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I long to see this again!
I remember watching this on TV when it was first broadcast,and it was spellbinding. The plot twisted and turned, at times it was impossible to make out what was happening. Then, at the end, it all became blindingly clear. The ending was brilliant as well, making it one of the best mystery programmes I've ever seen. I just wish that I could somehow have the chance to see it again!
A great film that stays in the memory
I'd read some bad reviews of this film, and didn't expect to enjoy it. For me Tosca is such a great opera that I couldn't imagine how technical trickery could do anything but spoil it. However, director Jacquot has actually enhanced it at times, although the grainy pictures of outside locations didn't work for me.
The film begins with black and white film of the singers recording the sound track, and occasionally this device is used during the opera itself, but I found it interesting and it didn't break the spell of the story in any way. In fact, when Ruggero Raimondi stood up to record his entrance he looked just as frightening as he did when acting!
Allowing the singers to either talk or stand silently thinking while their arias or recitatives were played was a great idea. For me it worked best when Raimondi's Baron Scarpia was watching Angela Gheorghin's Tosca as he tried to poison her mind with jealousy so that she would lead him to her lover Mario Cavaradossi. This could be because out of the three leads, it's Raimondi who has the best screen presence. He not only looks right, he can act as well, and although Angela Gheorghin looked beautiful, I was disappointed in her acting skills. For me her Tosca lacked passion and she seemed more interested in looking lovely than reacting appropriately.
Her scenes with Scarpia were her best scenes, mainly because Roberto Alagna failed to generate any hint of passion or sexuality, which was a huge disappointment. Even his singing sounded as though he was in an echo chamber, which made me suspect that he was underpowered. Maybe it was a technical fault, but it was irritating.
It was an involving film, and the sumptious costumes and sheer brilliance of Raimondi's singing and acting meant that it had moments of genius. Overall it was a great film for me, and one that I can't wait to see again. The golden couple of Gheorghin and Alagna didn't quite live up to their reputations, but Ruggero Raimondi certainly made up for it. Even if you're not an opera lover, it's worth watching this film for his performance alone, and if you are an opera lover then see it as soon as you can for the whole production.
Foyle's War: The German Woman (2002)
Superbly acted, a delight to watch.
This is an excellent period crime drama in the style of Agatha Christie but with more bite. Michael Kitchen is superb as D.S.Christopher Foyle, and the supporting cast are all strong, including a surprisingly quiet but highly effective performance by Robert Hardy. The first in a series of four, this murder story with its background of tensions and suspicions in a small village shortly after the outbreak of the first World War has a satisfying array of characters, a good plot, and allows you a small glimpse of Foyle the man as well as Foyle the detective. Michael Kitchen is an actor who doesn't need words to tell you what he's thinking, and I hope that his performance, and the series itself, gets the recognition it undoubtedly deserves. It's a delight to watch.
Well worth seeing if you get the chance
This is a neat little story, beautifully acted by Susannah York and John Castle as the middle-aged couple who meet and fall in love. Unfortunately, the past returns to haunt them both and the ending comes as quite a shock. If it's shown again on TV, try and catch it.
Gunblast Vodka (2000)
The most tasteless film I've ever seen
It's difficult to imagine the kind of person who could dream up a concept where the making of snuff movies provides grounds for truly pathetic, slapstick comedy, but that person exists, as this film proves. There is a very unpleasant feeling to the scenes where the snuff movies are shown being filmed, and the camera lingers on the 'victims' deaths far too long. Then, just as you start to feel uneasy, Gotz Otto and Mariusz Pujszo are given a knockabout comedy routine as two of the most inept and badly acted cops ever to grace the screen. Some extraordinary editing means that you constantly flash back and forth between humour and extreme violence towards women, an uneasy mix to say the least of it. Jurgen Prochnow, who should know better, plays the king of the snuff movie empire but we never really get to know his motivation or character. Perhaps we should be grateful for that, although I would have liked to know why he constantly quotes the bible and burbles about his name being legion. I don't think he was meant to be the devil, just a nasty Russian who's having a bad hair day. A poorly produced, badly acted and totally tasteless film.
One of the worst movies I've ever sat through.
