Sterling Silver Dialogue #8: (Answers)Read More
Hidden Gem #50: Wake in Fright a.k.a. Outback (1971, Australia/U.S.A.)
Director: Ted Kotcheff
A school teacher from the U.K. receives the culture shock of a lifetime when a planned brief stopover in an Aussie mining town becomes a one way ticket to "self loathing hell" and for us one of the most personally involving horror stories ever filmed.
Hidden Gem #49: Special Section a.k.a. Section spéciale (1975, France/Italy/West Germany)
Less melodramatic than the director's better known Z (1969) and Missing (1982), this straightforwardly powerful account of judicial corruption is based on a true story that took place in Nazi occupied France during World War II.
Hidden Gem #48: Black Rain a.k.a. Kuroi ame (1989, Japan)
Director: Shohei Imamura
The devastating after effects of the Hiroshima bombing are handled in a subdued and subtle fashion in Imamura's most tragic and moving cinematic story.
Hidden Gem #47: The Stranger a.k.a. Lo straniero (1967, Italy/France/Algeria)
Director: Luchino Visconti
Perfectly capturing the theme of existentialism is this provocative portrayal of a lost soul accused of murder in French occupied Algeria (based on the novel by Albert Camus).
Hidden Gem #46: Smog (1962, Italy)
Director: Franco Rossi
Like 1972's The Outside Man (see Top 10: Guilty Treasures) this is a unique and absorbing outsider's view of life in Los Angeles, only instead of the French suspenseful intrigue we have this charming and quirky Italian perspective.
Hidden Gem #45: Cry Danger (1951, U.S.A.)
Director: Robert Parrish
This terrific little L.A. noir with Dick Powell at his cynical best has great heavies, sleazy locations, dames, and dialogue to burn - plus even Powell's best friend who sprung him out of prison on a phoney alibi thinks he's guilty.
Hidden Gem #44: Ocean Men: Extreme Dive (2001, Germany)
Director: Bob Talbot
A fascinating, totally unique documentary that looks at two extreme athletes who challenge each other not only in how long they can hold their breaths but in the authenticity of the chosen methods to do so, with the director's amazing underwater photography beautifully scored by composer Cliff Eidelman.
Hidden Gem #43: Four Nights of a Dreamer a.k.a. Quatre nuits d'un rêveur (1971, France)
Director: Robert Bresson
A chance encounter in Paris between a painter and a possible suicide victim turns to dreamy, unrequited love in yet another jewel from the great french director, this one rare and practically unknown.
Hidden Gem #42: Black Tuesday (1954, U.S.A.)
Director: Hugo Fregonese
This brutally vicious prison escape thriller is one of the best of its type and contains a riveting performance by Edward G. Robinson, matched every step of the way by an equally brilliant (and surprisingly intense) turn from Peter Graves as a fellow convict, both of whom are about to be executed.
Hidden Gem #41: Le Crabe Tambour (1977, France)
Director: Pierre Schoendoerffer
A highly engrossing and intelligent film that combines adventure with historical drama and a strong sense of mystery surrounding the heroics of a former French war hero once betrayed, and now sought out, by a dying ship's captain.
Ever since silent pictures were shown with live organ accompaniment, music has been a most important asset in enhancing the dramatic development of a cinematic story.
How many of cinema's landmark achievements can one think of without also bringing their musical scores to mind? Some perhaps, but probably not many. A truly magnificent score to a motion picture not only enhances the viewing experience it becomes inseparable from it. This is achieved through its ability to become completely genuine to, and deeply immersed in, its subject matter. The composers of these scores have demonstrated an uncanny gift of knowing when to enter and exit with amazing precision. They boldly tell us through their considerable skill what the visuals alone cannot begin to describe, but nevertheless take nothing away from them.
Choosing only 10 of these is a daunting task since there are easily 100 or more that could be listed with full honors. I'm hoping therefore that readers will appreciate and focus on the choices made instead of the many, just as worthy scores, left out. I have chosen 1 film per composer so that a few more supremely talented artists can be represented and will try and chose the motion picture that most benefits from the composer's contribution.
Many of us enjoy listening to film music on its own. Compared to classical music, the experience is typically quite unique with shorter, more condensed cues that can radically change in tone without any transitional material or end with no resolution. There is however an emotional richness, excitement and passion to discover in this comparably new musical art form. I guess we recognize but still appreciate the difference in structure since after all the music we are listening to is intended as a collaborative part of a creative whole. It is for this reason that the following selections have been made and assessed as reaching the pinnacle of artistic achievement.
(They are listed in alphabetical order)
The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
Composer: Hugo Friedhofer
It begins with a stately and gorgeous main theme over the credits and continues to Coplandesque Americana sounds describing 3 serviceman's return to civilian life. The score perfectly conveys the sad and heartfelt emotion when the disabled war veteran is unable to adjust to what he wrongly perceives will be his girlfriend's rejection. It describes another vet's jazzy reunion with his trophy wife and haunts us with a powerful description of his nightmares of war. Finally the score beautifully fulfills his final discovery of a love pure and undeterred by reprising the original, superlative beginning theme. Hugo Friedhofer's Academy Award winning score is this film's most remarkable and essential artistic contribution.
It's that good.
The Best Years of Our Lives is available on Blu-ray here:
It is also available on DVD here:
Its soundtrack can be purchased from Screen Archives Entertainment here:
Next time: Cleopatra (1963)
Composer: Alex North
In this series I'd like to present some exceptional scenes inspired by cinema's most gifted artists of yesteryear.
