Tag Archives: History

Teddy, The Rough Rider

Col. Theodore Roosevelt. Crop of Image:Theodor...

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Directed by Ray Enright
Produced by Gordon Hollingshead
Written by Charles L. Tedford
Starring Sidney Blackmer
Pierre Watkin
Cinematography Ray Rennahan
Editing by Everett Dodd
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date 24 February 1940
Running time 19 minutes
Country United States
Language English

I guess that it could well be considered un-Australian to watch a patriotic film about one of America’s greatest presidents on Australia Day, but that is just what I did yesterday. I found this short biopic on President Theodore Roosevelt from 1940 to be quite fascinating. There is no doubt from watching this short that Teddy was a great man and an interesting character and was someone who was loved by America and Americans.

This film gives a brief 20 minute overview of the great man’s public life. I’m not sure how accurate it is, but it does skip his failure to return to the presidency in 1912. The film starts when he was NYC police commissioner, to when he became Assistant Secretary of the Navy, to his military career leading his Rough Riders in the fight in the Spanish-American War, to when he became vice-president and finally president after the assassination of President McKinley.

Sidney Blackmer is quite charismatic (but slightly annoying) as the great man, and whilst this film purports to being a biopic I can’t help thinking that it had another, underlying message. The film was released in 1940 and Europe was at war with itself, but the USA was to stay out of any war at any cost and another Roosevelt, FDR, was in the White House. When in the film Teddy talks about standing up for smaller nations against larger aggressors in the final scene, it could be taken that he is talking to the American people and telling hem that Britain and Europe needs their help. However it would take another 12 months and an act of Japanese aggression at Pearl Harbor before the sleeping American giant would awaken.

Teddy, The Rough Rider can be found as an extra on the Knute Rockne All American DVD.


The Untouchables

Cover of "The Untouchables (Special Colle...

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Directed by Brian De Palma
Produced by Art Linson
Executive: Raymond Hartwick
Written by David Mamet
Based on The Untouchables by Oscar Fraley and Eliot Ness
Starring Kevin Costner
Sean Connery
Andy García
Charles Martin Smith
Robert De Niro
Patricia Clarkson
Billy Drago
Music by Ennio Morricone
Cinematography Stephen H. Burum
Editing by Gerald B. Greenberg & Bill Pankow
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date June 3, 1987 (1987-06-03)
Running time 119 minutes
Country United States
Language English 

The Untouchables is a very good picture about one man’s ruthless pursuit of justice at any cost. It is a semi-fictionalised account of Eliot Ness’ efforts in trying to bring down Al Capone’s criminal empire in the early 1930s, yet it is full of historical inaccuracies which do detract a little from the enjoyment of the film.

The main inaccuracy would be the portrayal of the death of Frank Nitti, one of Capone’s top henchmen. The movie depicts Ness throwing Nitti off the top of the courthouse during Capone’s trial, when in reality Nitti committed suicide in 1943, over a dozen years after Capone’s trial. (The only reason I know this is because I have watched numerous documentaries on Nitti and Capone on the Criminal Investigation channel!) De Palmer and Mamet are really taking liberties with the truth here.

Another thing I found a little incomprehensible is the fact that Ness would fight his battles with Capone and his cronies so openly and that many members of the public ended up becoming innocent victims. The prime example of this is the scene at the crowded station when they are trying to arrest Capone’s book keeper and a gun fight breaks out. Surely Ness and any other law enforcement officer would have tried to avoid this.

Robert De Niro’s portrayal of Capone is almost as a cartoon villain, although I am not sure if the reason for this is due to De Niro going over the top or the way it has been written. Sean Connery gives a good performance as Ness’ mentor Malone though, a role which won him an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, while Costner is alright as Eliott Ness.

The Untouchables is one of those popcorn films in which the best thing to do is to switch your brain off before viewing it, and to look at it as being just a piece of entertainment rather than being a serious look at a historical event.


Westworld

Directed by Michael Crichton
Produced by Paul Lazarus III
Written by Michael Crichton
Starring Yul Brynner
Richard Benjamin
James Brolin
Music by Fred Karlin
Cinematography Gene Polito
Editing by David Bretherton
Distributed by MGM
Release date November 21, 1973
Running time 88 min. (theatrical)
Country US
Language English

Westworld was a film that scared the hell out of me when I was a kid. I had nightmares of an out of control robot Yul Brynner chasing me and he couldn’t be killed, which is basically the plot of this movie.The Simpsons parodied the film in the Itchy & Scratchy Land episode.

