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3 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Self-consciously arty REFLECTIONS with only a mild payoff, 26 May 2008

Sometimes it pays to have low expectations. Rest assured, I was not expecting a lot from this movie, since the reviews I had read of it were often less-than-complimentary & that of a movie beneath the talents & pedigrees of all involved. I put this movie in & just let it go on. Final analysis: Yes, the high standards of cast, director & source outweigh the execution, but maybe those who have castigated the movie only watched it once, then threw it away. A second viewing might change their minds & maybe even mine.

Many people think REFLECTIONS was miscast, but I actually think the actors were matched to their parts just fine. We can only imagine how Montgomery Clift would have been as Penderton, but Marlon Brando gives somewhat of a rough approximation. In real life, perhaps we cannot imagine him being married to Elizabeth Taylor, but at least it is to Liz's credit that she insist Marlon be cast for Major Penderton. He was in the middle of a creative & box-office slump at the time, with many people thinking he was wasting his talents & making some movies just for the quick paycheck. I would venture to say this was probably his most substantial part in years, and if the movie's other components had been better-thought-out, people would have thought the same.

As for Liz, her pseudo-erotic role as Mrs. Penderton is mostly another day at the office for her. After winning a second Oscar for VIRGINIA WOOLF, Liz apparently still found good parts hard to come by & it seems this one was a role she could have done in her sleep (though her Southern accent is quite well-done). With the surprising amount of nudity for a film made in 1967, Liz indeed has one such scene, but as has been pointed out before, it was done by a double. The reason for this is probably because her drastically fluctuating figure made it unfeasible. The Production Code had been severely weakened by this time, but I am still surprised they let the movie pass with the nudity intact, even if it is mostly from rear & side views. I am sure if the movie had been released a year later with the new rating system, an R would not have been unreasonable.

The supporting cast is mostly left in the dust by the marquee value & histrionics of Brando & Taylor. Brian Keith again suffers from a "phoning in" syndrome with his Colonel Langdon, and makes you wonder if Julie Harris as his rather insane wife Alison is henpecking him to no end. That said, Harris does very well with her rather thankless role, especially with a major plot point involving her character (the "garden shears" incident) only talked about in passing, diluting its impact. If Liz had not have been the "STAR", Julie could have outdone her for "grande dame" theatrics.

Probably the character who suffers the most in a thin characterization is Private Williams. Robert Forster does what he can with a mostly wordless role & pretty much skulks about the movie, voyeuristically watching things unfold. Even when he is a part of the movie's main action (as in his nude horseback riding scenes, which are again done from a distance), he does not appear to affect it directly. When he meets his fate at the movie's end, you wind up knowing little about Private Williams than you did coming in. Warner Brothers was "introducing" Forster as a new find, but this was some role to do it with.

Director John Huston always considered REFLECTIONS to be a favorite film of his, but I would gather he thinks that way of the film that could have been made from it. Maybe he was too hamstrung by Carson McCullers' somewhat unfilmable text & the result was a little too haphazard in the narrative department. The ending in particular is one that has come under major criticism. It is one thing to leave more questions than answers for dramatic effect, but with REFLECTIONS, I imagine it was more a case of not having much more to do with the action, so they just abruptly ended it. The schizophrenic camera movement & Liz pulling off one of the longest, loudest screams this side of Fay Wray does not help matters at all. As a gifted, award-winning screenwriter himself, I would think maybe John Huston could have done a better job at the screenplay than those who did originally. But that is another thing we as the audience can only ponder in retrospect.

His original decision to mute out the colors for the film was grudgingly accepted by Warners, and was released to theaters that way initially. But when audiences complained about the cinematography, a normally-colored print was issued thereafter. The DVD release of REFLECTIONS restores Huston's "colorless" vision with a golden amber tone to the proceedings that, in effect, was a brave experiment, but I can clearly understand audiences' tepid response to it. Artyness is one thing, but when you lack a payoff for it, more harm is done than good.

Final thoughts: A failed experiment to be sure, REFLECTIONS IN A GOLDEN EYE still had plenty of good things going for it. But whether it was because of script or production problems, the final result is not much better than average.

13 out of 17 people found the following review useful:
Not a total dog, but still not even half as good, 17 December 2006

I remembered seeing the advertisement for this movie at my local theater when it came out. But I was unaware of the nightmare it was to film it & release it; all I did know was that it was in & out of the theater faster than COOL AS ICE. I had no idea this movie even existed until I read James Robert Parish's book FIASCO, which has a chapter on the making of TOWN & COUNTRY...and which, rest assured, is more funny & believable than what shows up on the screen.

