marcin_kukuczka

IMDb member since March 2004
    Lifetime Total
    500+
    Lifetime Filmo
    10+
    Lifetime Plot
    5+
    Lifetime Trivia
    25+
    Top Reviewer
     
    IMDb Member
    16 years

Reviews

La piovra
(1984)

Hunters and Victims
Having found the series after long search, I am viewing all the seasons with my wife. Partly thanks to sentiment and partly thanks to enhanced interest in the movies of the genre, the story of the Commissario appears to be seen at a slightly different, a more in-depth manner. Personally, I, as a viewer, am more experienced and have a far more focused eye on details than I used to have as a kid (it was on Polish TV in the 1980s). Since my review on PIOVRA I was very general, I decided to write reviews on separate six episodes of season one. Since it is where it all began, an absolute must-see and an engrossing continuation is what we get here...

Written by Ennio de Concini again but directed by Florestano Vancini (not Damiano Damiani as it was with the first season), LA PIOVRA II more or less meets the expectations of its fans. First, it nicely continues the plots of the major characters, no actors are changed as it has been the case with so many serials, and it retains the major atmosphere of the previous episodes. Most importantly, however, it fluently continues with the story of the Commissario and his family. Though the locations...

The locations become broader and move not only to more cities but to more countries of Europe. The first scene that we have is set in Geneve, by the lake in Switzerland where Corrado Cattani (Michele Placido) seems to have resigned from his struggle against the mafia in Sicily, wants to stay with his family, particularly his seriously harmed daughter and wife Elsa (Nicole Jamet) who really underwent trauma in Sicily. Yet, one Ettore Ferretti (Sergio Ceccetto) tries to persuade the commissario to come back and undertake the task. What seems to be the motivation for him is to pursue vengeance and justice on the people responsible for his daughter's harm. But soon, the personal motives change into a more complicated fight...against different levels and different schemes of those in power of higher and lower rank. What he will have to cope with is treason, corruption, insecurity, wretchedness, terrible loss all to be totally alone in the end...

It would not be the case to spoil much of the content, I can say one thing: every episode, some lasting for 54 minutes, some a bit longer keep a viewer in a chair and can really make one totally absorbed in what is going on. Let me look at the strengths of the season:

Firstly, it is characters that make it an engrossing drama. Characters that make for hunters and victims. Let me start with the goodies: Corrado Cattani, having gone through a lot of difficulties and threats so far, seems to be indefatigable but torn between his job and private life: both demand much sacrifice and bring forth much suffering. His friend and aid Altero (played by Renato Mori) and a judge Bordonaro appearing only in the first episode are unforgettable. An important mention must be made ofthe aforementioned Ferretti, whom we come to like in time, yet, who experiences quite a tragic end. He is portrayed brilliantly by a veteran Italian actor Sergio Ceccetto. I also quite liked a journalist, Maurili (Victor Cavallo) for whom 'la sicurezza' is the key thing. At first, we look at him as a sort of man with no solid values, for whom money is important but in time, he is truly one of the victims. A banker Sorbi (Daniel Ceccardi), a sort of successor of Ravanusa (Geoffrey Copleston) also combines certain good and bad qualities of it all. He seems to be a hunter but also a victim of a game he has been thrown into. The same might be said about Sebastiano Cannito (Jaques Dacqmine), a politician involved in a wicked game and suddenly finding no way out. And, of course, one of the greatest characters still appears to be Corrado's wife, living in a small town in Switzerland, who is ready for another chance of reconciled love. Will she find courage and time for that?

And the baddies...the mafia...Here, we have the old villains along with some new ones: Avvocado Terrasini (Francois Perrier). It is just incredible to realize that whenever I watch this guy playing any role, I see this one. He is just immortal in this role, the movements, the tone of voice, the eyes that look at all the people around with a special restrain. Then, we have Countess Olga Camastra (Florinda Bolkan). She will be with us for some time, will appears out of the blue in one of the consecutive episodes as 'Ms lack of evidence', yet here this much I can spoil. She is a mistress of the commissario...the relation they are having is, of course, for some specific reasons... A very interesting character that also broadens the story and sets the tails of the octopus overseas is Mr Carrisi (played by memorable Martin Balsam). He comes from New York, he is an Italian who, as a matter of fact, despises Italy yet loves Sicily. He is a sort of man who wants profit, who dislikes sheer talk and who knows that Palermo means really much in New York. I love their scenes, especially when they meet at banker Sorbi's villa and they have a meeting with two major politicians: one is Cannito and the other is the head of a mysterious association Itala, Professor Laudeo (Paul Guers) - a man full of slogans for the public, full of secret intentions for his fellows. Consider the camerawork at the scene: who is within the frame of the screen is the one in power of the moment...

Secondly, it is the music score that makes the season so good. After Riz Ortolani's haunting tunes in the first season and Titti's theme that really remained in memory, we have wonderful Ennio Morricone. You have melodies that you can listen over and over again. They really correspond to the action and the different plots so well. Being heard while watching the episodes, they enhance interest, being heard alone, they bring me to a very specific atmosphere apart from the content of the series. Just to name the subtle "Canzone per la sera" which can be translated as "a song for the evening" or vibrant 'Giustizia" - "justice or "La Morale dell'Immorale" - "morals of the immoral" It all fits the content of the story perfectly.

Thirdly, these are particular moments that make the season so interesting to see and feel the story. As it might spoil the content, I will refer to some just briefly: one of the scenes that will always remain in our memories is the one when Corrado comes to his daughter's room in episode 2 and he takes Paola's things one by one. These are the feelings of a true father: no panic, no yelling, just deep inner pain of loss. No words but the picture says for itself. Another scene that is worth attention is Ferretti trying to talk to 'Eccellenza" and he waits and waits and everything is in vain. Here, we somehow see a man bound to tremendous strength of corruption and correctness that is ready to victimize everything and everybody for keeping mouths shut. There are also wonderful moments when Corrado visits his wife and his daughter: the two are, obviously, in totally different places and at totally different dimensions of reality but these are the moments when he changes tremendously, he becomes a different man. Michele Placido embodies that really well. As it is impossible to mention all, some of the pearls among the scenes are the meetings of Sorbi, Terrasini, Cannito, Laudeo and Carrisi. They depict the true world of mafia and the mechanisms that govern their world. A very well written script and lovely acting! A wider range of locations used here also makes the season more interesting, including the aforementioned Switzerland, the city of Rome and the beautiful landscape of Tuscanny except for Sicily which is the mainstay, of course.

Some flaws of the season include some slow pace in certain scenes and Olga-Corrado love scenes. They are just fake and the actors are so different that they do not feel like being a couple neither in life not on screen. Two various worlds...

Hunters and victims...who is who? Well recommended to see the whole season that is surely as interesting as the first one. Once you come to like it, you are there and willing to see it to the end. The final moment of episode 6 which is the last one in the season is worth careful attention - Corrado Cattani's mind is revealed.

La piovra
(1984)

Hunters and Victims
Having found the series after long search, I am viewing all the seasons with my wife. Partly thanks to sentiment and partly thanks to enhanced interest in the movies of the genre, the story of the Commissario appears to be seen at a slightly different, a more in-depth manner. Personally, I, as a viewer, am more experienced and have a far more focused eye on details than I used to have as a kid (it was on Polish TV in the 1980s). Since my review on PIOVRA I was very general, I decided to write reviews on separate six episodes of season one. Since it is where it all began, an absolute must-see and an engrossing continuation is what we get here...

Written by Ennio de Concini again but directed by Florestano Vancini (not Damiano Damiani as it was with the first season), LA PIOVRA II more or less meets the expectations of its fans. First, it nicely continues the plots of the major characters, no actors are changed as it has been the case with so many serials, and it retains the major atmosphere of the previous episodes. Most importantly, however, it fluently continues with the story of the Commissario and his family. Though the locations...

The locations become broader and move not only to more cities but to more countries of Europe. The first scene that we have is set in Geneve, by the lake in Switzerland where Corrado Cattani (Michele Placido) seems to have resigned from his struggle against the mafia in Sicily, wants to stay with his family, particularly his seriously harmed daughter and wife Elsa (Nicole Jamet) who really underwent trauma in Sicily. Yet, one Ettore Ferretti (Sergio Ceccetto) tries to persuade the commissario to come back and undertake the task. What seems to be the motivation for him is to pursue vengeance and justice on the people responsible for his daughter's harm. But soon, the personal motives change into a more complicated fight...against different levels and different schemes of those in power of higher and lower rank. What he will have to cope with is treason, corruption, insecurity, wretchedness, terrible loss all to be totally alone in the end...

It would not be the case to spoil much of the content, I can say one thing: every episode, some lasting for 54 minutes, some a bit longer keep a viewer in a chair and can really make one totally absorbed in what is going on. Let me look at the strengths of the season:

Firstly, it is characters that make it an engrossing drama. Characters that make for hunters and victims. Let me start with the goodies: Corrado Cattani, having gone through a lot of difficulties and threats so far, seems to be indefatigable but torn between his job and private life: both demand much sacrifice and bring forth much suffering. His friend and aid Altero (played by Renato Mori) and a judge Bordonaro appearing only in the first episode are unforgettable. An important mention must be made ofthe aforementioned Ferretti, whom we come to like in time, yet, who experiences quite a tragic end. He is portrayed brilliantly by a veteran Italian actor Sergio Ceccetto. I also quite liked a journalist, Maurili (Victor Cavallo) for whom 'la sicurezza' is the key thing. At first, we look at him as a sort of man with no solid values, for whom money is important but in time, he is truly one of the victims. A banker Sorbi (Daniel Ceccardi), a sort of successor of Ravanusa (Geoffrey Copleston) also combines certain good and bad qualities of it all. He seems to be a hunter but also a victim of a game he has been thrown into. The same might be said about Sebastiano Cannito (Jaques Dacqmine), a politician involved in a wicked game and suddenly finding no way out. And, of course, one of the greatest characters still appears to be Corrado's wife, living in a small town in Switzerland, who is ready for another chance of reconciled love. Will she find courage and time for that?

And the baddies...the mafia...Here, we have the old villains along with some new ones: Avvocado Terrasini (Francois Perrier). It is just incredible to realize that whenever I watch this guy playing any role, I see this one. He is just immortal in this role, the movements, the tone of voice, the eyes that look at all the people around with a special restrain. Then, we have Countess Olga Camastra (Florinda Bolkan). She will be with us for some time, will appears out of the blue in one of the consecutive episodes as 'Ms lack of evidence', yet here this much I can spoil. She is a mistress of the commissario...the relation they are having is, of course, for some specific reasons... A very interesting character that also broadens the story and sets the tails of the octopus overseas is Mr Carrisi (played by memorable Martin Balsam). He comes from New York, he is an Italian who, as a matter of fact, despises Italy yet loves Sicily. He is a sort of man who wants profit, who dislikes sheer talk and who knows that Palermo means really much in New York. I love their scenes, especially when they meet at banker Sorbi's villa and they have a meeting with two major politicians: one is Cannito and the other is the head of a mysterious association Itala, Professor Laudeo (Paul Guers) - a man full of slogans for the public, full of secret intentions for his fellows. Consider the camerawork at the scene: who is within the frame of the screen is the one in power of the moment...

Secondly, it is the music score that makes the season so good. After Riz Ortolani's haunting tunes in the first season and Titti's theme that really remained in memory, we have wonderful Ennio Morricone. You have melodies that you can listen over and over again. They really correspond to the action and the different plots so well. Being heard while watching the episodes, they enhance interest, being heard alone, they bring me to a very specific atmosphere apart from the content of the series. Just to name the subtle "Canzone per la sera" which can be translated as "a song for the evening" or vibrant 'Giustizia" - "justice or "La Morale dell'Immorale" - "morals of the immoral" It all fits the content of the story perfectly.

Thirdly, these are particular moments that make the season so interesting to see and feel the story. As it might spoil the content, I will refer to some just briefly: one of the scenes that will always remain in our memories is the one when Corrado comes to his daughter's room in episode 2 and he takes Paola's things one by one. These are the feelings of a true father: no panic, no yelling, just deep inner pain of loss. No words but the picture says for itself. Another scene that is worth attention is Ferretti trying to talk to 'Eccellenza" and he waits and waits and everything is in vain. Here, we somehow see a man bound to tremendous strength of corruption and correctness that is ready to victimize everything and everybody for keeping mouths shut. There are also wonderful moments when Corrado visits his wife and his daughter: the two are, obviously, in totally different places and at totally different dimensions of reality but these are the moments when he changes tremendously, he becomes a different man. Michele Placido embodies that really well. As it is impossible to mention all, some of the pearls among the scenes are the meetings of Sorbi, Terrasini, Cannito, Laudeo and Carrisi. They depict the true world of mafia and the mechanisms that govern their world. A very well written script and lovely acting! A wider range of locations used here also makes the season more interesting, including the aforementioned Switzerland, the city of Rome and the beautiful landscape of Tuscanny except for Sicily which is the mainstay, of course.

Some flaws of the season include some slow pace in certain scenes and Olga-Corrado love scenes. They are just fake and the actors are so different that they do not feel like being a couple neither in life not on screen. Two various worlds...

