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Opinion of The Movie Changed Over the Years
19 July 2014
When I first Saw this film, I wasn't as big on it as I was on the first one. This feeling went on for many years and it is reflected in an earlier review I wrote on the film back in 2002. Now, after having seen Batman Returns within the last 4 to 6 years, I have had a changed of mind on this film and consider it my favorite of the four Batman films made from 89-97. It has a feel that I connected with more recently than I did during my earlier viewings. The villains walk a blurred line between evil and pathetic and sometimes this line blurs where they are interchangeable. Sure the film has its flaws, but still I think it is well made and a little underrated. That is a sadness that hovers over the characters like a overseeing shadow. I wish they had bought back Michelle Pfeiffer's Cat Woman for another film.
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Carrie (1976)
Film That Made King's Career
17 September 2002
Warning: Spoilers
Carrie(1976) opens with a moment that would set the tone for the rest of the story. Moment in the shower represents an open awareness of the main character's sexuality and her confusion. De Palma builds and builds the moment with an effectiveness that never quiets down. Sissy Spacek conveys emotions of confusion and hysteria powerfully depicted by her facial expressions. A moment when you can feel pity for Carrie White because of the mean treatment she receives from classmates.

Before Carrie(1976), Brian De Palma was known for his forays into comedies with exception of Sisters(1973), and Obsession(1976). After Carrie(1976), De Palma started to become famous for his horror/thriller features, which displayed many homages to his fave direrctor, Alfred Hitchcock as well as Dario Argento, and Mario Bava. He may not be original when it comes to some of his storylines, but at his best makes things entertaining and interesting. The Prom massacre scene is directed with some finesse, although it does feel at times that he goes overboard with the split-screen effects. The genius of Carrie(1976) is to depict the emotional meltdown of a young woman who is tormented from all sides and fronts.

An intriquing look into the behavior and mind set of the teenager and the difficulties that comes with being one. The performances in the film are quite convincing in showing the cruel and nasty nature that teens who are outsiders go through every day of their life. Carrie White is portrayed in a sympathetic light whose hidden feelings of anger can be understandable. Chris Hargensen(played by Nancy Allen) is a character you love to hate because of her mean attitude towards Carrie White. Probably the meanest and most unpleasent character Nancy Allen has played in film.

One of the best film adaptations from a Stephen King book besides The Dead Zone(1983), and Misery(1990). Definitely introduced the world to the writings of King, and ended up making a household name out of him as a writer of horror literature. The film plays a nice homage from a moment in Deliverance(1972) during the final moments of Carrie(1976). The Prom massacre is one of the scariest moments in horror films that would be reworked into the final scene in Ms. 45(1981). A classic 1970s horror pic that hasn't lost its touch in creating something so frightening, and very much heart chilling.
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Funny in Some Spots, Annoying in Others
2 May 2002
Good comedy that has three thing's going for it. One, the appearence of Elizabeth Hurley who gives a performance that is both sensual and intellegent. Two, Mike Myers performace as Dr. Evil, which outweighs his performance as Austin Powers in terms of sheer comic delights. Three, its spoofing of James Bond films, which in some bizarre form manages to be more interesting than the some of the films from the series it seems to be parodying. Austin Powers:International Man of Mystery(1997) is not a classic comedy, but is fun to due to a couple of memorable scenes. Probably the best performance, Liz Hurley has given in her film career. The moments where the film becomes annoying are during the moments of the sex jokes by Austin Powers and other cast of characters. Also, the film at times becomes too stupid for its own good. Robert Wagner shows a comic side that is full of subtle humor in his role of Dr. Evil's right hand man, Number Two.
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The Black Cat (1981)
Brilliant Cinematography
2 May 2002
An unusually restraint film for a Fulci picture made in the early 1980s. A picturesque vision of gothic horror that's done in the style of an Italian gothic or Hammer horror film from the 1960s. I think Fulci's attempt here was to make a film in the manner of Hammer horror or Corman's Poe pictures, which would involve little of the director's usual gory antics. There are some violent scenes, and the most brutal scene in terms of gore or death is the one involving Lillian Grayson. Il Gatto Nero/The Black Cat(1980) relies more on atmosphere, mood, and tension, than gory set pieces, which was a change of tune for Fulci after the bloody violence of Zombie(1979), The Smuggler(1980), and City of the Living Dead(1980).

Its not one of his best works, but it is a beautiful looking film, with some gracious camerawork, and impressive visuals. Based loosely on the Edgar Allen Poe short story, of which this film has no direct relationship to the plot of that horror story. The closet the film comes is during the sequence that comes near the very end of the picture. The climax is an encore of the climatic moment in Sette Note in Nero/Seven Notes in Black(1977). The POV of the cat prowling around during the opening credits scene is handled with visual spectre by Sergio Salvati.

The casting of Patrick Magee as Robert Miles is one of the best parts of The Black Cat(1980). Magee gives a performance that shows why he was a master in playing eccentric and mentally troubled characters in films like A Clockwork Orange(1971), and Marat/Sade(1970). One of five or six excellent actors to have a role in a Lucio Fulci film. He portrays in his character emotions of fear, hate, and menace just by his expressions of his face and eyes, which are more effectively presented when viewing the film in widescreen. Atmospheric and eerie use of its British locales that rivals that of Jorge Grau's Let Sleeping Corpses Lie(1974).

One scene, which reaches the dreamlike style of Fulci's other gothic pics from the early 80s is the moment when the house that Jill Travels lives in shakes, and rocks around in a frenzy after the hanging Miles cat. Its an eerie sequence that is one of the best in the film. Daniela Doria once again plays a character who comes to a gruesome end(seems to be her only function in a Fulci film). David Warbeck does ok as Inspector Gorley, but his performance here is nowhere near as good as in The Beyond(1981). The Mrs. Grayson death scene borders on the effective and ridiculous without moving totally into the realm of the latter.

Mimsy Farmer gives a bland performance here that is short of the good performances given by Catriona MacColl, who was better at making a Fulci's heroine a little more dimensional. The editing is smooth looking and fluid compared to the erratic editing of City of the Living Dead(1980), which was a weakness for that film. The death of Ferguson is crafted with hand shaking suspense and a creative payoff. Fulci's director is flamboyant and yet simple in the same time. Overall, an entertaining horror film that is one of Fulci's most underrated films, and one despite its flaws is worthwhile for anyone that loves Euro-horror, Fulci horror, or just horror films in general.
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Price's Greatest Moment on the Big Screen
29 April 2002
Witchfinder General(1968) is an intellegent, thoughtful, human study of power in a powerless time. Intellectual horror that plays on the emotional intensity of its characters, and the brutality they are capable of achieving. Pinnalce of British horror, which behind The Wicker Man(1974) is one of the best British horror pics ever. With an evil villain in form of Matthew Hopkins who carries around a darkly intellectual karma amid towns of superstitious people. Effective in showing an aura of brutal evil brought on by designs for power, superstition, and civil war.

Responsible in bringing forth a new subgenre, which dealt with the brutal violence, religious hypocrisies, and sexual debacheries of Middle age Europe, particularly the inquisition age. Witchfinder General(1968) deals with its inquisition subject in a forceful and psychological insightful manner. Later films of subgenre would rely heavily on human eroticism, and sadistic violence. The best of this subgenre besides Witchfinder General(1968) are Beatrice Cenci(1969), and The Bloody Judge(1969). The former shares a tragic quality with WG, while the latter is a portrait of intellectual evil.

Rare occasion where Vincent Price plays someone in a film without any camp or humor value. All the more scary because of Price's ability to balance between dry charm and cold blooded ruthlessness. Nothing he does in Witchfinder General(1968) is darkly comical like roles for Abominable Dr.Phibes(1972), or Theatre of Blood(1967). Closer to his portrayal of Prince Prospero in Roger Corman's Masque of the Red Death(1964) who shares similar qualities with Matthew Hopkins. Results in Vincent Price's finest performance and maximizes his acting talent to highest level.

Hopkins was the product of a system, where anything away from the norm political or religious wise were causes for condemnation as a witch. Powerful display on the chaotic effects war has on a country against itself. Director, Michael Reeves depicts a situation when justice and law are performed by those who prey on the weak and the powerless for personal gain. English Civil War lended to Hopkins having a type of power due to lack of a semblence of order. Interesting how horrible human acts are at their worst during times of chaos and war.

Matthew Hopkins was not the only known witchfinder general of his time, but is one of the most infamous and notorious of the witchfinders in that era. Very little is known about his life except for his days as a witchfinder, which makes him into an enigmatic figure shrouded in mystery. Hopkins in his day was the equivalent of a bounty hunter in era of American Wild West. What I find fascinating about Hopkins are the different sources concerning his death with one implying by natural causes, and another by execution as a witch. Price plays Hopkins with a chilling and cold hearted demeanor that only he could pull off in convincing fashion.

