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Nice little film, with two Oriental servants called Tai and Wan... that's a sample of the inspiration that screenwriter Harry Spalding brought to end the trilogy, but as everybody has pointed out it is better than the previous installment. Mental patient Patricia Stanley (sexy South African actress Carole Gray) is the main character this time, a pianist who escapes an asylum only to get mixed up with the Delambres, who now have cells in their manor, where they keep the victims of their experiments with teletransportation. Tai-Wan are in charge of the Delambre mansion, laboratory and prison, and things get ugly but no flies fly around to make them nastier. Enjoy!
Panamanian filmmaker Annie Canavaggio finally released her first feature in 2014, the splendid documentary "Rompiendo la ola", shot in a poor community in the Southern sector of the isthmus of Panama. It is a fine combination of a sports film and direct cinema that shows the hard edges of Panamanian society through its three main characters. The film enters the lives, homes and inner thoughts of Cholito, Deivis and Oli, surfers born and raised in Santa Catalina, three men of African descent who love the thrill of the sea and its surf, and it reveals their hopes and hardships. In the 1980s I had the opportunity to travel all around that zone, doing theater in the communities and became aware of the conditions of poverty in which they lived. The surf was then for the locals, but vessels owned by the rich sailed around the area, as if announcing what was about to come. Today things have changed and, as one of the local boatmen says, it seems they will worsen with the sudden irruption of foreign capital among people of very low income. Cholito, Deivis and Oli are direct witnesses of that transition. Cholito, the oldest of the three, was the first to gain national and international attention for his surfing skills, but as the local and foreign rich competitors planted flags in Santa Catalina, his options vanished. As one Jamaican surfer says, tje sport now seems a game for the whites who, as they did with rock and roll, took surf for themselves and marginalized the "colored people" who created it. But such is life, and it is a fine thing that Annie Canavaggio chose to tell their stories. It has been a long journey in which they have been exposed to privation, elitism and social discrimination. Today young Oli has the opportunity to be sponsored by a firm. But don't take me wrong: the beautiful images by Vicente Ferraz and the action shot by surfer Bolívar Samuel in the water (with the GoPro camera held between his teeth, perhaps making him the first cinematographer to shoot with a "tooth-held" camera) make "Rompiendo la ola" a balanced work, one about a sport, spiced with all I have previously mentioned, as well as reflections and images of fabrication of surfboards, family relations, marketing, love and children and adults riding the waves. A beautiful, highly recommended film work.
Infamous Tarzan movie because of accident suffered by Mike Henry: he was bitten on the chin by Dinky, the chimpanzee playing Cheetah, which was "destroyed" for its action. But it is not as bad as I had been told. It is a welcome and nice, wide-screen change of setting in the Amazonian jungle, where the Ape Man goes after diamond-greedy Rafer Johnson and his bunch of painted mercenaries, all belonging to the ancient Jaguar cult. But as Henry's hair and make-up are in place most of the running time, the plot that could have been resolved in 70 minutes was "spiced" with footage and more footage (quite often scratched) of wild animals, vast views of the jungle, monkey's humor, the Amazon river, more animals, and a never-ending duel between ex-linebacker Henry and decathlon champ Johnson. But in the end the movie is colorful and bearable nonetheless.
Much better than what I expected after reading so much misinformation and moralistic rubbish about it, there are several elements that save "Cuban Rebel Girls" from oblivion. First, of course, it is somehow moving to see it as a product of love (or lust, take your pick), a vehicle conceived by Errol Flynn for his last woman, the 17-year old starlet Beverly Aadland. As it is, it is not bad: he even steps aside to let her be the center of the story that he conceived for her. To reflect on the plot, one has to consider first the second high point of the motion picture: it is a direct and fresh view of the first days of Cuban revolution, shot in Cuba and with the support of the Rebel Army. Those who make fun of the film apparently have no sense of the historic value of moving images, and in this case "Cuban Rebel Girls" contains valuable footage of the year the Cuban revolution triumphed, 1959 images of La Habana, the country side, the rebels, the sugar factories and even a brief moment of country music. In the movie, Flynn plays himself taking a trip to Cuba as a reporter covering the last days of the struggle to overthrow dictator Fulgencio Batista. Simultaneously an American girl (Aadland), whose lover is fighting with the rebels in the island, helps a Cuban girlfriend to take guns to the army. It is a very simple story line, but quite effective, combined with the images of the real "barbudos" (the bearded men, as the rebels were called when they could not shave after spending long time hidden in the mountains). For the project I guess Flynn could not afford top professionals, so he had to make do with his pilot-manager Barry Mahom as director (who in latter days would produce, write or direct sexploitation movies), cinematographer Merrill S. Brody, whose camera set-ups were not always inspired and a cast of non-professional who at least handled their few lines with enthusiasm. A third factor of interest for me is that this was Errol Flynn's last film: whatever you may think of it, as you compare it with his glory days, Flynn really touched my heart and made me smile with his last lines, wishing the best to all the rebels of the world who fight for a better life.
