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Re: Q+A with Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.
by cohenstuart 3 hours ago (Wed Feb 29 2012 08:39:19) Ignore this User | Report Abuse
The opening was not a "mistake" on our part. Nor did we "mix it up by accident".I had no wish to revisit this topic, and Mr. van Heijningen Jr. is certainly entitled to his interpetation of events, but the idea that we were somehow at fault and careless in the scenes execution is bothersome. For the record in our film Norbert Weisser, Screen Actors Guild member and the only one entitled to speak dialogue on camera is the pilot shot by Garry. When casting John had Norbert improvise his dialogue, a process he repeated here. Larry Franco, John's esteemed assistant director,is the shooter in the helicopter. With no dialogue, reduced to frantic arm gestures, he blows both himself and the helicopter up...
The most obvious and most controversial error comes with Lars and the helicopter pilot Matias in the 1982 film. In the original film you see the passenger with the rifle, he has a jacket that has a fur lined hood on, when the helicopter lands, we cut to the people at the American camp come out to see what all the commotion was about. When it cuts back to the shot of the chopper, we now see the pilot exit the chopper from the pilot's door but he is now carrying the rifle. The passenger, who had the fur lined hood on his jacket goes to the side of the chopper to grab the grenades. In this film however, Lars is dressed like the man who was shot, and neither of the men had a fur lined hood on their jacket. This is supposedly a continuity error in the 1982 film (source needed): in one aerial shot, the passenger with the rifle definitely has a pair of goggles with slits on, which the man killed by Garry also wore; the pilot on the other hand wears glasses with no slits; but when the passenger lets slip the grenade, both he and the pilot reacting to this have different clothes, but the same goggles with slits on. So the man who was shot was still supposed to be the passenger. If that IS the case then the only continuity error is the fur lined hood and ripped parka.
Recently, "The Thing" producer Stuart Cohen responded to comments that the error between the two Norwegians was because of a mistake in the Carpenter film:
"For the record in our film Norbert Weisser, Screen Actors Guild member and the only one entitled to speak dialogue on camera is the pilot shot by Garry. When casting John had Norbert improvise his dialogue, a process he repeated here. Larry Franco, John's esteemed assistant director,is the shooter in the helicopter. With no dialogue, reduced to frantic arm gestures, he blows both himself and the helicopter up... "
So based on Cohen's comments, It is indeed the Pilot (Matias in the prequel, Jans Bolen in the 1982 film) who was shot by Garry in the Carpenter film, and the character of Lars is the character who blows himself up.
This is further confirmed by screenwriter Eric Heisserer, who spoke about some elements of the character that were in the script that failed to make it into the finished film:
"....For instance, one of the Norwegians, Lars had a number of moments where he was just a klutz. He was a butterfingers. He dropped things. And it gave you the sense that this guy is going to be Thinged right away. Hes a red shirt, hes not gonna last. And the surprise is that he makes it all the way to the end. Hes one of the two guys who makes it all the way to the helicopter. And when you watch Carpenters version you realize hes the one who drops the grenade and blows himself up, because hes the klutz. I dont think much of that managed to make it to the end
So the comments from both Cohen and Heisserer do indeed confirm that the pilot should be the one shot, and that Lars is the one who should blow up, and that was not the way the ending of the prequel was filmed, as Lars is established in the film as being unable to speak English (As the Norwegian pilot was in Carpenter's film) and comments from Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. during production were that they were changing the name of Jans Bolen (The pilot in Carpenter's film) from that to Lars, as it sounded more Norwegian.
Ten Little Indians meets Gaillo
Mario Bava considered this the worst of his films. I've not seen his filmography but I do think he's being a bit harsh. "Five Dolls for an August Moon" is certainly a rather thinly disguised reworking of Agatha Christie's "Ten Little Indians", but there's enough to it to make it fun.
The plot centers on a vacation getaway hosted by George Stark (Teodoro Corra') and his wife Jill (Edith Neloni) The guest list is comprised of Professor Jerry Farrell and his wife Trudy (William Berger and Ira von Furstenburg), Nick and Marie Chaney (Maurice Poli and Edwidge Fenech), and Jack and Peggy Davidson (Howard Ross and Helena Ronee). They cast is closed out by the Stark's Houseboy, (Mauro Bosco) and the Game Warden's Daughter Isabell (Justine Gall).
Farrell is looking for a retreat, but George, Nick, and Jack are industrialists trying to buy a brand-new formula for industrial resin at any price. Not only do the three men backstab each other, but there are numerous affairs going on around the island. Marie will sleep with anyone, Farrell's wife is attracted to George's wife and even Nick attempts to seduce Farrell's wife. The retreat gets complicated with the houseboy is murdered. Everyone is suspect. To complicate matters further, the group is cut off from the mainland.
The movie is certainly lacking in the suspense department. The deaths of characters is viewed as a minor hurdle and the victims are grotesquely and humorously hung up like slabs of beef in George's freezer. Also, while some of the deaths are gory, one of the few murders we do see happen is completely bloodless (I'm assuming due to budget restraints).
However, Bava fills the movie with many interesting visuals, the party sequence alone is worth a watch, with zooms of the group taking turns eying each other while Fenech sexily gyrates and George playing up a seemingly sadistic sacrifice of her. The film also plays with expectations by having a character seeming killed, only to reveal it's a joke. Other interesting shots include a fight between George and Nick, with a sculpture of glass balls being uprooted to roll into a tub occupied by a suicide victim, and an interesting shot of Isabell merely swinging. Bava hated the material, but he makes a very watchable film.
