Dr Strangelove - Released January 29, 1964. Directed by Stanley Kubrick
The Good Earth - 1937
The Good Earth - Released August 6, 1937. Directed by Sidney Franklin (also Victor Fleming, Gustav Machaty, and Sam Wood)
Watership Down - Released Nov 1, 1978. Directed by Martin Rosen
It looks like a children's animated movie, but the harrowing experience of a desperate group of rabbits trying to make it through a hostile countryside is told with frequent episodes of violence and terror, and not the kind of violence of a Looney Tunes cartoon, but a more grim and dark brutality probably not suitable for young children.
A small group of rabbits at an oppressive underground warren realize their location is about to be destroyed by human development, but the leadership of the warren will not listen and instead seeks to imprison them. They escape, with rabbit-guards in hot pursuit. That's just the beginning of an epic exodus to a far hillside where the group (which grows and decreases as they come into contact with other rabbits along the way) believe there will be ample food and freedom. Strategic thinking, visions, and sheer speed are the tools they use to get from one harsh place to another as some from their group are killed. There is humor provided in the tale, and the animation is often inventive and usually colorful (the underground world of the rabbit warrens is however a muted and dark place). Occasional songs assist the storytelling.
Somewhat like the 1951 animated film Animal Farm, there is a level of political awareness among the creatures (more shown than stated in Watership Down) about how their rabbit world is run by strong-arm leaders and force. Also, there is a regular narration about a rabbit god referred to as Lord Frith, and how this being - - usually represented by a glowing sun - - gave the rabbits a 1,000 enemies but also extreme speed and powerful legs.
Paul Gautier - 1932 – 2017
Born October 30, 1931 in Culver City, CA. Died January 13, 2017 in Arcadia, California,
Get Smart 1966
Anatomy of a Lover - broadcast September 19, 1966. Directed by Bruce Bilson
Hymie the robot (played by Richard Gautier) is hacked by the criminal organization KAOS and is programmed to start killing CONTROL agents. He is prevented from strangling the CONTROL chief (Edward Platt) and Maxwell Smart (Don Adams) sneaks Hymie from CONTROL headquarters after he is ordered to disassemble his robot friend to prevent any further attacks. Unfortunately, fixing Hymie proves elusive, meanwhile Hymie starts cleaning Max's apartment and acting as a scold over the lack of hygiene and orderliness in the place.
Back at CONTROL, Max has to cover for his ruse of hiding Hymie by pretending to rebuild the robot from an old laundry machine that never quite looks right however much he rearranges the parts (even putting a hat on top to try and convince the Chief he is looking at Hymie.... it actually looks nothing like Hymie).
Barbara Feldon is on hand as Agent 99 and Laurel Goodwin appears as the Chief's daughter Phoebe (who is starting to fall in love with Hymie). Script for this Get Smart episode is by Gary Clarke with Buck Henry editing.
The Terror of Rome
The Terror of Rome Vs. the Son of Hercules (Aka Maciste, gladiator di Sparta). Released March 26, 1964. Directed by Mario Caiano
In Mario Caiano's The Terror of Rome Vs. the Son of Hercules, it's tough in Rome for the Christians. Caesar thinks they're only good for feeding the lions in the arena, and speaking of feeding, Caesar is always complaining that he's hungry again, and loses track of what he was originally intending to do (round up the Christians).
But the Christians have a secret friend in Rome, and that's Caesar's favorite strong-man and gladiator, Maciste of Sparta, undefeated champion fighter from the Coliseum (in this film, it is not a very large Coliseum, and the cheering throng is rather small, so director Caiano keeps the camera primarily on Caesar, who is usually asking for more food from his entourage).
Maciste is not a Christian, but when he came across the beautiful Livia (Elisabetta Fanti) fleeing from a pair of Roman soldiers in the countryside, he immediately comes to her defense, and when she turns out to be an outlaw Christian, he couldn't care less (she's gentle, outnumbered, and Maciste cannot resist unequal odds in a fight. Also, did we mention, she's beautiful?) Soon Maciste is smitten with her, and before long he's maneuvering events so that a whole group of Christians can get out of the pagan city before they get sacrificed in the arena.
Marilu Tolo is court courtesan Olympia, and too bad for her, she's smitten with the uninterested Maciste, and even when she learns he's in love with a detested Christian girl, Olympia still does her best to protect her muscle headed would-be boyfriend. However, this is getting tricky because Caesar's chief advisor Zefatius (as Robert Hundar) is dead set on making Maciste dead as soon as possible because the bronzed gladiator is his main competitor for Olympia's affection and Caesar's attention.