The Fastest Gun Alive (1956)
Director: Russell Rouse
Scene: "The Dance"
(Another amazing showcase from the unstoppable Russ Tamblyn: From the young Bart Tare in Gun Crazy (1950) to Riff in West Side Story (1961) to Son of a Gunfighter in Django Unchained (2012) he's still going strong)
The Fastest Gun Alive is available On Demand from The Warner Archive Collection here:
In this series I would like to provide my readers with a more critical perspective to consider, one that hopefully will not detract from a person's appreciation for the films under review. At the same time, I'd question whether these motion pictures really deserve the high accolades bestowed upon them by the critical community in general. (For a further introduction on this subject please see: Top Ten Fool's Gold: The Over Rated #1.)
These notices are meant for viewers familiar with the following motion pictures.
(They will be addressed in alphabetical order)
Blue Velvet (1986, U.S.A.)
Director: David Lynch
Like Blade Runner (1982), the first film in this series, Blue Velvet has become a cult favorite. It's abstract, strange and highly regarded by some prominent film critics and historians such as Mark Cousins, who praises it in his 15 hour documentary: The Story of Film: An Odyssey (2011). David Lynch certainly has a command of the medium and is the sole writer, besides being the film's director. He made an auspicious feature debut with the striking Eraserhead (1977), and with both films others are clearly in service of his unique vision. Being an accomplished painter he maintains a distinctive visual approach and begins Blue Velvet strongly, especially in the way he keeps directing our attention to the menacing undercurrents of an outwardly simple and peaceful small American town.
Blade Runner often symbolically refers to eyes. With Blue Velvet the reference is ears by way of a severed one that begins its main character's descent into darkness. And it's in depicting this darkness that the movie really excels. The scene where Jeffrey Beaumont (played by Kyle MacLachlan, who's really a stand in for the director) is discovered hiding in the closet by the subject of his voyeurism Dorothy Vallens (Isabella Rossellini who's the very personification of her mother here) is shockingly revealing of deep and provocative emotions rarely explored in the arts. If that wasn't disturbing enough, a follow up scene adds more perverse Freudian complexity by introducing us to one of evil's finest representatives: Frank Booth (devilishly portrayed by Dennis Hopper) whose psychopathic insanity is so advanced, he seems to suffer excruciating emotional pain when he's experiencing the most pleasure. This is evident in the film's best and most electrifying scene where Booth and his gang visit his friend Ben (Dean Stockwell) in which the latter mimes Roy Orbison's song "In Dreams" with a lamp used as a faux microphone.
As fascinating as the Vallens and Booth characters are, and even though their relationship becomes increasingly beguiling and insidious as the story progresses, Lynch has most clearly identified with MacLachlan's Beaumont character. Beyond the story's introduction he seems to be very naive, vague as to his motives and full of behavioural contradiction: one minute objectively investigating the nefarious drug dealings of Booth and company, the next crying over his own involvement and how horrible things are. One moment he's telling everyone he's through involving himself in this criminal underworld, the next he's at Vallens' apartment exploring a very dangerous situation for some unknown reason. His precarious involvement with Vallens seems justified in the beginning but it's continuation isn't. He tells others how dangerous Booth is but makes no effort to stay out of his way. What is he looking for? Why does he take such extreme risks? Both the character and the audience are clueless. It appears Lynch has too strongly moulded himself into Jeffrey and prefers "to watch" rather than commit to following through with his ideas. This leaves the director unable to resolve, let alone explain the emotional instability of his characters. When things get too intense, both the character and storyteller back off, only to get back in when curiosity comes a callin'. When events become overwhelmingly unclear regarding Jeffrey's involvement, and Lynch seems lost and in over his head, we either get scenes with Jeffrey's ethereal girlfriend Sandy (played by Laura Dern) that are so trite and insipid, they take banality to a whole new level, or the director makes the story veer off into weird abstraction. Either way the narrative stalls, and the subject matter becomes a "hot potato." We are left like Jeffrey and Sandy naively wondering "why are there people like Frank?" I for one was expecting to get some kind of answer.
If Lynch's intention was to depict a struggle of good vs. evil he should have taken a page out of one of it's best cinematic treatments namely The Night of the Hunter (1955) where the terrifying evil of Robert Mitchum's preacher Harry Powell is matched by his nemesis: the goodness of Lillian Gish as Rachael Cooper, a formidable protector of innocents. In Blue Velvet, Booth's evil has no visible opposition. Only at the very end does Jeffrey muster up the resources to stop Frank, but by then it seems more a matter of coincidental luck to him and us. Other than that there's some vague, wishful dream about robins coming...a very intangible and unsatisfying conclusion to the story.
Next time: Casablanca (believe it or not)
Sterling Silver Dialogue From The Movies:
Do you know where they're from? Answers coming soon.
