Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Thin Man

All 6 Thin Man movies are on TCM today! Skip work and catch them all!

Never before nor since have two people consumed so much alcohol so successfully. William Powell and Myrna Loy team-up as the mystery solving sleuths Nick and Nora Charles. This film is based upon a novel by Dashiell Hammett. He is also the creator of the hardboiled detective Sam Spade (best portrayed by Humphrey Bogart). But in The Thin Man his crime fighters are a wealthy socialite and her former detective husband. The only things that Nick and Nora like more than solving murders are drinking and witty banter. And there is plenty of both here.

Powell and Loy are so fabulous together that most other screen couples pale in comparison. Critics loved their on-screen chemistry. Audiences so enjoyed them together, along with their dog 'Asta', that the studio made 5 more movies in this series. The thin man in the title is the victim of a murder. Nick, who has "retired" after marrying Nora, is roped into helping solve the murder. He eventually does. But the murder plot, while interesting and clever, is just the vehicle for us to enjoy this pair. Both Powell and Loy give the performances of their careers. They are fine actors with a full and rich body of work, but I don't think they could ever escape the pressure of such successful teamwork. Their timing is exquisite, their chemistry divine and their delivery perfection. Sometimes I watch The Thin Man just to enjoy their work.

Veteran Director W.S. Van Dyke wisely lets Powell and Loy go for it. He seemingly allows two master actors who work magnificently together to run free. But unlike much of today's "improv" comedy, The Thin Man is crisp and quick. No pauses to stare into the camera nor slow deliveries here. Script writers Albert Hackett and Francis Goodrich gave them so many great lines for us to enjoy that you may miss some of them the first time through. When you enjoy this movie be sure to wait a few weeks and then try it again. I guarantee that you will then realize how much fun you missed the first time. So pull up a chair and pour yourself a stiff martini. You may not need it, but you sure are going to want one!

Filmed in 1934, directed by W.S. Van Dyke, written by Albert Hackett and Francis Goodrich, starring William Powell, Myrna Loy, Maureen O'Sullivan, Nat Pendelton and Cesar Romero.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Decision Before Dawn

1952 nominee for Best Picture is relegated to the rarely seen pile of lost movies. I am a large cinema buff and just viewed this for the first time. No showings on Memorial Day, Veteran's Day nor any other typical platform for WW2 films. Perhaps that is because it is about Germans. Specifically Germans who are captured that agree to return to Germany, before the end of the war, and spy for the Allies. Espionage is a difficult subject to portray when you are spying on your own country of birth. For a spy film to be successful the traditional formula is for a patriotic vision in which a hometown boy risks life and limb for God and Country. But here the spies are spying upon their own homeland. Risky subject matter.

Decision Before Dawn handles the issue with aplomb. Because it is a true story, one in which the writers took little liberty to change the facts for "dramatic" reasons, this film held my attention throughout. Based on the book by George Howe who was an Army Intelligence Officer during the war. It is the first film, at least that I can think of, after WW2 that portrays ordinary Germans as people not as warmongering barbarians. People who are caught between a fanatical regime and a horrible war. I have thought about the situation that these "spies" faced. Returning home to report on your countrymen in an effort to end a bloody war. A most difficult situation for anyone.

Director Anatole Litvak does a fine job juggling the characters and emotions. Coming off of his Oscar nominated direction of 'The Snake Pit' he was given the opportunity to tell a different story in a very direct fashion. There are a few moments of patriotic fervor, but overall the tone is honest and direct. But the real focus of the movie is held by Oskar Werner. This Austrian-born actor plays the torn, but compelling spy 'Happy'. Much of the story inside Germany focuses upon his efforts to obtain important information. His handling of the emotions felt by a person faced with such choices is excellent. Richard Basehart and Gary Merrill, two well known character actors, play his American supervisors. Both are strong in their supporting roles. I also appreciated the work of Hans Christian Blech. He plays another German who volunteers to go back to Germany and spy, but his motives and actions are much clearer than Werner's.

This is a simple film that tells a complicated story. I appreciate the efforts of the Director, Screenwriter and cast to provide insight into a most difficult situation. One fun aside:look for Klaus Kinski in one of his first films. He plays the whining soldier.

Filmed in 1952, directed by Antole Litvak, written by Peter Vertiel from the book by George Howe, starring Oskar Werner, Richard Baseheart, Gary Merrill and Hans Christian Blech. Spoiler alert! One interesting note:actor Oskar Werner's character is captured the same day, December 8th, 1944, that real-life Oskar Werner defected from the Wehrmacht.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Oscar's Biggest Error

Due to reader requests, I have decided to reprint my article about the gravest error ever made by the Academy. See if you agree.

No, that is not the title of the new film starring Oscar the Grouch from Sesame Street. Instead I am using my blog to unload about my personal disdain for the 1980 Academy Award for Best Picture. The 1980 award goes to the "Best Picture" released in 1979. '79 was a fabulous year for American cinema. Over a dozen great films came out that year. And none of them won the Oscar! Below is a list of just some of the films that came out in 1979. The list is of films that did not win Best Picture. The winner is listed at the very bottom of this blog.

There are 5 films starting with the letter 'A' that came out in '79 that were better than the winner:

'Alien' perhaps the most intense fear I ever experienced watching a movie. Ridley Scott did a fantastic job and Sigourney Weaver was great. The first woman to star as the hero in a big-budget action film.

'All that Jazz' Bob Fosse's semi-autobiographical masterpiece. Great music and dance and Roy Scheider (taking over from Richard Dreyfuss) is terrific.

'A Little Romance' wonderful coming of age love story featuring a very young Diane Lane. Read my earlier blog.

'Amityville Horror' based upon a "true" story. Scary in its simplicity. That is one creepy little girl.

'Apocalypse Now' A monumental epic. Francis Ford Coppola used every bit of his talent to bring this vision of the horror of war to the screen.

Other great movies that came out in 1979:

'Norma Rae' Sally Field wins an Oscar for her portrayal of the labor organizer.
'Breaking Away' touching coming of age story set against bike racing.
'China Syndrome' Jack Lemmon fights the nuclear power industry. After Three Mile Island, this film shocked the US.
'Manhattan' Woody Allen's homage to the city he loves.
'Being There' Peter Sellers wows audiences by being subdued and still funny.
'La Cage aux Folles' Hilarious French film. Later remade in English as 'The Birdcage'.

