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Touching, beautiful documentary
This is a tender, heartwarming documentary on the importance of integration of immigrants into their new country. In the film, Somali refugees living in a remote village in Sweden are seen in a poor light by native Swedes. To better integrate them, some caring people decide to teach several Somalis how to play Bandy (like hockey but with a ball and played on a frozen soccer field) in the hopes of getting them to play in the world championships representing Somalia. This fish-out-of-water story has many parallels to the Jamaican Bobsled team story. The Somalis have never skated in their lives. They have to be taught the finer points of skating and playing the game in a relatively short 7 months. Will they be good enough to be accepted by the International Bandy Federation? Will they learn enough to get them to the world Championships in time? Will they even score a goal or will it be a series of crushing defeats? The whole reason they are playing is to give them a sense of purpose and bring them closer to their Swedish neighbors.
As one of the captions in the film states "Some genius must have thought way out of the box." The Somalis are never ridiculed by the filmmakers (even though their first experiences on skates are predictably humorous). You sense that everyone behind this unusual project is 100% behind the team and it shows. A central figure is Patrik Andersson who is their "fixer" basically getting the media involved as well as getting sponsors on board and fixing whatever problems come along. This is a great documentary that tells a touching story and is a must-see. I give it 8 Bandy sticks out of 10.
Félix et Meira (2014)
A beautiful, layered, subtle love story
I was completely blown away by this unique film. It is a gentle, nuanced look at two people from very different communities who connect and fall in love. The young woman is from the Hassidic community in Montreal. She is questioning her life and the limitations imposed on her by her community. The man she meets is not from her community and at a crossroads in his life. While this premise might seem implausible, it is explored with subtlety and respect. I cannot forget to praise the terrific performances of the three main actors. Israeli actress Hadas Yaron is simply amazing as Meria, the young Hassidic woman who is stifling in her marriage and community. Martin Dubreuil is also very good as Felix who is in search of something but is not quite sure what. All he knows is that he is instantly attracted to the shy, reluctant young woman and he must try to connect with her in any way he can. The chemistry between the two is simply electric. The character of Meira's husband could have easily been portrayed as the clichéd overbearing, uncaring spouse. Instead, actor Luzer Twersky makes him a sympathetic character trapped by his own failings. He simply does not know how to deal with his wife's angst. There are some incredible moments of tenderness in this film (The first time Felix and Meira hold hands is understated but very powerful). Overall this is a beautiful layered love story that is full of hope and happiness. Love will always find a way. Not to be missed. Bravo Maxime Giroux for giving us such a beautiful film.
Deadlier Than the Male (1967)
Solid 1960s James Bond-like film
Very light spoilers ahead: I was very surprised that this film was so good. I expected an over-the-top Bond spoof in the style of the Matt Helm films but instead got a solid story with good action scenes, dangerous female villains and a suave performance by Richard Johnson as the hero. By the way, Johnson plays Bulldog Drummond, a character from the pulp novels of the 1920s. They have changed the character quite a bit and made him a suave, sophisticated investigator who knows judo and is good with a quip or two. Johnson was apparently one of the actors considered for the first James Bond film and I can see why. He is confident without being cocky and quite smooth. The main villain is revealed about halfway through the film and turns out to be Nigel Green, playing a similar character to the one he played in the Matt Helm film The Wrecking Crew. Smooth, non-pulsed and very droll. Elke Sommer and Sylva Koscina are the two female villains and they are quite nasty. We even get Drummond's nephew helping out the proceedings.
There is a terrific sequence with a giant mechanized chess set that must be seen to be believed. Well done. The story is a tad slow and we only get to see London and the Italian coast as locations but the film works well without becoming ridiculous. Give it a chance I'm sure you will enjoy it. I give this 7 giant chess pieces out of 10.
Bons baisers de Hong-Kong (1975)
Overblown, silly James Bond Spoof
This ridiculous James Bond spoof comes courtesy of Les Charlots, a French comedy quartet that was popular in the 1970s. This film is so over-the-top and scattered that I think I need to break this review down to three elements:
The Good: Bernard Lee and Lois Maxwell (M and Moneypenny in the Bond series) have a short cameo at the start of the film.
There is a gun-barrel sequence where James Bond is shot!
The stunts are simply spectacular (the film was directed by a stuntman).
