Film Review – THE DROWNING POOL (1975)

Image result for the drowning pool 1975THE DROWNING POOL (USA, 1975) ***½
      Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures; Production Company: First Artists / Coleytown / Turman-Foster Company / David Foster Productions; Release Date: 25 June 1975 (USA), 14 September 1975 (UK); Filming Dates: began 16 October 1974; Running Time: 108m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: Mono; Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Panavision (anamorphic); Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1; BBFC Cert: 12.
      Director: Stuart Rosenberg; Writer: Tracy Keenan Wynn, Lorenzo Semple Jr., Walter Hill (based on the novel by Ross Macdonald); Producer: David Foster, Lawrence Turman; Associate Producer: Hawk Koch; Director of Photography: Gordon Willis; Music Composer: Michael Small; Film Editor: John C. Howard; Casting Director: Alan Shayne; Production Designer: Paul Sylbert; Art Director: Edwin O’Donovan; Costumes: Richard Bruno, Donald Brooks; Make-up: Monty Westmore; Sound: Larry Jost; Special Effects: Chuck Gaspar, Henry Millar.
      Cast: Paul Newman (Lew Harper), Joanne Woodward (Iris Devereaux), Anthony Franciosa (Broussard), Murray Hamilton (J.J. Kilbourne), Gail Strickland (Mavis Kilbourne), Melanie Griffith (Schuyler Devreaux), Linda Haynes (Gretchen), Richard Jaeckel (Franks), Paul Koslo (Candy), Joe Canutt (Glo), Andrew Robinson (Pat Reavis), Coral Browne (Olivia Devereaux), Richard Derr (James Devereaux), Helena Kallianiotes (Elaine Reavis), Leigh French (Red Head), Peter Dassinger (Peter), James Fontenot (Bartender), Tommy McLain (Nightclub Band), Martin Ahrens (Cajun Heavy #1), Philippe Blenet (Cajun Heavy #2), Jerome Greene (Butler), Cecil Elliott (Motel Switchboard Operator).
      Synopsis: Sequel to HARPER (1966), in which the big-city private detective travels to the Deep South to help out an old girlfriend who is being blackmailed.
      Comment: Newman returns to the role that fit him like a glove nine years earlier. This new case has more depth to the plot and also benefits from a strong supporting cast – with Hamilton’s sleazy oil magnate the most notable. A young Griffith takes on the role of rich couple’s spoilt daughter. The overall set-up may be familiar to noir fans and certainly to fans of Macdonald’s novel – despite the switch of setting – so it packs few surprises. Rosenberg’s direction is a little flat at times, but overall this is an enjoyable mystery.
      Notes: During post-production, director Stuart Rosenberg hired Composer Charles Fox to do additional scoring, integrating the composer’s melody “Killing Me Softly With His Song”, into the movie.

Film Review – HARPER (1966)

Image result for harper 1966HARPER (USA, 1966) ***
      Distributor: Warner Bros. (USA), Warner-Pathé Distributors (UK); Production Company: Gershwin-Kastner Productions; Release Date: 23 February 1966 (USA), 1 July 1966 (UK); Filming Dates: 7 June 1965 – 20 August 1965; Running Time: 121m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: Mono; Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Panavision (anamorphic); Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1; BBFC Cert: 12.
      Director: Jack Smight; Writer: William Goldman (based on the novel “The Moving Target” by Ross Macdonald); Producer: Jerry Gershwin, Elliott Kastner; Director of Photography: Conrad L. Hall; Music Composer: Johnny Mandel; Film Editor: Stefan Arnsten; Art Director: Alfred Sweeney; Set Decorator: Claude E. Carpenter; Costumes: William Smith; Make-up: Gordon Bau; Sound: Stanley Jones.
      Cast: Paul Newman (Lew Harper), Lauren Bacall (Mrs. Sampson), Julie Harris (Betty Fraley), Arthur Hill (Albert Graves), Janet Leigh (Susan Harper), Pamela Tiffin (Miranda Sampson), Robert Wagner (Allan Taggert), Robert Webber (Dwight Troy), Shelley Winters (Fay Estabrook), Harold Gould (Sheriff), Roy Jenson (Puddler), Strother Martin (Claude), Martin West (Deputy), Jacqueline deWit (Mrs. Kronberg), Eugene Iglesias (Felix), Richard Carlyle (Fred Platt).
      Synopsis: Lew Harper, a cool private investigator, is hired by a wealthy California matron to locate her kidnapped husband.
      Comment: Smight’s adaptation of Ross Macdonald’s classic mystery is a product of the period in which it was made as the free spirit of the 1960s threatens to drown the plot. Newman layers his charm onto Macdonald’s detective and it is his performance that is the main draw. The kidnapping plot involves a strong cast of eccentric characters but fails to invest any with significant depth. The dialogue, however, is smarter as Goldman captures the spirit of the wisecracking down on his luck PI genre, if not the mood.
      Notes: The title of Ross Macdonald’s source novel “The Moving Target” was this picture’s title in Great Britain. The lead character was changed from Lew Archer to Harper because the producers had only bought the rights to the first book in the series. Followed by THE DROWNING POOL (1975), again with Newman.

