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Song of Scheherazade (1947)
A delightful and hilarious movie
I saw this movie as a Russian speaking teenager in Boston, but it couldn't have been further away from anything truly Russian. I had already studied a lot of Russian music and dance and so was anxious to see a film about one of my favorite composers: Nicholi Rimsky Korsakov. I couldn't have been more disillusioned. The Rimsky Korsakov that I knew from pictures in books wore glasses and had a long beard though he could have looked a bit like Jean Pierre Aumont when he was young. He certainly was in the Russisn navy and did travel all over the world but his life was absolutely nothing like that portrayed in the film. Even so, that's Hollywood and it was enjoyable though hilarious. Eve Arden couldn't have been worst cast, though I always loved her witty remarks and wise cracks in all her movies. But as a Spanish Duena? And wearing a Mantilla? Really! Yvonne De Carlo was surely beautiful but a dancer? Never. And who on earth did her choreography? I understand dummying down choreography for non dancers to be able to do, (called sham dancing) but surely it could have been a bit more inventive than this. Then, low and behold, she is dancing as Prima Ballerina at the Bolshoi Theater no less. OK, when in doubt, use a tambourine. Forget that Scherezade (only in the Ballet Russe repertory and not until 1920) as a ballet was never given at the Bolshoi in Moscow until the 1980s. And as Prima Ballerina in this silly version, (not even in toe shoes) she meets Rimsky (presumably during intermission) on the front steps of the Bolshoi wearing wedgies in the Moscow snow. AND, who on earth was the kid dancing with her on stage? Was it her little sister or the grand daughter of one of the producers from a local dancing school? Neither one would be allowed to even set foot on the stage of the Bolshoi let alone dance, even back during that time; 1880 or thereabouts. Brian Donlevy strutting around in a dance belt, puffing out his bare chest. Is this what one reviewer here was referring to as homo erotic? I suppose so, for 1947, but he sits in a box at the Bolshoi where he wouldn't have even been allowed past the front entrance, cigarette and all. But actually, I really love this movie for all its silliness and somehow I even managed to get it on tape, possibly it was shown on TV back during the 1980s. It's time I take another look at it. Yvonne De Carlo went on to be a star on Broadway and of course as Lily Munster on TV. Jean Pierre later married Maria Montez. Could that be right??? An added note: Years later, while in Moscow, I saw a Soviet version of Rimsky's life. Much more authentic of course with wonderful actors and in gorgeous Soviet color but of course no equal to MGM's production values. I think it was just called "Rimsky Korsakov's Life". They also did one on "Mousorgsky" another Russian composer. That was during Soviet times. I don't think Russian film industry would attempt such films now.
Phantom of the Opera (1943)
One of my favorites
I saw this film when I was a child when my sister (who happened to be a lifelong fan of Nelson Eddy) took me on the train into Boston to the Keith Orpheum Theater for a morning showing. So I sat beside my big sister while she was in heaven watching Nelson Eddy. I never thought that much of him as an opera singer but the opera they were doing was impressive for me, even at that age and I knew it was not a real opera but one made up by the studio using Tchaikovsky's symphonic music. I liked the acrobats in the opera scene and when Nelson used his whip to capture the leading soprano. I already knew Russian language so I understood the words they were singing and that Nelson pronounced them correctly. Then of course there was the marvelous Claude Rains. Not until years later when I got older did I really appreciate his wonderful acting ability. I also wondered how they could reproduce the Paris Opera house. I knew of course it was a studio set but was it a permanent theater on the lot at Universal or just the inside with dressed up extras as audience? These were the questions from a child's mind and I went home dreaming about it; not so much the story but the technical aspects of it all - like, how could the phantom carry a grand piano all the way down to those caverns far below the opera house. I have seen the film several times since then and I must say it holds up extremely well. Gorgeous Technicolor and atmosphere throughout. I've heard that the theater still exists on the Universal lot and was used in some other films. I wonder if it still is there, or was it burned down in the fire of 2007 that swept through and destroyed so much of the Universal lot. Maybe someone knows.
