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The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle

The musical to end all musicals
There are two reasons why The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle was Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers's last RKO musical. If you haven't seen it, you don't know what they are. The duo play a real life dance couple, and it could have been very entertaining to watch. But the dances featured in the film mirror the real Castles' style, rather than Fred and Ginger's. By comparison to the delightful and impressive numbers audiences were used to, they saw small dances of the cakewalk and the two-step. The second reason it wasn't well received and put a screeching halt to the beloved duo's musical pairings was because of the ending. I won't spoil it, but I also wouldn't recommend watching this one.

If you do decide to watch it, you'll hear lots of old-fashioned songs to put you in the mood of the turn of the century. "Oh, You Beautiful Doll," "By the Light of the Silvery Moon," and "Little Brown Jug" are cute, but they're not the schmaltzy 1930s songs we're used to. It feels like the two leads are holding back - which they are. The romance is forced and "Hollywood" to give audiences a Cliffs Notes version of the Castles' courtship. For the first time, Fred and Ginger play a married couple, and we can't even enjoy it! They spend most of their time perfecting their vaudeville act, rather than showing their love for each other. The whole film feels watered down.

Pride and Prejudice

It improves Jane Austen
I realize my opinion is an unpopular one, but the 1940 film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice is my favorite. I've seen them all; Colin Firth's wet t-shirt and Keira Knightley's greasy hair aren't enough to change my mind. This charming black-and-white version took liberties with the story, and in my opinion it was a vast improvement!

Required reading in school, I was forced to sift through Jane Austen's fluffy and contrived novel. I've never liked this story, since I've never been able to bring myself to root for the protagonist. But with Greer Garson at the helm, she's delightful and smart. Laurence Olivier makes a very handsome Mr. Darcy, and his aloof persona (with a mixture of light comedy) is just perfect. They spar off each other, with improved dialogue, and allow the audience to get caught up in the pretty dresses and light romance - which is supposed to be the point of the original novel. The 1940 screenplay is far funnier than Austen's version, and the novel's ending that seems to drag on and on is made much simpler and more delightful in the movie. I love it!

With a supporting cast of Maureen O'Sullivan, Ann Rutherford, Edmund Gwenn, Marsha Hunt, and Edna May Oliver, the black-and-white charm lends itself wonderfully to the time period. If you've never seen this version before, rent it with a bunch of your girlfriends. Just be prepared for some differences.

Little Miss Broadway

Shirley's version of 'Babes on Broadway'
We all know the early Shirley Temple movies are the best, but if you're a die-hard fan of the little curly top, you've probably seen Little Miss Broadway a couple of times. It's one of those "let's put on a show!" musicals that doesn't really have much of a story. Lots of unrelated songs, lots of performers, but all in all, not that great. Shirley Temple was credited to saving America from the Great Depression, and this movie served as a miniature tribute to her.

George Murphy is the manager of a small hotel, and he adopts little orphan Shirley. The hotel is populated with a bunch of out-of-work entertainers, and Shirley gets the idea of putting on a big show. They need backers (and Shirley sings a song about it), but the hotel owners, Donald Meek and Edna May Oliver, don't like showbiz and refuse to help. Will Jimmy Durante, Jane Darwell, Phyllis Brooks, and the others be able to make their mark on the stage?

Shirley is very sweet, but she's transitioning into her adolescence and you can see it in her eyes that she's tired of being a little girl. This probably won't end up as a favorite in your collection, but you can check it out on a rainy afternoon.

Ladies of the Jury

The original 'Twelve Angry Men'
Can someone tell me what the big deal was about 1957's Twelve Angry Men? It was a remake of a Playhouse 90 special, and in 1950 there was an extremely similar story about one juror pinned against eleven prejudiced ones: Perfect Strangers. Recently, I just discovered an even earlier version from 1932 with the same theme. In Ladies of the Jury, Edna May Oliver stars as an intelligent, intuitive juror who has the task of changing the other eleven people's minds when they're all set to vote the defendant guilty.