1979 was also a year for great cult/indy/off-beat movies:
'Monty Python's Life of Brian', 'Quadrophenia' (my earlier blog), 'The Jerk', 'The Black Stallion', '10' and the first 'Star Trek' movie all get better ratings, more attention and higher ratings than the eventual Oscar winner.

And the winner is:

'Kramer vs. Kramer'. I know, it was an okay movie. But better than 'Alien', 'All that Jazz' or 'Apocalypse Now'? NEVER! For an at the time naive 19 year old it was most disappointing. I gave up on the Academy for the next few years. I guess I am still a little bitter. Thanks for letting me vent my disgust. I think I even feel happier having shared my opinion.

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Americanization of Emily

It is James Garner day on TCM. Enjoy this great film tonight!

One of my 20 favorite films of all-time. James Garner plays a self-proclaimed "coward" who takes excellent care of a U.S. Admiral in 1944 London. Julie Andrews plays his driver who has been widowed by the war. Their cynical romance is the centerpiece of the story. Garner then becomes the focus of his Admiral's plan to make a movie about the "unknown sailor". The first person to die during the D-Day invasion is to be a sailor and Garner, the coward, is to film the event. Needless to say he is unhappy about this turn of events.

Paddy Chayefsky writes a biting script. While a few moments sound just a little preachy, his anti-war message comes through with passion. The comedy portions of this dramatic comedy are dark and filled with sarcasm. Just how I like it! The dramatic portions are a loud statement on the devastation of war.

Disclaimer: I must admit to a "man-crush" on James Garner. From TV's Maverick, to The Great Escape and on to Murphy's Romance I find him to be one of the most compelling actors. Julie Andrews does a top-notch job as the priggish motor pool driver. Their love story is intriguing while their role change ending is must-see. James Coburn does a superb job in a supporting role as a naval icer as does Melvyn Douglas as the Admiral. The cast, script and direction all make The Americanization of Emily a great movie!

Director Arthur Hiller shows a light hand in dealing with Chayefsky's script. It takes a lot of courage to allow the story to unfold and Hiller shows that courage. The producers of this film originally hired William Wyler, but he refused to honor the script. Hiller replaced the directorial legend and did a fantastic job. A wonderful film that is on almost every greatest films lists that you can find. Add this to the top of your netflix queue or buy it today!

Filmed in 1964, Directed by Arthur Hiller, Written by Paddy Chayefsky, Starring James Garner, Julie Andrews, James Coburn, Melvyn Douglas and Keenan Wynn. One bit of trivia:The beach scenes were filmed at Mandalay Beach in Oxnard, CA. If you watch closely you can see the power plant in the background. It still operates today.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Sweet Smell of Success

Happy birthday Burt Lancaster!

This film features some of the slimiest, darkest, meanest and most manipulative characters ever captured on celluloid. I felt, just a little bit, dirty after watching this film recently. It is impossible to feel any other way!

Tony Curtis, in the finest performance of his career, plays Sydney Falco. Falco is a press agent attempting to gain fame and fortune for his clients. But, more importantly, is fame and fortune for himself. He attempts to curry the favor of big-time newspaper columnist/radio star J.J. Hunsecker. Burt Lancaster portrays Hunsecker with amazing evil and contempt in every word and movement. This film should be seen just to watch these two actors give the performance of their lives. Curtis plays the toady, kiss-ass with a level of sleaze that can almost be tasted as it drips off the screen. And Lancaster's manipulation knows no bounds. Acting magnificence!

The script is top-notch. Written by Clifford Odets and Ernest Lehman, it is wonderful in its evil. They do a terrific job of giving the viewer the feel of desperation for small-guy Curtis and corrupt power of Lancaster. Director Alexander Mackendrick, coming off the wonderful Alec Guinness film 'The Ladykillers', gives us the opportunity to share in the story without pause. He just keeps the film moving towards a fantastic finish. Also to be commended is cinematographer James Wong Howe. He moves the camera through the nightclubs and street life of New York City with ease and grace. Howe had a career that stretched for over 50 years and is remembered for wonderful photography in his films.

One last technical note. Sweet Smell of Success has terrific music and score. From the jazz in the clubs to the score by Elmer Berstein the music alone is well worth the viewing. This film is dark, manipulative and evil. Oh yeah, and terrific as well.

Filmed in 1957, directed by Alexander MacKendrick, written by Clifford Odets and Ernest Lehman, starring Tony Curtis, Burt Lancaster, Martin Milner, Susan Harrison and Barbara Nichols. Master film transfer company Criterion has a new DVD set coming out in February for this film. "Light Me, Sydney"

Friday, October 14, 2011

Daylight Robbery

I am a huge fan of caper flicks. Almost any film that involves a complicated robbery appeals to me. So, to be honest, I am a bit biased when it comes to this film. But I found Daylight Robbery to be interesting and worth a viewing. A semi-true story of a London bank heist of millions of Pounds during the 2006 World Cup, Daylight Robbery is a caper flick from beginning to end. The film opens with the robbers preparing their getaway and then heading off to the bank. No long back story of how or why they decided to commit this felony, just the story of the bank heist itself.

Director/Writer Paris Leoni does a fine job of keeping us intrigued. How can these guys possibly believe that they will succeed? They must have a plan, as yet unrevealed, to escape with all that money. Can the police foil the plot? Can the viewer stay one step ahead of the criminals in their master plan?

One proviso; if you have difficulty with British accents you may wish to skip this film. All the characters have heavy, working-class British accents that may make it hard to understand every phrase being uttered. But, most of the time, the dialogue is secondary to the plot. The robbery is the star of this film and it will keep your attention throughout. If you enjoy caper or heist flicks check out my previous articles about some other great robbery-themed films via these links:
The Thin Man, The Anderson Tapes, Charlie Varrick, Quick Change, The Silent Partner and Thunderbolt and Lightfoot.

Filmed in 2008, written and directed by Paris Leoni, starring Geoff Bell, Robert Boulter, Vas Blackwood and Leo Gregory.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Wages of Fear/Sorcerer

Wages of Fear is on TCM Thursday morning. Enjoy! It is intense.

This is a special day. Everyone gets two great movies for the price of one! Wages of Fear and Sorcerer. They are both the story of 4 men, on the run from their past, trying to escape their current desperation. They each decide to take a high-paying, life-threatening job driving nitroglycerin across an unnamed South American country. An oil company is paying huge bonuses to anyone who can get the nitro through to put out an oil well fire. Of course, nitroglycerin is very dangerous and will explode when bumped, jostled or warmed. Who will survive the trip and what perils will they face along the way?

