1957 Movie Review: PATHS OF GLORY, 1957

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PATHS OF GLORY, 1957
Movie Reviews

Directed by Stanley Kubrick

Starring: Kirk Douglas, Ralph Meeker, Adolphe Menjou, Richard Anderson, Joe Turkel, Wayne Morris, George Macready, Timothy Carey

What the critics say: 

More than 20 years after Mr. Cobb’s novel was first published, Mr. Kubrick reminded us that human folly is rarely checked for long. A half-century on, he is still right.

March 26, 2013 | Full Review…
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Kirk Douglas gives one of his finest performances as the intelligent and courageous Col. Dax.

March 26, 2013 | Full Review…
 Top Critic
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The sardonic rhetoric may be laid on a little heavily at times, but the movie is blunt and scornfully brilliant.

March 26, 2013 | Full Review…
 Top Critic
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While the subject is well handled and enacted in a series of outstanding characterizations, it seems dated and makes for grim screen fare.

May 8, 2007 | Full Review…
 Top Critic
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This masterpiece still packs a wallop, though nothing in it is as simple as it may first appear; audiences are still arguing about the final sequence, which has been characterized as everything from a sentimental cop-out to the ultimate cynical twist.

May 8, 2007 | Full Review…
 Top Critic
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The final scene, in which Kubrick presents close-ups of soldiers watching a captured German girl being forced to sing for their pleasure is nothing short of masterful.

June 24, 2006 | Full Review…
 Top Critic
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paths of glory

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1957 Movie Review: PAL JOEY, 1957

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PAL JOEY,   MOVIE POSTERPAL JOEY, 1957
Movie Reviews

Directed by George Sidney
Starring: Frank Sinatra, Rita Hayworth, Kim Novak, Barbara Nichols, Bobby Sherwood, Hank Henry, Elizabeth Patterson
Review by Virginia De Witt

SYNOPSIS:

San Francisco nightclub singer, Joey Evans, is broke and finds himself working at a dive called The Barbary Coast where he meets and falls for dancer, Linda English. Joey’s dream is to be his own boss and after he meets wealthy socialite, Vera Simpson, he pursues her, and his desire to open his own night club, Chez Joey. Vera agrees to become his partner, both financial and romantic, but she quickly becomes jealous of Linda’s presence at the new club. Joey finds himself torn between the two women who can shape his future and has to decide which woman will help him fulfill his dream.

 

REVIEW:

Frank Sinatra rarely found musical roles on screen that matched his range as both a singer and an actor. With the exception of “The Joker Is Wild”, (1957) in which Sinatra plays singer/comedian Joe E. Lewis, and which is really more of a straight dramatic role than a studio musical, ‘Pal Joey” is the closest Sinatra came on screen to exploring the kind of life and character he knew so well. Far more typical were the early musicals he did with Gene Kelly, for instance, “Anchors Aweigh” (1945) or “Take Me Out To the Ballgame” (1949). These, along with his other early musicals, are enjoyably lighthearted and were meant to capitalize on Sinatra’s status as the American Idol of his day. These films were aimed straight at the heart of the swooning bobby soxers in the balcony and presented Sinatra in the most harmless possible light, most often as a guileless, love struck innocent. Joey Evans is, of course, anything but. He is an amoral hustler who takes nothing and no one seriously, except his own ambition. The character has been softened and sentimentalized for the screen adaptation, but Sinatra understands this man in his bones and conveys a great deal about Joey’s true nature through his delivery of both dialogue and song.

The film is an adaptation of a successful Broadway musical of the same name from 1940 which gave Gene Kelly his break out hit on stage. The original play had a book by John O’Hara and was adapted from short stories he had written for The New Yorker in the 1930s. Original music and lyrics were by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart. The play waited nearly 20 years to be adapted to the screen because of its frankness in depicting sexual situations which were unacceptable according to the Hollywood

production code of the time, despite its having an even more successful stage revival in 1952. The play was considered a landmark musical in its day for bringing psychological depth to its characterizations, and a dramatic reality to its situations, rather than simply using stock romantic situations as excuses for performers to sing and dance to the popular numbers of the moment.

