It really should have had Errol Flynn as Sir Kenneth.
He must have been unavailable for any one of a variety of reasons,and Harvey the closest substitute available.
LH was capable of some things,and doing them quite well(although, for the life of me, I can't place my finger on a single one of them right at this particular moment.)
But, warm, dashing, romantic, swashbuckling,he really was not.And why didn't they find Richard Todd, or Richard Greene, or any one of a number of up and coming young actors in the "bull pen" to perform the role of Sir Kenneth.
Someone asked as to how a fine actor like John Rhys--Davies got mixed up with this.Well,how did Basil Rathbone get into "The Magic Sword?"How did Ben Kingsley end up in "BloodRayne?"(His foray in "Oliver Twist"is a real mess,too.)How did Sidney Poitier get into "The Long Ships?"
We all have some messes in our careers,and this was one for him.Either he owed somebody a favor;he had some obligations for a particular director and/or producer;he needed the cash-we all have that happening once in a while-;or he had a blank spot in his calendar,and wanted to keep his hand in.As the man said"You can't win them all."
Also interesting to see the role played by Svee Scooler.I'm so used to seeing him portray venerable characters in his later films,that I forgot that he,too,was once young.
In particular, found the dubbing of Feodor Godunov's voice with a female(mezzo-soprano)discordant and jarring.This is obviously a male who IS pubescent and male,and has a high pitched woman's voice issuing from his lips.
The role is written for a mezzo-soprano,and traditionally is sung by a female(one of the operatic "trouser roles."This was from a period when the very young males were performed by females-many pages in Verdi and Meyerbeer for example.Also Cherubino,from "Marriage of Figaro."
It appears,that only from the late 60s and early 70s that very young male singers,whose voices were unchanged,started assuming these sorts of roles.For example at the Met,it was only with the current production(debuted 12/16/74) that a boy did the part.
They should either have had a very young boy play the part,or used a counter tenor sing the role.
nonetheless,any production intended for the uninitiated really ought to follow the script closely and downplay the grosser aspects.Traymor's over the top production is a stylistic mishmash.Anyone unfamiliar with the story will find it impossible to follow along.Consequently,the novice should study this version prior to witnessing the 1999 mess
Apparently intended as a stylized Elizabethan stage production of a Roman play and props,THIS is the version for the beginner.While Peacock and Atkins lack the stellar stature of Hopkins and Lange,their performances show restraint and are more believable as the text allows.(The latter,while fun,as campy,self-indulgent,and hammy.)Hardwicke and Protheroe are far superior to their counterparts in the film.
I prefer Quarshie to Lennix for the following reasons:Aaron,in the film,is a grinning,one-dimensional pantomime devil or medieval vice.He's far too obviously a villain,and wouldn't be able to deceive anybody with the intelligence of a grapefruit.He's lacking virility,and not at all attractive.Quarshie,on the other hand,is much better-looking,manly,charming,and convincing a speaker and manipulator.Ask anybody who's ever dealt with a psychopath,and they'll tell you that the way these characters achieve their power is to be able to win and inspire confidence initially,before they develop their evils ploys.
A film can really open up what was originally a story designed for the stage-changes in location,scenes can incorporate greater vistas,and the action can be larger or more intimate,as the director decides.And,of course,with dubbing,we can have fine actors without operatic voices carrying off the show.Bravo,to each and every one of them!
There were some things going on with regard to the synopsis of the story,and the dialog,as seen in the titles,that might be somewhat puzzling.The Old Believers,a fundamentalist sect of the Russian Orthodox Church, are reduced to a group of migrants wandering around doing good deeds.Not quite what the composer and librettist intended.
The director,for the most part,remains faithful to the libretto,but there were some changes I found puzzling.The sinister Boyar Shaklovity's aria is given to an anonymous,although dramatically noticeable peasant.This reduces the Boyar to merely a schemer and malign personage.While certainly nobody's idea of a protagonist,and a sneak,spy,and underhanded intriguer,his aria also reveals him as one who loves Russia in his own way.As an agent of Tsar Peter the great,his role is to discover,stymie,block and eventually destroy those reactionary elements who seek to keep Russia in feudalism.And the aria shows him to be more complex than a mere villain and assassin.So,giving it to someone else changes the focus of this character.
