Reviews written by registered user
|7 reviews in total|
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I just this minute finished seeing this movie, unfortunately in Spanish which may have caused the stars to shine rather less brightly, but I doubt if I would have given it more than 5 had I seen it in the original American. I am not at all surprised that there is a great divergence of opinions about it. I do like westerns which are not just shooting matches but give us a picture of how the life of ordinary people was, but I do not think this does the job very well. When one thinks of "Westward the Women" with Robert Taylor and Corinne Calvet, this opuscule with only a handful of mail-order brides going in the opposite direction shrinks into insignificance. The pace is sometimes jumpy and generally too slow. The women, not because of attractiveness or lack of it, are of very limited interest. Though many a movie has brought a tear to these (ancient, male) eyes, I felt really no empathy with any of them, even the gun-toting uncharismatic heroine. The soundtrack score is tastefully written but too pretentious and grandiose in the style of "Dr Quinn Medicine Woman", in which the ambling along a dusty trail of a mule team pulling a small covered wagon and nothing happening is treated like "The Entry of the Queen of Sheba". There were some other flaws: At the very beginning, it was not made clear, at least to me, that it was the sheriff's wife whom he inadvertently killed, and, in fact, one does not actually see that she has been killed. It is true, however, that the version I saw was only 77 minutes long, so it is conceivable that there had been some (additional) clumsy editing. The female rejects that we had been told had been driven mad at least partly by life in the wagon train that brought them to their husbands-to-be recovered their wits remarkably quickly on a similar but more cramped return journey: Sigmund Freud, eat your heart out! The amazonian, somewhat overweight lady said to be of great strength we were not allowed to see demonstrating it, though asked by ex-Sheriff Briggs to help raise up the damaged wagon (as Jean Valjean did and was seen to do in "Les Misérables"), and apparently did so. The two idiots who had shared the sexual favours of the religiositous, bible-reading spouse now officially on the way to the nut-house,shared unbeknownst to the husband and against the will of his new wife, pursued the wagon jointly and with great fervour, presumably to reclaim said spouse/sister-in-law, though it must have been quite obvious to the adulterous brother that his sins would immediately be revealed. Which indeed came to pass leading to the smiting and slaying of both the aforementioned idiots. There was generally too much pointing of guns at each other without firing, and worse, permitting the opponent to draw his sidearm whilst already covered by a pistol. Oh yes, and the igniting of the bottles of whiskey and the throwing of them in the path of two pursuing baddies at the hands of the women ordered by Briggs to do so. The baddies seemed to hold back to give the ladies time to prepare and execute this delicate task, and when the great conflagration occurred as intended did not skirt round the flames on their swifter mounts, but politely allowed themselves to be halted by them, presumably muttering under their breath some cowboy equivalent of "A thousand thunders! Foiled again!" These villains also failed to sneak up that night on the wounded hero (couldn't the girls have found a smaller knife to take out the bullet?), which was also jolly sporting of them. Kevin Sorbo I only know as a scantily clad mythological hero from episodes of "Xena", which did not make great demands on his talents, and this rôle too failed to show whether he is capable of better things. Lance Henriksen, on the other hand, has greatly impressed me in earlier movies as a black-hearted villain in the traditions of Sweeny Todd and Maria of the Red Barn - a man you love to hate. An actor with much less talent could easily have given what was expected of him here. Oh dear, I hadn't realised I disliked this film that much!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I really don't know why some people have said that they found this film
sad, and one even referred to the "melancholy ending". The tone of the
film is, in fact, upbeat throughout, and if I had to suggest an
alternative title for it, albeit one that wouldn't help much at the
box-office, I would say "Love Conquers All". Despìte the inadequacies
of her short term memory, Lucy, played by Drew Barrymore is cheerful.
friendly, creative and positive in her outlook. She never gives rise to
As regards the smooth-talking Lander, his social career as a gigolo is shown to us so briefly and in such an amusing way (he escapes from his last adoring and gullible tourist by literally hopping on to a passing jet-ski in the manner of James Bond whose persona he was aping at the time), that we don't really have time to find his conduct despicable. From the moment that he meets and falls in love with Lucy/Drew he is absolutely sincere, except for corroborating the white lies her doting father has to keep up, so as not to upset her. He is also supportive, and self-sacrificing for the sake of her love and happiness, taking some hard knocks both physical and emotional.
Lander's Hawaian (in real life half Filipino) side-kick, Rob Schneider, very funny without being as gross as he usually is, with his innumerable offspring and mountainous native wife, shares both Lander's troubles and triumphs as the resident buffoon, in contrast to Lucy's lame-brained brother who is just pathetically stupid and not funny at all. Schneider helps his buddy and boss, the veterinarian Lander to care for the highly charismatic aquarium animals: walruses, penguins and dolphins, whose exuberant antics are endearingly spontaneous. At one point, when the sporadic lovers get round at last to mating, a pair of inquisitive dolphin voyeurs, watching the couple with noses pressed against the wet side of their glass-walled tank, have to be shooed away before the act can be consummated discreetly after the fade-out of the scene.
