Film Review – THE DROWNING POOL (1975)

Image result for the drowning pool 1975THE DROWNING POOL (USA, 1975) ***½
      Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures; Production Company: First Artists / Coleytown / Turman-Foster Company / David Foster Productions; Release Date: 25 June 1975 (USA), 14 September 1975 (UK); Filming Dates: began 16 October 1974; Running Time: 108m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: Mono; Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Panavision (anamorphic); Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1; BBFC Cert: 12.
      Director: Stuart Rosenberg; Writer: Tracy Keenan Wynn, Lorenzo Semple Jr., Walter Hill (based on the novel by Ross Macdonald); Producer: David Foster, Lawrence Turman; Associate Producer: Hawk Koch; Director of Photography: Gordon Willis; Music Composer: Michael Small; Film Editor: John C. Howard; Casting Director: Alan Shayne; Production Designer: Paul Sylbert; Art Director: Edwin O’Donovan; Costumes: Richard Bruno, Donald Brooks; Make-up: Monty Westmore; Sound: Larry Jost; Special Effects: Chuck Gaspar, Henry Millar.
      Cast: Paul Newman (Lew Harper), Joanne Woodward (Iris Devereaux), Anthony Franciosa (Broussard), Murray Hamilton (J.J. Kilbourne), Gail Strickland (Mavis Kilbourne), Melanie Griffith (Schuyler Devreaux), Linda Haynes (Gretchen), Richard Jaeckel (Franks), Paul Koslo (Candy), Joe Canutt (Glo), Andrew Robinson (Pat Reavis), Coral Browne (Olivia Devereaux), Richard Derr (James Devereaux), Helena Kallianiotes (Elaine Reavis), Leigh French (Red Head), Peter Dassinger (Peter), James Fontenot (Bartender), Tommy McLain (Nightclub Band), Martin Ahrens (Cajun Heavy #1), Philippe Blenet (Cajun Heavy #2), Jerome Greene (Butler), Cecil Elliott (Motel Switchboard Operator).
      Synopsis: Sequel to HARPER (1966), in which the big-city private detective travels to the Deep South to help out an old girlfriend who is being blackmailed.
      Comment: Newman returns to the role that fit him like a glove nine years earlier. This new case has more depth to the plot and also benefits from a strong supporting cast – with Hamilton’s sleazy oil magnate the most notable. A young Griffith takes on the role of rich couple’s spoilt daughter. The overall set-up may be familiar to noir fans and certainly to fans of Macdonald’s novel – despite the switch of setting – so it packs few surprises. Rosenberg’s direction is a little flat at times, but overall this is an enjoyable mystery.
      Notes: During post-production, director Stuart Rosenberg hired Composer Charles Fox to do additional scoring, integrating the composer’s melody “Killing Me Softly With His Song”, into the movie.

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 – TWILIGHT (1998)

Image result for twilight 1998TWILIGHT (USA, 1998) ***
     Distributor: Paramount Pictures; Production Company: Cinehaus / Paramount Pictures / Scott Rudin Productions; Release Date: 6 March 1998 (USA), 4 December 1998 (UK); Filming Dates: 11 November 1996 – March 1997; Running Time: 95m; Colour: Colour; Sound Mix: Dolby Digital; Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1; BBFC Cert: 15 – strong language.
     Director: Robert Benton; Writer: Robert Benton, Richard Russo; Executive Producer: Michael Hausman; Producer: Arlene Donovan, Scott Rudin; Associate Producer: Scott Ferguson, David McGiffert; Director of Photography: Piotr Sobocinski; Music Composer: Elmer Bernstein; Film Editor: Carol Littleton; Casting Director: Ilene Starger; Production Designer: David Gropman; Art Director: David J. Bomba; Set Decorator: Beth A. Rubino; Costumes: Joseph G. Aulisi; Make-up: Bron Roylance; Sound: Maurice Schell; Special Effects: Larry Fioritto, Ric San Nicholas.
     Cast: Paul Newman (Harry Ross), Susan Sarandon (Catherine Ames), Gene Hackman (Jack Ames), Reese Witherspoon (Mel Ames), Stockard Channing (Lt. Verna Hollander), James Garner (Raymond Hope), Giancarlo Esposito (Reuben Escobar), Liev Schreiber (Jeff Willis), Margo Martindale (Gloria Lamar), John Spencer (Capt. Phil Egan), M. Emmet Walsh (Lester Ivar), Peter Gregory (Verna’s Partner), Rene Mujica (Mexican Bartender), Jason Clarke (Young Cop #1), Patrick Malone (Younger Cop), Lewis Arquette (Water Pistol Man), Michael Brockman (Garvey’s Bartender), April Grace (Police Stenographer), Clint Howard (EMS Worker), John Cappon (Paramedic), Neil Mather (Young Cop #2), Ron Sanchez (Crime Scene Detective), Jack Wallace (Interrogation Officer), Jeff Joy (Carl), Jonathan Scarfe (Cop). Uncredited: Stephanie Beaton (Beth Koski), Jennifer Tolkachev (Sunbather), Ron von Gober (Man Walking Down the Street with Boy).
     Synopsis: Private eye Harry Ross lives in the garage of his movie-star, cancer-ridden friend Jack and is attracted to Jack’s wife Catherine. After elderly Lester Ivar shoots at Harry and then dies, Harry learns that Ivar was investigating the disappearance of Catherine’s first husband.
     Comment: Modern neo-film noir tries too hard to create the atmosphere of the 1940s in 1990s LA. The result feels a little incongruous. The strength of the story is with its cast. Newman is as good as ever as the private eye who is torn between his loyalties and doing the right thing. Hackman, Garner and Sarandon all deliver quality performances. Martindale also scores as a chancer with an incompetent accomplice. Bernstein delivers a moody but derivative score. Benton’s script tries hard to be convoluted, but underneath is a straight-forward story of blackmail and murder. The character interaction keeps the plot interesting, but the ultimate solution to the mystery is a little underwhelming.
     Notes: The Ames residence is actually the former Cedric Gibbons-Delores Del Rio home, and a never-completed Frank Lloyd Wright house near Malibu served as the Ames’ ranch house.

