Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
"He fought the fury of the Yaqui warpath, whilst his back was the target for a hundred guns"
A young scout named Jim Harvey(AUDIE MURPHY)leads some wagons through treacherous Indian territory. As Harvey fears an attack, he has the wagons take shelter by some rocks whilst he goes to the Yaqui Chief to secure safe passage for the civilians. His efforts are in vain as the Chief has him knocked unconscious and tied up. With Harvey now helpless, the Yaquis ride off and massacre the civilians. The next day, Harvey manages to escape and gets back to the nearest town where he is met with anger by the townsfolk, who believe he conspired with the Yaquis to murder the civilians. As a lynch mob is formed, the Sheriff arrests Harvey. That night, the Yaqui Chief's son, whose life was previously saved by Harvey, breaks into the jail and helps Harvey escape. As the Indian is killed in the ensuing shootout, Harvey learns the shocking truth behind the massacre and rides out into the wilderness pursued by a posse to find the individuals responsible.
A B western from the vaults of Universal is always a delight, no matter how bad the script, acting or production values. I've seen quite a few such westerns over the past few years and I will admit, Tumbleweed is one of the weaker ones. Still, that does not mean that it is a terrible film, the standard for the westerns made by Universal is set rather high for me personally, it is an enjoyable effort with spellbinding action scenes. The storyline is a competent and intriguing one and will keep you watching until the very end. The main problem is that the film is rather hollow and dry. It's starts off well but then slows down in the middle before picking up in pace towards it's climax. The middle of the film mainly consists of Harvey riding across the desert on his horse and talking to it, which gets very tedious after a while. The vistas of the parched sands and craggy mountains were pleasing and the cinematography was effective. The acting is usual standard for a B western with Audie Murphy doing what he does best, which I've seen in most of his other westerns. Chill Wills gave a decent performance as the Sheriff and look out for a significant turn from a young Lee Van Cleef as a deputy, a far cry from his roles as Colonel Mortimer and Sabata. It was great to see him progressing in the genre that suited him best. Although there were few, the action scenes were fantastic and gave the film a satisfying bodycount. There were some awesome stunts in the Indian fights and the horseback chase and subsequent fistfight among the rocks was particularly thrilling.
Enjoyable time passer if you're bored on a cold winters afternoon. 7/10.
The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
A U.S army patrol led by Raymond Shaw and Major Ben Marco is captured by Soviet troops during the Korean War. At the end of the war, the men return to the States with no knowledge of what happened. The jaded Shaw is awarded the Medal of Honour for bravery in combat and hailed as a hero whilst Marco begins working for military intelligence. The latter is plagued by sinister nightmares and he begins an extensive investigation, re-uniting with Shaw in the process. A horrific truth is soon uncovered that will change the lives of both men forever...
Apart from the above synopsis, you should know NOTHING about The Manchurian Candidate before watching it for the first time. It will strike it's most bruising blow if you are ignorant to the details of the plot. Based on a novel of the same name, George Axelrod's script is intelligently constructed and the premise just as brilliantly conceived. The script will pull you into the clever depths of the story and have you hooked for the entire duration of the film, allowing you to engage with the plot. However, the otherwise magnificent script is wrought with quite a few plot holes, some of which are big enough to drive a bus through. Unfortunately, the film suffers slightly because of this. Still, the script contains a substantial amount of memorable dialogue and the plot never becomes convoluted. The Manchurian Candidate s definitely a product of it's time. It exploits the number one threat to the free world which was prevalent throughout the latter half of the 20th century. As a tried and true realist, I strongly doubt that the event depicted in the film could have taken place, even in the 1950s and 60s. Although, it's an extremely curious thought at the same time. The film is a Thriller verging on political satire which feeds on the crazed paranoia of American and British audiences of the time and despite being far fetched, is terrifyingly real!. The film boasts one of the most impressive casts I've ever seen. Laurence Harvey plays the tormented soul that is Raymond Shaw exceptionally well. At the beginning, I was unsure about the idea of a British actor playing an American character, but as the film progressed the role could never have been filled by another actor. With his tawny appearance and piercing demeanour, Harvey was able to embody the character with overpowering intensity. Frank Sinatra provides sturdy support as Major Ben Marco in what I consider to be a milestone in Sinatra's acting career. Janet Leigh also gave a first rate performance, as did Douglas Henderson as Colonel Milt, Major Marco's superior officer. James Gregory and John McGiver turned in staunch portrays of the two rival senators. However, the best performance in the film without a doubt comes from Angela "Murder She Wrote" Lansbury. Her portrayal of Mrs Iselin is the greatest performance from a female actor that I've ever seen in film or TV. Her restrained portray crackles with intensity, making her character deliciously frightening.
