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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
If you were to ask film goer's which character or movie they would
associate with Clint Eastwood it would probably be his portrayal of the
no-nonsense crime buster inspector Harry Callahan. Of course Eastwood
had done some very popular movies prior to this including his spaghetti
westerns in the 1960's and even after the Harry Callahan run he has
gone on to do some well acclaimed films in front of as well as behind
the camera. It's worth mentioning this because despite being well into
his seventies he's still in demand as actor and director which is a
testament to his movie making abilities and longevity that spans fifty
years! All in all an impressive achievement. Be that as it may, when
you play the character of Harry Callahan five times over an 18 year
period it's hard for fans not to associate him with the part.
MAGNUM FORCE might actually be a tad better than DIRTY HARRY as well as being the best of the sequels. Not only do we learn a bit more about Inspector Callahan but also it's a more interesting and compelling story as well as having a better all round cast. Well, at least it seems that way as time has gone by, because the supporting cast of David Soul, Tim Matheson and Robert Urich who play the easy-going traffic cops would go on to be well known stars in their own right through the 70's, 80's, 90's and 2000's. In addition they are backed up by the brilliant Hal Holbrook playing the impatient and easily irritated lieutenant Briggs.
Tough street wise cops were not a new thing to Hollywood, but because of the civil rights movements in the 1960's and 70's there were a lot of new rules that the police had to adhere to and their methods came under greater judicial scrutiny. If there was a whiff of wrong doing, the judge would instruct that critical testimony should be dismissed and vital evidence rendered inadmissible thus making the DA's prosecution impossible and an acquittal or a dismissal of a case a certainty. They had rights! As a consequence it seemed that the courts became a sanctuary or a get out of jail card for the criminals! Also, rather than having some dopey public defender the criminals gained access to the new breed of wise-guy smarmy lawyers who would use all forms of court room trickery to gain acquittals for their clients. Whether it was organized crime, pimps, murderers, rapists and muggers the system seemed to work in their favor.
Also, politicians became sensitive to the minority communities complaints of police strong armed tactics leaned on local police forces to ease off. All this coincided with an explosion of violent crime in the early 1970's where the public particularly in the big cities became anxious and frustrated at this. Therefore movies such as DIRTY HARRY where Harry used his own methods to get his man and DEATH WISH which encouraged the public to fight back using the same methods as the hoods all captured the public imagination. In the follow up, MAGNUM FORCE explored the possibility of vigilante cops acting as judge, jury and executioner because the system seemed not to be working.
Inspector Callahan is not impressed by these new methods and shrugs off pressure from above. The beginning of the movie sets the tone, from his indifference towards the gunned down thugs as well as the way he tackled the hijacked plane only demonstrated the way he wanted to do his job. When it appears that some one is trying to put the courts out of business as the body bags that are piling up in the cities morgue are San Francisco's dregs of the earth, Callahan has the unenviable task of finding out who is responsible for this? Harry at first thinks that it is some rouge cop acting out of impulse who might be the one responsible for these revenge killings but as things progress it appears that this is not just a random or a spur of the moment act.
Callahan becomes suspicious towards a well disciplined team of rookie cops who he knows are expert marksman. It appears that they are a highly motivated and are a product of a well organized shadow police force who have support much higher up the chain of command. Although Callahan has no empathy towards the people who are being killed and to a large extent understands why somebody might carry out such a deed, he is much happier catching them in the act and blowing them away in a shoot out. He is uneasy at the blatant execution style of these killings and is way beyond what he thinks is right! As his investigation unfolds, he too becomes a target and when his partner gets rubbed out it seems that he may have crossed more than just the mayor and the chief of police! Now with nobody watching his back, can he get to the bottom of this before he becomes a victim, and more importantly who can he trust?
There are obvious plot holes but it is more than compensated by great cinema photography with great shots of San Francisco, shoot outs, an easy going back ground score and and of course a very smooth Clint Eastwood to boot. The sparing between Briggs and Callahan is entertaining and produces some great dialog, it's well worth a watch and I'd highly recommend this to 70's movie buffs and Clint Eastwood fans!.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
All in all probably the last vintage season on Dallas before it started
to lose ratings. The major story lines were of a high standard which
produced some entertaining scenarios as well as new characters being
brought in. The only clanger dropped was the introduction of a new Miss
Elie earlier in the season and Sue Ellen later returning to the bottle
which had all become tiresome. Yet it was the season finale "Swan Song"
that was to create a defining moment in Dallas where Bobby Ewing one of
the original cast was killed off.
