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Escapade (1955)
10/10
The mystery of a boy scheduled for expulsion from school.
17 June 2018
Philip Leacock was an expert on filming children, and every film of his is a masterpiece, not just because of the children, but they are usually highly sophisticated, intelligent and interesting plots of steadily increasing suspense. Here is a mystery from the beginning which you only get vague hints of by the strange manoeuvres of the boys, so you as the audience will be as befuddled as the headmaster (Alastair Sim) not being able to make head or tail of anything.

John Mills is excellent as usual as the aggressive pacifist, and no wonder his wife cannot stand him. It gradually appears that they have several children and not just the one clandestinely reading comics when he should go to sleep. The topic of the comics will emerge as an interesting clue to the whole story, as the children see more clearly what the grown-ups are up to than they themselves - "Newspapers are comics for grown-ups, and the problem is they take them seriously."

The great architecture of the film is the towering mystery as it eventually climaxes in sensational glory, dwarfing the whole political world to children's play, while the children are the ones who do something about it. It's one of the most wonderful boys' film ever made, and typical is, that once you have seen it you look forward to see it again.
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The Voyage (1974)
10/10
A sincere and deep love story of two close brothers and Sophia Loren
16 June 2018
Vittorio de Sica's last film is a delicate realisation of one of the Nobel Prize winner Luigi Pirandello's most sensitive and deeply human stories. It's a story of love with infinite tenderness and pain and equally infinite beauty, and all this, de Siva manages to put on screen in as restrained and perfectly controlled direction as Joseph Heifetz did in his rendering of Anton Chekhov's "Lady with the Dog" in 1959. It's precisely the same delicacy here (with equally heartfelt music by Manuel de Sica) but in colour and as beautifully operatic settings as in Luchino Visconti's "Senso". To this comes above all Sophia Loren's acting and Richard Burton's, for once remarkably controlled, until the very last scene.

This film has been rather brushed aside and neglected as too non-Vittorio de Sica to be taken seriously, but it's time to revise and give a faire appraisal of its qualities. Forget all his earlier films, all his black-and-white neorealism and all the war movies and take a look at this as something entirely different. This is a human story of bleeding hearts set before the first world war made a beautiful world disappear and at the pinpoint of death.

It has so many qualities, and not the least one is the mere cinematography, every scene being like a beautiful Italian painting, every human detail mattering including the gossiping servants, the scenes with the boy and the heart-rendering naivety of Ian Bannen, for once in a role completely void of any meanness. You have never seen him like this in any other film.

My favourite scene is when Sophia for the first time breaks her isolation after the loss of her husband, when Cesare has urged her to leave her closed-up existence and go out, while she refuses, but afterwards anyway goes up to the terrace, breathes some air and almost disappears among the laundry blowing in the wind...

I was always impressed by every Vittorio de Sica film I ever saw, but I am not exaggerating when I confess that I was never more impressed by him than in this one, mainly for its absolutely convincing humanism.
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Pushover (1954)
9/10
Policemen as peeping Toms getting into trouble with Kim Novak
14 June 2018
Fred MacMurray has an extraordinary way of always appearing stupidly out of place and rather awkward, no matter what he does, like almost a permanent loser, maybe because that's the kind of characters he was best at, like in "Double Indemnity". This is the same story but on a smaller scale, and the lady here is different, Kim Novak in her first appearance, and she makes the film. This is like an introduction and rehearsal for "Vertigo", but this is black and white, and there is some real shooting taking place, which doesn't stop at one murder. The main trouble with the film is that it's impossible to understand how Kim Novak can love Fred. Your bets will rather pile up with Plilip Carey as a much more convincing character - Fred is simply hopeless and almost cooked from the beginning. The other lady Dorothy Malone imports some refreshment by her straight personality, and you follow all her scenes with almost keener interest than Kim Novak's , since Dorothy's character is less predictable, and she ultimately does determine the course of the drama.

