Martin Balsam

Martin Balsam

Martin Balsam Quick Links

Film RSS

The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974) Review


Excellent
An archeological specimen from nearly two decades before the advent of the Metrocard, Joseph Sargent's expert thriller The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, like brethren Serpico and The French Connection, is another quintessential 1970s New York City movie that might read as alien dialect to those who aren't familiar with the geocentric love/hate relationship between the city and its inhabitants. To those who are familiar, however, the film will unfold like ghostscript, a bygone era of Abe Beame, Gotham teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, and President Ford's apocryphal claim that the city could "drop dead."

There certainly aren't any Urban Outfitters to be seen in 1970s Manhattan, though a train ride on the 6 is still a life-and-death proposition. That becomes a bit more literal for the dozen or so that are held hostage on a single car by a pack of hijackers who refer to themselves by color; a gimmick Tarantino would cop 20 years later in Reservoir Dogs. The leader is a coiled ex-soldier-of-fortune who goes by Mr. Blue (the brilliant Robert Shaw, a year before Jaws) with Green (Martin Balsam), Grey (Hector Elizondo), and Brown (Earl Hindman) under him. His foil, a metro cop named Zach Garber, is oddly played by Walter Matthau.

Continue reading: The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974) Review

The Good Guys and the Bad Guys Review


Terrible
Burt Kennedy's The Good Guys and the Bad Guys is the kind of western that's so tired and old that it has to rely on a phony jokiness to get through the clichés. Around 1969, there were a lot of those westerns to go around -- True Grit, There Was a Crooked Man, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The War Wagon, and Kennedy's own Support Your Local Sheriff, which looks as if it were shot on the same cheap and generic western set as The Good Guys and the Bad Guys. Some of these westerns were elevated from their Cat Ballou foundation by actually not being westerns at all but, instead, interesting character studies (True Grit, Butch Cassidy) or more comedies than westerns (Support Your Local Sheriff).

But others just languished between the two extremes being neither one nor the other, in the end being nothing at all. Into this classification falls The Good Guys and the Bad Guys, a meaningless and harmless bit of flatulence that caused barely a ripple of interest in 1969, when critical sniffers where inhaling deeply of Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch.

Continue reading: The Good Guys and the Bad Guys Review

12 Angry Men Review


Essential
Who would have thought that a movie which almost entirely takes place in one room, consists of 12 men who do nothing but talk -- and who don't even have names -- would be such a searing experience? 12 Angry Men is a classic, and an undisputed one at that, a film that is as inspiring as it is well-crafted behind the scenes.

The story is a simple one: 12 jurors are asked to decide the fate of a young man who is accused of killing his father. If guilty, he will be sentenced to the electric chair. Otherwise he goes free. The evidence is overwhelmingly against him: Two eyewitnesses, a murder weapon known to be bought by the killer, and an alibi that he couldn't remember during questioning. Open and shut, but one juror stands alone against the other 11, who'd like to get home in time for dinner. And with that single "not guilty" vote, Henry Fonda's Juror #8 sets off the titular anger.

Continue reading: 12 Angry Men Review

The Sentinel (1977) Review


Good
Next time you rent an apartment, you might check to make sure it's not the doorway to hell before you sign the lease. Alison (Cristina Raines, who vanished from the Hollywood scene in 1987) is a suicidal model who figures this old and roomy place will offer a respite from her rough life. When she complains about the weird and loud neighbors (including an unforgettable and deliciously nasty Beverly D'Angelo, who rubs her crotch to, er, completion when Alison is over for coffee), it turns out no one else lives there. Is it a hallucination or demons? Either way, this is one hell of a sick little horror flick. Watching for stars then and now to make their appearances can alone make the film worthwhile.

The Sentinel Review


Good
Next time you rent an apartment, you might check to make sure it's not the doorway to hell before you sign the lease. Alison (Cristina Raines, who vanished from the Hollywood scene in 1987) is a suicidal model who figures this old and roomy place will offer a respite from her rough life. When she complains about the weird and loud neighbors (including an unforgettable and deliciously nasty Beverly D'Angelo, who rubs her crotch to, er, completion when Alison is over for coffee), it turns out no one else lives there. Is it a hallucination or demons? Either way, this is one hell of a sick little horror flick. Watching for stars then and now to make their appearances can alone make the film worthwhile.

Breakfast At Tiffany's Review


Extraordinary
A near perfect blend of comedy, romance, and minor tragedy, Breakfast at Tiffany's is a must-see classic that, despite diversions from Truman Capote's original novel, remains his clearest statement on what it feels like to be young, ambitious, and on the make in a rapacious city full of hidden agendas.

Set in present-day 1961 (as opposed to during World War II as in the novel), the film introduces us to the gorgeous Holly Golightly (a sparkling Audrey Hepburn) as she staggers home early one morning in her little black dress and sunglasses after yet another all-night bender during which she likely doled out small favors to amorous older gentlemen in exchange for rent money. Pausing in front of Tiffany's, Holly munches a danish and sips coffee as she admires the jewelry in the window. It's an iconic movie moment. Holly sees herself as a free-spirit, a party girl, someone who, as she puts it, won't be caged by love or commitments. It's a lonely life, but it pays the bills. The'60s are on the verge of swinging.

