Film Review – KEY LARGO (1948)

Key Largo (1948; USA; B&W; 100m) ****  d. John Huston; w. Richard Brooks, John Huston; ph. Karl Freund; m. Max Steiner.  Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Edward G. Robinson, Lauren Bacall, Lionel Barrymore, Claire Trevor, Thomas Gomez, Harry Lewis, John Rodney, Marc Lawrence, Dan Seymour, Monte Blue, William Haade. A man visits his old friend’s hotel and finds a gangster running things. As a hurricane approaches, the two end up confronting each other. Tense thriller extracts maximum impact from its strong cast who are well directed by Huston. Bogart and Robinson’s antagonistic interplay is electric, whilst Trevor also excels as Robinson’s alcoholic mistress. Bacall and Barrymore offer good support. Rousing Steiner score and effective photography from Freund give added atmosphere to the production, which at times betrays its static stage roots until its exciting climax on the fog bound ocean. Won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress (Trevor). Based on the play by Maxwell Anderson. [PG]

Film Review – THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE (1948)

Image result for the treasure of the sierra madreTreasure of the Sierra Madre, The (1948; USA; B&W; 126m) ****½  d. John Huston; w. John Huston; ph. Ted D. McCord; m. Max Steiner.  Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Walter Huston, Tim Holt, Bruce Bennett, Barton MacLane, Alfonso Bedoya, Arturo Soto Rangel, Manuel Dondé, José Torvay, Margarito Luna. Two Americans searching for work in Mexico, convince an old prospector to help them mine for gold in the Sierra Madre Mountains. Basically, a parable about the human avarice – greed. Biblical overtones in the final act may seem a little heavy-handed but serve to emphasise the moral tone. John Huston directs with great confidence, with his father turning in a spirited performance as the experienced prospector. Bogart is also excellent in an unsympathetic role. Rousing score by Steiner and expressive photography from McCord.  Winner of three Oscars for Best Director, Supporting Actor (Walter Huston), Screenplay. Entered 1990 into the National Film Registry. Catch the uncredited appearance by Robert Blake as a boy selling lottery tickets. [PG]

Film Review – THE MALTESE FALCON (1941)

Image result for THE MALTESE FALCON BLU-RAYMaltese Falcon, The (1941; USA; B&W; 100m) *****  d. John Huston; w. John Huston; ph. Arthur Edeson; m. Adolph Deutsch.  Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Sydney Greenstreet, Mary Astor, Peter Lorre, Walter Huston, Elisha Cook Jr., Barton MacLane, Lee Patrick, Gladys George, Ward Bond, Jerome Cowan, James Burke, Murray Alper, John Hamilton, Emory Parnell. A private detective takes on a case that involves him with three eccentric criminals, a gorgeous liar, and their quest for a priceless statuette. Classic hard-boiled private-eye movie is a wonderful vehicle for Bogart as the cynical Sam Spade. The complex and twisting plot is expertly handled by Huston and brilliantly edited by Richards. It crams so much plot progression into its first ten minutes and never lets up its pace. The supporting cast – notably Lorre and Greenstreet – is wonderful. This would become the template for many film-noir movies to follow. Based on the novel by Dashiell Hammett previously filmed in 1931 and 1936 (as SATAN MET A LADY). Also available in a computer colourised version. [PG]

Film Review Round-up – ABOVE THE LAW (1988); ABSENCE OF MALICE (1981); THE BIG STORE (1941); CASINO ROYALE (1967); CASINO ROYALE (2006)

Above the LawAbove the Law (1988; USA; Technicolor; 97m) ∗∗  d. Andrew Davis; w. Steven Pressfield, Ronald Shusett, Andrew Davis, Steven Seagal; ph. Robert Steadman; m. David Michael Frank; ed. Michael Brown.  Cast: Steven Seagal, Pam Grier, Sharon Stone, Daniel Faraldo, Ron Dean, Jack Wallace, Henry Silva. An ex-CIA policeman working for the local police department, while doing an investigation discovers the existence of a big weapon trade. Seagal has the physical attributes but not the charisma of a Clint Eastwood. The plot is used merely as a prop from which to hang a number of admittedly polished action scenes. Aka: NICO: ABOVE THE LAW. [18]

