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WNM Movie Night Liner Notes

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1998

Title: Director [Year]
"Pulp Fiction" Quentin Tarantino [1994]
"Gone with the Wind" Victor Fleming [1939]
"Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia" Sam Peckinpaw [1974]
"The Haunting" Robert Wise [1963]
"The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" Sergio Leone [1966]
"The Hospital" Arthur Hiller Paddy Chayevsky [1971]
"It‘s a Gift" Norman Z. McLeod [1934]
"Blood Beach"* Jeffrey Bloom [1981]
"Forbidden Planet" Fred Wilcox [1956]
"The Trouble With Harry" Alfred Hitchcock [1955]
"Touch of Evil" IMDb Orson Welles [1958]
"The Manchurian Candidate" John Frankenheimer [1962]
"Kiss Me Deadly" Robert Aldrich [1955]
"Heavy Weather" Jack Gold P.G. Wodehouse [1995]
"Avengers" re-mastered videotapes [1967]
"Near Dark" Kathryn Bigelow [1987]
"The Return of the Living Dead" Dan O‘Bannon [1986]
"Spartacus" Stanley Kubrick Dalton Trumbo [1960]
"Rear Window" Alfred Hitchcock [1954]
"Casablanca" Michael Curtiz [1942]
"The Wizard of OZ" Victor Fleming [1939]
"Tremors" Ron Underwood [1990]
"The Conversation" Francis Ford Coppola [1974]
"Bringing Up Baby" Howard Hawks [1938]
"Love With the Proper Stranger" Robert Mulligan [1963]
"Serial Mom" John Waters [1994]
"Young Frankenstein" Mel Brooks [1974]
"Dr. Strangelove" Stanley Kubrick [1964]
"The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai" W. D. Richter [1984]
"It's a Gift"* Norman Z. McLeod [1934]

* Indicates that our staff is still researching the information for the review, Stay Tuned!™

Liner Notes.

© 1998 WNM and the respective authors. "All Rights Reserved."
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Gone With the Wind [Victor Fleming] 1939 & re-released in 1998

" Gone with the Wind is showing for a few days at some of the larger theaters in LA. The new print is supposedly Technicolor. I bet many of us have never seen a technicolor film projected. It‘s too expensive a process now. If you like rich, vibrant colors, this should be a treat.

" If you haven‘t seen Gone with the Wind in a theater, it‘s a unique opportunity to see political incorrectess executed on a vast scale. Women in monstrous gowns. Studs in tight pants. Women in curtains. Culver City on fire. It‘s got everything. It‘s a cultural icon after all and you don‘t have to go into a church to see it. So, it‘s an epic. Okay?"
--- ggf

"There is some controversy regarding the precise rendering of this new Technicolor print. The original nitrate base GWTW separation masters are still in excellent condition (amazing) but were not used because nitrate requires special handling (today‘s trivia: nitrate motion picture film base was literally made from the prime constituent of smokeless gunpowder and was replaced in 1952 with a safer plastic base ... it took 30 years to find a plastic base other than nitrate that didn‘t build up static and ruin the film during shooting).

"As a result, some think what we will see on Sunday uses too vibrant a palette. In any case, if not the very best print that could possibly be done, reviewers who have seen the new print think it‘s a remarkable improvement over any GWTW print made since the Technicolor process was retired over 25 years ago."
--- ggf

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The Haunting (1963)

"I would suggest sometime the Robert Wise film "The Haunting". It is the best haunted house film. It has an adult treatment, was purposely filmed in black and white for effect and was expertly and tightly directed. There is little boredom in this film after the setup. Hope you guys haven‘t seen it.
--- ggf

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The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966)

"As we discussed at the WoW ... I have a copy of "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" [1966] for use tonight if you want.

"This is the third and final film in the man-with-no-name series of spaghetti westerns directed by Sergio Leone. It is the film that made Clint Eastwood a star. The first two were "For a Fistfull of Dollars" and "For a Few Dollars More", both of which were fairly small, but increasingly successful.

"This is a big-budget, epic with a huge cast and is considered a classic of its type. The scenery is spartan, dry, gritty, dirty and very realistic by comparison with American-made westerns. The three principal characters are profssional outlaws, but with differing amounts of humanity as the title suggests. The story is simple, but effective.

