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Invasion, U.S.A. (1952)
Arrrgghhh . . .
This is a hyper-low budget stock footage film festival which profits heavily from the battle for Okinawa in World War II, among others things. Add to that one yellow cab and several local-TV-station-studio-quality soundstage sets and you are there. Surely it is proof that it is possible to make a feature film for less than about $50 (albeit in 1952 dollars). The screenplay isn't much past the 4th-grade level and it is hard to imagine how it could be taken seriously as a movie by any adult outside of the sub-zero IQ set that now dominate a certain American political party today. It's so bad it's not even funny. Best seen only to see what kind of crap Hollywood was capable of selling in 1952. The sole highlight is getting to see the venerable William Schallert in one of his earliest film appearances.
Battle of Britain (1969)
If you are looking for AIR COMBAT ACTION, THIS is the movie you want to see
The usual problem with war movies (and television as well) that are supposed to be about air combat is that the action sequences you really tuned in to see routinely take a back seat a preponderance of typically hokey ground-based melodrama. If that kind of thing disappoints you, then THIS is the movie you want to watch.
The makers of this film "got it", turning the usual paradigm around 180 degrees. In THE BATTLE OF Britain, the action comes FIRST, literally from the opening frame, and man, is there ever action. No one has ever come even remotely close to making a movie so packed with air combat action, and best of all, has done it so well. For viewers used to old 1940's vintage airwar movies with their usual panoply of obvious miniature models, soundstage rear-projection shots, and clearly artificial early special effects, you are in for a real treat. Never, not even in TORA, TORA, TORA (much less the comparatively sugar-coated MEMPHIS BELL), have such a collection of vintage aircraft been brought together to reenact aerial combat for video. Nothing else has really ever even come close. There is no CGI here, and whatever miniatures or animation were necessary in some spots the fact is that the innumerable aerial combat sequences are completely dominated by actual period aircraft in flight -- dozens and dozens of period aircraft in actual dogfights and other combat flight maneuvers. One gets the impression that half the film's budget could have spent on aviation fuel alone. And with that material to work with, neither do the cinematographers or the sound effects people or even the music department disappoint (and for my money, the British theme is the best piece of music ever composed to glorify flying). Not only is the movie jam-packed from end to end with essentially authentic aircraft in flight, but the photography makes the most out of it, with countless exciting, full-color shots of carefully choreographed combat sequences.
Moreover, if you are already familiar with the storyline -- i.e., if you know your history of the early years of World War II -- then the narration is fairly brilliant in its rapid-paced, economical, nuanced approach to hitting all the high points of the war generally at that time and the Battle of Britain in particular. In that sense, I would give very high marks to the screenplay. Unfortunately, however, if you DON'T know your history of these events, no one but the quickest thinkers are likely to catch on to so much of what's going on here, and if the movie has a significant failing, that is it. The plot, such as it is, can be quite a muddle to the uninitiated. And while some reviewers were unimpressed with the ground-side melodrama here, I think that is at most a secondary complaint, and I personally did not find that oppressive in the least, but rather, appropriate to the subject matter and sufficiently subdued that it never threatens to dominate the movie. To the contrary, at least it gives the non-history buff something readily understandable and it also includes some humorous anecdotes as well.
One thing I used to think about this movie is that nothing like this would ever be made again, and yet, here recently (as of January 2016) it has come out that some one is putting together a remake. God knows what it might look like. The original features such a great cast of English heroic actors (Sir Lawrence Olivier, Robert Shaw, Trevor Howard, Michael Caine, Kenneth More, etc., etc.) that it is hard to see how anyone can equal much less top that today, and one anticipates that whatever CGI they decide to use won't equal using real airplanes, either. Well, at least we still have a high-quality DVD of this. lol.
