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The Anniversary (1968)
This engaging dark comedy stars the incomparable Bette Davis in one of her best latter-day screen roles as a merciless one-eyed mother who uses wedding anniversary(although her husband has been dead for quite some time) as an excuse to lure her spineless sons into her lair and demonstrate her strange hold over them. This year is a particular feast for the mother when the youngest, a somewhat promiscuous chap, announces that he's going to settle down and get married. And better yet, the eldest and most spineless of the brood discloses that he will be moving out of the country so mumsy will leave him alone once and for all. Will things turn out as planned? You"ll just have to find out yourself when you watch this stylish, darkly witty, and perversely entertaining tale that could have been written especially for its star.
Of Human Bondage (1946)
Parker is dynamite!
This retelling of Somerset Maugham's classic is very handsomely "got up", and features a wonderful performance by the gifted Eleanor Parker as the heartless heartbreaker Mildred Rogers. But Eleanor's go at the role didn't produce quite the same results as it did for Bette Davis twelve years before. However, if it weren't for Davis' triumphant performance, the 1934 version would be just as forgettable as the others that followed. The 1964 take with Kim Novak/Laurence Harvey is certainly the weakest.
Of Human Bondage (1934)
A star is born!
After laboring in Hollywood for nearly four years, playing one nothing role after the other in one forgettabe film after the other, Davis won the role of a lifetime. That of slatternly waitress Mildred Rogers, the 'bitch' heroine of Somerset Maugham's classic story. Davis in BONDAGE is an example of an actress's triumph. Lester Cohen's script, making for a picture that runs in length 83 minutes, is breezy and admittedly fails to capture all of the qualities that made Maugham's book such a compulsive read. But Bette Davis' performance in BONDAGE makes the film every bit as good as the book itself. She is absolutely fascinating. Her role of Mildred is as spiteful and bitchy as they come. Yet Bette plays the part so well that you can't help but root for her. That's not to say that she doesn't overdo it at times. But she is clearly into the role and rightfully so. Having played so many thankless background parts(secretaries, gun molls, etc.), this was her chance to break loose and show critics and audiences alike her full capabilities as an actress, and did she ever! Even keeping in mind all of the memorable Davis movie moments that followed, Mildred Rogers still remains her most stunning achievement. The great British actor Leslie Howard, playing the club-footed medical student who becomes infatuated with Mildred, seems over-powered, and possibly intimidated by his co-star. Oh yes, Davis was not yet a full-fledged star and was supposed to be playing second fiddle to the already distinguished Howard, but with BONDAGE, that situation quickly reversed. Shockingly, Davis didn't receive so much as an Oscar nomination for her brilliant performance, and when she won a year later for the tired melodrama DANGEROUS, everyone(including Bette herself) assumed it was out of sympathy for not receiving her full due for this film.
What happened here?
There are so many problems with this dull, listless filmization of the James M. Cain classic, where does one begin? Well, let's start from the beginning. It tries to compete with the great 1946 version. How do you top a film as brilliant as that? The answer is, you don't! Even if this new version does follow the original novel more closely, who cares? As the tragic, plotting lovers, Jessica Lange and Jack Nicholson have absolutely no chemistry whatsoever, so they generate very little heat in their allegedly steamy sex scenes. It's as if the filmmakers were so aware of the miscasting that they tried to disguise this by making the sex scenes between the duo more erotic, meaning more explicit. BIG MISTAKE! This just makes the lack of chemistry even more painfully obvious, and the sex scenes rather silly. Despite having virtually nothing in common, Nicholson and Lange can't keep their hands off of each other and do a lot of huffing and puffing. They go at it like two wild animals in heat, but this does little to make the film any more watchable or entertaining. Yes, Lange is even more breathtakingly beautiful than usual, and she brings more intensity and depth to the role than the script really required. But, whether she knows it or not, Nicholson is a constant thorn in her side. Sure, Jack is a great actor too, but, even though his character is a plotting murderer, there was a romantic edge to the role when John Garfield played it in 1946, and Nicholson does not have one bit of that romanticism. I still kringe when I think of him as the love interest in TERMS OF ENDEARMENT. How did he ever get to be cast in parts like that? Stay as clear from this as possible and settle only for the untoppable original.