Hunters and victims...who is who? Well recommended to see the whole season that is surely as interesting as the first one. Once you come to like it, you are there and willing to see it to the end. The final moment of episode 6 which is the last one in the season is worth careful attention - Corrado Cattani's mind is revealed.

La piovra: Episode #1.6
(1984)
Episode 6, Season 1

Engrossing Conclusion to the First Season
Things begin to complicate for both the ones who fight for justice and the ones who break the law. Corrado Cattani (Michele Placido) becomes a victim of blackmail while the criminals reveal their true relations and collaborations, particularly their dependence upon their "masters' - hidden, undefined wrong-doers.

The last episode of the first season directed by Damiano Damiani with the memorable music score by Riz Ortolani is slightly longer. It focuses on a few important aspects that will play a decisive role in the following parts.

Firstly, it is Corrado's family situation. Yes, his daughter Paola is set free after he has to do something totally against his ideals and the ethics of his work and set free Sante Cirinna (Angelo Infanti). But setting his daughter free in the manner that truly corresponds to the wretched acts of the mob does not solve the problem at all. It even more enhances the desire to take revenge in Corrado. Not to spoil much of the content, I can say that they leave a lasting impact on his teenage daughter, which is an outrageous aspect of the plot (not the last one) but without which the awful world of mafia would not be accurately depicted. With some seemingly genuine compassion from the group of the "rich and powerful" comes Countess Olga Camastra (Florinda Bolkan) wh openly states that she disapproves of the savage manners of the group. Yet, as Terrasini (Francois Perrier) rightly points out, she approves of the financial profits.

Secondly, it is Corrado's conscience as a policeman. Yes, his will is put to test and his desire to take justice in his own hands finds its realization in certain memorable moments of the episode. It is important to pay attention to the dark scene with Cirinna when the two meet...perhaps it is not that realistic but it is very psychological. What motives drive Corrado to become partly like them and what methods to see that there is a price they pay. The darkness of the scene where one victim is dead in the car and the other rope-tied enhanes a feeling of revenge in a viewer. That effective way to manifest the mind of the protagonist will echo later in PIOVRA 6 where Dave Licata (Vittorio Mezzogiorno) will meet the crucial "living dead" alleged Stefan Litvak.

Thirdly, a predominant plot of the episode is the tragic end of Titti (Rafaella Pecci Scialoia played by Barbara DeRossi (yes, this I can reveal that this is the last episode that we see her...unfortunately). Her rich but tragic and lonesome reality finds its end in a desperate act which she would not have committed, perhaps, if it were not for the evil people in her life. She is a character of the story to be pitied, really, except for Corrado, his daughter Paola and Anna Caruso being the victim of the reality. What kind of reality? Where money is the most important value! Profit above all! It is nicely described by Anna Caruso who lost most members of her family, including her fiance, because of the wretched pressure of the mob.

Finally, it is the very accurate in-depth portrayal of a lonesome soul who needs aid. Without others, he cannot do anything. In the background, we see the opulent palaces of the wealthy, Terrasini who claims only to see the righteous aspects of the society, those greater ones in Rome, party-goers who direct evil acts anonymously. And in contrast, there are just three men who want to do something about it. Do something about the organized criminals of the streets and of palaces: Corrado, Altero and Bordonaro.

Some of the scenes that somehow remained in my memory are the funeral of Titti (filmed in more or less the same manner as the funeral of her mother in the first episode) and Corrado standing alone in the crowd of onlookers (this time without his friend Leo) and his long look at Cirinna walking behind Titti's coffin. Another scene is the sad Corrado on the steps of a Sicilian church, the typical architecture that is so beautiful and yet quite neglected, obsolete, and his moment of helplessness. And the final moment that draws a rather positive conclusion to the whole story that brings some hope in the family back to life...

La piovra: Episode #1.5
(1984)
Episode 5, Season 1

In Torments...
It seems that both in life and on screen, it is easy to theorize and fight against evil bravely unless you are directly influenced by your action and are bound to endure its consequences. That appears to be exactly what happens to Corrado Cattani in this episode. Along with its engrossing plot and hauntingly atmospheric music by Riz Ortolani (Ennio Morricone wrote music for all seasons except for the first one), the episode develops a pretty psychological and dramatic insight into the moment in the characters' lives.

All he has to face here is fight to retain faithful to his work, loyal to his colleagues, indefatigable in his fight and caring to his closest ones, mainly his daughter. Paola is kidnapped and Corrado knows that if he tells a word to anyone, she will be killed. Therefore, everyone around sees that something is wrong, something has happened, yet, noone is able to push him to tell the truth. He is tormented inside of himself and alone with himself. That brilliantly depicts the nature of his work, of his fight: although there are some people around him who wish him well perhaps, he is totally alone. Yes, on the verge of insanity so powerfully depicted in the restaurant scene where he shouts to the mute and heartless bandit: I will kill myself. These torments are memorable in the scene when Corrado goes to priest Mafredi to confession: he says that either he fights on and realizes that his daughter will be sentences to death by that or he gives up a fight, becomes disloyal to his work and saves her life. These torments are also visible in his relation with Titti whom he starts to meet secretly and his phone calls to his wife in Milan who constantly wants to talk to Paola and yet, she cannot because, as he says, Paola is with her friends by the sea...

In the meantime, Sante Cirinna (Angelo Infanti) is set free from prison due to alleged weak health condition and placed in a clinic. There, Commissario faces total humiliation when a bandit who openly committed a crime and who is undeniably guilty of many wretched deeds laughs into his face, celebrates with his fellow friends, his mummy and spits on law. Titti hates him more and more as she sees the root for all evil in her life brought on by him but it seems it is too late to free herself from that wicked guy. The wicked guy who has his supporters, indeed. The scene of Corrado-Cirinna talk filled with irony, sarcasm and sheer fraudulence is truly one of the best ones of the episode.

Corrado-Titti relationship faces difficulties and yet, in a truly psychological moment, they meet at the table in her mansion. He tells her that Cirinna cannot find out that he knows who had killed her mother and Marineo and in a brief moment, she asks Corrado if he loves her...he says, of course he does and mind you her reaction: then I can move the mountains. This shows the reason for her addiction and the rather confusing life: this tremendous search to be loved. All the money does not mean anything in that context of her life's seeking.

In the background, the great ones appear: always calm and as if ready to answer all sorts of questions. Ironically, the ones who fight for the truth...what kind of truth, one could ask. The accept the invitation to the local television led by Nanni Santamaria (the aforementioned lover of Corrado's wife) and they say how innocent they are in the mafia reality of the island, how outrageous those actions might be and how seperated from their lives. These are, of couse, avvocado Terrasini and banker Ravanusa, the two rich villains of the first season. Meanwhile, Olga Camastra is hard to figure out: she seems to take Corrado's side at certain moments, yet, due to her social position and some secret relations, she cannot reveal that. Consider the scene they meet in the streets of Trapani (Olga and Corrado).

Paola is alive and Paola meets her dad, yet, noone knows what the wretched minds of the people who do not know conscience, justice nor law come up with. In the sad moment, filmed in the dark, father meets his daughter, noone guilty of any crime but seeking justice, and so much suffering. To the worse for Corrado come two false witnesses who claim that the commissar used the gun in order to kill Cirinna and his friend that night in the street. At the same time, a new employee steals the documents from the shelf in Corrado's office. The judge Bordonaro begins to doubt Mr Cattani's true intentions...

Yes, it seems that everything and everybody appear to be against him. This is the bite of the octopus, the first such bite... something our protagonist is bound to face. Highly recommended episode to be watched with careful attention for details.

La piovra: Episode #1.4
(1984)
Episode 4, Season 1

Some Live On Drugs, Others Die of Drugs
The first scene hits the tone for the entire episode: the scene is set in prison, there are two visits: one of Anna Caruso (Eurilla Del Bono), the once fiancee of late Leo de Maria, who visits her brother Franco (Silvino Vaccaro), the other one of Sante Cirinna's overcaring mother (Maria Denaro) shocked and full of disbelief that her innocent son can be put behind bars. What wretched injustice indeed! Soon one is being killed and the other is being set free because the 'great ones' throw dice in a particular manner at a particular time. The picture of a social problem, social situation and the very core of octopus's tails that Corrado Cattani has to cope with.

The plots of the previous episodes are well developed, including the relation of Corrado and countess Pecci Scialoia as well as Corrado's family situation. Here, it is done so in a memorable continuity. Paola discovers she is a 'signorina' and, in a memorable moment, calls her mum about it. Mind you what she says: Father is not a bad person... Elsa immediately reacts and says she has never thought so but it is interesting how it depicts a child, a teenager perceiving parents' seperation. Another interesting scene with her is her visit to drug addict countess's palace (she already knows that her father loves her). She goes around, looks around and touches the artefacts of the mansion and, when asked what she would like to have in her room, she replies that she does not accept presents. Soon, however, things grow pretty complicated for Paola.

The plot of Titti becomes pretty transparent and quite clear what the doings of the mafia in the region and elsewhere bring on in a person that might occur weaker, more prone to their imposition. There is a memorable moment when she escapes the place where they really care for her and want her to recover. Consequently, she appears in the streets of Trapani. Having taken drugs again from another dealer (because Cirinna is still in prison), she seems reluctant to help that Cattani and Altero offer her. She seems reluctant to the help that Don Manfredi offers her as well. Yet, she comes back. Barbara de Rossi has some emotional moments here. The haunts of criminals in her life do not leave her, though and drugs are being placed secretly in her room. She takes...Corrado's struggle, nevertheless, makes simple people touched, some put to test yet others go insane for many live on drugs and 'many die of them' (as Corrado utters among some of his lines).

However, except for the plots that develop, we have one of the critical moments of PIOVRA I - Corrado Cattani begins to investigate the matters of the banks. The bankers are his target now and, naturally Mr Ravanusa. There is a lovely moment when Corrado Cattani meets Olga Camastra (Florinda Bolkan). In their conversation where she expresses the total lack of compassion to drug addicts (saying openly that it is their decision and their choice to destroy their lives), she appears to embody the world of mafia from a woman's perspective. She embodies the world in the most memorable manner: the world that may occur magnetic, strange, yet the one you can never believe. Cattani seems to figure out a lot of machanisms of the banking system and moves further, perhaps beyond his competence.

Within that context comes the world of higher rank politicians and professors, people who should represent the world of higher values, yet, from the start appear to enhance distrust and doubt. One of them is Professor Gianfranco Laudeo (Paul Guers). This plot will, of course, be developed in seasons to come. Consider his speech that is full of interesting slogans, seemingly right intention to clear the marvelous Sicily of the mafia that destroys it, and yet,,,,you do not believe him. And neither does Corrado Cattani. Rightly so.

There is a lovely little scene near the end of the episode that I find worth mentioning. All the 'greatest' people, the richest surely sit at the table in a palace--like splendid interiors. Among them is Olga Camastra, banker Ravanusa, Terrasini and, naturally, a poet, baron Platto (Francesco Laureno). Those viewers who pay careful attention remember him from a little moment when Leo de Maria tells Corrado who is who in the first episode. They talk of a new game where they will bet who is next to be captured, kidnapped, killed accidentally. They suggest guessing...among them there is a mention of Don Manfredi but, as a priest, he seems to be too respected to become a sheer victim of their scheme. Some other names are brought up...

Strangely, something unexpected, shocking and outrageous happens at the end. Will Corrado find strength and courage to deal with, so far, the most difficult test?

La piovra: Episode #1.3
(1984)
Episode 3, Season 1

Incorrect Moralist
The road events at night that placed Corrado in the first real danger and forced him to use the gun lead him to find and arrest some drug dealers of the town. In the memorable scene, they enter the port and find drugs amongst the frozen food products. Indeed, it is not time for him to punish bankers and criminals of higher rank but show their effective means on less serious cases of law violation. Nevertheless, it does not mean that the 'big fish' do not observe him more carefully. He becomes more and more famous in town and soon labeled an 'incorrect moralist.'

The episode becomes more focused on the plot. We get to know Corrado Cattani as a man of contradictions, a man whose marriage is going and whose job occupies most of his time. Yet, a very dedicated cop whose safety appears to be in jeopardy. Still, a loving father who finds a way to the heart of his teenage daughter, Paola. Finally, a lover of the young countess, a drug addict Titti. But behind all of the crimes and the outrageous plans of the villains, there lies a psychological factor behind it all: boredom. The wealthy and healthy simply do not know how to deal with it...

The relation between Corrado and Altero (played by Renato Mori) in their mutual goals becomes more emphasized. Although there are certain doubts whether Altero's intentions were that transparent at the murder of Marineo (episode 1), they become 'brothers in arms' against mafia. There is a memorable scene when Corrado tells Altero how it all happened with Marineo and countess Pecci Scialoia and the flashback with the camera positioned higher. We see the scene as if from the 'bird's view' which enhances the emotional perception.

The Sicilian television led by Nanni Santamaria (Pino Colizzi), the lover of Corrado's wife Else (Nicole Jamet) is interested in Mr Cattani more and more and invites him to a debate. The plan is to organize the debate with the VIPs of the island - namely avvocado Terrasini, banker Ravanusa, baroness Olga Camastra. What a moment as they prepare and cannot decide what to wear. Ravanusa, who openly states that boredom drives him mad, has a dilemma what kind of tie to put on, Olga chooses between plenty of necklaces while Terrasini is furious about his servant who chooses the wrong colour of the shoes for him. What a mess! Yet, soon it appears that it was not the television they were preparing for but a concert. How much they understand of the music is another story but it sounds more elegant to spend a Sunday afternoon at the concert than some television debating with a little commissar. The only person who appears but only applauds Corrado Cattani is lady Camastra....oh, that is tricky! The man had better be on his guard.

