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Destry Rides Again (1932)
This version of " Destry Rides Again" is not to be confused with the 1939 James Stewart/Marlene Dietrich version of the same name or the 1954 Audie Murphy "Destry". This one marked Tom Mix return to the screen after a three year absence and was his first sound feature. In this feature Tom Mix plays the father of the James Stewart and Audie Murphy characters and packs his two guns.
Tom hadn't lost any of his showmanship and could still do the "hard ridin" sequences with the best of them and handle the fight scenes with his usual aplomb.
Tom Destry is in a partnership with Brent (Earle Foxe) in a stage line. He foils a holdup unknowingly perpetrated by his partner. Brent feels that Destry will spoil his plans and plans to implicate him in an attempted murder. In a scuffle with one of Brent's men, the man is shot and when the men are shown as being unarmed, Destry is charged with attempted murder.He is convicted and sentenced to prison swearing that he will come back on the four so called witnesses when he is released. Destry's girl Sally Dangerfield (Claudia Dell) stands by him and believes in his innocence.
As luck would have it, Destry is granted a pardon and returns feigning a raspy cough and a peace loving attitude. This is of course, a ruse to draw out the four witnesses out of hiding. Destry draws the four into the saloon and turns on them fighting with all in attempt to learn who framed him. Meanwhile Brent, who also has eyes for Sally conspires with Sheriff Wendell (Stanley Fields) to stop Destry.
When Destry corners the sheriff at the Dangerfield ranch, the sheriff is shot from ambush just as he is about to reveal the name of the man who framed him. Later, Tom tracks down the four "witnesses". One is killed in a gunfight with Tom. Another is forced to reveal that Brent was the villain. Tom goes to town and confronts Brent and...........................................................
Even though Mix was getting along in years, he proved that he could still handle the action scenes. This was the first os a series of films released during the 1932-33 season after which he retired except for a 1935 serial.
Tony "The Wonder Horse" was along for the ride performing a few ticks for the children in the opening sequence. And unheard of for a "B" western hero, Mix gets to kiss the girl a couple of times too.
Sword of Sherwood Forest (1960)
Get Thee To A Nunnery!
Richard Greene dons the green tights for the last time as Robin Hood in "The Sword of Sherwood Forest". He had played the character on TV from 1955-60. He was the only member of the "merry men" to make the transition to the big screen.
This film having been made by the horror factory Hammer Studios and directed by horror director Terence Fisher, I expected more especially since the great Peter Cushing was cast as the Sheriff of Nottingham. And we have a winsome young blonde as Maid Marian (Sara Branch) to boot.
The story is hard to follow. The Lord of Bartrey has been slain at the Crusades and the Sheriff has designs on his estate. In the meantime Robin has set his sights on Maid Marian even after he believed that she had led him into a trap with the Sheriff. One of Robin's men is murdered by the Sheriff and Maid Marian takes up his cause on behalf of the man's family.
During the court proceedings involving the disposition of Lord Bartey's estate, the Archbishop of Canterbury/ Chancellor Hugh Walter (Jack Gwillin) intercedes and blocks the Sheriff's attempt to gain the property for himself. Edward, Earl of Newark (Richard Pasco) recruits Robin at Friar Tuck's (Niall MacGinnis) home to join him in a plot to kill Walter. Edward's brutal henchman Lord Melton (Oliver Reed) takes an immediate dislike to Robin.
When the Archbishop's group is attacked, all are killed except for the Archbishop and Maid Marian. They flee to a Nun's priory where the Reverend Mother, the Prioress (Vanda Godsell) just happens to be Edward's sister. Soon Edward, the Sheriff and their followers descend on the Priory and Robin, the Archbishop and Little John (Nigel Green) engage in battle with the villain and....................................................................
For some reason, Oliver Reed's voice was clearly dubbed. We are told that King Richard is away at the crusades so the story takes place during his absence. It is curious that Prince John is never mentioned even though he was a key character both on Greene's TV series and in other Robin Hood films. No Will Scarlett either and Allan -a -Dale (Dennis Lotis) only appears briefly.
With a little more budget, this film could have been much better.
Rogues of Sherwood Forest (1950)
All Day, All Night Marianne!
"Rogues of Sherwood Forest" is yet another version of the Son of Robin Hood myth. In spite of it's low budget and "B' western like scenario, I rather liked it. John Derek makes a dashing Robin Jr., Diana Lynn a fetching Lady Marianne, the venerable Alan Hale (in his final film) as Little John and Columbia's chief villain George Macready as King John raise this little tale above some of the other similar themed films of the time.
It's 1215 and the Earl of Huntington (aka Robin) and Little John are returning home from the crusades when King John goads Robin into a jousting match with Flemish knight Sir Baldric (John Dehner). The match of course, is rigged against Robin, however, he turns the tables and slays his opponent for the favor of Lady Marianne, the King's ward. Later Robin believes that Marianne was in on the plot to kill him with King John and his cohort Sir Giles (Paul Cavanagh).
King John meanwhile is trying to raise an army of mercenaries through the Count of Flanders (Lowell Gilmore) but is unable to come up with his asking price. In order to raise the necessary funds, King John levies taxes upon his subjects much to the chagrin of the people and Robin. The Archbishop of Canterbury (Donald Randolph) pleads the case for the oppressed.
Robin decides to round up the "usual suspects" in the form of his father's formers associates. Friar Tuck (Billy House) is found in a monastery, Alan -a- Dale (Lester Mathews) is crooning to a winsome young wench and Will Scarlett (Billy Bevan) is found shackled to a pillary. He adds to his "merry men" by recruiting several of the disgruntled over taxed men.
Robin and his men disrupt the tax collectors but feels that he needs someone on the inside to advise him of King John's upcoming plans. Lady Marianne, now back in Robin's good graces volunteers With the aid od pigeons, she sends out messages to Robin informing him of King John's next moves. The wily Sir Giles discovers the pigeons and thwarts any further messages.
King John deciders to invite the three most influential Barons to his castle for a banquet in their honor. Of course the king has other plans. He plans to murder them and place the blame upon Robin. However one of the Barons, Fitzwalter (Wilton Graff) survives and joins with Robin and the Merry Men in a plan to stop the evil King John. While Fitzwalter is massing the other Barons, Robin attacks King John and his entourage while they are en route to a forced wedding between Lady Marianne and the Count of Flanders. The Count has taken Lady Marianne as payment for his mercenaries who are on the way.
A terrific battle ensues and the King is captured just as Fitzwalter arrives in the nick of time with re-enforcements. The mercenaries are turned back and the King is forced into signing the legendary Magna Carta guaranteeing all the freedom they saught.
It's a well known fact that Alan Hale had portrayed the character of Little John twice before. The first time was in 1922 in Douglas Fairbanks' "Robin Hood" and the second in 1938's "The Adventures of Robin Hood" with Errol Flynn. This was his third go and his farewell performance.
We are never told what happened to Robin Hood Sr. and Lady Marian. Presumably, they are deceased. We are informed however, that King Richard has died and that his evil brother Prince John has ascended the throne.
The Black Arrow (1948)
Joust In Time!
Robert Louis Stevenson's "The Black Arrow" is NOT another Robin Hood tale even though there are similarities. It takes place a later period following the War of the Roses (in black and white no less).
Louis Hayward swashes his buckle as the dashing Sir Richard Shelton who returns from the wars to find that his father has been murdered and his uncle Sir Daniel Brackley (George Macready) has taken over his father's estate. Brackley explains that the murderer Sir John Sedley (Paul Cavanaugh) has been tried and executed. We learn later in a flashback that Sir John had been rescued by his cohort Lawless (Edgar Buchanan) from the bow man's arrow and is living in the nearby forest with a group of oppressed citizens.
The KIng appoints Sir Daniel as the guardian of his ward Lady Joanna Sedley (Janet Blair) who at first doesn't see eye to eye with Sir Richard. Sir Richard learns that there were four witnesses to his father's murder: Sir Daniel, Sir Oliver Oates (Walter Kingsford), Hatch Rhys Williams and Appleyard (Ray Teal) both of whom were Sir Richard's teachers in his youth. Gradually, Sir Richard begins to doubt Sir Daniel's story and suspects him of the murder.
Sir Richard and Lady Joanna both suspect Sir Daniel as the real murderer and Sir Daniel becomes nervous and attempts to jail Sir Richard. With Joanna's help, Sir Richard escapes the castle but is wounded in his flight. Joanna remains but is distraught to learn that Sir Daniel plans to marry her with the Duke of Gloucester (Lowell Gilmore) the future King in attendance.
The wounded Sir Richard is taken by Lawless to the outlaw camp where his discovers Sir John very much alive, Lawless explains that he has been utilizing black arrows as a means of avenging Sir John on the four witnesses. Appleyard is killed while escorting Joanna to Sir Daniel, Hatch is slain by Sir Richard in a fight and Sir Oliver is killed by accident at the wedding ceremony of Joanna and Sir Daniel all with black arrows.
Sir Daniel catches Sir Richard trying to rescue Joanna before the wedding and jails him. In the presence of the Duke of Gloucester, Sir Richard challenges Sir Daniel to a "Trial By Combat" which is his right as a knight of the Crown. In a bloody combat featuring a joust, a sword fight and an attack by mace, Sir Richard finds his match in his evil Uncle until............................................................
Louis Hayward makes a believable hero and George Macready is as always a slimy hiss-able villain. Lowell Gilmore's Duke of Gloucester is anything but the evil Richard III that he would later become. Janet Blair seems out of place as the heroine. Edgar Buchanan, stepping away from westerns, makes a good sharp shooting bowman with a little comedy relief on the side. Seeing veteran character actors Ray Teal and Rhys Williams in tights was hilarious. And watch for silent comic Billy Bevan as the dungeon jailer.
The Prince of Thieves (1948)
Robin Hood The Cheap!
"The Prince of Thieves" was made by Columbia's "B" unit by Sam (low budget) Katzman and Directed by Howard Bretherton. Jon Hall gets to don the green tights in this one as Robin Hood. It has the look of a "B" western having been filmed on Ray Corrigan's Corriganville Ranch.
The plot has brother and sister Sir Allan (Michael Duane) and Lady Marian Claire (Patricia Morison) riding to Sir Alan's wedding with Lady Christabel (Adele Jergens). A bowman (I. Stanford Jolley) is sent to assassinate Sir Allan. Lady Christabel, it seems is now to marry Prince John's nephew Baron Tristram (Gavin Muir) instead. Together with Sir Fitz-Alwin (Lewis L. Russell) and Sir Philip (Lowell Gilmore), they are the tyrants of the piece.
Robin rescues the Claires, sets them up in the cottage of Gilbert (H.B. Warner) and Margaret Head (Belle Mitchell). Robin rounds up his "B" movie merry men, Little John (Walter Sande), Will Scarlett (Syd Saylor), a friar (Alan Mowbray) and set off to rescue Lady Christabel from the evil clutches of the Baron. The manage to rescue the maiden and bring her to Sherwood.
Lady Marian is captured by the villains while swimming and is taken by Sir Philip as his bride to be. While trying to save Lady Marian, Robin is captured and is about to be hanged when Little John and Will Scarlett cause a ruckus and the three of them are forced to fight off (in true "B" movie fashion), the inept soldiers of the castle. During the battle, if you can believe it, the Baron steals away to marry Lady Christabel in a village ceremony. Robin and the merry men, having vanquished the villains, head off to the wedding and..............................................
Prince John, although he is prominently mentioned never appears. Neither does the Sheriff of Nottingham or Allan-a-Dale and Friar Tuck is not named even though there is a friar in the picture. But hey, Katzman was given a rare opportunity to film in color. The three weddings at the end are little over the top even for Katzman.
Hail, Hail The Gang's All Here!
"The Bandit of Sherwood Forest" is a sequel of sorts to the highly successful "The Adventures of Robin Hood" (1938) which starred an athletic Errol Flynn. We fast forward a generation where Robin, now the Earl of Huntington (Russell Hicks) has found new tyrants to replace the Prince John of old.
William of Pembroke (Henry Daniell) has somehow become appointed as the Regent of England ruling on behalf of the young King (Maurice Tauzin). At his side are the villainous Fitz-Herbert (George Macready), Lord Mortimer (Ian Wolfe) and the spineless Sheriff of Nottingham (Lloyd Corrigan). Robin assembles his merry men now middle aged warriors: Friar Tuck (Edgar Buchanan), Little John (Ray Teal), Will Scarlett (John Abbott) and Alan- a - Dale (Leslie Denison), (no Maid Marian here) to rid the country once again of the tyrants.
The Earl send for his son Robert of Nottingham (Cornel Wilde) to lead the revolt. He too becomes known as Robin Hood. The Queen Mother (Jill Esmond) and her lady in Waiting Lady Catherine Maitland (Anita Louise) watch over the young King. When the Regent imprisons the King, his mother and Lady Catherine escape to Sherwood Forest in search of Robin Hood.
Robin Jr. meets the two in the forest and becomes enamored with Lady Catherine. He takes them to the safety of Mother Meg's (Eva Moore) cottage while he goes in search of his father. He finds the camp and after a sword fight with the portly friar is identified as the son of Robin Hood.
The men of Sherwood begin to plan their rescue of the King. Allan - a -Dale is sent to gain entrance to the Regent's castle and learn of the Regent's plans. He overhears the Regent's plan to murder the King and assume the throne himself. He reports back to the group. Robin Jr. formulates a plan whereby Lady Catherine will pose as a nun in distress along with her disguised entourage in order to gain entrance to the castle.
While Robin Jr. and Lady Catherine execute their plan and rescue the King, they are captured by the Regent and jailed. Robin Jr. challenges the Regent to a "Death by Combat" duel, a right to which he as a noble is entitled. Meanwhile Robin Sr. and his men wait outside the gates for a signal to attack. The duel commences and..............................................................
This isn't a bad movie. Mind you it doesn't have Errol Flynn but the cast nevertheless up to the task. Henry Daniell and George Macready, two of the most formidable villains of the 40s, are dandy bad guys here. Cornel Wilde, al in his early 30s at the time, makes you believe he is the robust younger Robin of the story.
There's a couple of questions left unanswered. First, What was the King's name? It is never mentioned. Second, How did the Regent get appointed and by whom? And lastly, What DID become of Lady Marian, presumably the mother of Robin Jr.?
Among the unbilled players that I spotted in minor roles were: Lane Chandler, Dick Curtis, Ross Hunter, Francis McDonald, Gene Roth and Philn Van Zandt.
Worth a look.
Support Your Local Sheriff! (1969)
My Three Sons!
"Support Your Local Sheriff" is a tongue in cheek parody of all of those westerns of the 50s and 60s where a sheriff is hired to clean up the town.
The story begins in a grubby little mining camp where the townsfolk are burying an unknown stranger who has died from unknown causes. The mayor's daughter Prudy Perkins (Joan Hackett) spot the glimmer of gold from within the grave....and the rush is on. The town grows into a lawless gold town that is controlled by the Danby family headed by Pa Danby (Walter Brennan) along with his three sons: Joe (Bruce Dern), Tom (Gene Evans) and Luke (Dick Peabody).
Strolling into town one day is Jason McCullough (James Garner) who is "on his way to Australia". Looking for a job to finance his gold mining quest, he is hired on as sheriff by Mayor Olly Perkins (Harry Morgan) and the town fathers: Henry Jackson (Henry Jones), Thomas Devery (Willis Bouchey) and Fred Johnson (Walter Burke).
McCullough's first job is to arrest Joe Danby for murder Unfortunately, the jail has no bars and McCullough devises an ingenious way of keeping Joe in his cell. Pa Danby and his other two sons come to town intent on freeing Joe. In one of the film's trademark scenes, McCullough sticks his finger into the barrel of Pa Danby's gun thus preventing his being shot.
Meanwhile, McCullough has become interested in Prudy, the Mayor's fiery daughter who always is winding up in embarrassing situations. McCollough hires Jake (Jack Elam) as his deputy. Jake had been working in the stables but came to the sheriff's aid in the arrest of Joe.
Pa Danby, becoming increasingly frustrated by McCollough's tactics hires a series of gunfighters to take out the sheriff but is foiled at every turn. Finally, Pa assembles the entire Danby clan and rides to rid himself of McCollough but..................................................................................................
James Garner was always good at light comedy and his character of McCollough kind of reminded me of the character he played on his early TV show "Maverick", The movie as directed by Burt Kennedy, was graced by several recognizable character actors. Walter Brennan spoofs the character he played in "My Darling Clementine" and Joan Hackett makes a likable spunky love interest for Garner. Jack Elam as Jake almost steals the movie as Jake the deputy. Elam was mostly known up to that time a slimy western villain .
There's also an amusing little bit by veteran character actress Kathleen Freeman and although he is given billing, veteran western performer Chubby Johnson's scenes were cut out. Sharp eyed western fans can spot him briefly at the opening funeral scene with the "Gabby Hayes like" beard.
Followed by a sequel of sorts, "Support Your Local Gunfighter" two years later.
5 Card Stud (1968)
Let's Make a Deal!
Produced by Hal B. Wallis and Directed by Henry Hathaway, "Five Card Stud" as you might have guessed has five card stud poker as it's centerpiece.
Set in 1880 in the town of Rincon Colorado in Mama Malone's (Ruth Springford) saloon in the after hours, we meet a group of seven men playing poker. They are Van Morgan (Dean Martin), Nick Evers (Roddy McDowall), Joe Hurley (Bill Fletcher, Fred Carson (Boyd "Red" Morgan), Stoney Burough George Robotham), Ravan (Don Collier) and a stranger whom we later learn is Frankie Rudd (Jerry Gatlin).
After Morgan goes to "powder his nose", the stranger is caught cheating by Nick. Nick organizes a lynch party and carries the hapless stranger off to his death. Morgan, emerging from his "business", rushes to try and stop the mob but is pistol whipped from behind. Morgan is unceremoniously carried back to town and dumped in the street. Bartender George (Yaphet Kotto) comes to his aid.
Morgan decides to leave town and goes to Denver. When the card players begin to turn up murdered, George goes to Morgan to warn him that he may well be on the killer's list. When he returns to Rincon, he finds that the Reverand Rudd (Robert Mitchum), a fiery preacher and a female "barber" Lily Langford (Inger Stevens) have set up shop in town. Morgan strikes up a "friendship" with Lily even though rancher's daughter Nora Evers (Katherine Justice) has eyes for him.
One by one the card players turn up dead. Rancher Sig Evers (Denver Pyle) puts up a reward for the capture of the killer. Marshal Malone (John Anderson) is unable to find the killer. Nick Evers it turns out is hiding some valuable information. He is feeding the names of the card players to the killer one at a time. Nick implicates George in the hanging resulting ion his death. Finally only Morgan and Nick remain. Nick confronts the killer, who turns out to be the card playing stranger's brother out to avenge his brother's death. And then.............................................................................................................
Robert Mitchum as the fire breathing preacher, plays a role similar to the one he played in "Night of the Hunter" (1955). Martin looks a little too old for Ms. Justice and does nothing out of the ordinary. McDowall, in a rare unsympathetic role steals the picture. Inger Stevens looks tired and uninterested as the madam.
White Nights (1985)
Two to Tango!
"White Nights" stars two of the most famous dancers of their day...Ballet dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov and tap dancer Gregory Hines. They certainly could dance.
The film opens with Nikolai "Kolya" Rodchenko (Baryshnikov) performing the ballet "Le Jeune Homme et La Mort" with ballerina Florence Faure. While flying to Tokyo for his next engagement, his plane develops electrical trouble and is forced to land at a USSR secret military base in Siberia. Kolya you see, had defected from the USSR eight years earlier.
KGB Colonel Chaiko (Jerzy Skolimowski) is assigned to "repatriate" Kolya and force him to dance once again at the Kirov Academy of Ballet in Lenin Grad. Kolya, who was severely injured in the plane crash, is sent to live with ex-American Raymond Greenwood (Hines) and his Russian wife Darya (Isabella Rossellini) in their modest apartment to recover from his injuries. Greenwood, had earlier defected from the USA for reason not fully explained. Greenwood had been performing a variation of "Porgy and Bess" for the Siberian crowd.
Col. Chaiko moves Kolya and the Greenwoods to Leningrad, set them up in Kolya's old luxurious apartment and has Raymond "keep an eye" on Kolya. Kolya is re=united with his old dance partner Galena Ivanova (Hellen Mirren) who is "urged" by Chaiko to have him cooperate. Kolya is reluctant to cooperate and plans to escape. Kolya and Raymond begin to have a mutual respect for each other. They even perform a show stopping dance together. Kolya feigns preparations for the ballet and arranges with the American Embassy through Wynn Scott (John Glover) to aide in his escape.
Kolva and Darya manage to shinny down a homemade rope with Raymond set to follow them. Kolya and Darya manage to shinny down a homemade rope with Raymond to follow. But just at that moment Chaiko arrives and...................................................
The story is a passable thriller but it is the dancing of the two stars that highlights the film. Boy were they good. Geraldine Page plays Kolya's manager who tries to get him released with the help of the American Ambassador (Shane Rimmer). And Isabella Rossallini, does she ever look like her mother the legendary Ingrid Bergman.
If I have a criticism of this movie, it's the unlikely "happily ever after" Hollywood ending. By the way, the "White Nights" of the title refers to the Siberian summers where there is 24 hrs of daylight.
Tales of Hoffman!
Some would say that Dustin Hoffman's characters in "Tootsie" closely resembles his real life persona. Hoffman has always been difficult to work with and seemingly is never satisfied with a script as written. He is ever "suggesting" changes.
In this story actor Michael Dorsey (Hoffman) is a struggling actor who is constantly being rejected at auditions mainly due to his attitude. His beleaguered agent George Fields (Sydney Pollock) tells him that no one in town will hire him because of his "attitude".
Dorsey wants to raise $8,000 to produce a play by his roommate Jeff (an unbilled Bill Murray) and have his girlfriend Sandy (Terri Garr). Unable to find work, the frumpy middle aged Dorsey hatches the idea of cross dressing as a woman in order to gain employment. As Dorothy Michaels, he land a job on a network soap opera as a Hospital Administrator.
Dorothy is paired up in a dressing room with the voluptuous April (Geena Davis in her first role). Michael as Dorothy has an eye for fellow cast member Julie (Jessica Lange) but is unable to express his true feelings. She meanwhile is involved with the show's director Ron (Dabney Coleman). An over the hill actor, John Van Horn (George Gaynes) has the hots for Dorothy. To further complicate matters, Julie introduces Dorothy to her widowed father Les (Charles Durning) who becomes attracted to Dorothy to the point of proposing to her.
After raising the necessary $8,000, Michael wants to shed his alter ego but is unable to find a way until..........................................................
Director Sydney Pollock didn't want to play Dorsey's agent but was more or less forced to do so in order to get the film made. The clashes between him and Hoffman mirrored their real life relationship such that Pollock never directed Hoffman in a film again. Bill Murray, whose dialogue was largely improvised, chose not to receive billing over the credits in order not to detract from Hoffman's performance.
Geena Davis in bra and panties made an immediate impression and was off to a roaring start to her career. Chistina Ebersole also in her first film, aapears as a character named Linda. Say what you will about Dustin Hoffman, the diminutive actor could put it all together when he got the right part.
Starlight, Starbright First Starman I See Tonight!
"Starman" is a pleasant little story of an alien who crash lands near Madison Wisconsin on his way to a rendez-vous with his mother ship somewhere in Arizona.
The alien arrives at the home of widow Jenny Hayden (Karen Allen) who has recently lost her husband Jeff (Jeff Bridges). She is teary eyed watching old home movies of their time together. The alien, who appears as a bright light, studies the situation and decides to take the form of Jeff right before Jenny's eyes. She is understandably frightened.
The alien, known as Starman kidnaps Jenny and forces her to drive him to Arizona. Driving in Jenny's Ford Mustang, they soon run out of gas and have to go to a service center where Jenny treis to explain to Starman the reason for the stop. Meanwhile, back in Washington, the Director of Hiomeland Security George Fox (Richard Jaekel) takes a keen interest in the alien. He assigns Mark Shermin (Charlie Martin Smith) to track the movements of the alien and his hostage.
They wind up totaling Jenny's car in a massive explosion of an oil truck. Starman is seen carrying Jenny through the inferno to safety. In another event, Starman points Jenny's gun at a police cruiser and Jenny is shot. Starman takes her to a pre-fab house where he cured her of her wounds.
Leaving Jenny behind, Starman hitches a ride towards his ultimate destination. Jenny follows him and the two are re-united and continue their journey aboard a freight train. Jenny is now looking upon the visitor in a more favorable light. She laments about being unable to have children. Starman who apparently cloned all of Jeff's powers, rises to the occasion and the two fall in love. Styarman informs Jenny that has impregnated her with a son that will possess all of his father's knowledge.
As the army close in Shermin pleads with Fox to allow the alien to escape to his rendez-vous. Fox on the other hand wants to capture the alien and "study" him. The likeable Sherman takes it upon hiself to help them escape. Finally they reach their destination at the bottom of a giant crater with the army in hot pursuit. Then a giant space ship approaches and.............................................
Bridges received an Academy Award nomination for his performance. Karen Allen makes a wide eyed companion for him while teaching him the ways of the earth. Charlie Martin Smith is likeable as always as the sympathetic Army officer.
The IMDb trivia notes state that Columbia had the rights to both "Starman" and "E.T. The Extraterrestrial" but chose to make "Starman" with the rights to "E.T" going over to Universal Bad mistake. Still and all, "Starman" is a pleasant two hours with plenty of spectacular crashes, explosions and car chases.
The Natural (1984)
For It's One, Two, Three Strikes You're Out!
'The Natural" is one of the better baseball movies chronicling the life and times of base baller Roy Hobbs (Robert Redford).
It starts out with Young Roy (Paul Sullivan Jr.), a promising pitcher, playing catch with his dad Ed (Alan Fudge) and picking up useful pointers about pitching from the old man. Unfortunately, Ed dies leaving Roy to his own devices. The adult Roy (Redford) is involved with local girl Iris Gaines (Glenn Close) and the two plan to eventually marry. We next meet Roy on his way to a tryout in Chicago with the Cubs leaving Iris behind. On the train he meets up with reporter Max Mercy (Robert Duvall) whom he will encounter later, and "The Slammer" (Jo Don Baker) a thinly disguised Babe Ruth.
Also on board is the mysterious Harriet Bird (Barbara Hershey) a gold digging femme fatale who attaches herself to "The Slammer". A bet is placed that Roy van strike out "The Slammer" on three pitches. Roy accomplishes the feat and Harriet switches "allegiance" to Roy. Roy gets involved with her but for some unexplained reason, she shoots Roy in his pitching arm and then jumps out the hotel room window to her death.
Fast forward 16 years to 1939 where Roy show up unexpectedly in the New York Knights, a bottom dwelling baseball team, as a 35 year old rookie. Manager Pop Fisher (Wiford Brimley) is skeptical but coach Red Blow (Richard Farnsworth) sees something in Roy. After being benched for several games, Pop is forced to insert Roy into the lineup when regular fielder Bump Bailey (Michael Madson) tragically dies in an accident. Well, Roy promptly shows his talent for the long ball and becomes famous.
One day at a game Roy spies Iris, dressed in white in the stands and something comes over him. He regains his stroke and fame. On meeting with her the old flame re-kindles. But Iris has a secret that she has kept from Roy all theses years...a son.
As the Knights move toward Pop's long awaited dream of winning a pennant, Roy has a sudden attack brought on by the still lodged bullet from Harriet Bird's gun. He is told that he can never play baseball again. As the league championship game approaches, Roy announces that he will suit up one last time and..............................................................................
A great supporting cast elevates this movie to classic status. Redford, even though he was in his late 40s at the time, gives a convincing performance as the "old rookie". He gets to romance three of the most glamorous stars of the day, Close, Hershey and Basinger. Brimley as the crusty old manager and Farsworth as the veteran coach almost steal the movie. Prosky and an unbilled McGavin are suitably slimy as the villains of the piece.
And by the way, did the Knights eventually win the World Series?
Roy runs into Mercy who is unable to place Roy in his memory. Kinight's owner, The Judge (Robert Prosky) and gambler Gus Sands (Darren McGavin) are betting against the team and cleaning up. In order to keep "an eye on" Roy they arrange for gorgeous blond Memo Paris (Kim Basinger) to become "involved" with Roy. This leads to Roy losing his focus on baseball and sees his popularity plummet in the process.
The Blue Lagoon (1980)
In the Middle of an Island........!
"The Blue Lagoon" is a bit of a unlikely adventure of two young people stranded on an island paradise.
In the late 19th century, Arthur Lestrange (William Daniels), his son Richard (Glenn Kohan) and niece Emmeline (Elva Josephson) are travelling by ship to San Francisco (from God knows where). The engine on the ship catches fire and all must abandon ship. In the confusion, the children are separated from Arthur and wind up in a life boat with ship's cook Paddy Button (Leo McKern) .
The lifeboat drifts out to sea until it comes to an unchartered group of tropical islands. Paddy and the children set up shop on one of the islands where Paddy teaches them hoe to survive in the wilderness. Unfortunately, Paddy gets drunk one night on a keg of rum they found on the island and drowns trying to get to a nearby island. The children are left all alone.
Several years pass and the children grow up to become Brooke Shields (Emmeline) and Christopher Atkins (Richard). They have survived using the skills learned from Paddy and have built themselves an elaborate hut learned to feed themselves while having time to frolic on the beach and explore the underwater areas near their home.
But as the years pass the two now teenagers begin to feel their oats and become sexually attracted to each other. A baby boy results and the new parents are forced to learn how to raise a baby. A couple of years later, a ship appears. Unbeknownst to Emmeline and Richard. Arthur is aboard not having given up his search for them. Having established a life for themselves, they decide to ignore the ship which them sails away not realizing that they have found what they were searching for.
One sleepy afternoon Emmeline and the baby drift out to sea in their row boat. The baby tosses one of the oars overboard. Emmeline calls out to Richard who come to the rescue but is unable to retrieve the lost oar and loses the other one fending off a shark. The small boat then drifts aimlessly out to sea and............................................................................
I eliminated any reference to the cannibals and their human sacrifice ritual because it really doesn't fit the story. How could the cannibals not posed a danger to the youngsters. Surely they would have detected them at some point over the years.
There's plenty of colorful photography to enjoy as well as exotic birds, lizards and sea creatures. However there are no fearsome creatures that would normally be on such a location such as venomous snakes, bears and the like. But there's plenty of youthful nudity with a body double standing in for the 14 year old Shields.
For what it's worth, "The Blue Lagoon" is an enjoyable if not unbelievable yarn.
A Deeply Moving Film!
"Gandhi" is the story of Indian legend Mohatma Gandhi (Ben Kingsley) and his non-violent crusades for the rights of Indians in South Africa and his fight to gain independence for India from English colonial rule. It covers the period in Gandhi's life from 1893 to 1948.
The 190 minute film is divided into two parts. Part I deals mostly with Gandhi's time as a lawyer in South Africa. It starts with his being literally thrown off of a train for doing the unspeakable thing of travelling in a first class compartment. He immediately takes up the cause fighting for equal rights for Indians which he achieves over the ensuing twenty years.
Becoming somewhat of a legend back home, he is asked to take up the cause of obtaining India's independence from England. This fight takes up Part two of the film. He meets firm opposition from the British to the point that he winds up being thrown into prison many times. He goes on lengthy fasts to bring home his point of non-violence. Unfortunately, some violent happenings occur. The Amritsar massacre of 1919 results in several hundred Indian protestors being slaughtered. Another event occurs when police brutality results in a revolt against authority.
Violence among the Hindus and Muslims follows and seems unending until Gandhi mounts a long fast to the point of near death. Finally, he achieves his goal and sections of land are ceded to the Muslims in what now is known as Pakistan. India is granted it's independence from England in 1947 and becomes a full member of the British Commonwealth of Nations. Unfortunately, dissidents assassinate the elder statesman on January 30, 1948.
Director Richard Attenborough gives us a grand scale of the life of this great man. He populates his cast with several veteran and new performers. Ben Kingsley, who was largely unknown internationally, gives a mesmerizing performance as Gandhi. He was so convincing in the role that several native Indians saw him as a second coming. Rohini Hattangadi as Ghandhi's wife is equally outstanding.
Also in in the cast in roles of varying sizes are: Candice Bergen as Life reporter Margaret Bourke-White, Edward Fox as General Dyer the perpetrator of the Amritsar Massacre, John Geilgud, John Mills, Trevor Howard, Ian Bannen, Michael Hordern and Nigel Hawthorne as various authoritive figures, Ian Charleson as Charlie Andrews Ghandi's cleric co-patriot, Martin Sheen as a New York reporter and Geraldine James as Mirabehn an admiral's daughter who joins Ghandhi's crusade and becomes his adopted daughter.
Also watch for Daniel Day-Lewis as Colin the youth who confrons Kingsley and Charleson in South Africa and John Ratzenberger as Bergen's driver.
A magnificent film.
Marriage Story (2019)
Divorce Among the Rich and Famous!
"Marriage Story" is the tale of the marriage breakup of two affluent New York people...Nicole (Scarlett Johansson) and Charlie (Adam Driver). Nicole is well known actress who has been working in Charlie's theater group. Charlie is an award winning director whose plays sometimes reach Broadway.
Nicole receives an offer from Hollywood to star in a TV pilot. Unhappy in her marriage, she goes off to Los Angeles to pursue her career. Charlie continues to work with his theater group. Nicole is supposed to return to New York after completing the pilot but it is picked up as a series and therefore she wants to stay in California with their young son.
Charlie on the other hand, wants to remain in New York and wants Nicole to return there. Their disagreement results in their wanting to get a divorce. At first the agree to settle the dispute without legal representation. Working with a mediator who had them write out their feelings about each other, fails.
Everything seems to be going along nicely when a co-worker in Hollywood suggests to Nicole to hire famous divorce lawyer Nora Fanshaw (Laura Dern) to handle her case. When Charlie comes to LA to visit their son, he is served with divorce papers, much to his surprise. Charlie is then forced to hire his own lawyer. He first goes to high end lawyer Jay (Ray Liotta). His no-nonsense and very expensive approach discourages Charlie.
Charlie next goes to aging lawyer Bert Spitz (Alan Alda) who works much cheaper. When the couple and their respective councils meet, Charlie discovers that Spitz will be unable to adequately represent him and fires him in favor of the more expensive aggressive Jay. Then the gloves come off and..........................
I couldn't help but notice the similarities between this film and "Kramer vs. Kramer" (1979). Both are fighting over the custody of a young son, both have the wife running off to California and both hire expensive attorneys to do battle on their behalf. The final result is also quite similar.
The acting in :Marriage Story" is superb. Johansson and Driver in the leads give Oscar worthy performances. The film is also grace with a stellar supporting cast with Laura Dern, Alan Alda and Ray Liotta standing out as various bottom feeding attorneys. Julie Hagerty turns up as Nicole's mother and also watch for Wallace Shawn as a dirty minded member of Charlie's theater group.
Slime Gentlemen Please!
Who you gonna call? Ghostbusters is a comedic science fiction movie where you have to suspend reality in order to enjoy it.
Three PHDs Dr. Peter Venkman (Bill Murray), Dr. Ray Stanz (Dan Aykroyd) and Dr. Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis) are working at Columbia University in New York on parapsychology phenomina. The University cancels their grant for lack of results and the boys are suddenly out of work. Peter suggests that they go into business for themselves.
Ray mortgages his parents house (three mortgages are not uncommon these days) and they set up shop in an abandoned firehouse. They name the business "Ghostbusters" with the aim of ridding New Yorkers of scary ghosts. They "invent" complex scientific equipment that includes zappers and ghost traps, hire the spunky Janine Melnitz (Annie Potts) as their receptionist/secretary and await their first customer.
Their first call comes from the library where the librarian has encountered a netherworld spirit. The boys arrive and meet up with a cartoonish spirit known as "Slimer" who slime all who encounter him. They go next to a large hotel where "Slimer" turns up on the 12th floor haunting the establishment's plush conference suite. The boys manage to trap "Slimer" with their zappers and place him in a containment device.
Next we meet the alluring Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver) who discovers paranormal activity within her refrigerator. Her nerdy neighbor Louis Tully (Rick Moranis) tries unsuccessfully to date her. She goes to the Ghostbusters for help. Peter "volunteers" to help her.
Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson) then joins the team. In the course of their investigation Ray discovers that Dana's apartment building was constructed by and evil force known "Gogen" and that the spirits contained within are planning a comeback. Dana and Louis become possessed by the spirits to become the Gatekeeper and Key master respectively. Peter is mesmerized by Dana in her possessed state.
The four Ghostbusters then lock and load and confront the evil Gogen who then thrusts the Marshmallow Man upon humanity and....................................
The performances of the principals lift this film above the level of a Saturday Morning cartoon. It's hard though to take Bill Murray's character seriously as scientist. His constant smirk hardly indicates serious intent. Aykroyd and Ramis play their roles more to the point. Annie Potts almost steals the film as the brash secretary. And Sigourney Weaver never looked more sexy than she does as the possessed Dana. Rick Moranis is quite funny as the nerdy neighbor who continuously keeps locking himself out of his apartment. And poor Ernie Hudson. He hardly has anything of note to do after arriving late in the story.
Followed by "Ghostbusters II" (1989) as we knew it would.
The Irishman (2019)
Whatever Happened to.......Jimmy Hoffa? Hmmmmmmm!
"The Irishman" is yet another masterful film from Director Martin Scorcese. He has assembled a very large cast to fill out the film's 209 minute running time.
It's the story of mob hit man and senior union official Frank "The Irishman" Sheeran (Robert DeNiro) as he reflects on his past life. He came to be associated early with mobster Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci) whom he met at a service station when he stopped to help Frank fix his truck.. Frank begins to skim off beef sides from his employer, selling them to Skinny Razor (Bobby Cannavale) and friends. Frank becomes a close confidant of Bufalino performing several "tasks" on his behalf.
Bufalino points Frank toward Union boss Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino) with whom he becomes an entrusted friend. Frank goes back and forth between the two powerful men "helping out" wherever he can. When Senator Robert Kennedy (Jack Houston) persecutes him, Hoffa is sent to prison for four years losing his position as Union Boss to his former assistant Frank "Fitz" Fitzsimmons (Gary Basaraba). While in prison Hoffa is confronted by mobster and ex Union official Tony Provenzao (Stephen Graham) over Tony's lost pension benefits. The two men argue and end up in a fist fight.
When Hoffa is released from prison around the time of John Kennedy's assassination, He tries to regain control of the Union. Bufalino and senior mobster Angelo Bruno (Harvey Keitel) warn him to back off as "Fitz" has found favor with the mob. Finally, Bufalino tells Frank that the time to eliminate the troublesome Hoffa has come. Frank with mixed emotions, agrees to do this "little service" for his mentor.
Following Hoffa's disappearance, Frank's daughter Peggy (Anna Paquin) disowns him over her suspicions on the Hoffa affair. Frank and Bufalino eventually land in jail together and grow old over the years. After Bufalino's death Frank is left to dwell in the past all alone in his last years.
The performances by the principals are mesmerizing. Pacino is outstanding as Jimmy Hoffa particularly in his hell raising speeches to his membership. DeNiro is sympathetic as the long suffering but faithful soldier Frank Sheeran. Joe Pesci, who had to be talked out of retirement for his role is good as the highly respected crime figure. And look for TV star Ray Romano as Bufalino lawyer Bill Bufalino.
Much has been said about the terrific de-aging (and aging) process used where the main characters look and act younger (and older) without the aid of make-up. It's quite amazing indeed. As they say, this couls be the start of something big.
A terrific, if overlong film.
The Karate Kid (1984)
You Will Get a Kick Out of This One!
"The Karate Kid" was very popular on it's 1984 release although it seems a little dated today.
Daniel (Ralph Macchio) and his mom (Randee Heller) move from New "Joisey" to California, land of the blondes so that mom can accept a new job. She is ecstatic about the move while Daniel has a hard time fitting in and longs for home. Daniel is befriended by some local boys and while kicking the soccer ball around the beach, he meets the comely Ali (Elizabeth Shue). An immediate attraction ensues. Unfortunately for Daniel Ali is the ex-girlfriend of motorcycle riding bully Johnny (William Zabka) who is a black belt in karate. Daniel runs to Ali's defense when Johnny pesters her and breaks her stereo.
Johnny "kicks sand" in Daniel's face and embarrasses him in front of the others at hand. Johnny plans to gamble a stamp and send for Charles Atlas' course....Nah. Daniel tries to hide his injuries from Mom but is unable to do so. Daniel meets house repairman Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita) who takes pity on the boy. When Daniel is further beaten by Johnny and his gang, Mr. Miyagi shjows his skill by clobbering all five members of Johnny and his gang. Mr Miyagi then offers to teach him karate.
Daniel is confused by Mr. Miyagi's methods. He has Daniel sand the floors of his outdoor patio, wash 'n wax several cars and paint his fence and house. All of this of course, has a purpose...to develop Daniel's reflexes, stamina and resolve. Daniel and Mr. Miyagi visit the local karate club and discover that Johnny and his gang's violent ways are instilled by their macho karate instructor an ex-marine named Kreese (Martin Kove). A challenge is issued to him that Daniel will best the group in an upcoming tournament.
Meanwhile Daniel continues to date Ali who comes from a rich and affluent family. At a country club dance they break up when Daniel believes that Ali was using him to get to Johnny her ex. As the tournament approaches, Daniel sharpens his skills, he makes up with Ali. At the tournament, Daniel does well and reaches the semi-finals. Kreese orders one of his boys to disqualify himself by using an illegal tactic on Daniel so that Daniel and Johnny will meet for the championship and Johnny will be able to destroy Daniel in the match in front of all. All doesn't go as planned and...............................................
As was often the case when a film such as this is successful, it is followed by a sequel or two. The final shot clearly indicates that a sequel was in order and Karate Kid II and III followed. Chad McQueen, who plays "Dutch" is the son of the late actor Steve McQueen.
The Big Chill (1983)
A Weekend at Harold and Sarah's!
"The Big Chill" is an ensemble piece featuring some of the hottest actors and actresses of the period directed by Lawrence Kasdan.
A group of friends who were once college buddies, gather for the funeral of one of them who has committed suicide. First there are Harold (Kevin Kline) a successful businessman and Sarah (Glenn Close) a doctor who will host the others for the weekend following the funeral of Alex the friend who has died. Others in the group include: Sam (Tom Berenger) a TV action star, Michael (Jeff Goldblum a writer for People magazine, Meg a high priced lawyer from New York, Karen (JoBeth Williams) and her husband Richard (Don Galloway) an advertising executive, Nick a coke head who is still trying to find himself while driving an expensive Porche and Chloe the young girl friend of the deceased.
The group toughs it out at Harold and Sarah's sumptuous "summer house" catching up on the past twenty years. Sarah is heartbroken over the death of their friend Alex and hides her grief in the shower suggesting that she and the deceased had a past. Karen and Sam were apparently involved back in college , Meg wants to have a baby with one of the male attendees and Michael is planning to start up a business and is seeking investors. Nick is bemoaning the fact that he is no longer able to "perform" due to a war injury and leans on drugs for solace. The young Chloe is left high and dry following the death of her lover.
Karen sends Richard back to be with their kids leaving her to once again to pursue the reluctant Sam. Nick gets pulled over high by the local cop but Harold is able to explain the situation and gets Nick off. The gang frolics and plays over the two day weekend making videos and watching college football and exchanging pleasantries and regrets over what has occurred. Oddly enough all are rich and successful except for Chloe and evidently the deceased Alex who was living with Harold and Sarah while renovating an old house for himself and Chloe.
