Film Review – MIGHTY APHRODITE (1995)

MIGHTY APHRODITE (USA, 1995) ***½
      Distributor: Miramax; Production Company: Sweetland Films / Magnolia Pictures; Release Date: 1 September 1995 (Italy), 27 October 1995 (USA), 12 April 1996 (UK); Filming Dates: 3 October 1994 – 16 December 1994; Running Time: 95m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: Dolby SR (Mono); Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1; BBFC Cert: 15.
      Director: Woody Allen; Writer: Woody Allen; Executive Producer: J.E. Beaucaire, Jean Doumanian; Producer: Robert Greenhut; Associate Producer: Thomas A. Reilly; Director of Photography: Carlo Di Palma; Music Supervisor: Dick Hyman; Film Editor: Susan E. Morse; Casting Director: Juliet Taylor; Production Designer: Santo Loquasto; Art Director: Tom Warren; Set Decorator: Susan Bode; Costumes: Jeffrey Kurland; Make-up: Fern Buchner, Romaine Greene; Sound: Robert Hein.
      Cast: Woody Allen (Lenny), Mira Sorvino (Linda Ash), Helena Bonham Carter (Amanda), Michael Rapaport (Kevin), F. Murray Abraham (Leader), Olympia Dukakis (Jocasta), David Ogden Stiers (Laius), Jack Warden (Tiresias), Peter Weller (Jerry Bender), Danielle Ferland (Cassandra), Claire Bloom (Amanda’s Mother), Donald Symington (Amanda’s Father), Steven Randazzo (Bud), J. Smith-Cameron (Bud’s Wife), Jeffrey Kurland (Oedipus), Jimmy McQuaid (Max), Paul Giamatti (Extras Guild Researcher), Yvette Hawkins (School Principal), Jennifer Greenhut (Lenny’s Secretary), Kenneth Edelson (Ken).
      Synopsis: When he discovers his adopted son is a genius, a New York sportswriter seeks out the boy’s birth mother: a prostitute.
      Comment: Allen is a sportswriter married to Bonham Carter, an art curator. When they decide to adopt a baby boy who grows up to be a highly intelligent boy, Allen resolves to track down the boy’s mother. When he discovers Sorvino is a porn star, Allen resolves to put her back on the right path, but meanwhile, his own marriage is in trouble as Bonham Carter is wooed by Weller. In one of his most adult comedies, many of Allen’s typical tropes are evident – fragile relationships, personal insecurities, the need to educate and mentor – but there is a freshness in the way they are presented that makes the film a pleasure to watch. A witty narration is provided by a Greek chorus and the story whistles along to its ironic finale. Sorvino is wonderful as the porn star totally lacking in self-awareness and whose naivety charms Allen. The actor-director delivers many funny one-liners as he takes it upon himself to mentor her. The supporting cast is strong with Abraham the leader of the Greek chorus and Rapaport as a dim-witted boxer suckered by Allen into a blind date with Sorvino. Yes, the ending feels a little overly-contrived, but the piece is styled as a parable and largely works in this format. Look out for the many trinkets in Sorvino’s apartment. Dick Hyman acts as music coordinator and arranger presenting a number of standards on the soundtrack. Sorvino was awarded an Oscar as Best Supporting Actress with Allen’s screenplay also nominated.

Film Review – ALIAS SMITH AND JONES (1971)

