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I loved this show- musta been a guy thing
I never missed a show for the first three or so seasons. I knew all about the men of the squadron, but I had questions the show didn't answer, like how come Lt. Hanley wasn't on every week? Did he have obligations elsewhere that occasionally kept him from leading his men into combat? This meant that, once again, most of the grunt work was done by the sergeant and the other non-coms. Also, why did every French town they went into have a river with a step bridge over it? It's like that TV executive I saw in a movie once who said that the audience wasn't smart enough to notice little things like the above. An eight-year-old noticed it. So much for the intelligence of TV executives, whose IQs haven't risen much some 50 years hence.
The end of "Combat" came as a result, I guess, of the media's turning on the soldiers fighting in Vietnam. The news readers' anti-war stance suddenly made the depiction of fighting men on TV unfashionable. While it was on, it gave me an idea of what it was like for my father to do battle in little French towns like the ones Sgt. Saunders and his men fought in.
Soldiers of Fortune (1955)
Another moldy oldy adventure series
The only good thing about this episode is that the outdoor scenes were filmed outdoors, as opposed to, say, in a leaf-strewn cardboard jungle like the set where they filmed "Ramar of the Jungle". And John Russell plays the hero very well. Otherwise, it's just a curiosity piece- with psychological overtones, no less.
The script is the usual stuff- an American couple hires the two "soldiers"- Tim and Tebow- I mean Toubo- to take them through the jungles of Burma. They soon meet up with the local headhunters. This is where credibility exits, stage left. First of all, this is Burma, not Africa. There were no headhunters in Burma back then. Secondly, the Burmese men look mysteriously like Apaches, as if they wandered in from a John Ford western. They look to be dressed for winter on the prairie, wearing long-sleeved tops and buckskins. It's about 90 there, and our American entourage is sweating like pigs, yet here are some local natives who look like they live inside an icehouse. The viewer will have to watch to find out about the psychological drama previously referred to, which has to do with the husband's unfounded insecurity about his wife.
Speaking of curiosity, I, myself, am curious- about how this show lasted two years on the network. Presumably, the scripts got better.
Lost Horizon (1973)
This movie has fans?
I won't change anyone's minds with this post. A lot of people who are fans of musicals- especially classics like "Singin in the Rain" and "My Fair Lady"- disdain this musical version of "Lost Horizon" because it is an anti-musical. Unlike Arthur Freed, who produced (and co-wrote the songs for) many classic musicals at MGM, producer Ross Hunter hired mostly non-singers and non-dancers to sing and dance. First mistake. Then he gave the actors a script that was a watered-down version of the original. Second mistake. Then he hired a highly-competent British director, but one who had never directed a musical before, to helm it. Third mistake. And so on and so on. Yet the passion displayed by posters on the message boards here suggests that not everyone is put off by the shortcomings of this wretched big-budget movie that plays more like a TV musical. Too bad you supporters weren't around when it first hit the big screen. You might have saved LH from becoming what one critic called "Lost Investments".
Even if you do like this film, you must admit that there had to be some validity to the criticism. Burt Bacharach and Hal David, who respectively wrote the music and lyrics for this epic, never worked together again, even after years of success. The question is- who talked who into taking the money to write songs like "Question Me An Answer"? I'm guessing that is what the post-release estrangement was all about.
Why don't you LH fans see a real musical from the classic period of the 30s to the 50s, when they were made by pros who knew how to "put on a show"? Check out "On the Town", or any of the Astaire-Rogers musicals. That way, even if seeing them doesn't change your opinion about one of the only disaster films of the 70s not produced by Irwin Allen, you'll at least understand why this "forgotten" film holds up so badly when placed along side one of the real classics mentioned above.
