Films I Love

Five Classics That I Will Always Love

Hi all.

I hope everyone is well. Work has been manic lately, so I’ve not had much time to post. Will try and catch up with everyone’s blogs when I can.

There has been much debate amongst film fans, about just what is, and what isn’t a classic film. For me, it is a film that has a timeless story, and is one which resonates with audiences throughout the generations.

I strongly agree that the vast majority of classics are to be found among Silent films through to those from the sixties and seventies. That having been said though, I strongly believe too, that there are many classics to be found that were made in years which fall outside of the classic era.

There are films from all around the world, both old and new, that have found that special place in peoples hearts. There are films that are justly praised for how they look, or for how they were made etc. The following list contains five such classics that I will always love. These are all among my all time favourite films too.

I invite each one of you to share five classics that you will always love. You can do that in my comments section, or start a new post on your own blog linking back to this post. It’s up to you.

Photo00811 – Ikiru, 1952, directed by Akira Kurosawa. This is a film that deeply touches my soul. The story of Kanji Watanabe really gets to me. His story could be the story of any of us. Takashi Shimura delivers one of the greatest performances in cinema history. This film makes you realise how precious life is. Ikiru reminds me to slow down and value every small moment. This is a film with a universal message. You can read my full review of this film here.

 

Photo0119 2- Jurassic Park, 1993, directed by Steven Spielberg. A billionaire (Richard Attenborough)gets scientists to bring dinosaurs back to life, and open a theme park containing these living creatures. Hmmm, what could possibly go wrong there? Featuring memorable characters, dialogue, one of the best scores of John Williams entire career(that’s saying something!),cutting edge special effects and impressive practical effects work. This is a film that can be enjoyed again and again, and it’s one I doubt I’ll ever cease to enjoy.

I  always crack up at the following line in this, which is spoken by Jeff Goldblum – “Yeah, but John, when the Pirates of the Caribbean breaks down, the pirates don’t eat the tourists!”  🙂

 

Photo0120 3 – Black Narcissus, 1947, directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. A Technicolor spectacle from one of the most creative duos in cinema history. A group of Nuns open a mission in the hills of a remote Himalayan town. Sister Clodagh(Deborah Kerr)is the sister in charge; she tries her best, but is really too young for the responsibility placed upon her shoulders.

The hot weather, the presence of the very good looking Mr Dean (David Farrar), the customs of the locals, and growing jealously and hysteria all combine to push the women to their limit. Excellent performances, use of Technicolor and photography. Also, who knew that red lipstick could look so scary? This is my favourite of all the Powell and Pressburger films. I love how it conveys the growing paranoia and jealousy. I really like how Deborah Kerr and David Farrar portray the growing and ever changing relationship between their characters. A feast for the eyes and mind.

 

 

Photo0100 4- North By Northwest, 1959, directed by Alfred Hitchcock

One of the best thrillers ever made. I find that this film doesn’t stop giving you the sense of being on the move until the final scene. I consider this to contain the perfect blend of all of the elements featured in Hitch’s work.

Elegance drips from every frame; from the costumes, to the behaviour of characters, to the hotels and interiors. Cary is at his most suave, and gets to show is skills for physical comedy (he does one of the best drunk impressions I’ve ever seen.) This is one I return to again and again. It never fails to thrill and amuse. You can read my full review of this film here.

 

 

Photo0121  5 – The Ten Commandments, 1956, directed by Cecil B. DeMille. This for me is the epic to end all epics. Vast and impressive sets and location work, beautiful costumes, one of the greatest cast lists in film history and a real epic look. I’ve always been fascinated by Ancient Egypt, and this film is one of my favourites set in that time. Even though I’m not religious, I really love this film and the story it tells. If you take religion out of the equation, the ten commandments are basically just a guide to living a moral life and not hurting others.

I like how the film portrays Moses as making a break from one way of life, having his eyes opened to the truth of slavery and trying to do something for the better. Charlton Heston does such a good job of portraying the change (both physical and spiritual) that his character goes through. Anne Baxter and Yul Brynner steal every scene they’re in. I also envy Anne for getting to wear all those gorgeous dresses(and for getting to kiss both Yul and Charlton.)

DeMille knew how to entertain and impress, and this is one of his best films. Please share you comments about any of these films. Don’t forget to list your own special five.

Disaster

On The Beach (1959)

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What would you do if you knew the world was coming to an end? How would you react to such news, and how would you cope with having this new fact in your life?Stanley Kramer’s 1959 film tackles all these questions and more. The film is an adaptation of the 1957 novel of the same name, written by Nevil Shute.

At the time of the films release there was great public fear of Atomic and Nuclear weapons. I’m sure this film chilled many viewers to the bone at the time, particularly due to its unflinching look at the aftermath of one of these weapons being used.

I like how the film captures how many different reactions various people have to the news of the end of mankind. Some people escape into booze, some go to extremes to feel and experience life while it still exists, and some simply refuse to accept that there is no hope of survival. It always makes me think how I would react in such a situation.

The film is set in Australia. The entire worlds population(apart from those in Australia)have died due to radiation sickness following a Nuclear war. The radiation is being spread on the winds, and it is estimated to arrive in Australia in around five months time. The citizens there are trying to come to terms with the war, and with the fact of their own impending fate.

