Category Archives: Classic

Becket (1964)

becket 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Betrayed by his friend.

King Henry II (Peter O’Toole) is finding himself at continual odds with the Archbishop of Canterbury (Felix Aylmer) particularly in their disagreement of taxing the church to help fund Henry’s war with France when the elderly Archbishop suddenly dies Henry decides to appoint his longtime friend Thomas Becket (Richard Burton) into the position.  Becket had always shown extreme loyalty towards Henry and many times gotten him out of several jams so Henry expects this will continue in his new role, but finds that Thomas takes his position much more seriously than expected and shifts his loyalty from the king to the almighty, which causes serious conflict between the two.

The film which is directed by Peter Glenville is based on the 1959 stageplay written by Jean Anouilh that starred Laurence Olivier in the role as Becket and Anthony Quinn as Henry. This film version isn’t bad, but not quite the epic spectacle that we are so used to from these types of films from that period. The action is quite minimal and there is a definite staginess. I would have liked more camera movements and even a few scenes with a hand-held to help make it seem a little more authentic and less of a filmed drama. The scene where Henry and Becket are seen riding on horseback appears very corny as it was clearly done in front of a blue-screen. There is also too much music one scene has Henry and Becket running away from a farmhouse after being caught fooling around with a farm girl that has a cartoonish sounding melody that seems completely inappropriate especially for the time period.

Having Henry and Becket go from being friends to bitter enemies seemed to happen too quickly. I got the feeling we were seeing the ‘Cliff Notes’ version of events were they analyze only the important plot points and then quickly moved to the next. I realize the runtime of the film is already long, but spending more time showing the friendship gradually devolve would have been more realistic.

Normally I love Sir John Gielgud and his performance as King Louis VII is amusing, but he is clearly British and speaks with an English accent that doesn’t even come close to sounding French. The part of the Pope is given to an Italian, so the King Louis role should have been done by a Frenchman.

O’Toole is excellent. He has brown hair here instead of his patented blonde and his ability to stay in step with Burton by giving an almost comic performance of a King who is nothing more than an overgrown adolescent is brilliant. The royal food fight is good as are the many putdowns that he gives to both his wife and kids and even his own mother.

Burton is fantastic as expected playing a role different from any of the others that he has done. His piercing blue eyes have never been stronger particularly when he becomes the Archbishop.

The killing scenes done inside the church near the end has some nice camera work and Henry’s final emotional speech as well as his flogging by the monks are all strong and make this worthwhile viewing, but I couldn’t help but feel that we have ‘grown-up’ a bit in the way we do period pieces today and this is one that could use a remake.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: March 11, 1964

Runtime: 2Hours 28Minutes

Not Rated

Director: Peter Glenville

Studio: Paramount

Available: VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video, Netflix streaming

Robocop (1987)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 8 out of 10

4-Word Review: Cop becomes a robot.

In Detroit of the near future the city has become overrun with criminals and an underfunded city government is forced to allow a large corporation by the name of OCP to help run its police force. The company is headed by Dick Jones (Ronny Cox) and their chairman (Dan O’Herlihy) who are constantly looking for new and more sophisticated crime fighting weapons and come up with the idea of creating a half human half robot type cyborg using the body parts of a recently deceased officer named Alex J. Murphy (Peter Weller). Initially it’s a great success, but the robot starts to have memories of Alex’s past and becomes fixated with hunting down the scumbags who killed him while avoiding Jones and his men who want to destroy the robot so Jones’s own invention the ED-209 can replace him.

When compared to other big-budgeted studio action flicks this one far and away outshines them all. Director Paul Verhoeven seemed to be given an amazing amount of freedom to create a film with a distinct vision that manages to be both exciting and multi-dimensional. The final shootout at an abandoned steel mill has a particularly nihilistic look and feel more common in European films. The jabs of satirical humor also make this much more enjoyable and entertaining than the run-of-the-mill actioner. My favorite bits included the commercial advertising the family board game call ‘Nukem’ and the outrageous demands of a gunman holding up the mayor’s office as well as the overnight gas station attendant working on geometry problems.

