A lot of running time in this unusually short film is wasted in rather meaningless scenes. At the very beginning we see the main character moving around her apartment apparently distributing her laundry without any clue to why this is so important that we get to see it. It is followed by a sequence of scenes where the character walks through the frame rather slowly. Thinking about it I imagine the director giving the order "don't walk too fast, we want this to be a feature film." And so it continues. We get very little entertaining moments, only at the library in her discussions with a librarian and her confrontations with her aunt. In between, there are long moments with fingers fingering letters, all done in a rather childish way. And we can read subtitles bearing translations of the letters.
What this is all about? The main character represents the director, being a great-greatchild to a well known Polish poet who once had a pen friendship with another even more well known Polish poet. Only the letters she wrote survived and are analysed throughout the film. Sounds exciting? Well... To say the least, the letters are really beautiful and I only would wish to be able to say the same thing about the movie, but I can't. For a film of just 64 minutes it is inexcusable boring!
I saw this film at the Viennale and the actress and the director have been present. I felt pity for the actress because she might be good but there was no chance to see much acting. She also collaborated on the screenplay, I wish she had not done it. The director was so full of praise of her own film, it was really amazing. The guy who did the interview was also very enthused, I wondered what he had smoked before the screening. It must have been good stuff.
The story revolves around two very different cousins, Naima and Sofia. Sofia, the elder of them, 22 as we learn later, decided to make a living as a good time girl. With her great looks, although much enhanced through surgery, she is very successful in getting in contact with rich, elder men. By accepting expensive presents from them and staying for awhile in their circle until the get bored and find a way to get rid of her, she lives well without a regular work.
This summer of the story she stays with her younger cousin Naima in Cannes where she starts to give Naima little bits of advise how to get around in the world. Naima, only 16 at the time, is rather naive at the beginning, but in the course of the summer, she gets wise to Sofia and starts to see her in a much less admiring light.
Although the title of the film points to Sofia, it is Naima, who is the more interesting character. Sofia already had made her decision how to tackle life, Naima is drawn between the "glamourous" life, which Sofia seems to lead, and normal friendships like Dodo, a young, probably gay, guy who wants to become an actor. And jobs, as her mother, who works as a maid at a very fancy hotel and restaurant, who offers her an internship at the restaurant's kitchen.
Naima is for some time very confused by the sudden mixup with the life of two 40 year old men, one the owner of a yacht, the other his paid companion. While the owner Andrè certainly prefers Sofia and soon has sex with her, the other one, Phillipe, is more respectful towards Naima and figures correctly, that she is still a minor, and keeps his distance.
The whole story is a coming-of-age drama around Naima, who likes her cousin, although she sees things through her, that are shocking.
I didn't know the background of the actress who played Sofia, but I found she looked perfect for the role. Now I know why. As for the young girl who played Naima, she has the more demanding acting role and she handles it very well. Recommendable film!
I admit, I didn't get it! Although one of the producers of the film was there at the beginning before the screening at the Viennale, Austria's International Film Festival. And she warned us not to be confused at the beginning, you will find all the puzzles will come together at the end. Well, not for me. And I assume, for many other people in the audience it remained an enigma too.
But I have to say it is interesting to watch, the story, though very thin, is somehow compelling, because you are looking for information, how this all might be connected. And since the story is told through the eyes of a 12 year old girl, you also think, how much might be sheer fantasy? I won't give you any details of what is going on because If you have a chance to view it, do so without knowing more about it. The camera work and the actors are great and worth watching. Maybe you succeed were I failed.
Once you see the opening credit sequence you know this film is far above average. It is refreshing to see Christopher Lee playing a straight role instead of being the monster or the bad guy. He plays his part very convincing and you can tell he loved it. No wonder this is his favorite Hammer film! The other actors are fine, although none of them can hold out to Sir Christopher, except maybe Charles Gray. It is a period piece and the budget must have been very tight, you don't see any familiar places, all the action takes place on the countryside. But still, they managed to get the feel right, in fact I liked to look around and admire the beautiful indoor sets. The story is very well done and largely unpredictable with some very good surprise effects. Overall, the print quality was excellent. I liked the film a lot and can only recommend it.