To this end, the success of “Pal Joey”, was aided greatly by the music and lyrics of Rodgers and Hart in providing songs that were not only witty and beautiful, but managed to complete the character’s thoughts and express their desires. Many of these songs are now standards in the American songbook – “If They Asked Me I Could Write a Book”, “The Lady Is A Tramp”, “My Funny Valentine”, “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” – amongst them. Sinatra is in his element delivering these songs, all of which benefit from Nelson Riddle’s now canonic arrangements. Especially memorable is his rendition of “The Lady Is A Tramp”, sung as a slap in the face to the haughty Vera Simpson (Rita Hayworth). After hours and alone in a run down night club, Sinatra performs his magic trick of seeming to be both defiant and vulnerable at once.

Sinatra is joined by two of the great female stars of the era. Rita Hayworth, who was actually younger than Sinatra, while playing the middle aged Vera, is in great form here. Hayworth was an accomplished dancer who was a veteran of movie musicals, and while she doesn’t have any formal dance numbers in “Pal Joey”, she handles the quasi-burlesque number “Zip” with great style and skill. Vera is a former stripper who worked the same clubs as Joey. They understand each other and so do Sinatra and Hayworth. The relationship builds believably as these two befriend and yet use each other relentlessly, until the logic of it is betrayed by the requisite Hollywood ending.

Sinatra, is not so fortunate with his other leading lady, Kim Novak as Linda English. Due to Novak’s inability to be expressive either physically, even though she plays a dancer, or emotionally, there isn’t much for Sinatra to work off of with her. His presence and talent are so strong, however, that he glides over the spaces created by her vacant stare and manages to create the sense of a rapport with Linda.

George Sidney’s direction is straightforward and unobtrusive, if not especially imaginative. He allows the performers to have their moment in their musical numbers. Sidney frames Sinatra particularly well in his stage performances. The director understands that, in the end, “Pal Joey” is a showcase for this great singer and allows him plenty of space to move.

PAL JOEY

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1957 Movie Review: THE PAJAMA GAME, 1957

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THE PAJAMA GAME POSTERTHE PAJAMA GAME, 1957
Movie Reviews

Directed by: George Abbott, Stanley Donen

Starring: Doris Day, John Raitt, Carol Haney, Eddie Foy Jr.
Review by Jayvibha Vaidya

SYNOPSIS:

When the employees at the Sleeptite Pajama Company demand a seven and half cents increase, the new factory superintendant must deal with a looming strike. To make matters even more complicated, he’s in love with the feisty employee representative who sets the strike in motion. As tensions increase, the lovers stay on opposite sides of the wage war, putting their relationship and jobs in jeopardy.

NOMINATED FOR 4 OSCARS – Art Direction, Cinematography, Costume and Writing

 REVIEW: 

“It’s nothing personal. You’re the superintendant and I’m the Grievance Committee.”

When newly hired superintendant Sid Sorokin (John Raitt) is slammed with an employee complaint in his first week, he has to deal with Katherine “Babe” Williams (Doris Day), the head of the Grievance Committee. He scoffs, she throws the rule book at him and an office romance is born. Coming from its Broadway success, The Pajama Game was released on film in 1957 starring stage actor John Raitt and Hollywood sweetheart, Doris Day.

As employees at the Sleeptite Pajama Factory prepare for a strike, Babe and Sid begin to fall for each other. Passionate about her job, Babe calls for the sewing line to cease production and subsequently gets fired – by her new boyfriend. “You stick to your side and I’ll stick to mine!” she exclaims, effectively breaking up with him. As Sid scrambles to find a solution to his job and relationship problems, he’s forced to learn about compromise and loyalty – through song and dance, of course. All ends well as both sides get what they want; calling for a company pajama party to celebrate their victories.

Fluffy and light, the musical never gets too serious about labor relation issues, opting instead to highlight running gags like a jealous boyfriend or the romance between Sid and Babe. The songs are fun and cheery but not entirely memorable. The more enjoyable numbers are ensemble pieces, utilizing a large number of the cast. “Racing with the Clock” shows the employees simultaneously performing the same act faster and faster. The camera and choreography work well together, moving through the lines of sewing machines and yards of cloth. “I’ll Never Be Jealous Again” is a funny little number with a jealous boyfriend, Heinsie (Eddie Foy Jr.) promising his friend Mabel (Reta Shaw) that he won’t doubt his girlfriend and secretary Gladys ever again. Reprising their roles from Broadway, both performers have an easy, comfortable way with this song, making it enjoyable to watch.

There are two musical highlights that make the film. The first occurs at the annual company picnic as the company gathers for a day of fun (“Once-A-Year-Day”). Choreographer Bob Fosse, on one of his first films, showcases his burgeoning talent with a large-scale number. Set in a huge park, several dancers swing, flip, climb and race through green grass, up trees and over hills dressed in colourful outfits. The use of space and planes with complicated blocking makes it one of the visually spectacular songs in the film. And it’s the moment when Sid and Babe finally fall in love.

