Film Review – HELLFIGHTERS (1968)

Image result for hellfighters 1968Hellfighters (1968; USA; Technicolor; 121m) ***½  d. Andrew V. McLaglen; w. Clair Huffaker; ph. William H. Clothier; m. Leonard Rosenman.  Cast: John Wayne, Katharine Ross, Vera Miles, Jim Hutton, Bruce Cabot, Jay C. Flippen, Edward Faulkner, Barbara Stuart, Edmund Hashim. The story of macho oil well firefighters and their wives. Whilst it plays almost every cliché in the book – and set a few – this is still an entertaining, well-staged action-packed story. Likeable characters, witty and simplistic plot and episodic nature keeps us interested. Rosenman’s theme and score are memorable. Wayne’s character of Chance Buckman is based on real-life oil well firefighter ‘Red’ Adair. Adair, “Boots” Hansen, and “Coots” Matthews, all served as technical advisers on the film. [PG]

Film Review – THE GREEN BERETS (1968)

Image result for the green berets 1968Green Berets, The (1969; USA; Technicolor; 142m) **  d. Ray Kellogg, John Wayne; w. James Lee Barrett; ph. Winton C. Hoch; m. Miklós Rózsa.  Cast: John Wayne, David Janssen, Jim Hutton, Aldo Ray, Raymond St. Jacques, Bruce Cabot, Jack Soo, George Takai, Patrick Wayne, Luke Askew, Irene Tsu, Edward Faulkner, Jason Evers, Mike Henry, Vera Miles. A US army colonel picks two teams of crack Green Berets for a mission in South Vietnam. First off is to build and control a camp that is trying to be taken by the enemy the second mission is to kidnap a North Vietnamese General. Misguided attempt to justify US involvement in Vietnam War by serving it up with genre heroics seen in many flag-waving WWII movies. Wayne gives his usually competent square-jawed performance, but he is not well served by a long-winded and sloppy script plus uneven supporting performances. Based on the novel by Robin Moore. [12]

Film Review – THE POST (2017)

Image result for the post 2017Post, The (2017; USA; Colour; 116m) **** d. Steven Spielberg; w. Liz Hannah, Josh Singer; ph. Janusz Kaminski; m. John Williams.  Cast: Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Bruce Greenwood, Bob Odenkirk, Tracy Letts, Sarah Paulson, Matthew Rhys, Alison Brie, Carrie Coon, Jesse Plemons, Bradley Whitford, David Cross, Michael Stuhlbarg, Zack Woods, Pat Healy, Deirdre Lovejoy. Based on true events from 1971, in which American newspapers race to expose a government cover-up of Vietnam War secrets. Absorbing newspaper drama driven by top-class performances from Streep and Hanks. Occasional lapses into over-egging some of the politIcial and social messages is only drawback. Authentic recreation of environment and historical context add to power behind the message around freedom of the press. [12]

Film Review – IN HARM’S WAY (1965)

Image result for in harm's way 1965In Harm’s Way (1965; USA; B&W; 165m) **½  d. Otto Preminger; w. Wendell Mayes; ph. Loyal Griggs; m. Jerry Goldsmith.  Cast: John Wayne, Kirk Douglas, Henry Fonda, George Kennedy, Patricia Neal, Tom Tryon, Paula Prentiss, Burgess Meredith, Slim Pickens, Dana Andrews, Brandon DeWilde, Jill Haworth, Stanley Holloway, Franchot Tone, Carroll O’Connor, Larry Hagman, Barbara Bouchet. A naval officer reprimanded after Pearl Harbor is later promoted to rear admiral and gets a second chance to prove himself against the Japanese. Bloated and flatly directed WWII drama has more than a hint of melodrama and fails to satisfy despite improvement in its final act. Script suffers by trying to open up too many dead-end sub-plots involving a casting mix of seasoned veterans and future stars. Virtues are crisp black and white cinematography and stoic performance from Wayne. Based on the novel “Harm’s Way” by James Bassett. [PG]

Film Review – CIRCUS WORLD (1964)

Image result for circus world 1964Circus World (1964; USA; Technicolor; 135m) ***  d. Henry Hathaway; w. Ben Hecht, Julian Halevy, James Edward Grant, Philip Yordan, Nicholas Ray; ph. Jack Hildyard; m. Dimitri Tiomkin.  Cast: John Wayne, Rita Hayworth, Claudia Cardinale, John Smith, Lloyd Nolan, Richard Conte, Wanda Rotha, Kay Walsh. A circus owner is beset by disasters as he attempts a European tour of his circus. At the same time, he is caught in an emotional bind between his adopted daughter and her mother. Spectacular circus action makes up for lack of plot and two-dimensional characters. High production values and an exciting finale built around a devastating fire are also pluses. Wayne and Nolan give strong performances, but the rest of the cast are swamped by a script that gives them little to get their teeth into. Aka: THE MAGNIFICENT SHOWMAN. [U]

Film Review – THE LONGEST DAY (1962)

