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Dragnet 1967 (1967)
just the facts
firstly,this is not so much a review as a review of a review.all the stylistic elements of the show have been quoted ad nauseum(the Friday walk,wooden acting,sometimes preachy dialogue).but this is still one of my favorite "older" shows,with some of the more entertaining story lines(especially the early years)seen in the crime story genre.no one could play Friday like Jack Webb,with his endearing one-liners and aforementioned stiff walk.Harry Morgan is his partner Bill Gannon,who provides any comedic relief this show has,and as Friday is always seen in the same suit.of course,being 40 years old this show appears corny to the younger viewer,but because of the stories is still pretty good.as an extra,try checking out the spin off Adam-12.it's just as good,with a little less of the wood.10-4.
Room 222 (1969)
good in it's time
this show seemed better almost 40 years ago than it does now.the subject matter seems almost trite today,but was groundbreaking then.funny how things to my generation that seem quaint just seem old-fashioned to the younger crowd.oh well...this series ushered in a whole new generation of TV programming(sort of reality-like)with grownup plots(including one i recall-Bridget Loves Bernie-that dealt with a interdenominational marriage-wow).this time was ground zero for political and social activism,and much of this show dealt with these issues.Lloyd Haynes played the everyman History teacher who had a lot of wisdom to impart to his class,backed up by Denise Nicholas(who was his girlfriend on the show)and a mostly wacky Karen Valentine.the show was a bit on the unreal side(i didn't go to a school like that)but did what it intended to-bring TV into a new age.
Running Scared (1986)
final Jeopardy is on!
yes the plot is implausible,and so politically incorrect that you can't believe.but the film does what it sets out to do-entertain.this is ground that has been covered before(Beverly Hills Cop as an example),but never in a way that is as much fun.the screenplay is o.k.,with the best dialogue reserved for Hines-Crystal banter.the other characters are basically filler.but generally well done(Joe Pantoliano as Snake is great).there are a few dead spots in the film,but these are usually rescued by Hines and/or Crystal,who seemed to be having a lot of fun.there is a fantastic chase scene late in the movie that alone makes it worth watching.altogether this '80's buddy movie still holds up.mostly because of the insanity of the two leads.
Then Came Bronson (1969)
hang in there
i guess i'm getting to the nostalgic stage in life,and Then Came Bronson is something that readily comes to mind.definitely a show of it's time,it surely borrowed from other shows(Route 66?)but added it's own touch in great writing and acting(Michael Parks).speaking of him,i thought he had disappeared from the planet,but his IMDb resume says differently.Parks difficulties with the shows producers probably caused the series early demise,and that's a pity.watching the show as a kid,i was fascinated that this guy could just pick up and move on at will(whereas i was forced to go to school),on a search to find out something about himself.this probably couldn't be made in todays world,nor should it be.you can't improve on perfection.
The Longest Day (1962)
the Duke dukes it out
overwhelming version of Cornelius Ryan's bestseller about the turning point of WW II,featuring an all-star cast.it's impressive length,at 3 hours,captures the trials and tribulations of both Allied and German forces on June 6,1944.this movie was directed by a trio of capable directors from both sides of the war,in true documentary style.the first half shows the preparation and anticipation from both points of view,with the latter half dealing with the battle itself.probably the last great B&W war film,and one can only wonder what it would have been like in color.the photography is gritty,especially in the battles,and many aspects are shown in great detail(one being the Parachute drop in St. Mere-Eglise).the cast is a who's who of '60's Hollywood with John Wayne and Robert Mitchum standing out,and numerous cameos by other major stars(current and future).compared to Platoon or Saving Private Ryan it is pretty dated as it shows no gore and has pretty tame language.but for it's faults,this tribute to the Greatest Generation is fine entertainment.
Jeremiah Johnson (1972)
nothing wrong with quiet
which a great part of this movie is,only interrupted by languid background music.some of the other comments have stated that the film is too slow,or that they don't get "the point".it is,and there isn't.it is a loosely based biography of "liver eating Johnson",a real mountain man from the 1800's that actually did go to war with a tribe of Indians following the killing of his family.others have mentioned that the Crow(and other tribes)were treated in the usual condescending way most Hollywood films do.but a scene at the beginning shows otherwise.Johnson is chided by a tribe chief for being a poor fisherman(showing that the natives are the ones in tune with the land).there are good supporting performances including a colorful one by the great Will Geer(who was a colorful personality himself).yes the movie moves slowly and takes time to tell it's story,but it's time well spent.one of Redford's best.
Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
one of the '60s best
this is one of those great movies that almost was not made.Warren Beatty had to beg the studios for a chance to see it realized.he also had trouble getting personnel,from actors to a director.but he persevered and wound up with the legendary Arthur Penn to direct,and a virtual unknown named Faye Dunaway to play Bonnie.the result was one of the finest structured,photographed,and acted films of the 1960's.most of the story is factual(although Clyde is hinted to be impotent,instead of bi-sexual)and shot on location where some of the banks were actually robbed.the photography is fantastic,from the opening credits to the final gory massacre.some have said that the movie glorified the pair,but some people were sympathetic to them-being in the middle of a financial depression.the movie's bent toward extreme violence was the death knell for the Hayes code,and the beginning of what we now call the ratings system.if not for the level of competition that year B&C would almost certainly brought home more Oscars(only Estelle Parsons won).and the film was given a lukewarm reception in it's initial limited release.Beatty had to personally get theaters to show it,and was pretty much in charge of promotion,too. good that he did,or we might have possibly missed one of the best films of all time.
Play Misty for Me (1971)
everything is everything
Clint Eastwood's directorial debut can be looked upon two ways:either he didn't know what he was doing,or he had it all planned out.i tend to believe the latter.the people at Universal took a gamble(therefore they must have had low expectations),but also decided not to pay Clint for his director's job.he didn't seem to mind.Misty begins as the kind of lightweight flick Eastwood did in the beginning of his career.but once he begins a seemingly harmless fling with Evelyn Draper(played incredibly well by Jessica Walter)the film picks up momentum.Dave Garver(Eastwood)is a small town DJ trying to simplify his life(and supposedly getting over a lost love interest)but finds himself becoming the obsessive object of Evelyn.as much as he tries to be honest she seems to have no conception of what he is saying.without giving too much about the plot away this leads to big problems for Clint.there is probably some Freudian psychology inherent in this movie(way over my head) which makes the latter half interesting.this was done later in Fatal Attraction,but in my opinion not as well.anyone with a Hitchcockian bent will probably enjoy this one.
The Last Picture Show (1971)
ode to a nightingale
one thing about this remarkable film i can't explain is how Ben Johnson and Cloris Leachman won Oscars for supporting performances,instead of perhaps Timothy Bottoms or even Cybill Shepherd.but Hollywood has never been known to be very rational.director Peter Bogdanovich takes a stark but moving screenplay by famed author Larry McMurtry(Hud,Lonesome Dove) and makes a cinematic treasure.like his earlier novel Hud this one profoundly showed the life he knew as a boy in rural Texas complete with the aging movie theater(where the last picture show is shown)and virtual ghost town where it is located.great ensemble acting is the movie's greatest strength,and in addition to the aforementioned Oscar winners Ellen Burstyn and Jeff Bridges stand out.i took the scenes of the mute boy(Sam Bottoms)sweeping the street as a metaphor for the town vainly trying to get rid of it's own "dirt".Anarene is portrayed as a place from which most of the townspeople simply want to get away,but can't conceive of a future anywhere else.a masterpiece.
a midsummer nightmare
watching this movie today seems like an episode of Leave It To Beaver gone all wrong.Humbert Humbert(James mason)is a quiet,studious middle-aged professor who is on a break from teaching.he settles in a small New England town,and becomes acquainted with Charlotte haze and her overbearing,under-aged daughter Lolita.he is instantly attracted to her which begins his utter demise.not having read the novel on which the film is based,i am in no position to compare the two.the cinema version was highly censored in it's day which is pretty laughable now.but it did deal with subjects such as underage sex(he would probably wind up on Dateline).but there are also deeper expressions in his forming of the main characters,with Humbert representing the old guard,and the nubile Lolita the new order.mason and sue Lyon(as Lolita)give dead on performances,with a possible foreshadowing of Lyon's later train-wreck life.two of the most important yet irritating characters are played by Shelley winters and peter sellers(who seemed like he was warming up for Dr. strangelove.if not a great film,this one will certainly be memorable for it's two lead actors.P.s.-haven't seen the remake but apparently it is more faithful to the book.
