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The most brilliant political satire you've never seen.
Hail is a scathing political satire about a presidential administration gone mad with power and paranoia. A Nixon-type president becomes involved in political assassinations and establishing detention camps for "subversives" for the good of the nation. Richard Shull is brilliant as the Secretary of HEW and the president's most confidential advisor. Many other familiar faces appear here: Dick O'Neill (Barney Miller), Phil Foster (Laverne & Shirley), and Gary Sandy (WKRP in Cincinnati). I've watched this film again as the US is preparing for war in Iraq (3/03). Amazing connections to real life appear in this film. For instance: blaming the "liberal media" for dissent and detaining "undesireables" without due process. Leaning close to heavy handed at times, Hail nonetheless makes its point in a hilarious and chilling way. Hunt this one down.
The Fixer (1968)
Terrific underrated drama from John Frankenheimer
When is John Frankenheimer going to get the recognition he deserves as a true original film artist? A number of his films are either barely released or completely unreleased (99 and 44/100% Dead, The Challenge, The Fourth War).
Many of Frankenheimer's films dealt with the fight for social justice and human compassion and The Fixer definitely falls into this category. Alan Bates is terrific as a Russian Jew who "passes" for Gentile and decides to work for an anti-Semite for money. He's later accused by the authorities of a child murder he did not commit and must endure endless torture by the Czarist Russians to keep from confessing. Frankenheimer's experience, directing many plays for Golden Age of Television shows like Playhouse 90, demonstrates perfectly that he can master effective facial close-ups and enhance the great dialogue. So few American films can be brave enough to actually talk about ideas without having to always resort to action to appease those out there with short attention spans. Well, Frankenheimer can deliver the action goods (note Ronin and The Train), but give him credit for embracing the influence of great foreign films' sense of introspection. The claustrophobic atmosphere of the prison is so immense that the final scene is one of the most exhilarating I've felt in quite a while. Credit Trumbo also with creating a hero who is not totally perfect by any means. Yakov Bok had not only betrayed his heritage by working for anti-Semites, but also, as we learn later, is out of touch with relating to his family. Dirk Bogarde is also quite good as Bok's defense counsel as is a young Ian Holm as a sadistic Russian official.