Both the cinematography and editing are inspired. In terms of the cinematography, the occasional use of diagonal shots make certain scenes feel dreamlike and were extremely effective. The several large close-ups also worked excellently, making me feel as if the characters were addressing me personally. The inclusion of various point of view shots as well as both subjective and objective camera angles were incredibly stylish. The nightmare sequences were truly commendable indeed.Here, Ferris Webster(the editor)turns the process of editing into an art. They were shot and edited in such a sophisticated manor that I found myself looking twice in order to interpret fully what was going on in these scenes. The masterful cinematography and brisk editing are at their peak during the gripping climax. John Frankenheimer cranks the suspense up to dizzying highs in what I consider to be one of the most taut sequences ever filmed. I will say nothing more, but the climax and ending of The Manchurian Candidate are what puts the capital T in Thriller.
The Manchurian Candidate is a significant and though provoking slice of classic(or maybe even modern)cinema. Providing a momentous "what if?" scenario as well as a riveting insight into the obsessive politics of a bygone era, it deserves to be seen by all. 8/10.
Beach Red (1967)
"Of all the creatures on earth, only man hunts his own kind"
At height of the Second World War, US marines storm the beach of a Japanese held island. Suffering heavy casualties, a platoon led by Captain MacDonald(CORNEL WILDE)pushes inland toward the thick jungle. MacDonald and his men are profoundly affected by the dangers they face, as are the Japanese. Soldiers fighting on both sides can only ease their deep emotional pain by reflecting on their peaceful pre war lives...
Directed and produced by Cornel Wilde who also co-wrote and starred as the main character, Beach Red has a few very minor flaws which can be overlooked because of this. Despite being a murky film which is unflinching in it's brutality, Beach Red is extremely colourful for a war movie. The use of colourised wartime stock footage was aesthetically pleasing to say the least. This succeeded in humanising the battle sequences. The scenes of Soldiers trudging through the lush jungle were impressively photographed. The film's title sequence, which comprised of gorgeous watercolour paintings of soldiers in the hell of combat, was just breathtaking. These paintings are juxtaposed by the lyrics of the title song, "My Enemy And I". Describing what will inevitably happen at it's climax, the song's lyrics serve as a kind of synopsis for the film. Wilde forces the viewer to feel the seething heat of battle by showing a soldier deliriously staggering around after having one of his arms blown off by an explosion. Unfortunately, most of this scene was cut from the TV print, but even when simply talked about is equally shocking. Apart from this scene and a few other exceptions, Beach Red is not an excessively gory film, although the use of bloody closeups when characters are wounded really added to the realism. Wilde also allows the viewer to experience the fear of the characters as they kill each other like animals. The beginning sequence depicting the Marines inching toward the beach in the landing craft was particularly taut. The first time I saw this film I personally felt rather nervous when watching this scene, as if I was a Marine about to storm the beach.
The film's anti war overtones evoke a Vietnam allegory. The scene showing Sergeant Honeywell(RIP TORN)stomping on a Japanese Captain's arms and breaking them in a fit of sadistic rage echoes the frustration and despair of American soldiers fighting in Vietnam. However, what really makes the film unique is Wilde's use of flashbacks. These add vicious bite to the film's narrative and when combined with the internal monologues of the characters, engage the viewer. These flashbacks also give the Japanese and American soldiers something in common, it basically says that everyone is human. They are quite dreamlike in form, at times manifesting themselves as brief stills. Either way, they add to the colour and depth of the film and it's story. I was completely drawn in by the inner conflicts of the characters which made it impossible for me to take my eyes off the screen. Cornel Wilde gives a sturdy performance as the sympathetic Captain MacDonald. It is Rip Torn who really steals the film as well as some of it's greatest lines. After breaking the Japanese Captain's arms, Honeywell is chastised by MacDonald and the dialogue exchanged between the two characters makes this scene probably the best in the film. Burr DeBenning also has some of the best lines and his character provides a slight pinch of comic relief in an otherwise gritty film. Genki Koyama turned in a robust performance as Colonel Sugiyama. This unknown Japanese actor made the character his own. The scenes in which the Colonel vows to crush the advancing American forces and plots their positions on a scale model of the island were truly fantastic. Apart from the flashbacks, Beach Red is crammed with meticulously detailed battle sequences which are epic in both scope and execution. The first battle on the beach was bone chilling, tight and exhilarating. The second battle in the rice field depicting tanks, flamethrowers and pillboxes in action was just as rigid, not to mention being masterfully shot. The brief utilisation of first person view in this battle and the first one made me feel as if I was part of the action. The strafing of hundreds of Japanese troops by American bombers near the end of the film was also truly gripping. The hand to hand combat sequences in the jungle were magnificently choreographed. Overall, the action sequences were packed with amazing special effects and stunts!. This explosive action builds to a dramatically affecting climax.