After searching relatively high & low to find this movie (it was released on DVD, but logically, stores do not exactly keep a copy on hand), I watched it knowing about its history & that chances are, I would likely want to throw things at the screen. I am glad to say I made it through the first viewing alive, but will start by saying that no, this movie is not a winner in the slightest. Yet is it an all-around creative bomb? Not so fast.

Starting to film without a complete script was the oldest mistake in the book & they made it. Yet while it may have been a patchwork effort without much rhyme or reason, some lines were funny & rather inspired (most of them coming from Garry Shandling, who almost walks away with the movie, such as it is). Maybe having mature, veteran actors mouth some of the more scatological dialogue (as if this was supposed to be a senior's version of American PIE) was not wise, but that is often funny to watch in itself. Diane Keaton's line near the end, "Is there any women in this room you haven't slept with?", could easily be what audiences have been wondering for years.

The only thing the script missed was continuity & structure, and all that showed on the screen, resulting in a film that looked & acted choppy, with many characters played by big names being reduced to glorified cameos, making you wonder if there is a lot left on the cutting room floor (but we cannot blame the editor for all that, seeing as how they did not have much to work with).

The producers should have been well aware that working with Warren Beatty, a famously noncommittal perfectionist, was not going to be clear sailing. Part of (if not all) the script problems can be laid at his door, since he kept insisting on changes to the dialogue, taking up time & (most obviously) money. And of course, Warren was in his early 60s when he made this movie, playing the same old Casanova he always did. Audiences, most especially the young people who make up a large part of who goes to the movies, are not going to buy that anymore, or are unwilling to try. The studio should have saw this in the beginning & realized the chances of a box office success were slim to none, and thus rein in the budget before it went haywire.

After reading Parish's book & seeing just how things went bad with TOWN & COUNTRY, I rather think a movie about the making of a movie like TOWN & COUNTRY would have been better (and with all the same actors). What went on behind the scenes was funny & screwball in itself, and most of all, it was not even scripted at all. There was potential for a movie like TOWN & COUNTRY, but if a script had been agreed on before the cameras started rolling, then the financial fallout would not have been so large. As it remains now, it is one of the biggest box-office duds in Hollywood history, and the chances of it ever turning a profit are almost nonexistent (just think about inflation).

Final thoughts: For what it was worth, the actors gave it their best shot with this movie, never once placing tongue firmly in cheek with their parts (though, by all accounts, that would have improved things). I am not sure if anyone of them knew they were making something special.

A good portion of the script was actually funny, but whenever it tried to get serious & make some kind of statement about infidelity & morality, it went downhill from there. Even the much-bandied-about ending is so artificial & predictable, you can see it coming from a mile away. More of a cop-out & a feeling of "Let's just finish this thing already!"

Most of the people involved in making this movie have survived professionally, but only time will tell how Warren Beatty fares (that is, if he makes another movie again). Hopefully, the TOWN & COUNTRY incident awoke him to the fact he needs to finally revise (or abandon altogether) his stock character if he ever wants to work regularly & be taken seriously again.

14 out of 17 people found the following review useful:
What "so bad it's good" really means!, 15 July 2005

Usually when a film is hailed as the above description, it has to be considered watchable enough to enjoy the film's ineptitude. Some films like this are bad, but to watch them would be asking a whole lot of the viewer. LOST HORIZON certainly does not fit that last description because while CITIZEN KANE it is not, it certainly does not deserve to be trashed.

By the time LOST HORIZON came along, the movie musical was already considered a dead genre, save for the occasional import from Broadway that actually turned out well (OLIVER! & CABARET come immediately to mind). However, the age of the musical where songs were written especially for the movie had long been buried. That did not matter to producer Ross Hunter, who always was a safeguard of Old Hollywood even after the advent of the MPAA allowed for movies to be made of subjects that the studios would not have touched with a ten-foot pole. Hunter may have succeeded in bringing back old-fashioned soap operas with the Douglas Sirk movies, but as THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE showed with its original songs that paled in comparison to the classics it stood alongside (well, almost), the musical was perhaps not a genre in need of a revival.

You certainly could have fooled Hunter, who went full-steam ahead with his musicalization of a property that should have been left alone to begin with. Casting actors with little to no musical training & badly dubbing them was bad enough, but choosing a project that worked best in its original format was double trouble. That is certainly not to fault Burt Bacharach & Hal David's music, which is fine enough, though certainly not up to par with their Dionne Warwick spectaculars. But you get the idea that maybe even they were doubtful of this project's bankability. Supposedly the film led to the break-up of their previously infallible partnership, as well as Hunter's film career (he mostly worked for TV afterwards).

