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|502 reviews in total|
There are many ways to "read" this film: for some it is a poor man's "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre", for others a simple western, to a few an antecedent of "Brokeback Mountain" (and when considering it as such, these two cowboys surely had more sense of humor than the latter couple), the third installment of a Douglas-Walker western trilogy they all are valid, and it also fits in one kind of film that somehow stresses me: "the desert trap film". There are comedies of this type (as "The Gods Must Be Crazy), but I refer to those dramas in which characters are literally trapped in a desert or a snow-covered steppe, where they suffer the inclemency of the weather of these extreme locations during all the running time. In the sub-category "desert", you find, for example, "The King Is Alive", "The Flight of the Phoenix", the Mexican "Viento negro" and even indoors plots as "The Wind"; and in "snow", there are "Quintet", "The Thing" or "Never Cry Wolf". In "Gold of the Seven Saints", Clint Walker and Roger Moore never leave the dry lands in their intent to take a fortune in gold to the town Seven Saints, some kind of nowhere land in the 19th century. During the trip they have some well-written and finely-delivered manly conversations, but for 35 minutes everything is slow and low key until Chil Wills as a "medicine man" enters and delivers action, and later Robert Middleton and Leticia Román in costume add some Mexican chili to the events. There is nothing special about this film, but somehow it works. Walker projects a pleasant personality, while Moore is surprisingly funny as his Irish companion. Gordon Douglas is a director with no following, but I like a few of his works, as the hilarious "Zombies on Broadway", the science-fiction movie "Them!", the off- beat western "Rio Conchos", and now I add this one.
Badly edited from the original 180 minutes version called "L'amante di Paride", what seems to have survived is this 93-97 minute British version, in which the order of the stories was altered, and the original modern-day framing sequence that opened the film and the first segment ("L'amante di Paride", the Helen of Troy story) was dropped. According to Stephen Michael Shearer in his book on Hedy Lamarr, "Beautiful", Warner Brothers bought the rights for distribution in the United States to avoid its exhibition. The studio was producing Robert Wise's "Helen of Troy" and wanted no competition, so Lamarr's motion picture had no American release, in spite of what sources say (including IMDb). There seems to be a lot of confusion about this film (caused even by Lamarr's personal biography, where she mixes things and changes the names of the segments with other movies she made). From what I see (a few posters) it seemed as if in Italy they released two different movies: "L'amante di Paride" with the Greek gods' feast included, telling the Paris-Helen of Troy affair and the war; and as "I cavalieri dell'illusion" (The Knights of Illusion) the full Geneviève de Brabant tale, which even has a separate entry, here in IMDb. This is possible, considering that each segment ran about 60 minutes that could be rounded into a feature with the framing sequences (the modern-day wedding banquet, and the traveling theater company). Also different sources indicate that the music is by Nino Rota (and indeed, without knowing it was him, I recognized a few notes from his symphony used in "Il Gattopardo"), but that copy I saw credits Alessandro Cicognini as composer. Everybody is acting... not particularly well, to put it mildly, although Terence Morgan plays a villain in a convincing manner. It is recorded that Edgar G. Ulmer prepared the production and then directed the Geneviève de Brabant segment, and perhaps one of the framing sequences, and that (after Ulmer's departure) Marc Allégret did the Greek story, and probably the French chapter on Bonaparte and Josephine that ends the original version. It is also a co- production, not a sole project by Cino del Luca. American Victor Pahlen (who was Errol Flynn's partner in the film company they had in Cuba, and producer of Ulmer's "Pirates of Capri"), was in the production since the beginning, and Lamarr ended buying half of it. This is what I gathered from what I searched about the film, but some information many not be correct. It is true that it was a fiasco, but Hedy Lamarr got her money back, of course.
