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Bandits of Corsica (1953)
Needs a review
OK, I'll do one. Typical early 50's swashbuckler that Columbia and Universal were so adept at doing although this one's a United Artists effort. Richard Greene plays the familiar (to fans of the genre) Corsican Bros. and does a creditable job. I like him more the more I see him. He's no great shakes, mind you, but is more than suitable for roles like this. I guess he's most well known as the TV Robin Hood in which there was just bit more talk, unfortunately, than action (as with most TV adventure shows). The pace is good, the sets better than expected (some of the exteriors looked filmed in Europe- maybe Mexico) and there was added pleasure in seeing Raymond Burr and Lee Van Cleef as bad guys #1 and #2, respectively. If what I've written perks the interest of fans of this sort of thing (and you know who you are) then it's certainly not one to miss. This version compares favorably- but does not come close to surpassing- the '41 version with Fairbanks, Jr.-In fact I'm almost certain that I detected a few clips from the previous version inserted into this one (which does no real harm IMO).
Il maestro di Don Giovanni (1954)
Now this is some damned good Errol
Finally got to see this one and really liked it. All I'd ever heard about it was that it was just 'ok' but nothing that special; well if you like Errol in a swashbuckling mode you've got to have this one, take my word! It's very reminiscent of his DON JUAN film and all the better for it. He's slightly jaded and world-weary and is able to laugh at the world's follies (and his own). And you can talk all you want to about his failing looks/health due to alcohol/drug/tobacco/whatever use (He was only five years from death while filming this)- the son of a gun moves in this thing. Swinging his sword, running, jumping in and out of windows. Plus the darned thing is filmed in Italy- real palaces and castles. The print I own is not that great but it's way better than nothing. A cinematic masterpiece? No. Errol doing what Errol does best? Yes Yes YES
Il gigante di Metropolis (1961)
Good? Well, not exactly... Compelling? Yes!
This is the ultimate Italo-kitsch-sword and sandal-science fiction something. The early 60's cinematic Zeitgeist in Italy was certainly unique. This one has some knockout art direction and costumes along with some pretty moody photography. Then there's your cheesy (but fun) fight scenes. It also has a some crummy special effects, monotone dubbed acting, and somewhat slow pace; but you fans of the genre knew that already and all you others will just have to try it for yourselves. You either love these kinds of films or loath them with a passion- (said in a low, dubbed, monotone voice) WHICH WILL YOU BE? A great minimalist musical score, too. I give this one an 8 because of what it is- just plain bizarre weirdness that may appeal to those of you with a certain kind of mindset. Gordon Mitchell sure is ugly but he's perfect as the put-upon (and I mean PUT-UPON) hero.
I mongoli (1961)
This is Jack's show
For those of you who got a kick out of Mr. Palance's Attila the Hun in SIGN OF THE PAGAN this film gives you a better, new improved version of his unique brand of barbarity. This man's GOT to have a war or he'll just be miserable. He'll lie, cheat, steal, connive- do just anything in order to HAVE THAT WAR. This is type A personality taken to it's most outer extreme. You can really feel the almost unbearable frustration he seems to experience when his old dad Genghis Khan tells him that they're going to try for a peaceful solution with the Poles. Well, anyhow, it all ends badly for Jack (and dad). Anita Ekberg as a truly ice cold partner/lover of Jack's is fascinating to watch as well in a sort a somnambulistic way; she's pure deceit. And I was also rather entranced by the head Polish knight's seeming death wish in his relentless, driven fixed idea of obtaining peace with the Mongols. Discouraged at almost every turn, the son of a gun just would not give up and finally came out on top in the end (and got the girl, too). A good lesson in superhuman determination.
L'eroe di Babilonia (1963)
He really is a beast!
The Babylonian King in this flick is out of control. The English version has him called the Beast of Babylon and he truly is. He's actually audaciously, over the top IN-SANE. He's got a hawk like face and a certain gleam in his eye (not to mention a real big Babylonian King's hat- check it out). He's as much fun to watch as Jay Robinson doing his Caligula act. And all those courtiers and palace hangers-on doing those balancing acts to try and stay in the royal favor. Don't say the wrong word or else! Frightfully amusing. I did gain a little respect for the guy at the end when he decided to sword fight it out with 'eroe' Gordon Scott instead of putting on the expected abject coward act. He died true to his convictions, however nuts.