"You know, once, off the hump of Brazil I saw the ocean so darkened with blood it was black and the sun faintin' away over the lip of the sky. We'd put in at Fortaleza, and a few of us had lines out for a bit of idle fishing. It was me had the first strike. A shark it was. Then there was another, and another shark again, 'till all about, the sea was made of sharks and more sharks still, and no water at all. My shark had torn himself from the hook, and the scent, or maybe the stain it was, and him bleeding his life away, drove the rest of them mad. Then the beasts took to eating each other. In their frenzy...they ate at themselves. You could feel the lust of murder like a wind stinging your eyes, and you could smell the death, reeking up out of the sea. I never saw anything worse...until this little picnic tonight. And you know, there wasn't one of them sharks in the whole crazy pack that survived"
"The only way to stay out of trouble is to grow old, so I guess I'll concentrate on that"
"'Course I'm respectable. I'm old. Politicians, ugly buildings, and whores all get respectable if they last long enough"
"You see Mr. Gitts, most people never have to face the fact...the right time and the right place, they're capable of...ANYTHING"
"Well, I was curious. So many important people in one place... (reply) "The rats usually desert a sinking ship. In my case, they appear to be flocking on board"
"Have you no human consideration?" (reply) "Show me a human, and I might have"
"And there's a message from the bartender. Does Miss Channing know she ordered domestic gin by mistake?" (reply) "The only thing I ordered by mistake is the guests. They're domestic, too, and they don't care what they drink as long as it burns!"
"I'm afraid Mr. DeWitt would find me boring before too long." (reply) "You won't bore him honey, you won't even get a chance to talk"
"How about calling it a night?" (reply) "And you, pose as a playwright? A situation pregnant with possibilities and all you can think of is everybody go to sleep"
"I'll admit I may have seen better days, but I'm still not to be had for the price of a cocktail, like a salted peanut"
"Why not read my column to pass the time? The minutes will fly like hours"
Character and Supporting Actors Lost to Us in 2012 Part 2
There are a large number of films with important contributions from often overlooked supporting and character actors, some of whom were sadly lost to us last year.
Aside from some early Television appearances Richard Dawson who died on June 2, 2012 at age 79 was in some prominent war films starting with The Longest Day (1962) continuing with King Rat as Weaver (1965) and The Devil's Brigade (1968). It was in 1965-1971's hit T.V. series Hogan's Heroes in which he enjoyed probably his most famous role as Corporal Peter Newkirk. Later in his career another T.V. series which he hosted, Family Feud (1978-1985) cemented his notoriety. He cleverly riffed on his game show host persona by appearing in The Running Man (1987) as Damon Killian (pictured) which was his last theatrical motion picture appearance.
Another actor known almost exclusively for his appearance on television (in this case Dark Shadows (1967-1971)) was actor Jonathan Frid who passed away April 14, 2012 at age 87. He even appeared as the vampire Barnabas Collins in a movie which ran concurrently with the above mentioned series called House of Dark Shadows (1970), directed by the T.V. series' executive producer Dan Curtis. Frid had attended London's Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. Under the direction of John Houseman, he performed with Katharine Hepburn in Much Ado About Nothing for the American Shakespeare Festival and appeared in major roles on-and-off Broadway. He also starred in Oliver Stone's feature length directorial debut: the little known horror film The Seizure (1974). Frid enjoyed a supporting role in The Devil's Daughter a T.V. movie as Mr. Howard (1978), and made a cameo appearance as a guest (pictured) in Tim Burton's Dark Shadows (2012).
After appearing together in Armageddon (1998) the film's star Bruce Willis strongly recommended his supporting actor Michael Clarke Duncan for a far more substantial part as John Coffey (pictured) in The Green Mile (1999). This would turn out to be the actor's breakthrough role. He was nominated for a best supporting actor Academy Award. He appeared as a bouncer in two other films released in 1998, Bulworth and A Night at the Roxbury and as a bodyguard in the same year's The Players Club, suggesting he might have been further typecast if not for Willis' support. The contrast between the Coffey role, and the following year's appearance as Franklin 'Frankie Figs' Figueroa in The Whole Nine Yards (with Willis again) couldn't be greater, allowing Duncan to demonstrate his amazing range of talent. Duncan would go on to lend his distinctive vocal support to various video games and animated films, as well as appearing as Attar in Tim Burton's re-make of Planet of the Apes (2001) and Balthazar in The Scorpion King (2002). Other notable projects to which he lent his valuable support include Sin City (2005) as Manute, the voice of Atlas in The God of War II Video Game (an incredible "movie like" game series) and the Saints Row video games as Benjamin King in 2006 plus a sequel released in 2013. It's sad that his final appearance as Duane in The Challenger has yet to be released. Duncan died far too young at age 54 on September 3, 2012.
In 1968 Alex Karras made his film debut playing himself in Paper Lion a little movie gem about real life sports journalist George Plimpton (portrayed by Alan Alda) who finds The Detroit Lions are willing to let him find out what it's like to be a quarterback on a professional football team. Karras was a defensive lineman at the time and showed a natural acting talent. Also making an appearance as himself in the film was Frank Gifford whom Karras would join along with Howard Cosell to form perhaps the most charismatic sportscasting trio ever for 41 episodes of the TV Series NFL Monday Night Football (1974-1976). Karras' most memorable film role by far was as Mongo (pictured) in Mel Brook's Blazing Saddles (1974) a truly inspired bit of casting not to mention performance. Karras appeared in various other television and movie roles, notably as Hans Brumbaugh in Centennial a T.V. Mini-Series (1978-1979), as 'Squash' Bernstein in 1982's Victor Victoria and as Hank Sully in Against All Odds (1984). His most widespread recognition came as George Papadapolis in the hit T.V. series Webster (1983-1989). His last film role was as a T.V. sportscaster in 1998's Buffalo '66. Karras died on October 10, 2012 age 77.
