Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (1961)

Notes: 4/27/11
Seriously, a title song? Sung by Frankie Avalon.
Curious cast! Joan Fontaine and Walter Pidgeon with Barbara Eden and Frankie Avalon.
Irwin Allen directs. Eventually made Lost in Space and disaster films.
Fontaine reminds me a bit of Patricia Neal in this.
Peter Lorre shark-walking. Much amusement.
Pidgeon was a good actor without ever truly hamming it up.
Great supporting cast. Mostly silly antics.

Review: C+
Mostly silly Irwin Allen adventure tale in the tradition of Jules Verne's underwater adventures. Walter Pidgeon leads a submarine crew to prevent the Earth's radiation belt from exploding. A bit too far-fetched, but not without general good humor and escapist adventure. Appearances by a fine supporting cast, including Joan Fontaine and Peter Lorre, make the film sparkle well enough.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Yojimbo (1961)

Notes: 4/26/11
Artful, chic music lends itself to the culture and the era the film was made.
Opening credits. Following Sanjuro from below.
Great set design. The window shutters.
Awesome swordfights with severed limbs!
Widescreen framing is impressively cinematic.
The bad guy has a gun! Very creative for a samurai film.
Mifune has probably his best role here. “So long.”

Review: A-
Legendary Akira Kurosawa directs Toshiro Mifune as a samurai who comes upon a small town in the midst of a violent feud. Mifune plays Sanjuro, who takes it upon himself to end the feud by turning the two rival families against each other. Many colorful characters inhabit the town, but it is Unosuke, son of one of the rivals, who, along with his shiny revolver, creates the biggest challenge for Sanjuro. Artfully cinematic, powered by a chic fusion of Japanese-American music, and the tough, iconic presence of Mifune in the role he was born to play. Classic samurai and peerless filmmaking.

Francis of Assisi (1961)

Notes: 4/26/11
Finlay Currie plays the Pope. This guy was always an old man.
Dolores Hart plays a nun and became a nun in real life.
Lacks the dramatic power needed to maintain my interest.
Doesn't really offer much.

Review: C
Biopic of renowned Saint is mostly nice to look at, under steady direction from Michael Curtiz. Cast includes young Bradford Dillman in the title role and memorable appearances by Finlay Currie and Cecil Kellaway. Ultimately, the film lacks the dramatic power to be a definitive telling of the life of St. Francis.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Comancheros (1961)

Notes: 4/13/11
Amusing opening duel. Stuart Whitman is fun.
Exciting music by Elmer Bernstein.
Last film of the great Michael Curtiz.
Not sure what to make of Ina Balin. Pretty, but boring.
Nehemiah Persoff is memorable. Great voice.
John Wayne sure had a warm presence.
Not really following the plot.
Film gets by on music, cinematography, and charming cast.

Review: B-
Exciting John Wayne western owes quite a bit to its Elmer Bernstein music score, as well as a charming cast. Stuart Whitman stands out alongside Wayne and Nehemiah Persoff proves to be a memorable villain. What is lacking in plot is made up for in technical achievements. A worthy swan song for legendary director Michael Curtiz.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Salvatore Giuliano (1961)

Notes: 4/7/11
The opening examination of Giuliano's body is memorable.
Hard to follow. It seems to jump back and forth in time.
I'm probably just an idiot, but I'm not sure what's going on.
The shrieking mother of the dead soldier is annoying!
The music is moody and strange.
Would probably be more enjoyable if I knew the history and understood the politics.

Review: C+
Italian docu-drama about the real-life murder of criminal Salvatore Giuliano and the specifics surrounding who killed him and why. Told mainly in flashbacks, the film requires the full attention of the viewer, as well as some grasp on the history and politics involved. Could have been more effective with a stronger narrative device and, perhaps, some narration.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Twist Around the Clock (1961)

Notes: 4/6/11
One of those snapshots of the world of rock & roll.
Not as amateurish or dumb as others of its kind.
Title song is catchy. Can't imagine the twist ever being popular.
The Wanderer and Runaround Sue are such good songs.
Dion is probably the film's highlight.
The film's plot is silly, but not entirely stupid.
Checker perform the songs and dances they originated.

Review: C
Yet another snapshot of Americana, this time depicting the rise in popularity of the dance craze 'the twist'. Not as amateurish or dumb as previous films of its kind. The opportunity to see Dion perform The Wanderer and Runaround Sue is reason enough to check this out. Chubby Checker also appears to perform his hit songs.