Judging by the effectiveness in film's direction and execution, Michael Reeves might have turned out to be one of British horror's best had he lived a little longer. He is the James Dean of film directors due to amount of excellence done in so little a time. Reeves shows his skills off in developing characters who are not plain good or evil but people who are capable of both. One style for whom Reeves is akin to is Lucio Fulci from his late 60s/early 70s period with similar themes of social consciousness. Scenes of horror are honestly and powerfully depicted by Reeves.

The fabulous cinematography of this film must have made an impression on Sam Peckinpah when he hired John Coquillon to do the cinematography for Straw Dogs(1971). In fact, there are many moments, which I feel influenced the ideas on the primal side of human being for Straw Dogs(1971). One, some of the characterizations of the film's hero would creep up a little into the personality of Dustin Hoffman's math professor. Two, the brooding and fercious mood of the cinematography here is also apparent in Straw Dogs(1971). The cinematography of this film is one of many aspects that gives it a powerhouse emotion.

Its American title is called Conqueror Worm even though it has nothing to do with the excellent Edgar Allen Poe poem. Donald Pleasence was the director's choice for Matthew Hopkins, but was declined by AIP in favor of the more marketable Vincent Price. Although Pleasence might have been good in the role, Price brings certain qualities as Matthew Hopkins that Pleasence might not have been able to give. The relationship between Price(actor) and Reeves(director) was one that was a love-hate one. Acting is very good with Price leading the way to give a brilliant performance.

Film's erotic elements are a mixture of the implicit and slightly explicit. Story's revenge angle ends with some kind of consequence for the main chracters involved. Robert Russell does a good job in playing Hopkin's assistent as sleezy, and sadistic. The strong and dry acting of Vincent Price was inspired by his frustations with the director about his role. A non Corman AIP classic that is deserving of a Special Edition DVD release.

The final scene packs a big punch with emotional and psychological intensity. Disturbing and mind shattering scene, which hasn't lost its ability to distress the psyche. The screams of Sara are enough to stay in one's memory following the sight of the last credit at the end of the film. Reminds me in a way of the final frame of Dario Argento's Tenebre(1982) where the main heroine is seen screaming against a backdrop of death and horror. A moment when none of the main characters come unscratched, and ends up with some psychological scar, which will affect for the rest of a lifetime.
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Dark Undertones
14 March 2002
While not as good as the first film, Batman Return(1992) is way better than the last two when the series became dumb and dumber. Deals with childhood traumas, and adult angst that results from feelings of alienination during childhood years. Not one of the main characters were blessed with happy memories of their childhood, and each has their own alter-ego to fight this traumatic pain. The opening scene is an example of this idea, and one which leads to the main theme of the movie.

Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne/Batman becomes more melencoly, more saddened by unhappy childhood memories, and saddled with a feeling of loneliness. Danny Devito is a disappointing followup as a villain after the flamboyant performance of Jack Nicholson in Batman(1989). Michelle Pfeiffer is both sexy and hard edged in the role of Catwoman, which is her most complex and ambiouous. When Tim Burton did the Batman films they were very good, and had some provocative ideas about childhood memories, and the feelings of being an outsider.

I would have to see a director's cut of this sequel as I feel that some scenes look as if they were trimmed, and maybe there were good scenes cut from the film to fit a PG-13 rating. Scenes, which feels trimmed are the erotic games of cat and mouse between Batman and Catwoman. Films based on comics are more interesting when good and evil become a grey matter where nothing is certain, and the architecture stands with a moody broodish quality. Christopher Walken plays his usual sarcastic evil villain, and plays it with a dark coldness that is a trademark of a Walken villain.
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Not a Good Film
14 March 2002
One of the three worst films that Steven Seagal has done, Marked for Death(1990) feels like something that could have been done by Chuck Norris during the 1980s. Heck, it even reminds me of the plotlines of many Chuck Norris films from late 1970s/early 1980s, and some of those films were even better than this. A cross between voodoo horror and samurai action, a combo, which doesn't mix well. Only bright spot is opening action sequence, and cameo appearence of Jimmy Cliff.

Marked for Death(1990) feels bored and looks bored, especially after looking at performances giving by main actors. Steven Seagal's attempts at dry humor are always a mix bag in his films, and here they half work, and half not work. Talented actress, Joanna Pacula is given little to work with here, thus her role is a very wasteful and insignifcant one. Another bright spot is the early appearence of Danielle Harris whose presence makes it in some degrees tolerable to watch.
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Blue Thunder (1983)
Good Effects
14 March 2002
Very good action yarn made during the same year as the more intellegent and superior Badham film, WarGames(1983). Still an entertaining action thriller with three major set pieces. One, the chase among helicopters in the same area as the chase in Terminator 2(1991). Two, the climatic battlescene while at times seems ruthless is nevertheless cheorgraphed with some impressive effects for its time. Three, the final conflict chase between Roy Scheider and Malcolm McDowell.

Acting leads includes Peckinpah actor, Warren Oates whose performance is very good in what was one of his final film roles before his death. He is justly at home in his role of the head of his Police department, and gives us his patterned hard edged cynical with a slight humor mannerisms. Blue Thunder(1983) is one of the five best films from a director in John Badham whose career has been full of ups and downs. I feel his output from the early to mid 1980s are his most successful times as a filmmaker. Roy Scheider is professional and tough in his role of the film's protagonist.

Malcolm McDowell gives another demented performance as Scheider's former mentor, and now chief nemisis. When channeling the right key, McDowell can be one convincing menacing villain. Badham's late 1990s Hitchcockian type thriller, Nick of Time(1996) used many of the same ideas on action and suspense as his earlier film, Blue Thunder(1983). That film even has a similarly sinister mentor/student relationship as this film. While not a classic is certainly something that can be watched when one has little to do, or wants to be entertained.
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The Hand (1981)
Perhaps Director's Worst
14 March 2002
An average horror film that tries to think hard on certain ideas, but fails in giving anything provocative or scary. Has the same types of faults, which plague later Oliver Stone films such as Natural Born Killers(1994), and U-Turn(1997). Michael Caine transcends the story and gives a performance that foreshadows his dark humorous one in A Shock to the System(1990). Its a difficult prospect for a director to balance between the horrific and philosophical, and Stone has some trouble doing this. Stone's films work when the ideas presented are not overburdened with pretension as in some of his films. Oliver Stone would recover from this disaster to make his first masterpiece, Salvador(1984). Recommanded only for hardcore Michael Caine or Oliver Stone fans.
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Mission: Impossible (1966–1973)
Superior to Film Versions
14 March 2002
Classic televison, which was inspired by Jules Dassin's spoof of his own French masterpiece, Rififi, from the mid 1960s. One of its best elements were the famous guest stars that appeared in the show, which added more interest to the already interesting storylines. Unlike the film adaptations, Mission:Impossible(1966) is an excellent crafted tv show that was ahead of its time in some areas of special effects. My favorite actors from the show were Leonard Nimoy, Martin Landau, and Peter Graves.
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14 March 2002
Out of the Past(1947) combines two basic elements of film noir(detective, innocent man corrupted plotlines)that results in something masterful. Out of the Past(1947) was a product of a maturing genre, which during the late 1940s, began dealing with taboo themes more frequently. There was a slow uprise in implicit expressions of sexuality, and violent intensity. Also, filmmakers began exploring themes and ideas not covered during early years of film noir. By the late 1940s, many American noirs were depicting psychopathic behavior more often into plots.

American cinema of the 1940s is characterized by large amounts of cigarette smoking, especially in film noir genre. Out of the Past(1947) is the ultimate smoking noir picture of the 1940s. The smoking is as much apart of plot as actors or locations because of clouded character motives that are developed. Back then, cigarette smoking in American films was seen as a form of American coolness, individualism, and toughness. What smoking does create in Out of the Past is an air of mysterious atmosphere.

Its fatalistic love story is depicted in the style of classical Greek tragedy. Jeff Markham is a quintessential tragic noir hero whose obsessive desire for femme fatale, Kathie Moffat leads to his downfall. Love story element involving Jeff and Kathie feels like something out of Double Indemnity(1944), or Scarlet Street(1946). Not surprising considering that one of the writers involved with screenplay was James M. Cain(uncredited)whose signature noir style is all over the love story angle. Robert Mitchum and Jane Greer light up the screen with enough sexual chemistry and desire to fill a room.

Trangle motif plays an important role in plot and motives of main characters involved. There are two love triangles shown in Out of the Past(1947). The first one involves Jeff(Robert Mitchum), Kathie(Jane Greer), and Whit(Kirk Douglas). Second love triangle includes Jeff(Robert Mitchum), Kathie(Jane Greer), and Ann(Virginia Huston). Love triangles are an enduring quality of fiction that never seems to die because of people's interest in them, and artists fascination by their conflictual elements.