It's not a bad film, but Fred MacMurray will never become a favourite actor with anyone but rather constantly remain something of a bad joke of a stolid actor.
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The Racket (1951)
8/10
Gangsters and policemen with shootouts as usual
14 June 2018
This is a surprisingly disappointing film for being a hardboiled noir about ruthless gangsters and established corruption. The leading gangster is Robert Ryan, who definitely dwarfs the quiet but pertinacious leading policeman Robert Mitchum, who is more calculating and subtle and therefore wins, while Robert Ryan is carried off guard by his own roughness. Ryan dominates the acting, though. But the one person who makes the film interesting at all is Lizabeth Scott with her suave voice and shifting standing, leaving you wondering where she really is, until she is forced by circumstances to land on one side. There is a great finale at the police station, which doesn't save the film from regular mediocrity. Only Lizabeth Scott makes it a little more than that.
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10/10
John Garfield escaping trouble to end up in more trouble
12 June 2018
This is an early noir with Busby Berkeley coming on with many surprises on the way of the typically noir theme of an innocent, having to escape from justice and the law since all the circumstantial evidence is against him and no one believes him. John Garfield was always uncouth and rowdy but managed to make the more splendid characters for their sore trials, forcing them to extreme honesty, not seldom to self-sacrifice to prove themselves right. John Garfield was expert on such characters, especially in Hemingway stories.

This is different, though. Here he is hounded by a policeman notorious for his uncompromising pertinacity, who is no one less than Claude Rains, and we know how merciless he can be. John Garfield, however, finds another life in Arizona with the Dead End Kids and a girl and creates an idyllic existence away from the world, - while Claude Rains gets the scent and comes on track.

John Garfield's character is not very intelligent, he follows his impulses rather than any careful thought, and his character will keep you constantly worried, for he can't end up in anything but trouble. and his honesty must keep you sticking to him with all your sympathy.

How he wins the boys on his side and finally the girl just to one day meet his fate as Claude Rains turns up at the wrong moment is a fascinating thriller all the way with many psychological moments of truth. The grandma finalizes the brilliance,

It's a very enjoyable and impressing film with Max Steiner's music adding to it just discreetly enough, but Busby Berkeley's direction takes the prize. The party in the beginning of the film is a triumph for him.
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Murder! (1930)
9/10
Murder mystery baclstage
12 June 2018
This early Hitchcock feature is full of innovations typical of Hitchcock in his early days of the talkies, which were sometimes wildly experimental, like here. At the same time it's his slowest film, you have to be patient with some trying scenes, but the main asset of the film is the very shrewd story.

Two actresses, who have been quarrelling rivals, meet to make peace, which meeting ends with one of them being found dead, battered to death by a poker lying beside her, while the other actress sits paralysed and can't remember anything. She is brought to trial, of course, and the jury seems to take it for granted that she must be guilty, there is no other explanation, while Herbert Marshall is the last jury member to be persuaded to agree on the verdict, which he afterwards regrets, he continues brooding on the issue, and then comes the great shaving scene, which is central in the film. He shaves while there is his monologue, and as the radio playing Wagner's Tristan overture reaches an emotional peak, the clue to the mystery dawns upon him, and he starts his own investigation together with another actor of the theatre.

There are many interesting scenes, for instance when the police question the actors during am om-going theatre performance, the famous jury session, striking details such as the loose teeth, and the famous climax, where Hitchcock proves himself fully fledged.

The music plays an important part here, especially the circus orchestra sharpens your attention, but the ingenious plot is the main thing. Pardon the slow motion, but it's still definitely Hitchcock.
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8/10
A great thriller on a small scale with an intricate conundrum touching the absolute obligation of silence
7 June 2018
There are some great moments in this film, and they always come with a vengeance as a surprise. Perhaps the greatest titbit is the parenthesis with the blonde in the bar, a special treat and a delightful change of scenery, which otherwise throughout the film is rather grey and stale.

It all happens in a small town in England, where a lost son is coming home to his crippled father in a wheelchair and his sister with a boyfriend, who is an architect. Nothing ever happens in this town of Tunbridge, but on the arrival of this prodigal son, whom no one knows what he has been up to in America, there are two murders in two days. He has not committed the first one, and there are no witnessaes to the second. However, the springing point in this film is the confession which introduces the film, in which the architect, a catholic, makes a confession to a priest, and the priest, who knows all, must not on any circumstances reveal the confession, That's the law of the church. So the police, who knows that the priest knows, is in a predicament.

The sweety pie in the bar is Dorinda Stevens, whom you never have seen in any other film, while she is very much like Carolyn Jones in "Shield for Murder" the year before - the scene is almost copied, but here the soft Dorinda brings Sidney Chaplin home.

