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Gettysburg (1993)
An amazing battle picture
5 March 2002
A film that runs longer than 'Lawrence of Arabia' and only covers three days of action sounds a long haul but it is not. As someone who is both British and interested rather than an expert on the Civil War I found 'Gettysburg' very satisfying. The prologue makes the objectives of the two armies clear and the 'updates' in the form of dialogue between the commanders mean the viewer doesn't lose sight of the course of events. The battle scenes capture the "terrible beauty" of combat, conveying terror, claustrophobia and violence without being too horrific.

More important, the film makes the most of the remarkably rich characters who took part. My only hope is that Col. Chamberlain was as intelligent, humane and courageous in life as Jeff Daniels's performance. This is just one example, and there are many men one would like to know more about as a result of seeing this.

The one question I was left with came from Martin Sheen's portrayal of Lee. I know Lee had been unwell before the battle but Martin Sheen seems strangely remote from events, with a glazed look in his eye and high-pitched 'other worldly' voice. Is this fair and accurate? At least Lee has the moral courage to say "It's all my fault" when he sees the result of Pickett's Charge. I don't remember Douglas Haig saying that after the first day on the Somme in 1916.
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The best film ever made about a traction engine
8 February 2002
Which isn't saying much, let's face it. What is it about the British and old vehicles? Not only do we love them but we insist on making movies about them ('Genevieve' and 'The Titfield Thunderbolt', both from 1953, spring to mind). This film doesn't have the classic status of these earlier films. I think the writing has to take a lot of the blame, the characters are poorly drawn and not believable, while the editing often lets down what could be a punchline.

The cast also divides between those who can play comedy (such as Cecil Parker, Noel Purcell and Jim Dale) and those who can't (the lead players unfortunately).

To my mind the funniest character is Noel Purcell's Admiral Trevelyan with his blasphemous demands to his fireman (the local Vicar): "Hell's bells! Don't just stand there! Pray, blast ya, pray!!!"
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"The Face On The Bar-room Floor" - 60's style
24 January 2002
This is generally regarded as a great film about alcoholism. A great many of its ideas and assumptions seem to me to be very dated.

I have known and worked with people whose drinking was excessive and who could be described as 'alcoholics', but their lives and careers haven't automatically followed the descending spiral shown here. They have continued to function adequately enough to maintain their social position and lifestyle.

In this film, as soon as Kirsten joins Joe in his drinking habits, she is doomed. She becomes a neglectful mother, she changes from being a smartly dressed housewife to a careless slattern swilling beer from the can, and finally takes up with any man who will buy her drinks.

Joe, meanwhile, loses job after job and continues drinking until he is raving in a straitjacket.

These ideas stem from the days of Prohibition when alcohol was *the* social evil whose conquest would put the whole world to rights. The plotline of the film actually seems to derive from the Nineteenth Century melodrama depicted in George Cruikshank's "The Bottle". If you view these old engravings you'll see Joe and Kirsten in 1830's London.

Yes, the performances of Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick are terrific, but what is needed is a more balanced view of middle-class alcoholism, showing the *real* cost of what goes on behind our respectable front doors.
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What a wonderful performance!
23 January 2002
I've never been a great De Niro fan. I find American actors tend to be 'on' all the time, and that kind of intensity can be very wearing.

After years of waiting I finally saw 'King of Comedy' and found his work as Rupert Pupkin absolutely riveting. This man is compulsively awful, from the clothes he wears, to his slick hair and that trim little moustache, to the ingratiating sing-song "Hell-oo" he uses on the telephone. The constant tie-straightening, the condescending bend of the head, all these mannerisms build up a remarkably solid protrayal of a dreadful person who probably exists.

While he is funny to an observer, the dark side of Rupert lies in the fantasy world inside his head: a world where being famous melts away your mediocrity and makes you sophisticated, urbane, witty and above all envied by the 'suckers' who didn't make it. (His TV hero, the avuncular Jerry Langford, actually appears to be an isolated, lonely, possibly even anti-social man off-screen). Rupert never listens to what is actually said to him and even believes his imagined conversations really happened.

