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Rakter Saad (1993)
Potboiler with an Intelligent Ending
An otherwise tiresome exercise in murder-mystery, itself a rare occurrence in Bengali cinema, this film redeems itself by its occasionally good build up and an intelligent solution to the apparently supernatural deaths. Debashree Roy plays a young orphan brought up by her uncle and aunt in a village town, where her guardians run a hospital/nursing home. The villagers entertain superstitions about witches who suck the blood of young children. Early in the film, an old woman, found crouching over such a child, is badly beaten up and hospitalized. However, while in hospital, she mysteriously dies after falling out of a window. Meanwhile, wherever Debashree goes, dead bodies (of children and adults) are found, with two puncture marks on the throat, and the bodies drained of blood. The girl slowly begins to believe she has become a vampire. Much else is packed in, including the obligatory song-and-dance sequences, investigations into other criminal acts, etc. However, the solution to the main mystery, though the mechanics of the explanation leave much to be desired, is still ingenious and stands out in what is otherwise a Tollywood turkey.
The Assam Garden (1985)
This unpretentious little gem came out around the same time as David Lean's PASSAGE TO India, and has been unfairly overshadowed by the blockbuster. I was charmed by the quiet, sensitive, yet emotionally charged portrayal of how an insecure, aggressive widow of a tea garden manager reluctantly develops an affectionate relationship with an Indian housewife and her family. What I found particularly good was that the Indian housewife, played excellently by Madhur Jaffrey, is no impossible goody-goody, but as much a human being with likes, dislikes and prejudices as the widow played by Deborah Kerr. There is also the sad irony of the grandchildren of the Indian family inevitably leaving their 'Indianness' behind in favour of a British lifestyle. Strongly recommended for those in the mood for subtlety and understatement. And it should be watched with Lean's PASSAGE TO India for fruitful comparisons. To my mind, and I'm probably in a minority of one, THE ASSAM GARDEN is the better of the two films. I once possessed a video recording of it, which is now the property of the Film Studies Department of Jadavpur University, Kolkata, India.
Not having read Hesse's novel, I went to see this film during its first and controversy-plagued release in Calcutta in 1976, purely for the music composed by my idol Hemanta Mukherjee. The film was certified by the censors as fit 'For Adults Only'. By Indian standards, I can see why.
Regarding the music, 2 correspondents had flayed Hemanta Mukherjee in the Calcutta daily THE STATESMAN for having vulgarized Siddhartha's quest with two Bengali songs, each from a different, and earlier, Bengali film. True, one can wonder why Bengali in a film which has already used the convention of characters in ancient India speaking English. Imagine Achilles in TROY suddenly breaking into modern Greek while otherwise speaking English. However, the theme song on the river is unexceptionable contentwise. I am a little uneasy about the other song. Let us concede that for anyone who has seen the 2 Bengali films, the songs would come with their own distinct situational associations. This is my problem with the other song, as I had seen the Bengali original by the time I saw SIDDHARTHA.
Watching the film again in the late 1980s at the Penultimate Picture Palace, Oxford, I had to confess to a sneaking sympathy with my cousin, who, in 1976, had dismissed the film as 'pavement philosophy'. The narrative struck me as potentially pretentious and quite unconvincing in its pontifications at times.
The photography, however, is breathtaking,and the cast seem sincere in their performances. Incidentally, with reference to user gabravo123, at the PPP, Oxford, I think a bunch of Bengali students were the only viewers in a single row.Similar to his/her experience? However, the reason why not one of us moved as the closing credits rolled is because we were all mesmerized by the divine voice of Hemanta. For gabravo123's information, the two songs have been available on a 45 rpm disc since the late 70s, only there is no reference to the film on the disc. It is just titled HEMANTA KUMAR. They, I'm sure, are available now on CDs of the singer-composer's film songs. Incidentally, why does gabravo123 mention Rabindranath Tagore? I hope s/he is not implying that Tagore has anything to do with the lyrics, both of which are by the late Gouriprasanna Majumdar.
Lake Placid (1999)
Perhaps the most enjoyable Killer Croc movie?