Although a sorry story, it's an interesting development of it with a grand Hitchcockian finale in church worth waiting for. Sidney Chaplin sustains his difficult and extremely revolting character to the end and at least makes a great act of it. Pity that young Englishmen should go to America to learn such bad manners.
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The Victors (1963)
10/10
Ordeals of war on very personal levels
6 June 2018
There are many memorable moments in this film, particularly as highly sensitive scenes, that you will never forget. In fact, the whole film is like composed of delicate episodes of war, where the individuals and their fates and experience stand out, diminishing the war actions to insignificance. It's like an anti -"The Longest Day" film, concentrating on all that is ignored in a war but which must stigmatize the experiencer forever.

Perhaps the most striking scene of all is the execution scene, completely outshadowing and dwarfing Stanley Kubrick's great unbearable execution sequence in "Paths of GLory", but there are many such scenes, particlularly with ladies. The scenes with Jeanne Moreau, Melina Mercouri and Romy Schneider will not easily be forgotten and perhaps better remembered than the entire film. George Hamilton is the most interesting character among the soldiers, encountering one great pitfall after another. Eli Wallach as the sergeant is magnificent, while George Peppard is always the same, here for once slightly sympathetic. Another unforgettable episode is Peter Fonda with his dog.

The film gives a deeply bitter aftertaste, as the sinister message of the horrible lasting backfire of any war definitely stamps the film as one of the most realistic and important of all war films, although there are many...
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9/10
Mysteries in the fogs of London with buskers adding to the confusion
4 June 2018
This is a very tricky intrigue which no one can make head or tail of to begin with, as no one can understand why anyone would try to mask as a war casualty long after the war is over, leading to constantly denser fog of a mysterious intrigue involving buskers, who actually lead the perplexing events - they are the chief charm of the film, although there are many such, amazing characters above all, Laurence Naismith as the canon, Bernard Miles as the gang leader, Kenneth Griffith as Crutches, and some fabulous old ladies, Beatrice Varley as the unfathomable Lucy Cash for one. Donald Sinden is the leading male, but although a good reliable actor, he always plays himself and was never very versatile. Muriel Pavlow is better. But the intrigue is the main thing.

The lurid photography adds a special flavour to the film, - as the kidnapped victim is dragged away his despair is reflected in the photography of all the neon signs that are passed, the camera's way of following the murderer gives him some mythic magic until he finally appears, and so on. This film is full of tricks, the action is very dense and concentrated and horribly exciting until the mystery is cleared, - and then follows a cliffhanger.

Much underrated, this is a film that deserves some attention.
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9/10
A difficult case to handle, as such a case is untouchable for any family
2 June 2018
Although you more and more during the progress of the film learn to share the hatred of her that gradually becomes evident in the protagonists, Mary Astor actually makes the most remarkable performance in this film about a mother's tragedy, all caused by herself and she herself understanding it least of all. The war drama is just the frame, from the beginning you must suspect that Jeff Chandler has something to hide, some terrible secret about the truth that can't be revealed, and the entire film is building up towards this revelation. This was apparently Helmur Käutner's only American film, but he was a fine stylist in cinematography with only credits on his record and several German classics. June Allyson always has a special knack of cheering up a film, and here it is needed indeed. She is the only straight and sane person with a cool head in this sordid family business, and no wonder Jeff Chandler accepts her invitation alhough he has reason tu suspect the worst. Peter Graves as the war hero plays a small part and only thirsting and dying on that raft on a desert sea under the sun, but he makes it all right. Also Charles Coburn has a small but extremely significant part in (unconsciously) releasing the gradual detonation of a family bomb, and Jeff Chandler goes through with his difficult and delicate part with honest honour - his hell is actually the worst. This is in character very much like a Douglas Sirk film, but it goes deeper, probing untouchable undercurrents that are utterly out of bounds for discussion in a family, but the autopsy is expertly performed, leaving Mary Astor totally naked.
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10/10
Two children at a loss in a local civil war between hard-headed puritans
1 June 2018
The overwhelming genuineness makes this fim a masterpiece. Every detail is 100% genuine in the almost intimate rendering of primitive life among primitive people in the wilderness of Nova Scotia, where almost no one even can read - the only established standard and education allowed is a fiercely puritan one. If any book is allowed at all, it's the Bible - or, as the only other book mentioned, "The Pilgrim's Progress".