It's all about show business
Contrary to most, I must say I did like this movie. At first I thought I wouldn't as it seemed just a documentary, but after a while it became engrossing. Maybe because I started out in show biz myself and in these regional type of productions too, so it all came back as realistic to me. I wouldn't have thought Jeff Goldblum could pull it off as a song and dance man, after seeing him in The Fly and Jurassic Park, but he did rather well, I thought. Maybe a bit too much mugging off stage as well as on, but on the whole, viewable and he worked very hard on this. I wondered what is it with the gum chewing all the way through? The movie gave a true sense of theater life on the amateur, regional level, and I suppose, other than Jeff and Ed Begley, none were Union and so were not paid, certainly not the children. I noticed the choreographer, who also acted a bit, is uncredited, yet every child no matter how insignificant is sure to be named. That's Civic Theater for you! Oh, he is listed on the movie credits at end of film but not on this site, but they often don't give the choreographer credit and if they do it's listed even below the location driver! Not fair at all! I well remember the film of Music Man with Robert Preston but could never figure out how 76 trombones would fit on any stage! But with a bit of stagecraft they did. I saw Music Man back during the 70s in the London West End with Van Johnson (sadly now (December 2008) gone at age 92) in the lead role.
The Game (1997)
A disappointing ending
This movie certainly is full of suspense but the ending, to me, was disappointing in the extreme. If my brother had put me through all of that misery just as a birthday present I would surely suspect he was insane. Instead, surprise! Michael Douglas actually and unbelievably goes around thanking everyone for coming? This is too ridiculous, and by the way, this Unger person - two thirds of what she said I couldn't understand. If it wasn't for Michael (who speaks clearly as trained actors should) I wouldn't have had a clue what they were talking about. Why can't they find actors who can talk so we can understand what they are saying? Whatever happened to re-takes? Why is it that in the old Hollywood movies every single word is spoken clearly and understood? Is it possible the directors wanted and demanded re-takes until it came out right?
A Senior Citizen ticket wasted!
It's so clear that this will be the last Mummy picture for Brendon Frazier, and me as well. I always liked him but here he looks so unhappy and out of place. I wonder, has he also gained a lot of weight? Because they never once show anything of him below his belt line. Oh yes, one shot has him pressing a fist full of ice to his crotch while giving a sigh of relief. Now what on earth was that for? Senseless! The acting, the story, is basically, how can I say it not to be too unkind? Well, absurd. And to think this was shot in the most beautiful areas of China, and with the ancient Terracotta soldier-figures no less, that are used mainly only as a silly background for fighting effects. Speaking of photography, who on earth photographed this monstrosity? An amateur? I went home with a terrible headache just from watching the thousands of shots, each the length of 1 or 2 seconds, and obviously with a very unsteady, hand-held camera as well. The scenes are so flash-by you can't really register what you're seeing. Did they not want anyone to really see what's really going on in the chase through downtown Shanghai? Just to think of all the millions spent on this production and wasted, when they had all the locations, extras and material to really make something great out of it. The writers, the directors and producers should all be sacked, or at least know that this one was totally screwed up. So, even with a $6.00 Senior admission, I feel cheated. One more thing: The composer, conductor and musicians playing the background music (yes, there really is background music that, if you listen closely and pay attention, can be heard behind all the noise) must have felt embarrassed accompanying this piece of trash.
