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La donna, il sesso e il superuomo

Italian film like no other
"Fantabulous, Inc." (1968) directed by Sergio Spina with an original screenplay by Furio Colombo, Ottavio Jemma and Sergio Spina, produced by Felice D'Alisera; music by Alessandro Brugnolini; excellent cinematography by Claudio Ragona and film editing by Giancarlo Cappelli; production design by Sergio Canevari; art direction by Amedeo Fago and costume design by Gisella Longo and Edith Ryker starring Richard Harrison, Adolfo Celi and Judi West is a true wonder. The film is as "fantabulous" as the organization that is threatening a takeover with making a "romeo" into a superhero, and is so utterly inventive and for an Italian movie on a modest budget in 1968 is well done, cheeziness kept to a minimum for something if made today, when it is apparently when it should have made, would have a multi-million dollar budget and access to top drawer special effects, the film definitely deserves a DVD/Blu-ray release. Richard Harrison has never been better. This is the type of thing at which he could excel. Judi West, co-star of Billy Wilder's "The Fortune Cookie," showed a brilliance that failed to catch on. She plays an actress as the "juliet" of his dreams, marked "one of a kind." Adolfo Celi has never been better as the head of "Fantabulous, Inc." These three characters as played by the actors become iconic. The rest of the cast adds to the hilarity. Unfortunately, the copies of the film I saw were either in Italian without subtitles or no audio and a terrible, barely decipherable English subtitling. "Fantabulous, Inc." is a rich, daring film on the perfection of Adam and Eve, something the Italians seemed to do better than anyone, but "Fantabulous, Inc." is unlike any that I've seen from Italy at that time or since. It is better than Mario Bava's "Danger: Diabolik" which it has similarities to with the comic book mentality, but moreso, with scenes of civil unrest, which the superhero created by the Fantabulous, Inc. and offered to the highest bidding superpower country to keep the sheep in line, is 20 years ahead of a predecessor like "Robocop" and more topical. Should be seen today.

Adulterio all'italiana

Great Addition to Those "Italian Style"
"Adultery, Italian Style" was directed by Pasquale Festa Campanile and stars Catherine Spaak and Nino Manfredi from 1966. With music by Travajoli that is reminiscent of his comedic work previously on "La Bambole!" AKA "The Dolls" which also featured Manfredi, who is very funny in "Adultery, Italian Style" especially at the end when he appears in drag. (Spoiler!). Spaak and Campanile worked together later in "The Libertine" for producer Radley Metzger of the famous 60's sexploitation films like "Carmen, Baby" and "Therese and Isabelle." It stands to reason they would team again as she and Manfredi handle their roles in the Italian mores of marriage and adultery and touches on everything in between and more, with great skill.Akim Tamiroff is also in the cast. Campanile also directed the notorious ""Hitch-Hike" with Franco Nero, and he was a screenwriter with "Rocco and His Brothers," "The Leopard"" for Visconti and "La Viaccia" for Bolognini. The song "Bada Caterina" is inane but sticks in the head. Produced by Mario Chicchi Gori in EastmanColor.

Constance aux enfers

Better Than You May Think
I just had to write since there was only one other review posted of this film, and I am familiar with Clouzot's work, I found this film, "Constance aux enfers" (AKA: "Web of Fear") although possibly derivative of other films, an entirely powerful "tour de peur" on its own merits. Although it preys on a woman's feelings, I found it a little implausible at times, thinking, why is she allowing herself to get deeper implicated until you realize it is her story and you watch as she puts her self for certain in what she was led to believe. Michele Morgan is the woman, Dany Saval and Simon Audreu are really quite excellent as was the direction by Francois Villiers. Too often you read reviews posted that such and such is excellent, and then you buy into it and are disappointed how awful some well-reviewed films can be, but it is not often one finds something better than the drubbing it received. To write about the difference is what can evoke change. This film is in black and white and was originally released in 1964, although it may have been 1966 when it reached the U.S. Very good film with a woman's heart that is in all of us, who love women.