Another interesting feature of this episode is that unlike most of the other end of season cliff-hangers when some story lines overhang to the next season, pretty much most of this seasons primary plots had reached conclusions with the only exception being the ongoing Mark Grayson mystery which did leave something dangling. Firstly, Ewing oil stayed with the Dallas Ewings, (except 10%), Jenna was finally acquitted for manslaughter and released from jail and Lucy finally grew up and remarried Mitch. Cliff Barnes for all his trouble got Jamie Ewing as a wife rather than the two-thirds of Ewing oil that he hoped for and Pam and Bobby decided to get back together.
Watching this particular episode the viewer can sense an claustrophobic aura of foreboding, you were just waiting for the other shoe to drop! Well it did and Bobby Ewing was run down by Catherine Wentworth and later died in hospital. In doing this the Dallas creators seriously underestimated what his departure would do to the series. They rightly decided not to replace the actor but still failed to fill the void that had kept the right balance and chemistry between the characters.
Dallas was really all about JR and his desire for power and control of Ewing oil and the conflict he had with the three central characters. These included his neglected wife Sue Ellen, arch nemesis Cliff Barnes and his hot and cold relationship with his brother Bobby who was the family enforcer and from time to time was able to reign JR in! He was also in conflict with Pam, Clayton and Ray, but they were broadly of a secondary nature to the show.
It wasn't just the loss of this central character to the series and the relationship with JR that was missed, or even a pillar of the Ewing family that JR could always really when the family had to close ranks, it was also the loss of JR's alter ego in the show. Bobby in virtually all ways compensated for his brothers Machiavellian view of the oil business. In some ways Bobby came across as more of an elitist than JR, who tended to be more boorish. He was dismissive of people that were not his equal and also very impatient with others if he did not get his own way. He was short tempered and quite prepared to throw his weight about and step on people in the process. However, this was tempered by a greater sense of moral certitude and values in his business dealings. Although he had alpha male traits, he could still be gentle and kind and also give his lovers a level of passion that JR could neither offer or match. If they had tried to create a character to replace him they might have pulled it off but they didn't and as a consequence the show and Jr's character became out of sorts.
In season 10 they decide to get Bobby back and "swan song" became a false ending, because the ending and the entire next season was one of Pams' dreams. It's important to note that the dream start's in "swan song". They are getting intimate and then it flashes to the outside and you can see the inside lights go out! Then the next scene shows Ray and Donna at Southfork who seem to be reconciling followed by Bobby being hit by a car and then lastly the death bed scene were Bobby dies. Probably, the dream starts after the light go out in Pam place. Of course originally it wasn't meant to be dream, nobody could see that black-swan coming!
So for anybody who is a new fan and buying it on DVD rather than watching the series as it unfolds on TV, at the end of this episode jump to season 10 and follow from then on. Yes the production is different, the hair styles different and the actors have aged a bit, (they do show the shower scene at the beginning which was the ending of season 9), that's the best advice. Then get season 9 at a later date and follow the parallel universe and see what Dallas would be like without Bobby Ewing!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is a gem of a thriller from the late 70's that has conspiracy over
tones right the way through. It was very contemporary for it's time
with a fine cast that could easily have been a whose-who guide of
American character actors and actresses of that day, indeed many of
them are still currently active in Hollywood. Although I did say
contemporary, the Apollo space program had been wound up some 5 years
earlier and the space shuttle was still a few years away from getting
off the ground. However, after Watergate, the loss in Vietnam and a
failing economy a cynical American public were probably ready to
believe that the Apollo space program was nothing but a hoax!
Many people believe that the Vietnam war was fought primarily to feed the America's huge military industrial complex. Massive government spending was required to keep it going, so what better than a war! Going further, critics say that NASA's Apollo space program which was also known as "the space race" was also politically motivated and just part of the cold war shenanigans. Get to the moon before the soviets to prove who had the best economic and political system as well as creating a feel good factor in the country. NASA was also a large part of the military budget which ran into millions of dollars which many thought was far too much, particularly that there were more pressing economic and social problems at the time at home.
After getting off to a slow start the USA eventually got the better of the USSR and landed men on the moon in 1969. Yet, conspiracy theorists suggest that the moon landings were staged in a studio. They say that the USA simply did not have the technology back in the 1960's to have landed on the moon. Why did they do it? Probably for political purposes too. President Kennedy in 1962 predicted that they would send a man to the moon by the end of the decade and thus keep the USA ahead in the space race. In addition other benefactors of the space program thanks to congress and their ability to appropriate funds provided by the tax payers were the large corporations and their shareholders.