The second musical highlight is “Steam Heat,” a number where Fosse’s signature moves are clearly displayed. Gladys (Carol Haney), flanked by two dancers, are dressed in black and white. Small controlled movements give way to a dramatic slide across the stage. Top hats become part of the dance as they’re flipped, thrown and caught in time to the catchy music. Carol Haney is light on her feet and quick with her movements. Sound effects, fresh choreography and energy make this a thoroughly entertaining musical number. Even though it doesn’t serve a purpose to the plot, the song is one of the truly memorable moments in the film.

Many of the songs appear almost back-to-back and can be exhausting for a viewer searching for a story. A simple story with a predictable ending, the film chooses to focus on the charm of the leading actors, Doris Day and John Raitt. Both actors bring great performances and energy to the film, but lack a strong chemistry. All the performers do a fine job with most of them reprising their roles from Broadway. Some moments however, are just truly bizarre: a knife-throwing Heinsie chases his girlfriend Gladys through the warehouse, only to be scolded by the president and dragged away by the formerly terrified Gladys. Some of the dialogue is clunky and odd, but the film keeps the energy moving along to the next song.

The Pajama Game is a fun, colourful musical featuring a few catchy songs, fantastic choreography and cinematography. Thin on plot and high on songs, the musical is an entertaining ride combining skilled performers, humour, romance and workplace complications into an enjoyable Hollywood musical.

 

 

 

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1957 Movie Review: NIGHTS OF CABIRIA, 1957

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NIGHTS OF CABIRIANIGHTS OF CABIRIA, 1957
Movie Review

Directed by Federico Fellini
Starring: Giulietta Masina, François Périer
Review by Aria Chiodoi

SYNOPSIS:

A waifish prostitute wanders the streets of Rome looking for true love but finding only heartbreak.

OSCAR Winner for Best Foreign Film

 

REVIEW:

Le Notti di Cabiria (Nights of Cabiria) from 1957 is another somewhat early film in Fellini’s career- a preface to his later extravagant and intellectual films. Fellini is a quintessential Italian filmmaker; it’s obvious how much he loves his country and its people, but his love is complex, never simple. If one wants an idea of life in Rome during the 50s, this film shows it, albeit with some fantastic and tragic situations. The screenplay was written by Fellini and his frequent collaborators, Ennio Flaiano and Tullio Pinelli, a writing team nominated for three Oscars (although this film wasn’t one of them, it did win Best Foreign Film). Le Notti di Cabiria also boasts another score by Nino Rota, and black and white cinematography of Otello Martelli. Pier Paolo Pasolini, who became a famous Italian director in his own right, also helped write the script.

The amazing Giulietta Masina is again the center of this film, as she was in La Strada. Here she plays Cabiria, a fun-loving, raucous, and spirited prostitute who lives on the outskirts of Rome, and works the streets of the city at night. The film begins with her getting robbed and thrown in the river by a lover- just the first of many misadventures that Cabiria experiences. Cabiria is our tour guide of Rome and its people; whether they’re rich, homeless, or just young and dancing in the streets, Cabiria comes across them all. And she handles everything with an indomitable spirit and vivacity (if this story is at all familiar, it’s because it is the basis of the musical Sweet Charity of 1969)

On this tour of Rome and its outskirts, we are shown the whores and their lovers, who dance and fight under Roman ruins, and hide in the bushes from cops. We also find the rich and famous, who lead glamorous but odd and somewhat sad lifestyles. Then, in a dreamlike but memorable scene, we follow Cabiria and her friends in a procession to the altar of the Madonna. This scene and other scenes of religious imagery display the fervent Catholicism of Italy, the wonder and piousness every Italian feels (even a simple whore like Cabiria) when faced with the prodigious altar of the Madonna. In this scene we are given the peasants and lower classes of Rome, the elderly and the sick, all coming, in the hundreds, to pray and beg for something from the Madonna. Afterwards, Cabiria goes to a magic show, and joins other volunteers from the audience on stage to be hypnotized by the magician. Fellini gives us a grave religious procession but follows it with a show of entertainment and illusion, as if to purposely blend the imagery of religion and illusion.