Her debut film was 1946's Three Little Girls in Blue but it took only 1 more year for Celeste Holm to win a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award for her performance as Anne Dettrey in Gentleman's Agreement. Holm graced some other excellent motion pictures such as Road House, The Snake Pit (both 1948), and A Letter To Three Wives (1949) as Addie Ross (voice only) whose letter announces that she has run off with one of the three wife's husbands. Previous to being signed by 20th Century Fox for all of the aforementioned films she made a strong stage presence in plays such as Oklahoma! and The Women. It was in 1950 she made probably her most famous film appearance again for Fox in All About Eve as Karen (pictured). She went on to make many T.V. appearances before playing Liz Imbrie in 1956's High Society. Holm would go on to appear in numerous other T.V. series such as Falcon Crest (1987) and played the same character Hattie Green in both Touched by an Angel (1996-1998) and Promised Land (1996-1999). She worked right up until her death at age 95 on July 15, 2012 appearing in 2012's film Driving Me Crazy and the just completed motion picture College Debts.
(Coming soon Part 3)
The purpose of this list is not to give a critical lambasting to what a great number of viewers consider to be cinematic treasures. What I would like to provide my readers with is an alternative and admittedly more critical perspective to consider, one that hopefully will not detract from a person's appreciation for the films under review. At the same time, I'd question whether these motion pictures really deserve the high accolades bestowed upon them by the critical community in general.
The critics I grew up reading such as Roger Ebert, Pauline Kael, Vincent Canby and Charles Champlin all provided additional insight into looking at our shared passion. They've increased my enjoyment of all types of films even the ones I think have weaknesses let alone those that someone else does. I'm hoping therefore that my comments are taken in the same spirit and have a similar effect. These notices are meant for viewers familiar with the following motion pictures.
(They will be addressed in alphabetical order)
Blade Runner (1982, U.S.A.)
Director: Ridley Scott
The Director's Cut or Final Cut without the clumsy, intrusive narration and juvenile "happy ever after" ending are certainly an improvement over the Theatrical Version. They allow the stunning visuals and unique environment to "breathe" and better enable us to place ourselves in the main character's shoes. An added dream sequence involving a unicorn adds an element of mystery which ties in nicely with these Director's and Final versions' last scene. The contribution made by the amazing set designs, special effects and musical sound-scape cannot be faulted in creating this most fascinating vision of a futuristic city sprawl.
There is however a giant void at the center of its universe. All the king's horses etc. cannot bring its main character to life. Harrison Ford's performance as Rick Deckard (the "Blade Runner" of the title) is not the problem here. It's the overly simplistic narrative: From beginning to end, this guy's just doing a job, hunting down and terminating human-like replicants and from what we see, not doing it very well. Each encounter with his quarries sees him caught off guard and rather surprisingly incompetent, at odds with what his superior says when he talks Decker out of retirement. Decker doesn't seem to care for the job either, or for anything else really. He does express some feelings for the replicant Rachael (Sean Young), a secretary at the Tyrell Corporation where the replicants are designed. Yet these emotions seem rather superfluous since she's saved his life during an encounter with an adversary and according to Deckard he "owes her one" (which means he won't be coming after her but "somebody will").
In search of some motivation or emotional depth one might turn to the replicants like Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer) the rebels' leader. He's certainly motivated to increase his short life span and cares for his fellow androids. One senses his betrayal and anger toward his "maker" Tyrell (Joe Turkel) after confronting him and discovering that his short time left is scientifically inevitable. Even though Batty kills his maker one can understand this action; after all we have somewhat similar story references like Frankenstein and Island of Lost Souls. However, any empathy he might have gained is quickly lost when we hear that he's also inexplicably killed J.F. Sebastian (William Sanderson), an acknowledged "friend" of Batty's whom the storytellers have gone to some effort to build sympathy for. Plus Sebastian helped him find and meet Tyrell. None of the other characters are given enough time to register much interest including Sean Young's Rachael and that's sad because this film is beautiful to look at, contains some fascinating symbolism, as well as some very poetic lines of dialogue, but it's all in service of an overall, un-engaging and dramatically flat motion picture.
Next Time: Top Ten Fool's Gold #2: Blue Velvet
Sterling Silver Dialogue #7: (Answers)Read More
Slavoljub "Slavko" Vorkapić (March 17, 1894 – October 20, 1976)
Slavko Vorkapich arrived in Hollywood in 1921. He was an actor, painter, film artist, editor and director, but most importantly to movie lovers and students who knew him, a Film Educator.
He was appointed chair of the Department of Film of the University of Southern California from 1949-1951. Toward the end of his life Vorkapich gave a series of lectures there and at U.C.L.A where he demonstrated the art of what he referred to as "pure cinema." He also addressed what NOT to do when putting a film together, often by showing scenes from motion picture "classics."
(For more of an introduction to Slavko Vorkapich please see: Exploring the Artifacts #1)
I'd like to begin this second part of the series about Vorkapich by showing a couple of scenes that represent a visually innovative storytelling technique he found most stimulating. It's what he called "The Phi Beat" and consists of a precise rhythmic pattern of editing designed to draw the viewer in, to make that part of the story more engaging and increase one's anticipation.
This first clip is from the classic western High Noon (1952):
Another example of "The Phi Beat" is from the motion picture Point Blank (1967):
Next is an example of what this teacher considered a "visual mistake", likening it to a writer's disregard for punctuation. We return to the film High Noon for:
Golden Rule #2
Never photograph movement against a homogenius background.
During parts of the buggy ride the occupants might as well be standing still. Not all of the scene allows for this error, only the shots of the two against the sky.
