Dewey Decimal Movie Reviews
The DVD is simple. Good quality picture and adequate sound. The extras are..well....not much extra at all. But the movie collector and Bogart fan must grab this DVD for your collection. Good quality DVD, great story, and a very reasonable price
The first and only pairing of superstars Bogart and March is a tightly-wound thriller, written by Joseph Hayes (based on his novel and stageplay, inspired by actual events), and directed by Hollywood veteran William Wyler, distancing himself from the 'women's pictures' he had helped to popularize during the 1940's (THE LITTLE FOXES, MRS. MINIVER, THE HEIRESS etc.). Photographed in gleaming deep-focus VistaVision by Lee Garmes (SCARFACE, THE PARADINE CASE), the movie wrings incredible tension from the claustrophobic settings and frequent stand-offs between staunch family man March and embittered con Bogart. The movie's themes are fairly conservative and the outcome is never really in doubt, but this is a top-drawer thriller from Hollywood's 'golden age'. Also starring Arthur Kennedy, Martha Scott, Dewey Martin and Gig Young in crucial supporting roles. Unmissable.
The movie runs 112m 25s on Paramount's region 1 DVD, and the image is letterboxed at approx. 1.85:1 (anamorphically enhanced), the recommended aspect ratio of most VistaVision movies. The beautiful black and white photography is supported by a strong Dolby 2.0 mono soundtrack, and the disc contains English captions and subtitles. There are no extras, not even a trailer.
NB. Though nowhere near as dreadful as most critics would have you believe, Michael Cimino's remake DESPERATE HOURS (1990) isn't a patch on the original.
the basic premise is a band of criminals "on the lam" from the police decide to converge upon a midwestern family and use their home as a refuge from the authorities. Humphrey Bogart gives one of the best performances of his career, reviving the old gangster type roles which propelled him to stardom in the 1930s. to divulge any of the plot elements would be unfair to anyone considering the viewing or purchase of this great little gem of a film. it seizes your attention from the beginning with its ominous score to the last riveting scene and never lets go.
as for the DVD, the picture clarity is amazingly sharp and the sound is good too. as for the special features, there are none. this was very disappointing. this one really deserved the special treatment. in spite of its lack of special features, the clarity and sound are enough to warrant a closer look at this wonderful little film.
Directed by Victor Nunez, this critically-acclaimed film wasn't seen much upon its 1997 release. "Ulee's Gold" is a very quiet film, and its unhurried pace and frequent dialogue will probably try the patience of just about anyone who watches it. It takes its time before diving into the storyline, and the viewer doesn't really get involved with the film until after the first half-hour. However, "Ulee's Gold" is ultimately a powerful and effective human drama that moves the soul in its own subtle way.
The film's greatest strength lies in the stirring performances, particularly that of Peter Fonda as the aloof but strong-willed Ulee. At first the viewer thinks of Ulee as just an estranged man who cares about nothing but his beekeeping business; but the character slowly works his way into the viewer's heart as the film progresses. Soon we get to realize how much the man cares for his family, and by the end of the film we are really cheering for him. Christine Dunford also gives a superb performance as Helen, and Patricia Richardson (of "Home Improvement" fame) is also convincing as Ulee's neighbor, the one townsperson whom he allows in on his situation.
Additionally, much of the plot of "Ulee's Gold" lies in the script, rather than through on-screen action; thus the viewer is never presented with overcalculated brutality. Even the tensest of scenes are played out like they would be in an everyday rural or suburban society, without big explosions or fistfights. The drawn-out dialogue gets a little tedious at times, but it makes the characters all the more believable. Throughout the film, these characters go through a lot of changes, especially Ulee. In the end, it is Ulee who has changed the most, having discovered that his "gold" is not just his rare Tupelo honey, but the even-more-precious family that he has fought so hard to protect.
"Ulee's Gold" may not be quite as involving as the more recent "In the Bedroom", but it's a great film for anyone who likes solidly told dramas. It was not aimed at a teenage audience, so anyone my age who happens to be reading this review will probably find it somewhat boring; however, there's a lot of good material in this film that shows profound thought in Nunez's part. See it if it interests you in any way.
As Ulee Jackson, Peter Fonda gives an amazingly understated but strong performance. You can see the storm of emotions that fly within the character as evidenced by the one scene where he lets his feelings fly as he tells off his daughter-in-law Helen with anger and venom. That edge or spark underlies all of the other well-controlled scenes so that even though Ulee may be quiet, he is always focused, always tense.
The supporting cast is also excellent. TV's "Home Improvement" Patricia Richardson is excellent as the neighbor nurse who tries to help without intruding and winds up attracted to Ulee. That interesting relationship allows the mind to conjure up Ulee 2: The Sequel to see how things develop after this crisis point.
