Just got in a print of THE CRYSTAL BALL, which I had never seen. I've only watched the first reel but it's a cute comedy with a great cast. This is one of the Cinema Guild films that were produced at Paramount during the War but released through United Artists, along with I MARRIED A WITCH and YOUNG AND WILLING. Stars Paulette Goddard, Ray Milland, Virginia Field, Gladys George, William Bendix and Cecil Kellaway.
I've been getting into the CHARLIE CHAN films w/Roland and Keye Luke. I do hafta overlook the unappealing aspects of these films concerning racial steretypes (esp. the Black characters) but all in all great fun! bruce
Someone listed a color print of THE MERRY WIDOW on eBay for $19. No other info. I rolled the dice and was the lone bidder. Turned out to be an excellent condition dye-transfer print of the 1952 MGM musical, which I had never seen. Certainly not the original libretto but a very charming film with quite a bit of whimsy. In addition to lovely Lana Turner and a nice turn by Fernando Lamas, the supporting cast boasts Una Merkel, Richard Haydn, Thomas Gomez, Ludwig Stossel and John Abbott. Lots of laughs and an impressive waltz climax. No classic, but very enjoyable, especially in dye-transfer Technicolor!
Ocean's 6 on the high seas. Recently watched the Olive Films blu-ray of the 1966 film adaptation of Jack Finney's (The Body Snatchers, Time And Again) 1959 crime novel, Assault On A Queen. It's a high-concept story of a motley group of adventurers who salvage a sunken World War I-era German submarine to rob the cruise liner, The Queen Mary. I was holding off watching the movie till I finished reading Finney's book.
The film stars Frank Sinatra, Virna Lisi, Anthony Franciosa, Alf Kjellin, Richard Conte, and Errol John. Screenplay by the great Rod Serling.
I'm fascinated by how films are adapted from books and the film is watchable but very problematic. The main character from the book is a rather individualistic guy named Hugh Brittain, who is chafing against the rat race he's forced to exist in and is looking for something more exciting, which makes him the perfect recruit to join the group planning the heist. The character Sinatra is playing in the film, Mark Brittain, is a lift from To Have And Have Not, who runs a salvage boat with his alcoholic partner (Errol John). The film's early set-up is straight from the Bogart film. In the book, the whole caper has been planned from the start, over a long period of time. In the movie, the idea of the heist is thought up as a spur-of-the-moment lark. A big part of the novel is the raising and salvage of the U-boat. The film gets us through that with a nice montage, but the (now) WW II-era sub is still a bit too clean after all those years on the ocean's floor. The ending is also changed in a significant way from the book. I can see why Serling made that decision, but I'm a bit mixed on it. I'd love to hear about Serling's interactions with Sinatra while writing this. I'd bet those are interesting stories.
Sinatra is okay, playing a variation on his usual tough-guy persona, but he's no Bogart. Franciosa plays a great opportunistic slimeball racist. Virna Lisi makes for great eye-candy.
Swedish-born Alf Kjellin, (pronounced "Chell-leen) who plays Eric Lauffnauer was an interesting character actor who later turned to directing numerous TV shows and movies. He's very good in the film. He's really great in an old 1965 12 O'Clock High 2-parter, called P.O.W.
The U-boat set was reused in an episode of Get Smart, (confirmed by the IMDB) Rub-A-Dub-Dub...Three Spies In A Sub. The film has a score by Duke Ellington that's servicable, but Jerry Goldsmith would have knocked it out of the park.
The blu-ray's 2.35:1 image looks amazing, with nice color and detail. The DTS-Master Audio soundtrack sounds great. The image is almost too nice in a few scenes as you can see stuff like Sinatra obviously being in studio tank during some of the diving scenes, with crystal clarity. I read there's a scene with a stagehand manipulating one of the miniatures, but I didn't notice it.
One thing that bugged me was in the film, is it's established (by the death of another character) that using an old timey deep-sea diving suit is very dangerous, but later on during the salvage, Sinatra is using scuba gear. Why didn't he use that in the first place, LOL?
My final verdict is the book is vastly superior to the film. My comment on the novel being problematic is there isn't much action in the book, and the ending is rather anticlimactic. The movie amps things up to compensate, but does so in a way that really doesn't help the film. I have to say it is such a great high-concept, I'm surprised no one has thought to remake it after all these years
I recently saw THE STEEL TRAP (1952) and liked it a lot. It's a about a bank manager who decides to rob the vault. The acting is especially strong, and for the period it's amazing. Even the extras are completely natural and convincing when they have something to react to.
Recently viewed. The 1964 Hammer film, The Evil Of Frankenstein, starring Peter Cushing as the good Baron. Hadn't seen this in many years. In fact, not since I saw it originally on Creature Features.
In watching it again, it feels very much like one of the old Universal horror films (the "House" period). The short 87 minute run time helps keep the movie right on point. Directed by the great Freddie Francis (The Elephant Man). The film has a rather striking matte painting that is used in a few shots.The biggest weakness the film has is the terrible paper-mache-looking makeup for the creature, and a really bad traveling matte of Cushing driving a carriage. Katy Wild as the deaf/mute girl is cute/sexy. Cushing, as always, is the glue that holds it all together.
Phantom Of The Opera may well be the very first Hammer film I ever watched as a kid when it aired on the NBC Saturday Night At The Movies. Haven't seen this version in many years. Directed by Terence Fisher in 1963, it was the third filmed version of the Gaston Leroux story, and has a very interesting supporting cast, aside from the bland leads.
I like Herbert Lom's performance. He's really very sympathetic and conveys a sense of pathos. I thought it was interesting that he never actually hurts anyone. It's entirely his overzealous henchman. I also think he has a very striking look with that mask that was created for him. Lom is great, but what a different film this might have been if they'd gotten their original casting choice...Cary Grant.
Michael Gough does what he does best; play a mean, vile prick. I really wish he'd had a better comeuppance.
I did not remember (future Doctor Who) Patrick Troughton as the rat catcher, and certainly didn't remember his particularly violent demise. They sure cut that from the old NBC airings.
Recently watched the DVD of the 1981 made-for-TV movie, Skokie, which documented the real-life 1977 event where members of the American Nazi party planned to march in the village of Skokie, Illinois. Skokie was predominantly jewish, with many residents who were holocaust survivors. Danny Kaye plays an incensed concentration camp survivor who vigorously fights against the march, believing it could allow fascism to rise again. He's very good, and so is Kim Hunter.
What the film effectively depicts is how the first amendment is a double-edged sword that the Nazis manipulate toward their ends to guarantee their right to free speech, even getting a jewish lawyer for the ACLU to advocate for them. Legal roadblocks are put up to stop the march, but the protests are ultimately quashed by the Supreme Court, ruling in favor of the Nazi's right to march.
Excellent cast with, John Rubenstein, Kim Hunter, Brian Dennehy, Carl Reiner, Eli Wallach, Ed Flanders, and Lee Strasberg. George Dzundza is very effective as Nazi party leader, Frank Collin, who was adept at manipulating the legal system and media for a surprising endgame at the climax of the film. An interesting postscript not shown in the film is Collin was later ousted from the party for being a pedophile and served several years in prison. Robert Kenn