Unfortunately, the scraggy, androgynous Scandinavian assistant with braided blond hair and a frosty face looks and sounds like a wardress from Dachau, and does not fit well into the story.
At the end of the film, we have the weird situation where every morning Lucy has to be briefed by video and scrap book diary on her life since the accident that caused her odd complaint, and particularly now that she has a husband and children, whom she has quite forgotten since she fell asleep the previous night. However, she does appear to dream about her husband and has painted some good likenesses of him from memory.
Films frequently require the audience to watch unlikely events with suspended incredulity, and this is no exception. Assuming that such a medical condition actually exists in which the memory of each day's events is regularly blotted out on falling asleep, it is still hard to swallow that Lucy has gone on for so long with her daily routine, oblivious of the passing of time, until a cop gives her a ticket for an expired road tax licence. The equable winter-less climate of Hawaii might help with the deception, but surely she would have spotted a calendar, the date of a newspaper or watched recent news on the TV or heard it on the car radio, that would have contrasted with the same video that her dad played daily on their own set to keep her in the dark. But it is better not to think about such details and just sit back and enjoy a pleasant and wholesome love story. Having Drew Barrymore fall in love with you every day for the rest of your life is not an entirely unenviable fate!
I saw this film last night for the first time. It was shown in the
original English with Spanish subtitles on a local station which must
have got it very cheap if not gratis. I quite enjoyed it for various
reasons. Firstly, because, although my own schooldays considerably
predate the time it is set in (contemporary with the production
date,1971), it seemed, apart from the literally riotous ending, to
mirror faithfully what was going on in a "good" grammar school both in
that era and mine - alas, difficult to find these days in a England
which, regrettably, is generally considered to have the most
ill-behaved and foulmouthed children in the whole of Europe. (As a
former, normally expatriate, teacher who did odd stints in mainstream
British secondary education, I know this from bitter experience).
I was also interested to see James Cossins with whom I used to share a boarding house in Kingston-upon-Hull, when he was in repertory and I was a student. Even then he specialised in old bores who either were upper-class or pretending to be. His face, at age 25, was already distorted by the grimaces he constantly made to achieve this effect. A competent actor, his career never reached the higher echelons but at least he occasionally appeared with the greats of Hollywood and Elstree and in this opus ,which rather unjustly failed at the box office, they at least put him in charge as Headmaster
Roy Kinnear, whose appearances in the satirical show of the 60's, "That was the week that was" with Sir David Frost, and as the fat British Army detainee in "The Hill" with Sean Connery are unforgettable, gives a very credible performance as the somewhat coarse but likable father of the young heroine. Did anybody else notice that his wife mentions he was "out on bail"? Kate Hallet, who plays his wife, is authentic as a loving working class Lambeth mum, which I can vouch for since I come from those parts, whilst Sheila Steafel is good as the slightly snobbish and rather distrait, but basically loving and well-meaning, middle-class mother of the young hero. Jack Wild is not as successful here as he was as the Artful Dodger in the musical "Oliver" but is convincing and interesting.
The pure and naïve love affair between the main protagonists Mark Lester eponymous hero of "Oliver" and Tracy Hyde, a truly lovely child, is handled very well, and - they don't even kiss - would seem improbable today in an England with the European record for teenage pregnancies.
Two points puzzle me, however: 1) Why should a boy get "six of the best" with a slipper(for younger and non-British readers, this refers to corporal punishment)for not preparing his Latin homework, whereas playing truant (Amer. hooky) and going down to the seaside for the day with his girlfriend goes unpunished despite being compounded by gross impertinence to the headmaster?
2) How is it possible that such a crowd of normally well-behaved children should suddenly turn on their teachers who approach the truants on the legitimate task of herding them back to school, half undress the head, and even blow up one of their cars!? Some of the staff seem to be rather incompetent, but hardly deserving of such reprisals, and the head is a softy (perhaps there is a moral there). But as Clint Eastwood says to the injured sheriff Gene Hackman whose brains he is about to blow out in "Unforgiven" :"Deserving has got nothing to do with it".
As a last, quite trivial point ,I was convinced that the man with the bandaged head on the black and white TV screen was Sir John Gielgud, and thought he could only have taken such a minor part for fun, but it appears to have been someone called Neil Hellett imitating him. A good idea because the upper-crust, dulcet tones from the telly contrast with and cleverly underline the mundane, Estuary English conversation of Melody's working-class family.
There is what I think an important point to be made about this TV movie
which has not been touched on in any of the few comments made so far.