Also of note is the endless score by Piero Umiliani. It's jazzy, it's booming, it doesn't seem like it should work, yet it does, and it's great. Indeed, very few portions of the film have no music, but the score never seems inappropriate. The music in the opening party is a standout, and the carnival like piece that plays as the bodies are added to George's freezer is as humorously grotesque as the action on-screen.
The cast is also uniformly excellent. The only actor I was familiar with starting the film was Berger, whom I'd seen opposite Lee Van Cleef in "Sabata". If you're a Berger fan, be warned, he's given star billing and certainly plays a prominent role in the film's first half, but takes a backseat in the second half. Still, he does great with what he has. Edwidge Fenech is pure sexiness as Marie. She's breathtaking. She's playing a sexpot and she does it well Also a standout is Teodoro Corra' as the manipulative George. He's not a very good-intentioned character, but I found myself rooting for him. He's one of the most multi-faceted characters, despite attempts to set him up as an obvious villain, and he's given some of the best costumes, favoring a double-breasted blazer and kerchief. This movie made me an instant fan of him and I'll be looking out for his other films to watch. Also, based on his screen-time, he deserved more prominent billing in my estimation.
Also of note is Maurice Poli, who struck me visually as a foreign Christopher George. Nick's a pretty despicable guy but he's entertaining to watch. Justine Gall is wide-eyed innocence but not quite as Isabell, and Ira von Furstenburg is excellent as Farrel's wife Trudy, who may know more than she's letting on.
Some reviewers have mentioned that one of the killer's victims was impossible for them to have killed. Indeed, it's understandable as the English-language version omits a line where the killer explains how it was done. Also, the film stretches credibility with a sequence where the remaining cast disappears and reappears, but they don't ruin the overall enjoyment of the film.
It's not a perfect film, but I've watched it numerous times and I enjoy it just as much as the first. I now own it, and am happy with the purchase. Even at what he calls his worst, Bava's direction, the cinematography, and a game cast make this one worth a watch. If you love "Ten Little Indians", like I do, it's also certainly worth a watch.
Ten Little Indians (1989)
Pleasance and Lom are standouts in an overall weak adaptation of one of Christie's most famous novels
*Spoilers* This, the third remake of Rene' Clair's original 1945 film "And Then There Were None" moves the tale of 10 guilty strangers being bumped off by an unseen murderer to a lush safari in Africa, which does more harm that good.
First, the good. The film does boast some worthy performances, most notably Herbert Lom as the novel's general character. Lom has the distinction of playing Dr. Armstrong, a character that lasts longer in the 1974 version. While I enjoyed his overall performance in that film, he was well cast as a doctor but an unconvincing drunk. (Ironically, in the novel, Armstrong has no qualms about drinking in public, while film adaptations make him a private alcoholic until the stuff really hits the fan) Back to Lom's performance, it's truly letter perfect. This adaptation returns the General character back to his elderly roots, and his backstory, while names are changed, is correct to the book. The General was played by men-of-action actors Leo Genn and Adolfo Celi respectively, so his original crime of killing his wife's lover was updated to him accidentally killing 5 soldiers. Lom nails the confession scene in this version. Telling Vera of his crime, he's natural, he's believable, and it's probably the most powerful scene in the film. Lom also doesn't overplay the general's dottiness. Sir C. Aubrey Smith is the only other English-speaking actor to have played the role thus far, and his malfunctioning hearing aid and overly-elderly portrayal just didn't work for me. Genn and Celi were good, but Lom nails all aspects of the role, and it's a shame he's not in the film longer.
Also of note is Donald Pleasance's Judge Wargrave, one of my favorite characters from the novel. His and Richard Attenborough's portrayals remain my top two of the English versions. Barry Fitzgerald and Wilfrid Hyde-White are excellent, but the judge is far to genial in their versions, and Pleasance and Attenborough really get to play the character with a bit of the callous @sshole present in Christie's novel. Pleasance does have moments of overacting, (Most of the cast does) but overall, he's rock-solid in the role, and I really liked him. The man who originated Dr. Sam Loomis does not disappoint here.
Sarah Maur Thorpe is a solid Vera Claythorne. She's not perfect, but she creates a character to root for, and she's easy on the eyes. Brenda Vaccaro is decent as the character of Emily Brent. the '45 version retains her as a spinster, while the '65 and '74 versions gave us a glamorous movie star with a checkered past with Dahlia Lavi and Stephane Audran. Here, the film tries to have the best of both worlds. She's a movie star who's found religion. Unfortunately, the mash-up isn't successful, and while Vaccaro is solid enough, the mash-up hurts her performance, though she's quite good in her own confession scene.
The rest of the cast is just plain bad. The most serious offender is Frank Stallone. He looks the role, but when he opens his mouth, it's game over, and since our hero is being portrayed by the charismaless Stallone, we're left with only Vera to really root for. Stallone seems to think posturing and slyly smirking are effort enough, and it just doesn't work. Even Oliver Reed's fleshy, impish Lombard is light-years ahead of this one.