The movie itself is entertaining and the only thing wrong are some of the obvious plot holes that leave more questions than answers. For example the three man crew are hauled off the rocket minutes before it's launch and are then coerced into going along with fake the Mars landing after threats are made against their families. Of course a complicate crew would be vital with such a stunt, but one wonders why the conspirators would not have got volunteers or willing participants to be the crew? It would not be too difficult to find volunteers for the right price! Let's face it if the moon landings were fake, surly they are not saying that all the Apollo astronauts went on their missions under duress!
Also, there is a major mistake when the conscientious engineer (Robert Walden)who tells his superiors that his data from his console indicates that the astronauts transmission seemed to be coming in from only 200 miles away rather than way out in outer space. Wouldn't he have discussed this with his other co-workers and wouldn't this obvious oversight have been discovered by other engineers too? While playing pool in a crowded bar he just simply disappears, with no record of him ever working at NASA and never ever living in his apartment! What about his mum and dad, neighbors, friends and co workers, they all couldn't have been in on it? Be that as it may, they get rid of him effortlessly but then they struggle to get rid of Caulfield (Elliot Gould). This third rate reporter was eventually able give them the slip and carry on with his investigation.
Aother problem is that it is unclear how many people that are involved and how deep it goes? Initially Dr Kelloway (brilliantly played by Hal Holbrooke) says that very few know about what they were doing. Then argues to the bemused astronauts that they have to go along, that things are too big it's out of control, there are too many large and powerful forces that simply have too much to loose if the mission is canceled. I counted about 15 people including the technicians at the studio, Helicopter and jet pilots and presumably CIA or FBI agents. Did they have to take more people into their confidence after Brubaker (James Brolin) and his crew escaped from the sound stage? It's also not clear if congressman Hollis or the general knows about the fake landing nor the need to kill the astronauts after the heat shield failed on re-entry, although it implies it!
All in all an entertaining movie with great dialog, plenty of tension and paranoia. A Great opening monologue from Hal Holbrooke, in fact its just worth watching it for that if nothing else! Superb cinema photography, great sound track and music score from Jerry Goldsmith. If you can ignore the obvious faults it's not a bad watch at all. I would highly recommend this movie!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
There have been a lot of changes in American politics since this was
released, but at the time Rob Reiner was probably motivated to produce
this because of the election of Americas first baby-boom president a
couple of years earlier. In doing this he attempts to shed some light
on the complex political system in Washington DC, perhaps for a new
generation of Americans but certainly for those who are fascinated by
American politics. It's not just the political horse trading that goes
on for votes, or even the power and influence that lobbyists hold but
also how the manipulation of polls ultimately determine policy making.
More importantly by the 1990's the baby boom generation who were
immersed in the social changes and civil rights movements in the late
60's and early 1970's either as liberals or conservatives were now in
government either as democrats or republicans. Therefore the script for
the American President reflected the cultural clash of that time period
playing out in national politics during the 90's.
For example, in the USA the American left want to expand the role of government in all facets of life even though very few people demand this. They focus on global warming and international agreements over climate change and attempt to control inner city gun violence (which is really drug related) as well as promoting gay marriage. None of these issues concerns or benefit the urban middle class, the rural blue collar working class or average voter who are the ones playing by the rules and are trying to get ahead.
On the other hand the right complain about the demise of moral standards and the strains on the traditional nuclear family. Yet they are often unable to live up to the high standards that they preach and are caught out having extra marital affairs, flirting with collage interns or chasing congressional page boys. Military service is the most honorable thing a patriot can do, but many of them and their immediate family members find better or more lucrative things to do than serve themselves and are happy to send others over seas to do the fighting. Illegal immigration is a real problem, but often it is disclosed that many people that they hire as nannies and gardeners don't have a valid green card. Lastly, big government is good if it's spending that they want! None of these, although embarrassing indiscretions for what they proclaim to stand for affects the quality of life of the middle class either.
Americas' first baby boomer President not only never served in uniform but avoided service in the Vietnam war, he experimented with drugs, and over the years fooled around with other women while at the same time being married. His ambitious wife aware of these affairs, not only shrugged this off but was determined to get involved in policy making in the white how and was quite happy putting the political boot in. This was all in sharp contrast to the traditional non-political role the first lady tended to take. The right did not like this type of relationship and it became a political issue at the time.
What follows is largely a cosy, easy going romantic comedy and the film touches on a few of these hot button political issues. The fictional President here was Andrew Shepard (Michael Douglas) a single parent, a former history professor and governor from the state of Wisconsin. Elected by a small margin largely on the back of sympathy because his wife died during the campaign he also had the burden of receiving a very small winning percentage of the vote.
