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alynsrumbold

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10 reviews in total 
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9 out of 11 people found the following review useful:
Excellent episode!, 8 January 2009
9/10

One of the most faithfully-adapted of Serling's teleplays for this series, "Camera Obscura" follows Basil Copper's creepy short story very closely. The dialogue is very well-written, and the casting is interesting. Rene Auberjunois plays the hard-hearted financier Mr. Sharsted very much in the style of his character on "Benson" (rather than as the gruff security chief on "Star Trek: DS9" -- makes you wonder which is his real voice!), and Ross Martin plays the mysterious and otherworldly Mr. Gingold very differently than most of his other TV characterizations (unless it was as Artemis Gordon in one of his disguises). The Mark Twain-lookalike makeup on Martin is a little discordant, but otherwise his performance is very fine. The set designs are superb, from Gingold's gloomy (and apparently haunted) house to the preternaturally grew environment that Sharsted finds himself after leaving the comparative safety of the house. The soundtrack is also nicely done, with an alternately intense or warbling melody that sets the tone well for the vaguely sorcerous theme of the episode.

The interaction between Martin/Gingold and his "Victorian toy," the titular camera obscura, is particularly fascinating, and there are a couple of fine moments of foreshadowing when the viewer begins to understand the underlying sinister nature behind Gingold's otherwise obliging exterior. For example, when Gingold offers to show Sharsted his other, truly unique camera obscura in another part of the house, he opens the door to the passageway and offers, "It's through here, Mr. Sharsted," in a voice that is soft and yet subtly menacing that causes Sharsted to stutter and hesitate. Also, the expression on Gingold's face while they're watching visions from both the past and the future on the remarkable device seems somber and almost melancholy, very different from Sharsted's open-mouthed astonishment. But it's his, "And I bid you good-bye, Mr. Sharsted," that really seals the deal.

Having seen one of these very interesting devices in operation once in Edinburgh, it's all the more fun to watch this episode again. Thank heavens the one I saw didn't have the extraordinary powers of Gingold's!

5 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Fine treatment of an unusual Lovecraft story, 8 January 2009
9/10

This was one of my favorite episodes of a generally uneven but watchable classic series from 1970s TV. "Cool Air" as written by Rod Serling takes a number of liberties with H.P. Lovecraft's original tale, not the least of which is substituting a female visitor (capably played by Barbara Rush) to the enigmatic rooming house boarder Dr. Munoz, in place of the male fellow renter who meets and befriends his mysterious neighbor via a medical emergency. However, in spite of the the artistic license, the story is well written and well acted; veteran TV character actor Henry Darrow does a nice job as Munoz, though he's not exactly as I would have pictured him from the Lovecraft story. He seems younger, and his voice is a bit too lively and vibrant. Also, in light of Munoz' unique physical malady, it's rather odd to see him sipping coffee or tea at dinner with Rush's character. All in all, though, the story is beautifully filmed and paced, and the haunting acoustic guitar soundtrack provides a very moody backdrop to the gradual eerie build-up to the horrific climax.

This story was redone about 10 years ago as part of the "H.P. Lovecraft Collection" with another veteran actor, Jack Donner, playing Dr. Munoz much closer to how I would have visualized him. The story is very faithful to the original tale, with the main character once again a male (and apparently meant to be a surrogate Lovecraft). Nevertheless, the Night Gallery version is very well done and well worth the watch.

2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
A very clever outing from the SciFi Channel, 28 October 2008
9/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This was one of the most consistently satisfying and engrossing miniseries I'd seen in a long time, whether sci-fi or otherwise. It has been mentioned otherwise about how entertaining motel/hotel stories are, whether "Identity" or "1408" or even "Vacancy," but "The Lost Room" really seems to be unique -- I certainly don't recall seeing anything else quite like it. The story is very intriguing and very well written, the dialogue is believable and doesn't come across as stilted or unreal (in spite of the very surreal quality surrounding the events and the "objects" of the tale). Admittedly, there aren't a lot of unexpected twists or turns or similar "gotcha"-style plot devices, but it's because there don't need to be. The action consistently stands on its own and moves along at excellent pacing; the theme of the story is bizarre enough in its own right without resorting to gimmicks to keep the viewer's attention.

