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179 reviews in total 
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5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
This Film Deserves to Be Seen Today!, 22 August 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is a 'lost' twenties film that deserves to be seen today.

This is one of the few exceptions of Western films that sympathetically portrays Native Americans and the abuses they suffered. You won't see another one like this until 'Broken Arrow' (1950). Unfortunately, many of these 'exceptions' focus on just one individual Indian and his personal story, rather than plead the Indians' case. This one mixes both, and is the only film that really attempts to put a Zane Grey novel on screen.

Today, Richard Dix's emotional range here doesn't seem very great (checking out his other films it never did), but is that because his noble stoicism is deliberate? In one of his 'Job-like' scenes it almost comes to the surface; his high morality does surely come through.

There's a mind boggling prolog of the entire history of Native Americans, including the Annazzazi Cliff Dwellers; the history of Indians moves through time ending with Dix's return to his native land after World War I.

Another real high point is the dastardly Noah Beery who doesn't need sound to convey his two faced menace. You can imagine the cheers when he finally gets it (in the neck). His amazing range as an actor can be seen in 'The Mark of Zorro' (1920) where he is the hilariously buffoonish Sergeant, and of course, as Buster Keaton's competition in 'Three Ages' (1923) Keaton's spoof of 'Intolerance' (1916).

Truly epic in scope, this is definitely a film that deserves to be seen today, and can be thoroughly enjoyed by all. I give it an 8.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
An Amazing Film for Its Scope!, 22 August 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

An amazing film for its scope, visuals and acting.

We get to see many of John Ford's classic trophes in this film: the interplay and comic relief of European characters, great bar scenes and wonderfully photographed Indian action. The white man masquerading as an Indian becomes a common cliché, though, in many future westerns. It turns out that the classic long shot of seeing riders crossing the crest of a mountain was already old, having been used in how many of the westerns, and countless more to come, including 'The Vanishing American' (1925) which was filmed in Ford's beloved Monument Valley.

The film's biggest problem is that Ford's passion for history gives us too many intertitles that interfere with and slow down the action-- especially at the end.

But this film is so worth seeing for its vision, scope and execution. I give it an 8.

Cabiria (1914)
2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
This Is a Film That Must Be Seen!, 22 August 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

There are a great many silent films that deserve to be seen today, not only for their historical importance (or curiosity), but for their qualities as a well made film. Released in Italy in 1914, this first great epic film surely inspired D.W. Griffith to expand his vision, scope and sets for 'Intolerance' (1916), and influenced other film makers, including Ernst Lubitch for his 'Das Weib des Pharao' ('The Wife of Pharoah') (1922), as well as prepared audiences for other American films like 'Ben Hur' (1922), and 'The 10 Commandments' (1923). It's a spectacular epic feast of costumes, sets, and film making techniques.

But as a well made film, it also has action and a good story, though for those who've forgotten their World History and the Punic Wars between Rome and Carthage (I only encountered them in my high school third year Latin class), it may be boring, because it is awfully long. This may be why 43% of IMDb votes were a 1, but you really have to give this film its due. The story moves along; the sacrifice of children to Moloch is just one of many amazing sets, scenes and 'action packed thrills.' Allowing for the fact that sound was not yet a part of film making, the director had the actors convey a lot of 'dialog' through mimed gestures, with some acting drawing too much from the staginess of Italian opera. But we get Bartolemo Pagani in his initial portrayal of Maciste, a role he played in 25 films! Looks like he was wearing blackface to look African-- and it turns out he was. He steals most of his scenes.

This is clearly a landmark film of the teen years and must be seen. I give it an 8.

2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
One of the Best Amateur Films Ever Made!, 21 August 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Clearly a very well made, well acted, excellent production.

The film is very Lovecraftian. This is one of the best filmings of an H.P. Lovecraft story because it tries to capture Lovecraft's strength--his ability to conjure up a scene of absolute evil. Of course, Lovecraft did this with his powerful prose, and here the film makers are challenged to actually visualize some of his grotesqueries. Many of the bizarre sets, including Cthulhu's Island, call up evil. Especially fine from all points of view are the swamp sequences which capture a strong sense of menace. Not since Edgar G. Ulmer's 'Man From Planet X' (1951) have film makers taken so little and made the sets say so much! You don't see movies with really scary sets, except for 'The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari' (1920), 'Dracula' (1931) and the influenced by German expressionism 'Frankenstein' (1931). Kudos to the whole crew for creating a visual world of evil!