The action is quite good and the film manages to attain a fluid level that allows the graphic violence to work in tandem with the offbeat touches while not being jarring or disjointed. The special effects were decent although the ED-209 robot looks too much like one of those Ray Harryhausen stop-action creations that was clearly a miniaturized model blown up to giant proportions by optical effects. The result is a bit cheesy by today’s standards although the part where the machine is chasing Robocop and slips down a flight of stairs and then lays on its backside while flailing its legs in the air like a wailing child is quite possibly the film’s best moment.

There is also a rather prolonged torture segment where a criminal gang led by Clarence Boddicker (Kurtwood Smith) traps Murphy in a steel mill and proceeds to shoot off his arm and hand while laughing at him as he screams in pain. Despite its unsettling nature I liked that this scene was put in as too many times Hollywood takes on dark themed stories, but then makes them tasteful and mainstream. This scene breaks that mold while truly reflecting the vile nature of the people and the world that they live in. It allows vicious characters to be nasty without it having to be implied and shocks the viewer a bit out of their comfort zone, which a true nihilistic movie should do.

The only problem that I had with the scene is that after taunting Murphy and blowing off his limbs they end up shooting him in the head and effectively making him brain dead, which makes the scenes later on where he remembers his past and is even aware of the people who are turning him into a robot seem unrealistic. A better idea would have been to have the men just walk away laughing while allowing Murphy to remain conscious , which would have worked better with their already vindictive nature as shooting him in the head given the circumstances seemed too ‘humane’ like they were putting him out of his misery. It also would have kept his brain functioning and allowed the later segments to be more believable.

Star Weller is so covered up with the massive suit that he has to wear that he becomes transparent and making the bad guys much more colorful and memorable. The character needed more of a backstory and a few distinctive personality traits. I also felt that the history between his character and Officer Anne Lewis (Nancy Allen) should have been more than just one day on the job.

Miguel Ferrer captures the caricature of the young, upwardly mobile do-whatever-it-takes-to-get-ahead 80’s yuppie persona so well that he was one unlikable character I wished had stayed on for the entire duration. Smith who has become so well known in more benign roles in his later career really scores as a particularly vile bad guy.

My only real complaint is that the visuals were not all that futuristic looking. The police station resembled the one on the old ‘Barney Miller’ TV-show and the police cars looked very much like 80’s models. The remake of the film, which is set to be released today, may do a better job of creating more modernistic visuals.

My Rating: 8 out of 10

Released: July 17, 1987

Runtime: 1Hour 42Minutes

Rated R

Director: Paul Verhoeven

Studio: Orion Pictures Corporation

Available: VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video

Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

lawrence of arabia 1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 9 out of 10

4-Word Review: Lawrence unites the Arabs.

Due to the death of actor Peter O’Toole on December 14 we will be reviewing each Sunday of this month 4 films that he did during the 60’s with this one be his most famous role and one that jettisoned his career into stardom.

The film chronicles the life of T.E. Lawrence who helped unite the Arab tribes during World War I and allowed them to fight back and eventually overpower the Turks. The film starts out with his motorcycle death in 1935 at the young age of 46 and then flashes back to his days in the army as a young intelligence officer. It examines his unique personality, determined headstrong ways as well as his ability to unite varying warring Arab tribes and get them to work together to defeat a common enemy.

Director David Lean and cinematographer Freddie Young are the real stars here. Filmed mostly in the countries of Morocco and Jordan Lean manages to capture the barren, hot landscape of the desert better than anyone else as he gives it an almost surreal and exotic quality that takes over the rest of the story and leaves the strongest impression. I loved the sun slowly coming up over the horizon and onto the flat terrain. I also liked the longshots showing characters enveloped by the majestic landscape and looking almost nonexistent when seen against some of the towering rocky formations. Omar Sharif’s characters entrance while on horseback and seen from a distance as he rides up through layers of heat that rises from the ground is also excellent.

The action is well captured although there isn’t as much of it as you might think. Their raid on Aquba is for my money the best. I loved the bird’s-eye shot of seeing all these soldiers looking almost like ants scurrying from the desert and into the fortress through the buildings and property and then eventually into the sea that sits on the other side. The bloody battle that they rage against an already weakened Turk army near the end is also a strong visual as is the Lawrence’s visit to an unsanitary hospital housing the wounded Turks.