Cornel Wilde addresses the topic of war in an intelligent and unique way. Thoroughly engrossing from beginning to end, brought to life by a moving narrative and containing some of the most amazing battle sequences ever shot, Beach Red was way ahead of it's time. Today's lacklustre war movies owe much to it. 10/10.
The Bridge at Remagen (1969)
Thus ended the last great German stand in the West...
In March 1945, it is strongly evident that Germany is loosing the war. Hitler's forces are in full retreat as the allies are pushing ever closer towards Berlin. To halt the allied advance, German military brass order the destruction of the last remaining Rhine river bridge at Remagen. Major Krueger(ROBERT VAUGHN)disobeys orders and keeps the bridge open long enough to allow battle weary soldiers to cross back into German territory. A platoon of American GIs headed by Lt. Phil Hartman(GEORGE SEGAL)have been instructed to take the bridge, before Krueger finally decides to destroy it!.
THE BRIDGE AT REMAGEN is THE quintessential Second World War combat movie. It depicts the ordinary combat soldier carrying out his objective without the hindrance of a love interest or mushy backstory. Produced by David L. Wolper and distributed by United Artists, Remagen is the younger brother of the slightly inferior "The Devil's Brigade"(1968). This 1969 effort will forever hold a tight position in my personal top 20 war films. The storyline is fact based and totally engaging, without becoming convoluted or tiresome. The script makes the film all the more engrossing. It touches on the issues of low morale in a platoon, how and why it becomes so rife and the crippling effects it has on the soldiers. Battle fatigue is also tactfully depicted. The film shows how it can manifest itself into lasting psychological conditions such as depersonalisation and disassociation. I wouldn't go as far to call Remagen an anti war film, although it does contain some poignant anti war elements, some of which I've just mentioned. Neither is it an all-guts-no-glory flag waver, it simply tells the story of the Allied struggle against Nazi forces for control of the Remagen bridge. John Guillemin's direction moves the film along at a decent pace and the visuals benefit from a rousing Elmer Bernstein score. The script is strong and is crammed with equally sturdy dialogue. Thanks to this, the film contains quite a few memorable lines, with George Segal and Ben Gazzara taking most of them for themselves. I also thought the cinematography was inspired. From time to time the camera lingers over the action, this being particularly effective when the GIs make their initial advance on the bridge.
The 3 leads, George Segal, Ben Gazzara and Robert Vaughn all gave staunch performances. These 3 main characters were the driving thrust behind this magnificent film. It is George Segal who gives the best performance in the film. I say this because his cynical interpretation of Lt. Hartman is probably one of the most accurate representations of a soldier I've ever seen in a film. That being said, Gazzara and Vaughn also brilliantly portrayed their characters. The on screen chemistry between Segal and Gazzara was cleverly constructed and rather unique. Bradford Dillman's portrayal of the glory hungry Major really stood out, as did E.G Marshall's. The relatively unknown actors in smaller roles as the GIs were great. Fritz Ford turned in a rigid, but abrupt portrayal of Colonel Dent. The action sequences boast mind blowing special effects. I have always been awestruck by the genuine life size buildings exploding and crashing to the ground during the streetfighting scenes. Yes, these are actual buildings being destroyed, not scale models!. The sights and sounds of ricocheting bullets during the battle on the bridge were impressively realistic. The film's combat scenes are sharp, riotous and taut!. The tank attack on the town itself was both tight and exhilarating. The attack on the bridge was rollicking too, with the director multiplying the suspense tenfold as the Germans frantically struggle to blow the bridge up in the midst of the fighting!. The air attack on the bridge was also spectacular and the opening battle between an American tank column and the German bridge fortifications was awesome. The action scenes succeed fully in driving home the true destructiveness of war.
The batch of war movies made by United Artists in the 60s and 70s are grossly underrated and immensely enjoyable. THE BRIDGE AT REMAGEN is no exception. A real "Boys Own" adventure packed with superior performances, masterful action and rugged tension. 10/10.
"Every gun makes it's own tune"
Two gunslingers, Blondie-The Good and Tuco-The Ugly, form an uneasy partnership after coming across separate pieces of information regarding the whereabouts of a stolen cache of Union army gold. As both men set out to find the loot, they are pursued by sadistic gunman Angel Eyes-The Bad, who also knows of the gold. In a country that is in the grip of bloody Civil war, staying alive long enough to find the gold proves to be a difficult task.