The film makers (all Lovecraft devotees) made the wise choice that, since the story takes place in 1925, it should be a silent film shot in black and white. This, of course, fits the mood and the tone of the film all too well. One need only see other classic 'horror' films of the 1920s such as Benjamin Christenson's 'Haxan' (1922), or Murnau's 'Faust' (1926) to see how much more dreamlike a silent, black and white film can be.

The only weak part of the film is that what kind of doom is being foreshadowed by the reappearance of Cthulhu is never made clear, so that there seems little reason to fear the Cult. Although many events are traced to 1925, you want to say, "So what?" Again, the connections between those events and any kind of future doom for mankind is never made clear enough, or seems to be cause enough for the characters to then burn all remaining documents relating to the Cult.

Lovecraft was at his best in written descriptions of evil, perverted or demonic thought and activity as in 'The Loved Dead' (1924), about a necrophiliac serial killer, and 'The Case of Charles Dexter Ward' (published posthumously in 1941)-- just try reading this one aloud by candle light during the Thirteen Days of Halloween! Roger Corman's filming of 'Ward' as 'The Haunted Palace' (1963) is extremely well done, particularly due to the performance of Vincent Price, but even Vincent can't hold a candle (!) to Lovecraft's descriptions and expositions of Charles Dexter Ward's consummate evil.

Lovecraft's stories may have been somewhat plodding, but his prose often exceeds Poe's. This film well captures the best and worst of Lovecraft! Great job!

A Savage Satire on Prejudice and Stereotyping!, 21 August 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Sasha Cohen lets us know early in the film that what he says is not what we, as enlightened humanists, should believe when he seeks out a 'joke teacher' wanting to learn 'Not' jokes ("You're so handsome---NOT!"). This whole movie is a "NOT!" spewing an endless sequence of racial and cultural prejudices and stereotypes right in our face. He's throwing a hideous mirror at us with scenes such as 'The Running of the Jews,' reminding us of the persecution of the gypsies and Jews in Europe (particularly in Poland-- much of his Khazak language is actually Polish). But he's making us laugh, in a kind of sardonic way, at mankind's inhumanity to itself.

His first target, then, is anti-Semitism. He uses humor to remind us of the bleak, dark world we live in, in which there are peoples who want to destroy Israel and the Jewish people. Given the endless tirades against many cultural nations, peoples and life styles, we can expand This World of Bigotry to genocidal wars wherever they are currently taking place. As he exhorts the enthusiastic rodeo crowd in the U.S. against Iraq, before he sings the American National Anthem, "President Bush will drink the blood of the Iraqis!"

When he finally does meet some Jews, they are anything but the stereotypes he was been reviling us with -- they are merely a kindly little old man and his wife offering him sandwiches at their Bed and Breakfast Inn. With off the wall stereotyping, he and Azamat think that the two Jews are shape shifters who can change into cockroaches and can be appeased by having money thrown at them. As other reviewers here have pointed out, Nazi propaganda films often showed Jews as cockroaches.

But hey! We real people also live in a world in which genocide and ethnic cleansing still go on; a world in which female circumcision is still practiced; a world in which 'woman is the n----r of the world'; a world in which slavery, though illegal, is still practiced with women and children the victims. It's not that 'human history is a nightmare from which we are just waking up,' it still is a nightmare!

Borat spouts all of these types of prejudice, and even worse, meets Americans who agree with him. He tries to lighten the film with toilet and sexual humor, and even with an amazing nude fight with Azamat. But let us not forget the real message of this movie: he's trying to wake us up and show us the world in which we live as it really is. His viewpoint is disguised, like himself, and presented in a humorous way. This puts him up on the level of a Mark Twain, Kurt Vonnegut or Stanislaw Lem (also, coincidentally, from Poland).

Borat: Funny but bleak. I give it a 9.

3 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
A Great Film Noir Episode!, 17 August 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is based on a Cornell Woolrich story, as were so many episodes of anthology TV shows of the fifties and sixties. It has the stock 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents'/ O. Henry / 'The Whistler' surprise ending, but it has so much more, and in less than thirty minutes!

