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Cattle Annie and Little Britches

Wonderful old-fashioned family western
Amanda Plummer and Diane Lane are perfect complements in the title roles. Cattle Annie, as played by Plummer, is assertive, questioning, and somewhat rambunctious. In contrast, Lane's character is a lot like Barbara i One Day At A Time. The two young ladies get in the middle of Legendary Marshal Bill Tilghman's attempts to take the gang led by Burt Lancaster. The dialogue is sensational, and the acting, including terrific performances by Scoot Glenn and John Savage, could not be better. This is one to savor.

Madame Sin

High Camp
Bette Davis as an insane super-agent and Robert Wagner as her dupe? Why not? Everybody's having a lot of fun. The villains are equally amusing. The whole thing is tongue-in-cheek and high camp, and it always remains true to its own little world. One of the-lets-have-fun-and-not-take-anything-too-seriously-made-for-TV-flicks that ABC excelled in churning out in the early 70's.

Eye of the Cat

Superior caper film
You won't know who to root for, if anybody, in this Hitchcockian caper film, which seemingly pits Gayle Hunnicut and Michael Sarazin up against Hunnicut's Aunt in order to steal her fortune -- or does it? And what is it all really about anyway? The location camerawork in San Francisco is terrific. And, Linden Chiles scores highly in a key supporting role.

Without Limits

Runner's biopic is a pedestrian effort
Billy Crudup delivers his best performance ever as Steve Prefontaine. Donald Sutherland is excellent as his coach. The rest of the cast is good. But, the movie has a fundamental flaw: Steve Prefontaine is simply not interesting enough to have an entire film devoted to his story. It also makes one wonder about the inbred racism in the Hollywod system that with all the African American track stars out there who have interesting lives (Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Florence Griffith-Joyner, Lee Elder, Edwin Mozes, etc...), the ONE with the movie is white.

So Big

Hollywood at its best
Remarkable soaper gets bravura lead performance by Jane Wyman. The scenes in New Holland are excellent with young Richard Beymer a standout as a student who has a crush on Wyman. Steve Forrest is excellent as Wyman's son. Martha Hyer is a bit out of her league as the would-be vamp seeking to lead Forrest astray. But, why quibble? The production values are first-rate, the writing is excellent, and the score is magnificent.

All the King's Men

Dynamic performances transform great novel into great movie
Robert Rossen does a great job directing this movie. But he did an even better job in a literate and crisp screenplay that brings the characters springing to life even better than they jumped off the pages in Robert Penn Warren's book. Rossen captures the essence of each character adroitly with concise yet revealing dialogue.

Beyond Rossen's heroic exploits, the most memorable aspect of the film is the wealth of memorable performances. Broderick Crawford deserved his Oscar and then some for his charismatic turn of the well-meaning-hick-turned megalomaniac governor. Anne Seymour is quietly perfect as his wife. And Mercedes McCambridge nearly steals the film, giving one of the best supporting actress performances --- EVER. John Ireland totally captures the sophistry and spinelessness of the erudite yet ineffective Jack Burden. Other excellent performances are turned in by Shepard Strudwick, Joanne Dru, John Derek, and Will Wright.

All in all, this is a great piece of American filmmaking.

Bobby Deerfield

The worst big-budget movie I ever saw in the theaters
From beginning to end, this is the most emotionally overwrought movie about NOTHING I have ever seen. The characterizations and interactions between the title character and Marthe Kller's character are pure torture. The racetrack as metaphor gimmick is so overplayed that it borders on cliche, yet director Pollack treats every hairpin turn as if it were something profoundly important.

Maybe there's some value for a MSFT3000 re-playing of some of the scenes, such as Pacino getting in touch with his inner female, for goof value. But, even such accidental humor is hard to find in this total turkey.

The Day of the Wolves

Lousy production values, lean acting, ingenious plot
Low-budget doesn't begin to describe the cheesy production values of this independent heist movie. The piped-in music, limited camera angles, and production glitches remind me of a porno movie. But, the plot is ingenious -- as gripping as I've seen in a crime movie in 30 years. And, although some of the dialogue is ridiculous in the scenes between townspeople in the first third of the film, all of the dialogue, amongst the criminals and among the law officers once the crime is on, is gritty and realistic. A few story twists help the proceedings along to a most satisfactory conclusion.

Coffee, Tea or Me?

Louise Lasser shines
Louise Lasser shines fellow as Karen Valentine's fellow flight attendant and best friend. Karen's character, you see, is enjoying the ideal marriages with two men she loves and who love her devotedly --- one in Los Angeles (John Davidson) and one in London. Everything is going surprisingly well and she's feeling great until she gets pregnant. Then she needs the help and support of Louise's character. Louis's timing and reinvention of the scatterbrained stewardess takes over the film from Valentine. This says a lot because Valentine is also brilliant.

The Well

Taut, gripping drama of racial tensions
This lean, low-budget "B" movie is a perfect example of what excellent independent film making should be about. Take a thesis that involves elements a bit too controversial for mainstream Hollywood. Draw your characters three-dimensionally. Film it as it is actually seen through the townspeople's eyes. And find as many people as you can who are perfect for the roles as written, regardless of acting experiences.

This tale of a five-year-old "Negro" (by the vernacular of the time) girl who disappears and is believed kidnapped. A lot of groupthink, projections, assumptions and ventings of anger follow until the town finally mobilizes to locate and rescue the girl. As fresh and taut today as it was fifty years ago, the Well should be a staple requirement for everyone who wishes to get into independent films.

And Then There Were None

The masterpiece of murder mysteries
Rene Clair's masterful direction takes Christie's classic novel up to a new dimension more suitable for cinema. Every character is perfectly realized by magnificent acting. My favorite is C. Aubrey Smith who portrays General Mandrake with a British subtlety that cannot be understood fully by today's American viewers. But why quibble?

Every cast member is perfect. Roland Young may actually be the most instrumental as Blore in keeping the films wit intact and never allowing it to get too serious. Barry Fitzgerald is terrific as the Judge, and Huston perfection itself as the charming, albeit alcoholic, doctor. Dame Judith Anderson, perhaps the best supporting actress of all time, dominates every seen she is in as a sinister spinster.

But, of course, there is a lead, and in the hands of a lesser actor, he could have wound up being a feckless straight man to all the great character actors around him. With Louis Hayward as Mr. Lombard, the character more than holds his own with all challengers, and has an especially nice chemistry with Young. And although June Duprez is slightly out of her league as a thespian, she is plucky and capable enough, with Hayward's help, to pull off her role just fine.

The atmosphere, photography, and soundtrack are all artistic perfection. This movie is a true treat for all the senses.

The Greengage Summer

A perfect film
Susannah York is magnificent as the young girl who must protect and nurture her siblings while being attacked by unfamiliar situations and coming-of-age. Kenneth More is magnificent as the suave thief with whom she gets enthralled. And Danielle Darrieux is a study in magnificence as the past-her-prime working girl resigned to her fate. The photography is luscious. And the dialogue is utterly realistic with witty repartee giving way to raw feelings. This is one of my top 10 favorite movies of all time.

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