Fistful satirised the American western, which Leone then took a step further in FAFDM, before using TGTBTU to make a poignant political point. Here he powerfully conveys an unflinching anti war message. The haunting visuals of destroyed towns and dead soldiers in the aftermath of battles need no explanation. The 3 main characters, for whom brutality and death are ways of life, are even shocked by the horrors of war over the course of the film. The scene which has Blondie comforting a dying soldier is both raw and moving. The large scale battle scene depicts hundreds of soldiers from both sides slaughtering each other aimlessly for a bridge, just to keep their brass buttoned Generals satisfied. The whole sequence is allegorical in that men being massacred over a strip of land or a bridge were major staples of the first and second world wars respectively. The Union Captain,who charges into the heat of the carnage under the influence of alcohol, added a pinch of satire to this brutal sequence. The prison camp sequence was equally bone chilling, as Tuco is savagely beaten to the tune of "The Story of A Soldier".
TGTBTU takes full benefit of a staunch script. Despite being just as grim as the previous two films, TGTBTU is the most light hearted of the trilogy. Brief moments of masterfully scripted dark humour will provoke a slight titter. This humour excellently suits the film's cynical tone. The dialogue throughout the film is also richly constructed. Clint, now having firmly etched his name deep into the history books of the western, gives a final stupendous final performance as Blondie. Eli Wallach sets the screen ablaze with his own terrific brand of bombastic charisma. Tuco's superb comic presence increases the film's enjoyment value tenfold. Lee Van Cleef went from playing the fiercely vengeful Colonel Douglas Mortimer to playing the fiercely nihilistic Angel Eyes. Van Cleef's performance is a sturdy one and here he earns his stripes with distinction. I believe Ennio Morricone to be at his greatest here. The "Ecstasy of Gold" is my all time favourite of all Morricone's compositions and in my opinion, the best in the whole trilogy. It sounds like a heavenly choir of angels singing and it sends a chill down my spine each time I hear it. "The Trio" makes the climatic 3 way showdown immensely atmospheric. In the middle of this "Triello", the tension is gripped rigidly on a knife edge. The music comes to a halt, allowing the 3 characters to ready themselves, before continuing. "The Story of A Soldier" is a heart wrenching, yet compelling composition, evoking the film's anti war overtones. The rousing title score is the film's main driving force. Crammed with robust suspense, the cracking action sequences kept the film chuntering along at a brisk pace. The stunts were amazing, at times truly gripping. The aforementioned battle was fantastic. The waste of human life being captured bitingly with piercing effect. The special effects, like the thundering barrage of explosions heightened the intensity of this chaotic slaughter. The shot of the bridge exploding was utterly magnificent!. This is special effects at their most spectacular!. The daddy of all western showdowns, the epic "Triello" is absolutely phenomenal. I've already mentioned how Morricone's score cranks the suspense all the way up to the maximum. The entire sequence is painstakingly taut, with Leone tightening the tension even tighter as the events unfold before the viewer's eyes!. Whether you're watching this scene for the first time or for the hundredth time, you'll still be anxiously biting hard into your fingers. The whole sequence is given an engaging edge thanks to the skillful cinematography, with the camera getting closer to the characters as the sequence progresses.
With this epic, the Dollars trilogy went out with a thunderous bang!. TGTBTU is a film that is shamefully parodied. However, no one will ever succeed in making a western more superior than this. As the trilogy went on, the film's sharpened each time. Fistful was invigorating, FAFDM was magnificent and TGTBTU was just a legendary sensation!. By now, the Spaghetti western had hit it's stride, taking the world by storm. Leone pulled out all the stops here, resulting in a roaring masterpiece. 10/10.
Per qualche dollaro in più (1965)
"When two hunters go after the same prey,they usually end up shooting each other in the back"
Two bounty killers,Manco(CLINT EASTWOOD) and Colonel Douglas Mortimer(LEE VAN CLEEF),a sharpshooting ex-army officer, hunt crazed bandit El Indio(GIAN MARIA VOLONTE)and his murderous gang. Rivals at first, the two bounty killers later decide to join forces to wipe out the gang. Manco is motivated only by the reward, but Colonel Mortimer has more personal reasons.
In the months following the monumental success of A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS, the European population were thirsting for more Spaghetti westerns. Sergio Leone was obliged to make a follow up to his first film. Clint returned as the stranger, again turning in a restrained but ruggedly stupendous performance. In his first Spaghetti western, Lee Van Cleef spectacularly portrays Colonel Mortimer. Lee owns the screen in any Spaghetti western that he appears in and it's fair to say that this film belongs to him.Although,the script refuses to elaborate on the Colonel's military past, thus making the character a tad one dimensional. Regardless of this however, he was still the best character in the film and Colonel Mortimer will always be one of my favourite Spaghetti western anti-heroes. I was stunned by his deadly arsenal of weaponry, which includes several long range rifles and pistols. The Colonel's weapon of choice, a mean looking long range Single Action Army pistol, is put to terrific use in the action scenes.Gian Maria Volonte rivals Lee Van Cleef for best performance in the film. His sadistic laugh pierced my eardrums and the fact that his character is half insane gave Volonte's scenes a horrifying edge.