Sexy, sexy, sexy!!!!!
Based on James M. Cain's best-selling novel, this film-noir classic features Lana Turner in one of her best roles as a beautiful and sexy little tart who convinces her lover(John Garfield) to help off her dull old husband(Cecil Kellaway) so they can be together. There are several wildly unexpected twists in this ultra-steamy drama. The sex scenes were, of course, more explicit in Cain's original novel, and given the times and strict-censorship, they were toned down considerably for the movies. But that hardly matters. Turner and Garfield are so perfectly matched that you can feel the chemistry between them. You can't easily say the same for Jessica Lange and Jack Nicholson in that ridiculous remake. Stick with the original, even if you have to see it in its colorized form.
Mommie Dearest (1981)
Dunaway at her best!
Based on Christina Crawford's best-selling memoir of her mother, '40s movie queen Joan Crawford, this film has become a classic for all the wrong reasons - a camp classic so to speak. Oh yes, the film lapses into some rather odd and unintentionally funny moments(the wire hanger scene comes to mind), but as the indomitable Joan Crawford, Faye Dunaway isn't laughing. She plays it so straight that pretty soon you start to believe you really are watching Joan Crawford, not in her private life, of course, but acting in one of her movies. When Dunaway grandly descends down the staircase in her lavish Hollywood home, one has flashbacks of Crawford as the ruthless Southern matriarch making her grand entrance down the staircase in her flashy evening wear in QUEEN BEE. And when Dunaway is hacking at the tree in the garden in one of her midnight tirades, one immediately recalls Crawford as the axe-wielding mother in STRAIGHT-JACKET. We can only guess that these moments we're not really intended to conjure up memories of Crawford in her movies, but one sequence was, and that's the scene where Dunaway is rehearsing for MILDRED PIERCE, Crawford's 1945 starring vehicle which won her the Academy Award for Best Actress. Dunaway's reading of the famous line:"I'm sorry I did that. I would have rather cut off my hand" is, in some ways, actually better than Crawford's, and Dunaway should have won an Oscar herself for this film. If the film is amusing, and as I said before, sometimes it is, it isn't because of Dunaway. She is sensational. She is on-screen for most of the film's two hours and she is totally believable every minute of it. Several other major actresses, including Anne Bancroft, were approached for the role, but after seeing Dunaway's triumphant performance, it's tough to imagine anybody else playing the part and giving the movie as much intensity and stature as she did. This is truly one of her best performances. Because of it's camp-cult status, the movie is often referred to as THE MOMMIE HORROR PICTURE SHOW.
Old Acquaintance (1943)
Soap opera supreme.
Bette Davis and Miriam Hopkins, the stars of the classic 1939 film THE OLD MAID, reunite for this tale which spans twenty years in the love/hate relationship of two female friends who become competitive not only professionally, but in their personal lives as well. This one is a real dandy. Davis is her inimitably intense self, and she's matched all the way by the great Miriam Hopkins who was at her peak on-screen in the '30's. While this is often referred to as Davis' picture, Miriam holds her own. These ladies are truly two of the finest actresses to ever grace the Hollywood screen and deliver Oscar-caliber performances. The confrontation scene where Davis shakes the living daylights out of Hopkins is a high example of art imitating life because Davis and Hopkins weren't exactly the best of friends in real-life either. For some reason, this gem has never been released to video, but naturally the dreadful remake with Candice Bergen and Jacqueline Bissett(RICH AND FAMOUS) has.
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1941)
Okay, but not as good as the 1931 film.
This is MGM's glossy, scene-for-scene remake of the earlier, shorter, and rather better 1931 film starring Fredric March and Miriam Hopkins. Tracy does well in the dual title role, the kindly, but quite mad doctor and his beastly other half. Ingrid Bergman is the sexy barmaid who becomes the wretched Mr. Hyde's prisoner, and Lana Turner is Jekyll's pretty fiancee. Despite some serious miscasting(Bergman should have played the Turner role and Turner should have played the Bergman role), this is an agreeable retelling of the Robert Louis Stevenson story, but it isn't the classic the 1931 film is.