Two key roles are hideously butchered, that of Ex-Inspector Blore and Dr. Armstrong (Werner here) As Blore, Warren Berlinger fares better than Yehuda Effroni, but his lack of experience shows, and he overacts, or underacts, the whole picture. However, Effroni is wildly uneven as the Doctor. Granted, it's a terrifying situation and many of the adaptations treat the potential for death without concern, but he's one note overacting, and it isn't good. The rest of the cast are average and don't make much of an impression, save for Paul L. Smith, who leaves a sour one. He joins Effroni on the overacting train and plays Rogers as a complete @sshole. It's not good.
Christie wisely set her tale on a remote island cut-off from civilization in a mansion. Setting the film in Africa has a certain novelty, but it kills much of the suspense. The most laughable moment comes after a "search" is done for their missing, murdering host and they decide the killer is one of them. Setting the novel at an isolated mansion allows that conclusion to be drawn. There are limited places to hide. But on safari? There's no way to accurately search the entire area and assure yourself that no one else could be hiding. Those who griped that it was unbelievable having the characters make the same claim after searching the massive hotel in the '74 version need only watch this film for a different perspective. Even that was more believable than this.
Also, the film botches the red herring. One character in the novel, and all prior film adaptations, disappears, and is assumed to be the killer until the body is discovered later. Here, they find the corpse immediately, so that element of suspense is totally wasted. And where does one hide from the killer? By tying the tent flaps closed? There's worse cinema out there, far worse. If you're a fan of Pleasence or Lom, they make the film worthwhile, or if you're a completest, you could do worse. The 1987 Russian adaptation "Desyat Negrityat" is flawless and Rene' Clair's version is tops of the English language versions, but this one is entertaining enough if you've got time to kill.
I own it, I've watched it more than once. No Oscars will be handed out, but it was enjoyable to my own tastes.
Columbo: Double Exposure (1973)
Culp's last appearance as the killer is maybe the best episode of the series
For the longest time, "Any Old Port in a Storm" and "An Exercise in Fatality" were my top two "Columbo" episodes. I enjoyed "Double Exposure" on my first viewing, but it didn't blow me away.
Upon buying a season 3 disc with "Any Old Port in a Storm" at a used bookstore, I lucked into the fact that it also contained "Double Exposure" on the disc. Having not seen it for awhile, I decided to give it another shot.
Needless to say, I watched it several more times and couldn't believe just how great it was. It's unseated the previous two episodes I've mentioned as my favorite, and I've not yet seen another episode that quite beats it.
Culp is Dr. Bart Keppel, a Motivational Research Specialist who specializes in helping businesses give customers what they want. He discovered the power of subliminal messaging and uses it to his advantage when committing his murder. Keppel is a blackmailer, using a woman to lure business associates and then getting photos of them in the act (An interesting parallel to his character in "Death Lends a Hand", who didn't use the same methods, but was nevertheless a blackmailer) His latest victim isn't going to sit still, so Culp gives him oversalted caviar, puts a subliminal photo of a cool drink in a film he's screening, sneaks out while narrating the film (Using a recorded tape while he's away) and then shooting the victim with a gun with a converter after he goes to quench his thirst from the fountain. By using the converter, the bullet appears as a different calibre than the gun used, and covers up the fact the gun was fired.
One of the best things about this episode is the interplay of Falk and Culp, and the character of Keppel himself. Whereas in "The Most Dangerous Game" the interactions between Culp and Falk were heated, here Culp's Dr. Keppel is a very cool man under pressure.
Another great aspect of the episode is how Keppel covers his tracks. Sure Columbo suspects him, but Keppel takes the proper steps. Recording over the tape, copying the film, inserting the cuts and destroying it, etc.
I even forgive the episode for a plot point I dislike in some of the other episodes, and that's the forced elimination of a 2nd victim who uncovers the murderer's plot, here the projectionist who decides blackmailing Keppel is a better plan that going to the police. The idea didn't work in "Dagger of the Mind" but definitely works here, based on the cool, calculating man Keppel, as Culp plays him, is.
And what makes it even better is the fact that Culp knows less than halfway into the episode that Columbo suspects him and taunts him over the fact that he has no proof. In fact, I would challenge viewers to find a better interplay between Columbo and the killer than this episode. "A Stitch in Crime" and "An Exercise in Fatality" are great in this regard, but still not as good as Culp in this role. In the other two episodes, Nimoy and Conrad find out shortly before the reveal Columbo's true feelings about them. Here, Culp has several scenes were both know what the other knows, yet also know Columbo has nothing.
The best scene, IMO, in the entire series is when Columbo asks Keppel to accompany him to the scene of the projectionist's murder. Keppel knows Columbo knows he killed the man who's crime scene they're going to, and casually asks which way to go, as Columbo said nothing about the location. After all, he couldn't possibly know how to get there, right? He compliments Columbo's attempt to trip him up, and Columbo pays respect to the fact that he couldn't. A later scene between Falk and Culp on the golf course is also letter perfect. "Here's my ball. I'll just throw it out here a little bit....And no one will ever know." The episode features great support from Robert Middleton and Chuck McCann as the first and 2nd victims, respectively, Louise Latham as the first victim's wife who Culp unsuccessfully tries to frame for the crime, and even a brief appearance by George Wyner as one of Culp's employees.