This is a terrible movie, absolutely dire. I can't think of a single good thing to say about it, except that watching Jurgen Prochnow prowling and slithering around, dressed all in black, whispering half his lines and over-emphasising the other half gave me the best laugh I've had for a long time. What a waste of a good actor. The rest of the cast are terrible too, but perhaps that's their normal standard of acting, I don't know as I've never seen any of them before, and I hope I don't see them again. The entire film is badly written, badly acted and very badly directed. At the end I still didn't know for sure who the killer was. At first I thought this was because my brain had atrophied during the course of watching the movie, but when I listened to the Director's commentary on the DVD I discovered that he'd 'deliberately left the film open-ended so that we could all make up our own minds'. Now there's a novelty. If you can't make up your mind how to end a film, leave it to the viewers! I wouldn't recommend this film to my worst enemy.
Die Wildnis (1993)
A fascinating and unusual movie
Jurgen Prochnow plays Brenner, a Swiss policeman, in this intriguing and surrealistic movie that grips from the very start. Despatched to a mountain village to investigate both a murder and the disappearance of two of his colleagues who were originally sent to investigate the crime, Brenner soon finds himself caught up in the affairs of villagers who seem to live in a bygone age and who don't welcome outsiders. A tunnel is the only link between the village and the modern world, and as the death toll mounts and Brenner tries to return to his headquarters for help, he finds that the tunnel gates remain resolutely shut, forcing him to return to the village once more. The ending of the film is excellent, leaving the viewer with a lot to think about, but personally I liked this and didn't feel at all cheated. Highly original, with a superb cast and wonderfully atmospheric, it's a great pity that this German language film hasn't been released with subtitles as I think that if it were, it would quickly gain a cult following.
A nostalgic look back at the seventies
This is quite an entertaining film about a German youth (Jurgen Prochnow) who is happy to hang around with his friends and has no great desire to do anything except drink as much as he wants and have lots of sex. Set in the seventies it's an interesting reminder of the fashions and attitudes of that time, and although Prochnow should probably be considered an anti-hero it's difficult not to warm to him. For obvious reasons the film has dated badly, but it's still enjoyable. Difficult to imagine though that ten years later Prochnow would be starring in DAS BOOT.
The Fall (1999)
A film that grips from start to finish
This film was way above average, and is - in my opinion - greatly underestimated. The opening sequence is exciting and gripping, and the story moves at a fast pace as the plot twists and turns towards an intriguing finish. Most of the performances were very good. Helene de Fourgerolles is new to me, but she was excellent, and it was impossible to tell whether she or the ever-reliable Jurgen Prochnow were telling the truth. My only quibble was that Craig Sheffer never convinced, neither his fear of nor his his fascination for the lovely Marta came across properly, and this was a pity. Try and see it, the rest of the cast more than make up for him.
On Dangerous Ground (1996)
A convoluted and ultimately pointless plot
Rob Lowe sleepwalks through this convoluted plot, with barely a glimmer of an expression ever crossing his face. I think he was meant to be an ex-IRA man who now worked for the highest bidder, but if so he'd lost his accent along the way. Most of the cast were equally underwhelmed by their parts, but with the main Italian villain being called, in all seriousness,'Don Giovanni', this is hardly surprising. He had a German nephew - Jurgen Prochnow, who did show plenty of expression but mostly of the 'how did I get into this film?' kind - and Prochnow had a German stepdaughter from his dead wife, which made the Italian mafia link a little tenuous. The plot was merely an excuse for lots of different locations, and ultimately a pointless exercise. However, along the way the English were shown to be pinstripe suited men who hid swords in their walking sticks, the Irish all drank a lot and danced to the sound of fiddles in sawdust floored pubs and the Scots were barking mad, rolling their eyes and saying 'och aye the noo' at every possible opportunity. The Chinese were in it too, all speaking Oxford-educated style English. It's very long, which is lucky for Prochnow as it gave his hair time to turn from grey to blond. This was the most interesting thing in the movie, but it rates high for amusement, albeit of the wrong kind.
Die Verrohung des Franz Blum (1974)
A deeply ironic film about what one man learns from his time in prison
Roughly translated the English title for this is The Brutalization of Franz Blum and that's exactly what the story is about. Franz Blum (Jurgen Prochnow) goes to prison for his part in a bank robbery. He previously worked in a bank, came from a good family and has never been in trouble before. An intelligent, caring man he quickly comes to realise that he has to survive in a world he can scarcely comprehend, where brute force and ignorance are more important than anything else. Slowly Franz Blum learns how to fight back from the insults and beatings that his fellow inmates inflict on him, until he starts to become one of the most influential of the prisoners with his own 'gang'. His survival comes at a price, as he discards his moral principles and begins to manipulate the inmates as much, if not more, than the wardens and the previous gang leaders. The ending is deeply ironic and rings horribly true. Although well acted by everyone, it is Prochnow who makes this movie so outstanding and is one of his best performances apart from Das Boot and Die Konsequenz.