La menace

Impressive, Well-done Little Opus
1961's small film, "The Menace" is quite an impressive, intelligently made film noir starring Robert Hossein and Marie Jose Nat, who, I single out as giving a fantastically nuanced performance that is supremely supportive to the production. It is quite an accomplishment. Robert Hossein is sufficiently dubious as an older chemist who intrudes on Nat's character's naivete as she is a troubled youth, an orphant who being cared for by an self-centered ex-opera singer uncle played by Paolo Stoppa who uses her as servant until she rebels with hopes of joining a moped gang, causing her indiscretion of lying to impress them when one turns up strangled, and then getting caught up in her lies. The film was the first by director Gerard Oury that I've seen and it was well-written by Frederic Dard, Alain Poire and Oury. The script is a marvel of succinctness contributing to the splendid direction. The script is based on Dard's novel, "Les Mariolles" and Hossein's father Andre does the music for this one. Elsa Martinelli is also in the cast as Hossein's wife. B & W

Una storia d'amore

Michele Lupo's Take on the Blase Marriage-Go-Round
"Love Me, Baby, Love Me" tells a rather tired story about the wife who wants to remain faithful to the husband who is always away on business and then becoming the target of playboy whose business it is to lure women into his bed and then provide the husband's lawyer with incriminating photographs. Anna Moffo is the star. I am unfamiliar at this time with some of her career, but she has an aura of "goodness" about her even though she succumbs to the creep, but then she falls for him, and when the husband returns, after Moffo turns him down for sex claiming unexplainable illness including a suicide attempt, he begins to explore their children's nanny. Although Anna Moffo sings the song "One Shining Moment" in the film, the film's real star is the imitable director, Michele Lupo ("Master Stroke" and "Ben and Charlie") whose style generally makes the film work despite it being so run-of-the-mill. As is from 1970, perhaps the sex scenes were more of a rage then, but, as seen in 2017, they are nothing exceptional especially since then hunks weren't a necessity. It is questionable if Lupo's style of juxtapositioning camera angles artfully has been copied, but he does it with real power. Gianni Macchia is an irritating and smarmy lover and Jean Claudio plays the husband. The film also has Beryl Cunningham as a jet set hanger-on doing wild dances. The film seems to offer more by its anonymity and its advertising makes one curious, and the film is quite good despite it being unintentionally banal. In color.

La musica

"La Musica" Surrounding a Failed Marriage
"La Musica" (1967) was written by Marguerite Duras based on her play which she also directed with Paul Seban. It is quite accomplished for so simple an idea, but never the less, well carried out with beautiful black and white camera-work by Sasha Vierny. Just the story of "He" and "She" who come for their nonetheless divorce judgement and stay in the same hotel and realize some extraordinary insights into their dissolving marriage. The incomparable Delphine Seyrig is "She" and Robert Hossein plays "He." Hossein's efforts as a director are much more striking than his innumerable acting roles. I think he was more, and these performances may have made him define the role of "He," of "a man on the verge." In movies as an actor he is best at being potentially devious. especially as he was in Sergio Gobbi's "Maldonne" (AKA: "Misdeal") and the work he did for Vadim. But the opposite of this intriguing quality is also at work and is a tendency to be monotonous. The Franz Shubert melody "Winter Journey" is one of several motifs, a cageful of snarling panthers on a television screen coupled with vicious dog at the hotel window are some of the artistic flourishes that Duras provides. Well worth seeing to savor.