Having seen CROCODILE, KROCODYLUS (BLOOD SURF) and PRIMEVAL, to say nothing of ALLIGATOR, I would pronounce this as the most enjoyable Killer Croc film I've seen. The amusement derives chiefly from the Sheriff, the loony croc researcher and Bridget Fonda with her delightful penchant for the wrong collocation of words, a characteristic she shares with one of my star pupils.
But, but, but: how did 2 gigantic crocodiles appear and survive long enough so grow so huge in such a non-tropical climate as Maine's? And why was Betty White so conscientious about feeding them? As in ALLLIGATOR, was one of them brought by her husband as a tiny pet and released into the Lake?
Hugely Enjoyable, but shows it had no script
When I read a user's comment that the film had no script, I realized why the last episode of 'Dallas' suddenly walking out on Sean looked so contrived, serving as an excuse for the hilarious elephant chase which culminates in one of the best wedding-night bedroom scenes in cinema history. The film is salutary viewing in 2009, given the superb animal chase sequences done without CGI. In my 4 years in Britain, I never once saw the film telecast, although it was a runaway hit in Kolkata when it was first released in the early 1960s, kept coming back as Sunday morning screenings in various cinemas, and was re-released in the 1970s. I made my teenage daughter watch it on cable this year, and she loved it. My only gripe: Brandy is a lot better looking than Dallas! I should add that as a six-year old, this was my first encounter with John Wayne, and I became an instant devotee, which I remain to this day, although this is a film in which he has little to do except just be there. What a presence!
Shoot the smart-arse who wrote the script
As I said in my comment on the Claud Rains LOST WORLD, scriptwriters think they can write better stories than the original author did, and how! Then they end up botching the effort. Richard Roxborough will rank in my estimate as the second worst Sherlock Holmes I've seen, the cake being taken by whoever played him in the B & W SHERLOCK HOLMES where the master sleuth duly falls in love and gets his girl in the end.
I am told that the rationalization of the hound as belonging to the wronged woman actually has 'Conanical' sanction. May be. But what an utterly incompetent Holmes! Thanks to his planning, Sir Henry is almost mauled to death by the hound, and Holmes himself nearly drowns in the quicksand (Alas, Watson saves him!) The only redeeming feature was the hound, which was at least slightly scary, which is more than I can say of the creatures in the 1939 and 1959 films, and in the two TV versions I've seen, including the Jeremy Brett one.
The script writer belongs down there in his 'cleverness' with Michael Dibdin, author of THE LAST SHERLOCK HOLMES STORY which argues that Holmes's cocaine addiction turned him into Jack the Ripper.
The Lost World (1960)
Hollywood never learnt to acknowledge that authors like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Bram Stoker or Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote much better stories than a screenplay writer. I am yet to see a single decent Tarzan or even Dracula. Wish they would just film the story as it was written. The same is true of this gosh-awful adaptation of Doyle's classic. On top of that, given what I have read about the 1925 version, the makers of this 60s 3D effort did not have the funds/intelligence to create dinosaurs, and used lizards instead. The result is an infuriating film which never rouses any interest, and invites ridicule for its stupid FX. The liberties it takes with the narrative are unnecessary, and only show the screenplay writer(s) for the incompetent hacks they are. Claud Rains is wasted as Challenger,and is simply not good enough. Did anyone think of casing James Robertson Justice in that role?