alias068.jpgALIAS SMITH AND JONES (TV) (USA, 1971) ***½
      Distributor: American Broadcasting Company (ABC); Production Company: Universal Television; Release Date: 5 January 1971 (USA), 19 April 1971 (UK); Filming Dates: 8-28 October 1970; Running Time: 74m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: Mono; Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1; BBFC Cert: PG.
      Director: Gene Levitt; Writer: Glen A. Larson, Douglas Heyes (based on a story by Glen A. Larson); Executive Producer: Frank Price; Producer: Glen A. Larson; Director of Photography: John M. Stephens; Music Composer: Billy Goldenberg; Film Editor: Bob Kagey; Art Director: George C. Webb; Set Decorator: Mickey S. Michaels; Costumes: Grady Hunt; Make-up: Bud Westmore, Larry Germain; Sound: Melvin M. Metcalfe Sr.
      Cast: Pete Duel (Hannibal Heyes (alias Joshua Smith)), Ben Murphy (Jed ‘Kid’ Curry (alias Thaddeus Jones)), Forrest Tucker (Deputy Harker Wilkins), Susan Saint James (Miss Porter), James Drury (Sheriff Lom Trevors), Jeanette Nolan (Miss Birdie Pickett), Earl Holliman (Wheat), Dennis Fimple (Kyle), Bill Fletcher (Kane), John Russell (Marshall), Charles Dierkop (Shields), Bill McKinney (Lobo), Sid Haig (Outlaw), Jerry Harper (Outlaw), Jon Shank (Outlaw), Peter Brocco (Pincus), Harry Hickox (Bartender), Owen Bush (Engineer), Julie Cobb (Young Girl).
      Synopsis: A pair of outlaws seeking amnesty from the Governor must stay incognito and out of trouble in a town while a friend pleads their case. The wait is complicated by a lovely bank manager and the arrival of members of their former gang.
      Comment: Light-hearted spin on BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID (1969) coasts on the charm of Duel and Murphy who are backed by a strong guest cast. Duel and Murphy play Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry, two outlaws who are seeking amnesty as technology and improved communication systems put their train and bank robbing days behind them. The rest of their gang, led by the excellent Holliman, arrive in a town where Duel and Murphy have taken on honest jobs working as security in Saint James’ bank whilst Sheriff Drury puts their case to the governor. Tucker also scores as Drury’s dim-witted deputy, whilst Larson and Howard’s script is witty and entertaining. Levitt directs with a good feel for the tone required. This was the pilot for the subsequent TV series (1971-73), which ran for three seasons and 50 episodes with Roger Davis replacing Duel midway through the second season following the actor’s tragic suicide.

Film Review – LOVE AND DEATH (1975)

LOVE AND DEATH (USA, 1975) ****
      Distributor: United Artists; Production Company: Jack Rollins & Charles H. Joffe Productions; Release Date: 10 June 1975 (USA), October 1975 (UK); Filming Dates: 21 September 1974-late February 1975; Running Time: 85m; Colour: DeLuxe; Sound Mix: Mono; Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1; BBFC Cert: PG/PG.
      Director: Woody Allen; Writer: Woody Allen; Executive Producer: Martin Poll; Producer: Charles H. Joffe; Associate Producer: Fred T. Gallo; Director of Photography: Ghislain Cloquet; Music Composer: Sergei Prokofiev; Music Supervisor: Felix Giglio; Film Editor: Ralph Rosenblum, Ron Kalish; Casting Director: Miriam Brickman, Juliet Taylor, Blanche Wiesenfeld; Art Director: Willy Holt; Costumes: Gladys de Segonzac; Make-up: Anatole Paris, Marie-Madeleine Paris, Renée Guidet; Sound: Dan Sable; Special Effects: Kit West.
      Cast: Woody Allen (Boris), Diane Keaton (Sonja), Georges Adet (Old Nehamkin), James Tolkan (Napoleon), Harold Gould (Anton), Olga Georges-Picot (Countess Alexandrovna), Beth Porter (Anna), Zvee Scooler (Father), Jessica Harper (Natasha), Féodor Atkine (Mikhail (as Feodor Atkine)), Despo Diamantidou (Mother), Yves Barsacq (Rimsky (as Yves Barsaco)), Yves Brainville (Andre), Brian Coburn (Dimitri), Tony Jay (Vladimir Maximovitch), Howard Vernon (General Leveque), Alfred Lutter III (Young Boris), Georges Adet (Old Nehamkin), Sol Frieder (Voskovec (as Sol L. Frieder)), Lloyd Battista (Don Francisco).
      Synopsis: In czarist Russia, a neurotic soldier and his distant cousin formulate a plot to assassinate Napoleon.
      Comment: Woody Allen channels Bob Hope (with nods to Chaplin and Groucho) and European cinema (notably Ingmar Bergman) in this very funny parody of Russian literature. Allen is the youngest of three brothers and is in love with the intellectual Keaton, but she is in love with Allen’s macho older brother. Allen and his brothers go off to fight in the war against Napoleon and after inadvertently becoming a hero, Allen gets to marry Keaton, who expects him to be killed in a duel with Gould. The whole thing then turns into an assassination plot against Napoleon (Tolkan). Yes, the plot is as convoluted as all that, but it is also a great vehicle for Allen to deliver his one-liners with zing and some visual slapstick. His targets include his favourite neuroses about sex and death. Keaton is again a great foil for Allen who directs with more assuredness than in any of his efforts up to this point. He was one film away from his breakthrough hit ANNIE HALL. Shot on location in Hungary and France.