This movie is very dated, engaging in early 1930s tropes, like the overemotional judge, the long-winded stammerer, the gum-chewing floozy, and the low-class Greek. Edna usually took supporting parts in her career, so if you really like her you can rent this or her "Snoopy Withers" mysteries to see her in the lead. But I would really only recommend it if you want to see the original 12 Angry Men. There are times when it gets pretty silly, and it doesn't stand the test of time.


Too strange and creepy
Why would anyone who liked a sweet, magical world with chocolate frogs and talking portraits rent the indie horror flick Horns? Because like a sap, I wanted to support the young cast of Harry Potter and watch whatever movies they made immediately following the franchise. I ended up fast-forwarding most of the last half hour because it was too scary for my taste.

Onto the story: Daniel Radcliffe and his girlfriend Juno Temple are in a happy relationship, but she dies under mysterious circumstances. He doesn't know who murdered her, but as one of the last people to have seen her alive, he's a suspect. He wakes up one day with little horns sprouting from his forehead. As the days go by, the horns grow larger and he looks more and more devilish. Yes, it truly is as strange and creepy as it sounds. And yes, it's clear Daniel Radcliffe made it his mission to shed his "chosen one" image as much as possible. You can count on one hand the number of movies he's made looking "normal". If you liked this one, try Victor Frankenstein next. If you didn't, stick with What If.

Kiddy Warning: Obviously, you have control over your own children. However, due to frightening scenes, I wouldn't let my kids watch it.

December Boys

'Harry Potter' grows up
My friends and I were so excited to see The December Boys, Daniel Radcliffe's first movie outside of the Harry Potter franchise. We even drove to the big city to see it in the theaters! As entertaining as it was, it's understandable that a group of high school girls wouldn't end up liking it.

Unsurprisingly, after playing an orphan in both David Copperfield and Harry Potter, Daniel was cast as another orphan in this coming-of-age drama. In an Australian orphanage (so keep an ear out for that accent), he and his three friends are given a vacation to celebrate their birthdays. If you can't guess what month they were born in, you're not old enough yet to see this movie. As they get the opportunity to relax and soak in the sun at a wealthy couple's home, their dear friendship transforms with jealousy. Since they're all orphans, the idea occurs to them that the couple might adopt one and let him stay; so, they each try to endear themselves.

As is the case for all coming-of-age stories, there's some sadness, some sex, some betrayal, and some wisdom. My girlfriends and I were a little surprised (and reduced to giggles) to see Daniel making out with a girl on the beach. I don't actually like the coming-of-age genre, but somehow I always end up seeing them anyway. Don't expect sunshine and rainbows with this movie. The preview makes it look more lighthearted than it is. But if you want to see Daniel Radcliffe making one of his rare "normal" movies, go ahead and rent it.

The Long Voyage Home

Incredible direction
One of the greatest directors of the silver screen, John Ford once again filmed a masterpiece in The Long Voyage Home. The movie isn't actually that good, but the direction is fantastic. He uses interesting and inventive camera angles on the ship, and the storm sequence is so believable, I'd almost say I didn't know how he did it. If you're a Ford fan but have only seen his westerns, rent this one. It's a little slow, but that's to be expected. Life on a ship can be very slow, and as the title suggests, it's a long voyage. Plus, it's a story by Eugene O'Neill, so that's a guarantee of slowness.

The cast includes John Wayne and Ward Bond, of course, and Thomas Mitchell as the lead. John Qualen, Barry Fitzgerald, Ian Hunter, Arthur Shields, and Rafaela Ottiano make up the supporting cast. You'll also see Mildred Natwick for a few minutes in a role she never played again: a prostitute! You might notice John Wayne hardly talks during this movie, but he had a reason for it: he plays someone Swedish, and he was very self-conscious about putting on a Swedish accent. Isn't that cute?