Last but not least is a very short but sweet moment from Federico Fellini's 8 1/2 (1963). Vorkapich felt that 8 1/2 and Kurosawa's Rashomon (1950) were the only feature length, purely cinematic masterpieces ever made...(remembering of course at the time of his death he hadn't lived to see Transformers.)
Below the clip is its poster's caption which I feel nicely summarises the brief scene.
Next Time: Another of Vorkapich's Golden Rules and a short film he found visually magnificent.
After mentioning various 'Treasures' and 'Gems' it's time to discuss their availability.
We will continue with Hidden Gems #11 - 20 (Please see Exhibiting Your Treasures #2 for Where To Find Hidden Gems #1 - 10)
Hidden Gem #11 is not currently available on DVD or Blu-ray but was issued on VHS tape with English subtitles:
Hidden Gem #12 is available on this Australian produced DVD from Umbrella Entertainment and is an excellent anamorphic widescreen transfer:
Hidden Gem #13 has recently been announced for release by Criterion (Halleluiah!) in the U.S. (note: The Region A Blu-ray will be region locked.)
Hidden Gem #14 is available on DVD with English subtitles:
Hidden Gem #15 is available on this anamorphic widescreen Region 1 DVD with English subtitles:
Hidden Gem #16 is available on this Region 2 DVD originating in the U.K. and is an excellent anamorphic widescreen transfer:
Hidden Gem #17 is available on this Region A (locked) Blu-ray and contains a stunning transfer with English subtitles:
Hidden Gem #18 Titicut Follies is currently unavailable in any format.
Hidden Gem #19 is available on this "Made On Demand" DVD from Warner Archives. This is an excellent transfer:
Hidden Gem #20 is only available on DVD without English subtitles:
Next Time: The Availability of The Top Ten Guilty Treasures
Just some thoughts on current happenings:
Compared to the other humanities cinema is considered by most to be a relatively new form of artistic expression. However, the essence of cinema is storytelling. Therefore it actually predates the others. Those well versed in its history and aware of its landmark achievements have now been honored with another.
I write about older motion pictures the category of which this subject does not belong to. Even when I see a recently made cinematic work of art, I allow some time to pass so that a more comparative perspective can set in, past the immediate adrenaline rush. I just now witnessed a long story's conclusion and don't need more time to appraise its value.
It's a masterpiece of storytelling from start to finish. It's transcendent. It's Breaking Bad.
Perhaps its greatest artistic achievement amongst many, is it's unceasing ability to plummet the depth of its characters' souls. There are so many fascinating details to consider, unique and ever changing situations for its characters to respond to. Its audience is drawn further and further in, hanging on every moment. "What's going to happen next" is taken to the nth degree, far beyond what words like "anticipation" and "suspense" can convey. This series has also displayed a complete mastery of innovative storytelling techniques that go far beyond anything television has ever produced and very few motion pictures have accomplished. Each and every scene comprising each and every episode feels custom made to be significant and integral to the whole journey, maturely crafted, unflinchingly bold and riveting. This is visionary storytelling of the highest order and without precedent.
Sterling Silver Dialogue From The Movies:
Do you know where they're from? Answers coming soon.
"All right, all right, how much you pay?" (response) "Well, just how tough are ya?" (reply) "Well, you pay a little bit, we're a little bit tough. You pay-a very much, we're-a very much tough. You pay-a too much we're a too much tough. How much you pay?" (response) "I pay plenty!" (reply) "We'll... then we're plenty tough"
"The only reason I took the job is because my bank account was trying to crawl under a duck"
"She was a charming middle aged lady with a face like a bucket of mud. I gave her a drink. She was a gal who would take a drink if she had to knock you down to get the bottle"
"I'm afraid I don't like your manner" (reply) "Yeah, I've had complaints about it, but it keeps getting worse"
"She tried to sit in my lap while I was standing up"
"I don't like your manners" (reply) "And I'm not crazy about yours. I didn't ask to see you. I don't mind if you don't like my manners, I don't like them myself. They are pretty bad. I grieve over them on long winter evenings. I don't mind your ritzing me or drinking your lunch out of a bottle, but don't waste your time trying to cross-examine"
"Why did you have to go on?" (reply) "Too many people told me to stop"
"You're never around when I need you" (reply) "You never need me when I'm around"
"I was thinking about that dame upstairs, and the way she had looked at me, and I wanted to see her again, close, without that silly staircase between us"
"We're both rotten" (reply) "Only you're a little more rotten"
"You know it's quite possible Octavian that when you die... you will die without ever having been alive"
"Queens. Queens. Strip them naked as any other woman, they are no longer queens!" (reply) "It is also difficult to tell the rank of a naked general. Generals without armies are naked indeed"
"I have often wondered, Countess...why did you leave Warsaw?" (reply) "Bombs were falling. I felt I was in the way"
"Many of our German friends before the War would come as our guests to hunt wild pig. I refused to invite Goering. I couldn't tolerate his killing a wild pig. It seemed too much like brother against brother"
"The source of your money has never concerned you any more than your source of electric light. They became worrisome only when they were shut off"
The above from Double Indemnity is available on Blu-ray from Masters of Cinema and can be ordered here:
Sterling Silver Dialogue #6: (Answers)
After mentioning various 'Treasures' and 'Gems' it's probably time to discuss their availability. DVDs have gone out of print in some Regions, yet are still available in others. Twilight Time in the United States are releasing very limited numbers of certain titles. When these titles are sold out, that's it. You might find them on E-bay at much higher prices. Some manufacturers are releasing titles on DVD and Blu-ray that have never been available before on any format. Some are "Made on Demand" DVDs to save on manufacturing costs. For classic film buffs these can be very exciting times!
