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.

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 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: 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: 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
 —————

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
 ———————–

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…
 —————–

It’s a little poky and tentative, but a promising start by the Pakula-Mulligan team.

January 26, 2006 | Full Review…
 Top Critic
 —————-

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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1957 Movie Review: A FACE IN THE CROWD, 1957

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A FACE IN THE CROWD, 1957
Movie Reviews

Directed by Elia Kazan
Starring: Andy Griffith, Patricia Neal, Anthony Franciosa, Lee Remick, Walter Matthau
Review by Jarred Thomas

SYNOPSIS:

A drifter named Larry “Lonesome” Rhodes (Griffith) is discovered by the producer (Neal) of a small-market radio program in rural northeast Arkansas and becomes an overnight sensation.

REVIEW:

Despite coming out in the 1957, A Face in the Crowd is one of the most relevant satirical films to examine the influence of rhetoric and those manipulated by corrupt fame hungry narcissists. Andy Griffith gives his most memorable and frightening performances in any work he’s done since or prior, dominating the film with his over the top character, Lonesome Rhodes. Neal, Remick, and Matthau round out the superb supporting cast in this captivating film by director Elia Kazan.

There is something hauntingly similar to the message the film addresses and what is going on today. Politicians are capable of influencing a mass of people, nation, the world, through simple word choices. Carefully used words that express a larger perspective can win over the minds on any individual, particularly those who take what they hear at face value. Lonesome Rhodes unfortunately, does not have monopoly on rhetoric as too often political leaders win votes simply by telling the people what they want to hear, rather than what they need.

However the rise of television has helped many to spread their word, message, thoughts or ideas to a larger audience, even more than radio. Kazan effectively conveys that notion through Lonesome who uses the medium to gather a following of dedicated listeners who simply adhere to his words because of his charm, not necessarily his point of view. Lonesome appeals to what they like, not what they need.

During the Kennedy/Nixon debate, people watching and those listening had two different opinions on who won the debate. Those watching on television believed Kennedy won because he appeared more calm, collected, more movie star like in contrast to the heavy, sweaty Nixon with the five o’clock shadow. Yet if you listened to the radio, Nixon was the clear winner. It’s this idea that is explored in Kazan film. Appearance is everything and sometimes the only thing. Lonesome Rhodes outer appearance is that of a kind, charming and charismatic man.

Underneath the surface, is a dark, angry hateful individual whose only interest in others is that of need, if he needs them Rhodes will manipulate them to his advantage. He can read people like most politicians, except Rhodes is a TV personality. A larger than life idea that people can respond to whether they agree with him or not.

After being discovered in jail by radio reporter Marcia (Neal) for his candor and crude yet amicable personality, Lonesome is given a job on Marcia’s radio show. Later, he extends his talents to television having his own show and becoming the spokesman for Vitajex, a drug product. Fame is now Lonesome defining quality; it’s everything to him and he seeks to hold on to it. People that work closely with him start to see his real personality come to light, and most are horrified.

It should be noted however that A Face in the Crowd is not about Lonesome Rhodes. Rather the ideas or people he represents along with the media responsible for helping to establish his career and influence on the American people, or people in general. Politicians, celebrities, and news anchors all have a level on influence in the world that greatly impacts the way people think, act, or decide, and not always for the best. A Face in the Crowd was well ahead of its time, and a culturally and socially significant film that echoes many of today’s issues.

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A FACE IN THE CROWD

1957 Movie Review: THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI, 1957

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THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI,  MOVIE POSTERTHE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI, 1957
Movie Reviews

Directed by David Lean

Starring: Alec Guinness, William Holden, Jack Hawkins, Sessue Hayakawa, and James Donald
Review by JR Kuzma

SYNOPSIS:

David Lean’s epic of a captured battalion of British soldiers and their proper colonel who are forced to build a bridge over the Kwai River for Japanese supply trains pass over.

Oscar wins: Best Actor- Alec Guinness, Best Cinematography- Jack Hildyard, Best Director- David Lean, Best Film Editing- Peter Taylor. Best Original Score- Malcolm Arnold, Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay

REVIEW:

The film starts out with two Allied PoWs burying a dead comrade, one of the men being U.S. Navy Commander Shears (William Holden), who, upon finishing up the burial service bribes a Japanese guard to put him and the other prisoner on the sick list to avoid more labor. It is about this time when they hear the whistling of the British tone “Colonel Bogey March” by a battalion led by Colonel Nicholson (Alec Guinness), Shears blows it off thinking it is just more men he is going to have to bury in the near future.

Upon arriving at the camp, the battalion is greeted by the camp commander Colonel Saito (Sessue Hayakawa) who informs the new prisoners that they will be constructing a bridge for the Burma Railway for the River Kwai and that everyone will be working next to each other. This is a clear violation of the Geneva Convention, which states that officers were exempt from manual labor, Nicholson points out to Saito, Saito seems to take it under advisement and during an officers meeting that night Nicholson believes he had won the argument and orders all to put a halt to any escape attempts. This is the meeting in which Nicholson meets Shears and Shears informs him on how ruthless Saito can be, Nicholson takes his warning lightly believing that he has gotten through to the Japanese commander.

The next day however, Saito orders all the troops, officers included, to the construction site, Nicholson once again goes to Saito to mention that this action was against the Geneva Convention and Saito slaps him for it. Nicholson sends the troops to go work, but orders his officers to stay put. When the men are out of sight a truck carrying a machine gun pulls up and aims at Nicholson and the other officers, Saito warns them that they have to the count of three to join the troops and when they don’t move Saito starts the count, and upon getting to the count of one the camps doctor, Major Clipton (James Donald), informs Saito that the people in the medical tents were witnesses to the actions causing Saito to not give the order to fire, but instead leaves the officers to remain standing there the rest of the day under gun point.

