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graceful, 7 November 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

'Law of the Lash' holds at least a double primacy: for being my favorite PRC movie ever, and for being my favorite B western; it is craftily directed, it has a reasonable and smooth storytelling, it is graceful and lively, and its lead was the wonder of this humblest genre.

The legendary St John was not so much LaRue's sidekick, as a 2nd lead, and as a player he was able of a consummate self-emptying in the humbling delivery of lowbrow slapstick, but this movie seizes the decency of his job. And each of them has been given room to display his craft. LaRue was cool also in his acting style, and he possessed one.

Ray Taylor and his two players crafted this exquisite, ideal B western. It means a staple of masterful storytelling, my idea of how a graceful western should be; it may seem ordinary, but it's flawless. Perhaps it was almost the twilight of the unpretentious B westerns, as they were about to be replaced, not dethroned, but given a new chance by the TV. Some quirkier TV westerns of the late '50s and early '60s are anticipated here.

The director was a toiler who never became famous enough to gain a bad name, or a derisive moniker, like some of his colleagues.

If to some such movies are primarily childhood memories, to me they are a grownup's leisure. I have grown up with westerns from the '50s-'70s, and these earlier movies are new to me.

Perhaps by the time this movie has been shot, the pressure of both silliness and didactic-ism had decreased, the carelessness and sloppiness of the '30s, hence the freshness. Yet 'Law of the Lash' is far better than more famous westerns of the '40s, and it means to the B westerns what some action movies from the '80s mean to their genre.

old-fashioned, 7 November 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is an old-fashioned movie, although the technology has a role: the satellite used to track the Columbian facility, otherwise there are '80s rock, a Vietnamese officer and memories of the Vietnamese war, fights in the Columbian forest …. The 1st scene is of Norris teaching about Bushido and the samurai's behavior. He has a daughter who's half Vietnamese. He meets again his Vietnamese enemy, the killer of his wife, in the Columbian forest; and maybe this unexpected encounter with an aged enemy is the decisive moment in the samurai's life that Norris was teaching about in the opening. The movie makes much of the training of the next man of the president, which is bland enough that even the few funny moments seem genuinely humorous. A president's man is assigned missions like rescuing the president's wife, or a congressman's daughter held hostage by a creepy cult, or a scientist kidnapped by the drugs cartel.

These assignments take the warrior in Rio, in Columbia, and even Vietnam is somewhat brought in the Columbian forest …. A silly script, lackluster and clumsy storytelling, and a bland role for Norris, here as a martial arts teacher, and what he has to do is look like a walking sphinx; and the story takes a very chaste view: sexless characters, no blooming romance, with the new trustee choosing the job, not, as one might of expected, an idyll with the Vietnamese liaison.

Like many of the '30s cowboys, like many of the '80s fighters, Norris wasn't an actor, but a showman. Fortunately, he doesn't try to act. So, if you enjoy his generic character, you will also enjoy his roles.

One may ask whether Norris didn't deserve a career's twilight more like Wayne's, i.e., more dignified. But did Bronson, or others, got one? This movie, with its crass pompous militarism, has been made for children. The fights are bloodless, the movie is enjoyable (if you need to see another movie with Norris, or are an unpretentious kid) and mostly mediocre; the dialogues, stilted and sometimes mindless, as when Norris attributes his disciple's indiscipline on his … survival instinct, when it was heroic impulsiveness.

I liked it for what it is, a modest unintelligent militarist show, a 3rd hand version of the Republican creed, the fights are exciting though ordinary.

the thighs, 22 September 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A movie with Hemmings, Gayle Hunnicutt, Adolfo Celi (a serviceable supporting player), W. H. White, about insanity, severe delusions, grief, very accomplished unpretentious craftsmanship, it's not artsy, but stylish, lavish, colorful; the style is a European synthesis, not only British, but continental as well ….

Very suspenseful, one of the most accomplished genre movies, of an ineffable freshness; the sense of creepiness is as efficient as nuanced and sober. It has an undertone of distorted sexuality, the predilection for aged women, Bunface and the schoolgirls, the eerie but certain appeal of the aged ladies, those kisses; the focus is on eyes, mouths, thighs in their shameless bare luxuriance. Tim Brett's flat gives a very suggestive sense of the place.

The young women appear as naked thighs, and so does the seductress in the train, the temptress who knows the writer's address. Also, the leading character's 1st shot shows his legs.

Those thighs symbolize the access, not as much denied (by the women), as repellent. He feels threatened by the walk, by the bride's walk …. The male characters, beginning with the copper who visits him, are paternal symbols. They are burly. The women's thighs are viscous. The women are cold, tempting, indifferent, desired. The writer resents them. Force, desire, dream, deceit; he feels deceived, and resents health, the insanity proves a stronger temptation than the drugs he used to take.