Of course, since the channels are flooded with crime series we need to be picky to find what we really want to see. There are generally two groups of audiences: the one's who like a good and intersting team and the other who prefers very clever stories. I admit I belong to the first group, which is why I like this show.
The idea of a micro department for cases which are not crime cases, created to get rid of unpopular of assumed untalented police officers is intriguing and entertaining as well. In their first case, just after their get to gether, we learn who is who and why he/she landed in this outfit. But of course in doe time they stop idling around and begin to solve the case no mather what. Looking forward to the next installment!
Since there is little talk about "La Prisonnière" when ever there is some kind of documentary or article about Henri-Georges Clouzot , It hasn't been shown on TV for a very long time and so I thought it must be a weak film, probably done with a small budget and only half-heartedly because of bad health. Boy, was I wrong!
After Clouzot's collapse at the filming of "L'Enfer" he had to refrain from filming for some time. He already had a breakdown earlier in his career and his reputation for being excessively obsessed with perfection was very likely the reason for it. He filmed only every few years because he planned his films methodically. After the disaster of "L'Enfer" it looked as if he had to retire because of his health problems. But he recovered and was able to finish one more film.
When you have seen the documentary "L'Enfer de Henri-Georges Clouzot" then you know that all the tests he had made for it have not been in vain. "La Prisonnière" looks very much like another try on "L'Enfer" from a different point of view. The strange lightning tests he made with Romy Schneider, Dany Carrel and Serge Reggiani and the experiments with shapes and optical illusions, that all and much more went into "Le Prisonnière". And here it makes more sense than in "L'Enfer" since the male character is an art collector and gallery owner who exhibits modern designs. From all we can see of the fragments of "L'Enfer" through "L'Enfer de Henri-Georges Clouzot" it would have been a great film. And since so many good ideas could not be used there, he gave them all to "La Prisonnière" - and it is a great film! There are pure cinematic moments in this film too, and I had a feeling that Clouzot realized this would be his last film and he wanted to use everything that he had not tried yet and to finish with a pang.
Interestingly, many reviewers talk at great lengths about the art and modern designs shown in the film and what it might mean. And yes, art is definitely an important part of the story. But the most important and unsettling element is the strong S/M relationship between Stan and José. The optical illusions make one dizzy and represent the sick feeling that José gets when she deals with Stan, or rather, when Stan deals with her. But you can also read it as a hint that we cannot say for sure who attracts whom. While Clouzot wanted to explore the mechanics and obsessions of jealousy in "L'Enfer", now he takes a closer look at sexual fantasies, power and submission. He goes as far as has been possible in the late 60ies and even a good bit beyond that, which makes the movie so strong even when viewed today.
The perversity of the film is almost unmatched, only "Peeping Tom" has a similar sick atmosphere. The title sequence is so unbelievable obscene, it immediately warns you, better leave now, before it gets worse. "Peeping Tom" opens also with a shocking intro that is unparalleled in cinema history. But where "Peeping Tom" spends a lot of time explaining why the main character is acting this way, "La Prisonnière" never cares to even ask. And while Karlheinz Böhm fools most people with his babyface appearance, there is no denying that Laurent Terzieff looks sinister and dangerous.
The comparison of those films reveal that both men attract the attention of a woman who falls in love with them although they feel bad in their presence. But while "Peeping Tom" portrays the woman as pretty normal and sympathetic, it is "La Prisonnière" that shows that José is in fact just the mirror of Stan and she needed Stan to find out.
Both films deal a lot with pictures in the picture. In "Peeping Tom", Karlheinz Böhm is a camera operator at a film company, he films his victims and keeps the films his father had done with him as a child. In "La Prisonnière" Laurent Terzieff (Stan) collects art and owns an art gallery and takes S/M photos of photo models at his home. And Elisabeth Wiener (José) lives with an artist and works as a film cutter (editing a documentary on sexually expolited and abused women). And there are many references to filming and film making, for example in the train ride at the beginning of the film.
