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Milk (I) (2008)
10/10
San Francisco Story....
13 December 2008
....that will resonate with the world. Sean Penn channels Harvey Milk beautifully and charismatically starting from 1970 all the way through 1978. Early black-and-white (actual) scenes of police carting out gay bar patrons to jail set the tone for director Gus Van Sant's best work. It's the seamless branching of archival 1970s footage with new photography that truly takes you back over 30 years to a different time and place, lovingly realized here. We see a brief early shot of Dianne Feinstein announce shocking news, as well as Anita Bryant's continued pitch to take away gay rights. Can't add much to the other reviewers comments on the superb supporting cast, but I was really taken by Diego Luna as one of Milk's last lovers, Jack Lira. Of Mexican heritage, he was beaten by his father, and Luna transcends with a mighty characterization of insecurities, heartbreak and devastation. Last part of the film becomes increasingly nerve-wracking and ultimately extremely moving, even to the end credits with the cast/real counterpart images and captions, set to an evocative musical score. A thought-provoking piece that will haunt you for many days.
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9/10
I LOVE the Ending!
3 December 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I was worried how this excellent picture was going to finish: would Molly Ringwald's character end up with cute Duckie (Jon Cryer) or beautiful blazing blue-eyed Blane (Andrew McCarthy) in the final, famous prom scene? It's set to the magnificent "If You Leave" a quintessential 1980s tune, by OMD. Without giving anything away here, as per the DVD special features, the original ending was re-shot when test audiences did not like the finale. They were dead right. Pretty in any color Ringwald portrays a teen-aged girl called Andie from the wrong side of the tracks (literally) living with her broken-down father (Harry Dean Stanton), whose wife ditched them. Andie tries to fit in with her high school peers, which includes a snooty rich dude (James Spader), his also well-to-do friend (McCarthy), who is taken by the engaging Ringwald. Cryer, as "Duckie" is smitten with Ringwald, and is also on the poor side. Annie Potts is wacky and fun as a record-store owner, while Cryer shines in a lip-sync act in the store. What scene that I didn't expect and is a true highlight is when Blane asks Andie to the prom after a difficult first date and she plants a big kiss on him and it was amazing; very last scene in car parking lot will still warm your heart. This was written by John Hughes and could be his best film, direction by Howard Deutch is wonderful, musical score couldn't be better, all the leads extraordinary, especially Ringwald. She cites this as her favorite of her films, and can be assured of her place in Hollywood as THE icon of the teen 1980s.
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10/10
One of the most wondrous films I've ever seen
1 May 2008
I remember seeing this short film in my school year in the 1960s, where they took a projector out and showed on 16mm color film on the screen in a darkened classroom. As I could recall before watching it on a pristine DVD is the "soaring" ending. I was right about that but the rest of the movie is equally glorious: sweet, suspenseful, touching, and ultimately triumphant. I could not believe I was getting nervous about the outcome of this playful, cute, inanimate large red balloon; the camera longly looms over this balloon toward the end, with no cut-aways, for maximum emotional effect; all set to a lovely music theme. Unlike some other efforts that have dated, this is a picture that will have an eternal shelf life for generations to come, young to old.
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10/10
Atonement....
1 March 2008
.....doesn't come until the closing minutes of this classic drama, when one character comes out and speaks the truth about events decades prior. The opening prologue sets the stage for a series of events, and features fine performances by Anne Barton (anguished face) and Dave Willock as the parents of 2 lovely daughters, the successful child star "Baby Jane" (Julie Allred, outstanding) and on the sidelines, her simmering sister Blanche (Gina Gillespie, excellent). What follows will transfix you for over 2 hours, with exemplary support from Anna Lee as "nosy Mrs. Bates", Maidie Norman as a concerned housekeeper, Marjorie Bennett as the overbearing mother of a rotund musician, the eclectic Victor Buono. Last, but not least, are two extraordinary roles for the stars, Bette Davis as drunken Jane, grotesquely made-up, domineering, sadistic and hoping for a show business comeback, and equally matched by Joan Crawford as demure Blanche, comparatively well-groomed, restrained, grounded, yet almost behaving like the eye of a hurricane. Direction of Robert Aldrich is masterful, music by Devol compelling, cinematography (especially when branching out to the "light" in the final beach scene) arresting, dialog is penchant. Never to be missed, and worth repeating.