Director Mario Caiano doesn't have a lot of budget to work with, but the stunt work for the gladiatory fights are pretty well done, and since the film is lifting large pieces from DeMille's 1951 Quo Vadis, Caiano and his writers instead spend time on sneaking humor into the script. This allows the actors to carry it along and add small touches of goofiness between themesleves, that is, when there's not too much dialogue being jammed into a scene (in the dubbed English version, this is often the case, with breathless reams of text being fitted into the moving lips of the Italian actors).
The Terror of Rome Vs. the Son of Hercules isn't going to win any awards for dramatic excellence, but it's a charming piece of Italian "peblum," the genre of muscle bound heroes and their exploits. What starts off as cardboard imitation of better films (Quo Vadis, Spartacus, etc.) develops it's own strange rythmn, and even Caesar becomes sort of a friendly and genial fellow. Mark Forest as Maciste is so earnest and resolute to do the right thing that the whole Roman army simply doesn't stand a chance.
Beau Geste - 1939
Beau Geste - Released July 24, 1939. Directed by William Wyler
The movie starts with a mystery at Fort Zinderneuf in the North African desert, manned by dead soldiers propped up against the walls of the fortress, blank faces and eyes looking out over the desert sands. A relief troupe of legionnaires arrive to investigate this, but suddenly a hail of gunfire causes them to run to a nearby oasis. Then the soldiers see a column of smoke rising from the supposedly lifeless fort...
Director Wyler then moves us backwards to a turgid back story concerning a stolen sapphire called the "Blue Water" and the early life of a group of young children adopted by Lady Patricia Brandon (Heather Thatcher) and a glimpse into how the children are raised on her estate (which she shares with a profligate brother that we never see but hear a lot about).
After the children become young adults (Gary Cooper, Robert Montgomery, and Robert Preston), we return to Wyler's faster-paced action film, especially once Brian Donlevy appears (as Sergeant Markoff) and what develops is a high-pressure tale of the three British brothers joining the French Foreign Legion, but they may have bitten off more than they can chew.
On screen, Gary Cooper usually doesn't have strong competition from other actors, but Brian Donlevy as the demonic Sgt. Markoff steals a lot of attention. "I promise you," Markoff says over and over as he adds to the sadistic pressure within Fort Zinderneuf, and only a sudden attack of Arab raiders that puts the fort under siege interrupts Markoff's plan to apparently kill every one in the fort to feed his sadistic pleasure.
Usually in a war film, a sadistic officer is a rat and possibly a coward, but that's not the case here, as Markoff might be fiendishly crazy, but he's also something of a genius and keeps the fort fully manned even though the legionnaires are dropping like flies from the onslaught outside - - Markoff has more than a few tricks up his sleeve. He also has a eye on Gary Cooper (as Beau Geste) because he's heard the rumor that Beau has an enormous sapphire hidden on him. Well, this is true, and also isn't true, but it will take the whole film to unravel the mystery of the jewel, the boys departure for foreign lands, and ways one might have a Viking funeral out in the middle of a mostly waterless wasteland.
Sully - 2016
Sully - Released September 9, 2016. Directed by Clint Eastwood
Airline pilot Chesley Sullenberger ("Sully") has to make a series of critical decisions in the space of about 35 seconds, while he is piloting a damaged airliner full of people that had just taken off from LaGuardia Airport in New York City. The plane hit a flock of geese that wrecked both engines on the plane, and Sully must choose either to return to the airport, seek a different local airfield, or do what is considered extremely dangerous: land a large airliner onto water (the Hudson River by Manhattan). He decides on the last option since the other two seem impossible to reach with both engines dead.
Clint Eastwood has directed Sully to tell several stories in parallel, and we don't know exactly how it all turns out until all the threads come together at the finale. In the meantime, we see the landing on the Hudson a couple of times; we see Sullenberger's flashbacks to an earlier experience landing a damaged F4 Phantom jet decades earlier; we watch the National Transportation Safety Board investigating the water-landing, apparently convincing themselves that Sully could have made it back to LaGuardia safely and not risked everyone's life with the water landing. If Sully is found to have been negligent in his decision making, at risk is early retirement and forfeiture of his pension.
Aaron Eckhart plays the co-pilot Jeff Skiles, and he and Tom Hanks are a duo (with Eckhart supplying handy one-liners) up against the second-guessing and mounting evidence - created through flight simulations - that flight 1549 should not have had to go into the water. Brief technical aspects of the matter are explained well. The viewer gets an overview in how air safety is handled, and how air traffic controllers are held responsible for behavior of airplanes under their command. Also on the screen is the response of New York's water and air rescue services, along with boat captains who arbitrarily joined into the rescue efforts to get the 155 passengers safely to shore.