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O’Toole’s portrayal of Lawrence was controversial at the time and to some still is. His bright, clear blue eyes makes him look like he is in a trance and the way he says his lines sounds like he was under some sort of spell and gives the character a certain mystique that isn’t quite human. Still I thought the part fit O’Toole’s personality well. My favorite moment of his is when he first tries on the Arab robes that he is given and he goes running around in them in an almost child-like manner. It is also nice seeing a story about a true-life character that isn’t preachy and more open about their flaws particularly his propensity for violence which becomes increasingly more evident as it goes along.

Sharif is excellent is support and in some ways gives the film’s all around strongest performance. I liked the adversarial relationship that his character has with Lawrence. They start out at odds with each other, but slowly become friends and yet continue to have their differences. Arthur Kennedy is good as a glib and detached photojournalist and Alec Guinness was to me initially unrecognizable as Prince Feisal.

The movie does not stay completely accurate to the real life events. Some of these are minor and while others are more major, but are too many to elaborate here. The truth is there is probably no movie pertaining to a true life event that is completely accurate to what really happened and no one should be naïve enough to expect it to be either. On an entertainment and cinematic level this one scores high. My only real complaint is the scene where a character gets swallowed up in quicksand, which in reality is very unlikely to happen, but a prevalent feature in a lot of 60’s movies and the one point where it got a bit too ‘Hollywood’.

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My Rating: 9 out of 10

Released: December 10, 1962

Runtime: 3Hours 47Minutes

Not Rated

Director: David Lean

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video

Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)

kramer vs kramer

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 10 out of 10

4-Word Review: Life after wife leaves.

This is a solid drama detailing the divorce and subsequent custody battle between two young, educated and upper middle class parents (Dustin Hoffman, Meryl Streep).

To say that this is simply an examination of divorce and its effects on both the child and parents do not do the film justice as this is a very richly textured story that brings out the many variables that come with being a modern day parent. One of the best is the examination of Hoffman’s character’s job and how ‘moving up the corporate ladder’ can have an adverse effect on a man’s home life and his family members. In fact this is a major factor to his break-up and emotional detachment with his wife.

The film also offers a nice glimpse between father and son and the scenes showing this relationship are quite touching especially as they learn to coexist with one another after the mother leaves. Justin Henry doesn’t get enough credit for his performance as the son. Yes, he is adorable in the typical child-like way, but he also manages to create a child character that is diverse and memorable.

Hoffman gives a superior performance and in many ways it is all about him and his adjustment at playing the dual roles of being both a father and mother. He has his aggressive New Yorker persona, but you understand it and really feel for what he is going through. Even watching him frantically running around from place-to-place is interesting.

Streep is also outstanding in what is kind of an unusual role for her. Typically she plays strong-willed women with a strong on-screen presence, but here her character is rather weak and suffers from problems that are elusive, but still intriguing.

Howard Duff is solid as Hoffman’s attorney and Jane Alexander offers good support as the next-door-neighbor although her character is a bit too ordinary and could have been supplied with a few interesting quirks.

The subject itself is still quite topical and everything is kept in a real perspective with nothing getting overblown or clichéd.  Robert Benton’s direction is flawless as it pays attention to the smallest of details and makes them special.  A good example of this is the poor way the father and son try to make French toast when they first find themselves alone together and then the very efficient way they learn to make them at the end. It is also not all serious as there is a really hilarious scene involving Jobeth Williams who plays Hoffman’s new girlfriend and the unusual circumstances onto which she first meets Henry.

There are a few issues to quibble about, but they are minor. One is that you hear Hoffman and Henry peeing in the toilet a lot, but they never seem able to flush it! There is also a scene where Hoffman who is in desperate need for a job applies for one during a holiday party and when he gets it he runs out, grabs a woman he does not know and kisses her right on the lips. If he tried something like that today he would not only be fired on the spot, but have a sexual harassment lawsuit as well.