Cabiria herself is trying to find something in her life that has meaning. Being a prostitute is not a very glamorous or rewarding line of work; she might be taken out by a famous movie star, but then has to spend the night in his bathroom when his girlfriend shows up; she may dance with her friends in the ruins, but they all have to run from the cops every now and then. Whether it’s love or faith, her life is missing something essential, and in her roundabout way, she’s always searching for it. Her group of friends, the other whores, or ex-prostitutes and their boyfriends, are a lively bunch, who make life look fun and breezy, but they don’t understand Cabiria’s need for something meaningful.

When Cabiria meets a nice and respectable man who thinks their meeting is destiny, her prayers may be answered. She might have a chance for a pleasant and normal life with a good man, but knowing Fellini, this could just be another misadventure. I don’t want to ruin anything, but while many may see the ending as tragic and sad, through the tragedy there is life, a life that should be celebrated. Fellini ends on a note of hope, since Cabiria is actually (although she often blunders and gravely misjudges) a ray of hope. Whatever she experiences, she gets back up and brushes it off, smiles through her tears and moves on, searching for something new. Some may call her a fool with no real future, but I saw her as a symbol of humanity: although one meets with tragedy and bad luck, the only thing to do is keep going, and find the good in life again. The face of Masina in the last shot is powerful and poignant, it can make one smile or cry, or do both, as she does. In La Notti di Cabiria, Fellini focuses on the character of Cabiria, and on the colorful Italian community of people who are full of exuberance, in order to capture life and the endurance of humanity.

 

 

NIGHTS OF CABIRIA

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1957 Movie Review: THE MONOLITH MONSTERS, 1957

 

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THE MONOLITH MONSTERS MOVIE POSTERTHE MONOLITH MONSTERS, 1957
Movie Reviews

Director: John Sherwood

Starring: Grant Williams, Lola Albright, Trevor Bardette
Review by Kevin Johnson 

SYNOPSIS:

A meteorite piece grows endlessly when contacted with water, which solidifies everyone it comes in contact with; two geologists must figure out how to stop it.

 

REVIEW:

The Monolith Monsters has one of the riskiest and outlandish premises that you will ever see, even in B-movie standards. The title is rather misleading; it would probably be more accurate to call it “The Monolith Threat” or, to keep the alliteration intact, “The Monolith Menace”. The term “monsters” implies something organic, creepy and/or crawly – some kind of being or creature that stalks its victims in some manner. But really, the threat are rocks.

Grant, the rocks grow immediately when they come in contact with water. The rate they grow is exponential, and they have the power to remove silicates from the skin – ie, “turn you into stone”. But, ostentatiously, we’re dealing with deadly rocks. It’s hard to really feel any kind of tension from this scenario, and to be so invested in this threat, even at a campy level, asks a lot of the audience’s willingness to suspend disbelief. Also, there’s a ton of question: couldn’t a couple of missiles filled with “the solution” solve this problem? How come water vapor doesn’t effect it? And why is everyone running from ROCKS?

Specifically, the plot is thus: a meteor crash lands on Earth, shattering into a ton of pieces. When a couple of local geologists inspect said pieces, especially when found in conjunction with a stone-cold-dead person, they have to work to discover how to reverse the stone-transformation process, as well as disrupt the rocky enlargement before it “grows” out of hand.

I should comment on the pseudo-science more when it comes to these B-movies, mainly because it’s rather disconcerting how much these films emphasize them. Blockbuster sci-fi films tend to gloss over the explanations, or utilize metaphors to “explain” phenomena, or just straight-up ignore them; these low budget works spend an awful amount of time postulating, detailing, speculating, hypothesizing, and theorizing. But why? These over-explanations tend to bring up more questions than answers; opening that scientific door, while informative, pretty much invites the nerdiest among us to pinpoint the flaws in such arguments. It’s clearly just a way to pad for time, although it’s weird that researching mumbo-jumbo is preferred over even the most cliched of character developments. Dead father? Coming of age? Pining for a loved one? There’s plenty to choose from.

Still, there are some rather interesting effects. I was somewhat impressed with the smooth growth of the rock monoliths. I’m not exactly sure how they achieved it; it looks to be some sort of crude mechanic mixed with a clever camera angle. What ever it was, it didn’t look too cheesy, and was rather cool as it towered over miniature mountain ranges.

The female role was pleasantly handled as well. While it started off precociously glaring, with a young girl outing the relationship between Albright’s character and Williams’s character in that “why are kids paying attention to this!?” sort of way. But there are only a few scenes that harp on the romantic elements, and it seems natural to the beats, instead of random or throwaway.

