The Lion in Winter - 1968 - A new 4K restored HD copy of this Peter O'Toole/Katherine Hepburn drama about the love/hate relationship between King Henry and Eleanor of Aquitaine has been released, and it is a dramatic improvement over the DVD and VHS versions from the past. Muddy colors are considerably brighter and sharper, and the sound is also sharper - - a good thing as the vast bulk of this movie is dialogue (it is adapted from a stage play). Though there are a few scenes at the beginning meant to place The Lion in Winter into the line of many epic historical dramas that came forth in the 1960s, the racing horsemen and marching, fighting troops are lackluster in presentation and only briefly intrude upon the cozier telling of the royal family packed in together during the Christmas season, plotting with and against each other along with the visiting King of France, a 17 year old monarch played by Timothy Dalton. The cast is marvelously timed to match one another in intensity and the whole film is a river of well-written dialogue that can go from bleak to humorous in the space of seconds.
Fury - 2014 - A battle-hardened tank crew must integrate a new crew member as they venture into Germany during the waning months of the second World War. Director and writer David Ayer's film hearkens backwards toward classic post-WW2 combat films in its narrative style and plot, and is very effective in creating a world that exists mostly within the iron innards of a Sherman tank, probably in a way that's not been achieved before in the long, long line of WW2 films from Hollywood. Iron-willed tank leader "Big Daddy" (Brad Pitt) is the center of our attention, along with the green recruit (Logan Lerman) who has to be taught the basics of survival and to play his part in the tank crew. A part of the dilemma is that Pitt's character has made the impossible pledge that he would get his crew out of the war alive.
Random Harvest - 1942
Amnesia plays a part in many Hollywood movies. If you needed to create a problem for the characters to ponder (and the audience) just erase part of the memory of one of the stars and complications and mystery naturally follows (or humor, as in I Love You Again, with William Powell and Myrna Loy).
Random Harvest is only slightly different in this respect because there's not only one incidence of amnesia to haunt the main character (Ronald Colman as World War 1 veteran Charles Rainier), but two episodes of vanished memory. And Greer Garson (as Paula) plays the most important part in both "halves" of Charles Ranier's post-war life. Garson figures out everything (and she does this well before the audience does, let alone Colman's character) and she has to sit patiently while the mess gets untangled and the movie audience catches up.
A solid-gold melodrama from M-G-M with excellent production values and good performances from Ronald Colman who can shift from nonchalant optimism to dignified weariness (and mental fragility) easily. Greer Garson essentially plays the same character she performed in Goodbye Mr. Chips and Mrs. Miniver - that of an indefatigable female force for good amid human tragedy.
More about Random Harvest
The Palm Beach Story - 1942
The Palm Beach Story - 1942 - Released November 7, 1942
Colbert is kept in an expensive apartment by failing inventor/husband Joel McCrea (they are Mr. and Mrs. Jeffers). The couple is seriously behind on their bills and on the verge of being evicted when a "Fairy Godfather" appears (aka, the "Weinie-King" an eccentric elderly man with a fortune made in low-cost lunch meats) who, smitten with Mrs Jeffers (he meets her while she is hiding in a shower stall in the apartment, he is inspecting the place because he might like to rent it ... "You don't come with the apartment?" he asks). He provides funding to save the couple from impending financial disaster.
But Colbert's character has the idea to permanently fix their financial situation: she'll divorce her husband, go to Florida, marry a millionaire, and use the new husband to fund the old husband's crazy ideas (Mr Jeffers has a plan to build a city airport atop a super-heavy-duty tarp suspended on wires hung from skyscrapers. The small-scale model in McCrea's engineering office looks utterly unfeasible outside of a Hollywood movie).
Colbert (Mrs Jeffers) takes off for Florida, and soon McCrea is in pursuit (he also gets funded miraculously by the 'Weinie King') and the story, now choc-full of double-identities (there's more to come) continues to have twists and turns as it picks up additional characters (Mary Astor, Rudy Vallee).
Written and Directed by Preston Sturges, the tale is screwball comedy mixed with satire.
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Releasing April 24 from Kino: The Maze 3-D 1953
Richard Carlson (as Gerald MacTeam) suddenly moves to Scotland to take over ownership of a castle in the remote highlands. His ex-fiancee (Veronica Hurst) comes looking for him shortly thereafter only to find him strangely aged.
The Parent Trap - 1961
The Parent Trap - Released June 21, 1961. Directed by David Swift
Two hardworking Haley Mills star in The Parent Trap, along with Maureen O'Hara as a wise mother who figures out what the two little conspirators are up to, and Brian Keith as their father who never exactly understands, and consequently gets outsmarted. It's for his own benefit, as he has got himself mixed up with professional husband-hunting conniver Vicky (Joanna Bridges) and must be rescued.
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Criterion June Release
Criterion is putting out a 2K High Definition bluray in June of Bergman's The Virgin Spring from 1960 which takes place in a Medieval setting (as Seventh Seal does).
Criterion page on The Virgin Spring release
Mary Philbin and who directed Phantom of the Opera?
Mary Philbin and Lon Chaney in the original version of the Gaston L. A. Leroux novel of manic love (and opera) that Universal wrestled with over several years, eventually completing two different versions, one released in 1925, and then a "sound" version released (with many new scenes and a revamped story) in 1929.
Part of what makes a story "work" in a movie is the physical architecture of the cast. If all the male (or female) leads look similar, for example, the visual story gets blurry. That, of course, was never an issue with Louis Wolheim on the screen.
Louis Wolheim: Born March 28, 1880, NYC - Died February 18, 1931 in LA
Of the classic Marx Brothers movies made before they signed with M-G-M and had Irving Thalberg remold them into a smoother, just as funny, but a less threatening comedy troupe, Horsefeathers is apparently the most dangerous (in 1930s terms) since it shows the most chopped-up editing done to it after release.
Their more famous film Duck Soup is overtly subversive, if making fun of politics, America (i.e., "Freedonia"), patriotism and warfare is subversive, but copies of that film seem to be completely whole.
Not so with the Thelma Todd co-starring Horsefeathers, which has noticeable jumps, breaks, and truncated scenes. It's a luney farce in which the brothers (all four) are trying to get her attention while the serious matter of college football interferes and frames the tale. Of all the Marx Bros early films, this one seems to be the one most sabotaged by the Hayes codes during re-release, and though the movie mocks academia and football, it seems unlikely that's where the trouble was. More likely it was Thelma Todd, though what exactly was chopped out is hard to say, but she seems to always be in the scenes that are the most malformed.
Starring Miss Barbara Stanwyck [Illustrated with 310 Photographs] - amazon.com
- Beauty and the Beast - 1946
- Barricade - 1950
- The Disembodied - 1957
- The Frisco Kid - 1935
- The Twonky - 1953
- Meet John Doe - 1941
- Day of Anger - 1967
- Central Park - 1932 - Joan Blondell has trouble on her hands when she gets suckered into helping a gangster to rob a charity event. Though this film stars Joan and Wallace Ford, it also features the American Great Depression which is the background for the hunger and desperation that flavors the film.