Meanwhile, the relationship between Corrado and Elsa is worsening. Paola no longer seems to be a sort of bridge between them but the moment she does not leave for Milan with her mother brings on some better moments of the girl and her father. They swim in the sea, they talk more, they have some little more time for each other. Unfortunately, not for long...

Not only the depressing and stressful job stands in the way to Corrado's personal relief but the young countess who leaves the home of Don Manfredo from time to time and invites Corrado to her mansion. This time, the reason is not merely investigations and questions about Marineo and Pecci Scialoia's deaths... Both Corrado and Elsa find someone else in their lives and both have the courage to admit it. Yet, both show totally different reactions...

Will they survive? Can Comissario keep calm when the storms around seem to roar more and more? With the third episode, the series becomes truly involving and there is no way to stop watching... Highly recommended!

La piovra: Episode #1.2
(1984)
Episode 2, Season 1

Il Commissario Gets Involved....
"What has happened to our calm and peaceful city? The sun is shining but there is darkness in the streets...Darkness of crime and lack of respect to life!" we hear at the beginning of the episode from courageous Don Manfredi, a bigger than life embodiment of conscience. A lot of people are present, a lot of people seem to listen but a few seem to prove any acts of awakening conscience. Indeed, nothing can bring young Leo back to life so terribly murdered in a cafe...

Corrado Cattani begins his first investigation in the matter of Marineo's death and some light is shed upon some events. His companion now is Vice Commissar Altero (great Renato Mori) whom he undeniably trusts more and more. It is interesting how his involvement in the matter is depicted and his meetings with Titti (Barbara de Rossi) more and more sensible. As a drug addict, she does not seem to be reliable at first and, maybe, pretty awkward for him but as the feelings grow, it seems that they make an interesting couple in some clubs for the richest. To provoke, to leave something untold. At least, a couple on the mouths of many...

Meanwhile, the character that emerges here and will be with us for some episodes to come is Sante Cirinna (Angelo Infanti) What a name of a man whose wretched manners and ways to get into the rich and aristocratic world of Pecci Scialoia become landmarks of his corrupted nature. He embodies the core evil of drug business, so far on the local scale... Yes, he is the one that supplies the young countess with drugs and the one responsible for the crime in their palace. An interesting scene as Titti opens herself more to Commissario. Does she begin to trust him? Does she begin to see some help in him? It is a lovely game of senses and reason, some inner drives and natural predictable reactions. At the restaurant, she seems to be appalled by what he says but later... No doubt Cirinna is an appalling character, a drug dealer who deserves some severe treatment. The major 'villain' but a mere puppet in the first season, indeed.

It is all nicely contrasted to Corrado's private life, mainly his wife and the daughter, Paola. His wife is an altogether difficult person, difficult to understand: someone who has a talent, she paints, she has an artistic soul and yet someone who easily destroys. In the symbolic moment when she cuts her canvas she has just painted a picture on resembles her approach to living with the commissar. Paola seems to be a sort of bridge between them, the one that they state is the third person between the two. She suspects Corrado betrays her with the countess and goes to the infamous Nanni Santamaria, the owner of the local television, a man of charm, yet no rules. And, paradoxically, he is the priest's brother...

Some of the best scenes of the episode include Don Manfredi's acts of mercy helping the drug addicts, including Titti, Corrado-Titti moments, the club scene. Consider the camerawork in that scene: when they enter, they are in the focus but what we already see in the background is the group of those richest people, including 'Ms lack of evidence' Olga Camastra, avvocado Terrasini, banker Ravanusa - yes, those who are constantly there, constantly present, as if, constantly behind it all: calm, reserved, ironic, determined and deadly ambitious. Nevertheless, most of it depends on them.

Corrado's more open attitude leads to quite an unexpectable ending of the episode. Will he take justice in his own hands?

La piovra: Episode #1.1
(1984)
Episode 1, Season 1

Captivating, Convincing and Overwhelming
After my long search of the series that I remembered from my childhood and I watched on Polish TV in March and April 1989, I finally managed to see it with my wife. And as captivating and convincing the whole depiction still appears to be, it seems that there is no other episode that keeps a viewer in a chair so intensely waiting to find out what else will be revealed than the first one. You have to options: either be captivated and involved in the series from the start or reject it. We did the former. Along with the protagonist, Comissario Corrado Cattani (Michele Placido), we discover the world of mafia thanks to skillful direction of Damiano Damiani (it is important to note the director's great insight into the world and mention his film IL GIORNO DELLA CIVETTA with Claudia Cardinale and Franco Nero) as well as the emphasis on the locations the story is set in: the beautiful island of Sicily still haunted by the grandeur of the past and experiencing quite brutal moments of its time (the action takes place the year it was filmed, here 1984 - it is essential to note that with the seasons to come, we see the changes everywhere).

Just the way it begins proves to be really authentic and foresees a wonderful drama. The opening credits after the red letters in the color of blood LA PIOVRA (Octopus), we have a rather dark scene, shot at night, from the perspective of the inside of a car (we too are, visually, passengers) and the police who come to the place of murder...they find the dead body of the Commissario Marineo who has fought against mafia for twelve years in the region of Trapani in the west coast of Sicily. His life seems to have been honest, his approach really short of any corruption and his end drastically tragic. Mr Cattani is called to Sicily with his family from Milan to dig in the case...

A funeral...or rather two funerals hit the tone for the atmosphere. One with a brave priest Don Manfredi (Flavio Bucci) and his sermon against those who kill life. Among the few people who take part, there are Corrado (Michele Placido) and Leo de Maria, the Vice-Commissario (Massimo Bonetti), the one who perhaps knows too much and is already in jeopardy. There are also some representatives of the local government. Where are the rest of the distinguished families? Leo nicely points out that they are taking part in another funeral, a more important one...

The funeral of a countess named Eleonora Pecci Scialoia who allegedly committed suicide and all the eminent people are there to pay condolences to her daughter, the last surviving member of the noble family, young Raffaella Pecci Scialoia called Titti (played memorably by young Barbara de Rossi). The comissario is one of the observers in the streets being informed about who is who by Leo. Mind you the Sicilian significance of the event emphasized here. Is there any better occasion to meet all these people if not a funeral? Although the facts prove clear, there seems to be a mystery, something in the air, is it all so beautiful as it looks outside? Two deaths of notable people, how did it happen that the body of the eminent Commissario was in a car? The mind of Mr Cattani is full of doubts, curiosity and willingness to investigate...and ours too. There is also something strange about the young woman, a descendant of such wealth who faints during the funeral of her mother. Who is a suspicious guy who comes late to the event and then takes her to a car?

Commissario Cattani is offered a job of Marineo's successor. And after the advice from his 'tutor' so to say in Rome, Professor Sebastiano Cannito (Jacques Dacqmine - a very important person later in the drama, particularly season 2), he accepts. He moves in Trapani with his wife Else (Nicole Jamet) with whom he has a rather dying relationship and his young daughter Paola (Cariddi McKinnon Nardulli). At first, it seems a nice place to live in, a different climate, a nice apartment after an elderly family who have recently passed away and whose children moved to Palermo. But soon things complicate as new acquaintances are made on both sides...

Apart from the family context and family drama that is about to become more and more intense, one of the very best scenes of the episode is Cattani's visit to Titty's palace. It is actually there when he starts to suspect, he sees those matches, the chairs dirty of dry blood and he attempts at getting the truth from a girl, glamorous due to the context she lives in but spoiled and locked within the cage of dirty world due to drug addiction. It is very well shot along with the camera focus on the place, on the suspicious facial manners of the servant Ruggero and Cattani's detailed look around. A scene worth paying attention to. But it all leads us to the group of people who really seem to have power in the territory...

Baroness Olga Camastra (played wonderfully by Florinda Bolkan) later named "Ms lack of evidence," avvocado Terrasini (Francois Perrier) and his suspicious family, the banker Alfredo Ravanusa (played by Geoffrey Copleston) with his tall daughter Spilungona and many others. The reception they are having and all the notable people who take part in it allow our protagonist to get inside the world of risk, great sums of money, bribery, corruption and murder...the world he will be bound to cope with. Will he be able to lead a peaceful life in such a place? His chair will surely be uncomfortable...

Not long is it to wait for the first answer from the mafia for whom Mr Cattani is surely an unwelcomed public figure and first tears of loss...

Not to spoil more, I will just say: a wonderful episode, a must-see more than once in order to understand the later events... for LA PIOVRA is no soap opera where you can say that no matter what episode I start with, I know most of the whatabouts and whereabouts. 9/10

Rocky II
(1979)

Everything that makes ROCKY compelling...
After the smashing success of ROCKY, it occured back in the late 1970s that a sequel would have to parallel everything the story is about - pressure, strong will, indefatigable struggle and constant climbing upwards in order to retain its essential concept more powerfully. That is exactly what Sylvester Stallone had to cope with when the idea came up to make a sequel - a lot against the odds. The director John G Avildsen had another vision, there were certain complications with the studio managers, some actors, including Talia Shire were busy making other films, there were complications about the production rights and, foremost, the question about the portrayal of the protagonist.

What is Rocky, the former underdog, who dared go the distance with the champ, going to be like? He proved to be equal. How can he handle this achievement, both physically and psychologically? What to do to make him more identifiable with the audience? What to do not to disappoint so many people that saw the story as the one that truly appeared to parallel life - never give up?

And Sylvester Stallone took up directing the film and it was the key moment for what direction ROCKY would take. Nobody will just need to explain who Rocky is, we all know him but we wait for what he has to offer (more or less like in every sequel but there are so few that really succeed). Much at stake, a lot of risks are in store and yet...

ROCKY II from the very start proves to be a wonderful continuation at multiple levels. It starts, as most of the other sequels to come, with the last moment of 'its predecessor' when noone actually wins, neither Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) nor Rocky (Sylvester Stallone), but the story continues...

Apollo Creed in his pride challenges the Italian stallion for the rematch, perhaps thinking that the fight itself has done harm to his image of indestructible, top notch heavyweight champion. In this moment, Rocky's face reveals the quintessential aspect of his nature. Content with where he stands - not refusing to give it a chance. That is all for us waiting for a victory so far... The story somehow goes apart from the boxing context creating an excellent context of, I am not afraid to tell it, one of the very best psychological depictions of a character. We see the priorities in Rocky's life: what is the most important goal for him now is not winning Apollo Creed but Adrian's (Talia Shire) love. He develops the relationship. He takes her to the zoo (perhaps following the advice he got in the first part, perhaps out of his personal choice - anyway, a place for animals, there is a part of 'animal' in every man) and proposes to her with the tiger in the background. With humor, he exclaims the invitation to their wedding loudly not yet having this 'eye of the tiger' that will be needed one day. It is wonderful how this rather simple guy, very delicate at these moments combines this manly gentleness indicated by the pet turtles in his flat with the manly strength and savageness indicated by a tiger. Their wedding, the priest who 'done real good', the reaction to Adrian's fear of oblivion: 'you never ain't getting rid of me' and simple life is what follows. Perhaps, not so simple because Rocky is now well known and more is expected of him. But does the fame inflict upon it, in a way?

The moments are beautifully incorporated into the whole story how life is built apart from the context of great fame and money influencing it. That appeals to wide audiences because the film is not watched merely by sportspeople but a lot of ordinary movie-goers who want to find something of themselves in the main character, some comfort that they are not alone in their struggles, dilemmas and fears. Rocky buys a car, takes Adrian to expensive shops, he sets up a family buying a flat not exactly knowing what it looks like upstairs. It is funny but does not show the character from some negative point of view. he is rather very likable and someone viewers may easily identify with. He is the one who loses his job, looks for other jobs, but all of them appear to be not for him. The hilarious sequence with the commercial rehearsals indicate the strange reality that individuals find themselves in the system. When I saw the scenes for the first time, I found them pretty foolish but then, after seeing them more times, I realized they really fit to the story and the moment of Rocky's life (also Sylvester's life because the story constantly parallels the actor's life). Then, he realizes that boxing is the only thing that he can make a living on.

The climax of emotions with reference to ordinary life, however, comes when Adrian gives birth to their son and goes into a coma. Along with the wonderful, touchy but no kitschy tunes by Bill Conti and the camera shots by Garret Brown, but foremost with the performance by Stallone, the scenes are landmarks of the sequel. Nothing is important for Rocky, not even seeing the child, but praying and waiting for the redemptive moment of Adrian's awakening. he waits...he hopes...he fights one of the most difficult struggles within himself (not the last one, sure). He will see the child but with Adrian because the child is theirs, not merely his... And the sports context does not leave him, does not push him but accompanies him in the person of Mickey (Burgess Meredith).

