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A More Adept Cobbler Is Needed For This Melodrama That Substitutes Continuing Action For A Plot.
This ineptly plotted yet quite well-produced piece, having an alternate title of "TRAPPED!", suffers from some extreme cutting that eliminates entire scenes of narrative importance, as well as performers such as Barbara Bain, eventually settling into a weakly directed and purported suspense film set in the San Diego, California area. In reality, it was shot within the Turks and Caicos Islands, notably upon Grand Turk, a very scenic site indeed, but not at all resembling San Diego and its environs. Alexandra Paul leads the cast as computer expert Samantha, who is kidnapped, along with her teenage daughter, both subsequently kept captive at the mercy of a poorly defined band of terrorists whose ultimate purpose is not made clear, but who are obviously true to an ideology, and who threaten the captured women with death if Samantha does not complete some computer function that will result in the demise of a prominent dignitary. Notwithstanding the film's arresting scenery, its storyline is routine and very predictable, from its initial pages. A quaint choice of casting places Nick Turturro, with his firmly embedded Queens accent, in the role of a Southern California deputy sheriff. Dennis Christopher is a standout as head of the unidentified Forces of Evil. Paul is clearly in need of closer direction, not available here.

White Legion

Muddled Direction Results In A Work Of Notably Poor Order.
Alpha Video provides a valuable service for cinéastes through its fresh release of vintage films. However, as these are not remastered, not all are in good condition, some having soured over time. Nonetheless, Alpha offers new art work, as well as informative liner notes for these films, despite their ofttimes sub-par audio and visual quality. The history of the Panama Canal's construction supplies the background for this film. Following the fruitless efforts of France to complete the project, that was broken off due to the deaths, from yellow fever, of tens of thousands of imported contract laborers, an exceptional medical team, under U.S. leadership, isolated, and then destroyed the disease's carrier, the common mosquito. One-time matinée idol Ian Keith is cast as leader of the research team, an internationally flavoured collection of not inconsiderable scientific expertise. However, a large portion of his efforts are employed to show the way for available U.S. military personnel to coat local waters with oil as means of stymying mosquito movements, including breeding. Keith has the lead here, but merely walks through his turn with a dour performance. Slipping past him is the talented Tala Birell who is given the best passage of the film: when Keith's character tries to become more friendly with Birell's (Dr.Stern), he inquires "Dr. Stern! Is there a first name?" Her reply - "Doctor". Surely this is one of the most perfect squelches within the annals of cinema history. Gathering in the performing laurels here is veteran character actor Rollo Lloyd for a strongly defined Colonel, military commander of the Canal Zone's troops. He effectively handles a disturbance caused by unruly military personnel along with civilians who wish to avoid rules and regulations. Longwhile D. W. Griffith assistant Karl Brown is the director, with his efforts being undermined by his own screenplay, a disordered mixture composed of drama, action, romance and comedy. This makes for an unconvincing storyline, although the script is consistently handled throughout the affair. In sum, the film is denied that which it sorely needs, a secure hand at the helm, to highlight the drama within the story in order to outline the events of a fairly recent period (at the time of the work's release, only about 30 years prior); a missed opportunity, indeed!

Beyond Desire

A Mindless Affair In Accord With Its Overall Miserable Production Values, And No Point Of View.
It is difficult to find a copy of this film other than a VHS "screening cassette", involving a process that includes an introductory preview of the feature film itself, along with an audio free grouping of ostensible trailers for this thin narrative. Additionally, the words "screening cassette" and the name of the production company are permanently set in mid-frame. Just how this would beguile a viewer is difficult to imagine. Action opens as Greg Hagen (Frank Marty), a Miami area police department homicide detective, is being assigned to investigate the murder of a prominent prosecuting attorney. Hagen's investigation rather haphazardly leads him to a South Beach modeling studio stocked with nubile lasses, from one of whom Hagen seeks assistance with his search for the attorney's killer. This young woman, Danielle (Therese Marie Gutierrez) is very eager to become involved in the murder case, although her behaviour towards the handsome young detective is more amatory than one might expect to be proper while seeking a killer. During this same time, Hagen's detective work becomes secondary to his romantic proclivities. As a result, there is a plenitude of nude flesh thrashing about in varying beds, tedious to watch and altogether without a connection to the plot line function, but plainly enjoyable for the engaged cast members. These dreary scenes are accompanied by many repetitive numbers of D.J. scoring, very much less than tolerable when repeated throughout this movie. This is the sole recorded effort from director Joe Hernandez, who is also responsible for the producing and scripting credits in addition to a brief turn as a vacuously grinning "actor" of some sort. In sum, this is a lamentable work that few will struggle to sit through more than one time. Gutierrez adds to her role with an attempt at creating her character, but other performances are drab, thereby contributing to the raft of reasons why this movie is such a messily constructed, flatly handled, affair.

El año de la garrapata

A Dynamic Is Missing From A Film That Unwisely Settles Into A Trash Mode.
This initial feature film made by Galician director Jorge Coira is solidly anchored at the bottom of Coira's output, placed there by an inordinate shallowness of style and, notwithstanding some camera cleverness, a dreary emphasis upon usage of foul language by virtually the entire cast, not one of whom offers a winning performance, not unexpected in the event, due to the script's tired plotting, and less than effective characterization. The storyline revolves about the tedious actions of Fran (Félix Gómez) who has recently completed nine years of college study while having no clear concept of the career path that he wishes to follow. Although his fiancée Ana (Verónica Sánchez) has no difficulty with organizing his future as also do his parents with whom he resides and who point Fran toward a "business" occupation, against their son's fervent wishes. The Spanish word for "tick" is Granada and a viewer is apparently being expected to feel a dollop of sympathy for Fran during his attempts to achieve a tick-like or "slacker" lifestyle, as he sponges off his parents. Fran's closest support comes from his friend Morgan (Javier Veiga) who believes himself to be a sort of master slacker. The director apparently attempts to demonstrate, with only fair results, that Fran is some type of universal figure, but the plot line does not generate adequate enough interest to avoid its being classified as merely a banal melodrama. Additionally, Morgan's behaviour becomes increasingly erratic as the piece progresses, putting paid to his previous sophistic rambling, during the film's first pages. It is clear that Coira is a skillful technician, but one who requires a more substantive tale to tell than this.