A seriously bad movie that was almost unwatchable
I'm not a great fan of post-Apocalypse movies, but this was a seriously bad film in every way. The big bang didn't seem to have destroyed all the vegetation, because between barren stretches of rocky landscape in the 'northern tundra' there were some nice green lush areas where the good guys - and the good gal - could wander in their Dr Who reject costumes. Fanny Bastian as Doaiva spent most of the film in old bits of animal fur and rags, but when she was getting together with the hero, Jake, played with an astounding lack of range by Jolyon Baker, a pretty dress materialised from thin air and she pranced around in that for one brief scene. Jurgen Prochnow played Duke, a somewhat elderly leader of a much-feared - or so we were told - biker gang. All they did was ride around doing a kind of 'scare the old ladies and show how tough we are' impersonation but still, they were apparently the scourge of the surviving world. The music was loud and intrusive. Duke wore an eagle's head on top of a kind of improvised Viking helmet and an old lady kept telling Duke he was going to end up dead, which wasn't exactly difficult to foresee from the first minute he appeared. The 'twist' at the end was obvious from the start, and if I'd filmed it in my back garden using neighbours for actors, I'd still have thought I'd made a bad job of it. Very disappointing.
The Big Kahuna (1999)
An absolute gem of a movie
I always enjoy Kevin Spacey's performances, which is why I watched this video, but the film turned out to be far, far better than I'd expected. The way the video was packaged made it look as though this was a film about a sales convention, but it wasn't. It was a film about people, and how deceptive first appearances can be. Based on the play 'Hospitality Suite' this was wisely still performed as though it was a play, with very little in the way of shots outside the hotel suite where the three main players are staying for the duration of the convention. If you give Kevin Spacey good dialogue then he can always be relied upon to deliver, and this he does, in spades. However, Danny de Vito was an absolute revelation as the tired, vulnerable divorced salesman who reveals a depth of understanding of other people's vulnerability and failings that's at odds with his perceived persona. The friendship between him and Spacey, and the way de Vito's character grows as Spacey's shrinks, is wonderful to watch. The third character, the God-loving, upright and morally superior young man, serves as a catalyst for the character development in the film, but he too changes - or changes in the eyes of the viewers - as the film moves towards its end. As is so often the case in real life, there is no real conclusion, but the intensity of the dialogue and the brilliance of de Vito and Spacey make this one of the most rewarding, and under-valued films I've ever seen. Highly recommended.
Heaven's Fire (1999)
So bad it's almost an inadvertently good send-up of the genre
Although this is set in a skyscraper which is on fire, rather than a ship that's sinking beneath the water, lots of the stock characters seemed to have been filched from The Poseidon Adventure. Prochnow's villain has the strongest character definition, or seems to have, perhaps because he's acting better than the rest of the cast. Eric Roberts 'tries hard' as they might say in a school report, but it's a pretty thankless role, and his son and girlfriend are dreadful. The flames and a crashing plane scene are so bad they're hilarious. At one stage I expected Leslie Nielsen to appear saying 'And stop calling me Shirley'. There is a slight twist to the story, but not enough to redeem it. Really the best way to enjoy it is as a spoof, but as that's not what the director intended then it has to be written off as a pretty bad film. Good for Prochnow fans, okay for Eric Roberts fans, waste of time for anyone else. Incidentally, Prochnow's girlfriend was way too young for him; nice for him, but annoying to watch. Why not give men girlfriends within fifteen years of their age for a change?
What Lies Beneath (2000)
A great disappointment
I love this kind of movie, The Sixth Sense is one of my all-time favourite films, and for the first hour I thought that I was in for a treat. Then, just as it should have started to take off, it fell apart. It became corny, predictable, and worse still, boring. A great deal of the first hour's viewing became irrelevant, and every cliche in this genre was trotted out to the accompaniment of loud music and bad acting. Harrison Ford really struggled in this role, it didn't suit him - or perhaps he didn't suit it - and Michelle Pfeiffer seemed as confused by her character as the scriptwriters were. Long before it ended, I was longing for it to be over and amused myself by counting how many times I predicted a 'shock' correctly. Far too often I'm afraid.
