Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
More Dead Than Alive (1969)
What could have been!
Add this one to the list of movies that could have/should have been better. No problems with the cast, Clint Walker and Vincent Price and Anne Francis are all as good as ever, but the concept of the story suffers from poor writing and direction and meanders all over the place. The movie opens with a failed prison break that feels and looks more like a spaghetti western and adds little to the slow, dramatic story of a gunfighter who wants to leave his past behind. This sort of story has been done before, most notably in The Gunfighter with Gregory Peck where we sympathized with the gunman and his friends and family. When the past finally catches up with Walker at the end, we're left to wonder who and why and where the past came from and not sure where our sympathies should be, it's just a means to an end.
Cowboys and Indians in the 23rd Century!
I love westerns, I love sci-fi, but as a student of history and film, I've seen this before. Yes, the technology is mind-blowing, the film is entertaining to say the least, but the story is a blatant rip-off of the history of the Indian Wars and the Custer saga of the last half of the 19th Century with a little of Dances With Wolves thrown in to make it more palatable.
This time around, rather than gold, humans find an extremely rare and powerful element on the planet Pandora already populated with a native life-form called the Navi. They proceed to try to peacefully move the inhabitants out of the area, all the while preparing for war, if necessary. The avatar program is nothing more than a revamped Indian agent/missionary program trying to educate and relocate. If not blue and ten feet tall, the Navi would be American Indians riding astride their six-legged horses and their dragons or mythical thunderbirds.
The story alludes to previous encounters with the Navi that might parallel the Sand Creek massacre, the destruction of their giant tree village might as well be the battle at Washita, and the final great battle that sees the destruction and death of most of the human forces is certainly their Pandoran Little Big Horn.
The Navi, whose name sounds Indian, fight with bows and arrows, ride into battle on their horses and dragons screaming war whoops and cries that come right from every Indian battle on film, and they share a bond with nature much like the mythical Indian of American lore. The chief of the Navi is even played by Wes Studi with a computerized distinctly American Indian face.
Once the humans have been defeated and sent packing at the end, Pandora is left peaceful and tranquil once again. Really? If history repeats itself, as it so often does, the humans will be back one hundred times stronger, wear the Navi down by shear numbers and decimate them and get what they want anyway. The happy ending of the film is a joke if reality pokes in its ugly head.
Technically it's great film making, but it's a rehash of history and previous movies with nothing new to add to the storytelling.
Lady Against the Odds (1992)
Should have been better, but missing something.
This one rings true as a good Rex Stout (Nero Wolfe) sort of period mystery with the interesting twist of the PIs being gals rather than guys. Probably done as a Crystal Bernard vehicle early in her Wings popularity, it goes out of its way to try to bring 1943 southern California alive and show the home front horrors of WWII as the murders are being solved. Bernard is more than adequate in her role as a soft boiled PI, as is most of the cast, but the one weak showing is her partner in investigations Annabeth Gish. One wonders just what her character adds to the detective agency, Bernard seems to do all the work. Gish has done much better stuff since, as in The X-Files, but here falls flat and leaves all the work for Bernard. The one performance that sizzles is Barbara Luna as a local madame. She evokes the memory of Rita Hayworth in looks and dress and expressions, has never looked better, and steals the few scenes she's in. I was hoping for something along the lines of the excellent A&E Nero Wolfe series, it certainly has the period look down well, but it never rises above your typical movie of the week quality. Blame it on some underdeveloped characters, maybe Bernard being too cute for a PI role, but there seems to be something missing that could have taken it from being a pleasant 95 minute diversion to something far better and noteworthy.
To Please a Lady (1950)
Forget the defects and go for the stars!
I've gotta be honest. I never cared for racing films till I saw Cornel Wilde's "Devil's Hairpin" at a Saturday matinée a long time ago. It seemed like the start of 'modern' racing to me, where cars looked like cars and not bathtubs on wheels, and guys like Newman and Garner and McQueen were behind the wheel. Stuff made before that seemed too old and dated and creaky. So it was with some trepidation that I stayed up to watch this Gable/Stanwyck vehicle race around my TV screen for the first time. God knows it had to be creaky. They were making it while I was being conceived, and showing it in theaters while I was learning about baby formula! Yeah, there's a similar theme of drivers killing drivers like in "Devil's Hairpin", but there's Stanwyck going from being too hard-nose to sappy in love just a little too fast, Gable knocks her over way too quickly with no reason shown why he's even attracted to her, and the stars of the film look like they should have made this movie ten years earlier. But then, these stars were at the top of their game. When Stanwyck's assistant swoons over Clark Gable, she should. He's still the king! There were still plenty of women in the audience who would. And let's face it, Gable just had to dig Stanwyck because she was the best tough cookie with a soft center to come out of Hollywood ever. Gable slapping her, and some lines of dialogue stand out, especially Stanwyck saying, "You're nobody till somebody loves you," which had to predate Dean Martin's first recording of that by five years! There are lots of scenes of auto racing history for fans who appreciate that sort of thing to enjoy, but there's also the stars themselves to enjoy. Unlike today, there was a time when faces and personalities meant more to a film than the story itself, and it's watching these two stars go through the motions that really make this film worth watching even after all these years have passed.
