Tag Archives: Fredric March

…tick…tick…tick (1970)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: New sheriff faces racism.

Citizens of a small southern town get on edge when the current sheriff (George Kennedy) gets voted out and replaced by a black man (Jim Brown).  As the new sheriff Jim faces stiff resistance even from fellow members of the black community, but he forges on. When the son of a rich white man from a neighboring town runs over and kills a young white girl while he was driving drunk, Jim has him put into jail, but the young man’s father demands that he be released and when Jim refuses it creates the beginning of a potential race riot that forces the white citizens of the town to make a hard choice; do they continue with their racist behavior, or join the black sheriff in defending their town from corrupt outsiders?

The film starts out on the cheesy side by showing up close an egg frying on a sidewalk. The problem is that I tried this last year in Austin, Texas when the temp was 110 (actual temp and not a heat index figure), but I couldn’t get it to work even though I did it on asphalt and in direct sunlight. Some say that the egg has to be put in a frying pan and then have the pan put on the cement and maybe so, but that’s not how the film shows it and what’s worse is that it looks like the egg is already in a fried state even before it hits the pavement.

It’s also annoying that despite having the Deep South as the setting it was actually filmed in Colusa, California where the topography looks much different. I also had to wonder why everyone is constantly glazed over in sweat even when they were in bed at night and only small, little fans to cool them. The story’s time period is the present day (1970) and air conditioners were invented in 1902, so why the hell doesn’t anyone in this hot southern town own and use one?

The soundtrack features loud, poorly sung songs that not only get played over the opening and closing credits, but during a lot of the film as well, which gives the entire production a very B-level movie feel. I also got tired of hearing the sound of a clock ticking in the background that permeates just about every scene during the first 30 minutes and becomes heavy-handed and annoying.

The only thing that saves it is Jim Brown who’s really good here and looks better and younger without his trademark mustache. Kennedy on the other hand doesn’t seem up to the challenge with many of his scenes, particularly the one were he accosts a young man who was harassing him, coming off as unintentionally funny.

It’s sort-of fun seeing Frederic March playing a goofy mayor as well as Mills Watson, in his film debut, playing a racist deputy a decade before playing his most famous role as the bungling deputy Perkins in the ‘Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo’ TV-show.  I also liked how Clifton James and Anthony James (no relation) who had both played racist southern types in other films get roles here where they’re more level headed and help suppress the racist behavior of others instead of stoking it.

The film gets marginally better as it goes along and the ending is okay even a bit unique for this type of genre, but overall it’s just a cheap imitation of In the Heat of Night, which was much better. The only really surprising thing about the movie is that it received a G-rating despite having the N-word spoken throughout by several of the characters.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: January 9, 1970

Runtime: 1 Hour 40 Minutes

Rated G

Director: Ralph Nelson

Studio: MGM

Available: DVD-R (Warner Archive), Amazon Video 

Inherit the Wind (1960)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Don’t teach Darwin theory.

Bertam Cates (Dick York) is a  young school teacher who is put on trial for the teaching the Darwin theory of evolution in the film version of the hit stage play, which in turn was a variation of the famous trial of 1925.

Although labeled a ‘classic’ this film seems awfully stilted and heavy-handed. Everything gets overplayed with too much emphasis on high drama, which in certain instances becomes unintentionally funny. Director Stanley Kramer shows his bias from the beginning and doesn’t allow the viewer to come to their own realization on the issue. The townspeople are the embodiment of every small town cliché you can think of. The buildings that make up the town appear quite obviously to have been built on some studio back-lot. The same goes for the stagy indoor sets as well. Location shooting really helps even if it does go over budget. Just look at this film and then watch Joshua Logan’s Picnic and then decide which one gives you the stronger more lasting impression of small towns.

Fredric March is an accomplished actor, but goes over the top with his performance as the fundamentalist prosecutor Matthew Brady. He plays the character like he is a comical buffoon and uses too many exaggerated gestures and facial tics. Having the character go through a meltdown at the end is almost anticlimactic since he seemed destined for it from the very beginning. George C Scott, who played the same role in the Showtime remake, is much better.

Spencer Tracy as the defense attorney Henry Drummond is great and becomes the film’s main virtue. He is such a master of his craft that he is a joy to watch. He makes it seem all so effortless and natural and yet fascinating at the same time and the character he creates is quite memorable.

The courtroom showdown does allow for some fireworks and the final segment between Gene Kelly and Tracy proves interesting and introspective. The film does have some strong moments, but as a whole it seems kind of clunky.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: July 21, 1960

Runtime: 2Hours 8Minutes

Rated NR (Not Rated)

Director: Stanley Kramer

Studio: United Artists

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video