I thought the casting was well-done, too -- although the acting is mostly very good, no character stands out in such a way as to overshadow the rest, except perhaps the Joe Miller character (very ably and likably played by Peter Krause), but in a way this all makes sense. This is a tale of ordinary men and women caught up in the midst of an extraordinary state of existence that has somehow overlapped into reality as we know it, and the players all carry it off convincingly. I especially liked the supporting performances by Kevin Pollak (a little different sort of role than I'm used to seeing him in -- both threatening and at the same time sympathetic), Dennis Christopher (who does a nice representation of gradually going nuts), and Peter Jacobsen (who does already-half-nuts in very amusing fashion). I was actually a bit disappointed in the role written for Julianna Margulies -- it isn't particularly strong, and you almost get the sense that, other than characterizing the existence of The Legion, she could almost have not been in the story at all and it would have continued on as before. Margaret Cho, on the other hand, has some fun scenes as a sort of one-person eBay of the abstruse.

Aside from the main story thread, what adds flavor to the goings-on are the "objects" themselves -- the everyday items that have become, in this reality, artifacts of strange powers ranging from mundanely miraculous to uniquely dangerous, even lethal. I kept wondering to myself, "How did someone deliberately discover that a particular object sublimates brass? brings memories into tangible existence by swallowing it? lowers blood pressure when its worn?" There must have been some pretty creative research going on during most of the items' existences.

Again, a very well-imagined, well-crafted miniseries. I've seen a number of folks here wonder about whether this is going to be a regular series on SciFi. I found that it was the perfect length, with a good ending that makes sense, and I'm a little bit glad they don't seem to be trying to stretch it into anything longer. I thought "The Lost Room" ended just where it was supposed to, though others will probably disagree. Give this one a look; it's definitely thinking-man's sci-fi without the need for elaborate special effects and exotic locations to keep things interesting.

11 out of 11 people found the following review useful:
Hypnotic episode from the Limits, 17 January 2008
9/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

According to a couple different sources, Joseph Stefano originally wrote this teleplay as a pilot for a new TV series that didn't sell, and it ended up broadcast as an episode on the original "Outer Limits." This makes sense, since "The Form of Things Unknown" has more of a Gothic thriller quality to it than a science fiction story. The strange "time tilting device" with its "rare magnetic wires" is about the only nod to the SF genre in the show, though it really has more in common with, say, the eerie "camera obscura" that is the centerpiece of an episode of "Night Gallery." In its relationship to "The Outer Limits," this show feels more like "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" did to "The Twilight Zone." Well, anyway, enough of the vaguely-related comparisons. "TFOTU" makes for a very moody, entertaining experience, especially on a rainy night since the majority of the show takes place in a gloomy mansion on... well, a rainy night. The writing is a little melodramatic at points, but the uniformly strong acting by the cast helps it avoid being overdone. David McCallum delivers a performance that is both intellectually sinister and childishly spritely in capturing the eccentricity of Tone Hobart, the creator of the machine. Vera Miles is coolly elegant as the scheming sophisticate Kassia Paine (she is described as a "sleek sack of sin," -- interesting!), while Barbara Rush plays the part of Leonora Edmond with emotional fragility and pathos -- even though she is not above committing murder. Scott Marlowe delivers a convincingly menacing portrayal of the cunning and evil Andre Pavan and has some of the best lines in the show: for example, "I am noisy rich...but I want to be quiet rich" and "come as you are...in your fine stiletto heels." Finally, Sir Cedric Hardwicke underscores the rest with a spirit of calm gravitas and that marvelous voice of his, one more disparate thread that, with the other characterizations, is woven into an intriguing clash of emotions and ambitions.