Mitchum established himself as a Hollywood tough guy with his ambiguous, cool depiction of an amoral fatalistic detective. His characterization of Jeff shows Mitchum in his element when displaying emotions of animalistic vulnerability. Raymond Chandler may have had a point in believing that Robert Mitchum was a perfect choice to play Philip Marlowe. He certainly had the face and physical presence to play the Mike Hammer character. His performance is brought up three notches by Jacques Tourneur's brilliant direction of his actors.

The tension, director, Jacques Tourneur creates through moody b/w photography unfolds in a way, which compells the viewer to keep eyes stuck on what happens next. Atmospheric tension is at the forefront of the ensuring conflict faced by main characters, and the resolution of this conflict. Mitchum, Douglas, and Greer's acting performances conjure up human tension by sheer presence, and hard-boiled acting styles. The cinematography in Out of the Past contributes in creating tension by moving in a clautraphobic flow. Atmosphere is conjured up in a manner not too dissimilar to atmosphere, and mood created by Tourneur for his horror films.

Jacques Tourneur hands out what is in my opinion, his best film beating out the horror pic he did during that same period of time. Famous climatic sequence that is shown on any documentary on film noir is handled with intensifed professionalism. Watching many of the scenes, I am impressed by the well roundedness of Tourneur's direction, and a taut feeling of paranoia created by Tourneur. The introductory meeting moment between Jeff and Kathie is a highlight of Film noir in 1940s American cinema. Out of the Past(1947) is to noir cinema in the same vein that his horror classics were to that genre.

What separates the great from the average film noires are the handling of the double cross scene, and the way one portrays it. Difference between a believablely tense double cross moment, and an unconvincing one depends on the acting and direction, which when great can make the double cross moment work like clockwork. Out of the Past(1947) is one of those films where the double cross moment becomes a believable spectacle of dark human impulses. The fabulous acting, camerawork, and direction all work functionly to make famous double cross moment succeed. One reason the double cross moment fails in many Neo-Noirs is because they come out of nowhere or are blandly depicted.

A film, which I believe had an impact on the style and depiction of characters in OFTP is Luchino Visconti's Ossessione(1942). Like Detour, which I have written about earlier, Out of the Past feels like at times, an American Neo-Realist film. Qualities which made classics like Ossessione, show up in Out of the Past(1947) in character composition, and depiction of locations. The fatalistic love story follows in the same manner of tragedy here as in Ossessione. Tourneur was inspired by the look and tone of Ossession, and was able to create a masterpiece with a style distinctly his own.

Kirk Douglas gives one of his best pre-Sparticus performances in film. Kirk Douglas matches the coolness and tough attitude of Mitchum in scenes where they are in together. The final scene is one, which is always discussed in college classes, and documentaries on film noirs, or American cinema. Out of the Past(1947) is a well rounded film that still holds up as a piece of legendary movie making. A favorite, which has aged well, and never ceases to be entertaining as well as provocative.
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Detour (1945)
Strong Depiction of Despair and Feeling of Dead Endedness(Some Spoilers Involved)
21 February 2002
Warning: Spoilers
Detour(1945) in terms of production values is unimpressive, which for some films can be disastrous, but here it becomes a virtue. What is lacking in tehnical professionalism is compensated with strong artistic effort. Its the less than perfect production values that makes characters, motives, and situations feel credible and semi-realistic. Many low budget films made for the next fifty plus years owe a debt to Detour(1945) as a paver of modern independent cinema. One example where a film can be excellent without having a big budget, or large amount of resourses.

Told in a first person narration though flashbacks, to give viewer a way to identify at times with main protagonist. Al Robert's point of view when describing his side of the story has a disorienting effect of what is or is not true about his tale. First Person narration put me on guard because I began to think that his version of events that occurs during the film has been distorted to make himself look more helpless and innocent. The First person narration is very Poe like in seeing through the mind of a possible insane man. Similar appoarch to the First Person narrations of THE BLACK CAT, THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER, THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM, & TELL TALE HEART.

There are two types of categories that fit into the basic modes of Film Noir. First, there is the detective story, which involves complex plots, and scenes of Police procedue. Second, the innocent man corrupted story, which told through flashbacks,has first person narration, and deals with human nature and misfortune. Detour(1945) belongs to the latter category of basic Film Noir modes. Minimalist classic that's among best in Film Noir during 1941-1945 period that's heavily inspired by German Expressionism.

Edgar G. Ulmer is an example of a filmmaker in the 1940s succeeding as film director without much to work with. The genius of Detour lies in the skillful direction of Ulmer who is able to create a powerful sense of human despair and broodish mood. His direction for Detour(1945) can certainly be linked to style of Fritz Lang for whom Edgar Ulmer worked for during the 1920s. He had been a set designer(uncredited) before becoming a film director for Lang films such as Die Nibelungen(1924), Metropolis(1927), Spies(1928), and M(1931), as well as working under FW Murnau as an assistent director. Experience as set designer is reflective in style of sets for Detour(1945).

A theme, which is a noir favorite that plays big here is the theme of the doomed protagonist. Also, the focus turns to human desperation when things don't go right for Al Roberts. Al Roberts, the protagonist is a man who cannot escape his fate despite doing everything he can possibly do to avoid it. Tom Neal with his performance makes the Al Roberts character into a tragic figure, to which anything that can possibly go wrong actually does. One film that Detour(1945) is comparable to in many ways is Fritz Lang's Scarlet Street(1946) which is also about a doomed protagonist and his decline.

There are some elements in Detour(1945) that is in the style of Neo-Realism. First, the low budget feel is something Detour(1945) and many Neo-Realist films were dealt with. Second, human behavior and lack of fancy sets are a common thread among Detour, and Italian Neo-Realist films. Its interesting to note that while Edgar G. Ulmer was filming Detour here, an Italian filmmaker by the name of Roberto Rossellini introduced the first landmark Neo-Realist film to audiences called Rome, Open City(1945). Also, the editing in Detour and Neo-Realist films are not smooth and done in a manner akin to a newsreel.

There are a couple of ideas in Detour, which reminds me of Ossessione(1942). One, the sense of dread and doom felt by main protagonists. Two, importance on psychology, and human despair over typical Hollywood style ideas. I can see how a film like Ossessione could have had a major impact in the style of Detour(1945). Preemits the films of Mario Bava whose films were for the most part void of any large budgets, or limitless resources, yet were filled with an unique artistic quality that might not be seen in a big budget Hollywood styled film.

Vera is one fiesty, tough film noir femme fatale, and one of the most memorable in history of Hollywood Noirs. Anne Savage gives a ferocious and captivating performance as the intimidtating, and aggressively imposing Vera. Without good girl qualities, which makes her into one scary Film Noir femme fatale. The scene where she practically orchestrates her own death is one chilling moment. No One since has given such a tour de force performance and perhaps no one never will.

Like most film noirs that dealt with identical subject matters, Detour(1945) is a downbeat and sad motion picture that looks the darkness below the lights of the city. Probably played a role in the concept and filming ideas of Mario Bava's Rabid Dogs(1974). Tom Neal is very good for his role and even looks the part of Al Roberts. Not a perfect film yet that is the main charm of Detour(1945) because it gives film it contributes to grim and moody style. The scenes in the nightclub when Al Roberts is playing the piano reminds me of Black Angel(1946), and Shoot the Piano Player(1960).

There are a few scenes in film that were my favorites. One, the conversation between Charles Haskell JR and Al Roberts on the character of Vera. Two, the moment when Al Roberts becomes desperate after the accidential death of Haskell JR. Three, the moment when Al Roberts decides to stand up to Vera and accidentially kills her in the process via telephone cord. Sadly, this was to be Tom Neal's big moment in the sun as his life ended a few years later in tragic circumstances.
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Best of Stars Wars Trilogy
14 February 2002
More complex approach into the realm of good and evil than Episode four. Empire Strikes Back(1980) is filled with a machine of emotions that lead its characters and main plot. Emotions and feelings of Luke, Han, and Leia are developed to the point where they are multi-dimensional as people. Yoda gives Luke Skywalker tests which are based on emotions that can lead him either on the good or the dark side.

Dark tale about the nature of the dark side, and of human nature itself. Pessemistic film that goes from one desperate situtation to another for the rebels, especially Han, Luke, and Leia. Excells from not having nice, friendly, childish environment like others in Star Wars films. Instead it focuses on the character development improved from the first film, and the approaching sense of hopelessness faced by the three main heros.

The acting in Empire Strikes Back(1980) in my opinion is muched improved compared to the first film. Mark Hamill as Luke although still shows slight tendencies of annoyance, these tendencies are few and far between. He achieves a level of maturity in playing Luke especially in transforming him to a tragic character who has to face the truth the hard way. Alex Guiness as the ghost of Luke's mentor, and in essence surrogate father, Obi Wan Kenobi, is a class act in his performance.

