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WNM Movie Night Liner Notes

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1999

Title: Director [Year]
"The Wild Bunch" Sam Peckinpah [1969]
"Lawrence of Arabia" David Lean [1962]
"Repulsion" Roman Polanski [1965]
"The Old Dark House" James Whale [1932]
"Breakfast at Tiffany‘s" Blake Edwards [1961]
"Chinatown" Roman Polanski [1974]
"The Raven"* Roger Corman [1963]
"Mr. Smith Goes to Washington"* Frank Capra [1939]
"Network" Sidney Lumet Paddy Chayevsky [1976]
"Lair of the White Worm" Ken Russell [1988]
"West Side Story" Robert Wise [1961]
"Duck Soup" Leo McCarey [1933]
"Repo Man" Alex Cox [1984]
"My Fair Lady" George Cukor [1964]
"And Then There Were None" Rene Clair [1945]
"Soapdish" Michael Hoffman [1991]
"Citizen Kane" Orsen Wells [1941]
"Polyester" John Waters [1981]
"The Quiet Man" John Ford [1952]
"Absolutely Fabulous" Bob Spiers [1992]
"Paths of Glory" Stanley Kubrick [1957]
"Barbarella" Roger Vadin [1968]
"Cast a Deadly Spell" Martin Campbell [1991]
"The Wizard of Speed and Time" Mike Jittlov [1988]
"Blade Runner" Ridley Scott [1982]
"Around the World in 80 Days" Michael Anderson [1956]
"The Bridge on the River Kwai" David Lean [1957]
"Porterhouse Blue" Tom Sharpe [1987]
"Seven Days in May" John Frankenheimer [1964]
"The Pink Panther" Blake Edwards [1963]
"Night of the Generals"* Anatole Litvak [1967]
"Outland"* Peter Hyams [1981]
"The Lion in Winter" Anthony Harvey [1968]
"A Christmas Story" Bob Clark [1983]
"When Trumpets Fade"* John Irvin [1998]
"Advise and Consent" Otto Preminger [1962]
"Treasure Island" Robert Newton [1950]
"Tune In Tomorrow"* Jon Amiel [1990]
"The Third Man" Carol Reed [1949]
"Captain Ron" Thom Eberhardt [1992]
"Rough Magic"* Clare Peploe [1995]
"All About Eve" Joseph L. Mankiewicz [1950]
"Rope" Alfred Hitchcock [1948]
"Summer‘s Lease"* Martyn Friend, John Mortimer (TV) [1989]
"The Bank Dick"* Edward F. Cline, W. C. Fields [1940]
"King Of Comedy" Martin Scorsese [1983]
"The Fountainhead" King Vidor [1949]
"Laura" Otto Preminger [1944]
"The Nightmare Before Christmas"* Tim Burton] [1997]
"The Blues Brothers" John Landis [1980]
"Breakfast at Tiffany‘s" Blake Edwards [1961]
"Shadow of a Doubt" Alfred Hitchcock [1943]
"The Black Cat" Edgar G. Ulmer [1934]
"Night of the Hunter" Charles Laughton [1955]
"The French Connection" William Friedkin [1972]
"Breakfast at Tiffany's"* Blake Edwards & Truman Capote [1961]
"Summer's Lease"* Martyn Friend & John Mortimer (TV) [1989]

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

Liner Notes.

© 1999 WNM and the respective authors. "All Rights Reserved."


"The Wild Bunch" [Sam Peckinpah] 1969

"The Wild Bunch [1969] is Sam Peckinpah‘s best known and best received film. It portrayed violence in a realistic way that seriously shocked audiences when it was released. Quite a few people could not stomach the opening bank robbery scenes and left before 15 minutes into the film. This overshadowed the positive elements in the film for many reviewers, who saw the film as a needlessly realistic glorification of violence. The grossly violent final shootout scenes are purposely shot in a somehwat poetic style, which is jarringly at odds with the subject matter.

"Setting aside the violence, which even today is shocking, this film is a tragedy. The main characters are aging outlaws in their late 50‘s and 60‘s, whose heyday was the 1880‘s and 1890s. Now it is the verge of WWI and history has passed them by. Horses are being replaced by cars and the West is rapidly becoming settled.

"This film is not a mythic fable. The elements of a John Wayne western are nowhere to be found. These characters are nasty and professional, just not particularly cruel. This abrupt change in mythic tone of the western film shocked audiences.

"The key conflict in the film arises from its historical setting. The Wild West has gone by 1913. The main characters‘ time is past and they know it, but they can‘t adapt. For them there is no future. All that is left is thier respect for one another, their skills, and their memories. Without families, they no longer have any satisfying reasons to live.

"Although The Wild Bunch received the most critical acclaim for Peckinpah, quite a few people believe that his later film, Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia [1974], is considerably better. Alfredo Garcia has superior character development, writing, and the acting is excellent. It is probably Warren Oates‘ best work as an actor. This film has achieved somewhat of a cult following."

--ggf

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"Lawrence of Arabia" [David Lean] 1962

"David Lean was at the peak of his career when he made Lawrence of Arabia [1962]. Lawrence won seven Oscars, including, best picture, music, direction and cinematography. Peter O‘Toole was nominated for best actor and Omar Sharif for supporting actor. Lean‘s previous film was The Bridge on the River Kwai [1957], which won seven Oscars. He was next to make Dr. Zhivago [1965] which won five. Lean was a triple threat, a great writer, editor and director.

"Lawrence of Arabia is Lean‘s most expansive epic film, originally running 227 minutes. The scenery is staggeringly beautiful and stark, absolutely perfect for the wide screen. Shot in 65mm Super Panavision this film is visually stunning and more than worth the trouble to see in a 70mm print. The musical score also deserves its oscar.

"T.E. Lawrence the man is a cult figure and remains one of this century‘s historical enigmas. He was ferociously talented, driven and little understood. His story during WWI is romantic in the extreme, yet little is known about the man personally. Even what most biographers call the psyhologically pivotal event in his life is not certain to have occurred. After the war he fled his fame, resigned his army commission and entered the RAF under an assumed name, finishing his life as a sergeant.

"Lawrence was also the first modern media superstar. Lowell Thomas‘ initial reputation was built on Lawrence and his exploits. The romance that surrounds Lawrence and the film‘s existence is in no small part due to Thomas‘ journalism and showmanship.