For some reason I thought I was renting (from the machine at Safeway) the LATEST version of this film with Brendon Frazier as they usually have new releases there. How stupid of me. It turned out to be the 1999 version with Treat Williams. Only a few minutes into it I realized it was a made for TV by Lifetime. The producers had a lot of nerve coming up with this comic book adaptation of such a great novel. Poor Jules Verne. It was not too bad until they reach New Zealand and enter the cave leading to what they call the center of the earth that turned out to be a movie set with blue painted trees and studio made mache rocks. They all act as if they're at Disneyland on an underground ride. And when they meet the creatures who speak English it's beyond belief. Obviously there was a ballet school somewhere behind those rocks, even with a choreographer, as a full corps of ballet girls were dancing with ballet steps mixed with disco dancing. Totally ridiculous. The husband of the Carnegie heiress who they were looking for and found, speaks with an Australian accent and doesn't give a damn after finding out that Treat Williams had screwed his wife someplace behind a rock, but more unbelievable is that Treat would fall in love with her anyway as she's not at all attractive besides being one of the worst actors I've ever seen. Where did they find her? In a High School play? Then, of course, there's an evil Queen but I fast forwarded over most of that scene so don't know what she was up to. Should I care? The only thing worth looking at is Treat Williams who seems to have kept his youth remarkably. Now I can't wait to see the Brendon Frazier one that's still playing in the theaters in 3D. I should have known better.
Jane Eyre (1996)
Why such negative comments?
I don't understand all these negative comments. This is obviously a Franco Zefferelli film with all of his famous and highly sensitive and artistic touches. Every scene is a masterpiece of not only directing but of color and placing. John Hurt gives a masterful performance, one of his best. He playing Rochester went a long way towards me taking the DVD out of the Tucson public library in the first place and so glad I did. Otherwise it could have just been another BBC adaptation. His mastery of the British accent is incredible. The scene with the horse falling on top of him must have had a double but looked so realistic Zefferelli must have had a hand in it. In the 'special' documentary included, you get a different shot of this scene, with camera and prop men in background. Charlotte Gainsbourg is so rightly cast in this. I must have seen at least 3 versions of this Charlotte Bronte book, starting with the MGM one with Joan Fontaine and Orson Welles, but this one tops them all.
A wonderful DVD
I had no idea a Broadway version of Victor Victoria existed until I just happened to see it on a shelf at our local video rental store. Having seen the film version in 1982 and being a fan of Julie Andrews, I couldn't wait to get home to view it. Jule Andrews did a remarkable job, tirelessly going through 2 long acts, and at the age of 60! Even her dancing seems improved over the years. I loved her pre-curtain and intermission talks too. I felt I was right there in a front row. At first I thought Tony Roberts would not be as good as Robert Preston in the film version, but he came through with a lovable portrayal of Toddy, the gay drag queen. In the film, Preston did a spoof of Le Jazz Hot near the end that I thought was a bit over the top, in horrible drag and also appeared exhausted. Sadly he died not long after, a great loss. Blake Edwards so improved on this scene by having both Victoria and Toddy appear together in gorgeous gowns. Costumes and scenery were remarkable and the late Henry Mancini music, especially Crazy World, is so memorable and can bring tears to the eyes. All the rest of the cast including some great dancing and choreography have left a marvelous record of this performance. Thanks to them for a wonderful evening of viewing.
Cousin Bette (1971)
Can't believe it!
This is a great series from BBC but there is a problem here. I can hardly believe no mention here of the star, Margaret Tyzack. As if she didn't exist. She has such a long career in TV and movies. As Cousin Bette her performance is remarkable. Now at age 77 or so she should have been given credit. I believed I saw this on PBS sometime during the 80s. I must be mistaken as it's dated 1971. But it could have been a re-run. It seems to have just come out on DVD so I just rented it. There exists another version with Jessica Lange. This arrived in 1998 but I have not seen it. I can't imagine any other Cousin Bette than Tyzack but when I finish watching all 5 episodes of this version I'll rent the Lange one.
Lost Horizon (1973)
Colorful, but not as good as original
I saw this movie when it first came out in 1973 and loved it. Since then I've searched for a video but never found it until now, 33 years later, when I ordered it from Moviehunter. Sorry to say it doesn't hold up. This glamourized version just can't rise up to the 1937 production level. I love Burt Bacharach's musical score, that is if listend to by itself, and I even bought a CD of it, but for my taste it doesn't lend itself well to this mysterious and compelling story. Just doesn't fit. Michael York is lost here. Sally Kellerman tosses off a fine performance but Olivia Hussy is just ridiculous and not worth lugging through the Himalayas. The best performance is Charles Boyer as the head Lama.