Film Review – THUNDERBOLT AND LIGHTFOOT (1974)

Image result for thunderbolt and lightfoot 1974THUNDERBOLT AND LIGHTFOOT (USA, 1974) ***½
      Distributor: United Artists; Production Company: The Malpaso Company; Release Date: 22 May 1974 (USA), 19 September 1974 (UK); Filming Dates: July – September 1973; Running Time: 115m; Colour: DeLuxe; Sound Mix: Mono; Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Panavision (anamorphic); Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1; BBFC Cert: 18.
      Director: Michael Cimino; Writer: Michael Cimino; Producer: Robert Daley; Director of Photography: Frank Stanley; Music Composer: Dee Barton; Film Editor: Ferris Webster; Casting Director: Patricia Mock; Art Director: Tambi Larsen; Set Decorator: James L. Berkey; Costumes: Jules Melillo; Make-up: Joe McKinney; Sound: Bert Hallberg, Norman Webster; Special Effects: Sass Bedig.
      Cast: Clint Eastwood (Thunderbolt), Jeff Bridges (Lightfoot), George Kennedy (Red Leary), Geoffrey Lewis (Eddie Goody), Catherine Bach (Melody), Gary Busey (Curly), Jack Dodson (Vault Manager), Eugene Elman (Tourist), Burton Gilliam (Welder), Roy Jenson (Dunlop), Claudia Lennear (Secretary), Bill McKinney (Crazy Driver), Vic Tayback (Mario Pinski), Dub Taylor (Station Attendant), Gregory Walcott (Used Car Salesman), Erica Hagen (Waitress), Alvin Childress (Janitor), Virginia Baker (Couple at Station), Stuart Nisbet (Couple at Station), Irene K. Cooper (Cashier), Cliff Emmich (The Fat Man), June Fairchild (Gloria), Ted Foulkes (Young Boy), Leslie Oliver (Teenager), Mark Montgomery (Teenager), Karen Lamm (Girl on Motorcycle), Luanne Roberts (Suburban Housewife), Lila Teigh (Tourist).
      Synopsis: With the help of an irreverent young sidekick, a bank robber gets his old gang back together to organise a daring new heist.
      Comment: Road movie turns into heist movie in this entertaining vehicle for Eastwood and Bridges. The plot is initially slight and the pace slow as we are introduced to the two misfit loners. Once Kennedy and Bridges enter the story the character interplay becomes the main focus and the pace quickens as the quartet take to work to raise money to fund their heist. The tone swings from comedy to melodrama to violent action but is generally well-handled by Cimino on his directorial debut. Bridges delivers a superb and believably natural performance and Eastwood generously gives him centre stage. Kennedy too stands out as Eastwood’s stubbornly proud ex-partner.
      Notes: Cimino modelled this movie after one of his favourite films, CAPTAIN LIGHTFOOT (1955). Bridges was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award.

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 – STAN & OLLIE (2018)