But once again, it's Falk and Culp who really make this episode shine. While maybe not the best of "Perfect Crimes" is definitely up there, and definitely is one of the best episodes of the original series. They definitely saved the best for last for Robert Culp.
Columbo: The Most Crucial Game (1972)
Culp returns for another great outing in "Columbo"
Marking his 2nd of four appearances, Robert Culp guest stars as a man who murders the owner of the team in a very clever way, by luring the victim into his pool, clocking him with a chunk of ice, and leaving him to drown. One quick toss of the ice in the pool and boom, no murder weapon.
Columbo's method of figuring it out is quite good, and the episode features great support from Susan Howard, Valerie Harper in a brief appearance, Dean Jagger as the family lawyer who doesn't get along with Culp's Paul Hanlon, as well as some "Repeat offenders" including Val Avery, who made a number of appearances in the series, James Gregory as a Coach (Previously a victim in "Short Fuse") And Dean Stockwell is the victim, and later returned as a framed third party in "Troubled Waters".
But the real stars here are Peter Falk and Robert Culp, and once again, they make the episode. Falk never put in a bad performance as Lt. Columbo, and you really have to hand it to Robert Culp for creating such 3 vividly different murderers for the series. Not only to each of his characters look different (Cassidy never bothered much with an attempt to look different in his three appearances) But each one is a completely different characterization. I felt pity for his Investigator Brimmer, contempt for Paul Hanlon, and reveled in his third visit to the series, as Bart Keppel in "Double Exposure". Truly some of the best interplay between Columbo and the killer ever in the series.
On first viewing, I liked Culp's three episodes, but that was it. Now having seen them multiple times, the chemistry between Falk and Culp shows and all three of his appearances are among my favorite episodes.
This one is definitely worth a look, as are Culp's first appearance in "Death Lends a Hand" and his final appearance as the killer (But not the series) in "Double Exposure" (Culp returned to the series one more time as an innocent 3rd party in "Columbo Goes to College")
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1976)
Decent version of the Tennesse Williams saga.
First off, yes, Natalie Wood and Robert Wagner were too old for the parts they were playing, but it doesn't detract from the story, at least on Natalie Wood's part.
The characters are all at rich Big Daddy's (Oliver) plantation home to celebrate his 65th birthday. Unknown to him and Big Mama (Stapleton), but known to everyone else, this is also his last, as he's been diagnosed with terminal cancer but told that it's a spastic colon to soften the blow, and his days are numbered.
Brick (Wagner) is the all-American hero. A football star, the envy of everyone. He should be at the top of the world, but his best friend Skipper has recently died as a result of too much alcohol. In addition, Skipper started drinking after being convinced by Brick's wife Maggie (Wood) that he was gay, and their friendship, which Brick deems pure and true, was actually driven, in Maggie's opinion, by Skipper's unrequited love for Brick. He attempts to sleep with Maggie, but it ends badly, and after Brick turns his back on him after confessing he loves him, he drinks himself to death.
At the start, Brick is now drinking himself slowly to death, all the while being resentful of Maggie's intervention, and her part in his death. It's never clear if Brick himself was gay, and if so, if just for Skipper, or in general. The fact that he and Maggie engaged in a sexual relationship at least seems to confirm he was not purely a gay man. He coldly ignores Maggie much of the time, instead taking solace in drinking alcohol to achieve the click, when the troubles of his life fade away and he spends the rest of his waking day in blissful peace.
Centering around this are Gooper (Hedley) and Mae (Peach). Gooper is Brick's resentful older brother, who did everything that Big Daddy asked, but never was given the time of day by him, unlike Brick, who gets Big Daddy's affection even when Brick is ruining his life. Gooper and Mae want control of Big Daddy's estate, and do everything in their power to sully Big Daddy's image of Brick, and to highlight the marital strife and hatred between Brick and Maggie, and the fact they are childless, which Big Daddy regrets most of all.
The cast isn't as good as the '58 version with Paul Newman, Elizabeth Taylor, Burl Ives, Jack Carson, Judith Anderson, and Madeline Sherwood. But the film highlights the homosexual undertones of Williams' original play, which could not be delved into because of the sanitary codes of the 50s. And really, it's hard to top Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor at the top of their games, and added to that are Ives and Sherwood, who recreate their roles from the hit Broadway play.
Wood makes for an excellent Maggie, despite her age. Much better than Jessica Lange's characterization, which for the most part was shrill, even when trying to be seductive. Maggie is high-strung, that's for sure, living with a man who sets guidelines for their staying married, refuses to sleep with her, and resents her fully. But Wood finds the right balance between tension and seductiveness.
Wagner is a bit miscast as Brick. He doesn't look the part. Brick is an athletic god. Maggie laments the fact he hasn't lost his looks yet, in spite of the alcohol. That's just not Wagner. He's a good-looking guy still, he's just not the magnetic image Brick is supposed to be. I like Robert Wagner in other things, this just isn't a role he's physically fit for. Also, his acting in the first act is off. He's very hateful towards Maggie. That works when she talks about Skipper, but shouldn't be the undertone of the entire act. He's more indifferent to Maggie than anything, until she rubs the Skipper wound raw, at least in Williams' play. Later on though, Wagner grows in the role, and is much better in the second act, when talking to Big Daddy, and the third, when the revelation Big Daddy is drying and the vultures trying to take the estate start circling.
