1987 Movie Review: THE UNTOUCHABLES, 1987

 

THE UNTOUCHABLES MOVIE POSTER
THE UNTOUCHABLES, 1987
Movie Reviews

Directed by Brian De Palma
Starring: Kevin Costner, Sean Connery, Robert De Niro
Review by Mike Peters

SYNOPSIS:

Chicago-1930-Eliot Ness is an idealistic and ambitious Treasury officer new to the ranks of the corrupt Chicago Police Force. His goal of cleaning up the streets is thwarted by the presence of the larger than life gangster, Al Capone. Overcoming hardships and threats against his family, Eliot Ness rounds up a group of “Untouchables” (men who are unable to be corrupted) and decides to challenge the Mega Empire of Capone.

Review:

To some, The Untouchables may not be considered a “classic film”. I would disagree. Growing up, I became enamored by the visual sight of gangsters in film. They appealed to me for many reasons. The freedom and the power they achieved through their modes of conduct was always a road I wanted to travel on. Then I grew up. I realized that this would not be the life for me. The danger and violent nature needed to be a part of this sort of “group” was not who I was. I could never kill a man, nor beat a man to a bloody pulp for minimal reasons. No, the life of the gangster was not for me. But, it is still an entertaining world in which to inhabit for two hours.

The Untouchables arrived in 1987 and was directed by Brian De Palma. A director, well known for his controversial films, had been deemed violent, misogynistic and anti-social by many of his critics. Known for such films as Carrie (1976), Scarface (1983) and Body Double (1984), De Palma has never shied away from controversy. Arriving at a time when Hollywood was undergoing great change, De Palma rose through the ranks with other directors such as Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg and Francis Ford Coppola. Studios had lost control of their films for a brief period of time and it was the director who was allowed to have full control of his film. It was his vision, not a producers or studios, which gave the director an unbelievable sense of importance and power. This was good and bad in a sense. Some directors blew it through their egotistical ways while others managed to make a name for themselves and remain an important part of the industry. De Palma was the latter.

De Palma began making films that strived to push the limits of acceptable behavior deemed appropriate by society. Growing up the son of a surgeon, De Palma never shied away from the images of violence and blood. It was a natural part of life in his eyes and he strived to depict it in, as some would say, voyeuristic ways. However, many could not see that he was critiquing the images that he presented on screen. He understood that he had become a controversial figure and regularly poked fun at this classification.

Studios were afraid to work him. However, in 1986, he directed a film called Wise Guys. This film was not well received and quickly vanished from people’s minds. The film however proved that De Palma could be uncontroversial and as a result, he scored The Untouchables.

The Untouchables is an interesting film. It is largely a Hollywood manufactured production but it embodies so much more. Themes such as loyalty, corruption and perseverance are readily presented in a beautifully crafted film. The production design is immaculate in its recreation of 1930’s Chicago. The buildings and the streets are simplistic and very formal in their design which helps to create a sense of nostalgia of what it might have been like to live during this time.

The clothes, designed by Giorgio Armani, are perfect and help to define the characters in truly distinctive ways. Al Capone and his cronies all live an upper class life. Through their suits to Al Capone’s silk pajamas, these men are deemed with high regard because of their social and financial standings. In many De Palma films, he has been known to upend the iconographic modes of good and evil. For instance, Frank Nitti is always represented by his white suit. Typically white has been linked to wholesomeness and purity but here, it is defined as corrupt and a color to be avoided. The police force on the other hand is visualized through their extremely dark police uniforms. By wearing these, the corrupt officials blacken the very meaning of what these uniforms are supposed to represent. The fact that every color is deemed corrupt only helps the audience to understand that Chicago has very few straight arrow citizens. The fact that the four “untouchables”, Ness (Kevin Costner), Malone (Sean Connery), Stone (Andy Garcia) and Oscar Wallace (Charles Martin Smith) are all represented through individualistic clothing attire helps to represent their non-conformist (corrupt) ways. They do not wear a uniform but rather wear their street clothes which allow them to be characterized as a group that cannot be swayed by the corruptive nature of the city.