My Rating: 10 out of 10

Released: December 19, 1979

Runtime: 1Hour 45Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Robert Benton

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video

The Marriage of Maria Braun (1979)

the marriage of maria braun

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 8 out of 10

4-Word Review: Maria gets her way.

Maria’s (Hanna Schygulla) husband a soldier in World War II is presumed dead. She decides to make her mark by getting a job and a new lover in the form of a black man named Bill (George Eagles), but complications ensue when her husband Hermann (Klaus Lowitsch) shows up very much alive. Maria enjoys her new found independence and isn’t interested in falling back into her old role, which causes friction with her husband as well as her interactions with others.

Director Rainer Werner Fassbinder creates a unique vision and manages to walk the balance between the gritty and surreal. The lighting is evocative and shadowy and nicely reflects his stage background. The sets are colorful and varied and one becomes almost hypnotically entranced with the visuals. The abandoned buildings and rundown locales especially at the beginning make a strong impression and become like a third character. Fassbinder echoes the desperation of the characters through visual means only without ever having to resort to melodramatics, which alone makes this a classic and far better than some other similar films about the period.

Equally great use is made of sound with two to three layers of it within each scene. Whether it is the noise of a radio, traffic, or someone whistling there is always some noise coming from the background much like in reality, which helps in a subtle way to make the scenes more vivid. I loved the dolly shots constantly moving the camera around in every scene throughout the rooms that the characters are in giving the viewer a full sense of their dimensions and helping breakdown the fourth wall.

Some memorable scenes include the moment when Maria’s husband comes back from the war and catches Maria in a compromising position with her new found lover. There are at least four minutes here where there is no talking from any of the characters and one becomes riveted with the silent reactions of the three, which proves powerful. Even the erotic overtones work. Normally I find that area to be rather clichéd and mechanical, but here the sweat glistening off the naked bodies seems genuinely evocative and enticing.

Many people feel this is a movie about budding feminism and applaud the strong female character. I really wouldn’t argue with that and in many ways it is fun seeing this woman forge her way ahead while remaining poised and stalwart throughout. Her relationship with rich businessman Karl (Ivan Desny) and the way she turns him into a subservient to her every whim while also explaining to him that ‘he isn’t having an affair with her, but instead SHE is having one with him’ is classic, but I also felt it seemed a bit artificial. Having a strong central character is one thing, but this woman seems inhuman. She never shows any vulnerability at any time and appears almost completely removed from the environment around her. Never once does she flinch, compromise, or back down from anything or anyone, which just isn’t possible and makes Maria one-dimensional in the process. A character is more interesting when their flaws are exposed and then they must work hard to overcome them, but this one doesn’t have any, which is my biggest issue with this otherwise excellent production.

My Rating: 8 out of 10

Released: February 20, 1979

Runtime: 1Hour 58Minutes

Rated R

Director: Rainer Werner Fassbinder

Studio: United Artists

Available: VHS, DVD (The Criterion Collection)

High and Low (1963)

high and low

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Pay ransom go bankrupt.

Kingo (Toshiro Mifune) is an executive of a shoe company who finds out that his chauffeur’s son has been kidnapped and comes under tremendous pressure to pay the ransom even it will make him bankrupt.

As with all of Akira Kurosawa’s films the production values are solid and the story is well paced. The very methodical police work and investigation is interesting and enlightening. It’s certainly nothing like today’s CSI shows, but well done for its period. The ending scene where Mifune faces the kidnapper leaves a strong and memorable impression.

However, on the negative side the set-up to the kidnapping happens too quickly without any type of buildup or tension. Almost the entire first hour takes place inside the living room of Kingo’s hilltop house and it would’ve helped to have some cutaways to other locales.  Mifune, who is billed as the star and gives a great performance disappears during the second hour only to finally reappear at the very end and I felt it would’ve been stronger had he been involved more in the investigation. Also, the revealing of the kidnapper is unexciting and a big letdown.  I had a hard time understanding why a guy who was so very crafty and sophisticated in every facet of his planning of the kidnapping would suddenly get so conveniently dumb and sloppy at the very end.

