Film Review: ESCAPE FROM ALCATRAZ (1979)

Image result for escape from alcatraz 1979ESCAPE FROM ALCATRAZ (USA, 1979) ****
      Distributor: Paramount Pictures (USA), Cinema International Corporation (CIC) (UK); Production Company: Paramount Pictures / The Malpaso Company; Release Date: 22 June 1979 (USA), 24 January 1980 (UK); Filming Dates: 16 October 1978 – January 1979; Running Time: 112m; Colour: DeLuxe; Sound Mix: Mono; Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1; BBFC Cert: 15.
      Director: Don Siegel; Writer: Richard Tuggle (based on the book by J. Campbell Bruce); Executive Producer: Robert Daley; Producer: Don Siegel; Associate Producer: Fritz Manes; Director of Photography: Bruce Surtees; Music Composer: Jerry Fielding; Film Editor: Ferris Webster; Casting Director: Marion Dougherty, Wallis Nicita; Production Designer: Allen E. Smith; Art Director: ; Set Decorator: Edward J. McDonald; Costumes: Glenn Wright; Make-up: Joe McKinney; Sound: Bub Asman, Bert Hallberg, Alan Robert Murray; Special Effects: Chuck Gaspar.
       Cast: Clint Eastwood (Frank Morris), Patrick McGoohan (Warden), Roberts Blossom (Chester ‘Doc’ Dalton), Jack Thibeau (Clarence Anglin), Fred Ward (John Anglin), Paul Benjamin (English), Larry Hankin (Charley Butts), Bruce M. Fischer (Wolf), Frank Ronzio (Litmus), Fred Stuthman (Johnson), David Cryer (Wagner), Madison Arnold (Zimmerman), Blair Burrows (Fight Guard), Bob Balhatchet (Medical Technical Assistant), Matthew Locricchio (Exam Guard), Don Michaelian (Beck), Ray K. Goman (Cellblock Captain), Jason Ronard (Bobs), Ed Vasgersian (Cranston), Ron Vernan (Stone), Regina Baff (Lucy), Hank Brandt (Associate Warden), Candace Bowen (English’s Daughter), Joe Miksak (Police Sgt.), Stephen Bradley (Exam Guard), Garry Goodrow (Weston), Ross Reynolds (Helicopter Pilot), Al Dunlap (Visitors’ Guard), Denis Berkfeldt (Guard), Jim Haynie (Guard), Tony Dario (Guard), Fritz Manes (Guard), Dana Derfus (Guard), Don Cummins (Guard), Gordon Handforth (Guard), John Scanlon (Guard), Don Watters (Guard), Dan Leegant (Guard), Joe Knowland (Guard), James Collier (Guard), R.J. Ganzert (Guard), Robert Hirschfeld (Guard), Lloyd Nelson (Guard), George Orrison (Guard), Gary Warren (Guard), Joseph Whipp (Guard), Terry Wills (Guard), John Garabedian (Guard), Dale Alvarez (Inmate), Sheldon Feldner (Inmate), Danny Glover (Inmate), Carl Lumbly (Inmate), Patrick Valentino (Inmate), Gilbert Thomas Jr. (Inmate), Eugene Jackson (Inmate).
      Synopsis: Frank Morris (Eastwood), a hardened con with a history of prison breaks, is sent to serve the rest of his life sentence at Alcatraz — America’s most infamously brutal and inescapable maximum security prison. Morris quickly realizes the prison’s dehumanizing effects and clashes with its cruel warden (McGoohan). Fed up with life at Alcatraz, Morris and two convict brothers (Ward, Thibeau) meticulously plan the unthinkable: an escape from the island.
      Comment: Well-made account of a true story of the last attempt of prisoners to escape from the remote, rock-based San Francisco prison. Eastwood teams once again with director Siegel and the latter is at his efficient and effective best. Eastwood uses his screen persona to good effect in a role that allows him to stick within his confines. The tension in the relationship between the prisoners and their captors, notably McGoohan’s determined warden, is well played by a strong cast. The final escape sequence itself is impressively staged.
      Notes: Glover’s film debut. Song: “D Block Blues,” by Gilbert Thomas, Jr. Less than one year after the real-life events that are depicted in the film, the prison was shut down. The escape occurred on June 11, 1962, and the prison closed on March 21, 1963. Because the penitentiary cost much more to operate than other prisons (nearly ten dollars per prisoner per day, as opposed to three dollars per prisoner per day at Atlanta), and half a century of salt water saturation had severely eroded the buildings, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy ordered the penitentiary closed on March 21, 1963.