Theodore Bikel as usual makes a great impression, here as the one outsider, a Dutch doctor who is loathed for his origin, since there has been one casualty from the island in the Boer war - this is 1904, but all the other actors are perfect as well, especially of course the children.

Most impressing though is the tale that is told. It's really the story of a dog, no dog is allowed in the film, the only one appearing doesn't turn up until after half the film, and still it's all about a dog. The sinister grandpa won't have a dog, since dogs can't be eaten, and he only keeps animals for eating them. The two small boys eventually find something to cuddle with like a dog, keeping it away form the grown-ups to avoid their eating it up...

It's a very heart-warming film, and the ladies have their important say as well, finally actually even overcoming the latent local civil war over the ownership of a tiny hill...

The music is perhaps a little over-dramatising the events but very efficient as such. It's a unique film for its sustained absolute realism all the way, and the only film I can think of to come near it in character was "Johnny Belinda" also from Nova Scotia, but this film was all made in England.
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10/10
Caught in jams of destiny among ghosts and stealthy intrigues
1 June 2018
Valentina Cortese and Richard Baseheart make this film together with a superb script an ace of films. Only the introduction to the story is gripping enough, the familiar situation of displaced persons in refugee camps after the war, here two ladies, one dying, the other desperate enough to do anything to take a chance. Valentina takes a chance and gets from the frying-pan into the fire, but in a completely different world - from the atrocious misery of concentration camps to webs of intrigue in the riches and luxuries of high society in California.

Robert Wise was always one of the most reliable of directors, while he never repeated himself - it's astounding how different the character of every one of his films is from all the others. Here we find ourselves in a thriller like in "The Spiral Staircase" but with more interesting human relationships, as you walk in blindness among the manoeuvring characters as much as Valentina does, and you can only suspect the worst of almost every one of them - except the real perpetrator. Only in the last scene the real drama is revealed, and the only one who understood it all from the beginning was the dead woman in the portrait, who triumphs.

It's a film of outstanding eloquence both in intrigue, dialogue, cinematography and above all direction. Even the music couldn't be better.
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9/10
Broderick Crawford as a low profile FBI detective doing his job
1 June 2018
For once, Broderick Crawford is not overacting, but actually falls well in line with the character of this almost neo-realistic documentary quality of an FBI-investigation into a seemingly hopeless tangle of murder cases: the one FBI-agent who was on the brink of solving one of his three cases gets murdered, leaving all three cases hopelessly jammed without clues. His chief Broderick Crawford takes over the job in a ruotine matter-of-fact manner, and this is actually the great asset of the film, which is more than enough convincing all the way.

There are a number of ladies involved, but the starkest impression is made by Marisa Pavan as Julie Angelino, the only girl in the film to get manhandled. She made a similar unforgettable part against Tony Curtis in "The Midnight Story", also as an Italian vulnerable girl, and both performances lift their films to a higher level.

Among the other girls are Martha Hyer, who more often than not played fatal blondes and did it well, and she makes her mark also here. But the best actress is Ruth Roman as Kate Martell, who makes the whole film. It pays to be observant in every scene she is in, for her crisis situation, which constantly is developing, is the main story of the film, and it is all written in her face all the way through. I can't remember having seen her in any other film.