I could go on and on but better watch for yourself, I don't want to spoil the experience.
Series like tihs are schools for dramatists and screen writers. How to use a short time and pack everything essential to the story in it and still don't overwhelm of frustrate your audience. I find it amazing that no one so far has written here about this series. It is a very good example how to create a compelling stroy in just 30 minutes. Nowadays we are used to films running far over 90 minutes, the watershed of films telling a regular story. That people have been able to tell the same story in only 30 minutes sounds impossilbe. well, watch this and learn! By the way, Nigel Patrick is probably the most underrated british film and TV star of the 50ies and 60ies and it is high time that he gets rediscovered. And another bonus is William Smith in an early role as as a straight guy and partner to Nigel Patrick.
The last of the classic episodes, written by Wolfgang Menge and directed by Jürgen Roland. Fittingly Heinz Engelmann gives his regular Kommissar for the last time and again we see other familiar faces in the cast. The focus of the last episodes shifted more and more to the criminals. The whodunits of the beginning are out and we get to know the bad guys pretty much at the beginning and see the case mostly through their eyes. Here we even have some of the voice-over done by one of the heavies. Dirk Dautzenberg gave the most thrilling performance in this gripping show. The story is very grim and we witness a lot of violence. One thing that has never been abandoned is the recurring nod to the often extremely long work hours and the little pay the police gets. Apparently script writer Wolfgang Menge was fed up with glorifying the police force and dropped out . Some years later new episodes (in color) have been done by different writers and directors.
Someone once observed that film critics in general are vulnerable to rather praise a mediocre drama instead of a good comedy. I can only agree. A look in my favorite film magazine RAY gives a good example of both. A large part of the issue focuses on the film "Green Book", a film which has been criticised for it's stereotypical portrays and old-fashioned story, in short, a film that "would have been great in the late 50ies" (quote: Alexander Horvath) but now completely obsolete. And in the same issue a short und very unfriendly critique of "Love Machine".
Films who deal with sex get to be scrutinized a lot and comedies especially. And there is a reason for it, most bad comedies use sex in a very vulgar way to get some laughs. A comedy called "Love Machine" seems to be inviting a thumbs down without watching it. And yes, if I had not seen Thomas Stipsits in smaller roles before, I'm not sure I would have watched it. And now I'm very glad I did!
It is a rare example of a light comedy that has sex as its main theme and which is not stupid or vulgar. The title figure is a funny little musician who is forced into a new and very different profession as a male escort which he masters with the help of his sister who sees a great chance to make a lot of money. His touching, hilarious and sometimes weird encounters with the women who seek his help while he secretly falls in love with another are what makes the core of the story. The story is misleading to expect a lot of nudity but there is surprisingly little bare skin and almost no private parts to look at. The cast is full of familiar faces and all are very well chosen. I watched the film with my wife and we both found him perfectly funny!
We are back again in Hamburg, but this time the story tells of naive girls and shameless men pretending to connect beautiful girls to film folks but instead luring them to fake screen tests or parties that could be called orgies. Our stalwart Kommissar is once again Heinz Engelmann and his sidekick Gerdesmann is also already experienced as a No. 2 investigator. It is very clear that the main goal in not the story itself but the warning to young people not to be so gulliable. The team of two investigators gets a helping hand in form of a female police officer because of the sensible subject. Actors who already appeared in earlier episodes can be seen here again. What is new is that the crime gets solved but not all involved land in jail, a very straightforward appeal to get this changed be changing laws.
"Die Zeugin im grünen Rock" is, for the first time in this series, foremost interesting because of the brilliance of an actress, Ruth Hausmeister. Her portrayal of the main suspect Frau Kurz is fascinating in her controlled play of a woman who already had committed a crime in the past and knows what to expect if she would be drawn into another.
