Sunday, June 25, 2017

Death Watch (1980)

Original Title: La Mort en Direct

Director: Bertand Tavernier

Writers: David Compton, David Rayfiel, Bertrand Tavernier

Composer: Antoine Duhamel

Starring: Romy Schneider, Harvey Keitel, Harry Dean Stanton, Therese Liotard, Max von Sydow, Caroline Langrishe, William Russell, Vadim Glowna, Eva Maria Meineke, Bernhard Wicki, Freddie Boardley, Robbie Coltrane

More info: IMDb

Tagline: She's the target of every eye...including eyes only science could create.

Plot: Roddy has a camera implanted in his brain. He is then hired by a television producer to film a documentary of terminally ill Katherine, without her knowledge. His footage will then be run on the popular TV series, "Death Watch".

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

I didn't know a single thing about this going in.  If you seek it out, think of it as an art house drama with a science fiction idea.  It's got the makings of a sci-fi thriller but director Bertrand took it somewhere else.  He explores the realistic feelings the characters would have in a situation like this and he treats it with kid gloves so it's only natural that this is leisurely paced.  For some that might mean a one way ticket to snoozeville but you should give it a chance.  Bertrand plays this slow and tragic all the way to the end, without letting go of emotions.  The performances are good, specifically Keitel.  Stanton is fine, too, and it's nice to see him portraying someone more normal and laid back than his usual fare (but I really dig that stuff, too).  While it doesn't have the emotional punch everyone making this was probably going for, it's still an interesting film nonetheless.  Just don't expect as much as the premise and the opening act let on.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Tight Spot (1955)

Director: Phil Karlson

Writers: William Bowers, Leonard Kantor

Composer: George Duning

Starring: Ginger Rogers, Edward G. Robinson, Brian Keith, Lucy Marlow, Lorne Greene, Katherine Anderson, Allen Nourse, Peter Leeds, Doye O'Dell, Eve McVeagh

More info: IMDb

Tagline: SHE: "Is that blood?" HE: "I took two bullets through the chest, ma'am. Just routine."

Plot: A female inmate is whisked out of prison and into a police guarded hotel until the D.A. can convince her to testify against the mob in the upcoming trial.

My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

Holy shit, what a movie!  I'm very impressed with Ginger Rogers.  It's a role I've never seen her come close to.  She's dynamite!  Brien Keith is fantastic and so is one of my top favorites, Edward G. Robinson.  There's a scene early on where he confronts the bad guy's lawyer and he lets him have it and good.  I've never seen Robinson with so much fire in his belly.  He's ferocious and it's marvelous.  This has got some outstanding dialogue.  It's more than just a few words here and there, it often runs from scene to scene.  The story takes us on a few turns, too.  I very much liked the surprises.  And how about that young Lorne Greene, Admiral Adama himself?  He's barely in it but he makes the most of what he has as the mobster that's in Robinson's crosshairs.  The music's great, too.  I'm really impressed as if that weren't obvious.  Man, just check out these lines...

...and any movie with Mississippi Mac is A-OK with me!

Friday, June 23, 2017

Casbah (1948)

Director: John Berry

Writers: Leslie Bush-Fekete, Arnold Manoff, Erik Charell, Henri La Barthe

Composers: Harlod Arlen, Walter Scharf

Starring: Yvonne De Carlo, Tony Martin, Peter Lorre, Marta Toren, Hugo Haas, Thomas Gomez, Douglas Dick, Katherine Dunham, Herbert Rudley, Gene Walker, Curt Conway, Hans Schumm, Eartha Kitt

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Den of a thousand thieves!  Rendezvous for romance!

Plot: Pepe Le Moko is a master thief who lives in the Casbah section of Algiers. A French police inspector would love to capture Pepe, but realizes that as long as the thief remains in the Casbah he is protected by his vast network of criminals. When Pepe falls in love with a beautiful tourist, he schemes for the first time to leave his little "empire".

