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Polly Bergen, US Actress Known For 'Cape Fear', Has Died Aged 84

Polly Bergen Chris Colfer Dana Delany Michael McKean Gregory Peck Jerry Lewis Dean Martin Doris Day John Stamos Glee Robert Mitchum

Polly Bergen, the US actress best known for her roles in such classic films as Cape Fear and for her television appearances on The Sopranos and Desperate Housewives, has died at the age of 84.

Polly Bergen
Polly Bergen has died at the age of 84.

Bergen was born in 1930 in Knoxville, Tennessee. Her career began in the late 1940s and she became a household name when she starred in The Helen Morgan Story, for which she won an Emmy award in 1958. 

Continue reading: Polly Bergen, US Actress Known For 'Cape Fear', Has Died Aged 84

El Dorado Review

Howard Hawks's penultimate film is a canny reshuffling of his own Rio Bravo as he performs a loose and extended mediation on his favorite themes of loyalty and professionalism.

John Wayne plays Cole Thornton, a gun for hire claiming a job with a land-grabbing cattle baron (Ed Asner). Cole accepts the job until he finds out that his old pal J.P. Harrah (Robert Mitchum, in one of his finest late career performances) is the town sheriff. Cole switches sides but not before being shot by a put-upon rancher's daughter, Joey (Michele Carey), who thinks Cole is still working for Jason. With the bullet lodged near his spine, Cole rejects a risky operation and leaves town looking for work. A year later, Cole returns to town with a young, firebrand partner, Mississippi (James Caan), in tow to find that Jason has hired a legendary gang of gunslingers to force Joey's family off their ranch. Cole also discovers J.P. has deteriorated into a pathetic joke of a drunk after being thrown over by a dame (and Mitchum is not short of harrowing in his efforts to fight back his demons). But Jason's hired guns won't quit, so Cole along with Mississippi and J.P.'s obnoxious deputy Bull (Arthur Hunnicutt) try to head off the gang of hired guns. At the same time, Cole helps J.P. to pull out of his drunken stupor and regain his professionalism.

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The Yakuza Review

In 1974, the advertisements for Sidney Pollack's Americanized Japanese gangster movie The Yakuza stated, "A man doesn't forget. A man pays his debts." Well, not in today's economy. But in 1974 paying debts meant something else. It meant honor and obligation and a code of duty among hired killers and thugs. The Japanese yakuza action movie was a staple of Japanese cinema in the 1970s, the films packed with high energy, low budgets, and gratuitous violence. Pollack's westernized version of the genre tamps down the action and examines the yakuza film like an English literature grad student, looking for subtext as characters engage in slow and ponderous dialogues about honor and duty before they erupt and pull out swords and shotguns and turn rooms into abattoirs. Neither a Japanese nor an American action film nor really a philosophical discourse over tea and sushi, The Yakuza doesn't know what it wants to be.

Robert Mitchum plays Harry Kilmer, a retired detective, called back into service by old World War II army pal George Tanner (Brian Keith), who asks for his help in rescuing his daughter, who is being held in Japan by the yakuza. Tanner knows Kilmer is owed a debt of honor by ex-yakuza member Tanaka Ken (Ken Takakura, the big Japanese star of all those '70s yakuza films) and convinces him to travel back to Japan to see if Ken will honor his obligation to Kilmer by infiltrating the yakuza gang holding his daughter and bringing her back home (significantly, the daughter is no more than a unconscious blip on the radar in The Yakuza). Once there, events spin out of control, and Kilmer and Ken become embroiled in ritual obligations and mayhem.

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The Good Guys And The Bad Guys Review

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.

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The Sundowners Review

Deborah Kerr as Ida Carmody, an indomitable stick in the Australian outback, makes an impassioned plea for women living a nomadic existence in that spare country down under to the unhappy Jean Halstead (Dina Merrill), "This is good country for sheep and it's not bad for men. But it's hard on us women. The men come here because of the sheep and we come here because of the men and most of us finish up looking like the sheep -- wrinkled faces, knotty hair, not even much of our own minds." Jean replies, "I think you'll always have a mind of your own, Mrs. Carmody." She ain't kidding. Ida has to hold her own against her beer- and gambling-loving husband Paddy (Robert Mitchum), who as a sheep drover in 1920s Australia, keeps his family -- Ida and their teenage son Sean (Michael Anderson Jr.) -- moving with the sheep. Paddy is happy not being tied down, but Ida and Sean want a place to settle down and convince Paddy to take a job as a sheep-shearer in order to make a down payment on a farm. Paddy doesn't realize it though, and the struggle between Paddy, who wants to be free, and Ida, who wants a home, is the slender thread that ties Fred Zinnemann's The Sundowners together.

The Sundowners is a pleasant and happy film, marked by wonderful set pieces (a tremendous brush fire sequence, a sheep-shearing contest, a gambling scene, a tavern brawl) all set to a jaunty Dimitri Tiomkin score.