The Reward

"The Reward" Cements Bourguignon's Reputation
"The Reward" (1965)is one of the most interesting and well photographed and directed westerns that I've seen. Director Serge Bourguignon ("Sundays and Cybele") proves he's a distinguished director with this tale of two men who try to bring a posse out after a fugitive for the $50,000 reward and end up having to agree to split the reward with the three other men, a sergeant and an Indian and another Mexican. Bourguignon shows his strength just in his casting decisions that he is a top-flight director. In the cast, as his protagonist, a pilot, (Max Von Sydow)paired with Gilbert Roland as an captain, with Emilio Fernandez as the sergeant, Henry Silva as the Indian and Nino Castelnuovo as the other Mexican. Yvette Mimieux plays the girl accompanying Emphrem Zimbalist, Jr. as the fugitive. The cinematography is very well realized by Joe MacDonald in Color By Deluxe. Bourguignon's directorial flourishes abound, the matching of image to sound and the cutting from scene to scene are skillfully wrought. Film Editor was Robert Simpson. Of course, the English subtitles for the Spanish should have been retained. The script was by Bourguignon and Oscar Millard based on a novel by Michael Barrett. Produced by Aaron Rosenberg. There was always a question after "Sundays and Cybele" that it could have been a fluke the film was as good as it was winning Best Foreign Film, (After all it had Patricia Gozzi as the star) but "The Reward" certainly cements his reputation and makes me interested to see his other films. Yes, I think the film should be revived. It is probably more important today than initially upon release. It was a 20th Century-Fox film.

Deadly Strangers

"Deadly Strangers" A Must-See
1975's "Deadly Strangers" is a chilling must-see for Hayley Mills fans wherein she delivers a superlative performance as a hitch-hiker being pursued by a mysterious stranger played most effectively by Simon Ward. This film, directed by Sidney Hayers outdoes for Hayley's career what the Boulting Brothers did for her in "The Family Way" and "Twisted Nerve" in the late sixties. This film, despite its low-budget, makes the most of the economical script by Philip Levene and the expert use of Graham Edgar's cinematography and film editing by Barry Peters with music by Ron Goodwin. I think it completely shed her Disney image successfully, but finding a decent copy to share it with friends is perhaps the biggest outrage that the film subjects viewers to. Sterling Hayden is also in the cast in an unusual role. It does not seem to have been officially released in the U.S. except on VHS. Well worth the effort; it is entirely stylish and packs a wallop. I believe the director is also known for "Burn, Witch, Burn," but I'm not sure. Proof you can make cinema magic out of next to nothing.

La mandragola

Machiavelli's "The Mandrake" Given Royal Treatment
Alberto Lattuada is a director and screenwriter who together with Luigi Magni and Stefano Strucchi have brought Machiavelli's delightfully cynical and bawdy play "The Mandrake" to screens. Produced by Alfredo Bini, the 1965 production starred Rosanna Schiaffino and Romolo Valli as the infertile married couple and Philippe Leroy and Jean-Claude Briarly as well as the great Toto to the major roles of the scheme to have the handsome suitor (Leroy) substituted as the husband through an elaborate scheme involving a notorious herb, "The Mandrake," ordered by the physician (really the suitor) and helped orchestrated, for money, including by the clergy (Toto). The cinematography by Tonino Delli Colli and film editing by Nino Baragli are extraordinary and, the film was nominated for a much deserved Oscar nomination for its costume design by Danilo Donati. Although Briarly and Toto seem to be perfectly cast, Schiaffino and Leroy have the burden of the picture and are adequate, but one wonders what could have been brought to the story if Lattuada and the other screenwriters would have been a bit more inventive with the material. Sciaffino was well served by director Mauro Bolognini in his masterpiece, "La Corruption" and Damiano Damiani in his film "The Witch In Love." Romolo Valli plays the duped husband perfectly and also important is Nilla Pizi as the girl's mother. All in all, an entertaining and well done film that most definitely had a path to greatness. Lattuada would later bring us "The Cricket."