An American submarine, the U.S.S. Sawfish, surfaces in Australia. It was submerged when the war began and therefore the crew haven’t been exposed to the radiation. The submarine has been travelling around surfacing at various countries, only to find no sign of life. Captain Dwight Towers (Gregory Peck)and his crew dock in Australia and come ashore. Despite Dwight’s wife and children being killed in the war, he cannot accept that fact.

Whilst ashore, Dwight befriends Moira (Ava Gardner), and the two slowly fall in love with one another. Dwight however cannot permit himself to act on his feelings though because he still considers himself married.

Dwight and his men take to sea again after a Morse signal is picked up coming from a city in America. The crew must try and find out if anyone has somehow managed to survive.

This is a bleak film and is not an easy watch at all. The performances of the cast make it a must see. I find it to be extremely moving and it captures so well the horror and tragedy such an event would bring about.

Gregory Peck is heartbreaking as a man trying to appear in control, but who inside is consumed with grief that he cannot display publically. Gregory shows us the tough façade cracking a few times. Thanks to his performance we see Dwight really struggling to stay in control, and wrestling with his conscience in regards to his undeniable feelings for Moira.

Fred Astaire is best remembered today for his incredible dancing skills, but he was also a fine dramatic actor. His performance here as Julian Osborn is one of the best he ever gave. Julian was a Nuclear scientist and feels guilt that something he helped to build destroyed humanity. Fred steals every scene he is in with just a look. In many scenes he is in the background but you keep your focus on him to see how he is reacting at certain moments.

Ava Gardner touches my heart as the boozy Moira. She has so much love to give, and she wants to spend her final days with Dwight. Ava perfectly conveys this woman’s inner turmoil, as she struggles to blot out the pain of the present and at the same time finds in Dwight a reason to stay alive.

Anthony Perkins is excellent as the young Lt. Peter Holmes. Peter and his wife have recently had a baby, and his wife is struggling to accept the truth of what is about to happen to everyone. Anthony perfectly captures the emotional and moral distress Peter is in, when he has to decide if he and his young family will take the government issued suicide pills or not.

It is the kind of decision that nobody should ever have to make, but the film forces you to think what you would do in his place. Would you accept the slow, painful and deeply unpleasant death caused by radiation? Or would you have one last beautiful day surrounded by those you love, still being healthy and in control of your life, and then peacefully slip away?

Donna Anderson breaks my heart every time I watch this. Donna plays Peter’s wife, Mary. This woman is terrified of the truth, but she won’t accept or even talk about it. She too must decide how to meet her end. I think many people would react like Mary, still holding out for hope even when faced with the opposite reality. Donna portrays Mary’s hysteria and terror very well indeed.

John Tate is Admiral Bridie. John only appears in a few scenes, but he is excellent when he does. I really like how he subtly conveys his love for his much younger secretary, Lt. Hosgood (Lola Brooks). It’s there in the way he looks at her. I love their final scene together where they share a drink together, that scene moves me each time I watch and is beautifully played by both actors.

If you are among the few people on the planet who actually believe we should have Nuclear weapons; then I would hope that this film (particularly the final ten minutes, and especially the final shot)would make you change your opinion. I would also recommend you watch the TV miniseries Threads and The Day After.  Just one of these weapons is one too many and this film shows what will happen if we ever use them.

It annoys me so much that some members of our species are intent on creating ways of bringing about our destruction. We should learn to love each other, because at the end of the day we are all the same, we are all human and will all die one day. Why can’t our time on earth be filled with happiness instead of war and hate? This film focuses on the good points about humanity – love, compassion, friendship and kindness. It makes you think that you should value life, as you could lose it at any time.

My favourite scenes are the following. Julian and Peter’s conversation on the submarine. Dwight trying to explain to Moira at the train station how he feels about his dead family. The young sailor leaving the submarine and going ashore in San Francisco, he chooses to die there (his home city)but he will do so alone. Bridie and Hosgood sharing a drink and an important  conversation. The scene during the boat race between Dwight and Moira. Moira watching the submarine submerge. Moira and Julian’s conversation in his garage. The final scene.

A powerful film, with an equally powerful message to deliver. Strong performances from all the cast and a beautiful score. Be sure to see this one on Blu-ray to see it looking its best.

I highly recommend the novel too. It goes into more detail about how the war started. It also graphically describes the symptoms of radiation sickness, while the film only hints at those horrors.

Any other fans of this one? Please leave your thoughts below.

 

 

Blogathons, Romance

The Judy Garland Blogathon: The Clock (1945)

Judy Garland Blogathon

Crystal, over at In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood, is hosting this blogathon all about Judy Garland. Be sure to visit her site to check out all the other entries. I can’t wait to read them myself.

Judy Garland was not only a hugely talented singer, but she was an excellent actress too. Although primarily known for her popular performances in musicals, Judy also made a few non musical films; in which she more than proved her talents as a dramatic actress.

I want to talk about one of these dramatic films – The Clock. This is a sadly much underrated film, that was known here in the UK upon release as Under The Clock. It is directed by Vincente Minnelli. This film was actually Judy’s first non musical role.

This is one of my favourite romantic films. It is so moving and Judy and Robert’s performances seem so natural to me. Their portrayal of their characters growing feelings for one another seems totally genuine.

The film is set during WW2. Joe (Robert Walker) is a young American soldier on leave in New York for two days. This is his first time in the big city. Joe has no idea where he should go or how to get there.