This is a great underrated noir of the highest quality but technically rather humble in its way of presenting itself, which only makes it the more interesting.
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Lured (1947)
10/10
Lucille Ball moving the balls of many men and one too many
26 May 2018
A brilliant thriller with above all a splendidly intelligent script leading constantly further down into deeper mysteries of spurious handlings of young beautiful women in Soho. You never can guess what to expect next in this labyrinth of erring mistakes, as the police has nothing to go on in their search for a serial killer that makes all his young lady victims vanish without a trace. This is a treat for everyone and must especially have been so for the actors, who all are inspired to do better than their Best - George Sanders in a role that couldn't have suited him better, Lucille Ball in her freshest prime, Alan Mowbray as one of his many doubtful double-dealers with a hidden agenda, Charles Coburn more direct than ever, Cedric Hardwicke for once carefully concealed behind thick glasses as the perfect second hand dealer, and Boris Karloff in a brief but unforgettable display of exasperating horror. I was surprised that Douglas Sirk could make such an exquisitely many-faced film with so many surprising turns to it, which effectively promoted him in my esteem.
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Killer Priest (2011 Video)
4/10
A hired killer goes on the rampage killing priests and others
25 May 2018
A rather confusing thriller not very well thought out, but the main plot seems to be the problem of pederast priests in the catholic church. A hired killer gets a job and finds out that his victim is a catholic priest, and then he starts questioning his mission, which leads him into an extensive plot of brainwash and programming under CIA and a vicious circle of constant killings and shoot-outs, leading nowhere except to further confusion. Although the idea might have been good, it is not very clearly expressed, and the whole film gives the impression of random improvisation on an almost amateur level. It's not a good film, the acting is superficial throughout, the music is only effects, evidently it was a low budget project shot carelessly during only three months in L.A, and it's little else than an orgy in violence (including some sex) and loose ends and hints at some satanic conspiracy - a film to be discarded.
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9/10
Bette Davis and Gary Merrill in clinch and deadly duel of meanness
25 May 2018
You never hated Bette Davis so much before. She could be criminal and nasty but never quite abominable, which somehow she is brought here to become more or less against her will by too many unexpected visitors to her house, beginning with her husband, whom you never see except as dead. It's a damned tricky plot, and Val Guest was expert at such things, making a criminal intrigue as inextricable as possible in order to have the great pleasure of having it all dissolve in the most unexpected possible but percetly logical way. The Gothic atmosphere of this chamber play is gloomily enhanced by the whole thing being filmed in Bette Davis' own home, here situated far away in the desolation of the Yorkshire moors. The music also underscores the tension of the plot, and the colloquial doctor (Emlyn Williams) who knows everything beforehand, which you dont get to know until after the end, doesn't make things easier for anyone. Only the young couple (Anthony Steel and Barbara Murray) get away unharmed, while the most upsetting case and victim of injustice of all is, as the doctor clearly points out, a horse.

It's a major display of meanness and super-excellent as such, but in all these towering passions of possessive love you despondently miss and lack the faintest shade of any human varmth and tenderness.
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9/10
The hardships through two world wars for a priest losing a leg and being hounded almost to death by the Nazis
25 May 2018
This is all Damian Chapa's film, both for the script, the cinematography and the direction. In all three capacities, it's an outstanding film deserving only credits. There are some flaws,however.

The story in itself warrants a masterpiece, the ordeals of the first world war when he loses a leg, the persecution by the Nazis in the second, and so forth. It's impossible to make a flawed film out of such a story, adorned all the way by his one comfort in playing the violin.

To this comes the remarkable cinematography. Especially in the first part, as long as it is all black and white, the cinematography is a marvel throughout. The effect when it changes to coiour, when for the first time the Jewish question is introduced, is striking, to say the least.

The one thing that makes the film miss one point, is the exaggerated direction, tending to make the actors overact. It's unnecessary and must produce the opposite effect to the one intended. Over-dramatization is always a mistake, striking hard instead of concentrating on the target.

So the film is a bit overdone. It would have gained in being half an hour shorter, with a more efficient flow in the direction and story-telling. Transport stretches are always a nuisance,, especially in Wagner operas.
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8/10
Dennis O'Keefe sorting out the followers after Al Capone with some wounds on the way
23 May 2018
Nothing happens in this rather bleak and sordid noir about Chicago gangsters, until Alison Hayes pulls the gun in the middle of the film, and then the action starts, amounting to rather interesting proportions. Dennis O'Keefe is no William Holden, who would have been the right actor for this role - Dennis is too fidgety. Paul Stewart on the other hand is perfect for his character, and the other ladies are good as well, Abbe Lane as the night club primadonna in decline with a catch on the boss, and his mother. The best scenes are with these women, while it is Alison Hayes who runs the show from half way on. The finale approaches the depths of "The Third Man".

