I'm a (long) lifelong sci-fi film lover and I'm fairly literate on physics, astronomy, etc. but definitely NOT a scientist nor do I have a related background. That said, I found this film way over it's head for any normal audience. Perhaps utilizing some aspects of gravity unknowns, or black holes, or wormholes, or multiple dimensions, or time travel, or climate messages would have piqued my interest but using ALL of them in one film only confused an already confused film. "Contact" fans know well the term 'Occam's Razor' and I find it appropriate for this film. Just keep it simple! You can still make an intelligent film, complete with a great script and special effects..without thinking it has to have everything including the kitchen sink. Ironically, that term in Contact was first voiced by Matthew McConaughey. I was severely disappointed in the film, not one I will add to my library. Great special effects, that's about it.
While channel surfing I ran across this film, I had missed at least the first 10 minutes. I viewed for a moment, as Randolph Scott is watching two dusty riders show up at an abandoned stage depot in the middle of nowhere. First guy off his horse is Lee Marvin and he's soon telling Scott that he would not sink that low (killing a woman), I was hooked. I watched the remainder of the film and I was chagrined I had not seen it before.
No spoilers here and the plot has been commented on a lot. Two items I wanted to mention: Lee Marvin's excellent performance..easy to spot stardom was heading his way. He reminded me a little of Burt Lancaster in "Vera Cruz"..a bad guy you just can't hate. The other is that I'm sure Sergio Leone was taking notes also. For example, the use of unique outdoor settings like the claustrophobic rocks and tunnels, vistas, etc. There is more quiet than noise indoors, such as the saloon..so that tensions can quietly build. And lastly, the final scenes between Scott and Marvin. Leone loved the build up between two men facing off in a gunfight as much as the action itself..he must have noted that in this film.
*****Minor Spoiler***** I've seen this film many times over the years and only now did it really hit me how John Ford treasured the value of a single life. Other reviewers have already covered well John Wayne's acting and the awesome photography in Monument Valley. But think about the lives lost or wounded in the film. In the first action against the Indian warriors Capt. Brittles orders his men to "shoot high" and..no warriors are killed or wounded. In later actions one trooper is wounded and much is made of his subsequent operation and good prognosis. One trooper (the ex-Confederate officer) does die from his wounds and again, this is not treated lightly, either by ex-Confederate or ex-Union.
Most films of this genre leave countless bodies all over the place. Not so this one and that's what I take away from the film. That Ford felt life was to be treasured, that it was rare and not to be wasted. Perhaps this comes from his wartime service? Even the stampeding of the Indian ponies results in no casualties..on either side. I think Ford wanted his audience to go away thinking there are better ways than war and the wasting of lives.
Perhaps if someone sees this film first they will then be pleasantly surprised to see the improvement in Part II ("Gettysburg"). But, it's best to keep it a secret from them that "Gettysburg" was actually made 10 years earlier. I was totally underwhelmed by this film and saw a number of people walk out during the first half. Others never made it back after the intermission. I would have too but I'm a glutton for history, no matter the punishment. This film does not come even close to "Gettysburg". It's more like a bad Shakespearean play..terrible speeches filling in for dialogue and bad dialogue when they were not speeches! For anyone not really familiar with US history and/or the Civil War...they never will be now! This was like sitting through "The Longest Day" meets "Gone With the Wind"
The film has a decidedly "southern" tilt to it. I'm sure that General Jackson was a fine gentleman and leader for the south but I would have liked more balance. There was a very obvious and determined effort to show the south fighting for states rights and "freedom", as opposed to having slavery as a cause of the war. Yes, states rights were an issue, perhaps the issue for the south...but for the north the slavery issue was very real, despite the attempt to downplay it. The film took pains to show (one) "house" slave, Martha. Educated and pretty but, there was no showing of any of the real misery of slavery.
The music score from "Gettysburg" was outstanding, but in "Gods" it's tedious and monotonous. Stephen Lang was OK but there are many actors who could look like they wanted to cry at every moment. This film should have simply been called "Stonewall" and shortened to about 2 hours...then it might have value. As it stands, it's a fiasco.
I first saw this film while in Catholic grade school. It struck a chord then and it's stayed with me throughout my life. I've wondered why because I've seen every epic, every historical, war, every biblical film film ever made but...Ben Hur still haunts me. Now that I have many years behind me, I have a better feel for the answer. It's because I have found my faith tested so many times over the years. It does not have to be Christian, or Jewish or even Islamic, perhaps not even religion itself. But, as you watch Ben Hur discover or rediscover his faith, it's reminds me that I too am on a life long mission of looking for answers.