Film Review – THE STING (1973)

Image result for the sting 1973Sting, The (1973; USA; Technicolor; 129m) ****½  d. George Roy Hill; w. David S. Ward; ph. Robert Surtees; m. Marvin Hamlisch (adaptor), Scott Joplin.  Cast: Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Robert Shaw, Robert Earl Jones, Charles Durning, Ray Walston, Eileen Brennan, Harold Gould, Dana Elcar, Jack Kehoe, John Heffernan, Dimitra Arliss, James Sloyan, Charles Dierkop, Sally Kirkland. In 1930s Chicago, a young con man seeking revenge for his murdered partner teams up with a master of the big con to win a fortune from a criminal banker. Newman and redford along with director Hill repeat the success of their teaming on BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID with this caper. Great period design and a memorable score add to the charm and humour provided by a splendid cast. Won seven Oscars including Best Picture; Director; Screenplay; Art Direction (Henry Bumstead, James W. Payne); Costume Design (Edith Head); Editing and Music Adaptation. Followed by THE STING II (1983). [PG]

Film Review – THE TOWERING INFERNO (1974)

Image result for THE TOWERING INFERNOTowering Inferno, The (1974; USA; DeLuxe; 165m) ****  d. John Guillermin; w. Stirling Silliphant; ph. Fred J. Koenekamp; m. John Williams.  Cast: Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, William Holden, Faye Dunaway, Fred Astaire, Richard Chamberlain, Susan Blakely, Jennifer Jones, Robert Wagner, Robert Vaughn, O.J. Simpson, Susan Flannery, Sheila Allen, Jack Collins, Norman Burton. At the opening party of a collosal, but poorly constructed, office building, a massive fire breaks out that threatens to destroy the tower and everyone in it. Along with producer Irwin Allen’s THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE, this is the best example of the 1970s disaster genre. A stellar cast – notably Newman and McQueen – adds considerably to the familiar elements. Top-class production values and excellent score by Williams. Won Oscars for Best Cinematography; Film Editing and Original Song (Al Kasha, Joel Hirschhorn for the song “We May Never Love Like This Again”). Jennifer Jones’s final film. Based on the novels “The Tower” by Richard Martin Stern and “The Glass Inferno” by Thomas N. Scortia and Frank M. Robinson. [PG]

Film Review – BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID (1969)

Image result for butch cassidy blu-rayButch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969; USA; DeLuxe; 110m) ∗∗∗∗∗  d. George Roy Hill; w. William Goldman; ph. Conrad L. Hall; m. Burt Bacharach.  Cast: Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Katharine Ross, Strother Martin, Henry Jones, Cloris Leachman, Jeff Corey, George Furth, Kenneth Mars, Ted Cassidy, Donnelly Rhodes, Jody Gilbert, Timothy Scott, Don Keefer. Two Western bank/train robbers flee to Bolivia when the law gets too close. Newman and Redford establish a charismatic chemistry and make the most of Goldman’s witty screenplay. Hill’s direction is spot-on capturing the end of an era in the American West through his use of visual dynamics emphasised by Hall’s evocative cinematography. One of the great Westerns that bears repeated viewings. Sam Elliott’s feature film debut. Won Oscars for Screenplay, Cinematography, Music and Song for “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head”. Followed by a prequel BUTCH AND SUNDANCE: THE EARLY DAYS (1979). [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]