mark.waltz

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Reviews

The Doors
(1991)

The lead performance and the atmosphere, Perfection. The film as a whole, mediocre.
The script of this film is definitely riding on the storm as they show the people in the sixties were strange. The reason to watch this film is Val Kilmer as Jim Morrison, thinking himself into the part and giving a performance that will define the best of his career in years to come. The plot is minimal, showing his rise and fall and lack of sobriety, rinsing and repeating, although he's barely ever sober. A biography really needs to have a strong Squad, and all this ends up being are incidents from Morrison's life, and that's not strong enough to hold the audience's attention for over two hours. But during those two hours are many Fantastic Recreations of his performances, showing how he rarely towed the line and cause a lot of problems in practically every performance. Security makes the mistake of canceling performance in the middle of it due to obscenity laws, because how are you going to control thousands of screaming fans who are probably as drunk and as high as Morrison was.

So it's definitely worth it for Kilmer's award worthy performance, and he did not get any major nominations simply because the film didn't get good enough reviews to warrant attention at award time. The character that Meg Ryan plays is very underdeveloped, and at times, she seems like a redheaded version of the character that Goldie Hawn was doing on "Laugh-In", with a bit of Janis Joplin's thrown in. They do get period detail right, especially the early years of his career before he truly began to crash. The film itself is something that viewers will probably watch only once because it's better to just listen to the actual Morrison recordings than suffer through the truly mediocre parts of the film. Oliver Stone was probably not a good choice to direct it.

Dick
(1999)

From the Watergate to the West Wing.
Usually clean comedies about ditsy teen girls either don't interest me or absolutely irritate me, but in the case of this surprisingly hysterically funny am I walk the dog proof of the Watergate break-in, it works deliciously and the result is one of the funniest comedies in modern Hollywood history. Michelle Williams and Kirsten Dunst are absolutely hysterical as desties who become much hated in high school when they prevent their class from getting a lunch trip to McDonald's because they ended up in the west wing of the White House and didn't make it back to their bus in time. Nobody believes them that President Nixon has made them the official White House dog walkers and later on advisors representing the youth of America. Dan Heydara gives a performance that will live in immortality, not for his likeness to Nixon but the historical way he portrays the disgraced president. Will Ferrell and Bruce McCulloch play Woodward and Bernstein as complete buffoons who interview "Deep Throat" but refused to reveal their identity, something that is exposed here in the most hysterical manner.

Nearly topping Romy and Michelle as my all time favorite vocal fry spouting dumbbells, Williams and Dunst help parody the mid 70's with the help of some ingenious cultural references and of course a great soundtrack kids songs that will bring nostalgia to anyone who was around in that area and laughs to those who have come sense because of the silliness of the way they are utilized in the plot. It takes a lot to make me laugh at most modern comedies non-stop, especially after the first viewing, but this film is an absolute Afternoon Delight and I really got hooked on the feeling that would indeed g onto my list of favorite comedies ever made. Teri Garr, Saul Rubinek (a delightful Kissinger), Dave Foley, Ted McGinley and very briefly Len Doncheff as Brezhnev ate great in support. Love the football shaped TV, the aging hippy teacher (to contrast the square older teacher) and the use of a popular show tune as a description of a cookie I'd love to try. I need no mood ring or beads to declare my love for this film. It stands completely on its own.

The Deep End of the Ocean
(1999)

Reminded me of something. 1952 Loretta Young and Jeff Chandler. Or was it 1954 Jane Wyman and Rock Hudson?
Either way, it was a film produced by Ross Hunter in glorious Technicolor and widescreen, and our heroine cried while neighbors gossip and the best friend told them off and consoled the heroine. But all that heaven allows in this magnificent obsession is for the audience to either roll their eyes or before old buy a script that makes us believe that a woman would take her three kids to a class reunions play there were hundreds of people present and no other children, and is shocked when one of them disappears. Michelle Pfeiffer goes down the territory of these great screen ladies in a tearjerker that has her upset over the disappearance of her child, and 9 years later coming across the new kid in the new neighborhood where Pfeiffer and husband Trent Williams have lived in for years, and believing that the kid is their long-lost son. Of course it's written on the script as to what happens, so it has to be realistic, or at least that's what screenwriters in motion pictures today try to tell us.

Laughably hokey, this is a modern take on the classic tearjerker which at least had the benefit of a lavish production and a way of telling the story no matter how over the top to where if you didn't believe it, the sympathy was with the heroine so the audience wanted them to find happiness. Pfeiffer should get the audience's sympathy as a long-suffering mother, but for some reason, the writing around her is so narcissistic and demanding to adore her that it becomes absurd. In fact, Jonathan Jackson who plays the older brother, played Lucky Spencer on "General Hospital" a character whose mother was reunited with her own mother the very same way and taken away from the parents who raised her. After a while, Pfeiffer's character starts to become insufferable.