This time the ambitious woman is Sydney Ellen Wade a pushy, sassy, feminist heavy-hitter from the lobbying and political consultancy world of Washington DC. Having taken a fancy to Wade the widowed Shepard seeking intimacy has to fight off republican criticism that he is dishonoring the white house by having a relationship with her while not being married. (If only Reiner was to know what was to later be disclosed in the real white house a couple of years later)!! This is red meat for his political opponents, but he refuses to be drawn into something he regards as a private matter. However the attacks on his character and the campaign to bring Wade down by portraying her as a radical or extremist eventually takes a political toll, consequently his job approval numbers go into free fall.
Also during this there is an sub-plot when Shepard has to respond to a terrorist act linked to Libya. Because of his lack of military experience and needing to look tough for domestic political purposes he orders a retaliatory attack on the Libyan intelligence building in a "decisive and proportional response". On this occasion the unlucky recipients on the receiving end of a smart bomb are the janitors working the night shift. The intelligence agents presumably responsible for the original terrorist act know that it is coming and are setting up shop somewhere else. Shepard is not sure of the real benefit of this but gives the order knowing full well that he is beholden to the domestic political reality of not wanting to be seen as weak.
In the end Shepard comes out swinging and seems to get the upper hand over his political enemies, although in this case the movie ends as soon as gets the last word! Never the less it's still an entertaining and watch able movie with a fine supporting cast i.e. Michael J Fox, Annette Benning and Martin Sheen. No doubt this inspired NBC's the " West Wing" and in all intensive purposes could easily have been a pilot for the series!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
When you watch this movie it's impossible not to feel that Alfred
Hitchcock was a genius! Whether it's a thriller like "North by North
west" where the viewer is taken half-way across America, or an
espionage movie that treks across Europe in "Foreign correspondent" or
just simply a plain case of mistaken identity in the "The wrong man",
Hitchcock was always able to find the right tempo, atmosphere and
chemistry for his films. It's hard to imagine a simple stage play being
transformed into a Hollywood box office hit, because with the exception
of one or two short scenes, the entire movie takes place in a confined
environment of a ground floor flat in Maida Vale London. Not
surprisingly Hitchcock does not disappoint and is able to pull it off
by producing a highly entertaining film!
It is a well written story with great dialog between the characters, but it is the tension, the incidental music and the camera angles that make this movie compelling viewing. Needless to say the movie was blessed with some big box office draws of the day in Grace Kelly, Robert Cummings and Ray Milland, with fine support from Hollywood based Brits character actors Anthony Dawson and John Williams.
I'm not suggesting that Dial M for murder is Hitchcocks best movie, the best of course is a subjective viewpoint, but the lead character here Tony Wendice who plays the villain, a washed up former tennis pro is probably Hitchcocks most diabolical killer. I say that because he is not deranged or violent but cold and calculating, he is able to personify evil in an easy-going and matter of fact way. For example not only does he really enjoy blackmailing Swan but takes great pleasure in detailing the way he plans to kill his wife and get away with it. In addition you can see that he is proud of the meticulous planning and ruthless dedication that has gone into this.
What's fascinating about the character is that when he gets home and finds Swan dead rather than panic he does some quick thinking, takes advantage of that and is able to stitch up his wife Margot for Swans killing. With his marital woes now behind him (his wife going to the gallows) and the only person who knows other wise unable to talk you can see that he is pretty pleased with himself. Things couldn't have worked out any better for him and he even starts spend the cash he did not have to pay Swan. Even at the very end, a very nonchalant Wendice just casually pores himself a drink as if he had just come in from work. Watching him is like watching water of a ducks back, you'll simply never see Ray Milland in a better role!
Robert Cummings plays crime writer Mark Halladay who is Margots lover, and Grace Kelly plays Margot who comes across as mostly bewildered the whole time, even before the attempt on here life. John Williams plays police inspector Hubbard who at first one just dismisses as an eccentric dunce. Initially you underestimate him and wonder if he is in over his head, but as his role becomes more prominent you realize that he is smarter than he looks and is way ahead of Wendice as things unravel. Lot's of twists and turns as you would expect from a Hitchcock movie and despite some obvious legal problems with the crowns case against Margot, it's well worth a watch!
(Note: even if the initial crime had been successful and Swan had been able to extricate himself from the flat the police might have been puzzled why there was no wet footprints, grass or mud on the carpet bearing in mind that the garden was wet and that was the way he had meant to have gained access?)
Dallas had now reached it's third decade, but it was to be short lived,
season 14 would be it's last! However, it had done well, out of all the
other glam soaps that had been inspired by Dallas in the 1980's they
had all been canceled except for network spin off KNOTS LANDING which
was left to bring up the rear an run for another couple of years. So
after 14 seasons and with only three of the original cast members
surviving it was the end of the road for Dallas. Miss Elie and Lucy
finally ditched in season 13, although the characters would still
technically remain in the series on an extended holidays, they would
never appear again. Miss Elie who was integral to the character set up
being the matriarchal figure would be particularly missed, Southfork
seemed empty without her. Also, season 14 would also be the only one
where there was no updated outdoor scenes of Southfork.
