My hope is that Criterion's marvelous new three-DVD edition will change that. Unlike many special editions, there's no superfluous material here: The set includes the original, 187-minute Italian version of The Leopard, the U.S. theatrical release (because Burt Lancaster starred, 20th Century Fox had American rights to the film; not knowing what to do with it, they trimmed 16 minutes, dubbed it into English, and distorted - in the interests of "accessibility" - Giuseppe Rotunno's gorgeous widescreen cinematography), enlightening commentary by film historian Peter Cowie, and video essays that provide important historical context for the action alongside new interviews with surviving cast and crew members.
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The three-hour film concerns the trial of four Nazi-era German judges accused of killing millions as part of the regime. The trial circumstances are tricky: The four accused didn't pull any triggers, nor were they in the upper echelons of power. They were middlemen, just signing off on the whims of Hitler. How guilty are they of murder? And so it is that American Judge Dan Hawood is flown in to lead a tribunal to determine their fate.
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In the '90s, Costner's messianic ambitions - his belief that his aw-shucks Everyman demanded an epic canvas to match his bank account - produced some of the worst films ever made. But his attitude works perfectly in 1989's Field of Dreams (based on the book Shoeless Joe) because the setting is appropriately modest; if we could never buy him as a post-apocalyptic savior, he's just fine as a middle-class hero. Costner plays Ray Kinsella, a rat-race refugee who's moved his wife Anni (Amy Madigan) and daughter Karin (Gaby Hoffmann) to a farmhouse in Iowa. One evening, alone amongst the corn, Ray hears a voice tell him, "If you build it, they will come." A vision of a baseball field is presented before him, and he immediately sets to work re-creating it, believing that it might help him better understand his late father, from whom he was long estranged.
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Have I got a movie for you! The Burt Lancaster-Kirk Douglas rendition of the still-going-strong story of the shootout in Tombstone is possible the tamest and least inspired on record, a workmanlike and low-budget retelling of the story. No insight, no real violence, no soul. This Gunfight doesn't actually occur until 1 hour and 45 minutes into the film -- tragic in its deception and painful in the boredom induced on the way.
Continue reading: Gunfight at the O.K. Corral Review