Even worse is the cop played by Whoopi Goldberg who charges into the house of the man who has raised the son ever since his wife died and attempts to arrest him before finding out the truth. It's not the fault of either Pfeiffer or Goldberg but the script, and once again we're supposed to believe that this would become a media frenzy. All because the screenwriters of a motion picture want us to believe that it's true. The way the kid looks on these people who are strangers to him other than the fact that he has mowed their lawn and is instantly taken back in while the man who raised him is living in the neighborhood just bothered me, as if an episode of a family drama had ended and continued the next week without consistency. When a film is written that you're supposed to have sympathy for characters in a situation that was not of they're doing and you just don't, that is a major problem. I felt nothing but coldness for everything that was wrong that was being dealt with here. The deep end of the ocean is where the script of this film should have been tossed before production began.

The Drifter
(1988)

Get in. I can use the company to stay awake.
Not familiar with Kim Delaney's work between "All My Children" and "General Hospital", I discovered this movie by accident. Within ten minutes of watching it, I realized I had seen it before, but it was 1973 and a TV movie starring Cloris Leachman. Okay, so this is not a remake of that, but it is nearly the same, about a woman on the road picking up a sexy hitchhiker and putting herself in jeopardy by having a fling with him. Miles O'Keefe is a sexy bad boy, and being a bad boy means he can go either one of two ways. He can either be violently dangerous or an anti-hero who has a lot of good qualities and just needs a good break. It's pretty obvious where this is going to go based on their sex scene just hours after they've met, pretty passionate, but a passionate affair that takes place shortly after people have met is usually not an affair to continue.

Pretty racy stuff for a TV movie because it's obvious that the two stars in their love scene are not clothed. At least he isn't with a very visible backside. But this is very cliched and weakly written and the characters are straight out of a bad dime-store novel. Delaney is certainly beautiful, about her character, no matter how smart he is in her career, isn't the wisest in life. Delaney however is such a smart actress that she seems really wrong for this type of part. Too many twists that are unrealistic and a feeling that this was just rushed together to get it out and onto cable TV when there seems to be a lot of really bad quota quickies made for the new medium with an increasing number of channels.

A Dream of Kings
(1969)

The answer was with his queen all along.
It had been five years since Anthony Quinn played Zorba oh, and the very same here that Kander and Ebb wrote a musical of that classic movie that appeared on Broadway, when and his co-star Irene Papas return to their Greek characterizations from that film, playing different people but similar with the passions and the Lust For Life. Here, the lust for life is for their son, possibly dying, and Quinn wants him to have some fresh air in his homeland and get out of New York City. The bigger than life Quinn plays Matsouras who dreams big but doesn't do anything to really full fill those dreams, and every time those dreams he has seems to be falling towards him, something happens to take them away.

I first became familiar with this movie through the movie soundtrack that had a theme song that is not on the print that I saw of this film. It's a shame, because not only was it a good song but it seemed to really go with the ideals that I saw when I finally caught it. Papas, whose character of the widow wasn't involved with Zorba, but is now his wife and tired of his love thing and frivolous, childlike manner. Queen would rather hang out and gamble with friend Sam Levene than work, and he ends up in an affair with a hard-working widow, played by Inger Stevens, whose parents had at first but later makes demands on him that can't be fulfilled.

This is not the classic of Quinn's Academy Award nominated 1964 film, but it is very watchable and it is hard to resist his character who is lovable in spite of his irresponsibility. I would see Quinn when he finally got to play the musical Zorba in 1983, and that passion was still there. In fact, he re-does a Greek wedding dance from "Zorba the Greek" here that later he would do again in the musical. Quinn and Papas are fanrastic, and it's a tribute to her character that she sticks around and continues to love him. If anything, his character isn't as much of a dreamer as a big fool who doesn't realize what he has until it's almost too late.

The Diamond Trap
(1988)

Not quite a diamond, but not the prize in a cracker jax box either.
I was expecting a complete fiasco from this comical heist film with a not so bad Brooke Shields as suspect #1 in the theft of a very valuable diamond from the Manhattan auction house where she works, taking the audience from the Big Apple to London where the truth is exposed. Yep, Brooke's British accent is phony, and her black eye that she claims she got from a boyfriend magically disappears. Detective Howard Hessman is the New York detective on the case, going from sexy partner Ed Marinaro in New York to none other than Twiggy in London.

While this definitely is not rocket science to figure out, it's a frequently charming and surprisingly better than average caper film that I had expected would be terrible but found myself having a good time with. Shields is only really bad when she's trying to speak with the British accent, even though she basically sleepwalks her way through the rest of the film. Fortunately, she's not the dominant force of the story, and Twiggy is a welcome replacement for her when they get to England until she pops back into the story again. Darren McGavin is very funny in his small role, and the location foorage is quite pleasant to look at. I found Hessman wrong what this card, and which kids switch roles with Marinaro.