Apparently, Hollywood likes to keep its megaflops very secret because LOST HORIZON has not been seen much since its theatrical debut, and has not even made it onto VHS, let alone DVD in the U.S. (I found my copy courtesy of eBay). But if even Ed Wood's hilariously bad movies can be released & enjoyed by people even for all the wrong reasons, then certainly LOST HORIZON can. So I hope that Columbia Pictures can find it in their hearts to bring this movie back into circulation so we can enjoy it (even genuinely because it appears some people actually did). Heck, if only for the camp value, it would be a surefire hit. With CHICAGO & MOULIN ROUGE having indicated the musical is making a comeback, then it would be good to have LOST HORIZON out on the market again to educate people in how not to make one. But it sure is hell of a lot of fun along the way.

White Dog (1982)
20 out of 26 people found the following review useful:
Sometimes the harshest subjects require a no-holds-barred approach; whether you care to take the journey is your decision, 15 July 2005

As someone who was raised to abhor racism & any discrimination for that matter, maybe there is some truth to the idea that a person's beliefs (whether questionable or not) all begin with how they are raised. This could very well transfer to the animal kingdom if WHITE DOG is any indication.

Just from reading the synopsis of the film, I was prepared for a movie that would not be making its points subtly, but rather pulling no punches whatsoever. Director Samuel Fuller was always known for telling it like it is, as well as maintaining his independence from the Hollywood mainstream. At first, Paramount had intended to distribute this movie after owning the rights to Romain Gary's story for years. However, I can guess that the powers that be were still very afraid of the adverse reaction WHITE DOG was likely going to generate, mainly by people who either had not seen the movie, or had misunderstood it. That was why Paramount pulled out before the film's American release, and to this day, it has not been seen in our theaters.

It is thus easily understood why Fuller never made another American film (to which I say, good for him!) because even as liberal as we Americans often claim to be, sometimes a certain subject such as that portrayed in WHITE DOG hits a little too close to home. Fuller dared to talk about racism (a problem still alive & well even decades after the advent of civil rights) without any sugarcoating whatsoever, and it was this take-no-prisoners approach that meant curtains for the film even before it had a chance. No surprise, European audiences & critics loved WHITE DOG, and understood the movie for what it was: a statement against racism, not condoning it. Furthermore, Fuller dared to put forth the theory that racism can be taught to another person (or in this case, animal) by careful teaching. Whether or not deprogramming in the opposite direction can happen is unclear. WHITE DOG succeeds by not giving any clear-cut answers, and that is another reason why Americans probably would not have taken to it well: for every message picture we get, we expect to see some solutions for the problem. WHITE DOG does not do that.

To say WHITE DOG is a film ahead of its time would be an understatement because I do not think even today, a movie like this could be green-lighted by a major studio. Coalitions & interest groups would likely protest loudly enough to force WHITE DOG off the screen. Some would say the violence is to blame, and yes, it IS graphic. But the film does have a PG rating, so it is not gore of the highest order. Even when the film did make it on to American cable, cuts were made so that the dog merely bit its victims rather than killed them. Others would say the mere plot of the movie itself is hateful enough, but sometimes an unvarnished approach to a brutal subject is necessary to get the point across. All I can say is be prepared to have the film's message beat you over the head, for I highly doubt Fuller would have done it any other way. It will also cause heated debate & discussion, yet another result that Fuller (R.I.P.) would also have appreciated totally.

S.O.B. (1981)
42 out of 47 people found the following review useful:
What's wrong with this movie when it's so true?, 3 January 2003

People may hate this movie for the exact reason it was made: it blew the facade off Hollywood, exposing it for the cutthroat atmosphere that it is. Both Julie Andrews & Blake Edwards had every reason to hate Hollywood for what they did to them (chastising Blake for his indulgence, boxing Julie into a corner with sticky-sweet roles), so this wicked satire was their way of firing back & people either got the joke & were offended or didn't get it & just hated the movie for what it was. No doubt the film industry had the former reaction, proved by the little publicity the film received. Moviegoers probably thought more the latter, causing it to flop at the box-office & not exactly giving Julie & Blake the better opportunities they were looking for (both have found it difficult to find films outside of the stereotypical ones they made their name with). Some thought the famous breast-baring shots of Julie were gratuitous & shameful, yet they were the point of the film: wanting to evolve in the name of art & being talked out of it in the name of commerce. A movie like S.O.B. might actually play better today because such diatribes against the movie industry by its employees can find an audience who are now much wiser to the evil workings of the business (notice how THE PLAYER & SUNSET BOULEVARD are classics today, recognized as such by the industry they set out to skewer).