Film Review – INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1978)

Image result for invasion of the body snatchers 1978INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (USA, 1978) ***½
      Distributor: United Artists; Production Company: Solofilm; Release Date: 22 December 1978 (USA); 22 March 1979 (UK); Filming Dates: 19 February 1978 – 29 April 1978; Running Time: 115m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: Stereo (Dolby Stereo); Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1; BBFC Cert: 15 – contains one scene of strong gory violence and moderate horror.
      Director: Philip Kaufman; Writer: W.D. Richter (based on the novel “The Body Snatchers” by Jack Finney); Producer: Robert H. Solo; Director of Photography: Michael Chapman; Music Composer: Denny Zeitlin; Film Editor: Douglas Stewart; Casting Director: Mary Goldberg; Production Designer: Charles Rosen; Set Decorator: Doug von Koss; Costumes: Aggie Guerard Rodgers; Make-up: Thomas R. Burman, Edouard F. Henriques, Bob Westmoreland; Sound: Ben Burtt, Bonnie Koehler, John Nutt, Steve Powell, Art Rochester; Special Effects: Russel Hessey, Dell Rheaume.
       Cast: Donald Sutherland (Matthew Bennell), Brooke Adams (Elizabeth Driscoll), Jeff Goldblum (Jack Bellicec), Veronica Cartwright (Nancy Bellicec), Leonard Nimoy (Dr. David Kibner), Art Hindle (Dr. Geoffrey Howell), Lelia Goldoni (Katherine Hendley), Kevin McCarthy (Running Man), Don Siegel (Taxi Driver), Tom Luddy (Ted Hendley), Stan Ritchie (Stan), David Fisher (Mr. Gianni), Tom Dahlgren (Detective), Garry Goodrow (Dr. Boccardo), Jerry Walter (Restaurant Owner), Maurice Argent (Chef), Sam Conti (Street Barker), Wood Moy (Mr. Tong), R. Wong (Mrs. Tong), Rose Kaufman (Outraged Woman), Joe Bellan (Harry), Sam Hiona (Policeman #1), Lee McVeigh (Policeman #2), Al Nalbandian (Rodent Man), Lee Mines (School Teacher). Uncredited: Michael Chapman (Health Dept. Floor Cleaner), Robert Duvall (Priest on Swing), Anthony Garibaldi (Student), Kevin Harris (Dr. of pods), Philip Kaufman (City Official on Phone (voice)), Misty (Harry’s Boxer Dog), Al Perez (PG&E Man), Jeff Scheftel (Pod Person at Party).
      Synopsis: In San Francisco, a group of people discover the human race is being replaced one by one, with clones devoid of emotion.
      Comment: Well-made remake of the 1956 Don Siegel classic. Sutherland is excellent as the public health inspector caught up in the paranoia. He is well supported by a strong cast, which includes a young Goldblum and pre-ALIEN Cartwright. Nimoy is also effective as a psychologist with an ego. Zeitlin provides an eerie electronic score, whilst Chapman’s largely night-time photography makes inventive use of the locations. Tension builds throughout and it is only in its final act that the production becomes more formulaic. There is, however,  a closing scene that is guaranteed to live long in the memory.
      Notes: Second adaptation of the novel “The Body Snatchers” by Jack Finney. Previously filmed in 1956 and remade in 1993 as BODY SNATCHERS and 2007 as THE INVASION. Watch out for cameos by the original film star and director Kevin McCarthy and Don Siegel as well as Robert Duvall and director Philip Kaufman.