Film Review – THE INVISIBLE MAN (1933)

THE INVISIBLE MAN (USA, 1933) ****
      Distributor: Universal Pictures; Production Company: Universal Pictures; Release Date: 3 November 1933 (USA), 30 November 1933 (UK); Filming Dates: August 1933; Running Time: 71m; Colour: B&W; Sound Mix: Mono (Western Electric Noiseless Recording Sound System); Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1; BBFC Cert: PG.
      Director: James Whale; Writer: R.C. Sherriff (based on the novel by H.G. Wells); Executive Producer: Carl Laemmle; Producer: Carl Laemmle Jr.; Director of Photography: Arthur Edeson; Music Composer: Heinz Roemheld (uncredited); Music Supervisor: Gilbert Kurland (uncredited); Film Editor: Ted J. Kent;  Art Director: Charles D. Hall; Make-up: Jack P. Pierce; Sound: Gilbert Kurland (uncredited); Visual Effects: John P. Fulton.
      Cast: Claude Rains (Dr. Jack Griffin aka The Invisible Man), Gloria Stuart (Flora Cranley), William Harrigan (Dr. Arthur Kemp), Henry Travers (Dr. Cranley), Una O’Connor (Jenny Hall), Forrester Harvey (Herbert Hall), Holmes Herbert (Chief of Police), E.E. Clive (Constable Jaffers), Dudley Digges (Chief Detective), Harry Stubbs (Inspector Bird), Donald Stuart (Inspector Lane), Merle Tottenham (Millie), Walter Brennan (Bicycle Owner (uncredited)), Robert Brower (Farmer (uncredited)), John Carradine (Informer Suggesting Ink (uncredited)), Dwight Frye (Reporter (uncredited)), Bob Reeves (Detective Hogan (uncredited)).
      Synopsis: A scientist finds a way of becoming invisible, but in doing so, he becomes murderously insane.
      Comment: H.G. Wells’ novel is brought to the screen in the stylish hands of director Whale and nuanced voice performance by Rains, who is only visible in the final shot. Rains has experimented with a serum that has made him invisible. Madness and megalomania increasingly take him over in his fruitless search for a cure. Rains’ vocal inflexions are both haunting and comedic and the material is often played for straight comedy. The character’s psychotic undercurrent becomes apparent as he commits a series of murders – firstly to protect his experiment and increasingly as spite, notably a scene where he derails a passenger train. The shifting tone is skilfully handled by Whale whose visual creativity along with the wonderful invisible effects by Fulton ensure the film remains absorbing throughout. The supporting performances are variable from O’Connor’s screeching innkeeper’s wife to a remarkably mannered Harrigan as Rains’ former assistant who Rains seeks revenge on for his betrayal. The movie was highly influential on the horror and fantasy genres and made a star out of Rains. Followed by THE INVISIBLE MAN RETURNS (1940) and THE INVISIBLE MAN’S REVENGE (1944).

Film Review – SPRING AND PORT WINE (1970)