Fanny (1961)

Notes: 4/6/11
Charles Boyer, Leslie Caron, Maurice Chevalier, and Horst Buchholz light up the screen.
Love the actress who plays Fanny's mother (Georgette Anys).
Charles Boyer is great in the scene with Marius's letter.
Nice movie. Sweet story. Charming in parts.
If Boyer got an Oscar nomination, then Chevalier should have gotten one too.
Beautiful cinematography by Jack Cardiff.

Review: B
Charming love story set in France about a pair of star-crossed lovers and the years of complications that prevent them from spending their lives together. Leslie Caron is lovely as Fanny, a young girl who transfixes the hearts of everyone in town. Despite the title, the film is just as much about Fanny's childhood love, Marius, played by handsome Horst Buchholz. Marius's yearning for a seafaring life dashes all plans for marriage to Fanny, causing Fanny's mother and Marius's father (a delightful Charles Boyer) to take charge of the situation, with the help of a very rich, and much older, Maurice Chevalier. The ensemble works very well together and the cinematography by Jack Cardiff is truly marvelous to behold. The film runs a bit too long, but is certainly a fine example of how to portray chest-ripping romance onscreen.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

El Cid (1961)

Notes: 4/5/11
Overture score is quite sweeping. Preparing for battle. Something grand.
Miklos Rosza does the music. Genius.
Memorable shots throughout. Carrying the cross, Raf Vallone riding through town.
Charlton Heston and Sophia Loren. Maximum starpower.
Feels and looks very Italian, or am I imagining things?
Awesome swordfight. Lasted almost 10 minutes!
Sophia Loren = gorgeous all the time.

Review: B
Sweeping epic powered by a grand Miklos Rosza score and some superb action sequences. Story wavers in the mid-section deflating the grandeur from this otherwise expertly-made production. Sophia Loren is given little to do but look gorgeous and she handles that beautifully. Charlton Heston is reliably macho as the film's noble hero. Anthony Mann successfully directs, despite the uncharacteristic genre, particularly in the film's best scene: a nearly ten-minute swordfight between Heston and Loren's father!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Young Savages (1961)

Notes: 4/3/11
Flashy opening credits. Talented director John Frankenheimer.
Burt Lancaster and Shelley Winters make this movie a must-see.
Shelley Winters as Mary diPace. Love it!
Murder of young boy, shot very tastefully, is still shocking.
Heavy subject matter. Racism, death penalty, gangs, juvenile delinquency.
Dina Merrill is pretty, but her role is a bit limited.
Well-made but not entirely effective courtroom drama.

Review: C+
Courtroom drama starring Burt Lancaster as a district attorney prosecuting three teenaged delinquents charged with the murder of a young Latin boy. Shelley Winters does well as the mother of one of the boys on trial. Film touches on heavy subject matter, like racism, death penalty, gangs, and juvenile delinquency, but fails to draw any satisfying conclusions.

Mysterious Island (1961)

Notes: 4/3/11
Opening credits are very exciting. Bernard Herrman does the music!
First half hour is a slow blend of Civil War, seafaring, and a slight British feel.
Suddenly – giant crab monster!
Awfully talky. The effects really do stand out to some degree.
Interesting female characters. British femmes.
The giant bumblebee attack in the honeycomb. Exciting stuff.
Review: C+
Good Ray Harryhausen effects can't compensate for a slow-moving, rather talky production. Giant crab monsters and killer bees make up the highlights in this Jules Verne adventure tale about castaways on an island inhabited by very strange creatures. Herbert Lom shows up as Captain Nemo, but none of that plot thread proves all that interesting. Viewers will likely find themselves growing impatient when the special effects are not the focus.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Flower Drum Song (1961)

Notes: 4/2/11
Glossy Universal-International musical production.
Nancy Kwan is very pretty. 'I Enjoy Being a Girl' is quite memorable.
Juanita Hall is my favorite as Madame Liang.
Very bright and colorful. Good energy and not too corny.
Great sets and costumes. All Asian cast is certainly groundbreaking.
Not the best of the Rodgers and Hammerstein ouvre, in terms of songs and story, but it has memorable moments.

Review: B-
Vibrantly colorful musical production features lavish sets and costumes, OK songs, and a few memorable moments. Notable for its use of an all-Asian cast, this Rodgers and Hammerstein musical may not be their best, but it's certainly entertaining and groundbreaking. Good energy throughout with Nancy Kwan stealing much of the film from the rest of the ensemble.