Richard Lauffen, on the other hand plays a rather modern kind of police officer, very strict und aspecially at the beginning, not really sympathetic. The crime case itself is a rather simple one, but the presence of Frau Kurz, who found the victim and behaved rather strange afterwards makes the case interesting and worth watching.
Although the main point of the series was to reenact true crimes and bring the work of the police into the limelight, the producer were so clever always to get some original characters into it. In this, the fifth episode, Alexander Kerst, top billed as investigator and voice-over storyteller gets upstaged by his boss, played by Helmut Peine. His "Kriminalrat" is loud, direct, and very much self-assured. While Kerst plays his part pretty straight, there are some little funny vignettes around the elderly boss that makes him more interesting and peculiar.
The expose is as so often very well done, giving the film the necessary real life touch and blends smoothly into the crime story about to unfold. The crime itself is not a complicated one, there are a few witnesses and slowly one piece leads to another. At the end the way it is solved holds a little surprise for the last minute.
There are a few aspects that make this series so unique:
1. The different running times. It varies between just over 30 minutes to almost 2 hours.
2. The number of episodes issued per year. That ranges between five and one but in general the become fewer the longer the series runs. In between are years with not a single entry.
3. Despite all this variations all episodes are written and directed by the same two man, Wolfgang Menge and Jürgen Roland.
The pacing of a number of episodes appear by todays standards very uneven. Usually the beginning is told in a very forceful manner but while the story goes on there are often scenes you really don't know why they suddenly slow everything done so much. This could be an extremely long pan through a room like in this episode, but it could also be an entire scene with dialogue that leads nowhere.
Anyway, the show definitely has its merits and it gives you a very accurate picture of (West)-Germany in the 50´ and 60´.
I'm surprised that no one has written about this wonderful film yet. Set in a close time frame of a few days before the premiere of a new stage play, the film explores the relationship between the two female stars playing sisters who mutually dislike each other for reasons we are only guessing (at the beginning). Beside the daily bickering of the two ladies we also learn about the ones close to them and the general frenzy of the theater people before the opening night.
At the beginning of the film you get the picture that the elder of the two stars was for some years in semi-retirement and this would be her comeback. The younger one seems to have become famous through appearing in movies and now wants to show off on the stage too. The sympathy is with the elder and the antipathy towards the other seems to have something to do with her career. The fact that she is a widow also is an important part of the story.
The younger actress appears to be drawing more attention from the press, she seems to be eager to show that she is the better actress and even tries to meddle with the text to get more out for her role.
What I so much like about the film lies in the word "seems." Nothing is really the way as we pictured it at the beginning. While we get more and more facts about the two of them the sympathy starts the become more balanced between them. Beautifully done!
Annoyingly, screenwriters when dealing with so called "true stories" always start to dramatize what was supposed to really have happened! Why don't they stick with inventing a whole story instead of messing up facts with fiction? In the case of "Hitchcock" there are enough interesting facts that have been left out. On the other hand we are treated to some fantasies about Ed Gein and an unbelievable story around Alma Reville, his wife.
Hitch had a nasty side to him and that would have been interesting to explore- All we get is some hints about why he treated Vera Miles the way he did but no real pranks. Although he was famous for practical jokes we don't get to see any.
Some important people are left out as well. His daughter Patricia, graphic designer Saul Bass and the fact that Bernard Herrmann had to fight for the music to the shower scene! Instead, the film centers on unreliable speculations, what for? The actors do their best but the screenplay defies them.
A madhouse of a movie! Of course one cannot expect good characterisations of young females in a programmer like this. By the way, even in serious A-films of this time you seldom find a teenager who looks and acts like a real teenager. In this film here you see nine girls who look much more like young women (with one or two exceptions). Worst of all, they represent all stereotypes of females when it comes to a crisis.