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8/10
Endearing Film
18 June 2007
Warning: Spoilers
This is a touching, sweet, troubling and beautifully directed (Vincente Minelli) film based upon a hit Broadway play, starring the three principals. Deborah Kerr is magnificent as s headmaster's wife who tries to help the "unmanly" student who is ridiculed by his schoolmates. John Kerr is outstanding in the role, displaying fine sensitivity and beautiful range (he won Tony on Broadway). His character prefers music, reading, sewing, cooking and other activities that do not conform to the classic male (more female-oriented, or homosexual, although the latter word is not used in this film, being 1956). As the macho headmaster, Leif Erickson is suitably obnoxious. Supporting roles are ably filled by Darryl Hickman as John Kerr's understanding room-mate, Edward Andrews as his belligerent father, Tom Laughlin as a sneering student (calling Kerr "sister boy"), etc. Critics say this is watered down from the play, which I've never seen, only read about, But Minnelli was able to sneak in a few nuances as well as he could, to avert censors. One quick scene has J. Kerr, not seeing his father for awhile, trying to kiss his cheek, but Andrews backs away. D. Kerr and her husband of 1 year, Erickson, are having an argument, about him not touching her for a long time (in the play he was a closeted gay). Another illustration to that trait is when J. Kerr returns to campus after 10 years, Erickson is divorced from D. Kerr, still single, and playing classical music in his living room (not the "thing" for a macho man). The play ends after D. Kerr's famous line, but the picture continues with a gratifying epilogue. The entire script could skirt gay issues, or be a production about "conforming to the norm" and is fascinating and well told.
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9/10
Spectacular Sci-Fi
26 January 2007
This is beautiful science fiction thriller of two Earth scientists (Faith Domegue and Rex Reason) tricked into helping a war-torn planet by a bizarrely high-foreheaded white-haired alien (Jeff Morrow) and his crew. It's Earth-bound for about the first 50 minutes but still not uninteresting, with plenty of gadgetry, green-glowed airplanes, great color (Technicolor) and fine sound effects. It really becomes a Tour-De-Force on the interplanetary voyage, a potpourri of smoke, falling meteors, ray machines, explosions, thermal barriers, a tear-dropped shaped spaceship, and scary "Mutants" with exposed brains and dead eyes, one grippingly chasing after the justifiably screaming Domergue toward the end. A feast for the eyes, and thought-provoking, magnificently scored.
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Babel (I) (2006)
10/10
Babel Is Beautiful
5 January 2007
A rich, rewarding, textured, very moving film, intertwining four separate, yet related stories, two in Morracan desert, one in San Diego/Mexico, and the fourth in Japan. Technically the photography is stunning, editing exemplary, sound inspirational (goes out at one point, reflecting a character's trait), script thoughtful and nourishing (race relations, language barriers and children play prominently in the stories), and, most vitally, actors across the board are magnificent. Brad Pitt has an unforgettable scene towards the end in a hospital, while both Rinko Kikuchi and Adriana Barraza are heartbreaking, as respectively, a confused Japanese teen and a Mexican nanny. The director is a Master: so real, so painstakingly natural. This will win Best Picture from the Acadamy and a slew of other awards. Guaranteed.
