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F For Fake Review

I've never seen another film like F for Fake, and if you invest a quick 90 minutes in it I'll wager you'll come away with the same dazed and breathless feeling that I had.

F for Fake was, depending on how you look at it, Orson Welles last feature film as a director, and -- as Peter Bogdanovich describes it in an insightful introduction -- it's not quite a documentary but rather a "documentary essay" about trickery and fraud in its various incarnations.

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Butterfield 8 Review

What, you wanna see Liz Taylor as a call girl? Ya perv. Taylor's heralded performance as the archetypal hooker ("the slut of all time!") with a heart of gold is a bit overrated, it's Cat on a Hot Tin Roof all over again (which she made just two years prior) -- and that was a better movie, too. Laurence Harvey is more effective as the client she falls in love with -- alas, he's married and he's a cad, to boot. This leaves plenty of time for some Oscar-caliber waterworks, which is pretty much how Butterfield 8 shakes out.

Room At The Top Review

Watch a scene at random from Room at the Top and you might think you've stumbled upon a garden-variety romance, what with its parlor-room confessions of love and lingering cigarette breaks. But give it a minute or two, waiting for Laurence Harvey (our favorite Manchurian assassin) to get his groove on and you'll realize what a monstrous film this truly is. Harvey plays a middle-class accountant(!) who decides there is "room at the top" for even him -- and so he sets about wooing the local business leader's daughter. Meanwhile, he's also having his way with a considerably older woman (Simone Signoret, who won an Oscar for her role) on the side. Creepy, perverse, and inimitable, this film has withstood 45 years of changing social values and will easily take another 45 more. For 1959, this film was decades ahead of its time and deserves a much wider audience than it ever received back then. Seek it out; you won't be disappointed.

The Alamo (1960) Review

Director/star John Wayne spends more time at the Alamo than I did as a junior high kid in Houston. This three-plus-hour epic feels longer than the battle itself, the most infamous part of the Texas Revolution, in which Texan troops were massacred by a much larger Mexican force. Wayne (here playing a roadkill-hatted Davy Crockett) is wildly overwrought (Jim Bowie: "My wife. She's... dead!" / Crocket: "I lived through it Jim. It's hard."), clumsy, and embarassingly directed -- and it doesn't get to the actual battle until the last 45 minutes of the film. Still, it's intriguing to see him on the losing side of a gunfight for once.

The Manchurian Candidate (1962) Review

Possibly John Frankenheimer's finest film, The Manchurian Candidate speaks to the Red Scare, the horrors of war, paranoid fears of brainwashing -- all tied in with the game of Solitaire. Frankenheimer owes a lot to George Axelrod's script and Richard Condon's gripping novel, which tells the story of a perfectly brainwashed soldier (during the Korean War), played by Laurence Harvey, who becomes a no-remorse assassin after capture and brianwashing by the enemy. His target and handler are both kept as mysteries until the end, but it's Frank Sinatra as an old war buddy who's suffering terrible nightmares that brings it all to light.

The film, as compelling as it is, is almost undone by Sinatra's performance, which is capable but unequal to his co-stars. Sinatra, of course, had so much power during the making of the film, that he's never really pushed for a good take. As a result, weaker scenes have been left in, presumably due to Sinatra's notorious unwillingness to do retakes. Too bad, because they're needed here badly. It's little matter, though: The Manchurian Candidate's classic structure and breakneck pacing are a perfect match for the movie's incredible story punch to the gut. George Axelrod's script turns Richard Condon's novel into classic cinema. Its suspense is gripping, and its biting political statement (lambasting McCarthyism deeply) is unparalleled in cinema this side of a Michael Moore movie.

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Darling Review

Julie Christie stars in a role written for her: the brazen bird Diana Scott, a swinging Londoner who is discovered by a reporter for a street interview, then rises through the European modeling/acting world by sleeping with every man she meets. Laurence Harvey (from The Manchurian Candidate) and Dirk Bogarde are two of the men who use her and vice versa.

Darling exposes the jet-set high society of the mid-'60s with the cynicism and detail of a muckraking documentary. Antonioni and Fellini explored the same milieu, but writer Frederic Raphael is a much sharper and subtler satirist than either. (Raphael is also responsible for Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut, and Darling's influence on that film is easy to spot). Raphael's script effectively surveys a gallery of posers -- vapid trendsetters, journalists and fashionistas, pretentious artists, and even minor royalty (Diana marries an Italian prince). Though the film drags in a few places, John Schlesinger's direction is generally excellent.

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The Magic Christian Review

The video cover of The Magic Christian features Ringo Starr sitting on Peter Sellers' lap. Starr has on his usual shit-eating grin, and Sellers' expression can only be described as one of sheer horror.

Sellers may very well have had no idea what he was getting into with this movie, an adaptation of the cult novel by the same name from author Terry Southern. The film concerns Sellers' business magnate Guy Grand, who adopts a homeless man (Starr) and presents him to the board as his son.

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Laurence Harvey

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