Here it is played like a film noir, with the nice guy hero (Skip Homeier) being pulled down by circumstances beyond his control and being swept out in the undercurrent to finally rob, commit murder and face his doom, all the while hoping to save himself and the woman he loves (excellently portrayed by Joanne Woodward).

These are all great noir elements!

I've spoiled enough of it. It's very different from ninety percent of the other first and second year episodes. I'll give it a 10.

2 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
One of the Top Thirteen First Season Episodes!, 17 August 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is one of the very best of the first season episodes of 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents.' It was directed by Hitchcock himself, and like his excellent 'One More Mile to Go' (1957) with David Wayne and Steve Brodie from the second season, depends a lot on silence and trademark Hitchcock cutting and POV shots.

In this one, Joseph Cotten plays a mean employer, who during the first five minutes fires an employee for showing too much emotion. Maybe we can't predict what kind of come uppance he will get or how he will receive it, but it does finally come with strong irony and moral implications. Well done by all!

So what are the top thirteen episodes? Chronologically they are: episode 1, Ralph Meeker in 'Revenge,' ("That's Him!"); episode 2, 'Premonition,'; episode 5, with his daughter Pat, but which is really a twenty-two minute version of his film 'The Lady Vanishes' (1939) and is called 'Into Thin Air,'; this episode 7; episode 10, the amazing 'The Strange Case of Mr. Pelham,' with the goofy looking Tom Ewell, but the episode may have won an Emmy; the performance of Barry Fitzgerald in the 12th episode, 'Santa Claus and the Tenth Avenue Kid,'; episode 17, 'The Older Sister,' with a strong performance by Carmen Matthews; episode 22, 'Place of Shadows' with Mark Damon and Everett Sloane; episode 23 'Back For Christmas' with Hitch's main star, John Williams, also directed by Hitchcock; episode 26, 'Whodunit,' with John Williams and Amada Blake; the anti-drinking episode 30, 'Never Again,' with Warren Stevens and Hitch's anti-drinking speech; episode 37, 'Decoy,' with Robert Horton, Cara Williams and Frank Gorshin, and then finally, the great 'Momentum,' a 22 minute film noir with Skip Homeier and Joanne Woodward.

Whew! Burn those on a DVD!

Rebellion (1936)
Rita Hayworth's First Co-Starring Role!, 17 August 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Under her real name, Rita Cansino (later 'Hayworth') had just finished 12 movies as a bit player and a dancer. Here she now has a major co-starring part (with Western actor Tom Keene) as the female lead. This movie has also been released as 'Lady From 'Frisco,' which gives you a sense of the size and importance of her role in it.

Taking place in 1850, the film's theme is the failure of the United States Government to observe the Guadalupe-Hidalgo treaty, allowing evil 'gringos' to steal the herds, lands and rancheros of the native California Mexicans. We see Paula Castillo (Rita) pleading with President Zachery Taylor to bring an end to the lawlessness, enforce the treaty and restore land to her people. The overly beaming soldier Captain John Carroll (Tom Keene), who looks like he's about to burst his buttons when he sees her, is then dispatched to California to clean it up.

Rita gives several more stirring speeches (in a fake sounding Spanish accent), particularly towards the end when she encourages Mexicans and 'Americans' to unite in seeking Califonia's admission to the Union. Lest we get too carried away with the script and plot, it was written by John T. Neville who also gave us 'The Devil Bat' (1940) and 'The Flying Serpent' (1946), two more 'Poverty Row' classics (?). He is credited, however, as being one of the 'writers' on W. C. Field's amazing non-sequiter masterpiece 'Never Give a Sucker an Even Break' (1941). The plot weakness is that Carroll has no army, and deals with the rebellious take over of California in an almost preposterous way-- he strong arms the evil judge and bailiff; he simply orders the false landowners out of town, and uses the Ricardo Castillo (Duncan Renaldo) band of renegade Mexicanos to finally attack the stronghold of the evil villain Harris (William Royle). This, and Tom Keene's lack of cowboy athleticism weaken the film considerably.