Between the superb camera work (all in black & white, which is perfect for this show), the beautifully evocative score by Dominic Frontiere, and the aforementioned performances, "TFOTU" delivers an atmospheric blend of preternatural doings against a backdrop of subtle sexual tension. By the way, I liked the ominous little "bridging" moment in the story when Kassia and Leonora encounter the small funeral cortège on the country road -- just another quirky detail that helps pull it all together.

P.S. At least one explanation of this show on a website discussing "The Outer Limits" reports that there is an alternate version of "TFOTU." In this other version, apparently Andre did not actually die -- the thanatos tree was an invention on his part and was not a lethal shrub, so he was faking his own death. Later in the story, when he DOES die in the car wreck, Kassia takes the gun and returns to the house. Mistaking Tone's desperate entreaties to Leonora as an attack on her, Kassia shoots him and he dies in front of his time-tilting machine, which turns out to be nothing; he was apparently just a madman after all. I'd be curious to know if it was actually filmed this way, or if it was just a script version that Stefano wrote but which never got in front of a camera.

Testament (1983)
1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
A lovely, heart-wrenching film, 5 October 2007
9/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

It's interesting to see how many comments refer to "Testament" in the same context with "The Day After" and "Threads." For me, this movie was so much different and more moving. The other two films highlight, if nothing else, the absolutely grisly horror of an all-out nuclear assault and its aftermath, and at least a few of the commentators were correct -- "Threads," for example, makes "Testament" look positively cheery by comparison. I would say, though, that this movie owes more in its theme to "On the Beach," in that it showcases the efforts of survivors of a nuclear war to maintain some semblance of their previous lives and try to carry on in the face of the inevitable.

(Spoiler) So many writers here have talked about the various scenes that had such an impact on them, and all of them are right on target. The acting lends enormous power to all of the ones mentioned -- the scenes between the incomparable Jane Alexander and Roxana Zal, the scene where Brad (Rossie Harris) brings his handicapped friend Hiroshi (Gerry Murillo in a marvelously sincere performance) home to live with him after Hiroshi's father has succumbed to radiation sickness, the scene where the school children continue on with their performance of "The Pied Piper of Hamelin," and so on. For me, though, the scene where Ms. Alexander's character helps her youngest son Scottie (Lukas Haas) go to the bathroom in the sink, then rocks with him while they softly sing lullabies together one last time before he dies was the hardest one to bear, and yet I find it mesmerizing. My youngest son is about the same age Mr. Haas was when he acted in this film, and he looks altogether too much like Mr. Haas at that age for it NOT to affect me very much indeed.

Hopefully most people who see this movie are not so desensitized as to miss the point of the film just because there isn't an explicit explanation as to who launched the attack and why. Really, how does that matter in the scheme of things here? I will say this, though -- I'd be hard-pressed to imagine a parent, either with young children or who can remember when their children were younger, who cannot identify with this beautiful, but terrifying movie. If we've "dodged a bullet," so to speak, as a race, if the Cold War as we knew it is really over, then we should all either thank the Lord above or our lucky stars, whatever your theological persuasion, that we never had to experience the grim events that are so eloquently portrayed in "Testament."

24 out of 26 people found the following review useful:
An eerie SF outing from the Cold War era, 16 July 2007
8/10

A lot has already been said about this compelling, oft-overlooked film, virtually all of which hits the proverbial nail on the head. While Eric Braeden delivers a superb, understated performance as Dr. Charles Forbin, the fact is that the real star of the film is the vast, omnipotent machine he has created. Even before it begins to speak with the chilling Cylonesque voice it has ordered designed for itself (the great Paul Frees like you've never heard him before), you'll find yourself glued to the screen watching Colossus "talk" to its supposed masters over its huge monitors.