Nicolas Winding Refn rules! I admit that my admiration for Refn is unconditional: the «Pusher» trilogy, «Bronson», «Drive» and «Only God Forgives», which is the cause of my euphoria. Dedicated to Alejandro Jodorowsky, this is a hint that suggests that this is not a realistic action film, and more something in the lines of «El Topo». To the surprise of many, this is a classic tale of revenge with the high and strikingly emotional charge of a Greek tragedy, a Calderonian drama or an Elizabethan play. It is a reflection on parenthood (as well as motherhood of an incestuous nature), in which the defense of the characters' children is the central motivation for the deadly action. «Only God Forgives» is pure cinema refined in 89 minutes (not one of those 180-240 minute pieces of crap that tell us what we have heard a million times), in which only precise words are needed, in which images reign and the structure takes shape as blood hits the audience's brains in its run in and out of their hearts, allowing sentiments to add to the cathartic effect. Ryan Gosling (who has as many detractors as sycophants) is an example of restraint and control in almost all the motion pictures I have seen him in. It curiously works very well, for those traits seem intrinsic to the archetype he embodies, that of the modern Caucasian and English-speaking man, completely stunned by a bastard world dominated by those of his kind, the present-day savages of the North, until the times come for those living in the South, or we decide to live as human beings in peace all over the planet. Vithaya Pansringarm is the old Thai enforcer (Thailand and Apichatpong Weerasethakul are quite fashionable these days, what can you do, you have to forgive Refn for that), without Chow Yun Fat's syrupy charm; and Kristin Scott Thomas, looking badly aged, cheap and not glamorous, is the bitchiest mother of all bitchy mothers since the days of María Elena Marqués as the legendary «La llorona» (1960), Bette Davis in «The Anniversary» (1968) or Anjelica Huston in «The Grifters» (1990). I just hope Refn knows when it is enough and time to retire in good form, and not end his days doing what John Ford and others did in old age. Enjoy Mothers' Day watching superb «Only God Forgives» with mama.
Exciting court-intrigue, costume drama, propelled to almost greatness by Nino Rota's beautiful score. I was impressed with its tempo and enjoyed the action-filled scenes, and even when the scenes were loaded with dialogs, they were delivered with passion by the fine cast. It is one of those movies in which you do not know who directed what, and where you find Edgar G. Ulmer co-directing with another filmmaker, in this case Italian Giuseppe Maria Scotese (although each artist was given the sole director credit in the copies of their respective countries). It is interesting that both men had backgrounds in the art field, Ulmer being a production designer early in his career, and Scotese starting as a painter and exhibiting his works. The richly detailed sets and costumes, as well as the lush cinematography are more impressive being this a black and white production, and it helped very much filming in Italy, using real and imposing buildings of the past and a majestic ship. Although Louis Hayward was no longer the dashing young man of «Anthony Adverse» (1936) or «The Saint in New York» (1938), first screen outing of the Simon Templar, he was still the agile action man as Captain Sirocco, the swashbuckling alter ego of the effeminate and ironic Count Amalfi. To Hayward's fine characterizations, Massimo Serato effectively counterpoints as the villainous Baron Holstein, the chief of police who wants to seize power of the kingdom of Napoli, ruled by weak queen Marie Caroline, played by Binnie Barnes. Mariella Lotti is the love interest and Mikhail Rasumny provides the comic elements of the plot. Recommended.
Among the Cuban films that I have seen lately, «La emboscada» has highly interesting dramatic elements contained in the screenplay by Ernesto Daranas and Ania Molina, from an original idea by Alejandro Gil. From the cinematic point of view it is a correct work, even discreet, in tone with the plot about three soldier that survive an ambush and are hiding to stay alive; although a bit of a "poetic flight" could have been welcome in the flashbacks, giving them a different visual treatment. However, what stands out in this film with a small cast and a low budget is its portrait of a faceless and nameless war, its bet on an almost metaphoric tale without forcing situations or interpretations. As it proposes this equation, the battle becomes a "civil war" of sorts, the story of a confrontation of stances within the frame of the war film, with quite a fair balance in the description of the opposing forces. The dialogues are rarely excessive: they are precise (except during flashbacks, where exalted emotions and melodramatic lines sometimes ran out of control). In the battlefield, there is a generation struggle between the idealists who blindly embraced the military structures, its iron discipline code, its rules completely out of touch with the new voices, and a younger generation that resents and wants to confront expired values, but is lost of words: the young men only have on their sides their honesty, their transparency and the will to transgress that code in order to save their own lives, and in that brave move, to save others' too. In the center of the plot there are three young men, without monopolizing screen time: first, there is Javier (Caleb Casas), the young soldier who manages to make a change on himself and affect the others, with an act of self- determination, a proactive decision that leads to the resolution, an action seen --I guess-- from the military point of view, as betrayal, cowardice, desertion, insurrection or any of those terms the men in uniform use against everything that challenges their code. Then there is Ernesto (Leonardo Benítez), the "prodigal" son who migrated and comes back to tell his military father what he meant in his own formation, serving an "imperialist army" in Iraq. Third, there is Camilo (Alejandro Cuervo), the son of the strictest of the older soldiers, a young man who turns out to be a rebel, a radical and a homosexual. The three of them, in their own way, show to their superiors the kind of world they want to live in. Finally there is Tony (Armando Miguel Núñez), a naive young man who becomes a victim, with no time to even become conscious of the stupidity of the deeply rooted power force. If this is not a reflection of what is going on in Cuba, tell me what is. However, it is Cuba, but at the same time it is not. It is a universal tale about human condition and its evolution in the whole wide world, that shows how the military has evolved from the force that defended the food of the tribes, to criminals. Besides a little boasting here and there by the cinematographer, I only have one big objection: the music. And not because the music by Juan Antonio Leyva and Magda Rosa Albán is bad, but because it is more often out of place than in cue. Quite the contrary, all performers are very good, especially Caleb Casas, Tomás Cao and Patricio Wood, who are the players in the core of the action.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A verbose supernatural melodrama with an agenda: to warn us spectators of the "dangers" of occultism and to avoid practicing spiritualism. It includes a long, wordy scene where a spiritualist leader explains the excellences and virtues of this practice, its connection to all religions, or the link between good spirits and classical music. But outside of those dark rooms and into the house of a middle-class Mexican family, the story that is told is far more interesting than all the proselytizing, or the sessions with Ouijas and fainting mediums: a young man asks his parents to mortgage their home to open a crop dusting business. He does so after the party of their silver wedding anniversary, when the father had finally given his wife the title deeds as a present. Against what she was warned during the first séance we see, the mother, who is a domineering, manipulative and ambitious woman, tells her husband to do what their only child says. Trouble follows, and pretty soon the mother is asking the Devil for money, bringing tragedy to her family. Using the W.W. Jacobs' tale "The Monkey's Paw" to round up the script, in its scariest moments the movie sometimes made me remember Maurice Tourneur's "La main du Diable" and Robert Florey's "The Beast with Five Fingers", but quite often it is the typical family melodrama with tearful histrionics the Mexicans cherish. Unfortunately the script takes so much time to give lectures about spiritualism, that there is not much left for the "real thing", and the final act is incredibly fast. The copy by VCI Entertainment in Spanish is very good, but Augusto Benedico (as the priest) has disappeared from the prologue. The movie begins when the husband goes to church to tell the priest what has happened. Benedico is only seen in a brief close-up that dissolves to the past, as the husband narrates what happened to his family. Director Benito Alazraki, who made an auspicious debut with the motion picture "Raíces" (Roots) in 1954, was no stranger to horror. He had made before (also for producer Guillermo Calderón) the cult classic "Muñecos infernales" (The Curse of the Doll People) that went for pure horror, but in "Espiritismo" he was subject to the Calderón's fore-mentioned agenda.
Fine low-budget action drama that pits the moralistic urban view of "hillbillies" against the philosophy of people from the mountain (in this case of Irish ancestry) who live by simple rules. Robert Mitchum plays Luke Doolin, a stubborn man who is a war defector and also in charge of the illegal moon-shining business run by his family for 250 years. On top of this he has against him a ruthless intermediary who wants to control the business in the area, including the county where the Doolins live and operate. I found most interesting the way innocent lives were taken up to a point: in our times, both Luke's singer girlfriend and his brother would have been killed in the middle of act 2. Sandra Knight, James Mitchum and Keely Smith are convincing in first big roles.