But even with the solid elements the film purports, The Monolith Monsters has a hard-to-swallow premise that never quiet pushes its way out of Unbelievable Town. But the attempt is there, and the flow and style works, so you can’t fault its B-movie shortcomings in its execution. The idea of killer rocks may be lame, but at least it application was not wholly unbearable.

 

 

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THE MONOLITH MONSTERS

1957 Movie Review: KRONOS, 1957

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KRONOS,  MOVIE POSTERKRONOS, 1957
Movie Reviews

Directed by Kurt Neumann
Starring: Jeff Morrow, Barbara Lawrence, John Emery, George O’Hanlon, Morris Ankrum, Kenneth Alton, John Parrish
Review by Kevin Johnson

SYNOPSIS:

A scientist possessed by an alien lifeform controls a massive, energy-consuming machine, leaving a few choice scientists to stop him and the machine before it absorbs all the earth’s energy

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REVIEW:

Not all B-movies are relegated to automatic mediocrity or downright awfulness. While The Black Scorpion left a lot to be desired, Kronos, on the other hand, seems to showcase what a more competent and clear-headed, low-budget film can accomplish. It still has its flaws of course – what B-movie doesn’t? – but it masks them rather well for an intriguing story.

Part of what makes Kronos works is the lack of explanation for a large part of the film. Weird stuff happens, strange things are witnessed, characters act oddly – but by not over explaining them, there’s a better overall sense of tension developed. Also, the need for a sexualized female is competently done, even if the typical “swimming on the beach” scene is bluntly out of place.

An alien “spirit” arrives in the midst of a desert and possesses an innocent person, who manages to break into an astronomy lab and possess Hubbell Elliot, a scientist who works there. He uses long-distance telepathy to communicate to a huge, monstrous, metal spacecraft, which crashed into the Pacific near Mexico. It sucks and absorbs all the energy thrown at it, and even drains a power plant dry of its energy. Fellow scientist Leslie Gaskell and his partner Vera Hunter has to figure out how to stop the mechanical beast as well as stop the possessed scientist from completing his plan.

The special effects unfortunately do not live up to the quality that one would expect from films of this time period. The budget was cut right before filming began. Yet given what they were stuck with, one still might be mildly impressed. The Kronos design is simplistic enough, and it took me a while to realize that the generic box-like shape with the odd-looking antennae was supposed to be a battery. Still, a little more creativity for some visual appeal wouldn’t hurt. What’s way off, however, is how the machine moves. Four up-and-down poles pump like pistons work around a spinning drill-like device somehow creates motion, which is just impossible. (The use of animation for the long shots of Kronos is even worse).

Speaking of which, I don’t know much about science or power, so it’s interesting to see the plot delve somewhat deeply into pseudo-scientific explanations to progress itself. The actors and writing definitely assist to clarify what audiences wouldn’t understand. But even with the mumbo-jumbo, it still seems rather far-fetched, just a number of random words to confuse the viewer to make it seem like they know what they’re doing.

It works though; as mentioned earlier, the film is very intriguing by controlling out plot points are divulged. In addition, actor John Emery is quite good (in the haming-it-up sense), playing the possessed scientist, struggling to maintain his humanity as the alien inside forces him to do his long-distance bidding. In fact, I personally thought his were the best scenes in the movie.

Also impressive is the surprisingly pro-environmentalist, anti-atomic weaponry commentary throughout the script. While nothing too much on the nose or overly overt, there are a few moments, a few key lines that question America’s excessive consumption of energy and power (is Kronos essentially us, making America our own enemy?), and the quick-to-jump trigger finger hovering over the button to launch nuclear weapons. Instead of using such power against those enemies, which will only strike back, perhaps it would be better to use that power to benefit our own people. It suggests this, anyway.

Kronos is certainly one of the better sci-fi B-films from the 50s, and with its short running time, it’s a good one to sit and enjoy, especially with Neumann’s steady handle on the material and direction. If you’re looking for a good one that represents the average-made sci-fi 50s film – the “Fifth Element” of the 50s – Kronos is for you.

 

 

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1957 Movie Review: THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN, 1957

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THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN,  MOVIE POSTERTHE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN, 1957
Movie Reviews

Director: Jack Arnold

Starring: Grant Williams, Randy Stuart, April Kent, Helene Marshall
Review by Kevin Johnson

SYNOPSIS:

A man is exposed to a freak radiation cloud while on vacation, causing him to gradually shrink.

