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predictable screenplay hampers it
The story it's based on is quite different and suggestive--while the episode holds few surprises and lacks key chemistry. Though THRILLER was generally best when doing horror and supernatural stories this one just doesn't have any twist on the shop worn material.
It's a Gothic period piece with some atmosphere --and Jerry Goldsmith score--but the story is plodding and obvious in a poor adaptation of the original story. I only read the story after being let down by the episode and feeling something must have gone wrong or been left out--then I read the original story--so I went into the show not expecting anything--just being disappointed by the lack of imagination used in adapting it and the number of clichés it employs.
The whole witches curse element in the set up is largely vacant from the source material, the other problem being that in the story the GHOST is done in a first person kind of perspective while in the episode who and what the ghost is immediately obvious and you just have to wait for the characters to catch up to you.
Human interest would be in a love story between doctor and patient but there is no chemistry between the leads and the middle part of the script is pretty dull where it introduces a bunch of characters not in the original story who then mostly vanish in the last act anyway.
The ghost effects seem to have all been done in camera--rather than in post production and this makes them pretty effective. The ending of the episode is also kind of moving--helped by Goldsmith's final music cue.
Henry Daniel is good as always in a character not in the original story--but his part works well. Boris intro has him quoting THE BARD which is fun--but the show is kind of a missed opportunity. The episode CLOSED CABINET reuses music and much of the feel of this episode to equally unimpressive results.
House of Dreams (1963)
Interesting despite crude sound work.
The main distraction to this film is a very crude sound job--even by Carnival of Souls standards. But as with that film the lack of much sound other than dialogue creates a mood that adds to the atmosphere which is so essential to this type of horror story. Like Carnival this movie revolves around one specific location--in this case a house and the film is about how the frightening things the main character sees in his dreams (or are they only in his dreams) at this abandoned house impact his life outside the house and dreams--and there are even more psychological motivations in this one than in Carnival.
To be clear Carnival of Souls is a bigger budget film and better--or more traditionally better made-- than this one--to keep things in perspective. And the plots are not the same. It's just these films draw comparison to each other perhaps because there aren't many films like them.
The early real world scenes with no sound other than obviously post dubbed dialogue do go on for too long but as the film advances the dream scenes get longer and the real world stuff gets shorter and they balance each other well and some tension mounts for as the dream trips to the house increase the main character's life falls apart.
All the dialogue--virtually--is dubbed after the film was shot which hurts the performances which other wise wouldn't be too bad and director Berry actually gives a good performance regardless as the tortured writer lead character. The abandoned house is a pretty creepy location which helps. The music score is actually pretty interesting, sure in the dreams its atonal and irritating--but that's on purpose as it's an unsettling dream. It's easy to make fun of the organ music at first but it does it's work. The film contrasts the real world events with the dream ones and it's possible the lack of sound is intentional as there are a few scenes which seem to be more natural sound-wise that should be viewed as normal compared to the scenes and events without sound that aren't real. Or it's a happy accident.
This film is unusual even a bit experimental, well photographed if not too well edited--the normal scenes cut jarringly from shot to shot--but this same approach to the dream scenes is quite good. Maybe it's all just an accident that the film is effective at all --a result of its limitations, but once you get over what it lacks in polish the more it will get to you. For the curious film viewer and genre fan give it a watch for its virtues and its faults if you have some patience and imagination of thought you may well find this film pretty memorable.
The Reward (1965)
deserves to be seen
The only way to see this is a rather cropped version of Fox's movie channel, but that version does have all the Spanish language sub titled. Though that fact that "our heroes" don't know what is being said around them is also part of the plot. I assume the film had subtitles when it was released but it's possible it intentionally didn't--a bold move that might not have worked--again I don't know, the subtitles I saw on the film looked to be added for TV.
It's often fascinating to watch and beautifully shot with some striking aerial shots and complex staging. Sydow is very good though his character sometimes slips out of being the central focus of the film. the ending is rather abrupt and more like films from the 1970's than the 1960's which may have been part of what kept audiences away.