"This is a bit of a satire and a slight sendup of the classic American western as seen through Italian eyes. The hero is no clean-cut moral, pretty Gary Cooper or John Wayne. It has elements of silliness and light heartedness inserted to take the edge off the violence that surrounds the characters. Unlike a Peckinpaw film, the violence is not particularly realistic.

"The Bad (Lee Van Cleef) is shockingly introduced in a violent scene that will be disturbing, but which serves to show you why he is considered bad by comparison to the Ugly (Eli Wallach) or the Good (Clint Eastwood)."
--- ggf

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It‘s a Gift (1934)

"It‘s a Gift is one of W. C. Field‘s two great screen comedies. The other is The Bank Dick. The director, Norman Z. McLeod, was an accomplished director of screen comedies, Horse Feathers and Monkey Business with the Marx Brothers, later teaming up with Bob Hope in Rode to Rio, The Paleface and Casanova‘s Big Night.

"It‘s a Gift is often cited as one of the two or three best classic comedies ever filmed. It was co-written by Fields and is composed of a succession of delightful visual comedy sketches that are tied together with a conveniently simple plot. Fields is the bumbling, henpecked Harold Bisonette, who owns a small general store. His life‘s dream revolves around attaining some peace and quiet, precious little of which his customers or his bossy, status conscious wife let him have.

"Perhaps the best comedy sketch ever filmed occurs when the tired, nagged and mis-understood Bisonette tries to get some peace and overdue sleep on the back porch of a tenement. The last third of the film is not as successful as what preceeded it, but that is easily overlooked when you consider how great the earlier sketches were.

"Even so, the last sketch produces one of Fields‘ best one-liners. When a track developer is desparate to purchase Bisonette‘s worthless orange farm and it becomes clear that he is going to be fleeced by Bisonette, the buyer angrily accuses Harold of being drunk. Harold agrees, saying:

"Yeah, you‘re crazy. But I‘ll be sober tomorrow and you‘ll be crazy for the rest of your life."

"Harold Bisonette is finally and accidentally successful in his life‘s dream, which is to own a productive citrus farm in southern California, where he can live the peaceful life of a gentleman, which to him means that his wife and chidren are otherwise engaged, while his orange tree, vodka bottle and cocktail glass are within arms reach from his back porch chair."

--ggf

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The Trouble With Harry (1955)

"I have already picked up Hitchcock‘s "The Trouble With Harry". This is one of his few comedies ... about a dark subject. It didn‘t go over well with the audiences of the time ... so much the worse for them. It is better suited for us wicked naughty modern types.

"Alfred Hitchcock‘s painfully underrated black comedy The Trouble With Harry is a deliciously morbid film sure to amuse anyone with a slightly twisted or unorthodox sense of humor (such as Alfred Hitchcock‘s own). A dead body is found lying in the woods; what to do with him becomes the bothersome dilemma for a small group of the local residents. It was shot in the rich color of Vermont‘s autumn, the perfect compliment to its darker subject matter [At-A-Glance].
--- ggf

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The Manchurian Candidate (1962)

If you haven‘t seen this film ... I am leaning pretty hard toward The Manchurian Candidate. It was made in 1962 and was directed by John Frankenheimer. This film was shown for a short time and then wasn‘t made available again until 1987.

Frank Sinatra starred. It‘s well written, acted and a fine film. It‘s quite suspenseful. It has Angela Lansbury as a villain and also Wo Fat from Hawaii Five-O. What more could you want? Janet Leigh is also in it, but she isn‘t killed in a shower or drugged in a deserted hotel by Mexican drug lord. Ho hum.

Supposedly, Lee Harvey Oswald watched this film. The principals decided to yank it immediately after the Pres. Kennedy assassination. The film was politically sensitive enough that it nearly wasn‘t made. Oddly enough, it was a phone call from Kennedy to United Artists head, made at Sinatra‘s behest, that got the film made.

For those of you who like conspiracies, and in keeping with the overall feeling of the film, it was the director, Frankenheimer, that drove Robert Kennedy to the hotel the night he was assassinated.