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REVIEW:

I was actually rather surprised by The Incredible Shrinking Man, which began typically like the average B-film but dovetailed into a dark yet intrinsic inspirational tale without the classic Hollywood revisioning. It is a film that espouses more novel or short story-like elements than cinematic ones.

Since this is based on Richard Matheson’s novel of the same name, and since he also penned the screenplay, it’s to be expected. But the lack of specific changes to make the film more engaging to audiences, such as happier ending and a satisfying explanation of the shrinking, is rather audacious, especially taking in account the time period. This gives the film a deeper resonance now, but I can’t imagine audiences being too receptive to it back in 1957.

When a happily-married couple is vacationing on a boat by themselves, the husband (a overly-dashing Grant Williams) is exposed to a random radiation cloud, causing him to shrink daily. He and his wife hold out hope that a cure will be found in time, but Williams soon becomes a celebrity freak show, and then, a miniscule prisoner in his own basement.

Williams’s size changes are accomplished by a judicious use of large props, camera angles, and efficient editing. I was rather impressed by the accuracy and details of the oversized household goods, and crafty camera work is a long dead art, replaced by CGI and green-screens. Which is why I was disappointed with the use of projections in some scenes; but, to be fair, they were used for the more complex scenes, such as when Williams battles the spider.

The sets rival that of some modern-day films, most notably Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. Both movies exercise a swath of campy elements, but Honey, I Shrunk the Kids mixed its miniscule fear with a childlike wonder; The Incredible Shrinking Man strove for a more overly-serious, overly-dramatic venture into the undersized unknown. It does get rather ridiculous, with Williams narration over his predicament delving into bad epic poetry, and one can’t help but notice how grim he gets within five minutes of his situation. Considering man can go a few weeks without food, did he REALLY need to go through hell-and-high-water to reach a cake? And, really, was the spider THAT much of a threat?

Prior to this, reaching his three-foot stature made him an object of the media, a spectacle for prying eyes and curious voyeurs. His inability to handle such attention is remedied, at least for a while, when he meets the most beautiful midget in the whole world! No, it’s a generic Hollywood pretty face clambering over the same oversized props at our protagonist. Needless to say, it is somewhat uncomfortable watching such an obvious misrepresentation of the life (and physicality) of a small person, but the 50s didn’t care too much in the way of political correctness – except for the Hayes code, which seemed to discourage a budding romantic relationship between Grant and the “midget.” After all, we wouldn’t want to showcase something as evil as sympathetic adultery, now would we?

Shrinking Man works its strongest points as a polemic, at the points where the narrator and leading man discuss the emotional and spiritual toll the incident is taking on him. And, again, it pushes way too much into the over-dramatic, but in a way, it works, especially when he comes to the realization that his shrinking will not stop. After losing his wife, livelihood, and even his identity, he avoids certain madness with a casual, cool, and serene acceptance of his fate, of acknowledging God’s role in all this, in his gradual decent into the atomic, which, in some metaphysical circles, reflect the very nature of the elliptical universe itself. By becoming small, he becomes large. By dwindling into nothing, he becomes part of everything. (The speech at the end spouts it better than I do.)

The Incredible Shrinking Man certainly over-dramatize its story and over-sexualizes its characters; from the swimsuit-clad wife at the beginning, to the attractive circus midget in the middle, and to the Amazonian garb Williams somehow sports when stalking his basement-jungle, the movie does little to present any problems with showcasing perfect bodies. But the technological aspects of the film are well done, and its novelistic readings are impressive. While the latter may be better served in book format, it was still brave to fit such deep, dark overtones in the film. That’s something on which The Incredible Shrinking Man should be commended.

 

THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN

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1957 Movie Review: GUNFIGHT AT THE OK CORRAL, 1957

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GUNFIGHT AT THE OK CORRALGUNFIGHT AT THE OK CORRAL, 1957
Movie Reviews

Directed by: John Sturges

Cast: Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas, Rhonda Fleming, Jo Van Fleet, John Ireland
Review by Jarred Thomas

SYNOPSIS:

After the long career of lawman that made him a legend, Wyatt Earp decides to quit and join his brothers in Tombstone, Arizona. There he would see them in feud with Clantons, local clan of thugs and cattle thieves. When the showdown becomes inevitable, the help will come from Doc Holliday, terminally-ill gambler who happens to be another Wild West legend.