Joe meets Alice ( Judy Garland)at the train station, after she trips over his foot and damages her shoe in the process. Alice agrees to show Joe around the city for a while. As they spend more time together, Joe and Alice start to like each other very much and fall in love. The pair decide to marry, but in order to do so they must work their way through a mountain of paper work and red tape. Can they beat the system and marry before Joe has to leave to go back to base?

At the time it was made, this story must have been a very common one in real life for many a young serviceman and his beloved sweetheart. The story is poignant and it feels believable too. You get the sense that this is just one such story out of thousands like it that we are watching.

I love the scene where Joe and Alice are in the park at night, the couple are listening to all the sounds of the city; sounds such as ships horns, music, cars etc and are totally caught up this a magical moment. There comes a moment when they both end up looking at each other and you see that in that instant they both see only each other.

It’s like they both suddenly realise at the same time that they are meant to be together. Joe walks towards Alice, pulls her to him and they kiss. I love the shared look Judy and Robert have in this scene. They really make you see and feel the moment of realisation the couple are sharing.

My all time favourite scene in this film is the one in the church. Joe and Alice sit in a church late at night and exchange wedding vows by themselves, reciting from a bible they have found in the church. This scene is one of the most beautiful and touching I have seen in any film. Whether you are religious or not, it can’t be denied that the wedding vows are very powerful and meaningful words.

In this church scene, Judy and Robert convey to us that Joe and Alice fully realise and accept the words they are reciting and are aware of the importance of their vows. They are not entering into this lightly, their bond is one for life and they intend to keep these vows. This is the wedding ceremony they wanted and were denied in the rush of the previous scene. I love they way Judy and Robert look at each other in this, they are so tender together.

Judy plays Alice as bubbly and outgoing. She is confident in her life, but hesitant when it comes to relationships. Alice wants a relationship that will be special and will be the relationship of her life.

Robert plays Joe as a really good guy, who is both shy and awkward. Once you get to know him you won’t remember his shyness. He too wants someone special, he isn’t out for a brief fling he wants a lasting relationship. I love how tender and gentle Robert is in the romantic scenes with Judy. Both actors really make their characters feelings seem so real to us.

Both Judy and Robert work so well together here. They are totally convincing as the young couple slowly falling in love. I wish they had made more films where they were the lead couple. Both Judy and Robert had difficult lives and apparently they became good friends on set when they made this. Robert died far too young, aged just 32, in 1951.

My favourite scenes in this film are the following. Joe and Alice reciting their own wedding vows in the church. The scene where they watch the sea lions in the zoo. The morning after their wedding. The realisation scene in the park. Joe chasing Alice’s bus to ask her out on a date. The scene where they find each other again at the station after they get separated on a train.

This is a moving and very romantic film. I also always find myself wondering what happened to them once the film ends, and I always hope they got a happy ending. I wish more people out there knew about this little gem. I am hoping that this post will encourage some new viewers to seek this one out.

In my opinion both Judy and Robert give two of their finest performances in this film.

I like Judy quite a lot as an actress. Here are my top five Judy Garland film performances.

        1- A Star Is Born

2- The Clock

                      3- I Could Go On Singing

              4- The Wizard Of Oz

        5- Easter Parade

Thanks so much for reading. Are you also a fan of The Clock? If so, I’d love to read your comments on this lovely film and Judy’s performance.

 

 

 

 

 

Blogathons, Tributes To Classic Stars

The Dean Martin Blogathon: Why I Love Dean.

Dean Martin Blogathon.pngSamantha, over at Musings Of A Classic Film Addict, is hosting this blogathon all about Dean Martin. Be sure to visit her site to read all the other entries. I can’t wait to read them myself.

This year marks the centenary of Dean’s birth. In honour of this occasion, I want to write a little piece about how much I love Dean.

Smooth, funny, private, cool, effortless, handsome, and warm hearted are all words that I would use to describe Dean Martin.I like how Dean seemed to be able to fit easily into whatever career path he took. From singer, to comic, to actor; Dean made it seem like he had always been working in that particular job forever. He just made everything he did seem effortless and natural.

Several of my friends know of my love for all things Dean Martin. I especially love his incredible singing voice. I am even envious of a friend who came across a Dean Martin slot machine whilst on holiday in Las Vegas! As random as that sounds, I know I would have got a real kick out of seeing that.  🙂

To me, Dean always comes across (in his many TV, film and stage appearances)as someone who it would be fun to hang out with; you just know you would have had some laughs with this man in real life. I also like how he has this aura of fun around him all the time. He was like the favourite uncle, someone who you looked forward to seeing and who would always make you smile.

I first became aware of Dean through his work as a singer. My parents like his singing, and as I was growing up I’d often hear his songs playing in our house. As I’ve grown older, I’ve sought out more of his music and become acquainted with his film and TV work too.

I especially enjoy watching his Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts (TV) episodes. These are guaranteed to have me crying with laughter. Some of the references I don’t get (not being American or being born long after the time these aired)but the majority of the material still works on me today.

Dean is the host and master of ceremonies for this series. Each episode a different group of celebrities(and some regulars like Dean and Don Rickles) ranging from actors to politicians, comically lambast a different guest. Dean instigates many mirth inducing scenes and cracks up a great deal himself at some of the things said about him. I love how this series makes you feel as though you are in that room with those guys, and that you’re there laughing with them.