Did I tell you about the alien spacecraft that supposedly delivered the original print? Really! It was a two-tone yellow and ecru with teal accents near the blast tubes ...."
--- ggf

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Kiss Me Deadly (1955)

"I have picked up a copy of Kiss Me Deadly (1955), directed by Robert Aldrich and starring Ralph Meeker. It‘s in black and white, as all true film noir must be. Cloris Leachman makes her film debut here. The co-star is Albert Dekker aka Dr. Cyclops and probably more famous for something other than acting.

"I risk overdoing film noir, considering that we saw Touch of Evil a couple of weeks ago, but this is pretty different. The main character is Mike Hammer. Before you puke, this Hammer is not Stacey Keach. This guy is a person you probably would not want to know well at all.

"This has been variously called either film-noir/sci-fi or film-noir/horror. The horror element would definitely be there if you had seen it in the ‘50s. It‘s a bit like Invasion of the Body Snatchers in that way. Once the objective in the film is realized, about 2/3 through, the tone shifts.

"This is a late classic film-noir made in the US and perhaps the best. Some people called it nasty and mean. It is said to be one of the prime influences on Truffaut and Goddard‘s new-wave cinema. As a bit of useless trivia, supposedly, Kiss Me Deadly is where the glowing briefcase bit in Pulp Fiction and Repo Man came from.

"The Kefauver Congressional Commission in ‘55 (Y2K: 1955) noted Kiss Me Deadly for special condemnation as an example of immoral entertainment they felt was responsible for juvenile delinquency ... so Meg and Will must be out of the room."
--- ggf

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Avengers (1967) Finally!

"I just bought the first set (vol 1 through 3) of the re mastered 1967 Avengers videotapes. These are the real ones with Diana Rigg and Patrick Macnee as the leading actors. The six episodes are: 1) From Venus with Love, 2) The Fear Merchants, 3) Escape in Time, 4) The See-through Man, 5) The Bird Who Knew Too Much, and 6) The Winged Avenger.

"There are two more set of tapes that are available, making 18 episodes."
--- rrs

" Series 1 Avengers season was late shown in 1961. Patrick Macnee stared as Steed with more than one assistant.

" Series 2 in 1962/63 with anthropologist Catherine Gale, played by Honor Blackman, started the duo tradition for the Avengers.

" Series 3 in 1963/64 with Catherine Gale/John Steed. Series was by now very successful. Honor Blackman decided to leave the series to play Pussy Galore in Goldfinger (not a good move as it turned out).

" Series 4 in 1965/66 saw the Avengers being produced on 35mm. They got the new theme music we heard then. Emma Peel was initially played by blonde Elizabeth Shepherd (She co-starred in the Tomb of Ligeia - the Roger Corman Edgar Allan Poe adaption that also starred Vincent Price). She did 1.5 episodes before being replaced by Diana Rigg for the rest of that season. The series was so successful internationally that it got picked up by ABC. It was the first British TV series screened in prime time in the US. The first US screening was 28 March 1966 with "The Cybernauts".

" Series 5 in 1967. The transition was made to 35mm color. So what we saw last night was shot then.

" Series 6 in 1969. Linda Thorson and Tara King replaced Emma Peel. ABC tried to kill off Laugh-In by scheduling the Avengers opposite it. This didn‘t work and The Avengers was cancelled in late 1969."
--- ggf

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"What car is that?"

"I believe that Ms. Peel is driving a Lotus Elan among other assorted British vehicles."
--- wls

Trivia Question: What is the maximum number of outfits worn by Ms. Rigg in any one episode?"


"It was suggested that we see some horror fare for this Wednesday, seeing how it‘s so close to that evil night.

"After due consideration I have picked up two films: Near Dark and Return of the Living Dead. The first is more or less serious. The second is a bit humorous. We can start with the edgy one and finish with the bloody joke, or vice versa if you are perverse.

"Since Near Dark takes place in inland Texas, there are no giant carniverous sharks. Although Near Dark takes place in inland Texas, there are no giant carniverous slugs.

"While we are on the topic of giant carniverous slugs ... did you know that there is a film about giant carniverous slugs lurking under Venice beach? Betcha you didn‘t. Wanna see a cheer leader sucked under the sand when neither David Hasselhoff nor Pamela Sue Anderson would be able to do bupkis? It‘s called Blood Beach. Good it ain‘t."