We now live in the world of 'Big Brother' and 'Popstars' where it seems anybody can be 'famous' (at least for Andy Warhol's 15 minutes). When the film was made in 1983 the final sequence probably seemed outrageously unlikely, now it looks like social prophecy.

A final thought: Rupert Pupkin finds a way out. If he didn't, what would he become? Mark David Chapman?
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The Blue Lamp (1950)
Benign & grandfatherly - or just complacent?
20 November 2001
Most crits of The Blue Lamp take the view that it shows the good old British copper as the embodiment of all society's virtues: honest, loyal, and imposing a firm but fair discipline. The major threat to social order comes from undisciplined youth. When order is disrupted, all social elements join forces to enforce discipline and restore order.

I believe a closer look at the film reveals something rather more disturbing. I actually find George Dixon a rather unattractive character! He isn't above using strong-arm tactics on a prisoner (Alf Lewis) and tells Andy Mitchell to finish his tea before rushing to investigate a case of wife-beating ("'E don't kill 'is missus off that quick!"). He is also sarcastic to his colleagues: when a member of the police choir complains about having a frog in his throat, Dixon says sourly he should let the frog do the singing.

More seriously, Dixon fails to appreciate what the modern police are up against. When another officer is coshed during a jewel robbery young Andy Mitchell is rightly concerned, seeing it as an escalation in violence towards the police. Dixon waves the incident aside, the officer "has a good hard head" so no harm was done.

As a result, when faced with Tom Riley wielding a pistol, Dixon thinks traditional respect for police officers and his personal air of authority will win through. The look on his face after being shot isn't pain, it's stunned disbelief.

For me, The Blue Lamp stands as a warning about the turmoil lurking beneath an apparently placid, orderly society and the methods that will be needed to keep things under control. The old ways are no longer enough.
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Doomed Cargo (1936)
It's real alright!
19 October 2001
Neil-117 is quite correct, the film makers were given permission by the Southern Railway to smash an old locomotive and carriages into a lorry on a disused branch line, hence the spectacular train crash.

I think his other comments are a little unfair. The film is taken from a play called 'The Wrecker' by Arnold Ridley (who also wrote 'The Ghost Train' and later became Private Godfrey in 'Dad's Army'). The whole point of the plot is that a serial murderer is staging train crashes to disguise his crimes.

Of course the film is dated but it's good, well-paced entertainment. If you enjoy Hitchcock's British thrillers (especially 'The Lady Vanishes', also a Launder and Gilliatt screenplay) you'll like this one.
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Contains one of Will Hay's best scenes
17 October 2001
Will Hay was one of the most popular British comedians of the 1930's and early 1940's. He usually played a seedy incompetent trying vainly to exert his authority and prove his expertise to a sceptical world.

In this film Hay's character (Professor *Davis*) becomes confused with a truly expert economist (Professor *Davys*). The real professor is kidnapped by spies and Will Hay adopts a series of disguises in his efforts to track down the gang (aided by John Mills).

One of the highlights of the film comes when Hay has to deliver the Professor's talk on economics on BBC radio. His attempt to explain the global economy in terms of nuts from Brazil and port from Portugal ("Brazilians will definitely grow more and more nuts!") has to be heard to be believed and reduces the interviewer (played by BBC newsman Leslie Mitchell) to a nervous collapse. Priceless stuff!
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Khartoum (1966)
Gordon *was* a 'liberal!
2 October 2001
Charles George Gordon was one of those eccentric individualists like Lawrence of Arabia who spring up in British history. He was a deeply religious man who spent most of his hard-earned salary (he often accepted *less* pay than he was offered) on charitable work. He helped the poor, educating destitute boys and providing pensions for the elderly. The grafitto 'God Bless the Kernel (Colonel)' was often seen scrawled on walls near his home.