It is that the superb character actor Burt Lancaster resumes here in
1985 the rôle of the similar character he played in "The Sweet Smell of
Success", so many years before in 1957. As can only be expected with a
low budget TV film, it is no artistic masterpiece like the earlier
work, but all the same, well worth seeing.
The all-powerful gossip columnist of the first film, J.J.Hunsecker and Fallen,the editor of the yellowest of gossip magazines in this one, are both manipulative, calculating, and ruthless, but the first rôle was shown as being far more complex, so that Lancaster would have been able to play the more straightforward second rôle standing on his head, as they say.
Lancaster, as J.J.Hunsecker, is not only a megalomaniac, who bullies politicians and forces the ambitious Tony Curtis, his minion and errand boy, to commit despicable acts of betrayal and deceit and finally arranges for him to be savagely beaten by the police and thrown into clink, but he also appears to be a psychopath, with an unpleasantly more than brotherly love for his young sister, always ready to commit a crime at one remove to achieve his sinister ends.
On the other hand,Lancaster as Harold Fallen in "Scandal Sheet", is very "correct", quite unemotional, impassive, and not even contemptuous or verbally disrespectful as he schemes and uses his bag of dirty tricks single-mindedly to obtain, through his equally unscrupulously staff, who hate one another and probably him too, some new eye-catching story such as an interview with the late Grace Kelly by a self-styled spiritual medium on a Californian beach, a story about siamese twins who died on being separated but were "stuck back together" again by one unspeakable male reporter in the same coffin to make a good photo, or the trials and tribulations of an ex-alcoholic and ailing filmstar trying with the aid of his loving wife to make a come-back.
Fallen is always soft-spoken, calm and cautious as he goes about trying to get his filthy rag off the presses. He is a malignant force rather than a personality, who does what he feels he has to do, deploying others to do the actual dirty work, so that he seems hardly to be more blameworthy than a spitting cobra blinding its enemies or prey with its venom - that is just the nature of the beast. This character is also reminiscent of Mephistpheles, emissary of Lucifer the arch devil, whether in the "Faust" of Goethe or the "Doctor Faustus" of Marlowe: calm, logical, seducing with "offers you can't refuse", all without ever raising his voice, his blood pressure or even his eyebrows.
I have just watched this movie on Spain's Canal Sur, in Spanish, which
probably did not make much difference, as the Spaniards are wizards at
dubbing, and the main character in any case is an Irish-Mexican. In
addition, I avoided by this means Widmark's Southern drawl, said by
those better qualified to judge than myself to be hilariously bogus.
When I have seen him in films with English dialogue including Westerns,
he has always sounded very urban to me, probably hailing from some part
of New York and I have never noticed that he has attempted to change
his accent before. So this was probably an isolated attempt that didn't
work out. He is, nonetheless, an excellent actor, and we must recall
that even our late great Sir John Gielgud made a terrible hash of this
too, on the very rare occasions he was induced to speak with a
different accent from his plum-in-the mouth, silver tones.
If you are looking for a Western of the inferior spaghetti type (I do not include Sergio Leone in that description), with non-stop violence and a corpse a minute, be sure to give this one a miss! Although a war film, its mood for the greater part of the footage is great calm, but a calm fraught with tensions. It takes at least three quarters of an hour for the first death to occur (unless there was a fatality at the Alvarez hacienda in the first few seconds, which I happened to miss, and that is unlikely). And immediately after this fatality, a party of Blues capture a party of Greys, who with hardly a pause turn the tables on the former, but without causing any further losses to either side or even anybody getting wounded. The development of the plot is mainly without physical action, so that I must admit it does tend to drag at times. The main protagonists quietly and stealthily pitch their wits against each other: that is why the incident of the severed finger(already mentioned on the general introduction page) comes as such a brutal shock. But the true nature of war, including the American Civil War, is like that: much manoeuvring (Am. maneuvering) without very much happening for most of the time, interrupted by sporadic, sudden flare-ups.
The main characters are well-drawn with many quirks and foibles and there is much humour in their interaction and the awkward situations they find themselves in. A good example of this is the frustration of Widmark, the one-eyed Confederate colonel, who with the reluctant help of the devious civilian,but pro tem acting colonel, Holden, tries to turn the dude grey-coated soldiers into competent cow-hands. Both Widmark and Holden take turns in being the butt of the various ironies, but the stiff-necked, self-opiniated and bumbling Union major played by O'Neill, is the object of such ironies for most of his on-screen time, including from his commanding officer.
The photography is good, the scenery (supposed to be Virginian although the film was said to be shot in Louisiana) is very beautiful, and the costumery and indoor décor quite colourful and well-researched. The women,however, are rather insipid, especially when compared to those belles in a similar situation in the Wayne-Holden opus "The Horse Soldiers", not to mention the vivacious Vivienne Leigh in "Gone with the Wind", though that is an unfair comparison.