However,in this production,they DO get the assassination right.Shaklovity appears at Prince Ivan's house,accompanied by 2 retainers who wait in the vestibule.The wily Boyar flatters and dupes the brutish Khovansky into attending the Council meeting.The Prince dons his ceremonial robes and paraphernalia,and strides to the door.Shaklovity then signals to his waiting henchmen,who then fall upon the Prince with their daggers,killing him.Well done!
Some of the cuts DO,however,bother me.They cut out the peasants's chorus in this showing.And Kirov DID handle the immolation of the Old Believers at the end ever so much better.
What really irks me is the way they(and Kirov as well) muff the assassination of Prince Ivan.The stage directions specifically state that the evil Boyar Shaklovity,after flattering and duping the boorish Prince Ivan into preparing to leave for the Council meeting,draws his dagger,and plunges it into Ivan's back.The current Metropolitan Opera production does it even better.As Ivan strides to the door,Shaklovity signals one of Ivan's OWN servants,who draws a pistol and shoots him.This gives a picture of not only a lurid conspiracy,but also of a police state,with spies everywhere.They're even in our own household.
So what happens here?Ivan strides to the door,and some anonymous gremlin(not literally)pops out of nowhere,and stabs him.GIVE ME A BREAK!
The guy is a popular,(albeit boorish and also feared military) leader,living in his own house,with servants and undoubtedly soldiers all around him.How would this goblin manage to get past the sentries are just the right moment?Not at all well done!
The self induced immolation of the Old Believers" had the end is a total puzzle.If one wasn't aware of the plot,one would get the impression that this were a group of idiots climbing a post in a playground.Same way with the peasants prayer in the first act.A soulful hymn for future peace in Russia looks more like a group of Neanderthals trudging in the mist.And Doseifi,leader of the Old Believers,is clean shaved.Who ever heard of a Russian religious leader,let alone one of a fundamentalist sect of Orthodoxy,without a beard?
Finally,the assassination of Prince Ivan Khovansky is totally mishandled.The stage instructions call for the evil Boyar Shaklovity to stab or shoot Ivan as he heads for the door.Even better,the current Met production has Shaklovity give a swift signal to one of the servants,who then shoots Ivan.This really enhances the lurid implications of conspiracy,and a police state that has spies in every household.Instead,in this production,a gremlin pops out from under the dining room table-how would he have gotten in there in the first place,past the guards?-and stabs Ivan.Not well handled!
This particular production,listed as a cult classic(although I don't know by who) does appear to have it's own virtues.Done on an apparently limited budget, the players seem to be a number of fairly talented and industrious amateurs.They know their lines and cues,delivering them with respect and an appreciation for the verse.The use of the "blue screen",for background changes and scene changes is reasonably well done.The costumes are appropriate,and remind me of the work of a college and/or community theater approach.(I could have done without all of the exposed flesh from folks NOT in the best of physical shape and the hairy chests.)In addition,the view of the "son pie"at the end,with the eye showing up in the sauce,was rather silly.
The text has been rather extensively,yet tastefully cut(pun definitely intended here).Still,I think that this is a better adaptation,all around,than Traymor's.
The plot,interestingly enough,does manage to transcend the usual tripe seen so often in films of this type.Granted,everybody in here fits into what is a 2 dimensional stereotype,at best.But,maybe the way to look at this is terms not of a drama,but,rather of a fairy tale.We've got:dashing heroes;beautiful heroines;jovial fathers;sinister villains;wise benign monarchs;somber antagonists;troubled princesses sacrificing happiness for duty;and loyal henchmen.All the ingredients for a story with all of the archetypes.And,looking at the costumes,props,and settings,there IS an attempt to provide some historical and ethnographic verisimilitude.
Further,we have 3 or 4 scenes where Steve strips down to the waist,and show off his Mr. Universe physique.Isn't he just delectable?