As Daddy, Olivier fares much better. His southern accent is good, his acting is good, and he's light years ahead of Rip Torn in the aforementioned remake with Lange, who was apparently directed to play Big Daddy as drunk and senile. Big Daddy is a powerful man, you're supposed to be awed in his presence, and while I like Rip Torn, he just wasn't it. Olivier strikes the balance of awe and desperation, wanting to leave everything to Brick, but unable to reconcile the fact that he'd be leaving a 10 million dollar estate to a childless drunk who would simply use the money to buy alcohol and further run himself into the ground.
Maureen Stapleton also excels as Big Mama, easily the most pitiful character in the film. She loves and dotes on Big Daddy, despite his open resentfulness of her, and his affinity for insults, which she tries to love, in spite of the fact it hurts. She really shines in act three, which is her pivotal scene in the play.
Also, Hedley and Peach are good in their lesser roles of Gooper and Mae, They're not heavily dimensional, serving mainly as antagonists to drive the other characters to get through to Brick, but they play well what they're given.
It's not the best of the films, that goes to the '58 version, in spite of it's upbeat ending and skirting around of the homosexual undertones in the original play, but it's the better of the two straight play adaptations, in spite of some miscasting on Robert Wagner's part, though he does OK in the role. Ultimately, this is a dysfunctional day in the lives of very dysfunctional people, and overall, it delivers.
I give it a 7/10
The Hills Have Eyes (2006)
An enjoyable film
*spoilers included* I watched this film last night and was highly impressed. Having not seen the remake, I got to go into it with an unbiased view (Usually I hate remakes) The plot involves the Carter family, on their way to California. Big Bob (Ted Levine) likes to take the long way round, and when they stop at a gas station in the middle if the desert, they get more than they bargained for. The attendant, who seems to have something going with whomever or whatever is out there in the hills, becomes suspicious of them and sends them into the lion's den. Their tires are blown out by whomever is out there, and they are forced into an accident. Then the horror begins.
The film is well cast. Veteran character actor Ted Levine makes for a great Big Bob Carter. He has the look and feel of a retired detective, and I enjoyed every moment he was on screen. Kathleen Quinlan is also excellent as Bob's wife and mother of the kids. Aaron Stanford is great as the fish-out-of-water husband of Bob's daughter Lynn (Vinessa Shaw) both have tender moments and are quite convincing as a married couple. It's fun to watch Stanford's Doug become more and more heroic as the film progresses (Think Brody in "Jaws") Dan Byrd and Emilie De Raven are also standouts as the younger generation of Big Bob's clan. They have that brother-sister "I hate you" relationship down pat, and it's great to watch them bond together as the horrors continue.
Not too many of the mutants are huge standouts, as they don't get a lot of screen time, but Billy Drago is nicely diabolical as Jupiter, as is Robert Joy as Lizard. You're rooting for them to get their comeupance.
There were a few moments of "Why is that character doing that?!" I had the row in front of me in hysterics when I muttered aloud at one point in the film (You'll know which one when you see it) to Ted Levine's character, "Stop wasting your bullets!" They agreed.
Thankfully, they're not frequent, and they don't ruin the film. Every horror film has these moments, there's just no getting away from it. And I figured that Ted Levine would not make it to the final credits when he was given special billing at the beginning of the film. Usually when a name actor gets special billing in a horror film, no good can come of it.
I knew when I watched the opening credits roll and saw that the make-up effects were done by Greg Nicotero that I was in for a special treat. I wasn't disappointed. The mutant make up is extremely well-done, as are the gore effects. (Including chopped fingers, and a life-sized burning mock-up of one of the stars.) A great work by Director Alexandre Aja. I'm sure we'll be seeing more of his work in the future. I was impressed and entertained.
Dawn of the Dead (1978)
"One stop shopping. Everything you need, right at you fingertips."
A couple of months ago, I got the opportunity of a lifetime to see "Reservoir Dogs", one of my favorite movies, at the theatre. Then, a while ago, the theatre I saw "RD" in was showing Romero's version of "Dawn of the Dead" as their midnighter. I assume it was in conjunction with the remake, though they showed it after the remake was out of the mainstream theatres. I became a fan of the movie recently, having bought the Divimax edition of the film a few days before I saw the remake. Needless to say, I was first in line for a ticket.
I must say that I liked this version better than the remake, but I don't want to spend this review comparing the differences between the two. I will say though, I like the slow zombies in this better than the fast zombies in the remake.
Romero has created the diffinative zombie movie here. It's easily the best of the trilogy, and I'm almost positive it will be the best in the quadrilogy, should Mr. Romero get the funding to do a fourth film in the series. His first, "NOTLD" was an excellent horror movie, but it was hampered with the annoying character of Cooper, who was obviously going to bite it. Plus, the tone of this film is much more lighthearted, "NOTLD" was very grim. Here the audience gets the opportunity to have fun with the characters. "Day of the Dead" had some of the lightheartedness of this film, but it was hampered with the annoying characters of Rhodes and Steele, who were also obviously going to bite it. In this film, the four leads are all likeable, though I will admit that it takes us a little while to warm up to one character, but I'll discuss him further along. Don't get me wrong, I love "NOTLD", both the original, and the remake, and I love "Day" I just think that out of all of the films, "Dawn" is Romero at his best.