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again? No.

Why was this a musical?  Who did Tony Martin sleep with?  I joke but he's miscast until the end.  It's the lighter stuff that doesn't work for me and that's nearly all the movie.  That last 15 minutes are outstanding and very dramatic which contrasts the rest of the picture.  Until then it's kind of like a light romantic crime drama that has some odd moments like when Pepe (Martin) just randomly bursts into song and it's often the same song (For Every Man There's a Woman), which was nominated for an Oscar.  It's a catchy tune and you might find yourself humming it after the movie's over.  Even though it happened a few times, I never got used to him busting it out in weird moments.  Yvonne De Carlo is smoking hot.  Hubba hubba.  The lighthearted tone of the film doesn't quite work for me.  Except for Tony Martin, everyone does a fine job.  I single Martin out because he's got moments where he seems out of place.  But he does an excellent job in the final moments when everything gets deathly serious.  What brought me to watching it in the first place was Peter Lorre and he's fantastic.  I like his character and Lorre brings layers to him that were welcome.  He could've just phoned it in and it wouldn't have mattered in the big picture of it all but he adds that little something extra that makes him so interesting to watch. 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Men of Sherwood Forest (1954)

Director: Val Guest

Writer: Allan MacKinnon

Composer: Doreen Carwithen

Starring: Don Taylor, Reginald Beckwith, Eileen Moore, David King-Wood, Douglas Wilmer, Harold Lang, Ballard Berkeley, Patrick Holt, Wnsley Pithey, Leslie Linder, John Van Eyssen

More info: IMDb

Tagline: All the glory and splendour of stirring adventure!

Plot: In 1194, on his return from the Third Crusade, Richard the Lionheart is taken prisoner in Germany. Disguised as a troubadour, Robin Hood formulates a plan to rescue Richard but he is captured himself.

My rating:  6.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Nah.

I recognized a few names in the opening credits that would later be associated with Hammer's horror pictures and then at the end I see that it was a Hammer production, their first in color it turns out.  That would explain the overall quality of the picture.  Since THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD (1938) there have been several Robin Hood pictures in color.  No one can top Errol Flynn's turn on Robin but Don Taylor does an excellent job and takes second.  The music here is rousing and robust, there's plenty of action sprinkled throughout this 74 minute adventure flick and there's a general sense of fun.  Thankfully this isn't a retelling of the 1938 movie but there are some elements of it to be found.  A lot of time is spent inside the castle and the 8 year old adventurous boy in me would've preferred more outdoor scenes.  Hell, it's an English production filmed in Robin Hood's backyard so why not take advantage of the beautiful English forests and countryside?  I'm almost inclined to give this a solid 7 but it's missing a little something that pushes it over the edge.  It's a fine film but it's also not as fun as it should be.  That might sound silly but when you see I hope you see what I'm trying to get at. 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

All in a Night's Work (1961)

Director: Joseph Anthony

Writers: Edmund Beloin, Maurice Richlin, Sidney Sheldon, Margit Veszi, Owen Elford

Composer: Andre Previn

Starring: Dean Martin, Shirley MacLaine, Cliff Robertson, Charles Ruggles, Norma Crane, Jack Weston, John Hudson, Jerome Cowan, Gale Gordon

More info: IMDb

Tagline: It's nice work - and you can get it!

Plot: Colonel Ryder, the publisher of a magazine, dies while on vacation. Tony, his swinging nephew, inherits the magazine and takes over. Presently, the magazine is planning to expand and to do so they need some capital. Tony's trying to arrange a loan through his friend. He is then informed by the hotel detective of the hotel that his uncle died in, that on the night of his death, a woman, wearing only a towel, came out of his room, and ran away before the detective could catch up with her. They suspect that the Colonel was "with" her on the night he died, cause he was smiling when he died. Tony and two of his uncle's confidants are worried that not only if the bank hears of this they will not get the loan but the magazine wholesome image could be tarnished. So they ask the detective to stay around so he could identify her. What they don't know is that the woman is Katie Robbins, one of the magazine's researchers and that she entered the room by "accident". When the detective identifies her and after having a few misconceived conversations with her, they suspect that she is trying to extort them, and she thinks that Tony's a nut.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again?  Nope.