Both of these movies are intense! The pressure builds as our drivers face numerous obstacles on the road to fortune and personal salvation. Jungles, mountains, rivers, guerrillas, each other and their own demons must be vanquished if they are to survive.

Wages of Fear was directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot. Filmed in 3 languages so the best prints are subtitled. Stay away from the dubbed version. Clouzot's film is raw, gritty and superb. Yves Montand is fabulous as Mario. We don't know how he got into his personal hell, but he wants out. Clouzot allows the suspense to build until you almost want to scream. At one point I even covered my eyes and looked between my fingers. It's safer that way.

Sorcerer is William Friedkin's remake. He was fresh off 'The French Connection' and 'The Exorcist' so the studios gave him anything he wanted. It shows. Roy Scheider does a nice job reprising the Yves Montand role. Friedkin goes a little overboard in the first half, but the remainder of the film is just as intense as Wages of Fear. The shot of the trucks driving over rope bridges in a pouring rain is worth the price of admission. The Tangerine Dream soundtrack is quite wild.

Intensity builds to a big finish in both films. Similar in their story, each is a unique experience. Wages of Fear is more respected by critics, but both films deserve a viewing.

Wages of Fear was filmed in 1952, directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot, written by Clouzot and Jerome Geronimi, starring Yves Montand, Charles Vanel, Folco Lulli and Peter Van Eyck. It is about half sub-titled and half in English.

Sorcerer was filmed in 1977, directed by William Friedkin, written by Walon Green, starring Roy Scheider, Bruno Cremer, Francisco Rabal and Amidou. Both are based on the novel by Georges Arnaud.

Notes: Before Wages of Fear could be released in the U.S. government censors order some key scenes removed. They felt it was "anti-American".

Wages of Fear was the first film to win both the Golden Palm at Cannes and the Golden Bear in Berlin.
In Sorcerer, the part of Donnelly the head of the gang that robs the church is played by Gerard Murphy. Murphy was an ex-convict who had committed a similar robbery just a block from where the scene was shot.

The magnificent sequence of the trucks on the bridge cost millions of dollars and took three months to complete.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Seven Days in May

This great thriller is on TCM on tonight at 11:30 PM Eastern. Don't miss it! Or, you can download it via the link on the left.

This is a political thriller starring Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas. Lancaster portrays an Air Force General who is organizing a military coup against the U.S. Government. Douglas portrays his aide who discovers the plot. Can he stop the plot before the takeover by the military? Who can he trust?

Seven Days in May was directed by John Frankenheimer. Frankenheimer is best known for his disturbing masterpiece 'The Manchurian Candidate'. Seven Days in May is taut and compelling. The story builds to a very satisfying finish. The script was written by Rod Serling, based upon the excellent book by Fletcher Knebel and Charles Bailey. I remember, as a teen, reading this book and not wanting to put it down. I wondered if it was possible, in our great democracy, for the military to take over? That question has been repeated, in novels and the media, for the almost 40 years since this film debuted. The Serling script treats the viewer as intelligent and worthy of respect. No cheap tricks, just a well-honed plot and tension that builds throughout.

While this movie was being filmed the production staff asked for governmental assistance with locations and background information. The Kennedy White House was most helpful. The Kennedy brothers had both read and enjoyed the book and were looking forward to the movie. Not so with the Pentagon. The military demanded "approval" of the script before they would help. Frankenheimer felt that this was "covert censorship" and refused to provide them with a script.

The cast is loaded. Besides Douglas and Lancaster, Fredric March plays the President of the United States. He is superb. Just snooty enough to be a President while still seeming somewhat human. Edmund O'Brien portrays a U.S. Senator helping to stop the plot. He won a Golden Globe and was nominated for an Academy Award for this film. Ava Gardner, Richard Anderson, Martin Balsam and John Houseman, in his screen debut, all add depth to this fine suspense film.

This is an intelligent political drama. Seven Days in May has a deep cast, fine direction and an intriguing script. Enjoy! One interesting note:This film was banned in Brazil upon its release. The military coup that had just taken place there was too similar to the one portrayed in the movie.

Filmed in 1964, directed by John Frankenheimer, written by Rod Serling, starring Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas, Edmund O'Brien, Fredric March and Ava Gardner.

Note: I reviewed another John Frankenheimer film, 'Seconds', in my first blog. You can read it here.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Paths of Glory

This film is the reason I began this blog. A fantastic film that has been under-appreciated and under-viewed since its debut. It is on TCM tonight or you can download it with the link to the left.

I consider this to be the best film that remains unseen by many. Voted to almost every "greatest" movies poll it is must viewing for anyone who enjoys movies! This film is about World War I, but Paths of Glory is the most anti-war movie ever released. Leonard Maltin says "shattering story of the insanity of war" and "stunningly acted and directed". The New York Times says "its message growing only more pertinent and potent with each passing year". I say it is one of the most powerful films that I have ever seen. Just writing this blog refreshes the emotions I experienced viewing Paths of Glory. Anger, frustration, disgust, I want to yell at the participants about their actions. Any film that can do that should be seen by all.

Director Stanley Kubrick's best work. I love Dr. Strangelove. I have seen Spartacus about a dozen times. A Clockwork Orange still intrigues me. But Paths of Glory is his crowning glory. This film is superbly acted, written and directed. Kirk Douglas is powerful. Adolphe Menjou and George Macready are terrific as Douglas's commanding officers. The script, written by Kubrick, Calder Willingham and Jim Thompson is top-notch. Based on the novel by Humphrey Cobb which is based on the actual trial during World War I.

One important fact. The film is about French officers and soldiers during World War I. After this film was released it was banned in France!

Paths of Glory tells the tale of an ill-advised, almost suicidal, French attack upon a German position. Douglas, portraying the field commander, does not want to proceed. He is pressured into making the attack with disastrous results. 3 of his men are chosen to be tried for cowardice after the failed action. Douglas defends these men at their trial. I find that I run out of adjectives as I write this entry. Stunning, superb, powerful, emotional and must-see are just a few.

Filmed in 1957, directed by Stanley Kubrick, written by Kubrick, Willingham and Thompson, starring Kirk Douglas, Adolphe Menjou, George Macready and Ralph Meeker.