The Satan Bug (1965)
Forerunner to 24
Just as Forbidden Planet was a forerunner to Star Trek so too was Satan Bug a forerunner to 24 and Jack Bauer. Forty some years later and it still has a look ahead of its time as well as a storyline as current today as it was back then. Though not filled with major stars of the time, Dana Andrews was near the end of his career, all the actors came from supporting roles in movies and TV, all were familiar faces and competent actors and a few would move on to bigger things like Anne Francis as Honey West, Frank Sutton as the sergeant on Gomer Pyle and James Doohan as Scotty on Star Trek. The storyline may be spread across a couple of days, but it's constantly moving in a 24 fashion, 2 hours versus 24 hours to be sure, but like today's 24 it never lightens up. Agent George Maharis is pulled back into the agency by a national emergency over the theft of a biological weapon and he's as disillusioned with the government as Jack Bauer can be and yet determined to do his job and save not only our country, but possibly the entire world. And though the story wraps up all too suddenly, like 24, the ending isn't all neat and tidy, perhaps a bit more real than more Hollywood, and it makes you wonder, what's next?
Doctor Zhivago (1965)
Wasn't worth the wait!
Over the years there have been movies and actors/actresses that have held no interest for me, ones that I instinctively knew I wouldn't appreciate at the time, and that I haven't seen or learned to appreciate until I've gotten much older and perhaps a bit wiser. I'm always amazed when I finally sit down to watch something I've avoided for years or decades, discover a real gem, and know that the only reason I appreciate it is because I'm older and wiser.
The other night, with the winter cold seeping through the windows and doors, I sat down to watch Dr. Zhivago for the first time. It was like sitting down in the middle of a summer heatwave to watch Lawrence of Arabia for the first time about fifteen years ago. Great cinematography, the perfect atmosphere, and a great cast. And that's where it ended. Unlike Lawrence, Zhivago, for all of its fine qualities, is a tragedy from beginning to end, with an ending so weak and lame-brained, that the events in the Soviet Union 20 years ago make it seem even worse today.
As much as I've enjoyed Omar Sharif in many other movies, here he's an unsympathetic wimp, just a leaf blowing in the socio-political winds of time, with a wife (and actress Geraldine Chapman) who is as unexciting and he is spineless. As much as I don't appreciate Rod Steiger, he usually seems to be the man I most like to hate in a film, his villainous character here is appreciated because it has the most life of any of the movie's other performances. So many of the other fine actors are wasted in parts that seem only to be part of a beautiful cinematic canvas and little else.
I was constantly being annoyed by Russians using the French term "monsieur" all the time. It was almost as annoying as Hemingway using "thee" and "thou" in the novel For Whom the Bells Toll to describe the Spanish use of the formal and familiar "you". "Thee" and "thou" didn't work there and "monsieur" doesn't work here.
On the other hand, the use of "comrade", a term often associated with Communists, is as plain as day, even though I can't recall Communists mentioned once in the movie. When the story of Dr. Zhivago ends, we're lead to believe that the tragic destruction of families, a way of life, and a country by a political movement that caused the meaningless deaths of tens of millions of people, forced poverty and suffering on even more for several generations, and eventually lead to a miserable failure of a "grand experiment" in less than 75 years, has somehow been rationalized by the common man building and operating an energy generating dam at the end, though being supervised and frightened by a fatherly military/political presence in the form of Alec Guinness. Talk about propaganda!
If you have to chose between some quality time with your family or watching this movie, please choose the former. Spending at least five minutes with the family is worth more than 200 minutes with Dr. Zhivago.
Blue Light (1966)
Really great show in a terrible time slot!
As pointed out in previous comments, Blue Light was part Counterfeit Traitor, part Operation Crossbow, part James Bond, and all Robert Goulet. Goulet was perfect, an earlier version of Pierce Brosnan in many ways, as "traitor" David March, double agent extraordinaire, trying his best to help win the war in WWII Europe almost singlehandedly. He was in his prime, handsome and virile, and convincingly charming and deadly, and his romantic interest and partner in spying was the exciting French actress Christine Carrere. Don't get me wrong, I came back week after week to see how David March could outwit the Nazis and advance the war effort, but I also came back to see Christine who, along with Diana Rigg as The Avengers' Emma Peel, was one of the sexiest European ladies on American 60's TV. Though historically inaccurate, the episode, which I believe was a larger part of the movie culled from the series, involved the destruction of the V-1 and V-2 rocket base at Peenemunde. It was for all intents and purposes an American James Bond taking on a Nazi version of a Spectre plot and great fun and adventure. Though I don't recall what was opposite it in its time slot, I was hooked, I know some veterans of WWII laughed at some of the plots, James Bond could be fantastic, but not David March in WWII, I still think, even today, that it was very underrated and Goulet should have been used more in roles like this. Today his voice is silent, most of his music is out of print, and this series is all but forgotten. Sadly, now that Robert Goulet has passed away, perhaps they'll resurrect his albums and put this short-lived series out on DVD. What a voice! How the heavens must sound today!