I have one daughter who is interested in WWII in Europe and the other is more into WWII in the Pacific. Between the two I've seen every recent war film and naturally, everything in the past 60 years. I was really pumped for Windtalkers as I like Nicolas Cage and had read about the Navajo code talkers over the years. Unfortunately, the film failed to deliver on the people, the history and the importance of these brave and patriotic Native Americans. After having their culture destroyed by "whites" they still volunteered..for America. ("The Tuskegee Airmen" also pointed out quite well the conflicts raging inside during WWII). Hopefully, sometime in the next 30-40-50 years they will do a remake of this film and get it right.
Speaking of remakes, how about doing one on "Hell to Eternity". This Jeffrey Hunter vehicle about a Japanese raised Hispanic kid in LA and his Marine action in WWII is still strong. He too had multiple conflicts tearing him apart and we need to see these, know these. "The Thin Red Line" was built in this mode but was too heavy handed for many viewers. I highly recommend "Hell to Eternity" for anyone who has not seen it.
Jim Morris (Dennis Quaid) finds he is on his way to "the bigs"..you have not lived long enough to have had a lifetime dream. Maybe it's because I'm older now and a lot more sentimental than in my youth but this film brought joyful tears as Morris reached his dream. My teenage daughter (and baseball fan as well) ALSO loved this film so perhaps it's not just me. It's as American as you can get: baseball, underdog, and surmounting the odds. So what if he pitched only parts of two seasons, only a few innings altogether...the man made it to the majors! If this had been a fiction story like "The Natural", I would have thought it OK but, the tears come from knowing this was a true story, about real people. It's a lot tougher to "get it right" on real people and I applaud the film makers of "The Rookie" for being on target. It's in good stead with the Ruth, Gehrig, Alexander, Stratton, Piersal, etc. films. We need MORE uplifting, hopeful films like this!
I'm sure a straight dramatic remake would not make it in this day and age but a musical might be a good way to go. A recent animated film, Shrek, reminded me of The Enchanted Cottage...at least as far as having a similar theme on love and beauty and, it was very successful.
I thought Robert Young did better work in films like Crossfire and Northwest Passage. Same goes for Dorothy McGuire..I thought she did her best work when she was in her 40's and 50's. It's the supporting work by Herbert Marshall and Mildred Natwick that provide the atmosphere and continuity for the story. I'm still a sucker though for this film, always will be. But, a musical...? Yeah..I'll buy a ticket!
A host of Roman related films such as Quo Vadis, Ben Hur, The Robe, Fall of the Roman Empire, etc. preceeded Gladiator. I enjoy Russell Crowe but felt his Oscar award should have waited for A Beautiful Mind...not Gladiator. Juaquin Phoenix was very nearly as good as Christopher Plummer's Commodus in Fall of the Roman Empire. I enjoyed watching the film for it's special effects and opening battle scene to see how closely Scott came to recreating a real battle. I looked at the costuming, weaponry, etc. and in all respects I think Ridley Scott did an outstanding job...I was convinced I was seeing Rome, Romans, and Roman battle.
But, the story itself paled in comparison to the wonderful effects! I felt in my heart the animosity, the loathing that came between Ben Hur and Messala. I did not get that kind of feeling with Maximus and Commodus. You cannot help but feel the agony of Ben Hur who, having defeated his mortal enemy, finds out from Messala's last words that the "race is not over". At the end of Gladiator, it's "who will help me carry a great Roman" and off we go.
I never quite understood why the other gladiators were so quick to die for Maximus. After all, he was there to kill them. (the charioteers from the Battle of Zama scene were gladiators also..at least that's how it would have historically been). I could not buy into Commodus's thinking on letting Maximus live. The real Commodus would not have hesitated, Maximus would have been executed on the spot when he revealed his face. I'm hoping that more classically developed stories of "real" characters will be well filmed when they show up in 2003-2004 ("Alexander the Great", "Troy" and "Hannibal"). I'd love to see Ridley Scott-style special effects in all these but...with story lines that I can really feel in my gut.