--ggf

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"Near Dark (1987) is one of the best vampire films made. It‘s a notch above Innocent Blood and Lair of the White Worm although perhaps not as much fun as either of those. Near Dark was directed and co-written by Kathryn Bigelow (Blue Steel, Point Break, Strange Days).

"Near Dark came out the same year as The Lost Boys and promptly became The Lost Film under the avalanche of Hollywood hype that surrounded The Lost Boys. Yet for all its reputation, The Lost Boys is a vampire film for adolescents, while Near Dark was written to appeal to those with some sophistication. There are those who consider it a minor masterpiece.

"Like Blood Simple and Red Rock West, Near Dark is cowboy noir. Tastes vary of course and Near Dark does have some horrific scenes in it. The acting by both good and evil adult role models is solid."

--ggf

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"The Return of the Living Dead (1985) is classified as a horror/comedy, which puts it in a fairly small kettle of fish (Tremors is my personal best pick in this small genre). Return was directed and written by Dan O‘Bannon who wrote Alien, Total Recall, Blue Thunder, Lifeforce (another reasonable vampire film that redefines the meaning of suck you dry) and the recent remake of Invaders from Mars.

"This was O‘Bannon‘s directorial debut film. It is a well-made ghoul movie that openly rips off Night of the Living Dead for its material, but that doesn‘t take itself or the material seriously. Roger Ebert thought that this film had connoisseurship quality: "It‘s kind of a sensation-machine, made out of the usual ingredients, and the real question is whether it‘s done with style. It is."

--ggf

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"Spartacus" [Stanley Kubrick] 1960

"Stanley Kubrick has made a few epic films. Among those Spartacus is the most ‘Hollywood‘ epic. Influenced by its contemporary studio conventions, it suffers in one large way. It is dated. Hollywood in the ‘60s wanted its actresses to be made up, even when that made no historic sense. This looks silly. Slave women in Rome had access neither to Paul Mitchell hair care products nor Carlton Hair International salons. The love interest between Douglas (Spartacus) and Jean Simmons (Varinia) is a bit too saccharine and also dated. The unfortunate tendencies of the time and some awkward dialog in spots detract from what is otherwise a fine epic film

"In Kubrick‘s favor, the original director, Anthony Mann, was dropped. Kubrick was brought in to finish the majority of the film. In the version now seen, some scenes appear unneccessary, with a result that the film has been criticized as overlong.

"Universal Studios apparently were frightened of the hidden political message that rebels fighting for a just cause may be able to overthrow an immense and powerful government (the founding fathers might think this fear rather pathetic). Over the objections of Douglas, Kubrick and Trumbo, Universal edited out much of the successful battle sequences and discussions wherein it was made clear that Spartacus defeated the Romans for years, nearly toppling the empire.

"Douglas had made himself producer to try to prevent that, but failed. Consequently, the film loses its claim to historic accuracy and the central portion of the film appears overly centered on Spartacus‘ love interest with Varinia. Unfortunately, Universal threw out some of these cut scenes in 1975, making a director‘s restoration virtually impossible.

"However, Universal had its reasons to be frightened. Their head, Edward Muhl, had gone out on a limb to use Trumbo. Walter Winchell found out and tried to publicly lynch Trumbo and that pressure led the House Un-American Activities Committee to threaten new Hollywood hearings. Since Spartacus was the most expensive film they had made, the studio was risking nearly everything.

"With those negatives out of the way, the film is, if not great, still a fine epic. $12 millions were spent on it, a huge sum for 1960. It has an excellent look, a fine sound track and believable conflicts, physical and otherwise. Literally, there is a cast of thousands, actually 8.5 of them. The sometimes unnecessary glitz probably helped Spartacus win best costume and art direction oscars.

"The film is loaded with good performances and a strong cast. Laurence Olivier, Charles Laughton and Peter Ustinov are a pleasure to watch. Kirk Douglas plays the lead and gives Spartacus a solid character. Woody Strode is effective and sad as a veteran gladiator. Tony Curtis is believable as somewhat of a camp follower and boy toy (see below) Spartacus also won best supporting actor (Peter Ustinov) and best cinematography oscars, along with the Golden Globe for best picture.