There is a great deal of location shooting in London, Spain and Hong Kong.
Gerard and Jean-Guy(two of Les Charlots) are appropriately dashing as French secret agents.
The Bad: An actor made up as Richard Nixon comments on the story occasionally.
Every English-speaking actor is dubbed in French with a dreadful accent
The 1970s fashions are just awful.
The Kung Fu sequences (there are a lot of them) are nothing special.
The Ugly: Clifton James (Sheriff Pepper in the Bond films) is an American agent/detective and is horribly bad.
Mickey Rooney as the main villain should be ashamed of himself for his overacting and hamming it up.
There is a stunt that almost goes bad where a dog is almost crushed under a car. Ugh.
Overall, a must if you want to see every James Bond spoof known to man. Otherwise, you have been warned. I give it 3 secret agent out of 10(For the gun-barrel sequence, M and Moneypenny and the illegal use of the James Bond theme as well as for two of the four Charlots). Oh yeah, there are also references to Clockwork Orange, The Marx Brothers and Mad Magazine.
Very quirky low budget comedy
This is a very amusing fish out of water story with the director playing the lead role. In a nutshell, the story concerns a woman(Lisa Kudrow)desperate for some help taking care of her kids while her husband is off fighting in Irak. She has to go back to work but cannot afford daycare for her two "monsters".Cue the husband's loser brother who has nowhere to go,no money and no idea how to take care of himself, let alone two pre-school kids. He eventually gets a job wearing a ridiculous blue suit and handing out fliers in the middle of a highway to promote an Internet company( check out the poster to see this thing). Pendergast, making his first feature, reminds me very much of Woody Allen, in his early days. He is excellent at finding the humor in an ordinary situation and does not resort to cheap laughs. In many cases we see just the result of a situation and can pretty much tell what has happened just from surveying the damage. A perfect example is his first day of babysitting. All we see is the mother leaving for work and then arriving later to find him and the two kids fast asleep on the living room floor with fruit loops everywhere(and I mean everywhere), the TV blasting and generally everything in disorder. He could have shown us moments from his day but this is so much better because as we survey the disaster zone, we can just imagine what kind of a day he has had. Lisa Kudrow gets top billing and is OK in her limited role as the harried mother who is desperate for her husband to return and just does not know what to do. Christine Taylor and Terri Garr both put in what are essentially cameos but to good effect. The two kids are never cute or coy and this helps make them much more human. They do not like this uncle who has appeared out of nowhere but a bond does eventually form with him. A lot of the humor comes from the blue suit and the character's difficulty in doing such simple things as handing out fliers or drinking while wearing it. Pendergast is excellent as the out-of-his-element Salman, whose name everyone mispronounces. The rest of the cast is very good with a special mention to Conchata Ferrell as the HR person who hires Penedergast. I saw this film at the Montreal Film Festival with the director present and the audience really responded well. I hope this film gets a major distribution deal. Penedergast is a director with a lot of potential. I give this film 8 blue suits out of 10.
Great Harryhausen effects make up for poor screenplay
**Some light spoilers** If you compare the three Sinbad movies produced by Charles H. Schneer and Ray Harryhausen, this one is easily the weakest. Firstly, Patrick Wayne is dull as heck in the role of Sinbad. Secondly, the film is much too long. Thirdly, the dialog and story are poor even for this kind of movie. But not to despair there are several great reasons to watch it. The great Harryhausen monsters and the very sexy Jane Seymour are the main reasons. The great locations in Malta, Jordan and Spain are also very well chosen and add to the atmosphere. They seem like mysterious lands where monsters could be lurking at every turn(and usually are). The Harryhausen monsters are great especially the Troglodyte and the chess playing baboon. The Minoton is also cool (only in the animated sequences but certainly not when it is a man in a rubber suit). What can I say about Jane Seymour but WOW!! What she lacks in acting ability she makes up for in screen presence and beauty. Upon re-viewing the film I realized that the Sinbad character does almost nothing useful until the very end when he fights the Tiger. He is mainly there to go along with the other characters and look good. Wayne plays him with almost no personality whatsoever. Taryn Power (Tyronne's daughter) is OK in a secondary role but I suspect she was cast more for her looks than anything else. Margaret Whiting is completely over-the-top as the villainous Zenobia but at least she seems to be having fun with all the corny dialog(her transformation into a seagull is laughable and the only bad special effect in the film). One thing that struck me as odd is with the amount of great location footage shot in this film almost all the closeups were shot in a studio with a blue screen. This is very weird as it is obvious that the main cast are in the long and medium shots, shot on location. Did the producers run out of time or money before shooting the close-ups or what? Overall a good film to see on a rainy day or with a child. If you let your imagination take over it works even better.