A word about Frees' contribution to the film: In "War Games," for example, the computer has a curious sort of empathetic communication style ("Wouldn't you rather play a nice game of chess?") presented in a voice that sounds like E.T. filtered through a synthesizer. Frees gives Colossus an emotionless yet fearful quality of speech that seems to belie its implacable drive to dominate human destiny.

My favorite part of this film has always been, and will always be, the climactic monologue Colossus announces to the listening masses of humanity. From its opening line -- "This is the voice of world control," an identity neither Colossus nor its counterpart, Guardian, had used to that point -- you know this isn't going to be a happy speech if you are a sentient, flesh & blood resident of the Earth. What is particularly creepy about the speech is that, for all of its strangely optimistic sermonizing about how "the human millennium will be fact" and how the computer will set about the task of "solving all the mysteries of the universe for the betterment of man" -- outwardly the Utopian dream -- the message Colossus is presenting is set against the dreadful backdrop of "disobey (me) and die." As Colossus intones, "You say you lose your freedom. Freedom is an illusion. All you lose is the emotion of pride." In the end, unlike other supercomputer-run-amok films such as "War Games" or "Tron," "Colossus" is an end-of-the-world story without the nuclear or viral holocaust. In this film, it is the human spirit that is the casualty while the human biology lingers on. Unlike the rest of the doomsday genre, our end comes not so much with a bang as it does with a whimper.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
"Welcome to the square mile of bastards....", 21 August 2006
9/10

Having seen this very entertaining program -- even the shortened A&E version -- I'm going to have to now go out and find William Boyd's book to see how closely it follows. James Frain was a superb choice to play the conflicted Lorimer Black/Milo Bloch, star insurance adjuster who finds himself in the middle of a convoluted insurance fraud scheme that lays bare the corruption behind everything he has held dear and aspired to. Catherine McCormack is delectable as the love interest he impulsively pursues; she is formidably chic with a "watch your step" edge. Hugh Bonneville's Torquil Helvoir-Jayne (!) is the epitome of a stupid jerk, but with the oddly likable quality of a guy who's just too much of a doof to be completely blamed for his shortcomings. James Fox does another of his capably elegant upper-class turns, this time playing a character much like his role in "Sexy Beast." But I have to say that, for me at least, Stephen Rea virtually stole the show -- his George Hogg, with all of his eccentric metaphors and his paranoiac rages, is so over the top at times it's hilarious. Throw in a cool, stylish music score and some excellent supporting players (including veterans such as Ian McNiece, Trevor Peacock, Stephen Moore and Ron Cook) and you have a sophisticated tale of corporate misbehavior that you'll want to watch more than once.

2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
A good old-fashioned, red-blooded adventure story...., 10 January 2006
8/10

I love this movie and never get tired of watching it. It's not perfect, but who cares -- it's a lot of fun. Funny thing: friends of mine who would probably enjoy "The 13th Warrior" never bothered to see it because they were tired of Antonio Banderas, but frankly, I thought this was one of his best performances. He's not really the focus of the story, except from the "stranger in a strange land" angle, but he delivers a fine, understated performance. The stand-outs are the excellent, largely unknown actors portraying the intrepid band of North-men dispatched on a quest to vanquish the evil Wendol (who are tormenting a neighboring kingdom). The characterizations cover the whole personality spectrum, from the charismatic men-of-few-words such as the superb Vladimir Kulich as the leader, Buliwyf, and Daniel Southern as Egtho "the Silent," to the cheerful and enthusiastic, embodied by the fine Tony Curran as Weath and Dennis Storhoi in a marvelous, central performance as the aptly-named Herger "the Joyous."

The battle scenes are exciting, and the climactic confrontation with the Wendol is reminiscent of Branagh's "Henry V," right down to the rain and mud. The locations, shot in British Columbia, are gorgeous and evocative of a misty, ominous Scandinavian wilderness. The late Jerry Goldsmith accompanied the action with a stirring score, with an appropriately Wagnerian flavor in the last few scenes of the film.