«Le salaire de la peur» has not aged very well. In spite of the fact that the solid performances by the four leading actors and Armand Thirard's cinematography remain effective (and in spite of the criteria of the Criterion company, which has become some sort of "film Bible" for many unbaptized in the immensely wide scope of world cinema), the flaws are more evident now. To start with the 39- minute first act is quite hard to follow, especially for a Spanish- speaking person like me: in the novel the action takes place in Guatemala (Central America) , but where does this movie take place, where is this place called Las Piedras that by 1953 still has creoles talking with Spaniards' accents, where indigenous dress as Andean people or undress like Amazonian tribes? The closest town to Las Piedras seems to be Caracas (capital of Venezuela, South America) as seen in a sign of plane fares, or it could be Tegucigalpa (capital of Honduras, Central America) according to a dialog: you take your pick. All this mishmash is possible, yes, but at least I could not deal with the endless parade of offensive "Latino" stereotypes, from the taxi driver who stops his car precisely in the middle of a mud pond, the barefoot venal black immigrant officer or the sweaty and greasy owner of "El Corsario Negro". Then take act two, which as Georges Arnaud's novel is also the weakest dramatic section of the movie, since the characters have been well established in the first act. So this is mainly a block of action sequences in which the nitroglycerin-loaded trucks go from one obstacle to the next, to reach their goal, the oil field in flames. Admittedly a couple of the pieces are real gems (the long sequence of the rotten-wood platform or the solution to take a huge boulder out of the road), but it is just that, a chain of obstructions and how to deal with them. The last act centers on the persistence of the two surviving truck drivers, leading to a surprise ending that seems too moralistic after everything we have seen before, when all the characters we have seen since the beginning deserve a similar conclusion. As for the critic of American companies in foreign lands, today that is no news and it can also be said of European and Asian enterprises in those alien territories, as well as the local companies: they all give similar ruthless treatment to workers (and the land itself). This is the kind of commercial "macho movie" that asks for a remake among the action film crowd. There have been a couple of those and a few imitations, the more remarkable being William Friedkin's «Sorcerer» (1977), in which he wisely reduced the running time from the original 142 minutes to 121.
Quite good werewolf movie, without those ugly and tacky transformations a la "An American Werewolf in London" and "The Howling". This time the writers added a different approach to the legend of the wolf men and women, providing a fine line in their half human-half animal essence that determines their behavior, giving them dignity and royal lineage, and proposing a new era of peace and less violence in their interaction with humans. The usual annoying elements that you find in commercial films are also here: editing striving for effect, too much music and a romantic musical video as some sort of plot point, when the young leading characters (a female "loup garou" and a young man) make public their attraction. But this is not the typical product providing cheap thrills. It is a fine genre motion picture, with good performances by Olivier Martínez and the young cast.
When I was 7 years old I saw the ads of «Tamango» in the press and the cinemas as I passed them by, but when I was old enough to see it (it was classified "for adults only") it had vanished from sight. Now that I finally watched it, when it was finished I was in awe. What a good film! Of course it does help that the final 10 minutes are simultaneously tense and poetic leading to a highly dramatic ending. But six decades after its original release, it is still a motion picture of strong content and great visual impact (although the copy I saw is not in the original 2.35:1 aspect ratio and the colors have faded). Released in 1958 it is an adaptation of Prosper Mérimée's 1829 homonymous novella (before he wrote his most famous «Carmen»). Significant changes were made for this screen version, but the final plot is also set in the early 19th century. In the coast of Guinea, warrior Tamango (Alex Cressan) and a sizable group of men and women have been sold to Reinker, a Dutch slave trader (Curt Jürgens) and they board the ship Esperanza that sets sails to Cuba, where they will be sold again, this time in the slave market. On route the violent conflict between the Caucasian sailors and the black slaves intensifies, the interracial sexual liaison between Reinker and a beautiful African woman named Ayché (Dorothy Dandridge) breaks, and Tamango leads a mutiny against the slavers. In the interpretation by director John Berry and his fellow scriptwriters, Ayché and Tamango are no longer lovers, he does not sell her but the two are victimized, and instead of surviving in Kingston the warrior fights until the end. These script changes turn Tamango and Ayché into icons of racial struggle, while the sincere, intense passion Reinker feels for Ayché is one of the first screen recognitions of the Europeans' desire for Africans. In the time it was made «Tamango» must have been some kind of a political and educational «audiovisual pamphlet», invaluable for those who were involved in the fight for the civil rights of Afro-descendants in the United States and elsewhere. No wonder it was banned in a few countries, and surely not only for the Reinker-Ayché relationship. I saw the English-spoken version: it becomes a bit hard in the first scenes to accept Dandridge as an African girl, with her American accent, but one gets used to it and thankfully she only has the necessary dialogue. Cressan, a medical student from Martinique that only made this film, is a magnificent emblem of African male beauty; and Jürgens, as usual, is fine as the villain with a soft heart. Director Berry was black-listed during the witch-hunting craze led by Senator Joseph McCarthy, and, after directing the cult film «He Ran All the Way», he went to Europe as Joseph Losey, Cy Endfield and Charles Chaplin. Berry also directed the romantic comedy «Claudine» about a couple of African-American workers, but he remained in France until his death.
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