This film has special meaning for me as I was living in Berlin during the filming and, subsequent screening in the city. Mind you, in 1966-67 the Wall was there, East German border guards and a definite (cold war) cloud hanging over the city. I loved seeing and feeling the night shots in this film and, as it was shot on location, the sense of reality was heightened for me. Very eerie film score, I believe John Barry did it but, I'm not sure. George Segal was good at digging for information without gadgets. A bit too sardonic at times, I think his character wanted to be elsewhere, clashing with KGB agents instead of ferreting out neo-nazis. I feel this film much more typified real counter espionage in the 60's as opposed to the early Bond flicks (which I love, by the way). Senta Berger was gorgeous! And, the final scene (with her and Segal) is done extremely well (won't spoil it for those who still wish to see it...it fully sums up the film, the tension filled times and cold war-era Germany). Also contains one of the final appearences of George Sanders in a brief role, a classic in his own right!
I was 6 when I saw War of the Worlds, my first color sci-fi film, "live" in a theater. (We did not have TV then!). I've seen all the other classics like "Invasion of the Body Snatchers", "Day the Earth Stood Still", "Them", "The Thing", etc. before and after WOTW, all good films but War of The Worlds was in a class all by itself. I know, the Brits lampoon the film all the time because it's not set in England/London, and not in the proper time period. I didn't know why it was updated and set in LA but..as a 6 year old I could have cared less...the movie was magical, frightening and memorable.
Over the years I've read the book and and seen dozens of films within this genre. Yes, FX are far better now but 50 years ago this film set the standard. I hope the rumored remake in 2004 can be as memorable. Gene Barry and Ann Robinson did a great job. (If they're up to it, it would be neat for them to have cameos) Has anyone compared the farmhouse scene to the similar scene in "Close Encounters". Both deliver the goods...they scare the heck out of you. The sound effects were so outstanding the producers of the new film should consider using them again! All true WOTW fans know that the sounds of the "cobra" and the weapons fire are sounds you never forget..like the antenna sounds of "Them".
Try to look past the re-locating and re-dating, kick back and enjoy a film that was king for 20-30 years, not topped until "2001", "Star Wars", "Close Encounters" and "Alien" came along.
I was a teenager when I first saw this film. I was raised on the ancient spectacle films of the 50's and 60's and feel this one holds up quite well. No, it's not perfection with respect to history. The Spartans were hardly democratic or benevolent. But, they were fiercely proud, great warriors and very independent. The film does a fine job choreographing the 2-3 day battle, given the budget and FX limitations of the early 60's. Very similar to "Helen of Troy" in these respects. Richard Egan was excellent as Leonidas but the script was very limiting for him and the rest of the cast. I will look forward to seeing the film that results from Steven Pressfield's "Gates of Fire". Hopefully 40+ years of technology will create a true epic, as befitting an action (unknown to most school kids today) that helped preserve and push Western Civilization.
I enjoyed watching Richard Burton in countless films, sometimes just to hear his distinct voice. But he did not match up to my expectations of Alexander the Great. He seemed older through the whole film, not capturing the fire, the intensity that the real Alexander must have had. I understand a remake is due in 2003-04, that Morocco is providing 5,000 extras and Leonardo Di Caprio will be Alexander. I look forward to seeing his interpretation. I walked through the Khyber Pass, sharing some of the footsteps of Alexander and trust the new film will fare better than this one. Other films of the period had limited budgets and special effects but still rise above this one, even Italian entries like "Helen of Troy" was superior. As much as I like Burton, as much as I love "sword 'n sandal" movies, I don't watch this one whenever it's on TV.
It seems moviegoers either love or hate this film. Most Brits look down on it for neglecting the Allies perspective. Yes, it is a decidedly American film and why not? Yanks coming ashore at Omaha were not hand in hand with Brits nor did they care. They were with their buddies and they were there to stay alive and kill Germans...not just Nazis...Germans...the enemy. The five Sullivans were real and their tragic deaths ripped the heart out of most normal Americans at the time, and to this day. Americans would never again risk that heartache upon a single mother. Perhaps this did not occur with any British family, making it difficult for the audience to relate to this premise of the film.
Many say the first 25 minutes are excellent and then the film fades to standard. I believe the original hoopla is generated by the very real special effects. Few can deny that this film raised the bar for moviegoer battle sensation. The scene in the village, at the end, where Hanks, et al are awaiting the Panzers and the rubble shakes beneath them still sends chills up my spine. Hollywood movie? Sure! American as apple pie! And Hollywood will continue to make "Yank" films because...we will still find those eight Yanks today that will risk their lives to save one.