The Gong Show (1976)
a brief history of time
normally,i would put out a spoiler warning on almost any comment i make.i made an exception in this case because there is really nothing to spoil!although the gong show was only on the air for the latter half of the decade,it really en-capsules the '70's as a whole.it has even spilled over into present times(renamed American idol)and has had tremendous influence over comedy the last 30 years.creator Chuck Barris(who was also behind The Dating Game et.al)decided to step in front of the camera,and set back cultural tastes by years.but it was a lot of fun,and without the mean-spiritedness of present day reality shows.Chuck was MC,and accompanied by a varying cast of characters who acted as judges(including the over the top J.P. Morgan).they basically either loved or hated an act(which typically was followed by the ominous gong),and when things slowed down it was time for the likes of the unknown comic or gene gene the dancing machine(my favorite).if there was a time capsule for TV shows ,this one should be included.
Barefoot in the Park (1967)
love is blind
one thing about Neil Simon comedies i've never cared for is going for the big laugh.this film is no exception.although the script does have some funny situations,some are overdone(the numerous flights of stairs for example).the humor is more dated than the sets or locations,almost like something out of vaudeville.but the thing that makes this movie worth watching is the appeal of the cast. Redford and Fonda have an electric attraction and it shows on screen.Mildred Natwick and Charles Boyer bring a lot to supporting parts,(my favorite is the phone repairman)and almost steal the show from the youngsters.one important lesson to take from Barefoot-the honeymoon won't last forever!
Magnum Force (1973)
am i right?
a full bore(pun intended)follow-up to Dirty Harry that contains even more violence,albeit tame by todays standards.the plot has changed in that not Harry but the rest of the police force is dancing around the law to stop the evil perpetrators.Callahan happens to stumble across this,but doesn't really have the means to dispose of the bad apples(they even try to get him to join).this is not as far-fetched as it sounds,because Harry claims it happened in Brazil years earlier.although not as suspenseful as the previous Harry,this one has enough action to keep the viewer's attention.Callahan even becomes more human and has a brief affair with a neighbor.a standout is Hal Holbrook as the lieutenant in one of his many fine performances.I've always thought that the Dirty Harry series went gradually downhill,but this film is pretty close to the original.
buying off unhappiness
not much more can be said about Alfred Hitchcock's masterpiece except to ask why over 1000 people rated this movie a 1 or 2.as someone once said,there's no accounting for taste.this film was a major hit in it's day-really amazing since it was made for less than a million dollars.psycho is in a away the antithesis of a project like The Birds from a technical point of view,not requiring a lot of special effects or fast editing(except for the famous shower scene).but it makes up for this with an interesting story and chilling score.this was the beginning of the end for Anthony Perkins,as he would forever be typecast as a psychotic in future roles.the usually wooden John Gavin and Vera Miles give adequate performances,but the surprise is Janet Leigh as the woman who succumbs to temptation.even more surprising is that she is killed off halfway through the picture!the movie by which all other horror films are judged.
Ordinary People (1980)
you can't handle mess
this academy award winner for best picture(1980)is one that will put a lump in your throat.the Jarretts are a well-to-do family that has undergone some traumatic events recently.not only has older son Buck drowned, but younger Conrad has tried to kill himself.once he returns from the hospital,the rest of the movie deals with how everyone involved copes with life.Beth Jarrett is a tragic victim who is capable of love(for Buck),but who is also incapable of forgiveness(Conrad).she then sets herself up as a materialistic leech,putting on a phony front while sucking the life out of everyone else.Conrad sees through all this,reminding her that she was off in Europe while he was stuck lying in the hospital.as father Calvin says later they don't connect because they are really too much like each other.Calvin is the most sympathetic character,one who wants to help but simply doesn't know how.an Oscar for Timothy Hutton(who gave a moving acceptance speech remembering his late father)as well as for director Robert Redford.the final scene is one to be remembered.
shannnne! come baccccck!