"The screenplay by Dalton Trumbo is for the most part quite good and was based upon a book by Howard Fast. Some feel the script was too moralistic, but given Trumbo‘s background that is understandable. The personal relationships between Spartacus and others are largely made up of whole cloth. Rome surpressed knowledge of Spartacus and very little is known about the man himself except for his exploits.

"Trumbo was a member of the Hollywood Ten, who went to prison rather than cooperate with the House Un-American Activities Committee. Trumbo was supposedly the best-paid screenwriter in Hollywood when his political leanings got him into trouble. During the late 40‘s and 50‘s Trumbo had to scrounge. He used a variety of people as fronts or was entirely uncredited while doing some great work including Roman Holiday, The Brave One, The Cowboy, The Court Martial of Billy Mitchell and Bad Day at Black Rock. Trumbo later got two oscars for his uncredited works, the Brave One in 1975 and Roman Holiday in 1992, sixteen years after his death.

"The principal censorial controversy over Spartacus was generated by the homo-erotic undercurrect between Olivier (Crassus) and Tony Curtis (Antoninus). The bath scene when recognized as such was cut out and not many people saw it. Some of the more horrific scenes were also cut. It was recently restored (1991) with most of the censored scenes re-inserted. Since the soundtrack was lost to the bath scene and Olivier was no longer alive, it had to be dubbed, in this case by Anthony Hopkins.

"The restored version is 198 minutes long. The original master 35mm horizontal negative had lost most of its yellow, making it unusable, but because Spartacus was printed in 70mm Technicolor, there still existed B&W three-color separation negatives. This allowed a nearly complete restoration.

"As an amusing aside, Crassus was a very aggressive capitalist. He became a very wealthy and powerful man in Rome, holding the fire department concession. When a fire was reported, his people would show up and ask the owner to pay a fee before they started to put out the fire. These fees were very high. If you didn‘t want to pay, the fire continued to burn and, naturally enough, the fees rose. Crassus was quite the effective auctioneer, getting the owners to bet against themselves. Often the owner defaulted and Crassus became the new owner.

"Crassus‘ ambition was just a wee bit too great. Roman politics at the end of the Republican era (circa 70BC) required that he become a successful general to rise to the top. He was wealthy enough to command and raise an army. The defeat of Spartacus was his meal ticket to the top.

"Unfortunately, while Crassus may have been a good capitalist and politician, he was not a good general. Some years later he still had not learned that sending legions into a desert without sufficient water detracts from their fighting capabilities. Exeunt Crassus and two legions. Presumably, fire departments were reorganized along somewhat more civil lines after his departure from the stage.

"For lovers of minutiae, there are occasions in Spartacus where slaves can be seen wearing writwatches and modern shoes and in one battle scene a truck can be seen in the distance. Also, if it looks like the Hearst Castle, it is. Finally, it has been said that Alfred Hitchcock shows up in one of the scenes, but since there are 1000s of extras, I have never found him. Maybe you‘ll be more lucky."

--- ggf

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"Rear Window" [Alfred Hitchcock] 1954

"Rear Window is considered one of Alfred Hitchcock‘s best films. Although nominated for best picture, director and screenplay, it won neither, losing all three nominations to On the Waterfront [1954].

"Rear Window is another of Hitchcock‘s somewhat experimental films. However, unlike Rope [1948], with this film he hit a home run. Here the viewer is confined to the viewpoint of the leading character L.B. Jeffries, who is himself confined in his living room to a wheel chair as a result of broken leg.

"Jeffries, well-played by Jimmy Stewart, is a photographer by trade. He uses his confinement and telephoto gear as an excuse to while away his boring hours snooping out his rear-facing window on the lives of others who live in his New York City apartment building.

"Hitchcock turns the viewer into a voyeur along with Jeffries. You see through his lens and are led to make your own conclusions. Jeffries has several neighbors who have vaguely interesting lives. But one of those neighbors, played by Raymond Burr, turns out to have something well worth hiding.