REVIEW:

The O.K. Corral is one of the most legendary moments in history that epitomized the lore of the old west. This event solidified the legacy of Wyatt Earp as well as Doc Holliday and as most talked about moments in time, it was immortalized in literature, stories, TV and film adaptations. In 1957, John Sturges took an interest in the popular history and cast Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas in the lead roles.

This was the second of the seven films Lancaster and Douglas starred in together. The two became a famous Hollywood pair which usually involved Lancaster getting top billing over Douglas. An interesting note however is that despite their professional relationship the two weren’t exactly friends, at least that’s how Douglas felt towards Lancaster.

He was not as good of a friend with Burt Lancaster as was often perceived. The closeness of their friendship was largely fabricated by the publicity-wise Douglas, while, in reality, Lancaster was often cruel and dismissive to Douglas. In an interview, Douglas stated that he never really thought Lancaster was a good actor, that’s not to say he thought he was bad, just not particularly good.

He said, “John Wayne was a great star. But he always played Wayne. Anything else he didn’t regard as manly. Now someone like Burt Lancaster is just the opposite. The living proof that you can be a sensitive actor and macho at the same time.”

Whatever their feelings, the two made quite a formidable team on the screen and Gunfight at the OK Corral shows just that. The film explores the friendship between Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday who are both known not only for their infamous reputation but their friendship rooted in mutual respect. Their relationship is some ways mirrors that of the professional relationship between Douglas and Lancaster.

The climax of the film centers on the epic gun battle. The actual gunfight took place on 26 October 1881 and lasted a mere 30 seconds, resulting in three dead men after an exchange of 34 bullets. Compared to this adaptation, the movie gunfight took 4 days to film and produced an on-screen bloodbath that lasted 5 minutes.

Of course for the purpose of entertainment and story, there are embellishments to what actually happened. But that’s okay since no one really knows what happened anyway and those watch are just looking to be more entertained than informed. I can’t help but think about that famous line from the “Man who shot Liberty Valance” in which the reporter said, “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” Sturges created an excellent and fun film, and the two leads are great in their roles, working well off each other and providing some compelling characters. If you’re a fan of westerns, you’ll enjoy this film.

GUNFIGHT AT THE OK CORRAL

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1957 Movie Review: FUNNY FACE, 1957

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FUNNY FACE, 1957
Movie Reviews

Directed by: Stanley Donen

Starring: Audrey Hepburn, Fred Astaire, Kay Thompson, Michel Auclair
Review by Jayvibha Vaidya

SYNOPSIS:

Jo Stockton’s bookstore is invaded by the glamourous team at Quality Magazine for an impromptu photo shoot and is forced to be a subject in the photos. When photographer Dick Avery notices her ‘funny face’ and recommends her for ‘The Quality Woman,’ Jo’s life is changed as she is forced to choose between her intellectual life and the glitzy fashion world.

NOMINATED FOR 4 OSCARS – Art Direction, Cinematography, Costume and Writing

REVIEW:

“Your empathy is a little one-sided for me, baby.”

Opening with a camera tracking through a stark white room and into a world of pink, Funny Face begins with a mission: find the next ‘It’ woman; a woman who is so fashionable, she’s “not interested in clothes.” Editor of Quality Magazine, Maggie Prescott (Kay Thompson), has an idea for a photo feature: plop a glamourous model in a Greenwich Village bookstore and watch the intelligence jump off the page. But the shop clerk at the bookstore is not impressed. Opinionated and appalled, Jo Stockton (the lovely Audrey Hepburn) refuses to allow the photo shoot to happen, but in a flurry of taffeta, shouting and flashbulbs, photos are taken – with her as an involuntary model. Noticing her beauty, photographer Dick Avery (Fred Astaire) encourages Jo to be the “Quality Woman.’ Jo reluctantly accepts the magazine’s offer in order to fulfill her dream of traveling to Paris to meet her idol, the philosopher Emile Flostre (Michel Auclair).

Arriving in Paris, Jo is immediately caught up with the Beatnik culture, talking to fellow intellectuals about the philosophy of Empathicalism (putting oneself in another’s place, emotionally). But she’s reminded that she’s there to do a job – and she does so reluctantly. With Dick behind the camera, directing her through the gorgeous backdrop of Parisian architecture and culture, Jo’s pictures turn out stunning. As Jo and Dick spend more time together, arguing about principles, values and materialism, they naturally begin to fall in love. But on the big night, when Jo is required to appear and unveil a new fashion line, she hears of Professor’s Flostre’s presence at a local café. Running to meet him, she loses track of time until Dick arrives and drags her away. In an amusing scene, Jo and Dick get into a heated argument and she pushes him into the stage set, destroying all the props and sets just as the curtain is pulled back in front of international press.