Finley Currie played many roles in historical/costume dramas,and played a variety of characters similar to the patriarch Jacob in this.Wise,patient,compassionate,and benign,his portrayal isn't much different than those we've seen in at least a dozen others.But,he does it well,and carries it off with honors.
Robert Morley has also appeared in numerous historical dramas,such as "Cromwell,""Beau Brummell,"and "Roderick Some Thing or Other,"starring Robert Taylor.And,such are his talents,that he also managed to carry them off.But,in this one,he doesn't quite make it.He pouts,he tosses of witty epigrams,he makes clever remarks,he rolls his eyes,and other delights from his bag of tricks.But it's the sort of things that he's done in dozens of films from the 50s and 60s.He 's just doing Robert Morley,Elephantine Urbanity Inc.,such as we used to see in his ads for the British Airlines.There's no feeling of a character from antiquity.And,consequently,he sticks out like a sore thumb.
My guess is that this was one of that great number of Western films that had written and produced for dozens of youngsters and adolescents to view on Saturday afternoons at the local movie theater.And,if this does happen to be the case,that it served it's purpose admirably.I don't think that anyone,including the producers,director,staff,or members of the cast would ever consider this to be great art.The plot is hurried,jumpy,and focuses on action rather than character and plot development.But,still,everybody does a splendid job with what they've got to do,and from a technical perspective,it equals anything that one of the classics from MGM could have done.Camera work,sound,make-up,props,etc.really can't be beat.So,watch this film in the spirit in which it was intended,and enjoy.
Having worked for 8 years as a prison psychologist in Ohio,it's been my observation that there are no guilty persons incarcerated.Instead,it seems as though the legal profession must be among the most corrupt and incompetent in existence.All of these innocent persons being advised by their counsel to plead guilty.My own observations is,that if they're not guilty of the offense for which they're being currently incarcerated,they ought to think about all the evil things that they've done and for which they've escaped punishment.It all comes out even in the wash,so to speak.
So it goes with Cagliostro.While perhaps not legally culpable,he was certainly involved in this morally.And he DID escape punishment from the French.yet,he eventually got his.He moved to Rome.and opened a Masonic Lodge.Now,in Europe,the Masons aren't a men's service organization;They happen to be viewed as heresy.So,Cagliostro was arrested,brought before the Inquisition,and received the capital sentence.The Pope commuted the sentence to life imprisonment,and he spent the rest of his life in prison.
MORAL:WE really don't need anyone else to foul up our lives,now,do we?We usually do a great job on our own.
I happen to have been a real male chauvinist,who's been working on this particular part of my life.It's taken years in psychotherapy,both individual and group,to try to eliminate,remove,and/or minimize,that aspect of my personality.It's not something that I'm at all proud of,yet,in total honesty,it IS a part of me.
Male chauvinists,like compulsive womanizers,really don't like women.each and every one has to examine his own reasons as to why.But,again,they really don't like,and,in many cases,actively dislike women.
I always became very uncomfortable watching this program,and,couldn't't,for the life of me,figure out why.But,now,I do.It reminded me of myself,if not in behavior,then,in attitude.
This production of Offenbach's work is set in a lunatic asylum.The inmates are demonstrating their pathology,and are attempting to work through their problems,by performing in a production of the opera.Not at all an invalid task.But,it can be quite confusing,especially to the novice who is unfamiliar with the original opus.
The performances,especially vocally,are quite good.But the innovative,and sometimes bizarre aspects of the staging,can be puzzling.It's best for someone who knows little about this particular piece to gain familiarity with a more representational performance(I.e.,The Covent Garden one)before attempting to tackle this one.
The play looks at cultural clash between 2 totalitarian cultures;The Europeans,who place an emphasis on choice and free will;and the Incas,who live in a rigid,regimented society where everyone does as he is told,and are consequently taken care of.It's the ultimate in welfare states.