Absence of MaliceAbsence of Malice (1981; USA; Colour; 117m) ∗∗∗∗  d. Sydney Pollack; w. Kurt Luedtke; ph. Owen Roizman; m. Dave Grusin; ed. Sheldon Kahn.  Cast: Paul Newman, Sally Field, Bob Balaban, Melinda Dillon, Luther Adler, Barry Primus, Josef Sommer, John Harkins, Don Hood, Wilford Brimley, Arnie Ross, Anna Marie Napoles. When a prosecutor leaks a false story that a liquor warehouse owner is involved in the murder of a union head, the man’s life begins to unravel. Absorbing and well-made conspiracy thriller with excellent star turns from Newmand and Field. Adler’s last film. [PG]

Big StoreThe Big Store (1941; USA; B&W; 83m) ∗∗∗  d. Charles Reisner; w. Sid Kuller, Hal Fimberg, Ray Golden; ph. Charles Lawton Jr.; m. George Stoll (musical director); ed. Conrad A. Nervig.  Cast: Groucho Marx, Chico Marx, Harpo Marx, Tony Martin, Virginia Grey, Margaret Dumont, Douglass Dumbrille, William Tannen, Marion Martin, Virginia O’Brien. A detective is hired to protect the life of a singer, who has recently inherited a department store, from the store’s crooked manager. Although the musical interludes threaten to drown the comedy there is much here to enjoy notably Groucho’s rendition of “Sing While You Sell” and the slapstick finale chase through the department store. Based on a story by Nat Perrin. The Marx Brothers announced that this would be their last film, but they actually went on to make two more. [U]

Casino Royale 1967Casino Royale (1967; UK; Technicolor; 131m) ∗∗  d. Ken Hughes, John Huston, Joseph McGrath, Robert Parrish, Val Guest; w. Wolf Mankowitz, John Law, Michael Sayers; ph. Jack Hildyard; m. Burt Bacharach; ed. Bill Lenny.  Cast: Peter Sellers, Ursula Andress, David Niven, Woody Allen, Orson Welles, William Holden, Deborah Kerr, Daliah Lavi, John Huston, George Raft, Joanna Pettet, Charles Boyer, Kurt Kasznar, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Peter O’Toole. In an early spy spoof, aging Sir James Bond comes out of retirement to take on SMERSH. Out-of-control spoof is interesting mainly for its cast and Burt Bacharach’s score. The whole thing, though, is ill-conceived and loses its way completely in a free-for-all climax. Based on the novel by Ian Fleming. [PG]

Casino Royale 2006Casino Royale (2006; USA/UK/Germany/Czech Republic; Colour; 144m) ∗∗∗∗½  d. Martin Campbell; w. Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Paul Haggis; ph. Phil Meheux; m. David Arnold; ed. Stuart Baird.  Cast: Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Mads Mikkelsen, Judi Dench, Jeffrey Wright, Giancarlo Giannini, Caterina Murino, Simon Abkarian, Isaach De Bankolé, Jesper Christensen, Ivana Milicevic, Tobias Menzies, Claudio Santamaria, Sebastien Foucan, Malcolm Sinclair. In his first mission, James Bond must stop Le Chiffre, a banker to the world’s terrorist organizations, from winning a high-stakes poker tournament at Casino Royale in Montenegro. Craig makes an excellent debut in arguably the best Bond movie. The action is fast and furious in the opening sequence and the plot carries us through the centre of the film. All the elements are there but this is a tough, rugged entry in a series that has rebooted itself in some considerable style. Based on the novel by Ian Fleming. [12]