The story is very linear in its approach. The film moves along at a decent pace which helps to settle the audience into sort of a lull but then immediately, and out of the blue, explodes into extreme violence. Just because De Palma was deemed uncontroversial at this point did not mean that he would totally shed his old ways. When the violence strikes, it has an impact that is harsh and unrelenting. When a particular star of the film is murdered, the film is merciless in its depiction of brutality and anguish. De Palma sets the tone very early in the film through the use of violence. At the beginning of the film, one of Capone’s men attempts to force a bar/diner owner to buy alcohol from them. He refuses. The man leaves. Another man, dressed in white, leaves the bar as well but leaves his briefcase sitting on a stool. A little girl, who is in the diner, attempts to track down the man but as she reaches the door, the briefcase explodes, killing everyone in the diner. This scene emphasizes that during this time everyone was fair game to be killed, even children (this scene is also important to imply that everyone is capable of being murdered within this film). It attempts to identify the fact that this was a very dangerous time period in American society. If you didn’t comply, then you would have to face the penalties. This scene also helps to foreshadow a scene later on in the film involving a child.

There are some memorable scenes in this film. The first is a P.O.V. perspective shot through the eyes of a gangster breaking into Malone’s apartment. This P.O.V. shot also works as a long tracking shot which creates a sense of suspense and fear because the viewer has now taken on the identity of the assassin. As we track Malone through his apartment, tension increases causing a fear that this man, whom we have come to admire throughout the course of the film, is about to be killed. It is a brilliant use of camera work displayed by De Palma in this scene.

Perhaps the most famous part of the picture is the train station scene. Inspired by Sergei Eisenstein’s Soviet silent film classic, Battleship Potemkin (1925), this scene is long and dragged out but manages to create an unbelievable sense of unease within the audience. While Ness and Stone are awaiting the arrival of the bookkeeper (who they need to apprehend), whom is being escorted out of town, the pacing slows to a crawl. We wait as Ness and Stone wait. There is no immediate rush into the action. We know that there will most likely be a violent confrontation but we must wait and thus the tension rises to an all new high. To make matters worse, a woman struggles to drag her baby carriage (with baby inside) up the stairs where this confrontation is likely to take place. I will not ruin it for those who have not seen it but this is a scene that is perhaps one of the greatest suspense sequences in film history.

The script by David Mamet is filled with suspense and tension and the actors help to bring his story to life. Sean Connery, in an Oscar winning performance, is magnificent as the over the hill Malone who still has a hunger within him to fight the fight. As well, Andy Garcia and Charles Martin Smith are well cast as new recruits to the “untouchables” team. Robert De Niro provides an interesting performance as well. He provides little nuances to his portrayal of Al Capone, like a smile or nod, which adds flavor to the character but in some instances he glides, knowingly and flamboyantly, over the top. The one problem with the casting is in Kevin Costner. When he is surrounded by the likes of Connery and De Niro, it is hard to accept him for who he is trying to be. I understand that his character wants to embody a sense of innocence and that he must learn how to achieve victory, but I felt he was weak for the role. He didn’t instill a fear within me throughout the course of the film. I enjoy him as an actor, just not in this film.

The Untouchables is a well made and crafted film. There are some slight problems with the film however. For instance, the editing is abrupt and distracting at times. Some scenes that should have had a few seconds of pause prior to edit are cut prematurely. But, these are small problems. This film attempts to encapsulate a time period while placing its’ own spin on the genre. The gangster film had all but disappeared from cinemas but, in my mind, this film helped to reestablish its’ roots (and as well make it a commercially viable genre once again). The film was one of my favorites as a child and still holds a special place within my heart. If one wants to witness the blending of a controversial figure like De Palma with the mainstream ideas of Hollywood, watch this film. You won’t be disappointed.

 the untouchables.jpg

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1967 Movie Review: YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE, 1967

YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE,  MOVIE POSTERYOU ONLY LIVE TWICE, 1967
Movie Reviews

Directed by Lewis Gilbert
Starring Sean Connery, Akiko Wakabayashi, Mie Hama, Tetsuro Tanba, Donald Pleasence and Bernard Lee.
Review by Jesse Ryder Hughes

SYNOPSIS:

In the midst of the cold war still going on, someone is stealing Russian and American spaceships right out of space. Bond fakes his death to go undercover in Japan, to find a chemical company supplying and hiding illegal rocket fuel. A mysterious island catches Bond’s eye after a young girl is found dead. On the island Bond searches a volcano that is not what it seems. Can Bond stop world War 3 and stop whoever is stealing the spaceships? I have a feeling a good predictable ending ensues.