The score by Morricone is better than the score of Fistful. The film's gritty tone is poignantly evoked by the magnificent title song. The "Eye for an Eye" piece impressively sets the tone for the tense final showdown.FAFDM is masterfully scripted with every scene skilfully penned and crammed with sturdy dialogue. There's a welcome pinch of humour added to the script with a couple of scenes prompting a slight chuckle. I did find that the film became a little convoluted in it's second half, but this was only a minor flaw that did not affect the film as a whole. The chemistry between Colonel Mortimer and Manco created a superb atmosphere. The scene that takes place in the darkened street and has the two titans having a shooting contest with each other's hats deserves to be relished.
In FAFDM,Leone focuses mostly on suspense,excellently building tension throughout the film,especially in the action sequences.Most of the action in this film comprises of ritualistic duels.These duels are made all the more gripping as the characters ready themselves to the tune of a musical watch, before drawing their guns and shooting as the tune ends. The first duel in which El Indio forces an unfortunate character into one such ill fated showdown(after ordering the man's wife and baby killed)had me uneasily piercing my fingers with my teeth. In my opinion, accompanied by the jarring soundtrack, the climatic face off between Colonel Mortimer and El Indio was the most finger biting, nerve wracking and taut showdown in the entire film. Leone had already tightened the tension into a robust knot, for example with the scene near the beginning of the film in which Colonel Mortimer guns down an outlaw in the street. Sergio had then pulled this knot much tighter for the duel between the Colonel and Klaus Kinski's hunchback. The stunts were awesome, with the action sequences packing some highly impressive kills. The jail break scene was exciting and the bank robbery really had me on the edge of my seat. The final shootout which precedes the aforementioned climatic showdown has Colonel Mortimer and Manco going head to head with El Indio's gang. This sequence was immensely exhilarating. A few chilling flashbacks provide Colonel Mortimer with the motive for wanting to kill El Indio and gave the film greater bite.
FAFDM is the grittiest film in the Dollars trilogy. It's grittiness will leave a lasting bitter aftertaste and the flashbacks in particular leave a queasy feeling in the stomach. Despite a few small flaws, like the film's length and it dragging a little at points, Leone still excellently surpasses his previous effort. He continued to blaze a searing new trail in the western genre, a trail that would blaze even more fiercely with the release of the final film in the trilogy, THE GOOD,THE BAD AND THE UGLY.10/10.
Per un pugno di dollari (1964)
The wild west according to Sergio Leone
A mysterious stranger named Joe(CLINT EASTWOOD)rides into a dusty Mexican border town. He finds that the town is within the firm clench of two warring families, the proud Baxters and the thuggish Rojos.The two clans are locked in a bitter feud and the few remaining townsfolk live in the grip of fear. Seeing a strong chance to make a fast buck, Joe plays both families off against each other after the Rojos steal gold belonging to the Mexican government.
The first film in cinematic genius Sergio Leone's groundbreaking Dollars trilogy, this is his vision of the 19th century American west. Leone destroyed the clichéd Hollywood myth of clean cut cowboys riding the range herding Cattle. It is more accurate to say the west was a Godforsaken environment in which violence was a way of life and hardship was common. This is how Leone seen it and showcased it in his Spaghetti westerns. At times, he would even satirise this scenario, which happens often over the course of the Dollars trilogy. To quote myself, I would say that Leone dismissed the childish myths of the American westerns as mere dime novel fantasies. In A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS, he creates setting which is the darker opposite of what American directors were showing in their westerns. In Fistful, the town is a vice ridden melting pot in which the townsfolk are struggling to survive as they dream of a better life. The film is armed with a muscular script which is imaginatively written. Much of the dialogue is rich and also rather humorous.I think that the script contains some of the greatest and most memorable lines ever spoken in any film. The plot is engrossing and I doubt if there had been one similar to it in any film up to this point.Ennio Morricone's score cranks up the tension terrifically. This is one of the factors which made the final showdown truly gripping.Morricone's compositions would improve even more as his work with Leone went on. Fistful made an international star out of a then relatively unknown Clint Eastwood.In Fistful, Clint's Joe is a darker and more taciturn variation of the heroes depicted in the American westerns of the 40s and 50s.He melded his poncho wearing "anti hero" into something of a cult icon.The image of a towering, rugged and poncho clad Clint would become an enduring symbol of the 1960s and today represents the Spaghetti western in pop culture. Clint is awesome as the gunslinging stranger, it's a role that would have been impossible for any other actor to play. If you watch all of Clint's films right up to today, you'll see that he draws much inspiration from his role as the "man with no name" in the Dollars films.Gian Maria Volonte turned in a staunch performance as the evil Ramon Rojo,exploding with talent and blazing with intensity in his portray.