He was also distrusted by the Establishment. A brilliant tactician and commander of troops he was constantly passed over for postings abroad because he was unpredictable. When he was asked to report on the grievances of the Basuto people by the British administration in South Africa, he sided with the Basuto and was shipped home very quickly. As Captain Willard says in 'Apocalypse Now': "They didn't dig what he had to tell them." You have to remember, too, that Gordon was a national hero. This was like firing Norman Schwarzkopf after the Gulf War.

The film fails to touch the depths of Gordon's character and in some cases is well off the mark (Charlton Heston seems far too interested in that Egyptian dancer!). We are shown that Gordon could be ruthless in the pursuit of justice (he executes a servant for theft, regardless of any personal feelings).

The fact remains that Gordon was a man of enormous moral and physical courage. He would not desert Khartoum and leave the people to be slaughtered. It now seems likely (and more in character) that he died fighting to the end.

The film is a tribute to that courage and some of the best moments occur when we are allowed to see the twinges of self-doubt and anxiety that Gordon suffered and overcame. The well-staged action scenes are like decoration on the moral diemmas at the heart of the film. Charlton Heston is physically wrong for the part but gives one of his best performances. He isn't outclassed by Olivier in any way, an achievement in itself.
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A change of pace from Powell & Pressburger
1 October 2001
Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger are probably best known for their mystical, romantic films like: 'A Matter of Life and Death'; 'Black Narcissus', and 'The Red Shoes'.

'Battle of the River Plate' is a decent film, but it does have some awkward lapses. There is some excellent footage shot at sea using veteran Royal Navy ships. Unfortunately this sits uneasily with the studio sets. During the battle scenes I had the uneasy feeling someone out of shot was throwing buckets of water in the air to simulate shell-fire.

Instead of indulging in Technicolor, I feel the producers should have gone for the harsher monochrome which 'The Cruel Sea' and 'Sink the Bismarck!' use so well. Black and white photography also makes the shift between location and studio work much less obvious.

There are some good performances in the film, notably Peter Finch as Langsdorff. I remember seeing newsreel footage of the real Langsdorff attending the funeral of his men in Montevideo, he gave a German Naval salute instead of the Nazi version. His portrayal as a 'decent' German has a basis in fact.

The battle of the River Plate was the last Naval action to take place without the benefit of technical advances such as radar. It was a fine piece of seamanship and the story deserved to be told. At the end of this film, unfortunately, you can't help feeling it could have been told better.
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Trigger Happy TV (2000–2003)
Squirrel power!
27 September 2001
Dom Joly is a genius. Playing a Traffic Warden he will use a pedestrian crossing and warn the motorist who stopped for him he has 'parked' on double yellow lines. Dressed in a striped t-shirt and eye-mask he asks an elderly couple the way to the village post-office. As a park keeper he asks an old man if he is the vandal who chopped down trees with a chainsaw during the night ("If you want to do that sort of thing, sir, get a job as a forest ranger - don't do it here, OK?").

These situations are funny but what is even funnier is: the motorist gets angry; the couple *apologise* for not knowing where the post-office is, they're just visiting; the man in the park gives an anxious account of his movements.

Are these reactions typically British? That strange desire we have not to make a fuss and stick out from the crowd? The psychology of THTV is fascinating.

My personal favourites are the squirrels - but I've given away too much already!
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Sabotage (1936)
How and why did they get married?
27 September 2001
There are many comments here about the suspense and intrigue of 'Sabotage'. Each time I see the film (and while I can see why some people don't think it's Mr. Hitchcock's best, for me it exerts a strange fascination) I am drawn into studying the Verlocs' relationship.

He is much older than she - does he have a protective 'fatherly' role? Verloc is certainly a 'father' to Stevie, who is really his brother-in-law (although a very young one). The implication is that the marriage is without physical love, but Verloc "is good to Stevie. And that means a lot to Mrs. Verloc." Only once does Verloc come close to touching his wife and then breaks off awkwardly. Is he, therefore, a 'father' who isn't a 'man'? We know what Hitchcock thought of mothers, does this give us an insight into his ideas about fathers?

At the end of the film Verloc suggests: "Maybe we could have a kid of our own?" Mrs Verloc freezes and the words die on his lips in a way that make the suggestion strangely obscene. What is the sexual tension between these two? What brought them together and why did they marry?