Since other reviewers already sketched the story quite vividly I just say what I felt about it. The main problem is that the girls all have a motive to dislike Paula, so why are they with her? The majority of the girls are so silly it is hard to watch. You think they are just 10 years old although they look at least twice that age. The way they are presented is: one is the bad apple, one (seems to be) the most advanced, one is the beautiful blonde, one learns a lot, one is a tomboy, one is the favorite in the story, one is a chatterbox with too much fantasy and one is plain silly (and one I forgot completely). And the only sensible woman in the film is the chaperon.
The film is made for laughs too, and the dialogue is often witty. But the constant repetition of faintings, screams and mindless accusations and behavior weakens the real fun. William Demarest as sidekick to the police lieutenant does his best to divert the attention away from the unbelievable females. Once or twice there are even serious moments and they are well executed. The film gets darker at the end and there is a thriller feeling in it.
Could have been much better with more believable characters.
I agree with the other reviewers who praise the acting of Charles McGraw. I admit I never noticed him before but here he is perfectly cast and presents a convincing police dedective. The direction is as good as you can expect with a narrow budget and the dialogue is a class by itself.
Alas ... the story has so many twists and turns (which is impressive for such rather short film) and none of them has any logic in it. That really cannot be overlooked. Even Cornell Woolrich's stories did not stress your credulity that much. From the outset there is nothing that makes sense. Without giving away too much: why send just two cops (and one is an old guy, close to retirement) for such an important witness??? And the rest is along this line. The moment you start to think about it is when you realize that the story stinks. I don't mind giving some license for good twists but this film is far overdoing it!
"Schwarzer Kies" is an extremely bleak movie that makes me wonder it ever found enough supporters to get made at all. The dark, disturbing story is portrays a German village living off an American Air Force Base (around 1960) mostly by cheating and prostituting. It is not surprising that the film didn't do much money at the box office. And the film was hurt by an accusation of antisemitism, which led to being recut to avoid a bad press. The accusation was a clear misinterpretation. What the film really did, was to show that antisemitism was still around and some people had not changed.
The Americans (all played by German actors) do not appear much better than the Germans. Their plan to build a rocket launch base does not sound very promising for peace. The soldiers are shown mainly frequenting a local bar/bordello and the officers checking bills and hoping to leave soon for a better post. Director Helmut Käutner did not spare many, most people in his film are in some way cunning, every one seems to be involved or at least in the know of the black market around the base. From the very first scene to the very last, the film is most uncompromising in his portrait of greed, lust and bondage.
The actors are all unknown today although they did a good job. It is a Germany we have never seen on film before or even after. It took guts to get this film made. The Friedrich Wilhem Murnau Stiftung did a great job restoring the film to its original lenght and optical quality.
I guess I will upset a lot of fans of this film, but hey, that's the way I feel about it.
Just watched this film for the first time last night in its newly restored version. Of course I heard about it every now and then and expected something really gory and shocking. But, oh boy, some films really age badly, not only the film stock, but the content as well. The colors are great again, no doubt and the restoration was certainly needed. Alas, the story would have needed a lifting too!
The film borders hard on being camp, the acting is largely ridiculous, not only by the young actors but by the well known ones as well. Ironically, Some of the scenes were so absurd that it became painful to watch and the bad dubbing did not help at all. Allida Valli was over the top in most of her scenes but seemed to have fun and the audience laughed on many occasions. Udo Kier, usually known for strong and sometimes over the top performances delivered the most convincing piece of acting. I will not go into discussing plot holes because this would take up too much space here.
The music of the film is a chapter of its own. First I was intrigued by the reversal of what is expected. Instead of a quietly unnerving soundtrack Dario Argento uses full blast percussion to create an unsettling mood, which worked. But unfortunately he uses this technique far too often and the music drowns out all noise.
Yes, Dario Argento is a good director and a lot of the outrageous stuff, e.g. acting, decoration, music and blood is on purpose and can be compared to opera. For me it wasn't a horror movie but only a mild thriller with dated effects. Interestingly, one theme which is usually connected with boarding schools was completely missing. There have been zero references to love or sex and this in a house full of beautiful young women and men! Except for that, it reminded me of late Hammer Film productions and, sorry, also of late entries in the Edgar Wallace series, since they have been produced in Italy and had a similar look.