This is a decent Kurosawa entry, but in my opinion not one of his best. Yet it is still good enough to keep you captivated from beginning to end.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: March 1, 1963

Runtime: 2Hours 23Minutes

Not Rated

Director: Akira Kurosawa

Studio: The Toho Company

Available: DVD, Blu-ray (The Criterion Collection)

Repulsion (1965)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 8 out of 10

4-Word Review: She loses her mind.

Love or loathe him one thing is for sure the controversial Roman Polanski has made some great movies and since today marks his 80th birthday I thought it would be good to review one of his films this being his first English language one. The story, which was written by Polanski and Gerard Brach centers on Carol (Catherine Deneuve) a beautiful but lonely young woman living in an apartment with her older sister Helen (Yvonne Furneaux) and Helen’s boyfriend Michael (Ian Hendry). Carol seems detached and troubled and when Helen and Michael go off for the weekend Carol begins to suffer hallucinations while inside the apartment that becomes increasingly more frightening and eventually leads to murder.

The film works at a slow and deliberate pace that some viewers may feel put-off by. Personally I felt it was effective and made it more realistic although things really don’t start to get intense until the final hour. For me it was the little things that made it intriguing for instance the way Carol becomes fascinated with the distorted reflection of herself in a teapot, or a rolling bottle of nail polish. Nothing is over-the-top, but instead subtle and restrained. This is one of the few films that seem to understand the thought process of the mentally ill and makes you feel like you are really inside their head and seeing things as they do, which is what makes it so unnerving. The low-key approach works because like with an actual person having a breakdown it starts with little things that slowly morph into bigger ones.

Polanski shows incredible control over the material. The stark black-and-white cinematography helps to heighten the ugliness of the situation. The variety of camera angles and movements creates an almost hypnotic effect. I loved the way, as Carol gets further into her demented state, that the dimensions of the apartment begins to change, or the hands coming out of the walls. My only complaint is I wished some of these effects had been played up even more. The rape sequences are quite effective and surprisingly explicit for its time period. Yet instead of hearing Carol’s screams during these moments we instead hear the ticking of a clock, which somehow makes it even more disturbing.

Deneuve gives one of her best performances and she was at the peak of youthful beauty here. The blank almost zombie-like look in her eyes is penetrating. You get the feeling that she not only truly understands the madness of her character, but actually is the character. Patrick Wymark is also memorable as the landlord who goes from being bombastic and demanding to kind and cuddling and eventually sexually deviant in a matter of only 10 minutes.

Normally I always like a background to the characters and when they are missing or vague I find it a weakness to the script while here it is strangely a strength. We can surmise that she was most likely abused sexually when she was younger, but the who, when, and why is never made clear. This though somehow makes the character and the situation more compelling and reflects back to how psychologically fragile the human condition can be and how these things can happen to anyone. The final tracking shot, which stops on a picture of Carol as a child showing an angry look on her face is great.

The imagery and psychological approach to this thing is still one-of-a-kind. The movie viewing experience on this one remains potent and aptly deserves its classic status.

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My Rating: 8 out of 10

Released: October 2, 1965

Runtime: 1Hour 45Minutes

Not Rated

Director: Roman Polanski

Studio: Compton Films

Available: VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video

The Great Escape (1963)

the great escape 3

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 8 out of 10

4-Word Review: Tom, Dick and Harry

Based on a true story involving POW’s in an ‘escape proof’ German Prison camp who devise a way to get out by digging three tunnels, which will go under the barbed wire fence and allow them to get out under the cover of a nearby forest. They decide to build three tunnels and call them Tom, Dick and Harry, so if the German guards discover one of the tunnels they can simply continue to work on the other two.

The producers built a complete replica of Stalag Luft III were the actual events took place and used Wally Floody who was a prisoner of the camp and took part in the escape as an advisor. The movie moves at a polished pace grabbing in you immediately and keeping you involved all the way through. The characters share a great camaraderie and it’s a terrific testament to teamwork and how by everybody playing a little role can help make great things happen. Their resolve and ‘can-do’ spirit is infectious and one of the major reasons the film is so compelling. The bouncy, upbeat patriotic music is good although it gets played a lot and most viewers will most likely hear it playing in their head long after it is over.