Good satire that could have been a little stronger
***Some very light spoilers***
While this is not as good as Albert Brooks' Lost in America, it does contain enough witty observations and funny characters to make it worth seeing. Brooks plays a character he has played before, namely a man who reacts to situations. The premise of the movie is quite good: The US State Department want to find out what makes Muslims tick(or laugh if you prefer) and send our reluctant hero to India and Pakistan to observe and write a 500 page report(if he can also find out what makes Hindus laugh, even better). Two "suits" from the State Department accompany him to "help" handle whatever problems he may have. Obviously the setup here is for these clowns to make his life difficult. Some of this does happen but it is not developed enough to make them memorable characters. Once in India, Brooks must hire a local assistant to help him. This leads to probably the best part of the film (certainly one of the funniest) when he interviews potential candidates. I won't spoil the fun here but let us just say that the "suits" did not screen the candidates too thoroughly. The assistant he does hire is easily the most interesting character of the film. Played by Sheetal Sheth as an eager ready to please assistant who really, really wants to learn, she outshines all the others in this film. Many gags follow as they try and find out what people find funny. the humor is really full of throwaway bits (the call center gags come to mind) as well as some great visual gags (the Taj Mahal gag had me laughing out loud). A lot of the humor is at Albert Brooks character's expense so , as far as I'm concerned, the film does not take itself very seriously(The whole meeting with representatives of Al Jezeera is quite good). Many times a situation is not developed to its potential leaving the viewer a little perplexed. The end is a perfect example. They built up the situation in the last 20 minutes or so and just when we are about to have a payoff, they rush the ending and give us a very limited payoff. Overall, I would still recommend the film, just go in knowing that this is a satire and enjoy.
Fair Play (1972)
This has got to be one of the worst films I have ever seen. It is a (bad) cross between a Western, a Comedy and a home movie. You can only wonder what a fine character actor like Paul Ford is doing here. I guess he desperately needed the money(he seems very uncomfortable delivering his lines). Supporting actors are dreadful, music is bad, haphazard direction and there is very little story to speak of(most of it very confusing and certainly not funny at all). There are large stretches where most of the action takes place in one room. This is supposed to be a western, how about a few more outdoor scenes? From the opening scenes where the young man arrives at the train station and tries to get a ride into town to visit his uncle(Paul Ford) straight through to all the stupid intrigue about a dead mysterious stranger, you will feel that you are stuck in some kind of horrible unfunny sitcom stretched to feature length. BTW, the title Fair Play is the name of the town where the action takes place (in case you were wondering). I bought this on a two sided double feature DVD(with Sam Peckinpah's terrific The Deadly Companions)for $2.99. If it were not for the Deadly Companions I would say that I got ripped off.
Avoid this one like the plague.
Au sud des nuages (2003)
Enjoyable road movie
A very enjoyable film that follows five old farmers from Switzerland who decide to take a train journey all the way to China. While this might seem like a very bizarre premise, the film works quite well. The film focuses on "the leader" of the group, an old salt named Adrien who is a man of few words. The trip to China, while starting off very badly, will have a profound effect on his life and on his way of seeing the world around him. He has kept his emotions to himself for so long that he does not know what to do when he feels pain ,sadness or joy. The film includes scenes shot in Switzerland, Germany, Russia, Mongolia and China but it is not a boring travelogue. We see these countries as places where ordinary people try to eke out a living and attempt to live as happily as possible.They don't always succeed. There are a few sad moments in the film but the lasting impression is one of hope. There are also some very funny moments to balance out the feel of the film. Recommended viewing.