Just saw the film at the Viennale, Austria's International Film Festival. The reactions have not been as harsh as in Toronto, I saw just one person walking out and one booing at the end. I think that the brutality of the film is not so special anymore, but don't get me wrong. This isn't something positive. But during the last decade brutality in feature films had increased and "High Life" does not show more than we already got used to.
The film has its merits but all in all I was disappointed by the waste of talented actors. The story is confusing and the slang for non-Americans hard to understand. It is said to be about sexuality but I doubt it. If you dare to boil down the story from its sci-fi setting to what it is really all about you will find a not so new story about outcasts in a deadly surrounding. Most people start to kill each other while others stick to the bitter end fulfilling their duties. And only one is able to find love and develop human feelings. To be honest: the ordeal to watch this film is not worth the outcome.
Many people who saw this film let out a lot of negative criticism on Twitter. Some pointed out plot holes with which I agree. Some mourned about where has the good old who-dune-it gone, as Tatort used to be? Well, this is only partly true. I watch this series since its beginnings and there have been always unpredictable stories interspersed like this one.
But the general impression I had was a very dark and disturbing story, very well played by Maria Furtwängler and others. The most disturbing in this story about a kidnapped wife and her suspected husband was, that we don't see a perfectly balanced detective chief commissioner doing her work as we have seen her doing it in 24 previous episodes, but a beaten woman, who is not allowed to stay home and lick her wounds but forced to work. She is not suited under this circumstances to do this job and she makes mistakes, is particularly snappy to colleagues and is more and more going to pieces the longer the search for the kidnapped woman drags on. This is most uncomfortable to watch since we like to sympathize with her although we feel that she gets on the wrong track. This has lethal consequences and leaves her and us with an unsolved case. There are inserts at the end indicating that even after a year has passed the case is still open. And yes, the case is closely based on a real crime that took place in 2010.
The film shows drastically how fast police work can go wrong even in the hands of capable people. We all make mistakes and detective chief commissioners fail too. And there are cases that never get solved! The film left me brooding for quite some time and I had difficulties falling asleep. Very well done!
Admitted, I did not applaud when the film was over at the Viennale screening two days ago. It is difficult for me to carry a torch for a character who seems so indifferent about himself, so hopeless and sometimes cruel. One can argue that it is a piece of life and people like him exist. They do, no question about that. But is it worth watching a guy 90+ minutes not getting his act together? This is up to everyone's own judgment.
The problem with the main character Frankie is, he is so boring! The film doesn't give you anything sympathetic or at least interesting about him. The fact that he is gay might have been interesting enough 20 years ago but not anymore. A lot of the discussion in reviews rotates around his search for sexual identity. I wonder if anyone noticed that his life would not be much easier or clearer if he would be straight like his buddies. They don't share his secret longings but they hang out together most of the time and do the same things. Beside his meeting elder men for sex, his drug consume and criminal acts, his indifference toward his family would be the same.
Throughout the film we are constantly looking at close-up and medium shots of naked male skin, the gang is shown either with slim undershirts or shirtless. If these would be scenes with women we would call this an exploitation movie.
But yes, his sexual uncertainty is of importance to the story when it comes to women. When a girl tries to date him he reluctantly acts up to what he thinks is expected of him, but soon fails on all fronts. The best scene of the film is when his girlfriend pulls the brake and tells him off. Asked why, she explains to him, he is a ruin, too much would be necessary to make him over and she would only want to see him again after he has been renovated.
Despite the fact that he is in almost every scene we learn very little about him. We don't learn anything about his buddies. We see glimpses of his family and I wondered how his mother took so long to realize that her son is in trouble.
There are interesting moments in the film but overall not enough development to care much.
