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Gulliver's Travels (1996)
The frame story which added to Swift's tale is useful and well done.
This production was quite well done for a television original, providing a very appropriate original slant on Swift's work. To make the frame story work well the film begins with Gulliver arriving home. Everyone who has read the book knows that will happen anyway. The frame story of the book has Gulliver's crazed confusion in sections. For example, he is horrified that he will trample little people in England because he has just returned from a land of giants. But the film has all the book sections within one long voyage. When Gulliver narrates his travels the editing cuts from England to the travel are very effective. I confess I found them intrusive and irritating at first, then they became natural. By the end, moreover, they have become a welcome addition to the story. As he tells his adventures to a larger and larger audience, more and more people listen to his compelling fantasy even though they doubt its truth. For example, his hatred of filthy Yahoos and admiration of pure logic from the fourth section comes across well when he is defending his own sanity. The intercuts between events in England and similar events or scenes in the tale is very effective. For example, ripping the cloth from the table to suggest the motion of towing a group of ships is inspired filming. The addition of Gulliver's family threatened by the lecherous doctor works well. Swift only hints at this by having the long-suffering wife protest against further voyages. It becomes a natural part of this story. The casting and acting were competent throughout. Some roles were exemplary. Omar Sharif's mad magician is superb. O'Toole's little emperor is doddering delightfully toward senility. Many specific complaints made by other writers here strike me as simple personal preference, which, after all, is what we are about here. I read the abridged version several times a year from fourth grade on. I may have escaped the complete version until a college class but have read it a few times since. And I had to start it again as I began reading about this film. While the Danson version is superior to any previous film, it does not replace the book. However, I think it will bring many readers to the book. If you have not read the book, enjoy this movie then go to the source. If you appreciate the satire in it, find Swift's "A Modest Proposal" and his "Drapier's Letters." Both are satires attacking the wretched treatment of Ireland and the Irish during Swift's time. The drapier protests cheap, inflated copper coins being dumped on Ireland. These were Wood's light weight coinage, not good for face value in paying taxes and official debts. The outcry from Swift's satire caused the coins to be sent to another mistreated British territory, the American colonies. The universal satire in Swift's book and this movie just poke fun; they cannot change human nature. Give Danson's torturous experiences a chance. I think you will find them thought provoking and entertaining.
S.O.S. Tidal Wave (1939)
Schlock or amazingly prophetic
I saw this movie once on early television when they were struggling to get anything to fill hours. Every decent station had its own musical groups performing live, with fill in material done by known singers such as Burl Ives and others. These were the first music videos.
The plot was pretty thin but still memorable for me. Suppose the mob wants to spoil the election and arranges for every station in town to play a live documentary or newscast about the tidal wave hitting New York. Everyone would be glued to the TV box and forget to go vote. Thus the ward bosses get out to vote against the mayor, district attorney? Whoever. Somebody with some alertness realized that a building which had gone down was still transmitting stock news on the ticker. Whoa, call New York, confirm,get the voters out.
The production period suggests to me that this was cheap science fiction using the tidal wave footage from another movie. It was obviously influenced by the great radio shocker which warned not to simulate live news in a fictional invasion from Mars story.
Another reviewer suggests this was all so poorly done it was among the most horrible movies made. Maybe so. I can't address the effete aesthetics of film criticism because it has been too long and I have never had another chance to see it. HOWEVER, nobody in 1939 had a clue about what television coverage would be like on a large scale.
Consider our real coverage in the last fifty years. Big news happens and all stations replay and analyze the three minutes of film everybody has. Experts are called in ad nauseum to analyze in microscopic speculation to fill time until there is real news. But, there have been some really momentous broadcast moments which were live.
The early space race could not have been done without Walter Cronkite and the other guys giving us the scoop from mission central. One morning in the sixties I was almost late to work because nearly live pictures of the moon were being broadcast as they came in, each one closer than the last. The final frame was only half a picture because the vehicle sending the pictures took processing time for each frame. Viewers knew when the impact was because the picture snowed out.
Even science fiction writers failed to predict the amazing coverage of the lunar landings. We were there on live television sent all over earth. (Right, all shot in a studio and faked.) Even O. J. Simpson's Mars mission (Capricorn One ?) couldn't make that wash.
Considering the magnitude of the impact live television coverage has had in the last sixty years, at least give the people who came up with the idea some credit. Think about the impact of all the drug money selling us prescriptions and tell me a "live" disaster broadcast on all stations would not do something. I have listened to Orson Welles Mercury Theatre Mars broadcast many times. I have talked to old timers who knew it was just a story and those who were fooled.
Spielberg paid tribute to the gullibility of television viewers in his Mars story. Picture Cruise ignoring the CNN coverage of what was going on in Europe because strange things were happening down the block. Schlock O Schlock Tidal Wave? Maybe, but it certainly predicted the influence television would have. Give it a break.
The Restless Gun (1957)
Thinking person's western?
My memory captures voices and John Payne's narration is one of the positive things about this series. In those days of black and white, there were mood differences in series by network. Because of station location I seem not to have watched Maverick and his buddies. Restless Gun, as best I can recall, seems to have been a bit softer edged than Gunsmoke and Have Gun. In truth, I cannot remember individual episodes, just the mood of the thing.
Restless Gun began (or ended) with Vint Bonner quoting something like this, "There is so much bad in the best of us and so much good in the worst of us, that it ill behooves any of us to talk about the rest of us." I used to have a paperback or two based on the series and still have a Dell comic which has nice photos and rotten art. My recollection is that Bonner was a kind, sympathetic character who did not want to shoot anybody but had to do what needed to be done.