The Deceivers
(1988)

Stab, strangle, rinse, repeat.
This handsome looking Merchant Ivory film is great for its exotic visuals and location footage, some of it remarkably cinematic and glorious from that perspective. This is based on the legend of the Indian cult of the Thuggee, documented in other films and dealt with in detail here. The handsome Pierce Brosnan is rugged and brave as a British officer out to expose those in charge of this brutal cult, and when he does a series of arrests, he is forced to resign and thus decides to go in Disguise to complete his duty. Putting on brown makeup and not shaving for days, he doesn't feel the audience but manages to full members of this violent group whose methods of murder are quite vile.

A major flop in 1988, this apparently gets a little business that it slipped into a level beyond obscurity. Brosnan is quite believable in his British uniform, but he looks ridiculous in the makeup and not at all like an Indian peasant who would strangle on orders and take the famous sugar that makes the taker vulnerable to the female goddess that this cult worships. When they show a corpse of one of the victims, it is obvious that there was more than just strangling going on, and a few of these crimes are quite graphic in detail. It's a shame that this film is not better known as it is quite sumptuous to look at, but it's missing a certain element to make it completely successful. Obviously very little expense was spared so the production values are superior, almost epic like in scope. But information about the movie outside of general resources makes it almost appear that this was straight to video even though it did have a very brief theatrical release.

Dead Ringers
(1988)

Perversion of the highest level costs two souls.
Obviously when they were in the same room together, stronger brother Jeremy Irons suck a bit of the energy out of the life of his twin, Jeremy Irons. The Ironsman plays a dual role, twins who ironically go into reproductive correction issues as a profession, with one a doctor and the other a technician. They also have a tendency to share the same woman, and in the case of this movie, movie star Genevieve Bujold who is not very movie star like in her presence in this film. In fact, her character isn't very likable, and only the younger and more fragile Irons twin is remotely decent. In the original book, "Twins", the younger twin was gay, but that was apparently changed at the request of its male star. While the book was disturbing, it didn't include very disturbing visuals oh, and here, there are a few that add to the perversion and to the weirdness of the film as a whole, most of them involving the twin's profession.

This obviously is not going to be a film that many audiences will enjoy because it seems our bizarre and the psychology of what twins are supposed to be like and how they are connected even more disturbing. Director David Cronenberg listed in any credits is already a warning sign for movie audiences, his case for the ultra weird surpassing Nicholas Roeg and Ken Russell. The film is very depressing and often very slow moving, and even with one good twin, the characters are not appealing at all. Irons really gives his all to creating a compelling performance, but acting suffers when hardly anyone wants to see your film. This is the type of film that will drain the audience emotionally, and word-of-mouth obviously got around which prevented a lot of people from breaking down to see it. I saw it when it first came out on VHS, and 30 something years later, it is even more deplorable. Time has not been kind to it.

Dancing at Lughnasa
(1998)

Five sisters. Underdeveloped stories. Beautiful locations and a vivacious dance..
When their ailing Uncle Jack (Michael Gambon) comes home seemingly to die, the lives of five spinster sisters, one of them with an illegitimate child, change as a result, with the resentments coming out and the one overpowering, domineering sister (Meryl Streep) finding out that she is in so much in control anymore. That's especially obvious when she loses her position as a teacher, and the other sisters reclaim their independence. What worked very well as a stage play (unfortunately one I did not see) gets lost on the big screen, the intimacy of the stories overwhelmed by the opening up with beautiful Irish location footage and not nearly as personal or touching.

The performances overall are very good, but there's little time from an edited stage play condensed into a sensible movie running time for the character is to truly be developed and then the same type of empathy that the audience had with a live performance. Perhaps most stage plays would be better off as TV movies, although there have been some exceptions. Kathy Burke and Catherine McCormack get billing above the title with Streep and horror movie veteran Gambon. A beautiful musical score helps the film, and certainly Ireland provides gorgeous greenery. It becomes emotionally alive when the sisters break into their big emotional dance, but when it stops, they look at each other as it is emotionally empty, making me wish one of them would say "One more time!" As for this being released to the big screen, it's one of those films that you walked out of, look at your friend and ask okay where we going for lunch?

Doubt
(2008)

Doubt will make you think. Both the movie and the emotion.
The film version of the John Patrick Shanley play for me shows the best performance of Meryl Streep in the 21st century. As the very strict sister Aloysius, the principal at a Bronx Catholic school, it is her job to make the children fear her and tow the line, and even in Sunday mass, she is not one to avoid stepping up and discipline them. Being sent to her office is worse than a prison sentence, because her cold stare and hard words of discipline will cut the victim to the quick. Haven't been to Catholic schools in grade school, dealing with a principal like this would lead to nightmares for me, especially after watching the witch in "The Wizard of Oz". The nuns in the school do not wear the traditional habits, but long black flowing Cape like dresses and bonnets instead of wimples. Sister Aloysius is the only one with this type of coldness in the school. The younger nuns, particularly the one played by Amy Adams, are warm and discipline only when they need to, and the older nuns are sweet and grandmotherly. But as the audience learns later, Sister Aloysius came late to the convent, a war widow with a lot of bitterness attached to her life.