The ensemble cast works well together having been cooped together up for weeks prior to the shoot. You can see the comaradery between them both humorous and serious throughout the film.
Kevin Costner was scheduled to play the suicidal Alex but Kasdan cut his scenes out showing only his corpse being dressed up for the funeral.
Great 60s era soundtrack.
The Way We Were (1973)
The Prince and The Pauper!
I realize that I'm probably in the minority in not really liking this picture. It's a syrupy love story between two unlikely people that takes place over a period of some twenty years.
Beginning at a College around 1937, we meet the principals, Katie (Barbra Steisand) a political activist working her way through college and preaching the virtues of communism, along with fellow activist Frankie McVeigh (James Woods) and Hubble (Hubble?) (Robert Redford) an aspiring writer who is a jock and has those blue eyes, blond wavy hair and pearly white teeth. (Tennis anyone?) . They keep running into each other but nothing really develops at this stage.
Fast forward to 1940 and WWII where Katie is now working at a radio station under Bill Verso (Herb Edelman) and Hubble (Hubble?) has joined the navy and is stationed in the war torn city of Washington. Katie spots Hubble (Hubble?) asleep on a bar stool drunk in his Navy white dress uniform (How could she resist?. She takes him home to her apartment only to have him throw up, pass out and crawl into her bed stark naked. Katie seeing her chance disrobes and jumps into bed with her still unconscious guest and promptly seduces him. I'm not sure that Hubble (Hubble?) even remembers the encounter the next morning.
Anyway, they become a number and move in together. Being polar opposites the couple clash when Katie expresses her unwelcome views to Hubble's (Hubble?) friends and embarasses him. They continue to disagree on their respective political views. Finally, Hubble (Hubble?) calls the whole thing off and turns in his key. Later, feeling sorry for herself, phones Hubble (Hubble?) and begs him to return. He reluctantly agrees.
Fast forward to the 1950s where we find Hubble (Hubble?) a successful screen writer and Katie working somewhere in the communications industry (I think) . Enter the House Un- American Activities Committee (HUAC) which has begun it's witch hunt of Hollywood personalities who have a past association with the Communist Party. Included among those "worried" are Paula Reisner (Vivica Lindfors), Brooks Carpenter (Murray Hamilton) and George Bissinger (Patrick O'Neal).
Katie is ready to go to Washington in defence of those being persecuted. This cause a big row between Katie and Hubble (Hubble?) and they break up even though she is pregnant with his child , (cue the kleenex) and..................................................
Even though there is an impressive supporting cast, they have little to do. This IS DEFINITELY Streisand and Redford's picture, make no mistake about it. Director Sydney Pollack's deletion of important HUAC scenes from the picture all but eliminated the roles being played by Lindfors, Hamilton and O'Neal. And I didn't find that Steisand and Redford made a likely couple. Mind you, their performances were quite good within the scope of the story but were a little unbelievable to me as a couple. A poignant scene where Katie stops to listen to a current day pacifist, reminds her of her own youth was also deleted.
Taxi Driver (1976)
Bickle in a Pickle!
"Taxi Driver" is a story about an ex-Marine, Travis Bickle (Robert DeNiro)presumably a Viet Nam vet with problems in that he is an insomniac. He takes a job driving a taxi at night and goes to watch porn movies by day. He sees New York City as a cesspool of evil what with the prostitutes, drug addicts, pimps, johns et al roaming the streets at night.
One day Travis see a beautiful girl in a white dress and becomes obsessed with her. She turns out to be a campaign worker for Presidential hopeful Senator Charles Palantine (Leonard Harris). Her name is Betsy and co-worker Tom (Albert Brooks has an obvious interest in her as well. Travis gets up the nerve to confront her at her workplace and invite her out for a cup of coffee abd a piece of pie. All goes well and Travis asks her out to a movie.
Travis buys her a gift and takes her to a porn movie unaware that this will not appeal to Betsy. She becomes angry and storms out of the theater and never wants to see him again. Travis is distraught. He goes out and buys an arsenal of guns with an eventual plan to rid the streets of the smut he despises. He seeks advice from veteran fellow cabbie "The Wizard" (Peter Boyle) who advises him to sit tight and things will right themselves.
One night, a young hooker, Iris (Jodie Foster) climbs into his cab but is forcefully removed by her pimp Matthew aka "Sport" (Harvey Keitel). Travis takes little notice of it at the time and goes about his business. Later, a passenger in his cab who wants to kill his wife's lover (Martin Scorsese) describes the damage a .44 Magnum will do to various parts of the body.
Travis again encounters the 12 year old Iris and feels that she should be out of the mess she's in. He "hires" Iris for some jollies but instead offers to help her return to her parents. Sport convinces her to stay. Travis snaps and formulates a plan to free Iris from her pimp's grasp.
Travis shaves his head into a "Mohawk" and arms himself to the teeth. First he seemingly stalks Palantine but is driven off bu his guards. Next Travis goes to Sport's house of ill repute and.................................................................................
Many were or are opposed to the subject matter of this film and its' graphic violence. It's well handled by Scorsese as he brings an unpleasant subject front and center. I had trouble though, with the "happily ever after" ending following the climactic carnage. It was probably done to appease the censors as the story could have ended with the violence.
Robert DeNiro was just coming into his own as a major star having won an Oscar two years previous for "The Godfather Part II". He practically has to carry the whole film by himself and does so masterfully. Jodie Foster, a former child actor, who really was 12 years old at the time gives us a glimpse of her immense talent.
You talkin' to me, you talkin' to me.
The Buddy Holly Story (1978)
The Day the Music Died!
The thing that sets "The Buddy Holly Story" apart from other such films is that the principal actors both sing their roles and can actually play their instruments.
The film chronicles the rise of singer Buddy Holly (Gary Busey) beginning in 1956 in Lubbock, Texas. He begins in his family's garage with his pals Jesse, the drummer (Don Stroud) and Ray Bob the bass player (Charlie Martin Smith). During one such session they here a noise over their music which turns out to be a cricket. Guess what they decided to call their group? In reality there were three members of the Crickets but due to legalities the names had to be changed.
Buddy and the Crickets go for an audition in Nashville. They are disappointed when they are forced to play their music "country style". Returning to Lubbock, they continue to plug along until they are summoned to New York when record producer Ross Turner (Conrad Janis) receives one of the groups demo records which had been released without their knowledge. After some negotiation, the group is signed to a contract with Coral Records.
While negotiating their contract, Buddy meets his future wife Maria Elena (Maria Richwine) who was working as Turner's secretary. The group takes off and turns out hit records. Turner books them into an all black club (The Apollo) unbeknownst to the owner and the audience. Buddy and the Crickets wow the crowd and go on to bigger and better things.
Just prior to appearing on the "Ed Sullivan Show" , Jesse and Ray Bob express their desire to return home to Lubbock. Buddy is against the move and decides to remain in New York. Buddy decides to produce records and stops touring. Turner convinces him to take on a mid-winter mid-west tour to do the necessary promotion of his records. After a drop dead final concert with the Big Bopper (Gallard Sartain), Ritchie Valens and Dion and the Belmonts (who are unseen), Buddy boards a plane for his fateful plane crash outside of Clearwater Iowa on February 3, 1959...the day the music died.
Gary Busey is outstanding as Buddy Holly. He performs many of his songs in a convincing manner. Stroud and Smith are also outstanding. The final concert in which Holly performs solo is the highlight of the film. His duet with the Big Bopper is memorable as was his earlier duet with the legendary 50s artist Eddie Cochran.