much like the later Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid this one comes across as a character study masquerading as a Western.the setting is not classic Western(Wyoming),but the plot is(a conflict between ranchers and farmers).Shane(real name?)shows up in the area(the gorgeous Tetons)presumably as a former gunfighter,although this is only implied until later.for some unexplained reason he sides with the squatters(even though he gets a better offer from the other side.therefore he is trying to change as a person,much like the country itself. one of those films where there are no weak performances,especially Alan Ladd(another under-appreciated star) and a child actor named Brandon De Wilde(who was tragically killed in an automobile accident some years later).beautiful photography, even for today,adds much to the story.some will say this is a slow plodding tale,but this probably tells you how much movies have changed in 50 years.Oscar nomination for Jack Palance(but not Alan Ladd)as the personification of evil-hired gunfighter Jack Wilson.one strange thing about this film is the amount of sexual tension(both in actions and dialog),unusual for a film of this genre.only problem:the music sometimes seemed obtrusive.otherwise this movie is filled with great imagery and moral questions.
High Plains Drifter (1973)
i'm not your brother...
but he may have been the brother of the late Marshall Duncan,a victim of the townspeople's greed.who the stranger really is doesn't get answered although there are various hints,especially at the end.in an interview Eastwood says that the stranger is probably a brother who is coming to the town to exact vengeance on the guilty parties.regardless,this is a tour De force for Clint,who is not only cruel,but is also humorous in spots.he's joined by his usual suspects,including the always great Geoffrey Lewis as one of the outlaws and Robert Donner(who Clint talked into becoming an actor)as a squirrelly pastor.there are certainly elements of the supernatural(such as painting the town red),but even while the credits are rolling one is still unsure of who or what the stranger is.certainly not your run-of-the-mill Western and one of Clint's better efforts.
this is maybe Paul Newman's best performance,albeit that of a totally dislike-able character.Hud Bannon is in many ways like Eddie Felsen in another of the "H" films,The Hustler.but there is no redemption for Hud,unlike that of "Fast Eddie".the Faustian Hud believes life is for drinking and chasing women,and has no concern for anything that doesn't benefit him.at one point,he even devises a way to wrestle control of the family ranch away from his upstanding father.if it had been anyone but Newman in the role this would have become tiresome quickly.surprisingly,there was no academy award for him(although Melvyn Douglas and Patricia Neal did take home Oscars).great black and white photography showing the desolate West Texas plains(garnering a statue for James Wong Howe),as well as great direction.don't expect a lot of laughs because this is the story of a good for nothing louse.the tone of the film is similar to a later Texas-based movie The Last Picture Show(both written by Larry McMurtry)and shows life in a sort of hopelessness.look out for a young Brandon De Wilde in a supporting role as Hud's nephew.
Anatomy of a Murder (1959)
i've now seen this movie about half a dozen times,and still enjoy it immensely.James Stewart gives a fine performance as country lawyer Paul Biegler who uses every trick in the book(mostly legal)to outfox the city slickers.the story itself seems like something out of everyday life,with the usual vagaries among the various characters.yes,Lee Remick's character seems to be overblown at times,but even the prosecution mentions her attractiveness at one point.as with most of the other parties involved,she comes across as neither entirely good or bad,but simply human.this film is over 21/2 hours but even with the deliberate pacing it seems to fly by.the jazz score by Duke Ellington seemed out of place(although i liked it)and began a trend in seemingly serious films(e.g.In Cold Blood)there was much controversy upon it's release,probably about the frank sexual language,but also about it's somewhat cynical view of our legal system.of course this is all passé nowadays but doesn't really matter.this is a film whose weaknesses are easy to overlook because of the passionate performances from everyone.i find this one guilty by reason of inspiration.
Downhill Racer (1969)
early Redford vehicle that parallels another success oriented film of his,The Candidate(also directed by Michael Ritchie).the story focuses on Dave Chappelet and his obsession with becoming a skiing champion.no one expects much from him at first,but through hard work and talent he quickly becomes a success.but away from the slopes he is not as successful-he is generally rude,crude,and selfish.director Ritchie harbors this theme in another sports film The Bad News Bears-that "success" has a price and one has to decide if the price is worth the cost.Redford and Gene Hackman give good performances and the skiing photography is first rate,but otherwise there isn't much to keep the viewer's attention.there is a side plot that includes a steamy romance between Chappelet and a ski rep's niece,but this could have been easily left out.look for an early appearance by Dabney Coleman(sans mustache).probably for fans of Redford or skiing only.BTW-my brother once lived in the movie's setting of Idaho Springs Co.