Star Trek: The Omega Glory (1968)
The Most Relevant Episode of the Series in 2015
It's sad to see that practically every other reviewer who bothered to post here is so mired in a world of fantasy that they could not grasp the point of this. It's as though this is a forum from a fifth-grade Star Trek club (I knew people in the sixth grade that were more perceptive). This is a classic old-fashioned sci-fi story of the genre that produced H.G. Wells and Ray Bradbury and Aldous Huxley and Isaac Asimov. Like most things on the original Star Trek TV series, it is a morality tale. It's not about the "Prime Directive" or "parallel development" any other such juvenile nonsense. It's about Good and Evil and more specifically about empty-headed, mindless flag-waving versus actually understanding what your flag and your country is supposed to stand for. It even touches on the issues of political lying and manipulation. It is a classic use of the science fiction setting as a metaphor for a contemporary real-life issue that in this case in particular affects practically every American practically every day. There could not be an episode more relevant to the America of 2015, where the country is practically aflame with empty-headed jingoes who can't stop going on and on about the Constitution or the exact wording pledge of allegiance while just the least close examination quickly reveals that most of the loudest screamers don't understand the first thing about what either really means. Worse still, unlike "Cloud William" here, almost none of the loudest have any interest in learning anything beyond those things, which they will repeat ad nauseum, they erroneously believe they already know. Star Trek, like any other half-way serious American TV drama of it's time, frequently made commentary on the times in which it was made, and in watching this recently I thought back to what was going on in the country and the world in 1968 to lead to this particular story. While it is plain enough what it says about America in 2015, what was it saying about 1968, when from my memory it was the flag-burning protester in the street rather than any flag-waver anywhere else that was the focal point of popular attention? I marveled to think that the mindless ugliness so central to today's politics could have been foreseen almost 50 years ago. Be that as it may, I referred this episode to another 1300-SAT-score friend of mine who is involved in American politics, as political commentary on our own times every bit as relevant as Jon Stewart (even if it is not as funny).
*** Just recently (February, 2016) I reread this review and noticed that "0 out of 5" people found it useful. That reminds me of the words of William Shatner to trekkies on Saturday Night Live back around 1986. If you won't listen to me, maybe you'll listen to HIM: "Get a life."
Death Wish (1974)
Watching this movie again more than 40 years after it first came out is interesting. While it can still touch a nerve somewhere deep down inside, on the surface at least, it seems heavily clichéd to the point of being cloying. It seems heavy-handed and in terms of its style very heavily dated. I do not think it has stood up all that well to the test of time. Anybody who saw this as an adolescent in the 70's should have enough life experience by now to know it is almost as much of a fantasy as Star Wars. Even where crimes of the nature seen at the beginning of this movie do occur, in real life they don't look, or more importantly, feel the way they are depicted here. It would be interesting to see a thoughtful modern-day remake, but it is unlikely anybody will do a thoughtful one. Instead, you only get even more fantastic, exploitative renditions, in the light of which, it is no wonder America has become a filled with foolish, immature, paranoid gun-crazies that can't go to the bathroom anymore without slinging an assault rifle. As Roger Ebert once said while discussing film noir, "no society could have created a world so filled with doom, fate, fear and betrayal, unless it were essentially naive and optimistic." Hell, maybe the answer to this movie in 2015 is a movie about a "vigilante" who shoots gun-crazies to prove how ridiculous they are. Under these circumstances, I give this one a mere six.
Herbie Goes Bananas (1980)
Herbie Does Latin America . . .
*MINOR SPOILER ALERT* This might not be up to the usual "Herbie" standard, but 4.8 is just ridiculous when you compare it to all the other kinds of movies rated on the IMDb. It's still about infinitely better than the usual no-budget, no-production-value, no-story, no-dialog, no-nothing movie that gets that low a rating here. A more fair rating would be about 6 or so. The cast is largely name-brand and Harvey Korman even has moments that remind you of Joe Flynn in the earlier Disney/Buena Vista live-action movies which preceded this one.
I especially appreciated the location shooting, not only in Mexico but in Columbia and most especially Panama, where we get to see Herbie in the Pedro Miguel locks of the Panama Canal, cruising past Panama Viejo, and whizzing down the Fort Amador causeway with Panama City in the background, and over the Thatcher Ferry Bridge (known to everybody but Zonians rather grandiloquently as "The Bridge of the Americas") with the old Rodman Naval Station off in the distance. It was fun.