Since it lasted only two years audience interest must not have been great. However, this was golden age of television westerns and most of them "bit the dust." However, with over 70 episodes this one should be shown. I have never seen it listed on cable but it may have been at some point. Nor does it seem to appear in those episode rip off DVD collections which have a smattering of many things.
It would be nice to see a couple, just to compare to Bonanza and the others which are seen so often.
The Great Gatsby (1974)
The movie is a richly layered presentation of a thin book.
I find I enjoy movies most when I have not read the book for a while. Can we not celebrate what is there? Wolfsheim's excuse for not attending a funeral is that we need to appreciate people while they are alive. So, enjoy the film and listen to its music. The book is a tragedy of materialism gone rampant for a lost generation. Jay Gatsby climbed the social ladder from the boy who vowed to quit chewing tobacco, to an officer and a gentleman, to a hero honored by several nations. In that respect he is not unlike the Civil War veterans and grounded astronauts we know so much about. The great and defining events of their lives were over.Numerous scenes portray Gatsby as a mixed character exerting great power over his financial empire, yet socially unable to join the world of the Buchanans. Morally he stands tall as heroic and splendid, yet he is not an honest man. Daisy is not worth the agony he spent attempting to reach her. The contrasting illicit affairs are paradoxical in that both are immoral, yet Gatsby's seems more noble and pure than Tom's. The film makes that crushingly apparent from Gatsby confronted by Daisy's daughter to Tom's pathetic sniffling over the dog biscuits. According to the commentators the casting is aborted, the symbols are trite, the narrator is a pathetic imitation of Nick in the book. Nothing in the movie is worth a damn. Give it a chance. I like Gatsby and Nick is a suitable commentator. It is pretty difficult to flesh out a book told by an observer narrator. I feel it works, from the dead seagull to the flashing light on Daisy's dock. A minor tragedy of the movie is that Nelson Riddle's score is not in print. (I have a cassette dub from a ten cent 8-track I made many years ago just before the player died.) The music celebrates the mindless joy of the period and also the mocking hollowness of empty lives. The score deserved an Oscar. It brings the whole thing to life, even if the key song was written to portray the period, not during it. Check when Berlin wrote "What'll I Do" if you don't know. The novel is a pretty thin book to have all the flapdoodle about it, but it is a classic. All things considered the movie brought it to life better than we might have expected, and certainly with multiple layers of richness. Frankly, I don't care that Tom is a polo player. But then, even after watching it over twenty times I was not perceptive enough to catch the prurience of Nick Carroway as explained by our commentator Dan1863sickles. Shoot, I need to get the DVD so I can watch it again. I confess to wanting to see the film more often than wanting to read the book. I am just a common clod like Nick, though. But I do like Chaucer in Middle English. Nobody has filmed him either. Relax and enjoy the show, folks.
From Noon Till Three (1976)
Bronson in a lighter key works, but does not feed blood lust.
If you seek killer Bronson, he isn't home. But if you are willing to watch Bronson doing lighter work and be on screen with his wife in a mildly funny satire, enjoy. From first meeting to keeper of the legend, this is a Jill Ireland vehicle. It satirizes Bronson's previous work which grew out of the dime novel creation of the American West. We watch the Bronson character lose control of his real life because a widow creates a better outlaw than he was. Enjoy this for the satire on every level including the score and the songs.
It is a refreshing change of pace compared to the blood beast Bronson had to feed in many action movies. Now that it is being broadcast, watch it with the idea that Bill Hickok and Bill Cody played on stage for money and that dime novelist Ned Buntline gave out those Buntline specials to the men he wrote about. I suspect most of you will at least chuckle at the world caught up in the legend of a third rate bank robber ensnared by a woman he seduced. And the end is better satire than real life Emmett Dalton going to Hollywood to help make movies about the Dalton gang robbing Coffeyville. For an adult audience, this is far better entertainment than Over the Hill Gang slapstick. Give it a try.
Man of La Mancha (1972)
Much better than carping critics think.
There is much to be appreciated in this film. Within a script which combines the author's life with that of his character, we are given a window into another age. Literary criticism used to address message and meaning. There is beauty in the music, emotion in the events, value in the message.
It is not a stage play. It does not have a perfect cast. Not all cast members do their own singing. Tough. What happens on screen can be understood even by school students. What Cervantes Quixote feels is the conflict between the world as it could be and the world as it is. If the example of one person can make a difference, the story is valid.
Transformations and character interaction in the film work. It has lyrics and melody enough to satisfy, from the Golden Helmet of Membrino to the Impossible Dream. It seems to work on enough levels to deserve some nice reactions. Go figure.
The Phantom of the Opera (2004)
phantom lives again
The music and characters came to life. The sets and camera work were visually compelling whether on stage, beneath the opera house, the roof, or the graveyard. The time transitions began a visual feast. People who have been unable to see the stage production can now see what all the fuss has been about. Casting worked, the music rocked, the story moved. On stage it was one of the great operas of the last century. Now it is a costume drama, a love story, a horror show all in one. The bickering in the chat lines simply shows that people felt it deeply. Enjoy it for what we have been missing. Celebrate the life and scale of the experience. It isn't South Pacific and it isn't Carmen filmed. It is a Phantom Lon Chaney, Nelson Eddy, and all the others could not give us. Bravo.