Pizarro,in real life,was a brutal,bloodthirsty,cruel cutthroat,with the sensitivity of a mack truck.While lacking in true intelligence,he was nonetheless crafty and calculating,and an able conqueror,and later Spanish Viceroy of Peru.And in this story,we have this hard bitten adventurer going through an existential,"mid-life" crisis,searching for spiritual values,and a meaning for a more virtuous life.OK,so we've got an interpretation,and not a true historical drama.We can live with that.
The real Atualpha was probably a naive dupe,trusting to the honor of the Spaniards,and paying,in the end,with his life.But Plummer gives the most off-the -wall performance of his career.While lunatics have had an accepted role in primitive cultures,it's usually in some sort of shaman role,not as the ruler.
The real magic,alluded to earlier in this review,is in taking the story,as it develops,and giving a highly stylized rendition of the narrated event.The scaling of the Andes Mountains;the massacre and capture of the Inca;the retaliation and surrounding by the Indians;and the trial and strangulation of the Inca;are all seen as a symbolic representation on the stage.By showing it literally,as they do in this film,would require an epic budget.And,consequently,it just doesn't come across.We need a huge production,and this isn't it.
Pizarro is a man,disillusioned with his own culture,and looking for redemption and a salvation,of sorts.He hopes to find it in the Inca society,something to give meaning to his own lonely,empty existence.He hopes,against hope,that Atualpha will resurrect from his execution,and validates Pizarro's hopes.And the failure of this revival leaves the old freebooter shattered.There should have been a greater emphasis on THIS,and not on a cut-rate epic.
Heaven only knows that Kurram Khan's troops are a gang of bestial savages,lusting for rape,destruction,and pillage.This gang of bloodthirsty cutthroats looks upon the staking-out and spearing of the British soldiers as being more fun than going to a ballgame.They lack any semblance of mercy,compassion,and decent human feeling.Don't think that they happen to be any incipient Indian national movement,gang of patriots,or forerunners of Gandhi;pigs are pigs!
Islam is a noble faith,and among the pillar are :faith,mercy,compasssion,charity,tolerance for the downtrodden,and brotherhood.And this gang of looters don't hold up at all for what the wise elders have taught.
The writers have wisely managed to have avoided some of the racist messages.Captain Alan King leads the attack,thank goodness,not with a troop of Anglo/Welsh,Scottish/Irish dragoons,but with a platoon of native soldiers.And this IS the wisdom of the script.Had there been an gang of Anglo soldiers,this would have given them another racist subtext.
Captain King leads the Khyber Rifles.A valiant squadron of Muslim warriors,dedicated to serving the Raj.Virile,loyal,valorous,doughty,and hearty,they follow their commander,toss down what they perceive to be the tainted bullets,and charge into battle.These manly warriors perform their duty.They decimate their misguided co religionists,and follow the law.
Theological Note:Ali Nur states that they soldiers cannot use the tainted cartridges,as they have been contaminated by lard.If a Muslim should bite them,he will be condemned to perdition.This is NOT the case.A Muslim theologian in Cleveland Ohio,has informed me,that it isn't akin to Catholics eating meat on Friday.The Muslims don't go to hell for eating pork;it's just something that they aren't supposed to do.
It really isn't everybody's dish,but,given the proper level of talent,still can be quite enjoyable.But it does require a considerable amount of work on everyone's part.And,here,to plagiarize Hamlet,is the rub.
Some of these films are quite good."The Beastmaster",starring Marc Singer,comes to mind.Humor,insight,wit,and effort showed up in that film.And "Deathstalker,"starring Rick Hill,was at the other end of the spectrum.Just a mess.I always thought they made that one as a parody of the genre.
Now,this one appears to have been written at the most elementary level.It's like they were going to do S&S for the after school,elementary kids.The plot does lag,the action could be faster,and yes,the wizard does sound like a parody of the blind monk in "Kung-Fu." But the technical aspects of the film are all well done,the direction is adequate,and the performers are all doing a valiant job with not very much.
O'Hearn,in particular,does a splendid job with a cliché.True,he poses,shows off his impressive physique,and turns in a standard muscle hero character.But he didn't have much to work with,his fight sequences are good,and he delivers his lines with talent and polish.