SPRING AND PORT WINE (UK, 1970) ***
      Distributor: Anglo-Amalgamated Film Distributors; Production Company: Memorial Enterprises; Release Date: 19 February 1970; Filming Dates: began 28 April 1969; Running Time: 101m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: Mono; Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1; BBFC Cert: PG.
      Director: Peter Hammond; Writer: Bill Naughton (based on the stage play by Bill Naughton); Executive Producer: Roy Baird; Producer: Michael Medwin; Director of Photography: Norman Warwick; Music Composer: Douglas Gamley; Film Editor: Fergus McDonell; Casting Director: Miriam Brickman (uncredited); Production Designer: Reece Pemberton; Costumes: Elsa Fennell; Make-up: Bunty Phillips; Sound: Robin Gregory, Barry McCormick.
      Cast: James Mason (Rafe Crompton), Diana Coupland (Daisy Crompton), Hannah Gordon (Florence Crompton), Susan George (Hilda Crompton), Rodney Bewes (Harold Crompton), Len Jones (Wilfred Crompton), Keith Buckley (Arthur Gasket), Avril Elgar (Betsy-Jane Duckworth), Adrienne Posta (Betty Duckworth), Frank Windsor (Ned Duckworth), Arthur Lowe (Mr. Aspinall), Marjorie Rhodes (Mrs. Gasket), Bernard Bresslaw (Lorry Driver), Joseph Greig (Allan (T.V. Man)), Christopher Timothy (Joe (T.V. Man)), Ken Parry (Pawnbroker), Reginald Green (Bowler 1), Jack Howarth (Bowler 2), Bryan Pringle (Bowler 3), John Sharp (Bowler 4).
      Synopsis: A stern father and lenient mother try to deal with the ups and downs of their four children’s lives in working-class Bolton.
      Comment: Bill Naughton adapted his own stage play for the big screen with this battle of wills between the generations within a northern family. The location shooting in Bolton adds a level of authenticity to a script which comes across as a little over-preachy and with a finale that doesn’t feel real. However, a game cast delivers some witty dialogue and whilst Mason was miscast, he makes a good stab at his part of the stubborn family patriarch. Bewes also scores as the insolent son who doesn’t quite have the courage of his convictions and Coupland as the wife torn between loyalty to her husband and her kids. A time capsule caught slightly out of sync.

Film Review – THE ITALIAN JOB (1969)

THE ITALIAN JOB (UK, 1969) ***½
      Distributor: Paramount British Pictures; Production Company: Oakhurst Productions / Paramount Pictures Corporation; Release Date: 5 June 1969 (UK), 3 September 1969 (USA); Filming Dates: began 24 June 1968; Running Time: 99m; Colour: Eastmancolor; Sound Mix: Mono; Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Panavision (anamorphic); Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1; BBFC Cert: PG.
      Director: Peter Collinson; Writer: Troy Kennedy-Martin; Producer: Michael Deeley; Associate Producer: Robert Porter; Director of Photography: Douglas Slocombe; Music Composer: Quincy Jones; Film Editor: John Trumper; Casting Director: Paul Lee Lander; Production Designer: Disley Jones; Art Director: Michael Knight; Costumes: Dinah Greet (uncredited); Make-up: Freddie Williamson; Sound: John Aldred, Gerry Humphreys, Stephen Warwick; Special Effects: Pat Moore.
      Cast: Michael Caine (Charlie Croker), Noël Coward (Mr. Bridger), Benny Hill (Professor Simon Peach), Raf Vallone (Altabani), Tony Beckley (Freddie), Rossano Brazzi (Beckerman), Margaret Blye (Lorna), Irene Handl (Miss Peach), John Le Mesurier (Governor), Fred Emney (Birkinshaw), John Clive (Garage Manager), Graham Payn (Keats), Michael Standing (Arthur), Stanley Caine (Coco), Barry Cox (Chris), Harry Baird (Big William), George Innes (Bill Bailey), John Forgeham (Frank), Robert Powell (Yellow), Derek Ware (Rozzer).
      Synopsis: Comic caper movie about a plan to steal a gold shipment from the streets of Turin by creating a traffic jam.
      Comment: Visually stylish caper comedy that is typical of its time, mixing late-sixties excess and imagery with stunning locations and quirky performances. Caine and Coward are in good form, with the latter making for a memorable imprisoned crime lord who enjoys all the luxuries of life from his cell. Troy Kennedy Martin’s script appears to have been used lightly by director Collinson. The set pieces – notably the heist and the ironic finale – are the main selling points alongside Douglas Slocombe’s gorgeous photography and Quincy Jones’ witty score.
      Notes: Remade in 2003.

Film Review – THE LOVERS! (1973)