REVIEW:

Roald Dahl wrote the imaginative script for You Only Live Twice and it is the most imaginative script so far of the series. Abandoning Fleming’s novel almost completely Dahl and the film makers make an epic Bond film dealing with the space race and the cold war. Someone is stealing ships right out of space using their own spaceship. Russia is blaming the U.S. and vice versa. Bond under the foes impression that he is now dead travels to Japan and finds that the Osato corporation is behind the crime. The themes in You Only Live Twice are great, especially for the time, before the first man hit the moon the Russians and Americans were fighting for the glory, so why not excite audiences who were all excited about the prospects of space at the time. Also this is the first film that deals with a corrupt corporation funding the money for big crime.

The first hour, You Only Live Twice is exciting and well told with great mystery woven around Japanese customs. Supposedly at the time men were put first in Japan before the women. They even say it in the movie with Bond saying I have to retire here, which doesn’t help the controversy of Bond being the worlds biggest womanizer, but he is. Bond slowly figures things out and it leads him to a volcano which is in fact a secret launching pad and station for none other than SPECTRE head No.1, Ernst Stavro Blofeld petting his white cat ready to kill anyone who fails ONCE. He is ready to start World War 3 for some money.

 This is the film that is truly spoofed by the Austin Powers films. Blofeld’s volcano station is just crazy. Bond films were never the same grounded films after You Only Live Twice, with the exception of a couple. It pushes Bond in a direction completely away from Fleming’s novels into what the studios wanted. More action, more stunts, more gadgets overriding the stories being told. And I’m not saying I don’t like it. I still do, because it’s fun, emotionally it becomes lost, but this is the direction the franchise takes.

There is a certain amount of convenience in most Bond films. You just have to accept as an audience member and suspend disbelief. The Americans and Russians almost seem to jump to conclusions about each other too soon for the convenience of the film. Bond gets the chance to use each one of his gadgets at a perfect time in the movie. That is the fun of these movies though. As I am watching the film I can’t wait for Bond to get a chance to use a cigarette that is actually a gun.

As haywire as You only Live Twice is and fans of the novels may be disappointed. It still has its great moments, locales, action, girls and mystery to keep audiences excited. It feels like all the previous Bond films rolled into one, trying to revolutionize the genre into what it did become when Roger Moore took over.

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YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE

Happy Birthday: Sean Connery

seanconnery.jpgSean Connery

Born: August 25, 1930 in Edinburgh, Scotland, UK

Married to:
Micheline Roquebrune (6 May 1975 – present)

I never disliked Bond, as some have thought. Creating a character like that does take a certain craft. It’s simply natural to seek other roles.

Dr. No
1962
dir. Terence Young
Starring:
Connery
Ursula Andress
FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVEFrom Russia with Love
1963
dir. Terence Young
Starring:
Connery
Lotte Lenya
GOLDFINGERGoldfinger
1964
dir. Terence Young
Starring:
Connery
Claudine Auge
THUNDERBALLThunderball
1965
dir. Guy Hamilton
Starring
Connery
Gert Frobe
You Only Live Twice
1967
dir. Lewis Gilbert
Starring
Connery
Akiko Wakabayashi
MARNIEMarnie
1964
dir. Alfred Hitchcock
starring
Tippi Hedren
Connery
DIAMONDS ARE FOREVERDiamonds are Forever
1971
dir. Guy Hamilton
Starring
Connery
Jill St. John
TIME BANDITSTime Bandits
1981
dir. Terry Gilliam
Starring
Craig Warnok
David Rappaport
THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KINGThe Man Who Would Be King
1975
dir. John Huston
Cast
Sean Connery
Michael Caine
THE NAME OF THE ROSEThe Name of the Rose
1986
dir. Jean-Jacques Annaud
Starring
Sean Connery
Christian Slater
The UntouchablesThe Untouchables
1987
dir. by Brian De Palma
starring
Kevin Costner
Connery
MOVIE POSTERTHE LONGEST DAY
1962
dir. Ken Annakin
Andrew Marton
Bernhard Wicki
Indiana Jones and the Last CrusadeIndiana Jones and the Last Crusade
1989
dir. Steven Spielberg
starring
Harrison Ford
Connery
MOVIE POSTERTHE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER
1990
dir. John McTiernan
Stars:
Sean Connery
Alec Baldwin
League of Extraordinary GentlemenThe League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
2003
dir. Stephen Norrington
starring
Connery
MOVIE POSTERFIRST KNIGHT
1995
dir. Jerry Zucker
Starring:
Sean Connery
Richard Gere