We all have to start somewhere,and gain some experience.So.next time,given this initial showing,we can hope for better.
Now,I know that the entire concept is rather hard to swallow,but,by leaving it out,we've been deprived of the story of one of the great lunatics of horror.And the cannibalism is barely hinted at.
I guess they didn't have the stomach after all,no?
For the most part,the cast is very competent.Indeed,Peter Cushing does better as the doctor than ANYONE else that I've seen.Carton,Darnay,Lucy,and the supporting parts are all quite capable.And Kenneth More does a fine job as Mr. Lorry.(Has anyone ever commented on the fact that he's starting to sound and look like Basil Sydney?)Robson is a worthy successor to Oliver.
I had trouble recognizing Suchet as Barsad.The actor playing Defarge come across as depressed and somber,and this isn't quite right.Defrage is a hulking,wounded,inarticulate animal,caught between love and loyalty to his former master,and devotion to his cause.And Madame Defarge is a fat,flabby,clumsy,nasty snake,lacking the fire of Blanche Yurka.Her scenes at the fight and fall of the Bastille were totally unconvincing.And why did they trim down the role of Jerry Cruncher?That sly, funny rogue is perfect for the talents of that splendid character actor George Innes.
Still,it's a worthy effort,and a nice way to see a new slant on the story.
The problem is that they didn't have anything good to work with.Now,Mitchell's book was highly biased,as she presented a highly unrealistic version of the antebellum South,complete with childlike and docile blacks who required adequate parenting from the whites.But,otherwise,it was highly and completely researched.And the characters in "Wind,"were all presented as individuals of strength,courage,and integrity.(OK,so Scarlett lacked integrity;but she WAS true to herself.)
But this piece of tripe lacks adequate research,an important historical backdrop,and the main characters have the integrity of the House of Atreus.What a generally despicable outfit!And the villains(Lewt,Sid,etc.)lack the manly qualities that give a villain grandeur.The folks who aren't detestable are so pathetic and inadequate as to be unbelievable-at least,for the purposes of this film.I get the impression that Selznick made this turkey just to show off his fiancé's good looks,and figure.Wanted people to know as to what he was going to be enjoying.
Gable's screen persona was that of a "man's man."Hearty,frank,forthright,generous,and good natured.You'd find yourself enjoying his company,if only for an evening.(Let's not get into the fact that his camping trips were manufactured for screen publicity,or the rumors of his having been a hustler at the bus depot.We've all done things that we've been ashamed of.)But Gable was a broad actor;truly subtle work was beyond him.And nobility and sensitivity weren't with his range,either.He did what he could do very well.But not with this.
I keep thinking that Ronald Colman,Walter Pigeon,and Errol Flynn all would have been better choices.
We can be very critical of this movie for a lack of originality in terms of content.OK,a brash,bold young upstart challenges the old champion,and is roundly trounced.Nothing at all new here.But,maybe we can examine it in terms of process-not what they're saying,but,rather,how they say it.
We've got a first-rate cast assembled,playing as a team.Some players are doing more than others,but,as the line goes"No small parts,just small actors."We see how they of and with others.And the technical aspects are first rate.And,by putting it back in a late Depression setting,we view it through an almost mystical lens.Give credit for a fun movie.I don't think that anybody involved would have considered it great art,including the players
Now,I first saw this film in the Summer of 1961.(How the time does fly when you're having fun.)And,being 9 years old at that time,I thought it was great.(Remember,I was a kid.)
Not only did they use the shots from "Quo Vadis",but also concepts from "The Time Machine,""The Island of Dr. Moreau",and "The island of Lost Souls."And,so many of the costumes,props,and that Minotaur idol from "The Prodigal."No new ideas,just new combinations.
Somebody earlier commented that Paul Frees supplied the voice for Edgar Stehli as the sick,tired,old king.I wonder why.Edgar;s voice was just superb for a lonely,senile man.Did he require a resonant basso profundo?