Finding Providence

From Its Very Beginning, There Is Hardly A Draggy Moment In A Film That Gains In Authority And Interest As It Moves Along.
This low budgeted work (reportedly $1300!) was shot in the Burlington, Vermont region, and with Vermont residents comprising the cast and crew. In spite of its minute funding, and an only slender opportunity for "live" audiences to view such an obscure film, clear profit is waiting for those who seek it, since the piece provides a substantial range of genre elaboration, including suspense, humour, and a good deal of romance. The plot revolves about Tom (Eric Ronis) whose girl friend Tabitha had disappeared ten years past. Tom has not been able to bring about a dismissal of his obsession with locating the missing girl, because of his belief that she is still alive, despite his ongoing visits to her cemetery marker in order to converse with her. A harder edge to the storyline results after another young girl disappears, and Tom with his best friend Curtis (Director Jayson Argento), both employees for a video rental store, strive to find her. During this time, as Tom and Curtis are seeking after the latest absent girl, Tom develops a romantic relationship with a local café waitress, Gwyneth (Logan Howe) who is bidding fair to make him forget Tabitha. The pair of amateur sleuths focuses their efforts upon an older man, Gluckman (James Reid) who has become withdrawn to an extreme, and they engage the efforts of other Burlington denizens for their searching. The work becomes an increasingly effective melodrama as it advances, largely through the efforts of Argento (pronounced ArGENto) who busily produces, scripts, directs, edits, and plays as co-lead, no easy matter for one who additionally is known to be an independent businessman as well as leader of a popular musical group. From its first pages, the work is well constructed, the entire cast providing believable performances. Argento's editing is fully as effective as any cinéaste might crave. In sum, this film is a veritable gem, its refinement belying its bleak coffers. It is released upon a DVD that offers very fine audio and visual quality.

Thunder Over Texas

Its Story Is Rather A Mishmash, But This Film's Historically Interesting Details Successfully Flies In The Face Of Any Sort Of Logic.
This is the first of five Western films that the soon-to-be-popular character actor Guinn "Big Boy" Williams completed with poverty row Beacon Productions, Williams here cast as Ted Wright, a two gun toting ranch owner who serves as the protector and surrogate father for child actress Helen Westcott making her film debut as "Tiny" after the latter becomes orphaned. He removes the endangered tyke to his home, although her continued existence is a threat to evil hearted land speculator Bruce Laird (Claude Payton) due to her somehow having in her possession several maps coveted by Laird that pinpoint the locations of planned railroad sites. This plot line will, however, be of merely ancillary interest for those viewers who will enjoy contemporary social references that cross through the story via popular entertainers and their songs, showcased by a trio of Wright's ranch hands, who seem fascinated by the programming that they listen to from their portable radio set. Ted Lewis ("Is Everybody Happy?"), Rudy Vallee, and Kate Smith are mentioned, and a pair of Ford Model As play a significant part in the enjoyable goings-on. One of a small number of U.S. film directors who, because of his stylistics, realistically deserves to be described as an auteur, Edgar Ullmer, helms the production here, as quaintly named Joen Warner, apparently to mislead Universal, the studio to which he was under contract. His wife of a later day, Sherle Castle (as Shirley Alexander), is responsible for the script. The title is a bit incongruous since no thunder can be heard, and the piece is filmed in California's Kern County rather than Texas. A good 35mm. print can be found in VHS format upon the VCI label. It is also produced (as is) by Alpha Video as a DVD.

Lords of the Barrio

Passages Of Brutality Are More Than Enough To Overcome Any Potential Narrative Strength.
This work, completed in 1995 but not distributed for seven years, was still too soon for some viewers. The storyline is set, and filmed, in the Cuban-American Miami/Hialeah region, and focuses upon the fortunes of freshly wed Rudy Canosa (Morris Perez) and his bride. Rudy foolishly decides to assume the identity of a severely wounded mobster who has subsequently died while hiding in Canosa's vehicle. In spite of the disapproval of his wife, Canosa takes possession of a half-million dollars of gun runner money left in the car by the expiring thug. Rudy's impersonation does not please one Dago (Robert Arevalo), although the script fails to provide a clear reason for the latter's involvement in the matter. Nonetheless, monies to the amount of $500,000 shall obviously prove to be an adequate amount to arouse Dago's concern. Canosa's tepid personality comes across as being far too feeble for him to serve as a viable challenger against the gangster, and he will have to toughen, or the lives of both Canosas may be in jeopardy. Characterization in the film is lacking, with Arevalo being granted free rein for some vicious treatment of his various foes. Joe Melendez, writer as well as director of the piece, is apparently multi-skilled, and it is reported that he has improved upon this, his first feature film. It is so to be hoped, as this affair, along with its generally poor quality, utilises the tired method of voice-over narration that fails to create much-needed suspense. Logic and continuity go begging while the acting and production values are below that level required to be either an artistic or financial success.

Bedroom Eyes

Highly Generic, And Lacking In Narrative Force, Resulting In An Essentially Clumsy And Dispirited Work.
This is a rather unpleasant and needlessly protracted suspenser wherein is to be found emphasis only upon sex instead of suspense. An attempt is made by director William Fruet to give a light tone to the film, but a surfeit of coarsened humour operates against the plot line from its inception. Stockbroker Harry Ross (Kenneth Gilman), following completion of his customary evening jogging session in Toronto, is seized by a voyeuristic urge to peek into an open window of a residence, at which time he observes a type of fetishistic sexual activity that may best be described as drab, but apparently of more than adequate interest for Ross to prod him into additional viewing during the following evening. On display for him during this follow-up observation is a probable murder although such an event is bereft of any details for Ross's excitable narration to his newly-established confidante, an attractive female psychiatrist, Alixe Barnes (Dayle Haddon). Meanwhile, a zealous crew of police detectives is searching after a suspect for the now confirmed killing, and their efforts give Ross no end of displeasure, since he was, after all, involved solely as a peeping tom. As the forces of law and order are floundering, they spend a great deal of time trailing the frightened Ross. Alixe tries to hypnotise Harry to determine the extent of his involvement, since she supports him as an innocent and believes that through hypnosis he can overcome the drawback of not having a credible reason for peering through the concerned window. A poorly constructed script infects a cast led by an ungainly Gilman whose acting range here is not devolved beyond an ever-present deer in headlamps appearance. Director Fruet has done much better work than this piece, in particular as a scenarist, but there is very little imaginative feeling to this film that can be recommended only if one has absolutely nothing else to view. Oddly, the work developed a following that eventually led to a sequel which, in any case, was not able to provide much of a successor plot or a form that could improve upon this silly movie.