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The Friends Of Eddie Coyle Review

Throughout Peter Yates' masterful The Friends of Eddie Coyle, crooks, thieves and the occasional police officer use terms of complacent endearment -- friend, nice guy, good man -- but the words never seem to carry any meaning. All of them tend to agree that Eddie Coyle (Robert Mitchum), a career criminal at 51, is a nice guy, but that doesn't mean they aren't willing to put him in the dirt if it makes their lives easier. Coyle can't really blame them for it; he knows the way of the world.

As its title points out, Friends has a very marginal interest in Eddie himself. In his first scene, Coyle goes about telling a gun dealer (Steven Keats) about how some associates of other associates slammed his fingers after a deal went sour. A low-level hood since God-knows-when, Eddie speaks about the situation congenially before telling the dealer that he needs 30 guns. Coyle has been supplying guns to a pack of bank robbers, the head of which is played by Alex Rocco. The money he's making is to support his wife and kids before he reports for a two-year stint in a New Hampshire prison; he doesn't feel his family should be scraping by on welfare.

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Home From The Hill Review

The trailer for Home from the Hill blares, "The story of the Hunnicutt Family and The Secret they hid too long! The town that talked too much and the love they tried to destroy!" In 1960, Home from the Hill, based on the bestselling book by William Humphrey, was the latest in the smoldering big-screen genre Hollywood was cooking up featuring big stars and Cinemascope vistas: Upscale Southern Decrepitude. Influenced by William Faulkner and Tennessee Williams, the genre showcased the likes of the blown-all-out-of-proportion The Long Hot Summer, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and Douglas Sirk's simmering Written on the Wind. The films contained the same ingredients -- expansive manor homes, horny patriarchs, family secrets, and neurotic children ready to blow the lid off of everything. Home from the Hill has all that but it also has a bit more -- terrific acting by Robert Mitchum, George Hamilton, and George Peppard (forget Eleanor Parker, who plays her role like Blanche Dubois on the range), plus Vincente Minnelli as director.

Mitchum is a Texas landowner, Capt. Wade Hunnicutt, who owns the town, lives in a big house, and spends his time bedding down most of the women in the town (Wade comments at one point, "I'll tell you something -- I can't even remember which one she was"). Holding his face to the mirror is his wife Hannah (Parker), who for the past 17 years has locked her bedroom door to Wade, forcing Wade to take his biological urges elsewhere. Wade wants Hannah to forgive him and unlock the door. Hannah just gives him an icy stare. As their son Theron (Hamilton) remarks, "They live in the same house and kill each other a little at a time." Theron is their only son. He is 17 and now Wade wants to take him under his wing and show him how to be a man. Wade teaches Theron to hunt and has his hired hand Rafe (Peppard) show him the ropes as far as women are concerned. But then all hell breaks loose when Hannah reveals to Theron that Rafe is, in fact, Wade's illegitimate son. With the gloves off, Wade is forced into the realization that "We're rotten parents and we live in a rotten house." But by then it is too late for the Hunnicutts.

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Macao Review

In 1952, Josef von Sternberg was one of the few American directors with the audacity to proclaim himself an artistic genius. In the 1930s and into the 1940s, von Sternberg rode the tsunami of his artistic pretensions through a decade-long string of Marlene Dietrich films at Paramount and concluding with 1941's sweetmeat of the outré, The Shanghai Gesture. After that, von Sternberg was hoisted up on his own petard and his imperious attitude left him unemployed until, of all people, Howard Hughes took the bait and hired him to direct the doomed films Jet Pilot and Macao. The latter was a Robert Mitchum-Jane Russell star vehicle that, in spite of a collection of subsidiary directors (Nicholas Ray, Mel Ferrer, Robert Stevenson) brought in for salvage work, permitted von Sternberg to indulge in his penchant for weird exotica and lurid lighting effects and camera angles. As a result, Macao is a load of atmosphere and malarkey in search of a coherent storyline.

Andrew Sarris has written about von Sternberg that "his characters generally make their first entrance at a moment in their lives when there is no tomorrow," and Macao toes the Sarris company line. In a story that could have been hatched by S.J. Perelman, Macao, after an under-cranked chase scene, settles in on an ocean liner breezing into the freakish Oriental port of Macao ("a fabulous speck on the earth's surface"), the dangers ahead cued by the ship's barometer which indicates "Unhealthy for Plants/Unhealthy for Humans." Since this is not a nature documentary, the focus is on two humans -- Nick Cochran (Mitchum), on the run from an unclear fate in New York City, and Julie Bensen (Russell), high-tailing it from Hong Kong (when a customs inspector asks what she did in Hong Kong, she responds, "You don't really want me to tell you, do you?"). The two meet cute after Julie hauls a stiletto heel at a randy cha-cha dancer's torso but instead manages to clip Nick's noggin, who is passing by her cabin at the time. Nick and Julie immediately gravitate to each other, since not only are they the stars but also the coolest and most unflappable characters in the picture. The half-assed plot involves something about enticing villainous nightclub owner Vincent Halloran (Brad Dexter, whispering his dialogue like an incantation) outside the three-mile limit so that he can be arrested, and Nick being mistaken for a New York detective and chased around by Halloran's sinister thugs (with Philip Ahn's knife-wielding Itzumi being particularly impressive).