The chapel scene resembles that best...Mickey still has dreams, plans, yet, he is a true friend who affords patience at the side of his tired, worried friend. Mind you the camera shots and the details of pictures in the background...yes, everyone with aspirations is on their way to a sort of heyday, a sort of coronation that is not solely a religious resemblance of life. When Adrian wakes up, she says these crucial words that embody the motivational power a beloved woman can hold and make perfect use of: WIN! And Mickey nearby: "What are we waiting for?" And that is when the overwhelming flush of victory is born. This is the important 'rebirth' in his life and the wonderful scenes of training that follow. The training must follow this because Rocky has the people he does it for, he does not do that just for himself but for Adrian and for the baby. Therefore, boxing is in the background, yes, it is the driving force, the power behind without which Rocky could not exist, but, what makes the character so compelling to us and viewers of a few generations now is this striking priority of a simple, ordinary man.

Now, in the background, we get the development of Apollo Creed's character. it is significant to mention that Carl Weathers does not portray him as a villain, as the one who really hates Rocky and wants to drag him down, humiliate him, but we have a picture of a man who knows his value, who knows what effort he has taken to achieve what he has, and yet, struggles within himself how was it possible that some unknown fighter, an underdog could manage to go the distance with him. He neglects even his family obsessively reading about himself in the papers. And his trainer Duke (played brilliantly by Tony Burton) sees that power of the opponent well saying to Apollo "He's all wrong for us...the man kept coming after you" in spite of the fact he got beat so much before. Mr Weather in an interview admitted that he wanted to make Apollo an antagonist, sure, but without making him a villain. We do not necessarily like him, we do not take his side, sure - it is, after all, a Rocky film but we see him from a more psychological perspective than in the first part. And to say just far more psychology does he embody on the screen than some Rocky's opponents to come in III and IV... And here we get the rematch of the two who were equal in the first part and who both did their best.

The training moments are unforgettable here. I am not going to say by this that others are worse, not at all, but in ROCKY II they show the man on the streets of his city, Philadelphia, as the one who really has some fame, gets more and more skills, humorously chases a chicken and feels like a "Kentucky Fried idiot," appears to be a 'superhero' for those kids who leave their schools and run with him, climb the same steps, see an example to follow - the way against the odds. This of course leads to the climax on the "greatest night in the history of his life"..."Adrian, we did it!" Mind you that he does not say "I did it" but uses the first person Plural...that is a very important point because it somewhat defines the fact who Rocky actually is.

The character of Rocky makes progress (there would be no sportsman without it) but so does the music score by Bill Conti. Here in ROCKY II it becomes more deeply rooted in the character and in the direction his life takes. A lot of tunes do not reflect a slightly hesitating underdog fighting hard to push himself forward, to succeed, to go the distance but a more self-confident spirit. There are combinations of some truly tough tunes of hard moments that, as if, tell you EVERYTHING DEPENDS ON YOUR INNER CHOICE and some moments of comfort, relief, that whisper THE THINGS YOU DO ARE NOT IN VAIN. The soundtrack, therefore, is something that you might listen to apart from the movie itself and you feel that it awakens a vast scale of emotions from your depths. It is incredible. Very few musical pieces from films are able to do that on that scale.

ROCKY II is a film that supplies you with some key moments of the whole story, it is a parallel to life and its struggles, to emotions and their rises and falls, it is everything that makes Rocky so compelling. One of the very best sequels that have ever been made in the history of cinema. A masterful production!

Rocky
(1976)

The older it gets, the better it is... Wonderful Movie!
It seems that those movie productions that had to fight the big fight with the expectations, somehow, turned out to be timeless, not only for the fans of the genre but for the general audiences as well. That is, undeniably, the case with ROCKY not yet directed by Sylvester Stallone but by late John G Avildsen (who comes back with the direction of ROCKY V in 1990). ROCKY, after all these years and a lot of sequels made after, including the recent CREED films, proves to be one of the very best films about sport, a sportsman and, most importantly, a personality - formerly 'nobody' rising to the top-notch fame and popularity.

Not being a particular fan of boxing, I am not trying to review this film as an expert relating to some details about it. Indeed, there have been plenty of such reviews before me who praise the way the fight is being filmed here. When I recently re-watched it with my wife, I rather wanted to see it in a fresh way, without all this background knowledge and unnecessary facts what happened later. Just see Rocky as a young man, seemingly 'nobody' an underdog with no perspectives, who lives in a poor district of Philadelphia, in an almost obscure flat (he says that 'his whole place stinks') and yet, is offered a chance of a lifetime - possibility to fight the big fight with the heavy weight champion, Apollo Creed. ROCKY is unique in that determination and the strength he finds within himself because...

Sylvester Stallone portrays a man with whom he somehow identifies (that was also the moment in his career - taking a chance that appears once in a lifetime). He has true, genuine motives. His personal motives are powerfully depicted in several scenes, particularly the unforgettable relation with Mickey (played by legendary Burgess Meredith). In the scene of Mick's first visit to Rocky's stinking place, the young boxer opens up his inner self and amidst the rage of his soul, the pain of his mind, he meets a true friend who does not turn his back to him but helps him out and motivates. Mickey understands because he was a boxer himself, he did have his prime and he knows what it is to 'eat lightin' and crap thunder.' Rocky and Mick's relationship is the essence of a tutor and a student, the essence of a good coach who knows the tough rules that are inspiring, astounding, demanding - yet never imposed. This is the power that Rocky finds in himself thanks to Mick who is there to fan the flame of the desire to face the challenge. And he does that truly effectively proving that he 'ain't no bum.' Sometimes, when you watch their scenes, you just seem to forget it is played. It seems so real. Both actors feel their roles tremendously.

Sylvester Stallone, apart from the tough world of boxing, apart from being the "Italian Stallion" he called himself, portrays a truly gentle guy. That is, in a way, something we like about Rocky most. It is not a typical 'macho' pretending to have no feelings. But where can you find this truth about the man if not when facing a woman. ROCKY combines this subtlety with timidness in the scenes with Adrian (played by Talia Shire already known at the time for her supporting role in GODFATHER). Thanks to Paulie (Burt Young) who supplies Rocky with the meat for the boxing sack and the woman for loving, they go for the first date. I loved the scene he takes her to the ice rink. Mind you that this scene somehow forgets about the tough world that is in the background and is a true depiction of some genuine, pure male-female fascination. The two alone on the ice rink resemble a couple alone in the world, just for themselves. Each of their movement, each of the word they say to each other (Rocky appears to be far more talkative) is here to stay in your memory. The moment he takes her glasses off and their first kiss (which was, for Stallone pretty challenging because Talia Shire was having a flu when she was playing the scene), her visit to his flat (at first so shy and hesitating, yet she made up her mind and entered the flat giving him the credit...as he later remembers in ROCKY BALBOA), these are the moments that you really feel as a viewer. As a matter of fact, her style, her clothes indicate this inexperience and that aspect of her personality is something that Rocky is taken with. Their love grows in the following parts, indeed, but it is here when their scenes are unforgettable. Two people outside of the world that imposes certain manners and conventions: "But it's Thanksgiving. Yeah to you, but to me it's Thursday."

Sylvester Stallone, though he is not the director of this film, proves to know the psychological mechanisms that are behind the wings of the boxing rink. Imagine that Apollo Creed (played by Carl Weathers who, recently in an interview, still remembers this role as one of his key roles of the career) the master is to fight with some 'underdog' who trains on meat and dares say: "I will fight the big fight" This is the pride of a champion that is put to test, this is the situation when truly much is at stake. It is good to remember one scene here when Creed talks on TV and says to sportsmen seemingly discouraging simple people from sport: "be a thinker not a stinker." This fear of losing wide acclaim is even more visible in ROCKY II but here, the idea behind it all is not merely a sort of 'rematch' but a guy - a 'nobody' daring fight with the widely acclaimed master that Apollo is. Very well played by Mr Weathers and their fight at the end of the movie is something that you can watch in slow motion even admiring every camera shot, every emotion evoked, dwelling in the spirit of competition, yes, but foremost courage.

It would be unfair to review ROCKY and not to mention a word about the very location of the story, the city of Philadelphia. It is no coincidence that Stallone chose this place as the setting of the story: those streets where he is running, those steps that he climbs while training early in the morning, the very background of rising from the bottom. The train that he hears in his small flat, the singing and street parties that he passes (Frank Stallone among the people), the character of Marie whom Rocky discourages from smoking and the kids that leave school and run with Rocky (yes, that is the second part but Philadelphia plays its role in all parts, in particular ROCKY BALBOA where sentiment is combined with the change and new reality).

ROCKY is a lovely film with lovely music. The soundtrack is something that can be listened to for hours all over again being a source of inspiration for training, a source of finding this 'power of spirit' from within yourself, it is relaxing and extremely memorable by itself but also fits best to the scenes. Bill Conti did a terrific job here. The theme song "Gonna Fly Now" and "You Take My Heart Away" simply have a tremendous impact on the emotions of viewers.

ROCKY is a rather simple story about a simple guy who trains in a simple way and falls in love with a simple woman. Yet, perhaps that is why it is so extraordinary that may prove to stand aside the masterpieces of cinema and dare equal them.

Krepostnaya
(2019)

Not Merely Ukrainian Isaura...
"It is an altogether beautiful story set in a lovely scenery and supplied with gorgeous costumes. We, as cast, had never thought of it as such a great hit. We simply did our best." (Katerina Kovalchuk in an interview in Poland).

"It is an exceptional project for me. So far, I have not had a chance to take part in this kind of work and it is even a greater pleasure for me because I am keen on history." (Alexey Yarovienko in an interview in Poland).

It seems that those words tell everything and in spite of the fact that this is not a historical production, the series will soon become historic because it has become a hit already in my homeland. We Poles have felt privilidged to welcome three members of the cast in Poland recently: Katerina Kovalchuk, Alexey Yarovienko and Michail Gavrilov.

At the beginning of my review, I must admit that I am not a particular fan of soap operas and long series with many seasons and episodes because sooner or later, the producers tend to skip the point, somehow, and the action becomes, in a way, boring. There have been a few timeless productions, nevertheless, which were exceptions to that rule. In my country (Poland), the first soap opera still remembered by many was the Brazilian ISAURA showed on Polish television in the mid-1980s. The streets became quiet when it was on. People were crazy about it and some new born female babies were christened Isaura in spite of its odd sounding name. Later, as years passed by and there were more and more cheap soap operas, a lot of movie fans and contemporary viewers treated them with slight irony. It seemed no such 'social mania' might be ahead of us. Additionally, we must consider the role of television which has changed tremendously after all these years. Yet, a greater success came which has awed people in my country. In this way, none of us thought of it as a hit (referring to Ms Kovalchuk's words). It was a true surprise for all of us.

After the premiere of season 1 in Ukraine and its presentation in Cannes, the Polish television TVP1 started to broadcast the Ukrainian series THE LOVE IN CHAINS (originally KREPOSTNAYA which can be translated as "enslaved") in July. Although the parallels occurred strong with the aforementioned ISAURA and some maybe saw THE LOVE IN CHAINS as a sort of its 'remake,' the series attracted our attention from its very beginning and occurred captivating. As it consists of 48 fifty minute-episodes (24 episodes for season 1 and 24 for season 2), my wife and I watched it almost every evening because it was on TV so often. Its popularity grew so rapidly that the TV bought the second season right away and the Polish viewers could see it even before the Ukrainian ones. Why is it such a sensation?

As penned by Svetlana Tsivinskaya and directed by Feliks Gerchikov and Maksim Litvinov, it is a mesmerizing depiction of various characters. All characters, even the supporting ones, are memorable and sophisticated. It's not the way like: 'Now I am going to show you a true villain" No, everyone is depicted psychologically and bound to change. Moreover, the story is set in a very intereresting period of history, in the mid 1850s in Ukraine (which belonged to tsarist Russia at that time). As a period drama, it rightly hits the tone of the 19th century, supplies us with an in-depth insight into the reality, particularly the discrepancies between the rich and the poor. While watching it, you are brought to that time along with its beauty, sophistication and elegance. You follow the fate of Katerina Verbitskaya which is filled with, symbolically, everything that a person can experience in life, most tormented life actually (physically, mentally and spiritually). She seems to be afflicted by suffering, sometimes embodying it to the very core and, yet, does not lose hope in destiny's justice. But she is no Isaura (though parallels can be drawn). In her problems, she does not go to the garden to think but she gives us an insight into her spiritual life and prays, even for her persecutors... That is a very important difference because her character is made far more spiritual and identifiable. More to say, lovable. Katerina Kovalchuk does a wonderful job in the role. She combines innocence with decisiveness and gentleness with appeal. There were many actresses who were cast for the role, including Anna Sagaydachnaya (Natalie from the series) but I think that Ms Kovalchuk was the right choice. A lot of people will probably agree with me, though, it does not mean that other actresses would not have been good at this role. Yet, Ms Kovalchuk has something special.