Manufacturers of sought after titles often lock the region code on their software, so my strong recommendation is to acquire a multi-region DVD player that can play both PAL and NTSC discs. They can be purchased fairly inexpensively, and the savings can be put towards a Blu-ray player that can be encoded to play other region Blu-ray discs. It is very frustrating to have a favorite film or television program not play because of region coding. The improvement in picture and sound quality on Blu-ray over regular DVDs is often very significant even with older Black and White titles.
The following recommendations are geared toward U.S. Amazon customers; however they can be ordered on line and sent to other Countries as well. I order from them constantly. If one has access to brick and mortar stores (like JB Hi-Fi here in Australia) check those first for the titles you are looking for. Then use on-line services in your Country to save on shipping. Feel free to e-mail me, or ask in the comment section below this post, about the availability of any given title anywhere. I'm here to help.
Let's start with the Hidden Gems beginning with #1 which is not currently available on Blu-ray. The region 1 DVD is out of print, however the widescreen transfer on this Region 2 DVD from the U.K. is excellent:
Hidden Gem #2 is available in this set (the Blu-ray's picture and sound is stunning) originating from the U.K.:
Hidden Gem #3 is currently available with English subtitles in this Region 1 DVD set from Criterion:
Hidden Gem #4 is not currently available on Blu-ray or DVD, however was produced for VHS tape with English subtitles:
Hidden Gem #5 is not currently available on Blu-ray but was (sound the trumpets) released with English subtitles on this fabulous anamorphic widescreen DVD originating in Holland:
Hidden Gem #6 Hotel Pacific is unavailable in any format.
Hidden Gem #7 The Fifth Seal is unavailable on Blu-ray or DVD with English Subtitles.
Hidden Gem #8 is not currently available with any reasonable picture quality on Blu-ray or DVD, but is available as a digital download widescreen with English subtitles for U.S. residents only:
Hidden Gem #9 is only currently available on VHS tape with English subtitles:
Hidden Gem #10 They Won't Believe Me is only currently available on this Italian DVD, but it is the U.S. re-release shorter version which is minus 15 minutes:
Next time: The availability of #11 - 20 Hidden Gems
6 DEGREES OF TREASURE TRIVIA:
Further hints to question #1 will be provided in the others (#2-#6). Feel free to send your answers to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The first person to e-mail me at the address above with all of the correct answers will receive at no charge either:
A Region 4 DVD of The Big Heat: one of the great film noirs of all time or
A Region 1 DVD of The Man From Laramie: one of the best westerns ever made
1. The following is heard in this film:
"I know what you're thinkin'. Did he fire six shots or only five?" Well to tell you the truth in all this excitement I've kinda' lost track myself. But being this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world and would blow your head clean off, you've got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?"
Can you name the film?
2. Right before delivering the speech above, we can see a theatre marquee displaying the name of a film the actor previously directed. In addition, the director of film #1 appears as one of the characters in this film (on the marquee).
Name the actor who makes the above speech and the film on the marquee he previously directed before appearing in film #1.
3. In a documentary about film #1 Arnold Schwarzenegger states that when the scene above takes place the character is eating a hamburger before and during some of the ensuing mayhem.
Is he right?
4. The director of film #1 made another film directly after this one that cast 5 of the same actors (including the director himself) appearing in film #1. Listed below are the actors (in bold) who appeared in both films next to the parts they played in film #1:
1. Andy Robinson as "Scorpio"
2. John Vernon as The Mayor
3. Woodrow Parfrey as Jaffe (food vendor)
4. Albert Popwell as a bank robber
5. (the director) as a passerby (title character's vehicle)
Listed below are the 5 character parts played (in no particular order) by the actors above in the same director's subsequent film:
Murphy (plays table tennis and gets beaten)
Maynard Boyle (Boss to Harold Young)
Percy Randolph (has his car repossessed)
Harmon Sullivan a bank robber
Harold Young bank manager
Can you name the film subsequently directed by film #1's director, the director himself and match the parts listed in the director's subsequent film to the actors who played them (listed above the parts in bold)?
5. The same director of film #1 made 4 other films starring the same actor featured in film #1.
Can you name the other 4?
6. The setting for film #1 is San Francisco. The same star plays a cop for the same director in their first film working together. In their debut working relationship this actor has to travel to a different city (other than San Francisco) to extradite a prisoner.
Can you name the pair's first film working together and name the city that the main character travels to that most of the story takes place in?
U.S.A. / Paramount Pictures / 1944 / Black and White / 107 Minutes / Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
As its tale of murder and betrayal unfolds, the title of this quintessential film noir will come to represent much more than just an insurance policy. First, it doubles the motivation for fast talking insurance salesman Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray) to act out his plan of murder. Neff explains to his accomplice and lover Phyllis Detrichson (Barbara Stanwyck) that her husband (their intended victim) must agree to travel to his class reunion by train because the insurance policy they will cash in on pays double on unusual forms of accidental death "...the kind that almost never happen" he says. The irony behind the title becomes apparent when, after having killed Mr. Detrichson, Neff must now impersonate or "double" as his victim and board the train himself in order to fulfill his plan. In doing this Neff will symbolically seal his fate and ultimately fare no better than the victim whose identity he's assumed.