The film's stylish cinematography impressed me greatly.The editing is snappy and I was also impressed with the taut camera angles. The top class action scenes that would become a staple of every other Spaghetti western are on full spectacular show here.The best scene in the film has to be the famous "4 coffins" scene. Here the dialogue is cleverly written, giving the scene a witty edge, but without detracting from it's suspense. The frenzied shootout at the Cemetery was absolutely exhilarating and expertly shot. Joe's vicious beating at the hands of the Rojos seared with gut wrenching brutality. It sets the standard for the cruel torture sequences that would become the norm for the formative Spaghettis. Briskly shot and packed with tight close-ups as well as fantastic stunts, the savage mass slaughter of the entire Baxter family was one of the most magnificent bloodbaths I've ever seen and the Machine gun massacre of the Mexican troops at the river was also crammed with rigid tension. The climatic confrontation between Joe and the Rojos changed the western showdown forever!. In this final sequence, Leone shows Joe to be an immortal avenger who appears from a cloud of dust to do battle with the forces of evil one last time. This sequence is an edge-of-your-seat ritual. I spent it's ensuing duration nervously biting into my fingers. The whole scene is just chillingly awe striking.
Other Spaghetti western directors like Tessari,Corbucci,Lupo,Castellari,Valerii and the Marchent brothers owe much to Sergio Leone. He properly lit the fuse for what is, in my opinion, the greatest sub genre in film history. What I also believe to be the finest trilogy in the history of cinema shoots off to an utterly riveting start. This brilliance would remain consistent with the next two Dollars films. Leone paints a unique new portrait of the wild frontier, whilst at the same timed giving the legend a stunning,invigorating and eye opening new twist.10/10.
Pork Chop Hill (1959)
"It was named lightly-This hill that became the hell torn part of a war"!
Korea,1953.The battle weary Americans believe that an armistice is just around the corner, but the arduous peace talks at Panmunjom say otherwise. Pork Chop hill, which is of ominous significance to both the Americans and the Chinese, is in the firm grip of American forces. This is soon changed however, by a successful thrust from the Chinese, which leaves the hill in Communist hands.Lieutennant Joe Clemons(GREGORY PECK)is ordered to counterattack Pork Chop hill and re-take it.Clemons and his men make a costly advance up the hill, with heavy casualties.The peace talks are constantly prolonged by the Chinese,leaving Clemons unsure as to whether he and his remaining men can hold the hill...
The film basically tells the story of the first stage of the battle of Pork Chop hill in Spring 1953.It presents a semi-fictionalised account of this bloody battle, most of the film seems to be historically accurate, whilst other parts are invented for the sake of the plot, which gave the film an engaging edge. At times, PORK CHOP HILL is a mixed bag, but overall an engrossing and gripping flag waver with bite. The main actors turn in tough and ruggedly stupendous performances, but I couldn't help feeling that the actors playing smaller parts were somewhat wooden and stiff. Nearly all of the characters are in Military uniform and as the film is shot in monochrome, one actor is indistinguishable from the other. The steel jawed characters were easy to like, but somewhat dry(which echoes my comment about the stiff acting),so it was hard for me to care when they were killed.However,this sort of worked in the film's favour as it is a cast iron depiction of men in war. Gregory Peck is on fantastic form as the granite edged Lieutenant Joe Clemons, it's one of his greatest performances.Woody Strode was also on stellar form as the hardened Private Franklin.Carl Benton Reid and a young George Peppard also acquitted themselves impressively. Barry Atwater was very rigid, but still great as the firm Lieutenant Colonel Davis. Veteran cowboy actor Bob Steele has a fleeting cameo as the hard nosed Colonel Kern. His short performance was terrific and I would have liked his character to feature more heavily in the film. Look out for a young Martin Landau in his first film performance as a young Lieutenant.
The film benefits from a robust and cleverly written script thanks to James R. Webb. The script is based on the factual book penned by Brigadier General S.L.A Marshall who was present at the battle of Pork Chop hill. The dialogue between Lieutenant Clemons and Colonel Davis discussing the strategy for attacking the hill was superb, as was the dialogue in the peace conference scenes. Although in other places it was terribly dry, making the film drag a little. The pacing is alright,although at times the film does feel incredibly slow. Director Lewis Milestone uses tight close-ups to brilliant effect and there is a tense atmosphere throughout most of the film. The battle scenes succeeded in clenching my attention and were impressively shot. The ingenuity and grit of the Soldiers fighting is spectacularly depicted.Although,greater emphasis is placed on the characters, thus most of the action is happening in the background or offscreen.It is firmly restrained and at times,the carnage is only heard rather than seen. The final battle was rather abrupt and anti climatic, but still finger biting and taut nonetheless. I thought the special effects, for example the explosions, were excellent and there's some masterful shots of heavy Machine guns being fired.