But there is real tension and a good set up for the story that develops as the group on their way for THE REWARD slowly divide into rival sectors. The sparse use of music is effective much of the music being source (a guitar and flute) played on screen. It seems to be building to a big pay off which doesn't happen and it loses steam towards the end and then ends too quickly. It is a modern day western perhaps that puts people off as well. Too bad there isn't a perfect version of it to see as it looks to be shot in a very wide Cinemascope aspect ratio, but it could prove to be an undiscovered pleasure for film fans who want to find new films to like--long after box office success of failure matter. Give it a try.
good script hampered by OK performances and stock footage
I found the fake Nero plot to be interesting and pretty well worked out. This is "one of these" films which is more about history, which it takes pretty seriously--even if it's alternate history, but it seems to feel obliged to fit into the genre, so you have always shirtless Spartacus--it's impossible to see how this Spartacus could have anything to do with the one we know from history and other films--frequently tearing doors off of hinges or performing non plot related acts of muscle man strength. The love interest aspect (often weak and perhaps part of this genre of films gay following) is weak here and leads to a kind of preposterous Christian sub plot that is barely mentioned but figures into the movie towards the end. In this case the girl is a weak actress who is pretty but not very sexy and our lead muscle man has no chemistry with her.
Lupus, our hero, looks shiny and has impressive man boobs, but he seems to just stand around with the same expression and aside from his chest doesn't seem all that perfect and physical specimen. Supporting cast of various conspiring or heroic Roman's come off best in the acting department.
Widescreen composition and directing are OK at, there is one interesting scene using a statue of a woman and our real female lead in contrast to each other that is interestingly staged.
Also there are pretty obvious "big" shots of lots of extras and fighting taken from some other film. When you have the big battle at the end this is especially obvious and distracting. Also very weak is the final fight between our hero and the fake Nero. The two actors are certainly up for it but it's badly staged with an especially poor ending.
So there you go, if you can forgive the weakness of the execution of the last 30 minutes it's an above average historical (rather than mythically) based Peplum. I'd enjoyed most of it, but when the ending is weak it sours you on the whole thing.
Genuine if inept Hippie manifesto
This feels like the people who made it actually believed in it, in the Hippie credo. It also feels like they kind of made it up as they went along and don't really know how to make a movie.
The best scene is a silent nightmare sequence both in a funny way and in an inspired way--too bad the whole film can't live up to this level. And the basic idea of a hippie Lord of the Flies is good too. But the action and violence is all laugh out loud poorly done and the long scenes of hippie talk need better actors or an actual script.
The music is quite good at times but gets repeated as do the nice travel shots out into the barren wilds.
The surreal nature of the two "Mine" figures and much of the rest of it feels like a stage troop decided to film a half rehearsed stage show and that's what we have. Camp by definition.
Is it slow, well let's just say scenes go on as long as possible, sometimes that has a retro, you-should-have-been-there quality. Others make you glad you can fast forward.
It's well worth a look if you either like and or like to laugh at hippies at their pure core. Also a little different as it's sort of a culture clash of American Hippie and Euro Hippie. They just needed some real actors and a real filmmaker to put it over, though the lead isn't bad and looks the part. Oh yes there are naked hippie chicks.
A fun, if pokey, movie that you have to see just to say you've seen it all. Get with it.
Too Much Johnson (1938)
GOD AWFUL MUSIC but good material
This is a rough assembly of the footage--a cut down version could pretty easily be made and why no one bothered to do so or TCM didn't show a version like that if it exists is a shame. There is much more movie here than I expecting---having heard about this film for years, I thought it would be a few short sequences of only a few shots each, not such an elaborate chase sequence.
Most of the material is in very good shape--not scratched or marked up, there is one section that is badly damaged but most of it is clean and clear. Joseph Cotton does most of his own stunts and some of these rival those of Keaton, Chaplin, Lyold and this is no small feat.