I like that Dean always comes across as likeable and fun. I love his act of seeming to be drunk all the time (which really fooled some people into believing he was drunk for real.) We love him for being Dean and we wouldn’t have him any other way.

Dean Martin was born Dino Paul Crocetti in Ohio, in June, 1917. He went on to make a name for himself as a singer, comedian, and became a leading member of his friend Frank Sinatra’s Rat Pack.

In 1945, Dean met a young comic called Jerry Lewis, at a club where they were both performing. From 1946 onwards they went on to become one of the most beloved duos in comic history. The pairs regular appearances on the TV series, The Colgate Comedy Hour  finally made them household names. Dean was the laid back straight man to Jerry’s hyperactive scene stealer. The pair also went on to make several films together.

I have never been a fan of Jerry Lewis but I do like the work he did with Dean, I feel that they brought out the best in each other on screen. The pair were close friends for many years. The natural warmth and affection between them shows on screen. They broke up in 1956 and sadly became estranged for twenty years. They enjoyed an emotional reunion at an event arranged by Frank Sinatra in 1976.

Following the breakup, Dean went on to enjoy success as a singer and actor. He performed regularly on stage and screen, with Sinatra and the rest of the Rat Pack – Sammy Davis Jr, Joey Bishop and Peter Lawford.

Following the tragic death of his son in 1987, Dean appeared less and less in public. He passed away on Christmas Day in 1995. He was 78 years old.

My favourite Dean Martin films? – Five Card Stud, Airport, The Young Lions and The Sons of Katie Elder.

My favourite Dean Martin songs? –  I love them all, but the following hold a special place in my heart: Ain’t That A Kick In The Head, Volare, Luna Mezza Mare and Baby, It’s Cold Outside.

Thank you for reading. I’d also like to say a big thank you to Dean for giving me so many hours of laughter and recording all those fabulous songs.

 

 

 

Blogathons

Announcing The 007 Blogathon

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Bond Blogathon announcement

 

Hi all. I’m very excited to be announcing the details of my first ever blogathon. I do hope you will all be able to participate.

I am a big fan of a certain, suave, British agent who loves fast cars, saving the world and drinking shaken, but not stirred Martinis. So, I decided to go right ahead and choose James Bond as the subject for my first blogathon.

The blogathon will run between the 21st, 22nd and 23rd of July, 2017.  Keep checking back to this post to see the updated list (found at the very bottom of this post) for who is writing about what. You can post your entry on whichever of the three days you wish.

You are free to write about whatever you wish. For example you could write about your favourite Bond film. Write about your favourite gadget designed by Q. Write about your favourite Bond girl. Write one post covering the entire Bond series. Write about your favourite scene in a Bond film. Write about your favourite Bond novel. The list is endless.

You can write more than one post if you want to. You could write one about your favourite Bond film, and another one about your favourite Bond score for example.

I will only be accepting 2 duplicate posts about the same film or novel.

How do I take part?

Very easily. Leave me a comment below telling me what you want to write about.  Leave me your name and the name of your blog too. Then grab one of the banners below, and put it up somewhere on your site to help spread the word.

What will happen on the Blogathon days?

I will put up a new post on the 21st saying the Blogathon is going live. Leave me your name and the link to your completed entry in the comments. I will then create the link to your entry on my post.

I’ve never participated in a Blogathon before. What’s it all about?

You’re in for lots of fun then. 🙂 Blogathons are a great way of connecting with other bloggers. It’s a good way of getting more visitors to your site who may not otherwise have ever known your blog existed. I love Blogathons for the varied opinions and comments different bloggers can bring to the same subject.

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I look forward to reading all the entries.  Have fun!

Participants

Maddylovesherclassicfilms – Thunderball.  The Bond Actors. My Favourite Bond Novel.

    Thoughtsallsorts  –  Casino Royale

   Lifesdailylessonsblog –  The Living Daylights

  Crackedrearviewer –  Goldfinger

RealweegiemidgetMoonraker

 Hamlette’s SoliloquyGoldeneye

OldSchoolEvilJames Bond Jr (animated TV series)

VinniehThe evolution of the Bond girls

CarlosnightmanActresses who would have made great Bond girls

 

 

Horror

The Exorcist (1973)

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Where to begin with this film? For decades The Exorcist has been called the scariest film of all time. It’s not hard to see why. It was banned here in the UK (when it came time to release on video)for years. Upon release at cinemas people threw up, ran out of the cinema and broke down in tears because they couldn’t handle the horror they were being subjected to. Nothing like this film had ever been seen before, and some people just couldn’t handle the images up there on that screen. Of course all these stories only gained the film more publicity and audience figures went through the roof.

I first saw this film with my parents when I was 18 or 19. Me and my dad had never seen this before, but my mum saw it at the cinema on release. Mum said she saw it with her friend who was a Catholic. The film disturbed my mum, but she said it really affected her friend more, and she was very upset by it. They both left the cinema trying to process what they had seen, and freaking out because they now had to walk home in the dark afterwards!

We all found this scary when we watched together and my dad has refused to watch this again ever since that time. I’ve managed to re watch it a few times, but it is a film that really unsettles me. Do you know that feeling you get where you’re aware that someone is standing behind you, but you can’t see them? Well, that’s the feeling I get if I watch this on my own. I never feel like that when I’ve watched any other horror film. Weird stuff.