Turner is good, the film is fair.
Also shown under the titles THE GRAVEYARD and THE TERROR OF SHEBA, this Gothic British horror movie stars Lana Turner as a maniacal mother who delights in making life miserable for her spineless son(Ralph Bates) who is slowly, but surly, tiring of his deranged mama and her wicked, wicked ways. With her beautiful face, every hair in place, her fashionable costumes, and her exquisite jewelry, Lana Turner, at age 53, is still the very essence of Hollywood glamour. But this is 1974 we're talking about, and her name didn't have the same sparkling effect on the box-office that it had in say 1947, so the film went mostly unnoticed by the movie-going public. The picture itself is a dreary and rather ghoulish retread of familiar BABY JANE-ish high jinks. But Turner has fun with her looneytunes character, and makes this otherwise derivative little film quite watchable. Lana personally regarded this as her worst performance, but she isn't bad at all. Actually she's quite good. I'm convinced she did more with the role than anybody else could have. In fact, she won the Best Actress Award at Spain's Festival of Horror Movies. I strongly recommend this film to her fans who should find it quite interesting to see Turner playing the kind of merciless, blood-curdling psychobitch that Bette Davis and Joan Crawford played in their Scream Queen days.
Basic Instinct (1992)
I must say, considering all of the media frenzy this movie caused in its day, I was more than a little disappointed when I actually saw it. It has very little going for it in the originality stakes. In fact, virtually the same story was told ten years earlier in Dario Argento's brilliant TENEBRAE. Michael Douglas stars as a burned-out San Francisco cop investigating a series of brutal ice-pick murders who becomes sexually involved with the kinky blonde suspect(Sharon Stone in a star-making role), a writer whose favorite subject is murder and the weapon used in her latest book just happens to be an ice-pick. What follows is a bizarre, but again, not terribly inventive tale of murder, sex, obsession, and betrayal. If it weren't for the sex scenes and profanity, this could have been a standard TV-movie-of-the-week. As for those sex scenes(the key reason this movie became the center of such controversy), they aren't there to titillate us. They are explicit and therefore meant to shock us. But if you're like me, it's going to take alot more to shock you than to see Sharon Stone tie Michael Douglas up with a silky white scarf and perform an insidious sex act with him. Whatever. The film was a hit and launched Stone's career, but her rise to stardom doesn't seem to have anything to do with her skills as a serious actress. She knows how to turn on sexiness with a witch's precision, and when she seduces Michael you can almost feel the seduction too, but that's about all. As for Mr. Douglas, he was a once promising actor, but when you watch him in a film like this, you get the feeling that that must have been a long time ago. Even if you thought that this was a moderately decent movie, you have to hate it a little too because it led to even more arbitrary romps like SLIVER(also with Stone), BODY OF EVIDENCE, and COLOR OF NIGHT.
Savage Intruder (1970)
Sick slice-and-dicer with a few good moments.
This is really nothing more than a slightly gorier rendition of SUNSET BOULEVARD/BABY JANE hysterics. Miriam Hopkins, one of Hollywood's finest actresses during the '30's, gives an appropriately hammy performance as a demented former movie queen who, when not chugging down a bottle of vodka, is staggering around her decaying Hollywood mansion(the real-life home of famous silent screen star Norma Talmadge) plotting to make a comeback. When she breaks her leg during a drunken episode, she is assisted by a good-looking, but strange young man(John Garfield, Jr.) who passes himself off as a male nurse, but is, in fact, a sick psychopath who has been dismembering several women who live in the Hollywood hills. Despite being almost totally beyond redemption, the movie offers some occasionally worthwhile moments supplied by several familiar old-time character actors, and Miss Hopkins, in her final film role, gives a much better performance than the circumstances warrant. Also out on video as: HOLLYWOOD HORROR HOUSE. Originally titled: THE COMEBACK.
The Fox (1967)
Way ahead of its time!