"Almost an ideal character around which to write a screnplay, Lawrence fails in one respect. He was short and not particularly handsome. That was easy to fix. These are not attributes shared by Peter O‘Toole.

"There is little to criticise in this film. Some of the casting decisions are a bit strange. Some of the acting is over the top and it isn‘t terribly accurate as a historical record. However, the film succeeds in merging two wholly dissimilar genres, that of an intimate personal portrait with that of the big-screen epic. Compare this film to Spartacus and the shortcomings of the latter are easy to see."

--ggf

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"Repulsion" [Roman Polanski] 1965

"Roman Polanski‘s Repulsion [1965] was made as a B-film by an exploitation company that apparently wanted to go legit and succeeded admirably. Polanski was at that time an expatriate Pole living in London whose reputation was based upon the polish film Knife in the Water [1962]. Repulsion is one of the great suspense thrillers of the ‘60s and was a precursor to his later big screen film Rosemary‘s Baby [1968].

"Repulsion is considered a great horror film, but it depends for its success on whether or not the viewer gets absorbed by the process of disintegration of the lead character. The Haunting [1963] is similar in this regard.

"Repulsion revolves around the descent into schizophrenia of the main character, Carol, who is played by Catherine Deneuve in her first english-speaking role. The movie builds slowly as Carol progresses towards her insanity, which becomes apparent about halfway through the film. As the main character withdraws and goes insane there is less and less dialog. Deneuve becomes progressively mute as a way of drawing the viewer into her character‘s world."

--ggf

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"Breakfast at Tiffany‘s" [Blake Edwards] 1961

"Breakfast at Tiffany‘s is a Blake Edwards romantic comedy. It has a witty script, adapted from the Truman Capote novel by George Axelrod. It was nominated for five academy awards, actress, screenplay, music, song and art direction. It won two oscars for Henry Mancini, both for the film score and for the song Moon River, the lyrics written by Johnny Mercer.

"Edwards is probably best known for directing and co-writing the Pink Panther films, but has made more serious films, such as Experiment in Terror [1962] and Days of Wine and Roses [1962]. He often paired with Henry Mancini, who provided the music on many of his films. As a screenwriter, Edwards received a best screenplay Oscar nomination for Victor/Victoria [1982].

"Breakfast at Tiffany‘s has been essentially immortalized by the presence of Audrey Hepburn, who plays the vivacious hustler Holly Golightly. In this her signature role, Hepburn was nominated for best actress. George Peppard as her opposite love interest probably did the best work of his checkered career here.

"Although Breakfast at Tiffany‘s is primarily a light-hearted film, but it has a dark undercurrent, both characters being unhappy with themselves and their lives. That Hepburn earns her money as a call girl is only hinted at, while Peppard is kept and we assume also earns his money in an improper manner. That being said, the performances are fine."

--ggf

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"Chinatown" [Roman Polanski] 1974

"Roman Polanski‘s Chinatown [1974] is often considered to be the best film-noir, sitting at #19 on the AFI Top 100. Some believe the screenplay to be the best ever written. The film demands a full two hours of concentration from the viewer.

"Chinatown won five oscars, including screenplay (Robert Towne), actor (Jack Nicholson), actress (Faye Dunaway), cinemetograpy and art direction. Polanski was nominated for best director but did not win, although he did win the Golden Globe. Nicholson had a great year, he was also nominated for best actor in The Last Detail [1973].

"Strictly speaking, Chinatown is not really film-noir, being consciously a copy of that style and filmed in color. The story is a faithful throwback to Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammet, taking place in the Los Angeles of 1937. Although filmed in color, there is a yellowed look to the film that gives it a faded sepia feel of times past. Much has been made of the mood of the film as reflecting that of the country. Watergate had just happened.

"Chinatown had a sequel, The Two Jakes [1990], which was a good film, but not generally considered the equal to Chinatown. Nicholson and Towne teamed again, but since Polanski could not realistically come to the USA, Nicholson also directed."

--ggf

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"Network" [Sidney Lumet] 1976

"Network [1976] was directed by Sidney Lumet and was written by Paddy Chayevsky. This film has a great ensemble cast and all act superbly. Network won four Oscars, best actor for Peter Finch, best actress for Faye Dunaway, best supporting actress for Beatrice Straight and best screenplay for Paddy Chayevsky. William Holden was also nominated for best actor, but lost to his co-star here Peter Finch. Network was nominated for best picture, director and cinematography. It lost best picture to Rocky [1976].

"Network is a great black comedy and a broadside criticism on the phoniness that is television journalism in the USA. It was regrettably, prescient. Network predicts what happens to broadcast news when it cares more about ratings than it does the truth. The picture it paints is an ugly one. With the recent exposes of faked network news stories and ratings scrambling, that picture has turned out to be distressingly accurate.

"Sidney Lumet is a prolific director and is pricipally noted for the following: 12 Angry Men [1957], Fail-Safe [1964], The Pawnbroker [1965], Serpico [1973], Network [1976] and Running on Empty [1988].

"Paddy Chayevsky wrote a number of great screenplays. Among them were Marty [1955], The Hospital [1971] which we already saw, and Network. He won Oscars for each of these."

--ggf

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"Duck Soup" [Marx Brothers] 1933

"Duck Soup [1933] is generally considered the Marx Brothers best film, even though it is missing both Harpo‘s harp and Chico‘s piano solos.

"What does one say? Duck Soup is almost 80 minutes of non-stop one liners and sight gags that is occasionally interrupted by satirical, out-of-place musical numbers in out-of-place sets with actors in out-of-place costumes that are not even remotely related to one another. It flopped when it was released, but has since become a critic‘s choice.

"Duck Soup is a broad satire that lampooned too many things, making the contemporary audiences uncomfortable in the process. Take the silly nation of Freedonia ... "land of the brave and free". Does that remind you of anything close to home? No? So tell me. What were you doing in high school?"

--ggf

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"My Fair Lady" [George Cukor] 1964

"My Fair Lady is perhaps the most successful musical film Hollywood has made. It won eight Oscars, including best picture for Jack Warner, best director for George Cukor, best actor for Rex Harrison and best scrore for Andre Previn. This film is also considered to be one of the best looking films ever made, winning Oscars for cinematography, art and set direction, and costume. It was not filmed in Technicolor though. What a pity.