Yes, our heroine goes through incredibly hard things, terrible things that life can offer a human and she hits the tone of emotional bond with the viewers very well. It is true that you watch it and you empathize with her. But, our attention is not only on the protagonist but others who also do terrific jobs and play important roles in her life. Mainly, Michail Gavrilov, a villain, Grigorij Cervinsky madly in love with Katerina. Being in all the episodes of the series, we see his change for the worse and a haunting way towards addiction and madness. A mention must be made of Anna Sagaydachnaya in the role of good-hearted Natalie, wife of Grigorij's. Alexey Yarovenko is brilliant as the love of her life, the love that could not be fulfilled... Stanislav Boklan and Yuliya Aug give strong performances as the landlords of Cervinsky's mansion. Ms Aug, already famous for her brilliant roles including empress Elisabeth Petrovna in CATHERINE, is worth attention as Katerina's godmother Anna Lvovna Cervinskaya. She portrays a rather positive character whom we come to like later... There is also her daughter Polina Aug who plays young Anna Lvovna in the flashback scenes. The scenes of the emotional tensions between father, Peter Chervinsky and son Grigorij are unforgettable. Mind you the episode with the wedding... One of the backstories which should not be skipped here is the relation between masters and peasants. They were different: some very bad which gave bases for later riots and revolution (historically), some were better. Ksenija Miszyna portrays a villainous lady Lidia Scheffer who treats her subjects as slaves, things and offers our protagonist many sufferings. But do not take everything too seriously...

(I heard in one interview with the actress that people felt the story so intensely that they really believed she (Ksenija not Lidia) did bad things to Katerina and the actress was judged by the viewers...yeah, some people do not see the borderline between fiction and reality. It is a sad fact because it sheds a shadow upon the reputation of its viewers. Shame! That is obviously not what the series is mean to be.

All the people in the series do their best and it is too short for on review to mention all. Simply, as a viewer you feel you are in another period of time thanks to them. Nazar, a blacksmith, Halka, a servant girl with her change of heart, Nikolaj, Natalie's brother so indefatigable to defend Alexey's honor, Pavlina, a lovable cook, Elena and the humble senator (a wonderful character in season 2) and many many others. Very good performances!

The costumes are another great merit of the series. They are wonderful and go perfectly well with the interiors and exteriors. You see a convincing 'fashion display' of the period. What palaces and gardens! Some scenes were shot in the town of Niezyn in Ukraine. Supposedly, a lot of fans of the series will like to visit the place and deservedly so.

There are a lot of good things that could be said about the series but, we think (my wife and I) that its crucial aspect that a sensitive viewer will never forget is not the power of mind nor the power of will that it attempts to grasp but the power of heart. In spite of cruelty, religious fanatism, injustices, treason, disappointment, despair, wretchedness, masochism that one may experience, all those demons are not able to deprive a good person of a good heart. This is a very clear message of the series and for that matter, a true credit to all the people who took part in this memorable production. Not merely Ukrainian version of ISAURA but an involving, captivating series.

Hopefully, the series will be an equal success internationally as it was in Poland once it has been released. Look for it, really worth attention.

Thank you for reading.

Fall of Eagles: Death Waltz
(1974)
Episode 1, Season 1

Cheer Vs Applause
Narrated by William Hordern, the first episode focuses on Vienna where Franz Josef (Miles Anderson) becomes emperor in 1848. The roar of revolution is over and his mother, archduchess Sophie and emperor Ferdinand (who is not mentioned here whatsoever) resign the throne for the sake of her young son. She seems to hope to dominate her son in all decisions and truly he appears to be in the shadow at first; however, the time comes when his answer is 'No.' Franz does not marry his cousin Helene but Elisabeth, nicknamed Sissi (Diane Keen), much to his mother's dismay. A very famous story put on screen several times. Of course, what comes to mind is the trilogy with Romy Schneider but let us now leave the cinematic fairy tales and move to reality.

Bill Hays, Hugh Whitemore and John Elliot give us a far more realistic picture of the love story and political story of the time, which absorbs a viewer from the very beginning. It is, first of all, short of unnecessary tearjerkers. Much in the spirit of the whole series, the first episode is no exception and shows this story in the context of rising changes in Europe at the time which had a very strong impact on the fall of monarchies. Sophie (Pamela Brown) represents the past views on society, on governing, on family and, foremost, on the way the future of the country should be built. Sissi, however, brings fresh air to the old walls of the Hofburg Palace, where, unfortunately, she finds herself in a cage. She is much interested in Hungary (mind you that the Hungarians did not only symbolize a certain manifestation of fight for independence and freedom at the time but were very much disliked at the court because of the attempt on the life of the emperor administered by a Hungarian). Count Andrassy (Sandor Eles) is no sweet figure that makes Sissi feel in love but the very embodiment of resistance. He comes to the court. I liked the scene when the second child of Sissi and Franz Josef is born and it is a girl again. No successor to the throne... the court are saddened but the Hungarians are happy. Yes, that was their point of view.

Yes, they were against this very way of power before the Austro-Hungarian empire, before the 1860s and Sophie trembles at the very thought of some revolutionary ideas, some new waves within the borders of the empire. Her sole aim is to keep the dynasty alive and never let the eagle fall. She believes that a child that Sissi is can be curbed. Consider this sole method of CONTROL - that is her weapon - present throughout the series bringing forth new characters with totally new situations but being governed by the same principle. Those reactions to the changes were partly a reason for the fall of monarchies, the drastic change that the 20th century brought. There is a lovely scene when both women talk about the vision of Austria, the vision of the empire, which, to Sophie's mind "must be preserved at all costs." Can it?

The dramatisation by Hugh Whitemore and John Elliot leaves little room for the emperor, it seems. It is a deliberate psychological attempt to show the game behind the curtains, the game of women. The theater scene shows that vividly. Who is being applauded and who is being cheered? One of them has to dance the death waltz...

The performances are really great. Like in case of many British productions of the time, there is little room for special effects, there is little room for alluring the eye with some overwhelming sets but what evokes truly is acting. You sometimes have a feeling you are watching a Shakespeare play but it all adds much vigour to the drama. Particularly, Pamela Brown as archduchess Sophie and Diane Keen as Sissi. Miles Anderson as Franz Josef is a little bit too old for the period the episode depicts.

It is good to start viewing this series from episode one because in spite of the fact it seems that the second episode has nothing to do with this one, you later realize it is all one big whole. Very worth seeing!

Aparição
(1991)

One of Most Accurate Movies
APARICAO ('Apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima) by Daniel Costele is not one of those 'top' films about the greatest Marian Apparitions of the 20th century but, surprisingly, one of those 'most accurate' films made so far.

This year, when we celebrate the centenary of those miraculous events that took place at Fatima, Portugal in 1917, a lot of documentaries, films, archive footage are brought to light. Costele's film, definitely, should not be skipped for several reasons that make it a truly outstanding cinematic work.

Firstly, it is the only film that develops the 1916 apparitions of the Angel of Peace who appeared to children, Lucia, and now saints Jacinta and Francisco and prepared them for later apparitions of Our Lady by teaching them a significant prayer. This prayer was deeply rooted in the spirit of sacrifices that they more and more willingly undertook for sinners and their conversion. The scenes with the Angel are the great plus of the movie because 13th May 1917 when Madonna appeared to children was another 'step' in the process of their spiritual and mystical experience.

Secondly, Costele's film places the story in the very political context of the Portugal of these years, turbulent years indeed. The anti-clerical government begun by Alfonso Costa with the rise of the Republic in 1910 and the bastion of their media, the newspaper 'O Seculo' (which, paradoxically, promoted the events at Fatima through their mockery) is embodied by the mayor of Vila Nova de Ourem (a municipality superior to Aljustrel and Fatima) Arturo de Oliveira Santos. He arrests the children in the cells of prison at Ourem and demands of them to reveal the secret that the Lady placed upon them. Here is a nice contrast between the earthly powers of freemasonry and totalitarisms and the powers of heaven: frightening vs. love. He frightens them, that is his only weapon while Our Lady says: "Do not be afraid'

It is also a crucial aspect for all those that considered Fatima events as some doomed, gloomy prophecy, a secret of total destruction that was meant to scare the world, place it in fear. On the contrary, it is a message of God's Love, of peace that may be achieved through prayer, penance and sacrifice.

Although Fabrizio Costa's movie of 1997 also develops this aspect of Portuguese history, it goes quite far to the more fictitious plots and events. That is not bad, though, it might miss the point sometimes.

Thirdly, the film does justice to the depiction of children's families. Olimpia and Manuel Marto, the parents of Jacinta and Francisco, perhaps do not have so many doubts as Lucia's mother Maria Rosa. Yet, in both families, there is that pure modesty, that feeling that "We are not worthy. How is that possible?" Yes, God chooses those 'little ones' to entrust them those 'great things.' In that respect, I would like to call your attention to two scenes: Lucia's mother visiting the parish priest and Lucia's father praying the Rosary with her at Cova da Iria. Two different attitudes, yet deeply rooted in faith.

Finally, the film was most welcome by two greatest Fatima witnesses of the 20th century: saint John Paul II and Servant of God Sister Lucia. They both saw the film and the children who play Jacinta, Francisco and Lucia were with John Paul II at Fatima altar in 1991 in exactly the same dresses as the seers of Fatima were once wearing.

"Do not offend God any longer, pray Rosary each day" that is the Message of the Beautiful Lady that 100 years ago appeared in this little village, Fatima. That is the remedy for world's suffering, that is the way of permanent peace. The saint Pastorinhos and their "Ave Maria" echoes from there to the whole world.

The Strauss Family: Adele
(1972)
Episode 8, Season 1

All His Life He Was Waiting For Her...
After the turmoil-ed marriage with a girl-wife, we get a rather pessimistic view of the aging Johann Strauss (Stuart Wilson). Not only has he failed in his marriage but also in relations with his close family, namely his younger brother Eduard Strauss (Tony Anholt). Ambitious, proud and determined, Edi performs at the Sperl and plays Johann Strauss's waltzes. Considering Schani 'out of date,' he believes that it is him that people come to see. Moreover, he does not object to the spreading rumor that Schani allegedly stole late Josef's works and plays them as his own. Quite difficult brother-brother relations but not sufficient dramatization, unfortunately. Edi's sarcasm towards Schani's 'out of date' approach to music will be cured in America which will make him 'old fashioned' and 'afraid.'

Schani's sisters are not quite a comfort either (mind you that they may remind you here of English ladies at tea). The reason for their outright objections, however, lies elsewhere - in a relationship with a woman that becomes a true haven and remedy for loneliness of the aging man, a woman for whom he was waiting all his life...

Adele (Lynn Farleigh) is a Jewess, a widow who lives alone with her little daughter Alice. Unlike the depiction in STRAUSS DYNASTY where Johann Strauss meets her in Budapest, the emphasis here is put on the fact that she lives in the same building as Schani's sisters. Respectable as she appears to all of them, it is hardly possible in Catholic Austria that Schani could divorce his girl-wife and get married again. This convention and the social situation is nicely depicted in a scene with Edi Strauss who highly objects to this, as he calls it, 'mad idea.' Yet, Adele finds Schani 'gentle and kind,' their relationship is not only based on passion but also understanding and he risks everything. Schani gets German citizenship, becomes a Protestant, divorces his wife Lili and marries Adele. Then, they come back to Vienna and...everybody waits for the reactions of the Viennese. His return is marked by the debut of the operetta 'Die Zigeunerbaron' and what follows are tributes... There is still success awaiting for the aging composer that is not merely resorted to 'glass cases.' Mind you that the episode spans quite many years of Schani's life and, therefore, we find him growing old very quickly.

Although the final episode is titled 'Adele' and Lynn Farleigh leaves a lasting impression of depicting a gentle, subtle woman of sophistication and dignity, the two most memorable scenes of the episode do not refer to her, actually. These are the second meeting of Johann Strauss and emperor Franz Josef and the 50th jubilee of Schani's career at the Dommayer's. The meeting with Franz Josef with the sounds of the beautiful and moody "Kaiserwaltz" in the background appears to depict the confrontation of popularity. The two aging gentlemen, in spite of the fact that they represent two 'worlds,' seem to have much in common, they care for their public (humorously Schani changes his looks in order not to be like the emperor). Their conversation echoes the one of episode 5 but it is more a talk of legacy than plans. Whose work will outlast whose? Meanwhile, the scene at the Dommayer's occurs to be the answer for the emperor's dilemma. 50 years later, there are no Claques who would mock the young composer but true fans who applaud their great musician, the symbol of Vienna on the day of his jubilee. Sentimental as the scene may seem, which also sets the tone for final impressions in a viewer, it leads the series to a jubilant conclusion.

Among the supporting performances of the episode, a mention must be made of the actor who plays Johannes Brahms in one short scene, short but memorable, too. In STRAUSS DYNASTY, there is also a scene with Brahms in a far more 'unusual' circumstances where he turns up to help Schani save his face and intends to state publicly that Strauss could never steal his brother's work.

Apart from some fine historical touches in the episode, there is also a notion of the first telephones, 'that thing' to speak to, as Schani calls it.

'All my life I was waiting for you...' a pretty nice thing for a woman to hear from her husband no matter how much older he is...a pretty nice reflection of a passing man. A statement that refers to true love, the only thing worth looking for, struggling for, creating for and withering for.

The empty Sperl, no Johann Strauss any longer, no dancers of that time but music lasts and is for always present in the air of Vienna, the waves of the Danube and the hearts of people.