Film Review – PLAY MISTY FOR ME (1971)

Image result for play misty for me 1971PLAY MISTY FOR ME (USA, 1971) ****
      Distributor: Universal Pictures (USA), Cinema International Corporation (CIC) (UK); Production Company: The Malpaso Company; Release Date: 20 October 1971 (USA), 28 January 1972 (UK); Filming Dates: 14 September 1970 – October 1970; Running Time: 102m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: Mono (Westrex Recording System); Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1; BBFC Cert: 15 – strong violence.
       Director: Clint Eastwood; Writer: Jo Heims, Dean Riesner (from a story by Jo Heims); Executive Producer: Jennings Lang; Producer: Robert Daley; Associate Producer: Bob Larson; Director of Photography: Bruce Surtees; Music Composer: Dee Barton; Film Editor: Carl Pingitore; Art Director: Alexander Golitzen; Set Decorator: Ralph S. Hurst; Costumes: Helen Colvig, Brad Whitney; Make-up: Jack Freeman; Sound: Robert L. Hoyt, Robert Martin, Waldon O. Watson.
       Cast: Clint Eastwood (Dave), Jessica Walter (Evelyn), Donna Mills (Tobie), John Larch (Sgt. McCallum), Jack Ging (Frank), Irene Hervey (Madge), James McEachin (Al Monte), Clarice Taylor (Birdie), Don Siegel (Murphy), Duke Everts (Jay Jay), George Fargo (Man), Mervin W. Frates (Locksmith), Tim Frawley (Deputy Sheriff), Otis Kadani (Policeman), Britt Lind (Anjelica), Paul E. Lippman (2nd Man), Jack Kosslyn (Cab Driver), Ginna Patterson (Madalyn), Malcolm Moran (Man in Window).
      Synopsis: A brief fling between a male disc jockey and an obsessed female fan takes a frightening, and perhaps even deadly turn when another woman enters the picture.
      Comment: Slick, effective psychological thriller with an un-nerving performance from Walter as the obsessive fan who stalks Eastwood after having become his lover. Eastwood directs confidently and elicits strong performances from a talented cast. Riesner rewrote Heims’ original script, which included relocating to Carmel from San Francisco. It is a lean script with a taut narrative. The film only slows in an unnecessary detour to the Monterey Jazz Festival, indulging Eastwood’s love of music. The locations are sumptuously photographed by Surtees and Barton’s score, whilst sounding a little dated, adds an element of class. A major inspiration for 1987’s more celebrated FATAL ATTRACTION.
     Notes: Eastwood’s directorial debut. The first scene he shot was his former director Don Siegel’s cameo as a bartender. The concert scenes were filmed live at the Monterey Jazz Festival. Songs: “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” music and lyrics by Ewan McColl, sung by Roberta Flack, produced by Joel Dorn for Atlantic Records; “Hand Jive,” music and lyrics by David Lanz and E. Lightborn; “Misty” composed and performed by Erroll Garner, by arrangement with Octave Music Publishing Corp.; “Squeeze Me” by Duke Ellington.

Film Review – DIRTY HARRY (1971)