Overall, PORK CHOP HILL is a staunch effort worthy of praise. It's not without flaws but nothing that would stop me recommending it.The acting, direction and script are really the glue holding the film together. A fine way to pass a couple of boring hours.7.5/10.
Giù la testa (1971)
My all time favourite Spaghetti western!
Mexico in the early 1910s.Bandit Juan(ROD STEIGER)forces Irish explosives expert Mallory(JAMES COBURN)to aid him in robbing the Mesa Verde bank.Mallory,who is fleeing the British authorities in Ireland, reluctantly uses his Dynamite to let Juan infiltrate the bank.However,Juan is dismayed to find that the bank now holds political prisoners, whom he liberates during the "heist". Both Juan and Mallory's lives are changed forever as they are pursued by the brutish Colonel Gunther Ruiz and his iron forces. Juan is now a great revolutionary hero, but because of this, suffers the brunt of the army's cruelty.Mallory,on the other hand, finds that this conflict has nightmarish parallels to his own revolutionary past in Ireland...
DUCK YOU SUCKER is my all time favourite Spaghetti western. As a Zapata western it has everything, potent political overtones, engrossing story, riveting action scenes and remarkable characters. Sergio Leone surpasses the excellence of his previous 4 Spaghettis with this granite edged masterpiece. The film is a blistering comment on armed rebellion and class struggle and Leone criticises both with ferocious bite. With lashes of dark humour, I would call DUCK YOU SUCKER a satirical anti war film. It doesn't glorify political unrest, Leone instead says that it is the country's citizens who suffer the turmoil as a result of a corrupt government. Some even become unwitting victims of the bloodshed as reflected in the film. In one scene, Juan finds his entire family has been slaughtered by the Military because of his "accidental heroism". The film is a historical allegory. The rebels represent the Italian partisans of the Second world war, whilst the Soldiers represent the Nazis.
Mallory's flashbacks to his past in Ireland took the film to mind blowing new levels. There is no dialogue, only Morricone's haunting score playing over the scenes. These flashbacks chillingly foreshadow the tragedy of the film's climax. Some are shot in slow motion and combined with the gorgeous soundtrack,feel like a surreal dream. One flashback gruesomely mirrors one scene in Mexico in which some rebels are informed on and executed, which makes the flashbacks a thousand times more powerful.Morricone's aforementioned musical score is a truly beautiful composition. I was impressed with the Cinematography, which included striking camera angles and closeups.The script is one to die for. The dialogue is robust and at times, hilariously crude, prompting a hearty chuckle in most scenes.Steiger's character has the most cracking lines and the strong chemistry between his character and Coburn's is fantastic. It's the kind of chemistry that is akin to the relationship between two friends and makes both characters an utterly fun pleasure to watch. Rod Steiger is sensationally bombastic as Juan, the zealous thief who embarks on a life changing journey. The transition he makes from greedy bandit to hardened hero is just inspiring. Juan's description of the grim realities of the revolution are piercingly relevant today, as is Mallory's definition that "revolution means confusion". James Coburn is on equally spectacular form as the world weary tortured soul Mallory. His performance was a staunch tour de force and probably the greatest of his career.Antoine Saint-John stupendously portrayed the brutal and tyrannical Colonel Gunther Ruiz. He has no lines but the evil look in his eyes say everything about the sadism of his character. The film's special effects were epic. The explosions were incredible and amazingly realistic, nearly identical to the ones in war torn countries that are shown on the news. The exploding bridge and train crash totally blew me away. Leone thrilled me with two exhilarating action sequences.Firstly,there was the rollicking, adrenaline charged, taut Machine gun massacre of Colonel Ruiz' troops crossing the bridge. Then there was the climatic battle between the rebels and Colonel Ruiz' forces among the train wreck. This sequence blasted off with a bang thanks to the aforementioned(and noisy)destruction of the train, which was both magnificent and electrifying. Colonel Ruiz has the greatest death scene ever shown in a Spaghetti western. The ending hits hard in such a truly wrenching way that the hairs on the back of my neck stood up and I nearly shed a tear. Although it was brief, the assault on the bank was superb too.