Trying to find an answer to these questions is one of the reasons I thoroughly enjoy 'Sabotage'.
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The Vikings (1958)
A wonderful piece of Hollywood history
19 September 2001
Believe it or not the plot of this film has a basis in fact. There was a Viking leader called Ragnar Lothbrok (Leather-breeches) who was put to death in a snake -not wolf- pit by Aelle, king of Northumbria, at York in the year 865. His son 'Ivar the Boneless' raised a Viking army, invaded Northumbria and killed Aelle.

The film builds on this to include an illegitimate half-brother and rivalry over a beautiful Welsh princess to create a story of rousing, full-blooded action.

The film has a great atmosphere which is hard to put into words. You can almost sense the harshness of the climate in a way that makes you feel you are there. The climatic fight scene between Douglas and Curtis is a good example of this. Brilliantly staged on the roof of a castle overlooking the sea, you hear the whistling of the wind and crashing of waves against the shore below. The photography emphasises this sense of height and space to create one of the best film fights I have ever seen.

There are glaring errors, of course. The Anglo-Saxons never had castles like the one here, or ships of the type used by Princess Morgana: these both date from 500 years later.

I learned all this when (inspired by the film) I studied the Viking era at University. Between you and me, the film was a great deal more fun!
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Much, much better than I remembered
28 August 2001
Warning: Spoilers
I first saw this film when it was released and hadn't seen again in almost 25 years until it was shown on TV.

In 1977 I was fifteen years old and expected my war films to be exhilirating shoot 'em up adventures. Here the film was spectacular but ended in an apparent anticlimax.

Now I'm approaching 40 maybe I've learned a thing or two about war. There is spectacle here and the action scenes are wonderfully staged and photographed (thanks to Geoffrey Unsworth, one of this country's greatest cinematographers). The overall impression, however, is one of waste: waste of life, waste of effort. [Poss. spoiler]Even courage is wasted, attempts to rescue trapped comrades or retrieve lost supplies end in death.[End spoiler]. I found myself wondering: "If this is what these men are capable of in war, what could they do in peace? We need this courage to be alive among us, not slaughtered in battle."

So don't watch this film to see the Allies vanquish the Hun. The Germans win the battle but will lose the war; the Allies fight like hell and fall short. Human vanity, frailty, and good old Murphy's Law ("Whatever can go wrong will go wrong") have appalling consequences. This is a *great* war film.
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There are monsters and there are monstrosities
15 August 2001
I had doubts about this one when I saw it in the video store. However, my son is a 'monster' buff so I decided to rent it.

Where to begin? With the plot elements from other, better sources? Jaws, Jurassic Park, there was even a bit of Moby Dick in there. The rent-a-cliche characters? The maverick scientist, the career-driven ex-wife of the maverick scientist (called 'Lizzie Borden' - puh-lease!), the obnoxious local official who disregards all dire warnings (Constable Connaghy - did they audition this guy before they got him to play a Highlander?).

The factual errors and plot holes are too tiresome to detail.

While I hate to spoil anyone's viewing of this cinematic feast, the sight of Patrick Bergin kitted out in a kilt and 'Braveheart' style warpaint going to battle the monster armed with a harpoon is one that will live long in my memory (unfortunately).

I should add in fairness that my son seemed to enjoy the film, which maybe indicates the level of its appeal.
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There are monsters and there are monstrosities
15 August 2001
I had my doubts about this but as my young son is a 'monster' buff I decided to rent it.

Where to begin? With the plot elements lifted from other, better sources: Jaws, Jurassic Park, even a bit of Moby Dick found its way in there. Maybe with the rent-a-cliche characters: maverick scientist; career-driven ex-wife of maverick scientist (called 'Lizzie Borden'? - puh-lease!); obnoxious local official who refuses to take dire warnings seriously (Constable Connaghy - did they audition this guy before they got him to play a Highlander?). Not to mention the endlessly repeated graphic of the 'monster' swimming towards us.