Image result for dirty harry 1971DIRTY HARRY (USA, 1971) ****½
      Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures (US), Columbia-Warner Distributors (UK); Production Company: The Malpaso Company; Release Date: 21 December 1971 (USA), 30 March 1972 (UK); Filming Dates: 20 April 1971 – 18 June 1971; Running Time: 102m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: Mono; Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Panavision; Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1; BBFC Cert: 15- contains strong violence.
       Director: Don Siegel; Writer: Harry Julian Fink & Rita M. Fink, and Dean Riesner (based on a story by Harry Julian Fink & Rita M. Fink); Executive Producer: Robert Daley; Producer: Don Siegel; Associate Producer: Carl Pingitore; Director of Photography: Bruce Surtees; Music Composer: Lalo Schifrin; Film Editor: Carl Pingitore; Casting Director: ; Art Director: Dale Hennesy; Set Decorator: Robert De Vestel; Costumes: Glenn Wright; Make-up: Gordon Bau; Sound: William Randall.
       Cast: Clint Eastwood (Harry), Harry Guardino (Bressler), Reni Santoni (Chico), John Vernon (The Mayor), Andrew Robinson (Killer), John Larch (Chief), John Mitchum (De Giorgio), Mae Mercer (Mrs. Russell), Lyn Edgington (Norma), Ruth Kobart (Bus Driver), Woodrow Parfrey (Mr. Jaffe), Josef Sommer (Rothko), William Paterson (Bannerman), James Nolan (Liquor Proprietor), Maurice Argent (Sid Kleinman), Jo de Winter (Miss Willis), Craig Kelly (Sgt. Reineke).
       Synopsis: When a mad man calling himself ‘the Scorpio Killer’ menaces the city, tough as nails San Francisco Police Inspector Harry Callahan is assigned to track down and ferret out the crazed psychopath.
      Comment: Classic renegade cop movie was highly Influential and redefined the crime genre for a new generation. Siegel directs an efficient and effective crime thriller in which Eastwood established the blueprint for all maverick cop characters that followed. Much maligned by liberal critics at the time for its approach, it has since grown significantly in reputation for its lean script and Eastwood’s career-defining performance. Robinson is also excellent as the psychotic serial killer. The cat-and-mouse nature of the plot is well realised and leads to a tense finale. The screenplay contains much quotable dialogue and adds depth to the characters as well as addressing its broader message. There is a dynamite jazz-rock music score from Schifrin, which adds significantly to the movie’s style.
      Notes: Serial killer Scorpio was loosely based on the Zodiac killer, who used to taunt police and media with notes about his crimes, in one of which he threatened to hijack a school bus full of children. This was Josef Sommer’s first film. The first of five movies starring Eastwood as Inspector “Dirty” Harry Callahan. Followed by MAGNUM FORCE (1973), THE ENFORCER (1976), SUDDEN IMPACT (1983) and THE DEAD POOL (1988).

Film Review – THE BEGUILED (1971)

Image result for the beguiled 1971THE BEGUILED (USA, 1971) ****
      Distributor: Universal Pictures (USA), Cinema International Corporation (CIC) (UK); Production Company: The Malpaso Company; Release Date: 31 March 1971 (USA), July 1971 (UK); Filming Dates: 9 April 1970; Running Time: 105m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: Mono (Westrex Recording System); Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1; BBFC Cert: 15 – moderate language, sex and violence.
      Director: Don Siegel; Writer: John B. Sherry, Grimes Grice (based on the novel “The Painted Devil” by Thomas Cullinan); Executive Producer: Jennings Lang; Producer: Don Siegel; Associate Producer: Claude Traverse; Director of Photography: Bruce Surtees; Music Composer: Lalo Schifrin; Film Editor: Carl Pingitore; Casting Director: Robert J. LaSanka; Production Designer: Ted Haworth; Art Director: Alexander Golitzen; Set Decorator: John P. Austin; Costumes: Helen Colvig; Make-up: Bud Westmore; Sound: John L. Mack, Waldon O. Watson.
      Cast: Clint Eastwood (John McBurney), Geraldine Page (Martha), Elizabeth Hartman (Edwina), Jo Ann Harris (Carol), Darleen Carr (Doris), Mae Mercer (Hallie), Pamelyn Ferdin (Amy), Melody Thomas Scott (Abigail), Peggy Drier (Lizzie), Patricia Mattick (Janie), Charlie Briggs (1st Confederate Captain), George Dunn (Sam Jefferson), Charles G. Martin (2nd Confederate Captain), Matt Clark (Scrogins), Patrick Culliton (Miles Farnswoth), Buddy Van Horn (Soldier).
      Synopsis: During the Civil War a wounded Union soldier who has been taken in at a Southern girls’ school. The girls become curious and then sensuous. But when jealousy sparks, the anger is ultimately focused on the soldier.
      Comment: This is a haunting tale in which Eastwood plays against type in an unsympathetic role. Themes of sexual repression and sodomy are well-handled by Siegel, never crossing the line into exploitation. Page is excellent as the headmistress with her own secrets. The production is handsomely mounted and beautifully photographed by Surtees. The sexual tension builds throughout the story as Eastwood manipulates the naivety of his saviours. He gives his best screen performance to date as a result.
      Notes: Remade in 2017.

