woman", "Strange Illusion", "The Black Cat", "The Naked Dawn", "Detour", "Ruthless" and my favorite, "Bluebeard". The problem is Jack Lewis' unfocused script, a too verbose tale about power madness, materialism, lust, raw evil and the danger of atomic experimentation. Everybody here can't stop talking, even when the running time is so short. Surely the script should have had 30 pages full of dialogues and more dialogues. Thankfully it is over fast.
An original title may be the only saving grace of "Reptilicus", but somehow it works subliminally on one's head... I can't forget the beast's expressions, there are at least two shots when it shows a strange sad grimace, although the origin of this creature is so weird that one can hardly develop sympathy or any other kind of emotion for it, as it often happens with film monsters. The character of the American general is not a very pleasant fellow, but the filmmakers put the weight of 70% of their movie on his shoulder, since the engineer does not do much and the professor is not only too old but also a cardiac patient... Then there is a bit of comic relief, two daughters that add nothing to the plot, a little travelogue of Copenhagen, a musical number, two different scores, and beautiful Miss Germany 1958 playing the leading lady in the American version. No more choices. Strange bad film, but somehow unforgettable. Maybe it has to do with poor Reptilicus. When I see things like this, that needed more than its two-cent budget I wonder why they made it.
That Man: Peter Berlin (2005)
Homophobia has always been the first obstacle for many persons to enter the world of "gay icon" Peter Berlin, and now it has the same effect on common viewers to watch -not to mention appreciate- the documentary "That Man: Peter Berlin". Second, the perception of what Polish-born baron Armin von Hoyningen-Huene did to himself in the 1970s (that is, creating a character called Peter Berlin, becoming a fixed figure in the streets of San Francisco and taking himself many erotic photographs, among other things) as the sole effect of narcissism or exhibitionism, can also dissuade many to watch this motion picture. Surprisingly, Berlin emerges as all that and as someone more interesting, a richer personality and a complex character. I belong to a generation after his, but I had the opportunity to live the moment when Peter Berlin became a sensation among homosexuals (mostly in the Occident and in the North hemisphere), a historic moment when the fight for the civil rights of all of us who had sexual orientations different from the "official behavior" became more radical, and helped us to define what fronts of our existences needed strategies of defense. In that context Berlin made himself an object of conceptual art, if you will, a performing artist of the notion of sexual desire as an act of observation rather than interaction in "events" (although he had his share of those activities through his pornographic films, and his encounters through his intense social life). Today he declares that he became a sort of abstemious sensual machine that rarely had sex with anyone, and preferred to have permanent relationships. For someone who was not only extremely handsome when free from the demands of his Berlin character, but also successful, travelled and sought after by Richards, Warhol, Mapplethorpe and other avant-garde artists, it is quite moving to hear him talk about the painful aspects of his life, about his difficult journey, from the loss of his father in II World War to the struggles in post-war Europe, the abuse of substances of all kinds, and the disappearance of many friends, including two partners. Although this may seem a bit frivolous on my part, I need to comment that I found strange and rare that most of the times director Jim Tushinski deliberately abstained from exposing Peter Berlin's bare penis, which was copiously displayed in his photographs and --apart from his brainwas the actor's most prominent "source of inspiration" in his work. Otherwise, "That Man: Peter Berlin" is a fine work, a testament of one exhilarating time in the evolution of sexual mores and of one of its more prominent figures.
The Brigand of Kandahar (1965)
Hammer Film returned to India (at Elstree Studios) with this production, but this time the project lacked the punch "The Stranglers of Bombay" (1959) had. It is a moral tale about ethnic pride, patriotism, military honor and love, but surprisingly it lacks passion. While John Gilling handled the story with vivid action scenes, as he did in previous adventure films he made for Hammer, his rather literate script proved too ambitious to be fully developed in 78 minutes. The previous Hammer attempt to describe India under British rule was a darker story by American scriptwriter David Zelag Goodman, dealing with evil followers of goddess Khali, but in this occasion Gilling directly entered the political field and added an adultery subplot with passable results. On the acting side, while Ronald Lewis is at his usual adequate efficiency level as hero, Oliver Reed is bland and noisy in the role of a ruthless rebel chief, easily overshadowed by Yvonne Romain as his wicked sister. (As she had left for Hollywood to work with Samuel Fuller, beautiful "Stranglers" actress Marie Devereux is sorely missed here). Gilling would turn out his best works for Hammer a year later, when the remarkable "The Plague of the Zombies" and "The Reptile" were released.
