Monthly Archives: March 2010

Battle of Britain

Directed by Guy Hamilton
Produced by Harry Saltzman & S. Benjamin Fisz
Written by James Kennaway,
Wilfred Greatorex
Starring Laurence Olivier
Hein Riess
Trevor Howard
Robert Shaw
Christopher Plummer
Michael Caine
Edward Fox
Susannah York
Ian McShane
Kenneth More
Ralph Richardson
Patrick Wymark
Michael Redgrave
Curt Jürgens
Nigel Patrick

Music by Ron Goodwin
William Walton
Cinematography Freddie Young
Editing by Bert Bates
Distributed by United Artists
Release date(s) 15 September 1969 (UK)
Running time 133 minutes
Country UK
Language English
German
Polish
French

Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few“.

Battle Of Britain features an all-star cast of fine British actors BUT their performance is not the major attraction here. The real reason for watching this film is for the terrific special effects and the great scenes filled of Spitfires and Hurricanes taking on (a whole mess of) Messerschmitts in a huge battle royal over London. The actors really have very screen time anyway as we go from one action scene to another. The dog fights are all chaotically brilliant and gives the viewer the feeling that they are in the midst of battle. No wonder that these scenes have influenced most dog fight movies since. This is purely plane porn, while the actors are just props in between the action scenes.

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Texas Across the River

Directed by Michael Gordon
Produced by Harry Keller
Written by Wells Root, Harold Greene, and Ben Starr
Starring Dean Martin
Joey Bishop
Alain Delon
Rosemary Forsyth
Music by Sammy Cahn and James Van Heusen
Cinematography Russell Metty
Editing by Gene Milford
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date(s) 1966
Running time 101 min.
Country U.S.A.
Language English

Texas Across The River is an awful comedy western featuring two Rat-Packers in Dean Martin and Joey Bishop. It also features French superstar Alain Delon playing Spanish swashbuckler Don Andrea Baldazar, or Baldy as Dino dubs him. The film is just terrible, with Delon providing the only interest in it at all. I think the reason why I disliked this movie so much could be because of Joey Bishop’s performance as Kronk, an annoying Indian (native American) who is meant to be funny but like much of Bishop’s comedy is not. Dean as usual puts in as minimal effort as possible in his performance. Usually Dino is a really funny guy yet it seems obvious that this was nothing more than an easy pay check to him.


The Greatest Show On Earth

Directed by Cecil B. DeMille
Produced by Cecil B. DeMille
Written by Fredric M. Frank, Theodore St. John, Frank Cavett & Barré Lyndon Narrated by Cecil B. DeMille
Starring Betty Hutton
Cornel Wilde
Charlton Heston
James Stewart
Dorothy Lamour
Gloria Grahame
Music by Victor Young
Cinematography George Barnes
Editing by Anne Bauchens
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date(s) January 10, 1952 (1952-01-10)
Running time 152 minutes
Country United States
Language English

We bring you the circus — that Pied Piper whose magic tunes lead children of all ages, from 6 to 60, into a tinseled and spun-candied world of reckless beauty and mounting laughter; whirling thrills; of rhythm, excitement and grace; of daring, enflaring and dance; of high-stepping horses and high-flying stars.

But behind all this, the circus is a massive machine whose very life depends on discipline, motion and speed …. a mechanized army on wheels that rolls over any obstacle in its path …. that meets calamity again and again, but always comes up smiling …. a place where disaster and tragedy stalk the Big Top, haunt the backyards, and ride the circus rails …. where Death is constantly watching for one frayed rope, one weak link, or one trace of fear.

A fierce, primitive fighting force that smashes relentlessly forward against impossible odds: That is the circus. And this is the story of the biggest of the Big Tops …. and of the men and women who fight to make it — The Greatest Show on Earth!

The Greatest Show On Earth won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1952 but is often called the worst Best Picture of all time. This is mainly because 1952 was the year that other classics such as High Noon, Singin’ In The Rain, Ivanhoe, The Quiet Man and Moulin Rouge were released. Despite what critics may say and the reputation that it has had hoist upon it, The Greatest Show On Earth is still a very fine film. I am not just saying this because The Greatest Show On Earth was my favourite show as a kid either. Sometimes it is good to watch a big budget, dumb film with lots of colour and action and FUN!!! It is not just worthy films that should be considered great, not all films have to have a message or feature dramatic performances, sometimes it’s enough to be able to much on some popcorn and be thoroughly entertained for two and a half hours. I suspect that if The Greatest Show On Earth had not received the Oscar for best picture in 1952 it would be much more respected than it is today.