Roger Ebert wrote a wonderful, detailed look at the imagery in Paths of Glory. You can read it here.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Forbidden Planet

This Sci-Fi classic is on TCM today. Enjoy!

This film is just plain fun! It has everything one could ask for in a 50s science fiction film. The greatest robot ever, a cool monster, psycho-babble (for relevance), lasers, flying saucers, a hot blonde and Shakespeare in space. The only thing missing is more. More robots, more lasers, more blondes!

Seriously, Forbidden Planet is a major sci-fi film. The first successful science fiction film that did not feature a previously known lead (like Flash Gordon or Buck Rogers). The audience had to be convinced to come to the theatre based upon their desire to experience a new kind of movie. Science fiction with intelligence and story not just monsters that eat people and destroy cities. I mention Shakespeare because this movie is 'The Tempest'. Take the story of 'The Tempest', move it to outer space and add some references to modern psychology (like "the superego"). Read the play and then watch this movie. Most of the major developments are lifted from the Bard.

Forbidden Planet is also important for 'Robby the Robot'. Far and away the most famous movie robot until the droids of 'Star Wars'. The robot became one of the biggest draws of people at theaters and businesses after the release of this film. Kids loved him! Women wanted him! Men wanted to be him! Okay, that may be a little strong, but Robby was popular (and still is). After the debut of Forbidden Planet, the robot would draw a large and vocal crowd any time he/it was scheduled to appear. A duplicate was later featured on the t.v. show 'Lost in Space', in part to draw in his fans. Robby is listed in the credits as "Robby the Robot as himself".

The movie deserves kudos for being intelligent. It is not just a western in space. Difficult subjects like runaway egos, interpersonal relationships and humanity's impact upon its own future are tackled. One of my favorite things about science fiction is its ability to handle strong ideas and questions and still be entertaining and popular. Films about the ego could turn viewers away, but make it the runaway ego of a space explorer playing God and the audience eats it up.

The plot is simple. A governmental ship makes a routine inspection visit at "Altair IV". Leslie Nielsen, back in the days when he made serious movies, is the space ship's Captain. They are checking on the status of a group of scientists that landed there years ago. They find that only one scientist remains. Walter Pidgeon plays Dr. Mobius. His daughter, played by the lovely and short-skirted Anne Francis, is the only other person alive. They have built Robby the Robot to help with their lives. Mobius warns the ship to leave immediately. He can't be held responsible for the safety of the ship nor its crew. Why is he so afraid? How did they, and no one else, survive? Each of the crew want to know how to get a date with Anne Francis. When the ship refuses to leave a monster attacks. An invisible, unstoppable monster. Who, if any one, will survive and how will they attempt it?

One other important note:the soundtrack and score for this movie are revolutionary. The composers Louis Barron and Bebe Barron changed movie music forever. This is the first film to feature a score that is entirely electronic. It is so different and unique that the musician's union refused them credit as "composers". Instead the score is called "electronic tonalities". This electronic score would blaze the trail for science fiction films to come.

An intelligent script (thanks Shakespeare), a story filled with surprises, an invisible monster and the best robot ever make Forbidden Planet science fiction fun for one and all!

Filmed in 1956, directed by Fred Wilcox, written by Cyril Hume, starring Leslie Nielsen, Walter Pidgeon, Anne Francis, Richard Anderson, Jack Kelly,Warren Stevens and Robby the Robot.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Big Clock

I've been visiting my sister-in-law. She mentioned watching this classic because of my article. So, I decided to re-run the post. Enjoy the article and this great film!

Fantastic film noir! Ray Milland plays the editor of the largest crime magazine in America. He is ultra-career orientated. So much so that he has missed his honeymoon 5 years in a row. Charles Laughton plays the owner/publisher of the magazine for which Milland works. He has used his immense power and wealth to manipulate Milland into working to the point of destroying his personal life and marriage. Rita Johnson portrays Laughton's long-time mistress. They are having a difficult time in their relationship and she attempts to use Milland to blackmail Laughton. After Milland and Johnson spend the night barhopping she turns up dead. Laughton, in a jealous rage, has murdered his mistress in her own apartment. Milland saw Laughton at her apartment just before the time of her death.

Publisher Laughton also noticed someone leaving his mistress's apartment just as he arrives. He uses his staff, not knowing that his own editor, Milland, witnessed him at the crime scene, to find this missing witness. Laughton wants to frame him for the murder. Milland is forced to find himself to aid in his own framing. Can he elude the massive efforts of the Publishing millionaire? And, can Milland somehow find enough evidence to prove that his boss is the murderer? Before his own time runs out?

The Big Clock is classic film noir. A good man, played by Ray Milland, is tempted by a femme fatale, portrayed by Rita Johnson. Although he resists her temptation, he still ends up on the dark side and in massive trouble. Everything points to him, even witnesses, as the murderer. We know he did not do it, but the publisher's power and money are all working against him in a race against time. Evil, using a beautiful woman, is tempting good. Classic film noir.

Director John Farrow does a nice job of keeping the movie moving. The novel, by Kenneth Fearing, is much longer and more detailed. I like both, but for different reasons. This film is taut and suspenseful. The first half sets up the crime and all the participants. The second half races us toward the confrontation we all know is coming. The script adaptation, by Jonathon Latimer, aids in keeping the movie tight. Milland, Rita Johnson and Director Farrow's wife Maureen O'Sullivan all do fine jobs in their performances. But Charles Laughton steals the show. He is at his creepy best. Constantly checking the time and his schedule, harassing his employees and stroking his mustache all serve to make him even creepier. He is terrific here.

The Big Clock is a fine example of a 1940s film noir. Tight direction and script with classic characters and story line. And a running time of just an hour and a half. A wonderful diversion on a lonely night.

Filmed in 1948, directed by John Farrow, written by Jonathan Latimer, starring Ray Milland, Charles Laughton, Maureen O'Sullivan and Rita Johnson. Look for a pre-Dragnet and MASH Henry Morgan. Also, check out the woman operating the elevator in the first sequence. She went on to be Lois Lane in the Superman tv series. Remade in the 80s as 'No Way Out' with Kevin Costner, Gene Hackman and Sean Young. The original is much better, but the remake has its moments.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Mrs. Miniver

This is a moving drama about the trials and tribulations of a British family faced with the onset of World War II. Greer Garson, in the title role, portrays a strong woman who leads her family through a most difficult time. She won, and deserved, the Academy Award for her perfect performance. This film won 5 other Oscars including Best Picture and Best Director. This is a touching film that will tug at your heart, but, thankfully, it lacks the syrup of so many films that attempt to be moving. Mrs. Miniver feels honest. Because of that honesty the viewer can't help but be emotionally tied into the events portrayed.