"Rage" - Extraordinary, Deserves Better Than It Got
"Rage" is Columbia's extraordinary drama made by a primarily Mexican crew was written of in one of the better movie magazines on the news stands back in 1966, "Screen Stories." And then it took me almost 50 years to finally see it. It had a major star or two, Glenn Ford and Stella Stevens. The rest of the cast is Mexican, but they are all very good, especially David Reynoso as "Pancho" and Dacia Gonzalez as "Maria" his wife to mention a few. Cinematografica Jalisco and Joseph L. Schenck Enterprises brought to us under the direction of Gilberto Gazcon, who shared in the screenplay with Fernando Mendez and Teddi Sherman, from a story by Gazcon, Guillermano Hernandez and Jesus Velasquez. A doctor in a construction camp is bitten by a rabid dog and must get medical treatment in less than 48 hours once detected, and then the race against adversity manages to try to stop him. Filmed in Pathecolor, the film was produced by Gazcon and executive produced by Richard Goldstone. Everything else by the Mexican crew is solid, and I mention the music specifically because it is a true highlight. Gustavo Cesar Carrion composed the music and it heightens the plot aside from delivering some solid renditions of its theme, heard on the radio, and accompanying Nature as she yields to the story as well. Film Editing by Carlos Savage and Walter Thompson and Cinematography by Rosalio Solano are also outstanding. The acting is all top drawer, and I like Mr. Ford and Ms. Stevens even better than I always have because they made this film. They deserve much applause. It is just the kind of human drama that is sadly in lack of today. Some reviewers have noted it has not much of a plot. On the contrary, it is a most believable picture because it knows what to do with it. Needs to be seen to show how films should be made today. Exceptional.


Comic Book Character in Need of Developing
"Blind Man" (1971) is an enjoyable spaghetti western, more in the comic book style, especially as played by Tony Anthony in the lead role. Although he does well, I think the director (Ferdinando Baldi), who has a great visual eye, could not get a better, more believable and affecting performance from him. I think it was a good idea as produced by Allen Klein for ABKCO Films and it was a good idea for Ringo Starr to appear, as he once again proves, here probably more so than just "A Hard Day's Night" that he had some quality as an actor. There is a lot of gratuitous nudity of the 50 women being delivered as wives for a mining camp in Texas as they are sidetracked from their rightful contract holder, Blind Man, by a band of long-haired outlaws who sell them to the Mexican army. Agneta Eckemyr has the role of the blonde "Pilar" on who pivots the smitten Candy (Starr) in the Blind Man's attempts to re-claim the girls. Kudos to Riccardo Pallottini for his beautiful photography and editing by Roberto Perpignani. They, at least, must have had fun during the filming. The end result is a bit unclear, story-wise and not particularly endearing. Perhaps rightly in the Top 20 spaghetti westerns, but definitely not the Top 10.


Gobbi Accomplished Here But No Suspense Master
Sergio Gobbi ("Love Me, Strangely") also directed a re-filming of the same novel by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac that Hitchcock filmed as "Vertigo" in 1959. Gobbi's film, "Maldonne" (or its current U.S. title: "Misdeal") has a similar approach. Gobbi, much more accomplished than he was in "Love Me, Strangely" starring Helmut Berger and Virna Lisi, sets the stage for a much more European "D'entre les morts," but his careful delineation of the story and structures lacks the suspense Hitchcock built. It is an interesting story for this version, involving the Nazi occupation and the repayment of justice to the Jews. Pierre Vaneck and Robert Hossein play the crazy/sane Elsa Martinelli to a similarly to "Vertigo" tragic end. Although not a sequel, one must recall the re-make of "Diabolique" in 1996 changing the ending of the original Clouzot masterpiece. Gobbi's ending is almost predictable, perhaps from familiarity with the story, I'm not sure. Like Hitchcock's film, the use of music by Bernard Herrmann is a strong point and with "Maldonne" Gobbi used Vladimir Cosma's music expertly. The actors are all good, I wonder if there could have been anyone who could have better in the role played by Elsa Martinelli, perhaps a bit not as smart. "Maldonne" ("Misdeal")is Gobbi at his best.

Le chien

TV Special Special Indeed
In 1962,the TV special that Francois Chalais wrote and directed which seemed rather somewhat autobiographical, making it even more quaint and touching, as it tells the story of a dog that brings a couple together and allows them to make love at the risk of never seeing each other again. The one hour dramatic and cinematic effort stars two over the title stars, Alain Delon and Elke Sommer as the couple, each winning us over by their remarkable talent. Elke even gets to sing a little German song, completely in keeping with her character's design. This is a beautifully told, at times somewhat awkward, but still quite endearing and entertaining. Very well done. Highly recommended rarity.