Meanwhile, we are fortunate to see Rita in a major role before she goes back to bit parts as a dancer and minor love interest in the Three Mesquiters' 'Hit the Saddle' (1937) and Tex Ritter's 'Trouble in Texas' (1937) among many others to come. We can really see her face here before the 'painful' electrolysis (the what? -- it means killing of the hair roots by electrical current) that changed her looks forever. You look at 'Gilda' (1946) and wonder what the fuss was all about-- it must have been her hair and the way she flipped, fluffed, tousled, swung, combed and flounced it during the movie. Her dancing in 'Gilda' is either the result of poor choreography or a demonstration of why she left a a dancing career for films: she was still doing the same turns from 'Trouble in Texas'. Check her out in 'The Strawbery Blonde' (1941), 'Gilda' (1946), Orson Welle's divorce love song to her 'The Lady From Shanghai' (1947), and her famous fifties films 'Miss Sadie Thompson' (1953), 'Pal Joey' (1957) and 'Seperate Tables' (1958).

Tom Keene looks good and can be really strongly stern. Unfortunately, we don't get any of 'two-fisted' action, gun play, and stunts we expect from cowboy heroes. I guess we were too spoiled by John Wayne, Yakima Canutt (often also doubling for Gene Autry), Ken Maynard and Tex Ritter. Tom would probably be better in straight dramatic pictures, though he was in many Westerns. (Was 'Freighters of Destiny' (1931) his best film?) We can see him in the controversial 'Our Daily Bread' (1934), as Richard Powers in 'Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome' (1947) and 'Red Planet Mars' (1952), and in his ultimate role, Col. Tom Edwards in one of the two Ed Woods' masterworks, 'Plan Nine From Outer Space' (1959). (The other one, of course, is 'Glen or Glenda' (1953).)

Besides Rita's leading role, another unusual aspect of the Western is Duncan Renaldo playing her brother, giving a lot of his dialog in Spanish. Too bad he gets killed during the movie. We also see a wide variety of sombreros, a charge of racism lodged against Harris and his gang, and when Paula is being held prisoner by Harris's men, one says, "You don't need to worry about us, lady, our weakness is liquor," and a final montage of famous western cities and ports including San Diego, Ogden, Tucson, Oakland, Los Angeles, San Francisco, which ends with a shot of the recently completed Boulder Dam.

The non-realistic working out of the plot and the weak cowboy athleticism mean that despite Rita Hayworth's starring role, the film merits only a 4.

Rawhide (1938)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Gehrig's Winning Personality Shines Through!, 14 August 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Lou Gehrig was one of American major league baseball's greatest players. Check out his statistics on the Internet. His farewell speech at Yankee Stadium, given two years before his death to what we now call "Lou Gehrig's Disease" (ALS), was ranked the Number One Moment in Sports by fans during the 2008 All-Star Game. He wasn't just one of the baseball immortals, but unlike Ty Cobb or Babe Ruth, he had an extremely winning personality. For any fan of baseball, we are lucky to see that personality preserved for posterity in this film.

The movie is really a Smith Ballew (who?) Western. Although Ballew starred in eleven Westerns, he was originally a band leader and jazz singer of the twenties and thirties (discovered by Tommy Dorsey no less!) He became one of the first singing cowboys; therefore, this one has a lot of singing. We get two 'comic' cowboy songs sung by him, one of which has the famous pop singer of the forties, Buddy Clark, singing for Lou Gehrig. Ballew's spotlighted ballad, "Driftin'," was written by Albert von Tilzer, composer of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame," and "I'll Be With You in Appple Blossom Time." Beside this fine number, we get a country swing band doing a short version of "That Old Washboard Band," written and performed by Willie and Norman Phelps, who also do "Texas Washboard Rag" (which they also wrote) in Tex Ritter's 'Hittin' the Trail' (1937). For those who may not know, the washboard, augmented with copper pots and a bicycle horn, was a staple of Western movie bands. It was Spike Jones in the forties who elevated the augmented washboard to orchestral instrument status.

Other credits for this film are equally impressive. Ray Taylor, who directed so many famous serials was the director. Among his many outstanding serials are 'The Return of Chandu' (1934), 'Flash Gordon,' (1936), 'Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe' (1940) and 'The Perils of Pauline' (1933), which starred Evalyn Knapp, who is featured in this movie as the heroine, though she gets little to do here. 'The Perils of Pauline' is especially noteworthy because it appears to take place at locations all over the world. In this movie we also get Dick Curtis, veteran of over 230 movies and TV shows (mostly as a villain), the ever present Lafe McKee, and the plump Cy Kendall as the dishonest sheriff.