The evolving love story between Han Solo and Leia is credible, fatalistic, and romantic at the same time. Unlike in The Phantom Menace, where the impending love story is presented in a sappy and stupid fashion, the love between Han and Leia gives the viewer something touchingly romantic. The moment when they kiss before they are separated as Han is about to face a tragic fate is highly tragicly emotional. One of the many great attributes that the film has to offer, and delivers in deep way.

The opening scenes in the snow are fantastic, and the landscapes are shown with beauty, and remarkable skill by director. The battle moments are especially impressive and without a sense of staleness unlike battle scenes in other Star Wars films. The scene where Luke escapes from the Abominable Snowman like creature escalates the suspense mode to a high measure. The fight against the walking tall animal like battleship machines are cherographed with excellence.

Empire Strikes Back(1980) deals with facing fears and learning how to control them. That is the basic essence which, is carried out to a t by Irvin Kershner. Interested in human nature and the surprises which comes with what a person may learn about oneself or another closely linked to him/her. One of many interesting ideas explored by George Lucus, and director, Irvin Kershner that is pushed into the storyline with complex ideas on the mystery of the human spirit.

The Empire Strikes Back(1980) is the best of the Stars Wars films for a few reasons. First, George Lucus did not direct it so in a way it was strenghten by someone who could do things with the film that Lucus wouldn't do had he directed. Second, doesn't have any chracter that is annoying or nonusefull, except for the former I would have to say A2D2, but only for a brief moment. Third, has characters to actually believe in and a storyline that's isn't just there to please a children section of an audience.

Harrison Ford's performance as Han Solo in Empire Strikes Back(1980) is majorly improved over the one in Star Wars(1977). In two years, Harrison Ford appeared in dark films...I.E, Empire Strikes Back(1980), and Blade Runner(1992) which contain a few of his best and interesting roles. The scene where Luke is given a test and is taken aback when he finds out the practrice Darth Valder he kills, is himself is my favorite scene in the entire film. Inspired a similar notion in the samurai dream sequence of Terry Gilliam's Brazil(1985). The last film Howard Hawks writer, Leigh Brackett got involved in a motion picture before her death in 1980.

The surprise twist that is revealed near the ending took me by shock in a grand way the first time I saw the film. Even today although the shock value of it has lessen, the magnitude of the moment hasn't. Gives the plot a fatalistic and tragic quality, which is lacking from the other Star Wars movies. The surprise twist is about finding out something dark and unwelcomed about something, and dealing to learn how to deal with it.

One actor who has a breif cameo in Empire Strikes Back(1980) is Treat Williams. The body of David Prowse and the voice of James Earl Jones combine to make one impressionable imposingly memorable screen villain. Carrie Fisher does an alright job in the role of Leia. The direction is the best in the series, and the camera work is nothing less than fabulous.
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Back to Back Masterpieces
6 February 2002
Two different eras are depicted as comparisons of Vito, and his son Michael, and the generation that defines them. Past sequences showing Vito as a young man are written with a feeling of nostalgia. Contemporary moments involving Michael at same age is framed in a declining mode. Two films in one to show how different father and son were from each other during the same age they are shown as. One thing in common with both people are their tragic upbringing.

The Godfather(1972) dealt with the family structure and the difficulties which comes with the territory. The Godfather Part 2(1974) is a study in corruption and power. The theme of power in The Godfather Part 2(1974) is explored in a historical perspective by director, Francis Ford Coppola. Power as represented by Michael Corleone is cold blooded, iron clad, and shadowly. Also, film contrasts Michael and Vito in how their deal with power at a comparative age.

There are some instances where Part 2 is better than Part 1. First, the acting of Al Pacino is much improved and extraordinary. Second, the characters and story expand to give them more depth. Third, Part 2 adds another dimension with inclusion of backstory to compliment main plot. Overall, The Godfather Part 2 is a masterful followup to the first film.

Talia Shire develops her character further in Part 2 with her loose woman portrayal of "Connie" Corleone. Robert Duvall again performs brilliantly in the role of Tom Hagen. John Cazale gives a performance full of pathos and tragedy. G.D. Spradlin is convincing two faced and sleezy as Senator Geary. Diane Keaton turns the character of Kay into someone who is unable to coexist with criminal element of Corleone family.

Outstanding performance from Robert De Niro that was worthy of the Oscar he received for role in movie. Mean Streets(1973) gave De Niro recognition and The Godfather Part 2(1974) give him a breakthrough role. Among the five top performances, the legendary actor has contributed to the big screen. One of many examples in why I think he is the greatest actor who ever lived. He doesn't just play Vito Corleone, he becomes him.

Plot focuses on the decline of the Corleone family, especially Michael Corleone. Michael went from being an idealistic young man who didn't want to have anything to do with family business to becoming a cold and ruthless mob boss. Al Pacino injects some new character facets which weren't in Part One. Al Pacino brings a complexity to his role that makes Michael a tragic figure. The moments involving "Fredo" and Michael are touching and tragic.

Michael's marriage to Kay is more out of convenience and fear of loneliness than love. Apparent in how they treat each other in the second film. I believe things might have turned out differently for Michael as a human being if his first wife wasn't killed. Hearing sequences balances between the comic and the dramatic. The New York as depicted in Vito's youth feels authentic and nostalgic.

Murder of Fanucci by young Vito Corleone is played out with heart beating anticipation. In the book, THE GODFATHER, the murder of Fanucci is played in a more conventional manner with Vito following him to an empty warehouse where he kills him. In the film, the murder of Fanucci is more stylized, and reliant on building out suspense and tension. Handled well by both actors involved in scene and Francis Ford Coppola. Fanucci is memorablely played by Milano Calibre 9(1972) star, Gastone Moschin.

At one point before production started, Martin Scorsese was considered as a possible director for The Godfather Part 2. Because of the first film's box office success, Francis Ford Coppola was kept on as director for second film. James Caan makes a small but vital cameo during flashback scene near the end. Reconstructs the events that lead to Cuban Revolution in subjective fashion. A key line in Godfather trilogy is spoken by Michael when he says;"If anything in this life is certain, if history has taught us anything, it is you can kill anyone."

Its a key line because it symbolizes how the Corleones do business within their political and organized crimes ties. There is a lot of truth to this line from Michael because its a representative of what has happened throughout, and will continue to happen in the course of human existence. Corleone family is beset by tragedy that began with murder of Vito's father, and continues on in Michael's generation. One of the saddest moments in cinema history are "Fredo"'s final moments in the house and the fishing boat. Danny Aiello and Roger Corman have small roles with latter playing a Senator.
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Comical and Cynical at the Same Time
28 January 2002
Il Buono Il Brutto Il Cattivo/The Good The Bad & The Ugly(1966) which portrayed as a sequel is actually a prequel. One indication that this is a prequel is the fact that Man with no Name begins to wear trademark outfit here. Also, story takes place right before events depicted in For a Few Dollars More(1965). Finally, film sets Blondie up as a mythical antihero in the making. Only film in Dollar trilogy where Clint Eastwood does not get beaten up. Surperbly crafted Western with hardly any flaws or boring moments.

American Civil War and its grim aspects are important to plot of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly(1966). Portrays participates of Civil War as money hungry, glory seeking, absurdly idealized people. Examplified by a North and South army's fight for control of a bridge. The battle scene that follows shows Civil War in unromantic viewpoint. Cynical film about realities of American Civil War in same way that Giu La Testa/A Fistful of Dynamite(1972) was on Mexican Revolution. Civil War is shown in a harsh and realistic manner akin to that of an Ambrose Bierce Civil War short story.

Blondie is an opportunistic bounty hunter with both heroic and villainous tendencies. His introduction to story is both suspenseful and tense. Clint Eastwood gives his most satisfying performance here among three films he did for Sergio Leone. Blondie is also a mythical person who has a good understanding of human nature. Although his main concern is money, Blondie still has some honorable qualities within him as expressed in his interaction with a dying soldier. A cool character who in story turns disadvantage into advantage.

Angel Eyes as played by Lee Van Cleef is a purely evil and vicious gunslinger. Angel Eyes introduction is memorable as he takes out rivals who hired him to kill the other. Lee Van Cleef as Angel Eyes is second to Henry Fonda's performance in Once Upon a Time in the West(1968) as Leone's best villain. A pinnicle role in the career of Lee Van Cleef. Angel Eyes is the mirror image of Blondie with his skills with the gun and hunger for money. Makes Villains in contemporary Hollywood films look like wimps.

Tuco is the most complex and sympathetic of the trio. Has an outlaw persona with traits of humanity that does not make him an entirely bad person. The Good The Bad & The Ugly(1966) is Eli Wallach's film in same way For a Few Dollars More(1965) was Lee Van Cleef's film. Eli Wallach turns Tuco into a comical and daring character who is always trying to better himself. In a sense, Tuco is alike to Vasco of Sergio Corbucci's Companeros(1970). A well written and three dimensional character due to fine work by Eli Wallach and Sergio Leone.