"Jeffries‘ boredom soon vanishes and the focus of the film sharpens on the man who lives across the courtyard and the small bits of his life that can be glimpsed through windows. Jeffries‘ problem is convincing others around him that something is seriously wrong. Getting to that point is much of the fun.

"As in other Hitchcock films, Jeffries has a beautiful woman that he keeps somewhat distant. This time it is Grace Kelly, playing the model Lisa Fremont. Many of Hitchcock‘s leading men seem vaguely asexual or impotent. The women may be there, but are rarely centers of attention. The plot‘s the thing, not the bikini."

--ggf

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"Casablanca" [Michael Curtiz] 1942

"Casablanca [1942] is certainly one of the most popular movies of all time. It got best picture, director and screenplay oscars, but the question of whether or not it is a great film is often debated. Certainly, Michael Curtiz directed it with skill and the three writers eventually produced a fine script. However, the final outcome might be more of a happy accident than it was an intentional attempt to make a great film.

"Casablanca was a low-budget film like many other films produced during its era. The script was adapted from a mediocre play. Portions of the script were rushed to be ready by shooting time. What resulted was a hackneyed piece of heavy-handed propaganda overlayed on top of a love triangle. By rights one would expect Casablanca to have been forgettable .

"What makes Casablanca work? The choice of cast was clearly excellent. The script that resulted from the frenetic re-writing not only hangs together, it is unusually good. The main characters lie between the poles created by Victor Laszlo and the Nazi Major Strasser. Most are cynical opportunists, some are corrupt, some have broken, but they are not stereotypical.

"The flawed nature of the main characters makes them believeable and we can identify with them. This may be why Casablanca does not seem dated, even though it is a propaganda piece for a war that most now alive don‘t remember. Consistent with the film‘s tone is the ending, which is neither completely happy nor sad. The characters recognize in the end that they are trapped by their roles, but that life will go on."

--ggf

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"The Wizard of OZ" [Victor Fleming] 1939


  
"Dorothy Gale is transported from her black-and-white Kansas home to the colorful land of Oz via a tornado. From here she journeys down the Yellow Brick Road and is helped by a Scarecrow, a Tin Man, and a Cowardly Lion on their way to see the Wizard. The Harold Arlen/Yip Harburg score is highlighted by "Somewhere Over the Rainbow."
AFI #6

--wls

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"Tremors" [Ron Underwood] 1990

"This film is just plain fun. It‘s well directed, acted, and has all the laughs and thrills, fears, that movies like the "BLOB" had in the fifties. Fix some popcorn, a coke and sit back for a real evening of fun and entertainment. I know . . .I played "Jim the Doctor." You will see me get sucked underground. By the way it took 9 takes to get that."

anonymous

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Wed Nov. 18, 1998

"The Conversation [Francis Ford Coppola] 1974

"Francis Ford Coppola sandwiched The Conversation [1974] in between the first two Godfather films and Apocolypse Now (Coppola is one of those whose careers Roger Corman helped start).

"Coppola had just gotten his Best Screenplay Oscar for The Godfather. Although The Conversation got nominations for Coppola as Best Picture and Screenplay, it lost out to The Godfather:Part II the same year, for which Coppola got Best Picture, Screenplay and Director awards. It seems fair to say that when The Conversation was written and directed Coppola was at the peak of his prowess.

"The Conversation is first and foremost a tragical character study and secondarily a mystery. Gene Hackman gives a superb performance playing the lead character, Harry Caul, a professional surveillance operator. The film‘s greatest strength is its script. It is a quiet film, full of dialogue and it requires some concentration to follow.

"It is obvious early that Harry Caul is tightly wound up, possibly on the edge of a breakdown. Something in his past has made Harry incapable of sustaining interpersonal relationships. He is a loner. All that‘s left for Harry now is his work. It‘s the only thing he takes pride in anymore, the only thing at which he is successful. Harry hopes that through his work and his conduct of it that he will chase away his demon. But his profession and its nature dooms him.

"Some say that The Conversation is a tightly written mystery that is worthy of Hitchcock and that it reminds one of Antonioni‘s Blowup. I disagree with the former. That this film is a personal tragedy is confirmed by its conclusion. The mystery here is the means by which the tragedy unfolds. His profession is his demon and without it Harry doesn‘t have a reason to live.