This film receives a lot of credit for helping to move American attitudes towards supporting the British people. It was released in 1942 just as America was joining the war. The U.S. had been a country that was torn about becoming involved in another "foreign war". America had been attacked by the Japanese, but our national emotions were greatly moved towards supporting the individuals living under attack in England by this tale of strength and heroism under fire.

Filmed in 1942, directed by William Wyler, written by Arthur Wimperis, George Froeschel, James Hilton and Claudine West, starring Greer Garson, Walter Pidgeon, Dame May Whitty, Teresa Wright and Reginald Owen.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Art of the Steal

This 2009 documentary not only fascinated me, but it enraged me. It is the story of the fantastic art collection of Dr. Barnes. Dr. Barnes passed away in 1951 and was one of the first Americans to bring post-impressionist and modern art over from Europe. In the early 1920s he organized a showing of his large collection at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. That exhibit was ridiculed and insulted by the established art world in and around Philadelphia. He then created an art school, moved his collection to a large mansion in the suburbs and sheltered it from large public displays. Upon his death his only request was that the art "never be moved or sold" and that it not be shown to large crowds.

Fast-forward to the 1990s. Now his collection is one of the most revered in the world. The Philadelphia art establishment that ridiculed and insulted him now want to get their greedy, grubby paws on all that art. Lawyers are hired, stooges are put in place, trusts are busted and wills are ignored. Oh well, who cares? Dr. Barnes is dead and the powerful and famous want the art.

The Art of the Steal documents the history and future of this fabulous art collection. As I said, I got a little angry while viewing this film. My wife left the room and told me not to tell her what happens. But, in many ways, that is the sign of a great documentary. I think you too will be angry, frustrated and/or sad by the goings-on documented here. One thing you won't be is bored!

One note about the Dr. Barnes collection. I have traveled to many parts of the world to see great, and not-so-great, art. I have never seen this collection and would love to. But, I respect the wishes of the man who worked so hard to put this collection together more than I desire to see the art. A dying man's wishes, spelled out to the letter in his will, should be followed.

The collection is perhaps the greatest private art collection in the world. It contains, among other pieces:

181 pieces by Renoir, 69 by Cezanne, 59 by Matisse, 46 by Picasso, 21 by Soutine, 18 by Rousseau, 16 by Modigliani, 11 by Degas, 7 by Van Gogh, 6 by Seurat as well as pieces by El Greco, Gaugin, Manet, Goya and Chirico. Amazing.

Made in 2009, directed by Don Argott.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

All the President's Men

1972 was a difficult year in America. The Vietnam War raged on, the economy was stalling and the country was at odds with itself. It was also a Presidential election year and the incumbent, Richard Nixon, did not want to vacate the White House just yet. We now know that Nixon and his minions spent millions of dollars on lies and dirty tricks to keep him in the Oval Office. We have also learned of Nixon's intense paranoia and how that paranoia seeped into the reelection campaign. We know these things because of 2 reporters for the Washington Post, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. They spent thousands of hours working this story to expose a corrupt administration and bring some of them to justice. This film tells that amazing story.

All the President's Men is an exciting and compelling film about very boring actions. Woodward and Bernstein, or "Woodstein" as they would later be called, spent months uncovering small details about a burglary of the Democratic Party headquarters in the Watergate hotel in Washington, D.C. We now know that this burglary was orchestrated by the Nixon White House to "bug" the Democratic offices to gain information for the election. Even though Nixon had a huge lead in the polls and was running against a candidate that he chose, his fear would not let him relax. The dirty tricks, false press releases, smear campaigns and illegal break ins continued.

Phone calls, doors slammed in their faces and research in a library don't make for the most exciting cinema, but actors Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman along with Director Alan J. Pakula and screenwriter William Goldman make this a fascinating, fast-paced movie. The film is played like a detective novel. Hard-working reporters follow up leads in an effort to find the truth. Woodward even has a secret source, dubbed "Deep Throat", with whom he had clandestine meetings in the wee hours of the night in parking garages. By playing this like a 30s crime drama, perhaps starring Bogart and Cagney, we find tension through-out this excellent film.
The direction is tight, the script top-notch and the acting strong. Hal Holbrook, Martin Balsam, Jason Robards and Jack Warden all lend their considerable skills to the fine ensemble to add more depth and dimension to this historic detective work.

Jason Robards won the Best Supporting Actor for his fine work while William Goldman won for Best Screenplay. All the President's Men won 4 Oscars and was nominated for 4 others including Best Picture and Best Director. This is a fine film about an amazing piece of American history.

Filmed in 1976, directed by Alan J. Pakula, written by William Goldman from the book by Woodward and Bernstein, starring Robert Redford, Dusting Hoffman, Hal Holbrook, Martin Balsam, Jason Robards and Jack Warden. One important note: Robert Redford so believed in this project that he, personally, bought the movie rights to the book for $450,000. He wanted to insure that the film captured the diligence of the reporters and showed the historic nature of the events.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Under Our Skin

"There's no medicine for someone like you."

Can you imagine? Being so sick that you can't walk nor even control your actions. You go to see your doctor, then 5 more, then a dozen more and all of them say the same thing. "You're faking it. Go see a shrink. You have already been cured." The frustration and fear of Lyme's disease patients are palpable throughout this fine documentary. Lyme's Disease is named for a small town in Connecticut where the diligent work of a resident, who noticed all the illness in her neighborhood, forced doctors and researchers to investigate. We now know that ticks, primarily deer ticks, transmit this disease through biting humans. What I did not know is how devastating it can be if left untreated/undiagnosed.

Director Andy Abrahams Wilson does a terrific job of conveying these extremely difficult situations with this film. There is lots of footage of patients from around the country telling their very personal stories. They describe the horrors of the disease, the difficulty in getting diagnosed and treated and how they have to travel thousands of miles to find any doctor who is willing to help. Wilson also attempts to expose some of the hypocrisy of doctors and insurance companies as they fight to protect their own patents and income.