I did feel that the depiction of the camp seemed a bit too cozy. The men are allowed to freely walk around and congregate in large meetings where they make their plans and it seemed to me that a heavily fortified prison camp wouldn’t allow for that, or at least be more on top of things. I wouldn’t say the German’s are portrayed on a ‘Hogan’s Heroes’ dumb level, but at times it gets close. For instance when the James Garner character lifts the wallet out of the pocket of one of the guards he does not become aware that it is missing for what seems like several days and then when he does he doesn’t suspect the Garner character and instead goes back to him and naively asks for his help in finding it. When the Germans find one of the tunnels there are no reprisals even though I and some of the others in my movie group who watched it with me felt that there should have been. Also, when the Steve McQueen character attacks one of the German guards when they shoot his friend who is trying to escape he is not sent to the cooler even though he had previously been sent there for far less infractions.

On the acting side it is all top-notch. McQueen is as cool as ever. I love his detached manner and rugged willing to take risks personality. His escape by motorcycle, which was added into the story by his request, is exciting and one of the most memorable moments in the film. Charles Bronson is good as one of the characters who are most instrumental at digging the tunnels however I felt that it seemed a bit far-fetched and like tacky Hollywood melodrama that he had spent so much time working inside the tunnels only to suddenly get claustrophobic about them just as they are trying to escape. David McCallum has very few words, but gets gunned down in exciting style at a train station. I normally love James Coburn and his character is appealing, but his attempt at an Australian accent is atrocious.

Spoiler Alert!

Despite its title the film really doesn’t seem like all that great of an escape. For one thing out of the predicted 250 that were supposed to escape through the tunnel only 76 made it out before the Germans caught onto it and closed it off. Of those 76 there are 50 who get caught, rounded up and shot at point blank range. 12 get returned to the camp and only 3 actually make it to safety. When the Steve McQueen character gets sent back to the cooler in the film’s final scene I felt a bit frustrated and depressed and that the big ballyhooed escape had really lead nowhere.

My Rating: 8 out of 10

Released: July 4, 1963

Runtime: 2Hours 52Minutes

Not Rated

Director: John Sturges

Studio: United Artists

Available: VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video

Topkapi (1964)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 8 out of 10

4-Word Review: Granddaddy of heist movies.

Elizabeth (Melina Mercouri) and Walter (Maximilian Schell) have formed a group of amateur thieves to help them steal an emerald dagger out of the famed Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, Turkey. Problems ensue when one of the original members of the group becomes injured and they are forced to hire on the services of Arthur Simon Simpson (Peter Ustinov) a bungling, portly small-time crook whose on-going ineptitude almost throws their well thought out plans into jeopardy.

This film has become the granddaddy of heist films and rightly so. Based on the novel ‘The Light of Day’ by Eric Ambler the story is well-crafted and nicely detailed. The plan is elaborate, but fortunately believable and plausible. Director Jules Dassin seems to have all the logical loopholes covered. The production design is plush and captivating with just the right amount of offbeat touches to keep it original and cinematic. I found myself enjoying the dry humor and characterizations interspersed in-between the planning and action. The momentum builds evenly without every feeling rushed, or draggy. The on-location shooting is a plus that not only captures the sunny climate, but also the distinct ambience and look of the region.

The climatic sequence involving the actual heist is exciting. The actors do all of their own stunts including Gilles Segal as Guilio being lowered upside down into the palace by a rope being held rigorously by Walter and Arthur and doing most of his maneuvers trapeze style. The whole scene had me holding my breath most of the way and Dassin manages to capture if all from different and interesting angles while allowing the silence to help create the tension.

Ustinov is in fine form and deservedly won the Oscar for best supporting actor. Supposedly the part was originally intended for Peter Sellers, but Ustinov gives the character a lovable quality that I don’t think Sellers could. Ustinov’s rotund physique is an added benefit and his nervous looking facial expressions are consistently amusing with the interrogation scene by Turkish authorities being his best moment. It’s nice to see the character evolve and find a confidence he didn’t think he had while gaining a begrudging respect from the others.