"Critics applaud this film for the atmosphere of paranoia that it contructs and the warning of what technology is doing to eliminate privacy. But ultimately, we find out that Harry isn‘t paranoid. The atmosphere of this film is due to two things. First, the character of Harry Caul and second the understated piano score that produces in the viewer a sentimental, bleak and reflective mood consistent with Harry‘s character."

--ggf

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"Bringing Up Baby" [Howard Hawks] 1938

"Bringing Up Baby [1938] was directed by Howard Hawks. This is considered to be the best and definitive example of the `screwball comedy‘.

"That Howard Hawks directed this is a testament to his skill as a director of all sorts of films. Hawks is most identified with the western and with one star in particular, John Wayne. He could also be associated with Bogart, having directed To Have and Have Not, and The Big Sleep. The gulf between those films, Red River, Rio Bravo, El Dorado, Rio Lobo on the one hand and Bringing Up Baby on the other is vast. But Hawks did make other comedies of note, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes with Marilyn Monroe and even a John Wayne comedy, Hatari. Yes, that‘s right. Laugh, pilgrim.

"So what‘s a good screwball comedy? Think of it as an episode of I Love Lucy written for adults of good breeding and proper educational attainment or what P.G. Wodehouse would have written about if he were American rather than British.

"Bringing Up Baby has a delightful supporting cast of character actors that mix well with the atmosphere set for the film. The performances by the leads, Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant are superb. Everything clicks here, the writing, direction and acting combine to make this a great film.

"The heyday of the screwball comedy genre of films was shortlived ... the depression. It‘s generally assumed that they were popular then because they provided a good escape from the pressures and worries of everyday life at that time. There have been attempts made to resurrect this genre, most notably by Peter Bogdanovich in 1972 with What‘s Up Doc, which used Barbra Streisand and Ryan O‘Neal in roles similar to Hepburn and Grant. But it is generally conceded that none have risen to the heights attained in the 1930s.

"For lovers of trivia this film is supposedly the first time in mass media that the word "gay" took on its modern sexual connotation. The censors left it in supposedly because they didn‘t know what it meant.

--ggf

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"Young Frankenstein" [Mel Brooks] 1974

"The Mel Brooks film Young Frankenstein [1974] is a superb spoof of the two James Whale classic films Frankenstein [1931] and Bride of Frankenstein [1935]. This is considered by many to be Brooks‘ best film. Brooks was nominated along with Gene Wilder for best screenplay. The black and white cinematography mimics that of the originals and much of the original mad scientist equipment used in those films was donated, powered up and used again here.

"This inspired comedy would make even Scrooge laugh out loud, which makes it excellent holiday season fare. Now, in case you were wondering about the other Young Frankenstein movie made in 1974 ...

"In the Warhol/Morrisey version the Baron is a necrophiliac trying to make a super race by creating and mating the ideal man and woman. He‘s got the woman. The finishing touch for the man is to get him an oversexed brain, but the Baron mistakenly uses the head of a man whose life ambition was to be a monk. Have you ever noticed how nobody seems to get the right brains in these movies? Things don‘t work out.

"That sounds like a comedy and could be if you are sick and twisted. Some Warhol films rank with early John Waters films and can be pretty disgusting. It was originally shown in 3-D and got an X rating. If you want to see a better Warhol satire, I suggest Andy Warhol‘s Bad [1977] about a woman (Caroll Baker) who runs an electrolysis salon out of her house, but makes extra money by providing trailer trash women for hit jobs. Now that is a comedy!"

--ggf

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"Dr. Strangelove: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb" [Stanley Kubrick] 1964

"Dr. Strangelove was based upon the novel Red Alert by Peter George and was adapted for the screen by Terry Southern, Stanley Kubrick and Peter George. The stamp of Terry Southern seems all over the script. It is a marvelous and wicked satire. It is filmed in black and white, which gives it all an other-world quality well suited to the subject material.

"What can one say about this film? Well, for starters it is considered one of the greatest films made. It sits in most top 100 english-speaking film lists. The American Film Institute ranked it #26. Dr. Strangelove was nominated for best picture, actor, director and screenplay oscars. It so happens it lost to My Fair Lady and Becket. At least those were worthy opponents. This is also one of Peter Sellers great films. Sellers plays three central roles in the film in a tour de farce reminiscent of Alec Guinness in Kind Hearts and Coronets.