Around the Beatles (1964)
The Fab Four play, stand aside, and ham it up
This is a rare piece of nostalgia that features the Beatles starring in their own 1964 British TV special. It portrays them as musicians, music fans, and stage performers, as well. The show opens with them singing some of their hits. But the bulk of the next part of the hour consists of performances by artists the Beatles are fans of, though not all of the stars on this special were known in America. So while Millie Small sang her hit, "My Boy Lollipop", Cilla Black, who was known more as a Brian Epstein client than a chart-maker in the US of A, sang a number, as did John Baldry, who was still several years away from fame over here with his "Boojie Woojie" music. The instrumental group, Sounds Incoporated, became more well-known later on as the horn players on "Good Morning, Good Morning", and as a warm-up act on many of the Beatles tours. PJ Proby was, indeed, from the states, but made the charts in England a few years later. A less-knowing British music fan might have asked why Billy Fury and Cliff Richard weren't invited on this show, ditto Adam Faith. The answer is simple- though the Beatles might never had publicly stated it, they had little use for the Brit-pop idols listed above who were making the British charts while the Fab Four were still paying their dues in Hamburg dives. The boys chose, instead, the artists that they genuinely admired. The surprise to me was seeing Baldry here. I had known he had been a blues pioneer in England, along the lines of John Mayall, and that he would later sell a ton of records as a crooner, but I had never before seen him appear as a pop star. Having done so, I'm glad he grew a beard later on; he looks kind of nerdy and awkward here.
The highlight of the evening, besides seeing them play live, was the Moptops' appearance in a skit that featured themselves- plus the British comedy team of Morecomb and Wise- doing a lampoon of Romeo and Juliet, played, respectively. by Paul and John. It was wonderfully dopey and silly, and allowed them to ham it up like crazy.
TV specials like this are worth watching still, some forty-plus years later, because they don't exist anymore, at least in 21st century America. You'll never again see a group featuring young men such as these performing in prime-time for a whole hour. Their audience today would watch them on VH1, the chat shows, and "Saturday Night Live". So "Around The Beatles" is a rarity, and worth searching out by anyone curious to find out what all the fuss was about back in the days of the Invasion. It would illuminate the viewer who is learning about the Beatles, the 60s' most vibrant and influential group, by showing him or her that, yes, they were musicians, but they were also pop fans just like everyone else who, once in a while, also liked to dress up and act silly on stage just for their own amusement- and yours.
Lionpower from MGM (1967)
This is what MGM had to offer?
I was just old enough to read about and understand the dismantling of MGM not long after this promotional short came out. In retrospect, if the movies featured in it are all the studio had to offer, then I guess it became a fait accompli when most of these pictures were released to mediocre reviews and/or box office, precipitating the fire sale of real estate and studio inventory that took place as a result (the most symbolic act of which being the auctioning of Dorothy's ruby slippers).
I have seen many of the films that were promoted here. The highlight, of course, was "2001: A Space Oddysey." "Point Blank" and "Where Eagles Dare" were both pieces of solid entertainment, as well. On the other end was "The Extraordinary Seaman," a horrible mess of a film that is supposed to be a lightweight story about the ghost of a WWI British naval officer (David Niven), but was weighted down by an albatross of a script penned by someone without a shred of whimsy, and directed the same way by John Frankenheimer, of all people. And "A Man Called Dagger" screams "TV Movie," what with its small-screen/b-movie cast (and budget). Unfortunately, most of the films in "Lionpower" fit either one or both of those moldy molds.
The class productions included "The Comedians," an ironic title, courtesy of the Graham Greene novel, about people living in Haiti during the Papa Doc Duvalier regime. Not a happy movie, but at least the participants- Liz and Dick, plus Lillian Gish and Paul Ford- had a good script to work from. And Roman Polanski directed "The Fearless Vampire Killers," a humorous satire that ought to be viewed again, now that the Transylvania Kids are once again en vogue.
There are a lot of other movies represented here. Unfortunately, even the few good ones mentioned in it couldn't save the studio, and the (mostly) fair-to-middling releases only hastened the demise of the MGM we once knew. So, in the end, "Lionpower" represents the final, throttled gasp of Leo the Lion, symbol of the studio that was once called the "Dream Factory."
Footnote: Ironically, it was another gigantic turkey, "Heaven's Gate," that, a decade later, allowed MGM (and Leo) to rise from the ashes and take over its parent company, United Artists, which had financed that infamous money pit of a film.