Film is Fascinating and Powerful Statement
"Negatives" (1968) with a screenplay by Peter Everett and Roger Lowry based on Everett's novel deserves some kind of backup as reviewers so far have missed its intrinsic quality of imagination in the aspect of role playing, that the movie is about on the surface. The characters do have negative aspects but I was definitely drawn into caring about them. Peter McEnery is, as always, quite excellent as Theo, who is ensnared into a role-playing sexual involvement with an transient played by the great Glenda Jackson. Yes, Jackson knows how to "chew the scenery" but she is really outside the real core of the story as, like many of Jackson's performances, comes across as a shrew. The ever-beautiful Diane Cilento does come between them because Theo needs the vitality she brings to his life and liberates him, not merely by a sexual conquest, but by enabling him to break free of role playing that frustrated him and kept him unhappy. We are all actors and the film mines the potential of this fact exceptionally. The director, Peter Medak makes the most ostentatious debut here. He later directed the acclaimed "The Ruling Class" which I have yet to see, but here he creates by using so brilliantly the art direction and props, music, etc. with so much style and, perhaps, what "Negatives" is about, the searing power to imprint on the emulsion of life, the expanse available to us by our imaginations. I saw the official Continental/Walter Reade VHS which wasrather murky transfer from prints by Movielab, which are faded. But why people give the film a bad rap claiming they do not understand something that is rightly left as limitless is beyond me. I feel I had to defend this film for the power to fascinate it always has for me.

Il baco da seta

Interesting Little Mystery
"The Silkworm" (1974) is a film for Nadja Tiller fans. She frequently turns up in European films but usually in support but in this one she has the starring role. George Hilton is basically a red herring like Janet Leigh was in "Psycho" in that he is used in small role but given star billing. And Guy Madison went totally unnoticed by me. The latest pretty face was a character of a Greek boy going by the name of "Costas" and played by Carlos de Castro. Nothing really exceptional. Directed by Mario Seoui and written by Mino Roli with music by Mario Bertolazzi with interesting costuming by E. Romana Cofano. This mystery about a woman who re-grows her fortune through precarious means held my attention and curiosity, but there is nothing exceptional about it except the writing and plotting that pulls it off. The copy I saw had bad subtitling. Perhaps I rated it a little high, as it is nice when everyone has their day.

Soul Hustler

Interesting Take Once Again
"The Soul Hustler" (1973) is an American Films, Ltd. release that starred Fabian Forte as a singing evangelist who seemed completely corrupt when he was discovered for his raw talent of "soft sell" by a ruthless evangelist played by Tony Russell who shows him the ropes to evangelizing and securing enough donations and raise enough confidence in the public to have chart topping record albums and sold-out engagements. However, he had a pair of great danes that cared about him, and those that befriended him like Larry Bishop and Nai Bonet, he tried to use to his advantage. He got caught up in the drugs and sex, but it is Miss Bonet who helps him to see the importance of keeping sacred his own faith he inspires in the many who follow him. Performances are very good, even Casey Kasem as an "anything for a buck" promoter. Fabian, who always seems to defy his own work as when he, as an accomplished actor, does something interesting, he seems to wind up surrendering to an indifferent attitude. Harley Hatcher composed most of the songs and did the movie's score and, once again, as with another movie by the director, Burt Topper (1970's "The Hard Ride" starring Robert Fuller) did an extraordinary job. Hatcher also scored "A Bullet for Pretty Boy" also with Fabian. The premise of the story of "The Soul Hustler" had been done basically in 1958 with 20th Century-Fox's "Sing, Boy, Sing" with Tommy Sands. But like "The Hard Ride" was as a biker picture, it is a different breed altogether. Topper also wrote and produced "The Soul Hustler." It leaves you wondering. And it makes you wonder what else they could do.

