The Biggest Bundle of Them All - 1968
The Biggest Bundle of Them All - 1968
The Biggest Bundle of Them All, Released - Jan 17, 1968. Directed by Ken Annakin
In an effort to steal a trainload of platinum in Italy, Robert Wagner (as Harry Price) teams up with retired mafioso Cesare Celli (Vittorio De Sica), and using a plan devised by "Professor Samuels" (Edward G Robinson) they assemble the tools and equipment needed to stop the train, break into the guarded freight car, and to spirit away the loot to a waiting airplane (a surplus WWII B-17 bomber) with the intention to then getting it out of the country to Morocco.
The problem is that Cesare and Harry are always arguing over who should be in charge of their gang of mostly incompetent and completely amateur crooks (Godfrey Cambridge, Davy Kaye, Francesco Mule). To further add to their problems, Harry seems to think every problem can be solved by waving a gun around, and "Mafioso" Cesase is not really retired, but more put-out-to-pasture because his connections and know-how is ridiculously not up to the task at hand.
The film is light-hearted and well-oiled with jokes, and the script by Sy Salkowitz and Josef Shaftel parodies other "heist" movies like Ocean's Eleven. Instead of the precision and split-second improvisation featured in other robbery movies of this type, in The Biggest Bundle of Them All the only thing that operates according to plan for these likeable crooks is the 'Professor's' ingenious use of an old tank, a conveyor belt and other bits of technology as they swipe the platinum and then load it onto the Flying Fortress which proves in the end to have too many buttons in the cockpit.
Director Annakin makes the most of the beautiful Italian countryside and Raquel Welch, both of which are central to the film visuals. The music by Riz Ortoiano emphasizes Italy, but it comes pounding into scenes so loudly and repeatedly that it requires some patience.
The Mummy - 1932
The Mummy - Released Dec 22, 1932. Directed by Karl Freund
Remade endlessly since 1932, The Mummy is the story of the vengeful Egyptian priest Imhotep who is put under wraps "forever" because of his undying love for Ankh-es-en-amon, the young woman that his infatuation pursues across centuries and causes him to cross both the ancient Egyptian gods and the ancient (and modern) Egyptian authorities.
Whereas Frankenstein was a monster film about science gone wrong, and Dracula about appetites with a vaguely demonic origin (and a vaguely Christian solution), The Mummy is an occultic tour of Hollywood's idea of what ancient Egyptian supernatural power was like without nary a mention of Hollywood's other Egyptian interest, Moses and the slaves (and the God of the slaves. Though the 1999 remake of The Mummy with Brandon Fraser does veer into this area briefly). In this original 1932 version, though, this problem with a rampaging mummy is specifically an Egyptian problem that manages not to include Egypt's dominant religion, Islam, but does show off a lot of stylized and very well-done Hollywood production design
Karloff is only wrapped up in the iconic bandages for a small portion of the movie, but then Boris takes to the kind of well-dressed, delicate, carefully spoken and genteel aggression that he specialized in for so many other films. Zita Johann is Helen Grosvenor, daughter of an English diplomat who has the unwelcome chore of channeling the reincarnation of Ankh-es-en-amon and is consequently under Imhotep's (who in 1932 Egypt is going by the name Ardath Bey) obsessive gaze.
Edward Van Sloan is Van Helsing again (actually named Doctor Muller here) who knows the secrets of why Ardath Bey is hanging around the Cairo museum, lovingly peering down at the coffin of Ankh-es-en-amon. As the proper Englishmen (David Manners and Arthur Byron) jest and scoff at the reason there are bodies piling up (a mummy is on the loose), it will be the patient Van Sloan who pulls everyone's fat out of the fire, well, that and a suddenly weaponized ancient Egyptian idol.