The Silent Service (1957)
I did something for this title I never do. I gave it ten out of ten. It's not that this series was that brilliant an example of television art. It wasn't. It was a classic 1950's-vintage low-budget (very low budget) B-grade syndicated half-hour black-and-white TV show of a kind that has become practically non-existent on commercial TV for nearly fifty years now. For a person looking at this for television art perhaps its highest value is as an excellent example of what TV looked like so often in the first decade of the medium.
No, the reason I gave it ten out of ten is that it is about as genuine a dramatized account of the American submarine effort in World War II as anybody is ever likely to make, and that effort, as the name of the series implies, has been generally unsung. The submarine force picked up the nickname "silent service" during the war (like with so many other things, the phrase was popularized if not actually coined by the news media of the day) because the submarine force officialdom as well as individual submariners simply would not talk publicly about what they were doing except on infrequent and carefully controlled occasions.
This originated not out of some social or organizational misanthropy or sense of elitism, but for security reasons. The story goes that early in the war the submarine service was as forthcoming as any other combat branch of the US armed forces, but that when too much information showed up in the media Japanese intelligence agents collected it and sent it to Japan, affording them a significant improvement in the tactics they used in hunting and sinking our submarines. Thus (and no pun intended), the force and its personnel promptly clammed up for the duration.
But by the 1950's there was no need to maintain that kind of secrecy and the story the submariners could not tell before could finally come out. It turned out that although the submarine force comprised only about 2% of the Navy's total personnel, acting alone it had sunk approximately 30% of all Japanese warships eliminated during the war. At the same time it was doing that, it also was responsible for over 50% of all Japanese commercial ships sunk during the war, totaling 6,000,000 tons of shipping, or the equivalent of the entire prewar Japanese merchant marine. No less a luminary than Fleet Admiral William F. "Bull" Halsey (who was a destroyer man and eventually gained his great fame as a naval aviation admiral, and was never a submariner), once stated: "(i)f I had to give credit to the instruments and machines that won us the war in the Pacific, I would rate them in this order: submarines first . . . " The cost had been high: 52 submarines lost, and about 20% of all submariners killed, the highest mortality rate of any combat branch of any of the services in the war. Neither the Marines nor the paratroopers nor the bomber crews nor any other community in the five services (the US Coast Guard included) had so oppressive a death rate.
Thus I give this series the highest possible IMDb rating for finally getting this out to the public, one submarine's story at a time for as long as its short run allowed, and moreover I especially laud this series for its decided LACK of Hollywood flair, at least in the earlier episodes. In the series description on the IMDb front page for this show it says its realism was enhanced by the usage of some actual wartime combat footage, but the truth is that what enhanced its realism is the fact that it was not made by the usual Hollywood glitz and glamor crowd but by an actual former submarine commander. This not only not only enhanced the realism of the story details and the action in general, but ensured that the factual content was as close to 100% accurate as time and resources constraints would allow, holding the dramatic license factor to a minimum, even if there was increasing amounts of the hokey melodrama thought necessary to make the show appealing to a general audience as the series production run went on over time. The use of then mostly-unknown actors (although many of them would become very well-known in years to follow, one of the fun things about this series) contributed to this tone, and, finally, the appearance of "special guests" who were the actual submarine officers involved in the event depicted, was invaluable. Would that there were more such patently ingenuous dramatizations of real-life naval or military operations as this.
NOTE: unaccountably, IMDb still won't let posters use the correct "box" brackets used in normal writing in appropriate places, and I am forced to use normally inappropriate parentheses in their place out of necessity. It is regrettable that the programmers who do this site force this kind of illiteracy on their audience. I was never a C-student in language arts classes and I don't appreciate being made to look like one through no fault of my own. Maybe these people need to be sent back to junior high school to repeat their seventh-grade English classes.
Countdown to Looking Glass (1984)
Just another "end of the world" nuclear war flop . . .