This movie is well-filmed, interestingly edited and compelling to the viewer. It also quite maddening! When you see doctors with God Complexes telling people who can't walk that "it's all in your head" or "you are a pretty girl. Can't you get attention some other way?" you may wish to strike something. But that shows the power of Wilson's work with Under Our Skin.

Take a long look at this film, just don't keep anything breakable nearby. It may not survive.

Filmed in 2008, directed by Andy Abrahams Wilson.

Friday, July 8, 2011

49th Parallel

Watch this classic adventure/propaganda film on TCM today!

Fabulous propaganda/adventure film! Filmed in 1941 and released before the U.S.A. entered World War 2, 49th Parallel tells the story of the crew of a German U-boat sunk off the coast of Canada. 6 members of the crew escape the sub and attempt to flee to neutral America. All the while Canadian authorities and citizens are hot on their trail. Eric Portman is strong as the leader of the Germans, while British stars like Laurence Olivier and Leslie Howard portray the Canadians.

This film is a good adventure film. The German crew, on the run, attempt a harrowing journey across a hostile continent. They meet Eskimos in the north, French-Canadian trappers, local business men, hutterite farmers and a slew of officials as they traverse the second largest country on Earth. From the shores of Hudson Bay to the peaks of the Rocky Mountains the vast wilderness that is Canada is a major player in this fine thriller.

Also, this film is fantastic propaganda. Filmed by acclaimed British-born director Michael Powell, 49th Parallel tells this story to not only thrill the viewer, but to convince us of the strength of Democracy and the weakness of Fascism/Germany. All, but one, of the Germans are arrogant, Hitler-worshipping, group-thinking hate-mongers. They eventually kill the one member of the crew that feels any compassion/attraction to Canada and its peoples. On the other hand, all the Canadians are individuals, able to think, react and succeed on their own. One scene has the German crew amazed that the leader of a local religious community does not "punish" people who disagree with him. On several occasions the officer in charge of the German crew gives a passionate speech about the strengths of the Aryan/Nordic peoples and expects the local citizenry to join him in fighting the "weak" Canadian government. Much to his surprise, but not to ours, no one wants to join the Nazis. Canadians may complain about their government, but they sure don't want to be Nazis.

Director Powell and Oscar-winning screenwriter Emeric Pressburger do a fantastic job of using film and story to present a political view while still entertaining the audience. This film is terrific as an adventure thriller, but excels when looked at as propaganda. After viewing compare this movie with the films produced by the German film maker Leni Riefenstahl, particularly 'Triumph of the Will'. Her Nazi propaganda features lots of powerful music, marching soldiers and speeches by Hitler and Party leaders. Contrast that with 49th Parallel. No marching soldiers, just ordinary citizens. No bombastic score, just strong story-telling. No speeches by dictators, just speeches by the common person who loves their country and their freedom. If you ever want to explain the differences between Western democracy and Fascist dictatorships you can show these two films. No better statement could be made.

Filmed in 1941, directed by Michael Powell, written by Emeric Pressburger, starring Laurence Olivier, Leslie Howard, Eric Portman, Glynis Johns and Anton Walbrook.

Friday, July 1, 2011

They Shoot Horses, Don't They?

Today is director Sydney Pollack's birthday. Celebrate by watching this fantastic film!

Set during the Great Depression, this story of a dance marathon provides an existential reflection of life under immense pressure. The dancers represent all the difficulties and hopes of this dark period in American history. Jane Fonda plays a self-loathing woman bent on her own destruction. She somehow attracts the interest of Michael Sarazin with shocking results.

The despair of people during the Depression is ever present in the collection of dancers. The "contest" is a destructive attack on the physical and emotional endurance of all the participants. How each of them handle this pressure is the true tale told here.

Gig Young plays the caring and sleazy promoter of the dance marathon. He received an academy award for his attention-demanding performance. But it is the story of the dancers, led by Fonda and Sarazin, upon which the movie rests. The cast does a fabulous job. Desperate for the prizes the contestants battle for weeks against all odds. They Shoot Horses, Don't They? requires your attention through the last moment.

Director Sydney Pollack handles the adaptation of the Horace McCoy novel with a deft touch. The subject matter requires respect, but Pollack keeps the film from falling into the maudlin. The adaption of the script by James Poe and Robert E. Thompson is bravely done. The novel is hardcore and so is the film.

Filmed in 1969, Directed by Sydney Pollack, Written by James Poe and Robert E. Thompson, Starring Jane Fonda, Michael Sarazin, Gig Young, Red Buttons, Susannah York and Bruce Dern.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

36 Hours

This intriguing film presents us with an interesting question. What is the most effective way to extract accurate information from a prisoner? While this film is set in World War Two the question is a pertinent today as it was in 1944. From waterboarding to drugs, sleep deprivation to beatings, interrogation remains a most difficult enigma.

36 Hours is set just days before the Allied invasion of France at Normandy. The Germans have captured Major Jefferson Pike. Pike is portrayed by one of my favorite actors James Garner. His interrogators know that the US & British forces are about to invade the European continent, but where? They have kidnapped Pike in an effort to learn of the plans. The SS want to physically torture Pike, but an innovative psychologist, played superbly by Rod Taylor, wants to use his new method. He has built a replica American hospital, filled with doctors, nurses and patients, and tries to convince Pike that the war is over and he is suffering from amnesia. Only by examining his memories can Pike be "cured". Will this American officer fall for the ruse and provide all the details of the invasion? Or should he be beaten and abused to force him to talk?

This is a simple movie done very well. Writer/Director George Seaton moves us through the film's plot with aplomb. We are presented with the concepts and then Seaton allows the fabulous cast to keep us entertained. And, as always, James Garner leads the way. Garner is one of Hollywood's most personable and entertaining leading men and he is no exception here. In support we find Eva Marie Saint and Rod Taylor. Both of them provide solid acting, but Taylor is the one to keep an eye upon. He is able to move in the world of counter-espionage and psychological manipulation in a way that makes him seem to be the hero, not the German Officer attempting to stop the Allied invasion.

This is a straight-forward thriller that provides stimulation for the intellect as well as keep you enthralled. Do you think you could be fooled by the efforts portrayed in 36 Hours?

Filmed in 1965, written and directed by George Seaton, starring James Garner, Eva Marie Saint and Rod Taylor. Look for John Banner late in the film. He went on to his biggest fame as Sgt. Schultz, "I know nothing!" on TV's long-running sit-com 'Hogan's Heroes'. I have written articles about 3 other James Garner films: 'Move Over Darling', 'Murphy's Romance' and one of my favorite films of all-time 'The Americanization of Emily'.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Ace in the Hole

Kirk Douglas may be the King of the hidden gem. This is one of his fantastic films that have been overlooked since their release.

