Tuesday, November 8, 2016

1990 - DICK TRACY - on Blu Ray

The star/director/producer of Dick Tracy, Warren Beatty goes for the comic book look.  Staying with a minimal amount of primary colors The cinematographer, the legendary Vittorio Storato gives the film a real eye popping look.  This truly a comic book movie in the best sense of that over used term.

Trying to duplicate the legendary comic strip's very oddball villains, a lot of famous and not quite so famous actors are made up in some of the strangest makeup that has every been in a film.  The villains include names like Mumbles, Flattop, Itchy, Pruneface, Spud and Lips.  The look of their makeup corresponds to their names.  It's sometimes a little jarring to see such creatures in what already is a highly stylized film. 

Beatty also cast his current girlfriend Madonna probably for box office appeal.  She sings a few Stephen Sondheim songs and is photographed very carefully to put it mildly.  Beatty probably got as good a performance out of her as any other director could.  Also along for the ride is Al Pacino as the crime boss.  As usual with Pacino, he is completely over the top with his performance.  The makeup job on him only accents his typical hammy acting.

105 minutes.

1950 - PANIC IN THE STREETS, Kazan starts to grow as a filmmaker

The director Elia Kazan really gets out of the studio for this story about a modern day plague that might strike the city of New Orleans.  Two hoodlums are infected with the plague and it's up to the authorities to find them in 48 hours.

The stars are Richard Widmark who is kind of over the top with his performance and Paul
Douglas who's underplaying seems a little more in tune with the film's tone.  One of the strength's Elia Kazan brought to his films was his ability to get good performances out of his cast.  I'm not sure what happened with Widmark but everyone else is very good in this film particularly Zero Mostel as a small time hood. 

The attraction of this film is really the on location filming in New Orleans.  Kazan and his cinematographer Joseph MacDonald really capture the flavor of and the era of the city in the early 1950's.  The Blu Ray makes the images really stand out.  The on location chase at the end of this film is very exciting.

Not one of Kazan's great films but Panic In The Streets is very good. 

96 minutes.

Monday, October 31, 2016

2016 - INTO THE INFERNO, more Herzog ranting

When it comes to the subject of volcanoes, Werner Herzog would seem to be your man.  With that voice and his typical pessimistic view of the world it would seem that Into The Volcano would be a nice way to watch some great visuals and hear some sour commentary. 

However even for Herzog this film seems more disjointed than usual.  The pretext of traveling around to look at some of the world's greatest volcanoes is merely and excuse for some rambling scenes involving native tribes, bone collecting and a visit to North Korea for some reason.

As usual in a Herzog film the the images are very arresting but even the scenes of the massive volcano eruptions  can't compensate for the disjointed nature of this film.

Kind of a disappointment.

104 minutes

1967 - VALLEY OF THE DOLLS, campy trash fest if ever there was one.

For some reason Criterion decided to release this film into their collection.  I believe the thinking was that they were trying to market this mess as some sort of glorious camp fest for their audience.  After all one can't consume a steady diet of Ingmar Bergman and Ozu films. 

I don't know if Valley of the Dolls is worthy of the Criterion treatment.  Even if you consider the camp factor of the film, it's kind of struggle to get through this thing.  The story about three women trying to make it in show business has been done before so this isn't exactly an original plot going on here. 

The actors played by Patty Duke, Barbara Parkins and Sharon Tate are all over the place.  Duke had something of a reputation as a serious actor is all over the place.  She hams it up as a young Judy Garland type of character who resorts to popping pills to keep it going.  Barbara Parkins has that sophisticated sexy look thing going but can't act.  Sharon Tate of all people actually gives the best performance in the film.

The film was directed by Mark Robson an old Hollywood filmmaker.  Robson films the whole thing like a middle aged guy trying to act hip or as hip as you could be in 1967. 

123 minutes.

1956 - CHECKPOINT, British racing film with a ridiculous plot.

To see this is to disbelieve this.  Probably one of the worst stories for a film that I have ever seen.  There are so many plot loopholes and coincidences that I could probably fill up two posts with the insanity of this film.

The film was directed by hack British director Ralph Thomas and produced by hack film producer Betty E. Box.  How these two had such a long career in the British film industry is a mystery to me.

For a racing film the cars are kind of cool with featured footage of Lotus Mark 10 Aston Martin.

80 minutes.

1954 - REAR WINDOW, the Hitchcock classic

Alfred Hitchcock and his writer John Michael Hayes created this film about voyeurism and didn't miss a trick incorporating a murder mystery into the plot.

James Stewart playing a photographer with a broken leg has noting to do but spy on his neighbors with his binoculars and eventually a telephoto camera.  Each different apartment window has it;'s own little story.  Eventually Stewart becomes aware that all is not right with the apartment directly across from his.  It seems the invalid wife of a salesman has suddenly vanished.

Hitchcock was always able to bring out the best in established actors.  James Stewart is very good as the photographer.  Thelma Ritter is the home health care nurse and Grace Kelly looking great as usual in her third Hitchcock film is good as Stewart's on again off again girlfriend.

Considering the dramatic and technical challenges this is an impressive and very entertaining film.

112 minutes.

1935 - THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, the classic horror comedy

The classic Universal Horror film.  Directed by James Whale who probably didn't do one thing wrong throughout the film.  The Bride of Frankenstein combines horror and comedy so assuredly that you can only wonder how they got it all right for this film.

The stylized studio sets, the casting of Karloff as the monster the moody black and white photography and the acting create a one of a kind horror film that probably hasn't been topped since it came out in 1935.  Whale edited the film down from ninety to seventy five minutes so there isn't a wasted moment in the entire picture.

75 minutes.

A brilliant film.