Utilizing two of the 50’s biggest stars, the film succeeds in showing the skill and talent of Astaire and Hepburn. While Hepburn’s singing is not as perfect as her contemporaries, her voice is clear and sweet. Her modern dance number in the café has become one of the most famous scenes in the film. Hepburn dancing is remarkable, displaying control, grace and fluidity. Astaire’s voice is simply lovely and his dancing is laid-back and loose; a pleasure to watch. And while the romance between Jo and Dick is believable, the chemistry between them seems more like old dear friends, than two people who find themselves in love despite their vastly different lifestyles. But there is a kindness between them that makes the audience root for their union; both actors are incredibly charming.

Written and arranged by George and Ira Gershwin, the songs in the film are sweet but not entirely catchy. The performers do well in each song, with “Funny Face,” “Bonjour, Paris!” and “He Loves and She Loves” as highlights. The musical numbers mostly work because of the locations in which the characters traipse through. Gorgeous parks, streams, Paris landmarks and stylized sets serve as back-drop to their musical moments. The look of the film is quite beautiful as the filmmakers choose to play with colours; using negatives, sepia tones and freeze frames to heighten certain images. Costumes are by the famously talented Edith Head with Ms. Hepburn’s high-fashion outfits by Givenchy (a designer to whom she was extremely loyal). The dresses drape beautifully around Hepburn and each outfit compliments her beauty, making her character’s modeling career entirely believable.

The film jabs fun at philosophy, elite movements and phony intellectuals in a silly manner. Professor Flostre is a young charismatic man who recruits followers in a covert fashion, only allowing them access to him by making it on a list or idolizing him. When Dick and Maggie go ‘undercover’ as a spiritual band from Tallahassee, they encounter a depressed French singer, a weeping groupie and security around Professor Flostre. It takes a while for Jo to realize the foolishness of her idol and his followers. However, she does not falter in her belief in empathy, finally seeing a situation from Dick’s point of view. The film treats the world of fashion the same way, showing models who are unintelligent, fads as silly and people who take themselves way too seriously. The ending is slightly melodramatic and romanticized, but it fits with the conventions of a 1950s American musical. Fun and entertaining, the film wraps up with a happy ending in a gorgeously stylized last scene: the two lovers float by on a wooden raft trailed by swans.

Funny Face is a charming film made all the more charming by Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire. In their only screen pairing, they bring a light, sweet performance. Both ooze class and poise and are simply lovely to watch. Kay Thompson as Maggie Prescott has some of the best lines “She put herself in your place…you put yourself in her place and the two of you are bound to run into each other in somebody’s place!” Funny Face is one of Paramount’s great musicals capturing the absurdity of fashion and silly intellectual movements while showcasing one of most beautiful cities in the world.

 

FUNNY FACE

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1957 Movie Review: FEAR STRIKES OUT, 1957

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  MOVIE POSTERFEAR STRIKES OUT, 1957 
Movie Reviews

Director: Robert Mulligan

Stars: Anthony Perkins, Karl Malden, Norma Moore

SYNOPSIS:

True story of the life of Jimmy Piersall, who battled mental illness to achieve stardom in major league baseball.

Here’s what the critics have to say: 

Fear holds up well, and the climactic showdown between father and son offers a tremendously appealing resolution.

March 4, 2011 | Rating: A- | Full Review…
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Fear Strikes Out rolls Frank Merriwell and Sigmund Freud into a ball and then lines it out for a solid hit.

March 4, 2011 | Full Review…
 Top Critic
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Anthony Perkins, in the young Piersall role, delivers a remarkably sustained performance of a sensitive young man, pushed too fast to the limits of his ability to cope with life’s pressures.

March 26, 2009 | Full Review…
 Top Critic
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Mr. Perkins plays the young fellow excellently, not only conveying the gathering torment but also actually looking like a ballplayer on the field.

March 25, 2006 | Full Review…
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It’s a little poky and tentative, but a promising start by the Pakula-Mulligan team.

January 26, 2006 | Full Review…
 Top Critic
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Absorbing, but rather clinical, in the rubber-gloves style of 50s television drama.

January 1, 2000 | Full Review…
 Top Critic

fear strikes out

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