The film opens as obviously mega-wealthy advertising executive Eddie (Kirk Douglas) wakes up and, silently, prepares for work. He frequently checks in to listen to his latest creation -- an ad for Zephyr cigarettes -- as he motors along to work. But suddenly, he decides to take his hands off the steering wheel. Then he puts them back on... and slams the car under the wheels of a tractor trailer riding alongside him. What the heck!?
Continue reading: The Arrangement Review
With a tagline like "The Greatest Production Since The Birth Of Motion Pictures," you get a little something like the unmanageable monstrosity that Follies ultimately becomes. Structured as a series of unrelated vignettes, directed by different people (not to mention that screenwriting credit list), it's ultimately just a jumble of parts that add up to less than a whole movie.
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Continue reading: The Parallax View Review
A legend of Hollywood, the 1963 production of Cleopatra has so much curiosity surrounding it I hardly know where to start. It was budgeted at $2 million and eventually cost (up to) $44 million to produce -- close to $300 million in today's dollars. Liz Taylor almost died during the filming and was given a tracheotomy to keep her alive. The production was forced to move from Rome to London and back to Rome again. Two of its stars fell in love (Taylor and Burton) on the set, ruining both of their marriages. 20th Century Fox essentially went bankrupt, leading to the ousting of its chief. The first director was fired after burning $7 million with nothing to show for it. The second director (Mankiewicz) was fired during editing, only to be rehired when no one else could finish the picture. Taylor threw up the first time she saw the finished product. Producer Walter Wanger never worked in Hollywood again. And the original six-hour epic was cut to a little over three.
Continue reading: Cleopatra (1963) Review
What money is that? Oh, just $30 million, left to Montgomery Brewster (Richard Pryor) by his sole relative. The catch? The real inheritance is $300 million -- and if Monty wants it, he has to spend the $30 million in 30 days, and at the end of that time he can't have any assets to show for it. Oh, and he can't tell anyone what's going on, either.
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Rope is a complex and dazzlingly unique picture. Subversively based on the Leopold and Loeb murder case, it presents us with two boys (Dall and Granger) who have been taught by their old headmaster (Stewart) in the Nietzchian philosophies of the Superman and the unimportance of the lives of simpler people. Dall masterminds a plot and Granger follows as his half-willing pull-toy; together they strangle a mutual friend, dump his body in a chest, and throw a party for his father -- serving a buffet from his makeshift casket.
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As a polemic, Lifeboat is closer to John Ford's similarly themed and conceived Stagecoach (1939) than to any of the director's own movies. Hitchcock changes the terrain from land to water and replaces Fords' frontier travelers with the similarly disparate survivors of a U-boat attack. We have John (John Hodiak), a working-class American stiff pitted against Rittenhouse (Henry Hull), the inveterate capitalist (read: Nazi appeaser), and Constance Porter (Tallulah Bankhead), a saucy gadfly/columnist. Meanwhile, a gentle romance simmers between Alice (Mary Anderson), a lovelorn nurse, and Stanley (Hume Cronyn), a humble navigator. George (Canada Lee), a black cook (what else?) with a penchant for the Gospels stands as the group's moral pillar; he is apolitical and totally good-hearted. Hitchcock gives an episodic shape to Swerling's flailing narrative, focusing on the survivors' attempts to rescue one of their own, the wounded and mentally faltering Gus (William Bendix). As they do, they battle the stormy elements, the scorn and suspicion for each other that society has ingrained into them, and, chiefly, their collective mistrust for a Nazi U-boat sailor who's also in the dinghy, and in whom, despite his villainous credentials, they must invest their faith.
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On the run, Charlie decides to hide out in sleepy Santa Rosa, a town that's not much different today than it was in Hitch's 1940s. His visit goes smoothly until a nosy cop and Charlie's inquisitive niece who is named after him (Theresa Wright) get all uppity and go snooping through Charlie's things. Before long, the jig is up.
Continue reading: Shadow of a Doubt Review
The plot of Postman is, indeed, sexier than usual - the perceived naughtiness of Cain's original, excellent novel got it a "Banned in Boston" stamp. But toned down for the screen, Postman is mainly an excellent noir that's fueled by one of John Garfield's best performances. As Frank and Cora fall deeper into their romance, they begin to plan doing away with Nick. The first attempt sadly and (thanks to a clumsy shot of an electrocuted cat) hilariously fails to take, but the second works out ghoulishly. From there, the story becomes a noir classic of shifting loyalties, betrayal, and paranoia. Few actors of the time were as good as portraying the decent man in a conundrum, but there's something about the combination of Garfield's mannish broad shoulders and childish eyes that make him perfect for noirs. Body and Soul is his finest hour, but Postman is worth Garfield as well.
Continue reading: The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946) Review