The Strauss Family: Lili
(1972)
Episode 7, Season 1

Little Girl-Wife
After the premiere of Johann Strauss's famous waltz 'The Blue Danube' and the male fascination of one Marie Geistinger (Cheryl Kennedy), the episode begins with full pomp of Schani's smashing success. This time, its location is not the ballrooms of Vienna but the New World. Calling London 'wet' and America 'enormous' Schani (Stuart Wilson) together with his older wife Hetti (Margaret Whiting) soon comes back to Vienna. The king of waltz is back to his hometown, 'the only king in America they wanted to crown...' However, he does not appear so successful within his own family. This not only refers to his closest family but also to women that seem to admire him like an idol and fail to see him as a human being.

a note about the musical pieces: While episode 6 "Hetti" included 'The Blue Danube,' in episode 7 "Lili" we can admire 'Wienerblut' (Viennese Blood) and operetta 'Die Fledermaus.' They marked the pinnacle of success for the composer.

In the first half of the episode, the director along with the screenwriter do not call our attention to one of those young delicious 'darlings' - the title character Lili (played by Georgina Hale) but to Hetti because she sets the accurate context for the events to come. She changes her attitude completely from what was in the previous episode and feels herself useless, old, unattractive and not fitting for so great a composer as Johann Strauss. With reference to many women in STRAUSS FAMILY, she is a true embodiment of artificial attempts to make herself a center of attention by all means despite some natural state of events. Schani gets bored with her. Moreover, the shocking fact of her grown up son who claims certain rights impacts their marriage even more negatively (in STRAUSS DYNASTY, this plot is more dramatically developed by the fact that this is her son of Johann Strauss the Elder and, consequently, Hetti commits suicide out of fear that the truth could be revealed - as I have stated before, Cherie Lunghi is better than Margaret Whiting in the role). As a result, Schani's attention is drawn to other women...and there are many among his fans.

The problem, however, is the fact they are much younger than him yet much more experienced in how to allure a man. Although we first may think that this woman will be Marie Geistinger, as the previous episode would anticipate, she is more like Anne Baxter in the role of Eve in Mankiewicz's ALL ABOUT EVE being more independent, saying straight to the theater director Max Steiner (William Dexter): "I belong to no one!" Marie (whose counterpart in J Chomsky's STRAUSS DYNASTY is sexy Eva played by Paris Jefferson) is talented, beautiful and extremely ambitious. But Lili? Before I move to Lili, the title character of the episode and, perhaps, the most tragic, disastrous femme fatale for a Strauss, let me make some brief note about Edi (Tony Anholt).

The episode contains a truly splendid depiction of close family relations not only in Strauss family but in any family of famous people where jealousy, prejudice, psychological wounds, neglections and rivalry may appear. This jealousy of Edi Strauss that grew more intense after the death of their brother Josef is unrestrained. His wife Marie fans the flame of those negative emotions when she asks: "Does Edi always have to be the second best?" As Schani's popularity grows and he is more and more widely acclaimed as 'The Strauss', Edi grows horns. The sisters are of no comfort or constructive help. Schani is more reasonable in this brotherly rivalry and he states clearly that he is not "entering any contest of popularity" with his brother, but the situation becomes more serious when his private life breaks into pieces.

a little note about a performance: Tony Anholt portrays a jealous man a little bit too gently. We can deduce the turmoil that takes place in his mind but it's all too little dramatic, wild, neurotic).

Hetti falls ill and dies and Schani, in the sorrow of loss, comes across Cafe Victoria where Lili is introduced to him. Much to the surprise of his family, in one of the most hilarious scenes of the episode, he introduces her to his brother and sisters as a newly wed wife. Young, beautiful, sexy, making him much younger, just sweetness and pleasure itself! Consider the decor of their bedroom as a terrific visual/symbolic aspect. It is a place of illusion, a lustful pleasure itself, a short-lived substitute for true love. Schani is no longer bored but the problem is that soon Lili is bored. She wants life full of extravagant pleasures, constant fun, company of various people and wild nights. He is too tired and too busy working for such a lifestyle and temper. A taste of disappointment goes with a taste of treason...a marriage doomed to fail.

Georgina Hale gives a very good performance as Lili highlighting this balance of cheap sentiment, lust and hidden personal motives. Emma Bowe in STRAUSS DYNASTY portrays just a silly, ridiculous woman in love with jewels and nudity. Stuart Wilson as Schani is, for the first time in the series, laughable and pitied. The final scene when he plays his waltz at the portrait of Hetti embraces all emotional turmoils herein depicted. Does not appear to anticipate much, though.

The Strauss Family: Hetti
(1972)
Episode 6, Season 1

A Woman like That...
The carnival is on, all Vienna is taken with Strauss's music but, as the many audiences often „throw you flowers and forget you are human," hardly anyone seems to understand a celebrity. The 'idol' of the crowds also has the right to his private life. This episode, unlike many of the previous ones, makes this notion clearly remarkable. Schani, after the disappointing experience with Olga, listens to the call of his heart and is taken with a sophisticated influential woman, Hetti (Margaret Whiting) much to the dismay of his mother (Anne Stallybrass). It is she who shaped his future and who finds it really hard to accept things as they are. The haunt of the past co-exists with the reality of the present.

Dramatised by David Butler, the episode primarily concentrates on Hetti (Margaret Whiting), Schani's first wife. When they get to know each other, he utters a memorable line: I never knew what it meant to be alive before I met you." Although I personally prefer Cherie Lunghi in STRAUSS DYNASTY (1991), Ms Whiting highlights her aristocratic high airs and her older age (10 years older than Schani). "A woman like that..." referred to by Schani's mother, she encourages Schani to play more and more with his brothers, Josef (Nicholas Simmonds), weak and rather indecisive whom we got to know in the previous episode and Edward (Tony Anhalt), more ambitious, more lasting. Three brothers together! Schani's mother strongly opposes but when she realizes that she cannot insist on her ways to her grown up son, she retires and moves to oblivion. It is no concern of hers anymore...

Schani's fascination towards Hetti is nicely compared to his father's fascination towards Emily Trampusch (Barbarra Ferris). She has her scene in the episode as an old woman living the haunt of the past, cherishing a few years worth living for, forgotten and abandoned within the dust of long ago. Quite a drama to depict Schani offering help, financial help to the woman who ruined the marriage of his parents... The reason for understanding his father is his love to Hetti.

One of the most touching scenes of the episode and of the entire series is Anna Strauss' death scene. Holding the waltz composed by Schani at the age of three, she passes away in disappointment, sorrow, loneliness while all Strauss family are having fun at the ball. What is more tragic a fact, which Marvin J Chomsky in his later version does not dare depict so cruelly, is that Schani refuses to take part in his mother's funeral. In the 1991 version, Hetti gets the telegram to Paris after the premiere of Blue Danube waltz and hides the sad information from Schani because they are going for the tour nee in America. Later, as Schani finds out his mother is dead, he mourns her and yells on Hetti in despair. Here, he says "Nothing will have changed" and accepts the fact with an emotionless reaction. Soon, however, his brother Josef dies too. Edi (Tony Anhalt), the only brother left anticipates more a jealous than a modest attitude...

This episode also includes the premiere of the famous waltz by Schani Strauss titled 'The Blue Danube.' Here, the title character Hetti also has her word of advice. Initially thought to be a choral waltz with rather ridiculous lines to sing: „In Vienna be gay" (unlike "In Vienna be glad in the later version) Schani takes Hetti's advice and plays it without any words. Taking into account the rather sad context within the family when two of its members are gone, the atmosphere is not that gay and jubilant as in STRAUSS DYNASTY where he premieres the waltz in Paris with standing ovation. Here, he plays the waltz in a small casino, small but meaningful for Strauss family. However, it is not Hetti's husband's night...as she would suspect but another woman stands in the way, another source of fascination and inspiration...

The Blue Danube waltz, perhaps the most famous waltz that people associate Johann Strauss with, and Hetti absorbed by bitterness and jealousy mark the final credits of the episode.

The Strauss Family: Josef
(1972)
Episode 5, Season 1

Man of Many Talents
Years have passed since the death of Johann Strauss Sr, Anna Strauss is an elderly woman with as much vibrant energy as she used to and now it is Schani (Stuart Wilson) who is the head of the family. Popular among Viennese audiences, dancing people who is, as Prince Metternich said, 'a happy people' he does not go to the court as the new court music director but it is rather the court that comes to him. He meets emperor Franz Josef and it is a memorable encounter where two worlds meet: the world of art and the world of politics. Both want happy people... However, it is not Schani nor the young emperor (Nicholas Jones) at the center of attention in this episode.

Directed by David Giles and dramatized by David Butler, the episode calls our attention on Schani's younger brother Josef called Pepi (Nicholas Simmonds). First, because of engagement with a beautiful Carolyne played by young Jane Seymour; second, because of taking over the family's passion and work for music. When Schani realizes that he wanted to be just like his father who would never stop but died young, he falls ill placing himself on the verge of nervous exhaustion and burning himself out. A man of many talents, a writer, painter, an architect, and engineer and a musician Josef Strauss evokes and takes over filed with contradictory emotions, as he points out, 'excited and frightened.' Josef is portrayed in an accurate fashion by the actor who highlights his doubts, his fears, his ambitions as well as the fact that he 'owes it to his family.' The scene of his first performance is brilliance in itself focusing on inexperience combined with curiosity of novelties. Josef rises in fame and Edi, another brother, in jealousy... However, as the episode's dramatization rightly develops the character of Josef Strauss, it seems to get out of its track in the second half.

There, we have Schani and his trip to Russia where he plays for the tsar and has an episodic love affair with one Olga, a girl of aristocratic background. Romantic and sentimental as it may seem (sometimes even too much), this plot should not have been incorporated into this episode. It would, equally well, make a perfect material for an entirely separate episode since there is hardly any emotional development here. Schani's trip to Russia is far better depicted in Marvin J Chomsky's version where you have true passion, torments and determination on the verge of madness from Olga portrayed there by Alice Krige. Here, their scenes resort to sheer idealistic sentimentalism - the heights they can reach hardly understood by today's audiences. Even the scene at Olga's mother does not have that dramatic impulse simply because the whole plot needs insight. The busts in Greek and Roman style that stand in her home do not correspond to the Russian context at all. Pity there is such a serious flaw but that plot which takes approximately 12 minutes of the episodes is bound to fail.

Soon, however, we come back to Vienna with Schani who gets over the failed love affair easily and amuses important people with significant goals and ambitions and delightful tastes. It is Baron Todesco with a woman, considerably older than the King of Waltz, yet with considerably sufficient crush on him, Hetti (Margaret Whiting) - a woman who will play a decisive role in Schani's upgrading and a dramatic role in his mother's oblivion.

Among the supporting cast of the episode, a mention should be made of the actress who plays Carolyne's mother, Ms Brockmeyer and Nicholas Jones who plays Franz Josef.

The Strauss Family: Revolution
(1972)
Episode 4, Season 1

Destruction of Old Order
After the very atmospheric and austere episode about the new star, the young Johann Strauss's debut at Dommayer's, we get a slightly different tone now. The historic event of the revolution that took place in 1848 (also in Vienna) marked the destruction of the old order not only in political but also the cultural world. As Johann Strauss the Elder (Eric Woofe) points it out here: "Nothing will be quite the same again." For some indeed, nothing else will matter and for others, everything will... It was truly "somebody else's night." The stone that breaks the glass of the window where Emily (Barbara Ferris) is sure no one can spoil the night is just a prelude...

Dramatized by Anthony Skene and directed by Peter Potter, episode 4 titled "Revolution" puts emphasis on the events of 1848 and the Strauss Family coping with the horror of the revolution. This time, however, it is Johann Strauss and his "Mrs Strauss" who are in far greater trouble, the financial trouble as well. As the revolution breaks out, they have to flee from Vienna (Strauss being suspected of supporting Prince Metternich and his "old order") and go to England. It is the time when Johann Strauss composes the famous Radetsky March, the piece he is most famous for. But the unforgettable sounds of this march we do not hear as it happens today in the joy of the New Year's wishes but in the gloom of the revolution, its destruction, its arrogance, its violence and misery. While away from home, the revolutionists break into and vandalize everything at hand. They burn his music. In one of the saddest scenes of the series, they come back seeing the tragic condition of their house. Now he can only glimpse the vision of the youth and the new order. As they come back, his children fall ill and there is no money for the doctor. The troubles drive Emily to despair and insanity.

Meanwhile, Anna and her children (Edward being the youngest son who visits his father regularly) do not only glimpse the vision of the youth but live it. They represent a far more positive attitude, a true determination to survive and come out of it all stronger. To view comes Josef Strauss as a young revolutionist and his girl Caroline (played by Jane Seymour). We see the turmoil of the revolution from the inside perspective and more and more of Anna as a caring mother and a forgiving wife. She proves not to be selfish (as Dommayer asks her a rhetorical question: Where would be be without Schani?) and gives some money to her husband who begs her to help his illegitimate children. What a woman! What a courage!

But it is not quite the determination that seems to take over in this episode but far more values. Within the gloomy aspect of Johann Strauss's sickness and death (he died in September 1849 of the scarlet fever that he had caught from his illegitimate children), it is his true family who are at his dead body. Abandoned by those who represented illusive love and passion of a moment and prayed for by those whom he, for some time, ignored. Marvin J Chomsky in his later version STRAUSS DYNASTY depicts the last days of Johann Strauss the Elder memorably as well but the aspect of forgiveness and the drama that must have taken place within his wife's heart is really here. Perhaps a bit too dramatic and stagy these scenes might occur from today's perspective, but they truly leave a lasting impression. There, you feel you are watching a story of a real family, there, you feel that characters of great heart are depicted, those who give and want nothing in return. I mean primarily Anna here and Anne Stallybrass has some more moments of truly strong performance.