La bataille de San Sebastian

Exciting and Surprising Vernueil Western
Once one gets over the poor attempt to conceal Anjanette Comer's rather Hollywood sex appeal in a Hispanic makeover (they had tried before with Sidney J. Furie's "The Appaloosa" (1968) with Marlon Brando), Anjanette's forte was comedies like "The Loved One" and "Quick Before It Melts", and also Charles Bronson's rather cheezy blending into a half-breed Indian that detract from the movie's realism, I was rather pleasantly surprised by 1968's "Guns for San Sebastien." The index I checked before ordering the film prepared me for a rather tedious exercise which turned out to be totally unwarranted and thanks to my knowledge of the reputation of Henri Verneuil, who had done so well with "The 25th Hour" the year before and star Anthony Quinn, I was treated to an exciting and enthralling assault on the imagination in both sound and spectacle. It predates "The Wild Bunch" at first with the stop motion on violence, but then goes for straight Western spectacle, providing Quinn another well suited role as a renegade thrust into the unlikely role of a priest of a village he can help display their humanity so aptly. Verneuil again shows quite a talent for widescreen. Ennio Morricone's score is helpful. The script flows well by James R. Webb from a book, "A Wall for San Sebastien" by William B. Flaherty. Photography by Armand Thirand is quite good. Halliwell's calls the film "undistinguished." How totally wrong they were this time, as this film, somewhat riveting, goes beyond the routine western and lives on in the spirit of your imagination.


Always Entertaining; Brilliant At Times
Mauro Bolognini's 1967 film showcasing a star performance from then international cross-over Virna Lisi was released by Universal Studios and was the director's big Hollywood breakthrough. His previous and future masterpieces remain as part of the European market and it is not fair that "Arabella" remain also in virtual obscurity as it, like most of Bolognini's work deserves a re-discovery. Also starring a young James Fox who was never sexier than in this, and also Terry-Thomas in four different roles, each distinct and with a surprisingly brilliance to match most of the rest of the production. Margaret Rutherford is also in the cast, and here the problems with the weak script come into play as she has little to do with her characterization. A young Giancarlo Giannini is also on hand playing comedy that serves the production well also. The screenplay is by Adriano Baracco with English dialogue by Alan Hackney. Considered weak by critics upon release, upon several viewings this problem pales as the brilliant flourishes make a decidedly ribald yet enticing entertainment. Bolognini, a very intelligent and cultured maestro, once again shows us his superior gift for period films, with "Arabella" again the twenties. Art Direction by Alberto Boccianti deserves special praise as do Piero Tosi's costumes. Ennio Morricone once again shows his brilliance of diversity with his totally apropos and telling score. I do not think it was just the script, I think it was a gross miscarriage of the temperament of the audiences who were able to see "Arabella" at the time of its release, because it certainly should be seen and enjoyed more than ever. I am changing my rating from an 8 to a definite 9. A true masterpiece compared to a film such as the Stanley Donen/Liza Minnelli misfire, "Lucky Lady." Take a chance.

The Oscar

Second Rate
Embassy Pictures and Joseph E.Levine brought us "The Oscar" in 1966 which was the film version of a novel by Richard Sale, an insider look at a fictional Oscar race for Best Actor. Even the movie version which was watered down and smartly leaving out of a lot of the machinations of the erratic plot of the novel and concentrated on its good qualities like the "Frankie Fane" lead character expertly portrayed by Stephen Boyd. Some say Boyd after appearing in "The Oscar" never had a commendable role in a Hollywood film again. He is cast to a tee and perhaps too much so. Elke Sommer plays the part of "Kay" who becomes his wife has the role tailored for her attributes. She was never better than in "The Prize" with Paul Newman. Jill St.John, who gets the acting honors here has never been better than she is in this film. Rather dubiously, she receives that honor. On hand are Eleanor Parker, Joseph Cotton, Ernest Borgnine, Milton Berle as "Cappy" the agent, Edie Adams is also a well realized casting coup for her character and Peter Lawford is on hand and sympathetic. The picture is very well known for featuring and introducing Tony Bennett in a sizable co-starring role as "Hymie Kelly," Fane's PR man and friend from his past who has what for any other actor I would imagine a chance to really act. Unfortunately, he is not up to the challenge. The script is loaded with great dialogue and in hindsight becomes festooned with quotes ripe for the picking. The screenplay is credited to Harlan Ellison, director Russell Rouse and producer Clarence Greene. The picture is studded with celebrities making cameos and playing themselves in parts like Frank Sinatra, Nancy Sinatra, Merle Oberon, Bob Hope. In hindsight, "The Oscar" scores higher than when it was made as everything about it proved to be "second rate" except the sheer splendor of the wallow it provides. Director Russell Rouse has his moments like at the end when the camera backs away from Fane sitting twisted in his chair at the Academy auditorium reduced finally to see what happens to his vulgarity while nearly everyone around him is giving the winner a standing ovation. Color.