If you have patience, this is a staple of classic film direction. If you'd rather watch something a little quicker paced or with a shorter running time, you can check out Ford's masterpiece The Hurricane. It's amazing the effects he created with water and no computer graphics.

Lady for a Day

Timeless tearjerker
The classic story of Apple Annie is timeless. You can watch several versions of it, from 1933 all the way through to a Chinese adaptation starring Jackie Chan in 1989. Every version I've seen has reduced me to tears, and I wholeheartedly recommend the original: Lady for a Day.

If you don't know the story, May Robson plays a poor woman who sacrifices to give her daughter a better life. In other words, she's the epitome of the long suffering mom. She literally sells apples on the street while her daughter goes to a European finishing school. So that her daughter doesn't find out about her destitute, low-class condition, she writes her letters on fancy hotel stationary. Finally, her daughter announces she's coming home to visit, and to introduce her very wealthy fiancé. What's May to do?

As the story goes, Apple Annie has a powerful friend: a gangster who always buys her apples for good luck. When he learns of her plight, he makes it his mission to help her. In this version, the gangster is played by Warren Williams, a very popular actor from the early 1930s. You'll also see Walter Connolly, Guy Kibbee, Jean Parker, Glenda Farrell, Ned Sparks, Nat Pendleton, Halliwell Hobbs, and an early walk-on from Ward Bond If you like this story, you'll love Stella Dallas or the musical remake Pocketful of Miracles starring Bette Davis and Glenn Ford.

Joan of Arc

Not even Ingrid could save it
Of all the wonderful Ingrid Bergman dramas, I don't understand why Joan of Arc was one of the famous ones. Sure, it's always nice to see her sparkling blue eyes in Technicolor, but the script was corny and the production almost felt like it was a spoof. Remember how silly Danny Kaye looked in his suit of armor in The Court Jester? I couldn't shake the image from my head when Ingrid put on her own oversized armor. A larger than life actress in her own right, I'm not sure it was really her fault that Joan of Arc was so lousy. Perhaps no one could have saved this spectacle.

It is notable for debuting José Ferrer to the screen public, although it's hardly a memorable performance. Just wait two years and catch him in his signature Cyrano de Bergerac. You'll also see many, many familiar faces in the supporting cast: Charles Bickford, Gene Lockhart, Ward Bond, Roman Bohnen, Selena Royle, Ray Teal, Robert Barrat, Jimmy Lydon, Richard Ney, and George Coulouris. If you're a die-hard old movie buff, you'll want to put this classic on your list. But it won't really give you a great impression of Ingrid Bergman. Try her out in the lesser known drama The Visit for one of her career-best performances.

The Grapes of Wrath

Famous but boring
"Wherever there's a fight, I'll be there. Wherever there's a cop, I'll be there." If you actually make it to the point in the movie where Henry Fonda rattles off his big speech, congratulations. The movie is so dismal, and his voice is so irritating, it's hard to make it through the entire movie all at once.

The only redeeming parts of this classic John Ford drama are the supporting characters. Jane Darwell (rewarded with an Oscar statuette and a Hot Toasty Rag nomination) plays the long-suffering mom. She's tough and hardened, and has sacrificed her whole life for her family and the farm. I can never make it past her famous packing scene without crying.

Charley Grapewin also gives an impressive, but brief, performance. He plays the grandfather, without his teeth and with a constant palsy. It's very sad to hear his wobbly voice, but it's shades of things to come. To see more of a great thing, rent Tobacco Road to see his Rag-winning performance. John Carradine and John Qualen are familiar faces, even though the box office draw is Henry Fonda. Had he spent the entire movie in his little cap just enjoying some close-ups, it would have been much better. But, we all know his voice is annoying, and to hear him speak line after line of John Steinbeck drama... Well, it takes a very alert audience member.

If you haven't seen this classic yet, you'll probably feel compelled to watch it. But don't worry if you don't like it. You're in good company. Try a different Steinbeck; there are many, many movies to choose from.