It’s an enjoyable film to watch but not as scary as I thought it was when I was a kid. It’s an interesting concept of having a theme park full of robots that run amok due to a computer virus. Of course the film (and book it was based on) was made before everyone had a home computer so the idea of computer viruses was virtually unknown. I like some of the little things that Yul does that remind us that he is not human but a robot, such as the way in which he walks while stalking the hero Richard Benjamin.

I notice that Westworld is set to be remade with Russell Crowe in the lead role. I don’t see the point of a remake of what is a great film but if that is the case hopefully it is better than the remake of Robin Hood. It seems that Hollywood has run out of original ideas as now there are so many mediocre remakes or sequals to earlier films. This may be a topic for another time but how many crappy remakes have their been in the last decade?


The Geisha Boy

Directed by Frank Tashlin
Produced by Jerry Lewis
Written by Frank Tashlin & Rudy Makoul
Starring

Jerry Lewis as Gilbert Wooley
Marie McDonald as Lola Livingston
Sessue Hayakawa as Mr. Sikita
Barton MacLane as Major Ridgley
Suzanne Pleshette as Sergeant Pearson
Nobu McCarthy as Kimi Sikita
Robert Hirano as Mitsuo Watanabe
Ryuzo Demura as Ichiyama
The Los Angeles Dodgers as Themselves

    Distributed by Paramount Pictures
    Release date December 23, 1958
    Running time 99 minutes
    Language English

    The Geisha Boy is another of those Jerry Lewis films that I would have watched several times as a kid. It is currently available on DVD for $5 from Big W. It is mildly entertaining, despite a few politically incorrect gags from Jerry. There are a few good gags with Jerry and his rabbit, although these do wear a little thin after the first half an hour of the movie. Thankfully after this point the rabbit jokes are used quite sparingly. The relationship between Jerry and the little Japanese kid is a bit schmalzty and the scene at Tokyo airport paints Jerry as being a huge jerk, but otherwise this is an amusing film that is quite enjoyable.

    I can also see that Jim Carrey stole much of his schtick from Jerry Lewis by watching this film.


    Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation!

    Directed by Mark Hartley
    Produced by Craig Griffin & Michael Lynch
    Written by Mark Hartley
    Music by Stephen Cummings
    Cinematography
    Germain McMicking & Karl von Moller
    Editing by Jamie Blanks, Sara Edwards & Mark Hartley
    Distributed by Madman Entertainment
    Release date 28 August 2008
    Running time 103 minutes
    Country Australia
    United States
    Language English

    This is an interesting documentary that looks at some of the exploitation films made in Australia in the 70s & 80s. It’s really amazing how much crap our film industry made in what was supposed to have been its golden age. It seems that if an Aussie film wasn’t filled with gratuitous nudity it would be filled with gratuitous violence. One thing that is glaringly obvious is that very few of the films mentioned are any good, but it is still a watchable doco.


    Ride ‘Em Cowboy

    Directed by Arthur Lubin
    Produced by Alex Gottlieb
    Written by True Boardman & John Grant
    Starring Bud Abbott
    Lou Costello
    Dick Foran
    Anne Gwynne
    Ella Fitzgerald
    Music by Frank Skinner
    Cinematography John W. Boyle
    Editing by Philip Cahn
    Distributed by Universal Pictures
    Release date February 20, 1942
    Running time 86 minutes
    Language English

    Ride ‘Em Cowboy is a 1942 Abbott & Costello comedy that is funny in places but it does feel some boring musical pieces. One bright spot is the number featuring Ella Fitzgerald. I wish that she had of been given a bigger role than just being relegated to the background and singing one number, as well as the duet with the Merry Macs.

    Abbott & Costello are quite funny in this, although there are a number of jokes involving native American Indians that today would be considered politically incorrect. Lou Costello is not as annoying as he was in Hold That Ghost, which came out a year earlier, and is funnier. The abuse that Bud gives Lou has also been toned down a lot since that earlier movie.


