Ranald Macdougall

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Possessed Review


OK
Joan Crawford channels Joan Crawford in Possessed, a prototypical part for the stark actress.

Crawford plays Louise, who is introduced to us as she dazedly walks into a diner, asking for a man named David. After she collapses, she's hauled off to the mental hospital, where the doctors shake their heads and shrug. Flashbacks reveal why Louise is in such a state: She's kinda nuts, and the last thread snapped after she killed the mysterious David (Van Heflin).

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Cleopatra (1963) Review


Weak
It is virtually impossible to separate Cleopatra the movie from Cleopatra the spectacle -- and that's because they are truly and rarely intertwined.

A legend of Hollywood, the 1963 production of Cleopatra has so much curiosity surrounding it I hardly know where to start. It was budgeted at $2 million and eventually cost (up to) $44 million to produce -- close to $300 million in today's dollars. Liz Taylor almost died during the filming and was given a tracheotomy to keep her alive. The production was forced to move from Rome to London and back to Rome again. Two of its stars fell in love (Taylor and Burton) on the set, ruining both of their marriages. 20th Century Fox essentially went bankrupt, leading to the ousting of its chief. The first director was fired after burning $7 million with nothing to show for it. The second director (Mankiewicz) was fired during editing, only to be rehired when no one else could finish the picture. Taylor threw up the first time she saw the finished product. Producer Walter Wanger never worked in Hollywood again. And the original six-hour epic was cut to a little over three.

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The Naked Jungle Review


OK
Back in the 1950s, Charlton Heston was cranking out two or three movies a year, most of them cheapies like The Naked Jungle.

This schizophrenic little drama starts with an incredible uninspiring setup: Heston is the hapless owner of a cocoa plantation in South America, 1901. For no particular reason, he sends off for a mail order bride, which arrives in the form of the far too lovely Eleanor Parker. But Parker's got a secret: She's a widow. Gasp!

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Mildred Pierce Review


Excellent
Joan Crawford's Oscar-winning performance in 1945's Mildred Pierce was a career pinnacle she reached after a long and hard climb back from near oblivion. Labeled box-office poison and dumped from MGM, Crawford turned to Warner Brothers and put herself in the very capable hands of their film noir experts with sensational results. Swallowing her pride and taking a role that had already been turned down by three leading ladies, including her arch nemesis Bette Davis, was the smartest thing Crawford ever did. (Fans of Mommie Dearest will remember how Crawford "took to her bed" with a fake illness on Oscar night rather than attend the ceremony and risk losing in person.)

The luscious blacks and whites of this melodramatic noir classic suit Crawford's kabuki-like visage perfectly. As the ambitious, neurotic, and much put upon Mildred, Crawford is all eyebrows, cheekbones, and lipstick as she frantically tries to hold her little family together and make her way as a single mother and businesswoman.

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