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6/10
Disappointing "Babe" Wannabe
5 January 2007
As other reviewers have noted, closeups of an Orb spider might not be considered warm and fuzzy, but chilling and creepy. The spider, an arachnid, has eight evenly spaced, equal-sized eyes. The producers of this film felt it necessary to give "Charlotte" two larger. human-like eyes surrounded by six smaller ones (I counted) to make her more "accessible" to general audiences: Big Mistake. The 1973 animated film wisely stayed with medium to wide shots to avoid the creep factor, it truly harms this movie. A big dark rat gets ample play too. It's based on a famous, well-revered 1952 book bestseller, but is still no competitor for the delightful 1973 animated version. The director of that cartoon wisely showed no closeups of a spider, to the benefit of the story (with songs to boot!). Here, there's a lot of mushy padding, lackluster supporting actors (voice work by Julia Roberts as Charlotte the spider is good, though, as is Dakota Fanning as the little girl, who saves a runty pig from premature doom). "Babe" was way better.
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Thunder Bay (1953)
6/10
Tepid Waters
30 December 2006
Anthony Mann/James Stewart collaboration does not work as well here, in contrast to the successful westerns ("Bend of the River" - 1952, etc.). It's about a conflict between shrimp fisherman and oil drillers, with usual bad guy Dan Duryea playing a good guy role (he's better bad, a brilliant actor), as Stewart's business partner. Somehow blue-eyed WASP beauties Joanne Dru and Marcia Henderson are the daughters of latino Antonio Moreno. For shrimp harvesters, the women are surprisingly glamorous, well-groomed, and unfazed. Dru's character does sulk quite a bit, still dazzlingly beautiful, but not the best role for her, while Henderson is chipper, petite, and fun. Gilbert Roland is hammy and forgettable. Some of the color photography is pretty good, but it's a dull, contrived misfire. (Note to prior reviewer: the film was produced in aspect ratio 1:37 to 1 in 1953, on the cusp of widescreen, and formatted in the Academy Ratio, yet released "wide", by inadequate cropping,).
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9/10
Quietly Powerful
22 November 2006
The director Todd Field is a masterful storyteller in this suburban drama of 2 couples' hangups and secrets, and featuring a just-released child molester character. Performances by all are mesmerizing, and there's a tension throughout this somewhat disturbing film. Even in peaceful scenes, one feels that something bad is about to occur, a tribute to the director and cinematographer. It's a truly a gripping film, one of the year's best, with Kate Winslet and Patrick Wilson superb, and Jackie Earle Haley a revelation as the ex-con, and Phyllis Somerville as his mother. (Curious trivia note: both leading ladies strongly resemble two "Creature" ladies - Jennifer Connelly for Julie Adams in "Creature From the Black Lagoon" - 1954, and Winslet for Lori Nelson in "Revenge of the Creature" - 1955. Check them out).
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9/10
Altered States
13 October 2006
Blood of an ancient fish, treated with Gamma radiation to preserve it, transforms those infected with it into a vicious dog, giant dragonfly or monstrous Neanderthal entity. Arthur Franz is very convincing as an archaeological college professor, teaching Troy Donahue and Nancy Walters, while romancing Joanna Moore. Jack Arnold ably directed this somewhat maligned film; it's actually creepy and well-shot, succeeding in delivering the shocks, especially in the last act, where we finally see the title creation and it's a startling effect. Helen Westcott is memorable in two scenes, as the school nurse, conveying some romantic attraction to Franz, all with a dose of humor. It was recently released to DVD as part of the "Classic Sci-Fi Ultimate Collection", which includes "Tarantula" (1955), "The Mole People" (1956), "The Monolith Monsters" (1957), and "The Incredible Shrinking Man" (1957), all on par: great title sequence, fine musical score (some patchwork), beautiful monochrome photography, well-scripted, capably acted, always intriguing, with "Shrinking Man" the jewel of the crown.