The long and winding road to a father-son relationship
This is not for people who need a certain amount of action because there is none. The film is at times painfully slow with many long scenes which enhances the awkward feeling between this father and son.
They had not seen each other for many years because Michael, the father, left Luis' mother and did not try to have an ongoing contact with his son. Now that Michael's father has died in Norway, he tries to persuade his son to come to the funeral, obviously with the plan in his mind to rescue their relationship. We soon get the picture that Michael's relationship to his father resembles the one he has with his son.
The 14-year-old Luis reluctantly agrees to the idea to spend some more days in Norway by just cruising through the countryside of northern Norway. Luis is very hostile and hardly talks which is a challenge for Michael who tries to get closer to him. Whenever he seems to make progress he looses out soon again and the abyss between them appears deeper and wider than before. During this long silent periods we watch the beautiful landscape passing by which creates a kind of trace. They constantly clash, although it becomes clear that Luis, while complaining about almost every suggestion made by Michael, never asks to return home. He feels pestered and interrogated by his suddenly caring father. He let him try and try again without giving a hint that things could become better. But the longer they get into lonesome territory the quarrel more desperately
If this sounds depressing to you I assure it is not. The film gives you plenty of time to think you own thoughts about them and the music with these extremely hypnotic sounds draws you into the story and makes you feel like you sit in this car yourself. Throughout the trip there is always something like a glimmer of hope that once the wall between them could be wrecked
It is basically a two-person movie and both actors are great. The don't show much emotion at first sight, but you get to watch them closely and suddenly you begin to see subtle movements and changes. Great film! The music plays an important part, I cannot image the film without it.
"Houseboat" proves that being a Cary Grant film is NOT a guarantee for entertainment. This film simply does not work. It feels odd for many reasons. It is said that Grant was once in love with his co-star Sophia Loren and, since she married Carlo Ponti, he did not want to make this film. This is likely to be true because there are only a few love scenes and they all look somehow forced. He looks quite unhappy in most scenes with her and she, although pretty to look at, also seems to be inhibited to be close to him. At one point of the film I started to wish that he would marry his sister-in-law instead. That would have made more sense.
But these personal riffs are not the only reason why the film falls flat on the face. The screenplay is to blame for most of the problems. The story cannot decide between being a serious approach about parental problems, in particular widowed fathers who have lost contact to their children, and a lighthearted comedy about a father of three getting an Italian housekeeper who is too pretty to be ignored and shows the father how to treat children well.
If that would not be enough there is a sister-in-law, quite nice and pretty too, and loved by the children as well, who is madly in love with Grant and he seems to like her too. And there is Sophia's father, a famous Italian conductor, who is a cardboard-type of Italian protective parent.
What is very annoying too, is, there is a lot of harsh language on all sides, fathers, children, ladies and others and two incidents of slapping faces, both without real reason and therefore the more surprising and even shocking.
The whole thing probably could have been handled well in the hands of an experienced director, like Stanley Donen or Blake Edwards, who have an ear for bad dialogue, and there is plenty of this in the film. But Melville Shavelson was definitely the wrong guy to steer this project. Many scenes are wasted by discussing things over and over again, but no good points are made. And it looks like Grant REALLY felt uncomfortable with the kids.
As other reviewers already pointed out, there are so many visual faults: 1. The house on the railway tracks run down by a train, and we don't see the impact, just a few splinters flying towards Cary Grant; 2. The houseboat, completely wasted as a source for fun; 3. Too many badly done rear projection and "outdoor" studio settings; 4. and the worst, the strange complexion of Sofia Loren, she looks so dark as if she were an African American. And much too old, although she was 24 at the time!
And then there are these awful texts the children had to say, they constantly talk and act like diminutive grown-ups!
The whole film has an unsatisfactory, even sick feeling, as if you watch people constantly making the wrong decisions and the happy end never felt so wrong as in this film. Sorry folks who admire this film, but this had to be said. Fully agree with the author of WRONG WIFE.