Sergio Leone shows Wild West life and scenery in stylistic realism. Sergio Leone by the time, The Good The Bad & The Ugly(1966) came out had mastered his skills as a filmmaker which shows in direction and screenplay. Sergio Corbucci did his own take on this film a couple of years later with !Vamos a Matar, Companeros!(1970). In Companeros(1970) there is also an uneasy partnership as well as a good(Franco Nero), a bad(Jack Palance), and an ugly(Tomas Milian). Plot of The Good, the Bad, and the ugly is characterized by switching partnerships and double crosses. Each person teams up with one or the other to make it easiler to get the hidden treasure.

Il Buono Il Brutto Il Cattivo is explicitly known for its flamboyant Ennio Morricone score. Its title song became a part of American popular culture. One of the ten best film scores by Ennio Morricone. What makes Morricone my favorite film composer is his ability to create music that is eccentric and grandeur. This film definitely has a big love for music which shows in the partnership of Ennio Morricone and Sergio Leone. Like in other Italian Westerns, each main person has his own theme song.

Violent nature and sadistic behaviors contrasts it with romantic portrayal of American Frontier in Classic American Westerns. I think of it as a Western Noir because of the involvement of greed. Also, main characters are not clear cut good or bad guys but people with both characterizations. Humor is around the viciousness of story especially in the hanging sequences. The moment when Blondie shoots Tuco off the rope and hats off everyone else's head is the funniest sequence. Mario Brega is imposingly memorable as the sadistic henceman of Angel Eyes, Corporal Wallace.

A dangerous moment was the blowing up of the bridge which is brilliantly set up with some excellent editing moments. Trip around the cemetery in search of hidden treasure contains fast paced editing, relentless cinematography, and tight framing. Sam Peckinpah was inspired by bridge explosion moment for his own bridge explosion scene in The Wild Bunch(1969). Cinemtography is flawless especially in composition, movement, and scenery. My favorite line is from Tuco who tells a bounty hunter he kills from a tub, "When you have to shoot, shoot, don't talk." Both Mario Bava and Sergio Leone had a love for the European arts, music, and painting.

Highlight is three way duel between Blondie, Angel Eyes, and Tuco. Morricone composed a fabulous score which builds and builds until tension is big enough to explode. Excellent set up, crisp editing, and beautiful camera work makes scene an instant classic. Never lets down in sustaining a suspenseful mood. Coolest and most imaginative duel in a Sergio Leone western. One of many great moments from Il Buono Il Brutto Il Cattivo/The Good The Bad & The Ugly(1966) which makes it unforgettable.
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Political Idealogy
28 January 2002
Fascinating Russian silent feature which is interested in the final moments of the Russian Revolution which brought the Communist to power. Film was part of a series involving Revolutions and protests which included Strike(1924) and Battleship Potemkin(1925). Interestingly, film puts a lot of the attention of Trotsky than Lenin. He(Trotsky) is portrayed as one of the heros of the revolution as well as a great Russian figure. Striking use of montage helps give the film its artistic flavor. One of the ten Russian silent films from the 1920s. Acting is nothing special yet gains the viewer's attention with the passion and emotion eched on by the performers. Was not popular with the Stalin regime because of the popular depiction of Trotsky. The beginning of a battle of censorship between Eisenstein and Stalin which resulted in disfavor for the Soviet filmmaker in late 1940s. Scenes that involved Trotsky who after all was Stalin's enemy were cut from the picture. These scenes with Trotsky were later restored years after the death of Stalin. Sergei M Eisenstein was fortunate not to be part of the people including artists who were arrested and either excuted or serve long jail terms during the 1930s for mentioning the name of Trotsky. Eisenstein was a genius at puting together a film and understanding the importance of images to fit a theme. After making this film he made an attempt to make it in Hollywood which didn't pan out. He had trouble getting projects green lighted possibly to the fact that Sergei wanted to make his own films, his way and the studios wouldn't not let him do it. I find it amazing at how many great foreign filmmakers who failed finding a niche in Hollywood because of their refusal to do what the studios want. A poginolty directed motion picture with a breathtaking moment in the taking of the big palace. Some of the film's ideas are also present in Alexander Nevsky(1938). It builds on motifs and themes that were disscussed in Strike(1924). From 1927 onward, Sergei M Eisenstein would only make a handfull of films. Oktyabr/October(1924) is a masterful protrayal of a period in Russian which lead to bad times contary to hopes of many Soviet revolutionaries.
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RoboCop (1987)
Satire on News, Futuristic Fiction, and Violence
19 January 2002
Warning: Spoilers
***SPOILERS*** ***SPOILERS*** RoboCop(1987) on one level is an allegory on the death and rebirth of Jesus Christ. Its a topic that has been a fascination for artists almost more than anything else. Art's interest in the death and rebirth of Jesus is a continuous one. One of Paul Verhoeven's dream projects is to do a film on the topic of Jesus. The 4th Man(1984) also in certain moments was obsessed with the Jesus allegory presented in RoboCop(1987). Story makes many references to Jesus and Franenstein tales.

After building up an impressive resume as an European cult film director, Paul Verhoeven in the mid 1980s decided to make it a try at Hollywood. RoboCop(1987) was his first and best Hollywood feature. When he made this, Paul Verhoeven showed some promise as a filmmaker who could take chances with taboo subject matters in Hollywood. American films since RoboCop(1987) have been dissapointments especially Starship Troopers(1997) and Hollow Man(2000). One exception of a good Hollywood film besides RoboCop(1987) is Total Recall(1990). It always saddens me when excellent foreign filmmakers(for most part) who come to Hollywood end up making mediocre films.

RoboCop(1987) might have not been possible without box office success of The Terminator(1984). Like most things in cinema one form of movie always gives way to another. An interesting tidbit on RoboCop is that Arnold Schwarzenegger was considered as a canidate for main role. Due to the fact that Arnold was too big to fit into the RoboCop suit, the filmmakers went for Peter Wellar instead. RoboCop(1987) and The Terminator(1984) are two of the most influential SCIFI films of the 1980s. Look of the latter film is apparent in set designs of former.

Violence in feature is shown with a dark humor approach. There are a few instants when violence enters the realm of comic books with over the top presentation. Disturbingly humorous is what I call the death of Kenny moment. Violent scenes are flamboyantly filmed by Paul Verhoeven. Some of the gore scenes are in the style of Lone Wolf and Cub, and Lucio Fulci. Daring way of showing violence that many in today's Hollywood would never do.

A fun part in watching it is the cold blooded villainous performance of Kurtwood Smith. He plays his character with ability to act brutish and look intellectual at same time. You never would think just by looking at Clarence Boddicker with his bookish looks that he is a foul mouth murderer. Its funny to know that vicious bad guys are usually played by nice guys. Michael Ironside plays the same sort of character in Total Recall(1990). Editing of RoboCop(1987) is fantastic especially during the Mediabreak moments.

Tangled in the satiric and violent web is a tragic tale of rediscovery. Focuses on a man who loses all that is precious to him including his human ways. The robotized Murphy is in essence in the same path as the replicants of Blade Runner(1982). Deals with similar ideas about identity and memory as Total Recall(1990). Identity and what it means to a person is the most important theme of RoboCop(1987). The main protagonist does at least get a portion of his past life which seemed lost to him.

Mediabreak sequences are interludes to the main action of the plot. Mediabreak sequences and the commercials that follow them provide a humorous truth about American culture. The funniest commercial presented in the parody of the Battleship boardgame. Nancy Allen is excellent in what I think is her best role. Ronny Cox is menacing as the ruthless executive, Dick Jones. Miguel Ferrer does well in the role of the ambitious and arrogant Bob Morton.

Aspect of RoboCop that story zeros in on is the dual nature of main character once he's transformed into RoboCop. Its at the moment of a dream that RoboCop begins to wonder about who he is. Peter Weller brings a lot of depth into the role to make Alex Murphy a tragic hero. Alex Murphy's death is shocking because of the way he's killed. As gruesome and over the top as any death scene in a Lucio Fulci film from the early 1980s. Its the kind of death scene one usually reserves for the end of a film.

Works as a satire on the attitude and excess of the 1980s. Yuppie culture in RoboCop(1987) is shown as arrogant and obnoxious. 1980s culture has never been protrayed with the humorous edge lacking in most films about 1980s culture with exception of Heathers(1989). Rob Bottin provides some gruesome but impressive makeup effects for RoboCop. Ranks among Bottin's best work as makeup effects man alongside The Howling(1980), and The Thing(1982). Rob Bottin's effects for Murphy's bloody demise rivals anything by Tom Savini or Gianetto De Rossi.

