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Becket Review


Essential
Oscar trivia hounds probably know that Peter O'Toole is one of only four actors to receive Best Actor nods for playing the same character in two different films (we'll leave it to you and the Internet to figure out the other three). The first of these was for playing King Henry II in 1964's Becket. (The second would come when he reprised the role four years later in The Lion in Winter.) And while his performance is Oscar-worthy, it is only part of what makes the film a delectable slice of English history.

It's the mid-12th century and Normans have controlled England and its resident Saxons for two generations. The latest Norman leader, Henry II, has employed a Saxon, Thomas Becket (Richard Burton) to be his unofficial right-hand man. When he decides to make the title official, appointing Becket as chancellor, it only makes the already jealous Norman nobles and clergy angrier. When he goes even further and decides to quell an unruly church by appointing Becket as archbishop, it seems the nobles and clergy might revolt, but Henry finds that it is Becket, suddenly torn between his duty to King as chancellor and to God as archbishop, from whom he has the most to fear.

Continue reading: Becket Review

The Brides Of Dracula Review


Good
As "Baron Meinster," David Peel isn't quite Dracula, and these gals aren't really brides either. But Peter Cushing's Van Helsing anchors this campy reimagination of the Dracula story, which has Meinster preying on a girls' school to fill out his pseudo-harem. When the story lags (and it often does), at least you have copious eye candy to feast on.

Continue reading: The Brides Of Dracula Review

Anastasia (1956) Review


OK
This is the earlier, and definitely not animated, version of the story of the hunt for Anastasia Romanov, daughter of the Tsar who, according to legend, was the only member of the royal family to survive their massacre by revolutionaries in 1917. Anastasia starts off in the late 1920s among the exiled White Russian community in Paris, who rather obsessively keep their country's customs alive in a foreign place. Certain entrepreneurs in the community, including a disgraced former general, Prince Bounine (Yul Brynner), have been trying for years to discover a trainable woman with a close-enough resemblance to Anastasia that she could pass for the real thing - and collect 10 million pounds of Russian royal money sitting in a London bank. Bounine and his compatriots recruit the homeless and rather insane Ingrid Bergman for the task and start about molding her to pass muster before the exiles who knew the real Anastasia and who will, hopefully, sign testimonies to her identity. The twist is that Bergman at times actually thinks she is Anastasia.

There would have been plenty of opportunity for some My Fair Lady-type hijinks in the early part of this remarkably-controlled film, with Brynner playing the stern taskmaster and Bergman the not-so-ugly duckling about to transform into a swan. But director Anatole Litvak keeps everything measured and reasonably serious, focusing more on Bergman's dementia than the perfunctory romance that supposedly blossoms between her and Brynner. Bergman's performance (which won her an Oscar) has its hammy "look at me!" moments, but they're shrewdly undercut by the surrounding characters' suspicion that she is inventing not just her past as Anastasia but her entire dementia as well.

Continue reading: Anastasia (1956) Review

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