Jessica Biel, the bad girl who posed nude for a magazine and got booted from TV's "7th Heaven" delivers another blockbuster performance as the young adult/late adolescent who wants to be a kid but who fights with her responsibilities to her family and loves them even as she sasses them. I probably won't select to see her in the upcoming "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" because it's not my kind of film, but she certainly shows the potential of an accomplished actress.
The other supporting players are also excellent. Christine Dunford who has worked in TV (Ally McBeal, Law & Order) shows great range as the drug-addicted mother who is dragged out of her habit, and clings to her con hubby. Steven Flynn who also has worked in TV (Ally McBeal, NYPD Blue) as the big brain con Eddie Flowers is sufficiently creepy to keep our interest. His horny sidekick Ferris Dooley is played well by Dewey Weber. Ulee's son Jimmy in prison is played by Tom Wood ("The Fugitive," "Appollo 13") with an edgy performance, conflicting the loose morals that landed him in prison with his love for his wife and kids. Even little Vanessa Zima ("Zoe") as the younger daughter Penny does a good job of being sufficiently innocent.
Nunez has created a marvelous ensemble piece. One could almost see this adapted for a compelling stage play. I was particularly struck by the metaphor of being calm amid the bees which paralells the tense human situation and Ulee's calmness in the face of possible tragedy. The film holds up well and will remain a classic film. Enjoy!
All three are abducted by Indians, who intend to make Tommy a slave, Kevin a brave, and Marta a squaw (they leave Tommy and Marta pretty much alone, but their voracious manhandling of little Kevin would certainly be censored today) When Tommy is accidentally left behind, he teams up with the dog, Savage Sam, to rescue the others (although the fragile little thing loses consciousness at the drop of a hat). Eventually a posse of white men joins them, and they shoot the Indians and go home.
Aside from the anti-Indian prejudice, "Savage Sam" is superior...in plotting, characterization, and suspense. I loved Uncle Bill. . .um, I mean Uncle Beck (Brian Keith) strutting around in his flamboyant pink shirt as if daring us to draw conclusions about his character...
One thing that didn't age as well as the rest of the film is the title song. Really hokey. But after that's over, the story is told in a no-nonsense style. It dramatizes something Texas settlers contended with for four decades: the abduction of children in an Indian raid.
As befits a family film, "Savage Sam" soft-pedals the realities of such raids. Tommy Kirk's character, a teenage boy, would have been treated more harshly. Torture on the trail and a horrendous death upon arrival at the tribe's base camp would have been his fate. The teenage girl would have been raped right off. But Kevin Corcoran's character, a young child, would have been taken for adoption, just as the film shows, and the Indians' good-humored toleration of his combativeness is right in line with that.
All in all, a serious depiction of a slice of history that few Americans learn about in school anymore.
Unfortunately, the film sugarcoats the reality of the result of the Sager's journey. Two of the Sager boys were massacred with the Whitmans instead of going on to a homestead in Oregon, as the film implies. The girls were adopted out.
The movie received Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Actor (Spencer Tracy) and Best Screenplay ( Francis Goodrich and Albert Hackett). The sequel was called FATHER'S LITTLE DIVIDEND and it was released in 1951.
Vincente Minnelli received an Academy Award for his direction of GIGI in 1958.
MGM studios pulled out all the stops to make this film one of their major productions for 1950 and being by tradition the "family Studio" they were ideally suited to bring this story of the ideal family wedding to the screen. Based on a very popular novel of the same title by Edward Streeter it does indeed tell a simple story but laces the proceedings with many highly amusing incidents that most people who have experienced planning a wedding can identify with. Spencer Tracy plays Stanley Banks a prosperous Lawyer who finally it seems has every thing he wants in life, a lovely wife, house fully paid for, a beautiful daughter in college and two young sons. Suddenly he finds his whole cosy existence turned upside down when one evening his cherished daughter Kay (Elizabeth Taylor, never more lovely), announces that she is to be married and immediately Stanley finds himself swept into a whirlpool of wedding preparations designed to drive even the most sane individual into madness. As the date of the wedding approaches the original plans for a "quiet family wedding with just a few friends", balloons out into a major production and Stanley finds his sanity put to the extreme test as he has to deal with huge bills, snobby wedding consultants, irrate removalists, bills for invitations, bridemaids gifts,and reluctantly a new tuxedo. He has to share his house with a mounting pile of wedding gifts, some in questionnable taste like Aunt Hattie's Venus de Milo Clock and faces the chore of deciding who can actually be cut out of the invitation list to save costs without some offense being taken. Naturally along the way there are fights, disputes over the mounting costs and the absolute fright when suddenly Kay calls off the whole show when her fiance Buckley Dunstan fails to say he loves her often enough! The dreaded occasion of actually having to meet the "in laws" also causes poor Stanley no end of grief and the meeting ends with him getting totally drunk relating stories of Kay as a young girl to her propective in- laws. When everything is finally in place after months of wedding plans, engagement parties and rehearsals for the big day, followed by the giant wedding that Ellie (Joan Bennett) had always wanted herself but never had, Stanley finally realises that he is being robbed of the one thing that he cherishes most in life, his beloved daughter Kay, the apple of his eye, and realises that things will never be the same for he and Ellie again.