Une manche et la belle

Fifties French Noir a Gem
Henri Verneuil ("The Burglars," "The 25th Hour") displays his finesse with this early accomplishment, 1957's "Killer for a Killer" (AKA: "Une Mannche et la Belle") starring Henri Vidal and Mylene Demongeot (Otto Preminger's "Bonjour Tristesse"). Based on an somewhat obscure novel by James Hadley Chase titled appropriately "The Sucker Punch," the well crafted screenplay by Verneuil, Francois Boyer and Annette Wademmant is so skillfully directed and acted (I am sure audiences would be more familiar with Vidal today as he consistently worked consistently since the forties until he died at the age of forty not long after this film was released. Demongeot may have had more notoriety to her name today, but she amounted to little more than a poor man's Bardot. But they are both good here with Isa Miranda playing the rich older woman they conspire to kill, with several twists and the much fore-shadowed, but devastating "sucker punch" provided by the great handling of the plot. Verneuil is definitely a director to look out as he consistently delivers from what I've seen from him so far. Also outstanding is the music by Paul Durand, cinematography by Christian Matras and the editing by Louisette Hautecoeur. The copy I saw had been provided with a great transfer to DVD by Rene Château Video and Cinedis. A real diamond! But you know they CAN be found "in the rough."


Half-Successful Attempt At Past Glories
"The Animal" from 1977 and director Claude Zidi is amicable enough as a comedy romance and certainly wanted to capitalize on Jean-Paul Belmondo's previous successes as a swashbuckling ("Cartouche") or zany acrobatic and yet dumbfounded "That Man From Rio." "The Animal" seems certainly the sugar-coated "entertainment" big budgeted films feel are safe, yet even though Belmondo seems a bit washed-up and co-star Raquel Welch comes out better with quite a lot less to do, but then the producers have even altered the title in preference of Miss Welch's "abilities" and you may find this entry as "Stuntwoman." Yes, Belmondo and Welch play stunt people and even though at times it is all rather benign, when one looks at the end product, the discerning viewer will feel consistently like their balloon, repeatedly blown up and then let out, has nothing to do but burst. One can certainly feel bad for Belmondo as De Broca is clearly not at the helm, and the only real joys of the film was that it was a top-grossing film in France when it was released. A nice attempt at capturing the glories of the past in financially fueled numbness of our "new" entertainment, but it is only actually half-successful. At times it gets away with not insulting your intelligence, but ultimately you feel like an idiot for its sake.

The Appointment

Haunting and Enigmatic While Obvious
I did not want to wait another day and not attempt to write a review since seeing 1969's "The Appointment" about four weeks ago. It was director Sidney Lumet's "European" film starring at the height of their cinematic charisma and appeal Omar Sharif (big enough box office due to "Doctor Zhivago" (1965) and Anouk Aimee (a Best Actress nominee in 1965 for "A Man and a Woman"). While the movie may be very obvious, it leaves one as an enigmatic, and strangely, miscalculated masterpiece. The rather straightforward, simple script by James Salter about a man who becomes obsessed with his wife's fidelity, is still as puzzling as a Chinese box. The fact that MGM, who did not have any faith in the film acquiring any successful word of mouth upon release, which I find in my opinion to be rather obvious that it very well could have achieved success rather than not gaining much of a release at all, although Lumet received a Palme d'Or nomination at Cannes, which today on that strength with audiences for film now the releasing studio would have felt much more guaranteed a strong theatrical release. And to rip out one of John Barry's (with Don Walker) most inspired and right on the mark themes and music scores (when shown on television it was replaced with a rock score by Stu Phillips) shows the ultimately perplexing hypocrisy of the film business always being re-cycled as an art form. The editing (Thelma Connell), photography (Carlo di Palma) and acting is all superb. Definitely deserves to be seen and not regarded as some kind of dreadful misfire which is certainly is by the hands of those responsible for suppressing such a beautiful film. In Metrocolor, produced by Martin Poll. Knowing of the injustices committed against this film's chance for success and acclaim, if you are faced with the prospect of seeing it, do not put it off.

