10 Reviews
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Dark Victory (1976 TV Movie)
Needless remake
17 July 2003
If you haven't seen the 1939 original with Bette Davis, this updated version of "Dark Victory" is a pretty good made-for-TV movie (I haven't seen it since the original TV showing in 1976, so I'm relying on my memory). Elizabeth Montgomery is always good, Anthony Hopkins did well in an early role, and the story will hold your interest.

However, if you have seen the original - forget this version (the same comment applies to the other remake of "Dark Victory" - the 1963 film "Stolen Hours" with Susan Hayward). Like most remakes, it doesn't compare to the "real thing". You can't improve upon a movie that was already perfect of its kind, and is an acknowledged classic of the cinema.
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Tom Sawyer (1930)
Has charm, but dates badly
17 July 2003
The first sound version of Mark Twain's immortal classic does capture the charm of the story (who wouldn't want to be a little boy in the summertime again?). As a film adaptation, it also remains pretty faithful to its original source, and contains many of the book's famous segments (whitewashng the fence, the midnight visit to the graveyard, lost in the cave, etc.).

This early "talkie" of "Tom Sawyer" does suffer, however, from the stodginess and "creakiness" that many of the early sound films exhibit, due to the (at that time) primitive sound recording techniques (the "marriage" of sound and picture still wasn't totally perfected in 1930, and a number of films that year were still being produced in both sound and silent versions). This "creakiness" does indeed have a charm of its own (at least to die-hard fans, such as myself, of classic films), but modern audiences will probably find this 1930 version too slow and stagey. (A 1938 technicolour remake by producer David O. Selznick, entitled "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer", is really the definitive film version of this story).

A renowned child star, and later famous as "Uncle Fester" in the TV show "The Addams Family", Jackie Coogan performs well as Tom, but at 16 he was really too old for the role (Tom is supposed to be about 11 or 12; the 1938 version starred 12-year old Tommy Kelly, who was the perfect age). The remainder of the cast is also good (Jackie Searl in particular as Tom's obnoxious and detestable brother Sid), although like Coogan, similarly-aged Junior Durkin was also too old to play Huck Finn.

All in all, a charming "curio" for movie watchers, but won't endure as an acknowledged "classic".
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The music is everything.
12 July 2002
The plot is really nothing more than boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl, but it's enough of a framework to present an almost non-stop catalogue of great Irving Berlin songs. The music itself is all that is needed to make this a grand entertainment; the litany of classic Berlin standards includes the title song, "Now It Can Be Told", "Everybody's Doing It Now", "Easter Parade" and many others, performed by Twentieth-Century Fox's stock musical players Tyrone Power, Alice Faye and Don Ameche, as well as Jack Haley (who does a great comic rendition of "Oh How I Hate To Get Up In The Morning") and a young, vibrant Ethel Merman, singing, amongst others, "Blue Skies" and "My Walking Stick". All in all, a wonderful "escape" film.
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Too rarely seen
6 July 2002
A typically well-made British drama (with an Anglo-American cast including John Mills, Martha Scott and Trevor Howard); rarely seen today and deserves a far wider audience. Based on a novel by James Hilton ("Lost Horizon"), who also does the narration, "So Well Remembered" captures perfectly the gloom of a poverty-stricken British village; chronicles the efforts of a newspaper editor (Mills) to fight for better living conditions. Great atmospheric black-and-white photography; good performances by Mills and Martha Scott as his ambitious, class-conscious wife who grows ever resentful of her husband's dedication to his village. A small dramatic gem. (Unfortunately not available on video, but was released on laserdisc as part of the now out-of-print RKO Classic Collection).
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Capable Soap Opera
9 May 2002
Typical soap opera by director Douglas Sirk (albeit less glossy than his earlier technicolour offerings of "Magnificent Obsession" and "All That Heaven Allows", and certainly less well-known). Having read the comments posted by other viewers about this film, I must confess that I don't quite share their enthusiasm. Although generally well done (and nicely filmed in black-and-white), "There's Always Tomorrow" really offers nothing special in terms of the story line (hard-working, successful businessman Fred MacMurray feels neglected by wife Joan Bennett and their three children, meets old flame Barbara Stanwyck, considers having an affair). However, the film does move along at a good pace, and will certainly hold your interest. The children's perspective of the situation (particularly grown-up child William Reynolds, the oldest of the three) is well presented. The lead roles are very capably acted by old pros MacMurray and Stanwyck, but their re-teaming hardly compares to the dynamic fireworks they displayed in their earlier film, the undeniably great "Double Indemnity". All in all worthwhile, but I wouldn't rank it amidst the classics.
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Not the Marx Brothers best, but still very good
9 May 2002
The Marx Brothers second film for MGM follows a more traditional presentation in terms of the story line than their earlier films made for Paramount Studios (and is certainly less manic) but there are still moments of inspired lunacy, such as the first racetrack encounter between Chico and Groucho, the midnight rendezvous and the medical examination scene with constant Marx foil Margaret Dumont. Certainly not their best film (which was undeniably "Duck Soup"), but still very good indeed.