This is what happens when talented people in the movie business get together to make a mediocre movie.  It's all in the story, too, I think.  The actors do well enough, Andre Previn's John Williams-esque score is delightfully fun but Shirley MacLaine goes overboard with the hyperactivity and Dean Martin isn't the relaxed, smooth mofo we're used to (I guess that's where acting comes into play).  It is wild seeing Cliff Robertson so young.  What you end up with is a typical, run of the mill Hollywood romantic comedy that isn't adding anything new or interesting to the genre.  It shouldn't have to but then if you're not doing anything special then you should at least make it entertaining and this didn't do anything for me in that way, either.  There are lots of familiar faces on display and there Martin is still fun to watch but this is by no means a forgotten classic.  It's close to being 'cute' and that's it.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Robbery (1967)

Director: Peter Yates

Writers: Edward Boyd, George Markstein, Gerald Wilson, Peter Yates

Composer: Johnny Keating

Starring: Stanley Baker, Joanna Pettet, James Booth, Frank Finlay, Barry Foster, William Marlowe, Clinton Greyn, George Sewell, Glynn Edwards, Michael McStay, Martin Wyldeck

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Who says crime doesn't pay? 3 Million pounds says it does!

Plot: A group of British criminals plans the robbery of the Royal Mail train on the Glasgow-London route.

My rating:  6.5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

Crime capers are tricky.  This picture's got a good cast doing a fine job, an interesting heist that's also a real one at that, a great opening car chase and lots of cops and robbers doing their thing and doing it well.  What's missing is tension or even strong drama.  It's well put together except for the lack of suspense.  I'd only heard about the heist years ago but I knew nothing about it except that some blokes robbed a train in 60s England.  I didn't even know how it turned out.  Without tension, what's left is an overlong film that spends enough time setting the heist up, too much time in executing the heist and too much time after the gig without any suspense.  The film told me the coppers were on the way but it didn't matter.  The last hour and something was pretty ho hum.  I enjoyed it to a point but the lack of suspense hurt it overall.  I'm not suggesting it needed to grab me by the short and curlies and not let go but gee whiz, the movie starts with a bang and never achieves that level of excitement for the rest of the picture. 

Monday, June 19, 2017

It Happened Here (1965)

Directors: Kevin Brownlow, Andrew Mollo

Writers: Kevin Brownlow, Andrew Mollo

Starring: Pauline Murray, Sebastian Shaw, Bart Allison, Reginald Marsh, Frank Bennett, Derek Milburn, Nicolette Bernard, Nicholas Moore

More info: IMDb

Tagline: What would have happened if the German army had crossed the English channel

Plot: In 1940, the Nazis invade Britain and transform it into a fascist state where some Britons collaborate and others resist.

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Maybe.

I've seen this twice now and the second time is just as good.  The black and white photography really brings out the harshness of the story.  It doesn't feel like there are many trained actors involved but the all do a very fine job.  The two writer/directors began making this film when they were teenagers and it took them eight years to complete.  It's got that documentary/newsreel vibe which helps sell the realism.  With this and their other storytelling techniques, I was struck by how easily someone could get wrapped up in all of this.  These events forced people to accept their new way of life or live hard fighting for their old way.  Everything builds to the bleak final half hour.  It's a good picture and one most people will live their entire lives having never heard of it.  Don't make that mistake.  Of special note to STAR WARS fans, actor Sebastian Shaw played Anakin Skywalker in RETURN OF THE JEDI and cinmeatographer Peter Suschitzky was the DP on THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK.