Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
ListsAn error has ocurred. Please try again
The Secret of Santa Vittoria (1969)
The Secret of Santa Vittoria: imperfect but does not leave a sour taste
"The Secret of Santa Vittoria" is a fun and energetic picture that works better as a comedy than as a thriller or commentary about the war. The film is set in 1943 Italy, after the downfall of fascism. The Germans have begun to take over Italy, including the village of Santa Vittoria. However, unbeknownst to the Germans, the villagers have hidden their most valuable asset (one million bottles of wine) under the guidance of mayor Bombolini (played by Anthony Quinn), who has been elected by accident. Bombolini is seen as a hopeless drunk and an incompetent fool through his wife's eyes. Quinn portrays Bombolini with gusto and as a cartoonish and larger-than-life character. He is clearly having fun with the performance. However, Bombolini is not the complete fool as some of the townsfolk regard him to be. Some of his foolishness is his façade, defensive mechanism, and performance to manipulate and fool others, such as the Germans. Strategically, Bombolini uses his wits, exaggerated mannerisms, and diplomacy to keep the wine a secret. The Germans though, are resourceful and eventually see through his façade, turning the picture into a cat and mouse game.
This picture reminds me of "What Did You Do in The War Daddy?" in that it depicts the outrageous behaviors, ways of life, and quirks of certain Italian townspeople during WW2. Both films are deliberately childish, short of seriousness, and make good use of sight gags and physical comedy. However, whereas "daddy" consists of slapstick throughout most of its running time, this film is more grounded in reality and has more to say about the war. For example, the wine represents the townspeople's hard work and is all that they have. It is a symbol for the townspeople's strength and essence. Thus by deceiving the Germans and hiding the wine, the Germans would not be able to conquer Santa Vittoria, even if they remain in the town for a period of time. The townspeople don't engage in physical or combative resistance (even though there are only a handful Germans taking over the town), but are rather engaged in an alternative form of resistance, an ideological resistance. Keeping the location of the wine a secret (no matter what, even if a martyr were forced to suffer or sacrifice himself or herself) would mean victory. In the end, I do feel a certain satisfaction in seeing the German captain (played by Hardy Kruger) being driven to desperation and defeat as he tries to find out the location of the wine. Although the Germans in the film are intrusive and commit minor atrocities, they are not nearly as oppressive, horrible, cruel, methodical, and intelligent as they should have been.
I enjoy watching the elaborate and meticulous operation of wine-hiding that unfolds (not unlike a Gold Ruberg event), which requires the unity and patriotism of all the townspeople. The film also makes good uses of its Italian locations, sets, and extras. However, I wish more time were spent on getting to know more of the townspeople.
Humor is infused occasionally and works best when the everyday life and activities of the townspeople are depicted, including Anthony Quinn's methodical and exaggerated antics in his foolish and bumbling Bombolini character (albeit possessing a commanding and likable presence), Anna Magnani's overaggressive and long-suffering wife character named Rosa, and their outlandish verbal and physical spars with each other. Some other supporting players also keep the humor alive.
There are three pairs of romance depicted in the film. One is the almost nonexistent relationship between Bombolini and Rosa, the other is between their daughter (played by Patrizia Valturri) and an educated lad (played by Giancarlo Giannini), and the last is between the local beauty and widow (played by Virna Lisi) and the local hot-to-trot war deserter (played by Sergio Franchi). The film should have focused more on the relationship between Quinn and Magnani. Their turbulent relationship is quite intriguing. I want to know more about their past. Even their marriage could have evolved more (not merely a one-note long-suffering relationship). The other two pairs of characters could have been cut out from the film without any loss, as their romances are quite insipid, unnecessary, and sappy. The characters are bores and are hardly sympathetic. Even more inappropriate are the inclusion of certain sex innuendos.
Another problem is that the film does run on a bit too long and could have been trimmed by at least half an hour. But even so, the film held my interest for most of its running time.
Beyond the Poseidon adventure, what can possibly be entertaining?
This film is more of a remake than a sequel, having virtually the same plot and sets but different characters. This time the filmmakers have an advantage though, because they don't have to spend their budget on creating the moment that Poseidon strikes disaster (already established in the previous film); and there are opportune moments when money is saved by reusing shots from the first film: from time to time showing the Poseidon upside down in the ocean and exploding continuously (how many explosions can the ship sustain?).
This is a laughable and lackluster film. All the prestige and excitement from its precursor have disappeared. Unlike the first film, there is hardly a moment of genuine tension or invention. I never feel that the characters are in any peril. In fact, there are surprisingly few deaths and lots of wasted opportunities for thrills and tension. The action set pieces are very drab and routine. Also, the sets and special effects are cheap and unconvincing.
Like the first film, there's a large all-star cast, but they hardly do or say anything exciting, intelligent, meaningful, original, and that isn't laughable. Pretty much all of their character traits, back stories, and motivations are paper-thin and stereotypes. Some characters are annoying, useless, and unnecessary, and should have been cut from the film or rewritten. The only interesting character derives from the performance of karl Malden, and even his character is underdeveloped and underutilized, let alone adequate to save the picture.
Just like the characters, the plot is paper-thin. It's also very predictable. insipid, and hard to believe. For example, I find it hard to believe that there are still so many survivors left on the ship. Also, there are so many gaps in logic, unanswered questions, and unresolved plot points. As if realizing that there are only so much they can do with a capsized ship the second time, the filmmakers have added an unnecessary and derivative subplot involving Telly Savalas and his crew in a futile attempt to spice up the action.
I sat in my chair being mostly bored and unamused. In fact, I became quite restless. This is not how I reacted to the first Poseidon film.
V.I. Warshawski (1991)
V.I. Warshawski: tired and labored
V.I. Warshawski is essentially a macho film with the exception of the sex of the lead character. Kathleen Turner portrays the titular character, a tough-talking and independent Chicago private detective. Not only does she solve a case in the film, she gets herself into a lot of violent confrontations as well, from people who constantly want to foil her investigative findings concerning the inheritance of a shipping industry. Incredibly, Turner is able to stand toe-to-toe with her male counterparts. She is impressively gruff, tough, seasoned, and weary.
There are good and bad elements in the film. As written, the characters' mannerisms and dialogues are too mannered, cute, and artificial. Everyone seems to be wisecracking, yelling, and acting tough all the time. I know that's a common fixture of characters of the detective genre, but it's just too much and too insincere. Some of the characters are quirky but they aren't three-dimensional. There's no shortage of stock, sleazy, and mean spirited characters. I don't care deeply for the characters. They are merely pawns and not fully fleshed out. The film is heavy on dialogue and plot but it could have benefited from more heartfelt and intimate moments, such as exploring the characters' relationships with one another and exploring the inner depths of characters. We rarely glimpse beneath the characters' tough superficial layer and wisecracks. At times, the dialogue is stilted and awkward. There are a lot of feeble attempts at humor and one liners that are quite crude, lame, and inappropriate. The mystery isn't as intriguing or sophisticated as it should be. It's easy to figure out where the story is going as there aren't much surprises. The villains aren't very threatening either. By the end of the film, I still have questions that are left unanswered. I do however, enjoy Turner's gradual rapport with Kat (the young actress overplays the part though), the daughter of a murdered hockey player and who seems to be the key to solving the mystery.
At times, the film does display a quirky sense of humor that works, as evident in certain jokes and sight gags. There are also some interesting and high energy set pieces. However, some of these scenes detract from the main plot and have a juvenile mentality to them.
Whereas other films have been successful and intriguing in their takes on the film noir and detective genre (e.g. Night Moves, Chinatown), V.I. Warshawski is not inspired.