The Flying Deuces (1939)
post-Hal Roach feature is sufficiently light and silly
This was Laurel and Hardy's first feature film away from producer extraordinaire Hal Roach. While this is in no way Laurel and Hardy's best work, it still contains enough gags and silliness to entertain fans and the younger set. Stan Laurel is as sharp as always as is Babe Hardy but the story is somewhat lacking and drags in spots. The premise is good though: Trying to forget a woman who turned him down, Ollie wants to drown himself and convinces Stan that he must do the same. The boys meet an officer of the Foreign Legion who convinces them that they should join the Legion to help forget. Of course you know these two misfits are not going to do well in the Legion with its strict military code and constant marching. This leads to many good moments when, for example, the boys are forced to wash and press "a mountain" of laundry(literally). I especially liked the stunt flying and the surprise ending which, for me, wrapped everything up neatly. The part I really didn't like is having Ollie act like a simpering idiot when in love. It is just plain embarrassing. In their older films, they would get into bad situations but were never the objects of ridicule. Thankfully, this sequence passes by quickly enough and we go on to some great gags.
Sadly, the boys would end up making only one good film after this one (Saps at Sea)before moving to MGM and Fox where they were stuck in a bunch of bad or very average films.
Cry Blood, Apache (1970)
OK low budget revenge western
This film is not as bad as most people have noted. I'm sure they were turned off by the very downbeat story and low budget. Many scenes were also dubbed which does not help. I found the plot delivered especially in the second half of the film. I liked the way the Apache seeking revenge went about tracking down the gang of killers and wiping them out one by one. The methods he uses to kill them off are certainly inventive. The other big plus in this film is the location shooting in Sequoia National Forest in California and other locations in Arizona(the entire film was shot outdoors). You can almost feel the cold wind blowing and taste the omnipresent dust. Performances are mixed. Jody McCrea(who also produced the film) is OK as the "hero" of the film. His motivations seem ambiguous but this did not bother me that much. Joel McCrae(doing his son a favor by appearing in this film) is not on-screen nearly enough but his facial expressions are so subtle that we understand quickly what he is feeling. Director Jack Starrett delivers one very weird performance as the bible-obsessed killer who lusts for gold constantly muttering to himself and to the others. Don Henley (not sure if this is the Don Henley of the Eagles)is quite good as the leader of the gang. Ruthless but more cunning than you think. The character of Billy is probably the weakest. He is supposed to be a ruthless goon but is played at times as a whimpering baby. The others are OK but nothing special. This is best viewed late at night when nothing else is on. Overall I give it 4 Apaches out of 10.
Daniel Boone, Trail Blazer (1956)
Solid B Western
Good B western with plenty of action and good acting. Mexican locations standing in for Kentucky are also very pleasing to look at. Bruce Bennett as Daniel Boone is strong and stoic. I especially liked his interplay with his wife and many children. Lon Chaney Jr. is surprisingly good as the Indian Black Fish. The film is a little too short at 76 minutes, but what we get moves at a good clip. Most of the film was shot outdoors which is a definite plus. The final battle scene is well staged and exciting. We don't have a clue how Daniel and his group are going to survive but rest assured Daniel uses his brains to save everyone from a massacre.
A good film for western fans ages 8 and older(the younger ones might be a little bothered by some of the killings and occasional scalping). I give it 6 trail blazers out of 10.
Never Say Never Again (1983)
Sean Connery makes a welcome return to the role that made him a star
I saw this movie when it came out in 1983 and basically hated it. I recently got a chance to watch it again and was quite surprised that I actually enjoyed it. When the movie came out originally, a lot was made of the fact that it was not an "official" Bond film. Being a Bond fan, I bought into that thinking and didn't give this film a chance. On viewing it 20 years later, I am struck by many things:
1) It is GREAT to see Sean Connery as Bond again, even if he is now in his 50s. He is in terrific shape and really very good in the action sequences and fast on the quips. 2) Barbara Carrera is very enjoyable as an over-the-top femme-fatale. 3) The story moves at a good clip with some terrific exotic locations. I especially liked all the South of France sequences. 4) The action sequences are solid. The motorcycle chase is actually very well done and builds in tension. 5) Bernie Casey is the second best Felix Leiter after David Hedison (Live and Let Die, Licence to Kill). He is a great help to James. 6) The title song is weak and the rest of the score is less than memorable. 7) We have Rowan Atkinson(Mr. Bean)in a funny supporting role hamming it up in his two scenes. 8) Most of the other supporting cast is fine(especially Kim Basinger and Klaus Maria Brandaur)
When you look at all the Bond films that followed, you realize that this was actually much better than we give it credit for. I can't understand why people put this down so much. Yes it is not an "official" Bond film but so what, it delivers in almost every department: Action, a solid hero, beautiful women, exotic locations, a tense story and several crazy villains. Only the music is weak. So many people have complained that it is missing the gunbarrel opening and the James Bond theme. Well these things are protected by copyright so they never could have used them in the first place. Get over it and enjoy Sean Connery as smooth as ever.
Return of the Saint (1978)
Terrific followup to the original series
I can't understand why this series is so hard to find(it does not appear to be available on video or DVD at this time). Ian Ogilvy is very good as the Saint. His 70s hairstyle is a bit dated(on viewing it today) but other than that he is suave and sophisticated.And who can forget his white Jaguar XJS!
I remember seeing this series when it was first broadcast on CBC(Canadian Broadcasting Corp.) in 1978-79 and enjoying it tremendously. One episode that comes to mind is The Armageddon Alternative which has a madman threatening to blow up London using a nuclear bomb! The story was tense and the manhunt very realistic. The great thing about this series is the fact that they shot it all over Europe. Several very good actors appeared in the series including Britt Eckland, Ian Hendry, Linda Thorson and Catherine Schell
Fans of the Saint should check it out if it ever comes back(Mystery network in Canada showed it last year but they seem to have stopped).
The Saint Strikes Back (1939)
Average B movie
This is not George Sanders' best "Saint" movie by any stretch("The Saint in London" gets that honor). Instead we get an average low-budget mystery movie that has very few surprises. George Sanders is introduced to us as Simon Templar in this movie. Sanders plays him as a suave, urbane and sophisticated hero, rarely caught off guard("not the man who knows everything, just the man who knows the important things"). Unfortunately the script in this production lets him down. Not only is it less than engaging, it also tends to be needlessly confusing. Wendy Barrie plays the female lead(as she did in two other Sanders-Saint films)but she is much too stiff. I don't have a problem with her playing the character as a tough-as-nails femme-fatale but I think Barrie overdoes it and the result is that her character loses credibility. Neil Hamilton (commissioner Gordon on TV's Batman) plays one of Barrie's associates in crime like some kind of effeminate twit. This undermines what should be a strong bond between him and Barrie. The "surprise" ending is weak and anyone who has not guessed it well in advance has obviously not been paying attention throughout.
There is one great sequence that almost makes the film worth seeing. It occurs when Inspector Fernack(Jonathan Hale) has a bout of indigestion and hallucinates about Lobsters riding trucks(!!). Salvator Dali eat your heart out.
Above mentioned sequence and Sanders are the only reasons to bother with this one (unless you want to see Wendy Barrie chewing on the scenery). I give it 6 lobsters out of 10.
Captain America (1990)
Not worth your time.
This is not the worst comic book adaptation as many have said. It is a dull movie with almost no special effects and a story that has no delivery whatsoever. Most of the actors sleepwalk through this film(the Red Skull's daughter for example looks particularly sleepy) and there is hardly any adventure to speak of. Matt Salinger is OK as Captain America but even he can't shake the boredom out of this movie. The only positive is the costume and shield. Too bad Captain America is in costume for so little screen time. The least said about the Captain's modern day girlfriend the better.
Don't waste you time on this one. It makes the 1944 Captain America serial look like a masterpiece in comparison.
Well done comic book adventure
This is easily the best of the two live-action Tintin adaptations(the other being TINTIN ET LES ORANGES BLEUES which was ok, but nothing special). For the uninitiated, Tintin is the well known Belgian comic book character created by Herge. Every French-speaking child and most European children have grown up following his many comic book adventures. The film is not an adaptation of a Tintin story but this does not matter greatly. Instead we have an exciting adventure that sees Tintin and Capitaine Haddock travel to Turkey to claim a boat(the Toison D'or)that the good captain inherited from a friend. The intrigue starts at this point as numerous people want the boat for some mysterious reason. Jean-Pierre Talbot is perfectly cast as Tintin. Not only does he resemble the character physically but he shares the enthusiasm and athletic agility of his comic book counterpart. Georges Wilson is also good as Capitaine Haddock(gruff and a little silly). The beautiful sun-drenched Turkish and Greek locations are a delight to look at and the story moves along at a good clip. Milou the dog is also quite good. What more can one ask for? An excellent film for the young and young at heart.
Cobra Verde (1987)
Flawed historical epic
This film is not nearly as engaging as previous Kinski-Herzog films AGUIRRE: THE WRATH OF GOD and FITZCARALDO. Once again Herzog has found stunning locations at the very ends of the earth but his story does not complement the use of these places. Kinski is amazing as he always is when working with Herzog. He plays a complex, nuanced character(some would say mad) but the script lets him down. The story is a very brutal exposition of the 19th century slave trade. White men are seen working hand in hand with African kings. The Kings want weapons and power, the whites want slaves to work their vast plantations. Cobra Verde(Kinski) is essentially really only a pawn in this horrible game, only he does not fully realize it until it is too late. Unfortunately the film's greatest weakness is its visual narrative. There are too many moments when a situation is set up and we are left to figure it out on our own. I was also perplexed by Cobra Verde's motivation. Why does he accept to go to Africa. Does he really see himself as invincible? He is fearless, but surely he did not survive so long as a bandit by being stupid? So why does he make the journey in the first place?
This being said, the film also has some stunning moments. Witness the army of amazons being whipped into a frenzy by the blood-thirsty Cobra Verde. There must be 400 actors in this scene alone. Kinski revels in the chaos and confusion and this adds greatly to the impact of the scene. The final scene is also quite haunting. It is really too bad that there are not enough moments like these. Overall worth seeing if you like Kinski and Herzog but definitely not their best effort.
Murder Sees the Light (1986)
OK murder mystery.
Anyone who has read any of Howard Engel's Benny Cooperman mysteries will enjoy this made-for-TV film. The plot twists are a little far fetched and a tad confusing but on the whole the film holds together. The big plus here is Saul Rubinek as Cooperman. Rubinek is hilarious as the small town private eye sent into the mosquito-infested great outdoors (Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario). He seems completely out of his element but you sense that there is more to him than meets the eye. Witness his conversation with the Evangelist's girlfriend at the local cafe. He easily gains her confidence and gets the information he was looking for in such a casual way you would think that he really was just making conversation. Kenneth Welsh as the Evangelist is OK(complete with fake southern accent)as are most of the supporting actors (look for Graham Greene in the first few minutes of the film)but Rubinek is clearly the star of this show. Kate Lynch is also good as the owner of the local lodge. Overall a good time filler with some decent scenery and a reasonably good plot.
The Neptune Factor (1973)
OK sci-fi suspense film
This movie is not too bad. The cast is solid with Ernest Borgnine and Donnelly Rhodes particularly good. The story has enough moments of suspense to keep the viewer interested and enough plot to move the story along at a reasonable pace. A lot has been said about the (lack of) special effects. I'm not too bothered by this. They are no better or worse than other films from that era. The premise(giant fish at the bottom of the ocean) does not suspend our disbelief too much. The important thing here is the search and rescue of the scientists trapped at the bottom of a crevice and not the mutant fish. The final rescue happens too quickly but this does not hinder the film too much.
Overall a good film to watch on a rainy Sunday. I give it 6 mutant fish out of 10.
The Stranger (1946)
Taught, suspenseful thriller
This film has been knocked by many people saying that Orson Welles was forced to work within the strict confines of the Hollywood system. I have absolutely no problem with this. Welles is a master craftsman. He made great films, period. In an interview he said that the studio cut out " a couple of reels" that take place in South America at the beginning of the story that he felt was the best part of the movie. As a viewer I feel that the film is compact and taut. Adding more to it would not help(in my opinion). On the contrary, I think adding more might make the film sluggish. As it stands the film remains dark. You feel that evil is present. You are just not sure what is going to happen next.