Il terrore dei barbari (1959)
These guys with their fur-clad shirts and leggings and either clean shaved (with a Knot of hair on top) or fright-wigged head really had me entertained. They looked and acted the part to a T. Stolid Steve Reeves seems at first to be at a distinct disadvantage against this horde but ultimately wins out. Steve's decked out for part of the film as a vengeance-minded Lion(?)Man (the first appearance of which is chilling). When the action is there this is a crazy sort of heavy, pulsating film. It's great to see that old libertine Bruce Cabot as the barbarian King swilling wine and groping after slave girls. And the actor portraying the barbarian with the perpetual hots for Chelo Alonso did what I thought was a fantastic job as a man with a true homicidal ill-temper. And I for one just do not care about the bad dubbing; this film and others like it are basically visual.
The Dark Avenger (1955)
above average, actually
The reviewers here are full of semi-dismissive 'average, seen it before' type criticisms. Well now, I think if you take a good look at this thing you'll find a good amount of bone jarring, armor clanking broadsiding. Even the talk is entertaining- I guess I have a weakness for truculent knights shouting at each other about their 'rights' and 'honor' and so forth. Good stalwart English cast adds to the authenticity. Yeah, I know Joanne Dru is the boring weak link, but this is a guy flick and unless the ladies actually get naked the guys aren't going to care about them that much. And Errol sure did look every one of his 46 years; but Errol's still Errol to me, no matter. The VHS print is very crummy, too. If they could find a clean, widescreen print of this film and put it out on DVD, I'd snap it up in a minute!
Lone Star (1952)
A real rip-snorter at times
The MGM production gloss is in full swing here and Clark and Brod are the manly men doing' their thing. Ava's the love interest and she's less cocky and obnoxious than usual; Lionel Barrymore chews the scenery as Andy Jackson in his own inimitable way. The close in battle with the Indians that Gable and Crawford have near the beginning is INTENSE. WOW. The chase along the river and the final battle and duke-out between you know who is all pretty slam-bang as well. O.K. this is not history (that I've ever heard of) but it's great frontier stuff that any red-blooded guy should find entertaining. And like the other reviewer said- that sure is some map of Texas Brod keeps at home! It's comical and awe inspiring at the same time.
Colorado Territory (1949)
Pretty darned solid
Finally was able to view this semi-famous film (due mainly, I suspect, because of the Raoul Walsh/remake of HIGH SIERRA connection). Is it 'better' than HIGH SIERRA? A question, IMO, that doesn't need to be asked, much less answered. Both are pretty riveting pieces of entertainment for their respective genres (gangster & western). I'll admit I had some innocent fun in comparing the similarities of both. The thing I was struck by was the darker, more devious Malone character in the role Joan Leslie had in HIGH SIERRA and also feeling that maybe Joel McCrea was miscast; his screen persona is the 'stalwart and true' type and not an out and out bandit. His only chance to fit into a criminal role would be when it's 'forced' on him and I don't recall that being the case in this one. But why quibble? Here we have the superior art direction and fast action (mostly in the second half, true) typical of WB at it's late 40's/early 50's peak. This sort of thing makes up for a lot of any kind of casting/scripting deficiencies in my book. And what an under-rated actress is Virginia Mayo! She can be fiery one moment and then quiet and subtle the next. Very desirable in this one. I mostly prefer my westerns in good color, but think perhaps this one was pessimistic and dark enough to warrant B&W without decreasing the entertainment value (as in Walsh's PURSUED).
Not so home on the range
The most interesting thing to me about this Western was the not so flattering portrayal of the cowhands involved. Not a buddy-buddy bunch of guys riding the lone prairie, but a dog eat dog if-it-don't-concern-me-personally-then-I-don't-want-to-hear-about-it sort of existence. I haven't read the (autobiographical) book on which the movie was based, but it's easy to see that this perspective was taken from it because it rings true to human nature. The rattlesnake episode was disturbing (for a 1958 film) because the initiator of the 'prank' was left entirely unpunished (and he even tries to steal the dead man's boots, for crying out loud!) These guys were some sorry specimens, but maybe that's what weeks in the saddle tending cattle in the heat and dust and rain does to people. It must have hardened a man to just the degree that was shown in this worthwhile, offbeat film.