One of the great music bios of all time.
Murder by Death (1976)
Off the Track Neil Simon Comedy!
"Murder By Death" brings together an all-star international cast to spoof the detective mysteries of the 30s and 40s in this Neil Simon comedy.
Eccentric trillionaire Lionel "Woo Woo" Twain (Truman Capote) invites the five most famous cinema detectives to a dinner party ar his estate located in the foggy countryside at number Two Two Twain. First to arrive is famed Chinese detective Sidney Wang i.e. Charlie Chan (Peter Sellers) and his adopted Japanese no. 3 son Willie (Richard Narita). They are greeted by Twain's blind butler Bensonmum, hilariously portrayed by Alec Guinness.
The others gradually arrive. Nick and Dora Charleston I. e. Nick and Nora Charles (David Niven and Maggie Smith),v Milo Perrier i.e. Hercule Perot (James Coco and his chauffeur Marcel (James Cromwell), Sam Diamond i.e. Sam Spade (Peter Falk) and his girlfriend Tess Skeffington (Eileen Brennan) and Jessica Marbles i.e. Miss Marple (Elsa Lanchester) and her 90 year old maid (Estelle Winwood) in a funny entrance. A maid that can neither hear or speak or understand English (Nancy Walker also arrives to serve as a maid.
At the dinner party Twain appears and challenges the group to solve a murder that has yet to be committed by someone "in this room". Much hilarity ensues. Twain sends them all off in different directions confusing them in the process. Finally in true detective movie fashion, all are gathered in the dining room for the finale which is by the way, very confusing..
The whole cast appears to be having a ball making this film. Falk does a good Bogart, Niven and Smith and their dog Myron replicate William Powell and Myna Loy, Coco makes an excellent Hercule Perot , Sellers does a passable Charlie Chan and Lanchester makes a adequate Margaret Rutherford. But Estelle Winwood almost steals the picture as the aged nurse. Guinness is hilarious as the blind butler.
Followed by "The Cheap Detective" (1978).
Midnight Express (1978)
We've Got To Get Out of This Place!
Except for the ending, "Midnight Express" is a riveting prison movie. It's all about a young American Billy Hayes (Brad Davis) who is caught in Istanbul, Turkey trying to smuggle 2 kilos of hashish out of the country. His girl friend Susan (Irene Miracle) is unaware of this and is allowed to leave.
Despite arguments from the prosecutor (Kevork Malikyan) that Billy was a smuggler not merely in possession of the drug, he is sentenced to four years for possession. Inside the run down prison, Billy learns the ways of the institution. He is first beaten by brutal guard Hamidou (Paul L. Smith) who virtually runs the prison striking fear into the hearts of the inmates.
Billy's father (Mike Kellin) and an oily Turkish lawyer Yesil (Franco Diogene) tell Billy that they will get him out. Billy befriends Jimmy Booth (Randy Quaid), Erich, a Swede (Norbert Weisser) and veteran inmate Max (John Hurt). Billy becomes "extra friendly" with Erich. Booth attempts an escape but is caught and beaten to within an inch of his life by the guards. After Erich is released Billy Booth and Max (recovered from his ordeal) plan an escape by removing two cement blocks and descending to the catacombs below.
They manage to remove the blocks and go down below only to find that any escape route has been sealed off. Prison rat Rifki (Paolo Bonacelli) discovers the plot and reports it to Hamidou who immediately suspects Booth and carries him off for more brutal punishment. Booth does not return. Billy then loses it and attacks Rifki beating him senseless. As a result Billy is placed in the criminally insane section of the prison where he wanders aimlessly. He receives a visit from Susan in his confused state. Billy's case is reviewed by a higher court and he is re-convicted, this time for smuggling and receives a 30 year sentence.
And now to the unlikely ending. Even though this story is supposedly a true story, I find the events of the ending a little hard to believe. Somehow he comes out of his confused state and is able to overpower the burly Hamidou and find a guard uniform from God knows where, and walk out the front door undetected. To me it spoils an otherwise great film.
Davis is good as Billy Hayes who goes from a carefree tourist to an embittered prisoner. Kudos also to Randy Quaid and John Hurt for their roles as the tragic friends of Billy. Paul L. Smith as the brutal guard scares the hell out of everyone.
The Last Picture Show (1971)
Just Sittin' In the Balcony.....!
"The Last Picture Show" is Peter Bogdonovich's masterpiece about a fictional small and dusty little town of Anarane, Texas centering on the High School graduating class of 1951-52. Filmed in glorious Black and White (at the suggestion of no less than Orson Welles), it chronicles the lives of various townsfolk and their interrelationships with each other.
Sonny Crawford (Timothy Bottoms) and Duane Jackson (Jeff Bridges) are best friends and members of the school football team that apparently didn't know how to tackle. Duane is dating hottie and town rich girl Jacy Farrow (Cybil Shepherd) the daughter of Lois (Ellen Burstyn) and Gene (Robert Glenn) Farrow, oil rich citizens. Sonny is in envy of his pal. Sam the Lion (Ben Johnson) owns the local picture show, pool room and diner. He looks after the simple minded Billy (Sam Bottoms).
One day, the football coach (Bill Thurmon) asks sonny to drive his wife Ruth (Cloris Leachman) to an appointment. Unexpectedly, Sonny falls into the arms of the bored housewife and an affair ensues. Jacy meanwhile, accepts an offer from the nerdy Lester Marlow (Randy Quaid) to attend a swimming party where everyone skinny dips. Duane is visibly upset.
Later, the 'boys" including Sonny and Duane decide it's time for young Billy to have his first "experience". They set him up with the local "pillow" which doesn't work out. When they take him back home, Sam is infuriated and bans the gang from his establishments. Duane, who hid in the back seat of the car is not among the blamed.
In a very poignant scene at the local swimming hole, Sam reflects to Sonny on his youth describing his affair 20 years ago with a fair lady who was married. We later learn that that lady was Lois Farrow who chose money over love instead of him. We also learn that Sam once owned the large tract of land around the pond but had lost it over the years.
Duane becoming bored with life goes off to work in the oil fields On returning one weekend, he and Sonny go off to Mexico for the weekend. On returning they learn that Sam had died the previous day leaving his pool room to Sonny and the café to waitress Genevieve (Eileen Brennan). Sonny takes on the task of looking out for Billy. Jacy meanwhile is seduced by local oil rigger Alelene (Clu Gulager) on a pool table. Ashamed , Jacy having lost her rich boyfriend begins to play up to Sonny. Sonny stops seeing Ruth and she becomes despondent.
Duane goes off to join the army. On his last night home, he and Sonny go to the last picture show before the little theater closes down for good. Then one day, young Billy is killed in a traffic accident. ("He was just sweeping") Sonny having lost Jacy to college goes back to reconcile with Ruth and.........................
Excellent performances from the largely unknown juvenile cast particularly Timothy Bottoms and Jeff Bridges. . Cybil Shepherd, who was having an affair with Peter Bogdonovich off screen, makes an impressionable debut. Ben Johnson and Cloris Leachman both won best supporting Oscars for their roles. There were several other nominations as well. Ellen Burstyn conveys a sense unhappiness and boredom with her life and Eilenn Brennan the hopeless future of a café waitress with mounting hospital bills for her husband. Watch for John Hillerman as the high school teacher and future producer Frank Marshall as Tommy Luggan the new quarterback for the new season.
Followed by an inferior sequel "Texasville" in 1990.