La vingt-cinquième heure

Very Memorable and Moving
MGM's "The 25th Hour" from 1967 starring Anthony Quinn and Virna Lisi and directed by Frenchman Henri Verneuil who brought us "The Burglars" several years later and both very good films deserving of a decent DVD or even Blu-ray release. "The 25th Hour" is a well written film and one of the best films about the holocaust ever with an uplifting kind of ending because even though some of what the film depicts is somewhat implausible, it takes just this aspect and twists and uses it to its best advantage, the humanness involved in the story. Quinn portrays a Rumanian peasant who is through the trickery of a town official, is sent off as a Jew and/or undesirable when the Germans take power leaving behind his beautiful wife (played by Lisi), the real intent of this official. After escaping from the camp, Quinn is later again by error accepted as a viable specimen for the German superior breed, in what the German officer calls part of a "human zoo." The excellent script is based on a novel by C. Virgil Gheorghui and was adapted by Francois Boyer, Wolf Mankowitz and Henri Verneuil with fabulous cinematography by Andreas Winding and extraordinary editing by Francoise Bonnet and music by George Delerue. This film is one to maintain that Henri Verneuil definitely should gain praise for as the cast of hundreds and the many difficult images are handled artfully coupled with the magnificent work of his cast and crew. This affecting drama deals with the holocaust in a personal, human way and does so masterfully. A Carlo Ponti production in Metrocolor.

Un bellissimo novembre

Too Much and Too Little
"That Splendid November" is director Mauro Bolognini's 1969 film that is a very interesting telling based on a novel by Ercole Patti with its script by Lucia Drudi Demby, Antonio Altoviti and Attilio Riccio but very much a blending of two kinds of Bolognini film. Many of Bolognini's films are very earnest examinations of the Sicilian/Italian lifestyle usually in period, but a few tend toward bold, lusty soap opera and "That Splendid November" tells of an modern Italian family and its rather sordid interior, especially "Aunt Cettina" (Gina Lollobrigida)and 17 year old nephew "Nino"" (Paolo Turco (Radley Metzger's "The Lickerish Quartet")). Lollobrigida's is one of Bolognini's strong female characters he excels at presenting as the antithesis of leading male characters who are unable to do the work needed to rise above their stations in life, but here she is a bit far flown and not at all sympathetic and too sexy to be believable. Turco is just right, even to being too wooden. Turco should have had a star billing than Gabriele Ferzetti and Andre Lawrence who merely compete for her affections in a rather benign way as far as dramatic conflict in the story, but it is Paolo's picture opposite Lollobrigida, at times with her bordering camp. The cinematography by Armando Nanuzzi is at times breathtaking, while the editing by Roberto Perpignani and Ennio Morricone's score seem somewhat misguided, but it is a very interesting and admirable attempt by Bolognini to make that sumptuous picture he is well capable of making (perhaps such a film is "Bubu"), somewhat shocking, and definitely "splendid." And things never get too out of hand, perhaps that is what is wrong, the movie never satisfyingly tells us anything committed and we are left with portentousness.


Ravished for Art's Sake
Emmanuelle Bercot the director and star of this French film of a not particularly attractive, over-sexed thirty-something who does everything to wear out her welcome as completely sensible adult and an outlandish artist who apparently is over-compensated and does not have enough dignity or anything else more interesting to do to keep herself from corrupting a minor, a 13 year old boy named "Clement." She uses cinema verite "peep show"-like home movie style to fashion a "too long" both as a film and a statement on her subject look at something degrading to anyone with serious pretexts as a responsible artist. Made in 2001, it is one more reason to be ashamed of today's film-making industry that would give an award to something so repulsive and morally bankrupt.

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