The Lovers!THE LOVERS! (UK, 1973) ***
      Distributor: British Lion Film Corporation; Production Company: British Lion Film Corporation; Release Date: 5 October 1973 (UK); Filming Dates: began 12 June 1972; Running Time: 88m; Colour: Colour; Sound Mix: Mono; Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1; BBFC Cert: 12.
      Director: Herbert Wise; Writer: Jack Rosenthal (based on the TV series created by Jack Rosenthal); Producer: Maurice Foster; Director of Photography: Robert Huke; Music Composer: Carl Davis; Film Editor: Bernard Gribble; Production Designer: Peter Mullins; Costumes: Emma Porteous; Make-up: George Partleton; Sound: Brian Simmons.
      Cast: Richard Beckinsale (Geoffrey Scrimshaw), Paula Wilcox (Beryl Battersby), Susan Littler (Sandra), Rosalind Ayres (Veronica), Anthony Naylor (Neville), Nikolas Simmonds (Roland), Joan Scott (Beryl’s Mum), John Comer (Geoffrey’s Dad), Stella Moray (Geoffrey’s Mum), Pamela Moiseiwitsch (Enid), Bruce Watt (Jeremy), Paul Greenwood (Trainee Manager (Party)), Bernard Latham (‘Handsome’ (Party)), Karen Ford (Foreign Girl (Party)), James Snell (Doctor), Mary Henry (Woman (Jumble Sale)), Serena (Stripper), Margaret Flint (Bookstall Manageress), Ian Gray (Bookstall Assistant).
      Synopsis: Old-fashioned girl Beryl (Wilcox) slaps down the advances of her frustrated boyfriend (Beckinsale), whose clumsy attempts to initiate ‘Percy Filth’ suggest he’s not quite up to speed himself! Like everyone else, Geoffrey and Beryl want to fall in love – or they think they do; like everyone else, since Adam and Eve. But Adam and Eve didn’t live in Manchester in 1972.
      Comment: One of the better of a glut of cinema adaptations of TV sit-coms during the 1970s. This one benefits from a sharp, observational script from Rosenthal and good use of locations in and around Manchester. The leads, Beckinsale and Wilcox, are also likeable in their naivety as they struggle to balance peer group pressure with their own values. The nature of the plot may seem fragmented at times – as if trying to cover a series worth of material in an hour and a half – but the occasional gem shines through. Whilst it may seem rather dated today in the way it tackles its subject matter, it is indicative of the period in which it was made and is, therefore, a nice time capsule comment on relationship ideals in the 1970s.
      Notes: The TV series, The Lovers, ran from 1970-2 for two series and 13 episodes.

Film Review – THE RETURN OF THE MUSKETEERS (1989)

THE RETURN OF THE MUSKETEERS (UK/France/Spain, 1989) ***
      Distributor: Entertainment Film Distributors; Production Company: Fildebroc / Ciné 5 / Sofica / Timothy Burrill Productions / Iberoamericana Films Producción; Release Date: 25 August 1989 (UK), 3 April 1991 (USA) (TV); Filming Dates: 22 August 1988 – October 1988; Running Time: 102m; Colour: Rankcolor; Sound Mix: Dolby Stereo; Film Format: 35mm; Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1; BBFC Cert: PG.
      Director: Richard Lester; Writer: George MacDonald Fraser (based on the novel “Twenty Years After” by Alexandre Dumas); Executive Producer: Wayne Drizin, Mario Sotela; Producer: Pierre Spengler; Director of Photography: Bernard Lutic; Music Composer: Jean-Claude Petit; Film Editor: John Victor-Smith; Casting Director: Debbie McWilliams, Concha Campins; Production Designer: Gil Parrondo; Art Director: Raul Paton; Set Decorator: Michael Seirton; Costumes: Yvonne Blake; Make-up: José Antonio Sánchez, Cynthia Cruz; Sound: Les Wiggins; Special Effects: Reyes Abades.
      Cast: Michael York (D’Artagnan), Oliver Reed (Athos), Frank Finlay (Porthos), C. Thomas Howell (Raoul), Kim Cattrall (Justine de Winter), Geraldine Chaplin (Queen Anne), Roy Kinnear (Planchet), Christopher Lee (Rochefort), Philippe Noiret (Cardinal Mazarin), Richard Chamberlain (Aramis), Eusebio Lázaro (Duke of Beaufort), Alan Howard (Oliver Cromwell), David Birkin (Louis XIV), Bill Paterson (Charles I), Jean-Pierre Cassel (Cyrano de Bergerac), Billy Connolly (Caddie), Servane Ducorps (Olympe), William J. Fletcher (De Guiche), Laure Sabardin (Chevreuse), Marcelline Collard (Lamballe), Pat Roach (French Executioner), Jesús Ruyman (Headsman), Fernando De Juan (Ireton), Barry Burgues (Young Clerk), Leon Greene (Captain Groslow), Ágata Lys (Duchesse de Longueville), Bob Todd (High Bailiff), Lucy Hardwick (Lady-in-Waiting), Aldo Sambrell (Burly Demonstrator), Jack Taylor (Gentleman on Horseback), Ricardo Palacios (Big Lackey), Luciano Federico (Tall Lackey), Carmen Fernández (Commedia player), Rafael de la Cruz (Commedia player), German Estebas (Commedia player), Jesús García (Commedia player), Fernando Simón (Commedia player).
      Synopsis: It’s 1649: Mazarin hires the impoverished D’Artagnan to find the other musketeers: Cromwell has overthrown the English king, so Mazarin fears revolt, particularly from the popular Beaufort.
      Comment: Lacks the heart of the director’s 1973/4 adaptation of THE THREE MUSKETEERS and THE FOUR MUSKETEERS, partly due to the tragic death of Kinnear from a riding accident during filming. Other problems are in the rushed nature of the story which is crammed from a thick novel into less than two hours of screen time. York provides linking narration in case the viewer gets lost through the rapidly changing setting and plot developments. The story feels incohesive as a result. On the plus side are the energetic sword fights and a returning cast trying their best to keep the adventure spirited. Cattrall makes for a game villain and York, Reed, Finlay and Chamberlain are engaging as the musketeers. Great location work and natural photography add to technical merits.

Film Review – THE THREE MUSKETEERS (1973)

Related imageTHE THREE MUSKETEERS (THE QUEEN’S DIAMONDS) (Spain/USA/Panama/UK, 1973) ****½
     Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures; Production Company: Alexander, Michael and Ilya Salkind Productions  / Film Trust S.A. / Este Films; Release Date: 25 March 1974 (UK), 28 March 1974 (USA); Filming Dates: May-September 1973; Running Time: 105m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: Mono; Film Format: 35mm (Eastman 100T 5254); Film Process: Panavision, Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1; BBFC Cert: U – Contains mild violence and innuendo.
     Director: Richard Lester; Writer: George MacDonald Fraser (based on the novel by Alexandre Dumas); Executive Producer: Ilya Salkind, Alexander Salkind (uncredited), Michael Salkind (uncredited), Pierre Spengler; Producer: Ilya Salkind; Associate Producer: Wolfdieter von Stein; Director of Photography: David Watkin; Music Composer: Michel Legrand; Music Supervisor: ; Film Editor: John Victor-Smith; Casting Director: Miriam Brickman (uncredited); Production Designer: Brian Eatwell; Art Director: Leslie Dilley, Fernando González; Costumes: Yvonne Blake; Make-up: José Antonio Sánchez, Cristóbal Criado, Charlene Roberson; Sound: Don Challis, Don Sharpe; Special Effects: Pablo Pérez; Visual Effects: .
     Cast: Oliver Reed (Athos), Raquel Welch (Constance de Bonacieux), Richard Chamberlain (Aramis), Michael York (D’Artagnan), Frank Finlay (Porthos / O’Reilly), Christopher Lee (Rochefort), Geraldine Chaplin (Queen Anna), Jean-Pierre Cassel (King Louis XIII), Spike Milligan (M. Bonacieux), Roy Kinnear (Planchet), Georges Wilson (Treville), Simon Ward (Duke of Buckingham), Faye Dunaway (Milady), Charlton Heston (Cardinal Richelieu), Joss Ackland (D’Artagnan’s Father), Nicole Calfan (Kitty), Michael Gothard (Felton), Sybil Danning (Eugenie), Gitty Djamal (Beatrice), Ángel del Pozo (Jussac), Rodney Bewes (Spy), Ben Aris (1st Musketeer), William Hobbs (Assassin), Gretchen Franklin (D’Artagnan’s Mother), Francis De Wolff (Sea Captain).
     Synopsis: The young D’Artagnan (York) arrives in Paris with dreams of becoming a King’s Musketeer. He meets and quarrels with three men, Athos (Reed), Porthos (Finlay), and Aramis (Chamberlain), each of whom challenges him to a duel. D’Artagnan finds out they are Musketeers and is invited to join them in their efforts to oppose Cardinal Richelieu (Heston), who wishes to increase his already considerable power over King Louis XIII (Cassel). D’Artagnan must also juggle affairs with the charming Constance Bonacieux (Welch) and the passionate Lady De Winter (Dunaway), a secret agent for the Cardinal.
     Comment: A joie-de-vivre permeates every frame of Lester’s definitive adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’ classic adventure novel. This represents the first half of the story with the second following a year later. The result is a supremely entertaining swashbuckler filled with great sword fights, delicious humour, authentic production design and costumes. The whole cast enter into the spirit of the production with note-perfect performances, whilst Lester’s spirited direction and Watkin’s sumptuous cinematography make for a visual delight. York, Reed, Chamberlain and Finally are well cast as the Musketeers whilst Welch demonstrates a gift for comedy as York’s love interest. Heston is obviously enjoying himself as the scheming Cardinal Richelieu and Dunaway shows promise of what she would go on to deliver in the follow-up.
     Notes: Lester shot the film in conjunction with its sequel, THE FOUR MUSKETEERS (1974). Originally intended as a single film, the split prompted a lawsuit from the cast demanding payment for both films.