On the opposite side of the spectrum is priest Philip Seymour Hoffman, his greatest green performance and the one for which he will always be remembered. He represents the new Catholicism to the very traditional Streep who isn't happy that the church is changing as a result of Vatican II. She wants to keep the status quo the same, utilizing the winds as a metaphor for things she doesn't like. Hoffman on the other hand, wants to bring a lighter relationship between the working-class neighborhood and the church officials, and especially create a bond with the students that makes them respect them but not fear them. Streep's Sister Aloysius is definitely a bully, but in her performance, Streep indicates so much more underneath that hard demeanor that shows that even with her determination to prove Hoffman guilty as inappropriate behavior, there is a doubt that challenges her determination and especially her quest for power which he has gained in her position as principal.

The issue of the film is not about the suspicion of molestation, but whether making assumptions based on suspicions is justified, and the aggressive way in which Sister Aloysius pursues her cause. She has a long, magnificent scene with the fantastic Viola Davis, playing the mother of the young black boy whom Hoffman has been mentoring. Davis dominates that scene and that accelerated her rise to becoming one of the most prominent actresses in the 21st Century. The film is very powerful because it is not going to make you find Hoffman guilty or not guilty, and nor does it make you judge Streep for actions that would make her instantly hateable had she not balanced it out with little nuances that are subtly revealed. For me, it is a film about ethical decision-making, and the subject surrounding that in this film is basically supporting to that philosophy of finding all the facts before you make a decision on whether or not something was right or wrong and how to proceed with it. That indeed makes a powerful drama and one of the great stage adaptions to film in many years.

Duet for One
(1986)

This is not the nice Julie audiences expect.
Her character maybe dying, suffering from multiple sclerosis and confined to a wheelchair all of a sudden, but that doesn't stop her from being a real nasty piece of work sometimes, instantly regretting it, especially after telling her husband Alan Bates off that he's nothing getting an emotional slap in the face when he tells her that she'll be dead and he'll still be alive. And that's on a Mountaintop overlooking a cliff where he may be tempted to jump and she won't be doing any twirling and breaking into song. Julie is Stephanie Anderson, a world renowned violinist who's world is shattered by her medical diagnosis, something she finds out before the film begins. She goes to see analyst Max von Sydow and tells him about her health situation, then finds out that her husband is having an affair with his assistant. What does Julie do? She turns to junk man Liam Neeson for sexual comfort.

To add to her not so nice moments is her telling solo violinist protege Rupert Everett that is he leaves her to take a position elsewhere, he can count on her never agreeing to see him again. With tantrums like this, it's easy to not really like her very much even though it's easy to sympathize with her character for the medical issues she's going through and the psychiatric issues she's facing because of all the drama in her life. When she slapped Bates' assistant Cathryn Harrison across the face out of the blue, that's seemingly after she's come to accept the fact that he's having an affair with her, and later on, she says it's her in her bedroom to gently apologize. So she's a woman of many conflicts, and after a while, it's very difficult for all the people around her to be near her.

This film, based on a successful two character play from both the West End and Broadway, is expanded to include all these other characters, would probably have ended up as a cable TV movie if made later or with a lesser leading star. Andrews is certainly a commanding even if her character is rather demanding, and I can see why she got a Golden Globe nomination. It's all so admirable to see why she wanted to stretch her acting muscles and play a less noble character. She dealt with a similar plot line in the same year's "That's Life!", but her character was not as abrasive even as she wasn't the happiest woman in the world. Bates and von Sydow really don't get to play well developed characters, but the minor characters played by Neeson, Everett and Harrison are surprisingly drawn out. Worth it to see Julie to see Julie in a different type of role, but not one that most audiences will want to revisit.

Dudley Do-Right
(1999)

This is Canada. Things are real up here.
If I had actually laughed once while watching this film, I might have indeed gotten whiplash. But snidely I sat and snidely I remained, smirking here and there, but mainly just sitting there wishing I could snicker like Mutley, sidekick to that other cartoon villain, the more colorfully dressed Dick Dastardly. Poor Brendan Fraser in the title role is stuck with a most unfunny script, but indeed, is adorable in the part. Smugly Eyelash describes Sara Jessica Parker as heroine Nell, Dudley's childhood girlfriend, breaking into a dance number out of the blue, thinking that she's so cute when she's oh so not.

I had high hopes for the part of Snidely Whiplash as played by Alfred Molina, but he's not even funny in a sardonic way. When Eric Idle can't even get a laugh, that's another reason for downvoting. The storyline surrounds a gold strike in the northern part of Canada and Snidely's attempts to cash in. The script can't even begin to capture the irreverent flow of the original series, and even with a "Fractured Fairy Tale" short at the beginning (which is much better than anything that follows), all the charm of the Rocky and Bullwinkle series as well as all of the other characters that came out of it is lost. Robert Prosky as the inspector is missing the commanding nature of his predecessor. Since all of the other Rocky and Bullwinkle live-action films failed, perhaps it's time to just move on and find something "original".