A Modest And Somewhat Innocent Piece, Quite A Palatable Effort Of Its Kind, Easily Digested, And Promptly Forgotten.
Within the course of this solidly carpentered work, six colleagues of the film's protagonist, Professor Sims of Oxford (Arthur Howard, brother of Leslie) are murdered. These dire acts afford no complications for lighthearted Sims, as this is not a mystery story, but rather an international and mildly racy travelogue, with its focus upon European scenic beauty, and also upon a raft of partially undressed young women. These latter serve to classify the film as one among that briefly popular "nudie cutie" cinema phenomenon of 1959/60. Obviously straitened by a small budget, the picture's producers decided that attractive scenery of the film's many geographic locales was of more significance than a plot that is handicapped by thin writing and acting. Professor Sims fortunately retains possession of a pair of sunglasses that were willed to him by the initial murder victim, and he seldom misses an opportunity to scrutinise a pretty damsel through them, because the spectacles magically enable their wearer to ogle people beneath their clothing. The nudity seen therein is not what has become accepted as "explicit" (full-frontal), but the employment of what are obviously hand-held cameras throughout the film results in a mode of cinematic resolution that was lapped up by audiences of the period. Although most of the action is shot in black and white, the unclothed portions are seen through the use of vibrant coloured stock. This was originally issued in "3D", but the only spectacles required for viewers are those that vicariously rest upon the face of Professor Sims. The mentioned six homicides are lost amidst the resplendent scenic attractions of, respectively, Oxford, Berlin, Munich, Paris, Venice, and the French Riviera, with each site notable for its artificial energy, used here by Howard in an attempt to bolster wretched material. Finally, in spite of the diversity offered by appealing locations and ladies, and the mystifying nature of the sunglasses, we are left, with what shall be considered to many viewers a rather silly affair, and Howard at his silliest, a film wherein female beauty and captivating scenery cannot effectively substitute for a plot line.

Mi guo

A Fine Effort, Thanks To Its Picturesque Urban Setting, In Addition To A Well-Prepared Narrative
From the very beginning of this stylish Chinese film, directed by Yibai Zhang, viewers are made aware of a mystery. However, while interplay between the principal characters develops, a notion may be formed that the significance of this mystery might well have been reduced by effective role creation. As action opens, a taxicab careers through a bordering fence and into the Yang-Tze River. The body of the driver, Wu Tao (Erik Tsang) can not be located, but his passenger is rescued, a young prostitute, Su-Dan (Karen Mok), who has been maimed by the crash. Although Su-Dan has an unpleasant disposition, the driver's widow, Li (Jiang Wenli,) offers the girl an opportunity, being a woman of an entirely different nature from that of Su-Dan, to share the home that she now keeps for her teenage son, as a type of moral obligation. The plot line exposes some unexpected facts about the characters in order for a viewer to solve the mentioned mystery, but most will not come readily to a decision, because of an increasingly trenchant development of several back stories that may or may not aid at finding a solution of the puzzle surrounding the crash. Due to rather opaque Chinese censorship issues, the work's premiere, scheduled twice to be shown in Hong Kong, where it was each time denied permission to screen, was instead initially offered at New York City's Tribeca Festival in 2008, receiving accolades. In truth, there is here more than enough substance within the narrative to garner the attention of most viewers. Dour bits of melodrama are customary elements for the films of Zhang, who goes in for stylistic methods that are of a piece with his camera technique steeped in symbolism. Cinematographer Wang Yu was furnished an ideal setting within the Central Chinese metropolis of Chungquing ("City of Fog") where its industrial riverscape provides an ideal backdrop for the director's masterful long shots, and fondness for ideographic imagery. Zhang's use of magic realism involving a framed photograph of the missing Wu Tao, placed upon the wall of his former residence, is certainly not the most engagingly subtle effort from the film's writer, Zhao Tianyu, but the remarkably lean dialogue and solidly constructed score have overlaid most flaws within this film that is superior to a majority of Chinese issued cinematic pieces.

Dark Skies

A Grade Above Most Science Fiction Films.
It would not be surprising if a viewer might initially be of the opinion that this film is generic, providing some "i've seen this before" passages. However, as the narrative moves along, it becomes apparent that members of the production team have constructed an above-average work, one that avoids undue emphasis upon the too often seen gruesome events and tiresome formulae. As example, the protagonist family, the Barretts, headed by players Josh Hamilton and Keri Russell, with their two sons, ages 13 and six, have not recently moved to an isolated home, as is so often the case. Instead, the action takes place amid a suburban tract setting, with the Barretts financially struggling with a U. S. faltering economy. As a consequence, the film offers development of dramatic significance in lieu of expected sensationalism. Serving to strengthen this emphasis, usage of special effects is eschewed in favour of homely family centered incident. This is a science fiction, not horror themed, film having a motif of alien abduction. Its production characteristics are of consistently high quality, and appropriate to the scenario, with Russell and J.K. Simmons (as a conspiracy theorist) bagging the acting honours. Definitely recommended, particularly for viewers who prefer their thrills mottled with some style. The film is available within an Anchor Bay DVD package that includes some interesting "special features", including alternate and deleted scenes, in addition to an engaging commentary featuring writer/director Scott Stewart accompanied by other production team members. English subtitles are available for the PG-13 rated affair that is presented in 2.40:1 widescreen format.