Film Review – LAST CHRISTMAS (2019)

Image result for last christmas 2019LAST CHRISTMAS (UK/USA, 2019) ***
     Distributor: Universal Pictures; Production Company: Calamity Films / Feigco Entertainment / Perfect World Pictures / Universal Pictures; Release Date: 8 November 2019 (USA), 15 November 2019 (UK); Running Time: 103m; Colour: Colour; Sound Mix: Dolby Digital; Film Format: DXL RAW; Film Process: DXL RAW (8K); Aspect Ratio: 2.00:1; BBFC Cert: 12 – moderate sex references, language.
     Director: Paul Feig; Writer: Emma Thompson, Bryony Kimmings (based on a story by Emma Thompson and Greg Wise); Executive Producer: Sarah Bradshaw; Producer: Erik Baiers, Jessie Henderson, David Livingstone, Emma Thompson; Associate Producer: Simon Halfon; Director of Photography: John Schwartzman; Music Composer: Theodore Shapiro; Film Editor: Brent White; Casting Director: Alice Searby, Fiona Weir; Production Designer: Gary Freeman; Art Director: Tom Still, Richard Hardy; Set Decorator: Raffaella Giovannetti; Costumes: Renee Ehrlich Kalfus; Make-up: Pippa Woods; Sound: James Mather; Special Effects: Michael Dawson; Visual Effects: Scott Dougherty.
     Cast: Emilia Clarke (Kate), Henry Golding (Tom), Michelle Yeoh (Santa), Emma Thompson (Petra), Lydia Leonard (Marta), Patti LuPone (Joyce), Ingrid Oliver (Police Woman Crowley), Laura Evelyn (Police Woman Churchill), Rebecca Root (Dr. Addis), Sue Perkins (Ice Show Director), Boris Isakovic (Ivan), Maxim Baldry (Ed), Bilal Zafar (Oscar), Michael Addo (Fit Looking Guy), Peter Mygind (The Dane aka ‘Boy’), Rob Delaney (Theater Director), Peter Serafinowicz (Theater Producer), Sara Powell (Casting Director), Ritu Arya (Jenna), Ansu Kabia (Rufus), Fabien Frankel (Fabien), Angela Wynter (Ice Show Casting Director), Ben Owen-Jones (Danny), David Hargreaves (Arthur), Joe Blakemore (Army ‘Tom’), Calvin Demba (Nathan), Anna Calder-Marshall (Dora), Amit Shah (Andy).
     Synopsis: Kate is a young woman subscribed to bad decisions. Her last date with disaster? That of having accepted to work as Santa’s elf for a department store. However, she meets Tom there. Her life takes a new turn. For Kate, it seems too good to be true.
    Comment: A largely tick-box Christmas movie played out against the music of George Michael and Wham makes for diverting entertainment. Thompson and Kimmings’ script crams in all the traditional smarts of the modern-day rom-com whilst offering a twist late in proceedings that is the one genuinely surprising moment. Clarke tries hard, perhaps too hard, in the lead role and as a result, her character struggles for empathy from the audience. Thompson delivers a funny turn as her Yugoslavian mother, but their implied conflict is too easily resolved. Yeoh also scores as the dedicated Christmas store manager where Clarke works as an assistant. The songs are timeless and significantly add to the feel of the movie. Ultimately, despite its final twist, this feels like it wants to be a traditional seasonal feelgood movie to which the occasional political messaging comes across a bit off-key.