Film Review – HARPER (1966)

Image result for harper 1966HARPER (USA, 1966) ***
      Distributor: Warner Bros. (USA), Warner-Pathé Distributors (UK); Production Company: Gershwin-Kastner Productions; Release Date: 23 February 1966 (USA), 1 July 1966 (UK); Filming Dates: 7 June 1965 – 20 August 1965; Running Time: 121m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: Mono; Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Panavision (anamorphic); Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1; BBFC Cert: 12.
      Director: Jack Smight; Writer: William Goldman (based on the novel “The Moving Target” by Ross Macdonald); Producer: Jerry Gershwin, Elliott Kastner; Director of Photography: Conrad L. Hall; Music Composer: Johnny Mandel; Film Editor: Stefan Arnsten; Art Director: Alfred Sweeney; Set Decorator: Claude E. Carpenter; Costumes: William Smith; Make-up: Gordon Bau; Sound: Stanley Jones.
      Cast: Paul Newman (Lew Harper), Lauren Bacall (Mrs. Sampson), Julie Harris (Betty Fraley), Arthur Hill (Albert Graves), Janet Leigh (Susan Harper), Pamela Tiffin (Miranda Sampson), Robert Wagner (Allan Taggert), Robert Webber (Dwight Troy), Shelley Winters (Fay Estabrook), Harold Gould (Sheriff), Roy Jenson (Puddler), Strother Martin (Claude), Martin West (Deputy), Jacqueline deWit (Mrs. Kronberg), Eugene Iglesias (Felix), Richard Carlyle (Fred Platt).
      Synopsis: Lew Harper, a cool private investigator, is hired by a wealthy California matron to locate her kidnapped husband.
      Comment: Smight’s adaptation of Ross Macdonald’s classic mystery is a product of the period in which it was made as the free spirit of the 1960s threatens to drown the plot. Newman layers his charm onto Macdonald’s detective and it is his performance that is the main draw. The kidnapping plot involves a strong cast of eccentric characters but fails to invest any with significant depth. The dialogue, however, is smarter as Goldman captures the spirit of the wisecracking down on his luck PI genre, if not the mood.
      Notes: The title of Ross Macdonald’s source novel “The Moving Target” was this picture’s title in Great Britain. The lead character was changed from Lew Archer to Harper because the producers had only bought the rights to the first book in the series. Followed by THE DROWNING POOL (1975), again with Newman.

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 – 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 – DARK PASSAGE (1947)

Image result for dark passage 1947Dark Passage (1947; USA; B&W; 106m) ***½  d. Delmer Daves; w. Delmer Daves; ph. Sid Hickox; m. Franz Waxman.  Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Bruce Bennett, Agnes Moorehead, Tom D’Andrea, Clifton Young, Douglas Kennedy, Rory Mallinson, Houseley Stevenson. A man convicted of murdering his wife escapes from prison and works with a woman to try and prove his innocence. An overly contrived, if admittedly engrossing and entertaining, plot relying on too much coincidence is all but overcome by the strong cast and technical accomplishments. Using the camera as the protagonist’s point-of-view for over half its running time, the gimmick seems a little forced. Bogart doesn’t physically appear until over an hour into the story, but Bacall holds the screen well and their star chemistry is still apparent. Hickox’s photography using the San Francisco locations and dark streets is moodily effective. Daves directs his own screenplay adaptation with a sure hand and uses hand-held cameras to good effect. Moorehead stands out in the supporting cast as a schemer. Based on the novel by David Goodis. [PG]

Film Review – TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT (1944)

Image result for to have and have not 1944To Have and Have Not (1944; USA; B&W; 100m) ****½  d. Howard Hawks; w. Jules Furthman, William Faulkner; ph. Sid Hickox; m. Franz Waxman.  Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Walter Brennan, Lauren Bacall, Dolores Moran, Hoagy Carmichael, Sheldon Leonard, Walter Szurovy, Marcel Dalio, Walter Sande, Dan Seymour, Aldo Nadi. During World War II, an American expatriate helps transport a French Resistance leader and his beautiful wife to Martinique while romancing a sexy lounge singer. Hawks worked with themes that sustained him throughout his career and many of his signature moments are on display here. The chemistry between Bogart and Bacall nearly melts the screen and their dialogue is wonderful. The plot mirrors some of the themes seen in Bogart’s earlier classic CASABLANCA and this comes very close to repeating the earlier film’s success. Filled with excellent character performances from a strong supporting cast and finding room for a handful of musical numbers, this is entertainment of the highest order. Based on the novel by Ernest Hemingway. Legendarily, Hawks bragged to Hemingway that he could take the worst of his novels, and make a good film of it. He did this by disregarding the novel’s contents. [PG]

Film Review – THE BIG SLEEP (1946)

Big Sleep, The (1946; USA; B&W; 114m) ∗∗∗∗∗  d. Howard Hawks; w. William Faulkner, Leigh Brackett, Jules Furthman; ph. Sidney Hickox; m. Max Steiner.  Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, John Ridgely, Martha Vickers, Dorothy Malone, Peggy Knudsen, Regis Toomey, Charles Waldron, Charles D. Brown, Bob Steele, Elisha Cook Jr., Louis Jean Heydt. Private detective Philip Marlowe is hired by a rich family. Before the complex case is over, he’s seen murder, blackmail, and what might be love. Classic film noir is a convoluted mystery given a huge cinematic presence through Hawks’ masterful direction and the sizzling chemistry between Bogart and Bacall. Brilliantly written pacey and combative dialogue is peppered with wisecracks delivered by a strong cast. Based on the novel by Raymond Chandler. Originally filmed in 1944, wasn’t released until two years later. Some prints derive from a slightly different early preview version (116m) with alternate footage. Remade in 1978. [PG]

Film Review – MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS (1974)

Murder on the Orient Express (1974; UK; Technicolor; 131m) ∗∗∗  d. Sidney Lumet; w. Paul Dehn; ph. Geoffrey Unsworth; m. Richard Rodney Bennett.  Cast: Albert Finney, Lauren Bacall, Martin Balsam, Ingrid Bergman, Jacqueline Bisset, Jean Pierre Cassel, Sean Connery, John Gielgud, Wendy Hiller, Anthony Perkins, Vanessa Redgrave, Rachel Roberts, Richard Widmark, Michael York, Colin Blakely, George Coulouris, Denis Quilley, Vernon Dobtcheff, Jeremy Lloyd, John Moffat. In 1935, when his train is stopped by deep snow, detective Hercule Poirot (Finney) is called on to solve a murder that occurred in his car the night before. Strong cast is the main interest in this otherwise standard Agatha Christie mystery, to which the solution becomes very clear too soon. Finney is excellent as Poirot and the script has some lovely humorous touches. Bergman won her third Oscar as a Swedish missionary. Finney, the elegant cinematography and costume design were also nominated for Academy Awards. Twice remade for TV – in 2001 with Alfred Molina as Poirot and again in 2010 as part of ITVs Poirot series with David Suchet. Followed by DEATH ON THE NILE (1978). [PG]