Not a movie,then, for those Western fans who like fast action. But, if you are patient enough, there is a terrific finale with a battle, which (to avoid giving too much away), is very reminiscent of a scene from "How the West was Won" which also involved Richard Widmark and, now I come to think of it, also of a sequence in "The Wild Bunch", starring Holden.
Although I had already been around for some time when this film first came out, I had hitherto never seen it or even heard of it, despite the fact that I am quite fond of good Westerns, a fan of both the main actors, and have have often been impressed by O'Neill too. I can only imagine that this occurred because it proved a commercial flop, by reason of the faults above-mentioned, and was shelved. It had never been shown before on the channel where I saw it, and there is little that they do not repeat again and again and again.
Much has been said already so I shall be brief. This film made me
immensely sad - which, in a way, was a good thing because it was all
that prevented me from falling asleep with probably the severest attack
of boredom I have experienced whilst watching a film. I was sad at the
thought of a magnificent cast being so wasted, and because this
subcontinental director of undoubted talent who could produce films
like "The Sixth Sense", which I never tire of seeing again and again,
and the lesser masterpiece, "Unbreakable" should turn out such
pretentious rubbish as this and "Signs" (whose star also has the
irritating tendency of taking himself too seriously).
The film is a fine example of the "Emperor's New Clothes" of the H.C.Andersen story. Self-styled intellectuals patiently enduring the pedestrian unfolding of the plot at somewhat less than the speed of a Japanese tea ceremony, can see all manner of portentous and significant things invisible to more modest eyes like my own. It is as when a talented and competent painter finds he can get ahead better by squeezing a tube of Chinese white on a plain dark blue canvas instead of sticking to his original technically and inspirationally demanding style appreciated by the man-in-the-street. Though this strategy, if strategy it be, appears ,quite deservedly, not to have been a commercial success for Shamalyan.
I was especially sorry for the wonderful Adrien Brody, perhaps even sorrier than when he was being brutalized by the Nazis (except for one nice officer) in Polanski's "The Pianist". But, in a way, this actor disclaimed any responsibility for this fiasco by playing the village idiot! However, I should imagine that most if not all of the cast secretly wish they had never had anything to do with it.
I give the thing 3/10 stars: one out of respect for the misused cast and the talented but ill-advised director; one for the highly competent technical side of the production; and one for the music which was nominated for an award and, as befits a good soundtrack,does not impinge upon the consciousness of the viewer even when he is dozing off.
Though obviously dated, "The Strange Woman" continues to hold our
interest and keep us in suspense till the last explosive frame. It is a
good old Victorian melodrama in the tradition of "Maria of the Red
Barn" and, with its stirring scenes of passion and thrilling action
sequences, still excellent fare for those who love a good tale well
Hedy Lamarr plays a woman who can be extremely wicked and devilishly devious, but she is not thoroughly evil like the entirely despicable female played by Margaret Lockwood in the "Wicked Lady", but rather a mixture of good and evil like all of us. However, in her case both tendencies are taken to extremes, with evil predominating. In early life. she is very poor and suffers savage beatings from her inebriate father, with some provocation, it is true, but this may give her more justification than the spoilt, vandalistic and violent rich brats of "Rebel without a Cause" are entitled to for being a mixed-up kid.
The film is unfortunately marred a little (no pun intended) by a number of incongruous accents which no director could get away with today. Gene Lockhart's kind of Irish/Canadian is quite plausible in that location (Bangor, Maine), and even Dennis Hooey's broad drunken Scots is credible especially so close to Nova Scotia, but both George Sander's and Louis Hayward's (close friend of plum-in-the-mouth Noel Coward) dulcet tones would be more likely to be heard in an Oxbridge tutorial than a logging town. Admittedly, the Hayward character has been away studying architecture at university(at "Bawston", it seems, but shouldn't he then talk like JFK?), whilst on the other hand, Sanders claims in the accents of an Oxford don that he belongs not in an office but rather in the rough logging camps of "The Devil's Acre". Furthermore, and above all, there is the incongruity of the main character Jenny's accent, which mutates from standard girl-next-door American when young (played by Jo Marlowe), to the Viennese English of Sigmund Freud when Hedy takes over the rôle. I tend to think that dear Hedy never felt entirely at home in the States, yearned for her native Austria, and consequently, did not make sufficient effort with her diction coach.
Fortunately, in compensation for the above defects, the acting is otherwise fine for this material, and Hedy, the most beautiful of women, whilst Hayward and Sanders among the handsomest of men - all a joy to see in action.
It is hardly surprising that the late uxorious King Farouk of Egypt had a picture of a swimming Hedy, taken from "Ekstase", on the ceiling of his palatial bathroom.