"My Fair Lady was beautifully adapted for the screen from the Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe stage musical of the same name. Lerner in turn had adapted the George Bernard Shaw play Pygmalion for the stage with Loewe providing the memorable music.

"The leads are played by Rex Harrison, as Professor Henry Higgins, and Audrey Hepburn, as the Cockney diamond-in-the-rough Eliza Doolittle. Marnie Nixon dubs for Hepburn when she needs to sing. The supporting cast is uniformly excellent, including Wilfrid Hyde-White and the wonderful Stanley Holloway who plays Eliza‘s father. Gladys Cooper, who plays Higgins mother was nominated for an oscar. Jeremy Brett also makes a short appearance, although not playing Sherlock Holmes.

"Shaw wrote Pygmalion as a biting social satire, making the point that mere window dressing was at the root of the differences in class. Change a person‘s mannerisms and clothes and you can change their class.

"If you doubt that this theme still has relevance, consider how the minority argot labelled variously as Ebonics or gangsta both marks and tethers its speakers to our underclass, and what a world of difference in socialization and opportunity there is for a minority speaker who uses proper English.

"My Fair Lady is an unabashedly male chauvanist film. Listen to how it closes. Fortunately, it is also a wonderfully romantic film. This allows men to appreciate the intelligence and recognition of the broad reality as expressed by George Bernard Shaw, while allowing women to wallow in sentimentality with the knowledge that behind the scenes they pull strings and polish the rough edges, just not obviously.

"Ahem. Those of you who adhere to politically correct themes should absent yourselves posthaste.

"My Fair Lady and Pretty Woman [1990] both have horse race scenes that put women and horses on show equally as thoroughbreds. In both films the lead woman is sponsored and mixes out of her class and I would bet that Pretty Woman borrowed this idea here.

"My Fair Lady is regrettably an anachronism. As Roger Ebert says: "Not only don‘t they make movies like this anymore - they can‘t. The movie industry is no longer interested in musicals about adults, let alone adults with ideas."

--ggf

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"And Then There Were None" [Rene Clair] 1945

"And Then There Were None is the first adaptation of the Agatha Christie novel Ten Little Indians (retitled from something atrociously politically incorrect). This novel has been adapted four times for the screen and this version is by far the best.

"The direction by Rene Clair is solid and the adaptation by Dudley Nichols and Clair is very good. But it is the cast that stands out. This film is stocked with wonderful characters, such as Barry Fitzgerald, Walter Huston, C. Aubrey Smith and Judith Anderson. Some of them are only around as cameos because, as all little indians must ...

"Rene (accent grave over the ‘e‘) Clair is little known outside of France. He made only a handful of English-speaking films, most as an ex-patriot during WWII, returning to French-speaking films in 1947. And Then There Were None is his last English-speaking film.

"However, his influence is strongly felt by yuppies, although naturally, they don‘t know why. Clair directed I Married a Witch [1942] which was the inspiration for the TV series Bewitched. In case you were wondering, the part played by Elizabeth Montgomery on TV was Veronica Lake‘s in the film. If you can‘t tell the difference, Veronica was platinum blonde and over nine inches shorter. If you can tell the difference, don‘t bother to pat yourself on the back."

--ggf

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"The Quiet Man" [John Ford] 1952

"The Quiet Man [1952] is a very unusual John Wayne vehicle, that of a romantic comedy. Wayne gives a serious, believable and restrained performance, one that is most uncharacteristic of his typical roles, By itself, that makes this an interesting film. The cast is filled with excellent character actors, among them Barry Fitzgerald, Victor McLaglen and Mildred Natwick.

"The Quiet Man was directed by John Ford. The film was nominated for seven academy awards, including best picture, screenplay and supporting actor. It won both the best director and cinematography awards. It is filmed in Technicolor. The color is sumptuous and the Irish countryside splendid looking.

"This film was John Ford‘s labor of love. Ford won four best director oscars during his career, this film‘s being his last. The subject matter is a variation on The Taming of the Shrew, with the decidedly non-timid shrew, Mary Kate, played by Maureen O‘Hara. Those of a psychological bent may wonder if, in John Wayne‘s character of Sean Thornton, John Ford was depicting his life as he wished it had been. Ford‘s real name was Sean O‘Fearna.

"The Quiet Man was considered too risky a proposition by the major studios. Ford even had trouble convincing a B-film, low-budget studio, Republic Pictures, to back it. But it was a good bet, garnering Republic its first nonimation for best picture in nearly twenty years. Its running time is 129 minutes."

--ggf

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"bonzai" [1968] Barbarella

"(waiting for rick shifman)"

--ggf

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"Blade Runner" [Ridley Scott] 1982

"Blade Runner [1982] was directed by Ridley Scott and is based upon the Phillip K. Dick‘s "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?". It is a pure science-fiction film and one of the the best of an admittedly small genre. It is a heavily reviewed film that some consider a great film that has stood the test of time. Others consider it a mediocre or even bad film.

"In most science-fiction films the sci-fi is window dressing used merely to provide a visually interesting, futuristic setting. Outland [1981] is a good example of this, being essentially the western High Noon [1952] transplanted to an outer-space mining town, while Alien [1979] is basicly a monster film transplanted to outer space.

"Blade Runner is in a small category of films such as Forbidden Planet [1956], where science and what it makes possible are taken seriously and used as jumping-off points to examine moral dilemmas introduced by advanced technology. In Blade Runner genetic technology becomes the source of monstrous degradation that has nearly completly infected society.

"The lead character, played by Harrison Ford, is unattractive, banal and largely immoral. It is Ford‘s victims, and in particular Rutger Hauer, who are the humans in the inhuman world that is being portrayed for us. Some have noted that Blade Runner bears a resemblance to a High Noon in which the roles of the good sheriff and the bad are reversed.

"Blade Runner is visually amazing, but also sad and depressing. American audiences were abruptly turned off by it. Blade Runner is set in a Los Angeles of 2019 where corporations have become the real government and the contrast between wealth and poverty have gotten much worse than they are now. Without the advantage of sophisticated digital effects, an amazing, richly textured future city is created, with a mix of old and new, dirty and clean, rich and poor that is believable enough to be genuinely upsetting.

"What Ridley Scott and his special-effects staff did was to successfully translate the gritty future world of cyberpunk literature into one that we can actually see. It remains the defining example of this and should really be seen on a large screen at least once. Inexplicably, Blade Runner lost the special effects Oscar to E.T. the Extra-terrestrial. E.T. was a very popular film and Blade Runner was certainly not, but E.T. does not hold a candle to Blade Runner either in special effects artistry or in substance.

"Blade Runner had disastrously bad initial screenings that prompted the studio to try to turn it into a futuristic film-noir with deadpan voice overlay for its actual release. The director‘s cut version restores the film to Ridley Scott‘s original vision.

"In my opinion, Blade Runner was way ahead of its time. Some films age well and the critics eventually catch up to them. This film is one of those and in this manner it reminds me of Sam Peckinpah‘s film Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia [1974]."

--ggf

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"Around the World in 80 Days" [Michael Anderson] 1956

"The recent flap over the Hollywood Black List resurrected not only old skeletons, but old criticism of the decade of films made in the shadow of the black list. Little in the way of non-propaganda message films got made by Hollywood then. Most films tried to be non-controversial or leaned hard right.

"One of the spectacular non-controversial films of that era is the epic Around the World in 80 Days [1956], which won five Oscars for best picture, screenplay, music, cinemetography and editing. This film is unusual in that it was both directed and written by ensemble. This film retains a reputation as being notoriously ambitious. Making it all actually work made its producer Michael Todd justly famous.

"Around the World has a huge cast, lead by David Niven, Cantinflas and Shirley MacLaine. It is stuffed with cameos.

"The theme of the book by Jules Verne is that transportation had made the world a much smaller place by the mid 19th century, small enough to be circumnavigated in 80 days if you were adventurous and a bit silly. Jules Verne wrote the great early works of science fiction. They were written in the last half of the 1800s and were not set far in the future. By now they have become period pieces.

"Today, the world has become tiny by comparison. The theme was already quaint in 1956, but the exotic locales filmed were still unreachable and unseen by most in the days before satellite transmission. Thus, the appeal and promise of the film rested primarily on its location shooting.

"Around the World was filmed in many locations as a showcase for Cinerama. Even in a letterboxed version it would be considerably trimmed to fit. However, the cinematography remains impressive and it can be seen in 70mm Technicolor with 6-track sound.

"Much of the appeal of Around the World has dimmed with time. The principal filming locations can now be seen by anyone who wants to spend a couple of grand. Around the World still retains a reputation as a solid, entertaining film. There is no message and no drama to speak of. It was intended to be an evening‘s light entertainment and still can be if you can imagine living in the world as it was before Telstar and jet planes."

--ggf

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"Bridge on the River Kwai" [David Lean] 1957

"Bridge on the River Kwai was a spectacular success critically. It won seven academy awards: best picture, actor, director, screenplay, cinematography, music and editing. It was directed by David Lean, who was nominated for best director seven times and won twice. Lean directed 18 films. Among his earlier films are the two defining renditions of the Dicken‘s classics Great Expectations [1946] and Oliver Twist [1948]. He is best remembered for his series of three great epic films, Bridge on the River Kwai, Lawrence of Arabia [1962] and Doctor Zhivago [1965].

"Bridge can be seen on one level as a simple epic of war. However, it is considerably more complex than that. Unlike most war films, this one focuses primarily upon individuals. At its heart Bridge is a tragedy that depicts how differently three strong-willed and basicly good individuals deal with the destinies forced upon them by war.

"The two central characters, Col. Nicholson and Col. Saito, played by Alec Guinness and Sessue Hayakawa, are opposing commanders. Nicholson commands a unit of British prisoners in Saito‘s prison camp. Neither of these two commanders will bend, but both are searching desperately for a way out of their mutual predicament. Saito must accomplish a key engineering task by a deadline, but to do so he must accept humiliation that nearly requires him to commit suicide. Nicholson must retain his command and save his men from miserable deaths. The pressure eventually causes Nicholson to crack. He derives a method that relieves himself of that pressure while allowing Saito to meet his deadline, but at a cost of madness. The third character, Shears, played by William Holden, is fiercely independent. He retains his focus on reality by escaping, but returns later to provoke the tragedy.

"Great as it is, this film is scarred by the Hollywood blacklisting. The two actual screenwriters, Carl Foreman and Michael Wilson were blacklisted, so Pierre Boulle, who wrote the novel, acted as a front and was credited with the screenplay. This is another reminder why Elia Kazan‘s 1999 oscar for ‘life achievement‘ was so controversial.

"The author, Pierre Boulle, is known to filmgoers primarily for this novel and his science fiction work Planet of the Apes."

--ggf

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"Portherhouse Blue" [Tom Sharpe] 1987

"Portherhouse Blue is a three-hour+ mini-series that is based upon the Tom Sharpe novel of the same name.

"The plot revolves around an ancient college that jealously guards its traditions:

"Some speculate that the novel was very liberally based upon Peterhouse, which is the oldest and smallest college in Cambridge, founded in 1284 and admitting about 75 students per year.

"Loosely speaking, the plot revolves around an outsider who is made master of the college upon the death of the former master from overindulgence. The new master and his autocratic wife wish to ignore several centuries of tradition and drag the college into the PC late 20th century. They intend to make it coed and bring in fast food. They also intend to install condom dispensers in the lavatories, which of course is the last straw. Quite clearly, such radicalism must be stopped at all costs.

"The acting is fine. There is a large cast of character actors. Actually, everyone in the cast is a character in that sense. It is likely that the only actor you will recognize is Ian Richardson, who starred in the House of Cards/To Play the King/Final Cut series on Masterpiece Theatre a few years ago ... although there is also a connection to Rocky Horror."

--ggf

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"Seven Days in May" [John Frankenheimer] 1964

"Seven Days in May is one of John Frankenheimer‘s best films. It has been called Hollywood‘s flawless political thriller. Like his earlier Manchurian Candidate [1962] it is a tight and suspensful film.

"The plot and dialog here are absolutely top-notch. This is no surprise. The screenplay was written by Rod Serling. The cast for this film is superb. Fredric March, Bert Lancaster, and Kirk Douglas each give a solid performance. Edmond O‘Brien as an alcoholic Senator really stands out. He was nominated for best supporting actor and won the Golden Globe in that category. John Houseman made his screen debut here in a small but important role.

"One wonders whether or not the spectre of Gen. Douglas MacArthur hovered in the back of the mind of Fletcher Knebel, who wrote the novel."

--ggf

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"The Pink Panther" [Peter Sellers] 1963-1978

"The original movies in the Pink Panther series are: The Pink Panther [1963], A Shot In the Dark [1964], Return of the Pink Panther [1974], The Pink Panther Strikes Again [1976], and Revenge of the Pink Panther [1978]. Which one to watch? If you were to pick just one, then definitely do not pick the first one.

"Normally, the first film in a series is by far the best. However, the Pink Panther [1963] is both quite dated and it does not follow the pattern of the rest of the series. In the Hollywood of 1963 it was still thought necessary to insert a musical number into light comedies and it sticks out like a sore thumb, even though the song is catchy.

"The first film in the series is also flagrantly James-Bond male-chauvinist. Now chauvanism only reflected the ethos of the time ... and a good time it was ... but it is a bit over the top today. The film makes the point that if you were male, wealthy, good looking and romantic, you could get the Princess every time. Now of course things are much, much different.

"The first film top-billed David Niven. Niven played a latter-day Casanova jewel thief who was after the Pink Panther diamond owned by the Princess Dala. Inspector Jacques Clouseau (the well-known detective-oceanographer) was not the central character in the first film. Clouseau‘s wife, played by Capucine, actually had a larger role, as did Claudia Cardinale, who played the Princess.

"The series adopts its familiar form with the second film, A Shot In the Dark. This film features Clouseau as the central character and introduces his boss, Chief Inspector Dreyfus (Herbert Lom) and his house boy Cato (Bert Kwouk).

"The consensus seems to be that the fourth film in the series, The Pink Panther Strikes Again, is the stand out. It has the now classic biting dog sketch and the best Cato-Clouseau battle of the series. Accordingly ... we will show that entry in the series.

"PS: Leonard Rossiter co-stars and Reginald Iolanthe Perrin doesn‘t.

--ggf

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"The Lion in Winter" [Anthony Harvey] 1968

"The Lion in Winter was directed by Anthony Harvey. It won three oscars: Katharine Hepburn for best actress, John Barry for best score and James Goldman for best screenplay. It was also nominated for best picture, director, actor and costume. It lost best picture to Oliver, while Peter O‘Toole lost best actor to Cliff Robertson for Charlie.

"The Lion in Winter stars Peter O‘Toole and Katharine Hepburn as King Henry the II of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine. Anthony Hopkins plays Henry‘s son Richard the not-yet-quite-lion-hearted and Timothy Dalton plays Phillip the II. The plot revolves around Eleanor and Henry, who get together on Christmas eve to decide who should succeed him as King. There is no clear choice and the stakes are very high.

"Critics revere this film much more than the public does. It is considered a classic. The film is adapted from the stage play written by Goldman. As such it feels very much like a play and a deadly serious one at that. There is next to no action in this film, which rises or falls entirely on the strength of the writing and acting. There are no weak performances in this film and that includes the supporting roles.

"The shooting schedule was only twelve weeks. The director chose stage actors for the supporting roles. At the time this was made Anthony Hopkins was unknown on the screen as was Timothy Dalton. This was an impressive debut for them."

--ggf

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"A Christmas Story" [Bob Clark] 1983

"Tonight we are watching A Christmas Story [1983]. We saw this four years ago. But as it has just emerged, spiffed up for DVD, and because it is so funny ... we watch it again.

"Correcting our past error, we will watch it this time during the holiday season. But there‘s no snow on the ground! So what? This is L-A, remember? Get back to me when we have snow.

"If you don‘t enjoy this movie, you are Scrooge.

"I will excerpt the past review ...


"A Christmas Story [1983] was directed by Bob Clark and stars Melinda Dillon as Mom, Darren McGavin as The Old Man and Peter Billingsley as Ralphie.

"This film is based upon Jean Shepherd‘s book -- In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash. It is worthy modern competition to the "other" three standard Christmas movies. It isn‘t sappy, just funny. It isn‘t preachy, just funny. And it doesn‘t have Jimmy Stewart in it.

"The film is Canadian. Critics usually place it just outside of top 100 film lists, yet it was ignored when it came out. Why didn‘t it get an Oscar? Now it is considered a classic. Like voters, it seems that early audiences were foolish.

"Usually a Christmas movie will be either for kids or adults. This one is enjoyable for both young and adult. The film is set in a Indiana town in the late 1940‘s. The film is notable for its accurate depiction of the time and its wonderful tone. Dillon and McGavin are wonderful as the parents. The film is narrated by Jean Shepherd who looks back fondly on the events surrounding one Christmas of his childhood.

"The plot revolves around Ralphie, who wants a Red Ryder BB gun for a present. Ralphie has to figure out how to get mom to agree, since it is clear to him that life will no longer be possible without it. Along the way we get to see soap used by mom to correct an errant toungue, the result of an unfortunate dare, good triumph over the school bully, the inevitable embarassing gift by a relative, the old man‘s fascination with colorful language, Nehi soda and fishnet stockings, a twisted encounter with a department-store Santa ... and although we never actually see the wierd, messy next-door-neighbors ... we do see their dogs."

--ggf

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"Advise and Consent" [Otto Preminger] 1962

"Advise and Consent [1962] was directed by Otto Preminger and is based upon the extremely successful Allen Drury novel. You will find little in this film to criticize. The acting and the script are both very good. The cast is a strong one, including Henry Fonda, Walter Pidgeon, Gene Tierney and Charles Laughton. It was Laughton‘s last role and a good one. This film marked Tierney‘s return to the screen after a long and emotionally troubled decade.

"Critics prefer Frank Capra‘s Mr. Smith Goes To Washington to Advise and Consent. I find that curious. Advise and Consent is a realistic and believable film that takes us inside the gentlemen‘s club that characterized the Senate in the early 1960‘s, while Mr. Smith has the cliche trademark heartwarming, happy ending associated with several Capra films.

"Advise and Consent was ignored by the academy awards. Perhaps its view of national politics was looked upon as too mean-spirited. Perhaps in its suggestion of McCarthyist tactics, the movie became a messenger of bad news, reminding Hollywood of its own deplorable recent political history. Given what we now know happened in Washington then and what we saw happening there over the last several years, lack of realism is certainly not a flaw of this film.

"Advise and Consent is 142 minutes long. If time permits we may clear our palates with another Wooster and Jeeves."

--ggf

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"Treasure Island" [Robert Newton] 1950

"Craig Rogers has graciously decided to allow us to break the seals on either of his two pristine copies of the Robert Louis Stevenson classic, Treasure Island. He has both the Wallace Beery [1934] and Robert Newton [1950] versions. Naturally. both men play the lead of Long John Silver in their respective versions. Both are pretty good films. Each has its strengths and weaknesses.

"Beery was one of Hollywood‘s strongest character actors, capable of carrying a weakly written film on the strength of his presence. His best actor Oscars came for The Big House [1931] and the famous tear-jerker The Champ [1933]. The weakness in his version of Treasure Island is Jackie Cooper as Jim Hawkins. Cooper is not too believeable. This movie was the star vehicle of its day, Beery/Cooper having made a tremendous impression with The Champ the year before.

"The Newton version is credited with being a bit stronger than the Beery version. Bobby Driscoll‘s Jim Hawkins is more believable and Newton gives what is probably the best performance of his career. We last saw him as Phileas Fogg‘s nemesis in Around the World in 80 Days. Newton never received an oscar. Unfortunately, he died quite young. Newton‘s version of Treasure Island was a great critical success for Disney Studios. It was shot in Technicolor and should look sumptuous. Disney filmed another Stevenson book, Kidnapped [1960], which was not a success.

"For something completely different, I have been prodded to bring a bit of video material on Survival Research Laboratory (SRL). SRL was/is a famous industrial performance art group that gives loud, dangerous exhibitions in which various large and evil looking machines destroy themselves. The thrill comes from the audience being seated a bit too close for comfort. They find it difficult to get proper permits."

--ggf

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"The Third Man" [Carol Reed] 1949

"The Third Man [1949] was written by Graham Greene and directed by Carol Reed. Robert Krasker won an oscar for best cinematography for his work in this film. Carol Reed was nominated three times for Best Director, for The Fallen Idol [1948], his work here in The Third Man, and finally, Oliver [1968], for which he won the Oscar. The Third Man also was awarded the Grand Prize at Cannes.

"Most people have not seen this film. It has the reputation of being made for film critics and not for a common audience. Part of that reputation comes from its starring Joseph Cotton and Orson Welles, who had earlier teamed in Citizen Kane [1941].

"The Third Man was a film that Carol Reed retained strict creative control over. He even selected the spartan, somewhat out of place zither theme music for this film. Rather than shooting inexpensively on the sound stage, Reed insisted that it be filmed on location in post-WWII Vienna. The ruins and bomb craters are not special effects, but the ruins of war.

"By his choice of B&W, locations and camera work Reed strives to convey a weary, bleak and confusing mood to the viewer. Reality is twisted in this film, often the cinematography is as well. The viewer is abruptly introduced in the opening scenes to the mood in the post-war Vienna of the black market.

"This film has been compared to Casablanca [1942]. Both have American hero exiles operating inside a treacherous black market. In Casablanca the central characters are full of life, still to a degree idealistic, partying and trying to forget the war. In The Third Man the characters are weary, ambiguous, have lost their ideals and cannot for a moment forget what the war has done to them.

"Visally, this is an interesting film. Predictably, the writing and acting is superb. Critics consider the entrance Welles makes midway into the movie to be the best ever filmed and the small soliloquy Welles wrote to be notable as well."

--ggf

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"Captain Ron" [Thom Eberhardt] 1992

"The Kurt russell & Martin Short video "Captain Ron" is a funny nautical misadventure. In this film Kurt Russell plays the laid-back Captain Ron, a vagabond seaman who charts a course for comedy when he skippers the newly inherited Caribbean yacht of corporate executive Martin Harvey (Short) and his family.

"Ric Rondle, a member of SMWYC, my yacht club, was the assitant director of this Touchstone film. It has played many times at my yacht club."

--rrs

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"All About Eve" [Joseph L. Mankiewicz] 1950

"All About Eve was written and directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. It is a brilliantly written examination of life in and around the Broadway theatrical world. It portrays actresses who seek to advance their careers at any cost. The film does not pull any punches. In that sense it is a morality play and a very good one.

"This film won six academy awards, including best picture, best screenplay and direction, both for Mankiewicz, and best supporting actor for George Sanders. In total All About Eve was nominated for 14 oscars, more than any other film until Titanic [1997].

"All About Eve is noted both for its outstanding writing, believable characters and its excellent ensemble acting. The principal actresses are Bette Davis and Anne Baxter, supported by Celeste Holm and Thelma Ritter. All were nominated for an oscar. Davis is often considered to have given her best performance in this film.

"This is a film of which it is often said that one gains by watching it more than once."

--ggf

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"Rope" [Alfred Hitchcock] 1948

"Rope [1948] stars James Stuart, John Dall and Farley Granger. The screenplay was adapted by Hume Cronyn. The film is based in spirit upon the famous Leopold and Loeb murder case. Two brilliant students murder a third and invite their philosophy professor over to dinner to see if he can deduce what they have done and whether or not he will be impressed.

"Rope is considered a good, but not great film. Rope was an experiment that Hitchcock undertook. It was also his first color film. The experiment was to film the movie in actual time. That is, the film captures 80 or so continuous minutes of life in exactly the same shooting time.

"The restriction Hitchcock adopted required that he shoot the film as if it were one continuous take. To enhance its seemless nature, as one camera reached the end of its reel, an actor would walk across the front of it, obscuring the scene, while another camera took over. Eight takes comprise virtually the entire film.

"Rope captures the feeling of immediacy that occurs when one watches a one-act stageplay, but it offers little more than that. The restriction on shooting meant that there could be almost no post editing. This prevented Hitchcock from exercising a great deal of his talent, restricting him primarily to camera angle alone. It remains an interesting film precisely because it is so different from other films in general."

--ggf

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"King Of Comedy" [Martin Scorsese] 1983

"King Of Comedy - Martin Scorsese‘s satirical comedy/drama caustically explores the lengths to which a nobody will go to be as famous as his idol. Practicing his patter in his basement with cardboard cut-outs of his favorite celebrities, mediocre aspiring comedian Rupert Pupkin (Robert De Niro) believes that one appearance on the evening talk show of the Johnny Carson-esque Jerry Langford (Jerry Lewis) will be his ticket to stardom. After he helps Jerry escape the advances of amorous fan Masha (Sandra Bernhard), Rupert takes Jerry‘s patronizing brush-off as a true promise for an audition and begins haunting Jerry‘s office. Provoked by Masha‘s needling and a rejection from Jerry‘s smooth production exec Cathy Long (Shelley Hack), Rupert makes a disastrous trip to Jerry‘s country house with embarrassed date Rita (Diahnne Abbott), then hatches an even more outlandish scheme to get ahead. With Masha‘s help, Rupert kidnaps Jerry and demands as ransom the TV appearance that he believes will turn his fantasy into reality.

"Scorsese reins in the technical verve of his prior work, so that The King of Comedy‘s bright, flat lighting and simple editing mimic the look of television, the film‘s subject; visual flourishes are saved for Rupert‘s fantasies, signalling how off-kilter he is. Rupert is just as obsessive as Taxi Driver‘s Travis Bickle, revealing the potential danger in an American cult of celebrity that idolizes stars, provokes resentment of fame‘s privileges, and turns deranged menaces into celebrities. Despite favorable reviews and good business in a few big cities, The King of Comedy died at the box office; but this uneasily humorous examination of the bizarre relationship between stardom and fandom looks more disturbingly current with each passing year."

--Lucia Bozzola

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"The Fountainhead" [King Vidor] 1949

"Tonight‘s selection is the incomparable-to-life-which-few-dare-to-live, "The Fountainhead" released in 1949, B&W. Running Time: 1hr. 54 minutes. Gary Cooper, Patricia Neal and Raymond Massey star, with direction by King Vidor. Based upon the brilliant novel by Ayn Rand.

"Gary Cooper as Howard Roark stands alone. As any man who lives by truth, at the threat of others, most often does. Because he lives it, speaks it, and recognizes it as the only and right way to live, he becomes the hunted, the persecuted, by the norm of society which seeks to crush such independent spirit which serves as their mirror of immorality and contempt. Molds are cast, and men are expected to pour themselves into them. But the independent man stands alone, against the malice of mass thinking and imposition. Against men who are threatened by individuality. Against the likes of which most all, at least once, have worked for.

"Rather than kowtow to know-it-all, inept bosses, those who steal credit due to their own inability, the idealistic architect takes a job busting quarry rocks, rather than alter his own beliefs. "I compromise for no man" insist Roark, against the prodding of men who seek to bend him for their own gain, and lack.

"Rather than permit the construction of a drastically altered housing project he designed, he blasts the site to kingdom come. And when brought to trial, he accepts no defense but his own. No other man‘s imposition or camouflaged cowardice upon his life.

"The Fountainhead is a towering tribute to everyone willing to stand for what‘s right, no matter what the cost.

"If you‘ve seen this movie before, look again. "Look closer". Lives will be changed after tonight, boys!"

--Larry Monaco

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"Laura" [Otto Preminger] 1944

"Laura was directed by Otto Preminger. Laura had good writing and a fine cast, yet most thought it was a forgettable film when it was made, perhaps due to its release during the war. Over the years it has attained a classic status as a member of the film-noir genre. Nominated for five academy awards, including best director, supporting actor and screenplay, it won for its cinematography. Many now consider Laura to be a masterpiece of elegance and mood.

"Laura is foremost a chracter study and in that way foreshadows of All About Eve [1950]. It is notable for the performances of its leading lady, Gene Tierney, for whom this is a defining role, for that of Vincent Price, as the disgusting Shelby Carpenter, demonstrating that Price can act outside the confines of the House of Usher, and for that of Clifton Webb as Waldo Lydecker, another distinctly unattractive individual."

--ggf

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"The Blues Brothers" [John Landis] 1980

"The Blues Brothers was directed by John Landis and stars Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi. The script was written by Aykroyd and Landis.

"John Landis is primarily known for his comedies, although he has directed horror films, the best being Innocent Blood [1992]. While a director of successful and appreciated comedies, he has also made some very forgettable films as well. While Landis has never been nominated as best director, he has garnered three Razzie‘s for worst director.

"The Blues Brothers grew out of a Saturday Night Live shtick, wherein Aykroyd and Belushi warmed up the audience singing the blues before the show. The Blues Brothers is an off-the-wall comedy that consists primarily of a series of skits loosely hung on a plot. Little effort was spent worrying about a story, but a great deal of effort was spent making it. After the unexpected success of Animal House, nearly 30 millions were spent, much of it on car-related special effects. Forty-three vehicles were totaled during filming.

"Critics panned The Blues Brothers, comparing it to Smokey and the Bandit. It did poorly at the box office. Its sustained strength over twenty years as a hot seller in video and a hot ticket in revival houses has proved the critics wrong. In particular, the restaurant sketch is a great short piece of film comedy and, for those of you who were tought by nuns in primary school, the mother superior sketch is sure to revive some potent if not altogether pleasant memories. The Blues Brothers is now considered one of the best comedies of the 1980‘s.

"John Landis is known for his extensive use of cameos. In The Blues Brothers most of the cameos are related to the film‘s music - urban blues, which was born in Chicago. Making appearances are James Brown, Cab Calloway, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, John Lee Hooker and Chaka Khan.

"John Belushi died in 1982 at the height of his short screen career. His reputation as a movie comedian rests primarily on two films, Animal House [1978] and Blues Brothers. Both these films he made with John Landis and The Blues Brothers has the broader appeal."

--ggf

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"Breakfast at Tiffany‘s" [Blake Edwards] 1961

"Breakfast at Tiffany‘s is a Blake Edwards romantic comedy. It has a witty script, adapted from the Truman Capote novel by George Axelrod. It was nominated for five academy awards, actress, screenplay, music, song and art direction. It won two oscars for Henry Mancini, both for the film score and for the song Moon River, the lyrics written by Johnny Mercer.

"Edwards is probably best known for directing and co-writing the Pink Panther films, but has made more serious films, such as Experiment in Terror [1962] and Days of Wine and Roses [1962]. He often paired with Henry Mancini, who provided the music on many of his films. As a screenwriter, Edwards received a best screenplay Oscar nomination for Victor/Victoria [1982].

"Breakfast at Tiffany‘s has been essentially immortalized by the presence of Audrey Hepburn, who plays the vivacious hustler Holly Golightly. In this her signature role, Hepburn was nominated for best actress. George Peppard as her opposite love interest probably did the best work of his checkered career here.

"Although Breakfast at Tiffany‘s is primarily a light-hearted film, but it has a dark undercurrent, both characters being unhappy with themselves and their lives. That Hepburn earns her money as a call girl is only hinted at, while Peppard is kept and we assume also earns his money in an improper manner. That being said, the performances are fine."

--ggf

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"Shadow of a Doubt" [Alfred Hitchcock] 1943

"Shadow of a Doubt is Alfred Hitchcock‘s personal favorite of the films that he made. The film stars Joseph Cotton, Hume Cronyn and Teresa Wright. The screenplay was co-written by Thornton Wilder, better known for his great novels, Our Town and Bridge Over San Luis Rey. The screenplay was adapted from the story by Gordon McDonell, who was nominated for an Oscar. The other co-author of the screenplay was Hitchcock‘s wife Alma Reville.

"This film is considered by many to be Hitchcock‘s greatest film. It was shot on location in the small, middle-american town of Santa Rosa, CA. The sort of town that boomers wish they lived in when growing up. What gives this film its edge is that Hitchcock introduces a particularly unpleasant serpent into this idyllic community.

"Shadow of a Doubt is considered to be a disturbing and complex film that did not receive the awards that it deserved. The duality of good and evil are explored by the repeated pairing of opposites. Droll understated British humour abounds. For example, one hears the Merry Widow Waltz in the background and some of the conversations overheard are macabre. This was unpopular with American audiences."
--ggf

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"The Black Cat" [Edgar G. Ulmer] 1934

"The Black Cat is a classic horror film. Considered the first American psychological horror film, it takes place in Europe during the aftermath of WWI. Its two main characters are aberrant to the point of insanity, having survived the horrors of war but each having been psychologically destroyed by it. Both use a young couple as pawns in a murderous game of chess.

"This film is noted for the visually austere art-nouveau sets and expressionist directorial work by Edgar G. Ulmer, who also co-wrote the story idea. Considered only a B-film director, Black Cat was Ulmer‘s best work. Ulmer was however a great set designer, having been partially responsible for both M [1931] and Metropolis [1927], each considered to be visually impressive films. The two leads in Black Cat are played by Karloff and Lugosi. They both have good scripts here to work from, something that rarely happened to these two icons."

--ggf

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"Night of the Hunter" [Charles Laughton] 1955

"Night of the Hunter [1955] is considered now by critics to be one of the greatest of American films. Unfortunately, it is also one of the most rarely seen films. It remains nearly unique in its genre.

"The screenplay was co-written by the Pulitzer prize-winning author James Agee, who died shortly after the film was completed from alcoholism. Agee is better known as the screenwriter for African Queen [1952] and for what has become a classic "Let Us Now Praise Famous Men". Unfortunately, Agee earned most of his accolades and respect after his death.

"Night of the Hunter is the only film directed by the great actor Charles Laughton. Because Agee was dying from alcoholism, the script was edited and partially rewritten by Elsa Lanchester and Charles Laughton, making this film solidly and confidently Laughton‘s creation. Laughton was evidently much more talented than many realized at the time.

"Laughton made this film a piece of expressionism, in his words "a nightmarish sort of Mother Goose tale" told from a child‘s point of view. The river scenes, houses, family and passersby all seem to be part of someone‘s dreamlike recollection, solid but not quite real. In this Laughton was aided by the Oscar-winning black and white cinematographer Stanley Cortez.

"One figure in this film is all too real. The centerpiece is a creepy, sexy, horrifying villain, a preacher superbly played by Robert Mitchum. Mitchum‘s phrasing and voice are perfect for this role. This is considered to be Mitchum‘s greatest piece of work. The solid work by Shelley Winters and Lillian Gish is overshadowed by his evil characterization.

"This film was a critical and commercial failure. It never received a nomination for an Oscar. The American audiences of 1955 were not ready for an experimental work of expressionism. They were not happy seeing an evangelical preacher depicted as a serial murderer and they were probably also not happy seeing the scandal-tarnished Robert Mitchum playing that part either. Yet decade by decade this somewhat experimental film receives increasing critical respect."

--ggf

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"The French Connection" [William Friedkin] 1972

"The French Connection was directed by William Friedkin. It was a spectacular critical success, winning five Oscars: best picture, director, actor, screenplay and editing. It was nominated for cinematography, supporting actor and sound. It also garnered awards from the British Academy, Director‘s Guild, Golden Globe and so on.

"William Friedkin was on a roll in the early 1970s, winning two best director oscars in quick succession, the other for The Exorcist [1973]. Shortly after that he successfully remade Clouzot‘s classic Le Salaire de la Peur [1953] retitling it as Sorceror [1977]. After these the quality of his films sunk fast, even to directing opposite Alan Smithee (nudge nudge). The controversial Jade [1995] didn‘t help matters much.

""The French Connection is notable in that its central figure is anything but sympathetic. Popeye Doyle, played by Gene Hackman, is a brutal, driven, nasty man with a badge. The film is based closely upon the lives of Eddie Egan (Doyle in the film) and Sonnie Grosso (Russo in the film), who were two undercover police narcotics officers in Harlem. At that time they were responsible for the largest narcotics siezure in US history.

"Authenticity in location and mood are key parts of this film‘s success. The two narcotics officers were technical advisors. To buttress the feeling of authenticity, the film was shot in a quasi-documentary style. The French Connection is also remembered, as was Bullit [1968], for a spectacular car chase. Friedkin remains a master at directing chase scenes. Both this film and Bullit had the same producer.

"There are those who dislike French Connection for its concentration on big violence and big action. Some feel that its success was the reason that so many mindless violent action films were made subsequently, films that remain a staple product today."

--ggf

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