But what you are watching is not a finished film so the fact that much of it is quite funny and impressive and done on a pretty large scale of probably "stolen' locations makes it captivating---if you turn off the god awful music--which you can easily do. What were they thinking putting this music on the film it's terrible vaguely European sounding Philip Glass rip off stuff. Really unbearable.
Also rather poor, but perhaps intentionally so, is the opening sequence shot on a set that is clearly being lit by the sun--as an early early silent film would be, and this may be done on purpose. This scene sets up the rest of the film and does feature funny performances and a bit with a blowing plant.
Despite this being a silent comedy it also features some very fast cutting at times and shows--as you can see in his later films--some lack of a sense of screen direction. Characters who are supposed to be talking to each other are looking the wrong direction--this may well be a factor of parts being shot separately and with different people behind the camera. There is real filmmaking here in what was supposed to just be filler for a stage production--I've seen stage shows do this type of thing with filmed sections and rarely are they this elaborate even today.
So let's get someone to cut this down, by about a third, put in a few titles to explain roughly what is missing in between sections and put on some good music and it would fill an interesting gap in Welles filmography as he never did a silent film elsewhere or an outright comedy.
Joseph Cotton fans should also take note of this film too, it's not just for Welles completest.
Night Will Fall (2014)
Making of a documentary deemed to horrifying to complete
A fascinating film. A horrifying film. To be clear this is not the documentary about SS concentration camps that was left unfinished, and suppressed after the war. That film can be seen elsewhere. To be clear, having seen that film, this documentary does leave out just a few key elements. The original film goes out of it's way to say these camps were not only for Jews and lists all the nationalities and religions that came to be killed here. So to say that film is about the Holocaust is not entirely true and is specifically not the point of the original film.
What this film does is set the discovery of the camps and the aftermath into context both large--the governments involved, and small--the military camera crews and even some camp survivors who are seen both now and in the vintage footage. A real feat to find these people so many years later.
Sure you may think you've seen this all before, both in fiction films and in various documentary ones. But this still packs a punch, perhaps even more so since you will think you already know all there is to know. I've spent a lot of my life studying WW2 and I was still blown away by this film. I'm also a Hitchcock fan, and his name is being used to "sell" this film and the restoration and completion of the original documentary.
A point made in this excellent film is that the intention was to make a documentary that was a warning that unless what happened in Germany is seen and understood that 'night will fall' again and these type of large scale inhumanity will re-occur. Of course you can argue that does in fact happen.
This film shows footage not used in the original documentary and is as much about those who made the film as it is about everything else. Interestingly it talks about Hitchcock's input to help make the film convincing. The horrors of reality being so unreal that they might seem created for effect. You can also see in some of the dead faces some dead faces that will appear in Hitchcock's own fiction films after this one.
This film also contrasts the film which was suppressed with the film that did get finished and released--that version being supervised by Billy Wilder. The makers of this film obviously preferring Hitchcock's version.
And fans of both great directors will see their hand in how they shaped material shot by others. The camp footage was shot by army camera men without a director being there.
The graphic concentration camp footage is very graphic but focuses on the horrible expressions on the faces of the dead that is what makes it overwhelming and gripping.
Very little music is used, the voice over work is first rate as is haunting sound effects work. Part of what Night Will Fall does, by being a behind the scenes making of film is help to show just how real and unstaged these horrors of war were. It is hard to watch this film and come away thinking somehow all this was made up just for the sake of the Jews. In fact its impossible to believe that after you see this film.
Once more let me say this is not the so called Hitchcock film, though portions of that are shown within this film. That you have to seek out elsewhere and see for what it is, it has different things to show and say. This is almost an extended preview and background that helps viewing that film.
Fingers at the Window (1942)
Sort of a Scooby Do feeling film
There are horror and noir elements but the intention is really like earlier, pre Universal Monster film, horror films of the 1930's. The dark elements--well staged and photographed--all these are almost instantly blunted by comedy. The premise of multiple murders with an ax is itself almost immediately made fun of by the police in the film so we are never meant to take it seriously.