DUCK YOU SUCKER was firmly etched into my memory when I first watched it and has left a lasting impression on me.It is a harrowing, gripping and biting account of the horrors of armed insurrection with shorts bursts of tickling humour. It also showcases the value of friendship and comradery whilst tackling the tough issues of patriotism. I believe DUCK YOU SUCKER to be Sergio Leone's most outstanding effort.10/10.
On the Waterfront (1954)
"I coulda been a contender,i coulda been somebody,instead of a bum,which is what i am,lets face it"
NOTE TO READERS: Ignore the spoiler warning above, it is merely there to keep me right. This review may only contain very mild spoilers,NOTHING that gives away the film's ending, so read freely.
The industrial waterfront is held in an iron grip by cruel crime boss Johnny Friendly(LEE J. COBB)and the local mob. The longshoremen are paid a pittance for their vigorous labour, that's even if they are given work. Friendly manipulates the men through fear to stop them reporting mob activities to the authorities.Ex prizefighter Terry Molloy(MARLON BRANDO)is a longshoreman. He has spent most of his life "crawling" and doing "favours" for Friendly. One such "favour" results in the death of a fellow longshoreman who "squealed". Pierced by guilt as he didn't reckon with murder, Terry befriends the man's sister, Edie Doyle(EVA MARIE SAINT).Edie is blind to Terry's part in her brother's death and falls for him. Clergyman Father Barry(KARL MALDEN) urges Terry to come clean as he too is disgusted by Friendly's methods as well as Terry's refusal to confess.However,Terry is sickened by a more personal act of mob brutality, which compels him to finally make a stand against Friendly's empire.
Masterfully directed by Elia Kazan, ON THE WATERFRONT is an allegory on McCarthyism.Kazan,who formally had Communist ties, came before the House of Un-American Activities in 1952 and gave the names of 8 suspected Communists within Hollywood. This is mirrored stupendously in the film when Terry, who works for Johnny Friendly, gives incriminating evidence against the latter at a tribunal.
ON THE WATERFRONT more than deserved it's 8 Oscars. The granite edged script is skilfully written and penned with serious effort. The political undertones are cleverly welded in, along with fascinating characters. The overall tone of the film I find extremely inspiring. Terry Molloy is a confused brute who finds love in the tender caress of a woman. This changes his perception of the world for good, subsequently driving him on in his fight against injustice. Although he's not one of my favourite actors, Marlon Brando was definitely Oscar worthy material. His tough,streetwise,smooth talking performance is a powerful tour de force. Lee J. Cobb is on fire as Johnny Friendly, the brutal, steel jawed, fearsome mob leader. I consider Cobb to be one of the greatest actors in classic cinema. He blisters with charisma and should have clenched the Oscar for which he was nominated. Both Brando and Cobb are at their most electrifying in the final confrontation between Terry and Friendly. Karl Malden,magnificent as Father Barry, is given some of the greatest lines in the whole film. This evident in a speech he gives. He uses poignant biblical allusions when chastising the longshoremen for their "silence". This scene is one of the potent and awe inspiring I've ever seen in a film. Rod Steiger was brilliant as Charley the gent,Terry's brother and Eva Maria Saint was equally impressive as Edie. Kazan cranks the tension all the way up to the top for the second half of the film. The scene which has a furious and embittered Terry brandishing a gun and having a heated argument with Father Barry was both chilling and utterly gripping. I could feel Terry's raw desperation and hatred in this scene as well as in the sequence where he confesses to Edie about his part in her brother's murder. This scene is incredibly shot. A ship's horn blasts in the background as Terry explains to Edie. The dialogue cannot be heard, we only seen the horror on Edie's face and the guilt on Terry's. With scorching intensity, the already mentioned final confrontation between Terry and Friendly was absolutely finger biting and again, grippingly taut. The dialogue exchanged between the hardened Terry and rough voiced Friendly was spectacular. The whole sequence blazes with suspense, there's no doubting that this is the most awe striking scene in the film. The subsequent conclusion is what I consider to be one of the best endings in the history of cinema. I would describe it as both moving and strikingly compelling. The orchestral score tightened the tension into a sharp knot. It built up suspense in the film's second half magnificently.
Elia Kazan's masterpiece could only be described as a searing comment on society with tremendous bite. Marlon Brando gives an outstanding performance which may only be rivalled by his portrayals of Colonel Kurtz and Don Vito Corleone. Lee J. Cobb embodies the spirit of Johnny Friendly sensationally. He should have won the Oscar for best supporting actor, Karl Malden was definitely hot on Cobb's heels, but sadly neither of them won the award. The film is packed with stellar performances from all concerned. The robust script, rich dialogue and staunch characters and portrayals make the film an Oscar worthy effort. ON THE WATERFRONT is a raw, hard hitting, spine chilling account of the dangers of being a "contender".10/10.