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10/10
Grace Under Pressure
18 September 2006
This has to be in the top 10 of Alfred Hitchcock's cluster of masterfully directed classic films. In her first teaming with The Master, Grace Kelly portrays a wealthy woman married to a fading tennis pro (Ray Milliand), who wants her murdered, because he knows of her affair with an American writer (Robert Cummings). Nicely shot in color, with a robust musical score, the picture was designed for 3-D, and the effects are quite minimal until the attempted murder scene, by a hired thug (Anthony Dawson). Later, due to Milland's interfering, Kelly becomes the accused, until a savvy detective (John Williams) unravels the case. Ray Milland is again simply superb, reciting fine dialog with great relish, while Kelly is startling beautiful and polished, until things begin to go awry....her hair and clothes become drabber. Stagy, mostly in one indoor set, even the outdoor London sets seem projection-oriented, but always gripping, fascinating, and nerve-wracking.
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9/10
Chic Fontaine Excels
18 August 2006
Nicholas Ray beautifully directs this well-cast drama of a scheming woman (Fontaine) hiding behind an innocent exterior. Fashionable Fontaine is savvy, well-versed, lovely and fascinating in the lead role, one of her best, in lust with the rugged Robert Ryan, but tempted by the millions of Howard Hughes-esquire Zachary Scott. Scott's engaged to Joan Leslie, while Mel Ferrer is amusing ("I have to convince husbands that I'm harmless to their wives") as a painter. Notice that when Fontaine begins to lie, she turns away from her "victim" while she states her untruths, nicely done. The jewelry shop scene is hilarious; musical score is also very effective. Great script: a woman party-goer says to Ferrer, "Do you think my husband would like to see a portrait of me hanging over the fireplace?" Ferrer: "I think your husband would like to see you hanging any place."
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The Searchers (1956)
6/10
Still Disappointing
22 June 2006
I first saw it years ago on a retroactive theatrical double bill with "Red River" (1948). I thought the latter was brilliant (still do!), but a recent viewing on DVD of this film has not changed my view...the film doesn't resonate. John Wayne plays one of the most hateful characters ever, a true Indian-hater and monstrous personality. The Indians portrayed here are once again vicious brutes, an unfair and unjust stereotype. Co-star Jeffrey Hunter isn't up to the role, over-playing in a bug-eyed manner, hurting the film, while Vera Miles (slightly resembling the quiet beauty of Cathy Downs as "My Darling Clementine" - 1946, a true classic by Ford), usually very capable, over-acts as his girlfriend. Other John Ford regulars are competent, as is the stunning color photography. Henry Brandon glowers as the lead Comanche, yet his Caucasian features and blue eyes belie this. He could be half-breed, but this is never explained. Other Indians are played by authentic Navajoes, which is more authentic. Lana Wood plays Debbie as a kid with blue eyes, yet she grows up as the brown-eyed Natalie Wood. A later wedding scene is played for laughs, but should have been cut. Wayne's character even despises white people who have been abducted by Indian tribes (as if its their fault in this circumstance). The movie just wanders (covering about ten years), be-fitting its title but not moving its audience. As other reviewers have noted,Wayne really was a limited actor, occasionally good within his range, but the excessive swaggering and "That'll Be the Day" line (in this film) have become silly. The picture was ignored in 1956, and I'm in agreement 50 years later.
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3/10
Not an Homage
22 June 2006
The DVD's director stated that he wanted to pay respect to the black and white Universal classics of the 1930s through 1950s, but did those films have topless babes at the beach and a slinky nightclub stripper? That's just part of the problem of this poorly scripted (by the director), inanely scored, and mostly indifferently acted piece. The leading lady (the director's wife) at least shows some personality through the shoddy proceedings. A mad scientist creates an amphibian man and secures Frankenstein's original monster to "conquer terrorism" (huh?), but they break loose, wreak havoc, and fight each other (a disappointing shoving match). Beast costumes are stiff and low-budget, with Creature faring better, and the Monster resembling the 1925 Phantom of the Opera (his nostrils) and a zombie-hippie, both poorly mimed by stunt men. Even the lead (also writer-director) also states at the end "Frankenstein is dead!", which refers to the creator, not the monster. There's also a flamboyant gay character for comedy relief, yet this feature conjures no suspense or terror, or even laughs, murder scenes are badly lensed. Other than some good monochrome cinematography, skip it.