Blood Clan

Hope As The Nemesis Of Justice.
Hope As The Nemesis Of Justice.

Although this film's plot line is more dismal than it is interesting, its effectively moody photography helps in convincing viewers that a tale about possible latter-day cannibalism being discovered in 19th century Canada is worth the telling. Very loosely based upon the 16th century Sawney Beane legend of Scotland, the work is initially unconvincing, but after its action moves across the pond into Canada, the melodramatic plot is given a satisfactory edge. Updating the Sawney Beane story by several centuries gives screenwriter/producer Glynis Whiting an opportunity to modify, as with other elements, the geographic region. The film opens with a Scottish military unit rounding up and gunning down a large group of Sawney Beane's followers. The plot then moves into the juridical chambers of Justice William McKay (Gordon Pinsent) who is seen deciding against hanging a juvenile, three-year-old Katy Bane (Beane), despite her being a known offspring of cult members, and who most certainly must have dined upon the flesh of humans. McKay is next found in Canada, still a judge, 15 years later, where he resides with his wife, daughter, and the now adopted Katy. Although very far off from Scotland, some from the local populace have been able to identify Katy as a former member of the infamous cannibal clan. Although somewhat ill-at-ease from having a former cannibal among them, the citizenry keep their feelings subdued until two young children are slain and their hearts removed, after which tongues begin to wag about Katy's possible role in the killings, with the chief proponent of the suspicions being the local sheriff. In the meantime, a pleasant young man has come to understudy with Judge McKay, and he, Stuart (Robert Wisden) fixes his interest romantically upon Katy while he seeks the truth concerning the two killings, for which no suspect has been identified. Subsequent to the deaths of the two children, another gruesome murder, of McKay's handyman, follows, with his heart similarly torn from his body. Although the neighbours of McKay continue to look back upon the Gothic excesses of Sawney Beane, it becomes increasingly evident that peril may very well have entered into their region of Canada from a more recent source. The screenplay is a muddled scribble, a good deal of the plot line making no sense. Nonetheless, there is effectively moody photography, as well as a creation of suspense as to which sorts of secrets will be revealed to a viewer. Director of photography Kenneth Hewlett's camera skills provide a considerable boost to the narrative and, although cannibalism is an unspeakably dreadful subject, a cast led by the charismatic Newfoundlander Pinsent, assists significantly to maintain the work's pacing. With flaws rife throughout this attempt at making a horror film, it remains a better than average piece from the genre, as it develops a sense of real fear experienced by neighbours of McKay. It is shot in Alberta, where a frigidly grey atmosphere serves the sombre story well. A rather difficult to find DVD is available in Europe only, but a Monarch VHS copy may be readily located within the U.S. and provides above standard audio and visual quality.

George Balanchine's Jewels

His Romantically Tinged Classicism Again Proves That Balanchine Is The Champion Of Modern Choreography.
This electrifying ballet by the eminent George Balanchine is an abstract triptych, performed to compositions by, respectively, Fauré, Stravinsky, and Tchaikovsky, with the ever intriguing choreographer's recognizable use of stage techniques permitting the emphasis of the work to be upon the matchless dancing by members from the Paris Opera Ballet, even upon consideration of designer Christian LaCroix' essay into the medium of classical ballet costuming. Balanchine's inspiration for Joyaux, presented here upon the stage of the delightfully ornamental Palais Garnier in Paris, before a live audience, came from showcase windows of the celebrated Manhattan jewelers, Van Cleef and Arpels, from which originated the disparate gem-based imagery created for the affair: emeralds, rubies, and diamonds. The persona of Balanchine seems to be immediate throughout. The French company is one of but six that include Joyaux within their repertories, and this performance makes it clear that the Paris Opera Ballet shall provide a touchstone for Balanchine's dazzling invention for a good many years later than this 2005 production that features a magnificent corps, and the tightly trained Orchestre national de l'Opera de Paris beneath the skillful baton of Paul Connelly. Etoiles and other soloists from the French company sparkle as might the jewels that they depict during this ambitiously staged masterpiece that additionally benefits from the designing of Christian Lacroix that gives the ballet the character of being a brand new creation, despite its public debut in 1967 when performed by Balanchine's New York City Ballet. An Opus Arte DVD is currently the sole video source for Joyaux. It includes a fine documentary: "George Balantine Forever", that features interviews of several Paris Opera Ballet étoiles, and other soloists. These are supplied with optional subtitles. The entire DVD, one that provides excellent visual and sound quality, runs for greater than one and one-half hours, during which it effectively presents a superior ballet creation, one that should become a requisite inclusion for any viewer's dance collection on film as it showcases a great deal of matchless balletic execution.

Famous Composers: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

A Most Pleasing Documentary Of A Composer Considered By Many To Be Second To None.
A generally modest effort that, as a biography, probably fails to do justice to the great composer. A brief (35 minute) work, it nonetheless provides a good deal of information concerning Mozart's musical life, and it is well organised. It is also very well written and produced by Malcolm Hosseck, providing poetic justification to match the striking visuals, especially impressive when higher points of Mozart's production are revealed through the film's narration. Mozart's father Leopold, also a renowned composer, as well as his sister Nannerl and his mother Anna Maria, are discussed and their effect upon Wolfgang Amadeus can be found partially in his youthful courageous efforts to free himself from the powerful influence of the Roman Catholic Church, even though he often drew inspiration from that august body until his death. This is from a Kultur Films series, "Famous Composers" each entry of which combines biographical highlights from the life of a prominent composer with photography of related private and public locations, all linked to major musical works. Framed against a Europe tortured by political and religious strife, Mozart's work deepened in its nature as he mellowed, and we view sites important to his production in Augsburg, Bologna, Chelsea, Florence, Mannheim, Prague, Versailles and Vienna, among others. Biographical data given during the film stresses the significance for the young composer of such musical masters as Gluck, Händel, and Haydn, in addition to the librettist upon whom he relied heavily, Lorenzo Da Ponte, from Venice. Numerous morsels of Mozart's output are performed by members of the Elysium Ensemble, an Australian group that specializes in the baroque period, smoothly proffering some familiar musical pieces in the course of the documentary. Pleasing moments abound during this short affair, filled with not merely the winning charm of Mozart's compositions, but also with photography that captures the sensations contributed by the immediate surroundings of areas that inspired their creation.