Book Review – LET IT BLEED (1995) by Ian Rankin

LET IT BLEED (1995) ****
by Ian Rankin
First published by Orion 1995
This edition published by Orion, 2011, 402pp (360pp)
ISBN: 978-0-7528-8359-5
includes an introduction by Ian Rankin and Reading Group Notes.

Blurb: Struggling through another Edinburgh winter Rebus finds himself sucked into a web of intrigue that throws up more questions than answers. Was the Lord Provost’s daughter kidnapped or just another runaway? Why is a city councillor shredding documents that should have been waste paper years ago? And why on earth is Rebus invited to a clay pigeon shoot at the home of the Scottish Office’s Permanent Secretary? Sucked into the machine that is modern Scotland, Rebus confronts the fact that some of his enemies may be beyond justice…

Ian Rankin’s seventh Rebus novel see the writer in maximum cynicism mode as he hits his stride taking on politics, the establishment, corporate industry and corruption. It is a complex plot the cleverly weaves its many strands into a cohesive whole. Rebus is the voice of conscience throughout, but he himself is no saint – failing in his relationships with his partner and his daughter and descending into greater dependency on alcohol. His wits remain as sharp as ever and this is his most expansive investigation to date. That Rebus is a flawed and human character makes him all the more believable and easier to forgive those failings. Whilst BLACK AND BLUE may be seen as the point where all the elements come together in the series, beginning a golden run, LET IT BLEED acts as an excellent prelude. I now only have the thirteenth book, RESURRECTION MEN, to read to have completed the whole series.

The Rebus Series:

Knots and Crosses (1987) ***
Hide and Seek (1991) ***
Tooth and Nail (original title Wolfman) (1992) ***
Strip Jack (1992) ***½
The Black Book (1993) ***
Mortal Causes (1994) ***
Let it Bleed (1996) ****
Black and Blue (1997) ****½
The Hanging Garden (1998) ****
Dead Souls (1999) ****
Set in Darkness (2000) ****
The Falls (2001) ****
Resurrection Men (2002)
A Question of Blood (2003) ****
Fleshmarket Close (2004) ****
The Naming of the Dead (2006)  ****½
Exit Music (2007) ****
Standing in Another Man’s Grave (2012) ***½
Saints of the Shadow Bible (2013) ***
Even Dogs in the Wild (2015) ****
Rather Be the Devil (2016) ***½
In a House of Lies (2018) ***½

Film Review – EVEREST (2015)