Continue reading: Breakfast At Tiffany's Review

Murder on the Orient Express Review


Excellent
Classic Agatha Christie becomes a near-classic motion picture, as a dozen major stars are trapped on a snowbound train with what appears to be a killer on the loose. It's up to an absurdly made-up Poirot (Albert Finney) to unmask the murderer of a millionaire in this rich whodunit. Beautifully made and full of good one-liners, Ingred Bergman inexplicably won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar as a relatively forgettable "simple woman." Odd.

Seven Days in May Review


Excellent
Classic political intrigue, with Kirk Douglas, Fredric March, and Burt Lancaster wrapped up in a plot to overthrow the president! Heavy stuff, courtesy of Rod Serling's master writing. Unfortunately, when the going gets good -- really hitting a fever pitch on day seven -- the story goes limp and the ending is a big letdown. Still, Lancaster is unparalleled in a rare bad guy role, helped amiably by a solid supporting staff. One of Frankenheimer's best works.

Tora! Tora! Tora! Review


Good
Very interesting but rambling WWII drama about the invasion of Pearl Harbor. What makes Tora!! so interesting is that it is a joint U.S.-Japanese production, and the story is told from both sides of the fence. The Japanese obsession with fighting an honorable fight is made plain, as is the comedy of errors that led up to the U.S. inability to detect the attack until the bombs were dropping. The film is a very damning portrayal of the U.S. Navy and government altogether, and really gives you a respect for the Japanese, showing just how much worse Pearl Harbor could have been. A must-see for any war buff. Based on the book The Broken Seal.

Continue reading: Tora! Tora! Tora! Review

All The President's Men Review


Extraordinary
Classic collaboration of Dustin Hoffman, Robert Redford, and Richard Nixon, in the most scandalous political tale of our time -- Nixon's destruction after Watergate. (Sorry, Michael Moore!) The leads put human faces on the cold visages of Woodward and Bernstein, and more than any other movie about journalism, All the President's Men tells it like it is. (Well, was anyway -- check out Shattered Glass for a more up-to-date scenario.)

The Bedford Incident Review


Good
The Cold War was still fairly young when The Bedford Incident came out, but they already had the formula down cold. So to speak. Sidney Poitier is a reporter sent on what ought to be a routine job -- to cover a practice sail of a destroyer called the USS Bedford. But when the sadistic captain (Richard Widmark) discovers a Soviet sub -- maybe -- lurking off the coast, a game of cat and mouse ensues, with Poitier capturing it all for the papers. The ending is a real piece of work that comes out of nowhere, and even though the film is a little repetitive up to that point, it's all worth it for the titular "incident" in the end.

Psycho (1960) Review


Essential
Thou shalt not take the term "genre-defining" in vain. How many movies, after all, really define a genre? That is, besides Psycho?

Alfred Hitchcock's first real horror movie not only set off a raging controversy and alarming threats of censorship, but it also ruined the morning shower for a generation of Americans. The shower scene, now one of the most famous and replayed moments in movie history, was just the knife's edge of this masterpiece of fear-dredging, Freudian obsession, and sadistic humor.

Continue reading: Psycho (1960) Review

Catch-22 Review


Extraordinary
A wry and sarcastic (and thick as hell) book about the ridiculous duplicity of war? Sounds like a movie to me.

And so it did to Mike Nichols and Buck Henry, collaborators on The Graduate who conspired once again to make one of the greats of cinema. While Catch-22 has none of the cachet of other war movies (and we'll get to that...), it's by far one of the best out there, ranking with Platoon, Full Metal Jacket, and Apocalypse Now as one of the greats.

Continue reading: Catch-22 Review

Martin Balsam

Martin Balsam Quick Links

Film RSS
Advertisement

Suggested

The 33 - Trailer

The 33 - Trailer

When a 100+ year-old copper & gold mine in Chile suffers considerable damage to the shaft due to a cave-in, the world's news is quick to report the...

Clarkson, Hammond And May To Launch New Motoring Show On Amazon Prime

Clarkson, Hammond And May To Launch New Motoring Show On Amazon Prime

The ex-'Top Gear' trio have a new home on Amazon Prime, and the as-yet-untitled show will be launching in 2016.

Zayn Malik Signs Solo Record Deal With RCA

Zayn Malik Signs Solo Record Deal With RCA

The 22 year old quit One Direction back in March, and is now making the first steps towards a solo career.

Advertisement
Ono And Bono Unveil Tapestry In New York Honouring John Lennon

Ono And Bono Unveil Tapestry In New York Honouring John Lennon

The artwork was unveiled to remember Lennon, who was assassinated in New York in 1980, his struggles to gain citizenship.

Airbnb Offers Soap Fans The Chance To Spend A Night On 'Neighbours' Set

Airbnb Offers Soap Fans The Chance To Spend A Night On 'Neighbours' Set

The winner will get to spend one AAA night on the set of the famous Aussie soap.

'New Dr. Dre Album' Set To Drop This Weekend, According To Ice Cube

'New Dr. Dre Album' Set To Drop This Weekend, According To Ice Cube

Surprise albums are becoming increasingly common in 2015, to the point where they’re failing...

Ben Affleck Denies Reports That He's Dating His Children's Ex-Nanny

Ben Affleck Denies Reports That He's Dating His Children's Ex-Nanny

Ben Affleck has denied the sensational report that he is a new relationship with his children’s ex-nanny...

Advertisement