As An Alleged Thriller, It Fails To Thrill.
Style tussles with substance in this artistically absurd work that is punctuated by wedges of uninspired dialogue and, while ofttimes in the realm of cinema style prevails, that is not the case with this piece, limply directed by first (and last) - timer William Cole, as the affair is glutted with plot holes stemming from failures in logic and continuity. Stephanie Montgomery (Lisa Zane)'s predilection for cocaine use is propelling the Southern California woman towards the serving of what will be lengthy prison time, whereupon her wealthy and influential father (performed by Zane's actual parent) intercedes for her, therewith giving her a choice. He will suspend her income if she does not either enter a drug rehabilitation facility, or elect to take a lengthy vacation far from her customary haunts and companions. Stephanie, not in favour of a rehabilitative process, decides upon going to Marrakech, in Morocco, to visit with a friend. Immediately following her arrival, the friend is apparently a victim of a serial murderer who is preying upon young women. The film then expends most of its energies in focussing upon Stephanie's predictable falling into a condition of hapless lust with the ostensible killer, Jeremy Avery, played by Nick Chinlund. In addition to this entanglement, she becomes a type of amateur investigator utilised by a Moroccan-based United States Government official, Peter Masters (Whip Hubley) who through her assistance, intends to end Jeremy's maniacal actions. A viewer may find difficulty in determining any hidden motivations, if any, behind the actions of Masters and Avery, since the script provides only unconvincing reasons for Stephanie's demeanour toward them. When the various plot conflicts come to a head, it becomes clear that overt melodrama is the principal purpose here, rather than the construction of a mystery to be untangled. After the film's somewhat incoherent beginning, the picturesque city of Marrakech and its environs assume a significant part in the tale, unquestionably to the satisfaction of those viewers whose interest may stem less from the weakly crafted narrative and the actions committed by the primary characters, and more from some arresting architecture of the ancient city. Zane's no-nonsense style of performing is appropriate for her role as Stephanie, while the charismatic Stinlund garners the acting laurels with his turn as the mysterious Jeremy Avery.

An Unconventional Love Story: The Making of Last Chance Harvey

Bonus DVD Feature Developed For A Melodrama Of A Generally Plausible Romance.
This 16.5 minute short film, subtitled as "The Making Of Last Chance Harvey", is a "special feature" upon an Anchor Bay DVD release of the effectively wrought film starring Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson. When considered as merely a puff piece, it is well suited for that purpose, although the minds of those who have viewed the full-length production will probably not be altered by its penetrating content. Interviewed here are director Joel Hopkins, lead players Hoffman and Thompson, along with, from the second-team cast, Kathy Baker, James Brolin, and Dame Eileen Atkins. Sophomore director Hopkins discusses the manner in which his cinematic style was shaped during the course of the filming process, and additionally how he and the two cast principals agreed to improvise virtually all of their lines while yet following his script's outline, a process with which he was very willing to follow. Thompson and Hoffman make clear that this romantic tale relates of events occurring in an affair between "older" people, and that this category of film need not be restricted to the antics of youths, as occurs within many movies. This becomes a developing focus for the HARVEY narrative. An "older' audience might find these statements to be gratifying, as voiced by such accomplished performers. As summation, this is a highly agreeable segment of the DVD package.

Don Quixote (Kitri's Wedding), a Ballet in Three Acts

Regularly Interesting And Forward Moving Choreography, Noteworthy For Its Style, Acting And Experimentation.
This thoroughly watchable contribution from the American Ballet Theatre (ABT), presented at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City during June of 1983, not on the side, but with a good deal of ballyhoo, provides an updated production of an oft-performed standard work from the 18th century Imperial Russian dance repertoire, Don Quixote, a vibrant two act ballet enacted to the music of Ludwig Minkus, and to the established choreography of Marius Petipa and Alexander Gorsky. The choreography here has been somewhat updated by Mikhail Baryshnikov, but yet becomes an amalgam of the traditional and the modern, with the latter having the edge to please, in front of a rather less than discriminative audience that fails to acknowledge a number of radical shifts made away from the original ballet, such as the scoring of Patrick Flynn, Australian composer. Baryshnilov, director of the ABT and its temperamental artists, is ever impressive, and more so when one considers his dancing skills, on agreeable display during this fragmentarily recounted piece from the too often ignored Minkus. Staging of the piece is satiny smooth, with the scenery and costumes designed by Santo Loquasto proving to be worthy in creativity for this too-seldom performed war horse that is moved effectively into contemporaneity by Baryshnikov and his troupe. Dancing of the ensemble is a good deal more than adequate in developing synchronism between Minkus and the various choreographic contributions from creative talents old and new. There is substantially more to this ballet than the familiar final pas de deux chestnut, danced during the elaborate wedding festivities (the film's subtitle is "Kitri's Wedding). Cynthia Harvey, one of the more mannerly members of the troupe, performs as Kitri, the female lead; unfortunately, her inexperience becomes a primary factor in the piece as it progresses, Making the most of Baryshnikov's original notations is brilliant new soloist Susan Jaffe as Don Quixote's dream Mercedes. She later became a ballet mistress for the ABT. It is, however, Baryshnikov who determines that the Minkus Don Quixote as a ballet retains much of its original vigor. The Latvian dancer's wondrous tours en l'air are completed with total control and, although a rather thin and uneventful storyline is not precisely stimulating through any rendition, this one of Baryshnikov is spectacularly pacy and if a viewer's interest wanes, the ABT will be shortly on board to restore audience focus from both the leader's dancing and choreography.