The Halliday Brand

Incredibly low budget
If you want to hate the western genre forever, go ahead and rent The Halliday Brand. Otherwise, do everyone a favor (especially Joseph Cotten and Ward Bond) and forget it was ever made. I don't know what was wrong with the director, but this might be the worst filmed old movie I've ever seen. Joseph H. Lewis, famous for turning low-budget pictures into palatable ones, didn't give his magic touch to this drama. Perhaps he only had $5,000 in the entire budget, and he didn't have any money to film close-ups or medium shots. Perhaps he did film the variety, but there was a terrible fire and all the footage was lost. Or perhaps he accidentally recorded the rehearsals while the camera was poised for the wide shot, and by the time he realized the error, they were out of time and money.

If you've ever wondered whether close-ups were necessary to a movie, they certainly are. Joseph Cotten, Ward Bond, Betsy Blair, and Viveca Lindfors had clenched fists, long pauses after each line (which actors sometimes provide in long shots to make it easier on the editor), and often turned their backs on the camera because they assumed the subsequent close-up would make up the difference. I felt so sorry for these actors.

The story itself was also difficult to root for. Ward plays the powerful patriarch in the western town, and his daughter Betsy Blair falls for a half-Indian hired hand. They sneak around and kiss each other while hiding in the man's house - unacceptable behavior no matter what color her boyfriend's skin is. Also, this was a period piece, during a time when a woman's reputation mattered. Also, her father's a sheriff. And yet we're supposed to be on Betsy's side when Ward forbids the match. As a loving, responsible father, is he supposed to encourage his daughter to be ostracized from the entire town, raising mixed children who are ridiculed by their peers? Her husband could easily be lynched, for daring to marry such a prominent white man's daughter.

I sat through this entire movie for love of Ward Bond. He died two years later, and I certainly missed his energy in the 1960s. Thankfully, George Kennedy quickly stepped up the plate and served as a replacement. But I treasure Ward while I can - just not in this movie.

The Informer

Doesn't stand the test of time
Victor McLaglen won the Academy Award for his performance in The Informer. A classic and an award winner, I was anxious to rent it. If it had been made in the 1950s during or right after the HUAC trials, I'd understand why it was so popular. An Irish rebel collaborates with police and turns in his friends, then he reaps the consequences. But in 1935, it was merely an early talkie with a mediocre story.

For anyone who doesn't like old movies or haven't watched that many, I wouldn't recommend starting with this one. It doesn't stand the test of time very well, with the dialogue that's hard to understand, the acting that's over-the-top, and the 1930s directing style. I'm not generally a fan of Irish rebellion movies, but I was better able to appreciate Beloved Enemy. The Informer is supposed to evoke your sympathy for Victor, but he's not very sympathetic. He makes bad choices, he's low-class and intellectually limited, and he plays his character as a stereotype. Many believe Victor won the Oscar because the Supporting Actor category hadn't been created yet, and all three men from Mutiny on the Bounty split the vote in the leading category. But hopefully that didn't rain on Victor's parade and he still enjoyed his award.

A Man Alone

Milland's version of 'High Noon'
Why was High Noon so popular, when many other westerns had the same theme and were infinitely better? If you want to see Ray Milland's version, check out A Man Alone, which he directed as well. I used to jokingly call him Ray Mi-bland because I thought he was boring, but that was before I'd seen his good movies. Who would have thought he'd pull off the role of a western gunfighter?

The common theme of an entire town turning against an innocent man is present in this drama. Ray comes across a stagecoach massacre, and when he rides into town on one of the surviving horses, everyone thinks he was the bandit who did it. When a beautiful woman with a lovely figure, Mary Murphy, believes in his innocence, she offers him shelter. As if he needed any more obstacles, Mary's father is the local sheriff, Ward Bond. Ward is very sick and Mary's caring for him while he's confined to his bed. I didn't like seeing him looking so old and ill, especially since I knew he died a few years later, but he still had his signature warm energy.