The performances in this film are for the most part excellent. Edward G. Robinson is amazing. This could have been a cardboard thin good-guy part. Instead he turns the character of Wilson into a smart, cunning hero. He is self-assured not obsessed. He understands what most people in the town don't: Kindler is a monster who is capable of anything. To catch such a man you have to be several steps ahead of him. Also excellent is Konstantin Shayne as Meinike. You can see the fear and madness in his eyes as he repeats "I am travelling for my health, I am travelling for my health..." before going through customs. Make no mistake, this man is "an obscenity that must be destroyed" to quote Wilson. Just look at his scene with the photographer in South America. He is used to people following his orders. Welles is also very good as Kindler/Rankin. There are moments that you actually feel sympathy for him. His obsession with fixing the town clock is very significant. Here is a man who needs things to be precise and structured. He wants total control of his environment(a good example is how he treats his wife). Welles hints at this man's mania but keeps him human. Even though you want him to be caught, you can't help wondering if he'll get away. Loretta Young is unfortunately just average in this film. She has some good moments (especially in the final scene when she confronts Rankin/Kindler)but her hysterics are just too much. The scene where Wilson is showing her the Nazi atrocities is well played. She keeps a certain composure that works well.
Overall, a very well made thriller with top notch performances and solid direction by one of cinema's masters. I give it 8 clock towers out of 10.
The Saint's Double Trouble (1940)
Lacklustre, confusing mystery.
This really is the worst Saint film starring George Sanders. The whole idea of the Saint having an exact double is not too credible but the filmmakers milk it for all it is worth. This results in a confusing film that is short on mystery and long on ridiculous coincidences. The crooks are a very stupid lot in this film. Even the presence of Bela Lugosi does nothing to help the film. He just turns out to be as stupid as the others. George Sanders does what he can with the limited script. He is as suave as ever as Simon Templar but flat as the head of the criminal gang. The scenes pairing Simon with Inspector Fernack(Jonathan Hale) are easily the best in the film. Sanders and Hale click well together as they did in their previous Saint films together. Too bad the story is such a let-down. Only worth seeing for Sanders and Hale. I give it 3 halos out of 10.
The Saint in Palm Springs (1941)
Light but still a lot of fun
George Sanders is really the reason you should watch this film. He is always cool, suave and sophisticated. Rarely caught by surprise. Of the five Saint films he made, this is second best(after The Saint in London). This one has sunny Palm Springs and a decent mystery. Wendy Barrie(once again) is also ok. The identity of the killers is a bit of a surprise, especially the head of the gang, but this does not take away from the fun of the film. Some of the back screen projection(in the desert scenes) is dreadful but there are enough location shots to compensate. Overall fun with a good performance by Sanders. I give it 7 stamps out of 10.
Light, but a lot of fun.
I recently watched this movie with my 11 year old son and was pleased to see that he laughed in the right places and was thrilled by the action sequences. Ron Ely is just right as Doc. Cool, calm, almost always in control(and with an occasional twinkle in his eye). What more can one ask for? I have never read a Doc Savage book, so I don't know if it is faithful to the source but I enjoyed the light tone and derring-do. Many people have compared this movie to Raiders of the Lost Ark, which I don't think is fair. The difference in budget is astounding(Raiders must have at least 10 times the budget). Doc Savage does not have the extensive location work that Raiders has. Special effects are also at a minimum but come on people, the story is a lot of fun and the humor is just right. The Sousa music is catchy(love that theme song- Every time I watch the film, I end up humming the theme for days).The best way to approach this film is to just RELAX and enjoy. Highlights include the exciting opening sequence where the fabulous five and Doc chase the Indian sniper throughout the rooftops of New York and the VERY funny fight sequence between Doc and Captain Seas. Not as good is the villain who sleeps in a giant crib (really!). Overall a great movie to watch on a rainy day. I give it 7 out of 10.
Doc Savage, Doc Savage...thank the lord he's here!
Captain America (1944)
Is this the Captain America we know and love?
No, it's just a cheap 1940s serial using the Cap's good name. If you are a fan of the comic book, you will be greatly disappointed. They have radically changed the character. No shield, no Bucky, no fighting the Nazis, no wings on the side of his mask and most importantly: Captain America is now a District Attorney and no longer a GI.
Dick Purcell as Captain America? Don't look too closely when he changes into his costume. It is pretty obvious that he was not in the best physical shape when he made this serial(can you say flabby?). It is also VERY obvious that a stunt man is performing most of the action here. Almost every chapter has an obligatory fist fight that is shot and performed in exactly the same way. The villain is rather bland and although he uses an alias (The Scarab), he doesn't wear a disguise of any kind. The story is repetitive and very simple. The effects are laughable and the action is average. On the plus side we have sexy Lorna Gray as the D.A.'s assistant and the good Captain gets to ride on a cool looking motorcycle in one early chapter. Overall OK but nothing special.