Mercouri sizzles. Normally I am not crazy about women with deep, throaty voices like hers, but she makes it tantalizing. The character is a self-described nymphomaniac and the expression on her face as she watches a group of men spread lotion over their half-naked bodies is worth the price of the film.

The rest of the supporting cast is okay, but I found it odd how very polished they were when Walter insisted that he wanted amateurs for the heist that had no criminal background, or record. Having them behave in a befuddled besides just Arthur would have been more realistic and expected. I also didn’t like that the Guilio never says a single line of dialogue. Apparently the character was a mute, but there is no reason given for it and in the process makes him transparent and boring.

Spoiler Alert!

The only real problem I had with the movie is the ending. As Guilio is exiting the palace a little bird flies through the window while he is closing it, which in turn sets off an alarm, which leads to the gang getting arrested. However, I couldn’t understand how the trapped bird would’ve allowed the police to figure out what happened as an exact replica of the dagger that they swipe is put onto the chest of the sultan figure. To me it just seemed like one twist too many and the scenes showing them inside the prison is campy and forced. These guys had been portrayed as being slick and sophisticated most of the way, so why turn them into clowns at the end. Possibly this was done to show that ‘crime doesn’t pay and no crime portrayed in a film should go unpunished’, which was a code most movies were forced to work under in the past. Either way it doesn’t work and kind of hurts what is otherwise a snappy piece of entertainment.

My Rating: 8 out of 10

Released: September 17, 1964

Runtime: 2Hours

Not Rated

Director: Jules Dassin

Studio: United Artists

Available: VHS, DVD (Region 1 and 2), Amazon Instant Video

Sixteen Candles (1984)

sixteen candles

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: He has her panties

The 80’s may eventually become known as decade of the teen movie. There were so many and 98% of them were crude, moronic, and forgettable. However this disarming film, a product of John Hughes, is a winner. It’s a simple story that manages to bring out the universal truths of that age in a seamless manner. Its best asset is its ability to show how all those things that are considered insignificant to others is a big deal to teens. The film may be best suited for adults who can look back on that period with a mature perspective and a wry sense of wit as well as nostalgic to those who were adolescents when the film came out.

The film stands out from the rest in other ways too. First is the fact that the majority of the cast actually look the age they are playing and resemble the physical awkwardness. Other teen movies always seem to have pretty models and chiseled faced guys who look older than they should. The kids here also don’t have that annoying smugness. The filmmakers approach it with the idea that behind all that crudeness it is still an innocent time. It’s also nice to see parents and teens getting along and not constantly at odds. The late night talk between Ringwald and her father (Paul Dooley) is quite touching.

The film has some really funny moments. The destruction of a nice suburban home during a wild teen party is fun. Hall’s ‘official’ unveiling of Ringwald’s panties to a group of awed freshman is also memorable.

Ringwald is perfect in the starring role as she was sixteen at the time and seems to embody the character. You hardly see the acting. Hall was also a good choice as the male geek. He certainly has the scrawny physique of a typical freshman as well as the outrageous persona that he creates to help compensate for it. It is also interesting that at times he shows some mature sensibilities, which is a good example of how adolescence can be a mixture of different traits. The adult cast is great as well especially the veteran character actors who play the grandparents.

This film borders on being a minor classic even though there are a few drawbacks. One is the ending sequence where Ringwald’s older sister, who is also the bride, starts to behave erratically, which becomes comic overkill. The picture worked better when it stuck with Ringwald and her high school experiences exclusively. The film also has a few too many neat wrap-ups. The worst being when the hottest girl in the senior class falls in love with Hall, which was too much of a stretch. The music score gets heavy-handed at times especially when it’s used to accentuate a comic moment. There are also a few too many unnecessary sound effects.

John and Joan Cusack can be seen in small roles with John looking very young. Jami Gertz can be seen quickly as a drunken party guest. Also Blanche Baker, who plays Ringwald’s older sister, is the real life daughter of actress Carroll Baker.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: May 4, 1984

Runtime: 1Hour 33Minutes

Rated: PG

Director: John Hughes

Studio: Universal

Available: VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video