It's not the best western out there, but it's definitely worth watching. If you like Ray Milland, or if you like the storyline, you'll probably enjoy it. Next up, try Riding Shotgun or Silver Lode.

Mister Roberts

It's hard to make a war comedy
There are many other people in the cast of Mister Roberts, but the only one everyone remembers is Jack Lemmon. Winning Best Supporting Actor at the Oscars, his style is the manic, over-the-top comedy you can also find as he plays the bongos in Bell Book and Candle. He hadn't yet found his comic perfection or his dramatic talents, and I have no idea why he was rewarded by the Academy so early in his career. If you do like him in this movie, check out the 1964 sequel Ensign Pulver, with Robert Walker Jr. Taking over Jack's role.

The story takes place on a cargo ship with a stern captain, James Cagney. William Powell is the calm ship doctor with wisdom and one-liners. Henry Fonda is the title character who is unsatisfied "sitting out" the war and keeps applying for a transfer. Jack Lemmon is the comic relief who flirts and bargains and scrounges and makes trouble. Basically, everyone plays a caricature of themselves, overacting to the back row and reminding everyone in the audience that it was originally a Broadway play. Obviously, I wouldn't recommend this one. I'm very tough on war comedies, since it's hard to add humor to an extremely serious subject matter. Keep you eye out for a supporting cast of Ward Bond, Philip Carey, Nick Adams, Harry Carey Jr., and Patrick Wayne.

On Dangerous Ground

Great direction from Nicholas Ray
Poor Robert Ryan, always playing the bad guy. Well, in On Dangerous Ground, he has a bit of the hero in him. He plays a cop, but a nasty one who always gets pushed one step too far and beats up the real bad guys. He feels terrible about it afterwards, and he gets several tearful scenes expressing his regret and frustration. I love Robert's performance, as he's given many layers and opportunities to expose the audience to his character. He's very three-dimensional in this movie.

Ida Lupino also does a great job, a mysterious woman who prefers her solitude as she lives up on a mountain top. She meets Robert when he's following the trail of a murderer, and he comes across her house. Joining the search is Ward Bond, in one of his last movies, a grieving father out for revenge on the man who killed his daughter. The acting in this movie is all-around impressive, as is the direction from Nicholas Ray. The lights and shadows in Ida's house are very natural looking, and Ray manages to take the camera through a terrible car accident. How does he do it? Rent this thriller to find out. Keep your ears peeled for Bernard Herrmann's theme music that sounds exactly like what he would later write for North by Northwest!

DLM Warning: If you suffer from vertigo or dizzy spells, like my mom does, this movie might not be your friend. When Robert Ryan and Ward Bond are in the car, be prepared for a crash. They flip over a couple of times, and the camera does too. In other words, "Don't Look, Mom!"

The Searchers

Good, but not fantastic
For such a famous western, The Searchers doesn't really stand the test of time. John Ford, John Wayne, and Ward Bond, the three musketeers of the western genre, all bring their great energy to the production, but the story is pretty basic and Jeffrey Hunter's character is irritating. He's got a hair-trigger temper and constantly argues with John Wayne about important issues. John has much more experience and wisdom, so he should be respected - especially within his own family (Jeff is his nephew).

While John is visiting his brother's family, there's an Indian attack. Jeff's mother is brutally killed and his baby sister is kidnapped. John and Jeff take the rest of the movie to go riding through Indian country and search for the missing girl. John's performance was much better than I was expecting. He has a dramatic scene with tears in his voice when he finds a dead girl violated by the Indians. He's smart and tenacious, but when he finds humor in the bleak surroundings, he laughs with his whole heart. And he's pretty cute, too!

In the supporting cast, you'll see the familiar face of John Qualen (and his familiar accent) as a good-natured neighbor, and Ward Bond as a reverend. I love Ward's entrance scene, where he sweeps into the cabin with his powerful energy, barking out orders, greeting the women with kisses and the men with deputy swear-ins. While I do miss his energy when he's not on the screen, John Wayne makes up for it. Natalie Wood can be seen for about ten minutes, and Vera Miles for twice as long. This isn't a female movie, and only for the die-hard westerns in the audience. If you haven't seen it yet, check it out, but you might want to watch Hondo next. It's one of my favorites!