    The Gold Rush

    gold3Directed by Charlie Chaplin
    Produced by Charlie Chaplin
    Written by Charlie Chaplin
    Starring
    Charlie Chaplin
    Georgia Hale
    Mack Swain
    Tom Murray
    Henry Bergman
    Malcolm Waite
    Music by Charlie Chaplin,
    Carli Elinor, Max Terr &
    James L. Fields
    Cinematography Roland Totheroh
    Editing by Charlie Chaplin
    Distributed by United Artists
    Release date June 26, 1925
    Running time Taken at 24 frame/s: Original cut 96 min.
    Cut version 82 min.1942 reissue 82 min.
    Country United States
    Language English

    Today I decided to watch Charlie Chaplin’s The Gold Rush, which is perhaps his most referenced film that features some of his (and cinemas) most well-known scenes. Whilst the film has undoubtedly dated quite a bit since it was first released in 1925, it still contains many giggles for the viewer. This is of course the film that features the famed scenes of Chaplin eating the old boot, the dancing bread rolls (which was parodied by Grandpa Simpson) and the cabin balancing perilously on the edge of a cliff while the tramp and Big Jim try to scramble out before it topples over.

    I found this film to be quite amusing and interesting, but there weren’t as many ‘laugh out loud’ moments as I had when I watched The Circus, which was released three years after The Gold Rush. Perhaps the reason for that was because even though I had never seen the Gold Rush, I had seen all the above mentioned famous scenes and had some familiarity with the film. (Much like Keaton’s Steamboat Bill Jr.) I felt I knew the film before I had even seen it. The film did not have the sentimentality or warmth of 1931s City Lights either.

    All this is not to say that The Gold Rush The Gold Rushis a bad film, it is actually very good, as it keeps the viewer’s interest right through to the end. The version I saw was the 1942 re-release with Chaplin’s added music and narration, which made me wonder how the film could have functioned at all as a silent movie. I found that the narration enhanced my enjoyment of the film greatly, as Chaplin seemed to have a poetic way with words, however I would not like to see this sort of thing added to all silent films.


    Lifeboat

    Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
    Produced by Kenneth Macgowan
    Written by Novella:John Steinbeck
    Screenplay: Jo Swerling
    Uncredited: Ben Hecht
    Starring: Tallulah Bankhead
    William Bendix
    Walter Slezak
    Mary Anderson
    John Hodiak
    Henry Hull
    Heather Angel
    Hume Cronyn
    Canada Lee
    Music by Hugo W. Friedhofer
    Cinematography Glen MacWilliams
    Editing by Dorothy Spencer
    Distributed by 20th Century Fox
    Release date January 11, 1944
    Running time 96 minutes
    Country United States
    Language English

    Lifeboat is one of Alfred Hitchcock’s most interesting works. It could easily be dismissed as being anti-Nazi propaganda, but in my mind this is more than just an anti-German film. It was released during World War II and there are some scenes where Walter Slezak’s German U-Boat captain Willi comes across sympathetically, but by the film’s conclusion we are in no doubt that he is nothing but a heartless barbaric monster. Apparently Hitchcock had conflicting views on Germans during the war, as he loved German expressionist cinema, which is where he learnt his trade, but he hated the Nazis and their atrocities. Also Hitch’s Britain was at war with the Nazis, struggling to survive the German onslaught.

    The film really has nothing to do with the war, except on the surface, and is best viewed as a character study of what lengths people will go to when put into a life or death situation. That Willi is such a villain is not really the point of the film, as we see that when the tables are turned, that good people who are not indoctrinated in Nazi fanaticism have the potential to become monsters too, if that is the only way for them to survive. When faced with death, or at the very best internment in a Nazi concentration camp until the end of the war, we see the characters emotions’ laid bare and how their actions change, depending on the hopelessness or otherwise of the situation until in the end, they commit an act of murder just the same as the ‘evil’ Nazi.

    The film at times feels very claustrophobic, being as it is set for its entirety on a lifeboat. There are a few good performances from Tallulah Bankhead and especially Canada Lee as the only real voice of reason. Hitchcock also has a very memorable cameo, and he was nominated for an Academy Award for best director for this film.

    * Purchase the Region 1 (North American) version of Lifeboat from Amazon *


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