Then there's Lou Gehrig himself. Unlike other athletes who appeared in films, he is neither wooden, unemotional or out of place. One reviewer here described him as 'almost giddy' in his performance. I think, however, we have him in all his naturalness as a person, playing the role of a cowboy, with his smiling, dimpled, good natured sincerity. We see him throw billiard balls in a bar fight, and smash a window with a rock hit by a bat. He was left handed! He certainly does get a little giddy when he is called back for spring training at the end.

The film's story is promising. In Rawhide, Montana, Saunders, an evil businessman, (in these thirties depression era movies what other kind is there?) is running a protection racket, forcing all the ranchers to join the "Ranchers' Protective Association," or face the consequences. Good natured Lou, going to live on his sister's ranch to find "peace and quiet," gets thrown into the middle of this conflict. With only the good town lawyer (Smith Ballew) to help him, Lou finds the odds heavily stacked against him in his defiance of the evil Saunders, and early attempts to circumvent Saunders' power and control are met with failure.

Is the film fun to watch? Yes. We get some snappy dialog like, "You boys are carrying things with a pretty high hat," and "If you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas." When Lou first sees his new home in Montana, he jubilates, "Boy! What a Ritz!" When Smith tells Lou that if he's going to stand up against Saunders, he'll have to stick it through, Lou replies enthusiastically, " Why I'm Old Man Stick It Through myself!" Prophetic, but true to Lou Gehrig's nature.

Unfortunately, the defeat of the racketeers and the resolution of the conflict are too quickly and easily handled. After Smith rouses all the ranchers against him (in a fast forty seconds), Saunders declares "We've got to get out of town!" and the final horseback chase sequence takes place. Just like that. Smith's knockout punch to Saunders, and we're off to the happy ending. The rapid resolution detracts from the impact of the story's development, and weakens the film considerably.

Still, I have to give it a five and a half for its other wonderful elements, especially preserving Lou Gehrig's enthusiastic presence.

3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
A Long 'Outer Limits' Episode, 27 July 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is the first movie about cloning a person. It is adapted from William F. Temple's novel of 1949, which itself was an expansion of his short story 'The Four Sided Triangle' published in 1939! In this version, Dr. Bill Leggat, with the assistance of his childhood friends Robin and Lena, builds a 'reproducer,' a matter duplicator. Bill, however, has always been running second to Robin in Lena's affections, and when she marries Robin, he becomes distraught, and decides to 'reproduce' her. She finally agrees, since he promises her that the reproduced Lena will be wiped clean of any memories, and will start life anew. He then runs off with the cloned Lena, whom he calls Helen. Unfortunately for Bill, she does retain at least some of her original memories and love for Robin.

The critical dramatic theme, of course, is how the new Lena, Helen, deals with the fact of her existence. More of the movie should have been spent on this. The problems emerging from the self-awareness of the clone have been treated not only in Temple's story and novel, but also in John Varley's short story 'The Barbie Murders' (1978), Stanislaw Lem's amazing descriptions in his novel 'Fiasco' (1987), and Natalya Banderchuk's poignant performance as the constantly being recreated Hari in Tarkovsky's deviant but brilliant movie version of 'Solyaris' (1972) -- also written by Stanislaw Lem.

Here the dramatic burden falls on Barbara Payton as Lena/Helen, also to be seen in the split identity themed 'Bride of the Gorilla' (1951). She does a fair job of expressing her mixed feelings of being re-created, finally opting for an aborted suicide. An all consuming fire in Bill's barn / laboratory dooms Bill and Helen, though in the short story the reader is left puzzling whether it is Lena or Helen who survives.

This film is like a too long episode of 'The Outer Limits,' which would have neatly telescoped this 81 minutes into a fast moving 52, the way that the episode 'Specimen: Unknown' (1964) is a condensed version of 'Day of the Triffids' (1963); or 'The Man Who Was Never Born' (1963) shortens a multi-themed two hour movie into a quick one hour; or Harlan Ellison's episode 'Soldier' (1964) gives us 'The Terminator' (1984). Here the laboratory sequences of perfecting organic matter re-creation go on too long; the entire development of the 'reproducer' could have been shortened, although all of the lab scenes tell us this is really a science fiction movie with a strong character focus like the best of 'The Outer Limits.'

I'll give it a 5.

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