When this movie came out I was well past the age of consent and had already completed two deterrent patrols on nuclear ballistic submarines. Ronald Reagan was president and the activity level of the unilateral nuclear disarmament/nuclear freeze noisemaking demographic was probably at its all-time peak. Their basic premise was that the best thing to do when faced with a threat as ominous as nuclear war was to panic. If the so-called "Pilgrims" had been made up of people of this type they would have never left England. That these people had far more energy, anxiety, lung-power, and just plain hot gas rather than plain old boring analytical ability, understanding, and judgment is perhaps best evidenced by the fact that within only five years after this movie came out the Berlin Wall fell, and only two years after that the whole shootin' match that made up the country now formerly known as the Soviet Union did, too, and all without so much as a spring-powered BB being shot across the Iron Curtain.
This movie is hardly unique. There have been a number of movies that have tried to deal with this issue and like the others this one falls flat in constructing a believable scenario that would lead to a nuclear confrontation. The history of the post-war period reminds me of a junior high school dance when I was growing up. That history makes it clear the Soviet Union was at least as afraid of us as we were of them - in fact, probably more so. They backed down in Greece and in Berlin and in Korea. They backed down in Cuba. They didn't even do more than complain loudly when we mined Haiphong Harbor even though that put the ships they were resupplying North Vietnam with in imminent actual danger of attack and destruction. They never intervened in any middle-eastern conflict except to supply Syria and Egypt in between wars that were confined only to the more comparatively minor countries (i.e., the ones that weren't Oil Powers) found in the region. And even then, they only did it to try to swing them to siding with them in the United Nations and maybe to giving them some limited basing ability in those countries which if they were lucky might accrue to them something more than a passing advantage in a genuine confrontation with the West. If they ever even sent advisers during the period when those countries were in an active state of hot, shooting war with Israel I don't remember it. In the end, they did nothing to prevent the Israelis from soundly whipping their client states in the region in 1967 and 1973.
Thus, they would not go to war over Saudi Arabia unless they had suddenly grown a pair like had never existed in all of Soviet history, for if you look at that history, when they have actually had a choice they never got into it with anybody except those they saw as weak. It is one thing to attack the Finns or the Lithuanians or even the Ukranians but the United States of America is not just another Latvia or Estonia. Moreover, given the history of Saudi Arabia with both the UK and the US they comprehended perfectly well that that country was within the Western sphere of influence just as much as they take it for granted that we should understand that the Crimea is historically within their sphere. The filmmakers' premise is as weak as anybody the Russians have ever attacked in modern history except probably Afghanistan.
When you add to that the generally contrived, artificial-looking quality of the dramatized news coverage and the clichéd romantic angle to the plot this thing develops a certain high-school-play kind of quality, but since none of your kids are in it, it fails to satisfy as entertainment. The truth is, you are about infinitely better served to spend your time watching something genuinely well-made like DR. STRANGELOVE or the original version of ON THE BEACH which are about literally one or more orders of magnitude better than this.
That said, I think I can agree to some extent with with one reviewer who said this was worth seeing just to see Newt Gingrich in it. Truly, the one interesting thing about this movie is the real-life people who agreed to appear in it, the big question which comes to mind being, WHY they did it. Here, Newt was at the beginning of his congressional career and surely he was looking for egocentric (if not narcissistic) self-aggrandizing attention in the way which has marked him throughout his political career. By contrast, fully 16 years after he gained but limited and short-lived attention in his 1968 attempt at a presidential bid Edmund Muskie appeared here in what looks like the last gasp of as hopeless a has-been (if even that) as we have ever seen in American politics. And while apparent hardbitten and cynical realist Eric Sevareid appeared for some reason it is not the only time he played himself in a fantasy and I have to guess that he really wasn't as much the realist he always seemed to be or else maybe he was such a realist that he just liked the chance to pick up what was probably a handy little extra paycheck regardless of how silly a thing he had to do to get it. Most surprising to me was the appearance of Paul Warnke, who certainly had the reputation of a genuine foreign policy and national security professional of the first order. You'd think that guy would find this beneath him, but, well, who knows - maybe he liked the extra moolah too.