A well acted film with good build-up of tension
This is an interesting film about love and jealousy, and how an apparently quiet and normal man can disguise his mounting paranoia from everyone but the object of his suffocating affection, his wife. Because Jurgen Prochnow plays the unbalanced Guenther so well, there were times early on when my sympathy was with him. Even as the story progresses and his terrified wife, Hanna, is physically trapped in her home and all my sympathy was with her, it was still dreadful to watch the anguish on Guenther's face. This is an intelligent man, who deep down knows that everything he's doing is wrong, but can't help himself. Katharina Bohm matches Prochnow in the acting stakes, and there are moments when this seems like a good two-handed play. The final ten minutes are superb.
Killing Cars (1986)
This was a good idea totally wasted
I was tremendously disappointed by this film. The idea of a perfect car, that didn't need petrol, being kept under wraps ready to become THE world car, seen in every country but then being hijacked by people with a vested interest in seeing it disappear should have been gripping. It wasn't. The entire film was an incoherent, noisy mess and some of the dubbed voices were so flat it was impossible to believe in the characters. Juergen Prochnow, who obviously did his own dubbing, spent most of the movie in a thoroughly surly mood - much how I felt after I'd seen it - and lacked his usual charisma although he rushed around very convincingly. The movie was too long, and by the end I really didn't care what happened to the car, Prochnow or the ideals behind it all. Maybe it lost something in the translation, but for me it completely missed the mark. Don't bother unless you're desperate to see Prochnow and/or Senta Berger get their clothes off.
The Man Inside (1990)
Intriguing and intelligent, a rare treat
This true life story of an undercover German reporter, determined to discover the truth about media corruption, is fascinating. You can only admire the man's courage, and although I never quite got to grips with Peter Coyote's character - a very unusual role for this actor - it was a highly compelling story which didn't insult the viewers intelligence by spelling everything out, but allowed them to think for themselves. Juergen Prochnow's disguise was quite good, but it distracted me because he reminded me of some other actor, possibly James Woods, which nagged at me through the whole film. The relationship between Prochnow and his girlfriend was excellent. How anyone lived with a man like that is beyond me. Very interesting, and definitely one for people who like to have something to think about.
The Last Stop (2000)
A nice way to pass the time
This movie is neither very good nor very bad. It's good value for an undemanding evening's viewing from your nearest rental shop, but not the kind of thing you're likely to watch twice. It was a pity that the characters walked around in the snowstorm without adequate clothing, and with only the odd puff on the hands to show they were cold but maybe they breed them tough in that neck of the woods. The idea was a good one; a disparate collection of people trapped in a motel called 'The Last Stop' and slowly realising there is/are a crook(s) among them. As the snow falls heavily so the body count rises, but unfortunately I worked out early on whodunnit and was right, which annoyed me. I enjoyed it, but I think I was feeling lazy that night. With a little more effort, this could have been a much better film than it was, and I'd lay the blame for that right at the director's door. The actors all performed very competently.
Body of Evidence (1993)
A thoroughly enjoyable movie
Because the critics gave this such a panning, I didn't bother to watch it for a long time. Now that I have, I'm surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Amazingly, I thought it was better than Basic Instinct, the film that everyone said it was simply a poor copy of. The storyline is tight and engaging, Madonna much better than usual, the sex scenes good, even if Willem Defoe appears more comfortable in the courtroom scenes, and the ending brilliant. A greatly under rated film.
A well made powerful film with an excellent cast
In general true-crime films look as though they've been made in a hurry and rely on violent domestic scenes and acting histrionics to keep your attention. This one is different. Candice Bergen gives an excellent performance as the Polish woman, Eva, who has come to America with her Polish husband, a nuclear scientist, in search of a better life. Tragically, her husband,Adam,played by Jurgen Prochnow, is mentally unstable and finds it impossible to cope in a country where you're free to make your own decisions. Life was easier for him in Poland, where he simply had to follow the rules. As a result he turns into a complete control freak at home, even deciding at what time his wife should go to bed. He loves his two small children, but they too must obey all his rules. As his personality becomes more paranoid and aggressive, his wife turns to counsellors and the police for help as she tries to start a life for herself and the children without him. Adam cannot understand what's gone wrong, and decides that his wife is evil. Incacerated in a mental institution and divorced by Eva he realises that his only hope is to trick the psychologist in charge of his case, played by Eli Wallach, into believing that he's now penitent and cured. He succeeds, and as a result is free to wreak a terrible revenge on Eva, a revenge which resulted in a change in the law in America regarding the release of mental patients into the community. Despite the fact that there are very few scenes of real violence, Prochnow's Adam is terrifying and his brooding rage and obsessive, controlling personality linger in the mind long after the film is over. The trouble is, you just know that despite changes in the law people like Adam are always going to be very hard to stop.