Quantum of Solace (2008)
Letter not spirit
The movie has just been released in Kolkata, India today. I will update my comments after I see it. I just want to put on record a fact which seems to have been overlooked by all the comments I have read so far. The last time before CASINO ROYALE a Bond movie used a Fleming title and also elements from the story which had that title was in THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS. However, already before that the habit of taking the title and Bond and nothing else from Fleming's story was seen in THE SPY WHO LOVED ME. (Not having read all the Bond stories, I can't say whether the same applies to MOONRAKER. OCTOPUSSY, I think, just about takes the octopus in the aquarium from Fleming, and nothing else. FOR YOUR EYES ONLY cannibalizes elements from the short story 'From a View to a Kill' and the novel LIVE AND LET DIE.)In QUANTUM OF SOLACE, we are back to the THE SPY WHO LOVED ME mode - Fleming's title and absolutely nothing more from that very Somerset Maughamish short story (which I rather liked when I read it, and which of course would be unfilmable as a Bond movie). What would be the title of the next Bond movie? THE HILDEBRAND RARITY? They might choose to retain the murder of a man by shoving a fish down his throat from the story! See everyone again once I have caught the movie. By the way, another bit of interesting Bond movie trivia for all fans from outside India. Till ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE, every Bond movie had an 'A' certificate (i.e. below 18 not admitted). Suddenly George Lazenby was graced with a 'U', and the same followed for Connery in DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER and Moore's first Bond outing LIVE AND LET DIE. Back to 'A' after that for all Moore Bonds till OCTOPUSSY, for which, of course the producers wanted a larger audience as it is partly set in India. So 'U/A', a newly invented censor certificate, suggesting not just parental guidance but actual adult accompaniment in the movie hall. Not to be outdone, Connery secured the same certificate for his NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN.Back to 'A's for Brosnan (someone correct me if I'm wrong; did GOLDENEYE get a 'U' or a 'U/A'?)till Craig was once again blessed with a 'U/A' for CASINO ROYALE. I still don't know how they have certified QUANTUM. Cheers! OK, caught the film yesterday, 11th October 2008. The following points struck me: 1. I agree with the user that in some of the action scenes you can't make out who's hitting whom at some points, and you don't know whom to cheer. Particularly true of the early sequence where Bond chases the man who tried to shoot M. Is this deliberate on the part of today's filmmakers? 2. Refreshing that Bond doesn't hop into bed with Camille. Given his state of mind, I would have found it more acceptable if he hadn't had it off with Strawberry Fields as well. After all, in CASINO ROYALE, the only fling he had was prior to l'affaire Vesper. 3. I take it, every Bond movie aficionado noted the deliberate throwback to GOLDFINGER in the way Strawberry Fields' dead body is shown.\? 4. Chronologywise, both ROYALE and QUANTUM are pre-DOCTOR NO, right? So, I would like to join all who are wanting Q back in due course. The technology we saw in QUANTUM is impressive but faceless, and a very poor substitute for John Cleese. 4. On the whole, left less of an impression than ROYALE. But that may be because I have got used to the new bond.
I thought I was in a minority of one who was disappointed with the story-line, and I'm glad to see that that is not the case. The narrative tries to pack too much in from earlier Spielberg movies, aliens et al, and ends up with a confusing tale. Also, unlike in the 3 preceding films, the action disappears every now and then, and there is too much talk. Is this deliberate, in keeping with the fact that Indy is about 20 years older? If so, it still does not work. Why did the villainess - a fine performance by Cate Blanchett incidentally - have to die at the end except for the lame reason that all villains have to in Indiana Jones movies? The way she died raises more questions than there are answers.However, there are fine moments for lovers of Indy, the return of Karen Allen being one of the good things about the film. The FX are fine as expected in a Lucas-Spielberg venture. Could we please have a better Indy 5? One of the reasons why the story fails to satisfy is that the Crystal Skulls are something new, not something already part of myth or history like the ark of the covenant or the shivalingas or the holy grail. This is obviously deliberate, as the script writers planned to create a new mystery. But, as I said at the start, they put too many things in, and try to pay tribute at once to the fictional Indy and the real-life Spielberg and his earlier films. The result is a bit of a hotch potch. However, in all fairness, let me add that while I was disappointed, my brother-in-law, who accompanied me, loved the movie and said that it had surpassed its 3 predecessors!
Bandh Darwaza (1990)
A true-blue secular Indian vampire
Has this sequence been omitted in recent DVD versions? When I saw it on my old-fashioned VCR, the vampire was confronted at one point with 3 coffins: one containing the Gita and the trident, another the Koran, and the last one, of course, the Bible and the Cross. He recoils with equal anguish from all 3. This is the first vampire I have seen who shows such respect for the liberal secularist religious credentials of modern India. Was there a fourth coffin with the Granth Sahib (the holy book of the Sikhs)? The Dracula make-up is fine, but how I wish they had cut out the songs! Also, the gum-chewing leopard-skin-skirt wearing sidekick of Neola (Dracula) is too good to take. Still, this is not the best Ramsay to me. I think that crown should go to their VEERANA.