Film Review Round-up – AMERICAN GANGSTER (2007); ARGO (2012); THE ASPHALT JUNGLE (1950); AT THE CIRCUS (1939)

8442765_detAmerican Gangster (2007; USA; Technicolor; 157m) ∗∗∗½  d. Ridley Scott; w. Steven Zaillian; ph. Harris Savides; m. Marc Streitenfeld; ed. Pietro Scalia.  Cast: Denzel Washington, Russell Crowe, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Josh Brolin, Lymari Nadal, Ted Levine, Roger Guenveur Smith, John Hawkes, RZA, Yul Vazquez, Malcolm Goodwin, Ruby Dee, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, John Ortiz, Cuba Gooding Jr., Armand Assante, Idris Elba. In 1970s America, a detective works to bring down the drug empire of Frank Lucas, a heroin kingpin from Manhattan, who is smuggling the drug into the country from the Far East. Straightforward biopic coasts on strong performances from Washington and Crowe and solid direction from Scott despite the stuttering nature of the narrative. Based on the article “The Return of Superfly” by Mark Jacobson. Unrated version runs to 176m. [18]

ArgoArgo (2012; USA; DeLuxe; 120m) ∗∗∗∗  d. Ben Affleck; w. Chris Terrio; ph. Rodrigo Prieto; m. Alexandre Desplat; ed. William Goldenberg.  Cast: Ben Affleck, John Goodman, Bryan Cranston, Taylor Schilling, Chris Messina, Kyle Chandler, Clea DuVall, Alan Arkin, Zeljko Ivanek, Tate Donovan, Titus Welliver, Victor Garber, Adrienne Barbeau, Michael Cassidy, Rory Cochrane. A dramatization of the 1980 joint CIA-Canadian secret operation to extract six fugitive American diplomatic personnel out of revolutionary Iran. Absorbing account of the rescue is brilliantly directed and acted. Occasional lapses into contrivances to create dramatic tension and an unnecassary subplot involving Affleck’s family stop this from being great – but impressive nevertheless.  Won Oscars for Best Picture, Best Writing: Adapted Screenplay (Terrio) and Best Film Editing (Goldenberg). Based on the book “The Master of Disguise” by Tony Mendez and the article “Escape from Tehran” by Joshuah Bearman. Extended cut runs to 130m. [15]

Asphalt JungleThe Asphalt Jungle (1950; USA; B&W; 112m) ∗∗∗∗  d. John Huston; w. Ben Maddow, John Huston; ph. Harold Rosson; m. Miklós Rózsa; ed. George Boemler.  Cast: Sterling Hayden, Louis Calhern, Jean Hagen, James Whitmore, Sam Jaffe, John McIntire, Marc Lawrence, Marilyn Monroe, Barry Kelley, Anthony Caruso, Teresa Celli, William ‘Wee Willie’ Davis, Dorothy Tree, Brad Dexter, John Maxwell. A major heist goes off as planned, until bad luck and double crosses cause everything to unravel. Slick, efficient and highly effective with a strong cast giving excellent performances. Became a major influence on a generation of filmmakers. Debuts of Strother Martin and Jack Warden. Based on the novel by W.R. Burnett. [PG]

At the CircusAt the Circus (1939; USA; B&W; 87m) ∗∗∗½  d. Edward Buzzell; w. Irving Brecher; ph. Leonard Smith; m. Harold Arlen; ed. William H. Terhune.  Cast: Groucho Marx, Chico Marx, Harpo Marx, Kenny Baker, Florence Rice, Eve Arden, Margaret Dumont, Nat Pendleton, Fritz Feld, James Burke, Jerry Maren, Barnett Parker, Mariska Aldrich, Irving Bacon, Willie Best. The Marx Brothers try to help the owner of a circus recover some stolen funds before he finds himself out of a job. Entertaining mix of zany comedy and musical numbers with the Marxes in good form. More controlled than their earlier films but the laughs are still frequent. [U]