Image result for the longest day 1962Longest Day, The (1962; USA; B&W; 178m) ****½  d. Ken Annakin, Andrew Marton, Bernhard Wicki; w. Cornelius Ryan, Romain Gary, James Jones, David Pursall, Jack Seddon; ph. Jean Bourgoin, Walter Wottitz; m. Maurice Jarre.  Cast: John Wayne, Robert Mitchum, Robert Ryan, Curt Jurgens, Richard Burton, Henry Fonda, Rod Steiger, Sean Connery, Mel Ferrer, Eddie Albert, Richard Todd, Robert Wagner, Jeffrey Hunter, Roddy McDowall, Edmond O’Brien, Gert Frobe, Kenneth More, Red Buttons, Steve Forrest, Peter Lawford, Sal Mineo, Leslie Phillips, George Segal, Peter van Eyck, Stuart Whitman, Frank Finlay, Jack Hedley. The events of D-Day, told on a grand scale from both the Allied and German points of view. Like the event itself this is a triumph of logistics in its attempt to recreate the seminal invasion of 6 June 1944. Crisply photographed in black and white this may have its fair share of genre cliches, but its strive for authenticity is admirable. It proved to be the inspiration for a number of similar WWII recreations during the 1960s and 1970s., but none bettered this efficiently marshalled all-star movie. Won Oscars for Cinematography and Special Effects (Robert MacDonald, Jacques Maumont). Todd was himself in Normandy on D-Day Based on the book by Cornelius Ryan. There is also a digitally remastered colourised version of the film. [PG]

Film Review – THE HORSE SOLDIERS (1959)

Image result for the horse soldiers 1959Horse Soldiers, The (1959; USA; DeLuxe; 115m) ***½  d. John Ford; w. John Lee Mahin, Martin Rackin; ph. William H. Clothier; m. David Buttolph.  Cast: John Wayne, William Holden, Constance Towers, Althea Gibson, Strother Martin, Hoot Gibson, Anna Lee, Russell Simpson, Carleton Young, Ken Curtis, Judson Pratt, Willis Bouchey, Bing Russell, O.Z. Whitehead, Hank Worden. A Union Cavalry outfit is sent behind confederate lines in strength to destroy a rail/supply centre. Solid Civil-War Western sees Cavalry Colonel Wayne and army medic Holden sparring with their ideals as rebel hostage Towers watches over and gradually warms to Wayne. Ford directs efficiently, handling the action scenes and spectacle with his usual aplomb. Whilst not amongst Ford-Wayne’s classics, this is still a sturdy character study. Loosely based on Harold Sinclair’s 1956 novel of the same name, which in turn was based on the historic 17-day Grierson’s Raid and Battle of Newton’s Station in Mississippi during the Civil War. [PG]

Film Review – JET PILOT (1957)

Image result for jet pilot 1957Jet Pilot (1957; USA; Technicolor; 112m) **  d. Josef Von Sternberg; w. Jules Furthman; ph. Winton C. Hoch; m. Bronislau Kaper.  Cast: John Wayne, Janet Leigh, Jay C. Flippen, Paul Fix, Richard Rober, Hans Conried, Denver Pyle, Roland Winters, Kenneth Tobey. An Air Force colonel is assigned to escort defecting Soviet pilot and falls in love with her, but she is scheming to lure him back to the USSR. Poorly directed story fails to engage on any level and only the superb aerial photography and flight sequences make this film interesting. Tone veers uneasily from drama to comedy as Wayne and Leigh, who is at least appealing in her Russian spy role, skirt around each other. Filmed in 1949-50, this long held-back movie was finally released seven years later. [U]

Film Review – THE SEA CHASE (1955)

Image result for the sea chase 1955Sea Chase, The (1955; USA; WarnerColor; 117m) ***  d. John Farrow; w. James Warner Bellah, John Twist; ph. William H. Clothier; m. Roy Webb.  Cast: John Wayne, Lana Turner, David Farrar, Lyle Bettger, Tab Hunter, James Arness, Paul Fix, Alan Hale Jr., John Qualen, Claude Akins, Richard Davalos, Lowell Gilmore, Wilton Graff, Peter Whitney, Luis Van Rooten. As World War II begins, German freighter captain Karl Ehrlich tries to get his ship back to Germany through a gantlet of Allied warships. Interesting cat-an-mouse drama set at sea with Wayne in commanding form despite being cast as a German. Turner adds glamour as the love interest. Elements of the plotting are contrived, but the story maintains interest until its finale. Based on the novel by Andrew Geer. [U]

Film Review – THE HIGH AND THE MIGHTY (1954)

Image result for the high and the mighty 1954High and the Mighty, The (1954; USA; WarnerColor; 141m) ***  d. William A. Wellman; w. Ernest K. Gann; ph. Archie Stout; m. Dimitri Tiomkin.  Cast: John Wayne, Robert Newton, Robert Stack, Claire Trevor, Laraine Day, Jan Sterling, Phil Harris, Sidney Blackmer, Ann Doran, David Brian, Paul Kelly, Sidney Blackmer, Doe Avedon, Karen Sharpe, John Smith. When a commercial airliner develops engine problems on a trans-Pacific flight and the pilot loses his nerve. Pioneering disaster movie set the template for much that followed, including the AIRPORT franchise. Its ensemble cast of stock characters may seem cliched today as a result. Initially slow-paced as the cast is introduced one by one, but tension builds in the second half. Tiomkin won an Oscar for his score. Gann adapted his own novel. [U]