The Sullivans

A little too Hollywood, though tragic
It might not sound like it from the title, but The Fighting Sullivans is a tearjerker. Based on a true story, five Iowan sons grow up with their loving parents in the years before WWII. Thomas Mitchell, the proverbial Irish father, and Selena Royle, the proverbial hard-working mother, are the heads of the family. They see the boys through school, love, and work. When the war breaks out, much to Selena's dismay, all five boys are anxious to join the Navy. I won't tell you exactly what happens, but Ward Bond has a small but important role: a Naval officer who visits the house.

The story itself is interesting, though tragic. But the actual production could have been better executed. Parts of the film are corny, parts rush when it would have been more emotional to slow them down, and parts seem strictly Hollywood rather than realistic, like the romance with Anne Baxter. But if you really like sad war stories, you can check it out.

Drums Along the Mohawk

Edna and Ward are the best parts
I've always thought Claudette Colbert was out of place when she acted in period pieces (Cleopatra excepted, of course). Although beautiful, her eyebrows and makeup style didn't look very old-fashioned. Drums Along the Mohawk takes place before the Revolutionary War, but if she really walked around with that much makeup, she'd have been branded as a harlot. She's married to Henry Fonda, who looks nearly as beautiful as she, and they try to make a go of life in the Wild West. Not a traditional cowboys and Indians movie, but they do have to battle Indians while surviving on their little farm in their small western town.

In my opinion, the supporting actors are the best part of this movie. Edna May Oliver plays a strong pioneer woman with tons of compassion and a great spirit. She was nominated for both an Oscar and a Rag for her career-best performance. It's also the only time you'll get to see her enjoy an onscreen kiss! During a party celebration, Ward Bond makes it his mission to wipe away the memory of her late husband - and with a Code-breaking eight-second smooch, he succeeds!

If you're interested in a western that takes place in 1700s, they're pretty hard to find so you can check out this oldie. There's lots of eye candy, even though the leads' acting leaves much to be desired. It's a classic, and I'd watch it again, but it's not something I'd show to a friend who doesn't like old movies. It won't really change your mind about anything, except for Edna and Ward.

Dead End

Bad childhoods even in the 1930s
If you don't like the Dead End Kids, you're not going to like the movie Dead End. The synopsis will have you think the film is about a gangster returning to his hometown, but it's really about the kids. Most old movies tend to gloss over troubled kids, with the exception of Rebel Without a Cause and subsequent post-Code '60s drive-in movies. But there were always poor kids who got into trouble and had bad home lives, even in 1937. One of the few movies you'll see evidence of it is Dead End.

For me, the memorable part of this movie is Humphrey Bogart. You can watch Angels with Dirty Faces for James Cagney, but for Humph, I always turn to Dead End. He's a big gangster who's come back to the city, with his faithful crony Allen Jenkins, after extensive plastic surgery so the cops won't recognize him. He's built up a reunion with his old girlfriend, Claire Trevor, in his mind. She'll still be the same innocent, devoted sweetheart she was years ago, he thinks. Obviously, since Claire Trevor plays the girlfriend, you can imagine the rude awakening he has in store. It's a great scene, complete with some wonderfully written lines. He earned a Hot Toasty Rag nomination for this movie, and those are hard to come by! If you are a Humph fan, check out one of his early pictures where he still played the supporting actor. Joel McCrea and Sylvia Sidney are the leads, as they try to muddle through their love story while living in the slums and never getting ahead.