Not a cheesy movie; it makes fun of cheesy movies
BARBARELLA is very campy satire which focuses mainly on making fun of the way fantasy sex (as well as science fiction, often) was (and often still is) depicted in the movies. BARBARELLA is not at all a cheesy movie; rather, its mission is to make fun of cheesy movies, and does so extremely well. Everybody connected with it was very good at their craft and looked like they knew exactly what they were trying to do and then did it extremely well. Once you realize that, you see why is has become a "cult classic". The "cult" are the viewers who get the joke; unfortunately, and if the movie has any real weakness, it is that it seems to be too easy for all that to go over a lot of people's heads. (In fact, the first time or two I saw this movie it went over mine, but it turned out for once that the third time was a charm in every sense of the word.) While I have seen some reviews that try to explain in various ways why it is more popular today than it was when it was first released, it may simply be that in a world of Saturday Night Live, South Park, and the Family Guy (to hit but the pinnacle of the iceberg), current audiences are likely more attuned to edgy satire than any other audiences in film history.
Having said that, Jane Fonda is brilliant in this movie. She totally gets it that her character is basically designed as an ideal fantasy girl for male audience members, and she plays it to the hilt with her then-characteristic naive innocence. The result is that at the same time this movie is basically one big continuous joke from the opening credits to the words "The End", she is every bit as sexy as if they had been playing it straight. In this regard, there is a tendency to hyperbole with the descriptions of this many reviewers typically offer; in actual fact, her on-camera nudity is confined to just a couple of sequences toward the beginning, and the sex scenes are so highly euphemised pictorially to where they would likely not even be considered sex scenes by younger and less truly mature audience members. Her sex appeal derives more from her consummate skill in ACTING sexy (including acting with body language -- no pun intended -- in terms of her posing, as well as appropriate costuming) as from any amount of bare skin left showing.
Moreover, the rest of departments rose equally to the occasion. The writing was pretty top notch both in dialog as well as overall story; the music was was likewise a campy parody of music in the 60s's you might find in real cheesy movies; and the sets and costumes were all kind of elegant versions of low-budget obvious sound-stage-set efforts. Watching BARBARELLA really makes you realize just how cleverly original people in the movie business can be.
I would rate this movie at 7.5 stars on the IMDb system if they would allow fractional stars. I definitely recommend it to anybody with a good sense of humor who has seen sex portrayed in the movies of the period, or even since.
Not "Best Picture" Material By A Long Shot . . .
Well, I thought the other negative reviews were right. If you've actually seen great movies, then you can see how this one doesn't even come close. That's even true with "off-beat" movies, like this one. Which is better - this or BEING THERE? THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS? THE ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF A SPOTLESS MIND? DR. STRANGELOVE? 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY? A CLOCKWORK ORANGE? The list goes on . . .
Reviewers say this movie is "pretentious" because that is true. Ironically, this is true despite the theme that the action is about an actor/director's search for artistic truth. As you watch this movie, you get the feeling that the filmmaker is deliberately trying to impress you (or somebody) with cutesy gimmicks in various forms, rather than just make the best possible movie he can.
I agree with various user comments that a lot of the dialog is weak (if not also just plain unattractive) and the actors' performances become irrelevant when the subject matter doesn't reach the feelings of the viewer. At the one-hour mark, I found myself starting to look at my watch to see how much longer this would go on. The bottom line is, for all the cutesy gimmicks, this just doesn't work for way too many viewers. The fact that industry insiders claim to get a lot out of the story doesn't cure that.
That said, although I was tempted to do like so many other articulate reviewers have done and give it a solitary one star in an effort to drag down its seemingly incomprehensible 8.1 rating (at this juncture, at least) to something more reasonable, in the end I decided to be intellectually more rigorous and gave it a six, my usual rating for a movie which is technically good yet is not compelling entertainment at any level for even the most thoughtful of lay audiences.