Il figlio di Cleopatra (1964)
Very Good Historical Drama
I was also pleasantly surprised with this meticulously staged production, made in the wake of Joseph L. Mankiewicz's "Cleopatra", the legendary Fox historical spectacle for which no money was spared to bring a visually rich motion picture to the screen. This tale of El Kebir (or Cesarion, the son of Cleopatra and Julius Caesar) leading rebel Egyptian tribes against a tyrannical Roman governor is mostly an outdoors action drama, and whatever is set in interiors does not require lavishly rich sets and decoration since the scenes take place in desert tents and public officers' houses. Add location shooting in Egypt, hundreds of extras and you have a typical 1960s wide-screen and color adventure drama. Against what I have read about Mark Damon's performance he is equally fit as a handsome action leader (not precisely a mythological demigod, but a freedom fighter) and as a more complex character than the usual muscle-man fighting evil queens and emperors. There are also more interesting characters (even if they fit the usual stereotypes of right and wrong doers), played by an excellent cast of Italian and Egyptian actors; and firm and straight direction by Ferdinando Baldi. What is unfortunately lacking is chemistry between Damon and leading lady Scilla Gabel, as Livia, the Roman governor's daughter who falls for the dark-haired and green-eyed prince of the desert: their interaction is simply another element of the plot, since there is no passion or romantic energy in their scenes. Carlo Rustichelli's score is a plus, providing the romantic touch lacking in their performances, and adding a dimension reminiscent of the European westerns, with a melancholic trumpet leading the main theme. Watch it, it is quite enjoyable.
A Fine Pair in Absurdist Comedy
After so many years I have at last watched "Move" again, and my first impression that it is a weird funny comedy has not changed. Released on DVD (although not in its original wide-screen format) in 2015, the package includes its trailer and it is quite obvious that in 1970 20th Century Fox did not know how to promote it. Far from the 1960s romantic comedy formula, Fox did not come up with an original campaign to handle the eccentricity and strangeness of many of the scenes and images the plot describes. "Move" is an absurdist comedy that makes irreverent jokes on social stratification, authorities and married life. Though a crazy product of its times (from the company that brought that same year "Myra Breckinridge" and "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls") it is not a harsh confrontational story, but a gentle tale, treating its points in a light and comic way. Based on a tight script that never loses its cohesion, the plot follows writer Hiram Jaffe (Elliott Gould) through situations as he tries to move from one apartment to another, an action that also can be interpreted as his attempt at moving up a level, pressured by his wife Dolly (Paula Prentiss). He has to face his creative crisis, his sex life and his paranoia. He is about to leave behind his old quarter and most probably his usual activities, as walking out other people's dogs to make ends meet, and he is definitely afraid of "moving", imagining (or not) all kinds of difficulties and obstacles. The production had an inspired casting, pairing Gould and Prentiss, an ideal couple for the 1970s that surely would have developed into a fine act in other comedies: there's good chemistry between them, they handle the comedy aspects very well, and Prentiss even adds a touch of humor in her single dramatic moment, that fits the whole concept of absurdity by novelist-scriptwriter Joel Lieber. If I have any complaint (apart from Prentiss' excessive make-up) it is Stuart Rosenberg's direction, who maybe was not the best choice to film a screenplay that easily changes from slapstick to verbal comedy, from Brechtian estrangement to a chase on horseback. Although I sometimes felt a too heavy handling of a few scenes (as Prentiss' dramatic monologue), Rosenberg was a professional and did a respectable job.
Club sándwich (2013)
Love the One You're With
Another good film by Fernando Eimbcke about youngsters' life experiences, on the opposite side of Larry Clark's movies in terms of explicitness, or any other silly, boisterous film about male and female adolescents "in heat", wanting to lose their virginity. Eimbcke's young people Héctor (Lucio Giménez Cacho Goded) and Jazmín (Danae Reynaud) are rather deprived of what is commonly assumed as social grace, they are a bit on the overweight side and not very expressive (though surprisingly Héctor is quite direct about his need, and Jazmín is able to perform a pelvic dance as any sexy rumbera of yesterday): maybe it is their Catholic upbringing (not mentioned, but sensed), the dominant mother (in contrast to the only father figure seen on screen: an invalid old man) or those peculiar, uptight behavior patterns we tend to associate with middle class, that all make Héctor and Jazmín so vulnerable in their search for sexual discovery. A welcome film that gives space to those unpopular adolescents who are usually looked down on by their peers.