"This film was released right in the middle of the cold war. The Russians had taken their missiles out of Cuba only two years before, John F. Kennedy was hardly cold in his grave and LBJ was ramping up the Vietnam war. In this context a satire on nuclear anihilation was hardly expected movie fare.

"Great though it is, sad to say, this film is inevitably dated. Its subject material and punch came from frozen depths of the cold war. That era is past. The deep seated fears of armageddon that people had who watched this film and the deadly serious public view of the subject stood in stark contrast to the satirical treatment given them in this film. This cold-war tension provoked a lot of guilty laughter in the audience.

"People who heard air raid siren tests and practiced duck-and-cover drills in their schools should be able to cast back their minds and appreciate the self-defensive humour that this film produced. Those who don‘t remember should try to use their imaginations and just revel in the beautiful, authoritarian looniness portrayed here. There are plenty of silly lines and gags that do stand the test of time.

"For a serious partner to this film watch Fail Safe, which coincidentally, was also filmed in [1964] in black and white. Fail Safe is anything but funny."

--ggf

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"The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai" [W. D. Richter] 1984

Director W.D. Richter‘s The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai is sort of hip, and kind of cool, but really isn‘t as good as it could be.

"It certainly starts out well enough. The opening credit graphics, and Music by Michael Boddicker, set a rousing tone for a grand, comic book style adventure.

"An opening story background "crawl", ala "Star Wars" lets us know about Buckaroo, played by Peter Weller ("Robocop"), and his mixed background (U.S. father, Japanese mother) his varied interests (neurosurgery, martial arts, particle physics), and the fact that he makes music with his off beat friends, those "hard rocking scientists, The Hong Kong Cavaliers".

"Without wasting time, Director Richter plunges into the action. At the salt flats, team Banzai prepares to launch its rocket car. The problem is, of‘ Buckaroo is not present and accounted for. That‘s ‘cause multitalented Buckaroo (Weller) is busy recruiting Jeff Goldblum ("Jurassic Park"), a top surgeon, who is performing an operation. After asking Goldblum to join his group, Weller inquires, "Can you sing?" Goldblum responds, "A little... I can dance."

"Soon Weller, dressed in a black, Ninja-style firesuit shows up at the salt flats. When Weller gets in the jet car, the film really takes off, literally and figuratively. When Weller goes off course, it appears he‘s going to slam right into a mountain. Instead, a blue beam from the jet car zaps the mountain, and then the jet car goes into the mountain. Instead of crashing, it enters a weird 8th dimension. We see a strange landscape, and unusual creatures, some human-like, some not. Soon, Weller and his jet car come out the other side of the mountain, unharmed. In this sequence, Richter and Director of Photography, Fred J. Koenekamp, really delivers the Sci-Fi excitement goods. This is my favorite scene in the film.

"Unfortunately, the rest of the movie never again reaches this level of fun and entertainment. The rest of the a film is a mishmash of aliens, a mad scientist (John"Cliffhanger" Lithgow at his most excessive) and a "lost soul" girl named Penny, played by Ellen Barkin ("Sea of Love") in an early, non-impressive performance.

"The main problems lie with the Screenplay by Earl Mac Rauch. His biggest mistake is that darn jet car sequence. The much acclaimed film "Bullitt" has its famous chase scene well into the film, which makes it all the more satisfying when it arrives. By contrast, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai by having it‘s exciting jet car sequence first, gives filmmaker Richter nowhere to go but down.

"Another problem is the Hong Kong Cavaliers themselves. Other than Jeff Goldblum, they are a faceless lot, not very well fleshed out, and with little to do. Weller, as Buckaroo, is the whole show, and the rest seem like a Superstar‘s hangers on: perhaps important to him, but not interesting to the viewer.

"The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai is like a Chinese dinner: an hour later you‘re hungry for a more substantial film. All you remember is the opening jet car scene and the cool music.

"The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai should be watchable for both undemanding Sci-Fi fans and the small fry, who may get a kick out of the aliens. Banzai!<"br>

--???

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