Based on a D.H. Lawrence novella, this daring drama about a pair of lesbians(Sandy Dennis and Anne Heywood) and what transpires when a male stranger(Keir Dullea) enters their lives is one of Hollywood's finest attempts to bring a literary genius and one of his finest creations to the screen. It's a magnificent achievement. The original story(written in 1918) has been modernized, which, of course, means that the sexual themes have been made more explicit. Surprisingly, this doesn't hurt the dramatic impact of the story one bit(let's face it, so many great literary works have been botched up when adapted for the movie screen), and, in some ways, the updating even adds to it. A fine scripting job by Lewis John Carlino and Howard Koch. The performances by the two femmes are striking, with top honors going to the great Sandy Dennis who, although ladylike, is the more dominant party of the relationship. Lalo Schifrin's haunting score received a much deserved Oscar nomination. Released just before they started issuing MPAA ratings, this film nevertheless features some steamy scenes. The film would probably qualify for an "R" rating, even by today's standards. Not for all tastes, but required viewing for those who are game. ****!
Amanti d'oltretomba (1965)
The ultimate Barbara Steele movie!
All right, the writing is something to be desired, but this movie is so richly photographed and the great '60's Scream Queen Barbara Steele is so alluring that it hardly matters. This movie uses Steele to full advantage, and even casts the sultry, sinister star in a dual role, much like Mario Bava's classic BLACK SUNDAY. Babs stars as a faithless wife who, along with her lover, is tortured to death by her vengeful-husband. However, her hubby finds that this may not have been the great revenge he thought it would be because his wife left her inheritance to her mentally unbalanced sister(Steele again, this time in a blonde wig). Of course, being the sadistic, money-hungry, conniving little swine that he is, he decides to marry his sister-in-law, and drive her to complete hysteria so he can commit her to the local loony bin and claim the family fortune for himself. Naturally, things don't go exactly as planned, but I won't give the rest of this weird little gem away. Shown in the US in a severely cut version that is so butchered, it's hardly worth watching. The original full-length European version is rare, but definitely worth seeking out.
A wonderful movie!
This film isn't mentioned very much today, nor was it talked about very much when it was first released, but the picture has been christened a classic among Robert Altman fans, and it's easy to see why. This is one of the director's most stunning achievements. It's not that Ed Graczyk's script is anything special. It isn't. But Altman is a master of storytelling. It doesn't matter how derivative the project he's given is. When he gives a project everything he's got, it results in something very special. That is the case with Five and Dime. Graczyk's story takes place in a five and dime store located in a small Texas town where a group of women reunite for the twentieth anniversary of James Dean's death. The event turns out to be a very painful one, as each woman is forced to reveal the skeletons in her closet. The film was originally a stage play, and was also directed by Altman. As a play, it just didn't wash, but as a film, it is a masterpiece. Again, this has much to do with Altman's mastery of storytelling. His amazing ability to make something out of virtually nothing. But much of the credit also must go to the solid female ensemble which includes Sandy Dennis, Karen Black, Kathy Bates, Marta Heflin, Sudie Bond and Cher. In her first real crack at serious acting, Cher is thoroughly impressive. She has several strongly emotional scenes with Sandy Dennis and Karen Black(two of the most remarkable actresses to grace the New York Stage and Hollywood screen), and Miss Cher holds her own in every last one of them. A classic or not, this is an unforgettable, often moving motion picture experience. It's almost impossible to walk away from this film without feeling something. Highly recommended.
Cactus Flower (1969)
A fine film.
This movie rarely gets notice, and indeed, it is no classic. But it has some truly splendid moments, supplied mostly by the blonde and bubbly Goldie Hawn who won a much deserved Academy Award. The film, based on a Broadway play, deals with a neurotic dentist(Walter Matthau) who lies to his kooky girlfriend(Miss Hawn) by telling her that he's married. When Matthau finally falls head over heels for Hawn, he tells her that he intends to divorce his wife and pops the question to her. Feeling that she caused their break-up, Hawn then demands to meet his wife so she can straighten things out with her. Matthau then gets his prim and proper assistant(Ingrid Bergman) to play the part of his "wife", but that's only the beginning of this crazy comedy. Matthau is brilliant as usual, and Bergman also does well with her role, despite being thoroughly miscast(the sexy and vibrant Miss Bergman as a drab, spinsterish dental assistant, PLEASE!). But the film belongs to Goldie who, even at this early stage in her career, fully displays her star power.