With a narration delivered by Spencer Tracy which makes wry observations about the proceedings at hand, "Father of the Bride", is a highly amusing showcase for his supreme talents as a comic actor which often are forgotten in the light of his countless power house dramatic performances. Nominated for an Academy Award for his wonderful performance as was the film for Best Picture Tracy has never been better than here as we witness with an almost horrified amusement how Stanley's existence spins out of control. Joan Bennett, a frequent co star of Tracy's back at Fox in the 1930's here makes a belated MGM debut as Stanley's wife who gets caught up in all the arrangements for the wedding. Her work with Tracy is magical and it's one of her best later day performances. Her scene dealing with cutting down the invitation list but still wanting to include her Garden Club members as she is due for re-election is priceless. Elizabeth Taylor absolutely shines in the role of Kay and was there ever a more lovely bride seen on screen? Made just prior to her first real life wedding Elizabeth is wonderfully alive as the excited young girl facing marriage and her terrific screen chemistry with Spencer Tracy is a joy and contributes greatly to the more emotional points in the story. A sterling supporting cast so typical of MGM is gathered here, from the "in-laws",Billie Burke and Moroni Olsen, through to the stuffy disapproving wedding planner Leo G. Carroll in a superb performance who succeeds in a number of highly amusing scenes to ruffle Stanley's already quite tattered feathers. Directed with gusto by famed director Vincente Minnelli during his golden period at MGM the film was a huge success at the Box Office aided as it was by Elizabeth Taylor's real life nuptials a few months later. Being a major production for that year there is great expertise in every department from Pandro S. Berman producing, art direction by veteran Cedric Gibbons and stunning costume design, in particular for Elizabeth Taylor's beautiful wedding gown created by designer Helen Rose.
Remade in the 1990's, the 1950 version of "Father of the Bride",is still unsurpassed and preserves forever Spencer Tracy's classic performance which could not be equalled. Passed off by many as now being dated I feel the humour and the situations still ring very true to anyone who has gone through planning a wedding. This terrific film was followed by an enjoyable sequel the following year "Father's Little Dividend" which continued on the trials and tribulations of Stanley Banks now facing the prospect of becoming a Grandfather with amusing results. Both make great classic viewing but this film is the gem of the two and should not be missed.
If it had more TnA it would have gone farther. I'd watch it any day.
Of course for me the only worthwhile moments are when Groucho is on screen and making with the jokes. The musical numbers are okay, but nothing memorable. If all you have seen are parodies of Carmen Miranda in action then this exposure to the real thing has its value as well. She also works well as a foil for Groucho, which is not really that surprising. You can either be totally flustered or joyfully oblivious to Groucho's zingers and Carmen goes with the later strategy to good effect. "Copacabana" is no substitute for a "true" Marx Brothers film, but despite that inherent limitation it is not a bad film. It would rate a 3.5 but we round up because, after all, it is Groucho.
The picture quality is great and the audio is clear. No Marx Bros. collection is complete without it!
Alexander Saxton (Lee) is a scientist who leads an expedition into the mountains where he discovers the frozen body of a huge ape-like man (No, it's not Tor Johnson). The valuable fi(e)nd is shipped aboard a train bound for Europe, where Saxton plans to conduct research that could establish the "missing link" between humans and primates. But to Saxton's annoyance his rival Dr. Wells (Cushing) and his assistant are also passengers on the train.
Matters soon get hairy (quite literally) when a potential thief picks the lock on the crate; resulting in the ape-man being let loose aboard the train- but not before hypnotizing the culprit & sucking all information & memories from his brain, leaving him with hemhorraging eyeballs that resemble bloodied boiled eggs and a brain smoother & whiter than Telly Savalas's head.
Another passenger on the train is a wacko hippie priest who believes this is the work of the devil and that the contents of the crate is "unholy", as all uninformed nincompoops do when confronted with things they don't understand or that don't conform to their personal belief system. The preacher presents a rock solid argument in his favor when he remarks "There is the stink of hell on this train. Even the dog knows it". (NB: There IS in fact a dog on board too, who is obviously smarter than the Hellfire Hippie.)
Also amusing is the following exchange between Cushing & Lee when the creature escapes:
Cushing: "Are you telling me that an ape that lived two million years ago got out of that crate, killed the baggage man and put him in there; then loaded everything up neat and tidy, and got away?"
Lee: "YES! I AM!".
In case you're wondering, I haven't forgotten about Telly Savalas. In spite of his co-star billing he doesn't appear in his role as Captain Kazak until the last third of the movie; unless as I also mentioned, the film makers used his dome for "brain" close-ups.
DVD extras include trailers and a bio and filmography for Lee, but none for Cushing, which is odd. This DVD obviously offers nothing special in terms of special features but it's loads of fun and a good bargain for collectors.