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In the Heat of the Night Review


Excellent
Forty years on, In the Heat of the Night is still a movie with an importance that resonates. There aren't many movies that are turned into TV series twenty years after they premiere, after all: Carroll O'Connor (who else) stepped in to Rod Steiger's shoes for eight seasons as the moderately racist police chief Bill Gillespie, who gets an unexpected mess on his hands when a dead body shows up on his otherwise small town streets and, perhaps more troubling in his eyes, a black man (Sidney Poitier) arrives unannounced as well.

Of course it turns out that Poitier's Virgil Tibbs is also a police detective, and in one of cinema's least logical plot twists, he is asked by his supervisors back home to pitch in with the murder investigation. All sides are reluctant, at least until the crime is ultimately solved and everyone comes to understand a bit about the other side of the fence. (How that got Tibbs to stick around in redneck central for two sequels and eight years as a TV show is never really explained.)

Continue reading: In the Heat of the Night Review

Telefon Review


Good
Charles Bronson is KGB, man! And Lee Remick is a double agent! And together they have to track down KGBer-gone-commando Donald Pleasence, as he reactivates a long-since-abandoned plan to activate sleeper agents in the U.S. and have them blow up a bunch of stuff. This Cold War thriller may not have the most complicated story, but it's curiously effective and has been been surprisingly influential, a nice companion piece to The Manchurian Candidate, another mind controlled-civilians-as-assassins story. Bronson probably does less fighting in this film than in any other film in his career.

Charly Review


Weak
This adaptation of Daniel Keyes' sci-fi novel Flowers for Algernon is slow and very dated, but manages to pull itself together for a fairly powerful ending. Keyes's book took a rather silly premise -- a mentally handicapped adult, Charly Gordon (Cliff Robertson), undergoes an experimental operation to reverse his disability and give him supernormal intelligence -- and created a disturbing psychological study and a complex portrait of mental disability.

The plot is somewhat predictable, but it's what you do with it along the way that counts. Keyes did a lot. Unfortunately, the film version (renamed Charly) doesn't do much beyond the obvious. As Charly gains intelligence, we're supposed to see the world develop through his eyes, but mostly we just see him studying and having boring conversations with love interest Claire Bloom. Robertson won an Oscar for the role, but his portrayal of the mentally disabled Charly seems crude by today's standards and inconsistent in tone - at times he's suspiciously aware, other times unrealistically slow. Robertson does better with Charly the genius, but this part of the film doesn't last that long and feels like an Outer Limits episode, with Robertson talking about the dehumanizing future and walking around in a lab coat narrating silly "scientific" dialogue.

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The Enforcer Review


Grim
Dirty Harry #3 is undoubtedly the worst of the bunch, with Callahan chasing down a group of hippie radical terrorists, several years after the end of the hippie radical terrorist era. A few minor points for excellent use of such enormous area landmarks as Coit Tower, Alcatraz, and Tyne Daly.

Village of the Damned (1960) Review


Excellent
The creepiest moment in the recent horror film Godsend - maybe the only creepy moment - occurs when the boy around whom the action is centered informs his father, in a steady, vaguely threatening voice, that he doesn't think he likes him so much anymore. It's scary; the boy is in a sudden position of authority over his dad. The grown-ups in the audience don't like the way it sounds.

It's a good thing, then, that these same grown-ups weren't around in the British village of Midwich circa 1950. In that sleepy hamlet the entire population suffers from a brief blackout one day; a few months later, all the Midwich women of child-bearing age find that they were expecting, and the children, when they come along, are not exactly like the other boys and girls. They are, in fact, exactly like one another: blonde, rather too intelligent for our comfort, and possessed of a particularly icy stare. To say that they are aloof is an understatement. And, perhaps most tellingly, they have a hive mentality: They keep only one another's company, they communicate wordlessly, and when one of these children learns a fact, the others automatically learn it too.

Continue reading: Village of the Damned (1960) Review

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