The film's title is chillingly meaningful since every single component contributing to the anti-hero's downfall will either directly or indirectly relate to it. Consider the evidence: The police have determined that Mr. Detrichson's death was accidental meaning the only thing that can associate Neff with murder is the insurance claim itself. His friend and shrewd boss, an insurance investigator aptly named Barton Keyes (Edward G. Robinson) has a "double" of his own, his "little man inside" who acts up when there's a phoney claim submitted. At first Keyes (much to Neff's relief) thinks the accidental death likely. In a brilliant scene occurring in his boss' office Keyes defiantly rejects his superior's idea of Mr. Detrichson's suicide asking: "Now how can anybody jump off a slow moving train like that with any kind of expectation that he would kill himself? No...No soap, Mr. Norton. We're sunk and we'll have to pay through the nose and you know it!" But later his "little man" acts up in the form of a stomach ache when he cannot figure out why, after incurring a minor accident at work, Mr. Detrichson didn't file a claim. This is yet another sign that it's the claim itself, or in this case the lack of one, that's arousing suspicions. As Keyes starts to unravel the truth behind the insured's death, Walter and Phyllis' relationship begins to unravel as well. Phyllis' greed comes to the fore when a heated Neff demands that she drop the claim because Keyes knows too much, which she refuses to do. He persists, telling her that it's not just Keyes, but two persons who suspect foul play, the other being Mr. Detrichson's daughter Lola (Jean Heather). Finally Phyllis' duplicity is revealed when she admits to never loving Neff, having simply used him to get rid of her dominating husband. Walter also suggests that she has another guy, her daughter-in-law's boyfriend, set up to get rid of him. She shoots Walter but not fatally. Walter approaches saying "You can do better than that, can't ya baby?" As Phyllis questions her feelings for Walter when she cannot shoot again, he says "Sorry baby I'm not buying." Phyllis pleads "I'm not asking you to buy, just hold me close." Neff does hold her close and then stunningly delivers the coup de grace: "Goodbye baby." He shoots twice and kills her.
Now a double murderer, Neff at first is willing to let Lola's boyfriend take the rap for both Detrichsons' murders. Unwilling to give up his last shred of moral decency, Neff changes his mind, drives to his office and speaking in to a Dictaphone, delivers his confession.
This is where the film begins. In true noir fashion the wounded protagonist will narrate the story (delivered in flashbacks) of his demise. This storytelling device allows more insight into the central character's psychology by allowing him to comment on the actions that have taken place, reflecting on motives and thought processes that might otherwise go unexplained. This emphasis on the darker, more complex psychological aspects of the criminal anti-hero is what helps define the film noir movement of the 1940's from the more simply constructed American crime movies of the 1930's like Little Caesar and Public Enemy. It's this realization of motives, the true essence of film noir, that deepens the story, draws us in and increases our anticipation of the events taking place. We simply care more about characters we know more about. The deepest, most thorough understanding of this protagonist's reasons for his actions is ultimately what makes this film the most outstanding representation of its genre. Neff, after having been shot by Phyllis, sweating profusely, confesses Mr. Detrichson's murder into his Dictaphone: "Yes, I killed him. I killed him for money. And for a woman. I didn't get the money and...I didn't get the woman." That says it all.
Double Indemnity contains another film noir staple in the form of Mrs. Detrichson, the "femme-fatal" who will ultimately transform a confidant, highly experienced, no nonsense insurance salesman into a wounded, confused victim. It is with this character however, that the story suffers its one weakness. Because of the film makers' devotion to Neff's perspective and then those of Keyes, and even Lola's points of view, Stanwyck's Phyllis Detrichson remains underdeveloped, almost a stereotype.
With this film its primary creator Billy Wilder found his true element. The film noir genre allowed him to explore his true passion: the baser side of human endeavor and steep his patented theme of desire and manipulation in a unique blend of acidic dialogue and cynical outcomes. Wilder's straight-forward narrative approach is due in part to his involvement in the authorship of his projects as well as once having been a newspaper reporter. He eschews the stylistic flourishes of fancy camera work and innovative editing techniques used by Hitchcock and Welles. This allows his audience to remain focused on the dramatic elements and prevents distraction by an overtly visual approach.
Wilder's storytelling trademarks would enhance subsequent noir spin-offs such as The Lost Weekend (1945), Sunset Boulevard (1950) and his masterpiece Ace In The Hole (1951), all of which contribute to a strikingly original and compelling cinematic repertoire.
James M. Cain who authored the similarly plotted The Postman Always Rings Twice also wrote 3 of a Kind, which was adapted by Wilder and noted novelist Raymond Chandler (creator of fictional detective Philip Marlowe) into its superior cinematic incarnation Double Indemnity. Wilder and Chandler had a notoriously difficult time working together but finally managed to settle into a productive routine whereby Chandler worked primarily on the sensational dialogue while Wilder tightened the story elements. This earned the admiration of Cain who stated that if he had thought of some of the plot solutions that the two writers came up with, he would have included them in his original novella.
Fred MacMurray's performance is a revelation. He rarely played the "bad guy" or anti-hero. Here he perfectly conveys the full gamut of Neff's emotional roller coaster ride, from his heightened romantic interest in Phyllis, his camaraderie with his boss Keyes, right through to his ultimate downward spiral. Barbara Stanwyck and Edward G Robinson two of the most consummate actors of this era are superb here as well.
The film is further aided by the characteristic noir photography of John Seitz, who in addition to capturing Neff behind shadows of bars foretelling his doom, boldly presents us with the most violently dramatic scenes in almost pitch blackness. His photographic artistry is perfectly wedded to Miklos Rozsa's music. Aside from it's tragic opening theme, his score alternates between enveloping Walter and Phyllis in a beautiful yearning melody, which adds resonance to their professed feelings, to buzzing around them like nervous hornets as the pair plan and commit their treacherous acts, thus increasing the suspense.