The Man Who Knew Too Little
(1997)

I would not want to be stranded on a sinking ship with him.
There seems to be something about characters like the one that Bill Murray plays in this film who show up where they are not wanted and never leave, causing problems for everybody and turning a seemingly simply fixable situation into a complete disaster. Murray did make me laugh a few times, his seemingly excessive cheery character is not the type to lighten up a party. He's the type to turn it upside down, and probably burn the house down. Showing up to visit his brother Peter Gallagher in London, he does pretty much just that, becoming mistaken for a spy and hitman and creating all sorts of chaos. Some amusing, mostly absurd.

This is the type of film that thinks that if it doesn't show up and is filled with lots of slapstick and cartoon like characters, the audience will laugh. A lot of those cartoon like characters are quite obnoxious, even those the audience is supposed to like. The film is overloaded with cliches of the most idiotic kind, and after a while, it seems the only answer for Murray's character is to put him on a deserted island with no one else around where he can do no damage. Of course then, he'd probably find a mine in the lagoon and caused a tsunami. After a while, the film just begins to grate on the nerves, and I was grateful to see it end.

The Man Who Loved Women
(1983)

Insipid diary from a narcissist who thinks he's Mr. Sensitive.
This is the type a film that I wish I had reviewed when I first had the chance, having tried to get through this years ago and watching it again about 10 years ago yet not filing my thoughts at that point. Having to attempt to watch this again is a miserable experience, one of my least favorite of Blake Edwards and Burt Reynolds films, one that does Julie no damage but one she could have done in her sleep. Edwards beat us over the head with the sensitivity of the Burt Reynolds character, or his supposed sensitivity, presented in a manner that after a while he comes grating and makes his character all the more dislikeable. As a valentine to women, it serves no purpose other than to put them on a pedestal which has been ripped down in the 40 years since this was first released by how society has changed.

Burt's films are hit and miss to me, with many underrated sleepers cropping up that are surprisingly well worth seeing. The film starts off with his character's funeral, and we're supposed to be convinced that he's some kind of saint that every woman loved regardless of whether or not they got him to the altar or kept him under their thumb for more than just a few days. Flashbacks give us Julie Andrews as his therapist, and basically she narrates the film throw her relationship with Burt as a client. Unrealistic from there because a therapist of any nature would respect the client confidentiality agreement, and nothing would be said outside of the theft of a locked up file involving his case.

His is a sad case too, because the more he talks the more narcissistic he becomes even if his character doesn't have it written all over his face. He's one of those people that tries to come off as a mister nice guy, but every conversation he has ends up being about him. The film is maudlin and poorly written and certainly not without an agenda, and any effort it tries to manipulate the viewer will expose it for those disappointing aspects. Kim Basinger, Jennifer Edwards and Marilu Henner are among the other women in Burt's life, and after a while, I began to feel why would anyone care? I noticed a similarity between this and a Burt look-alike on an episode of "Designing Women" where the flashy ladies man revealed over sensitivity towards the needs of women that it seemed was directed as a slap at this. Edwards followed up "Victor/Victoria" with this and a few other disappointing films, movies I found very hard to make it through. This is by far one of his worst films.

The Man Who Would Be King
(1975)

Whom God intends to destroy...Well, the rest is obvious.
In his greatest performance outside playing James Bond and even out doing his Oscar winning role in "The Untouchables", Sean Connery is a sensation as the British officer who ends up in a part of the mountainous region of India where no white man has been since Alexander the Great, and in a sense, becomes him. Or so he thinks. He thinks he is the embodiment of the famous Greek conqueror and for a brief time rules that people who need some sort of leadership, but as madness takes over, his destruction awaits. Standing by his side throughout all of this is his fellow officer Michael Caine, putting up with his Madness and eventually living to tell about it to none other than famous writer Rudyard Kipling, played in a brief cameo by Christopher Plummer.

If there ever was an example of cinematic motion Pictures at their best meant to be seen on a big theatrical screen, it is this. It is also one of John Huston's very best films, and he has made many classics. Saeed Jaffrey is very funny as the native Indian who becomes the liaspn between mad King Connery and the other native-born people, basically kissing up to him and guessing the indication that he's not 100% on Connery's side. Connery starts off the film just slightly nutso, but as his desire for power grows, his madness turns to insanity, and his performance just gets all the more riveting. Caine gets his moments in the spotlight, but his assignment has him trying to keep some sanity so he won't become a target once the awe over Connery's supposed God-like persona are exposed as phony.

It's ironic where they are located looks a lot like the top of Mount Olympus, and when Connery put on the crown, it's as if he's Zeus in human form being possessed by the spirit of Emperor Alexander. The musical score by Maurice Jarre, the gorgeous photography and production design and the witty script are other pluses of this 70's classic that is filled with a ton of irony, something Huston specialized in. 1975 was a pretty weak year in American Cinema history, so when a film like this pops up and ends up being one of the best films of the 70's, it's pretty surprising that this didn't get the award recognition that it deserves. The film, direction and Connery certainly are among the best that 1975 had to offer, certainly in my top 10 of those categories among the best.