The last of the truly great movie musicals.
Musicals have been an essential part of the movies, ever since the advent of sound. But today, at least as far as the motion picture industry goes, the era of the great big-studio, big-budget musical extravaganzas has long passed. This is one of the last and most certainly one of the best. Based on Charles Dickens' classic OLIVER TWIST, the film tells of a young orphan boy(Mark Lester) who escapes from his drab life of workhouse servitude, only to fall in with a band of young pick-pockets led by the incorrigible Fagin(Ron Moody, Oscar-nominated). Despite the inclusion of song and dance, the movie sticks fairly close to its source, especially compared to the numerous other film versions. Some may feel that this picture pales in comparison to David Lean's more straightforward 1948 telling, but there is no doubt of which one is the more fun and entertaining film. Lester is delightful in the title role, and is, without a doubt, one of the most appealing child stars of all time. Jack Wild is equally winning as his slick sidekick, The Artful Dodger. In fact, the two worked so well together that they were reunited for the 1971 release MELODY. Oliver Reed is appropriately menacing as the brutish Bill Sykes, and Shani Wallis is lovely as his girlfriend, Nancy. The film was directed by the great Carol Reed, actor Oliver Reed's uncle.
Color of Night (1994)
Has everything but entertainment.
This over-blown, over-heated Hollywood S & M mystery has everything but entertainment value. Oh yes, there's plenty of wild and crazy(but not particularly titillating) sex, typical of these mindless BASIC INSTINCT "inspired" porn-thrillers, and there are even a few kinky/gory murders thrown it. There just isn't anything that even remotely resembles a good movie. The film casts Bruce Willis as a psychiatrist(Please!) who becomes traumatized after a very disturbed patient commits suicide before his very eyes. He then suffers another blow(no pun intended) when his doctor-friend(Scott Bakula) is brutally murdered. Willis is then called in to take over Bakula's creepy group, and the mysterious murders continue. Meanwhile, Bruce gets involved with an attractive, but strange "fender-bender"(Jane March) who has some bizarre connection to the unfortunate chain of events in his life. Bruce is his inimitable DIE HARD-self, and Jane March is pretty in a girlish sort-of-way, but their sex scenes are very difficult to watch because Willis, while undeniably a good-looking guy, still looks every bit of his forty years, while his partner looks all of fourteen, effectively killing any sex appeal this film was suppose to have. But, of course, that is the very least of the movie's problems. Most of the problems can be traced back to the script, a ridiculous combination of BASIC INSTINCT/FATAL ATTRACTION/PSYCHO-type cliches. If you are wondering what the most suspenseful parts of the movie are, there aren't any. The true horror is in the fact that this ugly little number ever got made. This is the price we pay for going to see movies like BASIC INSTINCT. Believe it or not, this movie was directed by Richard Rush, the same guy who gave us the brilliant THE STUNT MAN.
The Out of Towners (1970)
A delightful film for the whole family!
Leonard Maltin must have been having a very bad day when he panned this wonderful film. How could you not like it? It's an absolutey charming movie, and one of Neil Simon's best stories. The story concerns a middle-aged Ohio couple who travel to New York for the husband's job interview. The rest of the film details the problems the duo encounter while visiting The Big Apple, though their troubles actually start before they get off of the plane. As the bewildered, but determined couple, Jack Lemmon and Sandy Dennis make a magnificent comedy team, and there's never a dull moment when this dynamic duo are on screen. Granted, it is quite clear that the characters played by Mr. Lemmon and Miss Dennis weren't meant to be entirely sympathetic, but it's hard not to like these two equally gifted performers, whatever the circumstances. They're truly a perfect match. Many have said that Mr. Simon's script is his hate letter to The Big Apple, but considering the more than slightly pig-headed central characters, this could also have been his way of rebuking us Ohioans. Whatever the case, this is a thoroughly enjoyable movie, and one the whole family can enjoy. Skip the Steve Martin/Goldie Hawn remake and settle only for the untoppable original. **** all the way!!!!!
Tammy and the Doctor (1963)
A warm, funny movie.
This was the third in the so-so TAMMY series, and it is certainly the best. Sandra Dee is absolutely adorable in the title role, the cute country bumpkin who is forever performing a good deed, for someone else, that is. This time she goes off with a sick, eldery friend(the great character actress Beulah Bondi) to a big city hospital and gets a job in the place to be near her. While she inadvertantly turns the hospital upside down with her hilarious mishaps, our folksy heroine falls for a handsome young doctor(Peter Fonda in his film debut). No classic, but this is a warm, funny, and occasionally touching movie. Sandra Dee is an absolute joy to watch; this was her second and last turn as the TAMMY character, her first was TAMMY TELL ME TRUE(1961) which was a sequel to TAMMY AND THE BACHELOR(1957) starring Debbie Reynolds.
Black Beauty (1946)
Pleasant, but unspectacular family fare.
The title of this movie is misleading. It leads us to assume that we are going to see a film version of the classic novel by Anna Sewell. Not quite. The book and the movie have about two things in common. They both concern a horse and the horse's name in both the book and the movie is Black Beauty. But the similarities end there. This film focuses primarily on a sensually blossoming teenage girl(the impossibly perky Mona Freeman) who takes a romantic interest in the handsome young American(Richard Denning) who visits her father's farm in the English countryside. The pic then mostly concerns the problems the young girl has when she tries to get the man to notice her. Oh yes, our heroine just happens to have a black colt that she just happens to have named Black Beauty, but said horse doesn't figure too much in this version of the story. Don't get me wrong, there are some charming moments. Miss Freeman is an appealing heroine, and Dimitri Tiomkin's lively score helps immensely. The film was originally shot in black and white, but is most commonly available in a computer colorized version. This is one instance in which the colorization process does help because the striking cinematography is much easier to appreciate that way, and is the film's strongest asset.
Fun, in a campy sort of way.
No, it doesn't have hardly any of the spark and charm of the hit Broadway musical(starring Angela Lansbury), and Lucille Ball is thoroughly miscast in the title role, but if you can get past that, there are some really fine moments to treasure. I am speaking, of course, of the wonderful Bea Arthur, reprising her Tony Award-winning stage role as Mame's showbiz-friend, Vera Charles. Arthur easily walks away with the picture. Unfortunately, she doesn't have enough screen time to make it a good movie, but the time she is on the screen, it's worth it to sit there and watch. However, the rest of the film and Ball's miscasting, are sometimes very trying. Make no mistake, I LOVE LUCY, but this was just not the proper vehicle to showcase her talents. Many have made unkind remarks regarding Miss Ball's singing in the film, others have said she was just too old for the role. Still, I don't think either one of these factors work against the film. It's just the fact that Miss Ball has no place in this type of picture. She was truly The Queen of Comedy, and the film would have been fine providing it catered more to her comedic talents, but it doesn't. Even still, there are some moderately amusing moments, but in order to fully appreciate them you almost have to view the film from a camp perspective. At any rate, it's definitely not the worst musical I have ever seen. That is, of course, faint praise.
Shadow on the Wall (1950)
Underrated '50's film-noir.
A young girl(Gigi Perreau) becomes traumatized after she witnesses the accidental killing of her stepmother(Kristine Miller). Well-acted film noir showcases the dramatic talents of the exceptionally gifted actress Ann Sothern, who was known primarily for her 'light' roles in films like MAISIE. The film also features an early appearance by Barbara Billingsey, better known as June Cleaver on the popular '50's sitcom LEAVE IT TO BEAVER.
B-movie fare with a difference.