Film Review – TWO MULES FOR SISTER SARA (1970)

Image result for two mules for sister sara 1970TWO MULES FOR SISTER SARA (USA, 1970) ***
      Distributor: Universal Pictures (USA), Rank Film Distributors (UK); Production Company: The Malpaso Company / Sanen Productions; Release Date: 28 May 1970 (USA), 19 July 1970 (UK); Filming Dates: 3 February 1969 – mid-May 1969; Running Time: 114m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: Mono; Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Panavision (anamorphic); Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1; BBFC Cert: PG – contains strong violence and sexual threat.
      Director: Don Siegel; Writer: Albert Maltz (based on a story by  Budd Boetticher); Producer: Carroll Case, Martin Rackin; Director of Photography: Gabriel Figueroa; Music Composer: Ennio Morricone; Music Supervisor: Stanley Wilson; Film Editor: Robert F. Shugrue; Art Director: José Rodríguez Granada; Set Decorator: Pablo Galván; Costumes: Carlos Chávez, Helen Colvig; Make-up: Margarita Ortega, Frank Westmore; Sound: Jesús González Gancy, Ronald Pierce, Waldon O. Watson; Special Effects: Frank Brendel, León Ortega.
      Cast: Shirley MacLaine (Sara), Clint Eastwood (Hogan), Manolo Fábregas (Colonel Beltran), Alberto Morin (General LeClaire), Armando Silvestre (1st American), John Kelly (2nd American), David Povall (Juan), Ada Carrasco (Juan’s Mother), Pancho Córdova (Juan’s Father), José Chávez (Horacio), Pedro Galván, José Ángel Espinosa ‘Ferrusquilla’ (French Officer), Enrique Lucero (3rd American), Aurora Muñoz (Sara’s Friend), Xavier Marc (Yaqui Chief), Hortensia Santoveña (1st Woman in the Night), Rosa Furman (2nd Woman in the Night), José Torvay (Mexican Guerrilla), Margarito Luna (Mexican Guerrilla), Xavier Massé.
      Synopsis: A nun is rescued from three cowboys by a stranger who is on his way to do some reconnaissance, for a future mission to capture a French fort. Inevitably the two become good friends but the nun has a secret.
      Comment: A handsome low-key Western that coasts on the interactions between the two stars in a riff on THE AFRICAN QUEEN. MacLaine is sassy and funny as the nun and Eastwood adds a level of humour to his stranger persona carried forward from the Sergio Leone Spaghetti Westerns of the mid-1960s. Don Siegel directs the story efficiently and the film is colourfully photographed on location in Mexico. Ennio Morricone’s score is witty and recalls his scores for Leone. Ultimately, this is a character-led story and as such the minimal plot does little to engage. There is a memorable sequence where MacLaine has to help remove an Indian arrow from Eastwood’s shoulder and another involving the blowing-up of a railway bridge. The result, however, is a diverting entertainment that coasts on the charisma of its two stars and also feels a little disposable.
      Notes: The second film collaboration between director Don Siegel and star Clint Eastwood.