One on One with Robert Altman

Too Much To Handle In The Allocated Time.
Robert Altman spends this entire brief (17 minutes) segment of the popular television series "One On One" discussing the Altman directed feature film "The Player", that he has stated is the favourite of the works that he has helmed. "The Player" is an extraordinary piece, and any attempt to analyse it, even from the top, as here, during such a short period, is apt to leave one simply wishing for more. Altman comments that the film is similar in construction to the shell of a snail, turning into and against itself. This may be a bit too oblique for many viewers, who will instead welcome the director's mention of his casting choices and, in particular, the three principal characters of the affair, Tim Robbins, Greta Scacchi, and Cynthia Stevenson. Additionally, the enormous number of actors and actresses who contribute cameos are discussed during Altman's commentary. Some deleted scenes are covered by Altman, most notably those showcasing Jeff Daniels, Patrick Swayze, and Richard Edson. A lengthy clip of noirish satire featuring Scott Glenn and Lily Tomlin is revealed by Altman to have been entirely ad libbed, information that will interest a great many viewers. Nonetheless, a large percentage of the director's remarks seem to have little coherent thought behind them, and for the DVD, most audience members will find the sample of clips to be of abiding interest. Although stressing that "The Player" is largely intended as satire, Altman appears to be somewhat uncertain as to which forms the satire has taken, and indeed, when it is, in fact, present. This will not be a conundrum to most viewers, however, as the feature motion picture is delightful from beginning to end, and not less so during dark passages of violence and despair.

Are We Alone?

Nothing Fresh Here To Hold The Attention Of A Concerned Audience.
This brief (12 minute) piece is included as an "extra" for an Echo Bridge DVD release hosting an unexpectedly entertaining feature film, shot in Canada, FINAL DAYS OF PLANET EARTH. It is plainly slapped together with little thought, given its title question, ARE WE ALONE (in the Universe)? This query cannot at present be answerable, but is one that most viewers will have at times considered; unfortunately, no sense of style is evidential here in this work from veteran short film director Max Schonenburg. Although one may anticipate that the subject will stretch an imagination, the film as constructed shows little of that, being simply an exercise of the camera's eye pointing upon a mix of some cast and crew members, and then encouraging them to aimlessly babble, with results predictably dubious. A good deal of time is given to Gil Bellows, male lead of the featured work, who is quite garrulous, as he edges into subjects ranging from "our culture of fear" to the mysteries of Easter Island. Female lead Daryl Hannah makes airy reference to mushrooms, stating they might well be alien life forms, while veteran character actor Beau Starr speaks of the California town of Lone Pine, where many local residents believe firmly that aliens appear only on Wednesdays. The most perceptive player of the cast, Campbell Scott, makes a point that man has no comprehension of what the universe might be. Indifference marks the comments of others for the theoretical question posed to them. However, some comments are noteworthy. Director of Photography Thomas Burstyn does not believe United States N.A.S.A personnel made a moon landing, and avers that alien life is "just as far-fetched", while the feature film's producer, Matthew O'Connor, holds that it would be pompous of humans to presume that they are the sole sensate life forms. In sum, this is a weak attempt to flesh out a DVD package. A fair test for its value would be to eliminate the "interviews" one by one, to establish which might have real interest. It is likely that most humans would be willing to scotch the lot of them.

Danger Man: A Very Dangerous Game
Episode 3, Season 2

Provides A Suitable Tone For Its Period, But Is Awkwardly Constructed And Plotted.
Filmed during April and May of 1965 and initially telecast the following October, this episode of the ever-popular Patrick McGoohan-featured "Secret Agent" (dubbed as 'Danger Man' in the United Kingdom) is perhaps a cut beneath that which a viewer may anticipate from the series. Among other departures from a largely successful recipe, Secret Agent John Drake (McGoohan) utilises a dart secreted within a smoker's pipe, that emits a radio signal, and an acidic substance encased within an ersatz toothpaste tube that dissolves window pane glass. Additionally, the script is replete with plot holes for which the writers should be embarrassed and, notwithstanding that McGoohan, as ever, excels at his portrayal of an Englishman abroad, scenario-laden lapses in logic and continuity can not be overlooked, despite a spirited pace set by old hand director Don Chaffey. Although its setting is Singapore, with some stock footage furnished to give South Asian ambiance, the film was actually made on London's Shepperton Studio's new soundstage, the first "Secret Agent" narrative to be completed there. The episode here has Drake posing as a defected English lecturer of Renaissance period music named Simpson, who has been recently coopted in England by what apparently are Chinese Communists. It has been decided by Drake's handlers to send him into newly independent Singapore in an essay at penetrating the enemy camp. However, the Forces of Evil immediately cause trouble for the Secret Agent and his comeuppance at their hands is ostensibly in the offing. It seems somewhat absurd that the Chinese intelligence operatives can not determine any differences between Simpson and Drake, but then nearly all viewers of the "Secret Agent" installments will be prepared in the main to enjoy the charismatic acting of McGoohan. He is happily free for the most part from the use of makeup, unluckily not the case with "Chinese" spies performed by Peter Arne along with Yvonne Furneaux, whose tawdry eye treatment appears to be quite agonizing, but without providing the merest semblance of anything Asiatic.

