Sam Jaffe

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The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) Review


Good
A true 1950s drive-in classic (along with War of the Worlds and Forbidden Planet), The Day the Earth Stood Still anticipated the earnest, melodramatic artiness and social commentary of sci-fi TV series such as The Outer Limits and The Twilight Zone. From the opening sequence, in which a flying saucer lands in front of the Washington Monument and a giant robot comes out, you will not be disappointed. The robot looks like a tall guy wrapped in packing tape and the flying saucer looks so fake you will look for Ed Wood's name in the credits. From then on, suspension of disbelief is a non-issue.

As guns and tanks surround the saucer, an alien humanoid named Klaatu (Michael Rennie) comes out and announces that he comes in peace. Klaatu is taken by the U.S. government and demands to "deliver a message to all nations." The U.S. reluctantly agrees to set a meeting but the Russians refuse to come to the table. Impatiently, Klaatu escapes and boards with a divorcee (Patricia Neal), befriending her well-scrubbed American boy (Billy Gray), who shows him around Washington. Meanwhile, he tries to contact eminent scientists to persuade them to meet and hear his message.

Continue reading: The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) Review

Lost Horizon Review


Extraordinary
The weirdest film by Frank Capra, this epic was adapted from James Hilton's bestselling novel about a plane full of passengers stranded in Tibet who are brought to the imaginary utopia Shangri-la. (Hilton's sensational fantasy was inspired by mountaineering trips to the Himalayas -- pretty much unknown then -- and it probably still influences how people in the West think about Tibet.)

Lost Horizon is a strange but haunting mixture of drama, long expository passages, and romance, with lavish, Xanadu-like sets set against stock footage of icy mountains -- but the performance of Ronald Colman carries the movie. Colman's character is a Brit who decides he doesn't mind hanging with the Buddhists and enjoying the quiet life, but some of his companions are unhappy in the worker's paradise and debate whether to try to escape. Sensuality is provided by the young Jane Wyatt, later the matron on TV's Father Knows Best (Wyatt's character is even shown in a distant frontal nude scene, a wink at the Hays Code).

Continue reading: Lost Horizon Review

The Day the Earth Stood Still Review


Good
A true 1950s drive-in classic (along with War of the Worlds and Forbidden Planet), The Day the Earth Stood Still anticipated the earnest, melodramatic artiness and social commentary of sci-fi TV series such as The Outer Limits and The Twilight Zone. From the opening sequence, in which a flying saucer lands in front of the Washington Monument and a giant robot comes out, you will not be disappointed. The robot looks like a tall guy wrapped in packing tape and the flying saucer looks so fake you will look for Ed Wood's name in the credits. From then on, suspension of disbelief is a non-issue.

As guns and tanks surround the saucer, an alien humanoid named Klaatu (Michael Rennie) comes out and announces that he comes in peace. Klaatu is taken by the U.S. government and demands to "deliver a message to all nations." The U.S. reluctantly agrees to set a meeting but the Russians refuse to come to the table. Impatiently, Klaatu escapes and boards with a divorcee (Patricia Neal), befriending her well-scrubbed American boy (Billy Gray), who shows him around Washington. Meanwhile, he tries to contact eminent scientists to persuade them to meet and hear his message.

Continue reading: The Day the Earth Stood Still Review

Lost Horizon Review


Good
A classic book and a classic film -- make sure you look for the full-length (132 minute) restored version, which features still photographs where there was no known print to match up to the audio. Bizarre methodology, yet strangely, it works.

The Asphalt Jungle Review


Extraordinary
Sterling Hayden gets the shaft again in The Asphalt Jungle. This guy goes on caper after caper but he just never ends up with the loot. It always slips right through his hands. Every time.

Jungle is one of Hayden's finest hours, earnest and searing as he finds himself wrapped up in the perfect crime -- a jewel heist which is (unfortunately) a rather simple safecracking affair. This time out, Hayden's desperate gambling addict looks about ready to do anything in order to get back to the pastoral farm where he grew up -- and we believe it.

Continue reading: The Asphalt Jungle Review

Gunga Din Review


Excellent
Modern viewers will recognize Gunga Din primarily as the film that inspired Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom -- and from which Indy borrows heavily. This heavy action/adventure offers three British soldiers (Cary Grant, Victor McLaglen, Douglas Fairbanks Jr.) on assignment in India, where they eventually face off against the evil Thuggee cult. The helpful manservant Gunga Din shadows them -- and saves the day. A little jingoistic today, the film is nonetheless a critical standard-bearer of historical adventure flicks, and a quite funny one too.

Ben-Hur Review


Excellent
To hell with Gladiator.

Scratch that. Ben-Hur is no stupid gladiator movie. As the title sequence tells us, this is "A Tale of the Christ," an unabashed religious fable, albeit one that only shows its hero from the back.

Continue reading: Ben-Hur Review

Sam Jaffe

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