Considering the lack of attention given to this film by both MGM and Cinerama, I was glad to find an Italian DVD release. Both my computer and DVD player are zone-free, so I had no reason not to buy it for living outside of Europe, the more so since until today (July 10, 2015) there has been no release of a restored version. To my surprise the Italian release had an acceptable image quality. One has to admit though, that beyond the complaint for the division lines of the Cinerama projection, the full experience of inventor Fred Waller's system (opposed to Abel Gance's Polyvision) could only be achieved in a cinema with curved screen. On a flat screen, no matter if the motion picture has been "smileboxed" or not, the image is always slightly distorted. So if you had never seen it, be warned of the distortion, the lines dividing the three panels and the lack of restoration. For me, it was as good as in 1962 and I enjoyed it again very much. I did not know there are many persons who think this is a better film than "How the West Was Won", it is probably right: there is no propaganda here, no patriotic hymns and the script is tighter: instead of the story of three generations in "HTWWW" (Karl Malden's, Debbie Reynolds' and George Peppard's), in "TWWOTBG" you only have the story of the two Grimm brothers with three of their fairy tales inserted along the biography. If you expect CGIs instead of George Pal's animation, see another movie, and if not, enjoy his puppets and dragon. The cast, on the other hand, includes various cult players, as Beulah Bondi, Terry-Thomas, Martita Hunt, Ian Wolfe and Oscar Homolka; popular comedians as Jim Backus, Buddy Hackett and Arnold Stang; young stars of the 60s as Yvette Mimieux, Robert Crawford Jr. and Russ Tamblyn, and good lead players: Laurence Harvey, Karlheinz Böhm, Claire Bloom, Barbara Eden and Walter Slezak. Enjoy it again or discover it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It's been quite a time since I saw "Boyhood" and I didn't even feel like saying boo. But today I am convinced that its main achievement as cinema, is having been shot in 12 years, obviously without heavy pressure or anguish, for Richard Linklater had time enough to make a 21-minute short, two features with Jack Black (!), to sequels to "Before Sunrise", a remake of "The Bad News Bears", a feature-length sports documentary, a pilot for a TV series, six episodes for another TV series, and two more features. He was very busy, so I can't help joking a bit and say that it seems he was only waiting for Ellar Coltrane to grow an inch or for Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette getting new grey hair to recruit a crew and add a few more minutes to "Boyhood". For me there was nothing novel or passionate in this story of a dysfunctional family: what impressed me the most was the section dedicated to the alcoholic husband played by Marco Perella, but his case is dismissed with indifference, just as the next husband, a policeman. However I found quite revealing that Linklater does not allude to any of the various political, social or economic crisis that United States went through (in its territory and abroad) for 12 years, since the shooting started, after September 11, 2001. I can understand that the characters live apart from what happens in their country or in the world, since the whole planet seems to live with the back turned on what's going on anywhere. But in the end, the story seems somehow anodyne, for what Linklater (as the master mind) ended up doing was an enclosed film about a self-absorbed society, and not any society, but the one that is our current empire. And I am a bit fed up of watching imperial and Caucasian portraits of broken families, abusive husbands, graduations, first loves, family reunions, etcetera. Maybe something happens and I did not notice it, or maybe this film is for Cinderella fans who can read between the lines the subliminal messages, that, come on, could have been hidden in an 80-minute product that would also show how Ellar Coltrane grew up. The 182 awards and the 160 nominations registered by IMDb prove nothing. Remember what happened to Galileo or poor Robert Altman. It is worth mentioning that, starting with the documentary "Seven Up!" (1964), in which several 7-year-old British kids were interviewed about different topics, director Michael Apted has been revisiting them and shooting every seven years, resulting in the films "7 Plus Seven" (1970), "21 Up" (1977), "28 Up" (1984), "35 Up" (1991), "42 Up" (1998), "49 Up" (2005) and "56 Up" (2012); and that Michael Winterbottom shot "Everyday" (2012) for five years, to record the sentence of his main character in jail, and how it affected the man's physique.
I have just finished watching Marco Berger's "Ausente", and in spite of the Teddy award it won at the Berlin International Film Festival as Best Film with LGBT topic, I confess that all the enthusiasm that I felt when I saw "Plan B" vanished. All the freshness and sensuality of Berger's first motion picture, with actors who seemed to be improvising scenes and lines (or maybe they were really doing it) to give us a sincere reflection on how to reach honest acceptance of our homo-erotic feelings, was here replaced by a flow of contrived, too coldly calculated movements, to create a melodrama (not in the best tango tradition, but more in a soapy middle class mold) which is often more corny than moving. The story of a professor's harassment by his adolescent student, who is trying to seduce his teacher with lies, is slowly displaced by a subplot that pays too much attention to public opinion, prejudice, fear and slander, that is probably more in the mind of the instructor, who in the end is not as transparent as he had thought. Although Berger still favors setting up his camera at the level of men's crotches in underwear while lying in bed, this time those shots seem tamed as he was too much assimilated (perhaps far too much) by the discreet charm of the Argentinean film industry and its frequent pomp (careful, I do not mean the other Argentinean cinema, so independent and liberating and without Ricardo Darín in the leading role, of course!), with sugary music that even includes a little female voice doing "Aaahhh's " Both Carlos Echevarría as the professor and Javier de Pietro as the student are good, given the material they had to work with.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
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.
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.
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 work 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.
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