Often in Dallas stories would carry over as a cliff hanger into the next and true to form JR was stranded in a puzzle-house after one of his devious schemes backfired. After about 14#.3 he was able to get out. This season was one of the poorest and if it wasn't for the story surrounding Bobby and the events in Paris, Dallas would have resembled being a pantomime. The rest of the stories were not very convincing, they seemed aimless and had no real purpose. Just off the top of my head I think that after Bobby sold Ewing oil it changed hands about 5 times, in fact I'm still not sure who owns it? In addition characters seemed to come and go, they turned up from no where and then disappeared. Also there seemed to be numerous marriages followed by annulments. Some engagements were on off and on again old wives turned up with their infants and there was an appearance by Larry Hagmans co-star from the 60's comedy I dream of Jeanie Barbara Eden playing an oil tycoon that had a longstanding grudge against JR. All in all a comical merry go round that was hard to keep up with!
In the very first episode of this season April disappeared in Paris while Bobby went for a drink with now retired wildcatter Jordan Lee. He discovered that a woman Sheila Foley who they had befriended while in France was behind the disappearance. She wanted to impersonate April Stevens-Ewing so she get close enough to whack some top OPEC dignitaries at a major oil gathering. By driving down prices OPEC rained havoc on the US oil industry forcing many of the smaller independents into bankruptcy. Not only did they want revenge they also wanted to send a message that they resented dancing to OPEC's tune (something we are still doing bye the way!). Despite masquerading as April Ewing at the conference, the assassination was foiled and in the ensuing chaos April and a number of Foleys goons were killed. Up until the end of this season the major story revolved around Bobby seeking revenge on Sheila Foley and his bitterness towards the oil business.
This was a bold move and took Dallas into international intrigue involving terrorists. The way the story concluded in Paris might have disappointed Dallas fans but the scenario itself was interesting because it only served to reinforce the view and fear that Americans have for Europe. They see Europe as a hothouse full of radical political organizations and corrupt police forces, with the French in particular being the worst. Apart from being rude, they display a general dislike of the English speaking world with Americans in particular being at the top of the list. This story was similar to the 1987 movie called FRANTIC which saw an American couple in Paris caught up in a kidnapping which involved international terrorists. Never the less it all seemed too late for Dallas despite the high intensity of the story, it ended in a depressing way and Dallas never got it's spark back!
So there it is the last season in a long run, it could have continued on for a couple of more seasons but I suppose after 14 seasons it was time to stop drilling! I got the feeling that Bobbys loss of interest n the oil business perhaps reflected Patrick Duffys loss of interest in the series. Larry Hagmans health was no doubt becoming an issue and Ken Kercheval aged very badly during the 14 seasons. Without any of these characters Dallas it never could have continued. Many thought that the ending was a bit corny The last two episodes revolved around a bizarre story of JR being visited by an Angel (Like Frank Capras movie IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE ) showing what the world would have been like without JR Ewing. It was OK, I just wished that they had finished on a high rather than a downer, then again the viewer was left with the impression that JR had taken his own life, perhaps appropriate after the torment he had rained down on everybody else!!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
At the end of season 9 it appeared that both Sue Ellen and Jamie Ewing
had been killed in separate bomb explosions. However, the real kicker
was a startled Pam awakening from slumber only to find a beaming Bobby
Ewing bathing in the shower despite having been killed at the end of
season 8. What should we make of this? Prior to this being aired it had
been leaked that Patrick Duffy was to return to Dallas. The question on
everybody's mind was how were they going to pull that one off? Well
ideas ranged from a dopple-ganger, a long lost twin brother or even
that he had never been killed and his death was faked so he could work
for some secret government organization. This was all up in the air
until it was finally revealed that the entire previous season was
nothing but one of Pam's dreams! With the return to Camelot we see a
concerned looking Bobby who walks out of the shower to comfort a
stunned looking Pam saying "you look like you have just seen a ghost".
Yes that's what it felt like, but Bobby reassures Pam that none of it
happened. For the viewer you then had to cast your mind back back to
the end of season 8 and pick up the stories. The dream was never
mentioned again. The only real continuity problem was the introduction
of character Ben Stivers who turned up at Southfork looking for work
only to turn up again, this time as Wes Parmalee in this season.