Should have been shot at night- without lights
If Leonard Pinth-Garnell, the Bad Cinema maven from SNL, ever compiled a list of ten examples of "Truly Bad Cinema," this epic would have to be on it. Now, I usually don't consider films like this one to be worthy of mention on a bad-movie list. Normally, I prefer the grand turkeys like "Conqueror" and "Exorcist II." Still, Linda Blair is Linda Blair, and it was her starring in it that got it made. So I guess we can blame her for this turkey. The fact that these college-age dudes and babes can suddenly shoot like Green Berets is a variation of Roger Ebert's "thirty-second genius" motif. That is where the lead hears the whole plot from somebody in 30 seconds, and immediately knows what to do. In this case, the kids practice shooting for a couple hours, then are ready to do battle with an entire army. My favorite bad moment is when the kidnapped girl is ravaged by one of the enemy soldiers. The Commandante comes along, shoots the soldier, then has HIS way with her. She must have had more Latinos land on her than the Bay of Pigs. My favorite character is the American soldier-of-fortune, played by Richard Lynch. They should have called him Pizza-Face Jones, since a) Lynch's face has more holes in it than the Van Wyck Expressway, not far from where Lynch grew up in Brooklyn and, b) he acts like Harrison Ford on 'Ludes. There's not much more to say, but if you must see it, try to catch it, unedited, on one of the premium movie channels. If you rent it, do so on two-for-one night, along with something that you know is good. A couple beers will help you bear it.
The Hunting Party (1971)
Gene Hackman's last pre-stardom meatball movie
Oliver Reed has kidnapped Gene's wife, Candy Bergen. Gene is a sadistic ranch-owner who goes out with his men to hunt down Oliver and his gang. Why Gene so desperately wants Candy back, I don't know. She offers no hint throughout that she in any way could be any man's epitome of womanhood, excepting Tommy Newsom. Maybe Gene's afraid that, if he doesn't get her back in this one, they'll make a sequel, requiring him to continue his pursuit of her and Mr. Reed across the hot Spanish desert. Can you say "actor's hell"? This is it. No originality, no warmth (from the sun, yes, but not the script or the actors). The money that financed this meatball must have been used as a tax shelter. There can be no other reason for the film's existence.
Speaking of desert, someone should have sent the producer and director of this unexciting-yet-sadistic oater into that same desert with just a bottle of (warm) water between them. What a waste. And Gene should kiss his Oscar every night for allowing him to avoid having to make movies like this epic forevermore, which he mostly has.
Sweet Country (1987)
Would have been okay if...
Randy Quaid, as has been noted elsewhere, had not been cast as a Chilean military man. What the other reviewer didn't mention was that Quaid's acting coach must have been the Frito Bandito. His accent is right out of Central Casting, Latino Division. His whole performance took away any credibility this film might have had up to that point. In a film this serious, the last thing one expects is a character whose accent is so off-the-wall as to throw the whole film off track. From the time he first appears and starts talking, they could have changed the name of the film to "National Lampoon's Political Assassination Movie." Sometimes it really does take just one apple to spoil the whole bunch.
Slow? I'll watch this before I watch 'Barry Lyndon" again
This movie is far from the dog it's supposed to be. Rex Harrison is wonderful as Caesar- but when he's done in, so is the movie. Too bad Liz and Dick weren't as heated up on the screen as they were off it. Still, there's a lot to be said for this movie, which almost broke the Fox studios, but actually turned a profit.
Yeah, it's around four hours, but if you don't mind literate dialogue- especially when spoken by Henrius Higginus- that's not a problem. It's not Mankewicz's best- I never saw such boring sea battles- but his second-rate is still ahead of many writers of his day.
PS If you want to see a real Roman dog, watch "Fall of the Roman Empire."
Song of Norway (1970)
Sorry, this ain't the Sound of Music
The reason Song of Norway is not hailed as a classic like The Sound Of Music is simple- the acting stinks. The music is wonderful, ditto the voices of Florence Henderson (Who backed up Mary Martin in the Broadway version of TSOM) and Frank Porretta. But once they stop singing, and Grieg (Toralv Maurstad(?)) stops playing, the whole thing just sits their like a cold smorgasbord- it looks very good, but it isn't really that appetizing. There is no warmth or rapport between any two of the leads. The bit parts by Mssrs. Robinson, Homolka, and Morley don't last long enough for anyone to forget how uninspiring the whole thing is. It is doubly so when the characters are talking, and there is a shot of the magnificent Norwegian landscape in the background. You'd think the dialogue could at least try to compete with the scenery. As it is, it comes in a distant third, behind the sweeping vistas and the music.
By comparison, TSOM had first-rate actors with a first-rate script, songs by Rodgers and Hammerstein, and a budget large enough to support them all. If Julie Andrews was a little too sugary, well, at least she could act. And there was nothing sugary about her escape from Austria with the family.
In the end, Song of Norway is dressed up with wonderful location shooting and memorable tunes, but the acting leaves this film with no place to go.