Film Review – COOGAN’S BLUFF (1968)

Image result for coogan's bluffCoogan’s Bluff (1968; USA; Technicolor; 93m) ***½  d. Don Siegel; w. Herman Miller, Dean Riesner, Howard Rodman; ph. Bud Thackery; m. Lalo Schifrin.  Cast: Clint Eastwood, Lee J. Cobb, Susan Clark, Don Stroud, Tisha Sterling, Betty Field, Tom Tully, David Doyle, James Edwards, Louis Zorich, Melodie Johnson, Rudy Diaz, Meg Myles, Seymour Cassel, Marjorie Bennett. An Arizona deputy goes to New York City to escort a fugitive back into custody. First collaboration between Eastwood and Siegel is a pointer to things to come with Eastwood’s economic and laconic approach perfectly complemented by Siegel’s efficient direction. Cobb is excellent as world-weary NYC lieutenant and the script is both punchy and witty. Schifrin’s jazzy score perfectly underpins the action. Inspiration for the TV series McCloud starring Dennis Weaver. [15]

Film Review – THE SHOOTIST (1976)

Image result for the shootist 1976Shootist, The (1976; USA; Technicolor; 100m) ****½  d. Don Siegel; w. Miles Hood Swarthout, Scott Hale; ph. Bruce Surtees; m. Elmer Bernstein.  Cast: John Wayne, Lauren Bacall, James Stewart, Ron Howard, Richard Boone, Hugh O’Brian, Harry Morgan, John Carradine, Scatman Crothers, Bill McKinney, Rick Lenz, Sheree North, Gregg Palmer, Alfred Dennis, Dick Winslow. A dying gunfighter spends his last days looking for a way to die with a minimum of pain and a maximum of dignity. Wayne’s last film is a poignant and fitting tribute to his screen persona and one of his very best. Siegel directs with sensitivity and draws an astonishing final performance from his star. Wayne is supported by a superbly talented cast of veterans including Bacall and Stewart. Echoes of SHANE can be seen in Howard’s hero-worshipping youth. The 1901 setting, with its early automobiles, telephones and electricity, acts as a metaphor for the passing of an era where the west was ruled by the gun and Wayne’s gunfighter character is now an anachronism. Based on the novel by Glendon Swarthout. [PG]

Film Review – THE BIG STEAL (1949)

The Big Steal 1949 U.S. Half Sheet PosterBig Steal, The (1949; USA; B&W; 71m) ***  d. Don Siegel; w. Daniel Mainwaring (as Geoffrey Homes), Gerald Drayson Adams; ph. Harry J. Wild; m. Leigh Harline.  Cast: Robert Mitchum, Jane Greer, William Bendix, Patric Knowles, Ramon Novarro, Don Alvarado, John Qualen, Pascual García Peña. An army lieutenant accused of robbery pursues the real thief on a frantic chase through Mexico aided by the thief’s fiancee. Simple plot is essentially an elongated chase punctuated by fight scenes and gun battles. It is tightly directed in his to be trademark efficient manner by Siegel. Mitchum and Greer are the main sell here and they display strong chemistry trading witty dialogue. There is a lightness of touch to proceedings that tells its audience not to take things too seriously. The movie was filmed in Los Angeles and on location in Tehuacán, Puebla, Mexico. Based on the story “The Road to Carmichael’s” by Richard Wormser. [PG]

Film Review – PLAY MISTY FOR ME (1971)

Image result for play misty for me blu-rayPlay Misty for Me (1971; USA; Technicolor; 102m) ∗∗∗∗  d. Clint Eastwood; w. Jo Heims, Dean Riesner; ph. Bruce Surtees; m. Dee Barton.  Cast: Clint Eastwood, Jessica Walter, Donna Mills, John Larch, Jack Ging, Irene Hervey, James McEachin, Don Siegel, Clarice Taylor, Duke Everts, Tim Frawley, Brit Lind, George Fargo, Mervin W. Frates, Otis Kadani. A brief fling between a male disc jockey and an obsessed female fan takes a frightening, and perhaps even deadly turn when another woman enters the picture. Slick, effective psychological thriller with an unnerving performance from Walter. The taut narrative only slows in an unnecessary detour to the Monterey Jazz Festival. Sumptuously photographed by Surtees. Eastwood’s directorial debut. The first scene he shot was his former director Don Siegel’s cameo as a bartender. [15]