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9/10
Masterful Disaster
30 May 2006
Irwin Allen's follow-up to "The Poseidon Adventure" (1972) is even better, with a remarkable cast of leading men and women in one film: Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, William Holden, Faye Dunaway, Fred Astaire, Jennifer Jones, Richard Chamberlain (who relishes his slimy role), Susan Blakely, Robert Wagner, Susan Flannery, more. Everything that could happen does in this model disaster spectacle: helicopters awry, cables loose, elevators uprooted, water tanks disrupted, flames spiraling, much more. San Francisco setting works well, special effects still resonate, a huge hit and multiple Academy nominations, including Best picture. As other reviewers noted, McQueen's final words are indeed haunting, 27 years before the World Trade Towers' disaster - perhaps architects will now re-consider not building these mammoth, phallic-shaped, fire deathtraps.
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Earthquake (1974)
9/10
Harrowing
24 May 2006
This is miles better than the subsequent TV-Movie follow-ups, with their hack scripts and meager technical effects. Here's the real thing: a well-directed (Mark Robson), superb special effects by Clifford Stein, awestruck sound realism to accompany the drama of several characters before and after 2 great quakes that hit Los Angeles. Charlton Heston is married to a bitter, and beautiful Ava Gardner, yet prefers the company of the petite, sweet Geneviève Bujold. Richard Roundtree plays an Evel Knieval type daredevil, George Kennedy is a cop, Victoria Principal has to deal with sexual deviate Marjoe Gortner, Lorne Greene happens to be Ava's father and Charlton's boss in a high-rise, while Walter Matthau is comedy relief as a barfly oblivious to all the mayhem. Attention to detail is admirable: just prior to the first big quake, Bujold notices animals (birds, dog) that seem uneasy and agitated, a phenomenon that I witnessed in my own cat before a tremor years ago. The first earthquake seems to last 10 minutes, but is actually covering all the characters' reactions to the disaster, in succession, the first tremor aptly being in a movie theater (where this picture debuted in 1974). No CGI here: just amazing miniatures, shaky and distorted camera-work, paint composites to achieve maximum and unnerving effect, sharply presented and preserved by the latest DVD. All other imitators pale in comparison to this wide-screen, horrific epic, and detractors who complain of soap-opera style scripting for these disasters, aren't they all?
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Sliver (1993)
5/10
Slender
15 April 2006
Sharon Stone's first post "Basic Instinct" (1992) role casts her in the Michael Douglas style role of the prior film, beset by an unknown murderer in her newly moved into New York high-rise (a "Sliver" building). The former tenant, another blonde, jumped or fell off the balcony. Good music, stylish photography, intriguing ideas can not compensate for a script full of holes, and an unsatisfying ending (which was re-shot for an allegedly even poorer original ending). Stone is fairly competent as an attractive, uptight divorcée, while potential suitors William Baldwin and Tom Berenger look great and support well. But the whole thing doesn't jell.
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10/10
Close Call For Douglas
21 February 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I've re-watched it on DVD and it's still an amazing, unforgettable nightmare film, spawning countless imitators and a multitude of discussion. Glenn Close will forever be identified as the unhinged colleague of married with child Michael Douglas who have a brief fling that Douglas lives to regret. Close should have won the Academy Award for her electrifying portrayal of an attractive, seemingly ground woman who eventually lashes out in acid-spewing, bunny-boiling, knife-wielding hysteria. Douglas is equally effective, beautifully conveying increasing angst and guilt (later he looks sick when he finds his wife chatting with Close). The subject was done before in at least "Possessed" (1947) and "Play Misty For Me" (1971), but not quite as effective and engrossing as this well-directed thriller. I definitely prefer the panic-stricken theatrical ending to the overly low-key and unexciting original cut. See it with a significant other!