The 1950s could be called the decade of Billy Wilder. The Polish-born director started the decade with an Oscar for 'Sunset Blvd.' went on to more Oscars and nominations for 'Stalag 17', 'Sabrina', and 'Witness for the Prosecution'. He ended the decade with the film that AFI voted the best comedy ever, 'Some Like it Hot'. In between those revered films, he made wonderful movies like 'The Seven Year Itch' and 'The Spirit of St. Louis'. Few individuals in the history of cinema have had such a decade. As both a director and a writer he created films that were popular upon their release and cherished today. However, one film that he wrote and directed in the 50s was not well received and few have seen it since. Ace in the Hole.

Released after his monumental box-office and critical success 'Sunset Blvd.' this film flopped at the box office and was denigrated by the critics. It did so poorly financially that after his next film, 'Stalag 17', made millions for the studio his profits were docked for the failure of Ace in the Hole. But I believe that the critics and movie-goers missed one of his best films. Kirk Douglas stars as a down-on-his-luck reported that is stranded in New Mexico with car troubles. He begs the local paper for a job. After languishing there for a year he stumbles upon the story of a lifetime. A local man is trapped in a cave-in in a small, tourist-attraction of a mine. Douglas immediately sees the potential for his return to big time news reporting and begins to manipulate everyone around the story. From the trapped miner, to his family, to the sheriff and on to the national press, everyone is taking their cue from Douglas.

Ace in the Hole is a cynical look at the power of the media. Today, we are aware that much of the press/media has their own agendas. And profit is often at the top of the agenda. Those agendas control/distort they way they tell each story that they cover. In 1951 that was not common knowledge. People thought they could trust the newspapers, radio stations and tv to provide them with information without bias. Wilder's exposing of that manipulation of the public was not well received. Moviegoers did not want to see Kirk Douglas as the mastermind of a massive deception. And they did not want to believe that their beloved information sources could be so corrupt.

This movie is dark and cynical. But it also tells a fascinating story. In many ways it reminds me of another fantastic film 'Network'. This film's message is more subtle, but it is just as powerful a look at the power of the press and its ability to manipulate our society. I highly recommend obtaining a copy of this terrific film ASAP.

Filmed in 1951, directed by Billy Wilder, written by Wilder, Lesser Samuels and Walter Newman, starring Kirk Douglas, Jan Sterling, Lewis Martin and Porter Hall. This film was initially released under the title 'The Big Carnival'. In that version the studio made many changes. Please obtain the proper Ace in the Hole version as Billy Wilder intended it to be seen.

Many of the films referenced above have been looked at, in-depth, in other articles of mine. Here are links to those articles:

Stalag 17
Witness for the Prosecution
Some Like it Hot

Friday, June 3, 2011

Sweet Smell of Success

Today is Tony Curtis' birthday. TCM is showing a number of his films. This movie is one of the greats being shown. Don't miss it!

This film features some of the slimiest, darkest, meanest and most manipulative characters ever captured on celluloid. I felt, just a little bit, dirty after watching this film recently. It is impossible to feel any other way!

Tony Curtis, in the finest performance of his career, plays Sydney Falco. Falco is a press agent attempting to gain fame and fortune for his clients. But, more importantly, is fame and fortune for himself. He attempts to curry the favor of big-time newspaper columnist/radio star J.J. Hunsecker. Burt Lancaster portrays Hunsecker with amazing evil and contempt in every word and movement. This film should be seen just to watch these two actors give the performance of their lives. Curtis plays the toady, kiss-ass with a level of sleaze that can almost be tasted as it drips off the screen. And Lancaster's manipulation knows no bounds. Acting magnificence!

The script is top-notch. Written by Clifford Odets and Ernest Lehman, it is wonderful in its evil. They do a terrific job of giving the viewer the feel of desperation for small-guy Curtis and corrupt power of Lancaster. Director Alexander Mackendrick, coming off the wonderful Alec Guinness film 'The Ladykillers', gives us the opportunity to share in the story without pause. He just keeps the film moving towards a fantastic finish. Also to be commended is cinematographer James Wong Howe. He moves the camera through the nightclubs and street life of New York City with ease and grace. Howe had a career that stretched for over 50 years and is remembered for wonderful photography in his films.

One last technical note. Sweet Smell of Success has terrific music and score. From the jazz in the clubs to the score by Elmer Berstein the music alone is well worth the viewing. This film is dark, manipulative and evil. Oh yeah, and terrific as well.

Filmed in 1957, directed by Alexander MacKendrick, written by Clifford Odets and Ernest Lehman, starring Tony Curtis, Burt Lancaster, Martin Milner, Susan Harrison and Barbara Nichols. Master film transfer company Criterion has a new DVD set coming out in February for this film. "Light Me, Sydney"

Friday, May 27, 2011

Mugabe and the White African

Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe said "then let me be Hitler tenfold" in a speech in 2003. That sums up Mugabe in one of his own sentences.

This intriguing documentary follows the story of a farmer who is fighting the Mugabe regime's efforts to take his farm and give it to important members of the government. We learn how all the farm owned by white people are being confiscated to be "redistributed" to those with powerful connections. All the surrounding black-owned farms are being left alone, only those owned by whites are being overrun. Mike Campbell, the farm owner, is fighting, in a multi-national court to keep his home and land. He bought the farm from the Mugabe government over 20 years ago, but they no longer recognize that sale. He employs over 500 people, primarily blacks, but the farm needs to be transferred for "justice".

This is a strong story of racism, governmental abuse and the never-ending saga of individuals attempting to live their lives without interference. The film makers took great personal risk in filming this story. It is both illegal and dangerous to show-up Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party. Mugabe runs the country, like any petty dictator, with slogans about justice all-the-while abusing his own citizens and getting rich off the backs of the people.

Mugabe and the White African is a powerful story. There are squeamish moments for the viewer, but the life of the Campbell's, and many other Zimbabweans, should be seen by the world.

In 1980 Stevie Wonder, in his song 'Master Blaster', sang "Peace has come to Zimbabwe". I'm sorry, but it is now 2011 and that is still not true.

