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Edge of Eternity (1959)
Well-Handled Routine Thriller
Don Siegel was an outstanding action director,and although the plotting in EDGE OF ETERNITY is unremarkable,the lushly photographed locations(mostly around the Grand Canyon)and exciting action climax make it very watchable.Cornel Wilde is adequate in a predominately minor cast,but Mickey Shaughnessy and Jack Elam would have been better swapping their roles;despite his comic sense,Elam was always more effective as a slimy villain,whereas Shaughnessy,mostly known for his comedic parts,seems far too genial for this type of part.
Still,a lot better than you'd expect,thanks to Siegel's skill at directing.
On the Buses (1971)
ON THE BUSES was the UK's top sitcom in the early 1970's,but this extraordinary fact is hard to believe 3 decades later.What's even more astonishing is despite this (1971) being the year of THE FRENCH CONNECTION,A CLOCKWORK ORANGE and GET CARTER,the film was the most successful at the UK box office this year.
The very thin plot is carried along further by Reg Varney and Bob Grant laughing at their own(mostly feeble) puns and double entendres,a leering,grotesquely stereotyped view of the young women in view,and a script that makes even the most sub-standard CARRY ON film seem like Shakespeare.
The TV show itself lasted until 1973,and two further film sequels followed,but the bawdy traditions of this first ON THE BUSES effort continued with even more excess with the CONFESSIONS series starring Robin Askwith;again the first of this series topped the UK box office in 1974.
As a Briton,I can assure the US we've all grown up and matured since those days!
Campy ,Humorless 'B' Adventure Hokum
Despite being actually filmed on the Amazon river and expensive CGI effects,ANACONDA is basically no more than 'B' picture adventure fodder,with dialogue,plotting and performances to match.The script is hopelessly hackneyed and wooden,and Jennifer Lopez gives the dullest performance,mainly because she has the dullest lines.I actually think J-Lo isn't a bad actress when given decent scripts to work with(U-TURN,OUT OF SIGHT),but her agent either generally picks mediocre/bad scripts,or she overrules and picks them herself! Most of her film career to date is composed of below-average scripts(or even beneath that!),and this is no exception.
The rest of the cast(Ice Cube,Jonathan Hyde)fare little better with the arrant stereotyped characters present,though at least Jon Voight keeps interest going with a richly hammy performance.His character is pure cardboard too,but his odd accent(a curious hybrid of Spanish,Czech,German and Godfather Brandoesque)is perversely fascinating.
Voight's overplaying may have been even been more enjoyable on the Jack Nicholson-Joker level had there been a trace of wit in the script;the fact that this is non-existent considerably mitigates against the film.The same year's MEN IN BLACK had similar 'B' picture credentials,but at least it had better production and CGI,witty lines,a genial Will Young,and genuinely frightening monsters(especially towards the end);the scaly one itself here is rather poorly composed,and it's sleight-of-mouth with Mr.Voight near the end is more (unintentionally)amusing than chilling.Apparently,Anacondas in real life are mostly rather shy and difficult to find in the Amazon,and have rarely had humans for their lunch.The one in this film seems to have a serial grudge against all humankind,and a severe bulimia condition!
If you want camp 'B' picture fun,check out PIRANHA(1978)instead.Now that was both FUNNY and FRIGHTENING.
Joins The Ranks of The Music Box
The winner for best short film at the 2005 Oscars,this well-made,gritty and honest film seems to me to have a very ambivalent attitude towards it's main character Zoe(convincingly played by Nathalie Press).
A single mother living on a grim council estate,she's prepared to scrap with a woman who attacked her kids by going to her house dressed merely in a nightie,then uses the most foul,gutter language in front of them(all pre-teen).Capable of behaving like an sweet angel one minute,and a gross harridan the next,she attempts to have some fun with a sympathetic suitor(Danny Dyer),but with no partner or babysitter in sight this is doomed to failure,with dire consequences for her children,left outside a pub.
The film charts the difficulties that such women face(or perhaps bring on themselves),and the subject of social services is frequently brought up.But is there a happy ending in store with the would-be suitor? The film will probably have different interpretations by Social Libreals and Right-Wing Fundamental Moralists because of this ambivalence.Despite it's undoubted quality,Laurel & Hardy's THE MUSIC BOX(1932),is still the best short ever awarded the Oscar for me!
