Oskar Homolka

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Funeral In Berlin Review


Good
Michael Caine starred as British spy Harry Palmer in five movies (three in the 1960s and two in 1995 -- try figuring that one out), most of which were based on Len Deighton's novels. Funeral in Berlin is the follow-up to The Ipcress File, a well-received spy thriller and the only one of the series anyone has ever seen.

Palmer is a reluctant agent, serving as a spy in lieu of spending time behind bars for some unknown crime. This time out, he's sent to East Berlin (remember when there was an East Berlin?) to retrieve a defecting Russian general, by devising a phony funeral. As a former crook, Palmer is unconventional. He talks back to his bosses, he doublecrosses his partners, and he drinks Lowenbrau instead of martinis.

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I Remember Mama Review


Excellent
A sentimental but well-intentioned portrait of an immigrant family, I Remember Mama is an oddity for Hollywood -- very slow, almost entirely lacking in dramatic punch, but surprisingly realistic. Martha Hanson (Irene Dunne) is the center of a Norwegian-American family in early 20th century San Francisco. (The row houses are still standing, but no one who lives in them has to count pennies.) The story is narrated by a daughter (Barbara Bel Geddes) who worshipfully portrays her mother through her own somewhat selfish lens, but allows us to see her mother as she is: uneducated, strong, simple, forthright, and content. Like so many immigrants, Mama unsentimentally embraces her new country and raises her children as acculturated Americans, without changing herself.

The role was a stretch for Irene Dunne, usually a comedienne who teamed with Cary Grant, among others, in screwball comedies of the '30s and '40s (The Awful Truth, etc.). Unfortunately, the film signaled her retirement rather than a new beginning.

Continue reading: I Remember Mama Review

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