Bineun salangeul tago

At Best, A Trite Melodrama With Action Ranging From Dull To More Dull, This Film Has Not Been Constructed For Any Specific Genre.
This Korean-made film, overlong for its lifeless content, has also been translated into English as "Love On A Rainy Day" but, under any name, it is well below a satisfactory standard as entertainment, principally due to disjointed script pages. The lightweight, yet dour, piece begins with Beom-su (called "Francis" in English), played by Kim Ho-Jin, a college sophomore from a socially prominent family, ineptly courting Paeng Young-mi (called "Amy"), performed by Shin Eun-Kyung, these two sharing a class. Amy agrees to marry sad sack Francis, probably to end his dreary brooding over unrequited love. At this point, the film tries hard to be a sex comedy, although scriptor Yeong-mi Han is not able to construct an interesting character for either leading role. Since both Francis and Amy wish to have a child, the latter's failure to become pregnant after three months of marriage is viewed by them as being disastrous, a typical extension of a script that wants for wit. After Francis is told by a doctor that his sperm count is deficient, it is assumed that further attempts to impregnate Amy will be fruitless. With no parental possibilities in store for the pair, he becomes increasingly morose without giving his wife a reason. However, Amy then announces that she is, indeed, expecting, and although Francis desires a child, he naturally does not wish for its father to be hidden among his friends and acquaintances, as we view him imagining during a series of fantasy episodes. A lugubrious Francis insists that his spouse have an abortion, and a bewildered Amy grudgingly agrees, but after Francis is told that his sperm count test was read incorrectly by a half-witted doctor, he speeds (on foot) to prevent the abortion. Will he be in time?...and if he is, what can the couple expect for prospects of happiness together? There is little here for supporting a positive recommendation to a viewer, as the film's intended comedic scenes are heavy-handed, all apiece as might be predictable. Shin Eun-Kyung has earned many plaudits throughout her career, but in this instance is defeated by the script of an uninvolving production. A Winson Entertainment DVD release, the movie lasts only 83 minutes, yet seems overlong. It is displayed in full screen format. Subtitles are included for the disc in both traditional and simplified Chinese, as well as risibly off-centered English.

The Sound of Murder

The Cast's Ability To Create Well-Defined Characters Raises The Film Only A Trifle Above The Routine.
A stage play having the same title, written by Cornish screenwriter William Fairchild (STAR!) is the basis for this film. The play has been produced frequently both in England and within the United States, with a broad range of critical opinion a result. This picture is similar to a performance given upon the boards, shot using videotape, and having but one single room set, while showcasing a small cast of six players. Not smoothly constructed, it is nonetheless generally engrossing, and at times amusing, despite its lack of a limit placed upon effects from the intervention of chance. Charles Norbury (Michael Moriarty) is a successful author of stories for small children, but the lively books that he has penned for tots are not reflective upon his own personality, one that is unpleasantly sardonic. His wife, Anne (Joanna Miles), having had her fill of his acrimony, has taken a lover, a United States Naval Commander, Peter Marriott, played by David Ackroyd. Norbury is aware of his wife's affair, but refuses to grant her a divorce. Marriott, thwarted by the stubbornness of Anne's husband, induces her to assist him in murdering Charles, her revulsion at the commission of such a desperate act weakened by her overwhelming affection for Peter who has configured a complex plot to kill Norbury. However, the writer's personal secretary Ilene (Pippa Scott) becomes an unanticipatedly critical factor in the felonious arrangement, especially significant for a film having such obvious economy of means. Although there is only a sparse amount of dialogue that may be considered as freshly observed, the film is well photographed. An overage of flaws in logic and continuity eventually overwhelms what remains essentially a rather ordinary murder mystery. Any methods employed to create a mood of suspense are handy, since author Fairchild simply echoes his lines from the staged play that was first performed in 1959. A viewer may find only patchy interest in the film, at best, but there are spirited highlights, despite the production's being turned halfway through into quite a predictable affair that goes on for longer than it should. As the victim of the captioned crime, Moriarty seems to be enjoying himself, and Miles adds satisfactory depth to her too often mildewed lines.

Great Performances: Dance in America: 'Swan Lake' with American Ballet Theatre

Clumsily Contrived Alterations From The Traditional Choreography Reduce The Expected Amount Of Excitement From This Yet Well-Danced Classic Ballet.
Filmed with videotape at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington (Kennedy is seen in a brief excerpt before the work opens stressing the importance of "the ahts"), for the Public Broadcasting System series: DANCE IN America, before a live audience, this American Ballet Theatre version of SWAN LAKE utilises some new music, and fresh choreography created by veteran dancer Kevin McKenzie. The piece suffers substantially during its crucial fourth act that, despite top-flight use of colour, lighting and sets, is contracted to a mere ten minutes. This is clearly the most serious weakness of a rendition that, turning the coin, incorporates effective employment of mime, notably enacted by Georgina Parkinson (Queen Mother) and Angel Corella (Prince Siegfried). A controversial addition to the standard Ivanov/Petipa choreographic pages is application of dance during the ballet's prologue. As counterbalance to some barely tolerable alterations are the deftly proficient performance of Corella, the vast technical skill of Gillian Murphy (Odette/Odile), and Herman Cornejo's splendid dancing as Benno, each of whom impresses with well-executed lifts, jumps, complete extensions and balance, as well as total control of line and spine much above the accepted standard. Patently a vehicle for the brilliant Murphy, the film is encumbered by an unfortunate continuity breakup midway, comprised of some redundant plot explication given by Kennedy's daughter Caroline, in addition to brief interviews with McKenzie, Murphy, and Corella. A visual delight, the ballet is filmed in 1:16 widescreen ratio, accompanied by excellent audio quality. McKenzie is well-known for his fondness of cutting dance classics, most notably here, as mentioned, during Act III's final episode at the lake, unfortunate in the event as ballet mistress Parkinson was trusting upon her drilling of the corps. Murphy is granted the right to perform the emblematic 32 fouettés as Odile and does so with ease, adding some multiples among them. Seldom have these been completed in so expert a fashion! A nonsensical production decision to incorporate mid-work cast interviews is matched by the interpolation of Rothbard (Marcello Gomes) into Act III, along with a disarranged sequence during the same Act wherein national dances precede the Dance of the Princesses. Classical Imperial stylistics seem to go begging throughout, manifestly not a part of McKenzie's plan for SWAN LAKE. Nonetheless, Murphy and Corella display virtually perfect phrasing for the scoring of Tchaikowsky, with Corella's lifts of Odile perfectly completed. He also dances Nureyev's Act I insertion with a good deal of feeling, depicting Siegfried's desire to find a suitable mate. However, cuts for Act IV from his search for Odile amid the Swan Maidens, and the popular Dance of the Swans are especially damaging to the ballet, bringing about an artistic crisis in a version that must be classed as a beginning level interpretation, one that is cobbled together with some satisfying balletic action.