China Doll

Unexpected tearjerker
Banking on the success of the previous year's Sayonara, there were a few movies that continued with the theme of soldier who falls for an Asian woman in 1958. In this one, Victor Mature plays an experienced pilot in charge of training a bunch of green soldiers. He lets off steam from his stressful workday by getting drunk at a bar, and as he's staggering home, he's approached by an old Chinese man who sells him his daughter. Victor has no idea what's happened, but in the morning, he talks to his old friend who does speak Chinese and clarifies the matter.

Li Hua Li in her American debut, is Victor's indentured housekeeper, set to stay with him for three months while he gets his money's worth. At first, he's just content to let her mop the floor and cook his meals, but after she gets a makeover and a new dress, he notices other things about her. As you know if you see Victor in his non-epic films, he wears some wonderful expressions on his face when cast in a dramatic role.

The best part of this movie is Ward Bond, the priest who runs a local orphanage. He's sympathetic and wise, helps his pal Victor with problems of the heart, and speaks Chinese. Yes, you read that correctly; Ward Bond speaks Chinese. He's pretty good, too! So, if you're a fan, you've got to rent China Doll. Be prepared, though. It's a tearjerker. I wasn't prepared, and I wound up groping blindly for the Kleenex box.

DLM Warning: If you suffer from vertigo or dizzy spells, like my mom does, this movie might not be your friend. The first few minutes of the film have swirling camera work during the flying scenes, and it will make you sick. In other words, "Don't Look, Mom!"

3 Godfathers

Heartwarming and sweet
Even though 3 Godfathers is a very cute movie, there's an incredibly sadness to the premise. A woman, Mildred Natwick, dies in childbirth in the middle of the desert. Her husband is dead, and the last faces she sees are three strangers who chanced upon her wagon. She names the baby after them and makes them godfathers. Together, they have to learn how to take care of a newborn as well as survive in the desert.

Still, it's cute and heartwarming. John Wayne has never been cuter (except in Hondo), and when he rocks the little baby against his chest, my heart melts every time. Pedro Armendariz and Harry Carey Jr. Are just as sweet and clueless, reading baby manuals and trying to make milk formula out of cactus water. In the background of heartwarming fatherhood, however, is a bit of an adventure setting. After all, three men and a newborn are stranded in the desert with rattlesnakes, Indians, and sandstorms. There are moments when you don't know if they'll make it out alive, and even though there's a baby on the screen, there are some pretty dramatic moments.

John Wayne and Ward Bond fans should definitely check this movie out. There have been many versions of the story, even silent movies, but this one is my favorite.

Los pianos mecánicos

Not ideal for Americans, but nice visuals
While Hardy Kruger is fluent in several languages, James Mason is not. So in The Uninhibited, Hardy walks around Spain speaking Spanish - and James gets dubbed. It's very funny, but this movie isn't really a comedy. Hardy goes to Spain on vacation and falls for James's girlfriend, Melina Mercouri. James is a novelist in every sense of the word: a party animal, broad-minded, and not very responsible. He has a son he doesn't raise and a string of young girls constantly coming and going from his bedroom. It's no wonder Melina doesn't think twice before hopping into bed with Hardy (not to mention how cute he is).

This very European flick won't appeal to most American audiences. Spoken mostly in Spanish, with a little English here and there, it's an odd love triangle with very European views of romance. "Go ahead, be my houseguest and sleep with my girlfriend," isn't a very American thing to say. Mason fans won't really enjoy it. Melina looks pretty with her blonde hair, though, and you'll get to see some pretty scenery. Oh yes, the Spanish riviera is nice to look at, too.

Spring and Port Wine

Poor James Mason
If any of you wondered why James Mason wasn't cast as the patriarch in The Family Way, check out the British family flick Spring and Port Wine. While the plot isn't the same, it has a very similar feel to it. He's a husband and father who tries his best but doesn't have a great relationship with his family. The lifestyle and dialogue are both very British, and it feels like a slice of life in one unhappy happy family. Everyone has a natural chemistry together, as if they've really lived under the same roof for thirty years. James is very strict with his children, but he has extremely good intentions.