What I like about this film is that it really gets you thinking and affects you emotionally. You feel for Chris (Ellen Burstyn) as she reaches her wits end trying to help her daughter and get her help. You feel her fear and pain, because we as the audience have been just as distressed by what we’ve witnessed as she has. I also like how it addresses the struggle of faith that Father Karras is undergoing. I imagine this issue must have disturbed some Catholic viewers who didn’t like to accept that even their Priests could find their faith tested.

This film also makes you question why do bad things like this happen to good and innocent people? As Father Merrin says (in my favourite scene from the directors cut)”I think, that the point is to make us despair. To reject the possibility that God could love us.”

This dialogue comes from a scene that William Peter Blatty (the screenwriter, and author of the novel the film is based on)was desperate to be included in the theatrical release. It was a scene with Merrin and Karras taking a break from the exorcism and Karras asks Merrin “Why this girl?”. You see both men are really shook up by what they’ve just seen in the room, and you can see that even the older man is shocked to his core. The director, William Friedkin refused to keep this scene and it was taken out, along with the ending featuring the detective and other Priest. This final scene shows us that there are still nice things happening in the world, as well as all the bad things. Years later Friedkin put these scenes back in as part of the directors cut.

Georgetown, Washington DC. Film actress, Chris MacNeil(Ellen Burstyn)is distraught when her twelve year old daughter Regan (Linda Blair)begins exhibiting strange and frightening behaviour. Regan says vile and disturbing things, she does things and has no memory of doing them, and her bed (with her on it)keep violently shaking. Numerous tests and scans are carried out but no medical cause can be found. Regan deteriorates further and further and begins to transform physically into something monstrous. Things take an even more terrifying turn, when Regan claims she is the devil himself.

Chris (who isn’t religious)finds herself turning to the church for help. She meets with Jesuit Priest, Father Damien Karras (Jason Miller)and explains the situation and begs him to help her. Father Karras agrees as he can see how distressed she is. Karras visits Regan, talks with her and also studies her to see if she could be mentally ill. I like this section because in reality it is rare for an exorcism to actually be performed. Mental illness and things like brain tumors or emotional trauma have to be ruled out by doctors and priests before they’ll even contemplate performing an exorcism.

Once Karras becomes convinced nothing but possession could be causing her behaviour he asks for permission to perform an exorcism. Enter Father Merrin (Max Von Sydow) a much older priest who has performed many exorcisms around the world. His last encounter took a toll on him and weakened his heart considerably. Merrin prepares Karras for what they will be encountering and tries to warn him not to listen to the demons words or promises. This is easier said than done and Karras will struggle greatly as the two men battle for the soul of Regan.

When I first saw this, I was convinced Sydow was elderly. I hadn’t seen him in anything before this. I was astonished to learn that he was only in his thirties when he played Merrin! The convincing age makeup and his body language and weary look really make you believe he is old. Sydow has become one of my favourite actors and I love his performance in this film a great deal. He gives his character an aura of worldliness, and wisdom. He is distressed by what he sees, but he knows how to keep a lid on his reactions of disgust and distress. Merrin is experienced in these matters and knows how to not let himself become affected by what he hears and sees. He tries to keep an eye on Karras and help him not feel so alone during the exorcism.

Jason Miller is moving as the doubt riddled young priest. He is kind and approachable and tries to do his best, but despairs at the horror and violence he sees around him daily. I wish Miller had made more films because he is very good here.

Ellen Burstyn is excellent as the mother who can’t believe what is happening to her daughter. Burstyn lets you feel her fear and sadness. You pity her and admire her for staying with her daughter in spite of what is happening to her.

Linda Blair gives an impressive performance for one so young. She does such a good job of creating the creepy facial expressions, and terrifying outbursts of her character. Her possession dialogue (which features some vile language)and disturbing screams were dubbed by actress Mercedes McCambridge(Johnny Guitar and Giant.)

Lee J. Cobb provides solid support as Lt. Kinderman, a detective whose investigations into a suspicious death leads him to investigate Regan. He becomes convinced Regan is responsible for the case he is investigating.

My favourite scenes are the following. Chris meeting Karras in the park and begging him for help. Merrin and Karras staircase talk. The shadow of Regan walking past her bedroom window(when she is supposed to be tied to the bed). Merrin arriving at the house and speaking to Chris, I love how gentle and comforting he is with her.

The Exorcist remains a disturbing and scary film, decades after its original release. I prefer the theatrical version, but recommend the directors cut for the staircase scene between Merrin and Karras, and for the ending. There are two sequels to this. Exorcist II: The Heretic is truly one of the worst films ever made. It will have you screaming with laughter though. Exorcist III however is as disturbing and thought provoking as the original. George C. Scott portrays Lt. Kinderman this time around, and the film focuses on him investigating some brutal murders. It also focuses on Kinderman’s friendship with a priest featured in the original film.

What are your thoughts on this film? Please leave your comments below.

 

Noir

Taking A Walk Through The Dark Alley of Film Noir.

 

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If pressed to choose just one film genre as my favourite, I would certainly have to go with Film Noir. I love these films because they reflect the truth of humanity. We all have good and bad within us; we are all complicated in some way, and we all do what we have to do to survive and get by in life.