So although you yawn and look for something else to do meanwhile during the first half of the film, the second half must have all your attention. The dialog is riveting and splendid all the way, even Xavier Cugat gets a role to play and not only instruments, so it's after all a film well worth seeing.
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10/10
Alan Ladd's last and greatest moment as he beats up the abominable George Peppard.
21 May 2018
This was Alan Ladd's last film, he died in January the following year only 50 years old, but seldom has a great film star made a nobler exit. He was quite a small man, often he had to use high heels for his filming, especially with larger women, but he was one of the toughest of them all, and he fights it out more than well in almost every film of his. Here he is the older mentor of George Peppard, born a multi millionaire, completely ruthless and without any human feelings, it seems, almost like a psychopath. The fact that he does have deep-set psychological problems gradually becomes more evident as the film develops with all his human wrecks on the way, especially dames, and no one can do anything about it, except Alan Ladd in the end.

It's a towering film worthy of Edward Dmytryk's finest achievements, and the architectural psychological structure is carefully constructed with deliberate care to reach overwhelming proportions. George Peppard's character is entirely abominable, and he even gets worse along the course of his shipwrecks. Harold Robbins' novel is loosely based on the character and career of Howard Hughes, aviator, film producer and multi millionaire, and is a caricature of him just as "Citizen Kane" was one of William Randolph Hearst. Sometimes caricatures reach the truth better than actual documentaries, and George Peppard's character couldn't be more convincing.

The other actors are also excellent, especially Robert Cummings as the typical tycoon lackey and Lew Ayres in one of his few but always eloquent performances. Caroll Baker is as vulgar as ever, Martha Hyer makes an impression like of Marilyn Monroe, and Elizabeth Ashley could almost have been Audrey Hepburn. It's a great film, and although you hate it cordially from the beginning for its lousy cynical monsters of ruthless bullies, the film remains a masterpiece.
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9/10
Alan Ladd going through strenuous trials and ordeals as an unwilling hero for Rome
21 May 2018
This is not a film you should miss if you are an admirer of Alan Ladd, although this was one of his last films and he is rather tired; but he makes a startling performance as the outcast, one of three brothers who are the main champions of Rome, banished for assumed cowardice - he is never allowed to state his case or defend himself against the alleged charges. His voice is already marked by the cancer he died of a few years later at only 50, and the impression he creates by his character is of deep melancholy - he is rather an anti-hero than a hero, although he ultimately manages all his challenges.

It's not a great or important film, but it's one of the best Peplums - there is a great variety of Peplums of very second rate quality, all dealing with ancient times in Greece or Rome, often with mythological subjects and always with great fights and stylish monumentality. In this film the quality is further enhanced and lifted forth by the excellent music, one of Lavagnino's best. So if you can endure the hardships of various laborious Peplums, this should come in as a healthy change with a different and more earnest string moving the heart.
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9/10
Life under the volcano and when it awakens
20 May 2018
This appears to be Sergio Leone's first film, and as such it is interesting enough. He made a few films like this in the beginning, another was "The Colossus of Rhodes" which was even worse, and already here you find all the worst sides of the director, the sadistic penchant for meaningless cruelty, the crude characterizations and as much brutal violence as possible.

The plot is completely changed from the famous novel of Bulwer-Lytton's, there is no mention of christianity in the novel, while here it is used to make another sort of "Quo Vadis?" Nothing wrong with that, the plot is actually quite interesting and well thought out, but it's the character of Julia that ruins the film - she is utterly unconvincing. Fernando Rey as Arbaces the scheming villain is good enough, and Steve Reeves has not yet developed into the dummy he was to turn into by too much muscular performances. He was no Charlton Heston, and his mere presence in a film ensures its second hand qualities.

The film was given a generous budget, though, which was used more than well. The epic apocalyptic scenes of the volcano eruption and the overwhelming catastrophe of the downfall of the city are rendered in great detail and very convincing. For Sergio Leone, it was not bad for a start.
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7/10
Amateur second hand version of the fall of Troy
20 May 2018
Steve Reeves was never a good actor, at best he makes a naïve impression, but usually, like in all his later films, he was just a completely expressionless muscular dummy. In comparison with Robert Wise's "Helen of Troy" a few years earlier, this is like a miniature gipsum copy of a magnificent marble statue. It tries to be monumental, though, and there is some stylishness over the set-up, but the acting is stilted, and even the best actors, like Ulysses, are merely types. The best actors are the women, especially Cassandra och Creussa.