Never So Few (1959)
Director Sturges underrated, so is this film
I bought the DVD the other day and found it associated with Warner Brothers. While I watched I wondered how I would describe this film when I came here and thought, "A Warner's movie with all the slick and polish of an MGM film of the 50s/60s". In that rare and confusing arrangement with Turner Entertainment, it was an MGM film distributed by Warner's! Somehow I'd missed the lion at the beginning.
This film may not rate up there with the likes of Twelve O'Clock High or They Were Expendable, but neither it or its director John Sturges should be as underrated as they are. Since seeing it for the first time in the mid 60s, I've come back to it like an old friend, year after year since then, and there has always been something about it I liked.
While I can't help but feel that this movie is more about Sinatra than his character Tom Reynolds, I find it easy to put that aside when I watch the likes of Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, and Dean Jones, stars on their way up, working alongside the pros like Peter Lawford, Richard Johnson, Paul Henried, Philip Ahn, and Brian Donleavy. Hollywood sets blend well with all sorts of location shooting, and the story seems evenly broken up between the horrors/adventures of war and the romance with Lollobrigida. And when Sinatra's character has to break the rules, face insurmountable odds, and endanger his career in seeking justice for fallen friends, his personal smart ass attitude seems to fit the role. He even finds an ally in Brian Donleavy's General Sloan, who runs away with the film near the very end.
Everybody in this film seems to live up to the slick and polish of 50s/60s MGM, even Hugo Friehofer's melodic and haunting score, and if there are a few times Sinatra is more Sinatra than Tom Reynolds, the rest of the stellar cast makes up for it. Its not a great war drama, but it is great war entertainment with a conscience!
Flags of Our Fathers (2006)
Heartfelt and Old Fashioned Movie
Clint has done it again! With the exception of some of the early westerns and thrillers he directed, every other film he's done has come from the heart and makes you feel a wealth of emotions before the closing credits. As someone who's watched war films for almost 50 years (my earliest recollections of late night TV were the scenes with PT boats attacking the Japs in They Were Expendable), I've come to appreciate those older ones, ones made closer to the time of the story, and this Eastwood film has the comfortable feel of a much older movie. It takes a little time to get used to the semi black and white / semi color used during the time spent at sea and on Iwo, and the story does jump back and forth in time and place to tell its story, but it ends up being a story worth telling and told well. I've always maintained that truly good war films are the ones that make you empathize with the characters, gives you at least one thing for each character that makes them likable and human so that you have the same investment in their surviving that the characters have when going into combat. Unlike Saving Private Ryan where most of the characters were either unlikeable or distant, this film makes you care about the fates of the men who raised the flags and their families and ends up being much better than Private Ryan. What's more, it's a true story more historically accurate than what Hollywood usually gives us.
Iwo Jima was taken by the Marines so that two airfields on the island could be used for shot up B-29s and P-51s returning from attacking Japan that might might not make it back to their bases in the Marianas Islands. The movie depicts the first B-29 emergency landing while the island is still being taken by the Marines. As someone whose father was a flyboy in one of the B-29s in the 20th Air Force, my father was always grateful for what the Marines did on Iwo Jima, I'm particularly grateful for the sacrifices of all of those Marines!
Who Was That Lady? (1960)
I Just Love This One!
I was always a Dino fan, still am all these years later, and this film makes me wish he and Tony Curtis had made a couple more of these in the 60s. Conventional wisdom says the real talent in Martin and Lewis was Jerry, and the real talent in Some Like It Hot is Jack Lemmon and not Tony Curtis, but when these two straight men, or at least straighter men, get together, this story gets as wacky as any Hope and Crosby, Martin and Lewis, or Abbott and Costello vehicle. Both guys can be as charming as always and as goofy and funny as their other partners, with Dino running away with a little more of the comedy than Tony. This one is strictly a guy flick, a boy's club guilty pleasure about two friends conspiring to repair a marriage with a made up story of FBI agents and Russian spies and beautiful women, and just has to be funny, especially when the real FBI, James Whitmore and John McIntire, and the real KGB, Simon Oakland and Larry Storch, get wind of it and turn up. Throw in the ever lovely Janet Leigh as Tony's wife, and the pre-silicone/saline implant miracles of Barbara Nichols and Joi Lansing as two blond bimbos Dino wants help schmoozing, and this becomes every post-pubescent boys dream come true comedy of the 60s. It looks like so much fun that you have to believe these people weren't even working when they made it. And just when you think they can't go any farther or get more ridiculous, they set off to "sink" the Empire State Building. These guys could have gotten Kong down without a shot! Without apologies to anyone, I just loved this one!