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8/10
Still Fun and Heartwarming
10 February 2006
It was shown frequently on television, in the 1960s and 1970s, usually around Christmastime, probably due to its school setting, with nuns and kids, remotely resembling "The Sound of Music" (1965) without the music, and even lead actress Julie Adams resembling Julie Andrews (both Libras to boot!). Reviewing my VHS tape of the film recently (not on DVD yet), the movie remains surprisingly enjoyable, funny, tender and clever (script nominated for Academy Award), a big hit in 1955. Charlton Heston, in only a handful of comedies throughout his career, is very good as the hard-nosed Major who is assigned to military school by his superiors to soften his image, unaware its for kids and run by nuns! Adams, in one of her best roles and films, (until her "The Last Movie" role - 1971), effectively and warmly plays the school's doctor, not nurse, as other reviewers stated, and stands firm to Heston's shenanigans, not taking a subordinate role in all the proceedings. Child actor Tim Hovey is a revelation as "Tiger" who also helps melt Heston, with capable William Demarest as a caretaker and the marvelous Nan Bryant as the Mother Superior. Good color, filmed on location, direction, nice finale.
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Possessed (1947)
9/10
Crawford excels in compelling drama
10 February 2006
Before "Play Misty For Me" (1971) and "Fatal Attraction" (1987), comes this story of a nurse (Joan Crawford) who's attached to a man (Van Heflin), who eventually finds her too possessive and breaks it off, but she can not let him go. When they meet again at her employer's (Raymond Massey) residence, she wants to resume the relationship, saying its awful for a woman to lie down at night and not be able to sleep, but he still won't take her back. She eventually accepts widower Massey's marriage proposal, explaining that it's terrible for a woman to be unwanted, although she's not in love with him. Eventually, Massey's daughter Geraldine Brooks starts to date Heflin, further complicating matters, and putting Crawford over the edge. Script, photography, direction, music are exemplary, the 4 leads are memorable, but Crawford is particularly riveting. Her first breakdown (at Massey's waterfront mansion) with Heflin might be considered over-the-top 40s style acting (pre-Method), but she delivers it beautifully, her face and expressions a towering display of emotion and angst. It's a performance that Crawford must have pulled from her own life experiences to achieve such rising momentum. No wonder actor Cliff Robertson (her co-star in "Autumn Leaves - 1956) once stated in a documentary that she's "a damned good actress."
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10/10
Like Nothing You've Ever Seen Before
25 December 2005
I saw it 2 weeks ago, and still can't get it out of my head. I can't add much to the other superlative reviews on this site except to say that Ang Lee is my favorite director and expect the unexpected in this deeply moving, beautifully performed, amazingly photographed, lovingly scored, perfectly scripted picture. In an early scene, Jack is in the foreground, while Ennis is have half-naked in the background and I said to my companion, he's going turn left to look at him. It didn't happen. That's the mark of a brilliant director (even other fine directors would have Jake glance over). Other untraditional sequences include Ennis' retching at summer's end, the reunion scene, Jack's truck breakdown, Ennis' emotional upheaval in a late fishing trip, and the final sequences that are beyond heart-wrenching. Hope it wins more and more awards.