No sex, no foul language, some gore (so be careful if there are kids in the room) -- and the rousing exploits of a group of warriors who, if ever there was a Valhalla, must be drinking mead and singing battle songs in it these days.... Give this one a chance; you'll be glad you did!

A Christmas Carol (1984) (TV)
5 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
My favorite version of a Dickens classic, 15 December 2005
9/10

Having watched numerous variations of Dickens' immortal tale, I have to say that this remains the most captivating rendition I've ever seen. I know a lot of folks greatly enjoyed the more recent version with Patrick Stewart in the lead, yet I still believe that George C. Scott managed to bring a truer, more subtle, beautifully balanced portrayal of Ebenezer Scrooge to the screen. I wouldn't have thought it possible with an American actor in the lead, but Scott delivers with all the power of his extraordinary talent.

A veritable constellation of great British character actors are in his orbit on this one. The most impressive performances are Edward Woodward, both jolly and scathing as the ghost of Christmas Present; and David Warner and Susannah York, entirely convincing and deeply poignant as the put-upon Cratchits. Roger Rees plays Fred Holywell with warmth and sincerity, and the wonderful Frank Finlay portrays the ghost of Jacob Marley on a par with Michael Hordern's 1951 version.

The set designs and filming locations in Shrewsbury add marvelous color to this movie; they beautifully set the tone of an Old English Christmas season. I agree that it is regrettable that the scenes of Scrooge witnessing the way Christmas is celebrated elsewhere in the world (aboard a ship at sea, for example) were trimmed out of the story, but I don't think in this case that it suffers that much with their loss. Taken in its sum total, my family and I continue to make the viewing of this grand spectacle an annual Christmas tradition.

46 out of 48 people found the following review useful:
"This silence of his is bellowing....", 15 December 2005
9/10

One of the greatest cinematic studies of the nature of personal integrity, I sometimes think that this film is in danger of being forgotten -- and it shouldn't be. One wonders at the degree of corruption in More's time that he should have been so highly regarded for his honesty -- and how he might have been regarded today.

What Robert Bolt and Fred Zinnemann had wrought is absolutely brought to glorious life by the incomparable characterization of Sir Thomas More by the chronically underrated Paul Scofield. Bringing superb support to the role are Nigel Davenport as More's close friend Norfolk, who is caught between the rock of his respect and concern for More and the hard place of his duty to (and fear of) Henry VIII; Leo McKern as the jovially sinister Thomas Cromwell, whose verbal jousts with More are virtual poetry from Bolt's pen; John Hurt as More's fair-weather friend Richard Rich; Dame Wendy Hiller as More's devoted but frustrated and misunderstanding wife; and the elegant Susannah York as his equally devoted and strong-minded daughter. Two stand-out performances in relatively small but vital roles: Orson Welles, magnetic as the shrewdly pragmatic Cardinal Wolsey; and Robert Shaw, whose energetic portrayal of a young Henry VIII (before his corpulent days!) dominates the screen the two times he's on it.

As with "The Lion in Winter," the remarkable scriptwriting is the driving force behind the story, but Scofield's dignified, restrained, but at the same time quietly forceful delivery are what give the writing its power. The great quotes of the film ("Why Richard, it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the entire world...but for Wales?" "When you are sent to heaven for doing your conscience, and I am sent to hell for not doing mine, will you come with me, for fellowship?" etc.) are conveyed with either enormous gravity or poignancy by nothing more than the tone of Scofield's voice.

I think that the dilemma at the heart of the tale and how men of power came to grips with it is artfully summed up in the dying words of Wolsey and, of course, More. Wolsey regrets he did not serve God as well as he served his king. More, on the other hand, dies as "His majesty's good servant...but God's first." Whether criticized or praised as a morality play, it's wonderful to at least HAVE an uncompromising morality play to watch from time to time -- especially one so well crafted.