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 – TWO MULES FOR SISTER SARA (1970)

Image result for two mules for sister sara 1970TWO MULES FOR SISTER SARA (USA, 1970) ***
      Distributor: Universal Pictures (USA), Rank Film Distributors (UK); Production Company: The Malpaso Company / Sanen Productions; Release Date: 28 May 1970 (USA), 19 July 1970 (UK); Filming Dates: 3 February 1969 – mid-May 1969; Running Time: 114m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: Mono; Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Panavision (anamorphic); Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1; BBFC Cert: PG – contains strong violence and sexual threat.
      Director: Don Siegel; Writer: Albert Maltz (based on a story by  Budd Boetticher); Producer: Carroll Case, Martin Rackin; Director of Photography: Gabriel Figueroa; Music Composer: Ennio Morricone; Music Supervisor: Stanley Wilson; Film Editor: Robert F. Shugrue; Art Director: José Rodríguez Granada; Set Decorator: Pablo Galván; Costumes: Carlos Chávez, Helen Colvig; Make-up: Margarita Ortega, Frank Westmore; Sound: Jesús González Gancy, Ronald Pierce, Waldon O. Watson; Special Effects: Frank Brendel, León Ortega.
      Cast: Shirley MacLaine (Sara), Clint Eastwood (Hogan), Manolo Fábregas (Colonel Beltran), Alberto Morin (General LeClaire), Armando Silvestre (1st American), John Kelly (2nd American), David Povall (Juan), Ada Carrasco (Juan’s Mother), Pancho Córdova (Juan’s Father), José Chávez (Horacio), Pedro Galván, José Ángel Espinosa ‘Ferrusquilla’ (French Officer), Enrique Lucero (3rd American), Aurora Muñoz (Sara’s Friend), Xavier Marc (Yaqui Chief), Hortensia Santoveña (1st Woman in the Night), Rosa Furman (2nd Woman in the Night), José Torvay (Mexican Guerrilla), Margarito Luna (Mexican Guerrilla), Xavier Massé.
      Synopsis: A nun is rescued from three cowboys by a stranger who is on his way to do some reconnaissance, for a future mission to capture a French fort. Inevitably the two become good friends but the nun has a secret.
      Comment: A handsome low-key Western that coasts on the interactions between the two stars in a riff on THE AFRICAN QUEEN. MacLaine is sassy and funny as the nun and Eastwood adds a level of humour to his stranger persona carried forward from the Sergio Leone Spaghetti Westerns of the mid-1960s. Don Siegel directs the story efficiently and the film is colourfully photographed on location in Mexico. Ennio Morricone’s score is witty and recalls his scores for Leone. Ultimately, this is a character-led story and as such the minimal plot does little to engage. There is a memorable sequence where MacLaine has to help remove an Indian arrow from Eastwood’s shoulder and another involving the blowing-up of a railway bridge. The result, however, is a diverting entertainment that coasts on the charisma of its two stars and also feels a little disposable.
      Notes: The second film collaboration between director Don Siegel and star Clint Eastwood.

Film Review – HANG ‘EM HIGH (1968)

Image result for hang em high 1968Hang ‘Em High (1968; USA; DeLuxe; 114m) ***  d. Ted Post; w. Leonard Freeman, Mel Goldberg; ph. Richard H. Kline, Leonard J. South; m. Dominic Frontiere.  Cast: Clint Eastwood, Inger Stevens, Ed Begley, Pat Hingle, James MacArthur, Arlene Golonka, Bruce Dern, Dennis Hopper, Ruth White, Ben Johnson, Charles McGraw, Alan Hale Jr., James Westerfield, L.Q. Jones, Joseph Sirola. When an innocent man barely survives a lynching, he returns as a lawman determined to bring the vigilantes to justice. Well-meaning morality tale doesn’t always hit the right notes after an engrossing opening. The tale meanders to a conclusion that isn’t. Issues are left unresolved, which may have been the intended message but leaves the viewer feeling unfulfilled. Eastwood looks comfortable in the lead and Hingle adequately conveys the pressures of the hanging judge. Stevens completes a trio of characters scarred either mentally or physically. Frontiere’s overly melodramatic score is often at odds with the complexity of the material. A flawed but worthy effort. The first film produced by Eastwood’s Malpaso Company. [18]

Film Review – THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY (1966)

Image result for the good the bad and the uglyGood, the Bad and the Ugly, The (1966; Italy/Spain/West Germany; Technicolor; 161m) *****  d. Sergio Leone; w. Agenore Incrocci, Furio Scarpelli, Luciano Vincenzoni, Sergio Leone; ph. Tonino Delli Colli; m. Ennio Morricone.  Cast: Clint Eastwood, Eli Wallach, Lee Van Cleef, Aldo Giuffre, Chelo Alonso, Mario Brega, Luigi Pistilli, Aldo Sambrell, Rada Rassimov, Enzo Petito, Claudio Scarchilli, John Bartha, Livio Lorenzon, Antonio Casale, Sandro Scarchilli. A bounty hunting scam joins two men in an uneasy alliance against a third in a race to find a fortune in gold buried in a remote cemetery. The third film in Sergio Leone’s “Dollar” trilogy is a masterpiece of filmmaking. Its simple plot of three gunmen on the trail of gold during the American Civil War has so much more depth. Yes, one can say it stretches its running time, but there is always something that keeps the viewer involved. Comments on the futility of war are set to some truly stunning images and against a score, by Ennio Morricone, that set a new level for the medium. Eastwood, Van Cleef and especially Wallach are memorable as the three protagonists, but it’s the small moments in this truly epic Western that set it apart. The full Italian version runs about 175m. Original title: IL BUONO, IL BRUTTO, IL CATTIVO. [18]

