John Houseman

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Three Days of the Condor Review


Good
In Sydney Pollack's strange spy thriller Three Days of the Condor, Robert Redford plays a playful and somewhat geeky analyst for the C.I.A. He spends his days reading books, journals, and any manner of written correspondence that is published or publicly available, searching for codes, keywords, and country names to cross-reference with Langley. He has a code name, Condor, which he has no particular use for until the day he returns from a lunch run to find his entire department murdered. Suddenly, he is on the lam, indulging in ramshackle espionage plots and rubbing elbows with foreign assassins. He's not a spy but he plays one pretty well.

Unlike the Condor, the viewer may only pick up the salient points. There's a smattering of names for several chiefs and directors: Wicks, Wabash, Atwood, Higgins, etc. Even the switchboard operator is given the title "The Major." There's a woman, Catherine Hale (Faye Dunaway), whom the Condor takes hostage and quickly embarks on a semi-romantic partnership with. When he's not busy connecting the dots, the Condor is being hunted by a tall gun-for-hire with a foreign accent given the codename Joubert (the indefatigable Max Von Sydow) and another assassin named simply The Mailman. It doesn't seem to matter much but, for what it's worth, it all seems to have something to do with a possible war in the Middle East and oil.

Continue reading: Three Days of the Condor Review

Julius Caesar Review


Extraordinary
"Caesar! Beware of Brutus. Take heed of Cassius. Come not near Casca. Have an eye to Cinna. Trust not Trebonius. Mark not well Metellus Cimber. Decius Brutus loves thee not. Thou hast wronged Caius Ligarius. There is but one mind in all these men and it is bent against Caesar. If thou beest not immortal, look about you. Security gives way to conspiracy."

Artemidorus's warnings to Julius Caesar, soon to be given dictatorial powers in Rome, falls upon Caesar's deaf -- and soon dead -- ears and the Roman conqueror trundles off to the Senate to be stabbed to death by his best friends. In Shakespeare's play, the rejection of the warning by Artemidorus is more fodder for Caesar's ballooning ego. In Joseph Mankeiwicz's 1953 film version of Shakespeare's classic, Artemidorus's warning is like a howl in the wilderness. For Mankiewicz, adapting and directing during the height of the period of the blacklist, the warning takes on a different context of a McCarthyesque conspiracy to bring down society, a mass madness so potent that even honorable men become embroiled in the hothouse hysteria.

Continue reading: Julius Caesar Review

Rollerball (1975) Review


OK
Norman Jewison had a bomb in 1975 with Rollerball, a futuristic tale (set in 2018) in an era when war, poverty, nationality, and even individuality have been snuffed out. To appease the masses, a sport called rollerball has been devised -- a more brutal roller derby with motorcycles thrown in for good mix.

It's hardly 1984, but Jewison's dystopia has its moments, namely when rollerball champ Jonathan E. (James Caan) is skating around the course, thrashing his opponents into ground beef. When he squares off against evil corporate honcho Bartholomew (John Houseman, unforgettably uncomfortable in "the future"), the scenes are priceless.

Continue reading: Rollerball (1975) Review

The Paper Chase Review


Excellent
At the age of 71, John Houseman finally broke through. Having been a movie and TV producer for many years, this was his big break as an actor -- and what a smash it was. To this day, I imagine my wife's law school days must have been like this, with a crusty old know-it-all making the hotshot students feel like utter shit. God, that must feel awesome! As for the story of The Paper Chase, it has long-hair Timothy Bottoms becoming obsessed with Houseman's prof, not to mention bedding his daughter. Eventually he'll have to find a balance -- or make a choice -- between the girl and the books. But never mind all that, because Houseman owns you whenever he's on camera.

Lust for Life Review


OK
Workmanlike and dutifully impressed with everything about Vincent Van Gogh, Vincente Minelli's Lust for Life is really more a Lust for Kirk Douglas, with Kirk trying his best to embody the tortured painter. Much is made of the whole ear-lopping incident along with Van Gogh's friendship with Gauguin, but Lust comes off too much like a linear history and less a movie full of character and mystique. It's all very pretty for a 1950s production, but little of it bears the energy it promises in its title.

Ghost Story Review


Good
Rather typical story (wrongful death, vengeful ghost) is masked by one of the most curious casts in horror history: Astaire? Fairbanks? Houseman? Holy crap! These guys would be watchable in an infomercial, and their cavorting with a mostly-naked Alice Krige makes for an unforgettable, if not terribly scary, Ghost Story.

The Fog (1980) Review


Good
Pretty brilliant notion from John Carpenter: Combine scream queens Adrienne Barbeau and Jamie Lee Curtis with old-school actors like John Houseman and Hal Holbrook. Here they come together in a story about a fog that invades a seaside town, carrying with it hooded killers. Excellent mixture of genuine frights, misdirection, and old-fashioned bloodshed. One of Carpenter's best.

Rollerball (1975) Review


OK
Norman Jewison had a bomb in 1975 with Rollerball, a futuristic tale (set in 2018) in an era when war, poverty, nationality, and even individuality have been snuffed out. To appease the masses, a sport called rollerball has been devised -- a more brutal roller derby with motorcycles thrown in for good mix.

It's hardly 1984, but Jewison's dystopia has its moments, namely when rollerball champ Jonathan E. (James Caan) is skating around the course, thrashing his opponents into ground beef. When he squares off against evil corporate honcho Bartholomew (John Houseman, unforgettably uncomfortable in "the future"), the scenes are priceless.

Continue reading: Rollerball (1975) Review

The Bad and the Beautiful Review


Excellent
This biting behind-the-scenes look at Hollywood is as sharp as they come. Opening on the funeral of a producer, the film follows three people as they spew vitriol on the man. Kirk Douglas and Lana Turner are particularly fun. Hollywood wouldn't be skewered this horribly again until The Player, 40 years later.

This Property Is Condemned Review


Grim
Let's get beyond the awful title. (It's based on an obscure Tennessee Williams play... but why didn't they change the name!?)

Let's look at the crew -- a script co-written by Francis Ford Coppola and John Houseman as producer!

Continue reading: This Property Is Condemned Review

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