A subtle moment is when Murphy/RoboCop shoots at bottles of baby food wi help of his partner for aim. It represents the fact that RoboCop can never have children or have an intimate relationship with Lewis. A couple of action scenes are in the fashion of Hong Kong Heroic Bloodshed pics. RoboCop(1987) is made up of memorable set pieces which have their own impressive signature. Peter Weller's performance as a robot who regains his human face preemits Arnold Schwarzenegger's development of human traits in Terminator 2:Judgement Day(1991). One of the ten great SCIFI films made during the 1980s.
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One of My Favorite Bergman Pics
19 January 2002
Smultronstallet/Wild Strawberries(1957) features a prestigous professor whose memories of his youth become precious as he comes closer to the end of his life. Memories are important for Bergman's film protagonists because of a personal desire to return to happier days. Ingmar Bergman was interested in his own youthful memories which are loosely injected into the youthful memories of Professor Isak Borg. Memories of Professor Borg are intergrated into his dreams to create a time period both unreal and filled with life moments that can never return.

Dreams are portrayed in Wild Strawberries(1957) as segments of childhood for the Professor. Early dreams of Professor Borg involve childhood love for an older cousin. The young woman who is his cousin seems to represent an unattainable love which has eluded the Professor his entire life. Professor's memories of his favorite cousin are the film's main tender moments.

Light hearted Bergman fare compared to films, The 7th Seal(1957) and The Virgin Spring(1959). Ingmar Bergman presents the past as a time of innocence before the faults of old age begin to creep in. Professor Borg is in a way as seen now a stand-in for Ingmar Bergman because like Bergman, Professor Borg is well known for his achievements. Ingmar Bergman's five masterpieces are Persona(1966), Cries & Whispers(1972), Wild Strawberries(1957), Seventh Seal(1957), and Fanny & Alexander(1982).

A heartfelt performance by Victor Sjostrom as a prestigious professor who looks back on his early life with nostalgia. Wild Strawberries(1957) is one of the few times in the Ingmar Bergman filmography to see an important male lead. Victor Sjostrom's performance is a good as the best of Max Von Sydow in an Ingmar Bergman film. The performances from the rest of the actors are very good as a whole.

Wild Strawberrie's mis-en-scene moves with amazing imagery to capture the director's personal themes. Dreams and surreal moments are always soul searchful in the films of Ingmar Bergman. Ingmar Bergman is the Sweedish equivant of Luis Bunuel and Federico Fellini. Ingmar Bergman directs with a perfectionist dedication that is definitely typical of a master film director.

Rare Bergman film which wasn't photographed by Sven Nykvist. Wild Strawberries(1957) does not suffer from the absense of Sven Nykvist because of the marvelous cinematography by Gunnar Fischer. Wild Strawberries(1957) is an excellent photographed film which is the norm for a Ingmar Bergman film. Whether by Nykvist or someone else, the cinematography in Bergman's films are for the most part in top form.

Excellent in every area of film that constitutes a masterpiece. Strengths are in acting, imagery, montage, etc. Dream sequences are portrayed in the manner of a memoir. A viewer must have a degree of patience when watching an Ingmar Bergman film because of their slow moving nature.

Wild Strawberries(1957) also deals with the Professor's fond memories of his parents which are shown in his dreams. These dreams which involve his parents signify Professor Borg's desire to return to a time that is lost and exists only in memories. Seems like the professor's relationship with his parents had a strong effect on him when he first became a parent himself. The final dream sequence marks an escape for the professor from the dreads of old age and death.

Max Von Sydow has a rare small supporting role as Henrik Akerman. Bibi Anderrson as always in an Ingmar Bergman pic performs nicely as a young woman, the professor meets on his way to his tribute. Wild Strawberries(1957) is a cinematic classic without being flashy or starstruck. Title refers to the nature of Professor's inner thoughts and desires.

Wild Strawberries(1957) also focuses on the theme of death and looking back as death is near at hand. Its with this aspect of the story that Wild Strawberries(1957) shares many common qualities with Seventh Seal(1957). Professor Borg comes to term with past behaviors and events as his time is about to come to a close. Bitter sweet motion picture that strikes at the core emotions of an audience.
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Gentle Western
7 January 2002
Henry Fonda shines in role of a gentle and idealistic portrayed Wyatt Earp. He gives this character a balance tone which is missing in ohter films concerning Wyatt Earp. What I enjoyed about the Performance of Henry Fonda are the subtle ways which Wyatt Earp is turned into a legendary presence. Henry Fonda like James Stewart brought out their roles with quiet and strong inner emotions where their feelings did all the talking. Some favorite moments from the legendary actor are the interactions with the brothers, and his dance with Clementine.

Being used to seeing Walter Brennan as a lovable eccentric in films with him, it was an interesting surprise to watch him play the main villain here. The character of Old Man Clanton as the head of his clan is vicious as well as wise. Role of Old Man Clanton is the only time I can think of where a person played by Walter Brennan is without any of the Brennan humor. The best performance given by Walter Brennan out of the many films he did. Twenty two years later, Henry Fonda took the same route for his role in Once Upon a Time in the West(1968).

Except for the climatic O.K. Corral gunfight, the story is mostly low key. Low Key approach may give story a slow moving feeling yet gives the viewer an opportunity to get to know some of the main characters. One low key moment is Wyatt and his brothers's discovery of a dead young brother which is juxaposed with rain to provide powerful emotions. John Ford was at his best when mixing low key emotions with high key composition. Another good low key sequence is the first meeting between Wyatt and Clementine.

Akira Kurosawa had an admiration for Westerns such as My Darling Clementine(1946) which were important influences to his filmmaking style. His samurai pictures especially of the 1950s were inspired more by Hollywood Westerns than samurai traditions. Its the quiet and tender aspects of My Darling Clementine(1946) which impressed Kurosawa the most. His samurai pics are timeless classics because of their ability to combine breathless action sequences with quiet scenes of human emotions. John Ford was a master at portraying many facets of humanity with expressionist imagery.

Earp Brothers are a close knit unit whose bond is stronger than gold chains. Tom Holt shows a low key presence as the young and equally idealistic Virgil Earp. John Ford regular, Ward Bond performs with his usual professionalism. There are hardly any accurate historical data the films gives about the Earp brothers yet its not a flaw that affects the film as a whole. Movie succeeds because of the Earp brothers Old West larger than life quality.

Story poses a complex friendship between Wyatt Earp and 'Doc' Holliday that is driven by respect. They have a love-hate friendship that is always borderline until the climatic gunfight. One reason why Wyatt and 'Doc' have a complex friendship are they both love the same woman. They are rivals for Clementine yet have deep admiration for one another. Their friendship is as legendary in films as the friendship between Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett.

Subplot in film involves feud between the Clantons and Earp mixing historical fact with romanticized fiction. The two clans in John Ford's film clash over issues like Cattle and property. Even if augument over cattle wasn't the main cause over the feud it could have been because of the fact that Cattle Wars were happening a lot in those days. I find it intriquing that feud was actually as a result of political alignations. Feud in real life was probably as long(if not longer) as(than) the fictional feud between Ogami Itto(Ogamis) and Yagyu Retsudo(Yagyus).

Gunfight at the O.K. Corrall is probably the most film and written about Wild West moment. Interestingly enough, My Darling Clementine(1946) takes a big story liberty with 'Doc' Holliday getting killed in gunfight. Its the only Earp/Holliday film adaptation where the latter is killed at O.K. Corrall. Since the gunfight began and ended in seconds there really wasn't anyone who could have seen the gunfight in its entirity. Still an example of people's fascination with the Old West and its legends.

Favorite John Ford conflict of Civilized West versu Wild West is played out with contrasting image of Wyatt Earp, the drifter and Wyatt Earp, the lawman. Triangular relationship involving 'Doc', Wyatt, and Clementine is played out in the manner of a 19th Century novel. The triangle was an important motif in 19th Century art, life, literature, and thinking. 'Doc' Holliday is a tragic hero who wants to die on his own terms. He is played eleqantly with low key anger by Victor Mature.

My Darling Clementine(1946) was one of many Westerns that Sergio Leone played homage to in his Western masterpiece, Once Upon a Time in the West(1968). The arrival of Clementine for example is reffered to in Once Upon a Time in the West with arrival of Mrs. McBain. Wyatt Earp is another drifter in the John Ford mode who is searching for meaning in the world. John Ford for the most part always put together brilliant direction and this film is no exception. Henry Fonda as with John Wayne was a talented actor whose strengths were brilliantly channelled by director, John Ford.
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Crime Story: Pilot (1986)
Season 1, Episode 1
Basis for Good Television Series
11 December 2001
One of the best works of film even if its a made for tv movie that Abel Ferrara did in the 1980s. Departure from the sleeze filled alleys and angered souls of The Driller Killer(1978), Ms.45(1981), and Fear City(1984). Created by the same people who did "Miami Vice" which was a good show in the 1980s. Between "Crime Story" and "Miami Vice", I found the former to be the better of the two for a couple of reasons.

First, there is the nice 1950s noir atmosphere that the show and this movie envoked. Second, the acting, direction, and screenplay of "Crime Story" and the movie were for the most part first class. Crime Story(1986)(TV) contains a pre NYPD Blue role for David Caruso where he does ok. The star of the TV film and series is Dennis Farina who has rarely been as good in a role as he was here.