The action starts where Homer's Iliad ends, with the desecration of Hector's body and moves up to the fall of Troy with mammoth scenes impressive enough of the apocalyptic destruction of the city, so it's not a disappointing film, although the slow action more often enough will send you to sleep, and you can do other things at the same time while you are watching it.
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Highlander (1986)
9/10
Eventual problems of immortality
17 May 2018
Although a feast for the eyes with its flamboyant cinematographic technique and high level of innovation and imagination, it's a bit too dazzling to be convincing. The plot in itself is totally absurd: a highlander suffers from immortality, which makes him afraid of living (and loving), while there are other immortals as well who seem to be fighting about being the last immortal alive, since all these immortals are not immortal at all if their heads are cut off, and they all actually (except one) ultimately get their heads cut off, while the one remaining seems to be settling for quite a normal life after all. This is all ridiculous of course, but the cinematographic dashing eloquence blinds you to the lack of any reason in the film.

The best scenes are those with Sean Connery, when he trains Christopher Lambert to fight properly. Only here there is great inspiration and even some humour. The worst scenes are all those with the dreadful Kurgan villain, and if you have seen him as a monster in other films you know what to expect. It's advisable to turn the volume down every time he appears, since the noisy rock music makes it even worse.

The most impressing fighting scene (among far too many and lengthy ones) is the very first one in the garage. You haven't got used to the exaggerated pyrotechnical effects yet, they will eventually repeat themselves, but in the first beheading scene it's all new to you and must appear awesome indeed.

Apart from the yelling noisy rock music, the rest of the music is good, and there are even some poetical highlights as well. All the scenes from Scotland are highly enjoyable, and fortunately it's these that will remain in your mind after the show, while you hopefully will forget all the New York rumbling atrocities in darkness.
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Mr. Ace (1946)
6/10
Sylvia Sidney trying her luck with gangsters for politics, saved by a professor
16 May 2018
For all its professionalism and excellent music, this is not a very significant film. I actually fell asleep several times during the long gaps of any intrigue leading forward. It becomes interesting not until towards the end, but there is one very interesting character, who actually sustains the whole film: Roman Bohnen as the professor. He raises your interest the moment he first appears, and you look forward to his return throughout the film, which fortunately frequently is repeated. He is the only clever one, while the others are not very convincing. George Raft is always himself as a gangster, and it's impossible to ever like him - his name is enough to deter you from any film he is in. But Sylvia Sidney is even worse - she is probably the least possible convincing actress for a politician.

The twists towards the end save the intrigue and the script, which isn't bad, but the one thing lacking is credibility. They say that all is fair in politicis, but the end proves this wasn't politics at all but merely the old worn-out story of bitter opponents ending up as lovers.
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10/10
Vikings and Englishmen and Scotsmen all battling together on land and at sea
14 May 2018
Everything is wrong in this film, but it's a masterpiece. Vestal virgins are mixed up with Vikings, the year is 768, and the Vkings are invading some Arthurian part of Cornwall, it seems, that is very Christian indeed, with bishops and clergy all dressed up like in a Shakespeare play, they use long bows and crossbows long before they were invented, and the Vikings even practice human sacrifices and weddings by bleeding a white bull - this is all anachronisms with myths and rituals and ceremonies all mixed up with bits and pieces from the Trojan war to Robin Hood, but it's the cinematography that counts. This is marvellous all the way, the film being a feast for the eyes from beginning to end, and even the story is quite good. There is nothing wrong with the actors either, they are all common standard picturesque prototypes, and the whole set-up and scenery compositions, the swashbuckling dialogue and the colourful clichés are all so flamboyant, so the acting does not have to be very qualified. Cameron Mitchell, usually villains or cowboys, is always an ace in B-pictures, and here he is allowed to play out his whole register including an infinitely prolonged Bogartian farewell scene. The girls are all overwhelmingly blonde and beautiful, and the queen could have been something for Sophia Loren.

Mario Bava is the man both behind the camera and the direction, and it's a splendid combination. Every shot is esthetically delightful to the eye, there are some gprgeous and gory battle scenes, and the finale is equal to the best of Tyrone Power and Errol Flynn. In brief, this is a grossly underrated masterpiece in its very kitschy way, and it could be the best Viking film ever made. It is certainly superior to the Kirk Douglas one.
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