Wilder concludes his story with a scene of subtle poignancy. At the end, Neff notices Keyes standing in the doorway of his office. Keyes has heard most of Walter's confession. Walter asks him if he wouldn't mind waiting a few hours before calling the police so as to give him time to make it to the border. "You'll never make the border" Keyes says to him, "...you'll never even make the elevator." As predicted, Neff collapses in the doorway succumbing to Phyllis' gunshot wound. The final exchange between the pair expertly exposes the genuine heart of the story and reveals where the deepest feelings from the characters resided all along. Neff asks "You know why you couldn't figure this one Keyes? I'll tell ya...because the guy you were looking for was too close...right across the desk from you." "Closer than that Walter" Keyes replies to which Walter closes with "I love you too."
How To Best Appreciate:
Currently its best presentation (by a mile) is on this Region B (locked) Blu Ray:
Its next best presentation is on this Universal Legacy 2 DVD set:
The film's score by Miklos Rozsa is highlighted in this re-recording:
6 DEGREES OF TREASURE TRIVIA #3: (Answers)Read More
Character and Supporting Actors Lost to Us in 2012 Part 1
There are a large number of films with important contributions from often overlooked supporting and character actors, some of whom were sadly lost to us last year.
Frank Cady, who passed away at the age of 96 on June 8 2012, appeared uncredited in numerous prominent films such as Mr. Deeds Goes To Town (1936) as one of the farmers, D.O.A. (1950), as Eddie the friendly local bartender, and as a night clerk looking at a police line-up in The Asphalt Jungle (1950). He received credit in next year's Ace in the Hole, memorably sympathetic as Mr. Federber (see picture) with his wife proudly announcing to a radio reporter they were the first visitors on the scene of a man trapped in a cave. He appeared as Harold Ferris in When Worlds Collide (also 1951). Also worth noting is Cady as an F.B.I. agent in The Atomic City and Bennie Amboy in The Sellout (both 1952), his appearance on a fire escape in Hitchcock's Rear Window (1954), as Trader Joe in 1955's The Indian Fighter, and Henry Daigle in The Bad Seed (1956). Cady was best known however for his recurring character Sam Drucker appearing in no less than three successful television series Petticoat Junction, Green Acres and The Beverly Hillbillies (variably running from 1963 to 1971). His last theatrical motion picture appearance was as Pa Tater in Hearts of the West in 1975 and his last appearance all together was as Sam Drucker for Return to Green Acres a T.V. movie in 1990.
Another familiar face belongs to R.G. Armstrong who, along with Cady, had a long life until 95 years of age. Armstrong was lost to us on July 27, 2012 and made numerous memorable film and television appearances. He studied with Lee Strasberg at The Actor's Studio and lent solid, typically intensive support in No Name on the Bullet, appeared as Sheriff Jordan Talbot in Sidney Lumet's The Fugitive Kind (both 1959), and played religious fanatic Joshua Knudsen in Sam Peckinpah's Ride The High Country (1962). He then became somewhat of a Peckinpah regular in the same director's Major Dundee (1965), The Ballad of Cable Hogue (1970) and Pat Garrett and Billy The Kid (pictured here in 1973). He also appeared in Warren Beatty's Heaven Can Wait (1978) and Reds (1981), as General Phillips in 1987's Predator, and again for Beatty as Pruneface in 1990's Dick Tracy.
Another actor like Armstrong, who frequently inhabited strong and intense characters, was Luke Askew who died on March 29, 2012 at age 80. One will find him in Cool Hand Luke (1967), Will Penny (1968) and Easy Rider (pictured in 1969) in his early years. A little later (like Armstrong) he also played a part in Peckinpah's Pat Garrett and Billy The Kid (1973) and in later years portrayed Sheriff Smalls in Bill Paxton's Frailty (2001). He additionally acted alongside Paxton in television's Big Love (2007-2010).
Also making a strong impression due to his facial scarring and low gravely voice was actor Richard Lynch. He studied acting with Uta Hagen and Lee Strasberg, which led to his numerous appearances on and off Broadway and a lifetime membership in the New York Actors Studio. In his film acting debut he played a loathsome prison inmate in 1973's Scarecrow, created a memorable Nazi General in 1980's The Formula (pictured) and appeared in numerous other film and television movies and series right up to his death on June 12 2012 at the age of 72. Worth noting is his appearance in the anti-drug documentary The Mindbenders (1978), in which he candidly discusses the burn scarring received from his self immolation after taking LSD.
Appearing in typically opposite kinds of parts was actor Steve Franken, who passed away August 24, 2012 at age 80. He made his motion picture debut in Stage Struck in 1958 and can be spotted in a police line-up in the same year's noir Cop Hater. Franken became well know for playing Chatsworth Osborne, Jr. on the T.V. series The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis (1959-1963). After numerous other T.V. appearances, he made a most endearing impression as a waiter who gets totally sloshed in 1968's comedy gem The Party (pictured), admirably competing in the scene stealing department with Peter Sellers. He appeared in the same year's Panic in the City, as The Lonesome Kid in The Missouri Breaks (1972) and as a technician in the popular Westworld (1973). After numerous other television and some motion picture appearances he also played an administrator in Nurse Betty (2000) and a Cardinal in Angels and Demons (2009).
(Coming soon Part 2)