Following the horrors of WW2, 1940’s film audiences were bombarded with films that reflected the reality of the life they were living. Not since the 1930’s gangster flicks had films been so violent. The Noir villains were ice cold and nasty pieces of work, the women were independent, strong and even manipulative, and even the heroes were not clear cut good guys. The public lapped these films up and they continued being made throughout the 1940’s and 50’s.

It was the French film critics who came up with the name for these films; that word was Noir(meaning black or dark.) The word was their way to best describe these films being made in the States. The French themselves made many Noir films; films such as Jour Se Leve and Rififi.

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Noir films are also very interesting visually. The black and white photography captures long shadows and creates an atmosphere unlike anything seen before or since (with the exception of German expressionist films of the 20’s.) Darkness is all around in these films, clinging to all the characters like a suffocating fog.

Another memorable part to a Noir film is the femme fatale. As a woman I love that these films offered such juicy roles for women to play. The Noir era was really the first time since the 1920’s, and pre-code 30’s, that American actresses had been offered strong, and obvious bad girl roles. The femme fatales are overtly sexual, devious, independent and sexually aggressive women. These gals know what they want and they go after it. These women are not content to stay at home cooking in the kitchen and looking nice for their men. They use men and then toss them aside without a second thought. My favourites among these women are Kathie (Jane Greer)in Out Of The Past,  and Phyllis (Barbara Stanwyck)in Double Indemnity.

I think it must have fun for the actresses to be able to play these women in this way. When you look at the roles of Noir actresses film credits, you’ll often find that their Noir characters are the most memorable and interesting roles of their career. Mention Stanwyck, Bacall, Peggy Cummins or Lana Turner, and what is the first film of theirs that usually gets mentioned? 9 times out of 10 it is their Noir films – Double Indemnity, The Big Sleep, Gun Crazy and The Postman Always Rings Twice. These strong female roles remain as memorable and impressive today as they were upon release.

As well as the bad girls, Noir also features many memorable good girls too. These are also strong and independent gals, who will happily get mixed up in danger and who prove to the cynical men in their lives that not all women are femme fatales. My favourite of these characters is Kathleen (Lucille Ball)in Dark Corner (1946). Kathleen is the secretary to Bradford Galt (Mark Stevens)a tough Private Investigator who is being set up. Kathleen happily puts herself at risk to help him uncover the bad guys, and proves herself to be a woman worthy of his heart.

The men in these films (both good and bad)are usually cynical and world weary. They are tough and comfortable with dishing out and being around violence. Some are bad guys with no redeeming features; while others have tough exteriors in order to survive, but who underneath are total sweethearts. Sometimes a decent guy (like Walter Neff for example)gets caught up in a web weaved by a femme fatale, and becomes caught up in murder and crime and soon finds they have no way out and will end up dead or in jail.

Actors like Humphrey Bogart, Richard Widmark, Dick Powell and Robert Mitchum played some of the best remembered Noir male characters. These performances remain affective today. My favourites from the Noir guys are Philip Marlowe (Dick Powell)in Farewell My Lovely, Bradford Galt (Mark Stevens)in The Dark Corner, Walter Brown (Charles McGraw) in The Narrow Margin, Skip McCoy (Richard Widmark) in Pickup On South Street and Frank Chambers (John Garfield) in The Postman Always Rings Twice.

Even in the era of the censor, these films contain images and dialogue that make me sit up and go “did I really just see or hear that?” These films are very violent without being overly so, most of what we see is implied but still packs a punch for the viewer. The films contain dialogue or shared glances between characters that leave you in no doubt as to meaning, be that implied meaning sexual or violent.

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Noir slowly wound down towards the end of the 50’s. It enjoyed a revival in the 80’s with the release of the more sexually explicit Body Heat. In this film, Kathleen Turner is Mattie, the femme fatale leading William Hurt into her trap. Sex is her weapon and she is in complete control of her situation. I consider this to be the best Noir film made outside of the 40’s and 50’s.

Since then, films such as Basic Instinct, Femme Fatale and LA Confidential have gained Film Noir new generations of fans. Hopefully people who liked these flicks, characters, and the look of the films will go and check out Noir titles from the 40’s and 50’s.

My top 10 Noir films are: Pickup On South Street, Farewell My Lovely (Dick Powell version),Double Indemnity, Le Jour Se Leve, The Dark Corner, The Big Heat, The Narrow Margin, Body Heat, LA Confidential and T-Men.

My favourite decade for Noir? Without a doubt the 1940’s. When I hear the word Noir, I immediately think of smoke filled rooms, the light catching the shadows on the blinds, which in turn cast long dark shadows. This decade has so many films that I think are the best of the genre. For me just the word Noir, conjures up images of world weary detectives, cynical people trying to make it from one day to the next and of women whose greatest weapon is themselves.

Do you love Noir? Please share your thoughts below. What are your favourite Noir films? Who are your favourite Noir characters?

Chinese Cinema, Martial Arts, Romance

House Of Flying Daggers (2004)

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Chinese films are known for their sumptuous visuals, and this film is certainly no exception. This film truly is a work of art; from the stunning colour photography, to the beautiful costumes and locations used, to the gorgeous score by Shigeru Umebayashi (my favourite part of the score being the lovers theme.)