Filmed in 2009, directed by Lucy Bailey and Andrew Thompson.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Red River

Happy birthday to The Duke himself! Enjoy one of his hidden classics.

This is the film that turned John Wayne from an actor into John Wayne the on-screen force. Before Red River, John Wayne was already a movie-star. Stagecoach had seen to that. And he was an academy award nominee. Sands of Iwo Jima had seen to that. But the persona that we know as John Wayne had yet to develop on screen. Red River changed everything. Wayne portrays Tom Dunson, a hardworking, no b.s. rancher who decides to lead his massive cattle herd on a long cattle drive. His ward Matt Garth (played in his first film by Montgomery Clift) is his lead assistant. When Clift feels Wayne is being dictatorial and oppressive he takes the herd away from Wayne and leads the drive himself. Wayne vows vengeance and pursues Clift and his herd along the Chisum trail.

This film is often called 'The Mutiny on the Bounty' set in the American West. The comparison is accurate, but incomplete. Except for the climactic ending the stories are very similar. But I find Red River to be about opposites. Older & grizzled John Wayne vs. young & attractive Montgomery Clift. Take no prisoners employee management vs. an inclusive management style. Follow orders vs. question authority. Risk vs. reward. Questions that still intrigue us today.

Director Howard Hawks does a fantastic job. The characters are deep and real, the photography is spellbinding and the acting he gets from Wayne and the cast are first-rate. Few critics consider John Wayne to be much of an actor, but he sure does a fantastic job in Red River. Clift, in his debut, is compelling as the heir apparent that rebels against the very man who saved him. Walter Brennan, Noah Berry, Jr. and John Ireland are also featured. The score, by Dimitri Tiomkin, adds a wonderful, western feel.

Even if you are not a fan of John Wayne you should enjoy this film. Red River is a classic American western!

Filmed in 1948, Directed by Howard Hawks, written by Borden Chase and Charles Schnee, starring John Wayne, Montgomery Clift, Joanne Dru, Walter Brennan and John Ireland. After filming was finished, Red River could not be released for over two years. Legal action brought by Howard Hughes held-up the release. Hughes felt this film was too similar to his 'The Outlaw'.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Out of the Past

Film noir at its best. This 1947 noir classic stars Robert Mitchum, Kirk Douglas and Jane Greer. Mitchum plays small-town gas station owner Jeff Bailey. Mitchum makes a few bucks, fishes often and has a lovely girlfriend. A seemingly idyllic life. Then his past catches up with him. The past in the persona of Whit Sterling. Sterling is played, with his usual aplomb, by Kirk Douglas. Douglas has summoned Mitchum to his Lake Tahoe home for a "chat".

As with most film noirs, Mitchum spends his time on the way to this chat telling his story in the past tense. Whether it is Fred MacMurray in Double Indemnity or Joan Crawford in Mildred Pierce noir uses the lead character telling the story in flashback as a main device. Out of the Past is no exception. We learn of Mitchum's hiring by Douglas to locate Douglas's love Kathie Moffat. Kathie is played to evil temptress perfection by Jane Greer. Mitchum follows Greer to Mexico with the intent to bring her back to Douglas for a big payday. But, of course, plans go awry. Mitchum falls hard for Greer's feminine wiles and instead goes on the run with her. But that soon falls apart. Years later Douglas and Greer re-enter Mitchum's now Norman Rockwell' life with the intent to bring harm. But can Mitchum foil their plans?

Director Jacques Tourneur does a fantastic job with the simple noir plot. Greer's evil temptations pull good guy Mitchum over to the dark side. Douglas and his money are the bait, but it is the fabulous Greer that seals the deal. But it is the script, by Daniel Mainwaring from his own novel, that is the most important part of Out of the Past. It is biting, dripping in sarcasm and wit, and filled with classic film noir emotion. It seems that each sentence was crafted for maximum impact with minimum words. The script almost reaches out and grabs the viewer on its own. It is powerful and moves a simple story along to keep the viewer riveted.

Filmed in 1947, directed by Jacques Tourneur, written by Daniel Mainwaring with uncredited help from noir master James Cain, starring Robert Mitchum, Kirk Douglas, Jane Greer and Rhonda Fleming. If you like film noir, and I do, this is must-see! I have previously written about other noir classics like Double Indemnity, Mildred Pierce, The Big Clock and Chinatown.

Friday, May 6, 2011

King Rat

Both Steve McQueen and Paul Newman turned down the lead in this intriguing film.

George Segal portrays Corporal King. King is an American POW in a Japanese prisoner of war camp during World War Two. The camp has no fences nor wires. Just an impenetrable jungle from which there is no escape. Cpl. King decides to try to make the best of a horrific situation. He is a street hustler extraordinaire and he uses those skills to obtain small luxuries. Like food. King Rat focuses upon the trials of life within a POW camp.

King finds he has not one, but two enemies. The Japanese guards are one, but the jealous British prisoners within the camp also become a source of difficulty. Most of the camp is British and they prefer a more traditional view of relations with the Japanese. King is always "working the angle" to find a way to make life more bearable. Many other prisoners become more of an obstacle than the guards themselves. With the British prisoners on one-side and the Japanese guards on the other, King must walk a fine line between them if he is to survive.

This film also has a secondary storyline about the role of class in our society. Most of the British POWs are officers of fine breeding while King is an enlisted man of a questionable background. Some of the "upper-crust" British feel it is beneath them to work with someone like Cpl. King, let alone be bested or dependent upon him. This class-warfare intrigue is still in question today. Are some people better than others because of who they are? Rich vs. poor, male vs. female, white vs. black, educated vs. street smarts are all still issues plaguing humanity.

This film is based upon a best-selling novel by James Clavell. Clavell spent much of his literary life writing a series of best-selling novels about Asia and its interaction with the West. From 'Shogun' to 'Noble House' to 'Gai-Jin' all of Clavell's novels about Asia are intriguing. The mini-series based upon 'Shogun', starring Richard Chamberlin and Toshiro Mifune, is still one of my favorite television events. And this novel is one of his best.

Whether you like intense drama or prefer intellectual action, King Rat will provide some enjoyable entertainment. Upon viewing please keep one question in the back of your mind. If you were in a similar situation, would make a deal for food or would you starve for principle and honor?

Filmed in 1965, directed by Bryan Forbes, written by Forbes from the novel by James Clavell, starring George Segal, John Mills, Tom Courtenay, James Fox and Denholm Elliott.