Image result for everest 2015EVEREST (USA/UK/Iceland, 2015) ***½
      Distributor: Universal Pictures (USA), Universal Pictures International (UPI) (UK); Production Company: Working Title Films / RVK Studios / Walden Media / Universal Pictures / Cross Creek Pictures; Release Date: 18 September 2015 (USA and UK); Filming Dates: Began 13 January 2014; Running Time: 121m; Colour: Colour; Sound Mix: Dolby Digital | 12-Track Digital Sound (IMAX 12 track) | Dolby Atmos | Auro 11.1 | IMAX 6-Track | Dolby Surround 7.1 | Sonics-DDP; Film Format: D-Cinema (also 3-D version); Film Process: Digital Intermediate (2K) (master format); Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1; BBFC Cert: 12.
      Director: Baltasar Kormákur; Writer: Lem Dobbs, Justin Isbell, William Nicholson; Executive Producer: Brandt Andersen, Liza Chasin, Randall Emmett, Evan Hayes, Mark Mallouk, Peter Mallouk, Angela Morrison, Lauren Selig; Producer: Nicky Kentish Barnes, Tim Bevan, Liza Chasin, Eric Fellner, Evan Hayes, Brian Oliver, Tyler Thompson; Director of Photography: Salvatore Totino; Music Composer: Dario Marianelli; Music Supervisor: Maggie Rodford; Film Editor: Mick Audsley; Casting Director: Fiona Weir; Production Designer: Gary Freeman; Art Director: Tom Still; Set Decorator: Raffaella Giovannetti; Costumes: Guy Speranza; Make-up: Carmel Jackson; Sound: Glenn Freemantle; Special Effects: Richard Van Den Bergh; Visual Effects: Måns Björklund, Tim Caplan, Chaya Feiner, Hjortur Gretarsson, Roma O’Connor, Dominic Parker, Melody Woodford.
      Cast: Jason Clarke (Rob Hall), Jake Gyllenhaal (Scott Fischer), Josh Brolin (Beck Weathers), Robin Wright (Peach Weathers), John Hawkes (Doug Hansen), Sam Worthington (Guy Cotter), Michael Kelly (Jon Krakauer), Keira Knightley (Jan Arnold), Emily Watson (Helen Wilton), Thomas Wright (Michael Groom), Martin Henderson (Andy “Harold” Harris), Elizabeth Debicki (Dr. Caroline Mackenzie), Naoko Mori (Yasuko Namba), Clive Standen (Ed Viesturs), Vanessa Kirby (Sandy Hill), Tom Goodman-Hill (Neal Beidleman), Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson (Anatoli Boukreev), Charlotte Bøving (Lene Gammelgaard), Micah Hauptman (David Breashears), Chris Reilly (Klev Schoening), Chike Chan (Makalu Gau), Vijaya Lama (Lt. Col. Madan Khatri Chhetri), Mark Derwin (Lou Kasischke), Mia Goth (Meg Weathers).
      Synopsis: The story of New Zealand’s Robert “Rob” Edwin Hall, who on May 10, 1996, together with Scott Fischer, teamed up on a joint expedition to ascend Mount Everest.
      Comment: Based on a true story this is a Hollywood-ised treatment that nevertheless is an engaging experience due to some breathtaking location photography and strong performances by the ensemble cast. The set-pieces are immaculately staged and often thrilling, but the main theme is one of endurance and will. Clarke and Brolin are particularly excellent, whilst Gyllenhaal is also memorable in a hippy-style turn. Whilst the movie lacks the emotional impact it tries to create, by not letting us get close enough to the characters, it more than makes up for with its technically spectacular sequences
      Notes: Also shot in 3-D.

Film Review – TARZAN’S GREATEST ADVENTURE (1959)

Image result for tarzan's greatest adventureTARZAN’S GREATEST ADVENTURE (UK, 1959) ****
      Distributor: Paramount Pictures (USA), Paramount British Pictures (UK); Production Company: Solar Film Productions; Release Date: 8 July 1959 (USA); Filming Dates: mid Feb–late Mar 1959; Running Time: 88m; Colour: Eastmancolor; Sound Mix: Mono (Westrex Recording System); Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1; BBFC Cert: PG.
      Director: John Guillermin; Writer: Berne Giler, John Guillermin (based on a story by Les Crutchfield and characters created by Edgar Rice Burroughs); Executive Producer: Harvey Hayutin, Sy Weintraub; Producer: Sy Weintraub; Director of Photography: Edward Scaife; Music Composer: Douglas Gamley; Film Editor: Bert Rule; Casting Director: Nora Roberts; Art Director: Michael Stringer; Make-up: Tony Sforzini; Sound: John Cox.
      Cast: Gordon Scott (Tarzan), Anthony Quayle (Slade), Sara Shane (Angie), Niall MacGinnis (Kruger), Sean Connery (O’Bannion), Al Mulock (Dino), Scilla Gabel (Toni).
      Synopsis: Tarzan is out to capture a quintet of British diamond hunters in Africa, who killed a pair of natives while robbing supplies.
     Comment: Excellent jungle adventure is perhaps the best of the Tarzan pictures. Scott’s pursuit of Quayle is superbly edited and directed with a grittiness missing from the series since the early Johnny Weissmuller entries. Quayle gives a nuanced performance whilst Connery is notable in an early role. Scott’s Tarzan is an intelligent and fully verbal version closer to Burroughs’ vision.
      Notes: Connery was paid five thousand six hundred dollars for his role in this movie. When asked to play in the next Tarzan movie, he said he couldn’t because “two fellows took an option on me for some spy picture and are exercising it. But I’ll be in your next.” The “spy picture” was DR. NO (1962), the first of his numerous appearances as James Bond 007. Followed by TARZAN THE MAGNIFICENT (1960).