Maurie
(1973)

A film filled with angels. If only life was that easy.
Perhaps considered a flaw by some viewers, everybody in this film is just so nice, dealing with the issues of a stroke that a real life professional basketball player, Bernie Casey had, and everything he goes through with the aide of a team member, Bo Svenson at his side, taking on the responsibility of seeing to his every need in spite of his ongoing career as Casey's parents, Bill Walker and Maidie Norman, live too far away to be conservators. Casey's beautiful girlfriend (Janet MacLachlan), Svenson's wife (Stephanie Edwards) and the irreplaceable nurse Rosie (Pauline Myers) are others who really know the definition of Christian charity and good will towards fellow man, and it's amazing that Edwards never complains about the time that her husband spends with Casey.

If all the goodness going on throughout the film doesn't bring tears to your eyes, the theme song, "Here's to the Heroes" at the end will for sure. Casey is magnificent, really looking the part of a stroke victim, with shadowing and makeup obviously making him look sick as his health crisis gets worse even though he's able to get around better. He gives one of the best performances of 1973, as forgotten as the film is unfortunately. Svenson's character seems too good to be true oh, but I just had to go with the idea that he was a good guy who wanted to make sure that his friend got the best treatment which he does.

Every character in the film is just so kind to each other, and even Casey's parents who are wonderful people as well never questioned Svenson's motives. They just take him for who he is. You'll recognize Maidie Norman as Elvira from "Whatever happened to Baby Jane", and she's closer to Juanita Moore in "Imitation of Life" than she is as the cleaning lady who took no guff from Bette Davis. Myers is very funny, getting a lot of good lines and making you want to hug her the minute she walks on the scene. I love her response to being referred to as a dirty old lady. My only issue is that the story that occurs here happened in the 1950's, and this seems very modern, with absolutely no period detail at all. But feeling a little twee after getting into the sentiment of the film, that was easily forgotten.

Marat/Sade
(1967)

Glad I watched this in the privacy of my home so I could research everything about it.
If this had been Glenda Jackson's only film, she still would have been remembered today for her intense performance as the woman who assassinated Marat and was guillotined as a result. Actually, she's not playing the real Charlotte Corday. She is a patient in a mental institution ordered to act out the role in a production directed by the Marquis De Sade. It is presented as an all-singing musical, much like "Les Miserables", but set 180 years before that Musical was written. So obviously, this is done with some dramatic license, complete with Greek chorus and a few major parts outside of Corday and Marat.

Very theatrical in nature, this is definitely a one-time experience for me but it is one well worth having. I couldn't imagine what a stage version of this would be like, but it would have to have a superb cast and a great director. Peter Brook is indeed a great director for a project like this, and along with Jackson, there's also Patrick Magee as De Sade and Ian Richardson as Marat.

As the film begins, a group of obviously very bored aristocrats arrives at a mental institution, and are greeted by the inmates, one of the women being brought flowers by an obviously disturbed patient. The play begins, and it is exactly like "At the End of the Day" from "Les Miserables" as the lives of peasants from 50 years before that short-term Rebellion took place occurred, leading to the French Revolution. On occasion, it gets to be light-hearted, but for the most part it is quite intense, with patients having little indications of fits while they are performing their parts. Sometimes the aristocrats get a little too enthused, and soon, they are behind bars, watching from a more protective area. But the dramatic situation of the play and their own illness culminates in a violent twist, and that's where the disturbing elements of this timeless motion picture come in. It would take a few more years and a few films for Jackson to reach stardom, but it's obvious from here, that that path has already been tred on.

Make Me an Offer!
(1955)

Networking just to find a vase.
While this is gorgeously filmed in color and shows off a lot of pastels in its photography, this is actually a very dull comedy about a young man (Peter Finch) searching for a vase that he had seen as a kid and has been obsessed with ever since. The base itself isn't all that spectacular, and the story just flows from incident to incident without really any rhyme or reason or actual purpose. I found select moments quite amusing, particularly showing since going around his activities and dealing with just regular occurrences that people would face on a daily basis.

People getting on and off the train, grumbling at each other, is presented in a very funny way, and one seeing that I felt a bit guilty over has him entering the house of a disabled old man sitting in a wheelchair with a cane unable to speak. Finch pretends to be dusting and the old man wakes up and spots him, and srarts swinging his cane around as if he is envisioning himself in a sword fight. However, that scene is not without purpose. Adrienne Corri is Finch's world weary wife, obviously suffering from severe depression. So while this has a very light-hearted atmosphere, there's really little to laugh that outside a few moments.