In its depiction of the insanity, the movie shows the feverish phony cleverness of the delusion, with its crippling mistrust; and it's not a moralizing stance, but a clinical one, the twilight of a mind, clinically depicted. The addiction is a _crippleness, and the leading character ends in a wheelchair, i. e. denying himself almost everything, deprived of walk and deprived of rest, unable to walk, unable to rest, dominated by his wife, defeated. The puzzling plot has been meant to be dreamlike. The eerie, spooky story-line from the standpoint of insanity had a worthy career in the cinema, and occasioned other movies as well.

Both leads give apposite performances. It's impressive how both of them understood the requirements of their roles.

Gayle Hunnicutt is decorative, and her role required a bland act, she had to be a decorative doll. Hemmings made me think of a plumper and more urbane Dean; what might seem like overacting actually suits his part, suggesting the behavior of a psychotic, the feverish, sometimes frenzied behavior.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
lackluster mediocrity and subdued mastery, 22 September 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The cast was good: Ustinov, Gielgud, Lauren Bacall, Carrie Fisher, Piper Laurie as the matriarch Boynton. Jenny Seagrove overacts annoyingly and should be counted among the least professional players here. I thought David Soul made a good role as Jefferson, he reminded me of Widmark. And it was heartrending and very unlikely to see Poirot quoting Gide.

I believe neither Cannon nor the director had a knack for this kind of puzzle plot, or for the social satire of a bygone foreign world. This wasn't something they could master.

The movie seemed to me devoid of excitement. While Gielgud was decorative (as much as he could afford …), the other oldsters have been subverted by the director's silly storytelling. Carrie F. delivers the only convincing performance, and here, as a passionate woman, she looked well in a Mimi Rogers way; usually, in these adaptations, the romance is indigestible, but here the passionate lady was believable.

The two breakdown meetings orchestrated by Poirot are undermined by the silly behavior of the suspects, who hug affectionately when reassured, etc., in a carefree joyful atmosphere; the phony confessions are annoying.

A mediocre movie, with uninspired direction and uninteresting characters, very unlike the literature it rips off. These strong, thoughtful stories would need equally strong directors, and this is why so many masterpieces of popular literature become mediocre movies. But such movies also give an idea of what most consumers do perceive. The movie makers represent a slice of the audience; many in the audience do not care for what is missing, the movie is faithful to what they understand, this is how much they get, and they are pleased with the movie.

It was made in '88 by Cannon.

a unique opportunity for a literary character: Ignatius Brown meets Flambeau, 22 September 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Flambeau reminded me of Lupin, and this movie is like a witty, graceful adaptation of a Lupin tale; the French inspiration is acknowledged. For me, it's one of the masterpieces of the free adaptations, on a pair with a few French works.

What it has is a delightful style, a consummate craft. This graceful movie has the plot of a Fantômas or Lupin yarn. Perhaps it might appeal to those who search for stylish renderings of such stories. It also suggests how would world look like from the standpoint of a priest, who evaluates without severity or identification, with a critical sympathy; the human world, and also the world of objects, caressed by Guinness' hands. The perspective on the human affairs is blessedly naive, appealing and endearingly fanciful. It originates in a highly intelligent recluse's reverie. Beyond it, one feels the political and social utopia of the revered storyteller and thinker. And I guess he would of enjoyed this movie.

Flambeau is awesomely played by a handsome Peter Finch. And as a priest, he looked a bit like De Niro.

As played by Guinness, Fr Brown resembles more the storyteller, the author, than the authored priest. Anyway, the priest being unexpectedly attacked by his sparing partner might of been an inspiration on the Pink Panther gag, with Cato's surprise attacks on his master.

A movie with Guinness, Peter Finch, Oury, it opposes a priest and a freelancer of the underworld, Flambeau, who, disguised as a priest, quotes the Bible but forgets to fast.

What is called playful means sometimes graceful; others, silly. Here, it is the 1st meaning.

Cavalry (1936)
nice, 22 September 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A honorable movie set in the aftermath of a fratricide war, an enjoyable B movie with a budget probably bigger than usually, scoring even a mild attempt at looking epic, it uses the same device of the conspiracy and spying, here dealing with the malcontents' attempt to declare an independent state in the West. All characters are cardboard, the plot seems trite, but some craft went into the movie-making. And I liked the wind in the evening scenes, its suggestion of refreshment.

In terms of the humble fun, the movie is as accomplished as could be expected; it seems a pastiche of A westerns.

Steele was a likable player: usually and not only at his best; here, he's a Northern cavalry officer, and it has been the effort of the player's father to establish him as a good guy, while his look would of indicated another type of roles.

There are black people, to whom belongs the 1st of the couple of songs, and Natives in a village, grateful to the administration and loyal if bribed.