Film Review – FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE (1965)

Image result for for a few dollars more 1965For a Few Dollars More (1965; Italy/Spain/West Germany; Technicolor; 132m) **** d. Sergio Leone; w. Sergio Leone, Fulvio Morsella, Luciano Vincenzoni; ph. Massimo Dallamano; m. Ennio Morricone.  Cast: Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, Gian Maria Volonte, Joseph Egger, Benito Stefanelli, Mara Krup, Klaus Kinski, Mario Brega, Aldo Sambrell, Luigi Pistilli, Panos Papadopulos, Roberto Camardiel, Luis Rodriguez, Tomas Blanco, Lorenzo Robledo. Two bounty hunters with completely different intentions team up to track down a Western outlaw. Follow-up to FISTFUL OF DOLLARS is more expansive and adds a subtle layer of black humour. Eastwood and Van Cleef make for a formidable pairing and their verbal jousting is enjoyable. Memorable scenes include Van Cleef’s humiliation of Kinski and the protracted shootout finale. Morricone contributes another top-class score. Not released in the U.S. until 1967. Followed by THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY (1966). [15]

Film Review – FISTFUL OF DOLLARS (1964)

Image result for fistful of dollarsFistful of Dollars (1964; Italy/Spain/West Germany; Technicolor; 99m) ****  d. Sergio Leone; w. Víctor Andrés Catena, Jaime Comas Gil, Sergio Leone; ph. Massimo Dallamano, Federico G. Larraya; m. Ennio Morricone.  Cast: Clint Eastwood, Mario Brega, Gian Maria Volonte, Marianne Koch, Jose Calvo, Wolfgang Lukschy, Joseph Egger, Sieghardt Rupp, Antonio Prieto, Margarita Lozano, Daniel Martin, Benito Stefanelli, Bruno Carotenuto, Aldo Sambrell. A wandering gunfighter plays two rival families against each other in a town torn apart by greed, pride, and revenge. First of Leone’s “Dollars” trilogy is relatively low-key compared to its successors, but highly influential on the genre and demonstrates his trademark style. Eastwood’s presence is immediately apparent and the story is told with economy and style. Created inertia in the production of European Westerns – branded “Spaghetti Westerns” – with their anti-heroes and stylised violence. A remake of YOJIMBO (1961), which itself was based on the as yet unadapted 1929 novel “Red Harvest” by Dashiell Hammett. Not released in the US until 1967. Original title: PER UN PUGNO DI DOLLARI. Followed by FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE (1965) and THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY (1966). [15]

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 – ROOSTER COGBURN (1975)

Image result for rooster cogburn 1975Rooster Cogburn (1975; USA; Technicolor; 108m) ***½  d. Stuart Millar; w. Martha Hyer (as Martin Julien); ph. Harry Stradling Jr.; m. Laurence Rosenthal.  Cast: John Wayne, Katharine Hepburn, Richard Jordan, Anthony Zerbe, Strother Martin, John McIntire, Paul Koslo, Jack Colvin, Warren Vanders, Lane Smith. Marshal Rooster Cogburn unwillingly teams up with Eula Goodnight to track down the killers of her father. Sequel to 1969’s TRUE GRIT coasts on the wonderful chemistry and performances of Wayne and Hepburn. The story itself is slim and formulaic, but the banter between the stars is more than enough to make this a rousing entertainment. Followed in 1978 by a TV adaptation of the character, with Warren Oates in the lead under the title of the original. [PG]

Film Review – CAHILL: UNITED STATES MARSHAL (1973)

Related imageCahill: United States Marshal (1973; USA; Technicolor; 103m) ***  d. Andrew V. McLaglen; w. Harry Julian Fink, Rita M. Fink; ph. Joseph F. Biroc; m. Elmer Bernstein.  Cast: John Wayne, Gary Grimes, George Kennedy, Neville Brand, Marie Windsor, Denver Pyle, Jackie Coogan, Harry Carey Jr., Pepper Martin, Paul Fix, Clay O’Brien, Morgan Paull, Royal Dano, Dan Vadis, Hank Worden. J.D. Cahill is the toughest U.S. Marshal they’ve got, just the sound of his name makes bad guys stop in their tracks, so when his two young boys want to get his attention, they decide to rob a bank. Late Wayne Western is middling story that has overly-preachy elements to it. Wayne is in good form though, despite his lack of screen time, delivering a typically tough performance. Kennedy is as reliable as ever as chief heavy and Bernstein’s score attempts to lift the tale out from its routine origins. Script, like BIG JAKE, is by DIRTY HARRY scribes the Finks but lacks dramatic punch. Based on a story by Barney Slater. [12]

Film Review – THE TRAIN ROBBERS (1973)

Image result for the train robbers 1973Train Robbers, The (1973; USA; Technicolor; 92m) **½  d. Burt Kennedy; w. Burt Kennedy; ph. William H. Clothier; m. Dominic Frontiere.  Cast: John Wayne, Ann-Margret, Rod Taylor, Ben Johnson, Christopher George, Bobby Vinton, Jerry Gatlin, Ricardo Montalban. A gunhand is hired by a widow to find gold stolen by her husband so that she may return it and start fresh. Late Wayne Western has a slight story that is stretched out over its running time. Disappointment from writer-director Kennedy has endless shots of the cast riding across the desert and through rivers punctuated by occasional action. Luckily, we have Wayne on board with a solid veteran cast, even if the cast is given little to work with. Beautifully photographed on location in Durango, Mexico. [U]