I am not a wanker movie reviewer (obviously) who has try to look intelligent or profound with what I say. I don’t have to try to pretend to shun the mainstream for whatever is hip. I am allowed to say that I like a film that many professional critics have maligned, which is the case here. Let’s face it, I still like The Greatest Show On Earth and would say that of the other films that were nominated for Best Picture in 1952, only High Noon can compare to it. (The same can be said for The Sound Of Music, but that was omitted from the nominations for best picture!)

In hindsight I do admit that The Greatest Show On Earth is a big, dumb movie, but that is no bad thing. The best way to enjoy this film is to turn your brain off before watching it and to just take in the colour and spectacle of the movie. It’s fun to watch the film and to reminisce about the old days of the circus, and to watch the cameos by actual renowned circus performers like Emmett Kelly and Lou Jacobs. Charlton Heston is Ok as Brad the circus owner while Betty Hutton is downright annoying at times as aerialist Holly. I do like James Stewart’s fine role as Buttons the Clown and find him intriguing, especially as he does not take his make-up off at all in the picture.


Poll Time – Alfred Hitchcock


The Band Concert

“A Mickey Mouse Cartoon”

Characters
Mickey Mouse
Donald Duck
Goofy (in two possible rolls)
Clarabelle Cow
Horace Horsecollar
Peter Pig

Credits
Director : Wilfred Jackson
Animators
Johnny Cannon
Les Clark
Ugo D’Orsi
Frenchy de Tremaudan
Gerry Geronomi
Hustzi Horvath
Dick Heumer
Jack Kinney
Wolfgang Reitherman
Archie Robin
Louie Schmitt
Dick Williams
Roy Williams
Cy Young

Story and Layout
Hugh Hennesy & Terrell Stapp

Release date: February 23, 1935

Running Time: 9:18

The Band Concert was the first ever Mickey Mouse cartoon in colour and it is probably my favourite Mickey cartoon. Mickey here is a supporting player in his own cartoon, upstage by his co-star Donald Duck several times during the film. This was just Donald’s third or fourth film appearance and he truly shines and shows off his comic potential. The cartoon has wonderful timing and the music is great too. Some of the animation is very beautiful too.  I try to watch this film every couple of months, so I put my Mickey Mouse In Living Color dvd on just for this occasion.

(This Youtube clip is missing the opening titles!!!)

This is my final look at short films this week. They were such an important part of a movie going experience until 40-50 years ago but now it’s a rarity to see anything other than lame commercials before a main feature. Short films did find a new lease on life on TV, especially cartoons shorts and comedies by the Three Stooges and Laurel & Hardy in particular.


The Music Box

Directed by James Parrott
Produced by Hal Roach
Written by H.M. Walker
Starring Stan Laurel & Oliver Hardy
Music by Harry Graham, Marvin Hatley & Leroy Shield
Cinematography Len Powers & Walter Lundin
Editing by Richard C. Currier
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date(s) April 16, 1932 (1932-04-16)
Running time 30 minute

The Music Box is probably Laurel & Hardy‘s best known short film. This is the one where Stan and Ollie are moving guys who try to get a player piano up a set of stairs. After several painstaking attempts they finally get the piano into it’s new home, but not in one piece. There’s lots of clever slapstick and funny bits where you just have to wonder about the intelligence, or otherwise, of Stan & Ollie.

Like with a lot of Laurel & Hardy films many of the gags in this short film have been endlessly immitated, with mixed results, over the years, but this is where they all originated from.

It’s a shame that the wonderful fun of Laurel & Hardy seems to have gone out of favour in recent times. They don’t seem to have the same love these days as say the Three Stooges or the Marx Bros. I remember when Bill Collins (or was it Ivan Hutchinson) would show their feature films on a Sunday afternoon back in the 80s. It would be great to be able to see these films on TV again.


The Immigrant

Directed by Charles Chaplin & Edward Brewer (technical director)
Produced by John Jasper
Written by Charles Chaplin (scenario), Vincent Bryan (scenario) & Maverick Terrell (scenario)
Starring Charles Chaplin
Edna Purviance
Eric Campbell
Cinematography Roland H. Totheroh & George C. Zalibra
Editing by Charles Chaplin
Distributed by Mutual Film Corporation
Release date(s) June 17, 1917
Running time 20 minutes
Country United States
Language Silent film
English intertitles

By 1917 Charlie Chaplin had starred in several successful short comedies, yet it was this film that shot him to superstardom. It features a tale of a poor immigrant who travels to America to seek his fortune through the boundless opportunity provided in the land of the free.

Charlie was still refining his art so this film feels a lot like the typical silent slapstick film of the early part of last century. The Tramp character had started to develop into a character, more than just a gag. Chaplin started to use emotion and pathos in his comedies at this time which helped to distinguish them from their contemporaries.

This short may not be as great as The Kid, City Lights, The Goldrush or Modern Times but it is funny and shows Chaplin just as he was before he became his most creative.