Much has been said about the intrusiveness of the romantic subplot between pretty ingenue Maureen O'Sullivan and Allan Jones, and the musical numbers. Such elements were generally typical of MGM comedies at the time, and as such, simply have to be tolerated - although they do detract a little from the overall film (as anything that takes away time from the Marx Brothers themselves will). Jones had a fine tenor voice, but his songs don't really add anything to the movie, and his acting ability was always limited at best. The water ballet sequence (although very pretty) was totally unnecessary, and probably should have been cut, instead of the "I'm Doctor Hackenbush" number, which, as sung by Groucho, was probably a gem (unfortunately this segment, cut just after the film's initial release in 1937, is now believed to have been destroyed). I do like, however, the "All God's Chillun" number, which genuinely has rhythm, bounce and excitement (racial sensibilities aside - as in many motion pictures of the time, the portrayal of blacks was very stereotypical, and could certainly be viewed as racist today; I don't believe such portrayals in the 1930's and 1940's films were intentionally racially motivated).

Overall, there is enough of the Marx special brand of madness to satisfy any fan.
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The Letter (1929)
Cries out for a restoration!
20 April 2002
"The Letter" is an absolutely fascinating early talkie. The only surviving talkie made by the legendary stage actress, Jeanne Eagels (whose skill as a Broadway stage actress was obvious in the delivery of her lines - particularly the final scene, which I found mesmerizing) cries out for a restoration! The print of the film I viewed had a very poor visual quality (although I could always discern the action), but became all the more tantalizing - this film probably looked great in 1929, and would still look wonderful in a refurbished print. For a very early "talkie", I was very surprised at how natural and "unstodgy" the dialogue is (and the soundtrack was remarkably clear and strong, with even a little bit of profanity, which I'm sure it raised a few eyebrows in 1929!) It is very unfortunate that Eagels' other talkie "Jealousy" is now lost, and all the more reason that "The Letter" (being the only sound document of this legendary actress) should have a wider distribution. I hope someone some day will spearhead such an undertaking.

A 2011 update: I recently acquired the DVD release of "The Letter" from Warner Archives. It is a revelation - an amazingly good print, particularly considering it is mastered from what is apparently the sole surviving 35mm print. Some segments lack musical background, but the dialogue is intact, and the visuals are far better than I expected (or hoped for!). Congratulations and many thanks to Warner Archives for finally making this treasure available!
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Featherweight fare
5 January 2002
Lightweight comedy of a college professor (Ronald Reagan) trying to teach a chimpanzee right and wrong (with the aid of pretty Diana Lynn and fellow professor Walter Slezak) to prove an experiment in environment vs. genetics. Hardly anyone's finest hour as an actor, but "Bedtime For Bonzo" still entertains in a Saturday afternoon matinee sort of way. Totally innocuous and harmless film, passable acting, generally no better or worse than the many other "B" movies cranked out by Universal in the 1950's.
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A neglected classic
5 July 2001
An unjustly neglected classic, "Intruder in the Dust" is one of the great films of the 1940's which has unfortunately slipped into obscurity. Based on a story by William Faulker, and shot in his hometown of Oxford, Mississippi, "Intruder" tells the story of Lucas Beauchamp (played with great dignity by Juano Hernandez), a black man unjustly accused of the murder of a local white man, and a white boy (Claude Jarman, Jr.) who uses this situation as an opportunity to pay a previous debt to Beauchamp. Terrific acting, especially by two great character actors, Porter Hall (as the dead man's father) and Elizabeth Patterson (best known as Mrs. Trumbull on "I Love Lucy") as an old woman willing to stand against the townspeople to see that right is done. This straightforward, tense and sincere study of racial bigotry deserves to be seen more.
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Magic Town (1947)
A charming little movie
5 July 2001
Certainly not one of the great comedies, but charming and rather whimsical in its own way. In this day and age of raucous and crude humour (if you can call it that), a movie like "Magic Town" will probably seem hopelessly old-fashioned and dated, but for those who prefer a quieter and more gentle humour, "Magic Town" will fill the bill very nicely. Very Frank Capra-like (not surprisingly since screenwriter Robert Riskin collaborated with Capra numerous times), "Magic Town" reminds us of a by-gone era, a time when living in a small town meant knowing your neighbours, pride in your community, and the moral values of common decency and humility were still part of everyday life. James Stewart as the pollster who discovers a town full of people whose opinions exactly mirror the national thinking gives his customary good performance, as does Jane Wyman as the newspaper publisher who wants to see change in the town. Many well-known character actors (Kent Smith, Wallace Ford, Ann Shoemaker and particularly Ned Sparks) provide capable support. A slight offering, perhaps, but quite worthwhile.
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