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Angel Face Review

There is a moment in Otto Preminger's film noir classic Angel Face, when you realize along with film's prize chump fall guy, ambulance driver turned chauffeur Frank Jessup (Robert Mitchum), that the night has collapsed and that he is getting in too deep. Jessup is alone in his room and is trying to hook up with his true love Mary (Mona Freeman). Mary is out with another guy and Mitchum proceeds to loosen his tie, take a long drag on his cigarette and allows the coffin nail to hang from his lips as he gazes into the abyss with a stark, haunted, and hopeless expression. He then loosens his tie a bit more.

In Angel Face, Robert Mitchum, the poster boy of film noir, signs off on the genre with his last great portrait of doom. As Jessup, Mitchum is a hunk of a man and knows it but his laconic self-assurance belies that fact that all the women he meets in Angel Face, both good and safe (Mary) and evil and possessed (Jean Simmons' Diane, a cute and an attractive but not-so-innocent package of venality and psychosis), overpower him, and the evil one wins out.

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Scrooged Review

Treatments of A Christmas Carol don't get much more quirky -- or memorable -- than this 1988 adaptation of the Dickens classic, done with no attempt to maintain respect for the stuffy source material. As a Scrooge-like TV producer (producing a live adaptation of A Christmas Carol, starring Mary Lou Retton as Tiny Tim), Bill Murray doesn't even come close to stealing the show from a host of characters who do: Bob Goldthwait as a gun-toting Cratchitt type, Carol Kane as a memorably pugilistic ghost of Christmas present, and many more. Not quite a "classic," but a roaring good time.

Scrooged Review

Treatments of A Christmas Carol don't get much more quirky -- or memorable -- than this 1988 adaptation of the Dickens classic, done with no attempt to maintain respect for the stuffy source material. As a Scrooge-like TV producer (producing a live adaptation of A Christmas Carol, starring Mary Lou Retton as Tiny Tim), Bill Murray doesn't even come close to stealing the show from a host of characters who do: Bob Goldthwait as a gun-toting Cratchitt type, Carol Kane as a memorably pugilistic ghost of Christmas present, and many more. Not quite a "classic," but a roaring good time.

Out Of The Past Review

Widely hailed as a classic of film noir, Out of the Past is difficult, complex, and not entirely satisfying. The Robert Mitchum caper has the star as a gas station attendent with a past shrouded in mystery, namely involving a lot of money and a dame (Greer), of course. The money and the dame belong to Kirk Douglas, and most everyone ends up dead. A little too brooding and stylish for its own good, if you ask me.

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The Last Tycoon Review

The Last Tycoon, based on F. Scott Fitzgerald's unfinished final novel, packs a pile of talent into its two hours but comes up a bit short in the end.

A shockingly lithe Robert De Niro stars as Monroe Stahr, a 1930s studio executive based on Irving Thalberg (a prolific producer who died at the age of 37, presumably from overwork). Stahr has lost loves in the past and a crushing chip on his shoulder in the present. He's a workhorse, but he wants something more out of life.

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The Longest Day Review

D-Day wasn't just fought at Omaha Beach, though Hollywood may have thought so before The Longest Day. D-Day involved a cast of thousands, and it took producer Darryl Zanuck, five screenwriters, four directors, and three hours just to bring it to the big screen. In fact, Spielberg cribbed large chunks of this film verbatim for Saving Private Ryan. Ultimately, Ryan is the better picture, but The Longest Day shows you more of the story (and it's closer to reality), from the paratrooper force sent in as a diversion, to a half-dozen beach battles, to the French Resistance and how they helped. Aside from a great war tale, Day also marks what must be the only film where you can see John Wayne, Henry Fonda, Fabián, Sal Mineo, Eddie Albert, Red Buttons, Peter Lawford, and Sean Connery all fighting the same war. And on the same side, no less.

The Night Of The Hunter Review

Until I saw The Night of the Hunter, it had been a long time since I had gasped while watching a movie. Forget The Others and The Deep End (which veered toward strained dramatics), The Night of the Hunter is by far the scariest movie I've seen so far this year. Even though the movie is nearly 50 years old and there's a not drop of blood to be seen.

Luckily, The Night of the Hunter, Charles Laughton's first and final directing gig, has been restored by the UCLA Film and Television Archive and is being re-released in October 2001. So, there's still plenty of time to spill your popcorn all over the place.

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