The Million Pound Note
(1954)

Two old geezers manipulating the poor to becoming rich, but there's no trading places.
Yep, I knew I had seen that plot somewhere before, and the characters played here by Wilfrid Hyde-White and Ronald Squire are brothers just like Ralph Bellamy and Don Ameche in that 1983 modern comedy classic. They notice the downtrodden Gregory Peck on the Street and decide to give him the test of handing him a banknote for 1 million pounds, giving him a month to see what happens with it and if he comes back with the entire amount, they will give him a job. They then disappear from view from the majority of the film, and as Peck makes his way around London, word gets out that there's an eccentric rich American in town and that opens doors to all the find houses in London. He falls in love with the pretty Jane Griffiths, niece of wealthy do-gooder Joyce Grenfall, and the local stock market becomes busy with investors in a gold mine from which the note is based on. It's a question of true love being found for Peck and Griffiths rather than marrying for money, and the results are wacky to say the least.

Frankly, the whole stock market subplot bored me (mainly out of my disinterest in investing schemes), but it was very funny to watch Peck make his way around the city looking like a very handsome, clean-shaven bum and gain favors in the best hotels, restaurants and clothing shops. A hysterical segment has the hotel managers confusing a mute weightlifter for Peck, and of course the good-natured Gregory invite him to join in. Lighthearted and colorful, this isn't certainly an earth-shattering comedy of manners, but Peck is a dashing down on his luck honest hero, and it's easy to root for him. A fine supporting cast of eccentric comic actors helps make this flow by easily. It's the type of film that is like a bowl when you watch it, but easily forgotten. This was the third time I'd seen it, and I remembered nothing about it.

The Man Who Understood Women
(1959)

When the movies flop writing about their own industry, it's quite the irony.
Perhaps it's the title that indicates that this is going to be a lousy film, but maybe it's also a metaphor or a case of irony because the movie actor and writer and director that Henry Fonda plays knows nothing about women and treats them like a character in one of his movies, particularly starlett Leslie Carone whom he makes one of the greatest stars in the world and marries. A star is not born in this fiasco from 20th Century Fox, a pretentious and phony story of life behind the scenes, dealing with characters that the audience doesn't like from the start. Fonda and Caron has absolutely no spark, and she lacks the charisma that made her so charming in "An American in Paris", "Lilli" and "Gigi". It is absolutely not her fault. That belongs to Nunnally Johnson who forces her down the fewer throats, and gives them no choice but to try to swallow her.

The character that Henry Fonda plays certainly is no matinee idol, and I would call this his absolute worst performance and film. The only thing of interest is that he mentions Katharine Hepburn whom he would apparently not meet in real life for another 20 years when they made "On Golden Pond". Cesare Danova plays a French lothario who romances Caron while she is on the outs with her husband, and once again, there is no sparkle. The film is overly produced and egocentric in many ways, giving the impression that the people behind the scenes had far more confidence in this then what would end up being presented on the screen. It's one of those big films that just lays there like a big huge blob, like a big French dessert that looks good on the surface but unsettles the stomach. The only things that the characters in this film understand how to do is how to bore the audience.

The Man Who Loved Redheads
(1955)

From randy young bucks to grumpy old letchers.
Having had a fetish for redheads since he was a child, the upperclass John Justin continues to have liaisons with various redheads through his life, even after he gets married, thanks to his equally lecherous old pal, Roland Culver. Going from his mid 30's to much later in life, the audience witnesses various examples of these liaisons, all of them played by Moore Shearer. They are all of varying personalities, occupations and nationalities, the most interesting too a cockney working girl and a Russian ballerina. And what of the wife who is not seeing through most of the film? And what about the young girl, Sylvia, who escaped early in his life? Also appearing later with a surprise twist.

This reminds me of something that Woody Allen might have written, amusing and light-hearted, and in this version, with a veddy veddy British flair. What's most noticeable and enjoyable about this film is its puzzle box cover like photography, with gorgeous pastel colors that seem to jump off the screen. The costumes representing various eras are also outstanding. Gladys Cooper has a memorable Cameo at the end, and a young Denholm Elliott also has a great part. Not much of a challenge to the brain, but certainly a feast for the eyes. Shearer is striking in the ballet sequence in the middle of the film, and quite funny as rather crude lower class girl whom Justin picks up.

A Man About the House
(1947)

How do you lighten up someone with a personality like a garlic clove?
The hardnosed British spinster Margaret Johnston is so uppity and uptight that she makes Maggie Smith in 'A Room With a View" seem like Lady Godiva. The situation is similar. Two sisters (Johnston and Dulcie Gray) arrive in Naples, having inherited the estate of their uncle whom their father had not talked to you in years. Shy Gray longs to live like any young lady, but her domineering sister I won't allow it. Johnston instantly forgets that she is no longer in her Homeland as she demands that the servants carry themselves as if it was a British household. Not a surprise that she becomes a victim of a possible poisoning! Sexy Kieron Moore is initially the brunt of much of her snobbery, but the sexy singing and beautiful estate filled with romance puts some glow in her girdle, and her attitude slowly lightens up. But after insulting the use of garlic in the cook's food and the demand that the sexy young chambermaid wear shoes, it will take more than a bit of lightning up on her part (and the camera man's) to make her someone to root for. Had she not inherited this estate, she may have indeed become a rival to infamous housekeeper Mrs. Danvers and ladies maid O'Brien.