With Love and Hisses (1927)
L & H in the Army
Pre-team Laurel and Hardy silent,with Stan as an effeminate private,being bullied by Sergeant Banner(Ollie)and General James Finlayson.There is virtually no plot,and a lot of the humour on show is of a surprisingly vulgar,broad nature,involving putrid garlic and swollen posteriors,amongst others.Again,the boys are cast as enemies rather than friends,though Ollie's behaviour towards Stan is slightly friendlier in the second reel.Bizarrely(and pointlessly),a poster of Cecil B.De Mille's film THE VOLGA BOATMAN(1926)is used for a gag later in the film.They weren't a team yet,but would be in several films'time when they would be shoulder-to-shoulder buddies.
Sailors, Beware! (1927)
Amiable non-team L&H comedy
One of the better shorts made with Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy before their celebrated teaming;well produced,some amusing sequences,though frustratingly the boys don't share that many scenes in the film.Still,we get the the first known camera-look from Hardy(although he had performed this trait in previous films,notably STICK AROUND,made in 1925),and Anita Garvin and Harry Earles are fine as an improbable man and wife jewel thieving team.Hal Yates is credited with the direction,though in fact Hal Roach is thought to have been the director,with Yates filming one day's worth of retakes.Later in the year,he directed HATS OFF,when the teaming was becoming an item;sadly no copy of HATS OFF is known to exist.
Why Girls Love Sailors (1927)
Long-Lost L&H comedy
WHY GIRLS LOVE SAILORS was a lost film for many years until it turned up in a French Film Archive in 1971.It took another 15 years for the film to be viewed again,but happily it is now readily available on DVD and Video,with the French subtitles translated into English.
So,do Stan and Ollie work as a team here? Not really,though they do share one scene towards the end as Stan(called Willie Brisling here)tricks Ollie(billed as the First Mate)into thinking he's a woman,though he's actually trying to rescue his girl who's been kidnapped by the Ship's captain(Malcolm Waite).Anita Garvin,who was not thought to have appeared in the film until it's rediscovery,steals the show as the Captain's irate wife.Interesting more historically than aesthetically,but still watchable.
Slipping Wives (1927)
Laurel & Hardy as enemies?
The previous film Laurel and Hardy appeared in(DUCK SOUP)had them remarkably as a team from beginning to end despite only being their second film at Hal Roach.The boys do share scenes again in SLIPPING WIVES,but this time as hated enemies.These work well enough,but the film has the flaw that mars all these very early L&H efforts;too frantic a pace.There are only very feint traces of the familiar later Laurel and Hardy characteristics on view,and fading silent stars Priscilla Dean and Herbert Rawlinson take the lead roles.SLIPPING WIVES was reworked into one of Stan and Ollie's final short films,THE FIXER UPPERS(1935).
Love 'Em and Weep (1927)
Remake was far better
LOVE 'EM AND WEEP was a very early pre-team short featuring Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy at the Hal Roach Studios;the only problem is that they share no virtually no scenes together,and the double act working here is Stan and James Finlayson,not Stan and Ollie.The remake,CHICKENS COME HOME(1931),when the Laurel and Hardy team was well established,is far superior with less frantic pacing and better characterisation.Like Finlayson,several L&H co-stars make their first appearance with the boys;Charlie Hall,Mae Busch.Although the above remake has 10 minutes extra footage(foreign versions had even more footage),Laurel and Hardy together are far funnier than Laurel and Finlayson,though Fin is great as the blackmailing butler,played in this silent original by Hall.
Seconds to Spare (2002)
Poor Aussie Imitation of Hollywood Action Thrillers
Hollywood actioners which involve Terrorists/Trains/He-Man Heroes,etc were already tediously out-dated when this Australian hybrid was made;the only fun to be had is see if the Aussies can make them as derivatively and dully as Hollywood.The answer is they certainly can after this film,only on a lower budget!
Kimberley Davies(Annalise from 'NEIGHBOURS)stars,and despite her limited acting ability is not helped by the hopelessly hackneyed script.She is,in fact,the only reason for watching;the dull,monosyllabic hero makes Arnie S seem like Larry O;the comic book villains are alternately over-the-top or wooden,with the wimpiest of cowards thrown in for good measure.Some incidents are reworked from SILVER STREAK(1976)and loads of other(equally clichéd)films.At least SILVER STREAK was often intentionally funny;the humour here is always unintended.Only watchable on that level.