Factual errors and misconceptions are too tiresome to list.

At the risk of spoiling anyone's enjoyment of this cinematic feast: the sight of Patrick Bergin rigged out in kilt and Braveheart-style war-paint, going out to battle the monster armed with a harpoon is one that will linger long in my memory (unfortunately).

I should add that my son enjoyed it so that may be an indication of its appeal.
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Giant (1956)
What does it mean to be an American?
10 July 2001
That seems to be the question this film is asking. Do you come from the lush, green, civilised East, or the harsh, dry West? Are you rich or poor? Are you Anglo-Saxon or Hispanic? Are you male or female? What values do you uphold? What do you fight for?

In previous films (A Place In The Sun, Shane) George Stevens examined different aspects of the American myth. In Giant he brings the story up-to-date by showing Texas in transition - from dusty cow country to industrialised oil fields.

I'd like to highlight some scenes which are particularly striking here. First, the funeral of Angel Obregon. I disagree completely that this scene is overlong: it is vital to the themes of the film. Angel was a poor young Hispanic whose life was saved as a baby because Lesley Benedict cared enough to help others less fortunate than herself. Growing to manhood Angel gives his life for his country and is buried with full military honours, his parents presented with "the flag of our nation, which he defended so valiantly". This sacrifice is still not enough to win acceptance for his people as American citizens, as we see at the end of the film. Bick's fistfight in the diner (with a racial bigot called 'Sarge', presumably trading on his war record to help his business) is *not* an anticlimax or 'tacked on'. As Lesley says, it marks the point where Bick stands up for the rights of others against the Sarges and Jett Rinks of the world, upholding the American ideal where "all men are created equal".

Other scenes are less weighty, even comic. Rock Hudson lies beside his huge swimming pool and says: "Here at Reata we live pretty much as we always have." Later there is a party by the pool which is self-consciously 'Western' with its square-dancing provided by musicians in stylised and colourful 'cowboy' costume - both idealising and parodying the past. Compare this with the barbecue Lesley endures when she first arrives in Texas, with its baked calf's head in a bed of mesquite coals.

The film is also about change and unpredictability. People and circumstances change, and nothing works out quite how you expect (especially when your son becomes a doctor and makes an inter-racial marriage). I believe this is a great film and it contains great performances. Certainly Rock Hudson never did anything better and James Dean showed us he was far more than just a frustrated teenager, he was an awesome actor who should have had a wonderful career. There is a real drag in the middle of the film where Jett disppears and we get bogged down in Benedict family life, the drama of the film just dies.

In some ways James Dean's very presence obscures the true nature of the film as a whole. This isn't a 'James Dean film' (like 'Eden' and 'Rebel') it is much bigger and, in the issues and themes it addresses, more important.
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Moby Dick (1956)
You can taste the salt air (possible spoilers!)
3 July 2001
Warning: Spoilers
I first saw this film as a child and it has haunted me ever since: Ahab's first appearance in a flash of lightning, dead Ahab waving his crew on lashed for eternity to Moby Dick, Ishmael being kept afloat on a coffin, the only survivor of the 'Pequod'.

This is one of the finest films about life at sea, quite apart from the overpowering hunt for the white whale. The scenes of the Pequod leaving harbour, where toothless old women in shawls watch their men leave for another three year voyage have an incredible feeling of truth. At sea we hear the swoosh of the sea at the ship's bows, the squeal of pulleys and the rattle of chains which bring the story itself to life.

The whaling scenes were filmed off Madeira where men still hunted from small boats. Some of these scenes seem slightly disturbing now our conservationist consciences have been roused but they are exhilirating nonetheless. The final battle with Moby Dick never ceases to make me catch my breath as Ahab ("from hell's heart I stab at thee, for hate's sake I spit my last breath at thee, thou damned whale!") attempts to destroy his destroyer.

Finally I want to second the thoughts of the previous reviewer: Klaus Kinski as Ahab, *that* I would like to see!
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Steptoe and Son (1962–2016)
Classic comedy with a heart of truth
22 June 2001
Although Steptoe and Son ran on British TV for twelve years it is one of those rare (maybe unique) examples of an idea which continued to develop and evolve rather than slide into stale repetition.