In one way or another, the family always seem to get the better of him. His eldest son gets away with smoking in the house as long as he puts out the cigarette a few minutes before James comes home. His eldest daughter has a boyfriend he doesn't approve of. His wife, Diana Coupland, is terrible with the household budget and borrows from her neighbors and children to fool James into thinking she didn't overspend. When his entitled, attitude-ridden teenage daughter asks for a different meal during their afternoon tea, James takes offense. It isn't enough that Diana slaves away in the kitchen to prepare a lovely fried haddock; now she has to prepare a second meal for one person's serving? He argues that she should eat the dinner out of respect to her mother, and she smugly states, "There's nothing you can say that will make me eat it."

There sprouts a battle of the wills. Under James's direction, Diana brings out the same plate of fried herring for her daughter during every meal. She either eats the haddock or she doesn't eat at all. I'm sure people in the audience will take father or daughter's side, and I unapologetically took James's side. I understood his strict parenting style and agreed that it was best for his goals. When his kids tried to get back at him, go behind his back, or disrespect him, it hurt to watch. Since I also know that the Masons had difficulty raising their own children, I could only imagine how much this script hit home for him. Plus, James has such expressive eyes, when he's hurt, disappointed, or regretful, it just makes me want to sweep him up in a bear hug.


Notoriously lousy
Candy, a psychedelic 1960s sex comedy, is famous for being terrible. Everyone who was in it admitted it was terrible, and the leading lady retired shortly afterwards. Marlon Brando said it was the worst movie he ever made - quite a criticism. Although, his vignette contained the funniest joke: while trying to uncross his legs from Lotus position, he falls off his chair and topples to the ground.

Ewa Aulin, the beautiful, spacy title character, plays the object of everyone's desire. Literally, every single man in the movie tries (and most succeed) to sleep with her, even her own father. As she innocently agrees to everyone's requests to take over her clothes, bend over, and get into bed. From Walter Matthau's "if you love your country, take off your clothes" speech, to Richard Burton declaring his "enormous need" while in the backseat of his car, this is one ridiculous vignette after another. Ringo Starr pretends to be a Mexican gardener, Marlon Brando is an Indian guru taking her through the different levels of enlightenment, James Coburn is a master surgeon who teaches her to play doctor, and John Astin is her incestuous father. Richard Burton spoofs his pal Dylan Thomas, lecturing poetry and bringing along his own wind machine so his hair always flutters around his face.

Unless you like watching notoriously terrible movies, don't watch this one. It's basically two hours devoted to showing off Ewa Aulin's face and body. She is a very beautiful young lady, but that's hardly a good reason to watch what could be described as a two-hour drug hallucination.

DLM Warning: If you suffer from vertigo or dizzy spells, like my mom does, this movie might not be your friend. There are some psychedelic camera movies and weird tilt/zooms throughout the movie, and it will make you sick. In other words, "Don't Look, Mom!"

Kiddy Warning: Obviously, you have control over your own children. However, due to sexual content and incest, I wouldn't let my kids watch it.


A little on the slow side
If you don't the classic story of Mayerling, you're in for quite the tumultuous drama. I'd already seen the Audrey Hepburn and Mel Ferrer version, which although was a lesser production, had more meaning behind it. The leads were really in love, so you could easily root for them and believe they'd do anything to be together.

In this 1968 remake, Omar Sharif and Catherine Deneuve don't have much chemistry together. He has more chemistry with Ava Gardner, who plays his stepmother; no doubt there was supposed to be some incestuous innuendos on her end. It is in Technicolor, and you'll get to see some beautiful ballgowns and sets, but it's a little on the slow side. Ava and Catherine look very pretty, and Omar has some wonderful expressions through his perpetually dewy eyes, but if you have a tendency to get bored, this isn't the love story for you. Plus, who wants to see James Mason looking so frumpy? Fans of Romeo and Juliet or Tristan and Isolde will be swept up by the romance, but I'll stick with Doctor Zhivago when I want to see Omar fall in love with a blonde.

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