Hideaway: not worth seeking out
One night, while driving home with his wife and daughter, Hatch (Jeff Goldblum) gets into a car accident which results in his temporary death. Enter Dr. Nyebern, who has developed a unique resuscitation technique that can revive the dead even after a prolonged period of time. After his revival, Hatch begins having visions of young girls being murdered. It turns out that he shares some sort of special link with the deranged killer (Jeremy Sisto), as they have both been to the other side. Unable to convince anyone of his warnings and knowledge, it's only up to Hatch to stop the killer, who may have a target in mind close to Hatch's heart.
This film wasn't particularly exciting, scary or suspenseful. In fact, I scoffed at it from time to time. It was quite ridiculous, cheap, trashy, conventional, predictable, and laughable. The special effects were subpar and murky. The best and most inspired scene was during the first five minutes when the killer journeyed in agony towards hell, after committing an atrocious act and then committing suicide. At least that was something I had not seen too often before. The rest of the movie was merely another slasher film in disguise, no matter how high-gloss it seemed.
By the end of the film, many questions and plot holes had arisen but were not addressed. Also, the science, law, and technicalities (e.g. maintaining a patient's confidentiality despite being a menace to others) brought up in the film were terribly erroneous.
Much of the film was in bad taste. From time to time, the filmmakers treaded on thin ice by depicting questionable, unsavory, and objectionable acts and images. I also thought the film was going to make some point about spirituality, religion, hell, or heaven, but no such luck.
Though some characters were not written well or underutilized of their full potentials, the acting was fine, especially Jeremy Sisto's risky performance as the despicable creep. However, I simply did not care for Goldblum's character and was not convinced of his suffering. Some of his actions, reactions, and dialogues were wayward and awkward. Sometimes he made mistakes when he should have known better and was slow to catch on with certain matters. His wife's role (Christine Lahti) was mostly limited and reduced to that of the long-suffering spouse. She was there mostly to lend support when needed, only becoming a more independent and stronger character near the end. Alicia Silverstone's daughter character was limited in scope as well; mainly serving as a plot gimmick for the killer to prey on.
There are far better and scarier horror films out there, Hideaway is not one of them. One film that comes to mind is Lord of Illusions, which is more grotesque, violent, gory, and over-the-top, but effective nonetheless. It goes all the way with its unique, nightmarish, and sensational imagery, and knows no boundaries. Unlike Hideaway, it establishes no pretensions of the divine and evil, and engages us with interesting characters whom we care about.
A con game or a reunion?
I adore this film. It's silly, kinetic, delightful, and funny. The plot: con-artist Harry Bundage (Leo Mckern) hires an American orphan and lookalike named Casey Brown(Jodie Foster) to go to England and pose as the long-lost granddaughter of Lady St. Edmund (Helen Hayes), who resides in the Candleshoe estate. Harry believes that there's a valuable treasure hidden somewhere within the estate and wants Casey to retrieve it. As Casey grows more attached to the residents of Candleshoe, the question remains, will she betray them or will she have a change of heart and grow to love her newfound family?
Jodie Foster is very good in the role of an anarchist tomboy. Her vibrant screen presence makes the film exciting. She's not simply delivering her lines like a lot of child actors but her movements, facial expressions, and eyes do the talking as well. She plays a smart, mature, and tough character. The youngsters who watch the film would probably look up to her as a role model and leader because she stands up against the adult establishment; at times outsmarting them and making them look like bumbling fools. There are other elements kids would identify with as well. For example, the villains are harsh and hostile, and probably similar to how the adult world is seen through kids' eyes. The two seniors at Candleshoe are easy for kids to identify with because they are akin to grandparents. They are amiable, lovable, and adore the company of kids.
Many colorful characters are introduced. Some of them are three dimensional and mostly goofy. The shots, action, and images in the film are inventive and amusing, at times are akin to the frames out of a comic book. The story is multifaceted with many plot developments and subplots. The estate, locations, costumes, and sets are elaborate, pristine, and gorgeous.
There are minor flaws. By the end of the story, some major questions are never answered. Some plot developments seem contrived and sidetracked. As well, some characters can be better and more thoroughly developed. However, there are enough in-jokes and sophistication that adults will enjoy this film as well. It's a fun and classy family picture.