In its early years the series emphasised broad comedy. One well-remembered episode features Albert eating a meal while sitting in his bath, earning a rebuke from his son which became a national catchphrase: "You dirty old man!"

As time went by the characters became established and the writing began to emphasise the mutual dependency of two basically lonely men (Harold the batchelor and Albert the widower). Harold dreams of a better quality of life away from his father and constantly makes attempts to achieve something in his own right. His attempts are thwarted by his own lack of social standing and his father's scheming: if Harold joins a local theatre group, Albert joins too and becomes the star of the show.

Albert, for his part, fears losing his son and being abandoned in his old age. He will use any means (especially moral blackmail) to keep Harold at his side. More importantly he is far more realistic than Harold and sees that his attempts at social ambition are doomed.

In one of the most moving episodes an old girlfriend of Harold's reappears after many years. They still feel the same way about each other and plan to marry. Finally Harold can break away from the old man. Naturally Albert has other ideas, but at the climax of the show it is the girl who ends the relationship, telling Harold he is already married.

The performances of Wilfrid Brambell and Harry H Corbett never faltered through the show's run. Galton and Simpson produced scripts of wit and insight and they performed with great skill and subtlety. This is a show where you laugh while recognising the truth and basic sadness of the situation in which the characters live.
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Calamity Jane (1953)
Simply the best musical ever!
27 May 2001
This film has everything - Doris Day, wonderful songs and of course the luscious Howard Keel. This remains my alltime feelgood film, and as far as I'm concerned the plot is both witty AND believable. I have lost count of the number of times I have seen Calamity Jane, but it remains as fresh as a daisy, and my knees still go weak when Howard Keel sings 'My heart is higher than a hawk...'
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10/10
Fascinating
11 May 2001
Apart from his often notorious feature films, Ken Russell is a master of the arts documentary. In this film he uses the nine symphonies of English composer Ralph (pronounced 'Rafe', please) Vaughan Williams as the framework for a very moving and original biography.

Vaughan Williams had a long life (1872-1958). His symphonies were written over half-a-century and reflect a lifetime of experience (including driving an ambulance in World War One). While the symphonies form the core of the film, Russell does manage to look at the whole of the composer's output. The film is also helped by the contribution of Ursula Vaughan Williams, the composer's widow.

The process of making the film itself forms part of the documentary and Russell manages a sly dig at critics of his flamboyantly visual film-making style. Following a beautifully composed shot of a beach a member of the crew asks Russell about its symbolic meaning. Looking startled the great director mutters: "I'll tell you later."
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End of a myth (PLEASE NOTE: contains spoilers!)
2 May 2001
Warning: Spoilers
Legend has it that Andrew L Stone chartered the 1920's liner 'Ile de France' from a Japanese wrecking crew and sank her as the cameras turned. The ship was then raised and sent to the scrapyard.

Exciting as this sounds it is not the truth. Stone did hire the ship for a while and filmed scenes of panic and destruction (explosions, the funnel collapsing). The ship was then *partly* sunk by flooding a couple of compartments but that was all. When you consider the unpredictable behaviour of a sinking ship, and the cost of raising it again, this is understandable. This also explains the anti-climactic final shots mentioned by an earlier reviewer.

Some scenes were shot on the half-sunk liner, most notably a scene in the dining saloon where seawater is pouring through the portholes. Robert Stack injured himself trying to close one.

If you examine the film carefully you will see that the long-shots of the sinking are created by masking shots that *raise* the water-level, not by sinking the ship. The final scenes of Robert Stack and company struggling along flooding decks were filmed off Santa Monica. Again, study the scene carefully and you will see the sets wobble as they're struck by waves.