Jack Pierce's makeup for Karloff is first-rate and has been imitated ever since. Director Freund continues the gothic mode of the original Universal monster movies and this too has been much imitated, especially in the vast list of Universal Mummy sequels. Not until Hammer's Chris Lee/Peter Cushing reboot in 1959 did the style of Freund's The Mummy get updated to a quicker, sleeker and more aggressive version, though one that lost all of Ardath Bey's subtle menace.
The Priest's Wife - 1970
The Priest's Wife - Released December 22, 1970 (Italy). Directed by Dino Risi
aka: La moglie del prete
This comedy film can't commit 100% to being a comedy. By the end The Priest's Wife has squandered a lot of it's funniness to finally roll credits after a scene in which the love-struck Catholic priest (a very controlled and precise Marcello Mastroianni) seems to have been re-seduced by the church and is now insipidly hoping to keep his engaged bride (Sophia Loren) dangling while he enjoys the splendor of a sudden appointment to a high rank (with extravagant perks) within the priest hierarchy in Rome.
Getting to such a dismal ending doesn't seem pre-ordained, though. The Priest's Wife starts off with an excellent and humorous car-duel section in which Sophia (as Valeria) has suddenly discovered her boyfriend of four years actually has a wife and kids elsewhere, so in a white-hot rage she charges after him in a tiny Fiat and he flees in a separate little Fiat. This turns into an absurd car chase and demolition section with the small cars crashing into one another and being steadily torn apart, like two Circus clown cars in a mock bull-fighting match.
Later, Valeria is suicidal over the betrayal and calls a suicide hotline on a whim, briefly talks to Marcello (as Priest Don Mario) who can't really convince her of anything, and she hangs up and takes pills anyway, ending up in a hospital where she then calls on the priest to come visit her.
A friendship and then a hesitant and goofy infatuation develops between the two. Mastroianni and Loren work on screen together like a perfect Swiss time-piece, but the script (Ruggero Maccari and Bernardino Zapponi) can't let them be and starts smuggling in a secondary movie about the plight of priests and a look into the kind of working conditions in which they live. There's no reason all these comedy and non-comedy elements couldn't have gelled together, though, funny movies have been able to stay comedies and ingest all kinds of human condition side trips since at least Chaplin's films. But The Priest's Wife can't handle that mission and schisms, reducing the main characters into flat caricatures and Mastroianni's masterful fumbling and groping loses its charm.
Director Risi injects subtle commentary throughout about the priestly life, and mostly with a great deal of sympathy amid the humor. As long as the movie is a romantic comedy (the majority of the film) about an extremely unlikely couple, Risi can get away with just about anything, show and say anything to us about whether he likes, hates, or is just amused about the Catholic universe, as Loren and Mastroianni are just that good and we're on their side. But, and here's the main problem with the movie, Loren (who is the main focus of Risi's camera throughout The Priest's Wife) is apparently supposed to be cuckolded at the end just as she was at the beginning, but this time by the entire Catholic Church, and that just isn't a large enough or good enough "gag" to pay off the audience after 103 minutes (I want the romantic comedy to end like a romantic comedy, not a documentary). In essence, Valeria is reduced to having been a pair of eyes that allowed us to roam about inside the priest's world and to ultimately see it as artificial, constrained by cultural and family pressures, with prestige used as a poor substitute for human feeling (this secondary messaging can be interesting, though, in one section Risi seems to be insinuating that there's not a lot of difference between priests and rock and roll stars, particularly in their treatment by and to women). But because of the ending the movie has the feeling of "bait and switch" and this is not fair to Valeria, the movie audience, and just not very funny.
Loren is very good as the expressive and fiery Valeria, and Mastroianna plays the Priest Don Mario with respect and constraint (except he's kind of goofy, but, then, this was a comedy at first). Location shots around Padua, Tuscany, and Rome are gorgeous with nice cinematography by Alfio Contini. The wardrobe is very 1970 (and colorful) and Loren gets to wear a variety of outfits. The car demolition intro to The Priest's Wife has fantastic stunt driving.
Original Page Jan 2018
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