His role is almost autobiographical due to the fact that before he became an actor, he was a Police officer for many years. So in a way he was simply at home in playing Michael Torrello. Has all the elements of Ferrara's crime and drama pictures...I.E., King of New York(1990), Bad Lieutenant(1992), and The Funeral(1996). Wonderful TV movie that inspired many of today's Police shows although none of them hold a candle to this TV film and series.
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The Killing (1956)
Complex Narrative Structure
11 December 2001
Early notable film by Stanley Kubrick that is a layered box of flashbacks within flashback. While it may not be the Kubrick of his master works, The Killing(1956) is a very good crafted low budget studio film by the late filmmaker. Heist film whose major influence is The Asphalt Jungle(1950) which has a comparable plotline. What both films have in common are the lead role is played by Sterling Hayden who plays identical characters. With little of the Kubrick motifs and trademarks which first appears in Paths of Glory(1957). One trademark that does appear in one scene is the tight closeup with camera looking straight into the face of Elisha Cook Jr. Sterling Hayden exhibits why he was masterful in tough guy roles with hard-boiled performance in The Killing(1956).

A complex puzzle box where the piecing together of plot is more important than the final results. Quentin Tarantino was influenced by this film because he uses the same techniques in his debut feature, Reservoir Dogs(1992). Another film where Tarantino again uses these techniques are during the department store sequence in Jackie Brown(1997). Multiple point of view technique I think is inspired by Rashomon(1950). The Killing(1956) and City on Fire(1987) are two of many films which influenced Reservoir Dogs(1992). Akira Kurosawa's work influenced many filmmakers including Stanley Kubrick. So basically this has the elements of Asphalt Jungle(1950), Rashomon(1950), and Rififi(1955).

Montage was pretty revolutionary for the 1950s in comparison to editing style usually found in many Hollywood films from this decade. Many scenes flow along without any major flaws because of the crisp editing. What's different about this heist film compared to Asphalt Jungle(1950) and Rififi(1955) is its concern with the before and after of the robbery. Sure, there is a scene showing the robbery but not in such a detailed fashion like say the 30 minute Jewel heist of Rififi(1955). One humorous line of dialogue is spoken by Johnny Clay with his killing a horse isn't considered murder comment. Actors play their roles brilliantly especially Marie Windsor who has the Femme Fatale role down to perfection. A disorienting moment is the shootout between Val(Sherry's lover) and Geroge which is definitely a Kubrick moment.

Sharp snappy and hard boiled dialogue were done by Noir writer, Jim Thompson who brings his motifs in a few scenes. Direction and screenplay are expertly handled by a master film director who is a genius at composing camera shots. The good camera work in The Killing(1956) was done by Wild Bunch cameraman, Lucien Ballard. Elisha Cook Jr portrays a meek and weak willed race tellar in the best role of his acting life. 1950s was the decade of the heist film with The Killing(1956) as one of the best. Most Noir pics from 1950-1958 dealt with people obsessed with committing the perfect robbery. Like most of Kubrick's films, The Killing(1956) does not end happily for any of the main characters.
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Frankenstein (1931)
Boris Karloff Brings Human Quality to Role
11 December 2001
Film and novel of this Mary Shelley story differ from each other in a couple of ways. In the novel the creation is named Adam while in film he has no name. Also, the creation is the tragic hero of the novel where Henry Frankenstein is hero in film version. FRANKENSTEIN, the novel is the most famous literary work of Mary Shelley whose creative life was surrounded by famous writers such as her cousin, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and husband, Lord Byron. Only half of novel is used in film and other half was used for Bride of Frankenstein(1935).

Excellent adaptation of an engrossing gothic novel. Any film that is based on literature is capable of being good without being totally faithful if its able to capture the spirit. Frankenstein(1931) does not faithfully hold true to its original source but succeeds in retaining the novel's essential qualities. James Whale does a good job in adapting the main ideas of the novel to fit in with his own cinematic themes. Frankenstein(1931) and Curse of Frankenstein(1957) are the best film versions of the Mary Shelley novel.

Frankenstein(1931) contains a mode and taste that is indebted to the German Expressionist movement. German Expressionism was tremendously weightly on American horrop films of early 1930s. Frankenstein(1931) is a sound picture with silent film characteristics. Castle setting in Frankenstein(1931) recalls the gothic imagery of many German Expressionist films of the 1920s. Frankenstein(1931) was in essence an American Expressionist horror film.

An old fashion horror film that relies on atmosphere, implicit horror, mood, and gothic settings. Black and white photography is a good look for cinema because the composition of images come out naturally. Black and white horror has the flavor and tone of a lot of early gothic literature. Frankenstein(1931) is the quintessential black and white horror picture that is driven by the human feelings of fear and superstitution. Since color is now the dominating photography style in cinema, there has been recently few horror films that have been done in black and white.

Dracula(1931) and Frankenstein(1931) were the catalysts for Universal horror which is the first important long period in horror cinema. Universal horror gave audienences memorable film monsters that would become cinema icons. Movies like the two mentioned above in first sentence gave birth to many sequals and ensured a two decade dominance in horror cinema by Universal Studios. After Universal horror died out, a new face in horror known as Hammer horror in the late 1950s began its own long run of brilliantly done horror films. Frankenstein(1931) epiomizes what was good about Universal horror and the visionary minds behind these kinds of films.

Evolution of Frankenstein creation from novel to film is ever changing considering how different he is presented in each film about him. Actually he has gone from being presented as a misunderstood tragic hero(novel) to being depicted as a mindless monster(cinema). Adam(creation) is a sympathetic character who's full of emotions which he cannot express via lack of articulate voice. He is childlike in his behavior and manners who is frustrated by the lack of human love. In later films, Adam(creation) is shown as an evil monster which is not the way the author of the novel intended to portray him.

Frankenstein(1931) made Boris Karloff as a big horror icon. He is the actor that best personifies the tragic qualities of Adam(creation). Boris Karloff although does not have a speaking role expresses thoughts that speak in images which wouldn't have the same effect in words. When he was given a good role to work with, Boris Karloff was nothing less than superb. The Essence of the Frankenstein creation is given a complex form as a result of the excellent acting from Boris Karloff.

Henry Frankenstein creates Adam out of a quest to master the secrets of life and death. His goal is to equal or replace God by using science as a way of knowing how to make life out of scretch. Frankenstein's attempt to equal or replace God is the underlining theme of both the novel and film because it raises interesting notions on the continuous conflict between religion and science. In human history there has always been friction between religion and science and Frankenstein(1931) plays on this idea with moral intellegence. Attempt by Henry Frankenstein to equal or replace God is not entirely successful and ends with the creator shunning his creation because of imperfections.

Part of the Frankenstein story was inspired by the Golem legend. The Golem was a created man made out of clay who was to protect Jews from prosection in a foreign country. The Golem unfortuately was hard to control and had to be distroyed. The idea of a creation that the creator had trouble controlling must have been an intriguing idea for Mary Shelley when she began to write the novel. FRANKENSTEIN, the novel was done as a contest betweel Mary Shelley, Percy Shelley, and Lord Byron to who would do the best gothic story.

Frankenstein(1931) was made immortal in the hearts of filmgoers by the famous "Its alive" cries of Henry Frankenstein. The scene with little Maria did not sit well with censors at the time and was cut because it was deemed too scary for a portion of the audience. Eventually it was restored years later which is good since it depicts the misunderstood nature of Adam the best. Bela Lugosi was offered the role of the creation before Boris Karloff but turned it down. Frankenstein(1931) has aged well and continues to chill the spines of viewers whether at home or at a movie theater.
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26 November 2001
Came about because of the box office success of Halloween(1978). Success of Halloween(1978) showed people in Hollywood there was money to be made in low budget Independant horror. Friday the 13th(1980) took on a life of its own with its sudden popularity among audiences. Cinema influence is a filtering avenue which changes hands and ideas from filmmaker to filmmaker. Friday the 13th(1980) is not a perfect film but its an important American horror film.

Between Halloween(1978) and Friday the 13th(1980) there were scores of knockoffs and sequels the two films inspired. Range of quality for these knockoffs and sequels varies from excellent to very poor. Friday the 13th's influence on slasher subgenre is bigger than the influence of Halloween(1978). Plots of many American slasher films derive from Friday the 13th(1980). Sequels that followed are a mixed bag with 2,3,4, and 6 among the series best while the rest are among the worst.

There are two schools of fans in slasher cinema which splits into Halloween(1978) and Friday the 13th(1980) fanbases. Not many are fans of both films with equal liking. I enjoy watching both films yet lean a little towards Halloween(1978) as the better film. Halloween(1978) has better direction, more suspense, and is stylisticly more professional. Positives of Friday the 13th(1980) include imaginative death scenes, good plot twists, and isolated setting.