I'm sorry to ruin anyone's illusions. I feel 'The Last Voyage' is a great job of film-making, totally gripping. Andrew Stone deserved an award for daring to shoot even part of his film on a sinking ship. I think its reputation can survive a little myth-breaking.
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If you enjoyed the film, read the book
30 April 2001
Warning: Spoilers
Let me say at the start that I love this film. Anthony Quinn is superb as Bombolini, the drunken failure who is thrust into the role of mayor of Santa Vittoria, studies Machiavelli's 'The Prince' and becomes a cunning and resourceful leader of men. He knows the Germans expect him to cheat them out of some wine, so he must act as if he's not cheating; then, when the Germans find out he *is* cheating, they won't look for the million bottles he's really hiding. Some drunken clown!

Anna Magnani is wonderful. This is the only film of hers that I've managed to see but I think she's great, and far sexier in her earthy vitality than the women we're usually told to think of as 'sex symbols'. [Possible spoiler]:The scene where she admits that Bombolini's leadership has surprised her after the wasted years of their marriage is incredibly touching.[End of possible spoiler.]

While I know you shouldn't compare the two media, if you enjoy this film, read the book. Robert Crichton's novel makes far more of the relationship between Bombolini and Von Prumm and their different views of life than a two hour film allows. There are more incidents between the Germans and Italians, and the conflicts within Santa Vittoria itself are explored in far more - and funnier - detail.
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Dracula (1931)
Old-fashioned, stage-bound...magnificent
25 April 2001
I have just seen a version of the 1931 Dracula with a new score by Philip Glass. Not having seen the unadorned original my comments may be biased but I felt the film succeeded brilliantly. I imagine the original being filled with increasingly heavy silences. The new score managed to bridge the gap between silent movies and primitive talkies. This works to the best effect in the scenes where Renfield travels to the castle and Dracula rises for the first time.

I can quite see why people feel Bela Lugosi was the greatest Dracula. He has an aristocratic manner, disdainful of the mortals among whom he moves, that even Christopher Lee can't quite equal.

I was amused by Hollywood's idea of a Yorkshire populated by "blimey gav'ner" Cockneys. Didn't they know Whitby was 250 miles from London?
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Killer Nun (1979)
I've seen some stinkers in my time but...
26 March 2001
I have long wanted to see Killer Nun. The basic premise of a psychotic nun, plus the promise of some naughty goings-on in the convent, appealed to my baser instincts. I'd also heard it had some kind of 'cult' status. This isn't always a sign of quality, but usually means a film with an interesting style.

I regret to say this film isn't even bad enough to be good or funny, it's just a mess. What could have been suspenseful or thrilling is simply thrown away by poor character development and wooden acting (although the crude English dubbing doesn't help). Some situations are frankly unbelievable, such as Sister Gertrude having a 'day out' as a hard-drinking swinger before returning to her cell with an illicit stock of morphine. As for eroticism, I would have expected rather more than some very brief nudity, even in 1978.

To cap it all the ending is unforgivably confused - who *was* the killer nun? Unfortunately I can't bear to sit through this again to find out.
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A great film, especially if you can lip-read!
26 March 2001
Warning: Spoilers
I heartily agree with the other reviewers of this film. It's a very dramatic and suspenseful true story set in a time when the freedom of Europe hung in the balance, as Ed Murrow's gripping news bulletins make clear.

The film contains one of Kenneth More's most convincing and remarkable performances. Usually an easy-going hail-fellow-well-met, in Bismarck he is an embittered widower repressing any emotion. Anyone waiting for the 'usual' Kenneth More will find his introduction to the Naval Operations staff at the opening of the film quite unnerving. His close involvement with his son and his awkwardness when trying to deal with his assistant on a more personal level also brings out real depth in More's performance.

Unfortunately More's film career stalled in the 1960's. On the evidence here, the film industry lost a great character actor just as his talent was really maturing.

As for lip-reading. Well, it's a possible spoiler, but here goes. Following the mistaken attack by the British on one of their own ships the skipper looks up at the departing aeroplanes and mouths three words. I can't really say what they are without being offensive but if you look carefully you'll see he is *VERY* uncomplimentary about the pilots and their parents! I wonder how many people spotted that in 1960?
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