Upon the troops return from their work they see the officers still standing in there position, they start cheering them on. Saito decides to try and negotiates with Nicholson, saying that he didn’t have to work but the rest of his officers did, Nicholson declines the offer and is put into “the oven”, a metal box, that with the heat and humidity of the region is like being cooked alive.

It is during this time that Shears (Holden) and two other prisoners attempt their escape. One man is shot very early on in the attempt and the other is gunned down at point blank range. Upon killing the second prisoner the Japanese guard is killed from behind by Shears and continues running, he makes it to a cliff were he is shot and wounded by another guard and falling into the river, believed to have drowned. We later see that he survived and is found and nursed back to health by some local villagers who give him a canoe and supplies and send him on his way to the Pacific where he is later found by a passing British naval ship and is taken back to their headquarters.

Back in the camp Nicholson is still in the oven, and Saito summons Clipton into his shack to inform him that the men in the medical tent were going to be sent out to work on the bridge, that is far behind schedule at this point, because of the stubbornness of Nicholson. Clipton informs him that this would be a death sentence to most of the men, so Saito sends Clipton to try and make Nicholson give in, once again Nicholson refuses. Clipton also informs Nicholson about the failed escape attempt, which leaves Nicholson to believe that escape would be impossible.

At this point, Saito is faced with the hard truth that everything he and his engineers have done so far hasn’t work, for the bridge continually falls apart, so Saito summons for Nicholson and tells him that if the bridge doesn’t get done in time that he will be forced to kill himself and that he will be taking a lot of people with him. It is at this point that Nicholson informs Saito that a few of the British officers were engineers in India and that they will look over that land to see what the problem was. Saito agrees to this and also makes it so the officers will not have to do any labor.

That night, Nicholson and his officers the maps and charts for the bridge and the next day review the grounds. They find out that the reason why the bridge keeps collapsing is that the bed rock is unstable and they will have to move the location up river a little. Saito allows this and construction is moved. Very quickly the troops morale starts to come back and the bridge’s construction is starting to move much more swiftly.

It is at this time, at the British headquarters, that a Special Operations team is being rounded up by Major Warden (Jack Hawkins) to go and blow up the bridge, thus cutting off the Japanese supply line. Warden recruits Shears because of the insight he has of the island. After much nagging, Shears finally agrees to go. The team of four are dropped on to the island and, though three land safely one does not and dies when he lands in the trees.

Team regroups, and with the help of a guide and a few ladies, makes their way to the bridge site. It is a journey that them takes over several days, where at one point they find out that a train will be using the bridge in the near future and another where they run into Japanese guards which they kill a few, leaving one to flee into the jungle, Warden and one of the other guys follow him in. It is during this encounter that Warden is shot in the foot while killing the Japanese man, forcing Warden to hobble the rest of the trek. Eventually though they make it to the newly completed build.

It is during this the teams journey that Nicholson and his men finish the bridge, where Nicholson ended up forcing his officers to do manual labor and to take some of the people out of the medical tent to also do little things to help finish everything up. Nicholson has taken great pride in the troops accomplishment and on the day the bridge is completed puts a plaque up informing whomever that this bridge was completed by British troops.

Later that evening, the troops put on a show for the camp, it is during this celebration that the Shears, the guide, and the other member of the team mine the bridge. Upon finishing their task, they head down river to a lookout point and wait.

The next morning, the team notices that the river had gone down during the night, leaving the line of cable to be visible when it is stuck on a log. Meanwhile the troops from the camps are sent to another location, but Saito allows Nicholson and Clipton to remain behind to see the first usage of the bridge. Clipton goes to a nearby hill while Nicholson remains on the bridge for one last inspection. It is at this time that Nicholson spots the cable and he and Saito go do to the river to investigate. Seeing something is up, Nicholson and Saito follow the cable to the location where one of the soldiers is hiding with the detonator. The soldier quickly kills Saito, by stabbing him in the back, Nicholson then tackles him and calls for help. On the other side of the river, Shears is watching this take place and quickly goes to aid the other team member, while Warden is on a nearby cliff firing artillery shells down on the Japanese soldiers, all while the train can be heard in the distance.

The other soldier is shot by a Japanese guard, as Shears gets to the beach, heading at Nicholson with a knife in his hand. Shears is gunned down, looking at Nicholson and both noticing whom each other are, he drops dead. Nicholson quickly realizes the error he had made and goes toward the detonator, when a shell lands in his general area, he is morality wounded, but is able to make it to his feet, walks a few more steps when he falls down right on the trigger of the detonator causing the bridge to blow up, right when the train was going over it. Clipton, seeing all this action take place, goes down to investigate and can simply say “Madness”.

When this film was released in 1957, it was highly criticized for not depicting the realistic condition that the British PoWs went through under the Japanese, however most critic ignored this and saw the movie for what it was, a true masterpiece. It took home seven Academy Awards that year including Best Actor for Guinness, Best Director for Lean and Best Picture. In 1998, the American Film Institute voted it the 13th best film of the last 100 years and when they remade the list in 2007 it was 14th.

On a personal level this is my favorite David Lean film. It’s nowhere near as flashy or as epic as Lawrence of Arabia, but it has more emotion. It really causes you to get more caught up in the more, and it has you rooting for until the very end. Though the film is nearly three hours long, it moves quickly, so it doesn’t seem like it. This is a true classic and I highly recommend a viewing. Enjoy.

 

 

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bridget on the river kwai