The plot, in a nutshell, is this: A news station's helicopter pilot/traffic reporter, Stephen, (David Emge) and his pregnant, on-again, off-again girlfriend Frannie, (Gaylen Ross) who works as one of the station's technicians, decide to steal the network's traffic chopper (It's more his idea than hers) and seek refuge in Canada. Stephen has invited his friend Roger, (Scott H. Reiniger) a Philadelphia SWAT team member. Roger questions whether it's right to run, but a disastrous excursion in a low-rent housing district, which harms more people than it helps, finally convinces him that he needs to get the h*ll out of dodge. While at the building in the low-rent district, he meets and befriends Peter, (Fen Foree) a fellow SWAT member. Roger figures one more won't hurt the group, so he invites Peter along. The group takes to the skies, but a lack of fuel grounds them temporarily at a shopping mall. At first, they just want to rest there for a little while, but eventually they decide that everything they need is at the mall, and they begin making provisions to seal the mall from the undead and become kings of the castle. But it's not going to be easy.
Those who only see this film as a horror movie will be dissappointed. While it definitely has it's horrific elements, it's not strictly a horror movie. It's a mix of Horror, Satire, Comedy, Fantasy and Action. Romero summed it up best: It's a big, sprawling, comic book, complete with bright red cartoonish blood. "Dawn" is also very much a social satire. When it was made, shopping malls were just starting to spring up, and consumerism was just starting to reach it's peak. The zombies are partially intended to represent mall shoppers on a typical day, wandering aimlessly from store to store as canned music plays hypnotically in the backround. It's a clever stab, and it works very well without upseting the "comic book horror" feel of the movie.
The characters are probably the best drawn in a horror film, ever. rarely have I watched a horror film and been so attached to the characters as I was in this. You have the natural leader, Peter, who always uses his head to make descisions, At first he's the outsider of the group, And since he's the only one of the group who's black, it ads to the tension. But his natural strengths come through and he becomes the eventual leader of the group. Peter is very much like Ben from "NOTLD" but with a little better decision making skills and no one getting in his way. Peter is my second favorite character in the film, topped only by Roger. The character of Roger, who's basically Peter's second in command, but who is almost as resourceful as Peter, is my favorite in the film. He's very much the class clown, a needed bit of comic relief in a world going to h*ll. Roger, like Peter, is for the most part cool under pressure, and for a little guy, he's one of the coolest characters ever put to screen, almost rivaling Peter. When you watch the movie, and see some of the things he does, you just can't help but like the guy. Stephen, however, is the most complex of the characters. At first, he seems like a sullen jerk, And he's almost set up to be an embodiment of the Cooper character from "NOTLD" but as the film progresses, he opens up, and we discover that not only is he helpful in a pinch, and very resorceful, but we also discover that some of his sulleness comes from the fact that he feels inferior to his male buddies, since he's not as trained in combat as they are, and he can't shoot at all like they can. And finally, there's Frannie, who's viewed as the weak link because she is a woman, and pregnant. But Frannie isn't as weak as they think, and she makes it very clear that she is going to be as much a part of the group as the guys, pregnant or not. She's resourceful as well, coming up with good ideas to help the group finish the tasks they need to. She has a few moments where she acts like Barbara from "NOTLD" but not very often, and she thankfully doesn't spend the entire movie alternately screaming and sitting in a catatonic state. They are all great characters, and they do a minimum of stupid things, which is wonderful, as nothing is more annoying than screaming at a movie character NOT to do something, then watching them do it and get killed. They occasionally have errors of judgement, but hey, everyone does at some point or other, and they are not out of context of the characters. It's not done just so something bad will happen to them or so it will undermine what they are doing.
What the audience will have the most fun with is the mall itself. It very much becomes a 5th character, and it puts to screen the fantasy of: What would you do if you had a shopping mall all to yourself? Surely everyone has wandered about a shopping mall and thought to themselves, "I wonder what it would be like if I had all this to myself?" But it's not all roses, and eventually, it becomes a prison to the characters, very much becoming a "Guilded Cage".
And I also must give a nod to the music of Goblin. Though only a 1/4th of their music is used in the theatrical release, it's very fun, my favorite song of theirs is when Roger and Peter are moving the first truck.
I loved this movie, and I can't wait for the 3 or 4 or 5 disc (No one knows for sure how many) set that it scheduled to come out in the fall from Anchor Bay. The movie has fared well, and it was extremely fun to see it on the big screen, even though the print is starting to wear out, and the sound wasn't always great, but it was good enough.
To close, if you are looking for a moderately scary movie with great characters, get this one. It's not extremely dated, the acting is, for the most part great, (You have to cut them some slack, for three of the actors, this was their first movie) and it moves along at a good pace. Again, I can't stress this enough, don't just watch this as a horror movie, watch it on all levels, and I promise you you'll enjoy it. I certainly did.
Two thumbs WAY up!
Ein Unbekannter rechnet ab (1974)
I liked it, but I did because of the actors, not the script.