Gory style of Friday the 13th(1980) is rooted in the giallos of Mario Bava. Main inspiration is Reazione a Catena/Bay of Blood(1971) which involved similar settings and gory deaths. Friday the 13th(1980) differs from A Bay of Blood(1971) in a couple of areas namely the exclusion of greed factor. Also, Mrs. Voorhees wears a white sweater that is identical to one worn by Simon in Bay of Blood(1971). Mario Bava's influence had and continues to have a profound effect on Friday the 13th(1980) and other American slasher films.

Its inspiration extends to films of Dario Argento specificlly his 1975 giallo, Profondo Rosso/Deep Red. Revealing of murderer and motive takes a cue from Profondo Rosso(1975). Characters are nothing more than bloody ciphers that exist solely to provide killer with some murder victims. Forrest setting in Friday the 13th(1980) had an influence on locations in Evil Dead(1983) and Blair Witch Project(1999). Exercise in gory set pieces that still hold up well compared to new wave of slasher films.

Very good horror movie that deserves to be released on DVD in its uncut version. Death scenes are slightly longer as camera lingers a little longer on carnage. In uncut version the makeup effects seem more impressive. During early 1980s, the MPAA were strict on what was to be saved or cut from slasher films to get R rating. Friday the 13th(1980) was victimized by this form of censorship although not as bad as other slasher pics.

One reason the film has gotten its popular reputation are the gruesome makeup effects by Tom Savini. Effects are good though falls short to Savini's work on Dawn of the Dead(1978), Maniac(1980), and Day of the Dead(1985). Top gore effect here is the beheading of a character near end of film. Director, Sean s.Cunningham's contribution to making Last House on the Left(1972) is an important factor in film's isolated feel. Acting is neither a strong nor weak point in the motion picture.

Prologue is a good beginning to a film full of imaginative bloodletting and isolated terror. One name actor that's in Friday the 13th(1980) is Kevin Bacon whose involved in a memorable death scene. Needless to say some of his best acting are not from this film. A weakness is the moral pretentiousness on which the film unintentionally goes by. This is a pet peeve of mine as these types of films would be more enjoyable to watch if they would dispense with the moral BS that shows up in Friday the 13th(1980) and many slasher pics.

Jason Voorhees was intended to be just a neat gimmick to better promote the film. He's hardly even part of the story except in mention and one sequence. His sole appearence in the film gives it a nightmarish quality. Once Friday the 13th(1980) became a box office hit, producers decided to make Jason the main focus from then on. Thus, Jason Voorhees became a permanent fixture in American popular horror cinema.

Adrienne King is not in the same league as jamie Lee Curtis when it comes to playing a slasher heroine yet she does alright as main heroine of Friday the 13th(1980). Most annoying person in Friday the 13th is Crazy Ralph with Annie a close second. Betsy Palmer seems to relish every second in an intense yet slightly over the top performance. Film score and sound effects of voice are by now trademarks of Friday the 13th series. semi classic horror film with above average cinematography and ok editing.
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Mario Bava's Masterpiece
26 November 2001
Sei Donne Per L'Assassino/Blood and Black Lace(1964) introduced the body count concept to horror films. Influential concept which shaped style of Giallo films from 1970s-1980s and American Slasher subgenre of 1980s. Mario Bava filmed each murder sequence in their own distinct flavor. Blood and Black Lace(1964) is an example of making every death scene in a body count pic memorable. Years later, Mario Bava did another body count driven giallo in Reazione a Catena/Bay of Blood(1971) which surpasses this giallo in number of death moments. Mario Bava was an innovator in horror and general cinema whose visual style continues to influence.

Blood & Black Lace(1964) offered audiences in early 1960s a candy coding spectacle of death and violence. A positive is the lack of a moral preaching which is a major weakness of the American Slasher film. Adult orienated horror film which thankfully lacks the basic elements of a Teenage Slasher film. Follows in steps of Grand Guignol, and theater of cruelty theater forms. Death moments are filmed in Grand Guignol style with physical intensity. Theater of Cruelty influence is based on film's preference of metaphysical and mise-en-scene forms over motives of character and psychology.

The first murder which takes place during opening moments is an intense preview of things to come. Murder of Nicole includes colorful setting and stylish weapon. Peggy's death scene begins with build up sympathy for character. Forth murder sequence concludes with macabre modeling image. Tao Li's death beings in abrupt fashion and features erotic elements. The sixth and final murder sequence is the most tragic of them all.

Greed is main reason behind murders in the story. The rich are unsympatheticly depicted by Bava as being decadent and selfish. Greed is a driving force for most of Bava's characters who barely care for anything else. I think of film as part of an informal trilogy which I call Greed trilogy. Greed trilogy consists of Sei Donne Per L'Assassino/Blood and Black Lace(1964), 5 Bambole per la Luna D'Agosto/5 Dolls for an August Moon(1970), and Reazione a Catena/Bay of Blood(1971). River of greed in Bava's films results only in death and tragedy.

Mario Bava paints many scenes in gorgeous technicolor process. He exercises different colors in Blood and Black Lace(1964) with flamboyant vision. Colors of blue, black, green, purple, red, and yellow are used to represent different types of predictaments. Bava's expertise as cinematographer and painter is a plus in the film's look. Scene in antique shop is a lesson on how to film something in extravagant colors. There are few filmmakers out there with exception of Dario Argento and Martin Scorsese who are able to incorporate color into film with artistic flair like Mario Bava was able to do.

Suspense in murder sequences is manufactured via extreme colors and physical intensity. Bava depicts an aura of paranoia and suspicion as a result of photographing scenes with extreme use of colors. He detaches himself from identifying with murderer by showing face in a white blank. In photographing sequences with visual flair, Mario Bava treats the viewer to a large helping of voluptuous desert. I consider film to be director's most sightly color photographed giallo. Blood & Black Lace(1964) stands out in giallo genre because of artistic touch and visceral flamboyance.

On the surface, the Haute Couture Fashion House is a place of idealized beauty and social priviledge. Under the facade however, reveals a backdrop of aristocratic decay, blackmail, drugs, murder, and sex. Deception is a motif which frequents the art and cinema of Mario Bava. Bava presents aristocratic society in film as heartless and selfish. They live in their own isolated environment with concerns only for sensual pleasures, power, and wealth. Aristocrats in Blood and Black Lace(1964) and other Bava films appears to be patterned after Mussolini regime.

Effect on Italian horror was slow but reached cinematic importance with emergence of Dario Argento's Bird with the Crystal Plumage in 1969. Sei Donne Per L'Assassino(1964) is considered to be the first full blown giallo in Italian cinema. Landmark film filled with elements which became staples of giallo and slasher cinema. Part of the film's brilliance is its flamboyant visual style and flair for the macabre. Director's other landmark horror picture in his career was influential Bay of Blood(1971). Blood & Black Lace(1964) blends in elements of giallo and noir with perfect fusion.

There are interesting allusions to Billy Wilder's Double Indemnity(1944) during second half. Relationship between Massimo and Countess Christina shares comparisons with relationship between Walter and Mrs. Dietrichson in Double Indemnity(1944). Last scene is an updated take off of final moments in Whip and the Body(1963). Very good performances are given by Cameron Mitchell and Eva Bartok who play their parts well characterized by detachment and passion. Bava did a variation of fashion world in another giallo called Il Rosso Segno Della Follia/Hatchet for the Honeymoon(1969). Red Diary is a wonderful plot device used again in Bay of Blood(1971).

Luciano Pigozzi earns the title of Italian Peter Lorre with Lorrish and sinister presence. Death of Peggy via hot stove was slightly cut especially in moment when face is pulled off to reveal it to be destroyed and steaming. Moment was cut due to being too graphic in its time and has never appeared in any print of Blood and Black Lace(1964). Heroes are almost non existent in Mario Bava's universe and Sei Donne Per L'Assassino(1964) is no exception. Tightly directed and nicely edited with wonderful trashy jazz film score by Carlos Rustichelli. What it lacks in gore is made up with physical and visual intensive drive.
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Fantasia (1940)
Old School Disney
21 November 2001
From the golden age of Disney films comes this fantastic animated film with some breathtaking visuals. Unusual Disney film to say the least because its a little more darker than the animations that Disney is known for. Not as sappy or overly silly with exception of couple of episodes as in some Disney animated features. Also, it totally dispenses with plot and lets the imagination of the images run wild with style. Excellent mixture of images and music puts it above the average Disney cartoon as one of the best. Presents some extraordinary technicolors effects with fantastic results. The best episodes in Fantasia(1940) are "THE SORCERER'S APPRENTICE" & "NIGHT ON BALD MOUNTAIN". "NIGHT ON BALD MOUNTAIN" segment is possibly the scariest Cartoon that Disney put on film. Fantasia(1940) failed during its time due to its dark imagery and did not gain respect until years later.
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