The legendary President is a silhouette on a wall; which is simultaneously awkward and charming.

Some takes on these '30s kids' movies omit the fact that many of the plots relied on typical pulp tropes: conspiracies, disguises, treated in a childish and careless way. Many B westerns from the '30s were silly not because of their tropes, but because they used them clumsily, awkwardly, because they underused them though they thronged them. With the advent of the sound movies, new opportunities seem to have appeared for shameless hacks, who made countless graceless movies. But also some who had distinguished themselves during the silent era devolved in the '30s, and suddenly seemed outworn and sloppy, almost unworthy of the prestige they previously gained; in the '30s, the western almost abjured his nobleness, because of the tempting new market opened by the sound movie.

Not all the genre cinema regressed during the '30s; but the westerns did, and were devitalized, and nowadays knowledgeable buffs remark that directors and players seemed to become lackluster and clumsy.

watch for Piero Lulli and Ombretta Colli, 9 July 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Typologically, this is an adult s & s movie, carefully plotted, here the story resembles the 19th century novels about the Early Church and the persecuted believers, perhaps it's a 'Quo Vadis' rip-off, set during Caracalla's reign, with several subplots (two slaves of Cilician origin, their disinherited former master, a general dressed in black who's ambassador of the Cilician king, a dissenter who criticizes Caracalla's deeds). The Cilician general is named Astarte, and makes an awesome entrance, with his black outfits and authoritarian swagger.

Well written movie, nicely scored, and a willingness to deliver thrills. It's also atmospheric, with taverns, an inn, the aftermath of a hunt, and earlier an oldster drinking fresh water on his way to the countryside. A few players are remarkable: the general who tracks the enslaved princess, the woman in love with Marcus, both roles that give flavor to these movies when one happens to meet them.

Scott has been given a sidekick for humorous relief.

The fight scenes are the most exciting: the Praetorians' raids, the attempted getaway, the gladiators' training, the battle at the river; also, the violence is more accentuated, with the imprisoned Cilician princess being flogged repeatedly. The actress playing her seems believable in this role because she looks like an ordinary girl in distress and severely manhandled.

The floggings might though be misinterpreted, these movies have a traditional standpoint, and the cruelty's popular appeal was freely acknowledged, so these outbursts weren't consciously perverse but uncensored, just delivering what would impress the audience. The jealousy and sadism of the lady who owns the two Cilician slaves add to this impression of folksy truthfulness.

There's also an indisputable structural resemblance with the '30s B movies, also by its lowbrow, unpretentious sense of fun, one can sense that this movie-making has been informed by the '30s genre movies, and that style is here enhanced, boosted, exaggerated.

And it's actually a bit of a shame that Scott hasn't been given here a larger role, as he was indeed good, more than a bodybuilder, he elicits sympathy as a player.

glamorous, 9 July 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Why is this epic so good? Because it has J. Tourneur as its director, thus even in a genre movie the director still makes a great difference. This lavish epic is one of the best of its genre, doubtlessly because it has been directed by J. Tourneur, whose consummate knowledge and intelligent subtlety shows, and who restored here the glamour of the genre, somewhat irrespective of the actual script, as if a less schematic, more dramatic script was required, the one he got is passable, the political turmoil is well conveyed (dissensions between Athenians, between Greeks, the Persian threat), but a bit schematic; thus we verify the principle that the director makes the movie, because he makes everything come together and gives it style, even in the unpretentious genre cinema, where a good director is still needed, is still indispensable.

'Marathon''s style is very smooth, J. Tourneur taking the script as an occasion for displaying his mastery, thus giving it an almost generic and refined feel, very suitable for an eminently classical story, and highly representative for how the French generally feel the classical age. The evening scene, when Philippides visits the courtesan while the Athenian girls gather at an altar, is refreshing. Prior to the battles, the plowman has two fight scenes, one with a wrestler, another with the henchmen sent to stop his travel to Sparta. This might be the one s & s movie that, by its smoothness and elegance, doesn't resemble structurally the '30s B movies, like most other s & s installments do.

The travel, the messaging are a running theme. The leading character is Philippides, and the story ends with his triumph. The lavishness gives poignancy to the landscapes and the sea views.

The surreal look of the underwater scenes was ably emphasized.

Here Daniela Rocca reminded me of Stefania Sandrelli's look, perhaps the same youthful plumpness.

The leading bodybuilders of the '50s and '50s genre cinema were handsome, unlike many of those of the '80s and '90s; even Ursus looked like Dudikoff. The fashion and trend of having athletes and bodybuilders in suitable movies did begin in the '50s, but has been preceded by kindred fashionable movies, like the early epics and some jungle yarns, therefore something else was needed other than showing undressed bodybuilders to begin a trend and a fashion, and one could wonder why the '20s and '30s athletes didn't start this trend ….