This is undoubtedly one of the weakest, if not the weakest adaptation of Agatha Christie's famous work. It's a toss-up between this one and the version done in 1989 as to which is worst. While I agree that the tone of this film is the closest to the novel, (It's devoid of almost all of the humor in the previous two versions) it falls completely flat because of ham-handed direction and a lot of wooden performances. for some reason, none of the versions have kept all the original characters from the book, and several in ALL the versions have been modified to fit particular actors. Most notably missing is the cold Emily Brent character who was at least included in the '45 version. Here, she is an actress, and she is played weakly by Stephane Audran. the servants, portrayed here by Maria Rohm and Alberto DeMartino are also weak. Rohm is the director's wife, so it's obvious how she got the part, and DeMartino is just off as the Butler. As the singer, Charles Aznavour fares better, but not by much, and I was relieved when his character died. He should have, for wearing that awful tux jacket. The rest of the cast is at least passable. I liked Herbert Lom as the doctor, and he gave a nice, level-headed air of authority to the doctor side of the role, but he was unconvincing as a drunk. I never once believed that he was a former alcoholic. However, this was mostly because of the script he was given and the way he was directed, I'm sure, because Lom has given so many splendid performances in the past. Gert Frobe makes for a nice Blore, and I enjoyed him, and I also enjoyed Adolfo Celi, though there was almost nothing he could do with his role. Elke Sommer was okay as Vera, but she was given an extremely unflattering hairdo and misdirected at some points. Oliver Reed is collecting a paycheck and enjoying it. But he is clearly having fun with his role and I enjoyed his performance. And Attenborough offers one of the best portrayals as the judge. Cool, calm and calculating, he it what we would expect a hanging judge to be. He is great almost through the entire movie, but was misdirected to co completely over the top at the end.
What really hampers the film is the directing. The performances are all, to some extent, weak, and the performances are all wooden, even from the experienced actors like Reed, Lom, and Attenborough. Of all the performances, I thought that Frobe was the best of the bunch. But I also have to imagine that the performances are based on the money they received. Based on the poor production values of this film, I can't imagine that any of the performers got very much money out of this. But what really kills them is the directing (No pun intended).
Another problem with the film is the script and the pacing. There were to many plot holes in the script. For starters, Aznavour sings his (Then) hit new single. This in itself doesn't bother me, but suddenly, Aznavour is not only singing and playing the piano, but he has a whole orchestra lending support, which led me to exclaim "Count Bassie and his Orchestra! They're the killers!" Also, some of the deaths are ridiculous. One character tries to trek across the desert, but he doesn't check his canteen, (which is, of course, empty) and he doesn't look at his compass (which is, of course, broken). Would you walk out into the desert without checking your survival equipment first! Then, in a completely bone-headed move, they cut to the others in the hotel, looking for them, and as Blore screams his name, it echos into the next scene where they show him with his arms and legs spread, dead. He walked out into the desert probably three hours ago, AND THAT LITTLE EXPOSURE HAS ALREADY KILLED HIM!? RIDICULOUS! Also, another character is killed with a deadly snake. (The line of the rhyme that her death is referenced to is the bee, but that's not my gripe) What bothers me is, Owen's murders are supposed to be orderly. One by one. using a snake is ridiculous, because what happens if it bites somebody else before it is killed? plus, the first two versions had the murder committed with a hypodermic needle, which threw suspicion on the doctor. But not this version, which thinks it's so clever and uses a snake, which throws no suspicion on any one particular person. Then, In a completely laughable moment, we see Reed rush in at the last second and save Lom from the snake, and he beats on it with a candlestick, revealingly showing that it's a rubber snake, and not a very convincing one at that (Especially when he tosses it away). Also, the relationship between the doctor and the judge, a crucial part of the plot, is never convincingly developed. And finally, the death of the murderer is ridiculous. He cackles that he is going to pin all the crimes on the survivor, since they are the only one left, no one could verify the story, therefore all the crimes would be pinned on them. The killer then gulps poison. here's my problem. Even the most idiotic crime scene investigator would be able to determine that the poison was self inflicted. (Hello? Fingerprints?) And, as a bonus, Blore shorts out the generator in the hotel, therefore cutting the power. However, at the end, when the killer is revealed playing pool, the lights above the pool table are on!??!?!
Overall, an extremely WEAK effort. Even if you are a die hard fan of someone in the cast, I still recommend you see them in something else, as their performance will be undoubtedly better. I'm sure they will thank you for it!
*/**** (For the actors only)
Reservoir Dogs (1992)
Are you gonna bark all day.....
A couple of weeks ago, I was blessed with a rare opportunity. one of the movie theaters in town did a midnight showing of this. Naturally, being a "Dogs" freak, I went down and saw it.
To say I was blown away would be an understatement. I have only seen two of Mr. Tarantino's films in the theater. This being one, and "Kill Bill" being the other. I only became a fan of his a year ago and have subsequently seen all of his films and own them all.
It really was a treat to be able to sit in the movie theater and watch this while eating grossly overpriced popcorn and drinking a grossly overpriced soda.
For those who don't know, the film involves a jewelry heist. Six strangers including Harvey Keitel, Michael Madsen, Steve Buscemi, Eddie Bunker, Tarantino himself, and Tim Roth are recruited by a crime boss named Joe Cabot, (Lawrence Tierney) and his son Eddie, whom everybody calls "Nice Guy" (Chris Penn). The six are almost all friends or associates of Cabot, particularly Keitel and Madsen. Cabot gives them colors for names (Mr. White, Mr. Blonde, Mr. Pink, Mr. Blue, etc.) And expressly forbids them to reveal anything about themselves to each other, so if anyone is caught, no one can inform on anybody. But the heist goes wrong, the cops seem to show up way to fast, some members of the group are killed, and the rest start returning to the rendesvous point to try to sort out what went wrong. After the arrival of Mr. Pink, They realize that one of the number is a police informer. The arrival of Mr. Blonde, and the present he has in his trunk, complicates things even more. Things are also complicated by the fact that since no one knows each other, discovering who the informer is is given added difficulty, since no one trusts each other.