This is my favourite Chinese film. I’ve seen this one so many times, but even though I know what’s going to happen, the look of this film still leaves me open mouthed in awe. If you are after other visually impressive films like this, then I also highly recommend Curse of the Golden Flower (2006).

House of Flying Daggers is directed by Zhang Yimou, and it really touches my soul; it features two very moving love stories and an ending that will break you heart. I also like how it plays with the audience and keeps you believing one thing until a surprising truth is revealed that you didn’t expect.

The film is classed as a wuxia/romance. Wuxia is a Chinese genre that focuses on stories about characters who are skilled in the martial arts. This film features some spectacular, gravity defying martial arts fights. My personal favourite fight sequence in this is the one in the green bamboo forest.

The film is set in ninth century China. The House of Flying Daggers is a revolutionary group opposing the corrupt government. Two police officers; the highly experienced Leo (Andy Lau)and the younger, but equally capable Jin (Takeshi Kaneshiro) are tasked with finding the leader of the Daggers and killing them. The trouble is nobody but those in the group know the current leaders identity. Leo arrests a young blind dancer called Mei(Ziyi Zhang), as she is suspected to be the daughter of the groups previous leader.

Once she is in jail, Mei is rescued by Jin (posing as a revolutionary, in a deception arranged by Leo),his rescue of her makes certain that he gains her trust. The couple flee across open country and forests to try and reach the Daggers headquarters. Unbeknown to either of them, Leo and his men are following them. There are also other people following and watching the pair. As they spend more time together, an undeniable bond begins to grow between Mei and Jin. The pair slowly realise they are falling in love.

I can’t say anymore about the plot without spoiling the three major twists that are revealed to us later in the film. These make you reassess everything you have watched and are totally unexpected.

Ziyi Zhang is one of my favourite actresses, and I think her performance here is out of this world. Ziyi makes Mei extremely vulnerable, yet strong and capable. She has adapted to her blindness and learnt to use her hearing in a way that ensures she is aware of what is going on around her. Mei has gained fame for her echo dance(one of the best remembered and most beautiful scenes in the film)in which the accuracy and precision of her hearing is put to the test. Later in the ambush in the field, we see how Mei’s hearing and martial arts skills allows her to be a formidable fighter despite her disability.

Andy Lau is excellent as the observant and patient police captain. He is clever and resourceful and will get what he wants. Lau is always a solid actor, but he is extremely good here.

I wasn’t familiar with Takeshi Kaneshiro before I first saw this film, and I still need to see more of his work, but I’m very impressed with his performance here. The way he conveys to us his growing love and affection for Mei is done so well and seems so genuine. He makes Jin observant and capable of taking care of himself.

My favourite scenes are the following. The fight in the bamboo forest. The echo game sequence, which ends with a gravity defying sword sequence. The scene at the forest bath. The reunion between the two former lovers at the Daggers headquarters. Jin picking flowers on horseback for Mei.

This is an exciting and moving film. If you love martial arts this is one for you. The film is romantic and tragic too. There is something for everyone in this one.

Are you a fan of this film? Please leave your thoughts below. Never seen it? I highly recommend it.

 

 

 

 

Thriller

Unsung Classics 6: Capricorn One (1978)

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During the 1970’s there were a lot of thrillers made dealing with the publics mistrust of government, and also many films in which conspiracies played a key part in the plot. Capricorn One came along towards the end the decade, and in my opinion it is one of the best films in this genre.

Directed by Peter Hyams, this is a cracking film about cover ups, lies, murder and people risking their own lives to find and expose the truth. I think the entire cast are excellent. The film also features my favourite score by Jerry Goldsmith.

For those people out there with doubts about the 60’s and 70’s moon landings, this film certainly shows how such a hoax could have been achieved. Even if you don’t believe that, it has to be said this film will at least make you understand why some people think they were fake.

The world is waiting with baited breath for the launch of the first manned mission to Mars. The three Astronauts about to embark on this historic space flight are Charles Brubaker (James Brolin),John Walker (O.J. Simpson) and Peter Willis (Sam Waterston). As they are waiting for the launch countdown to begin, the capsule door is opened and a mysterious man leans in to tell them they have to get out. Once they have done so they learn that it’s just been discovered that there is a dangerous fault in the life support system. Flown to a remote base, the crew demand some answers. High ranking NASA official, Dr. James Kelloway (Hal Holbrook, who was so good at playing villains)comes and speaks to them.

The Astronauts are appalled when he tells them that the craft will still launch as the mission has to be seen to go ahead. Cancelling the mission would have given the government a perfect opportunity to end its funding of the space programme.

Kelloway threatens the lives of the Astronauts families to persuade the men to fake TV transmissions that will seem to be as if they were flying to Mars and landing on the planet. Using voice recordings of the crew (for regular scheduled flight check conversations with Mission Control) from the test simulations, Mission Control thinks the crew are aboard the spacecraft.

NASA Technician, Elliot Whitter(Robert Walden)suspects something is wrong when he notices strange technical readouts and he reports this to his superiors. Whitter also tells his friend Robert Caulfield(Elliott Gould)who is a news reporter. When Whitter disappears, Caulfield gets very worried and does some investigating of his own.