Sequels are always looked upon with mistrust. Too often when something good and successful gets prolonged it turned out that the producer just wanted to milk a worthy cow dry. In this case we can easily say that this follow-up to "The Winds of War" is as good as the book is following its predecessor. (And I read both books.)
Many but not all of the original cast repeated their roles. Most notable changes are the switch of Natalie Jastrow/Henry from Ali MacGraw to Jane Seymour and for Byron Henry played by Jan-Michael Vincent to Hart Bochner. While MacGraw and Vincent were arguably not the best choice in the first place, they both have strong personalities and this fits perfectly to the respective characters they played. In replacing them with Seymour and Bochner both lack the necessary headstrong appearance and consequently both performances seemed to be toned down.
The other replacements are John Gielgud for John Houseman as Aaron Jastrow, somehow an improvement I must say, Gielgud plays the author more convincingly. The inimitable Robert Morley replaced Michael Logan as Alistair Tudsbury and is perfectly cast in that role.
Another improvement is Steven Berkoff as Hitler. Berkoff is especially good and scary when he gets in one of Hitler's notorious fits! In The Winds of War" the German dubbed version shown on TV in German speaking counties and on the DVD for that market had Hitler almost completely eliminated because Günter Meissner made him appear like a cartoon character. These cuts and some others are quite obvious and so severe that this version of "The Winds of War" consists of only five instead of seven episodes! I suppose that the TV station who payed for the dubbing eliminated some of the anti-German scenes in order to make the series more acceptable to the German audience. When I realized this I bought the original DVDs to see the whole thing.
Sharon Stone came in to take over the role of Janice Henry but the role doesn't offer much for her.
Most actors who stayed on from The Winds of War" are great to see again and have been well chosen in the first place. Robert Mitchum does his best considering him being much too old for the role. But he has the right dignity and that makes him convincing. Except for his scenes with Victoria Tennant, who is great by the way, but one asks himself how she could fall in love with such an old and unromantic chap like Mitchum.
But for one there would definitely be no good replacement imaginable, and that is Polly Bergen as Rhoda! She is perfect in the role, fits very good as Mitchum's good-natured but silly wife and is also convincing when unfaithful. You can feel how much she is torn between her role of wife, mother and lover.
Overall WAR continues perfectly where WOW ended and as the story gets grimmer so does the series. Even compared with what is possible to show on TV nowadays the visual brutality and shocking images of the concentration camps is sometimes unbearable. How daring must theses scenes have been in the 80s? More than once I asked myself, how did they film this? I felt pity with the actors and extras for being in such gruesome scenes!
One of the most surprising things about both WOW and WAR is that every now and then familiar faces pop up but they all fit well into the story rather than distract you. Today many international TV productions are squeezing actors of different nationalities into one show to please the involved production companies. The result is almost always disaster. Mainly because US actors play Brits while Germans play Austrians and British actors do French roles and so on. Everything looks and sounds fake and that is exactly what it is. In WOW and in WAR Germans play Germans, Americans play Americans and British play British subjects, only now and than one might have to make an amendment (think of Jeremy Kemp as Von Roon), but most of the time the actors know whom they are to portray.
Of course many of the special effects in the battle scenes cannot deny their age, scenes involving ships and submarines do fare worse the aviation stuff. But the blending with obvious original material works very well and gives the whole series the necessary factual background.
At this point the distance between the shows is more and more increasing, it seems that there was not much interest anymore to prolong the series. Wolfgang Menge did not like to continue to write the stories since he complained that he did not like the glorifying of the police as such. Critical tones are definitely rare and often more jokes then seriously meant. But the extra time between the individual productions did them good, the last episodes belong definitely the best. They changed the way the stories are told like here where the focus is far more on the criminal on the run then on the police on his heels. In fact, the leading police officer at the end of this show is completely forgotten. Hellmut Lange in his third and last appearance in the show gives a brilliant performance as a tough and demanding police officer, but the real star is the Austrian actor Werner Pochath, who plays a very scary baby-face-type bank robber and killer.