All the President's Men (1976)
Dick's Last Stand
looking at this movie now,it's easy to see that it's a child of the '70's.from the rotary phones to manual typewriters it appears to be from the tech version of the Ice Age.this,however,doesn't hinder the telling of one of the most fascinating detective stories in history.anyone over 45 probably remembers the Watergate hearings(maybe with some annoyance)covered live on T.V.but before all that,a couple of non-descript reporters with the Washington Post took a "third rate burglary" and turned it into one of the most important political events of the time.both Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman manage to capture the life of a newspaper reporter,showing it is not a glamorous business,but one that involves tons of legwork.the film has been criticized as being too slow, but i felt that helped to build the suspense.All The President's Men is fairly faithful to the book(it doesn't give the identity of Deep Throat either)and for a 21/2 hour movie doesn't appear to drag much.anyone that is in search of a good police story-this is a good one to try.P.S.the "newspaper room" in the picture is actually a Hollywood set after filming in a real newsroom didn't work.
worthwhile...that is all
seeing this film again after many years,i am now aware of the weaknesses it has.the movie tends to fly all over the place-from the operating scenes(which are well done)to the "comedy",which in some cases is mean-spirited.although winning an Oscar for best screenplay,some of the script was apparently deleted during editing.it's pretty obvious early on that the setting is really Vietnam,not Korea,otherwise why all the irreverence and cynicism?one problem i had with the direction is with the characters talking over each other.although realistic it was at times difficult to tell what was being said.as a comedy it's a mixed bag-some scenes hilarious,some fall flat.also the football game seems to be tacked on(and takes up a lot of screen time to boot),as if the movie wasn't deemed to be long enough.overall,an enjoyable if somewhat dated film that has lost a little luster.
The Deer Hunter (1978)
this is this
as is the case with almost any movie,this is one you probably either love or hate.i would be the first to admit to the flaws(the wedding scene's length,problems with continuity,etc.but i can't remember seeing a film that had such a profound impact on me personally.seeing it when first released as a 20 year old i(along with the rest of the audience)was shocked.now 26 years later it still has the same impact.we had only been out of Vietnam for a few years,so the memory was still fresh on everyone's mind.this country had just lost over 50,000 lives to this war,which by the end was not very popular.in addition,hundreds of thousands came home,but were never the same again(either physically or emotionally).great performances all around,the only real problem i have is i felt some scenes could have been shortened.a favorite scene-when Mike first comes back home and is greeted by Linda.i'm reduced to tears every time.
The Hustler (1961)
this is Ames,mister
The Hustler has got to be the definitive pool movie of all time(much better than The Color of Money).the black and white photography adds to the seedy atmosphere,which is where pool was generally played at the time.Eddie Felsen is a drifter who is looking for the one big game to strike it rich.he finds it soon enough by hustling Minnesota Fats(Jackie Gleason)supposedly the best player in the country.it is at this time he meets Bert Gordon, a low-life who gambles for a living.this leads to tragic consequences for both Eddie and girlfriend Sarah Packard(Piper Laurie).it is interesting to see through the film how much Newman's character changes from brash to thoughtful by the end,when he finally realizes he's not a loser.a rare accomplishment for a film in that all four leads were nominated for Oscar's(nobody won).much of the pool was actually played by the actors(trick shots provided by Willie Mosconi).although the movie drags a little in the middle,it is full of interesting characters and great pool action.
do you have a rooooooom?
this entry in the series is better than the 1964 original mostly because there is more Peter Sellers.he steals every scene he is in, and when not on camera the film slows down measurably.fortunately that is not for very long.as far as the rest of the cast goes,Christopher Plummer does what he can with what amounts to a thankless role.same for Catherine Schell(who can't seem to control her laughter impulses).a bright spot is Herbert Lom as the put-upon boss who almost stays up with Sellers.with all the behind the scenes action between actor and director it's a wonder these movies were completed in the first place.My personal favorite is The Pink Panther Strikes Again! which is even funnier. guten tag,wie gehts!