Fury of the Congo

Cinematic Skill And Style Completely Passed By This Juvenile Piece.
For this low budgeted film, the sixth in Columbia Pictures' Jungle Jim series, based upon a long-running comic strip of Alex Raymond, creator also of "Flash Gordon" and others, Jungle Jim (Johnny Weissmuller) is able to save an about to drown aircraft pilot, Ronald Cameron (William Henry) whose plane has crashed and sunk beneath a pond into which Jim is about to plunge. Cameron, who might not be the police inspector whom he claims to be, is tracking a missing biology professor who had been field researching an unique beast, the "okongo", that the script's pages describe as some type of hybrid between an antelope and a zebra. While local natives venerate this creature, "evil white" hunters plan to capture the entire herd because the okongo's digestive system transmutes, in some mysterious fashion, its favourite food plant into a powerful and, to be sure, potentially lucrative narcotic drug. These "evil whites" force the men of the local tribe to assist them in locating the okongos, leaving the tribeswomen to call upon Jungle Jim to stop the invaders from absconding with the entire host of the beasts. As champion of the females, Jim confronts numerous perils, from both human and animal adversaries. These include a savage fight to the death at close quarters with a leopard (utilizing footage with a stunt double used regularly for previously released Jungle Jim adventures), a struggle with a "giant desert spider" (obviously a garden hose garnished with palm fronds), and a group of the hostile white men to whom Jim is simply an inconvenience (although one spotlessly attired, whose clothing bears not the least sign of the brutal combat with the leopard, or of the ground-hugging opposition offered by the oversize spider, from which no living being could have reasonably been expected to escape). The film is shot in Southern California locations that bear scant resemblance to the scenario's purported African Congo. Nor does the assorted collection of Central Casting extras, comprised in the main of flabby Filipinos and Hispanics, match the expected appearance of indigenous Africans. These worthies, all barefoot, move with ever so much care through the locations' hard-rock strewn terrain during the course of the work's repetitive scenes of the varying characters who are tirelessly walking for no ostensible purpose. There is yet more for a viewer to chuckle over here: the okongos are only ponies stabled at Corriganville, an often used site for Western movies, and have stripes painted sloppily over their flanks; in order for Jim to be trusted by female members of the tribe, he must know the "tribal sign", and he of course does; his omnipresent pet chimpanzee, here named Kanga, in a clearly unplanned adaptation from the script, swings by way of vine, knocking Jim into a mud puddle, that is then labelled as "quicksand". There is a good deal more of such foolishness, but no advantage is to be gained by flogging a dead okongo for this haphazardly edited, listlessly directed affair that relies upon stock footage and scoring with the entire assemblage of players chasing each other about to no design during the movie's closing one quarter of an hour, or so.

L'ajo nell'imbarazzo

A Filmed Operatic Performance That Must Be Rated As Good Or Better In All Departments Has Captured The Better Musical Characteristics of Donizetti.
This savoury piece, to be translated approximately into English as THE TUTOR EMBARRASSED, was designated by its composer, Gaetano Donizetti, to be a "melodramma giocoso" (light opera), and it unquestionably is that. This was Donizetti's first operatic success, greeted with abundant enthusiasm by audiences who knew that the Italian master of lyricism had played fair with them. Initially produced in Rome (1824), it was retitled two years after by Donizetti, for subsequent performances, as Don Gregorio, a simplification that has not hurt the work's popularity. It was the beginning of an opera collaboration, pieces constructed by Donizetti along with his most favoured librettist, Jacopo Ferretti, and is based upon an 1807 drama of Giovanni Geraud, French/Italian playwright. This performance, long out of print, is one of three that were also released in an audio format by RCA, and is shot here not as an opera in performance, but rather as a filmed feature, that additionally gives ample scope to the playing of the Orchestra Filharmonica Di Roma, conducted by "Vasco Ugo Finni", a pseudonym for Giovanni Fusco who, together with his daughter Cecilia, performed the scores for the most highly regarded films of director Michelangelo Antonioni, music that Giovanni composed. For this film soprano Cecilia sings the primary role of Gilda. There is no dearth of thematic possibilities to be gleaned from a libretto that also offers a wealth of musical channels for scenes that course from the comedic through ribaldry and romance. The plot for this admirably constructed work is, in fact, formed as a melodrama of the blithely humorous type cherished by Italian audiences since the beginnings of the operatic form, having lively and institutionalized themes, revolving in this instance about two brothers with their dalliances, all touched upon in song by the pair's elders. There is a clandestine marriage as well, with the siblings' tutor at the heart of the action, while providing emotional support for them. From all of this, the libretto furnishes Donizetti, a votary of Rossini, material for his emblematic solutions of harmony as well as melody. Acting is competently managed by all, with syncing nearly flawless. Fusco sings well, and her tonal pyrotechnics would delight the composer. Donizetti's trademark: elaborate patter songs, and his whimsical ensembles are pleasingly on display and on target, those as duets being specially appealing. The foremost roles for this filmed version, as also upon the operatic stage, belong to Gilda, and to Giulio, father of the brace of brothers, performed strongly by baritone Antonio "Tonino" Boyer. Gilda's spouse, and secret sire of her child, is nicely performed by tenor Ugo Benelli, while veteran bassos Plinio Clabassi and Renato Capecchi also very ably handle their musical and acting turns. This was the first operatic work from the great composer to be presented outside of Italy: in Austria, Germany, England, Spain, and even in South America (Brasil). It was staged in London in 1846, only to be lost to musical drama audiences for over 100 years, until 1959 in Bergamo, but has been produced quite often since. From its spirited overture onward, the score of L'AJO contains some of Donizetti's most agreeably melodic pages, and a viewer will find shifting attention elsewhere to be unmanageable all the way through to the film's conclusion. Although released in 1964 in black and white, it remains one of the most satisfying examples of early Donizetti made for cinema. Occasionally, a small independent video label has released a direct copy, but L'AJO is always difficult to find in any format. It is sung in Italian; there are no English subtitles available with any product.

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