Final Ascent (2000)
Such a bad action movie it ends up as a very entertaining comedy
This is a seriously bad film. Everyone concerned must have worked very hard to make it this dreadful. It's a long time since I've seen actors perched on the top of a plastic rock in a studio trying frantically to convince us that they're on the top of a high mountain despite the cheap backdrop that tells us otherwise. The plot was horribly familiar, a group of crooks chasing the missing loot from the robbery that went wrong while a saintly father, who needed a good haircut, tried to save his one surviving daughter from the clutches of the desperados. His youngest daughter was killed falling three feet off the plastic rock right at the start of the film, which gave me the first good laugh of the evening. The actors had terrible dialogue, and did their best to match it with their acting efforts. What saved this dire movie was the fact that it was so unintentionally funny. Strong men were falling to their knees with altitude sickness as they strolled up a gentle slope that I could manage, and so could my old dog. Then, suddenly, they'd be scaling a mountain face with snow on the ground, only to emerge into a flat grassy space with no sign of the snow. A massive avalanche was avoided by one of the characters with a small jump to his left, but then it couldn't have been as bad as it looked because it didn't take a single bush or tree with it as it passed. The father and his daughter were meant to be keeping one step ahead of the gang of crooks at one stage, but ended up about two feet away from them, eyeballing the chief villain through a clump of grasses in a lake. Luckily they were able to duck beneath the water just as his beady eyes lighted on them, and despite some awe-inspiring double takes from the daughter's boyfriend, the villain decided he hadn't seen anything after all. I rather wish I hadn't.
The Seventh Sign (1988)
An extraordinarily gripping movie
I've come to this movie late, and have no idea how I missed it on its release as it's the sort of film I like to watch. In fact, it was far better than most movies of this genre, and not only was I gripped by the clever weaving together of the various complex threads of the plot, I was also very moved, particularly by the ending. Demi Moore was better than usual as the pregnant Abby, but it was certainly Jurgen Prochnow's performance as the strange boarder that Abby and her husband take into their home, that turned this into such an extraordinarily gripping and ultimately uplifting movie. Try and catch it.
Des Teufels Paradies (1987)
An interesting but slow-moving movie
Based on a Joseph Conrad novel, this is a somewhat wordy movie, and what action there is seems to have been filmed with as little light as possible which is quite annoying. Jurgen Prochnow plays Escher, a withdrawn, private man who is used to living virtually alone on his own island. During an enforced visit to the mainland he becomes involved with a girl called Julie, played by Suzanna Hamilton, and helps her escape from the prospect of a life of debauchery by taking her back to his island. They are followed there by the mysterious Mr Jones, played by Sam Waterston, and his young henchman who seem to be interested in Julie, although I never was quite sure why. Mr Jones is really a man who likes to spoil things; innocence, relationships, they are all grist to his mill. Suddenly Escher finds that he has something he cares enough about to fight for, and he and Julie fight for their lives and in a way their souls as they desperately try to protect themselves from the invaders. I found this part of the movie interesting, but it would have been better if Sam Waterston had been a little more frightening. He was the one person who didn't seem to have been well cast. There isn't a lot of action until the last fifteen minutes or so, but the concept is intriguing and it held my interest despite its slow pace.
Sista kontraktet (1998)
An excellent film which grips from start to finish
This is an excellent film with high production values and the two leading actors are superb. Don't be put off by the subtitles, a lot of it is in English with Michael Kitchen doing all his own speaking in English, so no captions for these scenes. I knew nothing about this political killing, but was gripped from start to finish. It's also one of those films that benefits from being watched more than once. Mikael Piersbrandt is terrific as the policeman who believes he knows what's going on, but can't make his superiors listen, while Michael Kitchen as the hired British hitman, provides a splendid contrast as he sets about his task in a cool, professional and frighteningly unemotional way. I was hooked right up to the last moment, and had to keep reminding myself that this wasn't necessarily what really happened. However, it's a very believable hypothesis, and gripping entertainment. Don't miss it, a real little gem!