There are avoidable anachronisms, like the style of Philippides' country home. Also, it seems likely that the director believed less in this movie, which results in it having the look of a trailer, of a video, until the Persians arrive, then the battle scenes, either on ground or on sea, are unrivaled.

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lowbrow, 9 July 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This Maciste installment is consciously goofy, occasionally macabre, and has beautiful landscapes and lowbrow quirkiness. This movie's cheerful goofiness was usual in the Italian Z genre cinema. It boosted not only such Z Peplums, but also westerns, horrors, etc., and if in some movies it's wry, in others it's simply unnerving and shameless. Here, it could of been used for comedy instead of laughable phoniness.

The degree of popularity the Maciste series had once pertains to the sociology of taste. It's a fact to be accounted for in sociological terms. Being at once so shamelessly silly and lively ingratiated it to certain audiences, and there are people for whom this suffices, is enough; similarly, some '60s westerns were no revisionist enterprises, but displays of lowbrow goofiness, disheartening to some but cheered by a naturally forgetful crowd, so that they have been sentenced to oblivion or disrepute by the very nature of their ephemeral breakthrough, the kind of grateful audience they had is always absolutely forgetful, yet movies are made for them too.

The direction has ease, perhaps by the very shamelessness of the job, which led to dis-inhibition, the script is better than the players, who are appalling. There could of been occasions for chilling weirdness and sensational appeal, like the village of the headhunters and then the ruined castle with the imprisoned king. It seems that terrorism isn't enough, and the headhunters' chief still needs political recognition from the old prisoner.

The cast seems cheerful and insouciant. The characters are islanders, the girls wear swimsuits, there are totems and painted fighters whose leader craves for political recognition, and the princess' tent has bright ornaments; the fights look wimpy, despite the few graphic quirks and macabre effects like the impaled heads in the warriors' village and the mummies in the ruined castle, that could of been rescued from the joyful silliness, but have been merely added, piled in '30s fashion. The insouciant goofiness may be epitomized in the ritual dance belonging to the wedding celebration.

The landscapes, yet, are beautiful, and worthy of a smarter movie.

The acting, if it can be termed that, is crassly bad, though the princess is awesomely cute and even has a sword-fight scene; she has a carefree behavior and an occasional consenting air which are delightful; but the whole cast seems merrily indifferent to the requirements of the script, and this can seem amusing, or disheartening, if one finds self-complacent, placid silliness, offensive.

impressive, 30 June 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

An epic with Cornel Wilde, Belinda Lee, Fausto Tozzi, and directed by Lionello de Felice.

It belongs to the dramas, or the dramatically ambitious yarns with an international cast, not all the movies from this genre were fantasy for the kids, and it has an effective score. Cornel Wilde has been born to play a tribune of the Empire, his handsomeness was in the classical style, that of Marechal, Mature, R. Harrison, and here he delivered indeed a hallmark role.

This romance has a few violent scenes: massacres on the battleground or in arena, tortures in the dungeons, with the aftermath of rapes, battle scenes. At least some of that world came to life, mostly by means of the scenes of violence, but also by the subplot of the centurion's romance, while the political intrigue seems more generic, and the Praetorians make a stronger impression than the senators. (My two s & s movies of predilection are '60s works by Leone and Siodmak; the 1st I have seen in a movie theater, perhaps 27 yrs ago, in another hot summer, the 2nd, set during Justinian's reign, I have seen twice on TV, and liked it both times. While I usually don't believe in non-American westerns, I also don't believe in non-European movies of this genre, because they naturally lack the sense of the events and atmosphere.) It's also an endearingly Pre-Conciliar movie, with legitimate Christian pride, and that standpoint has been carried on by the Italian TV biopics; also endearing is the 2nd leads' romance, of the Christian woman and the strongman Fausto Tozzi (Livia and Hadrian). The religious principles upheld by some of the characters suit apparently paradoxically the physical nature of the story. In other words, it's well to see that religious standpoint upheld in such a physical story.

As a character, Constantine is very occidental, the action takes place in Germany, in Rome, and on the way between them.

The violence is poignant. I liked the countryside scenes of Hadrian's tendering, Constantine's jump in front of the lion, the evening encounter of the Emperor with the usurper on the bridge; the battle at the river, after the meeting on the bridge followed by the vision, is intriguing and, like the whole movie, suspenseful. Some of the supporting roles are very good, such as the Christian girl, the Eastern usurper ….

This movie means an enjoyable experience, and a possibility for the human eagerness. I felt glad that the lead has been given this role, that he played a Roman general and then Emperor (later canonized in the East), he deserved the opportunity and also proved worthy of it, regardless of whether the movie has been successful at the box office, or not. Movies like this should be analyzed without being untrue to the experience as given, without being unfair to it and tear it.

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