12 O'Clock High (1964)
One of my favorite shows, but . . .
I was really surprised to find an 8.0 rating for this show when I looked it up on the IMDb. The truth is, it was a fairly heavy melodrama with largely contrived plots, pervasive overacting, and only selective loyalty to realism, something that always seems to characterize any fiction ever done about aviation on video.
And yet, of all the shows I watched as a little kid and then got to see again as an adult, this is the only one that has really been able to continue to feel special to me in spite of all its flaws. Despite everything else, and at least during the first season with Lansing, it took its subject matter seriously and did not engage in dramatic license to too much excess (unlike in its last season-and-a-half). The episodes usually maintained internally consistent logic and emotional effect and careful attention was paid to editing; one remarkable feature was how well the editors knew their World War Two aircraft and were consistently able to synch the storyline and dialog of the combat sequences with the real-life combat footage inserted as part of those sequences. The aircraft interior combat sequences were all shot inside of the fuselage of a real B-17 (a permanently grounded wingless wonder that was a refugee of earlier post-war civilian uses like water bombing forest fires), so what you see there is as authentic as possible. Moreover, the brooding quality suggested by the subject matter (which Lansing was very effective in enhancing), the black & white photography, and the perfectly-conceived and executed bittersweet Dominic Frontiere theme and score, combined with flying, aerial combat sequences which included a great deal of real-life combat footage, and best of all, copious quantities of photography (both new and vintage) of the B-17 Flying Fortress, styled by one famous aviation photographer as "the most photogenic airplane ever built", created a unique kind of mood that has never ceased appealing to me since I was seven years old. As a result, after I grew up, I learned to fly and then through a stroke of exceedingly good luck just happened to find myself living in a city where one of the few remaining (there are only about a dozen) B-17's still flying was based, and there I joined the crew.
However, in spite of what others have written, Robert Lansing was not perfect, even though he was certainly at least persistently interesting, and some attempt at verisimilitude was generally present in spite of the demands of dramatic license. And things only got even more contrived whenever an episode veered near Paul Burke playing the Joe Gallagher character. Thus, naturally, when Burke replaced Lansing in the second season it continued down the same track as the first except that its execution at practically every level was not up to the same standard. The contrived plots seemed even more contrived - not only was the acting of the new principal characters frequently weaker, but the writing itself was as well - and finally they went to color (it was by then 1966, after all), which fundamentally altered the mood, and yet something else was lost. In the third season, even the original striking score was largely abandoned for something a lot less brooding but also a lot less notable. Over that time the series went from a focus on high drama to much more of an action-adventure format, and started looking a lot more like THE RAT PATROL. As a result, both drama and even story details suffered in favor of variety and action, regardless of how realistic it made the end result. Even the editing became much more indifferent.
Still, some new elements of interest appeared. Paul Burke's character, as the replacement for Lansing's, had some good, pretty credible dialog written to demonstrate his (as well as other senior officers') leadership ability, and he was pretty much up to the task of delivering it. In fact, there was a lot more believably representative dialog generally than in the first season, occasioned also by the fact that the newly formatted show at long last included some significant enlisted characters as well as more interaction among junior officers, and for the first time an actual sense of camaraderie developed at times between various characters; originally, every episode was limited to a confrontation between Lansing's character and whoever his antagonist of the week was. Moreover, a second extremely cool aircraft was added in the form of the legendary P-51 Mustang fighter, with excellent footage included, even if the plot elements to accomplish this were as often as not fairly strained, factually. But while these new aspects of the show gave the producers exciting new story opportunities it never realized its potential. Had the series capitalized better on this and stuck with the tighter writing and editing of the first season, perhaps it could have weathered the various changes, but it was not to be. Even after about Episode 8 of the third season, when the show actually did start to click pretty well as an action series, it was not enough to save it from cancellation. But still, 12 O'Clock High remains for me the thing that began my life-long love for the magnificent B-17 Flying Fortress, and eventually, for their real exploits and men that flew them.