I love the British gothic period melodramas of the 40's and 50's, from the Margaret Lockwood films at Gainsborough to obscure films like "Three Weird Sisters" and "The Late Edwina Black", and my personal favorite, "Footsteps in the Fog". This one adds a bit of Dean Martin's song "That's Amore" with its Mediterranean setting that stirs up the heat in a spinster's hard heart and could lead to her room. Moore, who is certainly not Italian, does a good job in convincing the audience that he is, a sinister grin appearing every now and then, but the camera for some reason changing the state of his hair, going from light to dark at one point to another. There's a great frivolous attitude at times, including a vivacious grape stomping sequence, but then Johnston shows up to darken it, eventually trapped by it. The script keeps you guessing as to what will happen and who the culprit is, and that makes this a great deal of fun. I believe that's Gina Lollobrigida who gets smacked in the face for flirting with Moore.

Man on the Run
(1949)

Just deserts for the deserters.
Because there were tens of thousands of deserters roaming around Great Britain after World War Two, there was lots of crime because they could not find legitimate work. Even though they were allegedly promised immunity, that didn't stop the government from sentencing them to hard labor. Such as the fear of deserter Derek Farr cool being recognized by people he knew as being a deserter ends up being forced into becoming involved with the robbery which leads to someone being killed. Because the other ones who were responsible were wearing masks, Farr is fingered and ends up on the run, hidden by Joan Hopkins who risks her reputation by tossing the gun over a bridge when Farr ends up with it on his person. When she is exposed as an accomplice, this brings Farr out into the open to expose the real killers.

A complex B crime drama, this features Lawrence Harvey in a supporting role as well as some great location footage of parts of London that were rarely photographed. It's gritty and raw and real, a look back at a slice of post World War II life where a lot of internal wars were still going on as people were having a hard time readjusting, both civilians and former fighters. A good script, often a bit complex, but featuring realistic performances and a dire situation for the two leads where there seems to be no easy way out of trouble.

The Man Who Finally Died
(1963)

It took a bit of rocket science, but I finally got it.
A call out of the blue sends the British Stanley Baker to Bavaria to check out the news that his father, whom he believed had died years before, has actually just recently died. Now if that isn't news enough, when he arrives, he begins to draw hints from the goings-on of the estate that his father is indeed alive still and being hid from him. Of course, everybody (including Peter Cushing!) Insists that's not the case, and some people, when they discover his identity, are not pleased to see him. The audience, if they followed along so far, begin to either go in one of two directions, either on the something else or to sit and take in every visual and every word to figure it all out.

I'm glad I chose the second option because while I was perplexed and confused a lot of the time, when it was all wrapped up, I could honestly say, okay that made some sense. This certainly could have been a lot clearer in nature, but thanks to good performances and excellent production design and little hints dropped here and there to help the viewer along, I finally got back on track. Certainly not everybody is going to have that fortune, and had I not been prepared for such a overly intelligent narrative, I would have lost interest because I would have just felt too stupid to bother or too frustrated to care. At least it's better than a later equally complex post World War II drama, "The Holcroft Agreement" (1984), and very similar in themes. The ending is quite jarring.

Man Afraid
(1957)

A 1957 Amber Alert.
In this case, the kid is Tim Hovey, stalked throughout the motion picture by the creepily photographed Eduard Franz, playing the crazed father of a robber costume preacher George Nader found in his house, in the bedroom of the little Hovey. Saying little, Franz is the Lon Chaney of the year (in addition to James Cagney who plays him in the biographical film made at Universal, maybe at the same time this was being filmed there), so in grief over the death of his son that he loses all sense of reality in his need for vengeance. Nader's wife, Phyllis Thaxter, is injured at the same time as the home invasion, left nearly blinded and thus vulnerable to fear. The invaluable Reta Shaw is warm and loving as the nurse hired to look after Thaxter and take care of Hovey, quite funny but definitely formidable, stealing every scene that she is in. A fellow future "Bewitched" co-star, Mabel Albertson, is cast against type as the drunken landlady, pointing out Nader as a killer and adding to his feelings of guilt over accidental homicide. Martin Milner is instantly recognizable as one of the parishioners in Nader's church.

This is an amazingly intense thriller, quite different then I expected it to be. The spiritual tones indicating that had Nader not been a minister, the accidental death would not have been the recipient of the as much attention. The scene where Franz sees pictures of Nader's family on television is a prime example of the sometime irresponsibility of the press, the bomb that set him off on his path to madness. Everything about this film is gripping from start to finish, and the film's conclusion handles everything in a perfect manner. The musical score by a young Henry Mancini is very dramatic and unlike anything else he wrote during his heyday, and the photography and editing are top notch. Even though the film is done in Cinemascope, the black and white photography aids to the mood and makes it all the better.

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