Never the less a two hour opener was enough to get things back on track with new stories and before long Bobby's character just picked up from where he left off in season 8 too! With Bobby out of the series the ratings began to slide, whether it was his omission or just glam-soap fatigue or other factors Dallas was a shadow of it's former self in season 9.
In all honesty Bobby could have returned by saying his death had been faked so he could go underground for the CIA and track down Katherine Wentworth or something like that, but the writers and producers took a bold move and abandoned season 9 and started season 10 a fresh. So what happened to our dysfunctional family? Well most of the characters had become boring, they were all soppy and lovey-duvy with each other and the stories were unconvincing and aimless. To make matters worse the main plot was convoluted and turgid and many of the sub-plots were wishy-washy. It all ended in a train wreck that could not easily be untangled but best remedied by rubbing out series 9 and starting a fresh.
In this new season they were back with a vengeance, Cliff and Jamie were at logger heads, Donna and Ray were now irreconcilable, Sue Ellen turned over a new leaf and her character finally moved on. She started to become more assertive, forgot about Dusty and took control of her life. It was bold and it was needed but more importantly it worked, with her money she could have easily done something rather than just go shopping! Also, a much higher profile was given to Ewing oil nemesis Jeremy Wendel, and Jack Ewings sleazy ex-wife was hot on his trail after learning of his 10% Ewing oil windfall. All a complete contrast to the circumstances left in the dream season. Also, it was the first time since the 1983-84 season that Clayton the original Miss Elie (Bel Gedess) and Bobby were all in the show together.
This season had a more Dallas had a more Texas feel to it, the episodes moved fast and JR embarked on what was one of his boldest or reckless schemes since either illegally selling oil to Cuba or financing a coup in an oil rich country. He decided to hire the best mercenaries in the business to blow up oil wells in the middle east and start a war. Consequently, all this chaos would cause the global price of oil would go through the roof, what an interesting idea! It's ironic that 20 years after this season aired after a US president from Texas started a war in the middle east oil is almost $130/barel, maybe he was inspired by this story line from Dallas. JR was clearly 15-20 years to early with his ambitions! All in all not a bad start to this next phase in Dallas, it was not the golden years but it was a good effort over all.
I still think that the gold standard of WW II documentaries is the
1970's World at War series. Laurence Oliver's ominous Macbeth style of
narration set the tone and the 26 episode series covered WW II really
well. Critics point out that it showed the war from more of a British
point of view. I suppose the fact that Britain and it's dominions were
fighting against the Germans and the Japanese for longer than any of
the other allies in the Far East, North Africa, the Mediterranean, the
Atlantic, Scandinavia and continental Europe is perhaps understandable.
If casualties alone was the standard used to measure sacrifice or
relevance then the USSR could lay claim to that . Over 15 % of it's
population in some form of another perished in the eastern front
amounting to millions in a war of annihilation against the Germans.
Taking it on it's own I don't think there is a conflict in human
history that can match the brutality and barbarism that took millions
of lives in such a short space of time. They are all important topics
in the context of WW II and they have over the years been excellently
covered and narrated by American as well as British production
companies. One aspect that has not been really been examined thoroughly
is the WW II purely from an American point of view.
Ken Burns probably needed to remind a new generation of Americans whose understanding of war is limited to computer games and watching smart bombs and predator drones on TV or on you-tube bombarding specs on the ground from a command center in Florida. In previous wars, Americans endured greater sacrifices. A lot of boots on the ground was the order of the day and American troops encountered huge numbers of well armed and fanatical opponents. Interestingly Burns seemed to focus on four states of the USA, Connecticut, Alabama, Wisconsin and California. I don't know why he picked these these in particular, but probably because it gave a good geographical balance of how it affected the lives of the families and the servicemen in the USA.
There is no doubt that mainland USA protected by the vast Atlantic and Pacific oceans had an easier time in WW II than the other allies. The US was never really under a serious threat of either large air raids or invasion. Yes crude attacks were attempted both by the Germans and Japanese but only for propaganda purposes. If it was an accident of geography (and the isolation explains the USA's late entry into the war) lucky for the USA and lucky for the world too! Remember it was a world war and the arsenal of democracy as it was known could offer vital military equipment and manpower for the war effort.
From a standing start,(although lend lease to Britain and armament production had been steadily rising since 1940) the USA really got it's industry going on a total war footing. Japan and Germany had a ten year head start in war capacity and training. By 1942 Americans were fighting in North Africa, by 1943 Italy, 1944 France ,as well as doing a bit of island hopping in the pacific to boot and by 1945 it was all over. In fact Americas limitless natural resources, raw materials, manpower (and woman power) and huge industrial potential uninterrupted from air raids were vital. Not only was it important for victory but also in shaping the post-war world, i.e. the Marshall plan. Americas efforts in the aftermath of the war with European and Japanese reconstruction should not be underestimated.