In a TV studio on the base, a fake Martian landscape is set up for the transmissions, the crew must step before the cameras trying to think of some way of communicating something is wrong. When the real craft is destroyed in space, the world obviously believes the astronauts are dead. This means the crew can’t be released because the hoax would then be exposed. Brubaker, Walker and Willis try and escape and run for their lives.

This is a real tense thriller. Goldsmith’s score fits so well with the film and really creates a sinister and tense atmosphere. He was a musical genius and came up with so many stunning scores, this is my personal favourite out of all his scores.

Telly Savalas is hysterical as a rude crop duster who helps Caulfield in his quest to uncover the truth. Brenda Vaccaro is very moving as Brubaker’s wife, Kay, the scene where she reads to her children while trying not to cry is very touching.

My favourite scenes are the following. The crew learning the truth from Kelloway. The entire sequence with the crop duster and Caulfield, from their hysterical first meeting to them following the mysterious black helicopters. The crew splitting up to try and give themselves more of a chance of getting rescued and surviving. Kay reading to her children and trying not to cry. Brubaker hiding in the deserted petrol station.

This is a film that hardly ever gets discussed nowadays and I think that is a real shame. This film is one of the most enjoyable from the 70’s, and its story is still very effective when viewed today.

This ranks up there with Three Days of the Condor and All The Presidents Men for me. If you’re a fan of this film please leave your comments below. Never seen it? I highly recommend it.

 

Thriller

Maddy’s Pick For The Weekend 8: North By Northwest (1959)

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Hi all.Hope you are all well, and have a great weekend lined up. I have next week off work. I’m so happy because we are enjoying a heatwave here in the UK. Ice cream and sun cream are lined up!

For many people, North By Northwest is Hitch’s best film. It isn’t hard to see why it is so highly thought of; it contains all the essential elements of his films – suspense, thrills, mistaken identity, an innocent accused, comedy and a cool blonde. In short, this film is the perfect package.

I love this film so much. This is a film in which something is always happening. In this film the characters (and therefore us watching)are always on the move. From the opening titles, designed by Saul Bass and accompanied by one of Bernard Herrmann’s best scores; the characters are on the move and don’t really stop until the final scene.

Roger Thornhill  (Cary Grant)is a Madison Avenue advertising man, who likes to think he is complete control of his life. His ordered life is turned on it’s head when he is mistaken for a C.I.A agent, called George Kaplan.

Suave spy, Phillip Vandamm (a sinister James Mason) has been aware of Kaplan following him and his group for some time and wants him dead. Thornhill can’t persuade him that this is a genuine case of mistaken identity. So begins a non stop chase across the country. Thornhill tries to evade the authorities, after Vandamm frames him for murder. Thornhill also tries to get someone to believe him that Vandamm is trying to kill him.

Enter resourceful, mysterious and cool blonde, Eve Kendall (Eva Marie Saint)who helps Thornhill when he gets into difficulty aboard a train. But can Thornhill trust her or not?

A C.I.A official, known as the professor (Leo G. Carroll) finds out about Thornhill’s situation and tries to help him. The professor is also on the Vandamm case and he also has an agent working right under Vandamm’s nose.

I love how many things in this film defy logic, yet somehow you never realise that when you are watching. I’m thinking mainly of the scene where Thornhill is forcibly made drunk. If Vandamm wants him dead, why not just shoot him?

The same goes for the famous crop duster sequence, why not just get him out to that road and shoot him? Yet the illogic of it all somehow works when you watch. This is a testament to Hitch, that he can make you so invested in the story that certain things don’t strike you as odd until much later. I actually think the scene where Thornhill watches that glass of booze get poured out is quite chilling, he is going to be forced to drink such large amounts and can’t fight back against this.

Great performances throughout, an exciting Herrmann score, and featuring two of the most famous of all Hitchcock sequences – the crop duster chase and the finale up on Mount Rushmore. These two scenes have gone on to become two of the most famous in cinema history. The film also has two big twists concerning the identity of two characters and that keeps you trying to figure out who to trust, or who to take at face value.

The film is also very funny in places. Grant reels off many comic lines and does the funniest and one of the best drunk impressions I’ve ever seen. Jessie Royce Landis is a hoot as Thornhill’s mother. Mrs. Thornhill doesn’t believe her sons story and has quite a few laughs at his expense. Some supportive mother he has! 🙂

Mason is chilling and menacing throughout. He plays a character who won’t get his own hands dirty, but who has no qualms about ordering someone to be killed. You know he is a nasty piece of work.

Martin Landau provides solid support as Vandamm’s loyal henchman. He lurks in the background of many scenes and you can see him desperate to start hurting Thornhill and other characters. Landau plays this guy as a real sadist.

My favourite scenes are the following. Thornhill and Vandamm’s first meeting, I love where they circle around each other sizing each other up. The Mount Rushmore finale. The entire section aboard the train. Roger and Eve’s dinner talk. The auction. The drunk scene at the police station. Thornhill trying to rescue Eve. Eve and Roger’s goodbye at the train station. The crop duster attack. The scene in the Mount Rushmore restaurant.

I can happily watch pretty much all of Hitch’s films again and again, but this one in particular is one that I can enjoy over and over again. It is such a good film and so seamlessly put together. It looks amazing, from the photography, to the elegant clothes and Technicolor. Be sure to see this one on Blu-ray, to see it looking at its best.

Are you a fan of this film? Please share your comments below. Never seen it? What are you waiting for?