In release at theatres, Sully was criticized for having an old-fashioned and leisurely pace as it told its story, but the film hardly seems a deviation from other films Eastwood has made over the last decades. The emphasis here is more on Tom Hanks, the crew and passengers instead of on the airplane crashing. Sully has nightmares of far worse disasters which are provided on screen; they are spectacular and should satisfy most ardent CGI-junkies. Perhaps the problem is simply an adult story told in an adult manner - in this tale there is not only the possibility of the airliner crashing and killing people, but in the aftermath with accusations mounting against Sully's decisions. We see the financial disaster that will hit his family if he loses his piloting job and pension, an emotional crisis only an adult might appreciate.The script by Todd Komarnicki makes it possible to juggle the various threads and to keep it together until the climax when Sully and Skiles have a face-to-face showdown hearing with the NTSB. it takesplace in a large public hall that at first looks ominously like it might be a public crucifixion of the two pilots. Instead, just as the pair were a team in the damaged plane over the Hudson, the two have to maneuver through the hail of computer-generated evidence being thrown against them to show why what they did was necessary. With a tinge of mystery wrapped around the story, Eastwood makes Sully partially an adventure, partially heroic (in a very restrained way), and partially a portrait of how technology can reach its limits quickly and leave fragile humans with only decision-making and instinct as a way out. [Z]
Starring Miss Barbara Stanwyck [Illustrated with 310 Photographs] - amazon.com
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- Laura - 1944- Dana Andrews is a police detective investigating a murder of a girl so seemingly perfect he is frustratingly falling in love with her ghost.
- The Body Snatcher - 1945 - Grave-robbing in Scotland becomes a test of willpower between a compromised doctor (Henry Daniell) and the cabman (Boris Karloff) who ferries bodies (living and dead) for him.
- Hitchcock 2012 - Story of the making of the 1960 film Psycho, and how Alfred and Alma Hitchcock worked together during its production.
- Shepherd of the Hills - John Wayne, Harry Carey and Betty Fields in the Ozarks
- Son of Paleface 1952 - Bob Hope and Jane Russell team up in this sequel to bring a small amount of law and order to the west. Includes Roy Rogers and Trigger "The Smartest Horse in the World"
- Cat People - 1942 - Simone Simon in Val Lewton's first horror film for RKO - - what hints at being a sideways imitation of Universal's The Wolf Man but turns into a psychological study of marital alienation and self-deception, along with Lewton's frequent theme of superstition clashing with rational explanations that don't always quite fit.
- Wife vs Secretary - 1936 - Cark Gable has a problem: Myrna Loy and Jean Harlow are deciding on which woman will get to claim his heart in this corporate melodrama.
- Confession - 1937 - One of Kay Francis' best films and a well-made version of the German film Mazurka.
- Holiday Inn - 1942 - Bing Crosby turns his farm into a show business showcase, and Fred Astaire shows up. Incidentaly, he's also interested in Bing's girlfriend, Marjorie Reynolds. Film features the song "White Christmas", among many others.
- Gone with the Wind - 1939 - The biggest money-maker and one of the most famous films ever made.
- Dr. Strangelove - 1964 - The world is on the verge of a nuclear disaster between the United States and the Soviet Union - Director Kubrick makes this seem quite funny in this Cold War satire.
- Blade Runner - 1982 - Ridley Scott's influential film about 'replicants' who wish to live on earth and find a way to extend their limited lifetimes. Harrison Ford is sent to stop them.
- The Vampires Coffin - 1958 - Well made Mexican horror film with excellent photography amid a very familiar plotline. However, good performances and humor help make this version stand out.
- Daybreak - 1931 - Helen Chandler and Ramon Novarro in a melodrama about a piano teacher and an Austrian Imperial Officer who are trapped into (sometimes brutal) societal expectations for their lives.
- Stolen Holiday 1937 - Claude Rains and Kay Francis are almost lovers, but not quite; but she is extremely loyal as his financial empire begins to fall apart.
- Guilty Hands - 1931 - Lionel Barrymore and Kay Francis are working out who has killed a wealthy philanderer.
- The Vagabond Lover - 1929 - Rudy Vallee and Marie Dressler in a song-soaked and humorous telling of an amateur jazz band that is pretending to be a group of famous pros.
- The Lady Vanishes - 1938 - Hitchcock's famous film about a disappearing lady aboard a trans-continental train. Except for one stubborn young female passenger [who is consequently accused of mental instability] no one aboard can remember the vanished elderly Miss Froy.
- White Zombie - 1932 - Bela Lugosi likes making zombies, and this comes in handy when a local plantation owner on Haiti decides if he can't woo a certain girl to be his wife, he'll have Lugosi turn her into a mindless slave that he can command.