The American military with their self confidence, bold ideas, optimism and big band music and might have irritated and annoyed the other allies. In Britain they were over sexed, over paid and over there. However, amusing that might sound it doesn't really go anywhere in telling the whole story. On the cover of this DVD set there is a photograph of a tired and gaunt looking American GI, a far cry from the beaming soldier fresh off the boat in the snazzy uniform out on the town. He could have been from any where in the USA perhaps Connecticut or Wisconsin, but his haunted face tells the story. He was probably in his early 20's wanted to go college or get married, join his fathers business, work on the farm or be a lawyer, perhaps he wanted to be a baseball player. Yet his life was turned upside down, conscripted into the service and after boot camp was shipped off thousands of miles from where he grew up to places he had never heard of!
American blood was spilled as far and wide as Iwo Jima, North Africa, Normandy, Bastogne and Guadalcanal, Anzio, Remargen and Midway, just to name a few, ten of thousands of Americans died on land in the air and at sea. American forces were involved in some of the most vicious fighting of the second world war. Victory over Hitler nor Japan could have been achieved without US participation, but the USA couldn't have done it all alone too, allies were vital too.
It gives an interesting account of the war from how it impacted the lives of Americans and how they saw it from their point of view. I got the impression from Burns that the US fought harder in the pacific, it was more personal, probably because of pearl harbor but moreover the Japanese were really easy to hate, they were exceptionally cruel to their captives. Well narrated in an easy going style by Keith David. Must movies for Americans to watch after this is THE VICTORS 1963 and finally the very impressive BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES 1949.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Dallas had now been on the air for a little over ten years and despite
the dreary dream season it was easily the most successful and popular
glam soap of the 80's. By 1988 it was still going strong, had recovered
well in season 10 and continued to pull in respectable ratings although
they were down from it's peak in the early 80's. Season 12 marks the
last decent season before Dallas began to display major fault lines
prior to being canceled. There were a number of factors that
contributed to this but not least the most obvious was the ongoing list
of characters leaving the series. By the end of this season Dallas was
to see the last of Sue Ellen and Ray Krebs, two of the original cast.
With Jenna's departure at the end of the previous season and Donna and
Pam's departure prior to that, it just all began to take it's toll.
This is not to say that there were not some good scenes or great
episodes and even some good stories in 13 and 14, it's just that one
sensed that Dallas seemed to be running down the clock. Also in season
12 JR seemed to get more and more vulnerable and started to lose his
authority and edge. In addition there were very few updated outdoor
shots of Southfork which would explain why there was no Ewing barbecue
this season, although we still had the oil barons ball.
So out of the original Ewings plus Cliff Barnes we had 5 of the originals left at the end of this season with Lucy returning after a four year absence. Also, by this time many of the sub-characters had all gone by the wayside, Sheriff Fenton, Scotty Deamrist, Franklin Horner and Andy Bradley had departed. By the end of this season Harry McSween was to no longer visible and the excellent cold -blooded Jeremy Wendell who had been an integral character on and off for a number of seasons would make way too. Sometime during this season Jordon Lee would retire from the oil business although he would continue to pop up every so often until the last season.
So what were we in for in season 12? Well at the end of the previous season something that some Dallas fans had been wanting to see for some time saw a distraught Sue Ellen shooting JR after her lover Nicholas Pearce fell off the Ewing condo balcony during an altercation with JR. At the beginning of this season JR was sitting up in bed recovering from gunshot wounds much to the bemusement of the doctors who were scratching their heads wondering why no vital organ was hit or major blood vessels severed? OK we knew that JR had no heart but to come through almost unscathed was a miracle! Despite the fact that no charges were brought against Sue Ellen or JR they were both now totally irreconcilable and filed for their second divorce! However, this was not nearly enough for her and wanted the ultimate revenge. She hooked up with a film producer to make a movie about a character based on JR that was intended to make him the laughing stock of Dallas. Consequently to do this the viewer was treated to many flash backs from previous years.
Ray Krebs had decided to sell up and move to Europe with Jenna so his ranch was sold to carpet bagger Carter Mckay, well cast by George Kennedy, who after seemingly being to good to be true caused the Ewings all sorts of trouble. This resulted in an all out range war between the two with both sides hiring mercenaries to defend each others land. Mackay was a welcome addition to the series and I think his presence added a nice touch even during season 13 and 14when Dallas was on the wain. He proved to be more than a match for JR and his relationship with the Ewing brothers got testy on more than one occasion. He brought in his daughter who had a fling with Bobby and also his drug crazed son Tommy who was very dislike able and much to the relief of Dallas fans eventually got what was coming to him. Cliff was to join Ewing oil as a full partner which in some sense gave a feeling that Dallas had come in a complete circle, consequently he didn't have a forceful or combative relationship with the Ewings in this season. However, Jeremy Wendell continued his obsessive vendetta against JR as well as any Ewing who happened to be in the way.