Among the supporting cast of the episode, John Harvey as Prince Metternich deserves credit. He is different than Edward Fox in the later version, the development of the character is quite episodic here but there is one line he utters that needs mentioning: Man without his work is nothing." That is what he says to Johann Strauss while they stay in a hotel room in London. And Strauss came back with his Radetsky March and his last applause.

While Schani's music is admired in all Vienna now and the Sperl is filled with his waltzes, there is a reflection of a woman at a grave of Strauss Family Senior who lived for only 45 years.

The Strauss Family: Schanni
(1972)
Episode 3, Season 1

A New Star
A young talented man who is going to be one of the most famous musicians of his time does not look so self confident and promising in the beginning..."Will I pass?" young Schani (Stuart Wilson) asks his mother at the beginning of the episode. He is afraid, he is inexperienced, he has to look for musicians to his orchestra. Nevertheless, he may truly achieve 'the impossible' even if all the world around seems not to care but, most importantly, the will is there.

Dramatised by Anthony Skene, the third episode of this wonderful series appears to be solely dedicated to young Schani Strauss (Stuart Wilson), who unlike his famous father (Eric Woofe), now a court music director and a star at the Sperl, will have to face some awful obstacles and yet will succeed being coined 'a new star' Strauss vs. Strauss, the Sperl vs. Dommayer; performance at the luxurious Sperl vs. debut at a 'suburban hall' and yet, the result is surprising.

The episode dramatizes two views on music, the ones that not only appeared at the time of Schani's debut but has occurred in many generations resulting more in a wall than a bridge. We see a young composer with fresh, new look on music and some closest people around him who are willing to give him a push. That is, mainly, his mother (Anne Stallybrass). Here, she becomes even more positive a character than she was in the previous episodes. She takes Schani's side with all her heart and soul. With obstacles comes the 'circle of the acclaimed,' mainly Schani's father and his impresario Hirsch played by David de Keyser. They want to spoil the debut of the young musician by giving the concert at the Sperl on the very same date. But, two concerts on one day which will certainly make the audiences take sides is not enough for Hirsch. He visits a sophisticated 'primadonna' Signora Lucari (Sonia Dresdel) and asks her to send a group of the Claque to Dommayer's in order to mock and spoil the debut performance. There are always and everywhere people of quite wretched characters who will dare any malicious deeds for money... Out of fear of success and jealousy, the elderly do anything to stop the boy and his mother from possible dawn of a career. The haunt of oblivion appears too strong.

Mind you the scene Johann Strauss visits his wife and wants Schani to play in his orchestra. The moment is also echoed in the later version of STRAUSS DYNASTY where the reaction of Anna (Lisa Harrow) is an outcry 'NEVER' but as short as it may seem there, this episode develops the encounter more effectively. The scene is genuine, indeed. Anna (Anne Stallybrass) presents herself as a woman who has never known what choosing is in life but her primary goal now is the happiness of Schani, his independent happiness. He is the head of the family now. She shows Johann a piece of paper with notes that Schani wrote at the age of six. It is good to pay attention to this 'relic' so much cherished by her because it will be referred to in a more touching scene later in the series... Top notch performances by Ms Stallybrass and Mr Woofe!

Schani's indefatigable struggle to success is nicely depicted at Dommayer's (Christopher Benjamin). When, among the beautiful sounds of his first waltzes, the Claque prove to be the people "skilled at making their presence felt in the performance" (as Hirsch states once), he does not give up and insists "I will play my music anyway!" Consequently, he prompts the whole mocking laughter of the situation turn into applauding acclaim; sheer parody into valuable entertainment. The scene is long, indeed, interrupted from time to time by some unnecessary lines and seemingly dated nowadays but it is one of the most memorable moments of the series. Truly, it was supposed to be catchy because this was actually the dawn of Schani's career, a real debut. Yes, it is the highlight of the episode when Signora Lucari, the one who mockingly calls Strauss music, 'cafe music' pays tribute to a 'new star.' A great supporting performance by Sonia Dresdel!

Johann Strauss the Elder does not feel like a triumph at the Sperl where, the so much expected emperor does not appear anyway, because the triumph is clearly elsewhere. But it is not the Johann Strauss who is totally overcome by jealousy and that is good because it makes him more likable. In one moment when the news of the Claque comes to him, he says "Schani is my son, let them not destroy him, he must end with some dignity!" There is another nice little scene when we see Johann and his Emilie in a cab and Hirsch comes to them with the news of success at Dommayer's. Johann's laughter makes us laugh too. What an impact on a viewer... It is, anyway, a success of his son whom he once forbade to play music.

It is a turning point when there are two Johann Strausses in Vienna but the city's heart is more and more with Johann Strauss the Younger, a 'new star' whose waltzes have won the hearts of so many people who have come to Vienna ever since.

The Strauss Family: Emilie
(1972)
Episode 2, Season 1

"A Mrs Strauss"
In the previous episode dedicated to Johann Strauss's wife, Anna says to her husband "We want you to become part of us (our family) again." However, at the heights of his career, he is taken with more and more women. A beautiful blonde appears at the Sterl and has a crush on him... Emilie Trampusch (Barbara Ferris), whom historically Johann Strauss called "Queen of Waltz." She presents herself as "Mrs Strauss" in one of the most unpredictable situations...

Anna (Anne Stallybrass) becomes nothing more than a housewife taking care of her six children. Johann Strauss (Eric Woofe) comes back home late at nights, he leaves his dirty boots on the table, he behaves more like a guest. He becomes rather a nuisance than an aid to his family. He treats them more instructional and, as one of his sons says, he would "parade his family in public in order to prove they still exist." Family table and its role change. Clearly, his children are musically talented, yet, he plans a different future for them. The almost grown up Schani (Stuart Wilson) works in a bank but he does his job reluctantly rather than out of some youthful enthusiasm. And music?

There is no room for music in his life unless in secret. He takes private music lessons at the best teacher's in Vienna named Drechsler (played by wonderful Carleton Hobbs). But he will go his way reaching far more than his father... The boy soon has "no father" and Anna is his mother. Strong mother, indeed. Anna utters another terrific line here: "When there is no work, one must create work."

After Johann Strauss leaves his family and goes to his Emilie, David Reid's dramatization of the episode accurately marks this division of two realities. Mind you that Anna's flat is contrasted to Emilie's flat along with visual representation of them both. While Anna's flat dominates in rather gloomy but realistic depiction of life, Emilie's flat is dominated by pink standing for "illusion". That clear contrast is sharpened by pairing of scenes and juxtaposing from close-up to close-up. An interesting character who finds favor in Johann's eyes is Hirsch, always a diplomat, an adviser with a bit of distrust towards Emilie.

Apart from quite an extraordinary depiction of Johann Strauss's double life, the episode is famous for great scenes with Josef Lanner (Derek Jacobi). Despite the argument they have had and rivalry that took over their friendship, Strauss and Lanner meet in the chapel. Their talk seems friendly; yet, is there any reconciliation when "too much has happened; too much Lanner cares about?" Soon, it occurs this was their last meeting... In STRAUSS DYNASTY by Marvin J. Chomsky, Lanner's death and Strauss's coming too late are, perhaps, more dramatic and spectacular aspects; but the subtlety herein depicted is worth considering.

Among the supporting cast of the episode, a mention needs to be made of Carleton Hobbs as old Drechsler. His manners supplied with some awe and dignity very well fit to the role of "the best teacher in Vienna." John Gielgud supplies the character with more humour, perhaps, being in taken with the taste of apricot jam; yet, Hobbs's Drechsler is unique. Pity there are actually two scenes with him only.

The most memorable and dramatic scene of the episode, though, appears to me the moment when Schani, having encountered Emilie - "Mrs Strauss' in the bank goes to her flat and sees a little kid, Emilie's kid whose father is his father. Much is conveyed through that scene.

While the music of Johann Strauss sound at the Sterl, attention will be drawn to old place at Dommayer's. Argument, rivalry, scandal...two Johann Strausses and through all this, a new star to rise.

The Strauss Family: Anna
(1972)
Episode 1, Season 1

Did One Do For the Best?
After the credits and the beautiful sounds of Strauss Waltz, a viewer is directed to a slightly gloomy image of drops of rain falling on the window glass. A famous composer having made his tournée through Europe is lying delirious in his bed. Already married to Anna, a nice and respectable girl, he contemplates his decisions and his youth. Naturally flashbacks come to view...

Directed by David Giles (a famous director of some great British productions of the 1960s and 1970s, just to name THE FORSYTE SAGA and FIRST CHURCHILLS) and dramatized by Anthony Skene, the first episode "Anna" rightly sets the tone of composer's life from the perspective of composer's wife. It also hits the right atmosphere of the entire series. Anna will hold quite a power in the stories of Vienna's greatest composers. However, our attention is drawn, at first, not so much on Anna, played brilliantly by Anne Stallybrass (in my main review on the series I mentioned the fact that still it would be difficult to decide if the later portrayal of Lisa Harrow is better) but on Lanner (Derek Jacobi) and Strauss (Eric Woofe), old friends who are more and more absorbed by different motives. In some respect, the episode with many events and rather a considerable time span packed into those 51 minutes, at least its first part, could be titled LANNER vs STRAUSS.

Although they are both musicians and music composers (deceptively "book binders" among those people for whom musicians had no reputation to speak of) who work tough and may get ill easily, they are of totally different personalities. While Lanner is a hard working fellow with ambition and serious attitude to life and career (indeed he sometimes takes greater pains in composing), Strauss is rather his opposite, a neurotic personality, a musician with great inspirations but almost childish attitude to life. In one scene, Lanner says that Strauss actually thinks "the whole world should revolve to his satisfactions." Slowly, in friends become rivals and foes. The glass is soon to be broken and harmony brought into pieces... While it is not that clear here that Lanner was in love with Anna (which is to be the case in the 1991 STRAUSS DYNASTY), attitude to music and work makes for a logical cause of their row as well. Both Eric Woofe and Derek Jacobi give splendid performances. Their fight, though, is a bit laughable when watching now. But let me come back to ANNA, not yet "Mama Strauss" though...

Anne Stallybrass, similarly to her portrayal of Jane Seymour in SIX WIVES OF HENRY VIII, gives a subtle performance and remains in memory as an actress of great caliber and excellent diction. Similarly to Lisa Harrow (forgive me my many comparisons to later series, actually, they are bound to be compared), Anna's question to her husband is "Isn't that enough?" - a sort of remedy for his ambition, too much of that ambition and never being able to be content with this much what one has achieved. From the excellent moment with her father Streim (played by ....) to the last moment of the episode when she says "We want you to become part of us again" Can he, though? She develops in us more and more compassion for what she goes through so far and prompts some anticipation what will come of it. In her, the reflection "Did one do for the best?" appears even more powerful. Her most powerful moment appears to me a scene when she reads her husband's letter to his children (6 children - accurate historically). As long as there are some idyllic mentions of trips, she reads the letter out loud to her kids but as the line comes when Strauss explains why he allegedly could not send any money...we hear his voice...and consider her face which tells it all. Her feelings conveyed non-verbally!

A note should be made of the scene when their first son, Schani, is born. Here, too, he is being born in the sound of music while his father plays. Yet, the scene with Paganini that is the highlight of the first episode in STRAUSS DYNASTY made twenty years later is surely more catchy and memorable.

AND SUPPORTING CAST: The actor who called my attention is Christopher Benjamin who plays Dommayer and who, ironically, also appears in one scene of the latter series. Of course, the actor who plays Streim is also worth considering.

In Strauss' being a "nobody" and comeback to composing and playing at his dream place, the Sterl, a true rival is to make her appearance. Sweet and naive as her hiccups might occur, she makes her entrance with charm and delusion...Emilie Trampusch (Barbara Farris), a "Mrs Strauss" to come...

Fall of Eagles
(1974)

True Feast for History Buffs
While checking certain BBC serials from TV productions' heyday, I came across this series recently. Having not heard about it before (it has never aired on Polish TV), I watched on YouTube the first episode "Death Waltz" with no expectations. Soon, however, the series involved me with its incredibly intense combination of history and screen drama. I decided to buy a DVD box available with some bonus material of interviews with Gayle Hunnicut (Alix), Charles Kay (tsar Nicholas) and one of the directors David Cunliffe. I have seen the whole series twice wince then and awed by it, I plan to see it for the third time. No wonder the daily Telegraph hailed it as "impressive."

Made in the mode of the British TV productions of the 1970s (just to mention I CLAUDIUS and EDWARD VII among some), FALL OF THE EAGLES has not dated at all. It can be well considered one of the best productions ever made for several reasons. One reason is surely the absorbing dramatization of thirteen episodes each dealing with particular story incorporated into the historical period. Indeed, the story lines are stuffed with facts and, yet, do not bore us with too documented material. Let me address this point in more details.