A meddlesome, but well-meaning Brooklyn showgirl(the wonderful Ann Sothern) becomes stranded and ends up on a Wyoming ranch where she falls in love with a handsome foreman(Robert Young) and attempts to clear him of a trumped-up murder charge. Based on the Wilson Collinson novel, "Dark Dame", the film was intended as a vehicle for blonde bombshell Jean Harlow, who died before the project could be lifted off the ground. The script was then given to another spicy and likable MGM contract player, Ann Sothern, who had charmed her way into the hearts of movie audiences a year earlier with her delightful turn as the wisecracking blonde in the United Artists release, TRADE WINDS. Miss Sothern's winning personality and comedic talents enabled the film to betray its low-budget status, and the picture became such a hit that it spawned no less than nine sequels, all starring the gifted Miss Sothern. "MAISIE" may not be one of MGM's confirmed classics, but it is noteworthy, however, as one of the few film series to feature a lady as the central character.
Body of Evidence (1992)
Too terrible to be boring.
Well now, let's see..... It's about as crazy, dumb, and pointless as one movie can get. Yet you can't take your eyes off of it because it's so awful you keep wondering as the movie goes on, could it possibly get any worse? And the answer is, it does, with each stupefyingly bad scene. Obviously made with the success of BASIC INSTINCT in mind(itself a highly overrated film), the film features shock queen Madonna as a sultry murder suspect who is on trial for killing her rich, weak-hearted older lover with too much rough sex(hey, it happens). Let's face it, folks. Madonna never does anything because she believes in it. She only does it for the controversy. But this time, the joke is on her. With this film, the shock queen becomes the schlock queen. The pop rock singer's acting career has never been anything to write home to mother about, but now there's even less reason to brag. This was definitely Miss M's ultimate career low point. She evened up the score a little a few years later with the wildly successful EVITA, but I have a feeling she's going to take the embarrassment of this film with her to her grave, and I can't help but feel she"ll turn over every time somebody watches it. But, let's be fair. Not all of the blame can be put on her slender little shoulders. In fact, with such an inane concept for a film, this project was just destined for failure from the very start. Director Uli Edel does little to ease the situation with his pretentious handling of the already mindless material. Amazingly, some very powerful and talented performers signed on for this lurid piece of trash, including Joe Mantegna, Anne Archer, Frank Langella, Julianne Moore, and Jurgen Prochnow. Willem Dafoe, also a good actor, suffers the most from the horrible miscasting. He plays lady M's lawyer who is drawn into his client's web of sado-sexual games. I respect Willem greatly. He courageously takes on many diverse roles, but there is something decidedly uncomfortable, not to mention thoroughly unnatural about seeing him play the lead in a sex-thriller. But then again, I'm still trying to figure out why casting directors chose Michael Douglas for the roles he played in FATAL ATTRACTION, BASIC INSTINCT, and DISCLOSURE.
The sex scenes between Miss Madonna and Mr. Dafoe(which include hot candle wax, broken glass, and handcuffs), aren't sexy. They're not even kinky. They're just plain creepy, that is, aside from being thoroughly ridiculous. No doubt, they contribute greatly to the film's camp value. Whether or not this should be taken as any kind of entertainment I do not know. But one thing is certain, it's definitely not boring. It becomes so horrid in such a short time that it's compulsively watchable. Some argue that this is the worst of the post BASIC INSTINCT/sex & murder yarns. I personally vote for the 1994 Bruce Willis starrer COLOR OF NIGHT.
One of the Master's most underrated films.
This complex character study of a frigid lady thief(Tippi Hedren) and the mysterious man(Sean Connery) who tries to cure both her hang-ups is one of Alfred Hitchcock's most stunning films, thanks in great part to Hedren's magnificent performance in the title role. Hedren, who became a star a year earlier in Hitch's THE BIRDS, delivers her most accomplished performance to date. Playing both a thief and compulsive liar, it is by no means a typical role, and certainly not a sympathetic one. But Hedren works hard at this part and when it's all over with, you can't help but feel something for this troubled dame. She is particularly good in her final scene. I'm not sure any other actress could bring as much to the role as Hedren did. This is truly an actress' triumph. Louise Latham is also good as her cold mother.