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King Kong (2005)
4/10
OverKill
18 December 2005
This bloated remake of the 1933 classic features over-the-top, implausible action sequences, an absurd love story where the heroine is also chasing after the big ape (who at only 25 feet all isn't much of a threat - see "King Kong Vs. Godzilla" - 1963, for an immense Kong), a one-note performance by Naomi Watts, a tad skinny, and emerging from all the mayhem unscathed and still glamorous, with her mouth always open, rarely changing facial expressions, and at 36, a bit long in the tooth for an ingénue role, varying CGI effects, uninteresting and annoying supporting characters, and an extended climax that just goes on and on. At 3 hours it could have been cut by an hour, a way too much padding here, for its uncomplicated story. It's as if director Peter Jackson is aware that we've seen dinosaur pictures before ("Jurassic Park" - 1993, etc.), so he piles on many, multiple creatures, trying to surpass previous entries, (there are about 3 Tyannosaurus Rex battling Kong at one time), quick jump-cutting to camouflage less than realistic CGI, but its more distracting than awe-inspiring. Maybe the DVD will be a SHORTER director's cut, eliminating most of the New York intro, some grotesque insect attacks, the absurd Kong on ice in the park at the end, and more, not that I'll re-watch it! While the '33 picture has some flaws (racial stereotypes), it excels in pacing, music (which this 2005 version has bits of which remind you of Steiner's superior score), great Willis O'Brien animation, likable actors, and the beauteous Fay Wray, who believably played a woman in peril, and knew better than to monkey around with a big ape.
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The Innocents (1961)
10/10
Masterpiece - A Must-See in Cinemascope
20 February 2005
The picture was recently on PBS and not advertised in the Guide as being "letterboxed." I watched the main titles which were intact and expected it to shift to "pan and scan" in the first scene. It didn't and I was thrilled. Before, you'd miss almost half of Freddie Francis' exquisite black and white widescreen photography (whether on VHS or prior television showings, not on DVD yet). After all these years, no film has come close to the impact of this terrifying ghost story (although contenders, "The Haunting" - 1963 and "The Others" - 2001, came close). Even the start is very unusual: we hear a girl sing a haunting theme over a black screen for a good minute before the Fox Trademark appears (no background music); then the main titles appear on the right side, while clasping, praying hands (with night birds twirping and ominous music building), that eventually belong to Deborah Kerr. It's unsettling and sets the mood throughout. Kerr is outstanding, perhaps her finest hour, as a governess who takes a job watching two orphaned kids in a beautiful English countryside. Gradually, Kerr sees apparitions, apparently of two former and deceased employees of the estate. Director Jack Clayton is a master, building tension deliberately and intelligently; goosebump factor is huge. No blood, hatchet murders or freaky monsters are needed; this is psychological drama at its best. Entire supporting cast is superb - don't miss this classic.
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8/10
A Precursor to "Psycho"
10 December 2004
Warning: Spoilers
This is a beautifully photographed, in CinemaScope and Deluxe Color, hauntingly scored, gripping thriller, with four lead actors who were, curiously, 20th Century Fox contract players, yet the film was released by United Artists. Robert Wagner gives the performance of a lifetime as the coolly handsome psychopathic college man residing with his mother (Mary Astor) and a plan for money, by dating an heiress (Joanne Woodward). In a framework similar to "Psycho" (1960), (and a mid-section foreshadowing "Vertigo" with its high building, a fall, and introducing another woman), a long prologue results in a ghastly demise. Woodward's savvy sister (Virginia Leith), with some help from a professor (Jeffrey Hunter) searches for a killer, almost gets done in herself in a suspenseful climax. "Psycho" similarities include an tracking-shot opening of two lovers distraught in bed, two sisters, two darkly handsome leading men, a mother, two murders. 1950s style icons (still quite retro today) are seen in startling abundance here: shiny red convertibles, college sweaters, slinky theme song, swoop skirts, the jukebox, poodle haircuts, greasy kids stuff hairstyles, etc. Woodward is wonderful and tragic as the first sister, Hunter offers able support, George MacCready is sturdy as the girls' father, while Astor, in a handful of scenes, conveys a true picture of a slightly slatternly, doting mother. The stunning Leith basically carries the last half of the picture and acquits herself well; she never really got her due in films, but is seen in the best advantage here. Also, this movie can be seen as a companion piece to the 1950s Italy set "The Talented Mr. Ripley" (1999). Chilling, very well-presented.
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