Related imageSTAN & OLLIE (UK/USA/Canada, 2018) ****
      Distributor: Entertainment One (UK), Sony Pictures Classics (US); Production Company: BBC / Fable Pictures / Sonesta Films / eOne Entertainment; Release Date: 21 October 2018 (UK), 14 November 2018 (US); Running Time: 98m; Colour: Colour; Sound Mix: Dolby Digital; Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1; BBFC Cert: PG – mild bad language.
      Director: Jon S. Baird; Writer: Jeff Pope; Executive Producer: Kate Fasulo, Christine Langan, Xavier Marchand, Joe Oppenheimer, Eugenio Pérez, Gabrielle Tana; Producer: Faye Ward; Co- Producer: Jim Spencer; Director of Photography: Laurie Rose; Music Composer: Clint Mansell; Music Supervisor: Karen Elliott; Film Editor: Úna Ní Dhonghaíle, Billy Sneddon; Casting Director: Andy Pryor; Production Designer: John Paul Kelly; Art Director: David Hindle, Astrid Sieben; Set Decorator: Claudia Parker; Costumes: Guy Speranza; Make-up: Jeremy Woodhead, Mark Coulier; Sound: Paul Cotterell, James Harrison; Special Effects: Chris Reynolds; Visual Effects: Noga Alon Stein, Mark Michaels, Jolien Buijs.
      Cast: John C. Reilly (Oliver Hardy), Steve Coogan (Stan Laurel), Shirley Henderson (Lucille Hardy), Nina Arianda (Ida Kitaeva Laurel), Danny Huston (Hal Roach), Rufus Jones (Bernard Delfont), Susy Kane (Cynthia Clark), Richard Cant (Harry Langdon), Ella Kenion (Holiday Camp Organizer), John Henshaw (Nobby Cook), Sanjeev Kohli (Manager of Glasgow Empire), Lucy Appleton (Audience Member), Bentley Kalu (Elephant Wrangler), Keith MacPherson (James Finlayson), Joseph Balderrama (James Horne), Kate Okello (Newcastle Receptionist), Greg Canestrari (Stan’s Lawyer), Charlie Robinson (Savoy Guest), Harry Hepple (Wally Brady), Roger Ringrose (Doctor), Julie Eagleton (Irish Woman, Cork Harbour), Daniel Fearn (Cab Driver), Nick Owenford (Studio Executive), Sophie Wardlow (Laurel and Hardy’s Makeup artist), Conrad Asquith (Lord Warley), Paul Riddell (Holidaymaker), Toby Sedgwick (Theatre Manager), Rebecca Yeo (Concierge Savoy), Matt Dunkley (Conductor), Andy Mihalache (Arthur I. Royce), Stewart Alexander (Joe Schenck), Danny Scheinmann (Jeweler), Paul Bailey (Art Greene), David Gambier (Audience Member), Eve Harding (Train Passenger 1), Ashley Robinson (Gordon Douglas), Karl Jenkins (Chill Wills), Michael Haydon (Audience member), Swaylee Loughnane (Theatre Goer), Geoffrey Osborne (Photographer), Elise Lamb (Plymouth Girl), Gary Kiely (Irishman), Martin Bratanov (Audience Member), Josh Alexander (Stall Holder), Laraine Dix (Savoy guest), Callum Forman (Stage Hand), Tom Bates (Roach Scene Hand), Sinéad Daly (Dublin Mother), Steve Healey (Theatre Goer), Alex Jaep (Audience Member), Phillip Seddon (Doorman), Simon Ager (Poster Man Newcastle), Lewis Reynolds (Plymouth Stage Hand).
      Synopsis: Laurel and Hardy, the world’s most famous comedy duo, attempt to reignite their film careers as they embark on what becomes their swan song – a gruelling theatre tour of post-war Britain.
      Comment: Wonderful account of the twilight years of the greatest comedy double-act of all-time. Coogan and Reilly give extraordinary performances as L&H, perfectly capturing their mannerisms and voices. Henderson and Arianda also score heavily as the pair’s wives. The production design neatly captures 1953 England, albeit with a slightly romantic glow. Pope’s script efficiently condenses events into a tight running-time, which ensures it doesn’t outstay its welcome. The recreation of some of the duo’s stage and movie routines is highly authentic and very funny. There are moments of gentle humour and melancholy, but it is all delivered with an honesty and obvious affection for the subject matter. Let’s hope it leads a new generation to appreciate these true legends of cinema.
      

Film Review – THE LAST PICTURE SHOW (1971)

Image result for the last picture show 1971Last Picture Show, The (1971; USA; B&W; 118m) ****½  d. Peter Bogdanovich; w. Peter Bogdanovich, Larry McMurtry; ph. Robert Surtees; m. Phil Harris, Johnny Standley, Hank Thompson.  Cast: Timothy Bottoms, Jeff Bridges, Cybill Shepherd, Ben Johnson, Cloris Leachman, Ellen Burstyn, Eileen Brennan, Clu Gulager, Sam Bottoms, Randy Quaid, Joe Heathcock, Bill Thurman, Jessie Lee Fulton, John Hillerman, Noble Willingham, Grover Lewis, Kimberly Hyde, Gary Brockette, Sharon Taggart. In 1951, a group of high schoolers come of age in a bleak, isolated, atrophied West Texas town that is slowly dying, both culturally and economically. Superbly acted drama populated by imperfect characters trying to make a sense of their lives in a dying Texas town. Bogdanovich gives the characters room to breathe and adds a directorial flourish to create an overarching sense of sadness. The 1950s setting is realistically realised through Polly Platt’s production design and Surtees’ black-and-white cinematography. Won Oscars for Best Supporting Actor (Johnson) and Supporting Actress (Leachman) as well as receiving six other nominations. Based on the novel by Larry McMurtry. Director’s cut runs 126m. Followed by TEXASVILLE (1990). [15]

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]