The Ewings did some traveling to Europe during this season, JR got himself into all sorts of hot water as well as finding a new a new bride and despite some missteps and ups and downs Bobby finally managed to find a new love although Pam still lingered in his mind. Still good entertainment, enjoy this season but I think it began to slide from season 13 onwards.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is a nice taut docu/drama about a fictional family the Hoffman's
which chronicles life in Nazi Germany from the early 1930's up until
1945. When it was originally aired back in 1985 it was a two part TV
mini series which has now been put together in a movie format. I said a
fictional family, but in essence it could have been any family from
Germany at that time. This British production is not as long or as well
done as the better know American ones such as THE WINDS OF WAR (1983),
or the NIGHTMARE YEARS (1989). Never the less don't let that put you
off, it's still very entertaining and makes up for any production
shortcomings with character chemistry and some great dialog. Also,
events are put on the fast track here because from an historical point
of view it doesn't dwell too much on any one aspect of the SS
activities or the war as a whole, so film move's quickly.
Karl Hoffman (John Shea) is the first in the family to be drawn to the Nazi doctrine and as a disgruntled worker joins the brown shirts or SA who are Hitler's storm troopers for the early part of his rule. Helmut Hoffman (Bill Nighy) who is more of an intellectual is less impressed by the excesses of the SA and initially wants to have no part the Nazi movement. However, but because of his blonde hair and blue eyes is eventually recruited to the more elitist and seemingly less boorish SS under Heinrich Himmler and his ruthless enforcer Reinhard Hydric (David Warner). So Helmut leaves his studies and moves up the ranks as Hydric's assistant and soon becomes immersed in some of the most critical decisions of that period.
After the "night of the long knives" things take a turn for the worse for Karl. With the disbanding of the SA as well as the liquidation of it's top leaders he soon finds himself surplice to requirement and consequently is on the receiving end of some rough treatment as well as a taste of Nazi prison life in the notorious Dachau. Fortunately, Helmut using his position in the SS is able to spring his brother out of Dachau but after being so enthusiastic about Hitler from that moment onwards Karl is bitter, disillusioned and troubled by what he has experienced. Despite given promotion in the German army which by this time he was forced to join he is still unsettled and as things go from bad to worse in on the eastern front he deserts his unit and heads for home.
In the mean time and despite not having the enthusiasm nor the stomach for, lets say the more unsavory aspects of life in the SS Helmut knuckles down. He strikes up a friendship with another assistant called Becker (brilliantly played by Warren Clarke) and soon realizes that once you have joined you can't just resign! Their parents also opt for the quiet life, the mother brings up the youngest brother Hans and the father works on the railways that seemingly always run on time. There is a poignant scene when he comes across a cattle truck crammed full of people and who are obviously in distress, but when he inquires about them his supervisor snaps " oh just some Dutch Jews, don't worry there in no hurry where there going". This is obviously a reference to the efforts made by some that the German people knew nothing of the cruelty and atrocities under the third Reich!
As the war comes closer to home Karl returns to find his family and discovers that the house has been flattened and their parents killed an air raid. The youngest brother Hans now old enough to join the "Hitler youth" becomes a member of the "Volkstrum" a rag tag outfit of boys and old men that have the thankless task trying to stop the red army from over running Germany. Hans having been brainwashed for years can't be reasoned and decides to stay put and fight for the "vatherland",despite the best efforts from his brothers to convince him otherwise.
In the final scenes as the Russians are closing in Helmut realizing that as a member of the SS he will be the victim of harsh retribution tries to abscond from active duty and tip toe away in civilian clothes. However he is recognized and executed by his own side for not fighting to the end. Finally when it's all over after the final battle Karl is comforted by a family friend Mitzi when they discover the body of his youngest brother Hans in the rubble. All in all an ironic ending to the movie because in the opening scene both Karl and Helmut are seen running to the church way back in 1931 for the christening of their younger brother Hans. In the end in the ashes and ruins of Germany this 12-13 year old boy who knew nothing but Hitler was just one of many millions killed, is surly testimony to the madness of the so called 1000 year Reich.
There are some good performances, it's mostly a British cast but it is supported by Americans Jose Ferrer, John Shea and Tony Randal and is defiantly worth a watch. I'd highly recommend this particularly if who are interested in WWII history!
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