This film, Tarantino's first, is one of the best, if not the best one he has ever done. but part of this credit has to go to his outstanding cast. Keitel is an old pro at this type of thing, he has the distinction of being the first older actor who's career seemed to be going into a slump and who has recovered thanks to Tarantino's casting. But Tarantino can't claim sole credit for that, because Keitel really got the ball rolling on the project and help him score his budget and the prominence to gain his cast. Buscemi IS Mr. Pink. Tarantino wrote the role for himself, and he would have been good, but Buscemi brings a type of weasly professionalism to the role that no one else could. Penn and Tierney are ideally cast as the father and son who are left to sort out the mess of the robbery, Bunker is only in a few scenes but livens up the proceedings. Tarantino gives himself the perfect monologue for his character (Like a Virgin is a metaphor for big d*cks), and Tim Roth gives a spectacular performance as Mr. Orange, who is relegated to bleeding on the floor for a large chunk of the movie. His scene in the car when he has just been shot is particulary outstanding. But then, of course, I have to throw out a special nod to my favorite character in the piece, Mr. Blonde, as portrayed by Michael Madsen. Blonde is the definition of "Bad*ss", and Madsen fits him like a glove. His first scene back at the warehouse is particularly memorable, as is the "Ear torture sequence". Without Madsen's portraying of Mr. Blonde, I don't think the "Ear" scene would have worked, Madsen just does something with it that nobody else can. Not only does Blonde have most of the coolest lines, he's fun to watch on screen, especially his reaction to a gun pointed in his face by Mr. White. Madsen rocks!
"Dogs" Is one of the few movies where I don't think thae casting could have been any better. Part of the reason it works as well as it does has to go the the way the cast works with each other. No one seems to think that they are better than anyone else, and no one seemed to approach the project with the stuck up feeling of how bad it was that they were doing an indie film on a low budget and with an unknown director. Every single member of the cast gives everything he (or, to a much lesser extent, she) has. It's this mindset that, I think, has made "Dogs" the classic it is today. Little could be improved upon.
As a side note, This came out a year after "Thelma and Louise" which also stars Harvey Keitel and Michael Madsen. However, in "Dogs" They play ruthless characters. In "T&L" they play the only sympathetic Male characters in the entire movie. An ideal would be to watch "T&L" then "RD" and really see the difference. They are two great actors, and they deliver. And for those who enjoyed Madsen in this, I also recommend "Kill Me Again", made a few years earlier, and which also features a scene where he tortures someone.
"Dogs" is a great film to watch. Not a date flick, but for a cops and robbers movie, it's perfect. Seeing it for the first time in a theater, it hasn't lost it's touch, and the "Stuck in the Middle with You"/Ear sequence has never been more intense or memorable.
Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003)
Loved it, and Michael Madsen rocks.
This film marks to firsts for me. It is the first Tarantino film I have seen in a movie theatre, and It is the first Michael Madsen movie I have seen in a theatre. I became a fan of both Madsen and Tarantino after seeing "Reservoir Dogs" a year ago, so when I knew that there was going to be another collaboration between them, I was thrilled........
And I wasn't dissapointed. In "Kill Bill" Tarantino does exactly what he set out to do, make a bad 1970's samurai film. And it works. It can, in some ways, be considered a spoof. There are plenty of laughs along the way, and most of the gore is done for laughs. It also features Tarantino's uncanny ability to find a song that is absolutely appropriate for what's happening, or for what just happened on screen. in the first scene, we are shown, from simply a closeup on The Bride's face, Bill shoot her in the head. There is a blackout, and then Nancy Sinatra's "Bang, Bang, My Baby Shot Me Down" plays over the opening credits. Could it be any more perfect? I also enjoyed the quiet strains of "Nobody" playing during the climactic fight between The Bride and the Crazy 88s at the end. If you haven't seen it, you'll understand what I mean when you do.
Kill Bill is not a typical Tarantino film. It doesn't have the biting dialogue of "Dogs" or "Fiction". But It does have some choice lines, and the cinematography is stunning.
I read the screenplay and some postings, so I knew approximately where the move would end, and I didn't want it to. That's another thing I have to mention. The movie is an hour and a half long, but it absolutely breezes by.
Overall, I am not disappointed. I know that I'll will have to pay to see the other half and I don't care. It's well worth the money. I cannot wait until February.
And how could I be a Michael Madsen fan without mentioning him. He is here, for about two minutes of screen time, and it was a wonderful two minutes. I loved the fact that Tarantino put him in a Black suit, I assume to give a little reference his Mr. Blonde character from "Reservoir Dogs". He even has a little animae cartoon in the "O- Ren-Ishi segment, and a cool line at the end. I wait until February, when his character of "Budd" becomes more of a prominent character and goes head to head with The Bride. Go Mr. Blonde!
Mr. Tarantino, you have done it again, and I am proud to have contributed to the box office of your film. I already want to see it again, and I probably will. And I'll be waiting in line for Volume 2 in February