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The Hypnotic Eye (1960)
Stare! Stare in the Hypnotic Eye!!
I just heard Michael J Weldon of Psychotronic Video talk about this on a podcast interview. It reminded me of the first time I saw this on television ( sometime in the 1960's I guess) on the late night Friday Chiller show. The woman burning herself, her hair catching fire, etc. was really terrifying. The film is kind of a B-Movie horror-noir with the oily continental Jacques Begerac performing that Hypnotic Eye thing and causing all manner of mayhem and mutilation. Then there was the wonderful Allison Hayes just 2 years past The Attack of the 5o Foot Woman giving another great performance and of course, my favorite, Merry Andrews from TV's How to Marry a Millionaire. They just don't make them like this anymore. A campy horror classic!
If Ever I See You Again (1978)
Men Don't Make Passes
You know what I loved about this film ? That both Hack and Brooks wore glasses. In 1978, that was a breakthrough! Remember all the film fatales that wore specks and then when they removed them were deemed beautiful ? Or even the ones like Dorothy Malone in The Big Sleep and many others that had to remove them when they wanted to impress the guy ? Well today lots of girls wear glasses; it's a style thing and I would bet that no one under the age of 25 understands the importance of facial lenses in film. In the old days it just did not happen that a romance could develop between two four-eyes ( or eight eyes in this case) But it did in this film and THAT single thing is what makes it great.
The Thief Who Came to Dinner (1973)
Great performances by O'Neal and Oates
I have loved this movies for years and wish it were on DVD. Ryan O'Neal gives his career best performance as the amateur thief who decides that this way of life is more exciting than what he did before. The Houston location is interesting and the capers themselves are hair-raising. The addition of the chess motif and the relationship between Warren Oates and O'Neal was almost touching. The ending makes you see how much the O'Neal character liked the detective played by Oates.The film also contains one of my favorite lines of dialog as well. When Bissett asks O'Neal what it is like to rob a house, he answers :" It's like a heart attack with a lot of fear thrown in"
Thousand Pieces of Gold (1991)
Chao and Cooper have chemistry to spare
I wish this fantastic film were available on DVD. I own the VHS and find it more compelling with each viewing. Rosalind Chao and Chris Cooper ( who later went on to win an Academy Award) give topnotch performances and make me believe in the power of love and redemption. Their slowly building relationship in a hostile world and its low-key but very powerful denouement is a textbook in fine acting.The historical period has been covered before but never from the point of view of a Chinese immigrant woman. Lalu's courage, strength and intelligence as well as her sensuous exotic beauty are inspirational. As Charlie, Cooper gives a fine portrayal of a decent if flawed man who triumphs in the end. A real classic!
Blood Diamond (2006)
Excellent Work by Leo
Many comments have been made about the accent, the subject matter, the script, etc. I want to talk about the "character" DiCaprio plays. It is not just the accent ( excellent) but the attitude he has and the subtle way he conveys his feelings. The way he refers to his former commander as "sir" even when he is being used and the story he tells to Jennifer Connelly of losing his parents punctuated by the half sad/half joking " Boo-hoo huh?"are two examples of acting that going beyond mimicking and gets to the heart of this very complex character. His conflicted feelings of wanting the blood diamond but recognizing the horrors of his situation ( "TIF - This is Africa") is very engaging. I cannot praise his performance too highly. It is masterful!
Joyeux Noël (2005)
An inspiring look at humanity- exhibited, crushed and enduring
The Christmas Truce of 1914 has always intrigued me. At a time like today when an event like this is almost unimaginable, it is wonderful to see a film that reminds us of a time when humanity could trump ideology. Joyeux Noel effortlessly shows that Germans, Scots and French could lay aside their war for a short time and celebrate the things they had in common instead of those that divided them. The three commanders were the embodiment of the kind of officer everyone hopes exists - intelligent, courageous, loyal to their men, flexible, kind, and generous. The film shows us that the front line soldier sometimes has a greater understanding of the world than the majors, nobility and clergy who are ultimately the power figures. There are many scenes that stand out but the one where Sprinks walks across the snowy No Man's Land carrying a candled Christmas tree singing Adeste Fideles will stay with me forever. The film drips with irony from the threat that the Bishop gives about "killing the Germans now or later" to the prescient scene of the German Jewish commander in a boxcar being sent to his death to the fate of the opera singers. A truly outstanding film.
Fondly remembered from my youth
When I was a lad I used to go to the West Theatre in Charleston, West Virginia every Friday or Saturday. They had double or triple features, serial chapters and cartoons It was like that old PBS series "Matinee at the Bijoux''. I saw every Abbot and Costello comedy, Randolph Scott western, horror films from the 1930'ws to 1950's, and every B western ever made. One of those was Massacre. At the time I thought it was very brutal and downbeat ( even if I did not know those words). It was one of the few westerns without a real hero. Dane Clark was the main character but hardly heroic. The Yacquis were not portrayed sympathetically. Everyone got killed in the end. Wish this was on DVD.
Dark Intruder (1965)
Cries out to be on DVD
As a second feature in 1965, this arrived with little fanfare and was probably dismissed by most viewers. Since it was a discarded pilot for a series called " The Black Cloak'' that was never picked up, the studio probably figured they could a make a buck or two on it. But then when people saw it they realized that like the 1966 Chamber of Horrors ( which had some similar plot elements) , this was a little masterpiece of moody economical horror. Mark Richmond and Leslie Nielsen are terrific as the villain and hero. The creepy black and white photography is atmospheric and the tone is one of dread and impending doom. I saw this once in the theater 41 years ago and I would love to see it again. Why not release this on DVD ?
Nearly Departed (1989)
Eric Idle deserved better but he was great
I started watching "Nearly Departed" because of Eric Idle and I must admit he was good in it. My absolute favorite scene is when he is trying to help Granpa ( I believe) pass his drivers test by gymnastically spelling the letters on the eye examine with his body. It was superb physical comedy! Of course his verbal comedy was good as well. My biggest problem with the series was the family being haunted. They were very "sitcommy" and boring. I know the ghosts needed protagonists but it may have been better if they had been a bit more winning with flaws rather than very flawed with few ( if any) winning traits. I always wished this had lasted or that Eric were given another comedy but sadly it never happened.
Lust for Gold (1949)
Treasure of Sierra Madre Meets Duel in the Sun and Film Noir
I saw this on TV years ago and was very impressed and needless to say the recent DVD release got me really excited. I am pleased to say LUST FOR GOLD lives up to my memory. The first thing that struck me was the film noir aspects of LFG - the flashback structure, the first person narration, the anti-heroes of the flashback story and those dark shadows and sinister characters. I have always loved Ida Lupino and what a great femme fa-tale she makes - cold, greedy and obsessed with "lust for gold". Glen Ford is at his most villainous and gruff - although his German accent comes and goes.Gig Young is the perfect scorned husband patsy. There are surprises galore like the abrupt ending of the flashback and the parallel "natural" threat that is a warning to the modern day hero and the undoing of the villain. Coming a year before WINCHESTER 73, LFG is one of the earliest noir westerns ( like Blood on the Moon and Pursued) and has a cast of noirish actors fulfilling their doomed roles. A real classic!