One big "family" of ruling dynasties at the twilight of their reigns, the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries: the Habsburgs, the Hohenzolerns and the Romanovs. From "Death Waltz" and the famous story of young Franz Josef in love with sweet Elisabeth of Bavaria (nicknamed Sissi) through "The English Princess" - Vicky and Fritz's love, "The Honest Broker" and Bismarck's rising influence shadowing the Kaiser William to the growing tragedy of czarism in Russia and "Absolute Beginners" who appear to hold the power and win the people. The dynamic changes that Europe experienced at the time are accurately and memorably depicted with fine balance between sheer facts and some additional acceptable liberties taken with history. To me, one of the most memorable episodes is episode 9 "Dress Rehearsal" where we can see clearly how politicians with their incompetence may truly make history... However, from today's perspective and with modern viewers' requirements, it is not historical accuracy that appeals to the general public in the series. More captivating appear the cast.

FALL OF THE EAGLES has wonderful performers. Some of the very best acting from mainstay characters like tsar Nicholas portrayed unforgettably by Charles Kay, his wife Alexandra played by Gayle Hunnicut, Barry Foster as emperor William II, Laurence Naismith as emperor Franz Josef of Austria and Patrick Stewart as Lenin to the supporting character and even episodic ones that appear on the screen in single episodes but contribute to the quality of the production considerably. Just a few to mention lie Nora Swinburne as Katharina Schratt, Curd Juergens as Bismarck, Peter Vaugham as Izvolsky, Rosalie Crutchley as Maria Pavlovna, Carleton Hobbs as Father Gruenboeck approving of a very specific funeral for Crown Prince Rudolph's mistress, Irene Hamilton as Mrs Vetsera and many others. Acting is sheer brilliance here, a great mutual achievement.

Among many other strong points that you will notice while watching the series, one has this unusual feeling that this history which we find in unemotional pages of various books can captivate us to such extent. A very human face of those people and a very psychological approach to their psyches. Perhaps, one of the best achievements in that respect is to Barry Foster's interpretation of Kaiser William II whose development, rise and oblivion we feel to the very end game. He has the final say, indeed, both tragic and hilarious...

FALL OF THE EAGLES is a must see for all history buffs and those viewers who like old BBC productions. it's an unforgettable experience. Having seen it, you will find this history period far more vivid and inspiring.

Hacksaw Ridge
(2016)

Rich in Message, Rich in Meaning, Rich in Mel Gibson's Style
Can you do something crazy? Can you endure the pain of being mocked and feel determined to go your way? No matter if you hesitate with the answer or not, here is a film you really should see.

Mel Gibson with his great comeback after 10 years is far from 'attentive exhibitionism' and from the very start, he calls our attention to the hero of his story who managed to „put a little bit of the world tearing itself apart back together." Yes, unique story rich in meaning and message where the inner world of the director seems to correspond to the inner world of the protagonist, Desmond Doss, as Robin Collin pointed out a „story of an outcast finding redemption through superhuman levels of suffering."

PROTAGONIST. Matt Zoller Seitz in his review on the film memorably observed that HACKSAW RIDGE is the movie which is actually 'at war with itself.' Following this track of argumentation, we can say that Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield) embodies that contradiction. His inner convictions, his upbringing place him at war with the world around, arouse incredible dilemmas in him. The fight of the inside that he undertakes from the start is captivating. As a son of a desperate WWI veteran Tom (Hugo Weaving) who himself openly expresses bitterness of war and disappointment that arises from serving his country, Desmond fights with the haunting presence of his father's psyche within himself (though he cannot win completely) and develops his own convictions based on Faith and God's commandments, namely: Thou shalt not kill" The picture of Cain killing Abel that hangs in his house (also mentioned in Frances Doss's book) imprints a powerful trace in his memory. Innocent, genuine, physically weak but spiritually strong, he goes to serve the country. How? Without any weapon but medical stuff to protect life. In short, you remain a great human being even if you are placed, either by coincidence or some destined fate, in the worst hell imaginable. But what a way to the top….Consider mainstay aspect of climbing.

WRONG JUDGMENTS: A young man who initially evolves mockery rather than respect and rejection rather than acceptation personifies wrong judgments that people rush to indoctrinate and later find themselves in rather shameful finale. Mel Gibson, when taking about his film in one of the interviews, memorably stated that he himself wonders „if he could have that much faith that would enable him to crawl into a battle, to enemy fire without the weapon just to save other people's lives." What could drive this young man to handle that? Perhaps, one scene may sheds light on this aspect of courage that, as the film follows, absorbs us. After Smitty, his friend dies on Hacksaw Ridge and all meaning seems to have lost all meaning, Desmond asks God „What is it you want of me?" That scene most powerfully speaks to mind and soul: the profound and humble question of his existence is directed to God. Andrew Garfield does a splendid job as Desmond portraying his courage combined with seemingly retreating position, his openness to help combined with delusively reclusive solitude. Another powerful moments that Garfield handles with exceptional skill are the scenes when he justifies his convictions. The reactions around him are mesmerizing.We clearly see this clash between what the world could truly be and what the world actually is like depending on whether more and more people look deep down to their conscience. Seitz nicely mentions this saying that „they can feel the truth of what Doss is saying. But they can't imagine the world being anything other than what it is, a place ruled by brute force and cruelty."

OTHER CAST: Mel Gibson's film can really boast wonderful cast that make the story vivid and place it within a nicely framed whole. The one that first comes to mind is Vince Vaughn, excellent in the role of Captain Howell. Mel Gibson states clearly in one interview that he „inhabits the character" and Robbie Collin labels his performance as „his most roundly appealing" in at least a decade. He is brute to those boys but not without reason; he trains them and prepares them to the worst horror they will experience. Yet, as others, he is too absorbed by wrong judgments. Luke Bracey is very memorable as Smitty, a character who develops a profound relationship with the protagonist though, at first, he feels the superiority of his own looks and skills.

TERESA PALMER: As much as the second half of the movie emphasizes the Okinawa events and is, undeniably, a war movie, the majority of its first part is a love story. The beautiful Dorothy that Desmond meets by chance in hospital having saved a man's life after the automobile accident, is one of the most powerful and pure depictions of a woman in film. Gibson refer to her warmth. Their scenes (Dorothy and Desmond's) though naive at certain moments, are the most pleasant, innocent scenes between a man and a woman. She does a wonderful job in the film not resorting to sweetness yet simultaneously, not losing pure appeal. The scenes echo Gibson's style as well, particularly the moment they climb the rock and kiss… Kudos to cinematographer Simon Duggan. The psychological aspect is striking here...Desmond does his best, at the same time struggling not to be like his father.

'Mel Gibson managed to make a film about family, faith, love and forgiveness all put the test in an arena of violent conflict' (Peter Travers). HACKSAW RIDGE is another great gift for cinema of today. In times when war is raging in many places of the world and talks of peace seem to be mere words in vain, such a hero speaks to our Times. Don't give up to do something crazy for the world if you are with God and SAVE human life NOT KILL.

Dark Victory
(1939)

Their Victory Over the Dark...
This adaptation of George Emerson Brewer's play stands out not only as a typical tearjerker of Hollywood's golden age but also as a terrific depiction of truly brilliant performances from the cast. Edmund Goulding's direction proves exceptional vitality and dynamism in his rapport with great stars of the type, namely Bette Davis in the lead.

Her portrayal of the character leaves no one disappointed. Even the most pretentious viewers find something for themselves in her magnetic depiction of contrasts throughout. The first contrast appears in the title where something negative goes with something positive. We discover that contradiction in her character where sorrow blends with rejoicing, gay youthfulness with reflective decline. We get to know her as a young, lively lady who seems to experience life in its fullness. Mind you her scenes in which she occurs to involve all the people around her within the frame of her attention, within her world. It is surely not the moment when she is to hear about tenderness and peace that can be found within oneself. She is the embodiment of passions. And when the sorrow and fear caused by the illness appear in her life, immediately a man appears in her life, a man who treats her, a man she comes to love... Paradoxically, they gain that victory over the dark thanks to love that illumines even the darkest aspects of human life. This love also wins over other substitutes, represented namely here by Michael (played by Humphrey Bogart).

Bette Davis and George Brent are simply excellent in their scenes. You notice memorable chemistry between them and the overall feeling of pity combined with never ending hope for the better. While she is a sort of person that does not seem to submit easily and appears to keep on fighting till the very end, he is a calm companion of her troubled soul. Turmoil is ever present but it is slowly overcome by peace of mind leading, finally, to one of the most touching death scenes on screen. The scene manages to grasp the glimpse of mystery not resorting to sheer sentimentality and shallowness. Hyacynthe, the flower, represents hope.

Among the supporting cast, a mention must be made of Geraldine Fitzgerald who beautifully portrays a true friend. There is also Ronald Reagan who plays one Alec (a role not necessarily ambitious, yet influencing the 'rejoicing' moments of the movie). The artistic splendor of the movie is also beautifully manifested in haunting cinematography and some elaborate interiors.

DARK VICTORY is one of the movies I come back to with ever greater pleasure and sentiment. Not for its sentimentalism, though, but for its profoundly illumining truths about human life. I think that even nowadays, when viewers of digital generation used to incredible inventions of modern technology come across this movie, it may appear thought provoking to them if there is truly something that really has the power of victory over our unconquered fears...

The Strauss Family
(1972)

The STRAUSS SAGA with Limited Sets but Absorbing Characters
Having been more acquainted with the newer TV series THE STRAUSS DYNASTY directed by Marvin J Chomsky, I was pretty astonished to see this BBC serial made almost 20 years earlier. Comparisons were unavoidable, naturally; yet, as much as Chomsky depicts the musical dynasty of Vienna from a more 'modern' standpoint, David Giles, David Butler and Peter Potter portray the family in a more 'claustrophobic' as well as 'from the inside out' manner. If you enjoyed THE STRAUSS DYNASTY for its dynamism and splendid, attractive use of Strauss' music, you may or may not so much enjoy THE STRAUSS FAMILY due to its 'limitations' of sets so typical of the BBC serials of the time. However, in spite of certain 'shortcomings' that we could notice nowadays, technical shortcomings, THE STRAUSS FAMILY is a wonderful display of excellent performances.

Through 8 episodes, each titled according to the character it seems to highlight most, we can get into the world of the Strauss saga with all their dramas, all their passions, all their inspirations and contradictions. Unlike Schani's line "They throw you flowers and they forget you're human," here we have 'human characters' that are perfectly appealing to audiences who are not necessarily fond of their music. Before 1972 when this series was made, we had had merely fictitious saccharine 'fairy tales' about the great composers. Perhaps, Duvivier's THE GREAT WALTZ would be an exception.

Eric Woofe as Johann Strauss father and Stuart Wilson as Schani are the choices for the roles that may, undeniably, compete with Anthony Higgins and Stephen McGann. They beautifully manifest the neurotic aspects of their musical characters. Easy going Johann Strauss who thinks that 'an fool can work' is a 'walking inspiration' from the very start. His scenes are particularly memorable with Josef Lanner played y excellent Derek Jacobi in the two first episodes. Their friendship is based upon conditions and their conflicts upon competitions. Yet, the drama is resembled in the tactful handling of the musicians' psyche by the two. Stuart Wilson, no doubt to say, steals our attention from the second episodes onward to the final scene thanks to a true development and study of the character. His passion is music and women. The former one was within his total self, the latter one was constantly to be gained and maintained. As a young boy, disobedient to his father who does not see a musician in his young talented son, he is 'tormented' and pushed forward at the same time.

No wonder that most of the episodes' titles are names of women that existed in the lives of the Strausses both father and Schani. Emilie Trampusch played by Barbara Ferris (here, the character is far more developed than in the later version). Schani, we can say is a bit less lucky with women, even his own sisters who do not occur to understand him but wives particularly: Hetti (Margaret Whiting) much older wife of Schani, yet, having a crush on him to a great extent, Lili, his girl wife spoiled and capricious. Finally, Adele who found him gentle and kind and as lonely as she used to be. Quite a drama but quite a source for musical inspiration as well. Yet, there is one woman that is, perhaps, one of the most powerful and influential female characters ever, that is Anna (Anne Stallybrass), Schani's mother.

Nominated for the British Academy Television Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of Anna Strauss, we can say that watching her is any viewer's pleasure. In STRAUSS DYNASTY Lisa Harrow resembles much of the similar emotions, some scenes or even lines bear resemblance. Yet, as much as I liked Lisa Harrow in the role intensely, Anne Stallybrass is truly marvelous. She wonderfully highlights her character's determination, indefatigable strive for better future of her son(s), disappointment with years. One of her most unforgettable lines is "when there is no work, one must create work!" Incredible woman.

The supporting characters are no less memorable and unique played by wonderful British actors. Young, beautiful Jane Seymour as Josef's wife Karoline, David de Keyser as Hirsch, a foxy impresario of Johann Strauss the Elder, Sonia Dresdel as Signora Lucari who, among the Claques, notices a new rising star in young Schani; delicious Cheryl Kennedy as ambitious Marie Geistinger (the 'Eva' character of the newer version); Christopher Benjamin as Dommayer and Carleton Hobbs as Drechsler. Finally, we have the most important figure of the time for Austria, emperor Franz Josef whose legacy does not seem to outlast Johann Strauss's, the elderly emperor played by Michael Bryant.

After seeing the first episode, you soon forget that most of the story actually takes place within the walls, in inner sets and perfectly get used to that. All thanks to performances that bring those historical characters back to life. A great series highly worth seeing. If you like the Shakespearian acting, this is truly for you!

See all reviews