And the comedy isn't badly done the two leads are very good, with the "gal" being almost too stupid for todays political correct society. Aryes especially helps hold the film together and keep it entertaining. Rathbone is fine as the super evil doctor but why I'm writing this review is just to say this is at its heart a comedy more in line with Abbott and Costello's monster comedy movies than in line with any true Horror film or noir films. I supposed CAT AND THE CANARY should be mentioned as being the type film this one aspires to be--though it is not in the same league as that film.
Well directed film does suffer from a case of split personality and the middle of the film probably does become a little to cutesy--though the stars keep it from ever being flat or dull--even when the script loses its sense of balance between elements.
Survival on the Mountain (1997)
From the man who made THE GODFATHER?!?
Yes this was produced by Coppola's company American Zoetrope. So why is it such a poor and so typical TV movie? Both the lead actors are acceptable and forgettable, the movie obviously never got anywhere outside of Canada, the music score is poor, the special effects are sparse and poor as well.
It's also hampered by a flashback structure with a poor teaser scene and then a "two weeks earlier" title that lets you know you've got a long time to wait to get back to the poor opening scene, that is then re-shown in it's entirety when you finally get there.
The script and direction are bland, but both writer and director went on to do much TV, I can only think they did better TV than this.
There are a few nice aerial shots that convey a bit of a sense of being lost in the wilderness but the rest is boring.
Why would Coppola produce this? For the money I guess, or to get his company into producing television but there is no excuse for a script this bad being made. I would have turned it off, only I kept thinking this must have some aspect of quality. I found none and found myself fast forwarding through the many unexciting walking through the snow and camping out at night scenes in the pine forests of Mt Everest. Pine forests!!!! A failure on all levels from people who must have known better given the rest of their careers.
Land of Doom (1986)
Nice scenery the kind of film THE TURKS did better themselves
Yes there are a lot of bad films like this. Yet this still stands tall as a bad film even in bad company.
This is a junior high school level Mad Max/Star Wars rip off. This kind of hybrid rip off/inspired pulp filmmaking was done my Turkish filmmakers for years with a crazy energy to equal some of the most mondo of Japanese and Italian movies. Sadly, though this features at least one Turkish star in a minor supporting role, this movie's "creative" force Maris doesn't have much of a clue about how to choose or direct actors or how to stage a fight scene or do action. The two leads both have U.S. TV credits and can't sustain any interest in a feature, the stunts could mostly be performed by your grandmother and done just as well. The pacing is lifeless the costumes and almost everything about it seems fake and thrown to together at the last minute. There are some large scale explosions--most of which seem to be big gas explosions and they hold off the shots long enough that you can see the explosion didn't really blow anything up.
There is at least one scene of a bad guy screaming the hero's name in rage, so they don't forget to include that. The main villain is pretty skinny for a guy who is supposed to be a muscle man. He had a sort of Phantom of the Opera mask on half of his face and in his longest dialogue scene speaks with a lisp. Sadly this type of funny bad moment doesn't happen enough to make the film a guilty pleasure.
The real life locations in Turkey's Capodocia are fascinating and only occasionally seen on film, but besides that this is a wasteland on all other levels. Best so-bad-it's-good element is the hilarious end title song and generally awful music score. How director Maris managed to keep making films after this I don't know, I'd hope he got better, but I haven't seen any of the rest to say for sure. But this is really badly done.
I suppose the only other way to describe this film is to say it's the type of film CANNON did too often, only much worse than even the worst of those.
It's a waste because if he had just gotten some better actors and then let some real Turkish directors make the film it could have been fun.
Turkish pulp cinema is a vanished thing and this does give just a very small taste of what the world is missing. If you can only imagine this film done with energy and lots of stolen music from other films and even occasionally stolen footage you'd have some hint. Seek out the few remaining real Turkish pulp cinema. Sadly most of the films were destroyed to reclaim the silver used in the prints, at a time when pop culture films stopped being popular in Turkey