 

Movie Review: MARNIE (1964) Directed by Alfred Hitchcock

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MARNIE, 1964
Horror/Thriller Movie Review
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Starring Tippi Hedren, Sean Connery
Review by Steven Painter

7.2/10 IMDB fan rating

Read more professional reviews of Marnie.

SYNOPSIS:

Mark marries Marnie although she is a habitual thief and has serious psychological problems, and tries to help her confront and resolve them

REVIEW:

There are many gems Alfred Hitchcock made that do not get the fanfare other movies of his have gotten. From the 1940s, Foreign Correspondent is underappreciated. In the 1950s it is Strangers on a Train. In the 1960s that movie is Marnie (1964).

Marnie is Hitchcock at his psychological best and probably the last great movie of his career. It is certainly the final movie of an era. It would be the last time Hitch worked with cinematographer Robert Burks, who would die soon after finishing the picture from a heart attack, and legendary composer Bernard Herrmann. The two had artistic differences.

The bad thing about this is that when Hitchcock had a difference of opinion with someone – they left the Hitchcock production company. It happened to Ingrid Bergman and it happened during this movie to Ian Hunter. The screenwriter had worked on several Hitchcock pictures, but disapproved of the rape scene in the novel version of Marnie. He voiced his displeasure over the scene to Hitch and Hitch severed relations with the screenwriter. It was only later that Hunter learned the only reason why Hitch wanted to make the movie was because of the rape scene.

Marnie can be looked at as the last great Alfred Hitchcock movie. It is a fitting tribute to a career that spanned more than four decades up to this point.

Tippi Hedren returns to the screen as Margaret Edgar, also known as Marnie. The original choice for the role was Grace Kelly, but at this time she was Princess of Monaco and it would have looked bad if a princess was playing a kleptomaniac. So Hedren got the role of the psychologically confused kleptomaniac.

Using different names and appearances, Marnie moves from job to job, stealing money from her employers before moving on to another town. One job she takes is with publisher Mark Rutland, played wonderfully by Sean Connery. Mark happens to recognize Marnie’s features from a previous business encounter. He becomes fascinated by her and tries to move in on her romantically. She ignores him as the only love she has ever felt in her life has come from stealing money.

She steals money from Mark’s company and makes a dash for it. Mark discovers the loss and balances it. He then takes off to find out who this wild girl really is. He tracks Marnie down at some stables she frequents, as horseback riding is one of her escapes. He then uses blackmail as a technique to get her to marry him.

The wonderful idea of marriage backfires on Mark as Marnie is cold to any sort of sexual advances. When Mark forces himself on her during their honeymoon, in Hitchcock’s favorite scene, she attempts suicide.

Unable to understand Marnie and still fascinated by her, Mark investigates her past. He ends up bringing Marnie to her mother, Bernice. The mother and daughter have always had a frigid relationship. In one of the best climaxes in all of Hitchcock, it is revealed in stunning detail why Marnie is so cold sexually, why she and her mother express little love for each other and why she despises the color red. The atmosphere around this movie is what makes it great. Credit must be given to Robert Burks for creating the camera angles and photographing exactly what Hitchcock had in his mind when reading the novel written by Winston Graham. Credit has also got to be paid to Bernard Herrmann for his magnificent score. It was the last time the two would work together, but it is probably the best overall score Herrmann gave to Hitchcock. The Vertigo and Psycho ones stand out, but Marnie has a score that perfectly expresses through music the atmosphere on screen.

Marnie is a complex movie. I could go on for paragraphs and paragraphs about all the little interesting things contained in it, but I’ll leave you to discover that for yourself. Robin Wood, the film theorist, proclaimed that if you don’t like Marnie then you aren’t a fan of Hitchcock. Then he went a step further and said if you don’t like Marnie then you aren’t a fan of movies. I fully agree with his statements.

 

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